The Professional Dilemma: Passion or Pay?
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It’s common to hear stories of people leaving the traditional corporate world to pursue a life of passion as an entrepreneur -- but does it pay off? Trading in the long hours and hectic attachment to your desk can seem appealing for some considering entrepreneurship, however, there are many other factors to weigh before leaving: Equally long hours but with no guaranteed pay check, private health-care costs instead of company plans and running all aspects of the business yourself over just running a department.
Despite the list of risks that come with entrepreneurship, many still choose to blaze the path of passion over pay. Why?
Here are two women who left their corporate lives behind to pursue a new entrepreneurial passion and are now reaping the rewards that their former corporate selves could not have imagined.
“Seek out the opportunities that make you uncomfortable.” -- Naina Singla, STYLE’N
Singla's passion over pay power move? Pharmaceutical biotechnology to personal stylist.
A change in locations from Boston to D.C. gave Singla the push to leave behind a lucrative 12-year career that included an advanced doctorate degree in the biotechnology field to start her own personal-styling business. Styling had always been a personal passion of Singla's, but when her husband’s work took them out of Boston and away from her corporate career, she realized it was now or never to make the transition.
But starting over in a completely new industry in a new city as an entrepreneur wasn't necessarily easy. What's Singla’s advice for breaking into a new niche?
“Do your research,” she says. “Talk to people, network and learn from them.”
Singla also advises would-be entrepreneurs and those just starting out to “value progress, not perfection.”
Singla managed to parlay her research and progress in her new styling niche into a successful business that is now getting all of its clients via word-of-mouth. She’s also leveraged her success even further with frequent guest appearances as the on-air expert for style and fashion on NBC’s Today Show, The Huffington Post, “Let’s Talk Live” DC and many other outlets.
Singla says her business mantra is, “Work hard and be kind.” That golden rule has turned her STYLE’N business into a startup success story.
“Know your why and know you’re enough.” -- Saren Stiegel, The Glow Effect
Stiegel's passion over pay power move? Family law attorney to business consulting.
Frequent illness, stress and anxiety led Stiegel to realize that the tradeoff of an intense attorney life was less desirable than being healthy. Yet even after realizing this, it took months before she could finally bring herself to own up to her personal truth: She wanted to lead a happy, fulfilling life. How do you turn that into a business? Stiegel struggled with this question and the transition of leaving a corporate attorney’s life (and the advanced education and time invested that she was leaving behind) before she realized that her passion was helping other professionals find the things that really make them happy.
That new inner fire she discovered helped her name her coaching business, The Glow Effect, based on the idea that by doing good for yourself, you’re doing yourself and everyone else a favor.
“Happy people have a ripple effect in their communities,” she explains.
That movement seems to be spreading rapidly as The Glow Effect continues to get big exposure by fans at Daily Sugar and coverage at MindBodyGreen.com and LA Talk Radio.
However, her transition from law to coaching has taken some simplifying, too. The salary of an attorney transitioning to an entrepreneurial startup required a lifestyle change. By realizing that handbags and power suits weren’t really at the root of true happiness for her, she was able to simplify her life to invest in the new business and financially weather the transition period that every startup faces at the onset.
Getting to the root of what is really a need and contributes to your happiness can be a great start to strategizing your plan transitioning from corporate to startup. Learning to rely on the intelligence and strengths of others has been another big lesson.
“You do not need to be everything to have a successful business," she says. "When I first started, I thought that I had to be a businessperson, graphic designer, techie, finance whiz, social media guru and so on. When you admit your shortcomings, you become accessible and you're able to lead.”