Sunday, December 16, 2007

My Jane Austen Biz Plan: 10 Smart Career Moves: An English Major's Aria

I'm not just a Bubble Head or (Bobble Head) and my English degree has paid handsome dividends. That's because Jane Austen has made me a business maven. Tutored by Jane, I've become more than an air-head in training. This post is the flip side of an earlier post:

10 Smart Career Moves: An English Major's Aria

1. In Praise of Typing 101: In high school during the 1970s, typing class represented an academic detour usually reserved for future typing pool candidates of America. I was in the Honors Track, with no intention of joining the Pink Collar Ghetto. But Jane Austen taught me to have a broader mind. Many of her heroines-- even the wonderful Elizabeth Bennet -- had practical skills. So in a fit of practicality, I tapped into my inner typist during my teen years by enrolling into Personal Typing 101. I didn't take the class seriously; I underperformed, but I acquired a very marketable skill that I use every day.

Bottom Line: 1) I owe a huge debt to my teenage self. 2) Big air kiss to the little girl in the Big Afro (that's me at 17 in the photo) for learning that Big Hair doesn't translate into a little brain.

2. In Praise of An English Degree: Of course, I should have taken a few management courses. But here's the reality check: I would not have a career to manage in 2007, if as a college sophomore in 1977, I had not elected to major in English Lit at Georgetown University.

As an English major, I learned to write effective papers and to analyze texts. What's more, I learned to keep an open mind, which led me to ultimately pursue lessons about investments, real estate and wealth management. Money, I realized, plays a major role in every Jane Austen novel.

Bottom line: Before I learned to write about money, I had to learn to write. Thank you, Jane.

3. Internships: Sure, I should have landed an internship during my undgergrad years. But right after graduation, I landed a paid internship at a PBS station in Washington, DC. That opportunity led to a full-time job in television news. And during my early 20s, I kept learning from several mentors.

For example, on weekends (during my off-hours), I used to tag-along with a talented weekend news team, who provided valuable insights about writing and reporting. They taught me the importance of having an eye for details and an ear for accuracy.

Bottom Line: It's never too late to be an intern. Learning is an ongoing process.

4. The Big Duh! Factor: I've always kicked myself for failing to join the school newspapers in high school or college. Well duh: by default, I became almost as well-rounded as Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. Lizzie sews, walks, sings, plays the piano and reads a lot.

Bottom Line: It's important to have a diversified portfolio of income, talent and assets. My ADD tendencies have yielded diverse opportunities.

5. Graduate School: So what if I waited until age 49 to enroll in a graduate degree program? It took me that long to figure out what I really wanted to study. And after years of debating over a the merits of a law, MBA or a teaching degree, I've gone back to my academic roots: I'm now enrolled in an Interdisciplinary Liberal Arts masters program. It's Shakespeare, Renaissance Art with a bit of math and science thrown in.

Bottom Line: It takes a brain to be a scatterbrain.

6. Wall Street: Who knew business would become one of my passions? But consider how long it took Elizabeth Bennet to realize that she really loved Mr. Darcy. (Fitzwilliam Darcy). Life is full of surprises and unexpected plot twists.

Bottom Line: Don't write off any chapter. Don't discard any section of the newspaper or electronic new readers. Today's headlines could be tomorrow's pay check. Yesterday's heartbeat could be today's pulse.

7. Beauty obsessions: All of those hours I spent in beauty salons and day spas have paid unexpected dividends. Driven by all of that wasted time, I've become very efficient with time.

And I've become very skilled at doing my own hair and if the writing gig ever fails, maybe I'll go to beauty school and open my own day spa. I'll call it: The Beauty Business Suite Duchess.

Bottom line: My nails wouldn't be so hard today, if I hadn't polished and buffed them yesterday.

8. Self-help relationship books: Honestly: I wish I had that little memory-deleting gadget that Will Smith used in Men in Black. Armed with that device, I'd purge my system of about 5,000 pages of 1980s era Poor-Little-Me self-help relationship books. Fortunately, going back to my English major roots has helped. I'm encouraged by Pride and Prejudice because Elizabeth Bennet ultimately balances her emotional accounts and faces her lack of self-honesty.

Bottom Line: You are what you read and I've been reading a lot of books on business, literature, meditation, Torah and more. And of course, lots of Jane Austen and Toni Morrison.

9. Computers: After a slow start as a Luddite, I've re-invented myself as a high-tech babe. My keyboard is my professional life line; the DSL connection is my economic umbilical chord.

Bottom Line: A slow Internet connection is better than no connection at all.

10. Geeks at the dinner table: A scientist who came to dinner chatted about the Internet in 1991. After ignoring his chit-chat about the electronic highway (zzzzzzz), I eventually woke up and learned to travel in Cyberspace.

Bottom Line: When my bubble head popped, I enjoyed the pleasure of finding my brain.



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LongBeachBabe said...

Speaking of typing class, I sometimes think this was probably the most useful class I got out of my highschool education.

My higher-ups ALWAYS comment on how fast and precise I type LOL.

Frugal Duchess said...

Long Beach Babe:

So true. Isn't that funny?
I really took typing as a semester-killing relaxation class during my senior or junior year.

What a "gift!"

Thanks so much for your comment.
Best Wishes,

JaneFan said...

What a fun, but thought-provoking post! Jane Austen's characters really do have a lot they can teach us about life. The heroines are constantly learning, growing, and becoming more open-minded.

Frugal Duchess said...

Hey JaneFan:

Thanks for your comments.
I'm amazed about the wealth of practical knowledge contained in all of Jane Austen's novels.

Even Northanger Abbey -- a spoof on the 'Gothic Novels' from Jane's era -- offers a very powerful reality check about perception and reality.

But Lizzie of P&P is my favorite. ;)

Thanks so much for chatting "chick lit" with me.

I appreciate the visit very much!