Disappearing Jobs Can Reappear — Know Where to Look
One of the biggest challenges to an economic recovery is getting everyone back to work. In general, companies are always looking at how to get work done with fewer resources by leveraging technology. However, during down times, companies put this effort into overdrive and end up discontinuing the need for certain positions... forever. Entire industries are affected, too -- not just positions. As an article in The Salt Lake Tribune highlights:
"1.7 million Americans who were employed in clerical and administrative positions when the recession began... were no longer working in that occupation by the end of last year. There have also been outsized job losses in other occupational categories that seem unlikely to be revived during the economic recovery. The number of printing machine operators, for example, was nearly halved from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the fourth quarter of 2009. The number of people employed as travel agents fell by 40 percent.
And unlike in past recessions, jobs in such beleaguered sectors as manufacturing, retailing and advertising aren't the only ones likely lost forever."
What does this mean for the unemployed experts in obsolete positions?
Yes, the obvious answer is get training in new skills. But which? Some choose to restart their careers and completely "retool" their skill sets. Within the PR industry, many have had to learn social media and give up old, traditional marketing strategies (but at least they could remain in the same company or industry).
For some, there is not time or resources for reinventing themselves. If you are in this situation, think about what positions your role used to interface with. You worked with other departments, vendors, or customers. On the other side of every interaction you had, there was someone who also was involved with your work. If you created software, someone used it. If you delivered a product, someone received it. Think about jobs that were related to yours. You might have a head start getting that job as you know what it was like to work with that role.
Although you may love what you do, clinging to a dying technology is not the answer. Yes, I've seen specialists required for legacy products or software code, but these jobs are rare and still disappear.
Transfer to new industries
Another approach is to think of transferability of skills from one industry to another. For example, if you were a quality analyst in a manufacturing company (another sector that's been on a downtrend for years), you may be well-suited for a non-manufacturing company if the day-to-day deliverables are similar. An insurance company still needs to investigate the quality of its processes. Although, the physical product is different, the company still needs quality analysts focused on its defect rate, customer satisfaction, and related metrics.
Your task is to learn other industries where you skills are useful and convey this to the hiring managers. Yes, some companies don't want to make that leap with you, but some do (the ones who appreciate the skills you bring and perhaps a fresh perspective tackling old problems). Inventory your skill sets and look for jobs outside your industry that require your abilities.
Downsize or sell your services
One last thought is to downsize. Smaller companies may not have the budget for high-tech solutions and automation. They may still need well-trained professionals to fill key support roles in their company. A similar approach leverages the continuing trend of outsourcing. I've seen many administrative assistants offer their services as a remote resource. They can answer phones, make travel arrangements, plan meetings from their own home (and do this for multiple companies). Creating your own business as the outsourced specialist might be your best solution.
As the world evolves, we all need to evolve with it. A proactive stance is to continually be learning new skills and technologies along the way. What was once done over the phone oftentimes is now done through the Internet or mobile devices. Always be curious about other jobs and look for trends in the employment world. Entire industries are created practically overnight it seems. The only way to stave off being the victim is to take destiny into your own hands.