Middleton of the Wall Street Journal recently summarized information
from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on emerging job opportunities over
the next ten years. The article has gotten a lot of play on the web,
and rightly so because of its emphasis on the Two-Track Mind. I’ve
emphasized in a number of blogs the necessity of two or more sets of
expertise, especially technical expertise (in any field) supported by
well-developed people skills (usually a highly-rewarded expertise), and
cutting-edge thinking skills. The people skills research from the
Dallas Fed is available on my website.
The Fed report emphasizes innovation as a highly rewarded thinking
skill. The skill levels required for cutting-edge thinking and people
skills is much higher today than 95% or more of the work population has
The BLS report indicates that technology, health care and education
will continue to be hot job sectors, but the career shape emphasizes
the two-track mind rather than the narrow traditional career focus.
The summary is confusing because it mixes careers that require
graduate degrees with nine-month programs and doesn’t clarify those
distinctions. Many of the job opportunities in the report are
essentially trade-school programs. Be aware that many if not most
trade-school programs are dead-end careers. As long as the job
expertise is hot, the trade-school program can give you a basic
salary–$30 to $50 thousand a year. If you need to go that route for a
job it’s a great way to get in the door. However, employees who
develop career security and long-term opportunities use the
trade-school route as a short term way to manage their income needs,
but leverage that work opportunity into further education.
My attitude toward education is that today’s baccalaureate degree,
unless it’s from Stanford, Chicago, Northwestern or the Ivies or one of
the eight or ten great public schools (UVA, Michigan, Berkeley, UCLA,
Wisconsin, etc.) is the equivalent of a high school diploma from the
1940s or 1950s. It’ll get you a job, but that’s about all. What this
means more and more is that you need to plan on a graduate degree for
long term security. And, as this recession has shown, unless you’re
constantly upgrading your competencies and education, eventually even a
grad degree loses its power.
The other piece of the coin, not mentioned in the BLS report, is
that a set of competencies built upon eight to ten years of work
experience, can open doors to seemingly unrelated careers. I recommend
that you set aside the traditional career or job notions (hospital
nursing, software developer, accounting professional, even lawyer or
physician) and look at the skill sets you’ve developed over the years.
Pull those competencies out, mix and mash them together, look at what
companies are asking for, start information gathering and create a
completely different career. When I started my business 25 years ago,
no one had a career quite like mine. And the business I’m in today
looks very different from what I started with in the 1980s. Although
I’m in the career development and performance improvement business,
many of the issues I deal with were not in existence 25 years ago.
To see how others have identified and redefined their career options, I highly recommend a new book by Alexandra Levit, New Job, New You.
Levit gets to the heart of what makes people plunge into a new field,
includes formulas for action and shows the reader how to manage the
inevitable barriers that career change faces in a tough climate.
You’ll find her stories of career change fascinating and inspiring.
Next week I’ll be reviewing her book, so stay tuned.