I highly recommend reading ‘The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Business Don’t Work and What to Do About it’ by Michael E. Gerber. It is an excellent book, a quick read, and stresses the importance of organization, training, and standardization. The book highlights how large franchises have mastered standardization and can reproduce the same experience nationwide in all of its stores. Think about it – Walk into any McDonald’s and you received the same experience. If that restaurant happens to be Chipotle, you might unfortunately receive food poisoning at any of its locations (sorry loyal Chipotle fans). Another reason I enjoyed the book was you realize how the different stages of a growing company can impact your job.
First and foremost, if you are looking to gain entry into the industry, your most important requirement is to find experience and get paid. Once established, you can become more selective. Start-up environments are typically more relaxed but often struggle with organization. People who work at start-ups wear ‘many hats’ and have to perform various job functions. An employee might have to run experiments, help with marketing, and assist in human resources functions. Conversely, large firms are quite structured and the employee may only be responsible for one particular job function. A mid-sized company, typically 50-250 employees, can act and feel like anything in between.
Ultimately, I do not think it is the size of company that controls a worker’s job satisfaction but instead is the company’s culture and attitude to planning and organizing. If the owner of a start-up has an attitude of ‘don’t worry about it, just get it done’ this attitude can be highly detrimental as the company tries to grow. Do you think it would be enjoyable to work for a company in which everyone had that attitude? Imagine a company of 50 independent workers all rushing to ‘just get it done’. A well-organized company starts from the beginning and it starts with the owners and their attitudes.
Performing science tends to require large amounts of capital thus finding employment with a large company has its benefits. There are many opportunities for your career to grow. You can start off as a scientist and find yourself retiring as a sales rep. Be aware working at a large firm can be political and is highly structured with multiple bosses. Communication skills are pertinent since different groups can be working on the same project. Small companies may not have the wherewithal to try every approach while a large firm has infrastructure and support to solve problems. I am sure all employers would love the idea of its employees working 12 hours a day. So find out what are the expectations. Another reality with working for any firm is the potential to move your family. Consolidation within a large company might require you to move. Likewise, the threat of a small firm to be purchased will always exist.
Remember, companies and it is departments tend to adopt the personalities of the people who run them so pay little attention to the size of the company.
Dr. Blog holds a PhD in chemistry and draws on his years of industrial and life experience to offer honest career advice for the advancement of young scientists.