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verb [intransitive]

to leave your current job so that you can pursue work or hobbies that you are more interested in


noun [uncountable]


noun [uncountable]

'One in 15 respondents aged between 18 and 35 claimed they had already left the world of work to seek fortune and flexibility in other fields – a phenomenon trendily coined "protiring" … A significant proportion of talented young people – precisely those who businesses are so keen on – are protiring …'

BusinessEurope.com 10th September 2003

In the 1980s, we talked of the yuppies, the young urban professionals; career-minded 20- to 30-year-olds with aspirations of prosperity and professional success.

high-achieving professionals are protiring: leaving stressful jobs to earn less, but clock up more satisfaction

In the 21st century however, it seems that the yuppies have burnt themselves out, with young professionals becoming less interested in the fast-track life of their predecessors, and showing an increasing desire for self-fulfilment and life-work balance. In 2003, the coinage Tireds, an acronym of Thirtysomething Independent Radical Educated Drop-outs, was haled the new socioeconomic demographic of the noughties. Increasingly, it seems that stressed and frustrated young professionals are opting out of the rat race to pursue jobs and interests which they believe to be less pressured and more rewarding.

In this context, another new term has emerged: the alternative life choices embarked upon by the Tireds are often referred to as the process of protiring, with an associated noun protirement. It seems that a significant proportion of high-achieving professionals are protiring: leaving stressful jobs such as those in law, finance and the media to go to situations where they earn less money but clock up more satisfaction.

Though based on the verb retire, which is usually associated with adults over 50 years of age, the process of protiring is often associated with a much younger section of the population. Research in 2003 suggested that one in two 18–35-year-olds were making plans to protire after the age of 30.

Background – protire

The noun protirement actually preceded the verb protire, which is a more recent coining that has naturally emerged by a process linguists would formally refer to as back-formation: the derivation of a shorter word from a longer one. The noun protirement was coined in 1991 by Frederic M. Hudson PhD, a graduate of New York's Columbia University and founder of the Hudson Institute in Santa Barbara, a training centre for professionals specialising in time management and life-work balance.

A slightly earlier term used in similar contexts is the word downshifting, coined in the late 1980s to refer to the increasingly popular phenomenon of quitting a high-pressure job in an attempt to lead a less stressful life. A related intransitive verb downshift and countable noun downshifter are also used.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 6th September 2004.

Open Dictionary

Dunning-Kruger effect

the phenomenon by which an incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence

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