Numerous news-feeds, blogs, etc., provide information on the latest job market statistics and often include predictions about what’s coming down the road–anywhere from short-term periods to years from now. As a current or future job seeker, you should do your best to stay on top of this kind of information, as an aid to your career management activities. However, if you take everything you read as gospel, you could find yourself thoroughly confused!
One definition of “prediction” is “forecast.” Basically, that means “to estimate or calculate in advance.” That alone tells you something about the nature of predictions. Even the best job market experts are drawing conclusions about the future based on past and present knowledge available to them. They can’t assure you that what they believe will happen will actually happen, much less that it will happen when they predict and in the way they predict. Virtually every job market prediction they make is “subject to change without notice.” Too many variables can pop up to ensure any degree of certainty. Look at what happened when the bottom fell out of the real estate market, for example. The impact hit harder and lasted much longer than predicted, leaving many people scrambling to find jobs and careers outside that field.
Even if statistics included in the predictions are based on reasonably sound assumptions, they can still be open to multiple interpretations. That’s why you’ll often see a particular news item viewed differently by different commentators, bloggers and others. Either intentionally or through unintentional bias, an individual can provide an interpretation of the statistics that fits his or her view but contradicts the view held by other individuals. Politicians aren’t the only ones guilty of this, but they’re definitely a good example. That means you need to take different views of job market statistics with a healthy dose of skepticism. Trying to stay informed about possible outcomes or events in the job market is good; letting yourself get sucked into unquestioning acceptance of a prediction based on something no more solid than Jello is not so good.
Tip #1: Consider the source. How strong are the organization’s or individual’s credentials for making job market predictions? What kind of track record has been maintained and over how many years?
Tip #2: Remember that time changes everything–or almost everything. Predictions are moving targets. Even if something seems like a near-certainty now, in 5 years…a year…maybe even less, it could turn out to be anything but certain. It might not come to pass at all or maybe much later than originally predicted.
Tip #3: Build a contingency factor into any decisions you make based on job market predictions, even those that come from the most reliable source you can find.
As Benjamin Franklin once wrote: “…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”