With holidays fast upon us and the end of the year looming, a lot of us are looking to 2021 with hopeful energy about the future. For some, the new year might feel like the right time to make a career change, or level up in our professional lives.
The events of 2020 have brought profound changes to all of our lives. For many, their work lives have been upended or drastically changed. Working parents have had to balance childcare and remote schooling on top of downturns in many industries. These challenges have led to substantial decline in workforce participation by parents with children under 18. The percentage of working fathers dropped by 5.6% and working mothers by 4.9%, compared to 2019.
Newly remote workers have also seen challenging changes to the shape of their work life. Most experience longer workdays, working on average nearly an hour more per workday and contending with a 13% increase in meetings.
For small business owners, 2020’s upheavals created an unprecedented need to adapt or fold. Among small business owners, 92% reported that they were forced to “reinvent” their business model to survive pandemic setbacks. Sadly, many were not able to weather the storm. In fact, nearly 100,000 small businesses closed permanently due to Covid-19.
These significant changes can leave any job-seeker with some major questions about what their search and their future career prospects will look like into the next year. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Christian Sutherland-Wong, CEO of Glassdoor, who was a guest on my You Turn Podcast. We spoke about many aspects of the current job market, and what’s to come in the future. Sutherland-Wong offered some excellent advice for those looking to make a change to their professional life during this uncertain time, and this inspired me to put together 5 tips for job hunting in 2021.
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1) Diversity, equity and inclusion will play a greater role in hiring than ever.
A major takeaway from my conversation with Sutherland-Wong was that those entering the job search in 2021 should expect issues of diversity, equity and inclusion to have a growing role in hiring and in company policies moving forward.
The summer of 2020 was an important time of tremendous upheaval. Compounding the pandemic, the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others spurred nationwide protests, demanding that we all take a hard, overdue look at racial inequality in America—and worldwide.
There have been far-reaching reactions throughout corporate America to try to rectify institutional bias and address diversity, equity and inclusion (often referred to as DEI) in hiring and other company practices.
Sutherland-Wong has seen the effects of these protests in how Glassdoor users are discussing hiring. Sutherland-Wong reports that since summer 2020, Glassdoor has seen a 66% increase in users mentioning diversity and racial equity in their reviews. This has led Glassdoor to explore how their products could help users evaluate the commitment of potential employers to diversity and inclusion.
Glassdoor has since launched new tools for assessing and rating companies for their handling of issues related to DEI. Integral to these new tools is the ability of users to now share demographic information.
“What we want to be able to do as we collect this data is shine a light on not just how a company is rated overall by the average reviewer, but specifically, how certain people of certain demographics or certain groups rate a company,” Sutherland-Wong told me, “so then users of our site can get a feel for People who are like me, how do they rate a company?”
Accordingly, Sutherland-Wong believes that one of the great successes of Glassdoor is that they have been able to hold companies accountable when it comes to equity in the workplace. He explained that “companies cannot hide behind not being great employers when it comes to diversity and inclusion.”
Whether you are a candidate who is part of an underrepresented demographic in a certain field, or you feel that your voice should be amplified in the conversation about diversity and equity, it is valuable to understand the vital role that DEI will play in hiring practices and company policies in the future. It’s important that we all understand that we have a role to play in creating a more equitable future in the professional space.
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Job Hunting Tip: Do your research using Glassdoor’s new DEI tools to ensure that you are directing your job search toward companies that align with your values, and that provide an equitable and inclusive work environment.
2) Do not be afraid to negotiate your salary or ask for a promotion.
For many, the uncertainty of the current climate might make them feel risk-averse and reluctant to seek a promotion or a raise, or to negotiate a higher salary during the hiring process.
Sutherland-Wong’s advice: don’t be afraid to ask for what you’re worth.
During our conversation, Sutherland-Wong offered the very helpful reminder that while it can be hard to see outside the scope of the pandemic at the moment, this too shall pass. Try to take the long view, and understand that this moment will ultimately be what he refers to as a “blip” in your greater career trajectory. This mindset will help you get the perspective you need to make a change, or seek better compensation for your work.
Although the hiring manager holds most of the power throughout the interview process, Sutherland-Wong reminds us that “by the time you get to the offers stage and they are giving you an offer, the power is starting to switch back to you now.”
If you’ve successfully interviewed and reached the salary negotiation phase of hiring, remember to feel empowered in your role. “They want you,” he says, “therefore, it is worth thinking through: is this the right offer for me?”
When it comes time to negotiate, research and data are your friend. Throughout our interview, Sutherland-Wong emphasized the value in doing your research and having data to back up your point of view in the job search, from interviews to salary negotiations.
Though some companies may be weathering financial challenges, negotiating your salary is not a faux pas—it’s as important as ever. Do your research about the value of your role and comparable salary ranges. Strong data will still help you make your point.
Here are some ways tips for putting together a plan for negotiating your salary:
- Use Glassdoor to get data on salaries for comparable positions. This means looking at positions at competitor companies, at a similar level of responsibility. You can find anonymously submitted data on average salaries for a certain role, and at certain companies. This will give you a strong basis to argue for a higher salary.
- Show concrete data on your value. If you are looking to advance your salary at your current job, it may be worthwhile to show your past performance reviews. Especially valuable would be any concrete numbers on revenue that you’ve brought or value that you are adding to the company. If you are seeking a new job, demonstrable data on past performance in relevant roles might also help your case.
- Be flexible yet firm. There will always be a balance to be struck between knowing your worth and value, and being flexible enough to allow for a negotiation. You have to be willing to reach a compromise, but know your limits and make sure that you arrive at a happy medium.
If you’re still feeling wary about entering into a salary negotiation, it’s worth noting that salary negotiations are on the rise. In 2019, 55% of new hires negotiated their salary, which represented a huge 16% jump from 2018 numbers. Plus, it’s likely that a hiring manager will be anticipating a negotiation, given that 70% of managers state that they expect candidates to negotiate.
If you plan to stay at your current job, pandemic downturns shouldn’t stop you from getting a salary increase. A recent study showed that 57% of organizations have already paid, or still plan to pay salary increases in 2020.
Even in these tough times, Sutherland-Wong says, “Companies are absolutely willing to pay the right for the right person.”
Job Hunt Tip: Don’t let pandemic setbacks prevent you from seeking the salary you deserve. Take the long view to get perspective on your career, and use data to support your position in any negotiation.
3) Look toward industries that are growing despite pandemic setbacks.
While the Covid-19 pandemic has a major negative impact on many sectors, there are certainly industries that have been thriving through 2020, and are projected to exceed expectations into 2021.
In Sutherland-Wong’s words, “While there are industries that are closing up shop, there are also industries that are booming.”
Christian identified three sectors that have seen tremendous growth and are expected to continue to expand in 2021 and beyond: e-commerce or online retail, tech and healthcare.
If you are looking to make a career change, it would be advantageous to look toward careers in these sectors:
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2020 was a challenging year for the traditional retail sector, with major legacy brands such as J. Crew declaring bankruptcy. Retailers that depended on in-person shopping took major hits from the Covid-19 shutdown.
Still, it was a strong year for e-commerce. Many retailers, like Bed Bath and Beyond, facing the downturn in traditional retail, opted to close stores in order to shift their operations to an “online-first” model.
The e-commerce space was already seeing steady growth before the pandemic, and saw an immediate boost from Covid-19 and lockdown-related factors. With consumers in 2020 using less of their budget for travel and dining, and many reluctant to shop in person, e-commerce has thrived. As of 2020, e-commerce accounts for 14.1% of total retail sales. This number is expected to grow to 22% by 2023. By mid-April 2020, online retailers saw up to a 68% increase in revenue versus 2019.
While in-person shopping has begun to bounce back, many are still favoring online shopping into the holiday season. In fact, a recent survey found that 58% of shoppers preferred to shop online for Black Friday deals, up from 51% in 2019. Customers who preferred to shop in person accounted for 41%, down from 61% last year. All these factors point to e-commerce as a very safe bet to weather the economic difficulties of Covid-19.
Another reason e-commerce is a great space for those looking to make a career change is that e-commerce companies offer job options for many skill sets and career paths. These companies also offer the opportunity to see business from many angles. So whether you’re looking for an entry-level job in systems technology, or you’re a high-level marketing exec, e-commerce is a great space to direct your job search.
- Tech and telecommunications
Another sector that is expected to see steady growth throughout 2020 is tech and telecommunications.
The arrival of 5G, or fifth generation wireless technology, will boost broadband strength and connectivity. It’s estimated that 5G alone could boost global GDP by $800 billion across a variety of sectors. It’s clear that 5G will have a major impact on the global economy, not only impacting tech and telecommunications but healthcare, media, manufacturing, retail and more. By 2023, 5G could create 22.3 million jobs globally.
It practically goes without saying that videoconferencing has become a much more significant part of business in 2020. Remote work was already a fast growing trend in the workforce, with remote work expected to increase 77% between 2019 and 2022. It’s no surprise that Zoom’s revenue increased by 88% in 2020, reflecting the increased use of videoconferencing as many employees moved to remote work. Moreover, the global videoconferencing industry is expected to see a continuous 10% revenue growth over the course of the next seven years.
Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, cloud computing and the Internet of Things are all at the forefront of conversations about tech and the economy. These are growth sectors to set your sights on if you are hoping to develop new skills and immerse yourself in new and meaningful ideas.
2020 has made it clear that we are all increasingly dependent on technology for connectedness, social needs, commerce and collaboration. If you’re looking to steer toward a new career path and you love technology, it would be wise to explore the tech/AI sector.
No industry has seen more profound effects from the Covid-19 pandemic than the healthcare sector. It is likely that the next few years will be a period of profound change and adjustment within many sectors of our healthcare system.
Many of the most in-demand jobs will be those on the front lines of healthcare, such as nurse practitioners, a position expected to see a 52% growth into 2021, as well as occupational and physical therapy assistants and behavioral, mental health and substance abuse counselors. But those with prior experience in systems, management and data will also be in high demand.
There will also be high demand for specialized fields such as speech-language pathologists, a role that is expected to see a 24.9% increase in demand in 2021. If you’re considering a higher degree, exploring the medical field with an eye toward specializing may direct you toward a promising career you may not otherwise have considered.
Job Hunt Tip: Focus on your core skill set when you’re making a career pivot. This means really reflecting on what your gifts are, and how they translate from the career you chose in your past to the career you’re selecting for your future. See if you can find crossover between where you’ve been and where you’d like to go. Identify stories that share those results, so that you have them on hand for interviews as you transition into a growing sector.
4) Ask yourself the difficult questions.
With so much going on around us, and tremendous uncertainty, many may be feeling a lack of clarity when it comes to next steps for their career. In order to move toward gaining clarity in your work life, it is important to ask yourself some challenging questions.
“My advice to everyone is that you should always be evaluating what you are doing in your career,” Sutherland-Wong says. “Is this what you want to be doing here and now? Are you happy in your job?” He goes on: “Is this part of your journey to where you have aspirations in your career?”
Simple as they may seem, these are crucial questions to finding clarity in your career. Christian Sutherland-Wong speaks on the importance of understanding if what you are doing at present is meaningful for your career. If it’s not, what do you need to do to change that?
Exploring these questions may yield an answer in the form of seeking a new job or a larger career change, or it may even look like pivoting to a different role at your current company.
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After coaching so many job seekers myself, I’ve also learned the importance of seeking clarity.
Here are some of the most valuable questions I’ve used to help my clients gain clarity:
- Am I hiding who I am at work? Studies show that 61% of American employees feel that they are hiding a part of themselves or their identities at work. You may feel you can’t share an aspect of yourself in a work context, or you feel that you’re having to hide your hidden value because of your job. This is a definite sign that you’re not in the right place with your career.
- What do people tell me I’m good at? Feedback from others is one of the most valuable ways to find clarity. Comparing your own strength to the things that others have praised about your work will help you see clearly where your core skills lie. If your current job feels misaligned with these skills, it’s a good time to think about moving on.
- What do I know that I wish I didn’t know? This is one of the hardest questions to ask and to answer. Maybe deep down you know that you’re in the wrong career, but you’ve invested so much time that you are afraid to pivot. Or perhaps you know that you’ll never be valued by your current manager. These tough truths will shine a light on what needs to change in your career.
Studies show that 30% of Americans view their job as just a way to get by. This is certainly no way to build toward a meaningful and fulfilling career. If that sounds like you, I think that both Sutherland-Wong and I would agree that it’s time to dig in and ask yourself the tough questions.
Job Hunt Tip: Do a deep dive with difficult questions to explore if you are not happy in your current job or career.
5) Don’t be afraid to job hunt if it’s time for something new.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that you never know what’s in store. This is a valuable lesson to carry throughout your career, especially if you are thinking about making a transition in 2021.
The temptation for many is to wait out the difficult times, even if they are unhappy. If you are risk-averse, it’s understandable that all the uncertainty of 2020 might leave you scared to make any major changes.
To this Sutherland-Wong suggests considering, “What are the alternatives? If the realities at my company are that I’m going to be stagnant here for a while, and I’m not super happy here, I would encourage you to look elsewhere.”
While the pandemic has certainly created economic setbacks that might make a job search seem daunting, Sutherland-Wong points out that remote work has also created a tremendous amount of new opportunities for job seekers. These new remote jobs offer candidates the opportunity to greatly expand their job search, no longer limited by geography. Statistics show that there was a 92% increase in remote jobs between September 2019 and September 2020.
As he says, “While you may think it’s not a good time to look for a new job, in fact, in some cases, there’s never been a better time.”
This underscores something that came up often in my conversation with Sutherland-Wong: the idea that it never hurts to see what’s out there.
Our advice, despite the layoffs and appearance of uncertainty in the job market, don’t be afraid to start looking. People are always hiring, and you owe it to yourself to be in a role that is exciting and inspiring to you. So why not open yourself up to the possibility that you might find something better that is a better fit?
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It’s this optimism and openness to possibilities that allows us to go outside our comfort zones. Often we are stuck in our comfort zone because of fear. And fear is, quite frankly, a perfectly natural reaction to all the challenges of 2020. But in order to find your best and most authentic journey toward the career you want, sometimes we have to push through that fear to the other side, outside your comfort zone, where the real possibilities lie.
Job Hunt Tip: Don’t let the uncertainty of the post-Covid economy stop you from starting your job search. It never hurts to see what’s out there, and the sooner you start looking, the better chance you have of finding a better fit. After all, job hunting is a numbers game: the more energy you put out and the more cold networking emails you’re sending, the more potential opportunities you’re creating for yourself.
After such a tough year, you deserve to give yourself the chance to find your dream job. Even though it may not seem like an easy time to make a change, sometimes opportunity knocks when it’s least expected. So prepare yourself to open the door. Here’s to a better and brighter year in 2021.