Because nice boots are expensive
Some of us
have at one time or another had a bad day at work because were Goth. Perhaps its working with people who dont like the way you dress, wear your hair, etc. Maybe youve put up with inappropriate comments or behaviour, because of assumptions of your lifestyle. It could be you were passed over for a job or promotion because youre the one who looks different. Lets face it, as Goths we are judged most frequently on our outward appearance. Traditionally this is never more true than in a corporate environment. Yet there is a huge international community of corporate goths out there, working in the public and private corporate sector. Many have done so for years. So what is it really like to be a Corporate Goth? What career goals do they have? What obstacles do they encounter?
The sad and shocking events of Sept. 11th sent a ripple of fear and mistrust the world over. For some, this was a hard time to be seen as different in a corporate or office environment. I would like to thank our CorpGoths who spoke with me so openly and honestly, so soon after a time when it was difficult to be labelled the office freak.
Name, Age, and Gender. Location and Title.
Chelsea, 46, F. Colorado, USA.
OnCommand Corp., Database Systems Admin.
Lore, 30 something, M. California, USA.
Computer Game Company, VP of Technology.
Jasmyn, 26, F. Wisconsin, USA.
Associated Bank. Lockbox Clerk III.
Ephemera, 25, F. London, UK.
Delchi, 32, M. Louisiana, USA.
Operations Manager in a medium sized consulting firm.
Ra, 47, M. Texas, USA.
Bae Systems, Director.
Elizabeth, 27, F. New Jersey, USA.
Montclair State University, Technology Services Specialist.
Susan, 41, F. New York, USA.
Credit Manager at a Manufacturing Company
Iscariot, Older than God  M. New Zealand
New Zealand Passport Office, Acting Team Leader.
Munin, 25, M. Minnesota, USA.
Flight Instructor and Test Pilot.
What level of education and experience did you reach for your current position?
Chelsea: 2 years of college. 20 years experience as the Queen of Data Entry.
Lore: BS, Electrical Engineering.
Jasmyn: High school graduate with some college. It was more several years of being a temp secretary and being thrust into situations where I had to learn all the processes for the office in less than a day.
Ephemera: BA in Ancient history and English, one year as a graduate trainee (formal apprentice type role) Post grad Diploma in Library Studies.
Delchi: Incomplete college.
Ricky: BA in Molecular Biology.
Elizabeth: BA in English, New Jersey K-12 teaching certificate, currently completing MA in British Literature. For this position? Post-BA.
Susan: Some college and technical schooling in computers. Some college and lots of customer service and credit.
Iscariot: BA [Hons] History MA [Applied] Recreation and Leisure Studies. I could have been a brain dead mutant and gotten this job.
Munin: Bachelor of Science, Commercial Aviation. College isnt required, but the necessary training involves getting private, instrument, commercial, flight instructor, and instrument instructor licenses
and takes about 4 years, so I went to college for 5 and became well rounded.
What about further education?
Jasmyn: I want to go back to get my degree for what I really want to do, which is teach English.
Ephemera: Currently working on the next stage of professional qualification Chartership with the Library Association.
Delchi: Yes, certifications for further job opportunities.
Ricky: NO MORE DAMN SCHOOL, EVER!
Elizabeth: I am completing my MA for personal accomplishment, although work has indicated that it is favourable for me to do so.
Munin: I am required to continually study new developments in technology and aviation law. Apart from that, Im studying astronomy and Japanese mythology for my own enjoyment.
What are your professional goals?
Ephemera: I am torn between working as a solo librarian, ideally involved in the establishing of new library services in education, or moving towards a team leader role in a larger library. My aims are autonomy, responsibility, and to be able to make a difference to something I think is worthwhile.
Delchi: Survival in the current market.
Ricky: VP of continuous improvement.
Iscariot: Something that challenged me and lets me like it at the same time money/position are irrelevant.
Elizabeth: My position only recently became full-time, so presently I have not formulated any further goals. There is room for promotion however, and in a year or so I may begin following up on those possibilities.
Munin: Id like to command a corporate business jet, preferably a Citation X or Gulfstream V... something fast, enduring, and cutting edge. Piloting craft such as this would help meet one of my personal goals, too: extensive international travel.
Do you dress differently for your office or work environment?
Chelsea: After discussing how I dress with management just to leave nothing to chance, Ive gotten the okay for the long black skirts, reasonable platforms(!), multi-coloured hair and facial piercings as long as I remain flexible (as in, if anything becomes a problem, I will compromise)
Lore: I always wear black, sometimes black nail polish and eyeliner, often bondage and club wear, only slightly toned down in make-up and/or accessories. I have avoided getting piercing or tattoos so I can clean up if needed.
Jasmyn: My hair is still blue and I still wear funky clothes. They really dont care what we look like because we never deal with customers, so we have a pretty lax dress code.
Ephemera: I have to be aware of how I am perceived by students, colleagues, and visitors to the centre. I would probably have problems with a very visible tattoo or multiple facial piercings. Typical outfit might be [a] fitted t-shirt (no slogans), full long skirt and boots. I wear New Rock boots to work without comment.
Delchi: Usually basic all black. For business functions its black button down dress shirts, black ties with silver markings, standard black leather shoes. I do often wear combat boots, especially in winter. This is pretty much a normal style of dress for me.
Elizabeth: My work is a mix of technical service and training, so I am required to wear nice-looking clothing and occasionally crawl around on the floor. I usually wear long skirts and sweaters or blouses, occasionally slacks or pants suits, in dark colours (grey, charcoal, purple, black). The style varies from neo-Victorian to contemporary office wear.
Ricky: Black shirt, black jeans, black Dr Martens dress shoes. Long black hair in a ponytail. Jewellery includes an Ankh, Venus De Willendorf, peace sign, Eye of Horus, pentacle ring and other pagan style ring.
Munin: While my company has no dress code other than try to look casual and nice, Ive found that wearing a tie and shirt earns me some level of respect. Appearing to be extra-professional when it isnt required is a somewhat subtle manipulation that helps make people accept anything about me they might classify as off. I have no visible piercings, tattoos, or coloured hair, as they would be an unacceptable deviation from what is pilot norm.
How do you express your individuality at work?
Lore: I dress dark. I have gargoyles in my office. I work on and design the more Gothic products and host the better Halloween party and let someone else host the better Christmas party.
Jasmyn: My desk. I still have all my odd little toys and postcards up, and I listen to goth/industrial CDs while Im working.
Ephemera: I have a large framed dragon drawing on my wall, flyers for odd cultural things (Shock Headed Peter, A ballet of Dracula, etc) and my colleagues joke that they dont need to look for a signature when they get a note on a purple Post-It.
Ricky: Witch Calendar, books, etc. in my office.
Elizabeth: I work in a fairly individuality-friendly atmosphere, so I dont feel much of a need to go out of my way to express my personality. As long as I am clean and neat, I can wear almost whatever I want. I rarely listen to music at work, but when I do it does not matter what I listen to as long as the volume level is reasonable, and I can decorate my personal work space in a way that is comfortable to me.
Chelsea: Im the gothest thing most of these people have ever seen.
Iscariot: Opening my mouth normally does it. The multicoloured hair usually helps... and the piercings...
What about your co-workers? Are you treated differently because of your look or lifestyle?
Lore: Most co-workers find me interesting, a few even humorous, a very few seem to suspect I worship Satan.
Ephemera: Until very recently I have been the only person of my generation working there I am closer in age to my students than my boss which actually makes me look less odd-different and just different.
Delchi: Yes. I am called the black-bag man, GIB (Geek in black), that Goth guy, Mr Spooktech, the man, hacker, strange but good guy.
Ricky: No, but perhaps its because I am next in line for VP, high up.
Elizabeth: There are occasional jokes about being The Lady in Black, but the faculty who even notice see it more of an eccentricity than anything else. I am a friendly, helpful person who does her job well that is what is most important.
Susan: Everyone comes to me when theyre sick and needs to know what tea to drink to get better. They are used to me in avante-garde sense.
Iscariot: Youd think that I had horns and a tail sometimes, they all think I am crazy, but respect my work.
What about bias, based on your looks? Has your lifestyle ever cost you your job, or threatened your position?
Lore: A few times my late sleeping habits have been blamed on late night clubbing. (Ok, it may be true, but they were still jumping to conclusions), but mostly my work has been great. I think in the entertainment industry, Goths are presumed to be more creative and more desirable to hire than normals.
Jasmyn: Yes, one of my bosses was going through my desk (without my knowledge) and found some proofs from a modelling shoot I had done. The next day called me into his office and told me he couldnt tolerate having a Satan-worshiping freak on his staff for fear of what his superiors would say if they found out. I was not allowed to explain and was let go with extreme prejudice.
Ephemera: It has been more a case of not being noticed while other members of my tribe are talked about. I have not gotten jobs because of my appearance although I think the fact that I am a fairly large woman is often more of a problem. The Library sector is generally fairly tolerant, and I am willing to compromise.
Ricky: Actually I only have a positive story to share. Several co-workers, although they are several levels below me in the company, have come to me and discussed my involvement in the craft and the way they view things. People seem to handle the all black attire, as long as it looks professional and neat.
Elizabeth: On more than one occasion there have been assumptions about my religious beliefs as well. I usually just ignore these comments (or am amused by them). I have never had this problem at work.
Susan: No bias in office for the last 10 years... I no longer need to scream my point. People listen better when youre subtle. Think I lost my last job because I was a witch. I no longer tell the chattiest person in office anything.
Share your favourite story of stereotyping towards yourself at work, and how you dealt with it.
Chelsea: A co-worker (at a previous job) was comparing shoes and she commented that mine were inappropriate, then attempted to verbally back-pedal and said that they were no more inappropriate than any thing else I usually wore. I said, Thats okay, your narrow-mindedness is no more inappropriate than it usually is either. And walked away, leaving her slack-jawed.
Jasmyn: Once [in a former position] I came in to work to find my entire cubicle plastered with torn out pages of the Bible, covered in red paint that said things like Satan-worshipper, Youre going to hell, Baby-killer etc. I got a camera, took pictures, gathered up all the pages, paper clipped them together, and put them into an inter-office envelope. I took it and put it on the company directors desk with a note explaining who I was, what happened and how I would appreciate it if the matter could be looked into and dealt with quietly. He called me a few hours later, asked me some questions to verify things, and then asked me why I wanted to deal with things quietly. I told him that I had not done anything that I could remember to warrant this sort of action, but that I did not believe in responding in kind as that would lower me to their level. A few hours later, I got a note stating that the culprit had been found and appropriate action taken, with a warning that this matter was not to be discussed with anyone else in the office under threat of being let go. Along with the note was a form stating that I had a pay raise and discussions would be entered into for negotiation on buying my contract from the temp agency due to showing high levels of professionalism in the office.
Delchi: Once, in an orientation meeting I mentioned that I am a Goth DJ. One person piped up Oh, so when the time comes for someone to come in here and kill us all with an Uzi it will be you! Before HR could step in, I said No no no no no. The Uzi is too Middle Eastern for me. I prefer the glock 45 ACP with hollow point loads. The silence lasted about 30 seconds, then I laughed, and everyone laughed with me. I lectured them about stereotypes and knowing people before passing judgements. Then I shared my M&Ms.
Iscariot: Not so much how I dealt with it [as my immediate reaction was to gut people], but my manager. I had purple shoulder length hair at the time and some other team-leaders had complained about this to him. He said to me that he didnt care what colour I dyed my hair, and as far as he was concerned I could go walk down the main street naked with my pubic hair dyed, but he would appreciate it if at work I stayed away from the clients.
Munin: Ive only had one circumstance where I was treated disrespectfully and, though it wasnt entirely due to my differences in style, that was a part of it. Fortunately, Ive trained a lot of happy pilots and have a pile of thank-you letters at my disposal. Referencing them to Mr. Negative, I said Id let the satisfied customers speak for me. He shut up and left.
What advice would you give Goths working in or contemplating a corporate future?
Lore: Dont try to really offend those you work with or plan to work with. If their views seem dated, try to nudge them in the right direction. Strangely, when someone seems really offended, I have been able to get on their good side by saying I only dress this way to get chicks. Its not completely true, but its something the average yuppie can identify with.
Jasmyn: Make sure that youre ready to deal with a thousand different personalities at once, because while corporations can be faceless monsters, on an office level the faces are continually in yours and will each pick a different part of your personality to like or dislike. Being able to be mellow and let things wash over you is a good quality to cultivate as well.
Ephemera: Dont let them stop you your skills, talents and intelligence are yours to use as you want to, and the way you look ought to have no effect on what you do with your life. But be realistic you will have to make compromises but make them consciously, and make sure theyre worth it. Whats more important to you now, *that* job or that lip ring? And ask always ask people can be more tolerant than you think.
Delchi: Its not an all or nothing kind of deal. You have rights, they have expectations. You dont have to throw your lifestyle in their faces, and they dont have to stifle yours. Work with them, and come to a peaceable middle ground. This is NOT always possible, and bad things/people do happen. However, respect is always a two way street, and sometimes you have to give it first.
Elizabeth: First and foremost you need to be secure in who you are. Most jobs are concerned with how you perform on the job if you can show that you will do your best work, it matters less what you wear when you do that work. Also, there will always be individuals who do not share your interests and preferences... and some of those people may be in a position to influence your employment.
Susan: Do as the Romans do till you get the full picture of the new office, subtle sneaky changes after probation period till full corporate you is achieved. Remember, less is more.
Iscariot: Find something you like doing, and somewhere where you feel comfortable, its far more important than selling your soul only to end up depressed.
Munin: Corporate life is a lot like life as a Goth in any environment, except you have to deal with it more creatively (read: with less outward hostility). If your career goals are worth making the changes in your life (be they big or small) for 8-9 hours a day, do it. If you think youd end up unhappy by the limitation, go with whatever would make you happy in life. Personally, I get paid to do what I love. Ill manage the little inconveniences for that privilege.
Check out the Corporate Goth website at waningmoon.com/corpgoth
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