A career-switching millennial nearly doubled her salary to $95,000 after the Great Resignation and quiet quitting helped her choose a more fulfilling path
- 26-year-old Elaine Lee quit her first job after realizing it wasn't the right fit for her.
- The Great Resignation and "quiet quitting" made her realize work should serve her lifestyle, not the other way around.
Elaine Lee, 26, said her workplace environment at retail chain Ross was good and she felt valued by her team — but she just wasn't happy.
"I was getting stressed out every day," she told Insider. "I would go to sleep with anxiety and it got to the point where I realized that I needed to make a change somehow."
She realized the pressure she was experiencing was internal.
"I sort of realized that I didn't have a strong desire to improve, like I wasn't really looking to get better at it, even though I wanted to be good at my job," she said.
The pandemic was the final straw.
"Just working at home all the time and not being able to go out and not being able to do the other things that came with living in a city — work suddenly seemed like a much bigger part of life, and that's when I sort of realized that I wasn't super enjoying what I was doing," she said.
Lee decided to make a change, and moved out of New York City to live with her parents in New Jersey, where she thought about her career, her mental health, and her relationship with work broadly. Amid the old-but-newly-named trends of "quiet quitting" or "acting your wage," in which workers do their jobs as written and no more, Lee wanted more. Her unhappiness at work stemmed from a realization that she was not passionate about her current position, and she dreaded work because she was not excelling like she want to be.
The Great Resignation — sometimes called the "Great Reshuffle" — was the exodus of millions of workers from their jobs over the past two years. It revealed that a lot of Americans are fed up with lower salaries, poor working conditions, and an unsatisfying work-life balance. That unrest also includes a surge in union activism. Whatever the motivation, many workers are quitting to pursue work they're passionate about. A record number of people are starting their own businesses, for instance. Millennials, like Lee, who are between the ages of 26 and 41, have been a major force during the Great Resignation.
The fact that she wasn't alone in her desire for more eased Lee's guilt around her work performance and sense of self worth about it.
"The Great Resignation and quiet quitting environment has helped me let go of perfectionism," she said. "Work is supposed to support me in the lifestyle I want, and not the other way around."
"I want to do a job that I don't mind waking up to"
Although Lee spent two years while living at home with her parents anxious about employment and reflecting on why she left her last company, she told Insider that time spent away from the workplace proved to be incredibly valuable for her.
"I sort of needed to find a new direction," she said.
She realized that she wanted to pursue work that was more creative and settled on user experience design. While not working a 9 to 5, she took the time to do some research on the field, spoke to designers she met in a Facebook group, and attended design competitions.
User experience designers look at branding, design, usability and function of a tech products with the mandate of making them easy to use. Companies that range from music streaming services to insurance companies hire user experience researchers, writers, and designers, and the field has been growing more popular in recent years. In 2020, Linkedin said UX design was the fifth most sought after hard skill by companies.
And it's a profitable one — the average base salary for UX designers is nearly $100,000, according to Indeed.
When she decided to enter the field two years later, she was well-equipped to join it and landed a job at JPMorgan Chase. She makes $95,000 annually there, a major jump from the $57,000 she earned at Ross, Insider verified via pay stubs.
She attributed much of that good fortune to the time she took to consider her interests, self-study, and let go of some of the pressure she felt about succeeding at work. Part of it, she acknowledged, is having a family to lean on, and savings to draw from — an opportunity she thinks that more workers should get.
"I want to do a job that I don't mind waking up to, that I have things at work I'm excited about," she said.
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