Leaving your full-time job in the midst of a recession is either a really stupid or really smart decision. Since I just made the move myself, I’m going to make the case for smart.
If you can swing it, a recession is an ideal time to stop being an employee and start doing your own thing. Your plans to go freelance, start your own business, or take a sabbatical shouldn’t be on hold right now because of the economy. While the fear mongers might be saying you should be grateful just to have a job at all, I challenge you to expand your vision.
Now’s a fine time to take a risk because there’s just not much to lose.
Being an employee right now sucks. Even if you’ve survived the layoffs at your company, you’re still in fear that next round, you won’t be so lucky. Salaries are frozen, bonuses are non-existent, and without all the staff that got cut, you’re expected to do more work for the same or less money. Morale is low and the fear of what bad news might break next stifles innovation, puts otherwise sane people on the defensive, makes management more willing to make dumb moves in the name of this quarter’s revenue report, and stresses everyone to the max. Employees become suspicious and resentful of one another and their managers, wondering who’s making what, why that exec is driving a company car, and whether or not the company can afford bagels for the Friday morning meeting.
Doing your own thing is easier than ever, especially online. Lots of smart people have been laid off and are available for consultation and collaboration. Prices are lower because service providers want to move product. Things like web hosting and even office space is cheap and easy to find. Folks who want to become consultants or go freelance, this market is good for you. Because big companies laid off staff to save money, they’re more in need of hourly contractors than usual.
In short, when the market sucks, the stakes aren’t that high, so it’s a good time to take the risk. If you fail? You’re no worse off than if that next round of layoffs landed a pink slip on your desk anyway.
About the “big IF.” Notice I said it’s a good time to stop being an employee if you can, if you’ve got the means to do so. The means might be a year or two worth of savings in the bank, a low cost of living, a working spouse whose employer offers health insurance coverage for you, investments to draw on, connections to work for possible contractor gigs, and a generally positive outlook on life. Luckily I’ve got all these things in varying degrees, and no small children living under my roof. So that “if you can” is certainly a big if.
But if you do qualify, don’t let the BIG SCARY RECESSION stop you from cutting yourself loose from the W-2 yoke and trying something different. If you can get over the knee-jerk fear and lack of confidence connected to this stifling economic time, you’ll realize it’s a better time to do so than you thought.