The coronavirus pandemic has made Americans second-guess their career choices, according to a new study surveying 209,000 people in 190 countries by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and The Network.
More than two-thirds of workers, most of them in the early- and mid-career phases, are willing to retrain for new jobs as they look toward the ending of the pandemic.
The economic uncertainty touched off by the pandemic comes at a time when workers in just about every field already have some level of concern about being replaced by technology the study asserts.
Forty-one percent of workers globally have become more concerned about automation during the pandemic. Increased concern is especially common among people who work at financial institutions or at insurance or telecommunications companies.
“The pandemic and the increasing speed of technological disruption have prompted people to question their chosen career paths,” said Rainer Strack, one of the authors of the study and a senior partner at BCG. “Almost seven in ten people say they are open to retraining that would allow them to switch to completely different job roles. This level of flexibility could help employers and governments that are worried about preparing their workforces for the future.”
The study says retraining willingness — 68 percent globally — is highest among workers who have fared worst during the pandemic or have the most concern about automation.
This includes workers in service-sector, customer service and sales roles. Almost three-quarters of the people in these jobs say they would retrain for something new. Those in job roles seen as less vulnerable — health and medicine, social work, and science and research — generally aren’t as ready to switch careers.
There are some geographic differences in the willingness to retrain as well.
People in developing economies, including many in Africa, are the most enthusiastic, with as many as three-quarters saying they would retrain to prepare themselves for a new job.
Europeans and Americans have the lowest level of willingness, the study shows, but even in those geographies the proportion of people who say they would retrain is generally above 50 percent.
Digital and information technology top the list of potential next careers, likely due to expanding opportunities in those areas and above-average pay.
In the study, more than 20 percent of people currently working in artistic or creative jobs say they would retrain for a digital job, as do more than 20 percent of people currently working in consulting or media.
Office and management jobs such as marketing and human resources are also seen as attractive next career steps.
“The pandemic is another reminder— after the 2008 financial crisis—that there are always going to be events that threaten economies and require workers to adjust,” said Kate Kavanagh, a co-managing director of The Network and a co-author of the report. “Workers have come to accept that their only real job security lies in their adaptability, which sometimes means shifting roles or even careers.”