Why Your Job is a Dead End (and How to Re-Energize Your Life)

“Go to college, major in something marketable, then get a good job in a secure field.” Sound familiar? It’s what most of us have been told.

But now that you’ve been out in the real world for a while, something doesn’t quite seem right about that advice.

Maybe you feel like:

  • you’re not being paid what you’re worth, or
  • you’re not challenged, or
  • you’re afraid you’ll get laid off/down-sized/right-sized, or
  • you’re overwhelmed and stressed with the demands of your job, or
  • you wish you could do something that truly interests you.

Maybe you’ve even switched jobs–several times–trying to find something better. Or maybe you’ve read career books to help give you some direction.

That’s OK. See, the problem isn’t you.

The problem is that we’re conditioned to believe that a job can create the kind of lifestyle you want.

What’s wrong with having a job?

Well, plenty actually. Your job has some huge fundamental flaws that make it a dead end:

  • Financial security:

Over the past few decades, we’ve seen downsizing, rightsizing, doing more with less, and working smarter not harder, which have all created less job stability for workers.

With a job, you’re entire financial livelihood is dependent upon a single source of income. If you lose your job, how will you pay for food, rent, and your eBay addiction?

  • Scalability:

You work hard, but how much can you do?

Have you scaled yourself? Cloning is now a medical reality, but you don’t really want to pay a surrogate to bear a half-dozen mini-me’s that you can raise up and train into your personal worker-bee posse.

  • Free to be me:

Now, this is admittedly a bit touchy-feely, but it’s actually the most important piece.

Do you get up every morning excited about your job? Do you–in Warren Buffett’s words–“tap dance to work”? Not likely.

What’s the toll of working for years–or decades–at a job or jobs where you feel bored, unfulfilled, and dispassionate?

What if you liked–no, LOVED–what you did? How much richer would your life be if you were passionate about your work and if it energized you?

What’s the alternative?

The alternative is something that roughly 1 out of 7 workers is already doing: working for yourself.

Wait–did you feel it? You probably just felt something like:

  • discouraged at the prospect of working hard for something that isn’t guaranteed, or
  • doubtful that you can succeed, or even
  • fear that you’d fail.

But guess what? That’s just the job talking, trying to convince you it’s actually a really great deal–when, in fact, it’s not.

See, a job isn’t your friend. It’s actually the enemy of the kind of lifestyle you really want. It just looks good because you’ve been conditioned to think that way–regardless of the facts.

Let’s see how working for yourself looks compared to a job

With a job:

  • You’re told when to arrive at work, when to take breaks, and when you can leave.
  • You’re told what work to do, and often, how to do it.
  • If you disagree with your boss, too bad–you just have to deal with it.
  • You have little control over how much you’re paid, how much time off you can have, and what your benefits are.

The whole thing is pretty restrictive.

Now, let’s take a look at working for yourself. I’ve been self-employed since I ditched my day job in 2008, and here’s what self-employment looks like:

  • No one tells me when to work, how long to work, or how to do my job.
  • I get assignments from my clients, and if I don’t want the project or client, I don’t have to take it.
  • I control how much I earn, how much time off I take and when I take it, and have benefits (healthcare, retirement, etc.) that are equivalent to most “real” jobs.

You might think that money’s not that important. But how would an extra $1,000, $2,000, or $5,000 each month change your life?  After quitting my day job, I was able to QUADRUPLE my former salary, and I continue to boost my revenue each and every year.

Would you turn down a 400% raise? I didn’t think so.

Now, let’s look at some of the other aspects of working for yourself:

  • Financial security: If one of your clients/customers has no work, it’s not a big deal, since your revenue comes from multiple customers–not a single employer.
  • Scalability: Yes, there is only one you, but you can subcontract, hire employees, and automate processes. Try asking if you can subcontract your job, and see where that gets you. Probably something like: “Do you want to pack your things now, or shall we send them to you–along with your final paycheck?”
  • Personal fulfillment: Working for yourself means having control over your destiny. As an employee, I complained a lot–a LOT–but as a business owner, I feel empowered and continually see new opportunities.
  • Fringe benefits: More flexibility, equivalent health & retirement benefits, and less stress round out some of the other benefits of working for yourself.

Don’t quit your job–yet

Before you hand in your resignation, you need to know the right way to do it.

Start your business part-time on the side, and keep your day job–let your job fund your new business. Use the skills and experience you already have, and provide value to clients. Find out how to specialize so you can charge MORE for your expertise instead of competing with people around the globe who are eager to work for burger-flipping wages.

There’s a way to become self-employed WITHOUT being risky, and without struggling.


Greg Miliates started his consulting business in 2007, QUADRUPLED his former day-job salary, and teaches how to ditch your day job on his blog

18 Responses to Why Your Job is a Dead End (and How to Re-Energize Your Life)

  1. Mark Bowness says:

    Greg, this is a great blog. All the way through I was reading thinking, ‘No, no, he is not go and encourage people to give up their job and an hours coaching from him will show him how!’ But you didn’t, encouraging people to stay in their job and build on the side is wise.

    I think it is vital that whilst we encourage people to stay in their job and build on the side it is also important to find a passion in the current job – whether this be giving 100% to clients, giving the boss 100% even if we think he is an ass, believing in the product, whatever it is. Passion is a transferable skill and when we are building our business on the side we are going to need passion at the toughest of times. 

    Thanks for sharing. 

  2. Dan Erickson says:

    I’m doing exactly this.  I’ve got a good job.  I’m a college instructor.  I like my job, but also like the challenge of becoming successful outside of career.  I’m writing books.  My first, “A Train Called Forgiveness,” was self-published about six months ago.  The second comes out early next year.  I’m using the blog format as a promotional tool.  I’d be crazy to quit my job now, but my hope is that in the next 5-10 years I’ll be able to take that step.  Thanks for the encouragement and please take a moment to check out my blog: 

  3. Pingback: Why Your Job is a Dead End (and How to Re-Energize Your Life) | Time Management Magazine

  4. Absolutely–quitting your job to start a business is INCREDIBLY risky, and I don’t advise it. Besides, starting your business on the side and growing it over time allows you to learn how to run a business, where your ideal customers and niche are, and what to offer your niche.

    I’ll actually disagree about the passion piece. Passion is nice to have, but it’s not a requirement, either in a job or a business. What I’ve seen from talking with dozens of consultants and entrepreneurs is that oftentimes building the business becomes the closest thing to a passion. If you provide something that gives value to others, the rewards–personal and financial–will follow, so long as you’ve chosen a niche where people are willing & able to pay for what you offer.

  5. Well done! I typically advise people to look outside their job for other income opportunities–that way, you can begin creating more financial security (and some extra income), even if you like your day job.

  6. Justin says:

    Great stuff Greg. I also believe that more and more people will ditch their jobs for self-employment. Even though we still have to work, we have much more freedom and flexibility than we did as an employee.

  7. Jorge Blanco says:

    I find that people are thinking about this more and more. And that last tip on not quitting just yet is very useful. You should always know what you’re getting into first and conduct a trial period before you go all out. That way you’ll know if your devised method is feasible or if you need to make some changes with your plans.

  8. This is a great blog Greg! I am actually planning to do the same. I always had my part-time job ever since even when I had my day jobs. Now that I am planning to ditch my job, I’m planning to continue and be full-time again with my part time and soon start my own business. 

  9. So true. I keep hearing the same from people on my blog all the time. 

  10. Absolutely. Too many people wrongly believe they should quit their job to START a business–which is EXTREMELY risky and stressful. It’s far safer to start a business on the side, learn the ropes, test the waters, and grow it until it pushes your day job to the side.

    That’s what I ended up doing. After about 15 months consulting, I saw that my day job got in the way of how much I could earn consulting, and so went part-time at my day job for a few months before quitting it completely. That was 4 1/2 years ago, and I’ve never looked back. My business continues to grow by double digits–even though the economy has been sluggish.

  11. Congrats! It’s a great feeling of freedom to know you can earn more than enough to pay your bills–all without a day job and an employer. 

    Before you quit, just make sure that you have what I call a “reliable minimum monthly income” from your business. That means that your business income is reliably at least enough to pay all your bills. If not, continue to grow your customer base and revenue for a couple more months before jumping ship.

  12. Jorge Blanco says:

    Right. It is risky and stressful. Not only that, you lose your stable source of income which will most likely be what will finance your new business.

  13. I Love my Job but Hate my commute! Started creating income streams several years ago and to pay for college and strengthen my financial security. Had a great past year and I advise everyone to take control of their lives but definitely keep the day job until your “part-time” can securely replace your “full-time” gig

  14. Exactly. Keep your safety net until you create a new one.

  15. Congrats! See? It CAN be done!

    It’s an amazing feeling when you cross the line and earn more from your “side” job than you do at your “real” job.

  16. Rob_malden says:

    I’m 23 and recently graduated College, about a year and a half ago. I would like to do this, but have no idea where to start! I have my whole life ahead of me & would love to have this type of freedom.

  17. Ed says:

    It’s an interesting read. In my opinion, self employment is about mitigating critical risk factors. There are many risk factors but two appears to be critical in the beginner assessment stage. First is the market assessment stage which asks the question: “what is my competition and what are the market needs for the good/service I am providing?”
    The second critical risk factor is about fringe benefits. If the second risk factor is addressed then it will help you to be independent…and bring you down to reality on how much revenue you’re bringing in to you are producing.

  18. I agree that self-employment–and any business endeavor–is about risk management. 

    However, I often see aspiring entrepreneurs & consultants failing to test their business ideas–which usually means they end up failing to create a profitable business. 

    Typically, most people start a business with an idea, then go full-bore trying to sell their product or service. The result is that they waste huge amounts of money and time, usually get discouraged, and often close up shop because their idea didn’t pan out.

    Instead, a far better–and less risky–approach is to test your ideas quickly and cheaply to see if you’re on track, and iterate based on what you learn along the way. 

    The “fringe” benefits (revenue, health insurance, etc.) are by-products of creating a profitable business, and growing it into something sustainable. Once you know your market and can provide something that they value enough to pay for, it’s a matter of rinse-and-repeat and scaling up so that you can more-than-replace your day-job income and benefits.

    The problem though is that, unfortunately, most people don’t realize or know how to test their business ideas.

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