So, you left your job during the Great Resignation. What’s next?
More Americans have left their jobs during the pandemic than at any point in the last two decades. 4.3 million people quit in December 2021 alone, and up to 65 percent of Gen Z plans to join what has become known as the Great Resignation.
We’ve left for all sorts of reasons. There are labor market reasons — lots of available jobs combined with low unemployment means potentially larger salaries — but that is not the primary driver. Most of us have left, instead, for “softer” reasons. We’re burnt out. The pestilent specter hanging over our lives for the last 700 days has forced us to re-evaluate our priorities, and we have reemerged with a growing unwillingness toward work that doesn’t align with our values.
In a 1954 speech to the World Council of Churches, President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said that there were “two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” Four million Americans a month have been realizing we’re stuck in jobs that prioritize the urgent but unimportant.
The Great Resignation has been our response.
Things have started to change. Job numbers in the first quarter of 2022 have outperformed economic forecasts, with March’s numbers dropping the unemployment rate to the lowest it’s been since the pandemic started.
In other words, after walking away from our jobs, we’ve started to walk back.
But what are we walking back toward?
I’ve been there. I’m a cancer surgeon who works on hospital ships in sub-Saharan Africa. I also never wanted to be a doctor. And in 2018, I quit my own US practice because it no longer aligned with my priorities.
Moving from not wanting to be a doctor to surgery on hospital ships and then a career in global health has taught me that we thrive at the intersection of four questions: What am I good at? What does the world need? What do I love? And what can I be paid for?
It is a high bar to meet. Few, if any, careers match all four questions, so we’re tempted to throw one or two away, convincing ourselves that we’re happy enough…