Dear Matt: After years of owning my own business, I'm looking at going back to work as an employee of a company. I have the skills and experience companies need, but it seems employers are using my business ownership experience against me. How can former business owners overcome stereotypes such as these?
Matt: Independent business owners who are re-entering the workforce as employees definitely face unique challenges, says Sarah Gasparini, president of the Twin Cities Human Resources Association (tchra.org) and a contract talent acquisition specialist for AGA Medical Corporation.
There are positives and negatives to being a former business owner looking to get into a role where he or she is no longer the boss. Employers view this person as self-motivated, but there also could be a perceived notion that this person could be difficult to manage, or not be able to work well within a team setting.
Those stereotypes can be eliminated in the interview process if you are able to show real-life work examples that demonstrate teamwork and the ability to gather input and buy-in before executing tasks. This is crucial and often the biggest concern of employers.
"Those examples will speak louder than any verbal promises to cooperate," says Gasparini.
If you're struggling to find work, Gasparini recommends contacting staffing/contract agencies that cater to your area of professional expertise. They are open to speaking with candidates and are typically very transparent about their ability to find matching jobs. This is an excellent way to find contract or temporary work where you can show your ability work as a part of a team. You can then leverage that experience when searching for a permanent position.
Volunteering through an industry-related trade group is another great way to network with a new group of professionals, says Gasparini. This is also a way to publicly demonstrate an ability to show up on-time and get a job done. It can introduce you to new colleagues who may alert you to job openings with their company or who can eventually vouch for your ability to work on a team.
Remember, it's not about what you have done as a business owner, it's what you can do for the company that you are interviewing with. Tie any results, key achievements and successes into how that experience can help you help the company.
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