Ask someone to name a business and they’ll probably name a large multinational employing thousands such as Tesco or a global consumer brand like Apple. But most businesses around the world are much smaller; in fact, there are 4.5 million small businesses in the UK alone, employing almost 14 million people. We take a look at some of the reasons why SMEs are worth seeking out.
As SMEs have flatter structures, you should find that you quickly gain experience and are put in charge of your own projects. Furthermore, everyone has more of a stake in the success of a small firm.
It’s easier for a small firm to take on something new, or abandon a project if it isn’t working – so you might find the work varies from week to week.
Typically you’ll get a higher salary doing the same work at a smaller establishment than a larger company. Your own contribution is more likely to be noticed and rewarded.
However, it's important to be aware of the potential challenges of SMEs employment...
Especially in tough times – job security is lower and even companies doing well can go under in just a few months. Additionally some SMEs are dependent on one or two contracts for the majority of their work, so if things turn sour this can lead to trouble.
It’s particularly important that you and your colleagues get on when there are only ten of you working in a single office all week.
Most successful SMEs have found a niche – there may not be as much potential to move between different business functions as there would for a large multi-faceted company such as the supermarkets.
SMEs account for over half the jobs in the UK private sector, so it’s worth exploring the opportunities they offer. Be aware that they won’t necessarily have a graduate scheme or even an HR manager, in contrast to the larger, well-known graduate employers such as the Big Four accountants or the Civil Service. This means that a different approach is required when looking for work.
It's important to do your research: know what the company does and work out whether your skills and experience will fit. If you think you’ve got something to offer, get in touch. Unless an application form is available, send your CV with a cover letter – which should ideally be written for each application as employers won’t be impressed with an obvious mass email. SMEs won’t necessarily have a specific vacancy waiting so you will need to convince them that they need you on board!
Finally, no two small businesses are the same. Small businesses are found in nearly every sector so there should be one out there which is right for you.
Kick-start your career by taking a look at our list of entrepreneurial and start-up graduate opportunities.