Small Versus Large Companies
Do you realize that most new job growth in the U.S. comes from small business? Yet, most students concentrate their job search to Fortune 500 corporations or other large, well-known companies with defined and approachable personnel departments. But don't forget the small companies! Generally, any business with 200 or fewer employees is considered a small company. Small businesses are providing the economy with a wealth of jobs (nearly two-thirds of all new jobs!) and revenue. Small businesses are an economic powerhouse that know you by your first name.
Is a Small Company Right for You?
Life in a small organization is very different from that in a large organization. Small companies tend to offer an informal atmosphere, an all-for-one camaraderie, and require more versatility and dedication on the part of the company and workers. Small companies are usually growing so they are constantly redefining themselves and the positions within them. Look at the following list of small company traits and consider which of them are advantages and which are disadvantages for you.
- You are given more responsibility and are not limited by "job descriptions."
- Your ideas and suggestions will be heard and given more attention, often more quickly.
- Career advancement and salary increases may be rapid in a growing company.
- You have less job security due to the high rate of failure for a small business.
- You have the opportunity to be involved in the creation or growth of something great.
- You may be involved in the entire organization rather than in a narrow department.
- You may be eligible for stock options and profit sharing.
- The environment is less bureaucratic; there are fewer rules and regulations and thus fewer guidelines to help you determine what to do and whether you're succeeding or failing.
- Successes and faults are more visible.
- Starting salaries and benefits may be more variable.
- A dominant leader can control the entire organization. This can lead either to more "political games" or a healthy, happy atmosphere.
- You must be able to work with everyone in the organization.
Are You Right for a Small Company?
Because most small companies do not have extensive training programs, they look for certain traits in potential employees. You will do well in a small company if you are:
- A generalist with many complimentary skills
- A good communicator, both verbal and written
- A risk-taker
- A quick learner
- Responsible enough to get things done on your own
There are fewer limitations, and it's up to you to make the best of that freedom. A small business often has a strong company culture, imposed by a dominant leader. Learn that company's culture; notice its style.
Finding a Job in a Small Company
One of the biggest hurdles in finding a job in a small business is getting to a hiring person. Good timing is critical. The sporadic growth of many small companies means sporadic job openings, so you need to network. A small business tends to fill its labor needs informally through personal contacts and recommendations from employees. Job hunters must find their way into the organization and approach someone with hiring authority. This means that you must take the initiative. Once you have someone's attention, you must convince them that you can do something for them.
How Do You Find Information on Small Companies? Try these techniques:
- Contact the Chamber of Commerce in the area you would like to work. Get the names of growing companies in the industry of your choice. Review the membership directory.
- Participate in the local chapter of professional trade associations related to your career. Read trade publications, business journals and area newspapers for leads. Send prospective employers a cover letter and resume, then follow up with a phone call.
- Speak with small business lenders such as bankers, venture capitalists, and small business investment companies. These may be found listed in directories at local libraries.
- Because small companies hire in a less formal procedure, keep the following differences between large and small companies in mind as you conduct your job search:
Large Company vs. Small Company
Large: Centralized personnel department
Small: No personnel department
Large: Formal recruiting program with recruiters seeking out potential employees
Small: No full-time recruiters
Large: Standardized hiring procedures
Small: No standard hiring procedures
Large: Keep resumes on file for a specified period of time
Small: Usually won't keep resumes
Large: Interview often held with recruiters and managers
Small: Interview held with the founder or direct boss
Large: Company literature usually available
Small: No printed literature
Large: Hiring done months in advance of starting date
Small: Hire to begin immediately
Large: Formal training programs
Small: On-the-job training
Large: Predetermined job categories
Small: Jobs emerge to fit needs
Do your homework on the company, and persuade the company to hire you through your initiative and original thinking. If you haven't graduated yet, offer to work for them as an intern. This will give you experience, and if you do well, there's a good chance that a job will be waiting on graduation day.
Adapted with permission from the Career Resource Manual of the University of California, Davis.