Where is Work Going in 2021?

By Karina Margit Erdelyi

2020 was a doozy — but 2021 is now here — and with a new year comes new opportunities. Even in this challenged economic landscape, some sectors are experiencing exponential growth, and there are jobs that are growing at a fast (or much faster) clip. Here’s where business is looking up (and up).

We just collectively lived through a year where “unprecedented” was the People’s Choice Word of the Year.

And while we are still in the thick of it, the business community is planning for the pivotal year ahead. Consumer behavior has changed in, yes, unprecedented ways, and business-as-usual looks far different today than it did just a year ago.

Here’s a quick look at how quickly the landscape has evolved:

  • 56% of consumers tried a new retailer during the pandemic
  • E-commerce sales reigned supreme, growing 40.3% to reach a whopping $839 billion in sales in 2020
  • Brick-and-mortar sales fell by 14% to $4.184 trillion, and it may take 5 years of sales to catch up to pre-pandemic levels.

Many companies had to rewrite their business playbook and learn new strategies on the fly as a result of all the tumult of 2020. “Brand loyalty has been disrupted as consumers experiment with other retailers amid uncertain circumstances,” said Amit Sharma, founder and CEO of Narvar, an intelligent customer engagement platform. And businesses that hope to survive will need to raise their metabolic rate — the speed at which they process information and are able to develop new offerings. We are in the midst of a digital transformation and organizations that hope to successfully make it to the flip side need to prepare. Now.

Certain roles have taken on new ascendancy, because they are crucial for business success in this fast-evolving economy. Creative Circle did a comprehensive, peer-reviewed study of the changes this past year brought to hiring and predictions as to which of these trends will be with us in 2021 (and perhaps, beyond).

Here’s a look at the jobs that are defining and paving the way forward.

E-Commerce Specialist

It perhaps comes as no surprise that this role has grown exponentially from 2019 to 2020. Our study of year-over-year growth showed that hiring for e-commerce specialists was hot. With a 38% increase in demand, it’s clear how deeply digital transformation has revolutionized business across sectors.

Here’s why e-commerce specialists have become such critical members of so many business teams. As experts in online sales strategies (and the key platforms used to drive online sales, like websites, social media, email campaigns, and sales funnels) — they analyze and set strategy for e-commerce. Their detail-oriented mindset helps them understand and interpret sales metrics and other forms of data analytics to help guide new marketing strategies.

E-commerce is in an unprecedented period of growth and a good specialist is nimble enough to evolve along with it. Responsibilities include monitoring day-to-day activity on the company site and tracking overall performance to ensure a smooth customer experience and amplifying brand loyalty — resulting in web traffic growth, and ultimately, an increase in sales. Executing ad campaigns on search engines and optimizing websites, including managing site development and updates, are also key parts of the role — along with working cross-functionally to aggregate necessary content to promote all product or service offerings.

Our research shows that e-commerce specialists make anywhere from $55,055 to north of $150,150, depending on experience level.

Brand and Marketing Strategist

Our study of year-over-year growth showed that branding and marketing specialists were increasingly in high demand. With a 34% increase in demand, this key role has become even more critical when navigating these unprecedented times.

These creative professionals are responsible for leading the brand strategies and marketing campaigns for a company. By providing brand direction, they help develop and execute marketing programs, and are the vanguard ensuring brand consistency across channels. By reviewing market research, they are able to anticipate industry and competitive trends, and translate consumer behavior and attitudes into new branding directions.

Brand and marketing strategists oversee sales, pricing, product development, and product supply to meet key strategic objectives. Compelling storytelling, expert relationship management, and strong verbal and written communication skills are paramount.

Our research shows that branding and marketing strategists make anywhere from

$70,070 to north of $145,145, depending on experience level.

UX (User Experience) Researcher

Our study of year-over-year growth showed that UX researchers were increasingly in high demand. We saw a 16% growth in demand, illustrating just how essential user experience is in an increasingly digital world.

You might be wondering what a UX researcher does. Take an anthropologist, sociologist, and marketing specialist, shake them together, and boom — you get a UX researcher. These creative professionals are tasked with figuring out what motivates someone to buy a product and use it. In order to figure that out, they design, conduct, and analyze user design research and usability testing.

As the job title suggests, UX researchers are focused on all things research. With a comprehensive understanding of the business, they conduct research with actual users of a product or service, gathering both quantitative and qualitative data into how they think, feel, and behave — and then share these insights with the product development team to help all involved better understand the target audience so that a cohesive user-centric design plan can be made.

Day-to-day, UX researchers plan and conduct discovery interviews, concept and usability testing, contextual inquiry, and more. They set the scope of each study, along with research objectives, and recruit appropriate participants. Following a user research session, the data will be analyzed and translated into actionable insights and product recommendations — and will actively participate in creating user personas and customer journey maps with the rest of the user experience team.­­

In our increasingly digital world, businesses need to ramp up their understanding of what people want, how they want those experiences or products delivered, and how to make that as friction-less as possible.

UX researchers’ recommendations are grounded in multi-disciplinary insights and drive results. By taking the guesswork out of the design process, they ensure that the product team is making data-informed product decisions.

Our research shows that UX researchers make anywhere from $65,065 to north of $180,180, depending on experience level.


An award-winning creator and digital health, wellness, and lifestyle content strategist — Karina writes, edits, and produces compelling content across multiple platforms — including articles, video, interactive tools, and documentary film. Her work has been featured on MSN Lifestyle, Apartment Therapy, Goop, Psycom, Pregnancy & Newborn, Eat This Not That, thirdAGE, and Remedy Health Media digital properties.