Job-rankings should be a personal choice

Date Published: 
April 18, 2014

CareerCast, a website that focuses on career advice and salary listings, recently examined 200 jobs that have the most employees in the nation, based on numbers acquired from the United States Department of Labor.

Their goal for this project was to evaluate the jobs, using a formula based on income, growth potential in the field, competitiveness, physical demands and other factors, and then rank them in order from most desireable fields to the least. The top of the career food chain was inhabited with jobs such as mathematician, statistician, tenured university professor and others. It was the bottom of the list, however, that stole my attention.

Ranking as the very worst career in America was the job of lumberjack. CareerCast cited reasons such as working in bitter cold and extreme heat, dealing with dangerous machinery and massive trees that can cause injury or death for the low ranking. In addition, the career has a low median salary ($24,000, as reported by Forbes magazine) and awful job-growth rates.

Other than that, it seems like a fantastic job. If I wasn’t afraid of manual labor, wearing flannel or being chased by clever woodpeckers, I’d be all over that. Oh, and bitter cold, extreme heat, massive falling trees, my odd inability to grow a cool beard that doesn’t look like someone attacked me with a rabid woodpecker strapped to a stick and ...

But I digress.

The second-worst job, according to this list, was that of a newspaper reporter. CareerCast cited negative job-growth rates, poor salary and sometimes dangerous work assignments as reasons for this low ranking, but, on the bright side, it has jumped up from being their worst job in last year’s rankings.

So, take that, lumberjacks!

Actually, it’s been 15 years since I’ve worked full-time as a news reporter, but I get the opportunity to work with some very good ones every day. I see motivated people who smile a good majority of the time and genuinely attack each assignment with enthusiasm and professionalism. Yes, they have an irritable editor who gets on their nerves from time to time, but I don’t see people who believe they have the second-worst job in America. In fact, I’d agree with Forbes columnist Susan Adams’ opinion.

“Though I don’t qualify as a newspaper reporter because I work for Forbes magazine and Forbes.com, I did a stint at a newspaper earlier in my career and found it just as stimulating, if not more so, as working at a magazine,” said Adams. “So I have to take issue with CareerCast and point out a flaw in its best and worst lists: If you are passionate about what you do for a living, then despite the challenges and lousy pay, the job won’t seem to be the worst at all.”

This couldn’t be a more accurate statement. Life is short, and without any guarantees, so why would you want to do something you don’t love for year after year? Can you make more money in another field? Sure you can. But if you are secure and happy, and get to meet new people every day and learn new things, well, don’t those things count, as well?

I absolutely loved my years as a newspaper reporter. Granted, much of my time in that job was spent before the proliferation of websites and “instant-but-not-always-accurate-reporting,” but there was still pressure to get your story out before the competition did, and to do so without mistakes and with fairness. Maybe it’s just nostalgia on my part, but being a newspaper reporter was one of the most fulfilling jobs I’ve ever enjoyed.

Of course, I also previously served as an enlisted man in the United States Marine Corps, and still count many of my former colleagues as some of the best friends in my life. Want to guess what the third-worst job in the nation is, according to CareerCast?

Danger, lack of pay and a flat job-market are cited as reasons for the low ranking, but, again, I’d have to take issue with the list for the aforementioned reasons. If you love what you do, and you feel like you are making a difference, than the other stuff maybe doesn’t mean quite as much.

Unless you’re constantly being chased by maniacal woodpeckers, obviously. Then you might have a problem.