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10 surprises about tomorrow's job market

In sharp contrast to today's tepid job growth, employment will pick up later this decade and feature some unusual twists – from the rise of sales jobs to the dearth of 'green' ones. Here's a guide to help navigate it.

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Nor are some of the positive things that happened to the green movement last year – a 20-year low in carbon dioxide emissions, plummeting costs to consumers for solar power, and a record year for the wind industry – evidence that green jobs will surge in the future.

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Emissions are down mostly because utilities are replacing coal-fired plants with cheaper and cleaner natural gas plants. Solar panels are inexpensive because Chinese manufacturers have flooded the market and driven some US firms out of business. Indeed, the administration has slapped tariffs of between 24 and 36 percent on Chinese panels. And the main reason that the wind industry had a good year is that installers were rushing to finish projects before the potential end of a federal subsidy.

With natural gas so abundant, the push to move to green alternatives looks as if it will be delayed.

5. Welcome to the era of the 'hybrid worker.'

Americans in recent decades have been changing careers with increasing regularity. In the future, many of them will be carving out personalized niche jobs by combining the skills they used in previous work experiences. Gina Vita is one such "hybrid worker."

She started out as an X-ray technician, moved on to cardiac research, and then dropped out of the labor force to raise her children. Twelve years later, she wanted to work again.

Friends began to ask Ms. Vita, who is a fitness buff, to help them with their workouts. So she got her certification from the American College of Sports Medicine and became a personal trainer. "I have that background work in the hospital," she says, which allows her to help clients avoid injury.

She would have made more money resuming a career as an X-ray technician. But "it was a gerbil wheel," she says. "I started out seeing people who are ill. Now, I'm preventing people from getting ill."

Hybrid workers are more common today because the recession delayed career-switching.

"There's a tremendous amount of pent-up demand to change careers," says Jim John, chief operating officer of Beyond.com, a career network based in King of Prussia, Pa. "I'm looking at résumés from people who went to law school and are looking to get into marketing."

But these workers have been at their current job long enough that starting over would now mean a steep pay cut in many cases. So workers are trying to bridge their careers. One friend who was a physician decided to go back to law school and now serves as a legal consultant on health-care issues, Mr. John says.

6. The death of a salesman hasn't happened.

The Internet Age was supposed to make salespeople obsolete. Instead, retail sales is expected to add more jobs than any profession except nursing between 2010 and 2020. Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives (not involved in scientific or technical products) are No. 19 on the same BLS list.

And those numbers may underestimate the importance of the profession today: Many sales reps are moving from working for corporations to becoming employees to independent contractors.

"All those death notices for sales and those who do it are off the mark," writes Daniel Pink, author of "To Sell Is Human." "Indeed, if one were to write anything about selling in the second decade of the twenty-first century, it ought to be a birth announcement." In 2010, even after the worst downturn since the Great Depression, the share of Americans working in sales is the same as it was in 2000, he calculates: 1 in 9.

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