Recession Proof Jobs, Santa Claus And The Easter Bunny

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Which one of these things is not like the other?

Trick question…they’re all the same. They make for great TV specials, but they seem eternally elusive in real life. Especially that first one, because as long as you’re working for someone else, you’ll never have the control you want.

Does that mean everyone should run out and become entrepreneurs? Meh, probably not. Control comes with responsibility and, depending how you bring your idea to life, varying amounts of risk.

But, here’s the thing. I’ve been asked a bunch of times, lately, how smart it is to walk away from the “safe option” of working for someone else to start your own business or even begin to build some kind of independent career or leveragable reputation on the side in this economy.

Safe…SAFE? I want to scream, “Are you out of your mind?!”

Since when is the safe option handing over the keys to your career to someone else and hoping that, in challenging times, they’ll make the tough decisions in “your” best interest, rather than in “their” best interest?

Safety, in this context, is largely an outgrowth of control.

In times of relative prosperity, many people don’t care so much about control (well, I do, but many people don’t). Because, as long as there’s enough to go around, the people who you surrender the fate of your career to don’t have to decide between them and you or the company and you. There’s enough to go around for everyone.

But, in tough financial times, like right now…

Those same people DO have make tough choices. And, there’s a pretty good chance that “what’s best for YOU” is the not their driving motivation.

  • I want to be the one who determines what I do or don’t do, whether I have a job or not and what my relative value is.
  • I want to be the one to monitor the world, analyze my options and take action to respond or adapt the direction of my career, my company and my future.
  • I want to be the one who chooses who I surround myself with, why, in what context and when, and…
  • I want to be the one to balance short term risk with long-term vision and opportunity.

I want to be in control…even in this economy…ESPECIALLY in this economy.

And, somehow, the world perceives that as the “riskier” path?

Yes, things are challenging. And, I understand there is always risk in building your own path, starting your own biz in any economy. But, you know what, we’ll all get through it. Things will get better.

In fact, in a recent Microsoft/Elance survey, nearly 90% of small business owners said they’d still rather work for themselves. And, 60% said they expect 2009 to be as good as, if not better, than 2008. Like Seth Godin shares, “It makes it so much easier to win when so many other people are dropping out.”

Plus, it’s no secret that, without fail, those who are willing to find opportunities, invest and take chances in challenging markets are very often those who end up on top when we emerge from the carnage. Right now…

  • You can acquire massive amounts of knowledge in the blink of an eye.
  • You can test and research ideas online for free or very little money.
  • You can establish yourself as the go-to person in your area of passion and begin to build a following, a community.
  • You can build a business plan based on the proven demand of your community, rather than best-guess assumptions, then…
  • Give people what they want, when they want it, in the way they want it, at the price they can afford.

This is the new entrepreneurship…

Post downfall reinvention start-up style. Fast, low risk, low capital, amassing knowledge, growing conversations and turning those conversations into passion-driven solutions you already know people are hungry for.

This is Career Renegading at it’s best...

And, yes, I get that if you need to put food on the table and pay your rent, that’s priority number one. You may need to keep working for someone else or find a new job working for someone else. But, if it’s something that affords you little control and empties you out on a daily basis…that’s not a career…it’s a band-aid. And, long-term, it’s not really the “safe” option.

Once you’ve got your basic survival needs taken care of, if you’re not in control, if you’re not doing something you love…you’ve gotta wonder if, maybe, it’s time to start building or searching for that next great adventure on the side until it’s big enough to step into.

Ask these two critical questions that will likely determine what your livelihood and life look life once this period is behind us:

  1. Who do you trust to create your career, income and future? And…
  2. Beyond a paycheck, what do you really want from the way you earn your living?

When it comes to deciding what I should or shouldn’t be working at for the rest of my life, how secure I want to feel and what I’m worth on any given day…I trust me! I want the control, the freedom and the opportunity to do what I love, make a great living and change peoples’ lives.

So, I’m going to take the “safe” option...and keep signing my own paycheck.

What about you? As always, I’m just thinking out loud here.

What’d I miss? What would you like to add?

Let’s discuss…

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30 responses

30 responses to “Recession Proof Jobs, Santa Claus And The Easter Bunny”

  1. Joely Black says:

    This is a great entry. I’ve been working independently for four years now, but because I work with big businesses, I often meet employees who tell me they want to be “safe” and have “security”. I’ve witnessed what happens to these people when they’re laid off. They don’t know how to cope and it’s very shocking – they really did think that the company was there primarily to keep them safe.

    But of course, there’s no such thing as safe! It’s much better to take control of your life and live it your own way.

    Love the work you’re doing here changing lives!

  2. mac03579 says:

    I hear you. I agree with you. I’ve agreed with this idea for years.

    The challenge for just about everyone, however, is not the “who” the “what” the “when” but rather the “how.”

    Without the “how” the rest is just a dream.

  3. […] Lot’s of people have been asking me, lately, about the intelligence of taking a leap into entrepreneurship from the “safety” of their jobs. And, I just had to share my thoughts on this in a post over at Awake@TheWheel. […]

  4. I think I’d rather sign my own check, decide when to make my check bigger (by seeking new opportunities to grow), and decide when to stop working.

    I think the biggest obstacle people have with getting over the employee mindset is not knowing where to start. It’s scary moving from employee, where you don’t really have to think about the business, to being completely in the driver seat. That takes a big shift in paradigm and requires your overcome a big knowledge curve.

    But the best way to overcome that is to start, now. Plans and research are nice, but paths are made by walking.

  5. Joe says:

    Great point, Jonathan. I was actually thinking about this last week. Although I am working on my career path for other reasons, this is surely a huge plus. My job is (relatively) secure, but my paycheck/bonus are anything but. When the $hit hits the fan in times like this, I for sure want to be in control. Good Stuff.

  6. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Jonathan – no doubt, lack of knowledge of a sensible process is one big reason people don’t start. And, fear of failure is another.

    The great news about that is…they are both obstacles that are easily overcome (insert book plug, hehehe!) if you know where to look.

  7. Travis Hill says:

    It’s all about choices and *freedom*. Working for yourself means choosing how much you make, when you work, how much you work… and even if what you are doing is work at all! You can even choose to go back and work for someone, if you need to.

    So let’s recap:
    Working for self = more choices (including working for someone else)
    Working for others = no choice, others are making them for you

    Working for yourself is NOT the riskier path.

  8. With these mass layoffs happening, I think any notion of employment being safe is pretty shaky, right now.

  9. Mark Shimko says:

    Certainly one of the most significant opportunities that internet has provided is the ability to ‘test the waters’ of a new idea. The low barriers to entry allow people to see if an idea has potential without giving up their day job. Setting up a website is cheap and easy. There are so many resources and so many individuals willing to provide info and feedback, that there is really no reason NOT to see if there is a world outside of the day job. Kudos to all renegades who are taking the plunge.

  10. So many great points here! As I approach the days of self-employment, my nervousness is slowly increasing, but it’s a delicious kind of anxiety. Reading posts like this (and the book, of course *g*), reminds me that there’s authentic power in this route, and after years of wondering, I’m going to actually exercise it!

  11. I’ve said it before, but the unemployment numbers are skewed. It simply is a calculation bases on the “safe” approach that our country often sells as the American dream (stable job, good benefits, retirement). But we know that the American dream is often realized by the “unemployed” – like me – who choose not to work for someone else. I am in that statistic because I do not get a paycheck from someone else, unless I consider my clients as my employers (yes, I do – I have to get re-hired every day!) If Congress would pay greater tax cuts and incentives for small businesses, more people would jump out of that unemployment and launch their own “safe” life (of course, there’ll be some who simply aren’t courageous and adventurous enough to do so; but there’s a whole bunch of folks who are either lazy or too scared).

    Since blogs haven’t added the link to Twitter, may I submit my twitter handle (@marketingtwins)? (just did, hope that’s OK)


  12. Great Post, We all def. need to make the leap of faith to move with the things that will bring us joy, personal fulfillment, and meaningful contribution. Keep up the great work Jonathan.

    “I will not follow where the path may lead, but I will go where there is no path, and I will leave a trail.” Muriel Strode

  13. Matt F says:

    Great post. I’ve been feeling a strong urge over the past 6 months to take control of my own destiny and start a small business. I find the biggest challenge is my own impatience. I start making plans, realize how much time it might take, and get discouraged. These things can take time. The key for me is to take at least one small action every day that moves me forward.

  14. Bob Roman says:

    On Friday, I had a very stressfull day at work. So stressful that I may need to see a doctor. I have had enough. I need to make some decisions. It will be money or my life. Thanks for your book. It is great. It is helping me may some decisions. It is so stupid to kill yourself over a stupid job. There has got to be more.

    Bob Roman

  15. Travis Hill says:


    There IS more! Working for yourself still puts out a lot of stress, but there is a difference between distress and eustress. I consider my work very eustressful! 🙂

    I have been there… getting sick from stress. It is not worth it.

    Connect with me if you want:

  16. My last day at work is this Thursday, I work(ed) for a Bank in New Zealand. Our economy has taken a hit but it has been insulated by the lack of exposure of our banks to the sub prime and the riskier derivatives traded elsewhere in the world. However in turblent times, that catch cry at work is “At least I still have a Job”

    Two months ago I had a breakthrough: I am sick of other people making decisions that dictate the course of my life!

    I’m lucky, I don’t have a mountain of debt to worry about so I am open to opportunities that might pop up in these uncertain times.

    Four weeks ago my wife-to-be and I were given an opportunity to travel and get paid, however this opportunity does not offer the security that our current employment does. Without much thought we both said in the words of Richard Branson “Screw it, lets do it”. Stuff being safe!

    While we are traveling we plan to explore other revenue generating alternatives to a salary.

    Our journey to becoming true Career Renegades has begun!

    Loved the book, keep up the good work!

  17. Sorry Jonathan, I forgot to put my name next to my handle!


    Luke Snedden – Confusion Manager

  18. Hayli M says:

    @ Bob Roman – I feel your pain. Been there. After one of those very stressful days at the job that consumed the worst year of my life thus far, I went home and got my first writing client. A year into it, I quit and went full-time self-supporting copywriting/editing. You can do this too! Start something today, ideally involving a client who will force you to stay on track and be accountable for your work. Keep plugging away and you CAN break free! Good luck!

    Hayli M.,

  19. Hey Jonathan,

    I hear you loud and clear. The tough thing is that it’s hard to imagine what it is like until you’ve experienced it yourself. I keep trying to get my friends to start something on the side, but they keep dragging their feet. It’s frustrating. Great post!

  20. I couldn’t agree with you more. Yes, it’s definitely more financial difficult and stressful starting your own business than receiving a paycheck every week, but the cost of that paycheck can go way beyond the necessity of basic survival needs. Your mental health should not be ignored. As a virtual assistant I am in control of my destiny and I could never go back to working for someone else who only has their best interests in mind. Contacting is also a great way to get resources to test the waters to see if there is something out there that will work for you to start your own business.

    Good luck everyone!

  21. Many in small business/entrepreneurship will clearly echo your points as seen in the comments above. For those still in Corporate America, the key is to begin taking action to create options and discover the path. Many will sit in the “safety” of their jobs and never reach out to learn about getting into a path they truly desire. The solution won’t come to you. Thanks for the post to give people a wake up call!

  22. Justin says:

    You are right, nobody is safe in this economy; even high-paid executives are being laid off. With your own business, you truly are in control, and you know you won’t get laid off by someone else, although there is always the chance your business could fail. Also, nice analogy between recession proof jobs and the fictional characters.

  23. […] Recession Proof Jobs, Santa Claus & The Easter Bunny on Awake @ the Wheel delve into the myth that working for someone else is the “safe” think to do. […]

  24. I have been having this conversation with people more often recently, the safety and security of a regular job.

    Even before the economy started really heading south, I never thought it was very safe. Then I had the opportunity to work for a medium sized company in a position where I could see dollar amounts.

    If we employees did a better job, the company coffers filled up at quite an astounding rate. Our checks were still the same old thing at the end of the week though.

    In lieu of perceived stability, I’d rather have the chance to do a better job and have something to show for it.

    Yes, it’s stressful and it can be downright scary sometimes, but ultimately I’m capped only by my own abilities and determination.

  25. Sarah says:

    I think that it is really wrong that everyone in society thing that going out and find a job is the safe option. I really makes me mad, because I honestly believe that it is the opposite. I don’t see how it is safer to work for someone else, your fate is in their hands. If they want to lay you off they can. But when you work for yourself you decide your fate. Yes their are some risks involved working for yourself but working for someone else and hoping they don’t lay you off is much riskier.

  26. Ollie Hicks says:

    In the UK there is a added risk associated with self-employment. It is much harder to claim any benefits should your business fail and your period of self-employment come to an end, than if you had been employed.

    I think this is an error and a disincentive to self-employment, and fixing it would provide a stimulus to the economy and a drop in unemployment figures.

  27. […] ’s Recession Proof Jobs, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny is a great article to read again and again when you’re just too scared to make the leap to be […]

  28. […] do and earn’ can definitely cause stress; but it might also be a chance to take your career in a different direction or maybe You are the President of Your […]

  29. I think your points are on the money, Jonathan. These days, most people will assume that it’s no more risky to try self-employment than to keep working for “the man.” People need to assess whether they have what it takes to be entrepreneurs, but if they do, there’s never been a better time. For those who are fortunate enough to have regular employment–they need to focus on how to stay employed while they perhaps think of their next move. There’s never been a time where you need more political skills (which we now call Emotional Intelligence). If you play the game well, you can keep your job while you plan your breakaway. Love your blog (and book)!

  30. Marla Tabaka says:

    Great post Jonathan! I’ve always chuckled at the thought of being labeled a “risk taker” if you’re self-employed. Riding the train downtown, walking a mile each way, being locked into someone else’s expectations and schedule, and missing my kids grow up was far more of a risk for my health, sanity, and happiness than being self-employed! I am responsible for the life I create for myself – and I love it!
    Thanks for sharing Jonathan!