TIME

4 Ways to Go From Underemployed to Getting the Job You Want

85702602
People standing in line at Job and Training Fair Yellow Dog Productions—Getty Images

Marty Nemko is a career coach, writer, speaker and public radio host specializing in career/workplace issues and education reform.

What to do about America's employers eliminating, automating and offshoring jobs

Most of us have heard of:
  • College graduates doing menial work. A caller to my radio program last week graduated a year ago from the University of California, Berkeley, and the best job he’s been able to land is pizza delivery person. Alas, according to a report in The Atlantic, he’s far from alone; 53.6% of college graduates under 25 are doing work they could have done without college or are unemployed.
  • Middle-age professionals are losing their job: It was offshored, automated or, if s/he was lucky, it was converted to a “consultant” position in which they’re hired only for a project and with minimal benefits after which they’re back pounding the pavement. According to an AARP report, three years after the recession, 45% of the 50- to 64-year-olds surveyed reported a decline in income.
  • Itinerant professors. Colleges tout the importance of treating labor fairly, yet they don’t practice what they preach. Increasingly, they replace tenure-track faculty with people hired, without benefits, to teach just one or two courses at pittance pay. As a result, countless highly and expensively educated Ph.D.s must drive from university to university to cobble together a living smaller than they could have made without any degree, let alone a Ph.D. An Inside Higher Ed/Gallup poll found 65% of college provosts said their institution relies “significantly on non-tenure-track faculty for instruction.”

America’s employers–for-profit, non-profit, and government alike–are eliminating, automating and offshoring as many jobs as possible. And the remaining jobs are, ever more often, converted into part-time or temp work. This is the dejobbing of America

The broader picture

It’s tempting to feel things are better because the unemployment rate is down, but that masks the fact that many people have stopped looking for work. Those people aren’t counted in the unemployment rate. Nor does the unemployment rate consider people who are working but earning less income.

These statistics are more revealing: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the labor participation rate, the percentage of adults 16 to 64 that are employed or actively looking for work, is 62.7%, the lowest since early 1978.

And those who are working are, on average, making less. An analysis of government data on income and poverty last month found that, “After adjusting for inflation, U.S. median household income is still 8 percent lower than it was before the recession, 9 percent lower than at its peak in 1999.”

The numbers hide the human toll. Work is key to people’s psychological as well as financial well-being. Without work, in addition to not being able to pay for food, shelter, transportation and health care, you can feel useless.

Solutions for the individual

Personally, I love the liberal arts. I enjoy reading novels, looking at paintings, listening to classical music and contemplating life’s Big Questions. Alas, we’re living in times in which those seem less valued than they used to be. A report this month by the National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that the four majors most in demand by employers at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral level are business, engineering, computer and information sciences, and sciences, with liberal arts trailing badly—just above agriculture and natural resources. Another survey in that NACE report found that employers are demanding even more problem solving expertise and quantitative analysis skills.

So I bear the bad news that, to avoid long periods of un- and underemployment, you may have to ratchet up your game. And even if you do, you may need to use more aggressive techniques to land a job than not long ago. A pretty, hired-gun-written resume, LinkedIn profile and cover letter may not cut it any more. But these things might help:

  • In answering ads, include a job sample: a proposal for what you might do if hired, a white-paper on a topic of compelling interest to the boss and/or a portfolio of relevant work.
  • Try to get in through the back door. The front door (answering want ads) has a long line of wannabes. So try to connect with people with the power to hire you when they’re not advertising a job. Write an email asking for advice. They may create a job or at least foot-in-the-door project for you. Ask for a job, they’ll feel pressured and just give you advice or ignore your request.
  • Make an offer they can’t refuse. Offer to volunteer for a fixed amount of time. If after that, they like you, they agree to hire you. If not, they got free labor with no strings attached.
  • Not for the faint-of-heart: Walk in. For example, a client wanted the security of a federal job. So at 8:00 AM, when all the federal workers were arriving, she asked a friendly looking one if she might get her through security by saying, “She’s with me.” Two said no but the third said yes. She then schmoozed her way around the building and got useful inside information, which enabled her to write a great application for a position, which she then got.

Macro solutions

  • Assistance Army. Companies, nonprofits, and government should collaborate in creating an “Assistance Army.” Each sector would create societally beneficial jobs that even many low-skilled workers could do: for example, student mentor, community garden raised-bed builder, health-care system docent and mural creator to brighten gritty neighborhoods. Additionally, the three sectors would develop a campaign to encourage individuals to hire personal aides: tutors for their children, housekeeper, personal assistant and technology explainer for themselves, elder companion for their older relative, etc.
  • A world-class K-16 entrepreneurship curriculum. Permanent jobs get created mainly by starting and expanding private-sector businesses. Government jobs require tax dollars, which thus reduce private-sector jobs. To increase business creation, we must go beyond the born entrepreneurs, hence the proposed entrepreneurship curriculum. That should consist heavily of students creating and running businesses, plus online simulations, in which students get instant feedback on their business decisions.
  • Expanded apprenticeship programs. Despite the rampant un- and underemployment among college graduates and the relative shortage of skilled (and offshore-proof) blue-collar jobs, we’re sending young people a message that everyone should go to college, even students that struggled in high school. In fact, according to Clifford Adelman, senior statistician at the U.S. Department of Education, if you graduated in the bottom 40% of your high school class, your chance of graduating college is less than one in four, even if given 8 ½ years. And if you graduate, it’s likely to be from a third-tier college with a major that is likely to make employers yawn, thus setting you up to be one of the aforementioned 53.6% of college graduates doing work they could have done without college or who are unemployed.

Instead, we need to expand our system of apprenticeships so it’s a major initiative, like that in Germany and in England: a partnership between the schools and employers that creates a high-quality experience for high-schoolers whose track record indicates they’re more likely to succeed in a practical curriculum than by calculating calculus integrals, deciphering the intricacies of Shakespeare and interpreting stochastic processes.

A perhaps hyperbolic call to action.

Good jobs are at the heart of a satisfied citizenry and viable society. Our rapidly dejobbing America is prioritizing short-term profit over long-term survival. Many people consider climate change our most urgent threat. I believe dejobbing is an even greater one.

Marty Nemko is an award-winning career coach, writer, speaker and public radio host specializing in career/workplace issues and education reform. His writings and radio programs are archived on www.martynemko.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME health

Why So Many Women Are Crying at the Gym

82405276
Yoga mudra Stefano Oppo—Getty Images

For a generation of stressed-out working women, exercise is as much about emotional release as it is physical training.

“Let it out! Let out the sludge!”

It’s 7am on a Tuesday, at a small dance studio in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood, and Taryn Toomey is stomping her feet into the floor like thunder. “Get rid of the bullsh*t!” she shouts. “Get rid of the drama!”

Two dozen women in yoga pants and sports bras sprint in place behind her, eyes closed, arms flailing. Sweat is flying. The Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” is blaring in the background. There are grunts and screams. “Hell yes!” a woman bellows.

When the song ends, Toomey directs the group into child’s pose, torso folded over the knees, forehead on the floor, arms spread forward. Coldplay comes on, and there is a moment of rest. “Inhale. Exhale. Feel your center,” Toomey says. Heads slowly come up, and suddenly, tears are streaming down the faces of half the room. A woman in front of me is physically trembling. “I just let it all out,” a middle-aged woman in leggings and a tank top whispers.

This is “The Class”—one part yoga, two parts bootcamp, three parts emotional release, packaged into an almost spiritual… no, tribal… 75 minutes. It is the creation of fashion exec turned yoga instructor Toomey, and it is where New York’s high-flying women go for emotional release (if, that is, they can get a spot).

“During my first class I didn’t just cry, I sobbed,” says McKenzie Hayes, a 22-year-old New Yorker who has become a regular in the class. “Whether it’s your job or your relationships, I literally picture my emotional problems being slowly unstuck from my body and moved out.”

Toomey calls that “sludge”: it’s the emotional baggage we carry in our muscles that has nowhere else to go. She’s not a doctor. But week after week, she encourages participants to sweat, scream and cry out those emotions, in the company of a group of mostly women who are doing the same. “I’ve had classes where people are literally on all fours sobbing,” Toomey says. “But it’s not just my class, it’s happening everywhere. Emotional release in public can feel very uncomfortable. But I think there’s a growing movement of people who want to find a space for it.”

Indeed, the message to women has long been to hide your tears lest you look weak. (Among the tactics: jutting out your jaw. Breathing exercises. Chewing gum. Drinking water.) Yet while crying in the office may remain a feminine faux pas, tears at the gym seem to have lost their stigma — to the extent that there are a bevy of fitness courses that even encourage it.

For Asie Mohtarez, a Brooklyn makeup artist, it began in hot yoga. The music was on, the floor was warm, the instructor was standing over her encouraging her to let go. “I was in child’s pose and I just lost it,” she says. Then, two weeks later, it happened again – this time at Physique 57. The Dirty Dancing soundtrack came on and it was waterworks again. “There’s something about these classes that feel safe,” says the 33-year-old. “I can’t cry at work. I’m not emotionally distraught enough to cry in the shower. I can’t just burst into tears in front of my husband. So, what does that leave you with?”

You could go to therapy – or you could hit the gym. Women are getting teary in SoulCycle, and misty-eyed at Pure Barre. They are letting out wails in yoga and rubbing the shoulder of the weepy woman next to them at CrossFit. “I think people have started to notice that their clients are just showing up to class and just unloading, and so they’re tailoring their classes to create space for this,” says Hayes, who is a pilates instructor by day. “When I take private clients I end up feeling like a therapist for them.”

These fitness instructors aren’t trained in that, of course. But they’ve probably been there.

“I usually just go over to the student after class and quietly ask how they’re feeling,” says Kristin Esposito, a yoga instructor in Los Angeles who sees criers often. “My classes are focused on release so it feels pretty natural.”

Physiologically, it is: Exercise releases endorphins, which interact with serotonin and dopamine, the chemicals that impact mood. In yoga, deep hip openers – like the “pigeon pose” – are meant to stir emotions (yogis believe our emotional baggage lives in our hips).

But many of the newer courses are specifically choreographed to release emotion, too – making it all that much more intense. The lights are dim, candles flicker in the background. It’s not an accident that just as you’re starting to relax, coming down from the adrenaline, you’re blasted with a throaty ballad. Those playlists are meticulously constructed. “I’ve been teaching for almost 20 years, so I’ve basically seen it all: crying, laughing, throwing up, overheating,” says Stacey Griffith, a Soul Cycle instructor. “There are moments in the class that are directly programmed for that reason – but it’s not like we’re trying to get people to cry. We’re giving them the space to step outside of themselves.”

And indeed, that may be necessary. We’re busier, more stressed and more connected than we’ve ever been. Simply finding the time to have that “space” can be near impossible, making the release that these courses offer – packaged neatly into an hour – a kind of fix. “The night before, I can’t wait,” says Hayes of Toomey’s class. “I already know what will be the flood that I’m working through. And sometimes conversations with friends just don’t cut it.”

Getting those emotions out is a good thing – at least in moderation. Emotional tears contain manganese, potassium, and a hormone called prolactin, which help lower cholesterol, control high blood and boost the immune system. Crying reduces stress, and, according to one study, from the University of Minnesota, actually improves the mood of nearly 90 percent of people who do it. “You really do feel lighter after,” says Hayes.

“To me, it’s a sign of being present, it’s a sign of feeling your feelings, of being in the moment,” says Toomey, just after “the class” has ended. Plus, shoulder to shoulder in a hot room, there is almost a sense of communal release. Of high-charged emotional camaraderie. “I so needed this,” a woman tells her on the way out, with a hug. And, of course, with that much sweat, the tears are almost hidden anyway.

Read next: I Taught Fitness and Failed a Fat Test

TIME career

Microsoft CEO Says He Was ‘Completely Wrong’ to Suggest Women Shouldn’t Ask for Raises

Satya Nadella had previously apologized for his remarks

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a new interview that he was “completely wrong” to suggest it’s “good karma” for women to wait for a raise instead of asking for one.

“It’s been a very humbling and learning experience for me,” Nadella told CNBC in his first interview since his initial comments drew outrage.

Nadella said anyone held back in their career by gender bias should push back against their managers, and that he had wrongly extrapolated the advice from his own experiences.

“I basically took my own approach to how I’ve approached my career and sprung it on half of humanity,” he said.

Nadella had previously apologized for his remarks in a letter to the company.

“I believe men and women should get equal pay for equal work,” he wrote. “If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask.”

See the interview below.

[CNBC]

 

 

TIME advice

How to Turn Your Inbox Into a Work of Art

Computers email symbol
Getty Images

Labels, labels, labels

This article originally appeared on Levo.com.

I don’t want to brag, but my email inbox is one of my most complimented possessions. It baffles me when people regularly say things like, “It got lost in my inbox,” or “I have 839 unread emails.” How do you survive? How can you be productive with that kind of virtual baggage hanging over your head all day? That said, I know things can get out of hand and there are people in the world who receive far more emails than me. But with a combination of time-saving and simple labeling tactics, you too can have an email inbox that’s the envy of all your frazzled friends.

1. Get Gmail.

It was Angela from the appropriately short-lived Bravo show Gallery Girls who once declared that she would only date someone who had an iPhone and a Gmail account. I’m not saying I agree with her because that girl was a lunatic, but Gmail is king for a reason. If you’re still slumming it on Optimum Online or Hotmail, I can’t help you. Get a gmail address, it’s well worth it.

2. Enjoy your new automatic filter.

Once you’ve just switched to a Gmail account per my advice, you’ll notice that Gmail automatically categorizes your email into three tabs: Primary, Social, and Promotions. This will instantaneously make your life better. (Unless you’re an email marketer, in which case it makes your life a little bit harder.)

Screen shot 2014-10-05 at 4.59.01 PM.png

This beautiful Gmail development automatically separates out any emails from Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, GoodReads, and the like into your Social tab, and anything related to your online shopping habit (speaking for myself now) into Promotions. Boom, automatic improvement.

3. Labels, labels, labels.

Here’s a little look into my soul, also known as my email labels. It turns out this list is a pretty accurate representation of my priorities, each job and project with a different label. This is actually a new account for me, but in college I had label groupings as well—so inside of “My Projects,” for example, there would be a whole list of specific projects.

labels.png

This way, my inbox is cleared of everything except items that are in process or still require an action or response. Anything I may need for reference later, but am currently done with goes straight into the archives, and anything else goes straight to Trash. At any given time I have less than 50 emails in my inbox, and it’s beautiful.

(MORE: How to Write a Cold Call Email)

4. Filter your incoming messages.

Open an email from someone who you communicate with often. Hit “More,” “Filter Messages Like These,” “Create Filter With This Search,” “Apply the label…” Don’t forget to “also apply filter to matching conversations.” Now whenever that particular person sends you an email, it will automatically be marked with your label of choice. You can create filters based on other characteristics as well, but sender tends to be the simplest. At this point I receive very few emails that aren’t automatically labeled.

5. Delete like you’re on hoarders.

I’m warning you because I definitely do this: Don’t get too archive-happy. I know it feels nice to use all these pretty labels you’ve set up for yourself, but most of the time when you’re finished with something, you can just trash it.

6. Designate specific time for email.

This is a time-saving tip I got from the amazing Kate White. Even though I know how difficult it can be, don’t try to respond to emails constantly. Instead of wasting time every five minutes reading emails when you don’t actually have time to respond, set aside time in 15 (or more) minute intervals to read, delete, label and archive, or respond and take action to your incoming emails. By doing this, you’ll ensure that you only handle each email you receive once. You see it, read it, take whatever action is necessary, and move on to the next. Otherwise, you end up wasting time re-reading emails and also run the risk of missing something when you look at it on the go and think, “Oh yeah, I’ll get to that later.”

7. Don’t respond to email on your phone.

This one is straight from another email pro, Carly Heitlinger, also known as the College Prepster. “99.9% of the time, a response can wait,” she writes. “Typos always happen from phone and it’s too easy to misread something, not check my calendar properly and send out wrong information, or forget to reply to the whole thread.” Yes, yes, a million times yes.

(MORE: A Clever Way to Cut Down on Email)

TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Job Skills You’ll Need in 2020

165830424
Buena Vista Images—Getty Images

themuselogo

This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

The world of work—and the world in general—is changing. People are living longer, new technologies are emerging, and we’ve never been more globally connected. That means the skills we use now in the workplace are not necessarily the skills we’ll need in the future.

To get a sense of what skills you might want to start investing your time into developing, check out the infographic below. (Note: It might sound like 2020 is really far into the future, but it’s actually only about five years away.)

Important Work Skills for 2020

Infographic courtesy of Top10OnlineColleges.org.

TIME Companies

Perk Up: Facebook and Apple Now Pay for Women to Freeze Eggs

Apple iPad Facebook
An Apple iPad displays Facebook's profile page on Aug. 6, 2014. Peter Macdiarmid—Getty Images

Two Silicon Valley giants now offer women a game-changing perk: Apple and Facebook will pay for employees to freeze their eggs.

Facebook recently began covering egg freezing, and Apple will start in January, spokespeople for the companies told NBC News. The firms appear to be the first major employers to offer this coverage for non-medical reasons.

“Having a high-powered career and children is still a very hard thing to do,” said Brigitte Adams, an egg-freezing advocate and founder of the patient forum Eggsurance.com. By offering this benefit, companies are investing in women, she said, and supporting them in carving out the lives they want…

Read more from our partners at NBC News

TIME

Why Following Your Passion Is the Worst Kind of Career Advice

Marty Nemko is a career coach, writer, speaker and public radio host specializing in career/workplace issues and education reform.

A career coach on what matters the most in job satisfaction

Standard advice on how to pick a career? Find one that amalgamates your key skills, interests and values. Alas, that too often doesn’t work.

The standard advice often fails for one or more of these reasons:

  • You have too many interests but none stand out.
  • You have many abilities but none stand out.
  • You think you have no worthwhile abilities.
  • You can’t come up with a career that amalgamates your skills, interests and values.
  • You come up with too many careers that amalgamate your skills, interests and values.
  • Your skills, interests and values are common, so you end up wanting a popular career, for example, ahem, journalist.

The irony is that even if you find a career that fits and you actually land a job in it, that’s far from a guarantor of career contentment. Let’s say you pick a popular career like the aforementioned journalist. Employers know that, with dozens of replacements panting for the opportunity to earn $40,000 a year or even volunteer, not only can they pay poorly, they can treat you poorly. The result: an unhappy person with a “dream” career. Ill treatment is less likely if an employer knows it won’t be so easy to find someone as good as you. So, paradoxically, following your passion into a so-called cool career may more likely lead to misery or at least poverty. Do what you love…and starve?

A solution

From having worked with 4,800 career coaching clients and talking shop endlessly with friends and colleagues, what seems to matter most in finding career contentment are these career non-negotiables:

  • Work that isn’t too hard or too easy
  • Work that feels worthy and ethical
  • A boss that treats you well
  • Coworkers who you enjoy
  • Moderate opportunities for learning
  • Reasonable work hours
  • Reasonable pay
  • Reasonable benefits
  • Job security
  • A reasonable commute

Those are available in a far wider range of jobs and careers than if you’re trying to find a job that amalgamates your key skills, interests and values. Take, for example, customer service rep for a utility. Sounds far from cool, not to mention devoid of status. Yet one of my happiest clients ended up in that job, and because it had those career non-negotiables, he’s happier that most people with “cool” and lucrative careers.

The takeaway

No one’s suggesting you give up your dream, but might you want to pursue it as a hobby where it’s more likely to actually be dreamy. For example, amateur acting in community theater is great fun and not difficult to land good roles. In contrast, if you expect to make a living as an actor, you face long odds against making a no-roommate income. Most professional actors live a life of endless cattle-call auditions, which usually result in rejection or a bit part in which you spend most rehearsal and showtime waiting.

Mightn’t you prefer a career in a field less likely to have the masses fighting with you for a job and, if you get it, just waiting for you to screw up so they can take your place?

Status and coolness are enemies of contentment; career non-negotiables are contentment’s best friend.

Marty Nemko is an award-winning career coach, writer, speaker and public radio host specializing in career/workplace issues and education reform. His writings and radio programs are archived on www.martynemko.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY

Hey Millennials, Watch What You Say About that New Job, Promotion or Raise

Trophy shelf
DGP&C—Getty Images

Your friends may not be as happy for your good news as you'd think.

You earn a raise or a promotion, and the first person you want to share the good news with is your significant other or a close friend. It’s instinctive.

But these days, it’s best to proceed with caution—especially if you’re a Millennial. If your bestie isn’t doing so well at work, news of your big promotion or bonus could strain the relationship.

“Work trajectories are incredibly unpredictable for all generations working today, but particularly for Millennials in the early years of their careers,” says Lindsey Pollak, author of the new book Becoming the Boss: New Rules for the Next Generation of Leaders. “With young professionals leaving jobs more quickly and the barrier to entrepreneurship quite low thanks to the Internet, it is likely that Millennial friends or significant others will have widely disparate levels of career or financial success.”

Friendships can be tested when there are income differences at play. When one friend has a lot of money to spend on fancy dinners, shopping trips and lavish vacations while other friends are struggling to pay the rent, says Pollak, it can lead to disagreements over how to spend time together or, at the least, a bit of discomfort.

So how should you break the news of a promotion, salary increase, or job change to a close friend who’s struggling financially or career-wise?

First, take a moment to empathize, Pollak says: “Ask yourself what you would want your friend to say if the roles were reversed,” she says.

Then, try to give the news a more sensitive spin. Concentrate on sharing it in a humble way, says Pollak. And as a general rule, leave out specific numbers, like the size of your salary increase. In other words:

“I’m really excited—I just found out I got a promotion to the associate role I’ve been wanting!”

or

“It looks like I’ll be getting a nice bonus at the end of the year. Can I take you out for drinks to celebrate?”

rather than

“I am getting a huge raise—like $35,000 more than I make now! Can you believe it?!”

Depending on the friend and how close you are, you may decide that it’s best to stay mum. “It’s really a personal choice depending on your relationship and how public the news is,” says Pollak.

But keep in mind that not sharing can be just as hurtful, in some cases. “No friend wants to feel that you excluded him or her from your career news because he or she isn’t as successful,” says Pollak.

Finally, what if your significant other is the one who’s struggling?

“Characterize your success in terms of ‘we’ — especially if you are in a long-term committed relationship,” says Pollak. “And use your promotion as an opportunity to thank your partner for being supportive and helping to make your success possible.”

If that doesn’t do the trick, she says, “then you might want to look at bigger issues in your relationship.”

Farnoosh Torabi is a contributing editor at Money and author of When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women. She blogs at Farnoosh.TV.

TIME Opinion

Microsoft’s CEO Tells Women It’s Bad Karma to Ask For a Raise

CEO Of Microsoft Satya Nadella Gives Lecture At Tsinghua University
CEO of Microsoft Satya Nadella gives a lecture about dream, struggle and creation at Tsinghua University ChinaFotoPress—ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

According to Satya Nadella, good things come to women who don't ask

Updated Friday, Oct. 10

Gender pay gap got you down? Take a crash course from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s Etiquette Academy For Polite Young Ladies: Smile pretty and don’t be so unbecoming as to ask for a salary bump. After all, a raise is a lot like a male suitor, and if you pursue it, you might just drive it away.

“It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise,” Read Write reports Nadella said Thursday at an event meant to celebrate women in the tech field. Late Thursday night, Nadella backtracked on his comments.

Unfortunately, that system that Nadella wants women to put all their blind trust in only provides them with 78 cents to the dollar of what men earn. And if we look closer at the women Nadella was specifically addressing, the reality is fairly grim: a gender pay gap exists on every level of STEM jobs. In Silicon Valley, men with bachelor’s degrees earn 40% more than their female educational counterparts, according to an analysis of Census Data from the 2014 Silicon Valley Index.

Of those with graduate or professional degrees, men earn 73% more than women. And that’s actually cause for celebration, since it’s a marked improvement from 2010, when that same demographic of men reportedly earned 97% more than women.

But take Nadella’s word for it: Good things come to women who don’t ask.

“That might be one of the initial ‘super powers’ that, quite frankly, women [who] don’t ask for a raise have,” he added. “It’s good karma. It will come back.”

Whatever the mystical inner workings of the human resources department at Microsoft may be, it’s a fact that other, less spiritually “enlightened” companies have been known to take advantage of the assumption that women are paid less. At an Australian tech conference in September, millionaire startup founder Evan Thornley unironically said that a perk of hiring women is that their salary is still “relatively cheap compared to what we would’ve had to pay someone less good of a different gender.” (Since there are only two genders, that means “someone less good who was a man.”)

Just in case the audience couldn’t hear him in the way back of the room, Thornley drove the point home by showing a slide titled “Lessons” that displayed a photo of two businesswomen high-fiving under the text, “Women: Like men, only cheaper.” Classy.

Since Nadella’s comments were shared and appropriately lambasted all over the Internet, the Microsoft head has tweeted that he did not properly articulate his own message.

But Nadella should know: He doesn’t need to ask us for our forgiveness and understanding about what he really meant to say. Karma will work that out.

See Also: Watch Sarah Silverman’s Risque Equal-Pay Ad

TIME women

I Was an Elite Female Firefighter

Forest fire and helicopter
Erik Simonsen—Getty Images

A female hotshot may spend six months a year out in the woods with 18 hot-as-hell firefighters, but if she acts like she’s in her own private season of “The Bachelorette,” she’s going to lose their respect with the quickness

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

The sound of my squad boss’s voice invaded my sleep. “Spot fire! Spot fire! Get up! Hustle! Hustle!” I pried open my eyes and tried to orient myself. I was lying in the ash of a forest fire, curved for warmth around a small, smoldering stump. Around me members of my elite Pike Hotshot Crew rubbed their eyes and pulled on their packs as they lurched to their feet. I glanced at my watch. It was 6 am. Other than the brief nap we’d just had, my crew and I had been working to fight a raging wildfire on the Angeles National Forest for 24 hours straight.

I jumped to my feet and joined the line of my crew members hiking hard and fast towards a large spot fire that had sprung up in a flat of manzanita, a tangled, fast burning brush native to California. If we didn’t dig a fireline around the spot fire in a hurry, the fire would likely explode, and there was no safety zone we could retreat to easily.

Another day in my life as a wildland firefighter had just begun.

When I arrived to start work as a wildland firefighter on the Pike Hotshot Crew, I had only been camping a couple of times. I’d rarely gone more than two days without a shower. I didn’t even know how to dry brush my teeth. I knew that soon I would hike up and down mountains towards raging wildfires with a 40 lbs. pack on my back. I would suck smoke, and dig fireline for 15 hours a day, and sleep in the ash. I would go two weeks at a time without a shower. I would spend every waking moment with my crewmembers. I knew a little bit of what I was in for, and I was excited and afraid.

When I parked my car at the Pike Fire Center, a cluster of old cabins built in the mountains of the Pike National Forest in Colorado, I was nervous as hell. As I stepped out of the car I heard voices yelling at me, “Make way for the rookie! Rookie on the deck!”

I glanced around, but saw no one — just a life-sized Smokey the Bear cutout that said, “Welcome to the Pike Interagency Hotshot Crew.” Whoever was yelling at me was doing so from the cover of the old wooden buildings surrounding me. I took a deep breath and headed for the bunkhouse, where I would live with the other members of my crew for the next two fire seasons.

When I met my fellow hotshots, the men barely lifted their chins at me. Most couldn’t be bothered to even say, “Hey.” They looked me over, and their looks said, “We’ll see how you do.”

Most of them were from rural Colorado or Wyoming. They had grown up out in the woods. They dipped tobacco and drank Coors. They knew how to swing a Pulaski and run a chainsaw. They could gut a deer, and start a campfire with no matches. I, on the other hand, grew up in Austin, Texas — a hipster and hippie haven — and had just graduated from a small liberal arts college. I loved Kathleen Hanna and films by Jim Jarmusch, novels by Virginia Woolf and micro-brew.

And I was a woman — I would be one of only three women on the 20-person crew that year. All-male crews were generally considered tougher than crews that included a female or two. The hotshots did not give me a warm welcome.

But let me make it clear: No one arriving on a hotshot crew — male or female — gets a warm welcome. Hotshot crews are clannish. The work is so dangerous that no hotshot wants someone on their crew who can’t handle the stress, demands, and dangers of the fireline.

“Hotshots are the best-trained and best-equipped wildland firefighters, sometimes referred to as the Navy SEALs of their profession,” says Rolling Stone magazine. The world of hotshotting is an insular, masculine and exhilarating place. Crewmembers have to trust each other with their lives on a daily basis. And so the guys on my crew wanted to wait and see what I was made of before they gave me even a smile of encouragement.

I’d trained hard, and so I held my own on the initial physical fitness tests. By the time we were called out to our first fire, my crew had seen me keep up on hard training hikes, dig some practice fireline (rather badly at first, but with enthusiasm), and get hammered with them at several crew parties.

I had not hooked up with any of them. Female friends with wildfire experience had warned me against beginning any sort of romantic involvement with a crewmember. A female hotshot may spend six months a year out in the woods with 18 hot-as-hell firefighters, but if she acts like she’s in her own private season of “The Bachelorette,” she’s going to lose their respect with the quickness. Were many of my crewmates ripped and beautiful and manly and sexy as hell? You bet. Did I pretend like I didn’t notice? Absolutely. In fact, I realized soon enough that I would fit in best if my crewmates more or less forgot I was a woman at all.

We finished our training and were soon dispatched to our first fire. After driving for hours through the night, we stopped and slept on the ground outside of a Forest Service District Office for a few hours. We woke up before dawn. My teeth felt furry. I went in search of a bathroom and running water. When I came out of the district office, all four rigs were idling. Everyone was loaded up, waiting for me. I ran towards the rigs and jumped in. “What in the hell were you doing, rookie?” my crewmates asked.

“I was looking for a sink,” I said. “I needed to brush my teeth.” My crewmates gave me hell for that small fail for a long, long time. And I was never late getting to the rigs again.

We arrived at fire camp as the sun began to rise. We loaded into helicopters that flew us up onto a mesa where a wildfire burned through the piñon juniper. We hiked in to the fire and got to work. The sawyers on my crew used their chainsaws to open up a 15-foot space in the tree canopy called a “sawline.” With the other diggers on my crew, I helped to dig a shallow trench or “fireline” underneath the sawline. I bent over and swung my fire tool, helping to scrape a 24-inch fireline. My hard hat tilted on my head, perilously close to falling off. Sweat ran stinging into my eyes. Within 15 minutes, I was desperately out of breath, and felt like I might keel over.

In the following days, the palms of my hands blistered. My entire crew was doused with fire retardant dropped by a “slurry bomber” airplane. We were covered in sweat and dirt and ash, and none of us got a shower. And one afternoon we had to run full speed to our safety zone to escape the 200-foot flames crowning through the treetops. For at least 12 hours a day, I swung my fire tool, and at night I lay on the ground in my sleeping bag— not even bothering to put up a tent — and I slept like the dead.

But a few days into the work, I began to find my rhythm.

In my two seasons on the hotshot crew, my crewmates and I often saved each others’ lives — so often that it was sometimes not even commented on after the fact. We did so by calling out when a burning tree crashed to the ground unexpectedly, by yelling for someone to get out of the way of a falling boulder. If one of us tripped and fell into a stand of burning chaparral, someone else would yank the fallen back to his or her feet before s/he was burned.

Once, when I was pushing over a tree stump that my friend Mark O’Shea was cutting with a chainsaw, I lost my balance and fell with my arms outstretched toward the roaring saw blade. Both of my hands would have been cut off by the chainsaw if O’Shea had not thrown the saw away from us.

The danger that my crewmates and I survived together bonded us. And we grew to love each other. And I got used to basically being a dude. My hotshot buddies would cut warts off my leg with a Leatherman, or ask me how my crap in the woods had gone. And I’d tell them.

Once I was accepted by my crewmates, I did eventually break the golden rule of firefighting and hooked up with one of my buddies (albeit discretely). While it caused ripples of teasing and even some disdain, it didn’t essentially capsize my standing on the crew.

When I left the crew after two years, it was in part because I wanted to hunker down and write a novel inspired by the adventures we had together, and by the challenges of finding a place of belonging as a woman on a hotshot crew. My novel “Wildfire” has just been published, and is dedicated to my friends on my crew. (“Wildfire” has been optioned for film as well, and I’ve written the script. I’ve found out that that only 10% of screenwriters of major motion pictures are female — probably even less than the percentage of female hotshots fighting wildfires. And that’s something we got to change.)

If my life falls apart tomorrow, and I find myself in need of shelter and support, I know that I could show up on the doorstep of a friend with whom I fought fire. I know that he and his wife would take me in. And that’s a sort of miracle.

Mary Pauline Lowry is an author living in Southern California.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser