Jumping Back on the Full-time Corporate Track
With the economy improving, have you been working as a freelancer due to job loss and are now hoping to relaunch your full-time job search? Or perhaps freelancing was a deliberate career choice you made long ago, but you’ve been toying with the idea lately to leave the gig lifestyle behind. Here’s some advice on landing a permanent corporate role after freelance and making a smooth transition:
•Craft a Convincing Story & Start Talking
•Individual Contributor v. Team Player
•Demonstrate How Brand You Fits Brand Them
•Play Up Your Freelance Strengths
•Be Ready With References
•Set Yourself Up for a Smooth Transition
Resumé Revamp Everyone, including career freelancers, should have a resumé that details their work history and professional accomplishments. It’s the easiest at-a-glance tool for potential employers to get a sense of your experience. Even if you’ve freelanced exclusively throughout your career and have an online portfolio or website that showcases your work, organizing your career journey into a onepager (or two at most) is still important.
On your resumé, treat the freelance period of your career just as you would tenure at a corporate employer. Consider naming your business (for example, Digital Consulting Service) and giving yourself a title (e.g. Principal and Owner). Indicate the number of years you worked for yourself in this capacity. Even if freelancing was a temporary stint while you were looking for permanent work, taking this resumé approach positions your time out of the traditional workforce as productive, proactive and relevant to your career path, and not a glaring employment gap. Now you’re ready to organize the projects that were completed while self-employed.
Over the course of your freelancing, you probably have worked for a variety of clients on projects both big and small. To keep your resumé to 1-2 pages, be selective of the ones you list, choosing the best examples to showcase your experience and transferable skills. Also, treat the freelancing era of your career as a single time period, where you detail the projects you delivered or type of experience you gained—this will keep you from seeming like a job hopper.
There are several ways to organize these examples of work experience. One way is to categorize your experience by skill set. Ideally, tailor these to the corporate job you wish to land. Take a look at a couple of online job listings for the role you want and identify desired experience themes from the descriptions. Then, curate your work history into those buckets. For example, if you’ve been a Digital Marketing consultant and want to transition to a corporate Digital Manager role, the categories might include Social Media, Digital Content Production, Integrated Digital Campaigns, and SEO/SEM/PPC, and so on.
Another way to organize your experience is by client— especially if they are prestigious or recognizable in the industry in which you want to work. Detail the projects you managed for each, making sure to include quantifiable results. Regardless of how you organize the content, make sure to provide links to your online work samples.
Demonstrate How Brand You Fits Brand Them Employers may question your ability to adjust to their culture and fit in with their team. This is a good time to point out that freelancers are chameleons that have to adapt their work style and work product to each client—so making the transition to their company will be similar, just on a long term rather than project basis.
Play Up Your Freelance Strengths Feel good about your time as a freelancer and highlight the resulting unique experience and character traits you bring to the table. Whenever possible, remind your potential employer that successful freelancers are self-motivated, ambitious, problem-solving gogetters. You’ve become a master time manager accustomed to multiple deadlines and meeting the needs of multiple stakeholders. Who wouldn’t want that kind of energy infused into their team?
Be Ready With References Prepare to share solid recommendations from a variety of clients that reinforce all the traits and experience required for the specific corporate fulltime role you desire. Anticipate the questions or hesitations your future employer might have and line up clients who can elucidate why you’d make a great hire. Ask your references to be prepared to answer the question, “Would you hire this person full-time?”
Craft a Convincing Story & Start Talking If you’ve been a career freelancer, employers may need reassuring that you’re truly ready to make the switch to a corporate career. Be ready to explain why you want to make the move at this time. Practice overcoming any objections the interviewer might throw at you. The goal is to demonstrate that you’ve thought realistically about this lifestyle change and are committed to it. With a practiced, convincing pitch at the ready, reach out to your network, starting with happy, former clients. They may be the easiest point of entry, as they’ve already “tried” your services and are ready to “buy” you full-time. Or, if they don’t have an opportunity for you, they are more likely to recommend you to a colleague who might.
Individual Contributor v. Team Player As a freelancer, you weren’t just an entrepreneur, you were a solopreneur. Yes, you had clients, but in the end, you reported to yourself. Your accomplishments and successes were yours alone. Employers may be concerned about your ability to adapt to team environment. Be ready to call out projects and client experiences that demonstrate your ability to collaborate, negotiate, navigate group dynamics and build consensus.
Set Yourself Up for a Smooth Transition Once you’ve landed the role, take steps to minimize culture shock. If you’ve been a freelancer by choice for a while, you may have grown accustomed to working whenever and wherever, in your pajamas, with your dog at your feet. A few weeks before you start you new job, establish a regular routine of waking and sleeping. Practice your commute. Shop to expand your dress code-appropriate wardrobe. Make arrangements for the personal aspects of your life that you might have been able to juggle more easily as a freelancer—like childcare and petcare. A successful transition to a corporate career takes emotional, mental and practical preparation.