Do You Prefer to Be A Big Fish In A Small Pound or Small Fish in A Big Pound

Do You Prefer to Be A Big Fish In A Small Pound or Small Fish in A Big Pound?

The big fish/small fish analogy is common in every industry. You may be a top performer in your field and have just been offered a job at one of the country’s top three firms. The pay and other benefits are huge. You will be operating from one of the most serene workplaces around. You also have another offer from a smaller firm with huge growth potential. This offer is a top position that is interesting, dynamic but challenging. The salary is average, more than what you are currently earning, but lower than that of the big firm. Which offer will you accept?

The bigger firm offers you benefits such as international opportunities, mid-level connections, a chance to work with accomplished like-minds in your field, and so on. So why wouldn’t you want to be a small fish in the big pond? The smaller firm’s role is a high-level position, but cannot match the benefits of the bigger firm; their budget is considerably low, and most of their employees are newbies, but with your skills and experiences, you will be able to make a lot of impact both within and outside the firm. I guess being a big fish in a small pond also seems good.

Choosing which of either offer to accept should depend on a lot of personal, career, and industrial considerations. Being a small fish in a big pond can be a good start; As long as you won’t be swallowed by the sharks. When you have gained enough experience, it is ok to move up the ladder to be a big fish in a small pond and increase the size of the pond. If you are good at what you do and you possess the right character, it is almost inevitable that you will grow, because the chances are you will be able to solve bigger problems as you develop.

In answering this question, understand that being a small fish shows ambition and determination; Wanting to start at the bottom and work your way to the top. While wanting to be a big fish shows leadership and ambition. So it doesn’t matter to the interviewer if you are a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond, as long as your response is consistent with the position you are vying for and also carries your innovative skills, sense of dedication, passion, and readiness to push to achieve your dreams.

Although there is no definitive answer to this question there are a few factors you should consider when responding, they are:


Your Level of experience

Are you kicking off your career, or ate you at the intermediate level or the peak? For a starter, there is a lot to learn from playing a smaller role before working yourself to the top; This can be working in a smaller firm to gain experience and exposure or being part of a team in a large organization where you have to work hard to survive and thrive. Either way, your response should align more to being a small fish in a big pond. At the intermediate level of your career, you may want to ascribe to both sides of the question depending on the role you are interviewing for. There is a chance of being a big-shot smaller firm or a team player in a smaller firm because of the long-term opportunities it offers. For someone at the senior level, who is probably approaching the end of his career, your response should be sided towards ‘a big fish in a small pond’ regardless of the size of the firm. At this stage, it is expected that you should lead and direct others to achieve organizational goals.


The position at stake

If the role you are interviewing for is that of a team player, your response should align with that; Let it be that you want to slowly but steadily ascend to the role of a big fish. However, if you are vying for a supervisory or managerial position, your responsibilities will suit the ‘the fish small pond situation’. Frame your answer in such a way that it reflects the role you have applied.


Personal and family responsibilities

What other obligations do you have? For instance, a family to carter for or communal and religious obligations play an important role in the kind of positions you will be pursuing. You will prefer stability to balance work and life; Hence the role you will be vying for are likely to be those that take much of your time. Similarly, larger organizations will that have established processes and definitive work time will be most desired. But for individuals with little or no out-of-work responsibilities, it could be convenient to take on bigger and more demanding roles even with smaller firms.


Your long-run career goals

This entails looking at the targets you have set for your career. Are interested in climbing the cooperate ladder, or charting an entrepreneurial curse soon? Weighing where you are with where you want to be is a good recipe for answering the question. If you are heading toward leadership, you should subscribe to the ‘big fish’ part of the question. However, if your career aspirations align with maintaining mid-level roles, you may as well refer to yourself as a ‘small fish in a big pond. Similarly, for those interested in pursuing professional expertise in a particular field, the interest could go both ways depending on the firm size and its organizational structure.


The Risk Appetite

some individuals prefer remaining in their comfort zones regardless of the opportunities out there, while there are others always seeking new challenges no matter how risky it is. Risk-averse persons should naturally stick to small roles in big organizations because of the stability it offers. For people working hard to make it to the top, there is no limit to how influential they will want to be, be it a small firm or a large organization.



From the variables discussed, you will realize that the pattern of responding to the interview question “Do you prefer to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond” depends on your genuine preference as well as your present personal and professional dispositions. While some people feel that being a small fish or in a small pond is cowardly, others think that being small in a bigger pond depicts poverty of ambition, but that is hardly true. What matters is how happy and fulfilled you are at what you do. You can be in many ponds if you desire to or even own your pond and be the only fish in it. Beyond work, this pond analogy can translate into community roles, relationships, friendships, and leisure.                 

Interview Questions

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