4 Top Drivers of Career Motivation after COVID-19

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Many people are eager to get back to work after the year of pandemic-related shutdowns. In July alone, the unemployment rate decreased 0.5% down to 5.4%, which is a fraction of what it was at the height of the pandemic.1 But many workers don’t plan on returning to the same employers or occupations as the world reopens.2

Take a look at some of the factors motivating career choices—and changes—after COVID-19 below.

Workers Want New Opportunities

Although most fields are reopening with few restrictions, many workers are looking for new and different career opportunities. Pew Research reports almost two-thirds of Americans who were unemployed due to the pandemic considered switching their field of work.2 And a Morning Consult survey found 20% of workers completely changed careers during the past year.2

In addition, 25% of workers said they would start looking for a new employer once the threat of the pandemic subsides.2 Given the sheer impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on daily life, it’s not surprising so many Americans would seriously reevaluate their professional paths.

The pandemic was the overall catalyst, but what are the other motivations underlying this change?

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4 Drivers for a New Career Path after the Pandemic

Many studies and surveys have been conducted to gain a deeper understanding of the pandemic’s impact on career decisions. See some of the results from these studies to explore why so many Americans are actively seeking new career opportunities.

1. Quality of Life

One StrataTech survey asked respondents about the most important factor in a career: 68% of respondents said quality of life was the biggest motivation for them when choosing a professional path.3 This factor was chosen above earning potential and a sense of stability, underscoring just how much value workers place on happiness—whether that means not being confined to an office, staying active on the job or whatever else their specific preferences dictate.3

2. Earning Potential

Income was found to be another major motivation for employees. In fact, 67% of Americans cited earning potential as their main driver when choosing a career.3

Another survey found 80% of people planning to find another career after the pandemic based their decision on career advancement.4 Millions of Americans struggled financially during the pandemic despite government intervention. This instability led many to reconsider the earning potential in their current careers and look for more rewarding opportunities.

3. Sense of Stability

Unemployment reached record highs during the pandemic. At its worst, only those classified as essential workers were allowed to continue working. Even with government support, this instability didn’t sit well with many people. As many return to work, there’s an increased demand for stable jobs with secure incomes, two facets of the American dream for many workers. The StrataTech survey revealed 67% of people say a sense of stability is the biggest motivator when searching for a career.3

4. Positive Impact

Another motivating factor Americans have when searching for a career is impact. In addition to income potential and job stability, employees want to know they’re having a positive effect through their work.

Careers aren’t just seen as vehicles to build wealth and security anymore. Many people, especially millennials, seek work that can make a difference in the world. The StrataTech survey found 51% of high schoolers are interested in a career with the potential to have a positive impact, such as helping the environment.3

Interest in the Trades Post-Pandemic

refrigeration students learning hvac

Over half of those leaving their job in search of new career opportunities are actively seeking new training.4 With in-demand skills, many are hoping to find more rewarding careers.

High schoolers who see their college-educated relatives with mountains of student debt and unpromising job prospects might search for a more advantageous academic and professional route.5 Many see vocational training as one such path.

The skilled trades can offer benefits and healthy compensation for workers with the right training, skills and experience.5 HVAC classes, welding training programs and electrician courses are some examples of how people prepare for trades professions. And such training could be a good idea right now because there’s a shortage of skilled tradespeople from older workers retiring.6

The StrataTech survey found 57% of people enrolled or considering enrolling in the trades were motivated by the pandemic. Some of the top reasons for making this career switch were stable income, greater career flexibility, high rate of job placement and essential worker status.3

Take the First Step Toward Your New Career

Are you ready for a new career in the skilled trades? See how trade school can help prepare you for entry-level positions as an HVAC technician, welder or electrician. Contact The Refrigeration School to speak with a team member about our trade school programs.

Additional Sources