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Working for a Small business- am I missing out?

By camis05 ·
I'm a recent graduate and am working for a small business - I am the IT dept. My daily tasks are combination of Level 1 Helpdesk and report generation for management. I'm also responsible for introducting new technology to the company. I'm concerned that because I'm working with a small company that I'm missing out on huge learnings in an enterprise environment. My main concern is when I'm looking for another job that my skills won't meet the standard skillset of an IT worker. Any thoughts on how to make sure I stay competitive IT worker?

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Job focus

by jdclyde In reply to Working for a Small busin ...

The bigger the company, the more specialize you usually are. Working for a smaller company will generally expose you to a wider variety of tasks because of the lack of specialization.

You will also find while you generally won't make as much money, your job satisfaction will be much higher in the smaller company.

As for future marketablitiy. Decide what you WANT to do, and talk to your boss about including that into what you do. Ask about training, and read up on that topic regularly.

The day you stop learning, is the day you start becoming less competitive.

good luck.

Remember, being happy with your life is better than having a fat paycheck. Life is too short to every day wake up and have to go to "that place". That is where you see a lot of the burnout in this field.

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exactly...

by msg2612 In reply to Job focus

I couldn't have said this better, myself.

I also work for a small company. I've been here for 6 years. Luckily, they've been really good about giving me free reign with projects and after the first couple of years, trusted me well enough to let me work freely and pretty much gave me the go ahead on any projects I wanted to start. It's fantastic, and I really do get a lot of satisfaction, though sometimes work my butt off since I'm the only one.

BUT, if you are in this position, then you will not have a mentor to teach you things and the ins and out, so you will struggle in some respects. I suggest finding an IT Pros group in your area or calling up the IT people in other companies or groups you work with and meet to talk shop from time to time.

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PKN - Professional Knowledge Networks...

by Matthew Moran In reply to exactly...

Great advice. I refer to this as your Professional Knowledge Network. Working for smaller enterprise has amazing benefits but you can suffer isolation and a more limited exposure to new ideas and technologies.

A PKN can be local - which is nice - or can be built through sites like TechRepublic. Find those people who have similar drive, ambition, and interest - some overlapping skills but also some diverse skills.

I have a select few people in my chat software. Most are part of my professional knowledge network. We try to stay focused - which is to say - there could be weeks without a direct chat session every started. It isn't, "whats up dude." The self-imposed rules are for those technical questions you have done cursory resarch on or that you know are in line with what an associate is very familiar with.

And it is not - do this for me - but what resources do you know of or can you point me in the right direction.

Matthew Moran
http://www.cbtoolkit.com
http://www.KreativeKnowledge.com

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It's a good place to start

by sMoRTy71 In reply to Working for a Small busin ...

I think that you are in a situation that might allow you to try a lot of different things without much risk.

Often, once you make the jump to a larger company, your responsibilities will narrow but you will be expected to know more about your particular specialty.

Starting at a small company where you ARE the IT dept allows you to see where (or if) you want to specialize while building your skills.

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Nah

by amcol In reply to It's a good place to star ...

The risk factor is lower in that a mistake will have less of an effect at a small company than at a large one, but it's higher from a career misstep perspective. Not to mention, the dollar value of a mistake at a small company may be substantially less but the effect on the organization as a whole can be quite a bit higher. In addition, it's a LOT harder to hide mistakes at a small outfit.

The biggest problem a recent college grad has in a small organization where he/she is a department of one is that he/she is getting no direction whatsoever. How do you know if what you're doing is right? Or the best way? Or is resulting in a transferable, marketable skill? Or if you're getting compensated fairly? You have no baseline to measure against.

That's not to say it's a bad move to join a small organization right out of school, but if this were my kid I'd advise getting out after no more than a year...no matter what.

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Hold your bunnies!

by Dr Dij In reply to Nah

I think you'd be looked at as a job-hopper if you leave after a year for no serious reason.

two or three years min. unless, as in any job it becomes intolerable.

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Nah

by amcol In reply to Hold your bunnies!

Your first job out of college is supposed to be short term. Especially under this set of circumstances, working for a small company, it's understandable...you went as far as you could go and learned as much as you could in an organization of very limited means, and you therefore moved on.

One year on the job would be cause for concern if it was a pattern of behavior. Three or four jobs in a row, one year each, and you've established a track record that needs to be explained. Other than that, no worries.

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agree

by camis05 In reply to Nah

Thanks for your response. I agree a 100% with what you say in terms of direction, especially knowing if my skills are transferable/marketable.

However, the issue is that I'm in a contract for a couple years. My employer is flexible on implementing projects I suggest. What I'm having a hard time with is finding a base and advancing in it. I know that when I jump to a bigger company I won't have specialized skills, "Jack of all trades, master of none".

Any suggestions? (background is in B.S. MIS)

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Don't worry, be happy

by amcol In reply to agree

Under the circumstances you're in good shape. You're young, employed, and healthy. You're under contract and making progress. Life's a beach.

You're right out of school, which makes you about 22 (unless you took time out for military service or some other detour). You're one year into a career that'll last 40-50 more years. Keep doing what you're doing, planning for the future and actively managing your career, but don't be too impatient about it.

You can't make a move for another year, so use this time to learn what you can and improve your skills in as broad based a way as you possibly can. Like others have said, you can take advantage of your opportunity to figure out what you want to do next. Notice I said "next" and not "what you want to do for a living". Plans are fine as long as they're not too long term and as long as you maintain flexibility. In a 35 year career I've had 147 five year plans, and every single one of them was brilliant. Keep your eyes open, don't get ahead of or too full of yourself, soak up knowledge and experience from everyone and anyone you can, and parlay this gig into something really outstanding.

Think about avoiding being or staying too technical. The future's not in bits and bytes, it's in understanding how to wring business and strategic value out of technology.

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Big Picture

by klaverty In reply to Don't worry, be happy

Working in a small company where You are the IT Department is a great experience. You get to check out different technologies. If you are starting out in your career, your manager should not expect you to be an expert in everything but it gives you the opportunity to find the area you might want to specialize in.

On the other hand working in a large company where you are 1 of maybe 50 people in the IT department, you are more than likely specializing in one particluar area of expertise.
You'll also find that with larger companies you are more tightly bound by management processes. Security delegation ensures everybody in the IT department has just enough permissions to carry out their job and you will often require the help of other IT teams to accomplish what you could have done on your own in a small company.

This is not necessarily a bad thing as it teaches you how to effectively accomplish tasks by streamlining processes & sharing the workload.

In my opinion, working in a small company gives you the opportunity to increase your technical skills and working in a larger company will help you develop your management skills.

It is a good idea to develop your technical skills before moving into the management arena. Personally, I would not ask someone to do something that I wasn't willing to, or not sure how to, do myself. (This might sound old school and I am waiting for the flack) If you have developed a good grounding in the technical expertise then later on you will find it a lot more comfortable to delegate the same task to a subordinate, as you should have a good idea of their ability to carry out the task.

Spend some time working in both small and large companies and also companies who themselves specialise in different industries, from service & support industries to manufacturing or research.

In my experience, most IT graduates start out working in support, then some move to development. After a few years some of them move in to management roles. It all depends on their abilities & of course their interests. There are lot of different career paths for an IT graduate to follow and it all boils down to the experience they get from the organizations they choose to work for in the first 3-7 years after graduating.

Enjoy the early years and soak up as much knowledge as you can, both Technical & Managerial.

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