Career Advice for Those Considering the Artistic Life

All of which is to say, don’t quit your day job, or if you do, don’t join a 20-person brass band.

Why We Should Talk About Money at Work

We are told from a young age to never, ever speak about money. Don’t ask anybody how much they make, or how much they paid for their car, or how much they pay in rent for that beautiful apartment. It is tacky, it is rude, it’s not something that nice people do. I am not one of those nice people. Talking about the cost of things, for me, is a necessity. If I got something for cheap, and someone asks me about it, I am more than willing to tell them how much I paid, because I live in New York, and not a whole lot about this place is very cheap. I try to employ this kind of transparency in my day-to-day, because I think that breaking down the barriers that we create when it comes to finances is important.

Risk Is Healthy, Risk Is Fine, Risk Is Natural

Risk scares me because I view the squirmy unknown as a thing to be tamed, to be tamped down and placed neatly in a box. If I do the same things every single day, in the same way, the outcome is most likely something that I can predict.

Job of the Day: Crossword Puzzle Maven

Overachiever Anna Shechtman had her first crossword puzzle printed in the New York Times when she was 19 years old. That’s, like, par for the course if you’re T.S. Eliot and, at 19, writing “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Compared to ordinary people, that’s stunning. At 23, she has graduated from Swarthmore (well hey there!) and is about to follow in the footsteps of James Franco by getting a PhD at Yale in English and Film. She has also been Official Puzzle Guru Will Shortz’s assistant and the intern for the Slate Culture Gabfest.

Opening Ceremonies has an interview with the wunderkind here:

KATIE BARNWELL: When did you construct your first crossword? ANNA SHECHTMAN: I constructed my first crossword right after I saw the movie Wordplay. I saw it when I was 14 and I had, I think it’s fair to say, my first moment of cinematic identification, which I probably should have been having with Drew Barrymore or Greta Garbo, but instead I had with Will Shortz and Merl Reagle. I was editing my high school newspaper at the time, so I started constructing puzzles for it. They were pretty bad! They were pretty topical, related to high-school gossip and the midterms that were coming up. I fell madly in love with this very niche pastime. …

That’s something he often asks me: “Is this a thing?” That one recently was actually HUMBLEBRAG. He asked me if it was “a thing”—it is indeed a thing, Will. …

I think he really values the fact that I have such a different frame of reference from him; he’s in his early sixties and from Indiana and I’m 23 and from Lower Manhattan. Despite our differences, he really does let me push back, and encourages me to, because I think he knows that the beauty of all crossword puzzles and, I think, the Times puzzle in particular, is that it is a democratic puzzle. Anyone can do it, everyone should do it, and so he wants it to appeal to as many diverse audiences as possible—and ideally, all diverse audiences. He has to appeal to me and my grandmother, and that’s a hard needle to thread, and I think that he does it really well.

Exercise caution reading while eating; the interview — as well as this one in the Times from 2010, when she first published a puzzle – may induce jealousy-related choking.

Photo via Horia Varlan

An Interview With David Melito, Hollywood Production Accountant

I met David Melito a few weeks ago when I was on vacation in Los Angeles. We were talking about our shared interest in money, mine because—well, you’re reading The Billfold right now, aren’t you?—and his because he’s a production accountant in the film industry.

Career Advice From the Dalai Lama

"I think if we make a special effort to cultivate good relationships with people at work, get to know the other people, and bring our basic good human qualities to the workplace, that we can make a tremendous difference," he writes. "Then, whatever kind of work we do, it can be a source of satisfaction."

What Happens When You Start Earning a Living Wage

Gothamist has really terrific profiles of five of the 1,400 workers at Resorts World Casino who saw their pay double from $10-$12/hour to $20 or more, plus benefits after their union struck a new contract deal for them. Here's Jeannine Nixon, who works at the casino as a customer relations representative.

Forgive Me Scientists For I’ve Sinned: I’ve Gone Home at 5:00, I Enjoy the Sun …

Some scientists have mixed feelings about being scientists:

Last month, I spoke to an audience of about a hundred postdocs at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Wondering whether I was alone in my fraudulence, I decided to finally go ahead and ask.

“How many of you,” I polled the audience, “actually enjoy doing lab work?” Remember that these are people who’ve performed laboratory research for a decade or more, who would spend that very afternoon at the lab bench, and who are actively and fervently pursuing careers doing more lab work. Here’s how many hands went up: Three.

I can’t be the only scientist who feels like a fraud. But we don’t talk about it. No one volunteers to proclaim their inadequacies. In fact, scientists go to great lengths to disguise how little we know, how uncertain we feel, and how much we worry that everyone deserves to be here but us. The result is a laboratory full of colleagues who look so impossibly darn confident. They’re the real scientists, we tell ourselves. They can follow the entire seminar. They read journals for pleasure. Their mistakes only lead them in more interesting directions. They remember all of organic chemistry. 

Do we allow our humanities majors to articulate — or even just feel — more ambivalence than our #STEM majors? Are scientists and doctors and engineers fronting all the time because they sense laypeople need them to? Is it because when you wear a white coat, you have to project authority? It’s the white coat, isn’t it? What if the coat were plaid, or came with elbow patches?

Job of the Day: Obituary Writer

Once more with feeling! I've written about Margalit Fox before, she of the amazing name and amazing-er job, writing obits for the NYT. This time, she's interviewed in the Paris ReviewA [DAILY] and I want to quote a million things from it:

Four (And One) Items I Regretted Wearing to My First Job

It started with my interview, to which I wore a "nice" black T-shirt, jeans, and sparkly sandals that I borrowed from a friend of mine named Lessie. I was 22 years old and had no idea what I was doing.

Gets, Regrets, and Good Decisions: Jobs I’ve Said No To

There are many reasons to say no to an offer. Sometimes it’s not a good fit; the position isn’t exciting, the company culture isn’t right, or the salary is too low. Sometimes, after going through the interview process and envisioning what your life will look like in the position (that you’ve yet to accept), your real priorities become clear. I’ve had a few opportunities to say no to job offers, which I recognize is an enormous privilege, and it hasn’t always been a good thing. There are a few types of jobs that I’ve said no to.