29-year-old ex-bartender landed $100,000 ‘dream job’ without a degree by ignoring this common career advice




Hannah Maruyama's experience shows that ignoring traditional career advice can lead to greater happiness and success. Despite being told by teachers and friends that she wouldn't get far without a college degree and that job-hopping was risky, Maruyama has found tremendous success in her career.


Maruyama enrolled part-time in college but left to avoid student debt. For years, she worked in lower-wage jobs like lifeguarding and bartending, never earning more than $30,000 annually. However, at age 29, she is now making $100,000 working in AI without a bachelor's degree.


Maruyama credits her success to taking calculated risks in her job search. When applying for roles, she often ignored the stated requirements, targeting jobs she was excited about and felt she could grow into, even if she didn't meet all the criteria on paper. She was confident in her ability to learn quickly and communicated this to potential employers.


This approach helped Maruyama land her "dream job" as the head of operations at a tech startup in 2021. She advises others to reach for roles that challenge them, even if they don't perfectly match the job description. Maruyama believes that discomfort can be a catalyst for growth and that employers are often more interested in seeing motivation and a willingness to learn than perfect qualifications.


Her story demonstrates that traditional career advice may not always apply, and that taking risks and believing in oneself can lead to unexpected and rewarding opportunities. 

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