“The seaweed is always greener, on somebody else’s lake” - Sebastian, the friendly crab who looks like a lobster
If you are looking for structured tips to the question in the title, you may not find answers you are looking for. A quick search on Youtube on YCombinator’s channel will give you lots of information on evaluating the question logically.
The sharing I have here, is a personal reflection of the dilemma and emotions felt during my personal career development, which I believe, can be felt by many others. If you need assurance and shared experience regarding your career development, read on for more!
I have been asked several times by a few friends - Why did you decide to leave your full time job to pursue entrepreneurship?
The first job
I started working as an intern in my university days with a financial institution in Singapore. I was fortunate to meet my first boss who kindly accommodated my university schedule. I was working 3 days a week in office, and the other 2 days attending lessons/completing my Final Year Project in school.
After I graduated, I joined the company immediately. The first two years went fairly well. Then thereafter, I started to feel worn out and thoughts of leaving happened every year. The colleagues were great and the pay was good. I was performing well in my work, but deep inside me, something was not quite satisfied.
There is no doubt that if I had continued my career in the financial institution, it would have been filled with great prospects, financial stability and glamour. And honestly, this is something that I gave up which continues to bother me in my entrepreneurship journey.
After I left my company, I did not go into venture building immediately. I took a year off to do my Masters of Education (Developmental Psychology). I have always had an interest in Education, as I believe in its importance in elevating the quality of life in society. Intrinsic motivation made the journey of learning more fun, fruitful and enriching.
As my studies came to an end, reality just began to kick in. I started to look for some jobs in the Education sector. The job scope is pretty similar to what I did in the financial industry then, but I was paid a lot less. Well, you could say ego played a big part. But yes, I was hesitant as it seemed like I was replaying a similar episode in life, just one year later.
As I contemplated what to do in my next phase of my career, I took up a freelancing role at a tuition centre and created a brand, Mellaby. Mellaby started off with providing educational tips to parents with children in early years.
Four months post graduation from my Masters and not getting a full-time job was enough to get me unsettled then. I was ready to settle for a marketing role in an educational technology firm, when the government released a new initiative in nurturing entrepreneurs. We could join a 3-month Venture Builder Programme with a local university, and then apply for a government grant to invest in our own start-up. Now this was tempting.
Should I give up a full-time role for venture building, with possibly zero pay and even a failed venture?
I recalled the Eureka moment that swung me to venture building was what my elder brother told me.
“99% of the startups fail. But don’t see this as success or failure on your part. Take it as a journey in your career development. What can you tell your next employer from this experience?”
And yes! A successful career is often glorified with a good pay and stability. It is, but there are many other ways to develop your career.
Case in point, the entrepreneurship journey has left me poorer financially than before, but so much richer in maturity, knowledge and people management skills. The responsibility of success or failure of your startup lies on your shoulders, and there is no “boss” or “supervisor” to help you. I can safely say that what I have learnt in 1 year of starting up, supersedes what I have had learnt in the past six years in a corporate setting.
That said, I am also thankful for the six years that I had in my first job, because they add value to my startup. For instance, I never understood why my boss had so many “coffee chats” with other directors in the corporation. Then I realized that connections and networking are extremely important in advancing business goals. I was arrogant in the past and running a startup has made me realize my flaws and be better.
If there is one thing that you take away from reading this, it is do not be afraid to take risks or drastic changes to your career. Of course, in a calculated manner. Have a discussion with your loved ones and hear what they say. I acknowledge that not everyone can freely switch jobs without considering the financial implications. I am thankful to be one who does not need to.
As Sebastian the friendly crab has said, it is perfectly normal to feel regretful at times about your decision (to stay or to leave). But be quick to push that thought aside, and focus on the task at hand.
You are the protagonist of your own story. You can take a wrong step, but write it beautifully.
- Melissa (Lead Founder)