A woman leaning over the edge of a cement wall

Corporate America may offer certain perks, but they’re far from enough to get me to leave the life I’ve created outside of the office. Like many 20-somethings, my primary objective upon graduating from college was finding a job with a competitive salary. However, I’ve come to learn that some things genuinely do matter more than money. 

If you’re considering changing your career entirely, then take some advice from someone who has been there. You can’t put a price tag on freeing yourself from Sunday evening sadness. However, you’ll need to maintain realistic expectations and plan carefully to succeed in changing the trajectory of your career. 

Why I Said Goodbye to the Corporate Rat Race

When I graduated, I was what many would consider fortunate. Within a month, I landed a position at a rapidly growing tech company. As a child, my family struggled with economic insecurity. I was the first in my clan to attend college. By my adolescent standards, I had arrived. 

However, it wasn’t long before stress and a thriving “good old boys” network at the office made me begin to question my aspirations. I have nothing against pulling the occasional overtime. However, after one particularly bad timespan of working nearly 80-hour weeks for several weeks, my health started deteriorating. I lost a considerable amount of weight, and my hair and nails grew dull and thin. More disturbingly, my formerly bubbly personality turned sour. 

Every Sunday night, I felt as if I were coming down with the world’s worst flu. I would sink into despair and spend hours in the bathroom as pain wracked my belly. I realized I was losing precious hours of free time to melancholy. The thought of reporting to the office the next day filled me with such dread. I couldn’t escape the negative thought spiral. 

The thought of reporting to the office the next day filled me with such dread.

Is this what I have to look forward to for the rest of my life? I remember thinking. Answering that question honestly made downing an entire bottle of wine sound attractive. I knew I had to make a change. 

I launched a small blog and learned how to use it to pitch to other sites that would pay me for my writing. I’m not going to pretend the road from the cubicle life to freelancer was easy or rapid. It took me three years to build up my readership to a point where I had a reliable enough income stream between my site and freelance writing for other publications to quit my day job. 

However, now that I live the freelance life, you couldn’t pay me enough to go back. At this point, I am comfortable enough that I even have the luxury of writing for fun at some sites that don’t pay. I have time to prep healthy meals and commit to moderate exercise. I completed a course of therapy to help me reset my brain from the anxiety that previously plagued me. 

What to Consider Before Deciding to Leave the 9-to-5 

If you’re considering dropping out of the corporate world, then there are many things to consider. Ask yourself the following questions before you write that letter of resignation. 

  • How is my emergency fund?
    While most financial experts advise saving three to six months’ worth of salary, you might want to pad your emergency fund considerably more. This advice goes double if you’re stepping out to freelance, not moving down to part-time labor. 
    Financial experts recommend putting aside closer to six to 12 months’ worth of living expenses if you anticipate being unemployed for several months. You don’t want to quit, only to find it impossible to regain suitable employment if you run low on money. 
  • Do you have health insurance?
    Sadly, in America, your employer typically provides this, a situation that discourages entrepreneurship. You might think, “I’m young and healthy. I can do without it.” 
    Don’t fall into this trap. I know two individuals who lost everything due to a car wreck. No matter how many muscles you have, they’re no match for the accidents that can and do occur.
  • What about childcare?
    If you have little ones at home, part of the allure of freelancing can include more time with them. However, it’s nearly impossible to focus with continual cries of “Mom!” interrupting you. Can your spouse watch the littles while you work? If you’re a single parent, can you cover the cost of a daycare or babysitter? 
  • What will you do if things go awry?
    Even if you despise your current role, it never pays to burn bridges. Plan to give
    at least two weeks’ notice and part on favorable terms with your former boss, if at all possible. You never know if you may need to re-enter the workforce later and require a reference. 

Freeing myself from a job I despised gave me better health and more energy. If you hope to accomplish the same, then start on your action plan today and get on the path to living your dreams!

Have you considered a career change lately? What are some practical steps you would need to take in order to make the switch?

Image via Coco Tran, Darling Issue No. 19

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