Depending on your preference of corporate culture, small businesses and startups are sometimes more advantageous than large corporations, especially if you're looking for more flexibility and responsibility, greater creative freedom and a lack of unnecessary bureaucracy. While the hands-on approach allows employees to grow quickly, what often happens when you are ready to move up, is that there isn't a position for you to move into.
This means you have two options: either you switch to a larger organisation with more upward mobility or you create your very own path right where you are. It's a hard choice, but if you value your company's culture and strongly believe in the business, you don’t have to leave. Here are a few ways to advance your career successfully at a smaller company.
Don't show initiative – take it!It's true that many small businesses don't have a dedicated HR leader to oversee the career progression of employees. However, the absence of a structured career path can be an opportunity. Be proactive, define your own performance goals and take on additional responsibilities. Identify the areas of your company that may need improvement and come up with solutions. Remember to be strategic about your problem-solving, as the particular topic you champion could help you to grow and develop new skills.
Be communicative and show your successOnce you have chosen a project to work on, you need to define measurable objectives, as clear goals will help you to be more strategic in your approach. If you want your projects to be successful, you need to ensure your manager has all the necessary information to support you. Schedule regular catch-ups with your boss to keep him or her in the loop about your plans, progress and growth opportunities. Without being a show-off, making your initiatives visible to your boss can help you to increase both your influence in the company and your salary level.
Diversify your skillsWhile smaller companies might not have a defined career plan for its employees, they offer the opportunity to pick up new skills outside of your expertise. If you don't want to look for a new job just yet, you can sharpen and diversify your skill sets instead. Compared with a large corporation, a small company offers the advantage of gaining experience on projects that are beyond your job scope. Just because you're working in operations doesn't mean you can't learn a thing or two about marketing, and vice versa.
Adopt a startup mentalityAny startup founder will tell you that their work is not about titles, but rather about making their business successful by any means. In fact, many people prefer to work in the more agile and innovative environment of startups and want to escape the corporate world. When working at a startup, even in junior and mid-level positions, there are possibilities to step up and take a leadership role, be it for a project, for a group of people or for business development. Don’t wait for additional responsibility to be given to you by your boss, but act like a leader by taking the initiative and proposing a growth strategy. But be sure to pick an area that's aligned with your interests, strength and career goals. For instance, if you work as a graphic designer in a digital agency, but want to branch out as UX/UI designer, it's up to you to develop the necessary skills and propose how to make it work.