11 Jobs Your Guidance Counselor Didn't Tell You About

ThinkStock/Erin McCarthy
ThinkStock/Erin McCarthy / ThinkStock/Erin McCarthy

Remember when your high school guidance counselor told you that if you didn’t buckle down and study, you’d end up flipping burgers for a living? Now you’re settled into a rewarding career in accounting, but there were other options Mr. Hasselback never thought of. You could have been a band salvager, a kelp cutter, or even an unscrambler. The U.S. Department of Labor worked out a nifty classification scheme that defines these jobs and more.


Want to ski all season, but you don’t quite have the skills to be a ski instructor? Well, if you like riding snowmobiles and are good at attaching hoses and adjusting valves, hook up the compressed air and water, adjust the mixture, and start spraying. You’re a snowmaker!


Like building models? Forget the small stuff. Why not a life-size Tyrannosaurus Rex? The duties of a museum technician include molding and restoring skeletal parts of fossils, reassembling fragmented artifacts, and fabricating substitute pieces. You might have to clean, catalog, and label some small stuff, too.

If you work at an art museum, you may be called upon to re-create art installations. For example, in 1981, artist Chris Burden modeled his fantasy of a 25th-century battle with 5000 war toys on a 1100 square foot sand base surrounded by a jungle of houseplants. In 2007, preparators at California’s Orange County Museum of Art recreated the installation, using Burden’s detailed plans and cataloged pieces.


Ah! There’s nothing like a fresh ocean breeze and the scent of new-mown kelp. The lawn-care business can be quite competitive, but how many people know how to operate underwater mowers? A kelp cutter lowers a mower into water from a kelp-harvesting boat, starts it up and keeps the load evenly distributed as kelp accumulates in the boat.


Does your left eye twitch whenever you draw a straight flush? You’ll never clean up at the poker table, but you can still make a living at a casino. Somebody’s got to take the bets, operate the machine that blows air into the glass bubble and gets the numbered balls mixing, then press a lever to release 20 balls, and call out the numbers. A keno writer also scans winning tickets, calculates the amount of winnings, and pays off the winners.


This has nothing to do with the cut-glass prisms and pendants that dangle from crystal chandeliers. (If you’re going to get technical about it, that glass is the opposite of a crystal.) A crystal slicer slices wafers from semiconductor crystal ingots, such as silicon or gallium arsenide, and with x-rays and calipers, measures the crystal orientation and thickness of the sample wafer and inspects it for flaws. Don’t dis the slicer; without these slim wafers to “semiconduct” current, you wouldn’t be reading this article on your computer, tablet, or phone. Even the Donald Trumps of the world would say electronics are more important than shiny baubles dangling from your light fixtures.


A buffer may be buffer than you, but it’s not from spending all day at the gym. This job involves (1) holding and pressing shoe parts against an abrasive cylinder that polishes and sands the part or against a wire roughing wheel to clean and prepare the part for cementing, and (2) feeding the sole between a rubber presser roller and an abrasive-covered roller that roughens the part for cementing. You can specialize according to the shoe part being buffed, roughened, or sanded—for example, Box-Toe Buffer—or according to type of material brushed or sanded, such as Crepe-Sole Scourer.


You’ve got to be nimbler than Lucy and Ethel were when they tried to wrap chocolates that came zipping down the conveyer belt. A machine is supposed to automatically unscramble cans or jars of cooked food products from retort baskets into a straight line to facilitate further processing. A human unscrambler lowers a retort basket to the top of a hydraulic lift, clamps it on, adjusts the conveyor sides to permit passage of cans or jars, and pushes a button to activate the conveyor. He or she observes the flow on the conveyor and removes warped or bent cans and repositions cans causing bottlenecks—quick—before they start piling up and tumbling to the floor—aaaak!


Want to control the heavens and the earth—and put on cool light shows with wall-thumping music? A planetarium technician is in charge of the sound and projection equipment used in planetarium shows. He or she creates special effects, selects music, and synchronizes it with recorded commentary and the visual presentation. Far out, man!


No, a band salvager does not scour dive bars and rehab centers in the hopes of retreading once-great punk rock bands. This is much more basic, and some might say more useful, recycling. The job involves salvaging tie bands from uncompressed cotton bales for reuse on compressed cotton bales by straightening the bands with a rubber mallet or power rollers and cutting them to the required length for tying compressed bales.


In this job you cut hands of bananas from stalks for packing in preparation for shipment. Don’t holler for Mr. Tally Man. The operation’s been downsized and you have to count your own bananas. Then you test them for ripeness to determine in which room they will be stored.


Do you dream of running away to join the circus? Good news—you can, even if you can’t execute a flawless Triple Twisting Double off the flying trapeze. A circus laborer moves wild animal cages, loads and unloads animals and equipment on and off the train, and helps to erect and dismantle tents—large tents. The busy bureaucrats at the Department of Labor also specify that the job description includes cleaning the floor after the elephants perform. Maybe accounting isn’t so bad after all.