It's hard to believe we have almost completed the first decade of the new millennium. In less than 10 years, we have seen the promise of the Internet fulfilled, the financial industry grow to epic proportions, only to blow up like the Hindenburg, and the election of the first African-American president of the U.S.
With unemployment skyrocketing and the number of bankruptcies climbing on a daily basis, the big question is where are the job and investment opportunities? There are seven ways to source opportunity:
1. Government: We already know from President-elect Barack Obama's speeches that the federal government is going to be spending major bucks on transportation, infrastructure, energy and education. The place to find out about government contracts is the Commerce Business Daily.
2. Surveying: If you are in business or want to be in business, it's a good idea to survey businesses already in the space as well as consumers to ask them what do they plan to spend their money on in the next year. A good way to conduct a consumer survey, if you have a few thousand dollars, is through Greenfield Online, which guarantees at least 500 responses.
3. Publications: Consult industry, scientific and technology magazines to find out the latest trends.
4. Listening: Sitting on a train, plane or at a bar, you can hear all kinds of interesting conversation. You hear people's concerns, interests and needs.
5. Help wanted: Go to the help-wanted section in newspapers and online services such as Monster.com and look at what types of jobs are in demand.
6. Stock analyst: Reading reports by industry analysts will tell you who are projected to be the big winners and losers.
7. Company Web sites: Look at the help-wanted links on company Web sites to get an idea of what skills are needed.
Although we may be looking at another major bloodletting in the home mortgage market as people try to refinance mortgages and credit card defaults increase, I believe the worst is behind us. Where there was panic in September through Thanksgiving, you are hearing people talking about creating opportunity, reducing debt and expressing optimism over the new president. The following are 10 industries where I see lots of opportunity.
- Accounting: Bernard Madoff Investments allegedly ran a Ponzi scheme that may have defrauded its investors out of as much as $50 billion, which is more than the major car companies are asking for. You can bet that there will be rules, similar to Sarbanes-Oxley, coming out to protect our savings. This means more accounting, legal, information systems and non-technology work to develop the systems to safeguard society. This will be a huge priority because the country can't afford a loss in confidence in the people that manage its money.
- Consulting: This is a broad category, but as companies look to reduce their costs, they will rely more on consultants for everything from information systems to marketing to sales to bookkeeping. The driver is going to be reducing health-care expenses. The contracts will be tightly written with specific dollar amounts so companies have greater control over cash flow.
- Drug development: Unless we start losing weight and eating healthier, diabetes will continue to be a major problem. The environment is also changing, which is causes new types of illnesses that require different medical solutions.
- Energy: Everyone is ready to get serious about reducing oil dependency and fighting climate change. Venture capital conferences are filled with entrepreneurs looking for money on all types of energy producing/saving technology. There will be jobs for engineers and blue-collar workers to install and maintain the new technology.
- Health care: The number of people dying from some sort of cancer is growing rapidly. Who doesn't know someone who hasn't died of cancer and needed to live out their remaining time in a hospice, so critical-care workers, family counselors and alike will be needed.
- Infrastructure: The housing and office boom maybe over, but for America to once again be internationally competitive, we can't have bridges collapsing, like what happened in Minneapolis two years ago. The country needs a makeover, so people with hard-hat skills are going to be greatly needed.
- Social services: The number of kids with learning disabilities is far outstripping the country's support network. Private companies will be brought in to fill niches.
- Transportation: Cities and suburbs of large cities are too congested. It's a nightmare if you have to drive anywhere where more than a million people live. There will be a need for more subway and monorail systems. I went to the only college in the U.S. that had a monorail system, West Virginia University, and it was fantastic. There will be jobs for engineers and those running the system.
- Turnarounds: These are distressed companies that need new operations managers, sales and marketing people and information technology people to keep costs low.
- Tutors: Competition for jobs and contracts ceased being a local affair for more than a decade. American students are competing with the rest of the world for slots in colleges and jobs. School districts are constrained because of budgets, so children need outside help and that is where tutors come in.
There is always opportunity. When a tornado hits, construction workers are brought in. When people fleece their customers' lawyers, accountants and managers are called in. There is always something going on that needs someone with a certain skill to fix it. Good luck in 2009!