For years, we’ve been inundated with hysterical headlines about how empowered, delicate, and narcissistic millennials are. And now it’s Gen Z’s turn to rake over the coals. “Work shyness” seems to keep coming up as a reproach. This week, a Deloitte poll revealed that half of Ireland’s Gen Z workers plan to quit their current job within two years. And not just in Ireland. In April alone, 4.4 million people in the US, most of them under the age of 26, quit their jobs. Experts speak of the “big layoff” when young people give up their jobs in order to find a better work-life balance and more favorable conditions.
he negative notion of quitting is a holdover from the “Job for Life” era. Quitting – work, studies, relationships – is seen as problematic. It’s flaky. Egotistical. Weak. It’s the polar opposite of all the things that are considered “good” traits in humans. Consistency. Mission. Loyalty. Never give up. Quitters never win and winners never give up.
Well I’m not buying it. As a serial quitter, I’m here to tell you that
Gen Z and indeed quitters of all ages are very into something. Sometimes giving in is the right choice, and sticking with it does more harm than good.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve avoided situations that didn’t work for me. Before there was a snowflake, I left because I knew I didn’t want to waste my time on people, hobbies, jobs, or pursuits that didn’t give me at least something in return. I’ve ended friendships and relationships that didn’t serve me, sometimes without looking back.
I see it less as “giving up” than making a decision and moving on. Far from sitting still and waiting for things to get better, I run while I still can. Unfortunately for my parents, I quit gymnastics at the age of five after the instructor yelled at me a little too loudly. Ballet, harp, Irish dance, guitar – when push came to shove, I started.
As a teenager, I took a live-in job at a pub in London and left before I even had my first shift. I took in the battered boss, the broken TV, and the bloodstains on the bedroom mattress, and settled for instant peace. There was no safety net beneath me, and I was essentially a teenager in London with no job or home, but that was fine.
Later, having recently returned to Ireland, I got a job in a Dublin financial office, entering codes from various faxes and letters into a computer. The reason why we did this is still unclear to me. Forty-five minutes later I was numb with boredom. My fidgeting soon turned into a whole body convulsion and we hadn’t even gotten to lunch. I looked over at the two lifeguards who had been doing this exact job for decades. They had clearly hit the boredom wall a long time ago and got over it. Of course they got something out of being there—a steady paycheck, financial stability—but it seemed like a bum. At lunch, one of them pulled out a lunch box and a copy of heat magazine and read it silently during the lunch break. We hadn’t spoken a word to each other all day. In that moment, I vowed never to hold on to something just because it was expected of me and was the “right thing.” I never made it to day two of this job. And I’ve done a couple of day outreaches at workplaces across Ireland.
I may also be the only person in Ireland who has not only given up two PhDs but also dropped out of two courses at Trinity College. I’m in good company too: Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are all known to be college dropouts.
do i regret it Not a little. Quitting freed me to take other paths. I could have persevered, but it would have led me down a path I ultimately didn’t want to walk. When I logged on to Facebook one afternoon and saw festive pictures of one of my old classes decked out in their graduation finery, I had a pang of guilt. But the moment was short-lived. I had tried the course on size and it didn’t work for me. The most important thing was that I even tried.
There’s something toxic about the old-school notion that quitting is something negative. It can keep people in a situation or life they don’t enjoy or even want. And while wanting to feel valued in the workplace might sound like something only a young idealist could talk about, there’s a good reason to have it as a basic requirement in any job you take on. It has nothing to do with being unreliable or impulsive, it’s all about knowing your worth.
The desire to try things, to grow, to take risks, and to make mistakes are the essential ingredients of a life well-lived. The alternative might be the stuff of bravery, but it also sounds a bit unbearable.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/im-a-serial-quitter-who-has-walked-away-from-two-phds-two-degrees-and-countless-jobs-and-i-dont-regret-a-thing-41887906.html I’m a serial quitter with two PhDs, two degrees and countless jobs behind me, and I have no regrets