what do people do all day in 9-5 jobs, will a beard keep you from getting hired, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. What do people do all day in 9-5 jobs?

I’m a trained graphic designer who has worked freelance/self-employed for the first five years of my working life, but figure it’s now time to grow up and join a big company where promotion is an option. I’ve started a job in am interesting office full of great people, okay-ish pay and great benefits. I’m the office manager, which means I sit at the front desk, answer four phone calls a day, sign for the odd package, and order new pens when someone needs them every four months.

My question is this: what do people do all day in these 9-5 jobs? I’m going nuts sitting up here doing nothing, I constantly ask around and scrounge up work for myself, but complete those tasks quickly and am right back where I started. I keep chanting to myself that my job is to just be here when someone needs me, which helps me feel less guilty daily, but the boredom is starting to push me into a sort of depression. I’m wondering if I’m just terrible at having a job because I can’t figure out what my role here is, or how to find stuff to do. Am I a terrible employee, or is this just how the whole world works?

No, it’s just a boring job. There are some jobs like this, where the workload is very low — but there are a lot more where the workload keeps people busy (and then a whole other category where the workload is unreasonably high and people exist in a constant state of stress). The trick is to know which type you prefer (some people like those boring jobs with little to do) and then to screen for them in the interview process.

One option now is to tell your boss that you have a lot of free time and that while you keep searching out work, you’re able to complete the odds and ends people give you quickly and that you wonder if there are longer-term projects you can take on. It would be ideal for them to give you a few new broad areas of responsibility that are ongoing (as opposed to tasks that you can complete quickly). That may or may not be possible, but it’s worth asking — and if you have ideas on what those could be, even better.

If that doesn’t pan out, find out if it’s okay for you to do other things with your spare time. In lots of front-desk jobs, it’s okay to read, take online tutorials, or do all sorts of other things as long as you’re able to drop them immediately when someone needs your attention.

(I realize I’m not answering your question of what people do all day in their jobs because it varies wildly depending on the job. People’s days might be filled with editing, accounting, talking to clients, building websites, analyzing data, training, or all sorts of other things. The difference between them and you is about quantity of work.)

2. Will a beard keep you from getting hired?

So recently while looking for jobs, I was informed by my grandmother that, according to a teller she spoke to at a bank, many white collar businesses will not hire people who have facial hair. I’m not talking about an unkempt face full of stubble, but even stuff like a groomed mustache or beard, are apparently seen as proof a potential applicant will not be a good fit for them.

Being somebody with a beard and mustache myself, this obviously concerned me a bit, but it also seems like a really odd choice considering if a) the candidate was otherwise a good fit, they could ask him to shave it off and b) if he wanted the job badly enough, he’d do it. Have you heard of this being an actual practice, or is this outside the norm?

It used to be a thing! It’s not much of a thing these days though. Beards are pretty mainstream now.

Assuming that the beard is neatly trimmed and groomed, it’s very, very unlikely that this will keep anyone from hiring you. (There are some industries that would require you to shave for safety reasons, but that’s not the majority of them.)

3. The ethics of letting a friend use a spouse relocation travel benefit

I am a sometimes mentor to a charming young man half my age. Despite having only a high school education and still living in his home city, he’s doing very well in his field and recently got a huge promotion. He’ll have to relocate and his company is paying for him to quickly go to his new city to find a new home, before the move.

The unexpectedly generous company has a spouse relocation travel benefit. Mentee has told me that his boss just approved Mentee’s platonic friend, a bona fide trust fund baby who still lives with his parents and is not employed by the company, to travel for free with him on this trip, all expenses paid.

I told Mentee that this is a bad idea, that it is stealing, that when his expense account is audited, he could be fired without a reference. I think it shows bad judgment and could end his career. I mentioned the friend could easily afford to pay his own way. I mentioned that this could cause the company to end the benefit for others. Mentee thinks it’s okay because his immediate boss knows that the friend isn’t really a significant other and has approved it. Your thoughts?

Did your mentee present it to the new boss as the friend helping him with the move in some way? I wonder if the friend is helping with the move in some way. If that’s the case, and the boss knows and okayed that, then it’s above-board and I don’t think anyone needs to worry, as long it’s in writing somewhere (in case the boss leaves the company in the near future, for example).

But if it’s not that — if the friend is just tagging along for fun — then it’s a bit risky, even with the boss’s okay. In that case, it’s deliberate misuse of a company benefit (that’s intended for spouses who are relocating too). And if someone other than the boss finds out about it, it could reflect on your mentee’s integrity, and isn’t worth the risk.

4. Mentioning my family as the reason for my career change

I have worked in the service industry for over 12 years, both in restaurant and retail. I am looking for a total career change to a more traditional work schedule so that I can better care for my family. Is it appropriate to say that in my “reason for leaving” on an application or in a cover letter? In my experience, the business world doesn’t care much about family life, so I don’t want to say that if it will turn potential employers off.

It’s fine to say that you’re looking for a more traditional work schedule, but there’s no need to add on “so I can better care for my family.” People will understand that there are lots of reasons why you might want a more traditional schedule, so that on its own will be sufficient.

For what it’s worth, though, you may not need to mention this in a cover letter at all, unless you think that an employer will be baffled about why you’re changing fields.

5. Is it ok to tell an applicant “you’ve called so many times to follow up that I will never hire you?”

I hire student workers at mid-sized public university to work in the library circulation department. I had our HR person post a student employment job on the university’s job board. The job was posted Thursday afternoon, and closed on Tuesday afternoon after around 50 applications were received.

One applicant applied on Sunday afternoon. He then immediately sent a follow-up email. Okay, kinda weird but he’s a student. Unfortunately, I stayed home sick on Monday. He called my personal line four times, never leaving a voicemail. We use an internet-based phone system so I get an email for every single missed call. He also called my department line (which was NOT listed in the job posting) at least once on Monday and happen to speak to my boss, who told him I was out. On Tuesday afternoon, as I was eating lunch (at my desk), he called the department line once again and basically harassed the woman working the desk until she walked back and had me answer. I took the call and said I was reviewing applications and would start scheduling interviews shortly. It was obvious that he was angling for an interview spot but I hadn’t even seen his application or set up times in my calendar for interviews! I managed to get him off the phone and thought, “Okay, he’ll calm down and wait for an interview call if I choose to give him one.” NOPE! He called my personal line about 20 minutes after I came in on Wednesday. I choose not to answer as I was working, and once again he did not leave a voicemail.

Honestly, at this point there is NO WAY he is getting hired. Not only am I now annoyed at him, but he didn’t follow directions in the application! They are supposed to upload a resume, unofficial transcripts (they must meet a GPA requirement set by the university for employment), and their fall semester schedule. He submitted a resume, a one-line sheet that just says “I have a high GPA” and no fall schedule. My current plan is just to send him a form rejection letter because I want this over with. But should I include something about how his behavior is really why he got rejected?

If he weren’t a student, I’d say yeah, just send him a regular rejection (and do it ASAP so he stops hassling you). But since he’s a student, it would be a kindness to give him some guidance on this stuff.

You could do your normal rejection and then add something like, “Can I give you some feedback that might help in the future? In general, it will hurt your candidacy to contact an employer multiple times while you’re waiting to hear back. I know there’s a lot of advice out there about following up on a job application, but that generally means one time only — and lots of employers consider even that to be overkill. It’s fine to send one email or leave one voicemail message, but calling repeatedly will come across as pushy and turn most employers off. I hope that helps in the future.”

{ 361 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Bookartist

    LW#1 – If you were working full-time as a graphic designer, the 9-5 grind might make more sense, as you would likely have plenty more tasks to fill up the time.

    Now this is me pretty much completely projecting here, but since you are new-ish to your design career you may not have run into much of this kind of thing yet: do *not* let your office (or anyone else!) take advantage of your design skills. You are there as the office manager, not the less-expensive help they leverage because they’re too cheap to shell out for a skilled designer. Signed, Been There, Still Bitter.

    Reply
    1. Wakeen's Duck Club

      Yeah, that’s the tricky part. You want to make a good impression as someone who helps out, BUT you don’t want to give away your skills.

      Reply
      1. Ramona Flowers

        …or undercut the other people with your skills.

        (There was a question on Friday’s open thread from an admin who was doing lots of design, writing and editing, and was unsure of why their colleagues seemed unhappy. This is one of the reasons. But I digress.)

        If you need ideas on how to fill the time you could maybe brush up on those skills though?

        Another idea is to improve organisational awareness. You mentioned it’s an interesting office – why is that and can you learn more about it?

        Reply
        1. Fishcakes

          That was me, and interestingly you did not mention undercutting when you responded to me in the open thread. I wish you had, because I (stupidly) hadn’t considered that. FWIW the job market is still awful in some areas, and unfortunately after more than a year of unemployment I had to take a low-paying, low-status job doing higher-level work because I need to pay rent and feed myself.

          Reply
          1. iseeshiny

            I’m nosy so I just went back to look and I bet no one mentioned it because the way you phrased your question made it sound like you were aware that that was the problem and were asking what to do about it while still making yourself useful to the bosses and improving your chances for a dedicated position.

            Reply
            1. Fishcakes

              I thought maybe it was more, “Fishcakes makes me look bad” rather than, “Fishcakes doing high level work for low pay is a threat to my position or salary.” The latter makes way more sense *and* it makes me feel better at work, since that’s not personal. Plus, I can figure out a plan of action now!

              Reply
          2. Ramona Flowers

            Hey sorry, I didn’t mean to sound unkind. I should’ve mentioned that Friday and I’m glad if it was helpful now!

            Reply
    2. BusyBee

      I’m a 9-5 graphic designer and I hate the hours despite usually having something to do. It’s so much nicer to be freelancing and setting your own hours… Why did you leave? Being creative on demand is not fun at all.

      Reply
      1. Ramona Flowers

        Freelancing means no guaranteed income or benefits.

        Source: ex-freelancer (albeit not in design)

        Reply
    3. Been There, Done That

      Hear, hear! I made the huge mistake of giving my employer the benefit of my top skills and education. I believe my first manager seriously wanted to help me advance, so I was happy to show what I could do. Then he was reassigned and my next manager and my current one (both women, coincidentally) essentially turned my job into a flunky — but whenever they need research, professional business writing, high-level computer skills, or project coordination, I “get” to do it.

      BTW, the job you describe sounds more like straight receptionist/admin than office manager. I’ve noticed a lot of title inflation in that regard in my own job search lately. Be glad they aren’t running you ragged, but I couldn’t agree more with Bookartist.

      Reply
      1. Gazebo Slayer

        …why is it relevant that both of the managers who “turned your job into a flunky” are women?

        (Also, some of us with skills and education can’t be hired for jobs more commensurate with our backgrounds, for whatever reason, and welcome work that might help us break out of that rut. And I don’t assume “I refuse to write/research/design/whatever because you don’t pay me enough/my job isn’t high-level enough” would go over well with a lot of employers.)

        Reply
        1. Forrest

          I’m wondering that too. There’s no description of their job, what their top skills and education are, nada. All we know is that a guy was helping them move up and now women are just taking advantage of them. Maybe it’s this kind of attitude that’s holding them back?

          Reply
          1. ancolie

            She might mean it like, she’s also a woman and was/is frustrated that fellow women are taking advantage of her instead of respecting her and her skills (and thus perpetuating workplace sexism)?

            If not, I’m side eyeing a bit, too. ¬_¬

            Reply
        2. Been There, Done That

          I absolutely believe in giving a day’s work for a day’s pay. And I do. But the other side of that is a day’s pay for a day’s work. If my employer pays me to polish teapots I’ll make them gleam. But it’s not reasonable to expect teapot design or teapot construction as well without paying commensurately.

          I just found the gender/career support situation notable. My male manager didn’t simply give me extra work, he gave me opportunities to learn and grow and network, and compensated me when my projects made the organization money. My first female manager reassigned my successful projects. Her successor said I was on track for advancement, then completely reversed herself after I’d “given a mouse cookies” over a period of time. I’m being careful w/ details to protect the innocent, but a bunch of women employees were really upset w/ first female manager; it wasn’t just me.

          Reply
      2. Temperance

        Ugh. My first boss out of college used to make me do marketing for her, and then acted like she was doing ME a favor by giving me the “opportunity to grow my skills”. Instead, she was kneecapping my career at that org because I was good at my job.

        Reply
      3. Elizabeth West

        Yeah, I just applied for a job where the title is “coordinator”–but it’s an admin job that only requires one year of experience. Yet the job description is huge. (I probably won’t even get a call because I’m over ten years of experience and I bet it pays $10 an hour. The amount of work is at least $15 worth; I did less than that at Exjob and started at $16.)

        Reply
        1. Super Anon for This

          I’ve been running into this a lot, looking at job ads in my area. They want the moon, lots of tasks, very high level responsibilities that require a lot of education or experience to do, like handling all the accounting for the entire business as well as all the admin tasks and more, but only pay like $10 an hour.

          Reply
          1. Bea

            Someone wanted to pay me $12 for bookkeeping once. My response was “I charge friends $15 an hour to clean up the mess their “bookkeepers” left them in…so I am going to have to pass on this.”

            That’s how you end up with your financial records a sloppy mess. Underpay and under value a position that keeps the organization running properly. Doh. But it keeps me busy doing what I love, the emotional toll is the worst trying to teach people to trust again -.-

            Reply
      4. Bea

        I kneejerked so hard and was offended to read the OP’s title was Office Manager and that they’re struggling to find something to do.

        As an office manager, I manage the office not just the phones, packages and supplies. Everyone comes to me for how to handle their own jobs and back up everyone who isn’t in manufacturing. I’ve always been #2 or #3 in command.

        I’ve gotten to the point where I’m ashamed that my official title includes “Office Manager” because of the stories I keep hearing with their inflated titles. I have a split title since I’m also a full cycle Bookkeeper, thankfully for me. Except I’ve seen Bookkeeper being used for AP/AR clerks and I could go on for days about that one.

        Reply
        1. Georgie Girl

          Yes–at my last job the office manager was basically responsible for everything and had his own staff, including mailroom personnel, an admin, and the receptionist.

          Reply
    4. FTGraphicDesigner

      Yeah, I REALLY want to echo this sentiment. I’m working full-time as a graphic designer and I still get taken advantage of (in the “can’t you just throw this together sometime today, how hard can it be?” sense). Should it come up as an opportunity explain that you’d be happy to do freelance work on the side if that’s of interest to you and if you want to transition into an in-house design job.

      Reply
      1. Gazebo Slayer

        Eh, a lot of places have rules against employees freelancing for them as well – and a lot of places have an attitude of “your job is xyz plus other duties as required.”

        Reply
        1. Soon to be former fed

          Other duties as assigned should still be within the general scope of the job you were hired to do. Using that garbage phrase as a catchall to exploit employees is the way to a labor problem and low morale.

          Reply
      2. Been There, Done That

        Do designers and artists get the “it’s just a few clicks of a mouse” bit? Like, all you have to do is to launch a wizard and you’re done? As a proofreader in a business setting years ago, people thought I mainly ran the spell check, and if my supervisor saw me using the stylebook or the dictionary, she’d ask, “Haven’t you memorized that yet?” and, like, she meant it….

        Reply
      3. JessaB

        That’s when you take advantage of the Montgomery Scott School of Starship Engineering – it does not matter that you can regularly do x in an hour. Unless it’s so time critical that you really have to do that, you say three hours, and when they get it in one they’re pleasantly surprised. But never back yourself down to the minimum time, invariably stuff will screw it up. Set realistic expectations plus a little for stuff getting screwed up. Also it helps set expectations for when your miracle working self gets promoted and they have to hire two people to do what you used to do.

        Reply
    5. Leenie

      This thread seems to be disregarding that the OP is largely being paid to sit at her desk and not produce much work. If she wound up doing a few hours of graphic design work every week, she’d still come out ahead financially (hardly giving away her services) and she might actually be satisfied with her job. To insist that she be paid to sit at her desk and read and refuse to do any projects that are within her training unless she gets paid extra – that doesn’t sound like a winning plan.

      Reply
      1. AnonMarketer

        Honestly, as a designer…sometimes you still wind up with slack time. :/ Some days are go, go, go 17 hours, others are you technically have four hours of work to do and need to find some other way to fill the time (job development, etc.); which isn’t nearly as interesting as those days you’re squeezing out a pitch right down to the wire.

        However, there IS something unethical freelancing for the job you’re working for, if it directly impacts the company, imho. I feel if her design skills start coming into play often enough, it might be worth revisiting her duties, job title, and/or salary.

        Reply
      2. LBK

        Yeah, I agree – I think she could strike a balance between helping out if needed (which would help her problem of being bored as well as giving her a chance to show off and develop other skills, which could be good in the future) and not giving away cheap design work. I know there’s a particular stigma about free work in the design world, but generally speaking in an office environment, I think you’re expected to chip in on expanded tasks for a while before you can say “I’ve been doing X for 6 months now which is pretty far outside of my job description, could we talk about giving me a raise to compensate for this additional work?”

        Reply
      3. Liz2

        As an admin this is my life, but I believe it’s in part because one of my best skills is “being available and at the ready.” I am the competent body in the chair so WHEN that unexpected thing pops up, you know you can get me, you know I’ll get it done quickly and efficiently.

        While most days I wish I had more to do or didn’t have to scrounge to make my own projects- I enjoy working solo and love the freedom. And the days where there’s three fires to put out I certainly am glad I have the flexibility!

        Just depends on the job, fit, and expectations.

        Reply
        1. Me

          I got in trouble at OldExjob for doing other things when I was waiting (namely internet, but if the phone rang, I got it on the first ring, and I stayed on top of my work). So I just wrote at my desk. Freelance stuff, my novel, etc. If I have nothing else to do and you want me to look busy, you got it. :P

          At Exjob, they did not care what you did during downtime, as long as your work was done and customers were taken care of. Every time I walked past someone’s desk, they were on the internet, unless they were talking to a customer.

          Reply
      4. Electron Wisperer

        I tend to agree, I don’t much care what a job title says, if I sign up for a full time job you get all of me and all of my skills for that time.

        Sometimes that means I end up doing high level stuff on low level money, fine, so what? I took the job. Other times I end up on high level money but actually up to my elbows in feed pump parts in the boiler house, or reviewing a spreadsheet or cleaning the kitchen, rodding the drains or whatever, because there was nobody else around to do it and it needed to be done.

        If I end up spending most of my time on that stuff instead of whispering the electrons in a design job then you are probably doing it wrong, because I am generally a LOT more expensive then you need, if you don’t need multi GHz signal integrity whispered, and I am probably out of there as soon as someone needs the Whisperers services, but while I am there I will rod your sewers if that is the most valuable service in that moment that I can perform.

        I think the US conception of the union is probably in part responsible for the different perceptions of “scope” in a job, the US version tends to sometimes be very “One man, one job”, even when the One Job is only an hour or two in reality, ours tend to be more about working hours, breaks and overtime, and far less about what someone is doing.
        Back when I was working in performing arts venues we saw this a lot, the US tour calls would be for something like “4 loaders, 4 carpenters, 2 flys, 3 electricians, 2 sound”, we would be like, “Meh, bus and truck one day wonder, 2 house crew 4 cassies, easy life”,and it generally was once the tour had gotten over the idea that we could work flys AND run cables (for both power AND Lights), and unload trucks…..

        Reply
    6. Chinook

      I learned something important here in an earlier letter – sometimes you have to accept that part of your job is being paid to wait (whereas, as a freelancer, you are waiting for work to get paid). If they are not used to having a graphic designer or if that season’s tasks don’t require it, then you are getting paid to wait for when they need you.

      I agree with everyone else that it doesn’t hurt to ask if there is other stuff you can do or even be a self started and find your own projects, but sometimes there is nothing to do (Chinook says as she starts at the wall of historical paperwork she can’t process until her boss has the time to review and sign off on them). They want me to be available when they need me and sometimes this means sitting around, reading AAM until the phone rings or the emails come in. In return, I am known for quick turn around times on any work they give me or a heads up when the tsunami of work finally hits my beach.

      Reply
      1. Wheezy Weasel

        There is a similar overlap in helpdesk and other IT positions on being paid to be available. I explained it to a new colleague that a firefighter isn’t asked to use their truck to change light bulbs downtown or answer the phone at the 911 dispatch center, although they’ve got the skills to do that and it would likely help save the city money.

        Reply
    7. OP - Bored at Work

      Hey, OP here. Thanks all for the input. To answer about finding a design-based 9-5, I’ve rarely found design jobs that had decent benefits, and never wanted to jump into a high-stress job in the subject I love (for fear of starting to hate design, honestly) unless it included benefits. That combo has never come up in the design world, but my current job has amazing benefits and I do like the people here.

      Also: I totally fell into the trap of offering design skills to fill my time. I’ve started rewriting the website and making flyers for people. Not great- but I did hear a rumor from up top that a new position is being proposed at a higher rate in this company for exactly my skill set. My goal now is to sit tight and apply for that next year- that is, if I can keep my sanity in the meantime!

      Reply
      1. Leenie

        Good luck, OP! Hopefully you can give them enough design work to impress them, but not so much that they feel like they don’t need to create the new position. Sounds like a really good opportunity!

        Reply
    8. Specialk9

      When I worked a similar job, a temp receptionist, I was SO BORED, but new to formal office work. Eager but green and lacking skills (eg I didn’t know about copiers collating – I manually sorted into stacks till someone explained the concept). I kept asking around for more work – both out of boredom and trying to impress them into hiring me – and people slowly started to trust me. But it was mostly wasted time. I hated to browse the Internet and seem like a slacker, or bring in a book, though now both seem reasonable to me. I ended up trying to learn Morse code, and other such things hand written in my notebook.

      Get a small Bluetooth, (you can say you’re listening to music but don’t want to disturb anyone) and listen to interesting books and podcasts all day.

      I recommend you get as many library cards as possible – neighboring areas often have reciprocity – and check out the Overdrive app. You can borrow the same audiobooks as on Audible for free, but the available titles are library specific.

      Reply
  2. EBStarr

    ‘A one-line sheet that just says “I have a high GPA”’ instead of a transcript? I LOVE IT. The next time a landlord asks for my credit report I’m just going to send them a Word document that says “I have a high credit score.” Or like next time a customs officer asks for my passport I’m going to hand them a letter that says, “I am definitely a US citizen.” I mean this strategy could just make my life so much easier.

    Reply
      1. Artemesia

        It is particularly hilarious paired with someone who puts major effort and gumption into the process by contacting the hiring manager repeatedly and annoyingly. Doesn’t apply properly but annoys endlessly. What is that?

        Reply
          1. fposte

            He may not learn the moment he gets the information, but it could sink in in a few years, so I think it’s still worth doing for that.

            Reply
        1. Falling Diphthong

          This seems to be a theme this week–the applicant who has gumption coming out their ears (as measured by pestering phone calls and emails) but can’t be bothered to read all the way through the listing and then send all the material.

          Reply
        2. teclatrans

          I thought that one maybe led to the other. Maybe he couldn’t get his unofficial transcript (I dunno, maybe he doesnt know how to work the computer system, or maybe he forgot his password or something?) and instead of pursuing tech support help, he decided to add in extra helpings of gumption?

          Reply
        3. Teal

          They absolutely go together. Both are symptoms of trying to strong arm through the process. Of not respecting the manager’s rules and thinking you can force your way in by overpowering them.

          Never ever hire this person. He’ll show the same disrespect to you and the rules on the job.

          Reply
    1. Ramona Flowers

      “I am qualified for this job”
      “I did this project within budget”

      This approach could save so much time and energy!

      Reply
      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        Omg. My boss wants budget reports right now. Does this mean I could just submit, “The cost centers are all balanced”?

        Tell me this is true! :-)

        Reply
        1. Falling Diphthong

          “The cost centers are all balanced. Except one. Identifying it is left as an exercise for the reader.”

          Reply
    2. LizzE

      Or next time you go job hunting and a potential employer inquires about your references: “I am well-liked and come highly recommended by all my past supervisors.”

      But in seriousness, I am not sure if the candidate was clueless about how the application process works, or if he was trying to conceal his actual GPA (which was probably not that high to begin with).

      Reply
      1. blackcat

        I suspect he does not know how to get an unofficial transcript from the online student system (nearly all colleges have a system that will generate an unofficial transcript).

        Reply
        1. Sarah

          Well, an inability to figure out how to download an unofficial transcript doesn’t bode well for his ability to be competent in a job that requires any amount of initiative…even if he doesn’t know off the top of his head, there are numerous options other than turning in a piece of paper saying “I have a high GPA” (ask a friend, ask an academic advisor, email the registrar, Google, etc. etc.).

          Reply
        2. Elsajeni

          And/or he considers it a stupid hoop to jump through when applying for a job at the university, which “obviously” already HAS his transcript. I know when I was a student I tended to think of the university as One Big Entity, rather than a hodgepodge of departments and individuals with different levels of access to my records, so I found it really annoying when I would have to do things like request a transcript at the registrar’s office, walk one building over, and hand it to someone in the advising office — why can’t they just see it?

          Reply
    3. Gen

      Reminds me of Parks and Rec when Ron Swanson’s ‘permit’ is just a sheet of paper with ‘I can do what I want- Ron’ written on it. It’s certainly gumption! I bet he doesn’t have a high gpa though.

      Reply
      1. Drew

        Dennis Farina’s detective on “Law & Order” got a LOT of mileage out of saying, “It’s OK. We’re authorized.” Very few people on the show ever stopped to ask, “Authorized to do WHAT?” and would give up information they had no business giving up.

        Reply
        1. FiveWheels

          I find that the right phrasing makes lying pointless. Why tell an untruth when you can allow someone to believe something in error?

          Reply
    4. Liane

      One time the state alcohol/tobacco agents came into our store on one of their checks to make sure we were checking IDs properly. The underage “shopper” in the team handed my coworker a piece of paper that said “My birthday is [date over 18 years ago].” When told later, I said, “Couldn’t they have made it a little tricky? Like using Official Form the high schools give teens getting their learner permit for driving?”

      Reply
      1. Turquoise Cow

        We had one of those in my store trying to buy cigarettes. She looked like she was about twelve and didn’t have ID, so I refused her.

        About ten minutes later an official came in and congratulated me for passing the test. We even got some kind of certificate. My boss was SUPER proud.

        We had signs up claiming we carded if the person looked under forty, but we rarely did (nor did most other places from what I saw). If they wanted to make it hard, they could have at least sent someone who looked a little older.

        Reply
        1. CMart

          I bartended for years and the stings were always really, really obvious. My best guess was that it was less that they were trying to trick well-meaning businesses, but instead looking for the places that really egregiously did not care. If you didn’t card the preteen-looking person at all, or barely glanced at their “I am $100% over 21” sheet of paper then you were likely serving underage people left and right.

          Reply
        2. JessaB

          I have always thought that anything that has a legal age requirement should require in the text of the original law that 100 percent of people should be carded. Have to be 18? I don’t care if you look 80. It would solve so many problems, and hopefully people would stop being nasty about being carded. Nobody has to guess if that young looking person is 15 or 25.

          And for the strange thing, I have only been carded once in my life and I was somewhere pushing 30 (certainly high of 25) and it was for – get this – lottery tickets. I was also already over 21 when the law changed for booze/gambling to 21.

          Reply
    5. (Different) Rebecca

      When I caught a plagiarist in my classroom it was “nuh-uh, this is totally my own work” followed by “I never do things like this!” *siiiiigh* Yup. Totally going to take your word for something like that.

      Reply
      1. many bells down

        Years ago I entered a contest on a online game’s website. You had to write (or draw or something) about, let’s say, kangaroos. At least 3 dozen of the couple hundred entries were the exact same poem about kangaroos, from the very first page of a Google search for “kangaroo poem.”

        A few of the entrants, on being disqualified, insisted that THEY were the original author of the poem and everyone else was stealing it. Some of them weren’t even born when it was written. It was actually pretty funny.

        Reply
    6. SarahTheEntwife

      I’m kind of curious if the LW even looks for that in a candidate. I hire for what sounds like probably the same job and we really don’t care about GPA. If anything, someone who’s a super-powered straight-A student is maybe not our top candidate because they’re more likely to call out because they have a final tomorrow and need to study. (It’s not like we *won’t* hire them, some people are just all-around awesome like that, but we’re going to be sure to ask more questions about how they manage their time.)

      Reply
      1. MegaMoose, Esq.

        I suspect the reasoning is more that they don’t want struggling students to take on something that would detract from their studies. Or to hire someone if they’re on the verge of academic suspension.

        Reply
        1. JessaB

          Yes and also it’s probably a requirement of the academic side, not so much the work side. You really don’t want to, except in the case of very serious financial need, to hire a student who isn’t passing their courses, when the idea is to give them experience before they graduate.

          Reply
      2. Bellatrix

        LW says “they must meet a GPA requirement set by the university for employment”.

        This is a student worker job. The purpose of these jobs isn’t just so that the work gets done (otherwise, they’d also consider applicants that are not students at the university). They provide a source of income for students and allow them to get work experience whilst at university. And by setting a GPA requirement, the university is making sure the job isn’t distracting low-performers from studying and providing an incentive for students to keep their GPA up.

        And yeah, time off for finals is generally accommodated in student worker positions – although it should be pre-scheduled.

        Reply
        1. SarahTheEntwife

          Right, I hire student employees; I’m familiar with the system. I expect students to rearrange their schedules for finals week, but it’s the “I just realized I have a final tomorrow and so I’m calling out for my shift” that gets frustrating.

          Reply
            1. blackcat

              In my experience, that often happens at both tails (at least with white, middle class students). So the straight A/A+ student and the C-/D+ student are both more likely than the B student to fail to plan ahead. I do not have a great explanation for this, but my guess is that some super high achievers either expect greater accommodation or get by without being organized (but this does not seem to apply to high achieving first gen students or students of color, who are generally more contentious). The struggling students struggle to stay organized.

              Reply
              1. Annonymouse

                Possibly they were so focused on studying that something trivial (comparatively to them) doesn’t rate high enough to set a reminder or easily slips their mind.

                Reply
          1. JessaB

            Honestly if there’s any part of a grade in this work study (some do this for credit, some don’t) it should be made patently clear at the beginning of the work term that screwing us up during finals time by not properly giving your schedule or calling at last minute (when it’s not the professor’s fault,) is going to drop you a letter.

            Reply
      3. minuteye

        It sounds like the University the LW is hiring for has a policy requiring students to maintain a GPA above a certain level in order to be eligible for student work positions. There are arguments for and against doing so, but it doesn’t sound like the LW’s own criterion.

        Reply
    7. ZSD

      Darden Restaurants did this with the Department of Labor! The DOL asked for data backing up Darden’s claim that their servers made an average of $18/hr including tips, and they gave the DOL a piece of paper that said, “Our servers make an average of $18/hr.”

      Reply
      1. Gazebo Slayer

        Wow, holy crap. I hope the DOL fined them a huge amount of money.

        (Sadly, fines are often not much more than the company is saving by doing the illegal stuff in the first place, giving companies a serious incentive to violate the law. This is often a feature, not a bug; many politicians actually don’t want labor, environmental, or other laws to have any teeth, so they don’t.)

        Reply
    8. Getting There

      That made me laugh!

      On another note, those over enthusiastic applicants must be really clueless, or they are getting some bad advice from some source or another. I’ve experienced that phenomenon in a couple previous jobs, and it goes quickly from laughable to aggravating, dealing with continual phone calls from the same hopeful person. Tenacity and follow-through are great attributes, but the behavior described in the post crosses a line.

      I do think it would be a kindness to give that person some feedback, to counter the possible terrible advice that led to this.

      Reply
      1. Howdy Do

        Another thing that’s possible (I hire for a similar student position in a college library) is that the majority of our student assistants are international students who cannot get jobs with their student visas anywhere but on campus which can ratchet up the enthusiasm. Limited work options are sometimes compounded by not understanding US workplace norms (being that it’s likely the first job in the US they’ve applied for) or just getting bad advice.

        Reply
    9. Connie-Lynne

      OP didn’t mention it, but they should really point out in the feedback that not following the application instructions also contributed to the rejection.

      Reply
    10. I'm anon for this one

      I hope it’s not too late to give you 100 gazillion internets for this comment. And if it is I’ll set this phone’s system clock back to make it happen.

      Reply
  3. DecorativeCacti

    OP#1: Could you not find a 9-5 job as a graphic artist? I know they exist. Do you have any marketing skills? Lots of places have marketing/graphics people. It sounds like you’re bored because you went in a wildly different direction from what you’re used to. I would be bored, too!

    Reply
    1. Ramona Flowers

      As an ex-freelancer, I also wonder if you were sold the idea that all 9-5 jobs are boring and the same. I’ve seen this perpetuated a lot in freelancer communities, where there’s a lot of all or nothing thinking.

      For example: I went to a boring client meeting therefore all meetings suck therefore I could never go back to full-time work because you have to have boring meetings. Or: I went on a crowded train therefore I could never go back to full-time work because all commuting is terrible. People seem to do this to feel happy in their choices but it’s not very healthy or useful.

      Having too little to do is a known cause of workplace stress – it’s not just overwork that causes this.

      Reply
      1. bookish

        Yeah, when I was in a painting class in art school I had a teacher who was like “Artists can’t do nine to five! We can’t be cooped up in an office!” And I was like, hello, I would like steady employment with benefits please.

        I live in a city but it doesn’t have a lot of jobs for graphic designers in my particular line of work/isn’t known for its “creativity.” I found the perfect job and it actually isn’t too competitive because people who are in my field tend not to move to my city looking for jobs!

        I think when you just start a job you have a lot less to do because you’re being eased into it still and don’t have your full workload yet. But it sounds like this letter writer also took a totally different kind of job. I’m wondering if they had burnout and were tired of managing their own schedule and high pressure creative work, and just wanted to do something different. I totally felt that way after an intensive art education – I felt like I just wanted to be a secretary and not even think about art for a while. But then when I didn’t have enough work to do I went crazy. I totally can see feeling like I need to be super productive at all times in a job, and this may be a bad fit for the writer or they may just still be settling in.

        Reply
    2. Slow Gin Lizz

      I wonder this too. I don’t know how competitive the field is for FT graphic designers but my impression is that they are in high demand. Why didn’t OP try to get a job in that field instead? With five years of freelance design under your skin, you should have a good enough portfolio for this.

      Reply
      1. designbot

        They are in high demand but it is also highly competitive. A part of this is that there aren’t as clear requirements as for many other fields (licensure, certifications, etc.) and part is because the field is just so broad that people can take a while to figure out where they fit in so many are applying to completely inappropriate jobs. Someone who designs a brand from the ground up, someone who designs books in the hundreds of pages, and someone who designs small flyers and tshirts may all be called graphic designers but are very different.
        I think it’s worth it for LW to spend some time looking at the boards on AIGA, Coroflot, Creative Hotlist, etc. and figure out where they might fit into the field so that they can pursue something that gives them that 9-5 stability while making use of their skills.

        Reply
    3. penny

      This is what I was thinking. You might search for full time corporate design jobs. Over 5 years you’ve probably built a good portfolio & lots of companies have in house design depending on your market. In my experience, admins & designers are very different kinds of people so it makes sense you’re bored (though a slow reception job will bore most people).

      Reply
    4. K.

      I wondered this too – I work in marketing communications and we always need design help. An agency role in design might be good for a former freelancer because you’d work on different clients, and odds are good that you’d be plenty busy. There are staffing agencies that are devoted to placing creatives; maybe reach out to one of them?

      Reply
      1. Kimberlee, Esq.

        I wonder if OP lives somewhere where there just aren’t design agencies. A big benefit of doing freelance design is, of course, that you can have clients all over the country. A lot of agencies might well hire remote designers, but if you live in, say, Casper WY and either all your clients are local, or you get most of your work thru the local print shop, or you just put up a website and get randos who want your work, working for an agency just might not ever be on your radar.

        Reply
        1. designbot

          Or most companies of any size have one or two in-house designers to handle their marketing materials etc. So even if there aren’t design agencies around there may be other companies that have the occasional design job.

          Reply
    5. Parenthetically

      Yeah, this was exactly my thought. I was anticipating a letter about not having enough DESIGN work in a DESIGN job, but no. I reckon any job that’s not in your preferred/trained/skilled area AND is pretty low on the workload is going to be super duper boring.

      Reply
    6. Anonymous FT Designer

      We are not unicorns. We exist. We even have job boards and recruiting agencies. Generally if you have any applicable experience and a solid portfolio, most corporate companies employ at least one designer. There are creative agencies comprised solely of fellow creatives. Nonprofits often have a designer on staff.

      9-5 jobs are sometimes more like 12 hour days depending on deadlines and how much got dropped in your lap last minute. Sometimes it’s more like having 3 hours of actual work to stretch into an 8 hour day, so you spend your day organizing old project files, working on side projects, and learning a new skill.

      Reply
    7. OP - Bored at Work

      That’s really true, it’s a totally different pace and mindset! Freelancing had taught me not to say no to opportunities, though, and I was called by a friend to fill the job, so I went for it. I mentioned in another comment that I started tossing in some design-based thinking/input, and have recently heard that someone proposed a design position for the next year at a considerable pay increase. I’m crossing my fingers for that guy, cause if I could have design AND benefits that’d be best case scenario.

      Reply
      1. Slow Gin Lizz

        Ha! As a (formerly full-time) freelance musician, I know what you mean about saying no. You’re afraid if you do they’ll never ask you for anything again, and that is sometimes how things work. So I can see why you accepted this position. Good luck, though – hope you get some design tasks soon!

        Reply
  4. bridget

    If the friend is helping with the move, it’s probably above board. A relative of mine once had approval to be reimbursed for a service to move a car cross country, among other moving costs. It was cool with the new employer if I drove it out to the new state for him, in exchange for gas and mileage. It was cheaper than a service and I got a free trip. Importantly, the new employer approved.

    Reply
    1. MegaMoose, Esq.

      Yeah, this sounds like the friend is just going on the trip to help find housing – that honestly doesn’t seem like a big deal. House or apartment hunting is a bear even when it’s not short notice and having a second opinion when you’re making big decisions like that could be a big deal. And really, if we’re talking expenses for one person for one weekend, it can’t be all that much money. It sounds like the company really wants the mentee in this job – good for him!

      Reply
    2. INTP

      Yep. Or just looking at housing with him – if I’m reading correctly, this is just a trip to set up housing, and it can be a bit scary to show up at Craigslist-advertised apartments alone (and demoralizing when half the landlords/rental agents stand you up for showings). If he still lives in his hometown and has not traveled much, he may also be intimidated by navigating a new city in general. There are valid reasons for the friend to go, and even if the company winds up frowning at this, I think the worst that will happen is the boss will be reprimanded for approving it. It would take a really dysfunctional company to take action against the employee, who proactively got approval and had no way of knowing the expectations yet before even starting his job.

      Reply
      1. MegaMoose, Esq.

        I hadn’t thought of this until reading your comment about the mentee maybe not having traveling much, but it’s also possible that trust-fund buddy is more well-traveled and that’s part of why the mentee wants him along. And yes to what you said about approval – different companies have different flexibility tolerances for this kind of thing, and presumably that’s on the managers to navigate.

        Reply
    3. Chinook

      I have done “house hunting” trips as a spouse a number of times (thank you Government of Canada) and I see no problem with bringing a friend along as support or to bounce ideas off of if there is no spouse in the picture.

      Firstly, it gets around anyone asking if that person is a friend or a “friend” who may be moving with them when they go. That would be an awkward conversation for any employee to have.

      Second, the budget for these things are automatically set up for it to be a duo and some of the costs (like hotel) don’t cost more for a second person.

      Third, trying to figure out where you are going to live in a strange town with only a week to explore can be overwhelming, never mind having to close a deal in that time to buy the house or sign the lease. Having a second brain who knows you well enough to say things like “sure, the view is great but I know you and you will hate the constant noise from the highway or get tired of the 1 hour commute within 3 months.” Or, “don’t you remember when you lived X and how you felt about Y. Don’t do that again.” Even just having someone to talk out an idea who is not on commission can help you make a better decision.

      And, yes, house hunting trips are like a mini-vacation, but part of the reason for doing them is to give you a better idea of what you are moving in to. Our last move didn’t include one but we had 30 days of hotel costs covered so we could cross the country by car AND find a place to live – we actually gave our realtor 1 day to show us anything that we could a)afford and b)move in to by the end of the month. We did it but a house hunting trip would have meant a slightly longer timeline to close a sale and would have given us a wider selection to choose from.

      It also makes a difference having been able to explore a little because it lets you see what you will need to set up ahead of time (like utilities because you can actually see who the local providers are) and gives you a more realistic idea of where everything is (because always living on the opposite side of town from the amenities you use sucks big time). Google can only tell you so much.

      Reply
    4. Just J.

      When I read this letter, my mind immediately went to “romantic involvement” between Mentee and Friend. If that’s the case, I do not see it as abnormal for a company being willing to pay for a significant other to go help house hunt. I see that as working for an awesome company that is being supportive.

      And, if I am reading into this too much, I also agree with all of the other posts that having platonic friends along hugely helps. Again, sounds like a great company who really wants this candidate.

      Reply
  5. Ramona Flowers

    #1 One job isn’t representative of all jobs, never mind the whole world. There’s quite a lot of all or nothing thinking in your letter and I wondered if you’re aware of that.

    I don’t know what motivated you to apply for this particular job, but it sounds like it might not be the best fit for you. Everyone is different – just as every job is different.

    Reply
    1. Danger: Gumption Ahead

      Receptionist/admin jobs in particular seem to be all over the map for workload and duties. I’ve worked with admins who only answered phones (in an office with few calls), booked off-site meetings (,which were rare), and ordered supplies for your basic cube farm and others who were run ragged and given duties so far outside the scope of their work that they weren’t in the same universe (grant management, procurement, technical writing).

      Reply
      1. Kiki

        It’s really true. I’ve been an admin in multiple environments over the past 10 years. I’ve had jobs where half my week was spent working on my friend’s wedding and reading books online. In my current job I am office manager/EA/program administrator for our most popular program/billing and invoicing. When I applied to this job only the office manager/EA stuff was discussed, but I like the other work and it keeps me busy.

        Reply
      2. Sylvia

        I’ve been an admin twice and I was at each end of the spectrum. The nothing-to-do job also sucked for unrelated reasons, but getting paid to sit still and wait for something to happen for hours drives you crazy.

        Reply
      3. Parenthetically

        I had an admin job where I had 100% responsibility for project management for certain campaigns/recruitments/fundraising, with no ability to personally prioritize (I had to do whatever the most recent instruction was from any of my 8 bosses), no benefits, no overtime, and regular 12-hour days during our busy season. My job description was basic receptionist stuff — welcome visitors, answer phones, deal with mail, keep public areas tidy, order supplies, run copies, set up for meetings now and then — but the job morphed into a crazy stress monster. I’d love to be an office manager in a place like OP’s where my job is to be pleasant and stay caught up on AAM and my book goals for the year!

        Reply
  6. Jennifer

    Receptionist-type jobs can be dull like that since you are basically on call in case anything happens, but you’re being watched the whole time so you can’t just do something more entertaining. I concur with Alison that if you can do anything that looks useful like online classes or something, be doing that, or writing a novel, or just anything that looks busy.

    I’d be careful about how much you ask for more work, though–unfortunately you can get bitten in the ass for obviously not having enough to do and then getting laid off for it when people realize you’re expendable. Or in the case of my mom of late, getting her hours cut by 2 days a week for “not having enough to do” during slow season.

    As for what do people do all day, I’ am in an office job and it boils down to keying a bunch of paperwork into the computer, ordering documents, proofreading and fixing our supposed automated system which has tons of broken things nobody will fix, and dealing with e-mails and phone calls and complaints. Most of it involves me typing or editing/proofreading giant piles of paperwork that would make you be happy to have a dull job.

    Reply
    1. aebhel

      Every receptionist job I’ve had has allowed me to read when it’s slow (and thank God for that). Worked out pretty well when I was doing my Master’s, because I could get a long of my required reading done while I was at work.

      Reply
    2. Bea

      I wouldn’t say to be careful, most places know if their receptionist isn’t doing much work (aka the phone is not ringing, we had that issue months ago when we had a really dead first quarter). A ton of small offices want that person there “just in case”, I had a hell of a time cutting back my hours when my job of over a decade hit the skids and we didn’t have enough to keep me busy at times. I wanted to go home, they wanted me there “just in case the phone rang”, despite solid proof it wasn’t going to ring.

      Now if they had two receptionists, I’d say be careful for sure. It’s really a know-your-environment kind of thing when it comes to sounding the horns that you need more projects or “is it okay to do things on the internet while I’m twiddling my fingers over here?”

      Reply
  7. Carolum

    Hey OP #5, why don’t you have the applicant spend their time calling OP #1? Solves both problems right there.

    Reply
  8. Portia

    LW #3, as a former bank teller, I can assure you that we are much better at making pleasant small talk with elderly clients than we are at divining current hiring barriers. Bless your grandmother for caring so much, but feel free to keep a neat beard and moustache!

    Reply
    1. Life is Good

      Yes, this. Years ago when I was a teller, I sometimes repeated the same conversations over and over…just making small talk while processing transactions. BTW, my millennial son has had a neatly trimmed beard since high school. He is now a middle school teacher in a very conservative area. He had no problem getting that job right out of college.

      Reply
      1. Specialk9

        The retro 90s*/lumbersexual look has made beards utterly ubiquitous.

        *The 1890s, I mean, of course

        Reply
  9. Hannah in London

    #5
    I would also add something along the lines of ‘You also didn’t provide everything requested by the job advert, which for most companies would get you automatically rejected. Hope this advice helps you in your future job search.’
    But then make sure that you close the loop, because I feel he’ll keep contacting and contacting you. He needs a clear, we are not moving forward with your application.

    Reply
    1. Anon for this

      #5 reminds me of an applicant who called my boss and berated her for not shortlisting the applicant. After checking all the applications (not as easy as you might think as all the demographics are stripped out by HR) it turned out that…
      she hadn’t even applied.

      Reply
      1. Falling Diphthong

        Are you sure there wasn’t an application consisting solely of the line “I apply for job”?

        Reply
      2. This Daydreamer

        But she’s so good you should have known to consider and shortlist without her having to lift a finger!

        Reply
    2. Rebecca

      This is what really caught my eye. On top of the whole calling thing, he couldn’t follow simple instructions. I think I’d actually lay it out with specifics, as in, we asked for A, B, and C. You provided A. B wasn’t even close, and you forgot C altogether. Then block his number.

      Reply
      1. Basia, also a Fed

        Yes, I would use Alison’s script, then add this. It would be doing him a favor to let him know that your application won’t be considered if you don’t follow the instructions and submit all of the required material.

        Reply
      2. Howdy Do

        I recently started hiring student assistants at my library and it’s pretty shocking that students don’t realize you have to fill out the whole application. At first I was only going to interview candidates who had filled out the application fully but…there weren’t enough candidates!

        Reply
  10. bored

    Ugh, #1 resonates so much. This has been me in basically every job I’ve had. And when I ask for more work I get comments like “you’re doing great, just keep doing what you’re doing”. Maybe I need to be more forceful explaining how bored i am, but I’m not really a forceful person & it’s hard when everyone else at the same level is mysteriously running around proclaiming how busy they are. (Never sure if they’re lying, inefficient with what they have to do or have some sort of secret extra tasks.) In the end I just get depressed to the point where even doing something useful but non-worky like the online classes seems too much. I feel like I need a radical change, but I don’t know what :(

    Reply
    1. Lora

      Dang, who ARE these bosses who can’t think of anything to do? I got tons of things that need done, I’m delighted when people say they got a thing done and want more stuff to do. Yesterday one of my crew asked if she could help with supply chain work, which is one of the super-boring but needs done things. I walked out of that 1:1 meeting thanking the ghost of Carl Bosch for sending me such a thoughtful go-getter.

      Reply
      1. LBK

        I think it’s usually people who are so busy that they don’t want to take the extra time to show someone else how to do a task so they can delegate it (I know I am totally guilty of this sometimes).

        Reply
        1. INTP

          I agree. Plus, sometimes when a new person is hired, especially entry level, no one wants to set up work that relies on the new person to get done until they verify that the new person is competent and is going to work out. In junior level roles it can take a few months to prove your competence, and then another few for the work to start trickling in as people work you into projects.

          Reply
        2. Chinook

          In my case, the people I support need to do their stuff before I can do my stuff. But, said stuff is a lower priority than the current emergencies (fires, floods, and whatever Mother Nature is throwing at us this year) and, as a result, it is just sitting there, being not done. A few more bodies with their level of expertise would help unclog the backlog but nobody here as the authority to hire someone like that. Instead, I just sit in dread of the tsunami that will come through once everybody starts getting caught up.

          Reply
        3. OP - Bored at Work

          True! I started making a habit to ask my bosses if I could sit in on certain meetings, then I picked out parts of the resulting to-do lists that I knew I could figure out. That strategy has worked well so far.

          Reply
    2. Elfie

      Yeah, this is me. I always wonder if somehow I’m underperforming when everyone else is running around with ‘so much to do!!!!!’, but last time I checked with my manager, she told me I was doing fine (and confirmed my suspicion that others are working hard on the wrong things/inefficient – so there’s at least two of us who think that!).

      Reply
      1. A Person

        I know the feeling. I’ve made a great point of archiving the work I produce and developing a reasonably consistent format so that producing new work generally doesn’t take too long and flows decently well in combination with related materials.

        Some of my co-workers though, I don’t know where their time goes, but I suspect its an eclectic combination of time mismanagement and unwillingness to ask questions. I’d help but they seem to be under the impression I’m the one with the problem (can you tell my workplace has a culture problem?).

        Reply
    3. Bea W

      It does sound like time for change, especially if your situation is just making you depressed and is demotivating. That’s no good. It could be a different type of company doing something similar or a different job entirely. If you generally like your current employer and/or their industry, browsing internal job postings might spark some ideas. Browse external postings as well, not so much to apply, but just to get the brain juices flowing. Making a plan for change and setting goals to get there will give you something to look to for motivation if you can’t get it from your current job.

      If you haven’t said outright to your manager that you are bored and don’t have enough to keep you busy through the day, I’d try that approach. Some people need things pointed out to them or do better with specific suggestions. You can also outright offer your help with other tasks. If there is something in particular you are interested in learning more about, this is sometimes a good way to talk about picking up some additional work.

      Reply
      1. bored

        Thanks for the feedback. My job pays very well (I know, smallest violins…) so I’m not motivated to look elsewhere for the same kind of thing and end up still hating my job for less pay. Internally, unfortunately there’s really nowhere to go since the non-admin staff all have advanced specialist degrees. But you’re right, I should try to be more frank instead of “can I help with anything?” “No” “Okay then” *resume being sad*

        Reply
        1. Bibliovore

          My first job in publishing was a receptionist position. Before the internet. I sat alone in front of the elevator on the 25th floor in a midtown office building. I wasn’t permitted to read. This was before computers and the internet. I fielded 3 or 4 phone calls a day from people who would not leave their full name and return phone number. She knows me. She has it. My boss behaved like Miranda in Devil wears Prada. I was going crazy, I was so bored. I lasted until Friday and quit.

          Reply
        2. Specialk9

          I said it above, but get a small Bluetooth and listen to audiobooks from the library (Overdrive app) all day. You can listen to detective books, vampire romances, histories of chemistry, biographies, whatever floats your boat. It’s less work than an online class, but can jog your brain into a better place.

          Reply
    4. The Other Dawn

      My friend was in this exact situation…three times in a row! I’m convinced she wasn’t being forceful enough, mainly because I’ve known her for years and know that she’s not one to be forceful with anything and typically beats around the bush rather than just coming out with it. Actually, the last job was just a bizarre situation and I don’t think any amount of forcefulness or drop-dead honesty would have helped.

      But anyway, yeah, you really need to spell it out, I think. As a manager myself, someone asking me if there’s something they can help with doesn’t generally translate to, “I’m bored out of my effing skull and need to feel challenged and useful.” It means, “Hey, I’ve got some downtime and want to be helpful.”

      Reply
    5. Newbie

      Oh my goodness, yes, this is 100% me. I took my job thinking it was going to be very busy and have a lot of responsibility when in fact I have a surprising amount of downtime. After a year of things being more of the same, I’ve accepted the position for what it is. I’ve spoken with my boss about my downtime frequently and she can never think of anything for me to do besides small tasks that only take up a few extra minutes of my day. Sometimes I feel really bad because everyone else around me (including my boss) runs around like crazy people talking about how busy they are while I’m sitting around online. I bounce back and forth between being grateful that I have an easy job and being bored out of my skull. I plan to stick it out for one more year. We’re getting ready to go into our slow season in the fall/winter, so I know it’s only going to get slower. Oh well, at least I get to catch up on my AAM reading during this time!

      Reply
    6. Bea

      Delegation is hard for some people. I have had to learn to let tasks go and have others do them, so right now, come at me and you can file for half a day and build some statements for me the other half >:] Or reorganize the two departments that I’m ready to burn to the ground they’re so disorganized and bad, it’s exhausting thinking about but it’s on the list of “when you’re bored and have some thumb twiddling to do, go do that.” I’ve started creating and slowly things are getting done, woo woo.

      You honestly just haven’t found your spot yet and I’m sorry to hear that. I built a career on being efficient and taking on more tasks while others are busy drowning in their handful of tasks.

      Reply
  11. The IT Crowd

    #2 – Both my best friend and I are in our mid twenties work in IT Departments at different schools and interviewed with beards, and have always had them. In my experience it’s far less of an issue now then it was last century.

    Reply
    1. Lora

      Beards are de rigeur for engineers of any age. I think the younger guys like to grow beards so they’ll look older and be taken more seriously.

      In the mid to late 80s, early 90s it was a thing that beards were for hippies and 1970s throwbacks. There are photographs of these same people with spiral perms and Aqua-Net shellacked hair, fuschia sequined ruffled bridesmaid dresses, and popped La Croix polos hanging out on the hood of an Iroc-Z.

      I also seem to remember shoulder pads on women’s clothing that would terrify Tom Brady, pink Miami Vice suits, and some unfortunate pleated pants choices. At this point I’ve come to believe that it’s an obligation to humanity to be photographed at least once being embarrassingly stylish.

      Reply
      1. Lily Rowan

        Even in the 80s and 90s, though — my father was sort of a former hippy and had a beard from the 70s on, and he never seemed to have trouble getting a job. It was a nice beard and he was always well-dressed, as well as working in social services, but still. It’s not like “beard=unemployment” has ever been a hard and fast rule in the last 40 years.

        Reply
        1. JulieBulie

          Yeah – I wonder when Grandma had that conversation with the bank teller. If it was in 1962, it was right on the money!

          Reply
      2. ThatGirl

        Yeah, my brother-in-law has a real baby face, with a beard he looks like an actual grownup. (He’s also an engineer, fittingly.)

        Reply
          1. The IT Crowd

            Yeah, I have a few friends who are teachers who did that for this reason. For me, it makes me look younger without a beard, but not teenager-younger. That said, I just turned 25 and many of my coworkers seem to think I’m closer to 30 – no matter how many times I have that conversation. My sister, on the other hand, is 30 and looks 20.

            (Rar to the accidental submission. I promise I do work in IT)

            Reply
      3. aebhel

        Heh, my mom says that she avoided ending up with scads of embarrassing photos of herself from the 70’s and 80’s mostly by being utterly unfashionable. It’s true, too. All the pictures of her when she was in her 20’s and 30’s are like… slightly outdated jeans and t-shirts, hair in a braid. Which is pretty much how she dresses now, in her 60’s.

        Reply
  12. Nacho

    OP #1: Ask some of your colleagues what the unofficial rules are regarding free time. In a lot of jobs with downtime built into them like yours, you’re expected to play on your phone/computer when there’s nothing else going on. The reason they pay you to be there from 9 to 5 is to make sure someone’s there if something happens, not necessarily because they have enough work that they need you busy for a full 8 hours.

    I’ve worked in 3 call centers so far and it was the same in all of them. I’m there to answer the phone when it rings, but when nobody’s calling and I have nothing to do, I’m free to surf the web as long as everything is work appropriate.

    Reply
    1. Hellanon

      Yes, a friend of mine had one of those jobs & wrote two books and finished her bachelor’s degree over the course of a couple of years.

      Reply
    2. Emily, admin extraordinaire

      I worked in a call center (doing nationwide directory assistance) that didn’t allow you to do anything while waiting for calls to come through except have a sheet of paper to write on (supposedly it was unprofessional). It was 1999, so we didn’t have smart phones, our work computers didn’t have web browsers, and they didn’t allow things like knitting or other crafts. It was the worst. I would freewrite to keep myself sane. I lasted about 6 months, which is about 5 months longer than most people.

      Reply
    3. OP - Bored at Work

      Thank you for this advice. It took some courage to ask other coworkers “Hey…are you bored, too?” I’ve recognized that 3 of my office mates are in a ‘dry’ season, and they really do just shuffle papers all days hoping to look busy enough to not be fired. Eek!

      Reply
      1. Nacho

        That doesn’t sound good. If the office culture is to shuffle papers around because it would look unprofessional to surf the web, then there might be nothing you can do. Though I guess if you’re desperate enough, you might want to try doing it anyway. If a manager stops you, apologize profusely and never do it again, but anecdotally, a lot of them will just look the other way as long as it’s not interfering with your job.

        Reply
      2. Bea

        This scares me for you and I look back at the comment above that says to be careful about asking for more work because they’ll know you’re not busy enough. I take back what I said up there.

        If you have administrative background now, you should seriously start looking for another position that will keep you busy. I suppose it’s all about your location of course, since I’m in a busy region, I find job hunting particularly easy. Administrative work is something you can do in every business as well, so seriously start poking around. This job you have is not representative of all office jobs at all.

        Reply
        1. OP - Bored at Work

          Thank you, Bea. It’s been such an unexpected lesson to learn about how much office environments vary- it sounds silly, but working on my own has given me all of the skills to be efficient and useful, but virtually no street-smarts about office culture and how things ‘work’. I feel like an alien, just clueless about how different offices can really be. My first few jobs out of college were so thoroughly dysfunctional that I just though “Oh crap, 9-5 isn’t for me at all.” and that led to the freelancing.
          Anyway- what I mean to say is that it’s really helpful to hear that having a dull, slow job isn’t normal. I lumped all 9-5s together in my head and AAM has taught me that just doesn’t make sense! Maybe I SHOULD look for a design job that has benefits…surely they exist.

          Reply
  13. Kate

    #3 – It sounded to me like the employee asked to bring his friend apartment hunting, not to actually move. And I think it’s actually really kind of the company to allow this since, as a single person who has moved quite a bit, I know that being able to talk about potential places with someone else can really help the decision process. Since the mentee asked his boss and let the boss know the friend was not a significant other, it all seems on the up and up to me.

    Reply
    1. Falling Diphthong

      Yes, this strikes me as a really reasonable way for companies to extend the benefit–a trip for you plus one person whose judgment you trust to help you look for housing. I could even see some married folk who would have a spouse who couldn’t travel (because they were in Japan for the month, for example) and so they took a parent or friend.

      Reply
      1. Kate

        Well, yeah. I actually thought this was a weird aspect of this letter. My boss would be my first point of contact for lots of policy things (e.g what can I expense on a business trip or what’s the dress code), and if my boss seemed confident in his response to me, I probably wouldn’t be inclined to double check it with other people, and I’m not sure I’d demand it in writing either because that would seem like I was expecting blow back and wanted it to land on my boss instead of myself (I guess maybe I should anyway). It’s hard to know what was said between the mentee and his boss since the OP is a third party who wasn’t privy to that conversation, but on the surface, it seems like mentee did right by asking.

        Reply
  14. Zip Silver

    #5 – I’ve had this happen a couple of times with Boomer applicants. That “walk in and shake the manager’s hand” advice is kind of annoying, to be honest. Just apply online and let me look through the applications on my own schedule.

    Reply
    1. Liane

      There’s the problem! That job searching advice is leaving out a few important steps:
      Follow Alison’s advice so you’re a great candidate, submit what they ask for & the way they ask you to, be on time if you get an interview slot–THEN “walk in and shake the manager’s hand.”

      Reply
    2. The Other Dawn

      My SIL is notorious for working the absolute bare minimum hours (part-time, barely) and letting mom and dad support her. She’s 50 years old, is working on her GED and is currently unemployed (again). My husband recently called MIL and they got talking about SIL. MIL said the SIL is “applying to jobs all over, but isn’t calling them frequently to follow up.” I was like (in the background), “No! That’s not how this works!” Gone are the days when you would “call to check the status of [your] application.” (UGH I cringe when I think how many times I did this on the advice of my parents when I was just starting out.)

      Reply
      1. Allison

        When I was looking for my first job, people gave me a lot of grief for only following up via email and not calling the office. One friend even told me I needed to print out a hundred copies of my resume, go downtown, and go into every office handing them out until I was out of resumes, then do the same the next day. Not sure if he was convinced everyone needed to hunt for jobs this way, or if he figured that with my humanities degree that was the only way I was gonna get anything.

        Reply
        1. Temperance

          My FIL did something like that … except he stood on a street corner and handed his resume to anyone who “looked important” (read: men in suits, exclusively men). It didn’t work out for him.

          Reply
          1. Saturnalia

            I kind of love this story whenever it comes up :-) it’s simultaneously facepalmy and cute in a “bless his heart” kinda way.

            Reply
        2. Gazebo Slayer

          My mother gives me advice like that. Claims her friend got a job that way – but it took her friend a year to find *anything.* I point this out – and also point out that Mom just retired and hasn’t job-searched in 25 years.

          Reply
        3. The Other Dawn

          100 copies?!

          In another conversation my MIL complained to my husband how every time SIL goes to the store/business to apply, they direct her to go online and apply. My sister does the same thing (she’s another one that has job retention issues and is 50+). She moans how businesses just keep turning her away and telling her to apply online and that “it shouldn’t be that way!” Well, that’s how things work nowadays. You know, in the 21st century. At least by having to apply online, it’s making them both learn how to use the computer…

          Reply
          1. Allison

            I worked in a bookstore, place had just opened and it was the middle of the summer, and a lot of teenagers came through, parents in tow, asking if we were hiring (sometimes they asked shyly, sometimes their parents asked for them), and we had to tell them to apply online because we didn’t have online applications in the store, and their faces would always fall. I get it, we have this vision of applying in person where they see you as a real person, you make an impression, and they’re more likely to remember you. We imagine the application going right into the manager’s hands, and they’re honestly glad to meet you because a position just opened up, why don’t you follow him to the back room to chat?

            Reality is, if you apply in person, not only do you have to fill out a long, pain-in-the ass form by hand, it goes to an associate who puts it in the pile where it may or may not be seen, depending on whether the store is actually hiring or whether the corporation insists they have a “join our team! we have flex schedules, store discounts, and pay you in real money” flyers posted somewhere, so the store has a nice pipeline of job-seekers for when they do need someone.

            Reply
            1. Kiki

              >We imagine the application going right into the manager’s hands, and they’re honestly glad to meet you because a position just opened up, why don’t you follow him to the back room to chat?

              So this actually happened to me once when I was a teenager. Turned out to be a sketchy enterprise and one day I found the office closed up, the owner’s number disconnected, and my boss totally unreachable. I also had two large boxes of product in my house for YEARS in case they came to reclaim it (they never did).

              Reply
              1. Allison

                It does happen, I’ve gotten a couple interviews that way (no jobs though), but it happens much less frequently than people want to think.

                Reply
            2. Amy

              >We imagine the application going right into the manager’s hands, and they’re honestly glad to meet you because a position just opened up, why don’t you follow him to the back room to chat?

              I actually had this happen about 7 years ago (so, still well into the era of online applications) for a fast casual dining cashier position. I suspect it’s because their turnover was extreme due to a terrible work environment, but I did literally walk in with a paper application and was hired on the spot. And this right after I’d been insisting to my mom that her advice of going storefront-to-storefront was outdated and wrong! It was still wrong in most cases, of course, but I’m pretty sure she will now believe until the day she dies that this is the correct way to job search.

              Reply
              1. Elizabeth West

                I can count on one hand the number of jobs I’ve seen lately that ask for an in-person application. I don’t apply to those because they typically pay shit, or they’re really behind technologically (tiny companies with outdated systems, etc.). The few times I did, the shabby offices and indifferent employees pretty much confirmed my suspicions.

                Reply
              2. Nacho

                Happened to me a decade ago looking for a summer job at Burger King, so I guess it used to be good advice (at least for the kind of places who will hire a 16 year old), but since then every job I’ve gotten has been online.

                Reply
            3. Specialk9

              I think restaurants still hire this way. We once had a guy go fill the salt shakers before his shift, joking and laughing, went for the pepper and we never saw him again. He just kept going. It was a fascinating but still baffling insight into why turnover in restaurants is so high. But other than restaurants… just no.

              Reply
      2. Emi.

        My grandfather told me to cold-call managers in the federal government and tell them I had a high GPA from Notre Dame and they should hire me! Even if they weren’t hiring!

        Reply
        1. Chicken

          That’s so wrong it’s kind of adorable. I bet it would have worked better when your grandfather was your age!

          Reply
    3. aebhel

      I actually got my current job by walking in and handing the manager my resume and cover letter, but it was kind of an odd, word-of-mouth situation anyway. Some places (small businesses especially) do still take paper applications, but not many. Half of the ‘tech support’ I do is helping older people set up email addresses so that they can apply online to, like, ShopRite. I hate this trend, but it’s unfortunately not going away anytime soon, not when it streamlines the process so much for employers.

      Reply
      1. Saturnalia

        The one job I got like this (student job at a university), handing in the application in person was also the entirety of the interview process. Are you a student? Are you conscious? Job’s yours.

        Reply
        1. Saturnalia

          Incidentally, it was also the most downtime I’ve ever had in any job ever (parking lot attendant). Most people would bring a laptop and game or study or surf… And I took advantage of the university library to read the entirety of their vintage science fiction collection :D When work has been crazy since then, I recall with fondness the years I was paid (minimum wage) to read.

          Reply
      2. Samata

        I have a close friend who has gotten 2 jobs this way; one with a big state hospital system in a non-medical role and one with a large national employer that had a location near her. I think it depends on the part of the country you are in, too.

        Reply
    4. paul

      My 60+ year old mother in law hasn’t had a job since my brother in law was born (nearly 30 years) and still likes to randomly share job hunting tips. I don’t know if they were good in 1980, but they aren’t good now and it drives me nuts.

      Reply
    5. bookish

      Yuuuuup. I’m a millennial (the dreaded word) and my dad is the moooooost baby boomer. He is why I called an office like once every fifteen minutes one day, trying to reach an interviewer I’d missed a call from. I’m so mortified that I did this now. (Later in the application process, in the follow up stage, he was really going overboard with his suggestions of what to write in the email to the interviewer and at that point I just tuned him out.)

      Reply
  15. Lizcat

    #1 I would just like to push back on the “grow up and work in a 9-5 job”. You can be an adult and work freelance. Or you can work 9-5 in an office.
    Whatever makes the most sense for your life is the best way to live.

    Reply
    1. Saturnalia

      Thank you!! I was surprised to hear this thinking because in my circles it’s far more common to “graduate” the 9-5 office job for self-employment/freelancing/contacting.

      Reply
    2. Been There, Done That

      I sometimes think of “freelance” as “small business owner.” I tried it and it was some of the hardest work I ever did, especially getting people to pay me.

      Reply
  16. Beth

    OP #1 – That sounds an awful lot like how part of my current job started out – one of my positions was working as the administrative coordinator. I got very few phone calls and maybe a little more email, and ran out of things to do quickly. I did the same thing you did, looking for other things to do, and I’d tackle them quickly too. I ended up asking to be involved in some larger projects, much like Alison suggested, and I ended up showing my supervisors that I was really skilled in what our office does (writing and delivering technology training), which led to them giving me more of that type of work to keep me occupied while I waited for emails and phone calls. And eventually, I got promoted to a salaried position with them, doing training development full time! So, if the company you’re working for focuses on something you enjoy or are skilled at, let someone know and show them you want to jump in and do a little more while you’re keeping an eye on front desk duties. I think they’ll appreciate your initiative, and you’ll get valuable experience that’ll help you when you’re looking to move up in the company.

    Reply
    1. WG

      I started with my company almost 30 years ago in an entry level job where I easily finished the work with lots of time left over. My employer cross-trained me with other areas for back-up and vacation coverage. At that was the start of my long career with the same employer. I’ve had opportunities to grow and advance and build a career. Smart employers nurture and develop their talent for mutual benefit.

      Reply
      1. Kiki

        My mom’s story is similar. She started as the part-time receptionist and left 20 years later, with her last role being the VP for her last 5 years. I wish more employers were nurturing like this!

        Reply
    2. Temperance

      I would caution that this doesn’t work everywhere. I tried this in my crappy admin job after college, and was just given more and more admin work (that others should have been doing). It didn’t help my career, because I was the most productive admin so they wanted to keep me down in that role. So, be careful.

      Reply
      1. A Person

        My rule of thumb with this situation is accept extra work as long as it’s valuable to you/your future but be prepared to jump ship with all your fancy extra knowledge and skills if it becomes clear management just want a workhorse.

        (I lost a job because I’m excellent workhorse but management didn’t want to give me the title and pay rise that should have gone with all the stuff I was doing.)

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yep — make it be a benefit to you — something that builds your resume and skills so that you can parlay that into a better job somewhere else if they don’t reward you for it there.

          Reply
      2. Elizabeth West

        Yep, I’ve had this issue in smaller companies where the only path to advancement (or off the front desk) was in accounting or sales, two areas in which I SUUUUUUUUCK.

        Reply
        1. OP - Bored at Work

          This was actually another big reason I took the job! The path upwards is really interesting to me, it’s involved with student affairs and theaters. I wouldn’t have accepted if I wasn’t hoping for those promotions some day. Haha- it feels weird to be so transparent about my ulterior motives!

          Reply
  17. Roscoe

    #3 Honestly, I kind of disagree here. I do think how it was framed matters a bit. However, if you are moving to a town you’ve never been to, and want someone to help you navigate it and find a new place, why does it matter who that person is? I know I’d think a lot more highly of a company who was willing to do that for me. Just because I’m not married, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a nice benefit. Also, it seems a bit much to mention that the friend is a trust fund baby? Does that really matter? If the wife was an heiress, would you recommend that she not use the benefit either? Also, would you draw the line at a “romantic partner”, if so, at what stage is it enough? Engaged? Dating long term? New relationship? Could a sibling use it?

    I guess I see this similar to using a +1 that everyone gets at a company party. If I want to bring my platonic best friend, why do you care?

    Reply
  18. Temperance

    LW2: bank tellers are more or less trained to be kind to chatty, nosy seniors. Does your grandmother object to your beard? I find it more plausible that your grandmother has feelings about beards, and she spouted off to this teller with “don’t you agree?” at the end.

    LW5: I personally wouldn’t call him back unless it’s to say that you can’t move forward with his candidacy because he didn’t provide a real transcript. Anything else will just be met with more crap.

    Reply
    1. Moonlight Elantra

      Can confirm. My husband has worked in retail banking (with a full beard the last few years, ironically) his whole career and I swear he spends 75% of his time making small talk with the elderly, who make up the vast majority of people who still do their banking at a brick-and-mortar branch.

      Reply
      1. Allison

        I swear, every time I go to the bank (used to deposit my checks in person like an idiot, now I go to get quarters for laundry) there’s either an elderly person who makes their transaction three times longer than it needs to be through small talk, or someone who needs some super complicated transaction they barely understand. It’s often both.

        I wish banks had express lines for introverts with quick transactions.

        Reply
      2. Falling Diphthong

        Huh. I do most of my banking online, but was adamant that we were sticking with a bank that had an actual brick and mortar office where I could go if anything went wrong.

        (We have new health insurance this month. Gosh I hope we get the actual numbers every doctor requires before anyone gets sick–my husband has tried online and on the phone and isn’t getting anywhere, even though it is a system that is supposed to be simple and error-free! I am sure his distant HR department has a piece of paper from the new insurance that says “Using our automated system to learn what your new insurance numbers are is easy and foolproof.”)

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth West

          Same here. My bank wants me to come in for anything that requires a signature. I don’t mind so much–the people are really nice.
          Although after writing a book about bank robbery, I look at everybody with a gimlet eye whenever I have to go in. Most perps are note-passers, but we have had quite a few armed robberies around here. They do tend to hit the same banks over and over, however.

          Reply
      1. Slow Gin Lizz

        OP5 said s/he plans to send a rejection letter. So no calling. (I second your recommendation not to call the student; that would just show him that if he calls enough (is irritating enough) he’ll get a call back. There’s no point in rewarding him for his terrible behavior.)

        Reply
    2. INTP

      Agree about the bank teller. This sounds like grandma has the issue about beards, and either went off about it and the teller agreed to be friendly, or she just made the whole thing up and threw in “A bank teller told me!” to sound like she has a credible source for knowledge of modern white collar environments. (My grandma, who worked in white collar environments in the 50s, was shocked to learn that I did not have to wear panty hose to work – at tech companies in Southern California – but luckily was adaptable enough not to insist I start wearing them, hah.) And FWIW, I think I know more professional men under 40 with well-groomed beards than without them. In some cases I think they actually grow them to look more mature and distinguished, and less baby-faced for a professional environment.

      Reply
      1. Rusty Shackelford

        My sister-in-law is a bank teller, and I can easily imagine her kindly smiling and nodding and agreeing with every opinion her customers have. Particularly the grandma types.

        Reply
      2. GWFar

        FW#2 here – I have some suspicion you may be right here. I don’t think she has an issue with beards in general, but my specifically having one is a relatively new development (I’m currently 24 and only started growing one 8 months ago) and it doesn’t seem to sit well with her. My girlfriend likes the beard, so on it stays.

        Still not a fan of the idea she’d lie to me like that to get me to shave it off though.

        Reply
  19. Re: Nine to Five

    I have one of those terrible office jobs where I rarely have enough to do to keep my physically/mentally occupied. I check my personal email, read the news, browse askamanager, look for other jobs, and listen to music or podcasts. It really is boring. Even though I’m not doing much, it still is exhausting. I would much rather have too much to do than not enough.

    Reply
    1. The Queen of Cans & Jars

      This is exactly what my days are like. :( I came to this job from teaching, and enjoyed how quiet it was for a couple of month, but 2 years in, I’m climbing the walls!

      Reply
    2. lill

      Me too. I’m so underwhelmed most of the time that I feel like screaming.

      To make it worse I’m sitting in a huge open space with people behind me. They are our client’s employees and my bosses, so they should see that I’m working. But if I have no work to do? And yes, I’ve tried asking for more work many times.

      So basically, I sit and watch my Outlook 5 h a day, not being able to read newspapers or to do any courses. If someone contacts me they usually get a reply in <5 minutes. I feel like crying really.

      Reply
      1. Specialk9

        They sell computer screen privacy covers. They’re fairly discreet looking, and nobody can see what you’re doing online. Can be pricy – $40-60 – but may be worth it for you.

        Reply
      2. idlemind

        Reading your situation makes my brain hurt, I so relate. :( I’m the type that hates being idle- what’s that saying “A salary is what they pay you to forget your goals”? It’s the most hopeless feeling- plus add a dash of guilt because you sound like a whiney little kid.

        Reply
  20. The Mighty Thor

    LW2: I myself have a full beard and mustache, and I’m gainfully employed at an office that trends slightly conservative. As long as it’s well-kept and you don’t look like a member of ZZ Top you should be fine.

    Reply
      1. Rusty Shackelford

        Though only 2/3 of them have beards. But yes, indeed. Dress for the job you want. Don’t forget the cheap sunglasses.

        Reply
  21. Grumpy Mouse

    I’ve recently been the friend that helped someone move to a new city and it was all above board. My friend can’t drive, and her new company offered to pay all relocation expenses. She asked them if it was OK to submit my car hire receipts (I drive but don’t have a car) & fuel receipts for reimbursement, on the understanding that I was hiring a car solely to drive my friend to/from her new city for house hunting/moving. Her new company were happy to do so, especially as it saved them a little money – the car hire & fuel costs were cheaper than a train ticket for the same journey.

    “Helping someone to move” can cover a wide spectrum – they may be physically helping shift things, or maybe they just know the city better so can help on a knowledge front, or maybe they’re a second pair of eyes when looking at houses/apartments. Maybe they are just there for emotional support – house hunting on your own is incredibly draining, and just having someone else there to have a coffee with between viewing appointments, or discuss the pros/cons of each place, can be a huge benefit.

    Reply
  22. Alli525

    I really think grandparents need to stop giving job-hunting advice. Age =/= wisdom in ALL areas of life.

    Reply
    1. Justme

      Especially my grandmother, who never worked outside of the home ever in her life. So her advice made literally no sense.

      Reply
  23. Channel Z

    OP#3: I am wondering about the extra details you have added in the letter. That his friend is a “bona fide trust fund baby” and “the friend could easily pay his own way.” The amount of money his friend makes is irrelevant. If the boss knows he not a spouse and approved the expense, then it really isn’t your concern. I think it is a big stretch to say this could “cause the company to end the benefit for others.” From my perspective, the tone of this letter comes across as judgemental.

    Reply
    1. MegaMoose, Esq.

      Yeah, I’m wondering if we’re missing something here, because I’m not seeing what’s so objectionable here. The letter says the trip is to “quickly go to his new city to find a new home, before the move.” Paying for the friend can’t be costing the company very much, in the grand scheme of things, and seems like the kind of thing a company relocating a hot up-and-comer would be happy to pay.

      Reply
    2. Rusty Shackelford

      I assumed it was because the OP was annoyed that this protege would do something that was not only risky, but completely unnecessary (at least in the OP’s opinion), since the company’s support wasn’t the only thing making the trip possible.

      Reply
      1. Roscoe

        But that really shouldn’t matter if it was “necessary”. It was a benefit. He asked if it could be for a friend, and they said yes. I don’t understand what it matters how rich or poor that friend is.

        Reply
        1. Rusty Shackelford

          {shrugs} I didn’t say that was my opinion, I said that was my best guess to the OP’s opinion.

          Reply
    3. Toph

      It reads to me like the OP thinks the friend misled the employer about the nature of the relationship, just to get his buddy a free trip. If so, then her points that the person getting the free trip could afford to just buy a ticket make more sense. I think the concern that the benefit may end would be that if the “abuse” were discovered, it might lead to such a thing. That doesn’t sound probable to me, and I think we need a lot more context about what he told the manager who approved it to evaluate if there is anything inappropriate about how this went down. Either OP has info she hasn’t shared that makes this more sketchy, or she’s assuming the worst. But we just don’t know.

      Reply
  24. Malibu Stacey

    The “I have a high GPA” doc is worse than nothing imo. No material mentioning the GPA could leave the applicant with plausible deniability that he forgot to include it, but the doc = “Your explicit instructions are open to interpretation if I feel like doing something different.” Bullet dodged.

    Reply
    1. Falling Diphthong

      Definitely not an attitude you want in the person responsible for correctly putting away books, files, or any other information.

      Reply
    2. Parenthetically

      Yeah, and I also read it as “I don’t know how to get a transcript” or “I tried and failed to get one.” But yes, as a teacher, nothing makes me hulksmash faster than, “I know you specifically said to do ABC, but I decided to do A, half of B, and a little bit of Z, K, and L instead.”

      Reply
  25. bohtie

    #3 – for what it’s worth, my company did the same thing, but I brought my brother instead of a friend. (I know that sounds weird as hell, but I was kinda young and he’s very outgoing so it was really helpful to have somebody who wouldn’t freeze up and forget which questions to ask the realtor and stuff. Fortunately I have a slightly better-developed skillset now!)

    Reply
    1. Murphy

      I don’t think that’s weird at all! I think it’s great to have someone else with you in a situation like that. No matter who it is, just a second opinion can be helpful.

      Reply
    2. LadyKelvin

      I was once that friend! I went along with a friend when she moved for her first job to be a second set of eyes and opinion sounding board while she searched for an apartment. I think its a very reasonable thing to do, most of my job was “look, it sounds to me like you like this place the best, why don’t you just take it.” So she did.

      Reply
  26. MegaMoose, Esq.

    LW2: Before we met, my husband managed to get his current job (and a number of other offers) as an attorney at a large law firm while sporting a pretty scraggly soul-patch situation. Apparently it was bad enough that once he had settled into the firm and found a mentor, some of his mentor’s first advice was to start shaving. But hey, it didn’t keep him from getting the job in the first place!

    Reply
  27. Xarcady

    #1. Two suggestions to make things a little less boring.

    1. Learn all you can about the software in use in your office. As an office manager/admin, knowing all the ins and outs of Outlook could be really useful. But also take any online tutorials for any other software. Even if you never use it, you do not know when it will come in helpful to be able to say, ” Hey, doesn’t X have a client contact feature? If you used that, you could do weekly updates easily.”

    Also become a pro at any office machines. Know the printers/copiers inside and out. Learn to clear any paper jam. Know how to use the specialized features other people don’t even know about. Become friendly with the repair people and learn their tricks to fix minor problems, to save the company from repair calls, but also to save the day when something breaks down at 4:45, with a 5 pm deadline.

    2. If the work the office does interests you, find out what is needed for that specialized degree and start working on it. You can use your downtime for reading and research. Consider night classes. Spend time with coworkers learning about what they do, and why they do it. Even if you decide not to get a degree, knowing more about what the company does can’t hurt.

    And if you decide you just can’t take the boredom, use your downtime to sharpen other skills to make you more marketable when you go looking for another job.

    Reply
    1. DaisyGrrl

      Another suggestion:

      Create an office resource guide. It doesn’t have to be fancy – a word document that provides an organized list of links to internal documents/procedures/folders as well as internet/intranet links of interest is more than sufficient. Many offices have fairly disorganized shared drives/resources so it can be a real lifesaver when trying to find a link to the leave forms/training policy/regulator’s website, etc. Since you’re a designer, I imagine you can easily make it look great and user-friendly as well (never underestimate how hard that can be for some).

      Ask around for what people wished they knew about when they first started, or what documents/links they’re always struggling to find. I’ve done it at a couple of places now, and found it to be a useful tool as well as a good way to connect with colleagues.

      Reply
      1. JulieBulie

        This is a great idea. I made up a guide like that once, just for my own convenience, and we ended up using it for everyone. Neat little extra to include on my resume, too.

        Reply
    2. Parenthetically

      A big +1 on this and DaisyGrrl’s suggestion for an office resource guide!

      I’d also add, become a keen observer of the office in general. Learn the systems that are already in place, find out why they’re in place, and see if you can look for areas where the systems you touch can be improved in subtle ways (even just by running things according to existing protocols!). You answer phones: how’s the phone system? Who lets every call go to voicemail and is there a better way to deal with messages for that person? You order office supplies: from where? Why there and not somewhere else? Is there someplace with better products, delivery options, prices? What about the supply closet — do you manage that? Is it organized/optimized? If not, can it be changed or is the current system in place for a reason? Not to come in and try to push against existing protocols, but to investigate current systems and make them work as well as possible.

      A good office manager is worth their weight in gold.

      Reply
      1. OP - Bored at Work

        Yes!!! Thank you all for this advice especially! I hadn’t quite thought to look at the office from an even broader view and tackle the technology there. That wakes up my ‘design mind’, too, I can totally bite into that kind of project.

        Thank you!

        Reply
    3. Sunshine on a cloudy day

      Adding my own suggestion (with the caveat that you will most likely need buy-in from above) – I was in a super boring (very similar sounding role). I would pay attention to anyone going out of town and then would check in to see if there were any essential tasks I could help fill in for. Eventually I became “unofficial” backup for a couple of different employees and it was a great way to get involved in different departments and interact with more people.

      Also any task given to me, I took as far as I possibly could. Or if I wasn’t 100% I’d have approval I’d offer specific suggestions – “I’ve done A, B and C – would you like me to do D for you?”. That did lead to me sort of naturally growing some of my responsibilities/tasks.

      Reply
  28. SarahTheEntwife

    LW1: Yep, that sounds like my first job. Super boring. Luckily my boss was completely aware that it was boring and encouraged me to find some webcomics or something to keep me occupied. It was a really good first job for me since it was impossible to fail at if you had basic office skills — even the couple of moderately-serious mistakes I made could be fixed with a little scrambling since there wasn’t going to be anything else I was doing that day.

    But I really don’t want that sort of job again. Even my current job has more downtime than I’d like, and I find if I have one thing I absolutely need to get done and more time than I need, I will put it off until the last minute anyway. I need a little urgency in my day.

    Reply
  29. Nervous Accountant

    Re #1—ooo im wondering if that can be another ask the readers type thread where we talk about what we do on a daily basis

    or would that be too boring? :-/

    Reply
    1. Fabulous

      I like that idea! I regularly have downtime when I’ve finished all my work and would love ideas of things to do (aside from reading the AAM archives!)

      Reply
    2. The Other Dawn

      I was just thinking that, actually. I think it would be really interesting. Especially if someone is thinking of changing careers. Obviously, tasks will vary within the same position, but I think it could be useful. I’m actually thinking of going in a WAY different direction in a few years, and it would be really helpful to get an idea of what it could be like.

      Reply
    3. Epsilon Delta

      When I was considering switching fields, I came across a website that had a few people describe their typical day and it really gave me a good sense of what a typical workday would look like. It included how that fit into their personal life too like, “I get up at 7 and take the dog for a walk…. At work I do tasks Y and Z…I attend meetings about blah blah blah… I have dinner with my family… I check my email one more time before watching my favorite TV show and calling it a night”. It would be super interesting to see what commenters’ typical days look like!

      Reply
    4. Ramona Flowers

      Love this idea. It goes back to that whole thing of thinking about the specific tasks involved in a job.

      Reply
  30. Ms. Efficient

    OP#1, I was in your shoes for about 3 years, until several admin assistants at my office retired or resigned, and weren’t replaced. Now my workload has picked up significantly. Here’s a list of useful things I did to kill time –
    1. Listen to a podcast. I like This American Life, Fresh Air, Here’s the Thing, Awesome Etiquette and Ask a Clean Person
    2. Research books you want to read, and place them on “hold” online at your local library
    3. Order groceries – from Shipt, or Walmart grocery pickup, etc.
    4. Balance your checkbook
    5. Research vacations
    6. Use Amazon wishlist to identify holiday/birthday gifts for friends and family
    7. Read the newspaper
    8. Check your credit report (free once a year)
    9. Review places you’ve visited on TripAdvisor
    10. Pay bills
    11. Research recipes
    12. Online shopping
    13. Find blogs you enjoy and check them daily for new posts

    Good luck!

    Reply
  31. asfjkl

    OP 1 – You are me and I am you! I have a creative background (tho wasn’t freelancing) and now am stuck in a front desk job with absolutely nothing to do. It’s excruciating. I gave up asking for more work months ago (because there isn’t any). During my review my boss said, “I can’t imagine how bored you are.” I bring in my laptop and do occasional freelance design work, apply for jobs, surf the net. I read on my iPad, listen to podcasts, and watch Lynda videos. I do a lot of drawing, bill paying, online shopping, and Instagram browsing. I have personally given up on trying to look like I’m doing work-related work because 1. I hate it here, 2. Everyone is weird, and 3. Clearly nobody cares. On the rare occasion a phone rings or we have a client show up, I do good work. So they really have nothing to complain about.

    I’m trying to get out and work in ad agencies and eventually move into a FT in-house design job. For those who aren’t designers, they can be creative and a lot of graphic design jobs (especially in print) pay poorly. I’m currently enrolled in online courses to learn at web/UX/UI.

    Good luck! I know it’s really tough.

    Reply
    1. asfjkl

      *Competitive, not creative. Oops!

      **Podcasts: Creative Pep Talk, 2 Dope Queens, Pod Save America, Pod Save the People, Overtime (Dribbble’s newish podcast),Late Nights with Trav and Los

      Reply
    2. Lindrine

      You might also enjoy the Creative South podcast if you are interested in getting back into the design industry. My buddy Jason Frostholm interviews a different creative every week. Also if you like vidcasts, Design Recharge by Diane Gibbs is very good.

      Reply
  32. CappaCity

    OP 5 – I would only count and give feedback on the phone calls that the applicant actually connected to another person on. It still sounds like he went way overboard, but I know if I called and got no answer and didn’t leave a voicemail, I would have no expectation that the person I was calling would know I had tried to reach them. I’d keep trying in that case as well. Yes, he should have left one voicemail and called it done, but he would have no way of knowing you were getting emails for each of his unanswered calls. Annoying still, but don’t count those 4 or so calls against him.
    I’d also give his incorrect application the most weight when providing feedback to him. If he hadn’t been pestering you, that application would have got him rejected outright, which means it’s the biggest problem. Absolutely give the feedback on the follow up contact because it’s a huge issue, but don’t make it sound like he would have got an interview otherwise. You’re not really rejecting him because of the calling, but because he didn’t submit the proper documentation.

    Also, make sure he isn’t left thinking that this feedback is a door for him to re-apply. Sounds like he might be the kind of person who might take it that way.

    Reply
    1. LBK

      It still sounds like he went way overboard, but I know if I called and got no answer and didn’t leave a voicemail, I would have no expectation that the person I was calling would know I had tried to reach them.

      Really, you wouldn’t? Pretty much every modern office phone system has a call log, so even without the missed call emails it would be extremely easy to see you’d gotten multiple calls from the same number. That’s the first thing I check when I see the missed call flag on my desk phone.

      Reply
      1. Rusty Shackelford

        My phone only indicates when I have a message, not a missed call. I can check the missed call log if I’m curious, but there’s nothing jumping out at me to tell me I missed one.

        Reply
        1. LBK

          Huh, weird. My phone has both a button that lights up red when I have a missed call as well as an icon on the screen that indicates a missed call, and I don’t think we have particularly fancy phones here. They’re pretty standard-issue Cisco desk phones.

          Reply
        2. Falling Diphthong

          Both my cell and land line display an alert about every missed call until I go through and look at the numbers. I assume they are almost certainly robo-sales calls and I would disable this feature if I knew how, but someone has set up “pester” as the default.

          Reply
      2. CappaCity

        Really, I wouldn’t. The only way my work phone alerts me to any missed calls is if a voicemail is left. Every phone system I’ve used in every office I’ve worked in has been the same. So no – not every modern phone system work the way yours seems to, and I wouldn’t expect a landline to be logging the calls the way I’m used to a cell phone doing it.

        However – since apparently it needs to be said – I would have left a voicemail after the first call. Which is what this applicant should have done, of course, but I still wouldn’t count those non-connects against him.

        Reply
        1. LBK

          But does yours have a call log, even if it doesn’t have a missed call indicator?

          If nothing else, I’d at least anticipate a coworker to say “Geez, someone has been blowing up your phone all day” (I’ve said that to coworkers who got a ton of calls while away, although we’re a low call volume department in general so it stands out when someone gets more than one or two a week).

          Reply
        2. SarahKay

          Seconded. I was thinking pretty much the same as you, that the candidate might easily not have realised that OP would see notifications for the missed calls. And as someone who’s not a huge fan of leaving voicemails (yes I do do it, but not comfortably), I could so easily have been that person, especially when I was younger.
          And like you, my phone does have a call log, but only flags if I have voicemail. It’s a Cisco VOIP phone, so not especially outdated.

          OP, there are definitely problems with the candidate (“I have a high GPA”) but you could probably cut him a little slack on the number of contacts. If you’re feeling especially kind, you could also give him the heads-up that in modern offices dropped calls with no voicemail can still show and be annoying.

          Reply
      3. Elizabeth the Ginger

        Also, there are reasons why someone might be in their office and not picking up the phone (in a meeting with someone, for example). Calling repeatedly is a guaranteed way to annoy the person you want to impress in that case.

        Reply
        1. LBK

          Yeah, this is the real point – regardless of whether you expect that the person will be able to tell or not, it’s a breach of work phone etiquette to hound someone like that for anything but an urgent issue (and even then, I don’t see any reason you wouldn’t leave a voicemail).

          Reply
      4. another person

        I think our phones at work technically have a way to see missed calls, but no one ever checks them (or knows how to) so if someone called us and was expecting us to know that they tried to contact us without leaving a message (especially if it was an unknown number… I tend not to call those back without a message), they would be out of luck.

        Reply
      5. CappaCity

        Look, this guy is a student who is probably mostly used to cell phones, not someone who’s used to working with the type of landline phones that are in offices. I don’t think it’s necessarily reasonable to expect him to have considered that the calls he made that didn’t connect to anyone would be logged and, most importantly, sending obnoxious emails to the person he was trying to reach. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, it’s possible he thought this subset of his calls went into the ether.

        But this is really a moot point as far as the decision the OP made is concerned, because over all he was way to aggressive in other ways and a poor applicant over all. All I’m saying is prioritize the other feedback, and don’t focus on these 4 specific calls if you’re listing out the ways he was too aggressive.

        All OP needs to tell him he should have called once and left a voicemail, then waited for their response. If OP wants to get more detailed in the interest of helping a student improve, I think the four hang ups should be the last item on the list.

        Reply
        1. LBK

          If all he’s used to is cell phones, wouldn’t that make it even more egregious since cell phones log every call and also give you a notification for every missed call? That’s a point against him, not in favor.

          Reply
          1. LBK

            And I also don’t see why you wouldn’t include that as part of the feedback. It’s important for him to know that calling someone that a) yes, some people will be able to tell that you called them that many times, and b) doing so is way too aggressive and will likely piss off the people who are able to tell.

            Reply
      6. who?

        My phone shows that I missed a call and there’s a call log to check. However, I do not call back numbers that do not have a corresponding voicemail. I’ve always operated on the assumption that if you want me to call you back, you’ll leave a message explaining why you called. If there’s no message, I’m not calling back. (I use the same MO for missed calls to my cell from unknown phone numbers. I’ll only call back if it’s a number that is saved in my phone).

        Reply
      7. nonegiven

        Multiple hangups from the same number on my personal phone is the fast way to get your number assigned ‘no ring’ and to my GV number gets assigned to spam, where they get the disconnected recording.

        There is no way in this day and age that you can call someone and assume they won’t know who it was and how many times they called and hung up on vm.

        Reply
    2. An Inspector of Gadgets

      Also, make sure he isn’t left thinking that this feedback is a door for him to re-apply. Sounds like he might be the kind of person who might take it that way.

      Since it’s a school context, wouldn’t it be reasonable if he were to take all the critiques and apply properly the next semester, to still give him a shot?

      Reply
      1. fposte

        Unless she tells him not to, it’s not unreasonable for him to do, but it’s also not unreasonable for the OP to consider him ineligible.

        Reply
      2. CappaCity

        Since the OP said that the application window was closed in the letter, I meant that the applicant shouldn’t be expecting to fix the issues with his application and turn around and re-submit it. I wasn’t talking about re-applying in the future if/when the role is open again.

        Reply
      3. tigerStripes

        The LW said that this guy basically harassed the person who took his call. I wouldn’t want to hire someone like that.

        Reply
    3. Temperance

      Almost all modern phone systems show missed calls. Those calls should absolutely count against him. I mean, he was terrible in so many amazing ways that I’m not sure one solitary thing did it.

      Reply
    4. PaperTowel

      I agree. If a call didn’t get answered I’d act as if it hadn’t happened in the eyes of the recipient as they didn’t answer so assumedky didn’t know I rang. I might easily ring multiple times in a day and would never guess they could know I’d already rang.

      Reply
  33. Temperance

    LW1: when I had a very boring summer internship where I basically sat at the box office of a community theater and spoke to maybe 2 people/day, I taught myself extreme couponing and did a lot of reading. Is there a skill you’d like to learn or expand?

    Reply
  34. CM

    I wonder if OP#1 could continue doing some graphic design work, or at least keeping up with her skills, in the downtime at work? I know you’re not supposed to do paying work for somebody else while on the clock, but there may be some tasks that OP could get done.

    When I had a job like this, I taught myself a new programming language and wrote an interactive fiction game (text-only computer game) that I gave out to friends as Christmas presents.

    Reply
  35. Amber Rose

    LW#1, I have been working a 9-5 job for years and even I’m not sure what the answer is to this question. I do a fair amount of reading and research. Office managers often are in charge of making things run smoothly, so see if there’s anything some department does that could use your organizational skills and talk it over with your boss. I find it works better to ask your boss if you can do something, rather than ask them for something to do.

    Reply
    1. OP - Bored at Work

      “ask your boss if you can do something, rather than ask them for something to do.” Solid gold approach, thank you. The switch from “I am in charge” to “They are in charge” has taken away a lot of my go-get-’em, self-starting mindset that I’ve relied on in the past. I’m getting the message from commenters that this isn’t really the case just because I’m in an office and have a boss now!

      Reply
      1. Specialk9

        Oh lord yes! It may not work in every job, but being a self starter who advocates for themself clearly to managers… solid gold. Many managers are up to their eyebrows in work, so if you can identify a problem and several potential solutions, the chance of a yes goes way up.

        Reply
  36. boop the first

    #1. You were able to work freelance for 5 years… I understand if the actual reason is that it wasn’t “for you” in which case, you do you. But did you really give up all of that control over your life only because you felt it was more mature to be promoted by a manager? You… you can “promote” yourself when freelancing… When you build up a lot of clients you increase your own rates.

    There’s just GOT to be more to this story than what’s written…

    Reply
    1. teclatrans

      “Felt it was more mature to be promoted by a manager” seems really disparaging, in addition to being neither stated not implied in the letter.

      We don’t know why the LW took this job, but If we are going to speculate, full-time employment generally comes with insurance (and other) benefits and a steady paycheck. The LW might have been in need of one of those things, for a multitude of reasons. (I know freelancing has been more possible thanks to the ACA, but some states make those costs prohibitive, and someone with preexisting conditions might feel compelled to get employer-provided insurance in preparation for potential upcoming changes in healthcare coverage.)

      Reply
      1. OP - Bored at Work

        Yep – crazy good benefits here, a giant network larger than what I have been able to build myself being new in a new city, and also my boss contacted me personally for the position from knowing me socially. I’m wary of refusing opportunities like that.

        Reply
    2. Elizabeth West

      What teclatrans said. Insurance and the fact that I’m not so great with numbers (therefore finances) keeps me from freelancing much. I tend to do it as a side gig if I do it at all.

      Reply
  37. BenAdminGeek

    “I was informed by my grandmother that, according to a teller she spoke to at a bank”

    I feel like 90% of bad job info starts with a sentence like this.

    Reply
    1. Alex

      Amen! One of the owners of my company had a beard, a couple of pretty high up execs do, and I myself have a pretty mighty beard. And my company works with lots of very conservative financial institutions. In a lot of ways we have to be as conservative as they are and it’s never been an issue in the 5+ years I’ve been here.

      Reply
  38. NoHose

    To the office manager, OP1: Could you also take on operational issues – repairs, toilet breakdowns, dealing with the landlord, etc.? Could you be the keeper of office keys and basic security? Could you also take on health and safety, form the committee, take the training, do the monthly inspections, follow up on the issues reported? What about mail and couriers? Be the floor/fire warden? First aider (1st aid kits required quarterly insepctions)?

    I had the title of Administrative Coordinator but I did all of the above and more while also ordering pens and answering the phones and this easily filled up my day (some days more than others, of course). It kept my job quite varied. Talk to your boss!

    Reply
  39. bookish

    #5 – I would write off the, um, extra persistence as lack of experience with the workforce and interviewing (though it’s still not good)… but the fact that he didn’t even follow the instructions for applying, and simply wrote “I have a high GPA” too suggests an insufferable cockiness.

    Since this is a student and it would be so valuable to him to learn right now – students really don’t tend to get enough useful advice on applying for jobs, which is so important – I’d absolutely contact him (by email?) and explain to him why he is being taken out of the running, framed as advice for the future. Let him know what’s considered an acceptable amount of times to contact the employer and what medium is acceptable for that (probably never calling an unlisted number), etc etc, and why it betrays a lack of knowledge of interviewing decorum and likely a bad “character fit” for the workplace. And don’t forget to explain the importance of following the instructions for applying and including all the requested materials – that’s also enough to disqualify someone, isn’t it?

    Reply
  40. overcaffeinatedandqueer

    What do people in 9-5 jobs do?

    Well, frankly, I fart around on AAM and Dear Prudence, “read” audiobooks, and write, whenever there’s nothing urgent.

    Pro-tip for writers: if you keep your handwriting small and do it longhand, it looks like you could conceivably be writing work stuff.

    Reply
  41. AcctTam

    #1 – As a person who has worked in the 9-5 office environment for over 30 years, I can say that you are not an office manager. I saw one person mention this, but if you were told you are the office manager, it’s incorrect. The reason you have this position may be because of a lack of work experience in an office environment. I work with a few people that are starting their first jobs in our office. They don’t know what to do and spend time on the internet or on their phones instead of asking for work. It’s up to the office manager/supervisor to teach them how the office workload should be and who they should be talking to when they run out of work. My advice to you is to talk to your supervisor about the situation and see if there are other tasks you can do or who you can be helping. Any experience in an office environment will help with future positions, whether with this company or another.

    Reply
  42. De Minimis

    #1–I’ve been trying to answer this question for years. I’ve had some office jobs when I was super busy sometimes and not other times, but I’ve always had this feeling that I might not be doing enough, probably because I used to work a traditional job where you doing more physical work and it was clear what you were supposed to be doing at all times.

    Sometimes there’s a mismatch between workload and staffing. The frustration can go both ways. I supervise a temp that I didn’t really want to hire [was told to do so by my boss], and struggle to find work for the person to do, other than a few regular tasks each month that don’t take up more than a few days to do. I’ve often had them take on things that I normally do, but then that gives me less to do. I’ve decided next summer I’m going to try to push back and convince my boss to go without hiring a temp. During the school year we hire students who work around 20 hours a week and that’s generally the level of coverage we need but can’t ever seem to find one who will stick around over the summer.

    Reply
  43. Kathryn

    LW1 – Does your company offer any professional development or access to software trainings? My job slows down in the summer so I typically take that time to learn some new skills. Right now, I’m learning how to code HTML through Code Academy. Of course, I’d definitely recommend talking to your boss first about what projects you might be able to take on, but if you have some downtime and are looking for things to do, maybe check into some professional development.

    Reply
      1. Ramona Flowers

        Yay!

        Also, I really like the Mind Tools website for professional development stuff, and FutureLearn.

        Reply
  44. Anonymous Educator

    #1. Not all 9-5 jobs are like that, as others have mentioned. Sometimes they are quite busy. That said, many people’s 9-5 jobs are like what you’re experiencing. When my spouse worked a 9-5 office job, she used to send me emails all the time saying “I’m bored.” The problem is that many 9-5 office jobs don’t reward efficiency. They mandate you are there from 9 to 5 and give you a set of tasks. If you complete those tasks quickly, you don’t get to leave early. But some of us are just efficient by nature, whether there are rewards or not, so we then end up with nothing to do during the times we’re mandated to stay sitting there.

    If you’re fortunate, your job will also give you a degree of freedom with your down time. Perhaps, then, you could write a book, take an online course, or even do online shopping (depending on your office culture and how your manager is).

    But you can also look into other things to do related to the office. How is the documentation in your workplace? Does it exist? Is it out of date? Is it not comprehensive? You could create or streamline that. You could look into what the system is for ordering office supplies or doing mailings. Anything to improve there? What about reporting? How much do you know about Excel or SQL? There’s very likely stuff you can improve in terms of how data is stored and reported out.

    I’ve been in busy 9-5 jobs and not-busy 9-5 jobs, and each can be rewarding in its own way. Fortunately, the non-busy 9-5 jobs I’ve had have also given me the flexibility to use down time to learn new skills and improve things and not just sit there staring at a wall.

    Reply
  45. Jady

    #1 –
    You said you started this job, how long have you been there so far? Every job I’ve ever had always starts very slowly. The people don’t know you or your skillsets, you’re not yet trained to do anything, etc.

    If your less than 6 months in, I would suggest giving it more time. Ramp ups sometimes take a really long time.

    I’d also recommend if you are able to make friends, ask to shadow those people or ask your boss about it. Figure out what they do, how they do it, learn about the company’s products/services, etc.

    At least, it’s something to keep you busy, and you might find ways to help out.

    Also, if your company is on the smaller side, they might be willing to give you graphical work too for things like news letters or logos.

    If you’re over 6 months in though, it might be worth considering where you might like your role expanding and talk to your boss about it. Would you like to plan office parties? Would you like to help with inventory? Documentation? Would you want to be assigned to a specific project to help a busy project manager? These kinds of responsibilities can open some doors to more interesting things long term.

    Just ideas to consider.

    Reply
    1. OP - Bored at Work

      Thank you for that advice, Jady- I think that’s great perspective. I’ve been in the job for two months, and shadowing people has been especially useful. I’ve started to learn that there’s a time frame in the beginning where I can justifiably be away from the desk in the excuse of learning new information, so I’m being a golem and trying to be as greedy with information and learning as much about the office workings as I can!

      Reply
      1. Specialk9

        A golem? A clay zombie that protects Jews? Cool! :D

        /yeah, I know it’s a Swype typo, but it made me smile!

        Reply
        1. OP - Bored at Work

          Ha! Make that ‘Gollem’ with two L’s. Every new nugget of information becomes “My precioussssssss”.

          Reply
  46. gmg

    In 2017, the only places I can think of where facial hair is still not professionally accepted are a)military boot camp or b)the dugout of the New York Yankees. And I can’t stand the Yankees.

    OP #2, I suspect the commenter above, who thinks your grandma asked that teller a leading question to elicit this opinion, has it right. I’m sure Grandma loves you and means well, but feel free to nicely ignore this advice.

    Reply
    1. nonegiven

      Firemen. The air pacs they wear to avoid inhaling smoke won’t seal over a beard, so they have to stick to mustaches.

      Reply
  47. steve

    I have called people many times and not left a message. I didnt realize that they know that I called if I didnt leave a message. I dont like to leave a message and would rather talk to a person. So maybe that is part of what is happening in question 5.

    Reply
    1. Ramona Flowers

      I have a computer programme that notifies me of every missed landline call. It’s best to assume people know.

      Reply
    2. Bea

      Caller ID will log how many times you have had a missed call from a number. That’s why even though the horrible newspaper that keeps trying to call me to resubscribe is blocked from my phone but I still see every time those turkeys try to call me in my call log >:[

      They know how many times you called, they get a reading on their phone screen that says “6 missed calls” and you scroll through them if you don’t have a program that emails you like the letter writer mentions.

      Reply
  48. Landshark

    LW2, most employers don’t care at the interview stage as long as you’re well-groomed. I have a friend who just got hired to a new job with a no facial hair policy, and they still hired him with the beard so long as he shaves and remains clean-shaven for work. Having it for interviews shouldn’t hurt you, and the workplaces that do care are the exceptions, not the rule.

    Reply
    1. Eh? Non Y. Mouse

      I often wonder for places with a no facial hair policy how they get around the possible discriminatory side of it where facial hair is important to certain Jewish sects and Sikhs (and possibly others but those are the ones that come to mind first).

      They’d have to accommodate in those instances would they not?

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth West

        I would assume so, but I guess it would depend on the job. If you had to wear a respirator, you might have to shave anyway because a beard can interfere with the face seal.

        Reply
  49. Bea

    #5, I had the worst experience trying to help someone who had limited social skills to land a job and pestered his way into a position we were filling. I wouldn’t bother with this person, a standard rejection letter is fine because there’s very little you can without feeling exhausted and overwhelmed when he tries to talk back to you about the feedback you give.

    Reply

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