Advice for those looking to leave the corporate world.
I received a call out of the blue last week from a friend of a friend who is been given the choice by his employer of taking a job he doesn’t want or taking a redundancy package. He was weighing up his options. He really wants to take the package and move to the coast somewhere but is afraid to make that change.
I decided to write this blog post after speaking to him to share some of my insights for the benefit of anyone else going through something similar.
To add some context, I took a career break of about 18 months back in 2012 as I did not know what I wanted from life. I knew I wanted to do some traveling though. It was all pretty scary for me at the time – as I was telling myself (as crazy as it sounds) that I’d made a mistake, stuffed my career, my life was over, etc, etc. That break though, changed my life, I ended up quitting my job at the end of the leave and I’ve chosen to live life on my terms ever since – part of which involves running my own adventure travel business (something I am very passionate about).
Decision comes before circumstance
Well maybe not in the dictionary. Certainly in life it does – well that’s what I’ve found.
There’s a default I’ve gone to in the past where I make a decision based on the circumstances and whether I can see it working. As an example, my friend, let’s call him Brian, might be looking at such things as where he might live, is the rent cheap there, can he get a job – all the practicalities. In my experience, you’re never going to know all of that. At some point, you have to take a leap of faith, make a decision and go with it. I often find if you make a decision to do something, to leap, you find a way to make it work.
When we made the decision to move up to the Northern Rivers of NSW, we’d been thinking about it for a while. One day, we said to ourselves, we’re moving in a week. Nothing planned except to leave Melbourne, get in the car and go. Two days before we were due to leave, a friend emailed us out of the blue and said her mother (who lives in the area) is going away and she needed someone to housesit for her for the next 8 weeks – could we help? Bingo. We accepted. It gave us enough time to have a good look around, find a place to live, find jobs and get ourselves setup.
I don’t know what I want
“I don’t know what I want.” Said Brian, after I’d asked him the question.
He went on to say he felt like he was overwhelmed by what was going on and couldn’t think clearly.
Sometimes a little bit of space is all you need to realise what you want.
In that situation, I’ve found time out is often a good strategy. I took leave from my role in IT not knowing what I wanted from life – I simply knew I wanted to do some travelling. The thing that I stumbled upon was the benefit of giving myself some space. Knowing what you want is less a function of picking from the finite number of options in front of you (or doing research) and more a process of giving yourself time out, sitting with that question and letting the answers come to you. It’s kind of like remembering the name of a song only after you stop trying to think of it.
“Did you take a pay cut?” Brian asked me after I told him I had some IT work up here on the Gold Coast.
“Yes – quite a big one,” was my answer.
I could hear a touch of disappointment in his voice. The thing is, while I was not getting paid what I was in Melbourne, I was getting paid enough to live the lifestyle I wanted at the time. I was living a life completely different from what I had in Melbourne. I wasn’t going out on a Friday night after work. I wasn’t buying lunch everyday. No transport costs. Living costs were also cheaper.
I think when we think about making a change like this, it can be easy to disregard it based on money. I always encourage people to look at the lifestyle they want – not just their job – and quite often they are surprised at what they find.
In Hindsight, I should have…
We can all use hindsight and say “we should have..” after the event. We can also fear change and scare ourselves into thinking we need to keep doing what we are doing for what ever reason and then regret it later on.
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
– Number 1 on Top 5 regrets of the dying
I really love that quote. You might say – that’s great but what can I do about it now? Well here’s something I came up with years ago.
Sit down somewhere quite – preferably in a park or amongst nature and away from busy, crowded areas. Take a few moments to relax, taking some deep breaths. Now imagine you make the decision to keep going with your life in the same direction you have been – perhaps logically following your career, not exactly happy but comfortable, playing it safe or maybe not doing exactly what you want. Imagine all the promotions over the next 20 or 30 years and where your life may lead. Really imagine it – where do you live? Who do you work for? What have you achieved? What car do you drive? Really paint a picture in your mind. Now imagine you are 65 and retiring from work and you take a look back over your life. Ask yourself what you are feeling.
I did this exercise back in 2011 in the Fitzroy gardens in Melbourne (near work at the time) whether to take leave or keep going in my career. I don’t remember the exact details of the life I imagined – only what it felt like. At the end of the process, I remember being overwhelmed with a deep sense of regret of having played it safe my whole life and I had regretted not taking a chance in life – not backing myself and going for something I wanted. That was a real turning point for me.
You can always go back
Someone once said to me there are no bad decisions because you can simply change your mind and go back. I think that is the case here for Brian.
A word of warning on this point though: don’t focus on the option of going back. Use it to quell the fear of change a little then focus on really giving the new life a genuine try. Pour your heart into it. You’ll be amazed at what you can do.