short answer Sunday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s short answer Sunday — seven short answers to seven short questions. And I should warn you that it’s the lazy version; after a long weekend away, I am not in any way back of the swing of normal work yet. But here we go…

1. My boss found out about my job search through LinkedIn

I have been working for my current employer for a year. For the last several months, I have been seeking new employment. I have utilized LinkedIn to aid me with my career search through postings on various group boards, my headline and sending a message to all my contacts about me and my job objectives I have many contacts on LinkedIn, from my field, and hope to benefit from these to secure a new position. I do not currently have anyone from my company on my LinkedIn, nor do I have the name of my current employer, only the industry. My manager said it came to her attention, as well as the Regional VP that I am actively seeking employment through LinkedIn. Do you feel it is within my rights to use LinkedIn, in this manner if I’m making every effort to keep my current employer out of it?

Sure, you’re totally entitled to use LinkedIn in this way. But your employer is also entitled to ask you about if they find out about it, and they’re even entitled (legally speaking) to decide to replace you now, rather than waiting for you to quit. It’s not unusual for employers to react badly when they hear someone is planning on leaving, particularly if you haven’t talked to them about it.

2. Company ignored my post-application follow-up

I applied for an executive assistant position. I had a contact person from the alumni career center website I am using, so this is who I sent the letter and resume to on March 28. I didn’t hear anything or receive an acknowledgment, so about 5 days later I wrote a brief email and said I wanted to make sure my information was received and did they have a time frame for interviews. It has been another week and I still have had no response. I am definitely qualified yet I am hesitant if they call for an interview. Not that I would turn it down, but I have a negative impression already of the company. Am I being unrealistic?

Yes. This is very normal. Companies routinely only respond to candidates when they want to schedule an interview with them and don’t care for candidates following up to confirm receipt of their materials or to inquire about the status of their application. While this might seem rude, the reality is that most job openings attract hundreds of applicants, and companies aren’t able to respond to everyone who follows up on their application; they save their focus for the people they’re interested in interviewing.

3. Asking for a raise when budget concerns will be raised in response

I want to talk with my manager about a raise, but I’m not sure what information to bring up in this discussion. I have read your other articles about raise negotiations, and I plan on bringing up my performance evaluations (which have both been “excellent” in my two years here, and my manager often tells me how valuable I am to the department), how my responsibilities have increased, and a comparison of salaries at other universities with similar jobs. The thing I’m concerned about is if he denies the raise to me because of “departmental budget” concerns. Our department just created four new positions, so it appears to me that we have had a significant budget increase, and from office gossip I have learned that we are planning for even more growth. And yes, you have said before not to compare my salary to my coworkers, but in this case, is it valid to point this out if my manager comes back to me and says I can’t be given a raise? The last raise I had was about 18 months ago as part of a promotion, and since that time the scope of my job has increased significantly and I want to revisit this with my manager.

This doesn’t sound like it’s about comparing your salary to your coworkers’; it’s about seeing that the department has the resources to expand and so, maybe, the resources to give you a raise. However, keep in mind that your manager care more about putting those resources into creating additional positions than into paying more to the people already there. So you should have the conversation, but realize that ultimately, his priorities are his priorities, and if you’re not happy with them, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.

4. Asking for money in lieu of using an employer’s health insurance

I just got my first full-time job since graduating college this past June. I do not receive benefits until after 90 days of working there. At that time, do I have to accept their benefits, or is it possible to receive a cash pay-out and stay on my parent’s insurance? My parents have awesome insurance and I would like to stay on it if possible.

It depends on your employer. Some employers are willing to pay you more if you’re not using their insurance (since they’re saving money), and some aren’t. You can ask though — say, “Since I’m able to get insurance through another source, if I don’t sign up for our insurance plan, would we be able to adjust my salary to reflect that savings?”

5. Can you do too many internships?

A friend of mine graduated college in May 2011 and is still looking for a job. While she was an undergrad, she completed five internships. Since graduating, she has completed two internships, none of which have resulted in her getting a job. She is currently working a temp job which will likely not result in a full-time gig and her resume now consists of that and her seven internships. Is her resume scaring off potential employers because she has done too many internships? If so, is there anything she can she do to correct this?

She’s better off doing internships than doing nothing. However, she should look at her resume with a critical eye and make sure that everything that’s on there is strengthening her candidacy. If there’s nothing particularly impressive about a couple of those internships, there’s no need for them to stay on there.

6. My title changed after I started a new job

Recently, I interviewed and was accepted for a manager position. After I started, my employer stated that I didn’t have the experience to be a manager so wanted to change my title to Associate Manager, but I would still keep the same pay and benefits (and responsibilities, apparently) of a manager. I just started, so I don’t even know what the difference would be between responsibilities of the two positions. I’m upset, because this happened after I accepted the manager position and started working there. I’ve read your blog long enough that most times the answer to the question of “Is this legal?” is “Yes” but this seems awfully suspicious. Do you think I may have any recourse in terms of a lawsuit? Affirmative action coming into play? I’m female and a minority, which are protected classes. I moved to accept this position. Is there anything I can do?

Usually when an employer demotes someone but keeps their pay the same, they’re trying to do the right thing by that employee. If you started working at the manager level and it became clear that you weren’t experienced or skilled enough for the job, they could have just fired you — but instead it sounds like they gave you a position they’re hoping you’ll do better in, and also did you the favor of not lowering your salary accordingly (which says to me that they probably recognize their own role in hiring you for a position that you weren’t right for and are trying to do the right thing).

It doesn’t sound like you’ve even asked about why this change was made, so I’d start there. You need to understand what the difference is between the two positions, why they demoted you, and how they think you’re doing in the new role. Unless you have reason to think they’re discriminating against you because of your sex or race (and simply being a woman and a minority are not evidence of that), I don’t see why you’d try to take legal action over this. I’d focus on figuring out why they made the change and what it means for your future there.

7. Would this move be a career disaster for me?

My husband was offered a job in South Africa for two years. The company is willing to relocate us, pay for housing, food, etc. It’s the epitome of “perfect” for my husband. However, I’ve only been out of college for 2 years and hence am still working on developing a career. I’m a Human Resources Coordinator at an awesome tech company and would like to continue working up the corporate HR ladder. I won’t be able to do this in South Africa. I don’t qualify for any of their work permits and will only be able to volunteer. Can you please share your thoughts?

I wish I had a good answer for you, but I don’t — so hopefully some readers will. My initial, not-very-helpful thoughts are that on one hand, a two-year halt in your career at this stage isn’t exactly helpful, but on the other hand, if you’re able to find something interesting and productive to do with your time in South Africa (even although not paid), it could open doors you’re not even thinking about right now. I’m interested to hear from others who may have done something similar….

{ 83 comments… read them below }

  1. just another hiring manager...*

    Re: 4. Asking for money in lieu of using an employer’s health insurance

    Before you even ask your employers, make sure that you can actually continue on your parents’ insurance. For parents to cover an adult child, insurance coverage might be determined by age (say up to 26 for the really generous companies), student status (and you’re no longer a student), or something else. What you’re asking might be a moot point, depending on the insurance company.

    1. mh_76*

      I don’t remember exact details offhand but I believe that there is Federal legislation in place saying that people can stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26, regardless of student status, and that insurance companies have to allow that.

        1. The gold digger*

          What happens when you turn 26 and want to get on the employer’s plan? Is that a change of status where they are required to accept you? Or do you have to wait for an open enrollment period?

          If you do get the cash, are you going to give some of it to your parents to help pay for your share of the premium? :)

          1. KayDay*

            Some employers will reimburse you (or your parents) for your own insurance costs (up to a certain point). This policy is probably in the employee handbook. The OP may have a better shot if s/he asks to be reimbursed for the cost to stay on his parents’ plan, as opposed to just asking for cash. It usually ends up the same (cash is fungible) but it’s a better negotiating tactic.

        2. Bookworm*

          I’m almost positive that this isn’t going to turn out in his/her favor. I was kicked off of my husband’s (excellent) health insurance back in February because I was eligible for it at my job, whereas before they let you stay on it even if you were eligible at your own job. A lot of places are only covering dependent children (those unable to get policies on their own) and spouses that don’t work. It sucks, but an HR friend of mine in the health field said that’s the way things are going to be from here on out…

          TL:DR? Companies are being super cheap about health insurance now (and probably forevermore). Good luck!

          1. AG*

            Companies have been phasing out employer health insurance for a while now, going the way of the pension.

            Just remember if they give you the benefit in cash yoi would be paying tax on a part of your compenwation that was not taxable before.

        3. Under Stand*

          Not if the parents insurance plan is grandfathered. And with it being so much better, I would bet it is. Most newer plans seem very similar.

        4. Anonymous*

          Be advised that this law is being reviewed by the Supreme Court and might be struck down as unconstitutional. Turning down employer’s health insurance might impact future eligibility.

      1. moe*

        Yes, but check the link AAM posted–like much of the legislation, this part isn’t effective on all plans until 2014.

    2. Anonymous*

      This also depends on the company’s contract with the insurance company and whether or not this is something the company offers to all employees.

  2. fposte*

    On #2: I don’t disagree with Alison’s answer, but have you confirmed on the company website or elsewhere with the company that the career center had the contact person (and even the position) correctly? I wouldn’t necessarily trust an external source’s version of the information.

    1. JL*

      Yes, I did confirm the information was correct. What was frustrating to me was I saw the job listed on a few job boards without the contact information. Since the university career center had the job posting along with the contact name, email, and phone number I thought it would be 1) okay to follow up 2) realistic to expect some sort of a response since the info was so thoroughly listed. Without even an auto reply I am concerned my info gets received via email. Thanks Alison for a clearer picture of what not to expect and a reminder that if they are interested, they will call. Your advice always gives perspective.

      1. fposte*

        Good on you for thinking of that and for being diligent; those qualities will stand you in good stead.

        1. JL*

          Thank you fposte for your kind words – and your reply ! Responses make me happy obviously :)

  3. Anonymous*

    I’m just curious as to what the work permits in South Africa permit and don’t permit. It just seems strange that her husband qualifies but she doesn’t so I would just like to know….if she answers.

    1. Natasha*

      Work permits are usually assigned to one person not a family. She would have to be given a permit specific to her from a company to work while her husband is there.

      1. mh_76*

        Could you look at an American company’s South Africa office? I don’t know what the visa requirements are, if any, but maybe it’s worth a shot? And are you wedded to HR or could you look into general administrative work? I ask that because some places centralize HR but admins are needed everywhere.

        1. SA*

          Thanks for the idea, will look at some American companies based in South Africa. Again, if there are no visa requirements then it’d be great. Otherwise, HR or just admin work would still require a visa. As for why he is able to get a work permit and why I’m not – they tend to protect their citizens from foreign competition (25% unemployment rate) and therefore only grant permits for individuals that qualify for their “specialized skills list” with at least 5 years of experience within those respective fields of work. He’s an engineer and I’m currently doing admin work – not very “specialized”. Companies who would like to hire me have to face rigorous inspection from the government to prove that a local cannot be hired. Again – not ideal for admin type work. Thanks for all the responses!

          1. KayDay*

            I don’t know much about the exact laws, but foreign companies (i.e. US or non-SA based companies) sometimes have more flexibility if workers are hired to work in the US and then are temporarily assigned to work abroad. Again, no idea about the exact laws.

            Another option (if volunteering isn’t your thing) is to see if you can find a job in the states job that will let you work remotely full time. You might have to pay to fly back to the office once every few months, and you would not have much interaction with actual South Africans, but at least you would have a paying job.

    2. $.02*

      S. Africa neighbor – Are you by any chance a diplomat? Most times diplomats and their dependents are not entitled to work permits (same as here) but you can start a business there while your husband is working. There are a lot of opportunities but you have to go with an open mind. If you have capital you can easily start a small shop or something, business people are favored than visitors.

      Biggest advise, when in Rome do as the Romans do!!!

      1. simple simon*

        I would say that you could definitely move forward in your career by volunteering for the 2 years. Many really reputable NGOs would love someone with your skills! I did this and found that it was very impressive on my CV in future applications.

        I would also suggest that you consider doing consultancy based work. Which doesn’t require a visa and is very common in SA.

        Go and enjoy!

  4. KayDay*

    #7 – Ok, I’m an international relations person, so I’m completely biased…but I think it would be a great opportunity!!! If you could, try to locate some leads on volunteer possibilities before you leave. You will probably need to network a lot–try to see if you can get connected to some returned peace corps volunteers and also try to speak to recent graduates who went to South America for study abroad. You can also see if any study abroad websites have any information about volunteer opportunities. Not sure how corporate HR people will feel; but in general I’ve found that employers think doing anything abroad (particularly in an emerging market/developing country) is really impressive, or at least unique enough to grab their attention.

    #1 – have you ever searched for anyone through linked in? It’s not very private. Usually a linked in profile (complete with “headline”) comes up towards the top of a google search for a person’s name and inside of linked in you can see most of other people’s profiles, even when you aren’t connected with them. In the future, be a bit more vague in your linked in activity.

    1. SA*

      Thanks KayDay. That’s how I feel too – it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity! We’ve got some time to decide so we’ll see what happens.

      1. ARS*

        I have to agree with KayDay. It may be a two year “delay” in your career, but you could develop some truly amazing contacts, volunteer for great organizations, and really, I don’t know how old you are but you’ll be working for a very long time. I don’t think you would EVER say “Gosh, if only I hadn’t taken those two years to live in South Africa”. Good luck! :)

  5. Tex*

    To #7 – Africa is booming right now and South Africa and Kenya are leading the way. (I was in Nairobi two years ago – I learned that a particular company had to fly in a computer strategy consultant from jo’burg toNairobi for one week a month because they couldn’t find anyone locally.) Big corporations like IBM are starting to come in, there should be plenty of opportunities.

    On a more practical note, I would suggest researching companies with local operations through the South African US consulate trade office. Also, things may open up once you get there and start networking with other ex-pats. There are a ton of NGOs there with centralized operations HQs in major cities with paid positions. I’ve also had friends who worked remotely in developing companies for US companies (they were research positions); I don’t know how feasible it is for your career but it could be an option.

    1. SA*

      Thanks for your post. Would you happen to have any leads on these companies that allow remote work or where to go to look for them?

  6. K*

    #1 – Does your boss and/or co-workers belong to one of your LinkedIn groups? I’m thinking that’s one of the ways they found out about your search.

    —- “It’s not unusual for employers to react badly when they hear someone is planning on leaving, particularly if you haven’t talked to them about it.”

    How does one go about approaching this with their current employer. This quote makes me feel like it’s a no-win situation for the employee – damned if you do or don’t.

    1. bob*

      “I do not currently have anyone from my company on my LinkedIn, nor do I have the name of my current employer, only the industry.”

        1. K*

          Yes, that is what I meant. Her boss may be a part of a professional group that the OP belongs to.

          1. Anonymous*

            It’s also somewhat naive in my opinion to believe that people in the same industry don’t talk to each other or know each other, even if they don’t appear connected via LinkedIn.

            1. Long Time Admin*

              And that’s why I don’t have anything about my job search on LinkedIn. My boss is the director of marketing here, and he’s on LI all the time. I deliberately have to be very vague and all I have is a general profile.

              When I get laid off, though, I’ll be going into overdrive to find a new job. (I think our company is sinking. They laid off 25 more people two weeks ago. Approx 10%.)

              1. K*

                The key to using LinkedIn for finding jobs on the down low is to privately reach out to contacts through InMail . That’s if you have an upgraded account. The other option is to Facebook and/or Google for contact info. I’ve tried that a few times and it worked.

                I’ve been laid off for more than a year and I’ve yet to use the “sharing” option to blast that I’m still looking. I much prefer the private route.

              2. LeeL*

                Actually, the fact that they are laying off so many people could be your answer when they ask why you are looking. Just tell them that you are happy with your job but felt it was prudent to explore other opportunities just in case you were next.

      1. Vicki*

        But your LinkedIn profile is still public. And people are shown “second” and “third” level connections. So if someone connected to you is connected to someone who knows your boss…

        It was rude of someone to “out” you to your manager, but people are not always thoughtful.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      K, in many cases you can’t broach it with your current employer. But some employers do make it safe for employees to say that they’re thinking of moving on — and these are, unsurprisingly, the employers that get rewarded with getting really long notice periods where they don’t need to scramble to fill a slot, are able to having the outgoing person train their replacement, etc.

      Basically, you’ve got to pay attention to what kind of relationship you have with your manager, how reasonable your employer is in general, and how they’ve handled long notice periods from others. It’s a judgment call.

      1. Kelly O*

        I wish more companies understood that sometimes, it’s just time to move on.

        I also got confronted with “we know you’re looking for another job, how long will it take you?” by a fairly new VP in our office (she started in February.) I honestly go in with a bit of butterflies every day, wondering if this is going to be the day they tell me to pack my desk and go.

        It would have been nice if we could have had a talk about the why of my need to move on, and some genuine care in the tone of the conversation. It’s sad that too many places don’t get where their employees are coming from.

        1. Anonymous_J*

          Sad but true.

          I wouldn’t DREAM of having that conversation with my supervisors, because I know for a fact they’d show me the door immediately.

          They’ve been trying to get rid of me for a long time.

          If they find out, they find out, and I’ll deal with it, but I’m certainly not going to volunteer the information.

          It IS an unfortunate situation. It would be nice if people could just be open with their employers. I prefer openness.

      2. sparky629*

        Ok, this is a touchy subject for me so I will try not to go on a rant for my response (you’ve been warned though ;-)).

        First let me say, I absolutely love this site and it has given me the confidence to move forward in my career search.

        But, I always kind of feel like in this particular area we (employees) give the employer way more power than they deserve for our career happiness.

        Why is it a big deal for an employer to know that you want to grow in your career and that it may not happen in your current place of employment?
        I’m not saying, you should bust up in the VP’s office and say…”I’m blowing this pop stand for greener pastures, beeyatches”. But, neither do I think you should walk into a new job/position and give them the impression that you are going to stay for the next 30 years come hell or high water (if you aren’t).
        The days of staying in a job until you retire are long gone so we should adjust our mental attitudes accordingly to have our best interest in mind.
        I will say that the next time I take a position, I am going to keep my mobility and growth (without being overbearing/obnoxious) at the forefront of the employers mind. Great if I can stay here for 30 years in a fulfilling career track but no hard feelings if I need to move on to grow. I’m not looking for just any job but the next rung on my career ladder so you [employer] shouldn’t be upset about my decision.

        If you notice people who are successful in their careers do not EVER walk into a new job with the ‘retirement or die’ attitude. The employer knows right up front they may not stay forever so they get what they can out of them and let them move on.

        I guess I’m so tired of hearing the horror stories about bosses who confront workers because they want to move on, jobs that place blind ads to see if their employees are searching for new jobs, or my personal favorite…hiring your replacement.


        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think you’re coming at it from how things should be, whereas I’m trying to give people advice on how things often are. Absolutely it would make sense to move toward what you’re advocating — but meanwhile, people still need to make their decisions based on the reality of where they’re likely to lead.

          1. sparky629*

            I understand what you’re saying, this attitude has been culturally ingrained into us (the U.S.) so it IS hard to think any other way. As a person of color and a woman, I think that attitude is even harder to overcome just because of what both groups have gone through to even be on the same playing field as our white male counterparts.

            Do you think employees should adopt that attitude or should we wait until we feel the climate change in our employers? I can kind of see the shift in my current employer but it’s been a looooong time coming so it’s hard to want to wait it out.

            I guess for me, I am less willing to get stuck in one more dead end job because I didn’t think proactively about my career before I took the position. Unfortunately, I’ve walked into too many jobs thinking the boss/company would see my hard work and loyalty and move me up the ladder; only to see that promotion go to someone who wasn’t doing even half the work I was.
            But I have definitely learned the hard way and will make sure that I am moving my career forward. It would be fantastic if the ‘great career fairy’ showed up and granted my every career dream but until she does then it’s all up to me.

            1. Blue Dog*

              I think it is one thing to be proactive about your career. It is another to come off as a blatant careerist. I guess at the end of the day, the me-first attitude just doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.

              Given the down time associated with training and integrating a new hire, many companies would rather take an 85% employee who will stay on over a 95% employee who will be looking to jump ship at the first sign of an issue.

              In any event, since OP has already indicated a desire to leave, he/she shouldn’t be suprised if the employer starts looking for your replacement now (rather than when you actually leave). And also don’t be suprised when you are shown the door as soon as your replacement is found.

              Personally, my advice is that when you have a job, don’t send out a resume on a lark and unless you don’t care if your current employer finds out. The business word is exceedingly small and you would be suprised how often it happens. Lesson learned.

  7. Anonymous*

    Re. no. 7, it’s totally worth doing, and in my opinion will be easier to do now (at the start of your career) than in the middle of your career (which is when I left the country for 4 years while my husband was in school – coming back from that was a challenge).
    I understand you may not be able to do paid work, but the international experience itself will be worth it; it’s also a completely reasonable reason to be out of work for some time. In addition to volunteer work, see what kind of professional development you can do remotely (I was a virtual member of a national professional working group), or, if you can swing it financially, consider flying back to the US to attend conferences once or twice a year. Also, if there’s a local equivalent organization, some sort of participation there might be an option.
    The other thing I did while overseas was have a baby. Not for everyone, but a productive use of my downtime!

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      Not entirely work related, but research expatriate groups in South Africa. There may be an American Women’s Group or similar who often have members in a similar position, and the Chamber of Commerce might be able to give you some pointers.

    2. K*

      I was totally thinking the same thing. Especially if you don’t have the luxury of 1yr mat leave at home, this would be an excellent time to start thinking about starting a family.

      Another alternative would be to use the time for any exasperation of graduate study in your field – some MBA schools out of the UK and Europe have great correspondence options.

      Also, start talking to people you work with and others in your field about what uses of your time abroad would really impress them. You may get some great ideas about specific volunteer opportunities or other options you may not have heard about previously.

      1. Frustrated not-mother*

        Just remember that it can be frustrating trying to have a baby on a schedule! We had this idea back in 2010/early 2011 when I was unemployed – result: frustration, annoyance and unneeded relationship pressure when it didn’t work.

        Most places won’t even let you pay for IVF until you can say you have been actively trying for over 2 years, and have diaries of *ahem* attempts proving regularity over the last six months or so.

    3. Long Time Admin*

      There are chapters of the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) all over the world, and I think there is at least one in South Africa. Check the international website:

      Even if there’s not a chapter close to where you will be living, you can get a lot of help from them, whether you join or not.

  8. AD*

    Re: #7, have you asked his company for help in this? Sometimes they will help the spouse get temporary visas.

  9. bob*

    #1: If you put a headline in your profile that says flat out you’re looking for a new job on what is essentially a public site that was a huge mistake and you should learn how to tap dance quickly.

    Some employers may get a clue and ask why you want to leave but I’d guess that most would just say thanks for coming, here’s a check for 2 weeks and turn in your badge now please.

  10. Charlotte*

    I feel like question #1 (employer found out about my job search on LinkedIn) is the reverse of needing to be cautious about what you have on Facebook during your job search. The internet is a public place. Prospective employers can see your Facebook if you don’t have high-enough privacy settings just like present employers can easily find what you have posted on LinkedIn regardless of not being linked to them. Don’t put anything online that you don’t feel comfortable with the world at large knowing.

    1. K*

      I’m thinking that she was unaware that her post could be seen by those not in her network via the group postings. The boss is probably curious as to why the OP is searching for a new gig after 1 year.

      Anyways, if she’s uncomfortable with her current employer knowing about her job search, she should send private messages or check the group roster before she blast a “I Need a New Job” post.

  11. Mike C.*

    I’m a little concerned about the OP in #6. After doing all the resume reading and interviews and offers, they just now decide that she’s doesn’t have enough experience to be a manager? Legal issues aside (you’re going to need more before that is a possibility), this is a really messed up situation.

    “Oh hey, we read through your resume and asked you all these questions and stuff, but we had no idea that your experience was so lacking!” Had she been fired, she would have some other claims to make . Both you and Employee Attorney covered the question:

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      She’d need to prove fraud, that they hired her knowing that they planned to do this. It’s certainly possible that that’s the case, but it’s far more likely that they simply decided (rightly or wrongly) that she wasn’t working out in the original position. Hiring isn’t an exact science; I’ve certainly hired people who I thought were going to be fantastic who simply didn’t live up to what I thought I saw in the interview process. In that case, an employer’s options are to let the person go or move them into a position where they could do better; letting someone keep their higher salary in this case is actually a nice thing to do.

    2. Under Stand*

      It is possible that she interviewed amazingly well, but when she actually started the job it became apparent that she would not be able to do certain parts of the job correctly. The fact that she does not see any responsibilities missing tells me this is possible. If she did not know she was supposed to be doing something, then she would not miss not doing it.

      That they kept her on and kept her rate of pay the same speaks volumes for the company. Even if they did not take any responsibilities away, you are just looking at a retitling of the role. She has not been materially hurt by the change and has no legal claim. But if she pitches too much of a fit, do not be surprised if they find a legal reason to get rid of her without Unemployment- mistakes in work, fraud on her resume. It would be relatively easy to can her and ruin her career if she pitches a “you cannot do this to me, I am protected” fit when no harm was done. Further, such a fit gives the people who are right in arguing their protected status a bad image.

      1. YALM*


        They changed OP’s title but kept the salary the same. OP’s first instinct is to play the law suit card. Before asking for details about the change.

        Face palm. Lesson learned: Just fire the employee and move on.

        1. Sigh.Sigh.Sigh.*


          Could you please refrain from making the illogical assumption that the OP’s “first instinct is to play the law suit [sic] card?”

    3. Tim C.*

      If she had a offer in writing where she was hired to be a manager, she may have a case. I have seen this happen to others and it creates a bitter relationship between employer/employee. To me this appears as a bait and switch. The OP never disclosed how much time was between hire and this demotion. Did the employer offer additional training or coaching? She deserves an opportunity to improve. If they still have all of the same responsibility, it is dishonest to change someone’s title. Even if the OP keeps the salary, raises may be denied because she is at the top of the salary range. If on purpose or not, it is a krappy thing to do to an employee.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        She’d have to prove that the offer was fraudulent — that they intended from the beginning to do a bait and switch. Otherwise, it’s completely legitimate for them to decide that she’s not working out in the first position. That’s usually when people get fired. In this case, it sounds like they’re offering her a different option.

        And there are times when it wouldn’t make sense to offer training/coaching — with some jobs, there’s not enough time to learn on the job. Manager jobs are one of those — if you’re not effectively managing a team/project, you can do a lot of damage while you’re “learning.”

      2. Just Me*

        What would be more krappy is to know they made a hiring mistake and had fired her. They didn’t. They kept her pay, as well as, she believes the responsibility.
        Obviously something went wrong somewhere and at least the company liked her enough to keep her. Sometimes things just don’t go the way hiring was intended.
        I give props to the company for keeping her and apparently trusting her enough as a employee to do a job.

        Coming from a company that has high turnover/firings due to krappy training, high turnover for attendance points given for everything, I am not seeing the reason to make a big tah-do.

        I totally believe she needs to ask why it happened and why they made that decision. To me it seems like there is a piece missing that we do not know.

  12. Clobbered*

    #7 – while it is always better to be paid :-) I totally agree about seeking volunteer opportunities. I am familiar with the spouse-has-no-visa phenomenon and I have seen people end up on the board of all sorts of non-profits in a very short time because they bring the kind of energy in their volunteer work that they would bring to a paid job. This would allow you to gain experience much faster than a corporate ladder.

    Still, it is good to have money. Look at universities and research institutions in your town; they tend to be familiar with the visa process and might be willing to go through it for the right applicant.

    Also, your husband’s employer might have an HR department that can help you with leads for work. It is not uncommon to at least offer advice in such situations to spouses in the visa trap.

  13. South African*

    I have every intention of doing a similar thing in the near future, and am encouraging my husband to take up the overseas opportunity in question. I feel the experience gained from travelling will be worth it on a personal level, and my career can recover from a two-year hiatus, if I am forced not to work in my field while there. An all-expenses-paid chance to live in another country (especially one where your currency is strong and you will have a much higher standard of living on the same amount of money as at home), does not come around often, and only gets more difficult to take up as you get older and have kids in the picture.

    Start by seeking advice from a South African law firm about a working visa for you. While you may not be able to work on a spouse’s visa, you may well be allowed to do so if you come on a student visa or on your own separate work permit. It can be difficult to navigate the visa system from outside, so the lawyer is really recommended here – and if you can find a company willing to employ you, they may well assist you in finding that lawyer and covering the costs of the application.

    Also (and I disclose my bias here as a South African), there are plenty of interesting things you can do with two years where you are not paid: study further at an internationally-respected university such as Wits, UCT or Pretoria; volunteer in your field at a non-profit (of which we have many); start a business; travel to neighbouring countries; write a novel or articles for a publication back home; etc; etc. Given the lower cost of living here, you will not need two incomes – so focus on what will advance you / make you happy without having to worry about the pay.

    1. Anonymouse*

      Absolutely. I am worthless advice because I’d be stepping off the plane in Johannesburg before I finished reading the email. So, grain of salt and all of that.

      International experience is usually something you build later on in a career, but it’s highly valued when you are moving into an Executive Position, and hard to come by.

      Since your career is in a very broad field (not making, say, parts for General Motors cars), I think it’s very likely that you could at the very least find volunteer work with U.S.- or Internationally-based charities. Red Cross, for one, uses a ton of virtual teams who never meet each other and work from their home computers. One word though, try to make sure you are engaging in an effort based close to your longitude (i.e. Europe), or you’ll end-up on a goofy timezone. There will always be small grassroots local companies that you could volunteer for as well, who would be very happy to have the help.

      Not to mention, you might just have the time of your life!

    2. Anonymous*

      Ask your husband’s employer whether they offer spouse counseling. This may allow you to find out what your ability to get a SA work visa realistically are and what alternatives exist. One of the biggest expat failure areas are because of the family-bored or underchallenged spouse being a major factor. Sounds like a great opportunity to do something very different for a couple of years.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        And presumably your husband’s company will be using a relocation service? They can help with various issues, but it is true, as the previous poster said, the “trailing” spouse is a common problem.

  14. Eric*

    Re: LinkedIn

    Assume ANYTHING ANYTHING ANYTHING you put on the Internet can and will be subject you to criticism from ANYBODY including current and former employers.

    A paranoid person would never use Facebook or LinkedIn and would even go so far as to use a secure and anonymous VPN service for their Internet searching and browsing.

    1. Sigh.Sigh.Sigh.*


      You bring up a good point about the accessibility of anything posted on Facebook and LinkedIn. These sites are free-of-charge, come up quickly on Google searches, and countless people from executives to students have accounts on each of them.

      However, I do take issue with your whole throw the baby out with the bathwater approach. The public nature of social media websites like those listed above is a large part of their appeal and success. Really, would LinkedIn be very good at linking people if only a few accounts existed?

      Instead of assuming the worst and encouraging every job seeker to live like a hermit, maybe we could helpfully suggest some simple and thoughtful ideas for LinkedIn and Facebook users to implement to safely search for their next position.

  15. Student*

    For #7:

    You have every right to have your own priorities and aspirations in life, as does your husband. I say that not because of anything specific in your letter, but because our culture sometimes encourages women to give up their jobs for the good of their husbands, but rarely asks the same sacrifice of men. Sometimes it is really the best choice, but sometimes it’s not.

    I don’t know what would be better for you, your family, or your husband – you are the only person in a position to judge. But, I have to ask, have you discussed how this will impact your career with your husband? Have you weighed the upsides to his career with the downsides to yours, including your healthcare coverage, your retirement savings? Are you comfortable going to South Africa? Will it impact other aspects of your life that you haven’t discussed with your husband (social life, family planning, hobbies)? One of my friends used work concerns to mask all sorts of other concerns about travel abroad and her relationship – your letter certainly doesn’t indicate that, but it seems like a good thing to consider.

    Also, have you considered all your alternatives? I know of couples where one person has gone overseas for a temporary job that’s really important, but the other partner stayed in the US to further develop a career or continue schooling. It’s not a workable solution for everyone – but it can work well and it can make both partners feel more fulfilled. With the easy availability of video conferencing, frequent phone calls, and emails, you can stay in touch daily and still “feel married” despite the distance. With the extra income from both of you working, you can also afford to spend some of it on visits.

    If you decide to go to S. Africa, I’d also suggest that you look into telecommuting options. A visa is permission to work in South Africa – and at a glance on the S. Africa visa website, visa restrictions shouldn’t apply to work you do for a US company while in South Africa (just as you wouldn’t need a work visa to respond to work-related email while on vacation in a foreign country). If there’s HR work that you could do remotely, then you should run this idea by someone who knows more about the relevant laws to see if it’s viable.

    1. Sigh.Sigh.Sigh.*


      Yours is a truly well-written and articulated point about question # 7.

      I really enjoyed reading the questions you posed as well as your decidedly non-judgmental approach to the original poster’s predicament.

      Please continue to contribute such thoughtful comments.

    2. kim*

      I agree totally with both this comment and the other one praising it. Twice I have taken a job far from home while my boyfriend (which you should not read too judgementally, as we’ve been together some 8 years) stayed to continue working, just because the economy has been tight. Maybe you can continue to work your current job for a year, and then join him for a year? Or like 6 mos/1 and a half years thing? The recommendation to join a non profit board is also an exceptional way to go… I’m sure there are tons of small orgs that would love remote HR advice!

  16. Kat M*

    As an HR person, the understanding you’ll develop of different countries and cultures from living in ZA will be a HUGE bonus to any company doing international business. I worked in Malawi for a couple of years, and I got a lot of interest from employers with a large percentage of international clients after I returned. (Given, I was in a totally different field, but I imagine it would be even more pertinent for HR.)

    1. YALM*


      Lots of super awesome tech companies are international. Having HR staff understand cultures (work and personal) outside of their own is really helpful. I deal with HR people in four countries, and the ones who can’t see beyond their own national boarders are maddening to work with. Companies that cross boarders need staff who can do the same. I’d say go. Expand your horizons.

  17. Sophie*

    #7 – I did a 3 month internship in India right after I graduated college, and it did close a few job doors for me, but having the experience of a different culture has made a HUGE difference for me personally and professionally. I really stand out to potential employers because of the internship, even though it may be not be exactly related to the job or my degree. It lets them know that I can adapt to new environments and be flexible and understanding. I say do the overseas experience now rather than later.

  18. simple simon*

    RE: #5 – too many internships

    I did many short research consultancies early in my career as well and I worry about those 4,5,6 month positions. That being said, I have always been afraid to leave jobs off of my resume when applying for positions since I don’t want there to be a gap in my resume. Can I just leave off all the stuff that is not as relevant and some short consultancies? Do I have to explain the gap??

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Leave them off if you think it strengthens your resume. If you’re asked about the gap, just explain. Another option is to group them all under one heading.

      1. simple simon*

        I think it strengthens my resume in that it makes it shorter – space is of the essence!

        I will try to group them together and see how that looks. I worry a lot about the gap. Perhaps I won’t get to the point of explaining if they toss me aside due to the gap in the first place.


  19. Anonymous*

    Re #6, the company knew you were female before they hired you. And unless you had nothing but phone interviews, they knew you were a minority, too. Exactly how do you believe the employer is benefiting by changing your title and keeping your salary the same?

    It sounds an awful lot like either you exaggerated your experience/skills and the job ended up being too much for you, or the employer had too much faith in your ability to learn new skills and is now regretting that.

    Do you think I may have any recourse in terms of a lawsuit? Affirmative action coming into play? I’m female and a minority, which are protected classes.

    Because it can’t be anything you did, can it?

    If you’ve actually followed this blog for any length of time, and not just stumbled upon it while googling “How to get what I want by claiming I’m being discriminated against,” you’d know that once in a great while people are treated badly even when they’re not part of a protected class. And some people aren’t being treated badly at all; they just can’t conceive of the fact that they could ever do anything wrong.

    Nobody just arbitrarily woke up one day and thought, “Gee, now that I think about it, we should never have hired a minority woman. Let’s demote her.” But you start hi-ho-Silvering with threats of legal action, and you can bet they’ll think twice about ever hiring a minority and/or female again. Thanks for perpetuating the stereotype that we’re all slackers who’ll simply sue if anyone ever questions us.

  20. Anonymous*

    Hello. I am OP #6. Thanks for your honest and frank opinions. I apologize if I sounded litigious – obviously, I am just embarrassed and ashamed and wondering if I should have moved and left my last job, even though it was the right decision at the time. When they asked me to change my title, it was after I had started (about a month or so), and it was nice of them not to adjust my pay to the new title. While they said my responsibilities wouldn’t change, it’s obvious that I’m doing more junior activities than the other managers. They tried to make it sound like it wasn’t a demotion but reading all of this feedback makes it apparent it is. Again, not any of yours’ problems to deal with, but I appreciate all of the feedback you’ve posted so far.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Thanks for weighing back in! I think you should really talk to your boss — ask what was behind the title change and what you can do to work toward meeting the bar of the original position. You should hopefully get good insight into what’s going on.

  21. Becky*

    RE: #5 – too many internships

    I actually had seven internships before I landed my job. There were interviews where I was asked why I had had so many, and I would explain my decision to continue interning so that I could gain experience and keep busy during my job search. Employers were very understanding how difficult the job market is, especially as a recent graduate. Many entry-level jobs require a year or two of experience in a relevant field, and the only way I could gain it was to intern for an extended period of time.

  22. Anonymous*

    #7 This is a very personal decision for you, and there are positives and negatives to both sides. I have recently moved to another country with my husband, while he pursues a degree, and I had a hard time getting a visa. I decided to volunteer and take a one-year course myself, as well as take up part-time employment. Though I have kept busy, and enjoyed my time abroad, I have decided after one-year that I don’t want to stay, and want to return to the USA to start building my career.
    Part of the reason for my decision is financial (we would be scraping by for two more years, which I have already done for 6 years as an undergrad and graduate student) which won’t be as much of an issue for you as your husband has full-time employment. The other reason is frustration. I am ready to build my career, and am just not happy to live in a rural overseas area with few opportunities. You have to really weight what is most important to you, and whether you will happy in the new situation.

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