Many people struggle too hard to pick their career. They spend years of angst waiting on the sidelines for the magically perfect career to descend like manna from heaven.
Here's a more likely path to career contentment:
- Pick what feels best, even if doesn't yield ecstasy. Passion usually comes after you've done the items below.
- Get good training. (Tip: Getting mentored and trained on the job is underrated and more often possible than you may think.)
- Do a thorough job search so you get multiple job offers and thus can choose the best one.
- Tweak the job description to match your strengths.
That said, here are a few careers that many people find rewarding and which promise a decent job market for the foreseeable future:
Optometrist: high earnings, good status, high success rate with patients, regular hours. Training: four years post-bachelors or a seven-year BS/OD program.
Terrorism prevention: biochemical, cyber, conventional. Yes, opportunities are best for PhD-level scientists but social science analysts are needed with expertise in Middle Eastern and home-grown terrorism.
Immigration. Odds are that President Obama will get reelected, and he has promised to make amnesty/comprehensive immigration reform top-priority. Thousands of government workers will be needed to process citizenship applications, teach courses to prepare immigrants for the citizenship exam, etc.
Accountant. Dodd-Frank, Sarbanes-Oxley, and President Obama's promise (threat?) to increase IRS funding suggest a robust market for accountants, especially auditors. Perhaps even more plentiful will be jobs for health care accountants. ObamaCare has been called a full-employment act for accountants.
All things Muslim. We hear a lot about the U.S.'s burgeoning Latino population but close behind are Muslims: from conversion, immigration, and a high birth rate. As all ethnic and religious groups, Muslims have preferred services and products. For example, Muslim women will not disrobe before a male health care provider, so there's a great need for Arabic-and Farsi-speaking female health care providers. An under-the-radar product example: Muslims are fond of goat meat and their religion requires animals to be slaughtered using a special method. So Halal goat farming may be a viable U.S career.
Simple, cloneable self-employment: Look at successful retailers of a simple product: shoeshine stand, flower cart, gourmet food truck, etc.. Incorporate their best features into your version of that business. When your first store is running well, clone it. That approach is a more likely path to self-employment success than to follow the MBA principles of: choosing a field with high barrier to entry, innovate, and go national fast. My motto: Don't innovate; replicate.
Or here are a few of my favorite low-cost self-employment service businesses: help people create their match.com profiles and photos. College financial aid counseling. Convert cluttered basements and attics into clean, shelf-rich spaces.
A word about following your passion. Most people's passions fall into just a few categories: the environment, entertainment, fashion, nonprofit work, and creative work. Supply-demand means that it will be tough to make a living in those fields unless you're very talented, well-connected, and/or lucky, ideally all three. You're more likely to make decent money and be treated well in a less crowded field. I'm a big fan of doing what you love...as a hobby.