A number of people recently have sought my advice on their intended transition into the corporate world. They are entrepreneurs who, for a variety of reasons, have decided that now is the right time to leave that path. Some are in businesses that have slowed down or have become too difficult for other reasons. Some are in business school, which they entered intentionally to use as a lever for finding a role in corporate America.
Entreprenuers have amazing skills and a lot they can bring to the table within a larger corporate setting. However, their self-employment history can also be of concern to recruiters and hiring managers. Why? Well, here’s a look inside their heads:
Does this gal really want an internal role?
The number one concern is the motivation for applying to a corporate role. Does the applicant truly want to be a part of, not in charge of, the business? Or, are they just doing this because times are tough right now, and as soon as the market defrosts, or they simply get the itch, they’ll jump ship?
Can this guy really take orders or will he buck the system?
This is closely related to the question above. They wonder, Can this person fit within our system? The larger the organization, typically the more processes and policies in place and the less likely one individual is to influence them. Ever heard the phrase My way or the highway? If we’re being brutally honest with each other, we must admit this is often the way it works in large organizations. In very large companies it’s common to not even have contact with the person who chose the highway. People who ask too many questions or do things their own way are considered difficult. Understandably, managers don’t want to hire someone, only to have to fire them later because they don’t “fit”.
Is she really as good as she says she is?
Recruiters and hiring managers may wonder if all the achievements listed on the entrepreneur’s resume are 100% accurate. They generally don’t have any way to verify the information. An issue related to this one is salary or overall compensation.
These are just a few issues, but they’re big ones. If you are moving from entrepreneurship to corporate life, you need to figure out how to counterbalance these concerns. How?
1. Be ready to talk about why you want a corporate role, not why you don’t want to own your own business anymore. If you just tried the entrepreneurial thing for a while, it’s okay to say “it wasn’t for me” but if you owned your own business for a long time or are a serial entrepreneur, that won’t cut it. If you were in a corporate role before and enjoyed it, say so. Do you enjoy structure? Being part of a larger team? Be prepared with a message that will make them comfortable that you understand what you would be getting yourself into and that you truly want it.
2. Make sure that when you talk about your experience or achievements, you illustrate how you’ve successfully worked with or within larger structures. That you can follow the rules. For example, were you a vendor to a large company with strict purchasing guidelines and a rigid RFP process? Were you a franchise owner who had to work within very closely defined operating standards?
3. You aren’t obligated to open up all your financial records to any potential employer (unless you’re going into politics, the FBI or something like that), but the more specific details you can share in an interview the better. Quantify your achievements. Sometimes non-financial details illustrate this better than dollar figures, i.e. “I won the contract renewal with Large Co., Inc., three times due to our excellent customer service and product quality”.
4. Of course, always be prepared to highlight what you bring to the table that non-entrepreneur types may not. For instance, a profitability mindset. A broader understanding of the business. A humbleness that comes from knowing how hard it really is to herd cats.
People make this transition successfully all the time, though it is certainly more challenging now due to the competition in the market. If this is your plan, do your homework now so you can make it easy for a potential employer to say yes.