What’s Your Next Career?

17456_1269532813224_1076952025_30803996_7657050_nAmericans don’t stay with the same employer, or even in the same career.  As White notes, it may be unrealistic to expect that given the number of years of work the average person will have.(1)  For the average person, work life will last more than 40 years, and more than 50 years for those going straight to work from high school.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average person holds 11.3 jobs between the age of 18 and 46.(2)  Half of these jobs are before age 25, but that still means an average of 4-5 years per job during the prime years of work life.

  • The BLS doesn’t track career changes.  That policy needs to change.

Some of the volatility in the workplace is voluntary, and some is forced.

  • As several studies have shown, people will change jobs to improve benefits, especially healthcare.
  • Of course people will change jobs for money.
  • Company layoffs can force people to find other lines of work.
  • Automation can eliminate jobs, and more of that is coming.
  • Ageism, and the desire of companies to reduce labor costs by dismissing the highest paid (and most experienced workers).

The jobs under threat span all classes of work:

  • Taxi drivers  (self-driving Uber cars)
  • Truck and bus drivers (yes, tests of self-driving tractor trailers are under way in Nevada, and a the Otto start-up in San Francisco, now owned by Uber, offers to retrofit trucks with driverless capability for $10,000 less than the average trucker salary)
  • Doctors — general practitioners (telemedicine)
  • Doctors — anesthesiologists (replacement by robots)
  • Store clerks and cashiers, grocery and fast food (more robots)
  • Statisticians (offshoring and automation)
  • Line cooks
  • Business analysts (offshoring and automation)
  • Auto mechanics (automation)
  • Masons and bricklayers (there’s a robot that can lay 2,000 bricks in 8 hours; the video is on You Tube)

There are issues with how rapidly job destruction through automation will occur.

  • Robots are expensive.
  • Robots aren’t as intelligent or as flexible as some of the people they replace, and that can lead to major problems for the company using them.
  • Legal liability for companies and individuals using robotics are not yet well defined. (3,4)

So, forecasts that up to half of US jobs could be eliminated by mid-century are probably sensationalist.

That said, there’s also a question about how fast the US can create new jobs to replace those being lost.  Right now, losses exceed job creation, which means that people are still downsizing into lower paying work.  That’s limited wage growth in the current economic cycle.

Elon Musk has argued that the government should be responsible for paying salaries to people whose jobs are lost to automation.

“There is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation,” says Musk to CNBC. “Yeah, I am not sure what else one would do. I think that is what would happen.”(9)

That’s a vision of a world in which all labor intensive jobs have been automated and people who lose their jobs have no meaningful work options.  Happily, we’re not there yet.

What you need to know:

  • Whatever your job is now, there’s a good chance you won’t be in that job or even that type of work five or ten years from now.  Even tenured teaching positions can be eliminated (8).
  • So, what do you want to do next?  What skills or education do you need for that?  You need a plan. NOW!
  • Education and training for advancement in your current job or career is tax deductible.  Education and training for a career change is not.  That needs to change.  Time to complain to your Congressman.


  1. Mary White, “Career Change Statistics,” undated.  http://jobs.lovetoknow.com/Career_Change_Statistics
  2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Number of Jobs Held, Labor Market Activity, and Earnings Growth Among the Youngest Baby Boomers: Results from a Longitudinal Survey Summary”, press release, 31 March 2015.  https://www.bls.gov/news.release/nlsoy.nr0.htm
  3. Casey Sullivan, “Is It Time to Grant Legal Rights to Robots? What About Legal Liability?” FindLaw, 29 August 2016. blogs.findlaw.com/technologist/2016/08/is-it-time-to-grant-legal-rights-to-robots-what-about-legal-liability.html#sthash.F6Yswvt2.dpuf
  4. Mady Delvaux, “DRAFT REPORT with recommendations to the Commission on Civil Law Rules on Robotics” (2015/2103(INL)), European Parliament, 31 May 2016.
  5. Salary.com, “9 Jobs Most Likely to be Taken Over by Robots,” undated.  http://www.salary.com/9-jobs-taken-over-by-robots/
  6. Olivia Solon, “Self-driving trucks: what’s the future for America’s 3.5 million truckers?”, The Guardian, 17 June 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jun/17/self-driving-trucks-impact-on-drivers-jobs-us
  7. Gavey Alba, “Amazon’s Real Future Isn’t Drones. It’s Self-Driving Trucks,” Wired, 20 December 2016.  https://www.wired.com/2016/12/amazons-real-future-isnt-drones-self-driving-trucks/
  8. National Education Association, “The Truth About Tenure in Higher Education,” undated.  http://www.nea.org/home/33067.htm
  9. Catherine Clifford,”Elon Musk: Robots will take your jobs, government will have to pay your wage,” CNBC 4 November 2016. http://www.cnbc.com/2016/11/04/elon-musk-robots-will-take-your-jobs-government-will-have-to-pay-your-wage.html


  1. Hi Vic,
    I’ve been thinking a lot about what the next “act” in life. My son’s off to college in the fall, I’ve been working for the same company for 17 years (yes, I am so grateful). But then what? What do I want to do with the last half of my life? Interesting that retraining isn’t tax deductible. That’s lame! THanks for the thought-provoking read!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Nurserial!

    Thank you. Hopefully, others will read and start thinking. Americans are rather famous for waiting until rather late (after 45) to start thinking about the Second Act. By that time, a lot of options are gone. Technology will close even more.

    Any thoughts about other topics you would like to see?.




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