Bright Spots in the Bad Economy: 5 Places to Look for Jobs Right Now

There’s no doubt the big career story of the moment is the November unemployment report, which stated that the U.S. experienced the biggest monthly job loss since 1974. In total, we’ve lost over 2 million jobs in the past year. This is, obviously, very bad news for job seekers (although, according to Fortune magazine, slightly less bad for those with a college degree — hat tip Keppie Careers).

I believe that constant news about the bad economy leaves job seekers with two choices: 1) focus on how bad the job market is and feel paralyzed, or 2) understand that it’s bad and look for opportunities anyway.

I’m going to recommend door #2. To help, I spent some time this past weekend looking for bright spots in the bleak job market. It wasn’t easy; there’s a lot of terrible news out there. But there are definitely opportunities in this recession.

Here are five of them:

1. North Dakota. Besides loving the movie “Fargo,” I can’t say I know a lot about North Dakota. Until this weekend’s article in the New York Times, I definitely didn’t know this cold state is a hot spot for jobs. According to the story, ND has about 13,000 unfilled jobs and is desperately seeking skilled workers. Click here to visit the state’s official job site.

If North Dakota isn’t your cup for tea, check out BusinessWeek’s list of 20 other locations it defines as the best places to ride out the recession.

2. Women-owned businesses. The best way to find a job with a growing woman-owned business (or any small- to medium-sized business) is through networking, because most smaller companies don’t recruit through college career services or major online job boards. Talk to people in your personal and professional networks (parents, friends, professors, community members, etc.) to meet entrepreneurs, or attend events hosted by such organizations as the National Association of Women Business Owners, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, or local women’s business clubs and organizations in your area.

3. Your Monopoly board. The Associated Press just published a helpful Q&A (picked up in many local papers, including my hometown paper — shout-out to The Norwalk Hour!) about which industries are still hiring. The article advises job seekers to “look to your Monopoly board” for two of these industries: railroads and utilities. “Others are just as old school,” the article goes on, “like the logging and mining sector, and food, drink and tobacco manufacturing. The oil business is still adding a few jobs, as is pipeline transportation. General merchandise stores also did some pre-holiday hiring.”

The recent news that President-elect Obama is planning to create an enormous public works construction program to stimulate the economy supports the Monopoly theory. If you’d like to land one of those new jobs when they’re created, start studying now to understand what types of skills, experience and knowledge will be required. (For instance, you could set up a Google news alert for phrases such as “public works,” “national infrastructure” or “expanding broadband access.”)

4. Australia (the country, not the movie). I blogged recently about the new visa arrangement between the U.S. and Australia that makes it easy to study or work Down Under. The city of Sydney, in particular, is making a big push to attract twentysomething American workers. (Full disclosure: I am doing some paid consulting work with Tourism New South Wales, the organization promoting this program.)

Sydney is eager to receive resumes from young Americans with a variety of professional interests, ranging from environmental studies to hospitality to marketing to finance and beyond. Visit MySpace MySydney for a job search tool and information about how to get a visa. I lived in Australia for two and-a-half years and can honestly say it was one of the best experiences, personal and professional, of my life.

Another city seeking American workers is Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. Click here for a recent story in New York magazine about young Americans working in this “hotly speculative Middle Eastern insta-metropolis.” I can’t say this story made me want to jump on a plane to Dubai, but, for some young people, this growing community might be an interesting option.

5. Accounting. Last week, blogger Penelope Trunk cited a study by recruiting agency Robert Half saying that, “accounting firms have been so chronically understaffed that we’d have to have a five-year recession for them to catch up.” It’s true that hiring has held steady at accounting firms across the country.

Where else have you seen bright spots in the job market? Please share!

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Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


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