When Entrepreneurs Become Job Seekers

by Robinson, Marcia Thursday, August 20, 2009
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We all know that the job market is really tough!

As if the competition from new college grads and the recently terminated isn't enough, here comes the competition from another, not so often talked about pool of job seekers - entrepreneurs.

Many small business owners are coming back into the job market and having a hard time connecting. Since the beginning of this year, I have talked to at least 10 business owners, who have had to seek out employment to either keep their own businesses going, closed their businesses all together, or thinking of closing their businesses.

Two of these entrepreneurs were in the construction business. One owned a painting company and the other a small general contracting company. Both have had to lay off workers and have become employees themselves for big box retailers. One owner of an adult day care facility is considering selling a building, at a loss no less, and operating his business from his home, where his teenage daughter can help with customers as he takes on a night job. Another, a property manager, is unable to find renters and need to now himself find a job to augment his investment property mortgage payments. These are a few. There are others and don't think this phenomenon is limited to sole proprietors either.

There is a lot of support out there for the unemployed who want to start a business. This is great news, because that is an excellent option for many. However, there is not much advice for the entrepreneur who has to return to work. Maybe because some see it as a failure? I don't. I see it as a reality.

Here are some of the tips that I have been sharing with entrepreneurs who have to become job seekers to support their families:

1. Sell your skills as a team player in the interview. Many successful entrepreneurs are "take-charge", mavericks who have been used to making all the decisions. Some employers might say they like that in a candidate, but it really is about balance.

2. Show your willingness to learn new things...quickly. As an entrepreneur, you may have become a master in a specific niche. Now that you are looking, you may find that your niche, although good for your business, doesn't have wide demand.

3. Look for opportunity and potential. You may not be able to make the same starting out, as you were when your business was up and running. Instead of looking at just the wages, consider the peace of mind for you and your family as well as benefits like health insurance and retirement accounts.

4. Talk with your vendors and suppliers. They may be able to help or certainly make recommendations. Network also with others in your professional groups such as your union. You may be able to collaborate on jobs.

5. Brush up on your job search strategy and skills. Get a resume together and become familiar with searching for jobs online or networking your way into a job. You networked to land clients before, you will now have to do the same to land a job. Only problem is that you may not have a marketing department to do it for you. Look for free job search resources. I actually met three entrepreneurs at a job search workshop I volunteered to do at my local library about 4 months ago. They were preparing for job search because their revenues were in the tank or heading there. One I am happy to say has landed a great opportunity in sales with a vendor. Two are still looking.

6. Use headhunters. Entrepreneurs are independent thinkers. No question about that. However, they may have to rely on the expertise of others in this situation.

7. Put yourself in the employer's shoes. Would you hire you? Remember what you looked for in an employee and think about the best way to sell that to potential employers. One of the things you thought about was - "will this employee stay?" Your new potential employer is thinking the same thing. What happens once his/her business picks up? Will I lose them as an employee? This is what the employer is thinking and so you have to prepare an answer.

8. Stay positive and bring your entrepreneurial spirit to the job search. Think creatively about meeting new people, personal branding and the numbers. The more connections you make the better qualified leads you can find. Those problem solving skills as an entrepreneur will serve you now better than ever.

No question that this is a difficult time to find a job. If you or someone you know have been used to doing the hiring, but now have to be doing the looking, it could be a real challenge. Stay focused yet flexible!