What’s It Like to Transition from Entrepreneur to Employee

entrepreneur, employee, transition,

It’s my 90th day at the Advanced Group which is really weird for me to say. It’s especially unusual given that I spent nearly 8 years working for myself as an HR and digital consultant. Although the move has been difficult, I am enjoying my new role. I have a supportive team and immediate opportunities to make a difference. There are a few more conference calls, conversations, and red tape to go, but it has been an incredible learning experience for me.

What you didn’t know about me was that I’d always planned to re-enter the workforce and rejoin the corporate ranks. I didn’t broadcast it or even talk much about it. It’s just something I expected to happen, and over the previous 18 months I’ve visited with various organizations to discuss the possibilities. I was quite specific about the type of organization I wanted to work with. I was very picky about my role and how I thought I could help a company. Knowing myself and following my instincts led me to decline an offer, which I’m glad I did because they imploded about 6 months later.

What I Learned in My First Ninety Days

My first 90 days being a card carrying member of the corporate working world went very fast, but not without it’s challenges. Here are some things I learned about myself in my first 90 days:

I don’t follow the rules

I don’t obey the rules, at least not the traditional ones. While I understood this about myself, it was more difficult than I thought to follow the rules. I enjoy getting into the weeds and thinking beyond the box. Businesses have policies, protocols, and procedures in place. Fortunately, I have a supervisor and team who are patient, honest, and direct when picking up the phone to inform me of little details that I may be overlooking. I want to maintain my entrepreneurial mindset while remaining focused on business priorities.

No longer being a consultant adds new and more complicated layers

As a consultant, I was the one who made the recommendations. I created the plans and then stepped away after the job or project was completed. This was the aspect of consulting that I disliked the most. I wanted to finish the project, talk about what we learned, and understand the lessons six months, a year, and two years later.

Being an employee as opposed to a consultant or even a contractor is a very different ball game. As an employee, I would define a project and develop a plan of action, but I was frequently paid to accomplish a specific thing. As an employee, there is an additional layer of relationship building, selling your idea, and identifying a partner to assist you in pushing through a project or program that I had forgotten about. This was very eye-opening.

HR Technology Is More Complicated Than Anyone Leads You to Believe

I’ve spent the last 90 days learning about the HR technology we use and how it fits into our existing operations. We cannot simply forsake a system. We don’t just turn a switch and expect integrations to be seamless and procedures to be better than expected. It’s not as simple as pundits, consultants, analysts, and thought leaders claim. We cannot simply discontinue an applicant tracking system or LinkedIn Recruiter seats that we have used for the past ten years. When we add a new HR technology, there could be millions of candidates in that system, as well as integrations and long-standing processes and practices.

It’s complex even when adding a new technology like a sourcing technology or a list of approved Chrome extensions. This is one thing I’m currently vetting with our IT team. (See earlier point on following the rules)

Innovation is an Art

Recruiting may not be an art form. It is based on data, numbers, and measurements, but innovation is more than just adopting new ideas; it is the art of persuasion and communication with peers, employees, and partners. You must be crystal clear about your dissipative vision and develop a communication and internal marketing strategy to push that innovation. It’s the most difficult work I’ve ever done, and I’m glad to say that we’re pioneering.

It is difficult to commit to innovation. It presents a big risk that few in human resources are prepared to face. Our industry is built on risk aversion. It’s the foundation of why HR was founded and built in the first place. I’m lucky in my job because I was hired to educate, coach, and innovate. Given my background and function, these conversations are to be expected. You must cultivate relationships, create a vision, and hustle towards that vision in order to establish a culture of innovation and change in HR and recruitment. It does not occur overnight. Change and innovation require time. It’s a dance that must be committed to if one’s senior leadership and peers are fighting and undermining to keep things running.

I have more respect for “practitioners” than ever before

Being in this role is not a death sentence. I don’t have a disease or type of terminal cancer. I choose this organization and this role because of the challenges and opportunities it brings. I want to grow and in my role as thought leader, consultant, and writer, I wanted a change. As a practitioner we’re on the front lines driving change for organizations. I’m not just focused on my personal interests but building a plan for an organization of 350 employees and the clients that we serve. My first 90 days have given me more respect for my fellow practitioners than ever before. You work hard and you are focused on the needs of your organization above and beyond your own. I have more respect for practitioners especially those in senior roles than I ever have had before.

Change is Good Even When It’s Hard

There are so many fantastic experts that are highly skilled and can boost your business in ways you can’t fathom for employers wishing to tap into the highly qualified talent pool of entrepreneurs. Many consultants and independent contractors would like to return to the labor. But eight years is a long time. I have expectations, experiences, and habits that may or may not be compatible with an employer. It was a risk, but one I’m glad I took.

It has not always been easy to transition from entrepreneur to employee. I’ve had a wonderful first ninety days, and for the first time in a long time, I’m energized and eager about the new challenges that await me. People, change is good. Change is beneficial.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.


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