Pros and Cons: Working in Small Life Sciences Companies vs. Large Organizations

Collaborative Team Meeting

Is your dream job with a large organization or a small company? It’s common for life sciences professionals to have a preference one way or the other when considering employment opportunities. While many people might have a primary reason for desiring to work at a small company or a large organization, most individuals haven’t really compared the differences and the implications on their career. Are you impressed by large established organizations? Or, do you seek out innovative start-ups and small companies? To help with your career planning, we’ve compiled a list of the major pros and cons when working in small companies versus large organizations!

Pros of Working in a Small Company

1. You actually know and can engage with your coworkers. When employed with a small company, many life science professionals get to know and bond with their colleagues. At this size, many employers can maintain their company culture, which might include having an open, relaxed, or fun environment.

2. There’s a high probability that you can increase your skill set and/or be cross-trained. You might be called on to fill in for another employee, learn a new skill, or take on a challenging project. If the small company is growing, you could easily find out about promotional opportunities or new positions being created.

3. They can be innovative and implement changes quickly. Smaller companies can generally be more nimble than larger ones. Because there aren’t as many people or decision makers involved, its more common for them to make changes and execute the changes quickly.

Cons of Working in a Small Company

1. It's possible that your benefits aren’t as good. A major point of concern when considering smaller companies is the benefits package. Oftentimes, small employers simply can’t offer the range of benefits and incentives that large companies can.

2. If the company isn’t growing, you can have limited upward mobility. In a stagnant, small operation you might feel as though you’ve “maxed out” when it comes to career growth. There might be nowhere to go in terms of positions to advance.

3. Due to the company size, there might be undefined roles. In small companies sometimes employees are forced to wear many different hats simultaneously. This could lead to one person essentially doing two, three, or more jobs because the company can’t afford to hire additional team members.

Pros of Working in a Large Organization

1. You might garner immediate respect/prestige in the community. Many large organizations have a positive reputation within their region and/or nationally. Just being an employee of a certain firm can serve as a resume booster and open doors within various associations.

2. There could be better comprehensive benefits. We recently published a piece on four unique benefits of life sciences companies. Obtaining highly regarded benefits such as unlimited time off, vacation accrual, and additional 401K contributions are more often found within large organizations.

3. They might have more defined bonus structures and employee development opportunities. Many large companies have created bonus and rewards programs to acknowledge high performing employees. It’s common for them to have more established development programs based on mentorship, leadership development, and coaching.

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Cons of Working in a Large Organization

1. You might feel like just a number. If your employer has hundreds or thousands of employees, you might feel like it’s hard to get to know people. At times, you might feel like you’re part of a long assembly line, making it difficult to see the impact you’re actually having.

2. There might be a lot of red tape or internal bureaucracy. The more people a company has, usually there are more managers, decision makers, and stakeholders involved in each decision. While it can be great to have an elaborate system of checks and balances, this can often lead to nothing ever getting done or achieved.

3. They might not be open to change. Once many organizations reach a certain size, there is a general consensus that they are doing well. As a result, there can be resistance to change or willingness to discuss process improvements.

It can be challenging to find a company that is the right fit for you to help in achieving your career goals. Do you like the quaint, personable feel of a small company? Or are you drawn to the name recognition of a large organization? Working in either environment can be beneficial depending on your objectives. After reviewing our list of pros and cons, which size company would you prefer?

Porschia Parker is a Certified Coach, Professional Resume Writer, and Founder of Fly High Coaching. She empowers ambitious professionals and motivated executives to add $10K on average to their salaries.

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