A reader asked whether I thought it made sense for him to take a severance offer and pursue his dream work. My response focuses on gathering more information and offering some guidance to how to think things through.
Start by asking yourself these questions:
- Do you already know exactly what your dream work is?
- Have you begun working toward that dream work?
If the answer to both is “yes,” then it might be time for you to go out on your own. I say “might” because I don’t know whether you want to start your own company or find a job doing something different.
If you want to start a business, you’ll need to consider things like whether you have enough savings to survive for a year without a regular paycheck, and what kind of business you are starting. Do you need to build up a clientele? Do you need to manufacture a product? The lead time for building a business and a cash flow differs wildly based on the work you want to do.
I recommend doing what I call the “dual path” where you still have your job and you are gradually building up your new business. There will come a point at which you’ll be ready to leave the job and work more than on weekends and during evenings on your business. At that point, a severance package can fuel your new business.
If you want another job doing something different, then I would caution you to start looking well before you get a severance offer. The old saying “it’s easier to get a new job when you already have a job” is still true, and even more so today, when some employers are saying “unemployed need not apply.” There’s a stigma attached to being unemployed, even though it happens to everyone.
If it were me, I’d try to get my next job lined up before the potential severance is offered. If you are very lucky with timing, you can perhaps manage to get both severance and the new job.
So that sounds pretty discouraging, I know. I don’t want to discourage you, though. I love when people follow their dreams, as long as they understand what they’re getting into (at least a little bit).
If you really want to do something different, a severance package can give you the means to plan your next steps. I just met with someone this morning who took a package 3 years ago and is still living on it, while doing other things. The buyout launched her into a new phase of career and life.
Taking time to consider what you want to do next is a great reason to take a severance package, and it’s a great reason to give to a potential employer regarding the gap in employment. When you are confident in what you can do and want to do, it’s possible to overcome just about any objection from a potential employer.