open thread – July 14-15, 2017

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please don’t repost it here, as it may be in the to-be-answered queue :)

{ 1,737 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. edj3

    Help!
    I have a new team, and most of them are heavy smokers. Their lungs, their business except they REEK of smoke. I have something very similar to asthma, and being close to them in their weekly one-on-one meetings is hard. I end up sitting across the room to help mitigate the smell.

    If you are a smoker, would you want me let you know it’s nothing personal that I don’t sit closer? Or would it be better to continue on with politely ignoring the situation?

    Reply
    1. Bona fide

      This is probably not a helpful response, but I’m okay with smokers being told that their smoke bothers people. I get how addiction works and all, but it affects everyone around you when you smoke that vile stuff.

      OK, now hopefully someone will give you a more helpful response that won’t immediately alienate your team. XD

      Reply
    2. Saviour Self

      Also probably unhelpful, but I would have to change jobs. Being around someone soon after they’ve smoked makes me physically ill.

      Reply
    3. It happens

      I wonder if they would consider it rude if you supplied febreze and asked them to use it before meeting with them. Explaining that the smoke affects not only your ability to breathe, but your ability to sit near them. Not judgy- just matter of fact- I don’t want to yell across the room at you.

      Reply
      1. Trix

        I’d be happy to try suggestions, but personally, I wouldn’t be able to do Febreze. I know it’s supposed to remove smells, not add to them, but to me, it’s just like adding perfume to cover a smell. Now there are just two strong smells that somehow are way worse than either on their own.

        But it could still be worth mentioning, as an option. Just might depend on this particular group of people.

        Reply
        1. edj3

          Yeah, I agree with you, Trix. I go scentless with all my own products. Putting extra stuff in the air only increases my lung issues.

          Reply
        2. Liz2

          Agreed, that just adds more chemicals and makes a worse mixed smell.
          I think it’s utterly reasonable to ASK if your people could not smoke for a half hour before the meeting.

          On the other hand- are you sure you can’t just make these meetings phone conferences most of the time?

          Reply
          1. Artemesia

            There was a reason people had ‘smoking jackets’ back in the day. If these people would put on a jacket or shirt over their clothes when they go out to smoke that could be removed when they came back it would help a lot. I am not quite sure how to make that happen, but if the smoke triggers the OP’s asthma that could be a suggestion to consider. Maybe have a supply of shirts smokers could put on over their clothes.

            Reply
            1. DeLurkee

              :O
              I never knew what the purpose of a “smoking jacket” was! Thank you for that revelation, that’s so cool! Not the jacket, the finally understanding something :D

              Reply
        3. BritCred

          Same here, I have more luck with Neutradol though! (No smell but does seem to remove the original one).

          Reply
        4. Jen A.

          If you wanted to go scentless, use a spray bottle filled with vodka. The alcohol kills the odor without the perfume lingering on top. We used this method to clean dry-clean only costumes when I did theater in college.

          Reply
          1. Lemon Zinger

            I was going to suggest this! Vodka is great for killing terrible smells. I imagine it would work with cigarette scent.

            Reply
            1. Snork Maiden

              Next week, from a different person at the same workplace: “Dear Alison. I’m not really sure where to start, but my coworkers are keeping a spray bottle of vodka at work and douse each other before meetings.”

              Reply
          2. Elizabeth West

            Yeah, I heard about dancers doing this and I tried it for my skating costumes when we had several performances in a weekend. It actually does kinda work.

            You do need to give it a moment, so maybe the smokers would agree to refrain right before the meeting. Smoke a little earlier, spray, and then go. They should not forget their hair, either–that holds a lot of smoke odor.

            Reply
          3. Foreign Octupus

            I am learning so much on this thread already. First, the actual purpose of a smoking jacket, and now vodka kills smells. I’m glad I tuned in this week!

            Reply
        5. It happens

          Sorry, maybe they don’t make it any more but I still have a bottle of the old school ‘allergen reducing’ unscented febreze. I had to use it on my hair at night when living in a country with lots of smoking (shower in the morning…)

          Reply
        6. Jadelyn

          I’d rather smell smoke than Febreze – the chemical tang of Febreze smells gives me a headache. I use Citrus Magic lime oil spray for an air freshener, it works better and without the awful chemical smell.

          Reply
      2. Temperance

        As an asthmatic, that actually just makes it worse. You’re adding chemical smell on top of smoke, which doesn’t actually get covered by the febreze.

        Reply
      3. Yes I smoke

        I keep Febreeze in my car and use it after I smoke. I really don’t want to offend or harm anyone and if someone were to explain that they couldn’t sit next to me because of the smell it would hurt but, I would understand. I would prefer that to them suffering in silence.

        It is difficult not to get defensive about this. Those of us who smoke have become so vilified I often have to fight not to list all the good things I bring to the table in a discussion such as this. I have to remind myself that I don’t have to defend myself anymore than anyone else who has an obvious “flaw”. I am happy to find a solution to the problem as long as people weren’t being jerks about it.

        Reply
        1. Keli

          Yes. I smoked in college and had a coworker who liked to make comments in my presence about how bad smokers smell…yet she bathed about once a week and never brushed her teeth. She smelled like dirty hair and gum disease. If instead she had said in a kind way that my smoke bothered her asthma, I would have made sure that I didn’t smoke before my shift with her and changed my clothes before work.

          Reply
        2. edj3

          I most certainly don’t want my folks to feel defensive or somehow less than because they smoke. Like you, they bring solid skills, knowledge and ability to the table. I want and need them as fully participating team members so it’s very helpful to me to get smokers’ opinions on the best, least hurtful way to see if I can get some relief.

          Reply
        3. Elizabeth West

          When I used to smoke, I NEVER did it in the car. The closed space just makes the smell worse. I always did it outside where it could blow away from me, even in the dead of winter. Quite a few people told me they didn’t know I smoked, but of course someone who was sensitive to it undoubtedly would have noticed.

          Reply
    4. Trix

      I’d personally be horrified if someone told me that it was affecting them like that, and would be more than willing to mitigate the smell as much as possible. Of course you can come prepared with suggestions if they need them, but there are plenty of things that I would come up with on my own to try, such as:
      Wash my hands before any meetings
      Plan my cigarette breaks so I go after meetings instead of before
      (If weather allows) keep a coat somewhere other than our group’s area, wear it when I smoke, and take it off before heading back to our area
      Pop a mint before any conversations

      I’m aware that this is an issue anyway, and that for any person willing to say something, there are probably plenty that don’t but are still bothered, so I try to do these things anyway. My habit is my habit, so I try to not inflict it on anyone else, but your team may just not have thought of it.

      Reply
      1. Rebecca

        You are so thoughtful! We have many smokers in my office. One of them is especially “smokey” and she thinks nothing of puffing away, and then walking right up to someone and talking right in their face. It’s awful, and when told about it, she gets huffy. On top of that, if anyone tries to use any air fresheners, she claims it bothers her sinuses and that she’s sensitive to smells. Well, yes, so are we! I think the office smoking area should be at least 50 yards from the building to give them a good opportunity to air out before returning.

        Reply
        1. Snark

          Sensitive to smells, my tuchus. She’s already raking her sinuses over hot coals and has burned out at least half of her sense of smell.

          Reply
          1. BritCred

            For reference there are smokers who can have issues with other smells/scents and the clouds of vapor they leave. Same as a dog owner who doesn’t smell their own pets but can smell cats and vice versa.

            Not saying that bitching about it is the right thing to do in that case mind… Its not.

            Reply
        2. Anon Anon

          Honestly, most people become nose blind to the things they smell all the time. So it’s perfectly reasonable that they could be nose blind to their cigarette smoke and sensitive to other smells.

          Reply
          1. KR

            I smoke a lot of green stuff, and I can barely smell it most of the time. This is due to a combination of being a smoker of it and growing up, my dad smoking it (behind closed doors with plenty of ventilation and not around me, don’t worry). I have to ask a friend if something smells and I’m missing it and I probably go overboard in lingering scent prevention (spray vinegar/water mixture outside, fans, candles, open windows, close AC vents, change and wash clothes) because I know I can’t smell it. Basically, even if you can’t smell it you have to be courteous and aware you are leaving a scent is my point. I think OP can politely ask people to not smoke at least 30 minutes before the meetings as that’s when it tends to be strongest. Perhaps OP can open a window or turn on a fan as well?

            Reply
      2. Saturnalia

        My partner smokes occasionally (0-2 cigs / day) and he says he would definitely want to know. He’s super conscientious in general though, to the point of wearing long sleeve shirts all summer so as not to potentially offend anyone by having tattoos (he has a gorgeous sleeve of a biomech squid). So he might be an outlier!

        Reply
          1. Foreign Octupus

            I thought you meant an actual octopus and was confused for a minute here!

            But (on topic) tell the person OP. I hate the smell of smoke. It makes me feel as though I’m about to choke and throw up and would hate having to work like this. Ask them privately and politely but if it doesn’t improve, I suggest HR.

            Reply
          1. Snark

            I’ve had social and workplace contact with smokers my entire life, and I’m allowed to draw conclusions from that without adding a paragraph of disclaimers. Yes, some are conscientious, in my experience most smokers tend to be at best oblivious and at worst actively hostile to the notion that others are bothered by their smoke and are entitled not to be exposed to it.

            Jesus, the sniping and cross-examining around here is getting out of control.

            Reply
              1. Snark

                My study on the topic, including a detailed multivariate analysis, will be released shortly in the International Journal of Stuff that Bugs Me, but in the meantime, do keep in mind that we’re all allowed to express opinions.

                Reply
            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              I agree that it’s annoying (I find it more annoying than all of you do, I’d bet). Malibu Stacy: Snark is clearly just giving his opinion, not presenting a scientific paper. Everyone: Please move on from this so the conversation stays relevant and constructive. Thanks.

              Reply
      3. Elizabeth H.

        Same. If this were the case for me I would never smoke within a few hours of going to a meeting and would wash my hands a lot, same with keeping your coat away. I already do all these things actually because I don’t smoke very much and I don’t really want it to be very obvious that I do. There are lots of smokers who don’t smell strongly of smoke, you just don’t realize them, because, you know, they don’t smell like smoke. Of course someone who is a heavy smoker or who smokes in their home or car will probably smell like smoke all the time, but people who just smoke one or two a day often don’t.

        Reply
    5. Malibu Stacey

      Are they asking why you don’t sit closer or giving you any hints with facial expressions or body language that they think it’s odd?

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        People don’t generally show their annoyance to the boss. The fact that ‘no one said anything’ about the money dance at the wedding, the cash bar at the party, or that the boss won’t sit near them when having a conversation is not evidence they are not offended.

        I’d be pre-emptive here and go further to ask if there is some way to mitigate the effect given the asthma.

        Reply
        1. edj3

          Artemesia is correct.

          I’m the manager, it’s on me to be available and to grow and develop my team. We’ve gone through a lot of organizational change and some of my folks are running pretty scared. I take those fears seriously and want to ensure they can focus on the work, not on my lungs or my sense of smell. At the same time, I can only use so many mitigating drugs.

          Reply
          1. Mabel

            If your team members are scared because of organizational changes, I would think they would find it reassuring to know why you’re doing something they might perceive as odd.

            But since you are their manager, I think you’d have the authority to ask them to schedule their smoke breaks after the meeting because you have asthma (easier shorthand, even though it’s not actually asthma), and the smoking smell makes it hard to breathe.

            Reply
    6. Inspector Spacetime

      I would definitely say something. Maybe they change their habits and it gets better, maybe they don’t, but at least now they know why you’re sitting all the way across the room from them.

      Reply
    7. VinegarMike

      Smoker here – would totally want to know if I was bothering someone and would feel it was my responsibility to fix it (or understand any action you took to do so)

      Reply
    8. NoMoreMrFixit

      I’m allergic to tobacco and found that politely explaining to folks that I can’t go near them when they’ve just finished having a puff was fine. No judging or criticizing their choice, just explained I have a medical reason for keeping certain folks a few meters away.

      Reply
      1. Anony

        I have asthma and found the same thing to be true. I just let them know that cigarette smoke aggravates my asthma and they make sure not to smoke near me and not get too close right after smoking.

        Reply
    9. LNZ

      Could have your meetings in an open air place, like a patio? Or schedule the meetings before their smoke break so the smell isnt as strong. Either way I’d tell them about the medical issue and see if they have any ideas. It’s not like you’re asking them to stop smoking,

      Reply
    10. Coldbrewinacup

      As a former smoker AND as someone with asthma, I would advise you as gently as possible explain the situation. There’s a way to handle it that hurts no feelings or offends anyone, and that’s to be honest. Smokers know many people are affected, but really may not understand just how badly until they’re told. I had no idea about the smell until I quit.

      Reply
    11. Rusty Shackelford

      I’m not a smoker, but I can’t imagine reasonable adults would be offended if you politely and non-judgmentally told them you’re having a physical reaction to the smoke on their clothing. I had a manager who was sensitive to many perfumed lotions, and I’d rather be told than wonder.

      Reply
    12. edj3

      Thanks, all, for the advice. I will talk gently/privately with the smokers and ask if they’d mind postponing smoke breaks until after our 1:1s.

      Reply
    13. Anna

      What about one of those HEPA filter air purifiers. They have filters that trap smells and particles rather than chemicals that mask them. You can get varying levels of filters from just dust to near hospital grade HEPA. If the meeting is in your office you shouldn’t have to explain anything. They also can be used for white noise, which would be good for confidentiality.

      Reply
    14. This Daydreamer

      If I. Naturally I read this right after reading the comments on “my office smells like a corpse”. I think I’m going to have a late lunch today.

      Reply
    15. Sandra wishes you a heavenly day

      When I smoked, I always preferred to know. I tried to be conscious of the smell and mitigate it and would understand if someone told me they needed to be away from it. The part where I would be upset is when it’s said in the tone of “YOUSATANICBABYKILLER YOUR CLOTHES SMELL GET AWAY FROM ME.” I am not every smoker, of course.

      Reply
    16. Formica Dinette

      I’m a former smoker. although I apparently did a good job of mitigating the odor because people were often surprised when they found out I smoked. Anywho, back when I smoked I would have wanted you to say something. I would have thought it was weird that you were sitting across the room, and the smell aggravating your condition would have made sense. Please say something that sounds non-judgmental, though, or you risk doing more harm than good.

      Reply
    17. Diluted_Tortoise_Shell

      I would invest in a air filter for the area they sit, honestly they will probably appreciate it too. I used an air filter in my closet for a few days to get rid of that heavy smoked smell from my deceased mother’s clothing and it worked great!

      Also maybe invest in a filter for your office too if that is the meeting space?

      Other than that I have found I have the same issues with being near smokers – it’s tough. I agree talking to them with some basic suggestions will help too like (try to smoke after the meeting vs right before, etc).

      Reply
    18. Courtney W

      Well at my old job, when my supervisor was coming back from a smoke break he would get about 20 feet away from me before I would tell him to get away before I had an asthma attack or threw up on him (I was pregnant at the time). Based on the comments here that is apparently considered unprofessional in most places of work. Can’t imagine why…

      But in a group of new people I think I would just say to them, “This is kind of awkward, but I’m fairly sensitive to cigarette smoke and have been having a tough time in our meetings lately because of it lingering. Is there any way the smokers here could do me a favor and just not smoke right before the meeting if anyone is, or something like that? I’d really appreciate it.” If you frame it nicely, the large majority of people aren’t going to be offended by that.

      Reply
      1. Ophelia Bumblesmoop

        My boss figured out I was pregnant when I was only 8 weeks along because he called me in for a 1:1 directly after a smoke break and I threw up in his trash can. His eyes bugged out and he declared that he knew exactly what that meant, he has daughters, and he is certainly not going to ask for any sort of information or comment until I said something on my own, but he would be wiser with his smoke breaks now.

        Reply
  2. AnonCareerChange

    This is inspired by the post a few weeks ago. I’m not sure where to go in my career. I’m a web and graphic designer, but I enjoy the graphic design part a lot more than the web. I have a BA in web and and MS in web usability. I really only majored in web to be more marketable, and while I’m not BAD at it, it’s changed a lot in the last 5-10 years.

    I love, love, love, talking to people. Helping people. Giving advice. I’m great with detail planning…like if I’m planning a trip or something, I like to write it all out and plan. I’m not very organized or motivated without a deadline, however. Freelance is out for that reason.

    I’m extremely bored at my job. I have little to no work, and I definitely work 1000 times better under pressure (but that was what my last job was and it stressed me out all day every day). I’m not very good at marketing strategy, but I am very tactical and when someone gives me something to do, I do it very quickly. My problem now is that I’m finding my job to be so boring and isolating, and I end up getting away from my desk to go chat with coworkers. If I didn’t do that, I would barely talk to anyone.

    I don’t mind being at an office, but I do mind being chained to my desk. I like rules, I follow rules and for that reason I’ve enjoyed being the “Brand Police/Brand Advocate” at my current job with standards and color requirements and w/e.

    I’m young and I don’t have kids yet, so I can handle a career change if need be. I like the creative elements of my job, but I am definitely more sociable and problem-solvy/advice-givy than anything. I’ve entertained ideas of HR, Community Management, Customer Service, or IT Helpdesk simply because it feels good for me to help people. Any ideas on what kinds of jobs/careers I should look at?

    Reply
      1. AnonCareerChange

        I think I would like that. The only thing I’d be concerned with is how the career prospect looks with all these online options now. :/

        Reply
        1. Grits McGee

          I have a few friends that have worked in successful travel agencies. Their particular company focused on boutique travel packages- fancy pants family reunions, group tours, etc.

          Reply
        2. nonymous

          Yeah, I think everyone understands that if you know what you want, online will likely give the best prices. What folks want from an agent is the person who makes the zillion decisions and handles the details to organized the full vacation and the local experience to make sure the vendors are value for dollar. When groups are involved, I would expect the agent to deal with personalities and fill in for poor planning on my part. Basically they’re paying you to do the crappy stuff so they don’t have to.

          Reply
    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      Have you thought about becoming an Executive Assistant? It’s highly varied, usually fast-paced work, with lots of time spent connecting with and helping solve problems for other folks.

      Reply
      1. Matilda Jefferies

        I am not the OP of this question, but I have often had the same thought! In another world, where I could go back and plan a different career than the one I have, I think I would like being an EA for all those same reasons.

        Reply
    2. Anon 4 Dis

      When we set up our new website we went with a company that had reps come out and show us websites to see what we liked, do workshops, and worked with us on how to edit the websites and customize them for us. The company was Aha Consulting – something like that?

      Reply
      1. AnonCareerChange

        I could see this, too. I’ve been in meetings where we have consultants do that. It might be a little more traveling than I would want to do, but I’d have to investigate, thanks!

        Reply
        1. MJH

          Look into an org like Salesforce. If you can learn the system (I’m sure you can), you can be one of the people who works with clients to set up what they need.

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        1. Machiamellie

          Instructional design creates online training courses, including the graphics, logos, etc. Doesn’t present the actual training to students.

          Reply
          1. N.J.

            My spouse is an instructional designer. The PPs web skills would be extremely useful for instructional design in an online learning environment, but many places will not hire you if you don’t have a masters degree in instructional design or st least instructional technology, because of the heavy foundation of educational and teaching theory. If the OP is willing to pursue additional schooling thus could be s good niche.

            Reply
        2. NaoNao

          I’m an instructional designer and we are very different than the trainer :)
          We do:
          Graphic design
          Video production
          Curriculum design from top to bottom (all the materials, including web, video, printed, m-learning, etc)
          Train the trainer workshops if needed
          Attend training and take notes on reactions, problems, etc
          Web design and coding as needed
          Research
          Technical Writing
          Presentations
          Data mining and manipulation (ie: how many people took this class, how successful was it, ROI)
          Constant client and Subject Matter Expert interaction

          Trainers have a very discreet job description in that they only train. ID’s do a LOT more. They make the materials trainers use.

          Reply
          1. edj3

            And on my team, we do both–develop all the training and then deliver the classroom-based portion/facilitate any self-paced modules.

            Reply
    3. Matilda Jefferies

      You might enjoy records management – helping companies organize the business records they create. It has all the things you mention above, including talking to people and giving advice, creating and enforcing standards, and a good balance of creativity and need to focus on details.

      Wikipedia has a good page if you’re not familiar with the basics, and I’m happy to answer any questions if you have them!

      Reply
      1. AnonCareerChange

        I think our Six Sigma department at my current job covers this. It’s basically documenting processes and creating a library/safe source for everything, right?

        Reply
        1. Matilda Jefferies

          That’s part of it, but there’s a lot more to it than that. It starts with the idea of identifying what is a record (processes, certainly, but there are also lots of records that don’t come from defined processes), then figuring out what needs to be kept, by whom, and for how long.

          It requires knowledge of legislation and standards around recordkeeping, the ability to create new standards where none exist for your organization, and tons of people skills. A good records manager can speak the language of everyone in the organization, from the receptionist to the finance team to the C-suite, to explain why they should take time out of their busy days to listen to you.

          Reply
    4. Cassandra

      Project management, usability/UX work (which will absolutely play to your current strengths), and social-media management would be my three off-the-cuff suggestions.

      Reply
      1. Saturnalia

        I will throw the weight of a dozen suns behind usability testing for you. It was sooo not for me as a focus, but you have to schedule participants, design studies, plan travel for yourself or participants (off site or onsite studies), and basically adapt to whatever random issues come up in the process.

        Reply
        1. AnonCareerChange

          Hmm, you’re right. I should probably look into this more. I did enjoy the work when I was in grad school….and that might be flexible enough and different enough on a day to day basis that would engage me.

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          1. Saturnalia

            So I work in tech, but I’m sure there are physical product usability research gigs too. It is (my perspective) super trendy in tech rn to hire or contract some usability research – if you have a website, you’re only getting so much out of your web analytics (the wisdom goes); you need to talk to users to understand *why* you’re seeing that huge drop out of the registration flow in your stats. Some of it’s optimization like that, and some of it is to help blue sky the next big feature/redesign, using research along the way to ensure you’re on the right track and can throw out mistakes before they end up costing a ton.

            In my experience, bigger brands are more likely to keep an in house user research department. Across many sectors, if there’s a website, there’s someone handing out $20 Amazon gift cards to random people in exchange for their opinions.

            Some folks go from web development to user research, some from user experience design, some from product management, some from upper ranks of customer/community/social media support. Some from anthropology :-)

            Reply
    5. Rookie Manager

      I wonder if the same job in a different environment would be change enough for you? This week I have worked A LOT with my charity’s graphic designer. He’s created me a new logo for my section, posters,leaflets etc and they are great. However we have also met face to face, had phone calls and emails to help him understand my problem and then fix it. Somewhere more dynamic with different sub-brands etc might use your skills/degrees and give you people time? Third sector may also help you feel like you are helping the wider community.

      Reply
    6. Blue_eyes

      I agree with Victoria about Executive Assistant.

      Another idea, have you considered event planning? Helping people plan events and taking care of the all details in an organized way seems like a good fit for you. Plus there’s a very concrete deadline for the work to be done! You would have some office type work but would also get to meet with clients, visit venues and vendors, etc.

      Reply
    7. designbot

      You sound like a good candidate for design research. You get to influence design still and your background will be an asset, but you get to really dive deep into people. How they use things, how they make choices, the rhythms of their lives.

      Reply
    8. Pwyll

      You might look at some of the in-house design shops at media companies (newspapers, TV, digital, etc.). When I worked in advertising, we had in-house artists who would facilitate art creation between our ad sales team and our dedicated graphic artists. The facilitators were generally artists themselves, but were more about helping to come up with ideas to meet what the clients were envisioning or help salespeople come up with good mockups for a pitch. It was a neat gig (I did market research, so we’d have daily meetings to say that research shows x%, and the art facilitator would come up with wireframes on how to display that graphically).

      Reply
    9. MissDisplaced

      “I love, love, love, talking to people. Helping people. Giving advice.”

      OK, so why can’t you do this as a graphic designer?
      I am also a graphic designer, but more design than web/coding. Graphic designers need to be able to talk to businesses and HELP them with their marketing needs. Could it be you are just in the wrong job, but not the wrong career?

      There are many alternatives and offshoots to your field. After working professionally for many years in graphic design, I went back to school for communications. This gave me a broader reach for jobs I was more interested in, as well opportunities for advancement. But as a graphic/web designer you may already have the skills to move into something like a marketing communications or a digital marketing role (or could do so with a more minimal education investment than a complete career change anyway).
      You might also think about a side-step into advertising if you enjoy the customer-facing side of the creative business. I’ve worked with a number of agencies, and the account managers do just that… help businesses solve problems. I’m not sure how difficult a switch that might be, but your background in the creative/technical part should be helpful if you choose to move into the business side.

      Reply
      1. AnonCareerChange

        Could it be you are just in the wrong job, but not the wrong career?

        You might be right. I think I’m struggling because I like my company, but I don’t think that long-term this is ever going to work. I’m too bored and ignored here.

        Reply
        1. Formica Dinette

          I agree that right career, wrong job is a strong possibility. I know several graphic designers and they are a lot like how you describe yourself. In particular, I’m thinking of one friend who works in A/E/C. They mainly work on proposals for multi-million/billion-dollar projects, so there is a lot of planning and detail with both short-term and long-term deadlines. Big proposals have lots of collaborators, so they regularly work with a variety of people. There’s also a stream of non-proposal work like general branding stuff.

          Usability testing/UX research as was mentioned above also sounds like a good fit.

          Reply
    10. Lindrine

      There is a huge part of interviewing that goes with user experience and customer experience. Check out CPXA (https://www.cxpa.org/home) UX and project management are two areas I really enjoy, and I come from a similar background to yours.

      Reply
    11. Dankar

      There’s a company called Terra Dotta that designs sites for study abroad and international student support departments. They have teams to man support portals, teams to train users in how to use the sites, teams to coordinate with and implement the sites with the university’s IT department, etc.

      They were hiring not that long ago, and might be worth a look at.

      Reply
    12. NDR

      How about a production company for large events? It requires tons of planning and lists, lets you be out in different places, and often requires some design work for signage, slides, websites, etc. If you can help clients find or make great technology solutions for their conferences and don’t mind lots of explanation and education, you would be well-loved.

      Reply
      1. MissDisplaced

        That’s a good one too! As I’ve moved in to “marketing” I’ve done some event planning and support. It CAN be quite graphic intense making and/or ordering things.

        Reply
    13. Snork Maiden

      Hi, did I write this? We are the same. I also do freelance and I find that I do quite well on my own (I set fake deadlines, and work steadily with breaks at home, whereas at day design job I am always bored and online.) The key for me is having a social/physical aspect to work. If I’m going to be in an isolated cubicle, I have to be standing or have a foot board to fidget, that sort of thing. Or I have Tweetdeck open throughout the day and dip in and out for chat while I’m figuring out a layout. But this is all short term work advice. For long term career stuff – I’m reading what the other commenters have to say. Anyways, high five!

      Reply
    14. AshK434

      Have you thought about becoming a UX Researcher? It would involve a lot of design, conducting focus groups and dealing with people, and some project management.

      Reply
    15. longtime reader infrequent commenter

      You sound so much like me and my story it’s kind of uncanny. Without launching into a huge story and writing a book, I’ll just give you this advice — if you’re stuck on *what* you want to do, maybe focus on *where* you want to be. I studied what I love (graphic design, so in essence, problem solving/creativity/helping people), but I realized I need objective work if I’m going to be at a desk 40 hrs a week. And I’ve grown up around aviation and I love airplanes. So I embraced the connections I have, and I ended up working at an airline, and I could NOT be happier. Why? Because instead of looking for what I wanted to do, I looked for the industry I wanted to be in. Maybe looking at it that way will help? You might still end up doing the job you’re doing now, or you may end up doing what I did and move into a completely different career path (although I use the skills I learned from my design training every day), but it’s something to think about.

      Reply
  3. Lipsy Magoo

    So I’m really curious…

    I have worked as an EA (Executive Assistant) for approximately 20 years. I used to work in New York where I was usually in a ‘right arm’ kind of role, where the managers I worked with best relied on me completely, trusted me to perform high level tasks and kept me in the loop in every way possible.

    I left NY, tried my hand at a small business venture, and came back to office work a few years ago in Philadelphia given it’s the closest large city to where I live now. But I am finding that here, in more than one role, EAs are seen more as secretaries and I’m having trouble finding the same type of role, with more than scheduling and ordering catering.

    Could this be a regional thing? Or has the work environment changed so much now that people don’t need an assistant in the same way? I’m not sure if I just haevn’t been not doing a good job finding the best fit for myself or if things have changed and I need to lower my expectations on the kind of role I will find. I struggle with the fact that most jobs now require a degree I do not have. I find I don’t qualify for the roles I’m used to thriving in, where you’re an EA but you also do some office management work, you work closely with HR and Finance, etc., with more responsibilities but I find when I discuss doing more with people in my company they look at me like I’m speaking another language.

    Interestingly enough managers are asked to complete tasks they don’t have the skills for, so I try and help them when I can and they are amazed… maybe I’m just in the wrong place?

    Thanks in advance, I’m really curious, I feel like I’m missing something.

    Reply
    1. LCL

      The kind of work you did as an EA is still done by EAs in my job. That is a government job, in the left coast of the US, so not sure how helpful that is. But it is well known here that the EAs are the powers behind the throne and you don’t make them mad. They are the Drumknotts to the Vetinaris of the corporate world. (Hey it’s Friday I can use silly literary references on open thread.)

      Reply
    2. Saviour Self

      It is probably more a function of the size of the company. That, or you might grow into the more right-arm role as you become closer with the executive(s) you are supporting. That sort of thing doesn’t often happen immediately. Sometimes, you have to manage up and train your executive to let you have that role.

      Reply
      1. LizzE

        Agreed with this and I wanted to elaborate on your latter point: At my org, I am one of 6 EAs that support 6 out of the 7 department heads; the roles/functions vary greatly due to our bosses having different ideas of how an EA should support an executive. The CEO, the head of the program department and my department head/boss (marketing) treat us like right arms. However, the head of HR and head of finance see this role as doing clerical/grunt work on their behalf. The head of fundraising basically lets his EA be the department admin and probably uses her less than some of his directors do.

        And to add, my predecessor did more clerical work and was not as close with my boss as I was. She also did not show initiative in getting higher level work.

        Reply
    3. Temperance

      I’m in Philly, and EA is sort of more of the “secretary to the highest ranking people” role here. You might be selling yourself short by looking for EA work.

      Reply
    4. Lily in NYC

      I think you are correct even though I’m sure there are lots of exceptions. I thought about moving to another city a few years ago and I am so glad that I asked very detailed questions about job duties, because most of the EA jobs were much more administrative than I’m used to. I’m accustomed to EAs doing project work or managing a high-level executive’s life, but these jobs were much more clerical in nature. I felt like I had already paid my dues doing that sort of work and ended up staying in NYC. In my experience, there are a few cities where you can get EA jobs similar to those in NY – Washington DC, San Francisco, and to a lesser extent, Los Angeles and Denver.
      I think if I had to move and look for a new EA job, I would try to find the fanciest law firms in the area and see if I could get a legal assistant job. Oh, or in health care. But those don’t tend to pay very well.

      Reply
      1. BPT

        There may be a few places in DC that still see Executive Assistants as more high level roles, but in my experience it’s basically synonymous with a secretarial assistant these days. Like it’s literally the “assistant for the executive.” That doesn’t mean their work isn’t difficult or it’s looked down on – I’ve been an EA and I’ve worked with many EAs in the past in DC, but in my experience they mostly do scheduling, administrative work, and some office manager type of work. It’s not really a role in general where you’re the executives “right hand man” and make high level decisions.

        Maybe at a few very very big companies it’s different, but most places I’ve seen it’s turned into a scheduling/making sure the Exec is prepared position.

        Reply
    5. PhillyEA

      EA in Philly for five years! It really depends on the industry I find and they are big into longevity, they take a LONG time to trust someone with project stuff because I think most EAs have come from the old school secretary world. Keep throwing yourself into it and pushing for more- that’s what I do at least. Sometimes I’m baffled at them not using all my skills, but then I’ll have a few tight deadline days and remember it’s nice to be flexible in general.

      Reply
    6. Pwyll

      I agree it really varies by company. You may want to try looking for “Chief of Staff” or “Executive Associate” roles, as it seems that some companies have started referring to their high-functioning EA’s as that.

      Reply
      1. zora

        I was going to say this, have you thought about looking at different job titles? Chief of Staff I’ve heard, also Operations positions. We have a position called “Director of Operations” which seems to have a similar job description to the kind of EA you are talking about. At another workplace it was the “Manager of Administration and Operations”, who supervised all admins across the company as well as being part of the finance team and managing all of the office locations, very much more of a right arm to the Executive team.

        I’m thinking you might even look at more of a step up, to something called Manager or Director, since you have been part of so much high-level stuff in the past, aren’t there a lot of things you could handle yourself now? Think about stretching yourself a little! ;o)

        Reply
      2. Managing to get by

        My organization was just acquired earlier this year by a larger one. At the old organization, we had EAs and Admins. Managers and Directors had Admins and VPs had EAs. The Admin job was basically secretarial, the EAs were a cross between secretarial and what you described as your jobs in NY. Only Executive VPs had a “Chief of Staff” in addition to an admin.

        In the new organization, VPs get an EA, which is more secretarial but a little higher level work than an admin. The EA coordinates calendars, orders food for luncheons and also helps in the logistical side of planning projects and larger meetings. Our VP’s EA has been pretty helpful to me in getting things moved along in some of my projects.

        All VPs also get an “Executive Consultant”. This is an entirely internal role but performs much higher-level functions than a admin and seems to be at the same level inside the organization as a Senior Consultant (client facing) or lower-level Manager. They’ll even represent the VP on workgroups and committees, giving input and doing the work and reporting back, similar to what I and other managers do when we are representing our Line of Business in cross-functional work teams. This is probably the type of job you are looking for.

        Some departments call this an Executive Consultant, some call it a Chief of Staff, look for those types of postings.

        Reply
    7. EA

      In Boston it sort of depends. Both sets exist. If you job search, I would try and say you are looking to be a business partner with your executive, and give specific examples. You can be pretty up front about what you are looking for.

      Reply
    8. Marisol

      Are you working with any recruiters? If not I would pose this question to them. I’m an EA in Los Angeles with about 10 years of experience and mostly what I’ve done over that time is the secretarial stuff you’ve mentioned, not the meaty decision-making-type stuff you are looking to do. However, my impression is that there is a wide range of job duties depending on the field and on the company. If I wanted to have more responsibility in my role, I would look at going to a smaller firm, where there is less specialization and fewer people have to wear more hats, and I would try to concentrate my work experience within a single industry in order to deepen my knowledge and capitalize on it, rather than focusing on the general admin competencies that can be universally applied to various fields. I would also definitely get in touch with a couple high-caliber recruiters to get the lay of the land. It may be that what you want is less common, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get, and I think a recruiter would have the most insight here. As we sit here typing, there is probably an executive somewhere in Philly who is saying, “I get great secretarial candidates, but what I really want is someone with the the judgement to be my right arm!” Just because they are harder to find doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

      Reply
    9. Kimberlee, Esq.

      This is a narrow answer, but I work in DC at a media/startup-y company, and I am really surprised at how self-sufficient the executives of my company are. Like, we’re big (800 employees and tons of part-time, contract, etc others), and there’s maaaybe 2 actual assistants in the whole organization. The CEO doesn’t have one, and sets his own meetings, manages his calendar, etc. I theoretically do some assistant stuff for my EIC, but he almost never actually has me do anything. I think this is common in startup-type jobs, especially since the tech even 5 years ago was way different… so many of those tasks are just easier now than they’ve ever been.

      Reply
      1. BPT

        This is becoming more and more true throughout DC. I used to work at a lobbying firm, started out as an assistant who managed Directors calendars, and then moved up to substantive policy roles. Once I moved out of being an assistant, they didn’t really replace that part of my role. It’s gotten to the point where people can handle their own schedules easily now. It’s always on your phone and it’s easier to do it yourself than contact an assistant to do it.

        Reply
    10. Formica Dinette

      I’m in Seattle. I used to be an EA and things have changed here. There are fewer EA and general administrative roles available because all employees are generally expected to do that kind of work themselves (hence the amazement you’ve seen.) The high-level positions like you used to hold require a degree.

      Reply
    11. EA POLITICS

      Ea in government here. I’m the ea to politicians, so they change every few years (I currently have 6) and they are the highest ranking in my organization. In my experience it depends very much on the person. There have been some that I organize their life and some that do a lot on their own. I’ve found this to be true when I did the same thing in private law firms.

      Reply
    12. Astor

      I think with that much experience, you should definitely be applying to jobs that specify a degree. That is, for a job posting that says they “require a degree in x and y years of experience”, you should apply as if they said “require a degree in x and y years of experience. Equivalent combinations of education and experience may be considered.” This is especially true if they say “degree in finance or related fields”. Continue to skip the ones that say “license required”.

      It won’t always work, and if you’re not seeing any job postings that are for the roles you’re used to it won’t help at all. But don’t take yourself out of the running if you’re seeing jobs (including those with slightly different titles) that you’d normally apply for but that require a degree.

      Good luck!

      Reply
    13. Michael Carmichael

      I think this is going to depend heavily on the individual you support – at least in my workplace, it seems to vary based on the personalities involved. There doesn’t seem to be a set standard, but I don’t work in the corporate world (in higher ed).

      Reply
  4. Pylon

    I would love to hear from folks in research or academia. I’m about to start the last year of my PhD fellowship (social science). As part of my fellowship, I currently work as a research assistant for a grant. After this next year, I won’t have any university funding, so the ideal thing would be to get a full-time job and finish my dissertation part-time (it’s normal here). I would like to work for research grants, as a project manager or research coordinator or a similar role. With that in mind, in this last year of my fellowship, I would like to take on responsibilities that can help me become a competitive candidate for that kind of position. Do you have any advice on the kinds of things I should do/learn as a research assistant to achieve this goal? In other words, what kind of experience and achievements would you want your project manager or research coordinator to have? (I already have a lot of experience as a research assistant on grants involving human subjects but I’m sure other candidates would as well.)

    Reply
    1. Not in US

      Experience with budgets and financials is important. At lot of PIs just aren’t great at that and the PM often fills that role. The last PM I worked with at my institution was amazing with Finances (she didn’t love it but she was good) and really understood intermediate excel.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        Yup. A friend of mine will always have a job because she is the spreadsheet whisperer.

        While different institutions handle this differently, at mine knowing IRB practice inside and out, developing contacts there, and being able to draft approval requests on a dime would be hugely valuable.

        Reply
      2. Pylon

        Thank you! This is definitely something I need more experience in, and I should be able to talk to my advisor about that.

        Reply
    2. Program Manager

      Budgets and finances, data analysis (both qualitative and quantitative), grant writing, and dissemination experience (manuscripts, posters, oral presentations). I look for project coordinators who can be jack-of-all-trades and contribute to the project from start to finish. It also helps if they’re interested in either the process of research or the specific research topic, because it means that they won’t flake out on some of the more mindless but necessary tasks.

      Reply
      1. Pylon

        Thank you! I have definitely worn a lot of different hats in my RA experience, and I can see that adding financials and grant writing is going to be very important for this career goal.

        Reply
    3. Artemesia

      I hired an Army Sgt. to manage my complex grant which involved data collection in 15 states. In addition to budget management and data management skills, you want to demonstrate extreme attention to detail and organization. Data management is different from data analysis; the whole project falters if the data is not good, so knowing how to make sure the data is properly entered into the system and trouble shooting data issues, knowing how to prepare a code book that allows easy analysis of the data etc are critical skills. And if you have done some of that it is a case for attention to detail. So in your RA role, I’d be looking for experience in data management.

      Reply
    4. OtterB

      Seconding the suggestions about IRB and data management skills. Also, not a specific skill, but work on paying attention to the whole project life cycle – as a research assistant you often see some pieces but not others, and if I was hiring for a project manager role I’d look for someone who could explain what they had done on a project, but also how their work fit in with the overall effort.

      Reply
      1. Another bureaucrat

        Yup, if interviewing you, I would want to know that you have the skills and interest to reach beyond your previous RA role into overseeing the entire effort–and that you knew that there was an entire effort, with lots of important work, beyond the RA role! In my role, I’ve had to do a lot of facilitating and coordinating (aka, herding cats and being a friendly nag) across our big team.

        Reply
    5. Another bureaucrat

      I’m a PM on a program grant in academic. While you’re still on your current grant, can you help with any of the reporting? Maybe not compile the final report to the funder, but compile or draft initial reports? Or help with a nice annual report-type doc to share your work with a broader audience? Those were the skills that helped me move from PR/Communications into grant management (that and the ability to work across disciplines and healthcare settings with a big team).

      If you are looking for grants and research coordination in your same field, I think your knowledge of the field/setting/regulations would be beneficial. And if you’re doing research coordinating for human subject work, I think strong familiarity with IRB systems would be a good selling point for your self.

      Reply
    6. Anon Research Manager

      I am a Research Manager and when hiring Research Coordinators I look for people that are EXTREMELY detail oriented. Their are so many details to keep track of with 200+ page protocols to follow, but the integrity of the data and results depends on all of those little details being done correctly. So I want a Research Coordinator that has systems in place to make sure every bullet point is followed accurately and on time either by themselves or the Research Assistants they supervise. Then as mentioned above a good understanding of IRB processes is so helpful. I also would want someone that is good at feasibility analysis of future projects. Can you look at a potential protocol and determine if the science of it is good, does it fit your client population, do you have the staffing and facility requirements, how difficult/easy will subject recruitment be and budget analysis. And if you are working with human subjects, the soft skills of good customer service to those participating in the studies is very important. If possible, see if you can shadow or meet with Research Coordinators to see what a “day in the life” is like for them.

      Reply
      1. Pylon

        Thank you! This gives me a lot of helpful information on what I should be working on in the next year. I certainly plan to talk to my current project manager about what a day on the job is like for her. (As a side note, I hadn’t considered that interacting with and supporting participants could be customer service, but it really is in a way – thanks for pointing that out!)

        Reply
    7. AnonAcademic

      Is it at all possible to finish your dissertation when you are still on fellowship? I had to work 7 days a week for several months to finish my dissertation while I was still on a teaching fellowship but financially it was worth it to be able to start my postdoc right after my defense. Or, is there any chance of being funded on the grant for a few extra months? Have you exhausted all other internal funding options? My former labmate is on an NRSA that runs out this year (her 5th) but her department chair told her that she has put aside 6th year funding for her because she knows the project just needs more time to be done.

      The reasons I ask is that at least in my field (cog neuro) it’s really really hard to do dissertation work in parallel with other work like being a RA, PM, etc. People do it but I think in the long term it’s more chronically stressful than just banging out the dissertation like I did. It’s common practice in my lab to hire postdocs as research assistants until they finish their PhD but all of them have found it took much longer than expected to go through the defense and revision process. It took me a full year to acclimate to my new job and I was done with my dissertation, I can’t imagine trying to finish writing it while working somewhere new.

      Reply
      1. Pylon

        Thanks for the response! It’s almost expected in my field and university to be working full-time while completing the PhD. Knowing all the factors involved, I don’t anticipate it being a problem.

        Reply
    8. Your Weird Uncle

      I work at a large university doing grants at the departmental level. Here, we have student project assistants who are hired to work for specific PIs (some work for only 1 PI, some work for a group of PIs doing related work). These guys are really in at every level; whereas I look at the big picture financial stuff (and we have so many grants coming and going that it’s really all I have time to do), the PAs get to know the research in and out. They know the hows and the whys, and they get really great hands-on experience with the financials as well. Maybe there is something similar where you are?

      You could also get to know the electronic requirements of grant submissions. Here, we have dedicated people who do that for PIs, but where you are, you might have PIs who are doing that stuff alone. If you can get your head around submission systems like Fastlane (NSF), Cayuse (NIH), etc., you might find an in somewhere.

      If you’re still interested in working in research after you graduate, don’t be afraid to look outside of your field, too. Engineering and Computer Sciences (where I work) is where the money is at these days, and they might have roles available that your department doesn’t. We hire lots of folks with various backgrounds.

      Also, check out the National Council of University Research Administrators! It might be more on the financial side of things than you’re interested in, but they should have plenty of resources to help clarify where you might want to go in future.

      Reply
      1. Pylon

        Thank you! I really appreciate your advice. And I had not considered looking outside of social science, but I can see that many project management/coordination skills are transferable.

        Reply
  5. Jimbo

    I’m in a position that is no longer working out for me. I am able to do good work and I have accomplished a great deal. But I am extremely unhappy.

    I will be having an evaluation with my supervisor soon. I’d like to bring up that I am unhappy and the factors making me unhappy are not likely to change. They have to do with inadequate staffing and funding for the project I was hired to do, and the issues that resulted.

    Stuff I don’t plan on sharing but are relevant is managerial oversight for my position being with someone who I’ve been clashing with since day 1. And I’ve been talking to the EAP counselors a lot and seeing a therapist to handle stress, anxiety and depression. This has been continuous for me since month #4 of this job.

    When I finally talk to my boss, I am divided how to steer the discussion:

    Option 1) I am unhappy at the job. What are options to do something about it so I can remain with the organization?

    Option 2) This really isn’t working out for me anymore. What are options for an amicable, mutual parting of ways? Try to strike a transition plan for me to exit gracefully.

    Option 3) Hand in my resignation and give two weeks notice.

    I don’t want to leave them in a lurch. And I have been job-hunting the past few months and interviewing. I just haven’t landed a position yet. I am quite sure I don’t want to stay with the organization anymore. They can’t offer me anything that would make me want to stay longer.

    So I am inclined to steer the discussion towards Option #2. I was wondering what I need to be prepared for in that case. Should I draft a formal letter that states my intention to move on and asks in bullet points about next steps for a proper transition? Should I forego the letter and just say my intentions and have an honest discussion with my boss verbally?

    Reply
    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      Can you do a combination of 1 and 2? Just lay our your reality: I’m no longer happy in this work. Here’s why. Can we have an honest conversation about whether there are any adjustments we can make that will address those problems, or whether it makes more sense to put together a plan for me to leave?

      Reply
    2. straws

      Do you actually want to stay with the company? If you do, then #1 could be a good start, and you can easily transition into #2 as a part of the discussion.

      Reply
      1. Jimbo

        Honestly, I don’t think I want to stay. I am only still there because I have been job hunting and haven’t landed a position yet.

        Reply
    3. Lipsy Magoo

      I’m so sorry you’re in this position. Sounds very challenging.

      I think it depends on your style but for me, I would have the discussion before preparing anything. You may be wasting time, based on what is discussed and agreed to. Unless it will help you to be prepared and organize your thoughts, writing a letter out for yourself really, I would take a deep breath, be honest and see where it goes from there.

      Good luck!

      Reply
    4. Hannah

      wait until you have a job, and then give your notice. Preparing for a transition is what the notice period is for–you don’t have to give a notice period for the notice period. You can still leave amicably when you don’t declare your intention to leave before you hand in your notice.

      Reply
      1. The Queen of Cans & Jars

        +1 on this, unless you are prepared for the possibility you may be unemployed until you find a new job.

        Reply
      2. Artemesia

        If you SEE a way to fix this in the current company, go in with this positive plan open to alternatives the boss might see in addition to this. Never have a complaint like this without a positive solution. If the boss can’t fix your problem when you present it, s/he is likely to decide you are the problem and bosses who feel inadequate to address a problem will hurt the person who brings it to them. The obvious solution is to fire you, demote you or be looking to do one or the other. So if you think a move to division A or B will help your problems in Div C — or you think different responsibilities are possible and suggest those, do it. But ‘I am unhappy, you fix it’ is the path to bad things happening.

        If you don’t see any plausible solution then start your job search and don’t suggest you are unhappy until you have the offer you plan to take. Then you give notice and don’t worry about it any more.

        Reply
        1. Jimbo

          Unfortunately I don’t see a plausible solution I can offer to this — the basic problem is lack of money, lack of organization and misplaced priorities that has resulted in the project leaders backing themselves into an awkward corner. The fallout of all this is I have been deeply unhappy and it has been affecting my work and interactions with my colleagues. There is no way around giving my honest answers when the conversation comes where they ask “why are you unhappy? Is there anything we can do to make you less unhappy?”
          And you are correct that these types of problems that I am raising makes my boss look bad and likely are making him feel like an inadequate manager of big projects.
          I have been job hunting. I just haven’t landed a position yet.

          Reply
      3. BRR

        Another +1. I would not leave without another job lined up. Giving adequate notice is parting amicably (unless your employer is completely unprofessional about it).

        Reply
      4. Been There, Done That

        I agree with Hannah. Your situation sounds so much like mine. I made an internal move that I thought would take me where I wanted to go and enable me to make a bigger contribution to the organization and the clients. Literally Day 1 I saw the handwriting on the wall, and in less than 2 months I was miserable. Very toxic environment and people. I’ve tried to make the best of it but there’ve been too many events that point the opposite way. It’s human to want to “unload” about your unhappiness to your boss, but if it won’t fix anything, it will only tip your hand. Don’t tell them you want to leave until you have a job offer in hand.

        Reply
    5. SansaStark

      My husband had a conversation like this last year combining #1 and #2. Management really wanted to retain him so they requested that he make a list of the top things he wanted to change/would make his life better and they’d see what they could change. He wrote the list and they addressed the few that they could. He’s been SO much happier and hasn’t talked about quitting since. I’m not saying that yours will be the same way, but this is a conversation that doesn’t necessarily have to be adversarial.

      Reply
      1. Bea W

        I had this same conversation with my boss more than once. Unfortunately all of the lists and feedback went unaddressed, and I ultimately chose to leave. The upside is that my boss wasn’t blindsided because we’d already had these conversations, and I felt like I had done all I could to make it work. So while no one was happy with the outcome, it was as pleasant as it could have possibly been under the circumstances.

        Reply
        1. SansaStark

          It’s funny because I ultimately also felt like my husband’s company wasn’t really addressing the big issues, but he felt better and the conversation was kind of a pressure-release for both parties, so I guess it kinda worked out in the end. But yeah, I think if you have a reasonably good relationship with your boss, it’s a good conversation to have if you’d previously been pretty happy.

          Reply
          1. Bea W

            I’d have felt better if folks were making any effort to address some of the issues. Sometimes knowing you’ve been heard and management is making any kind of visible effort on improvements is enough to keep going.

            Reply
    6. Jimbo

      Thanks all for the feedback. I appreciate it. One big aspect of why I want to separate from the job is to preserve my mental health. I’ve been on the job about a year. Since month #4 I have been continuously seeking EAP counseling and seeing a psychologist just to deal with the stress and negative emotions being in this job is triggering in me. It is just a horrible, horrible fit. And it is driving me crazy. Literally. I know this isn’t something you reveal to your boss or colleagues when they ask you why are you so unhappy? But this is the biggest reason. Things are so bad that it is driving me to seek psychological help. It is not normal to feel this way about one’s job.

      Reply
      1. Windchime

        If it’s truly this bad, I would start making an immediate exit plan. I was in a job like that last year; in fact, this time last year I was on medical leave because I was so stressed and anxious and having scary, dark thoughts about hurting myself multiple times a day. I should have left that job a year before I did. When my medical leave ended, I was on the verge of accepting a position with my current employer so, against my better judgement, I went back for a few weeks so I could give notice. It was a bad idea.

        I can so relate to what you are saying and I have nothing but compassion and understanding for you. If you have savings and feel comfortable with the possibility of being out of work for awhile, then make your exit now. My therapist told me that my anxiety was a natural reaction to the things that were going on at work; it’s our body’s way of telling us that we are in a bad situation.

        Take care.

        Reply
      1. Jimbo

        Thanks very much! This is the type of script that I think I need as a way to guide the conversation. I think this will be very helpful to adapt for my needs!

        Reply
  6. Sunflower

    Is anyone on here a PMP?

    My firm has informed me they will pay for me to get a certification and since I’m an event planner, a CMP is the assumed one but I’m not sure I want to stay in event planning. I’ve thought about doing project management or sales but I’m unsure if my experience translates enough to qualify for the PMP. Are there any other certs that might be worth looking into?

    Reply
    1. peanutbutter

      I recently got my PMP certification and highly recommend it. My background is also in event planning and I knew I wanted to move away from organizing events, but still using my planning and organization skills. The best part is that I also used my event planning hours to satisfy the certification requirements.

      Reply
      1. peanutbutter

        Just following up to my original comment after reviewing the additional comments below. As a part of my 4000 hours of project experience, I was able to use my event planning experience to fulfill the documented project work. Here are the two key things I kept in mind:

        1) Use a template to track your hours. There’s plenty online, some free and some paid. I went with a free excel version that included a character count in the description portion.

        2) Approach the hours as if you were expecting to get audited. For me, that meant making sure I had someone who could vouch for my role in the project, the time frames listed, and can verify the tasks that I completed. For event planning, you can use your manager, a client who paid for it, or someone on the team. I then emailed each person telling them I was applying for the PMP and confirmed if they’d be willing to vouch for me. I also shared with them the information I was entering into the application about the project.

        Yes, the risk could be low for getting audited, but it’s better to have that information up front rather than scramble to get it.

        Reply
    2. Wheezy Weasel

      The PMP requires 4,000 hours of documented project work within something like 7 years before you can sit for the exam. Those hours also have to be across all of the different levels of project management (initiate, plan, execute, control and close).

      I’ve got over 10 years in project management related fields (some PM, training, high level helpdesk support and business analyst roles) but have never been able to document these hours well enough to meet the criteria to my satisfaction. I could lie about it, and I suspect others may, because the risk of getting audited is low.

      There is a CAPM that is a step lower that only has a coursework requirement before the exam should be easier to achieve, and that’s what I’m looking to do as a good stepping stone to a PMP.

      Reply
      1. AnotherAlison

        I feel your pain about starting at the beginning. I was a lead engineer on projects and project controller, and had the hours back in 2008, but wasn’t looking to get a PMP. I took a non-project job for 6 years, and then moved to a project manager role and started looking at the PMP. My old experience was too old to fit in 7 year window. I may have been able to count some of my non-project job experience (administrative-type projects within the job), but I didn’t want to chance an audit. I decided just to wait it out since the PMP isn’t a huge thing in my company, and I’ll hit the 4,000 hrs-in-3-years requirement in August. Still, I feel like I’ve been working a really long time to just now be eligible.

        Reply
        1. Girasol

          At work three of four of us working on PMP were audited. Be sure that you can locate someone to vouch for any time that goes to your total required hours. It can be hard to find your boss from seven years back!

          Reply
        2. Witty Nickname

          I was told in my PMP prep class that they audit 10%. I had only officially been a project manager for a year when I did my certification, but had done project management work in my previous positions and was able to count that. I was audited and had no problems passing the audit (I had to get my previous supervisors to sign a copy of what I submitted for that job, agreeing that I had done what I said I had – one of my previous supervisors was in a different city and traveled a lot, so they even let me get someone else I had worked with sign instead, and I just submitted a short note explaining why I had someone else signing it. I also had to get a copy of my college transcripts to verify that I had gotten the degree I had claimed. They took the free copy my college faxed to me, so I didn’t even have to pay for an official transcript).

          Out of the 3 of us at my company that applied around the same time, all 3 were audited, but we all got asked for different things.

          Reply
    3. Lindrine

      PMP here as well. You must have specific requirements to sit for the test. If you have a college degree the requirements are a bit lighter. If you think of going that route, there is an excellent UDEMY course that covers everything in all the knowledge areas. There is also the lower level CaMP i think it is called?
      Requirements to sit for PMP:
      Secondary degree (high school diploma, associate’s degree or the global equivalent)
      7,500 hours leading and directing projects
      35 hours of project management education
      -OR-
      Four-year degree
      4,500 hours leading and directing projects
      35 hours of project management education

      Reply
      1. AnotherAlison

        Seconding the Udemy course. I obviously haven’t passed the test yet, but I have the Udemy course. I can’t remember how much it was, but for <$200, you can satisfy the 35 education hour requirement. The local community college and a local university extension of my alma mater both offered similar courses for thousands of dollars.

        Reply
    4. Witty Nickname

      I have my PMP, but mostly what I’m seeing on job postings these days is Agile/Scrum Master certification. It seems like everyone in my area wants that, even with the PMP.

      Reply
      1. Here we go again

        It really depends on the field/industry. Agile/Scrum tends to be better for technology projects or bringing new products to market, but if you are looking to get involved with more capital projects, traditional is still the way to go.

        Reply
  7. Michael Scarn, CPA

    Does anyone on here work in HR and have experience with a company that uses those invasive online application systems? I’m asking because I want to know how the information we applicants enter comes through, whether HR reviews that information first before deciding to view the resume, whether I should fill in the job duties boxes or just say “see resume”, etc. Any insight you can provide about how the information entered into these systems is used by HR is helpful!

    Reply
    1. HR Manager

      Depends by company. I review all resumes first, but depending on position the HM might want to see them ALL no matter what.

      I would not put “see resume,” makes you look lazy. And most systems let you import your resume and auto-fill.

      Reply
      1. Michael Scarn, CPA

        I get what you’re saying about looking lazy, but does it look any less lazy to just copy and paste information from my resume? Or should I be trying to add additional or different information in those fields? Does the hiring manager review the information entered into the online application typically?

        Reply
          1. Chaordic One

            I used to be an HR Admin Assistant and I also cut-and-paste the same information that’s in my resume when having those kind of online applications. When I worked at Dysfunctional Teapots, Ltd. people who did this were never penalized for doing so and it never made any difference in deciding who would or would not be interviewed.

            Reply
        1. JeanB in NC

          I actually keep a document with a short description of my job duties that I can copy & paste into the boxes. It’s different than the info on my resume, so I don’t worry about duplicating effort.

          Reply
      2. Liane

        There are some online systems that auto-populate job history fields (company name, location, dates, duties) from a resume you upload. However, IME, they are very bad at it, unless ALL of the jobs on your resume are one position per company. If you have held multiple positions at the same company, your resume will confuse many systems and it will take more time for you to get all the dates, titles, companies, and duties sorted out than it would to cut & paste them.
        Also, while it is acceptable on a resume to give employment dates as month/year, every ATS I have applied through is programmed to insist on month/day/year or not let you continue.

        Reply
      1. Saviour Self

        That’s not really true. I don’t see a problem with putting see resume for a system that doesn’t auto-fill. I encourage it for some people. Why do double the work? But that’s probably why I’ve resisted my company getting an ATS…

        Reply
        1. Kate

          “See resume” is doubling the work for whoever’s reviewing your online application. Whether or not the candidate should have to do double the work or the reviewer should depends on the field, and whether the business or the candidate holds the cards.

          Reply
        2. Shadow

          Do you at least fill out the questions that aren’t answered by your resume? Like reason for leaving, supervisor name, etc

          Reply
        3. Jadelyn

          Well, if there’s a resume and also an application where you have to fill in job duties, *someone* is going to have to do double the work. Either they do double the work by having made their resume, then also copy/pasting pieces of it into the application…or we do double the work by having to look at the application then also go pull up their resume in order to even get an idea of whether or not they’re qualified, which defeats the purpose of the separate application in the first place.

          I mean, I’d rather a system that just allows resume submittal so I can just read the resumes in the first place, but if you’re stuck with a system that requires both, the double work is going to get done somewhere, and when I have a couple dozen positions and a couple dozen submissions for each of those positions to review, I’d rather the candidate do the double work than force me to do it. And if they try to force me to, by putting “see resume”…yeah, I’m gonna translate that as “please delete”, as WTCOH? said.

          Reply
        4. harryv

          I’m a hiring manager and I rarely if ever resumes with ‘see resume’ in those fields make it past in house recruiters then to me. If it does make it to me, I am slightly annoyed that I have to download and open your resume just to see your work history.

          Reply
    2. SQL Coder Cat

      I’m not in HR, but I was the technical lead in setting up such a system for my employer (a mid-sized private university). In the program we use, you review all the applicant’s responses to the questions, and then decide whether or not to view the uploaded resume. Given that, I’d want to be sure to fill in those boxes with something beyond ‘see resume’ because depending on how many applicants a position has, applicants whose responses to the system questions don’t catch the hiring manager’s attention might not even get their resume viewed!

      Reply
      1. Michael Scarn, CPA

        Wow, this is eye-opening. I always thought my resume was the most important thing and I never have taken the online application systems seriously. In fact, I just used one that asked for the names, addresses and phone numbers of 3 people who were unrelated to me and not previous employers. It was weird. I filled the references information in, but did put “see resume” in the duties fields. Now that I know that’s a potential big no-no, I’ll at least copy and paste information from my resume there.

        Reply
      2. LKW

        That’s a great point, that it’s in anyone’s best interest to make this as easy on the reviewer as possible.

        Reply
      3. sometimeswhy

        This. The first thing I see are the responses from the system we use (which is less invasive than some I’ve seen but can feel a little tedious the first time you fill it out). I’ve grown to sort of like it for applicant screening since it flattens the information and makes it easier to look at the items of initial interest for all candidates side by side by side by side.

        Everything else is an attachment. Everything: resume, cover letter, supplemental questions. It all gets looked at and a kickass resume can definitely make a difference but the first impression an applicant makes on me comes from how they filled out the form.

        Reply
    3. Kate

      In my old ATS, when I did a search within the pool of existing candidates (say, “any title: coordinator”), the ATS searched what people put in the application boxes. If I just searched “coordinator,” it would search resumes AND applications. But if I did a more narrow search, it only searched applications. (I tended to do more narrow searches to avoid candidates with “collaborated with coordinator” or such on their resume.)

      It’s a pain, but I always advise filling out the complete online application.

      Reply
    4. Elizabeth West

      I just keep a resume document with a short version of my duties for each job. I copy and paste those dudes right in there.
      Today I had one that asked me to put the percentage of my day that duties took up. Gah! I just did it like this:

      70% Phone, customer service
      20% Filing
      10% Other admin duties

      The rest they can see on my resume.

      Reply
    5. harryv

      I recently became a manager at a company that uses those application systems. I recommend you always fill out the job duties boxes even if it is copying and pasting for your resume. I just recently hired two FTE through this system so I have good and recent experience. When the in house recruiters pass candidate applications to me, the information that is given to me at the top is the candidates name, address then the work history. I use that to determine if I want to continue reading your profile. If you put ‘see resume’, I get a bit annoyed as I don’t get a picture of your work experience and have to scroll all the way down to see what you selected in the filtering questions where it asks you “How many years of experience do you have doing x, y, z?”.

      I then have to click the next tab, download your resume or open your resume in a pop up window to read it. I’ll be honest with you. By this time, your resume better hit it off the ball park. Otherwise, I won’t as forgiving because I could’ve set the right expectation had you followed instructions earlier.

      Reply
  8. Cindi Mayweather

    Hi – was wondering if anyone out there has higher education experience and may be able to help me. I have been in my current job for almost 5 years, and I love the institution and working in a higher ed setting. I like my work, however I would like to move up somehow, and the only way I see moving up in my current department would be into a role I am not terribly interested in (it would most likely be a fundraiser position).
    I would like to take advantage of the tuition remission that employees get for Master’s Degrees, and they have a Higher Ed Administration program that I think would be the best fit since again, I really love the higher ed setting, just not necessarily the opportunities available in my current department. I am wondering if anyone can help steer me in the direction of other roles within the setting – I have done a bit of research but it’s hard to really gauge what these roles might be like from vague descriptions.
    If it helps, I am a bit introverted but do get along well with people, and am happy when I get to be creative. I also love higher ed because I like helping an institution that helps students prepare for the world – definitely something that makes me feel good.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Reply
    1. Not a Real Giraffe

      The great thing about working in a college is that there are a million different roles within one institution. I used to work in a college career center, where there were career advisers, marketing staff, event planners, IT folks, outreach specialists who networked with employers to bring them to campus, and operations staff. And this was just one department!

      There are lots of roles that are behind the scenes that wouldn’t involve any sort of fundraising or networking, but still impact students’ lives. What work do you like to do? What are your strengths? What kind of role do you think you’d thrive in?

      Reply
      1. Another bureaucrat

        Seconded. Another thing to ask in higher ed – do you want to be student-facing? Your statement of being a bit introverted made me think of that. It’s not a problem at all, but it will change what type of positions you look for. I’m in higher ed and recently considered a student-facing role within my college. It would definitely change my day to day (and semester to semester!) responsibilities, and challenge my problem-solving skills and patience. Not a bad thing, but a thing to think about….

        Reply
        1. Cindi Mayweather

          You know I’m not sure. I think perhaps student-facing might not be terrible for me, because it seems like (and please correct me if I’m wrong), that that is relatively low stakes compared to asking potential donors for money. Again, I am an introvert, but I do tend to do well with people when I reach out and when I am asked to do so (as a job would do).

          Reply
          1. Another bureaucrat

            Sorry to give this answer, but it totally depends on the position. Both involve relationship-building, for sure.

            You could be student-facing dealing with financial aid or tuition bills, which is high-stakes to the student. Or you could be helping them enroll in courses, which could be generally lower stakes.

            The position that I looked at at my institution was a mix — on one hand, I would be contacting students to make sure they’ve registered for courses, etc, which sounds pretty basic. But I would also be their first contact if something was going wrong– if they were about to flunk out, or were having a family crisis and needed to put their studies on hold. Or, god forbid, if there was an issue with plagiarism or student conduct. In that case, I would definitely involve higher-ups right away, so I wouldn’t be alone in dealing with that, but it wouldn’t be low-stakes, necessarily.

            Reply
            1. Cindi Mayweather

              Absolutely no worries, I appreciate your answer! And you’re right, of course, like most things, depends on the situation. And your example is very helpful.

              Reply
          2. gladfe

            Another thing about working with students is that many of them are very young adults, so it’s pretty common for them to misestimate the importance of things, in both directions. In a lot of student-facing jobs, the actual stakes are pretty low but the rate of student freakouts is pretty high. On the flip side, you can end up having to teach students that some things actually are important (e.g., that paying tuition, showing up to work, or complying with federal regulations are not optional, even if you’re “really slammed this week”). I like working with students despite all that, but it’s something else to consider.

            Reply
          3. Anxa

            I’m introverted and student facing and love it. The only major drawback is that in higher ed it sometimes feel like the more closely and directly you work with students on their education, the less you are valued by the school.

            Reply
    2. fposte

      There really are too many to name based on your description. What are some of the openings you’re seeing? We might be able to give you more information about those.

      Reply
    3. Academia Escapee

      You could work in advisement, faculty affairs, government affairs, the Provost’s office, or academic resources (these were the department titles in the state university I worked at in California – your mileage may vary depending on how your uni is set up). Those are really the types of internal departments that help manage the university as a whole, which sounds like what you’re looking for.

      Reply
    4. Hannah

      I think you may benefit from a few “informational interviews.” Can you identify a few roles that exist at your institution that might interest you and reach out to people to have those roles and ask for an informational interview? Those people are probably the best suited to tell you how to find the right path to their kinds of jobs, and probably not hard for you to find right at your workplace. Admissions, academic administration, student services, research administration all be possibilities for you, it sounds like.

      Reply
    5. rageismycaffeine

      Just a note, but are you sure there’s nothing else available in your department? I’m in fundraising but not a fundraiser. There are other roles within fundraising that aren’t actually having to ask for money – though obviously that depends a lot on how big the shop is! You might look into the advancement services side of the shop – if you haven’t already. Or the university relations department, which may or may not be a part of the development department at your team.

      Otherwise the suggestions given by others already are very good ones!

      Reply
      1. SJ

        Ditto – also in higher ed fundraising but not a fundraiser. I’m an executive assistant and manage a lot of various projects and donor communications.

        Reply
        1. Cindi Mayweather

          SJ & rageismycaffeine –

          My department is pretty small, unfortunately. The last couple of people who had my job but stayed in the university became fundraisers.

          Thanks for the advice, though :)!

          Reply
    6. BeezLouise

      This is just advice to not move into a higher ed fundraising position if you don’t really want to do it.

      This is my current job, and I’m having a hard time changing careers even though I’ve only done this for a few years — even to another job at the (large) University I’m at. So many of the even lateral money-wise moves require significant experience I don’t have, and every position here has hundreds of applicants, so once you’re on a path, so to speak, it’s hard to get off it.

      Reply
      1. Cindi Mayweather

        Wow, thanks so much for the response!

        I think the all-encompassing nature of college/universities that makes them great workplaces also presents me with my problem: I’m overwhelmed by the choice. My issue is that I am not particularly good or bad at anything specific – I was a Comm undergrad, which can service a lot of things. I feel like I only know what I don’t want to do, which isn’t very helpful (fundraising, probably not events, and admissions scares me bc of the pressure they seem to be under).

        BeezLouise – this is what I’m afraid of. I work in development but not as a fundraiser and with the way my office is set up, I feel like that would be the only move I could make. I kind of fell into this work after a toxic experience, and although I love the atmosphere of higher ed, I don’t feel this is the area for me.

        I will see if perhaps informational interviews may be something people here are open to – right now I only know that I like to think creatively and if my job could be helpful to others I’d like that.

        But thank you thank you thank you everyone for the advice! I really appreciate it :)

        Reply
        1. fposte

          I’m not seeing any exploration of communications in there, despite your degree–are you not interested in that?

          Reply
        2. Hermione

          I went through a similar soul-search when planning my last job hunt – I knew what I did NOT want to do (budget management, faculty support, fundraising, student finances). I also made a list of the tasks in my then-current job I liked (event planning, scheduling, advising students), didn’t mind (website upkeep, generating reports, managing student workers), and those I hated, and searched out any number of jobs that had the things I liked.

          I ended up in the registrar’s office, and while I’m not sure it’s what I want to do forever, it’s a good step in my career, I’m learning a lot, and I’m sure will be able to narrow down a few more things I DON’T want to do in my next job, even if I’m not sure what I DO want to do.

          And with regards to being overwhelmed, just remember that it’s about progress, not perfection. You don’t need to find THE job for the rest of your life, just for the next step of it. Look at the skills you have and the tasks that are required in your current job, and take a step forward. You’ll be fine.

          Reply
          1. Cindi Mayweather

            fposte – My degree was focused in TV Production, which was a dream of mine, but ultimately just not a culture fit, despite the dream, and so didn’t pan out. That’s where the introversion gets me!

            Hermione – thank you so much for the perspective! I definitely need that :) It’s just that since I kind of haphazardly fell into this role, I’m concerned that if I don’t start carving out a path for myself now I might lose my way.

            Reply
    7. Ghost Town

      I’m in higher ed administration, student services/affairs. A lot of times the only realistic way to move up is to move out. (In my own experience, had my previous supervisor left, I wouldn’t have wanted or qualified for his job. The skill sets and actual duties were completely different.)

      I entered the profession sideways, found out I liked it, and started down the path of professionalization (graduate certificate in HESA and now doing an MS in Adult Education).

      Have you identified what about your current position you like? Is it student interaction or helping students fulfill a goal? Is it working with faculty or realizing the university’s mission? At my university, it seems that the higher you go, the less direct student contact you get on a regular basis, so if that is what really drives you, then you should be careful about moving. Also, even seemingly lateral moves across departments (and especially across schools) can give you a whole different set of responsibilities and salary. (The position I moved to was in the same overarching job category as my previous one, but I’m making 1.5x what I did before. College to Business School.)

      All that to say, really keep your eyes open. See who you are meeting and interacting with in administration. See who is doing what at trainings. See what jobs are being advertised. If you haven’t already, look into professional associations related to your current area, as well as areas you might be interested in.

      Go for the tuition remission-funded Masters in Higher Ed Administration. You’ll learn a lot about administration, yes, but also what’s out there and what’s available. Your classmates will likely be in a similar situation and y’all’ll be fantastic networking for each other.

      Participating in the professional organizations and doing the masters degree can also help satiate the move up itch, short term. They help you in your current role, as well as help you prepare for whatever is next.

      My email’s in my username if you want to have more of a conversation.

      Reply
      1. Cindi Mayweather

        Thank you for all the advice!

        I particularly appreciate the note about the degree – makes me feel better than I already did about the choice. Will also look into the organizations!

        Was your move into a different area difficult? I am nervous I am set in this particular path, which I don’t want. I do think I have to spend a bit more time figuring out what my strengths are – I think it’s part of my problem.

        Thanks again!

        Reply
        1. Ghost Town

          I’ve only been in my new position for two months, so… Difficult b/c the program is kinda new and went through a lot of growing pains early on, and I’m learning how the Business school does things differently than the College. Still doing some of the same things, but with more focus on specific tasks and I’m no longer responsible for other things.

          I was applying with various levels of gusto for about 2-3 years. I’ve heard from multiple people that they had the same experience. Here, there’s a large pool of well qualified people who want to stay in town, so there is a lot of competition, hence the long slog to actually get interviews and an offer. I had actually interviewed in this same suite of offices about 1.5 years before I got this position, and being seen then and around campus since then helped my candidacy this go round.

          Best of luck!

          Reply
    8. Kate

      I know you’re introverted, but if you can push yourself to get to know people throughout campus, that will help you learn more about what’s available. Universities have so many different career paths within them. There could be jobs that would be great for you that you haven’t thought of.

      Plus, there’s the added bonus that you make yourself a better candidate by knowing people. I was able to move around a lot between departments and job functions when I worked at a university. I had a reputation as someone who learned quickly and worked hard, so departments were willing to take a chance on me even when I didn’t have directly relevant experience. I was deliberate about going to more in-person meetings than I had to (vs. calling in), asking people to lunch, and participating in the optional stuff a lot of people poo-poo as not relevant to their work.

      Reply
      1. Cindi Mayweather

        You’re so right – and it’s something I really need to work on. The good news is that I do tend to get along with people once I do reach out, it’s just a matter of doing it.

        But this is something I definitely need to hear as often as possible – Thanks :)

        Reply
        1. Kate

          :) It doesn’t come naturally to most people. It’s so worth it, though. It makes you more engaged with your work. And it’s so much more pleasant to naturally build relationships through small interactions than to wait until you’re desperate for a new job and then frantically network. I don’t mean to sound like it’s all a means to an end– I genuinely liked the people I worked with, and still keep in touch with some of them. There’s really no downside to building relationships across campus.

          Good luck with everything!

          Reply
    9. Rainy, PI

      I just started a new job in career services (old job was a research PI and program manager), and my degrees are all in a very traditional Hum discipline. A Higher Ed master’s is going to qualify you for a number of jobs in student affairs as well as other areas of the university. Several people in my office have Higher Ed degrees, in fact. What kind of roles have you been looking at? I might be able to help.

      Reply
      1. Cindi Mayweather

        That’s great to hear! I haven’t really been seriously looking at any specific roles though, because I’m just not sure what I might be a good fit for. I just know that I would rather not move up in my current department (it’s a really unfortunate “I don’t know what I want, but I know what I don’t want situation).

        Reply
        1. Rainy, PI

          You might check and see if your career services office offers services to staff–a quick consultation with a careers advisor might help you crystallize your thoughts around what direction you want to go.

          Something else that might help is to look at 10 (or more) job descriptions of jobs you think you might like, copy and paste the list of duties and responsibilities into a word document, take out all the items that you don’t like, reduce the duplicates, and then see what that list of duties and responsibilities translates into as a job. It’s an exercise that can be really illuminating.

          Reply
    10. Lemon Zinger

      Hi! I work in higher ed and am taking advantage of tuition remission to get my M.Ed in Higher Ed Admin. There are SO many things you can do in higher education, and my program is good about exposing me to plenty of options. My classmates have a variety of roles in higher ed: IT, tutoring, career services, financial aid, academic advising, etc. It takes a village to make a college or university operate, and it’s nice to learn about the different aspects of that.

      FWIW, I work in admissions and actually realized that I want to stay in admissions thanks to my program. Let me know if you have any specific questions!

      Reply
      1. Cindi Mayweather

        Thank you! You know, I’m starting to realize perhaps I should just get started in the program. I am currently trying to figure out what I might like before I enroll – maybe not the best path.

        I know all places are different, but in your experience, is admissions a really pressured environment? That’s what I assumed, which is why I’ve dismissed it largely.

        Reply
        1. Lemon Zinger

          If you’re interested in working in higher ed long-term, in any capacity, just go ahead and enroll! You could probably even take a couple of classes without registering for the degree itself, just to gauge your interest.

          Admissions is definitely high-pressure at times, but mostly because we are busy. It can also be very, very slow. I have very little to do during the summer. It’s an incredibly rewarding office to be in because I am literally helping to shape the future of the university. Nothing beats calling a student to tell them they’ve been awarded a huge scholarship, or working with a first-generation student who didn’t think college was possible. Those are the best feelings!

          I don’t have a recruitment quota, and most people in admissions don’t (unless they work at for-profit universities). While some admissions staff have enrollment goals, the real purpose of our work is to educate students about college-going and our institution specifically, and help them figure out if this school is right for them or not.

          A good admissions office has staff who are trained to look for students for whom the school is a good fit: academically, financially, and socially. No high-pressure tactics for me, thanks very much!

          Reply
          1. Cindi Mayweather

            That’s really awesome to hear – it’s gone from being a no to a definite consideration. Thanks!

            Reply
    11. Airedale

      Just following the conversation since I can relate to this a bit:
      – Also a Communications undergrad who didn’t end up following up with my intended path (nonprofit PR) and transitioned into Higher Ed instead.
      – I’m also somewhat introverted but get along well with most people, and would definitely rather help out a student than call and request a donation.

      I was pretty open in my job search when I changed cities – I chose a few local universities and checked their job postings constantly, applying for whatever seemed like a potential good fit.

      Good luck!

      Reply
    12. Sabrina Spellman

      A degree in Higher Ed Administration may help you get into an administrative position like a professional advisor, perhaps the Registrar’s Office, or something within Academic Affairs.

      Reply
      1. Cindi Mayweather

        I’m so happy to hear the master’s will be helpful. It is definitely boosting my confidence in enrolling!

        Reply
        1. Wheezy Weasel

          I know some schools have a preference to hire alumni as well: with the master’s, you’ll be in that candidate pool too.

          Reply
  9. Saviour Self

    I recently moved into a different office. I work for a relatively small company and previously had my office on the outskirts of the office. My new office is on a central corridor that everyone must go through to get to the restroom, kitchen, main copier, etc. With a few exceptions, each person that walks by (multiple times a day), stares into my office at me as they walk past. I’ve been in the new office for over a month now so I would think the novelty would have worn off. I don’t like having my back to the door so I’m facing the door and see it. Every. Damn. Time.

    I’m trying to decide if I’m being sensitive and should really shrug it off. If not, any suggestions on what to do?

    Reply
    1. Rowan

      That would totally bug me too! Does your office culture allow for hanging something in that window? A decoration, a window blind, a work-related poster – i.e., anything that would block their view a bit?

      Reply
      1. Saviour Self

        I keep my door open unless having a sensitive conversation (I’m HR among other things) and we’re definitely an open door culture

        Reply
        1. AMT

          Maybe do the “door slightly open so people feel like they can approach me if they need me, but still mostly closed to block prying eyes” thing?

          Reply
          1. OlympiasEpiriot

            Yeah, I was thinking this.

            Also, is there a way for you to rearrange the furniture so you don’t see everyone passing in the corridor? Perhaps there’s some set up where you would definitely see someone who stepped close to your doorway, but not when they were just walking through on the way to the toilets. That way, you could keep the open door, but your line of sight wouldn’t get the distractions. Would that help? Or is it the knowledge that so many are peering in anyhow that bothers you?

            Reply
            1. Rainy, PI

              I always set myself so that my main workspace is facing one of the side walls: I’m available if someone needs me, but I’m not looking at the door. My experience is that an office setup where you directly face the door will ALWAYS make people look at you as they walk by. It also encourages them to think you’re available even if you are wearing your best “concentrating on a thing” face.

              Reply
    2. rageismycaffeine

      My office is right by the break room (where the copier also is) so I feel your pain. If you’re anything like me you’ll probably stop really noticing it after a while, or doing nothing more than glancing up and then going right back to work. The novelty might not have worn off for everyone else, but it probably will for you – hang in there!

      Reply
    3. Menacia

      Well, instead of facing with your front or your back to the door, can you sit sideways so you still have your peripheral view, but an not openly facing one? That might cut down on you noticing people looking at you when they walk by.

      I work in a cubicle that faces the main traffic area and I guess I’ve grown used to people looking at me when they pass by so it does not bother me. I also have dual monitors, so that affords me some privacy.

      Reply
      1. Terra Firma

        This is how I have my desk set up in my high traffic office location. It takes care of most of the distraction, but I’m less likely to be startled with someone coming up behind me.

        It doesn’t solve the problem of my office being in direct line of where errant ping pong balls tend to go during lunch breaks and after standard work hours, but it’s better than nothing. ;)

        Reply
    4. Jen A.

      I tend to glance through any open door I pass not because I want to be nosy or particularly care what anyone inside is doing but essentially I’m assessing whether someone is about to walk out the door and into my path for example. If the door is closed, I don’t have to make an assessment because the opening of the door will signal me. My situational awareness is calibrated somewhat differently than others though based on some of the locales I have lived in/worked in all over the world (however, not as bad as my friend who has spent even more time in war zones than I have – we’re both civilians – she can’t even read a book on the subway because she has to be aware of what’s going on around her at all times).

      People walk by my office all the time and I assume they do the same thing because I’ll often catch their eye and nod (my desk is against the wall to the left of the door so if they are coming from my left we’ll make eye contact but if they’re coming from my right they would have to stick their head in to see me).

      Reply
      1. EA in Partly Cloudy Florida

        This … to get from my desk to the restroom, I need to go into the main hallway, which then zags left for about 5 feet, then back to the same direction I … immediately after it goes back to the original direction, there’s an office on the right. I always end up looking into the office because I’m still doing my “look left then right as I walk around the corner” thing.

        Reply
    5. Hermione

      What about shifting your computer monitor around so that you’d have to pop your head around the monitor to see out of your door? Then at least you won’t notice them, and all they’d have to look at is the back of your monitor?

      Reply
      1. Friday

        And get a bigger monitor if necessary. This is what I did when I had a desk in an open office and faced the entryway.

        Reply
    6. Artemesia

      Any possibility a giant plant could be placed so it blocks your face at the desk. Maybe have the desk sideways rather than facing door and a giant plant between you and the door?

      Reply
      1. Bostonian

        LOL I missed the “plant” portion of this when I first read it and thought you were giving a funny suggestion to put an actual GIANT in the room. I have officially done too much preparation-binging of Game of Thrones.

        Reply
    7. Simone R

      That’s so funny that you posted this. Lately I’ve been noticing that when I walk by the offices on my floor my eyes dart into them even though I have no reason to look in them. Sometimes I accidentally make eye contact with the person sitting there which is super awkward but it keeps happening even tho I’m trying to stop. Maybe if you just think about it as a weird instinct some people have it will be easier to ignore?

      Reply
    8. Aitch Arr

      I’m in a temporary office (conference room) and the workarounds to avoid this are: my desk is parallel to the door/hallway; facilities put up a piece of frosted plastic over part of the glass wall next to my door. That way I don’t feel like I’m in a fishbowl.

      Reply
      1. Jadelyn

        I have blinds that cover or semi-cover most of my hallway glass wall; my counterparts across the hall had facilities put up some of that cling-film window covering stuff in a pretty but semi-opaque design to escape the fishbowl effect.

        Reply
      1. kb

        Brilliant! I think the only impulse stronger than glancing through doorways/windows as you pass them is too check yourself out in a mirror, lol

        Reply
    9. so_how_sick_do_you_get

      Make eye contact, wave, or smile. They probably don’t realize they’re doing it.
      I share an office with my co-worker and whenever I walk out I look in her direction. I don’t mean to, I’m not trying to peep on her stuff, but I’m sure it looks that way. Now that I’m aware of it, I’m better able to avert my gaze!

      Reply
    10. Bostonian

      You’re not being sensitive, it’s distracting! My cube is in a high-traffic area (conference rooms behind me, copier across from that, everyone in my department has to walk by me to get to their cubes…)

      I don’t have people looking in at me like you do, but to be honest my level of comfort with the constant traffic has gotten worse over time, not better. I think everyone’s suggestions regarding some sort of physical barrier are the way to go. My only relief is that I have 2 monitors: 1 is positioned towards the hall, and the other away, so I can adjust my position in relation to everyone else (when I don’t actually need to use both at the same time).

      Reply
    11. Lady Alys

      Can you get a standing screen to partially block the door – maybe it could double as a bulletin-board sort of thing, with HR docs on it? My boss has a screen that she uses so that people can’t see through the small window in her door the utter disaster that is her office.

      Reply
  10. rageismycaffeine

    I was just on a local “escape room” company’s website to reserve a game for friends visiting next week, and saw that they’re hiring – interesting to me as I LOVE escape rooms and it might be a fun part-time job.

    So I clicked over to the job application and scrolled down the questions. One of them is – and I quote:

    “Please describe a time that you shocked someone by serving them.”

    Now I am assuming that they mean a PLEASANT shock, but I still find this question so bewilderingly phrased as to be unsure of how to answer it. When I’m not laughing at the mental images it conjures (my husband suggested “One time I served dinner and when I took the silver dome off the platter it was a HUMAN HEAD”)

    How would YOU answer this in a job application and/or interview?

    And – would it be super weird for me to reach out to them (anonymously, probably) and suggest that they reword that one for some clarity?

    Reply
    1. FDCA In Canada

      It might be a little weird, but how it’s received probably depends on who gets the email there. If it goes to a general inbox and someone who isn’t in charge of anything checks it, it might not go anywhere. But if it’s a small enough place, it might get sent to the right person and who knows, they might reword it.

      Once I was looking for a local butcher shop and to my surprise, in the text beneath the link on Google–the thing that usually gives a brief description or whatever–the text read “Sexy Linguine Night.” I could not imagine that had been intended, so I sent off a brief email alerting them with a screenshot, and next week it had been fixed. They never did get back to me, though.

      Reply
        1. afiendishthingy

          I mean I’m guessing Sexy Lingerie but I’m still mystified about this event occurring at a butcher shop?? Hard pass.

          Reply
        2. FDCA In Canada

          I believe they changed it to a standard text descriptor a la “Butcher shop specializing in local meats and sausages” and that kind of thing. Sexy Linguine Night was vanished and I never did learn more!

          Reply
    2. T3k

      I say if there’s a way to send it anonymously just to point it out and keep a friendly tone, it’ll be fine. I can’t tell you how mortified (but grateful) I was when my personal website for my portfolio had a misspelling I missed and someone anonymously messaged me to let me know.

      Reply
    3. CityMouse

      My cousin designs puzzles for one of those. I do think it is an odd question and I think they are looking for quirky thinking. Maybe a time you went above and beyond in an unusual way?

      Reply
    4. Lucky

      I once tripped on a customer’s leg and dropped four prime rib dinners on/near him, during a busy New Year’s Eve service. With au jus. That was pretty shocking.

      Reply
    5. OlympiasEpiriot

      Honestly, the thing that came to mind when I read that was “I had shoes I couldn’t walk in without scuffing and I shocked anyone I touched”.

      Reply
      1. LKW

        And I was thinking “I was an EMT and someone had a cardiac event and we used the portable whatzis to start his heart again.”

        Reply
        1. EA in Partly Cloudy Florida

          My first thought was an electrician, but similar results (although, I guess it’s far better for an EMT to be shocking customers than an electrician)

          Reply
      1. rageismycaffeine

        You know, I did think of that, but this is not that kind of escape room. If it were that question would make sense.

        Reply
    6. Epsilon Delta

      My reading is that the wording is intentional. Like those interviewers who ask you what kind of candy bar you would be. They want to see how you react.

      Reply
  11. Audiophile

    Happy Friday!

    I always forget what I want to ask by the time these roll around.

    Guess I’ll pop back in later.

    Reply
  12. Promotion without a raise

    I got a promotion (XX to Sr XX). With this new promotion, I got 30% of my salary in RSUs and a good bonus. But my base salary didn’t change. So no base raise at all. This is after previous year of 2.8% raise.

    My manager said they looked at the market and I’m in range, and in half in the upper half of the range. I do not doubt this. I got a really good review – I was rated a 1 in Potential and a high 2 out of 4 in Performance. And according to company comp guidelines, this combination can get a 0% to 4% raise. For context, I’m at a big tech company that is doing well, (not Google or Facebook).

    I told my manager I’m very excited about the new opportunity, I’d like to digest the information, and we’ll talk again in a week when he gets back from a trip.

    So my question – what is the best way to negotiate this raise, and what is the phrasing that is helpful? I have an excellent relationship with my manager and I like my job a lot, and I am excited about my future at this company. I am disappointed I got no raise despite a promotion and a very strong rating.

    Reply
    1. Cheese Sticks and Pretzels

      Did you look at the market so see if you fall in range? Payscale, Glassdoor etc.? Check there first to see if what your managment is telling you is true.

      Reply
    2. It happens

      Aren’t the RSUs in addition to your salary? Did you receive them at a lower percentage before? That sounds like a (deferred) raise to me. Companies give stock like that to retain employees (among other reasons.) Unless I’m missing something, it sounds like you’re doing ok with your boss.

      Reply
      1. BRR

        If the RSU’s were a one time thing and there’s no guarantee of anything additional going forward, I think there’s a case.

        Reply
    3. Managing to get by

      It could be that you were already doing the work of a Senior and getting paid at the senior level, so the promotion is just recognizing this, formalizing the title and getting you in the right bonus structure. I’ve done this when I have staff with a lower level title who are performing at the level of higher titled people, and who are in the higher titled salary range due to getting better raises over time since they are exceeding expectations for the lower level job. Usually we try to give at least a small salary bump but sometimes cannot due to how their salary fits with the rest of the people in that salary band. The increase in bonus between our levels is greater than the salary increase at our organization, so it works out well either way.

      Reply
  13. T3k

    So, I’m in a bit of a sticky situation and not sure how to write this.

    I had an interview on Tues., and I want to send a thank you note. However, the problem is this: when I applied, I was told they’d send a confirmation email for me to respond to then they’d respond back with the location. I didn’t receive the second email so by the end of the week I tried calling on Fri. but didn’t get anyone, so I left a message. Weekend rolls around, nothing, so I tried calling twice on Mon. (morning and late afternoon) and still nobody.

    The day of the intended interview rolls around and now I’m really at a loss. In hindsight, I should have tried calling earlier that morning, but at the time I was thinking “maybe it’s a phone interview” so 10 mins. after my scheduled time with no one calling, I called and lo and behold, I reach my contact and when I explained I didn’t know the location, it turns out she forgot to send me the information.

    To her credit she explained to the interviewers it was her fault about the miscommunication and they were able to reschedule me for later that day, but now I don’t know how to address this in the thank you note. Do I address it at all, ignore it, claim I should have tried calling that day? (The email would also go directly to the interviewer, as I was given a sheet with their email address, so it won’t have to be relayed through my first contact).

    Reply
    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      No need to address it. Just send a standard follow-up note (ASAP!).

      (You could, I suppose, include a no-fuss line like this: “I appreciate your willingness to reschedule quickly after the miscommunication with Contact.”)

      Reply
      1. T3k

        Thanks (and to everyone else with their suggestions). I decided to use similar wording to this just to show I appreciated that they had to move their schedule around a bit because of the miscommunication.

        Reply
    2. It's me

      I wouldn’t say anything about what you should have done differently (it sounded like you did a lot to try to sort this out!) but it seems like it would be appropriate to thank them for fitting you in that afternoon following the scheduling miscommunication. That way you are being gracious by acknowledging that they fixed the situation but you don’t seem like you’re groveling/taking responsibility for something that really wasn’t their fault.

      Reply
    3. WhoseTheCrazyOneHere?

      It’s a weird situation, which is GOOD because you a memorable now. Might be a good opportunity to ‘stand out’ in the interviewer’s mind.. Whatever was the ‘theme’ of the interview.. “teamwork”, “communication”, “critical-thinking” part that they seemed to care about most, turn the narrative of getting the interview sorted into a story showcasing that skill.

      And best of luck!

      Reply
    4. Havarti

      I wouldn’t address it beyond saying thank you for taking the time to do the interview. If you bring up the error or apologize for not calling sooner (after already calling several times), they’re just going to remember you as the person who reminded them they screwed up. Be gracious and ignore it in writing but keep a sharp eye on how they conduct business – if this was a one-time goof or how they normally handle things.

      Reply
  14. paul

    Oh good, I’m early:

    If anyone remembers, a few weeks ago I asked about talking to a friend about work burnout and how to broach the the idea that he *really* needed to find a new job.

    Well, he’s applying to places and he’s asked me to be a reference, which is fine. But I’m not sure how to be a good reference.

    We’re long time friends, and we’ve never worked at the same agency–but we have been on some of the same community committees, and back when he was a new case manager and I was working in a shelter, we frequently ran into each other in professional settings (him bringing clients in, meeting clients, etc). The last few years that’s been much less the case due to our shifts in job duties/titles.

    Ideas on how to give a good reference? I know he’s a good case manager and handles that well, and the jobs he’s applied for have zero supervisory components from what he’s said, which I think is a plus (and two of them are in my parent’s small home town in a different state–weird world sometimes!).

    Reply
    1. Trix

      So you’d be a personal reference, not a professional reference, right?

      If so, what I’ve done in this situation is let my friend know that while I’d be happy to speak to their character, most of the time, even a glowing personal reference won’t have anywhere near the same weight as any professional reference, so if there are any other professional references they can add, that would probably be a better choice than me.

      Unless, of course, this job is specifically asking for a personal reference (which would be unusual after a first job, in my experience).

      Reply
      1. paul

        That’s the thing…I *think* I’d be a little bit of both? I haven’t ever worked at the same place as him but our paths crossed professionally, semi regularly for several years…but were friends before that too so it complicates things.

        Reply
    2. fposte

      I think what you’ve covered is fine. I’ve given similar references. You want to be transparent that you haven’t been his boss or his co-worker but still have information that helps draw a picture of him.

      And this is a really good example for people who ask the “Who can I use as a reference if I can’t use my boss?” question. You can use paul. Okay, not literally paul, but somebody you’ve worked with like paul.

      Reply
      1. neverjaunty

        Exactly. When you’re up front with interviewers – “Wakeen and I are friends, and we worked together at AcmeCo. Did I ever supervise him? No.” – then they take the reference seriously. The problem comes in when a friend is trying to talk up someone’s professional credentials more than they should be able to do.

        Reply
    3. MissDisplaced

      I think you just address the areas you DO know that are positive as you didn’t work with him directly at the same organization.

      “While I haven’t worked at the same agency as Wakeen, I have been on some mutual community committees with him and observed X and Y during his meetings and interactions with clients. I know he enjoys A and B about his role/career as Teapot Consultant and he would likely handle those types of positions very well.”

      If you have a specific committee example it might also be helpful.

      Reply
    4. motherofdragons

      I’ve been asked to give references by people who I volunteer with. I always ask the person to tell me a few specific traits or accomplishments they’d like me to highlight about them during the reference call. That gives them the chance to tailor the reference a bit to the job, and it helps me give them an awesome reference. It also gives me the chance to screen it for “Ummm, you didn’t really do that” (which has never happened so far).

      Reply
  15. DevAssist

    Hi All!
    I feel like I already know the answer to this, but would it be inappropriate to contact a company two weeks after applying (via email) for an open position? Part of my concern is that my email has a domain that, while not uncommon per say, is less common than gmail. I sort of want to try reaching out just to make sure my email didn’t go directly to the hiring manager’s spam box.

    Reply
    1. CityMouse

      I know it is tempting but I wouldn’t do it. It might come across as pushy and unless you have a history of a spam problem it seems unlikely (and if you do have a spam problem the best thing is to get a new email address). Two weeks really isn’t that long in many industries.

      Reply
      1. The Queen of Cans & Jars

        +1 from an HR manager who gets annoyed by the number of applicants who send emails like this from folks who are hoping I’ll just set them up for an interview.

        Reply
        1. Jadelyn

          My favorite was from the one who submitted her resume at like 4:00pm Friday. By the time I got in on Monday, I had 2 more follow-up emails over the weekend, and a voicemail, which means she called our call center and badgered someone into connecting her through to me.

          She was not considered for the position.

          Reply
    2. Lisa

      If the first email went into her spam filter, the second one likely will as well. If the first email didn’t, then there is no real need to send a second one. I vote no.

      Reply
    3. Here we go again

      I don’t know if the domain name is a a real concern or something that you are trying to tell yourself as a way to justify your feelings…. It seems like it’s the latter since you do acknowledge that you already know the answer, but I would just get a gmail account in this case. :-)

      Reply
      1. DevAssist

        Thanks “Here we go again” and everyone else!

        Yeah, hoping just to be assured. I’m desperate to get out of my current job, but I don’t want to bug people, at all. The email thing is a real concern, but I also have a gmail account (it is just not my primary email). I’m most likely NOT going to email (because, duh) but the process of job searching is frustrating!

        Reply
  16. Kim Possible

    I have a question about having job references on a resume.

    To give some background, I’ve been at my current job for two years now (it’s my second job post-college). I’ve had an excellent experience here. In my time at the company, I’ve earned two considerable raises, a promotion, and even had some training documents that I made (unprompted, in my free time) featured on our intercompany website for use across our 36 branches nationwide. My direct supervisor, boss, and coworkers have showered me with praise for two years, and I’m extremely thankful for their encouragement and desire for me to succeed here.

    My first job out of college was a completely different story – an absolutely horrid experience. I worked for a corporation that was based in New York City, from a remote location halfway across the country. I had no managers on site, just two coworkers who were as lost as I was. The company was severely understaffed and overworked, and I was thrown into the deep end on day one with zero training. My “supervisor”, who was a thousand miles away, constantly deflected my questions and refused to train me, claiming to be “too busy.” I was expected to complete high level hedge fund work in an unreasonable time frame, without ever really knowing how to do the work I was given. Six months into my job, I was put on a PIP (which still makes it difficult not to hold a grudge, because my performance was a direct reflection of my lack of training.) I actually ended up making it through the PIP, but already had my current job lined up, and resigned two days after the PIP time frame ended.

    Anyway, my question is – if I ever decided to leave my current company and seek other job opportunities, who will I use as references? There are several people at my current company (supervisor, boss, coworkers), who I know would serve as excellent references. However, I also know that if I were to seek out other jobs, I wouldn’t want my current company to know that I was looking to leave. Obviously, I can’t use anyone from my first company as a reference, after the awful experience I had there. I feel like I’ll be stuck in terms of references when (if) I ever choose to leave here, because those who would give great references for me, can’t know that I’m job searching. The only jobs I had pre-college were a checking job at a grocery store, and a summer internship in the grocery store’s accounting department (which was a small, two person department). While the internship was a positive experience, it happened 4 years ago, and was such a short stint that if I were to use one of my two trainers as a reference (who I haven’t spoken to since), I don’t think they’d be able to speak specifically to my character and work ethic after how long it’s been; it’d probably be more along the lines of, “oh, that girl? Yeah, it was a long time ago, but she did a good job.” I feel similarly about using one of the store managers from the grocery store as a reference, to speak about my employment as a checker. The store goes through hundreds of high school and college students every year, and I wouldn’t anticipate them even remembering who I was (although I did do a good job, FWIW.)

    Any suggestions would be appreciated!

    Reply
    1. briefly anon

      No advice, but love your name. I’ve cosplayed as her before and am planning to again soon, along with a Shego for the first time. I might just have red hair and be named Kim.

      Reply
    2. CAA

      Get connected on LinkedIn with everyone you would want to use as a reference if you could. By the time you need references, it’s likely that some of those people will have left your current company. They can still be used as references even if they don’t work with you or the company any longer.

      Don’t use the pre-college jobs at this point unless a new employer is being ridiculous about “at least 3 supervisors” or something like that. You’ve got 2 post-college professional jobs and your references for new professional positions should come from those rather than from the grocery store.

      Reply
    3. Amber T

      Similar experience here (horrible first job out of college, good second job but considering leaving, just not sure how!). Really hoping there are some good responses, because I am at a loss on how to start looking.

      Reply
    4. oy with the poodles already!

      My advice – purely from personal experience that mirrors this in many ways – is that there are opportunities to make this work, and sometimes you just have to be a bit creative. I’m a major worrier and this kind of thing stresses me out a lot – so I totally get it.

      If you were to need references, could you perhaps ask a colleague in your department or peer somewhere else in the org. who knows you well, but might not be your direct manager? If they ask for managers (and they usually do…) you can always explain that your current manager doesn’t know you’re job searching, but that you have people elsewhere who you’ve worked with who know your work well.

      Is there anyone other than your manager that you did work well with at evil oldjob? Maybe a coworker who saw your hardwork and knows you have gained considerable skills since? Other options might be if you volunteer or something like that, you can ask someone who knows your work to speak to it.

      I think you have a great problem here, in that you enjoy and are good at what you’re doing but also want to climb the ladder and move upwards. That’s great! I have a feeling if your current job is that fabul0us, there will be someone there to be a reference and cheer you on as you move forward. People in good orgs like to see each other succeed – and moving on to new jobs is indeed a part of that.

      good luck!

      Reply
    5. ginkgo

      I asked a similar question a while back, so I feel you! What about people you worked with at the current company who have moved on to other jobs? It helps that this isn’t a pressing issue at the moment – just keep up good relationships with them and keep in touch when they leave (on LinkedIn or whatever).

      Reply
    6. Liane

      Did you mean job references on an application?
      Reference lists aren’t part of resumes (or cover letters), and don’t get submitted with them. Well, there are a very few exceptions (academia I think?) where it is expected that you will include reference/recommendation letters in your application packet.

      Reply
    7. Not So NewReader

      I would suggest to the boss that the problem with tying evals and bonuses to reviews on the internet is that you have no way of knowing what is real and what is not.
      For example, two coworkers could despise each other. The nastier coworker could post fake bad reviews on the net and therefore get their coworker written up and/or bonus-less.
      OTH, if good reviews give people bonuses and good evals, then employees might start paying people to sing those praises online. I think this is going to get employees into hot water ethically quicker than the previous scenario.

      The next problem that the boss will face is that he could have several people with write-ups. This could impact business as employees start doing all kinds of strange things so that they do not get hit with a write-up.

      The basic problem that the boss does not see is that we cannot control what people write about us on the internet. You can say something to the effect, “Boss, you could write that ‘Nervous Accountant is a jerk’ all over the internet and there is very little I can do to stop you. This is the world we have, Boss. I’d like to suggest that it would just be best to target good customer service, we are losing precious time and energy chasing a few naysayers. There will always be naysayers.”

      In the days before the internet, companies would write letters to complainers, “I am sorry you had this experience. Please stop in (or call) and we will be happy to help reconcile the problem.” Now I am seeing similar responses from companies online. It’s a solid, classy response.

      Have you looked at your company’s financials? I am concerned because the boss seems to be grasping at straws with this reviews on the net thing. And I am wondering why the desperation. Many years ago I worked for a company that was going to save itself from ruin by watching how much money was spent on office supplies. “Do not lose your pen, we will go under if you do. And try to use less TP, okay?”
      I looked at their financials for the year. Their second largest expense was “miscellaneous”. I knew I had to leave.

      Reply
    8. NoodleMara

      I’m in a similar boat! I’ve only had one job post college and it’s the one I’m trying to leave. I had one part time college job. I’ve got a volunteer position with a lovely manager there so I’m using her as one reference. There’s also a coworker who left the company that I will be using. I suspect I’ll need to do what Alison recommends and get an offer in hand with a final check with current manager. I’ve got an excellent relationship with my boss and I know he’ll give me a good reference once I’m committed. I’m going to try and do better in the future with keeping up with people but I’m not on linkedin and don’t really talk much to people I don’t see.

      Reply
  17. Nervous Accountant

    Thanks all for the replies last week, it was super helpful! Evals from managers are due next week and meetings are in the weeks after so there’s not much I can say right now in that regard, but I have a few points I’ll ask about in a separate post.

    But Yall, I had a super crazy week this week, and it just felt all around weird/heavy not just for me but for others.

    A client left a bad review on our social media. Unlike last time I wasn’t asked to call and grovel to get them to remove it BUT it was still bad bc my manager (regretfully i may add) said the’d be forced to write me up if it happened again.

    The TL of events–
    I had a call scheduled. Left two voicemails and sent a personalized email (our procedure when clients are no shows).
    I step away from my desk, when I come back I prep for another client. I talk to the client. client emails me back, and we communicate over email. He had scheduled an appointment for the next day, so I said we’d talk then.

    Next morning, client leaves a bad review and our company takes these VERY seriously.

    My mgr was pretty frustrated about this and spent a lot of time trying to placate the client.

    Towards end of the day, he talked to me–basically saying that I know better. The company loses money over bad reviews, and the writeup.

    Worst part? This could affect my raise/bonus. I was livid at this. I’ve worked too hard over hte last few years to get a write up again, which was unfair and humiliating the first time around.

    I do my job, I DO IT WELL and I’m seething that a year of hard work cannot be undone by one client’s review when I made every sincere effort to contact them.

    I just feel this was unreasonable.

    Reply
    1. LCL

      Your company is unreasonable. Any jerk can say anything on social media. I feel bad for you, I think it is lousy of your company to base your raise and bonus on social media postings.

      Reply
    2. Brogrammer

      Did your manager tell you what you should have done differently? It sounds like you followed the standard procedure but the client got upset anyway.

      Reply
      1. Nervous Accountant

        The client called back a few times, but each time either I was away from my desk or on call with another client. I have appointments throughout the day, and when I don’t have a call, I’m emailing my clients or working on other things. They felt I should have just called him even for a few minutes.

        I take a bit of a stricter stance with clients and I’ve been told to be softer on that, and I have, I REALLY REALLY HAVE. But things like this make it feel like the end of the world.

        Reply
    3. Cheese Sticks and Pretzels

      I would think your email (per procedure) that you sent when the client was a no show should trump the negative review. How can it possibly be your fault when it was the client who was the no show?
      I agree 100% it is unreasonable that a clients review that was totally out of your control can affect your raise/bonus. Especially when you have email communication to back you up.

      Reply
    4. Menacia

      I hate these kinds of impossible to achieve goals that you have absolutely no control over…ridiculous.

      Reply
    5. Jessi

      So the client didn’t answer when you called? You left two voicemails and emailed him and He wrote a bad review?

      I mean what else were you supposed to do? keep calling till he answered? I would literally ask my boss this – what else could I have done?
      I think if this does block your raise and bonus you know everything you need to know about your future with this company – 1 bad review will stop you progressing and it might be time to look for a new position….

      Reply
      1. Nervous Accountant

        I did–he said picked up when he called back. or called him back.

        I was already communicating over email, I thought that was enough.

        Reply
        1. Jadelyn

          Clearly your manager needed to discuss these very, very specific expectations with you at some point and didn’t. If they’re going to get that pissy about you emailing rather than calling, they need to make that clear to you well in advance of it ever being an issue.

          And frankly, the fact that your bonus is hostage to social media reviews, of ALL THINGS, is absurd.

          Reply
      2. Nervous Accountant

        I mean. No one threatened that that would be the case. But I’m scared it will be. Just last week I was prepared to ask for a giant increase so idk what’ll happen now.

        Reply
    6. OlympiasEpiriot

      I agree. This sounds completely unreasonable. I can’t imagine basing all of a review on a single review (or even a handful) from a client who didn’t even show up for a scheduled call.

      Best of luck.

      Reply
    7. WellRed

      I think it’s a stretch to say the company loses money over a bad online review. I mean, it’s not ideal, but how do they quantify that? And yes, this is totally unreasonable.

      Reply
      1. Nervous Accountant

        they’re able to quantify that every bad review results in the loss of a potential customer.

        Reply
    8. LKW

      I’m curious, what did the client want you or your company to do differently? Be available for them at-will? Is the negative review based in reality or imaginary capabilities? Does your manager understand the difference between the two?

      Reply
    9. Liz

      It sounds like the client missed the scheduled call, then you missed her call back. And instead of calling again, you emailed and rescheduled the call.

      And the client was unhappy that you were not flexible enough to talk.

      You boss was clear that you should have called the client back instead of emailing her to reschedule.

      It sounds like this position requires more flexibility than you like?

      I don’t know the timing here but if I had an appointment and called you back during that time, I would be very unhappy that you were not available to me.

      Reply
      1. Nervous Accountant

        No the client rescheduled on their own. That’s why I didn’t call back and emailed bc I thought we’d talk during the next appt.

        The client was calling back after the appointment time was over.

        I could have been more flexible

        Reply
        1. The OG Anonsie

          You could have, but what happened was entirely reasonable. You accommodated the client in the way that they indicated they wanted to be accommodated– they asked to reschedule, which you did. They didn’t indicate to you that they wanted this to go any other way, why would you push them to do something other than what they asked and call that better service?

          The fact that they were then unhappy that things went the way they set it up to go is dumb, but what’s way more dumb is the way your management is acting like this is a grave offense that you should have prevented. Worse is that years of good performance can get hung on something as asinine as this and block your bonus.

          Reply
    10. Michael Scarn, CPA

      I’m assuming you’re in public accounting? If so, get out. Go to industry. You get to do the accounting without the hassle of client service. I’m so much happier in industry.

      Reply
    11. misspiggy

      This looks like your company will use any excuse to get out of paying bonuses. As bonuses are a key means of employee retention, why should you stay?

      Reply
  18. Interviewing

    I’ve had 2 promising first interviews and one job is so clearly the better fit that I’ve considered Allison’s past remarks about unsolicited recommendations from past managers. Is it a terrible idea to have one of my supervisors reach out? How is this typically done?hope to hear from jobseekers, recommenders and hiring managers who have experienced this.

    Reply
    1. Saviour Self

      Does your past manager know the hiring manager?

      If not, I wouldn’t do it.

      If they do, you could mention that you’ve applied for the position at company XYZ and interviewed with Hiring Manager NAME and ask their opinion on reaching out to the hiring manager.

      Reply
    2. Health Insurance Nerd

      I don’t love this idea; as a hiring manager, if I received unsolicited feedback from a supervisor of a potential new hire, it would make me think twice about moving forward and offering that person a position.

      Reply
    3. Lily in NYC

      It’s not going to help you and could backfire big time. I’d avoid doing it. I’ve been helping with hiring for a long time now and the only time we got an unsolicited reference, it was for an intern who was still in college.

      Reply
      1. Lily in NYC

        One caveat – if your reference is a big name in the industry, my advice changes and I say go for it.

        Reply
    4. BRR

      Unless they know each other I wouldn’t do it. If i was the hiring manager, it woudl just feel like a candidate trying to circumvent the system.

      Reply
  19. Alex

    Reflecting on my own situation, I am curious about peoples’ role models for career success. Did you have a parent or teacher or mentor that explained/modeled how to be successful (however you define it) or did you have to figure it out on your own? Are you still figuring it out? Did being a good student translate to being a good employee or were there additional traits/behaviors you had to learn to be successful? Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Backroads

      I feel like I had to spot and emulate the best when I actually entered the field (teaching). I even had a professor early on in college say there were two types of education majors: those who learned much about teaching in college and those who had to be in the field to get it and for whom the teacher art part of the major were a waste of time. I was definitely the latter.

      Reply
    2. Rincat

      I think my role models were more of the “DON’T do this” variety. They weren’t terrible (not all of them), they just made some choices that took them down paths they didn’t want to go, and regretted it later. Like my mom – she got a master’s in a subject she didn’t really want, and took on adjunct teaching she didn’t really want to do, and now she wishes she had an entirely different career path – but she did those things because she thought “that’s what you’re supposed to do.” I understand sometimes people make choices out of necessity (like if you need a paycheck right now or something) or various circumstances, but things like that made me resolve to do things for the right reasons, and not just “because that’s what you do.” This is why I quit my master’s program and I’ve never regretted that (also I have significantly less debt!)

      I also just read a LOT of stuff online and from books from different people about things like “how to be a database admin” or other paths I was interested in. I keep tabs on the Bureau of Labor Stats and other economy and tech news so I can get a sense of where the industry is headed, and what skills I need.

      I’m probably still figuring out a lot though. :) I could definitely be more assertive, and I think that would have helped a lot. But I’m in a pretty good place now!

      Reply
    3. Lora

      I have some mentors, although the most powerful one doesn’t do anything remotely related to what I do now. But I didn’t meet him until I was mid-career. Prior to that, well…STEM is notoriously nasty to women, and it was a long time ago when it was even nastier than it is in 2017. So I’m kinda making it up as I go along.

      The really hard part was learning that I am not going to be recognized or rewarded for critical, horrible disease-curing, saving people from certain death work. I get a certificate of appreciation, maybe a gift card for $100 on Christmas (and maybe not). Realistically, that recognition goes to men who know how to play office politics, not women no matter how much they know about politics. I mean, we just published the results of a really important clinical trial, and I know for a fact that the work was split pretty evenly between men and women because of this particular sub-field, and involved a lot of work by two women in particular – those two women aren’t credited AT ALL, and the ratio of men:women on the authorship is >3:1. And that is considered fairly progressive, because they did credit the woman who managed the analytical work and normally she’d be ignored. Coming to terms with the sheer amount of sexism, racism, and especially classism in my field was tough. Like, your colleagues are mostly polite and nice and intelligent, but odds are they are mostly jerks you don’t want to hang out with on a personal level. And you’re gonna have to do team building exercises with these dudes whom you find morally reprehensible in so many ways.

      No, being a student had nothing to do with being successful. Learning office politics and networking has done a LOT more for my success than being a good student. Which is unfortunate, I worked my butt off in school and I was great at learning things quickly. But knowing things that are relevant to your field has very little to do with who is successful: mostly it’s timing and being lucky. There’s a guy where I work now, who got to the same level I am with a completely irrelevant background just by virtue of his properly educated boss quitting suddenly and he was the oldest and most senior pair of hands in the lab, even though all he had been doing was literally being a pair of hands with a pulse, hired at a time when they were expanding quickly and desperate for warm bodies. I mean, everyone hates dealing with him because it drags things out for hours trying to catch him up on the background info, but there he is.

      Reply
      1. only acting normal

        Ack. So true. (I’m a woman in STEM too).
        I’m so often staggered by the disparity between the good-to-mediocre-to-useless men compared to the mostly-absolutely-stellar women (still true among the graduate hires so I don’t see it changing any time soon). And you’re correct, the recognition doesn’t go where it’s due.
        I’ve had my work credited to a sub-ordinate male more than once (they don’t even have to try to steal credit, it just gets handed to them by higher-ups, on -quote- “a feeling” that it couldn’t have been me who did it). It does make one bitter and cynical, once you’ve got over the shock.

        It was really brought home to me by the Xmas meal where five middle-aged, middle-class, white men (sat opposite five younger/older/working-class/female/disabled/minority team mates, all junior to them) were happily chortling about how ridiculous efforts at “diversity” were, with not a hint of irony or self-awareness. And they were all relatively “good guys”!

        Reply
    4. Temperance

      I had to figure this out on my own. I grew up in a lower-class/blue collar family, and it was really difficult to navigate. Blue collar culture is vastly different from white collar culture.

      Reply
      1. Mischa

        Absolutely. I also came from a working-class family, was the first college grad and now first person (including extended family) to pursue a law degree. It’s been really tough and I learned everything basically by trial and error. I made some poor financial decisions in regards to student loans, because my parents and I had zero idea what we were doing. But I don’t regret those decisions even though they are a huge burden. I’m still figuring things out, but I’m happy with where I am in life.

        Reply
      2. krysb

        This. I’m making it up as I go along. I have one cousin in a similar position. I am one of four kids, and the only one to graduate from high school, let along go to college (which I won’t even graduate until December, and I’m 32). It’s a great big mystery to me.

        Reply
    5. matcha123

      I didn’t have anyone, and it’s been very frustrating for me. My immediate family is small and I don’t really have any contact with them, and the adults around me when I was growing up were either teachers/professors, doctors, lawyers or working for NGOs. These people came from families that were already quite well off, and none of them had careers that appealed to me.
      I’m still trying to figure out my own path. It’s frustrating to watch my friends as they climb higher, get fatter paychecks and promotions, while I am somewhat stuck doing the same thing for a low salary.

      I think that I’m a good employee, but I started working in 3rd grade delivering newspapers and I’ve stayed employed with little interruption until now. The longest I’ve been unemployed has been maybe 8 to 10 months, and I’m 33 now. What makes me a good employee is something I hate, and that’s the fear of having no job and being homeless. I don’t have a safety net, savings or family that can bail me out. This means that when I start at a new place, I have to be extra observant, very careful and never complain. I’ll take on any task and volunteer for any task I think I can do or help with. I’ve gotten positive feedback from every place I’ve worked at, and when I have had problems, it’s been very clear that my work ethic or ability were not the issue. Someone didn’t like me, but the quality of my work and the friendly relations I formed with other coworkers meant that I did have some political capital (even if I am generally the youngest person on the team).

      Reply
      1. matcha123

        I should add, I didn’t have any mentors. I am always so surprised when I see people here write about work mentors who have coached them through tough times. I suppose part of it has to do with the jobs I’ve worked. But even as a student, no one took any interest in me. I was a “good girl” and a good enough student. Send your mentors my way!

        Reply
        1. Anxa

          Yeah, I really have a hard time picturing having a true work mentor. I can’t even imagine how awesome that would be.

          I was not actually a good student for a few years (undergrad…oh why oh why couldn’t I have picked ANY other 3 year period to slump) so maybe I never felt I deserved to ask for help. My school ran out of advisors, internships were competitive, and despite advocating for my classmates all of the time (literally one of my jobs), I never felt like I really deserved anyone’s extra attention because I hadn’t aced all the prep-work/hw, etc.

          Reply
    6. Menacia

      I never had anyone to guide me so I developed very strong observation skills and had to learn many things by reading (which thankfully, I love to do). I still do so today (Google is my best friend), I tend not to ask many questions because not knowing something or asking for help was always viewed as a weakness.

      Reply
    7. Kate

      I was very, very fortunate to have parents that modeled how to be successful. Mostly I learned by watching them, but they’re also full of great advice and always willing to talk. I hit the jackpot.

      Beyond that, I also adopted mentors along the way. I’ve never had a formal mentor/mentee relationship. When I see someone whose career path looks interesting and who’s well-respected, I observe them, try out some of their behaviors and tactics, and see what works. Sometimes I seek out their advice, but mostly I just observe. It’s been really effective. Performance reviews when I was in my mid-20s tended to talk about my maturity and professional presence, which was funny because I was imitating the successful middle aged women around me.

      Reply
    8. Sara

      Zeroing in on your good student/good employee question, I remember being surprised at how little the subject matter content for what I studied actually came into play, and I even ended up in a career that directly related to my major (yes, art history majors DO get jobs sometimes!).

      What I found was much more useful were the skills I’d learned from things like being involved in leadership positions in student organizations and work-study experiences. For example, the year I spent on the leadership board of my sorority taught me how to lead a meeting and work with a budget, which no class I took ever did. And I had a work-study job doing PR for the music department’s events, which was in no way at all related to my major, but having to learn how to do that in that job turned out to be very useful in my first job, when I had to promote and run programs for the museum I worked in. Again, nothing I ever learned in a class.

      When I’ve had interns now, that’s usually part of the advice I give them: yes, classes matter, but also pay attention to the other things you’re learning outside of class. Being able to communicate and be organized and able to realize when you need to learn something is just as useful as subject matter.

      Reply
    9. writelhd

      I think we’re always still figuring out. My first boss (and my current boss) has been an amazing role model to me—I lucked out in that regard. Not only is he an awesome worker and leader, but he actually did my job before he got promoted to being president, so I got to see how he did my job, before it became my job. As my job is a lonely one that could be charted a bunch of possible ways, and something people who aren’t doing it don’t really understand, that was hugely beneficial. Even so, I don’t always do it the way he did it– I’m always watching other people–especially people who *aren’t* above me in the ladder– to see how they handle all kinds of different situations, and trying to absorb what lessons I can from them. Everybody can teach everybody something, really.

      Reply
    10. KR

      I had a mentor in Last Job and while he taught me a lot of amazing skills and opened doors for me, he also taught me what I didn’t want to happen in terms of being a supervisor and how a department can work and work can flow. I have had people I’ve worked with in projects and seen in companies I’ve worked for that have really been role models for me in that I want to be as efficient and organized and professional as they are (considering I’m on AAM when I should be working I’d say I’m doing great). I also am always on the lookout for females that are doing Great Work, females I really admire in my company, and in positions of power because while I don’t want to be CEO I want to be successful in what I do throughout life and women face unique challenges in the work force.

      Reply
    11. Liz

      As a child I thought my mousy mom was a terrible role model and my pushy, loud, and overbearing aunt was a great role model. As i got older i realized they were 2 sides of the same coin and neither was a good role model. I never really found a good role model though, I just stumbled along. I once asked someone to be a mentor, it did not go well. Currently my closest friend, who is 19 years younger, is a killer businesswoman but she struggles with personal life. So we are mentors for each other.

      Reply
  20. Sadie Doyle

    Last week, I posted about waffling over applying for a job where I’m an good-but-not-great match and wishing my jerk brain would shut up long enough for me to actually apply. I spent the weekend writing a respectable cover letter and getting feedback, let it sit another day, and then, even though my jerkbrain attacked again, I applied.

    Yesterday, I got a request for a phone interview for Monday (!!!!!). So now I need to spend my weekend researching and thinking and preparing so that they can see I can definitely be a great hire for them. Keep your fingers crossed! Thank you all for your encouragement last week :)

    Reply
    1. WhoseTheCrazyOneHere?

      This is going to make some people crazy, but I have no shame:

      I apply to every job with a relevant job title, don’t read the description, and worry about it only if/after I hear back from them.

      BUT, after I hear back.. then I go into research mode and decide if I am interested. If not, I send a thank you, but no thanks, email as soon as possible.

      Reply
        1. WhoseTheCrazyOneHere?

          I have a standard template that I use, and just copy/past the job description part of “desired qualifications’ into a middle part that I created that works well. something like..

          Further to your job description, I bring the following qualifications:

          I’m experiences, and the job descrips for my area of work are pretty standard anyway. Unless they add something really out of left field, I have the qualifications.

          Reply
          1. WhoseTheCrazyOneHere?

            I’ll add two things:

            1. I’m passively searching. I currently have a good job and don’t need to leave it. This is important because I’m sure there are very good jobs that passed me over for having too generic of a cover letter.
            2. Despite #1, this actually still works. I put out maybe 10 – 15 resumes a month, usually just “easy-apply” from indeed or linkedin, and get 4-5 call backs a month. Are they all winners? nooooope. But they’re not all losers either.

            Reply
      1. Jadelyn

        I gotta say…from the other side of that desk…I hate when applicants do that. And yes, we can usually tell that’s what’s going on. I get that it’s a more efficient use of the candidate’s time, but it’s a waste of my time, which doesn’t exactly endear the candidate to me.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yeah, I can tell when people are doing it too, and I assume they’re not terribly interested in the job. It’s not a good look.

          There may be some industries where this works though (IT?).

          Reply
          1. Windchime

            No, it doesn’t work in IT, either. There is nothing more annoying that setting up a phone interview with a candidate who has “SQL proficiency” on their application, only to find out that they can barely write a simple select. Especially when you find out that they also applied to the telecom and networking teams.

            We want someone who is focused and has specific (or transferrable) skills. Someone who is smart and particular about what jobs they apply to.

            Reply
        2. Turanga Leela

          When I was hiring for a small firm, I rejected people who did this. It was really easy to tell, since we did specialized and unusual work—lots of people sent in generic cover letters about their skill at teapot contracts and litigation, which we didn’t handle at all. It really mattered to my boss that we had people who were committed to our work and philosophy, and the cover letter was our best first way to see if candidates were a good match.

          I’m not saying not to use WhoseTheCrazyOneHere’s strategy; I get why she thinks it’s a good use of her time. BUT I think it’s important to realize that if you take this approach, you’ll never move forward with the companies that really care about hearing why you’re a good fit for them in particular. There’s a trade-off. (And on the flip side, places like my former company never get to interview people who’ve decided to use this approach.)

          Reply
  21. Backroads

    This was getting tossed around on my teacher board. A teacher was being pressured to give up her summer to work for a few students. Turns out this isn’t unheard of to be asked. However, traditionally teachers work on such a contract that they just can’t be summoned during off-contract time. Where’s the line between stepping up and being pressured to work?

    Reply
    1. Anonymous Educator

      I’m sure teacher contracts vary depending on region/state and public vs. private. The school may be legally within its rights to require the teacher to do this, but that doesn’t make it an ethical or good move. Burning out your teachers more quickly isn’t doing yourself any favors in the long term.

      Reply
      1. blackcat

        Yeah, when the (private) school that I worked at tried to require us to answer email within 48 hours, meet with parents, etc during summers, several of the more experienced teachers pointed out that our contracts explicitly described us as “10 month employees.” 10 month folks got only 2 vacation days, compared to the 15 for 12 month folks, among other reductions in benefits. Overall, this makes sense! We had 8-9 weeks off during the summer. But if they wanted us to work *at the school*, even part time, for the 2 months we were supposed to have off, then our contracts needed to reflect that. The school backed down.

        (We were particularly cranky because most folks only took 1 week of the 2 of winter break “off” and maybe 4 or 5 weeks of the summer. The rest of the time, including other holidays, we were working.)

        Reply
        1. Anonymous Educator

          That’s great you were able to point that out, but I’ve worked at a few schools where teachers actually have 12-month contracts—they just work 10 months out of the year (really hard, mind you). When I taught, I had one of those, and, yes, in theory the school could have called me to do something during the summer (they didn’t). I used some of my summer to plan curriculum with other teachers in my department, but that was just a few days.

          Reply
          1. Backroads

            Not a bad system. I have been summoned in a couple of times this summer, but kind of on a “could you work this in?” Stance with a separate check to cover the day.

            Reply
    2. LCL

      The difference between stepping up and being pressured is whether or not there are any negative consequences to y0u if you don’t do it.
      Do this or you’re fired/contract won’t be renewed is pressure. Management may try to revise history and thank you for stepping up in these cases, making it sound like you volunteered rather than the truth which is they bullied you into it.
      Can you do this, please, we’re desperate isn’t pressure, if they can accept an answer of no.

      Reply
    3. Backroads

      One particular case mentioned was a newish teacher on a 10-month contract. A parent was working some IEP laws (though not a few of us suspected she was looking for free summer childcare) and demanded that teacher, who was only offered a small stipend (as the budget wasn’t there) that didn’t even cover her own childcare. I believe she wisely refused.

      Reply
  22. Buffy Summers

    So, the other day I commented on the letter about biting a coworker. I said I knew it made me a bad person but I had laughed really hard at Alison’s comment about biting coworkers as a means of conflict resolution. And, of course, I joked that it would solve a lot of problems for me at my workplace and that I would be biting my manager the next time she was in.
    I didn’t bite my manager, but you can imagine my sense of irony (if I’m even using that correctly) as I sat in the ER last night receiving my first round of rabies shots! I got bit (bitten?) by a skunk last night. So maybe that was karma. Who knows! I will never make light of biting again!!
    Well, I probably will, but at least not for a while. Hope you all had a great week and have a great weekend and don’t approach skunks that are, apparently, completely unfazed by your presence.

    Reply
    1. edj3

      I had a close encounter with a couple of raccoons running toward me this week on an early morning run. You might have read about the woman in Maine who was out trail running and got bitten by a rabid raccoon–I had, so those two raccoons running toward me scared the ever loving SNOT out of me.

      Turns out they were trying to get away, and their preferred storm drain was right by me

      Reply
    2. Health Insurance Nerd

      If it makes you feel better, when I read that letter I also cracked up (but I’m a fan of totally inappropriate humor!)
      And, OMG, so sorry about your rabies experience, how terrible! Feel better!

      Reply
    3. paul

      Oh, that’s bad! I hope you’re OK.

      Not to panic you, but for other’s edification: Rabies is *very* serious and has something like a 99% fatality rate if contracted; this is why you don’t pick up bats, skunks, raccoons, etc that seem hurt or confused! It’s generally not likely they’re rabid, and rabies is actually pretty hard to contract apparently, but if you do…it’s really not a good prognosis. Hence the post-exposure vaccine (I think these days it’s four doses?).

      Reply
      1. Buffy Summers

        Yep, it’s four. Solid advice. I need you on speed dial for my next temptation to get up close and personal with a wild animal. Maybe you can talk me down.

        Reply
      2. Mustache Cat

        That 99% fatality rate is honestly more like 100%. I think there’s been about two people in human history who’ve survived rabies.

        Reply
    4. Lucky

      That’s hilarious, but also terrible and I’m sorry you’ve got to have rabies shots. A family friend had to take them (attacked by raccoon) and it was not pleasant.

      Maybe it’s a sign that you should take a lesson from the skunk, and spray your manager with something stinky? Or just fart in his general direction.

      Reply
    5. fposte

      I had those! They weren’t that bad for me–it was more trouble getting through the hospital bureaucracy to get the serum, because they don’t regularly carry it. Hopefully they’ll be the same for you.

      On the bright side, if you *do* bite a co-worker, now you will only need to be quarantined, not put to sleep.

      Reply
      1. paul

        I’ve never had them but my younger brother has; he found ’em excruciating and he doesn’t usually mind shots. Said they weren’t as bad as the antiemetic shot he (and I) have both had coming out from under general anesthetic though.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          How long ago was it? It used to be they had to do a horrible long needle in the stomach; now it’s just a basic intramuscular shot but the first batch is so large that they have to give you several and in larger muscles than the arm (I had four, with a pair of nurses who adorably tag-teamed me on 1, 2, 3 so I only had 2 injection moments, as it were). Followups were just basic arm shots.

          Reply
          1. paul

            He was still in votech (they startled a raccoon that was in the workshop that the class was in). So maybe around 2004 or 2005? I can’t recall for sure

            Reply
            1. fposte

              Huh, would have thought that was recent enough to get the less traumatic kind; maybe he just had a bad experience.

              Reply
      2. Camellia

        “On the bright side, if you *do* bite a co-worker, now you will only need to be quarantined, not put to sleep.”

        This made my day. I love this site.

        Reply
      3. Buffy Summers

        I will certainly take comfort in knowing a quarantine will be all that’s necessary. Although today, the thought of being “put to sleep” sounds absolutely wonderful. Assuming there is a point where I will wake up, that is.

        They weren’t that horrible for me either. I had hyped myself up, expecting this terrible experience that was going to be the Worst Pain Ever, but it really wasn’t nearly what I was bracing myself for.
        They had the serum on hand, so I was only in the ER for about 4 hours total.

        Now three more in the arm over a period of a couple of weeks and we’re done.

        Reply
    6. Marisol

      My mother had rabies shots as a child and it was one of those oft-repeated family stories because it was so awful for her–I think it was something like a dozen shots in her abdomen?? Not sure it they still do that–hopefully they’ve come up with a better solution, but you have my sympathies for having endured an unpleasant experience.

      If you’re into woo-woo, here’s some info I found on skunk totem animals:
      http://www.sunsigns.org/skunk-animal-totem-symbolism-meanings/

      Reply
      1. Mephyle

        Yes, as mentioned above, but it’s worth noting again that they don’t do the shots in the abdomen any more. They are fewer in number and much less traumatic than they were in those days.
        It would be tragic for someone to forgo their post-bite rabies shots because they had heard about the painful treatment, not knowing that it isn’t so bad now.

        Reply
    7. Teapot, Inc.

      I’m glad you’re OK, but “Buffy Summers” worrying about being bitten delights me immensely.

      Reply
    8. Elizabeth West

      No, you’re not bad–I laughed at that too.
      And I’m sorry you had to get rabies shots. I guess the only consolation would be if the skunk had to get Buffy shots.

      Reply
  23. apparently not the only fashion designer here

    I’m a fairly recent graduate working in the apparel design industry at my first real job, and my boss just proposed taking me from 40 hours a week to 30/32 while keeping my full benefits. It seems to me that I don’t have a choice and they’re asking me about this in lieu of letting me go for lack of work. Obviously I’ll start looking for employment elsewhere, but does anyone have any tips for working contract/part time/for yourself in this industry, especially for someone as green as me? I’ve worked here for a year and a half in a tech design position, although my degree is in fashion design. I can’t really afford to take the pay cut, but some pay is better than none. Help!

    Reply
    1. AndersonDarling

      I don’t have the best advice, but I went through the exact same thing xx years ago! I was an asst technical designer for a fashion catalog and I was put to part time with benefits. It actually worked out for me because the company was going through layoffs and I was safe because they only focused on salary employees for cuts.
      I was able to work on my own dressmaking projects with the spare time and make some $$.

      Reply
    2. Rookie Manager

      Have you done the tax maths? Sometimes working p/t you end up with a better net hourly rate, have less transport costs etc and its really worth it. You also have those extra hours for a side gig, volunteering, further education… as well as maybe having more time to cook from scratch vs take out so you save money in other ways.

      If you’ve done this then sorry for patronising you. I personally found going from p/t to f/t I was effectively working for free one day a week – the opposite may be true for you.

      Reply
      1. Natalie

        If fashion designer is US based, the way our tax system is structured means it’s impossible for them to have a higher net pay by earning less gross. But they would still have that extra time, if they want it.

        Reply
  24. SaraV

    Wednesday I had my first interview in over four years. Eep. And I had to drive an hour and a half on the hottest day of the week. Luckily, my MIL lives nearby the town I was interviewing, so I asked if I could get ready there. Trip was almost a disaster as I just about left my town without my interview clothes.

    I feel like the interview went really well. My interviewer had a more conversational tone with the interview instead of “I must ask all of these questions in this particular order, etc.” That really helped me, especially since there were no “Tell me about a time when…” questions. (I had examples ready, but I felt like they were weak) I even asked The Question, and after answering it, the interviewer said “I love that question…great question.” I was at ease enough to even ask what I thought was a good question off the top of my head.

    But now! There’s a possibility of a peer interview. So yet another round to go. Is it bad that when this was mentioned, my brain went “Oh no! I might need to find another summer-weight interview appropriate outfit!”

    I would strongly suggest downloading Alison’s interview guide. It really does help.

    PS – Hoping my links work posting from my phone.

    Reply
    1. MegaMoose, Esq.

      Congratulations! I sweat when I’m nervous, so interviewing on the hottest day of the week sounds awful, but it sounds like it went well anyhow. I wouldn’t worry about getting a full new outfit – I think changing out your top/accessories is fine and no one will notice. And I love that interview guide!

      Reply
    2. Windchime

      +1 to Alison’s interview guide. I had purchased her book for one of my boys a few years ago, so I read that and also the interview guide. I also made lists of questions that I thought they might ask, and wrote down what answers I might give. I didn’t give those answers word-for-word but it really helped to have thought about it before hand. I also decided to just be as much my normals self as possible (without the cussing, though. :) ) It worked!

      Best of luck to you!

      Reply
  25. Applesauced

    There’s a leadership workshop starting at my office that I was really excited to apply for… but once I saw the application, it says applicants should have a minimum 10 years work experience, and 2 at this company. I have 7 years total and 1.5 here.
    Is that close enough? If there any harm to applying? The application isn’t very onerous – 3 short answers about why you’re interested, your experience, and your interpretation of a philosophy/buzzword at the office.

    Reply
    1. Rincat

      I’d apply! They may have limited seating or something but it’s not an entire job, so I’d go ahead. Good luck!

      Reply
    2. Saviour Self

      I would apply, what’s the worst that can happen? To me that sounds close enough and 10yr/2yr is really specific.

      Reply
    3. BPT

      I would actually ask whoever is in charge of the workshop and just make sure its ok. Or at least mention in your answer about why you’re interested that “I know you don’t have the exact years, but feel I’d be a good fit anyway because X. ”

      I would definitely think you’re qualified enough and they probably won’t care, but mostly I’d be a little worried about being seen as not following directions. If it’s for a job application, there’s really no harm in applying while not meeting every qualification. For a leadership workshop for your company, they might be a little more strict, and since your reputation matters there, I’d want to make sure I didn’t mess up by applying.

      I’d also just be a little worried about ending up like the LW who signed herself up for a senior executive conference because she thought it would be beneficial. Not that you’d end up in the same position, but I’d just want to make sure that they aren’t seeing this as something available for people at a minimum level in the company.

      Reply
  26. Menacia

    Well, instead of facing with your front or your back to the door, can you sit sideways so you still have your peripheral view, but an not openly facing one? That might cut down on you noticing people looking at you when they walk by.

    I work in a cubicle that faces the main traffic area and I guess I’ve grown used to people looking at me when they pass by so it does not bother me. I also have dual monitors, so that affords me some privacy.

    Reply
    1. Menacia

      Not sure how this became a separate posting as it was a reply to Saviour Self above. I have reposted my reply under their thread, so this can be removed as needed.

      Reply
  27. Big10Professor

    My leg is in a cast*, and I’ve been mostly working from home, but I do have some consulting client meetings from time to time. Is it okay that I’m wearing a gym shoe on the good foot? I don’t want to look unprofessional, I really need the ankle support while I’m getting around on crutches. The rest of my attire is business appropriate skirts or dresses.

    *I got it put on the day that AAM ran the letter about a penis drawing on a cast, and thus, when the nurse offered me a color choice, I went with black.

    Reply
      1. Agile Phalanges

        I think she’s asking about the footwear on the “good” foot. But I’m pretty sure you’re exempted from any normal dress code requirements for your bottom half when your leg/foot is in a cast. I mean, be as professional as you CAN, but between the extra weight-bearing your “good” foot is doing when you’re on crutches, and the need for good ankle support you mention, I think an athletic shoe on that foot is completely acceptable. And LOL at going with black. :-) (I suppose if you’re in a super conservative industry and meeting with a client or whatever that you’re REALLY trying to impress, you could commute in a comfortable shoe and change into a dressier shoe just prior to the meeting…)

        Reply
      2. Anony Moose

        +1 And having just been freed from crutches, you will need the ankle support and a solid shoe that can handle twisting/shuffling/being jumped on on the good foot. I tried wearing dressy sandals one day on my good foot and regretted it every time I had to maneuver in any way other than straight ahead.

        Reply
    1. Amber Rose

      I don’t think anyone’s going to look at your leg in a cast and judge you for some alternative footwear! Most people are not such jerks.

      Reply
    2. Pwyll

      I work in big finance where everyone is expected to wear fancy suits every day. One of my coworkers was in a leg cast and would wear sneakers or padded shoes with his suit and no one batted an eyelash (well, except to ask how he’s feeling). If you really feel bad about it, perhaps a black athletic shoe? But I don’t think anyone will mind either way.

      Reply
    3. Artemesia

      I would wear a black unobtrusive gym shoe and not a white one or one of those neon color jobbies. If you are wearing slacks it will be totally unremarkable. Even with a skirt it will be perfectly understandable that footwear is a problem in your situation. But you want to go with unobtrusive.

      Reply
      1. Marisol

        Building on this comment, I bought some nurse shoes to wear while dealing with plantar fasciitis (a soft-tissue foot injury). I work in a corporate environment and wore business casual clothes. Think the shoes were black but they make various neutral colors. They were ugly as hell! But a notch better than tennies.

        Reply
    4. Ashley

      I did when I was on crutches, but we are somewhat informal. If it is a super important client meeting you might bring and nice flat to change into right before the meeting.

      Reply
    5. Argh!

      Get one that’s solid black, or invest in orthopedic ugly but professional-looking shoes. Someone would have to look closely to see that it’s not “professional” shoewear.

      Reply
  28. the.kat

    My non-profit has a good relationship with several consultants whom we’ve hired to assist us over the last few years. Several of them have mentioned in front of my boss and to me directly that my work is really, really good. While they could be just trying to be kind, I tend to believe that they are honest when they say that other companies have asked about who our graphic designer is and whether they could hire me.

    So my question is, how do I leverage these relationships? I’m not looking for a new job right now, but if things change and I start to look for a new job, can I talk to these consultants or will they feel like they have to tell my boss/the company? Has anyone had a connection this way help them find another job? How did they not burn bridges at their current workplace?

    Reply
    1. LKW

      Hook up with them on linked in or just keep them in your contacts list. Ping them every so often with a friendly hello to manage the relationship. If you’re open to contract work or freelance work let them know that – and that it has to be within the boundaries of any other agreement you have with your current employer.

      I highly doubt they would tell your employer if you’ve contacted them about work. I certainly haven’t when I’ve been in this situation.

      Reply
      1. the.kat

        Thanks! I’m doing all the relationship management that I can, and it’s going very well, I just wasn’t sure about whether or not they’d be obligated to tell my boss if I started looking elsewhere.

        Reply
  29. Insurance Geek

    A few weeks ago, someone posted the name of a site were you can market yourself/list yourself for freelance work. Anyone remember it or reccomend a good one?

    Reply
  30. AnonForToday

    Question about US Social Security Numbers and employment: I am a US Citizen, and was issued a Social Security number when I was 16 (this was in the 1970’s). I still have the original paper card. I was married, and my name changed, and when I used to get mailed statements from Social Security, they reflected that name change, so they know who I am. Fast forward to today. My employer requested a copy of my Social Security card, not the number, which they had, but the physical card. When I sent it, they said I have to go to the Social Security office and get a new card with my married name on it because of homeland security regulations.

    I have been working for over 35 years, and no one has ever asked me for the physical card. I believe the number is enough? I’m just a non-exempt worker at a US based company.

    What’s worse is since I’m non-exempt, I either have to make up the time spent at the Social Security office or use my paid vacation time. I can’t make an appointment, it’s first come, first served, so it’s hard to tell how long I’ll have to sit there to fill out the forms.

    Is this really true? I pushed back to HR but they insist I have to have a paper copy with my married name on it. If they insist, and it’s not really a requirement, I think they should at least cover my time to go do this. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    1. KiteFlier

      I’m not sure why your employer would ask for your social security card unless you are a new employee that they need to verify is eligible to work in the US for your I-9. In that case, yes, they do need the actual document and not just the number/a photocopy. I’m not sure about the name change, though – I’ve accepted SS cards with the employee’s maiden name only, because they also provided a photo ID with their current legal name.

      Reply
      1. AnonForToday

        I also provided a copy of my current driver’s license, with my name and address, which hasn’t changed since I was hired in 2002. I’m not a new employee.

        Reply
      2. Wheezy Weasel

        For I-9 verification, I know a passport can be accepted as well. I know you might not want to push back again to HR, but do they need your actual, physical card and nothing else will be acceptable, or is that just their preferred and usual method of verifying citizenship and employment eligibility? I’m not an expert in the employment area, but I am an expert in pushing back on people’s difficult requests where I suspect they are misinformed or too lazy to further investigate alternatives.

        Reply
      3. Natalie

        It’s worth noting that other documents can be provided to prove the citizenship prong of an I-9, such as a birth certificate, and an employer cannot discriminate among documents allowed by the I-9 list.

        Reply
          1. Natalie

            I use my passport, too, just because it’s easier – I only need the one document, and I know it’s all current and won’t cause any issues. (For example, my first name is misspelled on my SS card, but since it’s correct in the SSA records and I never use it, I’ve never bothered to get it corrected.)

            Reply
        1. Jen A.

          Exactly. If you choose to use your social security number as part of the I-9 verification it has to be the actual card and the employer would have the right to require that it match your legal name. However, you get to pick which documents you use for the verification (the last page of the I-9 has a list of what is acceptable), it is not up to them.

          Reply
      4. Shadow

        I know sometimes the IRS can send employers flags that employer names/ss# they’re submitting don’t match their records

        Reply
    2. Jax

      For every new job I’ve had, I’ve had to supply my actual social security card, not just the number. When I hired students at the university I worked for, it was also a requirement to provide the physical social security card (which was a problem for some of them. Some of their parents wanted to keep it for safe keeping and they were from out of state.) I think it is pretty standard, if not the law, to require the physical social security card for new hire paperwork.

      Reply
        1. Kimberlee, Esq.

          Yeah, but if you choose to have your SS card be one of the documents, the i9 requires employers to examine the physical document personally.

          Reply
    3. Anonymous Educator

      If it’s mandatory for work and you’re non-exempt, can’t you just ask for the time spent in the Social Security office as overtime pay?

      I’m not sure what you’re asking about whether it’s “really true” or not. I also have never been asked for my Social Security card before (just the number), but I don’t think there are any laws saying your employer cannot require the physical card to be produced.

      Reply
    4. Insurance Geek

      It is for homeland security purposes. The name on the card needs to match the name in the system for I-9 purposes. There’s a chance your company is being audited so this is why it needs to be completed.

      Reply
      1. Regular Lurker

        Do you have a passport or other government ID? If this is for I9 purposes, there is a list of other documents that your HR should accept. However, the SS card is most common.

        Reply
      2. Natalie

        An I-9 does not require one present a social security card. You can document your citizenship or work authorization with other things (passport, birth certificate, work authorization , etc).

        Reply
          1. Natalie

            No, you don’t. There are a number of documents or combinations of documents that can be used to prove identity plus work authorization. For example, if you provide a current US passport, you have documented both items and are done. An employer cannot discriminate among documents (by, for example, requiring a drivers license and not accepting a passport) as long as the employee is fulfilling the requirements on the I9 form.

            I haven’t used my social security card since college, probably. I’m not even sure where it is.

            Reply
            1. AvonLady Barksdale

              I always used my passport too. I didn’t have my Social Security card until I was in my 30s, when my mom found it somewhere in her home while she was moving.

              Reply
              1. Natalie

                Employers must accept any document an employee presents from the Lists of Acceptable Documents, as long as the document reasonably appears to be genuine and to relate to the employee. Employers must not:

                Demand that an employee show specific documents
                Ask to see employment authorization documents before an individual accepts a job offer
                Refuse to accept a document, or refuse to hire an individual, because a document will expire in the future
                Refuse to accept a receipt that is acceptable for Form I-9 purposes
                Demand a specific document when reverifying that an employee is authorized to work

                https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/employee-rights-resources/preventing-discrimination

                Reply
              2. Natalie

                Nertz, my reply had a link in it so it’s in moderation.

                I’m sorry you feel like I was being condescending. It wasn’t intentional, I was simply trying to be extremely clear in case we were misunderstanding each other.

                That said, you are simply wrong in your assertion of fact here. The link in my other reply is directly from the government, and is extremely clear that what you are describing is not allowed. If you are requiring people to bring specific documents for their I9 (other than the broad list provided by USCIS) you should probably stop, because you’re breaking the law. I find arguing about facts to be intensely boring, so that’s all I have to say about this!

                Reply
                1. zora

                  I think you two are talking past each other.

                  Insurance Geek seems to be making the point that if one of the documents the employee is providing is their Social Security Card, they do have to present the physical card.

                  Natalie is trying to point out that the company has to accept any documents that are acceptable for the I-9 form.

                  You are both right, you are just saying slightly different things.

          2. Dankar

            If an SSN card was required for the I-9, my students would never be permitted to engage in practical training (which is part of the broader reason why it’s illegal to require a specific type of documentation beyond the acceptable categories provided by DHS and USCIS).

            I’m going to echo what Natalie said below–if you’re requiring one specific form of documentation, then you’re currently breaking the law.

            Reply
    5. CityMouse

      Everyone I know who has changed their name got a new Social Security card, including my mom, who got married in the 70s. I believe it is listed in most name change lists as one of the to dos. I would recommend doing it. I just looked it up online and the SSA uses the word “must” in relation in formally informing them and getting a new card. The rules may have changed over time but I would 100% file the form asap.

      Reply
      1. PB

        I was going to say this. When I changed my name, the first step was going to the Social Security office and getting a new card issued with my new name. I’m a US citizen, so it isn’t exclusively a Homeland Security issue.

        Reply
        1. Insurance Geek

          Homeland Security is part of it though. Even if you are a US Citizen, if your company is picked for SSN audit, you do need to provide a card that matches who you are to the SS system. Anything can be flagged for Homeland Security if names/dob/SSNs do not match.

          Reply
      2. Not Karen

        Thirded. You were supposed to get a new SS card when you changed your name.

        For the record, when I went it didn’t take long… maybe 1 hour at most.

        Reply
        1. Pat Benetardis

          Huh. That’s interesting. I’ve never heard that either. My name changed 20 years ago when I got married and I never changed my SS card. I still have my original 1970s card. Whenever I’ve used the SS card as ID I have also presented an original marriage certificate as evidence of name change and that has been sufficient (including passport). My company had an audit a few years ago and I had to verify my I-9 but I can’t remember what I used.

          Reply
      3. ThatGirl

        Yeah, I had to change my Social Security card before I could get a new driver’s license, for instance.

        Reply
        1. Arjay

          Yes. I had to get a new Social Security card before I could change my driver’s license, which was necessary to change my health insurance, bank accounts, etc.

          Reply
      4. Jennifer Walters

        Yeah, I changed my name last year and went to the Social Security office to change it. I got there 20 minutes before opening, there were about 10 people ahead of me, and I was in and out in less than 30 minutes. Though, they do mail the new card to you, so you’ll have to wait 3-5 business days for the new one with your new name.

        Reply
    6. Saviour Self

      I agree with the others – upon hire you have to supply two original documents (or 1 if it is a “List A” item on the I-9 form) within the first three days at the job. Assuming you’re not a new hire, have they told you why they need the document?

      I’m pretty sure you can submit a request online and/or receive a copy in the mail and not waste a day at the SS office but that may vary by state.

      Reply
    7. Malibu Stacey

      I do the I9 e-verify at my company – I need to see the actual SS card or receipt for your lost or stolen card within 48 hours of your arrival on your first day.

      Reply
    8. edj3

      At my company, you must provide physical documentation for your I-9, no exceptions. Apparently, you used to be able to just say what your SSN was, but not any more. Makes me wonder if your company has gone through a similar change. Still, what a hassle for you :(

      Reply
    9. Bea W

      I’ve been working since 1988 and have always had to supply a physical Social Security card. I don’t know if it is a legal requirement to have a physical card, especially in modern times when everything can be electronically verified, but there very well could be a recent change in federal regulations. I agree it is a huge PIA to a card with your current legal name, but you might want to look into doing it at some point anyway just to have it for future requests.

      If you do have to supply a card with your current legal name, maybe your employer will temporarily accept your old card with some other proof of name change or the proof from the mailed statements.

      Reply
      1. Bea W

        I see other people have posted while I was writing!

        That said when I read e-verify I had vague recollections of there being other documents to confirm your identity and authorization to work in the uS that can be accepted. There is a list of acceptable documents on the uscis dot gov website (slash i-9-central). If you have a valid US passport which is on the “A document” list, you shouldn’t have to supply a physical SS card.

        Reply
    10. Zinnia

      If this is for an I-9, they need an original document proving your right to work in the US, but it doesn’t need to be your social security card. There’s a whole list of qualifying documents.

      Reply
    11. Government Worker

      For the I-9 there are a variety of documents you can submit, but they have to be paper originals, not photocopies or scans. If you have a passport that should be enough even without the social security card, and there are other options that may work for proving eligibility to work in the US.

      Google the form and take a look. If you have alternative documentation to the social security card, offer that to your employer and see what they say.

      Reply
    12. Dolphn Girl

      Celebrating my 3rd anniversary at work today and I had to provide an actual card from SS on my first day I live in NYC so I went downtown fairly early ( 830am) and was in and out in less than 45 minutes. Not sure how to answer the time question as I got mine before I started. If they advised you before you got hired that time is on you. If they informed you after you started they should cover your time.

      Reply
      1. Alice Ulf

        Seconding this advice, since I recently had to go to the local SS office about possible identity theft. If you do end up having to go, get there a few minutes before the office actually opens and check the website to make sure you have all the documentation you might need. I did have to wait in a (down the sidewalk, yay) line for about 10-15 minutes, but if your local office is anything like mine, every employee there will be all about moving people through as quickly as possible. I was in and out in less than an hour.

        I did have to use PTO, but my issue had nothing to do with a work requirement. Unfortunately I don’t have any advice about that.

        Reply
    13. CAA

      Not sure why your HR is insisting on a physical card. It may be that they don’t use e-verify or that there’s some mismatch in your information there. Or they might be trying to make sure their documentation is complete and are just confused about the actual I-9 requirements. You need to ask them what they’re going to use the card for in order to figure out why they need it.

      SSA does let you apply to have your card replaced online if you live in a state that has an approved ID. It sounds like a replacement is what you need since they do have your name correct in the system. You can see which states qualify for online requests at ssa.gov/ssnumber.

      Reply
      1. Detective Amy Santiago

        We use e-verify and we’re required to see the original documents when we complete the I-9.

        Reply
    14. anon24

      Are you sure you have to go to the social security office to get a new card? I got married 2 years ago and really didn’t want to drive into the city to go to my office, but there was an option where I could mail my passport, marriage license, and old social in and they sent me my documents back with a new card about 1-2 weeks later. Easier to send it via certified mail from the post office than take all the time to drive in. But I don’t know if that’s an option where you are or if you have the time to wait.

      Reply
    15. Michelle

      You can download the form online and fill it out so you don’t have to do so at the SS office. I think it also has a list of documents you might/should bring with you.

      I have always been asked for the card, not just the number. I realize it’s a hassle, but it’s probably best to just go ahead and get one. I don’t think you can insist they pay for your time at the SS office, but you can always ask.

      Reply
    16. JayeRaye

      Regardless of whether or not HR lets you bring in other documents, you should get an updated social security card. All but 9 or 10 US states require a social security card with your correct name, a birth certificate or passport, and proof of any name change in order to get a new or renewed driver’s license or state ID. You may have been able to previously renew your ID by mail, but with the REAL ID act being followed in most states you will need to provide the above documentation eventually. It’s also worth noting that the residents of the states that do not follow REAL ID will have to provide extra documentation to pass through airport security starting in January 2018. I don’t know what that documentation will be, but I’m willing to bet that a fully correct social security card is one of them.

      Reply
      1. Natalie

        Oh, that’s good to know. My state is one of the one’s that is not currently REAL ID compliant (although I think they might have finally passed something).

        Reply
    17. AnonForToday

      Thanks everyone! I tried to go online and apply but was blocked by the security questions. Apparently I missed one, although I have no idea which one, and I tried multiple times, waiting for 24 hours between each try. I don’t remember if I applied for or received a new card (that was over 30 years ago). I don’t have a passport (no need, as I don’t travel nor could I afford to do so, sighs). I am going to take time off and just go to the office, and be there when it opens, and hope for the best.

      Reply
      1. Insurance Geek

        It’s a really quick process! Try going mid week-a Wednesday or Thursday morning will have the least amount of waiting time.

        Reply
      2. Been there

        Just fill out the pdf before you go and bring it with you. It took me 10 minutes to get processed. If you don’t,they may stop paying you completely. I had it happen with federal work study once. My middle initial somehow was added to the SS system (no one ever explained how…) and I got flagged as “not matching” the employee on file and couldn’t get paid until it was fixed.

        Reply
          1. Starbuck

            It’s necessary. Businesses shouldn’t be allowed to get away with taking advantage of undocumented immigrants to cut costs.

            Reply
          2. Observer

            Not entirely true. I know when my workplace notched up their documentation and it was at least a decade ago.

            Reply
    18. msroboto

      I just looked at the social security site for name changes and it says you can’t do it online BUT you can do it in person or through the mail. Would mail be an option for you or is this very time sensitive. You might have a case for them to pay you if you can point out you could do it through snail mail but they need it sooner (THEY being the key word) so they should pay you for going to social security.
      Good luck.

      Reply
    19. Liane

      If you are using your SS card for official purposes, it has to be in your current legal name. This has been true for longer than I9 forms have been required (1986).

      Reply
    20. Observer

      You may not have to go to the office. Check the Social Security site – you can probably fill out the forms and submit them by (snail) mail.

      Reply
    21. nom

      That’s super frustrating, you have my sympathies!

      I recently started a new job and also had to provide my physical social security card. Not for the I-9: I always use my passport for that, and can confirm that it one of the accepted documents (I’ve never had a problem using the passport instead of SS card – I think it helps that the list of acceptible documents is p3 of the I9 paper form). But apparently payroll here *insists* on a copy of the social security card. I even pushed back on this, as I was in the process of moving and wasn’t sure I could find the actual card in the boxes. I was told that if I wanted to get a paycheck, I’d better find the actual card within a week of starting (luckily I did). I still suspect it’s due to outdated/misinformed payroll policy, not a legal requirement, but it’s possible that it’s state law that I’m unaware of (moved to a new state).

      Anyway, the point is that the physical card isn’t the only option for an I9, but maybe your employer is implementing (or finally checking compliance with and documentation for) a different policy –
      albeit an annoying one. Getting an updated, correct card is also a good idea.

      As for REAL ID issues, I vote for just using a passport. Seriously, having a passport solves most issues – and I’ve always found it a little unusual that in the US, relatively few people have them.

      Reply
    22. Framing Queen

      A lot of folks, HR or otherwise, confuse company policies with law.

      Despite what the I9 says, I had one HR rep refuse to accept my passport, saying I also needed my social security card. However, she said my card was fake (because it didn’t look like hers). This, despite the fact I had the mailer it came in from the 60s.

      I went down to the social security administration office and they had a good old laugh. They gave me a letter saying this was indeed a valid original card, and confirmed my number.

      Back to the office. HR wouldn’t accept the letter, only a replacement card, which I did not have yet (had to be mailed). Told me I would have to be let go at the end of the first week if I couldn’t provide the card. And with no pay for the week worked as they couldn’t set up payroll without a valid card.

      Ended up having my director talk the CEO into a special waiver until the card came.

      Reply
  31. Librarian in waiting

    I commented a couple months ago (March?) about interviewing for a job at my former library and if it was problematic being Facebook friends with members of the hiring team.

    I did the best I possibly could at the interview and felt good about it. Ultimately, I did not get the job. There ended up being two positions and after being told I was still in consideration for the 2nd position, I received an email telling me I didn’t get it because they hired someone with more experience. A week later I received a phone call from the AD telling me that they actually decided not to hire for the position at that time, but would repost it during summer and that they really want me to apply. They said that the hiring committee was really impressed and stressed again to reapply.

    The position has posted. It is the exact same announcement, word for word. I haven’t done anything particularly noteworthy that I can add to my resume since I applied in March.

    Do I apply? And if I do, can I use the same cover letter or do I need to change it?

    I want the job and want to be encouraged by the AD calling me to explain the change in situation, but I also know from experience that the PTB at this library would rather tell people what that want to hear in order to avoid a difficult situation. I am leaning toward applying because what will it hurt except costing a couple hours of my time.

    Thoughts?

    Reply
    1. KiteFlier

      I would apply and reach out to the AD directly to tell them that you saw it was reposted, and per their earlier suggestion, have applied.

      Reply
      1. Cassandra

        Concur. This sounds like Happy-Fun Workplace Bureaucracy got in your way, rather than anything that reflects poorly on you. Go ahead and give it your best shot.

        Reply
    2. CityMouse

      I agree. Definitely apply and drop a line to the person you spoke to before. Given the communication I do not think you need to add anything new, except maybe toss a sentence in about applying before in your cover letter just so it is not 100% identical.

      Reply
    3. It's me

      I would reference your experience in the interview process the first time through in your cover letter with the new application – was there something you learned/saw through that process that made you even more interested in the position, etc etc.
      Your previous experience interviewing is a positive in this situation, since you were encouraged to re-apply, so you don’t want to miss the opportunity to leverage that, and the natural place to do so is in your cover letter IMO.

      Reply
    4. a nony mouse

      In my library system, the only way to get a job is to keep applying for every cycle of hiring. It’s a govt. position and totally normal.

      Reply
    5. AnotherLibrarian

      Apply. You lose nothing. I would look at the cover letter and rewrite it. It has been months. Surely, there are new things you might want to share.

      I would also, as others have suggested, reach out to the AD. Something very casual in email would be best. After all, just because they suggested you applied doesn’t make you a shoe in.

      Good luck!

      Reply
  32. Foreign Octupus

    I’ve been teaching English as as foreign and second language for the last 12 months and I haven’t enjoyed teaching children at the academies (mainly because the parents use my classes as babysitting for their children who don’t want to be there) and I’m finally going freelance. My question is this – how do people who work for themselves, or who rely on generating their own customer base, find the motivation to do it? What advice do you have for someone who gets distracted easily and struggles to commit to a timetable?

    Any advice would be appreciated.

    Reply
    1. Kowalski! Options!

      Word of mouth – that’s how I got my best ESL clients (though I was doing one-on-one classes with adult learners, so the dynamics were a little different). I got students to pay for classes in advance, and if they referred a potential student who did end up signing up and paying for classes, I’d give the old students a couple of classes for free. It was a lifesaver during the summer months, when things slowed down.

      Reply
      1. Foreign Octupus

        I am concerned about the summer months (for next year) and I’m trying not to panic too much. Fortunately, I’m taking over some students from a friend who’s going travelling for a few months so I don’t have to source my first clients. Thanks for the advice.

        Reply
    2. Simone R

      There are some online sites for tutoring freelancers. I had a friend who did varsity tutors and liked it. That might be a good way to get started!

      Reply
    3. msmorlowe

      As someone who just can’t work from home, I can say that freelance teaching is very different and you won’t really struggle to commit to a timetable: for me, it worked the same as teaching in a school, only I had more control over who my students were and what I could teach in a class.

      Reply
      1. Foreign Octupus

        That’s a large part of the reason I’m going freelance. I’ve hated having to teach students who were disruptive and rude (not just the children, but a number of adults as well) and it always frustrated that I couldn’t refuse to teach them.

        Reply
    4. TiffIf

      Not really about freelancing, but an option you might want to explore.
      My brother-in-law is an ESL teacher. For a 5 years he taught in a high school in the US that had a large immigrant/non english speaking population. He liked the teaching, but got fed up with the politics of the school system, so he and my sister decided to explore other opportunities.

      There are a LOT of international programs that will pay very nicely for qualified ESL teachers and lots of different options for teaching different age groups–my brother-in-law worked with one program which was all adult learners for business use and another which was high school level ESL and another which was university ESL classes.

      Many programs will pay your travel and relocation fees, depending on which country you go to the program can also be responsible for housing costs; some programs will pay travel and relocation fees for any family/dependents coming with you.

      My sister and her family lived 5 years abroad before deciding to return to the US (literally they returned 7 days ago). They loved it. It was such an amazing experience for all of them–including their two children–one of whom was born abroad (he’s 3 now and this is his first time seeing his native country).

      Reply
      1. Foreign Octupus

        That is an idea I’ve looked into for more ‘exotic’ destinations such as Japan but I’m already settled in Spain for the time being. I’m considering doing something like that in the next few years once I’ve really cemented the Spanish language in my brain.

        Do you need to be an actual qualified teacher though? I’m qualified ESL but I’ve never qualified as a teacher so that I could teach in secondary/high school.

        Reply
        1. TiffIf

          I believe it depends on the program and country you are teaching in. My brother-in-law had a teaching degree and a Masters degree in applied linguistics.

          Reply
  33. PersonalLifeWorkLife

    Here is my rather odd question and I am hoping I can hear from others who have been there. It’s been a really rough summer (honestly rough year) for me. I am in couple’s counseling with my spouse. We meet weekly at a time that involves me having to leave work about 20 minutes early. I’ve been able to avoid telling my boss the reason for cutting out saying only “I have an appointment” – and it’s a slow time of year. But as this continues I worry that I will need more of a reason that he understands?

    Also, this counseling is helping me to see that the relationship very likely needs to end for my own happiness and sanity. So I predict I will need to take some days off in the next few months to move. Then very likely having to take some early time to take my children to a local divorce group therapy for kids.

    So there are a lot of things coming up that will affect my attendance and my work. My boss is divorced himself (and kind of bitter about it) although it happened years ago. He’s also a bit of a loudmouth and an unintentional jerk. I could see him making comments like “Well, what do we know? We both can’t keep a spouse, ha ha” – things like that.

    However, I feel like I need to say something as this all unfolds? For those of you going through this, how much did you share? And in what way?

    Reply
    1. AnotherAlison

      I left early for counseling for about a year, and only told my boss I had an appointment. I felt weird about it, but I never did elaborate. We ended up staying together, and I changed departments about the same time we ended counseling.

      For the future absences, if you have the PTO to take, I wouldn’t necessarily feel obligated to say anything. If you have to ask for special accommodations, then you might have to give some details. He might surprise you and be more sensitive about this than his day-to-day behavior would indicate.

      On the flip side, I had a coworker show up at work, change her email and cube name tag back to her maiden name, and no one at all knew anything was going on before that. She was only ~23, so some people asked her if she just got married, so that was awkward and a mark in the column to let people know a little about what is going on.

      Reply
      1. PersonalLifeWorkLife

        Thank you. Yes, I realize I’ll have to say something because a few of my co-workers have met my husband. But I have also worked with people who talk about it almost too much. Like “Great, Gayle. Thanks for letting me know that you’re getting a divorce because you couldn’t handle your sexless marriage with your spouse after he ran up $55,000 in gambling debt. But I’m happy to hear that after 2 weeks alone you are dating again.”

        Reply
    2. edj3

      I don’t know that you need to get into the specifics with your manager. You might let him more broadly that you are dealing with some things in your personal life, without going into more detail.

      Speaking as a manager, I don’t need to know all the details when my direct reports have issues in their personal lives. I do need to know that they are taking care of the situation and of themselves. That way, I know it’s not about hating the job–make sense?

      Reply
      1. PersonalLifeWorkLife

        That makes sense. Yes. And with two kids, saying I have “an appointment” could easily be something for one of them. Four years ago when I started I had to leave early every other week to take one of my children to physical therapy for about a year.

        I suppose if it does come to divorce, I can figure out a way to say what’s happening and that I’m taking care of it. I feel that I will need to mention it but I don’t want to make a big deal about it.

        Reply
      2. The Queen of Cans & Jars

        I agree with this. I’m a manager, and employees tend to give me way more personal information than I need to know. I trust my folks, so “dealing with some personal issues” is really all I would need to know.

        Reply
    3. Trix

      For about six months, I was doing an appointment once a week or once every other week with my therapist. For three of those six months, I was also doing a group therapy session once a week, so there were weeks with two appointments. I tried to schedule my personal one as early or late as possible to minimize interruption to my work day, and the group session time thankfully meant I only had to leave about 15 minutes early (of course, I was regularly working an hour or two or three past the time I was technically “off,” but that’s another issue).

      What worked for me was letting my boss know that I was working on some health stuff, nothing he needed to worry about, but stuff that was important I take care of, and I’d have reoccurring appointments for the next few months. I let him know that I would make sure they were on my calendar (just as blocked off time, no details) so he would be aware of my schedule. He said he had no problem with it, as long as my work didn’t suffer (which we both knew it wouldn’t), but suggested I speak with HR about intermittent FMLA, just as a way to have something officially documented in case my coworkers started complaining, or he was suddenly replaced by a jerk.

      That was the level of detail I was comfortable with providing, and it worked well for me. My friend coworkers knew the details, and I wouldn’t have denied it if anyone asked, but I didn’t feel the need to share beyond “health stuff that you don’t need to worry about, but I do need to take care of.”

      Reply
      1. PersonalLifeWorkLife

        Thank you – this is good advice.

        Yes, I am doing personal counseling once a week or every other week. That I try to arrange during a lunch break and usually mark it as “lunch” on my calendar. The couple’s counseling comes at the end of the day so I just have to leave about 15 minutes early. If the separation occurs, I will then be replacing the couple’s counseling with the therapy for the kids most likely. So I will very likely have two appointments for at least the next six months or so to get us through the holidays. “Health stuff” would be a good excuse.

        Reply
        1. SansaStark

          This conversation is very timely for me as I’m going to have this convo with my boss this afternoon. A friend who is a manager of a large department counseled me to just refer to it as a recurring medical appointment (which it is!) and just talk about what I’m doing to mitigate the impact on the department. She said that if the manager pushed back, taking intermittent FMLA might also be an option worth exploring.

          Reply
    4. paul

      I got a note from “Dr. So & So” that stated I was going for reoccurring treatment (with zero details) when I was going to therapy? Actually, got something similar for physical therapy years after the counseling therapy too.

      I was a little more open with my boss and coworkers than the note was, but the therapist office was more than willing to give me pretty non descript official documentation. See if yours will?

      Reply
      1. PersonalLifeWorkLife

        That’s a great idea – my therapist is really cool so I think she’d easily agree to do something like that it if it would help me out.

        Reply
        1. Lemon Zinger

          Be aware that your boss may Google your therapist’s name and deduce what those appointments are for.

          Reply
    5. Agile Phalanges

      If your boss is a bit of a blabbermouth, I wouldn’t share with him until you’re ready to share with all your other co-workers, and the world at large. In which case, you have “an appointment” and he doesn’t need to know more. If he really presses, you can make up some extensive dental work, or bloodwork that needs to be followed up on every week/month/whatever.

      Once you are ready to share, if he makes crass comments, those are on HIM, and people who know him won’t be likely to associate you with his rude comments. Hopefully.

      I’m sorry you’re going through this, it’s never fun.

      Reply
    6. Aitch Arr

      First off, I’ve been where you are and I sympathize. I’m now 5 years out and don’t regret for a moment that I ended the marriage.

      A mental health appointment is still a medical appointment. I’d keep your explanation to that. I still see my therapist every 3 months, but at one point it was once a week. That fell under intermittent FMLA, as would the appointments for your children. I’d talk to your HR department.

      Good luck and hang in there.

      Reply
      1. amy l

        I was in counseling with my (still) spouse for years. I met with our counselor twice a month. Once for counselor and I, once for counselor, spouse and myself. My boss at the time was super cool about it. I only told her it was marriage counseling. As things were very unpredictable, I felt better that she knew a little about what was going on. She advised to put ” private appointment” on Outlook. She would know exactly what it meant, but others not so much. I was hesitant, at first to share something so deeply personal. At the time I felt embarrassed and oddly “defective.” I finally got to the point where I just had to tell myself not to sweat it. I came to accept the fact that it is a health issue. I needed to seek treatment just as any one would for any health issue. I don’t know if she ” blabbed” to any co – workers. I got to the point where I just didn’t care about it as much. It was the truth and I had (and still have) nothing to be ashamed of. Best wishes for finding a healthy resolution.

        Reply
        1. PersonalLifeWorkLife

          @amy – yes, right now I’m putting either “appointment” or “lunch” on my calendar. For some of the lunch appointments I have put “chiro appointment” just to throw people off a bit more.

          Yes, I have my times where I am feeling very defective. I mean, I’m essentially in two hours of therapy a week – one for myself, one for couple – and it’s hard not to start thinking “Amy I crazy?” and the answer is probably “Yeah, a little bit – and that’s OK because I’m working to get better.”

          Thank you for your good wishes.

          Reply
      2. PersonalLifeWorkLife

        That is good to hear! I honestly have reached out to a few friends / acquaintances who have been through this and they all say what you say – it’s better on the other side. No regrets. That’s helpful.

        Reply
    7. Clever Name

      Ugh. Your boss sounds like a buffoon. I’m in the process of divorcing my husband, and I told my boss pretty much right away. I wanted her to be aware in case I seemed off and to explain upcoming appointments. My boss is an awesome person, and she’s been really supportive. I’ve told certain coworkers, and word has gotten around a bit. I don’t really mind, as I’ve always been fairly open about major stuff going on in my personal life (like when my son was going through major behavioral issues). I’m normally upbeat about it and don’t complain or dwell (I save that for my friends).

      For telling my boss, I just told her briefly while I was in her office. I’ve told other coworkers I work closely with if it seemed like it wouldn’t be weird or if it came up sort of organically. Do you think your boss would honor your wishes if you asked him to not share??

      Reply
      1. PersonalLifeWorkLife

        Clever Name: I could try. He is a buffoon and I don’t think he does these things with malice. He’s just self-deprecating and then pulls others into it and has no social skills.

        But yes, when the rubber finally meets the road and I am moving out, I realize I will have to tell him something.

        I’m sorry you’re going through this. I know even if you know it’s the right thing, it’s hard as hell some days.

        Reply
    8. Anon16

      Is this something that’s needed to be concerned about? I leave a little early on a specific day (once a week) for a therapy session that begins at 5. I just tell my boss I have to leave a little early on that day and no one’s asked any questions or minded. I stay late occasionally or skip lunch so it makes up for the lost time anyway. Is this something we’re even supposed to worry about?

      Reply
      1. Jan

        It depends on the job. At my last job, literally no one would care. At the job prior, I’d be written up. At this job? I’d have to let my boss know in advance, especially for something weekly.

        Reply
  34. Kowalski! Options

    This is work-related, but it’s not really a question, just kind of a shout-out (and yes, I will tell people this to their faces, not just post pseudonymously on a forum they probably don’t read……. :) )
    I have great bosses. Amazing bosses. My bosses are really cool. I’ve just been through an especially trying two months: I lost my father in May (had 5 days of bereavement leave), and a week and a bit ago, my significant other lost his mother. SO and I aren’t married and don’t live together, so I can’t legally take bereavement leave for his mother’s death, under the terms of our collective agreement. No problem, said my bosses. Work from home, do whatever you need to do, and we’ll work out the paperwork and forms later. They diverted some of my work load, so I wouldn’t have to worry about things while I was away. In the end, I only needed a couple of days, but those days ended up being a lifesaver.
    My bosses rock.

    Reply
    1. Inspector Spacetime

      That’s great! It’s so refreshing to hear stories of good bosses. For the record, my boss is amazing too!

      Reply
    2. Friday

      I’m so sorry for your losses, and that’s wonderful that you have understanding bosses. It makes a world of difference. One of my best bosses ever granted me a bereavement day for my MIL’s fiance’s military burial. And a year later, I needed a bereavement week for my own dad’s passing, granted it no problem. She let me work from home/his bedside as needed also and heavily encouraged me to also take time off beforehand as needed. Truly the best.

      Reply
    3. Sparkly Librarian

      Mine, too. Doesn’t it make everything easier knowing they will treat you with consideration and compassion?

      Reply
  35. Incognito

    I want to thank everyone who responded to me last week. I gave notice at my current job and am looking forward to some RnR while I continue my search. I have one interview that was already scheduled, but after that I might break entirely from actively searching for a few weeks to recharge.

    I wasn’t sure if I would be freaking out over knowing I would not have a paycheck coming in, but surprisingly I am really excited!

    Reply
  36. Electric Hedgehog

    So, my dad is a manager in the government, and he has repeatedly expressed opinions to me that are pretty legally problematic. For example he believes hat women shouldn’t dress in tight clothes, skirts and dresses that are cut high, blouses with low necklines, or noticeable makeup. He thinks that women dress to intentionally distract men with their sexy sexy bodies.As his daughter, I know that his definitions of ‘revealing’ clothing are really, really not in line with modern standards or fashions. I believe that he has brought this up with at least one female direct report, and may have had a demotion in relation to this problem. He is not shy about expressing his viewpoint on this (or his opinions regarding trans people, guns, homosexuality, immigrants, religion, or racial issues) on facebook. I have talked to him about it, including using the phrase ‘textbook definition of legally actionable hostile work environment’, and many of my siblings have had similar conversations. He retires in the next couple years. Is there anything else I can do to help him see that this is something that he must change to maintain a good professional reputation (and added bonus, be a better person)?

    Reply
    1. CityMouse

      While that sucks and is awful, given his age, I think he is unlikely to change. As he is about to retire, I doubt anything will happen to him, it has gone on this long and government disciplinary actions can take time and paperwork, especially for someone so long term, they might just encourage him to retire sooner. It sucks but I thi k you won’t get anywhere with him at all. I feel very bad for his employees but it is up to them to complain.

      Reply
    2. Lora

      People can change when they are older – my grandfather changed his politics in his 90s. But, he was also sort of forced to in the assisted living home where there were lots of women and people of color and so forth in the dining room with him and his other option was eating all his meals completely ostracized. He did genuinely change his mind, he just wasn’t absolutely forced to deal with reality before then.

      If your dad is in his 60s, I can tell you it’s not an age thing: when my mother (who is 75) was young, miniskirts and smoking pot and beatniks, followed by hippies and Woodstock and so forth, were considered the height of cool. He was out of touch with modern times even when he was in his 20s. It’s very much a life choice he made, not just being a product of his time.

      I think you’ve done what you can. I know it gets tiresome to be “actually, no” 100% of the time with family. Captain Awkward has a lot to say about this.

      Reply
    3. Rusty Shackelford

      You’ve talked to him and he’s already been demoted once over it? What makes you think there’s anything else you can do?

      Reply
      1. Electric Hedgehog

        I know you’re probably right, but it’s hard to see your loved ones struggle and suffer over something that is so avoidable, you know? If there’s any way t possibly get thru to him, I’m willing to try.

        Reply
      2. afiendishthingy

        I was unclear on that detail – was HE demoted over it, or did he actually demote the female report?

        Reply
    4. Solidus Pilcrow

      I have older relatives with similar opinions. I’ve had limited success in appealing to their self-interest of not getting fired and blaming the opposing political view. I’ve said something along the lines of “You better not say that at work/in public. The liberals will get all offended and you’ll be out of a job.”

      Not that this changes their beliefs any or stops them from sharing them with me, of course. It only lessens the workplace or social fallout.

      Reply
    5. Aitch Arr

      I’m sorry your dad’s a ‘misogynistic dinosaur’*, but his work reputation really isn’t your problem.

      I’d focus instead on how this is affecting your father-daughter relationship.

      * – M (Judi Dench) called James Bond this.

      Reply
    6. Observer

      If his employer – and workplace sanctions haven’t gotten him to the point of at least shutting up about his opinions, I highly doubt anything you could say would make a difference. Given that you and your siblings have tried, I think that this is one you need to leave be.

      Reply
    7. Not So NewReader

      “That’s not current thinking, Dad.” [Insert change of subject here.]

      I have a friend who comes out with stuff sometimes. In a flat voice, I say, “Times have changed, general thinking has changed on that.” I make sure my voice is flat to indicate that I am not doing a longer discussion.

      Over time I have notice that he has dropped some remarks from his talk. It did take time. And he is my friend not my father. So there is that.
      If you can find a single sentence to use as a go-to when you hear him say something this might be more effective than a longer discussion. Or you may find that he just does not say these things in front of you.

      Reply
  37. Tina

    Has anyone felt publicly shamed at work for what was a perceived racist/sexist/etc. behavior or comment? How do you repair relationships?

    Some context, I am the only White woman in my office. Most of the office is made up of Women of Color. I get along with all of them and respect them each as wonderful professionals and colleagues. I recently received feedback from my supervisor who said that many colleagues came to her and said I am condescending. I’ve taken this feedback to heart, as it is important I improve and repair relationships. She said I need to be mindful of my identities, and she thinks this may just be the way I am. I struggle to hear this comment about my character, I want to be an Ally and know I need to do a lot of self-work unpacking privilege and repairing relationships. I’m worried people made up their minds about me, thinking I’m the know-it-all White girl, who thinks she’s better than everyone else. I fear even if I change behaviors, I can’t control other people’s perceptions and they’ve already judged me as a certain type of way. I’m looking for advice and insights for how to move forward, how to seek forgiveness, and how to help create an environment where all people in the department feel appreciated, understood, and accepted.

    Reply
    1. Backroads

      The trick is to find the balance. You may be unintentionally saying stuff unawares, colleagues may be oversensitive, could be a bit of both.

      I think sincere apology goes a long way, and perhaps asking a trusted colleague to help you monitor.

      Reply
    2. writelhd

      I think it can always be a struggle to receive feedback about one’s character or interpersonal style that one doesn’t like or didn’t notice, no matter the situation. It’s often a lot harder to hear that kind of stuff than it is “you did this report wrong” or whatever. The ego hurts and all that. Sometimes it is really hard to see things about yourself that you’d wish weren’t true until someone tells you–while it can also be hard to even know if the feedback is accurate and true and worth acting on. Perhaps framing it that way in your mind–I’m receiving feedback on an interpersonal interaction issue and that is often a difficult thing for a human to deal with no matter the situation, could help alleviate the fears you’re holding.

      Also, you *can’t* control other people’s perceptions–you can only control yourself. Maybe accepting that as a reality, rather than a fear, helps you move on from it. But, in honestly taking feedback and trying to improve on it, some people are likely to notice you undertaking that journey.

      Reply
    3. LCL

      Mindful of identities? What does that even mean? That is BS doublespeak. And your supervisor is a tool, telling you something upsetting then saying never mind.
      Continue to be professional and courteous, and next time your supervisor brings it up agree that being condescending is a bad thing and can she provide specific examples so you can work on not being condescending.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        Is the supervisor saying never mind, though?

        I mean, I agree that this is super unhelpfully phrased and I’m not pleased with the manager either, but I would be uninclined to dismiss it just because of that, and I would not want to have a second conversation, wherein I said I didn’t do anything about the thing you told me was a problem.

        Reply
      2. Tina

        I followed up and asked her for specifics, she said she could not give me any. I asked how I could show improvement and she told me that she “would just know”. The only changes in behavior has been I don’t ask anyone for any help on anything, even if it’s their job. Instead, I stick to making small talk. I know at some point I will need to ask someone for something or to-do something and I worry that simply doing that is going to come off in a way I don’t intend. I feel like I’m walking on eggshells.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          Good for you for following up, and bad on her for being crappy about quantifying things.

          Honestly, I think finding some kind of external action for this would be really helpful for you, so you don’t just feel trapped into passivity. It would be nice for it to turn into a growth experience for you even if your job didn’t help you get that.

          Reply
        2. Somniloquist

          Is there a possibility that your manager is trying to get you off-balance for some reason? Based on this update, I’m a bit suspicious that it’s more about the manager and less about the coworkers.

          I don’t mean that you shouldn’t seek people’s input and collaborate with them. It’s just this non-clarification seems really personal.

          Reply
      3. ThatGirl

        To me “mindful of identities” means that for nearly every person of color, the world seems a little different than it does for most white people. That Tina should be mindful of how seemingly innocuous comments might come across. Now, I’m a fellow white person so I could be off-base here. But I don’t have a problem with the idea of being mindful of how other people see you and how your privilege informs things.

        Reply
        1. Tina

          Totally agree, and having been up until this point in an environment where most colleagues are White, I’ve not had to navigate this kind of workplace before. I just was also taken aback because nothing in my interactions with my colleagues led me to believe they feel this way about me. I think it is hard because if someone feels slighted/offended by me, they don’t tell me but instead tell my boss, I’m now feeling like I need to rethink every interaction I have with others because it is being received in a way I do not intend. It has put a lot of stress on me, and I just wish we had an environment where people felt they could call-out someone after a micro-aggression and at the same time, they could help that person learn, move forward, and do better next time. But this means having a belief that people change, forgiveness, and compassion from all parties.

          Reply
          1. Kimberlee, Esq.

            One thing that is helpful for me in similar situations is to remind yourself that your intentions don’t really matter here. Ultimately, if you say something offensive (or whatever), you had an impact on a person. Good intentions don’t remove or mitigate negative impacts. It’s also helpful to keep in mind that many people experience the same microaggressions over and over again, and not only is it exhausting to call them all out, it can be politically and socially fraught; people are honestly at least as likely to act defensively (“I didn’t mean it that way” means that you think what you said/did is their problem, not yours) as they are to actually reflect and change their behaviors.

            There are probably one billion personal essays on various parts of the internet where people have voluntarily taken the time to write about the ways they experience oppression and aggression at work, I would recommend you read a bunch of them (Medium is a great place to start) and reflect on whether you recall doing or saying any of the things any of them talk about as being oppressive or offensive.

            But, also, good on you for caring and for acknowledging that you might well be doing these things and not knowing exactly what it is. It is difficult and requires a lot of research (which you should be doing on your own, _not_ putting the burden on your co-workers to teach you), but you should 1) feel glad that you got this feedback at all, I’m sure they were apprehensive about giving it) and 2) feel glad that there are now so many resources to help you figure out what be happening and how you can adjust. Good luck!

            Reply
              1. Kimberlee, Esq.

                … I’m not sure what your comment means? Are you saying that you’re completely sure that OP has never made a microaggression to anyone on her team? Cause it sounds like the OP is not themselves certain of that, and I would be astounded to hear that a white person in an office pull of people of color had never made a microaggression (it’s simply that common).

                There are definitely things OP could be doing that wouldn’t be perceived as condescending to another white person, but could be felt as such by a person of color. I think that, given OP’s eagerness to assess and fix the problem, it would be helpful for them to look into that possibility.

                Reply
    4. Temp-anon

      I was once called into HR for joking with a coworker and someone overheard. I was totally mortified (to this day!) and have not made that mistake again. Here it was one issue that was resolved though so I’m not sure it applies.

      I think feedback like this can be unhelpful if you don’t have an example of what you are doing, because then it’s not “this thing is condescending, stop it”, it’s up to you to self-reflect and humans are terrible at that. Do you ever try to give people feedback about their job or train them on something? I would stop that behavior right away because I think it can come across that way.

      In your shoes, I would default to being polite, pleasant, but just focused on the work and see if those people are able to trust you more in time.

      Reply
    5. fposte

      You are being really, really thoughtful about feedback that can be really hard to hear.

      You’re right that people who see you as a thing may never change their opinion, even if you stop being the thing. But some people will change their opinion, and some people may not have that opinion, or they may be in a wait-and-see mode.

      Does your workplace offer any kind of access to *good* diversity workshops or discussions? If not, can you find something in the community? I think finding something structured and actionable is a good first step and it broadens your thoughts just from your office.

      Reply
    6. Jen A.

      Are there any regional differences between you and your colleagues? I know someone who from one part of the country to another and is also the only white female among a group of women of color (for context she is a physician in a clinic setting (ie she doesn’t own the practice she is an employee) and the other staff are nurses and techs). She was reprimanded for being cold and imperious and when she asked for an example it turns out that when she comes in to the office she says hello to anyone who is right there in the moment but doesn’t seek out everyone else to say to hi to them too. And her colleagues complained to management about it because it was their perception that she was being haughty. She still had to calibrate her behavior to fit her new setting but that’s not a character flaw it’s a things are done a different way in different places thing.

      A former colleague just moved to her company’s office in Johannesburg from DC and it’s a thing there too – she has to walk around the office and say good morning to everyone first thing – it’s a ritual she’s finding very difficult to get used to. Similarly, my company has a new hire who is from Nigeria and he also walks around every morning to greet everyone individually.

      Reply
      1. LCL

        I totally believe you but God, this is a repulsive happening. Female coworker is reported by other female coworkers because she didn’t say hello? And management responded by supporting the complainers? I can’t imagine anyone coming into my office and complaining about a coworker being haughty. This is the same ol’ gender based ‘women should be nice’ pressure we have faced from men, and denounced. We have got to stop doing it to ourselves.

        Reply
        1. Chaordic One

          This happened to me. I do not recall ever not saying hello to coworkers, but apparently I was preoccupied with some emergency fire to put out and I walked past someone in the hallway without saying hello to them.

          I was informed of my “faux pas” one of my supervisors.

          Reply
        2. Quadnon.

          But you are not from that culture. The greeting everyone upon entry is 100% a cultural thing in many countries. You can whine and complain and get irate but people will still you as rude and the jerk because you are ignoring the common greeting ritual.

          Reply
    7. Dodger

      I would frame this as a workstyle or personality clash, rather than a white privilege issue. Otherwise, in an effort to be mindful of the challenges others have experienced, you’re essentially preventing yourself from having effective boundaries and self-respect. Besides, if others are stereotyping you because of your skin color (which I don’t see any evidence of), that’s a whole ‘nother issue.

      Reply
      1. Tina

        I think it’s probably a combination of things happening. Race is one difference, I’m from the Midwest and others are from the East Coast. I’m new to the office and others have been there 10+ years. I’m one of the youngest, and my role is new (it involves a lot of building, developing new things, effectively creating more work for the department). I do not want to dismiss folks’ feelings, and regardless of my intentions, my impact is very real and I’ve hurt colleagues. I think I came in ready to make changes, rolled up my sleeves and dove into the work. That, coupled with my identities, maybe gave people an impression about me. I just want to figure out how to move forward and repair things, and from conversations with my supervisor, she does not seem very interested in guiding me through this process.

        Reply
        1. Lora

          Ooooohh that makes sense. Even if you are hired specifically to change things, it’s best to start listening very carefully to anyone and everyone who was involved with the old way and ask them lots of questions about the history of why they did it like that and not some other way. At least when you go to change things, people will feel like OK, you understand the thing and they have been heard. And that goes for everyone, crossing gender / race / ethnicity / religion etc. boundaries – I’ve managed to upset plenty of straight white men by changing something they worked really hard on.

          That gets sort of tangled with identity politics: your colleagues feel like you’re being bossy because white. I often feel like I am disrespected despite having more experience and expertise because I’m female. When it’s someone within the same socioeconomic group inflicting the change, then everyone just hates it, but sometimes they hate it more on its merits.

          Reply
        2. Marisol

          ok, this is great color to have. My initial impression was that this is more of an overall personality/culture clash, as Dodger and Jen A. describe below, rather than specifically a racism problem. Reading the other details you provide makes me wonder about something: 1) are you primarily a task- or results- oriented person, rather than a relationship oriented person? People who focus on the work, with the best intention of delivering the best results, can rub people the wrong way by ignoring subtle social cues. It has nothing whatsoever to do with disrespect and in fact, is a sign of humility: the person operating this way assumes that everyone subordinates their social needs to serve the greater good, because that’s what they do. They don’t need strokes; they just want to be of service and get down to work, and they take if for granted that others are that way too. But most people DO need strokes. That, coupled with the fact that you are from a region of the US that values modesty and being low-key, which (from my perspective as a Southern California native at least) often comes across as being taciturn and reserved, can make you seem…brusque in the way you go about achieving your goals.

          Does this sound like it could be worth exploring? Obviously I know very little about your situation but this sentence in particular, “I think I came in ready to make changes, rolled up my sleeves and dove into the work” made me think about a set of character traits I frequently see that can cause ruffled feathers. You sound like a genuinely kind and introspective person and I trust you have the best intentions. Morever, I am NOT convinced that I have identified the source of the problem, but only offer an idea that you might want to consider…

          Reply
          1. Aitch Arr

            I think this could very well be right on target.

            I also think this is a situation that could benefit from some coaching, both group and individual. Is that something offered within your organization?

            Reply
        3. Tex

          There are many business articles on ‘change management’ (Harvard Business Review is a good source of book guides too). There’s a lot of politics to what you are attempting to do, in fact the big companies hire consultants who specialize in the soft skills for orgs going through transformations. You may view your job as purely operational, but that’s far from how your colleagues experience or perceive it.

          Reply
    8. Sled Dog Mama

      Ugh, yes this totally happened to me in college.
      I was working at a summer program for incoming college students and on one of our evenings off all the staff were sitting around talking about our experiences transitioning into college. The college I went to was very different from my high school. College was a small liberal arts institution that eliminated the requirement of being a “professing christian” for board members while I was there, the main reason cited for the elimination was that it excluded too many alumni from serving on the board. The student body was racially, socio-economically, religiously and sexually diverse (I don’t how else to say that there were openly homosexual and trans-gendered students). My High School was about 70% non-white (mostly of African decent) and 30% white, the whole area the school drew from was very poor.
      During this conversation about our transitions into college I made the (factual) statement that although so much of my high school was non-white there were only 4 or 5 non-white students in the (mostly honors and AP) classes I took so I just didn’t know many of my non-white “classmates” so transitioning into the environment with so many students who were not white had been an adjustment for me. Apparently someone took offense at this statement and I got called into the directors office a few days later to make sure I could work with the non-white staff members and that I didn’t have a problem treating them as equals. I was mortified, someone was offended by my statement of my experience, but it also taught me that some people are just looking for things to be offended by.
      So I don’t have anything really useful to help you beyond saying that you’re not alone.

      Reply
    9. TheOriginalMags

      No advice (sorry) but your comment sounds like you are already in the right frame of mind, like a thoughtful helpful person. Good luck!

      Reply
      1. Tina

        Thank you all for your help, and what someone said about not needing strokes– I think you may be onto something there. I wish we had some coaching or there was a mentor at my organization who could help me navigate this. I fear that the road to repairing relationships might be long, and I don’t want another negative performance review or worse, lose the opportunity to work there because I’m deemed “not a team player”.

        Reply
        1. Marisol

          Look up my former life coach, Barbara Deutsch, on the web. She specializes in this sort of thing, communication/image problems. What I homed in on about you not giving needed strokes–I learned the ability to have that insight from her. She is a genius and can help you over the phone. She’ll give you scripts, you’ll say the scripts, the people’s reaction to you will change, and then that experience will give you insight and you will develop skills organically and no longer be dependent on scripts. Pay the fee, even if you don’t get reimbursed from your company. It will inform your work relationships and your personal relationships and is an investment that will reap lifelong dividends.

          Reply
    10. Chaordic One

      Sometimes it can be a fine line to walk. I’ve been in situations where someone (usually a white coworker) has to provide instruction on how to perform a given task and why it is necessary. (This is what you do, step 1, step 2, and step 3.)

      Even in a group situation, people of color frequently find the person who gives the instructions to be condescending (more often than the white people), while the white people do not.

      Reply
    11. You didn't do anything wrong.

      It’s simple really. You have a bad boss. And not so great coworkers.

      Your boss may be a nice enough person (I don’t know) but she is a bad manager. You supposedly acted racist yet she cannot give you concrete examples of what you did, or tell you what to do to improve. A manager should not be getting you in trouble for non-concrete things that they don’t have an example of and she should have a plan of action for improvement (though in this case since you didn’t actually do anything you can’t really be expected to improve to begin with)

      Your coworkers aren’t great. Notice how no one has ever spoken to you or called you about your supposed racism, but they went right to your manager behind your back? And there is the problem of no one being able to give you examples of your “transgressions”. Either your coworkers can’t give concrete examples, or your manager isn’t able to articulate them. Or both. It’s problematic no matter how you slice it.

      The bottom line is that you haven’t done anything wrong. Please don’t feel guilty Tina. My advice would be to find a new job. You have sneaky coworkers and an inept manager. I don’t work there so I don’t know why they are picking on you for things they can’t even articulate / things you never did, but it’s a toxic environment. You deserve so much better. You deserve a workplace where you are appreciated, have good coworkers and especially a competent manager. Don’t feel badly. I know it sucks when you are on the receiving end of criticism from your boss but in this case your boss herself couldn’t even tell you what you did wrong. That’s a huge red flag. Don’t feel like you have to walk on eggshells, or be overly nice or PC. Your coworkers and manager are the problem, not you. They are the ones who have shown bad behavior. Just because you are white and they are not doesn’t automatically make you the bad one. I’m a WOC and it bothers me so much when other POC act the way your coworkers have.

      Reply
  38. writelhd

    What is the opinion of employee of the month programs? Are they effective morale boosters, or do they just make morale worse among those who aren’t chosen? What’s the best way to sustain them month after month, make sure enough different people are getting recognized? I’ve noticed that we’ve tried a few different company-wide employee of the month schemes, but they always seem to fade out or have issues. We’ve tried nominations sent to the president, which seemed to work for a while but apparently he stopped getting nominations despite sending out reminders, so he quit doing it. Some people felt strongly enough that we should resurrect it that now we’re trying a committee of people from across different departments meeting monthly to decide. I worry that this risks being a popularity contest, and it’s still hard to form a committee of members who are adequately positioned to be able to see everyone’s work, especially the “departments of 1.” I’m also thinking that maybe it’s not the single employee who goes above and beyond the very most in a given month who needs to be recognized–because so many of us do that it’s impossible and maybe even counterproductive to morale to pin that on just one person each month–but one who it seems could especially use a morale boost.

    Reply
    1. Backroads

      I like them for my husband’s work as they tend to come with very decent prizes (like ultimately a free anniversary after b&b gift certificate and upscale restaurant gift cards. We are those people.)

      But while they’re likable, necessary is a strong word.

      Reply
    2. Borgette

      It sounds like you’re having trouble sustaining momentum on a structured Employee of the Month program. Your end goal is recognizing hard work and boosting morale; are there other ways to do this?

      One ‘other way’ could be a less formal, more flexible recognition board/email blast. (Elisha managed to finish the new teapot design a week ahead of schedule so that we could present it to our new vendor – who loved it! Rosario cleaned out the supply closet and color coded the shelves. Look at this crazy golden teapot they found! [before/after pics] Doesn’t it look great?!)

      If you’re really looking for an employee of the month program, think about what’s going wrong with the processes you’ve already tried. It sounds like there are issues picking people fairly, and sustaining participation month after month. Are there metrics available to automate the selection process? Could you focus on a different department/location/manager each month to keep nominations from drying up? Are there incentives you could use to encourage nominations/participation?

      Reply
    3. Mazzy

      I hated them at one job that had it. The employee of the month was always someone who acted really happy and smiley and did nice to have extra projects. The people who kept the company together and who might appear stressed or scattered at some point during the month NEVER got it. I remember one guy doing one half a day nice to have visible extra project and he got the award the next month. Then it became obvious what management was rewarding and that it was BS.

      Reply
    4. Not So NewReader

      Not a fan, myself.
      But I think the lack of participation tells you everything you need to know. Your company has tried this a few times with no luck, I think I would let it go now.

      My knee-jerk reaction is that it has a grammar school feel to it. But my longer term reaction is that I would not want to receive such an award because usually I can quickly point out several people who are just as or probably more deserving than me. On the other side of the coin is watching these programs hit a bad turn of events. Such as the employee of the month got fired shortly after the sign went up with their name on it as a winner for the month. At that point, NO ONE wanted to be employee of the month, ever.

      Finally, in one company it came across as tone deaf. Employees had crushing workloads and they were supposed to spend time nominating someone when they did not even have time to run to the restroom. In restroom vs employee of the month nomination, the restroom wins.

      Reply
    5. Toph

      I’m not a fan of these. While they can be a good motivator and morale booster at first, I’ve found that over time they can breed resentment.For example, a normally mediocre performer does one GREAT thing, then gets recognized that month for that one thing, and then everyone else who is consistently good, but never amazing doesn’t get any recognition. That doesn’t mean they’re all bad, or that the example I mention would necessarily happen, but it’s a pattern I’ve noticed that can turn it south.

      Reply
    6. Framing Queen

      One company I worked for ended the EOTM program after a near employee revolt. They had awarded the honor to a guy after he got out of jail for (physical) spouse abuse. That did not go over well.

      But then his wife ended up shooting and killing him in a subsequent abuse situation and the company planted a commemorative tree in his honor in the outdoor eating area.

      Reply
  39. Backroads

    And another question: I teach, and while my current school is marvelous and I often recommend job hunting teachers to look there, it’s about time to see what else is out there. I applied with a local district who first does a screening interview before passing the resumes and such to individual schools. I went into this screening interview, it went swimmingly, and closed with the usual “Do you have any questions for us?” Due to this blog, I was able to throw out a few questions I feel good about, but it was hard. This is one of the biggest districts in the state with all manner of school and community variation.

    So my question is, what to ask when you’re faced with such vague generality

    Reply
    1. Anonymous Educator

      What’s the vague generality? Asking if you have any questions? I think that’s fairly standard to ask at the end of an interview. There’s lots of stuff you can ask about:

      What do you like most about this school?
      What would you like to see the school improve on in the future?
      What did you find you had to adjust to from your previous school when you got here?

      Generic “applies to any school” questions like that are good to have handy, but it also is good if you can ask follow-up questions to things you actually already discussed during the interview.

      Reply
        1. Anothereducator

          I would be interested in culture of district, since it is decentralized and large (maybe larger than where you are coming from). Some questions could be:

          -Can you share with me what opportunities there are to collaborate or work with teachers in other schools around the district?
          -What do teacher in-services look like? Do folks from X, Y, and Z schools get the opportunity to learn or train together?
          -What are some unique aspects of working in District # that you enjoy or appreciate?

          Reply
  40. Dr. Scudworth

    I’m slogging through e-QIP (federal govt background check) and it sucksssss. I’ve lived many apartment and had several gigs in the last 7 years, plus several periods of unemployment and it’s torture dragging up all these old addresses and phone numbers. Plus, my anxiety is flaring up and threatening that the Feds are gonna bust me for not giving the right address to that old manager who actually doesn’t work there anymore and doesn’t remember me. Anyone have any words of encouragement?

    Reply
    1. Electric Hedgehog

      It will be ok. I’ve done my on e-QIP, and most of my family has some variety of clearance or other. My sister used to actually the interviews on the high level clearance, and if it makes you feel better, she used to tell me stories about some really weird people she ran into. No worries on the old managers/not remembering stuff – you have tax records and suchlike, and I bet they can review those if necessary to verify that you worked where you claim to have worked.

      Reply
    2. CityMouse

      One thing I might recommend: Amazon. I had trouble remembering every address but I had the account forever and had never deleted mailing address and it helped.

      Reply
    3. MegaMoose, Esq.

      You can do it! Also, it’s okay to be frustrated. A couple of years ago I was hired to help a state judge complete the background check and committee materials needed to be nominated for a federal judgeship. And we were working with two people at the White House whose job it was to help us! Those forms are a bear, especially accounting for the unemployment periods. I would suggest being liberal with printing drafts to check your work, creating master documents for everything before transferring to the forms, not transferring until you are sure you have everything you need, and being patient with yourself! Also, the feds are not going to bust you for not giving the right address to that old manager who actually doesn’t work there anymore and doesn’t remember you. I had a put down a few “address unknown” and my judge still got confirmed! (In one memorable case a former supervisor the judge had lost touch with had actually become a governor and I could not for the life of me figure out his direct contact information, so I just put the info for the governor’s mansion and figured the feds could figure it out.) Good luck!

      Reply
    4. Pwyll

      e-QIP is the worst. Hang in there.

      The point of these forms is to disclose everything you can to the best of your ability. It’s not to be perfect. I had done a ton of freelance work, some of my old employers had gone out of business, old bosses passed away, etc. that made mine a nightmare, and I had a roommate who was a foreign national who recently traveled to one of those countries Americans can’t generally go to on vacation. And I still got my clearance. Just make a good faith effort to be comprehensive and you should be okay.

      +1 on the credit check, BTW. In addition to giving you a good listing of addresses, I actually discovered errors that I corrected to fix up my credit score.

      Reply
    5. Peggy-O

      I took full advantage of the free text fields to address any issues. And if they have issues, they just ask at the interview.

      Reply
    6. CAA

      You will get through it! You can find old addresses on your tax returns. You only need seven years for lower level clearances, and you should save your tax records that long, so hopefully that’ll help with most of them. If there’s any place you lived less than a year, and you can’t remember the address, you can put “unknown” in the blank. You may need to use your landlords for “people who knew me when I lived at x”, and they will contact some but usually not all of the people you list. It’s ok if you can’t remember every single thing, but just don’t make something up to fill in the blank if you can’t remember accurately.

      In addition to a few references, they will contact your university to verify your education; they will look for any kind of criminal record in the cities and states where you lived; and they will check your passport records. I had to let an employee go once because he claimed he had a degree when he was really one class short of graduating. He appealed the clearance denial, but by lying in the first place he had blown all chance of being seen as trustworthy by the examiners.

      Reply
    7. Katie the Fed

      They’re still doing eQip? A lot of people have to do the SF-86 via paper now after the Chinese OPM hack.

      The most important thing is that there are no gaps in addresses – I ran into trouble because I always went home to live with my parents during summer in college, so I only listed that address once and then my school addresses and it was more than they could handle. Like asking them to divide by zero.

      Reply
  41. DecorativeCacti

    Is it weird to hang an obituary in your office/cubicle? One of my close friends died two years ago and I have had a copy of her obituary hanging on my cork board at work since then. However, she also worked here so I’m not the only one. I can probably find a dozen of them. I’m looking for a new job and don’t know if I should carry it on with me. My gut tells me no, that it’s only not weird here because everyone knew her but I’m not sure.

    Reply
    1. MegaMoose, Esq.

      It might be time to take it home when you end this job, although it seems perfectly fine to have it up now. I’m so sorry about your friend.

      Reply
      1. ElleKat

        When one of our directors died – wow it’s probably been over 10 years ago – we were all give large round buttons with her picture on it.. it’s still hanging on my cubicle wall!!! Now that I think about it – it is kinda creepy/weird…

        Reply
        1. DecorativeCacti

          Right? I never thought twice about it, but it’s been two years. We have lots of people who started long after she died and they are probably walking around going, “Who in the hell is this girl and why is she EVERYWHERE?”

          Reply
    2. BigSigh

      Take it home. Is there a different reminder of your friend’s life that you could take to your next job to continue to publicly remember her?

      Reply
      1. afiendishthingy

        I think just putting up a picture of her or of the two of you would be fine at a new job, but it would look a little strange to be the newbie at work who hung up an obituary in her cubicle first thing.

        Reply
        1. Not So NewReader

          I agree. When you change jobs that obit becomes an “at home thing”. It was an “at work thing” because you all shared the grief and bonded, even if just in small ways, from it. The new workplace will not have shared this experience with you and it might look strange or cause people to ask you about it, frequently.

          Reply
    3. Trillian

      One office I deal with has an obit on the wall for one of their employees who was a victim of domestic violence. It’s both moving and pointed, in a way I thoroughly approve–that they’re not going to let this young woman or what happened to her be erased.

      Reply
  42. Annalee

    Today is my last day of an academic research assistant position, and my boss/PI wants me to give my new (grad school) email to research participants so that I can continue managing the data for his project that I’m leaving, because he assumed that would be appropriate since we might be writing a paper on it together later. Ha! Nope! I’m so ready to leave this project (and this boss), I’m totally fine with not being an author on the paper if it comes to that.

    Reply
    1. SophieChotek

      Yeah, I hear you. Unless you get paid.
      I can see if you really wanted to be on the paper, but if that isn’t important to you…

      Reply
  43. mismatch woes

    How do you determine why the responses to a job listing make no sense whatsoever? We’re hiring for a mid level individual contributor on my team, 3-5 years of experience with specific items in nonprofit development.
    We seem to be getting responses from people who don’t have any experience with our area of work.
    We’ve rewritten the listing and post to the local industry organizations and similar sites and yet get totally random backgrounds applying.
    For instance we get a lot of people with relatively extensive retail experience that may translate for some roles but definitely doesn’t for this. Or we get people who have done operations work but have no experience with development. The title alone is clearly midlevel and the listing to me at least is clear. In the past it would seem you’d get the bunch of people who didn’t make sense as applicants and had no experience to translate but also ones who were solid options – now we seem to only get the ones that don’t fit.
    (I am not the hiring manager- it’s for a same level role on my team and I’m trying to help my boss figure out why the applicants have been so out of left field.)

    Reply
    1. LCL

      Is it as simple as the solid midlevel people you are looking for already have those kinds of jobs? Maybe it’s an applicants’ market, not an employers’ market right now. So all that’s left are the unqualified people.

      Reply
    2. rageismycaffeine

      I manage a resume repository for development positions at my multi-location institution. I can 100% tell you that I am seeing the same thing. And it’s making me nuts because when people register on the resume repository, we ask them to select which area of advancement work they’re interested in, and then tell us how many years of experience in that area of work they have – and 9 times out of 10, those answers don’t line up. Don’t tell me you have 4-6 years of major gift experience when you’ve only worked retail. There’s another area for transferable/relevant skills.

      I suspect LCL is in the right here. Though I keep hearing about how fast folks are expected to job-hop in development these days, so I guess I should be surprised that you’re not getting more qualified applicants – but I’m not.

      Reply
    3. BRR

      What I’ve seen is posting say 3-5 years of development experience or 3-5 years experience with X years in development.

      Reply
    4. Darth Brooks

      Do the benefits balance with similar positions? If qualified people aren’t applying, there might be something about this job that isn’t as appealing as other jobs requiring the same experience. Maybe salary is too low? Are there perks other companies offer that you don’t? Someone without the needed experience might not notice those things the way someone in the field would.

      Reply
    5. lovetoujours

      So we had the same issue for our RD position (and we’re having it for another manager position that’s not RD related, though not as much). In talking with my supervisor and the supervisor for RD, we think it’s just because people assume all you have to do for development is being able to speak well. They see the title and that it’s development and think they can do it because they did sales/worked with the public before.

      Reply
  44. MegaMoose, Esq.

    Hey open thread! I’ve got an interview! As some of you know from prior posts, I’ve been trying, with varied degrees of success, to network my way out of contract work and into a permanent position (my therapist says, correctly of course, I shouldn’t say “real job”). And now I’ve got my first real interview of 2017! And, of course, I got it by applying on the state jobs board the way I’ve been applying for every job of its type for six years now and networking had nothing to do with it. *hangs head, sighs.* I’ve interviewed for so many of these jobs, but as a kind commenter said here once, getting into government agency jobs can take years, and all it takes is hitting the right opening at the right time. Here’s hoping this is the one!

    Reply
    1. Volunteer Coordinator in NOVA

      Congrats! Sometimes you have to try multiple things at once to get one to work. Doesn’t mean the rest wasn’t worth it as I’m sure you gained skill there that will help you in the interview process!

      Reply
      1. MegaMoose, Esq.

        That is a good way to think about it. Thanks all for the good wishes – I’ve got the weekend to prepare, which for good or ill overlaps with a trip out of town, and we will see how it goes.

        Reply
  45. Goes on Anon

    I know you can’t force someone to accept help, but how do you even approach an employee about their options if they never say anything at all? To further complicate matters, dude is directly supervised by his brother, so it kind of has to be dealt with by someone else.

    My boss wants to me to look into the legal (Canada) and moral obligations towards helping an employee with mental health difficulties. The problem is, the employee he’s referring to doesn’t talk. To anyone. He CAN talk, I managed to get him to answer a question when I gave him his orientation and training, but basically every question anyone asks him is answered with shrugs or blank stares. I haven’t heard him talk in months. So the usual advice of sitting him down for a talk isn’t really… practicable.

    I’m sort of thinking about asking for more specifics, like specifically why Boss is worried about this person and if it’s affecting their work. I’m sort of unofficially joint-HR, so it should be OK, but this is a weird fuzzy grey area and I don’t know if there’s anything we can do, but Boss wants a better answer than that.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      If boss wants a better answer, he needs to rethink the sibling reporting structure. Is Bob Major really going to be able to fire Bob Minor?

      However, I suspect the legal stuff would be provincial level–is there a provincial office of employment you might be able to contact, or a provincial disability services office?

      Reply
      1. paul

        WOW. I can’t imagine an office that isn’t a family business having siblings supervise each other. Yikes, yow.

        As far as legal obligations…I mean, get thee to an attorney? You say you’re unofficial HR; I’m taking it you don’t have extensive training in employment law in your area given that? If so explain that to your boss; “Hey, boss guy, I am licensed to practice law and do not feel comfortable or qualified to discuss intricate legal issues authoritatively”. It might be one thing if you were real, official HR with substantial training on employer’s obligations about this stuff, but it doesn’t seem like you are from your post. And if your boss is too…stubborn/dense/cheap to understand that sometimes you need a specialist to answer questions I’d think you have bigger problems. It’s the difference between knowing how to change a tire vs rebuild a fuel injection system….

        I *would* go with your instinct to ask your boss about why exactly they’re asking here. Is the person’s work problematic? Some fields this type of closed offedness would be a real problem, others maybe not?

        Reply
        1. Goes on Anon

          Nepotism is the driving force behind our company. Mostly we hire people’s family members when we need more people. The reporting structure is rather strange as a result, but causes less conflict than you’d think. It’s just, I don’t think it’s appropriate to discuss this guy’s medical needs with his brother. That pushes some boundaries.

          Reply
      2. Goes on Anon

        Boss is the only one who hires/fires people, so that’s not really an issue. The bigger issue is just that I don’t know what kind of answer he wants from me. From a legal standpoint, we’re fine. From a moral standpoint, we can’t force this guy to seek help and we already have a pretty solid mental health program in place. There are resources. There are handouts and pamphlets. I’m at a loss for what else to provide.

        Reply
    2. Ashley

      Any chance he has selective mutism? It is more common then one might think. I have a relative who doesn’t talk but will grunt, write, or use a made up sign we understand. This can be tied to social anxiety so keep that in mind with your approach.

      Reply
      1. Goes on Anon

        It’s possible, but he doesn’t communicate at all. No grunts, no writing. He just stares at people until they go away. Which legit might be the problem boss is having.

        Reply
        1. Manders

          Can he communicate via email or chat?

          I know you’re worried about involving the brother in this, but does he talk with his brother or is he completely unable to speak?

          Is the total lack of speech preventing him from doing some aspect of his job, or is talking not an essential part of his work?

          Reply
          1. Goes on Anon

            He doesn’t have an assigned computer at work so I don’t think he checks his email. I know he does talk because I’ve heard him, and his brother says he’s talkative about food.

            I don’t think he needs to talk here which is why I never worried about it. He assembles stuff, his job is mostly bending tubes and screwing things to other things or drilling holes. As long as he follows instructions there should be no issue. I just opt him out of some of the other things, like membership in committees and meetings and stuff. When we have external inspectors (a couple a year) I ask them not to talk to him.

            Reply
        2. Not So NewReader

          If your boss is concerned about him staring at people in lieu of answering them, is it necessary that he answer them? Does his silence cause safety concerns? For example, if a machine caught fire would he be able to tell someone?

          I don’t know how you would research a moral answer to this question. Perhaps your answer is to know his limitations (he does not speak) and work to help him stay safe while he is at work. If he is not safe then he can’t work there. (The overriding concern being the company has a moral obligation not to allow harm to come to anyone under the company’s employ.)

          Reply
        3. Mephyle

          The fact that he doesn’t communicate at all doesn’t rule out selective mutism; it could be that it’s his coping strategy.
          I’m not saying this to internet-diagnose, but rather in support of Ashley’s comment to keep the social anxiety connection in mind.

          Reply
    3. DaisyGrrl

      I agree with the others that you should talk to the boss first about what his concerns are specifically. Are there behaviours that have been causing problems? Has the employee been making comments that are concerning (talk of suicide, etc.?). Is his continued employment at risk?

      The Canadian Mental Health Association and the Mental Health Commission of Canada have some resources that might help, but if you believe that the employee is at risk of being fired or otherwise adversely affected because of his perceived mental illness (since you really don’t know his medical status), it’s probably a good idea to consult with an employment lawyer once you have a better idea what’s going on. You’ll have to be very careful about any action you take.

      Also seconding the recommendation to review the reporting relationship between siblings. Terrible idea, that.

      Reply
    4. Mephyle

      And one more consideration. Could it be a hearing problem? You mentioned that you got him to answer a question once during orientation and training, but given the pattern you describe, I wouldn’t rule it out unless you have observed evidence to the contrary.

      Reply
  46. PegLeg

    Help! Through a recent series of unfortunate and unrelated events I just inherited a staff of 6 people, two of which were demoted from management positions and placed under me, and have significantly more seniority than me (both in life and at our agency). We are a school based program, and everyone in my division (other than me) is off for the month while schools are out. I was just informed that our CEO is reevaluating working spaces and all of my recently acquired employees will be losing their offices and moved into cubicles, and that I am moving to a much more desirable office. I’m sick over having to tell everyone that they will be moving, and especially that the move means they are losing their private work spaces, and that these conversations will be happening in my new, large, window office. Any advice on ways to approach this/have the conversation/make it any easier for me?

    Reply
    1. Rusty Shackelford

      Oooh. I haven’t been in either position, but from your side, I think you might want to phrase this as “The CEO has decided to move your group into cubicles,” making it clear that it’s not personal and wasn’t your decision. And if I were on the other end, I’d probably appreciate hearing “I know this is going to be an adjustment, and I’ll do anything I can to make this work as well as possible for you.” Assuming, of course, that you’re going to be allowed to do/buy anything to make working from cubicles easier.

      Reply
      1. BRR

        I disagree with the first part. As a manager, PegLeg needs to support these decisions (there’s a post on here that I can’t find that explains why). PegLeg can state that they understand these people’s frustrations.

        Having just being downgraded to a horrible space, I strongly agree with your second part. If you can offer things to make the transition easier, that should help.

        Reply
        1. Rusty Shackelford

          Okay, I didn’t mean it so much as “I disagree,” but “I didn’t make this decision, so there’s no point trying to talk me out of it, and it wasn’t personal.”

          Reply
    2. AnonyMouse

      Oh, that is unfortunate. I think it’s important to acknowledge that this isn’t good news, even a simple, “I know this may be disappointing to hear” can go a long way. I would also suggest marking your calendar for 2 weeks after the move and checking in with them one on one to hear how the move has gone and try to address any concerns that have come up.

      Reply
    3. Not So NewReader

      Put them all in your office with you.
      That is the first thing I thought of, but I realize you probably can’t do that.

      My father worked at Household Name Company. The company gave him a new desk. Six months later they gave him another new desk. The first desk was fine but he kept getting a new one. He was disgusted. The guys in the fabrication department were working with hammers that broke apart when used. After the second new desk, my father went into the boss and said, “Get that desk out of here, give me back my original desk. Use the money you saved on my desk to buy hammers with heads that actually stay on the handles for the guys in the fabrication shop.”

      Of course, the bookkeeping on that was a nightmare and probably the guys never got new hammers, although someone did bring back my father’s original desk.

      So questions:
      1) Can you move into a cube just like what they have?
      2) Can you ask for a more modest office under the pretext that you will be closer to them?
      3)Can you get partitions for your office so if anyone needs quiet workspace they will have it?
      4)Can you set a secondary desk for yourself in their cube area and use that desk frequently?

      Stay with me, my point is coming. If you have asked for some reconfiguration to what is happening here and you hit a wall of NOs, you may feel better just because you tried. You will be able to say that you tried to make things a little different but to no avail.

      Beyond that my second best suggestion is to make your focus, “how can I make this easier for YOU?” If you think of management as a service position where you are there to serve them, this might carry you through some rough spots. I know it did for me. There were some things I could not change and I would say that. There were other things that I could tweak and make smaller things easier. I made sure those tweaks happened.

      Reply
  47. New Teacher

    After spending three years as a social worker with migrant children, I have decided to take my career in a different direction. I live abroad and will be teaching 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade in a bilingual school this coming Fall, with the hope of becoming a certified teacher. I know teaching has its challenges, but I am looking forward my new job!

    Teachers, particularly elementary school teachers, do you have any tips and recommendations to share for my first year?

    Thank you and enjoy the summer!

    Reply
    1. Alice

      Understanding by Design (Grant Wiggins) is a great book about instructional design and assessment.
      Read up on “concept check questions” in ELL jargon — great for figuring out if your students are actually following along or just afraid to ask questions.
      No experience with the age range in particular.
      Good luck with the career change! I’m sure that you bring tons of transferable skills.

      Reply
    2. MechanicalPencil

      Not a teacher, but several friends who are have appreciated a book called The First Year of Teaching:How to Be An Effective Teacher by Harry Wong/Rosemary Wong.

      Reply
    3. Julianne

      Lots of tips! Are you going to be the classroom teacher, or teaching one of the languages (ex. as an ESL teacher)?

      Reply
      1. Anna Held

        V8. It takes a surprising amount of stamina to get through a school day, and your throat will be dry half way through. Go for the low sodium. (Not even kidding, especially since you can’t eat in front of the kids. Some places restrict what you can drink too.)

        Reply
      2. New Teacher

        Not sure if you will see this since I was late to reply, I will be a classrooom teacher, teaching all subjects. Each grade has a classroom teacher in French and a classroom teacher in English.

        Reply
    4. Foreign Octupus

      Oh, wow. Congratulations.

      I taught children as an ESL teacher for the last 12 months and classroom management is going to be your best friend. As long as you have the CM under control, everything else is easy. I recommend creating a list of rules (no more than 5) that you place somewhere prominent in your classroom and get the children to read it at the beginning of the year. Make clear what the consequences will be as well (an escalation principle is useful; kind of like three strikes and ding-dong, consequences are at your door type thing).

      My experience was a little different to what yours will be but I also found it useful to tell the students at the beginning of the lesson what I expected them to achieve by the end. If they don’t finish in class, they have it for homework (as I rule, I didn’t set homework unless in these cases) but if they did finish, then we could play relevant games. It helped to keep them focused, particularly once they saw I kept my word.

      Lastly, remember that you’re in charge. It’s your classroom and you are the boss. There are going to be class clowns and smart remarks and children who just don’t want to learn but as long as you keep it at the forefront of your mind that you’re the boss, the children will recognise that. Go in hard and then soften up as the year progresses. You can’t recoup ground later in the year if you start by trying to be their friend.

      I know it sounds like I’m describing battle tactics but I really viewed it as that. I didn’t enjoy teaching children at all but you’ve had experience working with them so you’re already better positioned that I was.

      However, good luck!

      Reply
  48. Yas Queen

    How to have decent working relationship with admin assistant who gets unreasonably possessive and overreacts when she thinks she’s out of the loop?

    She reports to a different boss than me and we’re working on a project together; she’s assisting and coordinating but is not the project lead. She’s tried getting me to forward her emails about the project that she overheard about, but she didn’t need to be included at that point, anyway, and I don’t appreciate her trying to go around my boss and get me involved. I don’t want to feed into her territorial, needlessly controlling behavior, which is one of her previously demonstrated patterns. I have a great rapport with her for non-work stuff and don’t want to cross her, but I feel like she’s putting me in an unfair spot and I just want to stay out of her drama and get the work done.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      The easiest thing to do is to go from not appreciating to not caring. That can be either not caring and adding her to the email list because why not and there’s no principle worth defending here (I don’t know the situation, so maybe there is or maybe there isn’t), or not caring and cheerfully saying “Bob Your Boss is point person for your department, so he can fill you in.” “We;re focusing communication on the point people” is a perfectly fine thing to say, too.

      Reply
          1. Not So NewReader

            Wait to you try, random, commas! It’s great.

            I think I need to put a splint on that finger to keep it away from the comma key.

            Reply
  49. Jessen

    A thought on medical conditions and whatnot – is there a good way to communicate that yes, one has a fairly normal, generally innocuous condition, but in your case it’s significantly more severe than normal?

    I have allergies. Standard stuff – hay fever, perfume sensitivity, smoke sensitivity, some animal allergies. But I have them in a significantly more severe form than most people. A lot of times I get people who don’t seem to understand that I can’t just “take some claratin” or something and then just deal with it, or that allergies for some people can be significantly more severe than just a stuffy nose.

    And I’m at a loss to explain that yes, if you smell like smoke, or spray febreze everywhere, it’s causing a serious problem for me. I’m not just uncomfortable, I can get really sick.

    Reply
    1. Snark

      I think stating it the way you have is good. “I have very intense allergic reactions to environmental allergens. Most people tend to get stuffy and can take an over the counter antihistamine, but unfortunately my reaction is much more severe and makes me very ill.”

      Reply
      1. Snark

        “So, when you come into my office smelling strongly of smoke, it’s not just an irritant but actually makes me very sick. Can we work on a way to make this less of a problem? Febreze and other air fresheners unfortunately also set me off, so that’s not an option.”

        Reply
    2. NoMoreMrFixit

      I tell people that I have severe allergies and OTC meds are not up to the task of controlling my symptoms. And leave it at that. More details are really nobody else’s business.

      Reply
    3. Marisol

      My suggestion only works if you are comfortable disclosing medical details, but what I personally would do is state the specific, concrete diagnosis and/or danger. “if I smell febreze, I can go into anaphylactic shock and we’ll have to call an ambulance. I hate to inconvenience you, but I know you probably don’t want to send me to the hospital (or kill me.)” I would NOT say something like, “I have really bad allergies. No, really, you don’t understand–they’re baaaad.” Make it jargony and make the consequences clear.

      Reply
      1. Jessen

        A lot of the trouble is that my allergies don’t follow the typical pattern people expect of “severe allergies.” I won’t really have a significant reaction to a single exposure. But as the allergic load builds, my symptoms get worse and worse. So maybe the first day of exposure, I just kind of feel a little sniffly. After a few days, I start to get headaches that won’t go away, even with medication. Keep up, and the lack of drainage (combined with some other health issues) means I start to get sinus infections. If I’m still exposed while the infection is ongoing, it’s very difficult to treat, requiring a combination of multiple antibiotics and steroids.

        But that tends not to make a whole lot of sense to people – most people think you either have a bad reaction the first time, or it just isn’t a big deal at all. Particularly the link between allergies and sinus infections in people like me seems to baffle people. I already have a skull malformation that makes drainage difficult, so allergic reactions can lead to the drainage passages closing completely, which then means my body can’t clear bacteria, which causes an infection.

        Any single exposure isn’t a big deal. But if I’m exposed to one coworker who sits next to me and smells like smoke, another who wears perfume on a regular basis, and two more who spray febreze, plus whatever else is going on that’s not related to work (pollen/mold/etc), then we’re going to have a problem.

        Reply
        1. Marisol

          you don’t have to give that whole narrative–the accuracy police isn’t going to get you. Just come up with one or two lines, an elevator pitch if you will, of what the worst consequence is. Do a little brainstorming to wordsmith it. I’m thinking something like, “I’m prone to severe sinus infections and the slightest irritation aggravates my condition. I can’t tolerate that cigar smoke, sorry.” Think of how you can condense your condition, collapse it, into a few sentences that emphasize the worst case scenario. To your mind, it might feel like lying or exaggerating but really you’re just bottom-lining it.

          Reply
            1. Marisol

              you could also ask your doctor for an accurate label. and what is the official term for your skull malformation? you could use that.

              heck, you can make something up–are your coworkers going to be looking at your medical records? “I have ethmoidal sinus syndrome. The slightest sinus irritation can result in a prolonged infection that requires steroids to heal. I don’t want to go on steroids again, it’s a nightmare. Please don’t wave that cat in my face, sorry for the inconvenience.”

              I just googled “sinus cavity” and made up “ethmoidal sinus syndrome.” Yes, it’s a lie, in that there is no official diagnosis of ethmoidal sinus syndrome, but the essence of what you would be saying is true, so in my mind, it’s acceptable.

              Reply
              1. Jessen

                Hypoplastic sinus is the technical term, although the non-technical way to put it is pretty much “my sinus is too small.”

                Reply
                1. Marisol

                  ok so there you go. offer hypoplastic sinus as an explanation, and then only offer the layperson’s explanation if they ask for details. “I have a hypoplastic sinus. If I am exposed to too many irritants, my sinuses will get infected and I have to go on steroids to clear it up.”

                  nobody will mess with that explanation unless they are a first class jerk.

    4. Jennifer Thneed

      I would avoid the word “allergy”. People have instant and automatic associations with that word and then you’re fighting a losing battle.

      Instead, try saying “xyz thing makes me very sick”. Let people fill that in how they like. You can also use the word “poison”, as in “these things are poison to my system”. Or be specific if you like: “When I smell febreze I get a terrible migraine and then I vomit.”

      (My wife has terrible environmental sensitivities and so I can tell people “Well, I don’t care for the scent, but Wife will get a 3-day migraine from it.” Even the people who just think a migraine is a really bad headache still think a 3-day headache is pretty bad news.)

      Reply
      1. Jessen

        The main difficulty I have is that I don’t really have a huge problem with any one, single trigger. It’s very much an issue of what’s called “allergic load.” So, by itself, sitting by a coworker who smells like smoke isn’t a big deal. But the more triggers you pile on me, and the more repeated the exposure, the bigger the problem gets. That’s a difficult concept for a lot of people.

        It also means I really am more affected depending on the weather, time of year, and so forth.

        Reply
        1. AnonyMouse

          That may be true, but the safest thing for you is to remove them all so you don’t build up a load in the first place. That may also be simpler than trying to explain the nuances to your colleagues.

          Is there a situation you’re running into where you feel like you are being challenged and/or this sort of explanation is necessary?

          You could also say something like, “I get seriously sick from smoke – I don’t always react immediately but it’ll hit me later, hard, so please don’t smoke around me.”

          Reply
          1. Marisol

            “Is there a situation you’re running into where you feel like you are being challenged and/or this sort of explanation is necessary?”

            I wonder this too. If someone told me they were allergic to my perfume, I would simply take them at their word. I might not *like* it, but it wouldn’t occur to me to challenge them on it. I am wondering if there is a kind of “illness imposter syndrome” happening here.

            Reply
            1. Jessen

              That’s a distinct possibility. I think I still have some leftover brainbugs from childhood/early adulthood. My parents believed me and supported me, but I found that by and large other adults tended to act like I was just whiny or making excuses. I don’t have any particular evidence that would be an issue here, I’m just so used to that sort of reaction.

              Reply
          2. Jessen

            I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how much of it is my actual coworkers and how much of it is just habituation. I’m used to being treated like I’m making excuses when asking for accommodations for my allergies, but I have no specific evidence that that’s going to be an issue at current job.

            Reply
            1. Marisol

              Yeah, I get the impression that you’re overthinking it a little bit. I think if you overexplain, you might be inviting pushback, whereas if you just state the condition and your need, with an air of finality like – boom, there it is – and then let it go, people will respect that. They are ultimately responding to your cues, so don’t give them a non-verbal invitation to hassle you. Hone it down into a 2-sentence explanation and leave it there. Also, you might think of it like, you’re not really explaining your condition so that they can have a nuanced understanding of what you go through on a daily basis. That’s what you do with your friends. With these work people, it’s more of image/pr/branding/sloganing approach. The slogan you come up with is your interface with the public world, and it doesn’t have to be perfectly accurate; it just has to serve to get your needs met and preserve a good relationship with others. (Hope that makes sense.)

              Reply
        2. Marisol

          you’re not going to get them to understand a difficult concept. If that’s what you are trying to do, you won’t succeed. You have to simplify the concept into something they will get, even if it means fudging the truth just a little bit. Since your health is at stake, the end justifies the means.

          Reply
  50. Spitfire

    A co-worker of mine recently got promoted (in a kind of weird way) and since then things have gone to hell in a hand basket. She’s actually been out most of this week because she’s been worked into sickness. Even so her managers keep adding to her work load. She has no help right now and any requests were met with ‘eventually’ and then nothing. (I sit right next to here so I have heard these conversations.) Is there anything I can say to help her out? She doesn’t want to say anything to her managers but until she does, this won’t stop. I’m angry for her. She’s spoken about wanting to leave the company, which would break my heart if she did. Is there anything I can say to her managers or to encourage her to put her foot down?

    Reply
    1. Maddie

      I had this happen at my last full-time position. I had a panic attack after 3 weeks due to overwork (and I’d never had one before). My manager just kinda shrugged and told me to work harder when I asked for help.

      In her case, since she hasn’t laid it out with management yet, I would encourage her to set up a meeting. Schedule it via outlook or something so it is very formal, and to be very very detailed about what the problem is. Lay out a list of tasks/jobs and the required hours, and add them up to show it is unworkable. Didn’t work to convince my managers to change, but it helped ME by showing me just how crazy the situation was (in my case my estimate was it would have taken me 300 hours of work PER WEEK to do everything I was assigned).

      Now, if the meeting doesn’t lead to a concrete action plan? Her best bet is to just quit, because nothing is going to change.

      Reply
    2. Borgette

      For me, I keep a running List of Work. When it looks like there’s too much, or deadlines might get pushed, I tell my manager something like this: “Right now A is my highest priority, B and C are after that, and E, F, G are on the back burner until A and B are complete. It looks like A will be done by the end of the week and B will wrap up early next week. Do I need to adjust anything?”

      If they change the prioritization, or add more tasks, I reply with If/then/okay format, with a neutral tone. “If I make E my highest priority, then I can have it done by the end of this week, but A won’t be complete until next week. Is that okay with you?”

      Luckily, I’ve had reasonable managers though…

      Reply
    3. Chaordic One

      Yes to the advice offered by Borgette. Your co-worker needs her managers to help her establish priorities and to let them know that things are not working.

      If she wants to leave the company, don’t try to dissuade her. In fact, you might want to encourage her to do so as it sounds like she might be better off someplace else where she has managers who will listen to her as well as a more manageable workload. Sometimes it takes having several people leave, before management will actually fix a broken position or procedure. Being sympathetic can be a big help, all by itself.

      Reply
    4. Not So NewReader

      Keep telling her that this won’t change until she tells someone there is a problem.
      As it stands now, she is sick from her job. I can’t think of a higher motive for her to start this conversation with her boss.

      Reply
  51. Somniloquist

    Question for a friend, who is looking at a career change. She was a teacher for years and is now working at a startup doing pedagogy. I’ve suggested she could expand her search to corporations who hire people like sales trainers or corporate trainers. However, I’m not sure how she could break into this role and what experience she would need to be considered for a role. She’s an excellent teacher but I’m not sure how she can market her experience.

    Reply
    1. Kristie

      I’m really hoping someone comments with advice/insight because I would like to move in this direction in my career as well.

      Reply
  52. Junior Dev

    One person recently left where I work and another has just put in notice. We’ve been doing a pretty good job meeting with them and learning about their work but I’m concerned that with my team going from 9 to 7 people we’ll be stretched too thin (both of the people do/did fairly specialized things) and I don’t know when they’ll hire new people, if at all. Company politics can be slow.

    Reply
  53. Small Law

    What is an appropriate notice period for an attorney? I work in a small general practice firm and have reason to believe I will soon have an offer from a different firm. While most of my work is transactional I do have a few court dates over the next few months. 2 weeks does not seem like sufficient time to wrap up and transition my work. For context I would not be able to take my open files with me. What have other attorneys done?

    Reply
    1. Delta Delta

      I gave a month’s notice when I left a small firm. A colleague of mine left not long before me and was able to do a 6 week notice (although that felt long).

      Reply
    2. Lynn

      When my husband left his private practice (small insurance defense) he gave three weeks notice. A month seemed too long, and three weeks was sufficient for him to updates his last notes to files and ensure that the other associates in his office were able to cover any hearings or depositions.

      Reply
    3. Pwyll

      I did 6 weeks for my 5-person firm as an associate. Mostly transactional work and no court dates on my end. It was a bit too long in my opinion, but I wanted to give them more than enough time to work on finding a new associate to support the named partner. They had said they generally ask for 1 month of a transition, though we had recently lost an attorney who gave 2 weeks notice (which effectively screwed us).

      If you’re taking clients with you, I’d aim for 6 weeks. The client notification process took a lot longer than I expected for the guy who only gave us 2 weeks and took a ton of clients. I was lucky in that I went in-house and didn’t have anything to take with me.

      Reply
    4. It's me

      I gave one month’s notice, and that seemed to work well – enough time to transition cases, but not so much time that it was dragging out without any real work for me to do.

      Reply
  54. Small but Fierce

    I’ve been in my first job out of college for almost 2 years now, but there’s no room for growth and the boss creates a toxic environment. I plan on sticking it out until my 2 year anniversary at the end of the year and then seriously start job hunting. However, a couple of opportunities have fallen into my lap, and I currently have two interviews scheduled next week.

    Although I’m excited, the timing is unfortunate. I’m getting married in a few months. I plan on taking around 2 and a half weeks off for that and the honeymoon. I also may need to take some time off for wedding related planning and activities. Although I know at least one of the jobs I’m being considered for could increase my salary by 20%, I find it hard to justify leaving a job in which I have PTO built up for one that I theoretically will have to take unpaid time off for.

    My questions are:

    1. If I receive an offer, am I in the position to negotiate for a PTO match? Or if that’s too much, could I ask to be granted the amount of PTO I’d need for that time period ahead of it getting accrued?

    2. If neither of these opportunities pan out, should I start actively applying for jobs now if my goal is to start a new job in early 2018?

    Thanks!

    Reply
      1. Small but Fierce

        There’s no law for that in my state. It’s a small company; I’m pretty sure they don’t do that.

        Reply
        1. Snark

          Ah, too bad. In that case….hmm. Generally, a PTO match is a bit of a big ask. Not unheard of, not unreasonable, but kind of a big ask – I’ve only gotten a PTO match once, and it was because I was being actively recruited by the company and they wanted to crowbar me out of my current position any way they could. I think asking for pre-granted PTO might be a better approach.

          Reply
          1. Small but Fierce

            Thanks for your insight! While I was approached by their recruiters, I’m still fairly entry-level and probably don’t have the negotiating power for that big of an ask. One company’s policy lets you borrow up to 40 hours, but you have to pay it back by the end of the year. I wouldn’t be able to accrue that in time with a late October – early November leave, so maybe I can ask for that to be granted in advance without that deadline.

            Reply
    1. A N O N

      It’s very common for people to already have planned vacations when they accept a new job. If you get an offer, you can explain the situation and I’m sure they’ll be sympathetic. You can either ask if you can move the start date until after the wedding, or you can ask if you can take the time off unpaid. They may even allow you to use your PTO in advance.

      Reply
    2. Pwyll

      Agreed with A N O N, this is very common. Once you get the offer I’d tell them that you’re getting married and talk about the timing of your joining and the honeymoon, etc. Every time that’s happened to us we’ve found a way to make it work, even when we were a bit disappointed that the person either couldn’t start immediately or would be disappearing after a short period. Honestly, if you get an offer from a company that wants to pull back because you’ll be gone for 2 weeks, the company has its priorities wrong.

      For 2: job hunting always takes longer than you expect. Start now, you can always turn an offer down if the timing isn’t right.

      Reply
      1. Small but Fierce

        Although I normally wouldn’t, my friend encouraged me to disclose my vacation plans up front since she works at the same company as the recruiting agency that’s working for Employer 1. So the employer moved forward with interviewing me knowing that I would need to take leave, which is reassuring. Ideally I’d love to push a start date off until December or January to get a solid 2 years at my current job on my resume and avoid taking unpaid leave, but that seems very unlikely.

        And yes, I’ve actually already turned down a job offer a couple months ago, so I’m definitely being picky about where I’m headed next. I suppose I’ll keep being open to new opportunities and start actively applying now with the early 2018 goal in mind.

        Reply
  55. Miss Mac

    I just wanted to say that I’m really grateful for Alison posting these open threads. I’ve gotten some really great advice, and I feel bad that I never have good solid advice to give back to others. But thank you to Alison and all the commentators for your great advice!

    Reply
    1. Marisol

      As someone who has spent a great deal of my earlier life receiving more than giving–starting out as a starving artist out of college with no money or time, let alone wisdom to share with others–it is my joy now to realize I have finally amassed enough life experience to be of service to others in some small way by giving advice, however paltry it may be. If this is your time to receive, then I say, feel good about receiving and trust that the people here who give advice or mentorship do it purely for the joy of giving. You are actually giving to them by being receptive!

      Reply
  56. Vivien

    Hi,
    I work in very tech focused job. I have been there for over a year and I have both created and improved reporting systems.I had to learn everything by myself since people who were supposed to help me were less than helpful.

    I got an award even, but no sign of promotion yet. My other coworker on my team who doesnt do what I do and who started later in the company has been promoted. I am happy for her but…her job is more well defined than mine and she has considerable more support than me on her projects (btw it is normal to be promoted in a year in the industry)

    I feel awful because I spend significant chunk of my time, building their reporting infrastructure with no support,and so on..I even learned programming on my own time..and I am still stuck in same place.

    Should I start seeking a new job?

    Reply
    1. It's me

      I think you should, because there is really nothing to lose. You don’t have to leave if you determine that your current situation is better than other opportunities you are able to identify, and you may very well find something better, with more support and a clearer path for career development.

      Reply
  57. Red Reader

    On Monday, as I was riding back from a meeting with Director A, I got an email from my boss forwarding me a job posting within our department that she and Director B (my grandboss) both thought I should apply to, though it might be a stretch role. I mentioned it aloud, and Director A agreed with them that I should go for it.

    In re-reading the posting, it specifies that this role will work closely with the Directors of Cream Pitchers and Sugar Bowls — who just happen to be the same Directors A and B who encouraged me to apply.

    Resume and cover letter submitted, though the hiring director isn’t back from vacation till next week, and fingers crossed. (This position would be a two-rung leap up the org chart.)

    Reply
  58. Admin Help

    What can I do about an admin who doesn’t know how to do some basic things that would make her (and my) life easier?

    The admin who supports one of my programs (but who does not report to me; she’s actually an EA who has been seconded to my program) has some odd blind spots in her technology use/knowledge that get in the way of her/our work. For example: when new people join the program team, she doesn’t add them to the calendar invites for our recurring meetings (instead forwards them as one-offs), which means that those folks don’t get updates when we make changes (to the room, etc.).

    I’ve addressed some of these things directly, as they’ve happened, and she’ll make corrections to the immediate issue (i.e., she’ll add someone to the calendar invite) but doesn’t change her overall approach (the next time someone new joins the team, she goes back to her old way of doing things).

    The VP she supports just left the organization and she’s in limbo while we hire the VP’s replacement… so at the moment I believe she’s reporting directly to the CEO. The CEO doesn’t need to get in these kinds of weed, obviously.

    Any suggestions on what I can do?

    Reply
    1. Malibu Stacey

      Ugh. Can you go to your manager and outline the issues and present it like, “How should I address this? I can’t count on Jane to set up our program meetings in Outlook, as well Issue 2, 3, etc.” She would have more standing to go the CEO than you do.

      Reply
    2. Snark

      I dunno. I share your reticence to bother the CEO with this, but if he’s her direct supervisor, it might not be unreasonable. But I think it needs to come from your boss, not from you.

      Reply
      1. Snark

        That said, I think it’s entirely reasonable for you to say to her, “Brunhilde, I’ve asked you several times to ask new team members to recurring staff meetings, and you do it in the moment but you don’t add it to your overall workflow when handling meeting scheduling. Moving forward, would you be willing to keep that on your radar, and add new folks to the meeting without being reminded? It’s really important for them to get reminders and see it on their calendar, and it inconveniences them when they’re not added.”

        Reply
        1. Malibu Stacey

          I might be wrong, but it sounds like the problem is that the admin doesn’t know *how* to add people to an Outlook distribution list, among other things s/he should know how to do. The obvious solution would be for the admin to try to find out, so requesting that might be more productive. “Have you talked to Sally in HR? She’s great with outlook and I bet she would show you how to add & delete people to outlook DLs as needed.”

          Reply
          1. Snark

            Yeah, true. My initial reaction is that Outlook calendar functions are so fundamental to what an admin does that I think it’s on her to figure it out if she doesn’t know. But maybe following on with your script is a good idea, just to cover the bases.

            Reply
            1. Malibu Stacey

              I’m an admin, and I agree. Outlook calendar functions can be taught but having the confidence to know what you don’t know and independently seek out solutions is what makes a good admin (imo).

              Reply
          2. Marisol

            I wouldn’t refer her to someone else. It takes two minutes, at most, to show someone how to add an invitation to a recurring meeting invite, and sending the admin to Sally in HR strikes me as a little heavy-handed. She could just say, “here watch me do this…voila!” It’s easier for everyone I think, even if training the admin isn’t in the OP’s job description.

            Reply
        2. Marisol

          I agree with the strategy, but I definitely wouldn’t use that wording. “I’ve asked you several times…” sounds very parental and hence, demeaning to me, and the rest of it is just overly verbose, hyper-professional, yuck. It’s not a big deal and it doesn’t merit a formal speech. “It inconveniences them when they’re not added” just sounds over the top to my ear. It is technically true that it’s inconvenient not to receive a calendar invite, but..is it really such a grave matter, as inconveniences go? I really don’t mean to be harsh–I apologize if it seems that way–but speaking as an admin myself, that script rubs me the wrong way.

          I’d suggest something like this:
          “Brunhilde, I know you know how to add people to meeting invites, but do you know how to add them to recurring invites? Come have a look at my computer screen and I’ll show you. See, when I click on the invite, I get two options–I can either open this single meeting occurrence, or I can ‘open the series’–see this radio button? it opens all occurrences happening in the future. If you click on ‘open the series,’ then add someone to the invitation list, then it will invite them to all future meetings. When I ask you to add people to the meeting distribution list, what I usually want you to do is add them to the entire series. If you’re not sure, just ask me, but as a general rule, that’s how I want you to handle meeting invites.”

          Also, while it might be that the admin has blind spots, I am not convinced that that is entirely the problem here–it may also be your instructions that need a little improving. I am an admin, and I find that people often expect me to do more inferring than I possibly can. I am rarely provided context for the tasks I do, and without context, things aren’t obvious. Taking this meeting example, it is not unheard of for people to sit in on a specific meeting only. So, did you tell the admin, “add Jane to the meeting distribution list for the strategy meeting”? or did you say, “add her to the weekly strategy meeting”? If you said the latter, then I might interpret that to mean “this specific meeting only.” If people come and go in your department but no one ever briefs Brunhilde on the