Firstline workers—the backbone of the U.S. economy representing more than 26 million people across industries including retail, hospitality, restaurant, etc.— might feel they don’t have relevant work experiences or skills to make the leap into other professional industries. The reality is, if you are in one of these roles then you have more professional value than you may realize. In fact, the skills that workers possess changed by 25% on average globally since 2015 and the COVID-19 pandemic served to accelerate the pace of this change, according to recent LinkedIn data.
Firstline and essential workers are often defined as those who need to physically show up to their jobs, and the roles are typically overrepresented by Black and Hispanic Americans. These workers possess a wide range of important skills that are often overlooked. From strong communications and project management to sales and conflict resolution, these are fundamental skills that can increase revenue and enhance customer retention and loyalty. These skills can give job seekers an edge in the marketplace and set them apart from the competition.
As professional norms are being dismantled and rewritten, there’s never been a better time for people in firstline industries to use their experience to find a new career. And while the path to a new job isn’t always clear or easy, there are tools that can help bring clarity and uncover new professional opportunities with the skills you already have.
As you maximize your job search, here are three strategies to consider:
Use the current environment to your advantage
The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that 4.4 million U.S. workers voluntarily left their jobs in September 2021 alone, the largest number since they started recording–a trend known as The Great Reshuffle. The reality is that people aren’t just quitting and sitting at home, they are finding new opportunities and transitioning into new industries.
The pathway to a fulfilling career is looking different for everyone, and many employees are rethinking their career path and seeking change. Data from a recent LinkedIn survey showed that 58% of working women have experienced symptoms of a career awakening since the pandemic. Longevity and familiarity are no longer enough for people to stay in a job, they also need to have a connection to the work and equitable pay.
Over the past 18 months the job market has changed and organizations are embracing remote and hybrid work structures, as they seek to retain and attract employees as well as reexamine what the future of work looks like. For Black and Latino working adults—who largely live in the South (56% of Black people) and Southwest (50% of Latinos), this new way to work creates added opportunities to land good jobs in industries including tech, media, and sales without having to relocate.
This offers a significant opportunity for job candidates to reimagine their professional selves and pursue new and better work.
Think skills, not titles
Instead of looking for a job that matches your current title or position, look for one that matches your current set of skills. Essential workers may be surprised to discover they already have more desirable skills than they know. In fact, many workers already have most of the skills needed to transfer to at least one of three positions in top jobs listings.
For example, a food server may possess skills such as sales, people management and communications that are easily transferable to land a customer service manager role. In fact, someone who is a food server could find a new career in an in-demand job like customer service because they have 71% of their skills needed to be a customer service specialist. Even if you’ve taken a job hiatus but still manage the budget for a relative’s business or your house of worship, you may have accounting skills that may be applied at another job. If you’re still questioning your transferable skills, gather a couple of professional job descriptions and go through them identifying all skills that you’ve demonstrated at your current job or throughout your working career.
Lastly, even if you don’t feel like you meet some of the requirements, consider online training and/or certifications to enhance your knowledge to make you more valuable as a prospective employee. Many online courses and certification programs are free.
Expand how you think about networking
Your network is an incredibly important asset in the job search process. Research shows that you are seven times more likely to land a job if you know someone at the company. So, you need to put as much effort into expanding and cultivating it.
Often networking is thought of as mingling at cocktail parties and conferences. But there are ways you can optimize networking that are easier and more effective. Stay in touch with professional contacts by checking in to see how well they are doing, sending them relevant business information or a birthday greeting.
Black and Latino professionals consistently cite a lack of mentorship, sponsorship and allyship as top barriers to career advancement, as well as a lack of access to senior leadership. If you are in an industry where you meet people through work it doesn’t hurt to ask them for career advice. Someone gets a job every 15 seconds on LinkedIn–that’s 6000 people a day getting new gigs. Most of those folks are getting those jobs based on connections and interactions with other people. In your more social circles, let your friends and family know that you’re considering a new opportunity. Ask them if there are openings at their companies and to keep you in mind for any new opportunities.
Remember, today’s most successful people, regardless of their education, access, or wealth, get their jobs through connections to other people. That doesn’t mean you have to know the president or the CEO of a company — it just means you have to find someone else who knows about an opportunity that could be right for you.
Andrew McCaskill is a senior director and career expert at LinkedIn. He’s a marketing and communications executive with deep knowledge and understanding of building and managing diverse teams. He’s a champion for DEI and an on-air contributor for SiriusXM.