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Are We Facing a Global Career Crisis? [2021 Study]

Many people, even those with apparently perfect jobs, eventually become unsatisfied with their employment. What are the chances that we may be affected by the professional crisis?

Bart Turczynski
Career Expert
Are We Facing a Global Career Crisis? [2021 Study]


career crisis

Your job isn't as fun as it once was, and you feel sick coming to work? Even though you used to enjoy what you do—or at least didn't mind it—it now feels like a ball and chain? You’re not the only one.


Around 59% of middle-income workers said they’re thinking about changing jobs. “The great resignation” is what economists are dubbing it.


So, we decided to check it out and analyze the emotions that work evokes in Americans. Are they tired of it or satisfied? What's their attitude towards their professional duties, and do they feel burned out?


86% of Americans like their job


You don't have to be Elon Musk to love what you do. Every industry has its splendors and miseries, although life certainly tastes better when you send rockets into space instead of filing bills.


We asked 1038 respondents (of all ages, from various sectors, and with varying incomes) about the emotions that work evokes in them. We started with a simple question: 

How do we fare in this respect against other countries?


According to research, Canadians are the happiest at work (93%), followed by Britons, among whom 11% love their work so much that they'd do it for free. And only 9% of French people don’t like or hate their current job.


So with 14% of respondents stating that they dislike their jobs, Americans seem to have a poor level of job satisfaction compared to other countries. 


Job Satisfaction among Americans

We're not satisfied, but does it mean we're jealous?


A good job can bring a lot of satisfaction and comfort (both material and mental.) And, in a society that places so much focus on professional achievement, it's only natural for people to compare themselves to others. So do Americans enviously look at those who have interesting jobs and earn well?


In certain ways, yes.


The majority of Americans (70%) are jealous of other, more interesting jobs. Interestingly, people with a Bachelor's or Associate's degree are the most likely to admit to these sentiments (74% of responses).


And when it comes to money, 31% of respondents said they don't envy people who have a better-paying job. 


In terms of age, there's also an interesting disparity. The respondents aged 55 and up were the least jealous (59%), while those under the age of 25 have the highest emotions of jealousy (77%). 


Gen Zs, who have been the objects of interest of sociologists for some time now, are described as more pragmatic, aware, and analytical about their decisions than their predecessors. Perhaps the lack of illusions and caution makes them think about their professional circumstances more critically than previous generations on the labor market.


The career crisis affects most Americans, and it happens more often to women


When asked directly whether they have ever had experienced a career crisis, 69% of respondents said yes. Women (71%) report being in this condition more frequently than men (68%.) 


And yet again, people without a college diploma appear to be the happiest of all, with "only" 60% of them experiencing it. In comparison to those with a Bachelor's or Associate's degree (of which 70% have been affected) and those with a Master's or Doctorate's degree (75% of whom have experienced it), the results for those with the least education appear to be surprisingly low.


What were the reasons for the respondents' professional crisis? Below are the most common responses:


Reasons Behind Career Crisis


What caused your professional crisis? 


  • 37% - job insecurity
  • 32% - personal conflicts at work
  • 30% - boredom with work
  • 29% - no chance of higher earnings
  • 28% - no development opportunities
  • 21% - poor working conditions
  • 19% - fear of contracting Coronavirus at work
  • 18% - being forced to work remotely due to the COVID-19 Pandemic
  • 16% - being discouraged by competition at work


We also asked the respondents which aspects of their work they considered were most likely to lead to a professional crisis. This question was answered both by those who experienced burnout at work and those who avoided it.


In your opinion, which of these factors is the most likely to trigger a professional crisis?


  • 29% - pay that’s too low in relation to the work performed
  • 24% - excessive workload
  • 17% - bad management
  • 11% - too many overtime hours
  • 10% - not being aligned with the company's culture 
  • 9% - bad colleagues 


The results of this section of the survey might lead to two conclusions. If we look at things positively, we might say that we are a work-loving culture. However, according to our respondents, that love only goes so far when they lack sufficient remuneration and development opportunities.


Overburdening employees with professional responsibilities and inadequate work organization are other darker aspects of work in the United States. Excessive workload was indicated as the second most important factor to trigger a professional crisis (24%) right after salary that’s too low in relation to the work performed (29%.)


The third most important element impacting the professional crisis, according to the respondents, is bad management (17%.) Surprisingly, unpleasant coworkers appear to play a minor role in burnout (9%,) despite the fact that bullying at work may certainly lead to a career crisis.


Should we be concerned? 


There's a lot of talk these days about the mid-career crisis and the quarter-life professional crisis. It's no surprise that the subject evokes both anxiety and interest. 


It's fair to say that everyone is at risk of a professional crisis to some extent.


Let's take a look at the numbers to have a better understanding of the risk and non-risk groups.


The older we get, the more we appreciate what we do


It might seem that with the age of the respondents, their fatigue and negative attitude to work will also increase. 


Turns out that this is way off base—which can be seen in the distribution of respondents' answers depending on their age. According to the findings of our study, the majority of young Americans have a negative view of their jobs. Nearly a quarter of those under the age of 25 said they dislike their jobs.


Older employees have a more positive outlook. Only 10% of those over 55 think negatively about their work.


This may be because young people are much more critical of the world and have higher expectations, which may also apply to professional preferences. 


Moreover, when you look at the numbers, Gen Zs and millennials are still at the beginning of their careers. There’s a high chance that they are probably not yet working in their dream or even optimal job, which should also be taken into consideration.


The attitude to work depends on the industry and profession


Retail, Wholesale, and Distribution employees (25%) most often admit that they don’t like their job. On the other end of the spectrum are people employed in Business and Finance, only 5% of whom report having a negative attitude towards work. 


Change of career or industry


The majority of the respondents that dislike their jobs intend to change them, with over 80% declaring that they have considered a complete career change.


According to our survey, 61% of Americans say they have missed their professional calling at some point in their careers. Surprisingly, more than half of them (60%) chose to retrain in such a circumstance.


This is a significant proportion, which is noteworthy since while changing industries is not always simple, it can have many benefits that positively affect job satisfaction. After all, a new industry equals new opportunities and a chance to broaden your experience. It’ll also force you to get out of your comfort zone, which can help to prevent burnout.


We don't want to get stuck in a job we hate


Despite the pandemic and uncertain times (or maybe for these reasons), as many as 78% of our respondents feel fulfilled by their job. It is a paradox that people aged over 55, i.e., respondents who have been professionally active for a long time, are the most satisfied with their job.


Those who admitted that they don't feel fulfilled by their job want to change this state of affairs. Almost 68% of them declared that they don’t intend to be stuck in a job they hate and plan to take steps to get out of this situation.


Starting a business? Fifty-fifty


We asked our respondents if they had ever thought about quitting their jobs and starting their own business. The answers were evenly distributed—54% of the respondents answered this question in the affirmative, and 46% never thought about starting their own business.


Considering that entrepreneurship is a core foundation of the American economy, as Steve Case put it, many dream of opening their own business.


Running a business on your own is difficult and not possible in every profession, though. It often requires a lot of money to begin with. Therefore, it's not surprising that the Business and Finance sector employees were the most susceptible to quitting their full-time jobs and starting their own business.


Career Crisis: A look at the numbers

 Is it possible to avoid a professional crisis and burnout?


Only 11% of respondents stated that it's impossible to perform the same type of work throughout their lives. As many as 58% believe that having one job in their entire career is perfectly fine.


At the same time, more than half of the respondents (60%) believe it's too early to pick a professional path when choosing an area of study.

Despite the fact that Americans generally like their work, the percentage of people who experienced a professional crisis is also significant. Stuck in a poorly paid and monotonous job, with no prospects for further development, many people are at risk of burnout. To maintain motivation and high morale, employers should provide stimulating work conditions, encourage mentorship positions, and provide mobility or scenery changes.
Anna Berkolec Recruiter at ResumeLab

The good news is that a career crisis is not inevitable. The bad—most of us are exposed to it anyway, according to the International Labour Organization. All that's left is to strike a work-life balance and live our best lives. But we know that's easier said than done, so here’s some more burnout-prevention advice based on the survey responses:


Leadership is key


The role of a direct supervisor is seen as really important in maintaining high team morale—over 73% of respondents believe that a good manager can help an employee avoid a professional crisis. ​​On the other hand, a prolonged toxic relationship with a manager can lead to frustration, apathy, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, and that's just the beginning. Unsurprisingly, having the right guidance is one of the key factors in effective professional development and avoiding a career crisis.


Don't stand still


More than a half (61%) of respondents say a lack of professional development is a straight shot to burnout. Most often, this opinion is shared by people with higher education (67%). Only 45% of employees without a college degree believe that the opportunity to develop in their field will help them avoid a workplace crisis.


Home sweet home


More than half (70%) of the respondents admit that their private life gives them more satisfaction than their professional life. For this reason, support for a better work-life balance from employers is crucial. Providing regular breaks, offering flexible and remote working, increasing support for parents—these are just some of the ways to support employee satisfaction.


Most importantly, in order to ensure work-life balance among employees, companies must recognize and respect the uniqueness of each individual. Some people may be desperate for a better work-life balance, while others may be content with the amount of time they spend at work. The most important thing is to attend to all of their needs, at least a bit for each of them. 




The findings presented were obtained by surveying 1038 Americans using a bespoke online polling tool. All respondents included in the study passed an attention-check question. They were asked a series of questions related to their experiences with burnout, job crisis, and attitudes towards their professional life. These included yes/no questions, scale-based questions relating to levels of agreement with a statement, questions that permitted the selection of multiple options from a list of potential answers, and questions that allowed open responses. 




The data we are presenting relies on self-reports from respondents. Since experience is subjective, we understand that there are many potential limitations with self-reported data as some participants and their answers might be affected by recency, selective memory, attribution, exaggeration, self-selection, non-response, or voluntary response bias.


Some questions and responses have been rephrased or condensed for clarity and ease of understanding for readers. In some cases, the percentages presented may not add up to 100 percent; depending on the case, this is either due to rounding or due to responses of “neither/neutral/unknown” not being presented.





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Do you want to spread awareness about burnout and the professional crisis? Inspire your colleagues and contractors to take action by sharing this article.


If you think your audience will be interested in this information, we’d love you to share it for noncommercial reuse. All we ask in return is that you link back here so that the authors get full credit and your readers can view the full study.


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Bart Turczynski
Bart, published by the Financial Times, Hewlett-Packard, CareerBuilder, and Glassdoor, ensures ResumeLab articles are based on scientific data and in-depth studies.

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