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Closed Your Small Business, and Now You Need a Job?

Closed Your Small Business, and Now You Need a Job?

By Gladys Stone & Fred Whelan

This recession has been a killer -- in fact, it killed your small business. After years of being your own boss, now you've got to pitch yourself as a "company person" -- someone who can thrive in corporate America.

Once you’ve come to grips with no longer being the boss, the hard part is convincing a prospective employer that you can make this transition. How do you go about doing that? Here are six points to get across:

1. Connect the Dots

Since you're not coming from a corporate position, you'll have to work harder to sell your relevant experience. Figure out beforehand the most pertinent responsibilities for this job and describe how your background meshes. Obviously, as a small business owner you wore a lot of hats. Focus just on the "hats" required for this job.

2. You Are Not the Chief Anymore

Will you be OK not being the boss? Let the interviewer know that this transition is something you feel good about, not a necessary evil. You're OK not being the boss, because there are other ways you can advance your career. Articulate your long-term career goals and explain how your small business history can be leveraged therein. For instance, you may have experience in guerilla marketing, financial management or sales. Now you know that the sales part of the job is where you want to concentrate your efforts. Or maybe you enjoyed all aspects of the business and want to be a general manager -- with more resources than you could possibly have in your own company. Being part of a bigger company allows you to do more of the things you love, rather than all the ancillary things you had to do in your small business.

3. You Are a Thinker and a Doer

Larger companies look for a combination of thinking and doing. Describe how your “doing” expertise (resolving customer problems, for instance) coupled with strategic thinking (understanding and forecasting customer needs) translates to hands-on experience and, ultimately, value for the company.

4. Discuss Collaboration

Nowadays companies look for people who can be successful as an influencer and as part of a decision-making team. One concern the interviewer might have is that there was no need for you to be collaborative -- after all, you were the boss. Provide an example of how you were able to get people who weren't working for you to respond to your needs. This could mean influencing a supplier to get something to you more quickly -- with no up charge -- just because it wanted to do something special for you.

5. Don't Oversell

Don't presume that because you ran your own business you can do anything. Clearly, you worked hard and there were countless things you did well. But implying that you can do it all is off-putting and unrealistic. Just focus on the experience that applies to this job.

6. Managing a Team

The interviewer may speculate that mentoring fell to the bottom of your priority list as a business owner. Dispel this idea by discussing how you trained and mentored your team -- the receptionist or the bookkeeper, for example. If team-building was something you particularly enjoyed, let the interviewer know that too.

Going from company owner to employee will most definitely be a transition. Make sure that you illustrate your desire for this career change to your prospective employer. Assure the employer that this is something you are embracing rather than enduring, and that this position is an important step along the way to your ultimate career goal.

[Gladys Stone and Fred Whelan are executive coaches and recruiters with more than 20 years of experience. Their company, Whelan Stone, works primarily with Fortune 500 companies, recruiting high-impact talent and boosting the performance level of management. Their book, Goal! Your 30 Day Game Plan for Business & Career Success delivers a practical, effective solution for reaching any business or career goal. They have been frequently quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, USA Today and the Boston Globe and author a career blog on The Huffington Post. Both live in San Francisco.]

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