Who to Work For, Big or Small?

Looking for a job? One question to ask yourself is, do I want to work for a big corporation or a small business? This can be more important than you think.

For me, I prefer, in general, to work for small businesses. But first, I’ll tell you what I’ve experienced and read so far.

I worked for a large firm for 13 years, before I left and moved on to take a few jobs with much smaller businesses.

In terms of articles I’ve read, I have found that the vast majority of job and career advice centers around big executive jobs in large firms or in fields that are held to be, lets say, “prestigious”, such as the legal field. However, some of the advice given can certainly be applied to any field or job for any size employer.

So, is it best to work for the big corporation or the small business?

Let’s look at the big corporation first.

Getting that corporate job can be hard and complicated work in itself, and requires a lot from you before you’ve even been hired.

Unless you know someone in the company who is really powerful and loves you to death, you will most likely have to submit an application with a resume and cover letter to Human Resources, or HR. Having spoken with people in the HR where I worked, I can tell you that some HR reps will send an application and resume to the shredder or round file for so much as a period on the resume that isn’t perfectly round! (I’m talking microns here, and believe me, I’m not kidding!)

It’s now coming to the point where they will also require such things as your social media passwords, credit reports, and require that you pay for the checks they do on you as well. Oh, and if you’re currently unemployed, some will now reject you out of hand, also. They also have all sorts of reasons that they will deem you to be unemployable.

Then, you may have to go through several interviews. And, according to various articles I’ve read, wearing business attire and being polite is just the beginning of what you need to do to ace the interview. You also have to read the interviewer’s mind and body language, as well as watch your own, and of course, you can do all of the best things from all of the articles’ suggestions (as they often contradict one another), and still not get the job!

And don’t think for a second that, even if all of the interviewers say that you’re a shoe-in for the job, that you have the job. I was told this by interviewers many, many times, but didn’t get the job after all. You don’t have the job until the company officially says that you do!

Let’s say you survive the application process, checks, and interviews and finally get the job.

Oftentimes, keeping the job, and especially trying to move up the career path in a large corporation means not only trying to present yourself well and doing the job well, but learning to decipher a multitude of hidden messages, dealing with office politics, trying to read the mind of the boss, knowing what words to use and when, and hoping nothing in your past, no matter how innocent, will come back to destroy you.

Now, I’m not saying that this is always the case, but you’re more likely to encounter this when working for a large firm or corporation. But let’s say your unit, boss, and even upper management is friendly and easy to work with and for, there are still some disadvantages.

Rules may be the biggest one. Even if your boss and colleagues just adore you, your boss cannot give you those two extra weeks of vacation, or that raise or bonus you asked for, and that promotion, or even lateral movement you wanted to make may be turned down by upper management or the rules themselves, no matter how much your boss and colleagues are in your corner backing you.

Changes, including layoffs are another. The bigger a business is, the more like a government it becomes. Unless you are really close to the top, you become less a person and more of a cog to the higher-ups. That means it’s easier to force bad changes like layoffs or poor assignments upon the employees. After all, the CEO sees, “employees“, not “John, the loyal employee“. Things become less personal to the higher-ups.

Poor decisions can be made regarding equipment as well, where the employees who have to use said equipment have little or no say or recourse when problems arise.

When I worked for the large corporation, I used to run a roomful of printers and would make sure that various departments had their reports printed and delivered to them. Well, the company decided to get new printers, which is perfectly understandable.

However, these new printers did not perform as well, and had a very bad flaw. If a report was over a certain size, the new printer would literally shut down and fail to complete the job. Now, if the old printer had done this, which was rare, all that was needed was for the printer to be shut down and restarted. The old printer would continue the job from where it left off so that you wouldn’t need to print the whole report over again.

The new printer didn’t do this. It would lose the job, no matter what you did, and would have to reprint from the beginning! This happened one day with a report that was about 3,000 pages and the most important page was the last page, which summarized the whole thing. They never got that page despite several frustrating attempts to get it printed, as well as having the help of the IT department.

Why didn’t the people in charge of purchasing equipment test out these printers at the manufacturer’s for this problem, I’ll never know. Quite possibly, due to the size of the company, the purchasers had no idea of the size of the reports these printers would have to deal with. And, since I was an employee in the field, I could only tell my immediate superiors, which I did. The machines were replaced about a year later, possibly due to multiple complaints, but it may have been solved naturally earlier within a smaller company where those who make purchases for the company have greater contact and exposure to those who will use the equipment.

There are some advantages to working for a larger firm, if you can handle the disadvantages.

Have a bad boss who’s out to get you? In a big corporation, unless he or she is the CEO, they have to be more careful in what they try to do to you, as there are the rules and channels, and they, too, have a boss they have to report to. There is probably a system as well for “skip level” meetings, where you can talk to your boss’s boss or even higher in some companies. And your colleagues might be on your side and, as a group, might have more sway with upper management. This can be especially useful if the boss is new and upper management has the collective conscience to at least wonder why you or your unit has suddenly gone downhill, just after this new boss arrived.

Big corporations can also afford bigger pay, greater benefits, and more perks, if they’re willing to offer them. Being large, they are less likely to suddenly go out of business, but size is absolutely no guarantor of this not happening. Employees of some large corporations in the past have arrived at work to find the doors closed for good, too. But, chances are you may see the writing on the wall sooner. And, if they have several divisions, they may just transfer you instead and use the economic benefits of simply not having an extra building to maintain instead of laying off people, including you.

What about small companies?

Here are the advantages.

They are more intimate. When you try to get a job there, especially if it’s just a mom-and-pop, chances are the owner will be the one to see your application and resume. He or she is probably a lot less interested in keywords on your resume or whether you are right or left-handed, or what your credit score or Facebook page looks like. They are just looking for someone who can man the counter, or sell accounts for them and who will fit in and be reliable, and if they say you’ve got the job, you’ve got the job!

If they really like you, they can give you that raise, extra time off, or other perk you asked for and don’t have to answer to some higher-ups.

Also, they are easier to contact and more likely to seek your input when making business decisions that can impact your job.

And, if they are contemplating letting you go due to economic reasons, they may find another way to survive without letting you go, because they know you personally and you’re not just some far distant employee.

And if they do have to lay you off for economic reasons, they may call you back later if things improve, because they remember you.

Of course, there are some disadvantages, too.

They usually have less money, and may not offer as much pay and probably few to no benefits. And, if times get too tough, you may be laid off and the company may even go out of business.

If you have a bad boss and he or she is the owner or a relative of the owner, you’re probably out of luck.

If you’re the type who has to be constantly rising on the career ladder, you may hit a glass ceiling rather quickly and end up frustrated.

So, these are things to consider when deciding how big or small a company you want to work for. And of course, it’s important to remember that you can encounter any of the advantages or disadvantages listed above at any size company.

So, good luck with your decision and job! Oh, and if you need a resume, see the services page for more info.

If you like what you’ve read here, be sure to check out the rest of this site and blog and let others know, too! And be sure to follow this blog as well. And thanks for reading! 🙂

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