Illustration by Jesus Escudero
Feb. 9, 2022 6:00 AM PST

When Jenna Palek applied for a sales position at TikTok in the spring of 2020, she did something creative to help her get hired: She posted a 58-second clip of herself on the short video–sharing app highlighting her qualifications while performing dance moves popularized on TikTok. It worked. Palek nabbed the job after the video went viral, but the interest and attention also inspired her to start making more TikTok videos to build her own personal following.

Soon tensions emerged between Palek’s TikTok day job and her side hustle as a creator. As she got bigger on the platform—she now has almost 430,000 followers—Palek chafed against TikTok policies that limited the brands she could work with to make sponsored videos. Those policies also stopped her from receiving money from TikTok’s Creator Fund, which pays creators based on the engagement of their videos.

“I had more and more of these opportunities and more and more ways to monetize on TikTok while working there that I had to turn down, which was really unfortunate,” said Palek, who left TikTok in August. “It just got to a point where I had to choose one or the other.”

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