These 5 TikTokers wanted more from work. So they quit — in a very public way.

If they were ever going to get more from their jobs — more money, more freedom, more security, more happiness — they felt they had to take a chance now.

Sky Solomon, a college student waiting tables in the Washington area, wanted more pay but also less stress. Mercury Stardust enjoyed working as a home maintenance technician but expected better treatment from her bosses. Montez Braxton saw his job at McDonald’s as a dead end. Taylor Reid thought she deserved a raise. Joanna Lai loved her colleagues but felt her enthusiasm for her corporate job waning.

But they all didn’t just quit their jobs. They also posted a video about their decision, some of the very moment they resigned, on the popular social media site TikTok. And by doing so, they joined countless others who have turned the “Great Resignation” — the pandemic-era phenomenon of record numbers of Americans quitting their jobs, more than 4 million a month since July — into a communal online experience.

The TikTok videos, often raw, sometimes profane and always emotional, show how the pandemic has exacerbated the stresses of work in America and revealed how some workers are using this moment to reevaluate what they want out of life.

But why post about quitting on TikTok? And if the videos show how much these TikTokers craved something better, what actually comes next? These five TikTokers told us their stories.

‘Every single person in my life told me to quit.’ So she did.

Sky they played u
well said.
FOUR DOLLARS AN HOUR ?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? WHAT??????!!!!!!!!!!

Sky Solomon, 18, was president of her high school class in Wheaton, Md. She had solid grades and her pick of colleges, with plans to study public health and business. She just needed to pay for it.

In March, she got a job as a server at Buffalo Wild Wings, hoping to save enough to cover textbooks and dorm room essentials before heading to the University of Miami. The pay was $4 an hour, plus tips. On a good day, when sports fans crowded the bar and ordered beer by the pitcher, she could go home with $300 in cash. But sometimes it was as little as $8.

The restaurant was chronically understaffed, Solomon said, and usually operated with fewer than half the servers it needed. Soon she was working six days a week while trying to finish high school.

Still, the tips were hard to pass up, much more money than she had expected. In the first three weeks, she made $2,000. “When you’re the only server in the restaurant, and people tip you out of pity, you can make a lot of money,” she said.

At home, her parents worried she had “disappeared.” Yet nearly every day after school, she was back at the restaurant. The staffing problems persisted. She worked double shifts — eight hours each — on her scheduled days off. Her body was sore. Her grades slipped.

“Every single person in my life told me to quit,” she said.

But her boss begged her to stay. When she asked for three weeks off to focus on school, she was assured the restaurant would be fully staffed by the time she returned. Instead, she said, her schedule became even more hectic.

She gave notice in June in a text message to her manager, narrating the exchange in a TikTok posting.

“Dear Management,” Solomon began. “I’m not a slave. I quit.”

She backtracked on that approach in case she needed to use Buffalo Wild Wings as a reference for a future job. “Dear Management,” she wrote instead, “Due to a lack of scheduling flexibility caused by a staffing shortage, I unfortunately have to resign.”

Her video has been viewed nearly 15,000 times.

“My thought process was, if I am risking my mental health for a job that’s going to pay for my college, if I’m in a depressive state, you’re not even going to be able to do the work in college, anyway,” she said in an interview.

In the end, she decided that “there will be other jobs.”

The online attention was nerve-racking. She woke up the morning after sharing the video with dozens of comments on her post and direct messages from other users. The video, she said, was intended for friends who had been telling her to quit for weeks, not to publicly shame her employer. She worried her TikTok would land her in hot water during her final shifts, but none of her supervisors mentioned it.

She wanted to give classmates a play-by-play of how she left her job, to share exactly how she told off her boss. Her friends, she said, were angry at Buffalo Wild Wings because the job made Solomon so unhappy. She wanted to share that anger, too, and to tell her friends that after all this time, they were right.

Some TikTokers said Solomon’s video was the encouragement they needed to quit their own jobs, or at least start looking for a better one.

Representatives from Buffalo Wild Wings and its parent company, Inspire Brands, did not respond to requests for comment.

Solomon started looking for a new job a few months later, still worried about what new dysfunction she might find but needing to pay for school. She spent the summer applying for grants and scholarships.

In September, while taking college classes online, a local spa owner who had seen her quit on TikTok hired her to post reviews of the spa’s products. In October, she started working at another Washington-area sports bar. Now her TikToks — sent to more than 60,000 followers — are about college, music, makeup and politics. She’ll start in-person classes at Miami in January.

In one video from October, she compares her mental health from six months earlier, when she had just left her job at Buffalo Wild Wings, with present day. In the first frames, her hair is messy; she has bags beneath her eyes. She stares and preens sarcastically into the camera. In the final frames, she’s polished and put together.

“I was really going through it,” she wrote in the post’s caption. “Mental health is so important guys!”

Her bosses wanted her to stop filming TikToks. But she found it was her passion.

hugs! wishing you the best!
You did the right thing Mercury! You have to be true to yourself! You have a bright future!!! 🥰
i adore you and am so sorry you had to make this choice because of how the industry works 🥺

Mercury Stardust, a home maintenance technician at an apartment complex in Madison, Wis., started her TikTok account in March to promote “Wisconsin’s only weekly burlesque show.” She posted videos about how drag performers choose their stage names and her coming-out journey as a trans woman.

While spending more time on the app, she found videos of other maintenance technicians refusing service to LGBTQ renters, cursing at them and leaving their homes in disrepair. She started posting her own videos with home repair how-tos for LGBTQ people fearful of calling maintenance professionals.

Her following on the app exploded. By April, her videos routinely drew tens of thousands of views. She posted do-it-yourself guides for leaky drains, wall studs, garbage disposals, electric switches and more under the moniker “Trans Handy Ma’am.”

In August, after managers at the complex told her to stop making “Handy Ma’am” videos, persistent problems with understaffing and disagreements over tenant well-being, she quit without notice, then told her growing TikTok following — more than 1 million followers — about the decision. She wouldn’t look for another full-time job; she would make a living on her “Handy Ma’am” videos.

She told her followers that she quit her job from her car moments after she turned in her resignation, her keys and a seven-page memo about why she left. In the video, she apologized to her tenants. She said she would miss laughing with them in their homes and letting their children back inside after they lost their keys playing sports with friends after school.

“Right now, this is my life. I’m a content creator now,” she said. “Hopefully going forward a lot of good things will happen, on my terms, for people who need my help.”

Her post has been viewed more than 426,000 times.

The response, she said, was emotionally draining. Viewers have left more than 6,000 comments on the video; the vast majority are supportive. Users asked to book her for their home repairs or to consult on their home maintenance projects. They wanted to buy merchandise with “Trans Handy Ma’am” on it. She started writing a book with advice for first-time renters and homeowners and talking to literary agents.

Stardust expected to struggle — both financially and to stay relevant on the Internet — after leaving her job. Instead her popularity and income surged. She was wholly unprepared for it.

“The, ‘Oh, Mercury, we want your skills’ — that hit me like a ton of bricks,” she said.

Stardust and her partner spent most of their adult lives living paycheck to paycheck. For the first time, she said, they were able to get ahead on savings. She’s active on Cameo, an app where users can purchase personalized video messages from celebrities and Internet figures, to offer advice to individual maintenance clients. She started a subscribers-only home repair podcast.

“When you’re online, you have to monetize in a lot of different directions,” Stardust said. “We’re in this boat where we know we need to make about $3,000 per month, and we just have to hustle for that.”

The pandemic made a bad job feel dangerous. He quit on his lunch break.

I used to work at Wendy’s and I will never work fast food ever again.
100% agree. Good for you.
me doing a overnight at Mcdonalds rn be like 👁👄👁

Montez Braxton, 22, had worked at a McDonald’s in Richmond, on and off, since he was in high school.

Customers could be unkind, he said. Braxton would go home smelling of french fries. The pay made the job tolerable — until the pandemic hit.

Customers weren’t just rude anymore. He said they felt dangerous, entering the restaurant without masks on, or demanding to sit in the dining room when the shop offered only drive-through service or carryout. Managers, he said, focused too much on workers’ productivity and not enough about their well-being.

Braxton made $9.25 an hour. That was nice pocket change when he was in high school and didn’t have bills to pay. But during the pandemic, bouncing from his grandmother’s or sister’s or aunt’s homes, he decided he wanted to save up for his own apartment. His McDonald’s wages weren’t enough to cover the estimated $900 monthly rent payment.

On Aug. 31, 2020, with a pandemic stimulus check on the way and his paycheck already in hand, he clocked out to take a lunch break and never returned. He blocked his manager’s phone number. And he posted his quit on TikTok, in a visceral fit of rage and relief.

Sitting in the front seat of his car, he screamed into the camera on his phone and unzipped his Nike hoodie to reveal his work uniform underneath. “None of y’all work there,” he said. “Fast food sucks.”

His video has been viewed 146,000 times.

“When I left,” he said, “I didn’t have a job plan. I was so fed up with it, I couldn’t take it anymore. I would be broke, I would have to ask my parents for money, before I put up with that stuff at McDonald’s.”

In a statement, a McDonald’s spokesman said the company was “grateful to have the hardest working teams in the country” and touted a pay increase at corporate-owned restaurants.

Two months later, Braxton picked up a seasonal job at Target that lasted through the holidays. Jobless again, he returned to what he knew: another McDonald’s where supervisors had a better reputation.

The job wasn’t good, but it was better than his previous role, he said. He made just a tiny bit more, $9.85 an hour. The managers knew about and valued his previous experience, and didn’t begrudge him for ranting about his old job on TikTok.

He still wanted to do more. The McDonald’s jobs were dead ends, he thought, and certainly not enough to pay rent on his own apartment.

In March, he got a call back from an Amazon delivery service contractor for a position helping unload boxes on a package delivery truck. It paid $16 an hour. In November, he started driving a delivery route on his own for $16.50 an hour. He’s saved up enough money that he hopes to move into his own apartment in February or March.

(Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

The work is hard, he said, especially during the holiday season, working close to 50 hours a week. The delivery van is small, and it seems like there are more packages to deliver every day. But he likes driving the routes by himself and not having to deal with customers.

“If I didn’t like this job,” he said, “I would have been gone just like the other one.”

Her video became a meme of the Great Resignation. She’s still searching for the right job.

I’m actually super proud of you for knowing your worth🥰🥰🥰
So proud of you for asking for that raise! Hate they they won’t pay your worth but what you did was so big!!!!
I am SO sorry you had to experience this awful feeling but I am SO happy you found this out now versus later

Taylor Reid, a 27-year-old marketing freelancer in Vancouver, Wash., had spent the years before the pandemic in jobs around the world: Barcelona, London, a village in Ghana; back in the United States in Chicago, then the Pacific Northwest.

When the pandemic set in, she wanted to create more stability in her professional life, to think about finding a job with more of a future. A contract with Volt Workforce Solutions, a multinational staffing company that helps other firms onboard new employees, was not that job, Reid said. But it was a start.

She began in November 2020, making $20 an hour working 20-hour weeks. But as salaried colleagues left, her responsibilities expanded. Before long, she was working full time and hearing from recruiters on LinkedIn.

In late August, she asked for a raise to $35 an hour — commensurate, Reid said, with what salaried colleagues earned — or for a salaried position of her own. She decided to film her end of the video call with her boss as a type of game tape. She had never asked for a pay increase, she said. She wanted to be able to review the footage to prepare for future conversations.

But the company countered with $23 an hour, an offer Reid found insulting. She emailed her resignation letter Aug. 30, then stitched together silly videos she had taken for friends into a TikTok.

In the video, Reid counts down the time until her meeting with her boss. One hour before the meeting, she’s in a black T-shirt that reads “Know your worth”; 20 minutes before, and she’s dressed for work but rushing to do her hair; 5 minutes before, and she’s seated in front of her laptop counting down the final moments.

She taped her reaction, too, when her boss replied to her request later that day.

“So I did not get the offer that I wanted, and now I’m going to have to look for a new job,” she says through tears, glasses off, hair in a chaotic bun. The clip has been viewed 1.8 million times.

Representatives from Volt did not respond to requests for comment.

“This whole past year was me taking on more responsibilities because I thought me proving myself to them would lead to higher wages, because isn’t that how a job should work?” Reid said in an interview. “The job market is so lucrative right now. It’s an employee’s market.”

On TikTok, her clip has turned into a meme for the Great Resignation, drawing reactions both from users who chuckle at Reid’s misfortune and those who admire her resolve. That’s fine, Reid says now. She did not expect her video to circulate so widely. She didn’t expect in some quarters to turn into a cautionary tale about audacity in the workplace or to be lauded by worker-empowerment types over the same video.

“Sooooo, you want your pay doubled. Wow. Ummmm, sorry sweetie, IT DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY,” wrote one commenter. “You self entitled idiots deserve being crushed like this.”

“I’m actually super proud of you for knowing your worth,” another user countered.

“This is my situation exactly and I needed to see this!” added another commenter. “No more being overworked and underpaid!!!!”

Reid says she understands both reactions. In some ways, she said, the responses to her TikTok encapsulate the emotions behind the workforce’s current upheaval: The folks supportive of Reid’s resignation are unwilling any longer to countenance the people who are not.

Reid says that she laughs about it now, especially because she’s making more money as a freelance copy writer and social media consultant than she did at Volt. Within days of posting on LinkedIn that she was taking clients, 10 small businesses she had previously worked with reached out. She raised her rates.

She still wants a full-time, salaried job, she said, and more stability after working on three continents since graduating from college in 2016. But she has higher expectations now of future employers.

“People need to understand that employees do not deserve this type of treatment. Life is not all about just working — it’s about living,” she said. “And if you’re only still making ends meet regardless at this job that you hate and does not appreciate you, leave. Especially in this market right now, there are so many opportunities.”

She liked her boss, co-workers and company — but not her job.

She had the guts to post this too 🥺
You’ve handled that with grace!!!!! So proud of you!
Woohooooo! Congrats girl! Must have been hard but so liberating! Good for you! 🥳

Joanna Lai, a social media and business coach in her mid-30s, likes to swim; the water and exercise and routine are calming and familiar. But she got cut off early in the pandemic, when the pools around her home in San Francisco closed. Her office, where she worked as the marketing director for a biblical meditation app, also closed.

Friends suggested she start a TikTok account as a creative outlet. She decided to use the platform as a video diary about relocating to Honolulu, a move her company supported. She hoped the scenery, and open water, would help ease the anxiety she had been feeling and renew her enthusiasm for her corporate job.

In January, she said, she knew she couldn’t fully commit to the role. She liked exploring the Internet and telling stories, but she couldn’t keep telling the same one. She was burned out, she said, and wanted to spend more time mentoring and coaching other women in technology and marketing.

Her lagging motivation for a job she once loved was anxiety-inducing. She said she felt like she was letting co-workers down by not sharing their enthusiasm but also by looking for a way out. She was frightened of quitting, but even thinking of walking away from a job that wasn’t fulfilling any longer provided relief.

Finally a friend provided some reinforcement: “Joanna, you moved to a place where you’re on vacation literally every day, and you’re still unhappy. It is the job.”

Lai had spent years saving money with the dream of opening her own coaching and content marketing business. Her new surroundings in Hawaii, where she was fast making friends and taking to the island culture, felt like the right place to start it.

She consulted a financial planner, scheduled a meeting with her supervisor, then propped her phone behind her laptop to record the meeting. In the days before, she would post other videos considering her professional future and how she decided to quit her job. Video No. 8 was her meeting.

She told her boss that she was grateful for the way she had grown at the company but that she felt led toward “a season of rest” before she started her new business. She swiveled her chair away from her laptop when the meeting ended and exhaled, running her fingers through her hair.

She was drained, she said, but wanted to share the video anyway. TikTok, she found when she started her video blog, is a platform that craves authenticity, and her vlog had already attracted a following drawn to her move to Honolulu — another “leap of faith,” she called it.

If people could be inspired by that decision and were becoming invested in her journey, it was worth telling them, she thought, about how she was feeling at work, and why she was leaving. Her video has been viewed 1.5 million times.

Unlike untold numbers of other TikTok users who had posted videos angrily quitting their jobs, Lai wasn’t upset. She liked her co-workers, her boss, her salary and benefits, she said. She liked her company. She just couldn’t stay any longer.

“I do not advocate that everyone quit their job,” Lai said. She added that her journey was about living “a life that is true to you, not a life that society puts on you.”

She’s used 2021 to refine her business and target clients. Her consultancy is growing, she said, but she would not have been able to pay her bills and invest in her business without years of saving and financial planning, skills she learned from her parents.

Quitting her job — and posting it on TikTok — did not make her life any easier, she said. It was never about having a more simple or relaxed life. Working a corporate job or working for herself are both hard, she said. She just wanted to decide which difficult path fit her best.

“You give up control,” she said, “but you see where life will take you. And it’s like choosing yourself.”

About this story

TikTok videos are reproduced with permission from their creators. Some videos have been edited to bleep profanity. Lai provided a lightly edited version of her video without a professional music soundtrack.

Editing by Robbie DiMesio and Neema Roshania Patel. Copy editing by Carey L. Biron. Photo editing by Haley Hamblin. Video editing by Julie Yoon. Design and development by Leo Dominguez.

Jacob Bogage writes about business and technology for The Post, where he has worked since 2015. He previously covered the automotive and manufacturing industries and wrote for the Sports section.