BY JACK M.
Tired of the nine-to-five grind at the office? No future at the factory assembly line? Bored with that commission-only job in retail? Or maybe you’re still looking around for your first real job after finishing school. If you don’t mind considering something a little bit different (okay…a lot different), if you’re prepared to be talked about behind your back, and if you can handle finding yourself alone at the school reunions, then you might want to give a little thought to some of the more unusual – and surprisingly well-paying in some cases – career choices out there.
Odour testers (or, as they are known more affectionately in the biz, sniffers), are a very serious component of the workforce in a host of industries – perfume, food and beverage, and cosmetics. But it’ll come as no surprise to learn that the biggest demand seems to be with companies that make deodorants and antiperspirants. Many professional sniffers have a solid background in chemistry (a university degree would be a typical requirement), the pay is quite good and it seems that women are more in demand than men – they have a more sensitive and better-developed sniffing apparatus than men. So, if you don’t gag at the thought of shoving your nose into the hairy armpits of someone who’s just finished a marathon session at the gym, you might want to dust off your résumé and do some snooping around the employment ads. And with salaries starting around the $40,000 mark and going as high as $100,000, this career is not one to turn your nose up at.
With top salaries getting into the $100,000 range, professional odour testers typically have a solid background in chemistry, and women are more in demand than men.
Pet Food Tester
If you don’t make it as an odour tester, maybe you should consider the world of pet food testing. The pet food industry is a multi-billion dollar business in North America alone, and these same companies will do what it takes to get pet owners to buy their products. But it might be news to learn that what tickles the taste buds of cats and dogs (and ferrets, and hamsters, and gerbils and…) is not that different from what makes us human salivate – beef, chicken, fish and gravy…lots of gravy. Taste, texture and aroma are all important, and there are many similarities in the basic nutritional needs for you, me, Fido and Fluffy – protein, vitamins, calcium, potassium etc. But until we can get Fido and Fluffy to talk to the pet food manufacturers, we humans have to do the talking (and taste testing) for them. So, if you can get your head around the idea of chomping down on a bowl of Kitty Chow’s All-In-One cat food or nibbling on a snack of beef-flavoured doggie biscuits, there could be a new career waiting just for you. And the pay? You can expect to start around $35,000 per annum, but, like the professional odour tester, a six-figure income is not uncommon for the seasoned pro.
The pet food industry is a multi-billion dollar business in North America alone, and these same companies will do what it takes to get pet owners to buy their products.
Chicken sexing is as serious a process as it is bizarre sounding. And it wouldn’t hurt if the applicants for this job are a little bizarre themselves to want to do this all-important work. Employed usually on large-scale poultry farms, the importance of distinguishing the boys from the girls of day-old chicks cannot be overstated. The female chicks are destined to become egg layers, while the males are appointed to a somewhat less-dignified fate – to be fattened up for the dinner plates across the nation. And the two sexes have very different feeding regimes. There are a number of methods for determining the sex of a chick, but the most common involves a close examination of the feather formation. Even at the chick’s young age of a day or two, a sharp-eyed chicken sexer can quickly tell them apart, sorting as many as 8,000 chicks in an eight-hour shift – that’s about one every three and-a-half seconds. The pay isn’t much better than minimum wage, but then again, there isn’t a whole lot of formal education or training required.
In large-scale poultry farms, it’s crucial to separate the boys from the girls.
Potato Chip Tester
Have you ever wondered when you open up a fresh package of potato chips how many of those chips look in any way “defective?” Probably very few, if any at all. And it’s all thanks to that rarest of rare talents of the professional potato chip tester. Burned chips, undercooked chips, discoloured chips, chips that are clumped together and chips that simply don’t look like chips – these are all reasons for rejection (or to be eaten on the spot). The job is typically not a poor-paying one -$20,000 to $50,000 annually – but the company benefits are hard to beat.
Potato chip testing may not the highest-paying and most glamorous job out there, but the company benefits are hard to beat.
No, this is not a misprint. Sleep disorder clinics, sleep research labs, mattress companies and even upscale hotel chains all seek out the professional sleeper. The pay isn’t the greatest – not much better than minimum wage – but then again, the work is hardly back-breaking. And the requirements for the job? Maybe the following ad that a well-known mattress company put out will help clear it up:
“Wanted: Professional Sleeper. Must be lazy, indecisive, slow to grasp new ideas, have absolutely no ambition or interests, and must be allergic to hard work. Starting salary $15 per hour. May bring own teddy bear. Send résumé to…”
Sleep disorder clinics, sleep research labs, mattress companies and even upscale hotel chains all seek out the professional sleeper.
Laugh if you will, but worm picking has become a cutthroat business. Worms – or to be a little more precise, earth worms – may be these slithering, slimy, grimy, spineless, faceless, limbless critters that seem to have the other-worldly ability to stay alive when cut in half, but to the weekend fisherman they are mother’s milk. Worm pickers typically work at night and there is almost no investment required. The job is hard on the back and there isn’t a whole lot of prestige that goes with it. But if you’re fast and have a keen eye, the money isn’t bad, up to $40,000 annually. Seasoned pickers can coax between five and ten thousand worms out of their subterranean lairs in a single night, and they typically sell their goodies to bait shops.
Seasoned worm pickers can coax between five and ten thousand worms out of their subterranean lairs in a single night.
I’ve saved the best ‘til last. Imagine actually spending seven or eight hours a day, five days a week, eating and inhaling the sweet and complex aromas of chocolate. And getting paid for it. There has always been a small army of lucky folks with a well-endowed sensory apparatus who have sipped, swilled and snorted on behalf of the wine, tea and coffee industries, but high-end chocolate manufacturers like Green & Black’s, Lindt and Godiva are also very fussy about maintaining their place in the hierarchy of Chocolateland. In keeping with the times, chocolate tasters are often referred to as “chocolate sommeliers”, and according this website, you can earn up to $70,000 a year filling your face with what many of us might think of as the perfect food.
High-end chocolate manufacturers like Green & Black’s, Lindt and Godiva are very fussy about maintaining their place in the hierarchy of Chocolateland.