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Yesterday, a Movemeon member gave me a call to ask my advice. He wants to join a smaller company – a small enterprise or SME. And he wanted to know how to do it and what would give him the greatest chance of success. This “career transition” or sidestep is a popular theme at the moment, particularly leaving larger firms to work at smaller ones where the feeling is that one gets more responsibility and can get more done thanks to little / no bureaucracy. Here’s a summary of what I said (for context, the member is a former consultant who’s spent 1-2 years in strategy at a large food & drinks company).

You need to show that you can DO stuff

If you’ve only worked in consulting/advisory and/or a large corporate, the SME / start-up’s fear will be that you’re all thinking and no doing. You need to prove that you’re a doer too. So really emphasise in your CV stuff that you have done yourself off your own bat (at work or outside) and the impact that it had.

You can only make 1 sideways move at once

By this, I mean that it’s hard to change company size, industry, function and location all at once. Your application would lack a natural story. You might have to go back to the bottom of the seniority pile. If the focus is to get into a smaller business, make that your sideways move. This means that your greatest chance of success will be (in this example) moving into a strategic / business development role ( the same function) in a small & growing food & drinks company (same industry).

You have to think long term

Because it’s easiest to only make 1 sideways move at once, you might need to make multiple moves to get where you want to be in 10 years time. This starts by having a clear 10-year goal (step 1) and then working towards it with a series of moves. A great analogy is with a chess game. Or snooker. You can’t get to checkmate in 1 move. You can’t clear the table in 1 shot. But you can do either with multiple moves that are planned and link together. You’ll also have a career story that hangs together.

There is an exception to the 1 sideways move at once rule

And that’s convincing someone to take a chance on you. This is most likely to happen if you’re being hired by someone who knows you / is recommended you (friend or a friend of a friend) or someone who can identify with your background (former colleagues/alumni from work or university).

Start by making a list of target companies

So you think your best chances lie with staying where you are (London) and working for a smaller food & drinks brand. So go make a list of small, growing food & drinks brands and get in touch with them. Some of them may already be using Movemeon so if you’re a consultant or former consultant and not already a member, you might want to register here (it’s free).

There will always be exceptions to these rules. Some people will manage to make multiple sideways moves at once. But I truly believe that the above rationale will maximise your chances of success. For more about landing that perfect next job, you should read this post. Hope that’s helpful. 

Some of the great employers movemeon worked with last month:, Amazon, Coca Cola, Jaguar Land Rover & more


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