In June 2021, 3.9 Americans quit their jobs. In July, another 3.9 million workers and in August, 4.3 million. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 14 million Americans were neither working nor looking for jobs. This is to say that around 10.4 million jobs in the US remain unfilled. This widespread trend of a significant number of workers leaving their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic is called The Great Resignation or sometimes The Big Quit.
Candice-Lee Cohen, 35, an American citizen who grew up in South Africa, told me that she quit her yacht job, working for billionaires, to live in Paris, France. For many years, she’s been trying to find a way to work in Europe. Before her yacht employment, she has been a successful property manager for 15 years in Johannesburg. In 2016, she was sitting at her desk in the central district, looking out the window and asked herself: ‘is this it?’ At the time, she was obsessed with Peru, spirituality, and the Amazon rainforest. ‘You’re not going to get there by being here,’ Cohen told herself and that was the decisive moment where she decided to quit her job and lifestyle of a top broker in the country.
‘You’re not going to get there by being here’
Cohen, like many young people in her generation, is striving for something more than just a job title and a paycheck. In her book entitled ‘The Book on Authentic Leadership’, Connie-Lee Bennett explains that as time goes on, more and more people feel they are not fulfilling their potential. She explains that people want to fulfill their life mission and make an impact but don’t know how. ‘This is what your journey here on Earth is all about: uncovering who you truly are, fully expressing this and as you grow to connect more with who you authentically are, contribute this to others,’ Bennett writes. In search of meaning and purpose, generation Z seems to be smashing the old dream being sold to them. Going to university, getting a job and getting into debt to buy a house is not the goal anymore. Like Cohen, many recall that ‘something was missing in their lives’.
Going to university, getting a job and getting into debt to buy a house is not the goal anymore.
Vanessa Yee-Joy, an Australian who grew up in Fiji, is not new at quitting jobs and going for the unknown. At 34, she has done it already a few times. Asked if it takes courage to quit a stable job and income, she replies: ‘What’s the worst that can happen? Go back to Australia?’. Her dream has always been to live in Europe for the lifestyle and Paris is her current home after living in the Netherlands. ‘I think it’s a Millennials thing,’ Yee-Joy told me, ‘We have more opportunities than our parents and we question ourselves.’ Is this how you want to live your life? Seems to be a question a lot of Millennials ask themselves as they have more academic degrees and opportunities than the previous generation. Generation Y seems to be more okay with handling uncertainty and financial insecurity. The thrive for more meaning and fulfillment appear to be their top priority.
In a LinkedIn post, Arianna Huffington, the American philanthropist, wrote: ‘What’s being affirmed is the growing desire to rethink what gives us meaning in our lives and what makes us truly thrive. It’s less of a Great Resignation and more of a Great Reevaluation. And it’s giving us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine how we work and live.’
Claudia Amendola Alzraa, 33 years old, Canadian currently living in Paris, says: ‘One day, I woke up and simply knew that if I didn’t do it now, I would never do it. So, I sent in my unpaid leave of absence, and then a year later sent in my finalized resignation.’ Alzraa quit her 100k annual salary in Canada and came to France to start a life from scratch. She now works for herself as a content manager, professional editor, and freelance writer, along with her spiritual mediumship reading. While she’s based in Paris, Alzraa’s clients are mainly in the UK and US. With setting one’s own sole entrepreneurship business comes money challenges to which Alzraa’s doesn’t seem too concerned with: ‘I am way happier now with my “uncertain income” and renting my apartment than I was living my comfortable salaried life and owning my own home in Canada,’ she tells me, ‘I have a pretty simple lifestyle – I love books, I love collecting nerdy things, and I love to travel. I am not someone who wears brand-name clothing or eats at five-star restaurants. It’s a pretty easy lifestyle to maintain.’
I am not someone who wears brand-name clothing or eats at five-star restaurants. It’s a pretty easy lifestyle to maintain.’
The Pandemic was an opportunity for many to realize that what mattered in their lives was not the Gucci bag and the Ferrari car. Paula A, 36, a Portuguese living in Paris, quit a job at her own company. The Pandemic made her realize that she needed to wind down her distressful tech business. Like many, Paula didn’t have any clear plan after closing down the company. After months of reflection and rest, she now has an opportunity in the Netherlands and is thinking to move there with her French husband who can work remotely full-time. Her motto is: ‘Do something that makes you happy.’ Being one’s own boss is not necessarily the ultimate happiness guarantee for these Millennials. The goal may not be to be financially independent or an entrepreneur. The goal is to be happy, for many.
But is The Great Resignation a Millennial-only thing?
I have recently met an American couple coming from a town of 2000 people near El Paso in the USA who quit their surgeon and university lecturer jobs to come to live in the Paris suburbs with their two children. They moved in 3 months ago for the new school year and are still looking for jobs and opportunities for themselves while their children are schooled at an international school. At that point, I had thought that the Great Resignation was only for the 20 and 30 something single people. The couple I have met must have been in their 50s and their main motive is to be able to live in an international environment such as Paris where access to culture, gastronomy and Europe is not a luxury. ‘And it’s easier for our friends to fly from NY to Paris than to fly from NY-El Paso then drive for 3 hours to come to our town.’
Whether that’s international travel, freedom from a 9-5 job, desire to be one’s boss or the mere ability to live new experiences and lifestyles, these young careerists’ primary concern is to live a fulfilling life, a life many personal developments gurus promote as being possible and attainable. Today, young people dare to dream and often disappoint family and friends by quitting financial security and by going overseas. They are aware that they have only one life and they surely want to make the most out of it. The dream has shifted from material possessions to inner happiness and bliss. The corporate stress and burnout for well-paid salaries are not for those who are looking inward, listening to their inner desires and being in, what yogis call, alignment. In alignment with who they truly are or like Bennett says: ‘Your value is your authenticity’. Being one of the most privileged youth in the world, these Millennials have one valuable thing their parents never had or dreamed of: choice. The choice to be whomever, work from wherever and do whatever they want. The rat race could be just a perceived thing. The strenuous and wearisome can be ended if the worker takes the time to stop and reflect, which was a unique opportunity for millions during the Pandemic.
While the health crisis helped many realize that there is more to life than just a paycheck, many, in heavy debt or frightened to make the leap, are flirting with the idea of quitting their current jobs but do not know how to make their dream come true. ‘If you have a dream, don’t let it sit stagnant. Make your dream happen. Do anything in your power to achieve it. It will cost money, it will be a risk, it will be terrifying, but Lord, it’s worth it all. If you have a dream, go after it with all you’ve got and make it your reality. Nothing in the world feels quite like it does when your dreams finally come to fruition. Fear is an inhibitor invented by your ego — kill it,’ Alzraa says.
This article has been written by Safaa Nhairy: www.safaanhairy.com