How to Prepare For the Evolving Job Market in 2022


December 22, 2021


180 Engineering

There’s never been a better time to reevaluate your career path.

As the dust continues to settle from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear that our new normal will be significantly different, especially in the workplace.

One of the most notable changes taking place is the shift in the balance of power between employers and employees, with employees seeing a substantial increase in their influence. Much of that increase is due to the current labor shortage. As Tom Spiggle points out in a piece at Forbes, the shortage is due to a number of factors, many related to the pandemic, including:

  • Vaccine and masking mandates;
  • Concerns around workplace health and safety measures;
  • The proven viability of remote work;
  • Appreciation of a more realistic work/life balance and flexible hours of work;
  • A shift to contract or “gig” work as a way for workers to maintain the flexibility they’ve come to appreciate; and
  • Large numbers of workers opting for early retirement in the face of the pandemic’s uncertainty.

While the tech and engineering industries have traditionally had low unemployment rates, the current labor shortage means that employers in these industries are struggling to fill open positions like never before. In their quest to fill those positions, employers are offering perks and concessions like higher salaries, expanded benefits packages, and remote work agreements. They are also increasingly turning to gig workers.

There’s no question that our workplaces and the way we work will continue to change in the coming year. You can prepare yourself for those changes – and use them to your advantage – by keeping these hiring trends in mind.

The Great Resignation And The Growing Influence of Employees

The current labor shortage is tied to the Great Resignation. Back in May 2021, Anthony Kotz, an associate professor of Management at Texas A&M University, predicted a significant increase in job turnover due to employee burnout and shifting attitudes about work. In an interview, Kotz coined the term the “Great Resignation” as a way to explain this phenomenon.

Kotz’s prediction was right on the money. Quit rates reached record highs in April 2021 and show no signs of abating. Four million people left their jobs in April 2021, the highest number recorded since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began reporting on job turnover in 2000. Six months later, Americans were still quitting their jobs in droves, with 4.2 million people handing in their resignations in October 2021.

During the pandemic, the way we work changed, both on a personal and on a collective level. Some of us lost our jobs. Some stayed with companies that had to pivot greatly to stay afloat, requiring an unprecedented amount of flexibility and adaptation in daily duties. And some shifted to remote work. Regardless of the type of change we encountered individually, collectively we began to rethink how we work and the importance of work/life balance. As we each figured out what’s important to us on a personal level, many decided to seek greener, more fulfilling employment pastures.

As workers leave their jobs in unprecedented numbers, companies are scrambling to attract – and retain – talent. At best, experts are predicting that the Great Resignation will continue until 2023. That means that employees will continue to have a strong advantage throughout 2022. Whether you choose to stay with your employer and ask for the things that are important to you or you choose to look for another job, it is a terrific time to create a work environment in which you can flourish.

Are You Happy At Your Current Job?

Whether employees were let go during the pandemic lockdowns, or stuck with an employer who had to pivot widely to stay afloat, or moved to remote work, the incredible worldwide shift around work and workplaces gave employees pause for thought. Many of us reassessed our personal priorities and preferences around things like:

  • Where we want to live, especially considering commuting and/or remote and hybrid work;
  • What’s important to our mental health and wellbeing;
  • What kinds of contributions we want to make to the world; and
  • What brings us joy.

If, after considering those things, you realized that your present employer isn’t a great fit for you, you might be thinking about leaving. But, before you hand in your letter of resignation, it may be well worth having a frank discussion with them. Many companies are re-envisioning their workplaces and redefining their best practices in response to the Great Resignation. If they don’t already have plans to do so, they may still allow you to work remotely, adopt a hybrid work model, or move to flexible hours; or they may be able to present you with a better internal opportunity, higher pay, or a more comprehensive benefits package.

Beyond career advancement and compensation, you may also want to consider your work environment and how invested your employer is in your happiness and success. Think, for instance, about:

  • Whether your employer may be open to creating an individualized work plan for you, to ensure that you feel valued and happy at work;
  • Whether you’re provided with adequate office supplies, tech equipment, and other materials needed to competently perform your duties at home;
  • Whether the company culture aligns with your own values and beliefs; and
  • Whether your employer is making an effort to create real connection with you and your colleagues.

Only you can decide what’s most important to you and whether it’s best to try to negotiate a better work environment at your present company or to look for something new.

Are You Ready To Seek New Opportunities?

If you’re set on leaving, make sure that you quit well. Leaving on a high note not only helps with obtaining good references and maintaining your network, but it also leaves the door open for your return. Be sure to:

  • Write a polite formal resignation letter that expresses gratitude;
  • Give your resignation letter to your manager in person;
  • Provide sufficient notice;
  • Create a transition plan for your team;
  • Prepare for an exit interview; and
  • Wish your colleagues a pleasant goodbye.

And, of course, have your resume updated and ready to send out; and also prepare as best you can for the virtual hiring process. Stats show that both employers and employees prefer live online interviews over all other types. The virtual hiring process – including the interview and onboarding – is here to stay.

As you get ready to delve into the opportunities that 2022’s job market offers, keep the following trends in mind.

Are You Vaccinated?

The COVID-19 vaccine is a contentious topic for many people. There are indeed questions around the legality of a vaccine mandate (by government or by private employers). However, many employers are either insisting on vaccination as a term of employment or they are sidestepping the issue of a vaccine mandate by incentivizing vaccination with monetary bonuses or staff lotteries.

However you feel about the COVID-19 vaccine, be prepared to see vaccination requirements listed in job postings

Are You Willing To Do Gig Work?

Back in 2016, we conducted a poll about contract positions within the engineering sector. Even at that time, the industry was seeing a clear shift towards contract or gig work.

Contract positions are often well suited to engineers because it gives them a chance to shop around for projects that truly engage them and for companies that are a strong fit. It also gives engineers a chance to accumulate experience quickly.

But gig work exploded during the pandemic and it is here to stay – for everyone. Gig work is one of the best ways for people to take advantage of the flexibility and remote work environments that they came to appreciate during the pandemic. Additionally, it provides a way for you to work only on projects that deeply interest you. And, finally, although it may seem counterintuitive since gig work is essentially self-employment, contract positions can be more financially stable than working for a single employer. With the possibility of multiple income streams, the availability of unemployment benefits through the CARES Act, and the increasing portability of health benefits, gig work is becoming an increasingly stable source of income.

Are You Part Of A Minority Group?

If you’ve felt like your status as a member of a minority group has impeded your career in some way, 2022 holds a lot of promise. As we outlined in a past blog, recent social justice movements, the move to remote work, and the emergence of Gen Z in the workforce have come together to create a perfect storm for change.

Movements like Black Lives Matter prompted many companies to reevaluate their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies. But a big issue for many companies is geography – even if they are committed to DEI, they simply do not have access to a closely-situated pool of qualified, diverse talent. Serendipitously, the move to remote work eliminated the geographic barriers to hiring.

Additionally, everyone is reevaluating how their values factor into their job choices and many are consciously choosing to work for companies that align closely with their personal values. Gen Z, which is just beginning to emerge into the workforce, is particularly vocal about upholding their ethical beliefs. For example, in a recent poll, 25% of Gen Zers said that they would decline a job offer if their pronouns of choice were not used.

All of this is good news for minority groups – and for all of us. If companies want to attract and retain top talent, they need to ensure that their company values are relevant, appealing, and inclusive.

Do You Want To Work Remotely?

There actually are people who prefer to work on site (believe it or not!), but the allure of remote work and the flexibility that it provides is strong for many people. While some companies expect a full return to on-site work post pandemic, others are preparing for hybrid workplaces, and for fully remote positions. If you’re someone who excels while working remotely, don’t be shy about broaching the possibility of remote work with your present employer or any that you apply to.

2022 holds great promise for American workers. As companies struggle to attract and retain talent, employees hold the balance of power. Now is the time to chase your biggest employment dreams.