boss said I could have time off as long as it wasn’t for an interview, coworker won’t stop asking me questions, and more

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

1. My boss said I could have time off as long as it wasn’t for an interview

The company I work for has had a lot of changes recently. We changed corporate companies, and the new company lacks vision and leadership. Furthermore, the general manager, assistant general manager, and even my boss have left the company. I work in HR and I am the only line-level associate in that position. Since my boss left, I have taken on a great deal more work and have worked 10 Saturdays since October.

We finally got a new supervisor into my old boss’s position, but my new boss is very technology challenged. Everything we do is through the computer, and I’m very, very worried. I now struggle to get my work done more than ever because I have to help my boss learn what Google Chrome is, and to explain that you cannot refresh an Excel document in order to update the report we downloaded.

I managed to get an interview at a great company that is willing to pay me $2.50 more an hour. It has great benefits and is even closer to home. However, when I asked my boss if I could have a few hours off one morning this coming week, he said it was okay as long as long as it wasn’t for an interview. I’m very conflicted. I straight-up lied to my boss and said it wasn’t, and now I feel very guilty. I’m worried they’ll figure it and won’t let me have the time off. What can I do in this situation?

Don’t feel guilty. Your boss put you in an unfair position when he said that to you. You risk jeopardizing your job if you say “yes, it’s for an interview.”

You’re not obligated to tell your employer what your time off request is for. It’s fine to simply say that you have an appointment or need to take care of some personal business (both of which are true). But in a case where your boss forces you lie by asking a question that he’s not entitled to know the answer to, that’s on him, not on you.

2. Coworker won’t stop interrupting me with questions

My coworker is becoming a right pain. When her manager resigned, I stepped in to support her as she was new. There are several more experienced colleagues on her team who can answer her questions, but she always comes to me. I have made things crystal clear before but she only seems to be able to get on with her work when she has heard the answer from them and from me. Some are repeat questions. The constant questions eat into my clinical time. I have a job to do too, and I am not her direct manager. I joked with her last week that she had reached her quota of questions for the week, and she got really upset. It is getting to the point where I have had to take a laptop and hide, as my office is hardly safe. I work from different locations to limit my contact with her. Her “quick questions” take at least two hours of my week. The other day, she asked I had time for questions and I said, “No, my schedule is back to back.” She followed up with an email: “Maybe Monday?”

I want her to back off. She has a new manager now as it is, and we are from two completely different reporting lines. Any advice?

Rather than dealing with it instance by instance, I’d address the big picture with her and say something like, “Jane, I was happy to help out when your manager resigned, but now that Lucinda has started, you should go to her with questions. I’m in a busy period and don’t have time to help anymore. Thanks for understanding!”

If she keeps coming to you after that, just cheerfully say, “Sorry, like I said, I can’t keep helping — you should talk to Lucinda.” And really, at that point, you should tell her boss what’s going on, and ask her boss to intervene. You shouldn’t have to be hiding to avoid this.

3. Boss won’t tell me the salary range for my job

I am certain that my current salary is below the minimum range for my position. I cannot verify this because my boss refuses to tell me the range for my position per the salary study recently conducted with a local firm. Can my boss withhold this information? What options do I have for obtaining the new salary range?

Yes, your boss can withhold that information; your company isn’t obligated to share their internal salary bands. Since your boss doesn’t want to share that with you, I’d drop that angle and instead put together a case for why you deserve a raise, based on the market range for your work and your contributions to your company.

4. Cold-emailing for jobs

I am in a bit of a bind in terms of applying for jobs. I know that I will be relocating to a completely new area this summer, because both my husband and I got accepted to transfer to a great university! Needless to say, grants and scholarships won’t come close to covering all of our expenses, and we would like to minimize our loan burden, so I am trying to find a part-time job in my current field. I have my associate’s degree as a paralegal and had been working as such for the last two years; we currently live in a decent sized town that had enough of a legal market to support paralegals. The college we are going to is in a more rural setting in the far-north of California, with a much smaller population. Their local government does not employ paralegals (I had been in government service since graduation). Most of the law firms in the area are small practices – a solo attorney, maybe a partnership of 2-3 lawyers.

I know it’s generally ill-advised to try and apply without any job postings, but… It really appears like most attorneys there have just never had any experience working with a paralegal. Most of my job as such is to free up attorney time, allowing them to take on more clients, or focus better on their client relationships, while I get the “grunt work” (research, writing, keeping opposing counsel in check, etc.) done. There are savings to be passed on to clients (paralegals bill at a rate less than half of their attorneys’ hourly rate), and they can increase their productivity by not having to do everything themselves. Still, I feel uneasy about sending attorneys cover letters essentially telling them how they should run their firm.

Do you think it’s a terrible idea? If not, what cautions should I take with the cover letter, so that I don’t come across as a know-it-all who wants to reinvent the firm?

I’d love to hear lawyers weigh in on this, but speaking as someone outside the field, it sounds like you might have actually identified one of the few times when doing this could make sense. In most cases, for most fields, it doesn’t make sense to invest a lot of time in doing this, but in your particular circumstances — sole proprietors or small partnerships, area where jobs in your field are scarce, services to offer that truly could be valuable — maybe? (But again, lawyers, tell me if I’m way off-base.)

Also, you wouldn’t be telling them how to run their firms; you’d be telling them about what you could offer, and suggesting that you meet to talk further if they’re interested.

5. How to explain a recent promotion on my resume

I’m getting ready to start looking for a new job and wonder how to explain a recent promotion. The promotion came about because I realized that for some time (years, perhaps!), I’ve been taking on more and more additional tasks outside the official scope of my job. Luckily, my boss agreed, but it took six months for the change to go through officially. So my new job is basically my old job plus all the other stuff I was taking on anyway on an ad hoc basis, except now it’s a formal part of my job description.

I’m not sure whether and how to explain this on my resume, because frankly, my “new” job, which just became official on January 1, is what I’ve been doing for a year or more. It’s just that now I have a very slightly better title and a better salary. I guess my question is where to list certain accomplishments–because some things would seem to pertain more to my official new job, but it would look strange to say “Streamlined the quality control process for X over the past year” under a position that I’ve technically had for only a month.

I’d list it this way:

New title, January 2016 – present
Old title, May 2014 – December 2015
* accomplishment
* accomplishment
* accomplishment

In other words, don’t separate out your accomplishments by old title versus new. Since it’s been basically the same job for a while, lump it all in together, and just note the two titles and corresponding dates at the top.

{ 161 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. neverjaunty

    OP #4 – I’m honestly scratching my head at your statement that you are sure those attorneys ‘have never had experience working with a paralegal’. Maybe there’s something left out of your letter, but you seem to be assuming that because local government does not employ paralegals, small law firms or solo practices have never heard of a paralegal, and have never considered how helpful it would be to hire one. It would be a very rare attorney indeed who doesn’t know what paralegals do, or lacks a paralegal in their office only because it’s never occurred to them to hire one (and you probably wouldn’t want to work for somebody that out of touch, because they would not have a good understanding of the scope of your job duties.) More likely they either have a paralegal, rely on a legal assistant, or are doing without because they can’t afford it.

    So yes, I think you are going to alienate people if you present a job pitch from the angle of ‘have you thought about how a paralegal can help your practice?’ and that absolutely will come across as telling them how they ought to run their firm. And in this economy, cold calls are a tough way to find work.

    HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean you can’t try to look for work. There are many, many paralegal organizations (do a search by the county or town you’re in) that can help you network. You can also check with the bar association in that county, which can steer you to job listings or local groups.

    Reply
    1. Doriana Gray

      I was going to say the same thing, but especially the part about them not being able to afford paralegals as opposed to them just not knowing what they are and how they could make their work lives better. I’m a former paralegal, and have worked with a lot of firms both in that capacity and in my current industry, and of all the firms I’ve dealt with that didn’t have paralegals (usually firms that did work on contingency), it was a cost issue, so sending them a letter like the one suggested would have come across as tone deaf. (And most of these firms had like one legal secretary acting as a paralegal.)

      Hell, I worked for a large firm in a niche industry and was still only paid a little over $15/hr while doing all the actual work (the attorneys at our firm literally only signed docs, sometimes without reading them, because they were told their main job was to court and acquire more and more clients). Despite the many thousands of cases we had, the firm’s fee structure was so wonky that we were always broke, so they couldn’t afford to pay us any more than that.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        I am not sure if you are in a fairly rural area but this sounds like my rural area. My friend is fond of telling me, just because you are an attorney does not mean you make big money. Matter of fact, she says that most attorneys do not make that much money for years and years. Many attorneys here do not even have any office staff, never mind a paralegal.
        Folks in my area are not that wealthy, so a lot of work is done on contingency, which sets off a chain of problems as you are pointing out here.

        Reply
        1. Doriana Gray

          I’m actually in a city, but the nicheness of what we did probably contributed to the financial problem (and the aforementioned wonky fee schedule in which they billed clients). We had a lot of clients that for regulatory reasons were allowed to place files on hold, sometimes for years, which meant we wouldn’t get paid. And if one of their clients filed for bankruptcy (which happened pretty regularly)? Forget it – we weren’t seeing money for a long while.

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        2. MsChandandlerBong

          That sounds about right. I worked for a fairly young solo attorney at one point, and it was just him, me, and the paralegal working on all of our cases. I only made $7/hour to go through 40-page client questionnaires and enter the info into our software (it was a bankruptcy practice), which seemed unfair, but then I saw some of the firm’s bills coming in. I know what he charged per hour, and even though it sounds like a LOT, it wasn’t that much compared to the cost of renting the office, paying the two staff members, maintaining bar association memberships, etc.

          Reply
      1. AnonyMiss

        I’m in government service right now! I checked with our sister office in that county, and they have never (and likely will never) use paralegals due to their case load being fairly small. I’m unfortunately not qualified for federal jobs, as I’m not a US Citizen… and only one of the cities that are within a reasonable commute for me have any paralegal positions. I do have a job interest card on file with them, but I don’t want to bank on one city possibly needing a paralegal as my sole option for employment.

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    2. JenVan

      I agree with neverjaunty. I’ve worked as a paralegal for the past 10+ years and will take my state’s Bar exam at the end of this month. Lawyers know they need support staff, no doubt. In my experience, the ones who don’t have anyone is simply due to the cost. Even if the local government says they don’t utilize “paralegals”, I’m willing to bet they do have administrative staff that function in that capacity.

      We receive unsolicited resumes from time to time at my current firm (which is actually only a father/son gig that has me and a legal secretary) and I just scan them into a directory and save them for a rainy day. I actually had to call on some in the past when our prior secretary didn’t work out. We didn’t even have to post a new ad – we just used what we already had. There was also a time we were incredibly swamped and used one gal for contract work. If you’re proficient in drafting and discovery, that might be something you could do on a contract basis.

      I don’t think assuming these attorneys don’t know what a paralegal is or how useful you could be for their firm will get you far. If I were in your position, I would send in my resume, market and make myself available for contact work and wait and see if I hear from someone. I also think you would have to be willing to accept less in terms of compensation than you’re used to. I wouldn’t be offended to hear a number below what you’re expecting to make in terms of salary when they weren’t even looking for someone in the first place.

      Reply
      1. AnonyMiss

        Thanks for the input! I did really get the impression from a lot of the people at the local LPA that a lot of the older attorneys just don’t trust any “real” work to paralegals, and use them as secretaries… but their impression may be also mistaken, or misread by me. It’s really hard to tell very well from 800 miles away!

        As far as compensation goes, I don’t think it can go much lower than where I’m at… my county officially is the lowest-paying in the state, both in government service and private (I regularly see paralegal ads here for minimum wage, and I don’t make much more either), so I’m not worried about having to go far down. I did have a phone interview with a start-up firm, although they felt a little sketchy over the phone, they actually threw around a number *higher* than I make now (and closer to the overall CA market rate).

        I am playing around with the idea of contract/freelance basis, but I’m also not sure on how to broach that topic… any advice on that would be appreciated. The other idea was to start an LDA business, but the start-up cost of that is prohibitive, unless I get a good amount of business rolling through the doors fairly fast (from what I understand, not a normal occurrence for new businesses).

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      2. LawBee

        good luck on the bar! My only piece of advice: If you don’t know the answer to an MBE question, choose B and move on.

        Reply
    3. Lily in NYC

      Employment agencies/recruiters tend to post paralegal positions. Even rural areas tend to have at least one employment agency in the area, especially in a university town. Also maybe she should look for legal assistant jobs – sometimes they even pay more than paralegal roles.

      Reply
      1. AnonyMiss

        Lily,

        Actually, in California paralegal and legal assistant are (supposedly) the same thing – although some people use legal assistant for a more clerical-heavy, secretary-type job, and usually pays far, far less (as in close to minimum wage). Granted, I’m not above that, either, but I do prefer to use my actual skills in writing and research, or appearing in administrative hearings if possible.

        I didn’t have much luck with recruiters, especially that my schedule will be far from open with taking classes, and also because I’m not going to be moving to the area until June at the earliest. I do keep an ear out with them as well, it just looks less than hopeful at that point.

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        1. Lily in NYC

          I had no idea! I looked into moving into paralegal work a few years ago and was surprised to see so many openings for legal assistants that paid well, but that was here in NY where I know things are a bit skewed compared to other locations. And I hear you; the project work sounds way more interesting than heavy clerical work. This sounds like a tough nut to crack. And is the main reason I still live in NY – it’s so difficult to make good money as an executive assistant outside of a major urban area. I’d love to move to the rural area where I was raised but there are just no high-level admin jobs because there are no big corporate businesses.

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      2. eplawyer

        I was going to suggest this. I was a paralegal for many years before I lost my mind and went to law school. When I was getting my Master’s (because clearly I believe in being so over educated I unemployable as anything now but a lawyer), I worked for employment agencies as a paralegal/legal secretary. Mostly filling in when regular staff were on vacation. It was great. I could manage my work schedule around class. And most of the attorneys knew I was in school so were willing to work with me.

        Also, be open to just more than paralegal positions. One job was filing paperwork for the HR of a major food chain. Not great money, and boring as hell, but it was work. Especially in a rural area you have to be open to any kind of clerical work.

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    4. TootsNYC

      I agree w/ the first comment about not pitching yourself in a way that says to them, “You don’t know your field.”

      But I would absolutely cold-contact every lawyer within a reasonable commuting distance and say, “I’m moving to the area over the summer and will be available for work. I wanted to introduce myself.”

      In a more rural place, the labor pool can be relatively stable–which can also sometimes become nearly stagnant. So fresh blood might be interesting to them. And, if something does come up for them in which your services would be useful, they’ll know that you even exist.

      And given the cost constraints people have described, and your own desire for part-time work, could you pitch yourself a someone who could be tapped for specific case, or for a smaller number of hours, which maybe they -might- be able to afford? I would imagine that a lot of trained paralegals would want full-time work, which the lawyers may not be able to afford. But someone w/ experience who only wants a couple of days a week, or 3 afternoons, or something, might hit a price point they could handle.

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    5. Artemesia

      I know of cases where small firms have hired both paralegals and attorneys who have cold called. I think it is not terribly unusual and if moving to a small town would look to get some sort of networking type introduction to local attorneys to discuss employment so it is not so much as cold as a lukewarm call. It is not going to seem weird to hear from someone who has just moved to the small town and has X skill and would like to discuss employment possibilities.

      Reply
    6. AnonyMiss

      OP#4 here. The information is actually based on some market research. I had been in touch with the local legal professionals’ association that amalgamates paralegals, secretaries, and attorneys – they were the ones who told me most small practices are run by older attorneys running their firm in retirement, and most of them know little to nothing about paralegals, because when they went to law school, paralegals were not a “thing” yet. They had secretaries to do the typing, and either did the brunt work themselves, or had a law clerk/junior attorney do it. I think the local LPA has a whopping total of 2 paralegals, and a legal document assistant, and the association is more or less dormant on the activism/awareness front (they do provide scholarships and continuing education). The county bar’s member list was about the same – I’d say about 95% of their membership was admitted to the state bar before 1975. Membership was also painfully small when compared to the last two county bars I had worked with, and they had no convenient contact information (=snail mail only).

      I wasn’t strictly thinking about the “have you thought about how a paralegal can help your practice?” angle as much as the “I think I can be an asset to you by being able to take X hours of billable time off your plate each month, and I’m very competent with cases involving A, B, and C, which seem to fit your firm profile.” I’m still very uneasy about sending out resumes completely unsolicited.

      I was also thinking about just hanging my own shingle as a legal document assistant, although the start-up costs involved (licensing/bond) are high enough that I’d want to first really research if I have a market for it. I also thought about just freelancing for attorneys on a contract basis, although I’m not sure how to broach that topic in a letter, email, or even online ad (website?). Any advice on either of these would also be appreciated!

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        Your last paragraph: If this is the case, then it might be a good strategic move to be near the county seat- with county courts, DA, public defenders offices. The town that houses the county buildings can have a heavier concentration of lawyers and potential job settings. My county in NY is making some changes and it will require more staffing. Everyone and everything is just shifting around and around.

        Reply
      2. TootsNYC

        Try this:

        Your words:
        “I think I can be an asset to you by being able to take X hours of billable time off your plate each month, and I’m very competent with cases involving A, B, and C, which seem to fit your firm profile.”

        And add: “I am also interested in handling such advanced administrative legal work on a freelance basis–either for one specific case, or perhaps for a few days a week on an as-needed schedule.”

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        1. Searching

          They tend to be also active in rural places and look for pt help where, even if they aren’t paralegal positions, its helpful like communications or client relations.

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    7. Green

      I think I would pitch yourself as being available on a contract hourly basis as needed and you may get more bites from lawyers who can’t afford to bring someone in part-time or full-time.

      But.
      In my experience (in large firms in California in litigation), paralegals don’t do any of the “research, writing, or keeping opposing counsel in check” and do much more of the procedural, scheduling and organizational work. There’s a significant range in what attorneys feel that it is ethical or appropriate for paralegals to do, and only the most senior paralegals (who became trusted partners over literally decades with the attorneys) had duties even approaching substantive legal work. My hunch is that cold-calling is much more likely to result in largely organizational and procedural work.

      Reply
      1. AnonyMiss

        Thanks for the input! I never actually worked in a large-firm environment – I had always been in government service, either at the DA or at the County Counsel. Research/writing and contact with other parties had been pretty much my exclusive jobs in both places – it was mostly opinions, motions, talking to opposing counsel in peace officer discipline cases, and currently, writing oppositions to motions, writing affidavits for governor’s warrants, and pretty much one-manning our asset forfeiture division, with an attorney just proofing and signing off on my petitions and substantive motions. Now, I have no delusions that I’ll start at the same level of responsibility, and I don’t snub organizational work, but I definitely want to do more than make copies and fetch the coffee.

        Now, since I’m moving past the Redwood Curtain, the largest firm I’ve seen was 6 attorneys… so I think different operational rules may apply than at Foley & Lardner, and therefore, I’m a little lost on how to try and get into a field that feels a lot more closed.

        Reply
        1. Green

          It may make sense to wait until you get out there, attend local bar events, and make some business cards as a “Contract Paralegal” and a website listing some of the services you offer. (This may also be beneficial to you because it sounds like you’ll be in school as well, which will allow you to help set your own schedule.) I can also see lots of attorneys wanting to pull in a paralegal for a few weeks before a large trial and then to assist at trial, but not wanting to regularly employee a paralegal. (One thing you’ll need to do if you’re a freelancer is keep records for potential conflicts, etc.)

          I think you’ll probably start off with looking at deadlines and local rules, helping to calendar items, helping to create forms, preparing exhibits, assisting at trial, assisting with discovery or initial drafting of contracts/agreements based on forms, but you should definitely include the substantive legal research and writing you’ve done as an option you offer.

          Reply
  2. Graciosa

    For OP#4, have you considered treating this as a business? I’m not sure that small firms will really be convinced that it will be worthwhile to take on a full time employee, but you can probably build up a good client base offering to work on projects as needed for many of them. As with any other business, the key to your success will be the quality of your work and resulting reputation. It is possible that over time, you may prove your value enough to receive an offer of full time employment (at which point, you will know if you want to give up your business to work only for one firm).

    The caveats to this are first, whether or not this is permitted (I know the ethical rules for lawyers and duty to supervise work, but have never been a paralegal) and second, whether or not you are willing to run your own business.

    If you go in tat direction, you *must* treat it like a business in every respect, from payroll taxes to insurance to marketing for clients. The letters you mentioned would fall into the marketing category, although I would also recommend additional marketing if you want to succeed. This could include attending meetings and training to make contacts, perhaps offering to speak (topics like “What you need to know to make effective use of a paralegal” come to mind), other advertising, etc.

    I do get these types of solicitations from time to time, and I tend to keep a file of any that might be useful (expert witnesses solicit lawyers the same way).

    I don’t save job applications for non-existent jobs, so honestly, that kind of letter would probably go to the circular file. I’m not trying to discourage you – maybe other people handle them differently – but that’s the truth of how I handle them.

    Good luck.

    Reply
    1. Rubyrose

      The thought of having your own business, of effectively freelancing, also crossed my mind. You could take on work as you wanted, to accomodate your school schedule.

      And is this the type of work where you could do work remotely? Perhaps work a deal with your current employer? They already know the quality of your work.

      Reply
      1. AnonyMiss

        I was actually considering the freelance option, as it would fit better with my schedule, and I’m certainly not looking for full-time employment at this time. I was mostly hoping to snag a part-time arrangement, which would work better for a cash-strapped firm in the first place, and work better with me going to school at the same time (which is the first priority… although paying bills is also up there). I could start working remotely, but I would have a hard time doing any deliverables that need me there in person (it’s an 8-hour drive, or a prohibitively expensive, 5+ hour flight with at least one connection) – same thing goes to initial meetings.

        Unfortunately, my current employer won’t be able to keep me freelancing – I work at the DA’s office, and we have no arrangements for offsite work due to data security concerns (most of the papers we work with are kept under lock and key at all times, like rap sheets and evidence). I have hinted at it to my current boss, but he told me there is just no mechanism for this within the rules of civil service – I’m either employed and on-site, or I’m not employed, period.

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    2. Ashley the Paralegal

      I’m in agreement that most attorneys know what a paralegal is and the value it adds to their business. That being said, attorneys do sometimes hire outside help on an as-needed basis to help with busy seasons or large projects. For example, I work for a single attorney as an employee, but we also contract estate administration work out to another paralegal who has a lot of experience in that area because of how time consuming those cases are. She works on the cases and then bills him for her work every 2 weeks. However, I think this approach only works if you have a good amount of experience in a particular area. All this to say that I don’t necessarily think sending out your resumes is a bad idea, but I would be very careful about how you word it so not to come across as telling them what they need.

      Reply
  3. BobtheBreaker

    OP #3

    If you are employed by a California based company you could, theoretically, leverage the new Equal Pay Law to compare your pay to persons who perform substantially similar work.

    Reply
    1. Graciosa

      I just read that law, as I was surprised that anyone could require strict equality of pay rates.

      It only applies where the work is equal in skill, effort, and responsibility (rarer in professional positions – I could easily argue that every member of my team performs different work) and includes a some fairly strong exceptions “where the payment is made pursuant to a seniority system, a merit system, a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or a differential based on any bona fide factor other than sex.” My conclusion is that I am still allowed to differentiate pay among employees based on performance.

      The act requires complaints to be filed resulting in an agency investigation – which makes sense in many ways, as this means that the third party neutral has access to the pay information rather than the complaining party. While it might be necessary, it does seem a little intrusive for one of my co-workers to be able to ask for and easily obtain my compensation information, so having an agency do it is a little better.

      The act seems to be directed at individual pay comparisons rather than ranges (which is what the OP was looking for) so I don’t think it necessarily gets the OP what she’s looking for even if this proceeds to litigation (at which point, there will have been a pretty big breakdown in the relationship with the employer). The company only needs to be able to explain to the agency (not necessarily the OP) the reason for any significant pay gaps between employees of different genders, and there are lots of plausible options under the statute.

      This is just what appears from a quick reading of the statute, so I’ll be interested to hear if anyone has any expertise or experience in this area (it’s neither my jurisdiction nor my area of practice) but it doesn’t appear to be an easy route for the OP to get the pay ranges she’s looking for.

      I may post elsewhere why that doesn’t trouble me, but it’s a bit of a separate topic.

      Reply
  4. Apollo Warbucks

    #1 Companies keep employees by providing a good environment treating well and showing them they are valued, not by prohibiting them interviewing elsewhere. You’ve nothing to feel guilty about for thinking of leaving.

    Reply
      1. 2 Cents

        “Boss is a big control freak who’s been under a rock for the past two decades and isn’t aware of basic computer functions tries to hang on to remaining employee who’s underpaid, overworked, and fed up with babysitting those higher on the pay scale”

        Reply
    1. Anonymous Educator

      Yes, I found this extremely odd. Even when I left my (toxic) last job, I was still able to let my boss know I was taking time out for an interview, and he was supportive.

      Reply
      1. 2 Cents

        I have never, ever once let a supervisor or manager know that I was going on an interview, regardless of what my relationship with them at work was. Even if I didn’t think they’d care, I didn’t want it spreading. Not telling anyone = no one knowing I was looking to leave.

        Reply
        1. TootsNYC

          I think it’s a courtesy to your boss, to keep them in the dark.

          If I found out my subordinates were applying to another job, it wouldn’t upset me. And I’d probably go ahead and give them projects anyway, figuring I could just reassign when the need arose.

          But I’d honestly rather not know.

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    2. Jimbo

      I could maybe see if this was a last minute request and OP’s boss said “only if it’s important like a medical/dental issue because it wasn’t scheduled”. Asking on Monday morning for time off on Wednesday would be pushing your luck at most jobs. But to make a blanket statement that it’s approved only if it’s not an interview is ridiculous. My PTO is strictly my business. I would lie without hesitation if I was ever questioned about my PTO use.

      Reply
  5. little mermaid

    #5

    I had a very similar issue – new, more senior job title but not much change in the job. When it came up in a recent interview, I said that it was a reflection of my increased experience and me taking on more tasks and responsibility over time (which is also why I asked for the more senior title). And they seemed quite happy with that answer.

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      Also, in many, many instances, the change in duties actually comes first, and the title change and money come later. It’s really the common pathway. Getting promoted isn’t really like getting a new job, where you start new duties like flipping a switch.

      And precisely because of that difference, getting promoted is a much more powerful credential.

      Reply
  6. Jim

    #1, that remark by your boss is a red flag right there. It tells me that he is insecure about employees ‘betraying’ him by thinking about working somewhere else. Not healthy at all.

    Best wishes for your interview and I hope it results in an offer.

    Reply
    1. Meg Murry

      Although I could see this as a joke that fell flat. “Hey boss, can I have the morning off tomorrow?” “Oh, sure, as long as it isn’t for an interview, heh heh!” … awkward silence ….

      In the future, the phrase “I need to take an half day on Thursday, I have an appointment” is not a lie but shows that you aren’t open to further discussion about it. And if he presses further, the phrase “not an emergency but something urgent I need to get taken care of” is also useful. Again, not a lie, and probably interpreted as a medical situation, even if it isn’t.

      And good luck getting out of this sinking ship. As one of my friends said, to re-phrase the old “rats jumping off of a sinking ship” – “all the rest of the rats jumped off the sinking ship, and here I am, the stupid, drowning rat”. We now use this as shorthand in ways like “should you be looking for a new job? Are you being a stupid rat?” or “Ugh, drowning rat over here, I should have jumped with the rest of them” or “Don’t be a stupid rat, apply to that opening”

      Reply
      1. Murphy

        Yeah, I had an appointment one day (kid’s immunization) and my boss said something similar (as long as it’s not for an interview). I have a good relationship with him so I just looked down at the clothes I was wearing that day (decidedly not interview clothes), looked at him, and walked off. So it is possible it was a joke (it’s a common joke in my office if someone is wearing a suit – we’re pretty casual on balance).

        But… if it wasn’t just a poorly timed and delivered joke to a new(!) employee, then… wow! That’s some gall this guy has. I’d been not an ounce of discomfort about lying to him after that.

        Reply
  7. SusanIvanova

    “A lie isn’t a lie if it is in reply to a question that the questioner has no right to ask.” – Archie Goodwin, in one of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels.

    Reply
    1. nofelix

      And the questioner should rightly know that the question is an over-reach, and there should be a significant negative consequences for an honest answer. Otherwise, it’s better to just politely refuse to answer where possible.

      Reply
    2. TootsNYC

      Oh, I’m so happy to see someone quote Archie.

      I told me husband, the only man he needs to worry about me leaving him for is Archie Goodwin. “Fortunately, he’s fictional,” my husband said.

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC

        And let me add that I am enjoying this whole string.

        I wish you well.

        (but I do have a Web3 on my shelf…sorry, Mr. Wolfe!)

        Reply
  8. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

    #4

    I don’t understand what is wrong with cold emailing (not calling) resumes and job solicitations, other than the high risk of time suck on the part of the applicant. It’s just like sales.

    As a teapot seller, the most efficient use of my time is to attempt to sell teapots to people who have already said “I’m looking to buy a teapot!”, but that’s not the only way to sell a teapot. I can also target people who profile likely to be interested in teapots or profile people who I determine really need a teapot, even if they haven’t said “I’m looking to buy a teapot!”

    There’s more waste in the latter but if there’s not enough of the former, then the latter is appropriate in the mix.

    What do I miss in converting this mentality to job hunting? (sincere question) We consider unsolicited resumes although there needs to be some serious punch* for one to get circulated.

    * by punch I do not mean accompanied by chocolates or delivered as a singing telegram. I mean good.

    Reply
    1. AnotherFed

      I can see where unsolicited resumes just get tossed at larger places with formal HR/application systems, but I’d think the smaller businesses like the OP described are the most likely to work out favorably. Not highly likely, but then, you aren’t getting any job the standard way if there aren’t any posted.

      Reply
      1. Meg Murry

        Yes, I agree, if OP can write up an email in the most un-spammy way possible that says “I have 2 years experience working as a paralegal and now I’m moving to your area on [date] and would be interested any part-time work you or one of your colleagues might have available. Please see my attached resume.”

        However, depending on how far OP is from this location right now and exactly when she is moving, it might make sense to wait until closer to the moving date. After all, if I got an email now that said “I’m coming to your area in August, maybe you’d like to hire me then.” I would probably mentally file it away, and unless something happened to trigger my memory, I probably wouldn’t think of OP again. Whereas “I’m moving to your town in a month” or “I just moved to your town and I am available to come in to discuss with you at any time” is much more likely to actually be paid attention to.

        Also, do you have your class schedule yet OP? Are you going to school full-time? If an employer contacted you and said “ok, I’m interested in talking to you, how many hours will you be available to work and what days and times” and your answer is “uh, I dunno, I have to wait until registration in a couple of months, but probably a couple of afternoons a week”, again, I would wind up back burnering you.

        Were you awarded work-study as part of your financial aid package OP? With your office experience, you would be a highly qualified candidate for a position like an student office assistant to one of the departmental admins, or a research assistant. It probably wouldn’t pay as well as a paralegal position, but it would be on campus and far more likely to be flexible to the demands of your classwork, like letting you take time off during exam week or to leave for 2 weeks during winter break. Heck, an associates degree plus 2 years of office experience might make you qualified for admin assistant positions on campus, which might give you tuition assistance – although that would be a dramatically different experience, working full-time or nearly full time and school part time, instead of being a full time student. You also might be able to tailor your resume to focus on your office experience in general to get a part time job as an admin, receptionist or office assistant in another small town business. Again, that may not pay as well as a paralegal position might, but it is probably the kind of position you are more likely to find available.

        No matter what kind of work you find, congrats on your transfer acceptance and I hope you enjoy this next phase of your life!

        Reply
        1. AnonyMiss

          I was considering on-campus work, but I don’t get work-study benefits, or at least, I haven’t gotten them before, because I was employed. The other half of my concerns with on-campus work is that I’m not a traditional college student at almost 30, and I’m a little too used to a more mature workplace environment. I know I can have a very short rope with some of the fresh-out-of-highschool-freshmen, and I don’t know if I could successfully work with them without screaming “get off my lawn!” every ten seconds :)

          I didn’t plan to apply until I had a class schedule – but I have a downtime right now to research and start writing resumes/cover letter drafts that I won’t have once I start the mid-to-late semester rigamarole with orientations, finding an apartment (if possible… I want to take my kitties, but I don’t think the dorms would appreciate them), wrapping up things with my job and my current apartment, having my husband graduate with his AS (yay!), packing, moving, etc. – so I want to have everything laid out as much as possible before I get into that mess, and if the idea of cold resumes is just outright bad, I may as well not even start on that.

          Reply
          1. AnonyMiss

            And to be honest, I wasn’t hoping I would get quite that quick a turnaround on my question, either! Thank you, Alison :)

            Reply
      2. neverjaunty

        In a small town or county, the legal community will be one where everybody pretty much knows everybody. Cold calling isn’t itself terrible, but it may be less effective than first reaching out to professional organizations.

        Reply
        1. Green

          And if you coldcall in a way that seems tone deaf, you’re more likely to make a negative impression in a small legal community.

          Reply
        2. Not So NewReader

          Good point. Although my county is large geographically, it’s small in population. They all know each other and they have known each other for YEARS. OP, if you decide to go through with resumes or your own business, something that might help is to remember to speak as if you are speaking to all of them at the same time. In these areas with less people what you say gets repeated over and over and over. (They have to do something to entertain themselves.)

          Reply
    2. Sarahnova

      For what it’s worth, in my specialist field I have had speculative job applications pay off. But they have to be tailored and you have to be good, and have skills that are in demand.

      Reply
    3. Temperance

      Lawyers are extremely busy, and this approach (pitching them as if they have never heard of paralegal services, in other words, a “pain letter”) would very likely annoy and offend. I’m saying this as a lawyer, FWIW.

      When I get unsolicited requests for internships, they go into the round file. (My firm has a hiring structure, so anyone who tried to get around it by directly contacting me would also go there.)

      Reply
      1. Green

        My firm had a hiring structure, but I frequently forwarded interesting resumes to the hiring partner or recruiting coordinator. (I usually didn’t get them completely randomly — they were based on a shared alma mater.)

        Reply
    4. Mike C.

      As a not-a-sales-person, I would be pissed that you were wasting my time with stuff I don’t care about. If I want to buy something, I’ll come and find you – until then leave me alone.

      Reply
      1. Anna

        I think it depends. If the area is small enough and the population more industrial workers or similar, even if you need a paralegal you’re going to know it’s unlikely you’ll find one just hanging around waiting for a job connection.

        Reply
  9. Not So NewReader

    OP 1, you have to do what you have to do and the whole time you keep it to yourself. To help relieve my guilt I tried really hard to schedule interviews for after work. Some interviewers understand the request AND appreciate the integrity that the request demonstrates. Other interviewers have time constraints that do not flex.
    Your boss painted you into a corner. That’s on him. It could be that he just does not want to know you are interviewing and this is his way of expressing that. But take his words at face value and be as discreet as possible. Go to your interview anyway.

    Reply
  10. PolarBear

    #1 Wow, “how dare you look for another job!” I have to say I hate this attitude. Employers will let you go with no remorse or feelings but an employee is seen as disloyal for daring to look at other jobs? Jobs are jobs? They pay the bills. An employer does not own you. Also, a company isn’t a sentiment being. It has no emotions!

    Reply
    1. Sally Sparrow

      Yeah, that company is pretty bad.

      Though I do have a friend who works for a company that does seem to almost own her. New company (which has relations with her current company) offered her a job, and when she told current job — current job called up new company and they rescinded the offer. Current job specifically said “Quitting is not an option.”

      Reply
      1. NotASalesperson

        I’m flabbergasted. I have questions, but I think my brain can’t get past them saying, “Quitting is not an option” and CALLING UP HER POTENTIAL FUTURE EMPLOYER to get them to rescind the offer.

        Reply
      2. AdAgencyChick

        ?! That’s horrible!

        I hope your friend finds another job and then refuses to tell her employer where she’s going.

        Reply
      3. Ms. Didymus

        ……

        WHAT.

        So, so many things are wrong here. Quitting isn’t an option? HA! Watch me me quit. Or, if I can’t quit without another job, watch me do just enough to stay employed but also make it as hard as possible on my manager. If quitting isn’t an option, neither is quality work.

        Reply
      4. I'm Not Phyllis

        Um, I would have quit right then and there! Talk about a company with no integrity! (Ok, maybe I’d wait until I had something lined up first but I’d definitely keep looking!)

        Reply
        1. Stranger than fiction

          That’s what I was thinking. Also, what was that company thinking? We love retaining miserable people, makes us feel better? “Ha, there goes miserable Marge, she actually thought she was gonna leave, pfft.”

          Reply
        2. neverjaunty

          I was thinking the same thing. Of course it depends on many things including where the friend lives, but ‘tortious interference with economic advantage’ springs to mind, as do antitrust violations (think of the recent Silicon Valley settlement regarding no-poach agreements).

          And in a company that crappy, screwing up an employee’s new job can’t possibly be the only terrible thing they’re up to.

          @Sally Sparrow, please encourage your friend to talk to an employment lawyer!

          Reply
          1. Sally Sparrow

            What is frightening — Current Company is an HR media company.

            As I understand it one of the the a Former Employee’s life partner runs New Company, and Former Employee is the child of Current Company’s Exec President. And the EP got the job offer pulled.

            Reply
      5. hbc

        On the other hand, what kind of crazy company takes a call like that as reason to rescind an offer? “Yeah, she’s terrible, simply terrible. I couldn’t in good conscience let any company take on her awfulness. Why do we still employ her? Ummm, well, we’re like a family. The kind of family that won’t let you go.”

        Reply
        1. LabTech

          I’m thinking if her current employers are under the impression that they own their employees, they’re not above lying through their teeth to get an offer rescinded (e.g. claiming employee had different job responsibilities/title, was about to be fired, doesn’t work there, etc.)

          Reply
          1. Apollo Warbucks

            Or may the company rescinded the offer to keep a good relationship with the other company, still really crappy but not necessarily sinister.

            Reply
        2. Brett

          My guess is that current company threatened financial repercussions (via the existing arrangement between the two companies) or a lawsuit (e.g. tortious interference) rather than bad mouthing the employee.

          Reply
          1. RVA Cat

            Yes, INAL but it sounds like they threatened to cancel contracts, etc. or they are trying to enforce an unenforceable non-compete (because “no other company, anywhere” is about as unenforceable as it gets).

            Reply
            1. TootsNYC

              But as Natalie points out below–I would think that the current employer is the one committing “tortious interference.”

              Reply
            2. Kyrielle

              My $PreviousJob and its clients/vendors tended to poach people from each other periodically, and it could get really strained at times – to the point where we absolutely would not have hired another person from $ClientA even if we saw them literally walk on water, because $ClientA would make our lives miserable if we did. (…that particular client, mind you, we hired their top two IT people within less than a year. They were having a bit of a scramble after that, and they were not amused.)

              I can totally see the fire alarm that would have happened had they called up our CEO and said, “Excuse me? I just heard you made an offer for $SoAndSo? Did you know she works for us…in our IT department, no less?”

              I like to think that if the offer had already been made, they’d have gone through with it, but I don’t know that for sure. Of course, the reality is that resume would get round-filed because of the work history showing they were presently at this client…once you’ve decided to go ahead and do it, you’d think you’d stick with it. :P

              Reply
          2. Tris Prior

            Could be – but they said “quitting is not an option”. So, it’s not that they don’t want her to take THIS job. They don’t want her to move on to ANY job. I can’t even.

            Reply
        3. Not So NewReader

          The convo goes more like “If you hire any of my employees out from under me, I will report your illegal activities.”
          Not that I have seen that or anything.
          This is why I feel she is better off without either company.

          Reply
        1. A Bug!

          Maybe.

          The answer is highly dependent on the jurisdiction and the facts of the matter. To answer with anything other than “maybe” would require way too much speculation.

          Sally Sparrow’s friend should seriously consider a consult with a local employment lawyer.

          Reply
        2. Not So NewReader

          I am thinking of some type of interference… but I can’t get the Interstate Commerce Commission out of my head. I am wondering if the business has to regularly do business across state lines and/or there has to be a pattern of interference in order for the Fed to get interested.

          Reply
      6. Artemesia

        My primary focus would be quitting this place if that happened to me. And I would be glassdooring the firm that rescinded yesterday. Many people do not let an employer know who their next employer is; this is the reason.

        Reply
  11. Jane

    #1, wow. At least he didn’t give you a hard time trying to get the time off, but it’s definitely none of his business what you do with your time off. I continue to be impressed by the total lack of a filter or awareness or tone deafness of whatever it’s called when people say things like what your boss said.

    Reply
  12. Jane

    I say “impressed” because in some ways life sounds a lot easier for people who just do not care and will just say things like that and think it’s totally OK.

    Reply
    1. Anna

      You have to be willing to say it, completely indifferent to the reaction, and unconcerned with the consequences. Like MUST be easier for them!

      Reply
  13. afiendishthingy

    #2
    I feel for both you and your coworker here. My workplace is not great at training new people. A few months ago one of my coworkers – whom I adore! – got promoted to the same role as me. Our supervisor had also been recently promoted to her current position; she is brilliant but her skill set is better suited to being a subject matter expert than a manager. So coworker Ashley, who is a perfectionist with severe anxiety (which I can relate to!) diverted most of her questions to me. Luckily our relationship was already good enough that when I responded to her 10 pm texts with “If you give a mouse a cookie she will ask you 17 more questions about billing codes, I love you but ASK ME TOMORROW” she thought it was hilarious and backed off. But of course that may not work when it’s not a “work friend” hounding you for constant guidance.

    I wonder if it would be appropriate for you to reach out to her new manager? Maybe something along the lines of “Jane is pretty new here and needs a little extra support. I helped out with training her when she didn’t have a manager, so I can fill you in on what we’ve covered and what you might want to focus on in your one on ones.” The new manager is probably pretty overwhelmed too, learning the processes of your workplace, and Jane may be thinking “Lucinda won’t know, but OP always has good answers!” Also, when you talk to Jane, you could emphasize that you’re in two different reporting structures – “I wouldn’t want to tell you anything that’s going to conflict with what Lucinda wants – you should really address these things directly with her.”

    Reply
    1. JessaB

      I think at some point though the message needs not to be “ask someone else,” but “why are you still asking things we told you the answers to before, and why are you checking Shelly’s answers with me? Shelly knows. You do not need to check answers with two people.”

      At this point it’s no longer actually the questions she’s asking, it’s A: why isn’t she trusting the first answer, and B: why does she need the answer AGAIN. A: speaks to a lack of general trust and knowledge that the employee should probably already have, and B: speaks either to laziness (they won’t look it up or remember the answer,) or a larger problem of – they don’t remember how to look it up, or need coping skills about how to structure information so they can find it again (a notebook, a file on their computer, emailing themselves a note, whatever.)

      But both of those things are performance issues larger than them continuing to bother the OP with questions.

      Reply
    2. TootsNYC

      This is a nice pathway.

      But also–Jane is just not doing well. This job is too much for her, and she knows it.
      You say she asks several people the same question, both immediately (as in, ask 3 people before you believe any of them–this is not a matter of someone’s explanation being wonky, but of her knowing that she didn’t understand it) and later (as in, she doesn’t retain what she did the last time).
      I don’t know if that’s a case of her having decided she can’t learn things, or an anxiety making so much buzzing noise in her head that she can’t focus, or what.

      But she knows she can’t do this job.
      And she doesn’t want her new boss to know.

      So she continues to do what has always worked in the past–go to the nice person who reached out to help her (positive reinforcement), and ask for help.

      You have to provide negative reinforcement. “Sorry, Jane–take that to Lucinda.” >click<
      Or "I don't really know–ask Lucinda."
      Or "I don't really have time–ask Lucinda."

      I like the Statement of Intent ("Now you need to take all your questions to Lucinda–she's your manager") first.

      But be absolutely consistent in terms of never offering the least bit of help. Not even, "Did you take notes the last time? Why don't you look there" or "you could google it." Nothing. She needs to never get the tiniest feeling of "that was helpful."
      You don't have to be nasty, of course not. Use a friendly tone of voice (or an absent-minded one, if it seems that even friendliness is a positive feeling in the middle of her anxiety and "flailing").

      ALSO: It really is important to tell Lucinda that you are going to do this, and what's going on. Because Lucinda needs to know that Jane is flailing. And if all Jane's Qs go to you and colleagues, she may never realize that Jane isn't doing well.
      Lucinda can't help her succeed, and she can't manage her out (if that's what it comes to).

      So Lucinda needs to be aware. Both now, and later when Jane comes and asks her questions, and Lucinda sees it for herself.
      For now I'd stick to "Jane keeps asking me things she should be asking you, and she asks other colleagues as well, so I'm going to send her to you instead of answering anything at all."

      Reply
      1. afiendishthingy

        I like that script for talking to Lucinda, nice and unemotional and gets the point across.

        This is a quibble and it really doesn’t matter except that I’m a behavior analyst and have the same pet peeve as all behavior analysts – misuse of the term “negative reinforcement.” So, apologies for the derail but I can’t restrain myself.

        Positive reinforcement –
        Antecedent – Jane want someone to tell her how to do something
        Behavior – Jane asks OP
        Consequence – OP answers question
        Jane will ask OP more questions in the future because she GETS something (answer from OP). Op has positively reinforced Jane’s question-asking behavior.

        Negative reinforcement-
        Antecedent: Jane is anxious and uncertain about her work
        Behavior: Jane asks OP about it
        Consequence: Anxiety temporarily reduced
        Jane asks OP more questions in the future because the aversive stimulus (anxiety) is removed/reduced when she does. OP has negatively reinforced the question-asking behavior.

        So it’s probably both. Reinforcement, positive or negative, always increases a behavior. I totally agree with your strategy, I’m just a nerd about the terminology. ;) Telling Jane “No, talk to Jane, bye” could be conceptualized as either extinction (withholding reinforcement for a previously reinforced behavior) or possibly positive punishment (very slight verbal reprimand reduces future frequency of behavior).

        Reply
        1. TootsNYC

          you’re right–thanks for the derail.

          I’ll use the term “extinction”–though, linguistically:

          I can act to reinforce, so I’m reinforcing.
          I can act to extinguish, but I’m not extinguishing, am I? How would I word that?

          And it’s not a negative consequence, is it?

          Reply
          1. Afiendishthingy

            You put the behavior on extinction. And consequences are the addition or removal of aversive or non-aversive stimuli- and you’re right, we don’t usually say negative consequences.

            Reply
  14. Erin

    I usually try to refrain from commenting when my main thought is “I totally agree with Alison”, but, breaking my own rule here…

    #1 – I totally agree with Alison. That is on your employer, not on you. Allow that guilt to dissolve.

    #4 – I totally agree with Alison. This sounds like one of those rare exceptions where this would make sense.

    If you still feel like you’re being a little abrasive or up front, you could take it down a notch and say something like, I’m moving to the area, I don’t know many people in my industry here, I’d love to buy you a cup of coffee if you have time to chat, etc. That way it’s more like you’re reaching out to them for networking/hopes of connecting to a job, but you’re not quite necessarily asking *them* for a job.

    Also, since you’ll be in school and you’re looking for a part time job I would play that up. For practices who have never hired a paralegal before it might make them more inclined to do so if it’s only a part time position.

    Reply
    1. AnonyMiss

      Thank you! I definitely want to emphasize that I’m looking for a part-time gig, and also that I’m open for freelance-type agreements as well. From what I had seen from firm profiles up there, most attorneys seem to be doing the old-fashioned way of lawyering: solo office, dabble in multiple areas, and just be “the family’s lawyer,” whether it’s a contract, a will, a divorce, or incorporating a business. It seems to be a lot more about a personal relationship with the client than the billables – which I find awesome, but I can also see how an additional person may seem ill-fitting in the dynamic.

      Reply
  15. Kate M

    Alison – in regards to #5, does looking for a job so soon after a title change look bad? I’ve been looking for a new job for a while, but similarly to the OP, just got a promotion, but I’m still doing the same work I did before really. It’s just sort of an acknowledgement for that work. But will people hiring think it’s weird to apply for jobs so soon after a promotion?

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Nah, I don’t think so. They can always ask why you’re looking if they’re wondering, but most people understand that it could just be a title change and not a fully new job, or that you didn’t go seeking out that new job and it was handed to you, etc.

      Reply
    2. Anonymous Educator

      I’m not Alison, but I’ve been involved in hiring, and I would say it really depends on what kind of promotion and how drastically the responsibilities shifted. If it looks like a slight title change with slightly more responsibility but mainly just to give an excuse for a salary increase (some places refuse to give “raises” unless there is a title change—I’ve worked in these places before), that should be fine. If, however, you went from Development Associate to Director of Development and were director for only one year, that looks odd, for sure.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Ah, good example. Interestingly, that’s one where if it had only been a few months since the promotion, I’d be less concerned (I’d figure they hadn’t necessarily wanted or gone after the job). After a year, I’d be more concerned about what had happened. I’d ask either way — I always ask people why they’re thinking about leaving — but it reads differently.

        Reply
    3. OP#5

      Hi, OP on this one here. I had been wondering the same thing as Kate M, so this is useful. I was more concerned about how to express it on the resume since I think once I get in the door for an interview I can explain it easily. I also have been planning to leave for a while, but couldn’t really switch jobs because of stuff going on in my personal life that was demanding a lot of time off, so wanted to just go for the promotion in the meantime. Like Anonymous Educator says, for me I think it will be obvious that this was just a title change to get the promotion. My raise was much better than my title change (which frankly, is not that impressive).

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC

        I think you could also say, once you’re in the door, “I’ve been doing those expanded duties for a while, so while the title change is new, the work I’m doing is not. And I’m ready to move up even further / on to something fresh/new.”

        And underneath, I’d hear the subtext: “I was doing this work, and they took so long to recognize it by promoting me that they lost a little bit of my loyalty.” Which is actually not a bad thing to me. Especially if you don’t actually say it.

        Reply
  16. voyager1

    LW1: When I can I take the whole day off. Not sure if you can. I find I need a whole day to prepare myself for an interview anyway so it works out for me.

    Reply
    1. Stranger than fiction

      Me too, or at least a half day. I’ve had very few interviews that were in and out in an hour, they’re usually longer, plus driving time, time to study your interview answers and company info…

      Reply
  17. Ashley the Paralegal

    #4 – I also want to suggest sending your resume to the local bar association. In my area, the bar association publishes a weekly law review that is sent to any attorney who is a member which is usually just about all of them in the area. The law review will have a paragraph from the person that says they are looking for a job and summarizes the area of law they have experience in. Any interested attorneys can then contact the bar association to get a copy of your resume. Additionally, the law review also publishes job openings so you may want to get one sent to you to review as well. Good luck!

    Reply
    1. AnonyMiss

      I tried to check with the local bar, but it seems like they don’t really do any of the law review type things like a major county (like LA, SF, SD, or Orange) would do… I think they meet bimonthly, and the website seems to be updated maybe twice a year. No email contact, only snail mail. I get the feeling that any large-city experience I have (ha! I live in the 5th largest city, but they try to act like we’re still a cow town) will be utterly useless, and things just go at a very different speed up there.

      Reply
    2. MsChandandlerBong

      I’m not a paralegal, but I am a copywriter who specializes in writing website copy and marketing materials for law firms. Do you think this would work for me, or do they only publish ads from people actually looking to work on-site as paralegals/legal assistants?

      Reply
  18. Jennifer

    Ugh. I haaaaaaaaaaaaate “quick questions.” They are never quick and it doesn’t make it better to claim that they are. The only quick question at work is “where’s the bathroom?” and nobody ever asks me that one.

    Reply
  19. Dontaskme

    Like Op2, I have a coworker who constantly asks questions. Not only is it the same question over and over, but she interrupts and talks over you when you’re trying to answer. The questions are never complicated, but she makes them to be. She also argues the answer with you, even the supervisor. Mind you, she’s had this job and been at this company years longer. It is awful because it breaks my concentration and it’s a waste of time. I no longer answer her. If I absolutely must, I usually say, ask the supervisor, or I don’t know, or I give her wrong information on purpose. My other coworkers tend to act like the don’t hear her. I have even said, you have already asked that question 5 times. I’ve learned that the best thing to do is to never answer her. One question always leads to another. It’s an attention thing, and people like this never change.

    Reply
    1. Stranger than fiction

      You know, my BF seems to have this problem over and over at the companies he works for. It’s partly his job to train others when products are launched, but it seems as if he’s only training them that he has the answers and they can come to him every time, rather than use the resources he’s given them and pointed them towards. I do wonder if some people just have that natural, welcoming, open nature, that draws these people towards them , or they’re just so darn good the way they answer and explain things and that’s part of the problem. It also seems as if certain areas within a company are really bad at this. In my experience, Sales people tend to be so busy chasing leads and closing deals that they can’t be bothered with what they see as minutiae (until they have that “hot” lead and need some technical product info right now). At my current place, Customer Service is this way, I train them on certain features of our product and some very basic troubleshooting, but they never ever remember or retain any of the materials I send, post or what have you. It’s truly annoying. So I too am stuck answering the same thing over and over until I want to pull my hair out. If I try to be assertive, I usually end up hurting someone’s feelings.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        It is also his style I suspect. He gives answers rather than walks them through the problem solving process. If you are the expert dispenser of instructions then they keep asking. If their first questions is ‘What have you done so far to solve this?’ then shift to ‘When you asked this last week what were the first steps you took after we talked?’ Get them to review what the answer was last time then put them through a process where they do it and he coaches. Lazy people want answers. Forcing them to do the work often limits the number of times they come back for repeats of the same old thing. I had the same problem until I switched to this approach. Once. Fine. The same old problem once again, or asking me when I have pointed you to the manual that answers such questions? Don’t waste my time.

        Reply
    2. TootsNYC

      Yeah, negative reinforcement is the only thing that works.

      Once at a job, I had a friendly chat w/ the corporate receptionist as I was waiting for something. And she got a call at that time, and asked me what department I should send it to.
      She wasn’t all that quick, mentally, and didn’t really retain much at all. I was surprised she didn’t realize that should go to the Sales dept. So I told her.

      And then she started sending me (4 floors down, and in a random dept.) every phone call she got that wasn’t “May I speak with Ms. Specific Person?” And I’d know the answer and forward them on.
      That got old, so I’d send them back to her w/ instructions on where to send them.

      But that wasn’t enough, and finally, i just started sending these random callers back to her without any help: “Sorry, I don’t know, I’ll send you back to her.” And then it petered out, because she wasn’t getting what she needed.

      It was like science! A behavioral-psychology experiment.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        I’m scratching my head at this sub-thread. Was this easier than just telling her not to forward you the calls anymore?

        Reply
    3. fposte

      Wait, you give her wrong information instead of telling her she shouldn’t ask you? That’s not a great plan, and I’d be pretty annoyed if I found out one of my staff was doing that instead of dealing with the situation.

      People like this may not change, but they certainly don’t change if they’re never told not to ask you any more. Just tell her not to ask you any more; don’t lie to her.

      Reply
      1. Dontaskme

        I give her wrong information. That’s completely different than a lie. She has her own answer in her head and she does not wait for my answers anyway.

        Reply
  20. Another Lawyer

    #4 I did a lot of my former firm’s hiring. A letter explaining how the law firm business is best structured would turn me off pretty quickly. I’ll echo what everyone else has said, re: every lawyer knows what a paralegal does and that they can massively free up a lawyer to focus on the most important client matters. Especially rural lawyers, but many solos/small firms, just don’t have the revenue to pay employees. (And even if their productivity increased because of a paralegal there may just not be enough work in the area for it to matter).

    Have you looked into virtual paralegal services at all? (I don’t know much about them except that they exist, and presumably you could work where ever).

    Reply
  21. Brett

    #3 This is probably private sector, but the language used is identical to that for public sector.

    If the OP is public sector or someone else in a similar situation is, then the salary bands and job classifications (and descriptions) are almost always subject to sunshine law and you can simply have someone you know make a sunshine request. For that matter, you generally can sunshine law request the actual compensation of your co-workers.
    This information is pretty much useless for public sector jobs though, since salary bands are usually only applicable to new hires (as someone who is currently at 85% of the minimum range on our new bands).

    Reply
  22. Ama

    For #2, I have a tendency to become the go to answer person at my workplace (I have a pretty good memory and I’m also an obsessive builder of spreadsheets to track info). The *only* effective way to get a coworker to stop being overly dependent on your help is to not answer their question, but redirect to either the proper person for the answer or where they can find the answer themselves. If you answer the question and add “in the future, you can find this info in this file” it does not work — coworker won’t remember that you said they needed to do something different in the future, they will only remember you answered their question last time.

    If you say “I don’t have time right now” it is too soft, as they will only hear the “right now” part of the answer (as you’ve experienced) — and really the “I don’t have time” answer is beside the point. Yes, you don’t have time, but the issue is really that even if you *did* these are no longer your questions to answer.

    It may take a few tries to stick, but if you consistently stop her when she comes in your office and say “now that Lucinda is your manager, you should take these questions to her” she will eventually get the message. And at the very least, it takes less time to redirect than it does to answer her questions.

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      I might argue that even redirecting them to help is too much help. They’ve still gotten something positive from you.

      Oh, and if you say, “You should ask Lucinda,” and Jane says anything more, “It’ll only take a minute,” or “But you’re usually better at explaining”–anything–say the exact same words to her over and over again.

      Don’t use new wording–it’ll feel to her as though she’s getting somewhere, even if it’s still not a real answer. She’ll feel like she’s in a dialogue or negotiation with you, and she might get what she needs if she just makes you change your wording enough times. Cut-and-paste.

      Reply
      1. Ama

        True. To be honest, most of my experience involves redirecting people who are a higher level than I am and just aren’t clear on one particular process, not a junior employee who appears to be struggling as much as the OP’s coworker.

        Reply
    2. afiendishthingy

      Has anyone seen the episode of “How I Met Your Mother” where they’re all stringing someone along, and Lily keeps telling her ex she “I just can’t be with you right now,” and she has to practice on a teacup pig? “I’m sorry teacup pig. I just can’t be with you. …. …. right now!”

      Reply
  23. J-nonymous

    LW #1 – Your time off, once approved, is your time off. And your boss is being completely unreasonable making “no interviews” a condition like that. Even if your boss is joking, it’s not an appropriate joke to make. Please don’t feel guilty.

    Reply
  24. Julie

    Regarding #5–I am in a similar situation so Alison’s answer to this question was very helpful. Now, any thoughts on how one could translate that on LinkedIn? I don’t use LinkedIn much, but I’m told everyday that people are “viewing your profile” so I feel pressured to keep things updated. I tried to do this, but it looks like I must have one blurb for each job title. Any advice? Also, is it best to list accomplishments there, or just a high-level description of what the job involves?

    Reply
  25. OP#5

    Thanks for the advice on my question (#5). I’ve actually had 3 jobs/titles at my organization over a number of years. I started here in an entirely different dept so the job responsibilities were different. Then moved over to my current dept, had my job for a few years, then just got the promotion with a few more responsibilities that I’d already been taking on (as described). So, using your formula, would it make sense to write it as follows?

    Organization Name
    New title–dates
    old title–dates
    Responsibilities for both jobs here

    Older title–dates
    responsibilities from my first job

    Reply
    1. OP#5

      Oops, meant to say “accomplishments,” not responsibilities! I HAVE learned a thing or two from your site since the last time I updated my resume!

      Reply
    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yes, I would do it just like that. But if the accomplishments that apply to both jobs are more junior-sounding/less impressive, you could put those under the older job rather than the new one. Just depends on what they are!

      Reply
      1. OP#5

        Well, my accomplishments from my old job in my first dept here don’t overlap with those from my recent jobs in my current dept. I use the same skills, but for different ends, if that makes sense, as the 2 depts have different missions. (Hope I’m not being too vague, but I don’t want to add identifying details–I’ve recommended this site to colleagues!) But I think I’ve figured out how to do the resume now, so thanks! Like a commenter above, I am still wondering about Linked In, but I’m going to go in and play around with my profile and see how it comes out.

        Reply
  26. Anonymity

    Much sympathy for OP2.
    I have coworkers like this both in my department and across the organization.
    Departmental coworkers tend to ask the same questions on the same processes, and these are generally the people who show no initiative in figuring things out for themselves. I equate this behavior to kids who complain about being unable to find something in their room when their idea of ‘looking’ is to stand in the middle of the mess and turn around in a circle. If it wasn’t immediately visible, it wasn’t there. Sometimes, adults in the working world, you have to actually open a file or look at attachments in your email.

    Organizational coworkers sometimes get one answer from me and then begin routing every question for my department to me, with no regard for which cogs in the machine belong to me vs someone else (and this information is readily available specifically to avoid email chains due to asking the wrong person). I am entirely out of shits to give, though, so I will reply or forward and cc as needed and wash my hands of it. Sometimes they get the hint, sometimes not.

    Reply
    1. CADMonkey007

      *Sigh*
      I have a theory about all this: there are 2 types of people on the planet, people who ask questions first and people who ask them as a last resort. People who ask as a last resort also tend to be subject matter experts, because they took the time to teach themselves. The reward for teaching yourself? You get to be the encylopedia for “ask first” type of people! It is so frustrating!

      Reply
  27. Wilton Businessman

    #4. Do not discount your current network. Attorneys know everybody. At the appropriate time, tell some of the people at your firm you are relocating. They all know somebody from their class or worked with somebody “up north” on a case. If Fergus knows Khaleesi from law school, a call will mean all the difference in the world. JMHO.

    Reply
    1. AnonyMiss

      I’ve been telling everyone with an ear around here, since I know I’m in a sane and secure workplace (thank the Force for that). The “up north” is far more freaking north than most would imagine when I say NorCal (Humboldt County). So far, nobody knows anyone, and even my high brass said they just don’t keep in touch with the local DA’s office at all. I have a particular skill set that the local DA (or local defense firms) could find very useful, considering the main… agricultural product of the area, but I’m again, somewhat wary on marketing on that, because our county is uniquely loosely run on asset forfeiture.

      Reply
    2. SL #2

      Lawyers really do know everyone somehow, so this advice is spot-on, OP #4. I interned with a law professor during undergrad, and through this one person, I’ve made these connections:

      1) While I was applying for his internship, he knew one of the principals at my current internship.
      2) I applied for a job after graduation at a legal non-profit and listed him as a reference; he knew the head attorney.
      3) I applied for my current job, also listed him as a reference; he went to college with one of my coworkers.

      Each of these scenarios happened in a different city and I’m not even in a legal field. You really never know who your firm’s attorneys know until you specifically say “I’m moving to Region A and looking for part-time work there.” More than likely, your firm’s people will know at least one other lawyer in Region A.

      Reply
  28. Steve

    I’m in the legal profession but I’m wondering if it’s possible to work virtually as a paralegal for any companies? Maybe website offer this service or you can find a larger company in a big city who needs a paralegal to work with you?

    Reply
    1. Searching

      My impression is that most online/ technology solutions for lawyers try to eliminate the work of paralegals, actually. And that many many lawyers are not fond of tech solutions.

      Reply
  29. Amadeo

    #1 – re: Alison’s advice, that’s what I always do/did. Nobody’s picked up on my distinction yet, but if I have an interview, it’s just ‘an appointment’, though I’ll usually specify a doctor’s appointment.

    It was pretty difficult in the last place I worked where I wore t-shirts and jeans every day, so I’d have to find someplace to change before going back to/into work and tie my hair back again.

    Ask me no questions and I shall tell you no lies.

    Reply
  30. tod

    OP4- Welcome to HumCo… I don’t know if this is relevant to what paralegals do but we have a lot of environmental advocacy group that take up lawsuits (like EPIC), and also many GIS and environmental consulting companies that work with coastal and land management law but not singularly in it– they may be another avenue to pitch contract work.

    Reply
  31. Employment Lawyer

    Cold-emailing for paralegal jobs
    There’s usually a local bar association. If there isn’t a bar association, there is always a “go-to” lawyer in town, who knows everyone. Start there.

    Don’t give a long spiel. Just say “I’m an experienced paralegal who is moving to your area, and I want to continue paralegal work. I’m wondering if you know where I might best connect with people who are looking for help.” Chances are they’ll know just what you need.

    If you can’t find the bar association or go-to guy, choose a random lawyer. Cold-call there–but instead of giving a “hire me” spiel, just try to get them to tell you who the go-to lawyer is. You can feel free to tell them you’re an experienced paralegal, but you’ll have a better time if you don’t sound like a random seller.

    I wouldn’t bother with the whole “here’s how great it is to have a paralegal” thing at all. Those who want one will usually hire one.

    Reply
  32. An actuary

    I’m not a lawyer, but I just wanted to chime in and say that there are fields where cold emailing is done at least fairly regularly.

    I am an actuary, and I’ve gotten phone interviews from cold emailing, and I know many people who have gotten jobs this way. There is a public directory of all credentialed actuaries’ contact information, and it’s fairly normal to look up people there and email them. Of course, this bugs some people more than others, but it seems to have a high success rate of getting past HR/career website black boxes. While it’s most commonly done at entry-level, it’s also done with more experienced candidates when people are looking for jobs in a niche product line or geographic location. (Recruiters are more common for experienced candidates – but they can have their drawbacks and there can be benefits to playing “recruiter” yourself sometimes.)

    OP’s situation seems like a great cold email situation – no posted opportunities but you feel like a conversation with a person/letting them know you exist could lead them to consider hiring you.

    Reply

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