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Is it time for you to move to a smaller company?

5 Jul 2023

Hays’ Travis O’Rourke talks about the potential career benefits in moving from a large company to an SME.

Do you feel conflicted about the fact that you’ve only ever worked for a large corporate company? On the one hand, you’ve enjoyed your time there and enhanced your CV and your network of connections plenty fold.

But on the other hand, the corporate environment is all you know, so much so that you are left wondering what it’s like to work somewhere smaller, like an SME. If this is the case, here are some sure-fire signs that it’s time to make the move.

You want the freedom a smaller company could offer

In many situations, scrupulous processes can be a good thing, especially when there’s a need for consistency within a large and geographically dispersed workforce. But, if you are encountering barriers when trying to progress projects time and time again, this can feel very frustrating.

SMEs can be less entrenched in the way they operate. There will often be far fewer obstacles to getting the job done and you will regularly have to use your initiative and make the ultimate judgement call. If this kind of freedom sounds appealing to you, then this is the first sign that you would enjoy working for an SME.

You want to stretch your skills

When was the last time you took on something outside of your comfort zone? Having worked at large corporates for so long, you will be well aware of the fact that there is usually a person for every role and you are less likely to take on duties that aren’t part of your job remit. This might have been great while you were getting to grips with the role, but now you want a new challenge.

At an SME, job remits are wider reaching, simply because there are fewer hands on deck. You will be given far more stretch opportunities and at times, you will be expected to upskill on the job. If this fills you with anticipatory excitement, then this is another green tick in favour of working for an SME.

You want to feel closer to the business and its purpose

Do you feel disconnected from the company’s strategic vision and purpose, and thus unsure of how your role makes a real difference? Being employed at big corporates may have left you feeling like a cog in a very large machine, working away without a real understanding how you are contributing to the bigger picture.

One benefit of working for an SME is that employees receive more direct and frequent communication from the senior management team about the company’s progress, mission and values. Therefore, they have a better understanding of where their role aligns with this picture and the direct impact of their hard work.

If you want to feel closer to your company’s mission, an SME could be the right place for you.

You want to climb a shorter ladder

There is often less of a need to play office politics within an SME, simply because it isn’t quite so difficult to get to the top. There is a far shorter journey there, with more flexible paths in place. What’s more you may well find yourself working closely with the most senior people in the business, ie, the people who can heavily influence your career.

My overarching advice here is this: there are benefits of working for any company size, be it a large corporate or an SME. However, if you found yourself nodding in agreement to the above signs, then an SME might just be the right next move for you.

By Travis O’Rourke

Travis O’Rourke is the president of Hays Canada. A version of this article originally appeared on the Hays blog.

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