Bullish Q&A: Should I Start a Side Hustle When No One Thinks I Can Do It?

Undermining colleagues and side hustles (1)


Dear Jen, I’m a PhD student with a grant from the government and a work contract with my university until 2020. This is a major part of what I want to do with my life. However, I feel that this is not enough. The thing is, I think I would also be really, really good at investing in and managing real estate, and I would like to know what is you advice on taking on a second career, while already busting my ass in an intellectually and emotionally demanding career. Please take into consideration that I am at the moment living outside my home town, and that I am still in my twenties and living in student apartments (which is completely counter to my character). So all this about becoming a real estate investor and manager would sound downright ridiculous to most people. I look forward to hearing what you have to say on this! This is an idea that I’ve entertained for a while, and I think that it is a good time to go ahead now that my attention is not completely absorbed by the task of applying for PhD programs and grants.



Oh, you’re new in town? Make a “Welcome to Bulltown” brochure (or a downloadable e-book that people sign up for your mailing list in order to receive). Specialize in helping people who are new to town find houses.

You’re an academic? Great! Perhaps you want to help professors find housing in suitable neighborhoods. Where can people in tweed jackets fit in? YOU KNOW THAT.

Young woman? Yeah, young women can buy shit now. I would call a real estate broker whose website was hot pink and whose logo had a fucking unicorn on it. I view a good statement necklace as an act of signaling.

Granted, I’m talking here about being a real estate agent or broker; I don’t know that much about investing and managing real estate. And maybe selling real estate is how you get the money to start buying your own real estate.

But the same principle applies: Every reason you feel awkward or shut out is also a reason that other people – your potential customers – feel awkward or shut out. Go find those people and monetize the shit out of your similarities.



As will probably be obvious from this question, I’m an academic in a male dominated field, where the women who are successful don’t have kids. A colleague actually just said “I heard about your family news! Congratulations! You’re going to have more kids than I have papers!” Now, a successful scientist in his field probably publishes 3-4 papers a year. I will have had 2 kids in three years: I have a 2 year old, and the second kid is (now obviously) on his way. In our field, his comment could only have been more condescending if he’d switched it to “… than you have papers.” I wish I’d had the presence of mind to say “Well gosh, you’d better work on your productivity or you’ll never get tenure!” I didn’t say anything… but what next? Do I let this go? Do I tell him I’m offended? He’s not directly in my professional hierarchy, so it’s got no real bearing on my work, I’m just angry at the sexism inherent in the statement, especially from a guy who likes to think of himself as a super supportive mentor type.


You know, I’m not sure this remark was meant the way you’re taking it. I mean, it certainly could have been, but it’s entirely possible it was along the lines of “I don’t know how anyone manages all that, you are slightly intimidating me.” Does this guy have kids? Maybe he’s terrified that someday he will, and he’ll have to do a fraction of what you’re obviously already doing (women are leaning in PLENTY, it’s men who need to learn to make dinner without being managed), and that makes him uneasy, so he resorts to self-deprecating humor.

I’d just turn it back towards work, as in “Fortunately I can do both at the same time! Multitasking! Congratulations on [the last work thing you did].”

And just keep doing that if he ever mentions your children/pregnancy/family obligations again. Just turn it back around:

Him: “It must be crazy to have two small children at home while having a job!”
You: “Really gives me a reason to come to work in the morning! How’s the X project going?” Etc.

Quoth Robert McNamara: “Don’t answer the question you were asked. Answer the question you wish you were asked.”

Either that, or assume he’s asking you for advice on work-life balance and time management. Offer to mentor him! “If you ever need any advice  on keeping all the balls in the air, I’m always here! In the office! Like everyone else! But moreso!”

Of interest: Seven Sentences to Boost Your Career (and Life)



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