There are days we all think about leaving our jobs and going off to do something fun for a while but for many of us it’s not possible due to various responsibilities. Like, rent. And car repayments.
These millennials, however, decided to take the leap and become funemployed.
What is funemployment exactly?
It’s when you leave a full time job to take some time off and pursue your passion projects and have some fun while still working towards your goals. Basically having the time to do what you love which your full time job might have stopped you from doing.
According to tradingeconomics.com, South Africa's unemployment rate came in at 27.7% in the third quarter of 2017 but there are no stats to suggest how many of those people have chosen funemployment as an option instead of working a full time job where they were unhappy.
Elizabeth Mamacos, editor at Careers24, says: "While the idea of being fun-employed for a few months is extremely appealing, the option is really only available to those professionals who have some savings or financial support, and are experienced or skilled in a high-demand sector and can be assured of swift re-employment when necessary.
"Many millennials may not have this backing, and therefore don’t have the luxury of taking time out at this early stage of their careers.
"I haven’t noticed a trend towards active funemployment, but there is an uptick in the number of professionals going freelance, or working part time. This allows them the space to pursue personal passions and pay the bills."
So we spoke to four people who were unhappy with their jobs and decided to take the route of leaving.
Here are their stories:
Kristen has been funemployed since October 2017 and has no regrets about her decision. She lost her mother just before she decided to resign.
“I'd inherited money two months prior and was uncertain of my next move. I still wanted a reason to get out of bed and have purpose until I decided to pursue another avenue. But the change pushed me to finally quit.”
But Kristen says it’s not just preparing financially that’s important.
“I did not prepare emotionally and I wish I had. I fell out of routine, even though you're warned not to. I became listless and bored. I should have had hobbies and projects in place to keep my mind active.”
Kristen also thinks that funemployment is a growing trends amongst millennials.
“Just due to a lack of opportunities and an oversaturated graduate market. Graduates are fighting tooth and nail for very entry-level pay jobs which is just heartbreaking. I have two university degrees and I was earning a starter salary. It's really hard for young job seekers.”
Liam has been funemployed for seven months and even though it can be difficult, he wouldn't change a thing except not making provision for his funemployment. “I just had enough. After one more disagreement I went home and drafted my letter of resignation. I called home and told my sister that I was quitting the next day. She said that if I needed to come home, I could stay with them. I decided to sleep on it and if I felt differently in the morning, I would delete the letter. I quit the next day.”
So what made him decide to leave his job?
“I am quite passionate about what I do so I naturally work hard, put in extra hours and often go above and beyond what was expected of me. But it wasn't appreciated. I was rewarded with more work and was so tired all the time. And because I was so drained, I didn't take a stand when it came to work. So I saw my work suffer and realised that by staying my career would be stunted.
“My mother worked harder than I ever have but had an injury on duty. She was in so much pain but the company behaved like she was pretending. So she continued to suffer and was replaced. So whenever I'm unhappy at work, I am reminded of how easily she was replaced and how poorly she was treated. I have no qualms leaving a company if I'm not happy. But finding a replacement job is not so easy these days and everything is so expensive. So this time was harder than before, but I was over it. Done.” says Liam.
But obviously no experience comes without positive and negative aspects. I asked Liam what the best and worst parts of this experience was for him:
“The worst part is trying to find a permanent job. I freelance but that's on and off. As a creative, you have to show your work (and your worth) before you actually get the job. You curate your portfolio and send that with your CV. So when you don't even get shortlisted, it's hard to not take it personally.
The best part?
“Everything else. You don't realise just how tense you are while stuck at a job you don't enjoy. You pick up bad habits when you're in such a stressful environment and once you let go of the job, you gradually let go of the stress if you have family and friends who support you. Best of all, my design work and creativity is somehow spilling over. I'm constantly doodling, making little sketches and designing things. I sleep better. I read more. I can watch a movie from start to finish without falling asleep midway. Yesterday I stopped to appreciate a flower.”
Lezel has been funemployed for 9 months now and decided to leave her job after realising that she wasn’t happy anymore and felt “overworked and undervalued”.
She then decided to leave her full time employment and go and teach English in South Korea for a year before travelling around for a bit.
Deciding to leave your job is obviously not an easy choice to make and Lezel did not take the decision lightly. She researched and prepared and made sure she made provisions until she could find her next job.
“Emotionally I was driven by the fact that I was not getting any younger and that it was time to take action. I did my TESOL certificate two years prior to my resignation, so I had some sort of fall back. I also knew that it would be easy for me to get a job as an English teacher as I had my degree as well. I worked out everything on my own before I spoke to anyone, because I knew I would get a lot of people telling me that I'm crazy and try to convince me to stick it out. My mind was made up though, because at that point my happiness and self-worth was more important to me. It still is. I saved money every month, so I had a lump sum to survive for a few months if I did not get a job right away. I also made sure that I had no outstanding debt at the time of my resignation. In a nut shell, I knew that I would be able to survive and still be independent.”
Lezel’s advice to anyone considering funemployment is:
“If you want to be funemployed for a certain period of time, make sure you plan accordingly and also have a backup plan. Also be sure that you have friends and family that will have your back should you get to a point where you need financial or emotional assistance. Most importantly, know what you wanna do after funemployment and be willing to work hard at making it happen. Oh and remember to keep asking yourself: ‘What's the worst thing that can happen?’ If the answer is not death, then you're okay.”
Steven has been funemployed three times so far in his career.
“It's tough. It's hard. And if you're not careful how you manage it, you will end up with no money and no drive to get a job or work on your own things. Focus is so important. Lose focus and you'll lose, full stop.”
Being funemployed so often in his career, Steven has learnt a few things:
“Some people are cut-out to work for a boss. Others are not. You could be working at a place for a long while, but the concept that you should be free to work on projects and ideas without being shackled by a 9-to-5, will always be there. That is almost always why I end up funemployed.”
His advice to first- time funemployers?
“To other people trying it out, make sure you have strong connections with people in your industry. Connections will make or break your funemployment. Have good connections with the right people could mean having no work or a good incoming flow of freelance work.”
Kenny has never had a full-time job. She studied 3 degrees in 6 years and went straight into full time freelance work. The worst part about it for her? The infrequency of paychecks, and the inconsistency of punctual payment."
So what does she think about funemployment amongst millennials? Could it be a growing trend?
"I don’t think it’s a trend necessarily, I just think millennials have a different approach to work in general. If I can get my allocated tasks done in half the time that I’ve been given, why shouldn’t I have control over the rest of my time? See, we recognise our ability to do more than one thing at a time and would rather explore those opportunities, than sell the majority of our time to one project."
But she warns that being funemployed is not always as fun as it sounds. "It’s not easy. Don’t be fooled by the appearance of freedom. Being funemployed takes a new kind of discipline. To be able to self regulate and treat every hour as earning potential is hard. I know that I can complete most of my work for the week within a single day and predominantly from my bed, at 3 'o clock in the morning.
"However by treating my freelance work like a full time job and scheduling my days as if I had to clock in, actually increases my productivity exponentially without compromising on my mental health, sanity and taste for life. Be very sure about your motives and discipline before considering it."
Her only regret? "Not saving better. I am much better at it now but the thrill of receiving large amounts of money in single sittings at a young age was really exciting. I wish I'd had the habit of saving, it would have made some of the dry spells I’ve experienced in the past easier to navigate."
So it looks like funemployment, while different for everyone, seems to be a good decision to make if you’re ready for it.
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