This is a question I get all the time from recent grads and rightfully so. It’s one I wish I thought about more when I was graduating and if you talk to anyone that’s at least 5 years into their career, most of them would say they wish they thought about this question more as well.
Most of you are probably applying to anywhere and everywhere right now given the tough job market. And, that’s perfectly perfectly fine. Remember, I strongly suggest that you immediately start applying to at least 1 job opening per day for a total of at least 7 jobs per week. But I do want to give you some career advice so that you can have good guidance on making the most out of your career.
Are you extremely ambitious and want to make a lot of money, be high up in a company some day, work remotely, or even start your own business eventually? Or do you see your job as more of a way to pay the bills and you have other non-work hobbies that mean more to you? Or, are you somewhere in the middle?
Now let me be perfectly clear, regardless of which of these you identify more with is PERFECTLY fine. To be happy in life you really need to start by answering this question as you’ll be working roughly 40 hours per week and based on where you fall on this spectrum, you want to make sure that your job fits with what your overall wants and desires with life are. With that being said, when you interview for a company, you ALWAYS WANT TO MAKE THEM FEEL AS THIS IS YOUR #1 FOCUS IN LIFE. If you don’t show passion for the place you’re interviewing for, you will NOT get the job. Got it?
Alright, so I want to discuss 2 different career paths in marketing for you as each have their pros and cons and this will help you make the most of your career as each job you choose during your career has a major impact on how your career, lifestyle, and overall happiness will be so you want to make sure it lines up with what you want in life.
As I’m sure you’re already realizing very early into your professional career, work experience means everything in whether or not you can get a job, what type of job you can get, and how much money a company is willing to pay you. This is not true just for your first job, but this will be true of your entire career. I can’t emphasize this point enough. This will be true for your entire career. So whether you decide to start your career with a start-up, small company, or a big company, you want to try to gain as much work experience as you possibly can as this will absolutely catapult your career. To be loved and to skyrocket in your career, first focus on doing a good job in your role to establish yourself, then start asking to do more and more things so you can gain more work experience. It’s something new professionals don’t do enough (I made this mistake for a couple of years myself) but if you want to not only be absolutely loved by your bosses, get pay raises, grow with your current company, or get a better job for better pay at your next company, this is paramount to making that happen.
Oh 1 more thing and then I promise I’ll get into small vs. big companies – If you want to make the most amount of money in your career, it’s advisable that you change companies every 2-3 years especially early on in your career. You’ll get much bigger pay increases than staying with 1 company and getting annual raises and you’ll get a lot of different types of work experience by working with different companies and work experience is always the name of the game. So, keep that in the back of your mind.
If growing your career is important to you vs. you just seeing your job as a job (which is perfectly fine too as discussed above), I highly recommend you consider applying to some start-ups and smaller companies. AngelList has a ton of start-up companies on there and there are plenty of other websites that focus on startup jobs that you can check out. You’ll see plenty of options for companies trying to change the world in new, exciting, socially-conscious innovative ways.
I personally always LOVED hiring people with start-up experience. Remember, the name of the game is gaining work experience. At start-ups and smaller companies you’re going to be given the opportunity to gain way more work experience than at a larger company because quite frankly, they’re going to need you to take on a variety of marketing tasks as they won’t have the same budget as large companies to hire a specialist for everything. That means, you’re going to get a lot more exposure to a lot more things. That also means that you’re going to gain way more, and I mean way more work experience than someone working at a large company who will for the most part have a very defined role where they will be doing similar things on a weekly and monthly basis.
With start-ups and smaller companies, your skillset will grow exponentially faster just because you’ll be doing a lot of different things within marketing which can be really cool and you’ll be on the frontlines of learning and applying the latest trends in marketing and using the newest most innovative tech software as start-ups need to be agile and they need to know this stuff in order to run as optimally as possible. This is one of my favorite things about hiring people from startups and smaller companies; it was their knowledge of all these new strategies and tech software that they brought to the table (btw – what I taught in our course are the newest marketing strategies so you’re now that person and you’ll now be the one impressing hiring managers). Bigger companies on the other hand can be much less efficient and they take a lot longer to adapt to new marketing strategies as there are a lot of decision makers and in order to make changes in the type of software for instance that they use, it needs to be approved by a lot of people since it will impact so many employees. So this is definitely something to consider. Additionally, with larger companies, I’ve always found that a lot of their marketing strategies are a bit on the older side than smaller newer companies. Once again, this is just the nature of the beast in that it’s harder for large companies to make big changes than it is for small nimble ones so this is something to consider.
Cons For working in a startup/small business – As far as work experience is concerned, without a doubt you’re going to get a lot more work experience going with a startup or a smaller company and you’ll learn to work more efficiently and optimize your marketing campaigns more effectively as this is just flat out needed to a greater extent. A downside with start-ups and smaller companies is that you won’t necessarily have a defined role where you know exactly what you’ll be doing each month as you’ll constantly be doing new things which could be great or bad if you want complete stability. Additionally, you likely won’t have the same benefits that you would get at a large company and you might work a few hours more per week depending on how new or small they are. So this is something to keep in consideration.
The main benefits for working at a large company is stability and name recognition. You are much more likely to have a defined role where you’ll be doing the same thing each month which could be great for you or terrible depending on what you want to get out of your career. It definitely can be quite a bit harder to climb up the ladder as it’s a bit harder to prove your impact here than at a start-up or at a smaller company as there are so many people working on each project that it’s hard to state that “I” made this happen. Additionally, it can be harder to gain experience in other areas outside your role as larger companies already have a person for most needed areas of the company so there isn’t as much room to take on different tasks as they likely already have someone for that. However, working at a larger company usually will provide you with benefits such as healthcare and a 401K which you might not get depending on how small or how new the start-up or small business is.
If you’re able to get a job at a very well known large company, this could help you land your next job with your next company as hiring managers will likely know of the company. You’ll have much less work experience than if you went with a start up but, name recognition certainly can help.
Alright so there you have it. There are pros and cons to each and it really depends on what you want out of life. If your career is important to you, at its core, your main focus should always be on doing your best and regardless of if you decide to go the big company route or apply to smaller companies and start-ups, just remember that gaining the most amount of work experience you possibly can will always lead to a better career where you’ll be able to climb the ladder faster, be in charge of more important things, and make more money. If I were in your shoes, I would definitely be applying to both and give both a shot early in my career as they each offer very different advantages. Once again though, the name of the game is gaining as much work experience as possible regardless of which route you take.