We’re living in some uncertain times in the job market. Where corporate America was once the go-to for the young educated individual, that kind of security doesn’t exist anymore.

The American dream is getting more expensive by the day and salaries are getting smaller. The average millennial can’t depend on pension plans or 401k to be there when it’s time to retire.

That’s almost a good thing. Scratch that, it IS a good thing.

I’ve always heard that necessity is the mother of invention. The current climate in the job market is making it easier than ever for millennials to make the decision to leave the “norm” and create their own lane. We’re seeing entrepreneurs go from start up to success in a matter of a few years.

This uncertain environment is pushing more of us to strive to redefine and create our own American dream, and I, for one, love seeing it.

But what if it’s not possible to just leave your corporate job and start on your own venture? Many of us have children, debts, and other obligations that make chasing dreams seem irresponsible and foolish.

It’s not. There’s always more than one way to get things done. No, walking out on your job (while dropping the mic and knocking stacks of file folders off your coworkers’ desks) may not be the best step for you, but trust me, you can calculate and make your smooth exit – and still come out on top – like a boss.
Before you go from employee to self employed…

Decide what you want – One of the first things you must do if you’re ready to leave your 9-5 is to decide what you want and how you want to do it. Are you looking to be ‘just comfortable’ or are you aiming to get rich? What’s your plan?

Get your exit plan mapped out and make a firm decision on what it is you want to accomplish. The key to making a successful transition, or being successful with any venture, is to start with the end in mind. What I mean by that is, even if you don’t have all the steps mapped out, have your end goal clear as crystal. You don’t need to know all the pit stops between your location and your destination. As long as you know where you’re going, you’ll always find a way to get there.

Capitalize on who you know, where you are – It’s easy to get that “I’ll be gone soon anyways” attitude when you finally make the decision to jump out into the water on your own. You start treating your boss and coworkers like that milk that passed it’s expiration date… or that date you don’t plan to call again. Hold up! Before you go there, let’s think about it. Are there some relationships you can cultivate at your current gig that will help you in the future? Maybe the IT guy can help you get your website in order, or the PR person who has all the media connects.

Look around and start putting your pieces in place. Never burn a bridge if you don’t have to. 85% of being an entrepreneur is who you know and who knows you. Keep your reputation in order and build those relationships. Yes, being an entrepreneur is sometimes like being a one-man army, but it’s never a solo effort. Everybody needs somebody to be successful.

Check your work ethic – Do you show up to work late more often than you should? Do you procrastinate? Maybe you’re the 2-hour lunch break guy. Check those habits while you’re still getting that regular check. One of the most common misconceptions about being an entrepreneur is that you can do what you want, when you want, how you want. I mean, you can, but you won’t be very successful.

Work ethic is 90% of your success as an entrepreneur. So, sleeping in won’t fly everyday. 40 hour work weeks are a fantasy for most people who are self employed. Yes, doing what you love makes it feel less like work but, it’s still hard work. You may be super talented at what you do, but hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
Now is the time to prepare yourself for the ride of your life. Being an entrepreneur is well worth all the headaches and trials you’l face. The security of knowing that you’re the master of your own destiny will be enough to push you through the tough times. But, before you make that decision you need to make sure you know what you want and how you’re going to go about getting it. You also must take the time to build the relationships that will help you avoid feeling lonely on the road or getting burnt out trying to do it all alone. Finally, make sure that your work ethic is in check. Don’t be the cause of your own failure by thinking that entrepreneurship is a “do as you will” journey. Respect the work that’s involved and develop the mental toughness you’ll need to stick it out when it gets hard.