You’re ready to begin a new chapter in your career and beginning to think about employment history to put on your resume, but you have one nagging worry: one of your professional experiences was with a family member. Should you even bother listing it? The short answer: yes! Understandably, you’d be concerned about how working with a family member might look to hiring managers, whether you were at a family business and/or collaborating professionally. It might imply nepotism or bias.
Step away from that pattern of thinking and start strategizing about the best ways to position yourself. When it comes to your experience at the family business, career coach Karen Casanovas says:“Start by embracing your family business. Those who rise to the top in a family business learn how to effectively handle conflict and excel at strategic negotiation.”
If you’re wondering how to explain working with the family to future employers, we’ll advise you on how to:
- Represent yourself on your resume.
- Explain yourself in the interview.
- Develop your personal brand.
- Use the net worth of your network.
Curious? Keep reading.
How To Represent Yourself On Your Resume
Regardless of family ties, you still had a valuable professional experience where you made contributions and used your skills. Of course, it’s best to list the experience if it’s an actual professional job like an assistant manager at a family store, not chores. If you have the same last name as the name of your business or employer, you can list it on the resume. However, you don’t have to explain that it’s a family member or business on the resume itself—save it for the interview. When it comes to explaining your past professional experience with your family, list your accomplishments and responsibilities in bullet points like you would for a regular position. For example:
- Worked across [XYZ teams] to achieve 1000% growth
- Generated $100K in sales pipeline
- Increased event revenue 300% year-over-year
As a Glassdoor article said, “Numbers make a huge difference. If you can quantify what you did in any way, you should.” For example, state how much in revenue you were able to earn for the business or save from spending or how you grew a team. Show how you were involved in scaling the business, like opening a new office, or any significant contributions you made to the business. Some examples are how you improved website conversion rates or created a style guide. It’s also imperative to show the progression on your resume like you would for a regular position. Perhaps you started off at the associate level and worked your way up to a director role. Be sure to emphasize any promotions, awards, and leadership roles.
However, avoid exaggerating your title just because you were at the family business. It’s pretty unlikely that someone just out of school would be a Chief Financial Officer. Make sure that your title is a realistic representation of your responsibilities and status when you hire a resume writing service like Prevision Personnel they will advise you never to exaggerate because it may come back to haunt you.
Explain Yourself In The Interview
You can use your interview to talk about how you navigated family dynamics. For example, perhaps there were a lot of conflicts, and you helped with mediation. Or you could have had an idea for a new product that the business didn’t welcome. Talk about how you persuaded them to change their minds through research and selling your idea.
Another strong angle you can take is that you were able to be exposed to more and take on more responsibility at your organization. Maybe you were an entry-level marketer, but you also pitched in with hiring and training new employees. Maybe you were able to interface with important clients or represented your organization in the media. These are experiences to play up in your interview.
Other potential questions and answers you can give are:
|Interviewer Question||Best Answers|
|What makes you different from an applicant who didn’t work at a family business?||The interesting thing about working for a family member is that because there was a built-in level of trust, I had more freedom to innovate and attain more responsibilities.|
|What were some of your strategies for success when working with family?||I came up with the idea to create a ‘best practices’ contract as a way to establish professional boundaries between the other family members.|
|How did you reduce perceptions of bias from non-family coworkers?||We made sure our roles were clearly defined and identified lines of authority. I also helped run a recognition program so that all team members could be rewarded based on their achievements, not personal relationships.|
Your references would be a time to provide a more neutral perspective. Your boss may have been a parent or extended family member, or your co-founder was your cousin. When you get to the references part of the interview process, acknowledge this. Provide them with the name of a coworker or client for a more unbiased opinion.
Resume Writing Tip: Develop Your Personal Brand
In this era, every professional is their own brand. As you embark on your next opportunity, decide how you want to present yourself to the world. Maybe working at a tech company appeals to you. Decide what you want your brand to stand for. Next, you’ll want to show that you can thrive in today’s workforce. You’ll have to remove any outdated skills, technologies, and certifications to show an up-to-date background. Do you feel like you’re behind the times? Now is the time to brush up on your skills.
There is an abundance of learning programs online like General Assembly, Lynda, Springboard, and Udacity. You can even earn professional certificates at your local college or university or find workshops at your library. However, it’s not enough to simply earn certificates. If you’re changing fields or industries, you’ll need to demonstrate your professional experiences in those particular environments. Don’t have those experiences? Look for volunteer opportunities, internships, and opportunities at non-profits on sites like Idealist.org or Craigslist.
For example, say if you’re interviewing for a position at a school. Your experiences volunteering at youth organizations or tutoring will cast you in a favorable light. Emphasize it if it’s a leadership position. Freelance jobs are also great ways to gain experiences that are invaluable to future employers. Are you interested in graphic design or creative industries? Find freelance opportunities on Upwork or Behance to hone your skills and build a portfolio.
Creative positions will place a heavy emphasis on the samples you show, so you’ll need a record of your works to demonstrate your experience. This can also add another dimension to your job application.
Yes, you worked with a family member. But you have evidence that you can do the work that your next employer will require.
Your Network Is Your Net Worth
Network, network, network. Every career counselor says to do it—for a good reason. Some experts say that 85 percent of all open positions are filled through networking. If you’re worried about the bias of a family business, personal connections are key.
People have to get to know you as a human being and remember you for the future. Begin with people you already know. If you want to leave your family business/relationship behind, start by talking to your friends or more distant family members.
Branch out to past colleagues, classmates, professors, and anyone you’ve ever volunteered with or done an extracurricular activity with. Many understand the rigors of the job search and will likely to be happy to help you out, since they already know you. Of course, offer to reciprocate if you can. The point is to build a relationship, and it has to be a two-way street.
For new connections, LinkedIn is a gold mine. You can look up people at the types of companies you’re interested in, see if you have any personal connections in common (like alumni from your college or grad school), and conduct informational interviews. Join targeted LinkedIn groups that are chock full of conversations and often relevant job listings. Some job candidates have even found success in posting a video-type resume on LinkedIn. This may not be the best strategy if you want to keep your job search private from your current employer or family colleague. However, there are many success stories of people posting a video on LinkedIn asking for help and getting shares and offers.
Of course, events and conferences will expose you to new people and audiences. If in-person events aren’t possible, try virtual events, and make an effort to connect with people digitally. If you’re comfortable, offer to speak at events to ramp up your visibility. To further illustrate your passion, start a blog, or Medium account about your industry of interest. All of these help paint a picture of you as a three-dimensional, dedicated job candidate—not just the applicant from a family business.
Now that you are okay with listing your family member on your resume, it’s time to start planning your exit (if you are still working with them). Give your notice in person. Since personal ties are involved, your employers and colleagues may be emotional. You shouldn’t let that stop you from moving forward in your career. Make the transition for them as smooth as possible. Offer to help source, hire, and train your replacement. Handoff your projects to your colleagues with detailed instructions, leave behind passwords and tie up loose ends. And after you’ve left? Keep in touch with your family member whether you have to or not. Having a positive relationship with them is not only good for your career but also your personal life in the long-term.
Final Thoughts On Mentioning Family Members In Your Resume
You shouldn’t feel like you need to excuse or downplay working with your family. However, you may have to do more to augment your professional profile through networking or acquiring new skills. At the end of the day, your work with your family helped you learn and grow just like a regular job. Admissions organization Accepted often advises MBA applicants from family businesses. As its website says:
“It may have made you nimble in your abilities to work across different departments, and given you a front-row seat in watching your relatives deal with the ongoing challenges of running a business in rapidly changing times.” Those are certainly valuable experiences your next employer will appreciate.
There is valuable experience to be gained in a family business. When it comes to your resume, it is imperative to illuminate the skills and experience gained with no direct reference to it coming from a family business. If you want to ensure that your experience isn’t downgraded due to the fact that it came from a family business, hire one of our expert coaches to craft the perfect job search package.
You simply can’t lose when your resume is written by us. Now is the best time!