“I quit.” Two little words that pack a punch. But some young guns are going a lot further than that. Typically, when people hand in their notice, they take their boss aside for a quiet word, send an email to everyone in the company detailing their favorite moments and — if they’re lucky — receive an Amazon gift card for their trouble. But increasingly, departing employees want to make a bigger splash.
Earlier this month, when Michael Peggs, 28, quit his job as a strategic partner of development at Google after four years and seven months, he harnessed the power of social media to market his new role as a self-employed “chief branding officer.” He made a video of himself roaming Google’s New York offices as Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” played in the background. “The point of the Internet is that everyone is now a brand,” he says.
He’s not the only one to go out with a bang. Last month, a news reporter at KTVA-TV in Anchorage, Charlo Greene, quit on-air. (Warning: She uses profanity in her signoff.) Greene was reporting on the Alaska Cannabis Club, a medical marijuana company that, as she revealed on the air, she actually owns. Now, she campaigns for the legalization of marijuana.
And last year, as her swan song, Marina Shifrin created an interpretive dance set to Kanye West’s “Gone” at the animation company where she worked in Taiwan. Her performance at the company’s empty offices has clocked over 18 million hits on YouTube. One of her subtitles read: “For almost two years I’ve sacrificed my relationships, time and energy for this job.” (Shifrin subsequently appeared on “The Queen Latifah Show” and is now a contributing writer for the Huffington Post.)
Peggs and Shifrin picked a good time to become self-employed. This may be the best time to quit your job in years, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data. There were 4.8 million job openings on the last business day of August, up from 4.6 million the month before. That’s equivalent to 3.4 percent of total employment on the last day of August and up from 2.8 percent for the same day last year, the Labor Department reported, and it represents the highest level of job openings since January 2001.
Young-adult employment has also improved in recent months. Employment among 25-to-34- year-olds was at 75.9 percent in September, just slightly below its post recession high of 76 percent, set earlier this year.
But is quitting online (to say nothing of on television) the best way to go?
“Quitting a job in a highly public manner is rarely advantageous,” says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for jobs website CareerBuilder. “Prospective employers still value loyalty and commitment and will weigh the circumstances around career changes.” Peggs may have played it right this time, “but generally this type of exhibitionism is probably more of an albatross around an employee’s neck,” says Sean Snaith, director of the Institute for Economic Competitiveness at the University of Central Florida. “As an employer I would wonder if I were going to be the next company to be lampooned in such a public exhibition, and I would think twice about hiring ‘that guy.’”
And what’s good for the millennial goose may not be good for the Gen X or boomer gander. “If you’re a millennial and you do that you can probably land a job where it’s good to take a big risk, and be brash and energetic,” says Piera Palazzolo, senior vice president for marketing at Dale Carnegie Training. “You may not be able to find another job in the same industry, but you may be able to start a job at a startup.” For more seasoned employees and those in more managerial roles, however, Palazzolo says that’s (literally) not the way to go. Not many boomers are likely to do a hip-hop interpretive dance, she says. “We, as an audience, are a little bit more condoning [of millennials] because of the age.”
Google has a no camera or video policy at its offices, but Peggs says he told his employer (before the video came out) that he made the video to show his gratitude. “I hope to use my story to question convention,” he says.
Since it went live, Peggs says he received nothing but positive feedback, although MarketWatch found a couple of dissenting voices. “I see no advantage in quitting in such a spectacular fashion,” says Peter Morici, economist and professor at the University of Maryland’s R.H. Smith School of Business. “What does it add? Only to show you are self-absorbed.” And Steve Langerud, a workplace consultant based in Grinnell, Iowa, says it could backfire 10 years from now. When people felt tempted to make a brouhaha when they quit, it was before social media, he says. “Now, it stays online forever.”
Quentin Fottrell is a personal finance reporter for MarketWatch based in New York. You can follow him on Twitter @quantanamo. This article originally appeared on MarketWatch.com and is reprinted by permission from Marketwatch.com, ©2014 Dow Jones & Co. Inc. All rights reserved.