So many of us have dreams of entrepreneurship. But what happens when you follow that dream and then decide to return to corporate life? Landing a role after running my own marketing practice was more difficult than I’d anticipated--until I learned to recognize and position my time as a solopreneur as an asset.
Four years ago, I left my job in sales development and marketing to start my own consulting company, serving small businesses. It was an empowering experience, yet after four years I realized my skills and talents as a senior-level marketing exec would be more valued in corporate. Trying to onramp though, I was met with roadblocks. Ironically, employers seemed hesitant to take a risk on someone like me who had taken a risk in her career.
After about six months of searching, I connected with Cindy Medina Carson, the founder of Wager, for coaching. She reminded me of everything I brought to the table as an entrepreneur and we mapped out a game plan. Within two months--in the midst of the pandemic--I secured a role as Senior Program Manager at one of the Big 4 tech companies. I work across teams to identify and manage marketing solutions for advertising clients that engage audiences across on and offline platforms. Want to get back at it after being your own boss? These are the strategies that worked for me:
Own your entrepreneurship. There aren’t many people who have started their own companies and have a story behind it to share. And in the tech space, founders who are women of color are rare. I’d tended to gloss over my years as an entrepreneur, when in fact this experience distinguished me. The ability to solve business problems as an owner rather than an employee is rare and valuable--and worth talking about.
Add a passion project to your portfolio. I realized after a few months of focusing on job searching rather than client work that my work samples could use freshening up. Cindy suggested I leverage my network and take on a volunteer project. Through a friend of a friend, I started working with a group called Equality League that advances gender equality through sports. Having an active project I was excited to talk about brought energy to my interviews, and it helped potential employers see what I could immediately contribute. Through networking, an associate referred me for my current role.
Polish your stories, not just your resume. Interviewing at tech companies can be grueling, so I did my homework. Before interviewing, I studied up on the interview process for tech. Nailing behavioral-based questions is key, and the most effective way to answer them is through the STAR format (Situation, Task, Action, Result) or PAR format (Problem, Action, Result). I noted the top 10-20 stories I wanted to share during my interview and I believe this was a major win during the process. For each story, I included the high-level situation, the problem I sought to solve, the action I took, and the quantifiable results for the business. Then I practiced these for hours, so by meeting day, I was confident.
Research salary comps. I leveraged tools like Payscale and Glassdoor to assess the pay range and targeted $200k+ in total comp. While base salary is a slice of that, I knew through my research that I’d have more luck negotiating other aspects of my package, like my signing bonus or stock options. Many people who are self-employed or come from an environment where base salary is the focus are unaware that stock options can be more valuable than your salary. It’s important to think broadly about your salary when you consider your worth. There was a little wiggle room during negotiation but not much. I offered to showcase why an additional 3-5% more than the initial offer was ideal, and HR worked with me to get to an agreeable number. I feel good about moving away from freelancer life to having a steady income, especially in this climate.
Now I’m paying it forward. I’ve recommended Wager to a half-dozen friends, and one just got a job offer. I tell my friends what Cindy told me: Rejection is just one part of the journey--never let it chip away at your confidence.