Is the grass greener on the other side of the Great Reshuffle?
The COVID-19 pandemic saw a mass exodus of employees across multiple industries as workers reevaluated what they wanted from their careers and lives.
Initially dubbed the Great Resignation, the phenomenon is better described as the Great Reshuffle, professional networking site LinkedIn has said, noting most people who left their job still remained in the workforce.
But was the grass really greener on the other side?
NSW mum Jacqui O'Brien was one of those people who reassessed what she wanted from her job at the age of 55.
She left her public service job of more than 20 years after realising how "unwell" her job was making her feel.
"It was so unhappy. I had reached my end," O'Brien said.
After building up long service leave and having the buffer of being able to also take some leave without pay, O'Brien left behind her career in Sydney.
She now lives near the beach with her partner and has a new job at a local laundromat.
Although she's taken at least "a 50 per cent wage drop", O'Brien said she wouldn't have it any other way.
Before making the move, O'Brien said her confrontational job, with its huge workload and frustration with management, contributed to her stress and sense of burnout.
"I had heaviness in my chest and I wasn't sleeping," she said.
But it became worse when the pandemic hit.
"(I was) just unsupported and smashed every day," O'Brien said.
O'Brien said she's now happier in her more flexible job.
While she acknowledged that not everyone who is unhappy in their job can change careers, she urged those who can to "give it a go".
When asked whether the grass was indeed greener on the other side, she says: "For me it is."
Katrina Hobson, 36, also recently walked away from her career of 13 years.
She left her job as a franchise shareholder and retail director at an optical dispensing company after contending with a "lack of challenge" and feeling there was nowhere to go "for personal growth".
Hobson said things became harder when the pandemic started because she was "already in the throes of burnout".
"It wasn't just running a business, it was dealing with government changes, law changes, health and safety, dealing with things like the corporate expectations," Hobson said.
She reached a point where she thought, "I just can't keep doing this forever. There's got to be something else out there."
After building up her finances, she decided to sell her business, resign from her job and take a break.
She is more equivocal about her decision to leave.
"I don't think it's as black and white as that," she said.
While she has found time to relax and switch off, Hobson said the longer she's away from work the more that might impact her ability to return.
Hobson said when she does start working again, she would like to switch industries, a new perspective that has made the change "definitely worth it".
LinkedIn career expert Cayla Dengate said the reason there may have been more movement during the 2020-21 period was because "a lot of people spent those COVID-19 lockdowns and early days, really soul searching about what they want in life".
"One of the main things people were after was a job that aligned with their values as well as good work-life balance," Dengate said.
Dengate said pay was another big motivator for people to switch jobs.
She said as a result, some industries offered job searchers "large pay increases and generous benefits" during the pandemic to help their businesses find new talent and to keep the staff they already had.
Looking ahead through the rest of 2023, Dengate sees "a looming sense of economic global uncertainty" causing even those who feel secure in their current jobs to start "career cushioning".
Dengate said career cushioning involves doing things that could add value in the workplace like "learning a new skill" to safeguard one's job security.
She also explained "reaching out to networks" and "brushing up LinkedIn profiles" to ensure future employment was also deemed career cushioning.
It's a trend that's become more prevalent as companies face staff cuts due to rising inflation.
"It's about working on yourselves and networks to make sure that you're going to feel that cushioning, if you were to lose your job," she said.
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