Dreaming of independence?

independence day

Jefferson and Franklin, 1776.

Smith and

Goldblum, 1996.

Both good efforts that are celebrated today under the banner of "Independence".

Which is where this week's slightly tenuous link comes in...

One of the main themes that comes up time and again when I speak to people in the emergency services who are fed up, disillusioned or looking for a change is their personal independence. Many feel that the sacrifices they have made to their work are no longer balanced out by the rewards; and when life inevitably brings new priorities or new challenges, it can feel like the structures that were once comforting and empowering are now stifling and restrictive. This was certainly a big part of my decision to make the leap a few years ago - in fact I think the actual phrase used by my boss was "if you don't like it, f off and work in Tesco". I still haven't donned a Tesco uniform, but otherwise I followed his helpful and supportive leadership advice.

So, how can this independence be restored? Well, firstly through a realisation that it doesn't have to be the way it is. Sounds overly simple, and easy to say looking back as someone who has regained control of their working hours, social availability, when to eat/drink/use the bathroom, what to wear.... y'know, the big things.

The fact is, though, that no-one can really change it but you. There will never be a perfect time to start, never a perfectly presented golden opportunity with zero risk and huge reward. It just doesn't happen - and if there's one group of people realistic (cynical) enough to understand that it's those who have worked in the 999/911 family!

Applying this practically to the world of work brings both potential and challenge. Fewer and fewer people are working 9-5 (unintentional but actually relevant Dolly Parton reference), for a monthly pay packet and the eventual reward of a pension pot. Through all kinds of technological, social and demographic changes, plenty of jobs can be done in a much more flexible way.

All of which presents the opportunity to think laterally and figure out what works for you - then find something that fits, rather than shoehorning yourself into something you feel you "should" be doing or that has the right headline salary on the Reed website. So, here are some alternative routes you could go down:

A 9-5 that isn't a 9-5. Yes, you might still be working Monday to Friday and roughly 40 hours, but plenty of places will use remote working, compressed hours, basic common sense and so on to mean that you can still save on childcare sometimes, get that long bike ride in... whatever suits you.

Consultancy or contracting work. A halfway house to going completely solo. Within this there are various ways you can tackle exciting things like tax, which I don't have the time or brainpower to explain here. In a nutshell, do you have a specialist ability or skill which you might advise others on? If so, there will be a market for that, but it might not be enough to employ you full-time. So you could enter the world of short term contracts - risky yes, but on the flip side your rates should reflect that and you are in control of what you do, when and where you do it and for how long.

Set up your own business. If you really want to own all the highs and lows of your own fortune, this might be the way! Maybe you have spotted a gap in the market, maybe you know of an industry that needs a shake-up... there won't be anyone to restrict your decisions if you're the director, CEO and whatever other title you fancy giving yourself.

Of course in all these options there are fluctuating amounts of risk and reward, which you should always weigh up carefully and take relevant advice. Just ask yourself though, if you're dreaming of independence: what, or who, is it that's really stopping you from achieving it?

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