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The Great Resignation: Only 7 per cent of Americans say they have their dream career as job openings soar

As many as 77 per cent of respondents say pandemic has impacted how they feel about their career

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Thursday 14 October 2021 16:19 BST
Related Video: Biden says economic plan working despite disappointing job numbers

It is no secret that almost everyone has reevaluated their working life during the upheaval of the coronavirus pandemic.

Whether through burnout on the front lines of Covid-19, or malaise and lack of satisfaction with the day-to-day grind of a desk job now conducted from a corner of the living room, Americans have had to time to think about what they really want to do with their lives.

What has followed over the course of 2021 was termed the “Great Resignation” by Anthony Klotz, associate professor of Management at Mays Business School, Texas A&M University, as the waning pandemic has freed people up to pursue new career paths, retire early, or return to education.

From March onwards the number of people resigning spiked to just under 4 million in a month, according to the Department of Labor — the largest number ever — and that has held consistent through until the latest figures released this week for August when 4.3 million people resigned in just one month..

But might that be just the tip of the iceberg?

A survey conducted by virtual communications company Moneypenny to determine Americans’ opinions on their careers revealed that only seven per cent of respondents were in their dream job.

“This meant that 93 per cent haven’t yet found their dream job, and are working in careers that don’t wholly interest them. But, what else did we unpick from this data and what deters people from changing careers?” the survey findings reported.

Further to that, almost one-fifth of Americans admitted to being unhappy in their current role — though 54 per cent said they were happy.

As many as 77 per cent of respondents said the pandemic had impacted how they felt about work. It either helped them realise that life is too short to be unhappy five days a week, or in some cases, it opened up other work opportunities for them.

The report speculates regarding the pandemic: “Perhaps, then, people have put up with the challenges in their current careers because they don’t know any different. And, they haven’t noticed the red flags until something much larger and monumental has happened to make them sit back and assess their overall happiness.”

The survey also found that people in the IT sector seemed to be happiest in their career (73 per cent) versus people in energy and utilities (42 per cent).

Other sectors with high levels of unhappiness include public services and administration; law enforcement and security; environment and agriculture; leisure, sport, and tourism; recruitment and human resources; business, consulting, and management; and law.

In addition to IT, the sectors with high levels of happy people according to Moneypenny are accountancy, banking, and finance; public services and administration (which appears in both lists); teacher training and education; science and pharmaceuticals; healthcare; hospitality and events management; and transport and logistics.

Geographically, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Louisiana had the highest percentage of residents unhappy in their careers, whereas an astonishing 80 per cent of people surveyed in Minnesota said they were happy. Oklahoma, Kentucky and Mississippi are also apparently full of very happy workers.

If the great resignation trend is to continue, then into which sectors do people want to move? Moneypenny reports that the top five ideal industries into which people want to move are creative arts and design; healthcare; accountancy, banking, and finance; business, consulting, and management; and the allegedly happy world of IT.

There are two main factors holding people back from pursuing new opportunities according to the survey. The first is that they are too comfortable in their current position. No matter how much they dislike their role, the upheaval of leaving it is too great and stops them.

The second is a lack of experience in the field into which they would like to move, while there are many options for retraining and gaining experience it is possible that confidence or financial resources are big hurdles to overcome when switching careers.

Nevertheless, the great resignation trend is very real and a knock-on impact is that the huge number of job vacancies in the US at the moment.

Department of Labor data for July shows in excess of 10.9 million available positions across the country, outstripping the number of people currently claiming unemployment. This is an all-time high for the labour market.

Recruiters and human resources departments are starting to broaden the range of prospective candidates to get these positions filled, just as companies are sweetening the pot in terms of wages, benefits, and flexibility regarding hours and remote working.

While this may be designed to fill currently available positions, it may also encourage more people to leave their current roles and make that leap into a new career.

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