GUEST BLOG: Working for a SME

 Guest blog post by Sophie Hudson, Head of Marketing at TalentPool.

Over the past few years there’s been a noticeable increase in the number of university leavers turning away from the larger, more traditional graduate employers in favour of working for a smaller company. With 9/10 graduate opportunities currently found in startups and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), there is a growing awareness amongst recent graduates of the benefits of being a part of a small team. These include the development of a wide skill set, the ability to really make an impact on the business and the high levels of responsibility given from an early stage, to name a few.

So, with all these opportunities out there, what do smaller businesses actually look for when they’re hiring? We’ve rounded up the top 5 for you to take into consideration if you’re thinking of applying to a startup or SME.

Eagerness to learn and develop

This is really the number one attribute that startup and SME employers look for in a potential employee. Working as part of a smaller team, you’ll often need to learn things on the job so a proactive attitude and enthusiasm to pick up new skills are a must. Think about instances which show that you’ve gone that extra mile to enhance your knowledge – have you picked up a new language recently or taught yourself a musical instrument? 

Determination and drive

At a smaller company, the work you’ll be doing will have a big impact on the business. For this reason, it’s essential that employees possess a real hunger to succeed as, ultimately, the success of the business relies upon this. Particularly at a startup, there is often no guarantee that the business will succeed long-term. For this reason, you’ll need to show confidence that you can persevere in a tough situation and come out the other side.

Problem solving ability

In a small team, you’ll most likely be doing a role that nobody else does. You’ll need to think on your own feet and be resourceful when something doesn’t go as planned. For this you’ll need to be able to come up with creative solutions when faced with obstacles. Think of a time that you’ve been put in an unfamiliar situation and managed to overcome it.

Willingness to take on responsibility 

There is very little time for micromanagement when you’re part of a small team, so you’ll be expected to take on high levels of responsibility from the word go and be trusted in taking your own initiative. Consider a time where you led a project successfully or organised an event to demonstrate that you have what it takes.

Culture fit 

Finally, every startup & SME employer will be looking for the person who will fit best into the team. Working in such close proximity with one another, it’s essential that everybody gets along. Of course, each company’s culture varies so this is really a personal decision to be made by both parties.

Working at a small company can be challenging, fast-paced and extremely rewarding. When it comes to graduates, the experience, skills and degree listed on your CV are far less important than your ability to demonstrate potential, ambition and drive. It’s not for everybody, but working for a startup or SME after leaving university can be a great way of kick-starting your career.

TalentPool is a recruitment platform matching recent graduates with job and internship opportunities in startups and SMEs.

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