The Great Resignation

There’s nothing quite like a global pandemic to make us all take a step back and reassess what we want from our careers.

In late 2020, the term The Great Resignation was coined by Texas A&M University’s Anthony Klotz in response to rising rates of Americans quitting their jobs following the COVID pandemic lockdowns. The theory being that once people got a taste of working from home (WFH), many became unwilling to return to daily office life.

In March 2021, Microsoft surveyed over 30,000 workers in 31 countries, including Australia, for their Work Trend index. It found that 41 percent of the entire global workforce is considering resigning within the next year — and many people are planning to move because they can now work remotely.

Although the trend appears to have been delayed in Australia due to ongoing and extended lockdowns, there’s little doubt this will impact us in the new year. However, some commentators believe that rather than a ‘great resignation’, it is more of a ‘great contemplation’. That is, people are using the current economic and social instability to think about what they want from their career and their life.

Both have implications for employees seeking change and employers desperate to retain talent.

The Transformational Space

As this ‘great resignation’ movement takes form, I have seen a significant increase in mid to high-level leaders giving up long and entrenched careers, and looking at different paths for professional and personal fulfillment. Whether it’s to spend more time with the family, or finally give that business idea a go, there is no doubt a lot of careers look very different to the way they were pre-COVID. This transformational space is where I work best with my clients.

For those ready for change, there are a few things I recommend you consider:

A fulfilling career is one that aligns with your purpose and gives you the opportunity and autonomy to exercise your strengths. To wake up each day and work on accomplishing something that has meaning for you is an enormous privilege that not everyone gets to experience.

Work with What You’ve Got (While You’ve Got It)
While you’re contemplating what you want out of your career, look for opportunities within your existing company to craft your own dream role. If you’ve been considering asking for a raise or wanting a more flexible working arrangement, now is the time to discuss this with your employer.

Walk don’t run
If you are considering changing organisations, don’t get caught up in the Great Resignation hype until you’re ready to take the leap. Take the time to understand what’s required for your next step. Understand what your strengths and drivers are, where you can upskill and the kind of work environment you want. Get crystal clear on what you want, what you need to do to get there, and your non-negotiables. Because if you don’t, you’re unlikely to find a new opportunity that’s aligned with your values.

Create opportunities for yourself
Once you’ve done your homework, be proactive and find companies or people who inspire you. Reach out to others who work in the field you want to be in, and seek advice. A little bit of mentoring can go a long way to helping you make decisions that are the right fit for you. This way you’ll know how to create your own career path, and who knows where these conversations could lead.

Aligning Your Image

From a professional image perspective, a major change in career can require a shift in aesthetic messaging. It’s a question of balancing your professional and life experience with the vision and inspiration of where and who you want to be.

For some, this shift is easy and quite natural. But for those who have been in a particular industry for a long time, especially a conservative one, overcoming the limiting thoughts and professional inertia can be very challenging.

Remember, your presentation communicates volumes about you as a person and what you envisage for yourself. If you are seriously considering a career/life move, start dressing for your tomorrow.

The Employee Value Proposition

For employers looking to retain talent within their organisation during this period of flux, it is a time to revisit the Employee Value Proposition and ensure it accommodates this change in expectation.

According to LinkedIn’s quarterly tracking of employee happiness at work, the period from April 2021 to July 2021, saw employee happiness dip 3 percent while burnout rose 9 percent. Fewer and fewer workers want to return to pre-pandemic work life.

In many ways, the pandemic has been a circuit-breaker. Engaged and responsive employers will see this as a great opportunity to not only retain existing employees, but to attract new talent as people seek opportunity. Flexibility, work-life balance, mental health and wellbeing, and good earning capacity have never been so important.

This may seem somewhat obvious, but there can often be misalignment between what workers want and what senior leaders think they want. An empathetic approach is essential. Being prepared to ask tough questions and listen to the answers will be vital if employers are going to create a balanced culture that meets the needs of both the company and their employees.