Musical jobs: Will you have a seat when the music stops?

The pandemic created the largest game of musical chairs the job market has ever seen. Millions left their jobs during this Great Resignation. Pandemic stress, lifestyle changes, and the availability of remote work empowered professionals to reconsider their employment situations. With the market in their favor, many workers dipped their toes into the vast pool of available positions that companies are struggling to fill.

Despite the seemingly infinite job opportunities, differing perspectives have emerged. I recently spoke with two millennial professionals about how they view this unprecedented market.

Michael, Permanent Remote Mortgage Professional

Let’s examine my first conversation with a young 30-something-year-old male whom I’ll call Michael. He successfully managed his work remotely during the pandemic and was consequently rewarded with a permanent remote position. During his recent annual review, he was promoted and received a record bonus. While there have been advantages with this new position, he wonders if he’s missing out on the other opportunities created by the current environment.

I asked him a few questions:

  • Are you happy with your work-life balance? “Yes, extremely. I can now drop off and pick up the kids at school and be close should there be a problem.”
  • Are you looking to advance your career or are you happy at this level, for the time being at least? “I’d like to play a bigger role and run my department.”
  • Do you feel you have that opportunity in your company? “Yes, I’m probably two steps away.”
  • Are you paid fairly? “Well, I could probably make more elsewhere.”
  • If you took a different job, would you need to spend more time out of the house? “Probably.”
  • Will a job that requires you to be onsite disrupt your work life balance? “Of course.”

Michael appreciates the awareness for a work-life balance brought on by the pandemic, especially as a dad of two young girls who still wants to push his career forward. Having had a small taste of monitoring my grandchildren during the pandemic as they learned remotely, I understand what these young parents have been through the last 18 months. How they have continued to perform astonishes me. I truly believe that, in the long term, Michael will continue to advance in his career and his salary will be on an upward trajectory.

My second conversation was with a young woman – let’s call her Jennifer. Similar in age to Michael, she’s a technologist who recently changed jobs. She initially worked onsite but was moved to be remote during the pandemic. She left that job late last year for another remote job making 20% more. Jennifer was wondering how it would look on her resume if she moved again.

  • What was the driving factor to leave your job? “Money, primarily.”
  • I told her I get the money part, but where is the new job located? (she lives in NJ)? “Ohio.”
  • Is the position remote or temporary remote? “Temporary.”
  • Does the company have plans to bring people back into the office? “They say they have no current plans.”
  • What would you do if they said they needed you to come into the office, even occasionally? “I’d probably look for another job.”

Jennifer will no doubt continue to maximize her value by opportunistically taking advantage of this market and gaining salary increases on the way. If she can continue to lever up on money, she will be fine.

Michael and Jennifer clearly have two different attitudes toward their current situations. Here are a few things to think about as you consider your options:

  • Stability is still valued; your future employer may view job-hopping negatively
  • Remote environments may go away, so what’s your Plan B?
  • Promotion opportunities may go to those workers who show face in an office

Make no mistake: this market will end. Yes, some companies will fundamentally change their operating models. More companies will likely allow 100% work from home; others will provide hybrid models. And some companies will no doubt order employees back to the office. But sooner or later, mobility amongst companies will slow. Maybe business slows, maybe the economy cools off or maybe they figure out that remote is remote and that tech people in Latvia are cheaper than tech people in New Jersey.

My advice to both Michael and Jennifer: The world has moved much too fast to remain remote forever, and the current market situation can change overnight. Ask yourself this: When the music stops, will you be happy where you are?

Posted in