For as long as humans have been alive, they’ve been hard at work creating a life worth living. I think we can all agree on that. But I want to take a look at exactly what we’ve been doing the longest. The things that have to be done and will always need to be done. Here is a list of the 20 oldest occupations in the world (in no particular order):

  1. Farmer, Shepherd, Herdsman
  2. Artist, Painter
  3. Accountant
  4. Politician
  5. Architect, Engineer
  6. Tailor, Seamstress
  7. Musician, Singer
  8. Baker, Cook, Fisherman, Hunter
  9. Journalist, News Reporter, Scribe, Author
  10. Lawyer, Judge, Law Officer
  11. King, Governor, Ruler
  12. Soldiers
  13. Jailer, Guard
  14. Potter, Carpenter, Craftsman, Metal Worker, Goldsmith
  15. Merchant, Salesman
  16. Doctor, Apothecary, Midwife, Healer
  17. Banker, Lender
  18. Innkeeper,
  19. Teacher, Philosopher
  20. Priest, Prophet, Monk

Some of these clearly relate to us in the world of research administration. We all spend time as an accountant on budgets, a lawyer interpreting laws and codes, a teacher to our subjects, even as a politician as we navigate the waters with sponsors, investigators, department chairs, and subjects. We can relate to the architect as we build a complex project with several facets and layers. We understand the jail guard or the solider as we fight to protect our subjects. But what about the other professions?

Is there something we can learn from the fishermen, the innkeeper, the monk that will help us in our own professional development?

I think the answer lies in our daily interactions and shared experiences. Most of us spend most of our time providing a service to one of our fellow humans. On its most basic level, that’s the heart of ‘work’ and why we come to work each day. We are here to make a living and most, if not all of us, prefer to do it in the company of our fellow humans.

Something we can learn from each of the oldest craftsman is how they interact with their team, their customers, and their leaders. Each of our modern professions stems from one or more of the oldest and original occupations. It’s important to remember where we’ve come from and how we’ve evolved, so we can better shape our future.

What connections do you see in your daily work?