Job stress determined by a handful of factors

In my work role as an employment specialist, I help many different kinds of people find work. There are as many motives for as there are people wanting employment. I help sort out those kinds of issues, while at the same time help them overcome what I term “employability issues.”

What are employability issues? Personal qualities and circumstances that have the potential to disqualify a person from employment. They range from career-limiting criminal convictions, to offensive tattoos, to lack of transportation and much more. The sky’s the limit when it comes to employment-limiting factors.

Many people have more than one issue that could knock them out of the running to answer opportunity’s knock. For instance, the woman who had “F.U.” spelled out in a tattoo across her lower lips. Not exactly what employers are looking for in someone representing their companies, regardless of her

What about the person who lost his/her driver’s license to a drinking problem from which he/she is now recovering? That person may need to rely on an overworked rural transportation to get to work, thereby throwing in an unreliability factor on work arrival time. Legitimate employer concern. Transportation problems may also rule out working certain shifts, as the safety net of family and friends can only stretch so far and is often fraught with holes.

Then there are people with injuries, illnesses and other medical conditions, waving red flags large enough to cover up the true worth of otherwise highly-qualified and dedicated employees. Potential liabilities loom large in the eyes of the hiring beholders.

Particularly during times of economic downturn, work turns into a country club into which it’s difficult to gain membership and its associated privileges. Add to that the emotional frailty of being out of the employment game and knowing you are trying to move a huge rock up a giant hill (within your physician-ordered lifting restrictions) and it’s dauntin

One person I was working with dared utter the universal unspoken fear of those who have been involuntarily job-sidelined, “I know I need to get back to work, but don’t know if I can handle all the pressure. What I need is a low-stress job to gradually get me back on board.” Tall order in a world that expects everyone to hit the ground running.

In an attempt to meet his needs, however futile it might seem, I did an online search for the lowest-stress jobs. According to’s 2015 list of lowest-stress jobs, my client was going to need to switch his line of work from tool and die trade to cosmetology, as hairstylist was deemed the least stressful occupation according to criteria I won’t outline here. Wow. Hairstylists, particularly at franchised hair service places, work their butts off serving a never-ending line of walk-ins.

Because you’re wondering, the rest of the top 10 included audiologist, tenured university professor, medical records technician, jeweler, medical lab technician, seamstress, dietician, librarian and forklift operator. Unlikely low-stress companions, eh? listed the following professions as most stressful: firefighter, enlisted military personnel, military general, airline pilot, police officer, actor, broadcaster, event coordinator, photojournalist and newspaper reporter.

Those in charge of the safety and security of large numbers of people seem to be under the most stress at work. The others work within very limited windows of time. But actors? Well, too darned bad! I struggle to empathize with their high-stress issues.

What makes a job high-stress? According to, which referenced the work of Sir Michael Marmot, author of The Status Syndrome, it’s the following: 1. Little or no control over what you do, when you do it and how you are evaluated; 2. Little or no correspondence between your work efforts and work rewards; 3. Random environments in which things happen over which you have no control; and 4. Not having adequate social support (training, encouragement, caring management, helpful co-workers) in the work environment.

What does this mean to job seekers? Target not just certain jobs, but look for employers that allow for employee input and autonomy, encourage personal investment in work, care about employee needs, lend support to efforts and reward performance. It’s the needle worth finding in the haystack.


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