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May 10, 2011 > Counseling Corner: Advice for New Grads: Job Trends

Counseling Corner: Advice for New Grads: Job Trends

By Anne Chan, PhD, MFT

Graduation season is upon us - proud parents will beam and take countless photos as their kids march on stage to receive their high school and college diplomas. No doubt it is a happy and proud day for children and their families alike, but what does the future hold for their job prospects? What would be smart moves for someone starting out on a career path?

In this article, I will examine job trends for the future, although predicting the future is risky business. No one can predict the future of jobs and careers with 100% confidence, since no one knows with absolute certainty what is going to happen in the near future, let alone in the next 50 years. Bill Gates once famously (and wrongly) predicted that "640K ought to be enough for anybody." It says a lot about people's ability to make good predictions if the world's foremost computer guy cannot accurately foresee the trends in his own industry!

Let's start with a bit of grim news from the Bureau of Labor Statistics which has the task of making projections of jobs with the least and greatest growth from 2008 to 2018. The 10 occupations with the largest projected declines in this time period are:

1. Textile operators (-40%)
2. Sewing machine operators (-33.3%)
3. Postal service mail sorters and processors (-30.3%)
4. Lathe and turning machine tool setters and operators (-26%)
5. Order clerks (-26.1%)
6. Photographic processing machine operators (-24.3%)
7. File clerks (-23.4%)
8. Machine feeders and off bearers (-22.2%)
9. Paper machine setters and operators (-21.5%)
10. Computer operators (-18.6%)

There are several reasons why these jobs that were previously in demand are now in decline:

* Outsourcing - jobs that used to be filled by American workers are now being outsourced to countries whose workforces can perform these jobs at a cheaper price. Telephone customer service and data entry jobs are big casualties of this trend.

* Impact of technology - technology has changed the way we do things and has affected the services that we are willing to pay for. In "olden" times, we had to go to a photo processing studio to get our film developed. Nowadays, we can get our prints sent to our homes at a click of a button - hence the decline in photo processing jobs. Likewise, machines are taking the place of many jobs that used to be staffed by humans. When you go to the grocery store, for example, you can see the newest trend in customer service - the automated checkout stand taking pride of place and possibly taking over the friendly store clerk who used to scan your groceries with a smile.

Technological advances and outsourcing are the biggest threats to job security. I do not write this to frighten anyone, but to encourage people to be aware of these upcoming trends and to take action steps to better their futures and stay ahead of the game.

Here's my message with regard to the threat of technological advances: we do not have to be afraid of technology engulfing us and taking over our jobs. There is plenty of good news mixed in with the bad news - jobs such as full service gas pump attendant and typist may not be in high demand anymore, but if you follow the technology that is overtaking these jobs, you will see there are jobs available in the very technologies that have displaced them.

Dictation and full service gas attendants may be on their way out, but computer and machine repair type jobs are here to stay. Land lines are declining, but cell and internet phones are skyrocketing (and so are jobs in those technologies). So look carefully at the technological advances that are being introduced and see if there's a niche where you can claim a stake.
In terms of the danger of being outsourced, here's more good news - not all jobs can be automated and outsourced.

If you are someone who likes to work with your hands, this is very good news indeed. Jobs that require specialized, customized service cannot be replaced by machines and cannot easily be outsourced. Custom woodwork, hair styling, and landscaping, are three examples of careers that will likely be safe from outsourcing dangers in the immediate future.

Skilled trades, such as plumbers, electricians, and auto repair, are also a good bet because customers are not likely to turn to overseas competitors to get their cars repaired, to re-wire their wires, or their drains cleared.

Jobs that require direct physical contact with people are also the safest from outsourcing. Jobs in the healthcare field such as nurses, chiropractors, occupational therapists, speech therapists are a few that come to mind. An added plus in the healthcare field is a specialty in elders. Given the inevitable graying of America, there will be a demand for health professionals who specialize in the needs of the elderly.

I also believe that there is a definite trend toward service oriented jobs and jobs that require a high level of specialized knowledge, such as nanotechnology, security, energy solutions, and product development.

The final trend is one that has been true in the past and will not go away in the future - the imperative for workers to embrace lifelong learning, upgrade existing skills and knowledge bases, and adapt to trends of the future.

Congrats, all grads, and best of luck in your futures!

Anne Chan is a career counselor and licensed psychotherapist in Union City. She specializes in helping people find happiness in their careers, lives, and relationships. She can be reached at 510-744-1781. Her website is

(c) Anne Chan, 2011

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