Are you already feeling like you've missed out on the top graduate jobs and big graduate schemes? Don't worry, there's a great opportunity that you may not have thought of, that might even suit you better. Apply to work at an SME.
Related: How To Get A Graduate Job After College
So, what is an SME? Small Medium Enterprises make up more than 99% of private sector business in the UK and the US, and are characterized by a lower number of employees and lower turnover rates.
Importantly, it seems like staff are actually far more content at SMEs. Research by TUC discovered that SME employees are not only most satisfied at work, but also most content with their freedom to choose working hours, most engaged by their employers, and subjected to much lower levels of stress and bullying.
Besides the statistics, why should you apply to work at an SME? Well, just to start you'll…
1. See Your Influence Immediately
Unlike with graduate jobs at larger businesses, you'll see evidence of the consequences of your work from day one. You can chart the success of projects and tasks you've directly worked on and it will hugely increase your confidence to be able to tell future employers, family and friends that 'Today I did _____' as opposed to 'Today I was part of the team that implemented_____.'
2. Be Given Responsibility Straight Away
Due to the smaller teams employed at SMEs you're far more likely to be given responsibility much more quickly. You may find that you'll be put in charge of accounts or projects almost immediately and allowed to suggest your own ideas for consideration with much more success.
You'll regularly be working closely with the people who charge all of the large decisions from early on, so you'll discover that you'll have far greater control over exactly what your day to day job involves.
3. Progress Fast
You'll find that chances to progress are available to you far more rapidly at SMEs, due to your proximity to the people that make the decisions, you'll be able to wield influence more easily. At larger companies, you're likely to be faced with a clearly defined career path to progress within a number of years, but at an SME, you could find yourself rising up the ranks immediately.
4. Have A Varied Working Day
Again, due to the nature of the small team, you'll be able to take on ad-hoc duties that appeal. Furthermore, due to the responsibility you'll yield straight away, you'll be working in a much more reactive way. A day's never boring at an SME!
5. Face Less Competition, Easier Applications
The truth is less people apply to SMEs and 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 find that pretty soon you're dealing with 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.
6. Start When You Want
Many graduate schemes have a lengthy process of application and will start only once a year, but at SMEs they tend to hire for graduate jobs all year round. This means that if you've missed the boat on those big application processes, or have decided to take some time out, you'll be able to get stuck into applying whenever it suits.
7. Work In A Calmer Environment
A lot of SMEs will offer a more chilled out working day. You'll quickly get to know everyone at the business, including top level management, and so you'll quickly feel part of the team. Smaller companies understand that their employees are their most important asset, and so, even as an entry-level member of staff, you'll be treated with a greater level of respect.
8. Learn To Solve Problems
Instead of spending your first couple of months on a very systematic training program where you'll be shown exactly how you're expected to work and perform at the business, you'll be challenged to think innovatively and deal with incoming problems straightaway. This is significantly more mentally engaging as well as being a beneficial transferable skill to have.
9. Develop Entrepreneurial Skill And Commercial Understanding
Due to your proximity to the company's management team you're far more likely to find out about the inner workings of the business, from finance to management decisions. Not only will this kind of commercial knowledge look impressive on your CV, but if you want to start your own business at a later date this entrepreneurial knowledge could be instrumental in your success.
10. Boost Your CV
When you decide to move on to another company down the line, starting at an SME may be the best way to make your CV look highly impressive. Hands on experience of dealing with clients, making key decisions and examples of how you've directly improved the business appear more impressive to many companies than qualifications or training that you've received in house, particularly as they can always provide specific training themselves.
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About the author
Ben Rosen founded Inspiring Interns in 2009, opening its headquarters in Bloomsbury. Inspiring Interns is a graduate recruitment agency connecting talented graduates with top companies and start-up businesses in London, Manchester and the rest of the UK. They have kick-started the careers of over 5,000 young people since 2009 and continue to provide a professional filtering, recruitment and Careers Advice Service.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert.