Big company or small?

Big company or small?

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It's an important question - do you pursue a career with a large company (with international recognition, impressive pay packages, and lots of corporate perks), or go after a position with a smaller company or start-up (that'll be more inclined to let you jump in with creative and business input)?

A small company, or SME (Small to Medium Enterprise), is a company whose staff count does not exceed 250. They're usually found in niche areas - like Marketing, Advertising, or Architecture - but if you look hard enough there are SMEs in any sector.

On the other hand, a large-scale corporation will typically have a workforce of at least 500. These companies can offer in-depth training and development opportunities, which can help you fast-track your career.

The two routes have different things to offer, so in the interest of helping you decide, let's take a look at what each could offer you.

The Pros

  • Noticeable successes
    When the company is small, your impact is noticeable, especially when you've been brought in to perform a specialist role. This means that your hard work will be recognised, and you can have a real impact on the business. You might get the opportunity to help mould a company's strategy or direction and see your ideas become reality. However, it can also lead to a lot of pressure and responsibility. There's not as much room for trail and error, since your mistakes will stand out just as much as your successes.
  • Varied roles
    It goes without saying that a smaller company equals a smaller workforce. This means that often employees are expected to pitch in and help other teams or departments. While you might have to get good at multitasking, this will give you the chance to broaden your skills and get valuable experience across multiple sectors of the business, as well as give you an idea of the kinds of roles you could eventually move into.
  • Camaraderie
    Smaller offices mean tighter-knit teams. You'll likely be working closely with a small group - and when you spend forty hours a week with your colleagues, bonds form that can last a lifetime. These connections are beneficial on both a personal and professional level. A close working environment can also ease pressure for graduates new to the working world - after all, it's easier to ask questions and request help when you're close with your co-workers.

The Cons

  • Training
    In comparison to some of the larger Graduate Schemes and training programmes, opportunities for professional qualifications can be limited at smaller companies. While large companies can afford to send graduates on training courses and to conferences, smaller companies may not have the resources for that. Graduates are expected to learn on-the-job, which could be more pressure than you're looking for.
  • Career Path
    SMEs may be less established than larger firms, and career paths may not be as clear or defined. At larger firms, graduates may be on their way to the 'next level' within several years. At smaller firms, the opportunity to advance may not come as quickly - and, when it does, it may be a larger leap than you're prepared for.
  • Job Stability
    The large, corporate graduate employers have established themselves over decades -sometimes centuries - but smaller companies can't offer the same stability. Revenue streams in smaller companies can sometimes fluctuate, and new hires could be the first to be let go when the contracts or clients don't come in and the money dries up. It's a risk with all employment, but the odds of things going that way are higher with a smaller company.

How do you choose?

To give yourself an idea if you'd be better suited working in a large firm or a small company, try answering the following questions:

  • Do you make friends at work, or do you like to keep your work and private lives separate?
  • Do you prefer large parties or small gatherings?
  • Have you got a career in mind, or are you looking to develop a new set of skills?
  • Are you comfortable with sudden changes?
  • Are you confident 'winging' things when necessary?
  • Do you prefer routine?
  • Would you prefer a slow, steady career path, or do you like the idea of big, unpredictable leaps?

Thinking about these questions should give you a bit of an idea of what you could expect from your day-to-day life when working in either a larger firm, or a smaller company.

If you think a career with a smaller company is what you're after, check out our listing of SME graduate jobs.

Keep in mind that many smaller companies do not advertise their openings, and take a more relaxed apparoach to recruitment. Graduates interested in SMEs can check company websites for job postings, and to query companies to see if they have any openings.

Next: Graduate Training Schemes