They say there is an ideal job for every person, and in an ideal world every worker would find a job that absolutely suited their skills and interests. The world we live in is, alas, not an ideal world. The world you create through your writing can be as ideal as you choose, and the jobs held by characters can be a perfect fit. Or not.
A perfect job match for a character can demonstrate their talents and background. An imperfect job match can be a source of conflict, humor, or even plot development. The ways in which characters find a career path can be just as revealing as the job itself: some people join the family business whether they have the aptitude and interest or not; some people slowly work their way up the ladder to the job they actually want; some people have an innate talent, honed by practice. Some careers are dependent on the setting (such as a snowshoe maker or dinosaur wrangler), but most types of work have some equivalent in every genre.
Jobs for people who love working with their hands. Educational requirements, apprenticeships, licenses, etc., vary by job. Some have no requirements beyond on-the-job training. Both introverts and extroverts can find tactile jobs to suit their interests (in theory, at least).
- Casino dealer
- Construction worker
- Massage therapist
- Sign language interpreter
High-paying, low-stress jobs for introverts. These are jobs for characters who prefer independent tasks and interactions with smaller groups of people/coworkers. They typically require post secondary education. Apart from convenient plot devices, these jobs are unlikely to include terrifying catastrophes and world-ending deadlines. Usually.
- Atmospheric scientist
- Computer and information research scientist
- Electronics engineer
- Software developer
- Technical writer
- Technical translation
High-paying jobs with good work/life balance. Education/training varies, but a common thread is that these jobs typically don’t require on-call or emergency response. (Actually, most writers earn very little from their writing, but the possibility is always there.)
- Physical therapist
- Dental hygienist
- Web developer
- Postsecondary teacher
Jobs that require good observational skills. Educational requirements vary, as do salaries. Despite high demands on the personal time and physical strength of people working in these fields, many have salaries significantly below the U.S. median.
- Registered nurse
- Veterinary technologists and technicians
- Police and sheriff’s patrol officers
- Private security
- Environmental scientists and specialists
- Childcare workers
Jobs that offer the possibility of frequent crises. Some people are perfectly suited for staying calm and doing their job in the middle of an adrenaline rush; some people simply love the adrenaline rush. Contrary to what television would have us believe, these professions are not a constant stream of accidents and terror. However, characters working in these jobs could be a very handy source of action to drive a plot.
- Paramedic or EMT
- ER surgeon
- Personal security
- Test pilot
- Stunt driver
- Middle school teacher
- Parent of a toddler
Jobs that do not require reading. Approximately 800 million adults worldwide are functionally illiterate; in the US, 36 million adults cannot read or write above a third grade level. The reasons for illiteracy are almost as varied as the people affected by illiteracy: inadequate or inappropriate education, poverty, social prejudice, learning disability, mental disability, physical disability, poverty, gender bias, etc. There are few jobs that require absolutely no reading, but there are several that don’t rely heavily on that skill.
Side Note: Functionally illiterate adults develop a variety of methods to get around in society; consider how you might write such a character.
- Animal care and service workers
- Crafts artists
- Fishing and hunting workers
- Agricultural work
Jobs that require little or no prior training. The eternal question “How can you get job experience if no one will hire you without experience?” applies in just about every career you can choose. Being born into a family of royals, subsistence farmer, or reincarnated dragon whisperers kind of limits career choices. For the rest of us, we have to start with anything we can find. That does not mean these jobs are any easier or less vital.
- Waiter or tables busser
- Retail customer service
- Home delivery
- Window washers
- Shelf stockers
Bottom Line for writers: if you are creating a new character, consider jobs that fit!