Making the leap to the working world after college can be difficult, especially when you’re comparing positions at very different companies. Whether it’s your first job or your second or third, take the time to weigh the pros and cons of each as you take the next step in your life. I have worked with Neimand Collaborative since July 2015 after spending two years at Weber Shandwick, working in their Social Impact practice. Weber Shandwick is a very large company, and Neimand Collaborative is much smaller, so I’ve experienced both types of work environments since graduating from college. I shared with my colleagues how the differences in company sizes shaped my work experience, and what kind of advice I would give young professionals about how to choose the right company for you.
What are your major responsibilities?
I’m responsible for the day-to-day account management for Master Your Card, a community empowerment program sponsored by Mastercard. It’s a large program that we work on with several other partner agencies. We support the strategic direction and messaging for Master Your Card as a whole. I work in the same capacity for our accounts with the Natividad Medical Foundation and Trust for Learning.
I also run the company’s internship program, which is a great opportunity for me to get to know local students and help get our name out there.
What attracted you to taking a position with the company?
I’m passionate about a few issues, including financial inclusion and education, so I was immediately attracted to Neimand Collaborative because of the clients and client work that the company specializes in. I also wanted my next job to have a closer connection to the communities we were working with. For example, Master Your Card works directly with community organizations to help people better use electronic payments and save time and money. Being part of the team that is working to understand what communities need and create solutions for them is really gratifying for me.
My last job was CSR communications and public relations, which was great, but this felt like the natural next step.
Neimand is a relatively small company compared to your previous employer, why the transition? Was it a hard one to make?
I had a great two years at my previous agency, which was much larger in terms of personnel and global in focus. I learned so much and really couldn’t have made the jump to a smaller, more focused position without the experience I got there. I decided to leave because I felt that I would thrive in a smaller setting. I wanted closer working relationships with my team members, supervisors and clients. Neimand Collaborative also has a really unique culture, which was appealing to me.
The transition wasn’t hard necessarily, but there was an adjustment period like you’d find in any new position. There is a lot of room to grow here and because we’re a smaller company everyone is very open to suggestions and new ideas on everything from account and client management to operational/administrative items.
Do you prefer a smaller company over a larger one? If so, what were some issues you had with the latter?
I do prefer a smaller working environment to a larger one. I’m someone who enjoys being close with my coworkers. Everyone who works here is genuinely invested in each other’s professional and personal success, and you see that at every level of management and within the junior staff as well. In my experience, that’s not always the case at larger companies because it’s just not always possible to devote that kind of time and energy to so many people.
How does the client work differ between a larger company and a smaller one?
At Neimand Collaborative, we have the opportunity to work directly with our clients at almost every level. Having that experience is really critical to developing your management skills, and that degree of access is unique to smaller companies. Because we’re a smaller team, we are also expected to punch above our weight, so to speak, and work at a more advanced level than you might get the chance to elsewhere.
Because I have a more senior role here than I did previously, my day-to-day responsibilities have changed. However, I don’t think that there’s a major difference in expectations at larger or smaller companies – stellar client work is always the top priority.
Do you feel like working relationships are more or less personal with clients?
I definitely think that I have a closer relationship with my clients at Neimand Collaborative – maybe closer than is traditional! We share office space with one of our clients, which was intimidating at first, but it’s really a great resource. I enjoy being able to walk down the hall to talk about a deliverable or discuss what’s coming up next for her.
Do you feel like larger companies tend to provide more opportunities for promotion and growth compared to smaller companies?
In my experience, larger companies have a very structured growth path or plan for employees compared to smaller companies, which is absolutely understandable given the size of the company. That’s really helpful when setting expectations and standardizing the schedule on which employees advance. However, that kind of rigidity doesn’t work for everyone.
Personally, I’ve found that smaller organizations really let you write your own ticket in terms of growth. Because there are fewer people to manage, you can have more frequent conversations about your growth and make sure that you and your supervisor understand what works best for you. You might also have the opportunity to get promoted or get a raise on a more relaxed schedule than a large company, simply because smaller groups have the ability to be more flexible in their policies.
What advice would you give a recent graduate choosing a job between a larger company versus a smaller company?
That’s a really tough decision because everyone is different, and when you’re just starting out you don’t always know how your work style and personality are going to evolve. When I first started at a big company I thought I’d be there for several years, or maybe even my entire career. But you learn a lot about yourself as you work with different people and in different areas. The best advice I can give is to make sure that when you’re interviewing you meet with the person who will supervise you directly. Your relationship with that person will be one of the most important you will have at that job, and you should feel comfortable with them and confident that they will advocate for you.
What kind of advice do you wish would have been given to you when you had to make that decision?
First of all, if you’re a recent grad and have more than one job offer to weigh, I applaud you. Second of all, I wish that when I was applying for jobs I was more confident in the fact that companies are just as interested in you as you are in them. I know that people told me this, but it was hard for me to believe it. You should be confident that you have a lot to offer any company – they wouldn’t bring you in for an interview otherwise. And you should be confident in asking for what you feel like is fair in terms of salary, benefits, etc. Don’t lowball yourself because you’re trying to make yourself seem like the most attractive candidate.
I would also tell someone that they should go with whichever company’s culture they have a better feeling about, and evaluate each company based on how well you think you can thrive there. It’s tough to judge culture after only a couple interviews, but I knew right away that the people I spoke with at Neimand respected each other, admired the work they did, and were dedicated to the causes and clients they worked for.