What Sized Company Is Right For You?

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By Susan Ricker

Beginning your job search can be intimidating, to say the least. Besides gathering the necessary application materials and customizing résumé and cover letter content, you're still left with finding and applying for jobs.

In that search, if you're only exploring by job title or location, you're missing an important qualification in the roles you consider. Including a preferred company size not only gives you more structure in your job search, but it can ensure you work in an environment that best meets your needs and plays to your strengths. Check out these three different company sizes, as well as their attributes, and determine what your best match is.

Small-sized companies

If you enjoy handling a variety of responsibilities or you're looking to join a close team, this may be a good fit for you. A small-sized company (1-200 employees) offers plenty of attention, as well as big expectations.

"Small companies need flexible workers who can pitch in a variety of roles," says Susanne Riehle, a professional speaker on leadership, negotiations, interviewing and career development. "These companies need people who multitask well, who consider themselves generalists and who can quickly dig deep when needed. In a small company, it helps to be able to 'think like the owner.'"

In addition to being an employee who can do it all, you're likely to be close to your co-workers and top leadership. "The greatest advantage of smaller companies is their ability to be flexible and adaptable to individual employee circumstances and needs," says Lynda Zugec, managing director for The Workforce Consultants. "They also provide greater access to top management and decision makers. If you enjoy a fluid environment and the ability to be creative, a small-sized company may work best."

> Search for a job at a small-sized company

Medium-sized companies

Working in a medium-sized company (201 - 1,000 employees) can offer the benefits of a small-company work environment, as well as present opportunities to set yourself apart as a key player in the company's growth and success. "Middle-sized companies bridge the gap," Riehle says. "Employees who understand growing pains in the business world are valuable. There is a different set of problems that middle-sized companies face, because they have survived the frying pan of the small business world and now are navigating the fire of growth. Middle-sized companies need to establish quality standards and procedures. People that understand processes have an edge."

Working for a medium-sized company can serve as a jumping off point in your career or give you time to test the waters. "Medium-sized companies present a mix of opportunities, depending on their growth rate and vision," Zugec says. "They may be the best bet if you are looking to explore which sized company works best for you."

> Search for a job at a medium-sized company

Large-sized companies

If your career needs a catalyst because you're in a rut or you lack experience, a large-sized company (1,000 full-time employees or more) may be a solution. "Career development and training opportunities are likely more readily available in larger organizations as they typically have more resources and position openings," Zugec says. "They may also encourage global understanding and are willing to accommodate requests to work abroad."

In addition, larger companies offer the structure of big goals and projects and need many workers to help move their vision forward. "Larger companies need patient workers who drive consensus and work well on cross-functional teams," Riehle says. "These companies need specialists -- especially specialists in a career as well as an industry. It's the nexus between career specialty and industry specialty that allows quick promotion upward in a large company. Workers need to know that the department you work in within a large company is just as important as the company size. In large companies, departments can be quick moving and forward thinking or slow and ponderous."

A company's size can directly impact the responsibilities and career trajectories of its workers, as well as influence the opportunities available to those workers. By considering company size as one filter in your job search, you can determine which company culture will likely complement your work style the most.

> Search for a job at a large company

*For the purposes of this article, a small company refers to 1-200 full-time employees, medium refers to 201-1,000 and large refers to 1,001 or more full-time employees. However, companies may classify themselves differently, so doing some extra research on your part will give you a more accurate look at the environment you're potentially joining.
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