Third of DC professionals think the pandemic has stalled their career

There have been advantages to working from home, but for many D.C. professionals, career advancement hasn’t been one of them.

A survey by staffing firm Robert Half in D.C. found that 55% of D.C.-based managers have put off promoting top performers during the pandemic. “Out of sight, out of mind,” is one of the reasons.

“You don’t see your actual employees day-to-day, and have an idea of what they’re doing to progress their skills and their career,” said Trey Barnette at Robert Half.

It also found that 33% of D.C.-based workers felt that their career has stalled since the start of the pandemic. Particularly in two key career growth areas.

“Sixty-four percent of those surveyed in D.C. said it was skills development, and the other big one, 55%, said it was their ability to grow their network,” Barnette said.

Keeping employees engaged has been a challenge for companies during the remote work environment, but D.C. actually ranks fairly low for the share of workers who feel like they’re stuck in a professional rut. Half of workers in Chicago say so, and almost half do in other large cities, including Atlanta, Houston, Seattle and Austin.

Some industries in the D.C. area have had an advantage during the pandemic when it comes to keeping their employees’ engagement sustained. Nonprofits and associations for one.

“That was one of the industries that really thrived during the pandemic, so a lot of the nonprofits in our area were able to sustain. And the second thing is government and government contractors. Given that a lot of government contracting work was awarded before the pandemic, they were able to sustain as well,” Barnette said.

While more than half of D.C.-based managers said they have put off promotions, 78% admit they’re concerned about employee retention. And they have reason to be concerned. Robert Half expects a wave of hiring in 2021, creating opportunities for employees who feel as if their career has stalled to move on to another job.

“The surge is exponential at this point. We are really seeing every single month double-digit growth with some of the industries in D.C.,” Barnette said.

Nearly one in three workers who’ve experienced a shift in feelings toward work due to the pandemic said they now want to pursue a more meaningful or fulfilling job.

Robert Half surveyed more than 2,800 employed adults online between March 26 and April 15, and more than 2,800 senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees. Its survey results, by age and city, are posted online.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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