While many businesses are getting hurt by the uncertain economy, many others are thriving, including some that may surprise you. As a job seeker, you shouldn’t assume it’s all bad out there. Many companies are hiring and there are corners of the market that are pivoting, shifting how they do business and creating new career opportunities in the process.
The Companies Hiring and Why?
The pandemic is impacting how people work, spend and live. With more consumers at home, online purchases have sharply increased, as well as the use of shopping and delivery services. McKinsey & Company reported that U.S. e-commerce penetration grew the equivalent of ten years in just the first three months of 2020. Use of smartphone food delivery apps is predicted to increase 25.2% this year. Online grocery shopping with store pick-up was a luxury pre-COVID for most consumers. Now it has become a way of life.
This has resulted in a sharp increase in distribution and delivery-related jobs. Any company that needs a warehouse to distribute goods is also doing well. Certainly, shipping companies are hiring in large numbers: UPS expects to add over 100K jobs and FedEx needs to hire 70K workers, as are big online retailers like Amazon, who projects adding 100K jobs in distribution, corporate and technology.
Even with pandemic precautions, many retailers are hiring. Hardware, home improvement and auto parts stores have seen a surge of business as home-bound consumers turn their focus on their backyards, garages and DIY projects. Fast-food restaurants, supermarkets and big box stores are also hiring, especially as the holiday season approaches. And the competition for labor is pushing up hourly rates. But not all these positions are interacting with customers face-to-face. Many retailers are shifting their business online requiring staff to service customers via electronic means. An increase in business can also mean more admin, back-office and tech jobs.
Not surprisingly, any business involved in finding a vaccine for COVID-19 is booming. Likewise, companies focused on genetic therapeutics, CRISPR and discovery also seem to be doing well. What might be a little bit more surprising, and this is across the board in terms of disciplines, is that many pharmaceutical companies took a massive hit when the shutdowns began in the United States. But a lot of the early-stage pharmaceutical startups have actually done pretty well this year. They’ve raised money. They’ve been able to do most of their work remotely. Their lab employees were almost always considered essential workers. And so, they were able to not only weather the storm, but become stronger.
With the need to up safety and hygiene practices due to the virus, a lot of hiring is happening in healthcare. Not just medical staff – those jobs were in great demand before the pandemic – but also aides, cleaning staff, temperature screeners and COVID testing sites. One pharmaceutical company hired counselors all over the country to staff a mental health hotline to help patients experiencing depression and anxiety.
Many not-for-profit organizations have grant money they need to spend by the end of their fiscal year. It’s a use-it-or-lose-it proposition and not doing so could endanger getting the grant for the next year. Therefore, they continue to add headcount, even if temporary, to prevent a lapse in service to their constituents, many of whom need their assistance more than ever.
Changing Business Models
COVID has dramatically impacted many industries, and especially hard hit is retail. Many retailers, however, are pivoting; changing their business models and hence the kind of jobs they are looking to fill. This has created new employment opportunities. Here are some examples:
The electronics retailer Best Buy has shifted their business to a showroom-distribution-delivery model. Customers can see and touch product in the store (unlike online), then have the product delivered to their front door directly from the store. In effect, Best Buy stores have become mini-distribution centers. And they have been able to beat Amazon Prime in terms of delivery times.
Walmart is starting a service very similar to Amazon Prime only with a heavier focus on groceries – and for many locations, guaranteed one-day delivery.
Before the pandemic, regional specialty food distributors like Baldor and Guaranteed Fresh Produce & Dairy were only doing business with restaurants and institutions. Now they are delivering a wide variety of vegetables, meat, seafood and other foods to residential homes.
The pandemic has been an accelerant to our economy in many ways. With the increase in online purchasing, many retailers have actually expanded their businesses. They have greater lines of distribution now and more revenue streams. These are the companies hiring now who will still be successful in five years. The ones who are seeing immediate success are hiring because of it. Although J.C. Penney and Lord & Taylor are going out of business, Best Buy is doing well. This is affecting the hiring trajectory of these companies.
There has been a lot of fear that venture capital would dry up because of the pandemic. In fact, the opposite is true. There’s been more VC activity this year than last year. Companies that are responding to the needs of the new economy in innovative ways are attracting investors.
Being Flexible Opens New Doors
We’ve spoken with many job seekers who say they don’t want to work in retail. But retail is changing and with it so are the employment opportunities. As an example, a candidate interested in a marketing job for a first-tier company like Amazon or Apple may have a tough time getting a foot in the door. Also, those companies already have a solid infrastructure in place and are mostly iterating, not innovating.
But get on board with a retailer that is changing their business model and there could be some very exciting opportunities. Marketing is just one example. In a company that is changing the way they do business, every function will be impacted and that means interesting work.
For more entry-level candidates, the pandemic economy is a chance to try something different. Maybe you majored in human resources but can’t find a position. We’ve seen job seekers in this situation opt for temperature screener jobs or customer service roles, for example. They say, “You know what? I need a break from HR. I will go be a temperature screener or take on a night-time customer service gig. I’ll do something to keep my mind active, make a little extra money. And at least I won’t have a big gap in my resume.”
Maybe it won’t be the most career-advancing work, and that’s understandable, but nonetheless, it’s not a gap on your resume. You’re doing something productive. And later you can pitch it as, “I took a job that wasn’t in my desired field, but I did it because it was helpful to my community.” That’s an attractive pitch for somebody who’s early in their career.
Think Outside the Box
It’s a challenging economy, but the jobs are there – just maybe in corners you hadn’t considered. Be flexible and open to all possibilities. Employers aren’t holding a layoff against a candidate when all of this was so unforeseen. Remember that you do have something to offer. You may have to look in a different place than you would have eight months ago to find companies hiring, but the opportunities are there.
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