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And for her next act, dinosaur psychologist

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Marketplace Weekend likes to peek behind the scenes at the financial lives and careers of artists, writers, musicians and other people in the spotlight. For this last episode, we turn the tables and have host Lizzie O’Leary take the Marketplace Quiz. Lizzie started her journalism career at ABC News, where she was on 9/11. She also worked at CNN and Bloomberg TV before joining Marketplace. But did you know her first job was making San Francisco-themed sandwiches? And she’s got some advice for young people: Make your mistakes early and often, then apologize. Try things that are scary and hard. And all roast beef sandwiches should have horseradish.

Fill in the blank: Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you ___.

Lizzie O’Leary: Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you the kind of cushion to have a wonderful rescue dog who lives with you, and that is an unending source of happiness. So, you know, my girl gets her walks, and she gets a play group, and I get snuggles.

In a next life, what would your career be?

O’Leary: Dinosaur psychologist, because I would be able to figure out not only what happened but how they felt about it and, like, whether they knew they were doomed. And, you know, really explore kind of the thoughts and feelings about, like, “Are you a ruthless predator with no regrets? Or is it all cool and you’re just mad you have tiny little hands?”

What’s the hardest part about your job that nobody knows?

O’Leary: The constant fear of getting something wrong. I lie awake at night thinking about every aspect of our stories. Was it fair? Was it accurate? Was there something we missed? Was there another phone call we should have made at the end of the day? People trust us with their stories. I want to make sure we’ve done everything we can to get them perfect.

What is something that you bought that you now completely regret buying?

O’Leary: A lot of high heels. I had all these, like, TV correspondent clothes back when I was a TV correspondent, and they are useless, man. I regret those. Those are silly. Comfortable clothes all the way.

When did you realize journalism could be an actual career for you?

O’Leary: I worked after college at a bunch of different random jobs. And I actually worked for Bill Bradley on his presidential campaign. But I was fascinated by what the journalists were doing. I didn’t really care as much about politics or who won. I wanted to do what the reporters who were on and off the bus were doing. And one of the reporters on the campaign helped me get through the door at ABC News, and I was so excited by it that I didn’t mind that I worked all night long and, you know, on the graveyard shift and all that stuff. And I thought, “I can do this. I can do this and I can love it.”

What is your most prized possession? And caveat for you: Dogs do not count as possessions.

O’Leary: I would never treat Mara as a possession. What’s my most prized possession? Besides my engagement ring (thank you, Honey.) I think a pair of noise-canceling headphones. No, that sounds terrible.

Is it the ring? Sounds like it was the ring.

O’Leary: Maybe let’s just go with the ring.

What was your very first job?

O’Leary: I worked at a sandwich shop that was down the street from my high school. It was called AKA Frisco’s, and we made lots of different sandwiches with San Francisco neighborhood-themed names. I can make a very good sandwich, very quickly. Let’s see, we had a North Beach, we had a Nob Hill. I can’t remember what the roast beef one with horseradish is. All roast beef sandwiches should have horseradish, by the way.

What is something that everyone should own no matter how much it costs?

O’Leary: A bath caddy. It is a simple wooden device. It sits across the bath. It holds a book, a glass of wine, whatever you want. It is, like, a magical transport to a moment of oasis. It is cheap and it is heavenly.

You’ve gotten pretty far in your career. What’s the advice you wish someone had given you before you started out?

O’Leary: I guess two pieces. No. 1, which is my sort of general, you know, grad advice for all young people is that you will screw up, and the best way to do that is to screw up early and often and to make mistakes and face them and apologize to the people you made them to and to try things that are scary and hard. And the other thing I will say is — and this is something that a journalism professor and mentor of mine from graduate school said — study the thing you love. If you want to cover a certain area, if you want to dig into something, like figure out who did it best. Figure what they did well what they did wrong. Commit yourself not only to the craft but to understanding what — if there is something — makes that craft important and why you believe in it. 

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