Believe it or not, there was a time before dentists.
That’s right—people just walked around, cavities aplenty, toothaches out the wazoo, with no one to treat their ailments and nothing but soot and gum acacia to prevent them from getting worse. (We don’t love going to the dentist any more than the next people—but we’ll gladly take fluoride over that.)
Now, granted, that time was thousands of years ago, but it goes to show how the most popular jobs—well, all jobs, really—didn’t always exist.
New industries start as “what if?” questions (“What if people’s mouths didn’t need to hurt all the time?”) that then evolve into brand-new professions.
OK, that dentist thing is a little hard to wrap your head around. So, let’s look at some more recent examples.
Here are eight popular jobs that didn’t exist 10 years ago:
We know what you’re thinking:
“YouTube was founded in 2005! Of course there were YouTubers 10 years ago.”
And you’re right. But not like today, there weren’t.
YouTube in 2011 was dominated by the likes of Smosh, Lilly Singh and Jenna Marbles. And, while these creators had managed to turn video-making into their job—Marbles was raking in six figures by the early 2010s—the people who could claim “being a YouTuber” was their full-time gig were few and far between. Like, PewDiePie was still in school just in case his channel didn’t work out. It was a different time.
And don’t even get us started on TikTokers.
OK, so, maybe this is cheating because there’s a lot of crossover between influencers and YouTubers—many of today’s biggest influencers got their start on YouTube and still post to it as one of their main platforms.
But we think the two jobs are different enough to each count as their own thing.
Why? Well, essentially, YouTubers rely mainly on—say it with us—YouTube to reach their audience, while influencers can thrive on just about any platform. (In fact, just add “-er” to the end of any social network’s name and you have a contemporary job title. Instagrammer, Snapchatter, TikToker…)
Despite YouTubers’ and influencers’ subtle differences, they do have something major in common: they’ve skyrocketed as popular jobs in the last decade.
And, sure, you could argue that some variation of what we now know as “influencers” has always existed—just look at bygone socialites or Paris Hilton back in the day—but, again, it was nothing like today. Back then, people were effectively “born into” the role of influencer—like how royalty works. You belonged or married into an influential family; so then it became your job to look snazzy and go to parties and make everyone aspire to be you (doesn’t sound like a bad gig, if we’re being honest).
It’s only in the last decade or so that social media—platforms primed for producing influencers—have become more widely available.
In short: YouTubers =/= influencers but YouTube + influencers = new popular jobs. Got it?
3. Uber driver
We know this makes us sound young and clueless; but it’s honestly easier to think about a time before dentists than a time before Uber and Lyft drivers.
The reason these popular jobs didn’t exist before is pretty simple, though: Uber didn’t launch in Canada until 2012 and Lyft didn’t come around ’til 2017.
Before TVs were invented, radio was the dominant form of in-home entertainment. People would gather around in their living rooms and listen to soap operas, sitcoms and variety shows broadcasted via sound waves.
Then a bunch of stuff happened, which we could explain, but it’s easier to just show you this:
Fast-forward to 2001 and a tiny startup called Apple released a new product: the iPod. It wasn’t long before people thought to blend this new portable audio technology with the popular “weblogs” (blogs) of the time and, suddenly, a new-but-familiar-feeling medium—called “audioblogs” or podcasts—was created.
Jump forward again and, by the early 2010s, podcast popularity had pretty much flatlined. That is, until 2014 when This American Life released Serial: a podcast exploring the story around a man who may have been wrongly imprisoned for a 1999 murder. Suddenly, podcasts didn’t have to just be candid conversations anymore—they could be narratives, investigations or interviews. And people could make a living creating them.
As podcast critic Nicholas Quah put it for Vulture: “There was podcasting before 2014, and there was podcasting after 2014.”
Today, podcasts are a dominant form of entertainment. People go about their daily lives and listen to soap operas, sitcoms and variety shows broadcasted by full-time podcasters.
Weird how the world always comes full circle.
5. Esports coach
Video games have been around since the mid-20th century—and, in the latter half of it, there were even competitions for them—but up until the early 2010s, they were mostly just for fun.
In 2011, however, a little site called Twitch started to get off the ground. The Justin Kan enterprise allowed people to participate in and tune into esports tournaments from around the world, which propelled the industry forward at light speed.
As a result, in 2021, people can—and do—make a living off of playing esports or coaching those who do.
(And, hey, if this sounds like the job for you, Humber College Esports can help get you going.)
6. Social media manager
— Nutter Butter (@NutterButter) October 2, 2021
Look, we know a lot of the popular jobs on this list have been internet- and social media-centric. But can you name a more significant evolution from the last 10 years?
(Don’t try; that’s rhetorical.)
Of course, social media has been around for more than 10 years. However, it’s not until relatively recently that it’s taken up enough of companies’ time and resources to warrant dedicated positions. Social media management used to be a function of public relations and/or marketing jobs—not its own thing.
See also: chief listening officers, community managers, media monitors.
7. Drone operator
If you liked flying remote-control helicopters as a kid, imagine getting paid for it. And also imagine your remote-control helicopter can deliver groceries to people’s doorsteps.
More and more companies are making use of drones these days—over one million have taken flight since 2016 alone. As such, there’s a brand-new job market for people who know how to fly them.
8. Millennial generational expert
In 2011, the oldest Millennials were in their late 20s and the youngest were still in high school. Today, they make up more than half of the labour force.
As such, companies are now hiring strategists who understand this demographic in-depth so they can more precisely cater their products and services towards it.
Here’s our audition for this popular job: Hogwarts houses, side parts, skinny jeans, musical comedy, doggo, wine mom, rose gold everything. How’d we do?
(We’re sorry, Millennials reading this. We kid because we love you!)
What do these new popular jobs mean for you?
Well, that’s simple: it means, if your dream career doesn’t exist yet, it’s only a matter of time until it does. It means no ambition is too outlandish. It means there’s no limit to what you can accomplish (although, since you’re studying at Humber or UofGH, that was already a given).
The most popular jobs of today didn’t exist 10 years ago. The most popular jobs of tomorrow are waiting for you to create them.
Carving out your dream career might mean your professional journey looks a little different than your peers’. But that’s OK—here’s why.
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