I am a big fan of small business and always encourage young people to consider this route when thinking about where they will work.
Many people (falsely) believe that a big company will provide lots of job security and offer a great career path. Nothing could be further from the truth.
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 your career. It’s an excellent way to establish credentials, build skills, and gain references that can follow you for years to come.
You can develop more skills. In small companies, employees are forced to wear many hats. In many cases, there simply aren’t enough people working for the company to assign every specific task to someone. 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, sick leave, and pension—usually 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 who are on tighter budgets.
You can change jobs without changing your employer. Big companies often encourage lateral transfers within the company as a way of building skills in other areas. For example, 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. This gives structure and order, and a defined way of doing things. Some people prefer the comfort offered by this stability.
But working for a big company can have its downsides.
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 can be impersonal and unfriendly and it becomes impossible to know all of your co-workers.
And, contrary to what most people believe, there is no security in working for a big company. If they have to cut expenses to maintain their share price, or have to find “synergies” after being bought out by another company, you could be given the pink slip quickly.
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