I want to start this article about how to leave the corporate world with coming clean about something. It took me three attempts to properly leave from first having a sense that it wasn’t for me. So I guess I know as well as anybody what can prevent you from leaving, no matter how strong the pull is! In this article I share a little about my own (eventual) exit from the corporate world as well as the top 5 fears which often grip people on the verge. Plus a few ideas on what to do about them.
Before I start this post, I also want to acknowledge that working in the corporate world does have a lot of great benefits and is certainly an experience I am so grateful to have had. There are many people who are perfectly happy in and well suited to the corporate world. This article is not for them! It is for the people for whom the corporate world has perhaps run its course. For those who have an inner whisper (or a great big alarm bell ringing) that they are out of alignment in that environment.
How to leave the corporate world: My story
I did what some may have thought was brave and what many maybe thought was stupid. I left my corporate job as a Product Manager for Boots with nothing else to go into. And not for the first time. When I first expressed my intention to leave to my bosses, there was the option of a sabbatical and a job to come back to. This was then rescinded and it then became an all or nothing choice. Either I stayed or I left. No cushion to fall back on. No safety net. I had a real decision to make.
I decided to take the plunge. And, whilst being forced into such a corner was a little hard to swallow at the time, in hindsight I shall be forever grateful. It gave me a clean break. And that transformed my entire life. And so, on 15th October 2010, I packed up my desk, said my goodbyes to all the wonderful people I was lucky enough to call my colleagues and my friends, and off I went for a 5 month career break, staying with my family in Australia.
Again, in the spirit of full disclosure, I can’t honestly say that I never looked back. Rather, I spent the first two weeks wandering Sydney’s air-conditioned malls and iconic beaches, asking myself “what the heck have you done?” I then found a book which changed everything for me and helped me understand the phase of the transition I was currently in. One of being in a sort of ‘no-man’s land’ where I had disconnected from my old identity and not yet taken on a new one. I then relaxed into the experience, knowing that this was just par for the course and that I would break through to the other side, new identity fully formed.
And that actually came a little sooner than I expected. Perhaps helped along by a daily dose of beach walks, meditation and fresh sea air. And also, the serendipity of a friend asking me if I would mind going to chat with an old colleague of hers out there about his business and how to sell his range of homewares into corporate retailers.
Little did I know that this was in fact the beginning of my new working life. Or at least a huge stepping stone towards it. Off the back of that meeting (and with a huge wave of excitement and intuitive guidance) I decided to set up my own business as a retail consultant. The rest is history as they say (and perhaps another article for another time).
And from that point on, I truly have never looked back. I simply had to open the space (physically, mentally and spiritually) and stay tuned in to the synchronicities and little opportunities which were being put my way. And although my career now as a coach is in many ways the polar opposite of what I was doing then, it provided a launch platform into the world of self-employment within the comfort of an industry and skill set I was already comfortable with.
Top 5 Things People Fear Most About Leaving the Corporate World (and how to overcome them):
So now I share with you what, in my experience and that of my clients, I see as the top 5 fears of leaving the corporate world – and a suggestion of how you might address each fear.
Fear #1: I won’t be able to support myself financially
This is simply a limiting belief. If you have already earned a certain salary once, then (energetically) there is every chance you can earn a similar amount (or even more if you believe it) somewhere else. And with self-employment, while it may take a little while to establish yourself, also bear in mind that there is no ceiling on your earning potential like there is in the corporate world. So, this is a case of letting go of and reframing that limiting belief.
Alongside that, I also recommend some due diligence by creating yourself a survival budget and a buffer of savings. This was a critical part of the more tangible aspect of my exit from the corporate world. I planned ahead with my savings and I worked out how many months of grace I could allow myself to fully enjoy the career break before I needed to start earning again.
Fear #2: People will judge me
This is a big one. Fear of judgement from friends, family and colleagues from leaving a corporate job can be debilitating. But, I often find with clients that this fear is unfounded. Or rather that the judgement is often a positive one.
The ripple effects of taking the plunge and doing what so many others would love to do can be felt far and wide. Just think that you might just be able to inspire someone else to follow their dream or realign their life.
I know I was blessed as my family were very supportive of my leaving the corporate world. Especially as they could see what a toll it had taken on me in various ways. Not everyone is so lucky. If that is the case for you, I want to encourage you to set a positive intention and send out loving vibes to anyone you feel may judge you less favourably.
Fear #3: I don't feel clear about what's next so I'm stuck where I am
The thought of leaving your corporate job can be overwhelming, especially you have been there a while and when you aren’t exactly clear on what you want to do next. This overwhelm can lead to procrastination and staying in the same job for far longer than is perhaps good for you.
Of course, clarity is a wonderful thing (and the reason why many people come to coaching). But even if you don’t know what else you ultimately want to be doing right now, simply taking a step out of a situation which you know deep inside is out of alignment for you can shift your energy and begin creating the right conditions for you to find that clarity and move towards your ultimate role.
There is of course an element of trust involved here and letting things unfold for you. I couldn’t possibly have known at the start of my career break what I ended up knowing at the end of it. This is a quote I printed out and looked at daily during my days in Sydney which helped me to get going:
Fear #4: My skills won't be transferable
I see it quite often, particularly when clients have been in the corporate world for a significant amount of time – that they fear they won’t be able to offer another organisation much. This has never proved the case with anyone I know who has left the corporate world.
The cause of this is usually more down to lack of recognition or praise and feeling their skills are not valued or fully appreciated. Within many corporate environments you work at such a level that it is easy to lose sight of what you know and the skills you have gained.
As well as doing an inventory on your skills and strengths (something I always work through with my clients), a good dose of self-appreciation goes a long way!
Fear #5: I will lose my identity and status
Ok, so I have another confession to make here. (This article is turning into a therapy session). I used to take some of my identity from my job. I felt it gave me status to say who I worked for. I was proud to do what I did. I now realise that my true identity is not at all linked to what we I for a living. And that the status thing was just my Ego Self rearing its head.
But this can be a factor in keeping people stuck in the corporate world. If you feel fearful to leave because of this reason, I want to offer something to you. You are not your job. You are so much vaster, more amazing, more limitless than the title on your business card. If anything, you will be able to see that much more clearly so that you can regain your own true identity.
If you are considering a move out of the corporate world, please be reassured that it is possible to have a happy and prosperous career elsewhere! and remember that when you leap, the net indeed appears!
Hello, I'm Rebecca
Career Coach for people on a spiritual path
I support mid-career professionals who are ready to make a career change, launch into a more purpose-led career or business or simply enjoy a more fulfilling or balanced working life.
I believe that we all have a purpose here on earth and that life is too short to be stressed, unfulfilled and playing small.