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Futurist, Death Nurse + Other Savvy Career Moves

Futurist, Death Nurse + Other Savvy Career Moves

By April Joyner and Nathan Siegel

08 Mar 2013, Mont Belvieu, Texas, USA --- 3/8/13 - Lifting a fractionator tower in place at a Texas natural gas processing complex in Mont Belvieu, Texas March 8, 2013. Natural-gas processing is a complex industrial process designed to clean raw natural gas by separating impurities and various non-methane hydrocarbons and fluids to produce what is known as pipeline quality dry natural gas.
SourceErich Schlegel/Corbis


Don’t choose your college degree based on what’s hot in the market now, but on what will be hot years down the line. 

By April Joyner and Nathan Siegel

He may have been in the landscaping business, but Ray Jacobs didn’t see a lot of growth for 17 years, at least in clients. But now, the operations manager and his company in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, are doing a booming business. In the past year alone, he has added 150 staffers, all while working in a sleepy rural town with a population of less than 8,000“Our growth has been extravagant,” says Jacobs. What the frack is going on?

Exactly that. The shale boom in the U.S. has created all sorts of new jobs, including restoring post-fracked land. And it’s not the only seismic shift reshaping the global job market: Count the breakneck speed of technological development, marijuana’s arrival in the legal economy and an aging population as a few among many. Just as paperboys have given way to push notifications from your smartphone, some jobs have become irrelevant in a heartbeat as new and emerging jobs take their turn in the spotlight.

The trick, of course, is making a job switch or applying for these new gigs before everyone else. So we’ve looked ahead of the curve and found some surprising opportunities:

In the United States: Hedge Fund Managers … for Cannabusinesses 

How much: $180,000 to $220,000 per year

What industry is growing almost three times as fast as the global mobile phone market? Yep, weed. And when you couple enormous demand with unsophisticated (read: illicit) infrastructure to produce, distribute and sell a product, the result is an investor’s dream. In other words, there’s no better time to be a hedge fund manager who caters to pot smokers, growers, bakers, dispensers and everyone in between. “The momentum right now is tremendous,” says Emily Paxhia, a founding partner at Poseidon Asset Management, a new weed-focused hedge fund. There’s business opportunity up and down the supply chain, she says. Take Illumitex, a Texas company dedicated to boosting the energy efficiency of grow operations, or KUSH (a subsidiary of Cannabis Sativa, Inc.), a company run by a former senator that makes weed edibles like throat lozenges.

Of course, the marijuana party isn’t without wet blankets. With the federal government taking a hands-off approach to the market, the question of whether states can get organized to push through legalization is a big “if” — and without legalization, the weed business is dead in the water. And big banks are still unwilling to deal with pot, making day-to-day business operations for cannabusinesses no walk in the park. As if running a start-up wasn’t hard enough.  

In Mexico: Death Nurses 

How much: $80 to $100 an hour

The time has already come: Baby boomers are cashing their last paychecks and kicking up their feet for life’s final laps. And what better place for Americans to retire than Mexico — it’s warm and you get more bang for your buck. Already 1.5 million North American retirees call Mexico home, and 5 million more are expected to join them in the next few years, says Andira Borgo, head of talent for human resource company Mercer in Mexico. Mexicans also happen to have a strikingly different take on our inevitable demise than their counterparts to the north: Death is natural, don’t fight it. That’s where thanatologists, or professional grim reapers, come in. Part geriatrician, part psychologist, they won’t exactly pull the plug on Grandma, but they’ll manage her exit from Earth. That means preparing her mentally for death, revisiting past traumas and putting her mind at peace. They use meditation and are often trained Buddhists. When patients become fatally ill, this guide to death won’t try to save their lives but will try to alleviate any pain. “In the United States, the entire health industry is based on being youthful, but in Mexico there’s a quickly growing industry of facilitating death,” says Borgo. 

In the United States: Mother Earth’s Cosmetician

How much: $100,000 per year

As American output of crude oil ticks above 9.6 million barrels a year, close to its 1970 peak and nearing the current level of Saudi Arabia’s output, there are a few reasons why landscapers, of all people, are drooling over the increase. For one thing, fracking — which entails injecting water, sand and chemicals deep underground and fracturing rock formations to extract oil and gas — is a messy business. Once the liquid treasure has been plundered, guess who gets called in to beautify the aftermath? Schallenberger Construction at your service: “We put things back the way they were,” says Jacobs. Wells for fracking also happen to have a short life span. There are already over a million wells nationwide, and since the sweetest spots have been taken, more and more wells need to be drilled if production is to be maintained. It’s a story of diminishing returns for frackers but increasing returns for landscapers. 

Still, playing housekeeper to fracking means that once shale oil and gas production go down, so does landscaping. “It’s like riding a roller coaster,” says Jacobs. Generally, “ride the roller coaster” isn’t a great business plan. 

Worldwide: Oracle to Nations and the Fortune 500

How much: $120,000 to $150,000 per year 

The days when saying “I want to be a fortune-teller when I grow up” was met with guffaws from friends and biting disappointment from parents and college counselors are long gone (what, was I the only one?). Because, as the speed of innovation increases, so does the premium for staying one step ahead of the competition. That’s why a fringe practice a decade ago is now becoming widespread: Hiring a futurist. In order to avoid being the next Kodak (AKA irrelevant), governments and companies large and small are hiring trained “strategic forecasters” like James Canton, CEO of the Global Institute of Futures, to identify the opportunities and risks that may be blips on the radar now but could become the elephant in the room. Think of how robotics have completely changed the military or how social media has transformed advertising, he says. It’s no longer an option anymore, he adds. “All companies need a futurist.” 

The thing is: How do you become one? The number of schools offering degrees in futurism can be counted on one hand, and it takes decades to gain enough experience to reach the cutting edge of an industry. In other words, “you can’t just decide one day you want to become a futurist,” says Canton. 

In Japan and Germany, From Retirement Homes to the Factory

How much: $14 to $16 an hour 

When adult diapers are expected to outsell baby diapers by 2020, there’s no denying you have a demographic shift. Japan is in aging hot water, with the working-age population set to plummet from 79 million to 52 million by 2050. And Germany is in a similar boat — though it’s less in trouble due to immigration. So what’s a graying nation to do, especially ones with robust manufacturing industries? Make working in a factory as easy as baking pie or playing chess. One small factory in Japan where the average age of the worker is 76, has mandatory blood-pressure checks at 3 p.m. BMW, based in Bavaria, has revamped its factories to include physiotherapists; ergonomic shoes, chairs and computers; and a more flexible work day. 

Letting workers take a day off or installing cutting-edge floors may be good for weary knees but not so good for a company’s bottom line. That means the “silver factory” is a questionable strategy outside of the more profitable luxury goods game. With that being said, aging nations are usually richer. So the luxury is here to stay.

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