(This is not your father’s career advice. That’s why you should listen to it.)
Perhaps it is because I worked for — and quit — both companies and understand their pros and cons. Perhaps it is because I used to be a professor and understand both sides of the student-to-employee transition. Whatever the cause, I get this question a lot. Who should I work for Microsoft or Google?
Both companies have impressive recruiting and intern programs. Both have an uncanny eye for quality students. Every really good student I meet seems to have at least interest and often an offer from both. But it is always Microsoft or Google. I ask about other offers and some have them but these two companies seem to be the hardest to turn down.
If it’s an internship you are being offered …
Internships are a different animal than full time offers so let’s take a look at these first. Few interns at either company fail to enjoy their internship. In a way, your internship is an extended recruitment process. You are smart, otherwise you would not have gotten the internship. So, of course, they are going to make sure you have a great time and want you to come back because when you do you already know the company and you are productive and comfortable from day one.
Having a great time is the wrong reason to take an internship. Just assume that is going to happen and don’t bother including it in your analysis.
Both companies are also going to ensure you do real work. You don’t fetch coffee at either of these companies. You do real work on real projects side by side with full time employees.
So don’t choose your internship based on the realness of the work. Neither company is going to screw this up.
Now we get down to it. How to choose? My advice: choose the job that will teach you the most. In fact, let me take this a step further: choose the job you have the least qualifications for. Choose the one that is in an area in which you want to grow. Choose the one where you’ll have to work the hardest. Choose the one that you could never do at the university. Choose the one that is hard enough that you might fail.
You see internships are about increasing your skill. Period. Use them for anything else and you are guilty of opportunity fraud. You are going to have fun. You are going to have experts an arm’s length away. You are going to have good mentorship. If there is one time where you get close enough to failure to smell its scent, this should be it because it is someone’s job to have your back. No one wants you to be unsuccessful.
But try really hard anyway.
An internship that comes closest to breaking you will be the internship that puts distance between you and your peers. When the full time offers start rolling in you stand out as someone who learned more and has a track record of disrespecting your own comfort zone. Hashtag me impressed.
So the company that gives you an internship that makes you say damn that sounds really hard … swipe right.
If it’s a full time job being offered …
Guess what? I have an opinion about these offers too and it’s just as not-obvious as my internship advice. So buckle your seat belt.
Microsoft has products the world depends on. Billions of lines of code executing on behalf of humanity every hour, every day. Contribute to a Microsoft product and people use it. Shit happens because of you. People accomplish things. Congratulations you just employed yourself into a meaningful career. Relevancy looks good on you by the way.
They both have cool glasses and digital assistants. They both index the world’s information. They both work on moonshots. They both have offices all over the world. They fight the good fight to redefine the future every single hour of the workday and then some. You tell people who you work for and they assume you are smart as hell. Yeah there are some differences here and there but what’s an Xbox among friends, eh?
It’s about the people. Period. It’s the people who make the difference. It’s the people who are going to help you grow and lift you up when you fall. It’s the people you have to be around day in and day out. A shit project and great people beat a great project and shit people every day. Great people can shift a shit project but shit people wreck even the best project. It’s the people who will give you new perspective, lift your consciousness and teach you things that make your prospects and your life better. Don’t take any shit here my friends. You’ll never get the smell out.
Then as you grow in your career, you’ll be one of those great people. Lifting up others, raising their game, having their back. People make all the difference.
Look these companies are big. You choose the wrong product to work on? So what? Change. Everywhere you look are toys and tech. It’s the people that matter. Choose based on them.
So the company that gives you an offer that makes you say damn I wanna be part of that party … swipe right.
And if you swipe right for Microsoft, be sure and say hi.