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Types of employer

Watch three Cardiff University alumni talking about the benefits of working in an SME.

Discover the different kinds of employer you could encounter in your working life.

Your approach to finding work will be determined by the type of employer you want to work for.

Large companies

These employers are the household names which tend to feature in the Times Top 100 or The Guardian UK 300 listings. They cover nearly all sectors of the economy and the range of jobs and graduate training schemes they offer is huge.

Many students are attracted to working with these organisations and big employers will often run large recruitment campaigns at many universities (including Cardiff University) to attract large numbers of applicants in order to meet their high recruitment targets.

In recent years, the highest number of graduate vacancies offered has been within the large accounting, banking and finance firms.

The benefits of working for a large company include:

  • structured training and development programmes in your early years
  • established career progression within the organisation, subject to performance
  • good starting salary and benefits package
  • opportunities to move within the organisation, across functions and often geographically
  • initial training and experience that other employers will value.

Some recruits find that the level of work they are asked to do in the early years does not quite live up to their expectations. It can also be more difficult to get established and noticed in a larger organisation.

It's also worth noting that large organisations and the values within them can differ greatly. How you fit in can be an important element of how happy and successful you are in that employment.

As a general rule, the bigger organisations will have early closing dates – usually between November and January, but watch out for some of the very early ones such as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at the end of September – a whole 12 months before the job starts.

Small and medium-sized enterprises

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are businesses that employ fewer than 250 people. SMEs tend to be new, growing businesses across a wide range of sectors including IT, media, manufacturing and finance.

Graduates joining an SME will usually have specific skills or technical knowledge that are directly relevant to that business.

Recruitment tends to be through direct job adverts or through speculative approaches and you are less likely to see the words graduate training scheme attached to these vacancies. Few SMEs have the resource to recruit actively on campus in the way that large firms do.

Look beyond the label.  A job for a graduate with good training and the opportunity for advancement can be every bit as good as the one labelled graduate training scheme.

The benefits of working for a small or medium-sized companies include:

  • real hands-on experience with accountability from the start
  • your experience is not necessarily limited to one business function
  • less hierarchical so more potential for contact with senior managers
  • salaries, while not so high at the outset, can rise rapidly as you become established.

SMEs will not have as extensive a recruitment exercise nationally, and may visit very few universities. They may not appear in directories, but they will still advertise their vacancies.

You are more likely to find these on the company website, a range of recruitment websites or advertised in professional journals or through recruitment consultants.

Find out more about searching for jobs.

Social enterprises

Social enterprise is a growing business model in the UK. A social enterprise is an ordinary business where the profits are reinvested into the community or into charitable causes, or where the employees are targeted groups of workers from deprived areas or disadvantaged groups.

Social enterprises are not charities. The business is run for profit and does not depend on money from donors or government.

Examples of well known social enterprise businesses include:

Contact us

For advice on employers, please get in touch:

Careers and Employability