The Language of Career Transition 2/x

A continuation of a LinkedIn post on career transition:

2/x In retrospect, I liken my career transition mostly to learning a new language.  By language, I mean not high-school French, but language in the broader sense of a means of communication, an agreed-upon set of references, of metaphors and understandings. Music and mathematics are languages in that sense, and recognized as such. Computer coding languages are narrower but the same. Trained in history and having learned Russian, I was completely mute in regard to the language of business, finance, and investing. I don’t want to downplay the technical skills involved in a career transition—especially if one plans to transition from poet to neurosurgeon—but to move into most areas of business, the technical skills are just not that high of a hurdle. They need to be mastered, but a class here, a class there, and some on the job training will do the trick.

The language of business is the more interesting part. If you are contemplating a transition from the humanities, it’s time to call up Berlitz.  There are a couple of dialects worth learning. The first and easiest is Excel. It is hard to imagine coming of age now and getting through college without Excel (or Sheets).  But if you have managed to escape it, sign up for an online course. You don’t have to know every single function. There will always be a 25-year old better at Excel than you are. You just have to know enough. Excel is a way of organizing information. The Excel charts and tables based on that data are a way of communicating that information. For better or worse, the latter is often more important than the former. In short, as in other languages, it’s often not what you say, but how you say it. Excel allows for a wide range of expression, from unconvincing and leaden, to persuasive and poetic.

The more interesting dialect is accounting.  Many of those English majors willing to open an Excel file will shrink at the thought of accounting or using Quickbooks. They should not. Accounting is an incredibly important way of ordering the world, understanding the world, and changing the world. Alter the depreciation schedules abruptly and you’ll have a proper revolution. Want to have an impact on the energy transition, adjust the depreciation rules and you will see an immediate impact on investment. Double entry bookkeeping at the heart of modern accounting can appear bewildering, but it is powerful, even elegant way of categorizing human activity. Give it a try. It will make you a better poet….