short answer Saturday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s short answer Saturday — seven short answers to seven short questions. We’ve got a weekend employee who’s going to get fired if she can’t attend weekday training classes, a frustrating vacation policy, a promotion yanked away at the last minute and more.

By the way, I’ve only received two questions about workplace issues in literature/TV/movies, so if you have one to submit, submit it now (via this email address) or our media week will be DOA!

Here we go…

1. Can my weekend employer require me to attend training during the week?

I’ve been at my part-time, weekends-only job for 15 years. I was once full-time, but after having kids and a few other life changes, I went part-time many years ago, with the last several years as strictly weekends. I recently found a full time position at a daycare/preschool facility where the tuition for my three children is deducted directly from my paycheck, and I still have some take home pay, which is nice (I’m working there to keep my older two in preschool).

Here is my situation: My part-time, weekends-only employer had changed the name of the business (still the same parent company, but different brand) and is having all the employees of the many stores in the area undergo “retraining.” The retraining is Monday through Thursday from 10 am to 7 pm. I keep explaining that I can not attend these training sessions because of my full-time weekday job, not to mention that the daycare closes at 6, the classes are until 7, and I would not have anyone available to pick up my children until 6:30. The area supervisor of my part-time job said, “We know this puts you in a sticky situation, but if you don’t attend, well, you don’t work here anymore.” Is this legal?! After 15 years of employment, with the last several being strictly weekends, they can just let me go for not attending weekday training, knowing that I can’t possibly attend? Like I said, it is the same parent company. The name on my check has not changed. They are just changing the name on the door.

Yes, it’s legal. What’s your relationship like with this manager? Normally in a situation like this, if you had a good relationship, they’d try to find a way to accommodate you — or at least would be extremely apologetic if they couldn’t. Are they being extremely apologetic? If not, they’re sending you a message about how much they value you. (If they are being very apologetic, they might value you but still be willing to lose you if you aren’t able to go through their retraining; sometimes requirements really are requirements.)

2. How to follow up with a networking contact

I recently attended a dinner hosted by my former university and had a great conversation with the people I was seated with. I left the meal with the business card of someone in my field and who I enjoyed speaking with. I’d like to reach out to this person and thank them for the conversation but I’m afraid that will come off a naive or just plain strange. I have heard countless time to network, network, network, but I’m not sure what my first step should be. I am currently employed, but if I am job hunting again, I’d love to keep this person on my good side. How do you begin networking? Is it strange to email someone thanking them for dinner conversation?

Not strange at all. Send them an email telling them that you enjoyed the conversation, and maybe referencing something more about what you discussed — sending a related article or something like that. Be straightforward –say you really enjoyed meeting them and would love to keep in touch. Most people are flattered by that, as long as it’s done in a genuine way.

3. How do I get noticed?

I read your most recent 10 or so posts, and read your favorites, and did a quick search, but didn’t find a post on what I as a job seeker can do to get noticed. I find it difficult to believe that hiring managers, even the ones with the best intentions, can actually go through every resume and application they receive or that they have time to read and appreciate all the word-smithing I do. Is it then bad practice to just use the keywords in the job posting in my resume, to make sure that I’m getting through when hiring managers / recruiters are doing word searches? I don’t want to seem like I don’t know how to use the thesaurus, or that I plagiarize to get my foot in the door. Do you have any other tips on how to get noticed?

You didn’t find any posts specifically on how to get noticed because this whole blog is on how to get noticed. You get noticed in a job search by doing great work, writing an awesome cover letter, and having a resume that demonstrates a track record of accomplishment. You don’t get noticed (at least not in the right way) by picking your words from a thesaurus or, uh, plagiarizing (?!), or by using gimmicks or filling up your resume with keywords. (By the way, Kerry Scott has a great explanation here of why this idea that you need keywords is an urban legend.)

And yes, hiring managers who are actually doing their job do indeed look at every application — it might be a 20-second glance, but they’re looking, and if you look like a strong candidate in that 20-second glance, they’re looking longer than that.

4. Is this vacation policy unfair?

In August I received my first two weeks of vacation. There were a few rules I knew about, since the business is so small and has 8 workers. The manager says you can use one week in full, then the other week here and there. So today I went to ask if I could take my week in April, 5 months ahead of time. And he says, ”You can’t book it till the beginning of the year.” He also reminded me higher seniority people can take my vacation whenever. Me being the lowest on the totem pole thinks that’s not fair. Not being able to book it till the beginning of the year if its in the next year even though I get new vacation every August seems to be somewhat odd. Thinking about talking to the owner about it. What is your take on the situation?

I think it’s a dumb policy, but your best bet is probably to ask about the reasons behind it. There might be reasons for it, and even if those reasons are illogical, knowing what they are means that you’ll be better equipped to advocate a change.

5. My promotion was taken away after someone complained

I was promoted to cash supervisor recently. Only, the day that I was supposed to be trained, my manager pulled me aside and told me it was brought to her attention that “just” promoting me was unfair and could be viewed as favoritism, and so she’d posted an internal job posting which I could apply to. I figure that someone complained about my promotion (I’m quite young, the youngest employee and also have been employed there for under 3 months, although I do excel at my job). Everything was agreed upon weeks ago, and now I’m left confused and rather resentful. Was this an appropriate decision on my manager’s behalf? How can I bring it up to her?

No, it wasn’t appropriate. It was ham-handed and inept. She’s a bad manager who needs to learn how to think through her decisions ahead of time so she’s confident in them, and learn how to respond to dissent. You could certainly tell her that you’re unhappy with how it was handled, and say that yanking away a promotion you’ve already been given is something any reasonable person would have an issue with … but she sounds less-than-smart, so I’m not sure where that will get you.

6. Missionary work on my resume

For the past 3 years, I’ve worked as an HR generalist while going to law school. Now that I’m finished, I’m looking for a new job that allows me to use my legal education outside the HR field. Aside from my 3 years in HR, my only work experience is some temping while in college. But, between college and law school I spent 18 months as a full-time missionary for my church. I know that putting information on a resume about one’s membership in a protected class is a big no-no and makes hiring managers want to faint, so what should I do? I can’t have an 18 month resume gap. Is there a way to list what I was doing during that time period that is honest but doesn’t raise red flags? Or should I just ignore the protected class issue and put it on there matter-of-factly?

Just put it on there. 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, a job teaching religious classes, enrollment at a traditionally African American university, a leadership role in a networking group for a minority group, etc.). The only time you really should worry about it is if it’s something most people consider crazy/extreme (I think the example I’ve used in the past is the funeral-picketing Westboro Baptist Church).

7. Can my company make me tell them about my second job?

I work for a company part-time. I recently got another part-time job to make ends meet. My current position knows about the part-time job and wants detailed information. What information am I required to give my current job?

Legally speaking, I can’t think of any laws that would prevent them from asking whatever they wanted to ask about this job. More practically speaking, I assume that they want to know how this second job might interfere with your first job — i.e., if you’ll be unavailable for after-hours work that you’re currently available for, how you’ll navigate any conflicting priorities, whether there might be a conflict of interest, etc.

{ 26 comments… read them below }

  1. Nathan A.*

    I’m starting to notice a trend of “can my company make me do ___”.

    Franky speaking, nobody can *make* you do or say anything. An organization likely wants information from you related to other jobs you hold to see how you and that organization will work out in the future.

    To talk to the points of organizations making requests or demands about time off, an organization will put requirements in place regarding time off because it has operational needs. If that organization asks something of you (or underlines it as a requirement), and you are not sure whether or not its reasonable, ask for more information. Also, take the vantage point of the organization: why is my boss / company asking this of me? Put yourself in their shoes as to why they are asking things of you that you may perceive as unreasonable and approach it from that angle. If it does actually seem unreasonable, approach your superior and indicate why the *request* is unreasonable (not about how you feel you are being treated unfairly). You get more done if you stick to the facts and come prepared with something that addresses the operational needs of the company.

    1. Long Time Admin*

      I agree with you. This attitude of entitlement (as in, “it’s all about me!”) is everywhere lately. Darn it, we’re at WORK, and our employers are in business to make money. The rules are the rules – live with them or leave.

  2. Anonymous*

    Can you reconcile today’s and yesterday’s responses?
    10/21: Company and employee have an agreed arrangement. Employee needs 2 days’ schedule accommodation. Company refuses. In response, employee wants to unilaterally alter agreement.

    10/22, #1: Company and employee have an agreed arrangement. Company needs 1 day’s schedule accommodation. Employee refuses. In response, company wants to unilaterally alter agreement.

    Why is the former “naive”, “entitled”, “unprofessional”, “irresponsible”, while
    the latter is merely “legal”?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Because there’s nothing the employee can do about it in this case. This is very much the nature of part-time jobs; sometimes they’ll require meetings or training that’s outside the part-timer’s usual schedule. Now, the company should have made this clear at the outset of their arrangement, and they should be being a lot more apologetic about this now, but the employee is the one asking me for advice here, not the company.

      Futhermore, in yesterday’s post, the company made it very, very clear at the outset what their requirements were and the employee agreed to it. In today’s case, it doesn’t sound like anyone on either side explicitly discussed strict requirements or constraints at the outset, and indeed circumstances do sometimes change, as they have here.

  3. just another hiring manager...*

    Re: 3. How do I get noticed?

    It’s not wrong or plagiarism to “use the keywords in the job posting in my resume,” but tailoring your resume is much more than just jam-packing it with keywords.

    Re: 6. Missionary work on my resume

    I have no problem seeing this type of thing on a resume, provided you focus on the relevant skills you gained from missionary work and not on the proselytizing itself. Tell me you “Led weekly study groups” rather than “Taught God’s Word once a week” or whatever. Focus on things like the communication skills, organization skills, and event planning experience you gained.

    1. Anonymous J*

      Agreed. In fact, if it were me, I would not list it as “missionary work,” but as “volunteering.”

  4. GeekChic*

    For #1 (training outside of normal working hours): My current employer has training sessions that occur during the typical work work (M-F) and the typical work day (9-5). Unfortunately for some staff, this is inconvenient as they work evenings and/or weekends.

    My employer tries to give as much notice as possible for these sessions and pays overtime for any session that must be taken on what would be a typical day or time off for any given employee. In the end, however, employees must take these training sessions or face discipline (up to firing). I don’t have a problem with my employer’s stance on the issue and I am one who must occasionally come in on a day off to take these sessions.

    For #3 (getting noticed): When I hired I did indeed look at every application – as did every other manager of my acquaintance. What got you noticed with me were following directions (a surprising number of applicants fail at this), having relevant experience and having a cover letter that isn’t stupefyingly boring.

    For #4 (vacation policy): I agree with AAM – ask your boss. I had a previous supervisor who had a similar policy due to the previous behaviour of certain staff members who would try to beat each other in scheduling certain holidays off (sometimes 3 years in advance) and then forget that they had booked that time off! It drove him nuts so he set a policy around how early staff could book time off. Perhaps not the best response – but at least logical once I knew the circumstances.

    For #6 (“controversial” work on a resume): As long as you can make your experience relevant to the job posting, I don’t pay attention to the “controversial” aspects of it. Much like any unconventional work – if you can make it seem relevant to the job posting I’m hiring for I’m more likely to remember you if only for your creativity.

    1. Anonymous J*

      Unfortunately, some potential employers do, though.

      I write for a lifestyle blog. It’s minimally part time work, but it’s very important work and showcases my skills in a big way; however, I am hesitant to share that with potential employers, because again–some people still bring their biases to the table.

  5. Arts*

    I’m #3 above. It looks like some clarifications are in order. In trying to make my question succinct, I left out a lot of details of what I am doing, which probably explains why AAM’s response which was in the order of “there are no shortcuts to hard work.”

    What I am doing – teaching myself new software and programming languages, being a top percentile performer and working hard, leading initiatives at work, freelancing on the side to gain a different kind of experience (plus, it’s fun!), refining my resume and LinkedIn profiles, getting feedback on the content to make sure it’s sending the message I want to send, rewording my resume and cover letter to mimic the industry-specific jargon before each application (some call it a cashflow statement, some call it a P&L) and following up promptly. I am also making fledgling attempts at networking (but not to get a job, just to have a thriving network)

    I am honestly at a loss for what else I should do. Is it something I’m saying in my resume, is it something I’m not saying in my resume (hence the question), do I lack experience, skills? It is difficult to tell when I have no idea what the person looking at my resume is thinking.

    And to the HR managers who responded by saying that you really do read each resume – my hats off to you. That is a seriously difficult task, even statistically speaking, which is why I assumed that you must be using computers to aid you. All I can say is , thank you and I appreciate that you are doing it instead of letting a computer do it.

    1. Nathan A.*

      I know it’s hard, but the only other thing you can do is be patient and nurture your network to see what you get out of it. I would try to network with people who do what you want to do. That way you can approach your network as if looking for a mentor or someone to use as a benchmark.

  6. Anon*

    I think you missed the mark a bit on #7 – she wants to know if there is anything she’s legally required relate to her current employer about her job at the 2nd employer. I’ve no idea, but I imagine that it’s not much if any. If there is no conflict of interest, then I can’t imagine what they would *need* to know. If you’re truly worried about the legalities, you should consult a lawyer. If they’re worried about your availability outside of your schedule, it’s no more/less relevant than if you joined a bowling league or took up basket weaving or volunteered to teach adult literacy classes – if you’re not required to put in overtime then it’s none of their business what keeps you occupied in your free time.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Right, she’s not legally required to answer. But she asked, “What information am I required to give my current job?” And the answer to that is: “Anything they require you to answer,” since there’s no law prohibiting the employer from taking that stance.

      Refusing to answer questions about something they’re obviously concerned will interfere with her primary commitments to them is a good way to, at a minimum, harm the relationship and, at worst, get fired. I assume they’re asking because of the possibilities I raised in the post — potential conflict of interest or conflict of availability.

      I’ve certainly told employees in certain positions that they couldn’t have second jobs because their job with me required them to be available at unpredictable hours (political campaigns are a prime example of this). I’d possibly have been open to making an exception, but I would have needed to ask (and have answered) a lot of questions in order to do that.

      1. Stacy*

        At one point in my life I worked both a full-time and a part-time job for a little over three years. The part-time job, (which was the same position for all three years), always knew about my full-time positions, (two different ones), and frankly, always seemed to get that I needed a full-time job with benefits to “get by”. (I suppose it could be noted that all three of these positions were in the non-profit sector.)

        I always thought (right or wrong) that it wasn’t any of my full-time employeers’ business what I was doing outside of working hours as long as it didn’t hurt them, compete with them, or use trade secrets/whatnot. There were a few conflicts regarding my time over the years, which was unfortunate and put me in the position of having to tell someone no. It’s only now that I’m looking for a new position that I ever regret saying no to anyone, (and that’s only because of course I want to be regarded as THE BEST EMPLOYEE EVER!!! in retrospect). It’s usually my M.O. to work my ass off before saying no, but honestly, life requires an occational no, (or a schedule change or a change of plans or a missed event). Frankly, because I never took any time off for family related issues since I was a single woman without kids during this time, (not hatin’…. I love families/kids/all that… seriously), I was generally still MORE available than a lot of people even though I was working two jobs.

      2. Anon*

        And there’s no law backing up that stance. Sure, the Op needs to determine why they’re asking and how important it is to them but if she’s not a cop, working on a political campaign, on call as part of her job duties, a lawyer or psychiatrist with access to privileged information, in the military, a teacher or some other job where there’s a potential for conflict of interest then it’s none of their business and they shouldn’t even be asking. In fact, if none of those things are true and she’s just an entry level accountant working part-time as a clerk at her favorite retailer then surely she should be suspicious of such a controlling employer? Isn’t the employer the one damaging the relationship by invading their employee’s privacy? Certainly she should evaluate all of her options, but I know my first reponse would be to ask them why they want to know, take some time to think and then calmly and reasonably tell them why it’s none of their business. Assuming that this was, in fact, an unreasonable request then she should not have to worry damaging the relationship by telling them no. She just needs to worry about how she tells them no diplomatically. I know this is the real world, but if people keep letting employers get away with bad behavior then nothing is ever going to change.

        Perhaps the whole reason she’s asking is because there seems to be a potential for conflict of interest. In which case, maybe she should answer some if not all of the questions.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The point is that in the absence of a law prohibiting it, the employer can require anything they want. And in fact, there might be quite reasonable explanations for why they’re asking whatever they’re asking (and we don’t even know from the letter what those questions are), such as conflict of interest, conflict of availability, etc. If I asked an employee to tell me what kind of commitments they’d made to their second job, how they’d handle scheduling conflicts, etc., and they told me it was none of my business, I’d suggest they make that second job their only job.

          1. Anon*

            Perhaps it comes down to my definition of “detailed information”. I see no problem with a current employer asking about commitments made to the 2nd job, how a person would handle scheduling conflicts, etc. Afterall, how else could you determine if there is a conflict of interest? I would consider those types of questions to be more general questions that I could understand most employers asking. I would not consider those to be asking for “detailed information” that is none of their business. Without more information from the Op, it’s difficult to tell what they meant by detailed.

            I firmly believe, however, that just as an employer is not entitled to every detail of my personal life they would also not be entitled to every detail of a 2nd or 3rd job I was working. I am working for someone in exchange for pay and benefits – I am not a slave who owes them unlimited access to my life.

      3. Jamie*

        Going back in my career I was considering a moonlighting – some IT work completely unrelated to my day job – but I spoke with my boss before going forward because I wanted to make sure they knew there wouldn’t be a conflict of interest, my work wouldn’t suffer, etc. Transparency.

        Glad I did – turned out they didn’t want people in key positions to work second jobs – as it could limit on-call availability and just generally tip the work-life balance way too far on the work scale. If I hadn’t asked I would have been violating an unwritten rule, inadvertently, and there would have been unspoken concerns. It’s better for everyone if everything is out in the open.

  7. Anonymous*

    Maybe I’m a bit cynical today but regarding #1 (part time employee attending training during the week) the training seems a bit much.

    I’m reading into the wording that this is in a retail environment since the OP used the wording “many stores in the area”. I can’t imagine any retail company requiring all of their employees to attend training for 4 days for 9 hours a day (mon-thurs 10am-7pm). Are all the stores closing for 4 days during training…hard to believe. Could it be that the training is offered for those 4 days during those hours and an employee only has to attend a certain portion (like 1 day)?

    I have employees who work in the department I manage who are part time and I agree with AAM, we try to work with them to an extent when it comes to meetings and training outside of their “normal work schedule”. I think that is why I find the length of training unrealistic, especially if this really is retail which would have many part time employees.

    Another suggestion. Would it be acceptable to your part-time job to attend the training each day but leave in time to get your kids by 6PM? You would be making an effort and would be attending most of the training. I know if you were making an effort I would make an effort to accommodate you if I was your manager.

  8. Kim Stiens*

    To the missionary concerned about including your mission work on the resume: I say go for it. Ultimately, there are a million different quirks that each hiring manager has, tons of things that totally turn them off to an applicant that, ultimately, you can’t predict. While it’s good to avoid being overt about your religious preferences, I think I would, at least a little bit, favor a returned missionary, though it would cause me to make assumptions about you that may or may not be true. There are probably tons of hiring managers out there who would feel the opposite, and make assumptions about you that would put you out of the running for that job (illegal as though that may be).

    The point is, and I think this is something AAM has covered once or twice on this blog, is that there’s no way to predit the quirks of each manager. So it’s silly to try! Put your best foot forward, resume-wise, with the confidence that at least as many will particularly like that background as will particularly dislike it. Same with most other “controversial” or even just other items you put in your resume or cover letter.

    When in doubt, err on the side of what is true and what makes your heart sing! That’s the best way to find the best fit for you. :)

  9. LCL*

    re #4
    Not allowing to book vacation until the first of the year is reasonable. Otherwise someone will put in a standing reservation for Christmas/New Year’s Eve.

    Allowing higher seniority people to bump others? Not cool, not fair, bad for morale and team spirit. My workgroup had such a policy, and it was changed for those reasons. Good luck lobbying your manager, you will have to get most of the work group behind you.

  10. Chris Walker*

    Sorry for the late reply, but re #3 Kerry Scott post link, she says it’s BS to be concerned about the words in one’s resume but then tells us she does search resumes for keywords.

    ‘They’re using words so obvious that if they’re not on your resume, you’re probably seriously unqualified.’

    Obvious to whom? I don’t want to try to read the mind of the recruiter to find out what is ‘obvious’ to her/him. Yes I do tell my clients to pay attention to the job description when submitting resumes and cover letters.

    I have a friend who is placement director for a national computer training school in Cleveland. She applied for the position through the company web site. She also found out who the local manager was and sent him a resume and cover letter. In her first interview, the manager asked if she had applied through the corporate site. She said she had. He told her that her resume was not one that had been sent to him for corporate. The person that was hired for the job had been screened out through the ATS process. She was lucky that the company allowed the local manager to even talk to anyone not sent down from on high.

    Ms. Scott ends with this: ‘Bottom line—corporate recruiters search for resumes using keywords.’ So I don’t get ther point.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Kerry’s point is that if you write a resume in normal, conversational English, any keyword search an employer is doing for qualifications that you wrote about should pull you up — i.e., that you don’t need to figure out magical buzzwords.

  11. Anonymous*

    Regarding question #7, it could be a matter of conflict of interest or compliance with federal rules. My husband works in the financial industry and every office he’s ever worked in required employees to submit information about secondary employment and receive permission to work that other job. This is to protect the company from any accusations of noncompliance with federal regulations. Employees also are required to disclose information on the investments they hold.

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