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Survey: Hot jobs for 2004
( 2003-11-21 09:59) (SmartMoney.com)

Looking to change employers?

You're not alone. According to a recent Monster.com survey, 82% of Americans are dissatisfied with their jobs. While many of us merely like to complain, you can bet the competition will be fierce next year as more and more people look to improve their situations.

"Look at the polls; in a recessionary trend a lot of people confidentially reveal that 'when things get better I will look around,'" says Stephen Mader, chief executive of New York-based executive search firm Christian & Timbers. Next year, those chickens are sure to come home to roost.

Where are the brightest prospects? Recruiters identified at least two trends creating job opportunities next year. The first: aging baby boomers, who'll need lots of financial advice and health-care services as they approach 65. Also, after years of cost cutting, corporate America is finally ready to spend on sales and marketing.

Moreover, some encouraging signs are popping up in the technology and recruiting areas. After two very difficult years, Monster.com's founder Jeff Taylor says, ads for hardware jobs jumped 34%, software positions climbed 16% and IT openings increased 19% over the past year. Corporate America, meanwhile, is starting to hire some high-level recruiters. With so many workers looking to switch jobs, companies are using the opportunity to upgrade their staffs and retain the qualified people they've got.

Now let's take a look at the five hottest career areas for 2004.

1. Sales

If you've got a knack for glad handing, your time has come. The No. 1 job category on Monster.com is sales. "Companies need to hire sales people as a precursor to growth," says Monster.com's Taylor. Only then will they be ready to capitalize once their customers start spending again. Since it typically takes six months to train a sales associate before he or she produces results, companies are wasting no time rebuilding their teams.

The pharmaceutical industry, in particular, is beefing up its sales ranks. During the summer there were some 3,000 entry-level positions available nationwide, according to the National Association of Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives. And more jobs are being added all the time. Someone with no prior industry experience can expect to make $55,000 to $60,000 a year, plus a bonus and car allowance. Top performers are often rewarded with additional incentives. The rep of the year, for example, wins an all-expense-paid trip for two to the Bahamas, courtesy of the NAPSR.

2. Financial Planners

Did the stock-market plunge crush your nest egg? If you're young, you have plenty of time to recover your losses. Baby boomers, on the other hand, don't have that luxury. In just six years, the first of America's 77 million boomers will reach retirement age and they're going to need an army of financial planners to help clean up their portfolios. Otherwise, they'll be pushing paper from nine to five rather than swinging a golf club.

In addition, corporate America is bringing in financial planners to address the troops, says John Challenger of recruiting firm Challenger Gray & Christmas. While most companies no longer offer defined-benefit pensions, bosses know it's good PR to show compassion by holding retirement seminars during working hours. Financial planners who feel comfortable speaking in front of crowds should have no problem finding an audience.

If you already work in the financial-services field, it's relatively easy to obtain full credentials. While it can take up to three years to qualify for certified financial planner status, fast-track programs allow some to do it within a year, says Doug Nogami, spokesman for the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.

3. Health Care

You've heard it before: America is aging quickly. That means demand will increase in coming years for all manner of health-care workers.

Rather than finding treatment in hospitals, more and more Americans are choosing home-based care, says Challenger. This is a boon for practitioners who prefer flexible schedules and hate to work under the watchful eye of a boss.

Even if you don't have a medical degree, there are plenty of jobs in this field. Health-care companies ranging from insurers to drug manufacturers need accountants, customer-service reps, marketing folks and others. The government should also have spots to fill as it reconfigures the Medicare program.

4. International Business

Get out those Berlitz tapes. Corporate America has a global reach, and people who can speak a second language and who have a deep understanding of a foreign culture are in high demand. Companies are looking for everything from factory managers to government liaisons. The ideal candidates are second-generation Americans and other workers with international experience.

Where are the jobs? U.S. businesses are already expanding in fast-growing areas like China, India and parts of Latin America, says Challenger. While this isn't exactly a new trend, companies plan to shift even more manufacturing facilities abroad to take advantage of inexpensive labor.

5. Compliance

Thanks to some hair-raising corporate scandals, many U.S. businesses are playing it safe. Enter the compliance officer. These are corporate watchdogs whose job it is to monitor their fellow workers and make sure all activities are legal and in compliance with regulatory rules. The hottest areas are financial management, corporate security and corporate governance, says Christian & Timbers' Mader. In some industries, such as health care, all three areas are necessary.

Companies are looking for everything from chief financial officers and former government employees (who worked for regulatory bodies) to IT professionals who can keep even the most sophisticated hackers out of a computer system.

Leaving Gracefully

Once you land a great new job, you'll need an exit strategy for your current one. Here are a few tips from the pros on how to leave gracefully.

Maintain Your Relationships

Don't think of quitting as leaving your job. Instead, think of it as building your professional network. Maintain your friendships, and former colleagues can turn into trusted contacts. Recruiters agree that networking is the No. 1 way to find a new job. "Alumni networks play an important role in managing career change," says Challenger. The best way to maintain those relationships is to thank your coworkers before you leave and keep in touch. "With email, it's easier than ever," he says.

Don't Burn Bridges

Ever. Complete all projects before your last day and make sure you leave on a civil note. Also, this isn't the time to tell your boss how you really feel. Take the high road and you just might find that your former employer tries to lure you back in a couple of years with a big raise and better title.

"It used to be that you couldn't go back home, that you permanently burned your bridges," says Challenger. "Now, a lot of people go back a second or third time. It's important that you leave on a high note."

Give Ample Notice

How much notice do you really need to give your employer? That depends on your seniority. Most of us can get away with two weeks, says Christian & Timbers' Mader. But the most senior executives should probably give at least a month.

There are, however, some exceptions. If you are, say, in the middle of a project, you should finish it before leaving even if that means pushing back your start date with your future employer. If the new boss starts to get antsy, simply explain that this is the way he or she would want to be treated, too, says Monster.com founder Jeff Taylor.

Train Your Successor

The easiest way to leave with a recommendation in hand is to thoroughly train your successor. In these leans times, this act of kindness is more important than ever especially if you're the only one in your organization who performs certain functions. Should you leave the company in a difficult spot, all your years of good service and devotion will quickly be forgotten.

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