Planning a career in the small business sector

by | Jun 15, 2023 | My future, Student voice | 0 comments

Our SALC employability champion, Gina DeLancey, looks at the benefits of working in dynamic smaller businesses over their larger counterparts.

When on the hunt for experience, a grad job or placement the household names often come to mind first. However, a Small or Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME) may be the place you’re looking for. Responsibility from day one, versatility in the role, smaller management hierarchy and usually great opportunities to progress – what more could you want?

An SME is a small to medium-sized business which encompasses any company, in any sector, employing less than 250 employees for a medium-sized company, or less than 50 for a small company or micro-business. Anything from a local restaurant to a smaller family law firm, for example, would be included in this category. 

So, a bit more on why SMEs might be the way forward for your first career move. Firstly, a disclaimer: I’m speaking generally here. Obviously there will be some exceptions but these benefits of working within a small business usually stand true. Most of the time, due to the smaller number of staff, the management hierarchy is much more visible and much shorter, meaning you’re likely to bump into high-ranking employees daily – something you wouldn’t get to at the likes of IBM, for example. With that smaller team comes increased visibility and opportunity to really make an impact and impression.  Often within these smaller businesses, one role encompasses many, with teams crossing over more frequently, giving graduates and university students the perfect opportunity to develop more skills and figure out which area they may (or may not) want to specialise in. With SMEs there can be a lot of change and growth, which could be seen as a positive or negative, depending on your preferences, and it may be difficult to specialise, but it can’t be denied that a role within an SME would provide a great starting point for your later career.

SMEs aren’t usually household names so can be trickier to find. However, is a perfect website for searching for SMEs by location and sector. Instagram and LinkedIn are also great places to find local businesses that suit you, often looking for fresh talent to join young teams. 

Networking and speculative applications are key for securing experience and jobs within SMEs – often they might not employ a large amount of people at a time, or have a large budget to advertise vacancies, so reaching out via their contact info on websites or on social media is a great way to see if your skills can be matched to a role or opening within the company. Or, if there aren’t any opportunities at the minute, having an informal chat and getting to know more about the business could be great for a later date. It’s always good to have some contacts within businesses and sectors you’re interested in.

So, although it’s easy to be swept up by all the grad schemes and big organisations, SMEs offer great opportunities and might actually suit you better. There are around 5 million SMEs to choose from in the UK so you’re spoilt for choice. I’d recommend having a look on the university careers site, keeping an eye out for smaller businesses who are hiring, whether you’re interested in the specific job or not, and reaching out to make those local connections.

For more on how to manage and plan for an SME career, see the Careers Service website: