4. The current job market

4. The current job market

Whilst many companies are having to make redundancies and pause recruitment, there are also plenty of sectors that are growing during this time. Whether you want to make a permanent move to a growing sector or prefer to temporarily seek work in other sectors while you wait for your preferred sector to pick up again, there are plenty of opportunities out there.

The industries with most job postings at the moment are as follows:

  • Health
  • IT- Telecoms
  • Education
  • Social and Civil Service
  • Finance
  • Engineering
  • Construction – Real Estate
  • Logistics – Distribution

Don’t be put off if these aren’t the industries you have experience in or aren’t where you were planning on taking your career.

Firstly, every industry needs a variety of different workers, whether that be HR professionals for the construction industry or copywriters for technology firms – so you may find the jobs you’re after in an industry you had previously discounted.

Secondly, you only need one job, so whilst high volumes of job posts may increase your chances, you can still find jobs elsewhere. Another good trick to work out where there may be opportunities is to check the stock market. Companies like Zoom, Netflix and Facebook, that are currently seeing their share prices increase, are also the companies that happen to be recruiting at the moment.

You can also have a look at which job titles have the most postings across all UK job boards at the moment. Click on the link to find out more about what each job entails and how to get into it, as well as relevant courses and vacancies:

There are also several campaigns at the moment to support industries with high demand for workers.

Teaching is another strong industry that will continue to have strong demand – read this article on Different ways to become a teacher

An excerpt from James Reed’s latest book, Life’s Work – 12 Proven Ways to Fast Track Your Career (published Jan 2020)

 

Chapter 3: Play Poohsticks

 

If you ever read the Winnie the Pooh books when you were a kid, the title of this chapter will mean something to you. In The House at Pooh Corner, Pooh accidentally invents a game with his friend Eeyore when he drops a fir cone over a bridge. He sees it floating down the river and has the idea of turning it into a competition to see which cone appears under the bridge first. This is how the game of Poohsticks is invented (he swaps cones for sticks when he realises that they’re easier to identify). The logic is simple. The stick that lands and stays in the fastest-flowing part of the stream wins, and the one that bobs along on a slower current loses. In a worst-case scenario, it becomes jammed behind a rock or log and never makes it under the bridge at all.

And here’s the thing: it’s not the sleekest or best-shaped twig that necessarily wins, it’s the one that travels the furthest most quickly, using the energy of the stream to its advantage. In the same way, you need to find the fast-flowing water for your career — the sectors and types of job that are just starting to come into high demand. Because you don’t have to be the best technologist or the brightest person in your year at college to succeed, as long as you locate your career in an area that will carry you further than others. Or, to look at it from the opposite angle, if you’re a senior manager who’s done extremely well for yourself but you’re working in a declining industry, you’re not going to go nearly as far as someone who’s merely an okay manager in a rapidly growing field.

In my spare time I’m a Master Scuba Diver, a qualification that, as it happens, took me 17 years longer to achieve than my Master of Business Administration. A few years ago I was diving with my brother-in-law Peter in a balmy, tropical sea off the island of Lombok in Indonesia, scouting for giant clams and turtles, when we rounded a corner of the reef and were instantly surrounded by a huge shoal of fearsome-looking Barracuda. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen these fish but they have pointed, fang-like teeth and large jaws, and these ones circled around us as if they didn’t want us to escape.

At first it was unnerving, but after a while I became mesmerised by their fluid motion — it was one of the most beautiful and amazing things I’d ever experienced. What could be going on? My question was answered as we swam a little further around the corner of the reef, only to be instantly whisked away by a current of ice-cold water that whooshed us along the reef like a rapid. My mind was swimming faster than my body as I struggled to re-orientate myself — I had no idea what direction I was heading in or if my diving buddy was even with me. That shoal of Barracuda now seemed to have been a warning.

Then I remembered my drift-dive training. When you learn to scuba at an advanced level, one of the skills you master is how to cope with fast-flowing water. The trick is not to try to swim against the current because you’ll only exhaust yourself. Instead you go along with it, letting it pull you as far as it wants until after a while it gradually evens out. Then you can come to the surface to reorientate. So I allowed the current to pull me along and even started to find it exhilarating. When it eventually weakened, I swam to the surface and saw that Peter wasn’t far away. We signalled to the boat to pick us up. That’s when I looked around and was amazed at how far we’d travelled and with so little effort.

In a way, I was like a winning Poohstick that had been tossed from a bridge into a strong current and come out the other side in super-fast time. And this is exactly what can happen to you when you secure a role in an area that will be in high demand for the foreseeable future. You’ll see so much more, and travel so much further, than if you choose still water. That’s because fast-flowing sectors represent an abundance of opportunity, with more and more jobs becoming available as they expand. You can grow with them and have a good chance of picking and choosing where you work — there are few better ways of boosting your career than that.

Fast-flowing sectors

So what kinds of industries and sectors are the best to explore? They change all the time. When I was a student many of my friends wanted to be management consultants, journalists, or investment bankers. Fast forward to today and I wouldn’t call any of these options especially fast-flowing, would you? Even management consultancy, which is still a great career if you love it and are good at it, isn’t in rapid growth. Instead, areas such as biotech, genetics, machine-learning, and robotics are in the ascendant. Which leaves me wishing that I’d paid more attention in my school technology and science classes.

Naturally, what’s in growing demand will change from year to year, but as of today here are some of the areas in which I am seeing an increasing number of job opportunities:

 

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Biotechnology
  • Cybersecurity
  • Data management
  • Financial technologies (FinTech)
  • Green energy and technology
  • Medical research
  • Mental wellbeing
  • Virtual reality

 

By the time you read this there will have been further changes, but broadly speaking the fastest growing employment sectors at the moment are to do with technology, medical research, and renewable energy. Now you may be thinking, ‘Well that’s all very well, but I’m hopeless at technology — I’m just not that kind of person. I can’t see myself fitting into any of these areas.’ This is an understandable concern and I’ll address it in two ways.

First of all, there’s no getting away from it, you do have to take into account your passions and preferences when it comes to choosing a career. You’ll be unlikely to succeed in any job if you’re not a good fit for it. For instance, I’m no good at sitting still — I couldn’t do one of those jobs where you’re chained to a screen all day. But I do love meeting people and travelling widely, and I’m curious by nature and keen on adventures. So by luck or judgement I’ve ended up in a career that I’m well suited for, as REED is a service business helping people in multiple locations with a continuous need to find better ways of doing things. A perfect psychological match.

However (and this is the next part), please don’t despair if you can’t see an obvious fit between you and some of these areas of employment, because there’s always a way of working yourself in. You can take into account your passions, skills, and the things you’re good and bad at, and still apply them to many fast-flowing sectors.

Just suppose you love working with people, so the last thing you can see yourself doing is tapping at your keyboard with headphones on while you create the next new virtual reality game. Gaming companies aren’t only in need of programmers, though, they’re also crying out for people with excellent interpersonal skills to help them to sell their technology and enable their teams to work more effectively. You could be one of them. Or how about financial services? You might not be a whiz with numbers, but FinTech is a rapidly expanding field that’s helping banks and financial institutions to make it easier for their customers to access their money. If you have an adventurous spirit there are multiple start-ups (and larger companies) focused on this sector, and they all need people with diverse skills and outlooks. You could be a customer experience expert, a project manager, or an administrator, and still find a home in them.

If you look hard enough, there’s fast-flowing water to suit almost anyone. As I sit in my office working on this book, I can look out over the floor and see technologists, customer specialists, data scientists, and my marketing team. They’re all focused on one thing — making our business more effective — but they each have their own different skills, experiences, and drives. Taking myself as an example again, at school I wasn’t particularly good at science but my interest in technology has never been due to the technology itself. What I am interested in is how technology can be used to give people a better experience. That’s what matters to me. What I add to our own tech, therefore, is the human factor. When you match your strengths, talents, and interests to what’s in demand, it’s like adding a turbo boost to your personal Poohstick. This will propel you through the water into a winning position, with minimal effort on your part.

Fast-flowing jobs

This leads me onto the fact that even in sectors that aren’t in growth, some of the roles within them may still be. I’ve recently hired a Customer Experience Officer, or CXO. A year ago I’d not heard of one, but in common with many businesses today our special focus is on putting the experience of our customers right at the centre of our operations.

The rise of digital has made it easier for organisations to interact quickly and accurately with their customers, which has led their expectations to rise as a result. Now companies have to put an increased emphasis on satisfying and retaining the people they serve. This means that customer management roles are becoming more important, and people like my new CXO are in hot demand.

I was talking to someone not long ago who told me that, in the last couple of years, jobs with the title of DevOp have also taken off. They’re based on managing the development of technology within organisations in a way that links with how that technology will be used, often within the context of cloud-hosting services. The roles frequently pay six figure salaries. These jobs didn’t exist even two years ago, but cloud computing has exploded, creating a growth in allied jobs in its wake. This just shows how having an awareness of emerging spaces when you’re thinking about what to do next can be invaluable.

By the way, fast-flowing doesn’t have to mean glamorous. In fact, careers in areas such as music or TV are so competitive that you’ll find succeeding in them to be like pushing water uphill. Even if the river isn’t sparkling, if it’s moving along at pace that’s all that matters.

How to spot the fast-flowing water

Finding the fast-flowing water for your career is like water divining — easy to say and hard to do. After all, you’re seeking out the sectors and job titles that not everyone else knows about, and when you look at the surface of the water you can’t always see where the current is. You can’t rely on copying your friends (unless you have some savvy ones — in which case, lucky you), or even scanning the internet, because the last thing you want is to follow the herd. The roles that appear repeatedly are the ones that pose the stiffest competition, and you want to target the less obvious opportunities that everyone else isn’t going for. This isn’t an easy thing to advise you on, but there are three main ways to find your fast-flowing water.

Be curious and keep an open mind

Talk to people. Ask questions. Subscribe to blogs about random topics. Notice things, like what’s going on in your local area. What’s changing? What’s new? What’s exciting? For instance, at REED we’re always on the look-out for new clients for our recruitment business, and we like to find ones that are in fast-growing sectors because they’ll be looking to hire more people. We carry out research to find them, some of which is desk-based but much of which involves conversations and local knowledge, such as noticing if a firm moves into a new office development. Why are they expanding? In the same way, keeping alive to what’s changing and happening around you can unlock a host of interesting career opportunities.

Consider your strengths

Here’s where looking in the mirror pays off. What are you good at? What do you enjoy? And how could this combination of factors lead you to your own fast-flowing river? As an example, if finance is something that excites you, you’re not limited to jobs in traditional financial institutions (which aren’t in growth). Instead, ask yourself what are the fastest-moving segments of finance and apply your talents to them. In London, for instance, you’ll find one of the world’s central bases for innovation in FinTech, with many new companies starting up and hiring in that space. Even if you work for a large investment bank rather than a new technology start-up, it will have some business streams that are moving more rapidly than others. Which areas are busy at the moment? What departments might be hiring because they’re growing? Finance doesn’t become a bad area to go into because of the global financial crisis — money still makes the world go round and if you’re in the thick of it you will have a great career.

Be lucky

When I found myself making my drift-dive it wasn’t planned, but I made the most of it when it happened. In the same way, it’s interesting how randomly you can find your fast-flowing water. Taking the time to talk to diverse people on a regular basis will make you luckier than your neighbour who stays at home with Deliveroo every night, because you’ll receive lots of information that they miss out on. The key thing with luck is to recognise it when you see it. Don’t ignore that passing comment from someone about an interesting role or a new industry that’s taking off, follow it up and find out more. You never know if it could be the tip-off that makes the difference.

Steady sectors

There are many roles within what I call calmer waters, that will always be needed — at least for the foreseeable future. They’re not fast-flowing, but they’re still valuable because they’re not here today and gone tomorrow. If you base your career in one of these you’ll always be in demand, just in a different way than if you were riding the rapids. Instead of having the potential to flow with your industry you’ll be a ‘steady eddy’, always needed and always useful. Given that a job is a problem to be solved, it’s no bad thing to focus on what issues will always need dealing with no matter what.

Think of teaching, for example. If you’re a teacher you’ll always be busy and (if you enjoy it) have a very fulfilling job. While the nature of teaching might change over the years, it will be forever required in some form or other. Recently at REED we worked with schools, employers, and career guidance teams to discover what organisations most want from the next generation of school leavers. They said that mindset and personal skills, such as willingness to learn, motivation, team spirit, confidence, and having something to say, were more important to them than task-related skills. These are the qualities a good teacher can encourage, and they can’t be learned from a computer, only from a living, breathing person who has their students’ best interests at heart. So if you’re keen on teaching, just do it and don’t worry about whether it’s fast-flowing or not. It will always be a promising career one way or another.

What kinds of jobs and sectors are steady eddies? I can’t list them all, but here are
some to start you thinking. As you can see they tend to be based in the physical rather
than the technological world, because even though our lives are increasingly being
played out online we still have bodies and material needs that need catering for.
They’re not necessarily the most glamorous fields, but they can still provide a
rewarding array of job opportunities that withstand the test of time.

 

  • Caring and medical professions such as physiotherapy, nursing and home-care (think of our ageing population)
  • Catering and hospitality
  • Education
  • Medicine
  • Sales (we still like to buy from people)
  • Skilled trades such as plumbing and building houses
  • Waste disposal

 

There’s an interesting thing that careers and comedy have in common: they both require excellent timing. Not only that, but like a comedian, your challenge is to put together unexpected combinations of thoughts and ideas, because originality can be your strongest card. It might seem a little daunting to jump into fast-flowing water, but don’t be afraid to do it. When I was whisked away by that current on my scuba-diving trip it was strange at first, but it turned out to be a lot of fun and something I’d love to experience again. I learned that the only currents that are really dangerous are the ones that go deep down into the sea, so if you find your sector or role to be one that’s in rapid decline, it may be time to shoot to the side and come up for some air. Because finding the fast-flowing water should be your number one responsibility if you want to win at Poohsticks.

What we covered

 

  • When you locate your career in fast-growing industries or sectors, you’ll be more likely to progress quickly, and with less effort, than if you choose a declining industry.
  • The same goes for job roles that are in growth, even if they’re in mature sectors.
  • You can always find a way of matching your talents and skills to fast-flowing industries, even if it’s not the most obvious option.
  • Finding sectors and job roles that are in the early stages of growth isn’t easy, and if it were, everyone would be doing it. Keep your eyes and ears open and talk to people.
  • Certain areas will always be in demand, even if they’re not in growth.

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