- Brandon Holland, a 24-year-old living in southern California, quit two jobs during the pandemic.
- He joins millions of Americans ditching their jobs for better pay, conditions, and career prospects.
- Holland is now seeking a long-term career. “People are learning to respect that leap of faith,” he said.
Brandon Holland was one of the record 4.3 million Americans who quit their jobs in August.
After more than two years working at a Starbucks near his home in Simi Valley, California, the 24-year-old quit over pandemic stress.
He said the cafe tried to extract the most work from the fewest employees.
“It was insane. We had people waiting 30 minutes in a drive-through line for a cup of coffee because we didn’t have another person to make coffee,” he said. “That was the story of the last year I was there.”
Holland’s story is just one example of a phenomenon sweeping through the US labor market. For the first time in decades, the labor market formula is flipped. There are plenty of jobs to go around, but businesses are struggling to hire and retain workers. The problem is due to a few mismatches: location, expectations, and skills.
August marked a fifth straight month of roughly 4 million workers quitting, handily outpacing levels seen before the pandemic. Quits tend to rise when Americans are confident in their ability to find better work. The environment for quitting is ripe, as the country still has more than 10 million job openings to fill. The mindset toward quitting has changed and has given way to a “Great Resignation.” Workers are ditching low pay and poor conditions, and forcing companies to rethink compensation.
As President Joe Biden put it in June, the American worker got a new “bargaining chip.”
‘I’m less hesitant to leave a job than ever’
After leaving Starbucks, Holland got a job in retail. Around one month later, he played his bargaining chip and quit that one, too.
“It’s absolutely easier … this is a new experience for me, where it seems that everywhere I go, there’s something new,” he said. “I’m less hesitant than ever to leave a job because I know that there are so many openings in my area and I know what I’m worth.”
Much of the country is having the same realization as Holland: Leaving a job can be the best thing for one’s career path. Holland, who said he’d quit four jobs in the years before the pandemic, was “lucky enough to learn the lesson pretty early,” but still needed some motivation to leave his Starbucks job.
That push came from a fellow coworker. She left her barista job after working at Starbucks for more than six years for a stable nine-to-five position that paid $4 more an hour. Her move was “a bit of a lightbulb” for Holland.
“I don’t want to work every Saturday or Sunday morning,” he said. “Why can’t I find something that’s going to pay the bills and be a Monday-through-Friday job and treat me well?”
The change in worker demand has also allowed Holland to switch from finding jobs to hunting down a long-term career. In the meantime, he’s working a temporary delivery job at a nearby mom-and-pop pizza restaurant, but his focus is on finding a sustainable gig. The 24-year-old has completed two interviews in hopes of landing a visual art job, an area about which he’s long been passionate.
Previous jobs were either short-term from the start or “left you wanting for something you feel is what you’re born to do,” Holland said. Customer service was “simply not worth the headache,” and the sector doesn’t have the long-term careers he’s now seeking out.
“You’re looking for something that’s more fulfilling and a longer venture. Something that’s going to keep you on your toes for a long time,” he said. “Even if it is a leap of faith to some extent, people are learning to respect that leap of faith.”