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The best way to ensure career success – choose the one that people don’t want

My friend Kyle Prevost has written fairly extensively in his new book More Money for Beer and Textbooks about how there is a fairly substantial disconnect in today’s labor market between the supply and demand rules that actually dictate how many jobs are open as well as how much those jobs pay, and the career advice we give to our young people in society. I couldn’t agree more with him.

I have finally started to see a few isolated news columns and studies popping up here and there which are showing the hard statistical reality of the labor market, but it will take a far more concerted effort to change the flow of information that has been solidified over decades in our education system. I’m talking of course about the false premises that parents and career counselors are steadily promoting to the impressionable young minds in today’s classrooms.

The false promise of yesteryear

You see, the fundamental promise of working hard in order achieve good-outstanding grades (grades which never really correlated with how someone would perform in the field for most careers) in high school, and then repeating the same process again at college or university in order to achieve career success and financial security for life just hasn’t been realistic in at least a decade.

The job market doesn’t really care if you want a noble career that is self-fulfilling. It doesn’t care that you have an educational background in psychology, art history, or post-modern navel-gazing. The job market doesn’t know that you had to work hard in order to become good at writing essays or taking a specific style of test. All the job market cares about is if you can provide the skill sets that a few other people have.

That’s it. It’s simple, it’s easy to understand, and it’s completely ignored today.

Ensure Career Success – Choose the One That People Don’t Want

Money to be made in an inefficient market

The silver lining to this refusal to look at statistics that increasingly show we are promoting the wrong types of post-secondary paths for our young people is that the people who are paying attention have a great opportunity to take advantage of a hugely inefficient market.

Consequently, if you’re a young person who is considering various career tracks, or the parent of a young person who might have some influence on the young ones (I know, these parent-child situations are few and far between, but bear with me), you simply need to look where others aren’t in order to virtually guarantee yourself a job.

The problem is that a lot of people are looking at “white collar” jobs that have an 8-to-5 workday, relatively good compensation rates, and require some university credentials. In fact, in many of these areas the competition has become so fierce, that actually getting a job comes down to personal connections and other arbitrary measures far more often than actual merit. So, where are these jobs then?

The reality of supply and demand

In order to find jobs that few others want, you must get this middle-class, suburban ideal out of your mind. We recently published a post on a great-paying job that takes about 15 weeks of post-secondary training as it has a 100% employment rate. The problem is it requires non-traditional hours and living away from urban centers. What magical job might this be you ask? Some of you probably wanted to do it as a young child – a railway conductor.

Most North Americans these days do not want to pursue a line of work that requires a mix of book learning, getting your hands dirty, moving away from urban centers, and non-traditional hours. In other words – skilled labor. So guess where the jobs are? Guess where they will continue to trend too? Finally, guess where the best compensation levels will soon be found? Not in a political science 101 classroom, I can tell you that much.

P.S. I say that as someone who loved his political science 101 class!


  1. Free Money Minute

    Preparing for the real world is very good advise. Grades are important to the point that you learn the information and the tools that will prepare you for being effective in the work force (or your own business).

  2. niterainbow

    You know I have been sold this idea – moving away from urban centers – to get hands dirty and experience, about 10 years ago.

    A lot of classmates stayed in the center. There is no difference between us. I have slightly more hands on and practical experience. They are better connected. More over in monetary terms we are on the same level!

    • Kyle Prevost

      How are you financially on the same level FI? This should basically be impossible. I guess this depends what industry you’re in, but the employment statistics are pretty clear on certain rural regions having a huge advantage relative to Canada’s large urban centres.

  3. JT

    I’d rather have some trouble finding the job I really want, than taking a job that pays decently, but that I hate.
    Perseverance and skill landed me my career, regardless of there being *huge* interest in doing what I do, and I’m much more fulfilled for it.

  4. Martina

    Completely agree with your views here education has nothing to do with your career and success achieved. Educational qualifications have just become necessary to prove that you meet the basic criteria for the job and what you have learned and the job are sometimes completely opposite. The level of competition is too high in landing any kind of job these days and the coming generations are going to find it even more harder to land in their dream jobs.

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