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Why you should work for Chimezie & Boys . . . first

By Aruosa Osemwegie GPHR, SPHR
23 February 2015   |   11:00 pm
HERE is the thing: I know you would like to get a job with the Shell Development Corporation.  For parents and guardians, I know you would like your ward to get a job with McKinsey and Company, but here is why she should work for Chimezie & Boys . . . first. Chimezie & Boys…

HERE is the thing: I know you would like to get a job with the Shell Development Corporation.  For parents and guardians, I know you would like your ward to get a job with McKinsey and Company, but here is why she should work for Chimezie & Boys . . . first. Chimezie & Boys is a metaphor representing start-ups or the small business – the smallest of businesses in fact.

  I consider it my task to help you or your ward get on the tracks of life surely and firmly so you can gain the momentum you need to drive your life’s success. My objective is to partner with you such that useful time and years are not lost but rather invested. Based on conviction, this article strongly propounds the theory that seeking and getting a job in a small company, or a start-up, has advantages that the big company (large corporates) cannot provide. Really, you might ask? Yes. And I set out to prove it. 


     Laying all cards on the deck, first, my position crystallised out of my own experience. I had the fortune of starting out in a start-up firm. I worked directly with the Managing Partner from Day One. I met and related with clients immediately. I soon got to know the sources of funds. The list goes on. That reminds me of a guy, Muyiwa, who finished from school and he and his class mates had ambitions of becoming chartered accountants, given what they studied. 

   Muyiwa and his colleagues sought to undertake their NYSC year in banks since these paid better and were more prestigious – at least you got to wear a suit and a tie! As it happened, one of them, Obinna, instead got a job in a nondescript small firm. I feel certain that his colleagues may have been alarmed, or, at least, must have shown some concern for his ‘unfortunate’ situation. Well, the nature of his job enabled him to have some time on his hands for personal study and ICAN preparations. 

   By the time NYSC was over, he had become a Chartered Accountant, while his former school mates hadn’t had much time to do many personal things. That situation boosted him to get a job in the highest paying investment bank at the time. I also recall another friend, Debo, who worked with another Chimezie & Boys and eventually started his own business in that same line. 

   On the flip side, my standpoint in this article has also been proven through my observations of people, professionals, and some personal career management advice. I have seen people lose opportunities to pick up momentum because they disdained a small firm job offer. 

     I have seen fresh graduates with the wrong perspective because they hadn’t ‘seen’ life from the prism of a start-up or small company. Even you would have seen professionals who ‘slept off’ on their jobs because they thought “we would be here forever”. They got complacent. I have seen people lose a chance to build a career because all they wanted was a job. So they couldn’t see the career opportunity because it came through a start-up while the job opportunity was served through a big company. 

    There is a long list of people who didn’t know what they should do with their lives after retirement (forced or voluntary), because the big company they worked with shielded them from the ‘realities’ of life. The benefits of working in a start-up/small company are strewn all over the career lifecycle, starting from your job search all the way to post-retirement. 

1.    It increases your job search circle – Rather obviously, if you include start-ups in your job search target, you would have a wider set of options, which could increase your job search actualization rate. Call it TTM (Time to Market) if you like. 

     The time to get into your desired job may rightly be shortened because you are not only open to start-ups, but you have actively included them in the search. Don’t forget that in the book, Getting a Job is a Job, I made the point that one of the creative ways to get into a large corporate is through a start-up/small company that provides them service, support or products. 

2.    It is easier to access – Related to the first point is the idea that start-ups/small companies are comparatively easier to get into. They don’t have a horde of people trying to work for them. They typically don’t have their CEO shielded by many layers of staff, bureaucracy, security, secretaries, and receptionists. They aren’t likely to have several levels of recruitment. 

    If you elect to suddenly show up at their company, you could easily ‘run’ into an important person. The opposite of this, is, “You might be competing with hundreds (or—ugh—thousands) of candidates for a position at a large company”. Small businesses tend to get fewer applications, giving great resumes room to make their way to the top of the pile. 

    This doesn’t mean you can pull back on effort when it comes to applying and interviewing, but it does mean you could have a much better chance of standing out from the crowd” (ref. Jennifer

3.   Volunteer experience – If you send an email to Accenture or Chevron asking for a chance to work with them for free (as in volunteering), you would be lucky to get your email read, or even a reply saying, “Sorry, we do not have such vacancies”. Remember, we have made the point on this page about the advantages of volunteering as a means of building skill and gaining experience. You are more likely to get such an opening in a Chimezie & Boys. 

4.  Road into a profession – Working in a start-up/small business gives you entrance into a profession and into an industry. This access is very important. It is an access into work tools and methodologies. It is an access into relationships and players. It’s a chance to start building a personal brand of your own. And you would agree with me that being in the race is the first step to winning the race. Here is also the answer to the concern about job ads always requesting for “three to five years’ experience”. You are able to start building the needed experience . . . sooner. 

5.   Learning gap shortened – Your learning gap is shortened at a start-up/small business because they cannot afford your being un-productive or under-productive. They need you to produce results immediately. Hence, all systems would be put in place to help you hit the floor running. 

   A large corporate may be able to afford a long learning curve but not a Chimezie & boys. “If you are just beginning your career, working in this environment will significantly boost your personal skillset. You will learn a variety of skills and you will learn them quickly. Somebody who has spent the initial years of their career helping to grow an SME becomes a very attractive candidate – whether that next job is in another SME or a larger organisation. Quite simply, future employers will recognise that you know exactly what needs to be done in the critical early days of a business; this adds a whole new dimension to your CV.” (ref. James Caan@Huffingtonpost). 

6.  Broader exposure and more responsibilities – In a typical start-up, roles and functions aren’t well delineated, thereby requiring that everyone pitches in to get the work done. Even where job functions are clear, there is a high level of inter-dependency between roles that gives a chance for exposure to more issues and more perspectives. 

   In large corporates, some roles are stripped almost bare, with every division of labour, whilst a start-up consolidates more functions/responsibilities under one role, thus enriching it. “I probably don’t need to tell you that most startup jobs won’t pay as well as some of the bigger corporate and business jobs. You (or your degree) may be worth more than a startup is able to pay. 

   But working at a startup offers a different type of reward: an incentive-based system that isn’t based on dollars, but rather in skills attained and opportunities seized. The experience will outweigh the pay cut” (ref. Kerrin Sheldon@Wanderfly).

7.  Skill coverage – Your skill coverage area is also wider. I remember working in a company as the Head of HR and gradually extending my skills to become the deputy head, Projects. We were a project management company that bided for a lot of jobs in Oil & Gas, Power, Infrastructure management etc. With the need for more staff to pitch-in also brought the opportunity to extend my skills into unknown areas such as bid preparation. “In a small business, resources can be limited. On the plus side, employees often get to follow projects from start to finish. So, instead of handling a small component of a larger project as you might in a big firm, you could be a part of the brainstorming, engineering and execution of a marketing campaign, product launch or other important project.This can be an amazing way to learn on the fly and venture into new territory. Just remember that you probably won’t always love the task, and being a princess (or prince) about it won’t score you any extra points. Besides, those tasks are great for building character, right?” (ref. Jennifer Kwasnicki).

8.   Creativity and an ideas-testing ground – Many people have complained about the layers of bureaucracy big corporates typically possess. This can potentially hurt, slow down, or dampen creativity. Being less risk averse, a typical Chimezie & Boys could be a ground for testing ideas and concepts. This is one of the reasons creative people are drawn to the idea of doing their own thing.

9.  Higher Collaborative work – You remember that they say “two is company, three is a crowd”. A smaller company allows for more collaboration and team bonding. You learn how to truly work with different personalities – how to accommodate, accept and work through people. 

10.   On the job MBA – Working at a start-up/small company is like an on-the-job MBA because of its multi-dimensional and hands-on nature. “In a corporate setting, you’ll likely just see a tiny piece of what keeps the business running. Conversely, in a small business role, you’ll almost certainly get the chance to take part in projects that cross over into different areas. Your exposure to more aspects of the business will likely be greater at a smaller company.”(Jennifer Kwasnicki).