Career Advice for Job Seekers

Are diverse students and other early career candidates better off working for small or large employers?

Anita Jobb AvatarAnita Jobb
November 15, 2023

College and university students, recent graduates, and other early career candidates often face a critical decision: choosing between large and small employers. This choice can significantly influence their professional development, job satisfaction, and career trajectory.

This choice is even more difficult for diverse candidates, including those who are LGBTQ+, first generation, Black and African American, Latinx, economically disadvantaged, women, international students, students with disabilities, veterans, neurodiverse students, student-athletes, Native American & Indigenous, Asian American & Pacific Islander, and Dreamers who are a part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Why? There are pros and cons to working for small versus large employers that impact them more than candidates who are not diverse.

Large Employers

Large corporations are often the first to come to mind when considering employment options. They come with a set of unique advantages:

Structured Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives: Many large companies have established programs aimed at fostering diversity and inclusion. These initiatives can provide a supportive environment for diverse candidates, ensuring they feel welcomed and valued.

Extensive Training and Development Opportunities: With larger budgets and dedicated departments, these organizations often offer comprehensive training programs. This can be particularly beneficial for those at the start of their careers, as it sets a strong foundation for professional growth.

Variety of Roles: The sheer size of these organizations means a broader spectrum of job roles and departments. This variety allows candidates to explore different career paths without needing to change employers.

Global Exposure: Large corporations often have a global presence, offering employees exposure to international markets and cultures, which can be an invaluable experience for personal and professional growth.

However, there are also downsides to consider:

  • In large organizations, individuals might sometimes feel like just another number, struggling to make significant personal connections with leadership or stand out.
  • The bureaucratic nature of big corporations can sometimes slow down decision-making processes and stifle creativity.

Small Employers

Contrasting with their larger counterparts, small businesses offer a different working environment. Whether it’s better or worse depends largely on the employee, as some will thrive in an environment with more employees while others will find that the opposite is true.

Close-Knit Community: Small companies usually have a more intimate atmosphere. This can lead to stronger personal connections and a greater sense of belonging. Employees often feel their contributions directly impact the company’s success.

Flexibility and Autonomy: With fewer layers of management, small businesses can offer more flexibility in roles. This autonomy can be incredibly empowering for individuals who enjoy taking initiative and working in a less structured environment.

Visibility and Recognition: In a smaller team, each member’s work is more visible. This can lead to quicker recognition and appreciation, which is essential for building confidence early in one’s career.

However, the smaller scale can also mean:

  • Limited resources for dedicated diversity and inclusion programs, which can sometimes make it challenging for diverse candidates to find the same level of structured support as in larger organizations.
  • Career advancement opportunities might be less defined or slower, as there are fewer positions to advance into.

Making the Right Choice

For diverse candidates, particularly those in the early stages of their careers, choosing between a large and small employer isn’t straightforward. It requires a careful evaluation of one’s career aspirations, desired work culture, and the specific opportunities each company offers.

Candidates should research potential employers thoroughly, looking beyond the size of the company. Understanding the company culture, speaking to current and former employees, and considering the long-term career path available are all crucial steps.

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