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What It's Like to Recruit Virtual Assistants During the Great Resignation

February 11, 2022

What’s it like to recruit for flexible, remote jobs during the great resignation?

Busy.

Busy as in we’ve added extra steps to our hiring process to weed out applicants early on. Busy as in it’s not unheard for me to wake up to 50+ applications that came in overnight. Busy as in sometimes I only respond to applicants once or twice a week so as to not overload our onboarding. Busy as in I limit how many interviews I do each day so that my life doesn’t turn into one unending career fair. 

While my HR colleagues in other companies complain to me about the number of people leaving their organizations, how they’ve had to ease their requirements and hiring processes, the amount of money they are spending on advertising, and the apparent “drought” of qualified applicants - I’m swimming in them

I read in the headlines regularly about Americans leaving their jobs. “Why are so many people quitting?” “Where have the employees gone?”  “Has the future of work changed forever?” “Is the 40-hour workweek outdated?”  And these headlines don’t just come from business publications but from wellness and lifestyle magazines! 

I’m not recruiting for excessively lucrative positions or positions that have extraordinary benefits. Virtual Assistant jobs at Trusty Oak are positions where people can set their own hours and determine how much they want to work. They require administrative or marketing experience and give candidates opportunities to do meaningful, professional work partnering with amazing entrepreneurs while still being virtual and flexible. 

In every single interview I conduct, the pandemic makes an appearance. I kick off the discussion with a generic “give me a brief description of your work history” - and, in answering this, candidates tell me the toll that the pandemic has taken on their lives. Childcare problems, layoffs, family issues, health issues, business closures - the list goes on. The nonsense of the work/life balance shows its face in this first question; it is not uncommon for candidates to become emotional within the first few minutes. They share the hardship they have experienced and the hope of something better. 

I talk to parents, teachers, business owners, executive assistants, paralegals, veterans, caretakers, law enforcement officers, customer service representatives, healthcare workers, people from fortune 500 companies, and small family-owned businesses. People from all walks of life tell me they have realized that the traditional 9-5 job no longer works for them and their lives (and maybe it never really did). 

So What Do Workers Want?

What I have learned is that Americans are choosing virtual work for a number of reasons. Sure, there are those that want a shorter commute or want to have a more flexible lifestyle to allow them to travel, but more common are the stories of people (often parents) who simply want meaningful, creative, and challenging work that more closely aligns with their career goals and family needs. These people are smart and capable; they are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and put forward great work. What they ask in return is eminently reasonable: fair compensation, flexible schedules, working for businesses and individuals who value them as more than an asset.

I speak with teachers and childcare workers who have experienced two years of incredible burnout. Who before the pandemic put in a tremendous amount of time and energy for little pay, and now, in addition to teaching students in-person and remote (many times concurrently), have been asked to disinfect their classrooms multiple times a day, take on additional duties normally performed by part-time workers or volunteers, and give up planning periods to limit student exposure.

These amazing people who care for our children work tirelessly to create loving, safe environments for the youngest members of our society with low compensation that forces them into second and third jobs. It's no wonder with that pressure and burnout, childcare centers are limiting hours and schools are reducing programs. So why are businesses surprised when the parents they employ take "excessive" time off or even quit to care for their families?

I speak with people who have lost friends and family members during the pandemic and have decided that the 50, 60, even 70 hour weeks they were dedicating to their jobs no longer make sense. I speak with people who have gone through unimaginable struggles in the last two years and have decided to shift careers to be able to spend more time on the work they are passionate about or with the people they love. 

Related: 3 Tips for Managing the Unexpected | JOYFully BadAss Business Academy™

I speak with amazing, brilliant people who have major health issues and cannot work a standard job because their bodies cannot sit at a desk for 8 hours - or need to work from home because they have preexisting conditions and COVID exposure is life-threatening. I speak with people who experience discrimination due to their physical appearance, disability, or race, and working out of the comfort of their own home, sharing a limited amount of their bodies on camera, is highly desirable compared to their previous work environment. When one in four adults in the US live with a disability today, it's no wonder that people are drawn to work in a culture that recognizes and honors the challenges of living with a disability and works to create a vibrant, inclusive team.

It’s impossible not to get choked up listening to a young mom tell me about the hell she’s been through - the career she’s leaving because she can no longer make it work - her young children’s daycare closed time and time again due to quarantines or staffing issues, her older children forced into another session of remote learning - or maybe she’s decided to homeschool to keep them on track. It’s hard not to have empathy for the young professional who lost their job early on in pandemic layoffs, who’s been working gig jobs to make ends meet, trying to find something in their field but also safe for themselves and their loved ones - who feels like they have taken a step back by moving out of their apartments and in with family in order to get by financially. 

I talk to parents every day struggling to figure out how to make things work in this world. What are they supposed to do when given the choice of either sending their COVID-positive child to school and risking the health of other students or losing their job?

How can this be our country’s reality at the same time billionaires take space joyrides and congress fails time and time again to pull it together to pass meaningful legislation or extend the child tax credit - rather than spend time coming up with catchy soundbites that will be shared on social media? How is it a society that claims to value families seems to be doing everything possible to make their lives more difficult and absurd? As a woman working in a woman-owned business with a majority-female workforce, it's also impossible not to see the genderedness of this situation. 

I’m so thankful that I get to hire these amazing people into fulfilling, flexible, meaningful jobs - jobs that provide a sense of purpose and give dignity and legitimacy to virtual work. I can’t predict where the future of work is going - but I do know that the last two years have given Americans a lot of time to think.

For those who have decided there must be a better way, I’m looking forward to your application - but bear with me when it takes me a few days to get back to you. It’s a bit busy hiring for a visionary company during a revolution. 

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About the Author

Maribeth Fura

After graduating with a B.S. in English Education, Maribeth Fura started her career in Human Resources focusing on Training and Organizational Development. She spent 13 years at a fast-growing and competitive manufacturing organization and learned the importance of hiring great people to build a successful business. She is the gatekeeper of Virtual Assistants at Trusty Oak and is committed to hiring top talent to serve our clients. Maribeth loves helping people grow and watching organizations succeed because of their amazing people. She is passionate about designing straightforward and sustainable business processes and believes that organizations excel when communication is clear and simple. Maribeth resides in State College, Pennsylvania and loves going on adventures with her husband Scott and their three young children. She spends her free time cooking, camping, reading, making fun mixed drinks, discussing the merits of the Oxford comma, and starting new DIY projects on her mid-century modern home.

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