Looking for an internship or graduate job in a small, friendly team where you’ll be valued, given responsibility and have the opportunity to make your mark? Then you should be considering opportunities with small businesses, especially as new research has highlighted just how keen they are to open their doors to students and graduates.
A new survey has found that 72% of small businesses intend to recruit between one and five student interns in the next twelve months – and many of them regard internship as a potential route to graduate employment. The survey findings are included in a report, Smaller Businesses. A positive career choice for graduates?, produced by GTI Media, the parent company of TARGETjobs, and Step, the leading UK provider of paid work placements.
The report is based on a survey of 250 small businesses and gives a real insight into why working for a small employer is such a good option for graduates, even if it is often overlooked. It was launched yesterday at the first Graduates into Smaller Businesses conference in Birmingham, which was organised by the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services and supported by GTI Media and Step.
Why small businesses want graduates
Small businesses often recruit graduates to meet an immediate need, and this was the case for 38% of respondents to the survey. However, this is not the only motivation. Each of the following reasons for hiring graduates was referred to by around one-fifth of the small businesses that took part:
- Graduate recruits’ potential as future managers.
- Need for knowledge and skills, often technical skills, that were lacking in the business.
- Need for fresh ideas and thinking.
Small businesses are also often keen to build good relationships with their local communities. These are some of the reasons they gave for offering internships and work experience:
- To give back! To help a local student potentially have somewhere to come on completion of their degree.
- To support our local community.
- To provide a local student with valuable work experience – it’s not just about us.
Calling all entrepreneurs: seek your chance to shine
If you don’t fancy being slowed down by bureaucracy, you might find a small business is the ideal place for you to make an impact. Here are some comments from the survey that illustrate the advantages of working for a small business:
- If employed by a smaller firm, you become a fundamental part of their team – a key player rather than having a bit part. Opportunities can arise quickly to become more involved in the management/ownership of a smaller business and have more control within the firm.
- Agility, making a difference, being heard, minimal bureaucracy, learning to be an entrepreneur.
- Bright, driven, motivated, creative people shine brightly in smaller organisations and therefore could get better opportunities for responsibility and experience than being one of many in a large organisation.
- Be part of something that’s growing. You will create more impact and be closer to the point of decision making. More fun, ambitious and entrepreneurial.
Small businesses and the personal approach to recruitment
From a student’s point of view, smaller businesses don’t have much of a presence or brand on campus and it can be harder to find out about the opportunities on offer. A survey of 1,000 students undertaken by the NUS found that a third had heard nothing about smaller employers on campus, although 87% said they would be willing or very willing to start their career with an organisation of this type.
Small businesses often rely heavily on personal contact and recommendation when hiring, and, just like the big graduate recruiters, it can work out well for them to hire future interns. Some cultivate relationships with their local universities or Chambers of Commerce. Others may offer placements through the Step programme, and they may be responsive to speculative applications.
Chris Phillips, the UK information and research director at GTI Media, said, ‘There is little growth in vacancies from the big brands of graduate recruitment but it’s far more difficult for students to access opportunities with small businesses and far more difficult for smaller businesses to recruit from universities. We need to take action now to bring willing students and willing employers together.’
More advice on finding a graduate job with a small business
- Ten good reasons to look for work experience with a small employer
- The joys of the small business graduate scheme
- Find out more about the Step paid work experience programme
- Read the report, Smaller businesses – a positive career choice for graduates?
- Read a blog post from Chris Phillips, UK information and research director at GTI Media, about graduate career prospects with small businesses