Many people that I know are not doing something they might love for it might make them less desirable as an employee. A few days ago, a conversation with a good friend unfolded along these lines:
Him: I want to be an entrepreneur.
Me: Cool, what’s your timeline?
Him: Uhm, basically now. I have this idea about building a high-class lingerie brand and I know how to do it. [He goes on explaining it in perfect detail.]
Me: You’re onto something. What’s holding you back?
Him: What might a future employer think?
I was glad he addressed this issue so openly. After all, he already knew that I was going to tear his argument apart and yet he admitted what most people experience when they are going about their own ways: Fear. We all fear failure, losing our face in public, or not getting “back on track”, whatever that means. I feel it too, at varying degrees but certainly every day.
There are three strong mechanisms that reinforce the idea of having to stay in the same rut. The one I find credible is that professional networks have a time decay. If you are "out" for some time, the ropes tend to get cut and important gossip doesn't travel far enough to be actionable for the person trying to get back on track. Mind, however, that it is possible to maintain lively relationships with hundreds of people. If contacting former colleagues feels like a burden, maybe you don't want to get back to them after all.
The second is the way many employers screen applicants. For the lack of a better predictor, a consistent path gives recruiters a sense of security that someone will hold onto their job even if it sucks a little bit, hence any deviation gives rise to a discussion at the very least. Let's face it: Employers are almost as scared of making a hiring mistake as the employee is of actually becoming one.
The third is the perceived stability of an employer: A raise or promotion feels like progress and fulfillment even if that person doesn’t care about the job all that much. Smart employers know that this feeling is only temporary but often enough to hold potential deserters in their place, especially when the next level is already in sight.
Of course, there are people who are perfectly happy with what they do and there are fantastic employers who make a genuine effort to help people live a purposeful life. But even that might not be fulfilling for some and these people eventually have to make the leap – or risk major regret.
If you are in that position, this realization may not be new to you and if you are still reading this, you might be stuck at this very point. You might be looking for a magic formula or someone else to take that decision off your shoulders – to my knowledge, there is neither.
But there is something positive in it: The decision to become an entrepreneur will guide you in many other difficult situations that await you, regardless of the decision you take.
I like to point out that the process took me roughly seven years so there really is no hurry, except that the rods of the golden cage tend to get thicker as income and responsibilities rise. Put differently, the decision won't get easier.
The myth that one becomes unemployable is a sticky one. For those people who value security over everything, it can feel like a life threat. Personally, I’d rather hire someone who took a chance at some point in their lives. This isn’t true for everyone but there are lots of current and former entrepreneurs who can appreciate someone who went for their passion but came to the realization that they'd rather follow someone else instead.
Buddy, when you’re reading this – remember to walk towards the flame and "destroy" your well-crafted CV for something you find important. Jim Carrey once said, “If you can fail at what you don’t love, you might as well fail doing what you love!” Soon we will be dead anyway so we might as well enjoy the journey!