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Job Seekers Looking For Three Specific Priorities In 2024’S Uncertain Market

Job Seekers Looking For Three Specific Priorities In 2024’S Uncertain Market

In 2021 I wrote here about the frustrations job seekers were having securing a position. A FlexJobs Summer 2021 Unemployment Survey polled more than 1,800 women and men out of work to obtain information about their unemployment experiences. The survey found that 69% of those currently unemployed were out of work as a direct result of the pandemic, and 42% had been out of work for a year. With millions of job openings and millions unemployed, job seekers were struggling to find work, and companies struggled to fill positions.

Job seekers (48%) said they were frustrated in their job search because they couldn’t find the right jobs to apply for, causing many of them to rethink the parameters of their searches. Many (47%) started actively looking outside their fields to find employment. Although 69% said they were actively and consistently searching for a job, 34% reported that they hadn’t secured any job interviews. The vast majority (85%) were willing to take a pay cut in order to secure a job, and 40% said they had applied to jobs for which they were overqualified.

Despite their earnestness in searching, the 2021 job seekers said they were frustrated by obstacles that were in their way. The three top obstacles were jobs were too low paying (46%), employers are unresponsive (42%) and job seekers couldn’t find jobs in their preferred profession.

What Job Hunters Are Searching For In 2024
Now, after three years since the 2021 survey, an Aerotek study finds the average 2024 job searcher still enduring longer job hunts in an uncertain economy. The findings also reveal that job hunters are feeling vulnerable, and job stability is at the top of their priority list along with higher pay and job engagement.

According to Quinn Heimann, director of strategic sales at Aerotek, “Job seekers are without a doubt feeling the impact of an evolving labor market. In addition to reporting that they are experiencing a slower hiring process, job seekers reported the expectation is that they will need to apply to more jobs than they expected to in our Fall 2023 survey.” Heimann underscores the fact that in a time of economic uncertainty, job seekers are prioritizing job pay and security because they are feeling vulnerable.

He adds that they are de-prioritizing other motivators when deciding to accept a new job like the potential for career advancement. “Still, nearly three of four job seekers express they want to know employers support their employees and offer a place where they will be able to establish social connections and engage in teamwork activities.”

The survey collected feedback from 1,433 job seekers across various industries, providing valuable insights into their evolving priorities and workforce challenges. Three items are at the top of their priority list:

  1. Job stability. Job seekers are becoming more motivated by job security as the prolonged period of economic uncertainty continues. When asked to choose from a list of eight motivators, the number of workers reporting job security as the most important increased by five percent compared to spring 2023, and the number of workers reporting pay as most important increased by four percent.
  2. Higher pay. A staggering 81.2% of respondents feel the same or worse about their financial situation compared to this time in 2023. Of 486 respondents who received a raise in the last year, 71% still feel the same or worse about their financial situation.
  3. Job engagement. Workers are more likely to stay if they can create social connections in the workplace. Aerotek’s survey findings reflect that engagement is a priority for job seekers, as 73.2% report that engaging with coworkers improves their feelings about a job, and 69.2% said they are more likely to stay at a job that promotes social connections.

“It’s never been more important for employers to communicate how they support employees and foster collaboration in their work environment.” Heimann emphasizes. “These survey results also emphasize the need for employers to take steps to button up their hiring process in order to ensure they don’t lose candidates who may be feeling added pressure to hold down a job in a time of uncertainty.”

Coping With The Stress Of Job Search Uncertainty
The inevitable uncertainty of a job search instantly arouses the fight-or-flight reaction. And there is no greater stress than uncertainty brought on by worries that come with dead-end job searches, shrinking financial resources and a questionable job loss. The instability of questions like how will you find a decent-paying job, pay the mortgage, get the kids through college or retire can make you sick.

Scientists have found that job uncertainty takes a greater toll on your health than actually losing the job. And employees living with job uncertainty have worse overall health and more depression than employees who actually lose their jobs. Statistics also show you’re more likely to maintain the stamina to continue taking risks after a car crash than after a series of psychological setbacks.

Studies show that job loss can lower your immune system, making you more vulnerable to viruses. Workers living with unemployment are five times more likely to catch colds than workers without job threats. Job uncertainty makes you more vulnerable to diseases and worsens existing chronic ailments such as heart disease, diabetes or depression.

The best defense against job search uncertainty is to manage the stress so your body doesn’t bear the burden. Keep yourself fit by getting the sleep, exercise and balanced diet your body needs. Avoid junk food, excessive alcohol and nicotine. These unhealthy behaviors seem to reduce anxiety in the short term, but they actually raise stress levels over the long haul.

Try to refrain from worry that doesn’t prepare you for uncertainty. The uncertainty of a job search is a given that you can count on. Your ability to accept job search uncertainty has a more positive effect on your health than worry or rumination. It reduces stress and brings peace of mind. It allows you to manage what you can and let the rest go.

Simply taking charge of what you can control empowers you so you don’t feel like a victim of circumstance. Have a back up plan just in case. Go to job fairs, talk with employers and find out what they’re looking for. Find websites of companies that are hiring. Add this search routine to your weekly schedule and be disciplined about it. The pool is large and you want to stand out, so improve your interviewing skills. Make sure your resume is neat and grammatically correct and you have dotted all of your i’s and crossed all of your t’s.

Cultivating “uncertainty tolerance” helps you cope with any unknown outcome. I recognize accepting, instead of resisting, the uncertainty of a job hunt is a tall order, but it’s counter intuitive. When you turn unknowns into adventure—instead of problems to solve—it amps up your uncertainty tolerance, takes the edge off the waiting period and brings balance to your ability to anticipate positive and negative outcomes more evenly. Flipping your perspective, welcomes possibilities and solutions—a shift that makes you feel empowered and less victimized by uncertainty.

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