Is an SME job right for you?
Episode 205 - Unlocking SME Career Opportunities: Navigating Small Business Job Markets with Stephanie Kelly
If you've ever wondered how working for a Small or Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) differs from being a cog in a large corporate machine, or if you're actively considering a career move into the SME sector, this episode is tailor-made for you. We're joined by Stephanie Kelly, Director of Recruit With Me and an experienced recruiter specialized in helping SMEs attract top-quality talent. In this episode, Stephanie unpacks the unique culture, expectations, opportunities, and challenges of working in an SME. Get ready for actionable tips on how to craft an SME-focused resume, the soft skills that matter most in smaller organizations, and strategies to ace your SME job interview.
Here are some of the highlights from my conversation with Stephanie Kelly:
The SME Landscape: Learn what sets SMEs apart from large corporations and why they might be the ideal setting for your skills and ambitions.
Skillsets that Shine: Discover the key skills and qualities SME employers look for in candidates and how to develop them.
Navigating SME Job Markets: Get insider tips on where to look for SME job opportunities and how to network effectively in this specific sector.
The Interview Process: Gain unique insights into what to expect in an SME interview and how to prepare for it.
Cultural Fit: Understand the importance of being the right cultural fit for an SME and how to assess this during your job search.
Why working for an SME is a great career path
Corporate professionals should give serious consideration to roles in SMEs, as these organizations often present a chance for broader skill development due to the necessity of multitasking in smaller teams. The flatter hierarchies in SMEs bring employees closer to key decision-makers, which subsequently allows for a more direct impact on outcomes. This closeness to core operations often means professionals can experience rapid career advancements, benefit from a close-knit and flexible work culture, and gain holistic business insights that might be compartmentalized in larger corporations. And the entrepreneurial spirit and agility of SMEs can offer professionals invaluable insights, especially for those harboring entrepreneurial aspirations.
In essence, while large corporations might offer brand recognition, SMEs provide a unique set of experiences and growth opportunities that can be invaluable for corporate professionals. Considering SMEs as potential employers can open up a world of possibilities for skill development, career progression, and personal fulfillment. So, if you're considering switching to a small or medium-sized organization, this episode offers valuable insights to navigate your career path effectively.
About our guest, Stephanie Kelly
Stephanie Kelly is the Director of Recruit With Me. An innovative recruitment agency designed for small business leaders and built on values of collaboration and quality. With a deep-seated passion for facilitating the ideal match between job seekers and employers and a career spanning several years, Stephanie has honed her skills in understanding the unique needs of businesses and job seekers within the small business community. She is a champion for the benefits of growing your career within an SME environment and regional communities.
As a recruiter, Stephanie prides herself on being a talent connector. Her interviews are focussed on the holistic as well as skills, and an ideal outcome for her is a candidate finding the right job that supports their long-term career goals. Using a freelance model has given Stephanie a unique position to understand and advise businesses on what their talent wants to make roles more attractive without compromising on the needs of the business. Click here to connect with Stephanie on LinkedIn.
Resources mentioned in this episode
Other resources from RenataBernarde.com :
About the Host, Renata Bernarde
Hello, I’m Renata Bernarde, the Host of The Job Hunting Podcast. I’m also an executive coach, job hunting expert, and career strategist. I teach professionals (corporate, non-profit, and public) the steps and frameworks to help them find great jobs, change, and advance their careers with confidence and less stress.
If you are an ambitious professional who is keen to develop a robust career plan, if you are looking to find your next job or promotion, or if you want to keep a finger on the pulse of the job market so that when you are ready, and an opportunity arises, you can hit the ground running, then this podcast is for you.
In addition to The Job Hunting Podcast, on my website, I have developed a range of courses and services for professionals in career or job transition. And, of course, I also coach private clients
Timestamps to guide your listening
04:43 - Stephanie's Career Journey and the Beginnings of her SME Recruitment Path
07:13 - Unveiling the Entrepreneurial Strengths Behind Your Unique Journey in the Traditional World of Recruitment
08:55 - Exploring the Differences Between SMEs and Large Corporations
12:37 - Assisting Organizations in Growth, Expansion, and Public Listing
15:05 - Transitioning from Corporate Comfort to SME Challenges
17:01 - Exploring the Unique Pathways to SME Job Opportunities
21:26 - Addressing Compliance and Family Business Dynamics
23:33 - Adapting to Family Business Cultures
26:47 - How SMEs Attract Talent in a Competitive Market
35:12 - Finding Success in Regional SMEs
37:43 - Stephanie's Final Thoughts
Transcript of this episode
Welcome back to the Job Hunting podcast. Today we're diving deep into the world of small and medium-sized enterprises or SMEs, and unraveling what it takes for job candidates to thrive in this unique environment. We are joined by Stephanie Kelly, the director of Recruit with me, a recruitment agency that she founded designed to cater for small businesses and their leaders and help them attract the right talents.
Stephanie will tell us in this interview why she's passionate about her purpose of working and supporting SMEs and building her recruitment firm on values of collaboration and quality. She's. Passionate about facilitating the ideal match between job seekers and employers from small to medium sized organizations, and has extensive experience in understanding the needs of both the businesses and the job seekers who are interested in SMEs as a workplace.
She's also a great champion for the benefits of growing your career within the S M E environment and within regional communities. I wanted to speak to her because I have clients in regional towns, both in Australia and overseas, and I have clients who either work or want to work in small to medium sized enterprises.
I don't want this podcast or my coaching to be stuck in the business districts of large cities because frankly, They are in the decline. I see more and more professionals who are keen to access flexibility, remote work, move back to their hometowns. And this trend has been happening since the pandemic, and apparently it is still top of mind for a lot of people out there.
And Stephanie is in a unique position to give us insight on how to secure a role in a small community, in a regional town, in an SS m e, and thrive and develop a career in new sectors and in new places.
So wherever you are in the world, this topic is so important. The corporate sector, as well as government and nonprofit are not just multinationals or large organizations with recognizable brand names. There are so many interesting employment opportunities out there that you may have missed only because they are small businesses and you don't recognize their names.
But . They may offer, and we will learn this from Stephanie, the opportunities you seek such as flexibility, great culture, and a great community. Stephanie is based in Toowoomba, a country town in Australia. Like many professionals, she herself left her hometown to study and work. In a big city and returned as an experienced professional adding great values and skills back into her country town.
I know there are many of you who aspire to do the same, so I hope you enjoy this interview with Stephanie. Let's go.
Renata: So first of all, I wanted to thank you so much for talking to me. Like I said to you before we started recording, I love having people from Regional towns because not only I have clients in regional areas, both in Australia and overseas, but also I have a lot of clients whose idea of, you know, a career in the future for them means moving out of big cities.
So I know you're in Toowoomba, one day I will visit Toowoomba. I have family in Toowoomba, so maybe I should. and what we're here to discuss is small and medium sized organizations, you know, many of them are in big cities, but there are also a lot of them in regional towns as well. Tell me about your career and what got you started into working in this area in recruitment for SMEs?
Stephanie: Of course. So I think my story is quite similar to a lot of recruiters. You know, I was very lucky that I got into a small agency first. So really got to learn the ropes. And that was actually a Sydney centric company. So a lot of work was focused on the CBD. Then, you know, with that desire to sort of work at more locally and. And go to the office, which I think is the opposite of what we're all looking for now in post COVID world. I joined a multinational that opened a regional office here in Toowoomba. And that allowed me to work sort of within my own geography and really get a feel for what businesses here locally were made up of and what they wanted.
What I found and what probably led to the birth of Recruit With Me, which I'll get to is, you know, over 90%, so close to a hundred, which is reflective of the Australian business landscape of those businesses here were your SMEs. So we're talking lower head counts, flatter management structures, lower turnover all of those characteristics that define that SME.
They were the ones that made up the majority of the workforce here. And I was trying to sell what I felt was a, recruitment service designed for big business. I was trying to sell it to a lot of those smaller businesses and I was finding a bit of a disconnect, not all the time, of course, but most of the time with these businesses really wanting professional recruitment, but not being able to justify usually the cost associated with it.
Stephanie: And if they could justify it, it was only ever going to be for key positions rather than their. Every day recruitment being, and I said that, you know, with air quotes being administration or their trades roles that were so critical to their running the business is so critical to get right, but they felt they couldn't justify the agency.
So recruit with me was born to service. Purely that, SME market. So how I work a bit differently to agencies is we break down a menu of services for the businesses so they can pick which service they need to outsource, be that because they're time for poor or they don't have the knowledge of how to source the candidates.
And on the candidate side, we work with a smaller database of people who really want to work with our businesses to make sure we're making those genuine connections that are going to lead to retention because that's a really critical thing when you're in that small business world is they don't wanna be turning through staff.
Stephanie: They don't have the resources to be training and, and retraining. big piece is getting the right fit. And of course, that allows for both sides, both for the candidates and for those businesses.
What do you think are the strengths that you have that allowed you to understand that environment and make all of these interesting connections and develop your own? Business in the way that you did. I'm fascinated by the fact that you kind of, you're very entrepreneurial, even though you're working in, you know, a rather traditional industry, is recruitment.
Renata: What do you think you have that made you follow that path?
Stephanie: That is an interesting question, Renata, and I've been asked that a few times and I do struggle to answer it. I don't know what it is about me particularly. What I will say though, is it, it was really something that interested me and I loved the relationships. I really felt that I bonded with those small business owners and leaders and I saw a lot of myself in them.
So I think the original drive was from, Hey, I really wanna work with you. How can I do that? And in terms of the skills, again, it all comes from that passion. So I love the collaboration, I love the conversations. Recruitment to me is a partnership. It always has been. I, didn't like that disconnect and the blame when things went wrong.
I love that collaboration piece and again, I, I found that in the small business land but I think the biggest key thing for it is, you know, I, live and breathe those conversations. I'm really strong and I've got a really strong background in the candidate market. So I can build those partnerships and then go into the advice role as well with, those businesses.
And on the other side, you know, with the candidates, I have worked and grown my own career in a regional city. So for people who are looking to come in here, I can relate a lot to them and we can go through together with, you know, what are you looking for and, and what can these businesses offer that might align.
Stephanie: And obviously for Toowoomba in particular, which is where I'm from, I can talk to the benefits of living here as a mid career professional.
Renata: let's deep dive into that landscape. So small to medium sized enterprises, how do they differ from large corporations? You mentioned before, but I want us to give some real examples of what the difference is between working for a large organization versus working for a smaller one.
So to talk on those, you know, the defining characteristics of an SME, less than 10 million turnover, and as a whole, less than 500 staff.
Generally speaking, the, businesses that I work with who probably have the need for this more personalized recruitment are up to about that 200 mark in terms of staffing numbers. So that, as you, if you look at that as a demographic for people working in that field, you've got flatter management structures.
Stephanie: You've got less of a sign off process for changes and business growth. You also, at the senior level, you're probably getting exposed not only to business operations, but the behind the scenes of actually running a business. You're seeing the realities of business in a growth space as well.
So there's a lot of really interesting things I think that you can get by working in an SME that the larger corporations don't offer. Just by purely by their makeup. So looking at that one by one, you know, in the, within the SME, getting exposed to behind the scenes, you know, a lot of people, you know, we talked to them, they want to run their own business one day.
I personally think if you want it to go down that path, working in a senior position for a small mid sized business. In whatever industry you want to start in doesn't really matter is a great place to be because you are going to be working alongside most likely the owner and the person who has grown it from a often a one person organization to whatever it may be when you're coming in.
For people who want to grow their career further and stay in the corporate.
benefits are generally speaking in larger corporations, you do a lot of one thing in your smaller business, you get to do more of different things. So you get a wider exposure, you get a taste of different areas of your chosen career path.
And that can really help you. I think even if you go back to the larger organizations, it gives you a strong foundation for what is involved. in each part of the process and it helps you understand what you enjoy the most about your career.
Renata: now that is, very important. I actually have a son working for a small organization and from time to time I sort of think to myself, should he be working at a large organization? It's that he's experiencing are exactly what you just said, you know, for a young engineer to be working alongside the owner of a, you know, an organization for him.
It's just fantastic. I don't think he wants to give that up anytime soon. One thing that you've mentioned that I thought was very interesting is how you broke down the different sizes of SMEs and that I find that important, but one thing that. You know, I find really funny and I correct my clients when they're talking to me is when they say, Oh, you know, I've just been interviewed by this startup.
And then I asked them to describe the organization and I find out it's not a startup. It's a small organization. And in addition, I like to explain to them those differences because this organization is small, it's supposed to be small. They are high revenue generating in a way that they don't need to grow anymore.
They just, you know, maybe it's a family owned business. Maybe they have founders and, and so forth, but they've been going on forever. There's not a startup anymore. But sometimes you come out of a large organization and you sort of get this misrepresentation of what small organizations are and their organizations that are just small, that's all they are.
And they're fine that way. And they're successful in that way. There are organizations that are in startup phase and they want to grow and they want to be publicly listed and they want to sort of expand globally or whatever, and that's a different type, right? Do you work with both?
Stephanie: I do, I do. So I actually, and I worked for a startup myself when I first got into recruitment. So I've been on the inside and it was a true tech startup. So I understand, I think I've got a unique insight to, to what is involved in both sides. Look, generally speaking, and maybe it's geography, maybe it's just that my brand isn't out there yet.
I haven't done a lot of work with startups, more of my work is with your more traditional, small and mid sized enterprises. Who exactly as you say, they are, they've been through their growth phase, or maybe they are looking to go through it again, but They're generally happy with the overall lay of the land and they want strong advisors to come in from a business sense, but they're not pushing for capital.
They're not doing those things that you find in startup land and when it's a bit less process
Renata: Yeah. So for those candidates who are keen on entering SMAs and they want to be successful in job applications, what skills or quality? Do you think they need to showcase during that recruitment phase?
Stephanie: Yeah. Look, the biggest thing that I would say at across. All levels within a small midsize business is that ability to wear different hats. You know, as we touched on before, and what your son's probably experiencing is you do get exposed to different things. There isn't one department head for every single aspect of the workflow.
You are going to be, Crossing over into different departments, you'll be working with different people. And I think the people who do best in small business are the ones that have that true flexibility when it comes to what sort of work they do and how they draw their boundaries. And that's not to say that, you know, everyone in small business doesn't have boundaries and they're getting walked all over.
It's truly just, just to say, it's about having that ability to multitask. It's about having that ability to work in different verticals.
Renata: Yes, I find that that is in theory, all said, all good, but then when my clients do enter into a small to medium sized enterprise and they experience it, they have never seen it before, you know, and I'm talking about people that started off working as, let's say consultants and then moved into. senior roles in large organizations and the energy sector or telecom or finance.
And then all of a sudden they, find themselves in a organization with a hundred people and they don't realize that their hands will get dirtier. You know, they will have less. resources and less budget to do things that they were used to. Let's say if they were a big marketing head of, you know, in a, in a large organization, all of a sudden they're doing marketing for a rather small ag tech company, it will be a very different scenario and they don't sometimes.
Last long there, they bounce back in large corporations. Have you seen that happen? People that have that willingness to work in SMEs, but then they don't make it. They just bounce back into corporate, large corporates. Hi,
Stephanie: Yeah. I have. definitely seen it before. One of the things I think we need to highlight to people that are looking at PATH, it's actually, I would say it's easier to go from an SME into the large corporation for the reverse of all those reasons that you just said. But when it comes to, I think, the framing, how you think of your role going into an SME is, yes, you have tighter budget constraints, you know, you are more likely to be working at all levels and doing different things that you might have had resources to do previously.
The benefits are, and I think if you reframe your thinking sometimes, it can be, you know, you've probably got a direct line to the business owner or the managing directors here to go and really get creative with how you achieve your outcomes. There's not that huge sign off process for your new idea.
And that's often one of the frustrations that people are coming from. Corporations do find is, you know, to change a toilet roll, they need to get three different people to sign off on it. In small business land, you don't need to do that. You can go directly to the owner or the, or the MD with your ideas and present it to the person that can make decisions either on their own or in a small group.
Which if you reframe that thinking and that's something you're open to doing can be really rewarding for your career and can sometimes be that next stage from the large corporations.
Renata: yes, no, that is a great point. when looking for jobs in SMEs, I have found that sometimes they're not that easy to find, you know, is it because I mean, you're, sort of breaking ground and helping them with professional resourcing to SMEs, but is it true that a lot of the jobs are found through networking and connections in the SME world?
Stephanie: Yeah, look it definitely is and I would say when we look at that the hidden job market, your SME, a band of employers would account for a vast majority of that. There's a few reasons, but I think biggest one is there is no requirement for competitive selection. There's no HR ruling in that space.
Obviously there's pros and cons to that. But for someone who's looking to get into an SME, you know, those networking events. So I think across Australia, your chamber of commerce events, they are a really popular. place where you will meet the decision makers within these businesses. And whether you want to consult with them or whether you want to work for them, that's exactly where you need to be to start.
Same thing, you know, getting in the ear of the right people. And once you have that ear, it can be a very easy connection to make, to get into those places because the interview processes aren't written into a HR policy that needs to go. To three rounds and a cup of tea and, and everything in
Renata: Yes, yes. But when you're working with them, and I have interviewed another recruiter working in regional Victoria, I'll put the link in the show notes below for those who are interested. I interviewed her a couple of years ago, and You know, when, recruitment professionals like you get involved, what does it typically look like?
And is it still different from the larger corporational recruitment process? Silence.
Stephanie: I would say it takes elements of the larger corporation recruitment process. So typically a typical scenario when an S M E brings me in to run their recruitment process, it's for one of two reasons. So, number one being they don't have the time to run an effective recruitment process, and secondly being, they may not have the knowledge to know how to shortlist or how to.
identify their ideal candidate. So if we look at, you know, that first scenario, not having the time, my goal coming in is to really put candidates through that more robust experience. You know, I've got the time and I've got the knowledge to do that. So we can go through the phone screening stage and we go through interviews.
Typically, I would say it is still for most positions, a shorter process than you would find with large corporations, because the vast majority of them do have A one interview process or a two interview, you could say, because we do a phone screening, but one face to face interview reference checks, all that due diligence piece we do. interestingly, I think one of the biggest things or the recommendations that I make is, you know, collecting your work rights for all employees. That's something that seems to get assumed a lot in small business land, but it's obviously a requirement to have and to hold evidence of those.
So it's. education as well as being able to, you know, step in and run it at that more professional way. For those businesses who maybe haven't been securing candidates because they don't have the knowledge, it comes down to, well, how do we look at our candidates that are coming in?
Oftentimes I'll see, you know and back to our point before around going from a large to a small business, I'll see business leaders go, Oh, they've worked for company X. They're the biggest supplier in our industry. they're going to have as much knowledge and they get a bit excited about the title and they'll just hire.
But what hasn't been done and it's to the detriment of both the candidate and the employer is. We haven't done that due diligence piece of, well, what do they actually do? And, and that real interview process because we got so excited about the industry experience. So that does end up the candidate up for failure because often they haven't been this small business.
They haven't, you know, sat in that chair and worn those different hats. And it's a completely different way of thinking about your role and way of approaching your work to go like that. So that's really the other, I think really important piece that recruit with me focuses on is. Not just the, what is the candidate done, but breaking that right down and looking at the more holistic side of it as well.
And seeing how, people will fit into this business. And if that's not the right one, is there another business that the candidate can work
Renata: Yes. , and if we add some extra layers on top of that, I'd love to get your views on city folks that are trying to move regionally. I remember discussing this with Zoe Allen as well, because, you know it's another great bottleneck for some candidates. Like they want to apply for jobs in regional areas, but they feel like they never have a chance.
And I don't know if that's just a perception or. If there is some sort of compliance issues there, like some sort of risk from the employer's view to bring somebody external to the community that may not last, you know, may not stay there for long. So is that something you've experienced? Again, courtesy of
Stephanie: Look, absolutely. And I'll be very honest. I think sometimes we do see applications from people coming from CBD locations that are in another state, for example. One of the first questions is, well, why are you looking to move here? So what my advice would be to candidates who are actively looking to move regionally is instead of applying for roles, everywhere, focus on a few regional cities or centers that you want to be and really establish what it is about that location that appeals to you.
And then you can give that answer to the employer. And what I am finding Renata, is minds are very easily changed once that question is answered, you know When people can say, Oh, I'm coming to, and I'll use Toowoomba again, as an example, I'm coming to Toowoomba because I, you know, was here for carnival of flowers last year and I fell in love with it.
That instantly, it's a very off the, you know, off the cuff type of comment, but instantly the employer sees a connection to the location. And their minds almost put at ease and they're happy to interview and then it becomes you're essentially you as a candidate. You're then in the mix for the role and you're a genuine chance because chances are if you're a mid career professional you are bringing a fantastic skill set to a region who that generally will be wanting that skill set.
Renata: =Right=, yeah, a great answer and it sort of aligns and validates what Zoe said in the other episode as well. The other layer that I wanted to get your views on is family business. Family business is something that corporate professionals haven't really experienced. And you know, once they land in a job where.
You know, there's a succession planning place, or there should be one and there isn't, and everybody works in the family sort of, they feel like outsiders even when they're hired to do their jobs. Do you have any advice on how to deal with those different cultures when you join a family business?
Stephanie: Yeah, absolutely. It is. And to validate that concern people are having, , that is a common scenario, unfortunately. I think we've seen, obviously we used to see a lot of those ads that said, Oh, we're a family business and we're like a family. And thankfully we don't seem to see as many of those anymore because you know, it is, you are.
In terms of how to mitigate that culture or how to best fit in that culture, I think it's really important to remember that interview stage that you're not just being interviewed, you are interviewing. So spending that time, you know, looking around, understanding the management structure. For example, if, you as a job seeker has aspirations of getting into management, but you look at the structure and every single middle management role is held by a family member. I think there needs to be a question there of, is there an opportunity will there be an opportunity for me to step into management? Not all family businesses are like that.
Stephanie: And I don't want to, you know, put everyone with the same brush. Everyone is different. So you need to pre ask those questions upfront as to what are the opportunities, how do I fit into this picture? What's the feedback from other employees about this company at the upfront piece to try and really understand the culture.
And then when you go in, you've got that, got that foundation there ready to go.
Renata: And by the way, listeners, family business happen at all levels, not just SMEs, just watch Succession and you'll see that unfolding. And I just remembered a client of mine working for a global company, a global family business, and she was made redundant. Because a member of the family wanted her job, so you know, they changed the structure of the organization a little bit to justify it, but ultimately it was the second generation coming in and wanting to lead even in very large organizations.
So that's very common. But we, do find there's a big correlation between SMEs and family businesses. So that's why I asked. So thanks for that. and that advice that you gave about when you're in an interview, you're interviewing as well. That is just, people do forget, like they're so anxious to get a job that they don't realize that they should be paying attention to little quirks, little signs that could be red signs, you know, and information that, you know it's not just, a coincidence, you know, if there's a pattern there that you're noticing for whatever job you're going for, pay attention.
And that's usually very much linked to values, to culture. And you may find that you know, not getting a job there or declining to continue the recruitment process may suit you. So it's important to know those personal values and are they aligned with the organization you're. Going into and family =organizations suit a lot of people.
You know, I know people that really enjoy working for small family organizations. They find it, you know, the the work environment really great for them. So the other thing I wanted to ask as well is, in terms of structures of SMEs and the sort of roles that you see come time and time again in SMEs that you're working for, can you give us like a sample of roles that you've worked on recently?
Stephanie: Yeah, absolutely. So SMEs typically, it's gonna be a flatter management structure than your large corporations for obvious reasons. There's not the numbers there. what we do tend to see a lot of is as businesses grow, getting professional in house support in the finance space operations naturally.
So that operations manager title, which is. incredibly broad in what it does and what it encompasses is quite common. And all that, and anything within that stream, the, I think typically we see the businesses that I work with in, in how they've grown is, they've gone from the core. owners and operators to expanding into more people who can do the billables and then getting professionals in, in that administrative and finance and operations support space.
So people who aren't billable essentially for the role they do, but they're there to support those that are. So that's typically how the wave seems to go in, in when people are brought in. But yes, so to answer your question, finance professionals I think is, is a very common one. you know, looking at the regional makeup, law firms, accountants engineering, those key areas where you obviously need to hold a qualification and, oftentimes what's missing from the regions is significant experience or that mid level experience that is a really attractive skill set that, that regions seem to have vacancies to support.
Renata: Yeah, no, you're right. And I often tell my clients, if I have a marketing professional applying for an SME, I'm like, do you realize those opportunities are so rare? You know, if it's an HR role or marketing role, because usually it's like you said, they expand from finance to operations and then they think, Oh, we should be doing our marketing more professionally or better.
We have so many staff now, we should have an HR professional. And I'm like, they've reached, you know, a point in growth where they're ready to bring professionals like you. And it's rare.
Stephanie: Yeah. and that's exactly right. And one of the, I think the risks that people perceive coming in and we're using that marketing as an example is they go, well, if it's a new position response to growth, am I going to be the first made redundant? Unfortunately in COVID and again, this is off my small data set.
We did see a lot of those HR professionals being made redundant in favor of consultancies. Now we're seeing the opposite and we don't have enough HR professionals to fill the vacancies. But you know, that's, the unfortunate reality of that small business landscape is there is a risk there for those people in those senior positions.
Stephanie: However, the reward and the growth that you get from working with those businesses can be absolutely exponential for your career and where it can take you.
Renata: Stephanie have you noticed an interesting SMEs to take on short term contracts or part time professionals to come in and, support them in those sort of functions?
Stephanie: Look, definitely, there's definitely a renewed flexibility. And I think following COVID, a lot of the SMEs felt we're watching big companies offer big fancy benefits that, you know, they don't have the budgets to do. What we're seeing now is. Candidates just want someone who practices what they preach.
You know, a lot of those high performing candidates, they want to work in a workspace that doesn't have a wellness course every month and then a toxic work environment. They've got the healthy work environment that delivers all the time. And I think that is something that SMEs can do really well because they are, when you are a small numbers, you can offer that really strong but that really strong culture and, and you can lead it and manage it a bit easier than you can.
the larger organizations. So it's an interesting. I think it's interesting to look at sort of that landscape and how they've adapted following that. So to answer your question, yes, the flexibility piece is I think absolutely becoming far more common. On that as well, I would also say that if you're looking for a unique benefit and Everyone has different wants and needs, and we've, we've discovered we've all got different things that make work life balance for us.
If you have something unique that you want, then working in an SME is probably the place for you to be. Because they don't have, and again I'm coming back to that same point, there's not huge sign off processes, there's not strong HR policies around some of this stuff, that you can come in and say, right, these are my skills, however I need to have every third Tuesday off, and I'm going to work a point something per week.
There is room for that negotiation because it doesn't go in the, no, this doesn't fit our benefits package. This goes into a, yes, up for consideration. So, yes, I think there's, far more room for non traditional flexibility and part time working arrangements in your SMEs than there are some of your larger organizations.
On the contract piece, look, that's very interesting. we are seeing a little bit of it. However, with your staffing shortages, we're also seeing less candidates willing to take up contracts because they've got options for full time roles. So I think most of the businesses that I work with would be open to it.
Stephanie: for a lot of positions, but we obviously need to be conscious that attraction strategy and again, the retention that. To be offering a contract in this market is quite difficult when you've got candidates who are looking for stability and, permanency. So consultancy is probably an area that will continue to grow in the SME space as they really want to take hold and get these things right.
Obviously, I'm a recruitment consultant and can verify from that piece that there is a real interest in doing the, you know, the staffing and recruitment right to lead to longer staff retention. I imagine, and from some businesses I work with, I know they work with consultants in other areas of their businesses to really improve and get some more robust actions and processes in, different areas.
Renata: Yes, you know, you mentioned the benefits before and that flexibility, which is so important and so more important now than ever before. But I'm, I'm also wondering if you can let us know within your geographical area, is there still a very big difference between large organizations and what they offer in terms of their salary range versus a similar role in a small organization or are SMEs becoming more competitive Attracting talent also with a higher salary range.
Stephanie: Locally, I would say, depending on the industry, there is still some big discrepancies with salaries. So Toowoomba is in Southeastern Western border of Queensland. So we find that our manufacturing sector is competing with the mining and oil and gas sectors who traditionally can pay very high and while these companies aren't direct competitors of them, they are.
Competing with them for staff. So what the benefits and the salary salary, especially in those sectors, they just can't match it. In saying that though, I work with a few companies in that space who have gotten really creative with how they attract people. So they're recognizing, okay, if you want big money and big hours.
We can't offer that. However, we can offer a nine day fortnight with, you know, an RDO system. So you're still getting your full time wage. We can offer you know, sign on bonuses. We can offer ongoing profit share arrangements. There's a lot of different thinking going into it to try and attract their right candidate.
And I, commend those businesses thinking outside the box because I think there is power in recognizing that, you know, people who want the bigger money maybe aren't for us right now, but this is what we can offer and really pushing what we can offer rather than our salaries to appeal directly to that right candidate base that's going to, again, lead to that retention piece by hiring right.
Renata: Yes, no, you're absolutely right and, you know, but by stretching the budget too far to get somebody at a much higher salary than the business can afford, makes that job riskier for the candidates because it may not last.
Yes. Yes. Right.
Stephanie: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I haven't yet advised any of my clients that they need to increase their salaries to match what the big players are doing. Because yeah, I just don't believe it needs to be done. I think there is a job for everyone. Obviously you've got to pay market value and be fair for your candidates and every single person I work with saying we, we work together on, for fairness on both sides, but you need to keep in mind that a lot of people are asking for sustainable long term roles at the moment.
Renata: Tell me about leaving regionally and, you know, what it means to get a job in a regional town. If you can share like experiences of people that have moved back to Toowoomba or moved to Toowoomba for the first time for a role, what would your advice be for professionals that are willing to do that?
So we spoke about it in terms of how to apply I'm more interested now in, you know, adapting to a different lifestyle.
Stephanie: Yeah. Oh, and look, it's a very different lifestyle in some senses, isn't it? we tend to say, and I think this isn't just true of Toowoomba. This is a lot of regional centers. A lot of people who move to the area have some sort of connection there. But we do see professionals wanting to grow their career and they moved to those regional hubs for that reason.
And one of the, the things that I think I'm really conscious of and I encourage everyone to do is, is get involved in the community. No matter how big the regional hub you're moving to, there will be regional events, there's community based organizations. Get involved, connect with people and you will then grow your, grow your friendship circle.
So grow yourself outside of work as well. yeah, I think that's, that's probably the biggest bit of advice is, is you can't, and I think it's true for cities as well, but in any new place, you can't sit back and wait for that first friend to find you. You need to get out into the community. You need to meet some people through, through networking events, through your profession, or whether it's through sporting organizations, that there's lots of different opportunities for you to get out and really make the most of your new home.
Renata: Yeah, and that's so important. And I was surprised because I told you I have family in There's a very large expat community in Toowoomba because they are expat. They lived all over the world moving from country to country for work and I'm like, Oh, okay. I had no idea. So, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So they're, they're having a great time there, Stephanie, it's been so good to talk to you.
I think I haven't really explored SMEs on the podcast as much as I wanted to, and I, want people to walk into opportunities in SMEs with open eyes and a better understanding of how to position themselves during the interview to actually build a connection with the audience, with the selection panel, with the employer and make sure that they know what they're walking into as well, in terms of a different structure, a flatter structure, like you said especially if that SME is in a regional area, what would that mean in terms of a different lifestyle and what they can expect?
So thank you so much for sharing all of that with. our audience. Is there anything else that you would like to say that maybe we, we forgot to mention? Now is your time.
Stephanie: Look, there probably is just, one thing that comes to mind when you sort of said that piece around connecting for interviews, I think especially true, whether you're looking at a regional area or you know, an SME style business in, within a city, the goal of that interview is to try and make that connection.
You know, if you make that connection, that's beautiful and it can lead to, you know, a great career option. However, if you don't, you're going to walk away and you're never going to see them again, most likely never going to see them again. So spend the time, you know, focusing on building, on really building that rapport.
And remember as well, you know, when we look at those large corporations in the interview process, there is you often someone in the corner, you know, that scribe taking the notes on what you say. And that's going to be weighed heavily. However, when you're meeting with a smaller company, they are going to also factor in their experience with you.
How did you fit with them? So don't be scared to get personal. Don't be scared to get you know, to really get in there and build that relationship from the start. Cause that. I would argue can carry a lot more weight than your skills in that smaller space.
Renata: Thank you so much for saying that it's so important and you know, when people are very anxious and very stressed about the interview. outcome. They forget to be in the moment. And for every interview, not just for SMEs, you know, the most important thing is to build rapport, to build that trust, make a true connection with with whoever is interviewing you.
That can only happen if you are confident about your skills and go in it with the intention of building that connection and not with the intention of getting a job and showing off all that you can do because you know an interview is only 30 minutes long or an hour long you don't have time to do that but you do have time to build a true connection so thank you that's good.
Stephanie: No, thank you.
Renata: Stephanie let's keep in touch and if there is any other topic that you want to bring to the job hunting podcast Let me know. We would love to have you back.
Stephanie: Absolutely. I hope to be back. Thank you so much Renata.
Stephanie, if you're listening, thank you for shedding light on the intricacies of SMEs and helping our job seekers navigate the sector better.
What we can take from this conversation, in my view, is that in every job environment we have unique opportunities and challenges, and with the right approach, you can thrive anywhere. If you want to connect with Stephanie, please check the links in the episode show notes.
And if you want more episodes on the topic of living regionally, I recommend that you search for the following episodes of the Job Hunting podcast, episode number 41 76 and 55. There will be links to these episodes below, or you can just scroll wherever you found this. Make sure you subscribe to the podcast and listen to the other episodes as well. If you are ready to take your career seriously and give it the time and planning that it deserves, I encourage you to start by signing up to my newsletter. It's free, it's weekly, and it will make sure that you are always reminded the importance of investing in your career.