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.