Careers so cool . . . you didn’t even know they existed!
Get this: You could spend your life scrolling through Instagram, pumping iron in the gym, or seeing sights all over the world—and get paid to do it. These may sound like crazy dreams, but they could be your future. We talked to the people with some of the coolest jobs out there about how they found their way to these (kind of wacky/not exactly your parents’ dream jobs/still wildly successful) careers—and what you can do to get there too.
Brina Lee: she spends all day on Instagram!
Official title: Software Engineer at Instagram
What That Means: When there is a feature we want to add, like direct sharing, I find a way to write code that tells the computers how to turn that dream into a reality.
What That Doesn’t Mean: I don’t only write code! I’m constantly talking to other software engineers and departments, trying to solve problems. When we add a new feature, where do we put it? What should it look like? How do we make it easy for you to use? We think about every step of the process.
How She Got There: When I first tried coding in high school, it all seemed like gibberish. It didn’t click until I realized that coding is just learning a language that computers speak. I started by reading a book about HTML (a coding language) and using trial-and-error to build a website. I realized that typing in code, and then seeing what those symbols translated into, was similar to solving a brainteaser or a puzzle.
Why You Want Her Job: I get to work on something that people use all around the world every single day! Whenever my friends take a picture, or when I look over someone’s shoulder at a restaurant, they’re using a feature I’ve helped create.
Get Started Now! Use Code.org, a site where pros like Mark Zuckerberg and I teach you the basics of code. If you like it, use your new skills to build your own website that shows the world who you are—and what you can create.
Maude Standish: she decides what’s cool!
Official title: Trend Forecaster
What That Means: Brands like Banana Republic or Sony hire me to figure out what’s cool for young people—usually so they can develop the products you really want and make sure you find out about them!
What That Doesn’t Mean: I’m not inherently cool and don’t magically know the next trend. I do a ton of research—looking at survey data, exploring Tumblr, and talking to interesting people (musicians, artists, real teens) to identify patterns in what they’re talking about and excited about.
How she Got There: In high school, someone on the street asked me to take a survey for a company that collects data about what you’re buying. So I took it, then asked if I could hand out surveys myself. I kept moving up the chain, and now I interpret that data.
Why You Want Her Job: I get to visit the hippest places in any city, like coffee shops and art galleries, and talk to interesting people every day. I just follow what’s fresh and apply that to business.
Get Started Now! Do student journalism to build your communication and research skills, which are vital to this career. You can also create Pinterest boards dedicated to what people at your school are wearing or listening to—it will train you to pay attention to patterns and trends.
Mo Abhat: he works out with celebs!
Official title: Personal Trainer for Crunch Gyms
What That Means: I help people achieve their fitness goals—from 60-year-old women starting exercise programs for the first time, to celebs getting in shape for movie roles.
What That Doesn't Mean: It isn’t only about helping someone develop a six-pack—it’s about making a connection! Clients hire me to design an exercise program, but they also hire me to motivate them.
How He Got There: I played football all through school, so fitness was always an important part of my life. That’s why I decided to make it into a career—but that meant becoming certified to prove that I understand the human body, nutrition, and kinesiology (how the body moves). I enrolled in the National Academy of Sports Medicine’s Certified Personal Trainer program, which is the best, most comprehensive education out there.
Why You Want His Job: Seeing a star you trained on the big screen is a perk, but there’s nothing better than getting a client who is unhealthy or overweight and watching them get fit. By helping them get healthy, you’re changing their lives forever.
Get Started Now! Find a workout buddy at school to train with, or join a sports team and pay attention in practice—how do people respond to different types of motivation? It’s all about finding ways to connect with people and help them achieve their goals.
Andrew Richdale: He’s a professional adventurer!
Official Title: Travel Writer/Editor of Afar Magazine
What That Means: Sometimes I travel around the world to research stories, but I also spend considerable time working with our editorial team at an office in San Francisco, making sure every page of our magazine keeps readers engaged.
What That Doesn’t Mean: I’m not always writing about exotic, faraway locations. Sometimes you have to write about a place people have been to a hundred times and inspire them to see it in a fresh way. So that means a lot of exploring and trying new things—even in your own backyard.
How He Got There: I always traveled whenever I could, and even chose to live abroad in Germany during college. Those experiences gave me a lot to talk about when interviewing for travel-writing jobs. I also took a publishing course through the Columbia University journalism school one summer, which helped introduce me to the industry and valuable contacts.
Why You Want His Job: I get paid to do what I love, and I travel all over the world to meet people, eat food, and see sights that I never would have even heard of otherwise.
Get Started Now! You can figure out the basics of editing a magazine or website on the job, but you can’t teach someone to have a passion—and become an expert on it. So keep reading about what you love, and start a blog about it to fine-tune your talents.