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7 Uncommon Professions That Can Pay Incredibly Well

7 Uncommon Professions That Can Pay Incredibly Well

Despite what most of us learn growing up, the college-to-career track simply isn’t suitable for everyone. Some people prefer freelancing their way through life, pursuing whatever passion excites them most at the time, rather than settling into a 30-year career plan. Even so, we can all appreciate the flexibility afforded by financial freedom, and even the happiest of wanderers still needs to pay the bills and put food on the table.

Fortunately, many of the most unusual jobs and occupations out there today — those fit for a special breed of free-spirited individual — can actually provide a strong safety net in terms of steady income.

If you’re looking for an adventurous alternative to the 9-to-5 grind, check out these seven unusual professions that can pay incredibly well.

1. Golf Ball Diver

If you’ve ever hit the links for 18 holes, you’ve probably sent a few expensive golf balls sinking to a watery grave. Even the game’s greats are known to make a splash down in the water hazard from time to time, and if it wasn’t for treasure hunters like Dick Smith of Midwest Diving Specialists, golf course ponds all across America would soon be overflowing with shanks and slices.

Smith, who was featured in a profile by ESPN.com back in 2006, estimates that more than 200 million golf balls are splashed down each year. As a professional golf ball diver, Smith and others like him don scuba suits and head down into the depths to retrieve buckets upon buckets of these lost balls. As a reward, golf ball divers can routinely earn $50,000 annually, with the best in the business taking home $100,000 per year through retrieval and resale of their sunken treasures.

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2. Sommelier

If you’ve always had a refined palate and preferred a nice glass of burgundy over a bottle of Bud Light, becoming a sommelier could be the perfect way to turn your good taste into great pay.

Sommeliers work in the fine dining industry, assisting customers in selecting the right bottle to pair with their meal, while carefully curating a restaurant’s revolving menu of varietals.

You can become a certified sommelier by taking a six-month course, and the best in the business can easily take home over $80,000 per year.

3. Poker Player

Some average Joes have proven that you can play poker online for money and turn that into a big tournament payday. In 2003, an anonymous accountant by the name of Chris Moneymaker did just that, turning a fistful of dollars into a $2.5 million prize as the winner of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event.

It’s been more than a decade since the “poker boom” launched by Moneymaker’s miraculous win and ESPN’s wall-to-wall coverage, but even so you’ll find poker rooms across the country packed with avid players.

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With the 2016 WSOP underway in Las Vegas, another unlikely champion has put poker in the news once again. As a 29-year old finance professor at the University of Arizona, Mitchell Towner says he played the game only once or twice a year during his doctoral studies. Even so, Towner outlasted more than 6,900 opponents to win the $1,500 buy-in Monster Stack event at the WSOP, earning $1.12 million and a gold bracelet in the process.

Along with other first-time-entrants-turned-big-time winners, like Shankar Pillai and Hung Lee, Towner proved that playing poker can be quite the lucrative pastime.

4. Waterslide Tester

Nothing beats the thrill of heading to the waterpark on a hot summer day and taking as many trips as you can down the steepest, curviest waterslides. But for adults trying to earn a living, spending your days sliding into the pool and splashing around doesn’t exactly sound like a viable career option. Unless you’re Seb Smith, that is.

Back in 2013, the U.K.-based resorts marketer First Choice issued a public notice to fill one of the company’s most coveted positions: full-time waterslide tester. Smith beat out more than 2,000 other applicants to secure the dream job, and today he earns about $32,000 per year to travel the world and test out SplashWorld’s waterslide system.

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waterslide

    Source: Flickr

    5. IMAX Screen Cleaner

    When you sit down to catch a flick in an IMAX theater, the main draw is obviously the massive screen on which the film is projected. And while these huge 72-by-52-foot IMAX screens are perfect for showcasing special effects and superb cinema in spectacular fashion, they’re also great at attracting dust and dirt.

    Just like your television screen at home, the standard IMAX screen is eventually coated in a thin layer of airborne particles and other grime. But instead of balling up some paper towels to address the problem, IMAX theater owners rely on special screen cleaners to get the job done.

    For an average annual salary of $45,000, members of an IMAX screen cleaning team climb tall ladders and wield vacuum-like devices to remove the usual dust and debris, along with Gummy bears, spit wads, and other oddities which tend to accumulate on them.

    6. Food Truck Operator

    The food truck fad of a few years back may not be driving full steam ahead any longer, but competent cooks capable of carving out a niche for themselves can still make a great living.

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    Depending on your locale and the level of demand there, opening up a food truck can be a great way to combine your culinary skills with an entrepreneurial spirit. Rather than taking the risk which comes with opening a full-fledged restaurant, first-time food truck owners can make a relatively small gamble. If things don’t work out, the truck and equipment can be resold to recoup losses, but if your food finds an audience, food truck ownership can easily produce a six-figure salary.

    7. Video Game Tester

    Growing up, many of us had dreams of being paid to play Nintendo games all day, battling Bowser and saving the Princess in exchange for a paycheck.

    Today, with major companies like Sony, Microsoft, and Apple investing heavily in the gaming industry, demand for video game testers continues to grow. Offering an hourly wage which averages between $12 and $18 per hour, companies like EA Games devote entire teams of testers to their Quality Assurance department.

    There’s no need to resign yourself to a well-paid job you dislike or take a massive pay-cut for a dream position that means you practically go pro bono. If up until this point you’ve struggled to put your finger on a profession that makes you happy, rest assured there are plenty of unconventional jobs out there that offer great opportunities to learn, grow, have fun, and be more than reasonably remunerated.

    Featured photo credit: Flickr via flickr.com

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    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

    How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

    Career advancement is an enticement that today’s companies use to lure job candidates. But to truly uncover growth opportunities within a company, it’s up to you to take the initiative to move up.

    You can’t rely on recruiter promises that your company will largely hire from within. Even assurances you heard from your direct supervisor during the interviewing process may not pan out. But if you begin a job knowing that you’re ultimately responsible for getting yourself noticed, you will be starting one step ahead.

    Accomplished entrepreneur and LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman said,

    “If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.”

    It’s important to recognize that taking charge of your own career advancement, and then mapping out the steps you need to succeed, is key to moving forward on your trajectory.

    Make a Point of Positioning Yourself as a Rising Star

    As an employee looking for growth opportunities within your current company, you have many avenues to position yourself as a rising star.

    As an insider, you’re able to glean insights on company strategies and apply your expertise where it’s most needed. Scout out any skills gaps, then make a point to acquire and apply them. And, when you have creative ideas to offer, make it your mission to gain the ear of those in the organization who can put your ideas to the test.

    Valiant shows of commitment and enterprise make managers perk up and take notice, keeping you ahead of both internal and external competitors.

    Employ these other useful tips to let your rising star qualities shine:

    1. Promote Your Successes to Your Higher-Ups

    When your boss casually asks how you’re doing, use this valuable moment to position yourself as indispensable: “I’m floating on clouds because three clients have already commented on how well they like my redesign of the company website.”

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    Tell your supervisors about any and all successes. Securing a new contract or signing a new customer should be a cause for celebration. Be sure to let your bosses know.

    2. Cultivate Excellent Listening Skills

    Listen well, and ask great questions. Realize that people love to talk about themselves.

    But if you’re a superb listener, others will confide in you, and you’ll learn from what they share. You may even find out something valuable about your own prospects in the company.

    If others view you as even-minded and thoughtful, they’ll respect your ideas and, in turn, listen to what you have to say.

    Check out these important listening skills: 13 Powerful Listening Skills to Improve Your Life at Work and at Home

    3. Go to All Office Networking Events

    Never skip the office Christmas party, your coworker’s retirement party, or any office birthday parties, wedding showers, or congratulatory parties for colleagues.

    If others see you as a team player, it will help you rise in your company. These on-site parties will also help you mingle with co-workers whom you might not ordinarily have the chance to see. For special points, help organize one or two of these get-togethers.

    Take the Extra Step to Show Your Value to the Company

    Managers and HR staff know that it can be less risky – and a lot less costly — to promote from within. As internal staff, you likely have a good grasp of the authority structure and talent pool in the company, and know how to best navigate these networks in achieving both the company’s goals and your own.

    The late Nobel-Prize winning economist, Gary Becker, coined the term “firm-specific,” which describes the unique skills required to excel in an individual organization. You, as a current employee, have likely tapped into these specific skills, while external hires may take a year or more to master their nuances.

    Know that your experience within the company already provides value, then find ways to add even more value, using these tips:

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    4. Show Initiative

    Commit yourself to whatever task you’re given, and make a point of going above and beyond.

    Position yourself so that you’re ready to take on any growth opportunities that present themselves. If you believe you have skills that have gone untapped, find a manager who will give you a chance to prove your worth.

    Accept any stretch assignment that showcases your readiness for advancement. Stay late, and arrive early. Half of getting the best assignments is sticking around long enough to receive them.

    5. Set Yourself Apart by Staying up on Everything There Is to Know About Your Company and Its Competitors

    Subscribe to and read the online trade journals. Become an active member in your industry’s network of professionals. Go to industry conferences, and learn your competitors’ strategies.

    Be the on-the-ground eyes and ears for your organization to stay on top of industry trends.

    6. Go to Every Company Meeting Prepared and Ready to Learn

    A lot of workers feel meetings are an utter waste of time. They’re not, though, because they provide face-time with higher-ups and those in a position to give you the growth opportunities you need.

    Go with the intention of absorbing information and using it to your advantage — including the goals and work styles of your superiors. Respect the agenda, listen more than you speak, and never beleaguer a point.

    Accelerate Your Career Growth Opportunities

    A recent study found that the five predictors of employees with executive potential were: the right motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination. These qualities help you stand out, but it’s also important to establish a track record of success and to not appear to be over-reaching in your drive to move up in your company.

    Try to see yourself from your boss’s position and evaluate your promote-ability.

    Do you display a passion and commitment toward meeting the collective goals of the company? Do you have a motivating influence with team members and show insight and excellence in all your work?

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    These qualities will place you front and center when growth opportunities arise.

    Use these strategic tips to escalate your opportunities for growth:

    7. Find a Mentor

    With mentorship programs fast disappearing, this isn’t always easy. But you need to look for someone in the company who has been promoted several times and who also cares about your progress.

    Maybe it’s the person who recommended you for the job. Or maybe it’s your direct supervisor. It could even be someone across the hall or in a completely different department.

    Talk to her or him about growth opportunities within your company. Maybe she or he can recommend you for a promotion.

    Not sure how to find the right mentor? Here’s How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed.

    8. Map out Your Own Growth Opportunity Chart

    After you’ve worked at the company for a few months, work out a realistic growth chart for your own development. This should be a reasonable, practical chart — not a pie-in-the-sky wish list of demands.

    What’s reasonable? Do you think being promoted within two years is reasonable? What about raises? Try to inform your own growth chart with what you’ve heard about other workers’ raises and promotions.

    Once you’ve rigorously charted a realistic path for your personal development within the company, try to talk to your mentor about it.

    Keep refining your chart until it seems to work with your skills and proven talents. Then, arrange a time to discuss it with your boss.

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    You may want to time the discussion around the time of your performance review. Then your boss can weigh in with what he feels is reasonable, too.

    9. Set Your Professional Bar High

    Research shows that more than two-thirds of workers are just putting in their time. But through your active engagement in the organization and commitment to giving your best, you can provide the contrast against others giving lackluster performances.

    Cultivate the hard skills that keep you on the cutting edge of your profession, while also refining your soft skills. These are the attributes that make you better at embracing diverse perspectives, engendering trust, and harnessing the power of synergy.

    Even if you have an unquestionably left-brain career — a financial analyst or biotechnical engineer, for example — you’re always better off when you can form kind, courteous, quality relationships with colleagues.

    Let integrity be the cornerstone of all your interactions with clients and co-workers.

    The Bottom Line

    Growth opportunities are available for those willing to purposely and adeptly manage their own professional growth. As the old adage says,

    “Half of life is showing up.”

    The other half is sticking around so that when your boss is looking for someone to take on a more significant role, you are among the first who come to mind.

    Remember, your career is your business!

    More About Continuous Growth

    Featured photo credit: Zach Lucero via unsplash.com

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