Know the job market

When choosing your new career, you will need to be aware of not only what is happening now in the job market – but what has happened over the past few years, and what these trends suggest is likely to happen in the future.

If you are changing career because you were made redundant, and there a few jobs available in your current career (or few that will pay you the salary you need) then you will probably not want to be in this same situation again in a decade. You will be older and wiser, but possibly less employable, unless attitudes to older workers change significantly. With the pace of change in technology and globalization of commerce, it is probable that many career choices that look appealing now will be gone with the winds of change in a few short years. So what factors should you consider?

You wouldn’t buy shares in a company just because the share price was low (or high!). You only buy shares if you have reason to believe the shares will increase in value. Likewise with choosing your career. What are the market forces that will shape the future economics of your career choice? Will the customers of your career “product” be getting richer, younger, further away, more educated, fitter, fatter, healthier, better informed, unemployed, out of jail? How will this affect the future value of your career? Will it make you more employable (and therefore richer)? More capable of coping with the technological, sociological, political and climate changes ahead (and therefore happier)?

Important areas to consider and investigate:

Technology changes

The Internet, Mobile telephony, Global Positioning Systems, Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Personalized Medicine, technology convergence.

Social, Economic and Political changes

The globalization of information and industry; virtual social networks; change in population demographics – increase in average lifespan leading to a change in the ratio of young to old; educational trends; increase in single parent families; job mobility, flexible working hours and work from home; aging “baby boomers” and “yuppies”; rural to urban migration; megacities; expansion of the European Union; the emergence of India and China as economic giants likely to influence if not shape the future world economy; outsourcing, offshoring and virtualizing the workforce; US and UK involvement in the Middle East conflict; public fears of terror attacks; freedom of movement and information changes in different countries. How might any or all of these factors affect your career choice?

Where to look for relevant information:

General resources:

Periodicals that address changes in technology, society, politics and labour markets – these should be your staple diet news sources to keep your current affaires general knowledge up to scratch: The Economist, Newsweek, Time Magazine, New Scientist, Scientific American, Wired.

Government – local and national:

Your local council will have information on the plans that are afoot for your town, city or municipality. Which areas are being zoned for commercial development for example? What new industries or employers are moving into your area? What incentives are in place for investment? How does this fit with your vision of your future here? Which other cities would you consider researching?

The current government policies on education, industrial development, encouraging international investment, trade and commerce, farming subsidies, import and export taxes and duties may be of interest or concern to you. How long are any of these likely to remain in effect? How long would it take to reverse any negative or positive affects they have? What short term and long-term implications might any of these policies have on your career choice?

Census data: most recent and compare to the previous census – what are the trends? Remember static data is of limited value. The size of the market is less important than whether it is growing or shrinking.

Chambers of Commerce:

Usually a goldmine of information waiting to be utilized. Chambers of commerce often have historical and projected data available by market segment and region for their members, have professional analysts opinions on government policy and infrastructure. It will probably be well worth the membership fee, and if you are considering starting your own business, then it is an absolute requirement.

Professional Organizations:

The quality and timeliness of data gathered, the processing and availability of the information will depend on the organization concerned. Engineering societies, medical councils, the national law library, and scientific bodies often have excellent resources available to their members. Smaller, more specialized societies may have more relevant information, but if they are underfunded may not be up to date. However, historical data can be telling.

Always try to be aware of how much has been included as well as how much was left out of the data gathering exercise, so you can allot the appropriate weight to the information you receive when using it in your decision making process.