You’re ready to give up your self-employed status and go back to work for someone else. But the transition isn’t always as easy as picking out a few new work outfits and heading to someone else’s office, says Theresa Rilli, vice president of operations and strategy at Atrium Staffing, a human resources consulting firm that works with both employees and independent contractors.
“It’s a giant, giant shift. A big part of being an independent contractor is being your own boss and making your own decisions,” Rilli says. “Coming back into a more corporate environment where you’re going to have to ingratiate yourself back into the world of policy can be difficult.”
Preparation can make the transition easier. Here are seven ways to do so.
When you worked for yourself, you may have had to handle everything from sales and marketing to taking out the trash. Now, you’re expected to wear one or two hats instead of 12—but you need to know which hats they are, says career advice expert Amanda Augustine with TopResume, a resume and career consulting firm. While it may seem like doing more is a good idea, you could actually end up stepping on someone else’s toes and diverting energy from where your boss wants you to focus, she says.
Rilli says it’s critical to find that one person who can clue you in on everything from what the internal jargon means and where the conference rooms are to who’s who in office politics. You need someone to help you get a lay of the land. “This isn’t something you can research ahead of time–you’re going to need someone on the inside who’s willing to share that,” she says. It can be a colleague or even your assistant. This person will be your “decoder,” she says.
Another important adjustment is revisiting how you handle your cash. When you were self-employed, you might have gotten paid in larger sums because taxes and benefits expenses weren’t taken out of your checks, Augustine says. However, you may also have gotten paid more sporadically—or, sometimes, not at all.
“That’s a pretty substantial difference when you actually receive payment, certainly looking at what you’re used to getting without taxes being withheld, and then looking at what you’re going to be getting in the future and budgeting accordingly,” she says. Your new cash-flow pattern may require a new budget and payment schedule for your regular bills, she adds.
Now that you may be commuting and keeping regular hours at an office, you may no longer have the flexibility to pick up your dry cleaning after going to the gym in the morning or shop for groceries at 3 p.m. Augustine says analyzing your free time and what you can get done when is important to avoid feeling overwhelmed and out of control. Can you shop and schedule grocery deliveries online while you’re on the bus or train? Can you line up five errands and knock them out in a couple of hours on a Saturday morning? Find blocks of time and make the most of them. Miller also suggests finding time to recharge during your day, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
Some days will feel like a grind—just as they likely occasionally did when you were self-employed, says career consultant Marc Miller, founder of Career Pivot, a consulting firm that helps people “repurpose” their careers. During these times, think about the reasons you went back to work for someone else. It might be the steady paycheck or to learn a new skill. When you’re asked to participate in yet another conference call, keep your eye on the prize, he says.
Once in the new environment, you’re going to have to work on building your credibility with coworkers, direct reports, and supervisors, Augustine says. That will make it easier to implement the changes you want to make. Take time to get to know coworkers, volunteer to assist people who need it, and find ways to be the proverbial “team player,” she says.
Still, being an entrepreneur likely gave you a broader view of your work and great ideas to improve systems and operations, Miller says. Don’t be afraid to contribute those ideas and insights, he says. But, be smart about how you’re doing so, Augustine adds. Perhaps you were hired because you have that “big-picture” view from having run your own business, but “you can’t enter a position with guns blazing and start trying to change everything,” she says. That’s a sure-fire way to meet with resistance in your new role.