Our guides for employers and candidates on how to navigate the entry-level job market.

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Benefits of working for a Start-up or SME

Why should I consider applying for graduate jobs at smaller companies?

Working for a start-up or SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) can be extremely beneficial in kick-starting your graduate career. With large corporates dominating university careers fairs, it might come as a surprise to a lot of you to learn that a small minority of UK graduates actually end up working on a graduate scheme for one of the larger traditional employers. Graduate opportunities in smaller companies are significantly growing at the moment with 9/10 graduate jobs now being found in start-ups and SMEs. But with so many employment opportunities available to graduates these days, it is important to consider the pros and cons of all your options. So, to help you decide what to do after leaving university, here are, what we consider to be, the top benefits of working in a start-up or SME.

You’ll learn a lot

By starting your career in a smaller company, and a smaller team, you have the opportunity to be involved in every aspect of the business. You’ll be required to pick up things on the job, quickly developing new skills and gaining a real insight into how each area of how a business works. This is unlikely to happen in a corporate where employees are usually confined to one department. There is also far more opportunity for collaborative work in a small team as you experience and you’ll often play a key part in decision-making and planning processes.

The skills and experience you can gain from a start-up or SME can also help if you are unsure of the direction you wish to take your career in after university. You’ll get a chance to try on a lot of different hats and see what you enjoy the most and are best at. Moreover, it is quite often the case, particularly in start-ups, that you’ll be working closely or even sitting next to one of the founders or managers. This is a fantastic position to be in as you can learn first-hand about entrepreneurship. If you are interested in starting your own business someday this is especially valuable and is something a corporate company could not offer. And you never know, the young company you’re working in could become the next Uber or Whatsapp…

You’ll have the chance to really make an impact

Right from your first day you’ll be given a higher level of responsibility than would be possible at a large corporate. Smaller companies have little time for micromanagement so you will be expected to take your own initiative and work on your own projects. Particularly at a start-up, it is unlikely that you’ll have anyone else in the team with the same skill set as you or working on the same task as you, so you’ll really be trusted by the founders to carry out your job well.

You’ll also really get to see the impact your work is having. What you do will clearly be valued and contribute to the growth and development of the company. This is a truly rewarding and unique aspect of working in a start-up or SME whereas in a larger company your work might go seemingly unnoticed. Of course, if you slip up or make a mistake then this be more noticeable! But, as a fresh graduate, you won’t be expected to be perfect at your job either and there’s no better way of learning than through trial and error.

The work environment and culture are great

The work environment of a start-up or SME is usually much more relaxed than at a corporate with often no dress code and little hierarchy. Although smaller companies usually can’t afford to offer the same generous perks a larger company can usually provide, they do make up for it with their fun company culture. It is common for smaller companies to have frequent socials, breakfasts or drinks where you can easily and quickly get to know your colleagues (and even other companies if you happen to be based in a co-working space!). In a smaller team, you’ll usually get to know your colleagues on a much more personal level. Usually surrounded by lots of creatives and an atmosphere of innovation, this can be a really inspiring environment to be a part of.

Many graduates may feel that applying for a graduate scheme is the only option – but we want to reassure you that this is not the case! At TalentPool, our aim is to spread the word about these exciting opportunities available at smaller companies, which you wouldn’t usually hear about. Working for a small company can be challenging, fast-paced and extremely awarding. Of course, it’s not for everyone, but if you like the sound of a fast-paced, creative environment where you’ll get to try new things and learn a lot then it’s certainly worth considering as an option! To see what kind of roles are available at start-ups and SMEs, check out our roles sections.

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