By J.T. O'Donnell A while back, a young job seeker contacted me with a very interesting problem. He was working in the corporate offices of a professional sports team that had just won the most coveted title in its league after many years of not winning. (I can’t tell you what team it was, but let me just mention I live outside of Boston. That should narrow it down a bit.) His problem? After two years in the job, it was made clear to him by management that while he was doing great work, there was no advancement for him in the area he wanted to build his professional skills. So, he put together his resume and started applying for positions. Well, he got plenty of interviews. In fact, he said almost every place he applied was calling him. However, their reason for contacting him wasn’t to hire him. It was to ask, “Why would you ever want to leave your current job? It’s got to be the best job in the world!” In fact, his own boss had told him that the reason he would never get a raise or promotion was because it was a 'dirt-church' job. “A WHAT!?” I asked. He explained…. According to his boss, a dirt-church job is one where you are treated like, well, dirt, and toil away for six days. But, on the seventh day, you get to clean yourself up, go to church and proudly tell everyone where you work...making it all worth doing again the following week. In short, the prestige of the job is so huge that you are willing to put up with endless amounts of bad treatment, long hours and ungrateful management. Why? Because you are getting paid to do a job that, as they say in The Devil Wears Prada, “a thousand girls would kill for.” And in many ways - it’s true. Let’s be honest, the mere listing of this team as a ‘current employer’ on this guy’s resume was enough to land him interviews. Wouldn’t we all like it to be that easy? Especially, in this economy! However, it was also a curse because nobody, I mean NOBODY, believed he really wanted to move on and advance his career. It was as if they thought he was flawed in some way. With some strategic coaching on how to shift the perceptions of potential employers, he did land a new job. But, it begs the question: Is this kind of job still worth it? Years ago, I’d say ‘yes’ without hesitation. Now, I wonder? As a career strategist, I think I'd be inclined to evaluate the pro's and con's much more deeply before advising a person to take it. What do you all think? Take the dirt-church job for a couple of years? Or, avoid it like the plague? Have any of you ever taken one of these jobs? If so, was it worth it?
March 10, 2009