Career Key

Author: Career Key's President and CEO, Juliet Wehr Jones, GCDF, J.D.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

5 Questions You Need to Ask About Career and Job Outlook

With such gloomy job loss numbers, what should be the next move for someone choosing or changing a career? Is any career path safe or secure? Are the “job outlook” numbers published by the government even accurate anymore? See my previous post on tips for evaluating job outlook.

Mulling these questions over for weeks, I’ve come to the conclusion that in the current crisis, you cannot rely much on the advice of economists and labor statisticians to help you make a good career decision.

One thing we know for sure: matching your career with your personality is still the scientifically proven road to job satisfaction. The economic crisis is completely unrelated to the need to identify your values, interests and strengths.

But when you need to narrow down your matching career options, job outlook matters a great deal. Planning exactly where you want to go is more critical than ever. You don’t want spend time and money preparing for a career only to find there are few jobs in it.

To avoid a dead end career choice, here are 5 questions to ask about the top 2 or 3 careers you are considering:
  1. Are job opportunities in this industry disappearing for good? According to the New York Times, some jobs are not returning – at least in the near future. Examples: jobs in Financial Services, Housing (Realtors, mortgage brokers, construction and architectural services, etc.), Hospitality (hotel managers, travel agents, etc.), Manufacturing, and Retail. If technology advances, government regulation, drops in consumer spending, and outsourcing are hammering the industry that interests you - find out why. Only then can you predict how permanent the losses might be.
  2. If the answer to #1 is yes and you want to still pursue it, what will be your strategy for getting one of the jobs that remain? Is there an industry sector surviving this downturn? How can you organize your education, training, and networking to be successful in that sector?
  3. If this industry is not in turmoil, to what extent is this recession impacting it? Where are the opportunities? What is your plan for making yourself stand out from other applicants? List out new skills, volunteer or work experience you can get, connections you can make – and how to achieve them.
  4. If government funds this industry (teachers, police officers, social work, etc.), are you prepared for the ups and downs for job security? Politicians are notoriously short-term planners; just because "stimulus" is a hot concept now doesn't mean money will rain from government trees for long (if ever). Do you have a private-sector and self-employment fallback position? If inflation eats away at your government paycheck, will you need to supplement it and how?
  5. Double-check your sources of information. Are you only considering information that supports your desired conclusions? Have you talked to people actually working in the career you want to choose? Make sure you consider all the negatives of your career options - all options have them.
Answering these questions is a great way to narrow down your matching career options. And the information you gather will do more good than any you get from “experts” making job forecasts. Planning and a smart process for making a decision will help you make a good career choice, one you won’t regret.

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