A late December poll of people seeking career advice found 44% of survey participants lost their jobs directly due to the coronavirus pandemic, a Chicago executive coaching firm announced last week.
Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a global outplacement firm, offers a free annual career help hotline between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Over a two-day span, 363 callers contacted the firm’s counselors for advice. Of those, almost 7 in 10 were unemployed, an increase from December 2019, when half of callers were jobless.
More than half of the unemployed callers had been out of work between four and 12 months, according to the survey. About one-fourth had been out of work for more than a year and another fourth had been jobless for one to three months.
Andrew Challenger, the firm’s senior vice president, said 2020 callers were concerned with multiple issues.
“Many job seekers are looking to transfer their skills to new industries, some are concerned their age will deter hiring managers, and others need help navigating difficult bosses in a year when diversity and inclusion is more important than ever,” he said in a statement.
“One thing was clear: There is a lot of pain occurring right now. Many callers reported they were out of work for the first time in their lives and had no idea how to even get started with the process,” he added.
“Networking” and “getting interviews” were cited most often by job seekers as stumbling blocks. Each category resonated with 22% of respondents. More than 19% reported trouble finding job openings, and 17% found preparing a résumé to be the biggest obstacle to launching a job search.
Rae Pearson, founder and president of Alpha Rae Personnel Inc., said her firm works daily with job searchers who struggle most making a connection with someone in the company they’d like to work for.
The Fort Wayne firm works with both employers and prospective employees, Pearson said.
“Getting introduced and getting into the door, that’s where our service helps a lot because we know the employers,” she said.
Alpha Rae Personnel works with people who have lost jobs, those looking for better jobs and recent graduates. Candidates are seeking positions ranging from the factory floor to the C-suite, Pearson said.
Employers pay for the service, which is free to job candidates.
“We help employers out there looking for the best and brightest,” Pearson said, adding her client companies are both local and national.
Fewer employed callers to Challenger’s hotline described themselves as underemployed in 2020: 33% of employed callers said they were underemployed compared with 47% in 2019.
“In 2019, amid a tight labor market and low unemployment, workers who perhaps could not find a full-time role could likely find part-time or freelance work,” Challenger said. “In 2020, this work was harder to come by, as consumer spending dried up and companies made cuts.”
The Challenger, Gray & Christmas survey found more than one-third of respondents believed they would find new jobs in one to three months. Almost one-third believed it would take four to six months. More than 20% estimated it will be seven to 12 months before they are back to work.
And 12% estimated it will be more than a year before they are earning a paycheck.
Their job prospects will depend, in part, on employers’ financial strength. Challenger shared some thoughts on what it will take to get businesses back to hiring mode.
“In 2021, the market recovery will depend almost completely on the efficiency with which the vaccine is distributed and administered,” he said. “Many small businesses will be unable to outlast a drawn-out process, especially with delayed stimulus relief from the federal government.”