Is bigger better? How to determine what size of company will best suit your working style
Describe your ideal working environment. Do you prefer smaller spaces for concentration, or open plan offices that encourage collaboration? Are you comfortable working for a big company, or would you rather work for an SME? Which of your previous working environments was the best? In ten words or less, tell us why.
Most of us are familiar with this line of questioning. It’s a topic that frequently pops up in job interviews; one which Employers use to determine whether or not a Candidate is the right fit for the company culture. There isn’t a right or wrong answer - in fact, this question should help to remind you of the kind of workplace you thrive in.
However, when you yourself don’t have a clear preference on the size of the company you’d rather work for, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
Let’s start small.
While working in a big company certainly has its perks, settling into a smaller workforce can often be the springboard you need to start your career. If you’re the kind of person who prefers to “learn on the job”, as opposed to top-down mentoring, a close-knit environment will enable you to get stuck in straight away, and start making a difference.
Here, you’ll get a chance to put your skills to the test from day one, and see the fruits of your labour fairly quickly. Unlike big companies, small businesses tend to have less robust processes in place: instead, they value hard work and dedication in whatever form it may come. Exceed expectations, and you’ll undoubtedly receive recognition for your efforts.
Further, you’ll benefit from proximity to senior management, which means you have a significantly higher chance of having your ideas heard and implemented, than a new starter at a large firm. With more opportunities to show your abilities, faster career advancement is often the norm in smaller enterprises.
Due to the size of the organisation, it’s normal for departments within SMEs to be more interconnected than those of a large company. This is where roles and remits overlap; where valuable experience across a number of disciplines can be gained through increased exposure to other areas of the business.
For those who are yet to find their true calling, this is the perfect opportunity to discover where you shine.
The big question.
For those seeking more structure in their working day and a set of clearly defined objectives, joining a large organisation is usually a safer bet. Rather than pitching in wherever your skills may be needed, your role generally won’t stray too far from the job description you see at the point of application.
From training schemes to progression opportunities, big companies tend to have an established way of doing things. Climbing the career ladder in a large organisation is therefore considered much more of a formulaic process than it is at an SME.
If you’re worried about being a small fish in a sizeable pond, don’t fret: if Nemo’s dad can swim roughly 1568 miles to find his son in Sydney, you can make a difference in a big company. It’s just about adopting a different strategy - but that’s for another day. For now, let’s bring the focus back to you and your working style.
If your ideal work environment involves being amongst a large group of people, working at a small company could stifle your productivity. On the other hand, if you’re looking for hands-on experience across a multitude of business functions, “go big or go home” may not be the best advice: but remember, there’s no hiding in an SME. If you aren’t ready to put your skills in the spotlight, opting for a big corporation should allow you to observe from the sidelines, before you start changing the game.
What has worked well for you – big, or small? Tell us, we would love to hear from you.