Despite their many differences, both baby boomer second-careerists and generation Y upstarts are looking for something a bit different from what workers sought a decade ago. Where once they gave priority to jobs that allowed them creativity, flexibility, or upward mobility, they are increasingly seeking work that gives them something that characterized jobs decades ago—security.
Security is, however, playing hard to get in this world of at-will employment, outsourcing, and economic upheaval. So, while layoffs in this recession have touched just about every occupation, here are seven jobs that may offer a bit more stability:
Registered nurse: In the words of Laurence Shatkin, author of 150 Best Recession-Proof Jobs, registered nursing is "gold" right now. For one thing, the industry is stable. "People get sick no matter what the economy is like," Shatkin says. Also, this job won't ever be outsourced. Certainly there have been some layoffs in scattered regions around the country, but the healthcare field keeps growing. Indeed, baby boomers will continue to age and place growing demands on the healthcare system.
[You can read more on the career of a registered nurse.]
Air traffic controller: This group has more job security than most workers, according to the Labor Department. It's a high-stress job with plenty of ongoing medical and proficiency requirements, but if controllers can meet the standards, they are unlikely to face layoffs in a recession, even as air travel drops off.
Including controller among the best jobs is a bit controversial, because the controllers union—the National Air Traffic Controllers Association—has been battling the Federal Aviation Administration on various issues, including pay, in recent years. Communications Director Doug Church says the union is optimistic about the new administration, as both Barack Obama and his choice for transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, have indicated an interest in reconciling the contracts. It's still going to be a tough job, Church says, but the security is sweet: "Somebody can pretty much count on a stable career of two decades or more."
Lobbyist: When the National Association of Manufacturers announced layoffs earlier this month, it said its policy and government relations group would not be affected. Associations need political advocates more than ever in a recession rife with government intervention. Washington bailouts are splashing cash around the country, and organizations, businesses, and regions often rely on lobbyists to help them snag a piece of the pie. There were 15,962 lobbyists in 2008, up from 15,497 a year earlier and from 10,693 a decade earlier, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
[You can find out more about the Best Careers for 2009.]
Public-school teacher: Government jobs are probably the best places to find real security, Shatkin says. "That includes people who work in public schools," he adds. Recently, even former Wall Streeters accustomed to megabonuses and fast routes up the corporate ladder have been turning to teaching opportunities in the New York City public school system, where pay is much lower but security is much greater. While private-sector employees are generally vulnerable to the whims of their employer thanks to at-will employment contracts, tenure laws in most states protect teachers. Tenure generally comes after a few years of teaching, and employers must then provide just cause and due process in a firing. This is a recession, though, and some school systems have undergone layoffs.
Government accountant: Again, the government is a great potential employer if you're trying to find security. Demand is solid in the private accounting profession, but public accounting as well will very likely pick up as the government ramps up its oversight and auditing in the wake of the Wall Street meltdown and resulting financial crisis. Relmond Van Daniker, executive director of the Association of Government Accountants, says government had thinned the ranks of accountants in recent years through attrition, as part of its deregulatory effort. Going forward, Van Daniker says, he expects steady hiring over the next five years or so.
[More appears here on the role of a government manager.]
College professor: Ah, tenure. No firing without just cause and due process. Although colleges are increasingly hiring for limited-term and part-time (adjunct) faculty, the tenure track is still secure if you can get it. As former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now a public policy professor at the University of California-Berkeley, wrote in an end-of-2008 blog post: "I'm not too worried about my job because I have tenure here at the University of California, although maybe I should worry because the state is technically bankrupt. Still, I'm one of the lucky ones."
Federal judge: OK, so it may not have broad application (how many of us will turn out to be federal judges?), but lifetime tenure is hard to ignore. The policy is intended to insulate judges from outside interests but also, according to American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Norman Ornstein, to attract the best and brightest to the law profession. It's important to note that most judges don't have that luxury: They're appointed to renewable terms of four or six years.