SMEs – Why size doesn’t matter

Yasmin Ansari – Careers Adviser
If you have experienced the buzz of Autumn Fair, you will have  seen the high number of household names peppered with a number of smaller organisations and charities. Large employers are easy to find, and tend to advertise their schemes widely and frequently. Smaller and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) make up 99.9% of the private sector businesses and therefore employ the majority of the workforce (59.1%) 1. Despite this figure just one in five graduates will consider working for an SME2.

Many SMEs offer graduate and internship programmes  but may not always have the resources to advertise these widely. Others will advertise vacancies and welcome applications from recent graduates, provided the minimum requirements can be met.

Ok, so how do I find SMEs?
While some small firms will come onto campus to give presentations, others need to be researched. In the old days, jobseekers used the yellow pages and directories to find out about local businesses. This can still be useful. Try online directories such as and to identify businesses by postcode, region or sector.

Some graduate careers websites contain information  about graduate schemes and closing dates for smaller firms. Try which includes closing dates for many large schemes and some medium sized opportunities as well.

Linkedin is an excellent resource for tracking down employers and making speculative applications. You can filter results by location, industry and type of job to suit your requirements. Many organisations prefer to use online job boards as it’s cheaper (or free!), compared to other means of advertising vacancies.

You may choose to join local business networking groups, search for specific contacts or contact recruiters  for further information.  Think about who you know out in the business world – friends, family, and contacts from previous jobs or internships. Then cast your net wider and find out who they know. You can attend local networking events, for example in Birmingham, the regular Social Media Café gets business representatives and self employed entrepreneurs together to chat about social media.


Why SMEs?

Some of the advantages and challenges of working for an SME are outlined below:

Yay!  🙂

  • More responsibility. Can become a ‘Jack of all Trades’ through working across multiple roles.
  • Progression. You may gain the necessary experience progress quicker within the organisation or move to another company.
  • Your chance to make a real impact on the business from day one.
  • You can get to know your colleagues and management on a personal level and are more likely to engage with senior management.

Nay! 😦

  • There isn’t necessarily a structured graduate training path and you may be expected to hit the ground running.
  • In particular, small organisations (1-10 employees) may have  less opportunity for internal promotion.
  • Volatile job security – your job maybe dependant on the industry sector.

What next?

One strategy you may consider is to start with identifying the type of job you want. Have you got a role in mind? Good, now you can hunt down companies that offer this line of work. Try for comprehensive occupational profiles and examples of vacancy sources for each role. You can use prospects to explore entire industries as well.


About careersbham

Student Engagement Officer for Careers Network University of Birmingham

One thought on “SMEs – Why size doesn’t matter

  1. Pingback: ‘Work the room’ – getting ahead of the game at Careers Fairs | UoB Careers Network

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