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Technical knowledge and industry experience are far less important than the "softer skills" of managing people, priorities, information, time, and (most importantly) yourself.

Your College Major May Not Prepare You for Your Job—but It Can Prepare You for Life

How much does your college major matter? The answer varies a lot, depending on which industry you’re trying to break into.

For example, I’m a white collar worker, and work alongside folks with undergraduate degrees in history, finance, literature, and psychology. Yet I’ve noticed among medical professionals, it is generally frowned upon to dispense medical wisdom under the mighty authority of a BA in Film Criticism. Hmm. Curious!

I spend a lot of time working with recent graduates in the course of my Clark Kent day job. And I’ve noticed that a lot of them seem apologetic or insecure about their majors, especially when those majors don’t relate directly to the assigned task.

Just the other day, I was getting sloppy with my speech in a one-on-one meeting with a mentee, using too many unnecessary bits of industry jargon. “I’m so sorry,” she said, “but could you please explain what that means? I love marketing, but I only found that out about myself once I started doing internships in my senior year. It was too late to change my major, so I’m really behind.”

It kinda broke my heart! (And was totally my bad. I didn’t need to say “stakeholder feedback needs to be strategically leveraged against known best practices” when I could’ve just said “clients are ignorant babies, ignore them whenever possible.”) There’s a learning curve for every new job, no matter how familiar you are with the industry; no reasonable person expects you to instantaneously intuit absolutely everything.

I think a lot of our readers could benefit from a healthy reminder that you bring great value to your job role just by being you, regardless of what you studied in school or learned in internships. In my observation, technical know-how and industry experience are far less important than the “soft skills” of managing people, priorities, time, data, and (most importantly) yourself.

Piggy and I have our own observations, but they’re based on the narrow experiences we’ve lived or observed firsthand. So I thought I’d float this discussion in our Patreon community. I asked donors for their insights into skills and habits they learned in their majors, and how it serves them in the job role they perform today. And like the dedicated employees of the United States Postal Service, they delivered!

The best advice comes from real, lived experiences—and the more diverse, the better. Here’s hoping this advice will inspire younger readers who are still deciding on this issue, as well as more established folks who may be questioning the feasibility of a major career shift.

… Omg, a “major” career shift! Get it??

Here are some things that your “off-topic” major might teach you…

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Season 2, Episode 4: "Does my career have to define me? Or can I just clock out?"

Season 2, Episode 4: “Does My Career Have to Define Me? Or Can I Just Clock Out?”

I like me a timely discussion. Especially when it’s completely unplanned!

Which is definitely the case with this week’s episode of the BGR podcast. We recorded it in… April? May? (Time is a flat circle infected with COVID-19 so who fucking knows???) And yet it directly links to my story about getting laid off, which we published just a few weeks ago.

Toward the end of my job, I was really struggling with work/life balance, and making choices to prioritize my employment—not even my career, but just holding onto a job it turns out I didn’t really need—over my happiness. In short, I was balancing work and life all wrong.

Which leads us directly to this week’s illustrious podcast question asker!

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Buy a fucking fern!

How to Successfully Work from Home Without Losing Your Goddamn Mind (Or Your Job)

As most (all?) of you know, I started working from home full time a little over a year ago. It’s pretty great! I’m saving a metric fuckton of money on commuting costs. Plus, I have more time in my day to devote to things other than sitting in traffic shaking my fist and cursing the futility of existence.

Before working from home.

 

After working from home.

I’m an acquiring editor at a book publishing house. This is a fancy way of saying I babysit writers and occasionally correct their constipated prose for a living. Most of my job consists of reading book proposals and telling authors why they suck. I need little more than a laptop and a cell phone to do my job.

I regularly join meetings at my corporate headquarters via phone or video conference. During these meetings, my wardrobe is generally business formal above the waist, slumber party below.

And you guys, I rock. I’m real fucking good at my job and I have the employee reviews to prove it!

While transitioning from an office to working from home was a bit of an adjustment, I’ve since developed good habits for getting quality work done efficiently and quickly.

And yet there are some stubborn bastions of luddites who absolutely insist that a white collar worker needs to come into an office every day in order to be successful. I don’t cotton to that kind of backward thinking. For one thing, it makes it harder for caregivers and disabled people to find employment. For another, it fosters a culture that negatively impacts the environment and public health.

If a worker proves herself capable of getting the job done without commuting to an office, then by Grabthar’s Hammer, she should be allowed to do so!

But the only way we’re going to spread the work from home revolution is if we all work circles around our be-cubicled counterparts. Through trial, error, and interviewing people who have been working from home much longer than I have, here’s what I’ve found to be the best work-from-home practices in the biz.

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A lot of employers use software to sift through job applications.

How to Write a Cover Letter like You Actually Want the Job

Welcome back to another episode of The Bitches Teach You How to Get Your Ass Hired! Last time we reviewed some cardinal rules of resume writing. And today—you guessed it!—we’re gonna learn how to write a coherent and effective cover letter.

But first, a caveat. While I have sat on both sides of the hiring table over the years—both as my last company’s internship coordinator and in my recent successful job search—I am by no means an expert. That’s practically the secondary motto of our blog!

Bitches Get Riches: Finance. Feminism. We have no idea what we’re doing. 

So don’t make the mistake of beginning and ending your cover letter practicum here at BGR. Go read Ask a Manager at least. It’s their whole area of expertise. But here are some of the most important rules, based on my own personal experience… and a twenty-second text conversation with Kitty.

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More and more employers are requiring entry level employees to have industry experience in order to get hired. Get that? You have to have a job to get a job, a requirement that necessitates ripping the fabric of the space time continuum in order to get hired.

The Ugly Truth About Unpaid Internships

Internships: a time-honored tradition in which young professionals gain valuable career experience and skills they can’t learn in the classroom. Internships are widely recognized as a great way to boost your resume and get a leg up over your peers in the job market. For many industries, they’re a rite of passage and an invaluable part of the workforce.

Yet there’s something horribly wrong with most internships as we operate them here in the bestest country on Earth.

Trigger warning: today’s lesson includes mentions of privilege and unfavorable descriptions of capitalism. Also law-breaking. Clutch your pearls and avert your eyes.

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I looked up the leading cause of death for women on the job. It's homicide.

One Reason Women Make Less Money? They’re Afraid of Being Raped and Killed.

God bless our Patreon supporters. Seriously. In our April topic poll, I gave them several non-depressing softball article topics. But the one they wanted to read most was about the relationship between sexual assault and the gender wage gap. GOD. DAMN. You guys are the fucking best. We are so happy to be supported by people who are willing to embrace the difficult stuff.

The gender wage gap is a many-tentacled hentai monster. What is its primary driver? Is it choice of career? Education? Lack of mentors and sponsors? Familial commitments? The high cost of childcare? Lopsided domestic dutiesIngrained sexist attitudes in the culture? Unconscious bias during the hiring process? Biological differences in the brain?

Research demonstrates that it’s almost certainly a gnarly combination of all of the above. But there’s another element that doesn’t get much attention, and that’s fear of rape and sexual assault. Harassment and isolation are known contributing factors for so-called “pipeline” problems, but I’m talking about something that goes even beyond that. There are instances where the threat of rape acts as a professional barrier to women.

So today, we’re going to look at three different case studies: two from my own life and one from recent news. The last one is very exciting to me, because it’s basically the perfect case study for examining this issue.

This article talks about the existence of rape and sexual assault, but does not go into details about specific acts. Some linked articles do. Use that information as you will.

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I'm nervous to publish this. But you know what? It's okay to talk about your failures.

Confession: I Hate My Job and I Don’t Know How to Leave It

I don’t fancy myself a hypocrite. And yet I haven’t been practicing what I preach.

We talk a lot about career advancement as a path to financial independence here. You’ve got to angle for promotions and ask for raises and, most importantly, switch jobs on the regular.

And yet I’ve been stuck at the same company for almost eight years.

And I don’t want to be.

In that time, I’ve been promoted three times and I’ve received multiple raises. But it’s a small publishing house on a metaphorically small, remote island within the broader publishing industry.

And unless my boss gets torn apart by angry maenads sometime soon, I’ve literally reached the top of the ladder here. There’s nowhere else to go within my company, and very few options for other publishing jobs in the area.

I feel trapped. I feel like a failure. I’m bored, directionless, and frustrated. I want to enjoy going to work again. I want to feel challenged and get paid more.

So because I’m feeling rather… truthsome right now, I want to dissect my current career stagnation. I want to confess my failures and seek absolution. People of the Internet, be gentle with me.

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