I recently ran across an interesting little article on AOL, under the rubric “AOL Jobs.” A writer named Rachel Farrell wrote an article entitled “10 Obsolete Jobs We Love.” She and her colleagues “looked at jobs that are obsolete or on their way out,” and put together a list of “favorites” in that area. Pardon Ms. Farrell’s lack of singular-versus-plural consistency (what can I say? I’m an editor!); but in any case, the 10 she and her colleagues identified are as follows: “elevator operator; file clerk; iceman; inspectors, testers, samples, sorters and weighers; news vendors, street vendors, and door-to-door salesmen; machine feeders and offbearers; milkman; paper goods machine setters, operators, and tenders; switchboard operators; typist.”
Some of these jobs were clearly vulnerable for many decades based on improving core technologies, such as “elevator operator.” Though there are still a very, very few older buildings in the U.S. with very antiquated elevators, could there be even 100 people in the U.S. still working full-time as elevator operators at this point in time? And of course, “iceman” and “milkman” are jobs that had virtually disappeared by the 1950s and the 1970s, respectively.
Then there are jobs like “typist.” Now, years ago, when I first came into the work world, a typist was a very common job, and broadly needed in offices everywhere. But given that virtually everyone who communicates in any way now uses e-mail and other electronic forms of communication, and thus needs to learn to type, in the office-based world, the job of “typist” is virtually defunct. The exception, interestingly, is in healthcare, and it’s called “medical transcriptionist.” Still, even in that area, with the strong emergence of voice recognition technologies, the number of transcriptionists needed, as their jobs become editing jobs, is expected to dwindle pretty quickly. And think of health information management: “file clerk” was one piece of what the old medical records folks did; but their jobs are being transformed very quickly, with those able to transition to working in an electronic environment finding exciting new opportunities, and those who can’t move from paper, losing their jobs altogether.
Inevitably, there is great loss for those in the work world whose skill levels won’t allow them to “move up” to thought-driven jobs that require both basic competence using information technology, as well as more conceptual skill sets. But technology, as well as some societal changes, are transforming everything. What will be fascinating will be to envision the jobs—including the healthcare jobs—of the future that don’t even exist now. There are broad areas, particularly I believe in chronic care and case management, that either don’t exist right now, or that will be broadly transformed in the coming decade.
For CIOs, CMIOs and others in leadership positions among our readership, I would be very interested to learn your thoughts on potential jobs that might emerge in the next decade that don’t currently exist now, or that might be in embryonic stages. Who knows? Change can be scary, but there is opportunity as well as peril in the advancement of technology and in societal changes. And who ever could have imagined “social media content expert” as a job category 25 years ago??