In this time of social and economic upheaval, there is no doubt that some of you have either lost your job or are not currently being paid because of a shutdown. In addition to resourcefully finding ways to get through the current state of affairs, you may be rethinking your career. You may be examining the fabric of your current occupation or career and wondering if there are workplaces and roles that are less vulnerable to wide-scale negative events.
So, while few sectors are completely insulated from unexpected shocks, let’s take a macro look at the world of work to try and identify occupational categories that may offer at least some degree of greater certainty and security when times get tough.
In many cases, these categories represent what are referred to as ‘essential services.’ It is important to note that not all of the categories and roles listed will have the same level of resistance to every circumstance. For example, in a pandemic environment, grocery stores and e-commerce companies like Amazon thrive. This would likely not be the case in a recession.
On the other hand, during a pandemic, professionals like dentists and chiropractors may be required to limit their practices to emergency care only, to reduce the potential spread of disease through human contact. The list under each of the sector titles below is not intended to be exhaustive, but to provide a representative sample of possible jobs within that sector.
(Processing, packaging, distribution, delivery, and maintenance businesses that supply other businesses)
RETAIL AND WHOLESALING
Sales associates and managers employed by grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, liquor stores, and other retailers and wholesalers of food, pet food and supplies, and household products
Sales associates and managers employed by gas stations and diesel, propane, and heating fuel providers
INSTITUTIONAL, RESIDENTIAL, COMMERCIAL, AND INDUSTRIAL MAINTENANCE
Industrial Production Manager
Industrial Engineering Technician
TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY (IT) INFRASTRUCTURE/SERVICE PROVIDERS
Computer hardware engineer
Search engine optimization (SEO) specialist
Full stack developer
Social media manager
TRANSPORTATION AND DISTRIBUTION
MANUFACTURING AND PRODUCTION
Electronic equipment assembler
Sheet metal worker
Industrial production manager
Industrial engineering technician
Quality control inspector
AGRICULTURE AND FOOD PRODUCTION
Grain and forage crop farmer
Farm equipment mechanic
Livestock feed sales representative
Grain elevator worker
Food regulatory consultant
Food science technologist
Financial quantitative analyst
Insurance sales agent
Risk management specialist
Compensation and benefits manager
Mining and geological engineer
Mining machine operator
Soil and water conservationist
Fish and game warden
Occupational health specialist
Wind energy engineer
Geospatial information scientist
Solar thermal installer
Water treatment plant operator
Green product marketer
UTILITY AND COMMUNITY SERVICES
Community health worker
Elementary school teacher
Physical education teacher
High school teacher
Special education teacher
HEALTHCARE/SENIORS CARE/SOCIAL SERVICES
Mental health counselor
Personal care aide
Home health aide
Medical administrative assistant
Medical laboratory technician
ANIMAL RELATED SERVICES
The sectors described above may offer a better chance of weathering extraordinary circumstances, simply because of the role they each play in allowing people to carry on with their lives during times of disruption or turmoil. The fact remains, though, that working in one of these occupational categories does not guarantee uninterrupted employment. What this means is that every worker needs to be prepared for career shifts, because according to a 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, on average people have 12 different jobs in their lifetime.
So, if you lose your job and you are derailed from your planned career track, what should be your next move? Well, the answer to that question will in all likelihood be different for different people in different circumstances. But one option is to think about your experience and explore career transition opportunities. In other words, did what you learned in the job you no longer have lay a foundation and present a path to transition into a new role? The answer may be, ‘yes.’
Here are some possibilities:
If you lose your job or choose to leave it, you may be able to do the same kind of work on a consultant/contractual basis, allowing you to stay in your field but giving you greater flexibility and control over when and how much you work.
Writers, bloggers, and journalists write and blog about every topic imaginable. So, with a background in any area and the ability to write on the subject with clarity and creativity, you may be a candidate to transition into a blogging or freelance journalism career.
Project Coordination or Project Management
The keys to project coordination and project management are organization, responsiveness, adaptability, and communication. These skills can be developed in almost any field. The important thing is to realize that coming from the retail or wholesaling sector, for example, does not necessarily exclude you from being considered for a project manager role in other sectors.
Real Estate Sales
Real estate is a great transitional career, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, one of the keys to a successful career as a real estate agent is a network of personal and professional contacts. Entering the field as someone who has worked in another role means that you are very likely to already have a considerable network. Secondly, real estate offers a lot of independence, autonomy, and freedom. And in many cases, you can get your real estate license in a year or less.
This is another field that really values an established network. Also, many recruiters specialize in one industry or role. This means that someone who has spent a decade working as an engineer, for instance, would potentially be a welcome addition to an engineering recruitment firm.
Transitioning to this sector does not necessarily mean that you will work in a public or private school system. That would likely require formal teacher training. There are other possibilities. For instance, the laid off carpenter, plumber, or electrician might be able to teach their trade at a vocational school or community college without a teaching certificate or degree.
However your career evolves, remember that it is very much a journey. It will present moments of elation, sadness, certainty, frustration, defeat, and transition. But if you understand and accept this from the beginning, you will always move forward in the knowledge that this is just what a career is — a non-static, inspiring, challenging, exciting part of life.
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