• Thu. Jan 20th, 2022

'I felt nothing inside': Why people are joining The Great Resignation

Dec 14, 2021

Careers can bleed you dry.

We give so many hours of the day to work, and so much of our personal lives are dictated by our jobs, too.

Given this, the job has to be right. Otherwise we face myriad negative feelings, from exhaustion to sadness. A bad job can suck the joy out of the day, leaving you staring at the clock and willing the eight hours to go more quickly.

Quitting can be liberating – and it’s become a movement in its own right.

Dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’, people are quitting in high numbers from unfulfilling jobs, in part prompted by the radical life changes of the pandemic.

A survey conducted by Microsoft of over 30,000 of their global employees revealed that 41% of workers considered quitting or changing professions this year.

It was also the year Burger King staff quit en-masss in America, writing ‘we quit’.

The rewards have been plentiful for those people who were shaken up by the pandemic, called to reassess their wants and needs.

Jon McGreevy, a 34-year-old in Nottingham, found this to be true when he finally handed in his notice.

‘My mental health was getting progressively worse,’ he recalls. ‘There was always some sort of arbitrary deadline looming over us, which created unnecessary anxiety and stress.

‘Most of these deadlines only existed because someone in senior management pulled a date out of thin air during a board meeting, and then piled pressure on the employees to deliver.

‘If we missed the deadline we’d be blamed for it, and if we hit the deadline there was no reward, just another deadline.

‘After thirteen years of never really enjoying my work, the pandemic gave me time to learn something new.’

He felt drawn to copywriting, and so found a diploma to complete at home as he prepared to retrain and start over.

‘I loved it, and passed the course in half the time it was supposed to take,’ Jon tells Metro.co.uk.

‘After this, I knew it’s what I wanted to do, and I also knew I didn’t want to work for someone else anymore, so I quit to become a freelance copywriter.’

Now, he ‘loves’ his work and waking up in the morning isn’t so fraught with dread over the day to come.

He says: ‘I’m in control of my own time, I get to be creative, and I’m learning every day.

‘I’m not going to pretend that freelancing doesn’t come with its own pressures, but I’m in control now.’

It’s made Jon rethink how he views work and other areas of his life that lack meaning.

‘In my previous career, I’d just accepted that it was never going to be fulfilling, which sounds utterly depressing now I’m looking back,’ he notes.

‘It matters a lot now though, and plays a big part in choosing which clients I work with.

I’m writing about things I’m interested in, for people and companies that I like, and it no longer feels like I’m just wasting my life making money for other people.’

Jon has no regrets about his leap of faith.

This doesn’t come as a surprise to Claire Brown, a career and life coach, who says: ‘When we spend over a third of our lives working, it’s so important that we give our time and energy to something that really matters to us.

‘Many of my clients come to me when they feel unfulfilled and dissatisfied in their professional lives and realise it’s time for a change.

‘In this past year, we have seen the continued impact of the pandemic upon people’s careers.

‘However, there is also an increased pressure to adjust to a constantly evolving and changing landscape – the goal posts continue to move as we learn to live alongside Covid and some companies adopt a hybrid working approach.

‘This constant change in expectations, coupled with an absence of effective support structures and change management practices, has led to an increase in work-related stress for many.’

Common reasons people are quitting their jobs right now

Some of the most common reasons Claire sees people changing careers are:

A change of perspective

‘The enforced pause of lockdown has made people rediscover what’s really important to them and has caused many to completely reassess the career path they’re on. While deeply challenging, these past 18 months have created the opportunity for people to reflect on what they really want for their lives, especially in relation to their work.’

A change of circumstances

‘For some, a change of circumstances in either their personal and/or professional lives creates the need for a career change. New parents might find that their previous work no longer fits alongside their new childcare responsibilities and shifting priorities. People might also be looking for something more future-proof as we continue to live alongside Covid.’

Conflict of values

‘Many clients come to me because they find themselves unable to express who they really are and what’s most important to them through their work. This can be due to a mismatch between their own values and the scope of their role or a conflict with the values of the organisation they serve. When you aren’t empowered to be fully yourself at work, this can have a significant effect on your overall health, wellbeing and workplace satisfaction.’

Organisational culture

‘When you consider that we spend more time with our colleagues than with our friends and family, the relational dynamics, culture and fit within the organisation can have a huge impact on our enjoyment of work.’

Workplace stress

‘The pandemic has substantially increased mental health awareness and the impact of workplace stress upon our overall wellbeing. With it, has come the realisation that something has to change before reaching total burnout and as a result, some of us are now more committed to carving out a healthier work life balance.’

Frustration is partly why Hayley, a 36-year-old in East Sussex, switched industries during the pandemic.

‘I had worked in the coaching industry for around three years overall,’ Hayley tells us. ‘I tried various positions from design to online business but it still was the same.

‘I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated. Finally, I just decided enough was enough, I didn’t want to be any part of it anymore, and so I resigned from my final client.

‘I didn’t have anything lined up but it was affecting my mental health. I think the pandemic as a whole was a huge wake-up call and the reality of our existence.

‘I wanted to be happy and work my passion, not something I dreaded and disagreed with.’

Now making money, while important, is secondary to loving what she’s doing.

‘It has to be a by-product of that, not the aim,’ she says. ‘I feel refreshed and so much more myself again.’

Passion and purpose is at the heart of her work now for Treemendous Change.

‘I am so concerned about climate change and passionate about our earth,’ Hayley says. ‘I want to leave the earth in a better way than I found it. If I can make any sort of change, then that means more to me than any amount of money.

‘To wake up and know I’m working my purpose is an incredible feeling. In my last business and job, I felt nothing inside. Now, I have a fire inside me.’

‘I used to hear about people finding their purpose and fuelled by passion and it made me sad. Now I have it, I’ve found by thing and I’m like, “Oh, this is what it should feel like”.’

How to find your ideal career if you know you’re in the wrong job but aren’t sure what’s next

‘With all big life decisions, it’s important to take your time and weigh up a range of factors before taking action. Here are some things you can do to take a pro-active approach to your career change journey,’ Claire says.

Carry out an audit

‘Reflect on what is and isn’t working for you in your current job right now. The more specific you can be about what’s missing, what’s causing frustrations or a sense of unfulfillment, the more enabled you are to take steps to address this. Consider whether you need a complete career change or change of a context and ask yourself whether the factors impacting your desire to leave your job are temporary (like one bad colleague) or unlikely to change.’

Get to know yourself really well

‘Get clear on what your values are, what’s really important to you and what success really means for you in your life. We can be easily swayed by others’ advice and comparisons with others’ success – if you stay true to yourself this will help you to pursue work opportunities that really align with who you are and what you find personally fulfilling and meaningful. Success for one person might mean a sux-figure salary, for another it might mean giving back to their local community and for another the chance to incorporate creativity into their working life.’

Carry out some ‘career-path projects’

‘Identify prospective career options and areas of interest that you’d like to explore further. Generate some mini career-path projects that you could carry out to ‘dip your toes into the water’ without any fear of commitment.’

Be open-minded

‘See your career as an unfolding journey – the era of linear career paths and the concept of climbing the ladder is a thing of the past. We now have much greater fluidity when thinking about potential job roles and a wealth of options to explore, so hold lightly to the need for a 10 year plan and embrace the learning that unfolds at every stage.’

Gather those around who can support you

‘Seek out a mentor, supervisor or coach with whom you can establish a trusting relationship who will champion you and help you to reach your full potential. If you are seriously considering a career change, you might want to seek support from a qualified professional – a Career Coach or Careers Advisor – to help you gain clarity about what will best meet your needs, how your skills could transfer, what employment trends to be aware of and what actions you need to take in order to strategically position yourself ready for your next career move.’

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