Why Work-Life Balance May Be Overrated, & Other Career Tips From Amy Schumer

Let’s get one thing straight: Amy Schumer’s new book of essays, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, is no celeb vanity project. She gets real on serious issues, like sexual assault and gun control, allowing both subjects to live in a book that also touches on how she lost her virginity and her weird collection of stuffed animals.

This, by the way, is brilliant career hack #1: A project is the most successful, startling, and honest when it doesn’t fit into one box. And the more I thought about how surprising, thought-provoking, and just plain fun Amy Schumer’s book was — when, really, a greatest-hits adaptation of her best comedy moments would have satisfied her publisher and fans — the more I realized it’s also an amazing career guide. Here, some of the biggest takeaways anyone can relate to — whether you're on the A-list or clocking in at your very first 9-to-5.

Balance is (sometimes) overrated. In my 20s, I had a day job and spent nights ghostwriting teen novels. I worked all the time. And then, in my 30s, I stopped burning the midnight oil because I felt I needed balance. And balance was good…for a while. But I missed the feeling of always being on. And even before Amy Schumer was Amy Schumer, she talks about the satisfaction she got working at restaurant or bartending gigs. Point being: There’s no reason to pull back if you genuinely love working.

Feeling accomplished is EVERYTHING. As explained by Schumer: “Even at a job I hated, I loved the feeling I’d get when I was done. The beer at the end of the shift, or the feeling of looking at the clock and seeing it change to the minute you can leave is so freeing.” In other words, sometimes the best part of a job may be quitting time. That’s not to say you should hang on to a crappy job forever, but crappy jobs for a summer or a few months may have some unexpected benefits, including making you really appreciate when it’s time to go home. Even better, Schumer still admits to loving that I’m free feeling, proving it’s okay to love work and also treasure your down time.

Make your job work for you. Schumer worked at a ton of service-industry jobs when she was starting out, including one gig at a fancy Grand Central steak restaurant. Instead of just punching in and out, Schumer worked it, eventually posting the top sales. Again, the point isn’t to give your blood, sweat, and tears for a job you hate, but rather that work is more fun and interesting if you actually put in effort. Which brings us to…

It’s ALL résumé-building. In college, Schumer worked teaching aerobics, Spin, and kickboxing. Sure, it’s not something on her IMDB profile, but she explains in her book that it was an early way to step in front of a crowd and make them listen and like her. And it’s brilliant! Want to develop a skill set but aren’t getting it from your day job? Go out there and make it happen.

But don’t stick out a gig you don’t believe in. Schumer gets super-honest about a certain incident with a men’s magazine, where the essay she was contracted to write ran with photos of models instead of her. Instead of listening to her argument for including her photo, the editor mansplained how the design process of the magazine worked. Schumer asked for her piece to be pulled, the editor ran it anyway, and Schumer made a decision she’d never work with the magazine again. In a world where so many people cobble together a career out of freelance gigs, I think this was such a powerful point: It’s one thing to do a job that’s boring or repetitive, or not your dream career. It’s another to do something you vehemently don’t believe in.

You’re the boss? Be the boss! Schumer is honest about hiring people for her show who aren’t the right fit. And when that’s the case, she knows she owes it to herself, as well as the employees, to let them go. Bottom line: If you are in a position of power and someone beneath you isn’t performing, it’s not benevolent to cover for them. Instead, you’ve got to either change your expectations of what they can do or let them go.

Have your own back.
No matter where you are on the career ladder, you’re going to sometimes deal with tough bosses or toxic coworkers. You need a backbone, and it’s up to you to get it. Schumer found her #bossbackbone when she was a 10-year-old, volunteering to be a basketball ref in kiddie sports in her town. In her book, she writes that dealing with parents who were mad at her calls directly led her to being able to ignore internet trolls. Bottom line: When cranking up your confidence is one of your extracurricular priorities, it can absolutely pay off in how you handle office politics.
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