Seven Cool Careers You've Never Heard Of
By Alexandra Levit, author of "How'd You Score That Gig: A Guide to the Coolest Careers -- and How To Get Them"
The downhill direction of the economy has us all thinking about ways we can protect our livelihood. Why not start by getting creative? Consider some little known career paths that will ensure that you stay competitive and look forward to going to work every morning. Here are seven cool jobs to consider today:
1. Computational linguist
Computational linguists teach computer systems how to process natural language. For example, if you're trying to order a book from Amazon in Japanese, the site will be able to other relevant similar titles for you.
Enter the field with a bachelor's degree in computer science and start with a salary in the high five figures.
How to break in: Meet valuable contacts by getting involved with the Linguistics Society of America (www.lsadc.org) and the Association of Computational Linguistics (www.aclweb.org).
Conservationists work with the government, industry associations and landowners to come up with methods for combating damage and for using land without injuring the environment. They generally hold a bachelor's degree in fields such as ecology, agriculture, biology or environmental science.
How to check it out: Gain real-world experience. Volunteer or intern at a government agency or environmental or community organization.
Birth doulas advise on birthing techniques and serve as the mother's advocate during labor. Postpartum doulas assist with emotional and physical recovery from childbirth and teach coping skills to new parents. You don't need a college degree to become a doula, but to be competitive in the field you should be certified by Doulas of North America (www.dona.org). The median fee for a birth doula is $700 per birth.
How to get a jump-start: Get to know established midwives and doulas in your area and ask if you can witness a birth or postpartum counseling session to see if the field's for you.
Using data from the past and present, futurists study how the present will evolve into possible alternative futures and how humans will adapt to the resulting technological, demographic, political, environmental and sociological changes. The majority of jobs require an undergraduate degree in a liberal arts or business discipline, and consulting futurists for companies and governments often command a six-figure salary within a few years.
How to penetrate the field: Check out the World Future Society's (www.wfs.org) directory of consulting futurists and do informational interviews with firms located in your area.
5. Image consultant
Image consultants advise people with discretionary income how to make positive impressions – through appearance, wardrobe, etiquette and communication skills – in order to get ahead in their careers and social lives, and boost their self-confidence. You don't need a college degree, but organizations such as the Training Institute School for Image Consultants (www.newyorkimageconsultant.com) in New York City offer coursework in color analysis, wardrobe and style analysis, and personal shopping.
Want to make this your dream job? Join the Association of Image Consultants International (www.aici.org) and see if you can work as an apprentice to someone who has already established herself in the field.
6. Life coach
Coaches love talking to people, figuring out what makes them tick and developing plans to help them succeed in their personal and professional lives. They meet with clients in person or over the phone on a regular basis and listen to challenges, set goals and monitor progress. While anyone can call himself a life coach regardless of education, it's best to be certified by the International Coaching Federation (www.coachfederation.com/ICF).
How to get moving: Hire your own life coach so that you can gain an in-depth understanding of the coach-client relationship.
7. Professional organizer
Organizers provide personal assistance, planning, and products to help people de-clutter their homes and offices. While the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO, www.napo.net) does offer a certification program involving a mix of paid work hours and coursework, most organizers agree that formal education isn't necessary. The average organizer is paid $50 per hour, with individual projects taking a full day or even several days.
How to get your foot in the door: Offer to help your disorganized friends and family members for free so that you can create some initial written success stories and be able to showcase "before and after" photos on your marketing materials.
Alexandra Levit is the author of "How'd You Score That Gig: A Guide to the Coolest Careers - and How To Get Them," a new book that helps you examine your work personality and, based on your results, suggests how to break into a selection of fun and unusual careers.
Copyright 2008 Alexandra Levit