Working for an SME – Why you should consider a role in a smaller company

Written by Samantha Oates-Miller, Careers Insights and Graduate Support Assistant, and and Chloe Agius, Student Adviser (Internships and Placements) at the Careers Service

In the UK, a Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) is a business with fewer than 250 employees, and an annual turnover of less than £50 million.

Between half and two thirds of all new job opportunities are generated by SMEs and they account for more than 99% of all UK businesses. Over 16 million people are employed by SMEs in the UK and SMEs account for 70% of employment worldwide. However, SMEs do more than create employment: they are also drive economic growth and social development. In many countries, SMEs contribute more than 50% of GDP. The combined annual turnover of all UK SMEs is around £2 trillion. Additionally, projections suggest that SMEs will be vital to our economic growth after the pandemic.

SMEs are often overlooked by students and graduates searching for jobs; they might not have recognisable names and often will not have a dedicated graduate scheme. However, SMEs can be fantastic opportunities for graduates to gain experience. Here are some of the benefits of working for an SME:

  • Because SMEs are smaller, all employees work closely with different departments, with senior staff and with clients. This employee centric work culture leads to a better understanding amongst professionals and greater transparency in workflow, which is crucial to an organisation’s growth.
  • Working more closely with senior managers mean better promotion prospects as talent is more easily recognised.
  • Collaboration and teamwork are encouraged but employees also have the opportunity for more independence and responsibility.
  • Even junior level employees get a wider range of training and experiences and a better understanding of niche market segments, allowing them to learn all aspects of running the business. This is good training for if you want to create your own business in the future.
  • SMEs develop their employee’s overall skills set and encourage entrepreneurial drive. Employees get an on-the-job, first-hand experience, and opportunities to learn. This creates a platform to showcase talent and progress in the company.
  • Because employees of SMEs are able to understand their industry well, they can adapt more quickly to changes in their industry.
  • The simpler hierarchy means that employers are involved on more projects, with visible results. Handling projects and seeing ideas implemented allows employees to make a genuine impact on the business, making important decisions and influencing operations.
  • An SME can often offer greater flexible working than at larger companies. They tend to have less such stringent rules on things such as dress codes and working patterns. The informal environments and less bureaucracy often results in greater job satisfaction and work-life balance.
  • SMEs show their appreciation for their employees through rewards and benefits.
  • With over FIVE million SMEs to choose from in a range of industries, you will never be stuck for choice.

Interested? A good source of vacancies in SMEs in Manchester is the Manchester Graduate Talent programme (MGT). MGT is a scheme that helps to source paid graduate-level jobs for University of Manchester graduates from 2020 and 2021. Vacancies cover a wide range of roles in different sectors, including SMEs and roles at The University of Manchester. There are roles at SMEs based all around Greater Manchester, providing fantastic opportunities to learn and build upon transferable skills that will help you in your future career journey. The MGT team also provide feedback on applications submitted to help you secure a position. MGT 2021 launched in March, and you can keep up to date with all new vacancies and Careers Service support by joining the Facebook group or signing up to the Vacancy bulletin to receive weekly emails! Here the Careers Service will post top tips on submitting applications, LinkedIn advice and networking tips.

Here are what some University of Manchester graduates have to say about their experiences of MGT or working for an SME:

Beth: “[MGT] has been a great way to get some entry level experience in HR. It has been particularly useful as I experience all functions of HR since it is a smaller company. I have really enjoyed the opportunity and think it has been a great start a career in HR as I have been given a lot of responsibility that I may not have had elsewhere.”

Holly: “My job description had twenty bullet points on it, and it sure is a varied role! I have certain tasks that I do every week, but there are lots of other tasks that I’m involved in so every day is different… Since the start of my MGT I have learnt a lot more and gained skills.”

James: “Start-ups are meritocratic: If you work hard, you progress quickly… In a large business, you can’t visualise the results of your hard work, and it’s easy to feel disengaged and unmotivated… When you join a start-up, everything you do has a direct, tangible impact on the business.”

Tom: “Everybody has a part to play in order to get the things going but at the same time, there’s room to be creative and the company supports you in continually developing yourself… If you are ambitious and want your work to be exciting, definitely look to work for an SME, as that will give you the chance to grow alongside a growing business… I now have real responsibility here.”

Hopefully this article has helped you to understand the positives of working for an SME. If you are interested in SME roles, look at the MGT Facebook group or search MGT on CareerConnect. Don’t forget, you can get advice with application, job hunting and more from the Careers Service for two years after you finish your degree.

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