Stories of the Great Resignation dominated the news this year, with record numbers of people quitting their job just as vaccination efforts revived the economy and people felt confident they could find better work somewhere else.
CNBC Make It spoke with three women who quit their job this year for varying reasons. Here are their quitting stories, the biggest lessons they learned, and their best advice to other people thinking about joining the Great Resignation.
Ranee Soundara, 37, lives in New York City. She quit her job as a product marketing lead in July.
Her quitting story: After 18 months of working nonstop at a company that was going public, I was burned out. My social life diminished as we had to shelter in place, and I went into overdrive with work. My mental health suffered.
I saw my doctor in April 2021. When she asked me how I was doing, I broke down. She said something along the lines of "your job is sucking the life out of you," and that if I continued down the same route, it would take a toll mentally and physically. Me being 37 and trying to freeze my eggs, I'm having to make very conscious decisions on what to do with my health and my future. I also have a history of heart disease and diabetes in my family, which can be exacerbated by ongoing stress.
I had to come to terms with the idea that no job is ever worth your life. That's when I started planning my exit. I decided to leave New York, see my family and spend some time alone. I quit my job in July.
The hardest thing about quitting: It was an emotional moment to deliver my notice to my boss. She's very understanding and knew I was doing this for my health. HR offered that I could take medical leave, but I didn't think it would make a difference. I'd still be coming back to the same work environment.
The biggest lesson she learned: I traveled to Hawaii and Europe after I quit. The trips helped me relax and self-reflect. But while taking a trip is nice, it's only a momentary escape. You still have to deal with the root causes of your mental health issues. As my time away wound down, I had to start thinking deeper in terms of what I really want for myself.
Her advice to people planning to quit: Make sure you're quitting for the right reasons. It took me a long time to figure that out. Think through the decision and the financial consequences for yourself or your family. Weigh your pros and cons.
Also, seek help as soon as you can. Especially in the Asian American community, I feel like there's such a stigma around seeking mental health help.
What's next: Career-wise, I'm back in New York and taking time to explore my options. Burning out taught me a lot in terms of ensuring that whatever organization I go into next, I have to be very clear with the goals and expectations that I set for myself. Personally, I'm creating a plan to freeze my eggs in early 2022.
Giselle Sitdykova, 45, lives in Oak Park, California. She quit her job as an analytics manager in July.
Her quitting story: Before 2020, my life was on autopilot. Every day I got my 11-year-old son ready for school, prepared meals, commuted to work, networked with colleagues, did my actual work and then rushed to bring my son home. I didn't have time to think. With remote work, I had four hours back to myself every day.
I started thinking about building a company. I wanted to launch a website that would give personal recommendations to help people planning to move. By October 2020, I hired contractors from Fiverr and Upwork to put the first version of my website, Dwellics, on the market.
This spring, I heard my company planned to bring everyone back to the office in July. I took it as a sign. I gave my notice on June 1 and had my last day on July 2.
The hardest thing about quitting: I always associated myself with my job and being in the corporate environment. Suddenly, the day after I quit, I had no title, no salary, and my new business didn't have a name yet. It's like moving from a nice house to an empty lot and starting to build from the foundation up, where you hope that at some point what you build will be bigger than the house you once had.
The biggest lesson she learned: I learned so much about myself. In 2020 I connected with myself and what makes me happy. I didn't want to disconnect. I have the freedom to choose who I spend time with.
Her advice to people planning to quit: Understand what work environment you like best before you quit, especially if you're starting your own business. Also, have a plan — for your life and your future job — for at least the next six months.
What's next: I'm bringing on my first client in December. We'll start to bring in revenue soon.
Stephanie Becker, 22, lives in Phoenix, Arizona. She quit her job at a dog boarding facility in June.
Her quitting story: I lost my retail job during the pandemic and was out of work for a year. By springtime this year, I saw a ton of job openings. I got hired at a dog boarding and day-care facility.
But the work got to be way too stressful. I agreed to work the day shift but instead got assigned to start at 4:30 a.m. I didn't get along with my boss. I was asked to do work outside my job description. Then my uncle got sick with Covid. I asked off work to help take care of him but was denied.
Every day after work, I'd get into my car and break down and cry. I just didn't want to do it anymore. After two weeks, I gave my notice.
The hardest thing about quitting: The hardest part was deciding where to work next. It was so different from when I was unemployed last year. The day after I quit, I had two job interviews lined up. I didn't want to rush into another job and have the same problem as before. But it was hard finding a company that actually cares for its workers, has benefits and doesn't underpay. It took me about a month to find a good job I wanted.
What she would do over: During the job interview process, I'd check employee review sites to see how people feel about their company. That would have helped me when I was deciding what job to take.
The biggest lesson she learned: Look for something that you're interested in, but also something that will help you in your life and not put too much stress on you. There's no point in going to work and going home and being miserable.
What's next: Now, I work at a Starbucks that's a 20-minute walk from my house. They cover 100% of tuition if you go to Arizona State University online. I'm calling their office later for more information on what my options would be for that.
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.