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The IT Job Search: Choosing Between Small and Large Firms

If you’re an information technology professional looking for your next opportunity, you’ve likely spent some time deciding what you want out of your next position. Whether you’re seeking better salary or work-life balance or simply more of a challenge, there are a number of factors to consider when deciding what you need from your next job. But have you considered whether you want to work for a smaller or larger firm?

Especially for IT professionals, there’s more to the size of a company than how many colleagues you’ll be working with. “Working for a large financial services firm versus a smaller boutique hedge fund, for example, are two completely different experiences,” says John Carey, a Director at ES Technology, a division of The Execu|Search Group. “The headcount of the company directly affects how many IT professionals they need and, therefore, how wide each professional’s range of responsibilities reaches.”

According to John, this means job seekers should strongly consider how broad their skillset is and how broad they’d like to keep it. Someone with a very specialized skillset, for example, would do well in a larger firm, whereas someone with a wider-cast net would thrive in a smaller company.

“Candidates from larger organizations are more compartmentalized into very specific responsibilities,” John says, “whereas those who come out of smaller environments have more exposure to different technologies. This is because larger firms have both the need and the room for more expansive IT teams that smaller firms don’t have. So while a large firm’s IT department may consist of tiered support systems, for example, a smaller firm may have a handful of IT managers and directors who oversee a small team while performing hands-on support as well.”

So, depending on where you are in your career, one type of firm may make more sense for you over the other. It’s also important to keep in mind the difference in the types of candidates these firms seek before you embark on your job search; smaller firms typically look for long-term hires to become subject matter experts on the company, while larger firms typically have higher turnover and take on both long- and short-term hires.

Therefore, if you have a specialized skillset and are looking for an opportunity to broaden it in order to appeal to smaller firms, it may help to take on a few temporary assignments with larger firms to expand your skills and learn what you can from each position. Likewise, if you want to join a larger firm but feel like a jack of all specialties, try honing in on one of your skills—either by obtaining a certification or otherwise continuing education in that specialty.

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