From Self-Employed to Employed

Dear, Anita,

I’ve been self employed since 1970 but have also held full time positions with other companies at various times, too. From about 1990 to 2007 I experienced so much business that I worked (at home) an average of 12 hours/day, seven days a week. It all came to an abrupt halt when the recession hit. I’m now looking for jobs doing just about anything, but no luck.

I feel my age is working against me but also my many years of experience. I’ve had interviews where the interviewer probably feared I was more qualified than himself. With a resume that shows so many years of self employment I think most employers think I’ll either leave when business picks up or I’ll steal their ideas or their clients. Any advice for switching from self employment to working for other companies?

Dear, Fearful Free Agent,

Entrepreneur PaycheckWith the economic downturn, many entrepreneurs decided (or had the decision made for them) to return to a conventional J.O.B.  Let’s review some of the upsides to “working for the man.” People in your situation can relinquish the financial worries (though the new position may bring apprehensions of its own). There will be a sense of stability that may have been lacking in your recent economic landscape.  Also, being part of a team can be refreshing. Working solo, you sometimes miss people to bounce ideas off of or just to share what you did over the weekend.

That’s not to say the transition will be easy. You may give up the flexibility of setting your own hours for a 9-to-5 schedule. But that means no more burning the midnight oil! And the daily grind may come with benefits like affordable health insurance.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, you need to leap over the hurdles to land that position. An employer may have a bias based on age, but if you craft your résumé wisely, you should be able to secure an interview. For tips, check out my post Getting Hired (or not) Based on Age.

While you could be overqualified in your previous area of expertise, you may need to upgrade or learn new skills to broaden your marketability.  Working by yourself, you may not have needed Outlook or other standard office fare. Check out local colleges and universities or Google “job training” to find resources in your local area to shore up your skill set.

When you were self-employed, you were actually both the boss and the employee, so you know a thing or two about wearing many hats and getting the job done. But be sure to nibble on some humble pie. While you don’t want to be modest about your experience and accomplishments during a job interview, your potential employer will be looking for clues that you won’t go rogue. Practice a response to the inevitable question, “Why do you want to work for someone else again?”  Check out my past article, How to Overcome “Overqualified,” for some interview role-playing assistance.

Keep your spirits up during your job search. To help, here’s a humorous music video, “Self Employment Made Harder By Difficult Boss”:

Readers: Have you successfully gone from entrepreneur to company man (or woman)? What was the most difficult part of the transition? What do you like most about having a traditional job?

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Bad Credit Can Cost You . . . Your New Job

Hi Anita,

I just came from a job interview where I was asked to sign a form permitting the company to run a credit check and I’m really worried this will cost me the job. I’ve been out of work for several months and have been living on my limited savings and credit cards (which have all been maxed out). I’ve paid many of my bills late and my credit scores continue to fall. Is there any way to fix the situation and not lose my chance on getting this job?

Dear, Concerned about Credit,

I certainly feel your pain. Getting rejected for employment based on your credit report begins a cycle where nobody wins: you lose a job, which hurts your credit, which prevents you from getting another job, which only pushes your credit further into the dumps.


In an effort to stop this insanity, state governments are starting to step in and prohibit employers from using credit reports in making hiring and other job decisions. Nine states have passed these laws so far, and more are considering similar legislation.


Key to SuccessThe Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act protects the privacy and accuracy of the information in your credit report, requiring employers to get your written permission to conduct the check. Can you refuse? Yes, you can. But you really don’t have much choice if you want the job.

So why are credit checks run in the first place? Well, it does make sense in some cases. For example, a company may not want an employee who never pays bills on time to manage a department budget, prepare economic forecasts, or have free access to a company credit card. Some employers firmly believe your credit report reflects your ability to be responsible and diligent, two attributes most companies like to see in their employees.

Let’s take a closer look at your dilemma. Late payments and maxing out your cards are definitely red flags. But the fact that prospective employers must get your consent before they pull your report at least gives you the opportunity to explain. Use it.

Now listen up . . . be proactive and honest. If you are, nine times out of 10, the interviewer will not see a low score as an indication that you’re irresponsible but rather as simply an indicator of your circumstances.

Think about it. Are most employers going to tell you that it was the credit report that caused them to hire someone else? It’s easier to find another excuse or not give one at all.

So tell me, dear readers, have you been turned down for a job and think it was the credit report that broke the deal?

Best wishes,

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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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