How to Study at University

Practical tips and general thoughts on how to study at a Western university

The strange case of the vanishing jobs – Part 1

Posted on | September 14, 2011 | No Comments

Point: You don’t know what jobs will still exist in the future

My father trained to be a coach and wagon builder for the Australian railways. He built and repaired wooden railway cars.

As you can probably guess, that was a long long time ago. He worked for the railways in Australia and New Zealand for most of his life but well before he retired he was not working on wooden wagons anymore. By then most wagons were made of metal. The job he had trained to do had disappeared. 

It took over 30 years for Dad’s job to disappear. These days it takes a much shorter time. When I started work, each company and government department had a typist or a typing pool. These were women (not many men were typists) who would take your handwritten letters and reports and type them up neatly and without mistakes.

Now typists do not exist. They have been replaced by computers and the internet.

What happened to my job?

There are dozens of jobs that were common 20, ten or even two years ago that do not exist today. Most of them you have never heard of, either because you are too young or they were very specialised in areas such as printing and architecture that have been overtaken by new technologies.

If that was true of the past, it is even truer of the future. There are dozens of jobs that exist now that will not exist in 20 years time.

Will actors exist in 20 years time? Or will animation be just as realistic and a lot cheaper? What about cashiers? Will checking out our shopping become completely automated? What will robots be able to do? Surgery? Fly planes? Wait on tables in a restaurant? Will we need librarians or teachers?

Well, will we?

Who knows?

And that is the question, isn’t it? Who knows what jobs will still be around when you are in the middle of your career? Will the job you graduated into still exist?

There is a very good chance it won’t. And if it does still exist, there is an even greater chance that it will look very different than it did when you started, and you will have to do and know very different things.

The world is changing so fast now that even if you trained at university to do a certain job – say, accounting or environmental engineering or web design – your employer will probably spend your first few months or longer training you in the specific methods the company is currently using.

How are you feeling?

Are you feeling depressed yet?

Don’t be, because there are a few things you can do now to prepare for the future.

And one of them is to do nothing at all.

I will explain what I mean in the next post.

Till then though, think about this: The Chase Manhattan Bank found that 60 percent of its worst managers had MBAs while 60 percent of its best managers had BAs. (Thomas Hurka, Globe and Mail, 2 January, 1990)

Why do people with a liberal arts degree (BA) have higher and better paid business jobs than those with a specialised business degree (MBA)?



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