Here today, gone tomorrow. The jobs that seem to have faded away…

I recently wrote a blog questioning whether there is any such thing as a permanent job any more. Since then I have been giving some thought to all those jobs I’ve seen fading away in my own life time.

My Dad for example was once a Leading Stoker in the Royal Navy. Basically he shovelled coal into a ship’s boiler for a living. Nowadays I doubt many people have a job shovelling coal – not in the UK anyway. There are probably lots of steam engine enthusiasts who do it for a hobby, but as a career?

Growing up almost everyone I went to school with had a parent who worked at Ford in Dagenham. If Dad wasn’t on the production line then Mum likely worked there making car seats. For me “Made in Dagenham” was a reality – not just a film.

Down our road few people had cars but I remember three vans. They belonged to TV repair men who made a fortune fixing those unreliable valve driven sets in the late 60’s. Now TV’s either seem to fail immediately or go on for ever. Ours has notched up 10 years’ service and, while it looks a little old-fashioned, is still perfectly serviceable.

One of our neighbours was a bus conductor – you don’t see many of them anymore. And there was an insurance man who collected the premiums “door-to-door”. Now I suppose he’d be an IFA.

Then there was Doris – and thousands like her. She was the wonderful tea lady who kept us all watered when I first started work. She knew everyone by name, what they liked and would always save me a doughnut when they were the cake of the day. I was in a twelve floor building and there was a tea lady for every two floors. Now I bet there are just vending machines.

Remember the days of large typing pools? I remember vividly the supervisor ticking me off when she caught me typing my own work. She even complained to my boss. Doing your own typing now is just taken for granted. I like to think I was a trend setter!

When I moved to the advertising industry “hot metal” printing was in its final decline – only the FT and a few obscure regional titles in Ireland were still using it. All those time-served tradesmen supplanted by the advent of the Apple Mac. 

So why is all this important? I bet back then all the people who did those jobs couldn’t imagine they’d ever disappear. The Typing Pool Supervisor ruled her world. Within a decade her reign had ended courtesy of first Wang and then Microsoft. If you haven’t thought about how change might affect demand for your current skill set then you should. It is a cornerstone of career management.

How many jobs that exist today won’t be there in another decade or so? Will all supermarkets for example just have self-service checkouts? In fact will traditional shops just be a cultural memory as we do everything on-line? Or is this week’s news that Argos are linking up with e-Bay the new trend? Will cars be so reliable that like televisions we no longer need to call people out to repair them? Closer to home articles in the US have been questioning whether there is a future for HR as a profession. So are we an endangered species?

What jobs do you see disappearing? Years ago we’d have said “answers on a postcard” but now you would reply on-line or by email. So is the “postie” another endangered species? It makes you think…

Ian Gooden
Chief Executive