Some of the lucky ones have only worked in big multi-national companies ever since they graduate. And some of us have swam only in the smaller pond. Let me explain the terms of SME and MNC. SME means small medium enterprise and MNC means multi-national corporation.
Recently, I read an interview with Jack Ma (the founder of Alibaba) and he was quoted on something interesting. He advises fresh graduates in China to only apply to work in a SME and don’t aim for a big corporation. His reasoning is that you will learn more in a small firm as you will have to do everything yourself. I can tell you his advice makes a lot of sense. Let me break down why in this article.
I have worked in both before and both of them have theirs pros and cons.
I have learnt a lot of stuff during my days with local companies and because it is small, I have loads of opportunities to try out different roles. At one point, I was managing both telesales team and customer service team. If I’m in a bigger corporation, I would never be allowed to have dual roles. Everything was hands on and initiatives are appreciated.
However, this also means I don’t have much of proper training before I was thrown into the deeper waters. I have to learn on the spot, makes mistakes, grit my teeth and apologise if I couldn’t recover from my mistakes and need my boss to step in. I am sure these experiences made me a much better person and a much better manager.
I have proper training in proper classes. There are always be proper guidance by an assigned mentors. And the training doesn’t stop there. Bigger companies believe in investing money on their employees so we got seminars and specialised classes every now and then.
In bigger companies, I only have one designated role which I’m hired for so I get to perfect my skills in that role and master it.
Not much space to move up or move sideways as the companies are pretty small. However, if there is space available and if you are the right fit for the role, smaller firms tend to promote within more often than big companies.
You probably have a lot of chances bumping into the company’s founder or the CEO and may have opportunities to work along side with him or her or even have a project directly under him.
But because the company is small, there is not much room up there so look at your own company, do they have plans down the road for expansion?
Lots of room to move upwards, sideward almost everywhere. Plus you may get opportunities to travel for work or even a choice to relocate to another country for work. How exciting!
However, bigger companies have more and tougher competition too. Your colleagues will be vying for the same opportunity as well. It’s alright if it’s friendly healthy competition but do watch your back if things get nasty.
If your firm is small, you probably will lunch mostly around the vicinity of your office area. Your cubicle is probably been there since the start of the company. Your computer is also probably 3 years or older. Why change when it hasn’t broken yet? One thing I found smaller firms lacked in is the care of the work environment we worked in.
I spent at least 8 hours a day producing some of my finest work hence I think I do deserve a fast and reliable computer, a printer that won’t jammed the papers every time I need to print something urgently, a working Nespresso machine and perhaps a really comfy office chair to support my back. I used to work in a tiny firm that allows me to use the latest laptop which is actually meant for customers. While I’m not complaining about having the latest laptop, it is a hassle to back up my data and transfer it over to my next new laptop every other week.
When I talked about environment, I’m also referring to the people you work with. SME has some closeness feel to it and because the staff strength is so small, you tend to know everyone in the company. This makes excellent cohesiveness and allows the company to work seamlessly together. One of my previous company only have 80 staff and we worked along fantastically as we all know each other weaknesses and strengths. We are a tight bunch together and people stayed in the company because of the relationships formed within the company.
The cubicle is probably a few months old, you will have a nice pantry within a few steps from your desk that comes equipped with a fridge full of beverages and snacks, your meeting rooms will come equipped with the latest projector and gadgets (so that when you need to do a Powerpoint presentation, you won’t need to fumble with set up especially in front of clients). And if you are really really lucky, you will have an in-house canteen like Google or an indoor swimming pool like Unilever or a Starbucks coffee machine like Apple. You also have cleaner restrooms with regular in-house cleaners who doesn’t just clean the toilets twice a day.
You probably will not know everyone in the office. Heck, you will be fortunate if you know more than 10 folks outside your department (the HR personnel that call you up don’t count nor does the IT guy who fixed up your laptop when you ever you have an issue with it). But if you know how to network yourself around, you will find the most interesting characters. I am lucky to have worked with a lot of different nationalities with different culture and backgrounds. I know how to get things across to a French, how to voice my opinions to a British and how to manoeuvre my way around the Chinese. I love getting to know them as a person and am lucky to get to form lasting friendship with some of them.
I realised that this article is getting too long and for easy reading, I am breaking down into two parts. So for my continuation of this article, I’ll be writing about the compensation, benefits and the work you do in smaller firms vs the bigger ones.
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