Career is defined as a successful career advancement (Duden) and for many an important goal in life. An important building block for many employers. Employers have long been ranked by such as Great Place to Work, Trendence, Glasdoor or Kununu. All rankings have one thing in common: they distinguish between industries and company sizes such as:

  • Micro-enterprises (up to 9 employees)
  • Small businesses (up to 49 employees)
  • medium-sized enterprises (up to 249 employees)
  • large companies (employees until 1999)
  • Large companies/groups (from 2000 employees)

I know from my own experience that careers in small and large companies are very different. I would therefore like to give tips on careers in roughly two forms of company in this article:

  • Small and medium-sized enterprises (medium-sized enterprises – up to approx. 499 employees)
  • Large companies and corporations (from 5000 employees)
  • Companies with between 500 and 5000 employees are the so-called upper middle class and cannot be classified exactly. They are often a mixture of both categories. Then take a close look: Which processes and parts of the company are still category 1 and which are already category 2.

I believe, above all from my own experience, that there is a difference between the two size classes. Surely you can divide them differently, but my experience is about these two categories. I’ll give you tips on both categories. Of course there are still startups, but I would like to exclude them.

Reading tip: Difference between the Group and small and medium-sized enterprises

Career in small and medium-sized enterprises

Small and medium-sized enterprises are the engine of the German economy. According to the Institute for SME Research, 99.5% (approximately 3.4 million) of German enterprises are also known colloquially as small and medium-sized enterprises. Medium-sized companies employ around 58% of all employees and are responsible for 60% of all sales in Germany.

Although medium-sized enterprises are defined as owner-owned enterprises, this is not to be distinguished here.

Characteristics of small and medium-sized enterprises

Often the hierarchies are flat in the middle class and the mostly decentralized organizational structures offer the best career opportunities. Due to the often unbureaucratic decision-making paths, there are no direct criteria for a rise. As a graduate, you can often take on responsibility early on in small and medium-sized enterprises and get to know different areas.

Many medium-sized companies are world market leaders and rely on very sustainable growth and offer very flexible working models in the interests of employees.

Of course, there are many medium-sized companies, so I would like to focus on B2B Consulting companies.

Tips for small and medium-sized enterprises

The first ascent usually leads to professional skills and senior consultants in medium-sized companies. Afterwards, you usually quickly assume responsibility for a customer and thus also the sales department or they build up an area. For me, a career in small and medium-sized businesses means entrepreneurship and sales. Due to the small number of employees, there are usually few managers and no direct vacancies. So you have to build an area for yourself.

Reading tip: Become a senior

Especially for makers, there are good career opportunities in small and medium-sized enterprises. You have to make a difference and show initiative, such as building a new location or building customers for the company. Due to the flat hierarchies with short, unbureaucratic decision-making paths, this path is often quickly open to you. If you master the setup, you have quickly ascended in the hierarchy. So they grow with the company.

An important factor of the ascent are good personal networks and partnerships with other service providers to win tenders from customers. They often have to work with other companies because of their small size. For example, as a service provider for CRM systems with management advice, you could offer a broader portfolio. So you have to have a large network outside the company and a long contact list in Xing. Of course, you should also know the employees of your own company well.

Note that it is important that the medium-sized company of your choice should currently grow strongly and be successful, otherwise there will be no chance for you. Therefore, look around which medium-sized company in your region is building up right. I see in the middle class that with the end of growth the chances also decrease and one tends to change jobs more often every 5 years.

My tip for experienced professionals: It can often also be worthwhile to apply to the Group with management experience. Thanks to the fast-accumulated experience in small and medium-sized enterprises, an attractive change could be worthwhile.


  • Rise in small and medium-sized businesses is linked to the development of a customer or area
  • Rise in the middle class demands makers and generalists
  • Rise in small and medium-sized enterprises means taking over sales
  • Rise in small and medium-sized enterprises calls for external contacts

Career in the Group

The 30 DAX Companies are the pride of the German economy and especially our car manufacturers have a dominance in the world despite some setbacks. It is the corporations that:

  • the cars of the future,
  • The shoe of tomorrow,
  • Shaping the medicine of tomorrow and
  • many other large-scale projects.

In the medium-sized sector, the projects are rather smaller or support the corporations in this. Due to the size of the corporations, it is possible to try out numerous jobs without having to leave the company.

Characteristics of the groups

Corporations are considered to be very structured and have a large number of employees. Projects often have large dimensions and many stakeholders and careers take place in programmes. Furthermore, the specialistism is very imprinted. Internal know-how of the group-specific processes is also very important.

One often hears that one should only be the smallest wheel in the Group and easily perishes. Career seems difficult for many in such a pool. But it is corporations that build the cars of the future and carry out large-scale projects. Small and medium-sized enterprises often support this as a supplier.

Tips for corporations

In fact, the career sit-in in the Group is completely different from that of small and medium-sized enterprises. The first point is that you are now in a large ecosystem. Corporations are often as big as cities and therefore networking or trade fairs outside the company is no longer important, but only internal contacts and events. In this way, Xing and contact with service providers fade into the background, as there is usually also an internal social network.

The second point is specialization in the form of group experience but also on an activity such as Scrum Master or developer for JavaJEE at the company’s own middleware, so that you have a clear activity profile for the Group. Knowledge of group-specific processes is also very important.

The third point is that due to the size, the contact with the manager is often not as close as in the middle class. It is therefore advisable to pursue a real lighthouse project. Such a project is characterized by the fact that it has the absolute management attention of the manager. This will keep you in the memory and will not disappear into the crowd.

Reading tip: Become a leader

The fourth point is that a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that you should have made it to 35 among executives. Of course, this is not absolute, but there is a clear trend. One reason is that the leadership career often takes place in programs that are largely designed for “young potentials”. In this program you are prepared for an assessment center and have to take a few years. Allianz handles this, for example, through an assistance program of the e.g. executive board or top managers. At VW, this is represented by an internal academy.

My tip for experienced professionals: If you already have some professional experience in the Group and are not making any progress, it may be useful to switch to small and medium-sized enterprises. I notice that especially service providers of your Group like to make you a team leader and appreciate the Group experience. Wirtschaftswoche also believes:Old bunny instead of Greenhorn: Experienced colleagues are increasingly valued.


  • Ascension within the Group demands internal contacts and knowledge of internal processes
  • Ascension in the Group is often associated with strong specialization
  • Ascension in the Group means understanding the company’s policy
  • Ascension in the Group is linked to participation in a trainee program for managers

Conclusion: What suits you?

Now it is important for you to choose whether you are more suited to small and medium-sized enterprises or corporations. If you like structure, want to build large projects and prefer to build a network in a company, then you are right in the Group. If you are more of a generalist with a high startup spirit, try it in the middle class. Where do you prefer to work? tell me in the short survey.

Wo arbeiten Sie lieber?

Limitation: Of course, not every group is the same, nor is it the same for every medium-sized company. Even a small company can be slow and bureaucratic, and a company can be fast and agile. It is important for you to make the decision individually. I only give my experience here.

Image Source: Business Photo Created by javi_indy –

Genderhinweis: Ich habe zur leichteren Lesbarkeit die männliche Form verwendet. Sofern keine explizite Unterscheidung getroffen wird, sind daher stets sowohl Frauen, Diverse als auch Männer sowie Menschen jeder Herkunft und Nation gemeint. Lesen Sie mehr dazu.

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I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.

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