A big corporate or a smaller business – which to choose for an internship?

iStock_000004159256XSmall decision diceSo what do you need to consider and what are the benefits?

Here are a few points to think about when applying for work experience and internships. Don’t blindly join a rush for a graduate scheme for one of the big corporates without considering if it is for you. For your interest 40% of graduates go to work for small to medium size businesses instead of larger companies.  Have a look at the details on Futuretrack.

The big corporate employer

  • A well-known established company may have organised a clear structure to their internships with projects for interns to do, skills to develop, and available support.
  • If you choose a  global company there may be opportunities as part of the internship to travel and work in other locations or countries in future roles in the company. It may be of interest to see work at an international level.
  • If there is a graduate scheme then a successful summer internship may support an application to this scheme
  • The office environment may be a more comfortable and established work place.
  • There may be support provided from graduates who previously were interns and in the same position as you. This can help to give you a real insight into what they learnt and how they progressed through the internship to their graduate role.

The small or medium sized business (SMEs)

  • Gain an overview of how the whole business functions working across different areas. This is useful if you want to set up your own business after your degree or in the future
  • A more hands-on experience to give you a variety of different skills and responsibilities. This can help to broaden your skill-set, being flexible to cover a number of specialist functions within the company
  • You may have less competition in your application to a smaller company (depending on the role) but still gain all the skills and experience you need for your CV and progression in your career
  • There are a lot more small businesses than big corporate companies to apply to, widening your area of applications could increase the possibility of gaining an internship
  • Opportunities to work with people at all levels of the business including reporting directly at a higher level to company directors or the boardroom
  • There may be higher expectations on your performance and contribution as part of the internship on company projects and their success, but a great opportunity to meet the challenge
  • SMEs initially can pay less as a starting salary but then progression in your career and increases to a higher salary may be quicker
  • The start up phase for small businesses is exciting with immediate growth and decisions can be made quicker
  • They are often dynamic and need people with an open mind, prepared to respond to surprises and be adaptable
  • Smaller businesses are often more flexible in their approach and have a more personable environment
  • Closing dates for internships may be later in the academic year depending on the sector, giving you more time and flexibility to still apply to opportunities and secure a summer internship
  • Ensure that you check out that the small business you are applying to is a legitimate business? Do some research. How does their website look? Is there anything else on the web to back this up?

So how can you find out about if you want to apply for an internship with an SME ?

Make contact with an SME to organise a work shadowing/ volunteer day:

  • Do you know anyone in your own network of contacts working in a small business?
  • You could join LinkedIN and find contacts with smaller businesses to liaise and network with. Join groups that have a focus on SMEs.
  • Do  a keyword search on the CareersLink online Q&A mentor search to see if any registered mentors have given details about working for a small business and then follow the instructions on the Careers Website in how to make contact to find out more.

Also have a look at our Work Experience page for more information in finding work.

CareersLink is a useful tool to access for internships by searching under ‘student internships/placements’. SME opportunities are more likely to start being available from early Spring onwards so keep a look out!

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