Published 25 July 2019
5 advantages of working for an SME
With dramatic shifts in the nature and pace of how we work, the traditional graduate or intern scheme at a large corporate is no longer the only route to success. If you’re a student or graduate looking for less hierarchy and more innovation, flexibility and collaboration, working for an SME can be a valuable platform for professional development and career progression.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make up approximately 97% of all businesses in Australia (www.asbfeo.gov.au). Smaller businesses, however, tend not to have big recruitment budgets to play with and commonly hire through existing referrals and networks.
The Careers Central team at Kaplan Business School (KBS) believe that SMEs are frontiers of opportunity for business students and graduates. In fact, KBS’ extensive network of partnerships with SMEs continues to grow year-on-year. It’s all part of a growing recognition of the unique experiences these businesses can offer graduates and professionals, including the chance to develop a range of technical and soft skills. Several KBS students and graduates have already benefited from this network, undertaking academic internships and work placements at SMEs and in some cases, going on to secure fulfilling paid employment.
Here’s an insider perspective into what some of our students say are the top advantages of working for an SME:
1. Unique insight into the big-picture operation of a business
Big companies undoubtedly have access to greater resources. It means employees can more easily carve out a niche for themselves, say as an accountant specialising in auditing. But depending on your career goals, there are also limitations. In a small business it’s common, and often necessary, to juggle multiple roles and responsibilities.
After starting out as an intern, KBS graduate, Parke, was hired as a junior accountant at Integrity Wealth. As part of his role he also oversaw everything from admin tasks to strategic elements such as learning how the process of bringing in new clients into the system worked.
“In comparison to my experience in large businesses, I found one of the great advantages of working for an SME is that I was able to grow a holistic understanding of how a business works. It was a valuable opportunity to develop myself as a well-rounded professional because I became more aware of the larger processes at work and how to manage client relations from start to finish. I gained general business expertise and learnt how to cultivate better relationships with clients.” – Parke Alojado, Filipino, Master of Accounting graduate.
2. Less hierarchy means direct access to senior management
If you’re in an intern or graduate role, exposure to the management team is a rare and valuable occurrence.
“SMEs tend to be horizontally structured, meaning there is less of that traditional hierarchy. At Accodex I worked closely with the marketing manager and chief technology officer and communicated daily with all other managers. In my current role at Teamgo, I work directly with the CEO and COO.” – Ana Bellico, Brazilian, Bachelor of Business (Marketing).
Having regular communication and interaction with top management presents a unique opportunity to make influential contacts and benefit from the mentorship of successful business leaders.
“At YML Group, the manager and owner needed help and took advantage of getting to know me as an intern and trusting me with certain responsibilities. Through greater interaction she began to see my potential – I moved from working on more admin-related tasks to helping with accounting reconciliations and it eventually led to an offer for a part-time position as a finance administrator. I spoke daily with senior managers, felt valued and listened to and really enjoyed the chance to collaborate.” – Karina Gambarte, Argentinian, Bachelor of Business (Accounting) graduate.
3. More hands-on experience to gain useful skills early in your career
The smaller team environment characteristic of an SME means you’re likely to be tasked with things that you usually wouldn’t in a larger company, unless you already had a few years of experience. Working for any start-up or SME, an employee will have the chance to master fundamentals in enterprise, marketing and innovation.
“I got told once that the beauty of working for a start-up or SME, is that you get to do senior work when you’re just a junior, and I couldn’t agree more. My internship at Accodex opened a whole new world of skills for me. The main project I worked on was website redevelopment. It was something I really wanted to work on but didn’t think I would have the chance to, so early in my career. I also had my first contact with graphic design, copywriting for web and social media, marketing research, strategic planning and communication.” – Ana Bellico, Brazilian, Bachelor of Business (Marketing).
4. Greater flexibility = less red tape and more chance to prove yourself
The flexible work environment found in an SME can also be a great opportunity for career development. Small businesses are less bureaucratic and less complex than big companies, and new employees with innovative ideas and an entrepreneurial spirit are much more likely to be heard.
“Working at an SME it’s easier to move things around because there are fewer people involved and less stringent approval and sign off processes. Flexibility makes it easier to get things done and you don’t have as many barriers to hinder your pathway to productivity or implementing a new idea” – Parke Alojado, Filipino, Master of Accounting graduate.
5. Dynamic environment for developing critical soft skills
Technology, globalisation and demographic shifts have had a great impact on changing the nature of workplaces. Soft skills are now more sought after by employers than ever before. A 2017 study by Deloitte shows that soft skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030, compared to half of all jobs in 2000.
“At Integrity Wealth I was not only able to practice accounting, but I was also exposed to a busy environment with multiple responsibilities where I was able to develop strong skills in communication, organisation and time management. I believe that technical knowledge can always be improved. An SME however offers a unique chance to develop a range of soft skills that are very valuable in today’s workplace, no matter what industry you’re in.” – Parke Alojado, Filipino, Master of Accounting graduate.
If you would like to find more about SME placement opportunities as a KBS student, make sure to contact your Careers Central team on campus and they’ll look after you!
“I was really impressed by the approach of the careers advisors at Careers Central. After expressing my interest in an internship, they didn’t just present me with a list of corporate internship programs. They took the time to get to know me – what my goals are, and what I’m looking for in a workplace. Working together we realised an SME would be a great match and they helped me through the application and interview process at Integrity Wealth, where I secured my position.” – Parke Alojado, Filipino, Master of Accounting graduate.