About a month ago I got a stack of catalogues from Restoration Hardware in the mail. My first thought was that I had purchased so much at Restoration Hardware in the past year that I am now one of their top customers. I thought about my friend Maria, who teaches people how to choose a color for anything in their home. She can make you feel like a genius and I’m pretty sure that means everything she buys from Restoration Hardware tax deductible.
Before I was her friend and could call her all the time to ask about every little color question in my life (should my dark brown leather sofa be coco or espresso?) I hired Maria to do a color consultation. Well, I didn’t really hire her. She did it for free. But it changed my life. She picked all the colors for my house in ten minutes. And then she let me stress out about it for the next 50 minutes.
I loved that call because I realized that picking colors is like picking careers. There are right answers and we are scared to trust them. I told Maria I want French farmhouse red/yellow/blue. And Maria saved me from creating circus tent red/yellow/blue. You think you can manage these things by yourself but really, you don’t know you can’t until you see what someone who is amazing at it can do.
Like, I can tell you that my favorite chair in my house is the Versailles chair that no one sits in because it looks sort of like a piece of art - from Restoration Hardware, of course.
Before I ordered it, I checked with Maria: “Is the white version okay? Because I like things fast and Restoration Hardware can ship it to me in a week if I buy what they have in stock.”
Maria said yes and that she likes anything from Restoration Hardware.
You are thinking Restoration Hardware should sponsor this post, right?
Well, they can’t, because I’m about to tell you that when I received their stack of nine catalogues, I realized pretty quickly that I was not special because my brother, who lives in commute-to-a-job-in-NYC New Jersey says there’s a Facebook thread for his neighborhood to talk about how wasteful it is to send out all those catalogues.
I did not want New Jersey snark to ruin my wide-eyed Wisconsin excitement over endless bedtime reading. I replaced the Xanax bottle on my nightstand with the stack of catalogues. That’s how much hope I had for pages of Small Spaces (Barcelona! Paris! Malibu!) and Furniture (Deconstructed! Aerospace! Swedish!).
But then I got to Rugs. (Ben Soleimani! Ben Soleimani! Ben Soleimani!)
Really. There are 80 pages of rugs and each page says the rug is made by him.
Wait. That’s not true. There are two pages with Ben that have no rugs photos, only polo photos illustrating a biography of Ben where we find out that he’s a great polo player with inner thigh muscles any woman would kill for.
I mean to have as her own. I don’t know why he thinks we want to see him playing polo. It’s like this is an aspirational magazine but not for the reader, only for him.
I starting thinking about why Restoration Hardware would let this happen. All the other catalogues in my stack have a wide range of designers caring about design. Why would the rug catalogue be all Ben?
I googled him. He’s famous. Well, famous for being born into the rug business, and supplying Prince Charles with rugs and saying the best way to buy rugs is to pay a lot of money. (Suddenly, the polo makes sense.)
I guess Restoration Hardware needs some outside validation for their rug business, and Ben needs to be a household name and wasn’t able to buy his own spot on reality TV. This makes sense. It’s really what every business agreement is: each side needs something from the other.
And if you keep that in mind, it’s much easier to decide which job to take at which point in your life:
Choose the company where you had a great interview. A good job interview is more like a consulting gig. You tell the company what you have to offer. How you will change their business. Because that’s what establishes you and the company as equals – it’s not an interview but a partnership. They want what you can give them. The best job interviews I’ve had have come from me reaching out to the CEO and telling him I see a problem he has that I can solve. Ben did that with Restoration Hardware. He saw their carpets sucked and he knew how to fix that.
Choose a company for its image – it’ll reflect on you. The definition of a good company to work at is one with a good brand. Your career is only as good as your resume, and, let’s face it, a big career is really just a series of company names and titles. If the company has a great brand, then it conveys immediate and significant meaning to your career. Just because it sits on your resume. You could do nothing at the company, but it’s pretty easy to hide that with well-written bullets on a resume. It’s impossible to hide that the company is not a respected brand.
Go to a job that makes a good story. I see that Restoration Hardware did some deal where they had to bend over backwards to get Ben Soleimani to work with them. Ben thinks he looks amazing in his polo outfit. I think he looks desperate. Like a woman who is really hot who had to settle for a short, middle-class guy. There’s something wrong with her. Maybe she is a whiner. Or terrible in bed. Who knows? But we know that you get what you are worth. And you can see what someone is worth on the dating market by looking at who they are with.
It’s why George Clooney is marrying Amal Alamuddin. He needs credibility in the political world so he can be the next California governor. I think she is bottom feeding by marrying him. But he’s loaded. So fine, it makes sense.
Be careful what you reveal by who you pair yourself with. If you hire someone as demanding as Ben you look like you don’t have self-confidence in the field. If you make a deal with your employer that puts your name on every page they print, it might feel like a win, but beware: an overly accommodating employer tells everyone you were too scared to go work for a company that has as strong a reputation as you do.
Choose to work with people who are easy for you. I like that Maria is in this post. She’s an example of someone I like being associated with. We did an online course together and it felt so natural. Ben and Restoration don’t look like a natural fit. They look forced and self-serving. Often people ask me how to choose between two jobs. It’s almost always an obvious choice if you look at the choice in terms of Ben Soleimani’s career.
Each of us has many stories we could tell to describe our career and how we got here. Taking a new job is like making a new ending to the story. And a new ending changes the meaning of the story. Look at what the job choice says about the rest of the story, and figure out which story you like best.
Ben’s story is that he wants to be everything to everyone. A polo player and a rug dealer to royalty who is also trying to corner the catalogue-crooning Restoration Hardware crowd. Don’t choose a job that shows you trying to be everything to everyone. It makes you look unhinged. Even if you’re on top of a horse.