Anyone who’s been on the job hunt has probably weighed the risks and rewards of choosing a job at a smaller, scrappier firm over a role at a corporate giant. In today’s start-up-heavy culture, it’s a familiar question: do you go with the prestige of a well-known company, or rack up extra experience by wearing all the hats at a still-developing organization?
Whichever way you slice it, major companies and independent operations each have their perks. But how much is a “brand-name” employer really worth on your resume?
In short, it depends on what you’re looking to get out of the role.
“[Y]ou want to learn what engages you and what turns you off,” career coach Bruce Eckfeldt tells The Muse. “Sometimes this can be big companies where you’re working in different departments, or smaller companies where you can take on a lot of different roles.”
The fact of the matter is that working at huge corporations often comes with its own host of challenges. Things like excessive red-tape around decision-making, several work levels between you and the top dogs, process gate-keepers at every turn, and a “corporate” vibe overall are all par for the course.
Brand-name employers and start-ups have their pros and cons. The question is, what's important to you?
The Downside to Working for the Little Guy
On the flip side, scrappy challenger brands have their own specific set of limitations, too. These types of organizations are known for embracing flat hierarchies, which can easily lead to everyone doing a million things, a lack or direction or defined process, and elevated levels of employee burnout. But for hungry go-getters who want to get their hands dirty with several different types of projects (sometimes in a shorter amount of time), a role with more responsibility in a smaller organization can be just the ticket for kick-starting a long, dynamic career.
Additionally, it depends on the specifics of your role. If the top-tier company comes with a top-tier title to match (and access to valuable resources to help you do your job), it might be worth the resume boost. But if it comes down to choosing between a really fluid role at an unknown org with huge potential, and a more junior position at a well-known company, you’ll want to think carefully about the growth potential for each. Despite the flashy company name, working your way up from a lateral move (even at a top-dog brand) can be tricky.
Bottom Line: It Depends on Your Priorities
From a job-seeker’s perspective, having a well-known company on your resume definitely works in your favor when it comes to catching the eyes of recruiters or setting yourself up to move forward in the future. However, given that so much of hiring happens via applicant-screening software these days, and with programs scanning resumes for specific functional keywords, there’s something to be said for chasing a better title at a smaller company — especially if it comes with beefed-up responsibilities.
Additionally, the larger the organization, the harder it can be to promote experimentation — especially with people. Although you might end up sitting in high-stakes meetings at a big brand, odds are, you might also find yourself with less opportunity to lead projects.
There’s the question of culture, too. High-profile, industry-leading companies like Amazon, for example, are widely respected for their big picture strategy and spirit of innovation, but are notorious in equal measure for being tough places to work. When it comes to snagging a position on staff at a brand-name organization, the trade-offs abound.
Though, it’s worth mentioning that there are some undeniable perks that come with working for a company giant. Things like high-profile assignments, larger teams to carry projects, formidable competition, better benefits, access to larger budgets and initiatives, and more resources to help you get the job done usually come with the territory of working for a more established corporation. These types of benefits can be harder to come by in a smaller organization that’s just getting started.
At the end of the day, as Fast Company points out, it really comes down to what you’re looking to take with you when you leave the company: is it status, a legacy, or experience? In a perfect world, you’d leave with all three. But if it seems like you’ll have to pick just one, think carefully about which you’ll need most to achieve your long-term goals.
And don’t be afraid to go with the little guy — after all, who doesn’t love an underdog?
Looking for more info about what it’s like to work for a leader in the tech space? Check out PayScale’s report, Tech Companies Compared.
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