Adjust To A Small Company After Working In A Big One


Photo: Bill Liao | Flickr

Large and small businesses aren’t created equal, which is why transitioning from working at a large company to small one can be difficult. Culture shock isn’t the only thing you’ll have to face. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make a smooth transition. It just requires an open mind and a different attitude.”You can definitely be successful,” when taking a small company job, says Kathleen Downs, a recruiting manager at Robert Half International “One of the things you want to do is research the company in advance to understand the culture and what the demands on the employees are.”

One of the major differences of working at a large company compared to a small one is the amount of resources that will be afforded to you. At a large company supplies are at the ready, assistants are on hand and software is in abundance to manage expenses, customer relationships and even accounting. That may not be the case at a small firm, especially one that’s operating on a shoestring budget.

“At a smaller place it’s very crucial to get creative with existing resources,” says Mei Lu, founder and CEO of “You won’t have an unlimited budget like at a bigger company.”

People who have worked for large companies know that usually the job they are hired for is the one they do day in and day out.  But at a small company you can wear many hats and have a mired of responsibilities that aren’t in the job description. Your willingness to accept and embrace that will go a long way to make it a smooth transition.

“In a large company you have a very specific set of duties,” says Downs. “In a smaller company you are a little more of a jack of all trades.”

Downs recalls a CFO at a small home builder who had worked at a large company for years. The CFO wouldn’t think twice about taking out the trash or sweeping the floor of a new home the company was showing even though that would never cross his mind at the large company. “You have to be ok with that or a smaller company may not be a good fit,” she says.

According to Lu never say “that’s not in my job description” because when it comes to working at a small business, everything is. Be ready to jump in whenever you can help and act as a true team player, she says. That means that while you were hired to handle the marketing for the company you may have to man the phones while the receptionist grabs lunch.

At large companies, often times there are lots of rules, procedures and protocols already on the books. If x happens, you’ll know to do y. But at a small company the chances of established guidelines are slim. Many times rules are made and broken on the fly which means you’ll have to be able to adapt to a less rigid work environment.

“When you move to a smaller job, often times you will be handling something for the first time ever,” says Lu. “You’ll have to figure out how to do it” for the entire company, she says.

Given the major differences in working in a big and small company, before you make the leap you have to look at yourself and the environment you want to work in.  If you like established rules, specific job duties and more chances to move up the so-called ladder than a big firm may be right for you. If you prefer to have your hands in many aspects of a business, like to learn things on the fly and aren’t driven by a title, then a small company may be the ideal fit.

“Before you make the transition from big to small, you have to think about whether you really have the entrepreneurial skills,” says Robin Schlinger, a career expert and founder of Robin’s Resumes.

This post originally appeared at Glassdoor.

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