JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

What is Australia's worst job?


Performance Matters

Andrew May is a performance coach who has spent the past 15 years working with elite sportspeople.

View more entries from Performance Matters

Dairy farming is rated as one of the top 20 worst jobs in the world. But Andrew May says if you're not happy with your job, either learn to love it or get out.

Dairy farming is rated as one of the top 20 worst jobs in the world. But Andrew May says if you're not happy with your job, either learn to love it or get out. Photo: Quentin Jones

Have you ever had one of those days where you thought 'work sucks and there must be a better way?'

Well, next time you have those thoughts, you might want to ask yourself whether it is actually your job or your attitude that is at fault.

A recent American study by job site CareerCast looked at more than 200 jobs and applied five judging criteria to rank the Top 20 worst jobs in the US.

According to the survey "Physical labor, declining job opportunities, a poor work environment and high stress were all pervasive attributes among those jobs that comprise the 2012 Worst Jobs List".

Some surprising findings included: Funeral Director scored as being a better job than an Advertising Account Executive, and Garbage Collectors were near the bottom of the list in spot 160.

Top 20 worst jobs according to CareerCast are:

1. Lumberjack

2. Dairy Farmer

3. Enlisted Military Soldier

4. Oil Rig Worker

5. Reporter (Newspaper)

6. Waiter/Waitress

7. Meter Reader

8. Dishwasher

9. Butcher

10. Broadcaster

11. Shoe Maker/Repairer

12. Drill-Press Operator

13. Conservationist

14. Taxi Driver

15. Automobile Assembler

16. Firefighter

17. Shipping/Receiving Clerk

18. Mail Carrier

19. Maid

20. Dressmaker/Tailor

The survey categorised five "Core Criteria" that are inherent to every job including: Environment, Income, Outlook, Stress and Physical Demands.

Reading this list got me thinking a little more simplistically – is it the job that actually stinks, or is it perhaps the employees' attitude? Sure, some jobs are much harder to do than others. But over the years I've met some high profile newsreaders, international sports stars and million dollar bankers with rotten attitudes who constantly complained about the pitfalls of their 'glamorous' jobs.

I've also met some taxi drivers, car parking attendants and sewerage workers who tackled their occupations with passion and vigour. Maybe this latter group simply adopted a different attitude? Could it be that simple?

Can you learn to love your job?

Many years ago I was working with Ingham's Chickens at their processing plant in Sorell, near Hobart. My job was to work with Human Resources to help reduce the amount of soft tissue injuries on the production line. Over time I came to know the staff well, and there was one woman, a beautiful Italian lady in her late 50s named Rosa, who to this day still inspires me.

Rosa worked on the end of the production line and her technical role was to exonerate the internal chicken carcass, or in everyday terms, she stuck a pipe inside a chicken's arse and flushed it out.

One day over morning tea I said to her "Rosa, you are always so happy and positive, have you always been like this?". "She looked at me like I just asked a really stupid question. "Of course I am always like this. I have a job and I work with great people."

Rosa had moved to Hobart when she was in her early 30s and didn't speak a word of English when she landed. I said to her: "A lot of people doing your job would probably not have the same attitude as you". With her beautiful Italian accent, she replied "Andrew, I don't have glamorous job. I stick a hose in chicken's backside. But my job gives me money so I can buy food and prepare a tasty meal for my husband at night, I can buy presents for my darling grandchildren, and we have the opportunity to travel back to Italy every four or five years".

Any time I'm having a bad day at work I gain perspective by thinking about Rosa and her disposition. A few years ago, leading happiness expert Professor Timothy Sharp gave me his theory on attitudes towards work.

-You love it
-Learn to love it
-Get out

I really like this approach. A small percentage of the population absolutely love their job and feel like it is a calling or a chosen vocation. If you fall into this category you are a member of a very select and highly engaged group.

The majority of people however need to focus on the positives and learn to love their job by reframing their attitude through acknowledging the additional benefits their job provides them. Is it money? Is it social interaction? Is it intellectual stimulation? Does your job involve manual labor that helps you to be fit and healthy? Is it actually a positive having employment in a tight labour market?

And if you have exhausted all of these avenues and still can't see any positives, the final group are the people who should get out.

So if you despise turning up to work each day you're only doing yourself, the organisation employing you and the customers you come into contact with every day a disservice.

The best solution is to go and find a job you can learn to love. And if you are reading this and still thinking that there really are no other options for a career change right now – book a trip to Hobart and track down Rosa in Sorell, shout her a cuppa and lamington for morning tea and sit down to listen, learn and be inspired.

What do you think are the worst jobs out there?

44 comments so far

  • i always thought lumberjacks were OK?

    up a gum tree
    Date and time
    June 04, 2012, 10:24AM
    • It seems like those who compiled this list never did any work with their brains. It is clear that anything that involves physical exercise on a fresh air is bad.

      I am surprised by Dairy Farmer on a second place. I would understand if we were talking about Russia where cows are nine months are inside and you have to clean the manure manually, and half of the time there is no power - so you have to milk by hand. And you have only couple of months to get the feed for a year - and half of the hay is cut by hand.

      In Australia - where the most you have to do is twice a day mechanised milking? 4 hours a day is a tough one? Harden up - princesses.

      Date and time
      June 05, 2012, 9:07AM
    • Yeah - they sleep all night and they work all day.

      Cross dresser
      Various bars
      Date and time
      June 05, 2012, 10:48AM
    • lumberjacks are okay dropBear:
      "i cut down trees, i wear high heels..."
      gotta love monty python

      Date and time
      June 05, 2012, 12:56PM
  • Purchasing Officer.

    Date and time
    June 04, 2012, 10:27AM
    • Lumberjack the worst job?
      I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK, I sleep all night and I work all day. I chop down trees, I eat my lunch, I go to the lavatory. On Wednesdays I go shopping and have buttered scones for tea.
      Sounds like a pretty good life to me. For you younger folk that is Monty Python by the way. :)

      Conservationist? Is that a real job?

      Seriously though, I have met people in good jobs who hate their life and work and are always miserable, and I have also met people in the most menial of jobs who are more like Rosa. Rosa would be happy as a Managing Director or a Chicken Stuffer. I think it all comes down to some people will always be miserable no matter what they do and some will always be happy. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle.

      Date and time
      June 04, 2012, 10:37AM
      • I have a job that I totally despise - retail position in the cosmetic department of Myer Sydney City - but I'm actually one of the very few who does. A lot of people there absolutely think that they're job is the greatest job ever, and that's what's inspired me to get out. Which now worries me, as I want to be an art conservationist, and that's at number 13 of the Worst Jobs Ever List.

        Date and time
        June 04, 2012, 10:55AM
        • Next time you are at a restaurant and you start ordering your waiter around like you are a god, feeding them YOUR middle class ideals of how a meal should be cooked and shooting them in the foot for a meal stuff up that was NOT THEIR fault, just remember: THAT job is around at the top of the list. They are ONLY the messenger! Your waiter HATES you.

          Date and time
          June 04, 2012, 11:18AM
          • My wife is an aged care nursing assistant in a dementia care environment. She helps them with their toilet and bathing - she cooks, cleans and dispenses pleasantries to people who can be quite a difficult. There are many rules, such as recording the temperature of meals, falls, etc. Then, one day, they die on you! And it's one of the lowest paid jobs there is. It's definitely a calling.

            Date and time
            June 04, 2012, 11:54AM
            • Agree, it's a vocation- having the last few years witnessed their daily routine re my elderly mum.
              Thankfully they finally do have a small pay rise.
              I couldn't do it!

              not for me
              Date and time
              June 05, 2012, 2:07AM

          More comments

          Make a comment

          You are logged in as [Logout]

          All information entered below may be published.

          Error: Please enter your screen name.

          Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

          Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

          Error: Please enter your comment.

          Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

          Post to

          You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

          Thank you

          Your comment has been submitted for approval.

          Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

          Featured advertisers
          Executive Style newsletter signup

          Executive Style newsletter signup The latest news delivered to your inbox twice-weekly.

          Sign up now