Written by Steve Brennan
~3 min. read
Those of us who have had longer careers have the benefit of experience. I've worked for both large companies and small companies, poorly run companies, mediocre companies, and excellent companies. Looking back, they were all great learning experiencing, and I wouldn't change anything even if I could.
As for company size, although I understand it may not always be the case for everyone, I've enjoyed my experience at smaller, well-run companies even over larger well-run companies. While the smaller companies could not quite compete from a compensation and benefits perspective, they offered an opportunity to work in a tight-knit group, provided a breadth of experience, using a variety of skills, and had much more flexibility for employees. More importantly, my efforts had a tangible impact when working for a smaller firm.
Savvy small businesses know what they're up against in providing top dollar salaries and comprehensive benefits packages, so they find other creative ways to retain employees. Flex hours, work from home, and a less formal environment. Working for a smaller firm is certainly not for everyone; some may prefer a more corporate, structured environment that Fortune 500 firms offer. Not to mention the pride that comes from climbing up the corporate ladder in a prestigious household brand company. I get that, but I know that wears off fast when you are working for a boss you don't like or with colleagues who don't share the same values.
Whenever anyone asks me what they should do when selecting between a larger or smaller company, aside from compensation, which of course, is a huge consideration, I ask them, 'what are the people like you will be working with?' I think that matters most when selecting which organization to work for. Aside from that, there are other pros when working for a larger company. Sometimes larger companies can have a smaller company feel if you work in a department fostering healthy relationships that interact as a unit with other parts of the organization. And one of the advantages you have in a larger company is the mobility you might not have in a small company. Don't like the team or boss you are working with? Ask for a transfer within the organization.
In a smaller company, you're more stuck with the people you work with because, most likely, you will get to know just about everyone to one degree or another, and you can't just transfer to another department if you're not getting along. You would need to leave the company altogether. Leaving a small company is quite painful when you've fostered relationships and developed a history with those you work with day in and day out.
What I have always liked about working for a small business, and now running a small business is the impact your actions and decisions have on the organization. In a larger company, it typically takes years to climb the corporate ladder where you have a position with broad-ranging impact.
A big part of your decision will, of course, be affected by where you are in your life, here are the top 3 things to consider:
Is the compensation with highly comprehensive benefits vital to you? Or do you have some flexibility considering other perks the company might offer?
Are you looking for an opportunity to impact your company in a big way, or are you ok to contribute what you can?
How important is flexibility at this point in your life? Flex hours, work from home, etc.
In closing, I do want to underscore the importance of multiple experiences. Ironically, working for a poorly run company made me appreciate a well-run company so much more. First-hand knowledge helps you know the difference. Taking a job is always a risk; do your research, but you won't know what it's like until you are in the chair for a while. Above all, big or small, don't stay at a place where you are finding it difficult to get up in the morning and start your day.
Life is too short for that.