Obliterate the Box: Thinking Beyond the “Traditional” Post-High School Career Options

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Written by Melinda Sewak

How many unique jobs can you name? Seriously, take a minute. Try to think of every version of every possible career path you can imagine. Okay – go!

How many did you come up with? 10? 30? More? Look at your list and consider how many people you know within each role. It’s likely the first jobs that came to mind are ones that you’ve seen people in your circle, or your community, take on. Another set might have been jobs you’ve envisioned for yourself. Ones you’ve seen in mainstream media and thought – that might be interesting. Now look at the jobs you named that go beyond those two categories. How many on your list are truly unique – jobs outside of your circle, your favorite TV shows, or your TikTok “For You” feed? How many are truly outside of the box?

As a kid you might have grown up associating stethoscopes and EKG machines with doctors and nurses, but did you know that a vital member of many surgery teams is a person called a perfusionist? Perfusion technologists, or perfusionists, run the heart-lung machine, pumping blood through patients as cardiovascular surgeons perform open heart surgeries. It’s a job in high demand, with projected continued growth, and essential to many life-saving procedures – but not nearly as mainstream as doctors and nurses.

Ever wonder what happens to sunken golf balls? They’re rescued by professional recyclers known as golf ball divers. These divers work in the retrieval business, contracted by golf courses to gather balls lost to lakes, ponds, and streams. It can be lucrative work, but it’s also higher stakes than you might expect – golf ball divers often retrieve in zero visibility blackwater, and can face gators, pollutants, and more. The payoff can be high, though, and it’s certainly an option for diving enthusiasts interested in expanding their career options.

While perfusion and golf ball diving may not be your speed, they do highlight a key point – there are many, many options you can consider as you think about what path to follow after you finish high school. Do you like sound design and entertainment? Consider foley artistry. Do you enjoy electronics and engineering? Look into elevator mechanic work. Challenge yourself to consider your interests and to dream big. What would you do for a living if you could make up any career path? Chances are there’s someone out there who’s done something similar, someone you can emulate or whose trajectory you can use as a launching pad for your own unique journey. While a “traditional” role may be exactly what you want, give yourself an opportunity to brainstorm outside of the box, and even to change your mind and switch gears along the way – you may surprise yourself with the possibilities. 

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