Imagine that you've received two identical job offers from two different companies, a big multi-national and a smaller regional company. If salary, benefits, and work hours were exactly the same, which offer would you choose? Do you know what the differences between working in a larger company versus a smaller one might be? The fact is, that the experience and outcome of your decision could be vastly different. Here are just a few possible distinctions:
Fixed vs. Changing responsibilities
From the moment you get hired, you'll start gaining a fairly clear idea of what you will be doing and what to expect, as well as, what will be expected of you. If you are hired for a software engineer role, you won’t be speaking with customers or helping to plan a marketing strategy. You’ll only be responsible for doing what a software engineer does, giving you the chance to focus and become specialized in one area of expertise.
“Oh, you must be the new software engineer joining the team! Welcome! Don’t forget that we have a business development meeting next week to go over our customer acquisition strategy!”
In a smaller company, every team member is expected to be able to wear many hats and job duties could be constantly evolving depending on the companies most urgent needs. You could be asked to take on tasks beyond your knowledge or specialization but if you're highly adaptable, quick to learn, don’t like sticking to the same routine, or want to exercise and gain a broader your skillset, a smaller company might be the right fit for you. Of course, as the company grows and the team grows larger, your day-to-day might start to resemble more and more that of a larger organization.
Clear Hierarchical Ladder vs. Flat but Evolving Structure
In a big company, there is always a large organizational chart that outlines all the positions in the company, from the CEO to the intern. What’s good about this is that your career outlook is clear. You know your position within the company and the next position(s) or next "rung" above your current position is obvious. You'll also have a good idea what it takes to reach that next rung and as you climb the ladder and work your way up. Generally you'll be looking at a bigger corresponding paycheque as well!
In a small company, there’s usually no fixed structure. Small companies often have no ladder at all and opt for a flatter organizational structure even as a company grows to a certain size. For a lot of people working in a small company, it may not be clear what the next-up position that they should aim for is.
For example, if you’re already the software engineer that directly works with the CEO and CTO, what could you possibly be promoted to? However, working in a small company does have its perks. Your earnings and benefits would scale up along with the company’s growth, especially if they offer you stock options in the company (common in technology start-ups). And if you can demonstrate leadership capability, a leadership position can be created for you as the team expands.
Strict Guidelines vs. Flexible Directions
“Ok new guy, here’s how you complete this task. Follow the directions and you’ll be alright!” Most processes or standard procedures in a big company are already established. If you want to do something, there’s most certainly an established way that you need to follow.
Imagine you work in the human resources department of Company XYZ. The company is looking for a software engineer and you just happened to meet someone perfect for the job. Unfortunately, you can't just call him up and hire him. Big companies have established processes and procedures in place in all areas of business. This includes posting job advertisements, resume screening, analyzing and reporting to your superiors, waiting for someone at the senior level to give approval, conducting phone screening, collecting results, and so on.
Yes, you can still end up hiring that individual you want, but bureaucracy can make working in large companies frustrating at times.
As long as you can find the right candidate for the job, you're fine. Nobody cares about the hiring standard procedure; chances are that a standard hiring procedure doesn't even exist!
This is great if you enjoy working in an environment without strict instructions. However, this could be quite puzzling for those who’d prefer to know that there’s always that guidebook in the company somewhere that can “give me the help I need, whenever I need, without me having to dig around to find the answer”.
Big City vs. Small Town
Living the big city life! With hundreds even thousands of people working alongside you in the same company, you probably won’t ever get to know every single one of them. But some people like anonymity.
You’ll get a chance to really get to know every individual in the company, from the CEO to the intern. This cozy and community feeling is what often makes the corporate culture of a start-up so desireable.
A drop in the ocean vs. A wheel of a car
You are an employee in a pool of hundreds of other employees. Your efforts might be recognized, but only to a small extent. Think of it as working on a small part of a big project. It’s great that you're doing an excellent job on your part, but the outcome of the project probably doesn’t depend on you alone and the impact of your contribution may not be felt by the organization as a whole.
What happens when a wheel of a car falls off? Disaster! In a smaller company, everything you do has the potential of making a big impact on the overall success and growth of the company. If you do an excellent job on your part, you'll receive a hero's recognition. However, if you somehow screw something up…well, let's just remember that impact, comes in shades of both positive and negative.