It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…
1. I badmouthed my employer to classmates and now feel awful
I work at a organization at a university. My feelings about my employer have been mixed – though I like my coworkers, I go from extremes of disliking the job and being critical of the organization’s mission to feeling grateful for the job and accepting.
As part of my appointment, I get to take a class at the university. Recently, I shared my negative feelings about the organization I work at with some of my classmates. I was so passionate and fired up that I said some bad things about the organization I work for. I also revealed some information that is not security sensitive, but shouldn’t be shared with outsiders. I told them about a few projects that we’re trying to work on that are not working out, and about how overworked and underpaid everyone is. I was a bit too honest about how I disagree with some of the organization’s activities and approaches. I was generally very undiplomatic and rude.
I immediately realized how rude, unprofessional, backhanded, and uncalled for my behavior was, especially given that I don’t have a very close relationship with my classmates. The people at the organization I work at have also been nothing but good to me. I am at times resentful because I am underpaid and overworked, but this is the nature of the position. I am overcome with intense feelings of guilt, anxiety, and regret, and I’m unsure of how to proceed. Should I reach out to my classmates and apologize for my behavior? Should I speak to my coworkers?
Well, it wasn’t great, but you probably don’t need to beat yourself up over it this much. I’d go back to the classmates you spoke to and say, “I’ve been feeling mortified about what I said the other day. You caught me on a bad day, and I shouldn’t have said those things. The people I work with have been great to me, and I feel awful about what I said. Please block it from your memory!”
Beyond that, just take it as a lesson to watch what you say to people you’re not close with in the future. And I wouldn’t bring this up with your coworkers; you’d almost certainly be creating an issue when otherwise one won’t exist.
2. Can I offer to volunteer if a job offer doesn’t work out?
I recently applied for a position that would be a step back/sideways in my career, but which still appeals to me for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons—working part-time—is something that I can only swing financially if my spouse’s employment situation changes. Since you can never know what’s going to happen/how long a hiring process might drag out, I applied anyway and have now been invited for an interview. This is proceeding faster than my spouse’s opportunities, so although I’m going to go ahead and interview, I think it’s likely I will have to turn down the position if it’s offered.
If they do indeed offer me the job and I do find that I can’t take it, or if they don’t offer me the job but the interviewer and I had good rapport, is there any graceful/non-weird way to offer my services as a volunteer instead? I happen to have a software certification that I think they will have trouble finding in other candidates, and I wouldn’t mind helping with that aspect in an unpaid volunteer capacity because I’d like to be involved with the organization and I enjoy that kind of work. I would even be interested in training their new employee for free if they can’t find someone else with the technical knowledge they want. It’s a non-profit, so volunteering itself is not a strange thing. However, I don’t want to come across as non-genuine in my initial interest in the job (I would love to take it, I just might not be able to), and I definitely don’t want to make the person they do hire feel weird or threatened. So should I offer to volunteer instead of work for them, or would it just come across as odd?
It would be fine to offer that! They may or may not take you up on it, but there’s nothing wrong with offering it. If they do turn you down, it might be because they don’t have the resources or systems in place to manage volunteers well (pretty common — it takes more time and energy than people tend to think it will) or because they’re wary of relying on volunteer help for this particular thing (volunteers are notorious for committing and then not following through, and there are some types of projects where it’s not worth the risk). But it’s still totally reasonable to suggest it, and they might say yes.
And it definitely won’t come across as if you weren’t genuine about your original interest in the job; very few, if any, people apply for and then turn down paid jobs as a strategy for sneaking into a volunteer position instead.
3. My references were contacted before I was even interviewed
I was offered an in-person interview three weeks from now. I normally notify my references right before interviewing to give them the heads up. However, the day after I agreed to do the in-person interview, one of my references contacted me to tell me she had already been contacted by my potential employer for a reference check. Are there reasons that employers check references before interviews? Is this typical practice? I was under the impression they usually do this after the interview.
It’s uncommon but not unheard of. But it’s a really weird and inefficient practice; since most people who get interviewed don’t end up becoming finalists, it wastes a huge amount of time to contact references before even talking with the candidate and establishing some real interest in moving the person forward in the process.
The exception to this if if the hiring manager knows your reference personally. In that case, it’s pretty normal to reach out informally before an interview. (In that case, it’s generally a time saver, because getting the opinion of someone whose judgment you know and trust and who you’re especially confident will be candid with you can help you make the right decision about whether or not to interview the candidate in the first place.)
4. I gave notice and my employer told me to leave immediately — do they still need to pay me for the notice period?
If I gave two weeks notice and was released on the spot but am not able to start my new job for two weeks, does my former job have to pay me for the two weeks?
They do not. Some employers have legitimate or semi-legitimate reasons for wanting people to leave as soon as they give notice, but it’s good form to pay you for those remaining weeks regardless. But good form doesn’t mean legally required, and they can stop your pay on the last day you actually work, even if that day is not the one you chose.
In most states, you could probably collect unemployment for those two weeks since you were unemployed during them through no fault of your own.