There are a number of key differences that set apart larger companies from smaller businesses. The problem is, when starting out or looking for a change of scene and new challenges, it can sometimes be difficult to know which way to leap.
We're all governed by our past experiences to an extent and some of us, (especially those slightly longer in the tooth !), may well have had a taste of both environments - large corporate and SME - in some form or another and, if so, will have a very clear view on which we think is preferable. (Most of us have had a work experience that has left some residue and helped clarify what we absolutely don't want out of our working lives).
There's a lot to be said for the smaller companies (I'll put that out there now as Saracen is always interested in new talent !) and, although we are all shaped by our own experiences my caveat to that would be that the category of SMEs covers a broad spectrum - there are huge differences in the companies that fall into this mix and sector plays its part too. Basically, we have to allow each company to stand on its own merit and not enter into any work environment with a fixed idea of how it will be.
With that in mind, and any pre-judgements held strictly in abeyance, here's a broad stroke look at the differences between the two environments:
It all begins with the employment process itself. Smaller companies take a less formal approach to recruitment, often stopping at one or two candidate interviews and making quicker and more instinctive choices. Add to this, at least one of the persons interviewing you is likely to be working with you - which isn't necessarily the case in the early stages of the corporate interviewing process - and the procedure becomes a lot more palatable.
Note that, larger companies also have procedures that have to be followed, rigid HR policies and a lot of form-filling and hoops to jump through. In the smaller companies, there is less bureaucracy at the interview stage and beyond. Job descriptions tend to be broader and you are given more scope to adapt your skills, step out of your comfort zone, stretch yourself and test your knowledge and abilities. There's always the potential to make your role bigger and to own other tasks.
In the SMES, you're given a lot more rope but then the cynic would point out that there's no better way to then go ahead and hang yourself so you better watch out !
Office politics can loom larger in the smaller companies. In a smaller environment there can be a tendency for sharper elbows and the blurring of the lines between roles always runs the risk of creating tensions within a team. However, the flip side of any whispering and gossiping is a greater sense of camaraderie - misery loves company and a bit of shared moaning can do wonders for the heart and soul. In fact, taking part in the office gripes is a great way to get yourself initiated and become part of the gang.
A small company can't provide the same benefits as a larger company and is unlikely to supply the same structured career track but it may well compensate by added flexibility. Add to that, the career track usually moves that bit faster without all the extra rungs to negotiate and suddenly the positives begin to outweigh the negatives for those with ambition.
It can be a lot easier to get cast adrift from a larger company as people in another office, possibly in another country, are the ones who are deciding the budget cuts and choosing to lob off half a department here and there. In a smaller company, you are not one of the faceless masses. You're likely to be known by everyone from the receptionist to the accountant and what you do actually really does count.
In fact, in a smaller company, you can make a real difference. There are, most definitely, more opportunities to shine.
And here's one final thought - you all get to grow bigger together !