Wisdom Wednesdays: Jobhunting – should you work for a local SME instead of a multinational corporation?

With many graduate schemes quickly closing their places for this years graduate intakes, Seb Atkinson from Selesti.com offers an alternative to applying to just the biggest employers in your job hunt.

It’s that time of year when final year students are beginning their job hunt, and naturally, many will head straight to the graduate schemes for the biggest employers here in Bradford, such as Morrisons, Yorkshire Water or BASF. But are large grad schemes the best move to start your career? In 2013, the Times Top 100 graduate employers recruited a mere 17,000 graduates across the UK.

So what did the others do? The answer lies with Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs). With just 22 companies in Bradford large enough to be listed on Wikipedia, that leaves approximately 15,200 small businesses employing 192,200 people, with a growing start-up scene. In this article, we’ll look at some of the benefits for working at one of these local SMEs instead of a larger corporation.


Get into the Nitty Gritty of How a Business Runs

Many graduates are attracted to big company schemes for their high starting salaries, training and development schemes, but don’t forget, there are drawbacks too. Chiefly, it is hard to escape the fact that in a large organisation you may feel like a small cog in a large machine, which can become apparent when other conflict from other departments can stifle your initiative, or you find yourself stuck in a role where you cannot make a real impact on how the business runs.

Small businesses offer a different experience. While starting salaries are generally lower, you’ll very quickly find yourself on first name terms with the MD and quickly become a key decision maker on important projects. You’ll be exposed to the ins and outs of how a business operates and see the impact that your work has on the company at first hand. This can really benefit your future career growth, ensuring you’re commercially aware and building experience that those in large firms may only begin to experience several years into their careers.


Define Your Own Career

Many large companies offer great training for their new graduate recruits as well as opportunities to move up in the company hierarchy, however, as with the initial recruitment process, there also tends to be stiff competition for higher roles. You may be left pigeonholed in a narrow, regimented role that can have little relevancy outside of that organisation, depriving you of the essential skills you may need later in your career.


What Is Your Career Ambition?

Meanwhile, since SMEs tend to be more flexible and have fewer staff, you’re much more likely to take on a more varied workload, which is a great opportunity to broaden your skillset and discover your true calling, as well as being able to make an impact on all aspects of a business. As a result, recognition at a small business is usually swift, and you’ll have a greater opportunity to be promoted to a role that suits your strengths, rather than following a rigid career path that may constrict your development later in life.

A great way of deciding whether a role in a local small business is right for you is by considering your career ambitions. Where do you see yourself in five years? What do you hope to achieve in twenty years? If you’re ambitious and want to reach a director role, start your own business, or become a managing director or board member, then it’s essential to consider how you’ll reach your goals.

The start of your career is a perfect opportunity to try different roles and find your true calling, which is one of the reasons why job hopping is losing its negative stigma among millennials. The wide range of experiences available in many small business roles is a great way to introduce yourself to other careers you may not have considered while at university, without having to take the risk of finding a new role. Compare that to diving in to a corporate role, then finding yourself stuck in a career rut in your 30s. Would you be willing to take a pay cut to start out in a new industry, with a family, car and mortgage to support?


Next Steps

Whatever stage you’re at, whether it’s locating opportunities with SMEs or giving you interview practice, the Career Development Service at the University of Bradford is here to help you. Give us a call on 01274 234991 or visit our website to find out more. Now is a great time to begin looking for your small business graduate role, as 30% of local businesses in the Yorkshire and Humber region are looking to expand their graduate intake, with 42% expecting their staff levels to increase this year. Why not check out the University of Bradford’s Jobs Online database for local opportunities, or start creating your CV on Build My Career?

You can also Discover more careers advice at the CGMA magazine.


You can follow the author @SebAtkinson on Twitter, as well as the Career Development Services @UniBradCareers.
Pictures featured in this article are the author’s own.