Considerations when deciding between an SME or an MNC/PLC career path

Mar 05, 2021
After qualification you have a year or two to try out a few different organisations, roles and sectors.  It is worth being vigilant however about whether a corporate path or an SME path is the one that will suit you once your career is up and running. So here are a few suggestions on what to consider in each regard:

Q Are you coming from a large or small training practice and is your client base large corporates or family based indigenous business?

Q Do you enjoy the large scaled busy corporate enterprise culture and environment or, looking into the future, do you feel a family sized operation with a small finance division is more your style?

  • In an SME you will enjoy a smaller working environment, flatter structure, closer contact with clients and more of a local feel
  • Would you like to go beyond the confines of finance and have added commercial business responsibilities getting involved in operational decisions and strategic decision and perhaps directly impacting the growth of employees and revenue in the organization?
  • An SME can be more greatly impacted by macroeconomic forces in the future but at the same time it can be very exciting to be part of an accelerated expansion in a small business
  • When deciding to join an SME first assess if the sector is robust into the future.  Is it a future proof business?
  • Many qualifying ACAs have strong communication skills and professional relationship building acumen and this lends itself well to a Corporate multinational culture
  • If you display good EI and are savvy when it comes to internal politics these can assist your ambitions to move up through the corporate ladder to C-suite level
  • Strong leadership attributes are often highly regarded in the corporate space
  • Work-life balance often can be less of a feature with multinational life versus SME
  • Multinationals tend to remunerate better than SMEs and have better benefit packages in general. 
Speak to a few mentors who know you well and are commercially knowledgeable and ask them to judge which track might be best for you. 

Compare a variety of job specs for ACA newly quals in both the corporate and SME sector and review what is being sought. 

Take a look at the profiles of ACAs three, five or eight years into their career path in both MNCs and then SME businesses by comparison and get a sense of where you might fit best. 

When planning for your career five or 10 years ahead there is no magic recipe or template. More often you will decide your direction on a gut feeling and impression but make sure that feeling is well researched.

Dave Riordan ACA
Career Coach and Recruitment Specialist
Chartered Accountants Ireland