Compelling Reasons Driving Today’s Unprecedented Career Shifts

by / ⠀Career Advice Entrepreneurship Remote Work / September 6, 2023
post-it saying I quit on keyboard; career shifts

Coined in 2022, the Great Resignation sums up exactly what was happening in the workforce. Highly skilled, knowledgeable employees were handing in their resignations to their high-paying careers.

A huge 40% of the workforce at the start of 2021 considered leaving their role for a lesser-paid role or for no job at all – an unprecedented career shift. Over 24 million employees in America left their jobs between April and September 2021. Making the most of online job searches, remote-only roles, LinkedIn courses (and other free courses), and professional and executive resume templates.

Employers and industry experts couldn’t understand it. But, the workforce who create content took to TikTok and other social media platforms to put it simply. As tough as the pandemic was, millions of people saw that there was another option to how they were living their lives. It didn’t involve the long hours, the stress, the office, or work politics.

Hybrid working and remote working gave people the opportunity to create a work-life balance that worked for them. As the end of 2022 arrived, and now we move towards the end of 2023, many businesses have rolled back remote and hybrid working. Forcing people to head back to the office – or leave.

A Counter Argument

The Harvard Business Review posted a counter to the pandemic being the start of the great resignation though. Fuller and Kerr consider that the pandemic highlighted a long-standing problem. Due to a heightened awareness of this, it was more noticeable that a large number of workers left their roles.

The pandemic is considered to be a short-term turbulence (relative). At the same time, workers have lived through ten years or more of inflation, layoffs, bad companies, increased pressure, lack of home-work balance, and a rising level of quit rates that date back over 5-10 years.

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They note five factors that have contributed to the trend: Retirement, Reconsideration, Relocation, Reluctance, and Reshuffling.

With five factors already in play, the pandemic acted as a catalyst for career shifts and sped up a process that was already underway.

With those reasons in mind, what are the cited reasons for people to leave a higher-paid job in the last three years?


A high-paying role can be hugely beneficial to your life, but the lifestyle you want or need can change. This could lead to the reconsideration, relocation, reshuffling, and retirement categories. When life changes occur, they can be impactful enough to change the outlook on life.

This means that people who may have been career-focused in the past could take a different view on how their lives should look going forward. According to the AARP Research Survey, 90% of respondents said that their work needed to be meaningful. The pandemic gave people time to reassess their personal goals and where priorities changed. Even a high-paying role can’t hold on to a person who isn’t fulfilled.


Although switching almost overnight to working from home posed a new challenge, workers mostly cited that it was less stressful than working in the office. The Mental Health benefits of working from home (for most, but not all) have been heavily researched.

A survey by Mental Health America found that working from home helped people to be more productive. Plus, it helped them achieve their work goals more comfortably. A quieter work environment, no office politics, and no colleague interruptions significantly reduced stress levels.

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However, for high-stress, high-paying roles, an expectation exists for a 24/7 form of contact and increased demand for video calling. The increased mental demand for video calls negatively impacts those who are constantly required to be in them.

Job stress can quickly lead to burnout, and burnout leads to illness. One of the most quoted reasons people leave high-paying roles is to reduce their stress levels.


When much of your day is filled with a commute that is suddenly taken away, you have freed up more hours in the day. During those hours during the pandemic, millions of people were used to finding new hobbies.  New hobbies that quickly turned into a passion. And those passions can almost always be turned into a business.

During the pandemic, the sales of the average online hobby store increased by 20% and more. (Hobbycraft reports a 200% boom in online sales since the start of the pandemic | Retail industry | The Guardian).

High-paying jobs typically have money as the motivation, and if that is less motivational than it once was, then the time and effort that one went into the job role can quickly disappear.

Passion can fall into reconsidering personal goals and the lifestyle we want in a career shift. And when the motivation for the work goes, it will ultimately become more stressful for the person doing it to meet deadlines. Doing work you don’t feel passionate about is one of the quickest ways to leave a role.


Individuals often cite freedom as one of the reasons they leave high-paying roles and apply for positions that they are overqualified for or roles in service industries or industries outside of their own. Switching from a job with no off button to a role that fits within its elected time slot each day, they leave at the door.

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We often consider money to be the ticket to freedom. Working on projects that make some income in a happier mental state and physical state is a sense of freedom. Breaking into the world of consulting and freelancing is another compelling reason that people have quit high-paying roles in more rigid companies.


For millions of people who have worked towards something, only to realize that there is little in the way of career progression after a certain point, it can be devastating. Stagnation gives you two options: stay and be bred, unmotivated and stressed but highly paid. Or leave and look for something in a career shift that utilizes your skills and challenges you, but potentially means lower pay.

Stagnation in your work is one of the quickest ways to become disillusioned and disengaged from your work.

Here are more of the workplace trends that are big on social media right now: TikTok Trends Unveil Workplace Revolution – Under30CEO.


Featured Image Credit: Nick Fewings on Unsplash

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