How to Write a Resume When Going from Owner to Employee
Many entrepreneurs will find themselves ready to move from owner to employee at some point in their careers. Capturing your small business ownership experience on your resume so that you can make this transition can be challenging. But, it doesn't have to be. Here is what you need to know about building your resume to effectively explore your next career options.
Explain Your Why
The reason behind your intended shift from entrepreneur to an employee does matter. Not everyone's reasons are positive, but it is important to convey why you are interested in and committed to the shift now. You also do not need to tell every detail on your resume or cover letter about why you want to make this change. Instead, keep it positive and forward-thinking. The potential employer wants to know what you bring to the table and what you can help them to achieve. And, most importantly, that you are ready to work for someone else.
There can be a bias in hiring at some companies that an entrepreneur or small business owner isn't able to work well with others which is why they have been on their own. So, if part of your reason is that you want to work with part of a team again, then make sure that you articulate that on your resume and cover letter. If not, then make sure you include details about how you have led others and collaborated with larger organizations in the past whenever possible. This will help to set the tone for your interview so that you can elaborate more on why you want to take the next step in your journey and how that can fit into their organization.
Focus on the Audience
The second big item to remember in building your entrepreneur to employee resume is that your audience isn't looking for an entrepreneur. They are looking for someone to do a job for their existing leadership team. They want a person that can do the job and that can be a strong part of their team. Remember who your audience is when building your resume so that all of the details on the resume can be viewed as positively as possible. This means shifting the way you talk about your achievements and responsibilities. Specifically, you will need to articulate them in a way that is more detailed. You will also need to shift from talking about your company and focus on your role in the results.
You wore a lot of hats as a small business owner in the operations of your company. Now, you are applying to jobs where you will probably be more focused in what you will do. This also means focusing the details of your experience on those that will be relevant to the types of roles where you will be applying. You do not want to be viewed as a jack of all trades and master of none. Instead, you should focus your resume on your strengths and the skills that you want to use more in your next step. This will make you appear as a stronger candidate for the roles that you are applying to and help you to get past the resume bots.
Most entrepreneurs start their businesses to solve a problem for customers. They aren't concerned with job titles or job descriptions. In fact, most small business owners will simply call themselves owners. But, when you decide to shift to a corporate employee role, that means that job titles and descriptions will matter. You will need to give yourself a title other than "Owner" to explain what you did on your resume in a way that will help your search. You will also need to articulate what you did in that role in a way that resonates with that job title.
You can't and shouldn't give yourself a title that doesn't connect with your current search. You also shouldn't skip over your time as an owner. You worked hard to build your business. To move from owner to employee, you simply need to reframe the way you talk about that experience. And, many larger organizations will appreciate your initiative to get things done and your creative problem-solving skills. Thus, dive deeper into what you did and how that connects to other organizations. You will improve the effectiveness of your resume by reassigning your title and connecting it with how other organizations think about it and it will help you to cast a wider net in your search.
Your results as a business owner and entrepreneur matter. Articulating what you did and how you did it can be the challenging part for most small business owners who are focused on the bigger picture rather than keeping track of everything they do. So, consider the following in putting together your achievement bullets for your entrepreneur resume:
- Numbers matter. Incorporate numbers whenever possible on your resume. These numbers should be conveyed as part of your achievement bullets to make it easier for people skimming the resume to see your value.
- Percentages are best. Numbers at a small business may seem big to you, but for a larger organization, these numbers can seem really small. Or, it may be hard to connect your metrics with that of another industry. So, try to frame up your results in percentages whenever possible. Doing so makes it easier for anyone to understand your impact.
- Stay recent. Own your business for several years? Make sure that you are staying focused on the last few years and how that connects with what you want to do next. The results early on matter, but you do need to stay recent whenever possible.
- Address challenges. Some entrepreneurs will be making a change because the recent years aren't great. That's ok! In that case, frame up your recent wins in terms of strategic moves or results under challenging circumstances. These will also go a long way to showing how you navigate change.
- Stay relevant. Remember you are applying to a specific job and not to be an owner at another company. So, frame up your results in a way that is relevant to the types of jobs that you are now pursuing. For some, this can mean having different versions of their resumes to pursue different types of jobs when shifting from entrepreneur to employee.
- Stay on Brand. Keep your achievements consistent with your bigger value proposition. Know what it is that you bring to the table that is unique and use examples of achievements that illustrate that value. Stay focused on your message and use words consistent with that bigger message to show clarity in your leadership brand - as an owner and as an employee.
The other part of your resume that any entrepreneur should include are details about their daily responsibilities in their role. These will undoubtedly be all over the board in a small business as most owners would fill in wherever needed to make things work. Consider the following to articulate your responsibilities in a relevant way on your entrepreneur to employee resume:
- Skills. Include details about the skills that you used to accomplish everything that you do or did as an entrepreneur in a small business or start-up. Relate these skills to what you want to do next whenever possible.
- Experiences. Work with vendors? Design products? Market your Business? All of the Above? Whatever it is that you have done in your business that you want to do more of, that is what you include in a few bullets under your professional experience entry for your time as a small business owner. You may find this challenging at first, but keep it focused on what want to do next and it will make the process easier.
- Do Your Research. Not sure what to focus on? Take your time to look at the job postings to figure out what other people call the jobs that you want to do more of next. Looking through job postings can be overwhelming, but taking a broad approach to investigating what others do with similar titles can help you to decide whether you really want to do that job somewhere else.
- Pull from Job Postings for Specific Jobs. When applying to a specific job, you should explicitly include the requirements for that job on your resume. This isn't about a simple copy/paste. But, you need to cover what is required as a qualification exactly on your resume or you will not make it past the resume bots that will screen your resume for those keywords.
- Incorporate collaboration. As noted above, there can be a bias against smaller business owners and entrepreneurs when applying to larger organizations. The thinking is that the person can't work well with others or that they don't have the skills to work in a more complex environment. Overcome that bias by including details in your responsibilities about working with others internally and externally. Also, make sure that you include specifics about working in complex or highly regulated environments when appropriate.
Other Details Do Matter
It may seem silly or a given that you have certain software skills or education. But, that simply isn't true. The computer systems will first scan your resume for these details and if these applicant tracking systems do not see the information, then you will be deemed unqualified for the role. In fact, some ATS programs may deem you as not having a high school diploma if you fail to include your education on your resume. So, make sure that you are including all of those potentially relevant details on your resume. Some of these additional details that can matter are:
- Software. The names of certain software programs will matter regardless of your level. So, include a few lines on your entrepreneur resume at the bottom so those people and systems that do care about such things can find it.
- Awards. Many small business owners will not have awards. If they do, it is often from prior roles or recognitions in an industry. Include these if applicable and provide an explanation about the awards to showcase what you have accomplished across your career.
- Certifications/Licenses. Include details about any current or inactive licenses and certifications on your small business owner if they are relevant to your current search.
- Language Ability. The ability to speak multiple languages - even if not fluently can help you to stand out. Include this on your resume when you have such abilities. But, don't overstate your capability as you may find yourself embarrassed in an interview when someone starts asking you questions in the language that you claimed to know on your resume.
- Volunteering. Involvement in the community, in your industry, or in the nonprofit world can matter. It can show your ability to work with others, potential client referral relationships, and leadership skills. Include these details when the volunteering is ongoing and not a one-off or an occasional commitment.
- Clients and Industries Served. Some organizations will want to know that you have experience working in their industry or with their clients. If you do, then make sure that you clearly articulate such information on your resume. You may not have worked with the same people or at the same level as you want to when moving into your employee role, but it is important to include details about this experience and these relationships on your resume if you have them
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