Inaugural Creative Jobs Report Reveals New American Dream

new american dream creativity

“This career escalator, which has guided the way we’ve thought about careers for so long, is now jammed at every level. So, people coming out of college today can’t find jobs. Youth unemployment in America today is at its highest since WWII. People in the middle of their career, in the middle of that jammed escalator, are finding themselves in promotion-less limbo. Americans today are registering their lowest levels of career satisfaction.”
— BEN CASNOCHA, entrepreneur & author of The Startup of You

“This is the first time in the history of the world where we as creatives don’t require any permission from anyone in the world to do what we want to do.”
— CHASE JARVIS, world-renowned photographer & CreativeLive Co-founder

In 2014, Americans face an uncertain economy, limited employment opportunities, and mounting debt. There are now 6.6 million fewer jobs in the United States than there were four years ago, according to economist Joseph Stiglitz. The youngest working generation [age 18-34] has it the worst, as chillingly articulated by Pew’s Millennials in Adulthood survey: “Millennials are the first generation in the modern era to have higher levels of student loan debt, poverty and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income than their two immediate predecessor generations had at the same stage of their life cycles.”

 And yet, in the face of the aforementioned rampant unemployment and depressed economy, Americans are increasingly opting out of traditional career tracks at every major juncture, choosing self-employment and creative work over ‘corporate’ America. The Small Business Association reports approximately 543,000 new small businesses are started each month, while the government-reported rates of people quitting their jobs now outpaces the rate of people getting laid off. The American workforce is reshaping the economy by creating new models of work — and with it, building a new American Dream.

As Richard Florida wrote in The Rise of the Creative Class, “Creativity has become the most highly prized commodity in our economy — and yet it is not a ‘commodity.’ Creativity comes from people. And while people can be hired and fired, their creative capacity cannot be bought and sold, nor turned on and off at will. This is why we see the emergence of a new order in the workplace.”

CreativeLive’s inaugural Creative Jobs Report surveyed 2,112 U.S. adults ages 18 and older among whom 1,120 are employed, to uncover existing American attitudes and behaviors towards work, creativity, and success. The findings herein underscore the rising importance of creativity — as a driver of economic growth, an indicator of professional fulfillment, and an integral part of the new American Dream.


The CreativeLive Creative Jobs Report finds that 36% of employed Americans want to leave their current position for a job that allows them to be more creative — and that many are willing to take a pay cut to do so.

“When over 51 million employed Americans want to leave their jobs to pursue a more creative career, we have jarring evidence that our existing education and work systems are broken,” says CreativeLive Co-founder Chase Jarvis.

– 41% of employed Americans chose to work in a traditional job
– 19% of employed Americans are working in jobs they took out of necessity
– 19% of employed Americans want to find jobs that allow them to be more creative
– 9%  of employed Americans have one job to pay the bills and another that allows them to be creative
– 9% of employed Americans identify as underemployed (i.e., their job does not require their level of degree)

Americans are powerfully reclaiming the employee/employer contract by leaving traditional jobs, starting new careers, and launching their own businesses. And, while many Americans desire jobs that allow them to be more creative, creativity is a deciding factor in more than just one-off career decisions; for many employed Americans, it is an integral part of a fulfilling work life.

creative jobs report infographic 51 millionThe Oxford Dictionary defines creativity as “the use of imagination or original ideas.” The Creative Jobs Report findings indicate a desire among working Americans to do more creative work, and underscore a widespread yearning for the professional autonomy to implement their own ideas. Creativity defines both the structure and type of work desired by many employed Americans.

thumbnail More than half of employed Americans want to make — or have already made — a major career change. 54% of employed U.S. adults said they want a new career or to start their own business or plan to make such a change after retirement.

We want to do more creative work, even if that means leaving our current position or taking a pay cut. Almost four in 10 employed U.S. adults (36%) report that they want to leave their current job to pursue a career that allows them to be more creative. Additionally, 29%, or almost 41 million employed U.S. adults, would take a pay cut for a job that allowed them to be more creative.

Employed Americans want to opt out of traditional career tracks. 40% of employed U.S. adults say they want to leave ‘corporate’ America. Additionally, 55%, or almost 78 million employed U.S. adults, would jump ship from a traditional job to self-employment if they could still pay their bills.

What’s holding Americans back from pursuing the work we want? The Creative Jobs Report findings indicate working Americans share several economic and psychological barriers to starting their own businesses.

  • Fear of failure. 29% of employed U.S. adults who ever wanted to start their own business state being afraid of failure as a barrier to starting a business.
  • Not knowing where to start. More than one third (34%) of employed U.S. adults who want to start their own business indicate not knowing where to start as a barrier to starting their own business.
  • Access to health insurance. Or, at least, that was what was stopping us — before Obamacare. 23% of applicable workers agree with the statement “I am more likely to start my own business now that I can get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).”
  • Not having enough money. More than half of employed U.S. adults (56%) who ever wanted to start their own business indicate not having enough money as a barrier to doing so.
  • Lacking the necessary skills. 72% of employed U.S. adults interested in pursuing a new career or wanting to start their own business indicate they do not have the skills to do so.

creative jobs report infographic successREDEFINING SUCCESS BY GENERATION
Our findings uncover each generation’s unique perspectives on work and creativity. While Millennials [age 18-34] lead the charge in pursuit of creative collaboration and making a positive social impact, our findings indicate an increasing desire for creativity among older Americans [65+]. The creativity crisis — and revolution — is present in every generation of the American workforce, manifesting in distinctly different forms.

As the largest — and youngest — working generation, millennials have the dubious honor of having both the least experience and the highest degree of education. Unsurprisingly, they are also facing the highest degree of underemployment, with 12% of employed millennial respondents reporting that their job does not require their degree. However, the CreativeLive Creative Jobs Report findings indicate millennials are redefining success on their own terms, outpacing their generational predecessors when it comes to prioritizing working with creative people, having a job that makes a positive social impact, and pursuing skill-based training.

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– 47% of employed millennials say they would like to get out of corporate America
– 28% of employed millennials took a job because they had to, not because they wanted to
– Facing higher degree of underemployment (12%) than any other generation
– More than 14.5 million employed millennials (31%) report that working with creative people is very important to them
– 24% of employed millennials reported participating in an online class to augment their careers
– 35% of employed millennials say having a job that makes a positive social impact is very important to them, compared to just 19% of adults age 35+

Retirement is no longer an option for many Americans — and employed U.S. adults 65 and older are working in higher numbers and at higher rates than ever before. Between 1990 and 2010, the proportion of employed Americans age 65 and older grew to 16.1 from 14.1, according to a recent Census Bureau report (via CNBC). This is the highest it’s been since the U.S. government starting keeping track of the numbers in 1981, according to The New York Times. While retirement is increasingly out of reach to the American workforce, The Creative Jobs Report findings indicate creativity is important to the majority (57%) of employed U.S. adults age 65 and older, and that more than a third strongly agree they don’t plan on retiring because they enjoy their career.

– 57% of employed adults age 65+ find it important to have a career that allows them to be creative on a regular basis
– 35% of employed U.S. adults age 65+ strongly agree they don’t plan on retiring because they enjoy their job/career
– 18% of employed U.S. adults say they plan to pursue another profession or career after they retire
– 54% of employed U.S. adults age 65+ who ever wanted to start their own business feel there is no barrier to doing so

creative jobs report infographic reclaim creative workCONCLUSION
The Creative Jobs Report findings underscore a widespread desire among working Americans to leave their current jobs in pursuit of new careers, entrepreneurship, and more creative work. The findings indicate the American workforce is shifting towards work defined by creativity, collaboration, and challenge — and away from corporate America.

“Traditional work and education models can no longer promise financial or professional security,” said CreativeLive Co-founder Chase Jarvis. “What we are witnessing is a creative revolution in response to a crisis of autonomy. Americans are rewriting the script by creating a new language. In the world of work in America, creativity truly is the new literacy — and the new currency.”

This survey was conducted online within the United States from March 3-5, 2014 among 2,112 adults ages 18 and older, among whom 1,120 are employed, by Harris Poll on behalf of CreativeLive via its Quick Query omnibus product. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online and travel.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

Stiglitz, Joseph. “The Book of Jobs,” Vanity Fair, January 2012.
Pew Research,”Millennials in Adulthood,” March 2014.
Bureau of Labor & Statistics, “Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey Release,” March 2014.
Kerry Cannon, “For Many Older Americans, An Enterprising Path, The New York Times, Feb. 7, 2014.
Allison Linn, “Plan on Working Past 65? You’ll Have Company,” CNBC, Jan. 13, 2013.

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Whitney Ricketts is CreativeLive's Senior Communications Manager. Email her at whitney [dot] ricketts [at] creativelive [dot] com.