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The 3 types of people considering quitting their jobs right now and what they should do next

“Historically, we see a lot of change in people's jobs when you've got a lot of openings, and that's something we're all seeing an awful lot of"

ST. LOUIS — After a year of uncertainty — and not much moving around — job watchers are forecasting a "great resignation" in the coming months.

Both the Prudential Financial’s Pulse of the American Worker survey and the Microsoft Work Trend Index are anticipating a wave of people leaving their jobs since 25-40% of them report wanting to quit.

“Historically, we see a lot of change in people's jobs when you've got a lot of openings, and that's something we're all seeing an awful lot of,” said Jerome Katz, the Chair of Entrepreneurship at Saint Louis University. 

He added that many people waited to switch jobs in the last year, but with people feeling more certainty amid the pandemic, “it’s a perfect storm.”

Dr. Katz describes three groups of “job changers":

  • Disgruntled employees — they feel taken advantage of or under-appreciated. “They are either unhappy that their employers who wouldn't support them or listen to them—and with the COVID pandemic, there were employers who pushed people to work when they didn't feel comfortable or weren't tough enough on customers to stay masked and stuff like that. So there are a lot more reasons to be disgruntled than typical.”
  • Re-thinkers — their priorities or goals have changed. That's especially common now with so many changes due to COVID. “[They’ve been] stuck at home for 15 months and thinking, is this what I want to do? Or when I go back to work, is this what I want to do? And so we're talking about folks that are talking about changing the kind of work they're doing, or the workplace, or the employer.”
  • Nest-egg builders — for them, more unemployment or stimulus money means they can spread their wings. “This is particularly important among folks who are in low paying jobs,” said Dr. Katz. “They may be thinking about if i'm going to find a better job, this is the right time to do it because there's so many jobs and we've got a little more in the bank to tide us over."

Of course, not everyone who wants to quit will — nor should they, says HR pro and head of People Solutions Center Katie Magoon.

“I always tell folks to start by thinking about what is it you're really wanting to change and why?” she said. Before you walk out the door, try sitting down with your boss.

“If both employees and employers can come to the table now and have some proactive conversations, I think we can mitigate some of the risk of this great resignation,” she said.

Magoon said it will be up to employers, in many situations, to be open to or even initiate these conversations.

"Employers need to recognize that the labor market right now is definitely an employee's market. So if you want to keep your key folks, you better be proactive on having those conversations because it might be too late by the time they get that one phone call that says, hey, I've got this great opportunity for you--you've missed your window to sort of reengage them and get them excited about what they're doing again."

If you really know it's time to leave, be professional about it. Work to avoid burning bridges. Give at least two week’s notice to your boss—and then keep giving it your all.

“Nobody begrudges you for going on and finding the next great adventure; they begrudge you if they if you've left them in a wake of your own disaster,” said Magoon.

Great resignation or not: if any significant number of workers resign this year, Dr. Katz says the impact on the economy could be, well, great.

There is a certain amount of disruption, so it takes folks time to get into and trained up to snuff in their jobs,” said Katz. “But the end result is a higher level performance. You've got more people doing work they're happy with, probably making more money than before. And you have companies that have hopefully increased their capacity, they have more and better and more motivated workers. So if we talk about sort of the progress of the economy, this is a good thing. This is what we hope for.”