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Five Jobs Going the Way of the Wooly Mammoth


You remember the wooly mammoth from junior high science class?  Once a prehistoric mainstay, the wooly mammoth eventually disappeared from the landscape. Environment, climate changes, and the introduction of humans and their pesky hunting habits all contributed to the extinction of this stately beast.

Inspecting the current evolution in our job market, we can take a few lessons from the plight of the mammoth. In days gone by, an employee could count on steady advancement as long as they occasionally updated their job skills and were patient. These days, regular, judicious advancement is not guaranteed. In fact, there are a few career areas that have been overturned by the proliferation of technology.

Consider these jobs below. If you’re recently separated from military service, a veteran, or a military spouse, think about what kinds of transferable skills you’ve cultivated in your previous career that can be adapted and evolved to avoid becoming frozen in time like our friend the wooly mammoth.

The Travel Agent

Once upon a time, vacationers needed only to pick up the phone and call their trusted travel agent when planning their family trip. That was it. Access to flight schedules, hotel availability and other vital booking information was reserved for those in the travel industry.

Now, everyone with an internet connection can view booking details, research the destination of their dreams and make reservations on their own behalf.

There are a few niche agencies still around – those that cater to the wealthy, those that tailor travel to special events and group needs, and even some that feature “adventure” themes or exclusive explorations that aren’t available to the general public. The travel agents that have adapted to the specific needs of a unique audience have managed to survive the “self-serve” renaissance swept in by the internet.

The Switchboard Operator

My parents tell me that there used to be a human being who managed the telephonic switchboard. As telephony spread across the continental United States, exchanges gave way to area codes. Soon, a digitized voice became the switchboard operator, and machines began guiding us to input buttons based on the nature of our call.

Now, interactive voice recognition technology has made the phone operator redundant. There still many of us left who prefer to speak to an honest-to-goodness person when we have a question to ask or feedback to provide. For those who wish to remain on the line, a career in customer service may meet those human interaction needs.

The Supermarket Cashier

Although cashiers and clerks are still needed, self check-out and “site-to-store” e-commerce have reduced this demand somewhat.

The upside to this is that the barcode scanner is less judgmental about coupons or value brand shoppers than a snarky teenager. The downside is that you have no one to blame for your broken eggs or smooshed dinner rolls but yourself.

Cashiers and clerks are still around, make no mistake, especially during busy holiday seasons or weekend afternoons. What will make or break the trend is the value that human beings add to the shopping experience: excellent customer service skills, a sense of humor, and patience with extreme couponers.

The Postal Worker

Although a good portion of our communication and transactions take place online, it’s not likely that the U.S. Postal Service will entirely fade into the ether.

There are still businesses and individuals who believe that the art of letter writing may see a revival, and home builders still design and construct traditional letterboxes. Business to business exchanges and online shopping still need to have their goods delivered to the consumer – so the U.S.P.S. has beefed up their package delivery efforts.

The Radio Host/On-Air Disc Jockey

Remember Saturday morning cartoons? Back in the day, youngsters could only watch Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck or the Smurfs for a few precious early morning hours on Saturdays. Then cable television spawned entire networks devoted to kiddie programming, and life changed forever.

A similar phenomenon is in progress over the radio airwaves:  satellite and web radio, podcasting and syndicated programming are changing your local radio station.

Although you may still be the fifth caller to answer the morning drive time trivia question, the live DJ is an evolving creature. The DJ who can add to their stations’ web presence with new and relevant content will be the one whose job survives.

The wooly mammoth, sadly, was unable to outpace his human predators or adapt to his changing climate. You don’t have to go the way of the mammoth. Here are a few tips to make sure your skillset and mindset stays afloat amidst the seas of change:

  1. Assess yourself honestly and address any gaps in your knowledge and skills
  2. Pay attention to trends and keep your skillset current – if you’re currently employed, see if your employer will support your participation in conferences, classes, or certification programs that will keep your knowledge and skills current
  3. If you’re in a specialized, skilled industry, remember that high quality work, excellent customer service and adding value is always in demand

Ready to update your skills, add a certification or explore a new field? Check out these 2-year programs that qualify for military education benefits.

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