Dear Tits And Sass: What About The Résumé Gap?

by suzyhooker on March 13, 2014 · 7 comments

in Dear Tits and Sass

MelanieDear Tits and Sass,

I’ve been a sex worker since 2010 and until recently, haven’t done much else. I graduated with honors from a very good college back in 2006, but the working world has kicked my ass. I could cite some mental health and substance issues, but that would be a copout. I think I’ve just been plagued with a lack of direction and downright laziness. For about a month now, I’ve had serious stripper burnout coupled with “double life” burnout. The constant lying and endless small talk is getting under my skin. Plus, sex work enables my many vices, from drinking to smoking to risky sexual behavior to erratic sleep and diet.

As another tax season commences, I know I’m going to be looking at the same stagnant 40-50K income I’ve made the last three tax years. Super stripper I am not, plus I just turned 30. I’m hoping to gain advice on how to land a straight job now (I can’t just concoct three years of normal work) and how to gloss over this aspect of my life when I apply for a Ph.D. this Fall. My aim is to earn a Ph.D. that makes a six-figure income realistic.

I’ve made some efforts to get my ducks in a row through volunteering and taking undergrad level classes relevant to my desired degree. I have an in at a job that would be a great building block toward my desired career. But I’m worried about awkward interview moments. People finding things online. For someone who lies constantly, yet isn’t the best bullshit artist, I need to bullshit my way through job interviews in the near future.

Help!

Mind the Gap

Chase Kelly, Survive The ClubMy advice to anyone trying to start a new career is simple:

  1. Set realistic goals
  2. Use what you know

If you are planning on getting your Ph.D., great, that sounds awesome and a six-figure income doesn’t sound too shabby either, but that also sounds like a massive lifestyle change, and a really expensive one at that. You might consider going partially “straight” (like dancing weekends only) while hustling up some other work that you can do during the week. Instead of jumping right back into school (and debt), start your  résumé now, save for the year, and plan for a return to school in 2015. Maybe take some night classes next semester as a test run.

In the 90s, a lot of strippers and sex workers transitioned into real estate, which is a great option for lots of sex workers—after all, we can speak to people, manage our own hours, spot a sale, and are money-motivated. It’s quick, cheap, easy to learn, looks good on paper, and you can totally embellish how long you’ve been doing it.

Now it’s sales that transitions dancers and sex workers in. If you go to any professional conference or convention, you will inevitably meet someone who finds it fascinating that you are there on your own volition. Test the waters and tell them you’ve only worked in the service industry and you’re looking to get into sales, and before you know it, someone who can afford it, who is looking for a real-life-experienced self-starter will want to take a gamble on you. Then you do the best damn job you can and make strippers everywhere look awesome and like we are worth the risk!

Another option is to reach out to a couple of regulars and ask them if they’ll help you fill in your résumé  . I have heard of customers posing as former employers MANY times, and sometimes they’ll even print you up some pay stubs. Having a degree is awesome and so is volunteer work, so fill in a couple years as an “executive assistant” or something, and there you go! Customers are usually really happy to help with stuff like this, because they feel like they are saving you from your awful job (in this case, maybe they are!) and it tends to make them more generous as a result—a win/win.

If you’re struggling with healthy lifestyle choices, I’d take the time to commit to those before I jumped back in school. Everyone should have a therapist and everyone should have a small bit of savings to catch them if they fall. You should take some time to build those things before you get into a Ph.D. program, spend 2014 writing essays for scholarships, looking for legit work that relates somehow to what you want to do, side hustling, get used to staying in one place (school requires a commitment!), kicking any drug/alcohol/risky sex issues and working on consciously crafting yourself into the person that you’d like to be.

I like adventure as much as the next girl, and sometimes after a while stripping/sex work loses its edge and just gets boring and depressing. That’s when it’s time for a new adventure. The answer you really need is the one no one wants to hear: it’s going to be a lot of work. Start planting seeds and be patient, the harvest is just around the corner.

Whatever it is that you end up doing, years from now, once you reach success and are making your six-figure income, I hope that you and every other sex worker on the planet comes out of the closet and tells the world that we aren’t a bunch of losers, and I hope you feel like it was worth it.

@corpshamanwhore: I’ve been in HR for 14 years, 10 as a HR Manager for a Detroit automotive company. I’ve hired everyone from manufacturing staff to executives. I worked as a pizza/chicken delivery dude before I got my first job in HR at age 30. Relax, be confident, you can do this, I did it, and I’m not anything special. From your post, I’m sensing a lack of confidence, not a lack of ability.

From my HR perspective, I see some very good things that you need to highlight in the interview. You’ve been working toward your career by continuing with education and volunteering. This shows me that you’ve been applying yourself more than most people who don’t get hired out of college. I’d see you as a casualty of the economy, which should be, or is, your backstory for the interview. I almost expect to see short stints of employment and/or time unemployed from 2006 to now. I don’t see anything you can’t overcome.

Use your job prior to stripping when asked about job experience or when asked “How did you handle difficult co-workers/bosses” or other tired interview questions. Search online for the top interview questions. Almost every question you’re asked will be one of these. We in HR ain’t that imaginative. You have a major advantage, an “in” where you’re going to interview. Use your in for intelligence. Ask your in to find out what the interviewer likes and doesn’t like, and use them to sell you prior to the interview. If your in tells the interviewer you’re great, you’ll be viewed as a better candidate than someone coming in cold. Networking is the best way to get in and you have that. Exploit the hell out of it.

It’s probably best to explain 2010—now in one of two ways:

1. You’ve been going to school and volunteering while:
a) Taking care of an old or ill family member
b) Taking care of kids (your own, if you have them, or for a family member)

Both are acceptable reasons not to work and can’t be confirmed or denied. Use the bad economy as a story of why you did this to help another person while it was nearly impossible to find a job anyway.

2. Be honest about where you work. You work at a bar, but you worked as a hostess, bartender, or waitress. A job is a job in a jobless recovery. This may be easier to discuss without outright making up another workplace.

Both have risks, but you deserve to get into this program. Good luck, I know you’ll do great!

Ophelia Oliver, Ph.D.: If you are worried about things online, get them offline. Hire someone to help if you do not have those skills. Privacy is not cheap, but  could pay for itself if your online history does not sabotage a job search.

Ask someone who is good at job searches for advice about your résumé  . List the skills you have from your sex work experience and package them for mainstream work for your résumé . Sales, personal services, interpersonal skills, and so on.

Be prepared to work hard. A graduate degree alone is unlikely to double your income. Research what positions are paid what you would like to earn, so you can be sure to acquire the skills necessary to do that. If you take on debt, particularly student loans, include repaying them in your plans and budget.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Murray March 13, 2014 at 11:11 pm

Substance issues? Substance issues? That’s a euphemism for something, right? An illegal drug-user is shocked, shocked, shocked that getting a straight job has become problematic? Colour me surprised.

“My aim is to earn a Ph.D. that makes a six-figure income realistic.”

PROTIP: if your field is taught by adjunct professors, then being a part-time, minimum wage academic with no job security or benefits is the best job available to Ph.D.s in your area of study. Take a good, long look at where the graduates in your field really work, on average, before you sign up for more student loans.

After all. At least one of the grads in whatever-it-is got a Master’s and then became a stripper to make ends meet.

Reply

Karen March 14, 2014 at 12:15 am

I second the above comment. I’m working on my PhD and it involves living at near poverty level wages (on a teaching fellowship) and constant overworking for 5+ years (I’m on year 8). I now make my income as a sex worker and plan on leaving academia when I’m done with school. Why? Because after killing themselves for years and years, I watched my friends get shitty academic jobs because the job market isn’t great – in locations they never wanted to live, teaching in areas they don’t care about, some of them making just $40-50k per year. In hard sciences its possible to get a job that pays better, particularly if its a commercial and not academic job. But that comes with a lot of experience and something to offer – so starting on internships before going to school would be a huge help.

Also, depending on the grad school – some won’t care you used to be a sex worker. It all depends how you spin it in your personal statement. If you can frame how you learned from it and it applies to the field of study, it could actually be a help. But that totally depends on the school environment.

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Gar Lipow March 14, 2014 at 4:19 am

I was going to say – A Phd is not a path to a six figure income, at least not for most. Lots of bartenders, janitors and cashiers have Phds. To tell the truth in this economy the odds of getting to a six figure income if you don’t already have one are bad. Not saying it can’t be done. But nobody should count on it. The people who already have are grabbing more, and leaving less for the rest of us. Not saying you shouldn’t try. Just understand that any getting a decent income is harder than it used to be, and will get even tougher in the future. That applies to everybody, not just sex workers. Not that making a living has ever been easy for people not born into comfort. As the great Billie Holiday used to sing:

Them that’s got shall get
Them that’s not shall lose
So the bible says
And it still ain’t news.

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sarah m March 14, 2014 at 6:14 am

Plenty of academics use drugs or drink (plenty of celebrated scholars drank themselves to death, even; cf Neil Smith), so I’ll skip the moral panic about “illegal drugs,” but there really is no 6-figure light at the end of the PhD tunnel. Lots of people (including myself) go to graduate school knowing that and being totally ok with it — I can live perfectly comfortably on 20K/year. I like what I do enough that the gruelling workload I need to carry to be competitive, and the fact that being competitive still likely won’t get me a decent job, is something I can live with.

I would suggest that if you go to graduate school, you do it because you’re smart, you’ve got funding for the whole program from a school with a good reputation, and you really, really, really love whatever it is you’re going to research, as well as loving doing research itself.

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sarah m March 14, 2014 at 6:23 am

PS. Or, if your chosen career is outside academia, take that in at the job you want first and see if your employer will pay for some or all of the degree (perhaps more applicable to careers where a professional Masters is the degree of choice than ones that require a PhD, though).

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Gar Lipow March 15, 2014 at 3:33 am

And I’ll second skipping the moral panic about drugs. Lots of people in “straight” professions use em. But good luck with the six figures thing.

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Angela March 18, 2014 at 10:45 pm

Yep, dittoing on the PhD thing. I’m in the final year, about to submit, and have been living below the poverty line since I started. That is with full funding. If you take the research and thesis/dissertion approach then chaces are you are going to be too busy on your research to do much besides fumble your way through a few strip shifts a week. And, depending on your topic/field, there is a good chance that your research may lead to higher degree research grumps (though I may be projecting).

I’m lucky to work in a place where sex work is decriminilised (I took full advantage of this) and so I have 7+ years as a legit, tax paying small business owner on my CV.

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