New Data About the Market for Innovation-Related Jobs

By Alex Slawsby |  July 8, 2020

This is proving to be a turbulent year for corporate innovation. Innovation leaders who have jobs are working with fewer resources at their disposal — and many are worrying about their job security. Those who have found themselves in the job market are discovering that may companies have hiring freezes in place, and there is a lot of competition for open positions.

To better understand the dynamics of the job market for innovation, R&D, and emerging technology leaders, we fielded a survey in late June of 2020. We received 259 initial responses, which are included in this analysis. We are keeping the survey open to gather additional data.

Our first priority in conducting this research was to see if we could match job seekers in our community with those seeking to hire. So far, 115 respondents submitted LinkedIn profiles to us and gave us permission to share them with interested talent seekers. If you are seeking to fill innovation-related roles, or perhaps to add consulting resources to your team, please contact us at, share a few details about your needs, and we can give you access to the list. We also curated a separate list of innovation-related jobs that were available as of July 6, 2020. You can access that list in Excel form or as a Google Sheet.

Our secondary priority was to develop a better understanding of what the job market looks like right now. Not surprisingly, a lot of talented innovation, R&D, and emerging technology leaders are looking for new opportunities. And we heard from a lot of leaders who are currently employed, but either expect their jobs to be eliminated or are simply looking to make a switch.

It’s a challenging time for a job search, with hiring freezes in place at many organizations.

It’s a challenging time for a job search, however, with hiring freezes in place at many organizations. We wrote about this dynamic as part of our “State of Innovation” report earlier in the year. At the time — as remains the case now — innovation leaders are hopeful that both hiring and budget restrictions will relax in 2021.

Below are some of the key insights from our most recent research.

The Ripple Effects of the Pandemic are Causing Job Cuts

Our respondent set hailed largely from North America: Over 70 percent of both job seekers and currently employed professionals told us that they were based in that region. The second largest cluster came from Europe (about 14 percent of seekers and currently employed professionals).

The vast majority (72 percent) of our 259 respondents answered our survey because they are seeking a new job. Of those who described themselves as looking for a new role, at least 36 percent seem likely to be in the market as a result of pandemic-related layoffs: 16 percent say they’ve been in the market for less than one month and 19 percent have been in the market for one to three months. Another 19 percent say they’ve been in the market for more than three months. Based on the timing of our survey, that would be March 2020 or before, just around the time that coronavirus cases began to surge in the US and Europe. The largest cluster of job seekers told us they’d worked most recently in the consumer goods/consumer products sector.

The remaining 45 percent of respondents noted that they were either “employed but looking” or that they believed their roles would be eliminated soon.

Hiring Freezes Remain in Place at Many Organizations

About one-quarter (24 percent) of respondents said that they were employed and not presently seeking a job. In 28 percent of respondents’ organizations, hiring is happening — just not for innovation-related roles — while 9 percent reported their organizations are hiring for innovation roles. Fifteen percent of respondents reported that their organizations are hiring in all areas.

We heard from a small number of organizations that are either hiring in all areas or for innovation-related roles, and they tended to be in the technology, financial services, and insurance industries.

Of our currently employed respondents, just under half (48 percent) reported that their organizations have blanket hiring freezes in place. That number seems to have remained fairly consistent through the second quarter of 2020. In our “State of Innovation” survey, conducted this spring, at the beginning stages of the coronavirus pandemic in the US and Europe, 52 percent of respondents said that their organizations had a hiring freeze in place.

Optimism About 2021

Of respondents who said their organization had a hiring freeze in place, nearly 55 percent were not sure when the freeze would lift. Eighteen percent of respondents operating under hiring freezes expected them to be removed sometime in 2020. More than 27 percent expected their hiring freezes to remain in place until sometime in 2021. We found similar optimism for 2021 in the responses to our “State of Innovation” survey. Without a doubt, the promise of a fresh year, which potentially includes the arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine, feels like the turning of a new page.

Advice for Those in the Job Market

We asked job seekers to share with us any advice or feedback that they thought would be useful to other job seekers. Here is a representative sample of the many helpful responses we received:

Change your job search frame-of-mind from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset.

  • “Be open about your position. Don’t be embarrassed or shy about the fact that you recently lost your job and are seeking. Focus not on what went wrong, but rather, what you enjoyed and what you are looking forward to.”
  • “Keep busy, keep training, and keep on top of trends. Stay well-informed!”
  • “Use a resume writer and job coach if you can afford one to paint your achievements in their best light and define your priorities before job seeking.”
  • “Don’t be shy about networking. People generally want to help. Make sure you are reciprocating and bringing something to the networking relationship.”
  • “Creating a personal marketing plan has been helpful for me to get really specific about my skills and expertise, the types of roles I’m looking for, and the types of companies I’d like to work at. It’s also given me a plan for how to approach finding the job I want.”
  • “Think about all of the networks that you are a part of (university, industry, events), and start reconnecting with those networks.”
  • “Keep it positive, tell everyone you are looking for a new adventure.”
  • “Including information on a resume that specifically details what you personally did to help an organization reach a milestone/achievement is important for an employer in understanding your [and] what you bring to their role.”
  • “My career coach helped me become clearer about the value I bring, not just reel off my career when asked, ‘So tell me about yourself’.”
  • “Change your job search frame-of-mind from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset — there are jobs out there and people in your network know about them.”
  • “Tune your resume to the job description of every position you apply.”
  • “Completing your LinkedIn profile…can go a long way in attracting views and interest from recruiters.”
  • “I got the advice to look at job advertisements, even ones that were no longer available, and find 1-3 that ‘make your heart sing.’ Those are the indicators of what you should be looking for.”
  • “Be the type of help to others that you’d like to receive yourself.”

Several respondents also submitted the following helpful “talent marketplace” platforms – in addition to LinkedIn — and one recommended the book The 2-Hour Job Search as well.

Online Resources:

For an expert’s view of the current job market for senior leaders, you may want to watch the replay of our One Quick Thing episode featuring Nada Usina, a Managing Director at the executive search firm Russell Reynolds.

Organizations Can’t Keep Growth on the Back Burner Forever

Societal and economic instability are both likely to continue for the foreseeable future. But large organizations cannot afford to keep growth initiatives on the back burner indefinitely. As a result, many will need to resume at least a focused set of those initiatives in the coming months. We expect demand for innovation talent to rise in parallel, although the future is still uncertain.

This is a rare opportunity for forward-thinking leaders and organizations to recruit and develop world-class innovation talent.

What is certain is that there is a rich talent pool of experienced innovation leaders and professionals available for organizations to tap. The 115 profiles submitted to us span a wide range of geographies, levels of seniority, and industries. Many profiles detail years of executive experience leading innovation and digital transformation strategy. Others describe tangible results generated through innovation product management, project management, design, and development roles. This is a rare opportunity for forward-thinking leaders and organizations to recruit and develop world-class innovation talent as full-timers, part-timers, or contractors.

If you have additional advice, insights, or data points about the job market to share, we invite you to post a comment below. One key question that we asked in the survey, but didn’t receive sufficient data on: Are companies more open in mid-2020 to hiring remote workers than they were at the start of the year?