Nick

On Being Fat and Career Minded

I’m currently a public sector employee and I’ve been in the sector since 2002. Up until then I was either unemployed or working part time jobs like Chinese Food Delivery Driver or Franklins Checkout Chick. I was lucky to get a traineeship with the State Government and my career world has expanded from there. (Lucky I was a male – I seemed to fill a required quote!)

Seven and a bit years on, with only a three month foray as a temp in the private sector, I’ve done pretty well for myself. I don’t have a university degree, but I have a degree in “working your way up through the public sector.” My Year 12 (final year) high school Accounting has become very handy over the years, and I’ve gone from an Administration Officer, Procurement Officer, Senior Procurement Officer (titles are everything!), Assets Officer, Finance Officer and now Senior Finance Officer (there’s that title thing again!). At the moment I’m an Acting Team Leader. I think that’s pretty ace.

So now that I’ve given myself a massive ego trip, onto the point of my post. I feel like I’ve achieved a lot in my career. I worked hard and taken some knocks. It took five years to get myself a permanent position rather than hanging onto my career by a thread. Another two to get a permanent promotion. And yet I’ve been FAT all the while.

There is this idea that there is a glass ceiling that if you are fat you will never succeed in business. You never see fat men and women in movies or on TV running corporations or even being middle management. Usually the fat guy is the one middle management are picking on. It doesn’t have to be that way.

I have some tips to help you in order to success in your career while being fat and fancy.

  1. Always be fancy. By that I mean dress well, make sure you have well fitting clothes that suit your figure. Don’t show too much skin and dress according to the general feel of your working environment. A couple of days in any organisation will show you what is expected. (You could always ask – no one will bite!)
  2. Be confident in your abilities. You were hired because they thought you would be good at your job, so be good. Do your best and ask for help. Don’t get into the mindset that you have to work it all out on your own. Sure, show some initiative but you need to get stuff right.
  3. Don’t play the fat card. You know what I’m talking about, and I’ve done it plenty of time. This is where you are all talking in a social situation and you are talking about this and that. “Oh, I’ve never done that – but I can’t cause I’m too fat!” Perhaps be honest and say “It’s never really interested me” or whatever the truth is.  Also don’t do the fat jokes. Been there, and people aren’t laughing with you – they just feel sorry for you.
  4. Be yourself. You have to be there eight hours a day. If you want to have that chocolate bar, have the fecking chocolate bar. If you want to go for a walk at lunchtime, go for a walk. The only caveat here is that if you like to chat with your workmates a lot, don’t let it impact on your work. In fact, nothing should impact on your work.

Actually when I think about it, just about all that could be used for non fat people too. Just replace any reference to fat with skinny or normal or whatever defining word you want to use and it still makes sense.

So in conclusion, being fat doesn’t make you a poor employee, so don’t sabotage yourself, get in there and work hard. If you get knocked back for that promotion, ask why. Get feedback. Find out what things you need to improve on to get to the next level. They cannot deny you because you are fat, so don’t give them any other reason to say no.

I note reports that fat women have more issues in the workplace than fat men. This could be true but I’m not really in a position to comment myself. If you feel that this is the case, leave me some comments. If there is enough feedback perhaps I can form it into a future post presenting a female perspective on this topic.

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  • MazelTovCocktail

    As a young fat professional, I think this article was a wonderful read. As you said, not only for fat people, but for skinny people as well. In this life, be it private or work, you teach others how to treat you. Having respect for yourself shows others that you aren't going to be treated any differently as someone half your size, or with different genitalia.

    In addition to being young and fat, I am also tattooed – VERY odd for a woman in this industry all around and I have to make sure that my work speaks for itself, giving no excuses to why my looks might be a hindrance. I've been with my current company for 6 years – building it from the ground up with 2 people on the payroll and now we're a multi-million dollar company and I've been fat this whole time!

  • ashleybrook

    Great tips!

  • meerkat

    The first two items on that list are really generic (I have heard this advice five billion times, just not specifically aimed at the fat), and I feel like you could've acknowledged that they can be more difficult for fat people who have grown up in a culture where, especially if they are women, people don't think they deserve or want nice clothes (I have a terrible time finding nice business suits at affordable prices; at normal stores, I have found some I can wear in their largest size, but they don't really fit well, so I went to a plus-sized store and they didn't seem to have the suits they listed on their website until finally two were located hidden somewhere in a size slightly too big for me), and of course a culture that tells them that they obviously have no abilities to be confident in because hey, they are fat, which means they are worthless and stupid.

  • http://feministrebellion.blogspot.com/ Simonee Mersenne

    Thanks for this post! I've recently gotten into FA, and my friends are quite concerned that I'm “sabotaging my career” by “refusing” to lose weight. It's all rather silly, in my opinion, since my goal is to be a math professor, and mathematicians aren't the most image-conscious folks.

    In any case, it's great to hear from someone who is both Fat and successful. It's encouraging to think that there are things I can do to be proactive, and help prevent fatphobia from keeping me down!

  • http://fatheffalump.blogspot.com/ Kath

    Excellent post Sir Nick. My own experience somewhat mirrors your own – no university, a myriad of jobs and then taking a dive into the public service. I just hit a decade in BCC, and I'm quite happy here for this part of my life.

    I've not experienced any overt discrimination because of my weight, but being a librarian, means I am in a worplace where the average staff member is older and female, so it is somewhat skewed a representation. I have had colleagues with bad attitudes towards the fat, but that's not held me back in my career.

  • http://the-f-word.org Rachel

    I wrote a blog post a long time ago offering up my possible fat-related experiences with fat in the workplace and citing a study that had just come out on fat stigma in the workplace. That study said that 53 percent of the 2,000 polled fat workers said co-workers stigmatized them and 43 percent said their employers stigmatized them. Another study by Tennessee State University economists revealed obese men and women can expect to earn on average anywhere from 1 to 6 percent less than normal weight employees, with heavy women being the biggest losers when it comes to their paychecks. See here, here and here for more.

    I'm still not sure if my early experiences in job-hunting were due to my weight or simply a lack of a degree. I was hired as a graphic designer at a newspaper even before I got my BA on the basis of my portfolio alone (and I wore a size 14 at the time). I was later promoted to a reporter, again while fat (a size 16) and before I had even finished my BA. I like to think that I am where I am at now because I never let my weight interfere with my professional ambitions and I never stopped learning. I have ADD, which means that I get bored easily, and I used this to my advantage to continually learn new skills. That, and my outgoing, easy-to-work-with personality, I think, are why I have gotten as far as I have. I still sometimes wonder though if I would have been hired had I been at my previous weight of 300-pounds, however the fact that I have lots of fat coworkers reassures me that it wouldn't have mattered.

    I totally agree with all of your advice and especially your caveat not to engage in fat talk with your employees only I would also expand this to not discussing weight-loss goals, if you should still harbor those, or any personal issues related to your weight at all. I had worked at a company for six years when I confided in what I thought were my close friends about my eating disorder. I later discovered that they had freely talked about it in the presence of others so that many people knew about my personal struggles. I was later fired by my manager, who was the one who informed me about the leak, and I always suspected it was due to the stigma she had about eating disorders (she was later investigated by the federal government for violating FMLA laws).

    I do have to take issue with one statement you made: “They cannot deny you because you are fat, so don't give them any other reason to say no.” Technically, they can't not promote you or not hire you or fire you because you're fat, but many states (like Ohio) are at-will states where they need no reason to terminate you and companies can give a litany of reasons why they chose not to hire or promote an employee. Or they can do what my father's company did to him: Move him into a position he hates in hopes that he would just quit.

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