At just 25 years old, tennis champion Ash Barty seemingly had the world ahead of her when it came to her stellar on-court performances. But when the world number one announced her shock retirement earlier this week it spoke to a growing change in workplace culture.
Instead of leaving after burnout, a toxic environment or waiting to hit the age of retirement, Barty’s decision raises questions around what a career could look like if we left on our own terms, and if the era of years in service equates to success is dead.
Explaining her decision on Wednesday, Barty said, “It’s hard to say, but I’m so happy and I’m so ready and I just know at the moment in my heart, for me as a person, this is right.”
She continued, “It’s given me all of my dreams, plus more, but I know that the time is right now for me to step away and chase other dreams and to put the racquets down.”
“People want to work in a meaningful way and in a way that is adding more than just dollars to their bank account,” Ferguson says, describing the move as a “realignment” of values both personally and professionally.
“A lot of people – particularly Millennials and Gen Zers – are now looking at their careers and asking big questions. If you’re being paid well but your company’s values don’t align with your own, is that really success? Or if you’ve achieved the promotion you want but are working in a toxic workplace, is that success?
“COVID has allowed a lot of us to think about redefining what success means to us, and in Ash Barty’s case, that clearly means prioritising her happiness and time to reconnect with her family over a large salary and travelling much of the year. And while her case is an extreme one given she has the financial means to retire at 25, I think a lot of people can relate to what she is searching for,” Ferguson says.
For Leah Lambart, a career coach and Director of Relaunch Me, the trend is strongest amongst Millennials and Gen Z workers.