5 Things Every Entrepreneur Should Know About Making A Return To Corporate America : Under30CEO 5 Things Every Entrepreneur Should Know About Making A Return To Corporate America : Under30CEO
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5 Things Every Entrepreneur Should Know About Making A Return To Corporate America

| March 26, 2013 | 11 Comments

How to Return To Corporate AmericaWhen I left my corporate cubicle in May of 2011, I vowed that it would be the last time I ever spent eight plus hours of my day as a wage slave. But a year and a half later, in need of some extra funds, and intrigued by the promise of a new opportunity, I ventured back to Corporate America.

I figured that making the transition from solo entrepreneur to corporate employee would be as simple as stocking up on some new work clothes (no more working in my pajamas!), but I failed to realize just how much being on my own had impacted the way I think about business. I was scared that I would lose my entrepreneurial mojo, and I was in constant fear of overstepping boundaries on the job!

Although a trip back to cube country might be necessary to pull in more money to support your entrepreneurial dreams, the transition doesn’t have to be so bumpy. Keep these five key things in mind when making the jump from solo star to corporate team player:

Define Clear (Job) Parameters

As an entrepreneur, working for yourself meant you could be lax about the amount of time you spent dedicated to your projects, but if you approach corporate work with that same attitude, you can lose time on doing the things you love. Employees are often expected to clock early hours, and take work home. But for the sake of your creativity, you have to know when to take yourself off the clock.

Use your entrepreneurial mindset to figure out how to work more efficiently from 9-to-5. Maybe that means you use your lunch hour to get ahead, or you work with an intern at the company on getting some of those pesky admin tasks out of your way. When it’s quittin’ time, roll out of the building knowing that your worked hard, and get excited about heading home to focus on your business.

Think Strategically About Your Position

Ask yourself: “How can this gig get me closer to my entrepreneurial goals?” before your first day on the job. Write down your reasons on a post-it note, or a small piece of paper and reach for it anytime you need a solid reminder of what you’re trying to accomplish. When you have a rough day at the office, or feel frustrated about not being able to devote 100% of your time to your business, reminding yourself of how this position is strategically a part of your grand plan can keep you motivated and focused on what really matters: using this experience to get you closer to where you want to be.

Teach Them Something

Believe it or not, employers actually value employees with innovative ideas, and suggestions for how the company can get better at what it does.  Entrepreneurs are masters at seeing solutions (what boss doesn’t love a problem solver?). The key to pulling this off is to offer your suggestions in a creative and constructive way that doesn’t make you sound like a know-it-all. Seek out managers who are like-minded, progress-focused, and supportive, to figure out how you can promote your ideas. You’ll look like a rock star, and keep your entrepreneurial mind engaged.  Win-win!

Master The Art Of Communication

Navigating the nuances of corporate communication can be tricky for entrepreneurs. You have spent time cultivating your own ideas, you’re used to giving directions, and you might lack the patience and understanding that dealing with several layers of corporate bureaucracy demands that you have. It can be frustrating to feel like you have to hold your tongue all of the time, but it’s a good opportunity to observe communication practices “in the real world.” Learning how to talk to a variety of characters in a myriad of situations is a skill that will come in handy whether you are pitching a VC or a potential client.

Learn As Much As You Possibly Can

If you think of your time in Corporate America as a giant case study, you can take so much more from the situation than just a paycheck.  Sitting in at a company gives you perspective on corporate hierarchies, and how we are all players in a larger game. Learn things that will make you more valuable to the entrepreneurial community such as how to collaborate effectively. Get tips on how you want to run (or not run!) your company, use your position to network and meet people that it might have been harder for you to get access to.

Don’t let those gray cube walls stifle your ambition-make your position work for you!

Amber J. Adams is a journalist, idea strategist, and the creator of The Fab Life Project.com, a site devoted to helping Generation Y define work/life happiness on their own terms. She frequently writes about careers, entrepreneurship, and her love affair with chocolate.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

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  • Jeremy

    Great article! Like you, when I left Corporate America 13 months ago, I vowed to never return but I’m now in the process of finding a job to supplement my marketing consulting income and I already feel like I understand how business units operate so much better than when I was just an employee. My ultimate goal is to go back out on my own in the next two to three years but too many entrepreneurs can be stubborn and cause themselves unnecessary hardship by refusing to make a temporary stop in cube world if they need the capital. You shouldn’t go back defeated with the thought that you will be stuck in that life until you’re 65. Learn from your own mistakes AND how your employer solves similar issues and you’ll be back out on your own before you know it.

  • http://twitter.com/amberjadams Amber J. Adams

    Totally agree! Lessons can be learned anywhere, at anytime. The most thing is applying them and moving forward, right?

  • GeneSK

    I, actually, disagree with “teach them something” point. It takes a very secure superior who is not afraid that a “smart ***” subordinate will make suggestions to improve the process or to save the company money. Your average corporate America middle manager may not like that for the fear of loosing his/her own standing with a company.

  • Christina

    Informative article! I am preparing to return to Corporate America in some capacity after 2 years of being on my own. You are very right about staying focused on the grand scheme when those frustrating moments as a wage slave happen :-) I will keep this article handy when I need an entrepreneurial pick me up!

  • mgeraudm

    Well, I know a thing or two of how and why Not to get back to corporates.

    Only top C class may in reality accept new ideas as most other managers will feel betrayed. No one likes what they may call a smartbutt as none will like being taught anything. Believe me, I know. Everybody I know that got back into corporate life has brought them yes a sense of security but with strong feelings of self failure as well. Still, sometimes it is needed as we need to eat everyday.

    Both, entrepreneurship and corporate are opposite ends of the same coin and most people don’t belong in both. I tried going back as I sent thousands of CVs per my nagging wife’s strong requests … But the truth is once you are out, your cubicle vision will vanish, and it will never come back. That is something cubevision people do not and will never understand. I understood that the more you specialize the more you are a commodity, Corporate is all about specialization… Isn’t it?

    When I left corporate a while back, I was left with a strong agoraphobic sense of insecurity, so a good friend of mine told me that that was real good:

    “Once the ceiling and walls of my safe home crumbled, I could see all of the stars in the universe” – Zen saying

    My brain did change in a way even incomprehensible for me and for that, I am thankful.
    Napoleon Bonaparte once said: “I have tasted command, so I will never let it go” I guess once I have tasted freedom, Why walk back into the cage?

    Maybe I would go back, maybe kicking and screaming… maybe not. But maybe my freedom and my sense of accomplishment is strong enough that motivates me even more to keep myself working my own butt off longer, harder and smarter.


  • http://thefablifeproject.com/ Amber J. Adams

    In that case, it might be a sign that it’s not the company where you are meant to be! Managers who are afraid to take suggestions from their workers for fear of having their smarts questioned usually don’t make good managers. That’s the experience I’ve found.

  • http://thefablifeproject.com/ Amber J. Adams

    Awesome! Print it out and stick it in a folder with other items that can inspire you to keep looking forward!

  • http://thefablifeproject.com/ Amber J. Adams

    I don’t think anyone who has been on their own WANTS to go back, but sometimes circumstances take them there, as life does happen, and yes, some ventures do fail. But entrepreneurs have “bounce back ability” and can figure out a way to escape yet again with a new tool chest of lessons learned!

  • mgeraudm

    Of course I know ventures an established businesses sink, believe me I Know!
    One thing is what you (we) may want, another thing completely is what The corporation wants. And it is 99% unlikely and unfortunate that they will hire what they believe is a “failure” (not me, no way). I believe in the value of scars.

    HR and hiring managers have trained for years to smell if you have an exit plan, and that alone puts you on the reject pile. Believe me, I know, I mean they publicize that if it was a good way of filtering. I do value loyalty as much as the next guy, but come on!

    A friend of mine told me last time I was looking for a corporate job last time I was left for dead in the gutter: ” you are trained as an entrepreneur, so you are a full package, hiring managers are afraid of full packages for any number of stupid reasons,”

    What I mean is, bounce back on your own terms.

  • http://thefablifeproject.com/ Amber J. Adams

    Really great insight here, and I totally agree. In fact, that’s what is so frustrating about the whole corporate thing. They have no problem tossing you out on your fanny, but they penalize you for being able to take care of the business of you.

  • sophie

    When we are thinking how to be an entrepreneur we usually think in a high profile company with a big building and a lot of employees; usually a company isn’t that way, specially now that the new technologies let us be big without a lot of people. lifestyle business hacker helped me a lot.