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3 millennials who pivoted from 6-figure corporate jobs for more meaningful careers share why the pay cut was worth it

Anastasia Chernikova   

3 millennials who pivoted from 6-figure corporate jobs for more meaningful careers share why the pay cut was worth it
  • Paige Webster, Kat Clark, and Adam Parmer felt like they were missing something.
  • They pivoted from working in Big Tech and politics to lower-paid work they felt was more gratifying.

Millennials are burned out and feeling uninspired, ready to make a career pivot even if it's risky. Insider asked Paige Webster, Kat Clark, and Adam Parmer how they decided to ditch their high-paid corporate jobs for ones they found more gratifying.

Kat Clark quit her senior manager position at Apple to run the nonprofit Teachers in Their Power

Before starting at Apple in 2019, Clark had over $100,000 in student loans from business school. She was able to pay them off entirely before leaving the education department at Apple's worldwide product marketing team in July 2022.

Clark watched the pandemic exacerbate the problems with K-12 education. The narrative around remote learning and teaching during this time was "pretty abysmal," Clark told Insider.

"I noticed that teachers' voices were rarely amplified in the media, and I wanted to do something about that," she said, "even if it meant walking away from a couple hundred-thousand dollars per year."

In August last year, Clark launched the nonprofit Teachers in Their Power, which highlights the challenges teachers face.

"The biggest sacrifice I made was leaving the Bay Area," said Clark. San Francisco's high cost of living meant she could no longer afford to live there after leaving Apple.

Clark moved to Wisconsin, where she runs her charity. She said it has its drawbacks, including colder weather and living further away from friends.

She now travels across the Midwest to photograph and interview teachers about their experiences and what they believe could be done to improve American education. "I have peace. I feel like what I'm doing can help create change," Clark said.

To make extra money, Clark also works part time as a marketing executive for hire and a consultant for edtech startups.

After being laid off from Meta, Paige Webster realized working in tech wasn't her calling

After getting laid off from Meta in March, Webster posted on LinkedIn: "I took a job at a local winery that pays $20 an hour even though I have 9+ years of talent acquisition & program management experience and was making a 6 figure salary at Meta."

The tech job market was so bleak, she didn't consider looking for a similar position.

Instead, she started working at a local winery in Northern California. She found the job through a friend who introduced her to the owner of the winery about two months after she was let go from Meta.

Webster works three days a week, Friday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The rest of her time is spent writing and developing recipes as a freelancer. Webster said getting laid off from Meta made her realize that "tech recruiting was great in a lot of ways, but it wasn't what I was put on this earth to do."

Webster pours drinks in the tasting room and discusses the wine with guests. A big part of the job is selling wine-club memberships and cases of wine. She told Insider the work inspires her writing and is an opportunity to meet interesting people.

Webster said she still considers herself unemployed because "$20 per hour is not livable wage in Silicon Valley."

Her husband's support made this pivot possible. "If I were single or if we had children, I would have been forced back to tech simply for the higher pay and benefits — especially considering the cost of living in the Bay Area," she said.

"Meta gave me a lot of intellectual stimulation, whereas the winery is much less intellectually stimulating but is far more socially stimulating," Webster told Insider. "When I was at Meta, I really disliked working from home five days a week and also felt that it was hindering my career advancement."

Webster said being among colleagues and guests at the winery has been a refreshing change. "I am an extroverted person and really need that social interaction to fill my cup."

Adam Parmer left his political-consulting job to start Nothing Ventured Vans, a custom-van-conversion company

Before starting a custom-van-conversion company in 2021, Parmer was making six figures a year as a political consultant.

After the 2020 elections and 15 years in the industry, Parmer decided to part ways with his firm and political consulting altogether.

Parmer took some time off to build out a custom camper van for his personal travels.

While completing this project, he discovered he enjoyed the physicality of van building more than consulting. He also told Insider he thought there "was potential to make this pursuit a full-time business."

In 2021, Parmer started Nothing Ventured Vans, initially building spec vans before transitioning to more custom work.

He now makes one-fifth of his old salary, but told Insider, "My quality of life, job satisfaction, and overall life-work balance has been greatly improved."

It was tough to watch more money flow out than in during the first year of business, Parmer said. "My wife and I did need to tighten our belts a bit as our income was substantially reduced. We traveled less, went out to eat less often, bought fewer things."

Parmer said they found the financial reset "healthy," and it helped them realize what their priorities were.

He told Insider the most dramatic change was abandoning desk work. Parmer loves being on his feet and working with his hands eight to 10 hours a day.

"It's not just physical labor that's rewarding, although that's a large part, it's also mentally challenging," he added. Parmer said having "a tangible representation" of his efforts at the end of a day was "beyond satisfying."

He plans to keep building his van business but doesn't know if he'll still be building vans 10 years from now. Parmer said the biggest takeaway from his career pivot was learning that "your professional life can have many different chapters and that 'success' is a constantly evolving, moving target."