Working for SMEs (Small and medium-sized enterprises)

Find out about the benefits of working for an SME or start-up.


Graduate schemes and working in large organisations are not the only routes to graduate success… another option is working for a small or medium-sized enterprise - an SME. These are businesses which have fewer than 250 staff and a turnover of no more than £50 million. In Scotland, SMEs can be found in all sectors. 

What are the benefits of working in an SME?

Working in an SME will give you: 

  •  Early responsibility and the chance to broaden your skillset 
    • a wide variety of responsibilities quickly, in many cases, as roles in SMEs tend to be more fluid 

    • the chance to take real ownership of your work, as you may be less closely supervised than in a larger organisation 

  • An opportunity to stand out - SMEs are unlikely to hire more than one or two graduates at a time, which means you’ll really have a chance to showcase your talents 
  • Access to senior management - you could find yourself sitting across from the managing director! This opens up amazing opportunities to learn more about the company and gives you the chance to take your ideas straight to management 
  • Career progression. SMEs allow you to progress on merit – at a rate that you deserve! 

Where to find opportunities? 

SMEs recruit when they need to, unlike typical graduate schemes which have a set recruitment timetable, this means that  opportunities come up throughout the year. Search for opportunities through: 

  • MyCareerHub; look for advertised opportunities, and use the "Find employers" tab to search for organisations by size 
  • Social media; check out our advice on using this approach:  

       Using social media to find out and stand out 

  • Your contacts; keep in mind that everyone you meet could be a useful resource at some point in your career.  
  • Being proactive and making speculative applications:  

       Create your own work experience


Startups are businesses (often tech companies) at an early stage of their development, likely to have a very small number of staff, with an innovative product or service and the potential for rapid growth. There are agencies which specialise in matching candidates to vacancies:

Hired By Startups

Work In Startups

Edinburgh Innovations is the commercialisation service at the University. They offer a free service, which encourages and supports students and recent graduates to startup, sustain and develop their entrepreneurial journey. There are a wide range of events, competitions, programmes and online courses and resources so you can get involved in this friendly, open community:

Edinburgh Innovations