Small or large


In a workshop on the topic “Your path into industry,” we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of future employers. “More money, more jobs, more opportunities” is how Bertrand summarises the arguments for large companies. “This is a great starting point for our discussion,” I thank him. He looks at me as if he had already sealed all discussions with his statement. More money in bigger companies is usually correct. These companies pay according to the unionised wage (Chemietarif), which is generous after decades of negotiations and a constructive relationship between unions and employers: young professionals with a doctorate receive around 80,000 €, and those with a master’s degree receive about 69,000 €. Smaller companies pay about 15 to 20 percent less.

Smaller employers are less visible and, therefore have to make an effort to find and retain workers.

“More jobs?” I ask the group. “Per company, certainly, but looking at the economy as a whole, I doubt it,” Inge interjects. Start-ups and, in Germany, medium-sized businesses in particular, are a driving force for the labour market. The possibilities vary by the type of industry. Bertrand reports of a summer school run by a pharmaceutical giant that also offers “trainee programmes, their training academy, internal career mentors: I don’t know if you can top that.” Fair point.

However, there is something to be said for smaller employers: they are less visible and, therefore have to make an effort to find and retain workers. Many make up for their shortcomings compared with larger companies with flexibility, ingenuity, and external educational opportunities.

However, due to the large number of medium-sized companies, finding the right employer is not easy. Trade and lobby associations or technology parks help with the search. Companies that have just acquired public funding or venture capital will soon be interested in new employees – this is the time for an unsolicited application. You can use the information about small companies from patents, publications, or newspaper articles to make your application more personal.

In a big industry, you get a higher salary and a well-known name on your CV. Apart from that, whether you prefer a large or a smaller company is a matter of taste.

This article was first published in Nachrichten aus der Chemie (issue 10-2022). See here the German original.

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