How the Job Hunt Is Changing in 2021 (and How You Can Adapt)

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2021's shifting job market

How the Job Hunt Is Changing in 2021 (and How You Can Adapt)

Much digital ink has been spilled about the many ways in which 2020 shook up virtually everything, from work culture to social circles to the film industry. Because 2020 was such a disruptive year, 2021 is a year of adaptation.

The entire job market is shifting, and job seekers must adapt as well if they want to stay relevant.

Don’t stress out. Change can often be a good thing, especially when job opportunities are concerned. The things that made you a great candidate in 2019 might no longer be relevant – this is true. But the flipside of this is also true: The barriers you had to getting a job in 2019 might have eroded by now.

So here are ways in which the job hunt is changing in 2021, paired with advice on how to navigate these uncertain waters.

Remote work has been normalized.

Let’s start off on a positive note.

Many of the companies that were resistant to remote work have been forced to embrace it in 2020. Now that these companies have proven to themselves (and their employees) that they can find remote options that work, taking those options away is going to be difficult – if not impossible. This means that workers who prefer remote positions have more negotiating power than they had just a couple years ago.

When handled correctly, remote work can offer incredible benefits. Workers can now be more flexible. Time spent commuting can be drastically reduced. Family can now be a greater priority.

Remote work doesn’t come without its drawbacks, but the positives vastly outweigh the negatives (as we’ve pointed out elsewhere).

Of course, this also means job seekers need to adapt. When applying for work, you should put more emphasis on digital skills and remote work history. If you have a legacy of performing well while working from home, you’ve got an advantage over someone who doesn’t. If you’re highly skilled at basic online tasks, such as troubleshooting network connections or even being savvy about web browsers and networking software, these are now in-demand skills. Use these things to your advantage. Tailor your resume to highlight some of these things. Don’t make them the focus (unless they’re a fundamental part of the job you’re applying for), but you should now be emphasizing them a bit more than you would have been back in 2019.

Location is no longer a barrier.

Since remote work is becoming the norm, geographic options have opened that didn’t exist before. Working for a company in another state – or even another country – is not only possible but feasible.

This has benefits for both companies and job seekers. From the companies’ perspective, this means there’s a much broader talent pool to select from. For job seekers, you’ll now have opportunities that weren’t previously available.

As a job seeker, this means you should be expanding your focus. In 2019, you were likely only looking for work in your area and taking things like commute time into consideration. In 2021, you can start sending resumes out of state to see if you can generate any interest there.

Refocus your efforts and think outside the box. You now have opportunities that weren’t open to you before. Consider this when seeking employment. Don’t limit yourself to the possibilities of the world as it was in 2019; open yourself to the possibilities that now exist in 2021.

Temp work and freelance work are on the rise.

Temporary positions and freelance work are becoming more and more commonplace. This was already becoming a trend in 2019, as this study by TrueBlue and Emsi shows, but the events of 2020 have only accelerated this.

Depending on your viewpoint, this might be a good thing or a bad thing. If you’re naysaying these trends, let us shed some light on this and perhaps give you a fresh perspective.

On average, people who switch jobs frequently are better paid than people who stick with a company for long durations of time. That means that with more temporary hires and freelancers, once-stagnant salary averages are starting to climb. You can use this as a negotiation tool at your current workplace, or you can leave your current job and seek higher-paying work.

While switching jobs and shifting career focus come with a great deal of stress, the rewards oftentimes justify the transition. If you’ve been with your current employer for more than three years, 2021 could be a great year for a fresh start.

Some industries are rapidly growing and need workers ASAP.

While many industries have been hurt by fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, many others are rebounding harder than expected now that we’re moving toward recovery. If you’re in an industry that’s currently downsizing, it might be time to get into one that’s growing.

According to a post by Peterson’s, many of this year’s fastest growing career fields are in healthcare and renewable energy. If you’re already working in these fields, you probably want to stay where you are because the future is looking bright. If you’re not, however, these are just two of the possible fields you might want to look into.

Competition is increasing.

Opportunity is a two-edged sword. There are more opportunities for you, which is great, but the people you’re competing against for these opportunities are empowered as well. With great opportunity comes great competition.

The best way to cut through growing competition is to specialize. In highly competitive employment pools, specialized skills are going to take you further than general ones. When crafting a resume, emphasize the things that make you unique. Try to stand out by showing that you have rare expertise in a specialized and specific niche.

If you can show potential employers that you are a truly unique individual with a truly unique skillset, you’re going to have the edge over jack-of-all-trades applicants. Use this to your advantage. Write your resume around the things you do better than nearly everyone else. This will catch the attention of anyone looking to fill that specific niche.

Your online profile is more vital than ever before.

We hinted at this earlier in this article, but we want to clarify and emphasize this a bit here. The stuff you do online matters. That’s especially true when it comes to social media.

If you’re web-savvy, you already know this, but people who have very little experience with the internet stand out on social media like a sore thumb. In fact, Monster has a great article about the things people do on social media that could end up being red flags for potential employers. If you want a more robust list of these types of red flags, here’s one from VirtualVocations.

We understand that not everyone grew up on the internet, and those who didn’t will have more trouble adapting to the online world than those who did. However, it’s of vital importance that you brush up those digital skills.

If you’re struggling with basic social media concepts, perhaps it’s time to consult a more web-savvy friend or family member and get some pointers. You could also consider enrolling in online courses. While we’d love to recommend some books here, the digital world is evolving way too fast for that. By the time a social media book makes it to market, it’s probably already outdated.

The digital sea is a massive one, and it’s easy to get lost if you’ve never attempted to navigate it before. But remember our ancestors, who navigated vast oceans by studying the stars. If they could find their way in hopelessly large bodies of water, you can find your way in the digital sea. It just takes patience, an open mind, and the ability to read the signs that the sea is sending you.


2021 continues to be a year of rapid change, and that’s always going to swing in favor of those who are most adaptable. We hope the pointers we’ve given here have helped you get your bearings in this disorienting shift. If nothing else, we hope we’ve eased your mind a bit.

Where change abounds, opportunity abounds also. May 2021 be the year in which you find your footing instead of the year that pulls the rug from under you.