When No Job Is Beneath You

My friend and I had a nice chat yesterday about shitty jobs. Think: using your body to make better tip money at a restaurant.

Working conditions aside, some jobs just don’t sit well with your moral compass.

“This is cruel

I think this crosses ethical boundaries

I feel so bad about this…”

are all natural, warranted gut reactions. So the question becomes:

should you pass up a job because it doesn’t align with your values?

No. Sometimes you need it despite how uncomfortable it makes you (note: if you’re being harassed at work, or any other thing that’s ILLEGAL under the law, please don’t put up with it).

In Arlene Dickinson’s book, Persuasion, I learned that she used to hold a job as a collections caller. Maybe I don’t have the title right, but the gist of her job was calling people who were behind on their bills (for reasons she knew all too well, coming from poverty herself) and pester them for payment. Sometimes she’d even have to drive over to their homes and serve them with court summons. She hated it.

But circumstance prevented her from quitting: she had four kids who needed to eat. What you can pull from Arlene’s problem is this:

sometimes you don’t have the luxury to take the moral high ground

You just don’t. And Arlene putting her malaise aside for the sake of her children, or you waiting tables because your education won’t pay for itself, is honourable.

Hell, plenty of students take on sugar daddies to pay their way through school. [Before you judge: McGill University is the #2 fastest growing ‘sugar baby’ school. The issue is literally in our backyards.]

Obviously there are concerns for personal safety when you’re sugar babying yourself out to strangers, but the way you do what needs to be done shouldn’t be a point of judgement on you as a person.


I’ve taken the liberty of graphing the relationship of how much your job should bother you based on your financial situation.

Don’t apologize if you weren’t born with a silver spoon – parents who set you up with the right connections early on – and have to take a few dirty (not illegal, please!) jobs to make things right for yourself.

Nobody knows what your situation is, and sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. Plus, as long as you have your sights set on something better for yourself, I think its okay. Your hard work will pay off when you finally start enjoying the luxury of following your moral compass.

Still uneasy about it?

a little support:

Here’s Scott Laufenberg’s article, published by the American BAR Association (that thing lawyers are a part of), on having no choice in representing a client. My favourite tidbit is:

Many people understand that representing the person or issue does not equate with accepting or endorsing what a particular client does.

And this article about how expensive school is:

Among all students who graduated from four-year colleges in 2012, seven in 10 left with debt.

Its okay that you’ll sometimes have to take your values out of the equation so you can get things done. As long as you do it responsibly, you’ll be okay.

So, yes, you have my permission to wait tables wearing questionable outfits. And to do anything else you need to do, because you need to take care of you.

Just be safe about it.



P.S. What do you think about this issue? Do you agree or disagree? What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to earn money?

2 thoughts on “When No Job Is Beneath You

  1. Rae says:

    Very interesting perspective! Though I’d have to disagree slightly. Uncomfortable jobs aren’t necessarily immoral, e.g using your looks (or being made to) for tips or being a collections officer– it’s something that a person might not be ok with subjectively (using your appearance that way is demeaning, Arlene Dickinson could empathize with the people she was hounding) but once you remove yourself from the situation and disregard personal feelings, then there’s nothing immoral about temporarily filling in a niche to keep society moving. So what I’m saying is that I don’t agree that following your moral compass is a luxury; there’s plenty of underprivileged people in the world who still choose to abide by a strict internal moral code. I guess the luxury lies in having a job where you feel secure, respected and satisfied. Very thought provoking read! 🙂

    • dana.iskoldski@yahoo.com says:

      I didn’t think of it that way, Rae. Maybe immoral isn’t the right way to put it – maybe it’s more of just what doesn’t sit well with you personally. Our conclusions are similar though – removing yourself from the equation definitely does give you a more objective view on what you’re doing. I really like the way you put it 🙂

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