The Resume Lie: Hide That Business Experience!
Over the last year or so, I’ve been on a quest to dispel as many myths as possible when it comes to job hunting in general and resumes in particular. Unfortunately, with all the online job posting sites available, these fallacies have a way of taking on a life of their own and even manage to fool many good resume writers and career coaches.
One of the most frustrating for me is self-employment and resumes. For years, job seekers have been told that if they have a history of self-employment, they should downplay it or even eliminate it entirely from their resumes. The original premise was that companies look down on self-employment and almost consider it unemployment. In other words, it looks like a “gap” on your resume between one corporate position and the next.
Now, it’s true that employers tend to be skeptical of self-employment, and for good reason. Many job seekers try to get through periods of unemployment by claiming that they started their own business, which may or may not be true. I had a job seeker the other day who was trying to explain 2 years of unaccounted for employment history. He claimed that he had started his own business flipping houses; however, during those 2 years, he had only flipped 1 house and that was a house that he inherited from his father. He certainly didn’t cover the full 2 years. So he tried to make the most of it on his resume, which was honestly all he could do.
A job gap is just a job gap, and you can twist it a thousand ways, but an astute employer will see it for what it is, no matter how clever the writer.
What I’m really referring to here are true entrepreneurs, people who have started, built, and run legitimate small businesses. These companies have names. They have statistics. They have clients or real accounts.
Corporations would be crazy to look down on these people, and these job seekers would be just as crazy to downplay this experience.
Entrepreneurs are some of the hardest working people on the planet. They are driven. They are rain makers. They know how to wear many hats. These are all things that businesses love and desire.
As with almost anything else, handling situations like these comes down to having a wise strategy. It’s definitely true that when you’re crafting a resume, you should always keep your audience at the forefront. And you have to balance how much focus you give to different positions from your past. So I am not suggesting that you give more importance to your business than you should. It all depends on your goal and the field/industry you are in. (For example, if you’re looking for an engineering position, I might not go overboard with the fact that you operated a cookie business for 5 years; it’s just not that relevant to the goal; however, this also doesn’t mean I think you should leave it off the resume entirely).
But at some point, both job seekers and some HR types have spread the word that self-employment is bad news on a resume.
So my bottom line advice is simple: stop listening to scare tactics and start employing a clear plan for your resume. Find a good writer you can trust who can help you gauge how your freelance work compares to your target market. Be smart and make sure you can speak “corporate language” and have a clear and focused goal. Honestly, if you can do that, you’re way ahead of many in corporate life.
But whatever you do, don’t hide from the shame that you once worked for yourself. Remember that there are many people today who would love to venture out and work on their own, even if it was just for a while. Whoever said that self-employment isn’t worthy of merit on a resume apparently never left their cubicle.