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The Great Resignation: Time to Switch Careers During the Pandemic?

Is it time to try something new?
by Arianne Merez
Nov 8, 2021
FILE: A man sleeps inside a bus while wearing a face mask and a face shield.
Photo/s: Jerome Ascaño

Accountant Pablo takes vacation leaves to do nothing and takes breaks from a job that he wants to leave, notwithstanding the uncertainties of the pandemic.

Schooled in numbers and spreadsheets, Pablo feels he is on the verge of going full time as a graphic artist, a side hustle he has kept because he keeps impressing clients.

In a culture that values a college degree that lands an office job, Pablo is apprehensive. "I guess I'm afraid to leave my job because of the possible impact on my finances and I'm scared about what my family and other people would say. Baka isipin nila, sinayang ko yung college ko at CPA license."

Pablo, who asked not to reveal his full name, earned his professional license in 2017 and has been with the same accounting and auditing firm for over three years--even getting promoted in 2019.

"I don't have an arts degree like other graphic artists but people who have seen my works say I have an impressive portfolio, and I have had clients as a side hustle," he told reportr.

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Pablo is not alone. Around the world, people have been rethinking and quitting their jobs even as the COVID-19 pandemic posed great risks and uncertainties in a phenomenon that has been dubbed as the "Great Resignation."


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In the United States, four million Americans left their jobs in July this year with the country having over 10 million openings by the end of the month based on a survey of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For those that are holding on to their jobs, a 2021 workforce confidence survey by professional networking website LinkedIn showed that the majority of people who choose to stay in their current jobs (74%) do so as a form of "shelter" due to factors such as a steady paycheck, and keeping household finances stable.

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What is it about the pandemic that has triggered a longing or at least, consideration for a career change for many? It's the search for "what's essential and meaningful" in a time of uncertainty and changes, said life and career coach Aurora Suarez.

"Like any life-changing event, the pandemic has made people ask deeper questions about their lives—especially about what's essential and meaningful. It has emphasized that life is short and that people want to spend their time on earth in ways that matter," she told reportr.

"Since people spend most of their waking hours in their careers, this is a place where they start the questioning process first," she said.

Is the pandemic a time for a career shift?

LinkedIn's survey showed that entrepreneurship is on the rise as professionals look into either starting a business or freelancing during the pandemic.

"Other data reinforces job seekers’ growing willingness, in turbulent times, to be fully in charge of their own destiny," Linkedin said.

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For those who are thinking of leaving their jobs for a new career, Suarez said doing so should be a decision that considers a person's growth and values.

"It's probably time for a career shift when you're not growing anymore where you are, where you're working is not aligned with your values and your strengths, how you want to serve the world or serves the future you want to build," she said.

She however cautions against a sudden career shift during the pandemic since this time "brings up a lot of emotions which may or may not be connected to your career."

"Making emotional decisions, especially fear-based ones, are not a good basis for a major life change," Suarez said.


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What should be considered before taking the plunge?

Like anything important, Suarez said career shifts should not be based on a knee-jerk reaction of escaping one's current situation.

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"It should not be made out of fear. Fear-based decisions are never sustainable or lead to meaningful engagements. Fear-based decisions just lead to more fear. This is not the right mindset when embarking on a new career adventure," she said.

For those who are seriously considering a career shift, Suarez suggests asking oneself first: "what are you willing to do or sacrifice for the career you want?"

"Basically, every job will have its own challenges," she said. "This is also a question to open your eyes to the realities of work."

Whether one chooses to shift careers or stay in their current jobs, Suarez offers this piece of advice: don't tie your identity with your career.

"While your career can provide meaning and purpose, it is only one aspect of your life. Don't forget to give importance as well to your relationships, community, creativity, fun, spirituality, health, and love," she said.

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"Look at your life through the eyes of curiosity, as a learning experience. Once you practice this perspective, it will allow you to move through life with more light and joy rather than feeling scared and heavily burdened," she added.


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**Aurora Suarez is a life and career coach who recently launched the Good Job: A Meaningful Career Journal where people can answer questions that can lead to more clarity about who they are and how they can create a meaningful career.

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