Trends come and trends go, quicker than you can adapt (or should).

Bad job market

This is a guest post by Marshall Karp.

The California Gold Rush began in 1848 and ended in 1855. The news of gold brought some 300,000 people to California from the rest of the United States and abroad.

At the end, latecomers, on their way west, met with would-be miners on their way back east. These had spent everything they owned in an attempt to get rich in the western gold fields, but had found only dashed hopes and broken dreams.


Many people choose careers to train for and job hunt for many different reasons, but this article will focus on those who wish to enter careers based on trends.

For definition, a trend is a general course or direction and has a beginning, middle, and an end. There are genuine long term trends that can be charted over the course of history and short-lived, fast-growing and fast-dying trends. Job seekers and career changers need to be aware of the pros and cons of using career trends for the future. Just a starting-off word of advice though, never base a career decision on trends.

Five Decades of Career Trend Chasing

The following is based on historical research and my personal life experience.

Starting in the 60’s and moving forward to present day America, the national trends, position and educational demands, and national percentage of college graduates are as follows:

1960s – The United States was in a Cold War and a Space Race to the moon with the Russians and the government and media put out notice for the need and recruitment of Scientists, Mathematicians, and Engineers. The U.S. Census data says that about 8% of the population had a college degree in 1960 and this grew to 11% by 1970.

1970s – The United States had its first green energy crisis with the first of the long gasoline lines and dire predictions of end of consumable energy life. Solar, wind, and new fuel sources were led to green career demand for Scientists, Chemists, and Engineers. By the end of the decade, college graduates made up 16% of the population.

1980s – There was a huge teacher shortage with the government and media spreading the word that the United States needed teachers. Many people went to school and returned to school for their teaching degrees as the law of supply and demand kicked in with teacher’s salaries and benefits starting to rise. By the end of the decade, 20% of the population was college graduates.

1990s – New computer and technology ruled the decade and with genuine concern and fear towards the end of the decade was Y2K, when all this automation would come crashing down. People went to school for computer techs and computer programming careers. When Y2K happened, or should I say did not happen, 24% of the U.S. was college grads.

Early 2000s – The Internet, telecommuting, and Dot Coms ruled the day. Computer techs and programmers were in high demand and jobs were good and plentiful as companies with vision jumped on the internet bandwagon. This was a golden age of technology as people, who maybe knew a little about computers, were perceived as knowing a lot about computers. Also, security and cyber security were huge career field draws with the tragic 9/11 events.

Mid 2000s – Along with computer technology came healthcare technology. Advances in medicine and lifesaving science grew to the point of a similar announcement like the 80’s crisis demand for teachers, though this time, for healthcare personnel scarcity, particularly a nursing shortage. Real estate and construction careers were going strong, too.

Late 2000s – The second go round of green initiatives. Once again, there was a call for green careers and occupations as solar, wind, and fuel replacements were touted. By the end of the decade, the United States was made up of over 27% college grads.

So, What’s the Problem With Basing a Career Decision on Trends?

In all of the above, you may be aware that the trends came and went, sometimes really burst or even crashed and burned.

The main concern with career planning by trends is not so much supply, but that demands come and demands go. Also, the winds of politics blow hot and cold and what may be some political party’s main interest projects may be someone else discarded funding when politicians are voted out and new legislators are voted in.

To properly assess the value of the trends and people’s careers, we need to look at timing. When the demand calls went out and people were already experienced and skilled, they were in prime position to take advantage of the trend and catch the wave at the initial build or taking off phase.

Also, recent graduates and/or students just finishing up were in a fortunate position at the right time to catch the breaking wave or demand phase. For whatever reasons, career planning or otherwise, the opportunity presented itself and their ship came in.

This is commonly known as being in the right place at the right time.

However, there were those who heard the news, read the accounts, and decided to act, but there was a time lag of a year certificate, a two year Associate Degree, or a four year Bachelor Degree to accomplish. Just like the people who were heading west at the end of the gold rush, they ran into people who were heading back east, too late and poorer for it. This unfortunate circumstance was as the wave that crashed into the shore, the kinetic energy dissipates and recedes back into the ocean.

As the demand died, students and graduates were left with a declining labor market, more complicated job searches, and a student loan debt investment that had a heavy impact. Still more agonizing was that the students and graduates were met with rejection that theirs’ was no longer the degree of demand, but a new wave of a more desired degree was in state of play or effect.

This is commonly referred to as bad timing or “a day late and a dollar short.”

If Not a System of Career Planning by Trends, What Else is There?

There is the system of building on one’s strengths as, theoretically, the cream does tend to rise to the top.

A much more effective long-term career planning system is based on assessing one’s interests, aptitudes, and values, matching these factors up with a suitable comparable field, and properly gathering labor market information.

Gathering labor market information is crucial to the process of making an educated decision. The only effective way to gather usable knowledge is to directly survey the employers in the chosen field.

Notice the key difference is, the decision is based on employer consensus, not trends.


The best position to be in when dealing with potential limited-in-duration trends is active job hunting mode. Having the skills, training, and experience when the timing and opportunity presents itself is the best way to take advantage of a hot situation.

Trying to do career or long-term career planning can be a hit or miss proposition, based on whether the demand has beached itself, burned out, or moved through the pipeline. The problem that can develop with this kind of career planning is repetitive school cycling, going for degree after degree in frustrating and discouraging attempts to chase trend after trend.

career trend basketball tweet

About the Author

marshall karp portraitMarshall J Karp MA NCC LPC is a Career Counselor in Dover, Ohio and has been in private practice career counseling for twenty-eight years. During this time, he has helped thousands of career changers and job hunters to reach their new position goals and/or return to work. He has written numerous blog, journal, and magazine articles and won the prestigious Job Training Partnership Program of the Year Award for his successful efforts of helping the unemployed find new jobs.

This article was part of the Over $6000 in Prizes: It’s The 6th Annual JobMob Guest Blogging Contest, which was made possible thanks in large part to our sponsors:

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