There was a time in early 2009 when I succumbed to the economic fear and uncertainty that had gripped the nation. Unemployment was more than eight percent and climbing towards the 10.1 percent we experienced in the 1981-82 recession. And a recent survey had revealed that 50 percent of Americans were worried about losing their job. Yet, even if it did reach 10 percent, nearly 90 percent of us would still have a job. So why were half us (including me) worrying that we wouldn’t?
The reason, of course, is that we’re all afraid of winding up amongst the 10 percent instead of the 90 percent. How does that saying go? It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose yours. For the freelancer, “losing your job” can mean losing a big client because they’ve cut expenses or gone out of business. I know people that this has happened to.
Today, over 13 million Americans remain out of work and global unemployment is hovering around 6 percent, so the job landscape is still rather bleak. The good news is, opportunities in our industry, both full-time employment and freelance, are on the rise. Here’s the outlook.
Programming & Application Development
Driven by the explosive growth of mobile, 61 percent of executives surveyed plan to hire web and application developers over the next 12 months. That’s up from 44 percent from last year. Companies are having a hard time finding people with skills in mobile technologies to build new apps that meet the needs of mobile users. Also, new regulations and requirements are creating a high demand for healthcare IT professionals.
Graphic Design & Multimedia
While there are companies that hire in-house designers, we’re seeing a shift to more and more freelance positions. As I’ve said many times before, freelancers need to be skilled business people, networkers, and know how to (gasp) sell their services. Multimedia artists have opportunities that didn’t exist two years ago—like designing interactive magazines for the iPad. Unlike the pure graphic designer, however, multimedia artists need to know more than just Photoshop. Expertise in HTML, CSS, JQuery, and other programming languages is essential.
Just because newspapers are going under doesn’t mean people have stopped reading. Those who can write for both people and search engines are becoming more and more in demand.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer science is one of the fastest growing occupations, with 24 percent growth projected between 2008 and 2018. That’s much faster than average for all occupations.
Increased Demand Means Increased Competition
With promising outlook and mean annual income of over $100,000, university students are returning to computer-related studies in droves. Stanford University reports that enrollment in the first quarter of the 2010-2011 school year was already up 120 percent from 2009. This reverses a decline in U.S. computer program enrollment that followed the dot-com crash and fears over corporate outsourcing overseas that had driven students into other degrees programs.
So the future looks bright, you may have to wear shades, especially for all you left-brainers out there. But right-brain people skills are as important as ever in order to compete and succeed.