Many people, and especially millennials striving to prove themselves as valuable members of the workforce, are attracted to opportunities at Fortune 500 companies. They view working for a large, recognizable brand as a badge of honor, a career-making opportunity that will allow them to be able to compete for any job they might want in the future.
The “millennials want to work for Fortune 500 companies” narrative is no false stereotype. Just look at the annual Millennial Career Survey from the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS).
In 2016, the survey’s ranking of the top 25 companies that millennials want to work for was dotted with Fortune 500ers, including companies such as 3M, Google, Disney, Apple, and Amazon.
If you’re a millennial job seeker and you are thinking about pursuing opportunities with Fortune 500 companies, good for you. There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious and shooting for big jobs with big brands right out of the gate.
However, before you start work, it’s a good idea to calibrate your expectations so that they match with the reality of working at a Fortune 500 company. Here are six things to know before you start applying.
1. You will face stiff competition
If you click on the link to the NSHSS list above, you’ll realize that your dream employer is probably the dream employer for countless other millennials. Of course, the entire job market is competitive—especially for young people just entering the workforce.
However, you will likely face the fiercest competition for Fortune 500 jobs. If you decide to shoot for the Fortune 500 route, be prepared for a longer job search.
2. The interview process might be longer
Everyone interviews differently and Fortune 500 companies are no exception. There is no general rule that can be applied to the hiring process for every company on the Fortune 500 list. However, because of the steep competition for these jobs, the interview processes are often longer and more in-depth than you would expect from smaller businesses.Your interview process could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months (depending on the company and the job) and will likely involve several phone or video interviews followed by in-person interviews, skills testing, or employee job shadowing. The good news is that you can usually find information on what to expect from Fortune 500 companies online—either from third-party sites like Glassdoor or from the companies themselves.
3. You’ll have to pass a background check
According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, 72% of employers now run background checks on every employee they hire. Expect to have to go through a background check no matter where you apply. However, Fortune 500 companies tend to be particularly vigilant about vetting their new employees, because doing so is such an important step to avoid negligence, liability, and bad press.
If you are hoping to find a job at a Fortune 500 company, you should go in expecting a thorough background check process—one that includes criminal history checks, employment confirmations, education verifications, drug testing, and more. Bottom line, you’re probably not going to get away with adding inaccurate or misleading information to your resume. You have to tell the truth.
4. You’ll have to work extremely hard
Many Fortune 500 companies are notorious for their long work hours and high expectations. In a 2015 profile published by Fortune, one Amazon employee said that the company “will work you to death: either you’ll be gone after two years, or you stay forever because you love working that hard.” Another described the Amazon workplace as “a culture of self-driven workaholics.” These descriptors are hardly unique to Amazon—especially on the tech side of the equation.
Some millennials love the idea of a tough, hard-working company culture, but if you’re after something with a little more work-life balance, you might look outside of the Fortune 500.
5. You won’t always feel like you’re making an impact—especially right away
One of the best things about working for a smaller company is the feeling that you are making an impact. In Fortune 500 jobs—particularly the entry-level positions that most millennials will be competing for—it’s easy to feel like you are just another cog in the machine.
Getting lost in the hugeness of the company you work for isn’t ideal for the average young worker, who wants to learn, develop new talents and skills, and climb the ladder to higher positions. None of that is impossible at a Fortune 500 company, but it might be harder to come by than with a smaller organization.
6. You’ll build a huge network
If you work for a Fortune 500 company and find that it isn’t right for you, the good news is that you will grow your professional network considerably. Not only does a good job at a Fortune 500 company look good on a resume, but it can also get your foot in the door with many employers.
Most Fortune 500 companies have sizable alumni groups on LinkedIn that you might be able to tap for future job opportunities, and former managers and colleagues can make for killer references. Bottom line, if you are going to work for a Fortune 500 company, make a concentrated effort to build connections. If you don’t end up staying, those connections will serve as your springboard to a new job.
Fortune 500 jobs can be high pressure, grueling, and tough, but they can also be engaging, eye-opening, and perfect for resume building.
If you decide to pursue a Fortune 500 job as your entry into the workforce or as your next big step in the professional world, keep the six things discussed above in mind.
Each point is only general, and none of them will apply to every Fortune 500 employer, but they will help you adjust your expectations and weigh the pros and cons of working for a big company.