Are you better off working for a company with 10 employees or one with 1000 employees? Well, that depends.
When trying to decide on one opportunity over another, more important than size is optionality. Based on where you think you want to be for your next move and the move after that and realizing this will change over time, which opportunity do you think will open the most doors? For most job seekers, working for a large company and the name and experience it brings with it is more important early in their career than it is later for that very reason.
Working at a well known company with a well established brand will open doors at a lot of other firms. But just as important as their name is what you’ll be doing there. You can work for the most well known company in the world, but if you’re the Chief Copy Officer, I think it’s safe to say you’ll have a hard time transitioning to a more senior role with another company (unless they’re looking for an expert copier).
As a job seeker, applying to a large company is often more straightforward and less stressful than it is with their smaller counterparts. Why? They typically have a structured recruiting program with clearly defined jobs and more opportunities for formal, internal training. As a result, you’ll usually have a better idea of what you’re getting into before you sign on the dotted line. Early in your career, this can be extremely important because your primary objective is to refine and develop a very specific skill set that you can leverage to move up the organizational food chain. However, this might also mean that you have less input on defining your job content and for some people that can be a huge deal. That means if you’re an entrepreneurial free spirit, big corporate might not be right for you long term.
In addition to clearly defined roles and access to structured training programs, the sheer volume of work or deal flow at a large company is often greater (or at least more consistent) than that at a smaller company. That means you could get exposed to more business quicker—a great resume builder. On the downside, you might only get to see a very narrow sliver of the business because larger companies are often more rigid and that might end up pigeonholing you into one particular job or career track. More employees could also equate to more layers which means your face time with upper management might be limited.
In some cases, bigger is obviously better. Before you make your next move, think big picture–don’t just fixate on the numbers. Ask yourself which position and company will give you the most optionality. Get it right, and your payday, as well as career satisfaction, will definitely follow.
Shawn Graham is an Associate Director with the MBA Career Management Center at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (www.courtingyourcareer.com).