When I was searching for my placement, I instantly scoured the websites of the well-known organisations offering roles I was interested in. Marks and Spencer, Volvo, CrossCountry… They all fitted what I wanted in some way, yet I just always had the thought that the roles felt limited. I won’t deny that working for one of these large organisations would have been extremely eye opening, but they just didn’t feel like the step I was looking for. Considering I wanted to use this year to try and figure out which area I would like to go into post University, I was searching for a broader role that exposed me to different elements and experiences.
Coming across Research by Design, an SME based in Birmingham city centre whom I had not heard of before, of course I was slightly apprehensive. However, after reading the job description and seeing the broad scope it covered, I was instantly set on it. The job role exposes me to not only the marketing element of a business, for which I am responsible, but also the market research sector and all the aspects of a research project from commission to completion. I’ve gained a lot of valuable experience already in my first 4 months of placement, so I thought I would share the reasons why I think you shouldn’t just disregard working for an SME.
In my experience, working for a smaller organisation gives you considerably more responsibility from the get-go. You’re not simply viewed as another cog in the wheel or a placement student who only has their set, written role. I instantly felt part of the team. I’ve been involved in assisting on live project work from the start as well as being responsible for creating content and implementing marketing for RbD in terms of their social media platforms, blogs and website. Not once have I felt limited in my role here for being a ‘placement student’ with little experience, but rather I feel like a valued member of the team who is given responsibilities and involvement.
Another benefit of working for an SME is that your role can bring a lot more variety. In large organisations, there are departments for each area of the business such as HR, Finance, Marketing etc. However, at RbD we don’t have these divides meaning we can all dabble into different elements. Obviously, we all have some set roles and responsibilities but in terms of general office work it’s nice being exposed to different sides. I’ve heard people say how ‘bored’ they are at work because it’s ‘so repetitive’ and I think when you’re confined to one single job role, I’d feel the same. Some days I’ll be researching and writing blog posts for new website content, others I’ll be helping produce a PowerPoint deck for the next client presentation or even doing some telephone recruitment for our latest project interviews. I even had the fun job of arranging our Christmas party! I love the variety my role brings and that my experiences spread out across two different sectors, it means two days are never the same and I’m yet to find a day with nothing on my to-do list.
This may not seem quite so much an important factor when looking for a placement job but since I’ve always been a very sociable person, it is something I’ve valued a lot. I admit, working at a larger company you are still going to make good friendships and I have plenty of friends currently on their placement at big organisations who get on with their colleagues like a house on fire. Nevertheless, working at an SME means I’ve really got to know everyone I work with. Not only does this create a light-hearted, enjoyable working environment, it also means we gel together well as a team, helping to get work done even more efficiently.
It’s nice sitting round the meeting table on a Monday morning hearing about everyone’s weekend and all being equally eager to discuss the latest episode of the TV show you all love. Even just popping out for a drink or a bite to eat after work is done much easier when there’s less people to factor into the plan. Who you work with can make a lasting impact from your placement year as well as how you feel about work on a day-to-day basis so it’s nice to be able to form some good relationships with your colleagues.
So, when you are looking for your placement job, don’t overlook the smaller businesses. Yes, larger ones may pay you more and yes you may get some cushy perks. However, the experience is the key aspect to getting the most out of your year in industry. Whilst I believe you can gain a lot of value working in any organisation, big or small, many people think the smaller the business, the less experience and benefit you’ll gain. This is not the case. Smaller businesses offer you so much exposure to a wider range of roles in the business and leave you feeling a lot more valued as an employee, and you can really see your work having an impact.
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