mini answer Monday: 6 short answers to 6 short questions

It’s mini answer Monday — six short answers to six short questions. Here we go…

1. Reaching out to a recruiter who rejected you

I applied for a job through LinkedIn, and it turned out that the job posting was being managed by a recruiter. We connected, and I started working with her on this opportunity and a couple of others. She finally got back to me about the original position, stating that the company was looking in a different direction for the role. This was almost a week ago. However, today I noticed that the director of the department I applied to at that company viewed my profile on LinkedIn.

Is it inappropriate to reach out to the director with the following: “Hi, I noticed you viewed my profile. I had applied to your company’s X role through Recruiter at Recruiting Company, but she mentioned that you decided to go in another direction with the position. I am still really interested in Company and specifically in Department, so I would love to talk to you about a possible fit for someone with my background at Company. Would you be willing to talk sometime next week?”

I think it’s fine to send a note, but don’t be too let down if she turns down the request to talk, because she simply might not have time to talk with people who she’s not considering for a job. It doesn’t hurt to ask, though, and she might say yes.

I’d love to get other people’s input on the “I saw you viewed my profile” part of this message. Saying that feels a little … off to me somehow, but I can’t say how and it’s entirely possible that I’m wrong.

2. Should I get a second associate’s degree?

I will be graduating in December with a Bachelors in Business Administration – Management. Before I transferred to my university, I received an Associates in Arts from my local community college. During my time in school, I have been working in HR part-time for the past 4 years and have come to realize that it is my passion.

After graduation and hopefully finding a full-time job, I am thinking about about going back to my local community college and receiving my second Associates in HR Management. My credits will carry over from my previous Associates and the credits from my Bachelors will take care of the majority of the bussiness classes, which only leaves 5 classes to take! Do you think it is worth it for future job placements and compensation? Will companies appreciate my continued education even if its only another Associates?

In general, associates degree aren’t highly valued by most employers in most fields, and it can raise the question of why you got one instead of a bachelors. In your case, you already have the bachelors (or are about to), so I think it’ll just raise questions. If you really want to focus on HR, getting your PHR or SPHR is probably the way to go.

3. Background checks

I have a couple of questions about background checks. I have been through two interviews with an organization, and today I was told that they would be making a decision next week. Then they said that they would be performing a background check on me “just in case I was the one selected.” I’ve learned the hard way not to get my hopes up about things like this, but how many people will a company generally background check at this stage?

Also, a third party is doing the background check. I provided the usual employment history, education, etc., but it also asked for 3 references. Would a third party actually contact them, or would this information simply be passed along to the employer? I’d rather have a future coworker talk to them instead of someone at a background check company.

It depends on the company, but usually they’ll only do background checks on the top candidate or a small group of finalists. And yes, it’s not unusual for a company to outsource reference checks to a third party company. Unwise (since it tends to make the process much less useful), but not unusual.

4. Listing sporadic college enrollment on a resume

When I got out of high school, like many, I was pretty lost. This led to me taking courses at a community college in hopes that i would find a path. Unfortunately, the inspiration never hit me and I flunked out of school due to apathy, health, and financial issues. I tried going back a few times with similar results. I haven’t gone back to school yet because I plan on moving out of state (another issue entirely), but I now know firmly the path I want to take.

The problem I face now is how to document this “some college” in online applications and on my resume. Not only am I thoroughly embarrassed by my many failures that could have been avoided if I’d just buckled down, but many jobs I’m applying for right now require my transcripts, which i feel will be a kiss of death for me. How and where do I explain the failures of years back, as well as the gaps? And how should i document it formally? I just don’t want my past mistakes to seem like a representation of my current work ethic.

Hmmm. Normally I’d say to simply list the years that you were enrolled without listing a degree so that it’s clear you attended but didn’t graduate, but in your case I might leave it off altogether, because it’ll raise two red flags: why you dropped out and went back repeatedly, and the fact that you flunked out. Both of those are likely to do more harm than simply not showing any higher ed.

5. Presenting myself as a new manager

I recently started a new job and it’s the first time I’ve ever been in a management position. Several of the employees I’m in charge of are new too, but most of them have more experience in this field than I do. Since we won’t see each other very often or have much chance to interact during work hours, we’re going out to dinner (the company’s paying) to get to know each other a bit.

So my question is, though it sounds kind of frivolous, what should I wear? And how should I act? I’m quite young and I want people to be comfortable coming to me about things, but I also want them to respect me and see me as capable and in charge.

Wear a suit, and be friendly but maintain professional boundaries — don’t gossip or talk too much about your personal life beyond what you’d share with your grandmother. This post will give you some ideas on appearing authoritative, but one of the best ways to be taken seriously as a manager is to actually be a really good manager, so make sure you’re thinking intensively about what that means. (Start here and with the “good management” category in the archives.)

6. I couldn’t afford to do an internship

I am a recent college grad who was fortunate enough to receive enough financial aid to allow me to go to college, but not enough to allow me to take on unpaid internships.  During the school year, I balanced one work-study job as an office assistant with 2-3 steady babysitting jobs, as well as a full course load.

Many of my friends told me that taking an unpaid internship for college credit shows “dedication and initiative,” but due to my finances, I needed to use whatever free time I had doing paid jobs, especially in the summer.  I am now worried that since my only “real job” is an office-assistant work-study position, I won’t have much to put on my resume or talk about in a cover letter.  Do jobs really put more value on unpaid internships than on paid jobs (talk about a system that polarizes socio-economic class, huh)?  Is there any way to talk up babysitting and a strong academic record?

It’s not that unpaid internships show dedication and initiative; it’s that any internships (paid or unpaid) or office work shows work experience and that you’ve started learning how to function in an office. But it’s not a disaster that you don’t have internships; don’t let your friends freak you out.

That said, I wouldn’t focus much on the babysitting (rightly or wrongly, employers aren’t going to think it translates), but do talk about the office assistant job and any other paid jobs you had.

{ 121 comments… read them below }

  1. snuck*

    “I saw you viewed my profile” sounds stalkerish. Unless it’s an IT security position why not just try “Someone has told me you might still be looking”.

    I guess I’m coming from a ‘dating online’ perspective when considering this – the employer/prospective employee dance is a lot like dating, and coming across as too aggressive, too stalkerish etc is the kiss of death.

    1. Neeta*

      People tend to be aware that their visits to LinkedIn profiles are visible. Saying that “I saw you viewed my profile” seems to me kind of like saying “You thought you were so sneaky, but I noticed you”.

    2. littlemoose*

      I agree. I think the error is assuming that a pageview on LinkedIn automatically translates to interest. They may have viewed your page and realized that you do not have experience with X and Y, or a Z degree, or whatever. The employer may have just been browsing around, and I think viewing the LinkedIn page is too casual to infer interest in hiring. I would trust the recruiter when they said the employer is moving in a different direction, and just let it go. If the employer changes their mind and the recruiter contacts you later, well, pleasant surprise! But I would advise against contacting the employer on this basis alone – I think it puts them in an awkward spot.

    3. EAC*

      When I see that someone has viewed my profile and if I am interested in connecting with them, I send a request to connect with a note that says, “Thanks for taking the time to view my profile. How may I help?” It gets me the connection and it opens the way for future discussions.

      1. Jamie*

        I don’t know – this discussion makes me leery of viewing anyone’s profile, to be honest.

        Then again, if I’m in a store just looking I hate when sales people repeatedly come up and try and help me find something…if I want something I’ll ask.

        I’m not saying it’s horrible – but I find it a little awkward to think of a profile view alone is enough to warrant a conversation.

        This is one of those things where I could be completely off-base from what is normal…communication with strangers isn’t my forte.

        1. snuck*


          I am rather like you. I’m a rather connected, IT savvy individual (by my own measures) but choose to not participate in the free for all of popular social networking sites with any dedication. I feel that if people actually want to talk to me they should do so. I have a rather out of date LinkedIn profile (out of date because I’m not looking for work and am unlikely to look for work for the rest of my life, and not needing it’s network capabilities), but I do find it creepy that I get an email telling me who has viewed me lately etc.

          I don’t think you are off base, I think you are part of a collection of people who feel this way. Just because social media has taken the rest of the world by storm doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. And part of the issue I have with the social media storm is the assumption by the majority that it is an acceptable and standard way to communicate with people. They still send ‘thankyou notes’ (I am assuming these are often written on paper), but think it’s ok to casually email or software chat with someone as well. It feels disjointed to me, and I find online communication leaves a lot of potential information out, especially in recruitment.

  2. Liz*

    Someone else might know better, but doesn’t LinkedIn have a lag time before they show you who viewed your profile? It says the recruiter got back to the OP in #1 less than a week ago, so I think it’s possible that someone at the company viewed the profile and rejected the candidacy, and that then showed up on LinkedIn.

    If that’s what happened, it might actually look weird to send a note right away. Maybe wait a little bit longer and then ask to stay in touch regarding future opportunities?

    1. HH*

      Actually, having played around the “people who viewed your profile” feature with some friends, I think it appears almost in real time. At least it did when we looked at each other’s profiles.

      It might be different for people out of your network though.

      About the OP’s issue, I agree that it sounds a bit weird to mention it, but on the other hand I also believe that most people know that if they visit a profile, the person will know about it. I wouldn’t be offended if I were the hiring manager, but I’m also a young, inexperienced worker with a lot of social media usage, so I might not be the best person to listen to :)

      1. Anonymous*

        That’s a lower bound. I don’t know the internals of LinkedIn, but I doubt that the ‘consistency model’ on that part of the LinkedIn website is particularly strict. Put simply, LinkedIn is not going to lose money if 10% of the ‘people who viewed your profile’ links are a week behind reality.

        1. Anony Mouse*

          Agreed. I’m going with “they’re just not that into you” as my stock response around here.

  3. Curious*

    #1 I don’t think it is strange to say it at all. Regular users of LinkedIn know that their visits to other people’s profiles are visible. If they really don’t want others to see that they visited, they can log out of the platform and view the person’s public profile via a search engine. I have even had employers refer to LinkedIn in interview, as in
    – I saw you looking at my profile, glad you do your homework
    – I saw you looked at my profile and see that we know XYZ in common

    If someone at a conference came to your presentation or looked like they were interested in your offering and you wanted to talk to them – wouldn’t you just walk up and say hello, I saw you looking at the product/in the presentation, can I help? This interaction on LinkedIn is the same for me.

    1. ChristineH*

      I thought the “who viewed your profile” feature is anonymous unless you have the paid LI account.

      Either way, to the OP: I’m not so sure I’d indicate that you know that this director saw your profile; it sounds almost accusatory (I’m sure that’s not your intention, but it can be misconstrued). If he was interested in speaking with you, he’d contact you.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think this is probably what makes me uncomfortable with it — yes, he viewed your profile, but he didn’t contact you. And now you’re turning that viewing into a must-have-contact anyway, while he could reasonably feel like he should be able to read your public profile without it obligating him to talk jobs with you. (And of course, you want employers to feel they can view your profile without incurring obligation.) This is all probably a bit over-stated, but I think that’s the gist of it.

        1. Neeta*

          Yes, exactly!
          While I’m not a hiring manager, I like to be able to view various people’s profiles without people automatically assuming that I’m trying to ask them for something.

        2. JLH*

          Ditto. This is another way that job searching is like dating: if someone views your profile and doesn’t contact you, it means it’s not a good fit for them.

      2. Jamie*

        I agree with Christine – I don’t know why it does, but it seems kind of creepy…which isn’t exactly the word I’m going for, but there is just something that would be off-putting to me.

        Besides, as she mentioned he’s seen your profile so does know how to contact you if he chooses. I think a request for an informational interview so soon after being rejected as a candidate would make me suspicious that it wasn’t a real informational interview that’s wanted, but another shot to appeal for the job.

        I just don’t think the fact that your profile was viewed means anything, so I’d proceed as if it never happened – if it was me.

      3. Jess*

        I thought that you could set it to anonymous, so that others would not see who it was if you were looking at their profile. If you set it that way, you also can’t see who looks at your profile.

        1. ChristineH*

          That’s what I’m saying – profile views are automatically anonymous unless you have a paid account (please correct me if I’m wrong). If the OP only has the basic account, then how would he/she know that the director viewed the profile?

          1. K.*

            No, I don’t have a paid LinkedIn account and people can tell when I’ve viewed their profile because I haven’t (and don’t intend to) set my settings to view profiles anonymously. For example, I just looked at my LinkedIn “Who’s viewed me” section and there’s someone “in the graphic design industry in [location].” That person has set up his/her settings to view profiles anonymously.

            1. ChristineH*

              Eeek, you’re right!! I just checked my profile view stats, and none of them were anonymous. I’ve gone and viewed peoples’ profiles, but never realized that they can see that I’ve done so. *goes to change settings*

              1. Jess*

                Whew! I thought for a second that I wasn’t correct about the linkedin privacy settings, and that everyone knew just how much I stalk on linkedin.

        2. Blinx*

          There are 3 settings when you look at someone else’s profile — your full name, some of your info (like employer or school), or totally anonymous. I do a LOT of research on LinkedIn while job hunting, and I really don’t want everyone to know that I’ve looked at their profile, so I’ve chosen Anonymous. But that doesn’t affect other people’s settings when they view my profile – I can still see their full name, if they’ve chosen that setting. I DO have a paid account (Job Seeker Basic), but I don’t think that affects the privacy settings.

      4. Sophia*

        The feature isn’t paid – it’s a setting for each person’s profile. You can set yourself as being anonymous but you don’t get any information on who’s viewed your profile. If you allow yourself to be fully visible, you get to see who has seen you (so long as they are not set to anonymous). Paid LinkedIn accounts get you access to more detailed info about how you are being found, searched, etc.

  4. Anonymous*


    With this kind of background check, they will call your references. They won’t ask your references about your work. They will want to verify that you are honest. They will ask the references to verify that you worked with them at the company you claim you worked at for the years that you claim you’ve worked there. They might ask about your salary and your start dates. They might ask your reference questions to attempt to verify that he is who you claim he is (job title and responsibilities).

    1. Colette*

      Really? That doesn’t seem terribly effective to me – if I were to use a team lead as a reference, for example, she wouldn’t necessarily know my start date or salary. HR would know, but I wouldn’t use HR or a reference.

      1. Jamie*

        Background checks aren’t restricted to the names you’ve given.

        They would just contact HR based on the companies listed on your resume.

        1. Colette*

          Agreed – but I would assume they’d ask your actual references questions about your work, not necessarily your salary, start date, etc. I was questioning the “They won’t ask your references about your work.” statement.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            This is the difference between a background check and a reference check — a reference check gets into info about the quality of your work, whereas a background check is generally verifying that the info you reported is true.

            1. Anonymous*

              I’m the OP of that item and at least 2 of my 3 references were contacted. One (my current boss) was contacted for an employment verification. The other was contacted with a list of about 10 questions about my work quality, best traits, and weaknesses.

  5. Tamara*

    #2 – I’m currently enrolled in an associate’s program, and I hold a Bachelor’s degree from when I was younger. I am happy in my current job and have no intentions of leaving any time soon. I do it purely to learn more and have connections outside of my job to talk to about business (our CC professors are so great!) I also get a TON of questions and advice when other people find out. Mostly inquiring about why I’m not going for a master’s and informing me of how odd it is. For me, it’s about being able to learn without spending my entire paycheck and/or burning myself out (and affecting my job).

    So, to me, it really depends on your motivation. As Alison says, it’s unlikely to help much for future jobs, outside of to raise questions. If it’s truly your passion, and you simply want to expand your knowledge, it might be worth it for your own personal satisfaction. You may get that same satisfaction from the PHR/SPHR though, so just make sure to weigh your options well from all sides – job seeking benefits, financial burden, and mental drain. An associate’s is unlikely to fulfill the first one. Then at least you’ll have a well informed answer for any of those questions, you can be sure of where you’re heading, and you can focus on your studies instead of worrying about what they’ll look like.

    1. Kimberlee*

      In relation to this, some places (states? companies? everywhere?) have legal requirements as to the qualifications of HR Generalists, and they generally aren’t college degrees (or if they are, that’s only part). More important is often the experience and then application process for the certification. Since you plan on being in HR for the long haul, I would look at the qualifications you specifically need to be a head HR honcho anywhere and collect those qualifications specifically.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        As far as I know, there are no legal requirements governing who a company can hire to do their HR functions…? (There might be stipulations in some contracts, but those would be about the contract, not the law.)

  6. Jamie*

    I have never had a job require my college transcripts. Is this common?

    If they need them, then do the jobs require college in the first place? If so, that will be a problem. If not, I don’t know why they are checking.

    1. Anonymous*

      I have never had a job require my college transcripts. Is this common?

      I’ve had a few places ask – only those for whom the subject matter was completely irrelevant, though. Some places even want to see a copy of my degree certificate (which I lost track of years ago, and looks like it was run up on a photocopier anyway). It does always worry me a bit, though. I’ve never checked that the university actually says, and it’s entirely possible that at some point some reference checker is going to get unduly confused.

      1. JT*

        Part of maintaining accreditation for colleges and university’s is that they maintain the integrity of academic records. So you should be able to get that sort of information forever, unless the school loses it’s accreditation and is completely uninterested in getting it back, or the school closes.

        There have be a few cases of schools records being destroyed in a disaster, but in those they have made big efforts to re-create some of the information.

        1. Sophie*

          But that only goes back so far, and each school sets their own limits. Additionally there may be state requirements but it’s worth checking. For transcripts, I believe they do keep them for a very long time (several years, even decades), but other types of records are as little as 6 months – 1 year. Just check out their websites.

          1. JT*

            By academic records I meant transcripts and proof of completion, which generally are kept indefinitely. Sorry to not be clear.

        2. Natalie*

          Actually, even when a school closes or otherwise loses it accreditation, the records should remain available. The school usually makes arrangements with their state higher education department to hold the records. In some cases, a related school or sister school might offer to keep them. When my college closed, the records were moved to the graduate school that was continuing to operate.

        3. Anonymous*

          I’m not concerned about the records being lost, or the place closing down. It’s more that the way the degrees are awarded and counted might not be quite what a background-checker might expect. And implying idiosyncracy will be met with the response “we were here first.”

          1. fposte*

            Can you expand on this a little? I’m not quite sure what you mean, especially in that last line.

            1. Anonymous*

              Put simply, I’m not certain whether I still have a BA (according to the university) or whether that degree went away when I had it upgraded to an MA two years later. The grammatical horror of the last sentence was meant to say that the university is unlikely to change this practice , on the grounds that they have done things this way for a little while now.

              1. Rana*

                You don’t “upgrade” to MAs (or doctorates) from BAs. They are separate things, even though the requirements may compound. (For example, when I finished my coursework for a Ph.D., I applied for, and got, an MA. Even though I went ahead and finished the doctorate, I still have the MA. So I now have three degrees: BA from one institution, MA and Ph.D. from another.)

                If you had a BA, and you now have a MA, you should have two degrees, not just one.

                1. Rana*

                  It may be that your school is weird and prefers to only list the terminal degree, but that’s really not standard practice, and may require warning an employer about. :/

                2. Anonymous*

                  You don’t “upgrade” to MAs (or doctorates) from BAs.

                  Mine was – two years after getting the BA, it became an MA. No further work required. Now, there is the other Masters, which I got at the same time as the BA (technically, I defered graduating the BA for a year), but that one is subordinate to the MA (at least as far as the university is concerned).

                3. Rana*

                  That’s really strange. Do you mean that originally it took, say, x courses to get a BA, and x+y to get an MA, but now they’ve decided that x courses = an MA? And turned your coursework retroactively into an MA?

                4. Anonymous*

                  No, that’s the way they’ve pretty much always done things. Eighteen terms after matriculation, you can have an MA, provided you have completed a BA in the meantime. And the university would consider the MA my terminal degree (letting me borrow books from the library, attend lectures etc.), even though I also completed another masters.

                  There is a reason my response to queries about my degrees is generally “are you sure you really want to know?”

    2. KayDay*

      Some do; it’s not common, but not strange either. I’ve mostly noticed it with the occasional “young professionals” type programs (as in, those 1-2 year programs with rotations at some larger companies/institutions). Or with entry-level jobs that require a really strong academic/research background.

    3. Jess*

      My federal government job required them, as proof of any education I was claiming. If I hadn’t gone to college they would not have needed the transcripts.

      I feel like if a job both required transcripts but did not make you fill out an “application” where you needed to list every place you had worked and attended school, then it would not be necessary to submit transcripts for places not on your resume. If the job does have the application, though, it would be necessary to submit them and to admit to the schooling on the application.

    4. OP of #4*

      It’s a job at a college that’s asking. It’s the first time I’ve encountered this, so I was puzzled myself. I think I’m going to go with the option of not documenting my college history at all (since the job does not require a degree of any kind). my only worry is that, in a background check, it might show up and I’d not get the job. But I suppose if I don’t add it there, there’d be no reason to check! Thanks for the advice, everyone!

      1. Jamie*

        I am not an authority on this – but in backgrounds checks I’ve run I only even check college if it’s noted.

        Background checks pull up specific requested information – it isn’t like there is some big dossier on each of us. If you run a check on me it will be for whatever the employer was interested in knowing…not some Big Book of Jamie detailing how in high school I refused assistant captain of the Pom squad because I was so offended I wasn’t named captain or that I flunked the first driver’s test because I kept forgetting to use turn signals. :)

        You’ll be just fine – and good luck with the job!

      2. moe*

        With the employer itself being a college, I’d worry that they might run job candidates’ names through something like the National Student Clearinghouse as part of their standard hiring process–something they’d have access to for verifying faculty and admitted students’ records. I’m not that familiar with higher ed hiring practices for roles that *don’t* require a degree, but colleges certainly use it for other things…

      3. JLH*

        I would say:
        On a résumé, leave off the college.
        On an application or background check that asks for it, include it. Both of those require truthiness. If it happens to come up in an interview following that, you can say that you hadn’t found your passion yet, or you hadn’t the maturity or discipline to handle college at the the time (or whatever your reasoning, keeping it broad and non-specific.)

  7. Riki*

    2 – If you want to get another degree, why not go all the way and get an MS? You’ve been working in HR for a few years now and you know it’s something you love. I think you would enjoy the more focused study a masters program can provide. That said, I think a PHR or SPHR would compliment your Business Admin BA and work experience very nicely.

    6 – You know what also shows dedication and initiative? Successfully balancing a full course load and work! Don’t worry about it.

    1. twentymilehike*

      Riki, I want to echo your comments on #2.

      For the last few years I’ve been toying with the idea of going back to school and what for. So I started taking classes at my local community college with the intent of just starting small and maybe getting some certificates or another AA or AS or something, but EVERYONE there kept telling me, skip that and go take the CPA exam, or just apply for an MBA program, or whatever. I didn’t think I was up for it, but I graduated several years ago and I have nearly a decade of work experience–going back to community college has been ridiculously easy and not quite challenging.

      OP, I have a feeling you may feel the same way. The classes I’ve taken in the accounting department have ended up being more of a networking gateway–as a student who is already a sort of professional, college is a totally different experience! I’ve learned a lot and made a lot of contacts, but I’m ready for something that will really help me move forward, and a master’s is the next logical step.

  8. AnotherAlison*

    The only thing I’d caution on #1 is that they may not actually be finished with their hiring process. You don’t really know. What if they did “go a different direction” but the candidate turned down the offer? I’ve had people view my profile & contact me several weeks later. It could be a turn off if you contact them first.

  9. Jess*

    Re” #1: I’ve never done this with linkedin, but saying “I saw you viewed my Friendster profile” got me a date back in the day.

  10. Ethan*

    #6 I think working through school shows pretty good initiative. However, I think the use of an internship really depends on your field. For instance, it seems nearly impossible to get an arts admin job directly out of school nowadays without some kind of work experience or professional connection. Many of my friends in this field (myself included) got their first job in the same organization they did their internship because they’d proven their work valuable and then there was an opening in their organization.

    If your industry is like this, do what you need to do to get an internship. I took a part-time internship while I worked a ton. If you have yet to take out a loan, taking out a small student one while you can still get a low interest rate and a number of payment plans wouldn’t be a bad investment, I don’t think.

    If your industry isn’t like this, I wouldn’t sweat it a whole lot. You’ve already got some office work experience.

  11. Sophie*

    #5 – Is a suit really necessary, unless you are going to a REALLY nice restaurant? The advice is excellent, of course, and I agree with all of it except the suit part. But that’s just a nitpicky thing. I’m very anti-suit. I guess it would depend on where your company is sending you to dinner – if it’s a fancy restaurant that normally requires a suit then yes, but if you’re just going to Chili’s, I think a nice dress shirt and slacks would suffice (no jeans, wherever it is – too casual). Or perhaps wear the jacket but no tie. Even though you want to make a professional appearance, I think a suit is a bit stodgy unless the restaurant calls for it. (Please bear in mind this suggestion is coming from a person who lives in yoga pants and considers it an insult to ask me to put on make-up or real pants when interfacing with the outside world.)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The suit isn’t for the restaurant — it’s for the employees, who she apparently doesn’t see that much. She’s young and she’s worried about how to come across as in charge, and clothes are good at sending signals about how you want to be perceived.

      1. EM*

        I’d have second thoughts about a suit if the OP lives in a more casual part of the country (as in NOT the East Coast), or if the OP is in an industry where nobody wears suits, or if the workers the OP is managing are blue collar or are professionals who do a lot of field work.

        If you are managing workers in a factory you are going to come across as out of touch or “The Man” if you’re in a suit, and professionals who do field work will think you are prissy and someone who can’t get their hands dirty.

        For reference, I am a professional scientist and I and all the technical people in my office do field work. Our boss, the owner of the company basically only wears suits if she is going to court as an expert witness. On normal business days she wears business casual.

        1. Rana*

          Well, it’s not like one has to keep the full suit _on_ the whole time. I’ve noticed people taking off their jacket to good effect on a number of occasions; it both makes the outfit less formal, and sends the signal to other people that you’re comfortable with them, yet it’s still a suit.

          1. Liz*

            Yeah, but some people make REALLY negative judgments about suits on the west coast. Think about the most sincere veegan you’ve ever met wrinkling her nose as you bite into a hot dog, and that is the look they will give you.

            I had a wardrobe of Brooks Brothers and JCrew that required no thought in the morning, almost no dry cleaning, and all my clothes lasted for-ev-er (eight years and counting on one suit, for example).

            I had to give all that up because the Seattle cool kids kept passive-aggressively asking me if I was going somewhere more important later :) A few people even mentioned that it made them uncomfortable to be around dress clothes. It was a distraction.

            1. Laura L*

              Liz-I think we need to switch places. That’s what I miss most about Seattle. Not the judgment, but the wearing casual clothes to nearly everything.

              You can take my place in DC. :-)

        2. Jamie*

          “If you are managing workers in a factory you are going to come across as out of touch or “The Man” if you’re in a suit, and professionals who do field work will think you are prissy and someone who can’t get their hands dirty.”

          I can vouch for this. The suit advice is absolutely correct for most office positions – but in a factory environment there can be an us vs them mentality that you have to navigate and dispel.

          For factory jobs I would recommend a step up from what your staff is wearing. If they are jeans and t-shirts you wear jeans or khakis and a sweater or pull-over, button down.

          Then again, in the factories I’ve worked in if management was wearing a tie for anything except the end of year party people would assume he was on his way to a funeral or interview…so take the environment into account.

    2. TheSnarkyB*

      for #5 I wonder whether the poster is male or female, what kind of restaurant, and is it a work day?
      I think a suit on a day when you’re not coming from work could come off as a bit odd, and if it is a formal restaurant sometimes there are weird awk. taboos about wearing pants (has anyone else noticed this?)
      I feel like for men the transition from business to evening is easier. What do you recommend for a woman? Business formal dress wear? This makes me think of Virginia Williams’ outstanding wardrobe on Fairly Legal. (I’m unemployed- I watch too much USA network)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’d still do suit pants and a very nice blouse, or a just-above-knee-length skirt and very nice blouse. Basically, the suit minus the jacket. Especially because she’s young and concerned about being taken seriously.

  12. Anony Mouse*

    Re #1: I don’t think she should contact the hiring manager, because not only is there little chance of it being fruitful, but going around the recruiter is not going to make the recruiter happy. If this recruiter is still working with her on other opportunities, this would be a quick way to burn that bridge.

  13. AD*

    #6 Argh, the internship question makes me so sad. The good news is that your work-study position may have helped you make some contacts and/or show that you can function in an office. I hope you’re in a field where this won’t hurt you too badly, or that you come across a hiring manager who understands how dangerous it is to pass people over because they come from less privilege.

    In any case, I’d use your cover letter to really play up the fact that you worked throughout the school year, in the hopes that a recruiter reading it will see “needed paid work” instead of “wasn’t good enough to get an internship”.

    1. MM*

      I work in a field where almost everyone needs an internship to get in, and most of the internships were unpaid. I was lucky enough to get one of the paid ones, but not sure how I would have broken in without. That being said, when we were hiring my replacement – entry level – we ended up going with someone who had only had a few weeks of internship experience, but had worked full-time in hotel service work while going to college full-time – the fact that she could balance full-time work and school made us confident in her ability to handle the workload.
      SO, if there’s anyway for you to get a short-term or part-time internship under your belt, do it, but like AD said, play up the fact that you’ve balanced work and school in cover letter and interviews. And don’t be afraid to try networking with your babysitting contacts – if they happen to be in the field you’re looking in, they could help a lot – if they trust you with their kid, they probably trust you in a professional setting as well.

  14. Anonymous*

    #6 I would not penalize you for not doing an internship in college. Remember that many of the folks interviewing you were in your shoes in college. I did work-study, and got government cheese and rice from the grange coop to eat. I would understand the economic necessity, I am probably pretty average (most people are, statistically!). The degree and your attitude is more important than having that internship boxed checked off. Good luck!

  15. Anon*

    #5 I’d definitely agree with AAM – wear a suit. You’ll feel more professional and confident than you would in jeans, and it gives off the right look to your employees from the get go. I’d maybe ditch the tie if it’s an informal joint, but definitely shirt + suit + smart shoes.

    #6 Working an office job plus studying a full course load, and managing/juggling them both successfully shows initiative, dedication and self-motivation, not to mention the time management, planning and orgnasational soft skills you’ll have picked up along the way and the experience of “the working world”. If I were hiring, I’d see this as a bigger bonus than a 6 month unpaid internship inbetween college semesters, and it’s certainly something you can capitalize on in cover letters/interviews.

  16. anon.*

    #6 I was in your shoes in college–right down to the same work study job and the babysitting. I was lucky enough to land a part-time paid internship for one semester, and that’s the only way I could have done it.
    Think of it this way: You already have work experience. Honestly, that’s what people cared about far more than the internship in my case. Did you work summers? Did you work in high school?
    Is there a reason you can’t get a paid internship now, even if you graduated? My company just hosted 24 paid internships for the summer, and I think more than half the interns had just graduated.

  17. EAC*

    Allison, just a thought. It seems as though quite a few of your followers seem to have a resistance to linkedin. I am baffled as to why so many people find linkedin so daunting. Have you ever thought about doing a post on how to use the system or maybe inviting some one who has successfully used linkedin to do a guest post?

    1. Anonymous*

      Not daunting, just boring, and with a low success percentage. I get why people like it, it’s marketing without the footwork, but it’s not great marketing. I find better opportunities at local programming groups, scifi geek groups, and Toastmasters. (I’m a web developer. Actually TM has been the best one by far for me, everyone’s in business and need good IT support but that’s a hard hire.)

      1. Rana*

        Agreed. I think LinkedIn is strong for certain fields, with certain expectations as for networking, but for the fields I’m in (or have been in) – academia and publishing – it doesn’t work very well. One is that LinkedIn repeatedly misgauges my level of experience – it sends me advertisements for senior positions that I’m simply not qualified for. The other is that most of the people who seem to have LinkedIn accounts are generally at my own level, so while they might be useful sources of information about a company, they’re not in a position to be hiring. (Also, given the slow turn-over rates, there’s little point in contacting them for info about a company unless there’s an open position under active search – and I learn about that from sources other than LinkedIn.)

        I think, too, that many people in those fields are under the impression that LinkedIn is primarily for MBAs and administration.

        Thus, I have a lot more luck networking through specialist organizations and forums, and by contacting companies directly.

        (I’ve been disappointed to realize this, because I won an extended membership here through AAM, and I was hoping it would be more useful. I’m still honored to have been chosen!)

    2. Blinx*

      I do a lot of job research on LinkedIn. It’s invaluable to find out who currently or previously worked at a company, what education they had, what their work history is (as compared to mine) and where their career path took them. I’ve also found out (in some cases) who got the job that I applied for. A little stalker-ish, I know, but the info is all public, and I NEVER contact someone I don’t know.

      There are some job hunting tools, but I find them ineffective (it sends me notices for jobs in my field, but they’re all over the country).

      1. K.*

        I agree, I find the “Jobs you might be interested in” thing annoying. Oftentimes the jobs ARE ones I’d be interested in … if they weren’t a thousand miles away.

        I do company research on LinkedIn (in addition to using the companies’ websites, of course), follow ones I’m interested in, and I belong to a few groups – my alumni associations, groups for my profession, etc. I think nothing of viewing profiles, but I don’t try to connect with (or accept connection requests from) people I don’t know. The “open networker” thing is a no-go for me.

      2. EAC*

        I guess I’m bolder than a lot of folks. I’ve contacted people for informational interviews and most of them have been gracious in spending time talking to me and I’ve kept in touch with a lot of them. I also use it to do research on posted jobs–I’ve reached out to people who are currently hold the same position at the companies that have posted the jobs and ask if there are skills that I should mention in my resume and cover letter that haven’t been addressed in the ad and believe me, a lot of stuff gets left out of ads. Most are more than happy to share the additional info. and others have offered to forward my resume directly to the hiring manager.

        My one caveat is– I am just as willing to help those who contact me directly. And if I can’t help them, I try to find someone in my network who can provide the assistance that they need.

        1. Blinx*

          EAC, I think your “boldness” is exactly how LinkedIn intended their site to be used, and what many career counselors recommend! (I have to work on my assertiveness.)

        2. Jer*

          EAC, do you pay for that service? I really don’t use LinkedIn that much and I just have the basic service but it would really behoove me to know what my money bring me by switching to a paid service with LinkedIn

          1. EAC*

            Oh goodness, no. I am not a paying member. I see no reason for anyone, unless they are a hiring manager or a recruiter to pay for linkedin.

            1. Jer*

              That is good to hear. I was a little worried that I might be short changing myself in a job search.

              although, I should start using it a little more.

  18. Anonymous*

    I’m a little confused about the response to the Associates degree. I get that it’s kind of strange to get an associates after getting your bachelor’s, but is it really that big of a question to people as to why you didn’t just get your bachelor’s? I feel like if you say that people will always question why you didn’t go for two more years and get the bachelor’s, why aren’t they saying to those with a bachelor’s, why didn’t you go for two more years and get a masters?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it’s because an associate’s degree generally isn’t valued in the way a bachelor is. They often cause employers to think, “Why couldn’t this person manage to get a bachelor? Why didn’t they set their sights higher?”

      Masters is different, because bachelors tend to be seen as a good, solid degree in a way that an associate’s often isn’t.

    2. twentymilehike*

      As someone who toyed with getting another associates degree, the major factor involved was not wanting to commmit to a master’s program, but still do SOMETHING. Second Bachelor’s degrees are out of the question in the Cal State system (and I think the UC system, also) as they have not been accepting applications from anyone with an existing bachelor’s degrees in several years. For me, private colleges are not a realistic option because of the cost. I’m not sure about the OP’s position on this, but it’s possible we were thinking along the same lines.

      Community college gives you a feeling of still furthering your education, without the intensity of a bachelor’s or master’s program. Based on my personal experiences, probably taking a break to focus on work experience and then applying for a master’s program would be the most useful in this situation.

      1. JT*

        I may be snobby, but I don’t see the value of the associates *degree* if you already have a masters.

        Now the *classes* someone might take en route to the associates might be useful, but the degree not so much.

    3. LL*

      I wondered about this as well. I have a bachelor’s and am now working as a legal assistant. I’d like to move into paralegal work, but as far as I know there are no Master’s or Bachelor’s degrees in paralegal studies-only AA’s and certificates. I’ve been thinking of getting my paralegal AA. Is there a better way to go about this?

  19. JM*

    I am the original poster for question #2- Associates Degree. Thank you for the great advice. Love your blog.
    I originally looked into just getting a HR Certificate because it would allow me to take classes in Employment Law, Comp & Benefits, etc. I guess it’s all about learning new material and receiving more training. After some research an Associates would only require 2 more courses. I would love to go a get my Masters but at this moment in my life I am not motivated or have the finance means to do so.
    I also agree about the PHR! I really want to receive it but from my understanding your need 2 years of full time work experience. Although I have 4 years experience in HR it has only been seasonal work (Jan-Oct) and not “full time”.

    1. Anonymous*

      Here’s how I see it: how much value does this additional Associates degree bring to the table? You said it yourself – they’ll accept “back-transferred” credits from your Bachelor’s, and you barely have to take any courses. I think employers would realize it too.

    2. Anony Mouse*

      I don’t know anything about the PHR, but I know for some certificates 4 years part-time = 2 years full-time. If you haven’t checked this already, you should do so.

    3. perrik*

      Yes, there are eligibility requirements to fulfill before trying to earn the PHR. The minimum # of years’ experience is dependent on your highest degree:

      Master’s or higher: 1 year of documented HR experience
      Bachelor’s: 2 years
      Less than a bachelor’s: 4 years

      That documented experience must be at the exempt level of professional work. Time spent as a hourly HR Assistant does not count. See for all the gory details.

      FYI, if you do decide to pursue a master’s eventually (preferably with your employer footing part of the bill), consider skipping the MS in HR and instead get an MBA with an HR or general emphasis. A thorough grounding in finance, operations, and strategic thinking is valuable for an HR pro who wants to be taken seriously by the top brass.

  20. Ellen M.*

    “I’d love to get other people’s input on the “I saw you viewed my profile” part of this message. ”

    This seems “off” to me too. As if the other person is obligated to respond an/or do something for you just because they took a look at your LinkedIn page?

    I can understand why you would want to know and would check who is looking at your profile, but… to confront the person with that fact, it’s almost a little stalkerish. If someone sent me a message that started with “I saw you viewed my profile” I’d be just a little bit creeped out.

    1. Blinx*

      I would be skeeved unless we had a contact in common, and it was mentioned in the message. Otherwise, it’s a little too pushy.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      I actually did have someone email me with the “I saw you viewed my profile” message. I had looked at her profile because she was in a professional association that I belonged to, and we had something like 50 connections in common. When she came up as a suggestioned connection, I clicked on her name.

      Well, she emailed me saying that she saw I had viewed her profile and started pitching her consulting services. It made me embarrassed (not that I should have been), and it made me feel embarrassed for her. I didn’t even want to connect with her after that, never mind hire her. If she had just sent me an invitation to connect, I’d have connected and she probably could have pitched to me eventually without creeping me out.

  21. Anonymous*


    I went to college on financial aid/loans/scholarship, had to work multiple jobs, and still managed to have 4 internships by graduating with a job and almost a 4.0.

    In college I worked work-study midnight- 6 am as a desk assistant, had class all morning, and had 2 unpaid internships at the same time on alternating days in the afternoon/evening. My first semester I had a second work-study job from 6-9 as a dispatcher. It sucks, my senior year was not fun, but it is do-able and I graduated with a job in the field I wanted because I had so much work and internship experience.

    Also, what are you doing during the summer? Get a nights/weekends paying job and you should easily be able to get an internship day-job. I had a 20 hour/wk internship and a 30-40 hr/wk retail job. A lot of internships are only part-time so you could coordinate a work schedule around that.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Anonymous, I too normally like to jump all over people because they didn’t work as hard as me, but the OP didn’t give any details about her field or location. My field normally has paid internships, so $ problem solved : ), but as for part-time ones during the school year, they are not widely available as part-time help doesn’t fit into our business well. Additionally, while my alma mater was a 30 minute drive from a city and many job opportunities, other schools are in BFE and the towns don’t have much to offer in the way of work, period. I went to school my freshman year in a place so small that it didn’t even have an Applebees.

      Until any of y’all skip your sophomore year completely and graduate engineering school in 3 yrs with a 2 year old and a near 4.0, I don’t want to hear you complaining that you didn’t have time! (PS – I didn’t have time for an internship, because I did 4 yrs of school in 3, AND I couldn’t say why I did that because it’s embarrassing to tell employers that you are 21 with a 2 year old. It wasn’t a problem, but internships weren’t as common as they are now.)

      1. Anony Mouse*

        Do we really need to turn this into the hardship olympics? The bottom line is that the OP is competing for jobs against others in her field who have had more advantages.

          1. Carrie*

            + another 1. Playing comparison games is just…. mean. Everyone is different, every circumstance is different.

            1. A Teacher*

              +1 to this! People have lots of reasons for doing what they do and many of us struggle in a part of our educational path be it associates, bachelors, masters, multiple masters, doctorate, or whatever.

              If you’re in a field that requires clinicals like healthcare or teaching you are okay. I work PRN these days in a healthcare field that required clinicals but many did internships as well, I didn’t do one and had no problems. My sister is a nurse and did an externship on top of her clinicals and that is where she got hired…many nurses don’t do externships and do just fine. To each their own.

                1. Dan*

                  Thanks for that. I don’t understand people who can’t be happy with their accomplishments without putting others down. :-/

  22. JN*

    Hi all, I’m the OP of #1.

    Like at least one of the respondents, I’m a young’un in search of a real job (having graduated in May and now at a paid internship, my seventh of the last three years). Suffice to say, I’m willing to try almost anything to get a salaried position at this point, thus my urge to reach out to the department director who viewed my profile. But I do see where you all are coming from regarding, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you,” and essentially forcing contact. At this point, I will not be reaching out.

    But I think it’s worth considering – isn’t this partially how LinkedIn is supposed to be used? We can connect with colleagues, with colleagues of colleagues, with friends – why not someone who has taken the time to look through our profiles? I’ve read elsewhere that there might just be a mental hurdle we have to reaching out to people once we’ve viewed their profiles, and in fact taking that step to reach out can create the connection/opportunity that would be lacking otherwise. Just food for thought.

    And regarding page views, etc. – I have a paid account. But you can toggle these settings regardless, as someone mentioned above. My trick: If someone appears in a list based on my search parameters and I want to check out their profile, I log out of LinkedIn and Google “Person’s Name” “LinkedIn”. Then I can still see a good amount of content from their profile. Sneaky, I know, but it does eliminate the awkward tango of who is viewing whose profile and who is reaching out to whom, while allowing you to learn more about someone in your industry or to whom you might want to connect.

    1. EAC*

      I agree with your reasoning over “why not connect with someone who has reviewed my profile?” Since this is someone who probably viewed your profile because you were presented as a candidate by the recruiter, I think you should probably leave the director alone. But, you can always try to connect with others who are working for that organization, just keep it to people who are working at your would-be level and perhaps, one level above them.

      Of course other linkedin members will be viewing your profile and as I stated up thread, feel free to send them an invitation to connect (only if you are really interested). Just thank them for viewing your profile and ask how you can help them. And the request for connection box only allows for so many characters so, you won’t be able to say much.

      Also, are you connected to the recruiter who is working with you? Most recruiters have no problem in connecting.

      And seriously, stop being afraid of letting other members know that you’ve looked at their profile.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m not crazy about asking how you can help them just because they viewed your profile. I mean, I view people’s profiles out of curiosity or because all kinds of other reasons, and I wouldn’t have any idea how to respond to that question. It would make me feel a bit put on the spot.

        1. EAC*

          But that’s how *you* think. Every single person that I have approached that way has accepted the invitation to connect. Keep in mind that I don’t approach every viewer of my profile. There are some viewers that make me shrug my shoulders and keep on moving.

          I realize that people have different viewpoints on how they want to use LI, and that’s fine. But they shouldn’t expect every other user of the service to use it according their own personal rules. All I can speak on is how I use it and that it has been successful for *me*.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Oh, no, I didn’t mean to imply that. I know lots of other people use it really differently than I do, and that’s completely fine. Just wanted to offer another perspective on that particular tactic.

    2. Jamie*

      “We can connect with colleagues, with colleagues of colleagues, with friends – why not someone who has taken the time to look through our profiles?”

      Of course you can do whatever you want – but there are a lot of reasons that it can be a bad idea. If the person who viewed your profile was like EAC below, they would probably welcome the chance to connect. If it’s someone like others here you risk coming off as naive at best, and unprofessional at worst by trying to connect over the most cursory of things – a profile view.

      It’s important to understand the different ways this can be perceived and there is a potential downside to this.

    3. Rana*

      I think something to realize is that people show up in the “viewed your profile” list for all kinds of reasons. Maybe they were looking for someone with a similar name. Maybe they were looking for someone who worked at one of your previous companies. Maybe they clicked on your profile by accident.

      In other words the time that someone has taken to “look through our profiles” may not be nearly as much of an investment as you’re assuming. Unfortunately, someone who searches you out specifically, spends several minutes reading all of your profile and being impressed by it, will look exactly like someone who clicked on your name, scanned your profile and realized you weren’t the person they were looking for, and moved on within 15 seconds. How do you tell the difference? Unless you hear from one of them, you can’t.

      1. Rana*

        (I’m not saying don’t contact them, but be aware that it’s risky. If someone I’d just briefly looked at contacted me, I’d find them a bit too overeager and borderline creepy. If it was someone who I’d been more interested in, I’d be less creeped out, but would still find it odd, and it would make me self-conscious. I don’t know if that’s the sort of reaction you’d want, and you have no way of knowing if someone would react more like you – yay! a new contact – or me – who is this person?)

  23. Sophia*

    Re: 6 – I just wanted to say I feel your frustration. Entry level jobs in many fields have been renamed internships and are legally questionable. I worked all through school and took out huge loans to cover the costs. With no one else to help pay my bills, I’m not in a position to take an unpaid internship. Moreover, I (we) shouldn’t have to. I hope things start looking up.

  24. Amy*

    Hey all, I’m the OP for #6

    I’ve primarily been looking at jobs in the non-profit sector (I want to go to seminary one day but taking care of the 100k of student loans currently hanging over my head is my main priority at the moment, haha).

    I’ve started to do some digging and came up with a way to present: a volunteer administrative position that I had in high school (as the co-chair of a council for my church at the national level), my 6 summers as an oceanfront lifeguard (yay customer service experience), and my humble little work-study office-assistant job, to show that while I may not have gobs of conventional experience, I have elements from various smaller jobs that combine to make me a (hopefully) promising candidate!

    Plus, I resigned to live at home for another several months, so that whatever salary I end up making can go solely toward my loan payments and not toward rent.

    Thanks for the words of encouragement, I have an interview monday for a customer-service oriented job, hopefully the lifeguarding comes in handy!

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