Work for an SME
Working for Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs)
Joining an SME is a highly rewarding choice for university students. Small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are booming and offer exciting opportunities for graduates. SMEs, defined as having less than 250 employees, are thriving in various industries like finance, manufacturing, media, and IT. Nevertheless, with a killer speculative letter and networking, you can explore other industries too.
Why choose SMEs? They offer unparalleled rewards. Gain comprehensive business exposure, learn rapidly, and climb the ladder faster than in larger organisations. Embrace the power of SMEs and fast-track your career!
Things to consider when working for an SME
Working for an SME is a golden opportunity for skill development. In smaller organisations, your ideas are valued, and you'll gain hands-on experience. Your contributions will directly impact the business's performance and operations.
Here's why an SME is worth considering:
- Embrace variety: In SMEs, individual departments for every function are less common. You'll tackle a range of tasks, providing you with a holistic understanding of the business.
- Break hierarchy: SMEs are often less hierarchical, granting you more access to senior members. This connection can do wonders for your career growth.
- Take initiative: Be ready to shoulder responsibility and showcase your initiative. Prove yourself, and you'll find ample opportunities for advancement in expanding companies.
- Fast-track rewards: Initially, salaries may not be great to start with, but they can rise rapidly compared to companies with rigid promotion policies.
- Build connections: With fewer employees, you're likely to know everyone in the organisation, including staff and clients. This fosters valuable connections and expands your professional network.
- Graduate potential: Some SMEs may hold misconceptions about graduates, perceiving them as inexperienced. However, you can also be recognised for your intelligence and adaptability as a quick learner.
What skills are sought by SMEs
To impress potential employers, it's crucial to understand their desired skills and show how you can contribute to their business. You cannot assume they're familiar with higher education so you must explain your academic studies and highlight the advantages of hiring a graduate.
SMEs prioritise the same skills as larger companies, but they hold even greater importance in smaller settings where you'll use them consistently. Provide evidence for each of these skills in your CV or application:
- Willingness to learn
- Problem-solving ability
- Strong communication skills
- Organisation (self, work, and time)
By demonstrating these skills, you'll stand out and increase your chances of landing a position with an SME.
How to approach an SME
Unlike larger organisations that heavily rely on reputation and graduate recruitment fairs, smaller enterprises take a different approach to advertising their vacancies. They typically use:
- Local press
- University job portals and local graduate listings
- Job centres
- Word of mouth
Timing is key for speculative applications, where you submit an outstanding CV and cover letter even when no position is advertised. Such applications can often fill a significant number of vacancies.
However, a speculative letter and CV alone might not suffice. It's crucial to follow up with a meeting after sending a speculative letter or making a telephone call. If possible, leverage your network to secure an introduction.
Recruitment in SMEs can be unconventional. If they meet you and like you, they may be tempted to offer you a position.
Find out more
SME opportunities can take time and effort on your part to discover. This is where researching companies will help. The links and resources below are a good starting point to research SMEs.
- The Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy supports sustained growth and higher skills across the economy. It has resources aimed at helping new businesses get up and running and contains useful information about SMEs and the issues they face.
- The British Chambers of Commerce represents businesses of all sizes in the UK. Their regional chambers are a good place to start your research into local SMEs.
- The Library offers access to a variety of electronic sources of company and market information that can be useful for finding SMEs. Please note: you have to be a current student at the University of Salford to access this information. Graduates should consider visiting their local business library to see which databases are available for access.
- The United Kingdom Science Park Association represents the 100+ Science Parks that exist in the U.K. Science Parks are a business support initiative that has formal and operational links with centres of knowledge creation such as universities, higher education institutes and research organisations.
- Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) offer graduates with a good degree the chance to work for a successful organisation, managing and delivering a project which is core to the development of the organisation's strategy. KTP offers the chance to apply your degree, start a real job, and gain a professional qualification. See the KTP website for more information.
- STEP is a UK-wide programme offering students temporary project-based work within SMEs. Students must be in their penultimate year to be eligible for this scheme.
- Visit the Commercial Library in Manchester. This is an excellent source for local business directories and the library keeps up-to-date links of key local business organisations.