Home > Asset Management, Career Advancement, Job Hunting, Self-Improvement > So the big firm or the small firm?

So the big firm or the small firm?

At some point you are going to ask yourself: Do I want to be a small fish in a big pond or a big fish in a small pond? It’s a tough decision.

A big fish in a small pond can be an attractive idea to everyone. Some headhunter called me again yesterday, another marketing/investor relations/client-facing position at another boutique fast-growing HF. More freedom, more flexibility, and more money: the rosy picture of the so-called “fast-track”.

I would by no means want to discourage those who want to really step up in their career, but before you get too much ahead of yourself, take a moment to think about the following:

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Success here doesn’t promise your greatness there

You might be very good at a big firm, but chances are this it not because of who you are and what you are capable of (of course these matters big time too), but more importantly because of the training you get, the resources you have at your disposal, and the whole supporting platform that lies in every aspect of your work life.

Your big company may subscribe to a lot of publications, special reports, and listserves that will foster your understanding of the market, they may have a well-designed fully integrated CRM (client/customer relationship management) system that will facilitate your communication with the clients, and they may have a strong analytical department or a library/research function whom you can turn to whenever you demand new data.

The fact is, no matter how great you are as a person, you are inevitably wearing different hats (thanks to your big firm), and you might not be who you are (and who you want to be) without these hats. Everything that comes naturally to you and seems so easily accessible to you may become remote when you leave your hats behind.

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The pitfall of the fast track

If you really want to go to a smaller firm, go for the growth potential and learning opportunity. But just remind yourself “your money will be doubled” is not necessarily a good thing in the long run. Do understand why they give you such big bucks in the first place, and remember what you can do in a big firm may not be that easy to replicate at a place much scaled down.

The bottom line is: bigger return is always associated with bigger risk. Most importantly understand that when you cannot achieve what you are hired to achieve, nobody can guarantee there’s still a spot for you tomorrow.

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The big firm is not the problem

A big firm is not the problem; a big team could be. It’s the feeling of getting stuck at just one place, the feeling of not stepping forward, the feeling of yourself as just one of the many knights on a chessboard. Another way of looking at this, if the senior management on your team is focused on politics but not on developing business and you feel you are not happy or you’re not learning anymore, it’s probably time to consider a change.

But change doesn’t happen with a blink of an eye, and the so-called change doesn’t necessarily mean you have to switch to another firm.

Your path of career is like a journey to a faraway place, it doesn’t matter where you are going, but it matters who you are going with. If you happen to be at a big firm right now, instead of thinking about your next jump, try to learn from the most innovative people leading your team and try to get to the core of the industry. If one day you are to leave, it is never about the contact list you can take with you (that’s against the Code of Ethics anyway). Without the big name backing you up, chances are those business cards may simply mean no value to you or your next employer.

But if you actually understand how the industry works and how business is done, nobody can take that away from you either.

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So as I guess you know what to focus on no matter where you are, right? 🙂

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