How My Job At A Small Company Fast-Tracked My Career

As a 19-year-old creative writing student looking to land my first “proper” office job back in 2015, I had a decision to make – a decision that all young professionals have to make at some point: “What kind of company do I want to work for?” Specifically, would I work for a large company or get a job at a small company?

As I was browsing various jobs portals (while binge-watching The Nanny in the background, hoping I might just find a generous millionaire who doesn’t ask for references), I saw entry-level copywriting positions for many companies, and there seemed to be a real split between a) those with more than 50 employees and b) those with fewer than a dozen.

I eventually settled on applying for a Content Writer position at a small digital marketing agency in Richmond. Supple was a company so small, in fact, that I was actually their first dedicated Content Writer.

Fast-forward three years. I’m now Senior Content Writer, overseeing a department of full-time writers that started off with little old me working part-time between classes. I’ve helped write website content, radio ads, ebooks and more for what is now an award-winning business with more than 40 employees.

It’s a career trajectory that, looking back, I don’t think would’ve been possible if I’d chosen to start out at a bigger company. What’s more, picking the smaller-company  option is an approach to finding your first job that more and more professionals are getting behind. Turns out that getting a job at a small company could be the way to take big strides with your career, early on.

Growing into the role you want

Fab Mackojc is the Melbourne-based entrepreneur, TEDx presenter and career fulfilment expert behind The Journey, a podcast series where he interviews people with unconventional career paths under the age of 35 who have found success and fulfillment in their particular line of work.

Having interviewed more than 60 young professionals, and having worked in both large and small companies himself, I asked him what he thought the benefits were for people who start out in smaller companies.

“It gives you the chance to grow a lot faster, to just jump up in your career” says Fab. “If you were in your twenties, there isn’t a lot of chance for you to potentially go work as a CFO or Head of Marketing at some company – but with a start-up or small business you can grow into that role as the company grows.”

At the time I began at my company, there was no need for a senior writer – because there was only one writer! But as our client base grew, the need for more writers grew. And by virtue of being there first, I was promoted to a senior position after less than a year.

When thinking about applying for a job, it can be valuable to consider the potential for a company to grow – so you can climb that ladder, one rung at a time, as it’s being made.

However, Fab encourages you to take these potential benefits with a grain of salt: “It is a risk and reward thing, because the company can definitely fail. But either way you definitely learn a lot more”.

See your impact – and be seen by others

The benefits Fab has seen for professionals starting out in small businesses don’t just start and end with a fast career trajectory. He says it’s also about feeling fulfilled at work because your individual actions have been noticed.

“It’s absolutely more rewarding, because what you do makes a big difference, it moves the needle for the company’s overall objectives,” explains Fab. “Being able to see the impact of your work would be one of the most important things as to why people would continue showing up somewhere. Because at the end of the day if it’s not that, it’s just money in the pocket.”

But it’s not just valuable for you to see your own impact – it can also be valuable for your employers to see your impact too.

“If you’re working in a small company, you can make your mark as a major asset, there’s no reason why you can’t be given important responsibilities within a year or two.”

As UK recruitment experts Robert Half recently published on the Expertise & Advice section of their website, “if you’re working in a small company, you can make your mark as a major asset, there’s no reason why you can’t be given important responsibilities within a year or two.”

Marking yourself as a major asset in a larger company, however, can be difficult. Jennifer Kwasnicki at Business Insider comments, “processes tend to move slowly through the different levels of management in a large business. This can dilute an individual’s chance of being recognised for performing great work.”

Finding what works best for you

While the added responsibilities of being a big fish in a small pond can help you reap rewards, it isn’t for everyone. Some people thrive in clearly defined roles as part of a large team, whereas working at a small business can often mean taking on jobs you aren’t necessarily prepared for.

Additionally, from Fab’s perspective, “someone who is at a large company who thinks they’re not seeing the full impact of their work might just be in the wrong team or the wrong company, not necessarily in the wrong size of company”.

All I can say is that, when you’re browsing through jobs portals, don’t write off applying to a small company that’s still finding its feet – it may be the best decision you ever make. It was for me.

Alistair Baldwin is based in Melbourne but loyal only to Perth. He is the Senior Content Writer at Supple, as well as a freelance critic, screenwriter & comedian.