How Working for a Small Business Can Pay Off Big

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small businessJason Ferrara, vice president of corporate marketing for CareerBuilder

It's common knowledge that Apple started in a garage and Facebook began in a dorm room. Not all beginnings are as humble, but they prove that you don't need to start working at a big-name corporation to find success. Joining an organization that's not a household name might not have some of the cushy perks a large business can provide, but it can offer opportunities you can't find elsewhere.

Many job seekers might be surprised at how important small businesses are to the U.S. economy. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses are responsible for 64 percent of new jobs in the past 15 years and employ more than half of all private sector employees.

The size of the company is an important but often overlooked factor in a job search. Whether a business is large or small can dictate the characteristics that get most of a job seeker's attention: company culture, leadership opportunities and career prospects. While not every job seeker is suited for life at a small business, many might be surprised to find that a small organization is the best fit.


Easier to be noticed

Any worker in today's economy will tell you that job descriptions evolve; your formal title is more of a starting point than an all-encompassing summary of duties. Due to budget cutbacks, many employers have asked their employees to take on tasks outside of their typical responsibilities. For employees in small organizations, this isn't a new phenomenon -- it's business as usual.

Because small companies often don't have the budget or need to create a slew of departments, employees step in to help with a variety of tasks when appropriate. While that can mean you see the vice president of sales answer customer phone calls or delivering the mail, it can also mean having a marketing intern toss out some ideas for a new ad campaign. With fewer employees to compete with, your ideas are more easily heard. Therefore, if you have the opportunity to offer your input or use your skills, take it. As the company grows, you'll be remembered as the person who was helping out whenever the opportunity arose, and you'll have proof that you can excel in different fields.


Rewarded for hard work

Because small businesses have a limited staff, their employees often work harder than their job title or salary might suggest. Even if they adhere to their job descriptions, they often put in extra effort in order to see results. Owners and other senior management who have been with the company from its first day appreciate employees who share their dedication. You don't have to work 12-hour days in order to show your commitment. Working an occasional late day, pitching some ideas to your boss or surpassing your projected revenue can show that you care about the business beyond just clocking in and out each day.

In the short term, your boss appreciates your effort. In the long run, you're more likely to be promoted when the company expands because of your greater visibility. An employer won't feel the need to look outside of the company when a hard worker with a proven record is just a few offices away. And when profits are high, salaries and bonuses increase for the workers who have stuck with the company during the lean times but still managed to show results.


Less pressure

Small businesses face their fair share of adversity, whether it's competing with large corporations or trying to gain publicity. Their smaller size, however, can also mean employees face less pressure on a daily basis. As the economy struggles, small businesses aren't paying for expensive real estate or worrying about shareholders' meetings. If the company makes a mistake, the national media isn't watching your every move. As a result, your stress level at a small business can be lower.

However, if you do find yourself concerned about an issue, you have a more direct line to your boss than if you had layers of hierarchy to go through. With so many of today's workers on edge due to the struggling economy, having a less stressful work environment could be the most satisfying reward.

Still, for all the reasons you might want to work at a small business, several others exist that can deter you. The close quarters, extra work and smaller operating budgets affect your daily work. Before you accept an offer to work at a small organization, ask yourself if you're ready for the experience. It is daunting, but it can also be rewarding.


Jason Ferrara is the vice president of corporate marketing for CareerBuilder.com.

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