More than ever before, employees are leaving jobs they aren’t satisfied with to pursue more rewarding careers, and many are looking to work for a smaller company or even start their own business.
In fact, so many people are quitting that this phenomenon has been dubbed “The Great Resignation.” Studies are predicting more than half of employees (55%) will quit their jobs in the upcoming year.
If you are one of those looking to start a new career, or to switch careers, one key decision you need to make is whether your skills, preferences, and personality are better suited for working at a big company or a small company (including starting your own business).
There are opportunities and challenges to both, and there isn’t necessarily one right answer. In this article we will highlight some of the main elements to consider when deciding which environment is best for you.
Big Vs. Small Business: The Big Picture
Before getting into the differences between big and small businesses, think about what is important to you in your work life.
Are you a good self-motivator who can set your own goals and set about achieving them without a lot of direction? Or do you prefer to work from a job description with a set list of responsibilities? Do you like a lot of predictability in your workday or do you prefer things to be different every day? Do you need a company to provide benefits like health insurance, paid vacation, and tuition reimbursement?
All these things, and more, factor into the type of job and work environment where you will thrive. If you aren’t sure which you prefer, you can take our helpful quiz to help you figure it out.
Getting Hired at a Large Business
The process for getting hired can vary widely between a large business and a small business. A large business usually has a more rigid and structured hiring process that can take longer than a small business.
Large companies have specific procedures that human resources managers must follow. Some use outside recruiters, which can slow down the hiring process even further, taking more time to get your resume in front of the right manager. Additionally, you may have two, three or even more interviews to get through in a large company as you are introduced to key team members.
Getting Hired at a Small Business
A smaller company’s hiring process is typically more straightforward and takes less time as they have fewer managers and a less formal hiring and interview process. While a good personality fit is always important, in a small business environment it is key. A smaller team means that when personalities clash the business is directly impacted more quickly.
The job responsibilities may be broader at a small company as employees all need to pitch in to keep things running smoothly. It’s important to learn as much as you can about what the position entails before coming on board to be sure your skills are a good match.
Job Security: Big vs Small Business
While job security is never an absolute in any company, the reasons job security is high or low vary in a big versus a small business.
Many people believe they may have better job security at a small business as each team member plays a more integral role. While there is truth to this, small businesses are more likely to go under than large businesses, so be sure the small business you want to work for has a solid business plan.
At a large business, there are more people to carry the workload so the loss of one employee can be less impactful. However, a large, established company with a solid track record is more likely to stay in business for the long haul. The industry you choose is another factor; large companies in growing industries – like information technology or healthcare – are more likely to stay in growth mode and less likely to lay off workers.
There are more people to deal with at a large business and more organizational layers, which can bring some ‘red tape’ and make it harder to get things done. Conversely, the resources a larger business can afford are greater, providing employees with more tools and technologies to accomplish their goals.
In a smaller company, it may be easier to get things done as there are usually fewer levels of management, allowing for a more direct approach to the decision–maker. Employees gain a greater understanding of the organization and what it takes to run a small company. You may be expected to do more with less, however, as small businesses have smaller budgets and fewer resources.
Career Advancement Opportunities
Typically, a large company offers more opportunities for growth; a larger company with several departments and functions can equate to more career paths to follow. The ability to advance your career within a large company also depends on other factors, especially the culture of the company. Some companies prefer to promote from within and others do not, so it’s good to get a sense of this before coming on board.
A small business has less obvious career paths but can give you the opportunity to learn a lot about several functions throughout the company. These additional skills can be added to your resume and potentially expose you to new career options. If you dream of owning your own small business one day, working at a small company first gives you valuable insight into what this takes and whether it’s something you would love to do.
Teamwork and Client Interaction
In a large company it may be more difficult to get to know everyone and for everyone to get to know you. Aside from department meetings and occasional company functions, you may only meet people from other divisions if you need to collaborate with them, as you pass them in the hall, or meet them in the cafeteria. Depending on your role in the company, you may or may not have interaction directly with the client base.
Small businesses offer a more intimate setting where you are much more likely to work closely with everyone on the team.
If you are someone who doesn’t prefer to work closely with several people, a small business may not be the best option for you. Although there are back-office roles needed at small businesses, you are much more likely to interact with clients and customers in a small business.
The ability to work as a team and collaborate is an important skill to have whether you work in a large or small business. There are very few roles at either that don’t at least have inter-departmental interaction.
Multi-Task or To-Do List: Which Do You Prefer?
If you enjoy variety in your job, you might be happier in a small business where you will probably be called upon to do many different things, versus a large company where job descriptions are more rigid and less likely to overlap.
If you prefer a set job description and a predictable set of responsibilities, a large company is likely to be a better fit for you. Small businesses often need people who can pitch in and help across a variety of functions.
Benefits and Other Perks
Large businesses usually offer better benefits like health insurance, vacation time, and tuition reimbursement. Small businesses often don’t have the budget or bandwidth to offer these benefits to employees (especially with 10 employees or less). The need for health insurance can be an important deciding factor when choosing a large vs. small business. If you intend to advance your education, a benefit like tuition reimbursement might also tip the scale for you.
Vacation time may be less flexible at a small business, depending on the size of the company, but they can be open to alternative working arrangements that allow you greater flexibility.
Your particular benefit needs should be an important consideration for making your career decision.