By Jon Cook
The economy has made finding jobs particularly hard for young people.
According to a recent report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP), New York, jobs were lost at all levels of the economy during the economic downturn. Job growth has centered on low-income sectors such as front-line service jobs, making securing a good job hard, especially for recent college graduates.
This doesn't mean there aren't better jobs out there. Job demand is simply centered in certain professions and industries. "In order to find a good job today, it's important to look at the landscape of demand," says Fred Amrein, principal and founder of Amrein Financial, Wynnewood, Pa. "This means looking at trends such as the aging U.S. population and seeing where you could fit in to capitalize on the services these people need."
With the aging population in mind, the health-care industry looks to be a pretty stable bet for a while to come, according to a recent College Board article. Doctors, nurses, dental hygienists, pharmacists, physical therapists, health-care computing specialists, counselors, and social workers are among the top projected professions in the industry and overall.
revenge of the nerds
If computers are more your style, you're in luck. Software engineers, computer systems analysts, application specialists, and information technology managers are in demand.
To find a good job today, look at the landscape of demand.
In fact, software engineer was ranked the No. 1 job for 2011 by The Wall Street Journal based on income, working environment, stress, physical demands, and job outlook.
"Computer- and high-technology-related careers will continue to grow, but, keep in mind, you need to constantly continue to update your knowledge to stay viable," says Cheri Butler, president of the Career Development Association, Broken Arrow, Okla.
Experts say many people will be working next year with technology that hasn't been invented yet. In this climate of change, you always need to understand where the industry is headed.
"As technology changes, we operate differently and skill sets quickly become obsolete, so you always need to keep investing in and upgrading your skills," says Kermit Kaleba, senior policy analyst at the National Skills Coalition, Washington, D.C.
This means the learning doesn't end once you graduate.
"There's a reason they call graduation 'commencement,' " says Butler. "It's not the end of your learning, it's the beginning. It doesn't matter if you're a high-school graduate or advanced degree-holder. It's the same for everyone. In this day and age, you can't let your skills become dinosaurs, or you will find yourself without a job."
The world has gotten smaller over the past few decades; the Internet has made transferring information long distances much more efficient.
"The Internet has changed the way business is done," says Amrein. "The landscape is more competitive because of it, but, at the same time, the Internet has created demand for positions in supply chain management and Internet communications."
According to a recent Kiplinger article, many Internet-based marketing and public relations jobs now exist that didn't exist in the past. Many of these careers show great promise, such as social-media public relations manager, online-community manager, search engine optimization specialist, online-advertising manager, and user-experience manager.
Many of these careers are flourishing thanks to the rapid and wide adoption of social-media sites. For example, social-media managers are in demand because companies now access markets via social media, but it isn't always clear how to successfully market using these platforms. Essentially, a social-media manager acts as a brand evangelist and figures out ways to reach target audiences.
The financial services industry is another promising field and projected growth area. Market-research analysts, accountants, auditors, actuaries, and financial examiners are promising positions in this field, according to a recent U.S. News and World Report article outlining the 50 best careers of 2011.
These jobs offer decent salaries and quality of life, and they're likely to stick around for the next decade, making them a promising choice.
"I've encouraged my own daughter to get an accounting degree, because, well, I have an accounting degree, but also because it can allow you to move into many other areas of business," says Amrein. "It's a very utilitarian degree."
demand is fickle
Remember that employment demand isn't static. Demand changes quickly with government regulation, the economy, and varying numbers of qualified people entering the job market.
"Three months ago, I would have told people primary-school teaching was one of the top areas to go into," says Butler. "Then, deep budget cuts have been proposed in states across the U.S., and, like that, teaching is less attractive, and I predict it will be a poor market for the next four to five years."
However, teaching and administration in higher education is projected to be a promising career area.
Not interested in any of those professions? Don't be discouraged. You can capitalize on an industry's growth without having a profession necessarily linked with that industry.
For instance, just because you don't want to be a doctor or nurse doesn't mean you can't benefit from the growth and stability the health-care industry promises. Hospitals, clinics, and all other businesses in this industry need support staff. So, let's say you are a human resource manager or truck driver. If you can find a job at a company in the health-care industry, you still can enjoy the benefits of the health-care industry's prosperity.
No matter what you decide to do, you need to be sure you enjoy it.
"You will spend 80,000 hours minimum if you work a typical career of 40 years," says Butler. "Everyone makes mistakes and takes the wrong job, but what's important is that you end up in a career you want and work with people you appreciate."