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?

Laura Simms is an expert in meaningful work who challenges conventional wisdom by asking people to ditch their passions and start with purpose.

If you have too many passions, zero passions, or can't seem to combine your passions, try her purpose-first approach to find a career you love.  


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