Though it’s only October, many of us are looking at that tiny speck of glimmering, glorious light at the end of this long, dark, spooky tunnel. With a quivering voice and tears welling up in our eyes, we ask ourselves, “Am I going to get a job when I graduate?” That may be a bit dramatic, but going through the steps of undergrad and grad school, followed by an uncertainty of what’s next in life is an ominous thought. So what is next? One of the most daunting questions we may be asking ourselves is ‘what KIND of company do we want to work for?’ There’s quite a selection out there – commercial or residential, large or small, exclusively A or with ID/E, local or regional or national or international, famous or up-and-coming… the list goes on.
What is the best choice? More importantly, what suits you best? What do you want to contribute to a company, and what do you want to get out of it? Do you want to become a principal one day or do you see yourself as more of a renderer? There are many tough decisions, but I do believe that there is a larger category that makes the decision a little clearer, and that is the comparison of company size. Of the people that I’ve talked to about this topic, company size seems to be the number one issue that gets weighed when deciding what kind of job to look for. Generally, the comparison is of large firms vs. small firms.
So, is bigger better or does the underdog rule?
From my personal observations and many conversations with my peers and colleagues over the last few years, there does seem to be a consensus. The trend among many people that I graduated undergrad with, including myself, was that of being hired by a large firm only to later jump ship for a smaller company. Issues of monotonous labor, red-lines day in and day out, long hours, working hard to show off personal talents with little hope of moving up in the company became a recurring theme in our conversations/commiseration in regard to these jobs. Furthermore, as many of us were surrounded by a sea of faces, job security was also a big concern. However, the amount of resources available at these larger companies did provide ample opportunity to, for example, have access to the latest technology and literature. Also, the attraction of higher pay was a major factor for many of us taking the job in the first place.
Despite this, many of these people have moved on to much smaller companies where their talents are noticed and rewarded with responsibility, from managing projects entirely to participating in all aspects of a project to some degree or another – not just construction documents. In thinking about the whole purpose of IDP, being able to get a well-rounded experience is an important aspect of professional development. However, compared to those of larger firms, small firms’ projects may range from the interesting to the dull, with far fewer high-profile projects. What’s more, the issue of limited resources is exemplified by my company who refuses to outsource our IT so the server is constantly crashing and the printers are always on the fritz. Likewise, getting a raise or a bonus is out of the question until things start to really pick up and the economy improves. As for job security, though it is always a concern given the economic climate of our industry, it is still lesser an issue than what I found while working for a large company.
Though these observations are taken from a group of people, it is only a sampling of opinions and I do share common ideas with them, so please take them with a grain of salt. In the end – May 5th, or whenever you decide to begin applying for jobs … hopefully sooner than later – you have to find a company that suits your goals and your personality, whether it’s starting your own company or joining an internationally renowned firm. You may find after awhile that the company is exactly what you wanted, or you may find that you don’t care for it so much. Either way, you’ll never know until you try.