June 15, 2017
When Did Life Change So Significantly?
I went back to my alma mater recently and spent some time with friends with whom I graduated. I came away from the weekend with a couple of perspectives I’d like to share.
As I drove up to campus I noticed a lot of things haven’t changed at all. Aladdin’s restaurant is still there, as is the fire station, the pizza parlor, the churches, and the florist. But other things have changed over time and some significantly.
When I graduated, one of the most desired jobs was stock broker. Today, the career barely exists. Why? One of my thoughts is that there is so much data available that some of it no longer becomes exclusive to anyone. Data exists all over the place, but the challenge is how to apply it to your personal life. Allow me to illustrate my point. In the early 1900s, the 100,000 telephone operators were “the keepers of knowledge” of how to connect a phone call from point A to point B. Now, technology makes the connection and (poof!) there is no longer a need for operators. Travel agencies, in years prior to 1994, were the only way to buy an airline ticket. At one point, according to Forbes, there were more than 35,000 travel agencies in the U.S. They provided services, primarily information about hotels, flights, and rental cars to consumers. When Janice and I got married (before the internet and before online travel agencies existed), we went to a travel agent to research and book our honeymoon. Now that is rarely done, it is almost all self-serve over the internet. Over the last 20 years — since the launch of Expedia (a Microsoft company) — the number of brick and mortar travel agencies has fallen to less than 10,000 because their value proposition (information) has been replaced by the internet.
Similarly, prior to 1994, the only way to buy stocks was from the “keeper of knowledge,” the stock broker. They worked for the big wire houses and created “exclusivity around the knowledge that only they had.” Now that the “average” investor can purchase stocks without the involvement of “the keeper of knowledge,” careers have changed.
No one sent an email stating the telephone operator was going to be an extinct career. I don’t recall reading an online announcement about the travel business going from brick and mortar to click and order. On the flip side, however, there are jobs that didn’t exist decades ago that are commonplace today. As an example, one of my sons is a digital marketer. Not too long ago, there was no such thing as a software engineer, and a game designer worked for Parker Brothers or Hasbro. Titles like blogger, web analyst, and app developer didn’t even exist and yet today, thousands are hired each year.
One of the lessons of this quick trip down (and up) memory lane is that the world is changing at an increasing rate. Check your assumptions, they may be limiting you.
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