The first job you take can end up setting the path for your entire career. That’s why it’s especially important to think about the size of the organisation you’d like to join.

Thinking big

Larger companies, like the public sector, offer stability. There’s established systems in place covering everything from your initial job description to your final pension. Of course, the downside to this is a lack of flexibility. While most organisations are sympathetic to the needs of their employees, if you want to bring your dog to the office or spend the odd day working from home, you’re likely to be out of luck.

On the plus side, if you’re looking at one of the real big hitters – such as a multinational IT or business services firm – then starting salaries can be much higher than their smaller counterparts. Job security is much better too. There’s little chance of Apple or Microsoft going out of business any time soon, while the same sadly can’t be said for the host of start-ups that are established every year.

Really big companies tend to offer graduate programmes as well, which provides on-the-job training for high potential new recruits. With starting salaries in excess often in excess of £30,000, the competition for places is unsurprisingly fierce.

Outside these schemes, the main setback is that career progression can be slow. There can be fewer chances to prove your ability, while the presence of numerous team members, departments and even external consultants can make it difficult to bring even some seemingly simple projects to a close.

Starting small

In a small company, roles tend to be a bit more fluid. If things get busy, then all hands are usually needed to make sure that the work gets done on time. When this happens, any extra skills that you have – and these could be anything from graphic design to dressmaking – can come in very handy indeed.

Small firms are constantly evolving, too. Sometimes this change can be pretty rapid. All it takes is for the company to win a new contract or client, and all of a sudden there’s a whole load more work to be shared around. The experience that can be picked up in these situations can be invaluable.

For this reason, rapid promotions are quite common. If you’ve got the ability and attitude, it takes far less time for them to get noticed from up on high (which, in some cases, could be as close as the next desk).

Vacancies also tend to be less well advertised. Start-ups and small businesses don’t have massive budgets to spend on recruitment agencies and advertising, so there tend to be fewer applicants – and less competition.

Making the choice

Of course, these are just guidelines. Not every major firm can offer a strong, stable career, while many start-ups never quite get off the ground. What’s more, with the job market the way it is, many don’t feel in the position to make a choice between small or larger companies.

Yet being aware of these issues from the outset can be a real advantage. From writing your application to preparing for interview, having a broader idea of what to expect will put you in a much better position.

About the author: Ed Mellett is the director of Wikijobs, the UK’s leading portal for graduate jobs and employments resources such as interview questions templates.


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