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Out of Our Minds
Wednesday, June 15, 2005 10:20 AM
Best and Worst Careers
Kevin Salwen on Passionate Work

Careerjournal.com, the Wall Street Journal's online career site, recently posted a well-meaning piece: a listing of the best and worst jobs. Tapping into a Wisconsin researcher, the site rated jobs based on six categories: income, stress, physical demands, outlook, security and work environment.

You missing what I'm missing from that list? Passion. Connection. Meaning. Fulfillment. Happiness. Joy. Not surprisingly, when those things are left out, you get a press release like this: 'When people are working full time -- perhaps in a job that they don't particularly enjoy -- it's easy to imagine that the proverbial 'grass may be greener' for those in other careers. But unless they are peppered with questions, it's difficult to find out what their work is really like. How stressful is the work, what's the work environment like and is there room for growth?' It's not quite 'shut up and be happy' but it's pretty close.

OK, so you wanna know what's at the top of the best jobs list, don't ya? Ready? I mean it, are... you... ready? A-a-a-accountant. There, I said it. And it's followed by actuary, bank officer, biologist, computer systems analyst, financial planner and parole officer. (Yes, parole officer.)

Bottom of the list, btw, are construction worker, cowboy, dancer and fisherman. (Our friend from Wisconsin must hate the outdoors!)

I know there isn't a single best job, since so much of this is subjective. But I know baseball player, movie actor, entrepreneur, magazine editor, architect and designer would all be on my list -- yes, even above accountant or actuary. What's on yours?


Phil Gerbyshak - 6/15/2005 10:45:54 PM
Being from Wisconsin, I find this a most amusing list. I don't agree with the top of this list any more than anyone else here. I personally enjoy jobs where you can help others find their passion, or at least help them, as you get a double bang for your buck if that's your thing. As a Help Desk manager, I really enjoy helping people be more productive in using their computers as tools instead of necessary evils. I love showing people new tips and tricks and seeing their eyes light up when I show them something that can save them time or wrist pain. Some might think help desk or tech support is an ungrateful job, however I really enjoy it. To each her or his own, I guess.
kent - 6/15/2005 4:32:05 PM
So Anita, are you saying I can't sing?
Rich Leick - 6/15/2005 1:58:25 PM
I remember my college days and working on the grounds crew. 15 minute breaks that were actually a half hour because we were in the middle of a friendly card game. Mowing the grass in warm sun or walking around picking up trash (slowly and lethargically) when it would rain. During the winters we plowed the snow. The best part of all this was you really didn't have to think. We had a lot of fun but at the end of the day our work was almost always completed. Those were the days.
Kevin - 6/15/2005 12:42:07 PM
Point well taken about my clumsy phrasing. You do indeed know me well enough (or at least my work) to know that if it trips your trigger, I think you should go for it. Actuaries of the world, unite!

My broader point, though, remains: using only those criteria from the careerjournal.com analysis is a horrible way to measure career quality or desirability.
anita - 6/15/2005 12:06:04 PM
Whenever I ask that question at a dinner party, the No. 1 answer is 'rock star' -- even from the people who can't sing. Actually, especially from the people who can't sing.
Mason - 6/15/2005 11:52:53 AM
For three sunny years of my teenage life, I was a lifeguard. It's all been downhill since then.
Coley - 6/15/2005 11:31:09 AM
Here goes (taking into account enjoyment, not money!):
My Top 5-
5. Motivational Speaker
4. Group Fitness Instructor
3. Swim Coach
2. Magazine owner
1. Killer Whale Trainer (how could this have not made the list?!?!)

My Bottom 5-
5. Funeral Director
4. Coroner
3. Collection agent
2. Anything involving math
1. Garbage man (they got that right on their list!)
Laura Bennett, Embrace Pet Insurance - 6/15/2005 10:58:05 AM
I have a confession for you. I'm an actuary with passion and I always have been.

Kevin, I can't believe you link job identity with passion, it's not like you. It's not the job that gives you passion, it's the person with the job that has the passion. It's not what happens to you in life, it's how you react.

I happen to love what I do because I'm an entrepreneur, actuary, and a mother - I get the best of all worlds building an innovative and passionate company (yes, based on insurance even!!!) and an amazing family to boot.

I know Murph, the most passionate parking lot attendant I have bumped into. Murph is funny, caring, and has a huge twinkle in his eye every single day. I just love parking in his lot, and I know he only gets an hourly wage, and a pretty pitiful one at that. I bet there are some baseball players we can think of who don't have that same spark when they go to work.

It's not what you do, it's how you do it, don't you think?


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