After I graduated college a few years back, I had a hard time finding a respectable job. The job force was still feeling the recession and a good portion of my friends were taking any job, whether it was related to their field of study, and living at home. Thankfully, my paid internship at the state capitol was gracious enough (SEE: my supervisor wanted someone to hang out with and didn’t tell anyone that the intern wasn’t a student anymore) to keep me employed over the summer until I found something.
That fall, I landed a job at a company that consistently makes Forbes list of top privately held companies in the US. This was huge. I was making a great starting salary with company shares in an entry level accounting job with growth opportunities. Eight months later, I was promoted to an analyst gig. It was a very small bump in pay, despite the huge escalation in the odds of royally screwing up anything and everything, but I took it. This was it, I made the big time.
If you made it this far and think I just spent 180 words to brag about myself like it was a shitty underdog story, I’ll quote @realDonaldTrump by saying, “wrong.” It was miserable. I dreaded going to work every day and I felt trapped. The oil and gas industry collapsed, which is the main industry in Oklahoma City, and nobody was hiring. But hey, at least I had plenty of material for PGP during that time-frame.
I eventually did receive interest from other large corporations in the city, but I realized I didn’t want that anymore. I might sound crazy, but eating lunch in my cubicle or car just wasn’t appealing any longer. So, instead of being a little fish in a big pond, I joined a small commercial real estate investment company.
Going from the cold, multi-billion dollar corporate world to a small business is vastly different and takes some time getting used to. Gone are the days of cubicles as far as the eye can see; scurrying, half-terrified out the door at 4:40 while my manager went to the restroom; and awkward break room chats.
Large, successful companies must operate like a well-oiled machine. Unfortunately, it didn’t take me long to realize that meant that personal development and skill enhancement were not as important as learning mindless tasks. I “learned” to create basic spreadsheets, verify account numbers prior to sending wires, and to shoot off emails in a timely fashion. You could say I learned the skills of attention to detail and time management, but I’ve already been endorsed for those skills on my LinkedIn page. #humblebrag
Another thing I quickly discovered from the job change is small businesses are messy. Whereas, like I mentioned above, large corporations are fine tuned machinery, small businesses are all over the place. With a limited workforce, an employee wears many hats. It can be overwhelming, but I’ll take that sensory overload over doing the same exact task list any given day. Sometimes messy is good.
In Corporate America, nothing you do affects the paycheck you bring home, aside from getting fired. Your decisions, your successes and your failures have little to no no impact on that bi-weekly paycheck. The things you do on a daily basis do matter in a small company. If you’re not pulling your weight, it has a direct impact on the company’s well-being. It’s kind of awesome, yet terrifying.
Leaving stability, a 401k, break rooms, and mouth-breathing Brad in Accounting for a risky, yet rewarding small business isn’t for everyone. But if you happen to get an offer from the little guy that’s in an industry you are interested in, don’t laugh it off and forget about it. It might be worth it..
Image via Shutterstock