The ‘Great Resignation’ is altering the workforce dynamic — maybe for good

After the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Sara Adamski knew she had to make a job change.

At the time, the 26-year-old was a cook in a northern Alaska tourist destination.

"The jobs I was doing were soul-crushing work," said Adamski, who had spent the last several years working in the hospitality industry.

"The pandemic woke me up to that," she said. "I started questioning why I started doing that to myself."

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She opted out of signing on for the next season, packed her bags and moved to Killeen, Texas, with her boyfriend. After doing some soul searching, she decided to sign up for a coding boot camp. In October, she started working as a software engineer intern at a Michigan-based company.

"I feel a lot more hopeful," she said. "I like to work toward goals and I feel like I'm finally doing that with my life."

Adamski was one of the millions of Americans who reevaluated their work life during the pandemic. A record 4.3 million quit their jobs in August alone, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

"When we come into contact with life-threatening events, we tend to reflect on death and consider whether we are happy with our lives or whether we would like to make changes to them," said Anthony Klotz, a management professor at Texas A&M University who coined the phrase "Great Resignation."

"The pandemic forced [people] to take stock of their lives and gave them the opportunity to reimagine it."

Many others are still thinking about it, several surveys have shown. One, fielded by Morning Consult for Prudential in mid-September, found that 46% of full-time employed U.S. adults are either actively looking for or considering a new job search. The cultural shift, dubbed the "Great Resignation," will likely have a lasting effect on the workplace, experts say.

Some may have looked for a career break due to burnout brought on by the pandemic, others may be searching for more purpose and meaning in their jobs, and some may simply want a higher paycheck or to continue working remotely at least part of the time.

Then there are those who decided to strike out on their own. One-third of working Americans who quit their job started their own business, according to a July survey by Digital.com, a review site that focuses on small businesses.

"It is not just a trend or moment in time; it is a movement," said Monster career expert Vicki Salemi.

The result has been employers scrambling to retain and attract workers. They are offering retention bonuses, allowing employees to work remotely forever and providing new benefits to support workers' personal and professional development, Klotz said.

Some are also instituting policies to help workers recover from burnout, whether it is a sabbatical, closing the company for a week or shrinking the workweek from five days to four.

"Companies have to bend," said recruiting consultant Abby Kohut, founder and president of Staffing Symphony, which focuses on the pharmaceutical industry.

"They have to find a way to let people work from home if they want to attract talent," she added. "They have to pay the right salary."

People no longer want to settle and are being very picky when it comes to their job search, she explained.

"Everyone has realized it is not about corporate America. It is about them," Kohut said.

That said, experts urge caution when deciding whether to resign.

"Quitting a job is a weighty decision," Texas A&M University's Klotz said.

Go over your finances to ensure you have enough saved to get you through a period of unemployment and have a backup plan for what you'll do after you quit, he advised.

You can also have a conversation with your boss to see if any changes can be made to your current job that will fulfill your needs, Klotz suggested.

However, before you make a decision, it doesn't hurt to explore your options, Monster's Salemi said.

"There are so many more opportunities now," she said. "They don't have to make that decision to move until after a job offer.

Set up job alerts, and be sure to tweak your resume for each job by including keywords from the job description, Salemi said.

If you decide to quit, don't burn any bridges.

"Resigning in a positive manner is the way to go, by expressing gratitude toward the company and giving reasonable notice," Klotz said.

While there will be some regression when the dust from the Great Resignation settles, remote and hybrid work will forever make up a substantial portion of overall jobs, Klotz predicted.

"For millions of people, the pandemic changed the place of work in their lives, and for those individuals, the change is likely permanent," he said.

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