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How to escape the golden handcuffs and find your dream job

If you’re feeling stuck in a job you don’t love, but the pay is too good to just quit, you’re not alone.

It’s called the golden handcuffs dilemma, and many people experience it when they’d love to branch out – maybe to start their own business – but worry that it’s not a sensible move. That worry is often linked to the risk of walking away from good pay and conditions, into the unknown of a new role or an entrepreneurial lifestyle.

Daizy Maan, who is the Program Manager for entrepreneurial program, SPARK Deakin, says, ‘It’s often driven by fear, and this is very cultural. Our society perpetuates that it’s normal to be in a nine-to-five job that pays the bills and just gets you by. It takes people getting sick of that to move on and do something they actually want to do in their life.’

There is a generational shift happening, though. Maan says, ‘Now, there are more people who want work and purpose to be entwined.’

But there are some things to consider before cutting off that steady job and regular income to follow your dreams. Here are some tips on how to bust your way out of the golden handcuffs so you can love what you do for a living.

Do more than one thing at a time

It can be tempting to think that your only option is to quit your job and dive headfirst into a new venture. That can work if you have a new role to land into, but Maan says it’s not usually the best way if you want to be starting your own business. ‘The only time you should leave your job and dive in is if you’re quite experienced, you have cash flow coming in, you’ve learned the skills you need to learn, and you know you can make it work,’ she says.

‘You can start treading your own path while you’re still in a job; there are lots of people who spend a few years in full-time employment while working on their side business in the evenings and weekends.’

Compartmentalise your time to be productive

One way to handle doing more than one role at a time is to compartmentalise your time.

That’s the advice of entrepreneur Zoe Foster Blake – who splits her time between writing projects and entrepreneurial ventures, including scaling her start-up skincare company, Go-To. She told Vogue she dedicates Mondays to Go-To, followed by books on Tuesdays, and writing on Fridays.

'You can start treading your own path while you’re still in a job; there are lots of people who spend a few years in full-time employment while working on their side business in the evenings and weekends.'

Daizy Maan,
SPARK Deakin Program Manager, Deakin University

Look around for inspiration and opportunities

Whether you’re looking at what to consider before quitting your job or keen to get on with starting your own business, inspiration can come from others who have taken a big leap.

Maan suggests, ‘Check out Launch Victoria to find start-ups that are scaling, and which might have jobs that are a better fit for what you want to do.’

‘And go to events in the start-up space (at places like SPARK Deakin and Startup Victoria) to connect with like-minded people – even if you don’t want to create a start-up, you can learn so much and be inspired by the speakers.’

If you don’t have a backup plan, ask for help

Our family and friends can heavily influence the way we view our chances to escape the golden handcuffs. If you’re risking everything to make your dream work, you’ll probably need a little help from your friends and family.

That’s what Richard Branson sought in the early days of his career. He was relying only on his big goal without a backup job or a plan B. Fortunately, he received support to give him a launch in the right direction, in the form of a small sum of money from his mum. He has written that this tiny cash injection saved his first business from collapsing, and helped lead to the Virgin brand.

Create a tribe of supporters

Of course, support doesn’t have to come in the form of financing your career change. Maan says that general support from those who believe in you is the key to making a big career change. ‘If you can, surround yourself with people who have done it,’ she says. ‘Tap into their mindset and get ideas around how they make their cash flow work. Create your own small tribe of people who will support you, because support networks are really important.’

Most of all, having the support of people closest to you can help keep you on track for what’s right for you. Maan says, ‘You need to take your own situation into account – if you have a mortgage and children, your considerations about leaving your job will be different to someone who is single and in their twenties.’

After all, the whole idea is to break free of those golden handcuffs and walk your own career path.

Looking for more ideas about making big career decisions? Read more tips and hints here.

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Daizy Maan
Daizy Maan

Program Manager, SPARK Deakin, Deakin University

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