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Top Jobs For The Future - Part 1
For part 2 click here

Founder and Career Coach

How would you feel if the job you've been doing for most of your life just moved offshore without any warning?

What if you just spent several years getting an education for a job that was no longer in high demand?

How would you like to know the secrets to choosing a satisfying career that will also be in high demand?

By understanding the major trends that are affecting our lives, you will be able to play an active role in planning and directing your career. By understanding these trends you will have a better chance of seeing the big changes before they hit.

This look into the future will show you the careers that are expected to have high demand and some that aren't. But more importantly this article will show you the basics of "trend spotting" so that you can make your own intelligent career choices.

If you are not interested in "the how and the why" of looking into the future of careers and jobs, simply click here to jump to the list of "Top 10 Jobs For The Future."


Trend Spotting

By understanding the major trends that affect jobs you will be able to make better career decisions for yourself.

Trends are like waves on the ocean. Some are very big, some are very small. Some trends last only a few years like the DOT COM trend, while others go on seemingly forever.

The trends we are interested in may be as short as a few years or as long as 20+ years. Just like waves, trends move and change everything they come in contact with. If you aren't prepared for the big wave it will wash over you, tumbling you like a toy in the ocean.

Initially, trends start off so small that most people don't notice them. Eventually trends build up to a crescendo. Somewhere in between they make the evening news. The trick is to spot trends just as they begin, so that you have time to take action and change your life. An even better trick would be to predict the trends before they start.

To get a feel for job trends, let's look at a few that have come and gone.


Technology Trends

Probably the most prevalent trend in our time has been that of technological innovation.

Revolutions in technology continue to cause rapid, almost un-predictable changes in career demand. Changes in technology can obsolete your job causing you to be laid off, downsized, right sized, and just plain inconvenienced.

Here are a few examples of jobs which were once in great demand but are now declining or totally extinct, at least in North America and Europe:

  • Typesetting - Has been replaced by the first Apple computers and the advent of desktop publishing. Typesetting began in the 1400's with the first printing presses. The trend away from typesetting to desktop publishing started in the early 1980's and was completed by the mid 1990's. Thousands of people had their careers upset by this trend.
  • Secretarial Dictation - Has been replaced by individuals doing their own word processing, starting in the late 1980's as the cost of personal computers came down.
  • IBM punch card operator - Was obsoleted along with IBM punch cards by ~1985. Prior to that, punch card data entry employed tens of thousands.
  • Telex (TWX) Operator - Was obsoleted by the advent of the FAX machine, ~ 1980
  • FAX Machine Operator - Once the cost of FAX machines came down, most people handled their own faxes rather than having an assistant do it. Finally, most but not all faxes gave way to Email. 1980 to 1995.
  • Telephone Operators - Once a premier job, demand was reduced significantly by touch tone systems and then later by voice recognition technology.
  • Drafting Technician- Manual drafting using pencil and ruler was replaced by Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) in the 1980's.


Low Tech Is Good Tech

Not all careers need be adversely affected by technology.

These traditional businesses will see change, but not overnight obsolescence:

  • Upscale jewelry stores
  • Custom jewelry manufacturing
  • Stores where "service" is the main feature
  • Restaurants
  • Movie theaters
  • Movie making
  • Music creation
  • Delivery services
  • Grocery stores
  • Hair Salons
  • Auto Repair
  • Construction


Drivers Of The Trends

Trends are about change and every change has at its core, a "driver." To predict or spot a new trend, look for these basic forms of drivers.

  • The need to save time
  • The need to reduce cost
  • The need to do things faster
  • The need to make things easier to use
  • The need to improve safety and reliability
  • The need to lessen the impact on the environment

The Automation Trend

We have only seen the first wave of automation in our lives. The effect so far has been to eliminate jobs involving highly repetitive tasks. The net effect has been fewer "unskilled" jobs.

Automation is the result of the need to reduce cost which in turn is driven by a company's need to become more competitive, to be able to grow market share, and to generate higher earnings for investors. Automation, one of the first methods for reducing cost, had been a big trend between 1950 and 2000.

Jobs that were not easily mechanized, such as many manufacturing jobs, have already been moved to countries where the cost of labor is cheaper. Most of these jobs have been relocated to Mexico, Taiwan, India and China. Ten years from now, as the labor costs in those countries rise, the jobs may move to Africa or North Korea.

The next phase of automation will not occur in the factory, but in our homes, in our lives, and in the information that we use.

The last wave of automation in the home was to mechanize simple repetitive tasks such as dish washing and clothes washing. Home automation is driven by the need to save time.

What are the next opportunities to save time in the home:

  • Preparing meals
  • Cleaning the house
  • Acquiring groceries
  • Helping children with homework
  • Educating the children
  • Ironing the clothes
  • Making the bed


Say Goodbye To:
Data Entry, Programming, Tech Support and Customer Service Jobs

A new trend which became obvious in ~1998 is for entry level "knowledge worker" jobs such as programming, customer service, tech support, and accounting to be moved to countries with English speaking lower cost workers. This trend is just getting started and it could hollow out the English speaking economies of North America and Europe.

A large portion of programming, tech support, data entry, and accounting jobs can be handled remotely from countries such as India where they speak perfectly polite Queen's English, and where they have excellent educational systems. This puts many lucrative jobs at risk.

Even extremely high tech, high skill jobs such as Analog Integrated Circuit Designers have started moving offshore to India and China. Taiwan already has several home grown integrated circuit design houses. Eventually, Silicon Valley companies will no longer be willing to pay high prices for local circuit design talent, they will use talent in China and India whenever possible.

Unless the government intervenes, English speaking countries with low labor cost and well educated people will pull high paying jobs out of the United States and Europe.

What does this mean for someone just now planning their career. Proximity and creativity are the key. You really have two choices:

  • Look for a career that requires a very high level of skill or creativity such as being a writer, designer, musician, inventor, marketing strategist, or film actor.
  • Learn a trade or skill that requires hands on presence such as a carpenter, nurse, physician, dental hygienist, or hair stylist.

Essentially you want to pick a career that requires your physical presence and that can not easily be done remotely. Combining proximity with creativity in a career gives you added security.

Does this mean you should panic and get out of software development or any other high tech, high paying job? It depends.

The first projects to move offshore are usually the most simple, low risk projects. Adding distance and cultural differences almost always adds time and complexity to any development project. The types of projects that will stay onshore:

  • Need to be done very quickly
  • Are very complex
  • Require lots of face to face interaction
  • Are tough to define and highly ambiguous

Projects that represent low risk to management, such as making minor upgrades to a product, or copying someone else's product, will most certainly be moved offshore.

Click here to see a list of jobs that are safe from offshoring


Skilled Trades Looking Very Good

The good news is that the traditional skilled trades such as carpentry, plumbing, electrician, hair stylist, construction contractors, auto mechanics, dental hygienists look good in terms of being secure from moving offshore. The main threat will be lower cost labor coming across the Mexico / US border.

Since you can't have an auto mechanic who is located in China tune up your car in the US, these types of jobs will be secure from low cost foreign labor. Because of proximity, we strongly recommend the traditional trades. Make sure you pick the one that is right for you.'s Career Test can help you figure this out.


Increased Traffic for Delivery Services

As online retail sales continues to climb, UPS, FEDEX and the Postal Service will have to deliver more and more packages. That is good news for drivers, pilots, airplane mechanics etc.

Home delivery has been on the rise and will continue to be driven by the need to save time.

If home grocery delivery ever takes off, and it looks like it will the second time around, the demand for drivers and truck mechanics will increase even more.

This trend should continue until someone invents a Star Trek - like teleportation system or replicator system. So don't hold your breath, delivery services look very, very good for a long time to come.


Entertainment and Content Creation Look Very, Very Good

Cultural differences, and language barriers should effectively protect most of the entertainment industry from moving offshore.

Someone still needs to write the books, the screen plays, the TV shows, the music etc. Positions requiring a high level of creativity and originality should still be highly valued.

The impact of computer simulation on actors is still an unknown and does present some risk. As compute power grows over the next decade, the ability to completely and believably simulate an actor will become widely available.

Reality TV will have a minor impact on the demand for actors. Unique personalities and talented people will always catch our interests and will be in high demand, at least until we tire of them.


Less Demand For Most Retail Jobs and Cashiers

Retail store positions will decline gradually as home shopping and Internet shopping continue to grow. There will always be retail stores and retail positions, just fewer of them.

One of the more positive trends in retail was started by Walmart. Employing older, retired people to man the store floor was a brilliant move and a win-win for everyone.

Demand for cashiers will gradually decline as stores install self service scanners and checkout. Home Depot and certain grocery stores began widespread use of automated self checkout in ~2002 to 2003. There will always be cashier positions, just fewer of them.

What about stocking clerks, those folks that come in at night to load up the shelves? Same as most retail store positions. It's work that has to be done, even in the giant warehouse stores. But if you can buy it online and get it faster and cheaper, then watch out.


Marketing Looks Very Good

We think that with increased competition, companies will find they have to do a much better job of differentiating their products and services. Marketing positions should see good demand, but only for the best. Marketing is one of those fields where the mediocre don't survive.

We think Strategic Marketing will become even more critical as companies find they need new and better strategies to succeed.



Now would be a good time for a lawyer joke but I don't have any. There will probably always be a need for attorneys. However we think that as the public begins to understand how the cost of doing business has risen due to the influence of trial attorneys there should be some reduction in demand for that sort of lawyer. We can only hope.

We do see an increased demand for patent and intellectual property lawyers, as well as estate and tax planning lawyers. These are people who are experts in a specific field such as bio tech, tax law, copyright law, etc. They are experts first and lawyers second as opposed to ambulance chasing attorneys.

If you go into law, make sure you know how you are going to add real value.


For part 2 of Top Jobs for the Future, click here.