The Great Recession resulted in the loss of more than 8 million jobs and left a trail of devastation in its wake, but for some, the downturn offered new opportunities.
From the ashes rose creativity, powered by desperation and hope, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in decades.
These were the stories chronicled in the Pony blogthat shot through dark clouds and made us smile – and sometimes even laugh out loud.
There was the guy who created his own six-figure job – SIX FIGURES! – mid-recession. And the kicker is – that job was wearing T-shirts for a living. Then, there was the company that laid off so many employees, they had to place an ad for “fake employees” to make the office look bustling when the clients visited.
And who could forget the elephant car wash, or that time we painted the lawn with green spray paint. We laughed, we cried. It was much better than “Cats.”
So, what were the 10 most outrageous jobs stories of the recession? Click ahead to find out!
By Cindy Perman
Posted 31 March 2010
Zoos across the nation were mauled by the recession but one safari in Winston Oregon recruited some of the animals to help pitch in: The elephants started a car wash!
They never promised to get your car clean – elephants are smart but they’re not sticklers for detail – but the $20 spent on the car wash paid for itself with the giggling coming from the backseat.
At other zoos, you can watch elephants play instruments or have them paint you a painting, so don’t forget – these guys (well, most of them are ladies) know how to hold a job in a recession!
When you think of odd jobs, you think of mowing lawns and cleaning houses.
But , a site started by filmmaker Jeremy Redleaf, found a slew of odd jobs you probably didn’t think about, including one for “fake employees.” Essentially, the company laid off so many employees during the recession, it was now looking for bodies to fill the seats to make the office look bustling when the clients visited!
The site now offers a “Top 10” listfor the oddest jobs of the week. This week, they’re hiring rice eaters in California for $75/hour, exercise cheerleaders in New York for $30 an hour and mock jurors in Seattle for $50 an hour.
Curious? Guilty as charged!
This recession unleashed throngs of workers from the ball and chain of their cubicle and many responded by trading in their swivel chairs for barstools.
Think about it: You’re not home wallowing in your own self-pity, you’re networking – and you get to wash your troubles away with a cold one.
Bars all across the nation heeded the call and started offering happy hours in the middle of the day – some four and five days a week.
I’ll drink to that. Bartender, one “Recovery Special,” please!
And, when parents or spouses complained that you were wasting all of your time at the bar, this one would shut them up:
A job where you could make $10,000 a month drinking wine and blogging about it!
The Murphy-Goode Winery in Sonoma, Calif., held a contest for the six-month gig, where applicants were asked to create one-minute videos of why they should get the job.
The winner was Hardy Wallace from Atlanta, Ga., who donned a Viking hat and beat a drum, while sipping wine in his one-minute application video. He just finished his six-month stint writing a blog for the winery to rave reviews and much chest-beating.
Tonight, we feast, for tomorrow, we may blog!
Jim Kennedy, a 46-year-old executive in Southern California, went from six figures to homeless in less than two years after he lost his job and slipped into foreclosure. Now, he’s using the more than ONE MILLION frequent-flier miles and rewards points he acrrued in his career to survive and stretch the few dollars he has.
This kind of attention-getter often works – After our story on him ran, we got a job offer for him via e-mail.
In a related story, remember Aaron Heideman, aka, the “Man in a Van,” who decided to travel the U.S. collecting recession stories after he lost his job and lived in his van? Well, Aaron never won that $250,000 contest he was competing in but the experience DID change his life: He says he thinks his calling is connecting with people and listening to their stories. He’s headed out on the road again collecting stories for a new project, called “What Is Your American Dream?”
At the moment, Aaron’s dream is getting a new van, so if you know anyone, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s also writing a book, so stay tuned!
Then, there was Jason Sadler. Jason didn’t complain about not having a job – he created his own job. Actually, he created his own SIX-FIGURE job.
What was his market? Wearing T-shirts for a living. Companies pay HIM to wear their logos and then blog about it.
The shirt thing was so successful, he hired a second shirt wearer, and they even sold their pants and socks!
Jason reports that he and Evan, aka Shirt No. 2, recently wore shirts for Buzz Aldrin to promote the former astronaut’s appearance on “Dancing With the Stars” and later this year, they’ll be sporting Pizza Hut and Nissan logos.
Jason and Evan won’t just give you the shirts off their back. They’ll sell them to you!
The recession actually created a few industries, too, the weirdest of which may just be lawn painting.
Essentially, if your neighbor abandoned his house and you’re trying to keep up the neighborhood, or if you’re a real-estate agent trying to sell a foreclosed house, the quick fix to a brown lawn is to spray-paint it green!
You can actually get a professional lawn painter, or buy the online and do it yourself.
So, the next time someone says “The grass is always greener” – you know exactly where they’re talking about!
A lot of Wall Streeters were caught offguard when they got laid off during the recession – and rival firms weren’t hiring.
When investment banker Oleg Voss got laid off he decided to trade his Wall Street suit for slightly different uniform – a street-cart apron!
Inspired by time he spent in Vienna, Voss opened a roaming food truck on the streets of New York City selling schnitzel, breaded cutlets of chicken or other meat.
A trip to the Vendy awards for New York’s top street-cart vendors, revealed more white-collar professionals like Voss who took a pay cut for the love of food – and being their own boss.
Only in New York!
It wasn’t just the unemployed getting creative. Even companies got creative in this recession. One of the trends was creating a contest for a short-term job – like that wine job that went to the Viking – which generated lots of free publicity for the company through stories like ours.
The first was probably the “Dream Job” contestto be an island caretaker in Queensland, Australia. All you had to do was frolick and play all day and then blog about it!
Well, paradise isn’t always what it seems – the winner, Ben Southall, nearly died in his final week on the job after being stung by a microscopic jellyfish.
Let the dreamer beware!
While most companies were struggling with revenue declines during the recession, Justin Esch and Dave Lefkow watched their revenue sizzle.
So what was their secret ingredient? Bacon!
The two built a successful start-up during the recession selling Bacon Salt and other bacon-flavored products.
“It tastes shockingly porcine!” Esch said of one of their bacon-flavored envelopes.