I’m tired of being a prostitute | Please make me a job offer
(NOTE: this is a piece I originally published back in 2016. I am no longer “available for hire,” and am posting this here to start conversation and potentially help others to think a bit differently about their current situation. Enjoy!)
Several years ago my dad told me a story about one of his coworkers named Dave. Dave had recently purchased a shiny new car, and as a result he was eager to sell his old vehicle. So, Dave did what most reasonable people would do: he offered a super deal, putting a “FOR SALE” sign on the car indicating that he was asking only $500 in exchange for the vehicle. The car was parked in his front lawn for weeks in a very high traffic area. Yet despite the low asking price, Dave never got any serious interest from passers-by. Surprised and a bit perplexed, Dave was one day stricken by a moment of curious genius and decided to try another approach. He left the car in the same location, with only one minor difference. Against all common sense, Dave changed the asking price from $500 to $4,000. Much to Dave’s surprise, the car sold within 24 hours for the full asking price.
Over the course of the last couple of months, I have been engaged in what I have come to recognize as a form of prostitution. And during this time I fear that, like Dave, I have been seriously undervaluing my services and their worth in the marketplace.
By now, you may have guessed that I am not talking about that kind of prostitution. Instead, I’m referring to the last six months during which time I have been on the job market, trying desperately to sell my skills, my talents, and my soul to various suitors, sometimes with an almost irrational disregard for my dignity and value.
I didn’t start out selling myself and my considerable experience short. I started with ideals. But, as I kept getting turned down, told that I was overqualified, and dismissed because people thought I “wouldn’t be a team player,” I found myself slowly but surely becoming a smaller version of myself. Like Dave in the story above, I was trying to make myself look attractive by lowering my asking price, by making it seem that I wasn’t a tough catch. I was minimizing who I was and what I was worth, willing to perform for another in a way that disregarded my own needs and my own standards.
As I have reflected on the last six months of job hunting, I have come to realize that I unwittingly allowed myself to become alienated from the person I have worked all of my adult life to become. During the last half year, I have rebranded myself as a Project Manager, a Trainer, a Strategist, a Visionary Leader, a Self-Starter, an Inventory Manager, and ten or fifteen other titles that one can find in most any large corporate environment. To be fair, I am all of those things in part. But, in the process of identifying myself by these various titles, I fear that I temporarily lost the fuller and more interesting picture of who I am along the way.
The crazy thing is that for all my efforts to play the corporate match-making game, my strategy, like Dave’s, really didn’t work all that well. In fact, like Dave, the willingness to sell myself at a low price produced the exact opposite effect of what I had hoped. Rather than making me attractive to lots of people, my strategy ended up making me attractive to very few. My price was too low and so no one paid much attention, thinking that anyone willing to sell himself so cheaply must have something to hide or be of little real value.
So, taking a page from Dave’s book, I have decided to try something dramatically different. Like Dave, I have decided to stop underselling my product. I have decided to reclaim power back from an impersonal and dehumanizing job market and I am instead proudly proclaiming who I am and why I exist at the boundaries between job titles. I am rejecting the prostitute mentality and instead boldly asking interested employers to convince me, to sell themselves to me, and to tell me why their company is worthy of my attention. Borrowing a wild idea from the now notorious Andrew Horner, I am posting this essay as a reverse job application, calling upon interested parties to contact me to discuss how my experience can be put to use at their company.
In order that prospective suitors can make the most compelling case possible, let me tell you just a bit about who I am, what makes me tick, and where I draw the line.
I am, among other things, a husband, a father, a thinker, and a serial learner. I spent all of my twenties and most of my thirties in graduate school, being bold enough to chase my ideals and spend my time learning skills and acquiring dispositions that society wrongly told me wouldn’t help me to make any money. In the process, I learned the history of ideas, read many of the books that have shaped our world, and gained the ability to sift through and assimilate thousands of pages of complex writing so that I could talk about it in ways that a teenager could understand. I developed the tenacity necessary to spend multiple years seeing a project through to completion. I spent thousands of hours teaching others how to communicate, all the while honing my own ability to do the same.
After successfully landing a job as a tenure-track professor, I had the courage necessary to walk away from a sure thing, resigning my job so that my children could grow up around their grandparents, and so that I could figure out how my academic research related to the real world where people struggle to maintain hope in a climate where the deck is often stacked against them.
With little formal training and nothing but my ability and willingness to learn in hand, I figured out how to start and successfully run two different businesses. Against all conventional wisdom, I had the tenacity to open a bookstore in a beat up steel town, believing that people still long for community and are still moved by ideas. I also figured out how to sell millions of products online, creating software to do most of the hard work so that I could spend my time doing things that fueled me and added value to my community. Along the way, I have learned to manage a $3 million annual budget, how to encourage my employees to thrive, how to create a nurturing and humane workplace, and how to square my values with my need to make a living.
As for who I am not, I am not someone who will allow himself to be crammed into a system in ways that destroy my soul and force me to apologize for my hard-fought experience and insight. I am not a job title. I am not a list of competencies. And I am not a collection of academic degrees.
I am a thoughtful, creative, deliberate, informed human being who has spent his entire life becoming excellent at solving problems, understanding the world around him, and figuring out what life is about and how we can make it better by working hard together. I am willing to work harder than most and am capable of working more wisely than most to make the world a better place as the result of my efforts.
So, that, in a nutshell, is a bit about me and why I am no longer willing to play the role of the prostitute. If you have read this far, and if you have need for someone like I have described, I encourage you to tell me a bit about your company and the opportunities available for putting my experience to work. Send me an email and tell me the following:
- Who you are and how I can reach you
- The company with which you are affiliated
- The opportunity you would like me to consider
- Anything else that seems relevant for me to know
Please note that I am primarily interested in work in the greater Pittsburgh, PA area. I am willing to entertain some amount of travel and would be open to a position involving telecommuting. It would take a pretty compelling offer to get me to consider relocation, but given the right situation I might be able to be persuaded.
Shortly after reviewing your response, I will follow up to confirm the receipt of your information. If you would like to look at a more traditional resume before contacting me, you can find a copy under the “Summary” section of my LinkedIn profile.
I look forward to hearing from you!
Daniel Rossi-Keen operates between the boundary of ideas and business. He is happily employed as the Executive Director of RiverWise and has more than enough work at present. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.