The Great Resignation: Career Crisis or Something Else?
If you’ve read a newspaper or watched the news recently, you’ve probably heard about the large number of people considering a career change … or outright quitting their jobs.
If you’re one of those contemplating quitting — or if you’ve actually done it, you’re not alone.
It’s being called “The Great Resignation,” and it’s real. In August 2021, 4.3 million Americans left their jobs, according to the U.S. Labor Department. That’s almost 3 percent of the national workforce. In the United Kingdom, the number of open jobs surpassed 1 million for the first time ever in the same month.
And although 97 percent of the workforce is still at their jobs, the percentage of employees who are considering quitting is high.
The 2021 Work Trends Index, a survey conducted by Microsoft of more than 30,000 workers around the world, found that 41 percent were considering leaving their current employer this year.
Almost three-fourths of workers surveyed by recruiting firm Randstad UK said they were feeling confident about changing jobs in the next few months, with 24 percent planning a change in the next three to six months. Typical job-change rates are closer to 11 percent annually, the company said.
But quitting may not be related to the reasons you’ve heard — unless you were thinking it was related to the usual top three reasons why employees quit:
- Feeling underappreciated.
- Seeking more compensation.
- Not feeling challenged/stuck/bored.
Of course, there are more than three reasons why you might be thinking of making a change. Some reasons are deeply personal — needing to change careers due to health reasons, for example.
So, You’re Ready to Go
If you’ve decided it’s time for a change, what steps should you take?
First, Mom was (mostly) right: Don’t quit a job without another job lined up. Or, at the very least, don’t quit without a plan in place. Although it’s very much an employee’s market (employees in many fields are in high demand), the hiring process has slowed down in the last 18 months, so be prepared to spend a couple of weeks getting through the hiring process and onboarding before receiving your first paycheck from your next employer.
So don’t be hasty about your transition. Applying for a position while you’re currently employed makes you more attractive to a prospective employer.
Second, while it’s unclear if the “Great Resignation” will be a fundamental shift in the workplace overall, if you’re ready to make a change, the most important factor is you. Having clarity about the reason why you want to make a change and what you want is important.
The “10 Questions” exercise is designed to help give you clarity. Take the time to write out your answers to these questions. The clearer you can be, and the more detailed your answers, the more useful this exercise is.
10 Questions Exercise
- What is your reason for wanting a change now? (Select one or more.)
___ You dread going to work.
___ You feel physically or emotionally threatened at work.
___ Your skills are becoming obsolete.
___ You are overwhelmed by your job.
___ You’re bored at work.
___ There is little to no room for advancement in your current job.
___ You don’t like the people you work with and/or your boss.
___ You don’t feel appreciated for the work you do.
___ Company politics are affecting your work.
___ Your job requires you to do something you no longer enjoy doing.
___ You need to make a change for health reasons.
___ You need to make a change for other personal reasons (spouse relocation, etc.)
___ You want to change your work structure (work remotely, for example)
___ You want to live somewhere else.
___ You’re underpaid for the work you’re doing.
___ There’s little or no opportunity for salary increases in your current role.
___ What you’re doing now isn’t your passion.
___ You didn’t plan to stay in this job for this long.
___ Your company was bought out.
___ There’s been a change in leadership in your department or the company.
___ You’re doing the same job for less money.
___ You’re doing the work of more than one person.
___ You’re in a dead-end job.
___ The industry you’re in is dying or going through a significant change.
___ Other: __________________________________________________
- What do you want to be different in your job/career in the future? (Be specific.)
- Do you feel you are being adequately compensated in your current position? If not, what amount ($$) do you think you should be paid?
- What benefit(s) would you like in your next job/career?
___ Overtime Pay
___ Incentives/Bonuses/Profit Sharing
___ Relocation Expenses
___ Stock (Employee Stock Ownership)
___ Pay Raises (Annual or Merit-Based)
___ Health Insurance
___ Dental Insurance
___ Vision Insurance/Vision Benefits
___ Child Care/Dependent Care
___ Life/Disability Insurance
___ Paid & Unpaid Vacation/Time Off
___ Tuition Reimbursement
___ Company Car
___ Professional Memberships
___ Additional Perks (Free Lunches/Massages)
___ Ability to Work Remotely/Hybrid (Part-Time Remote/Part-Time Office)
___ Other: _____________________________________
- If you were asked to describe your perfect job, what would it look like? Be as specific as possible.
Employer: (Size, culture, company structure)
- From your “dream job,” which three skills that you already have would be most important in this role?
- What skills don’t you currently have that you need to do that job?
- How could you acquire those skills? What education, training, and/or work experience can you get?
- How did you find your current job? (Past job search methods sometimes can help inform future job search success.) How could you use a similar technique to find your next job opportunity?
- What one thing could you do TODAY – or in the next 7 days — to move you closer to your next opportunity? (Examples: Contact a professional résumé writer to get help with updating your résumé and/or LinkedIn profile, reach out to a recruiter, sign up for an online training, etc.)
Create Your Job Search Plan
Once you have clarity on what you want in your next job/career, it’s time to take the next step and create a plan for your job search.
Research can help you identify occupations that are projected to have openings. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics employment projections program can help identify occupations that are growing. It projects information about the labor market for the U.S. for 10 years in the future.
Learn more here:
You can also research employment and wage data to identify how many jobs were in a particular occupation and how much money workers in those professions made. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics conducts 12 surveys or programs to provide information on pay and benefits.
You can find links to the results here:
Once you know where you want to go (what industries and professions you want to target), it’s time to start making connections. Use your network. Identify companies that are growing. Use online job search websites (general ones like Indeed.com, SimplyHired.com, or Monster.com — or industry-specific ones like Dice.com for IT professionals or eFinancialCareers.com for finance jobs).
Make a target list of companies. Use LinkedIn to see who you already know who works at those companies. Reach out to them for advice, insight, and connections. Check out the company’s LinkedIn Company page to see if they have openings. Follow them on social media and get to know the company’s culture. Apply for positions. Use your network to get connections to hiring managers and internal recruiters at the company.
As you apply for jobs, be sure to go back to your answers in the “10 Questions” exercise and make sure the positions fit your goals for your next role.
The “Great Resignation” may be a global trend, but only you know if the time is right for you to make a change. Even if you’re not ready to make a change just yet, taking some time for self-reflection — and creating a plan — will help you when you’re ready to make your next job or career change.