my very first open thread

You asked for it, so I’m delivering it:  the very first open thread ever on Ask a Manager. For anyone unfamiliar with open threads, it means that the comment section on this post is open for discussion on anything you want to talk about (unlike on regular posts, where I generally try to keep the conversation focused on the topic at hand).

If you have a question you want me to answer, emailing me is still your best bet, but this is a chance to talk to other readers. And if you dislike this experiment, come back later in the day; I’ll have a regular post later on.

And just because I want to share this and have nowhere to put stuff like this, here’s a letter I got from a reader today:

Alison, I have a phone interview tomorrow! I have applied for dozens of jobs in the past few months with not one single response. I finally changed how I was writing my cover letter and followed some of the ideas you have posted. I just got a call from a guy who said he LOVED MY COVER LETTER! He thought it was “delightful!” 

Cross your fingers. My husband is ready to quit his job this second. One of us has to have a job.

Cover letters rule.

{ 521 comments… read them below }

  1. Rob*

    I think I may have the worst boss ever. I just got hired on part time for a retail arm of a well known non-profit. In the last month, she once said the night drop was $20 short (even though it was counted three times and in a sealed envelope). She then tried to cover the money up by not ringing in $20 worth of sales and never asking me why the drop was short…just making me feel like it was my fault.

    The same thing happened two days later, only $10 in question was missing. This time, two other people also counted all of the money the prior evening and everything was on the up and up.

    Finally, just the other day, our ‘bill exchange fund’ (used to change out big bills for small bills if necessary) was $6 short while the regular drawer was $5 over. Again, everything else was on the up and up with the other employees.

    All three times, it was her that was the only one who could have been stealing the money. All of these instances have been reported to the Executive Director who is documenting all of this stuff. The ED herself is very new and just getting her feet wet, but if I was her, I would have fired her after the third incident.


    1. Rob*

      I need to add a bit more info to clarify. The first incident was on my very first paid day, even though I had been volunteering for a few months – and there was no prior incident with myself.

      I have also recently learned that the store manager had been caught stealing before by the prior ED, but didn’t fire the store manager because the store manager was the only employee at the time and she didn’t have anyone else to do the work (since then, an assistant was hired, then myself was hired).

      Lastly, this is only a temporary job for myself, before myself and my wife move South in a couple of months. Should I just shut my mouth and deal with this situation, or should I try to do something (and if so, what) in the very near future?

      1. Veronica*

        I’m not too familiar with retail cash procedures, but could the store manager count the money in front of you and then everyone signs off that everything is accounted for?

        1. Rob*

          The store manager is never there at the close of business. She shows up from about 9 a.m. and leaves at about 3 p.m. or so Tuesday through Friday. Openly admits to everyone within earshot that she wants nothing to do with working on Saturday (we are closed on Sunday and Monday). Claims to work Monday’s on procurement but that never happens. The assistant manager and I handle the closing day activities, but the store manager gets to the store Tuesday-Friday before everyone else and that is when she amazingly discovers ‘problems’ before anyone else arrives for the day.

          1. Another Ellie*

            Are you guys just counting up the money and sticking it in an envelope, or are you preparing the deposit? The best solution to this (other than firing the thief) is to have the deposit prepared and put into a deposit bag by somebody other than her, so that she can’t remove anything from it. You should be able to receive/buy deposit bags from your bank branch. They are plastic and tamper-evident and you write the totals directly on the bag. Another solution would be to do a night deposit, rather than waiting for her in the morning. Your bank branch should have a night and weekends drop-box. You may also be able to have somebody in the organization, executive director, finance director, whomever, set up a meeting with the bank manager to discuss how to detect and prevent theft in the deposits. They can also give you specific plans for avoiding theft/mugging when you make deposits at the bank, especially for avoiding this if you switch to night deposits.

            Are you using a cash register in the store? What kind of software are you using to track purchases/returns/etc.? There should be built in features to help you square the cash at the end of day with the activity throughout the day (the z tape, for example). Whoever set that system up should be able to train staff in how to use those features. Not ringing things up, or ringing extra things up is not an acceptable way to control this.

            You also need to set up an explicit procedure for doing the deposit that can be checked by an outsider, if necessary. Our procedure at my former job (also a small but locally well-known non-profit) when we counted the cash was that at least two people tallied it. If the deposit was the next morning, whoever closed counted all of the tills that night. There were pre-printed sheets that we filled out, that had some checks and balances worked in to help us find counting errors. You signed and dated the total down at the bottom, put the sheet over the till, and put it all in the safe. Then the next morning whoever did the deposit verified your tallies on their own sheet, and then set the deposit up. The sheets were kept together so they could be checked if the bank found an error, and we informed each other if we found a mistake in the other’s work. If the deposit was done that night, the same procedure applied, except that the second person did the deposit right then, and the night deposit procedures were followed to get everything and everyone to and from the bank safely. For really large amounts, for example during major fundraisers, everything was triple checked.

            1. Piper*

              When I worked as a retail manager we counted the cash at the close of business and put everything in a sealed (and signed by me and the closing sales associate) deposit envelope. That kept everyone from messing with the deposit. The next morning, the opening manager took the deposit to the bank.

              We also used retail software to track all purchases/returns/etc and recorded all of that information (along with the deposit amount) in the books at the end of the night. The sales associate and the manager on duty had to sign the book. Everything had to balance and we had to record any overages or shortages, so we’d see if there was a pattern of consistent shortages with a certain manager.

              Not sure if you’re able to implement any of these, and none of these methods completely safeguard against theft, but they help. Good luck!

            2. class factotum*

              at least two people tallied it.

              Exactly. This is essential. I am always shocked when I read that a church has discovered someone stealing from the collection plate. I have been recruited after church to help count. They always have three random people who each complete a sheet showing totals by currency. We all signed. It’s pretty easy to prevent cash theft if you have the proper procedures in place.

              Related story: A former boyfriend worked for an airline back when the flight attendants took cash for booze. The FAs would drop the cash at the gate and my boyfriend had to count it and put it in the safe. The safe had two (different) keys to open, but his boss made my boyfriend keep both keys! The boss didn’t feel like being involved. My boyfriend finally insisted that someone else have the other key after a count came up short. There is a reason you always have more than one person involved when you are dealing with money.

              1. Another Ellie*

                “There is a reason you always have more than one person involved when you are dealing with money.”

                Exactly. And if you are a person who has been put into a position that involves money, and there aren’t two people, complain enough about it that either you get help, or you get relieved of that duty. Theft is not a laughing matter, and the double-checks are there to protect both the company *and* you.

                Incidentally, churches, schools, and small non-profits often have a lot of problems with theft that isn’t prevented because they don’t take simple safe-measures. Often these organizations are targeted by people who realize that (hint, if someone seems over-eager to take care of the money, don’t trust them with it, even if they’re a sweet old lady). Churches and schools especially tend to be very trusting, very often have no understanding of how to protect themselves, and think they are dealing with so little money that “nobody would bother to steal this.” Then half the bake-sale money disappears, and they have no way to prove how much there was, or even who took it, because they took no precautions to safe-guard it.

              2. Piper*

                Yeah, I forgot to mention the sales associate who signed the paperwork also double counted the money. Two people should always do that.

      2. worker*

        My deposits were usually delivered to our head office by a manager or interoffice mail. To cover myself, I would seal the envelope and then sign across the seal. It just gave me an extra peace of mind that my whole deposit was in the envelope when I sealed it and sent it.

        1. Rob*

          That is what we have been doing since I was accused of the drop being short the first time. I honestly think she was doing it as a way of covering her tracks, since she never really did anything to get an explanation as to why it happened, or tried to get me to pay the money back (or fire me for that matter). Because we changed what we were doing, it is how we caught her stealing the second and third time (since there was nobody else who had access to the money).

      3. Kelli*

        Do you have any sort of Assets Protection? I deal with the money and cash advances in my retail job, and any time we had a weird feeling about something (I’ve had coworkers steal money a lot over the past year) I’d talk with them about it and they would research and keep an eye on the matter via cameras. From there I’d try to stay out of it.

        1. Rob*

          No. There are just three employees (plus some volunteers), then there is the office staff. The store manager, assistant and myself are the only ones with access to the money. That makes it real easy to see what is going on and who is in control of the money and when.

          1. Anonymous*

            You can also “document” how you’re counting the money by using your phone and a sort of video blog. Especially if you can’t find a witness. As you’re counting and going through the normal close out procedure, say out loud what you’re doing… down to giving the envelope to the next person in charge of it. Video is hard to disprove.

      4. Liz in a Library*

        I wouldn’t just let it go if it feels like she’s trying to target you for blame.

        There may not be much you can do to stop it, but you can keep yourself somewhat protected by making sure someone else (and preferably not always the same someone else) is always present when you are counting or holding money, and by continuing to document problems that you see. While it’s not great to have to “prove” your innocence when you’ve done nothing wrong, it’s better than becoming the scapegoat for your boss’s bad behavior.

        I’m sorry–the situation stinks. We’ve had a series of dozens of thefts here over the past two years (some from my employer, but most from individual employees). There is a significant amount of circumstantial (but believable) evidence pointing to one person (including the fact that several happened within locked offices, for which only a small handful of people had keys), but the administration has chosen not to act. People who steal will continue to steal if left unchecked, and generally just become more destructive.

      5. Liz*

        Kelly and some of the other posters have already offered some great advice (as always – love the open thread). I’m just curious about something: Why do you think the manager is doing this? These are really small amounts.

        Your letter sounds as if you think it is possible she is targeting you for some reason. Or is it possible that she is really broke enough to need an extra $30 a week? Or is she acting out somehow?

        I only ask because I think the reason she’s doing it could change the advice you take. Kelly’s approach is perfect if the manager is targeting you or acting out – although if she’s truly evil be prepared for more pushback. If the problem is that she’s completely broke and using this to supplement her salary, though, then I would just quit now before things get worse. It’s likely to be a completely dysfunctional environment all around and you don’t want to wait for it to blow up in your face.

    2. Anonymous*

      How do you track deposits? It might be worth having a deposit log where you log what the deposit should be and what it is and have employees sign for counting the cash, making the deposit and verifying with the bank what was deposited. It may also be worth taking pictures of the deposit an bag at night as a CYA. but DEFINITELY bring this up with the ED. Workplace theft is no joke. And if she’s stealing from the till and otherwise engaging in funny money management, time and merchandise are also walking out the door with her, too.

      1. Marie*

        I normaly close our store alone. We regord the daily sales by paiement type (i.e. what the cumputer says) and balance it out with what,s is the cash and the interac transactions. I note the amount and put the deposit in a night deposit envelop. Everything is signed. The back checks the deposit and head office will peridiocally check out numbers.

      2. class factotum*

        Workplace theft is no joke.

        I worked a Macy’s for a while and was shocked at how loose their systems were. Employees can not ring up their own purchases, but people would do each other’s and give unwarranted discounts. Macy’s would give us a coupon for a one-time discount. When I rang up a co-worker, I kept the coupon and put it in the drawer after I was done, which was how it was supposed to be done. She got mad because I didn’t give the coupon back to her so she could use it again. I just shrugged and played dumb, but I knew what I was doing. Nobody asked me to ring them up again.

        I also had people call me to say they were running late and could I clock them in. Good grief. (No, I didn’t. I’m not going to risk my job to cover for someone I don’t even know.)

    3. DanaD*

      How about taking a video of yourself counting the money and putting it into a sealed envelope? If your cell phone takes video (most do, these days), you could do this pretty easily.

      1. Liz*

        You would have to email a copy of the video to yourself right away, though, so there would be a time stamp.

        1. Sarah T*

          That situation sucks. I have worked in the same shop since 2010 as a cashier, and there have been times when my drawer has been short $60, $30, $8 and even $200, $100 and $90 once. Obviously, I didn’t take the money. I am not a thief and I am grateful enough to have a decent paying job to even think of doing something so horrible. But that means that I *am* doing something wrong, which is a pain because I have no clue whether they eventually found it until a supervisor tells me that she found the money in the register box-thing itself (the missing $100), or that it was under the drawer ($200 from someone else putting it there while I was away from the register or on my break). But as for the other amounts I know of, I honestly don’t know. It bugs the hell out of me, because I know that my boss and the lady that does the accounts would understandably suspect me, but I know vid surveillance would prove that I haven’t taken anything. I have told my supervisors that if they want it paid back, they can take it out of my pay or ask me to bring in the cash for it. *sigh*

  2. Alisha*

    Do you have any suggestions for a career changer? While in college I worked the normal sales positions. After college I worked in social services agency as quality assurance and the manager. After working with them for more than 3 years, I’ve decided I do not want to do that any longer. I’ve moved across country to chase my dreams, I’m looking for entry level administrative assistant position with a great company that has advancement opportunities. I chose administrative assistant because I like learning about a company and job from the bottom up and so that i can be used in any capacity needed; further expanding my knowledge about the company and jobs. I’m a great employee with stellar references and company loyalty. Is there anything I can do to stand out?

    1. BS*

      It’s hard to change careers without experience, as I’m sure you’re aware. And even entry-level positions can require at least some experience, especially given the number of people seeking employment these days. So, I suggest finding a position in which you have experience. Do that job well but also act like you are what you want to be (i.e. take on additional “administrative assistant”-like duties there even if outside normal work hours) and excel at it. Make yourself indispensable to your employer and you will either gain a new role with them or will have actual experience in the field you really want to be in.

      1. Nicole*

        I wanted to pursue a career in instructional technology, but had no prior experience. I took a job as an admininstrative assistant in a department that focused on instructional technology and design (at a university) to get a better idea of the field and whether or not it was truly what I wanted.

        My supervisor noticed I was truly interested in the field and advancing my career because I took on assignments outside of my normal administrative duties. She thought I did very well, I enjoyed what I was doing and it showed, and 6 months later I officially got a promotion and became the department’s “expert” on instructional technology since I ended up learning more than the folks that were already there. I recently left that job after two years and I’m still working in instructional technology.

        I say all that to share that it’s not always a bad idea to take that Admin job if you’re focused on growing and developing your skills. It could open doors for you!

        1. Tamara*

          I am currently in the same boat! I graduated college in August of 2011 with a BA in Advanced Composition & Rhetoric. My job search has been rather dismal but during this time I discovered that I’m VERY interested in Instructional Design as a career. I’ve been applying for admin positions at local universities (one of which has a mentor program for employees who would like to advance their career in other areas…how neat is that?!?) so I’m hoping against hope that I can get hired in any one of these.

          I’ve been networking as best I can but do you have any resume and/or cover letter tips to get into this type of entry level position? (S/N: I worked retail sales in a client based store while I was in college, have a copy editor internship with a local church, and experience as a Teaching Assistant + 2 letters of recommendation)

            1. Tamara*

              I did! And I reference it often. It has been a tremendous help. I have an interview Tuesday! Hope I’ll be emailing you a success story/update soon.

    2. Piper*

      Do you have any skills from your previous job that you can highlight as transferrable skills?

      Presumably, you’ve already worked in an office – are you organized and from my understanding of quality assurance, you should have plenty of transferrable skills from that. Can you show that you’ve managed workloads, deadlines, and meeting schedules? Can you demonstrate proficiency in MS Office? Highlight the transferrable skills in your resume – both the hard ones and the soft ones – and clearly show how you’ve achieved in the past using those skills.

    3. Admin Woman*

      Do you want to work in Admin? If yes then ignore this.
      You say you want a career change but you don’t say what you would rather be doing. Admin jobs aren’t really an entry job to any other job in a company these days. Chances are starting as an Admin Assistant when you want to be something else like (oh say) a Graphic Designer will take much longer and be less fulfilling then if you had applied for an entry Graphic Design position.
      My advice: seek out entry positions for the career/job you want.

      1. M*

        Yes! I had this problem at a previous job, I worked as an admin while going to school but once I finished school I found it was really difficult to get people to see me as anything other than an admin, despite having made my intentions to move up clear from the start. I ended up leaving for a non-admin entry level job at another company, and am now working in the field I went to school for.

    4. Kaz*

      You might consider signing up with a temp agency that places professionals – they LOVE people who are “front desk ready” ie well-spoken, polite, and educated. That could be a great way to get an inside look at a number of different companies, and many of the jobs will actually be quite long term or be temp-to-hire.

      1. Jamie*

        Yes – temping is an excellent way to do this and bypass all the caveats I mentioned in my post below.

    5. Jamie*

      You may find you have a difficult time finding an entry level position once you’ve been a manager.

      I posted about this in a thread recently – but I did this when I was in between jobs thinking that was how I got in and moved up before, so it should work again.

      But it only worked the first time because I was entry level. When I tried it again I didn’t get one call and had sent out almost 100 resumes. When I started applying for positions at the level at which I last worked the calls started coming.

      The problem is that a lot of companies don’t want turn over in that position, and if you look like someone who will advance quickly out of the job it’s a red flag. Another is the fear that the management mind-set is hard to put aside. In theory it sounded good to me, too, but in reality I don’t know that once you’re used to managing people and/or projects it’s that easy to transition to a support role.

      1. Anonymous*

        In theory it sounded good to me, too, but in reality I don’t know that once you’re used to managing people and/or projects it’s that easy to transition to a support role

        Errr…. management is a support role. No one ever bought a product because it was made by a well-managed team. They buy the product because they think it’s good. The product might be good because the team is well managed, but that’s not the customer’s concern.

          1. Jamie*

            That’s how I was using it. I agree that everything with the exception of sales and production (in manufacturing) are support roles.

      2. Wannabe a good manager*

        I have also heard that it is hard to take a non-managerial role once you are a manager? Why is that? It doesn’t make sense to me, since every manager has a manager above her, so you never forget your place in the pecking order. I’m thinking that managers have to evaluate both the attitude and performance of their reports, so they have a better feel for the qualities of a “good” employee. Before I became a manager, I was a good performer, but it was hit or miss. Now I know what I am aiming for and what I am avoiding in the relationship with my boss. By the way, I think I would prefer to hire a former manager.

        1. Laurie*

          I can’t speak to the people-management aspect of it, but I know that as a program manager in my previous job, I now find it really difficult adjusting to not being in a decision-making role any more. My previous job title never accurately reflected my managerial duties, so I couldn’t really apply (rather, get past the initial screenings) for manager-level positions.

          1. Jamie*

            This what I think a lot of it is – the decision making and working more autonomously.

            Sure, unless you own the company you have a boss, but once you’ve been working at a level where you’re at the table when the big decisions are made…and are used to being able to exert control over your own schedules and projects it’s would be really tough to work exclusively inside the parameters defined by others.

            And it’s tough to get hired for those jobs, because a lot of managers don’t want their reports to have a better management resume than they do. It may not be nice, but trying not to hire someone who can easily and quickly come gunning for your job happens every day.

        2. Karl*

          For me, the difference comes down to not being able to officially delegate things. Now, if I have an extreme workload, I either work the extra hours, informally influence someone into helping, or push back to my boss on prioritizing what’s going to happen.

          I overheard someone talking about going from being a Marketing SVP at a big company to being the head of marketing at a much smaller organization — she said, “I hadn’t had to write a marketing plan myself in years — I had people for that.”

    6. Steve*

      Have you done any research on what administrative assistants do, either in general or at a specific target company? Have you focused your networking on this type of position?

      My concern is that you are picking a position based on title and what you assume it consists of rather than factual knowledge.

    7. Kelly O*

      I’d be curious if you plan on being a career admin or if you want to transition to another role down the road, because that really does make a difference when you’re looking at that sort of position.

      Also, understand that if you DO want to transition, you need to be clear about that up front. Some companies are more open to that than others, but I’ve found it can be hard to transition out of that administrative support role – for whatever reason it’s a mental block for some people, even though there are transferable skills.

      It can also be hard to stand out administratively – at least that’s what I’m dealing with now, and I’ve been doing administrative support for some time. Many of the things you have to be good at can be hard to quantify. Alison has a good post somewhere (I don’t recall the title of the post right now) but if you can find a way to quantify what you’ve done in your resume, it will help.

        1. Ry*

          That’s a great article, and I will use it soon! The comments are absolutely bizarre – have you looked at them? I’m baffled. And glad to be here, because the register is… much higher here. And by “much higher” I mean “comprehensible.”

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Oh yeah, I generally don’t read the comments over there after the first day or two, because of that. And when Yahoo runs my articles, I never even glance at the comments because they’re so unintelligible/silly/etc.

      1. Chinook*

        This! I have seen a couple of Admins, myself included transfer to different rolesn but only because we were vocal about either in an initial interview or to a boss willing to listen. Often, what happens is we created new roles in the organization for us to fill after showing the need (often around training and IT program supprt that focused on user issues and not machine issues (I.e. Word Guru or in-house trainer). But, you have to be patient, be willing to sell yourself AND see how this position helps the organization. It also helps if you have an amazing work ethic as an Admin and they don’t want to risk losing you.

  3. Sean*

    I really am unsure if it’s that I live in the worst unemployment rate city in Canada, or if I’m just doing something wrong, but I’ve been to several jobs applying, some it’s been four months, others it’s been three weeks and have gotten no calls. I’ve applied to at least 20 places and I’m really just frustrated because I’d like a summer job so I can save more money for school…any suggestions? I’ve used tailor made resumes and cover letters for the different places, and still clearly isn’t working despite people always saying I’m a great writer, so I really wonder why I’m still not standing out enough to be the one who is called…

    Comments? Questions? Statements of pith and merit?

    1. Kelli*

      I’ve been searching for 2 years now. Then again, I’m in Pittsburgh. Jobs here are sparse and there is a lot of competition out there (especially with the amount of good colleges we have). I think w
      There’s a lot of us out there who have been applying and applying, with no word back.
      All I can suggest is, try in other areas. If its just a summer job, do something that you think could relate to what you want to do. I ended up getting a minimum wage type job to start paying off my student loans, and I’m still with them (until I can find a real job). Just hang tough.

      1. Sean*

        Thanks Kelli…it really is depressing. I’ll admit it’s more just school I want to save for my next step (just finished a Bachelor’s, starting college now for Journalism). I’m actually without student loans at the moment, which I know is a GREAT thing, but with it being two more years (AT LEAST) of school, now it’s really about saving more and more so that come end of college hopefully I’ll still be without student loans, and can put money towards an apartment or something…I might look up the nearby newspaper though I’ll admit I don’t know if they’d take me without a journalism degree…

        1. Anonymous*

          Journalism is a dying industry, and a masters is unnecessary. Its especially difficult to get into without some sort of network and newspaper jobs are especially scarce (though they may take you on as an unpaid intern). A journalism degree isn’t necessary for a newspaper but you have to have some sort of experience writing stories for a deadline or proofing/copyediting/researching. I graduated with a bachelors in journalism from one of the top schools in the country. Three years later, I’m working in Human Resources (which I do love)! The writing and inquiry skills that they taught were invaluable, but I would’ve acquired that with a minor in journalism – out of everyone I know from the program, only two people are actually currently working for a newspaper or magazine. Another friend that graduated with a journalism degree is working at Sears (and not for lack of trying). Just food for thought before you pour money into that ambition as networking/freelancing/interning would be more valuable than a piece of paper.

          1. Sean*

            I should mention the journalism program I’m going into is actually a Convergence program so I’ll be learning everything from print journalism to tv broadcasting to blogs/vlogs. And what’s more, learning how to take a print story and make it for every other format there is out there.

            1. AP*

              Sean, I have no idea what your local newspaper is but I am 100% sure they will take you on without a journalism masters. Half of my friends that work at the New York Times don’t even have undergrad journalism degrees. Technical knowledge and talent are what’s necessary.

              A lot of the entry-level journalism positions that people seem to be getting, for what its worth, are as web producers. Can you start learning now about the technical web side of newspapers? Can you show up at your local paper and shadow whoever is in charge of their web side, if they have one? If not, can that be you? Do they have internships? I work in a related field thats also very hard to break into, and these are the things that all the entry people I know are doing right now…

          2. InkStained*

            I want to give another view of journalism. I’ve worked at a major metro daily, one of the top 10 circulation Sunday papers in the country for nearly a decade. A few things: Most I know in the industry would debate long and hard about whether journalism as an industry is dying. Journalism itself is as important and mass consumed as ever ; the mediums and pay models used to deliver it have changed and will continue to change. There will be journalism jobs, but what they’ll be and what they’ll pay five, 10 years from now, that’s certainly a big question. I also would say of those I went to school with, many are still in journalism, especially those people who I worked with at the student newspaper. Those are incredible incubators for future journalists — and not just newspapers anymore, but all the online, digital sites college students are creating are great at experimenting and giving young journalists valuable experience. Anyway, I just wanted to throw out a little encouragement. I do agree: you don’t need a Masters in journalism. But journalism degrees, especially from top schools, are still well respected in newsrooms. At least the one I worked in! Good luck.

        2. Long Time Admin*

          Speaking of newspapers, have you considered getting a job delivering newspapers? Where I live, there are want ads for that all the time. At least it’s money coming in.

          1. Sean*

            True though um…you get paid only $20 a week…that’s not really much. I mean yes it’s money coming in but that’s almost like money you’d make as a kid if you think about it :S

        1. Kelli*

          Thanks Editor!

          I’m not sure if they’ll fit my background, but I will check it out. We do have a lot of jobs in the medical background in the area. Unfortunately, that’s not where I’m headed, but it’s great if other people on here are curious.

    2. worker*

      I live in Canada too and am still trying to find an admin asst position after more than a year. Like Alison is always saying, you never know what may be happening at the company. I applied in November to a job posting and got a call 4 months later. Another that I applied to in October assessed and scored over 470 applications received to get their short list and fill the position–took over seven months. Hang in there and good luck!

      1. Sean*

        I’m in Windsor (ON), personally I’d love to get into Journalism, but like I said I don’t really have the diploma yet, just a year of volunteering at a TV station. I however am thinking of doing something like administrative work as well being that I’m an organized person, have a typing speed of 80 WPM, and with my Asperger’s Syndrome (VERY high functioning though I should mention since I often get the “I wouldn’t have known if you hadn’t told me” response often lol), doing things like filing, etc is very methodical and in turn, fairly enjoyable for me. So yeah, that or retail in clothing perhaps. :S

        1. BS*

          I don’t know much about the job market in Windsor. But I think if you’re interested in journalism that any job involving writing would be beneficial for the experience. You might not get paid for it though (in other words consider an internship if possible).

          Here’s what I would do to gain experience in journalism if I couldn’t find a job in media: write articles for companies that want media exposure (pretty much any company). For example, if you are interested in software, you probably read a lot of software-related magazines and websites. Find a local software company and write an article about them. Send that article to the company along with your resume and a cover letter explaining your situation and how you can help them in their marketing efforts. If your article is well written and researched, it couldn’t hurt. If it isn’t well written and researched, then you have bigger problems to worry about in your fledgling career.

          1. Sean*

            Really good advice, though I’m assuming you’re using software just as an example. As I’m more into the entertainment industry in all honesty, that or LGBT rights.

            1. Anony-M*

              Since you are into the entertainment industry, and you mentioned you are a good writer, then maybe you should set up an entertainment blog to use your free time between job searches. You can monetize it, and if you get a fair amount of hits, make a little itty bit of money. AND, Bonus, you can slap it on your resume (or mention it in cover letters).

              As AAM always says, it is what you do during this unemployed time that matters. Use dead time to your advantage.

              And like Kelli said, you should definitely seek other fields. List all your interests on paper, then think about temporary summer jobs that relate to all of those interests. You are bound to find something you haven´t yet applied for.

        2. Editor*

          Many newspapers hire stringers (freelancers), particularly for entertainment coverage. When you go through a newspaper, page by page, look at the bylines. Usually the staff members will say something like “Chronicle reporter” or “Chronicle writer,” but freelance contributions will say “Special to the Chronicle,” “Chronicle correspondent” or “Chronicle contributor.” Look at the topics covered by these freelancers, then contact the newsroom and ask to speak to the editor who handles that topic. Don’t expect to earn much per assignment, but remember that a published clip from a newspaper can probably be linked to from your blog and is also stronger than work in class or the school paper or TV.

          A blog isn’t a bad idea, but remember you’re doing it for professional reasons. Make your posts on a regular schedule, show that you can provide factual information, not just opinion, and correct errors in a transparent way. Use Twitter and other social media to appropriately promote the blog, and show on the blog that you can take photos and video and imbed them properly. Don’t violate copyright on your blog, and learn the rules for what and where you can record and photograph. Never post anything you haven’t reread or reviewed for content and style at least three times, and never assume you know the wording of a literary quote, the title of a play or some other fact without verifying it first.

          Read blogs by journalists. Editor John McIntyre of the Baltimore Sun has a blog and gives good advice on writing, and his blog roll has other sources that are good to read. Regret the Error is a good blog, because it will make you more sensitive about errors in journalism. Columbia Journalism Review and AJR are magazines (focusing mostly on the U.S.) about journalism, and they have an online presence. Poynter Institute, Nieman, and Pew are foundations that cover journalism. Jim Romenesko’s site is good for industry gossip.

          If you want to be a journalist, you should also pursue a major in an additional field, preferably some science or computer science. Don’t choose something like history or gender studies. Having a background in biology will open up opportunities for writing in pharmaceuticals, science magazines, health desks on radio or TV news programs and so on. If you are interested in computers, learn how to program and become good at database management and research, so you can do technical writing or investigative reporting. Being fluent in a foreign language is also a good addition to a journalism major. In the U.S., Spanish is very desirable, but you might want French or German or the language of some other country that interests you. You will need a specialty in addition to journalism to help you get a job and also as a fall-back, since jobs in the field are decreasing by the day.

          1. anon-2*

            Good comments — but one thing — blogging can be good in a sense, bad in others. Two examples of “bad blogging”.

            I was on a discussion board where people could post videos. There was one young lady who posted a daily video blog. It was irritating. She wound up getting offers after she scrapped that (she had interned, had the right degrees, etc.) — and put up one perfect “demo video”. She now works on-air (TV) doing what she wants to do.

            Professional journalists sometimes resent bloggers. While they criticize up and down – the real reason is FEAR. There’s someone willing to do their job for FREE.

            And while some do it well, others do it badly, and a blogger is lumped into that assemblage.

            The suggestion – write for a journal – a newspaper or established magazine and get professional experience. Paid or otherwise.

            And you had better be able to do more than one thing. Some youngsters love a pro sports team — and blog well about their favorite team. OK, but can they do a movie review? Write an obituary? Cover a political issue and interview all the key individuals, and present an even-handed offering of the events around it?

            “No, but I know history involving the Cleveland Indians”…. not gonna fly. Not gonna work.

            1. Sean*

              Interesting ideas, both of you :) I actually did write a blog back in my third year about living with autism and for the most part I was writing on a daily basis. I left it due to school getting a tad more intense in my final years (4th and 5th) but I’ll definitely look into maybe starting an entertainment blog…though I’d need to figure out a good angle lol plus it might be more difficult considering everything with entertainment tends to be things covered by tabloids and other entertainment news already like ET, TMZ, etc. But it’s definitely a thought.

              Also Editor, I actually have a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at the moment, don’t know if that could help? :S

              1. Sean*

                Oops, the entertainment blog I just realized came from a tad higher from Anony-M :P My mistake both of you, but you both also made really good ideas such as freelancing :)

                As for the multi-topic thing, while I’ll admit I know barely anything about sports (though if say I was assigned a sports story I’d research the heck out of the sport first so I at least have an idea of what I’m talking about lol), movies I know, politics I sometimes get involved with (though more often if it’s dealing with LGBT but sometimes other things too), what I’m getting at is I don’t constrain myself to one topic. When I was writing news in University, I did stories ranging from new laws on methadone clinics, to a new board that UQAM (a university in Quebec) was starting to combat homophobia, to London, Ontario being one of the top ten cities in Canada for sugar daddies. So while the last one is…awkward, I definitely have never restricted myself from writing about a variety of topics.

        3. Chinook*

          Part of it is definitely where you are. If you are willing to move, consider looking out west (the cost of the move is tax deductible in Canada if it is go be closer to work). Jobs at McDonalds start at $12.50 an hour (saw it today). Small town weekly newspapers still exist even if they are fewer and, as long as you are willing to do more than just write (ie. Layout, photography), it can be a great place to gain experience. Just be warned that rent can be high in the city and renting in a small town can mean renting a room in someone’s home.

          1. Sean*

            Interesting, I’ve been told it’s only $10.25 an hour, minimum wage in Ontario for a place like McDonald’s :S Odd that you saw $12.25, that would be amazing if it were.

            Also as for rent, that part I’m actually more or less safe for two years. Even though it can be a pain at 24, I’ve moved back in with my parents who are not charging me any rent, which will allow me to put all my money that could be taken for rent to be put towards school savings (and sometimes an occasional movie out). So that’s a bonus aspect there.

          2. Anonymous*

            As a Native Ontarian who moved to Calgary last year I support this. The job market in Ontario is HORRIBLE for recent grads, I went through hundreds of applications with zero response after graduating in May 2011, within a week of moving to Alberta I had interviews set up, and within two weeks I had a job in my field. (Which is social services related, NOT oil and gas)

            The summer job market is also much better here, I’ve heard of places that are still looking for students for summer co-op terms right now.

    3. Ry*

      I have no statements of pith and merit for you except that I like you and wish you good luck! The way you’ve characterized yourself in this thread makes me suspect we would be friends if we didn’t live very very far apart.

      But look at this! (You have probably already found it, but just in case….) Your city has a career development center, with individual career counseling, job placement help, job listings, and resume development (though it sounds like you don’t need the latter). It is here:

    4. Kaz*

      A lot of places are no longer interested in people just for the summer. You are probably being outcompeted by people who can stick around all year.

      1. Charlotte*

        This is a really valid point – if the position is one that would just need to re-filled once you’ve returned to school many employers will choose to hire someone who will stick around once the summer is over.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah — for a summer job, you’re not likely to be able to get a writing job; you’re more likely to need to look at more traditional summer jobs (retail, food service, etc.). Newspapers are dying, as you probably know, and there are tons of unemployed journalists and writers looking for work, so the competition is heavy — and most “real” jobs don’t hire people for just a few months.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        And actually, if I can go beyond the bounds of your original question — reconsider journalism school. You don’t need it to write professionally, and journalism jobs are dying off at an alarming rate. Most working journalists will tell you not to get the degree (and actually that was true before the industry took a nosedive; that degree has always been a bit superfluous).

        1. Anonymous*

          Yes, I was going to suggest this too. There are two very experienced, now unemployed or under-employed journalists in my family.

        2. Sean*

          Thanks Alison, though I should mention like I did above that I’m doing a Convergence program so I will be learning all forms of journalism including tv broadcasting (what I really want to get into) and being that I have a contact (a producer) at ABC News, maybe it might work out for me. I understand though where you’re coming from, it’s more or less why I chose this program instead of a one-shot journalism program that only focuses on one type of journalism.

        3. Anonymous_J*

          Yes; however, I have been trying to break in for a long, long time WITHOUT a degree, and I’m finding most jobs require (or “prefer”) a degree. I am someone who has a good amount of freelance stringer/editor experience, AND I’m a photographer. I even have a clip file and portfolio to show people. No luck!

          When and if I can go back to school, I was actually considering a J degree, but maybe I’ll stick with psych and minor or 2nd major in J.

          I really appreciate all of the info about journalism up-thread! Tons of good info and advice, and I wish Sean the best of luck! The key thing is to read like a sponge and write like a fiend!

      4. Sean*

        Actually have been telling places Full time for summer followed by part time in winter due to school. Haven’t really been just asking for only summer.

        1. KDD*

          Sean, I’m in Western Canada and we are screaming for employees! But since you’re unlikely to move for a summer job, have you looked at the career centre at the university? Have you considered registering with a staffing company? If you’re just looking for a paycheque call on landscaping companies as they are always looking for summer help. Believe it or not, there is work out there, if you’re willing to take it. If you put limits on what you’re willing to do, you may be limiting your earning potential. Since you’re only looking for summer employment, this won’t affect your future career. I’ve had lots of summer jobs that have nothing to do with what I do now.
          Good luck!

          1. Sean*

            Thanks KDD, while I wish I could, yeah for only a summer job and school starting September, it wouldn’t work to move to Vancouver for three months lol. I have registered with a staffing company, and while I understand about landscaping, I’ll admit I’m being picky because landscaping I’ve done before and can’t bear to do it again. My doctor even has said I have no upper body strength, I can’t do that to my body…and I’m only 24 so that’s saying something…I’ll keep looking for other things, administration, retail, heck I’ll apply to McDonald’s again if I need to (worked there a year and a half), just not landscaping.

            1. Chinook*

              I have to laugh at west=Vancouver. Sean was probably talking Alberta and Saskatchewan where I could make more at McDonalds today then I did as a (unilingual) experienced admin assistant in Ottawa last year. I know my national accounting firm is currently short admins and accountants because they can go anywhere in Calgary and are getting poached by clients.

              Honestly, anyone with a work ethic can find work here, even if it means working at McDonalds for almost double the local minimum wage.

              1. Sean*

                Intriguing. And my apologies for taking west as equal to Vancouver, it was a misunderstanding on my part and being what I know about Alberta and the plethora of jobs there, I probably should’ve guessed you were talking about that.

                While I understand that yes it is more chance at finding a job, being that I want to save money for school savings without sacrificing some to rent, and while I really appreciate the suggestion, I think I’m going to have to just suck it up and keep up the search here…as annoying as it is…

                But again, I really do appreciate the suggestion and I will keep it in mind perhaps for the future :)

  4. Kelli*

    Any fellow Creatives out there?

    I was recently turned down from a job but was politely offered a potential internship/freelance job out of it… Of course it was mentioned for the “summer” – not right away. I have heard this before during job rejections, and I’ve always considered it a polite way of saying that they’ll keep my resume on file. Has anyone had any actual internships out of job rejections?

    Another Problem that I’m having with a separate company: job recruiter has stood me up for a phone interview that she had set up. She got back to me 2 days aftermy email/phone call to reschedule, rescheduled, had the phone interview, was told I was going to be set up for an interview at HQ. that date passed its no word, emailed her, never did get any word back. Just wanted to vent- ugh! I just wish I could get around recruiters.

    Thanks Alison for the quick email, as always. :)

    1. Rob*

      I’m no where near as smart as Alison, but I’ll try my two cents on this. I don’t have really anything to say about your first question, but with your second question, it tells me one big thing that I’ve seen Alison hit on before and I’ve experienced myself.

      If you are getting jerked around by a company while you are a potential candidate, how do they treat their fellow employees? The situation you face sends up a big red flag and is not something I would want to deal with. What do others think?

      1. Kelli*

        The worst part is that I’m friends/old roommates with the HR person at the HQ and she’s tried to figure out what’s going on with the recruiter. But you are definitely right on that- I have heard some negative things about the company from an ex-employee. I believe she even said that they don’t care about their employees!

        1. Stells*

          Yeah – I mean one missed phone call can happen from time to time (as a recruiter, sometimes you just get really sick and there’s no back up person to take the calls or reschedule them for you) but that PLUS the interview issue? That’s a red flag.

          At least you know someone in HR who (hopefully) can escalate it. Sometimes companies just hire bad recruiters who don’t understand that the candidate’s experience with you influences how they think about the company. Then again, the recruiter plus what you’ve heard from an ex-employee….I’d just write it off as it sounds like you’ve dodged a bullet there!

    2. HH*


      I can answer for the first question: I got rejected once for a (graduate) position (engineering, design side) because they chose better than me, but was offered an interview (told them I would appreciate them taking the time, even without an offer in the end, because I didn’t have much interview experience and liked the company).

      In the end they offered me an internship, correctly paid, for the “summer” with negotiable dates, although they knew I was looking for a permanent position. (It was like “if you have time after graduation and before starting your real job please come with us!”) I only had to say “yes” with the dates I wanted.

      Finally I didn’t because I got an actual job which starts right after graduation, but I believe the internship offer was solid :)

    3. Anony-M*

      In regards to the first question…

      I applied to a post production house once, and they only had low-paid internships to offer. I took it, and it was a lot of fun. However, I was offered a full time job elsewhere, and left the internship. Two of my friends from the internship have since gotten full time jobs there. One of them is in the dept he enjoys, and the other is doing meager work until he works his way up (it´s the process of the company…there is almost a formula of how you work your way up).

      So yeah, you can definitely get jobs out of internships.

    4. Stells*

      Oh, and on the first question – I know a couple of my creative/marketing type friends who applied to a company for a role, but they couldn’t afford bringing on someone else so they just paid them to do freelance. After about 3-6 months of freelance work they offered a full time position. With creative positions, Hiring Managers often have to have solid proof to give to the finance people that you’re worth the salary.

    5. bob*

      Apparently recruiters vanishing is a common affliction and I’ll even name names. Got an email about a month ago from a companies’ *cough Intrado cough* recruiter who asked if I was interested in a position and I definitely was! She set up a phone interview for a few days later and I had to leave my office (for obvious reasons) about 10 minutes early to drive a 1/2 mile to a mall so I had a good cell signal. Twenty minutes past the interview time I gave up and went back to work only to find an email she sent 5 minutes before the interview was scheduled that said she had to cancel. Super. I waited a few days for her to reschedule with no word then sent an email to ask about the status of the job. No word again so I waited another week to send an email inquiring about the job and got a reply they had moved on with their candidates which was fine but it was ridiculous to cancel on me then not bother to at least let me know I wasn’t being considered anymore.

      Oh and here’s a really good HR story courtesy of a good buddy who is in the same business… He gets an interview at GeoEye in Denver, does the full tour around the place, meets a bunch of people, they parade people through to chat with him for the full meal deal interview. My friend leaves feeling really good about the interview and never hears ANYTHING from them! Not a phone call, not an email, not a postcard, nothing! He finally gave up after several emails and phone calls but after a while it became a joke with a few us while he was trying to at least get an answer but it was so frustrating for him I can’t even describe it.

      I know companies don’t give a crap how they appear to people looking for work but I could make a pretty good list of shops that have sullied their own names because of unprofessional HR/recruiter behavior. Yea I’m talking about you Intrado, GeoEye and Digital Globe but you’re just the tip of the iceberg.

  5. Grace*

    I just thought I would give an update. I’m the pink mohawk girl. My old job called me back the day after I asked AAM and told me that they were unable to offer me the job as previously agreed. The very next day, I was called to come in for an interview at a bike place I had applied at. The sales job had been filled, but there was a position for a trainee mechanic, so I took it. I’m mechanically-inclined and my manager is really cool, so I’ve been very happy with my new job, and because it’s moderately skilled I get paid several dollars over minimum! Oh and I don’t have to interact with customers so my hair is a non-issue and I can wear my piercings!

    1. Lexy*

      Very cool Grace! FWIW, at my bike shop all the mechanics have interesting hair/piercings/tattoos… but I’m in the PNW so I think it’s sort of a prereq :)

      1. Natalie*

        Same deal in Minneapolis. Interesting facial hair on the men also seems to be a requirement.

    2. Anony-M*

      I really hate the stuffy idea of no tattoos/no piercings/no pink mohawks that many jobs have, even if they are not the “personality” of the job. Yes, I understand no pink mohawks for lawyers or something very “serious,” but I kind of love walking into retail stores, bike shops, cupcake cafés, etc with “unique” people working there. I think it gives the brand personality and makes the overall customer experience fun!!

      1. Piper*


        I love casual, fun, creative environments, and that’s appropriate even in some offices, like retail headquarters, e-commerce, agencies, tech companies, etc.

      2. Long Time Admin*

        I have come to appreciate the personality of these things, too. Why be stodgy and dull if you don’t have to?

        Good for you, Grace!

    3. Ry*

      Yaaaay Grace! I was hoping things would work out well for you. This new trainee position may be better, in the long run, than your previous job (it was food service, right?). As gas prices rise, bikes will continue to become more popular in North American cities. It’s amazing how many people don’t know how to change a tube or replace their brake pads, not to mention any kind of heavy-duty bike repair. Skilled trades don’t go out of style, and demand for yours will probably grow quickly in the coming years.

      I have a friend who went into masonry after getting a BA for similar reasons – she loves working with her hands, and she’ll always have work. And a good paycheck, now that she’s a journeyman mason and no longer an apprentice.

      Also, there are not enough women in the trades, and so there are professional women’s organizations, almost like special-interest labor unions, that can help you find work when you move or if you want to apprentice in something different. One of my best friends (a different friend) is a general contractor, and she’ s a lesbian and very pro-woman, and she developed and runs a program to apprentice young women and teach them skilled trades. (I’m FTM so I can’t play. Jealous.)

      So… congratulations! I’m moving in a couple of months (family necessity) and gearing up (ha!) for what I hope won’t be a protracted job search. Your story of overcoming your issue through flexibility gives me hope!

      1. Grace*

        My previous job was actually guitar sales but it was very boring, and there was not much room to move up in the company. I feel like the opportunity to learn a skilled trade is a better one than my sales job; the hours are more flexible as well. I’m the only woman bike mechanic at the company now and the only LGBT*, so maybe I will get in touch with a women-in-trades org. I’m not planning on moving any time soon, having just found a cute apartment in the heart of the gaybourhood but I know I can always find work, which is awesome.

        The number of people who don’t know how to change a tube astounds me! It’s really really simple and doing it yourself saves you $10. I’m especially surprised because my store caters to hard-core cyclists and the tech shop still has a ton of simple repairs all the time.

    4. Laura L*

      Congrats! It most of the bike shops I’ve been to, a pink mohawk would fit right in, even for someone who interacts with customers. It sounds like you’ve found a good fit!

      1. Grace*

        Yeah, when I interviewed I knew I would fit in. The manager has tattoos all over and 1/2 inch plugs in his ears, and the head mechanic has a gold tooth, so they’re totally fine with my multiple facial piercings and fun hair.

    5. fposte*

      Congratulations, and thanks for updating, Grace! I know lots of us like to hear how things turned out, especially when they turned out well. And trainee mechanic sounds like a really good opportunity, too.

    6. Liz*

      Congrats! Thanks for the hopeful takeaway for the weekend! “Be true to yourself and the right employer will find you!”

    7. Another Emily*

      This is great news. I’m glad that you found a good job, and it sounds like you’re a great fit (not just because you have fun hair). :)

  6. JoAnna*

    My office’s regular paydays are the 1st and 16th. On May 16tg, we did not get paid. In fact, we have still not been paid. Management keeps blaming a “funding issue” and keeps making promises about when our checks will arrive, but still no dice. State law requires them to pay us by 5 business days after the end of the pay period. If 5 days have passed and we still haven’t been paid, who do we report the company to – the state dept of labor? Is there anything we should be doing in the meantime (other than job-hunting)?

    1. Another Emily*

      I would document (and keep in my house, not at work) every single hour I worked and haven’t been paid for yet. You could keep a daily log. As for the legal stuff you seem to be on the right track.

      (I am really enjoying everyone’s questions and discussions, thanks for trying this out AAM.)

    2. Lexy*

      Report to state bureau of labor! At least look at their website and see what you should be doing. I’m pretty sure that missing a regularly scheduled payday is an infraction in my state… our board is pretty good about getting employees paid.

    3. Anony-M*

      I currently work at a job where 90% of employees haven´t been paid for the past five months.

      I used to work at a place where I freaked out when they didn´t pay us in 10 days.

      It all puts things in perspective.

        1. Anony-M*

          See my post below, about finding a job!

          And I never said it was acceptable. It is quite the opposite.

          1. Sabrina*

            That’s not a job, that’s a volunteer position. I know it’s hard to find a job these days, I’ve been unemployed more than employed in the last four years. But a job that isn’t paying you is not a job. (Unless it’s an internship)

      1. Jamie*

        I have never heard of a company where 90% of the people can afford to go without their paychecks for 5 months.

        That’s not a job, it’s a volunteer gig.

        If my checks stop, so does my work. I thought it was that way everywhere?

        1. Long Time Admin*

          Hey, I agree with you, Jamie. I couldn’t go 5 weeks without a paycheck. And I certainly wouldn’t work if I wasn’t getting paid.

          I know times are tough, but there’s no excuse for this.

      2. Laura L*

        Yeah, either isn’t good and I’m sure that not getting paid in 5 months is illegal.

    4. Anon*

      I had this same issue happen twice at a company I used to work at a while ago. Many of us looked into who (i.e. government agency) we could report the issue to, but when it came down to it, if the company didn’t have the money to pay us, they didn’t have the money to pay us, and complaining about it to another agency would not have gotten us our pay quicker.

      The first time it happened, many left the company. I stayed, as I was newly promoted at the time, and wanted some experience in my new role before jumping ship. But I told myself that if it happened again, I’d leave. Sure enough, when it did happen again a year and a half later, I started looking for a new job and found one rather quickly. After I gave my notice, most of the rest of the employees had been laid off, and eventually, the company “mostly closed”.

      Definitely document, though, especially if you plan on staying. I don’t know if anyone did ever report my old company to any agency, but it doesn’t matter at this point, as the company doesn’t really exist anymore.

      1. Natalie*

        ” if the company didn’t have the money to pay us, they didn’t have the money to pay us, and complaining about it to another agency would not have gotten us our pay quicker.”

        Yes and no. In a bankruptcy-type situation, payroll is typically the priority debt, even before delinquent taxes. Reporting it can be worthwhile if the company is potentially going into liquidation.

        1. anon-2*

          Here in Massachusetts – non-payment of wages can be a FELONY. As it is in some other states.

          Re the 90 percent — do you KNOW it’s 90 percent? That’s rather dubious. And who are the 10 percent who ARE getting paid?

          As someone said – if the company is in bankruptcy – or about to go there –

          – document, document, document
          – quit (or throw an ultimatum on the table)
          – if you don’t get paid, be the first and highest on the food chain to get your back pay.

          Good luck. I had a niece who wasn’t paid for six weeks. She quit and they tried to lay a guilt trip on her. We had advised her —

          – remind them that they are foreign nationals (they were)
          – remind them that non-payment of wages is a felony
          – remind them that she’d file a complaint with the local police if she weren’t paid in full in 24 hours, her affidavit is prepared
          – remind them that they WILL be arrested, passports revoked until this is settled, you might not get bail as you’d be flight risks
          – remind them that Massachusetts has a “triple damages” provision
          – oh, inform them as to what goes on in our jail system, particularly with guys like them. Be graphic.

          They’ll pay. Oh, they’ll pay.

          1. Natalie*

            “Here in Massachusetts – non-payment of wages can be a FELONY. As it is in some other states.”

            Interesting and good to know.

          2. Anonymous*

            And who are the 10 percent who ARE getting paid?

            Traditionally, it would be upper management.

            1. anon-2*

              Anony-M – if 90 percent of the people aren’t being paid and haven’t been for months – and they’re still coming to work — I think someone is giving you a line of , well, what comes out of a horse.

              I suspect that a select few aren’t being paid — and you could be one of them.

            2. Anony-M*

              It isn’t upper management, but rather the smaller paychecks.

              I am obviously roughing the 90%, but I do know from our main offices, one office has no employees paid for at least the past three months, and in my office, it is a majority.

              It is not in the USA.

              The problem is our clients are not paying us, therefore, the company cannot pay employees. Who are our clients? The government. And the government is in crisis.
              What’s ironic is that we are actually invoicing a lot these past few months…but we are just not getting paid by the clients.

              So money is coming…just not soon.

              And trust me, it’s not like people are keeping quiet. It is well known by the people who are doing billing that this is an issue. People complain left and right, but here (in this country) there aren’t a whole lot of jobs to offer.

              The upper management informed us if we needed payment (like for bills and…well, living), that we could request it and they would “rush” our payments. So far, they have done it for a few people, myself included. However, there are people who aren’t in “dire straits” but still need money.

              But no, upper management is not getting paid. The way they’ve been doing it is paying the lower wages first, in order to be able to pay more people all at once.

        2. Anon*

          The first time it happened, they said it was some sort of issue with getting money from an investor (apparently, the investor who was suppose give the company money that was suppose to cover our payroll at the time fell off the face of the earth, so the board had to scramble to get money from previous investors), so in this case, they weren’t filing bankruptcy. I think it took just under two weeks to receive our paychecks (and we were paid every two weeks).

          The second time, I think the board/upper management saw it coming, as some investors decided to pull out, and they decided to lay off a large portion of the company. In this instance, I don’t know if they filed for bankruptcy, but I had already decided to get out at that point.

    5. Josh S*

      Yeah, as others have said, non-payment of wages can be a felony crime for the CFO (or the person in charge of payroll). Not just a civil lawsuit to recover past wages, but it can land them in JAIL. One error is a red flag (start getting your resume ready); two payroll mixups/delays/issues is time to start shopping that resume around.

      Contact your state Dept of Labor. Find out what you need to be doing. And like someone else said, take daily notes of every minute you work from the moment they’ve stopped paying you.

  7. -__-*

    Today HR at my job let my manager know she should discuss the dress code with me. When she brought it up, I asked exactly what was out of dress code.. She said she didn’t know, thought I looked fine, and would bring it up with the Vice President of HR. After I followed up with the VP in an e-mail asking exactly what was wrong with my outfit, she asked me to step into her office.. And proceeded to let me know that I had no particular dress code violation but that “some make-up and a pair of heels wouldn’t hurt”. What the heck !?!?

    1. Anonymous*

      Did you ask why make-up & heels are necessary for the job? Do you have customer-facing job? Maybe they want to project a certain “image”?

    2. CatB (Europe)*

      As is the case with many work situations, there are two sides to a coin. Formally it seems (from what you say) that you respect whatever dress code your company has. But that is only half of the pie. The other half is the personal touch: your VP of HR seems to have a very clear image of what “work outfit” should mean, formal regulations notwithstanding.

      Crossing her might not be a good idea, even though you would still be following rules. That might mean tough times ahead. Can you accomodate the make-up & heel wish without feeling awkward, out-of-place or uneasy with yourself? If so, I’d probably spruce up and be done with it. But if accomodating the whims of the said VP does not come easy…

      The personal touch *is* important in the workplace. It might not be fair (it isn’t, ususally) and it might seem sometimes to stretch into weirdness (at a former job I had to wear only light blue shirts – that was the GM’s view of a “business attire”), but we all live among imperfect, flawed human beings…

    3. Anonymous*

      If HR told me to speak with one of my employees about dress code, and I didn’t see anything wrong with what the employee was wearing, I would ask HR what the specific issue was PRIOR to speaking with my employee.

      I’m also confused, because you wrote that your manager said she would bring it up with HR, but that you e-mailed the VP of HR. Why not let the manager deal with it? Just curious about that one.

    4. Phyllis*

      I’d be getting a note from my doc saying I can’t wear high heels and that I’m allergic to makeup.

      1. Anonymous*

        Annon-I didn’t ask. I was sort of in shock that she said that. I work in a back office and don’t see customers.

        CatB-I usually do** wear make-up and heels which is why I was taken aback by that fact that I was reprimanded on the one day I don’t. Either way, I don’t feel it’s her place to reprimand me about something that isn’t in the dresscode. If she wants everyone to wear make-up and heels, then stick it in there and THEN talk to me about it.

        Annon-I agree.. my manager did end up speaking with the VP but she told her there was nothing in particular and that if I had additional concerns, I could contact her.

        1. Heather*

          So then do men have to wear high heels and makeup? I’m sorry but that’s just ridiculous. Plenty of woman don’t need/want/have to wear makeup and high heels and look just fine without both. I don’t get why being a woman automatically means you have to wear makeup and high heels in the work place.

          1. Kelly O*

            I was just thinking this myself.

            Maybe the intended message was “even though it’s Friday you still need to look polished” or something like that, but was delivered by someone who was uncomfortable or not used to giving that kind of feedback. Or even someone who sees you as you’re usually dressed and thought “well, one day isn’t going to hurt” and wasn’t comfortable with having to pass it on.

          2. Anonymous*

            I debated about sending this but I feel bad for this person being told to wear makeup and heels. I grew up in a region of the country where you do dress up. I have always worn heels, makeup, nice outfit to every job. But, that is me. I may be a middle-age lady but I do not dress like that. I am slender, petite and fit. I do 5 miles everyday. I keep up with current styles by fashion magazines and dress with light makeup. I have long hair that is in a pretty style. I don’t mean this in any way but I do not look my age. When I work for any company I am representing them. I want them to look good in the best possible way. Even if I was in back office I would dress up. But, I am sure that hurt this person’s feelings and if she is a young person they can get by with looking more casual. I am sure she presents herself just fine. I just came from a background and time where heels and makeup and looking very polished made me feel good. But, what do I know I fix up just to go to the mall.

        1. fposte*

          Presuming this is in the U.S., a doctor’s note doesn’t protect you from disciplinary action, firing, or failure to progress if they want you to wear makeup and heels; there’s no legal weight to a doctor’s note.

          This has been badly done, so it’s not clear what’s going on. However, it sounds like you’re focusing, wee OP, on why your dress should be okay as it is–you don’t see customers, you don’t breach the dress code. But that doesn’t necessarily matter if you’re at a workplace that really values polish and where it’s required if you want to move up.

          There are certainly other possibilities here–various kinds of legal or illegal discrimination, personal dislike, etc. But if you’re interested in growing with this business, you might consider taking this alert as a helpful hint and even following up on it in a “mentor me” kind of way rather than in a “what did I do wrong?” kind of way. She may have been an outlier, but she may also be representing company views about what’s important to them. It doesn’t matter whether it should or not; at some places it does, and you have to either accept that or accept the cost of bucking it.

          1. fposte*

            Just FYI–“wee OP” is because I was trying to find a descriptor for the sub-thread question posters, and “sub OP” didn’t rhyme as nicely.

          2. Wannabe a good manager*

            I agree that it could be intended as a helpful hint. It might even be positive. Maybe the VP is considering you for a promotion to a position with public visibility?

    5. Anon*

      Ha. Someone at my office had it brought up in her formal review that she needed to take care of her split ends and get a pedicure. This is actually a fairly good example of how her boss is about everything.

      1. Ry*

        Oh, man. Sounds like a boss who doesn’t have enough to do. How does the boss find time to know your colleague “needs” a pedicure?? Is your office a strip club or modeling agency? If it is not, that seems… invasively specific. (And yes, that question was rhetorical; I just mean that I recognize there are some fields where a pedicure would matter, but definitely not most fields.)

      2. Anonymous*

        I can see how these would be valid. I don’t particularly care how my staff style their hair – but a lot of split ends sticks out in a bad way. I can also see that if you allow open toed shoes, you may want well cared for feet.

        1. Ellie H.*

          Sorry, if you are noticing split ends you just need to stop staring at that person’s hair.

          1. Kelly O*

            I actually have a coworker I really wish I could just tell that she needs to cut off about a foot of split ends. It is quite easy to see. (Granted, she should stop bleaching it out white too.)

            And if you’re going to wear open toed shoes, then you need to at least scrape off the dry skin, or put on some lotion at night, or something. People in Houston wear flip-flops nearly year round (don’t even get me started on those) and I see some funky feet. I personally would not want mine looking like that under socks and boots, much less displaying them for all the world to see.

      3. Anonymous*

        Just another POV on the hair and feet thing. We will assume that in this situation, the person’s hair and feet are clean and her are toenails are neat.
        BUT, in some situations I’m aware of, it’s not just a few split ends or lack of a pedicure, it’s dirty, unkempt hair and dirty feet with scraggly toenails. Now we can discuss from now till the cows come home whether it’s appropriate or necessary to require a certain type of appearance for non-customer-facing roles, but if the employee wants to be perceived as someone with potential for more responsibility or if the manager sees some potential in the employee, then appearance matters. It’s not the only thing, but it’s one of many that are considered when evaluating employees for particular roles, for advancement or other opportunity, or even for layoffs. Right or wrong, it just is. So it could be conceivable that the boss was suggesting that for the employee to be perceived as a serious candidate for more responsibility, those items, hair and feet, need to be more “professional” looking. Or the boss is just a control-freak. :)

      4. Suz*

        Deja vu. I have a former boss who complained that my hair bounced too much when I nodded my head. WTF?

  8. Deena*

    Hi, love the site and love the open thread! Thanks, Alison ;-)

    I’m writing about my supervisor — a power-hungry, insecure and really rude you know what. I’m a freelance editor for a well-known women’s interest site and the woman I report to is just unbelievable (in a bad way). From questioning my judgment to ridiculing me, she does it all. Whenever I make valid suggestions for how to improve something, always done very tactfully and respectfully in an email (which I’ve had others read and they’re on my side), she’ll accuse me of questioning her judgment and not respecting her. And I’m talking about her taking issue with really petty things. It’s all about control for her. And these little emails to me aren’t just her being rude. I could handle that. They are her questioning my judgment and other things like that. She puts me on the defensive and it’s just not cool at this point. I don’t even know how to respond!

    At first, I thought maybe it was me. She was making me crazy and causing me to question myself. I took a step back, reread all our interactions, etc. It’s not me. Other people have attested to this and have similar issues. Lots of them. Just this week, another editor was taken aback by the tone of this woman’s email to her. She was talking down to her and it was totally out of line. That’s just one example.

    So what should I do? I don’t have the option of just picking up and quitting at this point, but if something else comes up that’ll pay the bills, I’m out the door!

    I’ve also thought of calling this woman up and that maybe she’ll be nicer on the phone. We’ve only conversed via email. But I’m too scared! I usually take a deep breath and some time to really think my email responses through to her, so not sure a phone convo would help anything.

    I’m really at a loss for what to do. I’m afraid she will decide to just fire me once I hire a few new freelancers to take on some writing work and I want to do everything I can to fix this. Another freelancer said to just yes her to death and tell her she’s right and I was wrong and I’m sorry, etc. To let her stay in control and feel all powerful. I’ve done that before, but now I just feel like after the 5th email where she clearly takes an issue with what I’m doing, which is nothing out of line at all, that it’s not even worth apologizing like this?

    Maybe I should send her a general email saying I feel like we’ve had some issues lately and I want to stress my dedication to the job and reiterate how much I enjoy it, etc.?

    Help!! I like my job but this woman is making my life hell!

    1. Deena*

      Also, to clarify, I work from home and have never met her or any of the in-house employees in person.

      She also lies and back stabs. I caught her in a lie once after she fired one of my hires who only did fantastic work and said it was because Sally the editor had an issue with her. Sally had never even spoken to my supervisor ever, not about this fired freelancer or anything at all. That’s just one instance where I caught her in a lie. Ahhh!

      1. Anonymous*

        Do you have another point of contact in the company…preferably someone senior? If you do have, then you could go across to meet them and lay down your concerns. Talking directly to her doesnt seem to be appropriate here sadly – she might fly off the handle & fire you!!
        But all said & done, shes the one with power here unless someone else in the organization is willing to deal with it!

        1. Deena*

          Thanks for your reply. That’s the thing, she WILL fly off the handle and almost did that to another person I hired to work under me over a simple misunderstanding until someone else stepped in to say slow down a minute! She’s totally impulsive like that and issues arising from that are too numerous to count.

          The in-house team seems to be all friendly and really loyal to each other. I do know a few people higher than her, but I don’t know is buddy-buddy with who. I don’t want to come off as the one complaining or do anything to jeopardize my current work.

          As soon as I hire who I need to hire now (because she fired someone!!), I’m using my extra time to seriously find a new position…

          1. Kaz*

            You could use a classic AAM opener, “Can you help me understand how I can work with X better?”

      2. ruby*

        I think you have to bite the bullet and start communicating with your boss by phone. This situtation will never improve if you stick to email-only. Personality issue are difficult to deal with when you’re in the same office with someone; very difficult to deal with when you are different offices and only communicate by phone and I’d say impossible to deal with via email only. I’d do it in response to somethigin that isn’t confrontational – I don’t mean picking up the phone after you get a crappy email from her and confronting her about it. But pick a neutral thing if you can – you get a new assignment and you call her to ask a few questions and maybe mention how it’s really nice to finally have the chance to talk to her. I don’t see how this could make the situation worse – you already hate working for her and think she is a terrible boss.

        Some people are very different when they deal with remote workers – they can treat people poorly when they know they are never going to run into them in the lobby or the ladies room. Distance and email can make people very brave. I had a co-worker in another location who was an absolute witch on the phone and in email – just unpleasant. I was at a conference at her location and was seated a couple of seats away from a very nice woman at lunch, who was friendly and chatty. When I got a look at her name tag, I about fell over – it was the same woman.

        1. Jamie*

          “I had a co-worker in another location who was an absolute witch on the phone and in email – just unpleasant. I was at a conference at her location and was seated a couple of seats away from a very nice woman at lunch, who was friendly and chatty. When I got a look at her name tag, I about fell over – it was the same woman.”

          This is such a good point. I wasn’t a witch, but we had a remote worker who was across the country – so was never in the office – and when he came in once he commented that he was surprised I was so nice. (Hard to believe, I know.) I wasn’t rude to him, but because I didn’t know him my emails were completely fact based and very “IT like” as he put it.

          It can be hard to relate to remote workers the same as you would people you see every day, for a variety of reasons. That’s why I’m always in favor of scheduling some time in the office – if nothing else to build relationships which can help get the job done.

          1. Anonymous*

            Yes. This probably could relate to the OP from the “fair chance” thread a few days ago. Both the OP and the other commenter’s were reading each others comments as rude.

            People just don’t realise how they come across in email/writing. What someone things is short and adequate comes across to another as terse and rude.

            I have a few colleagues like this and have to stop myself thinking “I hope they aren’t like that with the clients!”

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Totally agree — drop dealing with the issues for now and focus on establishing a relationship with her over the phone. Definitely don’t use email for anything even remotely sticky/sensitive.

      3. Wannabe a good manager*

        I prefer email, because I hate playing telephone tag. But I have learned to pick up the telephone the moment I sense a conflict, because email is TOO neutral. That means the receiver can read any tone into your words. For example, “great job!” could be interpreted as praise, but it could also be interpreted as condescension or sarcasm. When you pick up the phone, you supply the tone, so it’s harder for them to imagine something negative. But if they persist and you can’t meet, try Skype. Facial expressions provide even more information.

        Please excuse me, if I’ve explained too much. What I said is probably obvious to a lot of people, but I’m afraid I only figured it out recently.

    2. Piper*

      Ugh. I don’t have specific advice, but I can relate. My old boss was like this. He made me feel like the biggest idiot in the world. Every time I had an idea, he’d make me create a presentation about it and show it to a group of people. Then he’d proceed to humiliate me and tear me apart in front of this group of people. It was awful and really had me questioning my skills and abilities.

      Then I got a new boss (same job, the old boss got promoted?!). And my job did a complete 180. He listens to me, loves my suggestions, and gives me the autonomy to implement them and the project I’ve been working on has improved 10-fold since this happened.

      I’ve also heard through the grapevine that my old boss is one of the most disliked people company-wide, so that’s a little gratifying to know that it wasn’t just me. He’s a jerk and that’s that.

      So yeah. No real advice, other than get a new boss. But that’s easier said that done. Sorry you’re dealing with this. It sucks.

    3. khilde*

      Reluctantly, I second the advice to try a few phone calls and see how it goes. I have a coworker like this on a much, much smaller scale and she’s the one working from home (and I’m in the central office with the rest of our tiny staff). Her emails always sound witchy to me and she’s very blunt, which makes me feel like she’s being rude. Even though I know it’s her style, it’s still hard to buck that feeling. I say I reluctantly agree on the phone thing because I despise talking on the phone – especially with those I feel conflict with. But it does help soften things and it’s better to speak with her because I can pick up the tone of voice. But, gosh, I totally understand if you don’t want to do that.

      The other thing that came to mind was the book, “Working for you isn’t working for me: The Ultimate Guide to managing your boss.” I have used elements of it in some of my training classes and it’s really interesting. If nothing else it will help you know you’re not alone!

      1. Deena*

        Thanks for the link. I’m going to check it out. I wish her emails were just me interpreting them poorly or assuming her tone was rude, but they’re clearly out of control. So I need all the help I can get. Thanks!

        1. khilde*

          Yeah…. Some people are just cracked. This book devotes a huge section to 12 boss profiles and I *know* you will find her in there. It doesn’t really tell you anything you can do to proactively change her (which, of course you know), but it walks you through he process of detaching from the behavior, reframing her behavior, and learning what to deal with and what to accept. I don’t have a terrible boss, thankfully, and even I found the process freeing. I think it’s a really good resource. The companion (or original) is called “Working With you is Killing Me” and that complements this book nicely. Best of luck!

    4. Long Time Admin*

      Deena, I’m a person who hates to use the phone, so I think a technique I use might help you – I write up a script before making a “difficult” phone call, so that I do say what I want to say, and get the message across that I intend to. You wouldn’t have to stick with the script verbatim, but it could help you stay focused on what you really mean to say.

  9. Anony-M*

    As a recent grad (2 years out of college), I am still looking for a steady job. I haven´t been out of work all this time; on the contrary, I have been working but bouncing from job-to-job. The most I have stayed at a job is seven months. I have been having bad luck, and not going the most traditional path with jobs (I have rarely had the formal interviews and stuff that is usually mentioned on this website).

    Obviously, being a young’n, I am still depending on my parents’ advice. Their advice, of course, is that I need to find a job. I need to get a job and stick with it to build up my resume. I need to send my resume out there, left and right, to anything that I qualify for.
    However, on this website, I get conflicting information (but information with which I agree more): take time on the resumes, cover letters, finding a “right fit.”
    I recently notified a company I was uninterested because the job seemed way over my head and required in-state travel (which I am not quite comfortable with). Basically, after telling my dad this, he took the opinion of the common news sources out there, in essence saying how I was privileged and how I am one of these poster children for my generation of seeking a “perfect” job that may not even exist.

    I am just sick of it, though. Obviously, I want a job. But I have worked at a few jobs, traditional and untraditional, in the past two years. I don´t want to settle for a job that is “just a job” and pays me what I got paid working at my high school summer job. I also don´t want to pursue a job that I know I won´t like and will feel uncomfortable with or unqualified for.

    I just don´t know what to do. It is really frustrating.

    1. CatB (Europe)*

      I don’t know in what measure an European experience can help, but here it is: my son is 22, 3 years out of college and after only one university year (he abandoned studies after 2 semesters). He was mainly job-hopping all this time, with gigs ranging from 2 weeks to 6 months. We, his parents, thought he was picky in an economic environment that does not allow for nose-wrinkling. He went from bad to worse, in his search for the dream job: from call-center (well-regarded work here) to sales (somewhat lower, but still OK) to McDonald’s (on the low side) to merchandise handler in a hypermarket (lowest on both our and his scale). Of course, with months between jobs. Now he’s back to McDonald’s and says he re-evaluated it and it’s an OK enough job and a good starting point for building a career.

      I guess you need to see for yourself how various jobs feel and where you’re “home”. You’ll get around to it some day, it’s only part of learning how life really is. Just keep searching and keep your spirits up!

      1. Anony-M*

        You probably know this, but I just want to clarify that when I say college, I mean university. I know how Europe often says University, and college is what we (Americans) think of as high school.

        The problem is, with all the jobs that are “just okay,” I want more. I mean, I DID go to college (university) to get a degree. I want to use it and get a job that is deserving of my education and background.

        At the same time, I don´t know if I picked the right degree. If I am job searching and a lot of stuff in my field looks boring, I don´t know if picked well.

        Ugh, I just read an article about the millenial generation last night and I am just fitting in to every stereotype out there.

        1. Natalie*

          Short of the hard sciences, you can move outside of your college major very easily. Most people with humanities majors end up working in some completely unrelated field, and once your 5-10 years out of college practically no one cares what you majored in.

          Choose the jobs you apply for based on your interests and qualifications, not your major.

        2. Jaliya*

          I’ve been in your shoes. I graduated with an engineering degree and have not worked in an engineering job a single day since. That was ten years ago. You don’t have to be defined by your degree–you can move to other fields, especially when you are young and most of your skills are soft skills rather than expert knowledge.

          Your parents might be right, however, about not being too picky. I went on an interview this week for a job I really wasn’t sure I wanted. The interview ended up going really well and I’m very glad I went. It’s not clear if you turned down an actual job or just opted out of the interview process, but sometimes the best way to learn is just to jump in.

          You might want to think about what enables you to be choosy about the job you take. Are your parents supporting you? Do you have savings? How long do you expect the support to last, and what will you do if or when it runs out? What jobs would you be willing to take then? Thinking through these questions can help you sort out your priorities and make the most of the time you have now.

    2. Anonymous*

      No offense meant, but I think rather than your parents you might want to pay attention to whats said here. After all people here are veterans of the job-searching trehches and know just what the deal is.
      Now, while I understand your hesitance to take up any job for the sake of it, you need to move into a mainstream role & fast. Its 2 years since you graduated dude!

      Choose a path which most appeals to you, and pursue jobs in it. Dont reject it if any of the jobs have undesirable elements to it. Eg. if you find a job you think will work, but it has in-state travel (which you dont like) you should take it up. Lets face it, EVERY job has something that you will hate. That doesnt mean you keep waiting for that perfect job, which trust me, doest exist. Compromises are part of life

      Dont be so rigid so early in life. You have barely any experience to decide what you like & dont like. So stretch your boundaries a bit…it gets harder as you get older and more “experienced”. So experiment now. And lose your rigid framework.

      1. CatB (Europe)*

        ^This! So very true. I had my degree (master) in biochemistry, some 20 years ago but I went, fresh out of university, into sales. Eight years later I switched to webdesign, then to soft-skills training. Now I’m a full-time freelancing trainer and business consultant and also back to school, for a degree in Psychology. “Dream” jobs change with time, experience and accumulation of wisdom. As about degree… I always said people should go into retirement fresh out of college, grow and enter the work field when they’re wise enough to know how to choose a path in life.

      2. Anony-M*

        I understand what you are saying, but “stretching my boundaries” seems to not work.

        I worked as an “intern” at a company, but as AAM has posted many times, the company didn´t follow the “labor laws of having an intern.” No, I was the person who shot and edited all videos for them. If they didn´t have me, they would be out of about half their business (because video is what they promised all clients). And I was unpaid for the first four months there.

        Current job is a pretty traditional office job. It could be one of those “mainstream” roles where I could work my way up etc, except I am the only one in my “department,” they haven´t paid their employees for the past five months, and it is a contracted position that ends soon. So, so much for this job!

        I will say the following, and reiterate the dummy’s guide to the current economic situation: it´s really hard finding a job, and for all the jobs out there I am either over- or under-qualified. And any “entry-level” positions that I seem to be applying for just don´t pay! I seem to have awesome luck at finding the ultimate contradition: unpaid jobs!

        1. Piper*

          If I was working somewhere where I hadn’t gotten paid for 5 months, I’d quit. It’s not like you’re giving up a paycheck by quitting and I’d bet you’d have a case for collecting unemployment in this instance, even though you quit.

          But hell if I’m going to spend my time furthering someone else’s business and not get paid (volunteer work notwithstanding). If I’m not going to get paid, I’ll just be unemployed and spend that time focusing on finding a job that will actually pay me like they’re supposed to.

        2. danr*

          What does your contract say in regard to pay? And how are you contracted with the company… directly to the company or through an agency or intermediate firm? In any case, re-read your contract and see what the payment terms are.
          I know someone who signed a contract that said payment would be made after the end of the job and after payment was made by the customer. He was advised to never sign a contract like that again, and insist on intermediate payments in future jobs.

        3. Jamie*

          This early in your career it’s about paying dues. You may have to take a low paying job to get the experience, that’s how most people get started. (Low paying, not no paying – I wouldn’t ever recommend that).

          People who are already employed and have the experience to command a decent salary have the luxury to hold out for a “perfect fit” (which doesn’t exist – but great fits do). The only way to get in the position to do that is to take what you can to build a resume.

        4. Jamie*

          “If they didn´t have me, they would be out of about half their business (because video is what they promised all clients). And I was unpaid for the first four months there.”

          I don’t know if this was just the phrasing, but if you really believe that it’s something you might want to look at.

          I don’t have to know the company to know they wouldn’t have lost half their business – because it doesn’t work that way. They would have had someone else doing it. It is exceedingly uncommon for any one employee to be that critical to the operation. Then again, since they didn’t pay you regularly this may not have been a real company.

          Because legitimate business do run payroll as promised.

          I’m good at my job, and if I got hit by a bus tomorrow it would inconvenient for them to transition – but I’m under no delusions. The company would carry on and profits would continue just fine, even with someone else sitting behind my bank of monitors.

          I’m not trying to be harsh, but people do themselves a disservice by overestimating the value they bring to the table at work. I’m sure you did a good job, but I would suggest that you make a realistic assessment of your contributions.

          1. Natalie*

            Regarding the video thing – I think the OP is trying to say that his/her internship didn’t follow the unpaid internship rules, which say that the unpaid intern can’t replace a regular worker, not that the OP specifically was irreplaceable. If shooting video was a crucial part of this business, they are legally required to pay the person shooting the video.

            1. Anony-M*

              Natalie–that’s exactly what I am saying. To be considered an “internship” according to the laws, it has to be someone who is learning and not “significantly contributing” to the work the company needs.

              I wasn’t overestimating my role there. I was the person scripting, shooting, and editing video. The staff at the company was small, and I was the sole contributor to video. If they didn’t have me doing it, they would obviously need someone else. However, that someone else would have to be “hired” to do so.

                1. Anony-M*

                  No, I wasn’t getting paid at all. I would maybe get “money thrown my way” every once in a while, but so little, so rarely, that it would average to $3 or $4 an hour.

          2. Anony-M*

            To comfort us (it was a few of us in the same boat, but different roles), our boss would tell us “If it means anything, I haven’t been taking paychecks either since [four months before you were hired on].”

          3. Anon*

            To paraphrase Jack Welch, you want to be replaceable. If you are indespensible in your role, then you are also too valuable to promote into another role. ;)

    3. Kaz*

      You won’t get a job that you really like if your employer thinks you aren’t reliable enough to stay in one job. You are going to have to settle for “just a job” for a year or so and pay your dues to make your resume not look like somebody who drops everything when it gets too hard or too boring. What exactly are you bringing to the plate for a job? If you don’t have in-demand technical skills or something else that’s valuable, your ability to show up every day and do a decent job at tasks that may be boring is pretty much your biggest asset.

    4. Dana*

      Ah, I was in your position right out of college, and I don’t really have any advice, but DON’T do what I did (go back to school). Unless you really, really know what you want to do. And I think that is a lot more rare these days. I got out and am only in a marginally better position now.

      Sometimes it’s going to feel like “just a job.” But keep looking, soul searching, taking on more responsibility where you end up- and you’ll get a better idea of what you like and don’t like. (Can’t tell by the way the posts are, but if you’re the one who hasn’t been paid in 5 months, find another temp job!)

      1. Anon*

        I was in your position too. I worked at the campus bookstore for a few months while searching, then gave up and moved home. It took five months to find a “real job” — and I graduated with honors from a top-tier university and actually had a ton of paid real-world experience (sales assistant for a tech company, office manager, paid internship, lots of retail and office work). I had leadership positions on campus. My first real job? I was a receptionist in a medical office for a lousy $10 an hour. Barely a liveable wage in my city. And sooo boring. But I worked as hard as I could at that job, found ways to do work outside the job description (I copy-edited grants, redesigned the filing system, constantly asked everyone around me what they needed help with). Most importantly, I kept looking and six months after that I landed my dream job. That was ten years ago. It was also in a recession.
        Sometimes you just have to suck it up and do the less-than-ideal so you actually have a chance to get to the better thing later. 10 years later, I can say that the less-than-ideal start was still a good start, and it certainly didn’t hurt.

      2. Anony-M*

        Dana–Yeah, people tell me to go back to school, but I say exactly what you said: If I don’t know exactly what I want, why waste time racking up debt trying to figure it out?

    5. fposte*

      I’m another voice saying that yes, you do want a job that is “just okay,” because a degree doesn’t automatically qualify you for more. What qualifies you for more is a degree plus experience–and most of the time that’s experience that starts at a “just okay” job. I’d be interested in hearing why you leave jobs so soon–is it the same reason why you don’t like to take them in the first place? What happens to make you leave?

      I’m also a little confused by this: “I recently notified a company I was uninterested because the job seemed way over my head and required in-state travel (which I am not quite comfortable with).” Is this one of those non-traditional job approaches you mention, like a result of a contact or something? I think you need to start getting familiar with traditional job approaches, if only for the seasoning. I would also strongly suggest you consider temping, because that’s a way that you can gain a variety of skills and avoid committing to an individual workplace without suffering the resume ding of a job hopper.

      But overall, yes, I think that you are going to need to rethink your expectations for jobs right now if you ever want to have the job you want later.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh dear. The perfect job isn’t going to just show up — you have to work your way up to it. If you keep waiting, your situation is going to get worse and worse because employers are going to wonder what you’ve been doing all this time and why. There’s no magic insta-perfect-job trick — you take jobs that aren’t ideal in order to work yourself in a position over time where you can be more picky. No one can be picky without getting work experience under their belt first (and proving their reliability, longevity, etc.).

    7. Kelly O*

      You may have to do what I’ve done. It’s not an ideal solution, and it will take a LOT of sucking up your feelings and just doing what needs to be done, but it’s what I felt was important.

      I took a job. It was not an ideal job, but in the environment in which I found myself, it was a reasonably good deal. The pay was not good, but better than minimum wage at the pharmacy. I’ve been here two and a half years now, because I went through this spell of thinking there was a “perfect” job out there for me, and I would quit or find something else the second I felt unhappy.

      Sidebar: Don’t do that. Trust me. It doesn’t work, and there is no “perfect” job.

      Anyway, I have stayed here for a couple of reasons, but mainly it’s been to prove that I’ m not really out to be a job-hopper. I just took some really bad advice about doing what you love, and then I just took whatever paid best. It has not necessarily been the best experience from a work perspective, but I have learned a lot about dealing with difficult people and emotionally charged situations, and that’s got some value.

      As Jamie says in another comment, you have to pay your dues. That often means doing something you might not want as a long-term career, or even something like traveling a bit (although in-state doesn’t seem so bad to me, although I guess that could depend a lot on what state you’re in. Rhode Island? Easy. Texas? Maybe a bit tougher.)

      But you’ll need experience to get a better job, which means you have to start somewhere.

    8. Anonymous*

      I absolutely understand your position! I’m about to graduate and am seeking a full time job. I’ve felt the pressure from those mainly of my parents’ generation as I approach graduation in finding a “career”. It’s perfectly ok to not know what you want to do straight out of college. But the jobs you work should gain you experience/potential for growth. My parents think that because I went to college, that means that I am overqualified for an entry level job (which is NOT the case!). I have turned down positions that I felt weren’t right for me/I was not the right fit for but this does not make me entitled/privileged. I believe there should be a balance between your gut instinct warning you about a position and analyzing if the job will give you the experience/possibilities you need later on in your career.

      While being overly picky isn’t good, you should be selective in the position you choose. Not every job will be PERFECT, but if it gives you the experience you need and you think you can do it well, go for it! As someone has already said, I also recommend, with all due respect to your parents, following the AAM site more closely for advice than what your parents recommend as AAM and the people contributing in the comments are the ones that have experience searching in THIS job market.

      Good luck in your search!

  10. Andrea*

    Alison, I was just wondering if you have heard an update from the person whose office got bedbugs?

      1. Anonymous*

        Oh man, you totally missed out on the pun…You should have said, “I’m itching to know!”

        I’m here all week.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s mysterious! It looks like peanut butter (and has the same consistency), but it’s made with ground-up cookies and ginger. You can put it on any bread-like product (muffins, etc.) or dessert; I’m going to try it on an apple.

        1. Blinx*

          An apple? How about schmeared in-between 2 shortbread cookies? Haven’t been to Trader Joe’s in a while (LOVE their frozen mac and cheese)… must stop by soon!

        2. Grace*

          Oh man, if only there was a gluten-free version, that sounds like heaven. Guess I’ll stick with Nutella on a spoon :)

    1. Andrew*

      Oh, yes indeed. Eaten by the spoonful straight out of the jar. Makes Nutella irrelevant.

    2. Anonymous*

      Ahhh the magical cookie butter! That stuff goes fast at my house because it’s SO good :) they had trouble with keeping it in stock but I’ve seen displays with like 50 jars!

    3. khilde*

      Our entire state doesn’t have a Trader Joe’s! I’ve never even been to one. :( Can you order online from them? Cookie butter sounds absolutely fascinating.

      1. Ry*

        My husband works at TJ’s! Send Alison your address, if you want, and I can mail you some! Alison, post here if she does and I’ll email you :) If you don’t mind becoming a cookie-butter delivery service, that is.

    4. Mary*

      How timely! I got hooked on Biscoff and then heard about the elusive Speculoos cookie butter. I happened to be traveling to the Lower 48 for a conference this week, so I brought home 5 jars. I eat it one tiny spoonful at a time.

    5. DeAnna*

      What you really need are the dark chocolate candy bars that are FILLED with cookie butter (aka speculoos).

      [I’ve been reading your blog for a few weeks, and of course it is chocolate that makes me de-lurk!]

    6. Anonymous*

      OMG this sounds DIVINE! Too bad I’m in Canada :(

      BUT when I’m in Seattle in July, I’m totally loading up on this stuff (hopefully I don’t get suspicious looks from customs at the airport).

    7. Josh S*

      Am going to TJ’s tomorrow, mainly for Cookie Butter. Thank you for making me fatter. :)

    8. mh_76*

      sounds yummy! and i’m a [public-transit] ride away from 3 trader joe’s and walking distance from the lame (small, understocked, always mobbed) one so i’ll definitely have to add it to my shopping list! have you tried their other “butters” – cranberry (seasonal), mango, fig, apple/honey? yum!!

  11. Ry*

    Oh, hey, by the way, thank you, Alison. This is a great idea for a chance to talk together on a Friday without derailing your answer to somebody’s question. Gonna go do some work now, but I’ll check back in! :)

    Also… does anybody want to fantasize about our imaginary company that we’re starting with Alison at the helm? Does it require a Spanish translator? If it does, I call that part. Admin work is cool and all, but I love translating documents, so I hope part of our imaginary market reads Spanish. What are we doing: making chocolate teapots, or creating some sort of world-dominating nonprofit, or what?

    1. Jamie*

      It cracked me up that you posted about this!

      I was awoken at 5:00 am today with an urgent call from work that all the servers were down. Through my fog while frantically getting ready to bolt (I looked like I was fleeing an enemy invasion) I was muttering to myself about all the other things I could be doing with my life…not even fully aware I was talking out loud until my husband stuck his head out of the bathroom and asked me…

      “What the F*CK is a chocolate teapot?”

        1. Jamie*

          Thanks – just a minor power issue, everything was up and running within the hour. I will see your glass of wine and raise you a french martini after work.

      1. Blinx*

        Ha ha! I never heard of chocolate teapots until I started reading this blog. Then the other week, I’m watching Rosemary & Thyme (British mystery show), and somebody says something like “That’s about as useful as a chocolate teapot.” I couldn’t believe it! But now I understand some of the threads a little better.

        1. Rin*

          I can’t remember the original post that used Chocolate Teapots. Does anyone have the link?

      2. khilde*

        THAT is hilarious. I’m going to be chortling all day thinking about that scene…..

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          Aah! I’m so pleased that the Chocolate Teapot has made its mark on the internet!

    2. Rebecca Z*

      I see our imaginary company as being the greatest training center ever. Everything from looking for your first job to refresher courses for executives: training on how to write a cover letter and resume, mock interviews, how to be a great manager, etc. How could we go wrong with Alison at the helm? Plus, it could have satellite offices everywhere, so of course we’d need a Spanish translator. I would be happy to teach cover letter writing classes! :)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I want there to be an advocacy component: putting up billboards with messages like “don’t just summarize your resume in your cover letter” and “confused by your boss? address it straightforwardly!”

        1. fposte*

          Is there room for more active forms of advocacy? I was thinking maybe a custard-pie squad to deal with problem managers. Obviously we’d also leave a note, because we’re all about the education.

          1. Ry*

            Sweet! It’d be like a very aggressive (and delicious) version of Email Your Interviewer!

            But the grammar in the educational material had better be impeccable :D

      2. khilde*

        I love the training aspect of this!! I’m a trainer by trade so I’ll be happy to deliver some of the classes!

      3. Joanna Reichert*

        I’m the copyreader/photographer. : ) I’ll even create a badge for myself, so no one else can steal my position. Because, you, a badge is über professional and stalwart.

    3. Malissa*

      Since nobody has taken the role yet, I’ll be the CFO. Somebody has got to account for all those huge profits we’ll be making.

        1. Malissa*

          I’m good with that. You seem like a hard worker. Remember that my one rule is that if you are going to be late you might as well stop for breakfast. There are no reprimands if bagels are presented. ;)

      1. Another Brit*

        Credit Control / Debt Collection here.

        Does that mean I get to chase all the OP’s for payment? Oh dear…

    4. Josh S*

      Well, I can certainly help with product design/placement based on market research.

      What *is* the target market for chocolate teapots, anyway?

      1. Evan the College Student*

        Obviously, people who like eating chocolate with tea! In other words, my family. ;)

        I’ll be the web designer and IT manager!

        1. Chinook*

          I will work for you and be the “Word Guru”or Helpdesk that you send users to when the issue is not technical but knowledge based. E.g. Don’t know how to create a table in Word? Come see me. Email inbox too full? I will show you how to decrease its size. That way, you can spend more time managing the machines and the website.

          1. Kimberlee*

            I love people who do this. I feel super bad asking our very busy IT director what to do when I’ve accidentally made the row and column numbers in Excel disappear and I don’t know how to bring them back (the answer, after several minutes of investigation: Copy and paste your spreadsheet into a new one).

            I call recruiter. I’ll primarily scour the comments board on AAM to find the best talent. So, more or less what I do now.

    5. littlemoose*

      Well, I’m a lawyer, so I guess I can be the in-house counsel for the chocolate teapot/workforce training endeavor.

  12. Lisa*

    I just got my job, and been here less than two months and ready to quit based on false advertising the job description. Since my start date my job description that I agreed to has been decimated. Let’s say my job description is A, X, Y, and Z. I know A, but didn’t know the inner workings of X, Y, and Z. I chose to come here to learn more about X, Y, and Z, but they hired me because of my experience with A and said I could learn X, Y, Z on the job. Well when I got here, I learned that X, Y, and Z are pipe dreams of my direct manager and he can’t get these things approved or even tested properly. X is on autopilot and was told that won’t change at all. Y (multiple ideas) has been proposed and denied by management so many times that I am told that it probably won’t get through. And Z is social media, and this company is so afraid of negative posts from clients, that I don’t get to put forth a real strategy, and don’t get to learn it properly. And now back to A, looks like I was hired to hit a deadline and not have an opinion on the proper way to do it. So now, the reasons I took the job, XYZ are so scaled back that I don’t get to learn anything that I didn’t already know. And A is being slowly killed in favor of meeting a deadline versus doing it correctly. My manager apparently wants me to present all these denied ideas again in extensive presentations but says I could be denied in the first 5 seconds. Meanwhile the work I am supposed to be doing and already approved isn’t getting done as I am justifying ideas that have already been killed long before I got here. why waste time on a presentation, when I can just have a frank talk with the dept head and ask if I can vet idea again BEFORE I spend massive time on it. Listening to my manager complain how everything gets denied (hours lost) is making me dread asking him the simplest of questions.

    1) How to deal with a company that has already denied my manager the opportunity to try everything I thought was a given due to the job description?

    2) What to do when you picked the wrong job? Leave immediately? Hate it and waste a year of your life? This job has no value to me anymore with the job description no longer recognizable. I am learning nothing new, I am compromising all the best practices of A (and my professional integrity) and just meeting a deadline.

    3) If I do get told to leave at 3 months, can I get unemployment (Massachusetts)? I have a feeling that I was hired to do A only, and once the deadline is hit, I am being let go.

    4) I took over for someone that left at 3 months, and I am beginning to see why. Tempted to contact him.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You can start looking now and when asked why you’re looking, you can explain that the projects you were hired to work on were canceled. In most states, you can get unemployment as long as you worked X months in the past year (at any job) — check with your local unemployment agency. No point in contacting your predecessor though.

      1. Laurie*

        Can we have a separate post on this? This is my question too.

        @Lisa, I feel your pain. I changed my job recently, and within a couple of weeks of starting my new job, I realized that my expected work responsibilities in A, B and C would never happen because the trajectory of projects A and B had been pre-determined and was being run by the execs and C was a pipe dream. When I was interviewing, I was willing to accept doing D (somewhat monotonous work that repeats every month ad infinitum) because I was excited at the chance to do A, B and C.

        I realized all this within a few weeks of joining, but it felt too surreal to be true so I stuck it out another 2 months based on advice from friends and family. I still don’t feel differently about it. This is a great company, the team I’m working with is fun but the work is really not what I want to do in the long term.

        Has this happened to others? How have you dealt with it?

    2. Jamie*

      Why do places do this? It’s not like your job changed years into it – they should have been operating in the same good faith you were when you accepted the job.

      If it were me I would do the assigned work first and make sure that’s always on time, then work on the presentations. Maybe the ideas failed because of upper management, but maybe it was the way your manager went about presenting them. I would see it as a challenge and would consider it a win if I got a green light on something previously denied. Worst case scenario you have done research in the areas which interest you, on company time, and have a broader knowledge base when you apply elsewhere.

      In the meantime I’d start looking. Even though you are unhappy, you are employed. This makes you a much more attractive candidate as it’s easier to find a job when you have a job.

      To this end I would also be working on expanding my network while there. With co-workers, customers, vendors…I wouldn’t let them know I was looking, but strengthening your network can’t hurt.

      I would hit the UI website for your area to see what the criteria is for unemployment.

      1. Lisa*

        Hi Jamie, thanks for your response. I don’t want to just research these ideas, I want to physically put them into action. researching how to use facebook as a strategy than creating a strategy, and putting that strategy in place by posting regularly with a purpose (leads / sales / engagement). If I can’t show my next company that I used Facebook with a strategy beyond posting mind numbing links to the website, then I did not actually achieve that skill. I took this job to gain real-world in the trenches skills. I can’t even sit at the table now that I am here despite being told I would be doing this in my interview.

        1. Lisa*

          oops, meant researching facebook strategies is different than implementing a facebook strategy. I took this job to gain the implementation skills of X, Y, Z. Basically, picture a future interviewer asking “so what facebook strategies have you put in place, and what was the ROI?”

        2. Jamie*

          I know that part was a very small silver lining.

          It has to be incredibly frustrating – hopefully you will find something much better soon.

    3. Malissa*

      What a sucky situation. Honestly sometimes is better to walk away from a bad place. The question is, do you need the paycheck? If so I’d ride the crazy train until it kicks you off, then you can file for unemployment. Anyway you go I’d still be searching for greener pastures.

      1. Lisa*

        My thoughts were, get out quick so I can not list this job on my resume. If I got laid off with unemployment, I would try consulting. I could finish the deadline then find work elsewhere, and tell future employers that I stayed to finish the deadline, but knew 1 week in that the job misrepresented themselves. I don’t burn a bridge with this place, but, this job is pointless to my career, and I truly believe I am hurting myself by wasting time here.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          When talking to prospective employers, don’t say the employer misrepresented itself — too close to badmouthing a former employer, which you can’t do in an interview. Just say that the projects you were hired to work on ended up not happening.

          1. Kelly O*

            Just felt the need to +1 this.

            When you get interviews, don’t say a word about the position being misrepresented, or even give the appearance you might be saying something negative about your employer.

            I’ve used phrases to the effect of the scope of the project changed, or the organization felt it was best to move in a different direction, or even if it’s applicable, funding was cut from a particular project or group.

        2. Natalie*

          Meh, if the job is tolerable I’d stay there while you are looking. It’s pretty tough out there, and if it takes you 2 years to find another position, would you rather have this “filler” position or unemployment on your resume for that period?

  13. Sabrina*

    I have a question. Why do I hate my job? Every job that is. It’s always something. Either no advancement, wanting too much overtime out of me, lying about the job requirements in the interview, changing my hours, etc. Almost every job I’ve ever had I’ve hated. It’s always been a means to an end, something to pay bills. I hate it, I develop a bad attitude, my blood pressure goes up. I don’t want to be like this but I don’t understand why I am or how to change it. Is it because I’m not doing something I like to do or am I just lazy and unwilling to work? I don’t think it’s the latter because when I’m doing something I like to do I can do it for hours without complaint, but I have yet to find that in a paid position, it’s always something I’ve done for myself or friends. But I’m just not sure. Any ideas?

    1. Victoria*

      Sabrina, I totally feel you! I don’t hate my jobs (in fact, I’ve been super lucky and always had jobs I enjoy), but I’m often left thinking “Is this all there is?”

      Over the years, I’ve started getting a better understanding of what makes me happy at a job. It came as a surprise to me that it’s not the mission, or my passion for the topic at hand, or the specific role within an organization that I have. It’s really about the culture and values of an organization (nimble, entrepreneurial) and the ability to do the tasks I enjoy and am good at (planning, synthesizing information, coaching).

      That plus Alison’s great advice about being as deliberate in choosing your employer as they are in choosing employees!

    2. Dana*

      I have no advice, but I’m in the same position. I’m just not motivated because I hate every job I get. I should look for the better fit but I don’t have the financial means to do that. So instead, I rot away in jobs I don’t like and feel lazy and unproductive.

      Frustrating, because I know I really have great work ethic when I need to. I just haven’t needed to in the dead-end jobs I end up with!

      So… just some commiseration.

    3. Emily*

      If I could hazard a guess, I would say that there’s a lot of bad workplaces out there and you probably aren’t being choosy enough when you’re searching for employment. You say your job has always been a way to pay bills–I’m guessing that usually when you’ve been job-hunting in the past, it’s been because you’re either unemployed or your current position became so horrifically unbearable that you were ready to jump ship for the first halfway decent thing that came along.

      I’d suggest starting a job hunt and being prepared for it to take a long time. A lot of job sites will allow you set up personal search assistants that email you every time a job that meets your search criteria is posted. Think about what your ideal job really would be. Set up a search for that, and when the results come in, only apply for the ones that you think, “Yes! this is exactly what I want!” Not the ones that you think, “Hmm, I could do that, and the pay is enough.” You may only see one job a month that you’re excited about, but if you’re currently employed, you have the luxury of only applying to one job a month.

      Then, if you get called back on interviews, temper your enthusiasm and really pay attention to the office culture. Interview your interviewer. Ask about things you’ve disliked in your jobs in the past. Does the position involve a lot of X that you’re not wild about? How high is turnover in the position? Is there room for advancement? Are hours fairly stable or have they changed without warning in the past? If you get any red flags, don’t accept any offer they might give you. Again, this might take a while. People are less likely to quit jobs at great companies, so openings come up at them more rarely, when the company is expanding staff or someone is moving with a spouse, rather than crappy workplaces where openings come up every time someone hates the job so much they quit.

      If you do this, you’re more likely to end up in a good workplace that’s a good match for you. But finding a great job can take a lot more time than just finding any job, and you’ll likely be passing up a lot of jobs you’re qualified for in the meantime. But look at it this way: a job hunt is a substantial investment of your time and energy, training in a new position can be exhausting, benefits may not really start to add up until you have some seniority with a company, and you don’t want to look like a “job hopper” on your resume. So only leave your current position if you feel reasonably confident that you’re leaving for something truly better, not just something different. With any luck, you’ll find that truly better position and be able to stay there for years.

        1. Camellia*


          The single overwhelming value that dominates everything in my life is (Ta da!) I create beauty. Beauty that can take many different forms — a painting (pastels are my medium of choice), a computer program that executes accurately and efficiently, a newsletter that is fun, informative, and easy to read, or a perfect outfit complete with accessories and the perfect touch of makeup.

          How did I find out this value is what drives almost everything I do?

          A long time ago at a company far far away I was going through a workbook on organizational change that included a section on values. There were pages of neat little squares printed with values and their definitions from numerous categories like family, money, work. The exercise was to take these squares (there were around fifty) and arrange them according to certain priorities. It was a struggle; every way I looked at it different values seemed to float to the top. Then my manager walked by and said that he had done something similar during an off-site seminar, except they had to come up with only one value as their tip-top most important one of all time.

          As soon as he said that, I knew what mine was. There was one card labeled “Aesthetic”, having to do with beauty, with the appreciation and creation of beauty. And I realized that I have a need to instill beauty in everything I do. It is something that I can’t NOT do, and discovering that gave me peace in some unexpected ways.

          For example, at the time I was completing this workbook I was bored at work, questioning my career decisions, and reading books like What Color is my Parachute in an effort to find something else I “should” be doing. When I had the revelation about ‘creating beauty’ I could suddenly see that which particular profession I pursued was a second place consideration. I didn’t have to be an interior designer or an artist or a dancer. I can find ways to ‘create beauty’ no matter where I work or what I do – and I always have. I just didn’t realize it.

          And it also gave me the freedom to design and paint and dance without feeling that I had to be good enough at it to make it my profession and earn enough money at it to support my family.

          And it gave me more satisfaction because I could – finally – consciously – choose to create beauty anywhere and everywhere. Maybe in something as small as rearranging the items on a restaurant table in a pleasing way. They would be changed, of course, as soon as the table was cleared, but in the meantime it made my dinner a little more pleasant. Or maybe in something as large as taking over a club newsletter that was absolutely wretched and turning it into a fun, informative, easy to read item that drew accolades from clubs across the country. So, yeah, that’s what I do.

      1. Anonymous*

        This is wonderful advice, and this is the approach that I’m taking (I’m employed.)

        I’m very sure this is why I have been looking for five years and have not found anything. Because my current situation has been so awful, I’m being really, really picky.

    4. fposte*

      When you talk about jobs you hate, you mention the ancillary stuff more than the main goal, but then you don’t acknowledge the very different atmosphere when you’re working on your own on something you enjoy. Any chance you’re underconsidering all the how in favor of the what? Victoria’s got a great example of figuring out what characteristics make her workday more satisfying. What kind of things make you happy about a workplace, and what fill you with horror? What tradeoffs are okay by you (I accept lower money and high bureaucracy in exchange for a positive immediate atmosphere and great independence, for instance). Do you have the risk tolerance and flexibility to run your own business if it’s really that other people’s strictures make you miserable?

      It is possible that your expectations are too high–I’m wondering, for instance, if the “no advancement” could be related to your dislike of overtime and changeable hours–but it’s also possible that you’re working at a level or in an industry where work rewards tend to be somewhat limited and that you really need to identify which of the available ones make a workplace bearable to you.

      1. Sabrina*

        Well… just to be clear, the no advancement/OT requirements/scheduled changing were all different issues at different jobs. The one with no advancement wouldn’t let any non-exempt person do OT. There would have to be a very desperate situation with a major client for it to be approved. And I know plenty of people who work off the clock to get things done and not incur OT, and they are not recognized for their efforts either.

        The job I have now the issue is OT. I’m also going back to school and have other things going on. Having to spend extra time at work just messes up everything else.

        I’m fine with this job being just a job until I can finish school. I don’t trust this company enough to want to stay here long term, but having mandatory overtime makes me very resentful.

        1. fposte*

          So if I’m hearing right, you’ve wanted different things at different times–OT when it was tied to advancement, and the ability to work without OT when you have other priorities. Which is all totally legit on your part, but it’s worth considering that characteristics that may have been an issue for you once aren’t necessarily an issue at other times, so don’t strike them off entirely. Think about both what’s important to you right now and what might be important long-term.

          1. Sabrina*

            No, I’m just saying when I was in a job where there was no advancement, it wasn’t a question of me being unwilling to do OT that led to me not being able to advance.

      2. Victoria*

        fposte, I love the “tradeoff” point. I happily trade salary for an environment I enjoy, and I trade longer hours for flexibility.

        I also read a great piece of advice (wish I remembered where, so I could credit it!) that if you hate your job and want a different one, think carefully about what you DO like about your job, so you can go looking for that again. Anything you like counts, such as: Short commute, quiet office environment, high salary, half-day Fridays during the summer, etc. Those things give you a start when you’re looking for a new situation that might make you happier.

    5. Nyxalinth*

      I’m not the only one?

      I’ve started to think I am one of those people who are not made for the ‘traditional’ job paths out there, but i have yet to find something that is a fit for me.

    6. Charlotte*

      Sabrina, I hear you! Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to have a few jobs I enjoyed but also a few I’ve hated and had to stick out because of financial reasons.
      I’ve come to a few conclusions though – sometimes a job is just a way to pay the bills and that’s all it has to be. I think there has been a pervasive spread of the idea that your job has to be “inspiring” and your “passion” and “motivating” and all the other b.s. words you can think of in order for us to consider ourselves satisfied and successful. Then when we have a job that doesn’t meet these expectations we feel cheated and resentful.
      However, if we can approach a job from the viewpoint that doesn’t have to meet the “passion” requirement, that it’s ok to go to work, meet your responsibilities and get your paycheck then fulfill your “passion” elsewhere, there might be less high blood pressure!

      1. khilde*

        You’re on to something here. I totally agree that our culture sends the message that our work should be our passion and it should completely fulfill us. I also agree on the point about using work to meet your obligations and responsibilities and pursue a passion in other ways. I have more thoughts rolling around in my head about this, but not quite coherent enough to capture now. I just wanted to say that I think you hit on a very good point.

    7. Editor*

      I’ve worked with a couple of people who hated all the places they’d worked. One was just pathological, in my amateur opinion, and always complained about how she knew better than anyone else how the work should be done,. She couldn’t say anything good about the shops in town, the schools, or her neighbors, because everything was better in Chicago, and griped incessantly about her ex-husband, who had traded her in for a younger model. Then she moved back home, and on a visit back here, complained that Chicago had changed so much it wasn’t like it used to be. Nothing was ever going to satisfy her or make her less bitter.

      The other person I worked with was very good with their work on the side, but hated working at our office. This person was passive-aggressive about authority and didn’t want to be told what to do. If they thought of a project and did it at work without interference, it went well. If they were assigned something, they chafed at the orders and complained about the work. I can’t tell if this is a problem for you or if your jobs have just been a bad fit. Maybe there’s someone you know from a former job who you could ask for candid feedback about whether it was you or the job.

      I second the suggestion to look for something that’s a good fit. If you can figure out what you would prefer doing, maybe that will help. If your passion is something you can’t easily find employment in (writing poetry or plays, or other fine arts), then maybe you can find a way to make your desire for a creative outlet become a satisfying hobby, and basically accept that you work to have fun outside of work.

      Do your benefits offer a few sessions of counseling for employees who request it? Sometimes that can help you explore the problem, and maybe you’ll find an answer — even if you don’t like the answer.

    8. Anonymous*

      I’m right there with you!

      I looked at my boyfriend and said one night, “This is going to sound horrible, honey, but…I don’t want a job. I just want money.” He totally understood!

      The working world is not what it used to be. I hear stories ALL THE TIME about how awful the workplace is. I experience it in my own job.

      It’s not about not wanting to work. For me, it’s about not wanting to be mistreated over, and over, and over, and over again, no matter where I go or how hard and how well I work!

      It wears you down!

  14. Jamie*

    Do you like your career itself? If you aren’t in a field that’s a good fit for you, then any job will grate after a while.

    Liking what you do is the first step, then it can make the downsides of where and for whom you do it bearable (most of the time.) If you don’t like your field there is no perfect workplace that can mitigate that.

    Like for me – I’d rather work every day in a dank server closet in IT for a pittance than in the corner office making 6 figures in HR.

    Nothing against HR people, but it’s not my skill set and I’m not good at it. When I had to fill in for a couple of months I was checking the days off in big red X’s on a calendar until the new HR started.

    1. Sabrina*

      I don’t, and I know it. I was an administrative assistant for 10 years. It was OK, but that was the one with no advancement. I left there to relocate with my husband to a new city. Right now I do data entry while I try to finish my degree. Data entry is BORING but it’s fine for now, something to bring in income while I go to school. But my first priority is school, and having mandatory overtime all the time eats into study time. (And frankly sleep time and I have a neck injury that makes sleep time incredibly precious)

      1. Kelly O*

        I don’t know if it will help you, and it’s kind of tangential to other advice previously given, but this is what I’ve been doing.

        Start a list. Just get a notebook and start making lists. Write down things you love to do, things you hate to do, things you’d like to do. Don’t limit yourself to just “work stuff” – I have lists of craft projects I want to try, or things I tried and didn’t like, or what makes me procrastinate about certain things.

        Now, granted I’m a writer and a list-lover, but my purpose is to try and identify what makes me Kelly. (If that makes sense.) I spent a lot of time just doing what I thought was expected of me, and I never really took the time to think about what I’d like to do, or what made me happy.

        So I try to think about things both at work and at home that make me feel happy or content, or that I just gravitate toward. It might not help me find a dream job, or pay for college, or whatever, but it helps me center.

        Also, try reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. She has a website and blog too.

        1. Jamie*

          This is ringing a bell in the back of my head about a discussion here a long time ago. Something about figuring out a good fit by determining what can you NOT do.

          And it wasn’t about actual jobs, but behaviors which can translate into jobs.

          I need to have a puzzle to solve. I need to have little victories where I win against problems. I need to make decisions based on empirical data and I need to see the data patterns myself. I need to work alone the majority of the time.

          If someone else needed to help people, needed to interact with others in brainstorming, needed to create and develop orginal art…probably wouldn’t share the same career paths as people like me.

          I am just resurrecting old threads which may or may not exist outside of my head.

          1. Wannabe a good manager*

            I have to improve the process. I’ve had jobs in different industries and no matter what I am doing, I document all my routine work, so I can do it efficiently and then I try to improve the process. It makes routine work into a GAME.

            1. Liz*

              I do this too! I have yet to work with someone who really understands what I’m doing and why but I’ve been doing it since my first job in high school – so cool to know there’s another one out there!

              1. Wannabe a good manager*

                I feel exactly the same! I get the impression people think I’m anal and I wonder why they are perfectly happy to make the same mistakes over and over again.

                1. Anonymous*

                  Oh, thank goodness I am not the only one!

                  I’d been working a very repetitive volunteer position for 18 months and my supervisor called me out because at the end of every session I looked at the printouts for the work I’d done and compared it to the last time.

                  She seemed to think I was being a perfectionist, but in reality it’s that I was giving myself a goal to be x minutes faster at a task or make x fewer mistakes each time and *that* is what kept my interest and made the work fun.

                2. Wannabe a good manager*

                  Hi Anonymous,

                  I can’t seem to reply to your post, so I’ll have to reply to mine. Our way definitely livens up repetitive work. The guy who wrote the book on Flow gives lots of examples in his book. It also has resulted in promotions for me, twice. The documentation means I save time and can take on additional duties and it makes it easy for someone else to take over.

        2. fposte*

          And seriously, one of the points you put down on that list, if you’re Kelly? “Writer and list-lover.” These are relevant things to figuring out where you’re likely to find a congenial fit. (We’re a building of list freaks who go crazy over good post-its.)

          1. Kelly O*

            I imagine that would be part of my responsibility at AAM, Inc. I teach classes on effective list-making, how not to sound like a tool in your business writing, and I get to organize everything. (And in this perfect hypothetical world, everyone puts things back where they go so my OCD self doesn’t have to constantly go back and straighten the pencils or whatever.)

        3. ChristineH*

          Kelly O – I’m the same way!!! I am ALWAYS making and revising lists in the hopes of hitting on something that will make me say “A ha!”. But it’s not helping because I’ve been unable to find anyone willing to sit down with me to talk out the ideas generated from those lists.

          1. Kelly O*

            Oh you have no idea how much I’d like to sit down with someone, make some lists, and have them say “yes, Kelly you are supposed to be an Underwater Basket Weaving Instructor at the Chocolate Teapot Factory!” – then, if we’re dreaming, they’ll wave a magic wand and I’ll get the job, with a great rate of pay, awesome benefits, and flex time.

            And then Nathan Fillion will sweep me off my feet, dressed as Captain Mal. And then I wake up.

        4. Sabrina*

          Jamie I’m a wannabe writer and definitely a list writer. LOL That makes a lot of sense though, I’m going to try that. And I bought that book for my Kindle. Love technology (and a ton of Amazon GCs leftover from Christmas).

          1. Jenn*

            I have already accepted for awhile that there is no job out there that I will be passionate about it. I got a degree in Computers because I was good at them and figured I could make good money. However, I didn’t have the confidence to go past entry level. You just have to know everything it seems in order to advance and get out of the tech support hole. I could have easily freelanced, as lots of so-called friends kept bothering me to fix their computers for free. But even though I am good at computers I also find them frustrating. I lost my sanity dealing with customers in tech support and switched to data entry. I wanted a job where I could just work and be left alone, not have to deal with people, that was easy to do, and not stressful. My job is most of those things but like any company it has its office politics and BS and there have been some up and down times here. I am incredibly bored but I get paid well for what I do and the benefits/vacation package is pretty good.

            I have since decided that I want to teach English abroad in Japan. I’ve always wanted to live there. I was an exchange student there as well as vacationed there and love it! Now seems to be the right time to work towards this goal. I wasn’t too keen on the teaching English thing but know it’s pretty much the only job you can get as a foreigner over there. Unless you are really good at some sort of skill that they could actually use there and fluent in Japanese. I’m not confident enough in my proficiency in Japanese to get a regular job. I enrolled in a certificate program to get a certificate in teaching English. It’s not necessary as the schools usually train you, but I figured if I was going to do this I wanted to be prepared. The certificate program is actually great! I’m really enjoying it and I think I will actually like teaching English. It’s something I can do abroad as well as here in the US (with the proper teaching credentials).

            Sorry if this was long. I just wanted to share my story. :-)

            1. Anon.*

              Not too long and very interesting! Good for you and thank you for sharing :)

              How would I find out about teaching English in another country? Is there a website?

              You just may have planted a seed..

              1. Jenn*

                I would probably google things like teaching English in “name of country” or English schools “name of country.” I only know the popular chain schools for Japan like Aeon, Gaba, and Berlitz. Sorry I can’t be much more help as I don’t know anything about teaching in other countries besides Japan. I know the English schools for Japan you can apply online through their website. You should do it 3 months before you want to go to Japan so they can sponsor a visa, etc.

  15. scott*

    Hello! The HR recruiting at my company asked me to do a test she said is for new employees and tell her what I think about it. She said it was 30-40 mins, but ended up being more like 1h to 1h 15mins. I’m assuming she plans to use this as part of the application process. should I tell her about how a long questionaire can be frustrating to potential employees or would an application this long be resasonable?

    1. Jamie*

      For new hires, it’s long but a lot of orientation stuff is long and boring.

      For the application process? That’s crazy long. I can’t think of any job I’d want badly enough to do a 30 minute test, but an hour? You’re going to really narrow your candidate pool with this.

    2. Andrew*

      She asked you for your opinion, presumably because she trusts that you will be honest. Please tell her what you think.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It depends on what stage the test will be used in. If all applicants are going to be directed to take it, that’s way too long. But if it’s only going to be given to strong applicants, that’s not necessarily unreasonable. But do let her know it takes longer than she thinks.

      1. Wannabe a good manager*

        that’s long? For my current job (which grew into a managerial position but didn’t start off as one), I had to prepare something for my job interview which took me 20 hours! I routinely ask job applicants to do something for me, though I don’t expect them to take as long as I did. But maybe that is why I got the job!

        So, maybe it depends on the job?

    4. AnB*

      Yes. Tell her.

      Off topic but you reminded me of this: I once had a boss who was convinced Department A was lazying around with their data collection duties and asked me to prove it by giving Department A and Me the same list. We discovered that actually Department A were much faster than I was and were getting just as much information gathered as well. Boss stopped complaining about Department A.

  16. Student*

    There’s a silly question I’ve been dying to ask about a subject that comes up frequently:

    What exactly is a recruiter? Are recruiters used primarily to fill a certain type or level of job?

    I’ve been job-hunting for a bit, and I haven’t really come across any info about recruiters but the fact that they come up so often as a subject here makes me wonder. Maybe they aren’t used in my industry/ employment level (entry level science), or maybe I’m missing something I ought to learn about.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There are internal recruiters (work solely for one company, as an employee of that company) and external recruiters (have many different clients). Some industries don’t use them at all.

    2. Stells*

      I’m an internal recruiter who used to work for an external agency. There are plenty in the Science field (depending on what variety of science you are…they tend to be very specialized). The ones I can think of off the top of my head are Aerotek Scientific, Kelly Scientific, Scientific Search, and American Lab Staffing. I’ve heard the first two are great, but I don’t know much about the others.

      1. Danielle*

        I had Aerotek contact me out of the blue once . . for a science job I was not even remotely qualified for by any stretch of the imagination. I’m a therapist! So that one made me side eye that they weren’t really looking for good candidates, just ANY candidates.

  17. Anon*

    Since Alison has already been kind enough to answer two questions for me (thanks again, Alison!), I thought I’d throw this one out there (it’s two-fold): I’ve been a contract employee for two years and just found out there’s no chance I’ll be converted to permanent anytime soon due to a budget issue. I have no sick time, no paid time off, etc. and this is definitely not what I signed up for. My awesome, totally-supportive boss said she wants to keep me, but understands if I need to look elsewhere and will give me a recommendation if I need it. Does it seem wise to actually take her up on that and let her know I’m looking? Also, if I get an interview, and they ask my why I’m looking, should I tell them this is the reason, or does that look bad? I could go with something more generic (looking for more opportunity or stability, both of which are true)–I guess I’m wondering if I should avoid mentioning it.

    1. Malissa*

      If your boss supports it tell her you are looking. One it’s a great thing to have a recommendation from the current person who isn’t happy about losing you. Two, it eliminates that awkward conversation later when a potential employer calls to ask about you. Three if your boss knows you are looking she may be able to use this information to attempt to get the budget money to hire you on full time.
      As someone who had this exact conversation with her boss two days ago, I’ll tell you it’s a relief. Of course my boss saw this coming from a year ago when I enrolled in Grad school. I’ve been taking the steps to get me ready for the next part of my career. Which can not happen at my current work place. He knows this and holds no ill will towards me for bettering myself. I was actually surprised he took it so well since he just lost another skilled person. That guy was the only other person in the office in a position that requires a degree. Replacing degreed people is really a challenge in this area.
      Back on track, I see no problem with wanting to switch from a contract position to a full time employee. I’d use that as a reason when asked questions on the subject.

    2. fposte*

      When I tell my drastically underpaid staff member that, I do mean it. I’ll cry if she leaves, but I’ll give her the fabulous recommendation she deserves. Do you know anything about her relationship with former employees? You might get some hints there.

      Honestly, if I were her I’d already assume you were looking to some extent–you’re openly wanting a better situation that’s perfectly reasonable but that she can’t provide.

      1. Josh S*

        Does your “drastically underpaid” staff member *know* that she’s drastically underpaid?

        I’m not sure I’d know how to broach the topic, but wouldn’t it be awesome if your boss came to you one day and said, “Hey. I love the work you’re doing. I don’t want to lose you. I want you to stay here forever and continue progressing in your career. But this place isn’t able to pay you what you’re actually worth. If you did this job at another place, you’d be making $xx instead of $yy. Like I said, I don’t want to lose you, but I also don’t want you to sacrifice your own financial success for the sake of one company.”

        Wouldn’t that be the biggest morale booster ever?

        1. fposte*

          To be fair, she’s not any more drastically underpaid than I am, and she’d have to move farther than she wants to to get a better salary.

          I mean, I could be fooling myself (the skills are rare enough that I’d be totally screwed if she left), but we know each other pretty well, and I think she’s reasonably contented with the tradeoffs for this particular position, at least for the next few years.

    3. Stells*

      Take her up on it. I bet she feels bad because she wants to bring you on but can’t so now you’re stuck in a contract role.

      As for the awkward question, just be honest – you applied as a contractor with hopes of going full time, but things changed and you’re still a contractor with no benefits. Now you’re just looking for something that is full time and has some PTO and health coverage. The interviewer will just be glad you are staying in your role until you find something.

    4. Liz*

      I would avoid mentioning it. You have no way of knowing how long it will take you to look for another job, so until you definitely need the recommendation I wouldn’t bring it up. It just makes you look more temporary, when it sounds as if you’d prefer to be able to stay.

  18. anonymous*

    So here’s my question, mostly for those in IT… I’m in IT (Information Security). I am mostly dedicated to SAP security. For those who don’t know, SAP is a finance application that has it’s own programming language and the security can be configured to fit the company’s needs. I have been the SME (security maintenance expert) for 7 years. However, I only have half the knowledge that a typical SAP security analyst would have. The reason for this is “segregation of duties”. My company does not want the same organization to create the roles in development and then assign them in production. The majority of the SAP jobs I see are for analysts who know how to create roles, implement system upgrades for security, and basically push SAP through a lifecycle. I cannot do that because I only have the knowledge to assign roles to IDs (I also run reports and create policies and procedures, but no additional technical knowledge).

    There are courses I can take to learn this, and certificates that are available, but they cost hundreds of dollars just for one course, and to get a good grasp of the essentials, I would need to take several courses. I don’t have that kind of money, and my company will not fund it (I’ve checked).

    I’ve tried to get a foot into the organization in my company that does this, but they have dragged their feet for three years. I’ve been mostly satisfied in my position, so haven’t looked very much. But now I’m ready to jump forward.

    So my question is…for IT, it’s often common for people to learn skills on the job. How can I go about explaining my situation and letting companies know that I can learn these skills, and convince them to take a chance on me? Is this something I can put in the cover letter? How can I word it so it doesn’t sound like I’m reaching beyond my abilities? I can learn on the job very well, I started in this position as a data entry clerk with no technical knowledge, and now am considered a key employee in my department.

    Sorry for the length, and appreciate the help.

    1. Malissa*

      The best way I can think to address this would be to mention that you acquired X skill in three months while on the job. The more skills you can add the better you can demonstrate your ability to learn on the job.

  19. Scott M*

    Hi everyone – here’s my question: How do you ask about management styles when you are being interviewed? I work better with a more hands-on manager, rather than one who leaves you to your own devices. However, I don’t want to give the impression that I can’t work on my own. The only question I can think of (Without tipping my hand as to what I prefer) is asking how often the manager meets with employees one-on-one. Any other suggestions?

    1. Malissa*

      I’d ask them to describe their management style. It’s not that unusual of an interview question.

    2. Kimmie Sue*

      Scott – Great questions. I’d suggest any (not all) of the following to the hiring manager (during the portion of the interview that you get to ask them questions):
      “How would you describe your management style?”
      “How often do you check in with your current staff?”
      “How often do you prefer your current staff to check in or provide you updates?”
      “When has a past direct employee disappointed you with their communication style or behavior?”
      If you get to interview with a potential peer, certainly ask them:
      “How often do you have one-on-one’s with manager X?”
      “How would you describe their management style?”
      “What is your preference for manager/employee communication? Is that happening here?”
      Again, asking every single question might raise a flag that you may not be able to work independently, but a couple of them should provide some good dialogue.

    3. YALM*

      Scott, are you looking for a job or “the” job for you? If you’re looking for “the job, dancing around your preferences isn’t likely to get you there.

      So now I’m curious. How do you define more hands-on, and why does that work for you?

      1. Scott M*

        When I started in my career at this company, I my manager was over a small team of 5 people (I work in I.T.). I would define him as a hands-on manager. If you needed one of us to work on a project, you went through my manager. He would basically run the I.T. portion of the project. He would set the scope, and define the tasks that needed to be completed. He would attend most of the project meetings. If If you showed that you could handle it, he would delegate some of the higher-level tasks to you. But he always keept his fingers on the pulse of the project. I would usually talk to him every day, because he was so involved in my every day work.
        These days, my manager is over 3 teams for a total of about 25 people. He is less a ‘manager’ than a ‘dispatcher’; A request comes in and he dispatches it to the appropriate person. I work for other ‘project managers’ none of whom work in I.T. The only contact I have with my manager is yearly reviews and weekly team meetings where I pass along my status. I mostly work on my own. ( I should make it clear that my current manage is a very nice guy, just a product of how the department is run these days).
        When I say I want a hands-on manager, I am referring to someone like my first manager.

  20. Nyxalinth*

    Temping is a great option to finding permanent placement…but only if the jobs advertised are real and people actually get back to you on stuff. Not all of them are like this, and I know that, but I have had some horror stories (using altered agency names):

    Premier Source: I call them the Bait and Switch agency. Six times over a 5 year period, I’d respond to an ad for a great job, not too far from me (I take the bus), decent pay, etc. so I’d go and see them. Each time, it was “Oops, sorry, we filled that one just now, but here’s this job not as awesome, twice as far away, and it pays 3-4 dollars an hour less!” Once or twice, sure, I could understand it, but every single time? I don’t think so. I finally cut ties with them.

    Apple Agency: Always with the fake ads. How did I know they were fake? Because I had it confirmed by someone who used to work with them, and quit. She told me “There were ads we recycled, or ‘borrowed’ from other agencies, to get people to come in and sign up so we’d have a pool of resumes on hand.”

    Office Bunch: Arranged an assignment for me, I get there, the place has no idea of who I am or why I am there, the person who arranged it is out of the office. The two people who were there were very nice, but unable to help me. I am told finally it was cancelled. Nice. They could have told me, you know?

    Several other agencies: One told me it was immediate start. When I get there and go through the process, I’m told “Well, I have to pass on your resume.” “Oh? I thought you’d said on the phone that it was an immediate hire. I apologize if I misunderstood. ” She got snotty, and I left. I can only wonder if the client was seeking ‘a certain type’ for the receptionist position and I didn’t meet it (I’m getting into middle age and sort of chubby). But maybe not.

    Another agency told me it was immediate hire, only for me to find out it was an ‘observational interview’ instead. My calls to the agency about this were not returned.

    And lastly, Lakeside. I go there, go through the process. I’m told I’ll be sent a link for testing by the client. I get the link, but it doesn’t work right. I email the agency, and they say “Oh, yes, the client told us there was a problem, they’re working on it. give us a call on Monday.”

    So I do, and of course, the woman I was talking to isn’t there, nor is anyone else able to tell me what is going on. nor does she return my call, ever.

    A year and a half later, she emails me trying to get me to come in and update my resume, which is fine, except I remember the big bunch of nothing I got from them before. So I tell her “If you have something in place that I would be a fit for, I’d be happy to come and talk to you about it” because I have a feeling that “Update my resume” really means “Let’s see if you have new employers listed to whom we can sell our services” because this does happen.

    No response.

    A few months ago, she emails me again saying “We have X position open, do you have any friends that would be interested?” She knew that it was something I was looking for from our previous discussions, and I said “Well, I would be interested in that, could you tell me more about the position, etc.?”

    She ignored me.

    I won’t say I will never use agencies again, because there are good ones and not everyone is being a jerk, but it’s so frustrating. anyone else have any stories about crappy luck with temp agencies?

    1. Nyxalinth*

      Oh, I want to clarify: that last one I did not tell the woman my suspicions, just the line about “If you have something in place that I would be a fit for, I’d be happy to come and talk to you about it”. It occurred to me that it might look like I’d actually said the rest!

    2. Kelly O*

      Oh honey.

      If I had a dollar for every imaginary position I’ve applied for, I would not have to work, and could probably fund our hypothetical AAM, Inc.

      The most recent example was a rather large, nation-wide agency. I met with the recruiter, filled out their application, took all their tests, provided my driver’s license and Social Security card (which I hate doing when I don’t have a job actually on the horizon.) He told me how many wonderful positions he had, and that my pay scale was perfectly reasonable. I heard nothing back. Finally emailed with the polite equivalent of “WTF, dude?” and was told my pay rate was too high, and if I could just back down a bit he could have placed me weeks ago.

      I have one recruiter here in town who actually seems to get it, but because of location there are lots of her opportunities that aren’t appropriate for me. She’s trying, but they’re smaller, so she has fewer openings.

      I’m actually trying right now to NOT apply through agencies. I thought at first since I am still fairly new, that it might be wise to go that route. Turns out, not so much. At least not now.

      1. Nyxalinth*

        And yet all the time people are telling me to use agencies! I would if I could find one that doesn’t suck.

        I really hated the last one. I tell everyone looking for work in my area to avoid them like the plague. Job hunting is not an online roleplaying game: you do not get to farm me and my friends for resumes and future contacts.

    3. Sabrina*

      I think I could have written most of that myself. Especially your Premier Source. I had the same company do that to me three times in a year before I stopped taking their calls. I honestly don’t know how these companies stay in business because it seems like they don’t find anyone a job!

      1. Nyxalinth*

        I know, right? And with so many people needing jobs, it’s terribly unethical of them. Not to mention there’s no need to lie and fake it: there’s tons of people out of work, just post the few real jobs you have, and you’ll have enough good resumes to last a long while.

      2. Anonymous*

        Um, they like to plump their candidate database to seem appealing to potential employers they recruit for.

        Or identity theft type stuff :( I leave out half of my street address number, and never use my landline phone number when applying for jobs through agencies or craigslist etc.

  21. Jamie*

    Yes! learning on the job is mostly how it’s done. A word about certs: I’m not bashing them, they have their place – but in my experience it’s mostly to get through the hoops placed by HR or hiring managers who don’t know how to vet IT so they place way too much emphasis on certs.

    If I were hiring and you sent me your resume certs are fine, very nice, but to me they mean you spent the money and took the time. Beyond that, they tell me nothing about your abilities. You can pay for a brain dump, study for a couple days, and get certified in anything. That doesn’t tell me one thing about your ability to do the job.

    Your questions:
    1. So my question is…for IT, it’s often common for people to learn skills on the job.
    For me it’s preferable. A CS degree, certs, they are fine for foundational knowledge – but there is nothing that trumps practical OTJ.

    2. How can I go about explaining my situation and letting companies know that I can learn these skills, and convince them to take a chance on me?

    Just as you did here. Explain the division of duties and that while due to protocol you weren’t able to get hands on experience you know it’s something you can pick up with a short learning curve due to your in depth foundational understanding of the architecture and security parameters.

    3. Is this something I can put in the cover letter?

    Yes! Stress it.

    4. How can I word it so it doesn’t sound like I’m reaching beyond my abilities?

    Something like what I wrote above would work for me. Be clear that you know you level of skill/complexity involved because nothing is more insulting than when it sounds like people are minimizing the task.

    I also strongly suggest you speak with someone in that role to get a firm grasp on exactly what the other side of it entails. Because while you said you are doing half of the security tasks (and that’s a common practice to split the roles – it’s how I would do it in a large company) from what you’ve described the other half is technical.

    Join Spiceworks (online IT community) and post there in the careers section. People are more than willing to chime in with their experience as long as the questions are adequately phrased and not trollish. If I had experience in SAP I’d be happy to let you pick my brain – but I haven’t worked with an Oracle based db in about 4 years – so you’d be much better off talking to someone with current information. If you ever need anything about the backend of PSQL, however, let me know.

    1. anonymous*

      Jamie, thank you, I was hoping you would respond. After I typed out and posted my question, I realized that I really just lacked confidence. I hadn’t really tried typing out my concerns like that before, so it threw it into sharp focus. So, thanks, AAM, for allowing this thread, thus allowing me to do so! :D

      I’ll check out that website. I’m on a couple of SAP groups on Linked In, but unfortunately most of the posts seem to be “we need new hires in India and Europe! Apply now!”, which isn’t what I’m looking for at the moment. And I’ve been a little concerned about posting on it, because I’m not sure who in company is in it, that knows me.

      My biggest concern is the requirement to have at least one year experience with the lifecycle…I’ve always been at the end, since I’m production. So it helps that what I think is a hindrance probably isn’t.

      Now, if I could just find SAP jobs that aren’t contracting positions…I’m not in a place financially to do that yet.

  22. Anonymous*

    I went on an interview and got offered the job on the spot. We established my start date and they even gave me paperwork to fill out when I come in on that date. They said I can get back to them after the weekend to give a decision. I called after the weekend and left a voicemail. After no reply, I called at the end of the next day to follow up and left another voicemail. It’s been a week now and no call back. Should I assume the offer was rescinded for some reason?

    1. Nyxalinth*

      That’s a tough one. How far off is the start date? If it’s really close, I’d say they’re pretty unprofessional not returning your call. After all, you’d already been hired.

      If it’s a ways off yet, I’d sit tight. they might be figuring “Okay, he/she gave us the word that they want to start, that’s all we need.” Still, unprofessional to not acknowledge it.

      In any event, I’d stop calling. You’ve called them twice, so you did your part.

      1. Anonymous*

        Thank you for the reply! The date was in about 2 weeks. Although I had not given them an official answer accepting the offer (that’s what I was calling about on Monday), I articulated in the interview and voicemails that I was excited about the opportunity.

    2. Dana*

      I would be very, very leery of accepting after this if at all possible. Imagine how they’ll treat you once you’re an actual employee?

      1. Anonymous*

        That’s a very good point! This is the thought in the back of my head, if this is a red flag. As I have read many times on AAM, I have to wonder if the way the interview process goes is a reflection of my experience in the company in the future.

        1. Dana*

          Ah, I really feel for you. I hope they get back to you soon with a reasonable explanation and it works out!

    1. khilde*

      That’s funny!! I hope you’re able to drop the broom and walk through the door soon. Good luck to you.

  23. PJDJ*

    Last year, my boss, the IT Manager of a highly-automated manufacturing plant, left the company and I was promoted to replace him (as a Coordinator, not Manager, tho). I liked the management side of the position, but the stress levels were high: 24/7 on-call, receiving support calls at 2-3 AM every other day. I had no life outside work and even lost about 10 lbs. Add to that my wife started having some health issues herself. After 10 months I had to call it quits to regain my sanity and spend more time with my wife. I was able to land a position as a software developer consultant, no overtime, short commute, no need to be on-call… but frankly I’m starting to hate the technical side of things. I’m 35, all my colleagues are already in management or coordinator roles; me, I feel like I just threw away all my experience to start from scratch. I was wondering if there’s anyone here in the IT or Software Development industries that went through a similar rut/tech burnout, and how you overcame, moved on or transitioned to something elsse.

    1. Jamie*

      I complain a lot about the stress, but most of it is just a stress release…but I do careen wildly toward burnout about twice a year. Daily migraines, crying on the way home from work just from being tired and angry, resenting everyone I work with…and wild fantasies about giving it all up to run a goat farm.

      But the weird thing is – then I jump to a goat farm/IT consulting business and I know I’m not ready to leave the field.

      I am also IT in manufacturing, and most run lean. We’re understaffed and the problems you described are reality for 99.9% of us. One IT managing 100s of machines/users is more common than not.

      I wish I had better advice, but I just ride it out and then something will happen and I remember why I love my job again. That sounds better than it is – I’ve also given notice and then allowed myself to be talked into staying. I don’t recommend that btw – and would not have done it if I wasn’t ready to walk that day. It wasn’t a bluff – never bluff because you will be called on it.

      Unfortunately if you don’t like the tech side, in a small to midsized manufacturing firm IT management will also need to be hands on with tech issues. Management apart from that is more the larger corporations and that’s not an easy place to get an in.

      One thing that can help unless you’re in full burn out mode (in which case nothing will) is a bonus inherent in manufacturing IT – variety. You get frustrated staring at errors in your code formulas for too long – check the help desk queue and go upgrade a video card. Or do an ROI for an upcoming project. Or send out scathing emails directing people to clean up their crap on the shared drives. Or research ways to optimize server performance which is a valid excuse to browse IT forums for a couple hours.

      I think it’s good that you know what stress you can and can’t handle – most of us don’t know when we’re going to hit the wall until after it happens.

        1. Jamie*

          I will put a reminder in my Outlook:

          Week of May 21 – Appt: Live vicariously through Alison.

        2. fposte*

          Our local goat farm now has a kid from the teacup goat. Like a goat bunny, I’m telling you.

          1. Jamie*

            I just googled teacup goat and I now have new wallpaper on my desktop. Thank you – and google images.

            Too cute.

          2. saro*

            This open thread is totally worth it, if only for the knowledge that a teacup goat exists.

        3. Anon.*

          baby pygmy goats? i LOVE baby pygmy goats… lol I hope you have lots of them around you. Take pics! (and post them, of course)

          Hope you have a wonderful time! You deserve it :D

      1. Athena*

        Good to know someone else uses this strategy, too. I “careen wildly turn burnout” too, at least once a year. (I love that phrase so much, I had to lift it.) But when I think about doing something else – I am pretty young, and this would be a good time to change – I realize how much I would miss what I’m doing. So I just ride it out, with a little help from ice cream and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

    2. anon-2*

      Yeah, I quit a job under similar circumstances. I was getting three “overnight” calls a week. I quit, made a lateral move, it’s been good.

      My current employer wanted me to go back into the same rut – I reminded them – I basically took a pay cut all those years ago, gave up a lot of benefits to come over here to get away from that. I refused, and they respected that. Also knowing full well, that if they took retailiatory action it might be construed to be a constructive discharge for someone at an advanced age.

    3. Wannabe a good manager*

      I went from software developer to X to management. Try reading Oncken’s book on Managing Management Time to reduce the hours by learning how to delegate properly. Alison’s advice is great once I understand it, but sometimes I need the information spelled out in more detail and I think Oncken does a great job.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Not to self-promote, but try my book, Managing to Change the World too. Since it’s a book, it’s a lot more detailed than I am here — really walks you through the HOW part of managing.

        1. Wannabe a good manager*

          Have you noticed that only your other book appears in your email signature and is prominently displayed on the blog? I would have bought it ages ago if I had figured out that it existed!

          By the way, it’s great!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ve written here before (I think) that I’d never hire someone without actually seeing their work in action — to me, that would be like a football coach hiring players without ever seeing them play. So I have strong candidates do exercises/simulations related to the work they’d be doing on the job — not hours’ worth, but enough that I can get a sense. I’ve frequently had feedback from candidates that they like that it gives them a better idea of what the job will be like too.

      1. Jamie*

        When I interviewing for my current job they created a dummy database and I was given exercises to run queries, create a report with a nested sub-report, create new views and tables with statements, etc. That was per their specs.

        Then I was asked to spec out a couple of optimization reports based on the dummy data. What information am I looking for, how to I check for patterns, how are parameters defined and deviations analyzed. That was to test my thought process and if I knew not only how to pull the data, but what it meant and how to use it.

        Oh, and a inhouse version of Fizz Buzz.

        I can’t think of a better way to test an applicant, I would do the same thing if I was hiring for a tech position.

        Much better than those brain teasers asking about moving water between different oddly shaped containers if you’re on a desert island with no measuring equipment. Or the one about the pirates and the hats and the boats.

        I so rarely run into pirate scenarios in the workplace, and if I was stranded on a desert island I would be a little too busy panicking to work out mathematical puzzles with my limited water supply.

        1. fposte*

          Sure, if it’s not a situation where they’d be expected to have a portfolio; also editing. The more specialized and professionalized the field, I’d say, the more likely this is to be a part of the hiring process; it just looks to me like it’s spreading into other areas now, which isn’t a bad thing. On the younger end of the hiring spectrum, where we don’t expect people to have the actual experience, we draw from real life events (and fiascos) for several “Here’s a hypothetical situation: what do you do?” questions that give us an idea of what they bring to the situations they’ll face.

          1. Victoria*

            I’m genuinely curious how this could be done in, say, a general management position. Or my position, which – as is often the case in small nonprofits – contains many different roles: business operations, management, large-scale event production, strategic planning, etc.

            I’m not skeptical – I’d love to do this in a hiring process, on either side of the process! – but I’m having a hard time imagining exactly what it would be.

            1. Wannabe a good manager*

              How about an inbox exercise? I include both routine emails and non-routine emails and ask the applicants what they would answer or what information they still need or … I even get an idea of how they would deal with different groups of people.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              For a management position, I’ve done things like “here’s a real-life email describing a situation or complaint; diagnose what’s going on and tell me how you’d tackle it, or what advice you’d give the manager dealing with that.” (I’m actually using that for a position I’m hiring for right now, and it’s hugely helpful.)

              The Management Center has an excellent list of suggested exercises along these lines right here:
              (That link will download a Word doc.) (Disclaimer: I do consulting work for them.)

            3. Josh S*

              Situational scenario questions, like this one we recently asked in our local school’s principal search:
              “It’s 8:50 in the morning, just before school is set to start. A facilities inspector just showed up for a surprise inspection. Your 8th grade math teacher just called in sick. And a young child is in the office with blood streaming down his face from a head injury. What do you do?” (Triage question–critical for the manager with multiple priorities. Change to your own business setting.)

              Or, you can ask behavioral questions:
              “Tell me about a time when you were under deadline and didn’t believe you would be able to finish in time. What did you do?”
              or “Think of a time when you had a ‘trouble’ employee who did not immediately respond to prompts to improve behavior. What were the problem behaviors, and what did you do to handle the situation?”

    2. Ariancita*

      For all of you advocating for these practical tests (which I generally think are a good idea), what do you think about the following situation: I applied for a project management job. Made it to the second round (which had a very strange requirement) and then received an email asking me to produce (unpaid) a large event in my city for the company (which was hosting events in cities across the country). They said that asking me to produce the event wasn’t a job offer and that it would have no bearing on my application with them. I turned it down because I didn’t think it was appropriate to ask a candidate to take on such a large project, unpaid, even with the caveat that my decision would not affect my candidacy. Of course, I never heard back from then again (after I declined very politely). So where is the line between testing an applicant with a real project and exploiting a candidate for free labor?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Whoa. That was absolutely inappropriate, and it’s good that you turned it down. They were way out of line in asking that.

        The exercises I use are ones that aren’t generally going to benefit the employer in any way, other than showing me how the candidate thinks and works.

        1. Ariancita*

          Ok, good to know my instinct was right. I had really wanted to work for the company, as it’s stated purpose was very in-line with my values. But after that experience, I soured on them. Plus, they never followed up, even reject me, after the second phase of interviewing, which required me to make a video of myself talking about what inspired me, etc (even though the job was not customer facing). Weird.

    3. Anth*

      Hmm, our HR dept has told us that giving applicants tests is not ok (aka street-legal) because you need to offer it to everyone and have to ensure that its measures have reliability/fidelity. I’m a little skeptical of that, as I’ve been asked to complete exercises after a company has decided to interview me for instance (or as screening for an interview, which I think is bs, but…). I also feel like you need to know if someone has the skills (hard and soft) to do the work you’re asking them to do. Can they build a powerpoint? Can they problem solve? How do they approach a task that they don’t know how to do?
      You know?

  24. Malissa*

    Here’s my question. What is a person supposed to do when questionable ethics from another department with-in your organization threaten to stain your reputation by association? The back ground on this is that I work for a local government where the other department is often getting cited by the State Auditors for questionable practices. The is a definitely a lack of ethical character in the other department, as noted by outside sources. But there has never been any findings for my department.
    I don’t know if outside people and potential employers are unable to make the distinction between one department and the next as we are all part of said local government. This may end up hindering my job search for outside employment as I work in an industry that relies on strong ethical character.
    My plans right now are to big the biggest whistle blower ever this year when the auditors come around as the lack of ethics has gone from a minor problem to something that is growing. Trying to fight this internally has gotten me nowhere.
    Once I find another position I can drop all facades of civility and tackle the problem publicly as a concerned tax payer, as I truly believe there needs to be a change. My other option is to run for office in two years, but this position has left me hating politics.
    So what do y’all think?

    1. Kaz*

      Odds are good that a random interviewer is not going to know about your department’s internal problems unless it makes the news. But if they ask, you can certainly say you felt uncomfortable in the environment and you did try to help fix the problem. I would not go after the problem once you’re out of the job because you’ll likely look like you’re enacting revenge on your coworkers.

      1. Malissa*

        The problems are regularly publicized by the local newspaper. in one incident I was all but named as the cause for problems that have nothing to do with my department and that I have zero control over. This article was so bad that the lead on the audit team called me to make sure I knew this isn’t what they or their report said.

        1. class factotum*

          I have never seen a reporter get the facts right when I know the real story. I have learned not to trust anything I read in the paper. It’s too bad this affected you personally.

  25. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

    So I’ve got a pretty good admin job at a state agency that I enjoy. There’s not much room for advancement, but since I’m still not sure exactly what I’m going to do with my life, that’s okay by me. I would, however, like to supplement my income by doing some freelance editing work (getting laid off three times in three years, with ever-longer swaths of unemployment between jobs, means my debt grew ever larger). If it takes off, I can see myself freelancing full-time eventually. If it doesn’t, I still have a good job.

    I’m not lacking in experience–I have both a BA and MA degree in English, with an emphasis in editing and publication for my BA. I’ve done editing work not only as an intern and volunteer, but also in pretty much every job I’ve been in (“You’re an English major? You can proofread? Here! You’re in charge of our newsletter/make this document look pretty/look over this letter before I send it/PLEASE go over our policies and procedures!”, etc.). I’ve studied typography, know both Chicago and MLA styles, and own and know how to use Adobe InDesign. I would like to offer my services, both as an editor and a typesetter, to people who would like to self-publish and want their books to look and read as professionally as possible. But I’m unsure how to get started. Anyone have any advice for me?

    1. Sabrina*

      Have you looked at

      I have considered going into freelance writing/copywriting lately but I’m still convinced I can’t string two words together.

    2. fposte*

      Rather than striking out on your own as an entrepreneur here right from the start, what about doing work for one of the businesses currently offering such services? I know Kirkus is just starting one, for instance, and they’ll have name draw.

      That way you’ll have real experience in the field before going it on your own, and that experience can be a selling point; you’ll also be in a more authoritative position if you want to offer something different than the conventional package.

    3. Laurie*

      Elance, definitely. Very easy to set up an account, and it won’t take you long to get your bearings on how the site works in terms of bidding for projects, getting paid, tracking hours etc. Take on a few projects that pay less than $500, and once you have several projects completed, you will have a pretty good idea of what your specific marketable skill set is (i.e. ‘newsletter designer’ / ’email marketing copy writer’ / ‘editor for YA books’ / ‘technical writer’ etc), get selective and go only for the larger projects in your selected niche ($500 – $1000, or higher).

  26. Jen*

    When applying for a job, I noticed that they preferred someone who was bilingual in Spanish. What exactly does bilingual mean? Native fluency or the ability to communicate effectively beyond “where’s the bathroom”? When I got to the supplemental questions, it was a question. The only options were yes and no. I know from experience answering no to a supp. question gets your app tossed out immediately regardless of qualifications. I hesitated for about ten minutes about my answer to this question, after an hour of the application process alone, I wasn’t about to go down without a fight. I said Yes. Let me clarify, I have taken a year of beginning Spanish and often speak with customers for whom Spanish is a primary language. I understand Spanish spoken to me and often respond in a little bit of Spanish or English if I can get them to understand me. In my mind I am bilingual. If asked for an interview I would expplain honestly about my level of ability with the Spanish language. I would also emphasize upon getting the job that improving my skills in that area would be a #1 priority. I am great with languages (My BA is in French), I know I could learn quickly. I just wish I could have had another choice besides just yes or no because I feel like a liar. I have been making myself sick over it. Any advice?

    1. Malissa*

      In your case I’d check yes too. You can converse enough to get the point across. Which is what most employers want.

      1. Ellen M.*

        I disagree – what they want most likely is full fluency in both languages. Being ‘bilingual in your mind’ (LOL, really?) is not what they want (in MY mind I am Eric Clapton’s girlfriend, in real life… well…)

        Don’t lie on a resume or cover letter or on an application or in an interview. It will come back to bite you.

        1. Ellen M.*

          Also, if you were really bilingual, you wouldn’t have asked the question here. If your ‘bilingual’ status requires all kinds of explanations and descriptions and caveats, then you are not bilingual.

    2. Student*

      Depends a bit on the job, but you should probably check yes.

      My prior experience in an area where bilingual was valued in hiring was at a library. We had a bilingual (Spanish/English) person on staff at all times in one department or another. When someone who spoke only Spanish wanted to sign up for a library card or ask a quick question, we would call the bilingual for the day to get them through the normal library-card patter.

      In most businesses, you need to be able to speak Spanish well enough to provide workable service. For the library job, that meant you had to be able to ask them a handful of questions and tell them where they could return books. You had to be able to explain a set of book fines, or answer whether they had a book reserved. You didn’t need o be able to translate a book title for someone, or anything terribly in-depth or off-script. You didn’t need to speak Spanish well enough to hold a long conversation or make an important purchasing order or hold high-stakes negotiations. As long as it’s that kind of service job, you’ll be fine.

      If this is a office job where you may need to negotiate important contracts with a counterpart in an office in Mexico, or make a competent sales pitch to a Hispanic audience, then you should probably check “no.”

    3. class factotum*

      I lived in Spanish-speaking countries for nine years. For two of those years, I lived and worked in Chile and spoke Spanish every single day. I wrote memos in Spanish. I conducted and attended meetings in Spanish. I would go days without speaking English.

      I took 12 hours of upper-level Spanish in college.

      I read and write Spanish.

      I consider myself bilingual, but not with native fluency, in Spanish.

      I have taken two years of French and can get by. But I would never apply for a job where speaking French was a requirement.

    4. Laura L*

      The best way to find out what “bilingual” means is to ask the organization. As a lay person, though, I wouldn’t consider your level of knowledge bilingual because sounds like your spoken vocabulary is fairly limited. However, it’s hard to tell from your description how well you can speak Spanish.

      That said, it really depends on the organization and what they need. I’d imagine that if they call you for an interview they’d have a conversation in Spanish with you to ensure that you were at the level they needed. I worked for an organization that did this for volunteers who needed to be able to converse well in Spanish (I didn’t-my Spanish is very limited). They would interview the volunteers in Spanish and it seemed to work well.

      Anyway, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. The company will screen applicants to ensure that whoever they hire meets their needs.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Bilingual in my experience means that you should be able to do your job in the other language, e.g. dealing with client queries or attending meetings in that language. Plus, somebody might be very good in a spoken language, but more limited in writing it.

        If a specific language is required for a job, then often during an interview I have had the conversation flicking between 2-3 languages and back again!

        1. Anonymous*

          Bilingual in my experience means that you should be able to do your job in the other language

          Thank you! This is what I was thinking, but I couldn’t put it into words.

          Also, good point about writing and reading. I was focusing on speaking because often people who have taken some language over estimate their ability to actually converse in the language. Being able to read/write doesn’t translate (ha!) into being able to listen/speak.

    5. L. A.*

      I always struggle with this, as well. I took Spanish for 10 years, I can read flawlessly and listen and comprehend like a pro. My speech is only flawed because I don’t get to use it as often, and writing is sort of a nightmare. I can interact with the public in Spanish, but don’t ask me to write a book or edit anything.

      When I was first out of college and throwing spaghetti at any job to see what would stick I applied to a newspaper that called me for an interview. The position I had applied for had been filled internally, but they noticed that I listed Spanish as a language on my resume and wanted to know if I was interested in being a reporter for their weekly Spanish-language publication. Being an idiot, I said yes. I about gave myself an ulcer for the week leading up to the interview wondering if it was going to be in Spanish or English and as soon as I got on the phone with them told them I was sorry to waste their time but I didn’t think the job was right for me.

      There have been other times where it comes up in interviews but more as a passing, “oh that’s nice” after it’s been a requirement on an application.

      It really depends. I say go for it and click yes, but if you get into an interview situation that seems outside your realm of Spanish comprehension then by all means bow out gracefully.

    6. Jen*

      First of all, thank you for all of your thoughtful commentary. Some were very helpful. Let me be clear, if I could not read/write/speak the language this would be a non-issue. I can do all of those things to the full extent of doing my current job. Furthermore, it was listed as a preference (which reading this blog has made me seen as a wish list but not make or break)rather than a requirement. For me, that really is the deciding factor. If it were a hard and fast requirement this would not be a job to consider. I think about it from the perspective of getting an interview to know more about the job. If upon my interview I realize it’s more Spanish than I can possible handle, I will certainly bow out gracefully like one of you suggested. No sense in wasting my time or theirs.

      1. Cassie*

        I agree with your interpretation of “bilingual”. It definitely depends on the job. If you’re a social worker in a predominantly Spanish-speaking community, you may need to speak Spanish extensively (conducting home visits in Spanish, etc). If you are working at a library, maybe you need to understand Spanish, but wouldn’t need to have lengthy conversations in Spanish. Just enough to point the patron to the appropriate shelf or answer basic questions.

        Assuming the job doesn’t require you to essentially be an interpreter or translator (native-speaker-level), I’d say as long as you can communicate with Spanish speakers on a basic level, it’s not a lie to say you are bilingual. I have plenty of coworkers for whom English is a second language, and though they struggle at times with correct usage, they are still able to conduct business in English (we work at a university). Would they consider themselves bilingual in English? Most definitely.

      2. chica*

        sounds like you have the right approach Jen. It doesn’t sound like you are bilingual (as others have pointed out) but there’s no room in the application for explaining that, so mark Yes and see what happens. Stupid binary yes/no forms!
        I do wish there was some agreed upon standards for marking language fluency. But then again, it does vary by job and location.

  27. ChristineH*

    Ohhh boy, careful what you wish for Alison! :P Just kidding.

    I am an experienced job seeker with skills that I would love to bring to the table. However, my situation is so complex, I don’t even know where to begin!! I’m almost at a point of saying, “What’s the use?”

    I’ve been out of work for several years, save for two temp gigs in 2010 with one place and a number of volunteer positions/projects. But I’m afraid it’s too late for me to get to where I want. My last job was the perfect launch since having gotten my MSW, but I let my self-confidence get the better of me. I’ve been trying to pick up the pieces and keep them together ever since.

    1. Josh S*

      You can–YOU CAN!–get a job you want and will love.

      Share what you’er looking for, and maybe some of your experiences, and perhaps we all can help point you the right direction?

  28. Jamie*

    HELP!! I am on Linkedin right now setting up the AAM group and I am stuck because I’m really bad at naming stuff.

    Heck, I use my real first name on here only because I couldn’t think of anything else.

    Here’s what we have so far:

    It’s classified in networking
    Description: Participants in the comments on Alison Greene’s “Ask A Manager” blog.
    Summary: Ask A Manager – Unofficial Networking Group
    Name: Ask a Manager – Unofficial (but authorized) Networking Group.

    I know the wording is clunky. I haven’t saved yet so PLEASE chime in now.

    I have it set to initially not be listed in the directory until it’s finalized.

      1. Jamie*

        Okay – a couple more things:

        Public or Private Group? If private by what criteria are we approving members.

        Listed in the directory or not? Alison could put a link on the blog for people to join (I know – and I’m the one who didn’t think you should have to do more work!)

        That’s it. Confirm or reject the names (and if you reject please have a suggestion – just like at our real jobs) and weigh in on preferences.


        1. Kate*

          Jamie – I’d swap the name and summary, so the name is the more streamlined version. Will lurkers/occasional commenters be welcome in the group?

        2. Liz*

          I vote private (for those who don’t want to have their real identities linked to this site) and listed in the directory.

          Thanks for your work! It’s very cool that you set this up!

        3. Kelly O*

          I don’t know what criteria we could use for it if private is the only thing. Because “Hey, I’m Anon @9:45” is kind of hard to determine.

          I could really go either way; whichever works best for you is fine by me. I appreciate the chance to sort of “meet” you guys on the “Internets.”

        4. Cara Carroll*

          Public is good.
          Listed if good.
          For the name or part of the summary what about: Ask A Manager – For those who work, want to work, or can’t find work.
          Ask A Manager – For those who want to talk about anything work related
          Ask A Manager – Workers United
          Ok I am running out of ideas, but keep us posted because I would love to join this group!

      2. LL*

        I second that. This blog has been the most valuable resource in how to advance my career.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Oh also – one advantage to private might be that you’ll only get people who actually know the blog, as opposed to someone who just stumbles across the group, which might be helpful on maintaining the high caliber. You could just approve everyone; the criteria would be “knows about the group.”

        1. Jamie*

          It is private – and that’s a great idea about using “knows about the group” as criteria.

        2. Ariancita*

          Oh good to know about the criteria. Would very long term lurkers and only recently occasional commenters (such as myself) be accepted?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’d certainly ask that it be open to any reader who wanted to participate, lurker or not! I’m guessing Jamie probably agrees with that.

            1. Ariancita*

              Yay! I’m actually rarely on my LinkedIn, but this blog is the one of two things I’ve recommended on it! :) (I’ve also recommended this blog on another forum I visit on which I’ve initiated the creation of a Career and Workplace subforum.)

      2. Jamie*

        My face is actually red – I really need to proof! I fixed it on the group.

        It’s up and I set it to list in the directory.

        1. Piper*

          Oh yay! An AAM group. So exciting! Thanks for setting this up. I’ll be finding my way there soon.

    1. mh_76*

      Do post the link here when you’ve found it! I’ve even checked the “notify…” box and added an email! I’ll probably -mostly- lurk there, though, because I like the relative anonymity of being “mh_76” here.

          1. mh_76*

            Thanks – would you? I was hoping that it would email just for this comment thread, not for the whole blog. Oh well, now I know how it works and knowing how things work is a good thing indeed! :)

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Whoa — are you getting them for EVERY post? You shouldn’t be; it should just be for this post. Would you email me and let me know, so that I can solve it if there’s a problem? Thank you!

              1. mh_76*

                Not for every post in the blog, just for every thread within this post. It’s not a huge deal because I manage my email well but is a few more emails than I was expecting.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Ah, gotcha — yeah, for other’s knowledge too, if you sign up for comments by email, you will receive every comment on that specific post (not just the thread you reply to).

                2. mh_76*

                  Homer say D’oh! And for those who aren’t fans of “The Simpsons”, it’s a funny show, right up there with South Park and a handful of English (UK) comedies!

  29. Mary*

    How pushy is too pushy? I am job hunting from afar. I plan ton relocate 350 miles this summer, and have been interviewing for positions. Obviously, these have all been phone or Skype interviews.

    Last Wednesday, I interviewed for my #1 choice out of all the openings. I sent a thank you e-mail and mentioned that I would be in the city the following week and would welcome the opportunity to meet briefly in person. I did not hear back, and am now if the city with a lot of free time today. Should I call the main interviewer and reiterate my offer?

    Note: After I had applied for the job, a friend who works in the company mentioned my application to the main interviewer, who said I could call or e-mail her about the job. I did, and she had not even seen my application yet and asked me to forward a resume. When I did that, she had my application advanced very quickly and I got a request for an interview a day later. It all felt positive, but the no response worries me and I don’t want to come off as overbearing. I’m just worried that the lack of face time will affect their opinion of me, and I don’t want to waste the chance to meet in person while I am here.

    1. fposte*

      I’m a “No” on the reiteration. She doesn’t need to see you face to face to make her choice–if she did, it would have come up already–and she’s likely not going to have time to make for you with this kind of notice. It would be too overtly for your benefit rather than hers.

      However, if it’s an office with a public component that makes dropping by not weird, by all means go by, soak up ambience, gather info. But don’t have them call her while you’re there.

  30. J*

    I’m glad there’s an open thread today, because I’ve been pondering this question for a while but didn’t feel like bugging Alison again!

    I’ve been out of college for four years and am worried that I am seeing a pattern emerging in myself. I work in higher education and have been in jobs with administrative-assistant-type titles, although in my current position my actual work is more nuanced. At my last job, and now at this job, I slowly began taking more and more responsibility, modifying existing processes for some of my duties to improve the outcome (sometimes increasing the amount of work I needed to do), and taking on tons of “reach” assignments officially above my pay grade. Generally your typical overachiever stuff. And I get great feedback for it! I get great performance reviews and praised by colleagues and higher-ups all the time. This time, I’m taking steps to get my job description modified to include the higher-level tasks I’ve taken on, which will hopefully result in a promotion to a better title as well. But I’m concerned I’m going to remain saddled with the lower-level administrative work (which I’m starting to not have a lot of time for), since a real “promotion” would mean creating a new position for me to move into, necessitating a new hire to take on my current official role. I’m starting to seriously worry I am going to burn out very soon, especially if I’m expected to keep doing the high AND low-level work. Burn out was a major contributor to why I left my previous job.

    Am I just being too much of an overachiever? Am I unwittingly being unfair to my employer by taking lower-level jobs and then basically trying to “create” a better job for myself? Have I been applying to and accepting jobs I am overqualified for (meaning I could resolve this by just going for higher-level jobs moving forward)? Anyone’s thoughts would be great.

    1. Malissa*

      I think that when they reevaluate your job that you should be asking these questions. Say honestly now that I’m doing X,Y, & Z I have little time left for A, B, & C. Since I’ve demonstrated that there is an obvious need for XYZ, don’t you think that ABC would be best served by someone who can devote their time to it?
      Be aware that budget constraints may not allow for another position. Think creatively, is there another person who would be happy to take on ABC in addition to their duties? This could be a opportunity for a half-time person to gain a few hours.

    2. Wannabe a good manager*

      If you’re in higher education, is there any chance students could do some of the lower level work? That would also give you hiring, firing and supervisory experience.

    3. Tamsin*

      I know EXACTLY how you feel – I am in the very same situation right now! I think Malissa’s suggestion is a good one – talk to your supervisors and let them know that you can only handle so much. Frame it in somewhat positive way – for example, I am planning on telling my supervisor that I could better facilitate my project management duties if I was focused 100% on them instead of being responsible for both project management and technical support. That way it doesn’t look like you are complaining but rather saying, I want to do the best I can at X, but my time and skills can’t be split between X and Y, they have to be focused on X.

      There are also the budget constrains Malissa mentioned. One of my concerns with my upcoming discussion with my supervisor is that, even if he wants to make me the sole project manager in the department, the money won’t be there and we have reached our position cap for the fiscal year (we have created a lot of new positions lately, mostly lower level). So then my dept gets away with not only paying me the same but having me do both project management and tech support. I don’t think you are shooting yourself in the foot but if, after talking with your supervisors, it’s clear that they won’t/can’t promote you or create a new position, go somewhere else. Don’t worry about being unfair. It’s unfair to you to not be rewarded for your hard work, but that’s just how it is sometimes. I see absolutely nothing wrong with overachieving and trying to further your career.

      1. Malissa*

        Also if the issue is raised now, budget work starts soon. So even if there are no immediate results something could be planned for the future and worked into the budget.

    4. Anonymous*

      I’ve been in a similar situation in the past and although it didn’t work out for me in the end (I left for another opportunity), I recommend the following:

      1. Make a list of ALL the tasks you’re currently performing – both high-level and low-level.

      2. After you have the list compiled, start to think about how much time or what percentage of your day you spend doing the task. Often it’s difficult to do this because we get used to doing a task and you have to stop and really think, “how much time am I really spending on this?” But it’s worth it if you can get it as accurate as possible. For example, basket weaving takes 5% of my day, and teaching snorkeling takes 10% of the day.

      3. Start splitting the list into high-level tasks (or what you’re thinking your newly defined will look like) and the low-level tasks that will (ideally) make up the new position.

      4. Add up the percentages of the tasks that are under high-level and low-level. Ideally, you want to get as close to 100% on the low-level, which means that you’re able to justify getting another body in since it realistically takes up a full day. That would also mean that you’re clearly over your capacity and cannot maintain doing both the high-level and low-level tasks.

      It’s not an exact science, but it helps if you can get facts together and show to your manager that you took the time to evaluate the situation and come up with a realistic solution. I find that managers often don’t know all the finite details of their direct report’s job and they can underestimate how much time a certain task can take, since they don’t do the task very often themselves. So if you’re able to get down on paper what your world really looks like, then it’s easier for them to understand that X doesn’t just happen magically in 5 minutes; in fact X takes a minimum of 2 hours to complete.

      I hope this makes sense!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        This is excellent advice. I’ve often said to employees who are chronically overworked, “Write out what you’d be spending your time on if you were absolutely limited to 40 hours a week every week, and then write out a list of the ‘orphaned’ work that wouldn’t fit in your week.” It’s been hugely helpful in figuring out if it would make sense to add staff, or eliminate some projects, or transfer them to someone else.

      2. Piper*

        Seconding this advice. I’ve been in the same situation at two previous jobs and it really helps to have something quantifiable to show a skeptical manager.

  31. Athena*

    Is there anyone in the theatre industry who reads this blog? I’ve been using this blog to write my cover letters to apply to tech/stage management jobs and for interview tips, and I feel like (as long as I follow them correctly and confidently) they’ve been helpful. I’m sure I’m not the only theatre person ever to read AAM, but I am curious.

    1. Lore*

      Yup. Although, in my experience hiring stage managers and techies, since they’re very often short-term positions, availability and schedule details tend to play a much larger role than they would in a full-time/permanent position. But if I’m choosing between otherwise equal candidates, the winner will always be the one who I can trust to write coherent, comprehensive reports that highlight the issues I as the producer actually need to know about!

      1. Athena*

        I hadn’t considered that, but it certainly makes sense. The theater where I’m currently employed hired me for the year, so I don’t have conflicts from show to show. It makes sense that with short-term positions, there would be more conflicts between the rehearsal/performance schedules of different companies.

    2. Josh S*

      I’m not *in* the industry (for me, I breathe a sigh of relief at this point), but I have a bunch of friends who are.

      Are you applying for well-established theaters/venues, traveling shows, or smaller/local shows? I know the strategies seem to be different if you’re going to be a one-off staff person for a short-run show vs. being a long-term position in a big theater. (I’m in Chicago, so when I say “big theater” I’m talking the Goodman, the Cadillac, or the like.

      1. Athena*

        At the moment, I’m focusing on applying at theaters with two or more stages and a fairly large staff. In August I’ll have completed an internship at a small company with a full time staff of five, so I’m trying to get experience in a LORT theatre (like the Goodman) or equally well-established theaters that aren’t necessarily LORT. I’m applying for long term work as a production assistant. (When I say “long term,” I mean being hired for a season as opposed for a show.) Ideally I’d like to be somewhere like Chicago, Philly, or DC, where I could stay after the contract is up and freelance show-to-show, but I’ve certainly been applying and looking outside of those areas.

  32. Caris*

    A question for Alison, hiring managers and other people-with-opinions. Regarding references, how do you feel about submitting employee evaluations in lieu of a phone number, when it isn’t possible to use my current employer (she doesn’t know I’m job hunting) and this is my first post-college “real job”? Thanks!

    1. Victoria*

      Certainly you can offer evaluations to your interviewer (and if it were me, I’d love to see them!), but any interviewer worth her salt will still want to talk with references. In a conversation, an interviewer can notice hesitation, probe responses and dig deep into the specific questions she has about a given person. An evaluation may or may not address those particular questions.

  33. Caris*

    While that makes perfect sense, if I may ask another question, to be a little more specific: If I have only had one job, and can’t tell my manager I am job hunting, what is my best approach to either a) providing a reference, or b) explaining why I can’t provide one?

    1. J*

      When I was immediately post-college, I used work-study supervisors, part-time supervisors, and coordinators for volunteer work and extracurriculars I was involved in as references. Is this an option for you?

  34. Tamsin*

    High-risk dream job or low-risk boring job?

    I have a pretty decent job at a university right now with a possibility of promotion. I am okay with this job becoming my career – I would be doing IT project management. I don’t like my current manager and the salary sucks, but it’s steady, good benefits (working for the state), and I know that I can probably keep it as long as I want, barring any disasters. I am a tech support person right now and it drives me crazy, so I don’t know if transitioning into project management would release me from tech support duties, though I sure hope it would.

    I was just settling into this reality when my former manager contacted me. He wants to hire me as the web/print designer for a non-profit he is starting. This is my dream job, one that I have been trying to get at various places with no success. He is a great guy and I loved working for him at my old job. He is offering me at least 5k/year more than what I am making now, and said I could negotiate more, depending on the funding he can get. He is also hoping to provide health and retirement benefits. As one of the original people he would hire, I would probably have a lot of input on the direction of the non-profit.

    This sounds like an ideal situation, but the downside is that it’s a non-profit start-up – my main concern is, how long can he keep this funded and at a level that will sustain me and my family? He is a very methodical, practical person who plans well. He doesn’t chase empty dreams. He has a family himself, and is currently working at another university, so I know he wouldn’t jump into something without being able to support his family – he is the sole income so I know he takes the funding aspect very seriously. However my job is pretty much guaranteed where I am at now – it’s a big state school and our department is considered mission critical, so we are not in danger of budget cuts. So my question fellow AAM readers – should I go with the dream job at the non-profit or stick with the not-so-dream job at the university? What do you think? I appreciate your feedback!

    1. Malissa*

      Dream job. That kind of experience is rare. If the company ends up going bust you’ll have better experience on your resume to take a similar job. If it works out then you are right where you want to be.

    2. Student*

      I don’t think random AAM people will be able to help you with this unless you are willing to open up on your life state more, and how the considerable boost in risk plays into your life.

      For a 5k a year increase, with only the information you have presented here, I’d say no. You probably have benefits at the university worth at least that per year (healthcare for your family is top on my mind, but payed vacation is another consideration) that the start-up will not be able to match. You might also have access to free classes, seminars, etc. to further your career that the start-up likely won’t provide.

      If you can negotiate benefits that are comparable to the university and a somewhat more substantial pay increase (I’m thinking at least 10% above your current salary, which it’s quite possible the 5k increase qualifies for), then I’d consider it if the risk is within your tolerance limits.

      To figure out your risk tolerance, I’d ask yourself this: what would happen if you lost your job suddenly? How long would it take to get a new job if that happened? If your wife makes enough to support the family, or if you feel confident that you can turn around and get a new job swiftly, then you should take the job. If you have a newborn at home or a member of your immediate family depends on your health insurance and has a significant condition, then you shouldn’t take the job.

      If your wife doesn’t make enough to support basic needs, but there are no major known healthcare issues in the family and the kid is at least a toddler, then it’s a harder decision. If you think your wife and child would step up to the challenge, or that you could call on outside assistance, should something go really badly, then take a shot at your dream job. If you think the stress of losing your job would make you meltdown or cause your spouse to withdraw instead of step up to help, then don’t take the job.

      That’s a super-ramble, but hopefully it’ll help you think about the decision. Honestly, I’m rooting for you to take the dream job if it’s remotely reasonable, but to also negotiate a better salary increase.

    3. Anonymous*

      As the previous poster laid out, it does depend on your situation – whether you have a financial cushion or need good insurance cover – and your risk tolerance. I went into a pharma startup several years ago, and for two years it was an marvelous experience. Eventually, rapid company growth, infusion of big-pharma mentalities, and internal politics caught up with me, and the final year was one of frustration as I lost everything that I enjoyed doing – but I’d rejoin a company like it again in a moment (and try to play smarter). That said, I had no dependents.

      One thought, which again depends on a number of things: your energy level, your current job’s demands, your family’s needs and tolerance, and the start-up’s requirements . . . is there any possibility you could initially work with the start-up part time.

    4. JP*

      I’d take a good look at your financial situation (would your family be able to keep going if this failed?) and possibility for finding a job if this doesn’t pan out (obviously the job market is tough for everybody, but if you have solid skills/track record, it would hopefully be easier to get another position if necessary), but I would personally go for it. Anything that’s described as a “dream” job has to be worth at least a shot, if it’s personally feasible for you, and it sounds like this guy is about as much of a known quantity as you can hope for (though of course, you never really know).

      Otherwise, would it be possible to start out freelancing for him with the understanding you’d come on full-time once his funding is more certain?

    5. Piper*

      Definitely take the dream job. There’s a quote I’ve been kicking around recently because I’ve been pondering taking some calculated risks in my own life and I think it applies here: “You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose site of the shore.” Do it. Take the dream job.

    6. Natalie*

      Would you feel comfortable asking the old manager about the funding for his non-profit?

      Some non-profit startups are more secure than others. This spring, I interviewed at a nonprofit that’s only been in business for about 3 years, but since it’s backed by the wealthy philanthropic establishment in my city (including its founder) the organization’s balance sheet is very healthy.

      1. Chinook*

        I don’t know the rules for where you are, but in Canada, non-profits are regularly audited if they receive government funding (I work for an audit firm). As a result, their balance sheet is available for the public to look at. If available, read the actual auditors report and notes at the back as they can tell you the likelihood of the grants, or the group’s, future.

    7. Tamsin*

      Thanks everyone for your input, y’all have brought up some points I definitely need to think about. As far as my risk tolerance, I have some flexibility right now. My husband has a steady, full-time job, though it’s not enough to provide for us completely, however we don’t have kids, we don’t have any one depending on us, and I could probably find another job easily in my geographical location if this doesn’t pan out. My husband reminded me that even if it doesn’t, I will have the experience as a designer that I have been craving, and that will help me get other jobs in the field, which so far has been nearly impossible. So I think I’m going to do it. :)

      1. Jennifer*

        Good luck Tamsin!

        I hope you’ll write in at year-end with an update on how it’s going.

  35. Steve G*

    my coworker just emailed be back a spreadsheet asking me to do things like erase rows and re-color a few. I am livid! I am responsible for a whole bunch of huge items and just because you are lazy and/or make mountains out of molehills doesn’t mean you need to bring me down to your level!

    1. Malissa*

      Sounds like a golden training opportunity. Here coworker let me show you how to do all the work you just request as it is fun and easy to do.

    2. JP*

      I get repeated requests to copy and paste things from one document into another. Sadly, it technically falls under my job description, but man, is it irritating.

  36. Caris*

    Technically, it could be. But that would be a reference 6 years old. Let me add some more detail (I probably should have been much more specific in my original post.) I’m not looking for my first “real job,” but my second. The job I have now is the same one I’ve held since graduation… that is, since 2005. I have a few colleagues I trust who may be willing to be my “references,” but they aren’t my superiors, and therefore, probably not what a hiring manager would want to see.

  37. Anonymous*

    Well, lets cross our fingers I don’t do anything else dumb. I applied for another job today. First of all, Alison thank you for your help. I am sorry I took what you told me the wrong way. You are great to do this blog and I appreciate you. I am sorry I got my feelings hurt earlier this week too. I do enjoy your blog and I guess I was just hoping somehow by the grace of God I could fix the mistake I made. I really know I must have come across badly to some people. I know I burned a bridge. I really just wanted that job so much. I am going to be more careful with my grammar. I am really not dumb. I am a person that was out of the job market too long. I was out for 20 years. I was very lucky and blessed that when I decided to go back to work a couple of years ago part-time that the first place I interviewed with hired me. It is so different now. When I worked as a young girl I had no problem getting a job. Someone asked earlier had I ever worked before my part-time job. Yes, I worked in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I worked for attorneys (front desk) also a engineering firm (front desk where I met my husband) at a bank, non-profit organization as a typist. I worked after marriage until we had children at a hospital. I worked in admitting patients, hospital lab and radiology. That is why I wanted to go back to work in a medical office. My part-time job was working at a bank opening new accounts when my youngest was in high school. All those years my life was a stay-at-home mom helping in the schools and soccer, little league, basketball, cub scouts, church and helping with science fair, honors breakfast etc. Not very professional I know. Oh, also mother to our little dogs. That being said, I do appreciate a lot of advice I received here. Many people were trying to help and I do hope they get the job they are looking for. I am still planning on getting your book, I need all the help I can get. I know even though I have gotten a few interviews and even a second one my resume stinks. I probably need help with that too. I feel like the glacier melted and I stepped out.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m so glad to see this. (This is the OP from the post earlier this week about not being able to get an interview at a health care system. By the way, if you pick a name — doesn’t need to be your real one — and start filling in the Name box with it, people will know when it’s you, since there are loads of Anonymouses here!)

      This really says a lot for you — thanks for coming back and telling us where you’re at with your thinking. (You might post it in the original post with your question too — I think you’ll get a lot of support for saying it!)

    2. Malissa*

      It’s wonderful you came back! If you can convey this personality in a cover letter, you’ll get further on the job search. Good luck!

    3. Josh S*

      Anonymous, I’m glad you spoke up, and I’m even more glad that you came back! The folks here really *do* seek to be helpful. And sometimes they/we are more concerned with telling our opinions than delivering news in a way that a recipient is willing/able to hear it and act on it.

      Hope you are able to take advantage of the wealth of advice here and find a new job soon!

    4. fposte*

      Good for you for coming back, Anon. I think you’re right–things have changed, and that’s a really hard thing to adjust to. However, it’s a lot easier to learn that in your own living room than mid-interview. So now you’re armed with some important information and better equipped to bring your skills into the working world.

    5. Rana*

      I’m glad you’re back, and making plans for moving forward. Good luck with your job search!

    6. Piper*

      Welcome back! Glad you came back and were able to look at things more objectively. Best of luck to you in your search!

    7. moe*

      There’s no need at all to beat yourself up for making a few mistakes on the job hunt–no one is born knowing this stuff. There is always another job opening. Really!

      Best of luck to you. There’s a ton to learn on this blog.

    8. Ry*

      Oh, this is so relieving. Thank you for updating us, and a very sincere good luck to you! It’s an uphill battle, but you can do it.

  38. Not Unsocial Manager*

    Can’t say that I like this open thread very much. I say that without really having read the 339 posts (where the number now stands).

    The thing is that when I look at one of the regular AAM posts, I know what I’ll find – thoughtful discussion around a particular situation or issue. Even though each discussion starts off on a single topic, the insights that come from your contributors are varied. I frequently check back days later to see how a thread has progressed.

    I don’t feel that the discussion in the open format is of such consistent content and quality. While I am sure there is some really great back and forth, I am just not willing to invest the time or energy to plow through hundreds and hundreds of posts to find the highlights.

    So, I’d say have the open threads if readers are interested. I just won’t be one of those reading them.

    All the best.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I appreciate the feedback! I figured it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, although based on the level of participation today, it seems like it’s definitely SOME people’s cup of tea! (Actually, commenters in general make up a very small fraction of overall readership, which I figure must be the case on other sites too.)

      Don’t worry — I’m not going to stop doing regular posts at my normal rate. If we do this again, it’ll be a supplement to the regular stuff, not in place of it.

      1. Anonymous*

        I understand where Not Unsocial Manager is coming from. Maybe you can do an open thread that has a category. For example (but not limited to):
        -That annoying coworker
        -Outrageous bosses
        -Negotiating salary
        -Job searching

        If you give the day a category, then you know you will be reading comments with questions regarding solely to that category.

        1. khilde*

          I like this idea! At least it sort of zeroes in on a topic, yet people can take it where they want. A nice compromise, maybe.

      2. danr*

        I’ve finally found a group that is as chatty (given the chance) as a very small, private infomaniac email list that I’m on. I like both formats. The open thread is nice as a once in awhile opportunity to break out. The directed threads are wonderful and full of information.

      3. Laurie*

        This is probably tougher to implement than I think, but what about a forums sub-site? There’s a data visualization website I follow (flowingdata dot com) that has a really active forum with very high quality comments similar to here. I like the format, and the fact that I can create a semi-anonymous account and still participate.

        I agree that the format was a bit hard to follow, because there was one particular thread I was interested in and I kept losing it on the page. But, I have to say that the variety of issues being discussed on this page is really awesome.

    2. Steve G*

      I love it. I am having a difficult time at work and love reading other people struggles when I take a quick break

  39. The Other Dawn*

    Is anyone here a technical writer? I do some technical-type writing here at the bank (policies, procedures, etc.) and would like to eventually maybe be a technical writer somewhere down the road. Any suggestions as to how to break into it?

    1. Jenna*

      I am. I got into it as my first career when coming out of a computer science degree, I realized that while I like technology I really didn’t want to be a programmer. I looked at a bunch of job listings and found that a tech writer seemed to be a good fit. I went back to school and took a post-graduate certificate in technical communication at a community college (Canada), then right after graduation got a job as a tech writer at a manufacturing company. Now I work as a tech writer for health care software.

      I would recommend taking a few courses on technical writing, so that you have an understanding of the basics (writing style, tools that are used, and really important in the era of content managment systems, topic based writing).

      I would also figure out how comfortable you are learning new technologies. Tech writing is a job that you can do in many fields, and unless you manage to switch into tech writing at the bank, you may have to be flexible about what field you start out in when you take your first job (hence why I went into manufacturing, it was last on my list but as a new grad I needed a job and this was my foot in the door).

      You also need to be super comfortable with asking people a lot of questions while writing. You won’t know every aspect of everything you are writing about, so you need to research and talk to lots of people. I am an introvert, so this is something I have had to work on.

      Oh, and you may also want to consider joining the Society for Technical Communication ( They have really good articles on the site, and if you have a chapter near you, their events are good for networking opportunities, and they also have a job board.

      I hope that helps!

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Yes, this really helps. Thank you. I’m not ready to make a change now, but I’ve started to think about what I’ll do in my next life in terms of my career, and the one thing that I enjoy the most now is writing procedures. I enjoy being able to explain things on paper in terms just about anyone can understand. I generally have a difficult time expressing myself when I speak, so writing comes much more naturally to me. I will definitely check out a technical writing course. Actually, I remember seeing one at a community college last year.

        1. Diane*

          You may also consider grantwriting. You need to be able to follow instructions, including the nuances, research thoroughly, and write a compelling case. It’s both methodical and creative.

      2. Julia*

        I’m also a technical writer. I’d second the suggestion to do some tech writing courses. If nothing else, this makes it clear to employers that you’re prepared to put your own time and money into tech writing as a career.
        The STC is worth joining if you are in North America. If not, there may be a local organisation that would be more appropriate.

  40. Vanessa*

    Does anyone have any advice on how to move into a career in non-profit communications? My background is this: undergrad social science degree, policy-oriented masters degree, a fair amount of academic writing/presentation experience, some blogging, many many years spent in retail/customer service, and a splash of admin. Despite all my efforts at tailoring my resume, networking, and volunteering I’m really struggling to secure an entry-level position with a communications component. It seems like most of the job postings I see specifically request someone with a degree in communications/journalism or require several years of formal experience doing communications work. Is this just the nature of things due to the economic state or do I really need a time machine to go back and start over as a communications major?

    1. Lt. Valerii*

      I just got my first job in non-profit communications about a year and a half ago. I’ve found the field to be extremely rewarding and I wish you the best of luck beginning your new career!

      The good news – In my experience you definitely don’t need to be a communications major to get a job or succeed in the field (I majored in “Interdisciplinary Studies in Culture” – try squeezing THAT onto a resume O.o). It sounds like you have a lot of experience that would transfer well to many different aspects of non-profit communications.

      The bad news – Non-profit communications jobs seem to be few and far between these days. I was EXTREMELY lucky to get my job when I did, and haven’t found anything else similar in my area.

      My entry-level position is focused on helping donors. I answer their phone calls, letters and emails, and I’m the first point of contact for the organization. From what I can tell, these sorts of positions are quite likely to hire people from outside of the communications field, and can be a great way to get your foot in the door. I was fortunate enough to land a job that also comes with a lot of interesting project work. When you interview for these entry-level positions I strongly suggest asking whether you’ll have opportunities to take on projects that inspire you, and how often they promote from within.

      When you apply for these positions I also suggest
      – Demonstrating interest in the non-profit’s mission (I cannot believe how many people fail to do this!!!)
      – Emphasizing your strong writing and research abilities
      – Showing that you have project management skills, an attention to detail, and the ability to turn a vision into a strategic plan
      – Being open to supporting many different aspects of the communications field (not just writing but also donor relations, basic website and database management, as well as the more exciting stuff like running social media sites)

      If you still can’t find or land the job of your dreams, I suggest applying for positions that’ll allow you to keep developing the skills these non-profits are asking for. I’m convinced that I only got my current job because of the time I spent working in a call center. By wading through 8 uninspiring months as a reservationist, I gained customer service skills that were directly transferable to the work I now do with donors (who knew???). Luckily, it sounds like you already have this customer service stuff down pat!

      I hope you can find something soon :) Don’t let the job market get you down!

  41. Caroline*

    I recently applied for a job at a non-profit and had a successful phone interview with two people I would work with in that department. The job is in a city a few hours away from where I live, and they told me that a group from the office would be in my city for business next week, and invited me to meet them over lunch for a second “more informal” (their words) interview. This group will include the president/CEO of the organization. So, any thoughts on what to expect in this type of interview setting?? Will they be drilling me with questions across the table, or do they just want to get to know me over lunch? Thanks in advance!

    1. Riki*

      This will probably be more of a casual, getting-to-know-you-better interview, but it’s still an interview. Prepare for it like any other interview and be ready to discuss all the usual things that can come up (e.g. qualifications, background, education, salary, etc.). To be on the safe side, don’t order any booze, even if everyone else does, and stay away from messier foods, like pasta with sauce, any shellfish you need to open/peel to eat, French onion soup, anything that will likely get caught in your teeth, etc.

  42. Erin*

    I want to thank Alison and the rest of the wonderful people that populate these comments for all the sensible advice. It helped me last winter when I was job-hunting. I am a public school teacher, and not only did Alison’s interview tips help me land a new position at the top magnet school in the city, I also successfully interviewed at (and ultimately had to turn down) a well-respected private school. It was certainly a boost to my self-confidence, especially in today’s political environment!

    That being said, I have found lots of Alison’s advice about professionalism, dealing with bosses and coworkers, etc. to be applicable to my workplace, even though it is far from the typical office job. Are there any other teachers out there that have been helped by this website?

  43. Ave Bird-Spahn*

    I have two questions for all you knowledgeable people.

    1) I’m currently studying full-time for a MSc in Psychology and looking for a full-time job. I’m afraid putting this degree as “in progress” on my CV is ruining my chances of getting to the interview stage for jobs that have an immediate start. If I get a job, I will be withdrawing from school, unless I happen to find a job willing and able to allow me to work around my school hours. I’m not sure how to make my intentions clear via my CV or cover letter. Should I just state in my cover letter that I intend to withdraw? I don’t want to look like a quitter.

    2) My husband is putting together his CV. He has very little work experience – one part-time, Christmas job – and has dropped out of university twice for medical reasons. He has neither worked nor attended school since 2009. We’re both at a loss as to what, exactly, to put on his CV and how to explain this in the cover letter. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

    If anyone responds, thank you so much! And thank you to Alison for this invaluable resource and the opportunity to ask questions!

    1. fposte*

      Ave, I get the impression you’re not in the U.S., so I don’t know if the conventions I’m familiar with are relevant to you, but here’s what I’m thinking. You don’t say what kind of jobs you’re applying for, but I think that if they’re not obviously relevant to your masters work you could leave the in-progress degree off. (I’m not sure that it’s actually affecting your job search, but I think you have that option if you are concerned.) I would definitely *not* offer to drop out of your program (or even mention it) in your cover letter, though; that would be a disconcerting thing to read as a hiring manager.

      Your husband’s is tougher. I can’t tell from your description whether he managed to obtain a university degree or not; if he hasn’t, it might make more sense for him to actually go back and finish. If that’s not possible, I think he may need to consider getting some regular volunteer experience to create a recent profile that shows him being engaged and effective in something and to get him some recent recommendations. Otherwise, the dominating aspect of his history is that three-year blank, and he doesn’t have much in the way of prior achievement to weigh against it. He also shouldn’t overlook hourly work in retail, fast food, clerical, etc., since that’s pretty common entry-level work and he’s at an entry-level stage. Contextualized like that, it’s not going to be something that’s held against him if he moves to a different path subsequently.

  44. Danielle*

    Does anyone here work in HR for a museum or similar cultural institution? I’m finishing up a PhD in art history and looking in vain for a curatorial position, despite having 1 year of paid experience and another year of volunteer experience in museum curator roles. Had two interviews, neither of which resulted in a job offer, and now I’m reaching that point where I’m just applying for any job in order to be able to pay rent once my scholarship runs out in the summer.

    1. Anonymous*

      I only have an M.A. in History, and I’m having a hard time finding anything with it. Any chance you can adjunct in the meantime?

      1. Danielle*

        I have been TA-ing and I could probably scrape together a few courses next year but, in all honesty, I live in a very expensive city and it won’t be enough to live off. So now I’m applying for things like ‘arts admin’ and ‘marketing assistant’ in the hope that once my income is stable, I can at least spend my free time writing articles for publication and augmenting my CV in other ways.

        1. Anonymous*

          Oh I know what you mean. I was just giving you a suggestion that will at least use your degree until you can secure more of what you want. I hate that I have a M.A. and work in retail (but I do have my foot in the door where I can use the M.A.), and I would be really upset if I had a PhD and had to do that. I probably would still do it just to have some income, but I really would be gritting my teeth.

  45. class factotum*

    This is the sample cover letter at Apparently, they have never read Alison’s blog.

    {Month Day, Year}

    {Name of Hiring Manager}
    {Company Name}
    {Street Address}
    {City, State Zip Code}

    Dear {Mr./Ms. Last Name} ,

    This letter is to express my interest in the {Position Listed in Posting} position listed on Based on my skills in {Skill Listed in Posting} and {Skill Listed in Posting}, I am confident that I would be a great addition to your team.

    My resume that highlights my ability/knowledge/expertise in {A Specific Subject Matter} and {A Specific Area or Industry} is enclosed. During my time at {Your Past Company}, I was able to {succeed/save money/save time/increase sales/increase productivity} in {A Specific Area}. {List a specific example relevant to this position, focusing on how you can help the company}

    I am excited about the {Position Listed in Posting} position and the ability to help your company succeed. Thank you in advance for your time. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. I would appreciate the opportunity to review my qualifications in more detail and will contact you next {Day of Week}.



  46. Anonymous*

    I vote for an open thread maybe once a month. I feel like if it happened too often, we’d get tired with it–and you wouldn’t get 400+ hits! Anyone else have thoughts on the frequency?

    1. Jen M.*

      I think once a month is good, and I’m fine with having a topic or not.

      I’ve really enjoyed this! (Even though I’m reading more than a month later!)

  47. Anonymous*

    Regular lurker here. Just wanted to say:
    This was fun, if a bit confusing (not surprising at 400+ comments!)

    BTW, is this a first – 400+ comments I mean?

  48. call center worker*

    I have a BA in Sociology and I have worked as a research assistant between semesters for several summers. However, with this recession, research studies have been cut back and I was not able to be hired back full time after graduation. I accepted work in a call center to make ends meet and it’s been 3 years now. It’s my first “real job” out of college and pretty much the only experience I have at this point. My experience with being a research assistant, I feel, is drying up and become less important/relevant as time goes on. I’ve applied to a number of jobs at my old place of employment and I felt I was a good candidate as I have had experience with everything listed, but I never get a call back for an interview. I don’t think I was a terrible worker. They were glad to have me back every summer and for a short project about a year and a half ago as well. What gives? Am I stuck in the call center forever? Do I need to get a Master’s to get noticed?

    1. fposte*

      I’m guessing that it may indeed a situation where a master’s is preferred; I also suspect that a lot of the projects are grant-funded, and that since grant money is increasingly tougher to come by, the openings are more competitive.

      However, it might also be worth your while to either check out the credentials of current research assistants and/or chat informally with somebody at the organization where you were working and see if they can give you an idea of the kind of resume they’re hiring when they do and whether you have any particular gaps aside from the master’s.

  49. Joanna Reichert*

    It’s Sat. evening and we’re at 459 posts – c’mon people, let’s get 1,000!

    I’m going to hike the Appalachian Trail in 2 weeks’ time, from Maine to Georgia, so I don’t give a rat’s patootie about my part-time job. Especially because I’m making less than I did years ago scooping up dog poop at the humane society. And since I’ll be traversing the mountains along the eastern seaboard, this will be likely my last post until Thanksgiving.

    Good luck to everyone else who needs a job or a sane boss or a raise. : )

    1. khilde*

      I’m guessing you have read, “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson? That is one of my all-time favorite books. Safe and enjoyable travels to you!

    2. Heather B*

      When you get to Hanover, stop in at the library and say hello! It’s always fun to have hikers come through. ;) (We also offer Internet access and have copies of a brochure detailing resources for hikers in town.)

      The A.T. is quite an undertaking – wishing you good luck and good weather.

  50. Rin*

    Does anyone have any advice breaking into a whole different career? Right now I’m an administrative assistant, which I like a lot, but I’ve always wanted to be a writer (short stories and novels)or a publisher (if my writing’s not good enough, I still want to be part of the editing/publishing/promoting process for others). I’m in the Chicago area and would like to stay here–also, I can’t afford an agent. Thanks in advance!

    1. Jamie*

      I don’t have any substantive advice about how to earn a living at it, but I there are online ezines and such where you can get experience.

      I’m not talking about a personal blog, although those are great and can be helpful. For several years I wrote for a popular ezine and a couple of other sites freelance – it was just for fun so I didn’t have the pressure of trying to make money (which is a good thing, because only one place paid me and I think I earned a total of $40 over a couple of years – not life changing money!)

      However, I did get a LOT of experience in writing on a deadline, being edited by a professional editor, and getting feedback from the public. Believe me, the public doesn’t just stick to content commentary – they are more than happy to send you emails about your writing style (or lack thereof, in their (often incorrect) opinion – ha.

      At the main site I wrote for my articles averaged 60K hits per month – which is enough visibility to generate a fair amount of feedback. It also puts you in the back end community with a lot of other writers, many of whom are writers in their day jobs as well – so it’s a great way to network and hone your skills.

      Again, I had no interest in making it a career – but I think being in a community of other writers, with an editor, and most importantly public feedback can only help.

      Another side benefit for me was that while I was between jobs and temping, I found the structure of having deadlines, revisions, and the steady flow of communication really helpful. It was a hobby, but had the structure of a side job and it helped me stay focused.

      1. Jamie*

        Couple of things to look for in choosing an online place for which to write:

        1. Quality of content. You want to be in the company of other people who write well; you could be churning out brilliance but if the other writers on your site are morons you will be tarred with the same brush.

        2. Management. Owned and operated by people or entities in the field. This will increase your odds that you will be professionally edited and that someone will help you police your stuff getting appropriated without credit. Being edited by a good editor is not the same as having someone proof you for typos. It can be humbling at first, but a good editor will make you a better writer…if you can be open to feedback and apply it.

        3. Traffic. If an article is written, but no one on the web is reading it, does the artcile exist? (Kinda like the tree falling in the woods thing.) Well, yeah, but if no one is reading, you might as well type it in an email and send it to yourself for all the good it will do you.

    2. Kaz*

      1) “can’t afford an agent” – reputable agents make their money by taking a percentage of what you make. You should NEVER actually pay an agent.

      2) Too many people want to get into publishing because they secretly or not so secretly want to get published. Please, if you really want to do this for others, don’t let your dreams get in the way of their dreams.

      3) You are probably going to have a hard time breaking into publishing if you do not have any publishing experience, and most of that is both unpaid and in New York. You might see if there are agents in your area that will take on an unpaid intern, but it is a very, very tough field to get into.

      4) You should start devouring some blogs by agents and editors. That is the best way to understand what you’d actually be getting into. Not to be mean, but it doesn’t sound like you have a very clear idea of what working in publishing or writing means on a practical level. I recommend,,

      1. Rin*

        2-I love to write, but I really love to edit, too. And I would never push “my dream” on someone else. I’m a giver :)
        3-I figured about the New York thing. I’ve done a little research on Chicago publishing houses, and a lot seem to be smaller, more specialized ones, which could be good or bad.
        4-I know that I don’t know much about this field, which is exactly why I’m asking. I took a look at a few posts from those sites, and they’re pretty interesting

        1. Andrea*

          I’m in the same boat as you, an Admin who wants to be a writer. I’ve started following some excellent writing blogs, and the r/writing subreddit on Good luck!

  51. Anonymous*

    Over a year ago, a recruiter got me an interview with a company. I loved the company’s work. The hiring manager and I did a phone interview and we really hit it off. I flew out there at my own expense (The job was in another part of the country where I used to live and would like to relocate to.) Ultimately, after the interview, the position got put on hold.

    Fastforward to a few days ago, I see the position reposted online. I am considering applying. Do I contact the recruiter or do I just apply directly to the company?

    Other things to consider:
    -I realize that the recruiter has the relationship with the company and I don’t want to go behind their backs and burn that bridge.
    -Also I’ve had some issues with another recruiter at the same recruitment company (when I’ve enquired about other jobs) give me attitude about what I have been doing since I was laid off right before the recession. Since then, I’ve been working in retail, volunteering and taking care of medical / personal stuff. (I’ve been looking for a job off and on since then, but now I am actively looking.) I realize that I may not be as competitive of a candidate, but this individual made me feel completely worthless.
    -The hiring manager that I met with is no longer with that company.
    -I don’t know if the recruiter has been hired to recruit for this position this time around.

    I seem to remember there being a posting about whether or not a job hunter should go around the recruiter to apply for a job directly, but I cannot find it for the life of me.

    What should I do next? I’m thinking that I should…
    email the recruiter (the one that I have a good relationship with) and mention that I had seen a job posting online and that I know they had done some recruiting for them in the past, and ask if they are recruiting for the position, and say that I would love to be considered. And if they say that they are not doing the recruiting for the position, then I should apply directly.

    Does anyone have any thoughts or suggestions?


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