109. Will the “Great Resignation” Affect my Job Search?
How will your job search be affected if so many people are resigning and you’re unemployed? Will you have more competition? Are there going to be more vacancies and better chances for you from now on? Let’s discuss this at the micro-level to understand what the current global shift in workforce dynamic means for professionals working in the corporate, nonprofit, and public sectors.
Last week’s episode - How long does it take to find a new job (episode 108) had one of the highest download rates of this show, if not the highest. I think it hit a chord with you and other listeners because so much is being said about the great resignation, and I felt it was an essential metric that professionals need to consider as they make plans to resign if that’s what they want to do.
If you haven’t listened to that episode, it’s number 108, and I will add a link to it in the show notes.
When did the Great Resignation start?
The term Great Resignation was likely coined by Anthony Klotz, a professor of management at Mays Business School of Texas A&M University. In an article written in May 2021, he predicted this mass exodus was coming. Since then, many articles, blogs, podcasts, and videos followed with catchy titles such as “Quit your job!”
I reacted strongly against this trend that many coaches adopted, of incentivizing professionals to quit. In fact, I recorded a podcast episode (89) titled Don’t quit your job, where I discuss strategies to enable you to manage your current job while you look for another. I will add the link to the show notes as well. I found that hopping on the bandwagon of the quitting job trend as a career coach was self-serving and frankly dangerous for my audience.
There are several steps that a professional needs to consider before making such a big career decision, such as quitting a job. This is because you shouldn’t change one considerable stress (aka having a lousy job) by another (aka not having a job).
So what is the Great Resignation, and where is it happening?
The Great Resignation is the ongoing trend of employees voluntarily resigning from their jobs, from Around May 2021 to the present, primarily in the United States. The spike in resignations has been characterized as happening in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The truth is they may have been affected by many things. For example:
- Wage stagnation vs. the rising cost of living;
- Professionals feeling overworked;
- Unable to juggle homeschooling during the lockdown and work;
- Employers asking employees to come back to the office, and employees not willing or wanting to do so;
- Stress, mental health issues caused or exacerbated by the pandemic; and
- Few resignations during 2020, resulting in a significant spike of resignations happening when professionals felt safe to do so as the economy normalized after the big lockdowns. Resignations were at an all-time low at the beginning of 2020 when the pandemic hit. Then it went back to normal levels towards the end of 2020, and from then on, it just kept going up and up.
Is it affecting all countries?
The Great Resignation seems to be a global phenomenon, occurring in several countries, from China to Germany. The trend happens once lockdown measures and the worst of the infection is over, and the economy starts recovering. For that reason, Gartner believes that in Australia, where I am based, the Great Resignation will hit around March 2022 since we’ve been in lockdown the longest. It’s hard to predict, but it may not hit Australia as hard as it did in the US.
I’ve been unemployed for months. Will I have more competition now?
There are two ways of looking at it:
- There could be more candidates in the market. But maybe not as much as you think.
Professionals resigning are not all trying to find another job, and some are actually inactive and out of the labor force. Professionals resigning are not only looking for another job, and some are downsizing their careers, looking to work fewer hours, and hoping to live more flexibly. Tim Ferris came up with this concept over a decade ago when he wrote the best-selling book The 4-Hour Week. More and more professionals, myself included, have opted for a different lifestyle.
My concern is that flexibility and income generation are not easy to implement. Being a freelancer, having a portfolio career, or a small business is more complicated than looking for another job. Not everyone has the financial means and risk appetite for it. It doesn’t suit everyone, but we only leave once, and it may be that you need to try it out, get it off your system, and find out if it suits you or not. And it seems, a lot of people have decided that now is the time to try.
At the time this article was published, the unemployment rate in the US had not changed much - people leaving the workforce and not counted as unemployed.
- There will be more jobs available because of the vacancies. But maybe not in your area.
In some areas, there are huge demand and huge problems filling in vacancies. Other areas may see companies using this opportunity for savings and testing new business models. This is all pretty new to everyone, and even research companies like Gartner are working on assumptions that are hard to forecast because we haven’t had a phenomenon like this before.
But the fact is that attitudes will need to change if employers need the talent to step into critical roles. Some will need to better accept transferable skills and develop better training and develop to onboard future employers. This could also mean companies adopting automation and artificial intelligence to replace workers doing tedious and repetitive tasks. And most importantly, This could be a new era that profoundly changes the dynamic between employee and employer, where employees feel confident about asking for better pay, more flexibility, and more interesting roles.
It’s possible that the great resignation may help you find a better job. When I coach, I explain to my clients that the most important tactic is to keep your eye on the ball at all times. You can be aware but not distracted by the environment. The issue is, do you have your eyes on the ball? And do you know what your ball is?
If not, it’s essential to find out right away.
Links mentioned in this episode: