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Becoming the very first and only employee of a company is definitely a scary proposition. For people who are contemplating on starting a new business, there’s always a lot of information, tips and guidelines to help them out. On the other hand, not as many resources are available for people who want to know what it’s like to be the first employed individual of a business.


If you were offered a job by a startup company, you should consider this as an excellent opportunity. Of course, there are many challenges you need to be prepared for, but this can also be a rewarding experience.

Here are the pros and cons of being the first employee of a company:

 PRO – You will be given more responsibility, and you get the credit, too!

Working for a small business presents a lot of opportunities for skills development and even professional advancement. Since you are the only employee of the company, there is nobody you can pass projects off to. You take care of everything, and this makes you knowledgeable and even an expert in the different aspects of the business and organization.

Of course, you also get to enjoy a great deal of autonomy or independence. What’s more, when things go well for the business, much of the credit can be given to you.

CON – There is a lot of risk involved.

For every responsibility comes a certain level of inevitable risk as well. And in a small business, we are talking about financial risks, and in terms of job security. Since you are working in a small startup company, you cannot expect your employer to increase your salary according to the increase in your workload. To make things worse, statistics show that 8 out of 10 new businesses actually fail, which means job security cannot be guaranteed.

PRO – Being first is a privilege when the company becomes a success.

You can only imagine how exciting it would be to be part of a very successful company that started from being nothing. The first employee of tech giant Apple, for instance, has some serious pride and bragging rights, of course. Furthermore, should the company go on to make millions of dollars, your employer will certainly not forget to reward you financially for your loyalty.

CON – Your manager might not actually be a manager.

As the very first employee in a company, you may expect that your manager or boss is also the owner of the company. In short, there is a possibility that he or she has very little or no experience in managing people and a business. This will be very challenging for your part. He or she may not be good at delegating tasks and responsibilities, communicating ideas, and managing projects. Your boss will be learning, too, so you need a bit more patience in him or her.


If you want a job where you just need to show up, time in, do your assigned tasks, time out, and go home, being a first company employee may not be a good fit for you. On the other hand, if you love challenges, taking risks, managing your own workflow, and developing other skills you don’t have yet, then becoming a first employee should be part of your career planning.


About the author


Cecile Peterkin is a certified career and retirement coach, and a registered member of the Career Professionals of Canada and the International Coach Federation. She is also the Founder and Senior Career Strategist at Cosmic Coaching Center, provider of career and life management services for middle managers and mid-career professionals across Canada, United States and Europe.