“Everyone thinks working in the family business has lifetime job security”
I attended a coaching session recently for people who are job searching. Not for myself, but with a friend who just recently lost her position at a family business.
Everyone thinks working in the family business has lifetime job security. But actually there are several reasons you may need to change careers:
- You may choose to leave
- You may be asked to leave
- You may sell the business
- The business may fail
Did Not See That Coming
My friend worked as a non-family member in a family business for virtually her entire career. She might as well have been a family member because her entire career was with the one business. She’s 50-ish and was planning to retire from this company. The family decided to abruptly sell the business to a competitor. As the British would say her position was made redundant.
She’s had a challenging time with this being the first time she’s been unemployed in her career.
3 Stages of Grief
- Surprise – the initial shock of losing your job
- Denial – maybe they’ll change their mind
- Acceptance – time to move on
Ups and downs in job search:
- Personal financial concerns
- Lifestyle change
- Stigma of not working
- Keeping a positive attitude
- Control of destiny
Dealing with the “Firsts”
1. Writing a Resume
At first, you may feel that you have limited experience being with one company. Play up the longevity of your career with one company. You didn’t job jump around. You’re loyal. The company liked your performance and kept you employed for a long time. I realize it was your family business, but they might be less aware. One big takeaway was her frustration of not receiving any response from companies she had sent resumes. After hearing this, going forward, I’ll remember to always shoot off a response to job applicants.
2. Learning to Network
One of the most common things that others mentioned was “I wish I had networked more”. As a family business member you feel secure and don’t tend to engage in a lot of networking for career advancement.
3. Preparing for the Interview
Think of how it was on the other side of the table when “you” were the interviewer. What qualities were you looking for in the candidate? This can be a big advantage for you.
Compensation outside of the family business is probably the biggest eye-opener. Long-term employees in the same company are often over-compensated because they receive automatic increases that are compounded over a long length of time. As a family member you may also have been compensated as an owner/executive at a higher level than your counterparts in the industry.
Do you have an advanced degree? Many family business members don’t complete their education because they don’t feel it’s required to enter their family’s business. Many job search engines filter out applicants who don’t have advanced degrees. Family members often feel their job experience is more important. It may be, but if you can’t get past the job filters you’ll never get the interview to share it.
Are your skill sets still relevant? It’s easy to become complacent in a family business and rely more on your staff to keep up with the changes in the industry. Keeping your skill sets up to date, especially in a technology position, can make it easier to transfer to a more in-demand position in a related field.
- After sitting through this coaching session I came away with a newfound respect for the job seeker and to never take your job for granted. I’ve been on the opposite side, where our family business acquired other businesses and consolidated organizations which resulted in layoffs. I had no idea what the employee was going through.
- Preparing for “Plan B”, whether it’s selling your business or leaving the company is a good exercise. There are many situations, as family members, we don’t prepare for, because we feel we are going to work in the family business forever.
- Understanding what the employee is going through by attending a job coaching session can be a real attention-getter and help you better understand your own employees concerns
But then again, it will never happen to you, right?