As business executives launch and build careers, there may be “forks in the road” or opportunities to choose between working for a large, Fortune 500 company or a small company, say with less than 20 employees.
Small businesses typically lead job growth in coming out of a recession and chances are that upcoming career opportunities might be with a small company.
If you are facing a career transition, how should you think about the differences between big and small employers? How will it impact your career trajectory, earnings potential, retirement and other goals? What are the effects on your human capital (work experience, education, skills) and financial capital (monetary assets)? Before making the leap to a small business employer, consider the following:
1. How important is your level of income to your life and goals?
In general, working at larger companies will provide higher salary for comparable jobs. It used to be that big corporations offered job security, but that’s no longer true – job stability isn’t really available anywhere. If your goals include a certain standard of living and aggressive retirement goals, higher income will be extremely important to you. Larger companies may be a better fit for you.
2. How important is work/life balance to you?
The downside of large corporations is the hours and lack of flexibility at most large companies. In a small company, you may get 100 emails a day, while receiving 1,000 per day in a large company. Numerous meetings are required to get things done in large companies, while a hallway discussion can get a big decision made at a small company. “Big” company may equate to big time commitment. It’s not that folks in small companies don’t work hard, they just have less B.S. to deal with. So if you want flexibility to see your kid’s school play or coach their soccer team, small companies are more likely to provide that than big firms.
3. How much structure do you prefer? In big companies, policies and procedures are usually well known. There may even be identified career paths for you. However, you typically can’t stray far from your defined responsibilities so you tend to work within a box. In small companies, there may be less structure and you may need to find your own way a bit more. The bright side is that you are also more likely to be able influence how things get done and have the opportunity to do many different types of things. Some folks like the variety in a job, others prefer a more narrow, structured role. What do you like?
These are all generalities – you must assess the specific companies and situations you are considering. There are advantages and disadvantages with employers of any size. The important thing is to find what fits with your life and career.