Feel like you’ve missed the boat with the top graduate jobs or grad schemes? Didn’t enjoy the corporate world on your student internship? It’s far from all over for your graduate job aspiration. Look no further than SMEs.
So, what is an SME? Small and Medium Enterprises account for more than 99% of private sector business in the UK. They are categorised by smaller employee totals (less that 250 people) and lower turnover rates.
Importantly, it seems like staff are much happier at SMEs. Research by the TUC found that staff in SMEs are most satisfied at work, most engaged by their employers, most content with their freedom to choose working hours and subjected to much lower levels of stress and bullying.
Besides the stats, what’s in it for you at an SME? Well just to start…
You’ll be given responsibility quickly at SMEs
You are more likely to be given responsibility quickly because of the smaller teams employed at SMEs. You may find that you’ll be put in control of accounts or projects almost straight away. You are able to put forward your own ideas for consideration with far greater effect.
You’ll often be working closely with the people in control of the big company decisions from day one. It gives you far greater control over exactly what your day-to-day job entails.
Receive varied work
You’ll be able to take on ad-hoc duties that appeal because of the nature of a small team. You will be working in a much more active way because of the responsibility you’ll yield early on. A day’s never boring at an SME!
See your effect straight away
Unlike with graduate jobs at larger corporations, you’ll be able to see evidence of the effect of your work from day one. You can track the success of things you’ve worked on directly. It will seriously increase your confidence to be able to tell people ‘Today I did _____’ as opposed to ‘Today I was part of the team that did _____’
You’ll progress quickly
You’ll find that opportunities to progress are available to you early on at SMEs. You’ll be able to wield influence more easily due to the proximity of the people that make the decisions. At the larger companies you may be on a clearly defined career path to progress within a number of years. At an SME you could find yourself shooting up in the first year provided you prove yourself.
You can start right away
Many graduate schemes have a lengthy process of application and will start only once a year. At SMEs they tend to hire for graduate jobs all year round. This means you’ll be able to get stuck into applying whenever it suits, especially if you’ve missed the boat on those big application processes or have decided to take some time out.
Face simpler applications and less competition
The truth is less people apply to SMEs – so the competition is lower and the application process is often less exhaustive. They rarely have more than one round of interviews and you’ll often be in front of your potential direct line manager or even the CEO. This way you’ll be able to get your personality across much more easily than with a faceless HR department.
Develop commercial knowledge and entrepreneurship
You’re much more likely to get access to information about the inner workings of the company, from finance to management decisions, due to being closer to the top level of the company. Not only will this kind of commercial knowledge look good on your CV, but if you want to strike it out alone at a later date this entrepreneurial knowledge will be invaluable.
Learn to problem solve and be innovative
You’ll be challenged to think innovatively and to deal with incoming problems immediately instead of spending your first few months in a less flexible onboarding process. Hit the ground running!
Bolster your CV
Starting at an SME may be the best way to bolster your CV if you have aspirations of working for a bigger company down the line. Hands on experience of dealing with clients, making key decisions and examples of your direct effect can look more impressive to many companies than training or qualifications you’ve received in house.
Work in a close-knit environment
A lot of SMEs will offer a different working environment than a larger organisation. You’ll quickly know everyone at the company, including top level management, and so you’ll quickly feel part of the team. These smaller companies know that their staff are the most important thing, as they’ll often treat you much more respectfully as an entry level employee.
David Shindler is founder of the Employability Hub online learning centre, Director of Learning to Leap and widely respected in the industry as an employability expert. David understands the ‘soft’ skills, attitudes and behaviours needed by employers and can help people improve them to get the job they want.