What is an SME?
This is an abbreviation for Small to Medium Enterprises (company) which could employ from 5 to 250 people. In the UK over 99% of businesses fall into this category and a growth of up to 2 million jobs is predicted for this sector over the next decade. In the West Midlands it is estimated that these companies account for 95% of the local labour market. Of these, over 25% operate from business parks and industrial estates. As opportunities with large blue-chip employers become tougher to secure, it makes sense for graduates to consider working for SMEs. This leaflet aims to help you find out more about the opportunities available and how to source them.
Advantages of working for an SME
- Greater flexibility in your job, with many SMEs offering job sharing, part-time hours and opportunities to work from home
- Less bureaucratic working environment, more access to senior managers. This potential for personal contact may allow you to make your mark more quickly leading to accelerated career development
- Early opportunities for promotion due to the more fluid nature of the organisation. The scope for SMEs to develop more rapidly than larger organisations may allow you more control over your career and more chances to develop into new areas
- More opportunities to take initiative in your work arising from early responsibilities and a more flexible organisational culture
- Chances to develop different skills since small organisations need employees who can multi-task
- May mean less specialisation, especially in the early stages of your career
- In-house training opportunities made available through bursaries and development support offered to SMEs
- Strong team spirit and sense of belonging that can often come from working in a small team.
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The potential disadvantages
- May lack a structured career path which many large organisations offer
- Preference to working in larger teams with the support infrastructure that often brings
- May lack a structured training programme with access to professional bodies. This may not always be possible within an SME
- You may not welcome being ‘thrown in at the deep end’ and having to constantly learn quickly
- You may not find the status and potentially higher starting salaries that often come from working for a larger graduate employer
- Under UK law, SMEs with fewer than 21 employees do not have to recognise trade union affiliations among their workers so you may have less protection or support with workplace disputes
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What can you offer an SME?
Some SMEs have misconceptions of taking on a graduate just as you might have misconceptions about working for an SME. The Confederation of British Industry claimed “Most jobs in the future will be within small businesses”. Small businesses that have recruited graduates have found benefits as they bring the skills most SMEs needed:
- Working well under pressure
- Ability to learn quickly and effectively
The application process
Recruitment to SMEs may be based less on your academic qualifications and more on the skills and personal qualities you can bring the employer. It is important to emphasise your ability to make a strong early impact in the organisation, your flexibility, self-reliance, communication and teamwork skills.
SMEs do not tend to publish glossy brochures, run on-campus presentations or attend large regional careers fairs. Instead they are likely to fill their vacancies through a more localised and specialised range of media. They may consider speculative applications. Back to top
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- Aston Futures - many local and national SMEs publicise vacancies with us as we offer a free advertising service for employers seeking to recruit Aston students and graduates. Job opportunities are advertised via Aston Futures our online jobsboard for work experience, placements, summer work and graduate opportunities. All Aston students and recent graduates have exclusive access to Aston Futures and onc eyou have tailored your search criteria, we will email you with new opprtunities of your choice as they arrive!
- Social Media - SMEs usually have a smaller marketing budget than larger organisations, so will be mroe likrely to rely on their websites and social media sites to publicsise their current vacancies. The jobs board on Twitter mytwitsearch is an excellent place to register for updates, as well as the individual twitter and facebook pages of organisation you have identified. Try searching on keywords and industry labels of your area of interest and see the companies your search uncovers. Linked in is also an excellent site for identifying key contacts in organisations. Do not be afraid to approach people who make their information public as they do so for a reason
- Graduate Advantage is a regional initiative based at Aston University; aimed at finding employment for graduates in the Midlands. They have connections with many local SMEs looking to fill positions
- Graduate Prospects - register with myprospects, to receive the latest news and job opportunities by region
- Use our researching employer pages to find out how to go about finding employer contacts and applying speculatively. We post regular updates here of latest employers targeting Aston and the information regarding their recruitment process they wish us to pass on (some are SMEs)
- STEP is a national project-based placement programme for students and graduates with a strong focus on SMEs
- Applegate is an online business directory for UK manufacturing and technology companies
- Birmingham Forward is an independent membership organisation representing the professional, financial and business support services in the Biorminghamn area
- The Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry offer a job matching service for small organisations who subscribe to their services. Subscribe to their newsletter and register for membership
- Companies HouseLists over one million companies registered in England and Wales
- Thomson Local Directories may be useful for ontaining contacts of small local businesses, national lists can be accessed online
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