Working at a Big Company Versus a Small Company

When you’re looking for work, do you consider the size of the company? Beyond compensation and qualifications for a position, business size can largely affect the type of work environment you can expect day to day. When it comes to a big company versus a small company, one is not necessarily better than the other. Yet the type you choose may affect the trajectory of your career, so you’ll benefit from being informed about what you’re getting into.

Here are some of the major variables when it comes to the size of a company. While there’s some debate about what is “big” versus what is “small,” consider 50 employees or less to be a small business.

Advancement in your career: At a large company, you can move up within the same company, making your future income and benefits steady and mostly predictable. Within a small business, depending on your role and how quickly it grows, your potential to earn can be much higher, especially if you are an integral part of the business. However, you might also be stuck because there are limits to what a small business can offer. If you prefer working for small businesses, you might find yourself switching companies every few years in order to advance.

Workplace interactions: In a small business, you will become familiar with nearly everyone in your company, even the owner. The mission is usually clear and people work closely together to achieve it. Some people thrive in this type of environment while others prefer more autonomy in the workplace. At a bigger business, you will probably only get familiar with the people in your department. You may also feel further removed from the mission of the company because your department is just one piece of a larger picture. However, if you are connected to the larger picture, it can be awe inspiring to see your company impact the larger market.

Specializing: In a small work environment you will likely be responsible for multiple tasks that change day to day based on the need of the hour. At a large company, your will focus more on fewer types of tasks and become more specialized. The benefit of performing multiple duties is that you will expand your skillset into areas you might not have pursued otherwise. This could lead to you branching out when you are further along in your career, as opposed to being pigeonholed in your position. On the other hand, the benefit of having a singular focus is the opportunity to become a true expert at what you do, which has great value to some employers.

Flexibility versus structure: Your manager largely dictates how flexible the workplace is, regardless of company size. However, a large business may have corporate policies that restrict your manager’s flexibility, while at a small business your manager might be the owner, who has final say.

Benefits: Large businesses tend to consistently offer comprehensive benefit packages, which is a huge draw for talented workers. Small businesses will vary greatly in the their benefit packages, so ask a lot of questions before accepting a position if this is important to you.

Job security: At a small business, losing one employee can dramatically change the work environment. Small businesses tend to hire and fire employees very carefully. Your biggest vulnerability is likely the business failing. At a large company, the business is less likely to fail, but changes in the economy or the leadership of the company can result in widespread cutbacks. If you work for a large company, stay aware of large changes occurring around or within you company.

All in all, whether your career thrives better in a large business versus a small one depends on your personality and your career goals. Consider what type of work environment is most important to you when pursuing your next job.