Business Start-Up Vs. Mid-Career Job Search: Which is Riskier?

The old rules of career change no longer apply.

Photo by Jonathan Petersson on Unsplash.

Let’s say you join a company, degree in hand, at entry-level. You move up the ladder for fifteen, twenty, even twenty-five years.

Now you’re a senior manager in your mid-forties or early fifties. And you get laid off.

Or you’ve established a high profile. You may be a politician, a senior bank official, or a broadcaster. Following your much-publicized firing, you can’t just show up on a corporate doorstep to apply for a job. If you’re not invited in, you’ll be left in the cold.

Despite the siren call of business ownership, corporate executives and managers often resist the idea. “I just want another job,” some say. “With benefits.”

Risk-averse managers focus on the numbers: “Ninety percent of businesses fail. Most don’t last five years.”

The truth is that these days, your next job may not last five years.

Carlene, a fifty-year-old sales manager, experienced job loss following a merger. A truly gifted salesperson and manager, she does not have an entrepreneurial bone in her body. She held three jobs in the next five years, all shaky, each a step down from the one before, all miserable. She continues to haunt the recruiters.

Carlene also haunts the therapists and the pharmacists. Being knocked down repeatedly can be hazardous to your mental health.

Additionally, you should be aware that the “90% of businesses fail” number is misleading. Many successful business owners look back on start-ups that failed. They learned from their mistakes and eventually found success.

There are ways to reduce the risk of business failure: plan carefully, choose your market wisely, don’t panic. You remain in control. And if you fail, you’ve gained valuable lessons for the next venture. It’s also important to resist throwing dollars at the problem by hiring a high-priced mentor.

If you are lucky enough to land a job, use the opportunity to begin planning your own venture. Your first step should be starting your own side hustle.

But don’t kid yourself. You may find yourself earning more money, faster, than you will through a job hunt. Even a small amount is better than zero.

Benefits are hard to give up and society has not caught up to what Daniel Pink calls the Free Agent Nation. We need legislation to support those who start businesses following job loss, whether their soul is entrepreneurial or corporate. For some of us, writing to our senators may have longer-lasting benefits than writing to personnel managers with resumes attached.

The days of “a job to fall back on” are long gone. In the twenty-first century, your safety net comes from what you can do on your own.

It’s a hard lesson, and many resist. Yet nearly everyone says afterward, “I wish I had done this years ago.”

You go through a tunnel, but you emerge stronger, firmer in purpose, and ultimately happier. And you wish you could tell everyone how you survived, and let them know that they can, too.

If you’re thinking of starting your own side hustle, download this free guide here.

Originally published at on May 5, 2021.

Helping entrepreneurs and independent professionals grow their businesses one story at a time.

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