Going From Entrepreneur Back to Employee? How To Handle the Change
At the start of 2021, the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council estimated that the pandemic had forced the closure of 9.4 million businesses. Many of those closures were temporary, but many others were not. When the dust settled come springtime, The Wall Street Journal reported that approximately 200,000 businesses had closed that would otherwise have remained open.
When businesses shut down, their owners suddenly find themselves without any money coming in — and they’re often saddled with a whole lot of debt, expenses and obligations. Some quickly pivot to another entrepreneurial endeavor. Others, however, have to do what they went into business to avoid in the first place — they have to go out and get a job.
The transition from boss to employee, which often feels like a regression, can be defeating and depressing. GOBankingRates asked the experts how to survive the adjustment.
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If the Transition Isn’t Voluntary, Get Your Mind in the Right Place First
If you’re back in the job market because your business didn’t succeed, you’ll have no shortage of opportunities to beat yourself up and sink into self-loathing — but that’s not exactly the entrepreneurial spirit, now is it?
“While the tendency may be to view the return to full-time work as a failure, you can instead choose to embrace it as a temporary shift into a new role that offers an inside look at the challenges companies are currently facing,” said author and speaker Nancy R. Burger. “Entrepreneurship is a mindset, not simply a professional role that you play. You can apply that mindset to any job you happen to be doing, whether it be in your own company or as a full-time employee.
Be Patient, Expect Slow Going at First and Remember You’re Not in Charge Anymore
No matter your reason for moving from the boss’ chair to punching a clock, expect to be frustrated — employees don’t have the leverage to will their vision into reality the way owners do.
“The hardest part about this transition is that you won’t be in the same CEO-style leadership role as an employee,” said Laura Briggs, a career coach for entrepreneurs who has trained more than 11,000 freelancers. “You might see plenty of opportunities to improve things, but you’re new. There’s a fine line to walk between making suggestions and wanting to change everything because if this were your company, you’d do it differently. Entrepreneurs often struggle with the red tape in the employee world because it can seem like there’s a lot of unnecessary steps, paperwork, or meetings involved before making what you see as a relatively simple decision.”
Give it some time, work to adapt to the company culture and try to make small, measured changes without being overbearing or presumptuous — and don’t expect your colleagues to defer to you because of your background.
“The first thing to remember in such a situation is not to name-drop your company or experience when making a point,” said Joe Flanagan, senior employment advisor at VelvetJobs.
Cherish the Freedom That Comes With Forfeiting Control
People who have never experienced the rigors of owning a business have a tendency to imagine a cushy life of delegating responsibility while raking in cash — with your feet up on a desk, of course. Real-life entrepreneurs know that this is a laughable scenario. Owning a business is a life of constant worry, pinched pennies and impossibly long hours — but when you go to work for someone else, you leave all those headaches behind.
“When you go from being self-employed to full-time employment, you generally lose a lot of independence,” said Matt Weidle, business development manager for Buyer’s Guide. “After months or years of being your own boss, allowing someone else to make decisions might be difficult. It can, however, be a relief. Preparing to give up some of your former independence and focusing on the benefits of full-time employment might help you get through this stage of the shift.”
There’s also the incredibly good feeling of steady, predictable pay.
“If you’re transitioning from entrepreneurship to full-time employment, you’re essentially giving up some freedom, but getting security and consistency in return,” said Ben Taylor, career coach and founder of HomeWorkingClub.com. “It’s inevitable that answering to other people will be a strange adjustment at first, but the adjustment will happen in time — and probably not that much time. The thought that you’re guaranteed a paycheck at the end of the month should help you get through the initial discomfort.”
It’s Not a Failed Business, It’s Your Resume’s Strongest Selling Point
If you’re just now steeling yourself to start applying for jobs, understand that your shuttered business is not a blemish on your record — it’s what sets you apart from the lifelong W-2ers who are your competition.
“I advise my customers to believe in the importance of their experience and to spend time learning about their strongest skills,” said Darsh Ray, CEO and founder of Job Alert. “Then I lecture about the need of figuring out where these abilities would be useful in a larger business. Nobody else will value a candidate’s skills if they don’t believe they are valuable.”
When you do find work, you might consider pouring yourself into your new job the way you poured yourself into your business.
Shahar Erez, CEO of Stoke Talent, refers to this as “intrapreneurialism.”
“A good intrapreneur is an extremely valuable employee,” Erez said. “You can start planning and positioning yourself strategically to take on a big-budget project within an existing organization, for example. Take the chance to prove yourself to your employer. Once that is under your belt, you can go after more large-scale and highly innovative projects.”
Being the rock star employee might scratch your entrepreneurial itch until you’re back in business for yourself — or it could become your new calling.
“You might find it is a better role for you because you are still being challenged enough and you have opportunities to innovate,” Erez said. “You might still get to take some exciting risks but from a more secure position — and with someone else’s money, too.”
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Last updated: Oct. 25, 2021