Today's red-hot, "I'm sure to get a job in it" industry can easily be tomorrow's deserted career wasteland. Ask any of the thousands of Americans who switched to the information technology field in the '90s solely because it was the booming industry of the moment.
"Have we learned nothing from the dotcom hallucination?" asks Bill Treasurer, author of Right Risk: 10 Powerful Principles for Taking Giant Leaps with Your Life and president of Giant Leap Consulting, an organizational development company in Decatur, Georgia. "Workers continue to hop on the bandwagon and head to the gold rush -- only to find that the gold is done gone."
When your primary reason for switching careers is to go where the money and opportunity seem to be at the time, "the dangers are high," he warns.
Several of today's hot fields happen to be in healthcare -- nursing, pharmacy, medical laboratory technology and radiography, for example. Maybe you're tempted to pursue one of those fields simply because it looks like a sure thing. But be careful: There's more than the job market to think about. Ask yourself these critical questions as well:
Why Is It Hot? Will It Stay Hot?
It's possible a field is hot because there's an employee shortage stemming from high turnover, poor working conditions or other ongoing, unresolved issues, says former career counselor Kenneth McGhee, a financial aid specialist at Northern Illinois University.
You've got to think critically about how long the field will remain hot and why, says McGhee.
"An example would be the trend toward training certified nursing assistants to do basic LPN, RN, respiratory therapist, physical therapist assistant and occupational therapist assistant duties," says McGhee. "Short-term courses, usually at a local community college, are used for this purpose. If this continues, and with CNAs making less money per hour, how long will other health professions stay hot?"
What's Necessary to Succeed?
"If you're a technical writer and you decide to go into nursing, do you have the skills and desire to deal with doctors, patients, families and a myriad of other healthcare people on a daily basis?" asks William Schaffer, a career counselor in Silicon Valley and author of High-Tech Careers for Low-Tech People. "What if you're a highly skilled software engineer and your new job will require you to report to someone you consider to be your educational inferior? These problems can be licked, but you've got to be aware they exist up-front, especially before you spend time and money re-educating yourself.
What's the Inside Scoop?
It's one thing to simply read about a hot career, such as by checking out Monster's Career Snapshots, but you can't stop there if you want an accurate picture of it. You need inside information from people actually working in the industry.
Who do you know who has succeeded in the field? What appeals to you about the work they do each day?
"Have you booked a time to work with or shadow this person who is doing what you say you want to do?" asks John O'Connor, president of Career Pro, a career transition firm in Raleigh, North Carolina. "If this is a career/life decision, wouldn't it be worth taking one day out of your life before you invest your time into going for this career and making this big change?"
Be Brutally Honest
"If you enjoy working with people and don't mind a job that can be very stressful at times, well, then nursing is great," says Valerie Sejko, director of career services for the Hamden and Shelton campuses of New England Technical Institute in Connecticut, which offers a perioperative nursing training program. "But what if you dislike working with people? No matter how hot nursing is, you'll never be happy in it. And you'll probably be a really bad nurse, too."
According to Barbara Moses, president of Toronto-based BBM Human Resource Consultants and author of What Next? The Complete Guide to Taking Control of Your Working Life, people trying to second-guess the job market are playing a futile game.
"They'll never beat it, and they'll become unhappy in the process," she says.
Articles in This Feature: