The decision to work for a small or large company has no right choice. The outcome will depend on your role, career aspirations, character fit and the career and growth prospects of your chosen employer. There is no easy answer, a smaller company might be quickly successful and morph into a big brand in just a few years. A larger company might be stagnating and quickly have to downsize.
Your decision needs to be based around your expectations, and gaining as much information as you can about a prospective employer to assess if they will meet them. It’s not just about what they will provide for you as an employee – can you deliver the expectations of your new company, no matter the size?
You need be asking yourself a few more key questions including: What do you hope to accomplish in your career? How do you work best in an organization?
What are you looking for in any employer? You need to understand:
• The job description
• Salary and benefits
• Career prospects
• Working environment
• The number of employees
• The company’s future prospects and expansion plans
• The industry you will work in and its strengths and weaknesses
• How innovative they are
• Who your colleagues and managers will be
• What is the company culture?
There will be many questions, more you may think of specific to your career, and industry of choice. The answers to all of them will give you a better understanding of how working for a prospective employer might turn out.
Of course, there are pros and cons in any size working environment. Let’s look at some benefits and drawbacks for both small companies and big businesses.
Pros and cons of working for smaller companies
Small companies offer their own perks and downsides. On the plus side, your successes can be seen by all of your co-workers in the office. With your accomplishments being visible to all team members, it’s much easier to extricate your specific skill set than with a larger company. Keep in mind, though, that this can also be a setback as your failures are also more readily seen.
Another plus for working at a smaller business is faster movement. As an employee, you can knock on your boss’s door to gain approval on a specific document, or action rather than having to wait days or weeks for authorization when working in a larger corporation.
In a small company, you may be asked to fulfil multiple roles, which although tasking can give you valuable experience. If you only want to stick to your skillset this might be a hindrance. Working for a smaller firm may give you the experience you need to gain a position in a larger, or more desirable company. Employers are not ignorant to this tactic though, so you may not get the full investment from a company who knows you are using them as a stepping stone.
Salary and benefits packages can vary with size. Though many smaller employers offer good packages to compete with larger firms, or even better salaries to attract talent away from larger companies.
It may be easier to progress within a smaller company
In a small company, there could be less competition, or your achievements may be more clearly seen by management. On the flip, it could be more difficult too, as less vacancies higher up the ladder emerge. If your ambitious it’s important to understand what career progression a small company could offer and when.
Understanding a smaller organizations prospects for growth and innovation is key to this. In a small firm which is expanding quickly, senior or more responsible positions can be created quickly. Small growing firms are often loyal in rewarding key employees who have contributed to their success.
Working relationships are more important in a smaller company, chances are you will need to get along with everyone, if you don’t your job could become uncomfortable quickly. In a larger company, the chances of avoiding a colleague you don’t gel with are greater.
Pros and cons of working for larger companies
Working for a larger company typically provides structure and an established way of performing job duties. It offers a sense of stability, sometimes a higher salary, and often better health insurance and retirement plans. However, you may miss the diverse, innovative nature of smaller firms, especially ones in growth.
There may be more opportunities for movement within a large company. The opportunities for progression and development may be higher, though the competition could be steeper. You may also have the chance to change department, role, or even location without having to begin the whole job hunting process from scratch. If it interests you, there may be more chance of working, or relocating abroad.
You will find much more competition in a larger company, where more than one employee will have the same skillset as yourself. If you are confident and ambitious this might not phase you. Equally if you are looking for stability and don’t want to progress you might prefer a steady role in a large department.
A drawback is that changes often happen at a snail’s pace
Another setback when working for a big business is that it’s nearly impossible to know the hundreds and even thousands of co-workers within the organization. If you aren’t a social butterfly, this actually may not constitute as a drawback for you. You may find the opportunities for social gatherings with work colleagues, awards ceremonies, and training courses greater with a large, established business. Again, this goes back to personal preference and personality types.
Job security was once viewed as much higher within larger companies, but the transient nature of today’s economy, and industry, means that a large company is just as susceptible to downsizing and closure as a smaller firm.
You should also consider if you are looking for the status of working for a big brand, rather than the role ownership that comes with a smaller company. In certain careers, particularly finance, banking, law and technology, having worked at one of the industry’s biggest names can become the strongest aspect of your resume.
How to assess what any company can offer you?
You understand the questions you need to find the answers to, and the positives and negatives of working for smaller, and larger employers. Now you need to find the answers to your questions.
The key to this is extensive research, the internet can provide much of the information you need. Websites like Glassdoor, or reviews on Indeed, can give you valuable insights written by current, and past employees. If you know someone who works for, or has worked for a prospective employer, meet them for coffee and quiz them on their experiences. Social media is also an excellent source of information on company culture, and the employees who work within a company. Searching for employees who will become your colleagues on LinkedIn, and viewing their qualifications and work history may give you valuable knowledge of how they are progressing, and what they are contributing to their workplace.
As you begin to shortlist potential employers, apply for vacancies, and gain interviews, the interview will be a primary source of answers for you. Some employers may be more honest than others, who are keen to attract you, but may not give you all the downsides. Others will be brutally honest, knowing they have more chance of retaining a candidate who knows what they are expecting from their job. Your interviewer will appreciate you demonstrating your knowledge of them and their niche, but they will also appreciate well planned questions, as you look to answer any remaining questions.
Honesty is important at interview. If they job isn’t right it is better for you and the employer if you don’t start and then leave. Ask your interviewer if they have concerns about hiring you, and express your concerns to your interviewer. They may well put any anxiety to rest and the honest approach at interview could lead to health, open, working relationship.
Finding your decision-making process any easier yet?
Here is a quick summary of how to decide between a small company and a big brand:
• Know what you expect, and the best working environment for you
• Understand exactly what an employer of any size could offer
• Consider, even make lists, of all the pros and cons
• Answer any questions or concerns through research, then at interview
• Finally, decide if your potential employer is a good match for you, and you for them
Ultimately, determining what size company you want to work for depends on your personality, skill set, how you work best within an organization, and what you personally want to accomplish. By selecting the appropriate work environment, you will thrive and be successful. Some of the best companies to work for are out there waiting to negotiate and hire you. Big or small? It’s up to you!
Here are some interesting view from YouTuber Dave Xiang;