As Michael Hendix recently pointed out, the job market is rapidly changing, putting some individuals at risk of having their careers become obsolete.
In my previous post, I offered some general solutions to youth unemployment, but these are long-term fixes that are of little help for someone looking to make a career move right now. How can YOU as an individual use economic thinking to become successful—or at least get a job?
Understand how you can meet the demand.
Today’s job market is changing which means that while some jobs are becoming scarcer, or even obsolete, other—often less traditional roles—are emerging to replace them.
It’s not news that there are new and ever-expanding opportunities right now in engineering, computer programming, healthcare, public relations and communications, marketing, and graphic design—if you know where to look.
[pq]Never look at an opportunity as wasted time or a failure.[/pq]
Meanwhile, more traditional career paths like law, academia, and journalism are becoming more difficult to enter. This is either because these fields are saturated with qualified candidates or due to the fact that they are shrinking because there is not as much need for people in these areas as before.
If your dream job is in low demand, you have two options—both risky in different ways. First, you can pursue the low-demand career path singularly, fighting to be the best in your field. If decide on this option, you should recognize that it may take months to find a job, that you might have to relocate to follow your job, and that you will probably never make as much money as someone in a role that is experiencing greater market demand.
This is not a bad option, and it is the right option for people who are confident that they can remain focused on a goal and make sacrifices in other areas of life to be competitive even when the market demand for their work is low.
Before pursuing this, however, think seriously about where the market demand is. Regardless of where you envisioned yourself, you may be a great fit in a more lucrative, rapidly growing industry. Spend some time figuring out where your general strengths and interests lie while realizing that becoming truly competent in any career will take a great deal of experience and effort.
If you take the time to consider these things, you’ll figure out where you can—and should—meet the demand through experience, not by theorizing. And that brings me to my next point.
Make the most of your education.
Neither the American education system nor our society in general do a great job of preparing young people for the workplace. Often recent graduates don’t have the people skills or the specific qualifications they need to land an entry-level job.
Fortunately, you can beat this broken system by grasping at as many opportunities as possible in college and the early stages of your career.
In college, try a variety of extracurriculars that force you to use different skills. When you force yourself to do activities outside your comfort zone, you will learn where your weaknesses lie and that will also expose your strengths.
You should also pick up as many jobs and internships as you can handle. They will help you build connections that will be useful later on, teach you what you do and don’t like to do, and help you gain the skills you need to succeed in whatever career you end up choosing.
Once you graduate, consider working for a few years before you launch into graduate school—you will learn a great deal about your talents and working style. If you can’t find a full-time job right away, consider taking another internship. It might not seem ideal, but it could be what you need to secure the qualifications necessary to land a full-time job.
Never look at an opportunity as “wasted time” or a “failure.” Instead, see it as one more experience that you have learned from, and find a way to apply that knowledge to future endeavors.
Get a hobby.
Instead of seeing your personal time as “time off,” see how you can use it to create value while doing something you love.
In college, my involvement as an editor for our school newspaper and law journal led me to my first full-time position in Washington, D.C. Similarly, a good friend of mine used her blog to refine her knowledge of SEO and to build her portfolio—and that was the stepping stone to a very successful career in digital marketing.
Don’t try to pursue ten different hobbies and don’t start a hobby just because you want it to get you a job. Instead, find one thing you love, think hard about how it could create value for yourself and others, and stick with it even when it gets difficult.
The changing job market and high youth unemployment are not fun circumstances to navigate. But if you maintain a sense of curiosity, are able to think out of the box, and are willing to go out of your way to grasp at opportunity, there’s a pretty high chance that you’ll have what it takes to stay relevant in today’s competitive and rapidly changing marketplace.