The realization you’re in the wrong career does not hit like a lightening bolt. Rather, it festers within you for a long time, slowly worming its way into your consciousness, until one day you realize you’ve known it all along.
For years, I sat in a ninety-minute-each-way commute in Chicago rush hour traffic to/from my telecom job in product management. I dreaded every Monday. It never occurred to me I could start over. It never occurred to me I might be an entrepreneur at heart, and I could create my own destiny. However, after the dot-com bubble burst left me on my own, the thought of another position in my field was finally too much to bear. I left my career and my horrible commute behind, and embarked on a new journey filled with questions, uncertainty…and elation.
It’s romantic to think the heavens will offer up a sign letting you know when the time is right to unleash your entrepreneurial spirit and start your dream business. Unfortunately, reality often doesn’t work that way. Launching a business is risky, and those risks can easily overwhelm your senses and weaken your confidence. The fear of failure pervades your psyche, and when the safety and security of your family is on the line, happiness seems like a selfish luxury you can’t afford to indulge.
Many people live their entire lives this way. For others, their work frustration grows a little every day until they realize their need for happiness is suddenly greater than the fear that comes with making that change. Once fear can be overcome – or at least overwhelmed – that’s when great things can happen.
However, merely conquering your fears is not nearly enough to ensure success in starting your own business. You might have all the desire and motivation in the world, but there are still many steps that need to be taken, and many questions that need to be answered. So once the desire outweighs the fear…then what?
1. Start Researching – Starting a new business demands acquiring a vast amount of information that literally no one can figure out entirely on his or her own. Luckily, our modern world is packed with resources and assistance for dedicated and passionate entrepreneurs. If you’re willing to take the time, you’ll find the facts you need.
• The Internet – In the past, compiling information on a given topic would mean an exhaustive process of scouring books in a library and talking to strangers on the phone. Luckily for entrepreneurs, the Internet has blown it all wide open. It is the entrepreneur’s best friend.
The business you are considering might be new to you, but it’s important to realize that it’s not for others. Get on the Internet and find everything you possibly can on your newly chosen field. Read it all, take notes, and write down questions that arise. Any piece of information you can get is one tiny step closer to being ready for your big change. But don’t get stuck in online analysis paralysis. At some point, it’s time to take the next step toward becoming an entrepreneur.
• A Mentor – There are people who work in your dream business who are willing to help you on your journey. You may need to find them in another city and may even have to sign off on a non-compete clause to get their advice, but they’re there for you. Find several people who work in your newly chosen field, and initiate discussions with them. Tell them you admire what they do, and ask if you could learn from them as you look to make a career change. When someone agrees to be a mentor, schedule a visit to their workplace where you can observe the process in action, take copious notes on all you see and hear, and ask a ton of questions. When starting a new business, there are absolutely no better lessons than those taught from someone within the field. They’ll tell you everything you want to know, plus much more you need to know.
2. Raise Money – One of the reasons why people so often fail to leave unpleasant work situations is the money; they simply earn too much in the job they hate, and fear a dream business of their own wouldn’t provide the same level of security. This is a legitimate fear, but there are things that can be done to mitigate the risk until the income matches the level of happiness and desired lifestyle.
• Save Up – Change doesn’t have to happen all at once. Merely planning for the switch can improve the situation in the short term. Put money aside out of every paycheck so you’ll have a nest egg for when you finally decide to take the plunge.
• Find Outside Funding – No matter how much money you’re able to save, it might not be enough to get a business off the ground. Luckily, there are other avenues for raising the needed capital. Look into finding government grants, private investors, or even bank loans to help you get started.
• Set Some Limits – No matter how strongly you believe in your new business and your ability to make it work, you don’t want to throw all your eggs into that basket. Be careful about putting up your personal assets as collateral. Keep some of your assets – be it your home, your pension, your 401K, etc. – off the table. Don’t invest your entire net worth into your business. In the event that something goes wrong, it will be a HUGE comfort to know some of your assets are protected.
3. Get to Work – Once the research is done and the money is raised, it’s time to get to work. New businesses take an extraordinary amount of time and effort if they’re going to make it. Don’t be afraid of the hours, and don’t shy away from the commitment. Remember: eighty hours in a job you love is still FAR more rewarding than forty in one you hate.
There will, of course, be obstacles along the way, but with enough passion, dedication and foresight, anything can be overcome. Keep reminding yourself you deserve to be happy, and your dream business is ultimately worth the time and effort it takes to get there. And once you do, you’ll never dread a Monday again….and as I like to say, everyday is a Friday!