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Why millions of Americans are quitting their jobs

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Posted at 11:08 AM, Oct 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-29 11:08:47-04

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — The pandemic has led many Americans to quit their jobs. From having more flexible schedules to remote work opportunities and better work-life balance, many employees have taken this time of uncertainty to leave a job they weren’t passionate about.

Roxanne Pagibigan was one of those workers. She immigrated to the United States from the Philippines for a better life for her family. She was working at a superstore preparing food when the pandemic hit.

“We were making the ready-to-eat foods like the mac and cheese, the salads,” said Pagibigan. “When pandemic hit, I got scared, so I resigned.”

She then took a job packing boxes in a warehouse, hoping to be safer, but there, she found a different challenge.

“Every day, it's very tiring working in the warehouse,” said Pagibigan. “Because of that, I felt like I wanted something more fulfilling, especially now that my kid is growing up. I want to be able to provide more for him.”

She knew a better paying job meant going back to school, so she saved up and started taking coding classes after work with Coding Dojo.

“I was immediately interested with what they're offering,” said Pagibigan. “I’ll get more money and I won't be working at the warehouse.”

The courses take a few months to complete. Students can take the courses part-time or full-time. The classes are not free, but Coding Dojo tries to work with every student on payment plans to make these classes accessible to as many people as want to take them.

“What we are here for is to let people who want to change their careers wants to make the investment dedication over the course of three to six months to completely transition from whatever job they have today into a tech jobs that has a higher why the has a higher career mobility,” said Richard Wang, the CEO and co-founder of Coding Dojo.

He said coding boot camps have become extremely popular during the pandemic because more workers are interested in careers with upward mobility than ever before.

“Our mission is to transform lives through digital literacy, and we'll continue to specialize in taking people with no tech background and train them in the domains of web development, cyber security, data science, UI UX in all of these new economy tech domains to get them high-quality jobs in a current job market,” said Wang.

Once Pagibigan finished the coding boot camp, she did what millions of Americans have done this year: she quit.

“I had so many doubts in myself,” said Pagibigan. “But, when a recruiter reached out to me, I was like, ‘Wow.’”

She quickly got a job as a software engineer. Now, she is challenging her brain, not her body.

“I'm advancing in my career, but I'm kind of scared of what the future holds for me. But I'm hopeful, and I know that I can do it,” she said.

Pagibigan quit for personal safety and better job security, and she isn’t alone.

In just the month of August, 4.3 million Americans—2.9% of the entire workforce— quit their jobs. That’s the highest number in one month ever recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Melanie Feldman founded the job coaching platform Going Places. She said the pandemic created a list of reasons for this wave of resignations.

“We saw a lot of people moving out of the location that they were previously in, and then a lot of companies now have mandated coming back,” said Feldman. “I've seen a lot of people quit from that because people just don't want to come back to cities.”

She also noticed mental health is playing a bigger part in choosing a job than ever before.

“With the pandemic, it's brought a lot of stress,” said Feldman. “A lot of people are able to just prioritize themselves and said, ‘I need to quit and then I need to find something that's right for me.’”

Ulrike Malmendier is a professor of Finance at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. She’s done research on how changes in the economy can shift our thinking.

“In the context of the pandemic, I would expect that the experience of job stability and the way jobs are done during those times will alter our attitudes towards work in these areas in the long term,” she said.

She said things like inflation, stock market downturn and other economic shocks force people to reassess their priorities personally. She said in this moment, there is a lot of power in the worker’s hands, but that power may not last.

“The staff is not coming back and willing to work the exact same way they did before. I do think there's a power shift. How long this will last? Well, we do have to be careful, right? At some point, savings will be exhausted. There won't be additional checks sent by the government as it was early in the pandemic. So, it might be that employers regain their power and can just go forge ahead and reestablish the situation they had before," Malmendier said. "However this plays out, I think it will be really useful to firms and to employers to just realize they are dealing with a different set of people.”

For Pagibigan, this time of uncertainty brought her the courage to change not only her life but her family’s.

“It's the American dream. My mom is really old and my brother is blind, so, this is a dream come true for me because it enables me to earn more so that I could help my family,” she said.

Pagibigan is also hoping her son sees the lessons she’s learned about work during the pandemic and is never afraid to start a new chapter.

“I'm striving hard. I'm working hard for him. I just feel very lucky, and I feel thankful that I have this job right now.”

If you are interested in starting a coding boot camp through Coding Dojo, click HERE for more information.

If you'd like job searching resources, connect with Going Places HERE.