Career

Don’t Quit Your Job to Chase Your Dreams Until You’ve Considered These 4 Things

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Joanne Poh

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Feel like a corporate drone? Fit the profile of what they call a “millennial”? Then you must have at some point bought into the narrative about “finding your passion”.

The trouble is, most people do little in the way of trying to make sure their careers and their interests align. Instead, they do what Singaporeans do best—complain every single day about their jobs while doing nothing to make themselves less reliant on their hated day jobs.

No matter what they say, most people would most certainly not give up their jobs to “chase their dreams”, even if the opportunity fell in their lap. That’s because following your dreams involves a whole lot of sacrifice that most aren’t ready to make, such as the following.

 

You must be okay with working on lousy projects at the start

There is a good reason people stick with day jobs they claim are soul-sucking. These jobs are more likely to pay well and offer opportunities for advancement than their “dreams” of becoming a street artist.

On the other hand, chasing after a passion project often means working on small, insignificant projects for clients who more often than not don’t have a lot of money.

Progressing to bigger and better things only comes after you’ve diligently amassed experience and contacts, and sometimes not even then. Most people aren’t willing to endure that slog with no guarantee of success.

Ask any freelance photographer who’s shooting for big companies and publications, and you often here that they started out shooting weddings or working at a studio for a salary that would make any entry-level bank executive weep.

 

You will definitely be required to make financial sacrifices

Leaving behind a perfectly serviceable career to do something else often means making a financial sacrifice, at least in the first few years. This is the biggest reason holding everyone back. After all, if you could earn more being a video game reviewer than an accountant, you would have quit to do so a long time ago.

Even if your dream job involves your continuing to be a salaried employee with a stable income, leaving your career to start from scratch usually means taking a pay cut.

I know someone who went back to school to study law after having worked for years as a paralegal. While he was earning around $8,000 as a paralegal at a big international firm, his pay fell to $4,500 when he become an entry-level lawyer, by which time he was already in his 30s. He also lost tons of potential income going to law school overseas for three years and doing a year’s worth of training and exams upon graduation, and even after 3-4 years of working as a lawyer he was still earning less than before. How many people would be willing to do that, even for a high-status job?

 

You will need to put in lots of effort to make your new lifestyle work

As if there weren’t already enough challenges, you’re also likely to have to deal with a major lifestyle upheaval. A change in lifestyle is often part of the reason people decide to leave their corporate jobs to start businesses, do creative work, work in a startup environment and so on.

Now, don’t think that just because you can now work flexi-hours/have other people work for you instead of the other way around/help people instead of sucking their money, you’re suddenly going to discover that all your problems in life have disappeared.

This new way of life is going to take some time getting used to, and making it work can take much more effort than just going to your old job on autopilot.

For instance, freelancers and self-employed folks often find that flexibility—the very reason many decided to give up stable jobs—can be a double-edged sword. You need very strong boundaries and discipline to stop yourself from feeling like you’ve spending every moment working, and there’ll be times you wake up late and curse yourself because it means you’ll be working late into the night.

Even employees are not exempt from lifestyle changes when they disrupt their careers. For instance, those who quit corporate jobs to go into teaching often find that the huge volume of marking they face on weekends or after they’ve left school can make them feel like they’re working 24/7.

 

You should have a plan B if it doesn’t work out

The thing about chasing your dreams is that, until you get what you wished for, they’re often no more than fantasies. You might have done all the research in the world and spoken to a ton of people who’ve done what you’re planning to do, but you still won’t know exactly how things will play out in your life.

There is also an element of risk when it comes to making a big career change, especially if you’re delving into entrepreneurship.

So it helps to know what your Plan B is if your grand plans don’t work out, or if you find your new career financially unsustainable. Will you go back to your old career? Or do you have ways to stay afloat financially?

Tuition is a popular fallback plan for many Singaporeans who quit their jobs to become insurance agents, property agents or freelancers, at least at the start when they don’t know if they can make it in their new careers.

Whatever it is, having a fallback plan ensures you’ll be self-sufficient come what may, instead of becoming an adult who’s still collecting allowance from his parents.

What’s your dream career? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.