The Advantages of Getting a Job at a Small Company

Research has shown for years that despite all the attention corporate America gets, the vast majority of jobs out there are with small companies. No they're often not as glamorous, but the opportunities they offer are too good to ignore, no matter how strong the pull of that ego-stroking big-name company you're thinking of pursuing. Here's why.

Wider Variety of Experience
Small companies tend to have leaner staffs that are required to do many different jobs. This means you'll probably be exposed to more types of skills and work. And since small companies tend to be less compartmentalized, you can more easily see what others are doing. This is a great way to build experience and more clearly define what you want to do in your career. And that's an especially big plus early in your career.

Less Rigid Promotion Path
Since titles and job descriptions are generally less defined in small companies, the promotion path is usually the same. This means you don't necessarily have to put in a certain number of years in a particular role, or go through a standardized progression of positions to get to a certain point. In small companies, that process tends to be based more on a person's merits and ambition. You never know, this sort of open job progression might even give you a shot at owning the whole company. That's exactly what happened to a good friend of mine after he put in a few years with the sales department at an industrial products firm. Try doing that with your lofty-sounding but limited Fortune 500 job.

More Freedom to Define Your Own Job
With fewer restrictions on jobs in small companies, you often have more latitude to define your position, its responsibilities, and your working methods. For one thing, you're not as likely to find a book of Official Procedures in a small company. But beyond that obvious boon to freedom, a small company allows you relatively open access to the firm's president and top managers. That gives you plenty of chances to discuss your ideas, hopes, and plans with people who have the power to make them reality.

More Emphasis on People
Small companies often operate with sort of a "family" atmosphere, with everyone more aware of each other's personal situations, individual quirks, and unique needs. No, that doesn't insulate the small-company employee from the realities of business. Such firms lay people off just as any business has to at times. The difference, however, is that small companies tend to deliberate more over it and are often more likely to give favorable severance terms, albeit within the bounds of generally more limited financial means

Less Competition for Jobs
The pull of big brand name conglomerates is irresistible to many — an open position at Microsoft is likely to pull in thousands of applications. You have to be a pretty spectacular candidate to have a chance against those odds. It's not that you shouldn't take a shot at such huge companies, but it's always a good idea to hedge your bets with plenty of promising small firms too.

Small companies aren't for everyone. And they have some disadvantages, including fewer fringe benefits, less structured training, and not as much name recognition to put on your resume. But for the right person, these not-so-big names can be powerful career builders. So don't rule them out when you start shopping around in your job search.

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