Hot Career Trends for 2008

Opportunities abound in these insecure times -- if you know where to look.

Times are going to get tougher. But as the saying goes, in crisis, there is opportunity. Here are those I see most likely in 2008.

From Adventure Nation to Caution Nation

We've been a nation of cowboys, from Buffalo Bill to George Bush. But having been gored in Iraq, America will be pulling in its reins. Unless there's a significant terrorist attack on U.S. soil, government jobs will be less plentiful in defense and greater in domestic programs.

Americans will also grow more cautious because of our overtaxed health care system. Errors by health-care providers cause an estimated 100,000 deaths each year according to the Institute of Medicine, a division of the National Academy of Sciences. And if a Democrat is elected president this year, the 47 million uninsured residents will likely have to be served by that already overwhelmed system. People scared of a government-run health care system will turn to fee-for-service clinics in malls and boutique doctors. They will also be more likely to eat healthy, exercise, and utilize the Internet for self-care information. Job growth should be strong in those areas, as well as in a government health care system.

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From Consuming to Conserving

People won't be able to consume even if they wanted to: More experts are predicting a U.S. recession along with further decline in the dollar's value. Americans' home equity is declining and their debt is climbing -- at the same time that more jobs are part-timed, temped or offshored. Gartner, a global consulting firm, predicts 40% more offshoring in 2008. Even jobs requiring innovation and creativity -- which long have been touted as offshore-resistant, are no longer so safe as Asian universities now focus on creating a more innovative next generation.

Good news. Remaining are a good number of offshore-resistant careers with high job satisfaction and good job market outlook, for example, optometrist, hair stylist, biomedical equipment repairperson, clergyperson and firefighter.

Even if people could spend big, many are realizing they're unlikely to shop their way to contentment. Instead, they're believing that the life well-led comes less from designer labels than from a spiritual practice, whether it be environmentalism, traditional religion, or non-church-based spirituality such as yoga or meditation. Jobs should grow in spirituality-related endeavors such as life coaching and yoga instruction.

Jobs related to the environment should also see a boost in 2008, from ecotourism to fuel-cell research. However, I predict that after a big run-up in spending in 2008, subsequent spending to stop global warming will be lower than has elsewhere been predicted. A growing group of scientists, including Richard Lindzen, MIT's Alfred Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, are skeptical that global warming is worth fighting. Plus, while it was easy to embrace the concept of environmental living, when the public starts to realize its financial and quality-of-life costs weighed against the uncertain benefits and the other uses to which the money could be spent, companies, governments, and individuals will start to cut back their climate-change spending.

From Corporate-Driven to Government-Driven

A study by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget projects that government spending will rise from 19% of GDP in 2002 to 40% in 2075. The takeaway: consider a career in government. Not only will hiring be strong, government work may offer the best deal for non-stars: job security, lots of holiday, sick, and vacation days, full benefits and retirement, plus salaries that compare ever better with the private sector. (See Should You Work for Uncle Sam?) Companies, to survive in the global economy, must control costs. Government is under less such pressure.

From High Tech to Clean Tech and Biotech

Of course, high tech isn't going away, just ceding its preeminence to clean tech and biotech. Three decades of basic biotech research is finally yielding clinical applications: one-size-fits-all diagnosis and treatment will soon give way to individualized approaches based on your genome. (You can now decode much of your personal genome for under $1,000. Just a few years ago, it cost $1 million).

Consider a career in the growing biotech industry even if you're no science whiz. Like all companies, biotech firms hire a wide range of employees from human resource managers to accountants to regulatory affairs coordinators -- and yes, lots of techies.

From Homogeny to Diversity

Indeed, demography is destiny, and the Latino and Islamic population is growing rapidly in the U.S. This will create large job growth for Islamic and Latino language and culture experts who will be used in developing and marketing products and services for these segments, and in the government sector, especially in health care, education and criminal justice.

From Expert-Focused to Citizen-Focused

Even major media such as CNN and Fox News are increasingly airing citizen journalists' blog posts, photos and video clips. The staff writer is becoming an endangered species, as media outlets increasingly use freelancers. Even the content expert can't count on getting paid well. The power of crowds often yields higher-quality information on Wikis such as Wikipedia than is typically found in magazine and Web stories. That means journalism, never a sure route to a middle-class living, is becoming ever riskier.

From Live to "E"

Of course, in commerce, the electronic trend has been accelerating for a decade, but now, ever more people are shopping online. Sure, it may be pleasant to feel the fabric but gas prices, traffic, parking, limited choices, lack of good advice and difficult price-comparison usually make online shopping a smarter choice.

How to capitalize? Get a job at a category-killer online business, for example, Blue Nile in wedding rings, or Amazon in, well, just about everything else. Or, go for the long tail: Start an online business in a tiny niche ignored by nearly everyone else, for example, peacocks or first-edition Elizabethan books. Wal-Mart won't be competing with you.

The move to "e" goes beyond commerce. As Facebook and LinkedIn continue to grow, more social and business networking will occur online. And ever-extending WiFi and mobile videoconferencing will make more businesses decide to hold meetings virtually. Too, groups of friends will use mobile videoconferencing as a way to hang out virtually. Job growth should be strong in companies involved in WiMax (extends wireless connections beyond hotspots) and videophone companies such as Apple, Nokia, RIM (Blackberry), Samsung and Verizon.

From Retirees to Elder Workers

Because they can't afford to or because they want to feel useful, more people in their 60s and 70s want to keep working, at least part-time. Because they've been working so long, much of which in an era in which most jobs were full-time/benefited, this group has considerable disposable income.

Job growth should be good in creating recreational and aging-related products, for example, time shares, elder housing, home retrofitting and long-term care insurance.

Marty Nemko (bio) is a career coach and author of Cool Careers for Dummies.

Marty Nemko
Contributing Columnist,