When I tell people that my job is traveling the world and studying happiness I am met with raised eyebrows. It is an interesting and unusual career and people typically have questions for me. These include “how do you measure happiness?” as well as “how can I be happier?” Not the first question they ask—but certainly one that consistently ranks among the top 10—is “how can I get your job?” They are clearly attracted to the seeming creativity, adventure, and intellectual stimulation of my work. My routine answer to them is simple and, perhaps, off-putting. I tell them, “my job does not exist.”
To provide you with a little context it is true, my job does not actually exist. I have published nearly 50 academic articles and a half a dozen books but I have never held a full time university position, received a government grant, or supervised a graduate student. I have conducted a decade of research and editorial responsibilities pretty much as a hobby. In order to pay the bills I have to get creative: I take on part-time teaching gigs, have a small coaching practice, and occasionally consult for companies.
Indeed, when I was a child I did not tell my friends that I wanted to grow up to be a cross-cultural researcher with a specialty in positive affect. I think I told them that I wanted to be Harrison Ford, which was—at the time—as close as it came. Many people still cling to the notion that traditional jobs such as being a librarian, bus driver, or attorney are the only options available to us. Certainly the school system and parental guidance track us more easily toward those vocations for which there is infrastructure, training, and opportunity.