Poor careers for 2006
Attorney. If starting over, 75 percent of lawyers would choose to do something else. A similar percentage would advise their children not to become lawyers. The work is often contentious, and there's pressure to be unethical. And despite the drama portrayed on TV, real lawyers spend much of their time on painstakingly detailed research. In addition, those fat-salaried law jobs go to only the top few percent of an already high-powered lot.
Many people go to law school hoping to do so-called public-interest law. (In fact, much work not officially labeled as such does serve the public interest.) What they don't teach in law school is that the competition for those jobs is intense. I know one graduate of a Top Three law school, for instance, who also edited a law journal. She applied for a low-paying job at the National Abortion Rights Action League and, despite interviewing very well, didn't get the job.
Artistic careers (includes performing, fine art, and fiction writing). These are the world's best hobbiesand worst careers. Expressing our creativity is a primal needso primal, in fact, that the competition even for volunteer work in the creative arts is intense. This month, for example, I auditioned for a part in a Bay Area production of Death of a Salesman. Nobodynot even the leadwould get paid a dime, yet more than 100 actors, many with degrees in acting and stage experience, tried out. (No wonder I didn't get cast.) What about the true professionals? Eighty percent of the members of the Screen Actors Guild (those who have already acted in a movie) earn less than $5,000 a year from their acting.
To learn more
OOH profile: www.bls.gov/oco/ocos092.htm
Salesperson. Most salespeople tell me that sooner or later, they find sales to be unfulfilling. After all, if the product were that good, it would usually sell itself or merely require somebody earning $10 or $15 an hour to take orders or explain the product. When salespeople earn a good living, it's usually because they are able to persuade prospects to buy something they would not otherwise have bought, in the absence of a sales pitch. Some of my clients and people I've met do enjoy selling: They enjoy "the thrill of the kill" (closing the sale), the money, and the competition with colleagues. But more-reflective people, I believe, would be well served by avoiding a career as a salesperson.
Police officer. Police salaries are generally excellent, often reaching six figures in major cities. But the work, not surprisingly, is risky, making cop the fifth most dangerous career. In gritty urban areas, it's more dangerous still. Also, the career often isn't psychologically rewarding: You're merely keeping a lid on a problem that is far bigger than police officers can solve. In addition, the media relentlessly bash the police, so you might be viewed askance when you tell people you're a cop.
To learn more
OOH profile: www.bls.gov/oco/ocos160.htm
Read: Police Work: A Career Survival Guide by Neal Trautman