The Vile Reality of Modern Working Life

The recent bust of a high-class Russian prostitution ring in Singapore had me thinking about the similarities between our modern working life and the oldest profession in the world. I should know, I was once in the prostitution industry.



  • the practice or occupation of engaging in sexual activity with someone for payment
  • the unworthy or corrupt use of one’s talents for personal or financial gain

I started my career as a head hunter ten years ago. It was a dream job for me. I got to be a matchmaker, working with sexy cool companies and wicked smart people. I put them together, and BOOM! Magic happens, and their work creates a better world for all of us.

But the dream didn’t last long. The global financial crisis came along and companies stopped hiring. During this time, we got a new boss. One day, he sat me down and told me: “Make two placements in the next two months, or your role will be made redundant”.

It was like being served with a divorce paper. I’ve been dumped. This was not just a job, I loved my work.

I started looking out, and spoke to other recruitment agencies. Here are some things that were said to me during the interviews:

“How difficult can your job be? Just throw a couple of CV’s on the wall and see what sticks.”

“Who cares if they (candidate) have only been in their current company for one year? Just approach them. They will move for an extra $100.”

“The candidate resigned after four months? Does that fall outside the guarantee period? That’s fantastic, you can make another placement.”

I made a startling discovery –  I was in the prostitution industry, and I was the PIMP. I felt sick in the stomach, but soldiered on.

Within two months, things changed completely. The economy swung upwards, and hiring started again. I made the two placements. I got to keep my job.

“Everything is now back to normal, but why do I feel so dirty?”, I thought.

Was I prostituting my talent?

I know that I am not alone in feeling this way.

Do any of these statements sound familiar:

I know that what I’m promoting is not good for my customer.

I don’t have a life outside of work.

I’m overworked but under-utilised.

There’s something bigger that I’m meant to do.

I ended up starting my own company. I refused to let my work define me, I chose to define my own work.

Seven years later, Personna is a leadership development company helping people to do great work by making work personal. It turns out that there is a small but distinct difference between being a lover and a prostitute.

Looking back, I didn’t need to quit my job to define my own work. I could have shown empathy to my boss and offered to become a solution rather than a problem that he needed to get rid of. I could have been someone he worked with to solve the problem.

It’s a choice how we respond. And it’s deeply personal.


Curious to learn how to stand in your circle of power and unleash the force for positive change? Join the Fight Club monthly newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter here.

About Sophia Chin, Coach & Co-founder of PERSONNA

Sophia helps people unleash the force for positive change to create transformational business growth.

Over the last 10 years, Sophia has interviewed thousands of senior business leaders and learnt their secrets to driving transformational business growth in large complex organisations including Apple and Grab.

Photo credit: Delacroix, Eugène. Liberty Leading the People. 1830. Louvre Museum, Paris. Web.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *