Extinct or Evolved

We in workforce development spend a lot of time talking about job trends; trying to understand which occupations are coming and going and where we should focus our efforts, and training dollars. And as is the case with most things, here again there is no silver bullet. We rely a lot on forecasting, complex data analysis and ultimately local wisdom as our best indicators.

That got me thinking about some of the jobs we all know about that seem to be fading away, or at least struggling to reinvent themselves and remain relevant. Jobs like the video store clerk, the switchboard operator, and VCR repair guy are all but gone. But others are finding ways to hang on, and for good reason. Below are a few examples of those along with some anecdotal detail about what’s helping them change.

Some old school jobs that are evolving:

  • Librarian – The new librarian is a digital archivist, savvy with searches, keywords and helpful websites.
  • Professional typist – Since even “hunt and peck” keyboarders can tap out an email, top typists need various software proficiencies and an understanding of accessibility issues and tools to keep a spot at the keyboard.
  • Travel agents – Surviving agencies live in a niche. Secure a career by specializing in something: adventure/foreign travel, special event packages, etc.
  • Family farmer – Carrying on is possible (and even necessary), but it will require more business sense than ever before and a solid set of computer skills to work with automated equipment.
  • Cashier/clerk – Customers do more of the labor these days, leaving workers to monitor and  facilitate transactions. Good interpersonal skills are your human edge over the machine.
  • On-air DJ – The airwaves are being replaced by “web waves” and satellite signals. DJ’s who can see past old-school radio and bring their communication skills into the future stand a good chance of keeping their voices, messages, and music heard.

But the point of this post is not to say that if you’re a librarian don’t worry, you still have a place. It’s about encouraging everyone, employers, employees, and job seekers, to pay attention to the current state and future direction of their career field. To remain relevant you have to be able to roll with changes (you can never step twice in the same river because the water is always moving), recognize and take advantage of opportunities (the man who said I once had the chance…never took a chance), and embrace learning as a career-long necessity (if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse). Do that, and no matter what job you do, chances are better than most that you’ll have a long and successful career.

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