From The Straits Times    |


Perhaps you have been self-employed or been a stay-at-home-mum (SAHM) running her own business. But there may come a time when you’re looking at getting a regular job. If that’s on the cards, making the transition can be tough. How can you adjust to your life as an employee again, while tapping what you’ve learnt?

New employees in this situation will have to adapt to meeting business expectations, working with internal stakeholders as well as working in a structured environment, says Ms Jaya Dass, managing director of recruitment at Randstad Malaysia and Singapore.

Self-employed folk are accountable primarily to themselves and their clients.

However, employees have key performance indicators to measure their conduct and activities, she notes: “They will also have to meet their bosses’ expectations and address any concerns they may have.

“People who are used to working independently may take time to adjust to working in a team, understanding organisational norms and fitting into corporate culture.”

The toughest adjustments include those pertaining to work flexibility, control over decision-making and engaging with co-workers, adds Mr Allen Tan, senior career coach at Workforce Singapore.

He advises these employees to familiarise themselves with company resources: “Learn about the various tools, software and platforms used by the organisation. These may include project management tools, communication platforms, document sharing systems and any other relevant software.

“Understanding company policies and procedures is essential as a new employee.

“You may wish to review employee handbooks, company intranet or any available documentation to familiarise yourself with the guidelines, codes of conduct and expectations within the organisation.”

People transitioning out of self-employment should also speak with their teammates or manager to clarify what is expected of them, and what each person in the team works on to ensure effective working relationships, says Mr Tan.

People coming from a self-employed background where they were fully responsible for all aspects of their business might inadvertently overstep boundaries in their new job, says Ms Dass.

“They may take on responsibilities outside their job scope, offer unsolicited advice or participate in tasks which they lack experience or authority in.

“They may also struggle to effectively communicate their ideas and work with others, resulting in preventable errors.”

Still, employees moving from self-employment may have valuable transferable skills and traits.

“Self-employment requires individuals to be adaptable and flexible to handle multiple and challenging tasks, clients and business demands,” Ms Dass says.

“This agility translates well to a traditional work environment, as they are able to effectively navigate changing priorities effectively.”

Self-employed people may also excel at building and maintaining client relationships, she adds, noting: “This is a valuable skill in jobs where customer interactions are essential, such as sales, account management or customer support.

“Their experience in understanding and servicing client needs can help enhance customer satisfaction and drive business growth.”

Mr Tan says that finding a balance between showing decisive leadership based on experience and respecting the reporting structure of the company is crucial.

He advises employees who were their own boss to express their commitment to working within the established hierarchy, while still showcasing their ability to be decisive when necessary.

They could also lead by example, by demonstrating willingness to take ownership of their responsibilities and encouraging others to do the same.

“This way, you can inspire confidence in your leadership without disrupting the reporting structure,” says Mr Tan, who also suggests that these employees seek feedback from their colleagues, and incorporate their ideas where possible.

“This approach shows a balance between decisiveness and respect for others’ perspectives.”

Finally, these employees should align their decisions with their company’s values and objectives, as Mr Tan notes: “This helps to position your experiences as valuable contributions that support the overall mission of the organisation, rather than as challenges to the reporting structure.”

This article was originally published in The Straits Times. Additional text: Michelle Lee