Imagine you are offered two jobs with similar salaries, benefits, commutes, and responsibilities. Would the size of the two companies factor into your decision? What if one was a Fortune 500 company and the other was a small startup? While there are always exceptions, you’ll likely find several differences between working at a large company and a small company.
WORKING AT A BIG COMPANY
One of the biggest advantages of working at a large company is structure. Larger companies typically have formalized structures, including human resources and legal departments. A company handbook or set of accepted procedures can make it easier to settle into a new position. Once you’ve joined the company, its organization chart lays out a clear promotion path for you. This gives you the chance to specialize and develop specific skills. If you ever get bored with the path you’re on, big companies offer a wider variety of jobs, which makes it easier to switch roles without quitting the company. Larger companies generally provide a higher salary and better benefits like health insurance, company-sponsored education programs, and retirement plans.
On the other hand, larger companies may put you through several interviews, but still are more likely to force you into a position you’re not suited for. Once you get started at the company, people in the upper levels of management may not know everything about your work, but they decide the budget for it. Furthermore, because they are so far removed from your work, they are also more likely to overlook your biggest successes.
WORKING AT A SMALL COMPANY
Because they have fewer employees, smaller companies tend to be more focused on filling positions well, so you’re more likely to get a job that you’re suited for. In addition, smaller companies place less emphasis on formal requirements and are more likely to give a shot to someone with a good aptitude and enthusiasm. In addition, they are more likely to value the versatility of someone from another industry. Once you’ve joined the company, it’s easier to get yourself noticed by the top people in the company and distinguish yourself from others because of the smaller hierarchy.
In addition, you have greater access to other parts of the company and are able to take on a wider variety of responsibilities. You’ll be able to move new ideas further up the company. Because of their size, smaller companies tend to have a more family like atmosphere and offer a better work-life balance. This can be extremely beneficial in the case of a serious illness or other cause of a long-term absence. In addition, smaller companies may have other priorities that align with your beliefs, such as environmental and social change. Probably the biggest perk of working at a small company is that research has found that you are more likely to be extremely satisfied with your job.
Of course, there are drawbacks when working at small companies. The lack of an organizational structure can make work seem like the survival of the fittest, and higher-ups in the company may not have much leadership experience. While working at a smaller company makes it easier to get yourself noticed, this can have negative effects when you make mistakes. Another problem with working at a smaller company is the lack of health insurance and other benefits.
GO BIG, THEN SMALL
Probably the best way to handle the choice between big and small companies is to consider a big company for your first job. That way you can utilize the resources and opportunities available, build some “name brand” experience to improve the marketability of your resume, and then think about moving later to a smaller company, which is often looking for people with “big-name” company experience.
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Also published on Medium.