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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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 7. Meet your new digital staff.

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Those online networks known as social media are being used for doing more important things than simply chatting with friends. Increasingly, they're allowing workers to develop sophisticated networks of contacts who can help them carry out their jobs.

Peter Schwartz calls it being "hyperconnected." By using increasingly powerful online tools, most workers will be able to replicate having a handful of assistants who gather research, prepare for meetings, and keep their schedule. It's like having an invisible support staff, allowing people to work smarter in a Knowledge Economy.

It will result in an "enriched, empowered, highly capable, autonomous decision worker [with] more freedom, more demands, but more options," says Mr. Schwartz, senior vice president for global government relations and strategic planning for Salesforce.com, a cloud computing company based in San Francisco.

8. Don't give me that retirement wristwatch just yet.

Far from moving to early retirement, the baby boomers reaching 65 are extending their work lives. "The biggest surprise is that you're going to see many older workers," says Schwartz, who himself started a new career at 65. He cites two reasons for older people staying in the workforce: The economy needs them, and they need to earn money longer.

Nonretired adults surveyed last year by Gallup said they planned to retire on average at 67, up four years from the same survey 10 years earlier. The same survey found that only 38 percent believed they had squirreled away enough money to live comfortably.

9. More degrees doesn't always mean more pay.

There are situations in which workers with college degrees are earning less than those with only a high school diploma. For example, credit counselors typically are required to have a bachelor's degree, according to the BLS. But loan officers just need a high school diploma. Yet loan officers outearn credit counselors $56,490 to $38,140.

In all, 1 in 5 young men with a college degree and 1 in 7 young women with a college degree were earning less in 2009 than the average high school graduate, according to research by Heather Boushey of the Center for American Progress and John Schmitt of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, both in Washington.

This may shed a little light on one of the big mysteries of the job market: why more young people aren't opting to go to college. From the end of World War II to the late 1970s, the ratio of college-educated workers to high school graduates rose sharply. But since that time, that progress has slowed dramatically.

The marketplace has responded by boosting the pay premium for a college education: In the late 1970s, 25-to-34-year-olds with a college degree could expect to earn 25 percent more than a high school graduate; by the late 2000s, they could earn 60 percent more, according to Ms. Boushey and Mr. Schmitt.

But young people – especially men – aren't responding by getting higher degrees.

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