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Great Resignation shows no signs of slowing down: 40% of U.S. workers are considering quitting their jobs—here’s where they’re going

July 21, 2022, 3:16 PM UTC
Note on a keyboard of a work computer with the text I QUIT
The Great Resignation shows no sign of slowing down
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The wave of people leaving their jobs over the past few years is showing no signs of slowing down, and for many willingly choosing to quit, a massive reinvention of their ideal career is underway. 

The number of employees who are considering quitting their jobs right now is around 40%, a number that hasn’t changed much in recent months.

A survey by Microsoft in March found that 41% of workers were thinking about leaving their jobs, and another survey last week by McKinsey put that number at 40%.

“This isn’t just a passing trend, or a pandemic-related change to the labor market,” Bonnie Dowling, a co-author of the McKinsey report, told CNBC. “There’s been a fundamental shift in workers’ mentality, and their willingness to prioritize other things in their life beyond whatever job they hold.”

But while the number of workers who want to leave their jobs has remained remarkably consistent, fewer and fewer are reverting to traditional office jobs, with a growing number seeking nontraditional roles, or even the opportunity to start a new business.

‘The Great Rethink’

Since 2021, records have been racking up for workers prepared to voluntarily leave their jobs.

It’s been dubbed the Great Resignation, and with 4.3 million people quitting their jobs in May, the number of resignations is still virtually unchanged from last year.

At first, resignations were being fueled by workers desiring higher pay, better benefits, and more fulfilling work. Those same factors are still around right now, but with an added ingredient thrown into the mix: inflation.

With prices in the U.S. running at a 40-year high, snail-paced wage raises, and a near-record high number of job openings, why wouldn’t workers be looking for greener pastures?

But after years of pandemic-era living, those new pastures are more diverse than ever, and many resigning workers are deciding to take much more adventurous steps.

As many as 18% of U.S. workers who quit their job are returning to work in nontraditional roles, according to the McKinsey report, including part-time jobs, temporary gigs, or even by starting their own business. 

Many workers who quit their job also do so to shift towards a different industry, according to the report, even if it means departing from a highly lucrative field.

Of people in the past year who quit jobs in finance and insurance areas, 65% did not return to the workforce or departed for a different job sector, as McKinsey’s Dowling told Fortune’s Sheryl Estrada this week.

The desire for more flexibility has been one of main sticking points of the Great Resignation, as the pandemic popularized employee habits like remote work and working independent hours outside of a traditional 9-to-5.

The desire to work nontraditional hours, or to set one’s own hours, is part of how many workers are completely reevaluating their relationship with work.

“A better description of this phenomenon would be a ‘Great Rethink’ in which we are all rethinking our relationship to work and how it fits into our lives,” Ranjay Gulati, professor of business administration at Harvard University and author of the 2022 book Deep Purpose: The Heart and Soul of High-Performance Companies, recently wrote for Fortune.

But while more people than ever are feeling ready to change industries or work in a more nontraditional setting, the sheer volume quitting means that not everyone who resigns ends up satisfied. 

A recent report by Joblist, analyzing data from June, found that 26% of people who quit their jobs regretted their decision, and 42% of respondents who had returned to the workforce said that their new position had failed to live up to their expectations.

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