How to Identify Your Ideal Employer Size By Charlie Pope
Question. Do you suggest looking for a big company out of school or something smaller to start?
While there is no “right” answer to this question, my experience has taught me that personal fit and your own expectations should drive your decision to seek out opportunities in a large or small company. After graduating from UW in 2012, I went to work for a large management consulting firm for three years. Following that stint, I started looking to join boutique strategy consultancies and ended up at a 20-person firm (this firm was then purchased by a large public investment bank, my current employer, but that’s another story). Having made the move from large to small and then again to large via acquisition, I have developed some experience-based insights on this topic. And while my career has been in consulting, my logic in answering the question should apply to most industries an Econ major may be considering.
There are a few factors that should influence any entry-level applicant’s decision about the size of company to pursue. First and foremost, you must know yourself. What type of environment do you thrive in and what motivates you in a professional setting? After you know this, think about what might be a good personal fit. I would argue that this is the most important consideration. Are you a self-starter who is comfortable with ambiguity and wearing many hats? Do you value flexibility and entrepreneurship? If yes, perhaps a small company is the right place for you. On the flip side, those who value structure and stability may find that a larger company is a better fit. Large companies are also more likely to have opportunity for lateral movement to different teams or functional groups, and thus may present more diverse opportunities as you progress.
Another important consideration is your expectations about what you’ll gain from your first job. A major benefit of large companies is that they are more likely to have strong training programs for new hires, while smaller companies may lack the resources and infrastructure for formalized training. Another key benefit of large companies is that you’ll have a recognizable (and hopefully respected) name on your resume moving forward, which can be a major advantage for future job or grad school applications. In my experience, having a nationally known consulting firm on my resume made it a lot easier to get interviews at various boutiques.
Whether it’s at a small startup or a multinational corporation, look for a job that aligns with your interests and goals and where the culture feels like a good fit. If you can check those two boxes, you’ll be off to a great start!