Working for yourself can be a blessing - you are your own boss, and that means you often make your own rules. You determine working hours for yourself and your employees. You decide what work you want to take on and what work you want to delegate. Heck, even the keys are yours. You're the boss, you make the rules, and that's pretty frickin' cool.
Unfortunately, life sometimes throws curve balls. For any of a variety of reasons - the economy kills your business, you need a steady paycheck, you hate doing business development, your spouse has accepted a job in another city and that means leaving your business behind, whatever - you need to dust off the old résumé and start looking for a job.
The previously self-employed face a variety of challenges, and they need to adapt to the employment market. Here are some of the obstacles they may face:
- Lack of Modesty - When you're in charge, nobody really questions what you're doing. You built your business from scratch, and you've made all the decisions. That cockiness you've developed from being an expert in your field may have helped land some business in the past, but employers want to know that you will understand and abide by your role in their organization. I've interviewed folks who were in this type of transition, and they've unconsciously broadcast a confidence as if they owned the joint - casual body language, exuding a "know-it-all" attitude, and a general sense of being the BMOC (Big Man on Campus).
- Executive-itis - Being your own boss means delegating tasks as you see fit. Sometimes individuals in positions of authority develop a condition I call "Executive-itis." This condition is developed over time, where an individual gets used to everybody doing what they say without question due to their role in an organization (I've seen internal company executives get this, too). Basically, you ask a subordinate to make something happen and, BINGO! - it shows up on your desk in the morning. Larger organizations have spans and layers of individuals, and are often heavily-matrixed to boot. So, delegation often requires seeing the larger organizational picture. And, by the way, you may not have somebody to delegate to, so you have to do it your darn self. Are you prepared to do the dirty work?
- Knowing Your Role - You may have been top dog in your own company, but in a larger company your skills and experience may relegate you to middle management or - GASP - a role as an individual contributor. Will your ego allow you to take orders? You may have somebody younger or less experienced assigning you tasks - can you tolerate it? If there's a human resources issue, can you follow the company protocols to address it?
- Following the Rules - Company hours require you to work from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with two weeks vacation and five personal days at your disposal. You're used to dropping everything and playing 18 holes at a whim - can you bring yourself to live within such a structure? You're used to being the one to pick up your kid from school at 3:00 p.m. everyday. Now, they're going to have to take the bus - will you survive? This lack of flexibility can be a bigger deal than you imagine.
- Playing in the Sandbox - Let's say that you worked alone in your last company. Do you have the skills to work with and through others in a larger corporation? Working with others is a learned skill, honed through experience. If you treat others poorly - even if it's unintentional - you won't last long at the company. Often, how you work with others is just as (if not more) important than what you accomplish.
If you're running your own company and looking to reenter the world of the corporate employee, I recommend the following:
- Conduct a mock interview with a trusted friend. Have them point out any body and verbal language cues which may be detrimental to your case. Polish out the kinks.
- Consider taking on a volunteer role with a charitable organization you like. Put yourself in a position where you are taking and executing orders - and see how you feel about it. Then work on adapting your mindset to the task.
- Request and go on informational interviews with individuals who understand where your skills may fit. They can provide you guidance on the appropriate level of your skills in their type of organization, what to expect on a day-to-day basis, and the salary range you might reasonably expect.
- Adapt your résumé to reflect your job hunting goals. Does it accurately reflect the type of role you may be qualified for? Downplay the executive side of things if you are looking at individual-contributor roles; in such a case, play up the technical and process skills.
- Be prepared to tell interviewers why you are looking to join a company. Come ready to speak at length about how you have worked with and through others, and how you have been a great team player.
Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. He is a Human Resources professional and staffing expert with almost two decades of in-house corporate HR and staffing firm experience, and is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC).
Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.