Big or Small Company

Dear Anita,

A few years ago, I was hired in an accounting role at a small company of about 12-15 employees. I thought the company was poised for growth. As time went by, I was gradually given more responsibility in the HR area, and I’m also the head of the company’s culture committee. Problem is, I’m feeling overwhelmed and burned out. I’m putting in hours on the weekend just to stay on top of the emails. I’m considering looking for a new job, but don’t want to get into a similar situation in another minor-league business. Should I look for a job in a bigger corporation where I won’t have to do the work of two or more people?

Big Corporation vs Small BusinessDear “Stretched Thin,”

Some companies confuse running short-staffed with running lean. Leftover hiring freezes from the Great Recession may need to be reassessed.

You are clearly showing some of U.S. News & World Report’s 6 Signs You Have Too Much on Your Plate. Before you resign from your job, schedule a tête-à-tête with your supervisor. Explain the consequences to the company of being understaffed – emails not being returned, late payments due to your workload, whatever it happens to be in your case. Provide suggestions for solutions. Can the company budget for a separate HR person, full- or part-time? Is it possible to hire an assistant? Can you use a temporary worker or a Virtual Assistant (VA)? Perhaps a payrolling service take some of the burden from your shoulders.

Really think through the decision to Stay or Quit. If you do decide to leave your company, make sure you don’t jump from a frying pan into – well, another frying pan. Larger companies may (note the italics for emphasis) be more sufficiently staffed than a struggling small business.

Check out reviews for potential employers on (granted, this is easier to do for a larger organization than a mom-and-pop shop). Watch for red flag keywords like “crazy hours,” “understaffed,” “huge workload,” “high pressure,” and the like. If there a lot of employees who have worked there less than a year before leaving, it could be an indication of a toxic environment.

You may not find much feedback online for local companies. Leverage your LinkedIn 2nd or 3rd degree connections and talk to those in your local network face-to-face (or voice-to-voice on the phone) to see if you can get the inside scoop on what’s it’s like working for the small-town business that has a job opening.

There are pros and cons to working in a big business versus an entrepreneurial enterprise. A perk of working for a large corporation with deeper pockets is they may offer better salaries and benefits, including more opportunities for personal development – conferences, seminars, or even tuition reimbursement. The bigger the business, the more they can specialize job functions, which would be an improvement over your dual-role situation. (Or would you miss wearing many hats and the diversity of duties that a small or start-up company demands?) The structure of a megacorporation provides the illusion of security, but being part of a massive layoff at a big business can affect your pocketbook just as much as being the last one hired, first one fired at a small firm. There may be more opportunities for lateral or upward movement in a robust larger business.

Lonely CubicleComing from a smaller, more nimble company, you may not be ready for the sluggish pace of change in a bureaucratic corporate machine. (It’s easier to maneuver a speedboat than a giant cruiseship!) But a company with systems in place could be a refreshing change from a chaotic start-up mentality. If you’re a people person and like the your close-knit “dirty dozen” in your small office, you may feel disconnected at a large monolith corporation where you don’t know 80% of your coworkers, who may not even be in the same state… or the same country.

Being a big fish in a small company pond means your successes may be more noticeable but, on the flip side, so will your failures. While some small start-ups expect long hours from their employees, mom-and-pop establishments may be more flexible for a better work/life balance; managers in large corporations have to enforce policies more stringently to avoid the appearance of favoritism.

Being given additional tasks you weren’t originally hired for can be disheartening, but look on the bright side. You can take your on-the-job HR involvement and translate into as little as a résumé bullet point or as large as a new career path.

Readers: Do you prefer working for a large company or a small business? Why?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Writing a Professional Mission Statement

Hey Anita,

I recently graduated from college, but haven’t found a good job yet. I read in one of your past blogs [Target Your Perfect Job] that having a mission statement can help you find the right career path. Can you help me write one? I really want a job that helps society but still pays a good salary.

Professional mission statementDear “Man on a Mission,”

Companies create mission statements to provide a compass for their organization. By knowing why the company exists and what it intends to accomplish, the mission statement creates boundaries on which to base strategies and decisions. Creating your own professional mission statement can help you recognize your values and strengths, and then find a company that will recognize and reward those attributes. If you’re clear on your ideals, you can more easily sort through the job opportunities that come your way.

Start by defining your core values (up to five). If you’re uncertain how to put them into words, here’s a list of 500 core values. Select the ones that resonate with you.

Using these as the foundation, create your professional mission statement. Adapt Forbes four essential questions for a business mission statement to a professional mission statement:

  • What do you do?
  • How do you do it?
  • Whom do you do it for?*
    *This is the unknown in the job seeker’s equation. Solve for x = your future employer.
  • What value are you bringing?

Project Manager Susanne Madsen recommends honestly answering the following three questions to craft your mission statement:

  • What personal qualities do you most want to focus on?
  • How can you use and display these qualities in a working environment?
  • What are the most important values you want to express at work?

You needn’t get too wordy. In fact, the more succinct the better. An abbreviated, career-focused mission statement may be used by beginning job seekers in place of the “Objective” on a résumé.

Amy Louise-Goldberg offers this pithy formula on the Idealist Careers website:

“To combine/synthesize/integrate/leverage (or similar verbs) my experience in _______ (a) with my interest in _______ (b) to _______ (c) for _______ (d)”

In this format, “a” and “b” are nouns reflecting areas of existing expertise and target career field, “c” is a verb representing how you would like to contribute to a company and “d” is an adjective plus a noun that encompass the type of organization that would be attractive to you.

Your professional mission statement is a living document, not chiseled in stone. Feel free to update it anytime you have an “aha” moment about something you would like (or not like) to do in your career.

Now, to address your desire for making good wages while benefitting society. Teachers, social workers, and employees of nonprofit organizations are sadly not known for making decent salaries. But more corporations are trying to change the world, or at least improve their corner of the it.  Check out the 100 Best Corporate Citizens from Corporate Responsibility (CR) magazine. It will inspire your search for a well-paid position at a social good company with a mission statement that parallels your own.

Readers: Share your professional mission statement below.

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Tell the Summer Slump to Take a Hike


I manage the marketing team in our corporate office. I’m noticing a summertime strain of cabin fever. My team seems to be lethargic and our meetings are not as productive as usual – the ideas just aren’t flowing. Do you have any insight?

Dear “Making Hay While the Sun Shines,”

Coworkers hiking in woodsI can understand this outbreak of summer doldrums in your office. Kids are having fun at camps, emails to coworkers come back with an OOO (Out of Office) auto-reply, and friends are posting sun-drenched travel photos on Facebook. It’s enough to turn anyone green with vacation envy.

Back in the 1960s, advertising agencies noticed a decrease in productivity as summer weekends approached. Taking a “why fight it” approach, agencies instituted half-day Summer Fridays between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The practice, which fanned out to other industries, has pros and cons; while an early release Friday may push employees to complete more in four hours, the casual atmosphere could lead to slacking off.  If your company can’t institute half-day Fridays across the board, encourage your team to take vacation days or PTO to enjoy spending time with family and friends in the  glorious weather.

Your “bored” room meetings may be an indicator the team is in a rut. And who would feel inspired in a stagnant conference room? Generally geared for projectors and screens, there’s little natural light.  Health care tech company Epic Systems headquarters has on its campus a whimsical treehouse employees may use for a stimulating meeting space. The Japanese believe the practice of shinrin-yoku (literally “forest bathing”) increases the ability to focus, among other benefits. A study in collaboration with Outward Bound found that after a four-day immersion in nature (and disconnection from technology), creative reasoning and problem-solving improved by 50%. While taking your marketing department on a four-day hike may not be feasible, simply walking your weekly meeting to a nearby park or Group of business people at beachan alfresco lunch can spur breakthrough thinking. Stanford University studies found walking increases creativity by 81%, 88%, even 100%.

A full-blown fun-in-the-sun team-building event may be the catalyst for your creative team’s breakthrough. See my blog post, “Make Team-Building a Picnic,” to get your staffers out of the workaday environment and into natural surroundings for a day of productive play. Infusing the event with a tropical theme (Hawaiian shirts, mocktails with umbrellas, and team sand-castle building) may help chase away that summer slump.

Readers: What’s your cure for the summertime blues at work?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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What to Wear to Work in Summer

Dear Anita,

It’s so hot and humid! How can I dress for comfort during summer yet maintain a professional image at work?

Dear “Hot Under the Collar,”

Unless you’re a lifeguard, you can’t get away with wearing beachwear to work. (In fact, that’s a good litmus test: “Would I wear this to the beach?” If the answer is yes, don’t wear it to work!)

Even though less is more when it comes to summer dressing, don’t take it too far. Forgo the panty hose and tights, but make sure you don’t show too much leg with a too-short mini skirt. Cropped pants or culottes may give your ankles a breeze while not ruffling feathers in the HR department. Depending on your company’s dress code, sandals may be allowed, but flip-flops, in my opinion, are never copacetic for work (that thwack-thwack-thwack is so distracting!).

Bare arms may be acceptable – thanks,  Michelle Obama! – but spaghetti straps are not office-appropriate. Be sure to bring a cardigan or blazer so you don’t catch a cold when you enter your hermetically-sealed 68-degree air-conditioned office. (Think that’s just an old wives’ tale? The Wall Street Journal published an article on the effects of going in and out of air conditioning.)

Check out my Pinterest board for summer wardrobe inspiration.

When diving into your closet to select a summer wardrobe, check clothing labels, not for the designer name, but for the fabric content. Breathable fabrics like cotton or linen keep you cooler than synthetic fabrics like nylon which, because they don’t absorb moisture well, can leave you feeling clammy in high temps. Seersucker is a cotton fabric woven in a puckered style so it lifts off your skin and allows air to circulate. In that vein, looser-fitting clothes (without looking sloppy) can be more comfortable than bodycon fashions. Opt for an unstructured dress rather than pencil skirt with tucked in blouse, cinched with a leather belt. That’s just asking for a sweat-soaked “spare tire.” Performance fabrics wick sweat away from your body. The trend started in athletic wear, but you no longer have to look like you’re ready for your gym workout. These value-added textiles are going mainstream; you can now find polos and dress shirts made from performance fabrics.

Color matters, too. There’s a reason white and light colors are popular in the summer. While black may be slimming, it also absorbs more heat (technically, black absorbs more light which is converted to heat). And there’s just something psychological about wearing a fun summer floral that feels more refreshing than drab winter hues.

With these tips, you can avoid cooling yourself Marilyn Monroe-style over a subway grate, like viral Reddit “Cape Man.”

Readers: Describe your favorite hot-weather office-appropriate outfit.

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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