Greg Davis of Azola Creative is a marketing coach who can help marketers with transitioning from entrepreneur to employee

Navigating the Transition From Entrepreneur to Employee

Navigating the transition from entrepreneur to employee can be a cause for concern. For many entrepreneurs, the decision to change your career path is a very emotional decision. Your pride in your digital marketing expertise or how you’ll feel being a part of a team of other full-time employees can make you feel weary. The decision you’re making is admirable and sometimes necessary for our personal and professional growth.

The first hurdle in this process is to understand how an entrepreneur looks to an HR recruiter. When considering the perspective of a human resources professional, it’s important to address the transition from self-employment to seeking employment in a thoughtful and compelling manner.

Understanding the HR Perspective:

A Human Resources department has a lot of responsibility. As a recruiting arm of the organization, they are judged largely on providing their hiring managers with good candidates. This means their scrutiny in reviewing your resume is as much about them as it is about you.

As an entrepreneur applying for an employee position, employers are likely to have more scrutiny towards your application. This may be because of the recruiting manager’s past experience and bias in hiring former entrepreneurs.

They may wonder if you’re only seeking the job temporarily because your business is struggling. What if you’re too independent and won’t work well in a structured environment you didn’t create?

Overcoming the Perception:

When overcoming some of these barriers to being selected as a candidate, you will need to be purposeful in the way you communicate your goals and reasons for applying.

First, limit the way you speak of your former brand. Whether you’ve been in business for 6 months or 16 years, you’ve undoubtedly adopted the approach of speaking about your business in a third-person voice. However, you’ve made the decision to be an employee vs. self-employed and with that comes letting go of the way you’re used to speaking about your company.

Change your approach and speak about yourself. If that feels difficult, pretend you’re an employee of your company and describe what you accomplished there. Don’t hide or lie about your self-employment, but don’t oversell your business ownership either.

Communicate why you’re seeking employment again. This is better to include in your cover letter vs. your resume, although you can mention it in your summary if you can be concise. People leave their business for various reasons and you should be honest about it.

You may miss working with a team. Maybe you may want to learn a new area of expertise in your industry. Let’s face it, you may be tired of wearing all the hats an entrepreneur wears. It’s also possible that business slowed down and you no longer want to or can no longer afford to overcome those challenges.

Don’t be blunt and say “my business failed, so I need a job” but you can say something like “the market opportunities changed” or “I recognize I can do more good for customers by being part of a larger team with your company culture”. You’re a marketer, use some of that to convey a positive approach to going back into an employee relationship.

You can also use this to highlight why you’re a better fit for your potential employer. You know how to work under extreme pressure, you’re a strong decision-maker, you’ve managed complex budgets, you’ve managed employees or vendors, etc.

Addressing Long-Term Commitment:

The HR recruiter and hiring manager may be concerned with your long-term commitment to the job. They may worry you’re just using the job as a stop-gap until you go back on your own.

You’ll want to demonstrate your expected career growth expectations. Focus on “why I am the best candidate for the job” in the here and now. Emphasize that the details on the job description offer a career journey that enables you to reach the professional level you are most attracted to during this season of your life. Perhaps you aspire to become a CMO. Building a company may have aligned with your goals 10 years ago, but we all grow and that can include where we want our career to go.

Appreciating Your Skill Sets

Finally, during your job search, expect rejection for reasons that have nothing to do with you. Not all recruiters or hiring managers will have a vision for what you offer. It happens to everyone. Remember that the majority of the population has never started or run their own business.

Human resources managers don’t always understand how brave it is for someone to not only take the step of starting a business but how brave it is to walk away from it. They may not appreciate the emotional and physical toll owning a business can create for a business owner or recognize that it is mentally and physically healthier for you to use your work experience to grow someone else’s business.

In many respects, only one job to do with a steady work schedules and paychecks in an established work environment can feel like a sabbatical for an entrepreneur. It doesn’t mean you won’t work hard, it just means there’s an unseen employee benefit in joining an established business.

Just keep pushing through. Just like a marketer does with a campaign, your “hire me campaign” will require you to try different approaches, test the way to communicate and to keep trying.