can I tell coworkers I don’t want to chat when I arrive early and am working on personal projects?

A reader writes:

I have a part-time job with hours that change day-to-day, but due to carpooling arrangements I usually arrive early. Because of this, I’ll bring my laptop and work on personal projects, freelance artwork, etc. One of my coworkers likes to arrive early too, but apparently for the purpose of socializing. She’ll walk up to me when I’m working on my computer and ask whether I’m “busy” and if we can chat — which often lasts until one of us has a shift, sometimes up to an hour. I have a hard time saying that I am busy since the stuff I’m working on is not strictly job-related, but I do count on these hours to be productive and make headway in my projects (plus her abrupt “okay-we’re-talking-now” manner makes me really flustered and nervous as it is). Do I have a right to tell her that I’m busy when what I’m doing is not related to work? Obviously it would be rude if I was just playing games or wasting time on the Internet, but I feel like this is in a bit of a gray area.

To be fair, some of the digital art stuff does supplement my income, but this coworker (and others) will watch over my shoulder if they see me drawing. It makes me really uncomfortable but I’m not sure if I can justify telling them to stop, since I am the one bringing non-work stuff into a work environment. I don’t want to come across as a recluse, but at the same time it’s hard for me to sit through an hour of small talk when I know I could be surging ahead on projects that are important to me. How would you suggest going about all this?

It’s completely reasonable to say that you’re busy and can’t talk. She’s even giving you a clear opening to do that, when she first approaches you and asks if you’re busy.

It sounds like you’re feeling like you might not be entitled to say that since you’re in your workplace but not working on work things … but it really is perfectly okay.

I bet you’d find this easier if you were doing were something you had to complete and weren’t doing for fun — if you were, say, finishing your tax return on the day it was due or had to finish reading a book for a book club meeting that night (okay, you’re supposed to enjoy that last one, but it’s at least somewhat obligatory). It might help to think of it more like that — you have obligations that you’re attending to, and you’ve set aside this time to take care of them.

But even when that’s not the case — even if you were just knitting or reading for pleasure or zoning out before the day started, it really not rude to say, “Oh, now’s not a good time. I’m doing X before work starts.”

In your particular case, I’d say, “Actually I can’t talk — I’m setting aside this time before my shift to get a project done. I’ll talk with you later today!”

Telling people not to watch over your shoulder while you’re drawing is a little trickier. That’s one of those things where if you’re doing it in a public place, it’s hard to tell people not to watch. But you could certainly say something like, “It’s tough for me to draw when people are watching. But I’ll show it to you when I’m done if you’d like!”

how to manage a project where roles aren’t clear

Ever worked on a project where it wasn’t clear who should be playing what role, some pieces of the work didn’t get done, and the project just kind of languished because no one was explicitly charged with driving the project onward? (If you’ve ever been involved with any project with multiple people, the answer is probably yes.)

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

my boss is constantly telling me how to run my personal life — and called me insubordinate when I pushed back

A reader writes:

I work in an office of only 3 people, and my boss is constantly getting on me about my personal life. She gets upset if I don’t set up the doctor’s appointments she thinks I should have, or will make comments about friends and family if I’m planning to spend an evening (my personal time) with them instead of activities she’s suggested for me to do.

Last week, we got in an argument because the car I’ve been driving needs work before it will be safe to drive again. I made plans to buy the parts this weekend (which I did), but she cornered me after the other coworker left last Thursday and told me I should take the car (that I paid for) from my mother and use that till the other gets up and running. Please know I’ve not missed any work days and have been using cab services to get to and from work with no issues. I told her I wouldn’t do that to my mother and all I got in return was talk about being insubordinate. I left feeling helpless.

I have told her several times in the past to please stop prying, because it’s stressing me out and making the workplace a very unhappy place for me. I’m writing you now at 1:30 a.m. because I’m losing sleep over the fact that I’m dreading going in tomorrow. I have a feeling she discussed this argument with the other employee, who just started working with us in February, and I feel that puts both the new girl and I in a precarious situation and was very unprofessional of her. How do I know this? She did it to the previous employee we had before she quit, except I was in the opposite position having the boss venting to me about the other employee, which was uncomfortable to say the least.

I am just frustrated. I dread when our third employee isn’t around, because I feel ambushed and interrogated over things I feel are none of her business. It’s affecting my job and, as you can see by my restlessness, my personal life as well.

Your boss is way out of line. She’s your boss, not your mother, and you’re not a minor child who she’s parenting.

But I don’t know that you’re going to be able to change her. You’ve told her directly to stop prying, and she hasn’t.

However, you can do the following:

1. Stop giving her information to work with. If she doesn’t know about things like your car issue, she can’t have an opinion about them, right? Stop sharing anything about your personal life, which should take a big chunk out of how much opining she can do.

2. When she offers unsolicited advice (about things she already knows about, like the car, or her ideas for how you should be spending your time outside of work), shut her down. Refuse to engage with her about those things. You do that by both being clear that it’s not up for discussion and by redirecting the conversation to work. For example:

You: “I have the car situation under control. Can we talk about how I should be approaching Issue X with Client Y?”
Prying boss: “You don’t have it under control! You’re taking cabs to work. It would be better to use your mother’s car.”
You: “I have it covered and really would like to talk to you about Issue X with Client Y.'”

Prying boss: “Did you ever call an allergist like we talked about?”
You: “I don’t want to discuss my medical care at work.”
Prying boss: “But it’s so important, health blah blah.”
You: “I don’t want to discuss my medical care at work. Did you have a chance to take a look at that data I sent you on Project Z?”

If she accuses you again of being insubordinate (!), say this: “I am happy to take direction from you regarding my work. But my personal life is not up for discussion here, and I need you to respect that.”

But while this may rein her in somewhat, I’m not sure she’s someone who will ever completely stop. You may ultimately need to decide whether you want the job if this is part of the package that comes with it.

I want my manager to tell me our meeting topics in advance, my manager shoots down my team-building ideas, and more

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

1. Can I ask my manager to give me advance notice about what the topics of our meetings will be?

I frequently get emails from the admin assistant at my company stating that my boss (the CEO) wants to meet with me, and proposing a time for the meeting (usually an hour or two later). When I email her back to confirm the proposed time, I usually ask her to let me know what the meeting is about. She never knows. And given that the meetings are within the next couple hours, I’ve never felt that it’s appropriate to go to my boss and ask him what we’ll be discussing. So, I go these meetings without the faintest clue and without having done any preparation.

I feel I could contribute more if I had the opportunity to prepare or at lease cogitate on the topic of discussion prior to the meeting. Is it acceptable to tell my boss that I’d like some more info prior to meetings? Or, it is okay to ask his assistant to inquire about the topic when he requests meetings in the future?

If your answer is along the lines of “No, he’s he CEO, you just have to do what he says,” then I’d just like to put in a plea to all your blog’s boss readers: Please let your employees know what you want to meet with them about! Not everyone is great at thinking on their feet, so please don’t take away our ability to prepare.

Your boss probably just hasn’t thought about the fact that this would be useful to you. It’s perfectly reasonable to say to him, “I’d like to be able to prepare more for our meetings. Would it work for you to pass along the meeting topic to Jane when you ask her to schedule these, so that she can let me know and I’m not coming in blind?”

If your boss says yes, let Jane know about this too so that she can make a point of passing along to you any information he gives her — or to ask him if there’s a topic she should pass along to you if he doesn’t mention one.

2. I’m supposed to come up with team-building activities but my manager shoots them down

My department at the office has a Team Building Committee. Not until I joined this group did I realize just how tough it is to come up with different team building exercises that do not demean anybody, do not make anyone uncomfortable, and actually build a team.

We have had many different types of activities and it is just incredibly hard to keep coming up with more. The last activity that I suggested was more of a “camaraderie” type activity, and when I brought it up to my supervisor for approval (because although they seldom ever join our committee meetings or even provide ideas, they are quick to turn them down), she asked me, “What is the purpose of this activity? How is it going to build them team? What are we going to take away from it?”

So, I guess the activity was just too silly and not substantial enough.

I think that it would be helpful if they would join these meetings with the committee to kind of provide more feedback but, they really never do. It is becoming pretty stressful because my supervisor and manager want activities at the level of a paid consultant. I think that if they are so concerned about team building, perhaps they could invest in a professional. Do you have any team building suggestions that actually do work? This is such a dreadful topic but I would really appreciate any ideas because I’m all out of them.

I recommend you tell your manager that you’ve been looking into best practices on this and realized that you’re better off not doing them at all, because so many people hate team-building and find it a waste of time, and it can actually demoralize and alienate people, which is the opposite of what it’s intended to do.

But if you must do something, I have some thoughts here for things that aren’t traditional team-building activities, but will actually accomplish most of the goals team-buliding is supposed to achieve but generally doesn’t.

3. Personal use of company Mi-Fi

I’m curious what you think of this. I am an auditor for a government agency and travel away from home almost 100% of the time with a team of auditors who work under me. Because we need Internet service anywhere we work, and because the different places where we work may or may not have a way to give us access to the Internet, I have a Mi-Fi box assigned to me for me and my team to use. Up until recently, we had a limited data plan, but now we have unlimited data.

I know for a fact that other managers at my level have begun using their mi-fi on a regular basis to connect their personal cell phones, tablets, laptops, etc., both during in outside of work hours. I know that my boss and my boss’s boss do as well. There are official policies about personal use of laptops and the Internet during work hours but nothing really about this device. When I inquired whether this was ok, I was told it shouldn’t be advertised but that since the data package is unlimited, this is a perk of being in management. 

Part of me feels a little guilty about using this device freely. Should it bother me?

I don’t see why you should feel guilty. You have a plan that gives you unlimited data use, so your personal use while you’re traveling doesn’t cost your company anything extra. Plus, you have a job that keeps you on the road constantly; it’s reasonable to use perks like this to make that travel a little more comfortable. And again, there’s no cost to your company so I can’t see any reason not to use it.

4. Employee lied about how he was tracking mileage

My company pays corporate employees $.52/mile for miles driven on the company’s behalf. Employee A tells Employee B they track their mileage from their home address. Employee B mentioned it to me, I say WTF? That makes no sense, you track mileage from the office. You are expected to drive from your house to work each day without reimbursement.

Employee A tells me Employee B must have understood him and said he doesn’t track mileage from home, he tracks from office. Well, I could tell someone was lying. I looked back through Employee A’s mileage reports and did some quick Google Map analytics and found that some months, he was tracking from his home! Overall, it was $178 in mileage that should not have been paid.

My CEO thinks I’m being overdramatic. I say, if you will lie about mileage, what else will you lie about?

Yeah, the lying concerns me more than the mileage mishandling. How is this employee aside from this issue? This stuff tends to crop up with employees who aren’t great overall, so I’d take this as a flag to pay closer attention to him in general, as well as to address the lying. On the latter, I’d make it clear that you’re far less concerned about him possibly misunderstanding a policy and more concerned that he didn’t come clean when you asked him about it, and that being able to trust him, even on small things, is an absolute must-have for you.  (This assumes that you manage him, of course.)

That said, this is a pretty penny-pinching policy. I’m a fan of just letting people collect the mileage they drive for business, rather than insisting on calculating what it would be if you subtracted their normal commute.

5. Job ads that don’t list the company name

I am looking for legal secretarial / legal assisting work to gain experience until I get my master’s (I know your advice about master’s degrees, but it truly is a necessity for me, as I want to be a social worker in the legal system). I oftentimes use a reputable local job board to find jobs. Most of the times it doesn’t list the name of the law firm and it will just say “a busy downtown law firm” or “a large local law firm” in the description. I’m wondering if this is a common occurrence or should I stay away from them?

Yep, it’s pretty common. Most commonly it’s done when it’s actually a recruiting firm placing the ad; they don’t want applicants contacting the company directly, because they’re doing the work to recruit candidates and want to benefit from it (by getting a commission if they make the hire).

my company interviewed and rejected my husband — and I’m frustrated

A reader writes:

My company encourages candidate referrals, via informational meetings and hire-on bonuses. So far, I’ve referred three candidates to my job function, the most recent one being my husband. We are a huge, international company with a few other partner couples working here, so that’s definitely not frowned upon. Also, we have several teams of people like me, so if he were hired on we would work on separate teams under different managers, on other sides of the floor.

My husband’s experience and skills make him a fit for this job, more qualified than even me! He interviewed and expressed his interest in moving out of sales (his current job function) and into a more consultative role (what I do). He felt the interview went really well, but ultimately, his interviewers (one of whom is my manager) were split on hiring him for this role; one thought he’d be a great fit, one thought he’d excel in a sales role. Since they were divided, the decision was made to not offer him the job, but to put his resume in the hands of the sales director.

Before referring him, I did a lot of soul searching on what it would be like working with him. Together we discussed strategies on making sure our work and personal lives were kept separate and that our colleagues viewed us as independent, professional people and perhaps coworkers who didn’t know us wouldn’t even know we were a couple. I’m trying really hard to maintain this division of “involvement,” but it’s hard because now I’m discouraged and frustrated. My other referrals were also not offered the job (though my husband honestly was the most qualified), and I’ve heard similar experiences from many other colleagues on the floor. If they’re all not good candidates, then who is?

I recognize my bias here, hence my email to you. Did he tank the interview and this is the nice way of dodging that explanation? Why encourage but then decline our solid referrals? Is there any way of professionally expressing this frustration? If so, to whom? Is there a way to get him reconsidered for that job? (We are growing so they are hiring gobs of people!) I appreciate any insight you can offer. Until then, I will maintain my anonymity in this situation and not let this aggravation color my work interactions.

Well, some positions are really hard to fill — they’re looking for a rare combination of skills, or they want a specific personality type to work with particular clients or a difficult manager, or they need some special skill on top of the stuff they’d normally hire for in that job, or the role just has a really high bar.

And it can be really hard to have an objective perspective on what people you love are like professionally, or how they come across in interviews.

Your company interviewed your husband and decided not to hire him. While it’s natural to wonder why, the best thing you can do is to respect their decision and not let it eat at you — and definitely not push them to reconsider. Pushing for them to reconsider would make everyone uncomfortable and make you look like you’re putting personal bias ahead of your company’s interests, and your credibility will suffer. There’s no real way to say “please reconsider your decision about my husband” while sounding objective and appropriately removed from the situation.

You asked why your company is encouraging referrals but then not hiring them. They want referrals because referrals are often a great way of finding good candidates — but they’re not a guarantee. The fact that someone was referred by a current employee doesn’t mean they’ll definitely be hired. Someone might be a perfectly solid referral and still not quite what the hiring manager is looking for.

You can actually ask about this in a general way, as long as you frame it as wanting to make good referrals and not as wanting to get your husband reconsidered. You could say something like, “Can you help me understand what we’re looking for in the X role? I’ve referred a few people who I thought would be great but they weren’t hired, so I’m wondering if i should be thinking of a different candidate profile.”

And about your frustration: It’s okay to be disappointed that this didn’t work out. But it’s not fair to your colleagues or your company to let it go beyond that, into frustration or aggravation. You mentioned that you put a lot of effort into keeping your personal and professional lives separate and ensuring that you’re operating as independent people, not a unit — which is great. But this is the next part of that! It’s not enough to be independent and separate when things are going well, but to drop that when they’re not. In this case, that means that you shouldn’t be or stay overly invested in your company hiring your husband. He can certainly apply again if he’d like to, but that’s for him to handle on his own. Your part is just to move forward with continued good will for your colleagues from here and not let this get under your skin.

how to get the inside scoop on a company before accepting a new job

featured-on-usnWhen you’re interviewing for a job, it can be tough to know what working there day to day would really be like. Good companies will try to help you get a strong sense of their culture, but plenty of employers try so hard to present themselves in a good light that they obscure important information about working there. And even when companies try to be transparent, candidates are often so eager to get a job offer that they overlook warning signs about the culture.

It’s crucial to find ways to dig into what’s it’s really like to work somewhere before you accept an offer. Otherwise, you risk finding yourself in a new job that makes you miserable. At U.S. News & World Report today, I talk about how to get the inside scoop on a company before you accept a job offer.

yes, you can use Times New Roman on your resume

A bunch of people have sent me this article making its way around the internet that claims that you shouldn’t use Times New Roman on your resume.

Like so much resume advice that focuses on the look of your resume rather than its substance, it’s wrong and you can ignore it.

If you read the article closely, you’ll notice that this wasn’t an actual study of how hiring managers perceive different fonts. They asked three typography specialists which typefaces people should use.

Typography specialists — people who care passionately about fonts.

Not hiring managers.

When are people going to stop taking hiring advice from people who aren’t in charge of hiring? (Answer: Never, because this approach offers endless possibilities for click-bait.)

As long as you pick a professional and reasonably conservative font, your resume font doesn’t matter.

At least outside of the design field, no one is being particularly influenced by whether your you use Times New Roman over Helvetica. They’re just not.

It’s true that there are some fonts that aren’t professional enough for a resume (hopefully at this point we don’t even need to name Comic Sans), but when you hear people telling you that your resume font needs to be “exciting” or “attention-grabbing,” mark that person down as someone who doesn’t understand what matters in a resume and continue happily on your way.

And be highly, highly skeptical of people telling you that hiring managers care deeply about things that no sane hiring manager you know has ever cared about.

my interviewer tried to sell me luxury suits, asking an employee if she has kids, and more

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

1. My interviewer rejected me for a job and then tried to sell me luxury suits

I recently applied to an office assistant position at a local insurance agency. The posting was very simple and straightforward (looking for an assistant to file, fax, answer the phones, order office supplies, etc.). The ad also stated that this was an entry-level position and no knowledge of insurance was necessary. I sent off my resume and cover letter, expressing my interest.

I received an email stating that my “qualifications seemed to be a good fit” and was asked to please call the agency later that morning. I called and had a pleasant phone interview with the agency’s owner. She invited me to come in for an interview the following Monday.

The interview went well. The woman was very friendly and seemed to be impressed with my previous experience. As in the posting, she kept stressing that insurance knowledge wasn’t necessary, as my job would just be making sure that the office ran smoothly. As we were shaking hands at the interview’s end, she explained that she had several other candidates to interview, but she would let me know either way by Friday. Friday came and went and I continued to apply to other jobs.

I woke up this morning to an email from this woman. She started off by saying that I did not get the position because she decided to go with someone who had previously worked in “a company like mine.” I was perplexed, because both the online ad and she herself stated that insurance knowledge wasn’t necessary.

The second paragraph mentioned “but I have another opportunity that I think you would be perfect for!” Great, I thought. All hope is not lost. Then she launched into this big spiel about how in addition to running an insurance agency, she is also an independent consultant for a men’s luxury suits and clothing company and if I “or any of your friends are interested,” I could click on one of the links below. It doesn’t seem like she wasn’t looking for an office assistant. She was looking for a commission.

I think I might have already answered the question, but this office assistant position was a scam, right? Is this insurance agency just a cover for this nonsense? The insurance agency’s website and the office looked legitimate (as does her LinkedIn profile), but now I am second-guessing everything. I just feel very used and humiliated and that my time was wasted. I even spent money (money that I really didn’t have) on a nice outfit for the interview.

I suppose it’s possible that the entire thing was a scam, but I wouldn’t assume that. It’s more likely that she did indeed have a job opening to fill, filled it, and now is inappropriately trying to pitch the remaining candidates on her side business. That would be a lot of work to go through for pretty weak sales leads.

But it’s really, really not okay for employers to try to sell things to people who interview for jobs with them.

2. Was I wrong to ask my new employee if she has kids?

I had a meeting today with a small group of employees I do not know–I am new to the organization and these employees work for me. We went around the table introducing ourselves and providing personal and professional information. I asked one of the employees if she had children. (I would never ask that in an interview, of course.) Was this wrong?

It’s not the biggest offense in the world, but wasn’t ideal. First, why ask one person and not the others? That raises questions about whether you were basing the question on her sex or age or maybe something else. Second, you never know if someone is dealing with infertility or some other difficult topic related to having kids. Third, when you’re the new boss trying to get to know your employees, it’s good to let people decide on their own what info about their personal lives they share with you.

But again, it’s not unforgivable. And hell, it might not have even bothered her, who knows.

3. Asking for a raise as a contractor

I’ve been maintaining a web store on an hourly contractor basis for about six months, averaging about 10-20 hours a week. I’m doing a great job, sales are up, and I’ve gained empowerment and have been using it. I knew this would be a long project, but I didn’t know I’d still have work six months later. Would it be hella uncouth to ask for a raise?

Independent contractors don’t really ask for raises; they raise their rates (and potentially negotiate with the client from there).

But in this context, it would be reasonable to say something like, “When we set up our agreement, I didn’t realize this would end up being long-term work. Since it is, I’d like to revisit our payment agreement. I think X would be reasonable for the work I’m doing now.”

4. Running into an interviewer at a professional conference

I had my second interview just over a month ago and I am still waiting to hear back. However, last week I was at a professional conference where, over the course of a few days, I repeatedly crossed paths with one of the search committee members who interviewed me. I was prepared to make a friendly gesture in passing, but this person either purposely avoided eye contact with me or honestly did not realize I was there before moving on. Multiple times.

It was an awkward position to be in, for sure. I wasn’t going to confront this person about the job, of course, but it would have been nice to have at least recognized each other to address the elephant in the room. Our interview was several hours long followed by a lunch together, so I don’t think I would be completely forgotten so soon.

Given that I will likely continue job searching within my field and seeing these potential employers at this annual conference, is there a correct way to interact with someone who has interviewed you, either recently or in the past? Or do we just pretend we have never met?

I’d treat an interviewer in this context just like any other business contact who you know but don’t know well: Smile, nod, say “good to see you,” and keep moving. If you put the person into the “business contact” mental category rather than “interviewer,” it will probably help you do that both automatically and more naturally.

5. Hiring someone who can’t start until two months after the advertised start date

I would like an outsider’s opinion on a recent hiring decision that took place at our company. Our current director is leaving, and I was the only internal candidate who applied for his position. I interviewed and was told I was qualified and was a strong candidate. Only one other person, an outsider, was interviewed, but this person was friends with members of the board of directors on the hiring committee. The outsider was hired. They then informed the board they cannot start until two months after the position’s advertised start date — and the board of directors is allowing that.

My question is — is that proper? The previous director was supposed to train the new hire for a month, but now this person will be stepping into our company cold. The other staff members and I feel something shady took place, but I would like an another perspective.

Sure, employers adjust start dates for the person they want to hire all the time. Not every position allows for it, but when it does, there’s no reason not to be flexible on something like that. In lots of positions, waiting an extra two months would be a non-issue. That’s especially true the more senior the position is. For a director position, it would be very normal.

It’s not ideal that the person won’t overlap with the outgoing director, certainly, but that isn’t always going to trump other considerations.

It sounds like you’re concerned that the person may have gotten special treatment because of the relationship with a board member. It’s certainly possible — but it’s also possible that they were actually the strongest candidate.

weekend free-for-all – May 2-3, 2015

pile of catsThis 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.)

Book Recommendation of the Week: Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions, by Ben Mezrich, about a group of M.I.T. students who spent two years gaming Vegas and making millions of dollars. It’s weirdly engrossing and will make you want to learn to count cards and become filthy rich.

I was asked to interview again after getting an offer, sticking it at out at a bad new job, and more

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

1. I thought I had an offer but now they want me to do another interview

I applied for a job. I was the second person they were interested in. The first person had more related job experience, but she turned down their offer. They contacted me to see if I was still interested. I said yes. The manager provided me with an offer and said he just need to get it signed off from another supervisor. He later emailed and said that they were now going to do a conference call the following week to discuss the position. I asked whether there may be a chance to have the offer not approved by the other team members, and he said yes.

Now today, after the conference call with his coworkers, he said I have to do a second interview and it will be a week away! This is a very well known, successful company. I was unable to talk as I was with a current coworker and I just agreed to the interview a week away.

Should I call him back to get more detail as to why there is a need for a second interview? I am really puzzled by being offered the job and now moving to this point. It also does not seem right. What feedback can you provide?

Well, there wasn’t ever really an offer to begin with. “I want to offer you the job but I need other people to sign off on it first” isn’t a job offer. It’s a sign a job offer may be coming, but it’s not an offer, because it’s not definite.

There could be all kinds of reasons they want to talk with you further — there could be decision-makers who need to meet you (and for some reason the manager didn’t realize this initially), questions about your candidacy that they want to resolve, a change to the position that they want to discuss with you, a last-minute candidate who they’re comparing you against, or all sorts of other things.

Go to the second interview and see how it goes.

2. I want to stick with the project I’ve been switched to

I was initially hired by my organization to work on Program A, which I was well qualified for because I have skills Y and Z. I figured out pretty quickly that I didn’t particularly enjoy Program A, but because I like my overall work situation decently well and it’s my first full-time post-college job, I resolved to stick with it for at least a couple years. I went on to obtain a fairly rigorous industry accreditation that relates directly to Program A.

In the last six months or so, my organization has been mandated to work on the new Program B, which also requires skills Y and Z. Because I’m the only person at the office with these skills, I’ve been spending the majority of my time working on Program B. And as it turns out, I really enjoy Program B! I’d be interested in having my role focus on Program B rather than A.

My concern is that as Program B grows, the organization will hire someone else with skills Y and Z to manage it, and I’ll be returned to Program A – which I have to admit is a logical thing to do because of that accreditation I earned. But I would much rather stay on Program B.

Any ideas on how I can try to make that happen, or what my superiors’ concerns might be? Right now my main strategy has been to try to seek funding (I’m in nonprofit) for Program A, which would allow them to hire someone to replace me, but I’m interested in other ideas.

Why not just tell them directly? A clear statement that you’re loving the work of Program B and would like to continue on in it is your best chance of actually getting to. That might be all it takes. And if it’s not, then starting that conversation will give you more insight into what their concerns about keeping you there might be.

3. Expressing interest in a job that I declined to interview for last year because of travel expenses

Last summer, I applied for a position out of state and was invited to interview with the hiring manager. We spoke on two occasions over the phone. After the second phone interview, the hiring manager called me back and asked if I could come in for an in-person interview. The location was a 10-hour drive from where I was living, and they said they could not compensate me for any travel expenses (it was a nonprofit organization on a tight budget), so I respectfully declined the offer for an in-person interview. At the time, I had just started two new part-time jobs and couldn’t get the time off, nor did I want to drive 10 hours on my own dime the chance that I might get this job.

Last week, the position was reposted. I still have not found full-time, permanent work (I have been working part-time, temporary positions in my field), and I think the position is a really great fit for me. I think this time I would be willing to do the in-person interview, even if I will not be compensated for the travel. Should I address any of this in my application, and if so, what would that look like?

Yes, or you risk them thinking that you don’t realize they’re the same company that you had that whole exchange with last year. Send your application directly to the hiring manager with a note that says: “We spoke twice last summer about the X role, and you invited me for an in-person interview. At the time, I couldn’t swing it since you weren’t able to cover travel expenses, but I remain so interested in the job that I’d be glad to bring myself to (city) to talk with you in person if you continue to think that the role might be a good fit.”

4. Should I stick it out at the new job that isn’t what I expected?

I recently started a new job after working in a mid-size inbound call centre for six months. I was told I’d be in charge of all the training for French clients – live, webinars, phone, etc. – and also assisting in French customer service

Not to put too fine a point on it – the new job is not what it was cracked up to be. I am not in charge of French training in the conventional sense. I instead hold the auspicious and much-coveted position of translating the English slideshows and then recording myself reading them aloud. Other than that, my job is essentially what I was doing at the call centre – taking inbound calls, emails, etc. I talked to my manager about it briefly, and she pointed out that it just doesn’t make sense for us to do a job in English and then re-do it in French differently, and all they need is the material translated and read. Which is inarguably correct, but disappointing.

I’m concerned that the benefits of sticking it out and having a longer tenure on my resume are eclipsed by the nature of my role being fairly unrelated to what I want to do. Although I enjoy working in French, I can say with great conviction that I have neither the aptitude nor the desire to work in translation. And as much as I like customer service, I don’t really want to work in a call centre type job forever. When your new job is a bust, is it better to stick it out for at least a year or two, or cut your loss early?

Employers don’t judge short tenure in call centers, retail, and food service the same way they judge short tenures in other jobs; most people don’t expect you to make the sort of long-term commitments in those roles that they expect in other fields. It’ll be fine to start looking now and move on once you find something better.

5. Forced to take meal break at the start of shift

My wife’s boss has them take their 30-minute meal break one hour into their eight-hour shift sometimes. Isn’t that illegal? They don’t get a break after that, so they end up working 6.5-7 hours without a meal break. She gets really hungry but has no time to eat. The 10-minute breaks don’t really work out either because the floor is too busy; she is a cocktail/lounge server. We’re in California.

It’s legal. California state law requires employers to provide 30-minute meal breaks for shifts of at least five hours (six hours for people working in the motion picture industry!), but allows the break to be at the start of the shift if the employer wants to do it that way. (A second meal break isn’t required unless you’re working at least 10 hours.)

However, if they’re not letting her take the 10-minute rest breaks that the state mandates for every four hours worked, that violates the law, and they’re supposed to owe her one hour of pay every time it happens.