Career Advice Oct 04 2011

Job Jitters Ratchet Up With Market Volatility

By kelly eggers

A new report finds that the recent volatility in the markets and the economy has both employed and unemployed Americans shaking in their boots.

The quarterly Employment Confidence Survey from Glassdoor.com, a Sausalito, Calif.-based workplace culture website, found that 56% of those with jobs believe that the recent market swings will have a direct impact on their job or careers. Almost one-third believe their career advancement will be stunted and 28% believe their job will be in jeopardy.

The survey was conducted online between September 19 and 21 by Harris Interactive, a market research firm, among 2,291 adults who are employed full-time, part-time or self-employed, or who are unemployed but looking for work.

"People are staying in the same jobs for three or more years, and are making the same amount or less than they were three years ago," said Rusty Rueff, a career and workplace expert with Glassdoor.

"They're seeing major swings, hiring stopping and starting, promotions stopping and starting, and have a hard time not thinking that their career growth will stunted because of that."

Concern about career advancement in the workforce is highest among those who are 18 to 34 years old. Half of the age group said they felt their career growth will be affected by the tumultuous market.

"The newest generation in particular is wondering if they'll ever be able to make up for the lost years," Rueff said. "If they're spending three years as a barista or are in their chosen career path but are seeing no upward progression, what's the opportunity-cost? Ten years ago, the mentality was 'get in, get rich, get out.' Now, the mentality is 'hopefully get in, hang on, and wait and see.'"

Of those who are unemployed, however, the concern is markedly higher. More than nine out of 10 people who are unemployed but looking for work believe that the market's see-sawing will impact their job search: Eighty percent believe it will take longer to find work, 63% believe there will be fewer job openings, 54% expect to see lower pay and 45% believe they'll only be able to find employment that they are overqualified for.

"The volatility has a huge impact on people's psyche and worry level," said Rueff. "The news in the morning is that the market is up and things are getting better, and the news in the afternoon says that the market is down 300 points, and things are bad and getting worse. Think of the emotional toll that takes on a job seeker."

While last week's initial jobless claims fell to their lowest level since April, it's unclear whether the economy has really turned a corner, or if this is just a small bright spot. The Glassdoor report found that American workers believe that their jobs are safe -- for now -- but they have a negative outlook for their companies' short-term success, and believe they would have a slim chance of being re-hired if they found themselves out of work.

Of those surveyed, 16% are concerned about their job security over the next six months, down from 22% last quarter. However, employee optimism about their company's short-term outlook declined to the lowest level since December 2008, with only 33% reporting they believe their company will see improvement in the next six months, and 14% expect to see a decline.

"Right now, you see the concern for layoffs going down and getting better because it's hard for employees to imagine that their company could do well and lay off any more people than they already have," said Rueff. "However, that could be false optimism. You could be one of the people sitting at Bank of America, where you felt that your job was secure, and then you hear about a huge round of layoffs that's coming."

More than a third of employed Americans believe that if they were to find themselves unemployed, they'd struggle to find work in the next six months that met their current compensation and experience levels. More than two-thirds of the unemployed believe that it's uncertain or unlikely that they'll find a job in the next six months, the highest percentage in five quarters.

Rueff said that this factor in particular should be a wake-up call to people who are working at the status quo. It's up to individuals to maintain their relevancy, and ensure that if their job should somehow become redundant, they're at the top of their game. Take on additional tasks and challenges that will help you advance professionally both in and out of the office is one way to do so, he said.

"People are invited to make changes every day -- they read the news that certain skills are in demand, they hear from their bosses or in the hallway that there are opportunities to prepare for upcoming changes that they're invited to participate in," he said, but the fact is that most people wait until the situation itself changes to do something differently. "If you wait for the situation to change, you're going to be in trouble," he said. "Take the invitation."

Write to Kelly Eggers




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