One Man’s Opinion: The Great Resignation

Among the most intractable side effects thus far of this ongoing pandemic is the much-discussed “Great Resignation.”  Though economic and industry stalls, shutdowns, and business closures were all real, and in some cases lasting impacts of the pandemic, much of the 20-30 million in lost jobs have been recovered, with several industries in particular still awaiting the return of their workforce.

The hospitality sector and restaurants appear to have taken the strongest blow, along with the retail, logistics, and trucking sectors.  Wage hikes and hiring packages have since followed, with even some heretofore unthought offerings, such as a free college education being offered by Dolly Parton to the seasonal and often unskilled workers at her Dollywood theme park, managed by Herschend Family Entertainment.

Having crossed into my sixth decade, thankfully without ever uttering the phrase, “kids today...” followed by some tone and remark of disdain, I have noted a significant attitudinal shift, particularly among Generation Z as they view potential employment and working.  A week does not go by when I don’t receive a request for a reference, informational interview, prospective employers to be identified, or guidance in the current job market from a recent college graduate sent my way for counsel or assistance.

Among the best things, I think I did for my own daughter, during her college years, and she graduated Magna Cum Laude from Auburn University, was that I strongly suggested that she get a job to help fund her extra-curricular activities, personal expenses, and spending money.  She did just that, initially working at Pier One Imports, and then later the Red Lobster.  The tips from that Darden Restaurant family chain kept her in pocket money, and that 25% Darden employee family discount was also appreciated on many visits to Auburn.

But most importantly, my incredibly kind and caring child built a strong work ethic.  She had always been attentive to detail, and a diligent scholar...but there is something about waiting tables that exposes you not only to all walks of life, but you learn a great deal about human nature, what works, what doesn’t... I am also happy to report that from several post-college visits on game day weekends, daughter Barclay has remained close with many of those restaurant co-workers.

Barclay entered a teaching career right out of college and is now in her seventh year in the classrooms.  However she is also an artist, and an entrepreneur, so despite being the mother of active, premature twin boys, she also has a side gig as a professional photographer, and as a graphic designer.  Her talent levels in each of these areas are off the charts.  Her weekends are filled with family and household obligations, and now also photoshoots with families and professionals alike neatly sandwiched in.

Yet among Gen Z, there seems to be an irrational aversion to using a phone.  Texting, sure.  Messenger, no problem...even Zoom, which is basically a video phone platform... Several of these young folks who have asked for assistance with interviews or job placement, won’t return phone calls...or IF they do so, it is often days later...in the midst of a job search.

And in speaking with my friends who own restaurants, hotel franchises, or even own independent trucking companies, the folks who do apply online, walk-in or reach out by phone, bring in virtually none of that practical life experience or prior job history.  And yet with that college degree, I find increasingly that the applicants in my sector want to start as an Account Manager or manage team members.

The trucking industry shortage really surprises me.  A commercial driver, with a clean license and with either several years of driving experience or owning their own rig, can easily command an annual income well above $100,000.00.  But right now, the truck driving schools can’t turn out those graduates fast enough.  The national trucking shortage is joined by a shortage of labor in rail yards and our nation’s ports, which combined have created the empty shelves and supply chain nightmares impacting a wide array of industries across the country.

My hope remains that the ‘great resignation’ with some seasoning, and the ending of several temporary entitlements, transfer payments, and pandemic related extended benefits coming to an end, will become the great resuscitation, breathing life into several struggling industries, with new employees, interns, and apprentices eager to learn a skill, a trade and start their careers, with a bit of dues-paying and elbow grease.  But I’m not planning to hold my breath for that.

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