Is It Still “Cool” To Work for a Fortune 500 Company?

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I graduated from college in 1996. And I remember thinking when I graduated how cool it would be to work for either General Mills or Best Buy–two of the bigger Minnesota-based companies at the time.

As I joined the workforce, I remember talking to agency folks, and the singular mantra seemed to be how cool it was to work with Fortune 500 companies like Coca-Cola, Ford Motor Company and Johnson & Johnson.

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Working for a huge company was a big deal. And it was definitely a status symbol.

I just wonder if that’s still true today in 2018.

Because there’s been a confluence of trends I’ve noticed in the last couple years that lead me to believe that people may be beginning to believe otherwise.

First, you have the rise of the start-up scene, which seems to be incredibly alluring to the younger set. Look no further than the startup culture for your reasons. It’s fast-paced. It’s fun. You have foosball tables and beer-thirty every Friday. I mean, that’s not even close to realistic (just ask any entrepreneur), but I feel like that’s what a lot of people think. Perception is often reality, folks.

Second, you have what seems to be a growing frustration with working for larger companies with an endless sea or red tape. I’ve worked for and with big corporate clients for years. And yes, there is definitely some of that. I’m one of those folks who probably isn’t bothered by this as much as others, but that red tape is there. And, I think that has been and will continue to be a barrier for some people.

Finally, think about the pervasive social media scene. Who dominates that in the PR/comms/marketing world? Consultants and “thought leaders”, right? Those are either independent folks or agency people. You won’t find too many big corporate people active on social networks for work because they’re busy DOING THE WORK! But, I think sometimes people get caught up in the social media hype. They see people showing up on social media, speaking at events and think: Man, that looks fun. I think that would be a lot better than working for General Motors.

I think these three factors have led us to a place where working for a Fortune 500 that’s not named Google, Apple or Facebook isn’t quite as cool as it was 25 years ago.

Now, I happen to be one of the people who would feel the exact opposite–and I know I’m not completely alone. I think working for and with big companies has all sorts of advantages and benefits. For example:

Working for a big company usually means bigger overall budgets, which means you get to work with vendors like Facebook, and LinkedIn and agencies like Edelman.

Working for a big company sometimes means you have access to star power. Think about Walmart’s annual meeting and the celebrities they bring to Bentonville for that event each year. That’s definitely a perk and draw for those employees.

Working for a big company usually means more access to professional development like attending big events like SXSW (an event I still have not attended to this day).

Sure, working for a big company has drawbacks. And, sometimes they can be painful. But every job has its drawbacks. At the end of the day, I tend to think the drawbacks of working for these large companies is easily worth some of the pain.

What do you think? Have attitudes changed in recent years? Has working for a Fortune 500 company really lost its luster?


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Author: Arik Hanson

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