I declined a job with a Fortune 100 company to work for a tech startup – here’s why

Two coworkers laughing in conference room

3 mins, 31 secs read time

One week ago today, I was jazzed to receive my first job offer.

On paper it was perfect. I’d be working for a tech powerhouse in a vibrant city kick-starting my career in sales. Tacked onto the role was a reputable onboarding program, growth potential, benefits galore and a good-looking paycheck (per formerly broke college student standards).

We popped open a bottle of champagne that night. With my first active offer on the table, a weight was lifted off my chest. Good riddance to the days of uncertainty, confusion amidst rejection and worse; the zing of unanswered emails.

As I sipped on my champagne, I couldn’t allow myself to celebrate in full. Each time I closed my eyes to visualize inhabiting this city and working this job, clouds fogged up my glasses.

But Kasey  –  isn’t this exactly what you wanted? Think of the opportunities that might surface with a company like that on your resume. You might not yet grasp the concept of a 401K…but isn’t it cool they’ll match your savings?

Try as I might, I couldn’t shake the impression of a budding opportunity with another company, HR tech start up, Greenhouse Software.

The positions were similar in day-to-day responsibilities. Both were the outbound point-of-contact which, in short, is the person enlisted to bug other people about their company’s products or services (yes, I’m going to be great at this). But the company flavors couldn’t have been more different.

On one side of the ring, we had a multi-billion dollar corporation with star-studded executives. From benefits to the business-professional dress code, this opportunity represented stability and status – A.K.A. quintessential Corporate America.

And on the other side, we had a casual dress code, fully stocked fridge, cold brew on tap, open desk seating, natural light and an energy that pulsated through the computer screen.

I found myself contemplating the millennial farce

Was this hesitation just me being non-committal or soft? Is this my stereotypical grass-is-greener scenario? Do I even like cold brew or is it just trendy?

I pressed pause. In the preceding months, I’d sifted through a myriad of articles & listicles on millennials, the ideal work environment and the tech industry in general. I’d scrambled to gather every drop of insight available at my disposal — all for the crescendo of tipsily staring at the wall, cupping my champagne flute between sweaty palms?

I circled back to the advice I’d accumulated from professionals over the past several months. One piece stuck out like a sore thumb: the importance of knowing yourself.

I thought back to the striking differences between these two interview processes. One was completely colorless. During this interview, I filtered out pieces that typically painted a picture of my personality, like backpacking for a year while maintaining a full academic load and creative writing. I was advised to emphasize my tenacity, resilience and drive — so I zoned in on my experience as a college athlete.

Side note: selecting and omitting certain experiences during an interview doesn’t constitute as untrue. After all, there’s a time and place for your story and when yours is circuitous and confusing, it might be best to simplify.

I didn’t think twice about this until days later, when I completed my final round interview with Greenhouse. I’d somehow blinked and finished a 3-hour interview – a process that felt so human. Every question was behavioral, thought-provoking and engaging. I met with people from sales to accounting, all woven by a thread of inspiration, ingenuity and excitement. This spirit invited me to show up as my whole self (via Skype). I shared my story, highlighted my experiences and omitted absolutely nothing.

Simple as instant oatmeal and clear as day, I knew which company was right for me: the one with a culture credo of authenticity, collaboration, inclusion, effectiveness and ambition. It was the office oozing with energy and potential. And it was the opportunity I couldn’t wipe from my mind.

I declined a job with a Fortune 100 company to work for a tech startup because I couldn’t deny the opportunity to work in an environment celebrating my whole, authentic self.

Or rather, borrowing from the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn, an opportunity that embraced the full catastrophe of me.

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