How Working For A Small Business Can Help Your Career

By Gerald Walsh ©

I am a big fan of small business and I always encourage young people to consider this option when thinking about where they will work.

Here is why working for a small business can help your career:

Your achievements are more visible.

At a small company, your work can be seen by more people and it becomes easier to stand out. This is particularly important if you are just starting out in a new career. It’s an excellent way to establish your credentials, build skills, and gain references that can follow you for years.

You can develop more skills.

In small companies employees are forced to wear many hats. There simply aren’t enough people around to assign every specific task to every specific person. This helps you become a well-rounded employee and build skills that can help you throughout your career.

You gain access to decision-makers.

In small companies, you don’t have to go through five levels to get to the CEO – you usually just have to walk down the hall. You will find that most progressive business owners will listen to ideas that are well thought out and will help the company grow. And if it’s a really good idea, they will want to implement it right away. They will not have to seek budget approval from head office which can take months.

Your opinions matter more.

Small companies tend to be open to new ideas and are less tied to “the way we’ve always done it here” attitude that prevails in large companies.

You can make a difference.

At a small company, it’s easier to see that you’re making a difference. This is important for young people who want to engage in work that is meaningful and has an impact. You will have a much broader range of control and more responsibilities than you would working for a big company.

Admittedly, there are some advantages to working for a big company:

The benefits tend to be better. The usual benefits – like health and dental coverage, life insurance, paid sick leave, and pension – generally are more generous in big companies. You may also receive perks like education and wellness allowances, which are less likely to be offered by smaller companies due to the costs involved.

You can change jobs without changing your company. Big companies often encourage lateral transfers within the company as a way of building skills in other areas. You may see accountants working in operations, or marketing people working in human resources. This helps you build skills beyond your specialty area. 

You have more structure and systems already in place. Big companies have established systems, policies and procedures in place. There’s structure and order, and a defined way of doing things. Some people like the comfort offered by this stability.

But working for a big company can have its downsides too. Because of the hierarchy and bureaucracy, changes happen slowly. This can be frustrating if you are eager to do things and “move up the ladder.” You may also find that big companies, because of their size, can be impersonal and unfriendly and it becomes impossible to know all of your co-workers.

And, let’s face it, there is no security anymore in any company, big or small. So, don’t be fooled – like so many are – that the big company will look out for you. If they have to cut expenses to maintain their share price or because they’ve been bought out by another company, you could be given the pink slip easily.

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Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. During a 25+ year career, he has interviewed more than 15,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @@Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn.