Inefficiency in the labor market is disadvantaging the world’s most qualified college graduates. The mass popularization of getting hired at this era’s sexiest finance company or fastest-growing tech behemoth has created an oversupply problem that has tipped the value market for new hires into negative territory. Too many people are competing for a very small number of jobs, making the cream of the crop seem like they’re a dime a dozen.
The situation deteriorates even further when you consider that only a small percentage of students realize what is happening, so they all continue down the same path after graduation, further increasing the supply of ultra-qualified candidates battling it out for too-few dream jobs. The problem is the lack of easily identifiable, high-compensation careers in other industries.
At an early age, I was fortunate to be introduced to a niche in commercial real estate that is focused on helping companies navigate the complexities of their corporate real estate needs. After some analysis, I determined that exceptional, top-tier talent would have a reasonable probability of earning millions of dollars per year, even with as few as five years of experience. Other similar opportunities are widespread, albeit relatively hidden, in industries such as insurance and wealth management. The trick is finding the career that best fits your personality to maximize your potential success.
How do you know whether a less sought after career might be for you? Here are the three most important questions to consider before letting inertia take you down a career path that might not be all it’s cracked up to be.
1. What is the probable value of your earnings?
Just as you would evaluate the risk-adjusted returns of an investment, savvy young professionals should strive to identify the career paths with the highest probable value rather than myopically focusing on maximizing the upside potential of a particular profession. Would you rather pick a career path that yields a 50 percent chance of earning two million or a 10 percent chance of earning five million? The answer is an easy one if you are confident of both of the inputs.
Getting these equations right requires brutal honesty with oneself and, in certain cases, being comfortable with high levels of potential risk. It’s important to recognize that the focus is on optimization rather than cutting yourself short. Top talent can redefine the boundaries and decimate the competition in underserved markets versus the possibility of just producing mediocre results in an alternative position. Why? These industries are less likely to have been disrupted and are less resistant to change.
2. Are you ready to be an entrepreneur?
Most leading companies offer an excellent training program for new recruits. They have perfected the process of manufacturing the vast amount of skilled labor necessary to sustain the required growth rate of their business. The most talented hires will inevitably experience a shortage of opportunities for tangible and immediate progression, however.
If you think you are ready to trade in those years of grunt work with limited upside for a chance to make it big sooner than later, make sure you are ready for what’s to come. Going out on your own or joining a more boutique firm exposes you directly to your clients without the protection of a safety net, the benefits of reputational credibility or the instant gratification of your boss’s positive feedback. It might be more challenging than you think.
What does this mean for you? Being a quick and responsive learner, finding alternative means to instill confidence in your clients, and creating a robust system to track your progress in a quantifiable way are of the utmost importance. If all else fails, persist through grit, and recognize that no matter how steep the learning curve, it can be mastered in time.
3. How important is life design?
The idea of controlling one’s destiny is desirable to most high performers. If this applies to you, be sure to choose a career path that allows for maximum flexibility. It will have benefits that transcend into all aspects of your life.
Turn your workday into a myriad of activities that are stimulating on both an intellectual and social level rather than just following your boss’s orders. Create personal accountability for yourself by determining the optimal course to achievement and eliminating any excuses for failure. Not sure how to do this? The more control over your own destiny the better, so create autonomy for yourself.
Find a company where you can align your success with the business’ upside by participating in an equitable piece of the value created by your hard work. Whether this is through rapid promotions or direct commissions, odds are you will find more mobility the more integral you are to a company. Look for firms where you can be a significant contributor, and the odds of designing a life you love are off the charts.
Now -- make it happen.
Are you worried about how to make this dream a reality? Companies that are not in the typical distribution system for top talent are eager to attract you, so leveraging your desirability as a new hire is easier than you may think. If you consider how much money the world’s leading companies spend on corporate recruiters and public relations, niche players are getting you at a steep discount when you apply for a job with them directly.
If you can get the answers to these questions right and consider them all jointly in advance of making your career selection, you’ll be well on your way to creating the life you want. You may end up going in a different direction than you previously thought, or perhaps you won’t make a change at all, but at the very least, move forward with your eyes wide open knowing that you made the best decision possible for your future.