Perhaps you are making a career choice for the first time.
Or, maybe you are already working but have decided to change career fields
altogether. Either way, making a career choice is a serious decision, one which
will certainly impact you for years into the future.
Sure, you want to choose a career about which you are
passionate and excited. Unless you’re already wealthy, you also expect it to
pay the bills and support the lifestyle you want. Unfortunately, many people
stop analyzing their career choice right there. They forget to ask a very
important question. What does the future look like for this field? Of course, nobody
can predict the future with absolute certainty. However, there are resources which
can help you at least make an educated decision.
A Real Example
Years ago, a friend told me he was going to change
careers. Like many people, he had a job but wanted a real career. He
wanted to learn a marketable skill which would serve him for years to
come. In fact, he had already started taking classes at a local college
and seemed to be well on his way. You could see the excitement on his face and
hear it in his voice. Naturally, I asked what field he had chosen.
“Drafting,” he said proudly, “I really like drawing and there will always be a
need for drafting.” I said, “That’s great! Which drafting software will you be
Back at that time, computer-aided design (CAD) drafting
software packages like AutoCAD® and MicroStation® were rapidly
entering the workplace. These then-new tools were quickly becoming the norm for
performing drafting tasks. Computer terminals were replacing drafting tables with
lightning speed. “Oh, I’m not learning any software. Besides, I don’t like
computers,” he said, “I’m learning to do drafting by hand.”
I didn’t want to rain on his parade but knew drafting tables
would soon go the way of dinosaurs and cassette tapes. So, I mentioned
again how CAD was the wave of the future. I suggested that if he learned
CAD, it would be a real opportunity. He could get in on the ground floor of
“No,” he said confidently, “computers will never replace draftsmen. There will always be a need for draftsmen. And, as I said, I don’t like computers.”
Well, as you probably already know, computers and CAD software did indeed replace drafting tables. In the end, his career change did not turn out as he had hoped or expected. I found out later he eventually went to work in a different field entirely. What a shame. All that time, energy, and money spent on training were lost. I am sure the whole experience was a big disappointment to him personally.
Where Did He Go Wrong?
Obviously, he failed to fully scope out the new career field he was pursuing. I doubt he visited firms which hire drafters or asked about the employment prospects for newcomers. A little research would have quickly revealed the role of computers and CAD software in the future of drafting. Even the old term “draftsman” had evolved into the more technical “CAD Operator” or “Drafting Technician.” Plus, since he “didn’t like computers,” he could have learned this was obviously not a wise career move. At least not for him.
How Can You Look Into the Future?
How does someone who is not currently working in a
particular field learn about its expected future prospects? Here are a few
- Contact a few companies and ask if you can visit the department of interest. Talk to people already working in the field.
- Consider “job shadowing,” either with your current employer or another firm. (See the Career Lantern article Job Shadowing Saves Time, Money, and Regret.)
- If you personally know someone working in the field of interest, talk with them. Since they know you, they may give you the “real scoop” on the field (at least as they see it).
- Trade organizations/associations, unions, and credentialing bodies for the field may have information on their websites.
- Colleges or high schools may have data and other resources available about future prospects for various 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 at the U.S. Department of Labor is a great resource and
treasure trove of data. 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
A Closer Look
Back when my friend decided to pursue drafting, I’m sure he
didn’t know about the Occupational
Outlook Handbook. In the days before the internet, this document was probably
something available primarily at the local public library. However, had he used
it, he would have learned about the major changes which were taking place at
that time in the field of drafting.
Fast forward to now. The Occupational Outlook Handbook is readily available online. As an
example of what information one might find for a specific career, let’s stick
with the field of drafting. Suppose someone is looking to enter the
field of drafting today and consults this online resource. What types of things would he or she learn? A
quick search of “drafting” on this website will land us on the following page.
The Summary page
contains a great deal of information. First,
notice the title of the job has been updated to the gender-neutral “Drafter.” What
about the pay for this field? A change in careers is usually made, at least in
part, to seek higher wages. The Median
Pay data is useful in comparing one’s current compensation to that of the
new field. However, remember this number is statistically calculated.
Therefore, actual pay will vary considerably by individual company and
Note an Associate’s degree is the typically expected entry-level
education requirement. The How to Become
One page provides useful information regarding preparing for a career in
The Future Outlook
Check out the Job
Outlook page. The 10-year employment outlook for drafters indicates a 7% increase
from 2016 to 2026. The number of drafting jobs is expected to grow by 14,600
workers over this time period. Note the report goes on to state this increase
is “about as fast as the average for all occupations.” This suggests drafting is not a high-growth
field. According to the information, the expected modest growth is due to a projected
increase in construction. Obviously, any unforeseen downturn in the economy could
adversely impact this expected increase. If that happens, the result might be fewer
job openings in drafting.
But, doesn’t the skill itself required for drafting help provide
some assurance of long-term job growth, stability, or security? No, not
necessarily. The Job Outlook page reveals
something very interesting (I added the highlighting).
In the days before CAD, engineers and architects relied on drafters to create all the drawings and
blueprints. Manual drafting required a degree of artistic skill, a valuable
talent certainly not possessed by everyone. However, according to the
information, CAD technology enables engineers and architects to now do much of
the work themselves. Just click a mouse. Thus, when caught in a financial
pinch, companies could probably get by with fewer drafters.
Here’s the point. When looking at the future of a career,
consider how it is changing and the technology involved. Will these factors
help ensure someone with your skill set will always be needed, or, does it
enable others to easily replace you?
What’s the Future for Your Career
Unlike my friend, you have easy access to career data and
projections. You can get a glimpse of the expected future for your chosen career
field. Yes, it may be only an estimate, but the information can also help
ensure you ask all the right questions. What does the future look like for this
field? How are changes in technology apt to impact it?
Above all, the field you choose needs to be the right fit for you. But, before choosing or changing careers, carefully do your homework using ALL available resources. Talk to people in the field. While helpful, do not rely solely on statistically-derived data which can vary greatly and is subject to change. A field which looks promising one year may appear bleak the next. No information or data are perfect, so there will never be any guarantees. However, by utilizing multiple resources you will be basing your decision on the best information available at the time. After all, that is the most anyone can do.
Agree? Disagree? Share your experience or thoughts?
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Featured image courtesy of Tumisu-Pixabay