The era of counting on your boss, your company, or even on your government to guarantee your job for you is over. And while to some that might be a scary proposition, it can also lead to opportunity–the opportunity to never be out of work again.
No matter if you’re just starting out, still trying to choose a career path, or thinking of changing careers after decades in the workforce, all it takes is a slight change in how you approach the job market and how you view your place in it–plus some planning–to put you on the path to lifetime employment security.
Not so long ago, the common path was to pick a profession, train for it, and then, when it was time to get a job, apply to companies that were hiring in that field. But as we all know, disruptions from economics, competition, and innovation can turn that formerly effective strategy into a losing one — and those disruptions have become more and more frequent.
Those who lost their jobs due to a rapidly changing economy were often unable to find new one because their skill sets were either too common — like those of a salesman or an accountant — or were too specific to the industry that had just laid them off. It left most of the population dependent on forces over which they had no control for their continuing employment.
Of course, that’s no longer the case.
Nowadays, if you want to ensure your personal economic stability, it’s best to identify macro trends, then go out and acquire the skills that will allow you to capitalize on those trends.
A macro trend is one that is widespread and that will continue for a long time–in some cases for a generation or more–and is not easily changed. The best way to think of a macro trend is like an aircraft carrier, which, once put in motion, takes a long time to slow down, stop, turn around, and change direction.
A skill set that’s in sync with a macro trend isn’t tied to any company or industry and is almost impervious to fluctuations in the overall economy. For example, America’s population is aging as baby boomers enter their retirement years. That’s a macro trend. One of the side effects of this is that more people are going to need knees, shoulders, and hips replaced. This bodes well for the field of orthopedic surgery, and doctors who specialize in orthopedics should be in high demand for the next few decades, at least.
However for most of us, becoming an orthopedic surgeon isn’t a viable option. So what other macro trends are forming where there might be more realistic opportunities?
How about technology?
Technology is no longer limited to certain industries; almost every industry today is seeing technology come into it in one form or another. Take the automotive industry, for example.
Step into a Tesla, close the door, start it up, and you’ll feel like you’re inside a giant laptop with wheels. All the driver settings, navigation, and much of its mechanics are controlled by software written with programming code. What if you learned to write code?
The coding skill set is in demand, across all industries, and it’s only going to grow over the next 20 to 30 years. And it pays well. The average base pay for a Google (GOOG) programmer is $128,000 a year.
What about another macro trend?
Last year, China became the largest trading nation in the world, surpassing the United States for the top spot. They have over a billion people who are just starting to transition their economy from isolationist to capitalist — a trend that should last for generations to come.
As more and more U.S. and international companies establish relationships with China, the need for those who can speak the language and work within the culture will only grow. What if you learned Mandarin Chinese?
Of course, nothing worthwhile comes without a cost — and there are no shortcuts. You’ll have to invest time and energy in acquiring your macro skills. But technology has made it so that the time you focus on learning can be flexible and cost-effective.
Got a full-time job in a dead or dying profession that you need to pay the bills? No problem. Find a couple of hours a day — say, before work or in lieu of late-night TV — and visit Codeacademy, where you can learn to code — interactively — free.
Want to get serious about Mandarin? Set aside some time each day to take any number of online courses or attend ones at your local college extension.
The point is, those who cling to outdated ideas of traditional employment will continue to be at a disadvantage in the workforce. But those who can think differently about their jobs and embrace macro trends will, perhaps for the first time in history, have more control over their economic fate than has ever been possible.
No man is an island, or even a peninsula, so I encourage your feedback in the comments below. I also want to hear what else you’d like me to write about, so please let me know either by connecting with me on Twitter or via email.