The Higher-Level Jobs Still in Demand

Four career paths—from supply chain pros to mental health experts—that are growing in value in today’s pandemic.

It is one of many sad realities emerging from today’s global pandemic—the fact that many promising career paths, that everyone from recent graduates to veteran executives were counting on, no longer make any sense. And that may not change in the future. Yet just as true: the same pandemic that’s crushing so much of the economy is also creating spurts of demand for high-level experts and managers that no one could have anticipated.

Career pros say the trick is figuring out where these shifts are occurring. It is a moving and unexpected target, anticipating, for example, the sudden value in procurement officers as key players in supply chains, or veteran operating leaders familiar with corporate transformations. “There are sectors that are booming, and not just lower-paying jobs,” says Val Olson, a career coach for Korn Ferry Advance.

Indeed, experts say the pandemic has exposed talent gaps in a variety of industries, which may bring more job mobility at all levels on the corporate ladder. Here are four areas to consider.

Supply Chain Specialists with an Open Mind

Most modern supply chains were built with the sole priorities of maximizing efficiency and minimizing costs, but the pandemic has exposed the problems with that model. If something goes wrong, the world finds itself unable to get toilet paper, food, medical equipment, or a host of other critical supplies.

Supply chains are going to be reimagined, experts say, and companies will need more people who can design and implement changes. “The COVID shock has made the supply chain so much more relevant and prominent in everyone’s mind,” says Cheryl D’Cruz-Young, a Korn Ferry senior client partner who specializes in procurement officers. Organizations of all sorts, but particularly manufacturers, are looking for more supply chain leaders with excellent planning abilities, a digital mindset, and the confidence to make big changes even in uncertain environments, D’Cruz-Young says.

Boards of Directors: Former CEOs and COOs

Corporate boards were already in the middle of replacing many retiring directors with new recruits. The pandemic hasn’t stopped that trend, but experts say that it has tweaked who some boards will be looking for.

Before the pandemic, many boards were looking for new directors with expertise in certain niches: technology, human resources, and cybersecurity often being high on the list. Indeed, of the new directors brought onto S&P 500 boards over the last year, two-thirds didn’t have CEO or COO experience. Now, some boards have shelved those ideas, at least temporarily, and focused on looking for directors who have run companies before. The coronavirus has disrupted nearly every industry around the globe. “There’s been a strong request for former operating executives who have led transformations,” says Tierney Remick, vice chair of Korn Ferry’s Board and CEO Services practice.

Mental Health Workers … for Other Healthcare Workers

Behavioral health technicians were already in demand before the pandemic—the number of them in the United States has grown by nearly one-third since 2015. But behavioral health specialists are finding that they have a new group of people who need their services: other healthcare workers.

During the worst of the outbreak this spring, doctors and nurses had to treat patients of the mostly unknown virus around the clock with little rest and a significant chance of getting sick themselves. Meanwhile, back-office healthcare workers were scrambling, too, trying to set up telemedicine systems for non-COVID-19 patients, and healthcare finance leaders were figuring out how to keep the lights on in the buildings because no money was coming in from elective surgeries. All the signs point to a mental health crisis in the industry.

Indeed, in an early study of staff at 34 hospitals in China, the first country to deal with the virus, more than 50% reported symptoms of depression. The response: something of a hiring spree for mental health experts at healthcare organizations worldwide, says Katie Bell, a Korn Ferry senior client partner and global account lead for the healthcare sector. And it’s likely to continue, she adds, as the industry begins to acknowledge that such mental health treatment will be needed long after the pandemic is over.

Data Analysts and Statisticians

Statistician jobs were already in demand; the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that the number of stats-related workers would increase by 30% from 2018 to 2028.

You wouldn’t necessarily think of data scientists being on the front lines of a pandemic. But governments needed data specialists to determine how best to mitigate the virus’s impact. At the same time, experts say companies of all sorts will need data experts to develop and interpret new models of post-pandemic consumer behavior. “The need for data analytics is as high as it’s ever been,” says Seth Steinberg, a principal at Korn Ferry. Even if companies aren’t adding new headcount during the pandemic, that attitude may not last long, at least for adding data experts. Digital transformation is one of the biggest priorities of large organizations worldwide.