If UK companies were footballers, the large corporate organisations would be Cristiano Ronaldo. They get all the glory, headlines and are the poster boys. They are undoubtedly fantastic players, and are the ones people hear most about. They are shrouded in glitz and glamour, and invariably are the companies who score the most goals.
SMEs would be Paul Scholes. Quiet and unassuming, yet are the heartbeat of the team. They are what make things tick. SMEs are what make the UK economy tick. Interesting stat – SMEs accounted for 99.9 percent of all private sector business in the UK and responsible for a combined turnover of £1,600 billion. They are the heartbeat of the UK economy, the organisations that make the wheels go round.
As a student or graduate, a career with an SME is a fantastic option. The exposure you will receive in a smaller organisation will be acute. You will be at the sharp end of business functions you would not be exposed to in a larger organisation, and the impact of your work will be noticed right around the company.
SMEs are thirsty for graduate talent to make big impacts on their business. Graduates are full of skill and ability, and have the enthusiasm, drive, motivation and creativity to make a real difference. SMEs are searching for graduates like you, and in a highly competitive recruitment market, this type of organisation can provide you with the perfect opportunity to kick start your career.
Here are 5 tips to securing your first position with a local SME
A mindset you should adopt early on in your career search is that of adding value to the potential organisation for whom you work. Lets think about it. To employ you, an SME will probably have to spend £2,000 on marketing to get you interested, £500 for a day of interviews, then your salary of £22,000 – we will multiply this by 2 to cover HR costs, insurance, sick provisions, electricity, materials etc that you will take up during the course of your employment.
We are getting close to £50,000 cost to an SME to secure your services. Your job is to add MORE value to the company than you will cost them to employ you. How will you do this? Can you contribute directly to the production of a product? Can you sell? Can you save money? Can you be more efficient than existing systems? Can you market well to attract customers? Research the organisation, their key business functions and identify where you can contribute to adding value to the company. Write a blog on Kloodle about your research and how you think you can contribute. Share your profile with relevant companies.
Be prepared to muck in
Sometimes, being employed is far from glamorous and high level. You may feel that your university education sets you apart from the rest and you are overqualified to do certain jobs. This is a poisonous mentality and should be avoided at all costs. Never let pride get in the way! You should contribute to all facets of work life, especially in an SME. Do some cleaning, volunteer to do the post, help someone with a heavy workload, answer the phones, do some filing, wash company cars etc etc, The single most important thing?
Make a cup of tea.
Brew politics make companies go round. They are the source of displeasure in many companies, and if you aren’t pulling your weight in the brew stakes, you can be rest assured it will be irking people. Make your fair share. In fact, make more! Be a doer – don’t wait for others, offer and do it with a smile. People will be very appreciative!
Do not get involved
Office politics can be a hotbed of despair for companies. The whinging and moaning people do about other people can be all pervading and cancerous to any company. You will undoubtedly be seen, as the new person, as a sounding board for gripes and a new ally in a person’s quest to moan about the company.
The trick? Be the advocate for the person not in the room. You may feel like you are going against a person and be seen in a bad light for disagreeing with somebody. However, by sticking up for somebody not present, you are showing your trustworthiness, and ability to stay straight down the line. People will respect you as they will be safe in the knowledge that when they are not in the room, you have their best interest at heart.
If you are stuck, just plead ignorance, say you don’t know enough to pass comment and move on.
Smaller businesses are punctuated by people going over and above their duty. This means plenty of people will be there before their contracted hours of work and leave after their allotted time. This is how the world works, and you should make it your business to contribute in this manner – for the time being.
As a culture, we tend to work harder not smarter, and this is not always the best way. At this stage in your career, you should aim to concentrate on toeing the line and being a great team player. However, once your influence grows, you can start to concentrate on how the company works. 8 hours is MORE than enough to get all you want to achieve and more in a small business. You should, once in a position of increased influence, look at how you can reduce this attitude of working longer and substitute it for a mentality of working smarter. Google Pareto’s principle – you’ll see what I mean.
Open your ears for problems
Business is full of problems. You will make an impact by being the person to help solve these problems. Keep your eyes and ears to the ground and listen to the problems that exist within your organisation. What problems are you able to contribute to solving? Research how you will do this and come up with a solution. Present it to your seniors and seek feedback on your efforts. Solving other people’s problems is the key ingredient to getting ahead. You should be proactive in trying to do this.
Another tip? Always let your senior take credit if the solution works. It will work out best in the long run. Always say something like you heard him talking about the solution and put two and two together. People always love to be credited!
Working in an SME is both challenging and rewarding. This path is an excellent career option for all graduates, and with the mentalities stated above, you will be successful in your endeavours.
Kloodle attended the SME event at Lancaster University yesterday, where local SMEs demonstrated their wares to future potential employees. The event was extremely well received by all involved and the hospitality we received (namely pizza) was second to none.
Universities have a responsibility to plough talent into the local economy. With SMEs having less exposure than huge corporates due to lower marketing budgets, it is imperative that universities create these links with local employers. Lancaster have taken this mantra on and are creating excellent links with their local economy. Events like the SME fair underline this fact. A career with an SME can be a fantastic option for a graduate, and events like the fair at Lancaster will undoubtedly increase a graduate’s chances of securing a position, and increase an SME’s opportunity to secure a high quality and talented graduate who will add value to their organisation.