Thursday, 28 January 2016

10 unusual careers you may not know about

Deciding what you want to do when you leave school can be difficult. Some people are lucky enough to have had certain ambitions from an early age, but most of us need to think quite hard about it.

When we're growing up we're generally told about the more "standard" careers that we could follow. We know that we can become school teachers or engineers, doctors or marketing professionals, accountants or web designers.

So we thought it would be fun to look at some of the more unusual careers out there. People are actually making a good living in these careers, and hopefully this list will help to spark some ideas for what you want to do with your own life.


This is essentially farming in water. Aquaculture is about cultivating all kinds of fish, seafood and plants in set aside areas, which are then harvested for food. As the world's food resources become scarcer, careers like this are only going to become more in demand.

Living space management and design

While interior designers and architects have been around for a long time, growing population density is putting a lot of pressure on the space we have in which to live. People who specialise in designing and managing living areas to optimise the use of space and other resources are becoming increasingly sought after.

Video blogging

It may be true that the world has become very used to watching all kinds of people do all manner of things on YouTube, but if you pause for a moment to think about it, it's quite an unusual thing to do, compared to having a 9-5 job. There is also a very serious business side to it, with lots of advertising money to be made for those who can offer entertaining and valuable content.

3D printing designer

3D printing is set to change our world in many ways. For the first time in history, each of us will be able to take almost any material we want and create objects with it in our own homes, using a completely automated process. Like making coffee straight from the beans in a coffee machine, but making the mug at the same time. People who can design the computerised patterns that these printers use to create objects will find rewarding careers here.

Home server hosting

The entire Internet relies on servers. Typically these are owned and run by large companies – the Internet service providers we all know about. However, there is nothing stopping anyone from building a server system at home and offering website and application hosting. This is especially possible in the world of online games, like Minecraft, where many people have made a living hosting game servers.

Soil conservationist

Here's another career that is going to become more and more important as the world starts to run out of natural resources and land on which to cultivate the many crops we need for our survival and wellbeing. A soil conservationist's prime concern is the sustainable use of land.

Clinical ethicist

This is a speciality for those who are interested in medicine, and particularly the effect of medical advances on our society. Clinical ethicists deal with the ethical issues that advances like stem cell research and organ cloning raise, helping to inform and shape policies.


With South Africa being such a prolific wine-producing country, it's a great place for someone wanting to be a sommelier to learn. A sommelier is a wine expert, typically working in a top-class restaurant, managing its wine selection. This person also advises guests in top-class restaurants on how to pair the right wines with their food. Sommeliers can be very well paid and get to travel the world.

Toy creator

You only have to pop your head into a modern toy shop to understand just how many hundreds of different toys there are. Of course, someone has to design them all. This would suit someone with a flair for object design and a love of children.

Let's start a conversation. What unusual careers do you know of? List them here or connect with me on Twitter (@EduloanSA)

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Inventing a career for yourself

Not everyone fits into an easy career niche. Fortunately, and often thanks to technology, it’s become easier to decide on something you want to do, and then identify or actually create a way of doing it as a career.

Let me give you my favourite example. A friend of mine was originally a copywriter in an ad agency. He moved into freelance copywriting and video scripting, but felt that he wasn’t really expressing himself as much as he really wanted to. His real passion was drawing.

A few years ago, he started using a handheld Palm device to draw caricatures of people, which he would print out and give to them. For free. From here he moved on to “painting” all kinds of things on his device, printing them and selling them at markets.

Then he got his breakthrough idea. Why not use digital technology, like a tablet, to illustrate people’s conference presentations while they are presenting them. These live illustrations would help to visualise the concepts and ideas for the audience. This idea was based on research that people retain information better if they can also see a visual representation of it. At the time, my friend was the only person in South Africa doing this. The career he has created for himself is now known as “visual facilitation”. He has clients that range from Sun International to Coca Cola.


The moral of the story – follow your passion

The world is an extremely big place, with a lot of things happening in it. There’s a very good chance that you will be able to find a career that completely satisfies your passion or your ambitions in life. Especially with the new opportunities that technology is opening up. It just takes a little ingenuity, a lot of effort and the willingness to not give up.

The reward is more than worth it. You can reasonably expect to spend more time working at your career than anything else you do in your life. So it makes so much sense that you do what you love. For some this will be an easy decision – they will have wanted to be lawyers or architects or doctors their whole lives. They’re lucky enough to have formal pathways towards these careers. But for those who choose more niche careers (for example, computer animation), these pathways have only recently come to exist, or don’t exist yet.

If you’re one of these people, once again, technology can help you to create your career.

The importance of self-learning

We live in an era where more information and knowledge is available to more people more easily than ever before in history. The Internet is truly a treasure trove in this respect.

With enough research it’s often possible to find all manner of resources that you can use to embark on the career you’re considering. Very importantly, there are online courses that can give you an informal, but structured education in the area you’ve chosen. You can sign up with distance learning organisations. Or you can join forums that contain people already working in the area. This can be an invaluable resource – it gives you access to first-hand experience you probably won’t be able to get in any other way.


Don’t give up

One last thing is worth mentioning. Life won’t always be easy and your career path might not be smooth. The important thing is to persevere. You’ll stumble a few times. There will be times when you want to throw in the towel. Don’t. You never know just how close you might be to achieving your career dream.

Let’s start a conversation. Let me know what you think here or connect with me on Twitter (@EduloanSA)

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Top careers for the future

Many people who are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to study further after school have known for a while what careers they want to follow. Then there are those who are not yet quite sure. Still others have the luxury of being able to take a gap year in which to think about what they want to do with their lives.

For those who aren’t quite sure of their career choices, we’ve done some of the legwork for you and compiled a list of the best careers to pursue if you’re looking those that are flourishing, and that are about to become increasingly relevant to our society.

Like any list, this one is of course open to debate and adjustment, so let’s use it to start a conversation too.

As you might expect in this day and age, a lot of these careers are in the broad field of IT, which is easily understandable, given the modern world’s reliance on it. However, there are plenty that as are important, but overlooked.

Community services manager

Particularly in a country like ours, caring for communities, especially impoverished rural ones, is an important area of endeavour. It will remain so for a long time, given the scope of our challenges – and also given our need to keep these services running into the foreseeable future.

Computer systems analyst

Everything is being digitised in our modern society. It could be argued that we stand on the brink of yet another technology “revolution”, with the so-called “Internet of Things”. This means that many, more everyday items that we use are going to be interacting intelligently with global Internet networks. So we will need people who can build and programme them.

App developer

A short while ago mobile phone and device use surpassed laptop and desktop use as the way that African connects to the Internet. These smartphones are able to use more and more, increasingly sophisticated apps that we use in our everyday lives. Which creates massive demand for those who can create them. Some other good news for learners is that much of what you need to know to create apps can be learned on the Internet.

Nurse and paramedic
By the same token, some of the more traditional careers will remain just as important as they ever were. No matter how much we evolve in our technology, we will still need specialists like these to care for us when the unexpected happens.

Information security analyst

The more the world relies on technology and digital data, the more the demand will be for people who can make sure that all of it is secure. For those interested in a hard core IT career, this will be highly rewarding.

Health services manager

Health services at the most basic level are absolutely crucial to our population. The sheer number of people who need these services in far-flung places ensures that there will always be a need for those who can manage processes and people in this sector.

School teacher

Education is of course at the top of the agenda in any developing country like ours, and we could almost never have enough teachers. It will remain one of the most important careers in South Africa for many years to come.

Food scientist

Food is expected to become an endangered resource that will need to be carefully managed worldwide. Those specialising in helping to solve the world’s food problems will be in great demand.


Some of the most threatening scenarios for our planet, but particularly for Africa, is that of a disastrous disease outbreak. This career helps to prevent this, and also involves lot of research, community education and formulation of health policies. These are exceptionally necessary activities in Africa.

Natural energy specialist

As our planet faces environmental challenges we all know that energy provision is going to continue to be one of the single biggest problems that we have to solve. Those who choose careers that involve alternative energy sources have bright futures.

Cloud computing

Cloud computing is becoming the dominant technology and business model in modern enterprises. There are many different aspects to the Cloud, all of which present excellent career opportunities.

Let’s start a conversation. Let me know what you think here or connect with me on Twitter (@EduloanSA)