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How to write a CV when moving from self-employed

For many people, being your own boss is a dream come true: you can work as flexibly as you want, set the rules, and follow your passion. However, it can also be lonely, stressful and financially unstable, so you may wish to make the move back to employment. How should you frame your CV in these circumstances?

Writing a CV for a new employed position after a period of self-employment isn’t always easy: a prospective employer may think that you will struggle with fitting into an established company structure when you’re used to doing things your own way, or that you’re giving up on a failed business. Self-employment does bring with it a variety of transferable skills though – it demonstrates that you’re self-motivated, organised, dedicated, proactive, able to work on your own initiative and confident in your own abilities – and it’s absolutely key that your CV highlights these to any prospective employer.

Include a career objective

Prospective employers will almost certainly be wondering why you want to make the transition back to employment, and a short profile or career objective at the start of your CV will help answer this, as well as dispelling any suspicions that your previous business wasn’t a success. Use this section to explain briefly the reasons for your career change, and what you hope to achieve in your new role, focusing on what you can bring to the new role, rather than what you’re leaving behind.

Highlight transferable skills and varied experience

Self-employment requires a variety of skills, most of which are highly transferable. For example, you may have overcome adversity, set and met targets, marketed yourself, managed staff, and delivered results. For each attribute, provide a brief example of times when you’ve used them to progress or expand your business.

Building relationships with clients is also a key part of self-employment, and one which is a valuable addition to your CV, requiring excellent interpersonal and communication skills; it may also be helpful to include times when you worked as part of a team, in order to demonstrate to prospective employers that you are capable of being a team player.

You should also consider the range of responsibilities you undertook when running your own business, such as marketing, HR, accounting, or IT skills. You may find that self-employment has given you a wealth of experience in various areas of business, putting you at an advantage above candidates who have only performed one role in their previous career.

List your achievements

Include any major successes or accomplishments you had while working for yourself, briefly detailing the obstacles you faced, how you overcame them, and the results, including figures or statistics if possible: again, this will help to allay the notion that you’re seeking employment because your own business failed.

Mentioning any occasions when you’ve spoken at an industry event or had anything published in relevant journals will also give you credibility as an expert in your field.

What about references?

If you’ve been self-employed for a long time, you may not feel that previous employers are appropriate referees, especially if your move to self-employment included a complete change of focus in your career. You may wish to consider asking a business partner, a long-standing client, or someone who you’ve collaborated with to provide a reference if you feel this would be more apt.

In summary

Moving from self-employment to employment can present some challenges but is perfectly possible, and creating a CV that demonstrates your transferable skills, varied experience and major achievements is a vital first step.