Careers for People People

The second in a series on interesting careers.

Posted Aug 15, 2017

Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain
Source: Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

Career contentment depends less on a career’s “coolness’ than on whether it matches your core ability: words, people, data, or hands-on.

To that end, here is the second in a four-part series. In this installment, I offer brief introductions to some people-centric careers. The other installments are Careers for Word People, Data-centric Careers, and Hands-On Careers.

The careers have been subjectively selected on: whether many people-oriented people enjoy the career, pay, offshoring- and automation-resistance, and if it offers a decent chance at making a decent living. Few if any careers deserve an A on all those attributes but the selected ones have a high grade-point average.

Information on training requirements and the path to well-paying positions, if not listed here, may be found in the link next to each career.

Specialty counselor or coach.  The Mental Health Parity Act requires that health care systems provide mental health care to the same extent as physical health. That ensures continued demand for mental health professionals. But because of that profession’s attractiveness, there's a therapist, counselor, or coach under every rock. To compete, it may help to specialize.That also boosts your likely effectiveness—While it’s fun to see a wide range of patients/clients, it’s easier to become a master if you specialize in one condition. Societal trends suggest solid demand for such specialties as interracial relationships, transgender and sexually ambiguous people, and, in our ever more stressful times, anxiety. More info.

Complex-big-ticket-item salesperson. What are examples of "complex?" personnel recruiting/headhunting, stadiums, robots, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and customizable enterprise software suites. Also, most entrepreneurs need to be salespeople: to raise money and to convince wholesalers, retailers, or consumers to buy their product..

Good salespeople and fundraisers are slick listeners at least as much as slick talkers. They intuit the emotional and factual message behind the message, the prospect's practical and psychological hot buttons. Based on that, they ask questions likely to lead the prospect to say yes. Also, while of course, salespeople and fundraisers need product knowledge, they must also be eager to help prospects solve their problem even if it doesn’t result in a sale. Such generosity often-enough pays off in the long run. More info.

Neat Niche: Account Manager: They tend to spend less time selling, more time supporting: getting problems solved, providing information, and just-plain listening, which is underrated. More info.

Neat Niche: Business Developer. That term is often used to describe anyone from product developer to salesperson. But here I’m referring to the kind of business developer that searches-out and negotiates joint ventures, licensing agreements, mergers, and acquisitions. It requires an unusual skill amalgam: valuation, quick learning, reasoning ability, and, yes, people skills. More info.

Fundraiser. This is the nonprofit analogue to salesperson. Fundraisers are often well-paid. After all, money is nonprofits’ lifeblood. It’s a good-fit career for a low-key but savvy salesperson, especially if older—Most people who give big bucks to charity have wrinkles. Fundraisers may go on to be non-profit executives because that role typically includes major fundraising and related people skills: recruiting and managing boards and developing relationships with other leaders. More info.

Intermediate-level health care provider. Whether or not we end up with a single-payer “Medicare for All” system, it’s clear we’re moving to “covering” everyone. Because the pool of newly covered people will be high-need but low-paying, much medical care will be downscaled: from physician to physician assistant or nurse practitioner, anesthesiologist to nurse anesthetist and anesthesiology assistant, physical therapist to physical therapy assistant, pathologist to pathologist assistant. So careers in those areas should burgeon.

Other sub-doctoral level health-care careers likely to remain viable include registered nurse, occupational therapist, dental hygienist, and speech therapist. A word about the latter: It requires great patience. Progress with language delays, speech impediments, and swallowing disorders is often not quick. More broadly, intermediate-level health-care careers are for detail-oriented, caring people who can handle the required science courses. These careers pay well yet require far less schooling than their more lofty analogues. More info plus this

Foundation program officer. It’s fun to give away money, and foundation program officers often pick which grant proposals to fund. Also, they may develop requests for proposal, support grantees in implementation, evaluate programs’ success, or generate ideas for their improvement or dissemination. They may write reports, present to the foundation’s leaders, and even raise more money for the foundation. More info.

Student affairs administrator. No, this doesn’t refer to assignations. Colleges employ people, many without doctorates, to develop and administer programs for orientation, extracurriculars, housing, etc. A college campus is a stimulating work environment and the academic year is short. More info.

Adoption agency counselor.  Government agencies hire such counselors to do the often emotionally rewarding work of matching prospective parents with children and counseling them as well as birth parents. Private agencies may specialize in international adoptions. A psychological background, for example, being a licensed counselor or clinical social worker is typically required. More info.

Field Interviewer. Many companies, non-profits, and government agencies hire interviewers. A company might use one to run focus groups or observe and then interview people using their product. For example, Whirlpool might send you into people’s homes to see how they use their refrigerator, stove, and microwave. A nonprofit or government agency might send you into low-income neighborhoods to interview people about what they perceive as impediments to employment. While such work can be interesting, the pay is generally too low to be long-term sustainable. It however can be a launchpad into other careers, for example, market researcher, community relations manager, qualitative data analyst, and survey developer. More info.

People manager. Of course, in information-age fields such as high tech, biotech, health care, and the ever-more data-driven marketing, significant technical expertise is required atop people skills. But managers are also needed in less technical areas, for example, restaurants manager, sales manager, human resources manager, and office manager. More info.

Simple self-employment. Complex businesses or those attracting stars such as in biotech and high-tech are usually too risky areas for self-employment. If you can accept that status is often the enemy of contentment, you’re wise to choose a simple business, in which your competition is likely to be modest. A few examples: handyperson, robot technician, tutor or coach, own a small chain of flower or gift carts or stands near train and bus terminals, or health care advocate. The latter fights with health care providers, insurance companies, and the government to get care and coverage for their patients. More info.

Politician. Government continues to grow, some would say metastasize.There are growing numbers of commissions, councils, boards, etc. For example, where I live, in addition to federal, state, county, and city governments, there are elected officials on, for example, park commissions, transportation boards, utilities districts, and of course, school boards. More info.

NOTE: Dr. Nemko recently gave a talk at U.C. Berkeley on a related subject, The Future of Work. Here is the audio.

His nine books are available. You can reach career and personal coach Marty Nemko at