In December 2011, I left investment banking for the world of startups. During almost a decade at the same firm, I wore many hats but never found the right “fit”. I deluded myself that if I just kept working that little bit harder I would wake up one day, truly fulfilled, basking in the glow of prestigious titles and seven-figure bonuses. It didn’t happen and, eventually, I burned out.
When I left I had no job lined up, no masterplan, and a pretty feeble network outside of financial services. Crazy? Perhaps. Liberating? Absolutely.
In January and February I chilled out and went on a long vacation. By March, with a clearer head, and a growing desire to explore, I was ready to embark on a voyage of discovery, which would necessitate some (strategic) spaghetti throwing. Since then, I’ve landed a few freelance gigs red-penning investor decks and business plans, as well as dabbling in business development, social media, and marketing. My network, which is growing like (friendly) bacteria on a Petri dish, has yielded multiple exciting collaborative conversations. That said, I’ll admit that there have also been several moments of panic!
So, here are five important things I’ve learned on my journey so far.
1. Burnout = Long Hours x Wrong Context
Many people attribute burnout exclusively to the hours you put in. I was burned out primarily because I wasn’t in the right industry for me. If you don’t love what you do your efforts disproportionately drain you of energy. Conversely, when you’re emotionally connected with your work, burning the midnight oil is relatively easy. If you want to work for a startup, make sure you love the mission as no matter what your official title is, everyone is expected to be an evangelist.