While I’m a big fan of starting something on the side, while keeping your day job (see Part 1 of this series), it’s a time-consuming strategy and not suitable for everyone. Another strategy is to switch day jobs to where you can maintain some aspects of the day job you like but also move closer to your ideal career/ business idea (thus trying you’re your idea without starting a new business outright).
Tony asks: I am considering leaving my career that I have been doing for the past 15 years and starting a coaching business. Should I get a job related to consulting and training first?
If Tony were to migrate to a training job first and then start a coaching business, it makes the leap from day job to a full-fledged business a two-step process. Instead of quitting your job for a business, you first migrate the job closer to your business interest and then you start the business presumably once you have some credibility and contacts in the new area. This may seem like a compromise move or a less risky step, but there are still some major considerations:
You will need to launch this job search around your current day job, so it is very similar to starting a side business while balancing a job. In this competitive market, the branding and networking required to land a good job is similar to the activity you need to expend to start a business.
Your job search will have a heavy sales component because you will not be doing exactly what you did before. You are a career changer who will have to convince the marketplace (of prospective employers) to buy your services (hire you) amidst alternative offerings (from candidates who have already done the job).
There is risk in making a career change if you decide to go back to your first job. Yes, going from entrepreneur to employee is a big return trip if you start a business and decide you want to go back to your day job. But, making a career change and then going back is also tough. There is still a risk that your skills, experience, expertise and contacts will migrate enough when you change jobs that re-entry to your former position is not guaranteed.
There are good reasons to change jobs in preparation for a move to entrepreneurship. It does enable you to develop your skills, backed by the resources of an established company. It enables you to have a ready network of contacts that could be helpful to your business later on. It does keep one anchor constant (you are still an employee) while you shift other things (your industry or functional focus). But if you are relying on a job change to be easier or less risky than starting a business, that’s not true and not a good enough reason to go this route.
This post also appeared at my Work In Progress blog for Forbes.com: