The Great Resignation: 5 Stack Members Share How They Quit Their Jobs

‘How to quit’ has been searched over 335 billion times on Google, and with 1 in 4 Brits considering a career change, we hear from Stack World members on how and why they quit

By Elshadai Gore

27 September 2021

hether it’s the pandemic revealing toxic workplace culture, or the growing feeling of being stuck, unfulfilled and unmotivated in a career limbo, many of us are fed up with our current roles and are making changes.

As more of the economy reopens following Covid vaccinations and the end of social restrictions, demand for talent is fast outstripping supply – it’s now an employee’s market. Between April to June 2021 there were 862,000 job vacancies, 77,500 above its pre-pandemic level in January to March 2020, according to the Official for National Statistics (ONS). The highest level of vacancies in 15 months.

But how do you know when it’s time to quit?

How much money should you save if you’re taking a break or making a career transition? If you’re going freelance, how can you ensure that you have clients in the pipeline before handing in your notice? Join the conversation on the 28th of September for ‘How to quit’, when our panelists will discuss these questions, sharing their stories and strategies to help you make your next right career move.

The spring and summer of 2021 has been titled the ‘The Great Resignation’ with millions quitting in droves. Before you start drafting your resignation email and heading towards the exit door, hear from The Stack members on how they navigated quitting - including advice from coaches Tiwalola and Stefanie Sword-Williams.

Annabel Britton, Founder at All Good Market

Why did you quit?

I felt like the company I was working in was falling apart on every level, from small teams to its broadest strategy. Despite me working hard and progressing up the ladder, overall we were going from failure to failure and it was increasingly demotivating despite my personal success in the company.

What triggered the thought of quitting?

One of the biggest triggers was a former colleague, whom I liked and respected, basically asking me what the hell I was still doing there and implying I wasn’t allocating my time and strengths well by staying in the company.

What did you give up & gain when quitting?

I was fortunate enough to move back in with my parents while I got the business off the ground. Having previously lived abroad, I regained that unconditional, always-there support system and sounding board. I also lost a bit of independence and pride because I am reliant on them financially.

How did you plan your next right move?

I used time on furlough to plan my business - I treated it like my new job for six months before the business actually started trading. I used a government-funded business course to help me write my business plan and secure a start-up loan. Alongside this, there were books, and a million and one podcasts about business, including virtually every interview Sharmadean Reid has ever done!

Did you have something (work, savings, holiday) in place before you quit? If yes or no, what was your thinking behind this strategy?

One third of the seed money for my business came from personal savings - I wanted to reduce my debt burden as much as possible.

What would you do differently?

I wouldn’t wait as long to leave my old job and company behind. I stayed because I was getting promoted, which appealed to my ego, but working there made me pretty unhappy. In the end, the decision to open my zero waste shop was a combination of universal circumstances (Covid shelved travelling plans) and the personal - I have no dependents or mortgage, so it seemed like an apt time to start a business as the stakes are as low as they’ll ever be for me!

Tiwalola, Confident and Killing It

“Making the next right move can be hard especially when it seems like there’s an abundance of choices and paths we can go down. The fundamental way I make decisions is by checking if they are aligned with my values. I’m very clear on what my top 5 values are, these are things that really matter to me - impact, creativity, wellbeing, personal growth etc. And so when I’m deciding what to do I check if it aligns with my values.

If it aligns I’ll follow the path, if it doesn’t then I know it’s not for me. I also ask if this decision is in alignment with my true self and the woman I want to become. If something isn’t going to get me closer to my goals It’s a NO for me and vice-versa. It’s also important not to be afraid of making the wrong decision. Making the wrong decision isn’t a dead end, look at it as a detour instead. You can always bounce back from it, you can always explore new opportunities.

You have the power of choice to re-write your story. So take the risk because even if it might go wrong, there’s a possibility it could go well and that’s way more exciting to focus on!”

Miriam King, Co-Founder + Director LIVING PROOF

What triggered the thought of a career change?

I worked in different roles within fashion retail across different cities for about 10 years (marketing, PR, visual merchandising, tech in Dublin, NY and London) and enjoyed what I was doing but always had a nagging feeling that I wanted to do something with a bit more purpose. I also knew for a long time that I wanted to work for myself and build my own thing, I just didn't know what that was. I was always listening to podcasts about entrepreneurs (NPR's How I Built This being a personal fave), not necessarily from a business perspective but I was always intrigued by people's personal stories and how they got to where they were by way of their lived experiences. In hindsight I was piecing together my own story to help me understand what my next steps could look like.

What did you give up & gain when you made the career change?

I gave up financial security and following the well-trodden path. At the beginning of 2020, I quit my well paid job in fashion tech to do a 10 month full-time course in social entrepreneurship with the hope it would lead me to discover the purpose I was looking for. People told me I was taking a huge risk but for me, at that point, the bigger risk was staying in an unfulfilling job and following a linear path that I didn't want to take. I had never been in a position to be able to take such a risk as I was always living paycheck to paycheck but landing a job in tech sales allowed me to save for the first time, granting me the freedom to be able to make that choice, quit and jump into the unknown.

I gained autonomy, freedom and confidence. The freedom and autonomy that becoming my own boss (alongside my incredible co-founders Rosie and Winnie) has given me has far outweighed the financial insecurity and stress it has brought. I've gained the confidence to know that I can be completely myself at work and that's good enough; as an introvert I don't have to adapt or pretend to be a certain version of myself anymore. At LIVING PROOF, one of our core values is bring your whole self and this is something we instill in all of the young people we work with.

How did you plan your next right move?

Before I knew exactly what my next right move would be, I was proactive in always seeking out opportunities that would help me get there. Attending events, listening to podcasts, reading books/articles, joining freelance/founder networks; whatever I could do to better understand the industries/roles I could move into. I also kept on expanding my skill set in my spare time and trying new things to see what stuck; podcasting, photography, graphic design, coding, editing, art direction; you name it, I've probably tried to learn it!

Also, never underestimate the power of conversations, whether that's with peers, friends, or people whose careers you admire. Listening to other people's stories and journeys can trigger opportunities and possibilities for you to explore that you may not have previously considered.

Did you have something (work, savings, holiday) in place before you changed your career? If yes or no, what was your thinking behind this?

Yes I managed to save all of my commission checks from working in fashion tech sales before I left to pursue my own business. This was the first time in my career that I was ever able to save!

What would you do differently?

I don't know that I would do much differently. I never settled and always moved jobs when I stopped learning or felt undervalued and all of those experiences have led me to where I am today. If anything, I would have saved the money I earned working in retail during uni in Ireland (no student fees!!!). At the time I didn't realise how good I had it living at home, earning decent money and not having to worry about bills. It was a rude awakening moving to London, earning £18K and having to pay rent for the first time! Some of that part-time gig money would have come in handy for sure!

Sonya Barlow CEO, SB Diversity & Business Consulting @LMFnetwork

Why did you quit?

I started my career in the tech industry eager and ready to learn, only to have a number of scenarios where I faced discrimination. It started as office banter and turned into apparent microaggressions. Unfortunately, when I found the confidence to report this - I was told that it was better if I leave and therefore was a product of unfair dismissal. With no real understanding of what to do next, I considered building my own business because the corporate world wasn't kind to me. Since then, I have become an author, radio presenter and am currently in the process of founding my 3rd business. The reality is that when I first started working within the industry I couldn't see anyone who looked like me or ask for help because I had no mentors and that really impacted the situation - that's why now I want to be the person who can help, rather than hinder.

I went on a journey to find these people which led me to do the work I am doing now. Since leaving my corporate job in November 2019 and starting my own hustle in Jan 2020, I have achieved 2 successful businesses, a book deal titled Unprepared to Entrepreneur with Kogan Page, I am the host of the BBC Asian Network radio show The Everyday Hustle, delivered 2 ted talks, Linkedin's 2021 changemaker out of 800 million users and Marie Claire's 2020 Future Shaper Award. I am currently planning the launch of my 3rd business, which is all about data, diversity and business decisions.

Who did you seek advice from & why?

I was fortunate enough to have Mentors within the space and people in my network with who I'd build positive relationships - so I reached out for advice - from writing the emails, handling the negative to starting from scratch, the community; mentors, friends and family were there.

What did you give up & gain when quitting?

I "quit" the 9-5 corporate working hustle and focused on working that hard for myself. I had a job offer that hit 6 digits and decided I wanted to take a chance on myself instead. It was strange because I started Like Minded Females in 2018 as my first community, which really built my confidence. So when that time came, it was a matter of identifying what skills I was good at, writing down my passions and envisioning what my dream role my look like. I shared ideas with my network, I posted online that I was either looking for an opportunity in x or ready to start my business in Y, which received its own positive responses from free advice to workspaces. I realised that it was my brand, perspective and ambition to create change that could be profitable and so put all my energy into starting a diversity and business consultancy. Unfortunately, the pandemic hit at the same time and for 4 months I had no income - so I built my personal brand. That building from Jan 2020 has enabled me to get a book deal, radio show and build a 6 figure business.

Did you have something (work, savings, holiday) in place before you quit? If yes or no, what was your thinking behind this strategy?

I had 6 months worth of savings, no holidays and ambition. I invested my savings into myself and gave myself 12 months to figure something sustainable out before I would consider going back into a full-time corporate job.

What would you do differently?

A few things. Firstly I would go on a holiday and take a brain break before jumping into something; secondly, I would spend more time on the commercial element of the business to better understand how exactly to grow it and lastly, I would have done my research into how to set up a social business for Like Minded Females as I built an ltd and then a CIC and then discovered it was really a charity platform I was trying to build. I would also not let other people's comments bother me because the truth is that you can't please everyone; the people who care will share and support you in every way possible. I had to control my own validation and relationship with online media before I was in a healthy mental space to build.

What triggered the thought of a career change?

The real moment was when I realised that I was working in a company that didn't respect me or my skills but considered me a token brown girl within the business - the lack of inclusion in the workplace and being expected to conform to social norms rather than by myself. I come from confidence and have always been a proud believer in being authentic, which I found myself losing the more senior I got as a tech insight consultant.

Since, I have learnt to love myself, my voice and my opinion. I am motivated by disrupting the norm, by challenging the system and by creating change so that we can create a sense of community, belonging, inclusion, but most importantly so we can show up as our best truer selves, and just be accepted for it. Be that within the corporate, community or our own business.

As a freelancer or/and solo entrepreneur, I acknowledged that I had to be my biggest hype person, which definitely helped as a way to get past the lonely and demotivating moments you get as a freelancer. On the flip side of being a freelancer, I am my own boss, and though it comes with responsibilities, it also comes with a great sense of freedom which in itself is fully liberating. Therefore, I am able to align future projects to the values that I adhere to and what I am passionate about, so those being diversity, inclusion, community, entrepreneurship, business, and life skills

How did you plan your next right move?

My next move came from evaluating my current move, the good, bad and gaps - it was those gaps that I worked on filling and so forth. I don't think there's such a thing as the "right" move but a move for "right now". Don't get me wrong, I have gotten many moves wrong - made terrible decisions and even devalued myself to the extent I have worked for free because of panic - no more though. The move for right now comes with knowing what I eventually want to achieve, not in 3 years but in 3 months and working backwards. The world is moving so fast that trying to plan for 3/5 years in advance seems difficult, whereas focusing your energies on the immediate and a little bit after seems to be good for someone who's building, believing and becoming.

Stefanie Sword-Williams, Fuck Being Humble

“When quitting your job try to make sure you get the most from your current situation before leaving. If you need more training, ask for it. If you want advice from a colleague, pull them for a chat. And if you think there is a project that could benefit your next move, put yourself forward for it. All of this will help you to prepare for your next opportunity and make you a more attractive option to other businesses. It can also be easy to want to leave a company on bad terms or to even ‘check out’ early during your notice period, but try to maintain the same quality and high standards so you leave with nothing but raving reviews about how professional you are. When picking your next move, do your due diligence on the companies you're keen to work for. Research the company history, their successes and losses, their team structure, the background of their staff, the support they offer, the benefits, and what exactly you’d be working on when you walk through the door. Businesses are great at selling the dream in interviews (and leaving out the crucial information) so if you want to avoid a catfishing work experience, search for the important answers you need to make the best decision for you. Remember you are in control, and you're choosing them as much as they are choosing you!”

Stephanie Lauff, Degree Nurse Apprentice

Why did you quit?

As lockdown started I worked from home and then soon after went on to furlough, it made me realise that I miss people! Workplace culture was the reason I loved my old job. I was able to work with some highly talented individuals across the creative industry and traveled to some amazing places. I always love learning and developing my skill and felt that I had come to the end of my chapter in design. Design and creativity is still a big part of my life and I continue to follow this with my hobbies. Nursing was an opportunity to be hands on and develop in a practical career with great job satisfaction and a skill I can travel anywhere with.

Who did you seek advice from & why?

I spoke to a friend who is an advanced clinical practitioner (I refer to her as a ‘super nurse’) who had always given 100% to her job in the NHS. She came into nursing through personal experiences and has never looked back, so much so she wrote a book about her experiences through the pandemic in an A&E department ('A Nurse's Story' - Louise Curtis). Further to this I had a catch up with a friend's mum who teaches health and social care at a local college which was great at covering off what academic requirements would be for a 3 year nursing degree.

What did you give up & gain when quitting?

People always ask me ‘why would you give up that for nursing’ (especially the grumpy health professionals). Yes the money was there, but as mentioned before the people and travel were not. I have given up the Monday - Friday and Christmas/ bank holidays but gained the flexibility of shift work and a skill set that I can continue to grow through my working life. Some days in my design job I would be working long hours and having to take my laptop home to finish work. Always checking emails when on holiday and dreading coming back after a break. Nursing degrees are classed as one of the hardest degrees to undertake with 12 hour placement shifts on top of assignments and exams, it can be tough. Having passion for what you do goes a long way and really motivates me to continue. Seeing patients journies is so humble and gives you a drive to work harder.

Did you have something (work, savings, holiday) in place before you quit? If yes or no, what was your thinking behind this strategy?

I am a great believer in ‘all things happen for a reason’. Whilst on furlough I did loads of research into various courses, and also started to volunteer at a local fareshare shop and foodbank to keep myself busy. I had applied for a degree nursing apprenticeship at my local NHS trust with a back up to try and get a year's experience in care before applying for a nursing degree. I also balanced my finances at home with my partner who has been the biggest support for me financially but also emotionally. I accepted my apprenticeship last August and started university in September right after I took redundancy from my old job so the timing was perfect.

What would you do differently?

To be honest nothing. The only thing I would say is it is never too late. For around 4 years I would always say ‘if I had my time again I would have done nursing’ but to be honest with you I could have never done this 15 years ago when I was applying for my design degree. The practical side of nursing is hard physically and emotionally. Emotional intelligence and resilience comes with life experience and this is critical when working in healthcare. I have this feeling of satisfaction and excitement that I will have a profession that can really change people's lives and I am excited to see what the future holds.

The Short Stack

A generation of women are learning that quitting a job isn’t an ending or a sign of failure, but the start of the next right move. Join us on the 28th of September as we continue the conversation on how to quit.

By Elshadai Gore

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