In February 2021, McKinsey Global Institute released its “The future of work after COVID-19” report. The report examined the lasting impact on the pandemic on labor demand in eight countries, including the U.S. The report found more than 100 million workers, or 1 in 16, will need to find a different occupation by 2030.
That’s up to 25% more workers than previously estimated who will potentially need to switch occupations. Roughly half will need new, more advanced skills to move into higher wage occupations, the report states.
The report details a need for upskilling, as automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are expected to continue to transform labor markets and reduce the need for human workers in low-wage positions. A McKinsey global survey of 800 senior executives in July 2020 found two-thirds were increasing investment in AI and automation either significantly or somewhat.
As the pandemic accelerated existing trends in automation, e-commerce and remote work, it’s helpful to be aware of how the changing job landscape may affect you.
How the Pandemic Is Affecting Today’s Workforce
The McKinsey report predicts jobs with higher levels of worker-client physical proximity (such as medical care, personal care, on-site customer interaction and leisure/travel) are more likely to see significant transformation after the pandemic.
The report expects the largest negative impact of the pandemic to fall on workers in low-skill office support roles, food service, customer sales and customer service. McKinsey says to expect the following.
- Retail will continue to shift to more e-commerce and digital transactions.
- In leisure and travel, there may be less demand due to a reduction in business travel and more automation in food service roles. McKinsey estimates about 20% of business travel may not return post-pandemic.
- More work that can be done remotely, such as administrative work in hospitals and factories, will move to a remote work environment.
- Automation and AI are currently prevalent in warehouses, call centers, grocery stores and manufacturing plants. Expect more AI and automation in areas with high scores on physical proximity.
A survey of 278 executives by McKinsey in August 2020 found that on average, they planned to reduce office space by 30%. As a result, demand for public transportation and retail and restaurants in downtown areas may decline, as well.
For professionals who are currently in roles related to these industries, it may be worth upskilling now to stay competitive amid changing job landscapes.
What the Future of Work Looks Like
Expect many workplace changes that were caused by the pandemic to endure once it’s subsided. The McKinsey report predicts:
- Remote work and virtual meetings are likely to continue. The report found 20-25% of workforces in advanced economies could work remotely 3-5 days a week. That’s 4-5x more remote work than before the pandemic. This could signal a shift of individuals and companies moving out of large cities into suburbs and small cities.
- Virtual transactions like telemedicine, online banking and streaming entertainment will continue to grow.
- E-commerce will continue to trend upward. In 2020, the e-commerce share grew at 2-5x the rate before the pandemic. Three-quarters of people who used digital channels for the first time during the pandemic plan to continue doing so post-pandemic, according to McKinsey Consumer Pulse surveys.
One area the pandemic had little effect on was outdoor production and maintenance of outdoor spaces, such as construction sites, residential and commercial grounds, and farms. Workers in these labor markets felt less disruption during the pandemic. Workforces in these industries are likely to stay steady post-pandemic, McKinsey predicts.
What industries are in high demand?
The shift to digital transactions has propelled growth in delivery, warehouse and transportation jobs. McKinsey predicts jobs in transportation and warehousing may increase as a result of the delivery and e-commerce economy. Food service and customer service jobs may decrease by 4.3 million, while transportation jobs could increase by nearly 800,000.
For those who are looking for career growth opportunities in in-demand professions, healthcare and STEM are two areas to consider. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports healthcare occupation employment is projected to grow 15% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than average for all jobs. Employment in information technology and computer occupations is projected to grow 11% during that time period, which is also much faster than average for all jobs.
Other in-demand industries for 2021 that are seeing increases in employment include environment- and green-focused jobs, on-demand jobs like restaurant and grocery delivery, and social service occupations like therapists and social workers.
What You Can Do Amid Changing Job Landscapes
With an expected decrease in the need for low-skill laborers and more job opportunities in high-skill industries, it helps to prepare to navigate a career change. Even if you’re currently employed and happy in your position, there are always things you can do now to stay ready in case change comes. Use these tips to increase your competitiveness as a candidate.
Building up your network of professional contacts is important because it can help you in a job search. Consider creating a profile on the social network for professionals, LinkedIn. If you’re already on LinkedIn, make sure to regularly update your profile.
A 2021 report by Kinsta found 87% of recruiters use LinkedIn regularly. On LinkedIn, you can connect with current and past (and future) coworkers and stay up-to-date on each other’s career journeys. You can join groups related to your industry. You can even approach professionals for advice and seek out mentors.
Many professional organizations also host in-person and virtual networking events. You can browse some on Eventbrite and search for ones based on keywords.
Just like you would a friend in your personal life, regularly check in on your professional contacts. That’ll help ensure you stay at the top of their minds when career opportunities emerge that you might be a fit for.
2. Build Up Your Skills
Increase your skills to match what employers you’re interested in are looking for. In today’s digital age, online learning is easier than ever. You can grow your skillset on your own time, right from home. Then, add the skills you’ve learned and any certifications you’ve obtained to your resume and LinkedIn profile.
Wondering what learning opportunities you should pursue? Check out job descriptions in industries you’re interested in. You can also reach out to employers on LinkedIn or through their websites and ask them what types of certifications or skills they require. They might even recommend a course for you to take.
In September 2020, the World Economic Forum reported these were the most in-demand hard skills in 2020.
- Affiliate marketing
- Analytical reasoning
- Artificial intelligence
- Business analysis
- Cloud and distributed computing
- Scientific computing
- UX design
- Video production
If you want to stay in your current industry but you want to advance, you might also consider training in skills like leadership and management.
3. Master Technology
Remote working became the norm in the pandemic. As McKinsey reported, it’s here to stay and will likely remain prevalent in industries that can support it.
Even hiring processes and job interviews are increasingly remote. Now’s a great time to get familiar with video conferencing tools like Zoom and collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams. You might want to invest in a microphone or light for your video camera and practice using remote collaboration tools.
Many businesses also use technology to manage remote work. Task management software like Trello and Asana enables teams to collaborate on projects. You can use these yourself for your own time management and get familiar with them.
As you master technologies like those mentioned here, you can add those to a Technical Skills section on your resume and on your LinkedIn profile.
There’s Lots of Opportunity in Today’s Job Market
The job market is constantly changing. As technology evolves, so will the careers that are in-demand. The pandemic transformed every part of the world, including the job market. You can prepare today for the future of work by cultivating a professional network, upskilling and adapting to technology.
If you’re thinking about changing careers, take our skills assessment to learn which careers you might be a fit for. Find more Arizona employment, education and financial resources here.