Cool Careers in any Economy: A Conversation with Marty Nemko

By Maureen Nelson

I recently sat down with Dr. Marty Nemko, whom U.S. News called, “career coach extraordinaire.” He is author of 1,000 articles and six books, including Cool Careers for Dummies, now in its third edition. In this first of a multi-part interview, I pick Marty’s brain about how counselors can better help clients find cool careers — even in a poor economy.


You try to help people come up with under-the-radar careers, where there’s much less competition. Where do you get your inspiration?

I’m always scanning: C-Span, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, Fox, The New York Times, The Economist, etc. Also, my readers and listeners email me articles from all over the Net — for which I’m very grateful. When I do three-minute career makeovers at cocktail parties, I learn as much as I teach.


When I’m working with clients, I dredge up things I read or heard and combine them with the client’s skills, limitations and preferences to amalgamate them into career ideas. But I also keep in mind a few core megatrends and ask myself, “What follows from this?” For instance, the struggling U.S. economy indicates increased need for bill collectors. The prominence of China and India in the global economy suggests that an employer might be impressed with a description of how you fit into (or could even create) a China or India strategy for their company.


How can people more easily become aware of under-the-radar careers?

Look in the index of the Yellow Pages. It’s a list of most businesses that exist — 30 pages of a million different options. Or peruse the Occupational Outlook Handbook – it includes detailed profiles of the 250+ most popular careers. Or keyword-search, by zip code, job listings on Indeed.com. There are half a million jobs on Indeed alone. SimplyHired has another three million. Linkup.com, another couple of million.


What trends do you see now and what occupations do they imply?







What about the “hot” careers like green jobs, mobile applications and social media?

I’m not as bullish on those as you might think. A problem with “hot” careers is that by the time a person is trained for them, they might not be “hot” anymore. And because there’s so much competition around a popular career, it’s very hard to land a job. Also, many hot fields, for example, mobile apps and social media will likely experience a shakeout; all but the best (or at least the biggest) companies will go away, as was the case in the video game industry.  Of course, there are areas within green/cleantech that are likely to grow, for example, “collaborative consumption.” It uses the Internet to share and barter things — like Couchsurfing.com, ZipCar.com, and Freecycle.org. Website creators, graphic designers, marketers, customer service and business development people will all be needed for collaborative consumption companies.


How can career counselors support clients in their career exploration?

Become an expert in using Google — then teach your clients. It has so much information; it’s free; and it’s available 24/7. Be an expert on coming up with search terms, how to combine them (“and/or/not”) and sifting results. Then help clients to do it for themselves.


For those who aren’t familiar with the book, how is Cool Careers for Dummies organized?

I tried to make it a virtual career counselor. The first section consists of one-paragraph, enjoyable-to-read introductions to 500 careers (including a lot of under-the-radar ones), organized by whether they involve working with data, information, things or people (or some combination). That section helps you figure out what you might do “when you grow up”, even if you’re very grown up. The second section is on how to land a job, plus a section on self-employment. The last section is on how to make the most of your job. Often, the key to success is not whether you’re in the right career but whether you make the most of the job you’re in. That section also contains approaches to overcoming procrastination, how to be a leader, and so on — things to help you be more effective in life.


If you were revising the book today, what new advice would you give job seekers?

Because government has finally decided to try to get their deficit under control, there have recently been short-term cuts in government jobs, but I believe the long-term trend of government growing will likely resume. Also, except for star employees, government is becoming the last bastion of fully benefited, relatively secure jobs. So in a new edition of Cool Careers for Dummies, I’d add more careers in government and talk about how to land a job with a government contractor or become one.


In the next installment, we’ll learn what advice Marty Nemko has for new career counselors, college counselors and high school counselors.


Maureen NelsonMaureen Nelson, M.A., GCDF, CPRW is Manager of Adult Career Services at the Oakland Private Industry Council, which runs Oakland's One Stop Career Center. She is an instructor in the Global Career Development Facilitator program and runs a private practice where she specializes in creatives and technologists. She can be reached at mpn@dorsey.org or at www.maureennelsoncareercoach.com.

Printer-Friendly Version