No one has a crystal ball, but we are in a time of great change, and we want our skills to be relevant and needed moving forward. And just as important, we want our kids and grandkids to have happy and fulfilling jobs. Which brings us to an important question: What jobs are likely to disappear or become obsolete over the next decade or so?
Jobs That Disappeared
If you were a carriage maker in the 1900s, it would be a hard conversation to have with your kids who came home to tell you about this new machine that was invented, the automobile. You may have said, “It’s a fad. It’s noisy, it breaks down, it goes slow, it gets stuck in the mud and manure, it’s expensive … it will never replace the horse and buggy.”
Can you imagine when people first saw the airplane? It may have been impossible to think that it would change the way people moved across the ocean.
Or, remember when you saw the first cordless phone, and it looked like a shoe box? Did you ever think that your trusted home phone could be replaced by a cellphone?
You get the point. What I want to highlight is that all of these new ways of doing things greatly impacted the jobs and people who worked in these soon-to-be obsolete industries. Think of all of the farriers (horseshoers) who lost their jobs as the car took over the world of local transportation. Think of the cruise ship owners and workers who were replaced by the advent of air travel. And we know how the world of the internet exploded the world of personal and business communication. If you are not knowledgeable about computer technology, you may not have a seat at the new worktable.
What Industries Will Become Obsolete in the Future?
I want to put a disclaimer on this list. No one knows for sure which professions will or will not exist or how they will morph into new incantations of themselves. Here are some that I have been thinking about:
- Real Estate Agent: The old days of having a person pick out a home for you to tour are swiftly slipping away. There are so many sites to help you choose the location, school system, amenities, etc. of a new home, that real estate agents are starting to disappear. As the final stages of where you want to live come closer, you may want the help of a real person, but the fees they charge are coming under pressure as their value diminishes.
- Truck/Taxi Driver: Driverless technology is advancing quickly. It’s estimated that roughly 33 million autonomous vehicles (opens in new tab) will be on the road by 2040.
- Doctor: This is controversial, because so many people want to be taken care of by a live person. The pandemic ushered in the transition to telehealth. I believe that we are about to witness another revolution. No one doctor has all of the knowledge to diagnose a patient, and they do not have all of the historical data and possible treatments at their fingertips. As soon as global medical data becomes available, the computer can diagnose, research DNA, and set about a cure for the vast majority of people. Today, not all medical data is shared.
- Librarian: It pains me, but gone will be the days of researching or reading in a library. The digital library is at everyone’s fingertips.
- Cashier: In the old days, there had to be a person to check you out, take your money and give you change or charge your credit card. We are rapidly moving into becoming a cashless society. Gone will be the need to even learn the life skill of making change; our computers will perform all of the banking needs we have. Amazon, through its Amazon Go (opens in new tab) brick-and-mortar stores, is experimenting with a new checkout system. You scan an Amazon Go app at a turnstile when you enter and just exit without checking out when you leave.
- Delivery Driver/Mail Carrier: As drones get more sophisticated, there will not be a need for humans to deliver packages and mail. Much of your junk mail has already been converted into junk email. Even Social Security has abandoned physical checks, and many utility companies are moving in that direction with their billing, too.
- Bank Worker: Banks are going to physically downsize, as much of our monetary transactions are done digitally. Bank branches will begin to close as online banking increases. Millennials are also using digital solutions for their investing needs. The fin tech world is exploding with new mobile investing devices, as well. As people become more comfortable with investing digitally, it will mean there will be fewer and fewer live financial advisers and bank personal.
- Sports Referee/Umpire: Even soccer’s governing body, FIFA is relenting to pressure to introduce more technology into the game with video assistant referees (opens in new tab). Many other sports, such as tennis, also have been using technology to make real-time decisions.
- Fishers: We have overfished our waters in many places, and global warming is negatively impacting remaining species of fish. If we are to eat fish in the future, it will most likely be farm raised. The typical fisher will no longer be able to go out and fish.
- Lawyer/Legal Secretary: Deloitte (opens in new tab) has indicated that over the next 20 years, 114,000 legal jobs could be automated. It is similar to the medical profession. Our digital world can instantaneously provide case history and feed your data into a system to find your legal solutions. The documentation could also be filed electronically.
- Factory Workers: Automation is already interrupting these professions. It is estimated that there will be shrinkage (opens in new tab) of over 204,000 jobs by 2029.
- Travel Agent: Before the internet, it was really great to talk to a live person who could help you cobble together your whole vacation. That professional could get you the best hotel and accommodations at the best rates. Today, there are many easy-to-use websites and apps that can help you research and book every part of your vacation. Employment for travel agents is expected to fall 26% (opens in new tab) from 2019 to 2029.
Don’t Be Bummed, Be Inspired
My goal was not to depress you if you or your loved ones are in any of these industries. It is just to get you thinking about the future so that you can be on the forefront of the new world with new job opportunities.
This can make for great dinner conversation with your kids. Ask them what they see in the future and what jobs will disappear and what others will be created. Part of being a parent is to help our kids to be resilient to change.
Remember the words of Albert Einstein; “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”
Neale Godfrey is a New York Times #1 best-selling author of 27 books, which empower families (and their kids and grandkids) to take charge of their financial lives. Godfrey started her journey with The Chase Manhattan Bank, joining as one of the first female executives, and later became president of The First Women's Bank and founder of The First Children's Bank. Neale pioneered the topic of "kids and money," which took off after her 13 appearances on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." www.nealegodfrey.com (opens in new tab)
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