I’m often asked for my thoughts on the “hot careers of the future,” or “What industries should young people be thinking about entering?” (In fact, I’ve been asked this twice today.)
What I want to say is this: “Honestly, who knows?”
I tend to steer clear of telling people that this or that industry is definitely going to be “hot” for the long term. We can look at trends like the growth in healthcare jobs, computer engineering jobs, and renewable-energy jobs and say that they’ll probably continue. (Read Monster’s “2012 Job Outlook” for more on the coming year’s predictions.) But national and global events frequently change the game.
For young people (and their parents) looking beyond the near future, I’d recommend following your interests — and keeping these three things in mind:
- Specialized knowledge equals security in almost any field. And this means taking active responsibility for lifelong learning and skill development in your career and industry, whatever it is. The days of finishing college, stepping into a career, and then just doing the same thing for 30 years are long over. If you’re not currently in a class, reading a career-related or professional-development book, or actively learning something new every month, you’re falling behind.
- It’s difficult to off-shore or automate “people” professions. In any career, you should be looking for ways to collaborate on projects and interact with clients/customers in real time. Likewise, jobs that require your physical presence (for instance, many healthcare fields) are a better bet. When you’re planning your career, keep this idea in mind.
- We are all entrepreneurs. Expect employers and companies to take less responsibility for our careers in the future. This means more freedom and more opportunities to do cool and varied things, but it also means that “job-search” activities (like networking, self-marketing, the aforementioned skills development, and so on) can’t end when you find a job. The careers of the future will likely include more contract work and have many more employer changes than those of the past. For young people, this means taking ownership of your career now. So don’t wait for an employer to hand you a career on a silver platter. Be aggressive about creating opportunities — be entrepreneurial both in your life and in how you pursue career opportunities.