listing an unfinished novel as a work accomplishment on your resume

A reader writes:

I’m a copywriter. It’s my first time hiring for a copywriter position.

I don’t want to be petty or unfair to applicants, but I don’t want to hear about people’s unfinished novels on their resumes or cover letters. In my opinion, it comes off as either immature, self absorbed, or really uninformed about the work (copywriting is really not at all like writing a novel, other than that they both use words). But is it wrong to reject applicants purely because they cite their unfinished novel as evidence of their writing skills?

If you complete the novel, even if it’s not published, I feel like that could rise to the level of a business accomplishment because it demonstrates dedication. But if you’re working on a novel for free (i.e. a publisher has not given you an advance), then that’s not really evidence that you can write especially well or even that you write regularly. There’s no deadline or editor that you’re beholden to.

I could see bringing it up in an interview when discussing culture fit or if you were looking for an editing position at a publishing house.

Am I missing something? I would love you know your take on this.

Full disclosure: I have about 150,000 words of my own unfinished novel but I don’t put it on my resume.

Yeah, it’s not something that should go on a resume, for exactly the reasons you say. It’s not evidence that you can write well, since there’s no accountability to others involved. And that’s not just because it’s unfinished; you could have a finished novel, but if it’s unsold, it indicates that you have stamina, but not much about the writing itself.

But I wouldn’t reject an otherwise excellent candidate for including it on their resume. It would raise my eyebrows, yes, and I wouldn’t be super impressed with their judgment in this regard … but if they had really strong experience and skills, those would outweigh it. On the other hand, if they kept citing it in the interview, that would be a fairly strong strike against them, because they’d be showing they didn’t really get that it’s not significant to the work of the job.

However, if the person didn’t have other evidence of strong writing and editing skills, and offered up only the existence of a partially written novel as qualifications for the job, then yeah, that’s a rejection — because the person isn’t really demonstrating any qualifications in that case (assuming you want to hire people with experience and a proven track record).

my coworker is getting credit for my work

A reader writes:

I work for a medium sized company on a very small team. For all intents and purposes, it is just me and my colleague, “Joe.” Joe and I both started at the same time and work on the same types of projects. The similarities end there, as Joe is the type to take 2-3 hour lunches and surf the internet, while I am working hard only a few feet away.

About six months ago, Joe was assigned a very large, very visible project. He struggled to handle it, and I was quickly pulled in to help by management. As Joe would freely admit, I ended up doing a majority of the project myself. It was extremely important for the company, and a month or so later we both received employee of the month for our contributions.

Fast forward to today, when Joe revealed that he has been selected as company-wide MVP based, in significant part, on this project. I congratulated him, but I can’t help but feel betrayed and disheartened by this turn of events. I worked day, night, and weekends on that project to make it successful after he all but gave up on it. Since then, he has turned down several large projects while I have taken on significantly more responsibility, yet he is the one receiving awards.

Part of me wants to speak with my manager and ask why someone received an award based on my project, but part of me thinks maybe that would be viewed as petty. I am already looking for another job, mostly due to the fact that I often feel I am being overlooked and under appreciated, but this was still a big shock. Do you have any suggestions? Is there even any point in trying anymore?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

we give our interns free housing — and there are problems

A reader writes:

I train and manage a team of young (22-25) paid interns who, as part of their compensation, have free housing in a shared living space owned by my organization. Recently, one of my female interns told me (in tears) that the male interns repeatedly use the word “bitch” in their shared living space, despite multiple requests from female staff to stop. This is not acceptable to me, and I am definitely going to address it.

How do I best approach these young men constructively without causing retaliation against my female interns? There’s no way for me to know about this unless I had been told, and I’m worried that it will become a bigger issue behind closed doors if I intervene. It also borders on controlling my employees’ behavior outside of work hours, so how do I make it clear that this is still a work-related issue even if they’re not “at work”?

You are bringing back terrible memories for me! Years and years ago, I worked for an organization that provided free housing for its interns — they purchased a huge old house, and had a staff member live there rent-free in exchange for making sure the house ran smoothly. For about a year, I was that staff member. (I was 25-ish and traveling all the time, so it seemed like a good deal! It was not.) I dealt with so much weirdness in that house, including having to talk to a guy who refused to flush the toilet for environmental reasons (not okay when you’re sharing a house with eight other people in it), food thieves, a woman who tried to insist on total silence after 8 p.m., interns who thought I was their mom and would drive them places, someone who liked to pee outside, and so much more. And for some reason, they could not be trained to lock the door when they left — which resulted in the house being robbed a few months after I left. (And when the robber came in, they made him tea! They assumed he was a new intern. Then they all headed out, and when they came back, the “new intern” and all their electronics were gone.)

Anyway, your question.

You’re providing living space and housing them with other interns; you absolutely have standing to insist that they not harass, degrade, or otherwise create a hostile environment for the other people in the house. You’re right, though, that you can’t address it without it becoming clear that someone reported it to you, but that’s okay — because as part of addressing it, you can make it clear that any kind of retaliation against people for talking to you will be even more of a problem than the original behavior.

Say something like this: “While you’re sharing living space with other interns, we expect you to be respectful. I’ve heard reports that you’ve been asked to stop calling people ‘bitches’ but you’ve continued. Can you tell me what’s going on?” Then you follow up with, “It does need to stop. We have an obligation to ensure that the living space we’re providing is livable for everyone in it, and we’d be legally liable as an organization if we heard people felt unsafe or harassed there and didn’t act. In general, if someone tells you your behavior in the house is unwelcome, assume you need to cut it out — or come talk to me if you think you shouldn’t need to.”

Then say, “I hope this goes unsaid, but part of treating the other interns in the house with respect means that there can’t be any retaliation against them for telling me what was going on. That’s something we would take very seriously, to the point of reconsidering your internship here. Do you feel like you’ll be be able to treat them normally and respectfully going forward?”

And then talk to the women who talked to you, let them know that you’ve addressed it and it shouldn’t be happening anymore, and that you want to know if there are any further problems. Tell them that you made it clear that it would unacceptable for anyone to retaliate against them for talking to you, and that they should let you know immediately if that happens.

You should also inquire more broadly about how things are going in the house — do they otherwise feel comfortable there and have there been any other problems? — and reiterate that if they feel unsafe or harassed in the future, they should come to you or another employee right away and you’ll help them, and it’s okay if they need to do that. In doing this, be open to hearing that they may not be super comfortable living with these dudes at all, and be prepared for the possibility that you may need to make changes there.

And then check in a few times with them in the weeks/months to come. People won’t always approach you when there are problems, so assume you’ll need to go out of your way to find out how things are going there and how comfortable people are feeling.

coworker is too aggressive about enforcing rules, colleague selling free stuff from work, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My coworker is too aggressive about keeping our lab clean

My colleague, who is my peer, recently got a responsibility he treats very seriously. That responsibility is focused around improvement of tidyness of the laboratory with a focus of reducing the risk of contamination. These are serious issues that I completely support — they are not only important, they are essential. Unfortunately, since he got that responsibility I find him unbearable: he bombards the team with letters about the “lack of discipline”; he tells us we are “looking for excuses” and the effect of negligence on our front are “gross.” He decided to clamp down on some minor issues and he is very committed to that task (while he doesn’t listen to opinions on the major, related issues, like cleanliness of the floor). He told me off for the supposed “bad practice” in front of the junior staff, and his rhetoric is really intense and at the moment is causing me anxiety and makes me self-loathe and makes me hate coming to work.

I would like to tell him somehow to pipe down, as at the moment my constant stress because of his attitude makes me less focused and less productive. I personally have lots of years of experience and my work does not suffer from contamination problems. I really do not want to appear obstructive — I wish him all the best with the difficult task he is fighting — I just cannot stand the constant crusade of pointing (some but not the other) errors in our work.

I also know he has struggled for the last few years with his performance, and he is trying to prove himself in this new niche — but I am tired of his clumsy attempts to shine. I would appreciate if you can tell me how to tactfully tell him to calm down a bit.

“Dude, can you take this down a notch? Reducing contamination is important, but this is way too intense.”

Or, “Hey, I support your efforts in this area, but none of us want to be scolded like this. Can you think about a lighter-touch approach?”

If that doesn’t work, talk to his manager. I suspect he’s gone rogue here, and his manager would rein him back in.

2. Colleague selling free stuff he gets from work

I work in a library in a university. We get a fair few donations of books, some of which we don’t need (relevance, duplication, etc.). I circulate lists of disposals to other libraries locally, then whatever’s left on the shelf gets offered to staff in the building. There’s always a scramble, and there are a few who descend like locusts and snap up the choicest morsels every time. You snooze, you lose, all’s fair and so on.

However, a colleague has raised concerns that another colleague takes some of the nicer books, then sells them on Amazon, pocketing the profits. I’ve not yet found concrete evidence to confirm this, and won’t take any action until I can be sure, but something about this strikes me as a bit … morally dubious. I can see if you’ve got a huge collection, and you realize that maybe you no longer want a particular title that you picked up for free, you might offer it for sale, but I suspect this isn’t what he’s doing. Given what he routinely takes, I worry that it’s more like he’s systematically depriving everyone else of certain (usually expensive and limited print) books to line his own pockets.

I feel like I’d like to address it with him or his line manager, but that it’s not really within my remit. After all, when those books go on that shelf, they’re effectively there for the taking, whether you decide to read them, use them to prop up table legs or shred them to line your hamster cage. Why shouldn’t I begrudge him this additional source of income? (The only reason I don’t do it for the library is the time/effort involved.) But it doesn’t sit well with me. As I said, these are often the nicest books (RRP can be $50-$75 or even a lot more for some of them). Is there any action you think I can take? Or do I find another solution?

Yes! It’s reasonable to officially say, “We ask that you take these books for personal use only. These are not for resale.” You’re not offering them to people so they can make money off of them; you’re offering them because they might derive personal enjoyment from the books, and there’s something unseemly about him rushing to deprive his colleagues of books they might want to read so that he can turn a profit.

And if you do find evidence after that that he’s taking them for resale, then he’s breaking a clear rule and profiting off his access to library books in a way that wasn’t intended, and it’s fair game at that point to tell him the books are now off-limits to him. If you don’t have the authority to do that, you probably do have the authority to bring it to the attention of someone who does.

3. Employer wants my salary history — but I’ve already accepted their job offer

I recently received a great offer to a new company, and they came in at exactly what I asked for. After I accepted and signed the offer letter, they sent me a link to enter my information to complete the background check, but in the employment verification section, they asked for my salary at every job in the past 10 years … and it is a required field in the form! I was unable to enter “n/a” so I submitted a zero so that it was clear that I wasn’t lying, just declining to provide the information. I’m not hiding anything undesirable, I just don’t see any reason they would need this information for such a long period of my career, and find it strange to be asked this on a background check. I would be curious to hear any thoughts, drawbacks, or suggestions on how to handle something like this in the future.

That’s actually a good way to handle it. It’s clear that you didn’t actually earn zero dollars at every job, so you’re conveying that you’re declining to answer that question. And you should decline — it’s none of their business. You’ve already accepted an offer from them!

If they come back and ask for the numbers, you can say pleasantly, “Oh, I don’t give out that information — my employers have always considered that confidential.” If they push, then you can say, “I’m confused about why you’re asking for it. I’ve accepted your offer. Can you explain why you’re looking for this now?”

More advice on this here and here.

4. Can I keep the money if I win my office’s March Madness pool?

This may sound like a silly thing to worry about, but I’m weirdly anxious about winning my office’s March Madness pool! We are a small company (nine employees total) and I am one of two remote employees on the staff. Last week, I received an email inviting all staff to participate in a March Madness pool — $15 entry, winner-take-all. I love sports and competition, so I immediately jumped on this and returned my completed bracket.

Now, though, I’m wondering what would be expected of me in the off chance that I win. Is keeping the money in poor taste? Would it be better to donate the money in the company’s name (and let my coworkers know), or purchase something for their office? If I worked in the same physical location as my coworkers, I guess I could bring in a box of donuts or treat to happy hour or something, but I’m across the country and won’t see them in person until August. I’m not saying I think I have the gift of magical foresight or anything, or that I think my winning is likely (although the pool is small so odds aren’t terrible!) but I can’t even enjoy rooting for my picks right now because I’m fixated on this. How would you proceed if you were in my place and happened to win?

You get to keep the money. Really — it’s totally normal to do that, and it’s what most people do. The exception would be if your office has some sort of specific-to-them tradition of you doing something else with it (and you could ask a coworker who’s been there longer than if that’s the case, if you weren’t there for the last one and it’s been a long-running tradition). But most people just keep it.

5. My peer did an exit interview with one of my employees behind my back

One of my direct reports put in notice for a much higher paying job with better benefits. A VP from another department, my peer, called this employee for an exit interview. During the interview, the VP asked the employee about my leadership, if I was driving them out of the company, and if I was competent. This seems inappropriate, but what if any recourse do I have?

Is there any chance that the VP was asked to do this by someone higher up? There’s a chance that could happen, like if they’re concerned about potential problems in your department and thought the VP had particular rapport with the exiting employee. But otherwise, yes, that’s inappropriate and out of line. You could talk to the VP and say, “I’m confused about how you got involved with the exit interview for Jane — what happened there?” Or you could talk to whoever normally arranges exit interviews and say, “I was surprised to hear Fergus called Jane for an exit interview — and frankly concerned about why he would be involved in something in my department like that. Can you give me any insight into how that came about?”

weekend free-for-all – March 17-18, 2018

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. (This one is truly no work and no school.)

Book recommendation of the week: The Newlyweds, by Nell Freudenberger. A Bangladeshi woman comes to the U.S. to marry an American man, and ends up caught between two cultures.

open thread – March 16-17, 2018

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please don’t repost it here, as it may be in the to-be-answered queue.

my old boss still assigns me work, coworker doesn’t wash her hands when leaving the bathroom, and more

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. My old boss is still assigning me work

Recently I came back from FMLA leave to discover that my boss had been (willingly??) demoted and quickly replaced with an outside hire. It turns out I rather like the new boss. I am the lead assistant in the office, and I enjoy working for him in comparison to the former boss. The problem is workload. This new boss has lots of lofty ideas for implementing new systems, many of which I welcome and think we need. This has required a new focus and increased workload on my end.

At the same time, my former boss is reaching out to me to complete simple tasks for him — items I would have pushed back on for any other staff member (making a simple edit in a PowerPoint, scheduling one-on-one meetings in Outlook.) These are items I attended to when and because he was the boss, but now he’s not in charge, and he should be fending for himself in these areas.

I’m torn about bringing this up with the new boss. I don’t want to be unhelpful, but being interrupted to complete these tasks is frustrating, and it’s going the extra mile for someone who is now just “regular staff.” I suspect I should let it go, gritting my teeth while putting my other work on hold and attend to his neediness. What would you do?

No, don’t let it go! It’s getting in the way of you being able to focus on the work you actually need to do — and especially with a new boss, now is a time for you to really kick ass and impress that new boss. Don’t let inappropriate requests from your old boss potentially derail your focus.

One option is to just politely decline these tasks. When your old boss sends you work you shouldn’t be doing for him anymore, say something like, “I’m booked solid with work for (new boss) this week so I won’t be able to do this.” You could add, “By the way, I don’t typically do that kind of thing for the staff — which I know is a change from when I was your assistant.”

But it would also be perfectly appropriate to say something to your new boss like, “Fergus has been sending me lots of admin work to do for him — tasks that everyone else handles on their own, like editing Powerpoints for him or booking meetings in Outlook. I need to focus on the work you’ve given me, so I’m going to let him know that he should handle those himself now — but before I do, I wanted to confirm with you that that’s correct.” Then, assuming your new boss confirms that, you’ll be able to tell your old boss, “(new boss) asked me not to take on these kinds of tasks for people and to focus on assignments from him instead.”

2. Coworker doesn’t wash her hands after using the bathroom

Weird/uncomfortable one for you. What do you do (if anything) when you see someone in a shared bathroom at work and they don’t wash their hands? I was at the sink, someone flushed, and then walked out of the bathroom at the same time as me, without stopping at the sink. I was left super uneasy but didn’t say anything. Should I have?

Nope. You’re not her parent so you don’t have standing to correct her on this. This is a “mind your own business” thing, although you’re allowed to be grossed out privately.

3. Letting my mom volunteer at my organization

I work at a nonprofit that relies heavily on volunteers. I’m a recent grad and in my early 20s. I’ve been working here for about seven months and was an intern before that, so my coworkers generally know my work ethic, as we’re a pretty small bunch. I feel as if the staff respects me and sees me as a hard worker. Oftentimes spouses or children (teenage or adult) of employees will volunteer (I work with kids). I’m single without any children, but my mom is very interested in my organization and loves kids. Would it be inappropriate for her to volunteer or possibly infantilizing to me? I feel like I work hard at presenting myself professionally, especially since I’m the youngest in the office, so I don’t want anything setting me back.

It depends on your mom! Do you trust her to interact with you professionally while she’s there and not act like your mom? And do you trust her not to act like your mom when you’re not around too, in terms of what she says to the other volunteers and staff? If she’s very good with boundaries and if, when you talk to her about this, your sense is that she gets that she’d need to basically pretend you’re not her kid while she’s there, then it could be fine. But if you’re not absolutely sure about those things, I wouldn’t risk it.

4. Should I put my photo on my resume?

How do you feel about adding my photo to my resume? I already have a job but am in the process of shifting careers. I have seen this tip–about adding a resume photo–different places on line. On one hand, it seems like a great way to stand out and help them put a face to my information. On the other hand, it seems like it could come off the wrong way to some employers. Just wanted to get the Alison take on it!

Don’t do it. It’s not a thing that’s done in the U.S., and it will come across oddly, as if you’re not quite in touch with professional conventions.

(It is a thing that’s done in other countries though, so if you’re outside the U.S., ignore this advice.)

do I need to give interviewers a great reason for why I’m looking to leave my current job?

A reader writes:

I’m looking to leave my current position. I’ve been lucky enough to receive positive responses on informational interviews I’ve gone on and applications I’ve sent out so far, but I’m curious about how important it is to have a great “reason” to want to leave for something else.

I enjoy the industry that I’m currently in, but have grown tired of my company and I’m ready to leave. If I can continue within my current industry, great, but I’m also very open to other lines of work and opportunities that would utilize the skill set I’ve developed here.

I don’t think I have a problem expressing enthusiasm for other roles, but (and maybe this is more of an internalized pressure on my part) I struggle with crafting the perfect response as to why I’m looking to leave my current role for something else. My current role is somewhat unique and it’s for a very recognizable company, so I sometimes feel like I’m in the weird position of having to convince people why I want to leave without bashing my company (which I don’t want to do).

Do I need to have the “winning” response for when I’m inevitably asked this type of question, or is it enough to say “this job sounds great, and here’s why I’m excited to speak with you about it,” etc.?

You don’t need to have a particularly stellar answer to this; you just need to have an answer that makes sense and doesn’t raise red flags.

When interviewers ask this question, they’re trying to figure out the following: Are you being pushed out involuntarily or otherwise leaving because of problems on your end? Are you leaving on good terms with your current employer? Do you have unrealistic expectations that they won’t be able to meet either (for example, do you get bored with all your jobs after the first year, do you have chafe at being managed in a reasonable way, etc.)? Is there other context that will help them better understand your career trajectory and how their opening might fit with it?

So, what should your answer actually be? It depends on how long you’ve been at your current job.

If you’re been there five years, no one is going to question it if you say, “I’ve been here five years and I’m ready to take on something new.” That’s enough of an answer. You might get a follow-up question about what things you’re looking for in a new role, but you’re not likely to get pushback on why you’re ready to leave if you’ve been there a good, solid amount of time like that.

But you can’t use that answer if you’ve been there one year. In that case, you’d look flighty and like you you get bored with jobs way too quickly, or you’ll look like you’re covering up the real reason you need to leave (for example, because you don’t want to say that you’re being fired).

So what if you’re somewhere in between one year and five years? Then the specifics of your circumstances matter more. In some fields, as long as you’re relatively junior, you could mayyyyybe use “I’m ready to take on something new” after two years. That’s the absolute earliest for when that answer would be credible though, and in some cases it would still hurt you for the reasons above. Closer to three years is safer. And in lots of fields, if you’re fairly senior, you’re expected to be doing challenging enough work that you need to be there closer to four years (or longer) before that answer will be credible.

Other answers that can work, depending on what’s actually true for you:

* “I came here with the goal of accomplishing X and Y, and now that I’ve done that and my team (or the project) is in such great shape, I’m eager to figure out what’s next for me.”

* “I was hired to focus on X, but it’s turned out that that they really need someone to focus on Y.”

* “My company is making significant cuts to the program I work on, and I’m looking for something more stable.”

* “My company is going through a lot of change, and we’ve had a lot of turnover on my team and four different managers in the last year. I’m looking for more stability.”

* “My role has been evolving to have a heavier focus on X, which makes a lot of sense for the organization but is less aligned with what I love to do.”

* “I’m on the road about 75% of the time, and I’m looking for a position with less travel.”

I have some additional suggestions in this piece.

Again, it depends on what’s actually true for you, but those are some examples to get you thinking.

But as long as you give an answer that makes sense (i.e., not saying “I’m ready for new challenges” after one year), that’s really all your interviewer is looking for. And your answer doesn’t need to be super long and detailed. Most interviewers are just looking for a high-level overview of why you’re thinking about leaving — like two or three sentences.

And keep in mind that you don’t need to get into any of this unless you’re specifically asked why you’re thinking of leaving your current job. If you’re just asked why you applied for the new role, your answer can focus entirely on what excites you about it, without getting into the reasons you’re leaving.

my boss told me to quit or be fired

A reader writes:

For the last six months, I’ve essentially been on “probation” with my supervisor, determining if this manager role is a good fit for me. His conclusion is that I do not possess the skills necessary for this role. Instead of terminating my employment, they offered me another position – a demotion to a role that I was supervising. They stated they do not want to lose me. Even though I do not yet have another job lined up, I have decided to turn down this role. I do not feel it would be a good move for my career, nor for this team. When I turned down this offer, I had the option to resign or to be terminated. I chose to resign.

Given the situation, what should I tell my team and colleagues? I’m not leaving by my own choice – even though technically, I am the one who has chosen to resign because I did not want the other options. I don’t want to leave on bad terms or badmouth my boss, as I know that can haunt you later! But how can I be honest about the situation without tarnishing my reputation or my boss’s?

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • We accidentally left our new employee behind when we went to a staff lunch
  • Should I recommend a former coworker for a job if I liked her work but others complained about her?
  • Explaining what I’ve been doing since getting laid off
  • Can I ask why it took so long to be contacted for an interview?

interview with a nanny for a famous psychic

Occasionally I do interviews here with people who have had particularly interesting jobs. Recently a commenter here mentioned that she used to be a nanny for a famous psychic, and I wanted to know more. She kindly agreed to be interviewed, and here’s our conversation.

Note: This interview contains references to the interviewee’s spiritual beliefs, which may be different from your own. Please be respectful of her beliefs in the comment section.

So tell us a little bit about the job.

I was a nanny for “Jane’s” kids (who are also psychic). She was gone quite a bit so I effectively lived with them part-time. I would go with her when she had readings for large audiences occasionally, and other instances where she needed help with the kids even though she was there. We also talked and hung out quite a bit ourselves.

I did all the regular nanny things—picking kids up from school, meals, bedtimes, getting ready for school, movies, swimming, cleaning up the house, and sometimes just brought them with me when I needed to run errands or be somewhere. I even took her daughter on an audition for a TV commercial once.

How was nannying for a psychic different than nannying for a non-psychic would be?

• I think that working with the FBI on missing child cases understandably made “Jane” super protective of the kids in a way that most people probably are not. I took her son into the women’s bathroom with me until he was nine (yes, I got lots of dirty looks) but I was under strict orders to never leave him alone in a public place, not even for a moment.

• Sensitivities to energy. If someone was having a bad day, everyone in the house would know about it because there’s something about being in her house that made me more sensitive to energy, and the kids and Jane herself are also.

• My own abilities going through the roof when I was around the family was another surprise. We would play this game at dinner with the kids with a bunch of glitter shapes (little purple stars, yellow circles, blue squares, etc.) and she would put one in her hand and hold it out to me and the kids so we could try to guess which one she had. She could push the thought into my head and I would get it right. I have no other way to describe it except a mental shove into your thoughts.

• The spirits everywhere. Talkers, practical jokers, general visitors, the list goes on. It was a daily thing. But they like attention, as I suppose I would if I were invisible and wanted people to know I was there. I would say, “Listen, I see you and I am happy to chat and play later, but right now I really have to make dinner and get these kids to eat. Can you give me a break until after bedtime?” and they would.

• The biggest difference was psychic kids.

Psychic kids? How did that end up manifesting?

They are like Jane in the sense that they can see, hear, feel, sense the present as well as future. Not only people but also spirits. Most people don’t have the full range like that. I had to keep things from the kids that weren’t necessary for them to know, or just too adult for them. For example, I suffer from depression and would have some hard days but came to work anyway, and tried to hide it. They would be really concerned even though I was acting normal enough. They would come up and hug me, ask what’s wrong, draw me a picture, or whatever to try and make me feel better. I would just have to tell them that sometimes I get sad for no reason and it’s chemical in my brain doing it, but everything is okay and it’s just a feeling that will pass.

Once I was sick but Jane still needed me to watch the kids so I came over. It was very early, and one of the kids was just waking up. Jane and I had talked about me working that day while he was asleep, so he didn’t know I was sick yet. I was sitting at the kitchen table and he wakes up and wanders in. He looks at me and says, “Did you have your tonsils taken out? Our old babysitter had her tonsils taken out and that’s how her throat felt too.”

What was the most challenging part about working for a psychic?

It really wasn’t. It was fun! The only thing I didn’t like was when she would have people around her who were there just for the psychic stuff and not because they just wanted to be her friend. Some people would absolutely hound her. Her feelings would get hurt and even though she would try not to show it, I could tell.

I suppose it was also pretty hard to hear things about my life that were not going to go the way I wanted, even though that isn’t directly related to the job. I would try my best for something but no, it would turn exactly the way she said anyway. Every flipping time. Imagine getting an interview for your dream job in an amazing foreign country, in a city I always dreamed of visiting. I even got a minor in that language. I told her about it and she said, “You know, that’s not a safe city. It’s incredibly dangerous and I absolutely do not want you going … well, actually, it doesn’t matter. You won’t get the job. Go ahead and try to interview if you don’t want to listen to me but it’s not meant for you.” (Sounds a bit harsh typing it but she’s very cut-and-dry that way.)

Apologies if this is a silly question, but it must be asked: Did you ever feel like you couldn’t hide things from her that you normally might not want to share with a boss, because she would sense them/know them?

Well, we had a very unusual relationship since we were—and still are—so close. There are days with your coworkers or a friend / family member where you might be thinking, “You are driving me stone-cold nuts today and I am so frustrated with you” but you don’t say that. There’s no hiding it though, no matter how professional your behavior is. I know that there were days where Jane was annoyed with me too, and you just have to ignore it even though she knows and I know that she knows, etc. You just pretend and address what people are saying, not the vibe they are sending out.

There was one time where I dozed off on the couch and the kids were hanging out in the living room. One was watching TV, one was drawing. When my boss called, it jolted me awake and I felt guilty for napping, and also was startled by the phone ring. I answered it and Jane got really freaked out because my heart was pounding and she could tell. I had to explain and reassure her several times that I was not under duress and nobody was in the house scaring me / holding us hostage.

Are there things you learned from working with her that you’ve carried with you in your life since? 

So many things!

• I initially reached out to her because my (deceased) father’s spirit was following me around trying to get my attention. I asked him to stop but she told me that he was there trying to make it up to me for being a negligent father. He was trying to protect me now and wanted me to know that he’s there. That was very cathartic because I really carried some hurts about not feeling loved by him and feeling sort of rejected in life.

• It has helped me to tap into what I feel—not just what makes sense from a logical perspective.

• Live each day in the moment – life is hard for all of us so it is easy to sort of check out and ignore what is going on around you. Try to be present and not let your mind wander somewhere else when you should be here living your life.

• Don’t let anyone stonewall you or gaslight you. If you think something is happening, act accordingly because you are right way more often than most of us allow ourselves to believe. That’s how I have been in the past, anyway. Advocate for yourself and don’t let anyone push you around because ‘that’s not what’s happening’ or ‘that’s just the process’. Be appropriate, but take no crap.

Is this the most interesting job you’ve ever had? I feel like it has to be.

Oh yeah, definitely.