If you've been focusing your job search on major corporations, you may be missing out on the hottest hiring spot in our slowly dawning economic recovery: small business.
Small businesses employ just over half of all private-sector workers, according to the Small Business Administration, and they generated 64 percent of all net new jobs over the past 15 years. Historically, as businesses start to hire again coming out of a downturn, small businesses lead the way.
Hidden in last December's depressing 84,000 net job losses was one interesting indicator of a small resurgence in small-business hiring: Small businesses in the service sector added 11,000 jobs that month, an ADP study showed.
How can you target jobs at small businesses? We spoke to two experts who offer search tips for finding the well-paid, small-business jobs that may emerge in the coming year. Our experts are Drew White, chief financial officer at small-business financial research firm Sageworks; and Debra Yergen, author of "Creating Job Security Resource Guide."
At the top of the list of roles small business owners in all industry sectors will fill first are sales positions, says Yergen. As soon as small businesses sense the economy is turning, they'll add sales staff to try to capture more business.
To find local small businesses in your sector that are hiring, network at business events, or look at niche industry websites online, Yergen says. Some employers who are tired of getting overwhelmed with resumes when they post jobs on major online portals are using niche sites instead.
General Sales Manager: $59,400
Fueled by federal money from the stimulus bill, environmental jobs are forecast to grow in the coming year. Try specialty job-search sites in the sector, such as ecojobs.com, to find openings in hot niches like solar-photovoltaic installers and wind-turbine service technicians. Government-contracting rules require that a portion of awards go to small businesses -- you can look on Recovery.gov to find names of companies that have won stimulus contracts.
Project Manager, Environmental: $65,200
Computers and Technology
This is another area the stimulus bill directed ample funding toward, especially healthcare-related technology. A recent search on computerjobs.com for security-related jobs turned up nearly 700 postings for computer security specialists, information systems security managers, information security analysts, and similar posts.
Security Administrator, Computer Network: $71,800
Maintenance and Repair
When money's tight, companies seek to save on expenses, and tend to spend more on maintaining and fixing their equipment. Many repair companies are either small, local businesses or locally owned franchisees of a national chain. A good site for careers in this field is mepjobs.com, Yergen says.
"Things keep breaking," Yergen notes, "and when companies are watching their hard costs, they will repair whenever possible."
HVAC service technician: $44,000
Food and Beverage
Food-related businesses continued to grow modestly last year, particularly in grocery, says Sageworks' White. Seek out niche, locally owned grocery stores to find small-business job opportunities. A good job site for this industry is careersinfood.com. Jobs in the sector include roles behind the scenes in areas such as finance, IT, buying, and public relations, as well as bakers, meat cutters and customer-service reps.
Assistant Manager, Restaurant: $37,200
Outpatient Medical Centers
Follow sales-growth trends here to spot possible small-business job opportunities, says White. Niches within health care that saw solid sales growth last year include outpatient medical centers, which grew 12.4 percent last year. Though some are national chains, many outpatient centers are locally owned small businesses. Well-paid jobs in this field recently listed on the job site Medicalworkers.com include physical and occupational therapists, registered nurses, and outpatient clinicians.
Occupational Therapy Assistant: $43,300
Non-Physician Health Practitioners
Second in sales growth with an 11 percent gain are offices of non-physician health practitioners such as chiropractors, optometrists, podiatrists and mental-health practitioners. Many such healthcare practices are small business owned by the doctor-partners. For one example of the opportunities here, the job site Optometry.com had more than 250 recent job listings including openings for opticians, optometric assistants, optical sales managers and lab technicians.
Optometric Assistant: $36,300
Source: Salary data from PayScale.com, a leading online provider of employee compensation data. The salaries listed are median annual salaries for full-time workers with 5 to 8 years of experience and include any bonuses, commissions, or profit sharing.
Business writer Carol Tice is a regular contributor to Entrepreneur, The Seattle Times and other major publications.