Choosing a career path

Mar 25th, 2012 | By | Category: abundance, application, aptitude, Career advice, career choices, challenges, choosing a career, competitive challenges, confidence, economy, opportunity, recession, retraining, strategy, success, tactics, training

Graduation is almost here. If you are graduating from high school there are several decisions facing you. Do you plan to go to college? Get a job? Stay at home? Move out on your own? If you are graduating from college are you going to go on to grad school? Get a job? Move back home? Move out on your own? Decisions, decisions, decisions.

To paraphrase one of my favorite lines from Dickens; “It is the best of times it is the worst of times.” No matter where you are in your career there are threats and opportunities. The truth is there is no one right decision. There are usually several options available in most decisions.

True when the economy is tight finding a job may be difficult. Most industries are still in recession and not adding entry-level positions. There are still several opportunities available. The dilemma arises when opportunities do not meet expectations. Often the expectation is to start off at the same level as when living at home. We forget our parents worked for 18 years or more to have the standard of living you enjoyed at home.

Most of our parents had to start out at the bottom of the ladder and work their way up to better paying more secure positions. The majority of your parents were faced with the shift to a global economy where entire US industries moved offshore. My hometown was very dependent on manufacturing and steel. When the steel mills closed in the 70’s a ripple effect spread to all the associated mines and mills that supplied materials to the steel mills, the near by factories that used the steel to produce everything from kitchen appliances to railroad cars. Like dominos one-by-one they shut their doors leaving their employees without a job. The offshore trend continues to place pressure on the job market, and is further compounded by the current economic recession.

The shifting job markets presented both threats and opportunities to graduating seniors. Mill jobs were replaced with new entry positions, and the US economy shifted from manufacturing to sales and services. Instead of metallurgy and mechanical engineering, the new trend was toward computer programming and finance as computers open new opportunities that keep expanding.

There are still opportunities for the average person to make a good living, but the process has changed. The idea that industry will train you to fill their labor needs is replaced with making it the responsibility of the job seeker to come with the skills necessary to perform the required tasks. It is hard to believe in this day and age that elementary computer skills are not a high school requirement. Although a requirement in almost every career field, most high schools do not teach basic computer skills.

This puts most high school graduates at a disadvantage when seeking entry-level positions. Even college students are not required to become proficient in basic computer operation. While most of us can sit at the keyboard and perform simple tasks, the skill to use the full features of office software is left to those who specialize in computers.

The point is that while the US job market has changed, the working mentality has not kept pace. We need to be more flexible and take responsibility for learning the basic skills required to enter the job market prepared to perform the required tasks.
This means constant learning as the needs of a fluid economy shift from one bubble industry to the next. Even once secure careers like health care are susceptible to offshore competition. Mexico and India are both developing healthcare centers where medical and dental procedures can be performed for a fraction on the cost, including airfare, than in the US. With the uncertainty in US health care the momentum is shifting to offshore facilities.

The message is to be flexible and open to new opportunities as career paths zig zag through the bubble economies of change.

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