A small business could be your fast track ticket to a senior role

SMEs new webpage header

A position in a small business could be your fast track ticket to a senior role.

Choosing the right company to work for can be tricky: with hundreds of companies targeting students and graduates with ‘the best graduate scheme’ or their ‘award-winning placement programme’, it is easy to focus your job search on big companies where competition is fierce.   

Although graduate schemes represent an important sector of the graduate job market, they are not the only companies who offer graduate level jobs. Small or Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) represent the fastest growing sector of the economy, with many of them offering exciting opportunities too!

What is an SME?

An SME is a Small or Medium-sized Enterprise, defined as employing fewer than 250 people. In 2017, 5.7 million SMEs were recorded in the UK, which means there are a lot of options out there!

SMEs are an important growth area for graduate recruitment. New and upcoming businesses tend to be SMEs and they cover almost all business sectors.

You can see the latest vacancies in small- to medium-sized companies on Aston Futures. 

There are lots of reasons you should consider an SME as part of your job search:

Influence decisions
Streamlined recruitment
Fast track promotion
Early responsibility

Is an SME right for me?

To give you an insight into working life at an SME and show how graduates and SMEs can benefit each other, take a look at the video showcasing the SME Cohesion, a recruitment company in Birmingham. 

Half of Cohesion's senior management team is made up of Aston Graduates. It's a small company with a vibrant office and relaxed atmosphere. Every year, Cohesion advertise their placement and graduate vacancies to Aston students and graduates, because they recognise the calibre of Aston students but also the massive potential impact new talent has on their small business.

At the company, placement students and graduates are given a lot of responsibility and have a big say on how the company operates.



Big benefits in small companies

Making an impact
Working in a company with less people makes it easier to shine. It also means you are less likely to be restricted to a single role - you could make a big difference in an area you haven't even considered. Don’t shy away from the early responsibility and lean on your team for support. 

No assessment centres 
Applying to an SME, you may only need to send a CV and cover letter. This saves time. You can cut out long application forms and know where you stand within days or even hours of an interview. SMEs are often more open to receiving speculative applications too! 

Fast track promotions 
With less layers of management between you and the CEO, it's far easier to move up the ranks. With smaller budgets, SMEs are far more invested in your development. If you’ve managed to bag a placement within an SME, chances are - if you’re good - they’ll be inviting you back once you graduate. If you’re a grad starting out in an SME, that manager title may not be too far away. 

Knowing what’s what
Being part of smaller company, means your team will be smaller too. The greatest advantage of working in a small team is quickly getting to grips with who’s who and what’s what, meaning you can get stuck into your impactful work quickly. 

Mandy Glover
Yasmin Basusi - Marketing Placement

Applying for a position at an SME

Aston Future
You can search for your SME placement or graduate role on Aston Futures. We have over 1,300 small businesses registered, all of which have expressed an interest in recruiting Aston students.

Search for all SME vacancies on Aston Futures by following these simple steps:

1. Login to Aston Futures.

2. Select the 'Opportunities' tab.

3. Drop down to 'Search organisation'.

4. On the toolbar on the left-hand side, scroll down until you see the 'Organisation
    size' filter. Select 'Micro', 'Small' or 'Medium', depending on what type of employer
    you are interested in. 

5. Don't forget to add your additional preferences for a more tailored search by
    editing the other filters such as 'Business Area' and 'Country'. 

Note - you will need to make sure you have fully completed your Aston Futures profile before searching and applying for roles. 

If you need any support with using Aston Futures, get in touch or come and visit us in the Careers+Placements Centre to speak to a member of the team.  


The Sunday Times Best Small Companies to Work For 2017

Size isn't everything: why graduates are choosing small businesses

What’s going on in the SME World? 

The benefits of working for small companies

Why should you work for an SME?

Alternatives to graduate schemes

Why small firms suit some people better

Reasons to look for work experience with small employers

Why small businesses offer big opportunities for graduate jobseekers 

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP)  

KTP offers 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. 

Get the Graduate Advantage

If you're a final year student or a recent graduate looking to get your career started, send your CV to enquiries@graduateadvantage.co.uk and tell us what you are looking for.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about SMEs, such as how to apply for any opportunities or how to find SMEs in your area you can get in touch with us for support.  Tweet us or message us on  Facebook with your query using the hashtag #AstonSME or alternatively, contact a member of our team via employerteam@aston.ac.uk and we’ll be sure to get back to you.


Careers + Placements