We’ve all experienced this: You’re sitting at your cramped desk, emails piling in, and you’re feeling something. Indigestion from the taco salad you ate for lunch? Mmm, maybe. Fulfillment? Definitely not. Ah yes: You’re restless. That dead-end job might pay the rent but it’s not bringing you any joy. It’s time to reexamine what you thought was impossible, put a little elbow grease into it, and make it happen. Whatever you’ve always wanted to be -- whatever aircraft you’ve always wanted to fly -- it’s time to learn how. And we’ve got your back. Which one of these dream jobs are you gonna go after?
For some, the thought of jumping out of an airplane and deploying a parachute just before you plummet to the ground is too terrifying to bear. For others, it’s a Tuesday. If you’re an adrenaline junkie who’s always dreamed of getting paid to thrill-seek, perhaps it’s time you become a licensed skydiving instructor.
There are four types of licenses (A through D), which can only be obtained by the United States Parachute Association (USPA). You need to receive each license to be eligible for the next one, and you need a D license to execute a tandem jump (when a student skydiver is attached to an instructor via harness). To get a D license? Oh, it’s no big deal, you just need, like, everything it takes to get all the other licenses PLUS 500 jumps that total at least three hours of controlled free falling PLUS a written exam (but that’s the easy part).
If you need an extra push (a figurative one!), get inspired by watching the 2000 action flick Cutaway, which skydivers say they enjoy because it features real footage of jumps. To add legitimacy to the film, actors Stephen Baldwin and Tom Berenger both got their A licenses.
Video game tester
“No video games until after you’ve finished your homework,” your parents would say, ensuring work and play stayed separate. Until now, that is. If you’ve always been obsessed with the newest consoles and games, there’s a way to turn that into a full-time career as a QA (quality assurance) tester. Paid to find & report tech bugs and test characters & levels, among other tasks, you can thank QA testers for making Mario Kart 64 into the perfect video game before its release in 1996. (Koopa Troopa Beach still holds up.)
Jason W. Bay, who runs the website Game Industry Career Guide and has written several books on the topic, says a degree isn’t necessary, but can help. Though QA testing is an entry-level position, a bachelor’s in something like game design or programming can result in a salary bump and further your career in the industry. On the low-range, data suggests you can make anywhere from $8/hour to $18/hour, depending on the company and your experience.
In a Reddit AMA, an anonymous tester by the username of HigherCalibur says most jobs he sees are “contract-to-hire” -- meaning there’ll be a trial period to see if you’re up to snuff. However, that’s a great way to get started. Video game companies often list openings for contracted QA testers on LinkedIn or other job sites -- and like any industry, experience (playing video games) is the best way to build your résumé. Skills that are important, HigherCalibur says: “Being able to keep your cool in a frustrating setting is key.” And it helps to be a “very skeptical, analytical person.”
Nothing in the world sounds better than parading around it, writing about your expeditions, and having others feel... well, envious. Such is the life of a travel writer. Now, how to get there? (And we don’t mean plane, train, car, bus, or boat…)
In his book How to Be a Travel Writer, Don George says you must first determine what you’re looking to gain. If your principal goal is to share your experiences with others, he writes, that’s easier now than ever before. However, if you want to receive compensation for your work and turn your passion for exploring into a full-time job, you need to target websites, newspapers, and magazines that pay. Find out which of your favorites have travel sections and email the editor or try to hunt down any sort of connections to your titles of choice via LinkedIn and have someone e-introduce you.
But don’t just say, “Hey, how’s it going?” You’ll need to send a formal pitch email if you want to be taken seriously. Set the subject line to something like “PITCH: What It’s Like to Live Amongst Buddhist Monks in Japan” and flesh out the idea in the body of the email. And if you’re going to set your sights on The New York Times or National Geographic, beware that the best pitch in the world is only going to hold their interest until they know that you can write. Build a portfolio and reputation with smaller publications and sites willing to take a chance on a fledgling writer. But as you hone your craft, don’t let anybody take advantage of you; you’re performing a service, and deserve to be compensated, even at the starter level. If they don’t pay, keep moving -- you’re worth it.
Of course, you can keep all the spoils and glory for yourself as a blogger if you gain a big enough following on your own website or social media platform. But with it comes the additional work of attracting advertisers and sponsors. Or support your career by becoming a social influencer (AKA someone who can influence a market of potential buyers simply by associating with that product). Instagram is the easiest platform to build a readership, since you can post eye-grabbing photos and videos, then link out to your blog for more. Web design skills aren’t necessary, since WordPress, Tumblr, Medium, and more are easy plug & play sites that come with beautiful, free themes.
Start simply, posting quality snaps of your travels and hashtagging accordingly. And remember, even if it doesn’t take off right away (and it won’t), you’re at an advantage -- you just saw Machu Picchu and other breathtaking sights. Enjoy your journey, and study accounts that have succeeded in building an audience; not so you can imitate them, but so you can incorporate effective practices that accomplish what you’re trying to do, your own way.
Matt Kepnes, author of How to Travel the World on $50 a Day and creator of the blogging school Superstar Blogging writes that above all, you need to be determined. “Nobody steps out into the world knowing it all. They pick it up along the way. Don’t doubt yourself. You get by in your regular life just fine. The same will be true when you travel.”
Follow travel bloggers you like. Read their writing and see how they make things work. Since they’re aiming to inspire... let them.
Animal massage therapist
If you’re the kind of person who’ll stop mid-conversation when you see a dog on the street or are more likely to be found sitting on the floor of a party with the host’s cat than on the dance floor, this might just be the right job for you. What better way to spend your time than rubbing the aches and pains out of a French bulldog or a golden retriever? We personally can’t think of any….
To become a licensed animal massage therapist, you can learn online or simply take courses until you feel confident in your skills. For example, The Chicago School of Canine Massage provides students with a comprehensive, hands-on (no pun intended) learning experience in the form of week-long classes. When the training is complete, you then get tested through the National Board of Certification for Animal Acupressure & Massage (NBCAAM). If you pass, you receive your license and can start helping sore little pups and cats to the tune of $50/hour.
However, animal massage therapy laws vary state to state. Because it’s often considered a “medical procedure,” it can only be administered by veterinarians in certain places. While in Alaska and Delaware, for example, it can be done “under vet supervision” and in Idaho and South Dakota among other states, it’s completely permitted. (But honestly, even if it’s not where you live, getting to do THIS for a living might be worth moving.)
You’re not alone if you’d rather get paid to eat instead of pay to eat. We’re pretty positive that dream is universal. But if food and writing are your two passions, maybe it’s time to take proactive steps toward becoming a restaurant critic.
Jay Rayner, The Observer’s award-winning food critic, shared a letter with Business Insider that he sends out to aspiring critics who ask for advice. In it, he says, “If you want to write about food, first you have to learn to write,” noting that before he was a restaurant critic he was a general journalist who covered everything from murder to politics to the latest films and books. He worked his way up, he says, and the editor offered him a restaurant column, “Not because he thought I knew a lot about the subject but because he thought I would write entertainingly.”
Simply put, he says, “Learn to write. Become a journalist. Train. Take a course. Freelance.” And then you can make your way into food writing. But first you need to be able to tell a compelling story.
Once you know how to write (or ideally while you’re learning), you need to know what you’re writing about. If you can’t tell a Blue Point oyster from a Rocky Mountain oyster, nobody’s going to take you seriously. You don’t have to get a degree in food science or don the chef whites, but you do need an open mind and a broad palate. You need to be able to explain clearly how the food interacts with your tongue, and why its combinations (or simplicity) work.
Again, Instagram is an excellent place to practice. Document some meals and hashtag the active ingredients. Food posts do very well, and if you add some substantive content, you’ll build a huge following fast. By the time you’re confident in your skills, you’ll probably have a sizable following that will get editors excited you’re bringing them a wider readership.
If you want to try it on your own blog instead of for someone else, consider focusing on a certain food you feel you have authoritative experience with. Maybe it’s off-beat ice cream shops doing exceptional flavors. Maybe you’re road-tripping to try every single BBQ restaurant in America. If you have an excellent hook of your own, you won’t need to break in through the usual channels -- most of which can’t sustain your documentarian mission in the first place.
You probably know this already, but pilots are some of the most respected people ever. So unless you’re color blind like Dwayne from Little Miss Sunshine (that scene still breaks our hearts), we think it’s time to explore that totally achievable ambition. Let us explain...
Though it helps to already be a pilot if you want to fly a blimp (also referred to as a non-rigid airship), it’s possible to start from scratch. But, we must warn you: Blimpin’ ain’t easy. First, you need a private pilot’s license (70 flying hours), followed by a commercial pilot’s license. To receive a commercial pilot’s license issued by the Federal Aviation Administration, you need to be 18 years old, speak English, pass both a written and practical test, and log 250 hours of flying time. Then, and only then can you train to fly an almighty blimp (another 20 hours of airship training including three as pilot-in-command).
We know it seems like a lot of time, but consider this: It would take you 83 hours to watch all of The Sopranos, 92 to get through every episode of Mad Men. And Law & Order: SVU? 410 hours (and counting). Why be a couch potato when you could be a… blimp potato? Whatever, you get it.
Breaking into Hollywood is never easy (just ask Lucy Ricardo, Jack McFarland, or Joey Tribbiani), and becoming an accomplished stuntman is no exception. But if you’re determined to jump out of burning buildings and moving cars for the rest of your life, who are we to stop you? As a matter of fact, we’ll help.
There’s no surefire way to “make it,” but Adrian McGraw (Mad Max: Fury Road) tells industry magazine Backstage that boxing or martial arts is a good place to start -- since “the majority of stunt work revolves around fighting” -- plus, it will get you in great physical shape.
Simultaneously, you need to work on becoming a member of the Screen Actors Guild, the union that represents actors. To accomplish this, you’ll need to do some background work, so start scouring the casting notices on resources like Backstage or Casting Networks. Before you can be the next great stuntwoman, you’ve gotta be the next great “Girl Holding Soda Walking Through the Movie Theater.”
But above all else, becoming a stunt actor takes insane dedication. In his book, The True Adventures of the World’s Greatest Stuntman, Vic Armstrong recalls a trick he did in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Director Steven Spielberg called the feat, which involved leaping off a galloping horse and onto a speeding tank, “one of the most reckless things [Vic] ever did.” But as a stunt actor, you prepare... tirelessly.
“For several weeks, five or six times a day, I threw myself onto a manure heap,” Armstrong writes. “I was training a horse to run and hold a straight line, while I stood up on his back at a gallop, and leapt off. I was measuring how far I could leap, and also testing the horse’s honesty.”
So yeah, being a stunt actor is totally badass, but it’s not easy. Have you jumped into a manure heap even once in your life yet? Time to get a move on. Giddyup.
Think of your absolute favorite show on Netflix. Is it Stranger Things, Orange Is the New Black, maybe House of Cards? Since you’re gonna watch it anyway when the new season drops, you might as well get paid for it as a Netflix tagger, SOMEONE WHO GETS PAID TO WATCH NETFLIX. WHOOPS, ARE WE SCREAMING WITH EXCITEMENT? ALLOW US TO EXPLAIN (HOW DREAMS COME TRUE).
You know when you watch a murder mystery and then Netflix suggests another one (“Because you watched Making a Murderer…”). Well yeah, computers don’t do that on their own. The streaming giant employs professional binge-watchers to tag movies and shows so every user gets a personalized list of suggestions. Genre tags include horror, thriller, and romance, for example, while character tags can be anything from “diabolical” to “truthful.”
To get the job, you simply need to apply when positions open up. But Netflix VP of product innovation Todd Yellin told CNBC what makes a great tagger. “Someone with an analytical mind; someone who can deconstruct a movie or TV show into its core elements; and someone who has a deep passion for video entertainment,” he said. It helps if you’ve studied film, are in the entertainment industry, or have experience in it. It’s also a huge advantage if you speak a second language, since Netflix is expanding globally and constantly adding foreign language films to its database.
Have you pursued a dream job you thought was unobtainable? Tell us how you did in the comments.