You finally graduated! With college diploma in hand, you're now ready to take on the world. Armed with countless hours of research about top employers in your industry, you’re eager to saddle up and start firing off hand-crafted cover letters and resumes to the long list of hiring managers you hope to impress with your qualifications.
Hold it right there. You might want to rethink your job hunting strategy. You could have overlooked some of the best opportunities out there.
Most of the companies on your list are well-known, right? And, most of them are probably big enough to have multiple departments, branches and even their own zip codes, yes? If they don't, you might be on the right track. But, if you're like so many other eager grads, you're probably not targeting those diamond-in-the-rough positions just waiting to be filled at one of the many small businesses operating around you.
Okay, so small businesses might appear to be lacking potential. But really, they're bursting with possibilities. Seriously.
A small business can offer a number of unexpected benefits, including the chance to:
1. Get noticed by people in the company who matter
Think "big fish, small pond," but in a good way.
You might be competing with hundreds (or—ugh—thousands) of candidates for a position at a large company. Small businesses tend to get fewer applications, giving great resumes room to make their way to the top of the pile.
This doesn't mean you can pull back on effort when it comes to applying and interviewing, but it does mean you could have a much better chance of standing out from the crowd.
2. Build strong relationships with employees of all levels
Small businesses tend to have less hierarchy, which means you could actually work with (not just for) your boss. This can open the door to mentoring and collaboration opportunities that might otherwise be miles out of reach.
Of course, while this can be great for making a big impression, it also means results really count, because you-know-who is watching.
3. Learn all aspects of the business inside and out
In a corporate setting, you’ll likely just see a tiny piece of what keeps the business running. Conversely, in a small business role, you'll almost certainly get the chance to take part in projects that cross over into different areas.
Your exposure to more aspects of the business will likely be greater at a smaller company.
4. Diversify your skill set by participating in new projects
In a small business, resources can be limited. On the plus side, employees often get to follow projects from start to finish. So, instead of handling a small component of a larger project as you might in a big firm, you could be a part of the brainstorming, engineering and execution of a marketing campaign, product launch or other important project.
This can be an amazing way to learn on the fly and venture into new territory. Just remember that you probably won't always love the task, and being a princess (or prince) about it won't score you any extra points. Besides, those tasks are great for building character, right?
5. Explore your talents and discover what you love
Another major perk of trying your hand at new things is the chance to discover where you shine. The assumption is that, as a graduate, you know what you want to do with your life, but the reality is that many people don't. And, for those who haven't found their calling, this opportunity can be huge!
You may learn you have a hidden talent for schmoozing clients, handling finances or thinking up new product ideas. Who knows? Many of those lucky people who absolutely love what they do often say, "I just fell into it." And odds are that many of them discovered their true passion while working for a small business.
6. Make a big impact (and get credit for it)
Corporations are complex entities that rely on a number of departments and individuals to complete any given project. Each project may only play a minor role in the overall success or failure of the organization. On top of that, processes tend to move slowly through the different levels of management in a large business. This can dilute an individual's chance of being recognized for performing great work.
In a small business, it is often completely the opposite. When you're responsible for seeing a project through from start to finish, you're more likely to have access to quick decisions (or even have the authority to—gasp!—make them) and get the credit you have earned.
Additionally, you could have the opportunity to make a real difference in the success of the business, since most projects are likely to have the potential to significantly impact a small scale operation. So, why be a cog when you can move the whole machine?
Now you're in the know about working for small businesses. Maybe you'd like to revise your criteria to include the little guy. It's a choice you're not likely to regret.
Jennifer Kwasnicki is a career and education writer for Trade-Schools.net and its blog, Classrooms, Careers, and Crossroads, where you can find insight into a variety of education- and career-related issues.