Advantages & Disadvantages of Working 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 measured by sales, although not always extremely large employers.
Usually, their names are very well known, across many states or even 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.
As someone who worked for a Fortune 500 employer for more than 10 years (before I was laid off), I've seen this category of employer from both the inside and the outside of the organization.
The Fortune 500's Importance
Five reasons the companies on the Fortune 500 list are important to job seekers:
Many People Hired
There are many different positions, necessitating many different backgrounds to keep a Fortune 500 company strong. Wal-Mart, at the #1 spot in 2018, operates 11,000 "retail units" across 28 countries and is the largest employer in the USA (2.3 million employees worldwide). The stores include, of course, Wal-Mart and also Sam's Club stores.
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.
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. Many of the Fortune 500 are included 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 work forces can be rewarding, both mentally and fiscally.
Usually Plenty of Information Available
Typically, much information is published about these companies, including annual reports that present the financial information at the end of the fiscal year. Fortune 500 companies are also typically covered by the news media, business media, social media, and employees sharing information in Facebook, etc.
Many resources for researching these companies are available before you spend your time applying for jobs with them. Take advantage of those resources to learn if you would like working in that "corporate culture."
Also, check out the tips (accurate and not) about how the company's hiring system works and how to be hired.
Just type "Google resume" or "Google job interview" into a search engine and see what you find.
Usually Advanced News of Problems
Because these companies are often in the news, you can sometimes be warned in advance of bad news, like a drop in revenue or shutting down some parts of their business.
For publicly traded companies, their annual reports can help you see if bad trends are developing, like declining sales and profits. This news can help you prepare to leave before things completely fall apart.
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
There are many advantages:
Resume (Personal SEO) 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."
In addition, the names of these large companies are often important keywords for your resume, application, and LinkedIn Profile visibility in search results (SEO).
Many recruiters search for people who have worked for a large, successful competitor or a company known for having smart or well-trained employees.
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 experienced using advanced technology and other tools and techniques not yet used by -- or, perhaps, known by -- smaller companies.
Whether or not you worked at the corporate headquarters, you are often 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 my Fortune 500 employer kept all 120,000 of us connected world-wide. It was extremely useful, and great fun, and we were at least 10 years ahead of most of the world.
Flexible Career Path and Job Opportunities
Another benefit of work for a Fortune 500 employer is that you usually can move relatively easily within the organization. Your career path typically includes several different levels, starting with entry level/junior jobs and progressing to senior/manager jobs.
When jobs are filled, you are usually preferred over any external job candidates, and may be able to change careers relatively easily within the organization, like moving from IT to marketing or marketing to sales or whatever you want to do.
You usually end up with a very large network of co-workers and former co-workers, vendors, customers, and others. Even if you did not actually work with someone at the company, you usually have the bond of common experiences and corporate knowledge.
This large network is a life-long advantage. You may find them working for (or with) your target employers or connected to someone who works there.
Most of the Fortune 500 companies have large "alumni" groups on LinkedIn and elsewhere. Search LinkedIn and Google for "[employer name] alumni" for example, and you may find both online and off-line groups where you can connect and expand your network.
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.
How to Make Employee Referral Programs Work for You (with Sample Messages) for more information about how to leverage that network.
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
There are disadvantages in working for large companies.
Jobs Are Routinely Moved or Eliminated
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.
Perhaps because senior management doesn't really "know" the employees who are losing their jobs, or perhaps because they are more focused on improving corporate profitability (ad their personal bonuses), their loyalty to employees seems to evaporate easily.
These companies 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.
Employees May Be Viewed as Too Specialized
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 (hundreds of millions of dollars of equipment and services could be sold in a single contract), a tough job (hundreds of millions of dollars...), working with a great group of people. 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 5 years!), small local employers were not interested in hiring me. One even told me that I was "just another big-company bureaucrat."
Corporate Reputations Can Become a Handicap
Another problem can be the reputation associated with the company name. We have seen several scandals in the financial services and other industries which have made job search very challenging for their employees trying to leave.
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.
The Bottom Line
If the Fortune 500 companies 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, with many different "corporate cultures," and in many different industries.
Neither Job-Hunt.org nor NETability, Inc. have any relationship with Fortune magazine or its parent company. We provide this information as a service to job seekers.
More About Successful Job Search
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 Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.