Today, I veer completely off the subject of writing to indulge in my second favorite pastime, raving. And today’s rave is about Career Misfits—people who seem to be particularly unqualified, at least on the surface, for the job they do.

For example, a women I met recently proudly claimed to be a hairdresser. I glanced at her “coiffure” (a white-blond crewcut with black roots) and thought to myself, never in a million years would I let this woman touch my hair. I could achieve more sympathetic results with chemotherapy. The poor woman might be surprisingly good with a pair of scissors, but who in their right mind would take the chance?

Then there’s the woman I encounter socially, very sweet, but substantially overweight. One evening I asked what she did for a living. (Are you cringing?) Of course, she owns a weight-loss clinic. I stood there nodding, completely speechless for the first time in my life. What should I have said? “New in the business?”

Seriously, how can you sell a product when you’re visible proof of its failure? It would be like Jason Alexander (aka, George Castanza) trying to pitch Rogaine. Don’t they know better? Doesn’t it hurt? Or is it possible they simply lack a sense of irony? If there were only a few of these characters, I’d call it a karmic snafu and let it go. But they are everywhere!

There’s the guy behind the counter at the health food store who raves about the benefits of nutritional supplements yet looks like he hasn’t eaten or slept well in weeks. And the brother-in-law who struggles to make a living as a remodeler, while his own home is such a cosmetic nightmare I’d love to torch it and make him start from scratch. (As a writer, I’m lucky there’s no way to judge my competence by looking at me or the books on my shelf.)

I once knew cook who loved to grow exotic plants. When he told me he was studying psychology at the U of O, I impulsively blurted out, “Why? If you love plants, study botany. The key to happiness in life is finding something you love to do, then doing it until you’re good enough to make a living.”

I stand by my words. If these mismatched folks love what they do and are happy doing it, then more power to them. I will continue to bite my tongue—and ask for references.

  1. To counter-argue, though, looks don’t equal competency. But, you’re right, people judge you by your looks. And even writers can be judged by their looks, even though looks have nothing to do with the ability to write.

    Do you have to look like Hemingway to be judged a great writer? And if one look at Hemingway tells you that he’s a great writer, then why are the young and beautiful writers sought after by NY? Because they look good on TV and at appearances.

    Thus, writers are judged by looks. Maybe not the looks we think of when it comes to “great” writers but the looks that will sell.

    Hmm, I got way off topic, didn’t I?

  2. I loved this post. Sooooo true about so many people you meet in life.

    Thanks for the midday chuckles!

    Marvin D Wilson
    Blogs at:
    Eye Twitter 2 –

  3. I agree with Marvin…this post was as good a yuk as I’ve had in days, and the reason, I am thinking, is the absolute, spot-on accuracy of it.

    And isn’t that the writer’s eye…spotting things that are slightly askew and highlighting them, embroidering them?

  4. this argument (which I agree with wholeheartedly) just gives me more reasons to continue studying photography and dance. hurrah.

  5. This argument (which I wholeheartedly agree with) just gives me more reason to continue studying photography and dance. hurrah! (except for the compounded student debt)

  6. I figured this post would generate a variety of comments. It is true, we’re all judged by our looks and we judge others by theirs whether we mean to or not. Helen, your comment about the young and beautiful being sought by NY ties into a blog I started and didn’t finish. I think I will now.
    But still, a bald man can’t sell Rogaine.

  7. I’ve always heard when going to a new hair studio (that’s what they call it these days) to pick the person that has the WORST hair cut because that means whoever did her hair is not going to do yours!
    I worked in EMS for many years and was one of the few women that stayed in shape (though, er, I smoked). But some women I worked with were so obese that they were out of breath just from climbing out of the ambulance. You can only imagine the looks WE got from our patients. The small skinny girl (how could I possibly lift a hammer let alone a patient?) and my obese partner (how would she fit through the narrow hallway?).
    I love your post! I agree with everything (that’s a first!).
    BTW-found this from your Facebook post.

  8. Now see, this is the kinda post I like. You are so right in almost everything. I won’t drone on about the value of how you look, but I did, a while back, write an article on this subject that garnered some… er controversy.

    You can read it at

    For writers it’s not so much about competancy as it is about comfort. People need to feel comfortable with giving you their time and money, if you look… well, no good word to put in here…they will walk away.

    Karen Syed

  9. Karen
    Thanks for the post. I’ve read your article. And that is exactly why I get dressed and put on makeup every day just to sit in front of my computer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m comfortable, but I like to feel professional even when I’m working at home.

  10. I liked this post–it’s very thought provoking. But, as the wife of a reformed remodeling contractor, I have to stick up for your brother-in-law whose own house is a mess.

    My husband had his own remodeling business for years, while we also were completely redoing our house. We lived without floor covering for 7 years, (magic markers and sharpies can work wonders on the bare wood of subflooring) without an oven for 5 years (no biggie, we grilled out a lot), without kitchen countertops or cabinets for a couple (this led to a Christmas-like extravaganza when we finally brought all the boxes of kitchen stuff down out of the attic after years of storage).

    His clients, for whom he did wonderful work, often said, “I’d love to see your house. I bet it’s beautiful.”

    If I heard the comment, I’d generally respond with the story of the cobbler’s children who went without shoes.

    So, I find myself thinking of those cobbler’s children when I meet someone who seems to live personally at odds with their professional life.

    You can see some of our remodeling work on my blog:

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