A world of uncertainty hit in March 2020 with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many lost their jobs as restaurants, bars, spa services, retail stores, and boutique stores were forced to close down. So, what’s a person to do? For many, they took this extra time and pursued their passion of opening a small business.
Starting a Small Business Came Out of Necessity or Corporate Burnout
About 4.3 million new business applications were filed in 2020, almost 1 million more than in 2019, with 51% of these owners citing that they started their business out of an economic need, and 33% said they started a business because they lost their jobs. Another reason we are seeing so many post-pandemic businesses? Corporate burnout. For those fortunate enough to have the means to start a business, this idea of reducing stress in their lives was a blessing in disguise. Many felt they were on the way to escaping the pre-pandemic, high-pressure corporate environment to now taking their passion and interests and converting them into a small business.
This same group is faced with an inevitable decision as the world opens up again: Do I stay with my new small business, or do I go back to my previous career?
3 Things to Consider When Deciding if You Should Focus on Your New Business or Return to Your Previous Career
If you’re struggling with deciding to stay in the small business space or return to your previous career, consider the following first:
Ask yourself: What is it about remote work that you do or do not like?
A recent Prudential survey confirmed that 87% of Americans who have been working remotely during the pandemic would prefer to continue to work from home at least one day a week post-pandemic. 42% of current remote workers insist that if their current company doesn’t continue offering remote work options long term, they will look for a new organization that does. In other words, working remotely can likely be a reality for you if that’s what you enjoy, regardless of which option you choose. In the past, this would be a massive benefit to working for yourself, but this is no longer the case, the playing field is leveled.
You likely fall in one of two buckets, which can help you weigh your options:
- If you do like working remotely, ask yourself: Do I like to work with many different departments and groups of people remotely? Chances are your small business is, well, small, so it may take a while to build up a team. If you crave the interaction, you can still get that remotely, but it’s more likely to fulfill you at an established company. If you like complete independence, keep doing your thing.
- If you don’t like working remotely, going back to your previous career is likely the right move because it takes a long time to build up a company to the level needed to rent office space, purchase equipment needed to create a positive work environment, and more.
Once again, it’s important to take the “working remotely” out of the equation that many of us are so accustomed to focusing on – the focus in 2021 should be what type of interaction you like and how much, and not necessarily where or how that interaction takes place.
Compare and contrast your work/life balance
Work-life balance became more highlighted for small business owners during the pandemic. People have control over their schedules, and those with children can also be relieved of child care, etc. A survey by career site, Joblist, revealed that just over 30% of workers said they'd give up part of their pay for a better work-life balance, with parents willing to take a 5% pay cut.
On the flip side, many find that they work more when they own their businesses. The stakes are higher, and if you’re working from home, you’re always at the office. If you don’t have a family, it can be easy to become consumed with work (which for some is positive if they love what they’re doing, but it’s important you’re honest with yourself). So, what is your new work/life balance situation, and are you happier than when working in your previous career?
Ask Yourself: Where and how do I find myself networking?
Keep in mind that your new skills as an entrepreneur can translate into a new corporate setting, so if that excites you, it may be time to move forward, back to your previous career. If you don’t know where to start with the latter, consider a career coach to work with you to identify those areas of opportunity for you.
If you find yourself networking with those in different fields to further your business and you love learning new things, sticking with your current small business might be more fulfilling in the long run.
The Takeaway (and A Quick Case Study)
Once again, just because you think you’re supposed to be passionate about your new career doesn’t mean you are now that you’ve tried. For example, a U.K based man was laid off from his corporate finance job and opened up a wellness brand, Osena London, which has a range of products based on adaptogenic herbs. According to business owner Kiran Bhondi, “The hours were long and the workload exhausting, and this was having a significant impact on my overall health. I was feeling out of sync and completely off-balance with my body. My grandfather grew up in India taking adaptogenic herbs, and I thought there is a business here to help other people cope with stress.”
In other words, if you find out the small business you started during the pandemic is not what you thought it would be, you can always return to your past professional or try something else. As long as you are confident in yourself, you will find your niche. There is sometimes that third option that is just right, so consider all of your avenues and go forth confidently!
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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.