When to Jump is a curated community featuring the ideas and stories of people who have made the decision to leave something comfortable and chase a passion.
I never imagined myself as an entrepreneur.
I had always favored the traditional, predictable path when it came to my career, which is why I felt incredibly fortunate to land my "dream" job at a large consulting firm after college. When a close friend (and now co-founder) asked me to help her with a business idea two years into this job, I thought it would be a fun side project. We started meeting before and after work for a few hours and in no time, I was hooked. The thrill of building something - owning the idea, the process, and the outcome - was invigorating.
When we started Purpose Generation three years ago, neither of us could have imagined what we were getting ourselves into. The overwhelming sense of possibility drowned out any concerns of what we would be giving up. For someone like myself, who tends to play it safe, the "ignorance is bliss" approach may have been the only way to jump. It wasn't until afterwards that I realized how much I had taken for granted in my prior life.
While you can never fully prepare for what's to come, you can learn from the leaps others have taken before you, and educate yourself on what chord to pull when it's time to open your parachute. Do not, by any means, allow this to dissuade you from making what is likely to be the best decision of your life. However, to help you avoid unwelcome surprises down the road, here are six things you should be prepared to go without if you're contemplating a jump from the corporate world:
1. An office (that isn't your couch)
For the first few months of our new "normal," we worked out of my co-founder's sister's apartment in New York. We would meet there after her sister had left for work and would spend most of the day oscillating between the couch and the kitchen table. Initially, it felt great to leave our cubicles, access cards, and office cafeteria behind, but after a few weeks, we found ourselves craving a reason to wear something other than yoga pants. As soon as we secured our first Fortune 500 client, we moved into a co-working space. That summer, we crammed ourselves and two interns into a tiny two-person office, but it was ours and somehow that made our business feel real for the first time. You may be someone who happily hops from coffee shop to coffee shop, but we discovered that having a dedicated office provided us with the constant that we needed to stay focused.
2. A paycheck (that is actually deposited into your account)
This is when sh*t gets real. Perhaps the most terrifying prospect about jumping is losing a reliable source of income (and benefits). When you jump, it's hard not to think about the "opportunity cost" of what you're giving up, especially when the opportunity you're leaving behind is so well defined (I knew exactly the salary, bonus, career trajectory and prospects I was forfeiting). The possibilities ahead, on the other hand, are often less clear. We jumped knowing full well that there was a high likelihood of failure and that we had yet to secure our first paying client. Like us, you may find the uncertainty to be motivating, but be prepared to experience a whole new appreciation for life as an employee.
3. A corporate ladder (that has more than one step)
Corporate hierarchies get a lot of slack - especially amongst our generation. One of the reasons so many millennials are drawn to startups is the promise of true meritocracy: your position and incentives are solely based on your contribution to the company, as opposed to your age, education, or resume. Having experienced both extremes, I admit that I find the startup setting to be more empowering overall, but don't underestimate the comfort of knowing exactly what your next step is and what is expected from you to get there. When you jump, that ladder is nowhere to be found and it's up to you to determine which direction is up or down.
4. Sick days (or vacation days, personal days, and Netflix-binge days)
For the first two years of our business, Purpose Generation was a two-woman show. Despite having assembled a small team of rock stars, our clients expected to see our faces at every meeting and, as first-time founders, we didn't want to miss a beat. Stomach flu? Bronchitis? Too bad - there's no one to cover for you. Beyond learning to "suck it up" when we weren't feeling 100%, we also learned that there is no one else to blame when mistakes are made (and they will get made). The buck stops with you. The sooner you can get comfortable owning up to your mistakes and directing your focus to problem-solving rather than finger-pointing, the quicker you can get back on track. Oh and vitamin C, a lot of vitamin C.
5. A manager (because we all love a gold star every now and then)
There's a new #boss in town. I did not expect to miss having a supervisor, or my dreaded monthly performance reviews. In fact, I could never relate to the generalization that millennials want constant feedback - until I jumped. It was then that I truly learned to appreciate the practice self-discipline and the value of having someone else be responsible for pushing your professional development. Suddenly, there was no one to tell me what to work on, when it was due, and what skills I needed to improve in order to advance my career. Before you jump, think about how you will hold yourself accountable and prioritize professional growth without the extrinsic push.
6. Casual work talk (or any discussion beyond "the usual")
When we first jumped, a lot of people would ask us what we were doing and how it was going. We would launch into detail about our client projects, recent trips, and our overall vision for the business, only to find people's eyes glaze over after 30 seconds. We soon realized that most of our friends were simply looking for a response along the lines of "it's great, thanks for asking" or "it's been a lot of late nights recently, but I'm getting by", anything they could relate to. We accepted early on that most people, even the most well-meaning friends and family, could never truly understand what our lives entailed on a day-to-day basis. Most people have a vague sense of what a lawyer, a banker, or an account manager does, but a week in our life is messy, unpredictable, and near impossible to sum up in casual response. My advice would be to accept this early on or find yourself a partner in crime.
It can take time to prepare for a jump, and you may want to consider dipping a toe or two in before you belly flop. However, while we occasionally bemoan the things that disappeared, we have never for a second regretted our decision to jump. Despite everything we have put into our business over the past three years, the return continues to be so much greater than the investment - and we're just getting started.
When to Jump is a curated community featuring the ideas and stories of people who have made the decision to leave something comfortable and chase a passion. You can follow When to Jump on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and learn more about the Jump Curve framework here. For more stories like this one, sign up for the When to Jump newsletter here. (Note: The When to Jump newsletter is not managed by The Huffington Post.)