It isn’t easy to make the leap from a 9-to-5er to an entrepreneur. Obviously there are many challenging and time-consuming steps in-between. But it’s possible that you don’t even need to make all of these steps or free the rat race in order to find a more peaceful and fulfilling work life. Maybe all you need to do is find a job outside the corporate straightjacket.
A Personal Story
As many of my readers know, in the Fall of 2007 I was fired from my job as a records and administrative assistant at small financial firm in Portland. (You can read more about this miserable job here) While this job was not technically part of a large corporation, in a sense it had many of the elements of working in corporate America without the fancy titles. I had to kiss the feet of a much larger conglomerate of financial firms and I needed to keep immaculate records. There were very tight deadlines. Our clients depended on my accuracy and timing. If their needs didn’t get met, it affected our company and they could get into trouble with the higher ups which we represented.
In other words, it felt like a corporate job.
Fast forward 5 months
I was working with a great non-profit learning web design as an intern and getting to know some truly interesting and passionate people. They were committed to a cause, (helping connect low-income people with technology) intelligent, and happy to help me learn. Even today I occasionally write to some of the friends and colleagues I met in this company for advice when I have a web-related issue or question. I am convinced that if I had not worked with this great non-profit, I would not be where I am today.
They helped pave the path I took from a depressed, angry administrative assistant at a financial firm to a web designer and internet entrepreneur with wonderful clients and a great portfolio in only a couple of years.
Was it just that the company was better? Was it the people?
No. It was that they were a non-profit. And this isn’t the only example. I’ve heard this story countless times. Working in a corporate environment is more stressful, more deadline-driven and more traditional than working for a non-profit or small, independent company. In a corporate environment, if you are low on the totem-pole (ie: your job title contains the words “assistant” or “entry-level” or “staff”) you are there only to do a job, not be heard. You are not there to make a difference. You can be replaced. This is immensely stressful, as people are not meant to be put in cages.
Still, there are some advantages to staying in the corporate world versus working for a non-profit or private company. Here are a few:
- The pay is consistent and usually higher
- There may be slightly more stability
- The workload is sometimes a bit less
But here are some cons:
- The people tend to be less creative and less willing to try novel ideas
- Any new idea needs to go through a great bureaucratic filter or avoid some obscure antiquity of a rule before it is taken seriously
- As an employee of a corporation you will have less opportunity to grow beyond your skill set
- Because there is more “imperative that you follow x to the letter” protocol, you will feel more stress
- You are more likely to be treated like a job instead of a person.
If these are not reasons enough to consider contacting your nearest non-profit to see if they need help, I don’t know what else will convince you!
If you are struggling with a lot of stress, little reward and feeling like a cog at your corporate job, perhaps you just need to escape corporate life for a better office. Sure it probably isn’t The Great Office Escape you have been dreaming about (which certainly involves some kind of tropical island and your laptop) but you’ll get there one day. In the meantime, this is a great first step!