How to KILL it In the Corporate World (or the Big, Small, Big Theory) – Part 1

My Corporate Experience

For a 25 year old, I think I know more than expected about the corporate world. Working as a corporate recruiter for almost 4 years in Sydney and my natural curiosity for business kinda helped.

I had some of the biggest companies in the world as my clients including Citigroup, JP Morgan, UBS, Deutsche bank, Vodafone, 3 Mobile, Symantec, CA and many more. I also serviced a number of smaller companies too. Mostly niche software development firms (I recruited developers).

As a recruiter, you get to see a company from the outside. You see how the structure is built, how decisions are made and how people move within organisations and to new businesses.

In essence, you see waay more than most employees within the actual company see as they are stuck in their little subdivision, working as a tiny cog in a monstrous machine.

The Corporate Struggle

Getting ahead in these big businesses can be very tough. There is an immense amount of competition, and nothing you do really ever has an impact on the company.

Think about it. If you work for Citigroup in Sydney, and the whole of Citigroup’s operations in Sydney account for less than 5% of Citigroup Global revenue, as one of the 3000 people working in Sydney, you are contributing to 0.00016% of the business. Even then, if you’re not at least a middle manager or a bread winner you’re probably contributing less.

So how do you stand out? How to you take your career to the level you really want? And more importantly, how do you do it quickly?

See, not only is it harder to make an impact in the company you are working in, there are slower decisions, the organisational structures is set and growth is slow.

Basically, you’re up the proverbial creek and you aint got no paddle.

Unless you use cunning office politics and networking to get ahead, which can work very well but is a whole other post, or maybe book… it can be very difficult.

But then how do you see these young gun managers and bankers running around the big institutions? How do they get in?

I have a theory that may just answer the question. This is something I picked up from observation, but I don’t think my sample was big enough to call it a fact, so I call it:

The Big-Small-Big Theory

The big-small-big theory refers to someone who comes out of university and gets a job in a big company then leaves that big company for a small company. While working for the small company he progresses quickly through the ranks. He then returns to a big company at a much higher level then would have been possible if he just stayed working for his original big company.

This happens for a few reasons.


Small companies are growing much quicker than large ones (if it’s a decent company). Growth means expansion. Expansion into new territories, new markets, new services and new products. Growth also means opportunity. As an insider your natural odds go up.

Organisational Structure Holes

Small companies make do with what they have. There will be employees wearing many hats. This is due to budget constraint or lack of activity. When the company grows, the burden on the people working multiple roles becomes too much, forcing the company to split the job, creating a new position. In big businesses, the organisational structure is defined to perfection. There are no holes. The only way you’re getting the bosses job is if he moves up or out.

Less competition

This should speak for itself. Less people, less competition. Better odds of getting that promotion.

The Deep End

Ahh, the deep end. Welcome to small business pressure. This is when you are working away until suddenly, your business lands a new client. Maybe the client is bigger than ever before, maybe it is in a new industry. Whatever the reason, you need to learn and you need to learn quick. It is rare that a big company like Citigroup will ever come across a client or situation that it doesn’t already have detailed documented processes on how to handle. Thus you are rarely chucked in the deep end and your learning curve is much slower.

The Result

More responsibility = a faster learning curve = more productive employee.

Sounds easy right? Have questions? Like why it’s called the big-small-big theory and not the small-big theory? Or are there any downsides or risk?

Don’t worry, Ill cover them in part two of this post.

Click here to read Part 2