The Value of Standing There and “Looking Pretty”

Young business woman calling telephoneAs 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?


The Value of Standing There and “Looking Pretty” — 23 Comments

  1. Sometimes, the face is usually the basis in being hired for a job. Haha. Yes I have been valued for the way I look than the way I work but of course I would work very hard and not always depending on my looks because I want my boss to be satisfied.

    • I sometimes feel I’m working against my face to prove that what I bring to the table as a worker is worth a lot more than the way I look.

  2. I don’t think I’ve ever had this problem, but I have occasionally wondered what salary my current employer would have offered me if I were male. Seems kind of like an old boys club sometimes.

    • It still shocks me how much gender inequality exists in the work place from pay to treatment.

  3. Studies show that looks do matter. Someone who is even slightly above average has better job prospects than someone who is not very attractive.

    • I just wish I could have my work recognized first and foremost. That’s why I love blogging. People respect me for the content I produce, period.

  4. Regardless of how hard you’re actually working, you’re still spending your time doing something for someone else. If they choose to pay you $30/hour to stand there and smile, that’s great.

    • Oh yeah, no complaints about that job. I just wish the other jobs that I bust my ass doing paid out as well.

    • Haha, this one was actually through facebook- a former co worker reached out when he got the opportunity. Not the first hustle I’ve gotten that way, and I’m sure it won’t be the last either 😉

  5. There have been times in my career, where I definitely felt as though I had someone’s ear or got my foot in the door because I looked better than the guy next to me, but looks will only get you so far. I know I am smart and work hard so I will do whatever I have to to get in and then I kill it because I know I can.

    • I just get frustrated when my good and hard work doesn’t pay out as well as the simple, shallow stuff.

  6. I’ve never been valued more for how I looked than what I could accomplish, but then again, I’m not a beautiful girl…I’m a computer nerd lol! Thanks for sharing your story…$30/hr worth of pretty vs. 7.25 an hour worth of work shouldn’t equate to less pretty than work…

  7. I have a friend who will occasionally pick up gigs to essentially flirt with people in order to promote a product that she has a moral opposition to. But she sucks it up because times are tight and the $25/hour is nice. Have you heard of pharmaceuticals using this same tactic in hiring very recently ex-professional-cheerleaders to do their in-person sales?

  8. Probably because the gig is really short term (a few days)they are willing to pay more. For a longer term position (a month or two), it really does come down to managing their cost budget, even if you are worth more. But I agree, smiling and standing versus executing tasks, really knocks your socks off.

  9. I totally wish I had a $30/hr side hustle like that! I will never understand the workings of the people who choose how much to pay for certain work. I know when I used to temp, sometimes I would get paid a lot more for the shorter-termed assignments.

  10. I think the value is in much more than “looking pretty”. Many companies that need someone to even do what seems like a minor job on a very temporary basis (say a 1 or 2 day conference) are willing to pay a premium for that. There is a relatively small market of people willing to work one or two day jobs, most people won’t bother with it, and yes, I think a lot of those who do, would be playing on their phones, disappearing, and acting unprofessional. The value of having SOMEONE there to hand off the microphone is high enough to justify your pay, but not high enough to have a full time person do it, or add to the responsibilities of their already full time employees. I’m sure being pretty helps, but I think a lot of the value is in the ability to work on a super short term job AND on your display of professionalism. Part of offering the high pay too is to ensure they get a professional and not a slacker.

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