This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org.
I feel lighter after joining the Great Resignation a few months ago.
I’m also overwhelmed. Businesses are urgently hiring, according to LinkedIn, Idealist, Monster and Indeed. And I’m getting phone calls from companies that actually want to hire me.
Ten years ago, when I started my position in a midsize nonprofit, I was so grateful to get a job that enabled me to serve vulnerable populations. I had recently earned a master’s degree in health education and promotion, so my duties fell under my field of study.
I also felt the last nauseating tugs of the 2007-09 recession. I would hold on to this role — even as I outgrew it — because I was afraid I couldn’t get anything better.
Also, I’m from the Midwest. For my folks and me, giving up is as mutinous as leaving a guild, or—gasp!—a hometown. Hard-wired to suck it up, I never envisioned myself writing a resignation letter without another gig lined up.
Why workers are bailing out
Yet on April Fools’ Day 2022, I officially became one of the month’s 4.4 million “quits,” meaning my “separation” was voluntary or employee-generated, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
So I’m trendy!
In November 2021, the nation’s “quit rate” reached a 20-year-high.
Workers who relinquished a job in 2021 said low pay (63%), no opportunity to advance (63%) and feeling disrespected at work (57%) were most common reasons why they left, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. Rather than plop on the couch and binge on Hulu, they got other jobs fairly quickly, many in different occupations.
Being middle-aged and experienced, I decided I want flexibility, structure and growth — three nouns I normally don’t associate with a career. It can be done. But I needed a guide, especially because voluntarily breaking up with a company means no income through a severance package from my ex-employer or unemployment insurance from the state.
Within three weeks of saying goodbye, I was temping, something I did years ago when I first moved to New York City to be a musical theater dancer. Back then, I needed day jobs, so that I could audition and nab out-of-town shows. All I had to do was call temp agencies and show up in person for recruiter interviews. Within days, I found myself in various offices filling admin roles.
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Only temp work for now
In my recent search though, I encountered silence when I sent résumés to various staffing groups. Yet when I followed temp agencies on LinkedIn, and then applied to their specific job listings, recruiters called me right away. I got a similar buzz when I applied for Indeed positions posted by staffing groups.
On the phone, some recruiters were clearly on commission, wanting me to interview for full-time jobs immediately. Others, who were not affiliated with sales, understood I had just left a “work marriage” and wanted to “date” rather than commit, at least at first.
“I was in the same job for a decade,” I told my recruiter through our Zoom
interview. “Surprise me. Send me anywhere at the last minute.”
When I am not in longer assignments, I am ready to answer an early morning call or text for same-day work. To make this unpredictability easier on my nervous system, I prepare a jump kit the night before. This includes packing my lunch and laying out my clothing.
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Test driving potential employers
Like manna falling from the heavens, work has been steady. I choose what to do.
I still apply to job boards and positions recommended by friends. While job descriptions are helpful, I can’t really know what a place is like until I’m there.
Temping expands my network and allows me to “try before I buy,” as company culture becomes paramount to me.
My temp agent has found temp-to-perm interviews for me at places where I might want to stay. If the company and I are a good fit for each other, I can continue until I’m a full-fledged employee.
She even offered to review my correspondence to interviewers before I hit the send key. Until she coached me, I had no idea I should craft individual thank you messages to each interviewer. So much more polished than a group email.
See: U.S. adds 263,000 jobs in September, but smallest gain in 17 months won’t stop Fed rate hikes
Tips for temps
Here are some of the other things I’ve learned from temping:
New clothes can elevate the old. Some jobs call for business casual; they will accept polo shirts but not jeans or sneakers. Others require blazers and closed-toe shoes. Finally, others are remote, allowing for a rainbow of choices. Rather than buying a whole new wardrobe, I picked up a few corporate pieces from a secondhand store.
Getting out is good. Working in unfamiliar neighborhoods challenges me to navigate subways, buses, and walking paths. I’m using parts of my brain that fell asleep when I worked from home.
Companies can respect employees. While many employers provide free snacks and recreation rooms, not all places feel good. Others percolate with easy friendliness. At one such company, I was impressed with the diverse staff that included people in their 20s through older. A worker in his 70s told me he was finishing an advanced degree in human resources, on the company’s dime. “It’s a great place to retire,” he confided.
Work and happier feelings are not mutually exclusive. Resigning from my decade-long job forced me to reconfigure. I just didn’t know how to quit. Now my mantra is this: I will never be disrespected at work for prolonged periods.
Art is everywhere. Some offices decorate reception and conference rooms with museum-quality paintings, Warhols and Basquiats even. Many of these works are current and rotated regularly. Dare to walk in this beauty.
As my old job fades, I envision meaning, better pay, and more collegial relationships. This — this—is wealth.
Ann Votaw is a freelance writer in New York City. Her work has appeared in Crain’s, Marie Claire and the New York Observer. A former dancer, she specializes in fitness for older adults.
This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org, © 2022 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.
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How to Shift From Full-Time Work to Part-Time