Ever wondered what it’s really like to be a pastor or a psychic? Or what a bikini waxer really thinks about their job? Here, nine Kiwis with very different careers reveal — anonymously — the secrets of their working day.

The psychic

"How did I become a psychic medium? It's not something you become; rather it's an ability you have and I've had it all my life. I was an only child with an active imagination and imaginary friends - although I wonder how imaginary they actually were. I was raised in a Catholic household and didn't hear the words 'psychic medium' until I was 17 and at university. I realised it sounded a lot like me.

I became a teacher but the attraction of psychic medium work proved too strong. A psychic uses their instincts to see things that aren't always obvious, while a medium communicates with spirits. I do both. There's no way I could have done this at 17; you need life experience to better understand and support people.

While it's an innate skill, there are courses to learn more about developing your abilities so I've done a few of those. I take what I do seriously because it's about helping people, often when they're experiencing less-than-happy events: the death of a loved one, the break-up of a relationship or a change at work.

There are sceptics who can be frustrating but I don't have to prove anything to them. I'm out and proud about what I do and more interested in concentrating on and helping those who come to me for guidance. That said, I want to make the perception of psychic mediums more positive. I hold public shows and demonstrations and talk about my work and how I do it so people know it's not dark and scary.


I have the best job in the world because no client is ever the same and there's not really a 'typical day'. Because I've got young children, I fit clients in around them so I probably see four to six people a day. I aim to keep things positive and uplifting; I'm careful about the words and phrases I use if I get wind that something not so good might be up. I'm not here to create additional stress or worry for anyone nor do I tell people what to do or make decisions for them; it's about providing guidance so they can do what's best for them.

It takes a lot of energy but I'm careful to take time out and to have other things - like my children - in my life."

The funeral director

"I arrive at work sometimes and think I've stepped into a beauty salon; there are heated rollers and hairdryers going, makeup and nail polish being applied and beautiful clothes waiting to be put on.

My personal belief is that viewing a body is one of the most important steps in the grieving process so one of the most rewarding things I can do for family and friends is to show them their loved one looking peaceful, beautiful and serene. Sometimes bodies are brought in disfigured and knocked around but there are clever and creative people - our embalmers and mortuary technicians - with techniques and products like mortuary makeup to deal with that. It's rare that a body cannot be made suitable for viewing. It's creative and I am not squeamish at all when it comes to dealing with bodies; I've been here at all hours of the day and night and I don't think for a moment my funeral home is haunted!

It's the living you have to worry more about. While our business is about caring with dignity and consideration for someone who has died, it's equally - possibly more - about supporting loved ones at a distressing and sometimes overwhelming time. I have learned everyone has a story and to never judge a book by its cover, to be tolerant and understanding. My maiden name was Bygrave, so I wonder if there's some history which links me to this work because I find it immensely satisfying to do something which can make a genuine difference to people. It's a privilege.

It is like being in event management except this is an event that no one looks forward to or wants to deal with. I know people can be worried about the cost of a funeral but we can accommodate all budgets. It is vital to go through that ritual and to mourn in order to re-configure your life without a loved one in it. We can offer grief and bereavement counselling, put people in touch with support groups and hold regular memorial events friends and family can participate in - candle-lighting ceremonies, a Christmas memorial - to make dealing with the aftermath of a death a little easier.

It is difficult to see people grieving for someone they have lost, especially when it's a parent who's lost a child. That to me still doesn't seem right; it's against what should be the natural order of things.

I don't believe we do death very well in this country; we need to talk about it and, tough as it is, accept it as a normal part of life and learn that it's okay to grieve openly. We could learn a lot from Maori and Pacific cultures about grief and mourning and, although I am not a religious person, I can see how having faith helps make sense of death."

The bikini line waxer

"I'm actually a beauty therapist so I do a bit of everything; I've been a beauty therapist for 28 years and I have seen some incredible changes, mainly the growth in the medi spa treatments and cosme-ceuticals, plus clients getting more serious and sophisticated about the treatments they want and the outcomes. You have to be quite careful with some of the newer products because they're a lot more potent and there's a lot more technology behind them. Get it wrong and you can damage someone's skin.

Even though waxing has grown in popularity, I don't believe New Zealand is big enough to sustain full-time waxing-only businesses. Most do other treatments as well and, to be honest, I enjoy the skincare side of things more than the waxing but those are some of the most popular treatments so they become like your bread and butter.

I owned a business in Australia quite a few years ago and that's where I first came across clients requesting the procedure, mainly so they wouldn't have pubic hair popping out the side of higher-cut bikinis and togs. We were a little shyer in New Zealand and I didn't start to get requests until about eight years ago but now it is commonplace and just something that you do.

Summer is most certainly 'Brazilian season'. A Brazilian wax is basically the removal of all the hair around one's private parts and, at this time of year, I can be doing eight to 10 per day. Yes, by the end of it I may feel as if I've spent the entire time staring at women's privates but, that said, you get used to it and it is, after all, just another body part.

I offer clients a G-string to wear and find younger women are a little shy about hopping up on the bed with nothing on but older women, especially those who have had children, are a lot more relaxed. A lot of them just jump up on to the bed and want to get on with it. If someone hasn't had it done before, I explain the procedure and what's involved and I'm guided by them as to whether they want me to be chatty or to say nothing. I do find, though, when people are nervous they talk more so I just follow their lead."

The call centre worker

"I think you'll be hard-pressed to find someone working in a call centre who will discuss their work because, after a shift, the last thing you want to do is talk about it and prolong the agony. I lasted three and a half months before I had to leave because I was so miserable.

The position was Customer Care Agent; I got it through an agency and had two weeks' training in 'modern communications' before I hit the phones to answer basic technical questions and help with simple inquiries. It did not involve cold or sales calls to people at dinnertime; I was there to help but had to follow a more or less set script, which could be hilarious. We were meant to ask the customer's name and use it three times, which is hard to do when they're ringing with a question that takes 30 seconds to answer. If calls lasted more than about three and a half minutes, a supervisor tapped us on the shoulder to hurry us up because we were meant to deal with at least 70 calls in an eight to nine hour shift.

Calls were recorded and closely monitored for use in training meetings, held every fortnight or so. There was a target of 80 per cent successfully resolved calls, but no real penalties for not doing so. It was more a case of 'try harder next time' but the real issue wasn't us. We passed on more technical issues to the higher-ups and there weren't enough of them to respond to customers within the three to four days we said they would so we were constantly dealing with furious people who weren't getting the follow-up they expected.

Then they'd be abusive, calling us f***ing pricks and liars and demanding to know how we could do the job. The most difficult part of it was I agreed with them! I'd be trying to stick to the script when I was really thinking, 'you're right! If I were you, I'd be pissed off, too!' but we were still people just trying to get by.

What was good about it? I suppose the people you work with because there are a lot of travellers from all over the world and they're good fun but no one lasted long.

Most people walked out after being abused one time too many, throwing their headsets down and having a tantrum."

The pastor

"I didn't grow up in a Christian household; I found God when I was in my teens, which means I came to my faith through a lot of independent thinking. I was a teacher and never dreamed I would be called by God. It was quite a scary proposition, as it is for many people, I think, because being a pastor is such a public role but I love it because it's about people and I get to live my faith every day.

It was about a 10-year process for me to accept my call to ordained ministry; the difference in titles - vicar, priest, pastor - is, in general, determined by denomination. The work involved varies greatly, too, depending on where you're based and your own strengths. I'm interested in social justice and my church is part of a community centre which means a lot of the work involves community development. There's no such thing as a typical day; it can be anything from writing a sermon for the Sunday service, which is obviously a focal part of the week, feeding the hungry at our weekly lunch service, doing hospital visits or simply sitting down with a member of the congregation to talk.

I have the most interesting conversations with people who aren't afraid to ask the most incredible questions. A common one is, 'why do bad things happen to good people?', and I think behind that are the questions 'where is God in my pain?' and 'is my God robust enough to stand up in the real world?' It's not a theological debate, more just trying to make sense of daily life. I can't say I've ever had a crisis of faith but I've certainly had questions I needed answers to.

We get paid a stipend; the amount and the way it is allocated can depend on the denomination and the area you work in. It's not a lot, especially when you consider the hours pastors work, but it's not about the money. I think meeting the expectations of your congregation is probably one of the biggest challenges. You know you're on call 24/7 for all sorts of situations and you never want to fall short but we are human, too, and sometimes you can feel as if you're falling short. Everyone expects the pastor and their family to be perfect - the kids will never talk back in school kind of thing - but those are tough expectations to live up to."

The taxi driver

"You get to know regular clients and look forward to seeing them. It's great if you get a contract to do a school run, where you pick up special needs kids and take them to and from school. I got to know one child well and even learned basic sign language so I could better communicate. On another occasion, I was on dispatch and the driver called to say one of our regulars wasn't at the door of her unit in her retirement village. I knew this was strange so I got him to go to reception and return with the caretaker. It turned out she'd passed away in the night. It was very sad and affected me quite a bit.

It's a good job for a working mum as there's a lot of flexibility to fit work around family commitments but you need people skills, energy - you'll often find yourself helping an elderly person carry their groceries into their home - and an awareness of customer service.

There are passengers who will tell you their life story in a five or 10-minute journey; others need a shoulder to cry on and, of course, there are drunks. I prefer it when people want to talk. I don't like grumpy or aggressive passengers but drunks aren't a worry as long as they're not aggressive with it. You get good at reading people so I take a look at them as I drive up and have a bit of a chat through the window; if I think they're drunk and trouble, then I lock the doors and drive off. As a woman, I think you have to be more mindful of your safety but I've never had any real problems and only one person who has not paid and done a runner.

There is a lot more competition today, although Uber has yet to take off in the suburbs, which means you really need to work a full shift - 14 hours with two half-hour breaks - to make enough money to get by. It's a lot tougher than it used to be."

The hairdresser

"Christmas can be hell on wheels! Everyone wants their hair done, so you're working extra late nights and weekend shifts and you go home at night, collapse into bed and your feet - even though you've been wearing comfortable shoes - just throb. It can be a challenge to find comfortable shoes which are fashionable and go with the image people have of hairdressers being at the 'cutting edge' of style.

The pay is low and the hours are long - you'll be working every Saturday - but here's the thing: despite all that, I absolutely love it and I love my clients. It's a creative job, involves fashion, is people-orientated and there's plenty of opportunity to take your work in different directions. Have kids? Set up a home salon and work around them. Want to travel? Get a job on a cruise ship. Interested in film and TV work? You can move into that area and, if you're competitive, there are plenty of competitions.

It suits those of us who like to be hands-on, work with people and do something which involves fashion and style. You have to be a good listener and it doesn't matter what's going on in your life because you have to put all that aside and focus on your clients.

You need to be on your A-game the whole time but it's fantastic to build rapport with people and learn about other's lives.

It's also fantastic to see someone light up and be happy when they have a new haircut that leaves them looking and feeling great. There are people who can be difficult to please and you need to learn how to deal with them. What I've realised is they're often people who are unhappy with other aspects of their life and are not actually looking at their hair. Their outward appearance has become a focus for everything else they don't like about themselves or their lives so what they see reflected back to them in the mirror isn't just their hair."

The paramedic

"It's not all racing to accidents and fights. They're actually rare, given the number of us working and the fact these sorts of incidents happen less often than we may think. When they do, you can't get squeamish. You focus to achieve the best possible outcomes so you might think 'that's the worst thing I've seen for a while', but get on with it. There are people we can talk to and support if something is particularly unsettling.

I think the public would be surprised to learn a lot of our work is done in people's homes and is low-key: offering advice and reassurance, assessing whether they really need to go to hospital and, when we do take them, knowing they are safe and sound and in the best possible place. Mondays and Tuesdays often involve picking up patients who've waited the weekend to see if they get better and taking them to hospital; there's more drug and alcohol-related incidents on Thursdays, Fridays and weekend evenings, while on Saturdays and Sundays we see more sports accidents. There are seasonal variations, too. Come summer, we'll see more outdoor related accidents and injuries.

As a parent, the most distressing incidents involve children. Often when kids have life-threatening conditions, their families are heavily involved in managing these and simply loving their kids. It's human nature, even with a bad prognosis, to be optimistic so sometimes we find ourselves dealing with distraught families, which is tough, but on the flip side, there's often a lot we can do to help achieve good outcomes for these families.

The frustrating jobs arise when people know they have a medical condition and need to manage it or take regular medication but ignore advice, don't take their medications and end up needing to be hospitalised. It could have all been avoided but then it's natural for people to get frightened when they're sick and act irrationally, so you have to take that into account.

I like going into people's homes and finding out who they are. You can tell a lot by the things they have in their homes; the photos on the walls and the knick-knacks on their shelves. Most people have interesting stories to tell and we have an opportunity to share in these and assist them at a time when they most need it. That's a privilege and a really neat thing to do."

The maitre d'

"My girlfriend and I are six months into a two-year working holiday in New Zealand, from Britain. I'd done bar work before and decided to work in hospitality here because it's a good way to meet a wide range of people - other travellers as well as Kiwis - but the job I'm doing now is a definite step up from the bar work I did back home. I've got a degree in psychology and I've worked with children with special needs. I sometimes joke it's the perfect training for this.

For me, how physical it is is the biggest surprise and challenge. You're constantly on the go, dealing with orders and requests, checking on customer needs and ensuring good communication between the floor and kitchen. Some people find it more mentally demanding but, perhaps because of my background, I cope with that okay.

I like caring for people and get satisfaction from helping them have a great time when they're out but I don't find everyone easy to deal with. Some people seem determined to have a bad time and can be very rude and offensive. Someone told our barista recently they didn't look like a barista so they wouldn't buy their coffee from them; others click their fingers at us and seem to delight in having the power to order someone around for an evening. I try to treat those people with patience and empathy; after all, what is going on in their lives for them to behave that way?

I try not to dwell on them because there are many more interesting, friendly and fun-to-be-around people and those are the experiences and interactions you want to remember. There's nothing more rewarding than when someone thanks you making them feel comfortable and welcome."