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Entrepreneur for Life? Apparently, There's No Turning Back

A new study shows that ex-entrepreneurs can struggle to find jobs if they decide to return to regular employment. Really employers? Really?
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You’ve probably heard about employers’ bias against the long-term unemployed and the catch-22 it creates -- those most in need of work, need to have a job to find a job. How frustrating must that be?

But according to a new study by a team of European researchers one-time entrepreneurs who want to return to regular paid employment face a similar bind. The team of five professors sent resumes to apply for real-life job postings in the UK and determined that candidates with a background as entrepreneurs were much less likely to get a response. In fact, companies called salaried employees 60 percent more often than ex-entrepreneurs.

"Our results leave little doubt that entrepreneurs experience adverse treatment. The choice to become an entrepreneur can result in an involuntary lock-in, a factor that should be taken into account in planning one's future career," the researchers commented.

That’s handy to know if you’re thinking of taking the plunge into running your own business, but what broader conclusions can be drawn from the study?

Apparently, being a self-starter may sound like an ideal quality for an employee in the abstract, but when faced with evidence of real life independence, self-reliance and a capacity for risk, many employers blanch, at least in Britain.

"My hunch is that many entrepreneurs would actually not fit very well into established organizations, although they may be very productive and able managers themselves--as long as they don’t have a boss," said  Philipp Koellinger, a study author and professor at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Which begs the question: What’s the problem here, the attitude of the stereotypical entrepreneur or the stereotypical corporate culture?

In today’s fast-paced, tech-heavy business world, lip service is constantly paid to innovation and qualities, such an comfort with ambiguity and a collaborative mindset, that support it, but when the stability of corporate hierarchies and doing things ‘as they’ve always been done’ might actually be threatened by a candidate that shows a definite history of dynamism, these ideals often turn out to be empty rhetoric, it appears.

Go getter ex-entrepreneurs absolutely fit the bill of who many businesses say they want. This study suggests what they actually want may be very different. Sadly, it’s a finding in line with earlier research that shows that while bosses often claim to value creativity, they frequently squash it in practice. And it’s also true, as Quartz points out, that the findings "sound a lot like discrimination - except freelancers or consultants have few protections."

What’s your reaction to this study?

Last updated: Jul 3, 2013

JESSICA STILLMAN

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.




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