Stevedore Jobs


The Rat-faced Man wants to draw your attention to salience. This is the house term I’m using to describe how much attention a career path (or a life script) commands. No one can think of every possible job or opportunity. What’s more, our socializations run along similar lines, so all of us are likely to have gaps in our maps of possibilities.

Popular media doesn’t help, because when it does address the question of unusual jobs, it tends to do so from a sensationalist, clickbait position that is grossly disinformative to people trying to make life decisions. Stuff like that isn’t far removed from “it’s the ice roads for you, my son!” If you’re the kind of person who’s going to go into crab fishing, you probably aren’t getting the idea from

Even slightly less misleading pieces are still pretty misleading. Most of the jobs listed have a high rate of churn, so they are constantly hiring, but that doesn’t mean they have enough structural demand to meet the number of qualified applicants. Instead, they constantly burn through new ones but retain relatively few for long-term career tracks. It’s not impossible to thrive in this environment, but if you go the IT route (for instance) you should expect a succession of short-term contracts with relatively high base pay but little in the way of stability or benefits.

The title of this post refers to the fancy name for a dockworker job. Back in the early 20th century, it was strenuous, unskilled labor, packing goods by hand and loading them with a rope and pulley. Today, however, it’s performed with equipment. And equipment operators can do pretty well, even if kids today have no idea that this career path exists.

This is how kids actually think:

In fact doctor is the most popular profession for girls, at 16%, followed by teacher at 7%, scientist at 4.5% and chef/baker at 4%. Among boys, the most popular future job is pro athlete at 16%. Firefighter comes in second, at a little over 5%, followed by engineer at just below 5% and astronaut at 4%.

Overwhelmingly, what you see are civil service, public safety, doctorlawyerscientistengineer, and computers. In other words, things that are on TV or otherwise highly visible in books by Richard Scarry. Is it really possible that we’re letting millions of people get derailed because they are selecting occupations using a dartboard and books for toddlers?

In a sane, functional society, we probably wouldn’t have delegated career guidance to network TV and people who make under $1,000 a week. Since we have, as a highly-skilled professional with hiring experience, allow me to step in and use my expertise to link a reddit thread:

Guidance counselors: it’s one thing if your job can be made obsolete by a robot. What about when you’re outperformed by reddit?


3 thoughts on “Stevedore Jobs

  1. I’ve just discovered your blog. Solid. Nothing revolutionary, but I enjoy reading you. It’s a decent perspective, yours. Keep on.


  2. Yeah, coming out of high school, most boys wanted to be a fireman. The ones who made it onto a fire department didn’t get hired full time until they were about 30. The pensions and benefits are amazing for firefighters. They usually retire before 55 at 90% pay where their pay was over $100k. Those days are coming to an end though: public pensions are bankrupting entire states. Most of CAlifornia’s general fund is skimmed-off to support CalPERS. Your average state government employee makes twice what a private sector worker makes counting benefits.

    They’re also fed this information at school. In yuppie grammar schools, all of the professions you mention above are held in high esteem. It’s hilarious, because scientists make peanuts most of the time, the odds of making it into the pro athlete ranks are nil, and we don’t even have a space program anymore.

    Mike Rowe is the only good career advice giver out there.


  3. Funny, I am a Longshoreman (Stevedore) and here in my neck of the woods its not as prestigious as being a fireman, but people recognize it as a lucrative job with good benefits. I have never planned a thing in my life and essentially was in the right place at the right time to get a casual card then work enough to become a full member. There’s many school teachers and advanced degree havers who quit their jobs if they get into my union because the money and hours are better, and I have consistently earned more than the average for many professionals in my age group with only a diploma and strong back to recommend me. I’m smart enough to have done any of those other gigs listed, but I lack other traits that they require and I enjoy working outdoors by the sea. One thing I would caution people considering this kind of work about is the reality of injury. In a sense this work is like being a pro afflete in that you are trading your health later for premium wages and bennies now, so take care of yourself and plan for that eventuality. Also I caution women against this gig, as its a grind physically and doesn’t get any easier as you age and men have trouble enduring for the long haul. Also, I don’t like working with women.


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