Career Corner: May-June 2008

I have two job offers. One would be a lateral move to a company with great name recognition. The other would be a big promotion in a start-up with high growth potential. If I go to the smaller company, will the lack of brand recognition hurt me in applying for future positions?

Working for a company with brand recognition is similar to attending a top school: It often opens doors. In the employment world, that means your application gets a second look. All things being equal, I'd go for the "name" and the credibility and connections you gain from associating with a successful company.

But all things are rarely equal. In your case, you have an opportunity for significant professional growth and challenge in the smaller company. You stand to learn a lot more working in a higher-level position than in simply performing the same responsibilities in a different organization. And your new skills and experience could accelerate your career when you decide to move on.

Before you sign on the dotted line with the start-up, however, consider whether this is an environment in which you are likely to thrive. You may have a VP title, but you're probably also the person who files, makes copies, and brews coffee. How well do you cope with risk, ambiguity, and instability?

Do you like the people? Are you someone who can forge your own path and seize opportunity? Don't take a job just because of the greater job responsibilities or the title. Take it only if you're confident you'll be successful.

No hiring manager will ditch your application because she hasn't heard of your company. You may have to work a little harder to get her attention, but, ultimately, it's your experience, skills, and record of success that count.

Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads: Finding a Path to Your Perfect Career.

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