Choosing a college major or a career? The most important thing is to focus on something you would enjoy. Or, at the least, aim for something you believe you would be good at doing.
After you get a good feeling about your personal fit for the job, consider: Is it a dying or stagnant profession, or is the outlook strong for growth?
Looking five years out, new economic modeling by Emsi, a labor analysis firm for Career Builder, suggests that online customer service and hands-on health care are two of the nation's strongest growth fields.
The first area reflects continued evolution to web-based commerce and contact. The second follows the demographic trend of an aging population.
In broad professional strokes, the array provides options. They range from first-time employment where you can be trained on the job to health-related specialties that ask for years of education. They span desk-bound jobs to those demanding intense physical activity.
What stood out for me on Emsi's high-growth list was that many of the growth industries aren't creating jobs in the traditional sense. Rather, a lot of the expected growth is likely to occur in fields that are trending toward contract, or as needed, hiring of independent and freelance workers, not payroll employees who receive employee benefits like paid vacation.
Once you focus on a profession, it's important to research employers in that field. For example, some home health care companies hire payroll employees; others use contract workers who, for example, wouldn't get employer-subsidized health insurance.
The other big thing that hit me about Emsi's list was the range of potential incomes in the high-growth jobs, starting from minimum wage (or nearly as low) to fairly substantial. But the lion's share tend toward the lower end of pay.
Here's the top data, according to percentage job growth expected by 2021:
-- Electronic shopping, 32 percent; translation and interpretation services, 28 percent; offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists and audiologists, 25 percent; home health care services, 24 percent; continuing care retirement communities, 24 percent.
-- Telemarketing and other contact centers, 20 percent; marketing consulting services, 20 percent; environment, conservation and wildlife organizations, 19 percent; computer system design services, 19 percent; nail salons, 19 percent (literally hands on!).
-- Portfolio management, 18 percent; psychiatric and substance abuse facilities, 18 percent; pet care (except veterinary) services, 18 percent; employment placement agencies, 18 percent; administrative management and general management consulting services, 18 percent.
-- Grantmaking foundations, 17 percent; ambulance services, 17 percent; warehouse clubs and supercenters, 17 percent; internet publishing and broadcasting and web search portals, 16 percent; and sports and recreation instruction, 15 percent.
To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to staffordkcstar.com. Follow her online at kansascity.com/workplace and twitter.com/kcstarstafford.