05/31/2011 02:05 pm ET Updated Jul 31, 2011

Dig This Gig--Find Your Dream Job Or Invent It

It's that time of year, y'all. Graduation ceremonies. Silly caps and gowns. Doting parents. Brutal hangovers. You've come a long way since freshman orientation and congrats are in order.

The good news is that the "real world" awaits you. But it can also feel like the "bad news" if you don't have a job lined up, much less a clue about which direction you want to take.

The transition can be both invigorating and paralyzing. The inevitable cocktail party icebreaker question--"What do you do?"--has the power to make your eyes go wide with excitement, or freeze with dread.

Some of that paralysis, I found, was because a lot of people don't realize just how many different kinds of jobs are out there in "the real world." Sure, there are the conventional jobs along the road well traveled--doctor, lawyer, accountant. But what about the gigs-- viable, available and cutting edge--along the road less traveled--genetic counselor, organic farmer, urban planner.

I know because I was there. After I graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, I spent six years working in Los Angeles on television and film sets. It was from that vantage point--beginning from the lowest p.o.v. as an intern--that I realized hundreds, if not thousands, of people collaborate to make a movie. It turns out other fields are equally complex.

It all boiled down to one question that perplexed me on graduation day: How was I supposed to know what I wanted to do if I didn't know what people do? Most job titles are too vague to pin a career on. I wanted the real deal--the inside track to what work is really like.

Fast forward, and after interviewing dozens and dozens of people in fields ranging from green gigs to healthcare gigs to outdoor gigs, my new book, Dig This Gig, helps to answer just that question and pry open the world of jobs out there for you. Here are excerpts from a handful of those profiles.