You know that standardized test they give kids in middle school that is supposed to predict the job they’ll be best at? That test told me that I’d make a good lawyer. And I became a good lawyer. But I was also a stressed-out, unhappy lawyer. I eventually left the practice of law to write. (Was “humorist” even on that test? I doubt it.)

Now that I’m no longer practicing law, I’ve got plenty of time to listen to NPR, which has made me aware of lots of other jobs that that little test never contemplated. I’ve also become more suspicious about standardized tests. They make for a standardized world, and who wants that? So when your kid brings home test results advising her to become a CPA, throw them into the trash and hand her this list of actual jobs I heard about during a year of listening to NPR:

Dirigible historian

Professional arm wrestler

Lecturer in reggae studies

Yacht insurance agent

Admiralty chart corrector

Space weather forecaster


Marine mammals stranding coordinator

Professor of space medicine

Editor of the High Times Encyclopedia of Recreational Drugs

Orbital-debris scientist

Inactivity researcher

Cat photographer

Curator of ants at Harvard’s Department of Comparative Zoology


What if your kid doesn’t want to grow up to curate ants? That’s not the point. We’re talking about our children’s futures! They should be awesome, not standardized. Fun! Amazing! Not ordinary and predictable.  Middle school is when their imaginations should soar, not shut down.  Why should your daughter aim for nursing school when she could aim for space medicine? Let’s encourage our kids to think outside the box. Maybe your son will become a CPA anyway. But maybe he’ll end up with a job so cool that it makes listeners say “Wow!” when they hear about it on NPR.

  • kate April 10, 2012 at 9:10 am

    I’m drawn to the orbital-debris scientist. How differently it would have all turned out if, as I went along in daily life, I could have just imagined sending certain things, maybe even a few people, into outer space to see if they orbited.

  • RozWarren April 9, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Steve it is most unlikely that test would have recommended your current career: Jewish Troubadour. Even I didn’t have the imagination back then to imagine where your heart and musical talent would take you. Which only means that you illustrate my point perfectly!

  • RozWarren April 9, 2012 at 11:52 am

    I too recommend a trip over to Suzanne’s site, Boomeresque. The current entry about Crying Babies and other infantila behavior on Airplanes is a must-read.

  • Ruth nathan April 9, 2012 at 9:50 am

    Lawyers and writers have a lot in common: a command of language. The trick might be to analyze the suggestion and report that. Let’s see, my test said I’d be a good stay at home mom. Can your readers guess what I became?

  • Steve Klaper April 9, 2012 at 8:21 am

    Well, I would guess that a Lecturer in Reggae Studies who qualify you for at least a spot as guest editor of the High Times Encyclopedia of Recreational Drugs.

    Does that require a double major?

    I think I’m going back to school…

  • Just One Boomer April 8, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    @Irene. I guess it is like a kept woman in terms of traveling. I don’t recommend it until one has been married to the guy for over 25 years and feels fully capable of supporting herself should it come to that. If you want to read more about being a trailing spouse, please check out my blog which you can access by clicking on my name above—or if this site allows “trackbacks”, by going to


  • irene April 8, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    Good piece and i agree. Most def they need to update the possible results of those tests, particularly the (weak) Strong inventory, to include blogger et similar. Now mostly useful to recognize what they/we already know about them/selves.
    What is a “trailing spouse”? Anything like a kept woman? Tried that — price too high!

  • isabella April 8, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    Lion tamer, lawyer – I don’t see such a big difference.

  • RozWarren April 8, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    Eleanor, a lot of people are drawn to that one!

  • Just One Boomer April 8, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    Forget Middle School, when I took the Myer-Briggs as a grown-up lawyer hoping to reinvent myself into someone with a less soul sucking job—the test result was that—I should be a lawyer. I admire Roz for getting that lawyer monkey thing off her back. I decided not to go cold turkey, so I still write briefs part-time, but I’m trying to transition into full time trailing spouse and blogger. (I don’t think Blogger was a possible job when I took the Myer-Briggs.)

  • Eleanore Wells April 8, 2012 at 10:33 am

    I don’t know what an “inactivity researcher” is, but it sounds like it’s right up my alley.
    -The Spinsterlicious Life


Join the conversation