Ahead-of-the-Curve Careers

On 02/01/2010, in Career, Formal Education, by Jordan Wilson

US News & World Report has an Ahead-of-the-Curve Career article.

After reading it, here are a few thoughts of my own.


Careers related to healthcare should be strong. In part, due to the points US News makes. But also due to simple demographics. Most of the developed world is, on average, getting older. There are less young people and more elderly. Combined with better healthcare, there are more seniors and they are living longer.

Besides traditional healthcare careers, consider fields that will benefit from these trends. Retirement planning is one area. Also, tax, investment, and estate planning. With longer lives, people will need to better manage their assets. Industries that can assist in their efforts will prosper.

Lifestyle and leisure is another area that should do well. People used to work until 65 and then die by 70. Today, people are retiring earlier and living much later. In 1985, the US life expectancy was 74.7 years. In 2009, it had climbed to 77.7 years.

One can only play so much shuffleboard. There should be growth in jobs relating to active lifestyles. Sports, travel, education, restaurants; anything that can be done for fun by the elderly may do well.

Given that money may be an issue for many retirees, look at areas where one can get a lot of value for the dollar. Many cannot afford the golf courses or taking expensive cruises. Businesses that provide low cost activities will have an edge for customers.

If health and mobility are issues, activities that can be done from the comfort of home might be popular. Netflix, internet television, distance learning programs are a few examples.

Digitized World

I would emphasize the aging point I made above. Applications and technologies that are aimed at retirees should be popular.

Look at Amazon. Initially, Amazon sold books. Today, if you live in the US, you can buy almost everything you need through them. Amazon will even automatically deliver groceries to your home on a regular basis. I have read many glowing reviews from elderly and handicapped customers for this service.

If you can identify digital applications that save people time, money, or better their lives you will have a chance to succeed.

I would also like you to consider complementary businesses in this area. Who is a big beneficiary of Amazon? In my area, UPS. Those Amazon packages need to be delivered and UPS does much of the handling. Not a digital company, but one whose profitability is increasingly linked to digital companies.

You can also consider providing content for the digital world. As independent contractors, many iPhone App developers earn significant compensation from their work. $1.99 an App may not seem like much, but when it is downloaded a million times, the profits add up.


Language teachers and cultural advisors should be in demand. More companies are employing language teachers to teach staff. Companies have direct control over the programs and can tailor instruction for the specific business.

Different countries have different cultures. What works in one location may not work in another. Companies are hiring workers with a strong understanding of the culture in the target market to make inroads.

An old, but good, example involves the car maker, Chevrolet. They sold a popular model, the Chevy Nova. Unfortunately, the marketing of the Nova did not go very well in countries where Spanish is the norm. You see, in Spanish, “no va” means “no go”. Not something one wants in a car.

People with practical experience and technical training in other environments will also be desired. While international accounting, finance, law, and general business practices continue to harmonize there are still significant differences in every country.

Some countries use common law, others civil. Reconciling those two can be trying. This is why there are so many UK lawyers doing trust work in Switzerland.

Tax is another field where each country is different.

Generalist knowledge, combined with practical experience, is also useful. One cannot be an expert in the specific laws of every country but often there are commonalities. If you develop a strong technical expertise in a field and can gain some practical experience in a few locations, you will be a desired employee.

In Switzerland, my units possessed strong general expertise. Then we worked closely with tax and legal experts in multiple countries to ensure clients and product offerings were legal and tax compliant. The ability to understand the principles and coordinate the process was important.

Globalization is fine, but you need to also consider the demographic patterns within. For example, with the growth of Islam around the world, there are now numerous Sharia (i.e the law of Islam) compliant products in international banking.

As companies attempt to meet the needs of specific client categories, there will be a need to develop unique and relevant products and services. Workers with expertise in these growing demographic sub-sectors will be in demand.

Topical Issues

The environment, terrorism, biotechnology, and other issues will gain and lose popularity over time. When I was young, the world was going to freeze, the growth in population could not be sustained, and oil would run out in 20 years. None of it happened.

There are careers to be found in trendy sectors. Just be careful that it is a sector that will be around long enough for your work years.


Within any profession that you wish to enter, there will be areas that have more opportunities and areas that are in decline. I would be less concerned with the profession itself and more focussed on the specialization within.

In Japan, a country with an aging population and not many new births, becoming a doctor might still be a profitable career. But there will be much more potential if your speciality is geriatrics and not obstetrics.

Determining where the trends are is not a difficult thing to do. Follow the news, discuss the issue with teachers and people in the industry, or even just perform a Google search.

In a subsequent post, I shall discuss ways to develop the expertise and experience necessary to become someone that is in demand.

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