The people behind TikTok’s #iquitmyjob movement

Sep 06, 2022

10 mins

The people behind TikTok’s #iquitmyjob movement
Natalia Barszcz

Freelance journalist and writer

As the Great Resignation rages on, 2021 became the year in American history when over 47 million workers left their jobs. However, the movement isn’t only transforming the job market, showing the highest numbers of open positions in years. It’s also changing the way we perceive and speak about work.

The recent months have seen a flood of people documenting their quitting journeys on TikTok, with #iquitmyjob continuing to trend. In their short videos, creators openly bring attention to problems in their workplace and advocate for betting on happiness, as well as on mental and physical health. By putting their journey towards better careers on display, they seek to inspire others to do the same. Job quitting is becoming more transparent and sincere – because focusing on yourself and creating the life you deserve shouldn’t be taboo.

The #iquitmyjob videos have been revolutionizing the platform – but there’s only so much you can learn about a situation in 60 seconds. To better understand the online resignation movement, we spoke to Ruchika Karnani, King C Dukes, and Kim Daily: three creators who recently quit their full-time jobs – and let millions on TikTok see it. Why did they leave? Where are they now? And how have their lives changed?

Ruchika Karnani: When you make your health a priority

Ruchika Karnani, based in Toronto, worked as a digital marketing lead in a creative marketing agency – and she very much enjoyed her job. “I always tried to combine my passion for psychology into marketing and social media – my academic background is in psychology but I have also always been very creative,” she says. “This was my competitive edge and it gave me a really special place in the agency where I worked.” Though as time went by, Karnani’s role became more and more demanding and there was no end in sight to the growing list of responsibilities. “I was able to spearhead a lot of initiatives and create many different strategies. But because I was a leader, people also expected me to work all the time and have all the answers.”

Every week, Karnani would spend countless hours without compensation every week. In the beginning, she accepted the challenge – but she always made sure her employer knew the role was very demanding and much more than she signed up for. “I always wanted to have an open conversation about it. At first, management definitely made me feel seen and heard. But any time there were periods of extreme stress, when I would voice that I was overwhelmed with the workload and I needed some extra helping hands, I felt very alienated,” she says. Whenever she would confront her employer about the intense workload, she would hear things like ‘It’s fine’ or ‘This role isn’t for everyone’. “My workplace suddenly became a very gaslighting and toxic environment,” Karnani recalls.

“My intention was to always, if I ever had to quit, leave on a good note. And if there was any way I could alleviate the issues prior to even having to leave, I wanted that to happen. But every time I voiced my concerns, I was shut down or ignored,” she says. But after a while of feeling stressed and overworked, Karnani’s body also started telling her that the job was not the right fit for her. “My physical health started to deteriorate. I was on extremely high doses of medications that I never even thought I’d have to take. At that point, it just became a very clear indication that I had to stand up for myself – otherwise, there would be no fixing this. And I couldn’t pay the price with my health forever.”

Karnani decided to quit in November 2021. She didn’t leave to seek another job or to travel the world. She left because she decided to put her mental and physical health first. “Voicing that to my employer definitely made it very apparent that I was in a place that wasn’t aligned with my values.” But although she made sure to keep her employer in the loop about how she felt about the job and the workload from the very beginning, even the quitting process reiterated that it wasn’t a place for her - all Karnani heard was that they understand she did what she could, but this job and this workload were just not for everyone. “At the end of the day, even if that was the truth, when you know you’ve gone above and beyond, you just don’t want to hear that. It didn’t feel like a genuine concern for me as an employee and a person.”

A few weeks after officially leaving her job, Karnani decided to post her #iquitmyjob video on TikTok. “At first, I didn’t really talk about it much, especially about the health problems my previous job caused. I didn’t feel like I needed to – but seeing how many people were quitting their jobs at the same time as me I thought that maybe a lot of people could benefit from hearing my story, especially those trying to pacify toxic work situations that they’re not happy or healthy in.” Karnani isn’t sure if her former employer ever saw the video, but many of her colleagues have since reached out to her about it - whether they were in the loop about the whole situation or not. “They were all happy that I shared my story because they felt like I was speaking up on behalf of all of us. After I quit and became vocal about it, many others also left the creative agency.”

Karnani says quitting left her feeling many emotions: fear, uncertainty, relief, and excitement. “I didn’t necessarily have a plan in terms of career or job. My main focus was to improve my health and well-being, which took me almost four months.” And as a part of her recovery process, she’s also been able to devote time and energy toward her true passions. “Through posting content about my story and being vulnerable online, I’ve been able to build a lovely community, whether it’s around jobs, health, or overall well-being, that makes me feel safe and nurtured. I also slowly learned to make peace with taking each day as it comes.”

This experience has taught Karnani to always put herself, as well as what feels best for her, first. Since leaving her 9-5, she’s been focusing on her freelance marketing business and her personal content creation - and she says she feels so much happier as a flexible entrepreneur. “A lot of people have taken their lives into their own hands realizing their careers are up to their own discretion. I really hope to expand on this further and be able to continue to grow my business. I hope to keep connecting with people who could resonate with my story and who potentially need a little extra push to be able to focus on themselves and their wellbeing.”

King C Dukes: When you finally decide to invest in yourself

Apart from being a music producer, a jewelry artist, and a TikToker, King C Dukes also worked as a retail manager at Staples in California. But as the company policy began to change, so did the treatment of their employees. “My workplace didn’t have enough staff to get things done in a timely manner, so they would give each of us more and more responsibilities with every coming day. At the same time, our shifts got shorter, so it seemed fair to them to still pay us the same salary.” Dukes felt overworked, mentally drained, and underappreciated. He had to cover 2 locations, take care of unloading, selling, and merchandising the products, was the first person to help customers on the shop floor, and was responsible for new staff training on top of that. “It was a kind of work environment where they would use you up until they would drain you. I decided I wouldn’t let them do that – enough was enough. I realized my mental and physical health was way more important than that place.”

At that point, Dukes already had a social media following so he didn’t think twice about making his resignation public. Before posting the quitting video in June 2022, he had already spoken about leaving his job on his TikTok account – he wanted to focus on his creative endeavors and turn his crystal jewelry business into a full-time hustle. “I wanted to show my followers and other people who might come across my videos that I finally got over the fear of leaving the job – and I hoped that maybe it would prompt them to do the same.” Dukes says he wanted to be the example of someone who decided not to put up with a job that did not serve him mentally or physically. “So many of us put a lot of time and energy into companies that are not ours. But most of the time we do it just to survive. In my opinion, that’s not living to the fullest, as we all should.”

Since then, Dukes has been putting his energy into what feels right for him – creating, producing, and helping others. “I want to use all my talents to give back to the world. I’ve been teaching wire wrapping, giving music and painting classes, and putting more thought into my social media content.” Working for himself, Dukes also appreciates how much more time he now has to spend with his wife and kids. “Life is good and only getting better every day. I get to be present in every moment and I don’t feel like a robot anymore.”

Most of all, his mental and physical health have never been better. “It feels amazing to wake up and not have the racing and overwhelming thoughts I’d have all the time at my previous job. Now I have the freedom to do what I want whenever I want. I create my own value within myself – and everything I do goes toward something that I love. It feels great and so rewarding.”

Kim Daily: When you no longer want to support the flawed system

Kim Daily, a commercial litigation lawyer from Houston, Texas, started practicing law straight after graduating from law school in 2015. After four years of gaining experience in small and mid-size offices, Daily ended up in a big international law firm. “I knew I wouldn’t stay in my first job for a long time. And as for the second firm, I left after finding out that other associates, who were far less experienced, were actually making more money than me.” A new position in big law sounded so much better than what Daily had experienced before – it offered a fast-paced multinational environment and matched her salary expectations. But she stayed there for only about 15 months. “I realized that job was actually detrimental to my health and to my sanity. The restrictions it placed on my life were unsustainable and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I’ve just never been someone who is capable of regularly working 60 hours a week. I can do that from time to time when it’s necessary, but I can’t accept it as everyday expected practice.”

It was Daily’s wife, a certified coach specializing in boundaries, who made her realize that this working environment and lifestyle were not for her. “She very quickly noticed how overworked I was and the amount of stress I was under was getting unbearable. This is very normalized in a big law environment – I just told myself that this is what happens when you work at a reputable firm and make this much money.” For weeks, Daily was constantly stressed, lost a lot of weight, and her health started suffering. Before handing in her notice, she went on an 8-week medical leave due to her stress and exhaustion. “I thought that this would cure everything, that I would be fine and no longer feel burned out. But that was not the case at all,” she admits. “My job was slowly robbing me of my life. It was not sustainable. I realized I would be better and much happier on my own, even if I would be making half as much money.”

Another important reason for Daily’s resignation was the lack of representation and race conversations in the law firm - out of hundreds of attorneys in the Houston office, there was no other Black lawyer apart from her. “It was evident to me that on top of struggling with such a difficult job and dealing with very high pressure on a daily basis, I also had to be the representative of the Black community when the company needed a Black voice – which, most of the time, wasn’t actually wanted.” Daily recalls that she has always looked up to Black women, and yet, in the six years of working at a law firm, she has never had a Black supervisor. She quickly realized that she couldn’t respect such a lack of diversity and acknowledgment. “When I would visualize my future, I just couldn’t see myself staying there forever, because there was no one like me there. It’s a system that I didn’t want to be a part of.”

Daily posted her quitting video on the last day of June of 2021 – exactly at the same time as she gave her notice. “It absolutely added energy and excitement to the end of my time there,” she recalls. The positive response of hundreds of thousands who have watched her video and have continued to follow her journey since only reaffirmed her choice and encouraged her to create her own path. “If you watch until the end of the video I say ‘Stay tuned and follow me for more,’ because I myself didn’t know what would happen to me after quitting. I didn’t have a set plan – and so my path has not been linear at all. But I am immensely happier where I am now than if I stayed there for even a month longer.”

After taking one month to rest after quitting the job in big law, Daily pursued self-employment in online consulting and coaching. Although, she admits that the first six months of working for herself were some of the most challenging months of her life. “It was difficult for me to process having less income. Having made all of that money previously in my career, I began to equate my success with how much I was making, and not with the impact I could have.” Changing her mindset and focusing on getting her confidence back as a lawyer has been key. In January 2022, Daily opened her own law firm which she runs with her sister. She admits that the process has been slow but rewarding. “I would repeat to myself that we were not put on this earth to work for someone else or to ask permission from someone else to do what we want to do. That’s not what you were put here for. Working for yourself is scary and less secure. It is a sacrifice – but it’s a sacrifice that could be very well worth it in the end.”

In Daily’s case, the sacrifice was definitely worth it – and it has given her a strong push to pursue everything she’s always dreamt of. “I’ve got so many plans for the future.” Expanding her law firm and hiring her parents, writing a book and becoming New York Times bestselling author, leading a TED Talk, being featured on a magazine cover, releasing a rap album … “Now is the time to do it all. I am at the point where I feel much more confident in my field of work, I keep my mental health in check, and my bills get paid every month. I have enough money and time to do things for leisure and to really pour into myself and my vision, to focus on what I want out of my life. And no one can stop me.”

Photo: Welcome to the Jungle

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