No Surprise: Half of U.S. Workers Feel They Just Have a Job, Not a Career

This shouldn’t come as a big surprise: A lot of Americans workers aren’t all that happy on the job, and according to a new survey, more than half of them believe they have a job — just not a career.

The latest national survey by CareerBuilder found that 55 percent of workers feel they are employed but that it’s simply not a career, and 38 percent of those workers also say that they’re likely to change jobs sometime during the remainder of 2017.

In addition, and perhaps even more damning, 1 in 4 American workers (28 percent) say they hate or simply tolerate their job, staying with it only because of bills, proximity to home, and the need for insurance.

Numbers like that should make everyone rethink all the happy talk about the national unemployment rate.

“Unfortunately, more than half of workers feel they have just a job, not a career, and … when workers don’t enjoy what they are doing, they are more inclined to pursue other options,” said Rosemary Haefner, Chief HR Officer at CareerBuilder, in a press release about the survey.

She added: “There are many routes for (workers) to take as the U.S. continues to add jobs. Arming themselves with what employers are looking for will help job seekers stand out from the competition — ultimately landing a new opportunity that will be more personally rewarding for them.”

The national survey, which was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from May 24 to June 16, 2017, included representative samples of 2,369 full-time employers and 3,462 full-time U.S. workers across industries and company sizes in the private sector.

References can make or break a candidate

Here are some of the other findings from the survey:

  • Recruiters say customized resumes can make a difference. Approximately a third of employers (32 percent) review resumes for less than one minute, but 49 percent say they would pay more attention to job applications with a resume customized for their open position.
  • References can make or break a job candidate. More than half of employers (51 percent) say that a candidate’s reference has not given positive feedback about the candidate, and 54 percent have changed their mind about a candidate after speaking with a reference.
  • It helps when candidates tout their online profiles. A whopping 70 percent of employers use social media to screen candidates —  and 57 percent of employers say they are less likely to interview a candidate they can’t find online.
  • Untruths on resumes can kill a candidate’s job chances. More than half of employers (55 percent) have caught a lie on a resume, and nearly 4 in 10 (39 percent) have caught someone providing a fake reference.
  • Interview prep is important and usually the last big step in landing the job. Nearly 6 out of 10 employers (59 percent) said asking good questions in the interview is important to them when considering a candidate for a job, and 48 percent said it was important for candidates to come to an interview prepared with ideas.

Screwy ways candidates try to make an impression

One thing that CareerBuilder included with the survey data was examples that hiring managers gave of unusual tactics job seekers used to stand out. These are interesting because they show just how far candidates will go to make an impression and separate themselves from the job hunting pack.

  • Candidate gave the hiring manager a baseball that read: “This is my best pitch of why you should hire me.”
  • Candidate sent the hiring manager daisies with a note that said “Pick me, pick me.”
  • Candidate brought their mother to the interview as an in-person character reference.
  • Candidate developed a whole website dedicated to the hiring manager, asking to be hired.
  • Candidate hugged the hiring manager when introduced instead of shaking hands (Editor’s note – clearly, this candidate has been listening too much to Tim Sackett).
  • Candidate got up from interview and started waiting on customers because the business got busy.
  • Hiring manager had a candidate volunteer to work at the business for a month before submitting an application to show that she was able to do the job.
  • Candidate sent a Christmas card every year for three years.
  • Candidate sent a cake with their resume printed on it.

Are you getting your workers on a career track?

Here’s my take: This survey not only points out how vulnerable our own workforces are today, but also how much everyone else’s is, too. In other words, if you can retain your own staff, it shouldn’t be that hard recruiting for the positions that you do have open up.

It also makes it clear that people today — and this is particularly true for Millennials — draw a sharp distinction between a job and a career. For most people, jobs come and go, but a career is something that you work on and build up to over time.

Want your employees to stay? Then you need to make sure they feel they have a clear and sustainable career path with you, or at a minimum, that whatever it is they are doing for you is helping them with their long-term career goals.

This is easier said than done, I know, but that’s what you get when you have the largest part of the workforce believing that employers don’t really have any loyalty to them — and that they shouldn’t have any, either.

John Hollon on LinkedinJohn Hollon on Twitter
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John Hollon is Editor of Recruiting Daily. He’s an award-winning journalist and long-time editor who previously served as Editor of Workforce Management magazine, and, was the founding Editor of the noted talent management website TLNT.com. For the past 10 years. John has also served as an adjunct professor in the College of Communications at California State University, Fullerton. He has also recruited, hired, and managed a hell of a lot of people. Find him on LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter at @johnhollon, or contact him directly at [email protected].




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John Hollon is Editor of Recruiting Daily. He’s an award-winning journalist and long-time editor who previously served as Editor of Workforce Management magazine, and, was the founding Editor of the noted talent management website TLNT.com. For the past 10 years. John has also served as an adjunct professor in the College of Communications at California State University, Fullerton. He has also recruited, hired, and managed a hell of a lot of people. Find him on LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter at @johnhollon, or contact him directly at [email protected].

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