eXceptional, eXcellent, eXciting Jobs

X is for… Xylophonist!

There aren’t a whole lot of jobs in the world that start with X (particularly without referencing name brands, such as “Xerox Operator/Salesperson”), but one of the most interesting is Xylophonist.

Xylophonists are percussionists that specialize in playing the xylophone. The xylophone, as you may already know, is an instrument made of wooden bars hit with mallets to produce sound. Xylophones are also related to the marimba, balafon, semantron, and metallophones like the glockenspiel and vibraphone. Different types of xylophones can also be found in gamelan ensembles, found in Indonesia.

Here’s a video of “The World’s Greatest Xylophonist,” Teddy Brown:

Of course, there are many other xylophonists in the world today! One of them is Evelyn Glennie, who bills herself as “the world’s premier solo percussionist.” According to Glennie’s TED biography:

“The Grammy-winning percussionist and composer became almost completely deaf by the age of 12, but her hearing loss brought her a deeper understanding of and connection to the music she loves. She’s the subject of the documentary Touch the Sound, which explores this unconventional and intriguing approach to percussion.”

You should definitely check out Glennie’s TED Talk, “How to Truly Listen.”

Further Reading

More eXciting Jobs That Start With X

  • Xenobiologist
  • Xeriscapist
  • XML Specialist
  • X-Ray Specs Dealer (aka Joke Shop Owner/Gag Gift Salesperson)
  • X-Ray Technologist
  • Xylologist

Want to learn about even more cool jobs?

Pre-order the book, World’s Coolest Jobs, a collection of all the coolest jobs you never knew existed. On sale September 1, 2017.

Wonderful, Wacky, Wild Jobs

W is for… Wedding Singer!

If you’ve ever seen The Wedding Singer, you’ve probably wondered “Do people really do that for a living?”

The answer is yes!

Wedding singers are musicians. Sometimes they work solo, but more frequently they work with bands, and may also play an instrument of their own.

My mother used to be an organist and wedding singer for people who were married in a traditional Catholic church ceremony. She played the organ and sang songs chosen by the couple, at various points in the church service, to help them make their special day unique.

Granted, this was back in the 1980s and 1990s, so these songs may seem dated, but I remember her practicing these wedding standards in our living room with happy couples:

Along with, of course, Mendelssohn’s Wedding March, “Here Comes the Bride,” and Pachelbel’s Canon.

Normally wedding singers entertain a post-church crowd at wedding receptions (which are like after-parties). As Rachel Anne Warren says in her piece for The Billfold:

“If you request a list of all sad, sappy songs that pull on your heartstrings like lepers, we’ll probably encourage you to let us steer the ship straight into the party zone. The party zone is, of course, that other-worldly place where you forget you own a cellular phone because faces are melting, booties are shaking, and souls are burning with the flames of life.”

Being a wedding singer these days is all about keeping the party rolling, encouraging audience participation, and singing crowd favorites. Depending on the style of music that the married couple prefers, wedding singers will belt out popular tunes of today (or yesteryear), and do their best to keep everybody dancing, clapping, and singing along.

If leading a perpetual party sounds like your kind of job, then maybe becoming a wedding singer is the job for you!

Further Reading

Related Films

More Wonderful Jobs That Start With W

  • Watch Repair(wo)man
  • Water Quality Tester
  • Weather(wo)man – aka Meteorologist
  • Weaver
  • Wedding Consultant
  • Wedding Singer
  • Welder
  • Wildlife Agent
  • Woodworker
  • Wrecking Supervisor
  • Writer

Want to learn about even more cool jobs?

Pre-order the book, World’s Coolest Jobs, a collection of all the coolest jobs you never knew existed. On sale September 1, 2017.

Vivid, Vibrant, Vital Jobs

V is for… Video Game Developer!

Video games are developed by – you guessed it – video game developers. And what, exactly, do video game developers do? They come up with all the ideas for your favorite games, creating the concepts and characters that others will help to execute.

“Gamer” (photo credit: Henrik Johansson)

Did you know that the video game industry made $91 BILLION (yes, that’s BILLION with a B!) globally in 2016? This is truly an exploding industry, particularly for mobile game developers, and one that excites and intrigues many different kinds of people.

Gone are the days of gamers hiding their addiction in their bedrooms or basements. Gamers, indeed, are from all age groups and walks of life, and creating games that appeal to many different groups of people is the key to becoming a successful game developer.

If you want to learn a lot more about becoming a video game developer, you should definitely read my book, Careers in Gaming, which features an entire chapter on this exciting, fast-paced job and the people who do it.

Further Reading

  • Careers in Gaming
  • We Are Game Devs – lots of great interviews with diverse game designers, developers and programmers in the video game industry about why they love their jobs

More Vital Jobs That Start With V

  • Vendor
  • Ventriloquist
  • Veterinarian
  • Violin Maker
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor
  • Voice Actor
  • Voltage Tester
  • Vulcanizer

Want to learn about even more cool jobs?

Pre-order the book, World’s Coolest Jobs, a collection of all the coolest jobs you never knew existed. On sale September 1, 2017.

Unique, Uncommon, Unusual Jobs

U is for… Umpire!

Umpires are used in baseball, cricket and tennis. They are the folks who determine whether or not players are playing by the rules, and what to do when they aren’t.

“High School Girls JV Softball” (photo credit: mark6mauno)

Umpires must be sports fans, but also sticklers for following the rules. They also need to be people with upstanding moral character, so they’re not bending the rules for some players and not others, nor favoring a certain team. Impartiality is key to an umpire’s success.

In Major League Baseball, there are only 68 umpires in the entire sport, which means that there’s a long waiting list before you’ll get the call to make the calls. In the meantime, you can be an umpire in the minor leagues (where there are 225 positions available), or in college baseball, at Little League games, or unofficial matches. You can also umpire softball games (as pictured above), which have slightly different rules than baseball games – be sure not to mix them up!

Alternatives to being an umpire: Become a referee, linesman, adjudicator, arbitrator, judge, moderator or official. Every sport has their own name for the people who make sure the rules are being followed. Pick your favorite sport, learn all the rules, and start armchair umping!

Further Reading

More Unique Jobs That Start With U

  • Uber Driver
  • Ultrasound Technician
  • Undercover Operator
  • Undertaker
  • Underwriter
  • Upholsterer
  • Urologist
  • Usher

Want to learn about even more cool jobs?

Pre-order the book, World’s Coolest Jobs, a collection of all the coolest jobs you never knew existed. On sale September 1, 2017.

Terrific, Tenacious, Tremendous Jobs

T is for… Teacher!

You’ve surely had many teachers throughout your life. Some of them are officially labeled as such – like your teachers in school. Others are unofficial teachers, like mentors and people you look up to, offering words of wisdom or advice, sometimes when you least expect it. Parents can be teachers, too, showing you a good example – or telling you to “do what I say, not as I do”!

Trainers and coaches can also be teachers. These kinds of teachers are usually people who are also students in a particular activity or sport, who have advanced enough that they are now able to teach beginners the ropes. Trainers and coaches may work with professional or amateur athletes, offering advice on how to set and achieve goals as well as teaching the rules of a game and the right form when performing physical activities.

My sister, Melissa McKenzie, is a trainer. She’s the Barn Manager and Head Trainer at Runaway Farms, in Kingston, Tennessee. Here’s an interview with her about her cool job!

An Interview with a Teacher

Riding instructor and horse trainer Melissa McKenzie (photo credit: Runaway Farms)

What’s your job, and what do you do all day?

I do all the day-to-day management of a medium sized boarding and training facility that focuses primarily on dressage horses and ponies.

What made you choose this career?

I’ve always loved riding and working with horses, so this is definitely my dream job!

How long have you been working in this field?

I’ve had my current job, and my own business, for almost 15 years. I’ve been working in the industry in various part/full-time capacities for an additional 7-8 years.

Did you need a degree to get this job? And if not, what did you have to do to get some experience in this field?

Although it’s not the industry standard to get a degree, I did. I have a BA in Equine Facility Management from Otterbein University. I have also apprenticed for several other professionals. The working student apprenticeship method is the typical route in the horse industry.

How would you describe a typical work day?

The day starts around 6:30 or 7 AM with morning chores: feeding and turning horses out for the day, checking on facilities and equipment, and fixing anything that’s gone awry. Then stalls get cleaned, and horses start getting groomed and worked. Sometimes we have vets, farriers, chiropractors, and other supporting professional appointments to attend throughout the day, also there may be lessons on or off property, or people trailering in for lessons. We do another round of feeding at lunchtime, continue working horses, teaching lessons, etc. through the afternoon. Then it’s evening chores: feeding dinner and bringing horses in from turnout around 5 PM. If we have horses turned out overnight, there are stalls to clean and feed to set up for the next day, but mostly the barn is quiet in the evening for boarders to come ride and spend time with their horses. We do night check around 9:30 PM and do the final feeding and check of the horses and facility before closing up shop!

What do you like most about your job?

Training the horses. Taking them from either green and untrained or horses with problems and turning them into happy, healthy athletes that are fun to ride. Also helping people find success with their horses through classical dressage training.

What do you like least about your job?

Dealing with people who really don’t understand the sport, horses, or how much time and effort it requires to get where they want to go.

What personal qualities are most important for this kind of work?

Really, it takes a weird love of horses to want to put in the hard work and long hours to do the job well. You have to pay attention to details and follow instructions to the letter. You don’t have to know everything, but you have to constantly be learning and be willing to find out the answers to the questions that come up. Open-mindedness is also helpful, as people are as emotional about their animals as they are their children!

What advice do you have for students who are interested in this job?

If you want to become a trainer, find an awesome trainer who you admire and apprentice with them for as long as possible (4-6 years is a good start). A college degree is super helpful if you want to do more of the management side of the business. Learn to do everything, without complaint. Everyone mucks stalls. EVERYONE.

More Terrific Jobs That Start With T

  • Tailor
  • Tattoo Artist
  • Taxi Driver
  • Teamster
  • Technician
  • Teller
  • Tester
  • Timekeeper
  • Toxicologist
  • Tracer
  • Travel Agent
  • Tree Surgeon
  • Truck Driver
  • Tutor

Want to learn about even more cool jobs?

Pre-order the book, World’s Coolest Jobs, a collection of all the coolest jobs you never knew existed. On sale September 1, 2017.