Sunday free-for-all – November 23, 2014

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Sam in boxIt’s the weekend free-for-all.

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 non-work only; if you have a work question, you can email it to me or post it in the work-related open thread on Fridays.)

Have at it.

a horrible coworker listed me as a job reference, my company won’t pay for meals on work travel, and more

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

1. A horrible coworker listed me as a job reference

This past year, I worked with a woman fresh out of college who was lazy. She dropped a roll of tape and it rolled away from her and she asked me to walk over and get it for her because “I’m too lazy.” She didn’t like to do her assigned tasks and frequently left them for others to do. She claimed she was “too old” for some of her job duties. I am 15 years older than her and I do those duties as well. She also spent hours of work time taking Buzzfeed quizzes on shared computers without deleting her browsing history. At the time, I was an equal as far as our job titles. She has since “resigned” and I have been promoted to the director position.

Yesterday a friend of mine sent me a message that this woman has used me as a reference on her job application to a university. I have several concerns: (1) She didn’t ask and I cannot give a positive reference. (2) I am in my first professional managerial position and want to handle this professionally. (3) I do not want to be associated with her professionally and am wondering if I should contact her about not using my name on her job applications.

The fact that she’s listed you as a reference doesn’t imply you’ve endorsed her work, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that, but if you want to, it’s certainly reasonable to contact her and say, “Hey, I had a heads-up that you listed me as a reference on a recent job application. I don’t feel that I can provide a positive reference, so please don’t provide my name.” But you’re not obligated to do that. If she’s ridiculous enough to handle a job that way and then list you as a reference … well, there’s an argument to not protecting her from the natural consequences of that decision, which are that if you’re contacted to speak about her work, you’ll tell the truth. You’d certainly be doing future employers a favor.

(And yes, people can and do change their work habits — but I don’t think that’s happened yet here, as evidenced by her lack of self-awareness in listing your name.)

2. Company won’t pay for meals on work travel

I just started working for a company that now wants me to travel 400+ miles each way four times a year on a non-work day (Saturday). I don’t mind the travel, but today I have an issue with Saturday and was told they will reimburse for gas and hotel only, no per diem, no meals, no miles or extras. Is this legal? Why would I spend my own money to travel to meetings on behalf of a company I am only an employee for?

Yes, it’s legal. It’s normal for companies to reimburse for gas or mileage, but not both (mileage is supposed to include gas costs, as well as wear and tear). It would be smart of them to reimburse for meals while you’re away, since not doing so is likely to cause resentment. It would be reasonable for you to say something like, “I’m glad to do this travel, but I’m finding it costs me about $X each time for meal costs that I wouldn’t incur at home, where I have a kitchen. Since that’s an expense that I’m paying only because of the trip, I’d like to submit those expenses for reimbursement. Maybe we could agree on a daily limit for meals?”

That said, if they refuse, we’re talking about four days a year. If you otherwise like your job, it might be worth dealing with, annoying as it is.

3. My phone interview was canceled and hasn’t been rescheduled yet

I am a graduate student looking for full-time work (I have one class to complete my MA). I have been applying like mad to multiple places that are in my field, outside of my field in interesting, relevant positions, all entry level. I finally got a hit back from a place I was really interested in for an entry level position and they arranged a Skype interview.

12 hours before it was supposed to happen, I received an email from a department head saying that they needed to reschedule my interview to another time and to forward my availability to someone else. I did that, and 72 hours have passed. I had one phone number available from my initial email contact with the HR recruiter, so I called it and left a message and still have not gotten a response.

The position still shows as open. Is this something that normally happens? They responded very quickly to my resume/cover letter after submitting it (4 days) which was incredibly encouraging. I am working on other applications, but this company has a culture/work ethic/style that I would love to be a part of.

Yes, it’s pretty common. Hopefully they’ll get back in touch with you, but it’s possible that they’ve since moved on with other candidates and aren’t bothering to tell you — which is rude but widespread.

What often happens in this situation is that they simply find other promising candidates who meet their bar for in-person interviews, and they’re moving forward with those. If you’re better than those, they might still get back in touch — but they don’t have reason to think you’ll be more competitive than those, they might not. Alternately, they might still get back to you but just have higher priorities to deal with right now. There’s no real way to know — but your best bet is to follow up by email one more time (a week after the first email) and then put it out of your mind and move on.

4. Including a leadership role in Toastmasters on my resume

I’ve read a previous post that mentioned the benefits of including Toastmasters on a resume. My question is more related to how to include it on a resume.

I’m currently the president of my club, which means I manage every aspect of the club. My club has struggled for years, and the last time we had any type of recognizable status was in 2011. However, my club is currently on pace to achieve nine out of 10 goals this term (we currently have met five goals and we’re just about halfway through the term).

I don’t have any managerial skills. Being a manager with my current employer is too political and doesn’t really allow for real change, so I tend to avoid manager jobs. However, I think it would be great to showcase what type of leader I am and help strengthen me as a candidate in roles that require similar skills. How should I include this on my resume? Should I add my role as president like I would any other job or put it somewhere else? I essentially want to be able to show all that the club has achieved during my term.

I wouldn’t include it in your employment history section, since it’s not really a job in that sense. But you can absolutely include it in a Community Involvement or Miscellaneous section or something like that, with one line describing the accomplishments you talked about above.

5. We were told we’d have the holiday off and now might have to work it

I was at work with two other employees discussing the Thanksgiving break. My boss walked up as we were talking about it and said, “No one has to worry about getting the day off. We are closed that day, and the day after Thanksgiving.” A week later, his wife kept trying to get him to keep the store open (after we had been told that we get the day off, and everyone has made plans by now). The schedule is still not up for the next week of work (the work week goes Sunday-Saturday).

Is it legal for him to make us work after hes verbally told everyone the store will be closed that day? Also, he told his wife that if she could get people to work that day, then we would stay open. Her way of getting a crew for the day was calling and saying, “You’re working on Friday now,” not caring they already told us we have the day off, and that we have made plans, have flights purchased and everything.

Yes, that’s legal — but you can certainly push back and explain that you already made other commitments and purchased plane tickets because he had assured you that you would have the day off.

update: what to do when you have moral qualms about your employer’s line of business

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Remember the letter-writer last year who was struggling with moral qualms about her job? She was working for a tobacco wholesaler, and her dad was fighting lung cancer. Here’s her update.

First off, thank you for your advice. It came right when I needed it. I had tried so hard to stick it out until I found a new job, but your suggestion that I might be better off leaving helped me give myself permission to get out before I gave my professional integrity a vacation. For what it’s worth, I worked harder in the months following my dad’s diagnosis because I didn’t want to hurt my reputation, and I would have hated to betray the sympathy and flexibility being shown to me. I guess “resentment” wasn’t the right word to use in my initial letter.

Anyway, after I decided to leave, I realized a lot of issues that I had been attributing to my unhappiness in the industry were actually just issues. Your blog has really helped me to recognize good management, and there was a serious dearth of it there. My manager actually was pretty great at it, especially at setting clear goals and giving positive feedback and constructive criticism. The owner, though: textbook hands-off, non-manager. Basically, I realized that even without my father’s illness, I probably would have started job searching by the end of the year anyway.

Unfortunately, your response came about two weeks after we found out my dad’s treatment was not having the desired effect and about a week before he passed away. I think I put my resignation in the day after your response was published. True to their word, my bosses were very generous with PTO during this time (the company does not employ enough workers for FMLA to apply, by the way). I worked out my four weeks and came back a couple of times to help train my replacements then traveled for a bit before jumping back into the job search.

I became much more conscientious about the kind of work I sought and passed over some great opportunities that weren’t the right fit. I found a staffing agency that placed me in several great temp jobs. At the beginning of the summer, I started a temp position where the manager was excited to teach me a new field that I’d been eager to learn, even knowing that I was unlikely to be kept on past the initial contract. Unfortunately, less than a month into my stint there, he went out sick with what was soon determined to be the same illness that took my father and passed away a month later.

That was… a really rough time. They asked me to stay on and keep the department afloat until they could hire a new manager (he was the whole department until I joined). It was pretty overwhelming at times, but everything went better than expected, and people at multiple levels of the company have been singing my praises. I stayed non-commital about taking a permanent position until I had a chance to work with the new guy and determine if he was even someone I’d want for a manager. Good news: we have a great rapport and very compatible working styles, he’s already joined the chorus of praise-singers, and he offered me the permanent position last week. Bonus: I was able to use your advice to negotiate a higher rate, something I’d never had enough leverage to attempt.

It’s been a long, tumultuous year, but I’m really excited to take this next step. I think I’ve finally found a place I can happily work long-term… and just in time to get holiday pay!

Thank you again for your advice, and not just to my letter. AAM has really informed my professional life since I started reading, and I honestly don’t think I’d be where I am now without it.

I’m so sorry about your dad!  I know how rough that is.

I’m glad you’re in a better job now. Keep us posted!

open thread – November 21, 2014

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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 :)

I’m interviewing for the same job as my former employee, my coworker shared my salary info, and more

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

1. My coworker shared my salary info because she was angry at me

My coworker was just recently made office manager, and it has gone to her head. I am the bookkeeper here. She knew nothing about my job. Recently the owner decided to have her learn my job just in case something were to happen where I could not come into work for a long period. We got into a disagreement and she ended up telling a coworker what I made and what another person in the office made.

The owner has always said that payroll is to be kept confidential at all times. We are very upset by this because we feel it was a violation of our privacy. I really do not think the owner is going to do anything about it. It is very unfair to us. Is there any law about an office manager giving out information about your wages just because she was mad? I want to know what I can we do if the owner of the company does nothing.

If the owner of the company doesn’t do something about it, there isn’t really any other recourse. There’s no law that prevents sharing this information. However, she was way out of line and showed that she can’t be trusted to handle the information her job exposes her to professionally and discreetly, and that’s something that should really concern her boss.

I’d go talk to the owner and say, “You’ve made it very clear that payroll information is confidential. Jane shared my salary without my permission because she was angry. I’m concerned at the privacy violation, and her ability to have access to other confidential information about me that her job exposes her to. Can you make it clear to her that this isn’t okay to do?”

2. I’m interviewing for the same job as my former employee

After working as a manager for four years at org A, I accepted a new job at an organization (org B) in a new city. I decided the position at B wasn’t a good fit, so I decided to apply to a management position in the city I used to live in at org C. Before I was contacted for the interview at C, an employee (Jane, we’ll say) I directly managed from A sent me an email asking to be a reference for her for the same job I had applied to at C. I was pretty bummed to say the least, because Jane has no management experience (I hired her for her first job straight out of college) and doesn’t meet many of the qualifications of the job, so I was surprised she was being interviewed instead of me. Not knowing what else to say, I agreed to be her reference. I would give her a reference for any other position, so I didn’t feel I could turn her down for this one simply because I wasn’t chosen.

Well, lo and behold, I was contacted after all and brought in for an interview for the position a week later. I think the interview went pretty well (no guarantees of course), and I’m wondering how I should handle this. Will the organization be likely to use me as a reference for Jane if I’m also competing for the same position? Should I let Jane know that I’ve applied, and suggest that she find another reference? Should I let her know I’ve also been interviewed? Or, should I wait until I’ve been offered the position (if I am offered it, that is)? I would be happy to get the job, but feel terrible and like I burned a bridge with her. I don’t want her to think that I “stole” the job out from under her, or am trying to.

Well, ideally, as soon as Jane contacted you about a reference, you would have told her the situation: “Oh, how funny — I actually applied for that job myself! I’d be glad to be a reference for you, but I want to be transparent with you that I’m hoping to be considered for it too. Totally understand if you’d rather use someone else though.”

It’s hard to know how to perfectly field tricky stuff in the moment though, and it’s not a disaster that you didn’t do it. It just complicates things a little bit, because now Jane will potentially wonder if you applied after she tipped you off to the job. But all you can really do is be straightforward about it. I’d contact her now and say, “I want to let you know that I’m interviewing for the X job with Y company. (I’d applied before we talked about it, and should have mentioned it when you emailed me — sorry for my brain freeze!) I’m still glad to be a reference for you if you’d like me to, but felt I should be up-front about it.”

As for whether they’d ask one candidate for a reference for another, probably not — but it’s not inconceivable. Even if they don’t, though, if you end up getting the job you’ll still need to fill Jane in, and it’ll probably go over better if you do it at this stage rather than later.

3. Telling a temp I think she’d make a good addition to our team

Is it really unprofessional of me to tell someone who works for my company temporarily that I think they’d make a good permanent addition to the team, and that if a place comes up I would put a word in for them? My colleague thinks I was out of bounds saying this to a temporary member of staff. I felt so bad that I went back and clarified that there isn’t a position open now and explained about our long timescales even when new positions are proposed.

No, that’s a completely normal thing to do, assuming that you’re in a position to assess the person’s work and truly think it’s good. There’s nothing inappropriate about that at all, and people do it all the time. Your colleague has weird ideas.

4. Explaining why my boyfriend isn’t attending my office holiday party

My boyfriend does not want to attend my office holiday party, for very valid reasons. To keep it short, I am unhappy in my position and the office environment is (much) less than favorable. He has attended the party every year that I’ve been employed here, but this year, he’s had enough. I feel obligated to attend, so my question to you is this: How do you suggest I go about giving an explanation as to why my boyfriend will not attend this year? I do not want to lie, but I don’t know that it’s necessarily the polite thing to tell them that he doesn’t want to go because they treat me poorly/he doesn’t like them.

“He had another commitment that he couldn’t get out of.”

Saying that he didn’t want to attend because he doesn’t like them or how he treats you would be rude. Telling a white lie is polite in these situations (and really, his other commitment could be hanging out on the couch); in fact, this type of situation is what white lies were made for.

Also, no one is going to scrutinize that too much. People get that significant others have other things going on, and that they might not reschedule existing plans for someone else’s office’s holiday party.

5. Can I use a UPS store address on a background check?

I am applying for jobs out of state and have been using a UPS store address as my address in the state, though I am actually not there. I am about to complete a background check for a staffing agency and wanted to know if me listing the UPS store address will cause any red flags. Will it show as a UPS store address or come back invalid because outside of the UPS store I don’t have any real ties to that state?

Are you listing it as a mailing address or your residence? It’s fine to list it as a mailing address, but you need to be clear that your current residential address is out of state. Otherwise, yes, it could very well cause issues on the background check.

my employer won’t interview me for an open position, even though I’m already doing the work

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A reader writes:

I work as a part-time assistant working full-time hours in a very, very small office (think extremely small; it is just me and my boss), and as a result I have taken on many responsibilities in addition to my job description. I did not originally have a problem with this, as it has been lots of hands-on experience most assistants don’t get; plus, the new position that is opening up in my office holds a lot of the responsibilities that I am currently doing. However, I am now beginning to feel that I am being taken advantage of in my current role.

I started this position at the end of spring with a different boss. He was an interim, but really brought a new life to the office (which was run by the previous executive for about 20 years). Fast forward a few months and I have a new permanent supervisor. Without getting too deeply into it, she is totally incompetent in many ways. She seems like she does not want to learn certain essential aspects of her job, constantly drops the ball on numerous important items and meetings, and appears to be trying to create some sort of work-from-home policy of her own (I can probably count on one hand the amount of weeks that she has actually been in the office on all 5 days). As a result, I am always left to pick up the pieces, and I don’t only mean through paperwork. I am talking composing federal reports and leading meetings that are in her job description, not mine.

Now why am I dealing with this (and why would I even want to continue)? Well, like I said, a third position has been created in this office, one that is above my provisional appointment but below her executive one. This office does great work, and this is a field that I would like to stay in, so I applied and thought that I would at least be called for an interview since I am essentially already doing the job, but nothing happened. I should mention that my company uses search committees and the entire hiring process is extremely secretive, so no “networking” here. I know who the search chair is (she works very closely with our office, so she knows me and my role here well), but I can’t say anything to her about the position. However, I did mention to my boss that I applied so that she would not talk to me about the search and give me an unfair advantage (she tends to gossip). I know that by this time they have gone through the resumes/cover letters, and had to have seen my name. I talked to my boss about the position in a slightly informal meeting and she was saying that the pool is bad, and they may have to fail it. In this meeting, she even acknowledged that I have been doing certain things that aren’t in my job description (however, this has not yet stopped her from asking me to do them). Neither she nor the committee appear to even be considering me for the position.

My main problem is not the extra work; it is the fact that I am clearly good enough to do the job, but not good enough to be considered being paid for the job. The fact that I haven’t been even called in for a simple interview has been eating away at me. People praise my work all of the time and some have even joked that they will steal me away from her. I really feel like my boss is trying to keep me as her assistant, but as I am graduating with a master’s this semester, I do not feel like this is what I should settle for, especially since I would then be way overqualified and I am currently doing the duties of the new position. Am I being out of line and expecting too much here, the typical “millennial” kid? Or am I justified in being irritated by this?

What?! No, you’re totally justified and reasonable in being irked by this.

First of all, this is no way to treat an internal applicant even if you were a terrible candidate. They should be communicating with you, and someone should at least talk to you about the job (especially in such a small office). But when you’re actually been doing much of this work? It’s insane that they’re not interviewing you.

And it’s particularly offensive that your boss is mentioning to you that the candidate pool is bad. Um, you’re in that candidate pool. What an obnoxious thing for her to say.

In a normal hiring situation, I’d tell you to reach out to the hiring manager to express interest and ask about the hiring process and timeline. It sounds like that’s not done here (but make absolutely sure that you’re right about that — because that would be your ideal next step, if it’s at all possible).

Bigger picture, though, I’d look at whether you even want to continue working here long-term. Your boss is horrible, and you’re being treated disrespectfully by the organization as a whole (as represented by the hiring committee). I don’t know how long you’ve been there, but maybe it’s time to think about what you want to do next. There are real advantages to getting out of a two-person department, let alone one led by a shoddy manager.

when’s the last time you thanked a coworker for being awesome?

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When’s the last time you thanked a colleague for being awesome? Or told someone’s manager how great they are?

With Thanksgiving approaching, now is a good time to think about how you show thanks at work — and how showing gratitude to colleagues can build stronger relationships and help you get better results. Also, it makes people feel good.

At Intuit QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I talk about how to do it. You can read it here.

my dad wants to apply for a job on my very small team

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A reader writes:

My dad retired about three years ago. It was earlier than he had expected due to the closure of the army fort at which he worked. He’s been keeping himself pretty busy, volunteering, playing music, and helping to watch my one-year old son.

Today I found out that there is a position opening at my (government) office that my dad would qualify for. I didn’t think he’d want it, but I asked him if he knew of anyone who might be interested. He said he might be, and asked if it was ok to give me his resume.

My dad and I are good friends. We’re very close and connect on an intellectual, rather than emotional, level, most of the time. Our personalities are quite similar, and I believe we’d work well together. We would be on the same team, which, although we keep being promised more people, consists only of myself, one other person, and my manager. I wouldn’t be reporting to him, and he wouldn’t be reporting to me. In this position, he would be managing a project, and I would be one of many team members on the project.

I told my boss that my dad wanted to send in his resume, and his first reaction was not super positive, as he was initially worried that there may be some conflict of interest. He then said there probably wasn’t and agreed to look at my dad’s resume.

My question is: Is this a disaster waiting to happen, or are there any circumstances under which this might be a good idea? I really like this job, and I have no doubt my boss and my father would get along very well. I just can’t help but think this may end badly, but I can’t put my finger on how.

So your team would be you, your dad, and your manager?


In some ways, this is very similar to working that closely with a significant other, and some of the reasons for why that would be a bad idea apply here too. You don’t have to worry about a break-up causing tension as you would with a significant other, but you’d need to worry about (or perhaps more the point, your boss would need to worry about) how such a close relationship will affect dynamics on your team. Will there be favoritism or the appearance of favoritism? You say neither of you would manage the other, but he’d be managing a project that you and others are working on, which opens up the possibility of issues. If there’s an issue with the work you do on that project, will he be able to address it objectively and alert your manager if it’s unresolved? Additionally, are you going to take on each other’s battles in a way that wouldn’t otherwise happen? If your dad has an issue with your boss, is that going to impact your own relationship with that boss? What if he gets fired or treated in a way you think is unfair? Is that really not going to impact your own morale?

You might be thinking, “Meh, none of that is likely. We’re a low-key team, and there aren’t likely to be any such issues.” And maybe that’s true — but it’s certainly something your boss has to think about. And unless your dad is head-and-shoulders better than any other candidate, if I were your boss I’d be pretty damn hesitant to introduce that dynamic onto my team — there’s a lot of risk and little incentive if there are other good candidates.

my employer is competing with my walking group, job searching after generous medical leave, and more

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

1. I tried to organize walks with coworkers, but the company scheduled its own activity over it

I work in a place that encourages others to take leadership in making the company a better place to work; it’s actually part of our evaluation tool. So, as the holidays are coming up and people don’t always make healthy choices during holidays, the company started a way to be supportive of one another with better decision-making about food and exercise, etc. In response to this, I replied to the email asking if anyone would be interested in starting a walking club a couple of times a week. (The company-wide email is perfectly acceptable in my organization). I got a lot of positive responses (though no official company sanction) and we chose two days and times to start with. Excellent. Emails were exchanged (cc:all) for several days.

Except, the very next day, the person heading up the wellness initiative sent out a company-sponsored flier announcing a more hardcore workout (but saying it can be modified for all fitness levels) and the days and times conflict with the times we had decided to start walking.

I’m irritated, and I don’t know how to proceed. I know this isn’t some enormous problem, but it’s annoying. I feel that if my suggestion had been inappropriate or stepping on someone’s toes, they had plenty of time to talk to me about it, and I feel it is disrespectful to schedule in a way that conflicts with the other stuff. I feel like I either need to say something, or at minimum change the previously agreed upon times for walking, because I don’t want people feeling like they have to choose. So my question is: what do you suggest? Should I say something? What? Should I change my times?

Honestly, I feel like canceling the whole walking thing altogether. I branched out of my comfort zone, and now I just want to go back to keeping my head down.

I … think you’re way overreacting. It’s very unlikely that the company-sponsored workout was deliberately scheduled at the same time as your walking club; it’s probably a coincidence, and whoever scheduled it probably wasn’t paying attention to when your walks were scheduled for.

If you’re concerned about people having to choose, why not just change the times you’d settled on? Yes, that’s mildly annoying, but it’s not worth canceling the whole thing or staying angry over.

2. Negotiating salary when coming from the military

I’m an active duty Air Force officer looking at potentially transitioning to the corporate world in the wave of military drawdowns the force is facing. I have taken the transition assistance classes, and am working with a military focused recruiting company to find my dream job assuming I make the cut. All of this has prepared me well to negotiate, and your site has helped a lot but I’m seeing a large trend with people asking what you used to make and I’m a bit concerned here.

My pay is pretty much a matter of public record. For having x number of years in, and knowing my rank anyone can look up how much I should be making, however there is a large amount of my pay that comes from a tax-free housing allowance. I know how much you dislike employers basing salary on previous work and not what you will be doing but I’m also a realist in knowing I may have to jump that hurdle at some point. How do I explain to people that because a full 20% of my compensation is completely tax free and all of my compensation is state tax free, my salary shouldn’t be based off of what I used to make but what I am worth?

I know you are against people lumping in benefits when discussing salary, but in this example my monthly base pay is $5,415 and my housing is $1,560. Is it fair for me to include those and other entitlements, such as special pays and other allowances, into my total salary if and when I’m asked about my current salary?

It’s absolutely reasonable to bring it up, but don’t just lump it all together as “salary,” because that’s not strictly accurate (and you risk causing confusion if they try to verify it). Instead, I’d just explain what you have here: “Well, the military handles compensation differently. My salary was $X, but much of that was tax-free, and I received a $18,720 housing allowance. What I’m looking for in a civilian role like this one is something in the range of $Y-$Z.”

3. I feel guilty about job searching after my employer gave me generous medical leave

I have been on my job for almost two years now. This is a high-stress, low-paying job that has high turnover. It was a position that used to be held by two people but because of budget cuts only one person is doing this job with the exact same workload. When I applied, I figured I’d stay a year and then move on like everyone else. Well, about a year in, while I was looking for a new position to transfer to within the agency, I had an auto accident, broke some bones, and was out for almost three months. Management was super nice! They even gave me a few weeks of extra sick leave that I hadn’t yet earned so that I would receive a full paycheck when all of my leave ran out.

The job is still stressful, the workload is still overwhelming, and I’m just as unhappy with it now as I was before the accident. Actually, with all my injuries and new medical bills, I’m even MORE unhappy and stressed out than I previously was and feel myself sinking into a deep depression. Now that I’m back, I feel guilty as hell for still wanting to leave and feel as if I owe them for being so understanding while I was out and so accommodating when I got back. I don’t want management to view me as ungrateful. They know how stressful the job is. They even joked that they didn’t think I was coming back at all. I am grateful for the job, the paycheck, and benefits, but how long should I wait before applying for other positions? Six months? A full year? I’m so conflicted.

You’re not obligated to wait at all. Yes, they handled your medical leave well, but that doesn’t make you an indentured servant — and a good manager isn’t going to want you to stay in a job where you’re not happy anyway (both for your sake and for theirs). If this job isn’t right for you, you should be job searching now. Plus, job searching takes a while — you could start now and not have an offer for six months or more. (Although if you get one right away, that’s fine too.)

You can appreciate how helpful they were without letting it tie you to a job you’re not happy in.

4. Finding a part-time job in my field while working part-time retail

I recently graduated from college with the hopes of going into nonprofit work focusing on the environment. I spent the summer working on an organic farm and, once that internship was over, moved back in with my parents and got a part-time job at a big box store to be able to pay off my enormous student debt. I have continued to look for “real” jobs (as my parents like to put it), but the issue is I get paid $11.50 an hour currently, and taking a job in my field would be a cut in my hours and most certainly move me down to minimum wage. My solution to this is to find a “real” job that is part-time and work both, one for the experience and one for the money. My question is, when should I bring up that I already have a part-time job that I need to keep? Right away in the cover letter, or in the interview? And also, am I doing the right thing by keeping my current job?

My parents keep suggesting that I need to go back to school for my master’s, but I only see that making the problem worse by increasing my debt and still not being able to find a good paying job in what I want to do.

I’m not sure I’m following your logic. Yes, taking a job in your field would mean cutting your hours at the big box store, but you’d presumably be making it up by the hours you’d be working at the new job (unless you have reason to believe the new job will pay minimum wage, but most nonprofits pay even entry-level staff more than that).

In any case, I wouldn’t confine yourself to a part-time job in your field. Part-time jobs in professional fields are usually much harder to find than full-time jobs, so you’d be putting yourself at a real disadvantage by only considering those, and you’ll be missing out on lots of employers who are only seeking full-time workers.

5. Can my resume note that my work was mentioned in two books?

My work has been mentioned in two different books (one was just a reference to the work I did, but not my name and the other mentioned my name). How do I mention or reference these in my resume (or do I at all?). Both really show my level of expertise in my particular area of work, so I’d like to include these references, but as I didn’t write the book, I’m not sure how to include this.

You could say something like “work on X featured in The History of Teapots by Barnaby Plufferton.” But I’d only do this if the book really delved into your work — if it was just a footnote or a couple of sentences, it probably doesn’t rise to the level of resume-worthy.

how do I resign when I can’t get time to meet with my busy manager?

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A reader writes:

Yesterday, I received a written offer from a company I’m really excited about, and I accepted. The interview process was very fast, and it just so happens that my boss is currently on a rare two-week vacation. I do NOT, under any circumstances, plan to resign before she’s back– I think that would be really rude and unprofessional. I plan to email her on the day she returns and tell her I must speak with her that day.

Here’s the rub: I am a remote employee, one of only two in my company, and my boss’s inattention is one of the reasons I was looking for other opportunities. I have gone whole weeks without any communication from her. She’s very busy with very high-level, client-facing, time-sensitive projects, and my work almost always gets pushed aside. I cannot count how many times our weekly phone check-in– that she put on the calendar– doesn’t happen without any heads-up from her. I’m concerned that she won’t make time for my resignation phone call when she’s finally back in the office, and I a) want to give a full two weeks, and b) don’t want to delay my notice any further, especially since two weeks would take me into Thanksgiving and it would be the best time to leave the company. (I don’t plan to start at my new company until early December, but I need some time off for a family visit, so I would prefer not to stay into December.)

So my question is twofold, really: first, in the event that she doesn’t make time to call me when she gets back, would it be appropriate to email her my resignation? And second, if not, can I get away with giving less than two weeks’ notice?

Well, first, this is very much a know-your-boss situation. Personally, I used to absolutely want to hear about a resignation while I was away, because it would allow me to get a jump start on the transition process, get the job posted, etc. (In fact, two years before launching Ask a Manager, here I am in this 2005 Washington Post story saying exactly that.) Now I feel totally different — I want my vacation time to be uninterrupted. So you really need to know your boss. I’m going to assume you’re making the right call here about your particular manager, but I wanted to put this out there for other readers.

Anyway, back to you.

I can’t say this loudly enough: You should control the timing of your resignation conversation. You should not wait just because your boss is hard to get a meeting with, or working from home, or tough to get face-to-face, or busy, or prone to rescheduling at the last minute. This is important enough news that you need to do what it takes to deliver the message to your boss with timing that works for you.

Otherwise, with bosses like the one you describe, you could wait days or even a week or more before you’re able to meet with her. And that means that you’ll end up pushing your notice period back (which isn’t good for your or your new employer) or giving less notice than you otherwise would (which isn’t good for your current employer).

So the onus is on you to be pretty aggressive and assertive about making this happen.

But ideally you’d do this in a real conversation, not email. You can use email as a back-up if absolutely necessary, if all else fails. But first you need to try:

* telling her that you have something urgent to discuss today and need to meet with her, and only need a few minutes
* sticking your head in her office and saying you have something important and asking if she has a few minutes right now
* if you can’t find her / haven’t heard back from her, calling her directly and saying, “I have some important news I need to share with you today” (and trust me, any sane boss who hears that has an inkling of what’s coming and is going to make the time)

If all of that fails, then yes, send an email (and in it, explain that you tried to get ahold of her other ways, couldn’t, and didn’t want to delay telling her).

But don’t delay telling her.