10 Obsolete Jobs We Love

Rachel Farrell, special to CareerBuilder

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If you made a joke to a young child that she was the milkman's daughter, her response would probably be something along the lines of, "What's a milkman?"

A milkman, like so many other occupations, is what some might call a job of yesteryear. With the advancement of technology -- computers, phones, automated systems -- the need for people to perform certain jobs is dying. It seems there is always someone or something that can do the job better, faster, cheaper.

We looked at jobs that are obsolete or on their way out. Here are 10 of our favorites:

1. Elevator operator

Once upon a time, elevators were operated manually and someone had to "drive" them. The operator chose the floors to stop on and had to get the doors to land as close to floor level as possible. Eventually, push-button controls were invented, yet elevators were able to take passengers only on individual trips, so they needed operators to take the most efficient routes. Today, elevators are automatic, lessening the need for operators, but a few work in tourist buildings and some apartment buildings.

2. File clerk

File clerks -- and clerical jobs in general -- are being phased out. More files are being stored online and on computers, diminishing the need for people to do the work manually. The occupation is expected to shrink by nearly a quarter in the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

3. Iceman

Before electric refrigerators, people stored their food in iceboxes. To keep the iceboxes stocked, icemen delivered 25- to 100-pound ice blocks to homes several times a week. Nowadays, we have freezers, most of which come with automatic ice dispensers. Today's icemen deliver only to schools, restaurants and catering companies.

4. Inspectors, testers, samplers, sorters and weighers

These are quality-control inspectors. They make sure your car runs smoothly, your chip bag is sealed and your pants won't split the first time you wear them. But, as with many manufacturing jobs, these positions are declining slowly because of machines that automatically inspect goods and assembly workers who monitor the safety of goods as they are made on the line. The occupation is expected to decline by 4 percent by 2018, according to the BLS.

5. News vendors, street vendors and door-to-door salesmen

Although street vendors are more common in big cities, the times of people trying to sell you things on the sidewalk are passing. These days, every sales pitch comes with an ad or marketing campaign. And now that you can market and sell everything online, there is less of a need to sell goods in person. These positions are expected to decline rapidly through 2018.

6. Machine feeders and offbearers

True to their job titles, machine feeders and offbearers insert materials into and take materials out of machines to speed up the production line. But as automation continues to take over in the manufacturing industry, people will be needed less and less and these occupations will continue to be phased out. About 22 percent of these jobs are expected to be lost, according to the BLS.

7. Milkman

Milkmen used to make dairy deliveries to homes every week. Almost 30 percent of consumers had milk delivered, according to a 1963 survey by the Agriculture Department. But as time went on, it became more convenient for consumers to buy milk at groceries. By 1975, only 7 percent of people got milk deliveries and in 2005, it was less than 0.5 percent. Interestingly enough, today there's an increasing number of vendors that are delivering more than just milk -- they deliver entire grocery orders.

8. Paper goods machine setters, operators and tenders

These people set up, operate or tend paper goods machines. These machines perform a variety of functions, including converting, banding, wrapping, boxing, stitching and sealing paper into products -- pretty much anything humans can do to paper. But the world doesn't run on paper anymore (at least not as much), and when this job does need to be done, a machine can do it. By 2018, the BLS predicts this occupation will lose 21.5 percent of its jobs.

9. Switchboard operators

Switchboard operators used a "cord board" to connect callers by plugging incoming lines and metal pegs into the corresponding hole on the board to connect with the correct caller. Long-distance callers were routed through operators, but with only a limited number of lines. If all circuits were busy, operators took callers' number and called them back when a line was available. Now, with the advancement of technology, cell phones and long-distance plans, the need for these operators has diminished.

10. Typist

Before computers and word processors became common, typists – most of them women -- wrote up office documents using typewriters. If they performed well enough, they usually got promoted to secretary (another dying position). Nowadays, most professionals type their own documents, and those who don't employ an executive assistant.

Rachel Farrell researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for CareerBuilder.com. Follow @CBForJobSeekers on Twitter.



Last Updated: 22/09/2010 - 5:13 PM


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