It's up to you to make it work.
By: Robert Half
Robert Half, CPA and founder of Robert Half International
Inc., a financial and data processing recruitment firm with offices on
With the proliferation of small businesses in America, the chances of
a graduating accounting major working for one are pretty good. By extension,
it also means that the possibility of being hired by a family-owned business
is enhanced. Dun & Bradstreet Information Services estimates that
more than 95 percent of American businesses are privately held.
The advantages and disadvantages of working for a smaller company, versus
a larger one, are a constant source of debate. Either situation for a
recently graduated accountant can provide a rich opportunity to put newly
acquired skills and knowledge into play, and to begin making a contribution
to both an employer and the accounting profession.
But, there are obvious differences between launching an accounting career
with a large, publicly held company and a smaller one.
A few decades ago, larger companies provided more time for new employees
to slip into the swing of things. Because new hires became a part of a
large group of professionals, aided by substantial support staffs, there
was less pressure to produce right away.
That's no longer the case. In today's belt-tightening business climate,
companies, from the smallest to the largest, are competing with fewer
employees. Everyone, veteran employees and beginners alike, need to pull
their weight every day. New hires are expected to hit the ground running,
as that cliche goes.
Launching an accounting career with a small or mid-sized firm is likely
to provide a greater breadth of experience than offered by a larger counterpart.
Smaller companies demand that their employees wear many hats. A recent
accounting graduate might not only work on accounting projects, but could
also be drawn into the company's marketing, sales, public relations, and
technology-driven activities. That can give a new accountant a valuable
breadth of business experience upon which to build a productive and fulfilling
Conversely, large corporations are likely to offer new accounting hires
the opportunity to focus upon a more specific set of accounting tasks.
In either case, the salient point is: no matter how recent accounting
graduates choose to launch their careers, it is the attitude they bring
to their first jobs that will determine their future professional successes.
As with virtually every other aspect of life, it is the quality of the
people, with whom we associate early in our careers, that takes center-stage.
Hopefully, every new accountant will benefit from the wisdom and knowledge
of caring mentors. And those mentors are to be found in every company,
no matter what its size.
Part of the debate, concerning the virtues of beginning an accounting
career in a large or small company, has to do with which experience best
prepares one for career growth.
Do the diverse responsibilities, gained by working in a smaller company,
transfer easily to future employment with a larger firm?
Does the exposure to a larger corporate world better prepare an accountant
to progress to a position of responsibility with a smaller company, perhaps
even a startup?
The answer to both questions is a predictable yes, and no.
To me, what really matters is that each person make the most of his or
her opportunity: big or small; public or private; east or west; or jeans
and T-shirts or corporate gray.
There will be those who flourish under a smaller company's introduction
to the workplace.
Others will benefit from beginning their accounting careers in the nation's
The key for every new accountant is the attitude he or she brings to that
important first job, no what the business setting.
Ultimately, it's up to you to make it work.