A toolkit with a graph behind it 
A toolkit with a graph behind it

The jobs market is polarising into coronavirus winners and losers. While sectors such as healthcare and logistics are thriving, travel and the arts have been severely damaged. 

Widespread redundancies are expected too, with the Institute for Employment Studies, a think tank, predicting the number will be more than double that of the 2008 financial crash. But rather than despairing, many are taking this as an opportunity to reboot their career in a new direction.

Here are six things you need to consider before choosing your new path. 

Which sectors have the most jobs right now?

Fewer job vacancies are being posted across all industries this year due to the pandemic, making a new career choice much trickier. Between October 9 and 16, the total number of online job adverts was at 66pc of its average in 2019, according to data from jobs site Adzuna.

Hiring is beginning to pick up though, with this level of vacancies the highest since April.

Some industries have proved much more resilient, with a number already posting the same number of job ads as this time last year. This includes construction, education, logistics, healthcare and property. 

On the other hand, catering and hospitality, marketing, legal and charity sectors are still advertising fewer roles than before. Finding a job in these areas may be more challenging.

As of October 11, healthcare had the highest number of available jobs, with 70,235 roles advertised on Adzuna. Next was IT with 69,816, then logistics (64,408), teaching (52,389) and engineering (47,763).

The most and least competitive sectors

As job postings have been cut and unemployment rising, competition is hotting up. The average number of applicants for every available job jumped from 11 in September 2019 to 17 in the same month this year, according to CV-Library, another jobs site.

In administration, the most competitive sector, the ratio of applicants per job is 62. Customer service and marketing have the next highest ratios, 39 and 34 respectively, CV-Library found. People looking for jobs in recruitment, sales and design will also be competing with 30 or more other candidates.

By contrast, growing demand for carers, doctors and teachers has meant these areas have become less competitive.  Social care, healthcare and education get just six to seven applicants for every job. Also relatively uncompetitive are the farming and car industries and the charity sector.  

Which skills are employers looking for? 

However, taking on a role in a more competitive sector isn’t impossible, especially if you have the skills the employer is looking for.

Data from Adzuna showed skills around training, design and strategy are some of the most sought-after in jobs currently being advertised. Tech know-how is also popular, as software and digital skills and experience using Microsoft Excel were all in the top 10 skills employers are looking for.  

Prior to the pandemic the Robert Walters Group, a recruiter, estimated that around 70pc of technology companies were struggling with skills shortages. 

How much can I expect to earn? 

Switching career does not have to mean reverting back to the bottom of the pay scale, especially if you pick the right industry. Finance and insurance roles still come out on top in terms of salaries, with the industry seeing average pre-tax earnings of about £67,000 a year, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. 

Jobs in mining, information and communication, chemical manufacturing and science also top the charts, with annual earnings of £60,000, £46,500, £44,000, and £38,500 respectively. By contrast the lowest paid industries include accommodation and food services (£13,000), retail trade and repairs (£17,500), and arts, entertainment and recreation (£20,000).

Pay will depend on the kind of role you take up. Managers, directors and senior officials across all sectors are among the highest earners, with average salaries of £43,779 per year. However it is possible to make the jump from a managerial role in one industry to another by highlighting skills and experience you already have that would be applicable to the new role. 

Regardless of which industry and role you focus on, research suggests simply making a switch can pay off. According to ONS data, employees who move jobs have consistently increased their pay by more than those who stay in one place. 

In 2019, it found that full-time employees who had changed jobs since April 2018 had seen their pay go up by 8pc, compared with 1.6pc for those who stayed in the same job.

Will I earn more as a freelancer? 

One big question facing those making a career change is whether to go self-employed. Workers must weigh up the job security that comes with being an employee against the freedom of freelancing. 

In terms of earnings alone, freelancers come out on top across all occupational types. The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, a trade body, found in 2019 that freelancers in senior, professional and technical occupations earned an average of £21,959 each quarter (£87,836 a year), compared to £10,169 per quarter for employees in equivalent roles.

But what about the downsides? 

But going freelance comes with a clear trade-off: a lack of guaranteed benefits. From statutory sick pay to shared parental leave and a minimum notice period, freelancers lack many guaranteed protections compared with employees. The only statutory benefit they can count on discrimination protection.

Navigating the current jobs market is tough, but with the right tools and good information, career pivots can pay off.

Read our series about people who have used lockdown as a chance to reboot their careers and finances here. You can also follow our guide on how to make a career change at different ages. 


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