This economy is making me nervous. I have a reasonably stable job with half-decent benefits, but it’s by no means an ideal situation. I have been considering the security of a government job or going to the other end of the spectrum and starting my own business. What’s the right move?


With all of the recent financial news reports, it is no wonder you’re nervous. I’m nervous. The guy next to you is nervous. Your mother is nervous. We’re all still trying to wrap our minds around what this recession means, so this is not the time to make major economic changes on the home front.

When someone loses a spouse, the advice is often the same: “Don’t do anything for a year,” they say. They say this because when circumstances are spinning around you, it’s difficult to make a sound decision. Caught up in emotions like fear, you’re more likely to choose a course of action that doesn’t make the best sense for you.

When stocks go down, people panic and get out of their investments as if fleeing a burning building. A year later, realizing they made a rash decision out of fear, they say, “I wish I had hung in there.”

While tough economic times are not ideal, take a deep breath. It is not a permanent situation, but one that we will move through. Rather than making any major decisions today, wait until things calm down a bit so that you can be sure that a level head is doing the thinking.

Use this time instead to figure out what you really want. Entrepreneurship is your basic opposite of governmental employment, so you are, as you said, at both ends of the spectrum on this issue. Even if we were in the soundest of economies, I wouldn’t recommend you make any kind of move until you achieve some clarity around what your ideal situation really looks like.

What is your ideal work schedule? Ideal compensation? Ideal benefits? Before asking total strangers to determine your worth in the marketplace, assess it for yourself so you can move forward with confidence.

Do your homework and determine what the market will bear given your skill set. Use salary calculators. Look through the classifieds to get a feel for what level of pay goes with what level of responsibility. Interview people who do what you think you might like to do under the circumstances they do it.

Take your friend, The Entrepreneur, out for coffee and ask him about the challenges behind the “freedom and flexible schedule.” Remember, entrepreneurs only eat what they kill.

Ask your other friend, The Longtime Government Employee, for feedback on the pros and cons of her choice. Your perception of “security” may, in fact, be an illusion.

Then, go a level deeper. If you’re relentless when it comes to the pursuit of a sale, factor that in. If you’re not a real go-getter, factor that in too. If your spouse is battling an illness, be conscious of the time you’ll need outside of the office.

The key here is honesty…with yourself, and potential new employers. The last thing you want to do is talk yourself into a new situation, be it governmental or entrepreneurial, only to turn around and find yourself unable to manage it.

OK, let’s go one more level down. To truly gain clarity, take some time to think about what you perceive your WORTH to be:

Who you are does not equal what you do. We often wrap up who we are as people with what it reads on our business cards. Remember that you are a human being, with kids and pets and weird collections and unhealthy habits and a penchant for sushi and what can only be described as an odd fascination with even the most hideous reality TV programming.

You are an amazing friend, incessant volunteer, great daughter, fabulous mother and the kind of wife men dream about. You are separate and distinct from what you do, and your work does not define your worth in the world.

Over-asking is not the concern. Many people fear they are asking for too much in an interview, so they under-ask for what they want. In doing so, they create a situation that they will later lament and will eventually find intolerable. Then they will go on to recreate the whole situation all over again in another place of employment, and the cycle continues.

While I have little tolerance for the 22 year old college grad armed with a BA, no real world experience, and an expectation of $80 K to start, perhaps we should all take a modified page out of that playbook and ask for what we want in the first place.

Revisit your goals. Remember the vision you created for your work and your life? If you must have a beach house by the time you’re 40, then continuing at the non-profit association may not be the best move. If you cherish your time with your kids, then 6 days of business travel each week has to go.

Line up your actions with your intentions. Instead of just taking the next step that presents itself on the path that is your life, make sure it’s a step in the right direction.

Tackle objections. There is one constant about change: every one has an opinion about it. Whenever you make a change in your life or your work, someone will be there to critique it. Try not to think of objections to your desired approach as dream stealers, or reasons to change your mind, but rather as important points of consideration.

When your spouse says entrepreneurship is too risky for the family, point to your sound business plan, financial projections, market research and adequate savings. When your entrepreneurial father warns you against working for the man, point to the telecommuting program, the generous benefits and the feather it will be in your resume cap. Use the negative opinions of others to consider your decision from every angle so that you’re walking in with eyes wide open.

Hope less; act more. Your worth in the job market, in the world, and in your own life all comes down to action. Don’t simply hope for the best; create it through solid research, sound planning and decisive action at a reasonable pace.