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Five Jobs for Lousy Times and No Talent Necessary

CNNMoney recently came out with its list of the "50 Best Jobs in America."

The list assemblers ranked jobs based on personal satisfaction, job security, future growth, benefit to society, stress -- and presumably pay, since, after all, it's CNNMoney, not CNNSelf-gratification.
The top five were systems engineer, information technology manager, physician assistant, nurse practitioner and college professor. I am not sure what a systems engineer does, but it sounds very complicated, like hooking the National Security Agency's satellite surveillance apparatus to your dry cleaner's ticket system. And you can't run anything these days without IT managers who, for example, fix what went wrong with TD Bank's computer systems the other week. But those jobs take lots of brain power, which not all of us have. In fact, just thinking about their work makes me want to take an Advil or two. The other three jobs require you to stand on your feet all day and listen to people either grousing about aching backs or asking whether something-or-other is going to be on the exam. Very tiresome.

And I don't know whether these jobs will be particularly great during the current economic ills. I am personally acquainted with at least a dozen IT managers who are unemployed. And at several colleges, professors have seen salary cuts and discontinued 401(k) contributions.

So here's my list of jobs that will really rock the recession. They require little talent, only a smattering of training and, best of all, no need for massaging gel insoles to get through the day.

1. Bill collector. Who could possibly say that this is not a growth profession with all the foreclosures and credit card delinquencies we're seeing? Even the Department of Labor's staid Occupational Outlook Handbook declared that job growth would be higher than average, and that was last year, before the Great Recession was in full swing. While collectors don't earn a ton of money -- about $60,000 for those who are experienced -- they can also rake in commissions on the money they recover. Of course, this job is not for the easily frustrated; those in debt know enough not to answer the phone.

2. Reverse mortgage broker. Time was, ordinary mortgage brokers rode high on the tide of the real estate boom, inveigling homebuyers to take out 100% variable-rate loans on $500,000 houses, while garnering kick-backs from banks. That party's over, but a new one's about to begin with reverse mortgages -- loans made to senior homeowners that use the home's equity as collateral. You can bet that Baby Boomers, who've seen the value of their retirement portfolios drop like stones in a well, will be clamoring for reverse mortgages to finance living expenses. Fees are already humongous on such deals, but lenders haven't begun to tap demand; they'll need plenty of salespeople to get out there and sell, sell, sell, even if it turns out that the poor homeowner only has $300 of equity.

3. Funeral director. No matter how good or bad the economy, people die. True, folks are living longer than ever, but they've got to go sometime, and, with us Baby Boomers surging into senescence, death is bound to be a growth industry. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the cost of the traditional funeral is $7,300, not counting burial, and savvy undertakers sell enough merchandise (urns, cremation jewelry and lithographs of the beloved) to bring the cost beyond $10,000. And, unlike other retailers, undertakers don't have to wait all year for Christmas sales to bail out their business, because, as we all know, death doesn't really take a holiday.

4. Outplacement coach. The official unemployment rate is nearly 10%, and adding in those who have become too discouraged to look for a job, it may be as high as 17%. That's fertile ground for the outplacement coach whose job it is, according to ClearRock, an executive outplacement and coaching company, to "help displaced employees figure out who they are, what they want to do, and how to launch a realistic job search in a tough job market." To do that, coaches can give seminars to dozens of the jobless at about $40 a head or do one-on-one consulting for $1,000 or more. Helping someone to get a job can take a ton of time; so outplacement coaches can expect to pick up multiple fees from each client.

5. Reality show star. Despite the public's anger over the balloon-boy hoax perpetrated by dad Richard Heene in a bid for his own reality show, the appetite for such programming has not been slaked. Popularity of series such as "Parking Violations Bureau," (A&E), "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant" (TLC), "Kate Plus Eight Minus John." (TLC) and "Animal Cops" (Animal Planet) -- all of which I admit I have watched -- continues unabated. While you need no particular training, you do have to be special in some way, Bill Hayes, the founder and president of Figure 8 Films told NPR. Having followed recent shows I can make some suggestions: have at least 8 children, be a "little person," look like a hooker and offer yourself to a millionaire, weigh over 1,100 pounds or be a celebrity with a slovenly family. Hayes adds that you also have to be "relatable." In other words, despite your odd qualities, you must also act like the guy/gal next door.

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