Fighter pilots, store assistants, travel agents, union organisers and postal workers will become outdated”

Living in the 21st century has its perks, but the deeper we delve into the tapestry that is technology, the more fickle it turns out to be for the human race. When it comes to career paths, in particular, things are even trickier. Remember making a phone call by having to ring an operator, who would then connect you to who you were making the call to? Those operators were replaced by an automatic system that allowed you to connect the call yourself, using an area code and a direct number. Since then, things are even more sophisticated and automation is creeping further into everyday life.

Trend specialist and business strategist, John Sanei, says that the evolution of careers is strongly influenced by the five lead states (which refers to the states of creating new busness). “The lead states are expectations of how employees and consumers want to be treated,” says Sanei. These are hyper-personalisation, hyper-trust, hyper-convenience, hyper-recognition and hyper-value. Companies like Uber and Amazon have mastered these lead states in the way that they operate with consumers.

With so much to consider, navigating the maze towards the future of careers becomes more interesting. Head of content at Flux Trends, Tumelo Mojapelo, believes that technology has everything to do with current career shifts, and draws on world-renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking to prove this point. Hawking once said: “The rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative supervisory roles remaining.” Mojapelo reiterates this, using Flux Trends’ new skills and new industries trend presentation, saying that “an estimated two billion jobs could be lost by 2030 due to mechanisation, biotechnology, robotics and artificial intelligence stepping in to fulfil roles, which humans used to fulfil at work”. Essentially, according to Hawking, those with careers leaning towards the creativity side of the spectrum are relatively safe. So, who is striking out and who just made home base?

Obsolete jobs

Julie Wilson is a team leader in the commercial division at DAV, a leading placement agency in Bryanston. Dealing with placing people in their relevant fields on a daily basis, she says that careers at risk in the future are “personal assistant or admin roles, and others where technology can assist. Technology has given individuals the freedom to run their own lives and not rely on someone else to handle their admin or meetings.” Sanei adds to this by saying that “tellers, office and support staff, logistics and admin roles are all going to be automated. Anything susceptible to monotony or administration will be gone; many who are working in those spaces are bored anyway, so it’s an opportunity to expand careers.”

Mojapelo includes fighter pilots, store assistants, travel agents, union organisers and postal workers into the mix of jobs that will become outdated. However, more interestingly, she adds that pop stars, too, are in danger. “There’s a band in Japan who has already created a digital non-human band member.” Who knows where else technology could take us.

Despite this, it’s important to remember that emotional intelligence is still very much a factor when considering all these new developments. “The co-dependency of artificial intelligence and emotional intelligence leaves us at the edge of a golden era,” elaborates Sanei.

Although it’s not yet all clear-cut, this is the direction the world is moving in, and we had better take notice. In the South African context, Sanei expresses that we are at least five years away from being completely disrupted.

More obsolete careers include:

  • store clerks
  • call centre operators
  • secretaries
  • lawyers
  • librarians
  • bankers and bank tellers

Safe jobs

If you’re a nurse, civil engineer, psychologist or marketing and sales manager, you’re part of the 2% whose jobs are least likely to be at risk of extinction. Careers in information and communication technology (ICT), finance, the creative arts and healthcare are generally also safe. In South Africa, the most popular jobs are those in the STEM industries – science, technology, engineering and mathematics related. This bodes well for us, because besides there being a high demand for these jobs, they are also forecast to have longevity.

Evolving your career path is another way to make sure that your job remains safe in a changing world. “We cannot say that there will never be any careers that never die. There might be an evolution of roles and responsibilities or even titles. The requirements might change or certain industries might evolve or merge to give birth to new careers. Careers are a response to the needs of a society, so they will change as society’s needs change,” explains Mojapelo. She elaborates by illustrating through a Tomorrow Today Global analysis that the progression can look something like this:

  • IT representative/life coach & human technology integration specialist
  • Project manager & chief productivity officer
  • Fleet manager & drone manager
  • Mechanic software developer & self-driving car technician/software technician
  • City planner/traffic specialist & autonomous transportation specialist/connected cities specialist
  • Hospice employee/home health nurse & end-of-life coach

Jobs of the future

By now, you’re probably wondering what the point of thinking ahead is, when it seems as if we are on the brink of being replaced by robots. Well, you’d be wrong. The number of future possibilities is astounding. The 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey reveals that 40% of millennials feel threatened by automation, because of the potential loss of jobs that this might cause. That being said, many careers that exist today didn’t exist in the 19th century, and so we must keep the cycle going and embrace this inevitable transformation. Mojapelo highlights a recent report done by the World Economic Forum, which depicts a very different future for the students of tomorrow. “Most primary school students will be working in jobs that don’t yet exist, therefore a future-focused approach to education needs to be considered,” she says.

With this in mind, what careers will be dominating the scene in the near future? Mojapelo says that user experience (UX) designers, drone pilots, virtual reality content creators and coders, as well as developers, are some of the jobs that will become increasingly popular. But if you’re currently expecting a bundle of joy or have a tiny tot, there are even more intriguing prospects to look forward to. Fancy an animal migration engineer, an organ designer, thought reader or human robot interaction specialist as a career path for your child? As far-fetched as it might sound now, in the next 50 years, this could become their reality. Sanei also emphasises that in the corporate space, the three top positions to hold in the future will be chief digital officer, chief data office and chief future officer. Each of those plays a significant role in embracing the future of the workplace. 

As you can see, being aware of what jobs may become redundant in the future doesn’t have to be unnerving. Gear up now, so that you can be prepared for what’s on the horizon – because whether you like or not, change is upon us.

 Careers that will become lucrative in the future, according to the Oxbridge Academy

  • motor manufacturing technician
  • wind turbine service technician
  • tourism and hospitality professional
  • general and operations manager
  • computer programmer
  • artificial intelligence and robotics specialist
  • flexible app developer
  • cloud computing specialist