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Careers Contribute Equally or More to Self-Worth Compared to Personal Lives for Nearly Half of American Workers, Reveals University of Phoenix Survey

Nearly Half of Working Adults are Still Searching for the Right Career and More than One-Third Plan to Change Careers in the Next Two Years

PHOENIX, June 24, 2014 — A recent University of Phoenix® School of Business survey suggests that many Americans are defined by their careers. In fact, nearly half (47 percent) of working adults in the U.S. gain equal or greater feelings of self-worth from their jobs and careers as they do from their personal lives. The survey also finds that nearly half of working adults (45 percent) are still searching for the right career and more than one-third (37 percent) plan to change careers in the next two years. The newly released online survey of more than 1,000 working adults in the U.S. was conducted on behalf of University of Phoenix School of Business by Harris Poll in the first quarter of 2014.

The youngest workers are most interested in transition, with two-thirds (66 percent) of workers in their 20s still searching for the right career and 55 percent planning to change careers in the next two years. However, many workers in their 30s and beyond also desire change. More than half (53 percent) of workers in their 30s are still looking for the right career, followed by 42 percent in their 40s, 25 percent in their 50s and 21 percent age 60 and above. Forty percent of workers in their 30s plan to change careers in the next two years, followed by 35 percent in their 40s, 25 percent in their 50s and 20 percent of those age 60 and above.

“People deeply value the contributions they make to society and to their workplaces and take it personally,” said Dr. Sam Sanders, college chair for University of Phoenix School of Business and former human resources executive. “With identity and worth so connected to careers, it is important for working adults to constantly be reinventing themselves and seeking opportunities to grow professionally. The good news is that education is growing more custom and personal every day and professionals have many options to pursue growth, including formal education, continuing education and certificates, corporate training, mentorships or personal growth projects.”

Self-Worth Matters

Despite a challenging economic climate, the survey reveals that more than 60 percent of working adults would quit their job if it decreased their feelings of self-worth. The youngest and the oldest working adults are the most likely to quit if a job decreases their feelings of self-worth, as reported by 69 percent of workers in their 20s and 72 percent of workers age 60 and above. More than half (56 percent) of workers in their 30s, 58 percent of workers in their 40s and 49 percent of workers in their 50s, report they would quit if their job decreased their feelings of self-worth.

“Professionals no longer feel locked into a specific career path,” said Dr. Sanders. “Workers are staying in the workforce longer and the lines between personal lives and work have blurred, so it is not surprising that workers are focused on finding jobs and careers that align with their values and contribute to their feelings of self-worth. Employers also recognize the benefits of an engaged and dedicated workforce. The University sees employers focusing more on training, education and career management to help workers be more flexible in their career paths, grow with their organizations and contribute more effectively.”

Education at Any Age

More than half (54 percent) of working adults believe that pursuing additional education would increase their feelings of self-worth. Younger workers are most likely to report this, but workers of all ages see the benefits of education. Specifically, seven-in-ten (70 percent) workers in their 20s say pursuing additional education would increase their feelings of self-worth, followed by 63 percent of workers in their 30s. Half (50 percent) of workers in their 40s and approximately a third of both workers in their 50s (35 percent) and workers age 60 or older (31 percent) agree.

“Generations of workers are increasingly finding value in education well after the traditional ‘school years’,” said Dr. Sanders. “At University of Phoenix we have students of all ages exploring new interests; some come back to school to prepare for a new profession, some are looking to advance in current careers and others are focused on growing very specific skills.”

Increasing Self-Worth Throughout Your Career

Dr. Sanders offers the following tips for working adults who may be looking to gain more responsibility, personal job satisfaction or are struggling with a lack of fulfillment in their chosen careers:

  1. Be an entrepreneur in your own career. Don’t wait to be handed opportunities at your organization. Be proactive and find ways to stand out within your existing job. This can include working with other teams in the organization, researching a new revenue stream, conducting competitive analysis or presenting a new project. Suggesting innovative changes and taking charge of your own development may lead to increased responsibility, and ultimately greater feelings of self-worth.
  2. Understand how your job ties to the bottom line. Understanding how your role fits into the larger picture can change the way you approach it and position your accomplishments. Even if it is not in your job description, being aware of how your role and department contribute to the organization’s business priorities and bottom line, may help you prioritize and contribute more effectively and feel greater job satisfaction.
  3. Be a lifelong learner. Don’t let your skills get stale! Take a class, pursue an advanced degree, research certificate programs or identify a mentor. With educational options growing more customized every day, it is easier than ever to find ways to learn, grow and challenge yourself long after you graduate high school or earn a bachelor’s degree.
  4. Get civic! Share your knowledge, nurture your interests and continue to grow your skills through volunteering. Community involvement is a great way to supplement your career and add flavor and richness to your daily life.
  5. Set personal goals, even if you don’t meet every one. When you go through the review process every year, it is a good time to set some personal learning goals for yourself. Is there something you have always wanted to learn? Is there a part of the business/department you want to better understand? Are there soft skills (communication, strategic thinking, planning) that you have always wanted to improve? Identify a personal goal related to your career and develop a plan to achieve that goal in the coming year.
  6. Nurture your brand. Branding isn’t just for companies and products; social media and online networking have made branding just as important for individuals. Research the key components of a business and/or marketing plan and use this as a guide for your own brand and professional communication.  

For more information University of Phoenix School of Business degree programs, visit http://www.phoenix.edu/business.

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of University of Phoenix between Feb. 19 and Feb. 21, 2014. Respondents included 1,048 U.S. residents who are part-time, full-time and self-employed. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Tanya Burden at Tanya.Burden@apollo.edu.

About University of Phoenix ® School of Business

University of Phoenix School of Business curriculum is designed to meet the demands of the 21st century by providing associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs that prepare students to be creative problem solvers for the new economy. For more than 30 years, School of Business leaders have focused on the challenges facing business professionals by staying current with industry needs and collaborating with thought leaders to develop programs that students can apply to today’s business world. More information can be found at www.phoenix.edu/business.


University of Phoenix is constantly innovating to help working adults move efficiently from education to careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant and engaging courses, and interactive learning can help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. As a subsidiary of Apollo Education Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: APOL), University of Phoenix serves a diverse student population, offering associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs from campuses and learning centers across the U.S. as well as online throughout the world. For more information, visit www.phoenix.edu.

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