wellness

"I needed a circuit breaker in my life." 10 women on why they joined the 'Great Resignation'.

Talk of the 'Great Resignation' has been dominating headlines for months now, and it’s not hard to see why. 

The trend is currently sweeping across the country, after a staggering 1.3 million people walked away from their jobs last year, according to the ABS. 

664,300 Aussies were either in the process of changing jobs or looking for a new position in May alone in 2022, says CommSec’s Chief Equities Economist Craig James.

Of course, it's not just Australia that is seeing a mass exodus. The phenomenon has been playing out all over the world, spurred on by the pandemic.

"The pandemic has caused people to reassess how they want to live, work and play effectively. So we are seeing across the globe, people are reassessing what work they want to do and how they want to do that work," James tells Mamamia.

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Video via Mamamia.

For some, it’s the promise of a more fulfilling role, flexible work arrangements or a dream to start their own business that encourages them to hand in their resignation letter.  

"We know that a record number of small businesses have been created over the last few years," James says, pointing to the over 200,000 new businesses started in Australia from March 2020 to March 2022. 

"We have also seen this trend, [where people are] moving away from capital cities and moving out to rural and regional ares, where they are setting up the ability to work from home."

While the 'Great Resignation' trend has been continuing throughout the pandemic, James says February marked the first time where more people left their last job (176,300) than lost their last job (175,600). 

While James can't say how long the trend will continue, he says international travel will continue to affect job movements. 

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"We do know that there's much more freedom with international travel at the moment. But the question is whether they will continue to open up borders and reopen to more backpackers and skilled migrants [which will see] more competition coming through... It may lead more people to reassess their workplace yet again."

As the 'Great Resignation' continues in Australia, we spoke to 10 women who have quit their jobs recently, to find out why they took the plunge.

Here's what they said.

'I was burnt out from working on the frontline during the pandemic.' - Kiki.

Kiki has no regrets after quitting her frontline role working in the emergency department. 

"I was so burnt out from working over two years during the pandemic, I was constantly worried I would bring COVID-19 home to my family. The long days in PPE and the hordes of people waiting hours for medical treatment was enough. I resigned while on annual leave," she told Mamamia. 

Since leaving her job, she's found an "amazingly fulfilling role" working for a federal agency.

"My role is work from home so I am present with my family, and I'm there when my kids come home. The management within my department are the best I have ever had. I have zero regrets."

'I got to work one Sunday and had a breakdown. I just couldn't do it anymore.' - Renee.

When COVID-19 hit, mum-of-four Renee found herself working long hours with little appreciation. 

"I had been in the same night shift job for five years, [and] COVID-19 really tested me. I was running on three hours of sleep each night, even the nights I didn't work. Even though I was part time, I was working full-time hours and guilt tripped when I said I couldn't pick up extra shifts," she told Mamamia. 

"I got to work one Sunday and had a breakdown, I just couldn't do it anymore. It was sad because at the start I loved the job and needed the money but nothing was improving and my mental health and quality of life was so shit."

Since leaving her job, Renee's mental health is the "best it's been" and she now has the freedom and time to enjoy a social life. 

"I can actually plan something and know I can do it... Before I would get called into work and I wouldn't be able to. I went on my first holiday in five years and I am able to sleep again which is actually the biggest thing."

'I had itchy feet after living through many lockdowns in Melbourne.' - Ruby.

Ruby left her job a few weeks ago, without having another job lined up. 

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"I left for a multitude of reasons; my mental health had not been great and work was definitely having an impact on that. I also had itchy feet having lived through many lockdowns in Melbourne over the last two and a half years and I wanted to go have some freedom in my 20s while I didn’t have kids or a mortgage holding me back."

Since leaving her job she’s been able to visit her family interstate and will be heading overseas for a holiday. 

"When I’m back from my holiday, I’m going to ramp up my freelance business which I started about six weeks ago and see where that takes me… Even just making the decision to quit my job made me so much happier and I’m glad I made that choice and I can’t wait to see what’s next for me."

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'The borders reopening funnily gave me the push I needed to start fresh.' - Kate.

Kate worked as an international PR and media manager for a government tourism body throughout the peak of COVID-19. 

"It was a fantastic six months on the job until we had a global pandemic and travel was suddenly off the cards. I held on for a really long time, I was thankful that I had a job and felt strongly about trying to do whatever I could to support our tourism industry through every closure, lockdown and lockout."

"But after two years of planning, cancelling, planning again, and then waiting, the borders reopening funnily enough gave me the push I needed to start fresh... The pandemic had reinforced that things can be taken from us [and] that life can change... so the decision to close the chapter was actually a form of taking back control."

She's now started her own PR consultancy, and while she says there's more work involved, she loves the flexibility that comes with working for herself. 

"At the time when you quit, you think 'I'll have heaps more time' - but naturally when you're running your own business you actually tend to work harder. I think I am definitely working more, but I've been able to take on projects that I am passionate about in different cities [and] sporadically work from my home state to be with my family."

'I'm not missing the continual stress that comes with teaching.' - Jess.

Jess left her teaching job at the end of last year, after 13 years working in a classroom. 

"I left for many reasons, the stress, the continual demand from administration, kids and parents. But my main reason for leaving is because my autistic son was not supported by the school and the education department that I worked for. I have become so disillusioned with the system and their support for children with special needs that I can no longer work for such an organisation."

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Since leaving, she says she's struggled to find her place and purpose in the world. 

"I’ve struggled with not working (as I am now supporting my son at home), not financially contributing to my family (despite there being no pressure for me to do so) and deciding what comes next for me. But I’m also not missing the heartache and continual stress that comes with the job of teaching."

'I was exhausted and lost my sparkle for life.' - Sarah.

Sarah was exhausted and run-down after she left nursing and moved up into a management role. 

"There was no support, no staff, we were still doing extremely large volumes of patients and had no support from management," she explained. 

"I had started drinking a lot every day of the week. I was exhausted and lost my sparkle for life and was not my best self. The only way out I could see was leaving the job completely and moving states closer to family and going back to being a clinical nurse."

Despite the drop in pay, she says the move has been worth it.

"I have so much time. I feel like I am returning to my old self and have more space in my brain to think of what I want in life and so much time to do things I love."

'I was in a state of cyclical burnout. My family got whatever energy I had left at the end of the day.' - Julie.

Julie recently resigned from her role working as a communications manager at a children's not-for-profit to start her own business.

"I was hugely passionate about the cause, loved the people I worked with and the role was challenging in all the right ways, but mostly due to my own perfectionism, I couldn't slow down and was in a state of cyclical burnout... I needed a circuit breaker in my life."

"My family got whatever energy I had left at the end of the day. I was constantly fielding phone calls while caring for two boys under six and then there was simply nothing left in the tank for me."

Since, leaving she's started her own communications consulting business after listening to Mamamia's Lady Startup podcast. 

"I realised I had the skills to start a service based business, I just had to be brave. My husband was incredibly supportive and my business, Anchor & Co Communications, is now going great. We even decided not long after I started the business, to sell our house and move up the coast for a better lifestyle. That was huge and stressful and scary but our new life is incredible."

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'I already feel lighter having grieved the job I once I loved.' - Courtney 

Courtney is currently in the last two weeks of her job working as a travel agent. 

After eight years on the job, she says the industry "is just not the same" as it once was. 

"I left because of burnout and stress… I already feel lighter having grieved the job I once loved and knowing there won’t be the stress at the end of it."

'I didn't have anything in me to give to anyone else.' - Kylie.

Kylie quit her job in February due to "stress, grief and burnout."

"I used to work with vulnerable people over 65 living at home who receive care support funded by government home care packages. A lot of them were really vulnerable and had needs the funding couldn't meet which was - as an empath - really emotionally draining. Seeing no additional support or funding in sight, and having no support staff to employ just speaks of a bleak future of that industry.

"I had also just cared for and lost my best friend of 30 years who passed away after a short but aggressive cancer. I didn't have anything in me to give to anyone else."

She’s now started a new job where she's able to work from home and support people under 65 years old living in aged care facilities. 

"I work less days but I am being paid more... and still doing meaningful work."

'I was on maternity leave and the thought of going back to my job didn't excite me.' - Nafisa. 

Nafisa resigned from her previous role after experiencing a change of heart while on maternity leave. 

"I just had a baby and the idea of going back to a role that I was very comfortable and well-versed in didn't excite me (crazy right? As if I needed more chaos postpartum). I'd spent some of my mat leave feeding bub and scrolling on Linkedin, fantasising about different opportunities to learn and grow in my career.

She eventually came across a role that better aligned with her values and went in for an interview. 

"I interviewed for the role really wanting it but having the comfort of knowing I didn't have anything to lose and got it. As a result, I quit my job.. and made the move interstate with a four-month-old and a very flexible, supportive husband. It's all been very exciting and I have no regrets."

If you find yourself needing to talk to someone after reading this story, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Feature Image: Getty.

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