Job hunting is one of the most stressful periods in a person’s life, right up there with a death in the family, divorce, and illness. There’s so much at stake, and it can be frustrating. Landing a job interview feels as rare as finding a Golden Ticket. In Austin, where we’re headquartered, we operate a popular tech job group where the most universal question is “why didn’t I get the job??”
In almost all cases, you’ll never really know why.
Sorry. That’s disheartening, but it’s true. The positive side is that it isn’t always your fault. So, we’ve crafted a massive list of reasons you didn’t get the job interview or job offer that you can learn from if you read from top to bottom (we promise this isn’t the same old garbage you already know).
Don’t let this list get you nervous, the idea is that there are infinitely complex numbers of reasons humans reject each other, many of which can’t be helped – you can only control what you can control.
Remember, the hiring person has a lot at stake, so does the employer (it costs a lot to hire, onboard, and retain employees), not just you.
The hiring process can be inhuman and indignant and your resume goes into a black hole or you never get feedback after a phone or in-person job interview, but arm yourself with as much knowledge about the process and avoid as many objections as possible. We’re pulling for you!
It’s the robot’s fault
1. Did you know that if you apply online that your resume goes through an applicant tracking system (ATS)? And if your resume didn’t match the job description (meaning none of the keywords they were looking for were used), the robots didn’t even give your resume to their HR human? Pay attention to job descriptions and tailor your resume to each application accordingly.
2. Sometimes the applicant tracking system (ATS) where you sent your application online kicked out a rejection letter without the hiring manager knowing. It happens.
3. You put your resume on one generic job search site that promises to send it to hundreds of employers (but is really just there to sell your information to third parties). At no point did you apply directly, through a third party recruiter, across various platforms, and so forth. Applying on some of the junk job search sites is not always applying (we don’t mean Indeed or Dice or reputable brands, but the “apply once to a trillion random jobs” platforms – be cynical).
It’s the hiring manager’s fault
4. Sometimes it really isn’t your fault, the recruiter or hiring manager is imperfect. That’s harsh, but you can’t guarantee that person will be perceptive or even professional. The overwhelming majority are really insanely good at their job, but they’re humans too, thus they’re fallible.
5. The hiring manager is petty and/or shallow and didn’t like the school you went to or the purse you were carrying or the car you pulled up in. You’ll never know you received a secret demerit.
It’s the company’s fault
6. Sometimes the company changes the job specifications in the middle of the process.
7. The company might have changed in the middle of the process.
Maybe the CEO is on the way out. Or there’s a temporary hiring freeze, but they can’t say that in public. Or their funding status is changing. Or the business just took a big hit and everyone’s scrambling.
8. They were never hiring to begin with and were using candidates for marketing ideas or free labor. It’s a sick practice that some companies commit.
9. Someone that no longer works there told you to start as a contractor and they’d consider you FT after 90 days, but it was never in writing and no one knows what you’re talking about and your contract is up and it’s not going to be renewed. You didn’t really get the job, amigo.
10. Your job interview with the Chief Hug Officer about how many stars you give yourself as a leader wasn’t the appropriate number of stars and they didn’t want to hug you after all. Or your phone interview with the 18 year old social media intern where you couldn’t name any Marvel characters rubbed them the wrong way. Companies have unique interviewing methods that involve humans, and some are just plain silly.
11. The company’s not willing to accept your type of Visa or citizenship status.
It’s timing’s fault
12. There was a candidate interviewed before you applied that they really like and are waiting for an offer acceptance from. And now they have said yes and you’re out and sad, and I’m sorry.
13. Someone else took precedent (an internal hire, an ex-colleague, or someone the CEO said they know and is the new hire no matter what).
It’s someone else’s fault
14. Someone unexpectedly gave you a bad reference and you may never know about it.
It’s your fault
15. Let’s start with the obvious repetitive junk you already know – you have a bad resume or cover letter. There are red flags, incomplete information, grammar errors, it is too long or to short, super generic, and/or never expressed how you impacted any company’s bottom line.
16. You couldn’t answer basic questions (“why did you leave your last job?” or “why were you only at X place for 3 months?”). Or you answered any number of job interview questions poorly. Or you were asked to critique something about the company and you wailed on their shortcomings rather than offer a positive, followed by a meaningful critique with actionables, closed with a positive.
17. You made a mistake on your application (you worked at Google from 1904-2006?) or you straight up lied. Some companies do basic employment checks prior to requesting an interview, so you better get your story straight from minute one.
19. You’re not a culture fit. But wait, it’s not what you think – you’re not unlikable, they’re just looking for a puzzle piece. Their division might be in chaos or the there’s already an A-type on the small team. Hiring managers deal with truly complex situations and it isn’t personal if you’re not the right puzzle piece, despite your incredible pedigree.
20. You raised major legal red flags. Nothing says you plan to sue like vaguely saying “I have schizophrenia, is that going to be a problem?” or “I’m not sure working for a male boss is a good fit, do you have someone I can answer to that is female?” or “what is your policy on sex in the workplace?”
21. Speaking of legal red flags, you put your picture on your resume which tells sensitive employers “I’m doing this so later I can say I didn’t get the job because of my [gender, race, etc.]” Discrimination is no joke. It happens, and you don’t want to put an employer in an uncomfortable situation – your picture’s already on LinkedIn. That suffices.
22. To “where do you see yourself in five years?” You said “in your job” to be clever or “President of the company” without explanation. Come on, people. How you answer that demonstrates your intent on longevity in the company, your willingness to move up, your desire to be a leader, not supplant your interviewer.
23. You applied to basically every role in the company and now they take you seriously for none.
24. You applied for a Senior-level role when you’re barely entry-level.
25. You asked nothing about the company or role during the job interview. This is sadly common and so easy to fix.
26. You knew nothing about the company during the interview. Do your research, people.
27. You failed a required technical test or psych profile and there really is no coming back from that. Objective requirements are just that – objective.
28. Your work history is unstable, too short to be applicable, and/or filled with holes you can’t (or didn’t) properly explain.
29. You’re missing a certification or education level the employer wants (either publicly or secretly).
30. You’re too educated – your PhD is scaring them into thinking your salary demands might rapidly increase even if you’re currently amenable to minimum wage. This is based on endless studies and experiences of people settling – they don’t stick around for long.
31. You forgot to include your continuing education (coding courses, professional leadership retreats) because you thought they were irrelevant. They’re not – they show that you take initiative and eager to always learn more.
32. You ghosted at some point or were slow to respond.
33. You arrived (or called) way too early or way too late.
34. You were rude to the receptionist.
35. You were overly familiar during the job interview because you’ve done so much research and feel like you know the company so well. This trait says you’ll be an unruly team member and will likely disqualify you. Be a pro, even if you know the hiring manager personally – anything else is disrespectful.
36. Someone random in the company met you at a networking event 10 years ago and when politics came up you called them a moron. They didn’t forget, and you’ll never know it was even a factor. But it might have been.
37. You briefly dated the hiring manager’s dramatic best friend and over drinks, you come up and she tells horror stories about you – you’ll never learn this was the reason, but seriously, it’s possible.
38. You were sweaty (if that’s a problem, wear a sweat-wicking shirt under your top).
39. You had a smell – either body odor or too much perfume/cologne/axe deodorant.
40. You had a limp or overly aggressive handshake – some people are really sensitive to that and you may culturally offend someone.
41. You looked at (or stared at) your phone during the job interview when it wasn’t ringing. Or your smartwatch.
42. You weren’t memorable – some people are just boring or try to be overly calm. Remember you’re connecting with another non-robot human, so try to be at least human.
43. Your desperation permeated the entire process. They could smell it on you and it wasn’t appealing. Why? Because they know you’re going to take the job so you can pay rent, but you’ll still be job hunting and they’ll lose you quickly, so why bother?
44. You live in the wrong place – they may be unwilling to pay for relocation and may screen accordingly.
45. Salary negotiations went awry. They demanded your previous salary and you refused or they didn’t like the number or you’d done too little or too much salary research, or maybe the job listing said a range and you demanded triple (or they offered less than the range).
46. You asked questions at the wrong time – don’t lead with “so what are the benefits and how much time do I get off?” Wait until you know that they like you already. Asking pay as the first question, although the most important, can disqualify you. This is a delicate dance.
47. You failed some simple (probably stupid) test like a sales role being offered half salary and being tricked into negotiating their way up, or somewhere on the job listing it asked you to “Like” their page on Facebook and you didn’t, who knows?
48. You dressed poorly at the job interview or were way overdressed.
49. When asked if you’re a night person or morning person, you didn’t say you’re flexible, you said you’re terrible at mornings, and now this company that is really serious about productivity starting at 8:00am, is no longer interested in you.
50. You fidgeted or shook during the job interview.
51. You were awkward during the interview, maybe you held your bag in your lap or kept your winter coat on.
52. Your nerves got the best of you – you spoke too quickly or quietly or couldn’t stop saying “like” or “umm.”
SIDENOTE: Being introverted or socially anxious is a challenge, so during a job interview, gently express that so it’s not misinterpreted. “I do tend to be introverted, but I want you to know that I am enthusiastic about this opportunity even if I sound a little shaky and nervous.”
53. You didn’t thank the interviewer (or act interested) at any point.
54. You sent an extravagant thank you gift to the hiring manager that disqualified you as it appeared to be a bribe, not the kind gesture you meant for it to be.
55. You followed up too soon and too frequently.
56. You were too cocky or too insecure.
57. You were too eager and it came across as insincere.
58. Your body language was off (you used practiced/disingenuous hand steepling, or you slouched, or maybe you couldn’t make eye contact).
59. You were too scripted – you obviously regurgitated scripts you studied online (a good HR pro can see right through that – they’ve read them, too).
60. You sneezed into your hand and wiped it on your pants, then offered it to shake at adios time. Gross, bye.
61. You trash talked a former employer or coworker (or the interviewer’s favorite sports team, or their religion, or them).
62. You didn’t laugh at the CEO’s joke during a final job interview.
63. You shared way too much personal info – not stories about vacay to humanize yourself, but like made sure they knew you have irritable bowel syndrome.
64. You were overly apologetic about your past rather than calmly explaining that you took five years off to be a stay at home parent, but you’ve kept your skills sharp by studying [X].
65. You kept talking about why their competitor is awesome.
66. You accidentally called them by their hated competitor’s name during a job interview.
67. You kept calling the interviewer “Jacob,” but his name was always “Jason” and now he thinks you can’t tend to standard details (or is just butthurt).
68. You’re trying to pivot from one industry to another and you do a poor job of explaining that in any way, you just hoped you’d get an interview (but it doesn’t work that way).
69. You’re painfully ugly or overly hot. Sorry, it’s possible.
70. You’re overqualified and that means you might leave when a sexier offer comes along.
71. You’re underqualified which means they’ll have to pay for your learning curve (which they won’t).
72. Your credit is awful and you’re applying to a highly regulated industry like finance or law enforcement, which may hold you back.
73. You didn’t know that your criminal or credit history might not be a disqualifier so you didn’t even try. Sometimes companies are open to certain types of offenses, or you can explain the illness in the family that destroyed your credit.
74. You failed a drug test – this is one of the few instances where you’ll know what happened.
75. You pressured them on social media (you started “IBMShouldHireMichael.com” or started #IBMHireMike and had friends use it on Twitter endlessly, which is clever and has a slight chance of working if applying to a digital media role, but almost always just comes off as annoying and overly aggressive – not worth the risk). Plus, if you depended on that being your hook and they didn’t even notice, it was a hugely wasted effort.
76. You’re so addicted to internet jargon and slang that you used it on your resume or during a job interview (“btw, your shoes are on fleek”). Save it for your tumblr, folks.
77. Being cute with videos, online resumes in infographic format, and so forth, forces an employer to investigate you outside of their normal parameters and could land you in the trash bin. Do those things in addition to the traditional resume requested.
78. Your social media accounts are offensive, filled with garbage, or overly sexualized – lock it down while on the job market.
79. You bitched about the company on social media “phone interviewer at X company was straight up retarded” — uh what!? This actually happened recently.
80. You didn’t express interest after the job interview. In fact, you may have closed with “well I have several more interviews to complete, so I’ll have to get back to you,” hoping to prove value but really pissing off the employer.
If you’ve read this far, you know that sometimes it’s you, sometimes the stars just didn’t align properly. Sometimes you’ll get feedback, but most of the time, your secret demerits will remain locked in someone’s brain.
But now you know some of the pitfalls that you can fix, so you will. You can only control what you can control, the rest you simply have to let go of.
Let this information empower you, not discourage you.
Good luck during your job search, and don’t let the robots hold you back!
This editorial was originally published in our business news site, The American Genius.
ADJ AMA: Ask the Recruiter Anything [replay]
If you missed the live session last week, the ADJ AMA was bonkers – we learned so much and our guest debunked a LOT of “common knowledge!”
If you weren’t able to make the live event, there’s good news – we recorded it for you!
Michele Olivier is a partner at O&H Consulting which offers recruiting and career coaching services. She’s a vetted badass and blew my mind in so many ways during the hour and a half we spent together.
Apparently a lot of what I’ve been told is wrong, which means a lot of what you have been told is also wrong!
We chat about the application robots, recruiters, how it all works, and how it has all changed. Get up to speed by listening to the AMA (Ask Me Anything), but beware – there are curse words, so maybe listen with headsphones on!
Pro tip: Michele’s bio and social media links are all listed below the video!
Michele Olivier offers a unique perspective on career development and job searching, with an impressive record of accomplishment on both sides of the desk. She combines over 20 years of experience in HR and recruitment with certifications in career guidance and counseling, and she knows how to meet the needs of both applicants and organizations when it comes to matching talented people with top jobs. As a regular contributor to trusted sources for industry knowledge including the New York Times, Recruitment.com, and Refinery29 Michele is a dynamic thought leader and instrument of change in the Talent Acquisition field.
With global expertise and a list of clients including Big 4, Big Tech, and F50 companies, Michele has recruited at all levels from entry retail through executive. Not only has she filled roles for household names like Microsoft, EA Games, Facebook, and the YMCA, she has worked individually with established professionals to land positions at places from Goldman Sachs to the American Red Cross.
The scope of Michele’s experience spans multiple industries, every career level, and organizations of all sizes. Through this, she has honed a no-nonsense approach when it comes to communicating with clients about the realities of the job market and how to stay competitive. She has even developed and implemented curricula to help both job seekers find work and employers identify talent, which was rolled out internationally and recognized by the British Parliament for excellence. As Principal Consultant with O&H Consulting, Michele and her colleagues channel their expertise into customized resume and career coaching support that helps clients soar above the crowd.
Find Michele online:
7 ways to tell if a job posting is actually a human sex trafficker
It may be hard to spot a job post from a sex trafficker because it can blend in, but there are 7 red flags to avoid when job hunting to avoid becoming a victim of human sex trafficking – it can happen to anyone.
You open your eyes and it’s completely dark. Your head is throbbing and you’re in a tight space in a fetal position with your arms tied behind your back and your feet tied together.
You taste copper in your mouth and realize it’s blood. Your heart is starting to beat so hard it’s nearly coming out of your chest as you realize you’re in a car trunk of a car that isn’t moving. Panic sets in…
The last thing you remember, you were going in for an interview at a company after being unemployed for nearly a year. It was weird that the boss wanted to interview you at his house in a rough neighborhood, but you try not to be judgmental and you really really need the work.
You’re remembering that you were only in that house for a few seconds before someone hit you in the back of the head and everything went black.
Now all you can see is a crack of light coming from outside, but not enough to mean it’s daytime.
Do you start kicking and screaming for help? Or is whoever attacked you right outside of the car? It’s so quiet and you have no idea where you are or how you ended up there, but you know you’re in danger.
This panic is drilled into the heart of people every day in America, both men and women just trying to earn a living that end up violently thrown into the sex trafficking trade.
You may think you’re too smart to fall for a sex trafficking scheme. You probably think it’s just drug addicts desperate to get high.
Human sex trafficking can happen to anyone at any time, and there are red flags that are either unknown or overlooked by people from all backgrounds.
Traffickers use various tricks, from pretending to be a romantic partner, a provider, or even extortion. But the most dangerous are the people that promise the world (a high paying job no matter your qualifications, a nice car, vacations, new clothes).
We want you to be aware and open-eyed, and urge you to never be so desperate that you can’t walk away – that’s how they get you.
This is not the definitive guide, there could be more red flags, but we want you to live, so here’s how you can tell what’s normal and what’s not.
Red flag #1 – overpromising
You’re probably not the type of person to fall for the bandit signs on the side of the road that promise travel, a fancy car, clothing budgets, and high pay, but no experience is required (and all you have is a phone number to call). But your child or niece/nephew might…
What all of these signs have in common is that they offer a lure but no details.
These signs or shady online ads often use female names to appear more trustworthy, and require you to text them (you won’t hear their voice because it’s not a polished receptionist, it’s a scary sex trafficker).
If you can’t get any details in advance of inadvertently giving someone your phone number by texting or calling, it may not be safe – don’t call/text. It’s not worth it.
If they tell you to check out their Instagram account and it’s just pictures of someone’s unidentifiable hands holding wads of cash, that’s a common method to appear legitimate (“but look how much money they made!”) but it’s a common ingredient in scams of all sorts, including trafficking.
Red flag #2 – they don’t ask you questions or give info
If a company that you’re inquiring about (online or via a sign) doesn’t ask you any questions, you may be in danger.
All legitimate businesses will want to review your professional experience, even if you’re applying for entry level work. They’ll care if you’re in their industry or interested in their industry.
If there is no way to apply online, or nowhere to email your resume, and they get angry with you for asking, it’s not a legitimate opportunity (sex trafficking or otherwise).
If they jump immediately to an interview after you text “I’m interested,” that’s not how normal businesses operate. Legitimate businesses can’t interview everyone that is interested, it’s not logistically possible. That’s a big red flag.
If you can’t even tell what industry it’s in or what the position is, the best choice is to not even contact them.
Don’t overreact to personal questions, sometimes traditional employers ask them, but do run if someone asks questions about your body or how you would react in certain sexual situations. Even if the interviewer is a well dressed older woman – many tricks and disguises will be used to lure ou in.
Red flag #3 – the interview is in a weird place
Small businesses will often interview you in a Starbucks, and that’s totally legitimate.
But if you have ignored the first two red flags and found yourself lining up an interview, look at Google Maps before you head that way.
Some online advertisers will say that you’re such an interesting candidate that the boss wants to meet you personally at his home.
That is not normal. You should never go, even if the boss is well known.
But in the case of sex trafficking, you won’t have the real name of a person, and if the interview location is a run down, dilapidated house, you’re going to end up in a trunk. Sometimes it will even be in a decent looking house, but that’s still not normal and they could be renting it online for the day to appear more upstanding.
If you look on Google Maps and it’s in an abandoned strip mall that you know hasn’t had any open companies in a decade, that’s another terrible sign of danger.
All interviews should be at a company’s offices, or in a very public place like a Starbucks. And even if the interview goes well and the interviewer wants you to immediately go to a private location, never ever ever do that.
If you have a WeWork or coworking space in your city, if you aren’t totally sure about a lone interviewer or their chosen location, tell them you cowork there and you’d be happy to meet there in public, in the bright lights (you can buy a day pass if they say yes). If they’re unwilling to meet in a public space, run.
Lastly on this red flag, if you end up meeting at Starbucks and it doesn’t go well, your gut says you’re in danger, or you rejected their offer to immediately go to their house to continue the interview, don’t leave first. Stay put, lie, say you have another meeting there in a few minutes, and let them leave first so they can’t follow you to your car. Watch them drive away. And if your gut still says you’re in danger, tell an employee that you’re going to your car and ask if they’d make sure you got there and the creepy interviewer doesn’t get you (that’ll get their attention).
Red flag #4 – weird contracts
Let’s say you’ve found yourself answering a shady ad that you didn’t know was shady. They say it’s all remote, so you don’t have to meet anyone in person. So far, so good.
Maybe they promised that you’ll do a ton of fancy international travel, and their headquarters are in another nation, so the contract is in another language, but they tell you what it says so you sign anyways.
Wrong. If an employment contract is in another language, you truly have no idea what you’re signing to – don’t do it.
But that’s not the only part of this red flag. In this scenario, sex traffickers will have you take the contract to a local who will translate it for you, answer all of your questions, and help you through the process by holding your hand.
They’re remote too, so you’ll have to go to their house, but they assure you the person is your same gender, and you’re not in any danger, they’ve helped hundreds of people and just want to help you.
If you go to that house for “help,” you’ll likely end up victimized.
Red flag #5 – money flows oddly
This red flag is applicable to a number of scams, not just human sex trafficking. If you are required to pay money up front before getting a job (for tools, training, or inventory), you’re either joining a scam, a MLM scheme, or being stolen from. That’s not normal for a traditional full time opportunity.
On the other end of the spectrum, traffickers that are Promisers try to gain your trust, so without meeting you, they may mail you a check as a sign on bonus (you were smart enough to reject giving them your bank account information for direct deposit which is a common way to scam people out of money).
You’ll put the check in the bank, it’ll sit there for a few days while it clears, but meanwhile they’ve gained your trust and start working toward meeting you in person and fast forwarding the trafficking process.
The check isn’t going to clear, but now they have your home address, likely your phone number, name, and if you were tricked into filling out an application, they have your Social Security Number.
Your identity could be stolen and sold, or worse, it could be used to track you down and find you in person, knowing how vulnerable you are since you missed all of the previous red flags.
Red flag #6 – the company is a mystery
So maybe you’re a really smart person and you’ve avoided all of the red flags.
Maybe you just saw a simple Craigslist ad that didn’t provide a company name, but the opportunity sounds legit, so you email through their relay system to avoid giving your real email address. You ask for details. Smart.
In most cases, they’re smaller businesses avoiding being bombarded by desperate third party recruiting firms, so they keep their name off of the ad. Those folks will tell you their website, who they are, and any information you’re seeking.
Do your homework. Find them on Glassdoor, Google around.
If they don’t have a website, maybe they’re just getting started, but the founders should at least be on LinkedIn and have real people they’re connected to (which is still no guarantee of legitimacy. If there’s no mention of them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or even Google, ask for more information.
If someone gets angry at your inquiries, or refuses to answer, they’re either illegitimate, or they’re looking for victims. Either way, it’s not worth it, stay away.
Red flag #7 – your gut says it’s dangerous
Although it should be number one, the final red flag is that if your gut tells you any part of the process is off, trust your intuition.
We’ve experienced it
We operate a very large Facebook Group called Austin Digital Jobs and we’ve worked with the Austin Police Department (APD) to report sex trafficking posts online that appear legitimate, but are far from it.
Two instances have happened in this very well known, reputable group (both of which were immediately spotted by members, publicly declared as sex trafficking and scams), but it shows you these traffickers can blend in and go anywhere.
One instance gave no details, but they were looking for an assistant and only offered a phone number. Some of our members texted for more details and within minutes of the posting, shared publicly that they were asking female candidates to “interview” at a scary looking house in a bad part of town. The post was screenshot, removed within minutes, and APD was immediately notified – they were familiar with the address and took action.
Separately, a link to a Craigslist ad for a personal assistant at a “consulting firm” for $50/hr was posted in our Facebook group, insisting that only attractive females apply, and a picture of them was required (and that they’d have to be “comfortable using [their] body”). It was immediately removed and reported to Facebook, Craigslist, and APD. Some would have believed it to be real because the description of interacting with clients sounded standard, but there were too many red flags (the police agreed).
It can happen anywhere to anyone, male or female. Even the major job search sites have to battle the evolving tricks of human sex traffickers, but the bottom line is that if no info is offered and it sounds too good to be true, it is.
We beg beg beg you to heed these red flags and share them with people you care about – we don’t want any of you to be beaten, raped, or even killed. And above all, trust your gut when it tells you a situation is dangerous.
Even if you feel like you’re losing an opportunity, it’s better to be poor than dead.
This story was originally featured on our news site, The American Genius.
Why I reject the idea of the #hustle
(EDITORIAL) Our culture stopped considering running on four hours of sleep as a badge of honor, so how the hell is the “hustle” culture any different? Guys. It’s not.
Rise and grind, hustlers. We all see on social media the people that tout the “hustle.” You’ve seen it. “Rise and grind,” we’re told. The intention behind these cliches is to inspire people around them to take action (or secretly to brag that they’re people of action, accomplishments).
But isn’t it really just an alternative to the glorification of being “busy” that we have also rejected? Our culture stopped considering running on four hours of sleep as a badge of honor, so how the hell is the “hustle” culture any different? Guys. It’s not.
Being bombarded with the “inspiration” to “hustle” is giving rise to unnecessary stress. “I took an hour and a half off for lunch, I didn’t hustle, I need to hustle, I have to work until 10 tonight if I’m really someone who hustles,” many people think to themselves now.
Further, the rise of the gig economy (which we’ve written about in depth over the years) has people snagging endless “gigs” leading to a new culture of poorly trained workers that feel like they’re on top because they’re “hustling.”
A friend of mine recently Facebooked that she’s “On the hustle,” and bragged that not only is she an Uber driver, she takes gigs on Fiverr, sells Rodan+Fields, and so forth.
All I hear is that she’s banging her head against the wall with maximum effort and minimal return. No skills are being refined and tweaked when people feel like they have to pick up scraps in order to hustle, and very little money is coming their way. Every penny counts, but if you spend three pennies of effort to make one penny come to your bank account, it’s simply not worth it.
The problem is that my friend IS hustling. Hustling her little ass off. But it’s that “hustle harder” mentality (glorified with inspirational quotes on Instagram) that has people feeling like they come up short.
I’d like to officially reject the idea of “the hustle.” The intention behind the movement is good – work hard, then work harder. It’s much better than the alternative, but it’s time to be more honest about what “hustle” actually means.
I have a challenge for you. Next time you see someone on social media bragging about their hustle (because that’s what it’s become, a means to “play” successful online), consider if the hustle is real. Are they glorifying a fast buck, glorifying being busy, or desperate back patting? Don’t “like” it or chastise them, just move on. Don’t play into it.
You know who hustles?
– My grandma who wakes up early every day in Kenya to take care of orphans all day, sometimes being the only adult left behind when Boko Haram storms the village (and the local workers flee), living on spotty electricity and food, all before retiring in a less-than-luxurious bed at night, exhausted but happy.
– My mechanic who hustles all day, obsessing over the quality of his work, who won’t even let me see my car until he’s pulled all of the protective linings out and he’s washed his hands and straightened his tucked-in shirt.
– My gal pal who wakes up with a newborn every day, yet juggles social media and recruiting, offering endless free help to people who can’t/don’t pay her to review their resume so they can get a job.
– My single dad when we were growing up – worked as a designer for a shitty boss (but didn’t quit because he had to feed us), skipped meals when there was only enough to feed us two kids, still sneaks out during lunch to go take lunch to (and eat with) his homeless buds up the street, still volunteers for the tasks at church no one else will do (like weed duty), always took side jobs he hated (illustrations for textbooks, art for the local paper), all for his family.
And what do these people all have in common? They would all cringe at the idea of a selfie with glitter letters proclaiming they’re on the hustle. People that are focused on work, on advancing their life (and the lives of those around them) would be embarrassed to be lumped in with the Instagram selfie people that pat themselves on the back because today, they managed to shower, drive two people up the street for their Uber hustle, write a fake review on Yelp for their Fiverrr hustle, and sent out two aggressive sales emails to cousins to pressure them to buy their Rodan+Fields products in their trunk.
That’s not hustling, that’s what people are being told is hustling. It’s an unfortunate scrapping together of gigs that so many are being tricked into thinking is the only way to live, the only way to survive. The pressure is on to bring on more ways to hustle, and people are being screwed by the gig economy. It’s unfortunate.
And for that, I reject the glorification and glitterification of “hustle.”
This editorial was first published on July 5, 2016.
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