What we’re learning about the hopes and values of workers during the pandemic

  • Rhys Herriott

    Rhys Herriott

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Author: Lucy Griffiths, CEO, Sortyourfuture.com – CareerTech Challenge Prize finalist, and Rapid Recovery Challenge semifinalist.

In a world where the future jobs market is increasingly uncertain and we’re learning new ways of working, we’ve been looking at trends in data from users of our career platform Sortyourfuture.com that might tell us about the hopes, aspirations, and values of the nation. 

Spoiler alert – it’s not all doom and gloom!

But first…the backstory

When we found out that Sortyourfuture.com was one of the 20 finalists in the CareerTech Challenge Prize back in March, little did we know that we’d be faced with an even bigger national challenge than the one we originally set out to solve.

The Prize was originally conceived to support innovations for those whose work was at risk of displacement by changes to the economy – including increased automation and the development of AI and other technologies. But then came the pandemic, and the pace of change accelerated rapidly, as did the need for more support, and new insights into how people navigate the world of work.

Throughout the challenge we’ve been monitoring the data from our platform to track the trends and gain insights. Here’s what we found…

Helping others is #1

When users join Sort they choose the things they believe describe them best. There are twenty four to choose from, including ‘Being Creative’, ‘Researching’, and ‘Fixing Things’, but there is one that has stood out above all others as the most selected option on Sort during the pandemic.

‘Helping Others’ is selected by more than two-thirds of the users on the site – a huge proportion. When I saw this data for the first time I was moved. Most of our users are under 35, and I love that they are choosing kindness and care for others as a personal attribute in a world that’s quick to criticise young people. Young people are a fantastic, caring bunch, and we have the data to prove it!

A demonstration of SortYourFuture.com, with a user scrolling through a series of photos and statements which best describe them. The user selects 'Helping Others' and 'Making Things'.

More than two-thirds of users describe themselves as wanting to help others.

Psychology races to the top

We also track the most viewed career paths on our site – these are the job types most people are interacting with. The data below shows the top 20 most interacted with careers during the period from 16th March 2020 (the start of the first lockdown) and 2nd December 2020 (the end of the second lockdown), and aggregates data from more than 100,000 users.

A list of the top 20 most viewed careers on Sortyourfuture.com between March and December 2020. Psychologist, social influencer, and photographer top the list.

Psychology, art therapy and psychotherapy all feature in the ‘Top 20’ careers in 2020, trumping ‘traditional careers’ like doctors, teachers or lawyers.

Psychology has always been a popular career on the Sort site, but it has outstripped all others during the pandemic, with other related careers like Art Therapy, Clinical Psychology, and Psychotherapy also featuring in the top twenty.

 Unsurprisingly, our qualitative research conducted during the pandemic has suggested that anxiety about the future is a major feature of many people’s career thinking at the moment. We don’t know for sure whether these two things are related, but they start to paint a picture that we can’t ignore, a picture of a world turning towards care, mental health, connection.

Creative careers and dream jobs

It’s also notable that many of the careers in the top twenty are in the creative industries. Recent media coverage of the economic challenges faced by the arts are, thankfully, not causing people to turn away from those roles.

At Sort, while we believe in pragmatism, but we also believe everyone should have the opportunity to have a shot at pursuing their dream career, not to just follow the demand and end up doing something they hate. Somebody has to be Prime Minister, a movie star, a social media influencer, right?

The rise of the social influencer

Social Influencer is consistently near the top of our list of most popular careers, and that hasn’t changed during the pandemic. It’s a role that is clearly attractive, and highly visible, but rather than dismiss it as out of reach for many, we see it as an indicator that people are looking for the things this kind of career offers. Connection, validation, money, and above all, to work independently sharing your interests and passions with others who care about the same things.

Where are the ‘traditional careers’?

When we created Sort, we set out to enable our users to discover careers they might not otherwise have thought about, as well as learn more about ones they were already aware of. We travelled to schools across the UK asking young people about their aspirations, hopes and fears, and so many of them had a very narrow set of career options in mind – doctor, lawyer, accountant, police officer, teacher. This is backed up by data from the OECD (2020) who ran a global survey of young people’s career aspirations which showed a similar picture.

It’s notable that none of these professions appear on our top 20 list. Perhaps that’s because people already have some knowledge about these jobs and choose not to interact with them. What it does tell us is that our users are embracing the opportunity to explore careers beyond the traditional list of options.

What’s next?

Our hope is that our site will continue to help people find the right role for them, knowing that there are many, many options available to them, even now. Sortyourfuture.com has just been announced as a semi-finalist in Nesta’s Rapid Recovery Challenge, giving us additional support to scale our solution over the coming months.

There is hope, there is a bright future ahead, we just need to help people get through the now, while not losing sight of their dreams. At Sort, we’re looking forward to continuing to help people at all stages of their careers keep searching until they find the role that’s a perfect fit for them, whoever they are.

About the author

A black and white photo of Lucy Griffiths, CEO of Sort Your Future dot com

Lucy Griffiths is CEO and Founder of Sortyourfuture.com and a Fellow and Board Trustee at The RSA. She’s also a Chartered Marketer, Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, TEDx Speaker and a former university lecturer in Marketing and Entrepreneurship.

Follow Lucy on Twitter

Follow Sortyourfuture.com on Twitter

Visit the Sortyourfuture.com website

About the CareerTech Challenge Prize

SortYourFuture.com are finalists in the CareerTech Challenge Prize – a joint project between Nesta Challenges and the Department for Education, aiming to improve access to data-driven careers advice and guidance. You can read more about the other Finalists on the Prize website.

About the Rapid Recovery Challenge

SortYourFuture.com are also semi-finalists in Nesta’s Rapid Recovery Challenge to find and scale tools and services that improve access to jobs and money for the people hardest hit by the economic shock resulting from COVID-19. The £3m challenge is funded by Nesta, in partnership with JPMorgan Chase Foundation, the Department for Work and Pensions, and the Money and Pensions Service. You can learn about the 14 Semi-Finalists on the Challenge website.

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