Staying Small, Making It Big

The big city lights were calling me. At least, I thought so. As I went through the job application process during my final semester at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I set my sights on big, brand name corporations in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. Whether in public relations, advertising or marketing, I thought my niche was in a downtown skyscraper.

Turns out, getting my foot in the giant steel-framed glass door proved more difficult than expected. Months of holding out for an interview, callback or email from the big city bosses yielded no results whatsoever. It’s quite a reality check to have your friends about to graduate to jobs at Leo Burnett and JWT while you’re set to boomerang back to your small hometown.

But I found an even bigger reality check in one of my dad’s old issues of the Wall Street Journal when I came home for a weekend a month or so before graduation. The article, which focused on the flocking of experienced workers from large companies to smaller professional firms during the economic throes of 2008, included this quote:

There is a significant upside for professionals moving from a big pond to a smaller one. Senior managers at small and midsize firms often find opportunities to take on more responsibility, earn greater recognition for successes, gain ample exposure to new practice areas and have a more direct impact on a company’s bottom line. Read the full article here.

I think these same benefits apply to young professionals and recent graduates. Of course there are certain advantages employment at Fortune 500 companies provides, such as name recognition on résumé and networking with famed colleagues. But there’s something about the chance to make a real difference in the company’s success that started to appeal to me.

My intern position at Red Shoes PR, Inc. embodies that ideal as I provide support for seven other co-workers who are as passionate about providing a valuable professional experience for me as they are about effectively serving our clients. Of course I won’t be running an account anytime soon, but I am already very involved in the process of communicating with and for clients through media relations, internal communications and social media.

I didn’t graduate onto the bottom of a corporate ladder. My education continues in an office instead of a classroom, and I’ve landed in a small-scale environment where collaboration surpasses hierarchy. Right now, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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