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LEISURE

Also in the Extraordinary Jobs series:
Extraordinary Jobs for Adventurers
Extraordinary Jobs in Agriculture and Nature
Extraordinary Jobs with Animals
Extraordinary Jobs for Creative People
Extraordinary Jobs in Entertainment
Extraordinary Jobs in the Food Industry
Extraordinary Jobs in Government
Extraordinary Jobs in Health and Science
Extraordinary Jobs in Media
Extraordinary Jobs in the Service Sector
Extraordinary Jobs in Sports

LEISURE
alecia t. devantier & carol a. turkington

Extraordinary Jobs in Leisure
Copyright © 2007 by Alecia T. Devantier and Carol A. Turkington
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means,
electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval
systems, without permission in writing from the publisher. For information contact:
Ferguson
An imprint of Infobase Publishing, Inc.
132 West 31st Street
New York NY 10001
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Devantier, Alecia T.
Extraordinary jobs in Leisure / Alecia T. Devantier and Carol A. Turkington.
p. cm.—(Extraordinary jobs)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-8160-5859-8 (hc: alk. paper)
1. Recreation—Vocational guidance. 2. Leisure—Vocational guidance. I. Turkington, Carol. II. Title. III.
Series: Devantier, Alecia T. Extraordinary Jobs series.
GV160.D48 2006
790.023—dc 22
2006011388
Ferguson books are available at special discounts when purchased in bulk quantities for businesses,
associations, institutions, or sales promotions. Please call our Special Sales Department in New York at
(212) 967-8800 or (800) 322-8755.
You can find Ferguson on the World Wide Web at http://www.fergpubco.com
Text design by Mary Susan Ryan-Flynn
Cover design by Salvatore Luongo
Printed in the United States of America
VB MSRF 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
This book is printed on acid-free paper.

CONTENTS
Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vi
Are You Cut Out for a Career
in Leisure? . . . . . . .;  . . . . . . . . . . . vii
How to Use This Book . . . . . . . . . . . . ix
Aerialist. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Auctioneer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Casino Dealer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Club Med Host . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Convention Planner . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Corporate Concierge . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Cruise Ship Activity Director . . . . . . 21
Golf Course Superintendent . . . . . . 25
Human Cannonball . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
Ice Rink Manager . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
Image Consultant . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
Limousine Driver . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
Magician . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
Miniature Golf Course Owner . . . . . 44
Paintball Park Operator . . . . . . . . . 49
Parade Float Designer . . . . . . . . . . 52

Party Planner . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Personal Trainer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Private Party Disc Jockey . . . . . . . . .
Professional Shopper . . . . . . . . . . .
Psychic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Renaissance Festival Performer . . . .
Ringmaster . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Roller Coaster Designer . . . . . . . . .
Running Coach . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sci-Fi Convention Planner . . . . . . . .
Ski Lift Operator . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Skydiving Instructor . . . . . . . . . . . .
Stadium Vendor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Theme Park Character . . . . . . . . . .
Theme Park Manager . . . . . . . . . . .
Wine Consultant . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Appendix A. Associations,
Organizations, and Web Sites . . .
Appendix B. Online Career
Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Read More About It . . . . . . . . . . .
Index. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

55
58
61
63
66
69
72
75
77
80
83
86
89
92
95
98

103
129
137
141

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

T

people who helped with interviews and
information and the production of this
book, including Jon Rand and Susan Shelly
McGovern. Thanks also to our editors
James Chambers and Sarah Fogarty, to
Vanessa Nittoli, to our agents Ed Claflin
of Ed Claflin Literary Associates and Gene
Brissie of James Peter Associates, and to
Michael and Kara.

his book wouldn’t have been possible
without the help of countless others
who referred us to individuals to interview
and came up with information about a
wide variety of odd and unusual jobs. We
deeply appreciate the time and generosity
of all those individuals who took the time
to talk to us about their unusual jobs in
the world of leisure. Thanks also to all the

vi

ARE YOU CUT OUT FOR A CAREER
IN LEISURE?

Y

If you follow your heart, you’re almost guaranteed to find a career you will
love. In fact, almost every individual we
interviewed for this book repeated the
same litany—I love my job. I love the
independence.
Sadly, jobs in the leisure industry often
don’t pay very much—with a few exceptions. Yet while most of these careers don’t
offer monetary rewards, to the people who
pursue those careers, it doesn’t seem to
matter. What these jobs do offer is something much harder to measure—and that’s
a job that lets your spirit soar, that allows
you to do what you love to do.
You can’t put a price on that.
Of course, loving what you do is only
part of having a successful career in the leisure industry. You’ve also got to be good
at what you want to do. Most leisure jobs
are so specialized that if you’re going to
go after one of them, you need to be really good at it. Whether you’re thinking of
becoming a skydiver or an auctioneer, you
need to have the talent and the training to
do that job better than most other people.
If you’re like most of us, you’ve inherited a bevy of shoulds about the kind of
person you are. These shoulds inside your
head can be a major stumbling block in
finding and enjoying a leisure career. Maybe other people won’t be so happy with
your career choice either. You may hear
complaints from your family and friends
who just can’t understand why you don’t
want a “regular job.” If you confide your
career dreams to some of these people, they

our files are piled so high on your
desk that you can’t find your coffee
mug. You’re due to give a big presentation
in front of the board in 10 minutes, and
you can’t remember for the life of you
what you’d planned to say. You’ve spent
so much time on the job you might as well
just sleep in your cubicle.
This doesn’t appeal to you?
If you can’t stand the thought of sitting
at a desk every day, gazing out your window
at the world passing you by, then maybe you
should consider a career in the leisure industry, doing what you love to do—planning
sci-fi conventions, working on a cruise ship
or Club Med Island, whatever—rather than
what you feel obligated to do. Let’s face it:
Some people just aren’t cut out for a typical
career path carved out for them by others.
But how do you know if you’re more the
ski lift–operating, magic-filled, trapeze artist kind of person? Take some time to think
about the kind of person you are and the
sorts of experiences you dream of having.
First of all, ask yourself: What am I passionate about? Do you spend every waking moment thinking and dreaming about
being shot out of a cannon? Do you watch
the circus on TV and yearn to strut around
the center ring in a top hat and tails? Did
you fall so in love with skydiving that you
dream of someday teaching other students
the same thing? Do you love the idea of
working at a resort, vacation destination,
theme park, or cruise ship? Does the idea
of helping other people have fun seem like
the very best kind of job there is?

vii

viii Extraordinary Jobs in Leisure
may try to discourage you. Can you handle
their continuous skepticism, or downright
disappointment? Other people often have
their own shoulds for you too.
Or maybe you’re having a hard time
imagining a different path for yourself
because of the obstacles you see. Maybe
you’re saying to yourself: “There’s just
no way I can follow my dream and make
a living. I don’t have the right education,”
or “I don’t have the right background,” or
“I’m the wrong gender,” or “I’m the wrong
color.” Tyron McFarlan, who you’ll read
about in this book, is one of only two African-American ringmasters ever hired by
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey in 134
years. But he didn’t give up on his dream,
and neither should you. He’s successful because he wouldn’t accept someone else’s assessment that he couldn’t do what he loved
to do because of the color of his skin.
If you get bogged down in the belief
that you can’t follow your dream because
of what is, you take away your power to
discover what could be. You lose the power to create a different future.
A few of the people we’ve talked to
in this book have always known exactly
what they wanted to do, and did it. But almost everyone else ended up with a job in
the leisure industry by a circuitous route.
It can take years to work up the courage
to actually do what we knew all along we
would have loved to do. You’ll find that
going after a job in the leisure industry is
usually built slowly out of a variety of different experiences.
You don’t have to start big. Try unique
educational experiences—take a skydiving

class. Try an internship or unconventional
job, a summer job, travel, or volunteer
work.
Try not to think of learning and working as two totally separate things. When
somebody hands you a diploma, you don’t
stop learning. School can be the best place
to build up your fact-based knowledge; the
rest of your life provides you with experience-based knowledge. You need both of
those types of knowledge to forge a career
in the leisure industry. Remember that this
type of career is usually an active experience—take charge of your journey instead
of relying on someone else’s career path.
Take advantage of the things you learn as
you plan your next experience.
If you do decide to seek out a career in
the leisure industry, you’ll almost certainly
encounter setbacks. How do you handle
adversity? How do you feel when you fail?
If you’ve always wanted to be a running
coach, how are you going to feel if you
can’t seem to break into the business, or
no one wants to hire you? If you can pick
yourself up and keep going, you’ve probably got the temperament to survive.
Going after the career you want means
you’ll need to look at the world through
curious eyes—to wonder what’s on the
other side of the mountain and actually
go there to find out. By exploring your
options, you’ll learn that work and play
become the same thing. Push past your
doubts and fears—and let your journey
begin!
Carol A. Turkington
Alecia T. Devantier

HOW TO USE THIS BOOK

S

tudents face a lot of pressure to decide
what they want to be when they grow
up. For some students, the decision is
easy, but for others, it’s a real struggle. If
you’re not interested in a traditional 9-to5 job and you’re eyeing the field of leisure
pursuits as a unique way to make a living,
where can you go to find out about these
exciting, nontraditional jobs?
For example, where can you go to
find out how to become an auctioneer,
gaveling down antiques? What does it
take to become a sci-fi convention planner, mapping out exciting experiences for
fans? Where do you learn how to be a
theme park manager? Is it really possible
to make a living as an aerialist? Where
would you go for training if you wanted
to be a human cannonball or a golf course
superintendent? What’s the job outlook
for limo drivers?
Look no further! This book will take
you inside the world of a number of different jobs in the leisure field, answering questions you might have, letting
you know what to expect if you pursue
that career, introducing you to someone
making a living that way, and providing resources if you want to do further
research.

At a Glance
Each entry starts out with an “At a Glance”
box, offering a snapshot of important basic information to give you a quick glimpse
of that particular job, including salary,
education, experience, personal attributes,
requirements, and outlook.
✔ Salary range. What can you expect
to make? Salary ranges for the jobs
in this book are as accurate as possible; many are based on the U.S.
Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. Information also comes from individuals,
actual job ads, employers, and experts in that field. It’s important to
remember that salaries for any particular job vary greatly depending on
experience, geographic location, and
level of education.
✔ Education/Experience. What kind
of education or experience does the
job require? This section will give you
some information about the types of
education or experience requirements
the job might call for.
✔ Personal attributes. Do you have what
it takes to do this job? How do you
think of yourself? How would someone else describe you? This section will
give you an idea of some of the personality characteristics and traits that
might be useful to you if you choose
this career. These attributes were collected from articles written about the
job, as well as recommendations from
employers and people actually doing
the jobs, working in the field.

THE JOB PROFILES
All job profiles in this book have been
broken down into the following fact-filled
sections: At a Glance, Overview, and
Interview. Each offers a distinct perspective
on the job, and taken together give you a
full view of the job in question.

ix

x Extraordinary Jobs in Leisure
✔ Requirements. Are you qualified? You
might as well make sure you meet any
health, medical, or screening requirements before going any further with
your job pursuit.
✔ Outlook. What are your chances of
finding a job in the leisure industry?
This section is based in part on the
Occupational Outlook Handbook,
as well as on interviews with employers and experts. This information
is typically a “best guess” based on
the information that’s available right
now, including changes in the economy, situations in United States and
around the world, job trends, and
retirement levels. These and many
other factors can influence changes
in the availability of jobs in the leisure industry.

Overview
This section will give you an idea of what
to expect from the job. For most of these
unusual jobs, there really is no such thing
as an average day. Each day is a whole
new adventure, bringing with it a unique
set of challenges and rewards. This section
will give you an idea of what a person in
this position might expect on a day-to-day
basis.
The overview also gives you more
details about how to get into the profession, offering a more detailed look at the
required training or education, if needed,
and providing an in-depth look at what to
expect during that training or educational
period.
No job is perfect, and Pitfalls takes a
look at some of the obvious and maybe
not-so-obvious pitfalls of the job. Don’t let
the pitfalls discourage you from pursuing a
career; they are just things to be aware of
while making your decision.

For many people, loving their job so
much that they look forward to going to
work every day is enough of a perk. Perks
looks at some of the other perks of the job
you may not have considered.
What can you do now to start working
toward the career of your dreams? Get a
Jump on the Job will give you some ideas
and suggestions for things that you can do
now, even before graduating, to start preparing for this job. Opportunities include
training programs, internships, groups and
organizations to join, as well as practical
skills to learn.

Interview
In addition to taking a general look at
the job, each entry features a discussion
with someone who is lucky enough to
do this job for a living. In addition to
giving you an inside look at the job,
this interview provides valuable tips for
anyone interested in pursuing a career in
the same field.

APPENDIXES
Appendix A (Associations, Organizations,
and Web Sites) lists of places to look
for additional information about each
specific job, including professional
associations, societies, unions, government
organizations, training programs, forums,
official government links, and periodicals.
Associations and other groups are a
great source of information, and there’s
an association for just about every job
you can imagine. Many groups and
associations have a student membership
level, which you can join by paying a small
fee. There are many advantages to joining
an association, including the chance to
make important contacts, receive helpful
newsletters, and attend workshops or

How to Use
Introduction
This Book xi
conferences. Some associations also offer
scholarships that will make it easier to
further your education.
In Appendix B (Online Career Resources) we’ve gathered some of the best
general Web sites about unusual jobs in
the leisure industry, along with a host of
very specific Web sites tailored to individual leisure jobs. Use these as a springboard to your own Internet research. Of
course, all of this information was current
as this book was written, but Web site ad-

dresses do change. If you can’t find what
you’re looking for at a given address, do
a simple Internet search—the page may
have been moved to a different location.

READ MORE ABOUT IT
In this back-of-the-book listing, we’ve
gathered some helpful books that can give
you more detailed information about each
job we discuss in this book. Find these at
the library or bookstore if you want to
learn even more about leisure jobs.

✹

AERIALIST

AT A GLANCE

OVERVIEW

Salary Range
$20,000 to $250,000

You’ve probably heard the lyrics: He floats
through the air with the greatest of ease,
this daring young man on the flying trapeze. Of all the circus acts that capture the
imagination, there’s none more daring and
dangerous. An aerialist is any circus artist
who performs acrobatic feats in the air, and
that includes those daredevils on the high
wire. But the best-known aerialists are the
trapeze artists, who take our breath away
by swinging through the air on a bar, performing flips in midair, and getting caught
by a partner who’s hanging upside down
from another bar. The top trapeze artists
perform without safety devices. They can
earn excellent incomes because few other
people can do what they do. Most aerialists, including trapeze artists, are born into
circus families and learn their skills from
their parents. But several clubs and schools
also teach trapeze skills.
Beginners start on the ground with a
practice bar. You’ll learn how to swing
while sitting on the bar and then while
hanging upside down by your knees. When
you’ve learned these techniques, you’ll
climb to a small platform 30 feet in the air.
You’re not supposed to look down but if
you do, you’ll be grateful to have a net below and a safety harness around your waist
that’s connected to a safety line. You’ll
lean from the platform and grab the bar
with both hands. Your first leap of faith
will come when you swing towards a bar
on the other side of the arena while you’re
hanging by your knees. If you haven’t had
a heart attack yet, you’ll catch the other
bar, then somersault into the net.

Education/Experience
You can learn this art by attending a circus school
or being born into a circus family. A background in
a sport that requires agility and balance, such as
gymnastics or wrestling, would help.
Personal Attributes
You must be extremely disciplined to stay in shape,
practice routines, and overcome the usual aches
and pains as well as major injuries.
Requirements
Major circuses will expect you to have polished
your act in smaller circuses. You’ll have to be in
good health and shape and be an accomplished
entertainer.
Outlook
Circuses have a universal appeal and aerialists,
including trapeze artists, are among the most
popular performers. So there’ll always be a demand
for aerialists. But this occupation is limited to a
small group of highly athletic and highly trained
artists.

Once you get the hang of this, you
might try swinging into the hands of a
catcher, who hangs by the knees from the
catch bar. That person will catch you by
your wrists and swing you before allowing
you to drop to the net. And this is just a
basic routine. Imagine flying through the
air while doing flips, like an Olympic diver
going off the high board. Then imagine
trying this without safety equipment, and
the catcher being all that stands between
you and the arena floor. Of course, you’ll
perfect this routine with the aid of safety
equipment before you try it without a net.

1

2 Extraordinary Jobs in Leisure

Sylvia Zerbini, aerialist and equestrienne

S

✴

ylvia Zerbini grew up in the circus. Her father, Tarzan, was an eighth-generation performer from
an Italian circus family, and her mother, Jacqueline, was a second-generation performer from
a French circus family. With a mother who was a trapeze artist and a father who trained animals,
Zerbini combined both specialties for one of the most unusual acts in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum
& Bailey Circus.
In her act, Zerbini sends eight beautiful horses, running free, into the arena. Zerbini then
gallops into the ring on a horse, grabs a trapeze bar and hoists herself 40 feet, swings down, drops
to the ground, and performs a nine-minute aerial and horse show. She owns, trains, and transports
the horses herself.
Zerbini was only five years old when she first performed in front of an audience. “I was sitting
on top of an elephant!” she recalls. “And no, I can’t really say I was scared. My family has been
circus performers for nine generations, so it pretty much came natural to me.”
Zerbini performed her first aerial routine when she was eight years old and playing on her
mother’s backyard trapeze. One day, all alone, she imitated her mother doing a half-body twist
before catching the bar with her heels. “I told my parents, ‘I can do that. Want to see?’” Zerbini
says. “My mom and dad came over and I did it. They thought, ‘Oh, my God!’”
By the time she was 12, Zerbini was working on the trapeze. “When you’re young, of course,
you don’t realize what you’re doing,” she says. “I was 20 feet in the air, and fear of falling never
entered my mind. As you get older, you start to pay attention.” At the age of 25, Zerbini had
a daughter and began to worry what would happen if she got hurt. “In trapeze, you can’t do
that because then I’d second guess my movements,” she says. “An hour before a performance,
I don’t talk to anybody. You just totally learn how to block everything out, listen to music and
stretch.”

A lack of fear is crucial to the success of
trapeze artists. Those who grow up in a circus family often practice dangerous routines
before they’re old enough to know they’re
supposed to be scared. They’re like kids put
on horseback before they are old enough
to seriously consider the perils of getting
thrown. But while trapeze artists may be immune to fear, they’re not immune to injury.
Some quit because their shoulders become
chronically sore or they tire of constant blisters and bruises on their heels and hands.
By now, you’re probably starting to
understand the tremendous dedication
and discipline needed to become a trapeze
artist. You’ll often perform two or three
shows a day, even if you’re tired, injured,

or ill. And you’ll still take time to practice
and work out because the job requires you
to stay slim and strong. You’ll travel each
week from one city to another with just one
full day off. Most performers get periodic
breaks during the year, yet their job is still
a grind. And they still have to pay bills, do
laundry, and perhaps tend to family matters. Circus performers often travel with
their spouses and children.
The Flying Wallendas are the most famous aerialists and circus family of all time.
They had a traveling European circus as far
back as 1780 and later became famous for
their daring on the flying trapeze and high
wire. Led by patriarch Karl Wallenda, the
family developed an amazing four-person,

Aerialist 3

✴

Zerbini experienced her worst accident in 2000, when her heel failed to catch the bar and she
fell 30 feet headfirst and landed on her shoulder. “I tore everything in my shoulder,” she says. “They
told me that if I didn’t have so many muscles, I probably would’ve snapped my bone in half. With
therapy, they told me I’d be out at least six months. Three months later, I was performing again.”
During one practice mishap, in which she was 45 feet in the air, Zerbini escaped with a twisted
ankle and bruises that kept her out less than a week.
Accidents don’t frighten Zerbini—they make her angry. “I get mad,” she says, “because I’ve
been doing this for so long and done everything imaginable that you can do in the air. So when I
do something that’s not 100 percent right and I fall, I totally don’t accept it. My madness overcomes
my fear. Every time something goes wrong, it’s my fault. I’m not paying attention. The mechanics of
movement should always be the same.”
To Zerbini, discipline is the most important thing. “I’m working in a bodysuit that’s super tight,
like a catsuit,” she says. “I cannot have an ounce of fat. I hang by my toes and knees, so I can’t
take baths in performance weeks. Your skin gets soft and you can’t let it get slippery.” Performing
night after night can take its toll. “If I have a muscle pull or a fever, you have to go out in front of
thousands of people, so what can you do?” she says. “But I still get through the routine. Your mind is
the strongest muscle in the whole body.”
Zerbini’s daughter, Ambra, is the tenth generation of this circus family. When she was 12, she
was performing in a barnyard routine with pigs, goats, and a pony, and rode one of her mother’s
stallions in the circus parade. Zerbini didn’t object if her daughter wanted to follow in her footsteps,
but she wasn’t going to push her. “As a young girl, I knew exactly what I wanted to do,” she says.
“My daughter’s undecided. She loves the horses but sometimes she says, ‘I want to play soccer…I
want to be a cheerleader.’ ”

three-level pyramid on the high wire. Karl
Wallenda balanced on a chair on top of a
bar between the shoulders of two men on
bicycles. Karl’s wife, Helen, stood on his
shoulders. The Wallendas came to the United States in 1928 and were an immediate
sensation. Their act evolved into a sevenperson pyramid, and a 1962 accident in Detroit resulted in the death of two performers
and the paralysis of a third. Karl Wallenda
fell to his death in 1978 at age 73 because
of faulty equipment. The family still performs in separate acts but has reunited for
special appearances. In 2001, the Wallendas
assembled an unprecedented eight-person,
three-level pyramid. To further cement their
place in aerial history, they added two more

Wallendas to form the first ever 10-person
pyramid. As the old warning goes—don’t try
this at home.

Pitfalls
You can expect to suffer strains, bruises, and
even serious falls. Trapeze artists and other
aerialists may work six days a week and
spend most of the year on the road. It’s a challenge to keep your personal life in order while
you’re with the circus. Wages often are low at
the smaller circuses until you work your way
up to the big time and a six-figure income.

Perks
The pay can be excellent if you’re at the
top of your profession. Circus performers

4 Extraordinary Jobs in Leisure
often enjoy a show’s camaraderie. They
also enjoy the same exhilaration and popularity as most top-notch entertainers.

Get a Jump on the Job
If you’re not born into a circus family,
you can attend a school or join a club in
which young people learn circus skills.

You can find the club nearest you through
the American Youth Circus Organization
Web site, http://www.americanyouthcircus.org. A trip to the circus will give you
a good idea of whether you’d like to be
up on the trapeze or high wire or are just
content to watch.

✹

AUCTIONEER

AT A GLANCE

OVERVIEW

Salary Range
$30,000 to $100,000+

When most of us shop for furniture, appliances, clothes, or baseball gloves, we check
the price tag and know exactly how much
to pay. But some goods and properties are
sold through auctions, in which buyers bid
against each other and the highest bidder
wins. At an auction, you can buy livestock,
large quantities of fruits and vegetables,
real estate, cars, antiques, artwork, and
much more.
Auctioneers are best known for their
rhythmic chant: “A hundred, do I have a
hundred fifty? A hundred fifty, do I have
two hundred? Two hundred going once
. . . two hundred going twice . . . sold.”
And down comes the hammer to signal
that the $200 bid has been accepted.
Auctioning has been going on for
thousands of years—all the way back to
ancient Greece, around 500 B.C. Auctions
later became popular in England, where
two of the world’s most famous auction
houses have operated for more than two
centuries: Sotheby’s, founded in 1744, and
Christie’s, in 1766.
An auctioneer works for the sellers and
is paid a commission (a fixed percentage of
sales) or a flat fee. Although an auctioneer’s work is showcased on auction day,
it actually starts long before the opening
bid. First, the auctioneer must organize the
merchandise and research its value. He or
she inspects the items to make sure they’re
suitable, lists them in a catalog, and sets
up a display for the merchandise to be
inspected by potential bidders. The auctioneer must also be aware of business or
legal issues. If items are being auctioned to
help a bankrupt person or company pay

Education/Experience
You can learn the basics at auction school. You’ll
also have to know a lot about the value and
quality of the goods or property you’ll be selling.
If you want to be a real estate auctioneer, for
instance, it would help to have experience as a real
estate broker.
Personal Attributes
You need self-confidence to assure buyers that
they’re bidding on worthwhile merchandise. You’ll
have to be comfortable addressing large groups
of people and be able to work quickly and under
pressure.
Requirements
You’ll need a strong, clear voice that can work for
hours. Some auctioneers boost their credentials by
becoming certified personal property appraisers.
Outlook
As long as Americans love auctions, there will be
plenty of auctioneers, even with online auctions
competing for their business. But the most
glamorous and highest-paying auctions are often
run by a small number of professionals who may
keep their jobs for decades.

off debt, the auctioneer must get approval
from the creditors. The auctioneer places
advertising to attract a big crowd.
At auctions involving very expensive
items, sellers may let their merchandise go
only for a minimum bid. This is called a
reserve price, which is set before the auction. At most auctions, however, the high
bidder wins, no matter the price.
Once an auctioneer has completed
preparations, it’s time to step up to the
microphone and let the auction begin. The

5

6 Extraordinary Jobs in Leisure

Walt Robertson, thoroughbred auctioneer

A

uctions don’t get much more glamorous than those involving thoroughbred racehorses.
Auctioneers wear tuxedoes and start their patter as well-bred horses are led into the sales ring
before an audience filled with oil sheiks, business tycoons, movie stars, and top horse trainers. If
James Bond hadn’t liked casinos so much, he could just as easily have found high-stakes bidding
and a jet-set crowd at a thoroughbred auction. Bidders pay millions for yearlings that grow up to
run—and perhaps win—important races. Sometimes a lucky bidder gets a future Kentucky Derby
winner at a bargain basement price.
Walt Robertson is president of Fasig-Tipton, a thoroughbred sales company based in
Lexington, Kentucky, in the heart of horse country. He’s also one of four auctioneers who conduct
the company’s 15 to 20 sales a year. At a 2005 auction in Florida for two-year-olds in training,
147 horses were sold for $50 million. Fasig-Tipton charges a 5 percent commission on sales plus a
small entry fee for each horse. So many horses are nominated for Fasig-Tipton’s biggest sales that
Robertson can’t accommodate all the breeders. For just three yearling sales in a year, Fasig-Tipton
will get about 3,500 applications but accept only about 1,000. Robertson and his colleagues try
to pick the best horses for their catalog. Thoroughbred sellers routinely set a reserve price for their
horses, often with Robertson’s advice.
“We will screen these horses on pedigree,” Robertson says. “The ones that are suitable, we will
make a physical inspection and spend the months of March and April looking at horses all over the
United States. We’re looking at conformation and try to pick the most athletic-looking horses. There
are six of us who do it, and we go out in pairs.” A horse with a good pedigree comes from a family
that’s produced winners of big races. Breeders like to say that they breed the best to the best and
hope for the best. A horse’s conformation is its physical structure. Kentucky Derby–winning trainer
D. Wayne Lukas, who often bids millions of dollars for his clients, has had exceptional success with
yearling fillies bought at auctions. He says he looks for the head of a princess, the rear end of a
washerwoman, and the walk of a movie star.
“Any auctioneer, whether he handles real estate, wine, art, or furniture, needs to have a pretty
good knowledge of his product and needs of his customers,” Robertson says. “You need to have a
pretty good knowledge of the people you’re selling to. When you do that, you get respect. Just like in
any other profession, the guy who works hardest wins.” Being able to evaluate a horse’s pedigree
and conformation takes years of study and experience. Robertson learned about horses from his

✴

auctioneer will introduce the auction staff,
then explain the reason for the sale and order in which the items will be sold. The
auctioneer will also explain the rules of
the sale, the deadline for buyers to claim
their items, whether any items are under
warranty, and if buyers can pay by cash,
check, or credit card. The auctioneer may
also answer any questions from potential
bidders.

The auctioneer will then start presenting items. Because he or she is trying to
get the best possible price, the auctioneer
likes to make a sales pitch to explain why
an item is valuable or attractive. The auctioneer will set a starting price and ask for
the first bid, then for higher bids until the
bidding stops. A good auctioneer keeps the
price rising without asking for a bid that’s
so high that it kills the bidding. Bidders

Auctioneer 7

father, Jim, a Kentuckian who bought, sold, and trained show horses. The elder Robertson would
hire an auctioneer for his sales and Walt and his brother were enlisted to help. Walt became an
auctioneer after graduating from the University of Kentucky and attending auction school in Mason
City, Iowa. “They get you over your stage fright and get you into a rhythm,” he says.
Now Robertson is the auctioneer at some of the world’s biggest horse sales in Miami, Saratoga
Springs (N.Y.), and Lexington. First, an announcer introduces the horse being led into the ring and
describes its pedigree. Then Robertson, aided by several spotters around the audience, starts the
bidding. “You try to use your voice right,” he says. “Like a singer, you try to work from pretty deep
inside your throat and push with your diaphragm to make your voice last longer. You can get pretty
tired and if you get a cold, you’re going to be hoarse, no matter what you do.”
Although a sale may include hundreds of horses, the auction of just one important horse
can become an event in itself. Just three months after Smarty Jones won the 2004 Kentucky
Derby, his mother, I’ll Get Along, was auctioned by Fasig-Tipton. She was pregnant by Smarty
Jones’s father, Elusive Quality, which raised hopes for another Derby winner. She was sold for
$5 million. “You remember the big ones, of course you do,” Robertson says. “When you sell a
mare that important, it’s pretty special. There’ll always be a big crowd there to see it happen
because of the buildup and the hype. Thank God she sold well and was deserving of every bit of
hype she had. There’s electricity up and down the line. I try to get as pumped up as my buyers
and sellers.”
Many thoroughbred owners let their trainers or bloodstock agents bid for them. Some bidders
are so publicity-shy that only a trained eye can tell that they’re bidding. “The buyers who want to
remain anonymous will usually set something up with the auctioneer or spotter,” Robertson says.
“Maybe they’ll have a prearranged signal, and you know to watch them. If D.Wayne Lukas is in the
room, you keep an eye on him. You won’t miss those fellas very often. And the ones who would like
anonymity, we know who they are.”
Although the biggest buyers and sellers get the most attention and generate the biggest
commissions, Robertson tries to make sure the smaller buyers and sellers don’t get overlooked.
“It’s terrific to sell a big horse, but the next horse in the ring is also important, especially to the next
seller,” he says. “Until we sell his horse and he gets what he needs, that’s the important thing. We
cannot lose sight of that.”

✴

will raise their hands or make other signals. At large auctions, spotters help make
sure that no bidders get overlooked.
You can break into this business by attending an auction school. The Missouri
Auction School, the nation’s best-known
school of its kind, teaches students to develop their own chant and arranges for
them to practice at live auctions. Students
learn the business skills needed to conduct

auctions. They also attend workshops that
specialize in antiques, autos, real estate, and
other items that are popular at auctions.

Pitfalls
Auctioneers spend a lot of time traveling to
inspect merchandise or meet with sellers.
During auctions, their legs and voices can become very tired, and they routinely work long
hours, including evenings and weekends.

8 Extraordinary Jobs in Leisure

Perks
You can work as long as your voice,
health, and enthusiasm hold up. For many
auctioneers, their work is an extension of
their hobbies, such as collecting antiques,
stamps, or cars. Most auctioneers love
their work because they’re not tied down
to a desk and they deal with a wide variety of merchandise and people. Pay can be
excellent for those who stay busy and deal
with valuable merchandise. Many auction-

eers work part time for extra income or
with the aim of getting enough business to
go full time.

Get a Jump on the Job
Learn as much as you can about the kinds
of items that are sold at auctions. Attend
local auctions and observe the auctioneer’s
techniques. You even might try making a
bid. Instead of holding a yard sale to clear
out your room, conduct an auction.

✹

CASINO DEALER

AT A GLANCE
Salary Range
Wage earnings for dealers vary according to level of
experience, training, location, and size of the gaming
establishment. Average earnings for dealers are
$14,090, ranging from $12,000 to $20,820, but tips
make the salary much higher.

OVERVIEW
The casino dealer is the one with the glamorous job, dealing out cards and running
games of chance at flashy casinos, entertaining guests by operating a gaming table
according to specific rules. While casino
gaming has been legal in Nevada for more
than seven decades and in Atlantic City,
N.J., for more than 25 years, it wasn’t
until the late 1980s and early 1990s that
other places across the country began to
introduce commercial casino gaming. Today, commercial casinos are located in
11 states and many tribal lands, bringing
lots of benefits to the host states and local
communities.
Dealers operate table games such as
craps, blackjack, and roulette. You’ll
find them standing or sitting behind the
table, providing dice, dealing cards, and
running the equipment. Dealers also keep
a close watch over the patrons looking
for infractions of casino rules. But that’s
not all; dealers also determine winners,
calculate and pay winning bets, and collect losing bets. Because of the fast-paced
work environment, most gaming dealers
must be competent in at least two games
(usually blackjack and craps). The more
games you can deal, the more valuable
you’ll be to the casino (especially during
the graveyard shift, when the volume of
business can be hard to predict). Some
casinos may have different levels of casino dealers, depending on the variety of
games dealt.
The atmosphere can get tense when
a customer is playing for big stakes, and
dealers must be very careful not to make

Education/Experience
No common minimum educational requirements;
each casino establishes its own requirements for
education, training, and experience. Some gaming
occupations demand special skills, such as dealing
blackjack, which are unique to casino work. Most
employers prefer a high school diploma or GED.
Almost all provide some in-house training in addition
to requiring certification. The type and quantity of
classes needed may vary. Many institutions of higher
learning give training toward certification in gaming,
as well as offering an associate’s, bachelor’s, or
master’s degree in a hospitality-related field such as
hospitality management, hospitality administration,
or hotel management. Some schools offer training in
games, gaming supervision, slot attendant and slot
repair technician work, slot department management,
and surveillance and security.
Personal Attributes
Casino gaming workers provide entertainment and
hospitality to patrons, and how good they are
at their jobs affects a casino’s success or failure.
Gaming workers need good communication skills,
an outgoing personality, and the ability to maintain
their composure even when dealing with angry
or demanding patrons. Personal integrity is also
important, because workers handle large amounts of
money.
Requirements
Nearly all gaming dealers are certified. Certification
is available through two- or four-year programs in
gaming or a hospitality-related field. Workers need a
license issued by a regulatory agency, such as a
(continues)

9

10 Extraordinary Jobs in Leisure

AT A GLANCE (continued)
state casino control board or commission. Applicants
for a license must provide photo identification,
offer proof of residency in the state in which they
anticipate working, and pay a fee, plus submit to a
background check. Age requirements vary by state.
Gaming dealers must be skilled in customer service
and in executing their game.
Outlook
You’ll have the best chance for a job if you have a
degree or certification in gaming or a hospitalityrelated field, previous training or experience in
casino gaming, and the ability to get along with
people. Because experienced dealers can attract
new and repeat customers, they usually have the
best chance at landing a job. As the popularity
of gaming continues to increase, employment in
gaming services occupations is expected to grow
faster than the average for all occupations through
2012. As more states realize the financial windfall
from casinos, they are overlooking their previous
opposition to legalized gambling and will probably
approve building more casinos through the early
2000s. Because of the demand for more table
games in casinos, rapid growth is expected among
dealers.
As the population grows and is willing to
spend more money, the popularity of gaming also
increases. As competition for gaming patrons grows,
there should be more jobs available for dealers.
Most jobs may occur in established gaming areas
such as Las Vegas and Atlantic City, as well as in
other states and areas that may legalize gaming
in the coming years, including casinos on Indian
tribal lands.

the player who forks over the tip. Players
having fun and enjoying themselves are
more likely to leave a tip even after a bad
session. Some players give a dealer a tip
by making a bet for them as they leave the
table, which can make the dealer feel like
he or she is part of the game.
Most dealers work in commercial riverboat or land-based casinos in 11 states:
Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri,
Nevada, New Jersey, and South Dakota.
The largest number work in land-based
casinos in Nevada, and the second largest
number work in similar establishments
in New Jersey. Mississippi hires the most
dealers on riverboat casinos. In addition,
23 states offer casinos on tribal lands.

Pitfalls
Casino work can be physically demanding, involving long periods of standing,
and if you work in a state that allows
smoking in the casino you’ll be exposed to
hazards such as cigarette, cigar, and pipe
smoke. Noise from slot machines, gaming tables, and talking workers and patrons may be annoying. Especially at the
beginning of your career, you may have
to work unpleasant hours, since most casinos are open 24 hours a day, seven days
a week, and offer three staggered shifts.
Since you must live in the state where you
work, you’ll be limited in locations, since
casinos are only legal in the 11 states listed above.

Perks
any mistakes. Because of the high pressure
of handling large amounts of money, game
dealers typically get a break every hour.
A good dealer will try to be friendly so
players will feel like they’re having a good
time even when they lose—because it’s

The atmosphere in casinos is generally
filled with fun and is often considered
glamorous. And once your shift is done,
that’s it—dealers don’t have to “take their
work home with them” or worry about
the job once they’re off duty.

Casino Dealer 11

Tammy Brathor, blackjack dealer

D

✴

ealing blackjack at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas was a good way for Tammy Brathor to earn
a living and help support her five boys, aged 7 to 18. Working the graveyard shift (4 a.m. until
noon), she juggles motherhood and night school with her five-day-a-week job.
“I love the people I work with,” she says. “They’re a great group of people. And I meet some
interesting people at the hotel, too. Just when you think you’ve see everything—you haven’t!”
Seven years ago, she was working as a pit clerk at the MGM when the company transferred her
into the job of dealer, and sent her to school for six weeks to learn blackjack. “I was one of the lucky
ones who was already working [at the hotel],” she explains. “Normally, [a dealer] would have to
start downtown and work [his or her] way up the strip, to bigger, more popular hotels.”
She’s been dealing ever since. “A big part of the job is to be personable,” she says. “Most of
the people are there on vacation, and so you’re trying to entertain them. It’s important to have a
good personality. No one wants to sit in on a game where the dealer is kind of mechanical,” she
says. “Plus, you get entertained too!”
Initially, all dealers are required to go to school to learn a game. However, once you become
a dealer, you can then learn other games just from watching other dealers in-house. “You can
observe on your break or after work,” she explains. “But my plate is already full!”
There isn’t much she doesn’t like about her job, except perhaps for the smoky atmosphere. “I’m
not a smoker, but I know that inhaling second-hand smoke is part of the job.”
If dealing at a Las Vegas casino sounds interesting, Brathor recommends that you’ll do well and
earn good tips if you can be personable. “I find if you’re friendly, most people are personable and
friendly back,” she says. “There’s always one bad apple, but you shouldn’t take anything personally.
You’ll get people who are losing and have consumed alcohol and sometimes they can be a bit
verbal. You just ignore it.”

Get a Jump on the Job
Get books about different card games and
practice dealing. You won’t be allowed

into a casino until you’re at least age 18,
but you can read up on the job and practice at home.

✹

CLUB MED HOST

AT A GLANCE
Salary Range
Former employees report salaries ranging between
$400 and $500 a month plus free room and board,
free transportation, all the soda you can drink, and
free use of the amenities (sailboards, scuba, tennis,
snorkeling, and much more).

OVERVIEW
If you’re the life of the party, the joker with
the lampshade on your head, the person
always organizing games and activities,
you might have what it takes to be a Club
Med host (or “G.O.”—short for gentil organisateur or “friendly host”).
Gerard Blitz founded Club Mediterranée as a nonprofit association in 1950,
creating a tent village in the Balearic Islands. Seven years later, the first winter
village was opened in Leysin, Switzerland.
The clubs—popular vacation resorts—
have been going strong ever since. They’re
best known for the “easy living” attitude
(you pay up front, and then don’t have to
shell out money for food, drinks, or activities while you’re there).
As a G.O., your job is to make sure
Club Med guests have a terrific vacation
experience. You’ll be welcoming new and
returning guests, sharing past experiences,
and enjoying all the club’s activities right
along with the guests. You may gather
with guests for a drink or a dance, join
them for a gourmet meal at one of the
club’s restaurants, or perform onstage. As
a sort of cross between a host and a companion, the G.O. also may be called upon
to provide a variety of other services, including child care, tour guide, front desk,
sports, entertainment, and housekeeping.
Job assignments are seasonal, beginning in May for the summer season and
November for the winter season; occasionally, jobs may last for less than six months.
In general, however, Club Med tries to hire
employees for the same village for at least
two consecutive seasons.

Education/Experience
There are no set educational requirements, although
the ability to speak another language (especially
French or Spanish) is a big help. Experience in
child care, food service, hospitality, or maintenance
is a help.
Personal Attributes
You must be spontaneous and fun loving with a
great sense of humor. You need to be flexible, since
you won’t know where you will be working until
you’re hired—be it the United States, Mexico, the
Caribbean, or the Bahamas. You’ll need to be able
to function well in a multicultural environment. You
must also be willing to participate in club activities
and not even mind dressing up in odd costumes.
You should enjoy other people and be generous
with your time and your friendship.
Requirements
You must be at least 18 with a valid passport; you
must also be able to lift at least 30 pounds and be
able to relocate for at least six months.
Outlook
Good. These jobs continue to provide vacancies as
hosts move from one resort to another, but the
club’s popularity will ensure there should be plenty
of job opportunities through 2012.

If you’re interested in exotic locales,
Club Med may be for you. There are
approximately 120 Club Med villages
throughout the world, including villages in
Florida and Colorado, Guadeloupe, Bora
Bora, Brazil, the Bahamas, the Dominican

12

Club Med Host 13

Jodie Ortiz, former Club Med host

A

Club Med veteran, Jodie Ortiz has been working with the luxury vacation resort for many
seasons, working at Turkoise, Turks and Caicos, and Ixtapa, Mexico. Starting out as a boutique
salesperson, she moved on to work in a village “circus” program, and then as assistant chief of a
village. Currently, Ortiz is a village training coordinator.
Regardless of where you’re first hired to work, “you have the chance to learn so many things,”
Ortiz says. “As a G.O., you have the chance to do all the activities.” When Ortiz was first hired right
out of university, she worked at a Club Med boutique and then spent some time working at the Club
“circus.” Some of the Club Med villages offer guests a circus program, with flying trapeze, tightwire,
and rope tricks. “In my case I trained for it and actually started to work at the circus. But no matter
what you start as, you can always develop an interest in something else. A lot of the G.O.’s do that.
Even if you’re working in one area, suddenly you get interested in something else.”
Ortiz had spent time studying abroad during college, and was interested in other cultures—yet
she didn’t want to go on her own to live in Mexico. “So I started looking into companies with a little bit
of support.” She ended up in the boutique in the Sandpiper village in Florida. “When I came straight
out of school,” she says, “I thought [this job] was a transition, but as it turns out I can’t transition away
from it!”
As soon as she arrived at Club Med, she felt at home. “It was almost the same setup as a
university,” she says. “There was something to do during the day, you had a close-knit group of
people, young or young-at-heart, you tried a lot of things.”
Typically, the Club Med contracts last for six months, and the G.O. will stay in a village for two
contracts. However, Ortiz has been at Sandpiper for three and a half years now. Most G.O.s have
some kind of skill, she explains. A person working in reception should have had some experience
working in reception elsewhere; a G.O. working in child care should have already worked with
children or taken a fundamentals course. “Overall,” she says, “you have to have skill to be able to
speak with people and not be timid. You also learn a lot when you’re here, and you get better as
you work with it, working with different cultures.”
Language courses are very helpful, she adds, because many of the clubs are in foreign
countries or attract lots of foreign visitors. Ortiz speaks French, Spanish, and English. “To work in
this part of the world, you’ve got to have English. We’re in Florida, and the second language is not
primarily Spanish—not all the clientele are Spanish-speaking.
“When you look at a G.O., most of them have some sort of special skills,” she says. “Maybe
you have a fantastic vocalist or a great dancer. We had a guy on our team who is into Renaissance
faires, so we introduced some of that. The broader your interests, the better.
“I thought I would work here a few seasons,” she says. “I’m close to 10 years now, and it’s
become a career. I love it, and I don’t have any anticipation of leaving real soon.”

✴

Republic, Turks and Caicos, Cancun, and
Ixtapa.
Getting the job is the hardest part. You’ll
have to audition—a four-hour ordeal in

which you (and 15 to 25 other candidates)
will apply for a variety of positions. During
this interview, you’ll have to perform a twominute “audition.” You don’t need to have

14 Extraordinary Jobs in Leisure
a specific talent because what the interviewer
wants to see is your personality. You might
tell a funny joke or do a card trick. Club
Med representatives are always touring new
cities looking for exciting talent, and they
have local recruiters throughout the country, so you should never be far from a job
audition should the fancy strike you.

Pitfalls
It’s not all fun and games, of course, especially if you can’t deal with ambiguity.
You won’t know where you’re going when
you sign up, which is okay if you’re adventurous and don’t have ties or family. However, other people might prefer a bit more
control over their life. You also aren’t assured of a job for longer than six months.

Perks
This is a perk-filled job: three meals a day
in the restaurants where guests eat plus

free soft drinks all day. This means extensive buffet breakfasts and international
dishes for lunch and dinner. You’ll also
be given a room to share (dorm style) and
fresh sheets and towels. You’ll get medical insurance, and you’ll have unlimited
use of all amenities on your day off and
on your free time. This means you’ll get
to scuba, snorkel, windsurf, sail, play
tennis, lift weights, or just lie around on
the beach and get a tan. You also get a
30 percent discount from the Club Med
boutique.

Get a Jump on the Job
If you’ve got talent, work on it, because it
may help you land a job during the audition. Read up on Club Med and work on
being outgoing and friendly. Try getting
some summer jobs as a lifeguard, waitperson, or in any kind of entertainment
field.

✹

CONVENTION
PLANNER

AT A GLANCE
Salary Range
Most convention planners earn between $29,000 and
$72,000, with an average of $60,000, although of
course this varies depending on the location and size
of the company or association.
Education/Experience
Convention planners usually need a bachelor’s
degree, whether in marketing, business, hotel
administration, or a related subject. Only a few
colleges and universities offer specialist degrees in
convention and meeting planning, usually in their
hotel schools. However, the number of hotel schools
offering this concentration will probably increase to
meet the recent growth in meeting and convention
work. Most meeting planners do not have or need
advanced degrees, but those who manage large
planning or destination management companies and
those involved with major convention and trade show
business may benefit from an MBA or a master’s
degree in hospitality management, particularly where
this provides additional legal and negotiating skills.
Personal Attributes
Sales and negotiation skills; attention to detail; excellent
people and communication skills; enthusiasm and selfconfidence; excellent organizational skills; ability to
handle extreme stress, work well with little supervision,
multitask, and coordinate large-scale activities.
Requirements
Increasing numbers of meeting planners are seeking
certification from their professional organizations. These
include the Convention Industry Council’s Certified Meeting
Planner designation and the International Special Events
Society’s Certified Special Events Professional designation.
The Association of Destination Management Executives is
also beginning a certification program.
Outlook
The employment outlook for convention planners
depends on the overall economy, but is expected to
grow through 2012. When the economy slows down,
corporate meeting expenses are at the top of the “cut”
list, but when the economy flourishes, businesses will
schedule meetings and conventions again.

OVERVIEW
If you’ve ever attended a large convention
(or been in a city when a big convention was
in town, with hordes of attendees wearing
identical name tags running from one hotel
to the next), you’ll know that conventions
can be a big deal for a company or association. Typically, the convention planner must
manage the entire convention with very little
support staff, and it’s a huge job, involving
everything from scheduling enough hotels
and renting enough meeting rooms to the
nitty-gritty details of making sure each meeting room has the proper foods and beverages
and that everyone gets the proper name tag.
Convention planners (also called meeting planners) organize conventions, trade
shows, reunions, galas, and other kinds
of functions for their company or association. A number of people fall into the
job because of the experience they gained
participating in meetings while holding
another job. For example, academics who
served on their professional association’s
meeting planning boards, corporate trainers who had been involved with setting up
training sessions, or caterers who routinely
served corporate functions—all can move
into this profession. They bring their specialized knowledge and education along
with their planning experience to the job.
Convention planners work for many
different kinds of employers. Corporate
planners work for corporations, planning
corporate events (usually with the help of
many subcontractors). Trade and professional associations hire planners to handle
their annual meetings and other functions.

15

16 Extraordinary Jobs in Leisure

Candy Won, convention planner

W

hen Candy Won started out her career, she had never heard of a convention planner. Instead,
she worked in the San Francisco office of a large nonprofit professional association based
in Washington, D.C., setting up local arrangements for the association’s annual convention. At
the time, the association didn’t have a full-time planner, but made do with a “local arrangements”
committee. But once that San Francisco convention was over, the association—impressed with the
job Won did—asked her to move to Washington and take over convention planning full time.
“At that time, they had a consultant,” Won says. “I really had no idea that this was an
occupation that people were able to do.” She’s been doing the job ever since—more than 20 years.
Today, there are university programs in convention planning, she notes. “But most people in my age
group fell into it because of where they worked,” she says. “Somebody had to plan a meeting, they
became that person, and that’s how they got into it.” Today it’s more of a career track, with courses
available and books to read about the profession.
“I like it because it gives you something to aim for, a goal,” Won explains. “There’s a
meeting at the end, and you do see something coming out of your work, rather than just talking
about policy.” Her association typically requires her to concentrate on planning for their annual
convention, although other corporations have a lot more meetings, so their planners are constantly
planning one or two meetings a month, small and large.
“The job can get tiring, if you don’t want to travel a lot,” she says. “A lot of people think it’s
glamorous, but they’re not seeing me crawling around on the floor looking for badge holders. It can
be very nitpicky. You’ve got to get along with people, deal with irate people—it’s not a glamorous
job.”
Because of the size of her association’s convention, Won is working on planning meetings
through 2013. “Once you settle on a site, [for] seven years from now, contracts have to be dealt with
now. But most of the work for a convention is in that particular year, or the year before. Making sure
the hotel sets up stuff, and does what they should be doing.”
On the other hand, after the meeting is over, Won can sometimes spend an extra few days in a
glamorous city, enjoying herself. She enjoys working with a lot of different people every year. “You
form friendships, and since there are a limited number of large cities we go to, we’ll go back to the
same city once in a while.”

✴

Hotels and resorts employ planners to
handle events booked there; these planners
sometimes run events on their own and
sometimes work with other planners employed by clients booking the event. Finally,
many planners work for independent meeting-planning firms, or destination-management companies.
Regardless of whom they work for, you
won’t find convention planners sitting behind a desk all day. They visit clients, suppli-

ers, and subcontractors, stay in hotels, and
attend functions. They need to be comfortable working in a wide variety of surroundings and with a wide variety of people.

Pitfalls
There can be a fair amount of travel with
this job, which may sound glamorous but
can become exhausting and tedious. The
job also entails enormous stress—typically,
you’re the one person responsible when the

Convention Planner 17
hotel loses the overhead projector and forgets to set up a beverage station at the convention workshop, or if the printer doesn’t
get the name tags delivered on time.

Perks
Planning conventions can be fun if you
truly love juggling lots of responsibilities
and travel. You get to visit lots of big cities
as part of your job.

Get a Jump on the Job
The more detailed and perfectionist a person you are, the better, so work on your

organizational skills while you’re still in
school. You might consider majoring in
hotel management. Consider getting a
summer job or internship in a hotel (especially if you can move into convention
planning on the hotel side of it). If you
know anyone who’s attending a convention, see if you can tag along to see what a
big convention is all about. This will give
you a great idea of the amount of work
and number of details there are to be taken
care of.

✹

CORPORATE
CONCIERGE

AT A GLANCE
Salary Range
$12 to $15+ per hour (more for large corporate
clients), plus tips and incentives such as
commissions. Tips can be substantial and make up
a good part of your income.

OVERVIEW
You’re new in a strange city and you need
information about the best restaurant
within a few blocks of your office. Perhaps
you want to impress a client and you need
tickets to that impossible-to-get Broadway show. Or maybe you want to hire a
limo while you’re at work, or you need
the name of a great vet to care for your
schnauzer and you don’t have the time to
do it yourself because you’re in the middle
of closing the biggest deal of your life. It’s
time to consult your corporate concierge!
Also known as a “lifestyle manager,”
the corporate concierge exists to arrange
special or personal services for clients, manage daily tasks, or simply handle your outof-control to-do list. Corporate concierges
may take messages, arrange for babysitting, make hotel reservations in other cities, give advice about local entertainment
or obtain tickets, and monitor requests
for housekeeping and maintenance. They
may provide information about local and
nearby events, sites, historical monuments,
and other areas of interest, and recommend
great places to eat They may pick up the
dry cleaning, relieve the hassle from your
personal, business, and domestic life.
Most people think “hotel” when they
hear the word concierge, but today’s corporate concierges are professional lifestyle
managers who provide time-saving services
for busy individuals and businesses worldwide. A corporate concierge is sort of like
your very own affordable personal assistant
to help manage your life so that you can
get more done each day. Services might in-

Education/Experience
Customer service background is helpful; business
experience is also helpful.
Personal Attributes
You should be friendly and knowledgeable of the
city and its venues. You should also be professional,
detail-oriented, a team player, able to work well
under pressure and in a fast-paced environment.
Requirements
Good written and oral communication skills;
attention to detail; excellent telephone etiquette;
computer literate. Knowledge of several languages is
helpful in large, big-city hotels.
Outlook
Growing. While traditional concierge jobs are often
available in large cities across the country, more
and more opportunities are becoming available for
corporate concierges in many more cities.

clude personal shopping, fetching your dry
cleaned clothes, or booking your holidays.
Your personal assistant takes care all those
things that you’d rather not do—or don’t
have time to do. Typically, a corporate
concierge working for a company would
receive a nominal fee from the company
based on number of employees; after that,
there’s an hourly fee payable either by the
employee (for each task requested) or by
the company.

Pitfalls
Sometimes clients can be difficult, needy,
and grumpy. The concierge typically stands

18

Corporate Concierge 19

Sara-Ann Kasner, corporate concierge

W

hen Sara-Ann Kasner started out, she was aiming for a career as an office manager, but life
has a funny way of taking turns. About 14 years ago she traded in her real estate job for a
stint as a concierge, and she’s never looked back.
Today, Kasner is the director of the Just for You Concierge Services, a division of the Zeller
Realty Group. As a corporate concierge, she offers services to a tenant base of about 10,000 office
workers throughout the Twin Cities area and Chicago. Kasner is also the founder of the National
Concierge Association.
“I’ve been a concierge in a corporate office setting for about 14 years,” she says. “I’ve been
quite successful as a concierge in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul and have been
upwardly mobile in my profession since I started.”
Kasner attended the University of Minnesota business school, and studied broadcast
journalism. She’s worked at everything from newscaster at a small market radio station in
northern Minnesota to selling real estate and managing a real estate office in the metropolitan
Minneapolis area. “Feeling a little burned out in real estate, I answered an ad for a ‘corporate
concierge’ in an office tower in Minneapolis,” she says. “To my surprise, they offered me a position
in which I was to create a concierge service for the property management firm that managed that
building. In every way I felt it was entrepreneurial, and an opportunity to create a worthwhile
service for busy office workers.”
As a corporate concierge, her services range from obtaining tickets to the theater, to
snagging restaurant reservations, managing floral deliveries, helping out with weekend plans,
client entertainment, tenant appreciation events, personal event planning, and some light errand
services.
In 1993, Kasner joined a local group called the Twin Cities Concierge Association. “I set out
to enhance and increase my networking opportunities by convincing others to join our group,
and I petitioned the group to permit a variety of venues to also join—not just concierges.” She
discovered there were a variety of concierge services sprouting up in the Twin Cities and every
facet of the hospitality industry, and all of them wanted to network. “Networking is the key to our
success since I, as a concierge professional, am too busy servicing my clients to be everywhere
all of the time and keep up with the trends in the industry. It became clear to me that I needed
a team of experts in my hip pocket to maintain my success.” As a result, she came up with the
organizational concept of networking across the nation.
In 1997, she invited a group of concierges from across the country to join her for a
brainstorming weekend in Minneapolis, which turned into the National Concierge Association
(NCA). Today the group has more than 600 members worldwide, with local chapters throughout
the United States, Canada, and Japan. “The result is that no matter what request is posed
by my clients, I can accomplish miracles based on my contacts everywhere.” She’s been able
to produce a bottle of wine delivered within minutes of the request in downtown San Diego,
hard-to-come-by tickets to a museum in Holland, a last-minute car rental in London. She even
managed to track down a request for a rare book.
“What I love best about my job is the variety,” she says. “No two days are ever the same and I
never know what is going to be requested of me each day. I now have staff to support my services
and we are all extremely busy.”

✴

20 Extraordinary Jobs in Leisure
and must be on his or her feet for long
hours at a time. Most concierges work from
7 a.m. to 3 p.m. or from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.,
and weekend work is almost a given.

Perks
The tips can be great; many times a guest,
group, or family will give the concierge
something in exchange for good information and service. If you love people, enjoy
tracking down information, and have lots
of connections in your city, this can be a

great job. You may interact with individuals from all over the world.

\Get a Jump on the Job
Study hard in school and try to learn at
least one other language, since speaking
several languages can be a real boon to a
corporate concierge. Think about studying hotel management in college; at the
very least, try to get a summer job as a bellhop or in the hotel business, or with a real
estate management company.

✹

CRUISE SHIP
ACTIVITY
DIRECTOR

AT A GLANCE
Salary Range
Monthly earnings range from $1,500 to more
than $8,000, but average between $3,500 and
$7,000. Earnings and benefits vary according to
your position, the company you work for, and the
ship’s size and clientele. Most companies also offer
a generous benefits package that often includes
medical, dental, life, and disability insurance; a
401(k) and profit sharing plans; travel benefits for
you and your family; and vacation time. Although
compensation varies throughout cruise lines, it
typically includes standard living expenses (room,
food, health coverage, and so on). Activity directors
are not paid between contracts.

OVERVIEW
If you’ve ever spent a rainy Sunday immersed in old Love Boat reruns, you’ll know
all about the job of a cruise ship activity
director (or cruise ship director). It looks
like a fun job making sure everyone else on
board is having a good time, and it can be
enjoyable—but there’s also plenty of hard
work involved. Most large ships are sort
of like floating five-star hotels with lavish
meals, terrific entertainment, and all kinds of
sports, fitness, and spa activities. Basically,
as a cruise director, you’ll be responsible for
all of the onboard entertainment and making
sure all the guests are having a good time.
There’s no standard type of cruise director however, because every cruise line
is a little bit different and expects different
things of its activities directors. This being
the case, the best way for you to learn the
job is to get hired on a cruise as an assistant cruise director or staff member and
watch what the cruise director does.
No matter what other duties the director
might have, most cruises expect the cruise director to help entertain the guests and usually to perform a few times per voyage. Cruise
directors were once the primary entertainer
on board a cruise, but today they have more
administrative responsibilities and fewer performing responsibilities. They supervise the
cruise staff activities department. They also
chat up the guests during cocktail parties, organize impromptu shuffleboard games, and
call out bingo numbers on the Lido deck. On
many cruise lines, you’ll also find the cruise

Education/Experience
Education and skill requirements vary widely from one
cruise line to the next, but in general cruise director
positions require exceptionally good customer relation
skills, and social dance training is preferred. On some
lines, cruise staff will be expected to sing or dance
in shows, but this isn’t as common as it used to be.
Employers also prefer to hire employees who are fluent
in at least one of the languages other than English
that many passengers speak, such as German, Italian,
French, or Spanish.
Personal Attributes
You should be enthusiastic and extroverted, and you
must not get seasick or claustrophobic. You also should
be creative and able to keep entertainment moving
along.
Requirements
Each cruise line has different requirements, but many
expect the cruise director to have a background in some
type of entertainment. Good health is also a requirement,
and you’ll need to pass a medical physical examination
in order to get hired. You’ll also need an up-to-date
passport.
Outlook
Competition for a cruise director position is stiff,
because there are far more applicants than available
positions.

21

22 Extraordinary Jobs in Leisure
director herding guests together for different
tours, sometimes leading tours, and also acting in a public relations capacity from time
to time.
In this job, longevity counts; cruise
ships reward employees who have the skills
needed to work with passengers (who can
sometimes be demanding or difficult) by
hiring from within the current list of outstanding crew members.
When your contract begins, you’ll usually be expected to pony up the money to
get to the ship—but often, you’ll receive an
airline ticket back home at the end of your
contract if you’ve fulfilled your end of the
bargain. If the cruise line liked your work,
you’ll usually be offered another contract
(plus plane ticket) back to the ship after
being at home for six to eight weeks. However, if you quit or get fired before the contract is up, you’ll have to pay your own
way back home.

Pitfalls
Accommodations are sometimes cramped,
especially on smaller vessels, and you may
be sharing your cabin with little or no
privacy. If you decide that you just can’t
stand shipboard life another minute and
you break your contract, you’ll have to
pay for all costs to get yourself home.
If long-range planning is your bane,
you won’t do well on a cruise line, because most companies require a four- to
six-month commitment. Although some
cruise lines will let you take vacation during this period, others won’t. If you sign
on and you don’t like the ship—you’re
stuck. Workdays are long—often 12 to
14 hours, and you’ll usually find yourself
working for many weeks in a row with no
time off. Personal space is also an issue;
most workers share very small, windowless cabins. Even on a large luxury ship,

your world will start to shrink after spending weeks on board with no time off and
no energy left to enjoy time off even if you
do get it. Typically people work for four
to six weeks in a row before getting two
weeks off.
And while you’ll get free room and
board and medical coverage while working on the ship, you’ll lose all these benefits
as soon as you have time off. Although it
may sound great to work without having
to pay your rent, the gas bill, and the garbage pickup fee while on board, most people still need to keep some sort of home on
shore. This means you’re still stuck with
those bills for your home base, and the
relatively low salaries don’t stretch that
far.

Perks
If you’ve got a yen to travel, then cruising
could be the best job for you, since as a
cruise director you can sail all over the
world while also getting free room and
board. As a cruise employee, you’ll get
to visit all kinds of fascinating places, and
your contract should allow you a certain
amount of time off the ship (it’s a negotiable item). Most cruise lines allow their
crew members to prowl around the ports
until an hour or two before departure,
unless they’ve pulled on-ship duty. Another benefit: your bank account. Since
there’s nowhere much to go most of the
time, you’ll be able to save most of the
money you earn—your room and board
is covered, after all. Some cruise ships
even give you a bar allowance. On your
days off, you’re allowed to hang around
by the pool, catch some rays, or relax in
the spa. Some ships provide in-room crew
TVs, special crew lounges and recreation
areas, not to mention your own Internet
connections and computer lounges. Also,

Cruise Ship Activity Director 23

John Heald, cruise ship activity director

J

ohn Heald considers himself very lucky to have snagged a job on a cruise ship with the Carnival
Cruise Line. “I had started in the beverage department and eventually became a social host,” he
explains. “This is a position responsible for hosting many of the activities on board, including deck
games, bingo, quizzes, and many other shipboard events.” Eventually, Heald worked his way up
to become a cruise director. “When I first started, I was responsible for 25 staff,” he says, “but as
the ships have grown in size, so have the cruise director’s responsibilities. I’m now responsible for a
staff of 70 staff dancers, performers, musicians, and other staff members. I was very lucky to find
something I enjoy so much!”
He’s been at sea with Carnival as a cruise director since 1991. “I’ve worked on most of
Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships and have been responsible for seven new ship launches, including my
current posting on the Carnival Liberty.
“The best part of my job is the reward of making people laugh and knowing that their valuable
vacation time has been enhanced by the activity and entertainment program you’ve given them,”
Heald says. “When a guest returns to a ship and says: ‘We have come back just to see you’—that’s
worth a million dollars. The cruise director is the one person who can affect the guest’s vacation
more than anyone.”
But working on board ship as activity director isn’t always easy. Although getting paid for
endless travel may sound exciting and romantic at first, as you get older the gloss begins to wear.
Cruise directors with families find it difficult to be away from home for the extended periods
necessary for a cruise. “My least favorite part of the job is being away from my family,” Heald
agrees. “Anyone who travels away to work will say the same. It is the hardest part of working on
the ocean.” Other cruise directors also note that when the ship is in port and the weather doesn’t
cooperate, if you’re a guest you can just go back to bed and take a nap. The activity director is
suddenly faced with a ship full of cranky passengers to entertain. This is when the team must pull
together to make the day happen with a whole new program of events and activities.
Although working aboard a floating pleasure palace may seem ideal to most people, it’s still a
job with its own limitations and frustrations. It takes a special kind of person to handle living over the
shop. You must like people, and because you work with your colleagues 24-7 and you’re in front of
the public for up to 18 hours a day, you can’t fake it.
Although most cruise lines do not require any specific background or education, Heald
recommends that you love all things entertainment if you want to be a cruise director. “You have
to love being the center of attention and have the ability to realize you can never have a bad day
at work! Once you walk out of your cabin door, you have to portray the ‘fun’ that the cruise line
advertised which got the passengers to book the cruise in the first place. It is a totally unique job and
can be the most rewarding job in the world. I wouldn’t have missed the journey for anything.”

✴

if you’re one of those people who like to
work hard for a certain period and then
have long stretches off between work periods to follow your own interests, this
job might be ideal.

Get a Jump on the Job
Since many cruise director jobs require
some kind of entertainment background,
you might think about getting some experience or training in singing, acting,

24 Extraordinary Jobs in Leisure
or dancing. Read everything you can
about cruising, and see if you can take
a short cruise to see what life at sea is
all about.
Although there are lots of Web sites
and books that say they’ll help you get a
cruise job, the best way to look for a cruise

director job is by visiting the official cruise
line Web sites. You can read all about
available jobs, qualifications, and how
to apply. Avoid a fee-based cruise placement agency—legitimate placement agencies almost never charge money for their
services.

✹

GOLF COURSE
SUPERINTENDENT

AT A GLANCE
Salary Range
$50,000 to more than $100,000.
Education/Experience
Most golf course superintendents have college
degrees or have taken courses in business or grass
and soil management. Most also love to play golf.

OVERVIEW
Golf course superintendents are like baseball umpires; if nobody notices them, they’re
probably doing a great job. The course
must be in such good shape that even golfers shooting 90 can find nobody to blame
for their poor scores but themselves. But if
golfers start gossiping about their superintendent, it usually means the grass is diseased or has too many bare spots. If there’s
a tournament going on, players may complain that the greens are too fast or the pin
placements, or location of the holes, are too
difficult. Superintendents try their best to
avoid complaints. They are notorious for
being conscientious, introverted, and taking the condition of their courses personally. Look around at your neighbors who are
the fussiest about their lawns—then multiply their dedication by 10 and you have a
golf course superintendent.
Most superintendents get to work by
6 a.m. to organize their staff and prepare
the course. Depending upon a facility’s
size, there may be just a few assistants, or
a staff of 50.
The superintendent makes sure that
the grass is cut to the desired length, that
the bunkers are raked and the holes and tee
markers are regularly moved so one spot
doesn’t get worn out. The superintendent
makes sure there’s always enough water
on the grass. Although the course usually
gets watered every evening, strong winds
during the night may leave the course so
dry in the morning that even more water is
needed. And this is just the routine main-

Personal Attributes
You must communicate effectively so your staff
knows exactly what you want done. It helps to
be a worrywart because problems can crop up
overnight on a golf course. And you must be thickskinned if your course is criticized, fairly or not.
Requirements
You’ll need to know a lot about golf and golf
courses, by playing the game, having worked
at a golf course or both. You’ll also need good
references, preferably from another golf club.
Outlook
Golf goes through boom-and-bust cycles, but with
the game so popular in the United States, there
will be a constant need for superintendents. All
courses, from the busiest to the slowest, need
someone to take care of them.

tenance! Superintendents spend endless
hours checking their courses for grass diseases or pests and other problems that can
get quickly out of hand. Many superintendents have college degrees in turf grass
management or agronomy. More than 100
colleges and universities offer two- or fouryear programs in one of these fields. Many
other superintendents have majored in
business because they’re expected to help
their course or club keep down expenses.
Superintendents help save money by taking care of projects that otherwise would
have to be done by outside contractors.

25

26 Extraordinary Jobs in Leisure

Pat Finlen, golf course superintendent

P

✴

at Finlen is such a stickler for detail that he puts his entire staff at Olympic Club in San Francisco
through an early-morning stretching routine. Finlen, at his daily 5:30 a.m. staff meeting, hands
out assignments, makes announcements, and warms up some 50 employees with basic exercises.
“Otherwise, most people roll right out of bed into physical activity,” he says. “Some of these guys will
be on a mower for eight hours.”
His attention to detail helps explain why Finlen was hired to oversee one of the nation’s most
famous golf clubs, which includes two 18-hole and a nine-hole course. His work at the Bayonet and
Black Horse Course on the Monterey Peninsula south of San Francisco led to his hiring at Olympic
Club. “To get a better job, you’ve got to have good playing conditions,” he says. “That’s what
everybody sees.” At a club, members are always bringing guests, Finlen explains, and a member
might tell the guest your name. “That’s what gets you noticed,” he says. “Then you sell yourself on
business skills, financial skills, and communication skills. And that’s where a lot of superintendents
lose their jobs—not because of turf issues, but because of other problems. They can grow the
greatest grass, but if they can’t communicate, a little problem becomes a bigger one.”
Finlen understands that his club members don’t want to be the last ones to know about a
problem on the course. If they notice an obvious difficulty, he wants them to know he’s dealing with
it. “You have to have good communication with your membership,” Finlen says. “If members go out
and play golf and see a bad area and they don’t have a response in 24 hours, they’ll wonder what’s
going on. Every week, I send out an e-mail to every committee member and let them know what
we’re doing on the golf course and I’ll probably get seven or eight replies. A lot of times, they just
want to know what’s going on and they just want to be heard.”
Because golf superintendents put their hearts and souls into their jobs, they take criticism of their
courses quite personally. Most are their own toughest critics. “I remember having some greens that

Plumbing, electrical, or minor construction work, for instance, usually is done
by a superintendent and his crew. When a
contractor is needed for bigger jobs, such
as rebuilding a bunker or draining a lake,
the superintendent supervises the work.
Whether superintendents work for a
municipal course or exclusive club, they’re
wise to keep their bosses and golfers informed about problems or projects on the
course. As superintendents get around their
courses, they’ll find that golfers aren’t shy
about remarking whether they consider
playing conditions to be excellent or shabby. Yet, a superintendent usually remains
anonymous outside the course, unless it’s

host to an big tournament. Then, the superintendent may find that players, fans,
and the media become intensely interested
in his work. Superintendents actually have
turned into celebrities at high-profile tournaments such as the U.S. Open. The U.S.
Golf Association, which runs the Open, is
famous for preparing extremely difficult
courses, highlighted by narrow fairways,
deep rough, very fast greens, and difficult
pin placements. Players complain that U.S.
Open courses actually are unfair, so at a
U.S. Open, the course sometimes gets as
much attention as the players. That’s when
superintendents find themselves besieged by
reporters. Once the U.S. Open, or another

Golf Course Superintendent 27

✴

did not do well during the summer,” Finlen says. “They had a disease and I was treating it, but I
was sick to my stomach for six weeks. You take it so personally because that is you out on the golf
course. When you drive around and see golfers, there’s nothing better than seeing smiles on their
faces and hear them saying that the course has never been better. Conversely, nothing’s worse
than driving around and knowing, even though it wasn’t your fault, that conditions aren’t what they
should be.”
Finlen broke into the golf business at a pro shop in Lake Quivira, Kansas. He then took a
maintenance job there on weekends and, after earning a business degree, tried to apply what he’d
learned about grass to the landscaping business. But when that didn’t work out, he went back to golf.
He regularly attends seminars on turf management given by the Golf Course Superintendents
Association of America. He also could have used a few seminars from Bob Vila, because he’s had
to become something of a handyman, too. “This job has become more business-oriented than it
ever was,” Finlen says. “Once, the superintendent just wanted to grow grass, get his budget, and be
left alone. Now we’re the go-to guys to get something done. If revenues are down, superintendents
have to be very creative solving problems and making repairs rather than just saying, ‘We’ll go hire
a contractor.’ ”
Finlen received one of his biggest challenges when the Olympic Club was awarded the 2012
U.S. Open. For an open, however, preparing the course is just one part of a superintendent’s
job. There must be accommodations for parking lots, dozens of corporate tents and facilities for
volunteers, media, security, and emergency personnel. Once the tournament is over, the cleanup
job is immense. Finlen doesn’t seem daunted by all the potential headaches.
“The U.S. Open is like the Super Bowl of your career,” he says. “All the other stuff is just part of
the territory.”

big tournament, is over, the superintendent
can go back to being anonymous. And that’s
just the way most superintendents like it.

time around a sport you probably love.
You can make an excellent income and enjoy a very long career.

Pitfalls

Get a Jump on the Job

Twelve-hour days are routine, and you’re
always at the mercy of Mother Nature.
Too much heat and humidity can make
your greens as hard as rock. The condition
of your course is constantly scrutinized
and sometimes criticized, so your work is
constantly being assessed.

You can start playing golf as early as you
get the urge. As you’re going around a
course, take a good look at how it is maintained. While you’re still in high school,
you might be able to get a golf course job,
mowing grass or performing other maintenance. If you have a lawn, get involved
in growing grass and learn about blends
of grass, growing conditions, weeds, pests,
and turf diseases.

Perks
As a superintendent, you’re working outdoors most of the time and spending your

✹

HUMAN
CANNONBALL

AT A GLANCE
Salary Range
Trade secret! Human cannonballs guard their trade
secrets as closely as do magicians. They don’t
want to reveal their salaries because that might
encourage new competition.

OVERVIEW
Have you ever thought you’d like to become an astronaut but you don’t really
want to leave planet Earth? You could
always become a human cannonball, the
ultimate circus daredevil. When you get
shot out of a cannon, you’ll feel the kind
of g-force that astronauts experience when
they accelerate or decelerate quickly. As
a human cannonball, you’ll experience
seven times the ordinary pull of gravity.
In fact, it’s so rough that some performers
take space training to learn to withstand
the forces.
But getting shot out of the cannon is
only the start of the act. Once you pop out,
you’re propelled up to 65 miles an hour
in half a second, flying 40 feet high and
more than 120 feet before you land on an
airbag. Unlike an astronaut, however, you
may have to do this 10 times a week.
This act is so mind-boggling that many
believe there’s trickery involved. Peggy
Williams, education outreach manager for
the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey
Circus, was once offered money to let a bystander get shot out of a cannon—but this
definitely isn’t something for amateurs. A
first-timer would be lucky to survive with
a few broken bones. Even the professionals aren’t always that lucky.
When you put your life into the hands
of a machine, you don’t want to leave anything to chance. A top-notch human cannonball will hire an engineer to design a
cannon, then build it himself in a machine
shop. A performer will regularly test the
cannon’s safety and accuracy by shooting

Education/Experience
A circus school can introduce you to the basics
of being a human cannonball. Many cannonballs
started in flying trapeze or other aerial acts.
Personal Attributes
You’ll need extreme dedication because the top
human cannonballs spend a great deal of time
practicing and maintaining their cannons. You’ll
need to be fearless and able to perform despite
injuries, bumps, and bruises.
Requirements
You’ll need acrobatic skills and must be in terrific
shape. Excess weight will make it harder for you to
fly through the air. You’ll also need to have your
own cannon.
Outlook
There usually are fewer than a dozen human
cannonballs in the nation, so these jobs are scarce.
And when jobs come open, there are performers
lining up for them. Nothing is easy about becoming
a cannonball and that includes finding a job.

out a dummy. Once you’ve tested the cannon a few times and practiced your act, it’s
show time.
The cannon’s barrel is big enough for
you to stand almost erect, since you’re
tilted to a 45-degree angle. Then your assistant fires the cannon and you’ll explode
into the air and fly like Superman, with
your arms out to the side. Unlike Superman, however, you won’t land on your
feet. You’ll flip in the air and hit the airbag
while flat on your back. If everything goes

28

Human Cannonball 29

Brian and Tina Miser, human cannonballs

E

ven after a decade as a human cannonball, Brian Miser still feels tense every time the five-second
countdown begins. “It’s always very stressful mentally,” he says. “You start to slide down the
cannon and you get inside and all you see is the ceiling of the arena, and it looks like you’re going
to hit it. Your heart starts thumping and you get to one, and it’s pounding harder. They say, ‘Fire!’
and the next thing you know, you’re flying out.”
This act seems so implausible that Miser is often asked if there’s a trick. Some ask if he has a twin
who somehow winds up in the airbag while he stays in the cannon. But in fact, Miser doesn’t have a
twin—although he does have a wife, Tina, who gets shot out of a cannon with him for Ringling Bros.
and Barnum & Bailey Circus. They were the first duo to try this act in more than 30 years, and the first
to line up behind one another instead of side by side. “She flies a little bit shorter than I do and I fly over
the top of her,” Miser explained. “If the timing’s off between the releases, there’s a chance I’m going to
hit her because she’s going to be right in my path. There’s about a three-tenths of second difference.”
They also perform high falls, diving from 45 feet into an airbag. “I’ve done most of the circus
thrill acts,” Brian says. “I always liked the challenge and danger—facing up to the fear.”
As much as he enjoys the challenge, he was reluctant to let Tina join the cannonball act. She
was pregnant and had been injured in her previous cannon shot. “She broke her collarbone,
landing in the airbag,” Miser recalls. “She didn’t have a good flight.” Frightened after her accident,
it was some time before she wanted to get back into the cannon and rejoin the act.
Tina had been operating Brian’s cannon since 1999. Both grew up in Peru, Indiana, and
learned circus skills as part of a youth circus program. Each summer, about 1,000 adult volunteers
and young performers between ages 8 and 21 put on a well-known circus in Peru. (The town once
served as winter headquarters for several circus troupes.)
Brian was a circus star in Peru and after graduating from high school he performed at Circus
World and for Ringling Bros. He then went out on his own and formed the Flying Eagles, who
performed internationally. Tina had also set her sights on the flying trapeze once she graduated
from high school a few years after Brian. But her parents insisted she attend college, and she
graduated from Ball State University. She also served in the Air Force Reserves before she returned
to Peru in 1999 and became a circus volunteer. At the time, Brian was home recovering from an
injury, working on a new act, and also helping out with the circus. He’d been a trapeze artist for
14 years, but wanted a new challenge and taught himself to be a human cannonball. With an
engineer’s help, he even taught himself how to build a cannon. He asked Tina to join him on the
road and operate his cannon.
“You don’t get that offer many days,” she says. Brian proposed marriage while they were flying
a powered parachute over a house they were building in Peru. “I had the ring tied to my belt loop so
I wouldn’t drop it,” he says.
Early in their marriage, Brian developed an act, Bailey’s Comet, which became part of the
Ringling Bros. grand finale. He lit himself on fire before Tina fired him across the arena floor. “I was
the first and only one to do that—the only one stupid enough to do that,” he says. “I landed and
stood and burned for 15 to 20 seconds and they would extinguish me.” During that tour, the Misers
had a daughter, Skyler—a Norse name that means projectile.
“She loves the circus,” Brian says. “If she wants to be a cannonball, I’ll teach her. She’ll learn to
count from five to one backwards before she learns to count forward.”

✴

30 Extraordinary Jobs in Leisure
right, you’ll accept wild applause and look
ahead to the next show. If anything goes
wrong, you might be on your way to the
hospital.
Human cannonballs have been a small
and select group since William Hunt, a
Canadian high-wire performer known as
“The Great Farini,” first patented a device for launching “human projectiles” in
1871. The device wasn’t actually a cannon
and used rubber springs, which propelled
a young man, “Lulu,” 40 feet into the
air in 1873. George Loyal, of the Yankee
Robinson Circus, was the first person ever
fired out of a cannon in 1875. The act’s
popularity faded in the 1890s, but was revived in the 1920s when Europeans built a
better cannon. Ildebrando Zacchini, patriarch of a family circus act, built a cannon
powered by compressed air that made a
loud and smoky explosion. Circus owner
John Ringling brought the Zacchinis to
the United States in 1929, and sons Mario
and Emanuel invented a double cannon
that fired two people in rapid succession.
Emanuel Zacchini once flew 175 feet, a
world record until David Smith, Sr. flew

180 feet, four inches at Manville, New Jersey, in 1995. He broke his own record in
1998 by flying 185 feet, 10 inches.

Pitfalls
This is not a career for the faint of heart.
You can get seriously injured being shot out
of a cannon. You’ll also have to deal with a
grueling schedule—as many as 10 shows a
week for most of the year. You’re constantly on the move and seldom get home.

Perks
Cannonballs enjoy the challenge and independent lifestyle of their unique job. They
can make an excellent living and enjoy the
satisfaction of being among a small group
of people in the entire world able to perform their feat.

Get a Jump on the Job
You might try gymnastics to learn how to
fly through the air. Serious students usually attend circus school or become human
cannonballs after performing other highrisk acts, such as the flying trapeze.

✹

ICE RINK
MANAGER

AT A GLANCE
Salary Range
$35,000 to $120,000
Education/Experience
You should have a college degree or have taken
some college courses, preferably in business. Many
rink managers have run a small business or a
youth sports organization.

OVERVIEW
Do you love executing a perfect triple toe
loop? Do you get a thrill from smacking
a puck past an aggressive goalie? Do you
just love the frosty atmosphere of an ice
rink? If this strikes your fancy, managing
an ice rink might be the right job for you.
Keep in mind, however, that you won’t be
able to kick back and wait for customers
to flood into your rink—you’ve got to get
out there and hustle up business. Expenses
are very high and profits can be low, so
the more you can do to boost your bottom
line, the better. Peak business is limited
mostly to evenings and weekends.
A rink manager must be creative in
selling as many hours of ice for as many
activities as possible. A team or club can
rent an hour of ice for about $250 in the
Midwest, but that same ice might cost
at least twice as much on the east coast.
Youngsters are a rink’s best customers, so
most managers will develop ice hockey and
figure skating organizations while offering
recreational skating, too. A popular youth
hockey organization might have 500 or
more players. A rink may also have a spot
for indoor or outdoor roller hockey. Some
rinks pack in recreational skaters during
holiday seasons, using popular music and
special lighting to attract teenagers. Rinks
can also appeal to older customers by organizing adult hockey leagues or sponsoring
broom hockey games between local organizations. Most rinks also have rooms that
can be rented for birthday parties, business
meetings, or other events.

Personal Att