Working for a Living: Benefits of Small vs Large Companies
My life on both sides
My first job right out of college – 3 days after graduation – was with a small marketing agency (which consisted of 4 people – total) as an AE selling promotional materials. Yep. . . it was probably the worst job ever – but it taught me a lot and definitely made me realize what I DIDN’T want to do. Now, 13 years later, I find myself still with a small agency with decidedly more employees and doing something I love. However, I look at my sister who has worked for behemoth companies her entire 14-year career and wonder, how does it feel walking into work each morning fresh off the metro with your ID badge, riding the cramped elevator to the 27th floor and plopping down in a cubicle next to 25 of your “closest” collegues. I just don’t think I could do it.
Throughout your career you will have many choices, and deciding whether to go with a large or small company could actually be one of the most important ones – especially if it’s at the start of your career. Remember, there’s no right or wrong answer, but there are lots of pros and cons that you should weigh before taking that career move.
Keep in mind that there are almost no guarantees when it comes to the rumors you hear about large and small companies. For example, “Smaller companies offer horrible benefits packages.” when the fact is, that is not true for all, and you may run across the exception. I have.
Also, the rumors that large companies offer great 401k options. . . not always true (just ask me, my last company of over 200 people offered only 1% matching for our 401K’s if you put at least 4% in each year). I mean, it’s a match, but come on.
So, I’ve created a list of Pro’s and Con’s for each. This is just my own two cents – but if it helps someone during their search – or made you at least think about your options more – I’m happy.
Pro’s of Working with a Small Company
- Success is seen. Everyone wants to be rewarded for hard work, and it is easier to be recognized for it in smaller companies than in larger ones. If you are just starting out, this will be useful in establishing your abilities and gaining references and a reputation that will follow you throughout your career. Trust me, I have been blessed to use references from places I worked over 7 years ago, because I was good and because I was friendly. Unless you work near the top of a large company, your successes will probably never reach the ears of the CEO.
- Agility. You can speak directly to upper management whenever you need to. Projects move much quicker with less cogs in the wheel, and lastly sometimes you can work from home – big perk 🙂
- You’ll rarely be bored. It’s true. I have left jobs in larger corporations either because I was bored and felt as if I were literally stealing money. . . or because I was just bored by the every day reduncancy of the tasks at hand, and knew (really knew), that would never change. Small companies are great tools to grow and find new avenues to do your job or help people in other departments – allowing your scope of understanding to continuously evolve.
Con’s of Working with a Small Company
- Failure is seen. You can’t hide when there’s nothing or no one to hide behind. Great successes are seen, but know that the opposite is true too.
- Benefits Packages are smaller. Mentioned this earlier, but this is not always the case. There are PEO’s like Justworks, for instance that work for smaller businesses and help them gain the leverage they need to get better healthcare pricing, offer HR departments for compliance and other HR related items, 401k offerings and more.
- There may be no HR department. This is true, but usually smaller companies don’t need one. However, if the company is larger than 25 people it’s usually best to have something like this in place, and that’s where small businesses again can rely on PEO’s.
Pro’s of Working with a Larger Company
- More Structure. From the day you start you know what your job is, the organizational chart, paths for growth within the company (or not) and whether or not you need to watch out for Bob, the guy in accounting who steals other people’s coffee creamer.
- Better Benefits. Yes, larger companies are usually better at providing good health insurance or retirement plans. But that usually only matters if you take advantage of them. For instance, if you are on your SO’s plan, health benefits won’t matter. And retirement packages. . . if they don’t match, you can probably start a 401K on your own, and know exactly where your money is going and have more control. If they do match – that’s a great thing – TAKE ADVANTAGE.
- Vertical or Horizontal Movement Within the Company. Maybe you hate change. Maybe you hate job hunting. This is a great opportunity to change positions and explore a new area without ever having to leave the building! It’s usually easier to be hired from the inside than out.
Con’s of working at a Big Company
- Change is slow. Amen. Having worked at both large and small companies, I can remember the frustration of the time it took for change (even a change that could benefit the company or the team greatly)! It’s part laziness (I know) and part politics. But it’s 100% crappy. If you are looking to make a mark and create change, smaller companies provide that more so than larger ones.
- Good People are Crucial. Your quality of life will vary greatly based on the people you work with on a regular basis. Even though this is true for small companies too – the damage is more pronounced if there’s a web of people standing between you and your goals, or a part of the company you would rather be invested in.