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Why Work for a Fortune 500 Employer

By Susan P. Joyce

A job with a Fortune 500 employer is a different world from most other employers.  These are the largest companies, although not always extremely large employers, and their names are usually very well-known, across many states or the globe.  That can be very good for your career.

A Fortune 500 company could be a viable option for employment, and whether you are a new grad, or a seasoned professional.

The Fortune 500's Importance

The companies on the Fortune 500 list are important to job seekers for four primary reasons:

  1. Employment Figures -

    There are many different positions, necessitating many different backgrounds to keep a Fortune 500 company strong. Walmart, at the #1 spot in 2013, operates 10,800 "retail units" across the globe, including 4,049 Walmarts and 602 Sam's Stores in the USA, employing over 1.3 million employees in the USA (and over 2.2 million world-wide).
  2. Locations -

    Many of these companies have locations all across the United States, and it is not out of the ordinary to "find one around every corner." These locations can be large contributors to jobs in small areas and can provide an accessible source of employment. Employees are often able to change locations, simply by finding a new job in the preferred location while remaining inside the company.  It is also often possible to change career paths within these very large employer organizations.
  3. Resume Advantage -

    Having one of these names on your resume is often perceived as an advantage, an indication that you have "played successfully in the big leagues."

    Many positions in these very large companies are highly specialized and, often, more sophisticated in their practices than other companies. Because of the level of financial support usually (!) available, employees may be using advanced technology and other tools and techniques not yet used by - or, perhaps, known by - smaller companies.
  4. A Best Company to Work For -

    Some of these companies are so consistent with their annual revenues that they understand that their workforce is a key to their success. Twenty-one of the Fortune 500 for 2012 made it on the CNN Money's list of 100 best companies to work for. Each company has its own culture and mission, and being a part of something like these workforces can be rewarding, both mentally and fiscally.


Advantages and Disadvantages of Working for a Fortune 500 Company

Working for a Fortune 500 employer can be a dream, or it can be pure torture.  It depends on what you want and the way you like to work. Think about your long-term career and life goals, and consider if a Fortune 500 employer is a good fit for you.

The Up-Side of Working for a Fortune 500 Employer

Particularly when you work at corporate headquarters, you are involved in "leading edge" things, and your employer can afford to provide you with the latest and greatest technology.  People are startled when I say that I've been using email since 1981, but that was how the company kept all 120,000 of us connected world-wide.  It was extremely useful, and great fun, and we were at least 10 to 15 years ahead of most of the world.

You also usually end up with a very large network of co-workers and former co-workers, vendors, customers, and others that is a life-long advantage.  Most of the Fortune 500 companies have large "alumni" groups on LinkedIn and elsewhere. [See Job-Hunt's Corporate Alumni Group Directory for a large sample.]

When the layoffs began with my employer, many of my colleagues ended up working for customers or following other co-workers and managers to other employers.  It wasn't easy to survive the layoffs, but it would have been much tougher for all of us without that large network to tap.

If you don't work in the headquarters location, your job and career opportunities may be more limited inside the company, but that name on your resume may well open more doors to you with other employers.

The Down-Side of Working for a Fortune 500 Employer

Unfortunately, over the years, several of these companies have become famous, or infamous, for "off-shoring" - sending large categories of jobs to locations where labor is cheaper.  They also merge, are acquired by or acquire other companies as part of their global positioning.  So, a job with one of these companies is not more secure than a job with a smaller company, and perhaps somewhat less secure in some circumstances.

Often people who work for such a large company become minutely specialized in a subset of a standard field.  When I worked for a Fortune 30 company (with over 120,000 other employees), my job was business manager of large fixed-price Federal Government procurements.  It was a fun job (millions of dollars of equipment and services could be sold in a single contract), a tough job (millions of dolllars...), and I learned a great deal in it that still helps me today in my current job. 

But, when I was laid off (the company, and all 120,000 jobs, disappeared in fewer than 10 years!), local employers were not interested in hiring me.  One even told me that I was "just another big-company bureaucrat."

Another problem can be the reputation associated with the company name.  Many of these large companies are hated by different individuals and groups, sometimes for good reason and sometimes not.   As an employee, even a former employee, you may be impacted by that attitude.

Bottom Line

If the Fortune 500 were a country, their combined revenues of $12.1 trillion would create the world's second largest economy, second only to the United States. The Fortune 500 are home to millions of jobs of many diverse backgrounds, many different locations, and in many different industries.

To learn about how to find a job at one of these companies, see the articles linked in the right column.


According to Fortune, companies on the Fortune 500 & 1000 lists are "ranked by total revenue for their respective fiscal years. Included in the survey are U.S. incorporated companies filing financial statements with a government agency..." plus "companies and cooperatives which file financial statements with a government agency, and mutual insurance companies that file with state regulators."

Neither nor NETability, Inc. have any relationship with Fortune magazine or its parent company. We provide this information as a service to job seekers.

About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.


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