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Majority of Canadians would switch careers or quit if they didn’t have to work

Andrew Seale

The majority of Canadians would ditch their job altogether or at the very least, keep working but switch careers, if they hit a windfall or found a circumstance where they didn’t have to work anymore, according to a recent study by employment website Monster Canada.

Of 1,567 people surveyed, 47 per cent say they’d keep working but half of those (53 per cent) would pursue a job that compliments their passions, while 33 would stick with the field they’re currently in. Nearly half (49 per cent) of Canadians say they’d walk away from work if they could.

But Eileen Chadnick, an executive coach and founder of Big Cheese Coaching who often coaches clients through transitions like this, says those who walk away altogether may be in for a shock.

“I think some could be responding with a short-sighted view, that ‘get me out of here, this hurts’ attitude,” says Chadnick. “(But) if you haven’t planned life and suddenly go from working whatever those hours are to nothing and haven’t developed yourself, your interest habits, social networks – you can come crashing down, feeling marginalized and irrelevant.”

The reality is, she says, work provides more than just a paycheque.  

“(It’s) a place to learn and grow, to self actualize – whatever the job may be in the continuum of your career, working allows you to develop yourself, to develop new skills, try new things on, challenge yourself,” says Chadnick. “It also provides social benefits: you meet people whether it be colleagues or others you interact with in your work life.”

While the half of Canadians who say they’d still work seem to realize the benefits of work, many say they’d use their newly found freedom to re-shape their definition of work. The 40-hour workweek looks to be the first to go, with 63 per cent say they’d work on a part time basic while 15 per cent say they’d switch to the freelance lifestyle. Only 13 per cent say they’d continue working part time.

Chadnick points out that in a lot of ways, the responses are in line with what’s already happening among retirees.

“You’re going to see more people who are older and still have lots of steam, lots to contribute and are still needed in the workforce, (dipping) in and out,” she says. “I think it used to be job and retire – now when we think about work and life there are so many options: work a little bit less, do part time, work contracts, or shift gears do something like a passion career to see if you can make money.”

There’s also a certain generational gap that speaks to that same changing definition of work. According to the Monster survey, 60 per cent of Canadians aged 18-34 say they’d continue working even if they didn’t have to compared to 50 per cent of those in the 35 to 44 bracket, 52 per cent of those in the 45 to 54 bracket and 36 per cent of those in the 55 to 64 bracket.

The new question for financial planners, says Chadnick, is not “when do you want to retire?” but “when would you like to have the freedom to choose what work means to you?”

“There’s an increased recognition that people are not wanting to retire the way our previous generations did,” says Chadnick. “I think what’s needed is to find the sweet spot between too much (work) and not enough.”