WorkWise Q&A: How do I transition to working for a small company?

culp@workwise.netMarch 31, 2013 


Q: Dear Dr. Culp, I’ve been working in a large organization for a long time, but I want to buy a business in a very different industry.

Because I’ve been up in the ether, I’d like to spend a year or two in a small business to get ready. How can I best approach employers?


A: Dear Learning, Find businesses in the same industry as the business you plan to buy. Act as if you were job hunting at large organizations.

Keep your plans to yourself, unless a business owner says he’s hiring for only a year or two. Find out why. If the owner is thinking short-term, it will be easier to cut back on his plan as the months go by.

You have two main challenges in this search. First, target companies that are visible. Are they members of the local or national chamber? What about professional associations or trade groups? Businesses that are glorified ostriches can’t offer you the quality of experience you want.

Second, explain to employers in person and in writing how your recent experience requires several hats. Jobs in most large companies are very specialized; so this will require some thought. Be very specific.



Q: Dear Dr. Culp, Every time I watch “Undercover Boss” on television, I wish the head of my company would turn up to solve my problem of feeling stuck. I know that’s not going to happen.

I’d like a better job here, but my immediate boss isn’t helpful in getting me promoted. He doesn’t intentionally hold me back. He just goes off in a corner to do his work and doesn’t mingle with anyone. He plans to retire in less than a year.

What can I do to help myself along?


A: Dear Motivated, The fact that your boss would likely support you if you find or create an opportunity in the company is very good news. Full steam ahead!

Interact with people in areas that interest you, especially where people are overworked. Find out how full their plates are. Offer to offload a project. After you’ve done it, communicate it to the boss.

Keep a list of projects as you do them, with the benefits you brought the employer. Get the word out elsewhere in the company. When you have five different functions you’d like to perform in a new capacity, convey your intention to the most likely boss.


Modesto Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service