Are you thinking about starting your own company--but wondering if you're ready to make such a huge life change? It's normal to be frightened about making a big life change. But if the time is right for you, it can be exhilarating and deeply rewarding--and bring you more meaningful success than you've ever experienced before.
That insight comes from Afif Khoury--and he would know. He started his career as a geneticist, then went to law school and became a corporate attorney. He left that position to start a venture found, and is now founder and CEO of social media management company SOCi. That's a lot of pivoting, and most of us won't go through as many changes as Khoury has. But it's noteworthy that, after trying a lot of different careers, the career of an entrepreneur is what's most satisfying for him.
Khoury has six questions he everyone considering a major career change should ask themselves. They're especially powerful if you're thinking of becoming an entrepreneur:
1. Are you starting a company for the right reasons?
Many people choose their work looking for a big financial payoff and the freedom that will give them to enjoy their lives outside of work. That's a mistake, Khoury says. "So much time is spent at your career, how can you possibly be happy elsewhere if you are miserable most of the day?"
He himself was making more money than most people would dream of by the time he was 30, he says, but he was completely bored. "My job was not fulfilling my needs and I had lost my purpose. Purpose is key to making a career shift."
2. Can you afford to make this change?
There's a good chance starting your own company will mean that--at least at first--you'll be making less than you were. Leaving the law meant "jumping off a yellow brick road onto a dirt path," Khoury says. Then, leaving venture capital to start his own company meant not only giving up his income, but also pouring his own capital into the new startup.
"I needed to make sure I could handle that transition, and I was very clear on how long those resources would last," he says now. "There is nothing wrong with betting on yourself, but set your limits and stick to them."
3. How will it affect your family?
If you're single and childless, your career chance won't affect anyone but you. But if you have a spouse, partner, or family, then the decision isn't yours alone to make, Khoury says. Even if you launching a business won't drastically affect your family members' lives, "the emotional elements take a major toll," he says. "Stress, uncertainty, lack of availability...these are all very real costs. Be sure to speak openly with your family, including your children, and let them be part of the solution." That will help you enjoy your successes, and help you get through your failures, he says.
4. Will you be able to reverse your decision?
Any new career move should come with a safety net, Khoury says. One way to create that safety net is to excel at the job you're leaving behind so that you can always return to it (or get a similar one) if your new business fails to take off.
5. Do you know what's worst, as well as what's best, about being an entrepreneur?
"At some point, the grass is always greener," Khoury says. But that's deceptive: Every career is enjoyable some of the time, and also has times that are more difficult--and that's especially true of starting a business. "Be sure to do the research and understand the cycles," he says. Before his career switches, he says, Khoury interviewed as many people as he could who were already in the careers he was considering. Try to pretend you're doing the research for someone else, which may help you be more objective, he advises.
6. Can you relax and enjoy the ride?
Try to enjoy the process of launching the business as much as the outcome, Khoury says. Whether or not this new direction turns out to be the right one for you, "The entire experience of pivoting your career in itself can be a rewarding, liberating, and educational experience."