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IT and technology

How to find graduate IT jobs in SMEs

Small companies (SMEs) offer the lion's share of graduate vacancies in IT. Find out how you can seek out these small but important players in the IT job market and take advantage of the big opportunities they offer.
SMEs are likely to take into consideration your experience, individuality and creativity rather than simply your academic achievements.

Small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are vital to the UK economy and the job-hunting graduate. In fact, new recruits are more likely to get their first job in an SME than in a large corporation. Despite this, many IT graduates fail to consider SMEs seriously in their job-hunt. This is limited thinking when the UK has many successful small technology companies offering innovative solutions, software, services and job opportunities.

Tracking down small IT companies

Finding entry-level jobs in technology SMEs requires looking in the right places.

  • Look on specialist IT job boards and, of course, on targetjobsit.co.uk for trainee and junior positions.
  • University careers services are an important port of call for SME job-hunting. Many build close links with local employers for both full-time and work experience vacancies.
  • Check out the local science/business park – this is where many small tech firms reside. Go to the United Kingdom Science Park Association website to track down those near you.
  • Networking can be a big help when looking for a job with an SME: speak to your friends, tutors and people on your course to see if you can get any leads.
  • You can also find temporary placements in SMEs via the Step website (www.step.org.uk).

High-tech on spec

Speculative applications are one of the main routes into smaller companies. Your covering letter will be your first point of contact, so it’s important that it’s concise and gives details of what you can offer the organisation, rather than what you want to get out of them. Find out who’s responsible for recruitment and address the letter to them directly. Always follow up a speculative application with a call a few days later.

When responding directly to advertised positions, read instructions about how to apply carefully and make sure you match your skills to those requested in the advert or job description.

SMEs are likely to take into consideration your experience, individuality and creativity rather than simply your academic achievements. As such, it’s important to sell yourself and skills well in your application. Make the effort to tailor it to the specific firm and role that you have applied for and you’ll have more success landing the job.

Advantages of SMEs

An SME is a company with fewer than 250 employees, so you can expect a close-knit work environment. At the same time, employees within smaller firms are often given a high level of autonomy and early responsibility. However, you won’t have to fend for yourself. Having fewer people within a business usually leads to a more open and inclusive culture.

In an SME it can be easier for your individual contribution to be recognised than in a large company, which can result in a greater sense of engagement with your work and the company. Managers and even directors are often more accessible and often have greater involvement in the day-to-day work of the business. At the same time, smaller employers also often allow for a greater degree of flexibility in the workplace, for example allowing staff to keep more flexible hours.

Salaries and training

Starting salaries are often a bit lower than some of the very large IT graduate employers, but technology companies tend to compare and match their salaries to the going rate for the level of the role. Training in SMEs tends to be more informal than a ‘graduate programme’ and most of your training will be done on the job. In some ways you may have more freedom to shape your own path, picking the training you feel is necessary to perform your role.

SMEs are characteristically agile businesses that bring together employees with an innovative and pragmatic mindset. For this reason, working for an SME won’t hold your career back. SME employees are often very adaptable and capable of working across a range of roles or business areas and often have the ability to switch into new activities easily. This is a great way to build a broad range of experience and progress quickly, if you are proactive and flexible in your thinking.

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