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Balancing act: Tree climbing director, dog musher among surprising flexible jobs of 2013

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 14 2014 8:00 a.m. MST

Musher Michael Ruopp of Germany starts with his sled dogs at the 23. International Sled Dog Race in Oberhof, central Germany, in this Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, file photo.

Jens Meyer, Associated Press

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One of the great things about being a writer is that you can always practice your craft.

You don't need lots of specialized tools or a high-tech office in a special location to jot down a few words and try to make them sing.

For example, my usual writing spot is at the kitchen table, my iPad secure in its keyboard case and resting on a bamboo place mat.

I probably learned that behavior from my mother. I remember watching her work on children's stories when she wasn't busy with her regular duties as an elementary school teacher. Back then, she would always write at the kitchen table, spinning tales longhand on pad after pad of paper.

She's had hundreds of stories published over the years, and her success reminds me of another reason I love being a writer: It's something you can easily do from home.

Because I'm a fan of flexible work arrangements and telecommuting, writing appeals to me for obvious reasons. And it probably comes as no surprise that it's a fairly common job for people who want to work from home.

But not all home-office jobs are so obvious.

FlexJobs, a site devoted to listing telecommuting and flexible employment opportunities, reviewed jobs posted on its site during 2013 and put together a list of the most surprising positions. I was shocked, though not unpleasantly, by some of the occupations people can do from home these days.

On its list, FlexJobs includes:

  • Chemist, cosmetics formulation
  • Executive director of tree climbing
  • Farmers market and outreach coordinator
  • Holocaust testimony indexer
  • Membership and horse show points administrator
  • National wine educator
  • Psychometrician
  • Wild horse and burro program director
  • Mineral geologist senior
  • Penetration tester (IT security)
It's a good thing I can write a little, because I don't think I would be qualified for any of those jobs. I don't use cosmetics, and I haven't climbed a tree in years. (The latter might be good for my oldest daughter, who loves climbing trees and happens to be looking for her first part-time job.)

Furthermore, since I don't drink alcohol, I probably wouldn't be a good wine educator. And I had to do a little research to find out what a "psychometrician" does. (I'll let you Google it yourself so you can enjoy my ironic discovery.)

I was glad to hear that even the experts at FlexJobs were surprised at the occupations that made the list.

“It’s exciting that even after seven years of our team researching work-from-home jobs, I am continuously surprised at the variety and depth of jobs that offer remote work and other flexible options,” said Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs, in a press release.

“With technology where it stands, it’s not unusual to see jobs in fields like health, marketing, accounting, web development and education that allow employees to work from home, work a part-time schedule, or both. We often see flexible jobs that are far beyond what most people would expect.”

The FlexJobs release also listed the 10 most surprising professional part-time jobs, which included:

  • Neurologist
  • Government aeronautical charting analyst
  • Bat technician
  • Dog musher
  • Creature technology director
  • Egg grader
  • Internet fit model male and female
  • Surveillance role players
  • Tyrannosaurus rex actor
  • Oyster restoration outreach assistant
I'll definitely keep this list handy if I'm ever looking to supplement my income with a little part-time work.

I don't think I'd want to be a bat technician, even if that's someone who works on baseball bats and not the flying — or spooky vampire — variety. My dislike of seafood probably rules out the oyster gig, too.

And even though my children would probably tell you I sometimes act a bit like a dinosaur, I still don't think I'd be right for the T-rex job.

However, I think I already serve as a creature technology director of sorts, as I'm constantly directing the little creatures in our house to stop using technology and concentrate on their homework or read a book. And I could probably grade eggs, as long as they were scrambled and served with lots of bacon.

The FlexJobs press release said that, overall, the number of flexible jobs offered keeps rising, with more than 17,000 on the site now, compared with 10,000 in 2011.

“Every year I look over the industry changes, and this year the growth in the number of flexible job offerings really stands out to me,” Sutton Fell said in the press release. “It’s a healthy indication that more and more employers are recognizing that work flexibility is a win both for them and for their employees.”

I definitely agree with that, and I don't think you need to be a part-time dog musher or work-from-home mineral geologist to reap the benefits of such arrangements.

Email your comments to kratzbalancingact@gmail.com or post them online at deseretnews.com. Follow me on Twitter at gkratzbalancing or on Facebook on my journalist page.

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