fast answer Friday: 6 short answers to 6 short questions

It’s fast answer Friday. Here we go…

1. Recent grad wants management job

I am a recent grad and my resume (in my opinion) is colorful and damn near great. I want to apply to management type jobs but don’t have the experience. What can I do? Should I get a management certificate from a community college or volunteer somewhere as a manager?(That’s a crazy assumption that people would allow this, haha.) Those are the only options I can come up with.

You usually need to work your way up into a management job, rather than starting off in one. I wouldn’t bother with a management certificate; no way in hell would I set a recent grad loose managing people based on a certificate. You need to get experience being managed first, and working, and managing projects and processes, and gradually easing into managing people (and anyone who hires you to manage without having that experience first should be suspect). Read this for advice on how to work your way up into a management role.

Totally separately, it makes me nervous that you say your resume is colorful. I hope that doesn’t mean gimmicky!

2. Should I check in with this employer?

I applied for an internship and received a reply from the contact for the position thanking me and stating that if I hadn’t heard from them by Nov. 30, I was to consider that a rejection. Having received this, I am not sure whether a follow-up phone call to ask them how the application process was progressing and if they needed anything else from me would show eagerness, or just annoy them, considering they’d already told me that they’d received my application and given me a response timeframe. What is the best procedure here?

Don’t ask them how the application process is progressing. That’s a weird question, and one they’re probably not going to bother answering. And it’s not what you mean anyway — what you really mean is that you want some indication of whether you’re still in the running. What you can do instead is to send a follow-up reiterating your strong interest and telling them that you hope to hear from them once they’re scheduling interviews. Personally, I’d prefer that you do this by email because phone calls are annoying.

3. Can I ask for time to review an employment contract before I sign it?

I’m in the final stages of negotiating a new job. I’ve been working for the organization as a temp since January, but I will have a new boss (the old one retired) and be hired as a full-time employee. It’s looking like the employment contract will be ready any day now. I was wondering whether it’s reasonable to ask for a day or two to review the contract before I sign it, or if the usual practice is to sign the contract at the meeting where it’s presented.

Absolutely you should ask for a day or so to look it over. Unless you’re having a lawyer look at it, you probably only need a day, but you definitely don’t need to sign it on the spot. Contracts tend to be complicated. (That’s assuming they’re really giving you a contract — are you sure they are? Most employees in the U.S. don’t have contracts, so I wonder if you’re actually talking about a written job offer. If it’s just a written offer, you can still ask for time to think it over, but in that case you’re probably thinking over the offer itself, not analyzing a contract.)

Read an update to this letter here.

4. How can I make my staff respect me?

I was recently hired as assistant kitchen manager at an already established restaurant. Since all of the employees have been there for 1+ years and I have been there only a short time, they seem to think that they are above me and do not have to listen to what I say. They constantly try telling me what I need to do. They really have absolutly no respect for me. With that being said, the employees are very very good at what they do and they are valuable to the restaurant and firing them would do me more harm than good. There is another manager above me but he manages several locations so he really is not around much. I got the job because of my experience and education so I do not want to run straight to him with the problem because i feel like it will make me look bad and make him think I can’t handle the position. All of my previous experience as manager has been in restaurants where I was either hired as manager before it opened or I was hired to open the location, so going into an established restaurant is something I have never done. Is there any advice you can give me to help me fix the situation without having to start being really strict or running to manager above me?

Managers earn respect by being good at what they do, fair, and assertive without being jerks. So you’ve got to find ways to demonstrate that you’re all of those things. But part of “assertive without being a jerk” means that you need to set and maintain appropriate boundaries: If you ask someone to do something and they don’t do it, you need to find out why, and you need to make it clear that that can’t happen again. And you need to be willing to enforce consequences if it continues to happen after you talk about it … but you simultaneously should be demonstrating your own value, so that your employees respect you. Think about great managers you’ve seen in the past, particularly ones who came into an established team, and emulate them.

5. Who can I use for a reference when I’m still at my first job?

I’m a nurse currently employed full-time on a medical/surgical floor. I have an interview for an ICU position at a different hospital on Friday. I still work at my old job, they have no idea I’m planning on leaving, and if I don’t get the job at the other hospital, I’m planning on staying at the one I work at now. Who can I ask for a reference? I don’t think it is appropriate to ask my current manager… but I want to be able to give references from this job as it is my first nursing job since graduation.

It’s very, very normal for job-seekers to ask that their current employer not to be contacted for a reference, since in most cases the current employer doesn’t know the employee is looking. And since this if your first job, prospective employers are going to understand that you don’t have previous managers to refer them to, and they’re likely to work with you to find a solution that works on both sides. One option is to have them make any job offer contingent on a reference from your current boss, so that way she’s not called until you already have an offer. Another option is to use colleagues, if they’re willing to use those instead (they may or may not be).

6. Will my office let me spend my training budget on a career coach?

Our organization provides each employee with up to $1,000 a fiscal year for training. Our boss has asked that we propose a “budget” of how we’ll spend this money (he asked this mid-way into the fiscal year, but okay). Would it be appropriate for me to request that I spend this years budget on career coach services? I enjoy my position but want assistance in thinking more long-term about my career (something the current boss does not provide), but fear he’ll think that this is just about finding another job (which it is not). How do I pitch this appropriately?

If your boss is like most bosses, that money is supposed to be spent on professional development that your employer will benefit from you gaining — for instance, most commonly, it’s classes where you learn a new skill that you’ll use in your current job. Career coach services aren’t likely to benefit your employer, and in fact sound like they’re likely to lead to you leaving your employer. (The exception to this would be if the coaching is specifically focused on developing skills that you’ll use in your current role — for instance, working on running better meetings or developing leadership skills — but those aren’t typically things that people think about when they think about career coaching.) Basically, unless you can make a very strong argument that your employer will benefit from you receiving this coaching, it would be inappropriate to propose it.

{ 41 comments… read them below }

    1. Ask an Advisor*

      Agreed. I wonder who did the OP use as references for the current job? Nurses do a great deal of classroom and clinical hours, so previous preceptors, professors, and rotation supervisors could be references.

  1. Nathan A.*

    #1 – I’ve never seen anybody who graduated from anywhere with no experience that went right into a management job. However, some larger organizations have leadership development programs where you spend 1 to 3 years learning about how different departments work before moving into a managerial role.

    Certifications can not prove your ability as a manager – only experience can demonstrate this. I would start by trying to carve out a bigger role in your first job, impress your first boss, and steadily ask for more and more responsibility. Have a plan about what your goals are and why you want to be a manager. Some people are certain that they will make great (effective) managers because they are great employees. It’s not the same.

    If you do not have a business degree, I highly recommend that you read some academic material regarding management so you have a basic framework for your journey. Management can be highly varied depending on industry and role, so saying “I want to be a manager” can mean a lot of things. It could be highly technical, it could be tied into sales, production, organizational development, expansion, inventory, logistics, efficiency, marketing, and a dozen other things. You might have to expand your skill set (and spend a few years using that new skill set) just to move into management.

    Long story short – focus on just getting a job in a career you want, find a mentor, and seek out more responsibility.

    1. Cube Ninja*

      I’ve seen it once and it was due to the person being related to an acquaintance of an executive. He had absolutely no people skills, spoke in buzzwords (in a very laid back office), completely blew it on multiple conference calls with vendors and is still regarded as one of the worst managers we’ve ever had in the building.

      This includes being worse than the manager who was fired for his own attendance issues and hiring without approval to do so.

      While you might think you’re ready for a management position right out of the gate, you probably aren’t. I certainly wasn’t ready for it after six years in white collar jobs when I was given the opportunity. Nathan’s advice here is rock solid on how to make it happen down the road, though.

  2. Anon*

    #1: My first thought was that this person literally has a “colorful” resume. Like, different-colored fonts.

      1. Kim Stiens*

        I really love a touch of color on a resume. Granted, not Comic Sans where each letter is a different color, but like a couple lines of blue, just to make it more visually appealing. I like well-formatted and visually interesting resumes because it’s the only way that early in the process to see if someone has an eye for or interest in that sort of thing… and I think it shows an attention to detail that I appreciate (though it’s obviously not a make-or-breaker).

    1. Joe*

      I once got a resume that was light blue font on white background. I simply couldn’t read it. I thought about changing the font color so I could read it, and decided instead to just throw it out. We had 1200 resumes for 6 intern positions, I figured we’d be OK without that one.

  3. Julie*

    I’m the OP for #3. I’m in Canada, so I don’t know if the situation with regards to contracts vs. written job offers is different here. What’s the difference between the two? How would I recognize if something is an actual contract and not just a job offer?

    1. Michelle*

      I’m a permanent, full time employee and I live in Canada too. When I accepted my current job, I had to sign an “employment contract”, which was essentially an offer letter with a bunch of legal stuff and details about the position attached.

      A lot of contract positions will have a specific time period, i.e. 12 months. After 12 months, the company would either renegotiate a new contract to keep you, or let the contract expire and you’d look for a new job.

      If I was in your position, I would just ask. I would confirm with them that the job is permanent, then ask for a couple of days to review the paperwork.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      A contract is a legal document in which both parties agree to the employment for a certain time period, although it typically has escape clauses. A job offer (more typical in the U.S.) simply spells out the terms of employment (salary, benefits, title, etc.) without committing to any particular period of time (since in the U.S., most employees are at-will).

  4. Kayday*

    Re: 2. Definitely follow up by email. I once submitted an application for a job that had the whole don’t call us we’ll call you thing included on the posting, but I sent a quick follow up email a few days before the closing date. I got an email back right away saying that they didn’t receive my original application and asking me to come In for an interview. While you did get a confirmation email, you never know what might have gone wrong, so there is definitely no harm in ONE follow up email.

  5. Kate*

    Re # 1: the OP’s enthusiasm is admirable, but strongly agree it’s necessary to build your management experience incrementally. Even if you were to find an organisation that was willing to offer a management position to a fairly recent grad, there are some downsides to progressing too fast, too soon. It may take you longer to settle into the role, and it may make mobility more difficult, since you would only be able to demonstrate management experience in an isolated role.

  6. Another Emily*

    #6 Instead of hiring a career coach, why not talk to your boss? You could ask for career advice and get some guidance on where to direct your personal development in the same conversation. Since he presumably works in your industry and has a lot of experience so I think he’d be a great person to talk to (if you have a good relationship).

    Maybe I just don’t understand the value of career coaches but honestly it sounds like a waste of money to me. Why pay someone to give you career advice when good resources are sitting right there in your office? <– not rhetorical because I could be wrong about career coaches.

  7. Anonymous*

    #1. I don’t understand what you mean by “management certificate – haha.” I have a BS in Management, and still not working as a manager; in fact i don’t even apply for those positions (not yet). You can apply for an assistant position first, or assist in an office. Or, you can either get a job at a store as an entery level supervisor, then go from there. A “paper” of any college level is not a guarantee that you can do the job; it helps you learn about the field and then you can start building your experience- as a beginner. There is just so much you need to know about management that you can not find in any management books and that’s where your experience is really needed. You can find a lot of managers who did not go to college to get that job. They started as cashiers, then supervisors, then assistant managers and then department managers and so on, not over night.

    1. Anon*

      It sounds like you’re strictly talking about retail management, but the OP may not be interested in that. For what it’s worth, my very first job out of college was as an assistant manager in retail (and by a year later, I was a store manager). Retail wasn’t my planned career path and I was just doing it to pay the bills until I found something in my field.

      That said, despite having almost two years experience as a manager in retail, I find that it doesn’t translate very well (in hiring managers’ eyes) to an office setting. I can’t tell you how many people looked at my resume and said retail management wasn’t a “real” job.

      But anyway, outside of retail, I can’t think of an instance in a corporate setting where a recent college grad would be put in a management position immediately. It certainly doesn’t happen in my current field. That would just be ridiculous.

  8. dradis contact*

    #4–At my last job I had seven managers in the twelve years I was there. Most didn’t try to understand the institutional experience that I had, and ended up learning the hard way that I did things ‘my way’ because my way worked. Maybe you should listen to your workers the way you want them to listen to you. Show them that you respect their experience, and don’t go in wanting to change things just to put your stamp on something.

  9. Steve*

    OP #1: YOU don’t want to be a manager so quick. I got promoted into a position too soon….
    If nothing else, you won’t get any respect from anyone at the tender age of 22. More importantly to you, there are too many nuances to business you may know about from a hypothetic perspective, but not be able to handle in the real world. Much of the “years of experience” is what I would term a “tolerance level.” Two years ago, I was hypothetically able to do my current job, what it would have been overwhelming at that time due to the soft skills involved that cannot be taught in a classroom setting, as well as the relationships needed. I have built a sort of invisible structure around myself – someone younger may walk in and think they can do my job, unaware of that structure I’ve built around myself to do my job.
    In the interview process at this job, I focused on my awesome skills – very advanced excel and analytical skills, sales experience, call center experience, experience with bids, contracts, etc – I considered myself a budding business guru.
    Turns out, many people shared my experience (minus the Excel). I was special but not that great. The result was a very stressful first year in my new job – I was in stress/worry mode 24/7 because the job was overwhelming. It turns out that some aspects of business that look easy when someone else (older) is doing them are very hard when you are doing them. A few examples: playing hardball during negotiations and knowing where the boundaries are, coordinating general, mass change project, again, with no set boundaries, deciding what your projects will be when you have a hands-off boss, etc. You also need years to be able to read financial statements and be able to carry on a conversation about them, and re-create them off of the top of your head, or to be able to master written and verbal communication. For example, knowing how to take out content from an email or presentation or simplify it to get the desired response. Being 32, this was very painful for years. College teaches you to make every correspondence a well written essay with as much meat as possible. The opposite sometimes works in the real world. For example, you might present to one group why a solution is good and have to tailor the entire presentation to them. For a young person, it is very difficult to not blurt out your 10 personal reasons to support the solution.

    In short, a lot of business and the work world consists of items one does not see with the naked eye when they walk into a company. As a young person, you have a wide set of verbal, written, and body communication skills to master, and need years of experience to play with and set boundaries and priorities, and the framework that will help you move up one day.
    Any nothing is more annoying that those rare people who become managers without ever doing “real” work. You go to them for help, and they give you a cliché response. They are always claiming managers don’t need to do ground level work, but the people who progress naturally somehow are always better managers and can talk about a much wider range of business problems and solutions.

    1. KateT*

      Yes, well said. #1 and #4 should read Steve’s comments above.

      I took over a management position fresh out of business school with a great resume at 22 and it was rough. I’m 29 now and it’s still rough. Customers look over my shoulder sometimes like, “where’s the real boss?” My employees are only just starting to treat me with real respect in the last year or two.

  10. Steve*

    ….another thing that is very hard to master when you are young is focusing on the projects that make the most money, rather than the ones that are most interesting. This can be very hard when both projects need to get done anyway. Don’t put yourself in a management position where the punishment for failing at this will be so much higher,

  11. Kim Stiens*

    OP: I don’t know what your experience or skill level is, but if you really want management experience, you can look into fast food or retail. It will be the most stressful and awful job you ever have, but those are places that are sometimes willing to hire new managers, rather than promoting from within, and even if you don’t get hired on as a manager, you can get promoted quickly (IF you can hack it). Not glamorous, but it will get you the management experience if that’s what you really want.

    Also, volunteering is not a bad call. There are probably political campaigns that would take you on as a volunteer manager without any experience… check out local races, and your State Representatives races. Usually these campaigns are poor enough that the only people getting paid are the campaign manager and MAYBE a finance person. They’ll take all the free help they can get (and it looks great on a resume).

  12. Kim Stiens*

    To the kitchen manager: I especially agree with Alison when she notes that you have to be willing to enforce consequences when an employee consistently doesn’t do what they’re asked. I was in a situation sort of like this, where I was a shift supervisor and we had new management coming in, who had all sorts of (really dumb) rules that employees did not want to follow. Make sure that employees always have an avenue to ask for redress of grievances (this is an important part of maintaining employees’ respect), but in the end, it is the owners’ prerogative to run their ship however they want, and if employees choose to get fired because they refuse to obey management, that’s their call. You cannot define “good employee” simply by the quality of work they do if they aren’t responsive to management and cause you to lose the respect of their co-workers. You HAVE to be willing to fire or, at least, have consequences people care about (for instance, less scheduling flexibility).

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You cannot define “good employee” simply by the quality of work they do if they aren’t responsive to management and cause you to lose the respect of their co-workers. You HAVE to be willing to fire or, at least, have consequences people care about (for instance, less scheduling flexibility).


  13. Rachel*

    #2 I disagree that that you should follow up. They have already told you that they have your resume and what the process will be. They specifically gave a date so that people would NOT call and email.

  14. curious*

    #1 I have only ever had to manage a couple of people and it was exhausting. It took enormous amounts of energy thinking about how I could challenge and develop them whilst enabling them to get their work done and get my own work done. Unless you are are a total star (I am not), it’s really tiring always having to lead by example, coach and represent their interests higher up the chain. I already had 8 years relevant work experience. And they were both good, motivated and positive employees. Be careful what you wish for. People management isn’t for everyone.

  15. GeekChic*

    OP #1: I managed (and not in retail or food service) right out of grad school – I was 24 and was the second most senior person in charge of 32 staff. I was the youngest person there by about 10 years.

    That said, I got the job because the office was located in an out of the way location and the level of qualifications they were seeking were not common in the area (and they had no choice about those qualification requirements as they were required by the state funding body). I was willing to move where others were not.

    As the others have said, even if you do land a managerial job so quickly out of school you may very well have to deal with employees who resent you or don’t respect you. I was fortunate because my staff members’ previous boss was a true terror so they were willing to be patient with my mistakes as I learned on the job.

    I learned a great deal on that job – but I don’t miss supervising.

  16. Amber*

    Hey everyone! Thank you so much for the comments, especially you Ms. Manager! To clarify, by a colorful resume I mean well-rounded, relevant work experience and…maybe one can tell I have worked my butt off while putting myself through school. I have an associates in media and communications, an associates in marketing and advertising and a BFA in printmaking. I have a job history of events. I have worked at a concert venue for years. I worked at an awesome music museum, pretty much did everything there… (Forgive the punctuation and zero line spaces, using my phone) I interned at a radio station for months doing promotions and marketing events, and my job now is a marketing rep for an event based firm that promotes products. I am 27, I feel like at this point in my life I am not entry level. Yes I will do anything to start, but every job… for example some I want are the promotions coordinator for a radio station, or events coordinator/manager of a casino. I am waaaay beyond what they ask for in education and related work experience, its just making that transition to a career, as opposed to a job, an entry level I’ve had for years. My real dream is to work at an ad agency however its been a little difficult, so I have my resume that I am trying to push my strengths and I know I could do great at it, this is the kind of managing I’m speaking of. I decided to volunteer for the DDA of my city and maybe the Pride parade, its a big event each year. I’m not very political and I think it may not be for me, but thank you for all the suggestions, again, great advice. I do want to ad the certification I am talking about is for continued ed. Or graduate certificates. For example U of Texas at austin has management certificates and supervisor, coaching, that kind of thing. I don’t know much about it, but I looked at the comm college for fun and its a legitimate certificate to pair with an associates I assume. Thanks guys. :)

    1. Anonymous*

      Seriously? How about No.

      Firstly “not entry level” does not mean appropriate for management. I’ve been “not entry level” for about 7 years now and there is no way management will be appropriate for another 5-10 years or so.

      Secondly you say “I am waaaay beyond what they ask for” and you sound like you believe it. If that attitude comes across in the interviews you have no chance. Especially with that emphasis on the “waaaay”. You come across as just another graduate who thinks they are the best and any company would be lucky for you to slum yourself with them!

  17. Anonymous*

    “I am 27, I feel like at this point in my life I am not entry level.” Sorry but your age has nothing to do with the “entery level” meaning. That was used to define your career level. Also, you just seem a bit overconfident… just my opinion.

    1. Amber*

      The age comment I had came after all of my experience doing the “entry level” work that is required of me for the positions I want to apply for. Does that make sense? I have been working full-time with rewarding jobs that really taught me a lot. I just meant after all this time, the jobs I have been working towards landing want someone less qualified but MAN that management experience is very important to everyone. For example that Casino Events Coordinator, I knew about this position a year ago and had been shaping my volunteer and intern experience (While still keeping my 9-5 and paying bills, I have twin boys too!) to help get it or something similar. Just a few hurdles I’ve been looking for advice on. Again, thanks to everyone for being so helpful. :) I’m an artist but have realized that it pays for my sushi nights and phone bill, not my future! lol

      1. Jamie*

        “MAN that management experience is very important to everyone. ”

        Yep – it is. Even an MBA can’t help ya there. You can learn all the fundamentals and theories of management in school and that’s a really great foundation…but it doesn’t tell an employer anything about your ability to manage.

        In fact my ability to manage was amazing when I was in college…I knew exactly what should be done in any hypothetical scenario. In practice it takes time to find your footing, hone the diplomacy…know how to direct without steamrolling, etc. That why most people learn under the wing of a (hopefully great) manager who shows them the ropes and gives more and more responsibility and latitude so by the time you notice the safety net is gone, you haven’t needed one in for a while.

        The thing is with an entry level job you can screw up but the impact on your co-workers tends to be minimal. By the time you’re in management if you screw up you’re in the position to do some significant damage to other people, if you don’t know what you’re doing. People’s schedules, paychecks, performance appraisals, raises, and projects are very important to them…so ideally the person at the helm shouldn’t be completely inexperienced.

    2. Amber*

      I think I wanted the readers to know I am not 22. I am not a traditional student that has done nothing but go to school. I have a family, have worked full-time since I was out of High School and it makes a little difference.

      1. Anonymous*

        We get that you are not 22, and very ambitions. Sometimes you need to let things happen instead of forcing or wanting only one thing so badly.

        1. Amber*

          All of the comments towards my question commented on being young/22 and all of that, almost 30 and feelin it! ;)

  18. Steve*

    Amber – I really wish you the best of luck. I posted before on why I think you shouldnt be looking for a management position, but on the other hand, I totally get your frustration, especially in today’s economy.

    I had an entry level job when I was 26 1/2 because I worked in Europe as an ESL teacher, so came back with awesome experience in running group sessions, satisfying difficult clients, hunting freelance clients, planning my own schedule and materials, but no one was impressed when I got back to the US, and it was very hard doing a low-level job after I had already had a “real” job for 3 years….will pray you get a break…

  19. Anonymous*

    Not all entry level positions lead to management and not all positions that aren’t entry level are managerial positions.

    If you think you have the skill and experience for something that isn’t entry level then that may make sense. But that doesn’t mean you have the skill and experience to be a manager.

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