By now, we’ve all heard of “the great resignation.” Essentially, it’s a sort of great reshuffle phenomenon of the last 2+ years, and for many, for one big reason: employees’ lives were all affected due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has led many to rethink and reevaluate what they truly want out of life, and instead of letting work dictate life, letting life dictate work. In fact, according to USA Today, twenty percent of workers surveyed quit jobs to pursue new career paths and their passions.
Additionally, with the continued effects of staggering 40-year record inflation, the resignation rate is high as job openings are plentiful and labor markets remain strong. People everywhere are looking to get ahead and reinvent themselves in every way possible.
I had the pleasure of speaking with five exceptional individuals and got their stories on why they left their jobs or switched jobs and where they’re at in their lives as a result. So let’s jump right in and meet these incredible people:
Meet Ben Foster: a 27-year-old from Woodland, Texas. After four years at the same company, he quit his IT Business Management role at ExxonMobil in February 2022! It was a technical role where he gathered and modeled financial and operational data to create a total cost of ownership for IT applications, products, and services for the company at large.
Starting March 1st, 2022, he started a new role as an IT Business Manager at Red Hat, the world’s leading provider of enterprise open source software solutions. He helps the business’ IT organization manage and understand their costs to make better business decisions.
You might be wondering: why did he quit a role at a globally recognized and prestigious organization such as ExxonMobil? His answer was simple:
“I wanted more freedom, responsibility, better benefits, and to be able to work in a culture where you are valued as a person.”
Ben initially joined ExxonMobil 4 years ago, right out of college, after graduating with a
Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Business Information Systems from Mississippi State University. But he hasn’t regretted changing roles one bit; he got over a 38% salary increase and much better benefits: 12 weeks of parental leave, four weeks of PTO annually, excellent health, vision, and dental insurance, and remote working is his new reality! “My mental health is in such a better place right now, and having the ability to work from home and to be able to see my kids grow up each and every day is a benefit that has no price tag,” said Ben.
The COVID-19 pandemic was partly why Ben decided to make this critical transition. In his view, the pandemic opened the “floodgates” and “made people see that better opportunities are out there.” After seeing endless posts on LinkedIn about his connections getting new, higher-paying jobs, he decided he wanted to be part of the movement to ultimately make a better life for his family.
Ben’s story is inspirational, and there’s a lot to learn from his experience. Next, let’s meet Tiffany Riffer, a lawyer turned soap maker!
Meet Tiffany Riffer: a 37-year-old lawyer from Washington, D.C., who decided to completely change her career and create two businesses: a homemade soap business called Tiffany Riffer Soap and a financial YouTube channel called Tiffany Trades Options!
After ten years as a lawyer, specifically dealing with complex civil litigation with an emphasis on product liability defense, she decided to quit her career on December 31st, 2021!
“Being a lawyer did not bring me everyday joy in the same way my current jobs do. I was tired of feeling chained to billable hours and working on projects that – while important to the clients – did not feel wholly satisfying or fulfilling to me as a person.”
The answer is somewhat nuanced when asked if she is financially better off today than before she quit. As an attorney, she was in a job that paid her extraordinarily well, so she was able to save up tons of money through pre and post-tax accounts (pretty clever!). She also made a serious effort to live below her means in case the choice to leave big law was not her own.
With that in mind, she’s not saving nearly as much money as before quitting her lawyer career, but she’s still making enough money in both of her new ventures to pay her bills and enjoy the same standard of living to which she became accustomed to.
Similar to Ben, Tiffany has absolutely no regrets about her decision. She wanted to be in charge of every one of her days and on her terms with no billable hours. She loves that she now gets to devote much more time to mental and physical health because she’s not obliged to a schedule that she formerly had no control over.
Now, she focuses her time and talent on running two small businesses of her own: creating homemade soaps as Tiffany Riffer Soap, and trading stock options while running a YouTube Channel on the same topic, Tiffany Trades Options. She loves them both so much that neither feels like work!
The pandemic wasn’t the direct reason for making the change, but it played a part. She attributes it to providing her the time and opportunity to evaluate her life and the goals and dreams she wanted for herself. She easily could have continued in her law career, but she believes that “life’s too short to waste time on things you don’t love.”
Another remarkable story! Now, let’s meet Todd Neault: a man who decided to take what he learned as an employee and jump ship to start his own business.
Meet Todd Neault: a 44-year-old from Toronto, Canada who’s a former Director in the cannabis industry and now a small business owner.
He quit his role at HEXO Corp, one of Canada’s largest cannabis companies, in September 2021. After three years there, he was faced with a choice: take the Director role they were offering him or quit and start his own cannabis business. He had a non-compete agreement that prevented him from starting his own business while still employed by HEXO Corp so he asked himself:
“Do I take the Director role and let my dream die, or do I take the chance to pursue my own business and forgo a big raise and a prominent title at one of Canada’s largest cannabis companies?”
Guess what? He chose the latter! And now, he’s running his own cannabis business: Rosin Heads.
Although he is not yet financially better off than before he quit, he is on the cusp of launching his cannabis products to market. Once they launch, he is sure he’ll be in a much better financial position! While the pandemic was not necessarily part of his decision to quit, he’s still glad he made the change.
He doesn’t have any regrets since he’s now pursuing and fulfilling his dream of launching his own cannabis business. To keep food on the table, he does some consulting work while simultaneously working on getting his products to market.
Now, let’s meet Christina Russo, a digital marketing executive turned culinary savant!
Meet Christina Russo: A 36-year-old from Beaufort, South Carolina, who decided to leave her position as the Head of PR and HR for a digital marketing company after seven years to pursue her passion project with a friend, The Kitchen Community. It’s now one of the world’s most respected digital culinary hubs that attracts an audience of over 3 million visitors a month and is solely dedicated to food, health, cooking, and wellness.
As a former PR specialist with over a decade of experience in the industry, Christina has managed to combine both of the major loves of her life, cooking and media relations, in her professional role as an indispensable part of The Kitchen Community team.
She is now the Creative Director and Co-Founder of The Kitchen Community and loves what she does every day!
It was months into the COVID-19 pandemic. Christina woke up one morning and decided that enough was enough and that she needed to hand her resignation in with immediate notice. Why?
“While the salary was good, the hours weren’t, and I felt under-appreciated, under-valued, and overworked and wanted to try and claw a little of my personal life back.”
And so The Kitchen Community was born!
“The kitchen is the heart of the home, and there is no doubt about that. More than this, the kitchen is the life force of communities around the world. It is where food, garden, and lifestyle come together in perfect harmony – we cook there, we talk there, we prepare our homegrown produce there, we live and we grow there. Where there is a community, there is a kitchen, and where there is a kitchen, there is a community.”
She is much better off financially than she was in her former job, and she’s happier than she has been in a long time. She has “absolutely no regrets” and would certainly make the decision again. For Christina, the pandemic wasn’t the reason but the impetus for her to better her mental and physical well-being and finally follow her passion.
Last but not least, let’s meet Jeffrey Moriarty, who decided to reinvent the way he worked so he could be more people-facing.
After the onset of the pandemic, Jeff Moriarty, 42, of Chicago, Illinois, decided to quit his freelancing in mid-2021 to become the Marketing Director for My Supplement Store, a large nutrition company with an online site and multiple stores.
Why this change, you might ask? He explained:
“When working freelance, you are already pretty isolated from everyone. You do get pretty lonely. COVID made things even worse. After your day was over, you didn’t see too many people either. I needed more social interaction.”
And so, after two years of freelancing, he negotiated with the employer he was freelancing for to start as a full-time employee. He started earning nearly the same salary as he did as an hourly freelancer.
Fast forward to today, and Jeffery is much happier! His only regret is that he misses the freedom and flexibility to work wherever he wants. But now, he gets to work with a team each day and has found a way to get more in-person social interaction out of his career. Had the pandemic not happened, he says he’d definitely still be freelancing.
While others made a change to have more freedom over their schedules, Jeffery chose to rethink his current career and become more people-facing in an isolating pandemic work environment. In my opinion, this was a smart move for his mental health and wellbeing (which should always come first in life!)
The Bottom Line
For most, the COVID-19 pandemic allowed many to reflect on what they truly wanted out of life. It was the shake-up many needed to make changes in their lives that they’ve wanted to make for years. While day-to-day life is very different today than it was 2+ years ago, we’ve all found that change has brought new and exciting frontiers to all.