When it comes to potential employers, ask yourself these two questions.
A friend of mine just called to say she’s moving from her job in a small office with three people to a huge corporation with thousands of employees.
She is thrilled.
Which got me to thinking about the pros and cons of small versus large companies. How do you decide which is best for you?
Both have advantages. In a small office you may have more freedom and visibility, which can translate to influence, and you’ll personally know all your fellow employees. But a large company is likely to offer better benefits. Plus you may be able to spend your whole career there, growing through the ranks, instead of having to find a new employer to get ahead.
On the minus side, a small firm often has no legal or HR department, meaning abuses can go unnoticed and unpunished. And large corporations are, well, corporate. Change usually happens slowly, if at all, and you can’t help feeling like a very small fish in a very large pond.
Deciding which is right for you can be a challenge, but you can start by asking yourself — and honestly answering — these two questions:
How good are you at rolling with the punches? Small companies are often new companies. They haven’t had the time or need to codify procedures and roles, so you may get hired as an accountant, only to find that you’re also in charge of restocking the paper towels in the restrooms. If you’re not fine with this, you might be happier in a larger firm where everyone has a clear job description.
How fast do you want to move up the career ladder? Small companies, while allowing you more leeway in the kinds of duties you take on, often do not provide much room for advancement. If there’s just one person above you and that’s the CEO, then it’s not likely you’ll be getting promoted anytime soon. At a big company, you can hop from department to department, learning and getting raises along the way.
In the end, though, you should know that small companies far outnumber larger firms. So you may have an easier time finding a job in one, especially if you’re early in your career. Indeed, you will probably log some time in both.