My post Did your job exist 10 years ago? got some good feedback. There was a good thread going over at which I urge you to read.

The motivation for the post came from listening to the Technical Difficulties podcast with Merlin Mann. During the show, Merlin said something like Jobs fall less into tidy buckets.

That’s what got me thinking. The tidy bucket of doctor or astronaut no longer apply. I guess they never really did. But the explosion and specialization of the job market has opened a huge number of positions that either didn’t exist, or as a farm boy in rural Virginia, I had no way to know existed.

On Facebook, Bradley Gawthrop said,

I agree with the spirit of this post, but the particulars are a bit fuzzy. There were absolutely software developers, graphics designers, and systems administrators in 2000. In fact, I’d done every one of those jobs for actual money by that year. Probably they didn’t represent as big a slice of the economy as they do now, but there was a ready market for all three.

This is true. I was taking my experience and making it universal. Those jobs certainly did exist and there were people doing them. I didn’t’t know what a systems administrator was, nor even what system would need to be administrated.

I knew graphic arts existed and that software needed to be created, but I had never thought about how software was made.

I grew up on a farm. I’ve herded cows and helped collect and pitch bales of hay. The first vehicle I ever drove was a tractor. The school bus was delayed on occasion by a bovine blockage((cows on the road)) on the gravel road where I lived.

The Internet to me was a 26400 bps dial-up connection.

oluseyi wrote:

A decade ago is 2003; some of the claims about computers and software developers seem… poetically embellished! I was expecting to read that you were in high school in the 50s, the way they were set up 😛

I graduated high school 13 years ago. It’s nearly been a decade since I left college. I chose poor examples and an even poorer title. Replace computers with mobile phones and I’m a few decades closer to a valid example, but my point remains. The explosion of jobs and opportunities which simply didn’t exist when I was in school looking at colleges and career choices. I still feel old. 😛

duerig said:

Actually, this reminds me about an interesting book I read a while back called ‘The Shock of the Old‘. It is a bit meandering, but it keeps the focus on the diffusion and actual use of technology rather than the ‘invention’ moment.

We tend to think that the ‘invention’ is the crucial moment, but there is often a huge gap between the invention and when it actually impacts more and more people, especially when looked at globally. It is similar with career fields.

This is an excellent point. There can be a huge gap between invention and adoption. Just because something was invented, doesn’t mean it’s accessible to everyone.

I knew graphic artists existed ((Bad example)) because my father’s business is in printing and copying. I knew what it took to make a book, newsletter, magazine. And in high school I worked on the staffs of the schools’ literary magazine and newspaper. The field existed but not in the same way it does today.

oluseyi went on to say:

The world is full of unknown unknowns. Guidance counselors should be voraciously seeking out new and interesting career opportunities, sensitizing kids to possibility, but it always seems to be a case of fitting them into existing slots.

I don’t necessarily fault the guidance counselors of the world. Their job is incredibly difficult partly due to…

It’s a shame, really. I don’t think most people know enough to decide on a career until well after college graduation! I knew, by the time I was 21, that my college degree was incidental to my career prospects—and both of my parents are professors!

I went to college to learn what I didn’t want to do. I studied Creative Advertising ((Different from Business Advertising which was all numbers and planning. It was as close to a graphic artist education I could receive without suffering through a year of trying to learn how to draw.)) I left school without a job or even the slightest idea of how to get a job in Advertising. So I went into tech support.

misterpoppet added an excellent point:

In some case, very much so. High schools in Northeast Indiana tend to funnel the student body to local factory jobs.

Having to choose a career path upon high school graduation was a terrifying prospect. What is I chose wrong? What if I went to school and didn’t learn enough to get a job? What if I didn’t go at all?

For most of my classmates, college wasn’t a realistic option for them. They were lucky to have graduated high school. The moment they did, they were back on the farm with their parents. Their life was that of a farmer. They weren’t going to college because they had no need for it, at least in their parent’s eyes. Their parents didn’t need a college degree to plant crops and tend to livestock, why do they?

I look back at where I’ve worked and what I’ve done. And I think about my time in high school. None of what I do now was even on my radar then. What jobs will be commonplace in the next decade? What jobs will continue to disappear until they’ve nearly extinct?