Life

QUITS DIARIES: Meet 38 people who joined the Great Resignation in search of a more balanced life

Business Insider US
Savanna Durr/Insider
  • These 38 individuals left their jobs in 2021 joining the Great Resignation movement where americans have been leaving their jobs at an alarming rate.
  • Some lacked a sense of purpose in their roles and others lacked childcare. 
  • Labour experts and workers say that low pay and poor working conditions don't cut it anymore.
  • Almost 50 million Americans quit their jobs in 2021 alone. 
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

It's quitting time in America.

For nearly a year, Americans have been quitting their jobs at record-breaking rates in a phenomenon that the organisational psychologist Anthony Klotz has dubbed the Great Resignation. Over that time, Insider has spoken with dozens of Americans who left their jobs in search of a better deal, citing everything from low pay to high stress to a lack of childcare.

The resigning hasn't slowed, even with huge upticks in jobs and hiring. It stayed strong as enhanced unemployment insurance ended in September and as the Omicron variant started to spread across the US.

Some have theorised that it's more of a Great Reshuffle where workers are switching into higher-paying roles — or had been waiting out the dreary pandemic economic conditions before quitting. There's also been a rise in worker power, coupled with workers leaving low-wage industries at a record-breaking pace.

Employers have been scrambling to hire and bemoaning labor shortages, while workers and experts say the answer is clear: Low pay and poor conditions won't cut it anymore. That's resulted in wages soaring over the past year — but those gains came after five decades of declining wages. Some economists and advocates say that raises may not stick around without an increase in the federal minimum wage and that that uncertainty is keeping people out of the workforce.

For some workers, the issues of mortality and meaning that a life-altering event like a pandemic brings up prompted them to leave behind work they're not passionate about or to follow a path they've always dreamed of. Still others are dealing with young children who can't be vaccinated yet, quitting jobs to remain in a pandemic limbo. Some uprooted themselves during the pandemic to be closer to loved ones; others burned out.

And some people just heard about everyone else quitting and decided to do it themselves. A recent study suggested that a lot of low-wage jobs would be unsustainable if workers knew how much money they could make elsewhere.

One inference is that if workers learned what they could make somewhere else, they might ask for more money or quit. Perhaps they've learned that information through, say, wall-to-wall news coverage of workers quitting.

Indeed, over the past nine months Insider has spoken with some of the millions of people who make up the Great Resignation. Here are their stories.

Meet a former probation officer who quit after 12 years because the 'mental exhaustion and stress' became too much: 'I needed to achieve some kind of level of happiness for myself'

Juan Antonio Sorto, 36, now works in community development.

For 12 years Juan Antonio Sorto was a stressed-out probation officer working to take care of his younger sister, mother, and grandmother. Now that his sister is financially independent, he's become one of the millions to join the Great Resignation.

"I couldn't enjoy my accomplishments because of the stress I was under," Sorto said. "I don't consider the past 12 years as a complete waste of time, but I told myself I would never be able to stay in that position without having to reevaluate my happiness every five years."

Read the full story here.

A Gen Zer who quit 2 jobs during the pandemic says it's time to seize the day: 'There are so many openings in my area and I know what I'm worth'

Brandon Holland, 24, could be the poster child for the Great Resignation. He's quit two jobs during the pandemic: one at Starbucks and the other in retail. He left his first role out of pandemic stress. After leaving the second, he realised that "there's something new" wherever he goes, he said.

"I don't want to work every Saturday or Sunday morning," Holland said. "Why can't I find something that's going to pay the bills and be a Monday-through-Friday job and treat me well?"

Read the full story here.

Meet a mom and teacher who hasn't been able to work because childcare is so unpredictable: 'I was way behind on work and completely stressed, not sleeping'

Laura Danger.

Laura Danger, 33, loved her job as a special educator and community advocate. But because of the stress of managing childcare, she's shifted into a new role: stay-at-home parent.

Three or four weeks into the most recent school year, "we had already had so much illness or exposure that I was way behind on work and completely stressed, not sleeping," Danger said. "I had lost 11 pounds (5 kilograms) in four weeks."

Read the full story here.

An accountant got $20,000 in student debt wiped out. 5 months later, he quit his job and ran for office.

David O'Keefe, 36, has had a burden lifted. His $20,000 (R300,000) worth of student loans were wiped out under the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness programme. He had been making payments for 10 years.

He left his job as an accountant and decided to run for county commissioner in Tallahassee, Florida — something he said wouldn't have been a possibility without his loan forgiveness.

"I think for a lot of people in my generation, feeling useful and having a sense of purpose is very important," O'Keefe said. "But it's very difficult to do with the realities of our financial situation."

Read the full story here.

Why I quit PR agencies: 5 public-relations pros explain why they left and share tips for former colleagues

Shanee Cohen

Many public-relations professionals have left to strike out on their own as freelancers, even as firms offer more perks. Five PR professionals told Insider it's important to be selective about the next job you take and to set firm boundaries and schedules for freelance work.

"You don't have to hate your job to suffer burnout," Elizabeth Rosenberg, who quit working for an agency in March 2020, said. "It had nothing to do with the industry. It had to do with my expectations for myself and how I felt like I needed to always prepare."

Read the full story here.

Meet a 40-year-old millennial who joined the Great Resignation because her employer wouldn't let her work remotely: 'I chose to be happy'

Like many others, Leila had worked remotely at one point during the pandemic. She said she loved "every bit of it."

By the time staff members were asked to return to the office in January 2021, Leila, 40, was working evening or weekend shifts. The new hours were part of a vicious cycle that's both in reaction to and driving the Great Resignation: companies working employees more to compensate for turnover.

Leila said she was "ready to get out, even if it meant leaving a job that I loved," to "heal from the bullying, toxicity, and undo stress it was causing to my marriage and family life."

"I chose to be happy," she added.

Read the full story here.

Meet a former teacher of 11 years who became a plumbing apprentice during the pandemic: 'I think the trades are an undervalued career path'

Carly Carey.

Carly Carey, 34, was a schoolteacher for 11 years. Now she's a second-year plumbing apprentice at Erik Nelson Plumbing in Minnesota.

"I think the pandemic kind of pushed me over the edge of, 'OK, I don't think I want to go back to the classroom right now just because of the online part of it,'" she said.

The answer to her career conundrum came while she was watching the home-improvement show "This Old House." Her boyfriend suggested maybe she'd want to give a trade job a try.

Now she runs an Instagram account, @theplumbher, that shows her life as an apprentice.

Read the full story here.

A 36-year-old millennial explains 4 reasons she has no regrets about joining the Great Resignation: 'I made a choice for me'

As a millennial, Sana appreciates the "seller's market" for workers. For most of her professional life she was vying for a role in a buyer's market, where employers would have their pick of qualified candidates for limited roles. 

"In 2008 we started taking jobs that we were way overqualified for and learned how to be humble," she said of her generation. "Now we finally feel the value we so desperately craved over a decade ago."

Read the full story here.

Why I quit the agency world: 7 advertising pros share why they left and what advice they'd give former colleagues

Zachary Walker, an agency vet who now works at Cresco Labs.

Insider spoke with seven advertising-agency professionals who decided to quit to pursue things like freelancing or starting their own companies. They said it's important to know when it's the right time to go, especially as many people contend with burnout.

"The first thing you have to think about is why exactly you want to leave your current role," said Zachary Walker, who opted to move from the agency side to the brand side. "The company culture? The people you work with? The work-life balance?"

Read the full story here.

I quit my job when my company required us to come back to the office. Here's why.

For one public-relations employee, the news that their job would be moving to a hybrid schedule, with two days in the office and three at home, was the final straw.

As someone with endometriosis, they can experience extreme pain. Working at home gave them everything they needed to recover from a pain flare. Plus, they said they were getting more done at home: When they went into the office one day, they got about 20% of their usual work done.

"The whole situation made me get the message loud and clear: We weren't valued as employees," they said. "We were just numbers to our bosses, workhorses cranking out new business and awards. That was the priority."

Read the full story here.

A McDonald's worker quit her job and says she now earns up to $10,000 (R150,000) a month making TikToks for Walmart, Heinz, and Kroger

Maddison Peel

Madison Peel, a 22-year-old in Kentucky, had been working at McDonald's since she was 15. Last year she was making $12 (R180) an hour.

A week after posting a viral video of a roasted chicken set to Cardi B's "Up" that blew up, Peel quit her job. She said that now she's working with big brands like Walmart and Heinz — and bringing in $5,000 (R75,200) to $10,000 (R150,000) a month from posting her recipes in TikToks.

"I'm able to get my own house and I can pay for stuff on my own and not have to worry anymore," she said.

Read the full story here.

A Chipotle general manager and 4 of his employees quit after a surge of to-go orders drove them to their breaking points

Chipotle employees in Austin, Texas, said they were up against short staffing and an influx of orders. On November 14, five workers quit — including a general manager.

Peter Guerra had worked at Chipotle for five years and had been a general manager for six months. He said his store in Austin was "severely understaffed," as he was scheduled to work 80 hours a week and often worked even more to help cover staffing gaps.

"I thought, 'This is literally going to kill me if I keep it up,'" Guerra said.

Read the full story here.

How a social worker quit her job to run a 6-figure doggie daycare and spa with 1,400 clients

Courtney McWilliams

In 2018, Courtney McWilliams was a social worker who also drove for Uber and Lyft. On top of that, she began to provide doggy daycare from her home.

She opened MaryMac's Doggie Retreat in 2019 but kept doing social work at reduced hours. On the day that Kamala Harris was sworn in, McWilliams quit her job — she was inspired by the country's first female and Black vice president.

In 2021, her dog retreat brought in over $105,000 (R1.6 million).

Read the full story here.

Why I quit Big Law: 4 lawyers reveal why they left top firms, and their message to former colleagues

Big law firms were already known for long hours. Employees were inundated with even more work last year, while firms tried to lure new workers with big bonuses.

But for many associates, that isn't enough. Insider spoke with four former (or about to be former) associates about why they chose to leave.

"It came to the point where I was comfortable making less money and having more free time," a former associate said. "For me, it was about control over my own time."

Read the full story here.

An ICU nurse went viral for quitting after 19 grueling months of the pandemic. Now he says he's more relaxed and is encouraging other healthcare workers to do the same.

Andrew Hudson

Andrew Hudson quit nursing in December. At the start of the pandemic, he said, he would bag up patients who had died and bring them to the morgue or to freezer trucks. He would tape their eyelids, nostrils, and mouths to reduce morticians' exposure to the virus.

"I'm encouraging healthcare workers, not just nurses, if you can leave your job, I think you should," he said. "I think that they should see that they need us more than we need them. And the system is already collapsed, but now they're going to have to deal with the ramifications of that collapse."

Read the full story here.

I moved across the country for my dream job, then I realised it wasn't worth it. Here's what it taught me.

One travel-industry worker got what they called their "dream job" in 2019, and it required a move from Portland to Tennessee. Things quickly went downhill from there.

"I was scared of becoming a millennial stereotype — unemployed and living at home — but my dad pointed out that I had the freedom to look for a new job with very few living expenses," they told Insider.

Read the full story here.

I landed a remote job with a $20,000 (R300,000) pay raise after growing disillusioned with teaching — here's how I made the switch

Mollie Breese.

A year ago, Mollie Breese, 29, was a high-school teacher in Florida. Now she's a remote worker in Alaska, making her highest salary yet.

She wrote that she went into teaching "starry-eyed and eager" but became disillusioned when confronted with the reality of long hours, low pay, and bureaucracy. In May she gave her notice that she wouldn't be returning.

"Remote working means I get to focus on what helps me — whether that means spending an extra few minutes enjoying my coffee in the morning or having the freedom to attend a webinar in the middle of the day," Breese wrote. "I've found that these little acts of independence and autonomy have greatly improved my happiness and sense of fulfillment."

Read the full story here.

My coworkers refused to get vaccinated. So, I quit.

A veterinarian said they quit their job because they couldn't risk exposure to coworkers who refused to get vaccinated.

"If I wouldn't send a dog to a kennel where vaccinations were optional, why would I stay at my work?" they wrote. "I have small children who cannot yet be vaccinated and older parents who help tend to them. Close and consistent exposure to unvaccinated staff puts my family at increased risk."

Read the full story here.

I'm a former preschool teacher who now makes a living as a BBW model on OnlyFans. I make more money and spend less time working.

Danielle Zavala

Danielle Zavala worked as a nanny for two years and then as a pre-K teacher for five. In May she quit over Covid-19 concerns and made an unexpected career switch: She became an OnlyFans model. Now she works about 20 hours a week — but earns more than she did as a teacher.

"The work isn't exploitative, especially when compared with these low-wage positions where they overwork and mistreat employees," she said.

Read the full story here.

I was scared to quit a job I hated because it felt safe. Leaving taught me that my happiness was worth more.

Despite constant exposure to people during the pandemic, one grocery-store worker thought it was safer to keep their job — and insurance — than to be without.

"Like so many other people who have reevaluated their work lives in the Great Resignation, I had to leave a job I cared about because I wasn't valued," they told Insider. "I was an essential worker. But then, the conversation shifted, and people started being selfish again."

Read the full story here.

4 Big Auto veterans tell us why they quit Ford, GM, and Mercedes for EV and self-driving startups — and share advice for those who want to make the jump

Xos Trucks

The Great Resignation isn't just about quitting — many workers seem to be shuffling and switching jobs. Some in the auto industry are looking toward startups and the world of electric vehicles.

Insider spoke with four engineers who left to do just that and asked for their best advice on making the switch. They said potential job switchers should be ready to think about how to make something new and different work and be prepared to wear a variety of hats.

Read the full story here.

A public-relations pro quit to start her own firm and surpassed her agency salary in 4 months. Here's how she did it.

Ashley Mann, the founder and owner of Pinegrove Public Relations.

Ashley Mann worked in public relations for 15 years. During the pandemic, she hit a breaking point as she sat at her kitchen table; she and her husband were on conference calls as their children cried.

"At that moment, I thought, 'Nope. Not doing it anymore.' I had felt like a failure both in work and as a mom for months leading up to that point," she said. "I spent a lot of time the first few years of my kids' lives trying to juggle a career while traveling, adhering to a demanding schedule, and living with a low level of guilt the entire time."

Read the full story here.


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