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I've owned a business! Why can't I get a job?

imageIt's not a rare occasion for me to talk to someone that is surprised that they are struggling in their job search after having had tremendous experience in running a business as an owner. They believe that the skills they gained in having overall financial and operational responsibility should make them a great catch in the marketplace.

Why aren't they getting calls back?

It's a tough predicament. Indeed, they often have gained tremendous experience and have a lot to offer a company. However, there is a lot of perceived additional baggage that goes with hiring a former business owner as well.

What are the issues, and what can be done about it?

Here are some observations…

Whether they are true for any one individual or not, some negative preconceived notions of former business owners are:

  • They're used to having complete control, and so can't work well on a team.
  • They must have earned a lot of money, and will become dissatisfied with a lesser salary.
  • They must not be very effective if they aren't still running their business.
  • They are a jack-of-all trades, but master of none.
  • They may have a bad attitude after not having their own business any longer.
  • They will be uncoachable because they've been able to make up their own processes and rules.
  • An entrepreneurial spirit can't be quenched and they will leave to go out on their own again.
  • They will be dissatisfied in having responsibility in only one functional area rather than all areas.

…and others.

Depending on individual circumstances, all, some, or none of those things may be true. However, the reality is that many of these things come to mind when a recruiter or hiring manager sees a resume of a previous owner.

So, does that mean they are doomed? Not at all. However, some self-evaluation, and a different approach is definitely called for.

Be honest with yourself! Take a look at those objections. If you're honest with yourself, are any of them true for you? If so, you first need to deal with them. If they're not true for you, or once you've dealt with them, you need to be able to articulate how and why those notions don't apply to you. Many of those questions won't get asked in your networking or interviews, however, they are often thought. So you need to address them proactively.

Responding to ads won't work! Unless a job posting specifies that they are looking for a previous business owner, it's not likely you will get a call by applying and waiting. At the same time that they consider your resume, they are also likely looking at someone who's done the same role they are seeking to fill at another company. Although your experience may encompass more than the other applicant, they appear to be a more obvious and direct fit.

In order to be considered, it will require proactive networking, follow up, and introductions on your part. It's your responsibility to help them connect the dots and see your value for the role, rather than hope they will see past their biases on their own. Don't wait, find connections and professionally make calls on your own.

Know your fit! Although you may have had responsibility for Sales, Marketing, Finance, Operations, Technology, HR, Organizational Development and every other aspect of your company, you are likely still to only have your greatest knowledge and strengths in one aspect. Focus on your strength and pursue the most appropriate opportunities. You will be most confident and credible in the areas you know the best. Trying to portray yourself as having expert knowledge in a wide variety of areas will not likely give a potential employer confidence in your fit for any one specific role.


Landing in a position as an employee after having been an employer is often a challenge. It can be overcome, however, networking and connecting with people directly over the phone and face-to-face is much more critical than for the average job seeker. Be honest with yourself. Articulate your answers to their often hidden objections, don't simply respond to ads and wait, and know your best fit.

Network, network, network… and you will reach your goal!


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1 comment:

diesel mechanic said...

Yes, its quite confusing that the person who can run business, can work in business too.

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