This is the fifth in a series of essays about post-corporate life.
Rule One: Keep a roof over your head and stay healthy
When you leave the corporate mothership, you have a chance to re-examine your priorities. If your departure was forced upon you, you are facing a difficult period of adjustment. If you prepared yourself beforehand, you might have an easier time of it.
You may have been complaining about your work/life balance for years, but now you are faced with choices that must be made and work/life balance will not be in the top twenty issues you have to handle. You will probably find that keeping up with the rent or the mortgage is the biggest issue you have to confront.
If you have a spouse and children, a 30-40 hour work week may not be an option. If you began post-corporate life involuntarily, you may be working long hours at more than one job to support your family and keep things together.
Desperation is a great motivation. I can testify to that from personal experience. It can make you plunge into a job worse than your last one, just to pay the bills. This is a choice you may have to make, if you don’t have the skills to support your family outside of corporate employment.
On the other hand, if you are used to hard work and are willing to mortgage your house or sell it in order to buy a franchise or start a business, you have a far better chance of making it as an independent businessman, especially if your family stands ready to support you by picking up additional responsibilities to free you up for your 12-16 hour workdays.
There are some hard choices to make with children in college. When family income is drastically cut, everyone has to bear the load of supporting the family. If a family pulls together, it becomes stronger. If the family indulges in shame, blame, and regret, nothing good comes of it. A sane family deals with adversity and emerges unscathed, and wiser. The lessons learned will affect family planning for years to come.
Being adequately prepared for eventual separation from the corporate mothership is the best security for you and your family.
Rule Two: Don’t take life seriously or you will do yourself great harm
Be determined that you will do what it takes to keep you family fed and sheltered, but don’t look back with regret. No matter how bad things are right now, you made your choices based on the best information you had at the time. You may be saying, "What was I thinking?" but you need to discard that regret and figure out how to make better decisions in the future.
The road to salvation lies in increasing your self-determinism in the matter of work. If you are not prepared to make enough money to support your family as an independent business person, you need to pick up some employment until you gain the necessary skills and customers to make a go of it. From personal experience, I know that launching a business always takes longer than expected, so you should be prepared to do part-time work somewhere until your business takes off.
If they drop you out of the mothership in your fifties, you may not find employment again for some years. On the other hand, you may no longer have a large family to support, so you may be able to downsize and cut your expenses to the point where you can live on a much smaller income.
Whatever happens in your post-corporate years, you are totally responsible for the results. If you are realistic in your planning, you can make a go of it with very little seed money. A lot of micro-businesses are financed by credit cards. You have to make every dollar count and be prepared to work on a smaller scale than you ever expected in order to get started.
Roll up your sleeves, network like crazy, and solve problems for people and get paid for it. Be real and you will succeed.
Adopt your new identity and make yourself comfortable being whoever your business requires you to be. As long as you take pride in your work and are delivering a superior product or service, people will respect you and continue to do business with you. That is what satisfying work is all about. It’s not the job itself, it’s what you make of it that counts.
You are on your own. If you survive it, you will transform yourself in ways you cannot imagine. If you can keep your sense of humor alive, it will be a much easier journey.
How many of you post-corporate pioneers been surprised at your ability to find business opportunities?
How many have advice to offer to those who will enter post-corporate life in the near future?