Escaping The Cube


| Author Molly Klein


Increasingly, American workers are choosing to leave the corporate world and venture forth on their own. These voluntary departures are being fueled by an increasing optimism in the country’s economic outlook, a desire to have more professional independence, and the appeal of being their own boss.

It is worth a closer look to determine why workers are escaping the cube. Why, when, and how workers leave corporate America to pursue entrepreneurial ambitions are complex and important issues to consider.

According to the March 2017 figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nearly 3.2 million people voluntarily left their positions in January 2017. The number of “quits,” as BLS refers to these voluntary departures, grew throughout the private sector, particularly in services, finance and insurance, and real estate.

The January 2017 data reflects an uptick from figures that were consistently between 2.9 million and 3 million monthly “quits” from August to December of 2016.

Economists generally consider “quits” an indicator of healthy optimism, as a good number of those who leave choose to start their own businesses.

Why Leave?

Many employees who choose to leave a corporate gig do so for the freedom and flexibility afforded by starting a business. In addition to the wealth potential, running your own business gives you the opportunity to be more in control of your destiny.

For many, the choice to leave a seemingly secure position in corporate America may seem like a risk.  But in many cases, the climate and culture in the corporate world leaves a bit to be desired. Here are a number of other reasons people are choosing to leave the nest:

  1. Office Politics. The nastiness of office politics is a headache that can be avoided when you serve as your own boss.  You will no longer be burdened by coworker infighting, pressured to cater to the whims of a difficult boss, or forced to be a pawn in someone else’s chess game.
  2. Career Control. With a corporate job, workers are not always in control of their own career path. The opportunity to be promoted and advanced, learn new skills, or be given valuable work experiences is often at the whims of a supervisor.
  3. Declining Benefits. In most areas of corporate life, the notions of company-provided pensions, reliable health care, and other benefits are long gone.  More of those costs are being passed on to the worker.
  4. Loyalty. In years gone by, companies earned the loyalty of their employees, providing them with the opportunities and security that allowed for long, productive careers with one company. But today, some corporations no longer value loyalty, and workers have to cope with ever-looming threats of layoffs and downgraded opportunities.


While not everything about corporate America is doom and gloom, there is certainly a great deal of dissatisfaction that employees are feeling about the work being done and the way they are being treated. There is significant appeal to the notion of giving up that corporate life and considering a different type of career.

Should You Consider a Change?

There are many reasons why you might consider leaving your job. But the real question is whether you are ready to make a change. What factors should you consider when it comes to making a major professional transition?

The answers are not always obvious. You need to spend the time to consider if you are dissatisfied with your current situation and if the answer is yes, why you are dissatisfied.

The decision to leave a corporate job is not one to be taken lightly. If you choose to make the leap, there are some things that you can do to make sure the switch is done smoothly and professionally.

The first thing to do is assess whether you are truly making the right choice. Ask yourself what is missing from your current work situation. What are you going to escape to if you leave? What are the opportunity costs to staying or leaving?

Here are some points to consider during the assessment:

  • Are you happy? Do you experience joy and relish the work you are doing? Job satisfaction is a powerful motivation. It can provide you with a sense of fulfillment and a feeling that you are part of a greater good. But not feeling that way can leave you with an emptiness that needs to be filled.
  • Are you inspired? Do you work with and for people who motivate you and whose company you enjoy keeping 40 or more hours a week? You want to be with people whose work, collaboration, and intelligent thought helps to get work done. You deserve a sense of teamwork and camaraderie. You need a leader who rallies and motivates. If you do not have that situation, perhaps you are the leader who can inspire others.
  • Do you love your work? You spend years of your life at work. You deserve to live a life that is fulfilling and enriching, and that brings you joy and happiness. If you are not feeling those things, it just might be time to venture forth on your own.
  • Have you stayed too long? Do you have a sense of “been there, done that” with your work? Are you bored? If the answers to these questions are “yes”, you may have outgrown your job. That is okay. It just means it is time to look at different opportunities.


Next, create a path for your departure. What steps do you need to take to be ready for what comes next? These steps may include additional training, skills development, due diligence on a potential entrepreneurial venture, resume updating, or additional networking.

It is likely that these steps can be taken while you are still employed. Taking the time to acquire what you need in the way of skills, information, advice, and capital while still earning a paycheck is a smart idea. It allows you to explore and, perhaps, change that path before making a career leap.

Finances are a major consideration for anyone looking to leave the corporate life. You need to consider how you will support your lifestyle and pay the bills, while at the same time determining how you will cover the costs of a potential start-up venture.

You need to make a budget, a comprehensive business plan, and do the math. Are there living expenses that can be cut, at least temporarily, once you leave? Do you have enough savings to support you and your loved ones? Is there a spouse or partner who will continue to have health insurance and other benefits to provide the security and peace of mind you need, especially when starting a new business?

Overcoming Obstacles

When you choose to leave a job, you are inevitably going to face several obstacles. Knowing what these obstacles are and understanding how to overcome them are important steps as you prepare. Here are three of the biggest obstacles and what to do about them.

  1. Financial Reliability. To be honest, there is one considerable advantage to working for a corporation. You know you will be getting a steady, reliable paycheck. You can count on this income to pay your living expenses, entertain yourself, and put away savings for rainy day emergencies or your entrepreneurial dream. That is one of the biggest reasons to do the planning and due diligence while you are still employed. You may also be able to start your own business, at least part-time, while you are still working a full-time job. While this can be onerous, it will provide you with confidence and financial security.
  2. Increasing Debt. Consumer debt such as credit cards, car payments, and student loans can be, well, consuming as you consider what to do when you leave the corporate bubble. Before you leave, you should do everything in your power to reduce or eliminate these debts from your portfolio. Not only does this lessen the anxiety and strain of a new venture, but it also takes the pressure off of your initial income needs when you go out on your own.
  3. The Skeptics. Friends, family members, and coworkers may look askew, frown, or vocally criticize your choice. Skeptics abound, especially among those who are more risk-averse. This is a natural reaction and it is a good idea to not take these skeptics’ words too personally. The best way to overcome these skeptics is to provide them with information about the reasons you are leaving the corporate world, the thoughtfulness you have put into that decision, the work you have done to determine what comes next, and how you will achieve the success you are seeking in the next phase of your life.

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What Lies Ahead

Congratulations! You have answered the questions, created the path, considered your options, done your homework, and decided to make a change. Now, what?

Now, the opportunities are limitless. You are no longer bound by the workaday rigors of a corporate existence. You can create your own adventure. What awaits is extraordinary. Consider the benefits of starting your own business:

  • You are in charge of your own destiny. As an entrepreneur, you control the fate of your enterprise. You get to make the decisions, create the rules, establish the values, and reap the rewards related to your business. You are squarely in the driver’s seat and making your own decisions.
  • You select the staff. When you create your own business, you can bring on the employees, advisors, investors, and consultants who share your values and vision. You can build a team of people who will work with you to achieve the vision you set forth. While that is a heady responsibility, it is also an extraordinary opportunity.
  • You create the balance. A lot is said today about work/life balance. As the owner, you have the chance to set the tone and expectations that give you and your team the balance you believe is right.
  • You can follow your passion. With your own business, you can realize the dreams you have had for years and help bring to life the idea that has been percolating in your head.
  • You can work with the clients and customers you want. As a business owner, you can work in the markets, industries, and company you want. You can connect with the kinds of people you want to work with, on your terms, and help serve their needs with your products or services.
  • You have pride of ownership. At the end of the day, you will leave a legacy behind that will be a testament to the hard work you put into the effort.