When I Grow Up, I Want To Be…

What do you want to be when you grow up, little girl?

Boy, is that a loaded question these days.

Why? Because the answer, depending on where you sit, may not be one that you want to hear. If you’re of an age where you remember jobs that were standard in their time – butcher, baker, candlestick maker – you may be shocked to learn that these roles may not longer exist in the work world, more importantly,our children’s future.

There was a time when one would assume that life held a fairly predictable series of events:

  1. Grow up
  2. Go to school (elementary then post-secondary)
  3. Graduate
  4. Get a job
  5. Move out
  6. Get married
  7. Have kids
  8. Live “happily ever after”

Point #4 – getting a job – was key to every point that followed in this predetermined numeric course of events. Being gainfully employed was, well, just expected, and one could safely assume that in doing so, points 5 through 8 would naturally occur.

No more, however, does this life paradigm exist.

We are living in a time when rapid change – both technologically and otherwise – has rendered a whole range of previously common professions obsolete.

Butcher, baker, candlestick maker and perhaps, more recently, travel agent, real estate agent and newspaper delivery person: these professions have all seen their ranks decrease as society has technologically moved forward.

To wit: many industries have steadily declined in popularity or have been completely decimated in the wake of technology’s march. Just ask Kodak.

kids careers

So what does all of this mean for our youth?

Well, to start, one of the most unfortunate results of living in this digital age is that our kids will never again learn the many inherent lessons that the obsolete jobs taught.

For example:

  •  Patience was taught when, after many days or weeks, that much-anticipated letter arrived in the family mailbox
  • Hard work and perseverance were taught when, on the quest to find out a fine detail about a person, place or thing, one had to trek to the local library, pull the file cards and start the often long and arduous journey towards finding out facts
  • Money doesn’t grow on trees – And that’s why we fix the things that we’ve got. Planned obsolescence isn’t necessarily a good thing and many items can be repaired rather than thrown away

These lessons and what they represent, are a reflection of the times in which they existed; going back in time, the virtues of patience, hard work and perseverance were respected. Perhaps we can view the changing times and collective shift in the values that were once considered important as a reflection of a new age; one that is increasingly seen as a time where the simple yet once important virtues of daily life no longer exist. After all – when was the last time you told your kids that “patience is a virtue?” Certainly not when both you and your child quickly asked Siri or Professor Google for the answer to that pressing question that needed to be resolved ASAP. We’ve all fallen prey to the lure of instant gratification and as with anything, our dependence has consequences.

As our kids look forward to a future career that allows them to embrace the digital realities of modern life, they’ve also unknowingly lost the opportunity to learn many important life lessons that came with the jobs of yesteryear. And while no one can deny the advances that have come with the digital age, there’s also no denying that some things just can’t be learned through the ether, or otherwise.

In these rapidly-changing times, the shift from work being done by real, flesh and blood people to computers, robots or other forms of artificial intelligence (AI) has begun. Here are some of the professions that are either on their way to complete obsolescence or are already gone.

These Jobs Are Becoming Obsolete

1) Travel Agent – Google, Siri and the ability to type in two destinations has made a once-popular profession almost non-existent. Kids don’t dream about growing up to be travel agents anymore, not with their AI supports ready to take the reins and steer them to the exotic destination of choice, at a discount, no less.

2) Mail Person – I’m not sure about you, but most of the mail that I receive in my mailbox could be classified as “junk.” So much so that it doesn’t even get a once-over; rather, it goes promptly into the recycling bin with nary a glance from my direction. Bills, coupons, even correspondence – they’re all digital these days, eliminating the need for paper and, unfortunately, postal worker jobs.

3) Secretary or Office Assistant – Aaahhh, someone to take dictation, order office supplies and, in many instances, make some coffee – Now it’s Siri or a close facsimile (no, not that kind of facsimile). Most of us have our own virtual assistant with us constantly, one that records video and voice, provides immediate OCR, and so much more on demand.

4) Switchboard Operator – This position has been obsolete for quite some time now. Some of us that are of a certain vintage remember when calling overseas, we’d have to employ the assistance of an operator. No more, as our technological advances in both telecommunications and digital technology (Skype, anyone), have rendered this long-standing profession.

5) Television Repairman (because it was usually a man, let’s be honest) – No one repairs their TVs anymore. Let’s face it – a lot of technology – TVs included – are built for planned obsolescence. Buy one now, use it for a year or two, trade it in for a new one, or buy a new one because the year-old model is broken. Think iPhone upgrade.

6) Telemarketer – Cell phones, call display, and other methods of digital marketing have made this profession practically obsolete. After all, who answers their phones when an unrecognizable number calls anyway?

7) Newspaper Delivery Person – When was the last time you picked up a print newspaper from your front porch? Therein lies the problem.

8) Real Estate Agent – Private sales are all the rage nowadays and is it any surprise that prospective home sellers are hanging out their digital shingles for virtual buyers to see? With 360 degree views of one’s dream home, why part with the double-digit commission that’s required when employing an agent? Sellers and buyers today are engaging astute lawyers with experience in real estate transactions to assure that all the necessary “i’s” are dotted and “t’s” are crossed – leaving many real estate agents, unfortunately, out in the cold.

9) Cashier – We’re seeing more and more self-service checkout lines, everywhere from the supermarket to the big-box department store. It’s cheaper to get you to scan your items, thank-you very much, than to employ an actual living, breathing person who may want vacation days, benefits and a bi-weekly paycheque.

10) Retail Salesperson – With an increasing number of people avoiding a trip to the mall and shopping online, it’s no wonder that the need for retail salespersons is decreasing daily. Once upon a time, it was almost a rite of passage for a young person to go to the mall to get their first job in retail. Times have changed, however, and the lure of online shopping has replaced the previous lure of heading to the mall. Secure payment options and the ability to shop while in one’s pyjamas has resulted in the once-common job as retail salesperson decreasing ranks daily.[/color-box]


Out with the old, in with the new

Not wanting to end this post on a completely negative note, one can’t deny that there are positive results due to advances in technology that have occurred over the past 30 years. Our kids are more tech-savvy than they’ve ever been, and their ability to educate themselves, inquire about the world around them and have autonomy in their quest for knowledge is considerable. As with many other instances, change is often painful at first and when something is lost, it hurts. In many cases, however, the old is replaced with the new, which is often better than it’s original form.

Our kids are destined to do great things. The world has changed, and if we’re going to do this parenting thing right, perhaps we’re best served to educate them on the potential career options that will reflect the career landscape in which they’ll be working. As our definitions of what constitutes “work” evolves, so shall the opportunities for exciting and fulfilling careers for the next generation.  Who knows what’s to come? Anything’s possible.

About Samantha Kemp-Jackson

Sam is the mother of four, and has the dubious distinction of having raised kids in four different decades: the 80's, 90's, '00's and 10s. She talks about her unique perspective on parenting on her podcast, "Parenting Then and Now." She's also an opinionated media commentator and you can find her speaking about all kinds of things if you put her name into The Google.