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By Paul Schrodt
September 10, 2020
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Anyone can tell you that the coronavirus has wreaked havoc across the US economy, and no one is entirely sure how things will shake out in the long term. But the unique impact of COVID-19 has, of course, not been distributed equally. Certain jobs and skills associated with them are seeing a new boom in the market as companies navigate the shifting current reality. Whether you’ve been itching for a career transition or you simply need to pick up a new job because you’ve lost one, you might be able to reap the rewards.

“The pandemic is driving a lot of the changes in demand for certain skills,” says AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at the job search site Indeed. That has meant a drastic drop for some capabilities like event planning (which has seen a 59% drop in demand since last year, according to Indeed, given restrictions on gatherings), guest relations (a 41% decrease), and personal training (a 22% dip).

But select job skills areas are surging. Some are more obvious—respiratory therapy is crucial given the nature of COVID-19—while others might be more surprising. Many fall under the umbrella of so-called soft skills, non-technical attributes that even those without specialized certifications can nurture and apply.

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“Soft skills were important before the pandemic. Now being successful while working remotely requires us to use soft skills even more throughout the day,” according to Glassdoor career expert Alison Sullivan. That can be as simple as being an ace at communicating over digital platforms. “Job seekers should take advantage of the digital-first world we’re in right now. With many people working remotely, there’s easy access to a variety of virtual events, online courses, webinars, and professional networking communities to help level up your value in the job market.”

Money partnered with Indeed and LinkedIn to compile data to determine which job skill categories are thriving most right now, why, and how you can tap into them to jumpstart your career and even bring in more earnings at an unexpected moment.

Communication for the digital age

It goes without saying that to succeed in the business world, you need to know how to smoothly interact with people. But the shift to remote work has brought this into dramatic relief: Communication is the No. 1 skill found in job postings since June, according to LinkedIn. Indeed also reports that it’s seen a 22% increase in demand since last year. What powerful communication means over a Zoom call is very different from inside a conference room (LinkedIn offers a course on digital body language).

“Skills that make remote work more effective, like communication and digital literacy (knowing how to use digital collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, for example), have become increasingly important,” LinkedIn career expert Blair Heitmann says.

Social media management

If you’ve been spending a lot more time scrolling through Instagram posts, this one probably isn’t much of a surprise. Social media savvy has seen an astounding 199% increase in demand in the job market since 2019, according to Indeed, the largest boost it found. Rising social media use is “probably what’s causing this year’s uptick in employers seeking social media management skills,” Konkel says. “Employers want to make sure their social media brands are on point when in-person interaction with customers simply isn’t possible.”

IT support

While social media is getting much of the love, the ramping up of remote work across companies big and small has made all information technology more coveted. IT support has seen a 102% increase in demand this year, Indeed reports. “While tech job postings have seen little bounceback since they plunged earlier this year, IT helpdesk jobs are faring a bit better than the sector overall,” Konkel says.

Delivery driving, courier, and warehouse experience

These individual skills can be broadly lumped together as key abilities fueling the new delivery economy. “E-commerce is booming and has increased the need for workers with delivery/courier experience,” with 74% and 78% rises respectively, Konkel notes. Warehouse knowhow has gotten an even bigger 98% boost as people resort to shipping just about everything to their front doors.

Furniture sales experience

You might not have seen this one coming, but if you can sell a fancy couch, you’re in luck. Nesters who want to make the most of their homes are driving up demand for those with furniture retail backgrounds (a 66% increase since last year, according to Indeed). “Many folks are rethinking their furniture needs,” Konkel explains. “Furniture sellers need to make sure they can handle the volume of orders, particularly in the case of home office furniture.”

Health experience

It goes without saying that a pandemic necessitates a focus on essential healthcare-related sectors of the economy. Not all of this, however, comes down to hospital doctors, nurses, and public health experts. There’s been a huge uptick in employers seeking respiratory therapists (153%) “solely because of the coronavirus,” Konkel says. There have been similar surges in demand for ventilator experience (46%) and home health experience (20%). While these are not the kinds of things any of us can easily take up, those with the right backgrounds may be able to step up to provide crucial services.

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