• Fri, Sep 23 2011

Bullish: 3 Career Mistakes Young Women Make (And How To Smash The Competition)

Mistake #2: Excessive Rule-Following and Reward-Seeking Behavior

Yesterday, The Grindstone reported on the “Men are Finished” debate in which Christina Hoff Sommers and David Zinczenko argued that, actually, women still kind of suck at some things. (Fun fact: Christina Hoff Sommers spoke at my college around 1999, denied that schools ever discriminate against or discourage girls, and then after the lecture, proceeded to only take questions from male students.)

For instance, women don’t invent for shit.

I mean, sure, Ladies Who Launch is always sending me emails about lady entrepreneurs who made a changing pad (the thing for babies) that’s round instead of rectangular! Or another one of those systems of pockets you can transfer from purse to purse! I mean, this is way better than frittering away your cash on a masters degree you don’t need and that’ll just sink you into debt. And a lot of “inventions” by men are, of course, just as non-groundbreaking – I once read a book about how to get one’s inventions to market, and most of the examples were things like, “a trash can for a child’s room attached to a cardboard cutout of LeBron James, whence a cheering sound emerges when trash is ‘dunked’ into said trash can.”

But actual inventions? The kind someone has to tinker with in a lab for a decade and then “OMG it’s a hologram!”?  Well, in 1871, Margaret Knight did invent a paper-bag-making machine. (The most recent figure I could find said that, as of 1999, only 9.2% of patents went to women.)

Sommers, at this debate, commented, “Men are not finished, they’re primary risk takers and there is zero evidence that is changing.” (See Bullish: When To Make Massive and Ballsy Life Changes for Your Career and Bullish: Launching Your Empire While Your Youthful Mojo is Still Sky-High).

It’s true that women now graduate from all levels of college (including law and medical school!) at higher rates than men. It’s also true that they get a shockingly low proportion of venture capital investment. While many individual women are doing amazing things, considered in aggregate, we’re doing a lot of rule-following. Isn’t that precious of us?

I wrote in Bullish: When “Achievements” Just Leave You Feeling Empty about Generation Y’s alleged “addiction” to praise. Whether this is true on a generational level is less important than whether it’s true for you: being addicted to praise makes you someone’s little bitch. Praise doesn’t even cost anything to the person giving it; chasing it is a terrible way to run one’s life.

Seek to move forward by doing things that don’t have applications, or even names.

This leads me to…

 Mistake #3: Not Getting Your Name on Something Concrete

 For me, the easiest way to make money is to tutor people, which I do about twenty hours per week. In the best-case scenario, these people go on to do very well, to provide me with cute testimonials, and to tell others of the mind-blowing experience they had being coached. But mostly, it’s an hourly job; once you’ve tutored a hundred people, tutoring two hundred people is not much more impressive.

What is more impressive is forgoing some of that cash long enough to write books and manuals in my field. There’s something tangible that says “Jennifer Dziura” – indeed, the 1,000 vocabulary flashcards I wrote clock in at around 8 pounds, thus leading to my now-tired joke that I mailed a set to my mother in lieu of a grandchild.

In Bullish: Basing Your Career on a Resume Is Like Competing in a Brothel Lineup, I talk about how an impressive resume is just a basic qualification, much like a bachelor’s degree. Everyone has that.

Similarly, “two years’ experience” at a job doesn’t sound that hot (who doesn’t have that?) But this is usually what you get when you get roped into all manner of different projects, all worked on by big teams in which you have no special or discernable role.

If you find yourself unexpectedly job-hunting next week, what do you have to show prospective employers? A resume that makes reference to your contributions to a bunch of stuff that these potential employers can’t go look at? That’s a problem. It’s fucking brutal out there.

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