Even odd jobs add up: Here are 21 bizarre gigs that paid off

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Unless you stay in the first job you’re ever hired into, you’re likely to go through a variety of different jobs throughout your working life. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that those born between 1957-1964 statically held 11.7 jobs between ages 18 and 48, and we all know that the current workforce seems to change jobs even more often than earlier generations!

But frequent job change is not necessarily a bad thing. We learn through our experiences, and although I’ve been in the same job as a labor and delivery nurse for the past 22 years, I certainly worked a myriad of interesting jobs during my younger years:

  • I was an elf at the Herald Square Macy’s Santaland when I was twenty years old. It was a perfectly timed job, as I didn’t own office appropriate attire, and the six-week gig afforded me the time for a proper job search, as well as clothes shopping. Plus, I got to work with David Sedaris before his Santaland Diaries put him on the map.
  • I sold shoes in the only store in London that was licensed to sell Bass Weejuns. The preppy look was still a major trend. I may have spent a large portion of my wages on shoes.
  • I worked at a children’s bookstore that sponsored an annual Raffi concert, which meant that I got to meet the children’s singer before he was famous for singing about ducks and Baby Beluga whales.
  • I did temp work for a couple different NYC employment agencies in 1989, including a two (or three?) week gig for The Trump Group. I later got to joke that others competed on reality TV shows to win a job that I’d already left behind.

My family members also have tales to tell from odd jobs they held early in life:

  • My mother worked as “Miss Polaroid” in 1963, a position that came with a beauty queen-style sash. Although her look was glamorous, in reality she was a Polaroid camera salesperson who traveled from one Nebraska department store to another. She laughs about how a large majority of her sales were to servicemen who wanted to take, ahem . . .  personal photos of their wives or girlfriends. This job paid $10 for three hours of work at a time when the minimum wage was just a dollar an hour.
  • A few years ago, my sister was selling her adorable Boler camper on Craigslist, but before she could find a buyer, she received a $1,000 offer for a single-day rental. The person wanted to use it as background for a catalog photo shoot, and you know that my sister quickly accepted that generous offer!
  • My father — who’s now a distinguished university professor — used to ferry fur coats around town for his family business. He also enjoyed a short stint teaching English classes at The Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science.

Here’s what members of The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook Group had to share about their quirky job histories!

Bizarre jobs you didn’t even know existed

Claire: “When I worked at a veterinary clinic, a hotel chain decided to become pet friendly and called my clinic to see if we would share our customer list with them because they were wanting a crowd of walking pets for a commercial. While I was not allowed to give out a customer list, I called my Flyball and Agility clubs and asked them if they would be interested. Most everyone said yes, and we all showed up. Apparently, the director didn’t realize there was a huge difference between the typical pet dog and a trained competition dog. Almost all of our dogs made the cut because they were at proper weight and behaved better than the house pets that showed up. After that, whenever they needed well-behaved dogs for events, they looked us up.

Brandy: “In college, a bunch of us all worked sample event promotions for anything new P&G or Pepsi was creating — Pepto Bismol tablets as you came off the bus from the state fair or 7up Zero outside a MLB game, etc. It paid like $17/hr almost 20 years ago for, like, four hours of actual work and they always paid for, like, eight hours an event on our checks. Plus, we always came back to the dorms with cases of extra product after the crowds were gone. It was fun, plus got into some free events!”

How to increase your cash flow by reducing expenses

Angie: “I went out to a field and shot a bunch of mistletoe out of a tree, which I then put in Ziplock bags tied with a red ribbon. I sold them for a dollar per bag on the exit ramp off the highway. We made close to a thousand bucks in about two weeks! No joke! It was back in the early 90’s, and my friend and I were cute and not threatening. It was a fun gig for Christmas money and then some!!!”
Michiko: “Dressed up as one of the girls in “Austin Powers” for the movie premiere in Tokyo. They shaved my eyebrows off for it and then drew them on! I think it was $600 for 2 hours walking around in those 70’s costumes, but, yes, I was totally mortified!”
Katherine: “My sister is a nurse and her husband and our Dad used to do research tests for drugs, etc. Sometimes it required an overnight in the hospital for sleep studies, but they would get $600-$1000 for a few hours over a few days. My Dad had psoriasis, so he got many creams to rub on his skin, etc. My sister got them hooked up with the researchers. Financed a few Christmases when they were younger!”
Jane: “I flipped and folded blimps at an air hanger, for which I was paid $50 for 15-20 minutes of my time.”
Gretchen: “I posed for a painter in the dress of a rich old lady who was having her portrait done by him, but wanted a young body. I was young then. I was SO poor. He would paint me for a few hours and give me a few little cookies and a cup of tea. Then, after we were finished for the morning he’d pay me and often offer to take me out to lunch. There were times when those cookies and that lunch was all I ate all day. Oddly enough, I don’t remember what he paid me per hour to pose. He was a sweet funny old guy. I liked him. But I often felt like I was a bowl of fruit.”
Miranda: “Two weeks before my wedding, I got a gig picking up trash after a music festival to make a little extra towards the wedding and my new life. I also got into the festival for free, because my mother connected me with the county environmental lady at her work — it was a hippy festival, so the environmental lady did a little speech on helping out the environment, and then us ‘workers’ went around collecting donations for the environmental education program at the local schools. It took maybe a half hour, but we got full three-day tickets for the festival. Picking up the trash was quite physical, as the festival drew thousands and thousands of people, and many would leave everything behind when they would leave. (Who would think that about a hippy festival?!) But it was worth it, besides the good paycheck.”

Read more: 26 ways to make extra cash

Jessica: “Several years ago, I needed a tooth filled and my dentist asked if I would be willing to have his friend do it. His friend was a practicing dentist in another state but was moving to our state and needed patients for his license exam. He paid me $200, plus gave me a gold filling at no cost.”
Rachel: “One year, I went door to door and spray painted house numbers on people’s curbs for $10 a pop. I usually made $100 a night working only a few hours each evening riding my bike all around the subdivision. Had a fab sales pitch and used special reflective paint, the works. Best summer job ever.”
Christian: “I once sold raffle tickets in costume at a fundraiser for a very fancy-shmancy private high school in Chicago. I was dressed as a wizard (I am not kidding), and since we were paid bonuses for the amount of tickets we sold, I decided to give a special: If you bought a 5-pack, it came with a free palm reading. I made a STAGGERING amount of money.”
Adam: “[When I was a child], we would help my mom buy Barbie dolls at local yard sales that were in bad shape. We would wash them, detangle/cut their hair, dress them, etc. We packaged them on a piece of cardboard with an extra outfit, brush, and shoes, then wrapped them in plastic wrap. The elderly man upstairs would take them when he sold at the flea market (he literally sold everything!) and we would split the profits.”
Susan: “Forty-two years and twice as many pounds ago, I was hired as a “hair model” for Vidal Sassoon. He cut my hair in about 3 minutes, like Edward Scissorhands. There was no mirror and my job was to saunter down the runway after the hair cut, throwing my head around and smiling like I loved it while 500+ people clapped wildly. I was 14 years old and I collected a small sum intended to pay for my parking. I took the bus home and pocketed the rest, which, although it wasn’t much, was a heck of a lot more than I earned babysitting. I recall thinking, ‘Meh, that job paid well . . . what next?'”

Abigail: “I transported bodies between the morgue and the funeral home an hour away. As a single mom, I often made my then-15-year-old son come with to help unload. It led to some great conversations, and his growing understanding that when you need money there is always work to be found for people willing to work.”



Although hopping from job to job isn’t a great long-term career plan, the experiences gained through interesting short-term work can add to your wealth of knowledge. Whether you use that knowledge in your chosen career or simply as an entertaining tale is up to you!

If you’re looking for a job, check out our latest jobs tips and advice!

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