Almost a third of U.S. workers under 40 have considered a career change during the pandemic


When Orlando Saenz was fired at the end of January, he was devastated. For nearly a decade he worked as an executive assistant at an Austin law firm and it was hard to envision his next steps. But then he realized: this setback could be the boost he needed to finally finish his associate degree and seek a better career.

A few days later, Saenz, 40, enrolled in community college. He is considering getting a paralegal license. The improved unemployment assistance gave him the financial cushion to “see school as my job,” he said, for a few months.

“If you come out of the pandemic the same way you were, you’ve missed an opportunity to evolve and grow as a person,” Saenz said. “I just realized I had to do better.

Saenz is not alone. Nearly one in three American workers under the age of 40 has thought about changing their profession or field of work since the start of the pandemic, according to a survey by the Washington Post-Schar School, conducted from July 6 to 21. About 1 in 5 workers overall considered a career change. , a signal that the pandemic has been a turning point for many, even those who have not contracted the coronavirus.

Many people told The Post that the pandemic has changed their perception of what is important in life and in their careers. It gave them a better understanding that life is short and now is the time to make the changes they have long dreamed of. The result is a great re-evaluation of work, as Americans fundamentally reinvent their relationship with their work.

This is resulting in record numbers of Americans leaving their jobs and a wave of retirements and people starting new businesses.

Some, like Saenz, are looking for a more interesting or better paying career, while others want a new location that allows a different way of life. Since the start of the pandemic, 28% of American adults say they have seriously considered moving, according to the George Mason University Post-Schar School of Policy and Government survey, and 17% say they have already moved, either temporarily or permanently. Adults under 40 are the most likely to have considered moving or have already moved.

In parts of the country with easy access to hiking and outdoor activities, house prices are skyrocketing. Austin, Texas; Boise, Idaho; Spokane, Washington; and a Phoenix suburb called Sunrise saw the biggest price hike, according to real estate website Redfin. These towns are more affordable than many large coastal towns and are easy places to have a physically active lifestyle.

Saenz said he and his wife, a teacher, had also discussed leaving downtown Austin and moving to the countryside for a different pace of life and the chance to fish more – what he calls the ” Cabela lifestyle ”, in reference to the outdoor equipment retailer. Nearly half of adults say it’s “extremely” or “very” important to have easy access to hiking, fishing and camping, compared to 34% in a 2019 survey conducted by the Harris School of Public Policy of the University of Chicago, The Associated Press and NORC.

Viktoria Pavic, 25, had the opposite reaction during the pandemic: she wanted to be in a bigger city and saw it as a chance to make that dream come true. She moved from Poughkeepsie, New York, to Brooklyn, taking advantage of lower rent prices in the city as many young people left temporarily.

“Right before the pandemic, I was planning to move and travel more. I wanted to live my life as fully as possible, ”said Pavic. “The pandemic ended a lot of travel, but at least I was able to move to Brooklyn. You cannot put your life on hold forever.

Pavic works as a hostess in a restaurant but says she has had plenty of time to think about her future. She started investing during the pandemic and plans to turn to corporate or nonprofit work.

“I did a bit of journaling,” she said. “I hope that one day I may be able to start a non-profit organization, something where I can do more for my community.”

Demands for new businesses have exploded in 2020 and 2021, according to census data, likely fueled by people being laid off or wanting a change. In May, the share of workers voluntarily leaving their jobs reached the highest level recorded by the Department of Labor, another sign that American workers are rethinking what they want to do in their careers and are confident they can find something else. thing. Retail workers have quit at a particularly rapid pace this year; quits in retail hit a record high in June.

Recruiters say they hear time and time again that people want more flexibility. They say workers are reluctant to return to jobs in industries such as retail, restaurants and manufacturing that require a fixed schedule with in-person work, often at irregular hours.

“People want a work-life balance,” said Angela Muhwezi-Hall, co-founder of QuickHire. “A woman I was talking to yesterday told me that she works in a restaurant and sometimes comes home at 3 am and doesn’t want to do that anymore. She wants to be able to see her children, especially after spending a year at home with her children. She still really wants flexibility. Line cooks have been particularly difficult to hire, Muhwezi-Hall said.

The United States recorded a record 10.1 million job vacancies in June. Employers are raising wages, offering new benefits such as mental health care, and allowing more workers to stay at least partly away in an effort to attract people to their businesses.

The Post-Schar School poll found that a majority of workers – 59% – say they want to return to their workplace all or most of the time after the pandemic ends. Slightly less than 2 in 10 say they want to work mainly (10%) or always (8%) remotely, while 2 in 10 want an equal distribution between home work and occasional travel. White men are more likely than other workers in general to want to return to work. Remote working is more popular among workers who do most of their work on a computer and those who have telecommuted in the past month. Both groups prefer working entirely or partially remotely to work that takes place mainly outside the home.

Jobs and education entirely online have been difficult for some. Tais Davis of Richmond was halfway through college when the pandemic hit. She had planned to become a doctor, but found online classes alone much more difficult than learning in person. She is now opting for a nursing diploma in the hope that she will be able to have a more flexible schedule, including the possibility of working as a “per diem” nurse who replaces in different medical establishments.

“The pandemic has taught me that nothing is guaranteed now. Everything can change in a matter of months or even weeks, ”said Davis. “Just being able to spend time alone made me realize which path I had taken that I didn’t want to take. “

The poll was conducted July 6-21 by the Washington Post and the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University among a random national sample of 1,000 adults, 75% of whom were contacted on cell phones. and 25% on fixed lines. The overall results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.

Emily Guskin of the Washington Post contributed to this report.

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