It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Will self-harm scars keep me from moving into a management role?
I have some very noticeable self-harm scars on my left arm. They cover my whole forearm (all the way around – I’m pretty thorough) and it’s very obvious what they are to anyone who isn’t exceedingly naive. My “issues” are in the past and I have no problem talking about the scars/self-harm if anyone asks.
With that being said, I struggle a lot with work. I’m very conscious of the uniform of places I apply to and avoid anything that doesn’t have a long-sleeve option. This is particularly uncomfortable in summer as where I live is often 45C/113F. I frequently get “aren’t you hot??” comments, which I usually laugh off and make some reference to excessive air-conditioning or getting sunburned easily.
I have aspirations of being in management and I feel that if I show my scars, people will doubt my ability to be a manager. Self-harm is generally associated with emotional instability, so I fear they’ll think I’m unable to handle the stress of being a manager and that I’ll spiral into a breakdown. In reality, my reason for self-harming wasn’t stress related. I’ve actually always handled stress very well.
I was wondering how you would perceive an employee with extensive self-harm scars? Would you doubt their ability? Would they have to work harder than someone else to gain a promotion? I’m also concerned how coworkers would react. I’ve had mixed reactions from people in the past (mostly positive or neutral, but a couple negative) and I don’t want to make work uncomfortable for anyone (including myself). Could you imagine this being a significant problem?
If they were fresh scars, indicating that it was ongoing, I think that would be on people’s minds, and their concern for you would probably get in the way of being able to see you in a management role. But they’re older scars, so I really wouldn’t worry about it too much. We all have scars from past behavior; yours just happen to be visible.
Given that they’re old, the thing that will have the most impact on people’s impression of you is how you operate now. If you come across as emotionally stable and good at what you do, and as a reasonably cheerful and pleasant person, I think your scars will quickly fade into the background in people’s minds. (And in a way, they come with the advantage of signaling to people, “I’m human and I’m probably not going to give you crap when you’re going through short-term difficulties of your own.”)
2. The person I referred for a job keeps bugging me for updates
I just recently left my first job out of college for a similar job at a much larger company. I am now in a more senior role and I love my company.
A colleague of mine from my old job was recently laid off. We did not work closely together but had collaborated a few times over the years. Since my company had some openings that this colleague was qualified for, and they have a referral program, I submitted a referral for this colleague.
Fast forward about a month and a half, and I am getting weekly questions from this person about where things are at in hiring for these positions, or where their application stands. The company is very large and I don’t have access to any hiring information, so this isn’t really something I can answer. I want to help this person out, but I just don’t have that kind of time on a weekly basis to chase down questions I can’t answer. Is this something that should be expected of me as the referer? If not, how can I politely back out of this?
In addition, I found out from the person I referred (after the fact) that they have applied with the company over a dozen times. Something tells me they might have been blacklisted (no idea why – they have always been great to work with from my standpoint). Will it reflect poorly on me that I referred someone who has already been passed over so many times?
Nope, you’re not expected to provide those kinds of updates. I’d say this the next time she requests one: “I’m really completely out of the process from this point forward and won’t have any more information than you do. Sorry I can’t help!” If she continues sending requests for updates after that, I’d feel fine about ignoring them, or reminding her one more time. Continuing it at that point would also cause me to make a mental note never to refer her again.
And speaking of that … the fact that’s applied a bunch of times previously won’t on its own reflect poorly on you. If the reason she keeps getting rejected is because she has a terrible resume or was rude in an interview or something like that, that could possibly reflect on you. I’d just make sure that any referrals you make in the future are people whose work you can truly vouch for — or that you include a clear disclaimer saying something like “I don’t know Jane well and only worked with her a little, but her background looks like she might match what you’re looking for.”
3. Understanding “years of experience” requirements when applying for a job
I’m in the process of changing fields and finding that some of the jobs I’d like to apply for include “X years experience in Y setting” in the qualifications. I’m comfortable explaining how my previous experience in stock pot design will be useful in my hoped-for future career in the teapot field. But when the job posting states “1-3 years in teapot design” and I just don’t have that, I’m not sure what to do. Is there a better strategy than just applying anyway with the best materials I can and understand that if all else is equal, I’m going to lose out to the teapot expert?
Nope, that’s the right strategy! And when it’s “1-3 years,” it can indeed sometimes work. However, if it’s “5-10 years” and you don’t have any years, that’s probably prohibitive and I wouldn’t spend time applying.
Also, be aware that those sorts of things are rarely hard and fast rules (although in some cases they are). Often it’s more of a guideline intended to give you a sense of the profile of person who would be right for the job, rather than a rigid cut-off.
4. My name was spelled wrong on a thank-you plaque
As another Alison, I’m sure you can appreciate this. I walk into my office this morning to find an engraved plaque thanking me for five years of service. Unfortunately, it is thanking “Allison,” while I spell my name with one “L” Alison. I don’t know if I should tell my boss or let it go. It is the thought that counts and I’m afraid by saying something he might feel I’m nitpicking, but at the same time, I want him to know that’s not how I spell my name and also have to explain to others if I display the award (as many do) that is not the correct spelling of my name.
Say something. It’s not nitpicking to want your name spelled correctly on something that’s meant to be on display in your office.
I’m an Alison who barely cares how people spell my name (unless they’re a close friend or relative, in which case I expect them to get it right), but this is different than how someone addresses you in a casual email. If I spelled an employee’s name wrong on something like this, I’d be mortified.
I’d say this to your boss: “I really appreciate this so I hate to point this out, but did you realize they spelled my name wrong on this? I’d love to keep it in my office, so I wonder if there’s a way to get it changed?”
5. What should I read to prepare for managing?
I’m being promoted to a management position in my nonprofit organization. Thanks in large part to your blog, I feel excited and ready for this new challenge. As part of the transition, my HR department requires the reading of two books on management and the writing of a summary. Odd as the requirement is, I’d like to make the most of the opportunity to prepare myself to manage and support my new team. Do you have any recommendations?
It’s a little “junior high book report,” but I like that they’re at least making some sort of effort to call people’s attention to the fact that managing well is a different skill set than whatever they’ve been doing up until now.
I really love First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, by Marcus Buckingham. And at the risk of being insufferably self-promoting, I would encourage any new manager to read the book I co-authored, Managing to Change the World; it will walk you through the nitty-gritty of what managing well should look like day to day. (And you’re in a nonprofit and it happens to be geared toward nonprofit managers, so your HR department should be especially pleased — although 99% of it applies in any sector.)