Side Business Can Improve Job Chances

Q. I've recently decided to leave journalism and pursue more generic media work. I had been freelancing all the while during my time as a TV reporter, but when I left a few months back, I created my own website and company to have a more definitive, professional way for clients to see my work and to see what it would be like to run my own business ... but I also applied for full-time jobs. 

About a month ago, I was called in to interview for a public information officer position. My company stuff is not on my resume and I was nervous about mentioning it because I don't know if having a company on the side will be looked at as a good thing or bad thing.

However, during the interview when they asked about what I had been doing since I left TV, I mentioned my company. Later when they asked about my skills and my ability to work independently, I used my company as proof. When I left the interview room to go do a written exam, one of the panelists told me that they were looking at my website and loving it. 

I now have a second interview with them and my question is: How do I approach additional questions about my small business? My intention is for whatever job I get to be my first priority. Right now things are slow business-wise and it normally takes two years for a small business to turn a profit. When I get a full-time job, I only expect to work my business part-time. At the most I will probably do one project a month with my small business. 

I want to go into the second interview prepared for any additional questions about my small business. Is it realistic to think that they may see me having a small business as a problem, or that they may hire someone else who has no other commitments? How do employers look at a candidate who has a small business? Should I list my small business on my resume, especially now that I am no longer at the TV station? Or is it better to leave it off? Should I promote the fact that that's what I'm doing now? Will it help open doors or close them?


A. Well, I guess you have your answer. Employers are increasingly interested in people with entrepreneurial skills. However, and this was probably the source of your hesitation, they may be hesitant about people who use those skills outside the newsroom.

Entrepreneurs, by nature, get into arrangements with other people, they have outside commitments and they don't want to dump their businesses just because something else comes along. They often want to have more than one thing going on at a time.

You can avoid some conflicts if you have small, lightweight businesses that are in areas that do not conflict with the kind of journalism you're still interested in and that can be easily sold, transferred or put into suspended animation. A freelancing practice can work well, especially if you have clients who do not compete with the prospective employer. In some cases, an active freelance relationship can lead to a job.

If you can't avoid conflicts of interest between the business and journalism, or you can't adequately do both the business and the job, you will be forced to choose.

Coming Monday: Professors and editors should walk in one another's shoes.

Do you have a career question? E-mail Joe for an answer.

  • Joe Grimm

    Joe Grimm is a visiting editor in residence at the Michigan State University School of Journalism. He runs the JobsPage Website.


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