Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Profitable Non-College Careers

HVAC technician is one job that isn't going away anytime soon.

Suppose you can't afford college.  What should you do for a job?  Learn a skill - that's a good first start.  And judging by the number of questions I get via Google, a lot of people are thinking along these lines.  Spending $50,000 to study "business" or "literature" or "anthropology" in college, only to end up unemployed, or working at a minimum wage job, seems like such a waste of money.  Spending that time learning a skill - and saving all that student loan money - might be a better alternative.

But what sort of skills?  It is hard to predict, in the future, what jobs will be in highest demand.  But there are several that probably will be pretty robust areas of employment for the foreseeable future:

1.  Computer Technician:  Learning how to repair computers, as well as solve all those pesky problems Windows has, will surely be a job that will be in demand for decades.  If you understand networking, or how to run a server farm, then more power to you.  In many cases, there are lots of jobs that do not require a degree in Computer Engineering in order to succeed.  Knowing how to design a computer is good, but not necessary to understand how to troubleshoot one.  Computer systems are not going away in our lifetime, but will only expand, fairly exponentially, in the near future.

2.  Health Care:  There are a host of jobs, from Nurse, to Nurse Practitioner, to various clerical jobs, related to the health care industry.  As our population ages, the demand for "Senior Care" services will increase as well.

3.  Mechanical Trades:  Plumbers, Electricians, Carpenters, HVAC technicians, and the like, will always be in demand.  Yes, the building boom has dwindled down in recent years.  But there is still a demand for someone who can fix a pipe, wire a house, or repair an air conditioner.

4.  Auto Repair:  Few people these days know how to fix cars properly - even the people at the dealership.  Yet, the demand for cars remains pretty static.  Unless we all go back to walking, chances are, there will always be jobs here.

5. Learn a Language:  Technology not your bag?  More of a liberal arts type?  Learn a language - Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese.  People will pay you cash money if you are bilingual.  And the harder the language, the more they will pay, too.

* * *
These are just a few skill areas that I can come up with, off the top of my head, that will probably be in demand in the foreseeable future.  The key is to knowing something of use to others, not something esoteric, but largely fluff and bullshit.  Yea, education for education's sake is a fine and wonderful thing.  But we all need to support ourselves.  The folks who argue for education as an end in and of itself oftentimes don't need to support themselves - or want others to do it for them.

If you choose not to go to college, that doesn't mean you should not get an education.  Whether it is an apprenticeship with a technical trade, a two-year technical school, getting certified to manage a server farm, or becoming an ASE certified auto mechanic, having some sort of job skill is essential to getting ahead. 

And yet today, many kids can't even type - in an era where being able to communicate via keyboard is key to getting ahead.  I recall telling one youngster the value of having keyboarding skills.  Her response?  "I don't want to be a secretary!" - as if having a skill in one area would sentence you to that job forever.  So instead, she chose not to have any skills at all, which freed her from the danger of getting any of those nasty old jobs!  Last I heard, she was a waitress.   Smart move.

Here's a clue, though: The job of "secretary" largely no longer exists - and people in those white-collar high-paying office jobs are expected to know more than hunt-and-peck.  That is, if you want to communicate and succeed in your job.  You should be able to use a computer - in terms of being able to type, and also be able to fix minor Windows problems as well.  Heck, if you are a kid raised today, there is no reason you should not be familiar with computers!  And yet, many are not.

I can program a computer, fix a car, wire a house, install a toilet, and repair an air conditioner.  And yea, I can type 100 wpm with no sweat.  This does not mean I am sentenced to those jobs, only that I do have options, and more skills means you are more valuable.

One reason many folks refuse to take such jobs is that they feel that any sort of manual labor is "beneath them".  After all, they are cut out for some sort of job, like in the sit-coms on TeeVee, where everyone sits around and makes wisecracks, but never does any actual work.

Yet, in any one of the jobs listed above, you could end up being your own boss and owning your own business - provided you have the talent, will, and dedication to hard work.  And many of the jobs listed above pay far more than many "office drone" jobs that you are far more likely to find, if you pursue the white-collar route.

As I have noted time and time again, many plumbers and electricians make more than young lawyers - an the plumbers and electricians are out on the golf course at 3:30 every day, while the young associate slaves away until 8:00 at night.