A teacher quit her job to work at Costco — and she got a huge salary increase.
Maggie Perkins, 31, made the massive life decision to ditch her eight-year educational career in 2022 — but the most surprising outcome of the job switch is the salary bump.
The former teacher — who taught middle and high school history and language arts at both public and private schools — was making $47,000 in her final year of teaching. She worked 60-hour work weeks and received lots of unpaid overtime, Perkins claimed.
“Between administrative pressures, testing requirements, and the endurance required to teach during the height of the pandemic, I was exhausted. I felt like I lacked purpose,” Perkins wrote in a contributing essay for CNBC.
Perkins — who has 131,700 followers and 5.3 million likes on her TikTok account — began to look for a different career path that would allow her to have “some breathing room.”
“At first, I just wanted a ‘good enough for now’ job,” she explained, adding that she got offers from both Costco and Amazon in the same week, but she thought Costco would be a better fit and have more opportunities for her.
“Plus, I liked shopping there and I knew employees were treated well,” she added.
Perkins started a full-time position on the membership team at an Athens, Georgia, warehouse, where she was on her feet all day but given two 15-minute breaks and a 30-minute lunch period.
She made $18.50 an hour in the role — just slightly less than she made as a teacher — working 40-hour weeks and getting a $1-per-hour raise once she hit 1,000 hours.
However, a bout of laryngitis stopped her from being able to communicate with customers at the cash register, so she temporarily filled in at the bakery.
“I loved it. Whether it was baking a cake for a 90th birthday or for someone who just completed their Ph.D., making a tangible contribution to someone’s special day gave me a renewed sense of purpose,” Perkins shared with CNBC.
The next move in her Costco career came after the marketing training team visited her warehouse location.
“Seeing them work showed me that I could still be an educator — just in a different context. So when a position opened up in Issaquah, Washington, I immediately applied,” she said.
Perkins is now a content developer and marketing trainer for Costco corporate, where she creates internal materials to inform employees about company policies and customer service procedures and travels to warehouses to train new employees.
Now, Perkins is making 50% more than what she made when she quit teaching, earning what a teacher at her last school district would typically make after 15 years of experience.
She’s coming up on her one-year anniversary at the warehouse-store company, and she admitted that she’s often met with confusion when sharing her job with others.
“When I tell people this, they often respond with: ‘But is Costco your dream job?’ or ‘Do you think it’s a valid career?’ To me, it implied that they thought my decision was a downgrade,” Perkins wrote. “And for a long time, I might have agreed. My identity and value were completely tied to being an educator.
“But I no longer find my fulfillment or sense of worth in work alone,” she added.
Perkins wrote that her new priority is to have a “clear divide” between work life and personal life, allowing her to spend time with family and go after things she finds important — and she’s “never felt more fulfilled,” she said.
“My work is no longer my identity. I put energy into my job when I’m there, and I leave work at the office. When I come home, I’m present and able to spend time with my family doing what I love, like being outdoors,” she explained.
She noted that many caregiving provisions such as teachers, social workers, emergency responders and home health aides are viewed as top-tier careers — but they aren’t highly paid.
“Having a lot of passion but not enough institutional support is a recipe for burnout. My best advice is to set boundaries and have a clear understanding of your responsibilities,” Perkins shared. “When I am asked to work on a project, I make sure I understand the stakes and the timeline required to complete it. I’m not afraid to ask for more resources if I need them.
“We’re taught from a young age to think about dream jobs in terms of: ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’” she added. “Now, I spend more energy thinking about: ‘Who do you want to be?’”