Rick Sanders has studied the IT staffing and services industry from every angle. As former head of marketing at MATRIX, he understands the (sometimes conflicting) motivations of hiring managers, consultants, and IT job seekers. Along the way, Rick has participated in the evolution of marketing from the print, to digital interactive, social and beyond. Working now as a contractor, Rick offers acute insight into the contracting world based on his own experience.
Small vs. Large Companies: Which is better for you?
Do you embrace change or crave structure? How you answer that question may define your career. Big company or small? Which is better for you and your next job? Well, as with many things job-related, it all depends on who you are as an individual and how you work best. No place is perfect, but if you have a good idea of your personality and work habits, it will help you predict where you might thrive.
When comparing big vs. small companies, a MATRIX project manager said this:
“You get a wider variety of experience at a small company. When you specialize in something at a large company, you have one or two main tasks. But at a smaller company, you kind of cover everything from a technological perspective. When I worked for a company with less than a dozen people, I was working directly with network engineers every day vs. at a large company it’s about learning that company’s tools, methods, and ways of doing things.”
Work-life balance can be unbalanced.
The lack of structure at smaller companies lends itself to more than just your typical 8-to-5 working day. You may find that the lines of work week and weekend begin to blur, as you remain on call at all times to respond to emergencies. On the other hand, when things are slow you may have the opportunity to take longer lunches, work from home, or spend a little more time kayaking on the river. If you like this flexibility, great, but if you want a full 40-hour workweek every week, you may be disappointed.
You need to embrace change.
“At smaller companies, you may need to hit the ground running and adapt without a ton of direction,” said veteran IT recruiter Doug Spears. Unlike mature companies that have well-defined processes and procedures where employees are conditioned to repeat the same behaviors day after day, smaller companies often make changes quickly and unexpectedly. Often different projects specialize in different technologies, so you may get to learn a lot more about different things you never knew you would be exposed to.
Rather than having a strict and straightforward title, you may be expected to juggle many roles. Some individuals welcome this opportunity to be a driving force in the company’s success, and assume more responsibility sooner than at a larger firm.
Are you a collaborator?
If you are an individual who thrives within structure and organization, then a large corporation might be for you. At a large company, it’s about learning that company’s tools, methods, and processes, and perfecting how you operate within that structure. If you enjoy collaborating and relying on a group dynamic, then you will be productive and happy, and develop a sense of belonging that may be missing from a smaller organization.
Larger companies also tend to have a more reliable project stream, so there may be less worrying about where your next paycheck is coming from.
You can get lost in the crowd.
On the other hand, results are generally realized more gradually at a large company, so seeing your dreams come to fruition could take a long time and your individual contribution may be diminished at the expense of the “entire team’s contribution.”
IT developer David Andrews explained one of his challenges getting noticed at a large company: “Your project has to do really well to appear on their radar. The only time they noticed me was when I was leaving. Then they said, ‘the app is doing so well, please don’t leave.’”
You can shine in both environments.
Is it more prestigious on a resume to have worked at a larger company? Spears said that savvy hiring managers really don’t care. “Individuals have the opportunity to shine within both environments. Employers are really more interested in what you did while on the job,” he said, adding that candidates with small business experience are often perceived as self-starters with great ideas.
Whatever their size, most companies are looking for good, honest, and hardworking individuals to fill their next open positions. If you have those three outstanding traits and the proper skills to match the position, you should succeed wherever you land.