Exploring Unconventional Occupations with Your Teen

New Minstrel Revue at Bristol Renaissance Faire
New Minstrel Revue at Bristol Renaissance Faire. Photo © Carol Bainbridge

Gifted teens, like all teens, need to start thinking about their future. Because they are smart and have so much potential, they are usually expected to go to college, and not just any college, but one of the best colleges. They are also usually expected to become lawyers, doctors, or to enter the business world and work their way up to the top. In other words, they are expected to be financially successful and highly respected members of the community.

However, many gifted people are not quite so conventional. They may have more artistic temperaments, preferring music, art, or even theater to science and math. They may be introverts, who don't enjoy interacting with others, preferring to work alone. Just as it is important to find the right fit in a school environment for gifted children, it is also important to find the right fit in an occupation for gifted adults. Rather than expecting their unconventional gifted teens to work toward careers in fields like medicine, law, and business, parents might want to help their gifted teens explore unconventional occupations.

Occupations in Artistic Fields

The joke goes like this: What do you say to get an actor's attention?
Answer: Oh, waiter!
This joke represents the conventional belief that actors are a dime a dozen and can't get work. But is that really true? I don't have any hard data, but during an orientation meeting I attended, the people in the theater department at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, assured parents that if their child wanted to work in theater, they could do it.

However, that does not mean that a young adult with a theater degree will become a stage or movie star. It simply means that jobs in theater are available for people who love the theater environment. 

Parents and even teens may believe that to have a career in music, one must be a supreme musician and compete for the few jobs available in city orchestras.

However, someone who loves music does not need to be a top musician, that is, someone who can play an instrument exceptionally well. Music offers a wide variety of occupations, many of which people don't often think about, a cruise ship musician, for example. The University of North Carolina Wilmington has listed dozens of possible occupations for those who want to work with music.

Some people do manage to become rich and famous as actors, musicians, and artists, but that is certainly not going to happen for everyone. Expecting wealth is not a good idea since disappointment is likely to follow. However, those who love these fields and want to work in them can certainly find work, make a livable wage, and achieve, if not wealth, then happiness.

Unconventional Occupations

Establishing a Business
Owning a business may not sound like a terribly unconventional thing to do, but it might be if the business is created from the interest in and love of something that might not otherwise be easily marketable. For example, an artist who loves stained glass can open a shop selling stained glass windows. A musician can open a music school. A thespian can open a local theater. While these may sound unrealistic and impossible, they are real-life examples from my own community.

Participating in Arts and Crafts Shows and Fairs
Many communities have annual arts and crafts shows. What many people don't realize, however, is that people can make a decent living by participating in these shows. Of course, they have to do a bit of traveling, but it can be worth it. Bigger arts and crafts shows last for more than one or two days. Some of them last for weeks, although these are usually open only on the weekend. Some of these shows, or festivals, even offer a venue for musicians to play and sell their music. Crafts Fair Online provides links to information about many shows and festivals all across the U.S. This kind of work is great for introverts since they can work alone all week, creating their wares to sell on the weekends, but extroverts can enjoy the work as well since they can enjoy the interaction with people as they sell their work.

Participating in Renaissance Faires
Renaissance Faires are favorite places for many gifted and talented people. Not only do participants have a chance to sell their arts and crafts and show off their talents, they also get to play "dress up." Participants are usually required to wear period clothing to help create the illusion for visitors of a visit back in time to the Renaissance Era. Some of these faires last only a day or two, while others go on for two months or more (weekends only). These faires offer opportunities for people in all the arts: theater, music, and arts and crafts. The only catch is that everything must fit in with the Renaissance Era. That means no paintings on velvet or anything else that comes from the modern era or looks too modern.

Many people make a living by traveling the Renaissance Faires circuit, which is today's version of the Vaudeville circuit. They offer opportunities for people to make a living doing things they couldn't make money doing elsewhere, except perhaps in a circus. Tightrope walkers, magicians, jugglers and others like them can be found traveling the Renaissance Circuit, and believe it or not, some have actually found fame and fortune by starting out on the Ren Faire circuit. The most well-known among them are Harry Anderson from Night Court and Penn & Teller.

These are just some potential careers that non-conformist, unconventional teens might be interested in pursuing.

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