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Is a Small Business the Right Place to Start Your Career?

Recently, I attended the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual conference in Chicago. The event is the largest gathering of HR professionals in the world, drawing famed speakers such as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz, among others, to discuss everything from diversity to change management.

While Munoz and Sandberg represented some of the largest corporations in the world, it wasn’t all megalithic media conglomerates and colossal airline companies starring in the show. There were representatives from small and medium-sized organizations sharing their thoughts and tips as well.

As I listened to these speakers from a range of different industries and companies, it struck me how lucky I’ve been to work in small companies for nearly the past 20 years of my career. Having worked for Geneva Global, which has a staff of under 40, for nearly 10 years and for another small company 10 years prior to that, I can tell you that small companies can give big benefits, particularly to those just starting out in their careers.

Though they may not offer the name recognition that the big guys do, you might be surprised what these small businesses can offer you.

Here are six reasons you should consider starting your career at a small company:

1. You get a wide array of experience.

Small companies offer a different type of professional development that may be right for your needs. Did you know that, according to the Center for Creative Leadership, 70 percent of your professional growth comes through on-the-job experiences? A small company can offer more rapid growth, as you are no longer part of a cohort that gets moved along at the same pace. You are likely to experience a larger variety of work that will expand multiple skills.

2. Your work will really make a difference—and you’ll be recognized for it, too.

Are you a self-starter? Take a lot of initiative and ownership of your own work? You will excel in a smaller environment. Your ideas and work are magnified in this environment. Be prepared to make big contributions that will have your managers thanking you.

3. You’ll get plenty of opportunities to collaborate.

Want to connect with others and share ideas? That’s super easy to do in a small company. This is also how you will get to expand those skills and make a difference in the company.

4. You’ll get lots of personalized attention from your manager…

Looking for a manager who is just as invested in your success as you are? That will be easy to find in a small company. Since managers aren’t focused on climbing the corporate ladder themselves; they have more time to devote to your professional development. And, you’ll likely have teammates who are just as invested in your success, too.

5. … And you’ll get to know him or her right from the start.

While you are interviewing, look around at the environment. Can you envision yourself going to work there? How were you treated during the interview process? I bet you’re not going through a large HR department—you are directly meeting with your new potential manager and team members.

6. You can get a compensation package that’s just as robust as what the big guys are offering.

Sure, you might be enticed by free chocolate offerings at the state-of-the-art café at the big tech companies, but you might be pleasantly surprised by how robust the whole compensation package is at a small company. At Geneva Global, we offer many perks like four weeks’ paid time off and work-from-home options, among others. (Personally, I’d much rather take a long vacation than get free chocolate.)

While big companies certainly have their perks, it’s important to consider your options when starting out your career. I’ll bet that when you think about all of the options available to you at a small company, you just may think about applying there over a big corporation.