Is Your Career Field Obsolete?

Jobs become obsolete⁠—this is an unfortunate consequence of the progression of modern society. From stagecoach drivers to milkmen, certain professions eventually whittle down to the point where they are more niche novelty than industry. This isn’t a new phenomenon, it’s been happening for hundreds of years, but the rate at which certain careers go extinct does seem to be accelerating with recent gains in technology and automation.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and statistics even keeps a running tally of the “Fastest declining occupations” with Locomotive Firers claiming the number one spot with expected job growth through 2028 to be -68%. The important thing to remember if this happens to you is that you’re not alone. In a recent Gallup poll, most Americans estimated they would retire at age 66. With a lifetime working period of 42-48 years, it’s easy to see how career change might not only be desirable, but necessary over that length of time.

Perhaps this is why job change has seemingly become a constant in the U.S. job market. It has become very rare for anyone to hold just one job, let alone have only one career, throughout their lifetime. People change jobs an average of 12 times over their careers. Career change often goes along with a change of job or position.

One good way to see the proverbial writing on the wall for your industry is to pay attention to financial news outside your sector, keep up with developing technology that may affect your position or field, and even watch job postings in your area. Do you see fewer jobs for your field and emerging jobs for something else? Do you see prominent members of your field jumping ship for new careers? Being able to spot the warning signs is one good way to make sure you can make a smooth transition into something else.

It may also be time to start shining up your resume. Take a hard look at the education you have attained and your degrees. Could they be applied to other fields? Would a grad school degree help bridge the gap to get you into something else? Reach out to friends and family in other fields you’re interested in and ask them if they think your experience could blend well with the new career.

When you feel like it’s time to start planning your career switch, it’s a good idea to plan time for extra education, particularly if you can’t complete your new training while you continue on with your current job. Then you need to start seriously watching job listings and if you’re unwilling to move, consider what’s in demand in your region. Certainly, the projected growth of a field or industry is a good thing to keep in mind when you start shopping for a new career, although there are few guarantees.

If you keep an eye on the job horizon, and are willing to be flexible, you should be able to weather your job becoming obsolete.