The Great Resignation (and what it means for your career)

Thinking about finding a new job? You’re not alone…

After almost 18 months of career uncertainty – fuelled by widespread redundancies, furlough and a very subdued jobs market during the height of the pandemic – there is a sense of renewed optimism and confidence among workers to take back control of their career choices. And with good reason.

We’re in the midst of a sea change in the labour market, which has seen it shift from a buyers’ (employers’) to a sellers’ (candidates’) market due to the sheer – and record-breaking – number of job opportunities available right now.

This may be leading to something that US economists coined ‘The Great Resignation’ – a year of movement for jobseekers across the world as the economy begins to build back up. 

But what is ‘The Great Resignation’? And how might you take advantage of the sea change in the jobs market? Here’s everything you need to know. 


Are we really facing ‘The Great Resignation’?

It’s fair to say that the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way many people see their careers. 

According to our latest research*, a third (33%) of employed adults say they’ve stayed in their job longer than planned because of the pandemic – perhaps down to instability in the labour market over the last 18 months. And less than three in 10 are settled in their jobs right now, with just 29% telling us they’re not open to new job opportunities at all. This is in contrast to the 41% of adults who are actively looking for a job as we speak.

This tells us that ‘The Great Resignation’ may indeed be on the horizon. If it’s not here already, that is.


What’s driving ‘The Great Resignation’?

Unsurprisingly, not all employed adults are feeling or acting the same. 

Men (47%) are far more likely than women (34%) to be looking for a job right now. And young workers, aged 18 – 34, are the most likely age group to be looking for a job – with a staggering two-thirds (66%) of this demographic either actively or speculatively searching for work. 

How much of this is down to necessity – with unemployment and time spent on furlough particularly prevalent among the younger age group – and how much is down to simply wanting a fresh start after staying in their current job longer than planned, is unclear.

What we do know is that the desire to look for a new job doesn’t appear to be a knee-jerk reaction to any one incident. The highest proportion of active jobseekers (27%) first decided to look for a job within the last three months, suggesting the summer lull gave many people time to reflect and decide on their next career steps. While over a fifth (22%) have been looking for the last six months and over one in 10 (11%) since the start of the year.


How could ‘The Great Resignation’ benefit your career?

Even if you’re not looking for a new role right now, the continued movement within the labour market might still result in a positive change when it comes to your career.

Firstly, jobs are booming. May 2020 was the best month for job postings on since the financial crash in 2008 and, on 28th July 2021, the number of job postings for 2021 surpassed the total number of job postings throughout the entirety of 2020.

This surge in vacancies contrasts sharply with 2020’s reports of some job openings receiving thousands of applicants and many people finding it near-impossible to find a job. What we’re now seeing is significant skills shortages throughout the country, across a multitude of sectors – as recruiters struggle to fill the number of roles they have on offer. Something which UK workers may be able to take full advantage of. 

Here are just a few of the ways you may be able to benefit from ‘The Great Resignation’:


More money may be available

As with when last surveyed UK adults about their job search behaviour and sentiment (February 2021), salary remains the most common reason for people to be looking for a job right now – with almost four in 10 (39%) saying this is the case for them. Over half (53%) also indicate that if their employer raised their salary, it may make them stay with the business.

Businesses are well aware of this. With so many vacancies open right now, and not being filled, you may have the power to demand more – whether you’re looking for a new job, or just seeking a pay rise to earn more in your current role. 


Finding the right balance when it comes to flexibility  

Whereas the highest proportion (37%) of workers say that their employer’s working expectations post-pandemic are ‘just right’, with a good balance between remote and office working, a similar proportion don’t believe their employer has found the right balance.

Almost a fifth (19%) say their employer is not giving enough flexibility and that they want to work remotely more. And, on the converse, 17% say their employer is giving too much flexibility and that, actually, they want to be in the office more than they’re being allowed to. 

The key takeaway here is that, with hybrid working on the rise, there has never been more choice when it comes to the way you want to work. Your current employer may offer to change how often you work in the office to help you find the balance, for example. If not, there are a number of businesses out there that may provide a better fit for your needs. 

How to: Ask for flexible working hours

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More perks and benefits 

Higher salaries and flexible working arrangements aren’t the only things that may be on offer. 

You might also find businesses more likely to offer soft perks – such as additional annual leave, monetary incentives, team building events, spontaneous gifting, etc.

And as almost three in 10 (29%) active jobseekers say that more perks and benefits would make them more likely to stay with their company, and a further 25% calling out more annual leave as a specific benefit that they’d want, you should certainly not feel alone if asking businesses about these factors when searching for a new role.


Better career development

Career development – especially long-term development opportunities – is another area that you may find businesses investing in over the coming months, as they’ll want to be in a position to retain employees for a sustainable period of time. 

This is because 70% of employed adults say that they consider long-term development opportunities available within the company when applying for a role. And almost a fifth (18%) of active jobseekers say that increased training and development opportunities would make them more likely to stay with their company.

So even if you’re looking to stay where you are for now, you may be in a great position to ask your employer for additional career development opportunities to help fill any current skills gaps. And if not? It might just be time to move on, so you can learn to love Mondays again…


*Online survey conducted by Atomik Research among 2,002 adults in the UK  –  all employed full (80%) or part-time (20%) – between 17th – 20th August 2021.. Atomik Research is an independent creative market research agency that employs MRS-certified researchers and abides to MRS code



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One thought on “The Great Resignation (and what it means for your career)

  1. Will S. - November 16, 2021 at 14:34

    I would add one more sub heading to the article – respect.

    I stayed with my previous employer throughtout all the lockdowns, including going on site when my entire city was empty and carrying out duties of multiple colleagues.

    Yet the past few months, has probably been the worst in my working career – even worse than the first lockdown – and its all really down to management just S****ing on us! There is no other way to describe it and everyone just knows what I mean, its not bullying or harrassment – if you are going through it: you just know it…

    Thankfullly, I have made it out of my job of many, many years to a role in a different industry and I could not be happier! If you are reading this and feel the same – just take the leap search for something new to do, literally anything and you will feel better!