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My Career Transition Succeeded When I Gave Fewer Fucks, Made More Friends, and Had More Fun

CAREER TRANSITION SUCCESSFUL: THIS BITCH IS EMPLOYED!

AIR HORNS FOR CAREER TRANSITION

As our Patreon community already knows, I, your humble Bitch Piggy, have a shiny new job! This life update comes in the wake of being laid off from a large publishing house a year ago. (You can read about the painful details of that identity-crisis-cum-career-bellyflop here.) Since then, I’ve been rocking the self-employed life as an editorial consultant, literary agent, and blogger. The hustle, my friends. The hustle.  

But now I’m very proud to announce I’ve joined the editorial team at The Motley Fool. Maybe you’ve heard of it? I’m the new managing editor for distribution acquisitions. Mostly that means that instead of wrangling book authors for a living, I’m going to be wrangling money writers.

Switching from a career in book publishing to one in financial media was no easy feat! But it did feel a helluva lot like destiny. Here’s how I made the career transition.

Start by feeling too stagnant, bored, and depressed to consider a career transition

Conventional wisdom says that if you want to make a career transition, you need to train for a new industry while still working your current job. Get an MBA! Go to night school! Do an internship! Apprentice on the weekends! Network! Beg for informational interviews!

I’m obviously not one for conventional wisdom. Which is why I also recommend you… start a weirdly specific hobby with your college roommate???

Kitty and I started Bitches Get Riches when we were both full-time employees—a graphic designer and a book editor, respectively. We’d both been in our careers for about six years, and gotten fewer promotions than we deserved. We liked our work, but we’d smoothed out all its most exciting challenges long ago. We had the mental bandwidth for a new endeavor.

Next, turn 180° and start sprinting away from your career

So we started Bitches Get Riches.

We never viewed it as a money-making venture. (In fact, it was a money-sucking venture.) We never tried to make it seem more polished or professional than we wanted to. (BGR: proudly rocking the same free WordPress theme since 2016.)

It was for fun! It was a way to work together, express ourselves, promote interesting ideas, and maybe help a couple of people along the way.

We’ve always taken pride in being self-taught. Our personal finance advice is for Real Amuricans™! Give us your tired, your poor, the huddled masses who need to bust out a tip calculator for a $19 lunch bill!

Keep your passions a secret from everyone, because reasons

Initially, our attitude at the time was to keep everything very hush-hush.

We didn’t tell our friends and families (let alone our bosses or colleagues) our dark secret: that by night we donned capes and smashed patriarchal systems of capitalism by providing relevant, readable, hilariously funny education to the masses argued about Sailor Moon’s net worth.

At that time, I would have thought it was lunacy to put “Co-owner of Bitches Get Riches” on my resume. Surely such an ~*~unprofessional~*~ sounding activity was best left in the shadows with the rest of my extracurriculars! (Allow your imagination to come up with my other shadowy extracurricular activities and leave your best guesses in a comment below.)

Yet as you all know, keeping BGR off my resume and separate from my professional side didn’t make it an unimportant part of my life. I was still dedicating significant time and energy to researching, writing, and community-building around the blog and later the podcast.

Put so much time into your hobby it kinda becomes impossible to hide

Essentially, I was becoming an amateur expert in personal finance—a field that had nothing to do with my chosen vocation of book publishing—while operating as if I had one career path and one career path alone. I quietly built up expertise and contacts in a second industry, keeping that second iron in the fire with no idea it could lead to a career transition someday.

My self-administered education in personal finance was taking up a significant amount of my personal time. I probably dedicated as much time and mental real estate to BGR as some people spend getting a grad degree. It’s just that I wasn’t viewing it as actual job training. I certainly didn’t see it as a path to a career transition!

So when the time came to decide if I would transition away from publishing and into another industry, I didn’t just have a lightbulb moment. I walked face-first into a solar flare.

For my next career transition, I'm going to go on the road spreading the good word of Chris Dane Owens.

Because I realized that without going to grad school, without interning, without getting any kind of official credentials… I had a second industry. A second career path. I wasn’t just an editor. I was a financial media professional. And that would make the career transition out of my primary field so, so much easier.

Don’t network—just have fun and make genuine friendships

“Networking” is one of those white collar buzzwords that gives any red-blooded cynic hives. I am no exception. But I can’t deny that a few key networking connections were hugely influential to my career transition. Because (say it with me now) “Who you know is at least as important as what you know.”

I loathe networking. It feels fake and bad. Doing it for just one hour requires an entire weekend of furious introverting to recover.

But I like making friends! Especially friends who are super cool people who are interested in the same things I am. Which is how my career transition journey continued without me even realizing it.

The mixer that started it all

During non-plague-times, the denizens of the personal finance blogosphere gather for a number of conferences throughout the year. It’s where we rub elbows with our internet crushes and perform the once-yearly Ceremonial Measuring of J. Money’s Mohawk.

At one such conference a few years ago, I met representatives of The Motley Fool, including Roger. We hit it off immediately. (By which I mean I promised to guard his glasses and margarita and immediately betrayed him by leaving my seat to go say hi to someone. You know—my usual charming ways!)

It was a networking event, one of those industry mixers where you have a dozen interesting conversations you promptly forget and pray like fuck you don’t spill a drink on the wrong person. But Roger was pretty rad, so we stayed in touch.

The friend-of-a-friend

J. D. Roth, on the other hand, was no serendipitous networking connection. Dedicated readers will recognize him as our mentor/fairy godfather hybrid. He’s like our Dumbledore! Though he is neither particularly old nor particularly magical, he is a whole lot of fun.

We haven’t had many established successful dudes welcome us enthusiastically to the space (sHoCkiNg), so they tend to stand out. J. D. is responsible for at least 58% of the opportunities we’ve gotten in the personal finance mediasphere.

So when he introduced us to Diania, we were like:

Diania booked us to speak at the upcoming EconoMe conference this fall in Cincinnati. And who should be sponsoring that event but The Motley Fool. So when Diania found out the Fool was hiring someone with an editorial background and experience with personal finance media… she mentioned my name.

Next thing I knew Roger was inviting me to apply on the strength of Diania’s recommendation and our conversation all those years ago at the conference. Not just my vaunted editorial career in publishing! And not just my experience as a money blogging shit-stirrer either!

Holy shit—was I networking all along?!

I share the “who you know” aspect of this story not to discourage would-be career transitioners. After all, I still had to actually apply along with everyone else and get through a gauntlet of scary job interviews!

But my friendly history with Roger meant that I’d kinda been interviewing for The Motley Fool’s team for years. And knowing Diania meant that I had a glowing professional reference to vouch for me before I even stepped foot in the (virtual) interview.

Going in with networking connections strengthened my starting position. Which is why I recommend you don’t skip networking events, even when—no, especially when you’re not currently looking for a career transition or a new job.

Here’s more of our impeccable job interview advice:

To thine own self be true

For years I’d been denying half of my professional life.

I kept Piggy locked away under the stairs, like some embarrassing magical foster child. (Sorry, we have pop culture quotas to hit and Harry Potter is it today.) I preferred to pigeonhole myself as a Book Publishing Specialist rather than complicating matters with the whole and-also-I-blog-about-money thing.

Friends? It was the wrong move.

Human beings are complicated, multifaceted creatures! We can’t be defined by a singular interest or career path! Especially when making a career transition, it’s probably better not to whittle every aspect of your personal interests down to the field that currently pays your rent.

I was laboring under the misconception that painting my professional life as one-dimensional somehow benefited me. I thought success meant constructing a dedicated, focused, goal-oriented worksona and LARPing her for forty hours a week. Like I would be seen as a more serious professional if every aspect of my career served as a giant neon sign pointing to this singular, competitive industry. “Pay no attention to the money blog behind the curtain!” I cried, frantically keeping any and all references to BGR off my resume and away from my public persona.

Embracing Piggy instead of denying her was the best thing I could have done for my career.

Take a deep breath, then put it all out in the open

My application for The Motley Fool was my first chance to put BGR on my resume and cover letter. Instead of tamping down my inner financial blogger, I Sheryl Sandberged the shit out of her. Giggling with nerves, I updated my resume with this section, right at the top:

And once it was out there, it just felt… right?

My experience running BGR with Kitty didn’t take away from my editorial experience. It enhanced it. My knowledge of personal finance media didn’t make me a weaker job candidate. It demonstrably made me a stronger applicant for the role of managing editor of personal finance media.

Taking a risk

Being true to myself as Piggy the Bitch as a legitimate part of Jess the editor inspired me to be true to myself in other ways. Drunk with power, I wrote the riskiest cover letter of my career. Clutch your pearls, y’all! For it starts with self-deprecating humor:

If you told 16-year-old me that one day I’d be applying for the role of managing editor at a financial media company, I would have insisted that no, you must be mistaken, for I am destined to be a rock-and-roll reporter for Rolling Stone and also money is boring, math is hard, and print journalism will never die.

Fortunately, 16-year-old me was wrong about a lot. She had no idea that I would eventually build an award-winning, internationally recognized personal finance blog and podcast, that math gets a lot easier when it includes dollar signs, and that writing and teaching financial literacy to the young and marginalized would be one of the most rewarding and stimulating experiences of my life. All of which is why I’m thrilled to throw my hat in the ring for the role of editorial operations manager for The Motley Fool’s distribution acquisitions team.

THE AUDACITY, AMIRITE??? What a cheeky bitch!

Yet that’s me: a little bit cheeky, a lot corny, and always trying to make readers laugh, especially if it’s at me. I knew this would be the right way to put my foot forward not only as both halves of my professional self, but just as… me. Obnoxious sense of humor and all.

Happily ever after?

This was the first time I’d gone through a hiring process where I felt I had nothing to hide. Concealing my famously foul mouth was as unnecessary as ignoring my experience in money media. I didn’t need to emphasize my ~*~synergistic profit retention modules for optimization analytics and success~*~ because my new employer was more interested in how I convinced people to read poop jokes about financial literacy week in and week out.

I could just be truly, unabashedly, me.

This career transition was going to happen fully on my terms, as a full person with full agency in my future career.

And those Fools fucking bought it.

What does this mean for BGR?

[Obligatory legalese about how Bitches Get Riches does not represent the views and opinions of The Motley Fool in any way and is, in fact, merely a disreputable, muckraking, sensationalist rag.]

Although I’m now a capital-f Fool, the Bitches remain lowercase-f fools.

Rest assured that we’re not being acquired, or told what to say, or paid to drop links, or anything like that. We’re totally independent, always.

In the past, we’ve linked to The Motley Fool articles when they had good explanations that would help our readers. We will continue to do that. But the only dictates we follow are those of our whimsical hearts.

Thank you for helping me

Finally, I have to take a moment to thank you, our readers.

You all will never know how much your comments, letters, and feedback have inspired us. If BGR is good, it’s because our readers are cool af. You encourage us to write on ever-more challenging topics, and you inspire us to write even more betterer qualitty all off the time!

When I lost my job, I felt lost, ashamed, and disappointed in myself. I know it had nothing to do with my worth as a person—but it kicked me hard right in my fear of failure. And it amplified all the stresses of the pandemic, and pushed my coping skills well past their limits.

Initially I was too embarrassed to talk about losing my job. But Kitty put out the Bat Signal—and I was stunned by how many Batmans showed up. In $1 and $5 increments, meaningful help poured in. Those donations kept my head above water, and gave me a light to swim toward when I most needed one.

So thank you to everyone. But in particular, I can’t express enough how much I appreciate our Patreon community. (If you want to be part of us, join us here. It’s a pretty cool place, if I do say so myself!)

Now, go forth and profit by my mistakes!

However much I’ve helped anyone through BGR, BGR has helped me right back. I could never have foreseen the positive impact this little hobby would have on my life. Which is just one more reason to embrace authenticity and be proud of it!

I thought I’d get in huge trouble if my secret hobby ever got out. (I mean, come on, I wrote honestly about how much I’d grown to hate my job! What color flag is that for a new employer? True crimson, or more of a garnet?) It took too much time for me to realize that I could find a workplace that valued me for my honesty.

So whatever your passions are outside of work—cooking or drawing or teaching dogs to ride unicycles or whatever—if it enriches your life, don’t hide it away! When it’s time for a career change, it will help guide you to possibilities you can’t imagine.

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38 thoughts to “My Career Transition Succeeded When I Gave Fewer Fucks, Made More Friends, and Had More Fun”

  1. Very cool! And congratulations. That’s great how things eventually work its way out. I was able to speak to Roger a couple of times during the pandemic and swap stories.

    Best of luck in your new career!

    Sam

  2. Yes to the networking part. It doesn’t have to be gross: just go to events for things you like, be the cool person you are, and meet other cool new people that way. I’m kicking myself for avoiding it for years in my WFH job. My professional circle got incredibly small and it’s made it very hard to find a new job after multiple years of stagnation here. A year of global pandemic and zero in-person events didn’t help either, since of course I decided to focus on networking at the beginning of 2020.

    1. EXACTLY. I’ve been WFH for the last 3 years and had to make a real effort to network. Naturally, most of it was in the personal finance space…

  3. Yay! Congrats!
    As for “other shadowy extracurricular activities,” I guess human smuggling.
    The altruistic kind where you are housing a family who is persecuted in their home country, and cannot apply for refugee status because they don’t have any documented “proof” or their persecutor is not the government.

    1. It’s kind of uncanny, because when the last president was sworn in my husband and I were like “Welp, time to fix up the basement to house a family of refugees from south of the border.” Spot-on!

  4. Congratulations, I’m so glad for you! Being yourself, and putting yourself out there, was key to your success!

  5. Congratulations!!! You’re going to rock this position.

    And YES to embracing the big side project on your resume, especially if it’s somewhat related to your work! Mine is on the resume because it’s kind of related and definitely not because I needed something else to put on there during those Great Recession underemployment years. (I found my way into tech writing, and I founded the wiki for a large writing community.)

    As for your other shadowy activities, you’re definitely a vampire hunter.

  6. Just want to say, another excellent and helpful article and CONGRATULATIONS! Pour yourself a(nother) glass of wine.

  7. Oh wow, congratulations on the new job! They better appreciate the hell out of you, or else the whole internet will fight them!

    And fully agreed on not whittling yourself down to just one field. I’ve been doing that for a few years now (out of necessity – I’ve worked in such a weird mosaic of fields that it’s kind of impossible to hide), and I think it’s been a huge advantage. I haven’t worked out how to use my creative writing there (and given how nsfw it sometimes is, I might… not), but everything else gets used shamelessly. So many jobs in my field are multi-facetted, and so I’m just about to use an internship from 10 years ago in an application, and they can’t even be mad about it, because they want me to know about things that bear no relation to each other, and there is no way for one person to have recent experience in all of them.

    1. Thanks Marta!
      I love that you’re pulling a 10-yr-old internship out of your pocket for this job application. You’re an inspiration to us all!

  8. Thank you so much for writing this. Congratulations on your new job! I’m about to pivot to working my business full time at the end of April (yay self-madeness!) and while I was slightly nervous about it and very excited, your article reassured me that everything works out. I’m also transitioning from one field to another, like you did, and it really helps hearing someone who went through the same experience.

  9. Congratulations!!! So happy for you.
    You have not just A Job but a job you will really fucking enjoy and where you can Be Yourself. Best feeling in the world when you feel you can be yourself in a interview 🙂

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