Planning a Career, Career Change or New Business in Wyoming:

Factors to Consider Before Jumping in Head First

by:Lee Saathoff

There are numerous factors that need to be considered when planning a career or new business in Wyoming. Wyoming's economic structure is different in some aspects from other parts of the U.S. and these differences need to be considered. Factors that are not under a person's control play a major role in success or failure in the labor or product market. These factors need to be researched and analyzed before jumping in head first. Without proper planning, career and new business decisions can lead to unexpected disasters.

Wyoming is unique in some aspects of our economy when compared to the U.S. and other states in the region. First we can look at the way Wyoming compares to the U.S. by using covered employment figures (refer to "Comparison of the Industries of Wyoming and the United States" in the February issue of TRENDS). Covered employment includes all workers covered under Unemployment Insurance. There are twelve areas or major industries of comparison. Eight of these areas show similar dispersion of covered employment between Wyoming and the country as a whole. In contrast, however, there are four industry divisions (Manufacturing, Services, Local Government and Mining) that show large disparities in the percent of covered employment (Wyoming percent - U.S. percent = Disparity). Manufacturing and Services show large negative disparities and Local Government and Mining show large positive disparities. These disparities appear to occur not only between Wyoming and the U.S., but also between Wyoming and other states in the region (see "Figure: Percent of Covered Employment").

These disparities can occur for a number of reasons, but only a few of the main reasons will be identified here. The disparity between Wyoming and the U.S. in the Manufacturing industry may be related to two main factors: (1) a small local market and (2) transportation barriers and costs. The Services industry seems to be increasing, but population limitations, along with other factors, probably have played a role in keeping Wyoming well below the national percent. These population limitations, due to small and sparse population levels, may only allow general services. Larger population areas are able to have greater quantities of specialized services, thus increasing their Services industry total (see "Comparison of the Industries of Crook, Hot Springs, Lincoln, Niobrara and Platte Counties"). Of course, exceptions may occur such as in Hot Springs County, which has a high proportion of Services workers due to tourism. Wyoming's Local Government industry has three main areas that keep the total high: Education, Health Services (most states do not have the level on a per capita basis of government-owned hospitals as Wyoming) and Executive and Legislative Offices. Sparse population may create a need for increased numbers of educators and health providers to cover all areas. This is especially true when sparse areas model their delivery systems after high population areas (refer to 1994 Annual Covered Employment & Wages for the State of Wyoming, available from Research & Planning). The Mining industry disparity is pretty well understood in the state. Wyoming has large quantities of natural resources relative to other areas of the U.S., so it is a major portion of he economy compared to other states.

Now you may ask, "What does this have to do with career or new business planning?" Well, the unique aspects of the Wyoming economy play a key role in these major life-changing decisions, as will be discussed. There are four primary factors to look at when making one of these decisions: (1) demand, (2) supply/competition, (3) wage and/or costs and (4) geographical limitations (Richard Nelson Bolles, What Color is Your Parachute? - 1996; Paul Hawken, Growing a Business - 1987). These four factors will be discussed first with regard to a career or career change decision.

Labor Demand - Demand is an important factor that many career seekers neglect to analyze. Career seekers are those people who are attempting to identify a possible career and not those currently looking for a permanent job. Demand can be looked at in terms of an occupational outlook. The question to be asked is, "How many openings will there be in Wyoming for the occupation in which you are interested?" For example, if a person is going to spend the time and the money to train as a Registered Nurse, will there be openings when the training is complete or will the person have to leave the state to find employment in that field? Be certain to take some time to analyze this factor in advance.

Labor Supply/Competition - Supply should be looked at hand in hand with demand. Here the question is, "How many other people are trained or are getting trained in this same occupation?" Everyone has to compete for job openings. The smaller the field of competition, the better the chance of finding a job once the training is complete. There might be 50 annual openings each year in one field with 1,000 people competing for the jobs while in another field there are 10 annual openings with only 15 people competing for the jobs. The competition level in the second occupation is less by far, thereby allowing for a greater probability of obtaining a job in that field.

Expenses & Wages - These factors are probably the most commonly analyzed by career seekers. Expenses include time, money and resources involved in order to receive the necessary training and the wages foregone while being trained. Wages are the rates of pay one can expect to receive when the training is completed and a job is obtained.

Geographical Limitations - This factor only applies to some career seekers, but is very important if it applies to you. A career seeker might want to stay in a particular county of the state (such as Campbell County) or maybe in a certain city (such as Riverton). If this is the case, the occupational structure must be looked into at a more specific level. If someone wants to live and work in Jackson, they would not want to get training in a mining occupation (refer to "Comparison of the Industries of Campbell, Laramie, Natrona, Sweetwater and Teton Counties" in the February issue of TRENDS), because mining is a very small portion of that economic base. They might want to look more at a Services-type profession. This can be a big factor to career seekers, but quite often they do not know where to find this type of information. Research & Planning can help with this: see "List of Planning References".

There are others here in Wyoming that are not looking for a career change, but want to have their own businesses and be their own bosses. The concerns for these potential business owners are similar to career seekers. The four factors will now be looked at from a new business perspective.

Product Demand - "What will be the demand for the product or service I am going to provide?" This is usually examined by new business owners, but only in the short term. Long term is also very important: five years, ten years, even twenty years down the road, will there still be a demand? Economic and noneconomic factors can affect future demand and these need to be weighed along with current demand.

Product Supply/Competition - "How many other firms supplying the product or service already exist and would be considered competitors?" "Is there enough room in the current market for another similar firm?" "Can I compete?" These all need to be analyzed along with additional questions to see if the business is feasible. Saturating a market with too many similar businesses not only hurts the new business' chance for success, but can also hurt other businesses already in the field.

Expenses - Start up costs are always taken into consideration. Once the new business is up and running, the costs can get more complicated. Wages, inventory, monthly expenses, upkeep on equipment and unexpected costs should all be considered. A long term budget should be formulated and using rosy figures is not the way to go. It would be more advisable to be somewhat pessimistic in the figures. Generating larger revenues and having lower expenses than expected is more desirable than the other way around.

Geographical Limitations - New businesses must think about who their target market is, where their target market is located and how they will get their product or service to them. Seasonal, weather and distance factors must all be considered.

There is more to career and new business planning than just waking up one morning and deciding to be an elementary teacher or opening a candy store. Career and new business planning integrated with labor market information may increase your probability of success. When making a major life-changing decision, do not just jump in without testing the water first. The ultimate result could be disastrous without some good solid planning.

Lee Saathoff is a Statistician specializing in Labor Market Information with Research & Planning.

List of Planning References:

* Available from Research & Planning.
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