Leaving the public sector was one of the better decisions I’ve made this year. My year anniversary back in the private industry was a few months ago or so, but, as you can see I have been going strong. While I had the pleasure of being in public service for about 5 years, I am really liking being in the private sector. It is more work and more stressful as you have to hunt for work; however, it definitely has its perks:
Control of your own destiny
One of the worst things, in my opinion, is to not have the freedom to do what you want. To be shackled, oppressed, or put-down is something that I cannot stand. While I really enjoyed my time with FHWA, met and worked with a lot of great people, I was always frustrated by the barriers and roadblocks imposed. I couldn’t even do my own projects! I had to work through the State, who worked through their consultant, who worked through their consultants. I was so far removed from the stuff that I liked doing, that I just couldn’t take it anymore.
When I put in my 2 weeks at FHWA, people would ask:
“Man, you are really leaving a cushy job.”
“Life is going to be rough.”
“So how much money are they giving you? Are you going to lend me your Benz?”
I guess I could sum all the responses up with one word: fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of being wrong. Fear of leaving a safe space. But why be afraid of fear. Nothing that was an improvement comes easily. Comfort is a luxury, while great, does not lead to improvement. I don’t train for a race by sitting on a couch on my ass writing blog posts. It takes blood, sweat, and tears (hopefully not in that order or combination) to improve. Progression through perseverance is not easy, nor should it be.
And if I fail, so what? You know the great thing about money? There’s always more of it! If I f*** up, so be it! In the words of Paulo Coelho: “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” This “safeness” annoyed me and was one reason for me leaving the public sector.
Now I can forge my own path. Make my own destiny. Create something. This is a liberating feeling, when you do not feel shackled by the powers-that-be. I don’t have a Congress which grandstands every day about how much the government is to blame. I don’t have them arbitrarily setting my pay based on a scale that does not follow logic. I don’t have hire ups scared to make a decision due to the fact they want to be copacetic with elected officials, and blame it on “perception.”
This was one of the things that ticked me off the most: the paralysis of perception. “Don’t go to a Subway in a government car, otherwise they’ll think Feds don’t work.” “Stay in your hotel room on the road, so you’re not perceived as a lazy government worker.” I actually had someone from DC say in a national conference: “For dinner on travel, only eat where you can walk. Don’t take the car.” Well, what if you’re in a bad neighborhood, or if a McDonalds is your only option? Nope. You don’t want to be perceived incorrectly.
What I should have replied with all this is the following: Look, you can always play it safe and never be perceived incorrectly, but then, what value are you adding? Isn’t this the way of the bureaucrat, sitting in their ivory tower being separate from the actual workings of the world. This is just. Pure. Crap. This is one of the reasons I ended up leaving the public sector.
Fear of being a dreamer
However, with freedom comes the risk of being complacent. Now that my day and after-work-life is unchained, I have to actually put in the work. It is easy for me to sit here and type out my grievances and how liberated I feel. The next question: what will I do? Will I have the initiative to actually doing something with this?
So, I have put in a plan. This involves additional training (complete), and finally launching the GreenTime App: www.ourgreentime.com. Let’s see how these work out.
So that’s my experience with leaving. While I work more, I do enjoy it a lot more. What about you? Have you been looking to switch sectors?