Not everyone’s cut out to work in a corporation. Fortunately, there’s no “Golden Rule” that says you must, after four hard years of college, seek out a job in a large company where you’ll be working from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., five days a week until you retire.
But if you don’t do that, will you still be assured of making enough money to live comfortably? Will you still be able to find a job?
The answer, of course, is yes. Even if you don’t want to do what everyone else is doing, you can still make a successful career out of it.
These days, major companies have people on their rosters with off-beat positions like Trouble Maker or Director of Fun, even Vibe Evolver. Unfortunately, though, one cannot apply for such a position straight out of college. Often, that kind of job comes after years with a company or plenty of experience in other places.
However, there are off-beat jobs you can pursue right after college. If you don’t fit in with the nine-to-five mainstream, read on for some off-beat job options.
Defining an off-beat job
So what makes a job “off-beat”? According to Sandra Gurvis, author of The Off-the-Beaten-Path Job Book, an “off-beat job” is anything that allows a person to exist professionally outside the standard daily grind. “It’s a job that is geared to an individual who is ‘non-traditional.’ It doesn’t mean you don’t work in an office, it just means you have [an unconventional] job that is not the typical nine-to-five job.”
In her book, Sandra outlines what it is like to work as a Cowboy, Greeting Card Writer, Midwife, Model, Film Extra, Videographer, and many other positions that ordinary people do not consider possible career paths. She says that it is conceivable for any hobby or talent to be turned into a career.
For example, it is possible to make a solid living making simple crafts, like wicker baskets or dolls. One day you’re making a doll for yourself, you show it to a friend, who shows it to another friend, whose aunt wants one, and then, “All of a sudden you find that you have made a particular item that people really like,” Sandra explains. Charge a fee for your time and supplies, and just watch the money add up.
“The idea of taking a full-time job I wasn’t interested in [sounded like] being in prison,” says Beth Follett, 29, who worked as a temp full-time for three years. Beth says that because she couldn’t figure out what she wanted to do after graduation, she decided temping would give her the chance to try a variety of positions until she had more direction.
“You get to work in all different atmospheres,” she says. “The work itself may be pretty boring, but you can certainly learn a lot.”
However, don’t jump to the conclusion that in order for a job to be off-beat it must be one in which you are completely living at your own schedule. A job can still be considered off-beat even if it is at a major corporation where employees work normal hours.
Take, for example, a greeting card writer. Tara Centeio, 23, works in the creative department at Hallmark in Kansas City writing the cute blurbs that millions of customers read each day in their local card stores.
“When I was 15, I used to draw a lot and write poetry, and I just thought that to bring those two elements together would be to do greeting cards. That way I could do both. It was a pretty good marriage of the two,” she recalls. “I had thought about advertising, but I just realized that it was a little too revolving door-ish for me and a little too cramped and pressure-laden.”
Sandra says that most people who take on off-beat jobs are self-starters. This characteristic is important, she explains, because if you’re going to work on your own, you need to have the discipline to be your own boss. “You have to be able to accomplish the work in the time that it takes. And you have to be willing to work evenings and weekends in order to make deadlines. You have to be dedicated.”
Off-beat jobs: pros and cons
One of the benefits of off-beat jobs is that, while the same (if not more) hours need to be put in, people are able to work at their own pace and still get the same amount of work done that someone might be forced to do in a normal nine-to-five day. Tara Centeio says that one of the best things about her job at Hallmark is that the company appreciates the creative nature of her work and does not enforce strict deadlines.
“There may be a whole entire week or two where I really am just not ticking, or have writer’s block or something. And that’s okay here. Then there may be a week where I crank out a good 15 or 20 pieces and they’re all accepted, so I have a great week,” she says. “It really varies, but they understand that. I’d go crazy if they didn’t, I think. It’d be too much pressure.”
Another beauty of taking on an off-beat job is that you don’t have to deal with a lot of the bureaucracy and frustrating distractions that interfere with getting work done in a corporate office setting. “I started out working in an office like a lot of people right out of college, but I didn’t fit in and I felt self-conscious,” Sandra Gurvis says. “Now, I have deadlines and I have things that I have to meet. I work at my own pace and my own hours. If I’m having a bad day and feel like screaming at the cat, that’s cool. Nobody really cares.”
When you’re doing your own thing, whether it be working as a flight attendant, model, or greeting card writer, you’re making use of a talent that you would not be able to use in a normal, corporate setting. Similarly, when you decide to be a full-time temp, or “permatemp” as the New York Times recently called the position, you may be able to develop skills you’ll find useful later on in your career.
“I have to say that through temping, I learned how to use computers and word processing systems,” Beth says. “I was just getting thrown into different jobs and I basically had to learn some things on my own.”
Taking on an off-beat job is not all wine and roses, though. Most importantly, it can be insecure. You may not receive benefits, like health insurance, and there will be times when you’re not able to make enough money to support yourself because the work is not there. “There are times when I think I’ve died and nobody’s told me,” Sandra says about the downtimes.
“Just because you have a good month or two, and you’re on your own selling baskets or whatever, just put the money away. Save it, invest it, because you don’t know what’s going to happen,” she continues. “You really can’t count on anything when you work for yourself.”
Temping as a career can also be a bit frustrating. “It’s exciting to start different places, but it gets annoying,” Beth says. “Also, people look down on you when you’re a temp. You don’t get treated with very much respect.”
Still, the simple fact remains: some people are just not attracted to typical careers. Not every writer is a born journalist, for example. As Tara says, “I’m a creative writer at heart and journalism doesn’t interest me. It’s not that I think I couldn’t do it, but it just doesn’t interest me. I’m not really into fact-finding or fact-gathering.”
If that sounds like you, fear not–the world holds plenty of opportunities. Just keep in mind all the effects of what you’re doing and be persistent. There’s a career for everyone.