They changed careers during Covid.
Here's why.

Illustration of a man putting on a suit while his old pastor robes hang in a closet with cobwebs.

Kiki Ljung for NBC News

Kiki Ljung for NBC News

By Anna Brand
Oct. 21, 2021

Sara Web was caring for animals at zoos and aquariums before shifting to her current job as a death doula, assisting terminal patients. A man from Cedar Rapids, Iowa once owned a restaurant. He now drives an Amazon delivery truck.

Americans are leaving their jobs in record numbers for new ventures, whether it's because of a change of heart or a need to survive.

In August, 4.3 million workers called it quits, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. From the hospitality industry to health care, people across the U.S. are changing course — and in many cases, leaving jobs unfilled.

NBC News asked people to share their stories if they have switched careers during the pandemic or are planning on quitting their jobs. Here's what they said.

Senior financial analyst —> Stay-at-home mom

It took a pandemic for me to see that my son needed me. I was on a fast train going nowhere, working long hours at work, worrying about not missing my hair appointments, making sure the house was decorated for the holidays, making it to school meetings and events on time, vacations, meals, doctor appointments ... the list goes on. But I didn't realize I never took the time to get to know my son.

— Tracy Carroll / Green Cove Springs, Florida

Pastor —> Business owner

I'm an outside-the-box thinker, and where I was serving, they were more used to a traditional approach, so a lot of people were uncomfortable with my methods. The anxiety caused by Covid and the retirement of a longtime lead pastor exacerbated these feelings, and I didn't want to be the cause of conflict in the church. I also have disabled children whose disabilities needed me home to help out when crises strike. ... I started my own business using games like Dungeons & Dragons to help people make others' lives better. I'm bridging the lives of disabled and nondisabled people to help nondisabled people become more familiar and empathetic, and I'm employing disabled people in the production of the materials.

— Dale Critchley / West St. Paul, Minnesota

Restaurant owner —> Amazon delivery driver

After receiving no major funding or bailouts except the initial PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] loan, we were forced to close our restaurant, a once-successful and thriving business. It's been a painful year, and I had to do something to put food on the table.

— Brandon / Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Club manager —> Office manager

    The club had closed during pandemic and scheduled to move locations, which is still being built today. ... I have applied for many jobs. Being 58, it is hard to find a job. Seems everyone wants to make me a janitor.

— Frank Parisi / Portland, Oregon

Accounts receivable specialist —> Mystery shopper

I was doing mystery shopping as a part-time gig and wanted to see if I can do it full time. It turned out I could. I am able to make my own schedule. I will have to see if I make more at the end of the year. I am in a much happier place.

— Lana Stockwell / Liberty, Missouri

Industrial construction —> DoorDash

I got laid off right before Covid-19. My partner got lung cancer, and I started DoorDashing to be home with her.

— Rita Smith / Mesquite, Nevada

Assisted-living resident aide —> Bank teller

The decline of the elderly, not being able to physically touch their loved ones — or anyone other than their spouse. Limiting their socializing, they couldn't even eat with each other. Very hard to watch, and them questioning why and me not being able to give them an end date.

— Kelli Jamesson / Keystone, Iowa

Civil engineer —> Life coach for widowed moms

My husband died in 2019, and I joined the group shortly after. When the pandemic hit, focusing on civil engineering while my kids were remote learning became increasingly difficult, so I left my job. At the same time, I was talking to my life coach about how I could help other widowed moms like myself, so I joined her team.

— Jamie Galyon / Broomfield, Colorado

Development & communications specialist —> Content creator/entrepreneur

Working for myself full time was always my goal, but it wasn't until after over a year in the pandemic that it finally felt like the right time. ... So much loss has happened during the pandemic, there is kind of a YOLO attitude I picked up. If not now, when? Because tomorrow isn't promised.

— Maggie McGill / Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Animal care at zoos & aquariums —> Death doula

I was laid off due to the pandemic like so many zoo professionals. I had thought about working as a death doula before, and I saw this great need. So much death, so much more fear of dying and dying a "bad death" alone in the hospital saying goodbye to loved ones on a screen. ... Knowing they're talking to someone who's experienced the same unique pain of losing an animal in that setting has drawn them to speak with me. My old career and new career are coming together in ways I couldn't have dreamed of.

— Sara Web / Chattanooga, Tennessee

Corporate collections for an elevator company —> Spa desk worker

The elevator industry is a niche market. I had no choice about accepting my new job. I'm making $10 less an hour and only getting about 25 hours a week.

— Christy / Loveland, Colorado

Sixth grade teacher —> Mortgage business

The pandemic opened my eyes to how a lot of people actually categorized teachers as just babysitters. Health and safety were not in the forefront of the approach my school district took. I hated leaving what I loved to do more than anything and have a lot of anger towards how I had to change my career path.

— Josh Conley / Indianapolis, Indiana

Bartender —> Emergency room registration

Living with my parents during the pandemic made me switch careers. I knew that people coming in to bars when they opened back up would not care about safety measures to curb the spread of Covid. What better place to stay safe from Covid than on the front lines? I was so excited to be one of the first groups of people to get the vaccine. I love my new job and the hardworking health care workers I get to support every day.

— Lindsey Holtz / Paola, Kansas

Food service worker —> Food truck business owner

The toxicity in my workplace. I was laid off for six months during the pandemic, and the quality of my life literally skyrocketed! I was called back to work in September 2020, and it really brought to light just how toxic my workplace had really become. In August of this year, I had the opportunity to purchase a small food cart with my daughter, so I jumped at the chance, quit my job of 10 years and I have never been happier!

— Kara Hubbard / Eugene, Oregon