The early career debate: does size really matter?

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When it comes to job hunting, finding the right role is only half the battle.  


You’ll also want a work environment that ticks as many boxes as possible; a company’s size can impact many things on your workplace wish list, like the culture, training, growth opportunities and choice of benefits.  


So, before you embark on your career journey, you’ll want to consider which company size will be right for you. 


No matter how you slice it, there are pros and cons to joining a small company or jumping headfirst into a large enterprise — that’s why you need to know which factors are most important to you. From there, you can make an informed decision about where you want your future career to start… 


Does small and steady win the race?


Small businesses (typically those with 50 employees or less) can offer great career growth opportunities for students, graduates and professionals. But is starting in a small company right for you? 




Working for a small company can expose you to various business areas. With fewer employees to fill the gaps, you can quickly take on more responsibility and often have more opportunities to get involved, add your input and contribute directly to business decisions.  


A smaller team also means you’ll get to work closely alongside senior team members. Focusing on you as an individual, they’ll have a better chance to monitor your performance and offer one-to-one feedback to encourage your progress. 


Plus, small workplaces can foster a great workplace culture… 


Being part of a small company makes getting to know your whole team easier — either through after-work socials or catching up over Teams. Having this trusted network of colleagues can lead to a happier and healthier work environment (which is always a plus, isn’t it?). 




Joining a business with fewer employees can offer an exciting opportunity to stretch your skills and reach beyond your comfort zone. But as the company grows and changes, your job description could, too.  


Wearing many hats and covering different roles across the business can be great for someone who wants to try their hand at a range of areas. But if you’d prefer to stay in your lane and hone your craft in one field, the nature of a smaller company might not be for you. 


It’s also important to consider the perks that come with your contract. Many small companies offer benefits, but their packages may not be as varied or significant as larger businesses.  


Your earning potential may also be limited, as smaller businesses don’t tend to have the same budgets as big enterprises. Moving up the ranks could also be more challenging, as you’ll often have to wait for someone to leave before getting promoted.  


Should you go big or go home?


If you’re keen to step straight into some big-business action (we’re talking more than 250 employees), here are some things to consider… 




In the early stages of your career, you’re probably starting at the bottom of the giant corporation ladder.  


But the good thing about large companies is there are loads of steps above you — and a clear structure to move upwards. From training schemes to promotions and pay rises, there’s often a path laid out to help you get to the next level. 



Not sure you’ll want to stick to your chosen career path? Working at a bigger company means you’ll also have the opportunity to side-step into different roles across departments — rather than only moving up in your current job.  


And if you decide to move on to another venture, having a well-known company on your CV can boost your chances of getting your foot in the door.  


Another obvious advantage of working for a large company is the benefits package, which usually offers more than small businesses…  


For example, the bigger salary, amount of holiday and bonus potential is often a draw for professionals to hop on board a big establishment — as well as extra perks like paid gym memberships, relocation packages and health and well-being benefits. 


Big businesses also tend to recruit in cohorts, so it’s likely you won’t be the only newbie (which can be a welcome relief). 




When working at a large company with many employees, there’s always a risk of feeling like just a number…  


You can still benefit from a good workplace culture (imagine the Christmas parties), but getting to know all your colleagues could be challenging and you may struggle to build a trusted network of peers. 


It can also be tricky to make your mark (and be recognised for your achievements) when you’re a small fish in a big pond. With many management levels above you and lots of red tape to cut through, it can be harder to bring your ideas to light and get your voice heard. 


Sizing up your options


Understanding your ambitions, what you want to learn and where you want your career to go can help you decide if a small or large business is the right launchpad for you. (Or if you’d like to pinch an attribute or two from both — there’s always the option to meet in the middle at a medium-sized company.) 


So, jot down your workplace wish list and rank it in order of priority. Then, check your boxes against the pros and cons to see which factors are most important to you and which you could do without. 


Would you like to collaborate with a close-knit team and make an impact on a small company? Or is working your way up the ranks with more opportunities for growth your goal? 


Having clear preferences will help refine your search, putting you in a better position to land your dream role in the environment that works best for you. 


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