For the first time in years, job growth projections aren't entirely dismal, and plenty of people are itching for a new gig. According to one survey, 20% of Americans are looking to change jobs in the next year. Economists are saying that there could be more full-time, high-quality opportunities out there, too. And while you could look for a job in sales or finance or engineering, there are more exciting options—weird new gigs that hardly existed six months ago but that, by this time next year, you won't stop hearing about. Here are seven of the most peculiarly promising new lines of work out there.
A year ago, the ArcView Group, a network of angel investors focused on the cannabis industry, had 25 members. Now, says Troy Dayton, the group's CEO, they've got about 120 high net worth people, who're looking to build what Dayton, a long-time advocate for legalization, likes to call "the next great American industry."
"Everything changed when Washington and Colorado passed legalization in 2012," says Dayton, "but it didn't really, really change until last week."
As of January 1, responsible adults (irresponsible ones, too, most likely) can walk into stores in Colorado and Washington and legally buy pot for recreational use. And there are plenty of entrepreneurs ready to take advantage of these new markets—not just growers and dispensary owners, but purveyors of vending machines, specially composed soil, power pipe cleaners, inventory software, topical creams, and slick accessories. They just need capital.
And there are an increasing number of VC and private equity firms eager to provide it. A few, like ArcView and Privateer Holdings, which is run by Yale School of Management alums, have gotten a jump on the market, but new firms are popping open, too. There's plenty of opportunity to go around: Analyses from both ArcView and Medical Marijuana Business Daily predict that, in the next year, the industry's revenue will at least double.
These days, simply driving a car around can mean being on the entrepreneurial cutting edge, as companies like Uber, Sidecar, and Lyft are making it easy for anyone with a set of wheels to make money playing cabbie. With a new-enough car and some basic preliminary info about the company of choice and the city streets, almost anyone can sign up to start providing rides-on-demand to people who'd rather push a button on an app than call or hail a cab.
Whether this is actually a job is up for debate: Sidecar and Lyft both call the people behind the wheel "community drivers," and Lyft calls the payment for the ride a "donation." But it's possible to drive for UberX—Uber's more casual, and cheaper, service—and make as much (or more) money in a year as a yellow cab driver might. While there's been some disagreement between drivers and Uber whether fare cuts have been good or bad for business, recruits to the UberX ranks reportedly range from a startup founder waiting out a non-compete clause to a transportation engineer with a master's degree, who drives full-time.
The ultimate 2014 driving job, however, could be one that does not involve driving at all—car companies might be eager to show off their newly driver-less cars, but, according to law in test-ground states like Nevada and Michigan, there still needs to be an actual human in the driver's seat.
Dressing up models in dorky tech gear isn't exactly a new gambit. Google Glass first did the rounds at New York Fashion week in 2012, and last year appeared in Vogue's inimitable September issue. But none of it's worked to convince the masses that Glass is cool, exactly, and with a new version coming in 2014, there should be a whole new round of chances for attractive people to give the device a spin. And until someone (okay, Apple) designs a smartwatch that an average person would want to put on, models are the wearables industry's best bet for making their products look good.
Every day, it's looking more certain that the Bitcoin boom is here to stay. Recently a U.K. startup announced it was opening a Bitcoin vault insured by Lloyd's of London, and the inventor of the world's first Bitcoin ATM started negotiating a rental agreement to install it in a New York City bubble tea shop.
With hundreds of cryptocurrencies out there, and a burgeoning number of exchanges, speculation in digital coin has become rampant. At the January 1 opening of the Bitcoin Center of New York—just a few doors down from the New York Stock Exchange—spontaneous trading broke out on the floor. Some early adopters have transitioned to trading full time. One key to cleaning up, says Nick Spanos, a founding member of the new center, is to watch for currencies to jump from less highly esteemed exchanges to a major hub like BTC-e.
If all this sounds appealing, the Bitcoin Center is offering classes in trading digital currency. "Stockbrokers, lawyers, regular people with no job, everyone's coming," says Spanos.
Global economics are, slowly, shifting the logic of outsourcing and bringing factory jobs back to the United States. But this process can be a little complicated. Because of demand from existing customers for made-in-the-USA products, Foxconn, the iPhone-manufacturing company that's become emblematic of grueling factory conditions in China, that it would expand its operations to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
The Harrisburg factory will be Foxconn's largest in the U.S.—but not its first. The company already has outposts in Texas and Indiana. In China, a Foxconn factory might have its own hospital, a series of company-backed stores, and hundreds of thousands of workers, many of whom live in dorms and work more than 60-hour weeks. The Pennsylvania factory will have 500 employees and U.S. labor laws to contend with. And workers will be doing "high-precision" manufacturing—working a different sort of assembly line than their Chinese counterparts.
It's not just Foxconn that's seeing some advantage in American-made goods, either. Other sectors are looking at "onshoring" jobs, and for the first time in a long, long time, the manufacturing picture is looking rosier.
As part of FiveThirtyEight's expansion beyond sports and politics, to include economics, culture, and science, data master Nate Silver hired Andrew Flowers, an analyst for the Atlanta Fed, to be his new site's Quantitative Editor—a job Silver describes as "a cross between an economist, a quant, an editor, and a writer."
There are increasing numbers of journalists who fit this description—numbers people who can write, and whose data-geekdom is championed, rather than siloed. Now the job has a catchy name, and every news organization is going to want one.
The drone industry is optimistic about its economic potential: One industry study predicted that the business of flying unmanned aircraft could create 100,000 jobs in the next decade, and 70,000 just in the first three years in which drone-flying is legal. A pilot could earn as much as $115,000 annually.
First, though, the Federal Aviation Administration needs to be convinced that these things are safe. The agency , from Alaska to Texas to Virginia, where researchers will evaluate risks and develop protocols like standard categories, operator codes, and certification requirements. Making up those rules might sound dull, but it means asking simple, yet mind-boggling questions: How do we organize these small, flying objects? Who gets to fly one? How are we going to keep them from crashing into planes?
The test sites have approval through 2017 to try to find the answers, and, as a bonus, create many, many jobs in places as diverse as upstate New York and North Dakota.