How to find the hidden job market

Here are some industries where jobs are disappearing very quickly: Newspapers, car assembly lines and coal mining. It’s important to keep track of jobs that are disappearing, because it gives us a glimpse of where new jobs are emerging. In order to understand where the workforce is heading, you need to understand why parts of it are dying.

The value in seeing these new openings in the workforce is deciding which is maybe the right next step for you. And that is a more effective way to steer your career than obsessing about the jobs that you want to exist that are not there yet. You’ll need to practice this way of thinking. I know because I do it all the time for my own career, checking a wide range of fields. So start practicing—here are several jobs that I’ll bet you haven’t noticed are gone, and what’s being filling the vacancies.

1. Blogger.
There is not enough money in blog advertising for lone individuals to make a living from it. There used to be. But today, if you want to sell content, you need multiple people blogging on one site. And if there’s just one blogger, you need to use your blog to sell something else (like career tools, in Ramit’s case, or a company, in mine). My favorite example of this is Guy Kawasaki. He built his blog traffic up to a respectable mountain and then realized that the ad revenue from blogging stinks, especially in comparison to his bestselling books. So he used his blog to launch a new company, and get another book deal, and then he shut down his blog,

Here’s his new book: Enchantment. And here’s something that the current workforce favors more than anything else: being enchanting. Kawasaki shows how enchanting is a combination of being full of smart ideas and being nice. I love his book because it’s actually a book about how to get a job, how to save a marriage, how to get funding. It’s all the how-to’s wrapped up into one book. Because if you are enchanting, you can always find the right someone to help you get to your next, right, spot. If you are enchanting, it doesn’t matter what jobs are gone. You’ll always find one.

2. Porn Star.
I really can’t say enough great things about New York Magazine. It’s like the Atlantic for people who are not snobs. This week’s issue is about porn, and I challenge any of you to read the issue and not learn a ton about the topic. One thing I learned is that porn stars are not making as much money anymore because people like making their own movies for free. It’s kind of like why bloggers don’t get paid, actually. People just like putting their stuff out there and getting feedback.

So the result is that you can’t make a living as a porn star, but in every single industry, where one career path disappears, another opens up, and porn is no exception. Marc Randazza, First Amendment lawyer who represents porn companies, said about porn: “Honestly, the gay side’s where all the money is. There might be 30 straights guys who can make a living at it, but if you’re willing to get fucked in the ass, I can get you five grand right now.”

3. Graffiti Artist.
I know you’re thinking that this wasn’t a job anyway. But look, Keith Haring made a truckload of money. And so did Banksy and Cope2. But the problem is that the art that used to be subversive has become mainstream. The advice in the wikiHow article How to Become a Graffiti Artist gives the same advice that I’d give for how to become an investment banker: Learn the skills, get connected, and do a lot of research to see where you’ll fit. (Sidenote about graffiti art laws in NYC: It’s against the law, of course, to spray paint something you do not personally own. In NYC you can be arrested for holding a can of spray paint with the intent of using it to break the law. This reminds me of Jewish law where the law is to “not boil a young goat in it’s mother’s milk”, but the Jews who keep Kosher, in order to make sure they do not break that law, do not eat dairy for six hours after eating meat.)

Anyway, back to the graffiti: it’s outdated. Not cool in the art scene. Which means you won’t get gallery representation, which is the equivalent of having a job as an artist.

Probably the death knell for graffiti art was in when IBM paid graffiti artists to do ads on the sidewalk. But Art News reports in their January issue that, while graffiti remains the chosen term to describe spray-can tagging, “post-graffiti” is the term to describe all the other sorts of street art. If I’ve completely lost you in this paragraph, maybe you should check out the book, Trespass: A History of Uncommissioned Urban Art.

I love that term: uncommissioned art. People like Faile (a duo) earn up to $60,000 for putting paint and posters on wood in junkyards. But if you’re earning money to put art on the street then it’s probably not illegal. Faile says, “It’s a blur between street art and public art and public intervention.”

But look, here’s a key to coping with the reality that the job you want to do is actually disappearing from the workforce. Take a look at what is replacing it. And see where you fit in. The Wooster Collective is a fun blog about post-graffiti street art. And for you artists looking for a job, the drop-down menu on the side bar of the blog is like a career search tool with terms like Chalk, Billboard Liberations, Guerilla Gardening.

You are dying to know what those things are, right? Here are some photos I found on the Wooster Collective blog.

Chalk art:

Guerilla gardening:

Billboard liberation:

And here’s hoping the next step in each of our careers will be as fun, innovative and visually stimulating as these.

79 replies
Newer Comments »
  1. Kathleen
    Kathleen says:

    Some parts of the economy are dying because we can’t find enough skilled workers. Specifically in industries people think there are no jobs -aka- manufacturing. Massachusetts is predicting a shortfall of 100,000 skilled workers over the next ten years. It is such a crisis that various states are proactively working on it now -with little headway. Even industrial states like Michigan are hurting. This company posted 50 skilled job openings with no takers.

    One 15 year old boy ran with the opportunity and started his own machining company. He’s 19 now with 4 employees (all older than he is) and is insanely busy.

    Making stuff is fun and pays well. Manufacturing work has an image problem but it is nothing like people imagine. I can tell you that our biggest problem isn’t that these jobs have gone offshore, it’s that people think it has or that it is cruddy work and doesn’t pay well. We will never recapture our economy unless we can fill these jobs. The issue isn’t whether there are available jobs, it’s whether people are willing to train for them (often free, on the job). Great benefits too. Everyone I know is short on help.

    • Shefaly
      Shefaly says:

      The FT has an interesting article in its supplement today which you may like to read. Titled “The self-imposed talent shortage” it argues that the soi-disant skill shortage is more about too rigid criteria in job descriptions (which means hardly any applicant is deemed “suitable”), “safe” hiring, and employers’ unwillingness to develop and manage and invest in employees (yes, the same businesses which claim these employees are their main assets). One other factor may be too large a role played by “HR” in hiring. HR should be subordinate to business needs, not the first point of filtering.

      • Liz
        Liz says:

        Well-put, Shefly.

        I’ve become extremely frustrated with the idea that someone somewhere won’t do a particular job. Invariably, a little investigation reveals that what’s really going on is the company won’t pay someone to do the job correctly.

        Employees have to travel to your site, perform at a safe level, and, oh yeah, EAT. If you aren’t paying enough to attract good people, then you just aren’t paying enough. Like the dating market, the hiring market, and so on, it’s rarely the fault of the labor market when good people aren’t attracted to a particular outlet. (Also, I’ve noticed a real uptick in these complaints since the crackdown on companies employing illegal immigrants).

  2. IMA2FOUR7
    IMA2FOUR7 says:

    Thank you for brightening my morning. Your writing is fantastic. I am still laughing in pursuit of my masters in elementary education. I think people are still reproducing, right? By the time I get done I am hoping there will be bodies (and minds) left out there to teach–of course getting the job is a whole other story which is why I’m rather glad to studying algebra today.
    Keep on writing!

  3. Blessing
    Blessing says:

    I agree with Kathleen. As an engineer, I see a lot of manufacturing job oversees because labor is damn expensive here. We would rather sit our ass down, watching our blogs to bring in cash, when we can be in the manufacturing industry and make a good living. There is nothing crude about manufacturing….it is infact the backbone of our economy. How much revenue will you get from blogging, porn or even as an artist……a more consistent job is in the manufacturing sector.

  4. Vanessa McGrady
    Vanessa McGrady says:

    I’m planning the same thing as Kawasaki — and using my blog as the book platform and a way to get some of the writing done as I go. In the meantime, before anyone is paying me anything for that, I’ve actually fallen madly in love with my blog and am hoping that it actually helps some 40licious woman in her day somehow.

  5. Alison
    Alison says:

    Penelope, this cannot be said enough. Everything that comes out of your mouth is pure gold. You are the most interesting read on the internet and I constantly refer friends and family to your site for career advice.

  6. KateNonymous
    KateNonymous says:

    It’s interesting, but were these ever (aside from porn) jobs that people took because they expected to make a lot of money? There never were that many Banskys, just lots of taggers.

  7. Pen
    Pen says:

    Is Guy Kawasaki really ending his blog? Because it’s hard to tell that from reading the linked post of his. He says:

    “There's a group effort for bloggers to post their "last post" today. Here's the premise: If you had one last blog post to send out, what would you say?”

    That makes it sound like a number of people are pretending that this is their last blog post and writing what would be their last post if they were shutting down their blog. i.e. hypothetically.

    Now, maybe he is shutting it down, I don’t know. He did say that if he only had X hours to live, he would not spend any time on his blog but would instead spend it with family or doing fun hobbies (hockey in his case). But then wouldn’t most people say that about nearly everything? I mean, who would go to work, change the oil in the car, grocery shop, etc. if they knew they only had a short amount of time left? Of course you might say why do them ever, in that case, but some tasks need to be done, so you do them even though you know you are going to die sometime.

    But….. did he coincidentally really decide to shut his blog down after reflecting? Maybe so.

    • Chris M.
      Chris M. says:

      I was wondering the same thing. The blog post Penelope linked too does not say anything about Kawasaki shutting down his blog. He blogs infrequently, that’s for sure, but the title “The Last Blog Post” has nothing to do with a notification that his shutting down his blog, as what comes next explain:

      “There's a group effort for bloggers to post their "last post" today. Here's the premise: If you had one last blog post to send out, what would you say? This is based on The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.”

  8. Helen
    Helen says:

    You are smart and a good writer but you degrade yourself with the trashy aspect of your posts. Give the reader a little credit. And have some self respect.

    Also, your blog is very Gen X while your company is Gen Y, so the one does not sell the other.

  9. Mary Elizabeth
    Mary Elizabeth says:

    P- I’m so very sorry things are hard right now with you and the farmer and your friend is gone. I assume things are not so great because your posting frequency has picked up…

    I’ve been wanting to tell you this for a while, I find remembering this helpful. Its unsolicited. Forgive me. Everything we do in life, every relationship we are a part of, goes through a cycle of passion-disillusionment and joy. You will be at some point on that cycle in all relationships at all times. Sometimes people use different words for this, the descriptions vary, but the essential point is that all relationships are a process. They evolves. It helps to know what to expect at the various stages; otherwise normal transitions can be misinterpreted as a reason to bail a job, a marriage, etc. Try not to be so overly worried about things with the farmer, your likely just stuck in disillusionment and will move on again.

    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth says:

      Mary Elizabeth, I can’t speak for P, but personally, I appreciate your words. Thanks for writing them.

      • dk
        dk says:

        Started reading Penelope’s blog a few weeks ago. This is my first time posting a reply but you have no idea how much that advice has helped me see my life in a new perspective. So thank you very very much. I wish you all the best in your relationships. Thank you for saving mine.

  10. Tzipporah
    Tzipporah says:

    But of course, at the beginning Kawasaki didn’t earn loads of money from his books, either. Only superstar authors earn a decent living from writing. His income was from speaking engagements – which is a whole different lifestyle.

    Also, I don’t think he’s ending his blog.

  11. Van
    Van says:

    I’d be happy earning a little less if that’s what it took to run my blog full time. (Hell, I know bloggers in my field who blog for a living and earn more than I do effortlessly.) My blog’s about being thrifty and I -am- very thrifty, I don’t need much cash to thrive. I’m still going to reach for my unrealistic incomprehensible dream, many warnings be damned!

    Also: Love how you’re letting your artistic side shine through in recent posts with photos.

  12. pfj67
    pfj67 says:

    If you’re including “porn star” in your very short list, then why not mention how much money there is to be made by selling heroin, cocaine, crack, and so on. Or armaments — huge profits there.

    Sky’s the limit, right? But if not, then how about less sleaze.

  13. Chris
    Chris says:

    Being a porn star, gay or straight, does not pay very well and is extremely dangerous. The porn industry makes 10 BILLION dollars a year, yet hires a substandard clinic to do HIV testing and refuses to require condoms be used on set, resulting in at least 15 porn industry workers to be diagnosed with HIV this year.


    Seems to me that from a work-life balance perspective, gay porn worker is not such good career advice. Just saying.

    • Chris
      Chris says:

      I can’t let this go. I just want to be clear that I don’t have a problem with porn. I have a problem with exploitation. And cheaping out on HIV testing is exploitation in my book.

      Also, porn actors don’t make that much unless they get “on contract”. If they’re not on contract, they’re paid by the act and the pay isn’t that good. Seriously. I think it’s something like $1,000 per act. Think about the math – let’s say you act in 20 movies/year and you perform 3 acts/movie. That’s only $60,000. Before taxes.

      • sophie
        sophie says:

        >>I just want to be clear that I don’t have a problem with porn.<<

        I have a big problem with porn. It's become an epic problem in society and is one of the most erosive issues within a marriage. Most users don't see this, of course, until it's too late.

  14. Michael
    Michael says:


    That was an interesting read. May I ask a favor, please omit the crass language. You seem like a class act and I’m a bit surprised by the one tasteless quote.

  15. Leslie
    Leslie says:

    Another really great documentary about Banksy and street art is "Exit Through the Gift Shop" currently available through Netflix. It’s all about making money as a graffiti/street artist. There are some twists at the end which are hilarious and someone besides Banksy ends up making a boat load of cash.

  16. Rob Reimer
    Rob Reimer says:

    Loved the article, and don’t listen to the few church ladies that are offended by the porn stuff. I loved it and I appreciate how honest your writing is and especially that you don’t censor yourself. You obviously live in the real world. Thank you.

  17. Penny
    Penny says:

    There is always a market for sex. It just takes different forms. Yes, it’s hard for old school porn stars right now to make a living. Some of them are moving into sex toys. You can now get toys fashioned off of your favorite porn stars genitals. Nina Hartley is giving sex advice on the internet.
    I think it is fantastic that so many amateurs want to share so much with the internet. That’s not what is so damaging to porn. The damage there is the pirating. Seriously people, pay for your professional porn or all your ever going to see is the amateur stuff.

  18. Dee
    Dee says:

    Hi Penelope,

    I worked in porn as an administrator/model wrangler/general tech in 2004 and the industry has evolved tremendously since.

    Pornography produces an incredible amount of spinoff jobs and that does NOT include fluffing. Currently the most vital staff are accountants, lawyers, techs, editors, booking managers, online community managers, SEO specialists, online ad managers, bloggers, OH&S advisors and testers/experience managers. If a jobseeker can look beyond ‘naked people doing naughty things’ then the adult industry provides valuable opportunities.

    As for the ‘free content from amateurs’ trend – I think it’s silly for them not to be making money. However, that’s just my personal opinion.

    P.S. I wrote a blog post about what I learnt about work/life from working in porn.
    It’s worth your time. Promise.

  19. Working
    Working says:

    Re Porn, New York Magazine is late in the game.
    Current TV had a show about how the porn industry was handling the recesion and the new media.It’s from 2009, but still relevant. They talk about 3-D porn, and other uses of technology. Very informative.

    PS No, I don’t work for Current TV; I just like their programs.

  20. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I’ve decided one of the things I like about this blog and your writing style is your ability to merge the business (career, money, etc.) and artist (creativity) concepts together into one. It’s quite evident here in this post.
    BTW – My favorite photo is the hand around the manhole cover. It reminds me of someone trying to pick up a thin dime.

  21. Jim C.
    Jim C. says:

    In most cases, pornographic acting = prostitution = sex for money. (An exception would be Candida Royalle’s stuff, since she hires actors in committed relationships who are a bit exhibitionistic and don’t mind doing it on camera.)
    As others have pointed out, there are a number of sleazy jobs that pay well. All you have to do is throw away your self-respect. If you don’t respect yourself, you’re on a slippery slope.

  22. Bryan Thompson
    Bryan Thompson says:

    Penelope, I originally landed on your Darth Vader VW post, but I knew I’d get lost in the shuffle for sure. :) You have quite a popular blog there. :) In all seriousness, I love this article. Have you read Gary Vaynerchuk’s book, “Crush It?” He talks about new jobs specifically being created. There are so many blogs out there (and porn stars and graffiti artists I guess) that it’s hard to stand out…unless you have an idea that stands out. Really, I think it’s all about learning what makes a great idea WORK. Learn as much about that particular industry as you can and then break all the rules. Do what NOBODY in that freaking industry is doing – but it’s okay because you KNOW how your industry works. Sounds like a paradox, but I think your article shows it’s how we have to think..

  23. Sasana
    Sasana says:

    The blatant honesty is why I read this blog. So blatant plugging of someone’s book to curry favor with them, while not acknowledging what’s really going on, comes off as dishonesty.

    Just sayin’.

  24. Chris M.
    Chris M. says:

    Penelope, Guy Kawasaki is still posting to his blog. Apparently you didn’t go further than reading the title of the blog post you linked to, in order to conclude that he stopped blogging. I wonder if he is having mixed feelings about this post — on one hand, bringing attention to his book; on the other, telling the story completely wrong.

    Kawasaki launched Alltop in 2008, and has continued to blog after that: How he can be Penelope’s “favorite example” is a mystery to me.

    “My favorite example of this is Guy Kawasaki. He built his blog traffic up to a respectable mountain and then realized that the ad revenue from blogging stinks, especially in comparison to his bestselling books. So he used his blog to launch a new company, and get another book deal, and then he shut down his blog”

  25. Mark
    Mark says:

    Acknowledging personal limitations, becoming a tag-artist, anthracite miner, or adult film star, all regretably excede my current skillset.

    But let me share this nugget lifted from the pages of SmartMoney magazine: During a job interview, if confronted with the hackneyed excuse of being “overqualified”, pleasantly respond by saying: “Thats okay, I can always underperform”.

    (not so much if interviewing for a porn film….)

  26. Yvette
    Yvette says:

    Well, that’s depressing. I’m GenX and in my 40s. Sad to think this is as much as I’ll ever make (except for inflation). I agree with the “go into maintenance mode” as a strategy, and enjoy life, but I was sort of hoping to continue my career climb, learn more and do more. Then again, no one ever says at the end of their life that they wished they had spent more time at the office….

  27. Sandra Pawula
    Sandra Pawula says:

    So many people are exhausting themselves trying to make money blogging. I wish more people would tell them the straight story on that score as you have here. Thanks.

  28. Kath Roberts
    Kath Roberts says:

    I love a blogger with a bit of personality and something worthwhile to say. I agree with your sentiments, wherever crisis strikes, there ‘s a rainbow somewhere else. Personally I love self employment and finding work that grows me, inspires me and develops me. I blog about a href=’’>personal development these days, because let’s face it we’re all a work in progress.

  29. Vick
    Vick says:

    I’m surprised that blogging was ever able to pay anyone’s bills. I figured that all the "professionals" blogged as just one form of income –

  30. Riley Harrison
    Riley Harrison says:

    A very enjoyable thought provoking post.I guess my take on it is that creativity and going first is a pretty good formula for success. As an aside – all those who suffer from unrealistic expectations (ie newcomers in the blogging world) need to read this. Thanks for a great post.

  31. Ecco Casual
    Ecco Casual says:

    Summer is Ecco season across the world!
    Ecco shoes natural motion technology supports these natural systems encouraging muscles and ligaments to strengthen whist encouraging runners to develop a more natural.The Ecco collection is made of Yak leather,
    has a water repellent coating called ion-mask, has removable insoles for added comfort, has an anatomical shank system which stabilizes the foot without limiting the natural torsion and many many more features.

    Ecco shoes collection is broken down into ecco golf, ecco terra and ecco sandals Run- which has sub categories of ecco A, B, and C dependent on individual fitness. See for more details to our page.

  32. Simon
    Simon says:

    Hi your article made for interesting reading, I especially like your thoughts on finding niches in the porn industry. Being british though that particular avenue of pleasure isn’t available to a UK resident but there are plenty of other places to look. However, some poeple just do not have the breadth of experience to consider a change of career and for those people the pond gets smaller every day. For them its all about getting the job ahead of someone else and the first step in doing that is to write a decent resume or CV as we call it in the UK. Ian Roe at Mercury Search and Selection wrote an excellent article on writing a great cv that I would highly recommend.

  33. Tyler Ward Is-Bored
    Tyler Ward Is-Bored says:

    Penelope your blog was an inspiration to start my own.  It may be too late but I still think I can make something of it (I didn’t start it to make money but to make connections).  Great post and I will continue to follow your blog in the future.  It gave me the courage to quit my investment banking job and pursue my entrepreneurial path a few months ago.  I may not make as much, but I don’t wake up every morning dreading my day either.  It helps when you look yourself in the mirror that even if you fail, you failed following your heart. Cheer!

Newer Comments »

Comments are closed.