Job Feast Or Famine?

Unemployment rates are down, job creation is up. In the wake of an election year, job prospects always look good, but is this the calm before the storm? What career opportunities really lie ahead?

the challenge of varied assignments, exposure to various employment options before committing to full-time employment, and a desire to expand their skills, which is most important today.

A field like engineering is flourishing precisely because it prepares people to do a variety of things. Computer engineering and systems analysis will be among the fastest-growing occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The need for technical professionals will grow clearly through the year 2010. This field prepares you for many fields,” says Charles Walker, executive director of the National Society of Black Engineers. He added that all areas of engineering are overlapping into disciplines ranging from sales to law. “People with this technical edge bring to a company that edge,” says Walker. Currently, only 3.4% of the nation’s engineers are African American.

While the technical fields presently provide unlimited opportunities, traditional occupations, like typists and administrative assistants, will change over the next few years due to more challenging job requirements. Also, people with lower than average educational attainment will continue to have difficulty finding higher-paying jobs. “Executive assistants will always be needed, but in a different way,” says Cruise. These people will need to constantly expand their skills to include areas they never previously dealt with, like problem
-solving and becoming multi-tasked.

The long-standing attacks on affirmative action programs, as highlighted by California’s Proposition 209, are adding fuel to the fire of an uncertain job market. “Many people believe affirmative action means hiring unqualified people over those who are qualified. Nothing could be further from the truth,” says Dolores Cole of West Group Consulting and Training in Marino Valley, California. These programs essentially measure the effectiveness of equal opportunity laws that prohibit discrimination. “Most California private sector employers stayed out of the Prop. 209 fray, recognizing that the state is largely multicultural and that it behooves them to have a representative workforce,” explains Cole.

Despite some gloomy job market projections, many students still remain optimistic about their futures, according to a recent Graduate Management Admission Council Gallup poll. The poll shows that nearly two- thirds of college seniors expect they’ll have a higher standard of living than their parents in 20 years. However, it also showed women to be a little less optimistic than men, often expecting the glass ceiling to limit their career opportunities.

For new graduates, “The heavy weight of the Baby Boomers is ahead of them, clogging the career pipelines,” says Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld, director of the Center for Leadership & Career Studies at Emory University in Atlanta. Since the population is living longer, it won’t be as easy as it used to be for new graduates to find work right after school. Sonnenfeld suggests that grads look into the technology and service fields due to their low-entry barriers. He also offers the following tips for, graduates entering the work world:

  • Learn the difference between individual accountability and teamwork.
  • Develop at least two areas of expertise.
  • Market yourself. Don’t assume people know what your talents are. “Good work only speaks for itself,”
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