Last year, after a decade of working at small startups, I set my sights on larger, established companies: Series Bs, recent IPOs, and the Fortune 500. Recently married, in my mid-30s, and staring down a global pandemic, I was looking for stability and structure, two things not typically associated with small or early-stage companies.
Big companies weren’t entirely new territory for me; I started my career at Caterpillar and I interned at Time Inc. while I was still in school. But it’s definitely been an adjustment going from a struggling startup with 20 employees working out of a converted loft apartment to a multinational corporation with enough employees to fill a large city.
I’m glad that I’ve found a place where my contributions matter and I’ve got room to grow. But if you’re thinking of joining a large team, it’s fair to question whether the grass is really greener on the other side. Aren’t big companies slow and old fashioned? Will you be stuck working alongside a Dwight Schrute?
Frankly, it’s not black and white. It depends on what kind of environment you thrive in and what your current priorities are. I’ll share the most significant adjustments I’ve noticed as I transitioned back to a big company and what the advantages and disadvantages have been for each one. But remember—what seems like a pro to me may be a deal breaker for you, and vice versa.
And of course, every company is unique, so while some things are more likely to be true at larger or smaller companies, it’s always worth doing specific research on a company you’re interested in to see if these general trends apply.
Search for open jobs at large companies on The Muse
Just how big is a big company? Within the Fortune 500, a group of America’s largest companies (based on revenue), the average headcount is about 60,000. But the number of employees ranges from about a thousand to a couple million. At The Muse, we consider any company with more than 500 employees to be a large company, but keep in mind that there’s a pretty wide range of employee headcounts within that category.
Big companies don’t have to be publicly traded. Some of the largest firms in America, like PricewaterhouseCoopers, Publix, and Hearst are privately owned. Many late-stage VC-backed startups including Stripe, Robinhood, and Warby Parker have thousands of employees too.
Read More: These Fortune 1000 Companies Are Hiring Right Now
- You can count on formal processes and support. Large companies have a full-time human resources staff whose job it is to support hiring, onboarding, benefits, conflict resolution, complaints, and career reviews. Need help determining what your health insurance actually covers? HR can give you a definitive answer.
- Expertise is a phone call away. As headcount grows, so does specialization. When I worked at Caterpillar, there was an engineer who was the subject matter expert on nuts and bolts. In another building, there was a team of machinists who could prototype practically anything. In my current role, we have teams dedicated to supporting individual systems. If something critical crashes, I know someone accountable and knowledgeable is available to respond. This is a departure from the “deal with it” mindset of smaller companies, where it’s common to wear multiple hats and take ownership of problems. At a large company, you’ll have a narrowly defined set of responsibilities and an escalation path when things are tough or unclear.
- Large companies tend to offer less flexibility. Policies on salaries, corporate expenses, raises, vacation, and remote work are likely to be set at the company or division level. If your company is based in Chicago, but you’re in California, your compensation package may be representative of their local options and market rates, not yours. Some of this is related to fairness and saving money: Offer everyone the same thing and nobody can cry foul.
- Big organizations suffer from a lack of shared context. With multiple offices, product lines, or functional areas, as well as cultural and language barriers, keeping everyone on the same page is quite difficult. Every time I reach out to another team or department, I have to explain what team I’m on, what my product does, how it affects them, and why I need their help.
Whether a big company is 150+ years old (Colgate-Palmolive, JPMorgan Chase, Macy’s) or relatively new (TikTok, Tesla, Zoom), it doesn't happen overnight. These organizations snowball, accumulating employees, offices, technology, processes, expertise, market share, and momentum.
Depending on your point of view, momentum can be safe and supportive or bureaucratic and restrictive.
- Stable revenue helps big companies ride out tough times. Large companies have entrenched cash cows that generate a lot of revenue. Google’s advertising revenue came to about $135 billion in 2019, for instance, and Procter & Gamble made $71 billion selling Tide, Charmin, and its portfolio of home and personal care goods in 2020. Unlike a startup with a limited runway or a small company with inconsistent cash flows, large companies don't have to worry as much about running out of funding, collecting on accounts receivable, or pivoting their business model due to a bad quarter.
- Large companies can afford to invest in “moonshots,” research and development (R&D), and new initiatives. Case in point, it costs pharmaceutical companies $2.6 billion to develop a new drug and bring it to market ($2.9 billion if you include post-approval R&D). But big companies can afford to do it and won’t go broke if it fails.
- Big, established companies are more likely to have name recognition. This helps at home and in industry. My parents know exactly what Apple and Amazon do. But they couldn’t tell you anything about my professional career from 2010 to 2019. Similarly, if you’re trying to get a meeting or negotiate a deal, a well known and established company name can open a lot of doors—even if they don’t know you.
- Every big company has a closet full of legacy skeletons. It might be outdated billing systems, mainframes, manual processes, or corporate policies that haven’t been updated in 15 years. Unfortunately, momentum goes hand in hand with inertia. Legacy systems remain in place because they’re critical, they’re expensive to build, and replacement is perceived to be too risky. When a company does get around to overhauling a legacy system, it’s almost always a multiyear effort with significant compromises. It’s difficult to rebuild something when your entire business depends on it. As a result, not everything you work on will be new, revolutionary, or high-tech. And you’ll most likely spend a lot of your time using one of these legacy products or processes—or maybe even keeping it on life support.
- Inertia can negatively affect employee creativity and innovation. Big companies can be plagued by a “that’s not how we do things here” mindset. Your new idea may be tossed aside just because it represents a different or unproven approach. Not every team and company operates this way, but it can be difficult to tell from the outside. One question you can ask during the interview process is, “Can you give me an example of a time when someone on the team suggested a new idea and how it was implemented?” Otherwise, once you receive an offer, do your research and try to talk to past and present employees.
Career and Compensation
Career progression and compensation look a little different depending on the size of the company along with other factors. Don’t forget that your career is more than your past jobs, titles, and paychecks—it’s the summation of what you’ve learned and achieved. So whatever type of company you work at, you should do it because it helps you grow, not just because it pays the bills.
- Large companies are a great place to start your career as a new grad. You won’t be the first person to do this job, nor will you be the last. You’ll have access to a wealth of institutional knowledge, training, mentors who have been in your shoes, and structured support to help you succeed. After college, I joined Caterpillar as part of a class of trainees. For the first year, our job was to learn, not to execute. We spent our time in training classes, talking to more experienced engineers, and working on small, but increasingly difficult tasks. In contrast, none of my roles at smaller companies had any structured learning or planned career progression. The exact situation will vary by company, of course, so ask questions before you accept an offer if this kind of structure is important to you.
- You’re more likely to have a manager who has experience managing and has been in your shoes before. Early on, startups and small companies hire for execution, not management skills. Startups, in particular, prioritize hires who can start contributing immediately, without extensive training or support. Why? Until it reaches profitability, a startup has an expiration date and must conserve capital. In some cases, that means they simply don’t have the time to nurture junior talent.
- Big companies tend to offer clearer paths to promotion. With a more established company and a large workforce, there are often more structured paths to advancement and more levels to advance through. As you accumulate experience and responsibility, you can move up, and you’ll have a sense of what’s required to get to each level. At Caterpillar, it was always assumed that we’d evolve into fully capable engineers and eventually senior engineers. Fifteen years later, many of my classmates are still at Cat, leading projects as senior managers and technical experts. In small or flat organizations, and especially at startups, promotions are often driven by attrition or other factors outside your control, rather than achievement. In other words, it depends on what the company needs right now, and whether you happen to be in the right place at the right time.
- The corporate ladder doesn’t just go up, it also goes sideways. Lateral career moves—such as engineering to product, operations to marketing, or finance to strategy)—enable you to apply your skills and experience in a new direction. It can be easier to make a lateral move at a big company because ultimately, all employees are replaceable and your team will have processes to backfill your role. You will be missed, but not so much they won’t let you go. In a smaller organization, you might be “too important to lose,” and unable to fully transition out of your old responsibilities.
- Your paycheck is more likely to arrive on time and grow steadily. Working at a big company means there’s little chance of late payments and other fluctuations. You’re also much more likely to receive regular cost-of-living raises.
- Big companies offer extensive benefits beyond healthcare. You’ll likely have access to more insurance options, legal services, purchasing discounts, a pension or 401(k) match, and more.
- Career advancement also involves more bureaucracy and competition. It can be hard to identify top performers in a large workforce, where the difference between good and great might be a few dollars in sales or lines of code. Sometimes, promotions come down to tenure or something as transactional as getting an advanced degree or certification and you simply can’t get around those requirements. Unfortunately, not everyone is going to make it to the manager or VP level. That’s the nature of corporate hierarchies. A bigger team means there will be more competition for that corner office.
- Big companies have a clear idea of how much your role is worth. That can be a pro, in the sense that you may not have to argue to earn within market rate. But it also means big companies aren’t likely to budge too much on compensation. Unless you’re an executive, you should expect a modest negotiation range—in my experience, probably not more than 15%.
We’ve come a long way from IBM’s short sleeve shirt and black tie dress code and The Office’s bleak depiction of “regional office” life.
- For better or worse, startup culture has gone mainstream. Many big companies have begun offering lax dress codes, “unlimited” vacation, standing desks, modern tools (Slack! Gmail! MacBooks!), free snacks, and other classic startup perks.
- For the tech and software crowd, Agile development has largely replaced the Waterfall model. Say goodbye to coding for two years without ever deploying or getting customer feedback. Big companies are moving toward more iterative, responsive, and design-conscious workflows.
- At a large company, you can find your community. Many companies with large workforces have the resources to support multiple affinity groups for Black, LBGTQ, Latinx, and other communities as well as folks who have shared interests or hobbies or play certain sports, which means you can find your community within the larger workforce. These groups are usually run by employees and not the company itself.
- Big companies are friendly, but they are not family. As employees, you and your coworkers have a mandate to work together and deliver value to shareholders and customers. You do not have an obligation to love each other unconditionally, hang out off-hours, or make your identity about work. For me, with a family to go home to now, this is a plus, though I loved Thursday night happy hours and weekend ragers with my coworkers when I was 22.
- You may have to expand or shift your schedule. Big companies often have multiple offices and distributed teams working across time zones. I work with folks on the West Coast as well as in India. They’re often up early and I often work past 6 PM so we can communicate in a timely manner, instead of waiting a whole day to get a response.
- Security can get in the way of productivity. RFID (radio-frequency identification) badges, two-factor authentication, and complicated password rules are standard even at small companies. But big companies are a whole other ball game with email phishing tests, internal security teams, and the use of other tactics to maintain security. While well-intentioned, it can be very bureaucratic, especially if you’re coming from a smaller operation.
- It’s a little flip, but big company, big inbox. I get a lot of email that has no bearing on my job or my team. It’s just corporate updates about new executives, quarterly earnings, and new policy announcements. Personally, I’ve learned quite a bit about email filters in the last few months.
Occasionally I do miss my scrappy startup days, but overall I’ve enjoyed the move back to a bigger company. The incentives and stability align with my career goals and I’m working on challenging problems.
If you want to move really fast and have a high tolerance for risk and uncertainty, a small company or startup might be the right fit for you. On the other hand, if you’re more risk averse, less financially secure, or want more guidance as you start your career, a larger company may support you better.
Whatever your personal and career goals are right now, think about which environment will help you reach them and go into your job search with open eyes and an open mind.
- Check Out the Job Description: Where Are You in This Picture? ...
- Pay Attention to the Company's Communication Style: Are They Treating You with Respect? ...
- Observe the Overall Interview Process: How Is it Managed? ...
- Are You Being Tested?
Company size refers to the size of the company's operations. We measure it using various metrics, including assets, revenue, production, market capitalisation, number of employees, and invested capital. Size is one of the most relevant aspects in which companies differ.Does the size of the company you work for matter? ›
Work/Life Balance: Generally, smaller organizations are more demanding because of the division of labor is small. More is needed out of every person to keep the ship running (and hopefully growing). Larger organizations have more wiggle wrong, have more bench strength and generally have more resilience.What are the 4 sizes of business? ›
Microentreprises: 1 to 9 employees. Small enterprises: 10 to 49 employees. Medium-sized enterprises: 50 to 249 employees. Large enterprises: 250 employees or more.How do you know if a job is too big for you? ›
- You Don't Feel Welcomed Or Valued At Work. ...
- You Feel Misplaced On The Inside. ...
- You're Not Using Your Strengths Daily. ...
- Your Work Feels Like A Chore. ...
- You Have The 'Sunday Blues' ...
- You Don't Feel A Sense Of Family. ...
- Your Work Is Not Engaging Or Meaningful.
In your answer, mention how you want a job where you can feel good about the company mission, then mention some aspects of the business that you respect. The hiring manager may see this as a sign that you can fit in with the team. You can usually find information about the company's values and culture on its website.What is considered a midsize company? ›
The attribute used most often is number of employees; small businesses are usually defined as organizations with fewer than 100 employees; midsize enterprises are those organizations with 100 to 999 employees.What is classed as a small company? ›
The definition of a small business: Number of employees in a small sized business must be 10-50 employees.What are the five factors that determine the size of firm? ›
- Entrepreneurial Skill: ADVERTISEMENTS: ...
- Managerial Ability: For running the routine part of the business, managers are appointed. ...
- Availability of Finance: ...
- Availability of Labour: ...
- Nature of Business: ...
- Extent of the Market:
For example, large companies generally offer higher salaries and bonuses. They can also kick in more for the employer share of insurance and may be more likely to contribute to other perks. And, thanks to these resources, employees have more access to more resources.
The most significant advantage of working for a small company is having the opportunity to work on a variety of tasks. "I want to work for a large company because there are different opportunities within the company. I also feel a larger company provides better training.Why is it better to work for a large company? ›
A larger company means a larger pool of talent, and big companies typically attract the best of the best. This means that you'll have the opportunity to learn from people who are experts in their field, which is great for your professional and personal development.What is the criteria for a large company? ›
Large enterprises are companies with more than 250 employees.Why is it important to measure the size of a business? ›
The study of the size of a business is important because it significantly affects the efficiency and profitability of the firm. One of the most important entrepreneurial decisions in organizing a business is realizing its 'size' as it affects in company and profitability of business enterprises.What are the 5 classification of small business? ›
Small businesses can choose to organize as a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, S corporation or limited liability company.How long do you have to stay at a new job you hate? ›
“I usually recommend at least a year, but sometimes you just know when an opportunity isn't right,” she said in a recent Facebook post. Bennington suggests asking yourself three questions: Is this position contributing to my long-term goals? Am I growing professionally?When a job is not a good fit for you? ›
When employers tell you that you are not a good fit for the job, it has nothing to do with your qualifications and skills or how good you are for the job after all you did get the interviews. It is simply used to explain how employers perceive you and what they think about your personality and cultural fit.How do you know if a job is worth taking? ›
- Research Your Prospective Employer. Your prospective employer has worked hard to assess your suitability for the job. ...
- Salary. ...
- Benefits and Perks. ...
- Savings and Expenses. ...
- Time. ...
- Career Path. ...
- Research the Role. ...
- Your Values.
These can be professional skills, areas of expertise, personal qualities, or any relevant experience. Also, consider any impressive accomplishments from your past or career goals that speak to your commitment to the field. Think of ways to out-do the other candidates.What are your salary expectations? ›
State your range and provide a rationale for why you've landed on that range, sharing some of the research you've done and noting the skills and experience that make you a strong fit for the position. Acknowledge that salary is just one of the factors that will play into your decision to accept the job or not.
Being a good fit for a job means, of course, having the ability and experience to carry out the job duties, but it also means having the right combination of soft skills, character traits, and career goals that align with the mission and values of the organization and fits in well within the existing company culture.Is size 8 considered midsize? ›
Midsize simply refers to the range of clothing sizes that sit between typical straight sizes and plus sizes. Straight sizes are generally considered to be 0 to 8, and plus sizes are conventionally known as 16 and up. That would put the midsize range from 10 to 14.What sizes qualify as midsize? ›
A basic definition of what sizes are considered mid-size are those from a US size 10-16. They're the sizes that walk the line between “standard” and “plus” size ranges.Is 1000 employees a lot? ›
The definitions used in our survey are: small company: 1-100 employees; medium-sized company: 101-999 employees; large company: 1,000 or more employees.What is the average size of a small company? ›
A company with fewer than 100 employees is generally considered a small-sized business, while one with between 100 and 1,500 employees is a medium-sized business.What size is a micro company? ›
What counts as a micro-entity? A micro-entity is described by the government as a 'very small company'. In tangible terms this means that you'll be considered a micro-entity if your company can meet two out of the following three criteria: An average of 10 employees or less over a 12 month period.What is an example of a medium business? ›
Examples of small to medium-sized enterprises
Some examples of common SMEs include: Hair and beauty salons. Dental practices. Medical centres.
Technical forces which influence the optimum size of firm are degree of specialization (division of labour), mechanization and integration of work processes. In the case of division of labor, a job is split into small functions and each function is assigned to a specific workman.What are the four factors a firm must consider? ›
There are four factors of production—land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurship.What does the size of a firm depend on? ›
The size of the firm also depends on the extent of the market. If the commodity in which the firm deals or which it manufactures has a wide market, naturally the business will assume a large scale. But, if the demand for the commodity is limited, the size of the firm will continue to be small.
Small Business as a Happiness Driver
About half of employees surveyed say they are happiest working at a small business. Further, almost all respondents agree that employee happiness is at least somewhat (36%) or very (55%) important to their company's leadership team.
Larger corporations do pay higher wages.
However, monetary compensation isn't the only valuable asset that businesses can provide to their employees. Many employees look for other types of benefits at work or hope to hold stock options in their companies.
Experts agree that you should stay at your place of employment for a minimum of two years. It's enough time to learn new skills and build your qualifications, while short enough to show that you value growing in your career.What are the disadvantages of working for a small company? ›
Disadvantages of Working for a Small Business
Compensation may be lower – Small companies often can't afford the same pay and benefits as larger corporations. You might, therefore, have a lower salary, fewer vacation and sick days, and a less comprehensive health insurance plan.
Disadvantages of choosing a big company
In a large company, it can take forever to get things done. There are lots of hoops you have to jump through, corporate structure to respect, policies and procedures to adhere to, etc. The hiring process can take a long time.
- Give your employees autonomy. Founders of small businesses can become accustomed to having the last say on everything that happens. ...
- Keep workloads per employee small. ...
- Don't sell packages. ...
- Focus on relationships.
Small businesses tend to have fewer decision-makers, which makes decision-making faster. Faster decision-making is often aligned with disruptive innovation, and this can help set the small business apart from its larger competitors.Why do large companies have an advantage over small companies? ›
The advantage that large firms have is that typically, they are more established and have greater access to funding. They also enjoy more repeat business, which generates higher sales and larger profits than smaller scale companies.Do smaller firms pay more? ›
The average pay per employee for very small business with 20 employees or less was $36,912, according to the research. For small firms with 20 to 99 employees, it was $40,417. At medium-sized firms it was $44,916. And at large companies it was $52,554.What are the 3 qualities you look in a company? ›
- Trust. Trust exists both ways, and every employee rely on each other to “watch over each other's back”. ...
- Engagement. Employees are focused and keen to take up work challenges as well as acquire new skills and knowledge. ...
- Transparency. ...
No matter how bold or ambitious your plans are to grow your business, the key to your business's success lies in three critical, interdependent components: operational excellence, customer relations/communications and financial management.What is the average large company size? ›
Small-sized business: 5 – 19 workers. Medium-sized business: 20 – 99 workers. Large-sized business: 100 and more workers.How do you classify the size of a business? ›
Microenterprise: 1 to 9 employees. Small business: 10 to 49 employees. Medium-sized companies: 50 to 249 employees. Large companies: 250 or more employees.How might the size of a business be best measured? ›
- SALES REVENUE (or VALUE OF OUTPUT)
- NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES.
- MARKET SHARE.
- CAPITAL EMPLOYED.
- MARKET CAPITALIZATION.
- OTHER METHODS used to measure business size.
It defines small business by firm revenue (ranging from $1 million to over $40 million) and by employment (from 100 to over 1,500 employees).How many businesses are considered small? ›
How Many Small Businesses Are There in the US? The latest statistics show that there are 33.2 million small businesses in the US, which account for 99.9 percent of all US businesses (SBA, 2022). The Small Business Administration (SBA) defines a small business as a firm that has fewer than 500 employees.What percentage of all businesses fail within the first year? ›
|Time frame||Within 1 year|
|Percentage of businesses that fail||20.8%|
Based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 6.1 million employer firms in the United States in 2019 (latest data). Firms with fewer than 500 employees accounted for 99.7% of those businesses. Firms with fewer than 100 employees accounted for 98.1%. Firms with fewer than 20 employees made up 89.0%.Does the company size affect performance management system? ›
... Small companies pay more attention to the operational aspects of control, while large companies also pay great attention to the strategic aspects. Small enterprises use more informal performance management systems than large enterprises  .What are the disadvantages of working in a large company? ›
- In a large company, it can take forever to get things done. ...
- The hiring process can take a long time. ...
- When you work in a large company, it's harder to be noticed. ...
- It's hard to affect change in a big company or feel like you make a difference.
A firm's efficiency is affected by its size. Large firms are often more efficient than small ones because they can gain from economies of scale, but firms can become too large and suffer from diseconomies of scale. As a firm expands its scale of operations, it is said to move into its long run.Is a company with 2000 employees big? ›
Mid-market enterprise: These organizations are larger than small businesses but smaller than large enterprises. They generally employ between 1,500 and 2,000 people and have annual revenue between $38.5 million and $1 billion.Who are the three largest employers? ›
|United States-based largest private employers|
|Rank||Employer||Global number of employees|
All five component processes (i.e., planning, monitoring, developing, rating, rewarding) work together and support each other, resulting in natural, effective performance management.What are the 3 types of performance management? ›
- The Balanced Scorecard. ...
- Management By Objectives. ...
- Budget-driven Business Plans.
- #1 – Customer Loyalty. ...
- #2 – Smart Adoption of Technology. ...
- #3 – Commitment to Employee Training. ...
- #4 – Social Responsibility. ...
- #5 – Leadership. ...
- Business Growth Through a Culture of Convenience.
- Long hours. ...
- High pressure. ...
- Blackout dates. ...
- Low compensation. ...
- Rigid promotion policies. ...
- Self-evaluations. ...
- Firm politics. ...
- Easier to raise finance. ...
- Better managed. ...
- High market powers. ...
- Many opportunities for economies of scale. ...
- Greater choice for customers. ...
- Less risky.
In comparison to small businesses, large corporations frequently offer greater benefit packages and higher pay. Additionally, you might have access to more formal training and development courses as well as a larger network of coworkers with whom you can exchange ideas and work with.What are the benefits of company size? ›
The advantage that large firms have is that typically, they are more established and have greater access to funding. They also enjoy more repeat business, which generates higher sales and larger profits than smaller scale companies.
Allow you to specialize more in your field of study. Provide a more structured environment. Offer a formal career path to management or different positions. Increased stability within the organization.Why is it important to know the size of a business? ›
The study of the size of a business is important because it significantly affects the efficiency and profitability of the firm. One of the most important entrepreneurial decisions in organizing a business is realizing its 'size' as it affects in company and profitability of business enterprises.