A second career

Category: [Corporate rat race]


4min read

Being trapped in a corporate job can be frustrating. It’s worse if you don’t like that job. But you have bills to pay, mouths to feed, financial milestones to reach - and this corporate job will provide a smooth passage.

Meanwhile, you may develop interests and hobbies and side hustles that are worth pursuing. These interests make your corporate job boring to the core.

Today, I am in this position where the well-paying corporate job is at odds with the interests I have developed - namely writing and conservation biology.

Through this blog and free-writing, I am still able to put in the hours of practice, so that I can improve my writing. But conservation biology - the study and conservation of earth’s biodiversity - is a little more difficult to sneak in the extra hours, beyond simply reading widely. Field work, and ecological surveying and observations are key in conservation biology, and these can’t be done sitting behind a desk.

A conservation biologist can specialize in many areas - from a species to a habitat to a genus to the complex interactions between humans and wildlife.1 To develop a circle of competence in conservation biology takes time - just the field work alone is time-consuming.

I see both writing and conservation biology as potential post-f-you-money second careers. Especially for conservation biology, where I would want to practise full-time, and likely go back to school to get formal training. But I cannot imagine leaving my current job in the short- or mid-term to do this. That would be irrational and foolish of me. While there are many stories of ordinary folks leaving the cushy corporate job to pursue their dreams of being an entrepreneur or the like - realize that survivorship bias prevents us from observing the casualties of such decisions.

Slogging away at a well-paying job is the ultimate form of delayed gratification in life. Combined with financial prudence, you are basically buying your time back from your financial obligations and corporate overlords.

The sooner you reach your f-you money, the sooner you can start your second career.

Once I hit my f-you money2, my plan is to leave the corporate world, and head to Norway for postgraduate studies. I intend to do this within the next 10-15 years. I am not sure how this plan, and the next decade will play out, but I am keen to give this a shot. I am also willing to forgo elements of modern life that society generally values, including a spouse and children.

If you are a curious person, and genuinely interested in helping or understanding, or simply observing the world, then I believe it’s easy for you to develop interests in areas orthogonal to your current job.3 Would these interests be strong enough for you, to make a plan for them? Would you be keen to have a second career? Maybe you need not attain f-you money to do so, especially if your second career can make a decent wage.

I am in no position to offer any advice, since it’s all talk no action from me so far. But I would encourage people to think out-of-the-box, beyond your current life and lifestyle, and see the possibilities - and identfy those that are financially viable. You need not become the Chief Data Scientist or Managing Director or CEO before you retire. There are other worthy pursuits and meaningful causes out there, waiting for us to apply ourselves.

  1. My background in university is in computational biology. I have long since developed an interest in the life sciences, but never pursued any form of it related to wildlife, ecology, biodiversity, and conservation. This is because of their lack of practical (financial) benefits in Singapore. But I do appreciate the inherent complexity of the life sciences - and conservation biology has no lack of complexity.
  2. This includes cash, a passive income stream from my portfolio, and a sizable or full equity share in my condo.
  3. Sometimes, I struggle to believe when people tell me their passion is in data science or banking or finance or marketing or HR.