Career Planning Now: Making Plans for an Uncertain Future

job trainingAt a recent networking event, someone asked, “What should job seekers expect in the next few years?” To someone who isn’t a career counselor, this might seem like a totally normal question to ask someone in the career counseling profession, but my first thought was, “Well, an economist would know better than me.” I will explain more about that later, but before anyone says that counselors never offer specific advice because we don’t want to seem like we are telling anyone what to do or we don’t want to be blamed for the uncertain future, I do have some input on what I see as trends in the workplace and job market as well as some caveats.

First, accept that the onus of professional identity and professional development is on the individual, not the organization. Companies do not train anyone on anything they don’t need to anymore. The workers feeling this pinch most acutely right now are recent college graduates (or soon-to-be graduates) who see that employers want to offer last year’s entry-level wages to someone with two years or more of experience.

If you have been working for the same employer for years and are feeling, dare I say, complacent, it’s a good idea to evaluate your résumé and skills against similar jobs being advertised now to make sure you are staying current. This is true even if the only software you use on a daily basis is Microsoft Office. When companies are in financial trouble, front-line employees, or really anyone outside of upper management, are the last to know. Training and development activities can be done on your own, and you often can receive tuition reimbursement for them. Plus, learning new skills and updating old ones can be fun.

Second, know your unique talents and skills. Expertise will likely be the currency in tomorrow’s job market, and if you do whatever you’re passionate about extremely well, what it is may not matter so much. Remember: I’m not an economist, so I can’t say this prediction has a basis in irrefutable facts. However, I do know that the job market is still tight and most likely will be for the foreseeable future, and that is true of even “in-demand” jobs. Also, the 9-to-5 routine is almost nonexistent. Most jobs outside of retail involve taking work home and fulfilling responsibilities outside of traditional hours.

In other words, embrace the idea that your career will most likely be a part of your lifestyle. This doesn’t mean I am not in favor of maintaining some form of work/life balance. Just don’t expect that balance to look the way it did for people in generations where most of us didn’t have wireless Internet at home or smartphones. This goes without saying: If you pay your own cell phone bill, never ever give your employer your mobile number. If you already have, change it. I’m completely serious.

Third, get out there and get involved. If you are in a profession that has a national organization or (better yet) local chapters, get involved. Attend meetings, and consider taking on a leadership position or assisting in some volunteer capacity. One thing I will always remember from graduate school was a tidbit my organizational psychology professor shared—managers rarely remain unemployed for long because they have networks of people ready to “catch” them when they get bumped out of jobs. Flawed system? Yes, but it can work for you, so why knock it?

As far as economic predictions go regarding the labor market, you can get the current statistics and projections through 2016 on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) site. If you already have a degree and you are considering retraining because you are unemployed, remember that the BLS and your local workforce development program tend to use data that are about two years old and are based on national averages. Unless you can truly pick up and move wherever the jobs are (and good luck doing that if you are going into a profession that requires a license), it’s important to see who could hire you tomorrow where you plan to work. This information is available, along with local wage data, via America’s Career InfoNet.

Whether you are a seasoned professional or a college senior preparing for graduation, understand that there isn’t one easy answer to the question, “What is the best job to go for?” It really depends on who you are and where you want to be. Focus on the aspects of your career that you can control, such as professional development, networking, and knowing what you love. Nobody can predict which companies will shut their doors tomorrow or what new opportunities will spring up. Let’s try to make the most of what we know now.

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Amy Armstrong, LPC, therapist in Denver, Colorado

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • marcy T

    marcy T

    May 15th, 2014 at 12:06 PM

    I remember graduating from college and being certain that I would immediately find a great job and I did because at that time it was still viewed as very prestigious to be a woman and graduate from college. These days, college degress for anyone seem that they are a dime a dozen and that anyone can get one, and thankfully many people do. But today it is more about distinguishing yourself from the rest of the crowd. It has to be about going above and far beyond the work that I ever had to do to get to where I am because people are looking for the degree as well as all of the extras now. If I were graduating today I would be a whole lot more scared about getting a great position after graduation because the numbers don’t lie. There just aren’t the number of jobs now that there were years ago and that has to be scary for graduates and parents of these kids alike.

  • boyd l

    boyd l

    May 16th, 2014 at 3:35 AM

    Honestly I don’t think that many young people think about their job outlook too much at all. I think that most of the kids graduating from high school and college have evry high hopes for a great and promising career. And you know what? far be it from me to douse that enthusiasm and hope. I have been there, I remember those days of feeling like I was so smart that I could conquer the world. I remember what it felt like to be euphoric about graduating and taking on something new. I don’t think that we want any jobs reports or employment rates to do something to these kids that takes all of this waay from them. Let them live, let them learn what it is to have to work hard to get ahead, but don’t take away that zest for life before they even have a real chance to get started.

  • Amy

    Amy

    May 16th, 2014 at 8:33 AM

    @boyd, thank you for the comment. Today’s reports aren’t the best predictor of what will be the ideal career for someone (even from a financial standpoint.) That was part of my point. This definitely is not the type of information that should dash anyone’s dreams. I do think all of us (not just new grads) do need to accept that the individual is the master of his/her own ship in career planning now—nobody is going to “make a path” for you.

  • gt

    gt

    May 16th, 2014 at 2:00 PM

    I have been laid off from my job and it looks kind of scary out there to be up against young and untrained workers. And all because they will likely take less money to do the same work than I would be able to do because I have a family and serious bills to consider. This is what is so frustrating to me, that it used to be about getting the bets peopl,e for your team but now it feels like employers are looking for a way to pay the least amount of money out to make the most of their own bottom line. I think that this is what makes for shoddy products and hurts those of us who would work hard and take pride in our work. I am not looking for a stepping stone at this point in my life, I want to land a job that I can contribute to and that will mean something.

  • Amy Armstrong

    Amy Armstrong

    May 16th, 2014 at 5:19 PM

    @gt, Sorry to hear you’ve been laid off from your job. I recently read a book by Peter Cappeli called Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can do About it. Here is the link to Amazon’s page about it, if you want more information amazon.com/Why-Good-People-Cant-Jobs/dp/161363014X/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1400285645&sr=1-1

    Basically, the thrust of Cappeli’s book is that employers are becoming more demanding when it comes to the skill requirements to even consider hiring someone, and they are contributing less to the workforce than they ever have. In other words: they want the world, but don’t want to pay for it.

    I’m not sharing that, or any of this, to be discouraging. I just don’t want job seekers to go out, submit resumes, interview and think it takes a long time to get a job because there is something wrong with them. While as a job seeker, you can definitely do a lot to improve your chances, it doesn’t change the reality that it really is tough out there.

  • Walker

    Walker

    May 17th, 2014 at 5:55 AM

    Think positive. Things are getting better and there are brighter days ahead for young graduates

  • mason

    mason

    May 19th, 2014 at 3:52 AM

    One important thing to always try to continue to do no matter how secure you like to think that your job is: always try to have something to offer the company that someone else may not. Make yourself vital to the organization and let them see that they could not live without having you as an employee. That may be doing anything from being the technical expert to simply having a joke for everyone to make them smile, but whatever you do, don’t fade into the woodwork. Those are the people who don’t make an impact in any noticeable way and you start to see that those are the people who are gone forst when situations get rough.

  • Sharon E

    Sharon E

    May 20th, 2014 at 3:56 AM

    Why not step it up a bit in the workplace?

    I am tired of seeing employees who think that it is my job as the owner to make them feel special. What about doing something for yourself for a change that shows just how special you are? Take on more tasks, do something creative and think out of the box a little, and may times that excitement that you once had for your job can come back just like that.

  • Anu

    Anu

    August 9th, 2015 at 10:51 PM

    Nice post. Thanks Amy for the article.

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