Book Review: 120 Jobs That Won’t Chain You To Your Desk

120 Jobs That Won’t Chain You To Your DeskOnce a week I try to review some book related to college in order to lend some guidance to a field that has become completely overrun. So many people are writing test guides and college help books that it is easy to buy a product which is not useful and which will be occupying space on your bookshelf for years, mocking your bad judgment.

Many college students enter college without knowing what career or even degree to pursue. They simply take general classes the first year or two and figure that they will choose a career path later. With that decision, they continue on their way, not actively working to choose any particular degree, but simply waiting. Someday, that student will have to choose a career, and, because they have not taken the time to investigate the different choices, they will probably have to get a degree that does not interest them  much.

Instead following this route, the excelling college student should proactively consider his choices. He can read about different careers, interview professionals, and even get internships to “try out” interesting jobs! One book that I have been reading is very useful in accomplishing these goals. This book, 120 Jobs That Won’t Chain You To Your Desk (Random House / Princeton Review Books, 2007, $16.95), provides an in-depth look at many career paths. For each of the one hundred and twenty jobs, the authors provide a two page section which includes a basic summary, a salary average, and even an interview with a professional in that field!

A (Relatively) Typical Day

The first section on each job is a summary of what that job is like on an average day. Here they provide information about the responsibilities and activities that are involved on a day-to-day basis. For example, the part on being an animal controls officer includes a quote from an animal controls professional, some explanation of the variety of animals encountered in this job, and an example of a normal day:

This is a job that mixes slow days with absolutely hectic ones. In a single morning, you may be called to get a bat out of a downtown delicatessen, fetch a rattlesnake from a backyard, and pick up a dog that’s running scared at the edge of the interstate. The nest morning, however, you may be sitting around at headquarters, fielding phone calls and catching up on you municipal law reading.

They go on to explain some of the differences between the dog catcher of history and the animal controls officer of today. This summary ends by listing some of the skills needed to enter this field. This section will introduce you to a career and will help you understand some of the basic responsibilities and everyday tasks.

An Extreme Day

After explaining what a normal day is like, they go on to explain what an extreme day involves. The extreme days are not simply invented by the author, however. This section is written by a professional and explains a real experience which he considers the most “extreme” part of the job or his most “extreme” day. For example, Brannon Boone, a pilot, writes about his most unusual day. It was the first day that he flew with passengers:

Once we had the aircraft prepared for flight, we began accepting the passengers. As soon as the people were boarded, I just jumped right up in my seat and was ready to go! My captain turned to me and asked, “Are you going to secure the door and give your passenger speech?” Considering that this 19-seat turboprop did not require a flight attendant, I had no idea I would also have to assume that role.

This “extreme day” section often highlights the most enjoyable, the funniest, or the most difficult parts of a particular job.

Prepare for Success

This section gives a more complete list of the responsibilities than the “typical day” section. Here the authors explain what skills are needed, who you will be competing with, what licenses are needed, and how to best prepare. For instance, in the section on ship engineers, they explain where to get your degree, what to do in high school, and what examinations and screenings you must pass. This particular job has a lot of entry requirements. To get an engineering officers license one must pass a written test, physical examination, drug screening, and National Driver Register Check. This “Prepare for Success” area gives you a useful plan to start preparing for a particular job.

Getting Your Foot in the Door

In a short paragraph, they explain what each career’s entry-level positions are and how to work up to a higher position. Often, the aspiring student must start out as an intern or even as a volunteer! In other cases one can start out as a low-paid worker and work up to a higher-paid position. Some of the ways to enter a particular field have changed in the last few years. For example, it used to be common for people to work from hotel cleaning staff member to hotel manager. Now, however, one must become an “apprentice” to another hotel manager for about two years and move from there to a managerial position. Read this part of the job description to learn what to expect when you first leave college.

Biggest Challenges and Perks

Finishing off the job description, the authors explain some of most difficult parts of a job and some of the most enjoyable parts. For instance, a major challenge to publicists is the long hours and initially low pay. However, once a publicist gains experience he gains influence with the media and can possibly even start his own company. Reading this section helps one understand what difficulties are to be expected and what the reward is at the end.

Jobs Covered

As you can tell from the title, 120 Jobs That Won’t Chain You To Your Desk is a book that explores jobs which do not require much time in front of a computer. I personally enjoy working on computers (that is why I am writing this right now), but the title does grab my attention. The jobs covered in this book fall into one of three categories: excellent and difficult, boring or easy, and simply bad or wrong. Many of the jobs, such as entrepreneur, animal trainer, and private investigator, are difficult and well-reputed. These are jobs that I would seriously consider. Other jobs fall into the middle category. For example, the job of clown, actor, or hairstylist is not wicked or bad, but it is not very intellectually stimulating, in my opinion. The third category includes jobs that I could not do with a clear conscience such as brew master, tattoo artist, or sommelier. This is the only serious complaint that I have with the book. Thankfully, very few of the jobs fall into this last category. Most of the jobs are both interesting and intellectually advanced.

Who is This For?

Unfortunately, 120 Jobs That Won’t Chain You To Your Desk wasn’t really for me.  I enjoy being “chained to a desk” although outdoor adventures are also part of my interests.  Although this book did not help me as much as I hoped it would, I did give me some ideas, and I think it would be useful for certain people groups.  If you are in high school or college and do not want to get a desk job, this may be the book for you.  If you, like me, enjoy working at a desk this book will not be as useful, although you will still be able to learn some from this interesting book.

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