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Careers: Forget the Laws of Supply and Demand

It’s no joke: there really are too many lawyers. And there are too few nurses and accountants. At least, that’s the employment outlook this year.

It’s no joke: there really are too many lawyers. And there are too few nurses and accountants. At least, that’s the employment outlook this year.

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What if you could glimpse the future and foresee low demand for your skills in 2012? Would you change careers based on that data or would you continue to chase your dream?

Most of us would pursue our passion – after all, we only get one shot at life. Still, amid an oversupply of lawyers (was it ever otherwise?), many of whom are struggling to pay off six-figure law school debts, you have to wonder shouldn’t they have seen this coming?

The trouble is most of us lack “visibility” into both the supply & demand sides of our chosen profession. Either that or – and this is my theory – no one pays attention to job forecasts anyway.

Why? A friend of mine who handles public relations for several financial services firms calls this rationale “The bigger fool theory. You can get a job even if the other guy won’t,” he explains.

Perhaps he is right, but are there sufficient, credible sources of job forecasting data? I searched the web and found a few associations that forecast job demand for specific industries. Most of these studies forecast one year ahead – not much use if you’re in the career planning stage. (If you have sources you trust for specific industries, let us know.)

Fortunately, there is a notable exception, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, which is both free and searchable. The online report contains valuable insights about the fastest growing occupations and goes in-depth with information about specific careers such as:

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  • the training and education needed
  • earnings
  • expected job prospects (demand forecast)
  • what workers do on the job
  • working conditions

BLS job forecasts also include projections by zip code, which is nice if you can wade through that much data. Of course, these facts and figures exclude intangibles such as quality of life or your career connections.

Is there a handbook that can tell you whether it is better to launch your web production or teaching career in Austin or Dallas? I haven’t found one, but if you didn’t want to live someplace, the odds are you would discount the study’s conclusions anyway – that’s human nature.

Even though we are better off knowing the outlook for our chosen profession, for better or worse, most of us wouldn’t change a thing.

Rusty Weston, My Global Career • San Francisco, Ca • http://www.myglobalcareer.com

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