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Why Do So Many People Leave Their Jobs In January?

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Lizzie Thomson Press Releases, AMANDA WATSON, Interviews...

Going back to work after a glorious Christmas break is enough to make anyone think twice about their job. But a lot of people do just that – and there’s cold hard evidence to prove it. The first working day of the year is dubbed as Massive Monday because it’s the most popular day of the year to look for a new role. And this job-hunting continues throughout the month, too.

In fact, it’s estimated that one in five people look for a new job in the new year. So what is it about January that makes people rethink their employment? Recruitment experts and company directors have shared their thoughts on why so many people decide move jobs in January. They’ve pinned it down to five key areas. 

New resolutions

New year, new me – a tale as old as time. Many of us plan for big personal changes in the new year. Stephen Humphreys – a director at online learning platform GoodHabitz – says these new life goals can play a role in people leaving their jobs. He tells ‘January is the time when people set goals for themselves and look to make changes in their lives to reach those goals. ‘Work is inevitably a big part of that, which is why it is a peak period for new job hunting. It is the time that dissatisfied people decide to make those changes.’ Nick Kirk, managing director of recruitment company Michael Page, says the first month of the year brings ideas of reinvention and, as a result, many people look for a fresh start at work. He says: ‘We see a surge in job applications as people are inspired to make a change.’ But, despite Massive Monday falling in the first week, Nick says that he expects to see a spike in people job-hunting towards the end of the month. He adds: ‘Interestingly, we have found the middle of January is the most popular time for applying and Tuesdays are often the busiest day. ‘Based on these trends it is likely that Tuesday 21 January will be the day most Brits take action this year.’ 


Phill Westcott, director of recruitment consultancy Walters People, believes January is a time when people wake up to the intimate events that have taken place in December. He says: ‘Typically the most drastic changes to personal relationships happen in December, causing January to be a time for job change to fit in with this. ‘For example, December is the most popular time for marriage proposals and early December is when the most amount of relationships break-up. ‘Big changes in personal life are often a determinant in a person changing jobs.’ Similarly, Divorce Day falls in the first week of January – so people are likely to be making big and sometimes drastic decisions there, too. Whether an individual is moving in with or away from their partner, a relationship can often dictate their work. As a result, people leave their employers. 


Taking some time out with family and friends over Christmas can help people adopt a new perspective on things. Phill believes it often prompts those who are unhappy in their roles to think about whether it’s worth going back in January. He says: ‘The prolonged period off and time with family and friends is a crucial time of reflection on a person’s work-life balance. ‘If a professional has a lengthy commute, heavy workload, feelings of stress, long hours or inflexible hours then an employee often comes back in January wanting to do something about this – with one solution being to move jobs.’ 

Company calendar

January is usually a time for appraisals and promotions at work. So employees who are aware that they will not be getting promoted might use this as motivation to look elsewhere. Maggie Old, director of HR at recruitment firm Kelly, agrees with this idea that January is often a big month in company calendars – especially if a business plans on restructuring. She says: ‘Many companies plan for corporate changes to happen in the new year and some employees take the step to resign and remove themselves from their roles before it is inflicted upon them and they are forced out.’ The mood of January On the whole, January is pretty gloomy. With shorter and darker days, there’s a general downtrodden atmosphere.

Mandy Watson, the Managing Director of recruitment agency Ambitions Personnel, believes the downhearted nature of January can play a role in people packing in their jobs. She says: ‘The majority of people haven’t been paid since the middle of December and credit card bills are due.’ At a time when most are craving optimism and something to look forward to, it’s hardly surprising that people look for a new position to get stuck into.