13 Jan 2023

The great resignation

This time of year can be very challenging. As the year turns and we celebrate new beginnings, it is easy to get swept along by the winds of change. If you have any feelings of dissatisfaction with your job, or fear that your career is stagnating, January is a month when you may be more than usually tempted to throw in the towel and resign – possible without having lined up an alternative.

The pandemic lockdowns, which began in March 2020, have had a major impact on the job market. Forced to work from home, no longer juggling school runs and daily commutes, many people brought a new perspective to bear on their working lives. Many chose to leave roles that demanded a return to the office, others re-calibrated their working lives to embrace remote as well as office working. Some people saw the writing on the wall, leaving jobs that had long been dissatisfying, and branching out into new avenues, from re-training to self-employment and business ventures.

The so-called ‘great resignation’ has forced many employers to re-evaluate working practices. They have offered flexible, ‘hybrid’ working patterns and have also improved benefits, such as leave entitlement and health insurance packages, for employees. They may have been forced to reappraise their office culture, perhaps offering more on-site perks, such as yoga sessions or table tennis tournaments, or incentives such as subsidised parental leave, to ‘lure’ employees back to the office for at least some of the time.

We are told that it is a job seeker’s market, and this undoubtedly encourages many people to contemplate making a major move in the first few weeks of the new year. Christmas casts a long shadow, and the job market can feel very stagnant in December; it springs into life in January, and it is easy to feel that everybody is on the move, and that opportunities missed in January will be lost for ever.

It is really important when you are thinking about your career that you do not become swept along by a prevailing mood, or unduly influenced by decisions that are taken by your colleagues. If you are surrounded by people who are excitedly talking up their new starts and stimulating opportunities, it can feel very depressing to feel that you are the unadventurous one who has been left behind. But remember, moving jobs is a uniquely personal decision and should never be contemplated at a time that is not exactly right for you. The job market is fluid and other opportunities will arise. Bear in mind that the January surge in new opportunities will mean that there are far more candidates in the pool. Competition might be fiercer at the start of the year, and there is an argument that it is better to wait until spring before making a move.

Exploit the ‘new broom’ mentality that prevails at this time of the year to sit down and objectively assess where you stand career-wise. If it helps, write down the pros and cons. Look at factors like salary, job satisfaction, flexibility, promotion opportunities and assess them. Examine other factors that may be undermining your job satisfaction – bad team dynamics, a line manager who seems to be blocking your progress, lack of acknowledgment for a job well done.

If this accounting process takes you straight in to negative territory, where the cons are decidedly outweighing the pros, then you might indeed be a candidate for the January job search and resignation. But before you leap, think carefully about your next steps and don’t act impulsively.

If your assessment of your current situation is more evenly balanced, you might contemplate looking at the areas that are causing you problems and addressing them. This might very well mean talking to your manager about your situation – maybe you need to discuss your salary, your career path or your colleagues. Nobody finds these conversations easy, but it will help if you do following:

• Make an appointment to speak to your boss and explain what you want to discuss – don’t try and snatch a quick five minutes by the water-cooler.

• Come well prepared. If you are asking for more money, it is not enough to simply state that you need more, or that you can’t manage on what you’re paid. Research comparable roles, establish an industry ‘standard’ and present evidence to back up your case. You may well need to assert your own proficiency and provide examples of your achievements and talents.

• If you have complaints about managers or colleagues, beware of sounding relentlessly negative. Embed negative comments within a framework of positivity, concede that you understand that certain things are difficult or challenging, then clearly state your objections. Indicate what steps you have taken to mitigate the problems yourself.

• If you have special requests, like more flexible working hours or reduced in-office time, indicate that you are aware that you are seeking a special favour and say how appreciative you are of your employer’s open-mindedness and flexibility. They will be softened up by your complimentary and grateful tone and more likely to want to oblige you.

• If you want to discuss your career path and possible promotion opportunities, don’t be apologetic about it. It is a good sign that you are ambitious and wish to map out a future for yourself, and your employer will see it as a positive. Be realistic: talk to other people about their career progression and establish that you are not seeking the impossible. Then clearly state your career goal, and frankly ask your employer about your chances of achieving it within your current job setting and during an acceptable time frame.

Remember if any of these discussions are met with a stonewalling refusal to listen, or to contemplate pay rises and promotions, even at an agreed point in the future, or irritation or frustration at your presumption, then your pathway is clear. Your current job is a dead-end and it’s time to think seriously about jumping ship.


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