The big graduate recruiters are always going to be a great source of job and internship opportunities, and for some students their job search will begin and end with the Times Top 100. But the ‘real’ graduate job market – not just the one represented in the media – is far more diverse with over 40% of UK graduates working in ‘graduate level’ jobs in SMEs. Surprised? Well, here’s someone who isn’t: Rebecca Simkiss of Simkiss Guy Recruitment, an SME located in the Birmingham area. Rebecca is a very experienced recruiter who understands the lure of the big corporates, but also knows the benefit of taking the road less travelled….
As a professional who has spent the last 10 years (pretty much my whole professional career to date in fact), in the recruitment industry, I have met, interviewed and advised hundreds of graduates.
They are all full of enthusiasm and excited about starting their professional career. The on-trend career of the moment has shifted somewhat during this time. In the early days it usually tended to be Finance, Law and Property that was the desired sector. A few years’ later saw a surge in those who felt that Media, Marketing, Communications and PR assured the best path. Fast forward to now and we see a growing number of graduates looking to work for entrepreneurial, dynamic businesses that may have a number of cross-sector specialisms.
Graduate schemes: good option, not the only option…
One thing that has remained constant though. More often than not, these very worthy career aspirations then lead to the mention of global brands, FTSE 100s and huge PLCs. If sights are not set on the traditional graduate scheme, then at least the opportunity of working for these prestigious, high profile organisations will give the best head start in a competitive market, right?
Well not necessarily. Want to know why? Then read on.
Now, before I become somewhat controversial and potentially offend a number of my clients, many of whom are the said market leading, global PLCs. These organisations offer outstanding career opportunities for their staff. And yes, a big brand business on a CV will certainly catch my eye.
However, I will always be a champion of the SME. Why? Well to start with, the traditional graduate route wasn’t the option I took. SME’s is all I have ever known. I now own one, so I have to say that it hasn’t turned out too badly for me.
SMEs can unlock the door of opportunity
Opportunity, experience, progression, a dynamic, fast paced career where I would be challenged, where I would meet people and, of course, a salary that reflect my commitment, loyalty and dedication. That’s what I was looking for. I didn’t mind the type of business, it just so happened that an SME gave me everything I was looking for, and more. It then opened a whole world of opportunity that I was not expecting and I grabbed it with both hands.
So, why work for an SME? Every business is different, but for me, the opportunity of being part of a team where the Managing Director knew my name, was a bit different for a start. Although I had a clearly defined role in my first SME, there were opportunities to be involved in so many elements of the business. Sales, Marketing, Events, Training, Business Development, Communication, HR, Account Management, Compliance, Research, Projects, Law, the list is pretty exhaustive. Of course, some parts of my role appealed to me more than others. But at least I had the opportunity to experience a truly diverse job that was definitely not your typical 9 – 5. I could see the impact that my efforts were making to the bottom line of the business. My experience broadened, my skills expanded alongside my appetite to do more.
Looking for a chance to shine?
SME’s by their very nature, tend to be the best place to have the opportunity of trying as many facets of your skills as possible. And if you are looking for a chance to shine, then it can be easier to stand out from the crowd and have your efforts recognised. It’s not an easier option at all. You’ll work just as hard as your peers in their graduate schemes. The difference will be the fact that there is just that little but more flexibility in an SME.
The majority of SMEs are growing enterprises and so this gives you an opportunity to grow and develop your skills in line with the business. Specialising in a particular field is fantastic, but it is also fine to not know what you want to do after you complete your degree.
It may not have the glitz of the grad scheme title, but working as a team administrator in an SME may open more doors and career opportunities for you than you can ever imagine.
*This post was contributed by Rebecca Simkiss, SimkissGuy Recruitment and Chair of Birmingham Future’s Development Committee