Working for smaller companies

How small is small?

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) include those employers who employ less than 250 people. The opportunities for graduates will obviously be very different in a micro firm (less than 10 people) to a business employing nearly 250 people.

Why consider working for an SME?

In the UK, more than 99% of all businesses fall into this category and the SME sector often drives innovation and competition. There can be interesting opportunities for graduates to work in small, high growth, intelligent businesses. Smaller businesses can be found in all sectors from advanced science and communication technology to specialist manufacturers and suppliers.

SMEs often offer a quicker route to making your mark as you are likely to have more exposure to leaders and decision-makers in the organisation. The career paths on offer will be less defined but can offer a steeper learning curve and accelerated progress for high performers. Graduates can experience big challenges and responsibilities relatively early in their career and may also be rewarded with stock options in their remuneration package. If you think you’ll thrive in a constantly changing environment which requires you to be flexible and adaptable then this might be the right choice for you. Working for an SME can also allow you to build entrepreneurial skills useful for running your own business in the future.

How do smaller businesses recruit?

Smaller businesses will only hire one person at a time and never to a particular timetable. Most often they are recruiting because someone has left the company or there is an increase in business that calls for extra staff. This means each person they hire is special and very valuable to the company so they will be looking for a good fit between the person they are hiring and their business. You’ll need to match yourself to the values and attitudes of the company and think about how you would thrive in this sort of environment and culture. Make sure you read our guide to Applications, CVs and Covering Letters.

Read our Finding a Graduate Job guide for advice on how to go about searching for a job outside of the main graduate schemes.

If you’re not sure if working for an SME is right for you, take a look at Big Opportunities in Small Businesses: Graduates in SMEs – this is an AGCAS DVD that you can stream via our website (Bath only).

Other sources of information