Fair careers for 2006
Accountant/actuary. This is among the fastest-growing fields. There's always some new government mandate that keeps accountants in demand, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which requires companies to submit a comprehensive annual report describing their internal accounting control system. While some accountants love delving into this kind of detail, many ultimately find it tedious. Another downside: Accountants are often the bearers of bad news: "No, you can't deduct this," or "No, we can't afford that." Management accountants, including chief financial officers and comptrollers, are often involved in strategic planning and have a much more interesting career. But for every one of them there are dozens of others slogging through internal audits, supervising bookkeepers, and cranking out fat tax returns.
Marketing/advertising/public relations. Some people love these jobs: the fast pace, the glamour, the discrete projects with dramatic deadlines. You work hard and then it's over, and you feel as if you accomplished something. However, a number of thoughtful people who have entered this career ultimately found it felt empty: They were selling sizzle, not steak. Many people go into these fields hoping they'll get to do ad campaigns for worthy nonprofit causes, but those represent only a tiny proportion of the available work, and much of that is pro bono or divvied up among the best and most well-connected employees.
To learn more
OOH profile: www.bls.gov/oco/ocos020.htm
American Marketing Association: www.marketingpower.com
Public Relations Society of America: www.prsa.org
Read: Careers in Advertising & Public Relations: The WetFeet Insider Guide
Manager/executive. The guys and girls at the top don't have it easy. Unless you're at the top, you're often in a vise between a boss who wants more results from your group and employees who complain they're already overworked. And unlike worker bees who typically get paid overtime starting at 5:01 p.m., managers and executives don't get an extra dime even if they're cranking till midnight. Plus, managers are finding it harder to get rid of problem employees. And for all that, the media don't give managers or executives much respect. For example, there's an endless procession of books about bad bosses, such as A Survival Guide for Working With Bad Bosses, and How to Work for an Idiot. I've yet to see a book titled A Survival Guide for Coping with Bad Employees or How to Supervise an Idiot.
Small-business owner. This is the only career that allows you to go instantly from unemployed to CEO, even if you're a high school dropout. But to avoid being one of the 80 percent of businesses that go belly up in the first five years, you must be a self-starter and have a simple, low-risk business idea. Usually, the best ones are proven successful business concepts placed in a location with high potential demand and little competition. Two of my favorite such concepts are college financial-aid counseling service and well-located espresso or soup carts.