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

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

I know from my own experience that careers in small and large companies differ significantly. Therefore, in this article I would like to give tips on careers in roughly two types of company:

  • Small and medium-sized companies (medium-sized companies – 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 precisely classified. They are often a mix 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, especially from my own experience, that there is a difference between the two size classes. Of course you can divide them up differently, but my experience is roughly these two categories. I am therefore giving you tips on both categories. Of course there are still startups, but I would like to exclude them.

Reading tip: Difference between corporations and medium-sized companies

Career in medium-sized companies

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

Although medium-sized companies are defined as owner companies, this should not be differentiated here.

Characteristics of the middle class

The hierarchies in medium-sized companies are often flat and the mostly decentralized organizational structures offer the best career opportunities. Due to the often unbureaucratic decision-making processes, there are no direct criteria for advancement. As a graduate in medium-sized companies, you can often take on responsibility early on 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 for the benefit of their employees.

Of course there are numerous medium-sized companies, which is why I want to focus on B2B consulting companies.

Tips for medium-sized businesses

The first ascent in medium-sized companies usually leads through technical skills up to, for example, senior consultant. Then you usually quickly take on responsibility for a customer and thus also for sales, or you set up an area. For me, a career in medium-sized companies 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 yourself.

Reading tip: Become a senior

There are good career opportunities in medium-sized companies, especially for doers. You have to make a difference and show initiative such as building a new location or customers for the company. Due to the flat hierarchies with short, unbureaucratic decision-making paths, these paths are often open to you quickly. If you can master the structure, then you have quickly climbed the hierarchy. So you grow with the company.

An important factor in advancement are good personal networks and partnerships with other service providers in order to win tenders from customers. They often have to work with other companies due to their small size. For example, as a service provider for CRM systems, you could offer a broader portfolio with management consulting. So it is important 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 is currently growing strongly and is successful, otherwise you will not have a chance. So take a look around which medium-sized company is currently expanding strongly in your region. In medium-sized companies, I experience that the chances are getting smaller as the growth comes to an end, and people tend to change jobs every 5 years.

My tip for professionals: Often it can also be worthwhile to apply to the group with management experience. Due to the experience gained quickly in medium-sized companies, an attractive change could be worthwhile.


  • Promotion in medium-sized companies is associated with building up a customer or area
  • Advancement in the middle class demands doers and generalists
  • Promotion in medium-sized companies means taking over sales
  • Promotion in medium-sized companies requires external contacts

Career in the group

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

  • the cars of the future,
  • Tomorrow’s shoe
  • Shaping the medicine of tomorrow and
  • carry out many other major projects.

The projects in medium-sized companies tend to be smaller or support the corporations. Due to the size of the corporations, it is possible to try out numerous positions without having to leave the company.

Characteristics of the corporations

Corporations are very structured and have a large number of employees. Projects often have large dimensions and many stakeholders and the career takes place in programs. Furthermore, the specialization is very impressed. Internal know-how of the group-specific processes is also very important.

You often hear that you should only be the smallest bike in the company and that it is easy to go under. In such a pool, a career seems difficult for many. But it is corporations that build the cars of the future and carry out major projects. Medium-sized companies often support this as a supplier.

Tips on corporations

In fact, a career in the group is completely different from that of a medium-sized company. The first point is that you are now in a large ecosystem. Corporations are often as big as cities, so networking or trade fairs outside the company is no longer important, but only internal contacts and events. Xing and contact with service providers take a back seat, as there is usually an internal social network.

The second point is the specialization in the form of group experience but also in an activity such as Scrum Master or developer for JavaJEE on the company’s own middleware, so that you have a clear job 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 superiors is often not as close as in medium-sized businesses. 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 superior. This way you stay in the memory and don’t disappear into the crowd.

Reading tip: Become a manager

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

My tip for professionals: If you already have some work experience in the group and are stuck, it can make sense to switch to medium-sized companies. I notice that service providers in your group especially like to make you a team leader and appreciate the group experience. Also the Wirtschaftswoche believes : Old hands instead of greenhorns: Experienced colleagues are increasingly valued.


  • Advancement in the group requires internal contacts and knowledge of internal processes
  • Advancement in the group is often associated with a high degree of specialization
  • Advancement in the group means understanding the politics in the company
  • Promotion in the group is linked to participation in a trainee program for managers

Conclusion: what suits you?

Now it is up to you to choose whether you are more suitable for medium-sized companies or corporations. If you like structure, large projects and prefer to build a network in a company, then you are at the right place in the group. If you are more of a generalist with a high startup spirit, then give it a try in medium-sized companies. Where do you prefer to work? tell me in the short poll.

[yop_poll id=”42″]

Limitation: Of course, not every corporation and not every medium-sized company is the same. Even a small company can be slow and bureaucratic and a corporation can be fast and agile. It is up to you to make the decision individually. I am only giving my experiences here.

Image source: Business photo created by javi_indy –

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I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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