My job forecasts over the past decade have been reasonably accurate. For example, 12 of the 13 predictions I made in the latest edition of my book, Cool Careers for Dummies, have come to pass. I was wrong about No. 13, thankfully: I predicted another 9/11-scale terrorist attack in the U.S. and, in turn, another explosion in Homeland Security hiring.
So, even though it's said that he who lives by the crystal ball eats broken glass, I dare sally forth yet again.
Whether you're a clerk or a CEO, unemployed, well-employed or self-employed, it helps to have a sense of what's next. Here's my take:
1. The prediction I keep making that has been wrong will finally come true.
The biotech sector will explode. For the decade since the human genome was decoded, it seemed clear that breakthroughs in individualized medicine were imminent: for example, cancer treatment customized to a person's genetic makeup. But nope, there have been no real breakthroughs -- yet.
However, my recent conversations with leading genetics researchers -- Stanford's William Newsome, the Beijing Genomics Institute's Steve Hsu, the University of California's Richard Haier, the University of London's Robert Plomin and the Society for Neuroscience Executive Director Marty Saggese -- force me to continue making my heretofore wrong prediction. Indeed, if I had to give one word of career advice to the next generation of science- and math-oriented students it would be "biotech."
The spate of reports documenting education's failure to close the achievement gap may finally force schools to make the needed dramatic changes. Here are examples of such changes that will likely accelerate in 2013 and beyond. Flipped classrooms: Online lessons taught by top instructors and multimedia will replace homework, with regular class time spent providing one-on-one coaching, the human touch.
Colleges will be required to post a College Report Card, consumer information on their home page that details freshman-to-senior growth in reading and thinking skills, four-year graduation rates, employment rates of graduates by major, etc.
3. Long shot prediction: Cost of getting a college degree will decline.
By 2025 most students will get their college degrees at dramatically lower cost by taking online courses through services such as Coursera and Udacity. But not the now-hot Khan Academy, which is irretrievably boring to all but the hypermotivated. The government will act as record keeper, awarding a degree when students have completed sufficient courses.
4. The Affordable Care Act will create lots of jobs.
Due to "Obamacare," 40 million-plus more Americans, as well as the 11 million people currently in the U.S. illegally, will have access to health care. Few experts predict that there will be an accompanying increase in doctors, nurses, MRI machines and operating rooms. On the contrary, many doctors are quitting and fewer people are becoming MDs because of the low reimbursements and heavy paperwork, which will likely increase further.
Career implications? Kaiser Permanente, the nation's largest HMO, a nonprofit/for-profit amalgam, is a major beneficiary of Obamacare and jobs there should be plentiful. Care will continue to be downscaled: More physical therapy will be done by physical therapy assistants. Same for occupational therapy. More MD work will be done by physician assistants and nurse practitioners, anesthesiology by nurse anesthetists. The nursing shortage will be addressed by hiring more RNs with just a two-year degree.
5. Health care IT jobs will explode.
Demand will grow for medical lab technicians as blood and urine tests cost less than in-patient diagnostic procedures. To improve efficiency, many jobs will be created in health care IT: patient portals, telemedicine, mobile apps, technology-enhanced diagnosis, and especially electronic medical records and billing systems to manage the labyrinthine Obamacare system.
6. Telework will become mainstream.
Telecommuting will increase as employers want to save costs of office space and time-crunched workers want to save the ever-longer commute time. In addition, with Skype and other videoconferencing services ever-better and less expensive, virtual meetings will increasingly replace the hassle-filled business trip.
7. The Middle East situation will get even more complex -- and lead to more hiring in some federal agencies.
Tensions continue to keep us on high alert about Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Iran and Libya, as well as Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel. Because of the Middle East oil reserves, the threat of terrorism, and a likely nuclear Iran, jobs related to the Middle East mess should be plentiful. The FBI, CIA, U.S. military and other government agencies -- as well as nonprofits -- will likely continue to increase hiring people with Middle Eastern language and cultural competencies.
8. America will tilt left.
America is accelerating its antipathy toward capitalism and corporations and its support for nonprofit and government initiatives. The majority of the public is willing to further tax the rich and add more regulatory burdens on corporations. President Obama's reelection and the Republicans' fears of skewing too far right should allow Keynesian government expansionist policies to trump deficit reduction. Thus the government's percentage of GDP should grow in 2013 and beyond. Career implication: Job growth should be best in the government sector. Bonus: Government jobs are the most likely to provide job security and full benefits.
9. Pot jobs will be smoking.
Washington and Colorado having legalized pot should, ahem, grow jobs for pot farmers and "bud-tenders" -- salespeople at pot dispensaries. Advocates will also be emboldened to seek a nationwide high, thus creating jobs working for legalization advocacy groups such as NORML.
I feel the need to editorialize here: As a career counselor who has seen so many pot users suffer loss of memory and motivation, I can't help but think that legalization will increase use and thereby lower the national IQ and drive, the last thing we need. In addition, family and coworkers of frequent pot users suffer as well, as well as the victims of traffic accidents. But I digress.
10. Social media may be peaking.
Facebook's decline from its offering price is emblematic of what I'm seeing on the ground. Companies are not seeing ROI for their spend on Facebook, Twitter, etc., and so some are starting to pull back. VC investment in social media is declining, and even the social media consultants I speak with are less enthusiastic about the effectiveness of what they're selling.
One social-media job that should continue to burgeon: social media data miner -- identifying customer wants from people's Facebook and LinkedIn activities.
More: Best Jobs For 2013
11. Long-shot prediction: Live events and connections will replace virtual ones.
Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, like MySpace before them, will soon become yesterday's fad. What will be next? I believe the shallowness of Facebook "friends" and Twitter "followers" will resurrect the need for real connections. MeetUps, live and, yes, virtual, will grow, fueled by a likely continued poor job market -- people with time on their hands will take the time to meet others in-person.
Hardware prediction: Tablets such as iPads including the Mini will soon become obsolete. The new standard will be a pocket-size "phablet" with fold-out screen. The first of its kind could be the Samsung Galaxy S4, which will be announced in the first quarter of 2013.
12. Jobs related to energy-efficiency will grow -- yes, really.
The solar and wind stock indices are down more than 90 percent (!) from their December 2007 highs. That bodes poorly for the alternative energy industry. But reducing carbon footprint and increasing energy independence remain important, so government will likely reallocate tax dollars from alternative energy and toward making buildings and vehicles more efficient, and from road construction toward mass transit. Job growth will reflect those changes in priority. In addition, utilities' conversion to smart grids will create jobs for IT and engineering types.
Long-shot prediction: The next-generation, safer nuclear power plants will become acceptable as memories of Fukushima fade, replaced by promises of an ultra-safe, zero-carbon-footprint, unlimited source of clean energy.
13. Immigration reform will create lots of jobs.
President Obama has stated that one of his top priorities is to enact comprehensive immigration reform. That will create government jobs in administering the legalization process and in teaching immigrants how to pass the citizenship test.
Once legal, the immigrants will be eligible for Obamacare, which will trigger great demand for bilingual providers of health care. That will also spur need for social service providers -- for example, counselors and social workers.
And whatever business you're in, from entertainment to the environment, having 11 million people "come out of the shadows" may create business opportunities that should be considered in planning for 2013 and beyond.
14. Un- and underemployment will keep rising.
There's a perfect storm for increased unemployment: returning vets, baby boomers who can't afford to retire, 11 million illegal immigrants now eligible for legal employment, slowed hiring by government, a sluggish economy here and worldwide, relative strength in China, and increased workplace regulation and payroll costs of hiring Americans (e.g. Obamacare, paid family leave, workers comp).
And then there's worker-replacing technology, such as robots that replace everyone from soldiers to pharmacy assistants, voice/pattern-recognizing machines that replace sales clerks and customer service reps, software that replaces paralegals and appraisers, and soon, driverless trucks. As a result, unemployment will rise, and part-time and temp work will become the new normal. And ever more work will be offshored to low-cost countries, now that American companies are learning how to work more successfully with a remote workforce.
15. Materialism will decline.
People will spend less -- both because of a values shift and because the economy will remain sluggish, quite possibly reverting back to recession. This means that companies that produce basic products should do better than luxury firms. So jobs should be stronger at a Procter & Gamble than at a Dolce & Gabbana. I plan to continue dollar-cost averaging into P&G, Amazon -- and FXI, the China equivalent of the Dow-Jones 30.
16. The no-brainer prediction: Online shopping will continue to take market share from bricks-and-mortar stores.
Shopping sites' ever-better interfaces combined with the ever-more-onerous road traffic and parking problems, makes this the prediction you can most bet on. Career implications: Jobs should be more available at top online retailers than bricks-and-mortar-centric ones: Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and Zappos, plus delivery services such as FedEx, UPS and upstart discounter OnTrac.
Do you have any predictions for 2013 -- or disagree with any of mine? Share your thoughts in the comments section, or join me for AOL Jobs' Lunchtime Live video chat on Friday, Jan. 4, 12:30 p.m. EST. Join me on the AOL Jobs Google+ page!
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