To Get Your Dream Job, Does Size Matter?

Published in CareersConnect, May 2011

By Pete Leibman

Do you want to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond? To get your dream job, you have to first identify the organizations you would ideally want to work for. As you identify your target market of ideal employers, you also have to consider the size of the organization you want to work for. Working for an employer with 27 total employees will be a very different experience than working for an employer with 27,000 total employees.

It's similar to attending a major state school with 50,000 students versus a small liberal arts college with less than 2,000 students. As a result, spend some time reflecting on what you liked or disliked about your collegiate environment. That experience can help you determine your ideal company size. In addition, the following are four benefits of working for small organizations (less than 100 employees) and four benefits of working for large organizations (100-10,000 employees, or more).

Four Benefits (in General) of Working for Small Employers

1. Greater Individual Impact
Smaller employers often give new employees more responsibility at the start, simply because they have fewer people on staff. This can be rewarding since you can wear a lot of different hats, run your own projects, and even start projects of your own, all of which make it very easy to see the impact of your work. You certainly won't be free of any grunt work in a small organization, but you'll likely have to endure more of it initially in a large organization. It can also be harder to see the impact of your work in a large organization, where it is easy to feel insignificant in relation to the big picture.

2. More Day-to-Day Variety
In many cases, your day-to-day responsibilities can be much more diverse at a smaller organization since you often end up wearing a lot of different hats. Many smaller employers also give their employees more freedom to determine how to get their work done.

3. More "Face Time" With Executives and Colleagues
Because there are fewer employees, it's likely you will get more "face-time" with key executives. You will also most likely get to know most of your fellow colleagues when working for a small employer.

4. Faster Growth Potential
Smaller organizations usually have less bureaucracy and less complicated organizational structures. As a result, you can usually move up faster in a small organization. Large organizations usually have much more deliberate (i.e., slow) processes of promoting from within.

Four Benefits (in General) of Working for Large Employers

1. Greater Organizational Impact
While your personal contribution might feel more significant at a small organization, the impact that your employer can have on the world is usually much more significant at a large organization, simply because of a much greater supply of resources (i.e., more people, more financing, more equipment, and so on).

2. More Name Recognition
Working for a large organization that is a household name provides some advantages. First of all, you get to align yourself with the organization's brand next time you look for a job, since you should constantly be on the lookout for great opportunities. Secondly, small employers usually don't have as much name recognition within an industry and this is especially important if you are looking for a sales position. When I worked in the NBA, nearly every prospect I contacted had heard of our organization, and this made it easy to start conversations. When I later worked for a small direct marketing firm (that was not very well-known outside of our existing customer base), it was much more challenging to start dialogues with new prospects.

3. Greater Stability
Larger organizations are usually much more well-established and stable than smaller organizations, which tend to have less predictable futures. However, anyone who worked at Circuit City or Lehman Brothers knows that this is not always true.

4. More Opportunities to Change Directions
Larger employers often have offices worldwide and are actually multiple organizations (sometimes in totally different markets) operating under one large umbrella. As a result, once you get inside a huge organization, there can be many more opportunities to move to new cities, branch out, and change professional directions. On the other hand, smaller employers often have fewer office locations (sometimes just one office location), and they often play in a very specific niche.

These are all broad generalizations that are definitely not true across the board. For instance, a small employer could actually have great name recognition or actually provide very little variety on a day-to-day basis. On the other hand, a large employer could actually have a very negative reputation in an industry or provide a very entrepreneurial environment where you have the ability to implement new projects and see the impact of your work from day one.

While you could likely achieve great success and satisfaction at a small or large employer (if you are in the right industry/position and working for a great organization), it's worth taking some time to think through your ideal company size. Most students and young professionals ignore small employers altogether (I certainly did as a young job-seeker), simply because they don't know what's out there.

Don't limit your job search just to organizations recruiting on your campus or organizations you are aware of through traditional advertising. In many ways, it is actually much easier to break into a smaller organization. It's considerably easier to connect with the real hiring decision-makers at small companies, and those individuals can usually move on hiring decisions much more quickly.

About the Author

PETE LEIBMAN is a career expert and professional speaker. He is also the president of Idealize Enterprises. He can be contacted at Pete@IdealizeNow.com, by visiting www.IdealizeNow.com, or at www.linkedin.com/in/peteleibman. His blog is available at http://CareerMuscles.Wordpress.com. To receive a FREE, 25-page report on "Job Search and Career Success Secrets," visit Leibman's website at www.IdealizeNow.com.






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