There has been an incredible response to my book launching in the last couple of weeks, Leaving the Corporate 9 to 5: Stories from people who’ve done it (and how you can too!). People have been coming out of the woodwork and admitting to me – but most importantly admitting to themselves – that this is something that they really do want to do.
As you begin this journey, I have plenty of resources to help you take the right steps; but I also want to help you avoid the ‘wrong’ steps. So, with that in mind, I want to share 5 mistakes that you can avoid now in moving forwards.
1. Narrowing down your options too soon
The first mistake is limiting yourself to just a couple of routes simply because you haven’t taken the time to explore all the different possibilities. For most of you, what you’re doing right now in your job is all you’ve ever known, and the people around you are probably in similar types of careers as well. If you only focus on the first few things that come to mind, then you’re likely to latch onto the first thing that comes along and miss out on something that could be so much better.
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Give yourself the time to explore, to dream, to imagine not just what work could be like but life as well. Consider all the things you’ve ever enjoyed; map out everything that you’re good at, not just the obvious hard skills from your current role but your softer skills, personal strengths, and even experiences outside of work; brainstorm and remind yourself of every single idea that you’ve ever had about what you might want to do. Get creative and think big – you’ll have plenty of time to narrow down your options and filter your ideas for feasibility and so on later in the process.
2. Rushing into action
Linked to the first mistake is this second one: rushing down a particular route because you’re so incredibly keen to take action and do something, anything, that starts the process of getting you out of your current situation. That might mean signing up to an expensive course or an MBA that may or may not get you to where you actually want to be, or taking some drastic action like handing in your resignation right away. The danger here is that you’ll be investing time and money in going down the completely wrong path, putting you even further away from where you want to get to.
Instead, take a step back and really reflect on what it is that you want, first of all, to get clarity on the parameters for your own career transition, the vision for what you want your future to look like, and what ‘success’ really means to you. Then you can work out how you’re going to get there, and break down the steps that will take you closer to your vision.
3. Taking no action at all
Of course, the opposite of rushing into action is taking no action at all, and that’s equally ineffective! You can get stuck in analysis paralysis as you consider all the pros and cons, you research, you talk to people, you plan… You may tell yourself that you’re not ready yet and you need to do more thinking. The underlying reason for this is more likely to be that you’re nice and cosy in your comfort zone and that you’re afraid – of failure, of making the wrong choice, of being judged by other people.
There is only so much planning and strategizing that you can do, however, and ultimately this is going to be a decision of the heart rather than the mind. No amount of information and knowledge is going to 100% take away the fear, and at some point you will need to do something. In fact, clarity comes with action and taking your first tentative steps is going to do wonders for building up your confidence, validating your ideas, and getting you closer to where you want to be.
4. Focusing on the wrong things
Once you have chosen an idea and you’re getting started with putting it into action, this is a massive step forward. However, the risk here is that you’ll be focusing on the wrong things. Especially if you’re starting a business alongside your full-time job, not to mention all your other interests and obligations, you only have a certain number of hours available in your week. It’s very easy to fill that time with being ‘busy’ without actually making any progress.
Instead, those hours need to be productively used to validate your idea, get a strong foundation in place for the business, build your brand, get yourself out there and, ultimately, generate income. To make sure that you’re spending your time on the right things, you’ll need to educate yourself on the latest best practices, focus on a handful of critical actions to meet your short- and long-term needs, and hold yourself accountable to take consistent action even when you’re not seeing immediate results.
5. Doing it all yourself
Finally, perhaps the biggest mistake you can make here is to go it alone and suffer in silence! So many businesses fail in their first year and I truly believe that this is because the founder gives up too soon – and that, in turn, is because they don’t have a support system in place. This means that you’ll have no one to turn to when that fear starts creeping in, no sounding board when you get stuck and don’t know how to move forwards, and no one to advise you on what you should be focusing on.
A strong support system includes, first, a community of like-minded people to support and encourage you (check out my Facebook group if you’re not already a member); second, a coach and/or a structured programme that will take you through the whole process from the vision right through to implementation; and, finally, a team to help you focus on the biggest ‘value adds’ in the business (this doesn’t mean getting an office and hiring full-time employees but can be as simple as outsourcing graphic design on Fiverr, finding an intern or admin assistant to do a few hours of work a week, and getting an accountant to help you with your company finances).
I don’t mean to scare you with all these ‘mistakes’ and ‘wrong things’ but I do want to flag these potential pitfalls and, of course, point you in the direction of getting more support. You can do this! But let’s do it right.