For all the buzz about employee perks offered by corporate giants like Google (Free food! Free massages! A dogs-welcome policy!), scoring a position in a big company may seem like the best of all possible working worlds.
While these benefits are certainly enjoyable, working for a small business offers perks of its own—which are often more enduring and influential to your career development. Here are a few of the benefits of being employed by a small business:
Less Painful, More Personal Hiring Experience
Small businesses offer benefits right from the start, beginning with just applying for a job at one. Frequently, small businesses receive fewer applicants per position and therefore can more carefully consider them, meaning that your resume is less likely to be lost in a mountain of others.
Also the interview process is likely to be shorter and more personal than that at a large corporation. During the interview phase, you will probably get a very good sense of company culture, the company’s overriding philosophy, employees you’ll be working with, the facilities, and day-to-day operations. If you are a strong candidate, a small business will be trying just as hard to win you over as you are trying to wow them.
Working in close quarters means you’ll be working with just about everyone in the company. You can develop close working relationships with peers and be mentored by more experienced staff members.
You’ll also likely be working closely with the business owner and senior staff. As Gene Marks puts it,“Your boss will rely on you more. You will likely forge a closer relationship . . . You will work much closer to the owners, senior managers and investors of the company, giving them the chance to see what you can do and creating relationships that could last for the rest of your (potentially very lucrative) life.”
A More Diversified and Meaningful Experience
Small businesses have small teams, with fluid or overlapping roles among employees. One person might manage junior staff and run payroll and occasionally fill in at the register. That means that your job description may be a little fuzzy, but you’ll be able to use a wide variety of skills from day to day.
In this type of environment, each individual employee’s role is crucial and even influential. “Smaller businesses look for people that are flexible and can take up a number of different roles, which means you have the opportunity to make a difference to all aspects of a business,” writes James Caan.
Greater Responsibility and Room for Growth
Given the fluidity of roles and closer working relationships of a small business, you will be able to participate in a wide range of tasks and decisions. You’ll likely have more responsibility and input into decisions than you might in an equivalent position at a big corporate office.
You may be able to climb the ranks (or move into a different type of role) quickly as you prove yourself to be a capable, determined addition to the team. People will know you—and your work. As Eric Ravenscraft explains, your successes are visible. “At a small company . . . great work can be seen by everyone. This makes it easier to distinguish yourself with certain skills.”
This is great news for both entry-level employees and experienced professionals, asserts Caan. For those new to the workforce, he explains, “Working in this environment will significantly boost your personal skillset. You will learn a variety of skills and you will learn them quickly. Somebody who has spent the initial years of their career helping to grow an SME becomes a very attractive candidate—whether their next job is in another SME or a larger organization.” On the other hand, employees coming into a small business with more experience can take on meaningful leadership positions.
Great Working Conditions
“Small businesses typically have less rules and thus more flexibility in the work life balance they offer,” says Donna Fuscaldo. These employers know they can’t necessarily keep up with the big guys on salaries or benefits. To compensate, they often go out of their way to make working conditions as pleasant as possible, whether that means the possibility of working from home or even that bring-your-dog-to-work policy.
Sure, free massages at the office sound great. But the kinds of benefits offered by small business employers are far more important to your long-term career goals: strong relationships, meaningful experience, recognition and room for growth. Which would you pick?