Careers and Employability Service

I want to work in a Small Businesses


Small medium-sized enterprises and small and medium-sized businesses are often referred to as SMEs. These are companies whose number of employees or turnover falls below certain limits. The EU defines companies with fewer than 50 employees as small, and those with less than 250 as medium-sized.


  • Small and medium-sized employers (SMEs) are increasingly interested in recruiting graduates and offer good prospects for graduates who do join them.
  • In fact, the majority of graduates now work in small and medium-sized companies. While the big, household-name, blue-chip companies may be the first to come to mind when you think about graduate recruitment only 14% of graduates join these companies’ graduate training schemes.
  • 95% of employees in the UK now work in businesses with less than one hundred staff.
  • You may be able to get a job near where you live rather than having to move.



  • Research has shown that promotion prospects and job satisfaction are often higher with small companies.
  • A higher profile within the business - you aren't a small fish in a big pond, so if you perform well this will be noticed. (On the other hand, if you perform badly, there will be nowhere to hide!)
  • Variety, early responsibility, the opportunity to work on your own initiative, to work closely with other people (including senior management) and to have your work noticed.
  • Flexibility to get involved in a number of different tasks and functions: job roles are often less rigidly defined.
  • A working environment that may be more informal and less bureaucratic than in larger organisations
  • Feeling that you are making a real contribution to the business: seeing your ideas implemented and seeing projects through from start to finish.
  • These are things that students often seek in their first graduate job and SMEs can offer all of them! In return, they want graduates who are practical, flexible, quick to learn, willing to "muck in" and who do not expect special treatment just because they are graduates.



  • In general, SMEs do not offer “graduate training schemes” – you are expected to learn on the job and take responsibility for your own training;
  • The pay and benefits may be less than in larger companies;
  • You may be the only graduate, or the youngest employee, in the company
  • You may work longer hours


  • The ability to learn things quickly but informally - learning by doing.
  • A practical and common-sense nature. Someone who is good at finding workable solutions to problems.
  • Flexible individuals - all-rounders who can pick up a basic knowledge of finance, marketing and law as required.
  • People who can work with minimal supervision.
  • People who work well under pressure.
  • Ability to get things done - to produce results.
  • Often, they prefer graduates who have done a relevant degree or summer placement or job


Obviously there is a huge variety of small businesses covering all sectors, but some of the more common types which employ graduates include:

  • Finance and professional services
  • Legal services
  • High-tech/software companies.
  • Consultancies
  • Construction
  • Marketing, advertising and public relations
  • Arts, music, media and publishing
  • All kinds of manufacturing


Small employers tend to recruit as required - they don't have formal graduate training schemes and are not tied to any set methods of recruitment or to a fixed recruitment programme, so vacancies may occur at any time of year.

SMEs arelikely to advertise on local job sites, via social media and on their own websites.

Interviews are likely to be informal and staff may not be trained in interview skills, so you will need to make sure that you bring out your strongest selling points and ask lots of questions.

Ten good reasons to looks for work experience with small employers:
How to find graduate IT jobs in SMES:
Work experience= large organisations vs SMES:

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The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7ND, T: +44 (0)1227 764000 ext. 3299

Last Updated: 25/05/2018