does every job applicant deserve a reply, awful language at work, and more

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

1. Should employers get back to all rejected candidates, or only people who were interviewed?

I want to be a respectful hiring manger, and I totally agree that not getting back to people after an interview (whether you’re hiring or not hiring them) is extremely rude. Do you think it’s important to respond to everyone who submits a resume? Or is it standard to disregard resumes that don’t make it to a phone interview?

Reject everyone you’re not hiring, even if they never made it to the interview stage. These are people volunteering to help your company, after all, and they’re also potential clients/donors/consumers. Why pass up the opportunity to make a good impression on them, and why not do something very quick and simple that will (a) prevent them from wondering if they’re still being considered and (b) prevent some of them from calling you in a month to inquire about their status?

It’s far more outrageous not to bother getting back to people who put in the time to interview with you, yes, but it’s also so easy to set up a rejection system that will take only seconds to use at all stages of the process that there’s just no good reason not to.

2. My coworker uses the c-word at work

One of my coworkers (who outranks me within the department, though I do not work with him or report to him) has a terrible attitude and an even worse potty mouth. I consider myself fairly laid back when it comes to language in the workplace — most “traditional” curse words don’t faze me. However, I have heard from two different people that they heard the coworker in question use the “see you next Tuesday” term at work. Just to be 100% clear — I did not hear it myself and I do not have any hopes or plans to address this past offense with him or HR since I didn’t hear it. However, knowing him, I’m expecting he’ll use it again, and I want to be ready to respond in an appropriate fashion.

Just for a bit more context — our HR department is far from impressive, the coworker in question’s manager is non-confrontational to a fault, and the department/organization have a bit of a “boys club” atmosphere. I 100% do not think that language is appropriate at work (or anywhere, really), but I don’t want to naively assume that I’ll have universal support in my comments.

Address it directly with the coworker if you hear it yourself; I wouldn’t take this to HR or your manager unless (a) you ask him to stop and he doesn’t, (b) it becomes pervasive rather than just used once or twice, and (c) it disturbs you enough to escalate it. But if he uses it around you and it bugs you, by all means speak up! I’d say something like, “Bob, that word really bothers me. Would you mind not using it around me?”

3. An employer insisted on contacting my current manager, but then didn’t offer me the job

I applied for a new job and it turned out that after the interview and speaking to my references, the company needed to speak to my current manager. They requested this over the phone and told me they “wouldn’t be asking if I wasn’t their top choice” and that “it’s sometimes a red flag when an employee doesn’t disclose to their current company that they’re thinking about moving on” (in what world?!?!?). So I took the risk and said yes. I disclosed to my current manager that I was a top candidate for this other company, and that because of this they needed to speak with her. It turned out she really didn’t want me to leave, and it became an emotional conversation (I started crying). She accepted their call that afternoon; it lasted 20 minutes. I tried to pry about the questions they asked, but all she said was that they were very standard. A few weeks went by, which is fine, because this company has notoriously slow hiring processes. But then yesterday, I got an automatic email the HR department sends out to people who didn’t get the job. I can only assume this was based on what my current boss, who desperately wants to keep me on, said.

How do I approach my current boss about not getting the job? A peer told me I should lie and say I turned the new company down after weeks of negotiating. I’m concerned that my current manager sabotaged me, and I’m finding it difficult to continue working here knowing this. I did follow up with the company that didn’t hire me to ask what had changed. I know from an inside source that they did fill the position. I haven’t heard back yet.

This company was in the wrong to insist on speaking with your current employer; that can jeopardize people’s employment, and they were wrong to push you. What happened afterwards is harder to know. It’s possible that your boss gave you a great reference, but the employer just ended up hiring someone else. It’s also possible that she gave you a misleadingly crappy reference in a horrible attempt to keep you. While either is possible, the former might be more likely — since that employer has already showed that they’re willing to behave badly by you, and they also behaved badly by sending you a form rejection after all that rather than connecting with you personally. But you can’t know for sure either way.

As for what to tell your boss, I don’t think you should lie, which leaves you with telling her that it didn’t work out (although she’s not entitled to details beyond that if you don’t want to share them). You probably also need to talk with her about what this all means for your continuing tenure there, since she’s going to have that question on her mind whether you talk to her about it or not .That said, if you distrust your boss enough to think she’s capable of this, then yeah, there’s some urgency to get out as soon as you can and so that’s going to be a tricky conversation to manage. (Meanwhile, resolve never to give in on this kind of request again! It’s put you in a really bad position here.)

4. I don’t like my internship, but my boss wants to hire me on permanently

I am at an internship for the second summer in a row. Along with being an excellent worker, my boss genuinely loves me. This summer, I took the job largely because I feared being unemployed. But more and more, I realized that the corporate world is not for me! Neither of my degrees are even remotely related to the work this company does, and I recently realized that I am wasting my time and talents here since I am doing something totally unrelated to my interests, passions, and background. However, before I realized this, my boss and I spoke about her appealing to management to extend my internship to a possibly more permanent position at the end of the summer. Without following up with me recently, my boss submitted a justification through HR and I suspect that it will be honored. I really don’t want to stay here and am actively looking for more relevant and meaningful work elsewhere.

How do I speak to my boss about this? I feel bad that she has already gone through the process of getting this job extended and I am planning on flaking on her. And if/when I do speak with her, do you think it would be wise to quit this job even prior to having a job offer or should I allow the extension and stay here until I am offered something more permanent?

Talk to her ASAP. She’s expending her own political capital to get a position created for you, and so the faster you let her know that you wouldn’t accept it, the better. Tell her that you’re grateful for her confidence in you and that she went to bat for you, but that you’ve been doing some soul-searching about your future and have realized that you really want to work in ___.

Don’t quit before you have an offer elsewhere (or at least not until your internship reaches its regularly scheduled end point); you should keep the commitment that you made when you signed up for the internship, which presumably was to stay some specific number of months. And definitely don’t accept the conversion to a permanent position while planning to leave as soon as you find something better. Right now, you have a boss who loves you and will be a great reference for you in your job search; you’d put that at risk by treating her faith in you that way.

5. Including two simultaneous jobs, one official and one unofficial, on a resume

After I had been working at my current company for a little over a year, I was asked to take over a position that was being vacated while the company searched for candidates to fill the position. I was trained by the employee leaving and subsequently took over that department (which only has one employee). I submitted my resume for the position about a month and a half into the candidate search and was subsequently offered the position. I told the manager that I couldn’t accept at the salary offered (no change from my current salary, which is two-thirds of what the previous employee made). I was asked to continue in order to help train the new hire and because I had been doing so well with the clients. I was also asked if the manager and I could reevaluate the position/salary in a few weeks.

Now, six months later I am still working in that position doing all of the daily required work, but I spend three days of my week in that position and two days doing the duties of my official position. How do I put this on my resume? The duties required in these two jobs are vastly different and the unofficial position where I spend most of my time requires significantly more technical and advanced work. I don’t want to truncate the unofficial position on my resume because it displays my skills and talents more significantly but it technically isn’t my job and isn’t my official title.

I’d create a bullet point under your current job that reads something like this:

* Acting teapot manager: Manage teapot department, kept productivity at 110% during six-month teapot manager vacancy, achieved X, achieved Y

If it’s too significant to be combined into a single bullet point, then I’d list it this way:

Official Title, Company Name, Jan. 2013 – present
Acting Teapot Manager, Feb. 2014-present
* accomplishment
* accomplishment
* accomplishment
Official Title, Jan. 2013 – present
  * accomplishment
* accomplishment
* accomplishment

{ 196 comments… read them below }

  1. Ash (the other one!)

    What is with hiring managers insisting on contacting current employers and thinking something is sinister if an applicant won’t allow it? Can any of the hiring managers on here speak to it because this happened to me exactly (only I refused and didn’t get the job)…

    1. K

      There was another letter last week where the hiring manager pulled the same stunt. I think it’s due to someone’s terrible idea to “test” the applicant and see how far they’re willing to go for the job.

      1. GrumpyBoss

        Its a pretty crappy test then. I’d rescind my application from any company that pulled this stunt.

        That being said – as a hiring manager, I am seeing more and more people provide shady references. As in, they don’t want their current boss contacted (understandable), so here is someone I used to work with (still understandable). Then that person ends up being someone they worked for 15 years ago, someone who was never the candidate’s supervisor, and even more commonly, a buddy/friend who is unable to speak constructively about the individual other than “he’s a real great guy”. I’ve just seen this uptick in bad references in the past 18 months. I can see why some companies would insist on wanting to speak with a current supervisor. But the way this was handled was 100% inappropriate.

        OP should feel relieved to have not gotten this job. It’s too bad they made a mess of her current one.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger

          That’s the thing, those staged references are usually pretty easy to see through, in that they won’t have any real substance. And if someone was “smart” enough to write themselves a thorough fake reference that sounded solid and claimed they could do the work of 3 PhDs single-handedly, it would become pretty obvious pretty quickly if the claims were not true. To me, pressuring the candidate to let you contact their current employer tells me that the interviewer or hiring HR department doesn’t trust their own screening and/or interviewing skills.

        2. KellyK

          I understand wanting a *recent* reference, or a *supervisory* reference, but you can get both of those things without risking someone’s job by contacting their current supervisor. (You could even speak with someone at their current employer as long as you’re okay with it being a coworker they trust not to divulge their job search, rather than their boss.)

          Jumping from “some people give us unhelpful references” to “we must speak with everyone’s current supervisor” just seems really unwarranted to me. If a candidate gives references that don’t provide you with useful information then there are two pretty easy options. You can ask them for additional ones, explaining that you want to speak to a supervisor, or someone who’s worked with them in the last 5 years, or whatever. Or, you can pass on them and go with someone else.

          I think that the only way you would *need* to speak with a current supervisor would be if the current job is the first job they’ve had that’s relevant to what you want to hire them for, or if they’ve been there so long that you don’t think previous references are relevant. Even at that, if the candidate isn’t comfortable giving you that information, then you make the best decision you can with the info you do have. It’s not appropriate to ask someone to risk their current job over the *possibility* of a job with you.

          1. Bea W

            My last employer forbid supervisors from giving references for current employees. People got in trouble for it. I don’t recall though anymore if this was an edict from the dysfunctional Big Boss or from HR. The dept was hemorhaging people at the time. If this was a new policy to try to stop the bleeding, it was really ineffective.

            1. RecruiterM

              At one of my previous jobs where I worked in IT we all got a letter from HR telling us to direct all reference requests to them. This was not enforceable, of course.
              I think the reason for this policy was a law case brought on by a bad reference.
              Very unhelpful for a hiring manager, of course, and kind of double-faced – I am sure this same HR personnel were checking their potential employees’ references rigorously.

          2. Kelly O

            This is actually what I did recently. I found a coworker I could trust, who now acts in a managerial capacity, who was willing to talk to them about what I’m doing and the work I have now.

            1. OP3

              I specifically asked if they could speak to a current coworker instead, or the previous coworker I’d listed as a reference, or even the manager that left less than a year ago. They wouldn’t budge!

        3. OP3

          I am a little relieved! The whole process gave me a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’m very lucky to have a supportive boss. Now that I know it wasn’t her reference that lost me the job I thought I had, I feel bad for even thinking it!
          I’m lucky that I have a boss who’s understanding. But it caused her a few weeks of stress too, as she didn’t want to have to think about replacing me and was waiting on edge the entire time.

    2. MK

      There are times it makes sense for the hiring manager to need to contact current employers. For example, if the candidate has been working in their current job and for their current boss for 10 years, in which case it’s the only way to get reasonable recent information about the candidate. Or when the candidate is young and/or in their first job and the current employer is the only work reference (and the only sourse of information about he candidate’s work ethic) they have.

      That being said, I wish hiring managers were more intelligent about evaluating references. A single person’s opinion on a candidate is not particularly usefull, especially if I don’t know the reference, or about them. If four people say a candidate is crap/great, I will believe them. If one person whose judgement I have reason to trust says so, I will also believe them. If one person who I don’t know and who might have reason to be miffed with the candidate says they are no good, well, I won’t dismiss it, but I won’t take it as gospell either.

      I think hiring managers over value the current employer reference. Yes, I get that it’s the most recent information they can get about the candidate, but also a) the candidate wants to leave that job, so it’s a possibility there might be some tension there, and b) the reference now knows that the candidate wants to leave that job, so they will probably be negatively predisposed towards them. In this particular case, if the company decided to not offer the job to their top choise because of a 20-minute conversation with a person who has no reason to want the candidate to leave for another job, they are idiots.

      1. Suzanne

        Relying so heavily on current or former managers is a mistake, in my opinion, for several reasons. I worked a contract position several years ago through a temp agency and to this day really don’t know who my direct supervisor was and have no contact information for anyone at the company. The temp agency would be able to verify my employment, but little else. From everything I’ve read at Ask A Manager, this alone would be a red flag for many hiring managers.

        I also spent several years at a position during which both my direct supervisors were fired and asked to leave the building immediately (I could write a book on the upper management at that job). I have no contact information for either, have no idea where they are, and therefore, could not put them as a reference. Again, through no fault of mine, I’d be red flagged in the hiring process.

        As to the first question in the thread, yes, yes, and yes, get back with the applicants. I cannot tell you how incredibly frustrating this is for the job seeker and the ill will that is spreads for your company. A friend of my daughter recently did her 5th interview with a company (yes, you read that correctly–5) and has heard nothing more for weeks. Another young woman I know had 3 interviews with a company, the last at least 4 weeks ago and still has not heard yay or nay, nor has her recruiter heard a thing. At this point, she says this sends up red flags to her on the company, and she isn’t sure she’d want to work there or do business with them. So, yes, make contact. It’ll make you and your company look better.

        1. Mike B.

          A good temp agency will have a stock answer for why their inability to give proper recommendations should not be held against a candidate.

          And nowadays you could probably find a former supervisor on LinkedIn or Facebook.

          1. Suzanne

            LinkedIn is limited on finding a past supervisor. One of the fired supervisors has an extremely common name (John Smith like) which brings up hundreds of hits. Since I have no idea what his middle name is, nor where he is, nor what industry he’s now in, trying to find him is somewhat of a fool’s errand. Trust me, I’ve tried. The other man is on LinkedIn but lists his current position as the one he had several positions prior to the one he was fired from. Obviously, he does not keep his profile up to date.

        2. fposte

          References are really useful in hiring, though; the problem you’re running into is that they’re hard to get for some employees, but that doesn’t reduce their value to employers.

    3. AdAgencyChick

      Seriously. That is NOT COOL that this company did that to OP. As someone who’s been burned by a company who called my then-boss *without my permission*, I’m fuming on OP’s behalf that they thought this was okay to insist on. I will say that when I’m hiring, I would never ask for that, because I know from personal experience how incredibly awkward it is to have that “why do you want to leave?” conversation with your boss, and how scary it is after that wondering whether she’s going to try to replace you before you have something lined up.

      Besides, there’s no need for it. Even if a candidate has been working at the same place for years, she probably hasn’t had the same boss or coworkers all that time. Surely there are other former bosses or coworkers who have moved on to other companies, or who haven’t but can be trusted to keep their mouths shut, that you can call to get a picture of the candidate without jeopardizing her current job. The only exception is a candidate who is working in her *first* job, in which case there may be no references available to speak to her abilities without destroying confidentiality — but even if that’s the case, I would rather simply conduct a thorough interview and take my chances than do that to a candidate.

      OP, I’m sorry you’re in this situation. Good luck!

      1. some1

        +1. Being an admin is lucky in this regard, there’s almost always a [former]coworker who can attest to the your work and accomplishments besides your direct sup. Sometimes even more so.

      2. Lore

        I had a situation a couple of years ago where in the final round of interviewing, I received an email from the hiring manager around 4 pm saying, “So, we’re checking references and I really need to speak to your current boss, so I’m going to look up his number and call him tomorrow morning. Just wanted to let you know.” Fortunately, I was able to intervene, but that tone of “I’m going to go ahead and do this” (I mean, what if I’d been sick that day and hadn’t checked my email that evening) really struck such a sour note that it ended up being one of the major factors in deciding to turn down the offer.

      3. OP3

        Thank you! And you’re right: I’ve worked with current company for a little over two years. My current manager, the one they demanded to speak to, has been my direct supervisor for about half a year. I offered to let them speak to my old boss, a current coworker, and the previous coworker at that company who I’d also already listed as a reference. Oh, and I didn’t mention this: Of the three references I gave, two were direct supervisors in the past. I thought I was covered!

    4. HM in Atlanta

      I’ve been the hiring manager hundreds of times. Never have I asked to speak to someone’s direct manager before I extended an offer. Several times people have volunteered their current managers (usually when someone’s job was ending, they were changing career fields, etc.), but never have I asked.

      Of course, I’m of the opinion that unless you know the reference-giver, references aren’t worth much of anything. I’d much rather see how someone problem solves, see work product, or give me mock feedback as a manager (positive and negative).

      1. HM in Atlanta

        Also – re references – I’m not opposed to having a conversation where I verify facts, get the spin from that boss, and then balance that information with other information. I’m talking about calling someone’s last boss taking that stranger’s word as the validated truth.

  2. quix

    @4:Only take this advice if you’re ok with not having a job for a while. There’s no guarantee you’ll be able to find something in your field/area of interest in any given timeframe. ‘Don’t quit without another job lined up’, is fine advice. And ‘don’t turn down a job without another job lined up’ may be just as relevant depending on your situation.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      The OP isn’t talking about staying in her current position; she’s talking about accepting a regular staff position at the end of her internship. And if she does that and then quickly quits it, she’ll burn the bridge and ruin the reference that she’s spent her internship building up.

      1. Mike B.

        I’d still agree with quix. A year of corporate office experience would most likely be a major asset for a lot of jobs you actually DO want, and your savings account would be a whole lot healthier. If your soul isn’t crying at the end of every day, and you’re not missing out on a truly golden opportunity elsewhere, put in a year.

        1. AVP

          I think if she can commit to staying a year, this is good advice. If she’s planning to accept the position and bounce in a month if she finds something better, she’ll burn that bridge badly.

          1. De Minimis

            A year is not really that long, although it seems like it at the time especially if it’s a job you don’t really like. But usually when people really don’t like a job it’s because they aren’t doing well there, having problems with bosses, and so on…if this boss is trying to figure out a way to get you on full-time, I’d guess that things are going well from their perspective. I would probably commit to a year at least–unless I really had an active dislike of the job itself [not just an overall dissatisfaction with the corporate environment.]

            Keep in mind too that responsibilities may expand when moving into a full-time role, it may not be the same as what you’re doing as an intern.

          2. Mike B.

            Oh, absolutely. That should be stressed for someone facing her first full-time job; professional courtesy demands that you stay in a job for at least a year barring extraordinary circumstances.

  3. Ann Furthermore

    #3 For the life of me I will never understand why people do this. Is it a power thing? Do they not get that the applicant will be in an extremely awkward position – or worse – if they’re not hired? I would never expect someone to consent to having me contact their current employer, except in unusual circumstances, such as going out of business or relocating.

    1. Nervous Accountant

      It’s frustrating. It’s called taking advantage of a person in a vulnerable position (I’m not sure if I’m wrong in thinking that a job seeker is usually the more vulnerable one than the employer).

      1. Nervous Accountant

        Forgot to add–I haven’t yet been in this situation (since whenever I’ve had an assignment/temp job, I’ve thrown 1000% into that particular position, even though it hasn’t done me any good — time to take a different approach) I just may be since I’ve learnedt hat my brand spanking new boss is….a bit cray cray.

      2. MK

        The job seeker being the vulnerable party is a safe assumption to make as a rule. That’s not taking into account freak cases like famous actors or musicians, star athletes, genious scientists, etc. Though of course the degree of vulnerability varies with how much in demand the candidate’s skills are.

    2. Sawrs

      An interviewer about twelvish years ago — interviewing for a dead-end, bog-standard retail job, just a touch above minimum wage — got visibly angry and bug-eyed and called me “smug” after I refused him permission to contact my current manager (also retail, similar position and non-existent skill set, &c). The interview, if it could be called that, had gone so pear-shaped so quickly that I was quite pleased with that reaction; it was the only fun I’d had all that month, if I remember correctly.

    3. James M

      Is it a power thing?

      Yep. They’re tripping hard on their delusions of power. They think that only their magnanimity can lift the applicant out of abject unemployment, and they will only bestow this grace upon the supplicant who abases themselves appropriately.

      Hyperbole aside, when some people get away with something a few times, they feel entitled to get away with it all the time (there’s a psychological term for it that I don’t recall). They get a kick out of feeling powerful and a few applicants have probably indulged them in the past, so they come to expect it.

      1. Laura

        Yup! And the applicants that first indulge them may have had nothing to lose. (My husband happily used his then-current manager when job hunting. Of course, the company was in bankruptcy, being shut down, and my husband had a firm end date. And their blessing and assistance with the job hunt.)

        Which does not mean that no one with a current employer has anything to lose; most people do. I wish these companies asking for this would consider that.

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        I actually don’t think this is typically the case. Occasionally, sure, but it’s much more common for it to simply being thoughtlessness about how this stuff works.

        1. OP3

          I do think it’s a complete lack of sensitivity for the applicant. And now that I know a little more, it sounds like this specific department has done this to many more people. Whether the applicants allowed them to speak to their bosses, I don’t know.
          I do think it’s become this specific department’s norm, and so little thought goes with it. But I remember being on the phone with them, running through my options with the hiring committee lead, and realizing that saying “no” meant I was out of the running for a job I was “top choice” for. I wish they’d been honest then, at that moment on the phone.

    4. Raine

      Employers know. Hell, some employers outright fire their own employees on the spot if they learn they are seeking employment elsewhere. I understand the reference issue people above are raising, but I also think there is a recent uptick in the number of those hiring getting an almost sadistic thrill out of pushing people in this economy into such precarious situations.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I really really don’t think it’s about sadistic thrill at all. That’s reading a motivation into it that just isn’t typically there. It’s thoughtlessness, sometimes incompetence and poor reasoning.

      2. Suzanne

        That exact same thing happened to a young woman I know a couple of years ago. Her supervisor found out she had applied for another job and fired her on the spot. Sad. Apparently for some employers, signing an employment agreement means you sign on for life, or until you become unwanted baggage…

    5. Moe Szyslak

      Helps with bargaining. If they extend an offer with bad terms, you have less room to negotiate now that your current job has been pulled out from under you.

  4. Mike

    Interesting, did not know about the “see you next Tuesday” thing. Actually had to look it up on urban dictionary to figure out how it was related.

    1. Cari

      I remember having to stifle a giggle in one meeting when my boss said “There we are then, see you next Tuesday,” to confirm the next meeting. I was a little immature back then ^^;

      1. Anon for this one

        I have a coworker who said this to his boss once in a completely innocent way (he really was not going to see her until the next Tuesday) and she was highly offended. It took a lot of smoothing over which I found insane because really, who in their right mind would say that directly to a coworker (following a friendly conversation no less), let alone their direct supervisor. She tends to get offended at all sorts of things though, depending on which day you catch her.

        1. GrumpyBoss

          Personally, I get offended by how easily offended some people get. That’s the type of boss I’d be on eggshells around.

        2. Chinook

          I could see myself doing this and not understanding at all why someone would be offended (especially since I didn’t understand the reference until I saw it written out in text speak). If you are offended by someone saying something that could easily be seen as innocent (because, really, what else do you say to someone before a long weekend that ends on a Monday?), then you are just looking for offense.

      2. Kelly L.

        I had an ex who always said “See you next time” to people, totally innocently. It was just the standard thing he said to people instead of “see you later” or “have a nice day” or whatever. I always wondered whether he’d run into someone who would misinterpret it.

    2. Liane

      I could figure it out, but had to wonder why the OP put it that way, instead of just using “c-word” as Alison did.

    3. Persephone Mulberry

      I didn’t know this was a widely (-enough to be on urban dictionary)-known expression. Learn something everyday, I guess.

      1. Chinook

        “It’s like I didn’t learn anything on the playground.”

        Ironically, that is where I learned that shortening our classmate’s last name, Cunningham, to the first syllable and yelling it across the playground was wrong. A teacher had to explain it to the entire class but didn’t bother to tell us why (because we were 8). Then again, I grew up witha group of kids where they tried smoking grass by cutting some blades out behind the school and lighting them up and couldn’t figure out what the big deal was.

        1. De Minimis

          I don’t think I ever heard that word until adulthood [and even then more from media.]. I don’t know if it is regional or what. I lived in a border/South area and maybe the word was considered too vulgar even for the most forthright cussers. Heard almost all the other curse words, but not that one. I also don’t remember hearing the other c-word that is synonymous with “rooster.” We generally used the common nickname for Richard instead.

          1. HM in Atlanta

            In junior high, I got stuck reading a passage from a poem out loud in an English class. One of the verses referred to “when the cock crowed” and everyone burst out laughing. I had no idea why they were laughing.

        2. Dan

          That’s funny.

          And, uh, if you wanna know what the big deal is, y’all shoulda been smoking the weeds, not the grass.

  5. Proud Socialist

    It’s a crazy system where a potential employer requires a reference, but supplying that reference could cost you your current job!
    Is this just a US culture/right to work law thing? I’d never heard of this before I discovered AAM.

    1. SC in SC

      I agree it’s not a very good system but it’s not related to right to work laws. It’s hard to determine how pervasive the practice is in the US but I would imagine that it’s more common in smaller or less sophisticated HR departments/companies as opposed to larger corporations. Realistically, references are essentially unreliable so why bother wasting your time? In my current company, we don’t use them for this very reason. Also, all you have to do is get the reputation as the company that causes applicants to be at risk and you’ll stop seeing good applicants.

        1. AVP

          Definitely not a waste of time! Particularly if you put some thought into it (like, half an hour) and ask probing questions, and call people who are on their resume but not listed as recommended (NOT the current employer, though, of course).

          The last reference I gave, the person had blatantly lied to her potential new job about work dates, reason for leaving (she was fired for being on drugs at works!), and so many other things. I was stunned when I got the call as I wouldn’t ever have imagined she would even have us on her resume. You would have hired that person and, honestly, regretted it, she was terrible.

          1. Bea W

            I have run into blatent lying as well. My last employer actually got a resume from a former employee who claiming he had management duties under his former position. The hiring manager had worked with him and knew it was BS. He’d also been let go for cause from another place and was described as “totally useless” by a supervisor and similarly by other co-workers in another place (my field is a small world). If you don’t talk to people, you might be missing this kind of valuable information. A background check to verify past employment might miss these kinds of thing if other information like the start and stop dates and job title are accurate. My field is a small world. It is common for hiring managers to ask current employees if they’ve ever worked with a candidate that looks promising on paper.

            1. fposte

              Additionally, references can really help positively fill out the picture of the candidate and address any concerns that may have been raised about their fitness for the job. I’m pretty sure I’ve given references that have moved a candidate’s ranking up.

              1. AVP

                Especially if a hiring manager is looking at two similarly qualified candidates, a great reference can be a boost to one of them.

              2. Bea W

                I’ve given a couple people references that have bumped them up. In my field when hiring managers are looking for specific skills and experience, getting the inside scoop from former collegues is invaluable. After a while all those resumes start to look the same, and it’s hard to weed out the people who will excel in a particular position vs. just be okay. There is such a range of skill levels and having other people who can speak to a candidate’s true abilities is a really helpful check.

                1. fposte

                  Absolutely. And on one of mine, the candidate could be perceived as shy and retiring, when she was actually soft-spoken but an authoritative powerhouse, so the prospective employer was really pleased to hear that she was a go-getter despite not having a manner that read that way.

        2. MK

          Not a waste of time, but I think they are mostly useful for eliminating horrible-but-presentable candidates; they are not so usefull for finding the right person for the job. The problem is that references are usually opinions coming from total strangers: they shouldn’t be dismissed, but they shouldn’t be relied on either.

      1. voluptuousfire

        My LastJob didn’t ask for references and it turned out to be a bit of a disaster. I was let go after 3 months. While I was glad to have been hired right off the bat, I couldn’t help but feel a little strange that they didn’t ask for them. It didn’t feel right and I should have listened to that gut feeling.

      2. Beancounter in Texas

        My employer (a small family business) relies strongly on references when hiring, and when I was up for hire, they wanted to speak with my current boss as well. I politely, but firmly, refused, because my current boss didn’t know I was seeking to leave. My refusal was smart because my boss was rather surprised when I gave my notice.

        Another employee has been hired here with absolutely glowing references from his military career, but he only had one reference from a civilian career post-military (which was given reluctantly, as he had burned that bridge). He’s not thriving in our office, where there is a lack of hierarchy, written expectations, and hands-on management of personnel. After two years on the job, he still hasn’t learned all facets of the business and still misses recurring deadlines.

    2. Leah

      I think you’re confusing “right to work” with “at-will”. Right to work laws are about “closed shops” where someone can be required to join a union for certain position. At-will laws are about being able to fire or quit at any time for any non-discriminatory or whistleblower reasons.

  6. UK Anon

    #2 – if you aren’t comfortable with people saying certain things, I find a dose of literalism can sometimes help.

    “I hadn’t noticed that a vagina was relevant to X?” with a perfectly innocent, inquiring look makes the point without challenging the “boys club” atmosphere.

      1. Liane

        No doubt including the face whose mouth had just uttered the C-word.
        Gotta love the way vulgar folks cannot handle hearing the correct terms. :)

        1. GrumpyBoss

          Going OT for a second….

          I once was out having cocktails with some coworkers. One of which was in a drunken rage because his “c*** of an ex-wife” has polycystic ovarian syndrome. Why he cares about the reproductive issues of his ex-wife remains a mystery, but he didn’t understand what it was. So I got all 9th grade health class on him and explained about ovaries, Fallopian tubes, hormones, and menstruation. He stood there with his mouth hanging open like a derp. I ended the conversation saying, “I want you to remember this conversation the next time you feel it appropriate to call a woman by that word”.

          In the long run, it makes no difference, but I like to pretend that I positively impacted women in general, his ex-wife in particular, with that exchange.

    1. EE

      Oh goodness, you’re reminding me of when I raised my head to hear one of my managers saying to another: “Use your phone – I’m not going to Google that on a work computer!” I asked what was going on and they asked “Do you know what ‘intersex’ is?”

      I replied, “Yes. It’s when a baby is born with ambiguous genitalia.” One looked shocked and the other said she wouldn’t believe me until wikipedia had verified it.

      Our organization had given grants to an intersex group, you see, and they’d noticed it in the list…

    2. Mints

      I do this too, especially when “rape” is used figuratively. I’m like “Oh haha because baseball is just like sex”
      It’s usually met with “Huh..?”
      I’m being unfunny on purpose, and drawing attention to the word, which I don’t want to use figuratively

  7. Michael.

    Yes, yes you should respond to every single applicant, even if they are the worst applicant. It shouldn’t taken more than 20 seconds, if that. And, there are so many other people who aren’t bad, they just aren’t good enough compared to the other applicants. And they all deserve an answer.

    I’m in the middle of a (long) job hunt, and I’ve started a list of things for people on both sides. And when I get a job, I’ll be putting them up. And one of them is on rejection. Here’s what I suggest:
    “Dear [applicant], thank you for applying for [this position], unfortunatly at this time you were not successful. We appreciate the time and effort you put into your application, and we wish you all the best for your job hunting.”
    And that is all it needs to be! And if you have an automated system (which you should if you are a large organisation), it will even automatically send out the emails.

    Seriously, it’s just rude to not respond to an applicant. Ideally you respond at each stage (receiving an application, and rejecting them, and any other stages if applicable). But, at a minimum, you need to write in your ad, “if you haven’t received a response within two weeks, then you have been unsuccessful”, but even that’s rude, compared to taking 20 seconds…

    (Sorry, a bit rambling, and it’s late here…)

    1. Michael.

      And yes, there’ll be people going “but I’ve got 240 applicants for the last job, and it’s just too much time and work” (all of 1 hour and 20 minutes @ 20 seconds a piece).
      1. It’s still rude.
      2. It’s not actually that much work.
      a. Use the magic of technology. Every time you get an application via email, then you just drag it into the folder relating to that job ad/position. Then, if you are rejecting a person, drag it into the subfolder titled “to reject”. Then, after a set period (perhaps a week or two after the deadline), do a mass response (using magic to ensure that each person gets an individual email, with only their email as the only to address), and done.
      b. Use the magic of technology. Reply to the applicant, and select a custom signature with your crafted rejection (to each position), and then send your email.
      3. You’re a really lazy person aren’t you. I bet I could do your job better than you. Quit now and give it to me.

      1. Sunshine

        I know it’s rude, but when you consider that around 200 of those 240 applications appear to have not even read the posting and are just letting the site do a mass distribution of their resume (the magic of technology), that’s equally rude. I’ve had applications from people who live out of state and don’t plan to move, who don’t want to work the shift that is posted, and countless others who have zero experience that is even similar to what we’re asking for. I generally do try to reply to everyone, but it’s frustrating to say the least. (Part of the job, I know. Just a rant from the other side.)

        1. danr

          Much of that is a result of the rules of extended unemployment. The Feds want quantity, not quality in job applications. Be a mensch and send an email rejection. As Allison said, you never know when one of those applicants will interact with your company again.

          1. De Minimis

            It would be the states that would be concerned with the quality and or quantity of the job applications, not the Feds. The Feds provide the money, but it’s up to the states to decide what to require and how.

            I would guess an automated e-mail would not be that hard to send out, but when I was looking it didn’t bug me too much to not get a response to an application or job inquiry. I probably would not bother responding to people if it was pretty obvious they weren’t serious candidates, or maybe wait to contact them until the hiring process had ended.

            I agree that if someone’s interviewed, it’s really bad to not contact them afterward, but for me I usually got a response maybe 50% of the time after interviewing.

            1. danr

              The unemployment folks referred to Federal rules for those of us on extended unemployment. They just enforced the rules. Maybe they were not telling the whole truth, but we were in no position to argue about it. There was a definite shift in attitude by the Unemployment folks when Federal money was involved.

              1. De Minimis

                All I can say is I was a “99-er” from 2009-2011 and things were handled the same for me throughout the entire time. Maybe my state was less picky, or maybe I just never had real trouble coming up with job search contacts, even if it involved applying to a job through USAJobs or just sending an e-mail of inquiry to a company website. Then again, I was in California and they were so overwhelmed at the time that I don’t know if anyone ever really looked at anything so long as the forms were filled out.

                1. danr

                  I guess my group was a victim of the improving economy. [grin]. It was definitely two different attitudes in NYC.

        2. Monodon monoceros

          For those reasons, I totally understand if employers just have the form response of acknowledging receiving the application, then a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” statement. I think where it’s really inexcusable is if you’ve interviewed the person. Then you really owe them a response, which should be increasingly personalised as they’ve gone from phone to in person interviews.

          1. danr

            A form response is more than I got from many employers during my job search… and that was not during the extended search.

            1. the gold digger

              I had two phone interviews and one all-day in-person interview – which the company flew me in for – and I never heard back from them.

              However – in their defense, this is the interview where I asked the recruiter for the ladies’ room because I “really need to pee.”

              Ouch.

              Don’t say that to a recruiter.

              1. De Minimis

                I had an interview once where the first thing the interviewer said after meeting me was, “I have to go to the bathroom.” And then I had to wait for about 5-10 minutes.

        3. Michael.

          Sure, but if you don’t get into the habit of being nice to everyone, you won’t be nice to the 20 people who did follow the instructions but who you can’t hire. Then they’ll have a lowered opinion of you and your organisation. (E.g. the recruiter who has received my résumé twice, but didn’t bother to respond either time, even though I, as far as I could tell, met the requirements for the position, and so has managed to blacklist her entire organisation to me, and anyone who’ll listen.)

          And, if you’re getting a lot of applicants, maybe consider looking at a recruitment system? Then make applicants apply via it, and in the first screen, make them tick the boxes “I am either living in [place x] or willing to relocate”, “I am able to work the shifts listed”, and “I am reading these and so know not to tick the next box”, “I don’t really want the job and am wasting your time”. Then just have the system automatically reject any that tick the last box, or don’t tick the first three…

        4. GrumpyBoss

          Ugh, I know, right?!?

          I could write a book about the innapropriate responses I get to a very clear ad. My personal favorite was the time I got a resume from an actor. All of his “experience” were casting calls. The job I posted required someone with 5+ years experience with auditing HIPPA. Yet this guy still went through the trouble to apply.

          I sent the magic rejection via the applicant tracking system, but people who so blatantly waste the time of employers are just as bad as the employers who don’t send rejection letters.

          1. Annie

            Do you mean that he put auditions he attended as “work experience”?! That would be like putting job interviews you attended as experience. . .

            1. GrumpyBoss

              That is exactly what happened. Not only did he not have the skills for the job he applied to, the resume seems to suggest he didn’t have the skills to be an actor either, since there were no credits. Just casting calls.

          2. Sunshine

            I could talk for days about the strange things I’ve seen in resumes and applications. Mind boggling. But I think your actor is a winner.

            Again, I do my best to reply to everyone… but it does seem like a waste of time when I can tell that the majority of the applicants don’t even know they applied. The website is doing the work for them. Or the new “mobile resume”… have you seen this? Basically provides name, phone number, and last job title with a note to “contact the candidate for more info if you’re interested”. So now I have to chase you down to get you to properly apply for the job? Just… ugh.

        5. fposte

          That’s no fun for the hiring manager, but I don’t agree that it’s rude, and I would say that even if it were, there’s no reason to leap to rudeness just because somebody else does.

          Yes, I notify all candidates.

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        It’s not even 20 seconds. It’s 3, assuming you have a form letter. Copy, paste, click send. If you’re using an electronic applicant tracking system, it’s even faster.
        300 applicants at a max of 3 seconds each = 15 minutes

        1. hayling

          Gmail makes it even easier. You can use Canned Responses (part of Labs) and then just insert the canned response.

    2. Artemesia

      Why would you ever use the phrase ‘you were not successful’ in turning down an applicant. This is pretty close to ‘you are a loser.’ There are lots of ways of phrasing this that imply lots of good applicants and so you didn’t proceed in the process without insulting the applicant.

  8. Illini02

    #2 I completely agree with Alison’s advice here. Don’t bring it to anyone unless you hear it, then just tell him how it makes you uncomfortable. At least that way he won’t use it around you. Language is tough, because some people are pretty ok with whatever, and some people hate words that they use on network tv. Plus a one time moment of anger is very different than dropping it in casual conversation. I’ve definitely gotten off of calls and said “she was a b*tch”, or “what a d*ck”. Never gone as far as the c word in the office though. But I know women who are fine with that, while others would get angry at me for the b word. If I said something and it offended a co-worker, I’d apologize and try to not use it again.

  9. TotesMaGoats

    #2-It’s a sign of how much coffee I need this morning that it took a full two minutes to figure out what “see you next tuesday” meant. Even with the header giving the clue. Not a good sign.

    I was in a meeting last week with colleagues from multiple institutions, a local government agency and businesses and the f-bomb got dropped. The meeting was tense because one partner was not being cooperative and everyone was frustrated. After the 5th circular conversation, it flew out of her mouth. She was apologetic but as we were all thinking the same thing, I don’t think most people thought much of it.

    Follow Allison’s advice.

  10. The Other Dawn

    At a bare minimum, send a rejection to those who were interviewed. After my first real interview (after a 17-year stint at one place), I heard nothing. Not a word. Spent oodles of time on prep since I hadn’t interviewed in 17 years, bought a new outfit, and drive 45 minutes each way. Then…not a peep. So rude. It left a bad taste in my mouth and needless to say, I will never patronize that place as a customer, nor am I likely to apply for a job there again.

    1. De Minimis

      I had a part-time job a while back where I probably could have influenced the decision to use the services of a company that had previously interviewed me and never contacted me afterward. I chose not to say anything. I guess I figured that just because they didn’t treat me well as a candidate didn’t mean their services weren’t right for the organization, but I was sorely tempted.

  11. littlemoose

    I’ll freely admit that I use profanity pretty regularly (not at work), but I find the c-word incredibly offensive. There is something about that word that is so visceral and so degrading, in a way that (IMO) other swear words are not, that I would have a hard time tolerating it in the workplace. Alison’s advice is excellent as always, but I wanted to express support for the OP in her discomfort with this situation.

    1. Kelly L.

      I wonder if the co-worker is British? I’ve heard that the c-word is more acceptable there–as in, it’s still a swear, but not the kind of nuclear swear it is on this side of the pond.

      1. The Wall of Creativity

        Hello from over the pond. I can confirm that the c-word is seen as far, far worse than the f-word over here. A couple of years ago it was probably the only word that would upset enough people for it to be worth writing to AAM about.

        Today, though, there are two unacceptable words over here. The c-word has been joined by the n-word.

      2. UK Anon

        I think this might be one of your YMMV things. Over here, I think it flies under the radar in certain situations, but in others it’s definitely nuclear. Personally, I quite liked the Caitlin Moran approach to it:

        “In a culture where nearly everything female is still seen as squeam-inducing, and/or weak – menstruation, menopause, just the sheer simple act of calling someone ‘a girl’ – I love that ‘cunt’ stands, on its own, as the supreme unvanquishable word.”
        https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/497248-i-personally-have-a-cunt-sometimes-it-s-flaps-or-twat

        1. fposte

          I think it’s like a lot of swearing, in that it depends on the circles you run in.

          I actually get more annoyed by the faux-genteelism of using the circumlocution “See You Next Tuesday” when somebody’s genuinely using it as an insult* about somebody else–it’s the swearing equivalent of “just kidding!” after you say something vile. So now that person has used a nuclear insult but pretended they’re too lovely to use a nuclear insult. Ew.

          *But not in the OP’s use of it as a bleep for the original word

    2. LBK

      As 30 Rock put it, it’s such a horrible word because there’s nothing equivalent to it that you could call a man. I also love profanity and use it often (my workplace is more lax about it) and I find the c-word way more inappropriate and offensive than any other swear.

        1. LBK

          The favorite insult in my office is calling someone a “juice box” as a euphemism for “douchebag”. I don’t know exactly how it started but I like it.

            1. LBK

              Is it, though? I guess I generally only hear it applied to men, but if we’re talking about the actual source of the term, that’s definitely more female…FWIW I’ve used it for both.

    3. HeyNonnyNonny

      Yeah, I agree, this is the one swear word that really gets me upset!

      One thing I’m surprised hasn’t come up is that, because it’s a gendered swear word, using it at work is almost begging for some sort of sexual harassment/discrimination complaint.

        1. Anonymous45

          Right, but if any women in the office feel that they get passed over for a promotion or treated inappropriately, i’d think it would strengthen the case that the workplace is hostile towards that group. If racial slurs aren’t allowed, why are gendered slurs OK?

          1. fposte

            I’m not necessarily saying it’s okay; I’m just saying it’s not enough on its own to create a harassment case. There’s a big area of “not okay but not going to win anybody a lawsuit” in between.

            (And if the men are also cursed with gendered insults, that’s going to take the impact out of it right there.)

            1. HeyNonnyNonny

              Oh, yeah, I don’t think it’s time to lawyer up based on one rumor of a word.

              But it might be a good idea for this guy to be made aware that the gray area between curse/slur can be, well…gray.

    4. Natalie

      I’m actually not terribly upset by it (I actually use it occasionally) but I still find it wildly inappropriate at work. And for that matter, I think it’s widely understood that this is a next-level swear so this dude should know it’s not appropriate at work, even if swearing generally is.

    5. Betsy Bobbins

      Hmm, I feel very differently about it. The more a word applied to a specific group becomes so taboo to say the more impact it has in wounding that group. So instead of being offended by the ‘C’ word I use it, usually jokingly, and never at work. I’d like it to become ubiquitous like the word ‘bitch’ where it is no longer just an offensive term towards woman but now it is equally offensive to everyone and less polarizing. Words change there meaning over time and the original intent is often left behind, I’d like to think I’m helping that along.

      1. Student

        I don’t know where you live, but I have never, ever heard the b-word applied to a man.

        If it was, I would assume that part of the insult was also in implying he is feminine, like calling a man “girly” is still widely used as an insult.

        1. Betsy Bobbins

          You are somewhat making my point. How often do you associate a female dog with the term bitch? That is the true meaning of the word, yet somewhere along the way it became assoicated with women and being, as you put it, ‘girly’. That meaning can change yet again to apply to both men and women, or change to some other random meaning down the line. It already has mutated on the west coast where I live and also in the media as Cath references.

          So go ahead, help make these polarizing words ubiquitous, go out and find a man and call him a bitch…just not in the office ;)

    6. Cath in Canada

      I once saw an awful, angry, bitter stand-up comedian who was arguing that the c-word isn’t as bad as everyone thinks it is – that we’ve all been brainwashed into thinking it’s this awful word, when its etymology is actually pretty benign. He then proceeded to use the word over and over again. If it wasn’t my good friend’s bachelorette party* I’d have walked out. The thing is, even if he was right about the etymology, it doesn’t matter – if people believe that it’s the worst possible word you can ever possibly say, then that’s the word they’ll use when they really want to insult / offend / degrade someone, and that’s what the word comes to mean, regardless of its origins.

      *Don’t ever have a bachelorette party at a comedy club. Even if the comedians aren’t wildly offensive, no-one can talk to each other. The best parties let the bride’s different groups of friends meet each other, so when you go to the wedding you know way more people than you would have done otherwise.

  12. OP4

    OP #4 here. Thanks Alison for your solid advice. I know my boss is an understanding woman and I know from personal conversation with her that she would likely understand why I need to leave this job. Certainly, the people I work with are kind people and the atmosphere isn’t a bad one, it just isn’t one for me. I want to feel inspired and excited by the work I do. And I am mostly miserable here. Although the idea of having a full time position is an appealing one, I don’t want to settle so much for work that isn’t meant for me. The conversation I have to have with her is hard for me. It turns out that had I not expressed continued interest in working here this summer, my boss wanted to hire another intern with more experience and background in this particular field, but turned her down in favor of me. Sigh. Alison, do you (or your readers) have any advice on how to have this conversation? My main concern here is that I don’t want to disappoint her.

    1. brightstar

      Is it just boredom that is making you miserable? When I was in my first position after graduating college, it was disconcerting to feel I’d become part of that mass that just went to work and came home. And, from my experience, finding a job that you’re “inspired and excited by” is pretty rare. Six years after college, I accepted a position where part of the duties were the field I work in now. And I found out I loved it and am passionate about it. I had never heard of it before. And I now count myself fortunate that I’ve found something that is more than just a way to pay the bills.

      1. myswtghst

        I had a pretty similar experience. I got my degree in a very specific field (zoology), which I loved, but which didn’t really give me the opportunities I wanted when job-hunting fresh out of college. In the end, I took a call center job, where I stayed for a few years while learning as much as I could about everything I could (helping other teams & departments) to keep from getting bored. I eventually got into training, which it turns out is something I really dig, and have now been doing that pretty happily for about 6 years.

        While the OP absolutely knows their own situation and goals better than I do, I do think you’re right brightstar – it’s not easy to find a job you’re “inspired and excited by”. If you’re fortunate enough to be okay not working for a bit, that’s great, and I’m totally on board with people following their dreams, but I also think we’ve been sold a faulty concept of a “dream job” – sometimes a job is the thing that you do that pays the bills, and if you’re treated well and don’t hate it, that can be enough.

    2. fposte

      I think you have to accept that it will disappoint her, and that that’s a fair response. That’s not the end of the world, but I’d encourage you to acknowledge that she has to do extra work now as a result of your change of plans, and apologize for it–not over and over, but at least once, clearly, and sincerely. I think it’s preferable if you stay until you have something lined up, but given that it’s August, that might not happen–presumably the close date of the internship is fast approaching. You therefore need to decide for sure if you’re okay being out of work, maybe for quite a while, rather than staying in this job, because what you don’t want to do is say you’re going to leave at the end of the internship and ask if you can stay on after all.

  13. M. in Austin!

    I’m curious about #3. What if you’re leaving your first job after college and don’t have any past managers to reference? Or what if you only have a manager or two from a previous internship? How can you dodge this question?

    1. OP3

      To be fair, it was a fairly skilled position that required not only a degree, but a certain amount of work experience. Their response to my trying to dodge the question were that I’d be out of the running for the position.

      1. M. in Austin!

        Wow, that is just ridiculous then. If you have a few years experience at more than one company, I really don’t see the need to contact your current manager.

        If you’ve basically only worked for one company for two years… I’m not sure what the job seeker could do.

  14. soitgoes

    “But more and more, I realized that the corporate world is not for me! Neither of my degrees are even remotely related to the work this company does, and I recently realized that I am wasting my time and talents here since I am doing something totally unrelated to my interests, passions, and background. ”

    Please read this in the gentlest tone possible but…depending on your degrees, you won’t find a job in your field anyway. and you might end up wishing that you had stayed and grown with this company. Don’t assume that it’s easy to go out and immediately land a perfect job in your dream field. Take the position at your current company when it’s offered, and then take the time to explore your other options. Most of us would love to have a job created for us, even if it wasn’t absolutely perfect.

    1. Leah

      Agreed. Unless you’re in STEM, the likelihood that your job is going to be closely and directly related to your degree is pretty slim. With a STEM degree, using your degree may take form in ways you didn’t expect. I did an undergrad degree involving international law and went to law school. When I worked as a lawyer, most of what I used was stuff I learned on the job and stuff from the bar exam. I took mostly practical classes in law school because I wanted skills and not philosophies.

      OP#4, you need to get out and do as many informational interviews as you can in the area that you think you want to get into. Do internships for credit. Do one even if your school won’t give you credit*. Basically, get the biggest reality check you can. I chose my undergrad degree and university on the basis that I wanted to work in the diplomatic corps or something related. Luckily, I got a reality check and realized that this was not for me before skittering off to law school. Sadly, I was blinded by the VERY UNTRUE saying of “you can do anything with a law degree” and did not reality check this idea. I have now paid off my loans by working a job that made me ill and am starting from scratch in a new field. I’m pulling through, but it is sucky.

      *It’s worth noting that the US and many state departments of labor consider this a major violation of wage and hour laws, so it should really be a very last resort. Something I had to resort to because the country I went to undergrad in didn’t have the concept of internships for credit. You did them in the summer after your second year and after you graduated. Full-time and paid.

      1. soitgoes

        Yeah, I really don’t want to stomp all over someone who wants to “explore her passions,” but I really can’t say I know anyone at all who’s utterly passionate about their job, even if they generally like the work they do. The OP needs to talk to working adults who have the same degrees as her and find out where they’re working now.

        1. OP4

          Hi soitgoes and Leah,

          Thanks for this advice. It really helps me to put it in perspective. My degrees are in a field where many people end up as professors, pub. school teachers, or end up having a separate major and use my field as a concentration. So my field is really broad, really non-profit/community work focused, and that is what I want to do anyway. I do think it’s a good idea to talk to others within this field– thank you for that. I don’t want to give too many identifying details here, but really the job I have is so opposite of the field I want to be in… like so opposite! It’s very computer/security focused and really I enjoy people and ideas relating to people. I feel stuck. And wiped out.

          1. soitgoes

            I think you just really need to find out if the job you ideally want is accessible to you or even exists in light of technology and the evolving nature of community work.

            I majored in fields that tend to push people toward being professors. I’ve found that I much prefer the stability and low-key nature of office work.

            I know that you think you know what you’re doing, but (and I’ll be a boring adult here) it’s downright foolish to quit a good job because you think you deserve more ~fulfillment than what’s being offered. That is not something that people of our generation can expect from our jobs. You’re lucky to have a paycheck, honestly.

          2. Onymouse

            There might also be opportunities that aren’t quite the “opposite” of what your experience is in – for example, business analysts often bridge the gap between customers (people and what they want) and computers.

          3. Hillary

            I’m very late to the party, but my two cents…

            I went to a very academic undergrad school, and ten years later most of us have at least one graduate degree. Mine is an MBA, my immediate friends’ degrees include one MPP, one master of computer science, one EBD, two Juris Doctors, and three PhDs. Becoming a professor is incredibly difficult, disheartening and to some extent unrewarding. The 0.001% are applying for jobs that require moving across the country and pay less (as a 35 year old) than I made at twenty five before I got my MBA.

            My biggest piece of advice is to take time to truly assess what you like, want, and need (and understand the difference). Waiting three years to start grad school gave me time to find a career I didn’t know existed.

          4. MS

            Eh, I don’t know. I have kind of a different take. I completely agree that people shouldn’t only rely on what could be unrealistic passions for work, but I don’t see anything wrong with going for it.

            I’m a professional writer. I majored in English and had lot of people telling me all throughout school about how foolish I was and I’d be working at a Starbucks when I graduated, etc etc. Granted, I’m not doing exactly what I want, I’d prefer to be writing short stories but I work in journalism, but I mean, I followed my passion and I do work that I love and am excited about.

            You need to have a backup plan, and not everyone everywhere is going to be able to get a job they love. I know lots of people would love to have my position and not everyone can. That said, if it exists, somebody has to do it. It sounds like you just recently graduated and quite frankly, if you’re going to do something risky and reach for a passion-based career, I think now is the time to do it, before you have so much security and stability in a job that you’ve invested a lot of years in that you can’t rationalize leaving. Have a back up plan, and be realistic that it may not work out, but I definitely don’t agree when people say to never do what you love for work. It DOES work for some people, you just have to be realistic about the chance that it may not.

            That said, follow Allison’s advice and don’t burn this bridge with your employer by taking that job now and then immediately look for other work.

  15. AM

    i can’t believe how many people agree with Alison that the c-word is only a big deal if the OP is uncomfortable with it. how is ANY cursing okay in a professional setting?? i am a Gen X / Millenial and even i would never expect to curse in the office. let alone THAT curse word! sometimes some of the more common words slip out, but come on. how is it enough to just say to the curser “hey can you not use that word around me?” do you all work in environments where people curse freely with no care to their look of professionalism?

    1. CTO

      I think one key consideration is that OP hasn’t actually heard her coworker use this word, she’s just heard that he used it in front of other people. And while I agree that the c-word isn’t appropriate in any workplace, no matter who hears or doesn’t hear it, it’s not OP’s job to police her coworker’s language and be on the receiving end of any anger/tension/damaged relationships/etc. that might result from her stepping into that role (with a superior, no less). It’s not fair to ask OP to be the language police if she doesn’t want to be.

    2. Cat

      Office culture. People at my office curse up a storm. I’ve never heard the C word, though, and would say something if I did because I think it’s derogatory.

      1. AVP

        Same, except my boss said it once in a moment of extreme tension, and then apologized to us all later. For me that’s the one unacceptable word.

      2. Bea W

        The C-word is a cusser’s cuss word – where cussing is just normal speech, but the c-word is someplace you just don’t go.

        1. Busy

          I love this – so true. And I write from a company where the f-bomb barely causes a blip on the radar, it’s used so frequently. Usually it makes us laugh and breaks tension because our execs are very creative swear-ers. I think it would stand out here if someone WASN’T cursing up a storm. I’m in a semi-creative industry, though, with high stress. That may have something to do with it – this was definitely not the norm at any of my other jobs.

    3. Kai

      Some offices, even professional ones, are more lax with this. I’m also not a big curser and would be very upset with the c-word, but an “oh, damn” when someone makes a mistake or is mildly frustrated is pretty normal here and in lots of places.

    4. illini02

      Honestly, yep. I’ve been working 10+ years, and cursing has always been accepted. We are all adults, and sometimes we use adult language. Now we wouldn’t necessarily direct it to someone (like saying this f-ing week is killing me vs. f-off), but it was never a big deal. Now I’ll also admit, most of my work environments have been fairly young and pretty liberal. But, it was never a big deal. Plus, as CTO said, the OP has never heard it, so its not really her place to seek out the guy and say “I heard you said XYZ, thats inappropriate”, but I do think if he says things around her then she has a right to say that.

      1. Ezri

        I like this distinction, because that’s how my parents taught me to approach cursing when I was a teenager – cursing when you stub your toe is fine, but cursing at people is not. There’s a big difference between hearing someone say ‘oh hell’ and being told directly to ‘go to hell’.

      2. Jane D.

        I’ve worked in “young and liberal” environments and more traditional/conservative environments. Swearing was common in both, the only thing that has changed has been the amount of swearing. Also a millennial, and I worked in a Catholic agency that was pretty conservative with mostly baby boomer women who would occasionally swear and on the rare occasion drop the f-bomb. No one blinked an eye.

        I agree with the comments that as long as you’re not swearing at someone, it’s more acceptable. It also depends on the environment. I worked in kitchens where every other word was a swear word, and I wouldn’t talk like that at the Catholic agency I referenced above. However an occasional word was fine.

        Culture is very important to keep in mind, not just in the amount of swearing but the words used. In the south jesus, jesus christ, christ and goddamn (and other variations thereof) can sometimes be seen as just as bad if not worse than the f-bomb because they are “taking the Lord’s name in vain.” I’ve worked in environments where people would have taken huge offense to any of those words being use and I’ve worked in places where no one would care.

        I would never use the C-word because I don’t care for it or other gendered insults/slurs. If I really feel the need to call someone a name, I call women and men an “ass” because as far as I’m aware everyone has one.

    5. Mike B.

      “do you all work in environments where people curse freely with no care to their look of professionalism?”

      Yes.

      I work in a creative industry. Casual dress, relaxed hours, language that would make a sailor blush. It’s an embedded part of our culture.

      But the C-word is less of a profanity than a slur. It crosses a line in the way that garden-variety crudity does not.

    6. Bea W

      What people say in the office around people they are comfortable with is entirely different than what they’d say to a client or while facing the public. In my office cussing is not usual – except for a few people who let one slip in the privacy of their office. When any of my current co-workers say any cuss word, there is usually an immediate knee-jerk self correcting “Ooo! Sorry! I didn’t mean to swear!” reaction and a guilty look.

    7. Jen RO

      I work in a team where it’s OK to curse, as long as it’s not *at* people. It’s not that unusual, you know.

    8. Nina

      Even if it is part of the office culture, I think casual swearing is unprofessional at work. I’m not talking about accidents, like someone misses a deadline or stubs their toe.

      And I say this as someone who swears a lot in my personal time. But using that kind of language at work just feels so inappropriate, even if it is allowed.

    9. Ask a Manager Post author

      It’s 100% dependent on office culture. There are workplaces where swearing would be out of sync with the culture, but there are are plenty where it’s a normal thing. I don’t think I’ve ever worked somewhere where people didn’t use profanity (as others have said, not AT people, just in general).

    10. LeighTX

      When I interviewed at my previous job, my soon-to-be-boss noted that I’d worked for several churches in the past and said, “We have a lot of rough talk in this office; are you going to be okay with that?” He was not kidding, and I developed quite a potty mouth myself while working there! Now I work for a company where swearing is very much Not Okay, so I’ve had to really watch myself. Ironically, I have more to swear about here than I did at my last job . . .

    11. LBK

      I think you have to realize that cursing isn’t universally unprofessional, though, just like wearing jeans and a t-shirt isn’t universally unprofessional if that’s the dress code for your office/your industry. The only things I think apply to every office when it comes to professionalism are respect, effort, courtesy and patience. As long as the person you’re speaking with doesn’t find cursing disrespectful, it’s not unprofessional.

    12. Cath in Canada

      At my first job (in Glasgow, Scotland), everyone swore all the time (but never the c-word) – it was so normal you stopped noticing it. When I moved to Canada I suddenly realised that I was swearing way more than anyone else in my new group, and had to train myself to stop. I’m very well behaved these days; I did let out a (rather loud) f-bomb during a picnic lunch two weeks into my current job, but in my defense I’d just been stung by a wasp.

  16. KC

    OP #4 —
    Alison’s advice is great, if you’re dead set on leaving. That said, I might challenge your idealism here a little bit. It took me awhile to find a job after I graduated from college and when I finally did find one, it wasn’t related to my field of study either. Did I love my first job out of college? No. Did I love the company and its mission? Extra no. BUT! I was in an environment where I learned a lot. It helped me find my strengths and set me on the path to the career I’m in now. Finding something in your field of study right away may not be easy. And having experience in an office setting for a few years can only help you when you want to cherry-pick a more ideal job down the road. A couple of years in the grand scheme of your career isn’t that long, and if you think you can learn at this place, I’d consider staying.

    1. OP4

      KC- Thank you! I really appreciate this feedback. I recognize that I am fortunate to be able to have someone who is willing to create a position for me. I know that many people do not have that and would want that, regardless of the field. I do recognize that I am learning a lot about offices and business in general, but so much of what I do is almost mindless and while I appreciate the paycheck, the paycheck is about the only thing that motivates me out of bed in the morning.

      1. HR_Anon

        Honestly, that (mindless work, etc) is pretty much what you’re going to get out of any entry level job. You kind of have to suck it up for a few years before the work starts to get more interesting/rewarding.

        1. Mike B.

          +1 to HR_Anon

          Get some useful experience and draw a decent paycheck for a respectable length of time before you follow your bliss (or, more accurately, what you think is your bliss based on your limited experience). You will find it much, much easier to find the work you want if you have a history of steady employment, and easier to cope with a lower salary and/or a period of unemployment if you have managed to save something from a stint in corporate.

      2. Elizabeth West

        Well to be fair, this is what both internships and first jobs are for–to learn. If you have the opportunity to stay on, it might be worthwhile to do so while you’re gathering information about your desired field and what actually working in that field will entail. Most of us need a paycheck to get by–few of us have a trust fund. It’s common to work in a boring job for a while before other things open up, even if you’re in your chosen field. Agreeing to stay for a period of time doesn’t necessarily mean you’re committing to a lifelong career with that particular company. People leave jobs all the time for millions of reasons.

        If your boss is amenable, you could sit down with her as Alison suggested and let her know how you’re viewing your future. If nothing else, maybe she’ll have some ideas about projects you can get involved in there that will alleviate the drudgery somewhat.

      3. Natalie

        Do you need that paycheck, or do you have something else to live off of for at least a year while you look for another position? I think you may be underestimating just how tight the non-profit job market is right now.

      4. BRR

        I’m kind of piling on so I apologize but if you have nothing else lined up and would only be applying for jobs I would stay a year. Most entry level positions (asking for 0-3 years experience in a job description) have 100s of applicants and this current job would help you get a job in your desired field. Many applicants will have internships but having just 1 year experience in a full-time position will propel you ahead of a lot of the other applicants even if the experience isn’t in your field. It also looks really good that you went from intern to full-time, because it shows that a company wanted to hire you after they saw your work. Staying where you are for a year is a long-term strategic move.

  17. AVP

    Not to be snarky, but whenever someone talks about “their talents” I envision them in a Lebron-style Decision Room announcing, “I’m sorry, corporate world, I am taking my talents to….a nonprofit.”

  18. KC

    #2 – I studied English Literature and Criticism in college and since studying Canterbury Tales, I don’t see the c-word in the same light anymore. My professor did half of a class on the etymology of the word and its origins. And let’s just say, it’s been around a LONG time. Of course, in Middle English, the “c-word” was the “q-word.”

    From “The Miller’s Tale” –
    “As clerkes ben ful subtile and ful queynte;
    And prively he caughte hire by the queynte,
    And seyde, ‘Ywis, but if ich have my wille,
    For deerne love of thee, lemman, I spille.'”

    That long digression aside — I wouldn’t be cool with the the use of “queynte” in the work place, no matter the intent of the folks using it. In the US especially, it’s not a nice word. There are places where it’s not so culturally repulsive, and I generally don’t hold it against my English friend when he calls his mate a c-word.

    1. Jane D.

      Yes, both c-words have long history in the English language, as does the f-bomb, but that specific word has a modern connotation that is considered a slur for women.

      1. KC

        That’s totally understood. For me personally, it’s all about intent. But that applies to pretty much all swearing/taboo words in my book. If someone’s using a word like that to refer to me because they have a problem with women, I have an issue with the intent behind the usage (rather than the specific word itself).

  19. Just Visiting

    OP #4: Listen to your gut. Don’t let guilt keep you in a position just because they made it for you. Someone else who really wants that job will be happy to take it, so by giving it up you’ll be doing something good for another person as well as yourself. I’m in a similar position, being at a temp job that almost certainly would have hired me on, but after several sleepless nights and learning more about what the job entailed, I turned it down. My recruiter’s pissed. But I have no regrets. Your gut wants you to listen to it!

    There’s also this: jobs you take early in your career set the tone for what the rest of it looks like. Even if you only spend 1-2 years in Corporatelandia, when it comes to getting a job you really want (am I correct in assuming nonprofit?), a hiring manager will look at your time in EvilCorp and say “well, we can’t match their salaries” or “why would you want to work for us?” Working for EvilCorp (and no, I don’t think all corporations are evil, this is just shorthand) sets you on a certain career path in a much different way than working 1-2 years at a retail store does. I WANT to work retail, I apply there… but because my last job was at a law firm, I get that same kind of incredulousness. “Don’t you want to keep working in the law?” You’re early enough in your career that you CAN get a retail-type job to support you while you’re looking for something you really want and I think a lot of nonprofit hiring managers would look more highly at someone coming in from retail than someone who’s gotten used to the cushy salary of EvilCorp.

    Also, boring tasks are easier to swallow when you’re doing them for good. Personal experience talking here. My first job was pure data entry but because it was for a nonprofit research project, I went home every day feeling great. Maybe that’s not true for everyone, but it certainly was for me (I am hoping to hear back from a similar job in a week or so).

    (If you really need the paycheck, though, and don’t think you’d be able to pick up a retail or food service job, or you can’t survive on a retail or food service job, then do take it. But be forewarned and forearmed.)

    1. BRR

      For me it was the same in that boring tasks weren’t as bad depending on what organization you’re doing them for.

      I disagree about not being able to transition from corporate to nonprofit. I have worked at 2 nonprofits (including currently) and tons of people of transitioned in a variety of positions. Having been on multiple hiring committees I have seen more hiring managers react more positively to a young candidate who has worked in an office environment versus one who is working retail. I also don’t think the salary issue will keep the OP from obtaining a job in their preferred field. Not all corporations pay cushy salaries (especially to entry level employees) so it might not be a huge salary cut or a salary cut at all.

      1. Just Visiting

        I disagree about not being able to transition from corporate to nonprofit.

        I had one interview at a nonprofit where the interviewer pushed for a commitment and said “but aren’t you planning on going to law school?” Even though I had the right skills for the job, she was convinced I was going to fly the coop and go to law school, probably because this had happened to her previously. (I would rather jam forks in my eyes than go to law school.) I had another interview at a retail job (print shop) where the manager said “you have all the skills, but I’m afraid you’re going to move away or want an office job instead.” (I do not, and would not. I don’t apply at places where I wouldn’t work for at least a year.) Could just be my stupid luck, but if I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t have taken the job at the law firm, I feel it may hurt me for the rest of my life.

        1. BRR

          I’m sorry you’ve had such poor experiences. Could you maybe leave your law firm position off of your resume when applying to retail jobs? I’m going to assumed you addressed head on the concerns the hiring managers have had.

          1. Just Visiting

            Leaving it off means I have a 2.5 year gap. I did address their concerns, but it’s possible I didn’t do a good enough job of it or someone else just interviewed better than me. It’s just frustrating to read (here and elsewhere) things like “well, you can always work retail!” No, after a certain point, you can’t. I didn’t have problems getting retail or entry level “cool” jobs before the law firm job (which was also entry level), FWIW.

      2. abby

        I also disagree about being able to transition from corporate to nonprofit. Three years ago, I made a successful transition to nonprofit, after nearly 20 years of corporate experience. A number of my co-workers come from the corporate world. Many nonprofit hiring managers recognize there are reasons people want to make the switch, and may actually desire corporate experience. In addition to skills and relevant experience, our organization looks for commitment to our mission and cultural fit. Sometimes the offered salary isn’t enough, but we let the applicant decide.

  20. OP3

    OP #3 here. UPDATE***

    I received an email back from the employer who didn’t hire me, after telling me I was their top choice and speaking to my current manager. They informed me that I was actually the “first alternate” for the position, meaning they lied to me when they said I was their “top choice”. Apparently, they put the top choice and the first alternate through the same reference process. Lesson learned. I wasn’t incredibly angry until my S.O. asked if I would’ve let them talk to my current boss if I knew I was “first alternate”. My answer was a resounding “no”. I’ve also since learned from my insider that this hire process is not common in that company, but this specific department chooses to do this to their candidates, most likely because they lose their top picks in the long hire process and need a back up when this happens.

    1. OP4

      Sorry this happened to you. Are you still looking for other jobs or have you decided to stay where you are?

      1. OP3

        I’m content staying where I am for now. My boss showed me how much she relied on me, and what a big part of the office I was during this process. I was originally leaving because I work for a small, nonprofit where the funding is declining. The new employer was a huge entity, and could offer greater benefits while working there, but a lot of bureaucracy to go along with that.

        My boss has shown that she’s willing to be flexible with me, and I already knew if I left I was leaving that flexibility behind – for example, I arrive later in the morning, but stay later in the evening to make up for it. I can work from home when I’m feeling under the weather (but not too often). When I experienced a family tragedy, she let me have all the time I needed. I have a lot of independence in my position (former boss was a complete micro manager, current boss doesn’t have that mindset, thankfully!)

        Current boss knows I’m not actively pursuing any other jobs right now, but that doesn’t mean I won’t apply if a good one pops up. I have a little more experience under my belt for future interviews and requests from potential employers, so there’s that I suppose!

    2. Student

      You do realize that you can be one person’s “top choice” and a different person’s “first alternate”, right? It could also be that you were originally the “top choice”, but became the “first alternate” after the reference check, or some other new information came to light?

      I know it really is terrible to be rejected and to have to go through the crazy current-manager reference issue. However, this isn’t personal for the people on the other end. Don’t let it become personal for you, either – keep applying.

      1. OP3

        That could be true. But the reply email was worded in such a way that indicated that I had been the first alternate all along.

      2. OP3

        I do feel badly about thinking my current boss had sabotaged me. Emotions were running high when I got that form rejection email. I don’t blame their hire committee, but I do wish they’d consider their candidate’s current positions and the awkwardness that creates for them, especially once they’re not hired.

      1. Carrie in Scotland

        My goodness, it’s not as bad as all that, surely? My current job messed up the hiring process a bit (I was automatically rejected for an interview when I should have been offered a slot) but sometimes this sort of things happen. I certainly wouldn’t have “spread the word and not have applied to them again” – and I got the job, after I was interviewed!

  21. grasshopper

    #1 Yes, you do have to reply to everyone, if only to be courteous. Put yourself in the applicants’ shoes and you would want an answer. Think of it as dating. If you’ve gotten up the courage to ask a guy/girl out and then they never respond, that is much worse than a solid yes/no answer.

    Also, consider job applicants as potential customers/clients/donors or even employees in other positions. I’ve got a very good memory applications that I’ve made and received a polite rejection from where I would continue to support/shop/give/apply for positions. Having someone take the time to respond to applicants assures me that the organization treats its staff/donors/clients/customers/beneficiaries well.

    Organizations that never reply or are rude are the ones that have ruined their reputation.

  22. OP4

    Update***

    Help! Boss told me today (on the basis of confidence until it is confirmed through HR) that my internship has been extended (through October)— as of now a permanent position hasn’t been created for me, but an extension has been granted. Recognizing and appreciating the advice of you all who suggested that I do not leave this position until I secure another one (or at least really consider leaving before accepting another position), would it be a bridge-burner, if when I have the chance to speak with my boss (she just returned from vacation and is trying to catch up on work) that I tell her that I do not want to accept the extension, or that I would just like to leave?

    Side note: there may be potentional that I get a full-time position at a non-profit, but as a frequent reader of AAM, I’m not necessarily weighing that as heavily in my desire to leave as I am my own general unhappiness, bordem, and unfulfillment.

    1. Just Visiting

      Do you think you could stick it out until October? I think you need to be very clear with her that while you’ve appreciated your time at the company, you don’t envision yourself working there on a permanent basis, but would like to continue in a temporary/internship role for as long as the company may need you. Then stick to it. (If you do need to check out now, IDK, fake sick or something? But seriously, don’t check out now.)

      The fact that they haven’t created the position yet is a positive in this case. It means you can leave without worrying they’ve wasted a lot of time making a new position. Just know that there’s a chance you’ll be let go the moment you say you don’t want to be permanent (that’s what happened with me the last temp job), and budget for that.

    2. internmanager

      I don’t believe you’ve answer this question yet: is this a paid internship? If it’s a paid internship, then I think you should stick with it until October (or until you secure another job). October is only two more months, and that’s nothing in the job search timeline. However, if it’s unpaid a simple response is to say that you’re incredibly grateful for her effort in extending the opportunity but unfortunately cannot take on additional unpaid work at this time and would like to end on the originally agreed upon date.

      1. OP4

        internmanager, it is a paid internship. We never technically agreed upon an end date at the beginning of the summer, because it was always her intention to try to extend the internship and/or make it into a permanent position. Earlier in the summer, I thought I wanted that too, but as I stayed here longer and got into the routine of being here (AND the reality hit me that I would need to continue doing THIS work for who knows how long) I was honest with myself and understood that being here is not what I want, that the only motivation for having this internship is that I wanted a paycheck and feared being unemployed. I feel that leaving this position is better for me, and even though I do not know how long I’d be unemployed after I leave, at least it would give me more time to actually send out applications (currently, due to my schedule, I can only send out one application a week, if that!)

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