Ask Matt: How can I transition back into the corporate world?

  • Updated: October 2, 2012 - 8:49 AM

Dear Matt: I once worked in corporate IT, but for the past 20 years I've owned my own one-person small business. Now I'm looking to get back into the corporate world and want to pursue a project management role. How do self-employed business owners like me make this transition back into corporate America?

Matt says: This is going to be a challenge, says Kent Johnson, area manager of the professional and technical staffing sectors for the Minneapolis branch of Kelly Services (kellyservices.com). "The cold reality is that those hiring in corporate settings will have a hard time considering you for these roles when others with current skills and related experience are applying for the same jobs," said Johnson.

In cases like this, many business owners often wonder if business ownership experience has any value. Ryan McCormick, IT Recruiter for Kelly IT Resources, says what it comes down to is having the knowledge and experience for each specific job you apply for. "Business ownership holds value only when it is relevant to a chosen field," he said.

That's why, more than ever, you will need to network and get in front of decision makers, wow them with your skills and passion and prove to them you can do the job. Just sending in résumés isn't going to work -- the applicant tracking system likely won't see your background as a match, and most employers are going to see you as lacking the experience or skills needed, especially compared to others currently working in this field.

McCormick recommends searching online for project management jobs. What related experience do you really have? What skills are missing? Where are the gaps? How can you fill in the gaps? Start by taking courses and classes that will update your technical skills. At some point you'll need to be able discuss, in an interview setting, formal project management methodologies and best practices and also show that you have the software skills that can be applied in a daily setting.

For any business owner or self-employed person, the key to transitioning into a corporate role really comes down to showing that you have the skills needed for that specific job and that you can fit into the corporate culture and structure.

You also must be able to prove you can work with a team and a boss, follow corporate policy and be a team player.

You can't show this on a résumé. But you can prove it in face-to-face meetings with key decision makers. And that's a good start.

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