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The Great Resignation is on – is now the time to change your career?

As the number of employees quitting their jobs hits record highs, we consult career development expert Helen Tupper – and author Lucy Kellaway, who swapped her journalism for a career in teaching in her late fifties – for their advice on making that big leap.

The Great Resignation is well under way. In the wake of the pandemic, in November 2021, the number of Britons quitting their jobs hit 4.5 million, breaking a record set two months previous in September. The numbers are unlike any seen since 2009. In America, over 4.3 million workers quit their jobs in the month of August 2021 alone – almost 3% of the entire country’s workforce. And it's continuing well into 2022: many more plan to quit this year.

Helen Tupper, co-founder and CEO of career development company Amazing If, and the co-author of career guides The Squiggly Career and new book You Coach You, isn’t particularly surprised. In The Squiggly Career, Tupper and co-author Sarah Ellis coined a term for the new, ‘squiggly’ career trajectory rapidly supplanting the more linear career trajectory enjoyed by Boomers.

Things were already precarious: for years, Gen-Xers and Millennials have contended with a job market undermined by the ‘gig economy’ (in which permanent roles were increasingly replaced by freelance budget) and the disappearance of entry-level roles, leading to increased competition for fewer, lower-paying jobs.

Then, the pandemic happened.

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“I would hate to compare my dad's death to Covid, but they were similar in that you're put into a completely different way of being; bereavement does that for you, and the pandemic does that for you,” Kellaway contends. She echoes Helen Tupper’s sentiment about the pandemic: “Anything that comes as a shock does make you reconsider what you're doing.”

For Kellaway, now happily employed as a teacher for nearly five years and running an educational charity called Now Teach, the choice was a long time coming, motivated not by the job market but her own personal situation.

“I'm part of that sort of generation where, you know, it was still jobs for life. You become a journalist, and you expect, if you love it as I did, it's perfectly normal to do that until you retire. And no one was out there showing me any other way. When I went in to see the editor of the FT, saying that I was questioning leaving, he said, ‘No, no, no, no, no, don't do anything – when you're bereaved, your judgement isn't straight.’ I would look at it the other way around, by saying it's only when you have that sort of shock that you reframe things, and that you need to act in the clarity of that moment.”

Kellaway suggests that your career shift should be motivated by two factors.

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Image: Rebecca Hendin for Penguin

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