short answer Saturday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s short answer Saturday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Is the increase in the number of these lately getting to be too much? Tell me if so.

In any case, here we go…

1. Should you always negotiate salary?

I received a job offer on Friday that had a higher salary than I expected. The employer worked with a hiring firm, and I told the hiring firm my salary range ($50-$55K) and the initial offer from the employer came in at $60K. I know I’m “supposed to” negotiate, and I’ve been reading up on how to have those conversations, but I’m not sure what to do when I’m thrilled about the initial offer! Am I still supposed to negotiate salary a bit? Should I just negotiate on other benefits (vacation time, etc)? Or do I avoid all popular advice and just accept the initial offer?

In a case like this, it’s reasonable not to negotiate. You told them your range, they offered you something more, and asking for more would make you look like you were playing games or not operating in good faith. You’re thrilled about the offer; it’s fine to accept it.

2. Asking a client about job openings

I work in Business Development for a media company, and I work with a lot of advertising agencies, with whom are our clients are potential clients. The current situation I am facing involves a potential client. Our company does not have any contracted business with them, but as part of the Business Development team, I have done a fair amount of research and development work for their VP of Marketing. Today in an email to me, their VP of Marketing mentioned she is in the process of hiring for a couple of positions. I am very interested to find out what the positions are, and how far along she is in the hiring process, but I have no idea how to go about asking. The main reason being she is a potential client and I don’t want to jeopardize any potential business or make it awkward to work with her. The other reason is, I don’t have any connection to her other than through work, and I can’t just reply to her email asking about the positions. I’ve searched the job boards for the listing, as well as their corporate site and can’t find anything.

Just ask. “Hey, out of curiosity, what are the positions that you’re hiring for?” This is very normal; people ask this sort of thing all the time, either because they’re interested themselves or because they might know someone who would be. If it turns out you’re interested in one of the jobs, ask her more about what she’s looking for for that role and where she is in the hiring process. At some point, obviously, you’d need to be direct and say you might be interested, but you don’t need to out yourself until you decide that you are.

3. I got a promotion — but still have to work in my old job too

I was recently given a promotion to a position in a new department in my company. However, they are still requiring me to work on Saturdays in my old position in the old department because they don’t want to change the schedules of any of the people at my old position. The current department I work in is not open on weekends, so I am the only one who is required to come into the office on Saturdays. Is the company allowed to do this? It seems completely unfair to me that I earned a promotion but am unable to reap the full benefits of the position.

Sure, legally they can do that. But was this explicitly part of the agreement with the promotion (as in “we can promote you if you’re willing to still come in on Saturdays”) or was this sprung on you after that fact? If the former, then you agreed to this and it’s fair. But assuming that it’s the latter, you can and should say no, you’re not going to do both jobs.

If you accept this kind of thing, not only will you be stuck with a crappy situation, but you’ll also be signaling to the company that they can do this to you — that you’ll accept unfair treatment and that you don’t feel you have options. These are not good signals to send. It is entirely reasonable to say, “I’m not going to be able to continue to work in my old position.” If it makes it easier for you to take a stand on this, you can add, “I can do it for two more weeks to help out, but I can’t do both positions for longer than that.” (Unfortunately, your position here isn’t as strong as it could be because you didn’t push back when this first started, but you do need to push back now.)

4. What does this message from HR mean?

I had a final round interview with this company, and from what I’ve heard from contacts in the company, the feedback on me was positive. After two weeks, I emailed the HR person who I was dealing with, and while I’m pretty sure this response means I’m out of the running, I’m not 100% sure. It says: “The position is still open. However, we have identified two front runners and I expect one of them to take the position.”

I assume if that I was still in the running, either I’d have heard something by now or, if they haven’t notified either of the two yet, that second sentence would be worded differently. Just want to get a second opinion on it before I drive myself crazy overanalyzing it.

It means that they have two front-runners and they expect one of them will take the position. However, if that doesn’t happen, they may turn to other candidates who are still in the running, possibly including you. So you’re still in the running, but they’re doing you the courtesy of letting you know that it’s probably going to go to one of these two other people.

5. Volunteering without getting stuck stuffing envelopes

I’m currently out of work, as my last job, a temporary grant-funded position, just ended. As there’s very little in my field (historical non-profits, i.e. museums) and in my area to even apply to at the moment, my plan is to try to find a part-time pay-the-bills job and then volunteer at an institution in my field part time. However, I’ve been advised to make sure that if I volunteer somewhere, I actually learn some new skills and gain something from the experience — not just spend my time stuffing envelopes. When contacting places to see if they need any volunteers, how can I politely state what I want? Basically, I need to say “I’d like to help you out by volunteering, but only if it helps me too” in a way that doesn’t seem rude. Any suggestions?

Be straightforward! “I’m hoping to find ways to use my background in museum work. Do you have volunteer opportunities involving X, Y, or Z?” If they offer you something like envelope-stuffing, say, “I very much appreciate the need for that kind of work to be done, but right now I’m really looking for opportunities to use my professional background. I understand if you don’t have those types of volunteer roles though; I wonder if you know of anyone who is looking for that kind of help?” You can also try proposing specific things you could contribute (while being sensitive to the fact that “free work” comes with obligations on their part — to supervise, train, etc.).

(By the way, if you end up not being to find what you want, consider the envelope stuffing. It’ll be a good way to make contacts in your field and could lead to something else.)

6. How long does a recruiter’s claim on me last?

If I’ve been introduced to a company by a recruiter and there was no job offer, how long does the recruiter’s exclusivity on my candidacy last? In other words, what’s an appropriate amount of time to wait before being able to approach the company directly, bypassing the recruiter? One year? Two? Five? Never?

It depends on the recruiter’s contract with the company, so you could simply ask the recruiter. But barring that, I’d guess a year is more than safe. Anyone disagree?

7. My new department is falling apart

I have been at the hospital as a Unit Secretary for 4 years. I just got the position of Education Coordinator 8 weeks ago. Since then, the HR Director got demoted and moved to Interim Director (without anyone knowing, including her). We had two RNs in the Education department. One quit last week, the other went to another department with a functional director. Now, that leaves me and the librarian technician. I overheard her yesterday accept a job interview, and she already told me if she gets it, she’s gone. That leaves me. Alone. I have had a total of 5 hours of training in the 8 weeks I have been here (and have held up pretty well, if I may say so myself), but I am nervous and feel like I am standing on a fault line. My instinct says “run!” I have 5 kids at home and a husband entering full-time college in the fall. I do have 2 other jobs in the wings, but am not sure if they will pan out.

I guess my question is: Do I stay, show my stuff, put out some “demands” – higher pay, an HR title (since they also recently put Education under HR), etc. Or, do I get out now? If I stay, how DO I show my stuff? I have always been interested in HR and am one class away from my HR certificate at a local college.

I’m not sure this is the time for demands, but I’d talk with your boss. Tell her that you’re concerned about all the changes in the department and being left alone in the department when you’re so new, and ask what the plans are for the department now. If your manager is at all competent, she’s already going to know that you’re feeling rattled by all this, and she should fill you in on what’s likely to happen next. Listen to what she says, and base your next move on that. And meanwhile, keep pursuing those other jobs — it’s good to have an escape valve in case you end up needing it.

{ 70 comments… read them below }

  1. OwlStory*

    #5 I’m in the museum field, and volunteered for the 11 months that I looked for a job. Go on right now. The National Park Service has GREAT non-envelope-stuffing opportunities. You apply to volunteer on their forms, and the forms have specific requests for what you want to do there. I did visitor’s services work at a small battlefield, and it led me right to my job in visitor’s services at a museum. Sure, I cleaned/organized the kitchen and did hours worth of photocopying a few times, but that’s also part of the small nonprofit field. All of the museums I have applied to/worked in have asked if I was willing to help out with a little of the labor.

    1. EngineerGirl*

      This is a good one. As an NPS volunteer, I know that they are always understaffed due to funding issues. And as a benefit, you get into parts of the park no one else ever sees!

    2. Anon.*

      Thank you for sharing – what a fabulous link! I’ve just started clicking around it and am quite excited at the many opportunities around the country.

      Happy volunteering!

  2. Cat*

    On (1), does the answer assume that the hiring firm revealed the OP’s target salary to the employer? I don’t know if that’s standard practice or not. If the hiring firm did not share, I think there is still room to negotiate.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I would assume that they did, since they work for the employer, not the candidate, and whatever they’re asking is usually to gather info for the employer.

    2. Charles*

      “If the hiring firm did not share, I think there is still room to negotiate.”

      Ah, but there’s the problem – you don’t know if they shared or not (I agree with AAM they most likely did as it is a part of their job). If they did and you now ask for more that will make you look really bad (or least a bit flakey)

      Let’s reverse this, let’s say you ask the range up front, the agency tells you; but when the offer comes through it is less! It doesn’t matter if it was the employer or the agency that messed up, to me, suddenly that company/offer doesn’t look so good.

      1. Anonymous*

        Considering it is a hiring firm (implying not the company you will be working for but a professional recruiter), they typically get paid a percentage of your starting salary as their fee for bringing in a candidate that gets hired. If that is the case and they know both your range and the company’s range, they could have told the company your range was higher, yet something still in the company’s range. You get more than expected, they get a bit more coin in their pockets and noone is the wiser because you won’t go to the employer and say well I would have excepted 55K.

        That being said, no way to know if the company knows your actual range or not. Based on your range, I’d say you were willing to take the job at anything better than 50K and walk if it was less than that. They’ve made an offer that is substantially better, take it and be happy for it.

  3. Charlotte*

    The amount of short answers is great! These are fun and easy reads.

    #5 A year’s pretty standard for how long that recruiter would need to be paid a fee for introducing you to the company if you accepted a position there. That being said, if you find jobs you’re interested in there, apply or approach the recruiter anyhow. The company can decide how they want to approach your application then.


    #5, I have worked and volunteered for years and I agree with Allison: Speak up! There’s going to be a little grunt work involved with any volunteer gig, but a smart organization is going to take advantage of your expertise and your skills. An engaged, enthusiastic volunteer is invaluable to any nonprofit and if you get the chance to do things you love, then the envelope-stuffing won’t be quite so bad.

    Also, if there’s an organization you want to get involved with that doesn’t have volunteer opportunities that work for you, ask if you can get involved with a board or steering committee. There are often affiliate groups and event committees that sometimes have difficulty finding members who have the time to do all the work required.

  5. Broke Philosopher*

    #5: I’m having trouble with meaningful volunteer work as well. I currently work, but not in my chosen field (I’m a recent grad). In the past, in volunteer/intern positions, responsibility was fairly quickly piled on when my employers realized that I am a strong writer and editor.

    However, in my current volunteer position, where I’ve been for 6 months, I’ve done nothing but data entry and donor phone calls. I know how important it is, but it’s starting to drive me crazy. When I asked my supervisor if I could participate in a larger project, she gave me…more phone calls. When I started working, I told her that at [similar nonprofit] I’d done X and Y, higher-responsibility projects that seemed to help the company and give me a sense of purpose. I enjoy the organization, but I really, really want to do something more than what I’m currently doing!

    1. Liz*

      Some volunteer organizations have taken to protecting jobs for themselves and their friends by using free labor. If you’re not part of their inner circle, you’re probably not going to get much from the experience. I would volunteer somewhere else and phase out this group slowly.

      You asked, and not responding is, unfortunately, an answer. Good luck!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        “Some volunteer organizations have taken to protecting jobs for themselves and their friends by using free labor.”

        I’m sure that happens on occasion, but it’s certainly not the norm.

        1. Liz*

          I think it depends on the competition for jobs. In Seattle the Democrats are about to lose big in the next two election cycles, so people are panicking about losing their jobs and truing to help their allies.

          I never once saw it in DC, though, probably because a lot more people move in and out of the area so there’s less of an attitude of, “Those newbies are coming for mah job!”

  6. Charles*

    #1 – negotiate salary.

    But, you already did negotiate the salary, didn’t you? You stated a range (albeit, to the agency) and they matched or passed it.

    #2 – asking a client about job openings.

    Yes, go ahead and ask. As a trainer who used to go to client sites a lot, I was asked this all the time “Do you guys have any openings?” Truth be told, some folks did shoot themsleves in the foot by spending too much time trying to sell themselves to me. (Sorry, But, your current company is paying me to train you – let’s do that and I’ll forward your resume to my boss.) Others, would keep it short as a just in passing type inquiry -and that’s what you should do – keep it short and simple.

    #3 – promotion but still working old job.

    Can you get your new boss to help out with this? See if she can go to bat for you.

    #4 – What does this message from HR mean?

    Sorry to be rude. But, don’t you read AAM’s other posts? Move on the minute after you interview. Don’t overanalyzing it. At least they followed up with you most folks hear nothing.

    #5 – Volunteering without getting stuck stuffing envelopes

    The last part of AAM’s advice is most likely what you will gain – contacts! And I would think in your chosen field that would be the thing that many folks would kill for!

    #6 – How long does a recruiter’s claim on me last?

    I’m not a recruiter; but, from my dealings with such if they turn you down or the company turns you down then you are free to apply directly with the company.

    #7 – Rats leaving a sinking ship (sorry, AAM I changed your title)

    Something is up and being new you might not see everything. Yes, talk directly to your boss and keep you BS radar on.

    1. Liz*

      I don’t know about the “contacts” thing. In DC, or a larger city with a networking culture, yes this will definitely work. In smaller towns, though, it can get very high school. You have to feel out the situation and try to test whether or not your contacts are really worth anything. Do they send you job postings (for posts that are actually open). Do they speak well of you, and introduce you to people who come into the office when you’re there? Do they invite you to attend fundraising events you wouldn’t be able to afford? Or at least ask what kind of job you want?

      If that isn’t happening, then this isn’t a real opportunity to get contacts, and hanging on makes you look like the dork who does homework for the cool kids, to others in the field (and non-profits are small fields).

      1. Liz*

        PS I have had plenty of experience as the homework dork. A friend of mine’s experience really struck me though. After a full YEAR of unpaid, nearly full-time employment involving the use of her own car and gas, the non-profit finally recommended her for a job with another non-profit. That non-profit dithered over hiring her for another three months, then took her grudgingly. And now they regularly “forget” to pay her.

        Because of experiences like this, I suspect that users just keep using and will only introduce you to other users, but I guess I could be wrong.

          1. Liz*

            Yes. She has biweekly paychecks from this LARGE non-profit, that are turned in late at least once a month. When I mentioned it to another person in another non-profit, he said, “Well of course you’ll expect a certain amount of dues paying when you first move here.”

            I hope it’s not as common as he made it sound, but I guess it does happen.

            1. Laura L*

              Hmm… I worked as a full-time, stipend volunteer at a non-profit in Seattle for a year and we never got our paychecks late, not even when the power was out.

              And funnily enough, I’m currently in DC, but I work at member-based, professional association, not a traditional, issue-based/charity non-profit, so I can’t speak to that.

              1. Liz*

                I don’t know what is going on, but the economy is quite a bit worse now than it was even a few years ago, particularly for left-leaning non-profits in this area. I have no reason to believe she was lying. The first time it happened, especially, she was VERY stressed. After that she was a little more “Oh yeah they do that. It can’t be helped.”

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Yeah, I would assume it was true, just not that it was representative of Seattle nonprofits in general! For what it’s worth, every state has a law saying how soon you must receive your paycheck for any given pay period, so there is recourse if anyone wants it.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        A couple of thoughts on this — one, you often need to consider the onus on you to use the contacts that you make. Don’t expect them on their own to think to send you job postings, introduce you to people, etc. You need to talk about what you’re looking for and ask for help. (That doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get it, of course, but it increases your chances significantly.)

        Second, in the vast majority of nonprofits, volunteers are absolutely not “the dork who does homework for the cool kids.” Liz, it sounds like you had a bad experience or two, but that’s not the norm.

        Also, you shouldn’t volunteer expecting that it will turn into paid work. If you do that, you’re setting yourself up for resentment. Nonprofits don’t “owe” volunteers paid employment eventually. They owe them gratitude and respect; if you’re not getting that, you should leave, but volunteering isn’t supposed to be a backdoor method to getting hired.

        1. Liz*

          I didn’t volunteer expecting paid work. I did think it would lead to, like everyone else said, contacts and a chance to develop skills working on issues I care about.

          I once sat in a meeting where the heads of the campaign made fun of their most enthusiastic volunteers (I assume they did it to me when I wasnt there). I had I learn to be really careful who I will give free labor for -some organizations aren’t wen comepetent, much less nice. So I wanted to warn others about what I’ve seen.

          It is easy to get caught up trying to make some group like you, but if they’re being weird, I think you should just let them do their own data entry and move on. You won’t make real contacts if you feel uncomfortable, but people don’t always realize that. They assume “I am helping so of course I will get credit” and that just doesn’t always happen when you have awkward 22 year olds in over their heads in a non-profit organization.

          Especially for older volunteers, I just think you have to really make sure you are at least enjoying the experience, and that you are getting something out of it too. And people aren’t always careful with a non-profit because they assume non-corporate types will be nicer.

          1. Liz*

            PS- I’ve been elected to nine boards and worked with more than 20 non-profits. This disrespect for volunteers is something I’ve only seen in very small towns in the midwest (a little) and then very much in Seattle, during the last year. I think it is likely due to the economy and possibly the Seattle freeze. I never saw it in DC.

            1. Liz*

              PS2- I love that I misspelled competent above. Phone typing – sorry for the mistakes :)

          2. Job Seeker*

            Liz, I always enjoy your post. They give me a lot of food for thought. I am familiar with Seattle, so I understand what you are saying. Your opinion for older volunteers, I will take to heart. I am not old, but middle-age and sometimes we think the workforce is like it use to be. If you work hard, volunteer or paid and go above and beyond, you will move ahead. Unfortunately, this is not always the way it is. Sometimes, people will take advantage that you try so hard. It is terrible to think that people would make fun of others that gave their time.

            1. Liz*

              I hate to think I was ever as disrespectful of people as some of the volunteer coordinators, but I probably was. They’re really young and they have responsibilities they wouldn’t have if the non-profit could pay more.

              Thanks for the compliment! I really like Seattle outside of the pockets of poor behavior I’ve stumbled on. People are generally very cool. A lot of people are just nervous and that is understandable.

  7. ChristineH*

    #5 – This is a dilemma I’ve dealt with myself. I do mass mailings at one place I regularly volunteer at, but they know I’m looking to use more advanced skills, which they do occasionally have me do. I’ve just always been too timid to ask, “I want to get experience in X and/or Y…do you need any help with this, even on a volunteer basis?” Plus, even volunteer postings list experience as highly preferred.

    I tried getting experience in new skills last year with an internship arranged through my university, but it seemed the agency wanted someone to just hit the ground running, so I resigned because I had no idea what I was doing, got no feedback on one project even though I asked, and they were unresponsive to my emails, probably due to their own hectic schedule (I admit to not being truthful with my reasons…).

    Crossing my fingers on a couple of possibilities next month.

    1. AP*

      I’ve dealt with this SO regularly in my career, both paid and unpaid, and it just comes down to…you need to train yourself out of timidity. I know, it’s the worst.

      In so many jobs that I’ve had, when I’ve felt secure in just asking for the types of projects or career directions that I want, I find that people are happy to have me work on them. Sometimes, when the topic has come up with bosses, I almost expect an epic record-scratch-beat drop to happen and them to turn around and be like YOU CANT DO THAT YOU WOULD SUCK AT IT – that has never happened. You can do this.

      Now, when interns or people lower on the chain ask me for similar things, it never leaves me with a bad impression (unless they ask for something really ridiculous, but, you know, that’s a different problem.) So buck up, pretend you’re an actor in a movie and ask away!

      1. ChristineH*

        It IS the worst…I think it’s one thing that’s held me back. So thanks for the encouragement. I guess it comes down to seeking outside help (e.g. a workshop, consult with a colleague) if I truly feel lost and not getting feedback from whomever I am assisting.

  8. Kimberley*

    RE: #6

    At our staffing firm we have both our clients and our candidates sign an agreement that they will not approach each other for employment directly for a period of 90 working days (about 5 months). If you have not signed any such agreement I would think that you are good to go. But it may be in your best interest to contact your recruiter anyway. They have an existing relationship with the client and may have a better chance of getting you an interview.

    1. Vicki*

      Except when they don;t have a relationship. Many recruiters only have a relationship with the company IF they place someone. Otherwise, they’re independent.

  9. EngineerGirl*

    #1 You only negotiate if they give you less than you asked for. This did not happen – they gave you better. Take it or risk looking like an entitled jerk.

    #3 Go to management and tell them this – “When I got my promotion there was an expectation that I would be leaving my old job for my new one. That expectation lines up with standard business practice. Nothing was said about performing my old job duties. I accepted the promotion with the expectation that I would no longer be performing the old duties. I can continue working Saturdays for the next X weeks. If you like, I can assist you in finding the replacement for that position.

    #5 I have no idea why people want to volunteer at old established organizations, then complain that they only get menial tasks! Those are the only tasks available, as the harder positions are usually performed by paid staff. Instead, volunteer with a new baby organization. They are so desparate for help they will let you do almost anything and you’ll be making contacts galore. When I helped found a land trust, I was the treasurer, the person that wrote the annual report, the person that wrote the management plan, and the web manager. While performing those duties I met a lot of neat people.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is so true about volunteering at new organizations versus more established ones. I keep meaning to write something about how to get a good volunteer job, and that would be a major piece of it.

  10. Lee*

    I love all the short answer posts – they mean we’re getting lots of good advice/information!

    Selfishly, I also like them because it gives me hope that if I’ve submitted a question, there’s a greater chance it will get answered :)

    #1 – I’m jealous of your above-range offer. You get to skip the awkward/uncomfortable negotiation conversation!

    1. Anonymous*

      I can’t help but wonder if the recruiter told the company a higher number – they obviously know the salary ranges of all the candidates in the running, and they do themselves a favor too if they’re getting a % of the salary.

      1. JohnQPublic*

        My brain is running the other way- what if the offer was higher because you’re going to get shafted either in benefits or in work duties? “We offered you $5k more but we don’t have insurance” or “$5k is because you will never get a real vacation” or “The boss you will be working for regularly yells at you and has had 300% turnover in the last six months”. Just because they offered you more doesn’t mean that’s what the job is worth, or that you won’t decide later you should have gotten more (or gotten out!). Do some research, and ask why they think that the job is worth what they offered. Phrase it in a way that doesn’t give any indication that it’s too low or too high, and you may get some valuable info. “I’m glad you feel I am the right candidate for you, and I’d like to ask some questions about your offered compensation and benefits. How did you arrive at $60000? Tell me more about benefits: how and when does insurance kick in, what does the policy look like, tell me about vacation use and accrual, pension/401k, unusual perks (Free golfing at XYZ Golf Course! Weight room at work! Massages every third Tuesday! Company movie night! Etc)
        Ideally you would have asked about the actual work and management environment earlier, but better now than after you quit your current job right?

        There ought to be a candidate-side interview checklist :)

        1. JohnQPublic*

          Any way you can ask the recruiter what info about salary they relayed to the company?

        2. Steve G*

          you can ask these things but I dont think getting $60 instead of $55 is that big of a deal. Maybe he lowballed and they are just being nice by giving a market rate and there is nothing shady going on. For example, when we hired another person in my office in Jan her stated range was “in the 50s” and our HR dept did a compensation analysis and said it would be unfair to pay below 60 (wow the #s match this posting very neatly!). Regardless of the fact that my boss wanted to pay as low as possible, HR set the rate at $60K and that was it. Nothing shady going on.

        3. Womble*

          Sure, salary isn’t everything, but all the other contractual benefits should be spelled out in the letter of offer anyway. Presumably the OP either doesn’t care about other benefits or considers them reasonable and acceptable, because they didn’t mention them in the question.

  11. Anonymous*

    3. There are more than a few ways this could go – could you give us an idea of what kind of jobs these are?

    5. Ask if they need someone in your field, but note that it may be an organization that gives preference for those tasks to those who stuffed envelopes. Depending on internal policies, certain projects may not be allowed volunteers.

    5.A Please don’t volunteer for a board/committee position unless you can make a long term commitment. Those are not usually areas for time-fillers.

    7. I agree this looks like it could be a sinking ship – BUT it can be a huge opportunity for you. I had something like this happen once, and it turned out superfantastical.

  12. Angela S.*

    #3 – I was in the exact situation a few years ago. The worst part is that the upper management was supposed to tell my old supervisor that I no longer worked for him. However, the upper management didn’t so imagine my old supervisor’s surprise when he showed up for work on the day I was supposed to start working for my new supervisor. Then, the upper management people told me that since the replacement had not been found I just have to worked for 2 supervisors. A few weeks later, I was in tears in one of the upper management people’s office because my old supervisor made so much demand (and I guess he was unhappy with how the situation was being handled so he lashed out on me). Finally, my new supervisor went to the upper management and they exchanged a few words. Only then I was released from doing anything for my old supervisor.

    I agree with AAM – if you can’t handle 2 jobs, say so and make it loud and clear. Otherwise, your supervisors will take advantage of you and you won’t be happy. Also, it gives your supervisor the reason to find a replacement quickly.

  13. Womble*

    #1: “I know I’m “supposed to” negotiate” — how do you know this? It’s bad advice. You should negotiate if the offer is less than you want, or (especially) if it’s lower than you’d be able to accept. But negotiating “just because”? No point. If the rationale for “always negotiate” was that you’d otherwise be seen as “weak”, that only applies in testosterone-fuelled alpha-male cages, which aren’t fun places to work unless you’re that way inclined already. As Charles stated, you already negotiated, anyway — you stated a range, they beat it. Deal done. No muss, no fuss.

    As someone who’s currently negotiating with my own management for salary requirements on some new hires, if you tell me what you want, and I convince my boss that you’re worth it, then I give you the offer and you try and negotiate on *that*… you better be all that and a bag of potato chips, or you just put a big dent in my desire to have anything to do with you. Depending on how much I went through to get you *that* offer, how overwhelming your additional demand is, and who else is available, there’s a (slight) possibility you might find the offer rescinded. I can’t stand people who play mind games.

    #6: A recruiter’s claim on *you* lasts as long as the agreement you signed with them. So read it and find out. If you didn’t sign anything with them, then they’ve got nothing on you. They may have an agreement with the employer, also (the more common situation, in my circumstance) and the only way to find that out is with a frank conversation with either the recruiter or the employer. I’d lean towards talking to the employer, just because they’re the one you want to have the relationship with *anyway*.

    1. K.A.*

      #1) I disagree. Negotiation is an important part of price discovery. In thinly traded markets nobody really knows what the correct price is. In the traditional employment situation an individual only has a few chances to discover what their true price (wage/salary) is. Even a large company only hires a relatively few number of people each year for any given position so salary negotiation is important discovery process for them as well. Yes, companies can get market rates and employees can use salary surveys. but both of those methods are general and don’t conclusively answer how much this employee should be getting paid for this job. A wise company understands this and pays close attention to what employees are asking for. You should always negotiate, you’re doing both yourself and your prospective employer a favor.

      I do agree that in #1’s situation it would only be detrimental to ask for more money. The negotiation already happened: #1 gave an offer, the employer countered with a better offer (perhaps to ensure that #1 happily took the offer, or to make sure that #1 started with a salary that’s inline with what similar positions in the company are already paying). Asking for more money at this point would be going back on their original negotiation and probably sour the #1’s relationship with the employer.

    2. Anony Mouse*

      I think the “always negotiate” advice assumes that the company says a number first.

  14. Blinx*

    #1 – Negotiating Salary. I contracted at my last position, and then was hired full time by the company. I fully expected them to offer me 20-30% less than my hourly rate, to compensate for benefits. I nearly fell off my chair when they offered the full rate!! As I wanted everything to go smoothly, I quickly accepted. I did find out later that I could have easily negotiated an extra week’s vacation – many others in my situation did. However, in time, all vacation allocations were adjusted upwards, so it really didn’t matter in the long run. Congratulations on your offer — let us know what you decided!

  15. Spreadsheet Monkey*

    #5 – Volunteering

    I understand you wanting to volunteer for a non-profit in your field and have it be meaningful. However, think about non-profits that are outside of your field, but that you might enjoy. From your post, I’m not sure what you do, but you might be able to use the same skills in a different field, or gain new skills and experience that you can use on your resume.

    I’ve been volunteering for a non-profit *way* outside my field for 6 years (it’s an animal shelter). I started as a caregiver at an off-site location (PetSmart), and got “promoted” to Site Coordinator about 9 months later. So now I train new volunteers, coordinate schedules, manage (minor) volunteer issues, and act as liaison between PetSmart management and shelter staff. It’s given me a lot of really good stuff for my resume *and* I get fuzz therapy at the same time.

    Oh, and I occasionally stuff envelopes, too.

  16. Nicole*

    I was volunteer director of an organization and managed 100 volunteers. Be upfront with the organization about your skills and the time you can commit. They may be able to match your skills to an available position. There were times I didn’t have openings that were a good fit. Some people were willing to volunteer for any position to gain experience until a better position became available. However, for every shift I needed to have trained and reliable volunteers in key positions and those didn’t open up often. Does the organization have a need for your skills and experience? If yes, have approached the supervisor and explained how you are qualified to do X, Y or Z?

  17. Another Anonymous*

    AAM, actually I look forward to the “Short Answers”. I have noticed that they are appearing more frequently, and it’s great!

    I should also take this opportunity to tell you that I am learning so much from your blog. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience for us – free of charge. I greatly appreciate all that you do.

  18. Katie*

    #5 — I’m a mid-level manager at a non-profit cultural institution, and I rely a LOT on volunteer support. The reason why there are so many “envelope stuffing” positions is because they are easy to manage – it’s pretty tough to screw up envelope stuffing, and it’s pretty easy to tell if someone is screwing it up. It’s a concrete task, so someone can come in off the street and just do it – it doesn’t require a lot of forethought, training, or supervision.

    The more complicated/advanced tasks and projects are tougher to manage – they require so much time on the part of the supervisor, that often times, it’s just easier to delegate it to staff. Think about the time that it takes to train new staff – so even though someone is willing to work “for free,” it’s not really free to the organization, there’s a lot of time and planning that goes into getting a project “volunteer ready.”

    As a result, my organization, and probably many other more well-established museums and cultural institutions, has a pretty rigid volunteer structure. We hold training a few times a year, and volunteers come into well-defined roles with concrete expectations and responsibilities. Just about every potential volunteer is funneled into one of these roles to start. Once a volunteer has been around for a while, and has proven themselves to be reliable, capable, and smart, then we might ask them to do something outside of their typical role that uses their particular skill set.

    I guess this is just a long-winded way to say don’t write off the envelope stuffing roles. If there’s an organization that really interests you, be a great envelope stuffer for a while, look for opportunities, and offer your help in specific ways. I’ll say that again, because it’s really important – be specific. I, like probably most management level people in museums, wear a dozen different hats and am always juggling a bunch of different projects. So if you are vague, I might not be able to think of ways that you can help off the top of my head. But if you say “Hey, I noticed that you guys are working on a new brochure, and I rock at graphic design – would you like me to help?” I will most likely respond with a resounding and grateful “yes!” You’ll be a lot more likely to be successful once the organization knows you and what you have to offer.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Amen to all this! It’s also probably helpful for people to realize that the flaking-out rate among volunteers is very high — I’d say close to 50% of people who offer to volunteer either don’t show up the first time or stop showing up soon afterwards. So that’s part of why organizations won’t always hand off substantive work to volunteers, until they’ve proven themselves reliable.

      1. COT*

        I was about to say the same thing! I manage volunteers for a nonprofit and we’re more than happy to help people build their careers, share their skills, and develop new talents. However, I get skeptical of volunteers who come in promising to give miraculous amounts of time and talent because they often flake out quickly. This is especially true of many job-seekers who, while genuinely eager to give, have other priorities in their life and may have to quit at any moment when they find employment. So I typically do “test” someone in one of our more traditional roles (still challenging and fulfilling, but structured to require less investment from me) before putting in a lot of time to transition them into more personalized projects.

        The best thing you can do is be upfront about your time commitment, job search, and desires. That way organizations know that you have a realistic idea of what you’re able to contribute, and they can decide if they have suitable opportunities.

        Also, try contacting organizations that offer internships in the work you’d like to do. They (the good ones, at least) are often prepared to hand off higher-level work to volunteers, provide professional growth, and welcome short-termers into significant projects. Ask if you can take on a similar role, maybe reduced in time commitment or length if needed. Many are happy to call you an intern, volunteer, whatever title you’d prefer as long as you’re doing the work.

        1. Liz*

          This is great, thanks!

          I try to give people a calendar of what I can turn in when, whenever I volunteer, but that doesn’t always fit with the coordinator’s work style. I love the contract idea – I never thought of trying that :)

  19. OP - Question#2*

    Thank you for the quick and simple answer to my question! I was making it more difficult than necessary. I sent a very short email asking about the openings, and am waiting on a reply.

  20. Anonymous*

    No, there aren’t too many of these posts! This is my favorite format. Keep doing them, a lot.

  21. BW*

    I was in a similar situation to #1. My current employer offered me what amounted to a 25% raise over the job I was leaving. Maybe I could have negotiated, but I would have been a fool to even go there. I had already had salary discussions during the interview process. As far as I was concerned, negotiations had taken place, and they came back with a more than favorable offer above and beyond what I was asking. No need to rehash. Congratulation to #1! :)

  22. Jen M.*

    The increase is not too much! I love both the variety of questions and the ensuing responses.

    These emails allow you to cover a lot of ground quickly, and I learn a lot from them.

  23. Joe*

    #2: Does your employment agreement with your current employer have a non-compete clause of some kind in it? I used to be a consultant, and we had a rule against going to work for any client for at least a year after leaving our company. (There was actually a bit of an office scandal when someone left to work at a client, and the client paid off our company for it.) Even though this company may not yet be a client, if you came across them in a business context, you might not be allowed to go work for them.

  24. Anonymous*

    #5 Always worth remembering that an organization might be reluctant to give you “good” work to do as a volunteer because of the long term impact on the organisation. Currently a big issue in the UK with the “big society” – if a public sector job is taken over by a volunteer, it’s nigh on impossible to return it to a paid role – the organisation is expected to continue to recruit volunteers. People are understandably concerned about their professions (e.g. librarianship, museum curation) if their roles are being done by volunteers.

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