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The Great Resignation: A Great Time for Career Assessment

Career assessment—interviewing clients, testing them, and helping them define who they are and how they can best use their strengths in the workplace and beyond—is a valuable service we offer as career development professionals. And with the Great Resignation resulting in large numbers of people quitting their jobs and seeking new career opportunities, we’re at a moment when assessment services are more valuable than ever.

Let’s look at some of the numbers being reported on resignations, the likelihood of resignations, and movement towards self-employment.

4.5 million workers voluntarily quit their jobs in November 2021, 4.3 million in December 2021 (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2/1/2022).

40 percent of employees surveyed answered “somewhat likely,” “likely,” “very likely,” or “certain” when asked to consider the likelihood that they would leave their jobs within the next three to six months (“Great Attrition or Great Attraction: The Choice is Yours,” McKinsey.com, 9/8/21).

9.44 million. That’s the number of self-employed estimated by the BLS, 500,000 more than at the start of the pandemic (“New Data Finally Shows Why People Are Quitting Their Jobs. It’s Definitely Not Because They’re Lazy,” Inc.com).

According to McKinsey, to attract and retain employees, companies often offer “quick fixes” in the form of bonuses, wage increases, and other material perks. But what employees really want is “a renewed and revised sense of purpose in their work”—a greater sense of connection, identity, and meaning. Similarly, according to Inc., the increase in the number of self-employed suggests that people are looking for more control and flexibility in their work.

How Career Assessment Can Help Us Meet This Moment

Over the last 30+ years, I’ve helped hundreds of clients fine-tune their resumes, gain greater confidence in selling themselves in interviews, and become more effective networkers. However, helping people through difficult transitions is at the core of what I do. And seldom do these transitions involve only career change or job search. Often other major life changes are happening at the same time—a new baby, a death in the family, a major illness, marriage, divorce, graduation, a new business.

When we add the Great Resignation with all its upheaval to these life events, we have a level of change occurring in the workforce we haven’t seen in decades. And when people are going through this degree of change and transition, some kind of rethinking and reevaluation is almost always needed. That’s where career assessment comes in.

First, an effective interview can unearth dreams, motivations, and patterns that shed light on what clients really want, and hint at what might be a better fit for them. When combined with other assessment components and techniques, the interview can provide clients with new insights and awaken them to new possibilities.

Second, a battery of tests, or formal assessments, can help clients discover—or reaffirm—objective facts about their interests, personality, personal preferences, and social needs, and this can often help inform their next career move or development opportunity.

Third, focused discussion and special tools can help clients “process” the information they’ve gained from assessment and turn it into a concrete plan of action. Nothing is more useless than assessment that leaves our clients unenlightened and unsure of their next steps.

Let’s Be More Intentional About Our Careers

When I interview clients, I always ask them how they ended up in the field they’re in. Several years ago I analyzed the responses of over 300 clients to this question, and I learned that 58% had arrived at their current work by happenstance—in other words, by following a pathway they had not consciously chose. Not surprisingly, that often led to career disappointment!

Today, with the Great Resignation putting more people in the driver’s seat, many are in a position to be more selective and calculated in their approach to their own career development and job searching. For clients who come to us for guidance, that’s where career assessment can be invaluable.

When our clients know what’s important to them, what motivates them, and what kind of careers and work environments best fit their needs, they’re able to create a more meaningful plan of action. They’re able to move forward with more vigor, with the fuel they need to get to their next opportunity.

Finally, career assessment is not just for our clients, it’s for us as career development professionals as well. In our zeal to help others, we often forget to attend to our own career needs. We, too, need to know what’s most important to us, what motivates us most in working with clients, and what kind of work best fits our interests and strengths. The Great Resignation has opened up unprecedented opportunities for all of us. Let’s not waste them!

Dean R. DeGroot is a licensed psychologist career consultant and owner of Innerview Consulting. His efforts have allowed others to gain new tools and insights and explore new possibilities for social and career connection. Dean has published journal articles in the UK on career practices. Recently he launched the book “Game Plan:  An Insider’s Guide to Effective Career Assessment”, along with his co-author, Liz Willis.