Is Small or Big Shop IT for You?

Rather than only consider salary and title, new graduates should consider what size company they prefer, as each presents a very different career.

When most graduates consider where they would like to begin their careers, they consider cities, salaries and job titles; much more rarely do they consider one core feature of an organization that will drastically change the nature of their job: the size of the company.

Few places is this more apparent than in IT, where small IT shops are usually run by people and large ones by structure and processes.

"In a small shop, one person may be a part-time QA tester or project manager; at a large shop, that's all they--or even a team of people like them--may do. It's what they'll spend all of their time on and something that they'll come to master through a high level of specialization and dedication," Marc Cecere, Forrester vice president, told eWEEK.

In new research, Cecere finds that SMBs are less standardized, more constrained in capacity and more likely to be organized around technologies than their Global 2000 counterparts.

Yet these factors really play out the most clearly on the employee level, where IT workers often do multiple jobs simultaneously, get much less, if any, specialized training and have fewer opportunities for career advancement.

To Specialize or Not?

On the other end of the spectrum, large shops tend to be very standardized and organize themselves around business units. Employees tend to be very specialized and have a lot more opportunity for career advancement.

Though these contrasts may make a large IT shop - with its emphasis on training and clearly carved-out roles - the best place for an inexperienced IT professional, this is not always the case.

"If you're a college graduate and you go to a large IT shop, they'll carve out a small area for you to work in and you'll get a lot of training, inside and outside your company. There will be more people to mentor you, but you'll only have a really narrow area of expertise," said Cecere.

Most people haven't chosen a specialization within their field right out of college, but figure out what they have the strongest interest in over the early and middle years of their career. At times, people who specialized in a specific technology or process too early in their career have a hard time moving into other areas down the road.

"In the small shops, you do a lot more. Today, you may be configuring servers or a PC, but the next day you may be working on the network, so this is a great place for college graduates looking to get a wide range of experience," said Cecere.

Nevertheless, small shops are much less likely to be an option for new graduates, as most do not have the training capacity to take on inexperienced recruits.

"SMBs need people who know what needs to be done from day one... there simply isn't the same opportunity there for new graduates," Cecere said.