Targeting job hunting

Many experts say job-hunting consultants should head toward the smaller firms, which offer more stability and job openings. Yet big firms still hold great career value.
Written by Carl Weinschenk, Contributor

Many experts say job-hunting consultants should head toward the smaller firms, which offer more stability and job openings. Yet big firms still hold great career value. Here are a few of the pros and cons of both to help you direct your job search.

In today's tough employment market, many IT consultants seeking work are likely focused on just getting interviews. But experts advise consultants to make a big decision before sending out that first resume or query letter — namely, whether to aim for a job at a big firm or a small firm.

Thanks to a changing business landscape, the current economy, and different expert perspectives on what big and small enterprises offer today, there is no unilateral answer for which way to head. Both small and large firms have their strong points, but if you are looking for job stability in a tight economy, the best choice may surprise you.

Smaller firms weather the economy better
Many experts believe the job hunt should be focused on small niche firms that have a very focused approach and a streamlined business model, as they're well positioned in today's economy. Experts say that lean times favor the small firms over their bigger brethren and are a good target for job hunters.

"I think that smaller IT consultancies are doing better than the bigger firms in this environment," said Genelle Hung, an analyst with the Radicati Group Inc, a firm specialising in messaging and collaboration, directory services, email security, and unified communications. "We are actually seeing some significant growth this year after the initial dip about a year-and-a-half ago."

Yet, there are also big pros for working for bigger firms — such as the professional recognition that comes from working with a brand name. And there is obviously more opportunity in terms of work experiences, as bigger consultancies are generally better tied in with the bigger client enterprises needing comprehensive services.

"Larger firms definitely have the advantage of established reputations in the field, with broader client bases and probably greater finances on the whole to dip into when time are tough," Hung said.

But then again, the big firms have a much higher overhead — a financial element that can be a big problem in tough times.

"They also would probably tend to lose more business due to their higher prices and vendors facing budget cuts for research," noted Hung. Also, she added, small consultancies tend to gain reputations as being the "go-to" firms for specific tasks, another element that helps them weather a bad economy.

Job security no longer a big firm guarantee
A top reason why many consultants head to the big firms is for the job security factor. But thanks to the economy, it's no longer a compelling reason, as job security has dropped on that level as well. Getting a job at one of those firms simply isn't as much of a guarantee of a long-term job as it was in the past.

"My friends who went to smaller companies are still there," related Eugene Atangan, an IT professional. "The ones who went to bigger companies are looking for a job."

That is another reason why job seekers might want to favor the small, niche companies.

"If [the smaller firms] survived the last two or three years, you know they have something to sell," added Atangan. "If you asked me this question two years ago, it might have been different because there were so many niche players out there."

Smaller target, bigger pay off
In the end, of course, a job offer is a job offer to someone in need of employment. The key is to try to get that job offer from a company that will be able to avoid layoffs and offer promotions in the future — not to mention a company that actually has job openings. Right now, the smaller niche firms that have made it through this pitiful economy are likely the best choice to fulfill this long-term employment need. So when you are searching for companies to cast your job-hunting net over, don't forget to cast for the small fish — they might be exactly what you are looking for.

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