I’m experimenting with a new headline scheme. Apparently people like headlines with numbers, like “7 Reasons …” or “6 Steps to …” So, I’ll cave to peer pressure (and clarity) and try to make my headlines less cryptic. Here’s my first shot.
There are all sorts of reasons to be frustrated by large companies or organizations. Believe me, I’ve experienced many of them personally. The list is almost too easy: Big companies are bureaucratic, stifle creativity, discourage autonomy, etc.
There’s a cottage industry of experts telling you how you can chuck it all if you just commit to finding your inner entrepreneur. Much of it is pabulum and even the stuff I admire (like Jonathan Fields) assumes that everyone has the time, energy, and inclination to be their own boss.
The fact is, not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur.
For you, let me offer a few reasons why large organizations don’t suck.
1. They make payroll every month. With a few notable exceptions, most large companies aren’t scraping by. Quite the opposite, they have good cash flow, or they wouldn’t be big.
2. Most have decent healthcare plans. I can’t cite lot’s of statistics here, but most people I know who work for larger organizations have a healthcare plan. Whether it’s awesome or not isn’t my point. They at least have a subsidized safety net.
3. Big companies will invest in your professional development. Most companies provide at least some personal and professional development opportunities like internal or external training. In the executive education classes I teach, I meet a steady stream of people whose companies spend between $400 and $3000 per year to improve their skills and performance.
4. The big-company brand on your resume adds to your value. Many people assume (often, but not always rightly) that large companies screen and develop staff. Hiring managers value this filter when they lack the network or resources to put forth the same rigor. Having Ernst & Young and 3M on my resume has clearly helped and the same can be said for lots of large firms.
5. They often subsidize all sorts of things in your life. My own personal experience (note that it includes 5 years of management consulting – thus the travel perks) includes >400,000 frequent flier miles, gajillions of hotel and Amex points as well as all sorts of employee discounts, free tickets to events, games, and more.. In fact, Michele and I took trips to France and Hawaii almost entirely on points.
We also have friends who have had expensive fertility and adoption processes covered all or in part by their large company. In some cases, this has run to the tens of thousands of dollars. You get the idea.
6. Big companies offer “career paths” not just “jobs”. Most large companies want to develop and promote talent. They may do it poorly, but the intent is to build a strong organization. Larger companies tend to have actual job descriptions and a culture that makes it clear what it takes to get promoted.
At 3M we joked about the experiential “bingo card” we had to complete to be considered for promotion. Things like experience across categories, functions, and geographies were clearly ingredients that got people promoted.
7. You don’t have to do everything. Or stated differently, you can specialize. The sales manager can manage sales. He isn’t also the marketing manager, accountant and travel manager.
7a. You’re often in a protected bubble. When I travelled internationally at 3M, there was a (sainted) person whose job it was to coordinate all our visas and travel docs. Bless her soul. I never had to think about it.
When my family moved to China we had a moving consultant, real estate agent and various other resources at our disposal.
8. You can find friendship in a shared experience. We are social animals and when you find the right fit, it can be rewarding and build lasting relationships.
9. If you want a 40-50 hour per week job, you can probably find it. Not everyone wants to be burning at full temperature all the time. In a large organization, you can find “holding pattern” jobs that are rewarding, but not completely cranked up. Ask any new parent how they feel about throttling back at least briefly.
10. Most at least partially subsidize retirement savings. Free money! That 401K match, or defined benefit plan isn’t a constitutional guarantee. People running their own businesses don’t get it. It’s not the be all, end all – but it is part of the total package.
11. Change with stability. You can switch jobs without uprooting or re-learning everything. Want to move from IT to Marketing? A former student of mine just did that at a large company. He is very happy and didn’t have to go through the stress of changing companies, jobs locations, etc.
I’ve been privileged to work on a number of entrepreneurial pursuits in my career, but have chosen to keep the security of large, stable firms behind me. I could focus on the work and not my cash flow. I admire genuine entrepreneurs, but not everyone is one.
Are big companies all hugs and kisses? No. I could easily create a compelling list of sucky things about them. My point is that you should carefully consider your priorities and motivations. When you’re looking for the right fit, you just might find it at a large company.
Can you think of any other reasons?