Big Company or Small Startup - How to Choose Your First Job As A Fresh Grad

With your first piece of qualification in hand, it is time to start anew and hunt for your first job. Not sure if you should aim for a large corporation or a smaller outfit? Here is a guide that will help you decide just that.

Imagine this: You just completed your Bachelor's Degree course and now you are looking for your very first job, not knowing where to go. What do you do?

For one, you may have received advice from your parents, friends and relatives, all of which may be in favour of bigger companies or lean startups but none of it which provided the insight that you are seeking for.

As such, let us help you decide on your career path with a brief guide on what to expect when you opt to work in a big company or a startup as well as the pros and cons of both workplaces.

Big Company

We start our list with the darling of parents, the silencer of aunties during Chinese New Year: the big companies. Big companies in this article refer to the franchise groups (Starbucks), major banks (Maybank), and international audit firms (PwC) etc. These companies are often held in high regards by some people, especially parents and grandparents.

Why not? They are big and well established, which always is a plus point on your resume and your potential life partner's parents. Besides that, the idea of working in a big company at the start of your career is often exciting. Before you start to send your resume to the big companies, we encourage you to have a brief look at what to expect for working at a big company.

Attributes
Benefit One of the main attractions of working in a big company is the special benefits and perks that an employee is given. Major companies often provide attractive perks like company discount cards and longer maternity leave not only to motivate their employees but also to attract top talents
- theSun daily wrote about Maybank offering its female staff a longer maternity leave up to a year (3 additional months of half pay leave and 6 additional months of unpaid leave). These additional leaves complement the existing 90 days (3 months) paid maternity leave to help female staff who intend on starting a family. (Yay for perks!!)
Fixed job scope Depending on your preference, fixed job scope can be both beneficial and mundane. A fixed job scope provides the employee with a clearer picture of the job demand. While every employee has the occasional ad-hoc responsibilities, employees in a big company often get ad-hoc work that fell within their job scope.
- However, a rigid SOP can make an employee feel bored about their current responsibilities. As most of the ad-hoc jobs are within the prescribed SOP, this means the employees rarely have the opportunity to learn other facades of the business. (So, do expect mundane work.)
Resume Enhancer Big companies offer a cashless and valuable advantage to its employee that smaller companies could barely afford: reputation. Job search site Monster.com stated association with a big company enhanced a person's resume and produce a higher chance of being hired by future employers.
- Example: 2 candidates with similar qualifications were shortlisted for an interview. The former worked in a small consulting firm, while the other worked in PwC. Although both have identical qualifications and work experience, the employer's preference leans towards the one who worked at PwC. Not to discriminate against smaller firm candidates but rather, PwC is one of the big four international accounting firms with a rich network of reputable alumni and clients. An association with PwC gives the hiring manager the impression that this candidate is highly likely to be well-connected with valuable experience.
Competitive salaries/ commission It is common practice for most Asian parents often used to convince their child to aim for big companies. You may have experienced this yourself and well, it is true that big companies have more resources to compete for talents than the small companies
- One of the ways employed by big companies is to offer a higher/ competitive pay package to potential employees. Some big companies even offer better commission rate for employees in sales than smaller companies. However, it is important to note that this part depends on the type of industry that you are working
Built-in connection Similar to the point resume enhancer, big companies offer a wide pool of connections of employees associated with them. As an employee of a big company, you get to tap into the large network of current and former employees via social media like LinkedIn.
- This connection is very valuable for the future employers and employees. An employee can find employment opportunities via the network, while future employers see potential customers in the network.
Bureaucracy If you choose to work in a big company, you must be prepared to deal with a high level of bureaucracy.
- Most of the time, big companies have plenty of (written and unwritten) protocols and rules for the employees to follow. Some industries like finance and medical do require such level of regulation as they are dealing with important aspects of life (money and health). That said, a strict administration not only can cause delay and disruption in communication, it can also stifle creativity.

If your priorities are better pay, company reputation, large connection and specialised work, then a big company is an excellent way to start your career. However, you need to take a few cues from us:

1) You need to budget your big package and spend them on the necessary expenses.

2) You need to make full use of the relevant perks like employee benefit card to save money on certain expenses.

3) You need to build your network of colleagues for your career development and office politics management.

4) You need to start investing some of your salaries (fixed account etc) and avoid pure dependence of EPF for retirement.

Small companies/ startup

We now move to the more common cousin of the big companies: SMEs. According to The Star's report last year, SMEs represents 97% of established businesses in Malaysia, which contributed to 65% of employment.

Besides that, business news site Demystify Asia stated in 2016 that the startup scene in Malaysia is growing at an intense pace. Thus, this is a sector worth considering for your first job.

Attributes
Opportunities One thing that smaller companies have over bigger companies is they provide more employment opportunities than the bigger companies. Most big companies tend to look for the best fresh graduates or seasoned staffs, small companies often employ fresh graduates who are willing to put in the hard work. In fact, some small companies prefer to get fresh graduates as fresh graduates come with different ideas and creativity without any past baggage. As most fresh graduates come in with little to no experience, small companies can train them easily on the various aspects of the business.
Multiple hats Unlike working in a big company, employees in a small company are often called the Jack/ Jill of all traits. These employees often assumed multiple responsibilities and jobs from different parts of the business. Example: A salesperson in Nestle may be specialised in sales related operation and job scope. However, a salesperson in a small company can be seen assuming multiple responsibilities from different departments like marketing communication, finance etc. However, this fluidity can lead to a huge workload and burden on the part of the employee.
Camaraderie While big companies provide you with more connections with current and previous employees, small companies enable employees and employers to know each other better. The environment, (relatively) flat structure and company/ group project enable bosses and employees to communicate better and forge a stronger relationship. As such, the company could become a second family to the employee. Besides that, this camaraderie enables the employees to execute projects more fluidly and speedily as the lack of structure allows for a faster communication and improvisation.
Creativity Speaking of improvisation, small companies often encourage their employees to come out and present their ideas when it comes to meetings and brainstorming session. This is a contrast from big companies which encourages following orders. This freedom provides the employee with the sense of pride and ownership on the various ideas and projects they have. In turn, this freedom also provides them with the avenue to make an impact and get noticed by the boss.
Promotion If there is one advantage that would also encourage you to work in a small company, it will be a better career progression/ advancement. If you make a significant impact on your company as stated above, it is likely that you can get promoted based on your contribution. This is not to say those big companies do not provide career progression. However, career progression in big companies is often marred by bureaucracy while small companies provide promotion based on performances. You will feel proud of your performance based promotion in a small company compared to a year-based promotion in a big company.
Smaller pay package If your parents discourage you from working in a small company due to the relatively small pay package, they are probably right. Small companies do not necessarily have the resources to offer an attractive pay package and employment benefit like the big companies. While some industries and companies do offer salaries that could compete with big companies, most small companies offer a pay package that falls within the market rate. As such, most graduates from foreign universities and parents are not attracted to work in small companies.

If your priorities are an immediate entry into the workforce, a good career progression, camaraderie within your companies and constant learning, then you are a perfect fit for a small company.

Should you decide to work for a small company, you need to heed these few things.

1) You need to practice delay gratification and budgeting when it comes to managing your meagre salary.

2) As you will be given multiple responsibilities, it is advisable to apply for medical insurance and personal accident insurance to avoid hefty medical bills.

3) You should consider getting an adequate mobile plan for your business dealings and company work.

4) You need to put some of your salaries into saving and emergency funds to prepare yourself for the case of retrenchment or job change and avoid relying purely on EIS.

5) Please seize every opportunity to showcase your creativity and expand your skill sets.

Concluding advice

What we mentioned above is a general guide, so it is important to note there are exceptions to this guide based on industry. As you embark on your search for your first job, you need to consider the following factors.

1) Your qualification/ capabilities

2) Your working priorities

3) The necessary financial preparation for your selected job

With that, we hope you can find your first job and thrive in it. Looking for a saving account? You can consider getting one that suits you with our comparison tool.

Do you know of any other tips for your first job? Do tell us in the comments section down below!

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