The reason for ‘The Great Resignation’, writes Philippa White, is people are looking for a change, and a way to find renewed purpose in their lives. But is leaving a job the way to do it?

My 7-year-old invited me for a movie night on the sofa the other night. Her big sister was out at a friend’s house and this was a chance to do something together. There was a Disney movie she really wanted me to watch called Encanto.  

My goodness – what a beautiful illustration of how powerful it is to find your purpose.  

The movie talks a lot about magic. And although Disney’s magic involves a little more theatre, the magic created once a purpose is discovered, is not dissimilar. I have seen this regularly in the 16 years of working in growth and development.  

In Encanto, when the people found their purpose, they were able to break free of the roles that were imposed on them. The message was clear: other people’s expectations of you do not define who you are. 


We need to be challenged

You see, humans aren’t meant to be painted into a corner. Society is constantly trying to push people into specialisations and schools create people to fit particular jobs.  But the world is changing so quickly, and people not only need to be able to bridge different areas, network with different people and respond to different challenges, they are yearning for it.  

It’s too easy in our jobs to drop into a formula and a rhythm where you feel like you are going around the block a bit. People can very often feel constrained. It’s hard for them to know how they can contribute. Everyone knows their places in the system.  

The key is finding ways to give people the opportunity to step out of the circuit, their bubbles, their silos, to find their own route. To have the chance to step out of the hierarchy and to do and be more, so that they can unlock that special magic within them. They are searching for something. And that is their magical purpose.  

And when this happens, it’s extremely powerful.  

What we are seeing with the great resignation is many people are looking for change. They are trying to expand and challenge themselves. Looking for new ways to push themselves and to step out of their comfort zones and silos by chronically job hopping.  


Reflections after the pandemic

People have also been living to work for a very long time. And the pandemic brought that moment of reflection for everyone. “What do I want to do? What makes my heart sing?” And people are thinking, “If not now, then when?” 

The latest figures came out on January 4, 2022, and showed that 4.5 million people voluntarily left their positions in November – an “all-time high.” 

Around the world, millions of people are rethinking how they work and live—and how to better balance the two. 

But the thing is, job hopping doesn’t necessarily answer the problem, or deliver on what people need or want. 

Yes, some people may have been awakened from a meaningless routine and realise that they are better suited at another company and if that’s the case, then great. 

But I think it’s also important to recognise that many people are searching for something within themselves. The answer actually lies within them, it just needs to be unearthed. 

Chronically job hopping to fill that emptiness is like peering down a narrow hole to get a better understanding of wider possibilities. The problem is people end up feeling as though they’ve “ticked another box”, but… nothing’s… changed. They continue to feel unsatisfied. 

Once the answer is discovered, they may be able to realise more of their potential staying where they are. They know the culture, have the influence, and understand how to make things happen. Taking on a new job requires a significant investment of time and talent to learn how things work while establishing yourself.  

And this growth is the responsibility of everyone involved – individuals need to have the courage and make the time and investment to see the world in a different way and to push themselves to be able to unearth their magic.  

Companies also need to recognise that people are yearning to be and do more. Due to the pandemic, and the real challenges people have faced, life has been put into perspective. People are looking at work through a very different lens, their priorities have changed. People are no longer working solely for a paycheck, they want to feel fulfilled.  They are looking for enrichment, they are looking to unearth their purpose. Companies not only need to invest in this type of growth and discovery, they also need to be open to doing things differently, to adapt to this changing landscape, and empower employees to be a part of this new beginning.

What’s the solution?

And as my friend and mentor Gib Bulloch has always said, “Don’t change jobs, change the job you are in.” 

Of course, there are so many factors to all of this. But I think one of the main solutions begins with a clear first step: Help connect workers to a meaningful purpose, something they can feel proud to contribute to when they show up for work every day. As Encanto illustrates, a role without purpose, is an empty shell.

Everyone has their own magic, and it’s important that they don’t become defined by that. How they bring that to life – is their purpose.  

Help your employees find their magic. Help them find purpose in their daily work. Ensure their job meets their purpose. Because when this happens, they will be eager to go to work, excited about waking up in the morning. They will understand what their reason is to be. Help them see how that connects to what makes your company and what you do so special. And then empower them to be a part of that change. 


Philippa White is founder and CEO of The International Exchange (TIE), which is an international leadership programme that helps professionals looking for personal growth through experiential learning in real-life situations.