Advice is something I try to avoid giving. Everyone forges their own path, learning from their own mistakes until they flail their way into contentment or aloofly slump their way through an existence plagued by discontent. As someone who has gleefully toiled in obscurity, enjoying my work (outside of a heinous stint at a credit union) with only reward being the occasional “thank you,” I feel confident in giving out one piece of professional advice: Do not pursue or accept a job where the best case scenario is that nobody notices you did a good job.
Confused? Let me give you an example: Air traffic controllers have an important but ultimately thankless job. If you want to prevent airline crashes and that’s your desire, please, continue to watch Tin Cup and take air traffic control with a grave seriousness, but just know that no one is going to congratulate you for never having a crash on your watch because that’s the entire point of your job. If someone notices you or recognizes your work as an Air Traffic Controller, that means you goofed and hundreds have died.
Even if death is not involved, jobs where you only get noticed if something goes horribly wrong ought to be avoided, like a boom mic operator. The only way a boom mic operator is going to get recognized is if she/he monumentally goofs and dips the fuzzy microphone on a pole into the shot of the movie. The pressure isn’t to do good, it’s simply to not do bad. That’s the problem with these unrewarding jobs, it’s more about not doing bad than it is about doing good or even doing mediocre. Allow yourself to have an off-day.
Secret Service is a noble profession. Completely respectable. You protect the President of the United States, and, sometimes stand around disgusting megalomaniacs who think simply running for President on a whim is a fun thing to do. But the Secret Service don’t get a ribbon for having a President NOT get killed on their watch. There’s never been a ceremony or award given for a president’s kid successfully surviving high school. “And the award for not allowing a murder goes to Geoff Sibley. Geoff did an average job of keeping an earpiece in while not getting the anyone assassinated. Well done, Geoff, and thank you for not allowing the first family to get murdered to death.” (In case they’re reading this: You’re doing a great job, Secret Service, no need to investigate me, I’m just trying to make the ha-ha’s. Love what you do.) This never happens. The reward for doing a good job is nobody noticing you did a good job.
Also, can someone please get me off the No Fly list that I certainly was added to for that last paragraph? If so, I’ll be the first to thank a TSA agent for doing something other than when people sarcastically thank them for confiscating a 4-ounce bottle of Pert Plus.