tiny answer Tuesday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s tiny answer Tuesday — seven short answers to seven short questions! Here we go…

1. Work email account after you’re fired

My husband was fired a week ago. He no longer has access to his work email, of course, but his boss does and is reading incoming emails. What is the standard protocol?

This is normal. When an employee leaves, work-related email will often continue to come into the person’s account, and there are two ways of dealing with it: (1) Set up an auto-reply that explains the person is no longer with the company (ideally directing them to someone else), or (2) Have someone monitor the email and respond to or forward anything that needs to be dealt with. I generally have done the second, in part so that people don’t have to write twice. This is one of many reasons why it’s smart not to use your work email address for personal things; the company owns that account.

2. Using current manager as a reference for a second job

Is it appropriate to ask a current employer for a reference for a second job? My current job is part-time and I’m looking to aquire a second for this coming summer. Since my current job is the first I’ve ever had, I don’t have many references to draw upon and the ones I do have are mostly character references. I am on very good terms with my supervisor and manager and feel that they would make great references. However, will they see it as a conflict of interest with respect to scheduling and availability?

I’d talk to your manager and tell her that you’re planning to look for a second job for the summer and how you’ll ensure that it doesn’t impact your availability for your primary job. If she doesn’t object, then ask if she’d be willing to be a reference. If she does object, you want to know that before you take the second job.

3. Mentioning weight loss in a cover letter

I’m currently mired in the job-hunt process and had a question concerning cover letters. I graduated from college two years ago, but due to some family problems I returned home a year ago. By the time I got home, I was morbidly obese and I’ve spent the last year losing 110 pounds. While I did some volunteer work and part-time jobs, I haven’t added any serious credentials onto my resume. However, I do think my weight-loss journey shows determination, a must-do attitude and resilience. Is that something I could add in my cover letter or is it too personal?

I wouldn’t include it. It’s not relevant to work, and so it’s likely to come across as naive. (Congratulations though!)

4. Deferring an internship offer

I’m a recent graduate from college, and through an acquaintance of an acquaintance, I have received an internship offer (yay!). I have already committed myself to working at my old summer job for two months. I think it’s still reasonable to do the internship afterwards, since they’re all temporary. How should I respond saying, Yes, but in the future, please?

Just be straightforward: “I’d love to accept, but I’m committed to working another position in June and July. Would it be possible to set a start date for August?”

5. Company hasn’t mentioned paying for my interview travel expenses

I am in the process of looking for a job on the East Coast (I live in the midwest right now). I had a first interview and was called back for a second. The company has made no offer to pay for my flights. Is this common? Can I ask for reimbursement from them? Or should I just let it go?

Yes, it’s common. In this market, when there are plenty of good local candidates, there’s little incentive for employers to pay to bring in candidates from out of town, and sometimes paying your own way is the cost of getting an out-of-state job. However, this is the second time they’re asking you to fly out? It’s completely reasonable to say something like: “Since this is the second time I’ll be flying out to interview, do you reimburse travel expenses?” They might say yes, or they might say no, but it’s reasonable to at least ask.

6. Applying for a job at your alma mater

Out of curiosity, I checked my alma mater’s job postings. There were a couple job listings that I find very interesting. As an alum, is there any preferential treatment for being so? Bonus points? Alternative method for application?

Not that I know of, but I’ve never worked in academia so I might be wrong. I’d just mention in your cover letter that you’re an alum. You could ask your alumni office if there’s anything else you should be doing.

7. Overly casual job interviewer

I recently had a job interview with a really great company in the beer industry. I’m still waiting for a response, but I left a bit confused! I had a phone interview on Monday morning, was asked to come in on Tuesday for a face-to-face with the hiring manager, which I accepted. The hiring manager was very nice; we had great rapport, the conversation was free-flowing, not question/answer, and there was focus on my resume and accomplishments. I felt really good about that, but I was taken aback by his lack of note-taking and body language. If he could have put his feet up on his desk, he probably would have, this is how comfortable he was. That confused me. I felt I was getting mixed signals and I’m not really sure how to take that. Is my resume strong enough that he does not need to take notes? Or did it just get dumped after I left? Was his body language a sign of his feeling comfortable with me, or a sign disinterest? Or am I reading too much into it because I am new to this industry? They work very hard, but they are also very laid back.

You’re reading too much into it. Lots of interviewers don’t take notes, and lots are extremely casual. Keep in mind, though, that it probably reflects the culture you’d be working in, so factor that into your thinking about whether you’d like the job.

{ 102 comments… read them below }

  1. Jay*

    #6: I recruit for a school and many institutions like having alums working there. (You often see a Jane Doe ’98, Director of Admission, on websites.) I doubt there are special routes to apply through but being clear that you are alum will likely get your resume noticed. That’s also a good instance to put your education above your experience so that they see the school listed right away.

  2. Another Ellie*

    For question 6, it varies completely from school to school, but usually it is limited to a preference in hiring alumni. If you have a network at the university still, see if you can tap it.

  3. Coffee Boy*

    For #7…

    I work in alcohol distribution and you’ve described about 3/4 of the managers I know. The other quarter are newly-promoted managers and will eventually be just as laid back as the others!

    But seriously, if you went for a sales position and the interview lasted between 20-30 minutes, you probably showed yourself well.

    1. Confused Interviewee*

      #7 Thank you for the feedback! I was just thrown off because this was my first glimpse into this enviornment. Everyone is super laid back, complete opposite of my current work place, hence the confusion. The interview lasted for about an hour, it didn’t even feel like an hour, so I definitely feel better knowing that in “time” standards I did ok haha.

      @ Coffee Boy: I’m just playing the waiting game, again, not sure if it has to do with the laid back enviornment. Is this typical of this industry? I followed up a week after the interview and the recruiter let me know she would follow up with me but it’s going on 2 weeks and nothing. This would be an awesome job for me, but not sure how much following up I should do withouth crossing the stalking line.

      1. Casual v. Unprepared*

        I’m so glad you asked the question about the casual interviewer because I’m just coming off a job interview with a non-profit that left me very confused.

        First, they told me that I needed to come in prepared with a 10-15 min presentation, so I asked if they had PowerPoint capabilities or if I should keep it verbal. They said they “thought” (?) they did…so I prepared a nice PowerPoint. Thank goodness I brought my laptop in my bag just in case, because when I got there they had no computer and nothing set up. When I asked if they’d like me to do it, they said if I could figure out how to hook it up, I could…which I did.

        I also wore a business suit–jacket and skirt, and hose since my legs are painfully pale. When I stood up they were like (4 ladies of the board) “Oh my God, she wore hose!” And when I left they were like, “Change your clothes!” And I heard them saying “She looks like a business woman.” Huh? This was for an Executive Director of a non-profit position.

        Also, near the end of the interview, another person walked in–presumably the next interviewee…They basically shooed me out, so I didn’t get to ask any of my questions and didn’t even get to find out the timeline for making a decision. (I have since emailed to find out.)

        But it was all very odd, and now I am confused as to whether I should just think, well, this just shows why they need an Executive Director to professionalize what is now an all-volunteer organization, whether I should see those things as red flags that I shouldn’t ignore, or whether I am taking it too seriously–especially since I love the mission and this is the type of work I really want to do.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Wow. Who was interviewing you — was it the board? Either way, I’d take it as information about their culture. If you’d hope to come in and professionalize them (which you’d have a good shot at doing as the E.D.), I’d first make sure that they want that — so that you won’t be at odds with them over how you operate and what they want/don’t want.

          1. Casual v. Unprepared*

            Yes! It was a board–and guess what? Between my posting this and now, I got a call from them asking for my salary expectations.

            The good thing is that I did get to ask the Chair (she was very professional, it was more the others that weren’t) who the position would be reporting to, and why they had chosen at this point in time (they have been around since 1985) to hire an Executive Director. They are going to meet tonight and call me tomorrow, but it is very likely they are going to offer me a position tomorrow so I will have to figure it out fast.

            The thing about it is–this is my DREAM job in terms of what it is…and while I am treated very well where I work right now, it is far from what I want to be doing the rest of my life or the direction I want my career to be headed…Despite the red flags, I can’t imagine NOT taking this. These types of jobs are few and far between, and I only know of very few organizations like this in the country that even have a paying position…

            1. Casual v. Unprepared*

              I should also add that the Board member that set up the interview was not there until about 45 minutes into the interview, some kind of family emergency. That might somewhat explain their disorganization.

              It sounds like I’m making excuses for them, doesn’t it?

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              If they offer it to you, make sure that you ask all your questions before you accept! At a minimum, I’d ask the board chair what their expectations are for what the person will accomplish in the first year, and what kind of person will/won’t do well there. You could also ask what the culture is like and if they’d welcome changes to that as the org transitions from all-volunteer to having paid staff, or whether they want to keep it relatively informal.

  4. david*

    I really like that last one about the overly casual interview. If I go back into the corporate world, that is the environment I would want to work in.

    I never liked dressing up for work – particularly when you are not in a customer facing environment. It seems almost counter productive to dress up in that environment.

    1. Anony-M*

      I agree. I love the casual environment because I feel like it builds a kind of trust with the employees and the company. I don’t like overly stuffy environments.

  5. Catherine*

    #6 – I got hired at my alma mater. It helped that I mentioned it in my cover letter, and they saw it on my resume, but it didn’t give me any special treatment that I know of. The reason I was hired was because I was doing the exact same job at another university. I’m not sure if alumni associations have any hand in it, but I would hope not. I don’t think it should make a difference where you went to school, as long as you are qualified for the job. It might help you get an interview, but that certainly doesn’t guarantee you’ll be right for the job. All that being said, go ahead and apply if you are interested, and mention you are an alum.

    1. Jesse*

      I think if someone wants to get into ADMISSIONS it would definitely help! But otherwise, I don’t think they is necessarily preferential treatment. It would be helpful if one had worked in any office as a student worker! I work for a university and everyone else but me has done one or more of their degrees here (but a lot of people start here and then work on a degree…)

      1. Jesse*

        I don’t think they is necessarily preferential treatment. *Oops…I mean….I don’t think they necessarily give preferential treatment* Grr!

  6. Jeff*

    Re: #6 In my experience, being an alum only helps you if you still currently attend the school and are looking to stay on as a staff or (in some rare cases) a faculty member. Otherwise it doesn’t give you a leg up at all. My wife learned that the easy way, I learned it the hard way. I applied to positions at my alma mater where I still knew many of the people in the department I was applying to and they knew my work very well. But when schools have so many internal candidates (typically students graduating), there’s very little incentive for the hiring managers to explore outside candidates, regardless of whether they went to the school previously or not. This really applies to staff positions only. Faculty positions are a whole other story, though typically candidates who have spent their entire academic career at the same institution (e.g.. Masters and Ph.D.) tend to be the favorites for faculty positions once they’ve graduated.

    1. MentalEngineer*

      On the other hand, while faculty candidates who’ve spent their entire academic career at one institution might have a better shot at transitioning straight into a job at that institution, it can also be much more difficult to get a job anywhere else. There’s a perception (sometimes accurate) that if you stayed with one school the whole way through, it was either because you couldn’t get in anywhere else or didn’t want to expose yourself to other points of view (especially deadly in the humanities, unless you’re applying to a department with a clear institutional dogma). There are acceptable explanations for this, like working with a particular rockstar in your field – or being a rockstar in your field, but if you’re thinking about trying for faculty and you can get as good an education by diversifying as you could by staying, it’s probably a good idea to do so. Source: long talks with faculty advisers about why the job market for humanities profs. sucks so hard.

    2. AD*

      Whoa, I couldn’t disagree more on the faculty preference for those who have been there a long time. Most accreditation boards are fairly strict on the fact that you should NOT hire tenure-track candidates who have their Ph.D.’s from your school, or that you can only have a small number of them (10%). This is to make sure that your department is not some isolated island of intellectual weirdness.

        1. AD*

          I’m not in the humanities, so I guess I can’t speak to that, but in my dealings with ABET and AASCB, I know there are limits on how many instructors you can have from your own university. In fact, I said tenure-track before, but it applies to adjuncts as well.

        2. LJL*

          Liberty isn’t regionally accredited, so they don’t follow these kinds of external rules anyway.

    3. Catherine*

      Not sure what schools are you referring to. Most of the schools I have looked at, including the one I currently work, do not want their graduates to become their instructors. The only school I know of that did this was my last job – a smaller liberal arts private school that was terribly inbred because they kept hiring their graduates, and the school has become more and more insulated (one of the reasons I left it for the same job at another university).

    4. Cassie*

      In engineering fields, it’s rare for faculty to be alums from the institution (unless it’s a top school like MIT or Stanford – I mean, where else are they going to find faculty?). And you almost never see someone who received all of their degrees from that institution (I had to research stats on faculty across a bunch of schools and I only remember seeing that once – and the guy was on permanent leave so that doesn’t really count).

      The exception would be if the person worked at another institution or in industry for a while, and then was recruited back to the university. But going straight from PhD to a faculty position, in the same dept? I think depts/univs try to avoid this, at least in the sciences/engineering fields.

      1. Catherine*

        I’m pretty sure they try to avoid it in the humanities as well, which is my field.

  7. Jamie*

    #1 – My protocol is to have the emails routed immediately to whomever the terminated person’s manager requests, and after one week I set up the auto-reply. This gives people time to inform their personal contacts of their change in email address.

    People do give out work email addresses to kids’ schools, relatives, etc. and in my company that’s fine – as long as it’s used responsibly. I would hate for someone to get fired and before they can get home the spouse sends an email – then they had to hear that they no longer work there via auto-reply? Yikes.

    Obviously, for employees who are resigning it goes on immediately.

  8. Jamie*

    #1 again – another part of the protocol in most companies is to go through the email account and make sure nothing untoward was going on. So sending company data to your personal email address from work, leaving email trails of malfeasance…this can have ramifications even after you’ve been terminated.

    You’d think people would be smarter than that, but trust me, some of them really aren’t.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The stuff I have found in going through terminated employees’ email accounts… It frequently validates the decision to fire them.

      1. Jamie*

        Truer words were never spoken.

        The frequency with which peoples own emails are used against them in unemployment hearings is staggering.

        It’s just common sense. I use my work email for some personal emails at times…confirming a Saturday lunch with my sister or scheduling a parent-teacher conference. But like my office and company phone – while it’s meant for my exclusive use while I’m employed here, it’s not mine.

        I have had people ask me for access to their email after termination as if they are entitled – that startles me every time that people don’t understand those boundaries.

        1. A Bug!*

          Agree completely. Not sure where people’s sense of entitlement comes from, here. You wouldn’t expect to continue to receive physical mail at your former place of employment.

          1. Jamie*

            I have never understood why people ever get personal mail at their place of employment.

            Trade publications, sure…but utility bills? Credit card bills? I’ve seen this at more than one company – for the life of me I can’t understand why.

            1. KayDay*

              I didn’t understand why people received personal mail/packages at work until I moved out of my apartment (with a front desk and locked mailboxes) and into a house (no doorman, no lock on my mailbox)…now all packages must come to my office, and I also get very important documents at the office (think checks, medical records, my car title). That said, I only get personal mail at my office about 4 times per year.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          All sorts of stuff — from personal emails that I really wish I hadn’t read, to emails complaining about their job/boss/coworkers, to emails making it really clear that they tried to spend as little time on work as possible, to work emails that they should have handled radically differently. It’s one of the many things that have made me firmly believe that where there’s smoke, there’s fire, when it comes to employee performance concerns.

          1. Jamie*

            This. Either Alison and I have cleaned out the same employee accounts, or this is ridiculously pervasive.

            1. class factotum*

              I cleaned out email accounts as well. Do not argue with your fiancee about her drug habit on your company email. Do not break up with your fiancee on your company email. Especially do not do this if you are working for your cousin. Honestly.

              And on a related note, World Bank secretaries who go on vacation and are replaced by temps who use your computers while you’re gone? Delete your bookmarks to the porn sites, please.

              1. Anonymous*

                The temps don’t get their own accounts? The phrase “mickey mouse operation” comes to mind.

                1. class factotum*

                  Well, it was the World Bank. Draw your own conclusions. :)

                  And yes, that was your tax money being spent on the boozy retirement parties held at the office during working hours. I washed many a strawberry in the ladies room.

                2. Jamie*

                  “I washed many a strawberry in the ladies room.”

                  Although if they had to squander the tax dollars I feel a little better knowing they ate strawberries washed in the ladies room. Ew.

          2. ChristineH*

            I was guilty of this myself at a job I’ve long since left *hides*. Not inappropriate content, just mainly complaining about coworkers. Back then, I wasn’t thinking about the fact that my emails could be read by my manager and other management after I left. Eeek! Anybody have a time machine on hand? lol.

            1. AD*

              They can be read by your manager while you are still there!

              I have done it too, though…the odds of anyone actually picking through your stuff are quite low in a large company, unless you’ve given them some other reason to be suspicious.

              1. Jamie*

                Even in a SMB it depends on the culture. I don’t go through current user email unless there is a security reason to do so – I make a conscious effort not to open any files not directly necessary for the task at hand. However, all of my end users have signed usage agreements so they know there is no expectation of privacy on the network and company owned computers. That said they end up with a lot more privacy than I’m required to give because I think it’s just simple respect to not be more invasive than necessary.

                I’m sitting at my desk right now and if my boss, who owns the company wanted a pen from my drawer she would ask me. She wouldn’t barge around the back of my desk and rifle through drawers while I’m sitting here – even though technically she’s entitled, because she does own the pen, desk, and the building they are in. But that would be rude.

                I have worked at companies where the managers would access email for any reason at all – like a show of power…”you have control over nothing puny subordinate…” I got the heck out of there in less than three months. Not because I had anything to hide, I didn’t…but it was just so demeaning.

                That said if I trace a breach of network security or policy violation to a user I’ll tear into that data like a monkey on a cupcake.

            2. Jamie*

              I wouldn’t worry about that one little bit.

              The sub-set of office workers who have never sent an email complaining about co-workers is likely very small indeed. I would liken it to the employees who have never accidentally taken a pen home from work. They may not be apocryphal – but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in person.

            3. Elizabeth West*

              Yeah, me too. I think everybody has at some point. The only stuff I emailed to myself from work, that was work-related though, was emails from customers or other coworkers who were praising me, or thanking me for something.

      2. Anon*

        Out of curiosity, have you ever gone through the e-mail of an employee who left voluntarily and whose performance you were satisfied with at a similar level of thoroughness? I’d be interested to know if a control group review also showed up similarly ill-advised e-mails.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, although perhaps slightly less thoroughly — in order to get things in shape for the next person, etc. A very different experience — occasionally I’ve found something that raised my eyebrows, but really few and far between compared to the other group.

        2. Jamie*

          I go through all email accounts of separating employees – fired, quit, retiring…it’s just policy.

          And while you will occasionally run across some snarky comment sent to a co-worker, usually about the boss or another co-worker, I haven’t seen anything egregious in those who are resigning or retiring. That could be because good employees have less to hide, but the cynical part of me thinks it’s because they leave on their time line and have a chance to sanitize their accounts before they go.

          I’m in and out of people’s computers all day long – and I’m really not surprised by a whole lot. The people who are there to work tend to have really boring caches and email archives. The slackers and non-performers tend to leave weirder electronic footprints.

          1. Anon*

            Fascinating. I will admit, I have exchanged gmail addresses with a couple of co-workers for our more snarky work-related e-mails.

            1. Jamie*

              Thank God for gmail! Keeping career ruining comments off network servers – I endorse this 100%.

          2. Anonymous*

            That could be because good employees have less to hide, but the cynical part of me thinks it’s because they leave on their time line and have a chance to sanitize their accounts before they go.

            Well, instead of speculating, why not check against the backups?

            1. Jamie*

              Because if we all spent time researching and running validation/verification testing on every theory mused about in a blog comment section that would be a little excessive.

              Truthfully, if a good employee leaves of their own volition and I have no reason to suspect violation of policy I wouldn’t waste my time on a witch hunt. That and there is nothing less amusing than reading other people’s email – so why expand the task?

              1. Anonymous*

                Because if we all spent time researching and running validation/verification testing on every theory mused about in a blog comment section that would be a little excessive.

                Certainly. But it does seem odd to speculate on one’s own theories, instead of testing them (when one has the power to do so).

                1. Jamie*

                  I speculate about a lot of things in passing, not all of which rise to the level of interest where I would be inclined to do actual research.

                  I think it would be odd if I needed to verify every thought that pops into my head – or through my keyboard. Maybe that’s just me.

                2. Anonymous*

                  It wouldn’t take long – I presume that mailbox sizes are monitored (since they tend to behave like gases), so all that’s required is a quick look at the historical trend. If there’s a sudden dip immediately prior to their departure, you have something to investigate further.

                  Of course, it would be perfectly possible for someone to automatically generate ‘fake’ emails, and insert them into the mailbox as replacements. Said emails could even be automatically generated from the existing emails, making them very hard to filter them out. To spot that, you’d need to have a ‘churn’ metric, in addition to absolute mailbox size.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Really? When it would take work time/resources and a not insignificant investment of time to get hard data? It seems odd to be preoccupied with this.

                4. Anonymous*

                  Pulling up per-user mailbox usage statistics is something a competent postmaster should be able to do at any time. Saving the daily numbers would be trivial, and adding a small script to parse those files and plot graphs would be easily done too – again, a completely normal job for a sysadmin who would be doing that sort of thing for all sorts of log files.

                  Actually going to backup tapes to do an analysis without the historical data already available… that would be extra effort. Although it could be done as part of one of those regular ‘disaster recovery tests’ which will, of course, be being done.

                5. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Dude. Please drop the preoccupation with this. People here are welcome to speculate as much as they wish, and there’s no obligation to test their theories. You’re coming across as if there’s something wrong with that, and there’s not.

                6. Anonymous*

                  This is officially the weirdest direction I’ve seen a comment thread go on this site.

          3. Natalie*

            I’d bet it’s the second one. In the last 6 months, fully half of my co-workers have resigned, and the two that were the most concerned about someone going through their old emails purged everything.

            Obviously that’s not a defense against someone pulling stuff off the backups, but in the absence of a potential legal issue and I can’t imagine our IT department having the time or inclination to do so.

        3. Anonymous*

          I’ve never searched through the emails of recently (and voluntarily) departed employees solely just to go through them, but I have had to search for specific information in former employees email (e.g. contacts, communications with a project partner in 2007, emails related to a policy decision when no one can remember what let up to said decision, etc.)…however, the “worst” thing I have found was confirmations of lunch dates with friends and straightforward emails to relatives (e.g. “Dear Aunt Sally, thanks for the birthday card”).

  9. Shane*

    I don’t work in education however I can see a couple of big reasons why they would prefer to hire an alumini rather than look for someone else.

    You should be more familiar with the school, it’s policies, practices, and maybe even faculty. This means it should take less time that for you to become comfortable in the environment. You would also be very familiar with and more sympathetic to the concerns of students.

    If you are a recent graduate you would contribute to the “% of Alumini with jobs” rating that their marketers like to tout in front of potential students.

  10. John*

    For the OP inquiring about alumni hiring:

    Sorry if this is talking down, but so many people make the mistake that it’s important to note.

    YOU are an alumna (if you’re female) or an alumnus (if male).

    Alumni is plural. (Actually, alumni is mixed gender or masc. pl.; alumnae is fem pl.)

    Use the correct gender/number to show that you earned the education.

    1. MentalEngineer*

      But the universities don’t teach Latin anymore – yes, it’s technically the same in English as well, but then,that’s barely taught at all either. So while most graduates may have earned an education, they haven’t earned that bit of education, because it was never offered – more’s the pity.

      1. John*

        More’s the opportunity to demonstrate you know a little more than the “average Joe” who wags his finger at the aenemic American education system.

        And don’t get me started on people who say “scarfs” instead of “scarves”! Don’t. Do not go there!

        1. Anonymous*

          I’m looking at a good dictionary (Random House Dictionary of the English Language, 2nd Ed, 1987) and both plural forms of scarf are listed as correct.

        2. fposte*

          What about the people who misplace the ligature in “anemic”?

          (It’s a law of nature that any spelling complaint contains a spelling error :-).)

    2. Anonymous*

      And the faculty/staff at these universities mistranslate as often as the students/alumni.

      My European friends are more inclined to understand English, even to get the meaning of “hard” words because they can see the Latin roots while we Americans run to the dictionary.

  11. ChristineH*

    #6 – My university uses an Applicant Tracking System, so unless the system is set up to flag candidates from said university, I don’t think being an alum makes much difference unless you have strong connections. I’ve applied to my university several times through its ATS, and have never gotten an interview (any interviews I’ve gotten were because I applied through other means).

  12. Anon*

    Oh my God, under no situation should you ever put weight loss in a cover letter. You’re just going to make potential employers worry that you’re going to be THAT employee who shames everyone else for enjoying a slice of the office birthday cake and bores everyone silly with talk of their diets.

    1. Jamie*

      I didn’t even think of that. For me the worry would be the person would tend to over-share – I’m big on personal boundaries at work.

      But while we’re on the topic – can we have a moratorium on food/diets being discussed in workplaces for one day. We could call it “Spare your Co-workers the Specifics of Your Diet Regime and the Effects, Good or Bad, it’s Having on Your System Day.”

      Okay – the title needs work. But seriously – I have no need to know anything about the eating habits of my colleagues, and have even less need to know how new diets effect their digestion. When did this become workplace small talk? Whatever happened to discussing the weather? That is boring as well, but doesn’t skeeve me out.

      Congrats to the OP though, that is a huge accomplishment. And just because you shouldn’t put it in a cover letter doesn’t mean you can’t remind yourself of the tremendous work and resolve you’re capable of before an interview. When I was interviewing I would dwell on what I considered my awesome accomplishments – just to try to take the edge off the interview nerves.

      1. class factotum*

        Oh ick. I actually used my weight loss as an example of a goal I had reached when I interviewed with P&G. What makes it worse is that a good friend of mine had called in a favor to get me the interview. The recruiter later told my friend I had no idea how to interview.

        I did learn from that mistake, though. No more personal anecdotes in job interviews and no more oversharing, although a few years later, I did make the mistake of telling a recruiter I needed to pee rather than asking him for a break so I could visit the ladies room. I have installed a new filter between my brain and my mouth. (In my defense, though, who offers a candidate a diet Coke at 9 a.m. and then expects to talk for three hours straight?)

      2. Jen M.*

        I DO admit I get tired of people commenting on my vegan diet. Granted, most of them are nice, but sometimes I feel like a broken record.

        Why does it MATTER what I’m eating?! Urgh!

        One person (this was on G+, so not at work) actually said to me: “I did not know vegans don’t drink milk.” LOL!

      3. Rana*

        Oh, gosh yes. I don’t want to hear about other people’s diets, whether they are succeeding on them or falling off them, and I really, really don’t want other people talking about what I’m eating (beyond, perhaps, a simple “That looks good”). I worked for a place like that, and it was horrible, especially since it was also a place fond of parties with food. So each time it devolved into cries of “Oh, I shouldn’t eat this” and “Oh, I can’t eat this” and “How do you stay so thin if you eat stuff like this” alternating with “Here, have another slice of cake” and “Are you sure you only want to eat the fruit?”

        It drove me nuts! Eat or don’t eat, but stop talking about it!

    2. fposte*

      In general, it’s probably best to avoid a cover letter that makes prospective employers think about your body.

    3. just another hiring manager...*

      I can think of one legitimate reason to mention significant weight loss in a cover letter: if you are applying to a fitness/health related position, like a personal trainer, dietitian, or life coach. Other than that, NO WAY! (I assume the OP is not applying to these types of positions)

  13. Jamie*

    #1 – Not asked by the OP, but it’s been mentioned in other posts Alison has done in the past…there is one obligation I feel each employer has to their former employees and that is to not use the email account/name for replying.

    I’ve had that happen to me once when I stupidly agreed to let a client set up an email account for me (I was consulting and he wanted me to use a company email addy) and I used that for work with his company. It was internet based, so when I saw that email (with my name) posting to boards and on mailing lists after we parted ways I was furious.

    This led to a heated discussion where he insisted that since it was his email account he could use it as he liked, and my opposing opinion that as it was my first initial last name and my full name in the the From field he was in effect impersonating me.

    It was my first consulting gig back in the dark ages (not kidding – this was back when 2900 baud was standard and moving up to 14K on my dial up modem felt like the speed of light) and some good came out of it as I learned a lot from that experience about professional boundaries and the danger of trusting someone against my better judgment.

    1. Lexy*

      I had an employer do this, not to me but to another employee, he didn’t want her clients to know she was gone. I filled in for the receptionists lunch and I was instructed not to tell anyone that she no longer worked for the company.

      It struck me as the sleaziest of moves.

  14. Jenny*

    Does anyone else feel that #4 is making the wrong choice? While having a paying (temporary) summer job is good for the bank account, starting the internship right away and getting professional experience and networking opportunities seems like a much better choice for the long run. If I was the person who offered the internship, I would be seriously turned off by the OP’s request.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it depends on what the job is and the context. If it’s lifeguarding or something, then yeah — probably so. But it might be a job that’s going to be helpful to her, and/or in an industry where she doesn’t want to let down important contacts who she’s already committed to.

      1. Anonymous*

        It may also be a position that’s difficult to replace on short notice (ie. someone who requires special training or qualifications) which would cause a strain to her former employer whom she may be relying on later for a reference.

    2. AD*

      Yes, I also thought that it depends on what sort of job and internship she is talking about.

    3. Broke Philosopher*

      Isn’t agreeing to take a job and then withdrawing at the last minute bad job karma? If she does that, then someday in the future, an employer will make a job offer, she’ll put in her two weeks, and then the offer will be withdrawn due to lack of funding.

    4. Mints*

      (I’m the asker.) It is mostly because of the reference. The job is the strongest nonschool thing I have, and if I were to back out, it would place a huge strain on the boss. I also support myself, so it’s not just nice for the bank account, it’s pretty necessary. I don’t think it’s the wrong choice.

      1. Rana*

        That makes a lot of sense to me. I think sometimes people forget that not everyone can easily bankroll an unpaid internship or tap family for it. Good for you for meeting your current responsibilities and setting up a financial cushion at the same time.

  15. Anonymous*

    #6 – If you’re applying to a job related to University recruitment or other staff positions (NOT faculty) being an alumn can be a huge help. If you’re applying to a position where you’ll be selling the school in any way, Universities love to have alumn in those positions since they can talk about their own, first hand experience. Also, if you’re working in any type of support role with students, you have in-debth knowledge about the universities culture and how its students interact (in addition to unique challenges the campus may have)

    It’s also easier to create a bond with interviewers if they are also alumn.

    Either way, it can’t hurt to include it in your cover letter/resume.

  16. CEA*

    I work at a college, and we are always encouraged during searches to take into account if someone is an alum. While it’s not the main reason we hire people, it certainly stands out during the search process.

  17. The Right Side*

    At my last job – when I knew I’d be putting in a notice the next day – the night before I logged in and deleted pretty much everything and saved what I needed. Just common sense, I thought.

    However, that job is about 3 years in my past and about 2 months ago, I sent myself a reminder via email (I often send myself an email to remind myself to do something the next day) – and both that email and my new one are first initial/last name (ex. FLAST@company.com) and I accidentally sent it to my old company. (Just a reminder to call the DMV – no biggie) and one of my old coworkers responded – it was actually funny. We chatted for most of the day and that was that. I was surprised that the acct was still active, though. It was still being forwarded. I feel so special. Lol.

    1. Anonymous*

      At my last job – when I knew I’d be putting in a notice the next day – the night before I logged in and deleted pretty much everything and saved what I needed. Just common sense, I thought.

      That’s not going to do much when someone pulls out the backup. There was a time I asked for my entire home directory to be resurrected, over three years after I left a job, because I needed to sort through a few files.

      1. Anonymous*

        To which I should add…. a few hours later, I got an email directing me to a particular FTP server, so I could get the tarball.

  18. The Other Dawn*

    1. Work email account after you’re fired

    It’s totally normal for the manager to review incoming emails after someone has been fired. The emails belong to the company, not the employee.

    I typically have the email from the former employee’s account forwarded to the person’s manager. The manager then decides what to do with it (answer it, forward to someone else, etc.). Depending on the former employee’s position, the email is forwarded to the manager anywhere from a month to a year after separation. Just to make sure any important calendar and fiscal year-end emails are caught.

    1. Anonymous*

      Its very annoying indeed NOT to have that access. I’ve solved things on our accounts referring back to emails two years old on the prior persons email account.

      Unfortunately whilst doing that I found emails in which that prior person was calling a member of management rude words due to not classing their absence as “emergency leave”. There was no need to find that at all as these days you can use an online web mail and use that during lunchtime to moan if you need to. Preferably keep it until you are at home and not using work resources.

      I’ve also found lots of email regarding job applications on work email when I’ve been searching archives! What possesses people to do that I don’t know.

      I had one awful incident when I was younger: I’d given my work email to a friend who occasionally picked me up after work – I was young and stupid at the time. Said friend gave it to another friend and must have said something to the second about them underpaying me/taking the mickey etc. Nothing I’d remarked on but their own slant on things. Second friend then wrote to me saying something like “I hear they are treating you badly”. All our email went to a central box and the boss read it. I got read the riot act because they didn’t believe I’d never directly said such things.

  19. Anonymous*

    #3 – agree that you wouldn’t disclose weight loss up front in a cover letter as one of your ‘selling points’ as to your suitability for the role. On the other hand, if you are asked about a perceived gap in your resume due to the time away fron the workforce, I think it would be open to you to say that you had a major health issue that you needed to resolve before embarking on your professional career in earnest. And then you can point to all the things you did during that time, like volunteer work, to keep your hand in your field and/or build professional skills. (Also, congratulations on your weight loss success, it is a fantastic personal achievement!)

  20. Steve G*

    I found #3 a very interesting question. I wish I could come up with a way to write this up in a positive way, but I cannot. The reason why I wouldn’t include this is because there will always be a******* out there who won’t be happy for you but will think “well I didn’t need to lose weight because I always stayed in shape so why should I congratulate or reward someone who did?” I know how much of a big deal this was – I exercise all the time and my body always gravitate back to its natually skinny state – but someone who has always been perfect looking – and might be evaluating the resume – is not going to get it. Good luck though!

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