Should I Work for a Big or Small Company?

Know the typical traits for a big business and how they tend to contrast with the experience at a smaller operation.
Should I Work for a Big or Small Company?
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It’s impossible to say whether a company of a certain size is inherently better. If you’re considering switching jobs to either a larger or smaller workplace, your first hurdle should be to ensure that the company’s underlying purpose matches with your personal convictions -- and that goes for small and large institutions alike. The next most important step is to understand how the company’s size will impact your day-to-day working experience. This requires careful thought both before and during your tenure in order to ensure that you are maximizing your potential.

Stepping into the big leagues

Moving to a bigger company can open lots of new doors -- in particular, you may find it easier to specialize in one role or skillset, and then move up within the company. In general, these opportunities derive from the fact that larger companies tend to have a firmly established structure for everyday operations. A solid set of traditions provides stability, so you’ll know where you stand right from the get-go. This means that your job function will likely be quite clearly defined. Such clarity can be beneficial, as it will allow you to specialize and hone your skills, making you an expert in a particular area. However, you don’t need to worry about feeling stuck within that one role. Large organizations often have well-trodden trajectories for growth, so the process of moving up the ladder will be easier and faster.  

Small size, big possibilities

Even if you’re trading in for a smaller company, you will still encounter plenty of exciting opportunities. Before you accept the position, you should keep in mind that smaller businesses often have room for a more unified workplace culture. However, it’s important to make sure you connect with the people and the established culture while you’re still in the process of exploring the job. In small companies, workplace culture weighs heavily on job satisfaction. Once you’ve taken the plunge, prepare to face assignments beyond your specific job description. With fewer people around to pick up slack, you’ll likely be responsible for a wider variety of tasks than you were at a bigger company. A more flexible job description also means that you can take charge and be more entrepreneurial overall. You may be able to integrate your personal passions into your day to day work, or customize your path by expanding your responsibilities into new areas of the business. Regardless of your focus, note that decision-making in any area can be a more efficient process, since smaller companies often don’t have -- or don’t need -- the same amount of internal oversight. Be ready for quick turnaround on plans both large and small.

Making the most of your move

Regardless of which direction you go, this type of shift is significant, and you can use it to guide your career over. Don’t put yourself under too much pressure, though -- even if you’re transitioning within the same industry, making a structural as well as cultural change can take time to get used to. Once you’re settled, you should regularly evaluate your comfort levels and performance in your new space. Understand your preferred working style and environment; for example, do you prefer to work autonomously or collaboratively? Being able to answer these types of questions throughout your experience at a variety of workplaces can help you make more informed career moves down the road.

These are all situations I dealt with at different stages of my career. Entering a large workforce at Clorox gave me a great foundation: I was trained with high standards that applied across the whole industry, which were taught through both on-the-job experiences and professional development courses. However, when I left Clorox after nearly 20 years, I stepped into a completely different environment, and I had to learn to use the smaller workplace as a tool. Ultimately, it allowed me to foster broader collaboration and frequent, open communication, to the overall benefit of the business. Now, after several years at both large and small organizations, the range of experiences has taught me that I am a most effective leader at smaller companies.

At the end of the day, taking time to clarify your preferences will help you navigate your own career moves. Know the circumstances that keep you happy and motivated, and seek out a career based on those factors.