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Are you more suited to a larger or smaller business?

By Becky Postlethwaite on 12.10.17 in Your Career

When it comes to making your next career move, big doesn't necessarily mean better. The truth is that different sized businesses have a multitude of varying benefits, and it's not until you've considered these benefits that you'll know what size company you should be working at.

Size matters - understanding the benefits

Larger companies are often able to offer a better overall bonus package (including budget for learning and development, health insurance, bonus pay and so on), better opportunities for networking, greater job security, greater options for global mobility and more established ways of working (e.g. company expenses, new business processes etc.). Smaller businesses, on the other hand, are likely to offer more regular promotions, greater professional responsibility, more access to senior personnel and, a lot of the time, a more congenial atmosphere.

Which of these benefits most appeal to you? Consider the below five questions to help prioritise these benefits and, subsequently, bring some clarity to your career planning. Some of these questions are introspective, but those that aren't should be central to the structuring of your job interview; while you should also weave in these killer questions my colleague wrote about previously.

1.   How much autonomy will you enjoy?

In a bigger company, you are more likely to liaise with other large businesses, particularly when it comes to the world of advertising and marketing. The direct benefits of this are the growth of your network and increased exposure to established experts within the industry.

Contrastingly, in a smaller company you're unlikely to be working with as many high profile companies and figures, but you should enjoy greater responsibility within your own business. As the headcount will be smaller, your remit will cover a wider range of responsibilities, which should appeal to those looking to expand their skillset. There also tends to be fewer levels of bureaucracy in smaller firms, affording you have greater scope and ownership of projects.

Which of these benefits you value more will depend on your unique interests and ambitions, however my preference would be to focus on developing a network and working with big names at the start of your career - to give your CV some clout - and then to focus on refining your skillset once you've identified your strengths and weaknesses.

2.   How will it look on your CV?

It's wise to always have a five-year career plan and, as part of this, you should be asking yourself whether future employers in your chosen vocation are likely to appreciate a bigger brand name on your CV or a varied skillset obtained through experience working at a smaller company.

Often, to step onto the top rung you will need to demonstrate a variety of types of experience - what are the gaps that you need to fill in order to get there?

3.   How quickly will your career progress?

One of the big advantages of a larger company is that you can evolve your role without actually having to look for a new job. There will be many opportunities to expand your current responsibilities, as well as sideways career movement, whereas in a smaller business you're often constrained to a rigid remit. Having said this, if it's actual promotions and funkification of job title that you're looking for then a smaller firm could be for you. Because there will be less direct competition and smaller companies have more cause to reduce labour turnover, you should be able to rise through the ranks at a faster pace - although whether your job title translates into the corresponding title within future employers' businesses is something you should expect to be challenged on.

4.   How much will you earn?

This question will of course rank at the top of the pile for many jobseekers, but I've included it fourth because the distinction is not as black and white as most anticipate. Typically, bigger companies can afford to pay their staff better, however there are also many boutique agencies out there with huge financial backing who are looking to become specialists in a certain area and thus want to pay the best to ensure they hire the best.

These firms are also more likely to offer sharing or investment schemes in the company, which could prove more lucrative than an increased salary at a larger firm. The issue of pay in small vs. large businesses is less cut and dry than the other topics explored here and needs to be considered on an ad-hoc basis.

5.   What type of person are you?

Different sized businesses often attract different personalities, so ask yourself the following:

• Do you enjoy challenges or do you shy away from them?

• Do you appreciate having a different to-do list every day or a more regimented remit?

• Do you value change or stability?

• Do you feel more productive in a suit or in jeans?

• How important is the social side of work to you?

By and large, smaller businesses are more risky and present more of a challenge - because cashflow will be smaller, there will be increased pressure to maintain it - while larger businesses offer greater stability but often less flexibility of tasks and a more corporate atmosphere. Ultimately, only you can know which best suits the type of person you are!

Make your move

Often different size businesses will suit you at different stages throughout your career, so you shouldn't pledge yourself to one size of business for the rest of your professional life. What job you need may also depend on what industry you are currently working in. For example, if you are employed in a super-specialist industry you may not even have the luxury of choosing from a wide range of larger and smaller businesses. If you do have that decision to make however, and you need a bit of help making it, then congratulations - we'd like to talk to you!