What the Great Resignation Could Mean for Your Career

Over the past several months, there has been increased attention (and worry) paid to the idea of the ‘Great Resignation’ or ‘Great Migration’ (depending on how optimistic the person you are talking to is). Since spring, there has been a mass exodus of workers from a variety of industries, though industries like hospitality have been some of the hardest hit. Even when people aren’t quitting, for many of them, quitting is on their mind as they contemplate where they fit in this new world of remote working, exodus from the city centres, and time to contemplate where they actually want to be versus where they are.

Although many managers and business owners are feeling incredibly stressed over having to manage this, for employees and would-be employees, this is a turning point. It’s a massive chance to pivot to something else (complete with signing bonuses and new perks) and a golden rare opportunity to truly think about where you want to go and what you want it to look like. More businesses are being forced to rethink what they are offering beyond compensation and in-office perks – for example, hybrid work models, remote working, flexible hours, and of course, higher pay.

In the US and Canada, millions of people have quit and although some people accuse them of being slackers or taking advantage of social assistance, the reality is that most of the stimulus assistance has long dried up, or has morphed into something that is tighter to access. So, if it’s not the fact that they are getting social assistance, what’s causing people to quit in droves?

  • Lack of remote work or hybrid options
  • Feeling unsafe in the workplace (rude customers and clients, abuse, worries about covid, lack of support from management)
  • Feeling that the compensation is too low for the job
  • Taking training for new workplaces during lockdown and now taking skills and training elsewhere

Another way to think of this is not so much the Great Resignation (although there has been plenty of that), but the Great Migration or Great Talent Shuffle as people shuffle from one industry to very different ones.

Drivers of the Great Resignation

Although the early days of 2020 saw people leaving in droves because businesses were being shuttered, a year and a half later, we are seeing people leave in droves because they are choosing to. A year of being forced to consider where you are and who you are may do that to a person! With a lack of control over one’s life and how to spend one’s time, it becomes increasingly important to control what can be controlled, and for many, that’s work. Furthermore, many groups are being pushed out of the traditional workplace – women are leaving in droves because they are the sole carers of their children and elderly relatives, while POC are leaving for remote work, entrepreneurship, and consulting where they don’t have to worry as much about dealing with distracting microaggressions.

The biggest driver, industry wise, is definitely the hospitality industry where about 7% of workers have quit in the period of one month in the US alone, due to low pay, customer abuse, awkward hours, and a general feeling of dissatisfaction with the industry. This has opened it up massively for new employees and has created a need for restaurants and hotels to offer more than the minimum. However, many office workers have been leaving as well when they are told they cannot work remotely, often citing transportation and housing costs, childcare, and mental health.

What You Can Do During the Great Resignation

If you’re looking for work, or you are working but thinking about making the shift while the shifting is good (or at least better), what should you be doing?

  • Take stock of your accomplishments and abilities. Brush off your resume and update it (especially if you’re moving from one job to another). Take note of particular accomplishments that could be leveraged in other positions (even to new industries).
  • Carefully consider what you want from a position. Is it something that you can get in your current position, or do you need to make a switch? Once you have determined this, it’s important to be very clear about what you want and where your breaking point is
  • Make sure you have some savings to live on. Although there’s a huge demand for employees right now, there’s no guarantee that you’ll quickly slide from one job to another (And even if you do, your first paycheck is either two weeks away or only a percentage of the normal size one). Make sure you can take care of your expenses!
  • Pay attention to your soft skills and tech skills in particular and how they work in tandem with what you want. For example, if you want to do more remote work, you need to show a comfort with using things like Teams, Dropbox, office suites (Microsoft or other), email, video chats, and be able to show that you are self motivated and able to work without much oversight.

If you’re looking at joining the droves of people going into self-employment, it’s even more important to make sure you have savings to live on, a clear idea of what you want to offer and a solid plan of how you want to get there. There has been a major uptick in people opening businesses (particularly web-based ones) and if this sounds appealing to you, it’s important to get your ducks in a row.

Conversely, if you have no intention of leaving your job, then it’s still important to take stock of what you have to offer and why you want to stay, especially with a coming influx of new employees who may be getting more perks than you (at least to start) due to your employer being desperate to fill positions. It’s easy (and likely somewhat justified) to feel quite jealous of what the new staff are getting, not to mention overwhelmed with all the new faces who don’t know how to do the job as well as you do. But this can also be a time to showcase your leadership abilities, communication skills, problem solving, and mentoring abilities. You can also make sure to remind your bosses of your loyalty come performance review time!

Above all though, it’s also important to take stock of your own mental health and make sure that you aren’t burning out too. This has been a very stressful two years and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and worried. Take time to figure out where to go from here, take time to take care of yourself, and remind yourself that you got through the last two years – you can get through the next two as well.

Good luck!

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