The worst criticism I’ve ever received from an editor is “it sounds like ChatGPT wrote this.” But as soon as Melissa told me that I thought: she’s right. Unfortunately, she said this about the post I wrote about my son getting into Duke. So I’m trying again because I need to tell you that he was homeschooled since first grade, and he had a traumatic brain injury in high school, and I’m completely thrilled for him that he got into his first-choice college. Read more

Is medical school worth it for women?

Surgical Ceramics by Beccy Ridsdel

Women who are really good at school think a great way to celebrate that is to go to medical school. People admire you! It’s great money! And there’s flexible hours for moms!

But this is what really happens to women who go into medicine: The majority will not work full-time after having children. And once that happens, their co-workers will treat them like crap and they will not make nearly enough money to put up with the stress of variable hours and disrespect.

Women physicians are mentally behind women in other professions. Instead of learning from women in other professions, female physicians think they they will have better outcomes because they worked so hard to control everything by:

  • Considering family planning when selecting a specialty
  • Specifically avoiding surgery, due to the lifestyle required of surgical trainees
  • Planning pregnancies around training stage and timing of specialty exams
  • Delaying childbearing despite age-related fertility pressure

But none of this matters because female doctors constantly underestimate the time constraints demanded by their profession.

Part-time schedules undermine the second spouse. The second spouse can’t stay home because there is not enough money. And that spouse cannot work full-time because full-time professional jobs — including full-time medical jobs — require full-time support at home. And women working full-time — especially doctors — don’t have that support.

Flexible hours disrupt family division of labor. When female doctors accept  flexible schedules or a shortened work week the high pay can’t make up for the disorder. An office provides stimulation, guidance, and a sense of belonging, and at home professionals establish clear divisions of family labor. But “family-friendly” policies blur boundaries and home becomes the place in which there is too much to do in too little time — especially for reduced-hour physicians.

Part-time is a mirage at high levels. Law firms famously offered top women the option to go part-time, cut their salaries in half, and the women kept working long hours. The corollary in medicine is women who have sub-specialties work more than forty hours a week  even when they are part-time.

People who are great at their work like to work full-time. Those who devote most of their time to work don’t want to work with people who are working part time. If someone makes work their highest priority why should they have to work with someone who does not make work their highest priority?

You might say that everyone should be working part-time in their work and part-time as parents. But a lot of people get pleasure from picking one thing and doing it really well. For example, full-time moms are way better at their job than part-time moms.

Quitting is healthier than going part-time. You, too, would be happier doing one thing well; when you work part-time and parent-part time you end up losing the identity you forged as a high performer at work and you create weak ties in the work arena and the parenting arena. Going part-time you don’t feel happiness from gaining flexility, you feel pain from losing the opportunity to be admired for doing something well.

Leaving work is a logical choice for women. Economist Claudia Goldin finds that from 1985 to 1995 only 30 percent of women who graduated college worked full-time when they had children. Since 1995, this group decreased their workforce participation.

This decrease in participation is due to an increase in social status. And the effect is worldwide.LH When women have more power they leave the workforce in favor of being at home.

Few men want to give necessary support for a full-time partner. Everyone has the option of working full-time and having children, but you must partner with someone who is capable and willing to stay at home full-time and provide the type of emotional and logistical support necessary for performing a high-paying full-time job. Few men are available because unlike women, men do not leave the workforce when they gain power.

If you care about money you should skip medical school. Remember how I told you that other professional women are decades ahead of you? Women applying to MBA programs understand that most will not be working full-time, and they understand the benefits of an MBA program are limited given their biological clock. Therefore women go to business school earlier than men, and schools have no choice but to accept women earlier or they won’t have any women.

Women applying to medical school should do the same sort of planning. If you don’t have a subspecialty you’re unlikely to work full-time after you have kids. If that’s the case, you’d be better off financially becoming a physician’s assistant instead of a doctor.

An MD is like a diamond ring — signifies a high-end passage to the next stage of life. As soon as women become the majority, salaries go down. Look at the legal profession. Women outnumbered men, salaries went down. The same pattern is already happening in medicine. Women are the majority of graduates, and in specialties where women dominate the pay rate plummets.

But there’s good news! Most women don’t go into medicine for the money. The money is nice, but you expect that you’ll have a spouse making money. Women go into medicine for the prestige. That’s why it’s so easy for them to plan from the outset to go part-time and not even crunch numbers to see if it’s worth it.

So maybe my first premise is wrong. No woman can make part-time work come out well. But doctors actually are different from the other women. Because a doctor holds on to the prestigious title no matter where she is, even if she stays home taking care of kids.

Americans have an unwavering belief in economic mobility. Most people in the U.S. think they can work hard to get ahead, even though economic mobility is lower in the U.S. than in other industrialized countries. Read more


Porcelain Pencils by Katharine Morling

The FBI just announced a sting operation that caught 50 rich and famous parents paying millions of dollars to bribe and cheat to get their under-qualified kids into top colleges (and, mysteriously, some not-top colleges). Last year a magnet school in Louisiana, which had been celebrated for getting poor minority students into top schools year after year, admitted to lying and cheating to get the kids in. Read more

Business school applications are due at the beginning of January. Now is the time to withdraw your application.

Because you should not go to business school. If you want to start a company, you should start a company. And if you want to climb the corporate ladder you should do that. An MBA does not help you with either of those goals. Read more

It used to be that internships were just for college kids. But today, the internship is for anyone who wants to do work they have no track record for doing. The internship is learning ground and proving ground for any age. It’s true that kids in college absolutely must get work experience to be employable after college, and an internship is a good way to do that, at any age.

My favorite internship story is when my eight-year-old son got an internship as a stylist and found himself dressing a model.

People in their 30s get internships to make up for lost time in their 20s. And also to land hipster jobs that are impossibly hard to get—this internship at Versace, for example, went for $3200. That’s right. Some internships are so cool that you have to pay for them.

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The advice I’ve given to new grads in the past is to marry rich so you have more options. And don’t go to grad school to get out of difficult choices. Consider moving home with your parents to save money and don’t do what you love.

This is all really good advice.  You should go read those posts, but this year, my message to new grads is that you should make the mistakes I made when I graduated. They were good mistakes to make.

1.  Ask for too much in the interview.
The first job interview I ever had was for the number one children’s book publisher at the time, Harper Row. It was a long shot, but I sent my resume to their New York City headquarters, and I ended up getting an interview – my ten years running our family children’s bookstore was worth a lot more than I realized.

When I got to the interview I didn’t understand that it was my job to sell myself.  I thought that had already been done, and that’s why I got the interview. Read more

One of the things I love most about the advice-to-grads motif is that you learn a lot about the advice giver from the advice. When you force yourself to give short, smart advice, you end up focusing on the stuff that matters most to you.

Sheryl Sandberg, for example, gives amazing graduation speeches, but she always touches on how more women can live the life she is living, and they should aspire to that. That’s what’s important to her. JK Rowling focuses on feeling okay if you fail. It makes sense: she has spoken of how she was on public assistance and suicidal before she was queen of all publishing.

My advice focuses on challenging your preconceived notions. I think this is what I do best, so, of course, I tell people to go out in the world and do this.

Who you take advice from is important. I hate people who are snobs about career advice. You can get great advice from people who are terrible at life. And you can get terrible advice from people with grand successes. The trick is to understand where the person is coming from when they give the advice .

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I have been railing against grad school for a long time, and  I’m starting to believe that you should leave grad school off your resume if you are not working in the field you studied.

Here are five reasons why putting grad school on your resume makes you look bad. (And at the end of this post, there’s a game plan for what to do with any gap you’ll have when you remove grad school from your resume.)

1. Grad school on your resume is a formal announcement of a mistake.
If you are working in the exact field that you went to grad school for, then this advice does not apply to you. But most people do not get jobs that are directly related to their graduate degree. Most people did not need to go to grad school to get a job.

Which begs the question, “Why did you go?” For most people the answer will be that it was a mistake. It was a lot of time and money spent for a degree they didn’t need.

Other people will say they love to learn. This is not a good thing to say because it is not remarkable. At least, not among the people you need to be better than to get hired. Those star employees are learning all the time and do not take time away from work to go to grad school. Are you so stupid that you cannot learn without getting grades? Because this is what it looks like if you say you went to grad school because you love to learn. Read more

If I look back on my blog, I can see that each year there were one or two ideas that just blew me away and ended up dominating my thinking. For example, 2011 my year to be obsessed with school – homeschooling and higher ed, 2010 was my year for disillusionment with happiness research, 2009 was when I started writing honestly about how unglamorousstartup life really is.

I’m excited to think about what this year will bring in terms of the ideas that will capture my imagination. Here are the early candidates:

1. Nature vs. nurture
An important book came out at the end of 2011 that got very little play in the media: Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, by Bryan Caplan The title of the book is just awful. Which is probably why it has been roundly ignored. The title should have been Why Nothing You Do As a Parent Matters. That title would have gotten a lot of media coverage, but who would have purchased the book? Read more