It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. The noise of my office-mate’s breast pump is driving me crazy
My office-mate and I are both women in our late 20s. She came back from maternity leave about three weeks ago. My workplace switched offices around about 7 months ago and we chose to bunk together. She pumps breast milk at her desk, as it’s apparently the most convenient place for her to do it. The pump makes a mechanical sound (like a little “hee-haw”). I am 100% fine with her pumping at her desk, despite the noise of the pump, in theory. The problem is that I guess she’s having supply problems (?), and so she ends up pumping for many hours of the day. I thought pumping was more like, twice a day, 30-45 minutes a pop or similar. This is 3-4 times a day, 60-90 mins each. The sound is becoming seriously irritating to me (and there is no end in reasonable sight), but our office doesn’t have anything alternative set up for her, and she would have to go to some trouble to do it while she’s trying to get back into the swing of things (in a job that’s not really conducive to being a new mom in a lot of ways–she’s had some trouble already with sick days, etc.). Also, it seems that it would be very difficult for her to pump elsewhere, given that she is pumping so many hours of the day at this point.
We’re a pretty informal office (see, e.g., my office-mate pumping in the same room as me), but we’ve had drama in recent months about people moving offices and switching office-mates, so I don’t want management to think I’m being high-maintenance or bitchy about the woman with a new infant. Suck it up? (So to speak.)
Yeah, I think that if you sucking it up is an option, that’s the easiest solution here. If you can’t, can you try headphones or something else to minimize or block the noise? But if those aren’t options and it’s getting in the way of your ability to focus, then it’s not unreasonable to ask if you can temporarily work in a different space.
Since you’re worried about being perceived as cranky about a nursing mom, just make it clear that that’s not the case, by being explicit about that — as in, “I love sharing an office with Jane and I think it’s great that offices are able to accommodate nursing moms now, but I’m having trouble focusing on work because of the noise pumping makes. I didn’t expect that to happen and I wish it weren’t the case, but it is. Is it possible for me to move to a quieter space? I’d be glad to move back once we’re out of this period or do whatever’s easiest for the situation as a whole.”
2. Asking for a four-day week when negotiating for a junior-level position
My boyfriend is currently in the process of interviewing for a position he’s fairly interested in. It’s a junior position and would be a pay cut for him, but would be a lot more reliable and steady for him compared to his current situation. They’ve asked him a few times if he’s okay that it’s a junior position, since his experience indicates that he might be happier with something at a higher level. (He probably would, but he’s been searching for about a year, and this is the first promising opportunity to come along, and he’d still get to expand his skill set).
If he is offered the position, the starting salary is $30,000 a year. He would like to try to negotiate a higher salary, and plans to do so. If, however, it turns out that they aren’t willing to budge on the salary, do you think it would be completely out of line to try to negotiate in terms of work hours? For example, if he were able to do a 4 day work week at $30,000, this would this would bring him closer to a rate of pay with which he is comfortable. The position doesn’t seem to require him to work with clients, and would involve mostly independent work. I think this could be a great solution, but I’m not sure if it’s completely unheard of to negotiate in this way.
It’s easier to do for a senior position than for one more junior, because junior positions tend to be easier to fill and senior candidates are usually in a better position to make demands (their skills are more sought after, etc.). With a junior position, I’d only ask for a four-day work week if it’s truly the only way he’d accept the position; in that case, he has nothing to lose if they say no. But if he’d want the job regardless, he risks them thinking he’s less committed and will be dissatisfied with the salary (and thus likely to keep looking at other jobs).
And while the chances of them saying yes aren’t zero, they’re fairly low — they’d have to (a) really want him, enough to be okay with him working 80% of the time their other good candidates would work, and (b) be convinced that the workload of the position allows it (what’s going to happen to the other 20% of the work?).
3. What can I do now to make my next job search (in a few years) easier?
After seven months of searching, and with a lot of help from your blog, I’ve found a job that looks like a great fit! However, in the process of this search, I discovered that my skills and my network were woefully inadequate, and I wonder whether it might have taken less time if I’d done some things differently in the years before I decided to change positions.
Do you have suggestions for things a person can do while she has a job to make the next job hunt easier?
Yes! Start thinking now about what move you’re likely to want to make next (in a few years, say), and then take a look at ads for those positions now. What skills and experience are they asking for? Once you know that, you can start thinking about a plan to get that experience and develop those skills over the next couple of years, so that by the time you’re looking again, you’re better positioned.
4. Should let terrible applicants know what’s wrong with their applications?
I’m a hiring manager at a small business, and we add part-time employees every 6-12 months. In my job listing, I ask for a concise, specific cover letter that includes some specific information regarding availability, etc. My listing even pokes fun at ourselves, in hopes that it will encourage those applying to be a little more relaxed with us. Without fail, I receive applications that do not mention the company name, don’t have a cover letter, claim to want to work in my restaurant (which is nowhere near accurate), or are barely in English. Today, I received a link to a cover letter hosted on DropBox (with no file extension, so it couldn’t be opened), which told me that it was last updated 3 months ago. When I see things like this, I’m not surprised that these applicants are still looking for work. I find that I want to reply and explain to them why they’re not going to be considered, hoping that it may help their job hunt in the future. Is this inappropriate? Rude? Or should I just ignore them and go to the next applicant?
Well, some people will genuinely welcome the feedback, others think they would welcome it but will bristle when they get it, and others will respond with outright hostility. So one question for you is whether you’ll mind it when that happens, because it will happen.
Overall, it’s a kind impulse, but ultimately it’s not your job, and probably not the best use of your time either (and it’s worth noting that there’s no shortage of advice online about this stuff if these candidates cared to go looking for it). So sure, maybe if you have a particular rapport with a candidate, you might offer advice to them, but I wouldn’t spend the time to do it across the board. (Says the person who was so annoyed by this stuff that she started a blog about it seven years ago…)
5. Including a language on your resume that you’re in the process of learning
Is it appropriate to say you’re currently learning X language on your resume, or should you only mention a language if you are fluent in it? Does the answer change if you’re having formal classes or being self-taught?
Sure, you can include that, and it can be helpful to do so. If nothing else, it’s a point in favor of you being someone who goes out of her way to learn things. Make sure that you’re clear that you’re currently learning it so that people don’t misinterpret, but as long as you’re clear, it’s fine.