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Friday, February 06, 2009

The Perfect Job Hoax

Job-seekers can dream of "Six Figure Incomes Without a College Degree" anytime a mag like Forbes decides to run that perennial feature.

Some of Forbes' dream jobs:

1. Real Estate Broker. 75th percentile income: $151,000. Well, you don't apply directly to be a broker. You have to work your way up. Also: those are past years' numbers. How's that working out now? For many of these "occupations," the sample is biased towards the survivors. (The survivor bias in history.) If we count those forced out by a numbers game, now the number includes whatever they're making now... if anything. As with all of these figures, you might also ask what is the 40th percentile income. Who says you'll be one of the winners?

2. Air Traffic Controller. 75th percentile income: $156,000. I can sure see why they pay pilots handsomely. Comparing comments from Sully Sullenberger and air traffic control... Sully: "I think we're going in the Hudson." ATC: "He says he may be going in the Hudson." (Tongue in cheek, of course. Air traffic control must be one of the most stressful and demanding jobs you can have, hence the high pay.)

3. Small Business Owner/Operator. 75th percentile income: $119,000. Sounds like a picnic, doesn't it? To reach that level all you'll have to do is work seven days a week, for 10-15 years. Unless you don't make it, in which case you might very well be, well, just bankrupt. Here again, those who make the grade are worth every penny. They're the survivors. You can't apply for the job of "successful survivor." You make it happen.

4. Fashion Designer. 75th percentile income: $104,000. Once again, a dream job for which you often need to be self-employed to be hired. For comment, see under "Small Business Owner." Your ascent can be a little faster in fashion, and failure tends to be faster, too.

5. Plumber, pipefitter, steamfitter. 75th percentile income: $93,100. In a hot economy that figure is probably right, if you work the overtime. You're definitely working for a living. In a down economy, when they shut down big construction projects, that figure plummets, of course, so in that case the money starts to look really ordinary, especially for those at the 40th percentile.

6. Construction superintendent. 75th percentile income: $97,500. As long as there are enough construction projects, you'll be in work. Not so anymore, needless to say. The figure is an artefact of the financial and real estate bubble.

And the list goes on. The point seems to be, high incomes don't exactly grow on trees. There's a distribution curve. Make good choices, understand the appropriate politics and economics in your industry, and be good at what you do, and you'll wind up in that 75th or 90th percentile, in an area that actually survives. As I said above, you can't apply for that position. You make it happen over time. And you've got to love what you do. Just because it sounds like a radiation therapist makes good money... is that they type of work you want to do for the next twenty years? No? Then their income is irrelevant to you!

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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