It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Minimizing the impact of my medical condition on coworkers
I have a medical condition that causes pain at night. A typical flare-up involves waking up after 3-4 hours of sleep and being unable to fall back asleep due to the pain. If I take painkillers at night, I often can’t make it to work on time because of the sedation. These flare-ups are unpredictable and typically come in clusters, so if I get many in a row the sleep deprivation renders me to unable to do my customer-facing job acceptably. I take an unusual amount of (unpaid) last-minute sick days because of it. I’m seeing specialists, but in the mean time, I need to deal with it.
My boss is thankfully very understanding, since I have a history of being a good performer, but I want to know: how can I make this easier on my boss and coworkers, and make sure that my coworkers don’t get a bad impression of me? Is it acceptable to send a late-night email if I don’t think I’ll be functional the next day, or should I try to call in the morning? Should I warn my boss if I think it’s likely I’ll need to take a day off in the next few days? When I straggle in late, exhausted, and groggy off painkillers, it might look like I’ve spent the night out, but I’m genuinely struggling.
Ask your boss! If I were your boss, I would be delighted if you raised this question with me, both because I’d welcome the opportunity to talk about it with you and because it would demonstrate a real conscientiousness about your job and the situation.
You could say something like this: “I really appreciate how accommodating you’ve been. I was hoping we could talk about whether there’s anything I can do on my end that will minimize the impact on you and others. For example, do you prefer if I email night at night if I don’t think I’ll be functional the next day, or would you rather call in the morning? Would you prefer to get a heads-up if it’s likely I’ll need to take a day off in the next few days, even if I’m not positive yet? Or are there other things you’d like me to try on my end to keep the impact to a minimum?”
2. Using a reference-checking service to see what my references are saying about me
Is there any downside to using someone like AllisonTaylor.com to call a former employer? I’m thinking of using their reference checking service. Or if there’s another company you recommend, I’d appreciate that too.
I don’t know anything about the quality of their work, but looking at their website is pretty alarming — they have some icky and factually misleading information about “reverse discrimination,” misleading stuff about wrongful termination, some questionable advice about handling positive references (send flowers!), and it generally just doesn’t scream “high quality.” And looking at their sample reference reports and the questions they ask, they don’t appear to push references even a little bit for anything negative or use any follow-up questions, which is where the most interesting stuff often comes out.
But regardless, you don’t need to pay someone to do this for you. You can have a professional-sounding friend do it for free.
3. Is my first job actually a bad one or am I being too picky?
I’m in need of either validation or a reality check about my first entry-level job.
I graduated from college last May. After spending the summer sending out applications, the only lead I had was working for the owner of a small marketing business. The business is extremely small – only the owner and myself. Initially, everything seemed fine – the owner seemed engaged and helped me along with learning the position and the quirks of the business.
As time has gone on, however, I’ve become disgruntled. I’ve had to occasionally do tasks that I consider unprofessional, such as picking him up from the mechanic while one of our recurring business trips has us staying overnight at his relative’s house. Once, I had to even move furniture for his family on said trip. While I understand that there is bound to be overlap between the owner’s personal life and his business, the fact that he may ask me to do something I find uncomfortable at any point to be concerning. Personality-wise, I think we’re a mismatch – my attitude toward him varies from “ambivalent” to “active dislike.”
He has an inherent lack of personal boundaries, and oftentimes I feel that his expectations are overly demanding. Coupled with the fact that I find the job too stressful for a field I care little about, I have grown very unsatisfied and deeply resentful. After 6 months, I’ve already started looking for a new job.
That being said, this is my first real job out of college – am I being overly dramatic as someone new to the work force? Or can/should I do better?
You can and should do better. None of what you reported here is outrageously egregious (although the moving furniture gets the closest), but two-person companies tend to be rife with boundary violations and — perhaps even more importantly — because they’re usually universes unto themselves, they don’t do a great job of preparing you to work at other organizations. They can throw off your sense of what’s normal and how the work world works in a way that’s pretty unhelpful to your career. I’d get out simply because that element will hold you back.
4. Is an archaeology discovery resume-worthy if I no longer do archaeology?
I used to do archaeology and I have my work as an archaeological supervisor on my resume even though I’m not applying for any archaeology related jobs. I have it structured to illustrate my experience supervising a team of students, international experience, attention to detail etc.
But under my supervision, my team found what is a fairly notable discovery for the field. So much so that it even made international news outside of archaeology circles (some religious groups have also jumped onto arguing it proves certain Biblical narratives). I think of it more as a “fun fact” than anything, but could I include it as a single bullet-point (worded professionally, not the way I described it here)? I feel like it’s a unique detail that spices up the description a little bit. It’s not currently on there and I don’t mind leaving it off if it it would do more harm than good.
Include it! That sounds like a genuine accomplishment, as well as interesting and fun. Sure, you’re not applying for archaeology jobs, but I bet lots of hiring managers will find it intriguing. Not like get-you-the-job-intriguing, but certainly appropriate to have on your resume and something that might spark conversation.
5. Asking about a prospective new job’s cost for benefits, union dues, and taxes
I’m interviewing remotely (via email and phone so far) for a job that would require a cross-country relocation. I’m doing the math, filling out an expected living-expenses budget on a spreadsheet, and trying to make the financial decision of whether to change jobs as apples-to-apples of a comparison as possible.
Is it too specific to ask for exact figures on the costs of benefits (health care, dental, etc.) and taxes (federal, state, local) that end up being deducted from a worker’s paycheck? Additionally, this job has a union workforce, which would be new to me, and I’d want to know the cost of union dues, too.
In most jobs, the hourly/salaried pay rate is stated and negotiated up-front, but these other X factors could end up making this (or any) job either more or less attractive, depending on the cost. Is it appropriate to get this specific on these matters? If so, when can I ask about these matters?
Don’t ask them to figure out your taxes for you; you can do that yourself by looking up tax rates so it would be an odd question. Plus, in order to give you an accurate answer, they’d need a bunch of other information about your financial situation.
But it’s very normal and smart to ask about exact costs for health care and union dues. Wait until you have an offer, and ask about it then (before accepting, obviously).