As most college students have done, you’ve likely set your goals to interview with and get hired by a large multi-national corporation where you will receive training in a specific area of expertise and work your way up the corporate ladder to senior management some day. While this is an admirable and worthwhile goal, don’t count out the value of landing an entry level position with a small business entity to jump-start your career. If you are a self-starter who enjoys pioneering uncharted territory, or someone who is looking to climb the management ladder in a hurry, then the small company can be an exciting way to get things started.
One major benefit of working with a smaller company is that you get exposure to a broader view of what makes the company successful. In smaller concerns, it is usually a requirement that you wear multiple hats and learn different skills that will help keep things humming along. As such, you can get to learn the business from various sides which include marketing, operations, accounting, and more. How is that important? Well, if you ever plan to run your own business some day, you will have a greater understanding of how these various facets of the business work together to generate profits and stability. Processing subsidiary payments in a cubicle at Shell Oil won’t provide you with insight into anything but that specific task for quite some time.
Small companies also allow for greater advancement opportunities-both in job title and salary. One can expend a great amount of energy to prove themselves worthy of promotion in a multi-national concern without ever getting noticed by the management team. After all, aren’t there about 50 other entry-level professionals doing the same thing? You could easily get caught in a glut where there just aren’t enough promotions and raises to go around. With your smaller companies, everything you do has an impact on productivity and profitability. This not only makes it easier to get noticed by management, but your value is exponentially increased, meaning more leverage at the salary negotiation table during your next review. Can you really see multi-nationals such as Pfizer or Proctor & Gamble really missing your services enough to be obligated to treating you fairly when it is time for your performance review?
Of course, there is the excitement of the wild ride to consider, which isn’t for everyone. Smaller companies experience more volatility because unlike their larger counterparts, they are usually operating with a smaller war chest. Smaller entities feel the “bumps in the road” more often, so everyday has to be a productive one. For those of you with a gambler’s mentality and a positive attitude, this won’t be an issue. Businesses such as these require energy, stamina, and a positive outlook from their team on a daily basis. Six months after your hire, you’ll still sometimes will not know what the coming day will hold, which can be pretty exciting. An entry-level position with a multinational can be the same day over and over again for months (sometimes years-remember, it’s a machine and you’re simply a cog in it).
Office politics is something you will have to deal with no matter where you work. With the smaller companies, at least it is not as pronounced. As mentioned earlier, to get noticed in larger companies can be a job in and of itself. The more colleagues you have planning to move up the ladder, the more treacherous some of them are going to be in order to ensure that they are the one who holds management’s attention during promotion time. This can be a tremendous drain on your energy and leave you suspicious of everyone who starts a conversation with you (I have a friend who can give you some Microsoft stories that will make you shudder). At least with the smaller company, you know all the players and there are fewer of them to deal with. Since you are likely to be working much more closely with senior management than in a larger concern, your work and attitude will speak for itself because they will have greater exposure to it. It’s harder for someone to steal your thunder if it has a shorter distance to travel.
All in all, you have to examine the type of person you are to see if the opportunity of working with a smaller company is one for you. The days of huge companies hiring an employee and staying loyal to them for 35 years has long disappeared. Corporate entities are loyal to no one so job security should not even be a factor in the decision. It’s all about your willingness to step out and ride the roller coaster. A position with a smaller entity may or may not end up being the financial boon that you planned, but I can guarantee that you won’t have a boring time finding out.