Earlier this month, I had the unfortunate luck of having my car break down after a networking event in downtown Seattle.  The only good news, however, was that my extended warranty covered my vehicle up through 75,000 miles — and my car just happened to be teetering under the brink at 74,826!

The engineers at Ford will just have to try harder next time, eh?

Aside from my relief over the warranty issue, however, there turned out to be another unexpected benefit from the experience, as well.  As the tow truck driver hauled me and my rig back to Issaquah, through the molasses-esque traffic of the I-90 corridor, we ended up striking up an interesting conversation.  At some point, my professional curiosity compelled me to ask him about his career and how much he liked bailing out stranded motorists on the highway every day.  Amazingly, at least from my ignorant standpoint, he said that he’d been in the business for over 20 years and that the vast majority of tow truck drivers would never, ever think of changing careers and making a living any other way.

Naturally, I was surprised by this revelation.  I figured that driving a tow truck was probably a pretty grueling profession, with many potential safety hazards, and that it wouldn’t be a walk in the park dealing with grumpy, inconvenienced people all day.  He shook this characterization off, however, and said that driving a tow truck was actually one of the most unsupervised, independent jobs in the world.  Compared to a litany of other jobs he had held over the years, he said that nothing compared to the freedom of being outside and working without a boss over his shoulder all day.  He even went so far as to characterize most days as downright fun, since he got to deal with interesting people and was usually perceived as a “savior” coming to the rescue, not as part of the problem.

This individual even disclosed that the job paid surprisingly well, although of course I was tactful and didn’t pry into his gross earnings for the year.  He did, however, admit to one aspect of the job that hadn’t panned out quite as expected.   He said that when he initially got into the profession, he expected it would good for his romantic life since he’d have the chance to rescue “damsels in distress” all day and might get an occasional date or two out of the deal.  In reality, though, he confessed that most attractive, single women usually already had ten guys running to their rescue by the time he arrived on the scene — boyfriends, want-to-be boyfriends, opportunistic male bystanders, etc.  So while that specific benefit didn’t happen to materialize, which I’m sure his wife appreciates, the other aspects of the job still continue to provide him with great fulfillment and satisfaction.

I share this story not because I expect most of you to quit your job, and cash in your 401(k) to purchase an $80,000 custom wrecker unit, but because it illustrates one of my favorite aspects of the career counseling field.  When you really get down to it, and talk to the people engaged in various professions, you discover that almost every career is wonderfully unique and has surprising satisfiers and benefits to offer.  So when considering different career avenues, do your best to keep an open mind and to avoid pre-judging an occupation simply by the superficial, stereotypical impressions you have of it.  I’m usually pretty good about not rushing to judgment, myself, but I’ll admit — in this case, I got “caught” and learned, once again, why it never pays to make assumptions about what certain jobs truly entail!