The benefits of working for an SME

21 April 2022

Undergraduate Careers Coach, Giorgia, shares the key benefits of working for an SME.

So, you’re hearing your peers talk about their offers with multi-national corporates and household names, but you’re not quite sure these are the right opportunities for you? Maybe you want a role where you might see a significant impact? Maybe you want to dive straight into meaningful work without an extensive training programme? Maybe you prefer less structure and more ‘getting stuck in?' Well, then an SME might be the right avenue for you!

What is an SME?

SMEs are businesses that employ less than 250 members of staff and are enormously important to the economy here in the UK. According to the Federation of Small Businesses, at the beginning of 2021, 99.2% of all businesses were SMEs in the UK, meaning they account for three-fifths of employment and 50% of all turnover in the private sector. Typically speaking, SMEs have a lower staff turnover rate than corporates.

More and more, we are seeing employers place significant emphasis on the skillsets you develop whilst at university. Of course, your degree and the knowledge you develop from it are hugely valuable to any organisation, but the transferable skillset you learn passively throughout your studies are incredibly valuable. Why mention this? Well, at an SME this is even more true. What you may find whilst working at an SME is that there are several different degree disciplines all doing the same job, i.e. if you’re in a marketing role, you may find students with business degrees but also those with social science degrees such as History or Geography. Alongside the variety you’ll be exposed to in a role, your social circle could be wider and therefore provide you with more of a varied perspective on work and a generally diverse global outlook.

What opportunities are available to me at an SME?

If you’ve ever heard the term ‘Spring Week’ or ‘Summer Internship’, you’ll likely be overhearing conversations about much larger organisations. Whilst SMEs do offer experiences over the spring and summer breaks, these experiences are considered more informal and are usually sourced by networking. This is still a very valuable experience, but may be more difficult to find. Typically, SMEs will recruit much later in the year, more on an ‘as and when basis'. Their vacancies also tend to be filled more by networking (who you know, not what you know!), and so LinkedIn is a very popular recruitment tool used by smaller organisations. Their recruitment processes also tend to be much shorter (with some not even doing online psychometric testing) and so their recruitment cycle is much shorter and also later in the academic year.

Some companies our students have previously gained work experience at are Oxbow Partners, ChilliMint Europe LTD, and Papernest.

How do I choose between an SME and a corporate?

To give yourself an idea of where you feel you might fit better, try answering the below questions:

  • Do you prefer large parties or small gatherings?
  • Are you a leader or a follower?
  • Do you have a career in mind, or are you looking to develop a set of skills?
  • Are you comfortable with sudden changes?
  • Are you confident carrying out tasks with little or no preparation when necessary?
  • Do you prefer a routine?
  • Would you prefer a slow, steady career path? Or, do you like the idea of big, unpredictable leaps?

Thinking about these questions should give you an idea of what you could expect on a day-to-day basis in either type of organisation, and which one you might prefer.

Ultimately, it’s more important at this stage for you to consider the environment that fits you best than it is to think about what brand you work for and which one you don’t. You could do all kinds of work within both small and large organisations, but finding the right one for you is a very personal process.

If you are a current WBS student and would like further information about working for an SME, you can book a 1-2-1 appointment with our Careers team by clicking here.

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