It’s coming up to a year since I started my job, so I thought I’d share a few insights into my experience of moving from small organisations to a fairly big institution. I hope this will be of interest whether you have a similar work background or not, if you’re thinking about a move or you’re simply curious.
In November 2018 I started as a communications manager at a university in the south east of England. Before this I’d spent five years building experience in small-to-medium charities focused on education, social action and culture. You can read about my job search if you’d like more background.
Here are some differences I’ve noted along the way.
There are lots more people
Obvious point? Probably, but it is the biggest difference.
I’ve made peace with the fact I’m unlikely to ever know every other employee by name. There are people I know well, people I know from group meetings and others I recognise because we get in at the same time but work in different offices.
I remember seeing references to people like ‘Janet-in-finance’ in women’s fiction I read as a teenager. I didn’t have that experience in the places I worked up to now because there were eight or thirty people, not 2,000. As part of a team within a department within a division within a large organisation, I definitely have my own versions of Janet. To many, I’m Molly-in-comms.
Working in a specialised team
Rather than being a team of one, or a sole communicator, I get to work with more people in my area and learn from seeing how they do their jobs. This was something I identified I wanted during my job search.
At the same time, while I have more responsibilities than in previous jobs, my role is also better defined. I manage central communications with current students, while others focus on different internal audiences, like staff, or external communications.
Starting my career in small organisations meant I got to learn the ropes and take on projects pretty quickly. (Here’s a rundown of my graduate scheme experience written in 2016.) Smaller teams can be amazing places for genuine relationships and great ideas to form. If you’re keen to try out different roles and you’re not as fixed in terms of location, then moving between smaller places can give you a really good foundation for an interesting work life.
Last year I felt a pull to try somewhere bigger, to stretch myself and expand my options down the line. Working in a larger team and division, there’s potentially more room for development and changing jobs without leaving the organisation. I don’t know what the next couple of years will bring or how I’ll feel in the future but I’m happy with where I’ve ended up.
I got a good pay increase when I moved jobs due to changing sectors and the scope of the role. My contract is three years fixed-term, which is the longest I’ve had. This added security means I’m able to save more and plan for the future. As I wrote in a previous post about precarious work, it’s easier to manage uncertainty and do good work with a stable foundation.
Does size matter?
There are appealing elements of both options and I’d really recommend working in differently sized places. I got so much out of working in smaller organisations early in my career and those experiences definitely helped me to get my current job. Right now I’m pleased to be where I am, working alongside a team in my area and heading into another year.