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When Tracy Travaglio from Pittsburgh returned to the classroom in the fall of 2021 after more than a year of teaching online, it was clear that she was no longer just a teacher.
She was a symptom checker. A mask guard. A guard who disinfects the desks between classes. And those duties came on top of the mounting paperwork that had crept into her job as a high school English, writing, and journalism teacher over the years.
Panic attacks became a regular part of her day. “At that point, I felt like taking care of myself and my students was my most important responsibility,” says Travaglio, who has a three-year-old son. “Everything else became secondary.”
As Covid restrictions ease, millions of workers are realizing their old ways of making a living are no longer tenable.
Although millions of people have left their jobs at a record rate, they are not giving up work forever. You are finding new jobs. And in addition to the desire for more financial security, some people are rethinking their entire career path.
“Individuals evaluate what’s important and fulfilling to them, and that can mean a career change,” said Liz Cannata, vice president of human resources at online job platform CareerBuilder. “With more flexible remote positions and skills-based hiring in a tough candidate market, employers are also open to more candidates.”
This means there is an opportunity for workers to transfer their skills to a new industry or type of job when they might otherwise not draw attention to their resume.
Read more: Need a Career Change? How to make the big layoff work for you
Here are three reasons people quit their jobs and how you might consider your next career move.
1. Burnout and dissatisfaction
Salary isn’t the only reason employees leave their jobs.
A March poll by the Pew Research Center found that while low pay was the top reason people left jobs over the past year, it was closely followed by respondents who said they had no opportunity for advancement in their role. And 35% of people said that feeling disrespected at work was a top reason they left.
A University of Chicago study found that employees worked longer hours during the pandemic, but their productivity declined. For many people, working for the past two years has felt like walking on a treadmill that never turns off.
Dian Grier, a clinical therapist at online counseling platform Choosing Therapy, has noticed that her clients feel resentment towards their employers who want them to return to the office after two years away from home. Not only do you have to cover the cost of commuting to work and dressing for the store; They lose focus time for the commute and “the sense of balance they started to feel when they were working from home,” says Grier.
Travaglio had been teaching for 13 years when she decided to stop. “The longer I taught, the less it was about the kids and more about paperwork, more about test scores, more about statistics and less about what’s actually happening in your classroom.
She is exhausted, she says, but the decision to leave was the hardest decision of her life.
“Teaching is a profession that, once you get into it, makes it almost seem like you’ll do it your whole life, and there’s a lot of guilt associated with leaving,” she says.
Travaglio already worked part-time as a stylist for subscription service Stitch Fix, giving her a creative outlet for her love of fashion. Already considering selling their home to move to a more affordable area, she and her husband experimented with different budget scenarios to see how they would fare financially if Travaglio left her job.
Selling her house for a cheaper mortgage helped convince her that she could quit her job. Her son’s transition from full-time to part-time care also helped save her money, about $500 a month.
It’s been almost a full academic year since Travaglio stopped teaching, and she says her brain is just starting to “relax.”
2. Maintain Pandemic Flexibility
The pandemic has taught people that a lot of work gets done even when everyone has a slightly different schedule or is juggling different priorities at home.
A study highlighted by Harvard Business Review found that 59% of workers find flexibility more important than salary. It suggests workers are looking for autonomy to choose when and where to work, rather than a set hybrid schedule of in-person and remote work days.
Twenty-four percent of respondents to the Pew Research Center survey said childcare issues caused them to quit their jobs; 25% said their position didn’t have enough flexibility to choose working hours, while 20% said they just worked too much.
When employers are unwilling to extend flexible working hours to their employees, people are willing to take their skills elsewhere.
Cannata said work-from-home jobs on CareerBuilder see seven times more applicants than on-site jobs. “While some employees want to work in the office, some prefer a mix and others want to work remotely exclusively,” she says. “Employers need to be flexible as one size does not fit all. Flexibility and work-life balance will continue to be important to attract and retain employees.”
Grier says her clients are “looking for freedom” that maintains or expands on the flexibility they saw in the early days of the pandemic. “I sense that companies are not adapting fast enough, and those companies that embrace this new trend will be able to thrive with the best and brightest of these individuals,” she says.
Read more: How the big layoff can help you get a big raise
3. Pay a factor, but not the only motivation
While pay is a secondary reason workers consider a career change, it’s hard to ignore. The rapid rise in inflation over the past year has made many households realize how far their income really reaches – or not.
A March Forbes Advisor-YouGov poll found that a majority of workers who received raises said the raise was not enough to cover their rising costs due to inflation.
And half of those surveyed said they were considering quitting their job to get a raise elsewhere.
Read more: 57% of Americans say their pay increases aren’t keeping pace with inflation
But just because many people have quit their jobs and many are still available, it means there is a natural fit for everyone. It is usually easier for low-income earners to change jobs quickly as there are more entry-level or service-related jobs, such as in hospitality. As your skills become more specialized, it may take more work to match your experience with a realistic new path.
Cannata says networking in your desired new field is a crucial step when considering a career change. Online courses can also help you build skills and comfort in your future workspace.
But the current hiring climate can offer shortcuts to a new career. Some sectors are relaxing certification requirements to get employees into roles faster, and requirements like college degrees are being dropped from some types of work, according to Bloomberg.
Travaglio continues to work part-time for Stitch Fix, has taken on some freelance content creation work, and is increasing her presence on her personal, style-focused Instagram account. She hopes her experience in fashion, technology and social media will draw attention to her resume, along with a master’s degree in communications, which she completed while teaching.
She’s not sure at this point whether she wants to go back to full-time work or work part-time for a while longer. It’s a luxury, Travaglio says, to have the time and resources to think about her next move.
“It hasn’t escaped my notice that so many other people are almost stuck in their situation because of the pandemic,” she says. “And the pandemic has allowed me to get out of my situation.”