Standard Skills for Odd Jobs

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Posted by The Editors on July 15, 2011
Standard Skills for Odd Jobs

Whatever tool you’re working with on a day-to-day basis, whether it’s PowerPoint, PhotoShop, or architectural drafting tools, it’s worth considering how you might apply traditional skills in a non-traditional setting. It might not mean setting out on your own and starting a business from scratch right away, but even the most far-flung ventures start with fundamentals.

Consider the following real job title from a could-be-real resume:

  • Sand-castle consultant, Sand in the City

It’s not a mid-summer mirage; there’s really a person out there with this job. Now imagine seeing it preceded, in standard reverse-chronological order, by this:

  • Electrical engineer, National Semiconductor, Inc.

It’s practically a whiplash-inducing change of direction. You may not think it’s real, but remember the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction. According to the Wall Street Journal, Bert Adams left engineering behind and turned a newfound passion for building sand castles into a business. He teaches classes on construction, partners with charities and museums, and hosts events in cities far from any sandy shore.

If you can get past the strangeness of the juxtaposition, it sort of makes sense: engineering jobs require knowledge of raw materials and how to harness them, meticulous attention to detail, and at least some degree of manual dexterity. You also need to be good with numbers, which is always important in figuring budgets, expenses, and the correct ratio of your sandcastle turret to drawbridge.

In Adams’ transformation from engineer to beach-combing entrepreneur, he bloomed where he was planted: he turned an assignment into a side business. Though he doesn’t comment in the WSJ article on a lack of fulfillment as an engineer, it’s clear he tapped into something important: he identified something he could do well and that nobody could do better. He’s teaching students how to “wield a spackling tool with a turkey baster to lend a silky sheen to sandy surfaces”—no joke.

If you’re inspired by a weekend trip to the beach, though, you might have to think of a different niche: Bert Adams may already have his name on those dunes.

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