By Skip Freeman
As we enter yet another very challenging year for the overall job market, with "official" unemployment still stubbornly hovering in the nine percent range and no real relief in sight, many job hunters-perhaps you included!-are seriously wondering if they should begin "reinventing" themselves today in preparation for the jobs of tomorrow.
Here is the short answer to that question: As a long-term strategy, "reinventing" yourself in the job market, through schooling or other training, can indeed pay huge dividends, particularly if you are in one of the hard-hit, high-risk job sectors, e.g., financial services, the building trades, real estate, manufacturing, etc. As a short-term strategy? Not so much.
The fact of the matter is, many of the jobs that have been washed out of the economy during the last four or five years simply are never coming back-ever. So, if you are in one of the particularly hard-hit, high-risk employment sectors and have already lost your job (or fear that you soon may), whether or not you should consider acquiring new job skills actually becomes somewhat of a rhetorical question, doesn't it? In the long run you may have little choice if you want to stay gainfully employed in the future.
However, if you currently find yourself in the situation that so many job hunter find themselves in, i.e., I need a job NOW!, it generally is not a good idea to expect any kind of an immediate (or nearly immediate) pay-off from refocusing your career, i.e., "reinventing" yourself. Let me tell you why that's true.
In virtually any job market, including the extremely challenging one of today, of course, the ideal job candidate is someone who is...
- Currently employed.
- Has demonstrated stability in his/her job/career.
- Has a proven track record of accomplishments and achievements in which he/she has made a company money or saved a company money (or both).
- Has current, relevant experience.
- Is fairly priced in terms of salary-and doesn't scare off the hiring manager during the interview process!
Admittedly, in the current job market, these criteria constitute a very steep hill to climb, and to be honest about it, not many candidates today can easily meet them. While there is at least some leeway in the current job market for most of these criteria-and I am fully aware of how some hiring companies today unfairly discriminate against candidates who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own-there is virtually no leeway for the criterion of "current, relevant experience." Almost without exception, hiring managers today demand that, in order to even be considered for a position, the candidate must have current and relevant experience.
Hiring managers say that, when they have so many fully qualified, experienced candidates to choose from today, they simply don't have the time, the money or the patience to take a chance on someone who doesn't have a proven track record and current experience doing what their companies need done. In other words, if you can't "hit the deck running" for a job today, you stand virtually no chance of even being considered for most open positions.
So where does this leave those of you who have already seen (or may soon see) "the handwriting on the wall," if you are in one of the high-risk, hard-hit job segments? If you are still employed, you may have the time and opportunity to begin refocusing your career through retraining, further education, etc., in order to capitalize on one of the more stable jobs of the future without significant financial loss and/or career interruption. (This presupposes, of course, that you have firmly branded yourself, and continue to brand yourself, as an employee who is virtually "indispensable" to your current employer.) Unfortunately, if you have already lost your job in one of the high-risk, hard-hit job segments, and as I've already indicated, trying to "reinvent" yourself at this point generally will benefit you little, if any, in the current job market.
Which job segments seem to hold the most future promise?
If, for whatever reason (or reasons), you do decide to redirect your career to take advantage of the expected "hot" job segments of the future, that sort of begs the question about which segments, specifically, are indeed expected to be (or continue to be) "hot." The answer to this question is not quite as simple as it might first appear. Because of the inherent, ever-changing definition of what constitutes new, "hot" jobs, the "target" tends to become a moving one! Still, I believe we now know enough about the general demographic makeup of America (as well as much of the rest of the industrialized world) and the overall economic landscape to make some educated guesses about what future job segments seem to offer the most potential for greater stability and continued career opportunity.
Based upon my own research, as well as nearly a decade of experience as a professional "headhunter," here is what my "crystal ball" seems to suggest as being just a few of the more promising future job segments (by no means an exhaustive list!):
- Healthcare (X-ray technicians, dental assistants, physician assistants, et al.) With an ever-aging population, as well as one that tends to live far longer than has ever been the case historically, virtually any job having to do with providing for the health care and treatment of our (and other countries') aging citizenry is currently "hot" and is highly likely to remain that way.
- Energy (oil, gas, hydro-electric, wind, solar, nuclear, etc.). While this field has traditionally been somewhat characterized by "boom-bust" cycles, the fact remains that we in America, as well as in other industrialized nations, have an ongoing need for affordable, viable, predictable, reliable sources of energy. With such an apparently insatiable appetite for energy, it's logical to assume that this field will continue to offer multiple, significant career opportunities for well-trained, industrious candidates well into the foreseeable future.
- Engineering (all types, e.g., chemical, mechanical, software, etc.). While it is true that a significant portion of manufacturing has already moved (or is rapidly moving) "offshore," the invention and development of the vast majority of manufactured products, particularly high-tech products, still can legitimately lay claim to being "Invented in America." No other country-none-can even come close to matching the innovative nature and character of our citizens. Engineers, of course, are integrally involved in the invention and technical development of these products. As I see it, that means a continued bright future for engineers of all kinds, as well as the non-engineering staffs needed to support them.
- Accounting/Auditing. Whether we are in an "up" economy or a "down" economy, businesses always have needed and will continue to need "bean-counters" on the payroll to watch over the money. Even during the Great Recession accountants and auditors continued to enjoy rather stable employment opportunities. Nothing now on the horizon is expected to change that.
While, of course, the very top positions in each of these job segments, e.g., doctors, dentists, engineers, accountants, et al., require extensive education and training, it is significant to note, though, that there is also an abundance of entry level and support positions within each of these segments which can require far less education and training in order to prepare and qualify for them.
Still, successfully "reinventing" yourself in the job market involves considerably more than simply being "retrained" or completing an additional course (or courses) of education. You must also have the basic aptitude and general qualifications for any new professional calling you might choose. In addition, you must have both the predisposition for and a genuine commitment to the chosen profession. If, for example, just the mere sight of blood makes you nauseous, you might not want to seriously consider becoming, say, a lab technician whose job is to take blood specimens all day! Or, if the idea of sitting behind a desk all day, every day is your idea of a living nightmare, you probably will want to avoid the accounting/auditing profession. I'm sure you get the idea.
This, then, brings us full circle, back to the original question at the top of this blog: Should you consider "reinventing" yourself today in order to capitalize on one of the jobs of the future? Only you, of course, can answer that question for yourself. I've tried to lay out, in broad, general terms, both the pros and the cons of this strategy for you. If you are in one of the (apparently) "dying" job segments... well, your decision becomes somewhat easier, I would think. Nonetheless, only you can ultimately make the call.
And finally, regardless of which profession you currently are involved in, or should become involved in at some point in the future, one thing remains certain and unchanged: Unless you brand yourself as being an exceptional candidate, as someone who can immediately contribute to the bottom line of a hiring company, and not just another person looking for a job, you are at a distinct disadvantage in this and future job markets. As I point out in "'Headhunter' Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed... Forever!, the "rules" of the hiring game have indeed changed-forever! No longer is anyone simply going to "give" you a job. Be assured that you will have to earn any job in this and the foreseeable future job markets!
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