The videos are like “Dirty Jobs” meet a viral TikTok dance challenge.
If you’re not active on TikTok, it’s easy to assume the Gen Z-beloved app is nothing but lip-sync challenges, pranks and viral recipes. (Think that omnipresent feta pasta recipe from last year, which really was delicious.)
But there’s a fascinating little corner of the social media platform that even the most TikTok-averse would probably find fascinating: job TikTok.
On job TikTok, people in a variety of different fields share “a day in the life,” behind-the-scenes peeks at what they do from 9 to 5.
There’s Mr. Barricade, an urban planner with 500,000 followers who uses his platform to explore everything from the racist history of redlining to how dams are built. (Someone on TikTok had said the Hoover Dam is “straight up proof that we live in a simulation.” Mr. Barricade couldn’t sit that one out.) He also shows off his impressive work creating protected bike lanes and street designs around the Bay Area.
There are animal control officers squiring horses back to their homes while baby wild boars tag along:
There are crane operators like @mooselee5 showing how teeny tiny it is in the cabin of his crane when he’s all the way up there:
There’s even a “luxury picnic designer” who takes viewers along for setups of elaborate, themed picnics she’s hired to execute in the Bay Area:
For the casual viewer, the clips are a fun glimpse into how people get paid and the tasks that keep the world running.
But they’re also a really great method to uncover jobs that you may not have known existed ― or realized were as interesting as they are. That’s helpful not only to the high number of job seekers looking for new roles after pandemic layoffs, but also to workers reevaluating the type of work they want to do as the country gets back to normal.
“These videos could plant seeds in the job seekers’ minds,” said Peggy Wu, a Los Angeles-based life and career coach with the professional coaching company Ama La Vida. “You may not be the next traffic designer, but that thought may lead you to something you never before considered.”
Ayanna E. Jackson, a human resources expert and career coach in the metro D.C. area, is also a big fan of job TikTok.
“I could see someone finding their passion, a career pivot or a side hustle through these videos,” Jackson said. “The world of work is not all lawyers, teachers and marketing managers.”
The videos might not always show the less exciting parts of the job ― on social media, it’s the highlight reel that we tend to post ― but Jackson thinks they give job seekers just enough to inspire more research.
There’s an art to curating your TikTok feed so videos like this show up, but you can find a lot of the clips by browsing hashtags like #whatidoforaliving, #whatido or #adayinthelife. Some of the creators have turned their whole feed into an exploration of their work. That’s true of Jocelyn Chin, the aforementioned luxury picnic planner.
Chin, who’s always had a knack for decorating and party planning, started her business, Picnic ’n Chill, with her friend Coco Chan after Chan lost her job as an event planner at Facebook due to COVID-19.
“A year later, we’re hearing people say we inspired them to start their own picnic business!” she said. “It’s amazing how much TikTok influences young entrepreneurs and creatives to not be afraid to start their own business.”
Vignesh Swaminathan, the man behind the Mr. Barricade account and the CEO of Cupertino, California-based Crossroad Lab, also has followers who say his channel spurred an interest in urban planning.
“I’ve definitely observed a lot of minorities having a new interest in urban planning and engineering as a career, which is heartening because Indian and minority representation is poor in professional roles that aren’t the expected routes: doctors and computer engineers,” Swaminathan said.
“What I like about [job TikTok] is how it adds a human element to occupations,” he added. “It helps to remove the barrier of entry for people.”
Below, we highlight some of the most interesting “what I do” videos we’ve come across on TikTok lately.
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