It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. People keep telling me how hot my field is, while I’m unemployed
I’m unemployed and making a huge effort to network. I work in scientific computing in an area with a ton of scientific industry, but I’ve been looking for eight or nine months. It’s starting to seem likely that the reason I’m not getting much interest is that I don’t have a PhD, but that’s not what I’m here for (I figure commenters will be curious). Because I’m in a “hot” field in a “hot” industry, whenever I go a-networking (be it official events or just socially), when people ask what I do and hear my answer, the reply is INEVITABLY “Oh, that’s so hot, you should be able to get a job really quickly/easily!”
I know you’ve already written pieces addressing how annoying and unhelpful this is, but my question is: How do I respond politely/cheerfully/productively? I know these probably aren’t the people who could help me anyway, but I don’t want to appear negative or bitter.
Ah, this is tricky because you’re there specifically to network. If you weren’t, I’d say to just give a quick, breezy response (“one hopes!” or “ha, if only”) and then quickly change the subject (“so tell me about Norman’s new rice sculpture!”). But if you’re networking, you probably do want to talk about your field/your job search/possible leads. So in that case, how about “You know, it’s not as bursting with job openings as it can seem from the outside!” (Or whatever is accurate — maybe it’s that there aren’t as many openings for people at your level, or maybe you want to mention the PhD thing and get more input, or whatever makes sense.) Say it cheerfully rather than dourly, obviously.
And if anyone insist that they’re right and you’re wrong, then hey, take advantage of that and ask them to tell you about some of these openings.
2. Should I be asking my staff for daily updates?
I manage a staff of three people, and we are all housed in different locations (one is even in a different city). We meet twice a month, once in person and the other via conference call. I also call staff members to talk one-on-one as needed. It is not my desire to micromanage, but I do want an idea of what they are working on regularly, so I have them send in daily updates (what they’re working on for the day, what they accomplished the previous day, any questions/comments/concerns). The updates have been successful for the most part. I am able to distribute additional tasks or remind staff of important meetings.
However, lately there have been a couple of issues. My newest staff member sends update in late (I ask for them at 8:30 a.m. and sometimes get it by 11 a.m. or not at all). To be fair, she is housed in an office where a lot happens in the mornings, and I recently asked her to just send them for the next day the afternoon before. Another staff member is starting to just send what is scheduled for the day but not anything else (and sometimes late as well).
Essentially, I want to know whether these daily updates are the best way to manage remotely? What might be a better method? I had suggested weekly updates but staff said they liked the daily ones.
Well … daily is pretty hover-y! It’s possible that the nature of the work your team does makes this reasonable, but for most jobs, that would really be overkill. After all, the power of having a staff is that it allows you to get a lot more done (there’s four people rather than just one of you!), but you’re giving up a lot of that advantage by managing everyone at this micro of a level.
For most managers, remote or not, I’d say to do weekly one-on-one’s with people, and in preparation for those meetings, ask each person to send over a weekly list of priorities for the week and where key things stand (so that you can use the meeting time for real discussion, rather than just running down a list of updates). I’ve got more advice on managing remotely here and here.
I’m curious to know why they like the daily updates, so it could be interesting to ask them more about that. Maybe there’s good reason for it … but it’s worth considering that you might have inadvertently created a situation where they’re overly dependent on you and feel safer being hand-held (apologies if I’m wrong).
3. I got a bad reference from someone who used to work with me at the company I was applying to
I recently applied for a position with Company B through my job placement service. I was turned down for an interview based on a negative reference given by an employee of Company B who had worked with me at Company A more than six years previously.
Company B’s HR refuses to allow me to interview or address this negative reference, and its content is unknown to me. What recourse do I have in dealing with a negative reference from a former coworker? I have no idea who it was or why. There were no incidents I can think of that would cause this.
I’m a working professional and have consistently received above average and superior performance reviews. I left Company A’s location on a promotion at the request of the company to take on an urgent project at another location. I received good reviews from supervisors. I’m no slacker. I also work well with others, holding ethics and honesty as key principals.
There’s not really much you can do, especially since you don’t know who the reference was. Companies are allowed to put a lot of weight on the opinions of their employees, and are especially likely to when someone has firsthand experience working with an applicant. And the reference might not have been “she was a horrible employee” but rather something like “she was good at X, but I don’t think Y was a strength” or “she did good work, but I don’t think of the caliber this role needs” or “she was good, but the other two candidates we’ve already interviewed are stronger.”
If you knew who the reference was, and if you knew that what she said was intentionally false, it’s possible that it could be defamation … but since neither of those things is the case here, all you can really do is move on. And I’m sorry — that does suck.
4. Asking for a more senior position than the one you’re interviewing for
I recently moved to a very large “headquarters”-type city to follow my husband who got a job here. For the last three years, I had a director-level position at the field office level, managing small staff and operations at a country level in various positions overseas. Now that I am back in a country and city where industry headquarters tend to be located, I am not finding any jobs that fit my years of experience in the field and the higher level positions with line management that I had there.
I am, however, finding lots of jobs that are just one or two pay and responsibility grades below what I have been doing, and many of these are with great companies and projects I would like to work on. I’ve had a few interviews for some of these lower level positions, but have not had anything pan out yet. If I do get to final rounds for one of these positions, is it ever ok to say, “I would love it if this job could be expanded in scope or responsibility so that the title and paygrade would be just a step higher to match my past experience?” (And how could I say it professionally?)
I feel like I may have to take a step back in my career progression since I am only finding quite junior positions — either that or I guess I have to stay unemployed, which is not great either. Also, the pay cut I am talking about here is to the tune of $15,000-$20,000, so it is not insignificant. The pay cut does not matter to me as much as the title and scope of responsibilities of the job so that I can keep going in my career progression. I worked so hard to get where I am in my career and now I’m worried I may have to take some giant steps back unless I can negotiate something, which I realize is likely pretty unorthodox. Any advice?
In 99% of cases, if they wanted to hire someone at that level, they would be advertising that job or they’d mention it to you when considering you for the lower level role if they thought you were a strong match for it. Very, very rarely, it is possible to make a pitch for yourself to do a job that’s higher level than the one advertised — but we’re talking like 1% here, and it’s pretty hard to spot from the outside when a situation will be in that category. It’s more likely to just come across as “I know I we’re talking about a different job, but how about paying me more and making me more senior?” … which is not terribly effective.
Your better bet might be to focus on networking (ugh, I know) with the companies where you’d like to work, which would allow you to get a better sense of their landscapes and where you might fit in, and would help make a more effective pitch as more of a known quantity (as opposed to being an outsider saying, “no, give me a better job!”).
5. Update: struggling to accommodate coworkers’ medical leave in a small office
Thanks again for answering my question, and thanks to all the readers who chimed in with helpful advice. Just wanted to give you an update.
Things are pretty much the same. Cersei’s lateness and overall attendance improved somewhat, but as we moved into cold season, two of my other coworkers, Sansa and Dany, began calling in frequently due to their children’s illnesses, and I myself had to take time off due to a death in the family. At this point, another coworker mentioned her frustration and so I discussed this with our boss. We worked together to come up with a schedule to cover most of the tasks that need to be done on a day to day basis when people are absent. This has helped, since we’re not all scrambling around trying to figure out who can cover what every time someone calls in.
But just this week, both Cersei and Tyrion called in two days straight, on the same two days. Unfortunately, it was two days where we had several meetings and were pretty busy in general. After my second day in a row of eating lunch while covering the phones, I realized that this situation is unlikely to ever change, and it’s unsustainable for me. (To add insult to injury, the county I work for is in bad financial shape. Most years we haven’t had raises, and when we do, the most we can ever get is a 1.5% increase.) I love my boss. most of my coworkers, and the work I do, but I think it’s time for me to start seriously looking for a new job! My field is very competitive, so wish me luck!