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When can I "hang up the towel" at a well-paying job and pursue my real passion?

Context: I am a senior in college tracking towards a full-time offer from a well-established investment firm after graduation. While I am excited, grateful, and feel relatively prepared (business major for the past four years and have interned in finance) lately I've been feeling the pressure on if I should instead follow my "true" passion since childhood: writing. Assuming I don't need to become a novelist, but would be fulfilled with simply a more creative occupation like a marketing assistant, creative coordinator, etc - my question is this: At what practical, financially stable point can I "throw in the towel" with my finance job in order to pursue a career I am much more passionate about but will pay much less? Is this advisable in the first place? Thanks for any advice! #business #career #finance #creative #art #marketing #entry-level

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Toby’s Answer

This is a great "life" question as well as a "professional" question ... and I have found that most people struggle with this one. My personal experience has been to pursue your passion in whatever you choose to do in life. There are many ways to combine your love of something with your experience, education, and training. And usually that combination creates something unique and of value to other people.

Another thing that folks often don't consider is the fact that when you do something professionally, it may not be as fun as you thought. Usually the pressure of the business aspect takes its toll on what you love doing. My advice to anyone in this situation, is to not feel like you need to choose one or the other ... but you can find satisfaction in making some good money and doing what you love - but those two things may not be completely intertwined. Life is a balance. But if you hate what you do for a living, by all means look for an alternative ... life is too short.

Toby recommends the following next steps:

While working your current job ... look for opportunities to do the kind of writing you would like to do. Either for free or some additional cash. Not having the pressure to earn income from it makes it all the more rewarding.
An online blog is a great way to do some writing around subjects you are knowledgable about and to begin to build a following. This accomplishes two things, you get to do what you love and get the potential of a future business opportunity. Ad revenue from these blogs can add up.
Create a side hustle for yourself around writing as an independent contractor ... could be business writing, technical writing, the possibilities are limitless.
There may be opportunities with your current employer that you haven't considered ... open up the world of writing and think broadly about the possibilities. Teaching writing for example.
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Michelle’s Answer

Hi Grace!

Here's the thing: if I'm reading your situation correctly and you're getting ready to take an entry-level analyst job at an investment firm (I'm guessing investment banking?), I'm not sure how much of a work-life balance you can expect to have as other commenters have suggested. Have you talked with current employees in the job you'll be entering? It's not uncommon for IB analysts to put in 80+ hours per week.

If this is the case and you don't have the time and energy to pursue your love of writing, are you still okay taking this job? Keep in mind, you don't have to do it forever. My impression is that most IB analysts move on after about 3 years--either to get an MBA, switch into other finance roles, or take their savings and start that avocado farm or launch their own custom muffler company or whatever else their passion project is. Of course, others love the life, get promoted faster than you can say "due diligence", and continue working 80+ hour weeks for their entire careers.

You may fall into that first group. If so, you know finance, so do the math! :) What sort of lifestyle do you want to have? If you can't get that right away from writing or by switching to a new job, how much do you have to save and invest to give yourself some cushion as you adjust? How long do you have to work in IB to save what you need?

Right now, you may feel that you're staring down the barrel of what may be a few really tough years. If I'm reading wrong and you're not pursuing IB, early career finance roles are tough. It's okay to not be sure. It's okay to say "you know what, no way" and decline your job offer. (Think carefully before you do that though if you don't have another means of supporting yourself right away.) But I also think that you don't know how you'll feel about something before you try it. Make a plan to bail, but give it a try.
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Carson’s Answer

I think many would not be truthful if they said they have not contemplated the same questions posed here. We all have passions and hobbies outside of work; however, combining those with what you do from 9-5 can be VERY difficult. They say if you love what you do, you won't ever work a day in your life. The truth of the matter is that the expression is much easier said than done. In your case, writing is your passion, yet you're academically pursuing what is likely to be a career in investments. My suggestion for you would be to change the mindset you have at the moment. It may seem to you that you would like to work for a number of years doing something you aren't font of prior to doing what you're really passionate about, yet there must be some reason you're going after this job at an investment firm aside from the money. My advice would be to take it one day at a time and try your best to keep an open mind. You may surprise yourself and really find your job enjoyable. You may also find that you can still write on the side. As if you need another cliché, but you could have your cake and eat it too. You could work, make good money, and still pursue writing when time permits outside of work.

I hope you find peace in all of this as it can certainly be difficult. Talk to others around you and try not to get in your own head too much.

Best of luck. Take things one day at a time and everything will work out.
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Natalie’s Answer

There are ways to make money being a writer, but it might not be a novelist right off the bat. I think the important thing with writing is to just keep writing anything and everything! You can try to get published in smaller publications to start, or do freelancing. You could also find a middle ground between business/finance and writing - can you do something on the business side in the writing/publishing industry?

"I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don't want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love" -- Jim Carrey

A job for money can always be a backup plan if you decide you don't want to pursue writing in the long term. Life is long and you can change careers as many times as you want.

If you do want to be financially secure first, you can always write on the side to build up your skills. For example, I've done National Novel Writing Month where I wrote a 50,000 word novel in 1 month, just for the sake of practicing my writing. It was fun, but I didn't try to publish it. Writing is always an option as a hobby and a job!

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Michael’s Answer

Hi,

This is a good question. If your Monday to Friday job is not your passion. Then see if you can work on your passion in your free time.

I worked in morning news for years. I enjoyed it But it was not my passion. Sports and comics are my true passion. Finally after a few years of looking for a job in sports I found a part time sports logging job. After a bit of talking with my supervisor I was able to work both jobs.

My supervisor agreed to allow me to work both jobs because neither job was a conflict of interest. I also agreed to only work the sprts job once or twice on weekday nights and once on the weekends. But if my day job needed me at anytime that was my priority.

So my advice is to find a part time job that relates to your passion. It's never too early to try and find a passion job that makes you happy.

Never give up. Finding side jobs is not difficult. You just have to look for them.

Michael
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Vic’s Answer

Hi Olive,

I've debated this a lot. It really depends on what you value in terms of your professional and personal life. Some questions to consider first because I don't have all the context here:
1. Are you able to work on your passions on the weekends?
2. Are you satisfied doing both? Are you able to do both?
3. Would you be able to finance a full transition out of finance? Timeline?
4. Is there value in working in finance that is transferrable based on your values and personal/professional goals?

I think in general it comes down to your values, priorities and tolerance for risk/ambiguity.
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Simeon’s Answer

The answer to this is somewhere in the middle. Unless you save up enough money to live off of just your savings for a season, you're going to want to slowly develop your writing career at the same time that you are still in finance. If anything, you might want to work in a smaller or less time-intensive position to allow you to work on writing in your free time. You could also find a midpoint by doing writing gigs in relation to finance. Think Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, or the Economist. There's a need out there for people who can write competently about finance and you could use that bridge to break into writing.
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Steve’s Answer

Great question Olive,

Balancing passions, and careers is something so many of us do. One thing I'll say is that it is possible to pursue your passion, outside of your "day job" or wherever it is you spend your 9-5 hours. Almost every one of my colleagues in the world of technology sales have passions they pursue outside of work, and often their work helps to enable them to truly pursue their passion fully. In fact a few point out that they're favorite thing about working, is being able to not only follow their passions, but constantly find new things to be passionate about!

Kicking off your career in finance, you may find you get a bit more freedom to write about whatever you choose to write about, at the pace you choose to work. Also, remember that a career is a journey. The world is full of brilliant creative people, who didn't become full time writers, artists or musicians until much later on in life! There is no "correct" path in the career space, and that is also true in the creative space.

Just remember, whatever you choose to do, keep writing and doing the things that bring you joy in life.
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Jenifer’s Answer

I have grappled with this issue for many years and the answer is different for everyone. For me, my career and passions were not the same, but I found that my "work-life" afforded me the time and opportunity to pursue my other passions outside the office. For my husband, he established the "line in the sand" where he could step away. Careers are long ...and can change over time.
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Raghunandan’s Answer

We always want a second life irrespective of where we are in this world; ain't it? :)

In order to let the baton get off your hand, you need to decide whether financially or mentally you are ready to run the next leg of the marathon. As one grows in time, wisdom prevails and helps you determine whether the next mile would help you achieve your life goals.

Start off with a mission statement; how do you want to be recognized at your retirement age (if you dont want to retire, do you have plans).
Then work backwards & plan to run different legs of the marathon.

Most importantly, life goals are independent of career goals. Both hit cross roads or they run in parallel. Determine where does your passion fit, whether in your career or parallel to your career; i'm sure you will find answers

Cheers and All the best!
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Jack’s Answer

Hey Grace. I would say you can pursue writing on the side, it doesn't have to be one or the other. It is important though, to have good time management because you will be super busy balancing your work, passion, family, friends, etc. Also, once you have enough savings and the writing business is generating income to the point where you are comfortable, you can start thinking about pursuing writing full time.

Hope this helps and good luck!
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Nadia’s Answer

Great question, something most professionals have asked themselves in one form or another. Personally I think you can do both....one is to allow you to pursue your passion and the other to allow you to afford the lifestyle and retirement that you want...and pursue your passion! That said you have to set goals for yourself, plans on how to achieve these...and the hard part..execute those plans and stick to them. Then take the time to review how you’re progressing. When you do this expect that life will happen and sometimes this will result in setbacks....this is normal and should not be seen as failure, just reset your plans and continue.
Hope this helps!
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Pro’s Answer

You could start with a remote writing job on the side, until you're able to quit your business job.
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Alvydas’s Answer

Hi,

I would encourage you to pursue something fulfilling early on. If that is not possible you should look into how much money you want to save up while you are at you high paying job. You are fresh out of school so I would not expect a huge amount of money without some experience. Look into the FIRE movement, maybe you can learn something from that approach.

Thanks
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Allison’s Answer

Many folks find a way to pursue their passions in their off hours and use their professional time to generate revenue (a paycheck) while honing their skills (working). I also love to write and I do it professionally in so many ways: PowerPoints, talk tracks and scripts for meetings and demonstrations, emails, messages with colleagues. Lots of communication has to occur in a business setting and a LOT of it is written. Depending on the type of career you have, you may need to creatively produce content as well. My marketing friends do even more writing: blog posts, white papers, webinar scripts, and other forms of customer engagement. My professional writing has encouraged other writing outlets for personal satisfaction. There are also many folks in the companies I’ve worked for who also like to write and will happily form groups to encourage and critique one another. I still dream of writing a memoir and may do that one day. My career affords me the flexibility to write on the side for fun and one day my writing fantasies may be something I can also do for money.

I would encourage you to seek out other folks who share your passion so you can explore it as a hobby, have access to feedback, and keep yourself accountable and practicing, when you’re ready.

Allison recommends the following next steps:

Find writing groups through work or local community
Practice writing professionally in your job
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Thomas’s Answer

Olive,
This is a tough question and one that there is not a specific answer. However, like some of the previous answers, you have to decided when you are financially stable enough to make that transition. That being said you can still pursue your passion in our off hours.

The best option is to find a career that you are passionate about and spend your time doing that. Where ever you are most passionate is likely where you will be most successful in the long term. Just be willing to be persistent and work hard. Good luck!
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Cynthia’s Answer

Olive,
That is a great question. I don't think this is an all or nothing choice.
There are careers in finance that require great writing skills.
A few items to look into are types of careers within the larger companies at finance companies such as:
internal communications, brand communications, copy writing, financial reports (Annual stockholder reports), marketing, etc.
For instance social media roles are in high demand right now.
Finding a way to combine your finance mind and your writing passion would probably bring you the most satisfaction and wouldn't require you having to "hang up the towel" and just muscle through and instead have a career you enjoy.
I have a friend who is a technical editor for technical publications. It's a niche but it works for him.

Cynthia recommends the following next steps:

Check out this link: https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/writing-career-types/
Review different job openings at the firms you are looking at.
Here's another place to look in glassdoor to review writing jobs: https://www.glassdoor.com/Job/internal-communications-jobs-SRCH_KO0,23.htm
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Amanda’s Answer

This is something I personally thought a lot about in my early twenties (my degrees are a BA in English and an MA in American Literature.) I ultimately chose to go the professional route (Technology Sales) and am now a VP at a software company. I found my own creative outlet in my spare time - writing, acting, taking Second City classes etc. I also found that having those creative outlets made me better in my role - a more fluid thinker, better / confident communicator, better listener. So that's my experience - you may decide otherwise - but I'd suggest giving your current career path a couple more years and then take stock of where you are.

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David’s Answer

It looks like a lot of people have grappled with this same issue; myself included.

Knowing that you have this goal, I would map out my next few years with that in mind. I would work the "safe" financial job for as long as I could stomach it. I would live at home, save money like crazy and do whatever I needed to do to be debt free. The more you can save, the quicker you can "safely" transition to living your dream.

At the same time as getting your financial house in order, I would answer all of the important questions about your writing dream and learn as much as I could about it. What do you want to write? What do you want to write about? Can I make a living from writing? If so, how would I do that? Can I write (it takes more than just skill to be a good writer)?

Figure those things out while you have the safety net of the finance job.

Also - and this is the marketer in me talking - use that time to start building a following online. Become active in the online writing communities. Create pages for Grace the writer and get out there. Post some short works and get feedback. Let people know you're out there.

In this imagined scenario, you could theoretically work for three years in finance and quit with a good amount of money saved, a clear idea of your plan to move forward and some groundwork laid to grow upon.
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Sanober’s Answer

When you face an obstacle such as this, and you have to choose between disappointing yourself or disappointing others, always choose the latter.

Best of luck :)

Sanober
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Kim’s Answer

Grace,

Since everyone else already covered the philosophical side of the question, I'm going for a different approach. Assuming you've already decided you will work at a job you aren't crazy enough until you can afford to strike out on your own, the question was, how long does this take? Let's talk money.

Because, it depends on how you manage your money. How much will it cost to "act the part" of an Investment person? Clothes, drycleaning, makeup, jewelry, car, etc? What about "lifestyle creep?" Are you familiar with the FIRE movement? (Financial Independence, Retire Early) If not, I recommend you look into it. Yes, you can save like crazy, invest wisely, and get out early.

If this is your plan, you need to articulate specific goals and action steps to achieve them. Otherwise, things come along, and before you know it, you are 45 years old, and further away than you started. Marriage, kids, house, divorce, etc. , asking yourself, "where did my life go?"

I also think you should explore some of the previous answers, which contain a lot of wisdom. I just wanted to address the immediate question. Figure out how much you need to save, and do it. But also realize that, as we get older, our inclination to take such "risks" diminishes. So, if you wait, even if you can safely afford it, you may never do it.

Wishing you the best, whichever path you choose!
Kim
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Apurva’s Answer

Hi Olive - I am glad you are asking this question. I guess the question you have to ask yourself, is how much do I love writing and how much of you will be filled with some regret if you take the higher paying job instead.

That being said, you could work in your job and do writing on the side - there are many occupations related to writing, maybe there's one in the financial field as well.

That being said, if you answer I cannot live without writing and this is my superpower/talent/ambition, you shouldn't sacrifice time spent doing something else. I"m a big believer that financial gain and recognition will come in time as long as you are passionate and strict about your interests - don't take a job doing something else. Just know that it may take time but it'll happen for you!
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