I should have been a mechanic (or architect or nursery school teacher or physiatrist). At least, that’s what the interest tests always tell me.
I attended a vintage racing weekend in June and had a positively euphoric but slightly embarrassing three days. It was embarrassing because there seemed to be a lot of involuntary shrieking coming out of my mouth all weekend long as I oggled and drooled over fields of beautiful old Minis’, Austin Healeys, MGAs and Fiat 500s.
If that list of cars was like Greek to you, then it’s probably obvious that I’m a) old and b) a slight car nut. And it might not be a surprise that ‘mechanic’ is one of the options that an interest test suggests for me to pursue.
The problem is, I don’t love boring cars and I don’t like to fix cars. So, as soon as the interest test spits out the option “mechanic”, I immediately dismiss it. It’s really not the right job for me. I like talking about carburetors but I have zero inclination to take one apart.
The unseen options
Perhaps that’s okay though because not only am I a car geek, I’m also a career geek. Maybe it’s my profession (“career counsellor” wasn’t one of the options the interests tests pointed me to, by the way), but I seem to compulsively make lists of work I see around me, whenever I’m in a new situation. And it often occurs to me that many of the life situations we find ourselves in don’t jump to mind when we consider our career options but are in fact full of real, practical, paying (and parent-pleasing) jobs.
Case in point: the racetrack. Here’s a place full of obvious jobs that might feel slightly out of reach to the ordinary person: the drivers, the race announcers and pit crew. But what about all the other jobs that we rarely think of or hear about? Have you ever considered working at a race track or for a race team and becoming a track marshal, race mechanic, safety specialist, car designer, track architect, timing expert, rules officiate, driver butler or flame-retardant suit engineer?
More than just a title
And, it’s not just the jobs that sound obviously like race-specialist occupations that could land you in this environment. I have a friend who is a paramedic. Sounds pretty normal, right? You probably have a picture in your head about what his job looks like. But, he was actually a paramedic at the Formula 1 racetrack in Hockenheim, Germany. He got to patch back together Formula 1 race car drivers like Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button. I don’t know about you but even though the job title is the same as other paramedics, his job has nuances that make it a different gig than what I think of when someone suggests paramedic as a career option. While “paramedic” may not leap out as the perfect job for me, “paramedic at a Formula 1 racetrack” has ingredients that make that job fit me a whole lot better!
The same can be true of other “regular” jobs like promotions managers, graphic designers, truck drivers, logistics supervisors, photographers and videographers, event planners, etc, etc. All these jobs could be done at a race track — or in some other environment that makes involuntary shrieking come out of YOUR mouth. Maybe it’s a fashion show in Spain or working for an international development organization. Maybe it’s on the set of Survivor or at a theatre, in a huge city or one in the middle of the mountains.
Often, when we’re considering our options (and especially when we’re presented with a list, like the one from an interest test), we only think of the traditional stereotype of a job and sometimes that turns us away from that whole option. But every job role has a range of ways of doing it. In fact, just by moving the job into a different environment, that role might fit us a whole lot better. By the same token, pursuing a role that you think you’ll love and doing it long-term in the wrong environment can also start to tarnish something you would normally find really interesting.
Interest tests can help
I think that interest tests have their place, for some people. Sometimes they can give insight and sometimes they’re not at all helpful. But, before you dismiss an idea for sounding ridiculous or accept an idea for sounding great , consider the way HOW or WHERE you do the work can affect the way that work feels to you.
You might wonder how I could ever suggest that “mechanic” and “career counsellor” both became part of my working life, but they are. Yes, I ignored the interest test and didn’t become a mechanic but I did accept the breadcrumb it conjured that option from. My car fixation is incorporated every day into my work as a university career counsellor — because I drive there and back in my 1973 VW Beetle, the sunroof open and my cheeks hurting from smiling so much.
Christine Fader works as a career counsellor at Queen’s University and is the author of, “Career Cupid: Your Guide to Landing and Loving Your Dream Job”. She dreams of adding a vintage Fiat 500, BMW Isetta and numerous other classic vehicles to what she hopes will be a collection. Visit her website at: www.careercupid.com