How does the job market influence your career choice

The unknown frontier: The job market

Job markets change. Industries expand and contract, rise and fall. Predicting the job market's moods and moves is a lot harder than predicting the weather.

It's also a lot more dangerous. Economic forces are like tides. IT is an example. It used to be a specialized field, paying top dollar, an almost exclusive club.

Now it's saturated with people. Wages have dropped, and the big money goes mainly to the experts, developers and researchers. Even being an expert's no guarantee of successful competition with the market.

The job market can affect career choices in a variety of ways. What looks good today may have become stagnant tomorrow. Career paths open and close, too.

You have to be able to survive in the job market. You career choice needs to give you options and skills which translate across a good bandwidth of job opportunities.

In any job you acquire skills which can be used in other areas, and experience in whole fields of work which can also be valuable in a wide variety of other jobs.

The skills, in effect, are steering the career moves.

This isn't perhaps the idealized version of a professional career, but nearly everybody, at some point, equates skills with jobs.

So do employers. A good portfolio of skills means value to any employer. They need those skills, but more is better, in many ways.

Does that mean the CV track is going to a sort of compromise between a career choice, and whatever jobs you can get with the skills you acquire for your career?

Not if you can help it, obviously. The skill sets in careers are created that way for a reason, and they work better in their career paths.

There's more than one way to make a career work properly.

All you need is to keep your skills working as creators of opportunities.

Too many choices?

It's not unusual for people to have too many career choices, particularly in areas where they have a lot of talent.

The problem here is you can push all the wrong buttons, for all the right reasons.

As an example, it's probably better to show how people can create problems for themselves, and a very bumpy career path, by choices.

Say you want to do a media career. You feel that the internet will override all other media, and that Global Media 3.0 will be internet-based.

You're strongly motivated, you're good, you love the work, and you can eat it, sleep it, and breathe it.

You do media, specialize in internet development and design, digital photography, and graphics… and find that they're socked in, as far as the job market is concerned.

You've chosen three of the most competitive, overloaded, parts of the job market, all saturated. There's about a million applicants per job.

If you'd chosen animation, as well, you'd have practically had a full set of tough calls in media jobs.

The problem, however, isn't with your choices.

It's with the job market.

The unknown frontier has thrown up an obstacle, or more normally, several obstacles, and blocked several options you're trying to open up.

The reality of any career choice is that whatever it is, it relates directly to how the job market is operating in that area.

This isn't a permanent obstacle course. It's just a current situation, one of many you will experience in any career.

You can still compete, you can get jobs, you can work where you want to work, but you've already seen how the market affects your opportunities.

However- you wanted a mixed media career. In media, that is the better approach, because you develop your skill set a lot better.

You've found yourself into a position where you're doing your graphics, but nothing else is firing for you.

Dead end?

Not really.

It is limiting, but not fatal. One step in one direction. If you can see a good move by taking another step in that direction, fine. If not, you need to watch for opportunities, and make sure the opportunities lead where you want to go.

Career choices for maximum opportunities

The idea is to start with a skill set that lets you maximize your opportunities across a wide range of career options.

This is where colleges, career counselors, and professional advisors can really do you some good.

There's a potential for a lot of waste in career planning.

The media career is a good example. Media is really a series of interrelated skill sets. Production, content, broadcast, legal, communications, IT, media uses just about every known form of human activity. There's a huge range of skill sets involved. Every one of them speaks its own internal language.

You will notice that the people who put it all together have very wide ranging skills. They speak those languages, they don't need interpreters. They can plan better, manage that very diverse range of activities, because of their skills.

Just for a bit of added complexity, the people in those separate functions have to learn the basics of each other's operations.

Obvious, isn't it?

A career path in media needs, by definition, multi-functional skills.

Your original choices, in the example above, were internet development and design, digital photography, and graphics.

You're only doing the graphics at the moment.

The other skills can lead on to higher paying, much more career-positive, and wider ranging, jobs. Graphics is for some jobs an optional extra, not an essential.

You will need to develop the other skills further, and you'll also be trying to get the most out of your graphics work, developing a portfolio for your next job, at the same time.

What's missing?

Just the rest of the media skill set, and any real control over the organization of your existing skills. You're in the same old position of having the skills dictating the career. Your original idea of global internet media was OK, but you need a much bigger range of skills and qualifications. At this point you actually lack some of the basic skills, despite trying to get a broad range.

The career path in any industry needs to start with the ability to acquire skills across the range of that industry.

Every industry has production, design, marketing, logistics, sales, research, communications, legal, etc.

Most degree and certificate courses do actually have, or can be tailored to have, the basics for further study for the necessary qualifications.

Warning: You need to get the best possible range of skills from your studies. Many degree courses also have a range of electives, add-ons, and other materials which are of dubious value. Some of them have a very short shelf life, are irrelevant in later studies, and have no real value as career skills. They're filler material, rather than practical. The chance to waste time is truly staggering, and incredibly expensive.

BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE

  • Identify the essential skill sets in your career.
  • Identify the related skills.
  • Make sure you can work across the spectrum of your career.

Your media career isn't off the rails.

But you now have to do some remedial work to get up to speed with the requirements of production in particular, and other related areas of media work.

In other words, you're going to have to do something that you could have done before, and it will use up time and money.

The lack of basic skills in other areas in your career is also costing you job opportunities. You're in a media company, but when someone's wanted to fill in for production work, or whatever, you can't do it. It's costing you experience, too.

Always make sure you have:

  • Good broad based qualifications
  • Skills which can be upgraded easily, without going backwards.

That will give you guaranteed extra opportunities, and definitely extra experience, which is often priceless. You can learn the languages of your career. The dialects of directors, editors, and producers will make sense. You won't be lost in technical details from other areas.

Too many choices?

You may not have enough.

Fighting the unknown frontier on your own terms

Your skill sets are your survival tools.

You can adapt and develop any skills you have to meet circumstances and job and career needs.

You can in fact beat the job market at its own game, by having extra skills, and not being locked in to a particular mode of employment.

It's much healthier for your career, too.

The added perspectives will always be useful, and you won't have to spend time learning as you go in new jobs.

With that sort of professional perspective, you can stay ahead of the unknown frontier's vagaries. You become the expert, not the eternal victim of weird shifts in job market focus, or managerial whims.

Employers value people who provide added capacities, extra knowledge, better judgment and opinions.

A career is built, not just glued together.

Career choices are supposed to be your choices.