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Over the past year, millions of workers have quit their jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than four million workers quit their jobs in July 2021 alone.

The numbers are so staggering that experts have dubbed the trend The Great Resignation, a period where mass numbers of employees everywhere are leaving their positions in search of better options.

There are many reasons why employees are choosing to leave right now. Some used the past year to grow their skill sets and improve their résumés so they could advance in their field. Others weren’t happy with how their employers treated them, but waited until the turbulence of the pandemic passed to make their next move.

This is especially prevalent in tech. Robert Half surveyed more than 2,800 professionals and found that 1 in 3 reported that they are planning to find new work in the coming months.

If you’re ready to find a job that better fits your values and needs, you’re in luck. HR teams across the country are scrambling to fill open positions, creating a competitive market that favors job seekers. As a software engineer, here’s how you can take advantage of The Great Resignation to move your career to the next level.

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Identify what you want from your future employer

The pandemic drove millions of employees into their homes to work remotely, and now many people don’t want to return to the office. According to a Morning Consult survey on behalf of Bloomberg News, 39 percent of workers would consider quitting their jobs if they couldn’t work remotely at least part of the time. The Robert Half survey I mentioned earlier also found that employees reported lack of alignment in values between them and their employer as a reason for leaving their current job.

As you look for work, try creating a list of your top priorities in an employer. These can include career growth desires, but also benefits, values, culture and more. A few examples include:

  • Flexible day-to-day work hours
  • Improved healthcare benefits

  • Additional paid time off
  • Extended parental leave
  • Child care assistance
  • Aligned culture and values

With these priorities in mind, you can evaluate potential employers to make sure you’re entering a work environment that enables you to thrive.

Practice your negotiation skills

Software engineers have a unique and important set of skills in our modern workplace, which means you may have more pull than you realize once a company makes a job offer. While you should have a desired salary in mind before you start applying for jobs, each company will offer something different. Depending on where this offer falls in your desired range, you can either walk away from the position or counter with a negotiation.

However, a surprising number of candidates fail to negotiate their salaries. According to a 2020 survey by Randstad, 54 percent of workers have never negotiated their pay before (57 percent of women and 51 percent of men).

If you want to ask for more money, but are nervous to do so, remember that your negotiation can simply involve asking for the high end of the salary range that is standard in your profession, or countering with a number you’re more comfortable with. To make the best case for yourself, be prepared to provide data to back up why you’re asking for it. Think about your certifications and education level, and the typical salaries in your industry, etc.

If your skills are in demand, you may have more negotiation power than you realize. To stay on top, practice your negotiations and never give the first number when starting salary discussions.

Talk to your current employer

You could also explore new offers and salaries for existing packages at your current company. If you like the company you work for but need to earn more or want increased flexibility, use this as a chance to get into the position you want with a higher salary. But remember you need to approach this the right way; go gently, or you could create a bad atmosphere and even lose your job.

Here are a few important strategies and tips to keep in mind before talking to your current employer:

  • Make sure you actually have another job offer in hand to use as leverage.
  • Bring a reasonable package to the table. Your company likely won’t pay you more than your boss makes or create a customized vacation package just for you.
  • Be prepared to negotiate between the current offer and what your current company is offering.
  • With employers struggling to hire during The Great Resignation, keeping good employees is their priority – so this is a great opportunity for you.

    Know when to walk away

    If a company continues to request additional interviews and puts off making a decision, it’s okay to know your worth and move on.

    Mike Conley, an Indiana-based engineering manager, did just that. He made it past the first three interviews for a position, only to be told that he needs to schedule six more to meet with other departments. The HR manager also couldn’t confirm whether or not there would be additional interviews after the next six.

    Conley didn’t have the time or ability to attend these interviews, so he pulled out of the process. However, the interview decision paralysis also served as a warning to him that he might not want to work for a company that requires a dozen people to make one call.

    Don’t let a company keep you on the interview hook for multiple months. Know when an interview request or skills test is reasonable and when your potential employer is asking too much. If it feels excessive, be willing to walk away.

    Take advantage of the hiring needs of employers

    Many employers across the country are scrambling to fill open positions, especially for highly skilled engineers and technology experts. This is a moment in the economy that favors the job seeker, so brush up your résumé, create a list of priorities, and know your worth, so you can find a job you love with an employer who respects your skillset.

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An engineer's guide to choosing the right job
Episode 01 An engineer's guide to choosing the right job
Digging into the details of your next engineering role
Episode 03 Digging into the details of your next engineering role