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Second-act career

BY SAMANTHA NOLAN Modified: October 12, 2012 at 1:19 pm •  Published: October 12, 2012

Dear Sam: I have been self-employed for 16 years as an independent manufacturers' representative. The business has been successful and financially rewarding over the years, but due to industry consolidation and possible burnout on my end, I feel the need for a change.

I would like to re-enter corporate life, and not necessarily in my current Industry. I feel I have much to offer including experience in sales and marketing, business management, sales management, and exposure to all facets of operating and owning a business. How would I market myself in this situation?

I have been told that being self-employed for a good portion of your career can be an obstacle to reentry. Any thoughts? – Mike

Dear Mike: I work with, and speak to, a lot of clients seeking to return to corporate America, many of whom initiate the process for reasons similar to those you noted. I always explain to those clients that in order to overcome key barriers to reentry, they have to be very careful how they position independent or entrepreneurial engagements.

I first explain that entrepreneurs, or those that are self-employed, typically thrive in very flexible, independent roles, a structure that often doesn’t exist in most traditional corporate environments.

Having said this, a hiring manager could fear that if employed, you would not be in an environment in which you would thrive. Additionally, if you took Entrepreneurial Skills 101, you would learn that entrepreneurs live for challenges, and once a challenge has been conquered they typically like to move on to the next opportunity.

This doesn’t sit well with a hiring manager who either isn’t in a position to offer a challenge-based role, or needs someone to stick around for more than a couple of years.

Given these are some of the barriers you will have to overcome, let’s review how to do just that. I often use a combination format for my entrepreneurial clients, a format that allows for presentation of key achievements before the professional experience section and disclosure of self-employed status.

To start, begin your résumé with a strong qualifications summary specifically geared toward the opportunities you are interested in, being careful not to dilute the picture too much by presenting too many areas of expertise.

Small business owners do possess a variety of skills — as they typically manage operations, accounting, sales, marketing, staffing, etc. — but finding a role in corporate America that will employ all of these talents isn’t likely. So, be careful not to present yourself as a jack-of-all-trades or an expert of everything, as suddenly you will dilute your experience and become an expert of nothing.

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