short answer Saturday: 6 short answers to 6 short questions

It’s short answer Saturday once again — six short answers to six short questions. Here we go…

Figuring out pay as a contractor

I have never worked as a contractor but was contacted about a potential contract job and asked to provide my pay requirements plus gas cost. The contract job is simular to my old salary job that paid $49,000 but has a little more responsibilites. I would have to drive 60 miles round trip. I have estimated that it would cost me around $13.31 per day or $66.55 a week. I’m trying to take all factors into consideration. Do I simply tack on the cost of gas? Also, which is better, salary or hourly?

Keep in mind that as a contractor, you’ll be paying your own payroll taxes and won’t be getting benefits like health care or paid time off. Therefore, you don’t want to just divide your former salary into an hourly rate and add on gas. A commonly cited rule of thumb is to figure out what your salary broke down to hourly and then double it — but I’d say to do some research online and figure out what makes sense for your particular context.

As for which is better, salary or hourly pay, it varies depending on your circumstances and priorities. But there’s a ton of info online about how to figure this out; start researching!

Phone-interviewing when sick

I woke up this morning with little to no voice; a very raspy sick sounding voice. This wouldn’t be a big deal if it was just another ordinary day, but no, today, I had a phone interview. Perfect timing, huh! Anyway, I didn’t have time to reschedule, so I went ahead and picked up the phone. My question is was this brave or pure stupidity?  Are most managers understanding of this situation? I tried my best, but being put under pressure made my voice worst; I could barely muster a good morning. I did manage to ask her if she was able to understand me to which she replied “hmm yes, a little” and so we decided to continue with the conversation. I hope this doesn’t take me out of the running. Did this make me look more determined or just stupid? I wish I could take it all back!

Hmmm. I have no idea how you did in the interview, but I would have rescheduled, even if you only had half an hour before the call time — being barely able to talk isn’t exactly conducive to interviewing well. However, once you got on the phone, if she could only hear you “a little” — as she claimed — she should have suggested rescheduling at that point.

How can I stop gossiping at work?

I need advice about a difficulty with my job: gossip. This is my own fault. I would like to say that I have been unwillingly sucked into gossiping/complaining with my coworkers about other coworkers. However, I am ashamed to admit that the truth is I have been a willing participant. But now I want out! Because my department is very small, I really risk my complaints getting back to one of my other co-workers, deeply hurting them, and damaging my reputation. I’m beginning to think that this is a silly question because the answer seems obvious – just stop participating, right? I have started to not say anything when my co-workers complain to me and just nod along. But, I would like to get to the point where no one includes me in their complaining/gossiping at all. What can I say or do to get myself out of this situation?

Well, good for you for making this vow. I’m a big believer that the more you complain about something, the more it will bother you. So I’d bet that you might actually find yourself happier at work by cutting out the gossip.

And yep, the first step is to stop gossiping.

However, if you’re nodding along when other people gossip and complain, you’re not really “not gossiping,” at least not in other people’s eyes. I’d just be candid with your gossiping coworkers — why not tell them that you’ve realized you’ve been doing too much gossiping, that you’re unhappy with it, and that you’re resolving to stop? Tell them that you’re going to make a point of not participating in any gossip/complaint sessions anymore, and ask for their help in not tempting you. That way, if they start, you can forthrightly remove yourself from the conversation, and they’ll have the context to know why. And being candid about your vow might inspire some of them to cut down on their own gossiping as well, which would be a nice side effect.

I saw my job posted

I am currently interning (and underemployed) at a firm.  When I accepted the job, I was told they intended for it to turn into a permanent position after a couple of months.  Well, a few months have passed and they aren’t in a position to offer me a permanent job.  So, I’ve continued looking for other jobs.

While searching for job openings today, I came across a post for my current position.  The position was posted recently.  I’ve had a couple of feedback meetings with my direct supervisor, and she has not mentioned any problems with my performance.  She has given me feedback on improving a couple of minor things, but they were very minor.  She also said I was dealing well with the higher level assignments I’ve received.  She has also been very honest about the possibility of a permanent position opening up, and the current state of the firm’s business (the firm is doing well, but not well enough they can justify adding another salaried position to my department).  I need this job, and I am afraid that they are going to fire me.  Is there anything I can do?   If I’m not performing poorly, I’d like to know.  Should I approach my supervisor about this?

You saw your temp position posted, or a permanent version of it?  Either way, yes, of course you should talk to her. If the job you saw posted is a permanent position, tell her that you saw the ad and you’re extremely interested in applying for it, and ask her for her assessment of the strength of your candidacy. If the job you saw was for your current temp position, tell her that you saw it and ask what its implications are for your own continued tenure.

Can I put volunteer work for a church on my resume?

I’m currently employed at a call center job that I hate. I’m looking to transition into graphic design, which I love and am fairly good at, but my only real experience in this field is volunteer design work I do for my local church. I’ve been working in this capacity for a few years now, so I do have a pretty decent portfolio built up. I know you’re ok with including volunteer work on a resume – I’m wondering if that changes if the charitable organization is a church? If so, how should I address that without making a potential employer uncomfortable due to discrimination laws?

Unless the church is something crazy and near-universally offensive like the funeral-picketing Westboro Baptist Church, I wouldn’t worry about this at all. There’s all sorts of stuff that you shouldn’t leave off a resume that could indicate that you’re part of a protected class (volunteer work for a church, enrollment at a traditionally African American university, a leadership role in a networking group for women, etc.); it’s very normal.

Will negotiating salary prevent me from getting an offer?

I recently went on a job interview for a job that is much closer to where I live than my current job and I would love to work there. The company has called 2 out of the 3 references and seems very interested. My only concern is that at this new job, I would be making $5 less an hour. I would like to negotiate my wages, but I’m concerned that with the way the economy is right now that it may hinder me from getting that final job offer. Any suggestions on how I should approach this?

Yes. You don’t want to negotiate until you get the offer. The idea is that you want to wait for them to have decided that they want you before you start negotiating. Once you get an offer, ask them if they can match your current salary (or, hell, negotiate for more).

{ 10 comments… read them below }

  1. Kimberlee*

    Regarding the phone interview question: didn’t you just answer that like 4 days ago? About how interviewing sick is a bad idea?

      1. Anonymous*

        I asked this question. I felt my case was a little different from an in person interview. Anyway, I also wanted to give an update; I guess my voice was not as bad as I thought it was because I got a call back for an in person interview =)

  2. Ask an Advisor*

    Re: Can I put volunteer work for a church on my resume?
    Several students of mine have been in similar situations. I advised them to always make sure their resumes focused on the work they did and not the organization itself or any particular religious practice. Basically, if you don’t make it an issue, the person reading your resume wouldn’t be inclined to give it a second thought either.

  3. Esra*

    Re: the church work on a resume.

    As a graphic designer, you’ll have to work with so many different groups, creating designs that vary greatly in tone and appeal.

    I think as long as you have some good work and experience to show and talk about with a particular job/volunteer position/etc, then it’s valuable.

    The focus should be on the quality and creativity of what you created, and how it helped the client, not who the client is.

  4. Charles*

    “Figuring out pay as a contractor.”

    Yes, research the hell out of this – you don’t want to get stuck spending money when you should be making money. Here are just a couple of suggestions, my two-cents worth beyond just “pay,” But, please, do further research:

    * Be sure to include expenses (not just “gas”) when negotiating what they will reimburse you. For example; when I do freelance training I make sure that THEY pay for the printed materials, the price of photocopying training manuals/handouts is NOT included in my fee. (I’d go broke and owe money if I didn’t make them pay for training materials)

    * Be sure that you get a timeframe in which they will pay/reimburse you – unlike for an employee, who is normally paid within 2 weeks, they might take 3o, 60, or even 90 days to “pay.” Can you wait that long?

    * Be sure that you clearly state what your goals are and what happens if those goals are NOT met, especially if you do everything possible to meet the goals; but they do not. Who’s at fault? If you are, then be prepared to reduce your fee or not get paid. However, if they do not supply what you need to met those goals will they try to not pay you? Be clear about this – you don’t want to get burnt because of someone else’s lack of responsibility. Don’t assume because they are “nice” that they won’t pull this crap – they will, even “nice” guys can be jerks when it comes to money. Afterall, someone will have to explain to her boss why they are paying for a service that they didn’t receive – why not just blame the contractor for falling down on the job, even if it is one of the employees who is at fault?

    * Establish a “point person.” That is ONE person that is your contact at that organization. Although, I think it is important for an ordinary employee to let the boss know when someone else is falling behind and preventing you from reaching those goals; as a contractor, it is absolutely essential that you let the “point person” know everything going on. You don’t want to get into a situation in which no one at the organization is helpful because they don’t feel that it is their responsibility; they will all try to “pass the buck.” The point person is where the buck stops. For some clients I do a “weekly report.” That way, there are no surprises from or for me or the organization.

    * Be sure that they understand what each “day” is, and what the hours are. I get “paid” for each prep day, OR PART THEREFOF. In other words, if they want me to join a meeting on a day when I am not normally working for them I will bill them for the whole day, regardless that the meeting was only 1 hour. I usually do the courtesy of “discounting” this by taking it off the bill. BUT, by making this clear up front I don’t get called into meetings all the time unless it is necessary. I’m not paid to be available 24/7. I also state what training sessions are and how long they will last. In other words I make sure that they don’t try to have me train for 12 hours and only pay me for “one” day.

    These are just a couple of the “touchy” issues that I have run into as a freelance trainer. As AAM said, research this – you are NOT an employee when you do this; you are a contractor. They will NOT treat you as an employee and will try to get the most for the least. Don’t get burnt! Good luck.

    AAM – sorry to have hit you and your readers with a “wall of words” longer than your “Sunday Short answer to a short question.”

  5. JessB*

    Wow, great work Charles! That was a fantastic comment, and I certainly found it really helpful, as someone who is looking to get into contracting.

  6. Teresa*

    Thank you Charles! You gave excellent points that I would have not of thought of on my own. This is very valuable information!

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