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Funbag

A Completely Useless Guide To Switching Careers

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Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. And preorder Drew’s next book, The Night The Lights Went Out, while you’re at it. Today, we’re talking about brownies, smelly feet, boiled bacon, and more.

Your letters:

Frank:

How did you escape advertising?

I gathered my entire agency inside a conference room in 2002 and I told them, “People, there will one day be a future where you can send very short missives to the world via app, and in this world only the most insufferably pithy brands shall survive. WE shall be stewards of these pioneer brands, with Wendy’s leading the charge.”

And then I was fired.

In all seriousness, I switched careers the way many people, both inside and outside of advertising, have: via side work. When I was still writing car dealer ads and whatnot, I started a blog on the side. Then I started another blog. Then I got freelance writing work. Eventually, the side gig grew so big that it organically took over as the full-time job, although not without me sweating balls when it came to making my COBRA payments on time during the transition.

But that kind of deadly angst comes in the package deal with any career change. Doesn’t mean you should be discouraged from making the attempt, even now. I tend to think of myself as lucky having started my blogging career at the exact right time: before the advent of social media and before pivots to video and all that. And I often join my colleagues in lamenting the state of my chosen industry and being like DON’T GO INTO JOURNALISM! THERE BE DRAGONS HERE! But that’s naive. Every generation thinks history only happens to them. It doesn’t. Journalism has been a god-awful mess since 1900, if not longer. But it’s still here—which is unfortunate if you happen to be the University of North Carolina at the moment—and people still thrive within it.

In fact, you can go back to any random point in history and find MANY people who will tell you it’s never been a worse time to be in their line of work: media, realty, manufacturing, small business ownership, lion taming, etc etc. Those people presume things can never get better and that no one ever gets to be an exception to the prevailing trends. But you can always switch careers. The landscape is different from back when I made the switch—as it is across nearly every industry outside of bank lobbying—but it’s not impenetrable. Lemme give you as earnest a step-by-step guide to pulling it off as I can. WARNING: some butt jokes may still slip through the … cracks. HUH? HUH?

First of all, start laying the groundwork for your new career now. You don’t have to quit your job just yet. That part comes later. Before that, you can use some of your free time to get started on a side project. It can be a novel. It can be a band. It can be drawing up a business model for a series of food trucks. It can be night school! For example, when I started off in advertising, I wasn’t allowed to write the ads. That was a totally separate department. So I took a lot of night classes back when I lived in New York (they’re the best value in education) in copywriting at SVA, and I read a lot of books about advertising, and I compiled a portfolio on the side.

That gave me the foundation I needed to switch careers WITHIN that profession the day I was fired for the first time in my adult life. I was ready when the shoe dropped, and the next job I got was the one I wanted all along. I used to think of career switches as dramatic things. You’re in one field, you decide to you want to be there, and then you change everything around you right that second. That’s only true if you don’t bother to give yourself a head start. But if you DO give yourself one, it makes the transition not jarring, but inevitable.

Also, talk to people. “Networking” is a shitty word that implies you’re only meeting people in order to get something from them. You probably have a LinkedIn account, and there are plenty of necessary reasons to have one, but it still pays to have connections that go beyond that platform. It’s the real reason that Americans go to college. The more people you know—and by “know” I mean you’ve had at least one exchange with them that had nothing to do with work, including getting drunk and eating pizza at 3 a.m. with them—the more people there are in the world willing to give you work or to recommend you to people they know who can.

And don’t hide your ambitions from those people. Way back when, I was TERRIFIED of telling other people at work that I wanted a different position within my company, because I figured that word would reach my boss and that I’d be fired on the spot for not being a team player. Sometimes I would let my dreams slip out at the bar and I’d freak out after the fact. What if Ben tells Katherine and then Katherine tells Ned and then Ned tells Peter and then Peter tells the CEO?! And indeed I was eventually fired, but that was because I was horrible at my existing job. But by then, I had already been on the job for a few years and made enough friends in the creative department to make my confessions worthwhile. If no one knows what your dreams are, they can’t give a fuck about them. So that’s why I’m telling you, my friends, that my dream right now is for Point B to become a TV show—a good one—and am actively working with a studio to make that happen. Now you know. It’s all out in the open. Even our EIC Tom Ley knows, and he still hasn’t fired me. Yet.

Lastly, don’t expect anything to happen overnight. Everything is a process. In college, I thought I’d be writing Oscar-winning movies and living in a house on stilts in L.A. and doing shitloads of coke and sleeping with THOUSANDS of women by the time I was 26. That did not happen. I also bristled at every job listing that required experience. You mean I need 10 years of copywriting to get hired as a creative department head? LUDICROUS. No one has that much experience; it’s not possible. The overnight success stories are exceptions to the rule, and most people who experience overnight success deal with it badly. You, on the other hand, get to spend years investing in yourself so that once your dream mattress supply company DOES indeed come to fruition, you’ll already be equipped to handle it like a goddamn pro.

Did any of that help? No? Then just quit your job. Do what our t-shirt says.

Nathan:

Recently I and some (fully vaccinated) friends got together for a cookout, and one of them brought a tray of frosted brownies. I made the case that this was essentially cake, while others contend they are simply brownies. Since the definitions for cake and brownie are pretty similar, we settled on the term “brownie cake.” Settle this debate, please and thank you.

They’re still brownies and should be called frosted brownies. Your friends were right and you were wrong. Brownies are not cake. If they ever taste like cake, that means that you made some fucking horrible brownies. The frosting doesn’t matter either way. Now go apologize to your friends by making them some cookies, which are also not a form of cake.

By the way, during the summer I make brownies just about every weekend, but I doctor them. The mix we buy (the Ghirardelli double chocolate one) has chocolate chips already in it, but not nearly enough for my taste. So I add an extra handful of chips to the batter and then, for an added flourish, I sprinkle some Maldon salt on top of those bad boys before they go in the oven. These brownies are why every weekend is a good weekend in my house.

Steve:

I took a new job a couple hours drive away from home, far enough that it was worth it for us to get an apartment close to work, but not so far that it makes it particularly difficult for my parents to come visit their grandkids every so often. The apartment building has a pool, and on his visit this weekend my dad wanted to take the kids swimming but had forgotten his bathing suit. He borrowed mine without asking, and my immediate reaction was to order a new one. No amount of washing will make me comfortable putting them on again. Am I wrong? Is borrowing a bathing suit any different from borrowing underwear? I fully recognize how lucky I am to have parents who are both willing and still able to watch my kids for an evening, and new trunks seem like a small price to pay for otherwise free childcare.

Oh just wear the fucking suit again. Just because your old man borrowed it doesn’t mean you’re locking penises with him by wearing it afterwards. It’s just a bathing suit. It can be washed. Once it’s washed, it’s clean. If there’s a stray granddad pube still caught in the lining, you toss it out. We just had an entire year’s lesson in hygiene theater. By now you oughtta know what surfaces constitute a legitimate danger to your dick and balls—a cheese grater, for example—and which do not. I’ve borrowed my dad’s suit. I’ve taken sips from his glass. I’ve used his razor. I don’t care. We’re family. I’m not gonna contract Oedipal herpes just because he and I took a bite from the same piece of chicken. You’ll be all right.

Isaac:

I was trying out a new recipe last night (a kind of hash with chickpeas and bacon and veggies, very tasty) and the first step was to BOIL the bacon. What the actual fuck, right?

Yeah but I’d still eat boiled bacon. I’d eat it even if my dad just took a bite. There are a lot of recipes where you’re asked to sacrifice the crispiness of the bacon to some greater end. Your hash was one such recipe, and you just said yourself that it was good. The boiled bacon justified the means. My tip to you—and this tip is for life in general—is to always have more bacon on hand than you need. If the recipe calls for boiling it, do that but then fry up some extra on the side for emergency use. There you go. You got the bacon fix you needed, two different ways.

In general, you should always follow the recipe, especially if it’s a new recipe. My wife, who is normally fastidious in every other way, gleefully disregards vital ingredients and steps in certain new recipes. She’ll be like, “Oh, this doesn’t NEED fish sauce,” and then it turns out fish sauce was actually the most important part of the whole thing. I give her shit for this all the time. She does not appreciate it.

But if she won’t listen to me, Isaac still can. Follow the recipe. If it turns out shitty, then you know it’s a bad recipe, or at least you’ll know what to tweak. No chef worth a crap is gonna boil bacon without a good reason to do it.

HALFTIME!

James:

Have you ever dared to dream of combining robe time with hammock time?

No. Much too sexy.

Also, I am no longer hammock years old. I am “I don’t like these kids at the pool splashing me” years old. Hammocks are out for me and my dad back.

Adam:

Got into a text chain argument with my cousin from NJ. He hates LA because (among other reasons) calzones are not a pizzeria staple here like they are back home. He and his wife claim they are the best form of pizza. I say calzones are bullshit. Way too much dough to toppings ratio, the toppings don’t get caramelized like they do on a pizza, and it always seemed suspicious like they could easily put second quality ingredients inside. Anything a calzone can do a pizza does better. Are calzones bullshit?

Probably. I’ve made good calzones. I’ve also had incredible calzones eating out, both of the trashy and the upscale variety. But if I had to choose between calzones and pizza, pizza will win every time. If I want the calzone effect, all I have to do is fold my slice, and I’m a pizza folder by habit anyway. So I like the occasional calzone just to mix things up, but I otherwise have no use for it.

That means you should tell your idiot cousin to go play in a toilet. If his main gripe with California is the lack of calzone options, he’s a fucking idiot. You only have 500,000 other fantastic, specific-to-L.A. cuisine options at your disposal. And yet there’s your cousin—surrounded by impossibly fresh produce, myriad seafood options, every kind of quality taco a man could possibly want, and some of the best Asian food options on the continent—going EY WHO DO I GOTTA BLOW TO GET A DECENT ‘ZONE IN DIS FUCKIN’ TOWN? If you’re the kind of person who leaves home and bitches that the new place isn’t enough like the old place, you should have just stayed in your fucking shithole of a hometown to begin with. You’re among our worst Americans.

Alex:

I work in an office. I take a shower every morning right before I leave for work and always wear clean socks, but about three hours in to my shift my feet start to smell. It gets worse as the day goes on. No one has said anything, but obviously I’m aware and can’t imagine how others aren’t. It’s not revolting but is definitely unpleasant and noticeable. I’ve tried washing my shoes and this seems to work for maybe two days, and extra scrubbing my feet in the morning seems to have a minor impact at best. I don’t have any other BO issues and I’m pretty sure this isn’t some kind of underlying issue. As a former office-goer yourself, have you ever experienced this and what do you recommend? Is this normal?

It’s extremely normal for a man’s feet to smell. If your feet don’t stink on the reg, well then you must be some kind of superhero. But I have figured out ways to mitigate the smell over my lifetime. Alex, you shower and wear clean socks, so that’s a good start. I assume you’ve also tried using Odor Eaters or dumping a bunch of foot powder into your shoes, the latter of which works for a few minutes before your toejam reduces that powder down to a damp, malodorous paste. I’ve taken all those steps and still ended up with feet that repel anyone within a 20-yard radius.

This is because, in my experience, the root of the problem is the shoe you’re wearing. You need shoes that are breathable and made of good materials. They don’t have to be inordinately expensive. I wear Asics around that scream DAD anywhere I go, but they’re sturdy, and dry, and they let enough air in to keep the bacteria from assembling en masse. Also, when I lace up my shoes, I keep them super loose. This is mainly so that I can turn any pair of sneakers into slip-on shoes I never have to lace again, but it has the added bonus of keeping the airflow levels consistently high. I know Alex here works in an office, where a boss may demand more formal shoe options. But you’ve all been to DSW. You know they make office shoes that do all the shit a comfy pair of sneakers can do. Fuck around with different shoes and I bet that solves the problem faster than anything else.

By the way, you might be saying BRO I WEAR FLIP FLOPS AND THOSE STINK TOO. I know flip flops can stink because my two boys are now old enough to light up our mudroom with the toejam aromas emanating out of their Adidas slides. My wife figured out that the cushiony beds that come with a lot of athletic slides and other open-toed shoes are havens of filth and disease. You need a pair of slides or flip flops that are made of one material on the top and the bottom of the sole. I know because I own a pair of slides that are made of just one thing. They make me look like I belong in hospice care, but now my trotters smell like fresh tulips, baby.

Amanda:

What boomer institutions will survive the inevitable demise of the boomer generation itself? Will SNL finally circle the drain without aging nostalgists to insist on its continued relevance? Will anyone ever make another ‘Nam movie after the last boomer passes? The Beatles are safe, right? Or will they, too, disappear into the ether without any original enthusiasts to resuscitate their old material in shiny new packages every decade or so? What do you think?

Most of those institutions were long-ago reengineered into profit centers that have the ability to live on far, far past their cultural relevance. SNL, as you already know, is one of them. So are the Stones. So are The Beatles. I know every dipshit teen on Twitter is like THE BEATLES HAVE NO BANGERS, as if they’re the first people to ever say that. FUN FACT: the Beatles’ cultural relevance was already waning by the time they broke up, which was in 1970. They still did all right for themselves after the fact. And I don’t even listen to The Beatles regularly, mind you. But I’m not a fool. They put out great songs and there’s enough money behind their respective estates to keep that shit in the rotation forever, even as rock itself has faded into obscurity.

You have to work very, very hard to get rid of all these boomer leftovers. The NCAA just let its players make money LAST WEEK. That’s how slow the progress is. Whatever goes extinct from here will probably be the exception and not the rule. Like 1950s nostalgia. That’s dead. No one is bringing back sock hops. We’ve been absolved of dewey-eyed ’50s bullshit for the rest of time, because it’s shitty and because it doesn’t make money anymore.

As for Nam movies, I wrote here five months ago that war movies weren’t going away anytime soon, but that was wrong. You gotta bust your ass to make a decent war movie now, and the privilege is usually only extended to big shots like Spike Lee and Christopher Nolan. They’re not gonna let some spunky newcomer make their Apocalypse Now in 2021. They’re gonna force that upstart to direct Galaxy War for Disney, or some other costume party that has blood-free battle scenes and absolutely nothing past that. Keep in mind we’re just coming out of TWO DECADES of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, and yet there’s been no glut of introspective war movies to arise from either of those conflicts. We got The Hurt Locker and that’s about it. This is because movies that say War Is Bad might upset the stock market, and/or viewers in the red states. So when boomer shit fades from the landscape now, it’s usually by their design and not yours. In other words, “Spirit In The Sky” is still gonna be in a lot of drug ads.

Mike:

Kelsey’s cherry post got me thinking – what is the best flavor candy from the worst fruit to eat? Or maybe what is the tastiest fruit but its candy flavor sucks the most? For instance, my favorite flavor of any candy is always cherry, but I don’t enjoy eating cherries. I love eating apples, but apple candy is always sour apple. Meanwhile, I had cantaloupe-flavored italian ice the other day that I thought would be terrible but was delicious. Grape candy and actual grapes have no correlation. Anyway, I think coconut candy is always the worst.

See I’m the opposite of you. I’m not racing to eat a bushel of Granny Smiths anytime soon, but gimme a sour apple Jolly Rancher and I’ll suck on that thing like I’m auditioning for Vivid Video. Otherwise, I’m not all that picky about my fruit candy, because it’s still candy. The primary flavor is corn syrup.

My lone exception to this is probably orange. I love a good orange, but orange is worst candy flavor. It’s boring and pointless. When I open a bag of Starburst, you better believe I let the orange ones sit at the bottom until they’re harder than fucking rocks. I have no use for orange candy, and lemon candy isn’t far behind.

Ian:

Why do star QBs stick around with whatever team drafted them? In the NBA (an indoor sport), superstars will get treated like Gods, and then eventually either go to California, Miami, Texas or a big city. But QBs just stay put. Miami hasn’t had a QB in 25 years and Trevor Lawrence is going to say “Derp, well I guess I’m just going to live in Jacksonville for the next 20 years.” How is every great QB not living in LA or Miami right now? I do not understand.

The obvious reason is that rookies are stuck with the team that drafted them for four years. If you’re a good QB, that team can tag you after that, and then do it again. In theory, they can tag you in perpetuity, although that eventually becomes cost prohibitive. By the time all those years have passed, a good QB has earned a nice amount of money and gotten acclimated to everything around him: the town, the team, the coaches, the idiot fans, etc. All that makes leaving harder. Also, every other NFL team either already has a franchise QB in place, or they’re developing one, or they’re planning to draft one on the cheap. None of them pull a Knicks and gameplan for a star QB in his prime to become available on the open market, because that so rarely happens. And when it does, the star in question is Kirk Cousins.

Now, will Trevor Lawrence—who just signed his rookie deal—still be a dummy if he stays with the Jaguars for the entirety of his career? Yes. Do I expect him to be smarter than that and light the fuck out for California in 2025ish? No.

Email of the week!

Jeremy:

I scanned the Wiki on MLB banned substances, but poop is not on the list, nor is any matter that could be excreted from a person. At this time I’m wondering if the umps will go so far as a bi-cavity search, but what’s to keep a pitcher from making a pitch with a little poo spin? And would eating a 5-lb. bag of gummy bears the night before a game generate more tackiness than a bowl of soup? 

Human feces are not on the banned substance list because if you hurl your own shit at someone, that’s an actual crime. MLB doesn’t have to specifically forbid you from doing that, just as they don’t need to have a specific rule that says, “Please don’t attack other players with anthrax powder, even if you think that’s very funny.” The law, plus the unwritten rules of the game, covers all that for them.

Also, poop isn’t sticky. I’ve touched poop. It’s disgusting, but it washes off with minimal effort. You’re not gonna get a better spin rate out of it. And if the batter doesn’t know there’s poop on the ball, he doesn’t know that he should be grossed out and run away from the box.