On quitting, risk, and (the lack of) safety nets

I just came across this post about a podcast, Quit!, that helps people leave unfulfilling jobs and try new things.

The author of the post, J. Eddie Smith, IV, notes that:

A lot of people who call into the show are 18 to 25, and they sound trapped. Truly trapped. These are people with no kids. They aren’t married. They really have no responsibility to anyone but themselves—and they have the voice of a burned-out 45-year-old with four kids, a resetting mortgage on an upside-down home, two car payments, and a deck of maxed-out credit cards.

Why are these people, barely out of childhood, already so afraid of change and so unable to take any kind of risk?

He argues that it’s because schools and the media push traditional career paths, and therefore kids grow up without entrepreneurial role models.

That may be true, but I doubt it’s the real reason that so many young people feel trapped.

You know why we’re afraid to take risks?

Because we need health insurance. We need to pay off our student loans. We graduated into an incredibly uncertain economy, with a historic amount of debt, and we’re just trying to stay afloat.

It’s hard to take risks when there aren’t enough jobs to go around, and leaving one means you might not be able to get another.

It’s hard to take risks when you’re exhausted from just trying to get by.

I agree that entrepreneurship is a good thing, that it has the potential to create the jobs we so desperately need. I agree that we, as a society, need to encourage new ideas and non-traditional paths.

But I don’t think it’s particularly surprising that so many young people are afraid to leap when we have no safety net.

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3 thoughts on “On quitting, risk, and (the lack of) safety nets

  1. Oh, wow! That caller profile is me all over. I am starting to do some entrepreneur-y things these days–freelancing and selling stuff online–and having a bit of success, but don’t feel nearly secure enough in it to quit my job yet, not that the income from that is always steady either–I feel trapped because I am always at risk, the risk being that I may be unable to pay my rent if my income drops for a month.

    I like your other posts too–your fashion sense is so beautifully young and cute and it made me smile to see the pix, which I needed after reading a really nasty and hurtful comment on Feministe about how “priviliged” I am for mentioning Nazis on my blog in any other context besides talking about the horrible murders they did IN THE PAST.

    • I hear you. I’m also doing some entrepreneur-y stuff while both temping and job-hunting, and the latter two things keep sucking the energy I need for the former–plus the temp work isn’t dependable, so I’m also struggling to pay my rent. Blahh. I hope things get better for both of us.

      Thanks for the sweet compliments! Ugh, that comment on Feministe was awful. I can understand people being uncomfortable with the mention of Nazis, but that commenter was a jerk about it.

  2. I’m not quitting and risking — and I wasn’t when I was 18 to 25 — because I work in a job sector that sort of lends itself to the stable-paycheck situation. (Except when talking about near yearly reductions in force, but that’s it’s own thing.) But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that part of the reason — not all, by a long shot — I’m in the job sector that I am is because that stability is hugely important to me.

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