In the UK, and globally, surveys suggest huge numbers of people are thinking about packing in their jobs, while in the US it’s been dubbed ‘the Great Resignation’. But is this a real desire for change or just a pandemic fog?
It has been termed “the Great Resignation” and a “turnover tsunami”. But whether it is because of a shift in priorities during the pandemic or simply a desire for a change, many people have left their jobs, or are thinking of leaving. In the US, the department of labour reported a record 4m resignations in April.
A Microsoft survey of more than 30,000 workers worldwide revealed that 41% were considering quitting or changing professions this year, while in the UK and Ireland, research by the HR software company Personio found 38% of respondents were planning to quit in the next six to 12 months.
But how do you know if you are in desperate need of change or just in a pandemic fog? Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you clarify your thinking – and your future.
How did I get here?
As you consider your next steps, it can help to zoom out to see those that led you here: why did you take this job? What has been your career path so far?
Reflecting on your past can help put your present situation in perspective and lay a blueprint for your future – if only by underscoring your own agency. “Knowing that it’s not the first time you’ve taken a step in your career can make another one feel less daunting,” says Chambers.
What do I actually want to do?
This can be the hardest question to answer. It’s not enough to think about what’s wrong with your current role, your dream job or even your passions, says Tweddell. “The strongest question you can work on is how you want to live, and how you want to be. We don’t think of our values enough, yet this is where our resistance and conflict often sit – making a career and life change has to be about more than a career for it to be fulfilling.”
What could I gain by quitting?
“We’re often so quick to say what we don’t like: this question probes people in a different direction,” says Chambers. “By thinking positively, they tend to light up a bit – because they realise they actually have a lot to give.”
Especially if you have been with your employer for a long time, you may have lost sight of your market value, says Amanda Reuben of Bijou Recruitment. “Often people come to me because they’re not feeling valued.”
If you have repeatedly been passed over for pay rises or promotion, a new job could be a reset, says Reuben. Moving to a new company has also been shown to bump up your salary far more than increases within a role.
Is now the right time?
The job market remains highly uncertain, Reuben says: it could take as long as six months to find a new job. “It’s a brave person who says ‘I just want a change – I’m going to find something at the moment.”
Unless your current work situation is abusive or intolerable, Chambers says, “you can take it step by step”. Indeed, spending time to reflect on the past, unpick the present and project into the future can make everything that comes later easier.
For example, if your ultimate goal is self-employment or to change careers, you might start to fill in gaps in your skillset, find a mentor or build your savings. “Asking yourself these questions can make quitting an empowered choice,” Chambers says.
Why can’t I make a decision?
“There will never be a moment when everything aligns and every box is ticked,” says Tweddell. “At some point, you have to just decide and trust yourself to make it work.”
She suggests clients set a date and time to make the decision and put it in their diary. “You can play with ideas, ask questions, think, reflect all the way up to that date – and then you make the decision and do it,” she says. “Whatever you decide, you’ll feel very liberated because you are owning what happens next.”