Say you have high aspirations to someday work for the well-known company of your dreams. Well, does that mean you need to work at well-known companies each step of the way until you get there? Will working at small businesses and startups give you the experience or “caliber” (if you will) you need to get picked up by one of the bigger guys?
We’re here to say that you’re not the only one wondering that. This is actually a fairly common concern we hear from candidates who want to work for a smaller company, but are afraid that a role at a small company won’t speak as loudly as a role at a larger corporation.
Here are a few ways you can vouch for yourself on your resume or during your interview especially if the companies you’ve worked for don’t necessarily speak for themselves.
Keep track of the difference you’re making
When you enter into a new role, it’s important to take note of how things are going in your department. Say you’re in marketing. What was the team doing when you arrived? What channels were they focusing on? What was the ROI in each of those areas? Make a note of what it was (or what it is now if you’re just starting) and when it comes time for you to move on, compare the state of the department you’re in now.
It’s important to ask yourself “What difference did I make while I was here?” Any company worth working for in the future will probably be asking the same question during your interview, so having that answer in mind will be crucial.
See, no matter what company you’re working for, if you’re able to come in and make a difference during your time there, hiring managers will notice and remember that. They’ll be able to believe that you’ll come into their company and make a difference as well.
Working for small companies can demonstrate flexibility and adaptability
It’s time to show the hiring manager your hat collection.
Working for a small company often means wearing a lot of hats, filling in where needed, working wonky hours, and shifting focus quickly if needed. While these companies may lack the structure and tried and true processes that a company who’s been around for decades may have, you’re learning to do a lot more than simply fill the role you were hired for.
If you learned other valuable experience during your time at a startup or small business, be sure to mention it on your resume or cover letter. This is especially important if you’re looking for a career change or switching industries. (Also read: How to Edit Your Resume Based on the Job You’re Applying For).
Working for a startup or small biz can be a great way to expand your horizons and learn some new skills all while gaining experience in your field. Use this to your advantage when it comes to advocating for yourself later on!
You go above and beyond
One of the great things you’ll find in employees who work for smaller companies or startups is an adjective we use a lot around here: “Scrappy.”
Basically, someone who’s scrappy is willing to think outside the box. If something they’re doing isn’t working or could be better, they’re on top of thinking of new and creative ideas to improve their work. In essence, a person who’s scrappy is a person who’s passionate. By the end of the day, they get the job done, by any means necessary.
Let’s say you’re in sales and your number of qualified leads so far this month puts you just off your goal. An employee who works for a larger corporation may shrug it off as long as they were close enough. Whereas if you work for a company where you’re one of two people on the sales team, you’re probably going to dig a lot harder to find those leads by the end of the month because at this stage in the life of your company, every lead matters!
So if you’ve been able to develop something of a scrappy nature during your time at a small company, let your future employer know. As much as scaling and building repeatable processes is important, by the end of the day, you’ll make sure your goals are met.
Get shining reviews from your past employers
It’s one thing to say that you made a difference at your last company, it’s another thing for your old boss or coworkers to say you did. Depending on how aware your boss is if your job search, think about getting them to write a letter of recommendation to your hiring managers. Hopefully, they’ll be able to list a few ways you positively impacted their company, took responsibility and learned new skills during your time there. (Also read: How to Resign from a Job Without Burning Bridges).
Show off your ability to grow and scale
Chances are, if you’re moving from a smaller company to a large one, you’re going to be taking on more responsibility. It’s now your job to show hiring managers that you know how (or can quickly learn how) to take on more without becoming overwhelmed.
Try to think of ways that you grew or took on more responsibilities while in your past roles. Did you ever create a more streamlined process for something that used to be tedious? Have you ever hired or trained new employees? Ever been promoted? Find these examples and make note of them both on your cover letter and resume and during your interview. Show your hiring manager that you’re prepared to take on more responsibility, learn, and do work at a larger scale.
Use your network
When searching for any new job, it’s important to remember that your network will be your advocates. If you can, try to (in a not-creepy way) build relationships with people at the company you want to work for. If possible, they make be able to advocate on your behalf to the hiring manager. Personal recommendations go a long way and if you can get yourself even one good one, it could be all you need to set yourself apart from the rest. (Also read: How to Network (Like a Boss).
Align yourself with your dream company’s culture
Lastly, more and more these days, companies are hiring for “culture fit,” meaning that they’re looking for employees whose attitude towards their work, integrity, and values are similar to that of the rest of their company.
After doing some research, reading the job description and lurking around the company’s social media and website, ask yourself if you’re a good culture fit for the company you dream of working for. If you believe you are, then it should be fairly easy to advocate for yourself when on the subject if and when it comes up in an interview.
If you’ve ever made the leap to work for a larger company, what did you do to get there? Leave your comments below and share with a friend who’s on the job hunt.
Ps. Have you downloaded our founders’ free resume template? It’s our favorite one.