IT careers: Is it time to join The Great Resignation?

If events of the past two years have got you reassessing your career path, you're in good company. Consider this advice to guide the way forward
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As we approach the two-year mark since COVID-19 first disrupted our world, many people are reevaluating their priorities and their feelings about work. The familiar office setting where we formerly socialized with colleagues, discussed projects face-to-face, and collaborated daily has been replaced with a remote work world in which work/life boundaries are often fuzzy or even non-existent.

IT career advice: 3 considerations

If you’re among the many Americans who are considering joining “The Great Resignation,” consider this advice:

1. Ask yourself if you really dislike your job

Burnout – especially pandemic-related burnout – can be sneaky. One day you’re humming along, thinking you’re managing the stress pretty well. The next day, you’ve suddenly lost interest in your job. Even if you usually love your job, you just don’t feel like doing it.

This is a sign that you need a break. If possible, step away from your surroundings and immerse yourself in a new experience for as long as you can. Once you’ve had time to rest and recharge, come back and ask yourself if you are burned out in general or if you truly dislike your job. (If you suspect it’s something more serious, for example, if you’re feeling hopeless or struggling to keep up with basic daily functions, reach out to a healthcare professional.)

If you’re having issues in your current job that you haven’t addressed with your manager, make it a priority. If you find yourself having thoughts like, “Shouldn’t my manager know that it’s not OK to send me emails at 11 pm?”, address them directly. Not every manager is a great leader, but most are capable of growing their leadership skills if they understand their weak areas. Don’t be afraid to give your manager constructive feedback. You may be pleasantly surprised at the positive changes that result.

[ Want more advice on how to offer constructive feedback? Read How to give better feedback: 3 tips for leaders. ]

2. List your likes and dislikes

Suppose you’ve given your manager feedback and nothing changes. Is it time to start looking for a new job?

Start by exploring your current role. List what you like about it – and what you don’t. Consider factors such as:

  • Skills needed to do your job
  • Company mission, vision, and values
  • Work environment and culture
  • Relationship with your manager and co-workers
  • Manager’s leadership style
  • Career development and your future in the company

What is in the “like” column? What on the list would you also want in your next job? Then review the “dislike” column. Have you addressed these issues with your manager and/or HR to try and change them?

Next, look for overall themes – maybe you’ll find that you enjoy the work you’re doing but you’d rather do it at a startup than at a large enterprise organization. Or perhaps you love the coding part of your job but don’t want to lead a team.

Once you’ve completed this exercise for your current role, do a similar exercise for all the roles you’ve had – including volunteer work, jobs in another field, even high school jobs and jobs you hated. You may rediscover old passions or skillsets you’d like to acquire or learn you can get paid for work you thought was volunteer-based.

Finally, compare all your lists and determine your “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves” and what would be necessary to change jobs. Stick to them. For instance, if you feel strongly about avoiding a long commute, don’t consider jobs outside your geographic comfort zone.

Too often, people let fear hold them back – whether it’s fear of getting stuck in a dead-end job, of not finding the “right” job, fear of missing out, or some other barrier. Think about what fears may be limiting you and work to overcome them.

3. Answer these questions

Still not sure if you should make a move? Grab a journal and ponder these questions:

  • What would happen if you did nothing?
  • What will it mean for your life/career if you do/don’t change jobs?
  • Name the fears that are preventing you from changing.
  • What ideal solution would make those fears decrease or disappear?
  • How can you make that ideal solution become reality?
  • Imagine that it’s five years in the future and you’re in your dream job. How would the future you describe the steps it took to get there?

Change is not easy, and it can be scary. But keep in mind: Without change, progress is impossible.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

Kate Yuan is a startup consultant with a focus on go-to-market strategies and enterprise sales. She has worked with startups in four continents and 30+ countries as an investor, advisor, and operator. Most recently, she was the Operating Partner at Hemi Ventures, an early-stage fund investing in mobility, biotech and enterprise AI sectors.
Lori Dernavich is a Leadership Development Advisor with two decades of experience in advising high tech, deep tech, and life sciences executives. She works with Fortune 500 leaders and startup founders to develop the leadership skills they and their organizations need to be successful.