Life in an SME… insight from a 2012 graduate

I had a really great chat the other day with Helen so I was dead chuffed when she offered to write a blog post about her first few months at work.

Helen Butterworth (BSc Management, 2012) relates her experience of working for a small local company

“After graduation I was unsure about the exact business direction I wanted to go into. Having only had non professional roles in the past I knew I needed some relevant work experience and through the Manchester Graduate Internship Programme took up a position as a Marketing Assistant at the Quayside Group – a small, but growing company and an online supplier of wholesale and personalised clothing. In my final year I hadn’t considered joining a small business, having attended job fairs I was aware of the opportunities at the big FTSE players but was slightly apprehensive about what working at an SME would offer. Strange given that the majority of graduates now work in SME’s with only 14% joining large graduate training schemes.

Given that you may also have only been exposed to the bigger marketing budgets of large firms I though I’d give you an insight into what its like to work as a graduate in a SME.

One benefit is the great access to senior management. I sit in the same office as the IT manager, Sales Director and even the Managing Director himself. In this environment you quickly gain the confidence to express your ideas to anyone and there is lots of potential to form good relationships with senior management. I regular attend strategy meetings and it really feels as though even in a junior role you have the potential to be influential. Not only this, it has given me a great insight into how the company works as a whole and offers a chance of role rotation and a widened skill set. On days where the sales team are particularly busy it’s quick and easy to help out – and increase my customer service skills in the process.

Another key benefit of working for an SME is the fact you can see the direct impact of your work on the growth of the company. I have been given lots of responsibility in implementing social media strategy, search engine optimisation and Pay per click advertising in my first few months. Seeing the impact of a project you have worked on from start to finish on the bottom line is very satisfying. Particularly exciting has been the company going through a major re-branding strategy and given the small number of people in the department I have been able to get involved in a wide range of marketing activities.

The learning curve has been steep but I have felt well supported with almost one to one learning channels. Being able to work directly with the marketing director means I can ask endless questions and get regular feedback about my work. I’ve been given lots of learning opportunities and attended a digital marketing conference in London.

Another positive in the tough graduate climate is that it’s often easier to land a job in particularly competitive sectors. A by-product of the less extensive job advertising is fewer applicants per role. To begin with I was intimidated by the long list of role activities in the specification, but with less competition passion, research and enthusiasm can go along way in persuading them you are willing to learn and will be an asset to the company.

Hopefully this post has given you a more balanced view of the graduate job opportunities available. You may want that dream role as head of a huge corporation but don’t be narrow minded about how you get there. The opportunities for learning in an SME are different and of great value.  From my perspective, my time in an SME has been invaluable and will leave me in good stead for my future career, whether that be in an SME or a large company.”

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