Why starting your career at an SME is good for you
If you’re studying at university, chances are you’ve seen all the big employer names out on campus vying for your attention – and, ultimately, your talent.
Whether they’re running large campus events or popping up in your lecture theatres, you’re far more likely to meet a Times Top 100 employer than see a small, local start-up making an appearance on campus.
I’m sure it won’t surprise anyone that the biggest graduate recruiters have something that small-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) don’t have – a large budget.
With top graduate employers’ structured graduate schemes, fast-tracked career progression, and impressive office spaces, it’s easy to see how many students and graduates forget to consider smaller, newer companies when eagerly submitting their applications. But the truth of the matter is, you can gain a huge wealth of experience from working at an SME.
Start-ups and high growth small businesses contribute substantially to the UK economy. According to startups.co.uk, a record-breaking 581,173 businesses were registered with Companies House last year, with a hub of innovation based in London rivalled by Birmingham and Manchester’s equally entrepreneurial spirit.
One of the key benefits of working at a start-up that you won’t get elsewhere is the first-hand experience of creating, driving, and improving a business. Your role will be very high impact almost immediately, which isn’t always the case in a traditional graduate scheme.
Start-up environments can often be high pressure, with plenty of responsibility placed on employees to make the business work; but they can also be a lot of fun. Many start-ups lack the processes and red-tape of international corporations, which of course has its downsides (there may be times where the rules and regulations aren’t clear, because there just aren’t any rules yet!) – but this can equally make for an exciting workplace. Team spirit is especially important in a young business, especially as you all pull together to keep the business afloat - so expect plenty of socials and team bonding along the way.
There’s also an overwhelming tendency for SMEs to expect you as an employee to be a jack-of-all trades and a master of them too. You’ll most likely be encouraged to get involved in projects that are outside your usual remit, which can teach you adaptability, flexibility and resilience much more quickly than a more stable, structured role. You’ll pick up knowledge and experience much faster than in any other work place, so prepare to absorb information like a sponge.
There’s no denying that working for a globally established corporation definitely has its perks; but if you’re looking to make an impact very quickly, starting your career at a small business can certainly provide you with a huge wealth of experience.
But there are risks associated with working for a small business: according to Fortune.com, 90% of all start-ups fail. However, if you join a SME just as they begin to expand and settle into themselves, the higher risks can be intertwined with great rewards in terms of real-life business experience.
Currently in charge of Candidate Engagement Marketing at Milkround, Chantelle Barton has worked in the graduate recruitment industry for the last three years, and has experience working in a start-up environment. Drop her a line on firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like a chat.