I am a big fan of small business and always encourage young people to consider this route when considering where they will work.
Many people (falsely) believe that working for a big company provides lots of job security and can offer a great career path. This is not necessarily true.
Here is why working for a small business can help your career:
Your achievements are more visible. In smaller companies, your work can be seen by people in senior positions, 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.
You can develop more skills. In small companies, employees are forced to wear many hats. In many cases, there 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 have more flexibility: Small companies tend to be more flexible and adaptable to changes. As a result, you may have more say in the direction of the company, and you may be able to work on a wider variety of tasks and projects.
You gain access to decision-makers. In small companies, you don’t have to go through several levels to get to the CEO. You usually just walk down the hall. You will find that most progressive business owners listen to ideas that are well thought out and will help the company grow. And if it’s a 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 “This is the way we’ve always done it here” attitude that prevails in large companies.
You can make a difference. At a small company, your contributions may have a greater impact on the business’s overall success. You may be able to see the direct results of your work and have a greater sense of satisfaction from it. 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. Health and dental coverage, life insurance, sick leave, pension and other benefits tend to be more generous in big companies. You may also receive perks like education and wellness allowances, less likely to be offered by smaller companies 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. You may take comfort in this.
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, making it impossible to know all your co-workers. And, contrary to what most people believe, there is no security in working for a big company. If they must cut expenses to maintain their share price or find “synergies” after being bought out by another company, you could be given the pink slip quickly.