The job market is abuzz with record numbers of Americans quitting their jobs this year to secure higher pay and better work from employers desperate to hire.
But if you actually like your job and want to stay with your company, you might feel like you're missing out on the hot job market. That doesn't mean you can't benefit from the moment.
As hiring managers scramble to fill roles, it can be a good time to remind them of your skills and achievements, that you're an enthusiastic stayer, and how specifically they can help you reach your next career goal.
"It's undeniable that employees have more power right now than they did prior to the pandemic," says Shonna Waters, a vice president at the career coaching company BetterUp. She tells CNBC Make It that in today's hiring crunch, organizations are increasingly taking a look at their existing workforce and finding ways to keep them happier and more engaged by offering support, interesting work and career mobility.
A big caveat: Approaching the conversation with your manager tactfully is a must. "The Great Resignation is not a time for employees to manipulate or say, 'I know people are leaving in droves, so let's see what I can get out of the situation,'" says HR consultant and University of Phoenix career advisor Ricklyn Woods.
Prepare to ask for exactly what you want, explain why it will make you a more engaged employee and make it clear how the business will benefit.
Here are a few ways you can leverage the Great Resignation to level up in your career — without quitting.
Start by researching how your current pay stacks up to your market value. Current labor market conditions could very well come up in your research, like if wages are growing in your industry because of high turnover and demand.
That can be part of your negotiation strategy if done correctly, says Georgetown management professor Brooks Holtom. "Individuals should have meaningful conversations with their supervisors to say, 'I'm happy in the organization and producing work with you, but this is what I'm seeing in the market, and I want you to be armed with that information,'" he says. It can be a subtle way of saying the organization's pay scale doesn't reflect the market, which could lead to hiring and retention issues, and then pitch the raise that would bring you up to new standards.
Have a backup plan if your company can't give you more money outright. With return-to-office plans still in flux for many, now's the time to make it clear your expectations for future flexibility. Don't forget about benefits that could help you from a career development standpoint, like tuition reimbursement to pursue a certification.
Have multiple backup options and be specific, Woods says: "Ask for what you need. Sometimes an employer doesn't know what to do for you until you offer suggestions."
If you're taking on more work during high turnover, discuss with your manager whether a title change (and pay adjustment) would more accurately align with the work you're doing now.
Or, Holtom suggests, if you see an open role with your employer that would be a step up, let your supervisor know you're interested and discuss how you can work toward filling that role.
As always, frame the move as mutually beneficial — you'll get to learn new skills and grow in your career, and your employer gets to retain a star performer. It's already likely they're trying to tap their existing workforce if they're experiencing high turnover, Holtom says, so it's just a matter of making your career goals known.
If there isn't an existing, higher-level role that interests you, raise the possibility of creating your next job at the company.
As you think about what you want your next role to include, think about where you get your energy from, Waters says. One practice she uses is the 15-5 method, where she spends 15 minutes every Friday to rate how she feels about her work on a 5-point scale. Over time, she can see what tasks and impact she really enjoyed at work, and which ones were less inspiring.
For example, maybe you had your best weeks when you were working on a big group project but don't get to do that often in your current role. As you shape your next job, you might want to learn and practice more project management skills, which could lead you on a path to managing a team.
"At the end of the day, think about what you want that you're not getting," Waters says. "Every single person in an organization can go to their supervisor and say, 'I'm in high demand and can get a job somewhere else.' Even if that's true, what do you want [your employer] to do about that? Get clear on what you want to be different."
If you're taking on more work during times of high turnover, you could work to justify a pay raise, or you can find solutions to offload those tasks in a way that benefits both you and the company.
That could mean finding ways to automate certain tasks, Waters says, or advocating that making a new hire will give you the space to do higher-level work. "That tends to be received better, when it's framed with positive intent and figuring out how we get stronger together," she says.
If added work is overwhelming to you, it's time to advocate for your well-being and work-life balance, Woods says. Remember, it's in your employer's best interest to ensure their working conditions don't lead to burnout, especially if you've already made it known you intend to stay in the long run.
Finally, if you're fielding recruiter requests for new jobs that are within your wheelhouse but stretch your skillset in a new direction, you can bring that to your current employer as something you're interested in. You'll get to grow in a new job at your organization, and you'll also help your company stay competitive with what their industry peers are leaning into.
Waters recommends approaching the conversation as: "I think there's a real opportunity here. Here's what competitors are doing and what we can do. Here's how I want to do things differently as a result."
Emphasize the change through the lens of opportunity, Waters says, and provide backup of what your manager and employer can do to enable you to go after it.