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A generation of women is learning that leaving a job isn’t an ending, but often the start of something better, says writer Alexandra Jones.
When Dr Aishah Iqbal quit her job in medicine in 2019, her immediate feeling was one of relief. “I woke up on that first day and it felt surreal but so exciting,” she recalls. To celebrate, Aishah decided to spend four months travelling and learning Arabic in Egypt. “Once you start in medicine it can feel like you’re on a conveyor belt,” she says. “I suppose most careers can feel like that. But with medicine, you choose it at 18, then are expected to power through, specialising and passing exams, until you’re 40 or 45 and become a consultant.”
A few years out of university though, Aishah realised the conveyor belt approach wasn’t serving her. “It felt like I was just doing the job for the sake of doing it. I didn’t feel like myself when I was at work – and I thought that was pretty sad given how much time we spend working.” As soon as Aishah accepted she was stuck and decided to step off the set path, though, a sense of possibility opened up to her.
Last week, the United States Labor Department reported the biggest jump in resignations for more than 20 years and here in the UK, surveys have found that around a quarter of workers are prepared to quit their jobs, rather than go back to working in offices full-time.
As Aishah’s story shows, though, attitudes towards quitting have been changing for some time. The pandemic may have forced many of us into an 18-month meditation on our ambition and purpose – 75% of Stylist readers want to work fewer days and focus more on their personal lives – but for younger generations, that shake up has been a long time coming. “Our parents got a job and stayed in it for 30 years,” says Aishah, now 29. “I think even within medicine, it doesn’t feel like that’s how things are done any more. Something that was taboo for older generations is now more accepted.”
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