Little Engine Ventures is located in a college town. I frequently find myself in conversations with students as they are in the process of job hunting. Sometimes I’m interviewing them. More often than not the conversation is just an informal mentorship situation. They are seeking some insight about which job they should take. I’ve been asked about jobs in a certain geographic region. I’ve been asked about the growth opportunities in one industry versus another. I’ve been asked about technical versus management career tracks.
In all these conversations, I’ve never once had a student ask me about what size of company they should join. I think that’s the question they should be asking above all others.
I, unintentionally, had summer internships in high school and college working for a small business (<20 employees), a medium sized business (several hundred employees), and a large business (several thousand employees). I did the same basic role in each. I worked with great people in each. I learned a lot in each. But I enjoyed and did my best work for the smaller organization.
Little Engine Ventures loves small businesses, their owners, employees, and customers. I’m not making a value judgement about small business versus big business (at least not in this post). I’ve suggested large employers to many students because they can allow them to go deep on their specific passions with a larger support infrastructure.
I’ve also talked to many students who are considering starting or owning a business someday. I’m a big fan of starting a company right out of school (that’s my story) or even starting a company while you’re still in school (e.g. Socio). But they aren’t driven by a specific idea and so they think they will go work for a big corporation to “get experience” before jumping ship to start their own company.
Working for a big corporation for a few years right out of school will give you lots of experience. You’ll be experienced in receiving an industry standard size and regularly scheduled paycheck. You’ll be experienced in navigating the corporate hierarchy. You’ll be experienced in playing a small role in a big team for an organization that is headed in a fairly defined direction.
So basically, you’ll be experienced in a bunch of things that don’t help you start or own a small business. For those folks that want a different experience, I suggest they become employee number 2-10 at a company. In companies this size, you can’t help but be close to leadership and involved in almost every aspect of the business. Things will be scary and confusing at first but if owning a business is really for you then you’ll soon learn to love it.
And if you don’t like it that BigCo job will always be waiting there for you…
(P.S. some of our portfolio companies are hiring. If you’d like to get some experience running close to the metal, let us know. And who knows, maybe you can be CEO at the next one).