Arum Indriasari was on the move after college — up the career ladder.
After finishing her studies in Melbourne seven years ago, she returned home to Indonesia and landed a job as a distribution manager at a multinational company. She left three years later and started a new gig as a marketing manager at an IT company.
“I worked hard but also loved my job, because at that time it was all about money, prestige and power,” the 38-year-old said. “I traveled extensively, in Indonesia and overseas, almost every month. It just made me feel so proud whenever someone asked me about my job.”
But then exhaustion hit, and despite the prestige she began to feel empty inside. It didn’t help matters when her marriage fell apart. She began a bit of soul-searching.
“I questioned myself,” she recalled. “ ‘What exactly do I want to do in life?’ ‘Does this job make me happy?’ Those were the questions I kept asking myself.”
With all the pressure, Arum said she lost her sense of purpose.
“I felt imbalance in my life,” she said.
She turned to spiritual healing, yoga and meditation. She learned about tarot cards and balancing the chakras, or energy points on the body. She developed a lifelong passion for crystal healing.
“I found joy. That’s when I knew that what I’ve always wanted in life is to live in joy,” she said. “I wanted to do things with love and passion, and to inspire others.”
She dreamed of helping others through spiritual development and crystal healing, so she started working as a life practitioner, a chakra balancing therapist and a tarot counselor — even as she kept her day job.
Together with a friend who shared the same passion, she started crafting “inspirational and positive intention crystal charms,” calling their series Lovenheal.
Their charms were a hit, and Arum began considering “doing it more seriously by being fully committed.”
However, it wasn’t easy to leave her career and everything she had accomplished through years of hard work.
“I was really worried about money, security and prestige,” she said.
She wrestled with the decision for a year before making a move: she quit.
“The moment I stepped out of the office for the last time, I prayed and talked to God,” she said. “I said, ‘I trust you and I trust life. I trust that this is the best decision, so please give me a sign if I’ve done the right thing.’
“Less than 15 minutes later, I was flooded with phone calls and text messages for orders. I took it as a sign.”
Arum’s move made sense, according to Andrew Hairs from Monroe Consulting Group, who said the most common reason people resigned from a job was feeling unsatisfied or unfulfilled.
In Asia, he said, many parents push young university graduates toward careers unrelated to their interests.
“As their careers develop and the influence of their parents diminishes, they suddenly find themselves disillusioned and feel the need to follow their dreams,” said Hairs, who has more than 15 years of international recruitment experience.
But deciding to quit and follow a new dream can be daunting. Quitting means leaving a comfort zone and potential financial security.
“The hesitation comes with the weight of responsibility and the fear of the unknown,” Hairs said. “It takes a very brave person to resign from their job to follow their passion when they have a family to support and bills to be paid.”
Money is undoubtedly among the biggest concerns.
For the past year, Gayatri (not her real name) has been thinking about sending a resignation letter to her company, where she has worked for about a decade.
“The work atmosphere is no longer comfortable and I’ve always wanted to work for a humanitarian organization because I’ve always dreamed about helping others,” the 40-year-old telecommunication specialist said. “I think that will make me happy.
“But I don’t think I’m financially ready to leave my job and I have no experience in NGO work. The age factor is also on my mind. If I were much younger, I would have done it [resigned] long ago.”
Before quitting, it’s crucial to have a safety net, Hairs said. That means building up enough savings or ensuring that generous friends or family members can help support you financially during the transition period.
“We are in Indonesia, so unlike some other countries, you can’t rely on the government if you fall on hard times,” he said, adding that it’s natural to have concerns. “But it’s important not to let irrational fears get in the way of your dreams.
“I remember [former football manager] Sven Goran Eriksson saying, ‘The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure,’ which I think is wise advice.”
Al Falaq Arsendatama, 39, wasn’t afraid to take the risk. He lived a life that many Indonesians dream of, with a good job that paid well in Sydney. But after eight years, he chose to leave it behind in 2007 and return to Indonesia.
“I’ve always been fascinated with and wanted to learn more about interpersonal skills and psychology,” he said. “My job as an IT consultant made me interact with machines a lot more than I did with human beings. It was a great job and I was financially very secure, but it was not self-fulfilling.”
He became a corporate and life coach.
“I feel fulfilled because I allowed myself to have the opportunity to do what I’ve always wanted in life, and not what others wanted me to do,” he said. “I will never regret my decision to leave my life in Australia.”
As a life coach, he said, he meets clients grappling with the same decision of whether to make a career change, and he has a few tips.
“Allocate a little time to recognize yourself, the talent you have and relate them with your current situation,” he said. “Ask yourself if what you’re doing is really what you want, or if you can actually further develop yourself with the talent you have.”
After that, he said, there should be “movement.”
“Don’t only think about it. Do it if you really want it,” he said. “Sometimes, it takes other people to help us map out what we want to do.”
Finally, like Hairs, he recommended building up some savings.
“It’s important because there’s no way we can concentrate on doing something new if we’re worried about ourselves financially,” he said. “But this shouldn’t discourage you.”
Because in the end, there’s a certain relief that comes from making any decision, especially to follow a dream.
“The reward,” Hairs said, “comes from the happiness of achieving long-held ambitions.”