As a side hustle extraordinaire, I’m always getting hired for odd jobs and random event work here and there. More often than not, I can reduce the actual job description to just standing there and “looking pretty”. I’ve done it in restaurants, at clubs, at doctor’s offices, at big conventions; sure, they’ll throw me an additional responsibility here and there, but in reality, my job is closer to the visual appeal of the flower arrangements than the practical purpose of the pens or plates.
A few weeks ago I was working as “human scenery” at a conference for a major financial firm. I had two additional duties, bring people a microphone when they wanted to ask a question in the Q&A forums and close the door whenever someone left the room in the middle of the presentation. That was it. For three days, I got paid $30/hour to stand around with a smile plastered to my face.
Yeah, it was a pretty sweet deal for me (even with the back pain flaring up from standing around for hours). But the thing I really could not get over is how often people would come up to me and say “you’re doing such a great job.” Even my supervisor for the event kept relaying the compliments he had gotten on my work. My work? What work? I was literally just standing there. It made me wonder about some things…
First, are there that many people who are that bad at their jobs, that a person who shows up on time, stands around all day, and just looks professional is considered great at their job?
Secondly, how much of my “great work” is tied to the way I look?
Thirdly, why am I getting paid $30 an hour for this?
A few weeks before this event, I had a job interview to be an executive assistant for a real estate firm. The job would involve marketing events, keeping track of multiple spreadsheets and updates, managing all email, etc. After my interview, I was offered the job at $12/hour. I countered the offer with $20/hour, citing my expertise and experience. The hiring company conceded that I deserved to be paid my requested rate, but that for the work they needed done, they could only offer $12/hour. In other words, while I might be a $20/hour candidate, it was not a $20/hour job.
How is it that standing around looking pretty is paid out at $30/hour and doing some actual, skill requiring work is worth $12/hour?
How about minimum wage? The current federal minimum wage is $7.25/hour. The fact that someone would have to work half a day, to make what I did in one hour doing just about nothing blows my mind. But apparently that fact didn’t faze anyone at the conference. Nope, I was being praised.
Apparently the way you look is a lot more valuable than the way you work. While that has often worked in my favor, I think it’s a sad reality. Particularly when I want to be paid for the way I work.
At $30/hour, standing around and looking pretty is one of the highest paying gigs, if not the highest paying gig I’ve ever had. I have spent many hours doing thoughtful, carefully researched, and meticulous work that has never been paid out at an equivalent rate.
Some of that may even be my own fault, for undervaluing myself. Whereas I’m not afraid to ask for $25- $30/hour at the gigs that require nothing of me, I’m hesitant to command the same rate for my “real work”. After my extensive experience with various side hustles, I feel I’m more likely to have my rate rejected when I’m offering work that I feel has true substance and value than when I’m simply offering my face and a smile.
Have you ever been valued more for the way you look than the way you work?