Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Odd Jobs and Crazy Careers

What Can They Teach You About Your Aspirations?
by Christina Couch

Customer service representative… technical support specialist… administrative assistant… snore! Are you tired of empty job titles that just don't get you out of bed in the morning? From banana gassing to wrinkle chasing, check out 10 of the strangest jobs you've never heard of, and stimulate some fascinating career field exploration.

1) ICE CREAM TASTER -- John Harrison has the most delicious job in the business. As Official Ice Cream Taster for Dreyers Ice Cream (not to be confused with Breyers), John gets paid to sample three cartons of each flavor daily to check product quality. He claims the gig isn't all fun and games since he must maintain a strict, spice-free diet; however, being surrounded by Rocky Road sounds like a sweet deal nonetheless.

Consider this: You don't have to pack on the butter pecan pounds to whet your appetite for a food services career. From culinary arts to hospitality management, the menu of career options is limitless, as is the employment outlook. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the culinary arts field alone is expected to reach 12 million employees by 2006.

2) HAIR SIMULATION SUPERVISOR -- Believe it or not, those proficient in the art of creating 3-D hair are hot commodities in the world of animation. Just ask Mark Thomas Henne, the man responsible for every follicle flip in Pixar's CGI blockbuster, 'The Incredibles.' According to Nathan Pieratt, Director of the Online Animation Program at Westwood College, the industry has shifted from 2-D design to 3-D digital media, giving rise to highly specific jobs. "This industry is huge," Pieratt says. "Students are blown away by how hard it is and how exciting it is, too."

Consider this: Taming techno tresses may be a bit tedious for you, but career opportunities in graphic design abound. For example, someone created the logos on your favorite candy bar and the flash animation you see all over the Web. Without specialized training, however, things can get -- well -- hairy. For success in this field, be prepared to keep up with the latest technologies through continuing education.

3) PALLIATIVE CARE TECHNICIAN -- A cross between M.D.s and hospice workers, palliative care technicians ameliorate symptoms, but don't cure disease for terminally ill patients. On top of medical training, technicians must be prepared to handle the legal, psychological, and ethical issues associated with death. Online courses like the End of Life Issues Program at the University of South Florida provide medical professionals with background to help patients and families cope with grief.

Consider this: If being around grief and loss is too emotionally draining for you, there are many health care-related positions in which helping others heal is your top priority. Because the health care industry is so expansive (there are 5,764 U.S. registered hospitals, according to AHA Hospital Statistics), there are multiple opportunities from radiology and pathology to becoming a paramedic or physical therapist. Start with an online educational program search.

4) BANANA GASSER -- Less flatulent than it sounds, banana gassers finish off what Mother Nature started. To make sure the bottom of your split is tasty, bananas are shipped while they're still green to prevent bruising. Gassers for the JFC Fruit Company are in charge of moving new shipments into hermetically sealed chambers where the fruit is sprayed with an ethylene gas to catalyze ripening. According to the company Web site, trained gassers use the computer program "Probe" to determine how much gas should be applied and for how long. The process can take anywhere from three to eight days, after which bananas hit grocery store shelves yellow and ready to be eaten. Bon appetite!

Consider this: This job may be a bit too fruity for your taste, but there's something about chemical reactions and computer analysis that intrigues you. You can ripen your laboratory inclinations by studying biotechnology or clinical laboratory science, all of which have education options online. By the way, highly trained scientists and engineers command a median average salary of $70,000 -- there's nothing odd about that!

5) FIRE SCIENTIST -- If you can take the heat, the market for fire science majors is booming, so to speak. Specializing in experiments involving flame, fire scientists do everything from checking gas pipe leaks to blowing things up. Grads from the University of Maryland's University College online fire science program not only learn the science behind smithereens, but are also trained in emergency management and arson investigation.

Consider this: If fire science is too hot for you, don't be alarmed. Criminal justice, homeland security, and public safety administration are other areas in which you can pursue an education to protect and serve your fellow citizens. In addition to state and other public service career opportunities, these fields are booming in the private sector as well, so consider them hot careers.

6) INDEPENDENT DUTY CORPSMAN -- Dedicated to providing health care services to military personnel, IDCs are recruits trained to administer treatment to victims of injury and sickness. They're not exactly physicians; however, they're often the only available medical personnel. Touro University International offers specially-tailored online programs designed to provide IDCs with health care credentials. These programs aren't the same as medical residencies, but if you ever need IDC services, you'll have no problem calling them "Doc."

Consider this: You don't have to be on the frontlines in order to practice nursing. The good news is, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has identified nursing as a profession expected to experience above-average growth over the next decade, with 623,000 new positions by 2012.

7) WRINKLE CHASER-- This profession has nothing to do with beauty products or the elderly. Wrinkle chasers are in charge of removing, you guessed it, wrinkles, from shoes using specialty irons. Chasers can be assigned to a whole shoe or just a small part, such as the heel, and are in high demand at such companies as Shoemakers, England and Dr. Martens. After all, somebody's got to make sure those Manolos are as smooth as the person wearing them.

Consider this: While you may not want to jump into wrinkle chasing with both feet, there is something exciting about being integral in the development of a hot product. Why not try walking in the shoes of a marketing professional or brand manager? Such business skills can be honed through education, and then coupled with knowledge of a product's specific industry and target market for a career that's wrinkle-free.

8) KNOWLEDGE FACILITATOR -- The newest addition in the world of business, knowledge facilitators examine what employees need to know and the best ways to distribute that information. Online business students should prick up their ears. Corporate knowledge facilitators are using e learning to make businesses more streamlined. "Training is no longer a discrete, formal event," states Dr. David Shoemaker, vice president of learning solutions for eCornell. "The ability to deliver knowledge in increasingly granular bits enables learning to be integrated seamlessly into the work flow."

Consider this: If ever there was proof that keeping up with your educational credentials is necessary for success in the corporate world, the creation of this position says it all. But, hey, you don't need anyone to facilitate your knowledge pursuits, right? Take a step on your own and consider an advanced degree such as an MBA.

9) SNAKE MILKER -- You've heard the phrase: "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." In this case, what doesn't kill you may prove to be a life-saving substance. Snake venom is at once a bodily poison and the primary ingredient in serums that cure snakebites. In areas where poisonous snakes are commonplace, animal care specialists employed to extract venom by "milking" the reptile's fangs are crucial.

Consider this: In this case, a specialized skill is key to snake-bite survival. And guess what? Corporate advancement can become poisoned if you don't continually arm yourself with top-notch training. That's why it's a smart move to stay immune with specialized business knowledge suited to your "corporate species," whether it's global management mastery, eCommerce skills or entrepreneurial studies.

10) LAUGHTER THERAPIST -- If laughter truly is the best medicine, then Dr. Steven Wilson, certified psychologist and Laughter Leader/Joyologist is the doctor for you. Built on the philosophy that giggles, chuckles and belly laughs do a body good, laughter therapists such as Wilson work with clients to help incorporate a smile into patients' daily lives.

So how exactly does it work? "We don't use jokes, we don't use comedy," Wilson reports. "You're really going inside yourself to connect with the joyful, zestful, exuberant laughter we all had as babies… We not only show people laughter exercises that allow people to lighten up and release that laughter, but we teach how to prevent hardening of the attitudes." Regular doses of laughter are proven to alleviate stress, boost the body's immune system, and reduce the signs of aging. Here's one therapy session you don't have to take seriously.

Consider this: Jerry Seinfeld or George Carlin you aren't. But just because you can't tell a knock-knock joke the right way, doesn't mean you can't find a meaningful career making a difference in people's lives. In fact, the job opportunities are so abundant for human services professionals, it's certainly nothing to laugh at. Positions dealing with everything from alternative medicine or behavioral sciences, to life care planning or public health, are out there if you're willing to hone your academic skills and earn a degree.

Read more here


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