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Published on October 2, 2018

20 Cool Jobs for Unconventional People (No Matter How Old You Are)

20 Cool Jobs for Unconventional People (No Matter How Old You Are)

At a certain point in my life, I thought I would be a scuba instructor. Bronzed and toned, living care free in the Maldives mingling with fabulous people. It seemed like a perfectly original undertaking that suited me. After all, there I was just finishing my dive master training on the tepid shores of Costa Rica.

Top of the list for cool jobs, right?

But considering a new instructor garners an annual salary of $20,000 USD, there were bolder (and more financially sound) paths to pursue. Yet I was inspired. Inspired by the water, the physical activity, the challenge and learning. That was 15 years ago. I went on to continue to wear numerous hats in a life of unique jobs.

Like many unconventional people, standing in the full power of our desire for learning allows us to seek opportunities around the fringes of convention. Sometimes the unusual, the unexpected, and yes, the inspiring. So, I’ve put together 20 positively perfect cool jobs for your unique calling.

You may be thinking; how does this apply to me? The average person thinks about doing things. They talk, do some planning, and they wonder. That’s where they get stuck.

Unconventional people have the guts and creativity to carry out their pursuits and make up the workforce of the unusual. So how do you find the job you love, now?

Listen to your powerful inner voice and follow up on those curiosities.

The unconventional do not follow a simple formula, we make it up along the way, and are not afraid of that influence. If you possess humor, humility, articulation, curiosity, creativity, persistence, are a bit of a rebel, don’t bow to intimidation, and freely pair unusual ideas, you may be ready for any one of these unique jobs.

But if you’re an unconventional person, you likely already knew that. You’ve felt the pull to the outskirts and are fully deserving of your hard-won labor and wisdom. Pursue away!

Experiencing the fullness and efficiency of your truth creates a positive effect. Here are 20 unconventionally cool jobs to consider. Some of these give me butterflies just thinking about the possibilities.

1. White Hat Hacker

Black hat hackers are the ones you hear about in the news and threaten our online security.

In our connected digital world, we need to be safe. That is where the White Hat Hacker comes in, creating digital roads for our security.

Used to counter cyber- attacks, viruses and other barriers to our digital safety. They often are recruited from the “dark side” of black hat hackers.

2. Touring Race Car Driver

    Ever thought about zooming around the racetrack and winning? Most race car drivers start at a young age and have a competitive streak.

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    Shea Holbrook started at 16 and went on to win the Pirelli World Challenge and own her own race car team.

    Feel like you were born for a cool job? Competitive pursuits like this one require practiced technical skill and a desire for adrenaline.

    3. Sommelier

    A sommelier is a trained professional and wine steward that specializes in fine wines and high-end service.

    Have a flair for subtleties, smells, tastes and great conversation? Then a strategic spot with a private collection, winery, or fine dining location could set off your cool job radar.

    Trying to pair your steak with the best Napa red? Ask your sommelier.

    4. Golf Ball Diver

      Golfers try to avoid water hazards, but many golf balls find their way to a watery grave.

      Golf Ball Divers seek them out and rescue the many lost golf balls for courses around the world. That’s one way to make a living and have fun explaining it at a party.

      5. On Call Musician

      Musicians are notorious for being creative and unconventional, so what better way to evoke coolness than being a musician?

      On call musicians are therapeutic in ways that bring music to those that need it for healing, relaxation, and in less than ideal situations.

      There are groups that do this informally and formally, and Musicians on Call is an outlet for people to enjoy music with an option to join in for their own form of therapy.

      Music plays a large roll in emotion, and this is a great way to for a musical outlet.

      6. Traveling Outdoor Guide

      Creating a unique experience and unforgettable vacation is the work of outdoor guides. Trek guide, bike guide, expedition guide – it all requires a flexible, fun, safe attitude with a side of mental fortitude.

      It’s a tough job with plenty of rewards that allows you to become a seasoned traveler, constant learner and master of all trades. Being physically fit will give you a one up in this position.

      Certain safety, medical, survival and outdoor training are required with others needing more technical skills (biking, climbing and diving for a start).

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      Often this unique job creates an intoxicating connection to the environment and culture, paired with high end service and Michelin style meals on the go.

      It’s about making every day the ultimate vacation of a lifetime. I know first hand, doing this seasonally around the world.

      7. National Park Ranger

        If you enjoy educating, meeting new people and being in nature, the sometimes-solitary position of park ranger may be a perfect fit.

        The U.S. National Park Service overseas the safety and conservation of our designated parks with the foresight to keep them healthy for the future. This gives you the opportunity to learn about the environment and interact with people and wildlife in iconic natural lands.

        Looking to share your love of camping? Why not share the historic lands of National Parks?

        8. Air Traffic Controller

        Air traffic controllers continue to be one of the fastest growing jobs (and one of the highest stress levels) with the FAA.

        It’s slated, there will be a need for 10,000 air traffic controllers over the next decade. It does require a certain personality able to watch several monitors simultaneously while relaying information and keeping those lives in the air safe.

        Did I mention this is all done in a dark room filled with glowing computer screens and your own personal security access?

        9. White House & Celebrity Chef

        Celebrity chefs often work with personal trainers to coordinate meal planning with results for many celebrities in the spotlight, along with those that compete on national fitness levels.

        Executive chefs at The White House have the heavy task of planning, managing and preparing effective meals for our nation’s top family. This includes catering for parties, events, and the families entertaining.

        The pressure is on in all cases, since those chefs want to be innovative and provide consistent quality.

        10. Teaching English in Nepal (or around the world)

        Teaching basic conversational English often requires a bachelor’s degree or training through a placement institute with an option to live around the world. There are both paid and volunteer positions with flexibility to create your teaching plan.

        Volunteers in the Teaching English to Buddhist Monks Program provide conversational English to Tibetan children in Nepal. They also organize creative educational activities to further increase their teaching skills.

        Just think of a cool and interesting place you want to visit. Chances are there is opportunity to teach English.

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        11. Thief Hunter

        These unconventional job titles focus on scam artists, pick pockets, thieves and petty criminals around highly populated tourist areas. The people in these unique positions can be called thrill seekers but are actually providing a service to offset the tourist targets.

        With an element of human research in psychology these bait traps are designed to attract and catch thieves. This may be as close as you get to being Bat Man, and it’s all caught on camera.

        12. Smoke Jumper

          A rookie smoke jumper organizes himself after a tower jump at the McCall, ID smokejumper base.

          Smoke Jumping is dangerous and thrilling job that puts fire fighters on the scene first to try to maintain it before it hits a higher level of ignition.

          Wild land firefighters who smoke jump, parachute into remote fire areas and utilize skilled hard work and techniques to suppress fires.

          If you want an adventure with a side of real danger, this is one modern day job with plenty of reward. Many of these hero’s have shown tremendous bravery.

          13. Aircraft Repo

          Ready to fly a plane or whisk away a helicopter? Aircraft repossession is a skilled craft (literally) and requires a clean background, healthy medical record, pilots license and FAA clearance.

          Repos can include flying helicopters, Jumbo Jets, and Gulf streams that need to be picked up for bankruptcies and repossessing. This takes a lot of nerve and a bit of a personality, since you’re dealing with all reaction levels and often unhappy people.

          14. Cruise Ship Entertainer

          The floating cities of the cruise industry have every form of entertainment you can think of.

          Have a talent in aerial acrobatics, a beautiful singing voice, the perfect comedy pitch or are a stunning bachata dance teacher? Cruise ships have talent and are always on the lookout for innovative people to join their mega ships and keep the crowds happy.

          Unconventional personalities make up much of the seasonal and year-round work on board while providing highly produced shows. Plus, you’ll be able to travel.

          15. Sports Commentator

          Sports can be intense so a soothing (or animated) voice to call out the play by play and add in a bit of humor is appreciated.

          Commentators are celebrities in their own right and often make promotional and marketing appearances. After all people want to know the face behind the game analysis, their views and insider tips on the sport.

          Their number one job is to keep the fans engaged and entertained through the game. Game on!

          16. Pet Food Taster

            Human “testing” is needed in the pet industry.

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            Our furry friends may eat what is in front of them, but they can’t give feedback on the taste, texture or nutritional value of their food. That’s where human consumption comes into play, and pet food testers personally taste pet food heading to the market for quality control, safety, and maybe a little honest feedback on the flavor.

            Bacon wrapped steak flavored doggy bites may not just be for your pets. Definitely an original choice in a job.

            17. Underwriter

            Insurance underwriters take the time to assess the real risk and liability of outgoing insurance. That includes who or what it is covering and the possibility of paying out on a loss.

            Insurance may be a safety factor and give us some peace of mind, but it can also be an unconventionally cool job. Especially when you’re insuring high risk athletes, extreme adventurists, or large and costly product, property or policy.

            18. Puggle Handler and All-Around Volunteer

            Like animals? How about unusual and bizarre animals? Being a puggle cuddler could be the answer to your animal career.

            Think of the long snout of an anteater, coarse hair and skin, with the body size and movement of a mini hippo. That’s a baby Echidna. They need lots of love and cuddling, so volunteers give their time in promoting animal health, and get the bonus of the cute and unconventional cuddling back.

            19. Academy Award Ballot Counter

              Celebrities and the elite walk the red carpet in anticipation of the winning names and a lot of high end entertainment. But behind the scenes only the two people who tally and account for the votes know the winning names.

              This is kept very secure and even the announcers have to wait for the final unveiling to know the winning name. Try keeping that under wraps.

              20. Government Astronomer

              Astronomy has a wide scope of study and I often listen to Neil Degrass Tyson’s musings on quarks, black holes and anti-matter discovered in our universe.

              Astronomers can work with many outlets but even better when working with the U.S. government. Many astronomers spend plenty of time researching and visiting observatories throughout the year. Others spend more time outdoors in pursuit of celestial enlightenment. And since there is less radiation from the sun at night, that is when many spend time observing.

              The bottom line

              Some foundational aspects of convention are there for a reason. They work. They’re predictable, and they are timeless in ways that the majority understands.

              But when we dig deeper, convention gets old, overused and uninspiring, especially when people are seeker layers of real transformation faster than someone un-tags themselves from an online photo that makes them look bad.

              What makes you unconventional goes beyond a job title. I’ve reinvented myself several times in my life, and something tells me there are a few more on my list. I thrive in the zone of optimal anxiety.

              In the end, there’s nothing like the privilege of owning yourself and stepping away from the crowd.

              Sometimes we’ve been quiet for so long, we’ve given up on being unconventional. Sometimes we’re told to clear away our most unique traits to make someone else comfortable. But that would be taking away our best parts, and let’s face it, that’s just not us.

              Featured photo credit: Nicole Harrington via unsplash.com

              More by this author

              Liz Galloway

              I'm an idealist, columnist & traveler helping people connect through personal discovery. Stay inspired!

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              Last Updated on April 23, 2019

              How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

              How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

              Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

              While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

              For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

              While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

              I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

              Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

              Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

              Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

              The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

              Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

              What Is a Stretch Goal?

              A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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              In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

              For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

              This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

              It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

              The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

              The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

              I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

              Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

              1. Get Outside of Your Head

              If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

              If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

              I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

              Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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              2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

              When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

              I see this in so many areas of life:

              When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

              In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

              “Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

              Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

              3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

              When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

              The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

              For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

              We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

              From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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              When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

              Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

              4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

              S.M.A.R.T.

              is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

              While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

              Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

              For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

              By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

              5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

              I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

              The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

              When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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              One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

              Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

              I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

              A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

              As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

              From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

              The Bottom Line

              These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

              For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

              Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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