Want to Make Money? Work in Health Care

Marketwatch has an article about the latest U.S. News rankings for various jobs (side note: since when has U.S. News ever seen something that they didn’t want to rank into a list?). Guess what? Health care jobs dominate. Let’s take a look:

  1. Dentist: $152,700
  2. Nurse practitioner: $98,190
  3. Physician assistant: $98,180
  4. Statistician: $80,110
  5. Orthodontist: $187,200
  6. Nurse anesthetist: $157,140
  7. Pediatrician: $170,300
  8. Computer systems analyst: $85,800
  9. Obstetrician and gynecologist: $187,200
  10. Oral and maxillofacial surgeon: $187,200

I’ve highlighted in bold the health-related jobs on there. Wow. That’s a whopping 8/10 on the list! And they all make or come close to 6 digits. In fact, the only two non-health jobs are the lowest in average salary. The secret to easy wealth from a standard job in the U.S. is in the protected fields of health care and state/local government. Read my book on wealth for more details. Mind you, this list neglects other great health care jobs that don’t require a lot of schooling, such as regular registered nurse, physical therapy, and respiratory therapy. Though they don’t make it quite as high on this list due to lower pay, they can be great options if you like a stable job with great security, flexible schedules, and good pay.

What about those of us who heeded the call of STEM? Well, I have a low opinion of straight up science fields. Biologists and chemists have a hard time findings employment due to the surplus of graduates, many of whom had starry-eyed dreams of medical school. Tech is ok, and it makes it onto this list at #8 but doesn’t feature more prominently because of its boom and bust nature. If you’re a programmer and times are good, you can do well at a big company, or you can make it big in an IPO. However, there’s little barrier to entry and you’re always facing competition from H1B workers. When there’s a bust you can be laid off quite easily.

How about other engineering fields? You can generally get good security in nuclear, civil, mechanical, chemical, or petroleum engineering, but those fields are quite niche and there’s not a lot of job opportunities. The schooling is also quite demanding.

I hope you’ve boned up on your math, because the best STEM job on here is #4 at statistician. Statistics is the red headed step child. Not quite as applied as engineering but also not quite as theoretical as pure math. It’s actually the best of the bunch because it’s relevant to so many fields. Whether we’re in research, government, business, think tank, or NGO, chances are there will be need for someone with good understanding of probability and running comparisons for large pools of data. Especially now with the new trend being “big data”, there’s increasing need for someone with the aptitude to sift through that data and find significant correlations.

So if I have a child who doesn’t want to do health care, my next recommendation would be a double degree in statistics and economics. That’s a good mix of versatile fields, one more mathy, and one sorta leaning towards the social sciences, to prepare one for any career. Oh, don’t forget about languages either. Those can be your final oomph to get you over the hump and into a job.


Millennials Just Hustling to Survive

One big theme in my book is how everyone, especially millennials, have found ways to compensate for the rise in living costs without a corresponding increase in wages. One big way to do this is unfortunately to work a side job. Traditionally, this was limited to low-wage service industry workers. I remember hearing stories from my patients waking up at 4 AM to drive to work in Los Angeles from the outer suburbs, only to return in the evening and work a second shift at a local restaurant. Mind you, all this is to just cover the bills – it isn’t even about making extra spending money.

This practice has now slowly but surely engulfed millennials, many of whom are recent graduates from university who can’t find any meaningful well-paying work in their fields. Many of them choose to monetize hobbies. As the article describes:

The 31-year-old Torontonian makes adult Sailor Moon outfits and sells them on Facebook, a gig she estimates brings in about $800 a month on top of what she earns in her full-time position at a mascot manufacturer.


Covering everything from teaching English over Skype to driving an Uber, the term has even found its way into Urban Dictionary, where it’s defined as “sideline that brings in cash.”

It’s a tough time out there. Regardless of whether extra money is a need or a bonus, you can monetize your talents in one of these ways. See more details on side gigs in my book on wealth, as well as ways to turn your hobbies into highly profitable businesses.


The Eternal Debate – Angular or Well Rounded?

No, this isn’t about the dreaded question many college applicants have – should they portray themselves as interested in a single subject/area or as someone with multiple skills – but rather with what areas to study and what skills to develop in order to be able to succeed in an uncertain and ever-changing world.

Let’s first look at the angular approach. This can work in highly technical fields where the more specialized individuals, due to the shortage of supply, can command premium wages and outstanding job security. Examples include delving deep into medicine, engineering, or basic sciences. You can even carve out niche positions in the social sciences and humanities by focusing on say 17th century Czech literature. You will be the world authority on this subject and if ever something comes up in this field (say for instance a Robert Langdon style puzzle), you will be highly sought after to help decode it.

The big downside is that the narrower you go, the less choice you will have for work. If you want to make use of all that time spent in study and acquiring expertise, you have to find a job that offers that opportunity. This may not always be available, and the few that exist may have someone like you already entrenched in it. There can be a big letdown if you fail to find or secure that job and instead have to settle for something more menial. When super specialized people fall, they fall hard. They can instantly go from senior management or chief architect to barista. Finally, you are forced to go to where the jobs are. If your lifelong dream is to stay close to your family in rural Wisconsin, becoming highly educated and specialized for a job that’s only offered in global alpha cities (like a cardiologist specializing in a rare rhythm disorder) may not be ideal.

The other approach of being generalized is naturally on the extreme other end of the spectrum. Mind you, being well-rounded doesn’t just mean not specializing, but rather branching out and linking different disciplines that have the potential to mutually support and reinforce each other. For example, you can link business administration and communication, international relations and French language, media studies and marketing. This kind of chaining maintains versatility but also improves your competitive edge.

Compared to someone who only has one degree, having hands in multiple pots increases the range of jobs that you are a candidate for. Furthermore, during the interview can play up synergies between different degrees. In contrast to the highly specialized technocrat, you will mainly be looking at jobs that deal with people rather than machines, and are therefore amenable to people coming from all backgrounds.

This is a better approach for someone who doesn’t yet know what he or she wants to do in life and where to live in the future, for whom it’s important to remain general and not close doors prematurely. This is also a case where doing a “gap year” like JET, Teach for America, or Peace Corps can help with getting into the right grad school or internship.

Don’t be afraid to specialize after picking your niche. Say that you get a degree in politics and philosophy, go on a Peace Corps mission to Bolivia, and return for a masters degree in public health. Then you go around looking for jobs and end up as a junior analyst for the WHO drafting briefs and compiling data. This is a perfect time to improve your long-term prospects by shifting your career in that direction. Whether through a funded PhD in say epidemiology or simply by working at the job for many years, you will acquire specialized skills. That can later take  you to become a manager at the Gates Foundation focusing on vaccine development, for example.


How to Deal with Recruiters

Over the years, I’ve had my share of interactions with recruiters. Just like with jobs and people, some have been pleasant and helpful, while others obstinate and persistent. In today’s tough job market, some people inevitably turn to using them. But will using a recruiter help you find a job or cut you out of the running completely? With this post, I’ll show you the inside baseball on job hunting with respect to headhunters/recruiters. Should you use them? Should you believe what they say? Can you realistically cut them out and deal directly with the company doing the hiring?

How recruiters make their money

It depends. Most are employed by or own their own small companies. Many are niche are specialize in recruiting for hard-to-fill jobs, such as medicine where there is a shortage, or the C-suite, where the ramifications for a poor hire can be huge. Some firms charge a fixed price for the search, and then a percent of the contract signed if there is a successful hire. Others present a batch of candidates from their database for an open position and if one presented by the recruiter is hired, the recruiter takes a percentage cut from the contract signed. Sometimes, instead of a percentage cut the recruiter takes a fixed dollar sum per successful placement.

All humans operate based on incentives and penalties. Understanding what the compensation structure is for recruiters is important to determine whether they have our best interests in mind.


What value does a recruiter add to the business?

Businesses obviously specialize in their core function. Most aren’t good at HR or recruiting. Sometimes, the business is too small to have a large or dedicated HR department. They obviously don’t have the manpower to promote their company at trade fairs and university career forums. While it’s possible to put up an ad on Craigslist, Monster, or Linkedin, you may attract the dregs from the street. A poor hire can set the company back for years. Having a depot for resumes on the company’s website only works if the company is well-known and consumer-facing. For example, most lay people probably haven’t heard of Illinois Tool Works or Emerson Electric, large Fortune 500 companies that predominantly sell to corporate customers.

This is where employers can outsource the search for talent. Think of the search for good employees in terms of a subject most of us are more familiar with – dating. It’s possible to spend no money and cold-call at a bar, online, or through apps. On the other end of the spectrum are traditional matchmaker services, which keep a repository of the most wealthy, educated, beautiful, and eligible.

The analog for companies is headhunters/recruiters, who often have a database of their own. When they don’t or if they need to find a specific candidate that meets the company’s unique needs, they can do a talent search all across the world. This is how Stanford landed Jim Harbaugh as a football coach, for example, or how Sony settled on Howard Stringer as CEO.


Do you (as a candidate) really need a recruiter?

It all depends on how exclusive of a position you’re looking for. One situation that they can help is if you have a generic skill that’s universally applicable but not specific to any particular industry. An example of this is Russian language skill. Many companies may need one or two Russian speakers to deal with clients from that area, but very few companies will need that many of them. A recruiter who specializes in filling that need for companies generally has a reservoir of jobs already available and can send a resume to all of those places. It’s hard to find all of those openings on your own.

On the other end of the spectrum, a petroleum engineer has a very specialized skill and can generally apply to the big name companies in his or her field without needing a recruiter.

In other situations, like medicine, recruiters will come calling *you* because the supply/demand is so out of whack that companies pay generous bonuses if a recruiter is able to fill a position. This can get annoying at times, especially if you already have a job. C-suite headhunters are generally a bit more discreet with how they contact their potential hires.

One caveat that you should know is that if a company is faced with choosing between two otherwise identical resumes, one sent by a recruiter and the other from a cold-call applicant on their webpage, they’ll choose the one that doesn’t come with a separate fee to a recruiter.


Annoying things recruiters can do

Unfortunately, many people have experienced radio silence from recruiters after sending in a resume. This can be due to a multitude of reasons – sometimes the recruiter is simply swamped with too many applications. Other times, there aren’t enough jobs to go around. Suffice to say, if a generic low-level recruiter doesn’t get back to you, it’s because they had more attractive resumes to submit (higher chance of filling the job and earning a commission) or because they submitted but never heard back from HR. Remember, recruiters are middlemen themselves. Most of us have experienced the black hole that is HR – taking in hundreds of resumes and sending out notifications of rejection six months later to those who weren’t selected.

Generally, the higher up in the pecking order you go, the more personalized “service” you will receive from recruitment agencies. Recruiters lean obsequious and can work with nitpicky requirements from the candidate. Again, supply and demand. However, there is a downside to being sought after. Even after finding a job, you can get unsolicited emails and calls from other recruiters. Take for example my own field of medicine. As soon as I got my first state medical license, I was inundated with calls from recruiters from all across the country, asking if I was interested in “generic podunk job” in the boonies. Apparently, recruiters are so desperate to snare candidates that they troll the rolls of state medical boards and the NIH’s database of residents in training. As soon as someone shows up on the board list, recruiters can pounce on that information. Some information is posted in the public domain, and based on that they can contact the program administration for information on individual residents, or even show up at the hospital themselves.



Jobs That Pay – Dog Walking

Hey, not all traditional jobs are poorly-paid and overworked. As I mentioned in my book on wealth, there are under-exploited niches where one can be successful as an entrepreneur. Marketwatch today ran an interesting article on a dog walker(!!!) who is raking in 6 figures working the equivalent of part-time.

Stewart says he could have grown his business into “a dog walking empire.” But he says “there’s a tipping point — where you manage people more and dogs less — and that’s not what I signed up for.”

He now has three employees who walk dogs for him, and he doesn’t plan to hire any more. He pays them a salary instead of an hourly wage and often works with them.

He charges customers $15 per walk — the going rate in Long Island City — and walks between 40 and 50 dogs every Monday through Friday, mostly between 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

He knows a solo dog walker in his neighborhood who makes $2,000 a week by working 35 to 40 hours a week. And he knows a dog walker with employees who makes $150,000 after paying his employees.

And Stewart says he makes about $110,000 a year — after paying his expenses and employees — while working 25 hours a week. “It’s full-time time pay for part-time work. I think everyone would want that,” he says, adding, “I’m doing something that I love and I have time to go to school at night.”

I’ve bolded key points of emphasis. This guy has done a great job following the rules in my book for starting up successful businesses.

  1. He understood the market. NYC folks are busy and are willing to hire nannies, dog walkers, etc. to take care of their personal lives.
  2. This is a small enough market (not a lot of prestige for dog-walkers) that someone can easily become super specialized and command top dollar (big fish in a small pond).
  3. He figured out how to stand out as elite, by promoting his expertise and experience with dogs of all kinds.
  4. His work was still paid on an hourly basis, but he removed part of those constraints by hiring others for some jobs and moving to more of a higher level coordinating, marketing, and managing role.
  5. He had limited ambitions. He kept his business small-scale enough to be adequately profitable, rather than investing tons of money to become a commercial empire, with a higher chance of losing money and even failing.
  6. He worked on what he knew and loved.
  7. At least initially, he didn’t depend on his job for money (he worked as a bartender and waiter for a while).
  8. He knew himself and had an endgame plan. He had an income level in mind at which he would be satisfied and spend extra hours on other pursuits.

One natural wacky extension of this principle that comes to mind is being a niche nanny-tutor combo to the very wealthy. Someone can bill himself as an Aristotle-like individual able to give kids the extra boost needed to get into the most elite schools, become well-rounded, and achieve success in life. For a high retainer of course! If you’re gunning for this position from early on in life, you can build a sample CV with a PhD in early childhood development, a bachelors or masters in education, empathy and skill with children (being female helps in this regard, for perception if nothing else), aptitude in art and music, and a track record of success (by babysitting and caring for family friends’ kids).

You can read about of other successful entrepreneurs and more tips on how to identify your strengths and build your own business with my book on wealth.


The Korean Hell

I read this morning an interesting article on the state of life for young people in South Korea. Man, was it depressing. In short, if you think your life is bad, you don’t even compare with what these kids have to go through. Here are some quotes:

Hwang often goes to work on a Monday morning with her suitcase, not leaving again until Thursday night. She eats at her office, takes a shower at her office, sleeps in bunk beds at her office. “If I finish work at 9 p.m., that’s a short day,” she said.

Paychecks come irregularly — or not at all, if the show gets axed — and because she doesn’t have a contract, Hwang wonders when she goes to sleep each night whether she’ll still have a job in the morning. She can make this life work only by living at home with her parents — when she goes home, that is.

“If you have enough money, South Korea is a great place to live. But if you don’t . . .” she trails off.

My old professor in business school once told me, “No one works harder than Americans. People always think it’s the Japanese, but no, it’s Americans. Koreans come close though.” In many respects, Korea is similar to America with cultural expectations about work and a paucity of days off. Just listen to how tough parents are with their kids:

Most frustrating of all, many young people say, is that their parents, who worked long hours to build the “Korean dream,” think the answer is just to put in more effort.

“My parents think I don’t try hard enough,” said Yeo Jung-hoon, 31, who used to work for an environmental nongovernmental organization but now runs a Facebook group called the “Union of Unskilled Workers.”

My book on happiness is still being written, but this focus on work at the expense of sanity and family is not sustainable. People are miserable! And the work doesn’t even pay that much either. What’s the solution to all of this? Read my book on wealth, start your own business, acquire a a large nest egg, and get the hell out of Korea.