The great resignation
The pandemic spurred many millennials to rethink the role of work in their lives. Now they’re walking away from corporate 9-to-5 jobs to pursue creative passions and entrepreneurial ambitions.

Lightbulb moments — ever elusive but so very satisfying when they strike. While it might be foolish to chase such flashes of insight, young folk are on the hunt. A first love, a decision to leave a city, a career U-turn — these thudding a-ha moments hit hard and often when you least expect. But none may be quite as random as a BBC report on American YouTuber’s “Lipstick Gate” that sparked the interests of Sydney-based twentysomethings Jordyn Christensen and Lauren Meisner, and set the wheels in motion for a total career transformation

It was mid-2019, COVID wasn’t in our lexicon, Old Town Road was a fresh hit, and social media entrepreneur Jaclyn Hill found herself in a PR firestorm when her makeup line faced accusations of being unfit for use. Jordyn and Lauren watched the story unfold in awe. Both glossy magazine journalists, the pair had stood by women’s mastheads in the face of mass closures and clickbait journalism. All the while their interest to tell stories that spoke to young people’s love of influencer culture grew. So when “Lipstick Gate” drove discussions about YouTube and the creator space into the mainstream media, it was time for Jordyn and Lauren to pounce. Jaclyn’s PR misfortune was the catalyst for the pair’s pivot.

Lauren pitched Jordyn the concept of Centennial Beauty: a media network that uses digital platforms to cover meaningful content about internet culture, creators as role models and how social media is shifting culture. By December 2019, the platform had soft launched. Jordyn and Lauren both resigned from their traditional roles, bequeathing their salaries and safety net (their pivot occurred naively before COVID-19). Centennial Beauty went from an idea to a fully formed business venture with a successful TikTok account, podcast and website at the height of the 2020 pandemic. Agile and dynamic, the brand has benefitted from the pair’s ability to adapt. 

“Being dynamic with our brand, moving quickly and not being afraid to take risks has been the key to our success,” says co-founder Jordyn. “The freedom to do these things is why this new direction continues to be so appealing. The pandemic has also shown us that flexibility is crucial in a working environment, so being able to make our own schedules has really helped maintain our motivation and drive.”

The Great Resignation

Jordyn and Lauren are emblematic of what think tanks are calling The Great Resignation. McCrindle Research describes the phenomenon as seeing a significant number of workers leave their jobs due to the pandemic. The reasoning is two-fold. McCrindle Research argues that after a two-year pause on what was the rat race, many are now reassessing the value and validity of their careers. Does a 9am coffee run, Uber Eats vouchers for working late and the promise of occasional Friday drinks equate to career satisfaction? Additionally, the world-wide pause of flight paths has dried up the international  flow of transit workers and expats.

Buy now pay later conglomerate Afterpay flagged in its report Lockdown Liberation that 55 per cent of millennials and Gen Z said they realised they wanted a career change during the pandemic. Whether you are working in a cafe or you’re a suit in a towering high-rise, young people are seeking out change. Like Uber and DropBox, which rose from the ashes of the global financial crisis in 2008, the global implications of the pandemic have spurred entrepreneurial embers.

Having launched Social Laundry, a digital marketing agency that works with a global clientele in 2019, Bella Chambers was no stranger to transitioning from 9-to-5 to full-time side hustler. At 25-years-old, Bella might have an impressive resume in sales, but the pandemic gave her and her business partner another idea. Bella identified that contact tracing was going to be a major key in keeping the hospitality and retail sectors afloat. Her response was launching NOOK — a COVID-normal solution that offers venues a contactless digital system to make the mechanics of running a hospitality business easier.

Bella says there is nothing easy about pivoting from a straight-laced career to full-time side hustler in a pandemic. “Running your own business is no easy task, and there have been so many emotional hurdles to get past. To begin with, my biggest one was working solo,” she says. “Another big hurdle I faced in the earlier days was convincing people, including friends and family, about the legitimacy of my business. Trying to prove that running your own business isn’t just a part-time gig and that it is a full-time career. I would often get comments like ‘So, do you work?’ and ‘Are you still doing that freelancing kind of thing?’”

Finding job satisfaction

By legitimising her side hustles, Bella has found job satisfaction. She says this is thanks in large part to flexibility. “People thrive from change, and having the flexibility to mix up your surroundings is really important. I think people are a lot more open to remote working these days and that should be something that is celebrated across more workplaces.”

Notwithstanding the benefits of exploring life “outside of the corporate jungle”, leading Australian career coach Leah Lambert says under-30s looking to make a career jump should be prepared to do the foundational work and research in order to give themselves a fair chance of being successful in their business ventures. “While we might have the fullest intention to change, action is something else entirely,” says Leah. 

The CEO of Relaunch Me, a national initiative that helps people overcome their job satisfaction woes, Leah says it might be too soon to determine if The Great Resignation will actually eventuate beyond the media hype. She also says there is one way individuals can differentiate between a distaste for a particular job and general dissatisfaction with their career: “Consider whether you take an interest in your industry outside of working hours. For example, do you keep up-to-date with industry news for your own interest, do you enjoy talking about your work outside of hours, do you look forward to going to work each week?”

While Centennial Beauty was born from Jordyn and Lauren’s frustration with the tried and tested formulas of the media landscape, the pair’s passion for the industry has seen their platform become a huge success despite trying times for the industry. “Launching a new media brand when international mastheads with far more resources were shutting down didn’t seem like the recipe for success,” says Jordyn. “Yet it felt like the right time to take a considered risk. We didn’t have any dependents and our partners were super supportive; we didn’t have a lot to lose by going for it. I think in the COVID age, Millennials and Gen Z need to believe in the work they’re doing. Whether it’s a genuine interest or they feel like they are making a difference in the world, job satisfaction is going to be really important for young people in the workforce.”

For creatives like Jordyn, Lauren and Bella, the pandemic has allowed them to reassess how their passions can inform their career paths. Rather than waiting for an a-ha moment, these female innovators prove that young professionals might not need a fully fledged realisation to find their career purpose.