Career opportunities never knock

Every cloud has a silver lining.

It’s an ill wind that blows no good.

One man’s meat is another man’s—something. Is it “poison?”

If those old saws are true, then when the economy tanks after eight years of wacky ideology and reality-defying non-regulation, somebody must be scoring big. It isn’t me or anybody I know. Since the fallout from the Bush laissez-faire lunacy began to spread, virtually everyone I’ve talked with has been hit. They’ve been “laid off” (a euphemism for “fired from jobs that aren’t coming back") or had hours reduced. Some are converting their offices back into bedrooms for adult children who can’t find jobs, or extending them “loans” that are gone with our faith in government.The possibility—the actuality, in many cases—of losing health insurance keeps millions awake. A slip on the ice or a pothole in the grass of a neglected schoolyard could, in a blink, change bare subsistence into bankruptcy.

Retirees and struggling parents have gotten headlines, but in some ways I feel sorriest for young adults. I have a couple in the family, 20-somethings not yet disillusioned by life. With a few normal detours, they’ve done what society expected. Now they’re living what their grandparents learned in the 1930s: Get a degree, find a career, bust your butt—and it won’t matter. You go under the bus with the slackers and burnouts.

In search of an answer, I decided to join, for as long as I could stand it, those middle-management morons who refer to problems as “opportunities.” If capitalism is a zero-sum game, as I increasingly suspect, then there must be a winner for every loser. As traditional doors close, what’s opening?

The nation’s media, desperate for relevance and readers, have been on this topic a mile wide, though only about a quarter-inch deep. Here’s a summary from a number of sources, with median salaries. No scoffing—these jobs are our future:

• Sales representative ($70,000).

Even in hard times, somebody has to shovel the crap out the door. Possible problem: If you don’t produce, you don’t get paid.

• Software designer ($90,000).

“Among the fastest-growing jobs in the next half-decade.” Which is about how long it will take you to get the training so you can jump in just as the glut hits.

• Nursing ($40,000).

“The aging boomer population,” says, “has increased demand … there’s a real shortage.”

Could be the salary. Who wants to change Depends for $750 a week?

• Accounting executive ($70,000).

“In high demand no matter what the economy.” Duties: “To manage the growing number of accounting staffers.”

• Accounting staffers ($50,000).

“In a downturn companies turn to their accountants to figure out how to operate more leanly.” Alas, no comparable job teaches reporters to write more betterly.

• Networking and Systems Administration ($60,000).

Computer stuff. Probably walk right out of your disappeared blue-collar job and into that one, with five or six years of training.

• Administrative Assistant ($40,000).

The gig formerly known as “secretary.” Jobfox CEO Rob McGovern says admin assistants are in demand because “it’s hard to find people who can live on less than $50,000.”

• Business Analysis, Software Implementation ($80,000).

If you don’t know, don’t apply. Rules me out.

• Business Analysis, Research ($70,000).

I’m out of this one, too.

• Finance staff ($70,000).

“Anyone who can make the business run more efficiently.”

These jobs, if you haven’t noticed, have a couple of things in common: They take skills, training and experience most people don’t have and can’t readily get, and they’re duller than cafeteria meatloaf. Welcome to your future.