By Celeste Stewart
Thinking of a career as a lamplighter, milkman, iceman, telephone operator, bowling alley pinsetter, typist or typesetter? Of course not; your grandparents’ occupations succumbed to changing times and technologies long ago. Electricity, refrigeration, the personal computer and other innovations took their toll on many occupations, rendering common jobs obsolete. Today, technological advances and a changing manufacturing environment promise to repeat history. Unfortunately, your current job may be on the brink of extinction.
Not too long ago, you may have thought that a career as a travel agent would be both adventurous and lucrative. Thanks to online travel sites, tourists no longer need travel agents to book airlines, hotels, rental cars or cruises. All it takes to book an exotic vacation and get a bargain fare is a keyword search.
How about the allure of working in a music store selling CDs by your favorite bands and DVDs of your favorite movies? Thanks to sites like Napster, iTunes and Netflix, CDs and DVDs are obsolete, and so are jobs manufacturing, packaging and selling them.
Photofinishing is another outdated occupation courtesy of the digital camera, image editing software, color inkjet printers and photo-sharing sites. In fact, Kodak stopped selling Kodachrome film in 2009 due to declining demand.
These are but a few of the many occupational casualties from the not-so-distant past. They illustrate how technology can wipe out a once common profession.
Whether you’re pondering the fate of your current job or thinking of switching professions, today’s occupations aren’t insulated from similar threats. For example, the Kindle eBook format is now Amazon’s most popular, with 115 eBooks sold for every 100 paperbacks in 2010. The move from print to digital books has huge implications for publishers, printers, authors, booksellers and librarians.
In addition to a preference for digital books, libraries face another threat: budget cuts. A 2010 survey reported in Library Journal revealed that 72 percent of responding libraries faced budget cuts with 43 percent reporting that they had cut staff the previous year. With fewer patrons and a lack of funds, library jobs may become scarce in the near future.
Desktop publishing, a field that was born with the personal computer, is also threatened by digital publishing. Not only are books going digital, newsletters and flyers are too. Easy-to-use software and templates for creating attractive, professional-looking digital documents and ezines, and email campaign features such as scheduling and tracking add value to businesses of all sizes – and significantly reduce demand for desktop publishing. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 23 percent decline in jobs for desktop publishers between 2008 and 2018.
Think your post office job is secure? Think again. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 30 percent decline during the same time period for mail sorters, processors and processing machine operators. Not only has email and online bill paying reduced mail volume, increased competition from overnight and ground delivery companies gives consumers other options.
Another occupation expected to decline dramatically between now and 2018 involves semiconductor manufacturing. Despite continued demand for semiconductors, technological advances automate more and more processes and reduce the need for workers.
Is your job outdated? Fortunately, not only does technology render some professions obsolete, it also creates new ones. Explore online degree programs, upgrade your skills and keep up with the changing occupational landscape.