Sometimes it really is about what you know. For most one-of-a-kind jobs, there is something special about the person doing it. These are jobs that simply require a great deal of skill and experience. Eligibility might be acquired through years of academic training and a series of career advancements. Other jobs rely on raw talent or a passion turned into a career. (For info on how to land a job, check out Tips To Beat Tough Interviews and Taking The Lead In The Interview Dance.)
- The Westminster Dog Show Judge
The greatest honor for a judge at the 133-year old Westminster Kennel Club (WKC) Dog Show is to judge the "Best in Show" dog. The WKC is the most prestigious dog club in the United States for purebred dogs. The American Kennel Club (AKC) governs the sport of dog shows including the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
The organization establishes the criteria for judging various types of dogs and the credentials needed to be a judge. They regulate judging courses and requirements for apprentice judges. All judges must commit to a code of sportsmanship and use official rules when judging. Given the nature of their work with animals, show judges must be covered under a professional liability insurance policy.
Complete dog judging guidelines are available on the AKC website. For the 2010 Westminster Dog Show in February, Elliott Weiss is the "Best in Show" judge. He heads the panel of 41 judges who observe and evaluate dogs in various categories. Weiss' dog show history spans 54 years and includes handling winning show dogs as well as judging international dog shows.
- Official Time Calculator
Keeper of the U.S. Master Clock, Dr. Keith J. Johnson, is the Scientific Director of the U.S. Naval Observatory (USNO). Part of his job is to manage the calculation of the precise time. Astronomical and time information produced by the USNO is critical for nautical navigation, satellite communications and global positioning. You may benefit from their work each time you use a GPS device, a cell phone, or synchronize your computer's clock. Dr. Johnson's credentials include degrees in electrical engineering and astronomy, and expertise in radio astronomy, high resolution optical imaging, and remote space sensing. He has accumulated numerous recognitions for his research. Learn more about the work of Dr. Johnson and the USNO at http://www.usno.navy.mil/USNO/about-us.
- Money Designers
Their work can be found underneath millions of car seats and hanging on walls in numbered frames. The U.S. Mint commissions professional artists to create designs for official coins. The coins include currency in circulation and commemorative versions made for collectors.
Carefully selected artists design images that are engraved by a small group of official U.S. Mint sculptor/engravers. Amazingly, the artist job doesn't pay very much, only $2,000 to $5,000 per design. Designers and engravers must have received formal training in their field, earn income from their artwork and have a history of public exhibitions of their work. They must be U.S. citizens. Commissioned artists rotate to encourage a diverse selection of coin styles. (Learn about the history of money in From Barter To Banknotes.)
- Rocket Scientist
This job title is used as a cliché for exceptionally smart people, but it really is an adequate description. The aerospace industry employs rocket scientists to research, design and test propulsion mechanisms. The Department of Defense and NASA are known for employing Rocket Scientists to figure out how to send aircraft and spacecraft through the earth's atmosphere.
Commercial companies increasingly need rocket scientists to place satellites into orbit. These scientists are in demand as more countries venture into space. The scientists generally hold degrees in engineering with concentrations in chemical, molecular (nuclear) and mechanical propulsion, but other disciplines may apply. Masters or doctorate degrees are sometimes required. Employers seeking future rocket scientists court engineering students at top colleges and offer lucrative training programs. According to http://www.usajob.gov/, a technical propulsion fellow at NASA can make $117,787 to $162,900 per year.
- United States Poet Laureate
Each year the Library of Congress (LOC) appoints a Poet Laureate to market poetry, both reading and writing, to Americans. Since 1837, Poet Laureates have been instrumental in expanding the Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature at the LOC. The job duties are flexible and open to the creative ideas of the appointee.
Over the years Poet Laureates have hosted the annual LOC poetry series, introduced poetry readings in supermarkets & airports, held poetry workshops, and instituted poetry events for kids. The Librarian selects the Poet Laureate for a term lasting from October to May. They are paid $35,000 though a grant from Archer M. Huntington. The current Poet Laureate is Kay Ryan. Ryan, who has never taken a creative writing class, has published six books of poetry and won many awards for her work. Learn more about Ryan, past Poet Laureates and the LOC poetry collection at: http://www.loc.gov/poetry/about_laureate.html.
The one thing all of these one of a kind jobs have in common is a passion for the profession and a willingness to pursue it. Whether art or science or some combination of the two people with one of a kind job get paid to do what they love.