Organizational Culture

How to Thrive in Your Transition From Startup to Corporate


As a startup leader, you might be accustomed to doing things a certain way, but if you are planning on making a transition to a new role in a corporate job then you ‘ll need to get used to a more structured way of doing business.

Younger businesses are much more fluid as organizations, which comes with its own advantages and challenges, but if you are used to startup habits like flexible hours, casual dress codes, informal meetings, and occasionally working from home, then you need to break of old routines and embrace a new mentality toward workflows and procedures to thrive in your new role.

How to Thrive in Your Transition From Startup to Corporate

The corporate workplace is a far cry from any scrappy startup setting. Assuming you’ve already successfully completed your interview process and landed a new corporate position, here are a few recommendations to prepare you for the behavioral adjustments, appropriate actions, and necessary perspective you’ll need at an established enterprise.

Understand Structure, Procedure, and Accountability

startupWhen you work at a startup, there is usually a great deal of independence in your daily role. Even though a sense of teamwork and a “we’re in this together” mentality pervades most startups as a whole, there is usually no one looking over your shoulder to ensure that you are doing your job on a daily basis.

In many cases, there is a level of trust and freedom extended to employees at startups simply because there is a lack of resources and bandwidth to provide an all-encompassing management framework. Furthermore, as a young company, the standard operating procedures for daily work are still in their infancy, which usually means that as long as you are hitting your goals, no one really cares how you got there.

However, in a corporate setting, the process is equally as important as the end result. Contrary to a startup, a corporate company is not trying to find out the best way to run their business. A large corporation already knows what works and they are simply looking to scale it.

This means that rigorous systems have been established to support a specific structure and provide transparent accountability all the way up the chain of command. If you want to succeed in your new role, it’s critical that you understand the high-level structure and the appropriate way to navigate it.

Why is understanding corporate structure and procedure important?

Roles and responsibilities are clearly defined in any corporate position. While it may be frustrating to someone who is used to taking full control of their decision-making and capacity to adapt based on the situation, this is not usually appropriate in a corporate setting.

Structure, procedure, and accountability become increasingly important with correlation to the size of a company. As a startup leader, you’ve probably managed a few people on a small team, but imagine how difficult coordination and tracking becomes when it’s not only a large team, but multiple departments working in tandem toward a common goal.

Organizational structure, clear processes, and enhanced accountability are essential corporate tools that provide successful management frameworks. If you can learn to embrace this instead of resist it, you will be better equipped to thrive within a corporate job.

Pro Tip: Request and obtain an organizational chart from the human resources department if available and study it like it’s your map to success. It’s critical to know who are the key players in a company, where you can engage with them, and what a trajectory in your career might look like.

Learn Patience—Large Corporations Move Slower

In the startup world, everything can change at a moment’s notice, but this is not the case in most corporations. Larger organizations can be slow to adapt as there are many moving pieces that need to synchronize to manifest any real change within the company.

While it may feel like your ability to make quick decisions is restricted at a corporation, it also helps companies hedge their predictions, streamline efficiencies, and allocate resources appropriately. It’s exciting to pivot between projects at a startup, but constant change makes it challenging to gauge the long-term scope of your work. If there are too many inconsistent variables, it’s a struggle to work with clarity toward long-term goals and projections easily devolve into wildly inaccurate wishful thinking.

Corporations move slower when it comes to any sort of policy change, but when that change does come into effect, the impact is more profound. If you are new to a corporate job, then you should understand that despite these delays, you are actually more empowered to make significant change across the organization if you are willing to follow the proper procedures to implement it.

This insight is not only important for understanding your role within the greater context of the organization, but it can also provide an advantage for people who apply this kind of thinking to their own career.

With a greater sense of stability in your position, it becomes easier for you to plan high-level career goals that will lead you toward success.

Pro Tip: Learn how to set long-term goals with short-term milestones in order to keep your team on track and your sanity in order. Gradual progress is hard to notice, but if you lay out small goals, it’s much easier to keep yourself and your team excited with positive momentum toward the big vision.

Develop Strong Reporting Skills

corporateReporting is an incredibly important skill, particularly in a corporate setting. It’s easy for someone who is used to autonomy to see reporting as a chore or an example of micro-managing, but if you truly want to be successful in a corporate job, realize there is tremendous opportunity to advance when you report your accomplishments appropriately.

No matter how skilled you are or how far you exceed your goals, no one will know (especially those at the top) you saved the day if it doesn’t get reported.

Measure your contributions to the department and company overall by pointing toward hard metrics that demonstrate your value. If you can draw a clear line between your work and successful outcomes for the company, it will help everyone understand your impact.

Key performance indicators (KPIs) also becomes important when you build accountability laterally across a team. In a corporate setting, there is a clear organizational structure, but you will also find a greater need for delegating work laterally. This is because there will be more people at a similar level of leadership, which means that while there is no clear authority between co-workers in a similar position, there is still a critical need for collaboration and leadership.

Reporting helps you hold people accountable to their side of the job and divides work across teams without having to demand it. If you have well-defined goals built through common consensus, then reporting can be an important tool for keeping everyone moving together.

Pro Tip: Set KPIs collaboratively with your team before committing to any goals with your leadership. This will enable you to deliver confidently against your objectives and help empower your team to understand the deliverables for which they are accountable. 

Need more advice? Get one-on-one support from an experienced executive mentor who will help you navigate the transition from startup grind to corporate success!


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