Quite a few years ago, a friend told me he was going to change careers. Like many individuals, he had a job, but wanted a career. He wanted to acquire a marketable skill which would serve him for many years to come. In fact, he had already signed up at a local college and taken some classes, and was well on his way.
I was so happy for him! You could just see the excitement in his face and hear it in his voice. Naturally, I asked what field he had decided to pursue. “Drafting,” he said proudly, “I really like drawing and there will always be a need for drafting.”
“Wow, that’s great!” I said, “Which software will you be learning?” At the time, the use of computer-aided design (CAD) drafting software packages like AutoCAD® and MicroStation® were entering workplaces at lightning speed. These new software tools were quickly taking over the task of traditional drafting involving manually drawing at a drafting table. “Oh, I’m not learning any software. Besides, I don’t like computers,” he said, “I’m learning to do drafting by hand.”
My heart sank. Because of my experience with technology, I absolutely knew drafting tables would soon go the way of dinosaurs and cassette tapes. I certainly didn’t want to rain on his parade, but mentioned again how CAD was the wave of the future. If he learned CAD, it would be a real opportunity for him to get in on ground floor of something new.
“No,” he said confidently, “computers will not replace draftsmen. There will always be a need for draftsmen. And, like I said, I don’t like computers.”
Well, as I am sure you already know, CAD did replace drafting tables. In the end, his career change did not turn out as he had hoped or expected. In fact, I later learned he went on to work in a completely different field altogether. What a shame. All that energy, time, and money spent on training was lost, and I am sure the whole thing was a big disappointment to him personally.
Where Did He Go Wrong?
Obviously, he failed to check out the new career field he was pursuing. He did not look at the trends for the field of drafting. He didn’t look into the expected future employment prospects for new draftsmen. I don’t know for sure, but I doubt he visited companies which hire draftsmen and asked them about the outlook for such positions. Had he done even a little research, he would have quickly discovered how computers and software would soon play a major role in this line of work. In fact, the old term “draftsman” had become CAD Operator or Drafting Technician. Being someone “who didn’t like computers,” he would have figured out this was obviously not a wise career move, at least not for him.
How does someone who is not currently working in a particular field learn about the prospects for that field? Here are a few suggestions:
- Contact a few companies and ask if you could possibly visit the area or department of interest at their facilities and talk to the folks there.
- If you know someone working in the area of interest, ask them about the outlook for the field.
- Trade organizations/associations and credentialing bodies for the field may have information on their websites.
- Your college or high school may have informational resources available about different fields.
- Check out the career of interest in the online Occupational Outlook Handbook at the U.S. Department of Labor at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/home.htm/es/ooh/home.htm.
A Great Resource
The Occupational Outlook Handbook on the website of the U.S. Department of Labor is a phenomenal resource and treasure trove of information. Search for your career of interest and the results will provide you with valuable information such as:
- Median Pay Rate
- Typical Entry-Level Education Required
- Work Experience Required
- Additional On-the-job Training Needed
- Number of Jobs
- Job Outlook
- Upcoming Employment Change Expected
Suppose this resource had been available to my friend discussed earlier. A quick search of “drafting” on this website today would have shown him the following:
The Summary page contains a great deal of information about “Drafters” (no longer “draftsman”). Since a change in careers is usually undertaken, at least in part, to seek higher wages, he could look at the Median Pay information and see how that compares to his current compensation. Also, this site indicates an Associate’s degree is the typically expected entry-level education requirement. He could look at whether the educational program he is considering at the local college awards an actual degree, or just a certificate of completion.
Notice the 10-year employment outlook for drafters on this website indicates a 3% decline. Therefore, the number of jobs in this field is actually expected to shrink, not grow. In that case, perhaps this field does not represent as much of a great opportunity for a newcomer as he had originally thought. Why would a decrease in the need for drafters be expected? If he looked at the Job Outlook page, he would find (I added the highlighting):
It turns out, according to the information, CAD enables engineers and architects – who previously relied on drafters to manually create drawings and blueprints – to now just quickly perform such tasks themselves. Unfortunately, this probably means companies can get by with fewer drafters.
Also, when he looked at the What They Do page, he would have seen the following (again, I added the highlighting):
Clearly, the information states that drafters use CAD software to perform their jobs. Since he is admittedly not a “computer person” this should be something of a red flag for him.
The Moral of the Story
Before choosing a career or preparing to change careers, do your homework. Obviously, first of all, the field needs to be the right fit for you. However, many other factors may impact whether or not the grass is actually greener in the new line of work. While data and other information are never perfect and offer no guarantees, at least you can make your plans with your eyes wide open, basing your decisions on the best information available at the time.
Agree? Disagree? Share your experience or thoughts?
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Featured image courtesy of Impact Hub Global Network – flickr