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In planning your career, you may need to pay attention to “sector dynamics.” The growth or contraction of industries, as well as the growth or contraction of the corresponding knowledge and skill needed, will be crucial and arguably more important than talent. My advice is to look for the best wave to ride and determine where your interests and strengths are the best fit.

We have all seen the reports that predict the growth in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) sectors and roles. If you are an engineer, scientist, mathematician or have another technical background or education, you are likely well-positioned. Your challenge will be to decide on the right sector. Even if you do not have a STEM background, many options still exist.

First, you need to determine your strengths (skills and knowledge), aptitudes and interests. Second, you need to identify the sectors that offer the best personal and professional growth opportunities that resonate with you. It is a safe assumption that these opportunities will reside in industries where the demand for talent is robust and growth will provide opportunities for career development. Finally, you need to develop and execute a strategy to launch your career in that sector and position.

There are innumerable articles, blogs and books about what will be the growth sectors in the 2020s, and the consensus indicates that they will be:

  • artificial intelligence
  • robotics
  • financial services (e-commerce and blockchain)
  • health care
  • professional services
  • social media
  • sustainability/renewable energy
  • climate change

These sectors will require technical skills in some areas. However, all will also need soft skills such as good communication and the ability to interact well with others. Research from The World Economic Forum identified the following as emerging non-STEM job roles that leverage distinctively “human” skills:

Customer service workers: Every organization has “customers” in the broadest definition of the word and will need people who can satisfy the needs of those customers. Communication, problem-solving and relationship building will be critical skills. Empathy and emotional intelligence will be essential attributes.

Sales and marketing professionals: Every company that sells goods or services requires sales and business development teams. The ability to market and sell technology-based products does not require the ability to design, develop or make those products. An understanding of the application, features and benefits is needed, along with the ability to convert prospects into customers. Sales are all about relationship management, being comfortable with risk-taking, connecting with people, understanding their needs and solving their problems.

Virtual business managers: As more companies decide to operate at least partly online, businesses will seek managers who understand the complex financial and interpersonal realities of operating virtually. These managers will need to understand information security, human resource considerations and new models for service operations.

Training and development, people and culture, and organizational development specialists: Organizations will need to hire the right people and develop their skills continuously, while adapting to new technologies and markets. Retaining top talent will necessitate an appropriate culture.

Innovation managers: Technological and market developments will require innovation and ideation and people to lead and manage those processes.

When you have identified your target sector(s) and role(s), then you will be ready to develop and execute a strategy to capture opportunities. The strategy will require a compelling resumé and digital presence (LinkedIn), an effective networking campaign (80 per cent of jobs that are filled never appear in the public domain) and interviewing skills (interviews “close the sale” and get you the job).

The pandemic has driven significant changes in markets, businesses, customers and consumers. These changes have, and will continue to have, implications for careers. Thoughtful planning will ensure that you capture the opportunities presented.

Peter Caven is the managing director of Launched Careers, a Toronto-based career advisory organization for young professionals. He is the Leadership Lab columnist for August, 2021.

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about the world of work. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab and guidelines for how to contribute to the column here.

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