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Hi. I'm Laura.

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Would You Quit Your Job Over a Piece of Clothing?

Would You Quit Your Job Over a Piece of Clothing?

I finished my graduate training program and felt ready to take on the world. I didn’t attend my graduation ceremony because this education was not about getting a piece of paper to me. It wasn’t about academic achievement or going to school because I was supposed to. This program had been about me getting the practical tools I needed to make it as a professional actor. I got a manager. I got new headshots. Auditions started coming in (for me! a kid from East Tennessee with no connections), and I was ready to scrape and claw in one of the world’s most competitive industries. This girl was on fire.

But like most actors, I was going to need a day job to keep me afloat while my acting career found its legs. I had waited tables out of undergrad, and while I hated it, I knew it would give me the flexibility I needed to pop out for auditions. I could always get someone to cover my shift if I needed to bail, it wouldn’t take much mental energy, and I found a restaurant that would take me within walking distance of my apartment, which was a rare find in Los Angeles. I wouldn’t have to pay for parking! And the exercise would be nice.

The restaurant was a chain. They set me up with an experienced server to train me so I was able to learn the ropes fairly quickly, and they had amazing desserts which I would eat all the time. And that’s where the good stuff about that job ended.

Lunches were busy, but nights were slow. Guess when they schedule the new kids? Nights for me. I also got stuck with the Sunday brunch shifts where customers rarely tipped because it was set up as a buffet. The managers were mostly ding-dongs, and one of them was reprimanded for sleeping with the hostess in the manger’s office. If you had seen (and smelled) the manager’s office…trust me. Gross.

I started there in the summer. My walk to work quickly became an uncomfortable slog. It would get hot and I would show up sweaty in my bulky no-slip server sneakers and then have to put on my button down shirt and the standard company tie.

That damn tie. I felt ridiculous. Every time I put on that tie, I hated myself a little bit. I would put it on, tuck it into my apron, pull my hair into a ponytail, and feel like another person. Another person I didn’t want to be. Seriously, how could I be this person?! I had a Master’s degree. I was an actor. I didn’t move to LA for undertipping customers and sleazy managers who didn’t care if it was me or another warm body holding up a men’s tie. I quit.

I quit my job over a tie. Ok, I quit over what the tie represented and how it made me feel. If you have to “suit up” and feel like another person to do your job, it’s not the right job for you. Even as a survival job. A crushed soul is not worth tips + free pies. If your job makes you feel like someone you don’t want to be, you don’t need to man up; you need to get out.

Have you ever had to dress for work in a way that made you feel bad?

  1. singsthemagpie@gmail.com

    March 5th, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    When I was a barista, the company demanded that we wear polos. I felt instantly awful every time I had to put it on. Even worse, every time I had a night shift and knew management wasn’t going to be there, I would wear the required black, but in a scoop or v-neck. It felt amazing. I have a boxy top-half, so wearing polos always looked ridiculous on me and I got out of it whenever I could. I never quit because of it, but I was very openly defiant about it. 🙂 Interesting post!

  2. ibassey@aol.com

    March 5th, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    Oh yes I have…when I was still enmeshed in the corporate world I worked at an old-school law firm where women were REQUIRED to wear pantyhose and heels. Now mind you this was summertime in Washington D.C.- a miserably hot and humid time; and yes, at least one contractor was given the boot for not following protocol. I was already mulling over my tenure in the profession in this capacity and this sartorial policy really was the final nail in the coffin. I wound up quitting, selling my house and otherwise giving away most of the things I owned in time to fly out of the DC-area the day before September 11th…and the rest has been history 🙂

  3. laura@yourcareerhomecoming.com

    March 6th, 2015 at 12:19 am

    Funny how it seems like such a little thing, but it’s how it can make you feel that can push you over the edge. Thanks for telling your story, Idara!

  4. lauracgeorge@gmail.com

    March 5th, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    I’ve never had a dress code in any job I’ve worked at. There were always levels of dress that were acceptable for the situation, but never requirements. I’ve always been an over-dresser. I like to look nice. So I would frequently get awkward comments, “You look so nice today!” in that tone that meant I shouldn’t look nice or maybe that I was making everyone else look bad? But it never bothered me much. I appreciate this article though because it speaks so well to a point I have made frequently to artists who are struggling with the whole “I need to make this money. Quitting is not an option.” part of having a job while trying to build a business on the side. I just had one the other day say that there is something she’s allergic to at her job that is making her skin break out all red and blotchy and her husband and other friends and family are telling her to buck up because “everyone has to work”. I’m sure you can imagine what I said to that.
    We don’t have to accept sub-standard emotional or physical conditions in our day jobs just because we need the money. We deserve to have work that isn’t draining, upsetting, or physically harmful – even if it’s not the work we want to be doing for the rest of our lives. Day jobs are not penance or suffering before you get to do the work you love. It’s ok to not hate your day job.

  5. jayneanneammar@yahoo.com

    March 5th, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    Yes! I once had to work as a receptionist for an upscale oil and gas company. Since it was a small company, I had to receive guests, answer the phone, as well as act as the shipping and receiving for the company. They made it clear from the start that I needed to dress to the nines, wear make up, and fix my hair nice, and wear heels everyday. At the same, half the time I was working like a Fed-Ex courier – lugging huge, heavy, multiple box shipments all over the office for the various departments. My sole purpose was to “look” the part, and I felt like and they treated me like furniture in the waiting room. No one ever “saw” me as I was suppose to blend into the environment, and smile and nod and say hello. I hated this job with everything in me. I quit wearing the heavy makeup after about a month, and my boss bought me a gift card to Ulta, a makeup store I had never set foot in, as a hint! I have a degree, I’ve run whole programs for different companies and I never had to wear the amount of make-up and suits that I had to wear to this job. This job was purely about appearance and nothing about functionality or thinking in any capacity. I quit after almost a year, it’s a wonder I stayed so long.

  6. laura@yourcareerhomecoming.com

    March 6th, 2015 at 12:20 am

    Well said, Laura!

  7. liz@theconnectedlife.net.au

    March 6th, 2015 at 8:26 am

    I sure did Laura. Five years as a consultant wearing a non-negotiable “uniform” because it was the product I was selling. Sadly 95% of the range and therefore my uniform, was black and black just isn’t me. I’m more of a muted tones kind of gal!
    The day I said no more, was the same day I liberated myself from every black item of clothing that resided in my wardrobe and celebrated every value that wasn’t being honoured in that soul sucking career.

  8. cnichols83186@aol.com

    March 7th, 2015 at 6:41 am

    Wow, I have to be honest for some this reason this post has given me a whole new “respect” (not really the right word) for you. I worked in restaurants for about 8 years and while yes the uniforms at each were pretty terribly I didn’t quite the business for the uniform but yes for the same reason. It was that feeling that because I was a waitress I was less than those I waited on or my friends who had “real” jobs. I realize now that that was really all in my own head but still it was that gross feeling that made me have to leave.
    Thank you for this post, sometimes I get the impression from a lot of bloggers that they have a ton of money, were bored and wanted to start a blog, and now they have even more money. So refreshing to hear that you are a real person. Great post!

  9. laura@yourcareerhomecoming.com

    March 7th, 2015 at 11:50 am

    Yes, I’m real! I even sweat and get boogers! Here’s another post you might enjoy, full of real things: http://yourcareerhomecoming.com/23-things/
    Oh, and this one: http://yourcareerhomecoming.com/why-i-took-a-full-time-job/

  10. nikkiana@gmail.com

    March 7th, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    I’ve never worked somewhere that required a uniform, so I’ve never had the opportunity to quit over something like that… Although, I probably would in that hypothetical situation, but it kinda strikes me as something that would be the symbolic last straw.
    My work related wardrobe issues tend to be more along the lines of trying to figure out the balance between casual and dressy and masculine and feminine.

    My day job is doing web development, which places me in work environments where I’m in the minority as a female developer and generally the dress code errs casual, and in corporate settings, often much more casual than what the standard is for the company as a whole. AKA a “nobody ever sees us, why do we have to dress up?” sort of attitude.

    I’ve noticed over the years that dressing casually in such a way to downplay my gender tends to get me taken more seriously as a developer. Presenting more formally and more feminine tends to cause people to make the assumption that I’m not really a developer. I’ve also noticed that dressing casually tends to render me invisible to non-developer women OR I end up the recipient of the side eye because I’m not dressing to the same standard that their department holds them to.

    I would like to note that this hasn’t been so much of an issue in my current job, I feel respected and like my opinions matter irregardless of what I’m wearing but I’ve been in workplaces that felt like a delicate balancing act, and it’s often a really big issue at industry related conferences.

  11. sanjeet.kathuria89@gmail.com

    April 10th, 2015 at 6:30 am

    Indeed. I can relate to that. I am a girl working as a software developer, and I like getting dressed up. At my workplace no one really cares about what you wear, as long as you are doing your job well. But I don’t think that is an excuse to look shabby or like you just woke up! I like looking good, and I feel that if I dress up well to work, it adds to my enthusiasm for it 🙂

  12. Anonymous

    December 8th, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    […] end of the day so you can’t even really enjoy your time off. Having to wear a uniform that makes you feel bad. Bringing your spouse down. Not having the vacation time to see the people and places you care […]

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