Is it crazy to leave a well-paid job behind to chase your passion?

Now and then, you will hear about some dreamer who quit a 9 to 5 job to go and embark on a big adventure, and while some will praise their courage and drive, many will shake their heads and look down on such individuals.

I was always a bit of a dreamer, myself. Whenever I would hear of someone who dared to turn their life upside-down in order to chase their dreams and passions, I cheered for that person with all my heart and hoped the road they have chosen would bring them happiness.

How it all started

About three years ago, or so, I was working as an Insurance Agent and an Office Manager for a well-known insurance agency in Croatia.

I had a very well-paid job for Croatian standards, a comfortable office, kind coworkers, and, let’s face it, my job was not very difficult. Selling car insurance is not hard, and reaching projected monthly targets was a breeze.

But I wasn’t happy.

A friend of mine, a guy I knew from high school, sent me a message on Facebook, telling me about a startup that was looking for a marketing intern.

He had worked with this startup before and knew every employee. He swore the people there were amazing, and said they are working on exciting projects. He thought I might be interested. I suppose he knew my passion wasn’t in insurance.

Since I had an interest in marketing, and the way my friend spoke of this startup was refreshing, to say the least, I decided to check their website and learn more about them.

The “startup” was UX Passion, a web design agency with a strong focus on user experience.

The more I researched UX Passion, the quicker I fell in love with their mission, company culture, and the way they went about their work.

But… I was afraid to apply for the position. I wasn’t a marketing graduate. The company seemed like a dream come true – very Google-esque when observed from the outside. They boasted team gatherings, cool projects they worked on, a pool table and an Xbox at the office, learning opportunities in forms of knowledge exchanges and so on, and so on.

Hundreds of people would, surely, try to land this internship. And anyone with a degree in marketing or prior experience in the field would be a better candidate than me, right?

Do you think they would take me in as an intern? I never studied marketing; I don’t stand a chance.“, I whined to my friend over a beer later that week.

I had invited him out to pick his brains about UX Passion.

Try it. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen? Just go for it, don’t give up before you even tried to get in!

He was right, of course. My worst fear was rejection, but even if I got rejected, I still had a perfectly good job I could stick to.

There was no reason not to try, other than that pesky fear of being told “Thanks, but no thanks.” And so, a few days later I applied for the position and competed with other interested parties for the job.

A couple of weeks later I had an offer on the table, and a decision to make.

Take a pay cut and a “step back” in my career thus far to become an intern, or stay at my comfy, well paid, 9 to 5 job.

Don’t do it. Are you crazy?“, was what my mom had said back then.

You should be looking to earn more money, not less!“, said one of my friends.

Aren’t internships for kids who are just out of school? Why would you take a pay cut and start over when you have a well-paid job already? And think about job security!“, my dad reasoned.

They are all right,” said my brain. “But they are also wrong,” argued my heart.

What’s the worst that can happen?

I went against all that advice, and what can be considered societal norms, and I quit my secure, well-paid job to go from an office manager to an intern.

And I ended up happier than I even hoped I would be.

There were ups and downs, sure. Big challenges, and even bigger changes, but I never once regretted my decision. Even when I was struggling, my decision was my own, and it brought me some hardships but much knowledge, new experiences, and new friendships, too.

Life of an intern isn’t easy, and it can be tougher for some than for others.

Sometimes, you will feel like the least intelligent person in the room. If you ever do feel this way, take a moment to consider this only means you have so much to learn – and learning is a good thing!

You might even feel like an impostor. Maybe you won’t pick up new things as quickly as you’d hope to. You can easily become overwhelmed, and if you are focused on monetary gains – being an intern can often feel like a trap.

But, if you’re lucky (and you do your research into the company before joining it!), you will end up surrounded by people who are willing to help you out when the going gets tough, and who want to see you succeed.

I learned so much during my stay at UX Passion. I got to chase my dreams, learn about things that interested me, and even discovered new things I am passionate about – things that I never knew I cared about until I had a chance to learn about them.

Professionally, I’ve grown immensely in the past two years. I went from a shy and anxious bundle of nerves to a Usability Specialist capable of holding a lecture about usability in front of an audience of about 70 people.

The anxiety and fear of public speaking didn’t go anywhere, but I learned how to tackle them head-on, fight through the horror of public speaking and do what I set out to do, and for that, I am incredibly proud of myself.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without support from my coworkers, and my CEO; Vibor Cipan. I owe him a great deal, and a big thank you.

Not only because he gave me a chance to join his team as an intern with zero relevant experience – but also because he allowed me to become a full-fledged member of the UX Passion team on nothing but hard work and ambition.

I say, go for it!

I set out to write this article because I hope my experience can help someone who finds themselves in a similar situation, wondering whether it is crazy to leave a secure job, take a pay cut and move to a lower rank – all to follow their heart and their passion.

It is never too late to change professions, switch lanes or follow your interests. Whether you’re 26, 46 or 96, if your interests and passions are drawing you toward new challenges, you tackle those dreams. Take up those challenges.

Chase the dream, make it your reality and enjoy every second of the journey!