Picture this. You start your business career and get operations experience. You then get your MBA and add to your experience with positions in finance and management. You successfully navigate the maze of corporate promotions and excel in a large organization. Next, you move to a small company. You get more finance experience. You continue to do well. Then you get laid off. What should you do next in business? I was recently asked this question. What do you think of my response?
Where do you go? There are really two issues here. The first issue is whether to go with a large company or find another smaller company to consider. I have strong feelings about company size. It used to be that large companies were safe. They could weather economic storms and if you were a top performer you knew you could always get another job somewhere in the company. It’s not that way anymore. Even good performers at large companies are vulnerable. EDS and HP are just the first large companies that quickly come to mind. I’m sure you could easily add your own input to the list.
Like it or not, today you are responsible for managing your own career. That’s true whether you work at a large or small company. As you manage your career, you should recognize that you are also vulnerable at large companies. I told this employee that as she factored in her options, large companies should get no additional “points” unless there was a specific company she liked and liked a lot.
What do you do? The next issue is what type of position you should pursue. All too often, operations people think they need more operations experience. Sales people think they need more sales experience. I disagree.
I asked this talented professional a few questions. The first was “Where do you want to be in five years?” Based on that answer, I then said, “Find the company that will give you as many unique opportunities and experiences as possible. When you are being considered for that job down the road in five years, you will be uniquely qualified for that job.”
Companies today aren’t looking for someone with 25 years in the same job in the same company. They want someone who can face the challenges of today and tomorrow. What kind of person is that? It’s someone who is flexible and who has lots of experiences to draw from.
Have you noticed that in today’s business environment that workers have so many slashes in their job descriptions? Think of sales. With all the job requirements for selling, you address issues in sales, information technology, accounting, legal and operations. If you were hiring a sales professional wouldn’t you want someone who in addition to sales had some other experiences which enhanced the understanding of the other parts of the job that need to get done? I think you would.
It’s up to you to find those experiences. It may be easier at a smaller company. I would expect fewer barriers to be able to move into new jobs with less bureaucracy. Large companies have rules for everything. Following the rules takes time, if only to get permission to do what you want to do. The differences in flexibility because of company size may be a factor in making your job decision.