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Working at an SME: A graduate’s perspective

With recruitment one of the key challenges for today’s SMEs, journalist Carly Hacon provides a personal view into why she’s happy she started her career journey at a smaller company

As my final year of university approached, rather than focusing on my heavy workload I was already dreading the graduate job hunt ahead. My favourite lecturer had told me it takes on average 80 applications and three interviews to take a first step on the career ladder. That was a daunting prospect.

However, after just two or three applications, I was offered the post of reporter for Business Advice, a B2B website for micro-businesses owned by Caspian Media – and I discovered the benefits of joining an SME.

A recent trend has seen UK graduates switch their career search from larger corporate companies to SMEs. So what is it that makes a smaller company a good fit for first-jobbers?

Bigger is not always better

Many graduates opt for an SME in the hope of a more social environment. At Caspian Media, I’m located in the centre of my editorial team and feel very involved with my colleagues. Our open-plan office enables all members of staff to be visible, and eliminates social barriers that could separate the workforce.

It’s a contrast to my previous work experience at a large UK magazine, where I sat on a lone island with a laptop.

Responsibility from the start

At that large company, I hoped to get involved in writing content – but was never offered the chance. In my small team at Business Advice, the opposite is the case.

This is a definite advantage of working at an SME: there is scope to experiment and to have the necessary one-on-one conversations that allow newer employees to learn from more experienced colleagues.

Making a visible impact

Another reason I wanted to work for an SME was to see the difference my contribution could make to the company.

For a journalist just starting out in a career, being able to create and publish content every day is fantastic. I find it rewarding to be visibly instrumental in our website’s productivity.

As a graduate taking up a junior position at a larger company, it can be much more difficult to see the impact of your efforts.

Training and development

At Caspian Media, rather than automatically recruiting new employees when a position opens up, existing employees are often promoted. There are also opportunities for training and development.

Within my first six weeks I have been involved in key strategy training and future training has been planned. This shows me that although smaller, SME companies can be keen to keep their staff up to date by developing their skillsets. In fact, recent research shows that two-fifths of UK SMEs are preparing to invest in training and development for current staff.

Rapid response

When it comes to the graduate job search, SMEs also have another advantage: it can be a lot quicker to find a position. As I’ve reported on Business Advice, twenty-seven per cent of UK SMEs are struggling to hire skilled workers. Larger businesses often have longer, more complex recruitment procedures and a higher number of applicants – so if you want to grab a graduate job faster an SME could be a good bet.

Graduate job opportunities at SMEs

Recruitment is one of the key challenges for SMEs today. Find out more and read recent research on the subject at Business Advice, which provides expert guidance and advice for micro companies.

Caspian Media is also home to Real Business, the digital publication for ambitious SMEs.