It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. How do I tell my office that I don’t celebrate my birthday for religious reasons?
I do not celebrate my birthday for religious reasons. I have several friends, family, coworkers, and other acquaintances of varied faiths who do celebrate their birthdays, and I have no problem with that – I just don’t celebrate my own. Unfortunately, my office is big on birthday celebrations. I like my coworkers, and I don’t want to be That Jerk who won’t Cooperate and be a Team Player. On the other hand, I don’t want to betray my faith by celebrating.
Last year was my first year at my current job. I quickly realized our office celebrated everyone else’s birthdays, so I decided to hide my birthday. I started in January and my birthday is late in the fall, so I had to hide it for basically the whole year. When asked when my birthday was, I’d say, “Oh, it’s not for a while.” I don’t think anyone kept track, so they didn’t realize that I’d “never” had a birthday the whole year.
I almost got away with it. But then, I had to provide my birth date to my manager so she could sign me up for some training. This happened just a few days after my birthday. Due to the timing, she wished me a happy belated birthday, which I took in stride and thanked her. Then other coworkers who had nothing to do with this training started wishing me a happy belated birthday. I think the whole office now knows when my birthday is, including the party-planning coworker (who plans everyone’s celebrations), despite my efforts to hide it.
Now that my secret is out of the bag, what do I do to make sure my birthday isn’t celebrated in the office? It seems to me that I have to let everyone know at some point before my birthday that I don’t celebrate it. I’ll at least have to tell the party planner coworker. Is there a way to do it without mentioning religion? If it’s better to mention my faith, how I can I politely and professionally bring it up in a way that will actually be respected?
Just be straightforward: “I don’t celebrate my birthday for religious reasons. Could you make sure the office doesn’t plan anything for mine? Thank you.” I’d say this to both your manager and the party-planning coworker, so that they both know. And it’s definitely better to just explain it’s faith-based; if you don’t, you risk people deciding that you don’t really mean it or that they know better and pushing a celebration on you anyway.
2. I took a lower-level job than I’m qualified for and want to move up
A few months ago I was offered and accepted a position. When I was applying for this position, I clearly stated that I had 4 years of work experience, including a master’s degree in an adjacent field (admittedly not directly related). My work experience was in event planning and promotion (2 years) and communications (2 years). The position I was applying for was purely for communications (though a good portion is in event promotion, which I didn’t know at the time). The recruiter, however, saw Communications in my job title for only 2 years, so she said she was going to submit my application instead for a lower level position, a rung below the one I originally applied. I agreed only because I was in need of a job.
Fast forward to now, I am in more of a support role alongside recent graduates with only 2 years of work under their belts. I feel in some ways I’m still getting acquainted with the way things work at this employer and thus learning to a degree, but in other ways the nature of my work is much less responsibility than I was accustomed to having. I have had weekly check-ins with my new supervisor and have clearly stated I have enjoyed A, B, and C work (where I’ve had more autonomy, more difficult projects) and would like more of that. Things are not changing much, I’m guessing because I’m new (understandable).
In a month, I have a new-employee review, more of a check-in with HR to express how I’m feeling in the position. I would love to say in some way it’s my fault for not sticking up for my past experience, but I need to be promoted to more responsibilities in line with my level of experience and education. I still remember my days of unemployment and am worried they would just worry this job was not the right fit. I really enjoy the projects I get where I have more autonomy, yet I also am feeling unhappy and unfulfilled most of the time, because those opportunities are more rare.
Well, you can’t usually just request to be promoted or given higher-level projects and have it happen, especially after only a few months on the job. Even if you’re qualified for a higher-level role, you accepted a lower-level one. That’s the job they hired you for, they have lower-level work that needs to be done, and you’re the person who they’ve hired to do it. You can certainly express interest in moving into a higher level role over time, but if you accept a lower level job and only a few months later are agitating to be moved out of it for something more senior, you really risk coming across as unrealistic about the job you took on.
It’s possible that the recruiter was off-base in pushing you toward this role, but it’s also possible that the company wouldn’t have hired you for the more senior one. Either way, though, this current job is the one you accepted. I’d focus on being awesome at it for a year and proving yourself, and then ask about growth possibilities after a year.
3. The job I left six months ago is still contacting me with questions
I left my organization in July 2014 and am employed now at a new organization. I am still getting contacted by previous coworkers about information and projects I managed. When is an appropriate time to say, “that’s enough”? I just received another email this morning and deleted it. It’s extremely frustrating, especially since all this information had been handed off prior to me leaving the organization.
It would have been appropriate to cut them off a month after you left. It’s crazy that they’re still contacting you after six months. I’d tell them directly that you’re too busy with your new job to continue helping and that you’re sorry but you can’t continue to respond to questions. (And as a general rule for this kind of thing, it’s reasonable to be available for the occasional question for a few weeks after you leave — but regular questions six months later? No.)
4. Should I use my full name when I start working?
I will be graduating in May from university and I have a bit of a silly question. I have two first names, for example Maria Theresa, in addition to a middle name. In previous internships I have gone by this name, but it has created some confusion, with people calling me Maria (a name I’m not usually called and so I forget to respond when that name is called). In my personal life, I go by the initials, such as MT, or a shorter nickname such as Terri. It makes me feel difficult to have a long name and people have told me they don’t want to have to always say my full name. Should I continue going by my full name? I fear that going by a nickname will highlight my young age in an office setting.
Go by whatever name you want to go by. It sounds like you prefer initials or a nickname. Either of those is fine. You can put that name on your resume — a resume isn’t like an official legal document where you have to present your entire full and legal name. And working professionally doesn’t require that you start using a more formal name than you’ve used previously. Nicknames aren’t unprofessional or young; people of all ages use them.
If you prefer to go by MT or Terri, use that on your resume, and introduce yourself to people that way.
5. Describing family caregiving work on my resume
After almost 23 years, I was laid off from my office manager position (I was the only one in the office handling all areas of running the small corporation) in May 2014, per my request of my wonderful boss who worked with me on this situation. My teen daughter had been fighting recurrent cancer the previous year and a half and he’d kept me at full salary through all of my time off through her surgeries and chemotherapy handled at the local hospital, as I was still able to work about 10 hours per week. At the time of the layoff, she needed two stem cell transplants at an out-of-town hospital, so he let me go since I had no idea when I could get back into the office and I wanted him to be able to hire someone else. She has now recovered and returned to school, so it is time for me to get back into the workforce.
How should I handle this employment gap on my resume? I’m assuming:
May 2014- Present: Caregiver
But I don’t know if I should use action words as though it were a job — things such as conferring with doctors, ensuring schooling continued, researching and providing proper and bacteria-free nutrition, etc. Please let me know what your suggestion is in this type of situation and what action words would work best. During this time of non-employment,I did take some training classes in the Microsoft Office Suite of products as well as classes on interviewing, resume writing, and using social media in your job search since everything has changed since I last interviewed.
I actually wouldn’t put it on your resume. While I’m sure it truly was a significant amount of work, ultimately it’s not the kind of professional work that belongs on a resume. Instead, I’d just address it briefly in your cover letter without getting into details: “For the last X months, I’ve been dealing with a family health issue that has since been resolved, and now I’m eager to get back to work.” That’s it!
I’m glad your daughter is doing so much better!