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Managing Entrepreneurial Dreams When You Have a Day Job

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should you turn down a promotion?

The following article is from Mike, our staff writer. 

One of the most frustrating parts of trying to escape the rat race is that it usually can’t happen overnight.  Sure, you could just walk into your manager’s office and tell him “I quit!”  But while that might feel personally rewarding, it isn’t going to help keep food on your table.

Since you probably can’t afford to just quit your job outright, especially if you have a family to support, you’ll have to continue putting in a good effort at work.  But that doesn’t mean you should sell yourself short and let your own goals fall behind.

For example, many RB40 readers are working on side projects so they can quit their day job.  Given their ultimate goal of escaping the rat race does it make sense for them to expend energy trying to move up the corporate ladder when they could be focusing solely on their side projects?  Or should they just do the bare minimum at work and even be willing to turn down a promotion so they can devote all of their extra time and energy toward their own personal goals?

Not long ago I faced this exact dilemma at my day job.  As a high-performing and experienced member of the team I was offered a promotion to a supervisory role.  If I accepted the position I would keep many of the responsibilities that I already had while taking on a bunch of new ones as well.  It would definitely be more work and slightly longer hours but the promotion also came with a nice bump in pay.

I knew I could handle the job but I was a little concerned that the extra responsibilities and drain on my time would interfere with my side projects and make it that much more difficult to reach my personal goals.  I’m wary of climbing too high up the corporate ladder because I know that each step I climb takes me further from my goal of escaping the rat race for good.

In the end I decided to accept the promotion.  Let me give you the reasons why I made the choice I did.

New Skillsets. I’m a big believer in lifetime learning and I’m always looking to challenge myself and learn a new skill.  This new position offered me an opportunity to gain experience managing people and projects and those are skills that would be useful anywhere.  I can use the promotion to learn new skills that will help me in the future.

Money.  Yup, more money definitely comes in handy when you’re trying to pay down debt and invest for your family’s future.  While I would never make a decision solely for the money, it was a factor in my decision-making process.  Since I didn’t anticipate the added responsibilities to be too much of a drain on my time I was glad to accept the extra money.

Options.  If you start turning down promotions and making it clear that you’re not looking to move up the ladder, it could hurt you down the line.  Like it or not, many companies will look down on someone who is comfortable in their current role, and I didn’t want to be labeled as lazy or unmotivated.  When times get tough and employees are laid off, those are the first to go.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to advertise the fact that you’re looking to jump off the company ship and go out on your own.   If your plans change or get delayed you could regret being so forthcoming.  It’s better to play the game and be a good soldier while you plan to make your escape.

As for promotions, think about both the short and long term consequences if you accept.  More money is always nice and if you can think of the promotion as a stepping stone to your goals than it’s a no-brainer. But if the promotion will actually move you further away from your goals you may want to think twice.

What do you think?  Would you accept a promotion even if you knew it didn’t fit into your long-term plan?

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{ 13 comments… add one }

  • theFIREstarter February 7, 2014, 2:27 am

    Great article and a topic I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. I’ve just managed to settle back down into a manageable work schedule after about 2 years of pure craziness and am thinking I will be holding onto this for dear life!

    My salary is now at a decent level to achieve a good savings percentage so I think I would genuinely pass up any further promotions, if it required extra work. I’m much more interested in building up something outside of work, but like you say you have to play the game and make out you live for the good of company! (Yea right!)

    • Mike Collins February 8, 2014, 4:58 am

      Exactly, just keep being a good soldier while you work on your own business on the side. Your company is not going to look after you so you have to look out for yourself.

  • SavvyFinancialLatina February 7, 2014, 6:33 am

    Really great article on managing your career. I’m working on my side income so that we can invest more. My husband and I are 100% positive we will venture out on our own in the next 10 years, but we need the war chests to do so.

    • Mike Collins February 8, 2014, 5:00 am

      You’re smart for building up a war chest before you make your move. Nothing is ever guaranteed so it’s always wise to have a safety net.

  • davidmichael February 7, 2014, 9:12 am

    Based on my own experience of leaving one dream job (community college teaching) after 16 years, for another, namely that of building a company that I founded to teach natural history and anthropology worldwide on location (safaris, study tours, etc), I’d would be cautious. Very cautious. Sounds like the dream of a lifetime to travel and create new adventures in learning in Papua New Guinea, hiking up the slopes of Kilimanjaro or Mt. Kenya, or diving on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, etc.

    Why? Four out of five businesses fail within five years. That means not only are you not receiving a salary but you’ve just lost your investment in the business. Don’t give up your day job just because you have a great idea. My former wife couldn’t understand why I’d ever want to leave teaching when the money, work conditions, and benefits were outstanding. So I made a pact with her that I wouldn’t leave until my new company paid me the same salary. It took five years and I did leave. But working two jobs ended up with 80 hour weeks that put a strain on the family and eventually ended in a contentious divorce.

    Although I received a decent salary at the time ($100,000), I could never match the teaching salary and benefits. Now in retirement, I understand that the best part of government benefits is often in the retirement package. I have friends who are making $8000 or more a month just from their state pension on retirement. Many with full health benefits.

    One last comment…it’s one thing to dream up a new business. Another to have the management ability to hire a staff and keep it growing. I swapped 35 hour weeks for 70 hour weeks and a huge responsibility for my employees as well as our clients out in the field. I realized in the end that I hated management and all of the responsibilities of taking care of my employees. Hiring employees is a huge step. Often the creative founder of a business finds it challenging to deal with the day to day operations of a business. It’s not that easy to find a good manager who will carry out your wishes and keep everyone in good spirits. Those companies that succeed like Apple, Google, or Costco are far and few between. Moral of the story… Be careful of what you ask for.

    • Mike Collins February 8, 2014, 5:02 am

      You make some great points. The majority of businesses do fail and the grass is not always greener on the other side. Being an entrepreneur is definitely not for everyone.

  • Cashville Skyline February 7, 2014, 11:30 am

    I would have to carefully consider a promotion. My time is more important than extra money at the moment. I don’t foresee myself following a traditional career path, and want to diversify my streams of income as much as possible going forward.

    • Mike Collins February 8, 2014, 5:04 am

      I guess it depends on what the promotion would entail. If you suddenly have to work much longer hours, travel, and hardly see your family…probably not worth it.

  • Matt February 7, 2014, 12:27 pm

    Thanks for this – I appreciate reading your personal story. Any example of people managing their side business as well as a day job is a welcome example to me. It’s exciting to think about the day I can put aside my day job in favor of my side job – to me, that’s what retirement is.

    • Mike Collins February 8, 2014, 5:06 am

      Thanks Matt. I think it is important to diversify your income. If 100 percent of your income is from your day job and you get laid off, you’re doomed. But if you have other sources of income to rely on you’ll be in a much better situation financially.

  • nik February 8, 2014, 4:20 pm

    It’s hard to turn down a promotion. From my experience, if you shy away from a promotion, things will start to go south after that. The management needs leadership and they don’t like senior people to just stay in one spot. That’s unfortunate because I like my job, but I don’t want to take on more responsibilities.

  • Green Money Stream February 9, 2014, 5:38 pm

    I have (accepted a promotion) and besides money I think the options are the most important reason why. Sure, my goal is to be able to leave the corporate world but I’m still about 5 years away from that. A lot can happen in 5 years and although I think I have a reasonable plan to get there, I definitely want to keep my options open to handle the “what if” scenarios.

  • Buck Inspire February 11, 2014, 11:34 pm

    Timely post and terrific supporting reasons Mike! Lately I’ve been more focused on my side projects and kind of mailing it in during my 9 to 5. Thanks for the reminder not to let everything derail at the day job in case the side projects get delayed. New skills, more money, and extra options can’t be ignored!

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