Normally there’s a question from a reader here, but this week’s column was stimulated by a news reporter who’s doing an article about hot jobs in 2024. She asked me what will be the hot jobs in 2024. That is, what jobs will need to be filled the most, and which will be most secure? I think it’s a worthy topic as we get ready to enter the New Year (and who knows what kind of economy). She posed her query as a series of more detailed questions which I’ll try to answer, if I don’t transgress and go off on a tangent. (Who, me?)

Nick’s Reply

hot jobsLet’s take the reporter’s questions one at a time.

What will be the hot jobs of 2024?

1. What jobs do you predict will be in highest demand next year?

I never think in terms of highest demand or “what’s hot.” I want to know who are the very best people in their field and business. They will always be successful and hire-able even if they suffer a job loss. Being great at what you do gets you the attention you need to be successful, no matter what’s “hot.” Jobs aren’t hot; people are. People should select work that drives them, rather than jobs that drive them away.

A classic example is COBOL programming. COBOL has been a dying computer language — but it will take forever to expire. Computer Science students have long avoided it, assuming their colleges even offer it. But I could place every expert COBOL programmer I could find — for top salaries. Companies have huge legacy systems written in COBOL that must be maintained. It isn’t a hot job at all. But the best COBOL programmers have jobs for life if they want them. They are hot people.

What jobs will always be hot?

2. What jobs do you think will be most needed in the future?

Sorry, I don’t make predictions about the needs of business. If I could do that, I’d be rich. Anyone who pretends to know the future — well, I advise against paying them a fee to help you pick a job! The same goes for stock pickers. No one can fathom the myriad factors that determine the future.

Which jobs will see layoffs?

3. Is there a sector at the moment that has a falling job market that will result in people losing their jobs?

Look around — it’s happening everywhere. People are getting laid off for many reasons, and not always because they are not performing well. Industries and companies go up and down, but it’s silly to try and predict which ones will be up and when. All we can really control is ourselves.

Few industries (or companies) totally disappear in a downturn. The best still seek out — and keep — the best workers. They’re the people who are employed to help companies pull out of the doldrums. Are you of that caliber? If not, find a type of work where you are motivated to be that good. Or, don’t waste my time — or any company’s.

I’m not saying you can avoid losing your job or being unemployed, but if you’re very good at what you do, your career expectancy is much longer than that of the worker who jumps from one hot job to another. In down times, corporate failures are opportunities for great workers who can fix things.

Hot jobs and job security

4. What industries will offer the most job security?

There is only one piece of advice I’ll offer. If you like your work, get better at it. Be one of the very best. Work for companies and with people that are best-of-class, whether they work in hot jobs or not. (Life is short! Throw your lot in only with the best!) Be known as the kind of worker companies need even when business is off and you’ll be least likely out of a job.

Retention is not always related to which industries (or jobs) are “safe.” If a person wants safe, they should go crawl into a hole. The world changes every day. There is no security anywhere except the security you make for yourself. That’s why many people quit regular jobs to start their own businesses. While entrepreneurship is always risky, your own business may be the safest place because you can make choices quickly and change direction as necessary.

Don’t be a dope. Don’t take a job because someone tells you it’s safe. If you take work that you love and really want to excel at, no matter what happens in the future, you will have developed skills and confidence (and a reputation) that will enable you to move on successfully. I think that’s the only kind of security you will find.


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Which hot jobs will make you happiest?

5. Out of all the jobs that people may want to secure now for the future, in your HR experience what’s the job where people have been the happiest?

I don’t work in HR, nor have I ever, so please don’t call me HR. I’m a headhunter. I find people are happiest in jobs to which they are driven by their own interests, because those are the jobs that are self-motivating and thus most rewarding. The more you like your work, the more likely you will invest in your skills and abilities, and that will build your motivation and confidence. When you have smarts, motivation, and confidence, you will also be persistent. You will excel and you will survive most any catastrophe. There are no bromides; there are only the personal choices you make. Listen to what others tell you, and you’re doomed because you may “arrive” at a hot job, but you’ll have no idea what you’re doing there.

I believe professional happiness comes from being among the very best at the work you’re doing.

I sent these responses to the reporter, but I have no idea whether they will be published. Though I digressed from her questions, I hope the folks who read this column will find my observations useful, or at least entertaining! If you’re going to search for a new job in 2024, please check this oldie but goody: Job Hunting With The Headhunter: Go around the system!

What‘s hot about you? Do you have a hot job? What jobs do you think will be the hottest in 2024? How do you plan to stay employed in 2024?

Merry Christmas if you celebrate it, and whatever you celebrate this winter, I hope your holidays are merry and bright!

Please note: I’m taking a couple of weeks off to round up reindeer, so the next edition will be January 9, 2024!

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  1. Y’know, looking at Point 3: Nick, you seem to only be talking to gifted, exceptional people who are well-off. Your advice just doesn’t apply to a merely above-average person (who will never excel at any job the way you imply, merely be capable), nor does it apply to a poor person who must accept the next two part-time jobs offered or watch her children starve.

    Which is fine, your clientele are exceptional people, and those who hire them. You’re a headhunter. I just think you might be more explicit about it.

    • @Carl: How much more explicit could I be than the name of this website? ;-)

      Thanks for the alternative viewpoint, but I don’t agree with you. You could be an exceptional bricklayer, supermarket checkout worker, or blood lab technician. (That last one — I coached a guy to get a job he’d already been rejected for by showing him how to prove he could improve efficiency and costs.)

      I have no problem with someone taking any job they must to pay the rent. But I don’t think that’s what anyone aspires to. The purpose of this community is to explore ways to make our work lives better and more profitable.

    • This is pure nonsense. No matter what station one is in life, Nick’s advice is for everyone. I’ve been following this man for 15 years. And that included some extremely difficult periods of underemployment, while trying to change careers. His work is sound.

  2. You provided serious answers to deep questions. Honestly, the author just wants the jobs equivalent of predicting what shoes will be fashionable next year. In other words you were supposed to be the reputable source for clickbait. I’d be shocked if the author uses your interview.

    On the other hand, I read you for serious analysis of workplace issues and appreciate your insights.

  3. As always, Nick is right on

    On Nick’s #4: I was a headhunter for a large religious organization but we assisted everyone, regardless. Being outstanding is in some ways a liability. I met one who has been fired for being outstanding. For example: on his own, developing a sales talk for a “loyal” stock broker that got customers to add higher fee services. It brought in $1 MILLION additional per year. And still does. 0He was fired by his manager to get the credit, a promotion, and a very large bonus. I could list 100 more examples. But the highest achievement brought in $500 MILLION DOLLARS the first year. (I can provide details.)

  4. Oh Nick, Hallelujah and Amen! I love your answers and how you refused to “bite”. Our obsession with the horse race of life (trying to predict markets, jobs, economies, elections) and the exorbitant amount of time, energy and resources we dedicate to all this speculation is so unproductive and baffling. I mean I get it — we want a sense of control — but we’d be so much better served as individuals and collectives relearning how to just be with our emotions and fears, and discerning between what we can control and what we can’t.

    Also, you indirectly call out the deeply problematic assumptions underlying the reporter’s questions. That people should try to mold themselves into a shape someone else told them was important, or valuable, or safe, or stable. This hasn’t served us well — I see it all the time in my professional coaching practice where traumatized, wide eyed employees and leaders are wreaking havoc on their relationships, productivity, and physical well-being to be something they’re not. (And after years of education and investment in a “career.” It’s horrifying.)

    Also, I appreciate Carl’s call out as well as your response. I think you’re both right. Personally I think we should give up our monogamous romance with white collar knowledge worker jobs and re-introduce respect for, and investment in, “blue collar” jobs. It’s hilarious to me that in all the assessments I’ve administered and debriefed over the years “plumber”, “electrician”, or “farmer” are never among the “ideal careers” profile for an employee. And yet even after COVID we still don’t get that those folks are the only “essential workers” and what the rest of us do — including me — is either bogus or just filling roles our families and communities used to fill.

  5. God! when you’re old, you have the perspective of knowing how many times that reporter’s topic and questions keep coming up over teh years.
    As Nick noted, the only honest answer is “I don’t know.” But reporters need more than a sentence. And even if someone could soundly answer it, right behind is “well what about 2025?”
    Timing is everything. Hot things cool off, cool things can get hot. And as to
    The reporter’s talking about tradeoffs. Ideally there’s Hot AND secure jobs…in your dreams. Those 2 are usually tradeoffs. I worked a lifetime in the IT world, computer development. which in any given day was a pretty ruthless world. It thrived on “HOT stuff”. But hot reeks with risk, business-wise and career-wise. Those hot jobs could go down the dumper in a blink. 2024? I put this in context with a wise observation of one of my bosses. “The executive level has an attention span of 1 year. If it’s not a home run they’re looking for another shining object.” There’s your security for you.

    Seemingly more secure would be the cash cow, whatever was selling NOW and bringing in the revenue. The SMAs would tend to goose step away from it as fast as possible leaving it to mere mortals to take care of it and seeminglyy stagnate. But all were subject to the collective whim of the marketplace and your executives either of which can take the company & you along with it down the slippery slope.

    Nick didn’t say it in this particular post, but rather forever. Behave like a headhunter, whose business is to know who the people are who are considered the best of the best & where they are. We all have opinions on people in our business we consider the top of their game. Build your network accordingly. Be in there networks. It’s not about who you know, it’s about who knows you. That’s the business and career purpose of building a network. What’s far better than this supposedly hot job, is to be part of that hot professional’s network. What’s HOT is to have a current, viable network that gives you an edge to seize an opportunity and/or simply keep the probability of a paycheck coming in without interruption. That aligns to your interests.
    In an unpredictable world this keeps you at the ready. This is an ongoing effort. Don’t wait til you’re thirsty to dig a well. Always be ready.

    In concert with that network I think one of the best things to be best at, is adaptability. What puts some substance into and drives security and doing your hot stuff is minimal risk adversity. Some wag said the only risk in life is not taking them. That doesn’t mean quantum leaps e.g. entrepreneurs, but comfort in movement away from your comfort zones & the confidence to do it.

    This somewhat aligns to transitional skills. You want to discover & use them. Work for a startup or a company in trouble. In these environments people must do things they’ve not done before & the employer will rely on that to survive. Survive says risk.

    As a recruiter and manager what I think employers big shortfalls is the failure to recognize adaptability particularly under duress. Instead you’re more likely to hear whining about job changes, job losses and the like without seeing what’s right in front of your eyes. People willing to try and most succeed at doing something different. Reinventing themselves, Pulling something off. People like that combined with their skills increase an employers probability of success.

    I’ve seen companies shoot themselves nicely in the foot, by not trusting their best people to adapt. They built their business with a proprietary Operating Systems. Unix came along. They changed direction and adopted it. Went shopping for those hot UNIX OS people. They already had them. Really good OS engineers, who saw themselves as OS engineers not proprietary OS specialist.
    Except for some of them who had a religious fervor for the old OS, and obsoleted themselves.

  6. Lol

  7. Never listen to the media as to what is a good job. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, listen to them at all for advice on the job market. By media I mean not just old legacy media (TV, newspapers, magazines, etc) but new media (podcasts, Youtube, social media, hearsay from random people on the internet) as well. They are bought and paid for and will never give an honest answer as to what is a good field to go into. Furthermore, each person has different strengths and interests and obviously pushing everyone to go into a few media selected fields isn’t going to work. Is everyone physically capable of being a welder, for example?

    When I was first going to college they pushed the idea of a ‘knowledge’ economy where a bachelor degree was vital to even get entry level work, which failed, of course. During the last two or three decades there has also been the push to get more people in the building trades which also is an epic fail from what I have witnessed personally (and no, most tradespeople don’t make $50/hour, sorry). Now they are pushing people to either be some sort of internet celebrity or streaming crap online alongside the gig economy which will also fail. It’s nothing but a cheap sales pitch. Most jobs that LEGITIMATELY require more than a high school diploma have been over-saturated with job seekers probably since the late 1980s/early 1990s from what I’ve seen. The fastest growing job fields since that time have been in retail and low end service jobs, oddly enough.

  8. I’m surprised about your comment regarding COBOL programmers.

    The last time I heard anything regarding COBOL was The Governor of New Jersey looking for COBOL programmers due to a critical need. That critical need translated into $50 per hour from Trenton area staffing firms.

    With all the layoffs, I’d think COBOL programmers would be available.

  9. $50 per hour is very low for any level oof coder.