The Great Resignation – Why NOW May be the Right Time for Your Career Move!

Close-up of analog clock at one minute until twelve o’clock.Are you are considering making a change to your career? Perhaps working for a different employer, upgrading your position, or looking for a new career field altogether? If so, now may be the time! The working world isn’t what it was only a year ago, and some of the changes may be to your advantage.

Do you feel any of the following statements fit your current situation?

  • I want a higher-level position, but long-term employees likely hold most of those good jobs.
  • I decided that I must change employers in order to achieve my career goals, as opportunities will probably not be available in the near future at my current place of employment.
  • I am working toward a new career field, but don’t yet have the strong work experience or credentials employers will most likely demand.

If you agree with any of the above, I suggest that many of the underlying assumptions to those statements may no longer be valid.

What Happened?

To be sure, the pandemic has had tragic results for individuals. Sadly, hundreds of thousands have lost their lives. Many, including myself, have lost friends, relatives, coworkers, or others to COVID. Many small businesses, some family-owned for generations, never recovered and were forced to permanently close. Millions of hard-working people found themselves suddenly unemployed through no fault of their own. The pandemic has truly been a human tragedy in many ways.

Somewhat unexpectedly, the pandemic also turned the working world upside down in many ways. One major impact is that, suddenly, employers cannot find enough employees, whether to fill minimum wage jobs or professional positions.

Referring to data from the government, the Washington Post states in a January 2022 article: “The data provides yet another illustration of how profoundly the pandemic has transformed the dynamics of the labor market. Nearly two years after some 20 million workers lost their jobs in the wave of shutdowns in spring 2020, the imbalance between available workers and job openings has given many workers more leverage than they’ve had in recent memory.”

Why the Imbalance?

Have you heard about “The Great Resignation” mentioned lately on the TV news and in print? An article by Abhinav Chugh in weforum.org describes this phenomenon as: “The Great Resignation is an idea proposed by Professor Anthony Klotz of Texas A&M University that predicts a large number of people leaving their jobs after the COVID pandemic ends and life returns to ‘normal.’ Managers are now navigating the ripple effects from the pandemic, as employees re-evaluate their careers and leave their jobs in record numbers.“

According to Richard Fry of the Pew Research Center, “As employers contend with growing numbers of younger employees quitting in the great resignation, the COVID-19 recession and gradual labor market recovery has also been accompanied by an increase in retirement among adults ages 55 and older.”

An article by CNN states, “People have left the workforce for myriad reasons in the past two years—layoffs, health insecurity, child care needs, and any number of personal issues that arose from the disruption caused by the pandemic. But among those who have left and are not able to—or don’t want to—return, the vast majority are older Americans who accelerated their retirement.”

An article by Kathryn Dill in the Wall Street Journal reports, “Workers between 40 and 50 years old, who are typically less likely to quit their jobs than younger employees, also quit in higher numbers this year, increasing their resignation rates by over 38%…”

Also, it’s not just the older workers leaving their jobs that cause this imbalance. Many factors are at work. Prevue, a hiring solutions company, states, “It’s certainly odd that unemployed workers aren’t actively applying for jobs. But seeing how our time spent in quarantine hasn’t exactly been the most ordinary either, there should be good reasons as to why this is happening. Here’s a few:

  • Candidates are being extra selective with the companies they’re choosing to apply to. Naturally, people will prefer larger and more reputable firms that can guarantee them some sort of job security when the economy is still in a very obvious state of instability.
  • Those who were temporarily laid off and promised a job they can return to when things ‘get better’ are likely waiting to go back to where they originally worked.
  • Hundreds of thousands of women are dropping out of the workforce at higher rates due to heightened responsibilities and burdens at home. Some are left with no choice but to leave their jobs so they can focus more on childcare and housework instead.
  • Outdated job ads that [employers have] been recycling may not reflect the current sensitive work climate.”

What This Means for You

As you can see, many long-term employees, especially baby boomers, who had previously planned to work for many more years—perhaps into their 70s—have instead decided to retire. This sudden exodus from every level within organizations has created a vast void of positions that urgently needs filling. Certainly, companies may immediately look within their ranks for replacements, but this merely creates a domino effect that still leaves many positions open. Plus, their internal candidates may not always be the individuals best suited or selected to move up the ranks.

Here’s one way The Great Resignation may impact your career. Many of those individuals who people thought would “work until they drop,” making higher-level job opportunities unlikely in the near future, have instead unexpectedly left the workplace. Positions once thought filled forever and thus unattainable have suddenly become vacant.

If you have been considering applying for a higher-level position, either with your current employer or another organization, now may be the time.

But Will They Consider Me?

Perhaps you have had your sights on a new career or higher-level position for some time now. However, you held off applying because you felt you may not yet be quite ready to compete with hordes of other possibly better-qualified applicants. Suddenly, however, there may be no such crowd of applicants. In this situation, the shortage of workers and the employers’ urgent need to fill numerous vacancies may work to your advantage.

According to an article by Paul Davidson in USA Today, “Employers are loosening job requirements amid the most severe worker shortages in recent memory. In many cases, they’re hiring candidates with no experience and training them to fill in the gaps as long as they have the aptitude and soft skills such as a knack for communicating well and working hard.”

What Leverage?

The Washington Post article cited earlier stated that “…the imbalance between available workers and job openings has given many workers more leverage than they’ve had in recent memory.” Exactly what does that mean?

Just as cycles of “buyers’ markets” and “sellers’ markets” appear in real estate, the same exists in the working world. Albeit less frequently, labor markets appear that tend to favor either the employer or jobseeker. Since a shortage of applicants to fill the number of open vacancies currently exists, job applicants have the upper hand at the moment. To fill positions, employers are forced to compete for the available job seekers and find ways to entice new applicants.

In an effort to attract new applicants, various combinations and types of incentives are now appearing in job postings. These include higher wages, cash sign-on bonuses, improved healthcare benefits, tuition and educational assistance, the ability to work remotely, to name a few.

Even if you do not plan to change employers, this leverage may also work to your advantage. To help diminish the appeal of leaving to work elsewhere, many firms are starting to employ various employee retention tactics. In an article in Human Resource Executive, Rena Nigam advises companies to begin focusing on retention now. She writes, “With the increase in demand, many companies are offering financial and educational incentives in order to lure candidates. Get ahead now by offering these same incentives yourself, keeping your employees feeling valued and motivated. Ensure that your company is an exciting and attractive place to work by offering opportunities to grow professionally, giving high-performing employees ‘stretch’ roles to grow into, and listening to your workforce on issues of remote work and office hours. Both lateral and upward internal mobility has been shown to boost employee retention. Employees will be more likely to stay with your company if they believe they couldn’t find a better opportunity elsewhere.”

Smart organizations are already actively working to keep the workforce they currently employ. Every employee retained is one less they have to recruit, interview, and train! Assuming, of course, they can actually find any new applicants.

The Situation May Vary by Industry and Location

The Wall Street Journal article cited earlier also provides evidence suggesting the job seekers’ market may also vary somewhat by industry and geographic location. It states, “Certain industries are churning more workers than others. People left healthcare, retail and food services at especially high rates at the end of the summer. Workers also left jobs at an accelerating pace across the Midwest and South. Texas and Florida have a high concentration of the industries seeing the greatest churn, including travel and hospitality.”

Even if you don’t immediately appear to fit the specific demographics described in the article, remember every career field and work environment is different, so take a look at your own situation.

Be Aware of Potential Roadblocks

Although the current job market may be tilted a bit in your favor, oddly enough, some impediments to advancement or quickly landing a new job are out there.

The human resources (HR) departments of many organizations are ill-prepared to handle the sheer volume of positions that require filling at the ultra-quick pace needed. Therefore, after completing those lengthy online application forms, applicants may hear nothing back and end up being hired elsewhere before HR even knows their names. Similarly, the applicant tracking systems (ATS) used to semi-automate the screening and selection process may not be robust enough or currently set up to handle applicants who may be a bit less than ideally qualified. As a result, many applicants will fall through the cracks and be scooped up by other employers who are faster at adapting to the new hiring environment.

In a Vox article, Rani Molla and Emily Stewart describe the situation stating, “There’s no single party to blame here. Corporate hiring practices can be convoluted and too reliant on machines, and many applicants aren’t being realistic or strategic enough in their work search efforts. For employers, job seekers, and the American economy in general, it’s worth figuring out what’s going on and addressing it. Because although these trends have been exacerbated by the pandemic, many of them pre-date it, and they’re not going away.”

Some of these roadblocks may be beyond your control and are constraints the respective employers must resolve, so what can you do? Although always necessary, it is especially critical now to carefully prepare your applications, resumes, and cover letters in an ATS-friendly manner by:

  • Using terminology and language found in the job posting.
  • Citing the specifically required skills or abilities as stated in the job posting.
  • Preparing non-graphical resumes using standard fonts in a simple format more easily read by ATS software.
  • Submitting any required documentation in the file format specified in the job posting (e.g., Microsoft Word or PDF).

Is Now the Time?

Since organizations are scrambling to fill open positions, this window of opportunity will most likely be somewhat short-lived. If you have been thinking about making a change in your career path for a while now, stop procrastinating. Consider your options carefully and decide whether this is the right time for you.

If you decide to go for it, dust off and update your resume and professional references list. Do your homework about the positions of interest. Develop cover letters. Practice answering expected interview questions by reciting your responses out loud.

To help with your preparation, check out the various articles and podcasts available here on Career Lantern. For an all-in-one resource, order a copy of my book The 6 Readiness Factors for Planning, Changing, or Advancing Your Career available through Barnes & Noble and Amazon (paperback or Kindle).

Good luck!

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to leave a comment and share your experience or thoughts!

Featured image courtesy of Pexels.

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