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.

Finding Satisfaction From Your Job

About five years ago, I was considering making a major career shift. I’d been working at a job I liked for several years, but the industry I was in did not excite me the way my volunteer work in animal rescue did. I’ve loved animals since I was a kid; the volunteer work filled me with a sense of purpose, and seeing the immediate outcome of my work (deserving animals going to good homes) made me feel deeply satisfied. It seemed obvious I should try to get paid to do it. I began looking for jobs at shelters and humane societies, but the more I applied and interviewed—even to the point of being offered a job—the less enthusiastic I became about making the change. I’d wanted this forever. Why was I hesitating?

‘Gold Diggers’ 2005/1933

In the summer of 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and Kanye West's "Gold Digger" hit the radio waves. I was 14 and didn't know how to help, but I had some money saved so I sent it along. There was a collection box in the school cafeteria the week I started ninth grade, and a big poster board chart on the wall tracked how much the school had raised using columns made of crepe paper. Soon I learned on the national news that the Red Cross wasn't doing much with the money. Nobody had planned for that kind of disaster.

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

Debating the Value of a Public Service Career

B. is a graduate student at a major American university studying humanitarian organizations in the Middle East. (She remains anonymous because she is considering leaving academia, but doesn’t want to tell the whole world yet.) In considering a possible change in professional direction, she wrote to me to ask about my work as a public defender, and a conversation about career choices in the realm of social justice ensued. We thought it might be interesting for other people considering the (never lucrative, sometimes rewarding) world of public interest work, so we are sharing it, lightly edited for clarity, with you:

Every Job I’ve Ever Had: Piano Teacher, Dog Walker, Booth Babe, Executive Assistant, Writer, and More

As should become immediately obvious, many of these jobs were held concurrently.

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?

How Much Do You Pay Someone To Risk Their Life For You on Mt. Everest?

Thirteen Sherpas, or professional specialized mountain guides, died this week in an avalanche on Mount Everest, while another three remain unaccounted for, and the rest of the Nepalese Sherpa community has decided to close out the season early:

The accident underscored the huge risks faced by Sherpas who maintain and prepare the icy slopes for climbers and trek the routes carrying equipment for their clients. In a season, Sherpas can earn from $3,000 to $6,000 (2,171 – 4,342 euros), which is about 10 times the average annual pay in Nepal.

On Tuesday, Nepal’s Tourism Ministry announced an agreement to establish a relief fund for guides killed or injured while climbing the mountain, one of the key concessions demanded by the Sherpas following last week’s disaster. Funding is thought to be well below that requested by the guides.

Minimum insurance cover for Sherpas on the mountain, the government said, would be raised by 50-percent to around $15,000.

Working as a McDonald’s Party Hostess Changed My Career Path

Like millions of teenagers, I worked at McDonald's in high school. I was mostly tasked with cleaning or working the cash register, but a couple months in, I knew what would be best for me. I wanted to be a birthday party hostess.