My fellow blogger friend Joe from Retire by 40 has recently been pondering whether it’s finally time to go it alone. I was in his shoes not very long ago: I had been with my company for a long time, I got along well with my coworkers, and I had a very comfortable work environment. At the same time, the projects have been dying, people have been leaving, and after two acquisitions and divestitures, the company atmosphere was no longer the same. I finally reached the point in my life where it was time to move on to a new adventure. Yes, you read that right: I quit my job!
I have been planning this move for a long time, and I still feel some trepidation about what lies ahead; the future is now less certain and less known than it was only a few weeks ago. At the same time, I am very excited, and I am looking forward to all of the opportunities that lie ahead!
Some background on my job
I have been with my company for a very long time, since well before graduating university. I started out as a student intern, and I continued working there on and off while I did full-time school. I left for nearly a year when I went to do an internship at another company and when I participated in an overseas student exchange; once I came back from overseas, I returned to work at this company.
I joined the company as a permanent only a few months after graduating, and I have continued to build my career since then. I have made friends here, and I have also watched many of them leave and move on to other places. I have survived several rounds of layoffs and I have even survived several changes of ownership! I work as a software developer in the mobile industry and it is not uncommon for entire companies to be gobbled up and later repackaged and sold.
This company has been a really great opportunity for me. It has provided me with the space to learn a lot about software development and about working in a professional environment, and I have grown so much in the years that I have been here.
So, if it’s been so good, then why do I want to leave?
What led up to this moment
While there has been a lot of good, it hasn’t been all rainbows and butterflies. While the marketplace has been rapidly evolving, the company hasn’t quite been keeping place. The customer base has been declining and there is no longer the sense of dynamism that there once was. At the same time, there are not many opportunities for career growth as there are a lot of mid 30s and mid 40s people at the company, and they occupy all of the mid-level positions.
A few months ago I was rather demotivated, as we spent several months working on a forward-looking project that was later killed. We were then moved onto another project that felt like a manager’s bridge to nowhere, and to add insult to injury, I was kicked out of my nice window spot after they canned the previous project. On top of that, I had been told that even though I had went above and beyond that year and I was ready for a promotion, I shouldn’t expect much and it was anyone’s guess as to when that promotion would actually come.
Things did improve after that very demotivational time. That entire office suite was closed and we all moved into a nicer office suite where the seating was less “Office Space” like, less arbitrary, and fairer. After losing my nice spot of earlier, that was something that I could live with since we were all in the same boat now. I also got the promotion, though it was really more of a recognition of what I was already doing and the raise did not make that much of a difference. Given that the company was bleeding money and was laying people off left and right at the time, I didn’t push the matter. This recognition helped to take the edge off, though, and I no longer felt that unhappy.
I was at a crossroads
I got a feel for what my future at the company would be like: if I put in another 5-10 years of effort at the company, I might be able to raise my salary by another 20% and maybe get one more promotion. It would be another few years of working on bridges to nowhere and just passing the time, saving some money, but I would then be in my mid 30s to early 40s and not living the life that I truly want for myself. It would be very comfortable, but at the end I might get tossed into the street anyways, so I could not say that it would be very secure. If I really wanted more growth, I would have to find a job elsewhere and perhaps go back to school to get a master’s degree. Even though I was no longer as unhappy, I still felt like I was at a crossroads. Do I stay on the ship and risk going down with it, or do I take a jump now and brave the icy waters? Maybe it’s not as cold as I fear.
I looked at the mid-levels and seniors around me, and the main difference between what I do and what they do is that they have a bit more experience and more seniority and salary. Their heart is not in it, though. There is no passion, and these people are only there to feed their family and go home to their wives and kids. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but I no longer feel that there are new opportunities to grow and expand like there once was.
Now is the moment
I am going into my 30s soon, and I feel that if I want to make a change, now is the time. I don’t yet have kids, and I have been able to save up nearly a year’s worth of expenses in a stash of cash. I have found at least two things that I am passionate about: mobile software development, and writing online. I am not a master at either, but I greatly enjoy doing both and I have enough passion for both to continue doing them for the long term. I enjoy Android software development, have recently released an easy voice recorder, and a fellow Yakezie also has her own debt app. The difference is that I want to do it for myself. Reading “The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World” might also have had a bit of an impact so I can also thank Dr. Dean for a bit of a push.
I also have no choice if I want to do it for myself. I want to start my own company, and I am not allowed to do that if I continue to work where I am. When I became a permanent, I agreed that I would not pursue another occupation while employed with the company. This means that so long as I am employed by them, I cannot pursue my own dreams.
So far, I have accepted that trade-off while things were good so that I could build up my career, gain experience, and put away savings so that we could buy a home together. Now, with everything that I have gained over the past few years, I feel like it’s now the right time to make the next move. If I wanted to advance my career, I would have had to quit anyways, and the worst possible outcome is that I end up re-entering the workforce at another company, which is what I would have had to do anyways.
What makes my situation different than others?
My situation is not quite the same as some others. When Budgeting in the Fun Stuff quit her job, she had a proven sideline that now generates far more income than her job ever did. I don’t have a proven sideline, but I do have a plan and I do have marketable skills. Others like So Over Debt and Beating Broke left abusive employment situations. That is not the case for me. I might have been unhappy at times, but it was never abusive. I get along well with my bosses and coworkers, and I will miss them.
When I gave my resignation letter to my boss, he was sad to see me go, and he really wanted me to stay. I could have had a very good and comfortable time staying at my company for the next five years, even if the ship is sinking, and that is what makes the decision all the harder. I have every intention of keeping the bridges intact, and that is why I decided to quit with grace.
What am I going to do now?
What I would like to do is to continue growing my websites, as that will be my bread and butter until I can ramp up in other areas. I also have a stash of emergency savings that can last me most of the rest of the year, assuming I don’t make another dime. I for sure don’t want to rely on that, though.
I will also start developing my own mobile apps and start doing freelancing and consulting work for others. If you would like to learn more, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly. Yes, I Am Cheap doesn’t believe that you can be a full-time freelancer and blogger, but I am out to prove her wrong. I did this as a living for my company; why shouldn’t I be able to do the same thing as a living for myself? Things are set in motion; I live in an area where there can be a lot of bureaucracy for this stuff, but the legal stuff should be out of the way within a couple more weeks.
Unlike others, I don’t already have something proven that I can expand. A lot of the waters ahead are uncharted, and I will be learning as I go. I will greatly appreciate your feedback on what I am doing right and what I can improve on. My ears are wide open, and I am open to all feedback, positive and negative. I am up for this adventure, because I know that the worst that can happen is that I end up doing the same thing for a boss instead of for myself, or a customer.
My personal motivation
After a few years of doing the corporate life, I have decided that I can’t do the same thing for the next five years. I need to do something different, and I need to do something that will fit in with my dream of financial freedom. It was hard for me to make this decision, and I was shitting bricks when I handed in the resignation letter to my boss. Some people think that it takes guts to quit their job, but I don’t like to think of myself as someone who is brave, because the truth is I am scared a lot of the time. Scared of failure, scared of rejection, and sometimes scared for no good reason at all. I am more nervous and anxious than the normal person, and this is something I would like to improve upon going down this road to the future.
Before making a big decision like this, it is always very important to have the support of close family and loved ones. Even if they don’t agree, it’s still good manners to let them know. I have the great support of my girlfriend, who will be encouraging me and who has approved of my plan. You can bet that if she was against it, I would have a much harder time following through.
I also have the support of my grandmother, and to put things in context, this woman is like my entire close family to me. She is the one that helped turn my life around when I was a troubled teen, and she told me not to sit around and just take things like they are. She encouraged me to push forward, and whenever I feel pity for myself because of whatever crap I had to go through, I just remind myself that it’s nothing compared to what she, as an immigrant that came here in the 50s, went through in her life.
Those of us born and living in North America are incredibly lucky, and I almost find it wasteful for us to not take advantage of all of the opportunities that we have. I am very lucky to have people like my grandmother and girlfriend in my life, even if I sometimes forget it.
I would also like to thank all of you: those of you whom I emails directly and provided great coaching and advice, those of you who have written about your own experiences, and also those of you who have simply stopped by to visit and comment. You all brighten up my day, and words don’t express how much I truly appreciate it. I will keep you all updated on my adventures, and wish all of you the best and a great 2012.
Dear reader, have you ever contemplated a move like this? As of the time of this writing, I still have a couple of weeks to go, but by the time you read this, I will be out! If you have recently done a similar move or if you are planning to do so, then I sincerely wish you the best of luck. Life is too short and uncertain to get too comfortable and afraid.