Morphing to Meet Available Jobs

“If you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.” Folk-rocker Stephen Stills was of course writing about a long-distance romance in his 1970 classic. But as I was thinking about the job market, specifically how it applied to Carolyn and so many like her, it popped into my mind.

If you look at the trends in hiring over the past few years, you’ll see that the same fields show up over and over again. Technology. Education. Healthcare. Of course, there may be other industries booming specifically in your local area. The oil boom in North Dakota, for example, has meant opportunities for folks in everything from retailing to residential real estate. I’m sure even dentists and dog walkers there have seen their profits grow. What this means for the rest of us – who, like Carolyn, don’t live in states or cities undergoing their own personal gold rushes – is that a little personal creativity is in order when it comes to job hunting. Here, a few suggestions.

Ask: How Can My Skills Be Applied Where There Are Jobs? Carolyn did precisely that. She took a look at her skills – design – and where the jobs were – healthcare – and “fell into hospital design.” Many of us have skills that, while they fit neatly into the boxes for which they were created: lawyers at law firms, accountants at accounting firms, etc, could be molded to serve the needs of other industries. If you’re a good writer, for instance, with a background in journalism or blogging, could you put those skills to use writing the in-house newsletter for a technology company? Could you do a 90 degree turn and pitch the work that tech company is doing to journalists with a job in the pr department? If you have a background in sales, could you learn enough about a new, growing industry (continuing care communities, perhaps) to do sales or marketing for them?

Ask: Could My Disparate Background, In Fact, Be A Selling Point? When I was a few years out of college, I found myself unable to get the jobs I wanted. I wanted to work for a major business magazine, but I was coming from a women’s magazine and didn’t have the business chops the editors were looking for. In the meantime, I needed a paycheck. On a bit of a lark, I decided to apply for a job in equity research on Wall Street. My logic was this: As a journalist, trying to write business stories, I relied on research reports that came out of investment banks about the future prospects of various companies and industries. Maybe the analysts who wrote those reports would find it handy to have an actual writer around. I wrote something to that effect in the somewhat brazen cover letters I sent to pretty much every firm in town. But it worked. I got a couple of offers within a couple of weeks. (I was also able to gain the business chops that helped me land at Forbes magazine a few years later.) Did I really know what I was doing at the time? Not exactly. But a little bit of fake-it-til-you-make-it bluster can be a very valuable thing.

Ask: Even If This Isn’t Perfect, Is It Perfect Enough? Sometimes, it pays to wait until you find the job you know is exactly right. But not in this job market. In this job market when something comes along that comes pretty close to enabling you to check off most of your boxes, you should think about saying yes. In fact, that’s not just a good philosophy for job hunting, it’s a good philosophy for life. Barry Schwartz of Swarthmore College has done considerable research about people who find the most satisfaction in life. He finds that people who can’t stop searching for perfection – not just the perfect job, but the perfect mattress, perfect restaurant, perfect big screen tv – are perennially underwhelmed with the choices they eventually make. Those who can find satisfaction with the “good enough” as he calls it are much happier overall.

Jean Chatzky

About Jean Chatzky

Jean Chatzky, the financial editor for NBC’s TODAY show, is an award-winning personal finance journalist, AARP’s personal finance ambassador, and a contributing editor for Fortune magazine. Jean is a best-selling author; her eighth and most recent book is Money Rules: The Simple Path to Lifelong Security. She believes knowing how to manage our money is one of the most important life skills for people at every age and has made it her mission to help simplify money matters, increasing financial literacy both now and for the future. In April 2013 Jean launched Jean Chatzky's Money School , a series of college-style, interactive online personal finance courses that give men and women across the country the opportunity to learn from and interact directly with her. Jean lives with her family in Westchester County, New York.
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