It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Should you call in sick for a cold?
I’ve always read (I’m sure including advice from you) that you should call in sick if a) you’re too sick to be productive or b) you’re contagious. Does this mean you should call in sick for a cold? That seems extreme to me, but a cold is certainly contagious–especially the first few days, which I usually spend at work waiting to see if I get worse before pulling the trigger on calling in sick. And would your advice be different for someone who’s been on the job three months vs. a year?
Ugh. There’s no one blanket answer here, because it depends on how sick you feel/how bad the cold is (for example, sniffles versus awake all night coughing), how likely you are to be productive, how much time off you’ve taken lately and how much you have remaining to you, whether or not you have some Super Important Thing to do at work that day, and your workplace’s general culture about sick days. There are some places where people would be annoyed if you didn’t stay home, and there are others where it would raise eyebrows if you did.
I would love to say that you should always stay home if you’ve got anything beyond mild sniffles, but the reality is that that doesn’t work in all work cultures, so you really have to know your own office. But telecommuting is a good option if it’s available to you and you feel well enough for that (you may not, depending on the cold).
As for being on the job three months versus a year — I’d say the same advice applies. If you’re brand new to the job, like first couple of weeks, I’d try to go in if possible, but even then, if you’re truly ill, a decent boss is going to understand that and want you to stay home.
2. Saying no to optional after-hours work activities
How do you recommend turning down people when they “ask” you to participate in work activities (meetings, focus groups, events, etc.) that are after work and not technically part of your responsibilities?
This seems to happen to me semi-often lately, where I’ll be “invited” to join a meeting or focus group or event outside of work by someone who is not my boss, but usually the head of another department. Instead of asking this in a way that is more like “would you be interested in this / would you want to come to this,” it’s always phrased more like “this is happening, will we see you there?” (with the implicit assumption that I will want to come, and that my answer is assumed to be yes and the only reason I’d say no is because I am otherwise busy). If it were my boss suggesting networking things or growth opportunities, I would totally say yes, but it’s not my boss at all, just someone in another department who wants my input.
I do like my job and am invested in it, but between my anxiety and depression I am often already at the end of my energy for the day after eight hours, which means I really don’t have the energy to stay late, let alone handle 1-2 hours of being active in a meeting with mostly-strangers. Unfortunately, my anxiety also makes it harder for me to just say no to things like this, because I get anxious over it, and also feel guilty whenever I have to say no to something. What do you recommend? Should I just lie and say I’m busy? (In some cases, I’ve turned down an event by claiming to have plans, only for it to be rescheduled to a new date.) Is there a better way to get out of this than saying “sorry, but I’m not interested” when my interest has already been assumed? Should I try just saying “sorry, I can’t make it” without needing to give a reason why? Or should I just buck up somehow and go anyway?
“Sorry, I can’t make it” is perfectly reasonable. Some variations, especially to guard against the assumption that you’ll come if it ends up rescheduled for a different date, are “I’m swamped right now, so won’t be able to join you” and “I’ve got a bunch of after-work commitments right now so won’t be there.” But really, “can’t make it” is fine on its own.
People — or at least, halfway reasonable people — understand that people have lives outside of work, and that if you schedule something for an evening or weekend, they might not be able to attend.
This isn’t even your boss asking, so the level of obligation you have to try to make it work is pretty low. I’d just say no to stuff you don’t want to attend, assume it’s fine, and not give it another thought.
The exception to that is if your job actually does require you to attend these things, but I assume that if it did, you wouldn’t be asking the question. If you’re at all unsure about that, though, you could simply ask your boss: “Hey, Jane and Fergus regularly invite me to attend after-hours events like X and Y. It often doesn’t work with my schedule and I say no, but I wanted to double check with you to make sure you don’t want me rescheduling things to be able to join them.”
3. Contacts aren’t following through on their offers of introductions
I am a recent graduate looking to break into a new industry and, on the recommendation of my career center, have been conducting informal informational interviews. So far, I believe the experience has gone well; I have learned a great deal about the prospective industry and potential career paths, while successfully creating positive contacts within the industry.
I have run into a couple issues that I would appreciate your thoughts on. Towards the end of each conversation, nearly every contact self-initiates an offer to refer me to either hiring managers or other professionals, however, almost no one actually follows up on this offer. This puts me in a strange position to continue my informational interviews. The position within the industry I am aiming for is rather small and tight-knit, so there is a very real possibility that future contacts know the people whom I have previously talked to.
Should I follow up with the original contact again about the referral? I always explicitly reference their offer in my thank-you note and definitely do not want to pester them by contacting them again.
Also, when contacting future individuals about interviews, should I mention my conversation with the people who ended up not refering me? It would be odd if they found out I had already made contact with someone they know and didn’t disclose it. On the other hand, I wasn’t referred to them by the original contact. I believe that it is essential to make as many contacts as possible in the industry via these interviews, but I am not sure how to proceed when this keeps happening.
Good lord, that sounds like a lot of informational interviews. Are these really continuing to be useful or are you doing them because you feel like you’re supposed to be? Especially in a small industry where it sounds like lots of the people you’re meeting with may know each other, I’d be cautious about not appearing to overdo it — you don’t want to be the person putting an odd amount of energy into networking meetings before you’ve held down a job in the field.
But to answer your actual questions: Nope, don’t follow up on the referral offers again. Since you’re mentioning the offer in your thank-you note, if they want to follow through on it, they will; following up on it again risks feeling too pushy. As for mentioning the people you talked to previously when reaching out to someone new, I wouldn’t — it risks coming across as name-dropping the first person to try to gain access to the second (which I realize isn’t what you intend, but it’s likely to sound that way).
4. People keep making reservations before getting PTO dates approved
How do I word “don’t get reservations unless you are approved for PTO/vacation” to the whole team without sounding insensitive? People keep telling me that they have a reservation that they already paid for.
“Please don’t make reservations that you can’t change until you’ve gotten the PTO dates approved, since I don’t want either of us in a situation where you can’t take the dates you reserved or where I feel horrible for telling you that.”
That said, is this is a situation where you really do need to reject people’s requests? Certainly in some jobs that’s necessary, but in many positions — particularly more senior or autonomous positions — it can be reasonable for people to manage their own schedules to a large degree. If you’re dealing with that sort of role, let people do that — don’t get too hung up on advance approval if there isn’t actually a real need for it.
5. When should you update LinkedIn after starting a new job?
When is the best moment to update one’s social media and LinkedIn, etc. after starting a new job? I had my first day at my new job yesterday, and after extensive searching on the internet I am more confused than before. Some say after the first day, some say after a week, and some say only after you passed the probation period, which I find quite excessive. What do you advise?
Whenever you want. There’s no reason you can’t update it as soon as you’ve started work — first day, first week, first month, really doesn’t matter — and anyone advising waiting until after the probation period is ridiculous. (I assume their thinking is that if you end up getting fired, having to change the job info publicly might be embarrassing, but it’s really not necessary to be that cautious.)