Benefits of Working for a Start-up or SME

Why working in a start-up might be for you

There is so much information out there about applying to graduate schemes or big companies and the benefits it can bring for your career. But start-ups and SMEs equally offer a wealth of opportunities that can get overlooked. So, if you missed out on a graduate scheme place or you are looking for an alternative career path, here are our top reasons that a start-up or SME might be a great place to start your job hunt!

The facts
  • There are almost 6 million private sector businesses in the UK
  • 60% of all UK private sector employment is at SMEs
  • The turnover of SMEs in the UK is over £5 trillion
  • 9 in 10 UK graduates will end up working at an SME or start-up


If you have missed out on a graduate scheme, or decide that it is not for you, do not panic! Applications to work at smaller companies can happen at any time of year and do not have the same strict deadlines towards the start of the academic year. When it comes to SMEs and start-ups, you need to keep an eye out for the best opportunities throughout the year. The application process tends to move quickly, and companies almost definitely will not be employing a whole year in advance. At most, you will be making applications a number of months before you expect to start, but in some cases there will be just weeks between an applicant applying and starting the role!


Smaller companies are also less rigid with their requirements, like grades, and are looking for potential, fresh ideas and someone who fits into the company culture. They also tend to have less lengthy application processes. For example, because it is the founders rather than an HR team in charge of employing, there will often only be up to 2 interviews and perhaps a task, but there most likely won’t be assessment days or psychometric tests. The time between you applying and hearing back will be very short, and will not take months like some corporates.

Company culture

As mentioned above, company culture is very important to a smaller company because the team is tight-knit and will work together on all the crucial tasks. In most start-ups and SMEs there are lots of team socials like breakfasts and drinks events. This means you will get to know your colleagues very well! 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. It is true that smaller companies have lower budgets to put into working environment than big corporates, but a big budget is not the only thing that makes company culture fun!

The people

Start-ups can be hubs of up-and-coming talent in your industry. Getting to know your colleagues and managers may come in very handy in the future - you never know where you will bump into people again! Some start-ups, particularly in places like London, are based in shared working spaces, so you will get to meet lots of other people involved with similar businesses. It is quite often the case 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.

Future career prospects

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 a business works. This is unlikely to happen in a corporate company where employees are usually confined to one department and cannot get the same birds-eye view. There is also far more opportunity for collaborative work in a small team and you’ll often play a key part in decision-making and planning processes. Real hands-on skills, and the opportunity to prove that you produce results, can look great on your CV for the future!

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.


In a big company your work can easily go unnoticed, and it can be difficult to prove yourself, but in a smaller business everyone’s work counts so there is no hiding! This means, if you are good at what you do, that you will be able to move onto more complex tasks quickly, as the business is focused on growing and developing. Your role will likely evolve over your time at the company so you definitely won’t get bored! Corporations tend to have a more structured system of promotion, but in an ambitious small company you can be fast tracked to the role you want!

  • Keep an eye out for start-up and SME jobs all year round - there are always new, exciting opportunities coming up!
  • Smaller companies can have a great work environment thanks to the people and close company culture
  • If you are ambitious for your career, there is no need to avoid smaller businesses because there are a wealth of opportunities for you to develop

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 rewarding. 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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