You Have to Say Yes

A couple of people wrote me today to ask for career advice. In both cases, they were really excited about working on self-driving cars and they had been offered jobs in the automotive industry. The jobs involved big pay cuts and were imperfect in other ways.

I tried to offer specific advice to each person, but after I fired off my two cents, I reflected back on some advice I received myself, several years ago.

I went to a talk with Marketplace radio host Kai Ryssdal, only because my wife has a crush on him.

But Kai turns out to have a pretty interesting life story. He flew planes for the US Navy, then worked in China with the US Foreign Service, and then wound up as an unhappy 34 year-old civilian shelving books at Borders while his wife was in grad school.

He had an interest in journalism, but no experience, so he applied for an unpaid internship with a San Francisco radio station.

One thing led to another, and eventually he became a (minor) national radio celebrity.

I tried to find a version of Kai’s talk online, but this is the closest I could locate:

Never say no. If someone says, “Can you come in on Sunday and go to Chinatown to get us some tape for the Monday broadcast,” you have to say yes. And that goes now more than ever in journalism, when it’s so hard to find really good work. If you have an opportunity, you absolutely have to grab it.

This was pretty important career advice for me personally, as it really helped push me into the opportunity I was offered at Ford. And my wife was supportive because, after all, Kai Ryssdal basically told me to take the job.

Another version of Kai’s fascinating life story is here, although he doesn’t drop the “you have to say yes” line:

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