When targeting a potential company to work for, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. In fact, many small companies can offer you some big advantages for career growth.
Take a look at the five biggest myths about working for small companies, and you’ll see why you shouldn’t overlook these gems in your job search.
- Myth # 1: Small businesses offer fewer opportunities for advancement.
Dwight B., a former submarine officer and graduate from MIT in Boston, always wanted a career in manufacturing. After interning at General Motors, he decided a smaller organization would give him more opportunity to have an impact on its direction. Having fulfilled his commitment to the Navy and completed his MBA, he started with a small manufacturing company supervising an area of plant operations. In less than 10 years, he has moved up to COO at a second U.S.-based manufacturer.
At family-owned or stagnant small companies, this myth may be true. However, fast-growing small businesses must continually add employees and managers to keep pace with demand for their products and services. Employees in these organizations wear many hats simultaneously, so on-the job training, continual learning and increasing responsibility are required.
- Myth # 2: Large companies are unlikely to do business with small firms.
Downsizing and reorganizations at large companies have created opportunities for small firms to provide services that were once performed in-house. For instance, how many professionals do you know who have returned to former employers as independent contractors after being laid off?
Big companies are more interested in working with smaller organizations because they often receive higher quality service for a reasonable price from seasoned experts. Many larger firms and government agencies also must meet internal affirmative action goals that require them to contract with minority or women-owned firms, which creates even more opportunities for small businesses.
- Myth # 3: Small companies use the same hiring criteria as large organizations.
Most large corporations rely on education and experience requirements to screen new hires or promote existing employees. This perpetuates the practice of putting "square pegs into square holes."
But small-company managers tend to be more open to candidates with different backgrounds. While they may seek certain experience, they consider enthusiasm and aptitude when making hiring decisions. Entrepreneurs tend to trust their own instincts and are more willing to bring career changers or less-educated professionals on board who demonstrate an ability to do the job.
- Myth #4: You can't make a big contribution at a small company.
Jim L. is impressed by the authority he has to upgrade his company’s tooling department. As the company adds plants, he's responsible for ensuring their tool-and-die design meets quality, cost and efficiency standards. It would have taken years of employment and a bigger title to make a similar impact at the large company where he used to work.
- Myth #5: Smaller companies don't act on opportunities the way a large firm can.
Small businesses tend to be more creative, nimble and aggressive in pursuing opportunities. Fewer management barriers exist, and less voices are likely to chant, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Entrepreneurs don't have the luxury or comfort of being king of the jungle. As a motivational plaque says, "When a gazelle wakes up in the morning, he has two choices: He can either run like hell or be eaten." Small businesses have a lot in common with gazelles.