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Half of Americans Feel They Just Have a Job

By Daniel B. Kline - Updated Jul 29, 2019 at 1:45PM

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The other 50% feels they have a career.

Do you have a career that's putting you on a path to long-term success, or is your 9 to 5 just a job -- something that puts food on the table and keeps a roof overhead that's leading nowhere. Half of Americans feel like they have a career, and the same amount (50%) feel they have "just a job," according to a new survey from CareerBuilder.

The feeling of "just having a job" and the strong hiring market may explain why 32% of respondents said they plan to change jobs in the next year.

"Job candidates are in the driver's seat and are considering much more than salary when applying for jobs," said CareerBuilder CEO Irina Novoselsky. "Benefits, location and commute time are increasingly important factors. To attract and retain talent, hiring managers will need to meet workers' hiring, onboarding, and career expectations and provide the perks, work-life balance and career advancement opportunities they demand."

A woman yawns in front of a computer.

Half of Americans feel they have a job and not a career. Image source: Getty Images.

What can companies do?

In most cases, workers want to feel like they have a career that's leading somewhere. The survey of 1,021 hiring managers and human resource managers and 1,010 full-time U.S. workers showed that companies could be doing a lot more to create that feeling.

Less than a third of workers (32%) felt satisfied with their opportunities for career advancement, while only 37% said they are "satisfied with the training and learning opportunities at their current company." In addition, 58% said their company does not offer "enough opportunities to learn new skills and help them move up in their career," while 73% of employees at companies that "do not currently offer educational opportunities or workshops outside of work hours say they would be likely to participate if they were available."

These results make it fairly obvious that companies should make training opportunities available. They should also engage their workers and communicate a path toward advancement or at least increased engagement in their current job.

Employers also need to check off other boxes to keep existing workers happy and to attract new ones. The majority of those surveyed (75%) said that "benefits" was the top non-salary factor in leaving their last job. More than half (59%) also cited "commute time" as the reason for leaving.

Listen to your employees

Benefits and commute time were clearly more important to survey respondents than the other reasons named. They were followed by the lack of/desire for "half-day Fridays" (42%), on-site fitness center (23%), and award trips (21%) as being reasons for leaving.

Employers can clearly address all of those issues. Offering better benefits may be expensive, but if it leads to stronger retention, there's a major offset to those costs.

Of course, it's not as easy to change people's commutes, but there are steps progressive employers can take. Companies can offer work-from-home days or alternative hours where employees can time their travel to have an easier commute.

The most important thing for any company in a market where employees have leverage is to listen to the people who work for you. Doing that, and actually making big and small changes, may help more people feel like they have a career and keep them from moving on.

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