Early on you might be lucky enough to be able to choose between different career paths including choices between small and large companies that you could work for. While the lure of a glittering career at a large company is understandable: prestigious name recognition, great salary and benefits and an almost surefire guarantee of company survivability over many years, it is not the best choice especially early on in your career.
Think about it this way, nothing in life is easy or comes with zero risk. Higher the risk, higher the rewards. The smaller companies especially with less than 100 employees obviously have a variety of downsides: potentially lesser pay/benefits, higher chances of going out of business etc, but they also have a variety of significant upsides.
First and foremost is the incredible potential for personal growth and learning. In small companies, you are never insulated by layers and layers of specialists and teams, everything is done by a small set of people donning multiple hats and that exposes you to a variety of things in a short period of time that is simply not possible in a large company environment. In large companies, processes are usually so well ironed out that there is usually a point person (or persons) for doing any given job. You will never know how things work end to end or what makes something tick and why something works and more important why something doesn’t work.
You are also given incredible freedom to be the best you can be and really the only limit to your fast and furious growth is limited by your abilities and what you can accomplish. You can really iterate quickly and introduce changes and improvements if you wish it without too much red tape or bureaucracy.
In this environment, the people who thrive are the ones who have a high degree of initiative, ownership and who are extremely practical and accomplished in making outcomes happen in very tight timelines. Being mentored by such people will give unique perspectives on what is the most important thing out of the many important things that any company needs to do. You can never find this kind of outcome oriented approach to work in large organizations.
As you come into contact with many different people or teams in a small company, you also get to see other career options that you never thought about or considered originally. You might find your true passion or discover your strengths and make a career change due to this exposure to other career options.
Finally, at a small company you are a person, a face and ultimately a human instead of just a number. Over time you will get to know many of the leaders and form personal relationships. When you excel at your work you are the first to be retained regardless of what business turmoil the company goes through. Contrast this with large companies where they miss their numbers, the whole branch office with hundreds of people are laid off en masse.
Ultimately, you will simply make a bigger impact and a bigger difference at a small company. And that is what each one of us wants, that we matter.