In 2022, I turned 30, quit my eight-year teaching career, and got a job at Costco.
When I tell people this, they often respond with: "But is Costco your dream job?" or, "Do you think it's a valid career?" To me, it implied that they thought my decision was a downgrade. And for a long time, I might have agreed. My identity and value were completely tied to being an educator.
But I no longer find my fulfillment or sense of worth in work alone.
My priority is to have a clear divide between my personal and professional lives. I want to spend time with my husband and our two kids, and pursue the things that are truly important to me.
This fall, I couldn't be more excited to celebrate my first anniversary working at Costco — and I've never been happier.
For eight years, I taught middle and high school history and language arts at public and private schools. In 2022, during my final school year, my salary was $47,000.
I worked 60 hours a week and put in tons of unpaid overtime. Between administrative pressures, testing requirements, and the endurance required to teach during the height of the pandemic, I was exhausted. I felt like I lacked purpose.
So I started looking for alternative paths that would give me some breathing room.
At first, I just wanted a "good enough for now" job. I got offers from Costco and Amazon in the same week, but Costco seemed like it would be a better fit and offer more opportunities down the line.
Plus, I liked shopping there and I knew employees were treated well.
In September 2022, I started full-time on the memberships team at a new warehouse in Athens, Georgia. I had two 15-minute breaks, and 30 minutes for lunch. Otherwise, I was on my feet all day.
At first, I made $18.50 an hour — a little less than what I earned as a teacher. I put in 40-hour workweeks, five days a week, and got a $1-per-hour raise when I hit 1,000 hours.
A few months in, I got laryngitis. I couldn't help members at the cash register with no voice, so I requested to temporarily fill in at the bakery.
I loved it. Whether it was baking a cake for a 90th birthday or for someone who just completed their PhD, making a tangible contribution to someone's special day gave me a renewed sense of purpose.
When the marketing training team came to our location, seeing them work showed me that I could still be an educator — just in a different context. So when a position opened up in Issaquah, Washington, I immediately applied.
Now I'm a content developer and marketing trainer for the corporate office. I create internal materials to educate employees about policies and customer service procedures. I travel to different warehouses and train new team members.
I'm earning what a teacher with 15 years of experience made at my last school district — and 50% more than what I made when I quit.
My work is no longer my identity. I put energy into my job when I'm there, and I leave work at the office. When I come home, I'm present and able to spend time with my family doing what I love, like being outdoors.
I've never felt more fulfilled.
There are a lot of caregiving professions — teachers, social workers, emergency responders, home health aides — that aren't highly paid, but are viewed as higher callings.
Having a lot of passion but not enough institutional support is a recipe for burnout. My best advice is to set boundaries and have a clear understanding of your responsibilities.
When I am asked to work on a project, I make sure I understand the stakes and the timeline required to complete it. I'm not afraid to ask for more resources if I need them.
We're taught from a young age to think about dream jobs in terms of: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Now, I spend more energy thinking about: "Who do you want to be?"
Maggie Perkins works at Costco as a content developer for the marketing training team. She quit her teaching job in 2022 due to shifting workplace conditions in education. Outside of work, Maggie enjoys exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her family and going for runs. Follow her on TikTok @millennialmsfrizzle.
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