Big fish, small pond: The perks of working for a small company

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If you were to come up with a list of 10 companies you might be interested in working for, chances are the majority on that list would be large corporations or governments.

There is no denying that there is a great appeal to these large organizations: employee benefits, opportunities for new roles, the status of working for such a successful organization.

However, when it comes to personal growth and our own career development, large companies may not be the best answer for everyone.

There seems to be a misconception that large companies have more to offer than smaller ones. But a smaller company does not mean smaller business and less opportunity. In fact, it can often mean the opposite.

After working for a small company with only about 12 employees this summer, working at its head office, my thoughts on the size of the company I eventually want to work for has completely changed.

A perfect ‘fit’

Small firms can offer a certain environment as well as access to opportunities that larger firms cannot, simply due to the volume of employees and the immense size of the business. With fewer employees, you have the opportunity to get to know everyone in your office. The atmosphere becomes less intimidating and it’s a fun environment to work in, while still remaining professional.

A breadth of experience

There is also less competition since it is likely that there will be fewer interns/summer students/new grads working for the firm. With fewer hands on deck, you are often tossed around to different departments doing different tasks. This is a great way to be exposed to a variety of areas and find out what you like, what you don’t like, and what you are really interested in doing.

This summer I have requested to be put on projects that lie in the area of my interests. I have been assigned some challenging tasks and have learned way more than I expected to.

A close working relationship with management

You may even have full access to your supervisors for questions and comments and one-on-one training is very common. It is often an environment that new hires would be comfortable enough in to make suggestions and pitch their own ideas to management.

Over the past month, I have had the privilege of exclusive, one-on-one training in accounting procedures and internal control processes. My supervisor spent an entire afternoon coaching me on these detailed processes. It was a completely interactive learning experience and I now have full confidence when working on these projects. I’ve even had opportunities to work directly under top executives, which is pretty exciting for someone who has yet to lock down an undergrad degree.

An invaluable networking opportunity

Not only is a small firm great for developing your skills and getting hands on experience, but the relationships you develop with managers and other employees can be a great asset as you build your network.

These are relationships that may be more difficult to develop at a large corporation. And, since you are part of a tight-knit team, you will of course be invited to all the company after parties and dinners!

Earlier this summer I had the opportunity to be a part of my company’s annual general meeting held at the Toronto Stock Exchange. My role was only to assist in set-up and greet shareholders, but the value I got from listening to the presentations, meeting and networking with key people in the industry, and learning what actually goes on at an annual general meeting was priceless.

So my advice is don’t limit your summer job search to only the big players. Take a chance on a small company and the skills you gain will help to  position yourself well for advancement, entry into the bigger corporate world, or even entrepreneurship.

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About the author

Sydney van Delft is going into her fourth and final year at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. She has competed in various case competitions at Ivey and has been a finalist in the Ivey Feasibility Study, the Boston Consulting Group case competition, and the Capital "C" Creativity Event. She is passionate about the arts, especially dance, and has been dancing for the majority of her life. Sydney hopes to one day combine this passion with her education as she enters the corporate world.