open thread — and a question

It’s our monthly open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything you want to talk about.

If you have a question you want me to answer, emailing me is still your best bet, but this is a chance to talk to other readers. Have at it!

Also, I have a question for you. If you’re a regular reader, what’s the maximum number of posts per day you would reasonably read here? Because my mail queue is full of interesting questions and I really want to publish answers to them all, but that would mean sometimes doing quite a few posts a day.

I am weird so I have the appetite for that (and I write fast, so it’s not going to cut into my Breaking Bad viewing time), but I don’t want to post so often that people’s interest wanes. So be honest!  I can take the truth.

{ 541 comments… read them below }

  1. nuqotw*

    I would read everything you wrote. And should you ever decide to read a phone book on stage, I will come to hear it, since I am sure there would be pithy professional advice in your very intonation.

    1. Eva*

      +1. I’m trying to think how many posts there’d have to be on the front page for me to not read them all, and honestly I think even 10 posts a day would just be delightfully reminiscent of discovering your blog all over again. If I could go through your entire archive back then (I found you in 2010), surely I can (and will) keep up with whatever pace you can manage now. :)

      1. Jen*

        I thought I was a bit crazy :P I discovered AAM about 2 months ago and I went back to about page 40 of the achieve before I stopped reading…

        So, for me, as many posts per day as possible!

        1. Piper*

          Ditto. The day I found AAM, I lost all sense of time and got wrapped up in the archives. No amount of posts is too much.

          1. Jamie*

            Is this all pointing to Alison’s personal responsibility for any sub par productivity measures, worldwide?

            Sure, we can all be grown-ups and take responsibility for our own actions…but wouldn’t it be easier if we just blamed her? :)

      2. SB*

        + another. I read the entire blog backwards starting in late 2011, and have honestly found the pace of only 1-3 posts a day to be too slow. I read it on my lunch break, and sometimes throughout the day when things are slow and I have downtime, and it’s a downer to log in only to see no new posts and only two new comments. :-)

        1. Anonymous*

          + again! I check in during lunch or other breaks a few times a week and am very sad when I pull up the site and have nothing new. This is also the first site I search when I have a question about management, so even if I miss some posts because of the volume, I would love to know there’s more out there when I need it!!!

    2. Other Jamie*

      +1! I’ll take as many posts as you can write! (As long as the answers don’t get shorter in relation to the number of posts, but I figure that’s not a problem.) And if you do a phonebook podcast series, I’d be there too. ;D

    3. Lee*

      Agree! I would read every single post. Answer away!!

      I say that also because I have a question in the queue and would love your excellent advice :)

    4. ncd*

      +1 Keep ’em coming! If for some reason I can’t get to it all in one day, I set time aside to catch up later!

    5. MLE*

      +1!!! (Especially if this gives you more time to throw in Battlestar Gallactica references again :) )

  2. sk*

    I would at least scan everything, but would get overwhelmed with too many posts. I think however many posts the current amount is now is fine.

    1. Anna*

      Agreed. Too much of a good thing does exist. I like the current output, but too much more would probably start getting a little overwhelming. (It’s not like I’ll get a day job anytime soon by sitting on my butt all day reading job-search blogs.)

  3. Danni*

    I would read everything! I love your posts!

    Also, if there were “too many” then I would just skip the ones that don’t really apply to me (or I’d read your answer but skip the comment section). I have so many questions about job hunting/interviewing etc that I always look forward to your posts because there is ALWAYS something I can learn from. So basically – post more!

    1. Jamie*

      Me too – I would read everything and I believe I’m incapable of skipping any.

      How can one put an artificial limit on this blog?!

      More please :)

      1. Anonymous*

        I agree! Even the posts that don’t really apply to me, I still find interesting and read the answer and comments.

      2. AnotherAdmin*

        Agreed! When I see AAM come up in my twitter feed my first thought is alway, “Holy Crap! Did I miss a post.” The vast majority of us can take all you can throw at us!

      3. JessA*

        I completely agree.

        Is there such thing as too much Ask A Manager? I think not. As a side note, I got off work today, get home, check the usual sites, my linkedin page, facebook, my email, and Ask A Manager; and I see that a new post has nearly 500 comments. How could I miss so much? I WAS ONLY GONE FOR 8 HOURS!!! LOL!

    2. twentymilehike*

      YES! What Danni said! Plus I am so bored at work right now that I would read them more than once … even old ones!

    3. ChristineH*

      Pretty much ditto to your post, Danni. I’ve learned so much from this blog! So whatever is decided is cool with me :)

  4. Jenny*

    I would love to see more posts each day. When I get to the end of the work day and there are only 2 posts from you, I am sad!

    I learn SO much from reading your blog.


    1. Kerry*

      Me too! I love it when I open up my reader feed and there’s a post from AAM I haven’t read yet.

  5. Michael*

    More is better – I would prefer to not read them all, then to not have enough to read!

    (Plus, more posts = added ease of procrastination!)

  6. Anonymous*

    I would say 4-5 posts is good! I know you do about 3 now so if you space them out, a couple more won’t be too much IMO :)

    As for my question:

    A few months ago, I was job hunting and interviewed for an internship (with potential for full time) and a full time position (dream job). When I received an offer from the internship I notified Dream Job (thank you AAM for your posts on how to do this!) to see where their timeline was. I was informed their hiring was frozen for the month but that I can notify them at the end of the internship if it doesn’t work out. My internship is ending this month and the Dream Job is still my first choice. I want to email the hiring manager with my updated resume and was wondering if I can get some advice on how to approach it. I’m thinking I should include another cover letter reiterating my interest/qualifications. Should I briefly mention why I didn’t think the internship wasn’t a good fit (they will likely offer me full time)? How should I phrase that I would like to be considered for the position again?

    1. fposte*

      Don’t badmouth the internship–first, it’s tacky, and second, that’d be about why a job can’t do something for you, and you’re making a point about what you can do for a job. Instead, goodmouth (I say it’s a word) the Dream Job, which shouldn’t be hard. I think if you can update your cover letter to emphasize your new wonderfulness as a result of the recent internship, that’d be worth including, because why not? This isn’t something you need to be shy about–they told you to contact them. So you’re basically picking up on an existing conversation, and you can openly address it as such.

      Don’t be too disappointed if it turns out that “frozen for a month” turned into “frozen for a year” or “hired the internal candidate,” but those possibilities are no reason not to get back in touch as suggested for a job that really excites you. Good luck!

      1. Anonymous*

        Thank you! Should I reference that she told me I can contact her? That’s an interesting point that it’s like picking up a conversation again, just not sure how to get back into it in terms of “Hi, im so and so. I’m still interested in the job…”

        1. Malissa*

          Absolutely reference the last conversation. Start with I talked to you about this position at X time and you informed me that hiring was frozen for a month, but to get back with you at the end of my internship. Well my internship is nearing its end and I was wonder if this position or anything else for which I might be a fit is available.

        2. fposte*

          Those are pretty much the terms. “When we last discussed my joining your team, your organization had just enacted a hiring freeze, so you suggested getting back in touch in August. I’m definitely still interested in your Chocolate Teapot Marketing position, and I’ve developed additional skills that I’d be excited to put to use for you company.” It’s advisable to give a quick overview of who you are and that she said to get back to her so she can put you in context, but also to give her the resume and cover letter so that she doesn’t have to dig to find your qualifications again.

            1. Lynne*

              Aww. But now I want to say that you, company, should hire me!

              (I suppose one equally can’t start off a cover letter with “O company, how do I adore thee? Let me count the ways…”)

              (But I have a secret fondness for the vocative and wish it would return to more common use. /grammargeekmoment)

        3. Anonymous*

          If you have the previous email from the Dream Job, you could attach your new cover letter and resume to it (along with your new email message expressing that you are still interested in working with them) so they could refresh themselves on who exactly you are.

    2. moe*

      Post-wise, I would agree with about 5 a day. The only problem with lots of posts is that it’s easy to start missing the interesting discussions going on in the comments as the posts move off the front page. Also keep in mind that you probably have a lot of regular but not daily readers, too.

      I like the short-answer posts a lot, and you don’t lose track of comments that way…

      1. Lisa*

        I like the short answer posts a lot too. I love all the posts! Alison you give fabulous advice and I thank you! Post as much as you can handle! I love it. Thank you!

  7. Anonymous*

    I would read more daily posts (assuming they were shorter posts/Short Answer Saturdays). If you’re going to do a long post I’d prefer one per day.

    Now for my random thought of the day. A potential employer is doing a background check on me right now. They asked for 10 years of employment history (is that normal?) and I’m terrified of getting something wrong! Ten years ago I was 16 and since then I have done my fair share of college student worker jobs/internships/fellowships etc. I have this fear of getting something little wrong (like my job title from 10 years ago) or that some place I worked at for a semester won’t remember me. Aaaahhh! They have already emailed me with a couple of probing questions about my employment history. I have nothing to hide, but I’m scared of getting dinged for something irrelevant…

    1. Jess*

      I don’t have that much advice, other than to commiserate. Hopefully the worst that will happen is a ridiculous bureaucratic process, but no dings if some of the details are wrong.

      I started a government job when I was 27 when I had to go back 5 years and list every employer, every address, and someone unique who could vouch for me at each…and since 5 years back covered grad school (where I had 5 different addresses) and the tail end of college, it was a lot! My husband got a security clearance when he was 24, and had to go back 10 years–with every dorm room in college counting as a separate “address.”

      1. Anonymous*

        Oh, god. The number of addresses I have had is insane. Recently I went to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription and they asked me to verify my address before I could purchase my medicine. I rattled off what I figured was in their system, and they said that was wrong. I gave another address. Wrong. I think I got it right on the third try. Whew.

    2. Joey*

      You typically won’t get dinged if it’s a small mistake. Only if it’s significant and job realted or if it looks like you intentionally misrepresented you in trouble.

      1. Marie*

        I agree,

        if it’s a small mistake (ex you stated you worked at X company from june to september 2001 and the conpany confirms may to september 2001) it’s ok.

    3. KayDay*

      I don’t have any experience with background checks personally, but I have generally heard the past 10 years OR since you were 18 is fairly standard (so you may want to double check if they want stuff from high school).

      As for the second part of your question, I’ve always wondered that myself…

    4. moe*

      Agreed, they’re unlikely to ding you for minor things.

      For a not-so-minor thing, I once had a background check place say I’d misrepresented my educational background–that I’d claimed I had a degree I didn’t. Turned out there was a mistake in the data entry on the background check folks’ part. My prospective employer seemed to take it in stride–said it was very common to run into discrepancies, and they took a “let’s figure this out” rather than an accusatory tone. We got it sorted out and I got the job, but I certainly freaked out about it!

      HR rep also indicated that candidates make mistakes on applications too, and they’re not interested in playing bad cop so much as looking for substantive misrepresentations.

      1. Anonymous*

        Interesting things, degrees. My general question is “Do you want to know what I really have, or should I describe them in terms you’ll understand?”

        1. Anonymous*

          What do you mean by that? Is your degree from a foreign country and thus not exactly a “Bachelor of X”? If that’s the case, I’d just say something like “equivalent to Bachelor of X (ActualNameofDegree)”

          1. Anonymous*

            More along the lines of “Yes, I got the B and one M at the same time. Then a couple of years later, the B turned into a different M….”

            1. Anonymous*

              Ah I see what you mean now… actually, I may run into a similar situation in the future… any advice from the folks here? :)

    5. Anonymous*

      Usually I’ve heard of 7 year background checks. Just be honest, and when it’s possible, admit that you don’t remember exact titles or boss names. Tell them what you do remember. Go back through any old papers you have to see if you kept bank statements, employment documents, or utility bills that might help you piece it all together. Credit reports are also a great place to look up your old addresses, and you get one free each year from 3 different agencies.

      This is also a good reason to keep a master file resume with all your jobs listed on it, along with supervisor names, dates, and some job descriptions/duties/accomplishments. Obviously you don’t send this particular resume out to actual job postings – but it’s useful for background check info and a starting point for a “real” resume.

    6. Stells*

      I process backgrounds for a company with a similar policy.

      They basically want to make sure you haven’t lied about your past experience. We look to make sure that the company you listed is the company you worked for – that you worked there about the same amount of time you said you did (a couple of months here or there isn’t a big deal, unless you’re covering up a gap in employment) – and that you did a job similar to what you said you did (for example, we don’t care about the difference between Office Asst. & Admin. Asst., but if you said that you were a Cert. Pharmacy Technician and they said you were only a Cashier, that would be a red flag).

      Also, when it comes to anything UNPAID (internships, volunteer work, etc) double check with the organization before you put it down. Some orgs don’t keep track of intern/volunteer records after a couple of years. If you were paid by the company/organization, though, you better list it. Even if it was a temp job (also, list the temp company not the client where you worked).

      There are going to be discrepancies. It’s just the nature of the game. I’d suggest you work on getting copies of your W2s (you can get them from the IRS if you don’t have them on file), finding degree certificates (or getting a copy of your transcripts) for the years they are looking at in case the previous school, employer or background company has an error (it happens, a lot).

      Most employers will take these types of documents as proof that you did work/go to school there.

      1. ChristineH*

        I have always wondered if I’m supposed to include unpaid internships or volunteer positions in a job application. Does it depend on the employer? Also, a lot of my current volunteer work doesn’t have any real set schedule–just depends on the need and my schedule–so I don’t know if those are worth including.

  8. AWombat*

    I wanted to apply to a job that requested two “online writing samples.” How does that defer from a regular writing sample? Does that mean they want blog posts?

    1. ruby*

      Do the responsibilities for the job you are applying for focus on a specific type of online writing (blog, eCommerce site, news site, etc)? Or does it include writing promotional emails or newsletters?I would assume it means some kind of writing for an online vehicle but that covers a pretty wide range of things.

    2. Anonymous*

      At first glance, I thought of some sort of online pre-screening system where you’d need to write to a prompt.

  9. Bella*

    I love seeing new posts–it’s like a little mini-break and treat in my day, with a side of justification as to making me a better manager and employee ;)

    I would guess you’re averaging 2 per day now, right? I would have no problem/wouldn’t get overloaded by doubling that. (I was just gone for 7 days, and there were 16 Ask a Manager posts in my queue–it was my favorite catch-up reading).

  10. Lisa*

    I refresh your posts constantly all day, hoping there is another post to read. even your short answers are great to read, but i love updates the best. I agree with Jenny, I like reading 4-5 posts per day.

    1. Anonymous*

      If you like her Facebook page, then you will see when she puts up new blog posts as she advertises them there. That’s how I know!

  11. Joey*

    As long as its quality real world employment related stuff I’ll read it. The only employment stuff I generally pass on are the “is this legal” or the really insignificant issues.

    1. TracyDee*

      Yeah, but it IS kind of entertaining reading the “is it legal for my boss to tell me what time to take lunch” type questions!

  12. rai.dav.4*

    If the number of posts per day increased, it wouldn’t bother me, simply because I only check my feeds a few times a day & read what catches my eye. If I don’t have time to read something, I star it for later …….

  13. Not usually Anon*

    I have a question for all you HR types out there who have been through the merger process:

    When a company aquires another and is going through the interview/vetting process of the employees from the new company to see who would be offered a position to stay on what is the best way to conduct the interviews?

    Ideally, everyone would stay on – but it’s statistically unlikely that everyone will be a good hire.

    100+ people needing to be vetted from entry level to management including engineering. Everyone will need to go through approximately 5 managers (different people, depending on the position.)

    I know it’s a stressful time for people, so in order make offers as quickly as possible what is the best way to do it?

    Panel interviews?
    Round robin?
    Group interviews?

    Also, there will be more info available for these hires than one would typically have for a cold candidate since they’ve worked together and managers insight and records will be available.

    Do you do managers first so their input is more easily available?

    When evaluating input from their peers/managers from the acquired company are there any tips to filter out issues which may have been due to the company failing and see how they would work in the new environment?

    I’ve had this ready to go since Alison mentioned the possibility of an open thread this week. I seem to recall someone here with HR in their screen name who had mentioned experience with multiple mergers – I really hope you’re reading today.

    1. Anonymous*

      All I really have to say about this is a big N-O to the group interviews option. It makes people feel like crap (would you like having a cattle-call decide whether or not you’ll keep your job?), and you probably won’t get the most accurate assessment of their skills and attitudes.

    2. fposte*

      No help here, but I’m curious–do you have an idea of a retention percentage or a budget ceiling? Or are you just seeing this as an opportunity to weed out underperformers?

      1. Not usually Anon*

        Just weed out under performers. In a perfect world we’d keep everyone – but we want to try to make sure we’re not absorbing liabilities.

        They aren’t competing with each other for a set number of jobs – everyone who is competent and willing to make the transition to the new company will be welcomed aboard. So the bar is set pretty low actually – it’s not about proving you’re the best there is, just that you aren’t an under performing employee.

        1. Stells*

          As an HR type – I think 5 interviews is a lot for such a low bar – it will make your employees feel like they are competing even if they aren’t.

          My advice would be to not call it “interviewing” since the word is going to invoke a context that will make your employees a nervous wreck.

          I would set up panels with some of the new managers (more people for higher up roles, but maybe just a couple for entry level roles) and do “performance reviews”. Bring the employees in to discuss their current performance and any strengths/weaknesses.

          Then have all the managers calibrate together on deciding who can stay and who should go. For entry level roles, there’s no need for EVERY manager to be in the room – especially if the performance metrics are solid S.M.A.R.T. goals. If you are on the fence about anyone, they can always come in for a calibration with some of the other managers if that makes the decision easier and more fair. And make sure everyone at that level is going through them, regardless of how good or bad they are. It may feel like a waste of time to do this with your super stellar top preformers, but it’ll keep morale from plummeting (and any discrimination lawsuits from potentially arising from sue happy employees).

          Now, for higher level managers, I’d have every interested party in the room, but otherwise keep it the same.

          1. Not usually Anon*

            “As an HR type – I think 5 interviews is a lot for such a low bar – it will make your employees feel like they are competing even if they aren’t.”

            Yes, I phrased that badly. What I meant was that there will be about that many managers with input. For example if I’m a line worker I would meet with the two people who would be my supervisors in one meeting. Upper management and HR will have input, but not necessarily interviewing every position personally.

            This is a great approach – really excellent advice. I’ve been involved in shut downs where a lot of people were left without work – but this is different and much better – because the goal is to keep people employed.

            1. Kimberlee*

              You should just hire Alison on retainer to do the interviews and guide the whole process. Bingo, problem solved.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Ha! One thing I would add, though: Pay especially close attention to the managers. If they’re good (have a high bar, take on issues forthrightly, etc.), you can lean a lot on their assessments of the people working for them. If they seem iffy, I’d look really hard at their people, to see if they’ve been allowed to slide on lower performance.

    3. Anonymous*

      Well, I think it’s important that you figure out what your priorities are in this merger. Mergers happen for lots of different reasons and with lots of different intents. What is the company specifically seeking to gain from this? That’s your start point.

      Then, accept that if you need to hire 100+ people in a hurry, there will be hiring mistakes. I would focus your efforts and scrutiny on the positions that are most critical and the positions that are hard to fire someone from. That’s probably the high level managers and the top talent (probably the senior engineers). Those are the positions where it’ll take you time and effort to replace people if someone needs replacement, so those are the places you need to get the process started as soon as possible.

      For entry-level positions and other lower-level jobs, you might just want to accept that they may or may not work out, let them keep their jobs for the most part, and take your time sorting out their performance later. Certainly weed out people in this level with documented problems, but I wouldn’t necessarily go through a lengthy hiring process with them all. If it were me, I’d probably just talk to their managers, review their resumes, and only interview people that I was seriously considering firing to see if they could justify their continued employment.

      I’d also caution you from doing anything that is merely for show. Only do group interviews or panels or whatever if you think you can get useful information out of them, not just for the sake of having a process and some people to blame for mistakes down the road.

      1. Not usually Anon*

        This is all really excellent advice, I’m so glad I asked this here.

        The intent is pretty straightforward. Company A is growing and rather than buying another location and staffing from scratch has the opportunity to acquire a competitor (Company B) which is failing. Company A gets to expand and acquire a customer base, building, equipment, etc. Without the acquisition Company B’s employees will be out of work as the company is folding.

        I don’t want to go into detail – but there is nothing wonky behind the scenes. Just expansion.

      2. Natalie*

        “Only do group interviews or panels or whatever if you think you can get useful information out of them, not just for the sake of having a process and some people to blame for mistakes down the road.”

        This applies to so. many. things. in the corporate world. Argh.

    4. Kimmie Sue*

      I’ve participated in my fair share of M&As . I’m wondering if this may be a Union environment? I’ve just never seen where 100 employees are interviewed for roles. I’m “used” to seeing a select leadership team from both organizations (including HR & usually finance) that reviews the organization, systems, processes & people. These decisions are made to align with the original business goals that underlined the merger. Necessary roles and organizations are identified. Once the headcount need is targeted, high performers (from both businesses) may be selected, without an interview process. Also, if either company is AAP compliant, there may be an adverse impact analysis done. Often stay or go decisions are impacted by the results. In terms of employee population that is left unassigned after this, in my experience, unfortunately selection is often made by whether they were originally part of the acquiring company or the acquired.

  14. Jubilance*

    I read AAM via Google Reader, so number of posts a day isn’t an issue for me. More questions & answers would be great.

    Now for my question – I’m a scientist who has been trying to transition out of a lab position for 2 years. I have an interview next week for a position completely out of my field, with a company that is known for hiring ppl with the right foundational skill set who then teaches the particulars of the business process. In my case, I got the interview based on my strong background in data analysis and project management. So my strategy is to highlight the different types of analysis I’ve done, the tools I’ve used, what info I’ve gained from the analysis & how I then implemented changes that were indicated as needed from the data. Seem like a good idea? What other things should I think about highlighting? Any other tips? I REALLY WANT this job & I’ll be interviewing with senior management so I’m freaking out already.

      1. Jamie*

        Yikes – sorry for the truncated post.

        When I was up for my current job it was heavy on the data analysis end and I stressed my ability to find patterns. Make it clear that you know how to use the data to get answers, that you can use it to tell a story to education other people.

        A lot of people can compile data – but being able to take the next step and not only articulate what it means but what it means in context and the people who will use the data is invaluable.

        Project management: I fell backassward into this one – so I’ve never interviewed based on my strengths in this area but I do know that everyone up for a PM position will be highlighting their organizational and time management skills. For a PM that should go without saying, like being able to read, so highlight the softer skills without which projects really fall apart.

        1. Ability to coordinate the work of different departments/people in a cooperative and non-adversarial way.
        2. Ability to keep the big picture in mind and up front, while simultaneously allowing people to focus on the details (without which the big picture never happens)
        3. Preferred organizational tips and tricks. I’m a big fan of gaant charts and have my own file library architecture which works for me. When it comes to the organizational part of it this can help you show, not tell.

        Good luck.

    1. fposte*

      First off, just reading your name always makes me happy.

      Secondly, you haven’t stated just what foundational skill set they value, but your plan sounds good to me. If it’s relevant, you could also be prepared with info about the scope of your project management–number of people corralled, amount of funding, time frame, that kind of thing, as well as any particular challenges surmounted along the way; if there’s an impact component to your data analysis, that might be something you want to be ready to talk about too.

      And then come back here to tell everybody about a successful field change.

      1. Jubilance*

        Awww thanks!

        Sorry I was unclear – I got a call abt this job because of my heavy experience in data analysis & PM. In my current role, that’s basically what I do – use data to solve problems, make process improvements (Six Sigma), etc. The company that I’m interviewing with, they are known for hiring engineers for the type of role I’m interviewing for.

        From what I’ve been told, a large part of this position will be making process improvements, including getting buy-in from senior management & managing pushback, so I’ll be highlighting my experiences with that as well.

        Thanks a bunch!

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Be very prepared for the question of why you are moving from science/labwork to this type of work.

      Part two of my advice is to interview them and make sure you are incredibly certain yourself that you want to move out of science/labwork to this.

      I have some PhD friends in engineering with university lab research type positions. They complain, complain, complain, and I can’t help but think they don’t know what it’s like out here. (Not that I know what it’s like in there.) They have never had corporate jobs, or if they did it was as undergrad interns, and I think it’s a big step to give up a research career for an unknown new worklife.

      1. Jubilance*

        Thanks a bunch.

        I’ve been working in industry for 6 years, plus the years I spent in the lab as a grad student. A cpl years ago I started feeling like I was ready to transition to a non-lab role, and I’ve used the time since then to really figure out if I wanted to make that leap. Its been almost 10 years exclusively in the lab – I’m ready to move on to the next challenge & start developing some new skills.

    3. KayDay*

      All good advice above. I would also suggest you be ready with examples of times when you had to do something you had little training/background in and/or had to learn something new really quickly.

      It’s great to hear that there is a company out there that is willing to hire “ppl with the right foundational skill set who then teaches the particulars of the business process.” I was beginning to think that those no longer existed at all.

      1. Jubilance*

        Absolutely! I had been dying to get into this company (HQed in my city) because I heard that they preferred to look for people with the right skills rather than someone who had previously held the exact same job. Hopefully this will work in my favor.

    4. Mike C.*

      I’ve done it! :D And I don’t blame you for getting out. I had dreams of being a bell labs type researcher, but quickly realized that didn’t match the reality. A few random thoughts, and if you have anything more specific, feel free to ask!

      1. Your direction is good, but here’s another edge – does the company use Six Sigma? Because that’s basically the Scientific Method applied to business. Also, be as specific as possible with your examples – what was the problem, what did you do, what was the result and what did you learn.

      Leverage that math! Holy crap, having different managers fight over “who gets the mathematician” is incredible during a reorg. A manager three levels above me won that fight.


      Also consider getting into Quality. I spent three years doing QA, calibration work and document control at a food safety and consulting laboratory and used that experience to transition into aerospace. You just have to find companies that aren’t looking to replace a broken cog with an identical replacement.

      Again, if there’s anything else, ask away! :)

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Yeah, math! Sorry for the outburst. . .I really like math, too. I am considering getting an MS in math, only just for fun, so I’m not sure yet. I have a lot of remembering to do & would have to take a couple more undergrad classes first. My BS Mech Eng was over a decade ago and left me about 5 hrs short of their prereqs. (I took the GRE last winter and was surprised at how stupid I had gotten.)

      2. Anonymous*


        …. or at least learn how to drop “kurtosis risk” casually into a conversation.

      3. Jubilance*

        Thanks for the suggestions!

        In my current role, I do a ton of Six Sigma & statistical analysis – gauge R&R, test/retest, method validation, FMEA, root cause analysis, etc. I technically don’t work in Quality, but I do testing for our Quality dept on-site & often they defer to my judgement when it comes to Quality needs. I hadn’t thought about leveraging that experience in my interview but I definitely well.

        1. Mike C.*

          Funny you mention Six Sigma, my company is paying for my Green Belt courses (on company time no less! :D) and I just started this week. I was shocked to learn that there are actually people in the business world who understand the philosophy behind the scientific method!

      4. twentymilehike*

        +1 on stats!!! I had to take some stats classes as a psych major and it has noticably helped me in EVERYTHING I DO.

        1. Jamie*

          This!! The single most important skill to acquire in business as it’s applicable to almost any position.

          IT, HR, Finance, Marketing, Sales, Engineering…I cannot think of one department where the person who can run stats isn’t revered.

          This will help move you to the top of the food chain like no other skill.

              1. Jamie*

                Yep – what Mike said.

                and quoting Mike because it cannot be said enough, “DON’T BE AFRAID OF MATH, IT’S YOUR FRIEND!”

                And math doesn’t have a lot of friends…math is the one people don’t want to eat lunch with, but once you get to know him you realize how cool he is underneath.

                1. fposte*

                  So where’s a good place to meet math–er, to do get some basic stats understanding? Is there a decent “For Dummies” on it, or an online thing? I actually absorb best when it’s narrative nonfiction, so if there’s anything like that, I’d love to hear recommendations. (I have Black Swan–Nassim Taleb’s, not Natalie Portman’s–but haven’t read it yet.)

                2. Anonymous*

                  And math doesn’t have a lot of friends…math is the one people don’t want to eat lunch with, but once you get to know him you realize how cool he is underneath.

                  Or as Tom Lehrer put it: some of you may run into mathematicians, and wonder therefore how they got that way…..

          1. Kiribitz*

            Fabulous. The college courses which still trigger anxiety are the ones which could be most helpful?

            Color me grateful to be satisfied with a less upwardly mobile career path!

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I have a learning disability in math, so it’s NOT my friend. And it’s limiting my job choices. Trying now to regroup and see if a different direction is the right move for me.

    5. Anonymous*

      Communication skills. They will want to know that you can talk with non-scientists. They will want you to do that without being condescending or any of the other ivory-tower negative stereotypes. They’ll want to know that you can explain complicated concepts in easy-to-understand terms.

      1. Mike C.*

        This is huge. The worst problem with the science world is their near-complete inability to talk to the lay audience.

      2. Jubilance*

        Thanks so much for this suggestion! I’ve been trying to make sure that I explain my experiences without being too technical, so I’ll also talk about how I regularly interface with non-technical teams.

  15. Tina*

    I would love more posts! I am always happy when I see that there are new Ask a Manager posts. I don’t think there could be too many.

  16. Lisa*


    I am up for a job in Spain. I have spoken to the US recruiter who says I am a shoe in for this job as I have all the requirements, and previously worked for the company as a consultant. What considerations should I be thinking about to take an overseas job?

    Taxes – Will I have EU taxes, Spain taxes, province taxes, US taxes (won’t be renouncing my citizenship at all)? Healthcare?

    Salary – With all the tax questions, I am concerned that I won’t accurately assess the salary i need to make this work.

    Contract / At-will – I am not sure about the EU contract thing since I am used to at-will employment in the US. I assume work visas would be easy to get with the help of the job.

    Interviews – I can skype, but what if they want me to fly over? do they pay for travel expenses or do I?

    Moving Expenses – what is reasonable to ask for? My first thought, throw everything in storage, and rent a furnished place before I lug things over.

    1. Anonymous*

      Taxes – Will I have EU taxes, Spain taxes, province taxes, US taxes (won’t be renouncing my citizenship at all)? Healthcare?

      There is probably a tax treaty between the US and Spain, which will spell these things out. I think that these usually go that, for a few years, you can chose to pay US taxes instead of Spanish ones, but for longer stays you’ll pay Spanish taxes (and the US tax authorities will not make further claim on your salary, but will still want a tax return filed). But get that checked by someone who knows the exact details for Spain.

      Salary – With all the tax questions, I am concerned that I won’t accurately assess the salary i need to make this work.

      Chances are you can look up things like apartment prices online. Use that as a baseline. Also. keep in mind that hiring a non-EU citizen is going to generate paperwork for the Spanish company – the variety of paperwork which has sections for ‘filing fees’ and the like. Since it’s reasonable to assume that living in Spain is not obviously more attractive than living in the US, it’s actually not in their interests to try lowballing you on salary (any more than a company usually would). With that up-front investment, it’s not worth risking losing you to a too-low salary.

      Interviews – I can skype, but what if they want me to fly over? do they pay for travel expenses or do I?

      Personal rule of mine: if a company can’t pay for a couple of flights and a hotel, it can’t pay my salary.

      1. Tax Nerd*

        (This is my area, actually.) You’ll pay Spanish income taxes, like Anonymous said, and file a U.S. tax return claiming the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion and/or Foreign Tax Credit. You’ll also pay Spanish Social Security taxes if you’re a direct hire into Spain. So all the U.S. will get from you in terms of taxes is some paperwork.

        How long will you be there? If it’s 2 years or less, ask them for a furnished apartment. (You may have to give up a bit of salary that you would normally put towards your own housing, but don’t volunteer it unless they balk and you really want the job.)

        If you’ll be there longer, ask for a full relocation of your household goods (there and back when you’re done), plus a month’s salary for “Settling In” costs, and 30-90 days in temporary housing while you select a place to live. Oh, and ask them to pay for someone to have your taxes done in Spain and the U.S. I also suggest asking for an “Emergency Leave” clause, where they’ll pay for a plane ticket to the U.S. in case of a death in the (close) family.

    2. Anonymous*

      One of the things you should look up regarding taxes: VAT. That stands for value added tax, and it is kind-of-sort-of similar to US sales taxes. Pretty much all of Europe uses a VAT system, and it will significantly raise many of your living expenses beyond the income tax that you’re concerned about. In Spain, they have several brackets – some very specific stuff has a 4% VAT, most of your groceries will have a 10% VAT, and most everything else has a 21% VAT.

      This means, dear god, bring all of your clothes with you.

      1. Anonymous*

        But…. VAT is usually included in all quoted prices. If the price on the shelf says 1 Euro, you’ll pay 1 Euro at the till.

        1. Anonymous*

          Yes, it is, which is nice because you don’t have to do the math ion your head. It also makes jeans, shoes, and T-shirts cost a really, really high price compared to what an American is used to. VATs are a great argument against buying a houseful of furniture while in Europe. It’s not an impediment to starting a job there, just a cost-of-living thing that doesn’t register on a lot of people until they’ve actually traveled.

      2. Anonymous*

        Also be aware that it is usually already included in the advertised/stickered prices. (business to business transactions are usually quoted before tax through).

    3. Jen*

      I’m not in Spain, but I’m in an EU country, and (what I think is) at-will employment pretty much doesn’t exist – for example, I have a contract with the company, saying that they can’t fire me with less than 20 days notice and I can’t quit with less than 20 days notice. I have never heard of someone being able to quit a job or to be let go with zero notice.

      1. Lauren*

        That is good to know, but i thought the contract was more about committing to # of years.

        1. Anonymous*

          Canadian here. I believe our laws are closer to European ones than US ones in this regard. Generally employment contracts will be for a indefinite period of time, with statutory and contractual minimum notice periods, and I believe you can get more notice (well, paid-out that is) if you have a wrongful dismissal claim (e.g. letting go of a high-performing 64.5-year old with 30 years of service on a 2-week notice probably won’t fly in court)

      2. Anonymous*

        Well, as AaM is always reminding people, in practice in the US, you can’t quit with no notice. But you can lose your job with no notice.

        1. ARM2008*

          I don’t believe AaM has ever said you can’t quite without notice. It’s usually not recommended, but you certainly can. – in reality and in practice.

            1. Anonymous*

              Hence the ‘in practice’ part. The damage to reputation is less of a concern to the companies letting people go without notice.

    4. Expat*

      Expat contracts in Singapore routinely promise to pay your flight both to and from Singapore (assuming you finish the contract) and give you a generous moving allowance and a subsidized apartment (because the rents are horrendous)

      You have to file a U.S. tax return wherever you are living, but I you may not have to pay any taxes:,,id=97324,00.html

      Consider the net salary! Social benefits are expensive and your take-home pay might be less than you expect. When I moved from Singapore to Germany, my gross salary doubled, but my net salary stayed the same.

  17. TracyDee*

    Answer away; I’ll read whatever you write! Your column is the first place I go once I start up my computer in the morning. (Ugh; I sound like some deranged fangirl)

    1. Jamie*

      I know how you feel. Perhaps we should form a support group. Some kind of 12 step program to get AAM addiction under control.

    2. Andrea*

      I’m constantly sending job seeking friends links to AAM articles. Add me to the fangirl list.

    3. Laurie*

      I second this. You know how Google Reader floats up the posts that you read most often and puts them on the home page as soon as you log in? Well, AAM is always the first spot. :) So, yeah.

      I’ll read whatever AAM writes and I welcome more posts, but here’s the disadvantage of more posts that answer multiple questions in the same post – when I was job searching earlier this year, I had a few questions that I was sure AAM had already answered, but the tags/categories were no help because the multiple question posts are not tagged the way the single question posts are. I tried google keyword searches, but sometimes it’s easier to just go through all the archives in a particular tag.

      I know it’s not a big deal, and maybe I’m the only one that uses AAM like a reference book but that’s the only downside of more posts.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s really true about the short answer posts not being tagged. I’ve avoided it so they don’t clutter up the topic archives with posts that are only 1/6 about a particular topic, but maybe I should reconsider that.

  18. Gemma J.*

    Hi Alison,

    I agree with the pack. You are great about helpful headlines, so it’s easy to see what I want to read.

    My quick question: In my industry, job interviews are all day affairs, where the job candidate will meet between 15-20 people in small groups. If I have an interview, do I send thank yous to everyone I met, or just the head of the search committee? I have seen successful candidates do both…

    1. Malissa*

      Wow! I would be seriously impressed with someone who sent thank yous to everybody in a group that large. I would never expect it or hold it against anybody who didn’t.

    2. Anonymous*

      I’d suggest that you stick to the head of the search committee, and maybe 1 or 2 other people who are especially involved in the process. It’s a good idea to thank the admin who is coordinating your day, as well.

      In my experience with these day-long interviews, it’s actually not possible to write thank-yous to everyone without a monumental luck streak. In that group of 20-ish people you meet, at least a couple of the people that you expect to meet will have conflicts and not show up. Some unexpected people will be pulled in to take their place, and you may never even catch those folks’ last names, let alone contact info. I rarely had contact info or the data to find contact info on everyone I met.

  19. Sara*

    I’d love to see more reader questions posted, which are what is most interesting to me here. I wouldn’t mind 10+ posts per day. Maybe you could categorize some of the submitted questions by topic into daily themed columns, such as “Problem Co-worker of the Day” or “Is This Legal? Post of the Day” so readers who didn’t want to read as many posts could easily skip the subjects that interested them less.

  20. fposte*

    Meta-question–I hadn’t thought about the readers getting comments emailed to them until it was brought up in a recent post. But I also think that the free-flowing nature of the comments discussion is one of the big strengths here, and that that’s a reason why we get such interesting and valuable breadth. So how much topic drift is too much? Or can we rely on you, Alison, to be the topic police if you think it’s getting out of hand and otherwise not worry about it?

        1. Jamie*

          We could have an off-topic discussion thread there, if people were interested. Where it would be one standing discussion topic and people could post non-work related stuff. This way if people choose to participate they can, but it won’t clutter the discussion board for others.

          1. fposte*

            I’d be fine with having it there as well, but I think it would really lose something from the comments here if all OT stuff were diverted. Not to mention what we mean by “off-topic,” given that there’s often a lot of valuable information in posts that don’t necessarily answer the OP’s question.

      1. Laurie*

        Yes, I think Ask A Manager needs a forum! LinkedIn is awkward because I can never tell which of my posts are being seen by the whole world, and which are being seen by my current boss or prior boss or whatever. LinkedIn is too small a world to share any horror stories about your previous job. :) Don’t make me give up my therapy sessions here.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d say not to worry too much and assume I’ll act as topic police if necessary.

      I did wonder why I put a stop to all the Girl Scout cookie talk when I’ve never objected to “+1” and so forth, since the latter probably fill up email subscribers’ in-boxes just as much, if not more. I think it was more that if you sign up to have comments emailed to you, you’re signing up for anything on-topic on that post (even if it’s just “I agree”), but you might legitimately feel that you didn’t sign up for dozens of emails about people’s views on cookies.

      While we’re on the topic — for people who want to keep up with comments but don’t want them all emailed to you, another option is the comments RSS feed. This is only useful if you use an RSS reader, of course — but if you do, here’s the feed:

      1. Mike C.*

        Maybe it’s just me, but I’m guessing if folks signed up for emailed comments from a blog that allows open posting, they most likely don’t mind the deluge of mail or have a folder it goes into.

      2. ChristineH*

        Is that RSS feed for ALL comments, or just the particular post that you’re reading at the moment? For example, if I ask a question in the middle of the comments, I just want to see THOSE responses; I would be concerned that the answer would get buried amidst everything else.

        (I don’t use RSS very much…. *blush*)

        1. Jamie*

          I don’t know how it works for other readers – but the RSS reader I use will show all comments on a pc (but it shows you which thread it’s for) and for my iPad and phone it is by separate thread.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Jamie, I didn’t know there was a difference like that! My understanding has always been that if you subscribe to the comments by RSS, you’ll get ALL the comments, for all posts, not just the one post you’re looking at. Weird.

          1. Jamie*

            Maybe I’m doing something wrong. I use the little orange RSS guy and on the iPad and phone can’t select to view all comments like on a pc. I need to add the feed for each new post separately.

            Maybe I’m missing something? Good thing I don’t make my living in tech or anything.

    2. Anonymous*

      If someone feels that the e-mail spam is too much, I think it falls on that specific person not to sign up for the emails. Different people have different tolerances. AAM can certainly direct it, but she can’t read people’s minds on how much spam is too much.

      She appears to have an RSS feed, though I admit I haven’t tried it out. That should be a solution for readers who have difficulty sorting the comments and posts themselves.

      1. Your Mileage May Vary*

        You can also unsubscribe from the emails. So if you sign up for emails on a topic and it’s getting too out of hand or if someone comes back and resurrects a topic that you no longer care about, you can click the Unsubscribe/Manage Your Subscription link at the bottom of the email.

        The difference seems to be (at least, to me) is that to subscribe to a topic, I have to post and click the button to notify me. But I don’t always have something to say (I know, you can’t believe it!). So, in those cases, I either skim the comments for that post again later looking for stuff I haven’t read or I enter the comments/feed link into my address bar manually.

        And, since we’re voting, I just want to say Thanks, Alison! When I first saw this post this morning, I squeee’d to my husband, “Alison cares what we think!” Which made no sense to him but I think it’s wonderful that you provide such a thoughtful blog with tons of real-world advice and you still want to check to see if we’re OK with everything. You are fabulous!

        In case it’s not obvious, I would take as many posts as you put out!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Ha, if you only knew how much I obsess about it. If it weren’t way too self-indulgent, I would try to survey you guys all the time on various questions I have about how you use the site. And I’d cross-tabulate the data in all sorts of ways.

          1. Your Mileage May Vary*

            Might as well. From reading upthread, you have a lot of readers just itching to use their statistics knowledge. :D

  21. AnotherAlison*

    Just keep the crazy coming! I’m fine with a however many posts a day you want to do, but I like to see at least one really outrageous one that gets 100+ comments each day.

  22. Abe*

    Hi Alison,

    I think that the current amount of posts per day is pretty good (3 to 5 is about how much I could reasonably read per day).

    However, maybe you could combine 2 or 3 e-mails into a single post if they were similar enough?

    Realistically, it is your blog – do what you want. If I miss a couple of posts, at least they will always be there in the archives when I need them.


  23. Anonymous*

    More posts please Alison ;)

    In a slightly related subject: Anyone here have ways to deal with feeling burnt out?

    I have a higher workload at the moment, its more difficult to do and it is all time sensitive so I can’t just take a ‘duvet day’ and tell the world to leave me alone for a while.

    I love the workplace and the extra workload should be just short term (ok, mid term, maybe 6 months) but I’m seriously feeling more and more stressed and don’t feel like I de-stress sufficiently when not at work to balance it out.

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      I’ve felt burnt-out before, and it is NOT nice.
      Is there no way you could delegate some of it to someone else?
      What about going away for a weekend? A massage? A therapy appointment?

      It’s important to take time out for yourself. This is what I’ve learnt. Go home, read a book, have a long bath, take your dog for a walk. Do something for yourself every day.

      I hope you’ve booked some holiday time after this hard working period at work.

    2. Vanessa*

      I work in a similar field, but what I’ve found is that I am much happier when I take a mental health day.I had to get over believing that the school would collapse if I took a day off here and there. I also became more strategic about my time (stopped going into the school on Saturdays and Sundays) which made me be more efficient. I would also plan out which days would be my late days and which days I would be fully,guiltlessly committed to leaving right when my contract hours ended. Maybe some months that was only 2 times, but I felt far more in control.

    3. Malissa*

      Actually a duvet day might just be what you need. It’ll recharge your batteries and give you more enthusiasm to tackle work when you get back.

      1. fposte*

        I’m not familiar with the “duvet day” phrase, but it already conjures a lovely cuddled-on-the-couch-in-my-comforter picture. Is that pretty much what it means?

    4. Jamie*

      I careen wildly towards burnout about twice a year – so I’m looking for practical suggestions to this, too.

      So far I’ve tried: Ignoring it, being extra crabby, getting more migraines, rearranging my monitors to give me a new perspective, resigning and then being convinced to unresign, visiting AAM way more often than necessary, getting my nails done, and removing all personal items from my office in an attempt to depersonalize my image.

      None of those things worked, btw. The only thing that works for me is a little work related victory. I’ll solve a problem, complete a project, whatever…that I struggled with and once I feel I’ve won the clouds lift. That and time. I’ve found if I just give it a couple of weeks I’ll get really excited about something and then I’m back in the game.

      It’s like clockwork for me – it’s almost like my brain is saying ‘fine – if you won’t take a vacation I will. I’ll slow down capacity and make you miserable in the meantime.”

      Steve Jobs famously said once that he woke up each morning and thought if it was the last day of his life would he spend it doing what he was about to do. If the answer is no for too many days in row he knew he needed to make a change. My problem is the answer is never no for long enough for me to make the freaking changes.

      1. fposte*

        “It’s like clockwork for me – it’s almost like my brain is saying ‘fine – if you won’t take a vacation I will. I’ll slow down capacity and make you miserable in the meantime.’”

        Whoa, somebody’s been watching me. Or looking at my surfing times. Yeah, I’m struggling with this right now myself. I also find that just getting out of town for a day can help reset the brain a little, but it’s been so freaking hot that there’s no place within a day that I want to be.

    5. Jubilance*

      I’ve definitely gone through the burn out feeling, one reason why I’m trying to transition out of a lab environment.

      My suggestion is to talk to your management – during the times I’ve felt really stressed, I needed someone (my management) to say “A, B, & C are the top 3 priorities, everything else can slip or be delegated or D got cancelled, etc”. If EVERYTHING is really a priority, try to remember that you are just 1 person & you can’t do anything. And you absolutely have to take time for yourself. Don’t let your job run you into the ground, cause if something happened to you, your company would keep going. Keeping that in mind helped me feel better about taking much-needed time for myself.

    6. AdAgencyChick*

      One thing that really helps me with burnout is having an end date, even if it isn’t just around the corner. Can you plan a fabulous vacation for when this period is over? Then, if you just have five minutes and need a pick-me-up, you can do something related to what you’re looking forward to, like book a walking tour or buy concert tickets or something that reminds you of the cool place you’ll be going to.

    7. Ivy*

      Meditation or Yoga! People really underestimate the value of meditation (yoga is nice since it combines meditation and exercise). What’s nice about meditation is that it will only take you a few minutes. It can greatly reduce you’re stress on a day to day basis which makes you happier overall and not having to take a full day off to recuperate (burning out cycles are never good). Whenever I have started to feel really stressed out I just take a moment to meditate and I feel SO much better after.

      You can look up all the proper techniques to meditate, but it doesn’t have to be complicated (don’t worry about having to do it the “right” way). The way I meditate is by first getting comfortable and closing my eyes (I sit cross legged usually with my hands on my knees and my spine in alignment). I start taking deep full inhales and exhales. Then, one by one, I think about all the things that are causing me stress (i.e., I have x project due, I have to volunteer tomorrow, my kid is sick etc.). After that, I start to let go of all those worries; I let them flow out of my mind in the same way my breath flows out of my body. I do this until all I’m thinking about is my breathing (and eventually not even that). Do this until it feels like the right time to stop and then slowly let your thoughts come back into focus (first by feeling your surrounding, then by thinking, then by opening your eyes). Take the calmness that you experienced during meditation throughout your day, and while you deal with all the things in your life :)…

      PS I have taken a mediation class before (it had a little bit of relaxing yoga in there as well) and it was amazing!

      1. Rana*

        I find acupuncture really good for that. Some of it is that you can ask the acupuncturist to include points to relax you, and some of it is that during the treatment you can’t move around much, so you’re sort of forced to just sit or lie quietly with your eyes closed. For someone like me, who gets distracted fairly easily when I’m stressed, the forced relaxation works really well. I’ve gotten to the point where just sitting in the chair makes me calm down. And since it’s done in a community setting, on a sliding scale, I can go fairly often.

        Of course, the caveat is that I’m not needle-phobic (and it doesn’t hurt in any case; many times I don’t feel them at all). I appreciate that this isn’t an option for everyone.

      2. Jamie*

        Recently I found the weirdest most relaxing thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

        In a recent post Alison mentioned reflexology so I was curious and googled it. On youtube there are these tutorial videos showing how it’s performed on hands and feet…they are the most relaxing videos ever.

        Seriously, I tried watching at least 10x now and I can’t get past the first couple of minutes without closing my eyes and drifting off. My husband thinks it’s so weird that I’m going to sleep to these now – but I’m out in minutes.

        Anyway, one of those strange but true things. If someone had told me I was a little tense and I should watch people getting foot treatments to relax I’d have called them crazy. Weird.

    8. Anonymous*

      My job does not gives us enough vacation. I needed some mental health days and took some mini vacay 3 day weekends at the beginning of this year. I’m trying to save the remainder of it for a good long 2 week vacation at the end of November because I’ll also get 2 days for Thanksgiving on top of that, maximizing my time off. I only have 8 days but with the weekends and the holiday it will stretch it to 2 weeks. I think the last time I used a vacation day was in March or April. I still have 4 months looming ahead of no vacation… with no idea how I’m going to make it.

  24. danr*

    More posts would be good, about 4 or so a day. Of course, we don’t know when one will take off and generate 300+ replies.

  25. Carrie in Scotland*

    I would say 3-5 posts if it’s a mixture of short answers/1 question per post or 2-3 shorter answer posts. Like many other people, I think I’ve read almost every single post and sometime I might skip ones that aren’t relevant – but I still peruse the comments because lots of interesting things come up that way.

    I have an interview with the police (admin assistant) and I am overwhelmed with the amount of info I have to bring. I also have to provide a “sample” ifyouknowwhatimean!? I would *really* love this job – not only would it be a new challenge for me but it would also be a payrise.

    1. Nodumbunny*

      Ha! I’m confusing the “sample” and the “must practice” in my head and wondering what your weekend plans really are. Good luck!

  26. Liz in a Library*

    I don’t think you could write too much for me, but then I do primarily read you via RSS, so if I’m having a particularly busy day I can just ignore it and it will sit there in the reader as a reminder. Those who come straight to the website might feel differently.

  27. anon.*

    I have a second in-person interview today (yay!) Please send good thoughts.
    Now here are my questions: 1) It’s a uniform environment. Should I ask about the uniform policy now or wait until the offer/negotiation stage? It’s probably not a deal breaker for me but I’ll be sad to give up all my nice office clothes to buy something I’d never pick myself.
    2) In the first interview, they asked if I was okay working overtime. I am, but it’s definitely something I want to factor into negotiations. It’s one thing if it’s hourly pay, but there’s a good chance it’s salaried/exempt (all my other similar positions have been). Should I ask what the average amount of overtime might be per week? During the interview or if/when they make an offer.
    I’m struggling with these two because my usual questions are about the job responsibilities, company culture, management style, etc. Advice appreciated!

    1. AnotherAlison*

      1. Don’t ask about uniforms, unless it is a deal breaker. You’ll do what everyone else has to do, so it should not matter unless it’s a reason to turn down an offer.

      2. I don’t think OT is negotiable. They ask you to make sure you’ll fit into their workaholic culture. You can ask something like what a typical workweek is like to get an idea. Years ago, I interviewed somewhere where the expected workweek was 45 hrs, salaried, no OT pay. I think I phrased it like, “I’ve heard that the standard workweek here is 45 hrs. Can you tell me more about that?” and I didn’t indicate whether or not I was cool with it. (I wasn’t, partly because they framed the answer that you should work 5 extra hrs because people get coffee, etc. That was one of several factors in not accepting the offer.) Additionally, I’ve worked places with mandatory OT that did pay the salaried people straight OT pay. You can ask, because places to have different policies, but don’t expect that you will be allowed to NOT work it.

      1. anon.*

        Just to clarify, I don’t. Have an issue with working overtime, I’m just trying to figure out how to evaluate the offer, if they make one. Right now my pay is for a strict 40 hours a week. But I’d like more money, and if I’m always going to work 45 hours a week or 50 or more, I definitely want that factored into the pay (of course, considering benefits and perks too, and how appealing I find the job itself). When I first exempt position, I was converted from hourly to salaried with no raise, and I ended up working a lot.more hours, which left me feeling taken advantage of over the long term.

    2. KayDay*

      1.) I would wait until the offer (or at least the “deal-closing” part of the interview) to ask. But it’s a totally fair question to ask how much you will be required to shell out for something you won’t wear outside of work.
      2.) Wait until later in the interview and reiterate that you are totally willing to work overtime. Then ask how many hours per week people typically work. Also ask about the nature of the overtime work–do people get called in after they have already gone home? Is it during predictable busy periods or is it unexpected? Don’t dwell to much on the overtime, though.
      -also, be sure to mix these in with your more “impressive” normal questions.

    3. fposte*

      Hmm, with the term “overtime,” I wouldn’t expect it to be exempt, but I definitely agree that you’d need to find out. They’ve made that easier for you by bringing up the issue themselves, and it’s easy to do a callback to that question when you’re asking about company culture generally and then check specifically on the status and expectations for this position. I think you can probably roll the uniform question into that as well–“I notice that this is a uniform environment. Does this particular position require a uniform, or any particular dress code standards?”

      Good luck!

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I think terminology of/use of “overtime” must vary by industry. I have always been exempt, working in engineering. Typically, our projects have hard deadlines, and if your group isn’t going to make that deadline, you have to work “overtime.” It’s mandatory and predetermined by the project manager as to how much/week and how many weeks. Now, if you just didn’t get your stuff done and you want to work another 5 hrs to catch up, that is just work time.

        1. fposte*

          Ah, I can see that. That’s one of those legal meaning/daily speech meaning things. Definitely worth clarifying as an applicant, though.

    4. Vanessa*

      I’m wondering what question you have about the uniform if you already know that the uniform is required. If it’s specific questions like “is a peep-toe shoe allowed? ” or “can we wear navy in addition to black?” I would likely wait until I’ve accepted the job and ask during the first few days of “orientation”…especially since you said it’s not a deal breaker. In my previous job, all teachers had to wear uniforms and we discussed the specifics of the uniform code at the first all staff meeting.

      To the next question, I think you should ask during this interview if the position is exempt or hourly, especially if it’s going to be an issue for you to work outside of your contract hours as an exempt employee!

      1. anon.*

        Thanks everyone! I love being able to get different perspectives–you’ve definitely helped me put the uniform thing in perspective (I think I was focusing too much on that and it’s not important). And you’ve given me some ideas as to how to phrase the overtime question.

    5. Lauren*

      I work for a uniform rental company! Uniforms doesn’t always mean you buy them, and since it is a uniform environment, they will know what you mean when you ask about it. Specifically ask if they rent, lease, or buy their uniforms. These are the situations:

      1) They could be supplied with no cost to you, rented by your employer. a uniform rental company give them to you, then take them back weekly to launder, and give them back to the wearers (each wearer has a barcode, so you literally get back the same uniforms).

      2)They lease them, which again means no cost to you for the uniforms, but you are required to do your own laundry or your company does the laundry.

      3) They buy them and give them to you.

      4) They supply the first few, then you pay for replacements.

      5)You are required to purchase your own – could be costly

      Be careful to ask if they expect you to dry clean your uniforms (professionally have them pressed at your own cost) or if you can usual a regular washing machine.

      1. Lauren*

        Uniforms can mean button down shirts and executive style pants not just polos with a logo, so be aware of the laundry pressing situation as that would be my deal breaker if that cost was put on me.

    6. Natalie*

      Maybe it’s just me, but I’m having a really hard time reconciling a job that requires a uniform meeting the legal definition of overtime-exempt. Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of by being mis-classified as exempt.

      1. anon.*

        Even the CEO at this company wears a uniform. It’s supposed to blur the line between production and corporate people. I’d be firmly on the corporate side.

          1. Anonymous*

            I know this isn’t Apple, but I can’t help but imagine an office filled with Steve Jobs dress-alikes!

  28. Vanessa*

    I love the short answer days because they hit on so many topics. I would read about 10-15 of those per day. For longer posts, 1-3 is just right for me.

    1. TW*

      I wanted to reply that I love the short answer as well since there is always at least one that I think is really interesting. My only question if there were more short answer is if it would be possible to tag some of the topics in them. Sometimes I like to reread a whole catagory of posts to refresh my memory and it would be nice to not worry I was missing one from the short answers.

  29. Anonymous*

    When I first found your blog I started going back to re-read older posts, and have since caught up on the past 5 years. Post as much as you want–I miss having pages to read at a time!

    1. Blinx*

      Me too! Haven’t quite made it through 5 years, though. But it was really nice to stumble on this blog and find solid advice, at last! I took my laptop out on my patio and just read for hours!

      I’d read between 3-5 posts a day, depending on length. I don’t subscribe via email, so tangents aren’t a problem for me. I do sometimes wish for more posts on weekends, though.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The site’s traffic goes way down on weekends (to less than 50% of what it is on weekdays!) so I tend to post less then. Clearly everyone is reading while they’re at work!

        1. Anonymous*

          …don’t make a post about us! Please!

          “Dear AAM – is it legal for my boss to block my RSS feed at work? It’s not? Well it should be!”

          1. Anonymous*

            Oops – I botched that one. Let me try again.

            “Dear AAM – is it legal for my boss to block my RSS feed at work? It is? Well it shouldn’t be! “

            1. A Bug!*

              I know I take my mini-breaks on AAM to cleanse my palate between files. It didn’t work today – I kept wanting to come back to this post and had a heck of a time focusing!

              (I’m waiting for the “Q: My employee spends all day reading AAM and gets very little work done, but thinks I don’t notice. What’s the best way to address this?” “A. You’re welcome.”)

  30. Hopeful*

    I’m currently waiting on a job response. I’ve had 5 interviews, 2 references have been contacted and they said nice things. I got an email yesterday from HR saying that as soon as she got a chance she would give a call (today). I think i;m being extremely impatient but now i’m wondering if something went wrong as i didn’t hear from her yesterday. Should i chill?

    1. Malissa*

      Yes, chill. These are good signs and they just be taking more time to get everything straight.

      1. Hopeful*

        Yes, you were right, and they just called with the good news! This site has been soooo invaluable to me, i know its why I’ve landed this position.

  31. Malissa*

    I love this blog. I think you could do one of those short answer posts everyday. It’s a great way to cover a lot of ground. I also like that you’ve been mixing those with 1-2 other posts a day. I think 1-2 more regular posts a day would be great. I also really like the links to the articles. So basically, what you are doing, just more of it please!

  32. K.*

    The only thing about a serious uptick in posts is that, as someone mentioned, they bump discussions off the home page so people might miss them. I think the rate at which you post now is fine, and I’ll admit that I don’t read everything, only what seems interesting to me (I often skip “Is this legal?”). This is true for all blogs I read.

    This isn’t a question, more a mini-rant: I had a pretty pointless phone info interview a couple of days ago that was really frustrating, because he didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. I could have saved my phone minutes. “Are you on LinkedIn? Are you using your alumni networks?” YES. GOD.

    It reminded me of all the well-meaning but redundant things people have said when it comes to dating. When you’re single, you get the same three pieces of (usually unsolicited) advice – I don’t know how many times people have suggested online dating as though it’s a novel concept. “Have you heard of Match?” Are you serious?

    1. Anonymous*

      I am so sick of generic job advice, which is why I love AAM. Some of the stuff has been covered elsewhere, but her viewpoint as SOMEONE WHO ACTUALLY HIRES PEOPLE is refreshing. Sometimes even with a network, keeping stuff in your “job pipeline”, custom cover letters, interview suits, and the like – it is STILL next to impossible to get a job. I’ll pass on the bad advice.

    2. Vanessa*

      What did you want out of the informational interview? Did you frame for this for him? In my experience the more specific I am about what I know and my needs, the better the outcome. It’s the times I just “showed up” for the conversation that I was left frustrated or disappointed.

    3. Natalie*

      Maybe Allison could adjust the blog settings so that only the first paragraph or two shows on the homepage. It seems like most people here read the comments anyway, so they are already opening the specific post rather than just reading it on the homepage.

  33. Laura*

    Maybe I am dorky, or maybe I need more to keep me through the workday, but I often refresh your site and am sad that there isn’t anything new. I can handle a lot more posts :)

    ESPECIALLY the “short answer” ones. Easier to skim. Maybe on days with a really meaty topic that many people can relate to (salary negotiation), put less posts so I have time to read the comments.

  34. Jennifer O*

    I absolutely love your blog and have been reading for years. It’s one of the few I keep on top of every day. I’d like to ssy I’d read everything you wrote. I also love the community of commenters and also read all the comments through an rss feed. The more posts and comments, the tougher to keep up with it all. (If I’m away for a weekend, it’s really tough to catch up.)

    I haven’t read through the comments yet so don’t know what the consensus is. Personally, I think the optimum would be one ‘7 short answers’ post an one (or occasionally two) long answer posts each day [plus you posts on other sites which seems to be about 4/week].

  35. Hello Vino*

    I really enjoy your blog and have learned a lot both from you and other readers. What a great resource! I’d say 3 posts max per day on weekdays. Maybe 1 post per day over the weekend? I tend to avoid my computer over the weekend.

  36. Heather*

    Breaking Bad! WOOT! Now moving on: I love the content you post. There can’t be too much. I’m always checking back to see if something new is up so I guess that means even more would be awesome, however, I’m impressed at the amount that is already here. So whatever is realistic for you to post while still responding to other posts, in one day.

  37. Deena*

    Hi Alison, love your column and would love to see more posts. Like a few said above, would rather have too much to read than not enough. My question: I applied for a job right before the 4th of July and it was a perfect fit. I don’t say that often, but I honestly had everything they were looking for. I spent some time on a killer cover letter (using your tips) and I was sure I’d at least get a call. I don’t think I’ve ever found a job that spoke to me like this one did. Flash forward a month and I’ve heard nada. The job is still on their site with a “last updated” date of early July. Please tell me there’s still hope — a month later…

    1. Anony Mouse*

      AAM did a recent post on this, and why you should move on, so let me first emphasize that you should not let your hope for this job affect anything about your behavior, i.e. how aggressively you are looking for other jobs.

      All that said…July is a big month for people to vacation, and my experience is that things can move as slowly in July as they do around the end-of-year holidays. This goes double if it’s a company that ends their fiscal year in June.

    2. Anonymous*

      At my current job I applied in late July or early August and didn’t hear back until early September. There’s still hope! Especially, as the other person said, considering the summer is often very busy with vacations and slow on actual work related stuff. :)

    3. Natalie*

      When I was applying for jobs, I sent every cover letter out assuming I would hear nothing. If it every crossed my mind, I told myself I wouldn’t hear from them. Seemed pessimistic, but it worked for me to keep my expectations in check. When I did get interviews, I was pleasantly surprised!

      1. Deena*

        Thanks guys, not giving up hope but not holding my breath either. Normally I’m like you, Natalie, and just assume the worst not to get my expectations up. But this job just spoke to me! Sounds dumb but hoping things will work out. I truly believe they do…

        1. Natalie*

          I totally get that. When I was actively looking I had one interview for a job that was so perfect, I got pretty upset when I got the rejection email. It happens.

  38. M. Frances*

    I was very fortunately hired by United Airlines to be a Flight Attendant and while I am no longer job hunting nor going to be working in a typical work environment I still read your site everyday! In a typical day I could probably keep up with you posting answers to 5 questions a day. It’s always informative, interesting, honest and funny- which is always the best part.

  39. Jamie*

    Regarding the number of posts – someone upthread mentioned about how even if they can’t read contemporaneously the posts are in the archives. I think that’s a really good point, because when I have a dilemma I hit the archives all the time. More posts contribute to the knowledge bank that is the archives.

    Regarding weekends. Some of us work weekends and really appreciate that there isn’t a void Sat-Sun.

  40. Anonymous*

    I have a question about resumes. I was working full time in my field for six years, and then went back to school full-time for two years, in the same field. I don’t know how to organize my resume. If I lead with “education”, it misses out that I have a lot of experience in my field, and makes me look like other students who got a masters straight out of undergrad, but if I lead off with “experience”, it looks like I have a two-year gap.

    I am thinking about a truly chronological resume, but I haven’t typically seen resumes like that before. Any ideas?

    1. AnotherAlison*

      In the past when hiring people, I have seen some with a brief chronology section at the top with just years and places before going into the details of the experience section. I liked this because they were 30 yr types with 5 pages of stuff that made it hard to keep track of the big picture.
      Jane Doe
      -2010-2012 U of XYZ
      -2004-2010 X Coordinator at Y, Inc.
      -2000-2004 U of ABC, BS in LMN
      Work Experience
      Special Stuff

      Also, definitely call attention to your work experience in the cover letter.

    2. Anonymous*

      Are you applying for a job where that master’s is super-critical, or is it a nice-to-have?

      If the master’s is crucial to the job that you’re applying for, put education first. Keep it very short, but make it clear you’ve got that important magic piece of paper that grants access to the employment kingdom.

      If the master’s is just a bonus but not strictly required for the job, put your employment stuff first and the education stuff at the end. They’ll care more about employment info. They’ll look at the education part and be happy about the qualification but not super-concerned about when you got it.

      Don’t mix the sections together. When the additional time in school pops up, it will be disruptive to the flow of the document. It puts information in an unexpected place, and you want it to be very easy for the reader to find the things on her checklist quickly.

  41. Anonymous*

    I would read as many posts as you want to make. Double it! TRIPLE IT! It’s a good way for me to waste time and I find it really interesting even when it’s not relevant to me.


    I had a phone interview this morning with a non-profit I’d really love to work with. It went well and at the end she asked about salary. I did answer because I’m currently employed and not interested in wasting time with jobs not in my salary range, but I hedged it with something like “I am aware non-profits and other social service organizations sometimes have different salary standards, but based on the responsibilities of this position and my experience I’m looking for around XX – XX,” the amount being well within the standard range for the position and my experience.

    And all she said was “Hmmmm….. interesting” and moved on.

    Arrghhh what does that MEAN!? I really really wish more companies were up front about their own salary range from the start.

    1. Jamie*

      “And all she said was “Hmmmm….. interesting” and moved on.”

      It could mean you were within their ballpark, it could mean you were outside of it – but maybe workable, it could mean that you are in completely different stadiums.

      Cryptic phrases can mean anything. That’s why they are so effective albeit infuriating.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Somewhat off-topic, but I once learned in negotiating class that you are supposed to react with shock to the first number thrown out. Ever watch Fast & Loud, where the guy buys cars to restore? Someone says they want $10K for the car, and he is outraged and says, “Yeah, I was thinking I couldn’t possibly do more than 3.” And then they end up at something like 6. If you counter with 5, you’d end up at 7.5, but the goal is to pay the least.

        I think most HR recruiters are trained in all the necessary head games to pay people as little as possible : )

      2. Anonymous*

        I know! I’m hoping it was good (maybe my range is EXACTLY their range!) but worried that maybe they actually pay waaaay below the standard or something.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Anonymous, it’s too late to do this now, but in the future don’t feel that you’re not allowed to just ask! In that situation, when she said “interesting,” I would have laughed and said, “How so?” Or “How does that square with your own range?” Or something like that. Remember, these are two-way conversations; treat them that way!

      1. Anonymous*

        Thanks! I do ask questions but I guess I feel confined to “they ask questions, then I ask questions” format rather than it being okay for me to follow up questions with my own.

    3. twentymilehike*

      OMG I have to commiserate with you on … I have had three interviews now for a position I REALLY WANT. Acutally, I have a friend who is changing departments and she referred me for her old job, so secretly she’s been keeping me in the loop more than the people I’ve intervied with. And the ONLY REASON I know AT ALL I know the salary range, is because my friend told me what is is. NOT ONCE has ANYONE ELSE mentioned salary at all. And I was SO reluctant to bring it up, since this is my first time interviewing in almost a decade. But If I didn’t already know what it was, then for all I know I could have bought new clothes, taken time off and end up getting offered $12/hour like half the admin jobs I see advertised these days. I really do wish that the job offerers would be more upfront about salary. It feel like they are playing a game with us! And why do they like to put DOE, but not a range? Shouldn’t DOE be WITHIN a givin range? I want to know what they are abolutely going to pay, but with a chance they may pay more if they like my background. I don’t want to even waste my time applying if the bottome line is less than I can live on. Is this so difficult!? /rant

      1. Anonymous*

        Seriously, especially for people who are searching while employed, I feel. I have taken time off my current job for phone interviews and in person interviews (the one this morning could not work around my work schedule for a phone interview) only to find out, after all that, that it pays WAY LESS than I can live with.

  42. Anonymous*

    I think the current amount is good, maybe one more. It’s not that I don’t love reading your advice, but I also like to keep up with the comments, and I think that more posts would mean people weren’t able to do that and there’d only be a few per post. Since it’s equally useful to hear people’s experience and advice on each subject, I wouldn’t want the comments to dwindle.

  43. TwentyKittens*

    What’s some of the best general-purpose management advice you’ve received?

    My personal favorite is “just because you’re right, doesn’t mean you win.”

    I keep that running in my head during all committee meetings.

    1. Jamie*

      Don’t fill the silence.

      Learn not to ramble on to fill the awkward silences and you will be way ahead of the game.

    2. Blinx*

      As told to us by my 7th grade homeroom teacher, when questioned why he was allowed to eat and drink in the classroom and students were not: RHP — Rank Has Privilege. They’ve earned the right to bend the rules a little, but don’t go trying it yourself!

    3. Yup*

      Character is what you do when no one’s watching.

      You don’t have to like everyone, but you do have to be courteous and professional towards them.

    4. littlemoose*

      Pick your battles, and tell your employees to do the same. I find myself doing this a LOT at work, and telling the new person I’m training to do the same thing. Know when you need to move something up the chain and when it’s not worth trying to change.
      (Unintentional rhyme.)

    5. Anonymous*

      1) The strength to change the things you can
      2) The serenity to accept those you can’t
      3) The wisdom to hide the bodies really well

    6. Cassie*

      “It’s more important to do the right things than to do things right” – or something along those lines. I read that quote a couple of months ago and I feel it’s really applicable. You have to figure out what’s the best way to approach something and I feel that often, I jump right in and then realize that there’s a different/better way to go about something.

  44. AdAgencyChick*

    I sent this question in to AAM and no longer need the answer because I got a new job (whoopeeeeee!), but I’m curious as to what other readers think:

    I work in a very small industry (advertising as a whole is huge, of course, but I work in a particular niche segment) where everyone knows everybody. As a result, it is sometimes difficult to keep things under wraps when you’re going on job interviews. You’ll walk into an office and recognize three people you used to work with (or, worse, someone you don’t remember will recognize YOU, but not vice versa), one of whom will immediately instant-message their friends at other agencies to say, “Guess who I just saw?!”

    In the past, I was able to avoid the news getting out somehow, but in my most recent job-hunting experience, my boss asked me to come in for a one-on-one meeting, at which he made it clear that he knew I had been interviewing. I put myself on tech lockdown just in case he had found out because I had sent an email on my work computer or because the company, which paid my cell phone bill, had monitored my text messages. But, I figured (and later confirmed with my boss after I resigned) that it was simply that someone at the interviewing agency had blabbed.

    I solved this problem at the agency I now work at by asking that my interviewers meet me at a bar for drinks rather than having me come to the office. I got away with this because I have previously worked here and they like me, and I explained to them the situation I was in (that I’d already been caught once, and couldn’t afford to be caught again). But I don’t know that one can make this kind of request on a regular basis.

    So, I’m very curious: What would you, in this situation, do to avoid being found out?

    1. some1*

      I really don’t see any other way around it but what you did; ask the hiring mgr to interview you off-site.

    2. Anonymous*

      No advice, but I just wanted to say: good for you! I’m pretty introverted, and I can’t imagine working such a small field where I’d be expected to know everybody.

      1. Anonymous*

        I should add that I meant that sincerely, I’m impressed. It sounds a bit sarcastic when I read it back, and that’s not what I intended.

  45. Anonymous*

    I’d like some opinions on the type of suit a woman can wear to interviews. I have a traditional heavy suit, but it’s hot as Satan’s panties where I live and even just wearing it in the air-conditioned house makes me want to die.

    Would someone think I was being too casual if I wore one of the “light” suits like Vera Wang makes where it has lapels but is unlined and could pass for business casual?

    1. Anonymous*

      I suppose it depends on your industry, and I know mine is pretty casual anyways, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say, go for it! I also live in Satan’s panties and I dont remember the last time I’ve seen anyone at all wearing a full suit around here.

    2. Malissa*

      I think when the temp is above 90, you actually look crazy wearing a regular suit. So yes, a lighter version would be perfectly acceptable.

    3. Blinx*

      As long as it looks professional, why not? I don’t own a suit, but have many nice jackets that go well with grey or black pants, and just wear a nice tank underneath. I’ve also worn a sleeveless dress with a blazer. But I’m in a somewhat casual industry (design). If, in your profession, suits are worn every day, I still don’t see why you can’t wear a “light” suit.

      1. Anonymous*

        I’m early in my career and looking for entry level, but even as far back as interviewing at Wendy’s as a teenager I felt weird not going in at least a blazer. There’s so much riding on getting my career started that I don’t want to mess up by being too casual.

    4. M. Frances*

      I am not a hiring manager, but I have a 100% success rate with being offered the position after interviews. And I’m always told I’m a snazzy dresser, so this is my two cents.
      As a woman who lives in the South (do you since it’s so freaking hot where you are?) I forgo traditional pant suits.
      1. I don’t think they are that flattering or versatile which makes them super expensive and difficult to go from work to happy hour or doc appointment or whatever. I loathe them.
      2. Structured dresses and pencil skirts (though some body types may prefer more of an ‘A’ line, which is just fine) paired with a nice top such as a blouse or a button up (getting three monogrammed ones in different colors from Brooks Brothers is worth the investment) is always acceptable. The key is to make sure the skirt is no more than 1.5 inch above your knee, the shirt is not showing any cleavage, and if it doesn’t cover your shoulders throw on a blazer just seconds before you walk into the door so you don’t get all sweaty from the car to the inside.
      3. Invest in two pairs of pumps: close toed and close heeled black pumps and close toed and close heeled nude pumps.
      4. Depending on the company and job you may want to wear nude-panty hose to the interview but afterwards you can tear them off once you get to the car. Haha. (DONE THAT!)

      I really like shopping at The Limited, J Crew, The Loft, and Anne Taylor (they may seem pricey but they ALWAYS have sales!). A blouse, dress, button down, blazer professional wardrobe is so much more versatile than once based off pants. It transitions all seasons, can mix and match so you never wear the same thing twice, and adding or subtracting different elements makes it always in style.

      1. Anonymous*

        That’s all great advice! I do live in the South, god help us all. It actually didn’t occur to me that blazers are close to suit tops anyway. I was thinking more of those thin cloth tops that even an admin might wear. But I could find a blazer somewhere. And I’ll definitely plan not to put it on at the house and sweat in it the whole way.

      2. ChristineH*

        Good thing I don’t have any interviewing coming up…it’s hot as blazes here (and i’m not even in the South!) and all I own right now is a dark gray pantsuit. What other colors do you suggest?

        Also, I’m always confused about shirts – do they HAVE to be button-down, or is it okay if it’s a nice, simple crewneck? How about a nice tank top/camisole?

        1. M. Frances*

          In my opinon, you can go wild with colors as long as you don’t go crazy with it. My second to last interview I wore a neon yellow structured pencil skirt with a silk navy blouse and nude pumps. (maybe it should be noted I have PLATINUM blonde hair and usually have on some kind of color lipstick. That day was probably a light bright (if that makes sense) pink.

          When I interviewed with the airline, they offered 3 people the position that day out of 120, I had on a bright red structured dress with a grey / black / white tweed blazer (but not as thick or wintery… like summers answer to tweed, I don’t know what its called) and black pumps with my hair in a low pony and bright red lipstick.

          Don’t be afraid of color!! Just know how to wear it professionally. If you need pointers Kate Spade and J. Crew both have “look books” where you can see stuff styled by professionals (and yes, I’m obsessed with Brad Goreski for all you Kate Spade fans! He seems like such a doll!)

          And no, business wear doesn’t equal button down shirts. I just like them because I get chilly at work and its easy to throw jean shorts (I’m 24) in my tote and at 6 when I get off take off my pencil skirt and put on shorts (usually with hot pink Cole Haan loafers- best purchase ever) and I’m ready for a night out with my friends in less than 5 minutes. It’s casual enough for drinks but nice enough you’ll still look sophisticated at dinner.

          1. M. Frances*

            oh, I was 1 of 3 hired by the airline and the only female. And while the other applicants looked nice, I knocked it out of the ball park. The 2 others were guys with previous airline experience and in very nice TAILORED suits. Vests, tie, everything.

            Basically, know the industry you’re interviewing for and dress 1 step above their standards.

    5. Jubilance*

      I’m struggling with this same issue! I need a new suit for my interview next week (all the suits I own are too big now, which is a good problem to have) and I need to purchase something. I want to be both professional and also comfortable so I can make my best impression.

      1. Natalie*

        If your old suits are nice, and they are “too big” in specific ways, you might want to look into getting them tailored. Taking a waistband in is a lot cheaper than replacing good wool suit pants, and tailors can do that pretty quickly.

        1. M. Frances*

          Yes! I get almost everything tailored. It helps because if a place doesn’t have your size you can buy a size bigger and have it taken in for like $30.00! The only problem I’ve come across is pleats. I have that hour glass shape and things that fit my hips don’t fit my waist, having those taken in pulls the pleats apart. If anyone has advice on that I’d love it. haha.

          1. JT*

            A guy here, and wanted to add about tailoring: it can be really important and really helpful. Two of my best-looking suits were pretty cheap (not the highest quality) but with tailoring they look great.

            I can’t imagine that conservative, structured but unlined blazer/suit jacket would be a problem for women in interviewing in the summer.

          2. Rana*

            On the pleats: I think if they’re coming straight out of the waistband, yeah, they’re never going to work. But some skirts I’ve seen have the pleats starting right at or below the hip; those shouldn’t be affected if you take in the waist.

            (I struggle with that waist-hip thing in pretty much every pair of pants I’ve worn; the only solution, outside of tailoring, I’ve found is to look for “curvy” cuts, regardless of how fat or thin you are. Ann Taylor’s, for example, are really good at that.)

        2. Jubilance*

          I have the same problem as M. Frances – hourglass shape & finding things that fit every area :-( I also have blazers for my suits that are too big – can those be altered? They are too roomy & now & make me look bigger than I am.

          1. littlemoose*

            Absolutely. A good tailor will be able to take them in for you, although if they’re lined it might cost a little more. As for your point about things not fitting right everywhere – I have the same problem. I’ve found that most of the department-store offerings come as two piece sets, but that some other places (Banana Republic, The Limited, J. Crew) sell nice suiting as separates. You probably need a different size for the jacket and pants/skirt. If you buy something for alteration in the future, go larger – it’s much easier to take something in than to let it out.

          2. fposte*

            Another huge vote for altering. I just take new stuff straight to the seamstress with its tags still on, so it doesn’t live at my house in “any day now” limbo, and that also means I can ask about the feasibility of an alteration while there’s still time to return the original garment. You’ll probably get the hang of what kinds of alteration you tend to benefit most from.

            Blazers can definitely be taken in, but it’s worth finding out what somebody would do and how much it costs beforehand, because it can get steep once you start adding in elements some blazers have like lining and darts, etc. (Though my favorite thing about altering is getting rid of the Quasimodo poof over my shoulders from blazers that think my waist is two inches lower than it is.)

            I would also suggest when purchasing that you think of alteration as part of the garment cost, so you factor that into you buying decision and, rather than being annoyed at spending, say, $20 to fix the cuffs on a $30 sale blazer, you consider whether this brilliantly fitting blazer would be worth $50 to you.

          3. Natalie*

            You can definitely alter a jacket. I’m slightly lopsided and when I wear off-the-rack jackets, on of the lapels is always popping up a little bit. I don’t know exactly what they changed, but my tailor fixed it.

            1. fposte*

              Heh. The seamstress who does my alterations has been known to say “It’s uneven. Let’s see if it’s the dress or you. Oh, it’s you.”

      2. M. Frances*

        I also own a silly amount of cardigans! But, typically, I wouldn’t wear them to an interview but after I was hired to stay professional.

        1. Jamie*

          You can never have too many cardigans. Love them.

          I also wouldn’t wear one in an interview – but staple of my work wardrobe. It’s 91 outside now and gross…but I’m freezing in my office. Cardigan is perfect for this kind of thing year round.

    6. littlemoose*

      As long as the lighter-weight suit looks professional (i.e., dark-colored, well-fitting), go for it. You could also try wearing a short-sleeved or sleeveless shell in a nice fabric (silk, lightweight knit) to keep cool.

    7. Kathryn T.*

      “as hot as Satan’s panties” — I’m filing the serial numbers off that one and claiming it as my own. HA!

    8. Expat*

      didn’t AAM recently answer a similar question? I thought she recommended *carrying* the blazer.

  46. Camellia*

    More! More! More!

    And I am still hoping and waiting for the Great Karnac/Magic 8 Ball posts where you give the answer as the title, e.g. “Your boss is crazy and that’s not going to change”, and then list a bunch of email questions for it.

  47. MentalEngineer*

    I too would read everything. The number of times I come back to this site during the day only to have a sad because there is no new post is almost disturbingly high.

  48. Michelle*

    I LOVE reading AAM and love that it’s updated so frequently. So anywhere from 3 to 20 posts a day, I’d devour…the more the better I say! :)

  49. Hello*

    How do you handle a supervisor/subordinate office affair? The secretary is receiving thousands of dollars in OT when the office policy is no OT. HR is aware of the relationship and seem to be turning a blind eye, but the subordinate peers are having an issue with the affair.

    1. fposte*

      It depends who you are in the scenario. If it’s the manager, you tell them to knock it off immediately and that another OT request would be a firing offense. If you’re one of those subordinate peers, I think there’s not much you can do without making more trouble than you want to be saddled with. If the people who could do something know and don’t care, that’s pretty much the verdict right there.

    2. Ivy*

      Ya to what fposte said. I would add that you should really take the “if it doesn’t affect your work, then don’t bother with it” approach. The fact that they’re having an affair is really no ones business but their own. The things they’re doing wrong is a)the OT abuse and b)letting people at the office find out. Unless you’re the one paying for this OT or a supervisor who’s job it is to keep this in check, then I think you’ll be a lot happier ignoring it and going about your business.

  50. mozandeffect*

    Post as much as you like/want/have time for – I get the alerts from your Twitter feed, so I read things by clicking through links.

  51. Seen a Lot*

    Yes, yes, yes to more Ask A Manager posts! Your blog and the readers/commenters are a fabulous resource for job hunters and managers.

  52. Jess*

    I already posted saying I’d like more posts (5-6 a day would be ideal for me), but I’d like to add that I enjoy the question-answering posts much more than the links-to-lists-on-other-websites posts. Most of the lists posted here are things that longtime AAM readers already know or have already seen, which certainly have their place, but I think I’d enjoy additional content only if it seemed “new” (like the letters almost always do).

  53. Anonymous*

    I think three a day is plenty. I get as much out of the discussions in the comments as I do from the OP’s letter, and more than three daily is more than I can follow. I don’t want to miss anything!

    One thing I don’t particularly care for is the multi-question/tiny answer posts. Well, actually, I like the posts just fine – it’s just hard to follow the discussions in the comments and keep straight which comment refers to which question.

  54. A Bug!*

    I think I’d read pretty much everything no matter how many posts went up daily. The only thing I might be concerned about (if I were in a position where I had the right to be concerned about anything you chose to do with your own blog) is that too many answered questions might reduce the depth of the answers.

    Some of the questions are gold on their own for their own reasons, but it’s the clarity and thoroughness of the answers you give that have kept me glued to your blog, long before I decided to brave commenting.

    One other thing, if blog posts picked up significantly, I would say a little sidebar with “Most commented recent posts” and/or a list of the most recent half-dozen or so comments would be super convenient. (Maybe someone already suggested that, but this thread has so many comments already and I don’t have time to read all of them right now, sorry!)

    1. Job Seeker*

      I love this blog and the various opinions from the readers. I have just returned from helping a family member from out-of-state and have not been on the computer since last week. One of the first things I did this morning was read the post I missed. I just wished, I had known about this blog before this year.

  55. lindsay*

    I’d read more. I often pick out your posts from my RSS feed and read those first, then go through the other ones after that. Here’s an email I got from my sister that I almost suggested she send in to you, but I figured that the answer is, “Yes, that’s legal.”

    My sister’s email:
    So I just went to the copy machine and saw the pile of unopened USPS mail. I took a peak through (like i do most days) to see if I had any mail for me. We usually don’t get the mail delivered to our desk until late in the afternoon. So I usually grab out the mail that has Attn: Kari written on it.

    However, today my manager saw me and said, “You know you can’t take the mail out of the pile early, right?” She told me that our [nonprofit] President has to look through all mail before it gets delivered to us. I was like WTF. Seriously? All the mail is opened and I guess read (?) before it comes to our desks. I guess i’ll never be getting any personal mail mailed to me here at work. I remember one time that mom mailed me something here, a check or something cause i didn’t want it delivered to my home. I caught it out of the pile early but I wonder what she would have thought. Would she have read the card from my mom to me? Isn’t there a law against opening other people’s mail? It’s just ridiculous micromanaging.

    My response:
    I know for our [nonprofit] department, the mail is opened by a specific person and then passed on to another person (for the most part – we do have individual boxes). Since we handle checks, it’s just a safe way to make sure checks don’t get lost. So that’s my first thought about it. Does she do a lot of the fundraising? If it’s sent to [nonprofit], then it’s not against the law for her to open it. I think if it’s sent to a business, then that’s business correspondence, even if it’s personal. Like email – if you use your work email for personal stuff, then they have the ability to read that some day.

    It does seem micromange-y. You should ask your manager if she knows why your president looks through it all, and if it’s ok if you occasionally get stuff sent to the office. It would be weird for them to say no, especially if you explain that you have an uncontrolled mailbox area and you don’t want packages to get stolen or something.

    Any thoughts from anyone?

    1. Jamie*

      It is legal for them to read anything delivered there. Boring, in most cases, but legal.

      Wasn’t there an AAM post about this ages ago where someone had a sex book or movie or something delivered to work and was upset that her boss had opened it? Am I remembering that correctly?

      1. Anonymous*

        Oh man oh man. Fortunately, at my workplace, if something looks personal (sometimes people have shoes delivered at work if it needs a signature, or some folks have gotten music CDs, that type of thing), we pass it on to the recipient to open themselves. But I sure hope no one is counting on that practice to get inappropriate stuff delivered, ha.

    2. KayDay*

      If your sisters organizations receive donations via mail, this is perfectly reasonable; although I’m surprised it is the president doing it and not lower level admin or finance staff. When I interned at an org that had checks come in the mail all mail went to the office manager who then gave me the checks.

      While the organization probably can read anything delivered there, it doesn’t mean they will. In my experience, mail specifically addressed to one employee isn’t usually opened. They just want to ensure that no checks or other sensitive info like bank records and benefits stuff goes missing.

    3. A Bug!*

      My suggestion to your sister is that she get a P.O. box to avoid the issue entirely if she is not comfortable with the idea that her personal mail might get opened and reviewed.

      Regardless of the reason for the mail review, it’s the work mail system. She doesn’t get to dictate how it operates, and if she asks to she may come across as sounding rather entitled. If she doesn’t want her personal mail opened before it gets to her, then she should make arrangements that give her control over how she receives her mail.

  56. JB*

    Please put up as many posts as you can stand to write! I already hit “refresh” on this website a ridiculous number of times a day.

  57. Sabrina*

    Re: Posts – I would say my upper limit would be 5/day. More than that and I wouldn’t have time to read, they’d pile up and eventually I hit “Mark all as read” in Google Reader and “try” to start over. Which usually means skimming headlines for truly interesting stuff like the woman who’s coworker was seeing Johns in the John.

    My Question: For those that are either freelancing, used to freelance, or considered it and decided not to, how did you come to the decision to do it or not do it? I’m trying to determine if it’s really something I would want to do or not.

    1. Jamie*

      I’ve done it – hated it and will never do it again.

      I know what I’m good at and self promotion isn’t it. I found the whole marketing, drumming up business thing to be incredibly stressful.

      I know people who are wildly successful doing this and they are all able to juggle three things:

      1. The professional work itself (easy part)
      2. Financials. If you don’t have money to pay someone to do this it means making sure taxes, AR, AP, etc. are all in order.
      3. Marketing/promotion. You can be the best chocolate teapot maker in the world and you won’t move one teapot unless people know about you and you can convince them to give you a shot.

      I was fine with 1 & 2…3 caused me so much anxiety I’m surprised there isn’t permanent damage.

    2. Blinx*

      Considered it but never pursued it for all of Jamie’s reasons, plus this — I would absolutely loathe pestering companies to pay me! I know some corporations take eons to pay, passing the buck up through different departments. It might be easier if you only freelance for smaller outfits, but maybe not. Right now I’m trying to go the contractor/temp route to fill in.

      1. Sabrina*

        All these are my “Um, no” reasons too. I’m majoring in “eMarketing” but selling myself? Not good at it. My big reasons for wanting to do it is that I’ve come to realize that I have an issue with authority and I really don’t want to work anywhere near sales or traditional marketing and I’m worried I may have to.

    3. Rana*

      I’m doing it currently, with plans to continue.

      It’s not something I’d thought I’d want to do, because it requires a lot of pro-activity to make it work. You can’t just be good at the service you’re offering; you also have to be comfortable with marketing, networking, dealing with clients, handling finances, etc. or have the connections and funds needed to outsource those tasks. Right now, it also doesn’t make a livable income, and then there’s the issue of things like insurance, which is expensive when you self-insure. (This is why I roll my eyes when people say to the unemployed “Oh, just start a business!”)

      I fell into it because, bluntly, I wasn’t able to find work with an established employer. I made the mistake of choosing a career path that was a dead end, and had to make the switch in mid-life to another one, and that’s something that’s pretty challenging to explain in either a cover letter or on a resume. I ended up looking like a weird mix of over-qualified and under-experienced, and so both entry level jobs and higher-level jobs in alternate fields ended up being poor fits in the eyes of most hiring managers. So it was either work for myself or start over completely from scratch in my late 30s.

      So those are the downsides and my initial motivation. But here are the upsides: I like the work; so far I’ve enjoyed my clients; the challenges are good for pushing me; I *really* like the flexibility (I’ve always been a task-based person rather than a punch-the-clock type); and I can see the potential for eventually becoming self-sustaining.

      I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone; indeed, ten years ago I wouldn’t have recommended it to me. But it looks like it might someday work… just not soon. (For example, I’m currently applying for a part-time entry level retail job to fill in the gaps!)

      Meanwhile, I’d look to see if there are any freelance organizations associated with the field you’d like to work in, and if they have list-servs, sign up. They are *goldmines* of information, and if you can find a few good bloggers to follow as well, they can save you a lot of steps. The IRS also has a bunch of informative web videos about the tax and business side of things; they are very helpful.

  58. khilde*

    At the risk of getting booed off this thread, I wish there were less of the job hunting type questions and more of the “already in the office” questions. Actually, I don’t quite mean that: Keep the job hunting ones (because they are extremely valuable for a large segment of readers (and let’s face it – I could be in that position some day so it’s good future knowledge for me), but I’d love to see more of the office antics type stuff. Of course I understand this is all dependent on the questions you get.

    I’m unreasonably lucky to work in a job I enjoy with a great staff. And since I do employee training with people who work in very different types of environments, I consider all of my hours spent here as research for my classes. So maybe this is more of a plea to AAM readers: I want to hear more about your crackpot bosses, employees, coworkers, culture, etc…..

    1. A Bug!*

      No boos from me. I also find the at-work questions and answers more interesting, but I can also understand that they tend to be more narrowly applicable to readers in a practical sense.

      I adore the truly bizarro workplace ones that are applicable to exactly zero people other than the person who submitted the question. “The office administrator staples bugs to the copy room wall and names them all after employees (I’m a darner dragonfly), but this is a leased office, is it legal for her to be putting holes in the drywall like that?”

      1. Jamie*

        “I adore the truly bizarro workplace ones that are applicable to exactly zero people other than the person who submitted the question.”

        I do too – I truly love those because they simultaneously crack me up and make me so grateful for relative sanity.

        If I had to pick a favorite genre I love the management end questions. You can glean a lot of management advice for what not to do from the posts asking about what to do about their manager, but the ones where the managers are asking how to proactively manage are the ones I tend to want to forward to everyone I know.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        “I adore the truly bizarro workplace ones that are applicable to exactly zero people other than the person who submitted the question. “The office administrator staples bugs to the copy room wall and names them all after employees (I’m a darner dragonfly), but this is a leased office, is it legal for her to be putting holes in the drywall like that?”

        I cracked up when I read this. It’s a perfect rendition of some questions that we’ve had!

    2. Jess*

      Yes! I like the already-in-the-office posts the best too. Mostly because there are all kinds of bizarre office situations that come up, but after awhile a lot of the job hunting questions and advice seem pretty standard.

      1. Anonymous*

        +1 on more in-office questions! I started reading AAM for the management advice, stayed for the rest.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      ” I want to hear more about your crackpot bosses, employees, coworkers, culture, etc.”

      Me too! Send them on over to me! Believe me, they often go to the top of my pile when I get them.

  59. Ivy*

    More posts! :)

    On to my question:

    What is everyone’s view on work life balance? I’m considering pursuing a career that would mean long long days at work and lots of travel. I figure if I’m going to do a job like this, I should do it while I’m young and before I have other responsibilities to worry about (like a family). I understand that this isn’t a life time decision (since I could find another less taxing position if I tire out), but I’m curious about your viewpoints.

    Have any of you had a job that did not have a good work-life balance? How strongly did that affect your happiness? For people who do not have a family yet (because I understand work-life balance is a lot more important then), how much importance do you place in work-life balance when it comes to deciding if a job is right for you?

    1. Jamie*

      I think the whole work life balance thing is a really personal issue and is probably different for each of us.

      It’s also different for us individually at different times in our lives, cycles in our career.

      I get offended when people think I work too much or imply that because of my hours I “have no life.” I was just as offended years ago when I was a SAHM and people upon whom this had zero impact thought they had a right to judge me. I have done what was best for my family and myself throughout the years and it’s changed. I’m sure at some point it will change again.

      Before you have a family you have a lot more freedom to follow different paths. If this job sounds interesting and exciting to you, try it. If you are happy, who cares if you aren’t home the standard number of hours someone else deems equals “work life balance.” If you try it and want a different job or pace you can make those decisions, too.

      You will be most successful if you are excited about the work and doing something that really fits who you are – both temperament, preferences, and skill set. Use this time to explore what you find most professionally fulfilling and it will serve you well throughout your career.

      1. Ivy*

        Thank you for the perspective Jamie. I understand that it’s personal and changes through life, but I just want to get your personal experiences. I like what you said about using this time to explore. When making decisions I always like to ask myself, “In 20 years what will I regret more? Doing this or not doing this?” It usually give me the answer that I would regret NOT doing something more. :)

        1. Jamie*

          “When making decisions I always like to ask myself, “In 20 years what will I regret more? Doing this or not doing this?” It usually give me the answer that I would regret NOT doing something more. :)”

          Such a great rule of thumb.

          I didn’t have a clear map when I started out – certainly no 5 year plan or anything. When I started working I paid attention to what interested me and what parts of the job I enjoyed most…got good at those because I realized if you add a lot of value doing A they get someone else to do B which isn’t as fun :).

          I just kind of followed what seemed really interesting and exciting at the time and landed backwards into a kind of great career that I couldn’t have planned for since it’s a weird amalgam.

          Trust your instinct and gravitate toward the stuff you find engaging.

    2. Anonymous*

      My job itself doesn’t have long hours, but when I started I was living in a place that gave me a two-hour commute each way; so while I only worked 9-5, I was still leaving home at 6:45am and getting home at 7:30pm. I felt all I did was work, come home and eat, and go to sleep, and it did make me unhappy. But, my job is just a job (although decent) and not something I was/am SUPER interested in, so it may be different if the job you are pursuing is something you know you’ll love. However, personally, I’m looking for a new job right now and not considering anything that is up-front about a lot of overtime/long hours. I just can’t do it! I don’t know how people do.

      1. Ivy*

        Ya, I feel like a lot of it depends on how much you love the job (subsequently, the people you work with). I don’t know if I can say I KNOW I’ll love the job, but at least I THINK I’ll love it.

        Another question for you that just came to mind: Did working so much negativity affect your relationships, i.e., with friends, significant others, family?

        1. Jamie*

          I wouldn’t have been able to do it when my kids were smaller – now that they are older it’s not really an issue. I have the flexibility to come in a little later and watch a couple episodes of The Big Bang Theory before work with my son who is the early riser…the other son I catch up with when I get home and my daughter…lets just say I’m always happy to see her whenever she stops home to eat or change between going out with her friends :)

          My husband is okay with it – he does occasionally get cranky about it. When he starts ranting that I either need normal hours or a whole lot more money I dial it back. It does leave him a lot of time to watch Star Trek without my complaining about it…so there’s that.

          I sometimes feel guilty that I’m not a better friend or sister – sometimes when I’m home I’m just spent and don’t want to go anywhere or do anything. But the truth is, I’m kind of like that no matter how much I work…so how much is work a convenient excuse? I don’t know.

          Alison mentioned trade-offs in yesterday’s post about not wanting a job – and for me right now it’s worth the trade offs. I’ve gotten rewarded for how I’m doing things and that benefits my family now and my career long term. If the cost:reward ratio changes and I’m no longer happy with the consequence of my choices, I’ll make different ones.

          That’s what’s so great with how you’re looking at things – you aren’t falling into the trap where people mistakenly believe that every choice is irreversible and forever. Life is a state of flux and as long as your re-evaluate on a regular basis you’ll be fine.

          1. Ivy*

            You seem to have a really great balance in your life even though you work a lot. So even though the job doesn’t typically boast a great work-life balance, you have found something that works for you. Maybe it’s more about finding the balance for myself than finding a job that will give me that balance… Interesting thought to consider… I feel like another big player is being able to turn off. Even people that work typical 9-5 hours won’t necessary have a good balance in their lives if they’re constantly checking their blackberry….

        2. Anonymous*

          My primary relationship was with my girlfriend as I had just moved to the state, and my family/friends were back home. It definitely lessened the amount of free time I had to MAKE friends. Which in turn made me feel lonely. As for my relationship, it didn’t have huge negative effects but it changed it some. As I was tired during the week, she did 99.9% of the housework — that she didn’t mind, but your relationship may vary. And I also felt more stressed which probably led to a couple testy/”I’m not happy so I’m going to be silent until you make it better” type things. But it wasn’t like, TV/movie “marriage ruined by inconsiderate husband’s 20 hour work days” scenario!

          1. Ivy*

            Lol to the TV/movie scenario! I’m curious though… you said you wouldn’t consider any job that had upfront overtime, but what if it was your absolute dream job? Do you still think you would be detered from going for it?

            1. Anonymous*

              If it was My One True Dream Job, I’d go for it even if it meant long hours. But it would have to be The One! I’m applying to a few jobs I’m really exicited about right now, but if it meant 6:45am-7:30pm days again I’d probably pass. However, I am a politics person. If somehow the White House wanted to hire me, I’d probably do it no matter the hours! But it definitely has to be really worth the sacrifices in the other parts of my life, that’s the thing.

      2. Blinx*

        Anon, as I job hunt, I’m looking at more jobs that are about 1.5 hrs. away, and thinking, “Am I crazy?” I would rather travel a distance for a juicy job than go next door for a mediocre one, but boy, it would be nice to have that time back.

        I’m also looking at contractor positions in a new light — pretty much no overtime. No guilt at leaving “on time”.

    3. A Bug!*

      When I was a bit younger and wasn’t in a serious relationship, I used to take a ton of overtime at my job. I essentially ate, slept, and worked and did little else. I got a good start on my retirement fund and I’m glad for it, even if it didn’t make me rich.

      If I were given a do-over (with the promise that I’d still end up with my husband now), I would actually do it a little more extreme and take a rough camp job for a couple years (they pay well, and if you get one that covers your room and board you can tuck a lot of money away in a relatively short time) before coming back to start my “real” life. There’s a lot to be said for a couple years of really hard work to set yourself up for the long term.

      1. Ivy*

        I don’t know if I could do it this way to be honest… I’m of the “what if I die tomorrow” mind frame. I can’t see myself working crazy OT at a job I don’t particularly like. I’m more of a “happy in the moment” type of person. I would not be able to wait for my “real” life to start… I would rather be living my real life all the time…. with that I’ll throw in one of my favorite quotes:

        “For a long time it seemed to me that real life was about to begin, but there was always some obstacle in the way. Something had to be got through first, some unfinished business; time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.”

        1. A Bug!*

          I can totally respect that, and really like the quote! I’m sure it’s just a result of a “have-not” childhood, but financial security is extremely important to me. I genuinely fear having to work into my eighties in order to feed and house myself.

          So I guess I have to be careful not to let my own hang-ups bleed too heavily into my comments! Thank you for the perspective.

          1. Ivy*

            There’s nothing wrong with wanting financial security. I think the quote talks more to the fact that you should never wait for your “real” life to start since you should live in the moment because the moment IS your real life. I think its tough not to get caught up in “waiting for life to start” mentality especially when we’re working so hard to overcome or achieve something… But if you’re always waiting for life to start, then you’re also missing out on a lot of life :/

            1. A Bug!*

              Yes, I think I could have used a better term! All experiences help shape who we are whether or not we’re looking forward to what’s next.

    4. Jess*

      I work for the government now where the work-life balance is excellent–no overtime, alternative work schedule where you can take a day off every two weeks by working extra time the other days, teleworking. I really love the schedule–but I have also found that I don’t like the lack of a culture of achievement (to borrow a term from Alison) I have experienced here. Because of that, I am leaving the govt for a new job soon where the standards are supposedly higher, the hours are supposedly not bad, but the schedule is not flexible (no alternative work schedule, no telework). I’ll miss my every-other-Mondays off, but I hope the more productive culture will be a good trade off.

      I haven’t worked anywhere where the hours were long or the travel was heavy. I wonder how willing I’d be to do that in the future, because the kinds of obvious next places I could see my career headed are contracting firms that require more hours and travel.

    5. Anonymous*

      There’s a lot of variation in ” long long days at work and lots of travel” so I suggest that you ask lots of questions to try to quantify that. One person’s idea of grand adventure is another person’s version of toil.

      I am going from one “long long days” job to another. I think I’ll have a lot more fun at the upcoming one than I did at the past one.

      I’d suggest asking about travel in detail. How often, where, who (if anyone) will travel with you, what normal accommodations will be like, what the reimbursement timeline is. I didn’t ask before I took my current job, and I was completely blindsided when I was told that I’d be rooming with complete strangers (not even strangers from my company!) or sharing beds with others. This was way, way out of my comfort zone so it caused me some issues. I was also taken aback by a 3-month timeline for reimbursements, which is significant when you’re asked to drop 10% of your yearly salary on a trip and get reimbursed later. That caused me some financial hardship, but it’s also rather far beyond the business norm.

      Make sure you find out what they consider to be long days and whether they’ll be willing to let you go on vacation regularly. One person’s long day is another person’s short day. Vacation is always a touchy subject, so I’d avoid asking about how much vacation you get specifically. You’ll probably have to think about how to phrase it, maybe ask someone who’ll be a co-worker whether or not it’s hard to get vacations approved. It might have to wait until the end of the process, just to avoid looking like a slacker.

      1. Ivy*

        Thank you for the advice! This one I’ll have to keep in my back pocket though since I’m pretty far from this point! The career I’m considering pursuing is management consulting (that should tell you a lot about the length of days and travel time). I’m actually pretty well on my way to this path (I’ve managed to find a good network that’s working in my favor), but I had a “is this actually right for me” moment a little while ago. The moment was brought on largely due to the whole work-life balance, which is why I thought I’d get the AAM members take :)

  60. Ellie H.*

    Can you guys tolerate some personal whining? I just found out two hours ago that in restructuring, they are closing my entire office and I no longer have a job. I’m in a foreign country (on hiatus from job, but promised to be able to return to it) and I had to call to find out just now because I noticed something weird in an email last night. It just happened two days ago. I’m so upset and I am limited in applying to/interviewing for new positions because I won’t be back home for two more weeks – I feel helpless from so far away. I already started looking at the job postings at my same organization and others nearby, and making plans to write cover letters, but I loved, loved, LOVED this job and my coworkers and and the whole environment and am totally devastated. Also, some other aspects of my life (living situation, plans to apply to graduate school this fall) will be negatively affected if I don’t work at the same place anymore. This is the first time I have lost a job (I’m 25) and it’s in such a sudden and completely unexpected way. Ugh!

    1. fposte*

      Oh, Ellie, that’s rough. That’s definitely a whine-worthy experience. And you’re even missing the on-site commiseration that can help get you through it. Just go ahead and let it suck for a bit, I’d say, but also use being someplace different to your advantage–go to a free concert, walk along a foreign river, do something with a bit of an external focus.

    2. Jamie*

      I would ask if the company is offering any kind of placement assistance. It’s possible they have resources to help you guys find other positions both internally and with other orgs?

      I’m sorry you’re going through this – if this isn’t whine worthy nothing is.

    3. Ellie H.*

      Thanks guys, I really appreciate it. Jamie – I’m still waiting to hear anything from the head of my office about it. The whole thing seems to have been done very abruptly and with some rancor (like, some of the people who have been let go not being allowed back into the building) so it is a confusing situation, much moreso to me because I’m not there firsthand. Some of the offices’ roles have apparently been restructured into a different office – mine hasn’t really been but I guess there might be some possibility of something. I also think it’s possible that I will be able to get a totally different job at the same place, which is highly, highly preferable. We’ll see!

    4. Jen*

      That sucks! We were bought by a larger company a few months ago, and this week it was time to let people go. No one in my team got made redundant, but it was a very unpleasant experience and I would probably be pretty crushed too if it happened. I hope things work out for you!

  61. EngineerGirlUK*

    Hi Guys,
    I”m starting in a new company next month and I’m not sure what level of smartness to pitch for. I know Alison usually advises to take cues from your co workers. Great advice.
    However, all my new co workers will be men and I’m a lady. Being new to the world of work I’m not sure of the conversion rates.
    I know for example that tuxedo=ballgown . But what are the other equivalents?

    1. Jamie*

      Men: Khakis/Chinos and button down shirts/polos
      Woman: Not jeans and blouses/sweaters, dresses, skirts, whatever you like

      Men: Suits or dress slacks/ties
      Women: Suits, skirts, solid dresses, blouses, blasers

      Men: Jeans and polos
      Women: Jeans and whatever you like as long as it’s not ripped or stained. Cute knit tops work.

      It’s not as cut and dried for us which is a double edged sword. We have more options, but there is more danger of crossing an invisible line.

      I would err on the side of more formal business wear day #1 and take your cue from how the other women at your level or above are dressed.

      1. EngineerGirlUK*

        Jamie, there will be 15 people working in my office – 14 men, and myself. That’s the problem… I can’t take any cues from women, there just are none.

        1. Ivy*

          I think the biggest thing to remember is amount of skin. If you’re working in an office of all guys, they won’t be THAT considered with you’re wearing (within reason, i.e., you’re not wearing jeans while the rest of them are in dress pants). What they will notice however, is if you have lots of cleavage or leg. No matter where you work, those things need to be kept in check if you want to come off as professional. Other than that, go with what Jamie said. Oh and if you’re a heal wearer, try to keep the heal to a reasonable height. :)

          1. Ivy*

            concerned with what you’re wearing*

            That was a disaster of a sentence… sorry!

            Also Alison, is it possible to add a feature that lets you edit your previous posts for those of us who have butchered the English language or replied to the wrong post??

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I would love to — I know everyone wants it! I don’t think it’s available in WordPress though (and I love my commenting system for many other reasons so am loathe to switch).

        2. fposte*

          What about elsewhere in your industry–are there women in the field you can take a tip from? I’d also say that as a new employee you’ll likely get cut a little slack if you’ve misjudged it, especially if you err on the overformal side, which is what I’d recommend. How about not a suit but a jacket and trousers (or skirt) with a blouse that could stand on its own underneath? That way you can take off the jacket if it’s too much.

          (I initially misread your question and thought you were actually starting the company, so I was going to plug the ballgown and tiara.)

        3. Jen*

          I think Jamie’s post was meant as “If the men are wearing jeans and polos, you should wear jeans and cute knit tops”.

      2. Anonymous*

        “Women: Jeans and whatever you like as long as it’s not ripped or stained. Cute knit tops work.”

        Or too low or too short. Don’t make the fact you are female too obvious by showing too much cleavage!

    2. AnotherAlison*

      I work in an engineering office, but we’re much larger, in the US, and about 30% female.

      For the women, it seems anything goes, excluding jeans when jeans aren’t allowed. You can wear khakis, loafers, and a sweater (that sounds dorky, lol), or dress slacks, heels, and a button down shirt.

      Women here do it, but I advise against cropped pants, “dressy” flip flops (I actually am against anything more open than a peep toe), or summery sundresses without a real shoe. My mental check is, “If I had an unexpected with meeting with [top executive] today, would I be comfortable wearing this?”

      1. EngineerGirlUK*

        That sounds like a good rule.
        The other week I was in my old office. ( a lot more women and uniform based dress code) the top exec walked in in a polo shirt and combat trousers.
        The new job is going to b very building site based so whatever I wear will have to be compatible with steel toe cap boots and a hi vis jacket. Tres fashionable I know

    3. Jubilance*

      I’m a scientist but I work in a group with engineers & other scientists. Generally everyone wears the same type of look, rgardless of gender – business casual pants like khakis or dress pants with a polo/sweater/blouse/etc on the top. IDK if you’ll be strictly in an office environment or have to go into the field or lab, so that can affect your clothing options as well. For example, if you need to be in the field or the lab, I’d stay away from dresses/skirts & open-toed shoes. That can be limiting but also helpful in putting together a work wardrobe. My go-to work outfit is generally some type of dress pant in black/brown/blue/gray/khaki plus a tank/cardigan combo. Easy to mix & match.

      1. Anonymous*

        On that consideration be aware of what you are wearing if you are going to have to go into an environment where steel-toed shoes are required.

        Some of my colleagues look ridiculous when they’ve had to take off their knee high boots and put on the steel toe shoes. :)

    4. Anonymous*

      You are not expected to dress equivalent to the guys. You are expected to dress one step nicer than the guys. There is a double standard. If you’re walking into a men-only office, that double standard will be especially strong. In a more gender-balanced office, there’s a possibility of the double-standard being weaker or non-existent, but that’s not what you’re walking into.

      At the same time, there are two important rules to observe.
      (1) Do not show any cleavage, midriff, or too much leg (yes, that’s a subjective judgement and varies by job). I think this should hold true regardless of office gender balance, but I’m a bit of a curmudgeon on this kind of thing.
      (2) Never wear clothes that will impede your job. That means sensible shoes (subjective again), clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty or torn if there’s potential for that to happen, clothes appropriate to the office temperature, and clothes that won’t make your co-workers, bosses, or clients notice your outfit more than your work. If you are whining to your co-workers about your outfit in any regard, then you’ve done something wrong.

  62. Anonymous*

    As one of your restaurant/retail managers I don’t get to read at work, so I wouldn’t really be able to keep up with more than about four posts per day.

  63. Confused*

    I recently found out my company is getting sold. Its very unclear what will happen as far as our jobs go. We could all (or most) be let go, things could remain the same, or we may end up getting raises or something. Who knows. I guess I’m just looking for advice on whether I should start looking for new jobs or wait it out. I really don’t want to be in the position of not having a job in a few months, but at the same time, I believe looking for a new job could be really premature.

    Of course, they aren’t going to tell us anything concrete until the sale is complete, which is about a month and a half away. So any speculation is pointless right now. But I feel like waiting that long I could be missing out on valuable job hunting time. Anyone been through this situation? Any suggestions on what I should do?

    1. Natalie*

      I guess I don’t see the harm in looking at what’s out there. No step of the job-searching process isinevitable, although people seem to act like it is.

      Looking at job postings doesn’t obligate you to apply for anything, applying doesn’t guarantee an interview, not does it obligate you to accept an interview, and interviewing doesn’t guarantee a job offer or obligate you to accept an offer you receive. You get to make choices at all stages on the process.

      Maybe you start looking and you don’t see anything interesting, or you apply but you never get a call back. That doesn’t change anything about your current situation, and you’ve lost nothing but a fairly small amount of time.

    2. Jen*

      I agree with Natalie. The same happened to my company and they started letting people go this week. My team is safe, but it was scary and it felt like dodging a bullet! At least make sure you know what opportunities are in your industry and maybe backups (for example, there’s very few companies hiring tech writers in my city, but I could go back to publishing or maybe do QA if I can’t find another tech writing job).

    3. Sabrina*

      My husband is going through this. Some folks jumped ship right away, can’t blame them there. He is still there and right now has a job through the end of the year, possibly longer. They offered folks a severance, so everyone who left right away didn’t get that. His dept gets a better bonus b/c they need them to stick around. So sometimes sticking around pays off but if a great opportunity comes up I would not turn it down.

    4. danr*

      Wait until you know what the severance package is and what you’ll get from it. My old firm went through this last year and the beginning of this year. We were all let go at different times, but those folks who did well on the severance waited to start looking so they wouldn’t lose the package by leaving early. Those who weren’t going to do well started looking immediately.

  64. Anonymous*

    No max # here — I’m a pretty quick reader so I’d probably skim the headlines and skip anything I wasn’t interested in/ didn’t have time to read right then, but I’d be thrilled to see WAY more posts if you were willing to write them!

  65. Anonymous*

    In the interests of my own productivity, I limit blog viewing to once per day, so I’d say one really good post. I don’t read links to other articles, so I always ignore the “over on some news site” links. I’m sure I’m in the minority though.

  66. Jamie*

    I have a weird one for you guys. What’s with the poo smearing employees? And that’s not a metaphor.

    I worked at two places in the past where there were company wide meetings about someone’s proclivity to smear feces on the stalls of the men’s room. Two different places, no common employees.

    So this came up with another co-worker who said she had worked at 3 places where this was an issue…none of which overlap with my two places. She was nonchalant, like this wasn’t the most bizarre thing in the world.

    What is up with that??

    Seriously, it’s one of those things that just bugs me and I can’t google it because lord knows what would turn up for “workplace poo.”

    1. karenb*

      Funny, that just happened here. I had NEVER heard of it before, now you are telling me it happens it many places?? Picture me shaking my head in disbelief

    2. Malissa*

      It’s truly passive-aggressive crap smearing. It’s juvenile and a way for some one to get back at the company where they think they won’t be caught.

      1. KayDay*

        you’ve got to be really dedicated to your anger if you are willing to touch your own feces.

    3. Natalie*

      I work in commercial property management, so I’m pretty familiar with people’s propensity to be absolutely fuckers in restrooms they don’t clean.

      As far as I can tell, it’s people who are enraged about something and either a) think they’re getting back at the person they’re enraged with or, b) get some sort of psychological release from the behavior.

      The building I office in houses two government hearing offices (like regular courts, but for specific federal laws) and used to house a third, and we seem to have an increase in deliberate mess-making when there is a contentious hearing. We also notice them around the time some tenant is struggling significantly and is either not paying their employees or laying people off.

      1. Jamie*

        If it’s some kind of weird psychological release that’s what is so scary. I mean who wants to work side by side with someone who is capable of doing that? What else are they capable of if they get angry enough?

      2. Anonymous*

        What I’m totally grossed out by is the fact that these people must have used their hands or something to ‘scoop’ and ‘throw’ for it to get on the walls and stuff… Eww!

    4. some1*

      it happened in the women’s room at my old company after a round of layoffs. Ironically, if the smearer was angry at she or her friend(s) getting laid off, she was so taking it out on the wrong person — the cleaning woman didn’t make the layoff decisions!

      1. Anonymous*

        I worked somewhere where the toilets got actually broken and smashed up by someone after we announced a paycut (instead of laying people off we asked everyone to take a % paycut for a short while and had an agreed plan to reinstate asap).

        They did it again when we had to take away radios due to health and safety concerns due to the noise.

    5. M*

      I worked in a terrible office that made the NYT due to the behavior of employees. People were so miserable there that someone cr*pped on the bathroom floor during the Christmas party and left a smiley face on a sticky note next to the pile.

    6. littlemoose*

      I’ll never understand it, but I believe it is frighteningly common in public restrooms as well. Read any blogs by food-service, retail, etc. employees and you’ll get some stories about cleaning this stuff up. I don’t think anybody that is halfway psychologically healthy will ever get it.

    7. KayDay*

      hahaha, I was actually just thinking about posting on a similar, but not quite as bad, problem.

      I was just in our restroom (TMI, maybe?) and we have a recurring problem where someone (or somefew) keeps clogging the toilet. This person seems to build a giant nest of multiple seat liners and toilet paper before doing their thing, and then use tons of paper afterwords. Today, there was some sort of organic-looking matter on the seat, but I did not investigate further.

      It’s very frustrating to have one or two of the mere three stalls unusable until the cleaning person comes in in the afternoon. And why the @#$! are they doing this? Our restroom would be very clean if it wasn’t for this person.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, we had the nest-building problem and toilet-clogging in a former workspace too! And once I was in the stall next to where the nest-building was going on, and I couldn’t figure out what, if anything, I should do. ID the perp? Make a citizen’s poo police arrest?

        It cost the place a considerable amount of money over time, that’s for sure, and I’m glad I’m not in that building any more.

      2. Anonymous*

        Fun story from a public washroom that I frequent – there’s one individual (I can tell from the footwear) that’ll come in, oblivious to the fact that someone else is there, and turn the washroom lights OFF (now mind you, it’s not completely dark – some lights stay on), before sitting down, talking to themselves the whole time, eventually leaving, sometimes without flushing, and once I saw the ‘payload’ on top of a piece of paper towel, like some trophy.

        (Sorry, rambled on, TMI, but I really wanted to get that off my chest) Anyways, I’ve always been too intimidated to confront this person, so I’ve taken to hiding in the stall and waiting until they’re gone before stepping out.

    8. Liz*

      It happened in the women’s restroom at a place where I worked, when we were all putting in overtime and one boss applied some perhaps unwarranted pressure to a particular team. I wouldn’t have believed it but I walked in while they were cleaning it up. (NOT a great moment in my career).

      A friend of mine who works in the part of a legal department that fires people for a government agency said that it’s a symptom of someone who’s been seriously abused in childhood, and it comes out with stress when that person has no outlets for rage or power issues. So a person who’s caught doing that will usually get counseling rather than immediate termination.

  67. ThomasT*

    I read your blog through RSS. I recently came back from a tech-free vacation, and yours was one of the blogs that I caught up on first. I sometimes click-through to your articles at Quickbase and US News, but since they’re often revisiting topics you’ve covered before, I often skip the actual article. What would change as volume increased is the likelihood that I would click through to read or make comments. I’m a low-volume commenter, but read a lot of them. But if there’s six articles to read, I’m unlikely to have the time to click through and engage with the comments.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is my worry! I love reading the comments — probably would have stopped blogging a while ago if it weren’t for the comments, which keep things interesting for me — and I don’t want to cause people to comment less.

  68. MichelleM*

    Google Reader is my best friend and I’m always looking for updates from you. I’d read as many as you put out :)

    Now for my question to any out there, I’m currently a Librarian working in academia but I initially got my MLIS and concentration in Archives & Records Management. I’m having a hard time getting back into Records Mngmt where I would essentially like to be. I’ve taken on some work from my school Registrar and my boss doing some basic data input, records retention, and updates to info in our database.

    Are there any RM or Database Managers out there who would be so kind to give me tips on how to work myself back into that job market? I know it’s tough but I’m patient, I’m just not sure what skills I should be learning or working on. Thanks!

  69. AHK!*

    A colleague of mine recently had a miscarriage at 30 weeks. We sent a card around the office for people to sign and extend sympathies to her, and she’s recuperating at home for a few weeks. My question is, when she returns to the office, what is the appropriate thing to say? Is saying just, “It’s good to see you back” acknowledgment enough?

    1. Jamie*

      Yes. Do not mention it. People will and they will make it worse.

      If you’re close enough that she mentions it to you first, you can certainly extend your sympathies. If she doesn’t mention it I would consider it a topic non-grata.

    2. Sabrina*

      OMG that’s horrible. Sadly, I’ve had a couple of friends and also coworkers that lost a baby. I would say glad to see you back and leave it at that unless you are really close to her. Saying more could set her off crying and she probably doesn’t want to cry in the office.

    3. Ivy*

      I agree with Jamie. Your colleague will be trying to get her life back in order. People reminding her what happened every step of the way will make getting back to normalcy a lot harder on her.

    4. Malissa*

      Yes please don’t mention it. As someone who just had a bad situation, I really only wanted to tell the whole story once I got back to work and drop it. Continued talking about the situation just made it worse. I actually had to tell a coworker that i wasn’t going to play 20 questions on the subject and that I had work to do. It she wants to talk about it she’ll bring it up.

      1. fposte*

        When my father died, I appointed a colleague who’s a close friend as my communications officer. It was really helpful–she did my thank yous, answered any queries (he just died of old age, but even then people ask stuff) and told people when I was back at work and when I was out of town, etc. So if there’s someone you can take into confidence in a situation like that, I highly recommend designating so you can do the emotional thing in peace.

    5. littlemoose*

      I’ve been there – my coworker lost her baby at five months. She took some time off, and during that time our main boss let us know what had happened in a kind, minimal-info way. We all signed a card and set flowers. When she did return to work, I didn’t mention anything and just interacted with her at work as I normally did. I didn’t want to upset her or distract her from work. It really helped that we did the card and flowers, though; that way I knew I had acknowledged her grief and my sympathy for her, and it was easier to not mention it when she returned.

  70. HB*

    I would think I could handle up to 5 new posts a day before I felt like “oh jeez, this is a lot to take in!” But honestly, I’d read anthing you put up! I, like others, went through your entire archive when I discovered this site over a year ago. I love reading your posts! I have practically become the “job hunt guru” to my job-hunting friends due to repeating your awesome advice. I tell them all the time to read this blog!

  71. Argh!*

    I would read them all. I check your site at least six times a day and I always sad if it hasnt been updated. :)

  72. Annie*

    At what point should the Director and the Manager “let go” of daily operations. We have a group of client manager and both the director and manager moved up the ranks, however in their current roles both of these individuals continue to be involved in daily managing of clients, when I feel they should be navigating the department, developing people, and doing other visionary things instead of still acting as if they were still in their old roles.

    Do you agree? or is it okay for managers to still be involved in things their subordinates should be dealing with? How can we encourage them to let go?

  73. jmkenrick*

    I think I’m a bit late to the thread, but I have a topic that I’d love people’s thoughts on.

    How do people find is the best strategy to stay focused? I’ve always had trouble with being easily distracted. In school, it’s not a huge issue, because classes are generally about an hour and focused on one thing at a time. But work is different. It’s a big 8-hour time period where you’re at a desk, and the e-mails and calls come in all the time.

    I feel like it’s way too easy for me to start on a task, get distracted by an e-mail, get distracted by a coworker, start another task, check my gmail, get distracted by a phone call, and so on and so forth. I’m sure I would be more effecitive if I really focused on doing one thing at a time, but as the day wears on, it gets harder for me to not get distracted.

    I can’t be the only person who experiences this and I wonder how other people deal with it.

    1. Jamie*

      At the risk of sounding like the world’s biggest hypocrite since the only thing I’ve been able to focus on today is this thread

      (although to be fair I worked last weekend and will work this weekend and so I banked some stress relief goof off time in my head – yet I feel the need to justify it to the internets so there’s guilt on some level.)

      But I do have periods of focus and so I know a couple of tips:

      1. Define the things which for you constitute a true emergency for which you would drop what you’re doing and attend to immediately. This is a short list for most people – too many people blur the lines between true emergencies and ‘this will just take a seconds.’
      2. For anything not on your emergencies list learn how to tell people you will attend to it as soon as you can and give them a reasonable time estimate. As long as they know you have them in your queue of things to do, they should be able to give you a reasonable period of time to address it.
      3. Unless it’s the big boss – then ignore #2 and just do it.
      4. Blocks of time. Say something will take you an hour – devote 20-30 minutes to it in a solid block. You will often find you’re on such a roll you’ll power through and finish. If not you got a lot more done in a solid 20 minutes than you would in 4 – 5 minute increments.
      5. If you’re me – forbid yourself from checking the internet during those blocks of time. Because it’s easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole.

    2. AHK!*

      The only way that I can stay focused, whether as a student or as an employee, is by breaking things down into smaller tasks. And I’m always making lists of these tasks, sometimes broken down into short-term tasks (aka, need to do now) and long-term tasks (could take a few months to do).

    3. Rana*

      Check lists, and rest breaks. I find it useful to look over my tasks for the day and to figure out which require the most concentration, and which are better when I’m tired and a bit more scatterbrained. Since I’m best at concentrating in the morning, and doing more creative stuff in the afternoon, and am pretty short on concentration in the evening, I structure my day’s tasks so that the hard tedious stuff comes first, and then I shift to juggling between the smaller, less difficult stuff as the day goes on. Personally, I find it sometimes easier to have three projects that I can switch off between during the day, than to spend day 1 working only on one project, day 2 only on the second, etc.

      Another thing that can help is to set a timer – either a real-life one or one on the computer – for a set amount of time and not allow yourself to stop or switch tasks until it goes off. 20 minutes is a good time; they’ve done studies that show that people get “full” after thinking about something for that long without a break, so taking a micro break, or switching to a different task, after that works well.

    4. Liz*

      I hear you. It’s not easy to keep track of a bunch of things. And some people LOVE multi-tasking, but I don’t. I hated waitressing for exactly that reason. (I always made everyone else more tips when I worked because I keep things organized and can anticipate system failures – my tables, though, suffered).

      Anyway, I have the worst habit of writing little notes to myself on scraps of paper and leaving them everywhere. I don’t recommend that.

      What does work, for me at least, is to write a list at the end of the day saying what I did. When I have the right kind of boss I send it to him/her. When I don’t I just do it for myself. Toward the end of the day, when my energy would be flagging, I’ll start trying to shove in more things instead so I’ll have more for the list. I like to end the list with a short list of priorities or tasks for tomorrow, too, that I can check first thing.

      I also keep a note with the top three priorities for the week somewhere on my desk, so anytime I’m flagging on one project I can switch to another.

      Which brings me to the philsophy behind my approach: I don’t know if anyone else agrees, but I think the key to avoiding procrastination is to just do something else whenever you want to procrastinate, but to make that something else something that is also reasonably productive. It doesn’t always work – if I’m upset about anything I get very spacy, for example – but it’s generally kept my average output higher than it probably would be.

  74. Laura*

    I think 4-5 posts would be the maximum for me…I like to read everything and really enjoy many of the comments on the posts so more than that might really cut into my productivity :)

    I have a question & would love feedback….I’m 6 months pregnant. My company is getting bought out soon and the new company is planning on bring a lot of changes (I will likely be able to keep my job in some form). People keep asking me if I’m coming back after baby, and honestly I DON’T KNOW. The morale here is very low and has been for some time, and it could get better or worse when the new people take over. I might decide to stay home for 6 months, go part time, or find another full-time job. I honestly don’t know and want to let things play out before I make a decision. How can I communicate this when people ask (especially to my boss) without seeming like I mislead them if I decide not to come back? All my leave is unpaid and I’m on my husbands insurance so benefits aren’t an issue here. Thoughts?

    1. some1*

      I say tell everyone you plan to come back after maternity leave for the time being. If you decide to extend your leave or not come back FT or at all, who’s to say you were “misleading” anybody at all?

  75. Undecided*

    I am currently having a dilemma that I hope someone is still around to help me sort out.

    I am trying to get into a field that is very difficult to break into. This morning, I had a conversation with someone about a volunteer opportunity that could go on my resume and help me achieve my ultimate goal in the industry. The guy I talked to had a good sense of humor and told me some things about the position that I think I would like. Since it’s volunteer, he’s not asking me to commit to X amount of hours, which is great, because my full-time job and other volunteer position keep me busy. He also works with someone who is well-connected in the industry, which will help me do this job better if I decide to accept it since he would introduce me to that person.

    However, there are downsides. Obviously, I’d be working for free…which I’ve already been doing to build experience and a portfolio for two years, and I’m at the point where I’d like to be paid for my work. Also, I really won’t be learning anything new; just doing what I already can do. At this point, I would like to seek new challenges in case what I want to do never pans out, but I also don’t want to quit working towards my goal, if that makes sense. Although the guy ideally told me he’d like to choose someone this afternoon, he was fine giving me time to think things over and make up my mind. I told him I could let him know by the end of the weekend, and he accepted.

    Furthermore, while the person I talked to seemed very nice and accommodating, hearing about the opportunity just left me cold. And that’s disappointing because I thought this would be a no-brainer “I REALLY want to do this!” decision since it would help me with my career. Unfortunately, I’m not feeling it.

    What should I do?

    1. AnotherAlison*

      First off, I am a big “woo-woo” believer in the gut check. If the opportunity left you cold, don’t take it, no matter how much the logic makes it seem right.

      But, gut instinct aside, here are two questions to ask yourself:

      1. What is the upside to taking the opportunity? (You already said you can do the work, skill-wise, so is it meeting people that will help you break into the industry with a paying job opportunity?)

      2. Is your dream really still your dream? (I think we sometimes get caught up in chasing something we wanted when we were 22, only to find that when it’s available at 27, it no longer fits who we are.)

      I recently decided that what I thought was going to be my next step doesn’t fit with other life plans anymore, so I’m sort of in the same boat. I am still in the related (paying) job, so it’s hard to stop focusing on that goal. And, after chasing that goal for several years I have a completely blank page of What To Do Next. . .it’s unsettling.

      1. Undecided*

        Oh my gosh, are you me? Haha. Quick let me make sure my alter ego isn’t logging into my laptop and writing stuff…


        The upside for me to taking the opportunity would be meeting more people, which never hurts regardless of what kind of work you do, and also just having something else for my resume. I feel like these days, there’s some sort of underlying pressure to put as much on your resume as you can to stand out and look better than everyone else. That’s part of why I’m going for this.

        As far as my dream…honestly, I have considered giving up on it before, but I’m still chasing it and want it. However, I’m 27 (which I think you are too if what you wrote about age is you and not just an example), and feel like it’s time for me to pick a practical path and settle into something. And like you, I’m in the related paying job, so even though I have other interests and passions besides my big goal, it’s hard to take focus off it.

        It’s not that I don’t enjoy my big goal anymore…it’s just that the competition is so intense that I feel like I’ll never get that break I need and I’ll be stuck working for free forever. I know so many other people in the same boat as me that face the question of whether to keep going in our field. I’ve been blessed to have a mentor who supports me unconditionally and whose path into my choice industry has inspired me to keep going (although I’ll say that it sounds like some luck was involved for them), but at the same time, I feel like I’m running out of time or that it’s too late. And I know that’s not a good way of thinking. After all, my mom got her nursing license when she was in her 40s and that mark is years off for me yet.

  76. Katie*

    More posts, definitely. I would read them all!

    My question is a bit random and specific. Whenever I’m waiting for my interviewer in a lobby-type place, I either pick up the magazine or brochure from the office or read a book I keep in my bag. I do this partly because I feel stupid sitting there not doing anything but also it’s just what I do all the time.

    So when the interviewer comes in and greets me, I’m a bit awkward about putting the book/magazine down and getting up in time to shake hands. Should I nix reading? Or is there some sort of magical trick I don’t know?

    1. Jamie*

      Reading is fine – it’s preferable to staring straight ahead and possibly creeping out the receptionist who will be asked what she thought of you. :)

      Nothing to feel awkward about – just put it down/away and shake hands.

    2. Anonymous*

      As a receptionist, I much prefer people to read than just sit staring! When I’m the one waiting in a lobby, if I read the paper, I only read the front page (so I don’t have to fold it back up). I usually read books on my phone so I can just slip it into my purse quickly, but if I read a paper book I’d be ready to put it up the whole time, i.e. bookmark already in hand.

    3. Laurie*

      Lol. It’s not just me! Ha.

      In the past, I’ve managed to keep myself occupied by sitting very close to where the magazines are, and putting the magazine back in it’s spot before getting up to shake hands.

      Occasionally, I’ve been on my phone and the interviewer comes to the lobby, and I quickly place the phone on (not in) my bag so I can get up to greet the interviewer. Unfortunately, this means, I have to pack my handbag up again when the interviewer motions for me to follow him/her to the interview room. So, the phone thing didn’t turn out to be any less awkward in my case. :)

    4. Rana*

      Assuming you’re not also balancing a purse on your lap…

      Greet the person, close book, switch to left hand, stand up, and shake with the right. Then collect your purse, stow the book, etc. :)

  77. jones*

    I would love to read you multiple times a day. I try to read at least once a week. Now, I don’t follow you on Twitter (yet), but I’d read everything you wrote if I received a notification every time you posted.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sign up for the email updates! You can choose daily or weekly, and you’ll get an email with everything I’ve posted since the last email.

  78. Joanna Reichert*

    Alison, I’ve been reading you on and off for about 3 years. I read everything you post and would welcome anything you thought important enough to include here. There’s no limit – really!

  79. littlemoose*

    I’ll join the chorus – I’ll happy read as much as you post. AAM is one of my favorite websites, period.

    1. littlemoose*

      Although I would never want to interfere with your Breaking Bad time. That show is amazing.

  80. ChristineH*

    Any research types here? This is more of a vent than a question, but input is welcome:

    I’ve mentioned before here and on the LI group that I have an MSW and was planning on a relatively traditional social work career; thus, all of my coursework were focused on working directly with clients/patients. Lately, I’ve become interested in program development/planning or evaluation (was recently on a United Way panel reviewing grant proposals from human service agencies).

    I’ve always loved research and the information & knowledge it generates. However, the jobs that I see (mainly at my university) all want research and related experience. I know we’ve discussed the whole “experience” conundrum in past threads. But how the heck do you expect me to get experience in the first place?? Trust me, I’ve been trying to get experience since last year, but none of them panned out. I have a couple irons in the fire now, but I’m not holding my breath. Plus, I know fieldwork is often involved, and that’s a difficulty for me due to not driving.


    1. Anonymous*

      I’m a researcher. I’m not in social work, I’m in physics, so take what I say with a bag of salt since there are huge differences in our fields.

      Most research jobs are not really open to people who didn’t make that their career path. Researchers as a whole tend to be ivory-tower types with strong biases about how career paths “ought” to look. Many won’t take a non-traditional candidate such as yourself seriously at all. One big skill that you may or may not lack that is essential to all research – mathematics, especially statistics.

      If you want to switch into research, go to grad school. Many (but not all) grad schools will take people who are making a career change. I know a couple grad students who had 10-year careers before they decided they wanted to do research and started grad school. You can do a master’s in 2 years in many places, and that might be enough for what you want to do. PhDs normally take 7 years in my field, and I have no idea how they go for sociology (for computer science, I’m told it’s more like 4 years). Most of the PhD time is spent in a protracted form of hazing where you “put in your time” and about 2-4 years of it are actually useful and productive to your career.

      For us, once grad school starts, we get to do research after about 1 semester. That first semester is usually spent teaching, and it’s possible that future semesters may also involve teaching. We get to do useful, substantive research (instead of minor tasks or busy work) after about 1 year, and we get to start our actual thesis work after maybe 2-3 years. Years 3+ are spent doing your big research project, helping other people with their projects, publishing, and learning that your all-knowing research adviser is actually an idiot (it’s tradition, regardless of who your adviser is and how brilliant he may actually be).

      Then, after grad school, you get to apply for all the jobs that you’re looking at now: lab techs, post masters/ post docs, researchers, professors, or whatever.

  81. Rana*

    I like that there are several posts a day, as they’re the treats I use to reward myself for completing tasks! I see them via FaceBook or RSS, so there’s no problem for me with them sliding off the front page.

    Here’s a question, mostly because it’s rattling around my brain distracting me from things I should be focusing on instead.

    I’m interviewing for a part-time, entry-level retail job at a store that has a casual, outdoorsy vibe. Typical employee wear at that level is cargo pants and polos or t-shirts, so it’s a step down from business casual, while the upper management wears business casual. What do I wear to the interview?

    The factors in my thinking:

    A suit is too dressy. No one there, not even upper management, wears a suit. So I actually have to *think* about this, argh! Plus…

    The weather the day of the interview is supposed to be HOT. I had thought of either a nice dress with cardigan or a skirt and blouse, but then I realized that nobody there wears dresses or skirts, either. I do have some sporty skorts and capris, but they are far too short, so that’s a no go either.

    Additional complication, maybe. Most of the work on my resume is several steps above the job – which obviously didn’t strike them as an automatic no-go, since they are interviewing me – so I’m worried about coming off as “too good” for the job. I want to look competent, ready to work, and not afraid of doing the basics, but also not unprofessional.

    So… khaki pants? With a nice, tailored buttoned-down blouse? That’s what I’m leaning towards, but is there anything I should be aware of that might be a problem with that?

    (Now I’m off to follow Alison’s advice about prepping for the interview, since I’m convinced it was her cover-letter advice that got me the interview!)

    1. fposte*

      I was leaning toward khakis before you even suggested it. This is also a situation where a nice light cardigan could add some polish if you have a summerweight one, but that’s not vital. I tend to notice accessories a little more if people are dressing down, so I’d suggest you make sure your shoes are unscuffed, and if the waistline is visible, use a nice belt.

      Good luck!

      1. Rana*

        Thanks! The suggestion about the accessories is a good one; I don’t think about them as often as I probably should.

        1. Rana*

          Well, the interview went well (I think/hope) and the outfit I wore was perfect – the interviewers were in jeans and t-shirts themselves. So, yay, and thanks everyone for the advice!

  82. Anonymous*

    I usually read most of what you post, sometimes I don’t have time to read it all the way through, but I would love to see more! I have learned so much from you as a young person just starting her career. Plus, I would love to hear those interesting questions!

    Also, I need help with a problem: I work in a very small office and I often find that when I do not do something in the way the boss prefers, I am never allowed to try it again. I am also given no feedback when this happens. I am often left with little to no work because he only trusts the other lady in the office, who has been there 12 years. I take it very hard (I know, I shouldn’t), but it sucks and does not exactly inspire confidence. I want to work and learn but I feel blocked. Recently, a task was taken from me without any reason and without anyone telling me why. I confronted my boss, he had feedback for me but ended the conversation quickly and said we would talk about it next week. I doubt it will happen. Has anyone else dealt with this before? I truly do not understand this management style, if it even is one.

    1. Jamie*

      How is your relationship with the other lady in the office?

      If it’s good I would work that angle to get more stuff assigned because if he trusts her and she trusts you he will come to trust you.

      It sucks to recommend an indirect way around it – but I’ve seen it work.

    2. Natalie*

      Wow, this sounds really familiar. I had nearly exactly this experience when I first started my job (just found my first performance review, blegh).

      I don’t think this would work for everyone, but eventually I was so sure I was going to be fired that I lost all fear of asking my boss for direct feedback, constantly.

      To stave off boredom, I also took on a bunch of reorganization projects that either only affected me or I knew needed to be done. (Again, I was quite certain I was going to be fired so I wasn’t really concerned about getting fired for reorganizing the files versus getting fired for being on the internet five hours a day.)

      If you’re not comfortable being politely direct, over and over, with both your boss and the other woman, then I would honestly suggest looking for another job. Your boss’s teaching style is ridiculous and he may or may not change.

    3. Expat*

      If you know what the boss prefers, then you should do it that way. If you don’t know what he prefers then ask him before you do the task. If he doesn’t answer, will your colleague be able to give you a few tips?

  83. Anon1973*

    I would read up to 3 posts a day, M-F. I tend to skip the weekend posts as I’m just not online on the weekend.

  84. Sparky629*

    I will read as many post as you can put up. I really love the short answer segments the most though.

    Also, I don’t tend to read much over the weekend. I sometimes catch up on the weekend posts on Sunday night as my bedtime reading-depends on how busy my weekend was.

    On one of the relationship blogs that I frequently read, the author
    posts questions throughout the week and then on the weekends/holidays there’s an open thread.
    Sometimes she will post a question to get discussion started and other times she will leave it open for the readers to discuss stuff among themselves.

    I like it because on Monday, I don’t have 2-3 posts to read in addition to the Monday questions. Also, if I don’t get a chance to log on during the weekend then I don’t feel like I might be missing something super important.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oooh, I like that idea. Maybe an open thread on Friday night or Saturday, on the assumption that it’ll keep going through the weekend.

  85. Anon*

    I will read as many posts as you put up. I read every single post and (usually) every single comment. I typically check the site more often than you post, so any sort of increase is fine by me! :)

  86. Tara B.*

    I like the posting frequency as it is. A huge part of why this blog is so awesome is the quality and thoughtful comments. When someone is offering an alternative POV/context, sharing a personal experience or simply expanding onto AAM’s advice, their comments combined with the advice given to make the site a pure gold mine of information about job searching and workplace issues.

    I’m afraid that more frequent posts might dilute the comment section because people would spend more time reading and less time commenting. So, I vote no to additional postings so that the conversations about each post have time to build and retain their awesomeness.

  87. Alison*

    I’d definitely be up for more posts. This is one of my favorite blogs and I’m always bummed if I check the site and there’s no new posts to read.
    That said, I would of course prefer interesting questions and quality answers to a sheer influx of posts.

  88. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Thank you so much to everyone who gave feedback about the number of posts — and said such amazing things about enjoying the site. I never would have thought that a blog on this topic could inspire so much enthusiasm, and it’s so fulfilling to hear it.

    As for what I’ll do with all this feedback … I think I’m going to experiment with a slightly higher number of posts over this next week and see how it goes. I’m also thinking about some of the other suggestions people made, about tagging the short-answers posts, etc.

    So thank you! I always love getting a peek into how readers see the site.

  89. Lisa*

    Any immigration experts in the AAM peanut gallery?

    I have a friend (no, really, I’m a citizen, I swear, it IS about my friend!) who is both in the green card process and in the process of switching jobs. He can’t give notice until his visa transfers to the new company, but the old company wants to meet about putting in his EB-2 greencard application, with their lawyers, at a date when the transfer may have been requested but will not be completed.

    How can he handle this without accidentally giving notice by having the lawyers find out his visa is being transferred, before he’s safe to officially give notice?

    1. M. Framces*

      Hi Lisa! My last job I worked for a refugee resettlement agency, so I have LOADS of experience with the law and whatnot but I don’t want to claim to be “an expert”.

      Immigrating is super difficult and maintaining a legal visa status once in country isn’t any easier. Immigration lawyers are really expensive and rarely is the process ever fully explained and thus never fully understood.

      Your friends best bet would be to work with a non-profit that works with immigration. While the International Institute (there are cites all over the country) primarily work with resettling refugees they also will assist in resettling regular immigrants. When I say resettle, I mean help them achieve whatever legal status they are aiming to achieve. So if your friend isn’t interested in being a citizen they won’t put him on that path. While these agencies resettle refugees for free they assist others (even Americans wanting ti immigrate abroad) for a small fee. I think it is usually around $50. These social workers are certified by the state to handle these particular legal documents (and if they aren’t a lawyer oversees them) but their background in social work makes them ideal for such a stressful situation because they WANT to help you and for YOU to understand EVERYTHING. (they are also required to keep everything confidential)

      Look for immigration / refugee resettlement agencies in your area. You’d be surprised how many there are. If you want to email me and tell me what city your in I will see if I can find one for you. Here is a pretty good list! Like I said, I worked for one of the International Institutes and they are AMAZING!

  90. BlueGal*

    Yay! Open thread!
    Here’s my question:

    I’m in the process of returning to school to purse a career change and transition into the medical field. At some point I’ll need to partake in a required internship. Although my current full time job offers flex schedules for employees in school, I’m apprehensive about having to ask for this flex time to pursue, essentially, another career. Has anybody done something similar? How was it received?

    1. Anonymous*

      If they offer flex time for people in school, don’t they expect that those people will be taking different careers after they finish? I mean, some of them might possibly be hoping to get a higher position within the company, but I’d assume that most of them are angling for a “better life” career transition.

      The employer’s gain for this kind of program is that they get to retain your services for the next several years while you study, instead of losing you to school immediately. Some students will end up as dropouts, and the company gets to keep them too. I doubt they expect to keep you forever – even employees who aren’t studying are going to be changing jobs regularly.

  91. Gary*

    I love reading every single post you have and I feel I have learned a lot from you and others that comment on your posts. I would read everything you posts here, even if it was 20 posts a day! but I would not read the comments as much and I feel that is important too at times.

    I would thinking about 5 posts a day would be a good balance for someone to read your posts and the comments left by readers. Plus it would let catching up be easier if I do fall behind.

  92. Anonymous*

    I completely missed this post until now because of a busy week at work, but I personally think there can never be enough posts!! :)

  93. Curious*

    Starting a new position where I will have direct reports for the first time. Any suggestions of books I can read that will be helpful? I want to be a successful manager!

  94. JT*

    This is a f/u post from a while back: “Why I don’t like Employee of the Month programs.”

    If the same employee is recognized almost every single month, what is the right way for an employee to handle this? ie letting the manager know not to announce the name of that employee?

    Also, does anyone have an opinion on employees receiving incentives per month? Recently, my company starting a program that is giving out $200 gift cards to any employee who processes applications with 100% accuracy (NO errors) and meeting a very strict/impossible turn around time. It feels so much to me like an Employee of the Month thing but with a different twist. I can’t stand these programs. I woould rather have a raise or promtion. Can employees express this frustration to their managers?

    1. fposte*

      Unless you’re that employee of the month, the right way to handle this is to shrug. If you *are* that employee, then talk to your supervisor about what you need to do to make yourself a candidate for promotion. And actually, given your last paragraph, that sounds like it might be a good plan anyway.

      But you can’t actually suggest that your company promote people instead of running what they view as an incentive program. For one thing, that’s not an either/or; those are two very different actions, and you’d offer incentives to a lot of people who you wouldn’t promote. If what you want is a promotion, talk to your managers about promotion, not about other things that they do that you don’t like.

  95. Sam*

    If there were 5 pages of new posts, I would read all 5 pages! I’m exaggerating, but the more the better. Every time I visit this blog, I always leave with learning something new.

    Thanks so much AAM!

  96. Anonymous*

    I have questions regarding unions, and I probably will come across as naive with this.

    I work in a union retail shop in a union-mandated state (for those who don’t know, there are states that are “right to work” vs those that are “union-mandated;” the former you don’t have to join a union to work whereas the latter you do in union shops). Do union shops solely acknowledge an employee based on seniority rather than merit?

    My coworkers: They text on their cell phones at the register when a customer is present. They hide when they don’t want to work. Meanwhile I work hard during my shift (sometimes without taking the mandated break) and leave my cell phone in the locker. However, I have noticed that when someone else needs more hours, I am given less hours for the week. Also, when I asked for a specific shift, it was given to me for a couple of weeks, but a coworker demanded it and was granted it. I was told seniority ruled the day. Could the manager have told this coworker “no?” If the manager did, could the coworker have reported a grievance to the union against the (non-union) manager?

    Thank you AAM for this open thread opportunity and please keep answering questions. You do people a great service.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is what people think of when they think of bad union environments — environments where unions have run amok and stand in the way of great employees being rewarded and bad ones being swiftly dealt with.

      I am told that there are good union environments as well, but I have yet to hear descriptions of union workplaces that don’t include things like this. I would very much like to, if they exist.

      1. Anonymous*

        That’s basically it in a nutshell. I’m just curious, though, if my thinking is correct in that my manager is scared of the union if he is to tell a coworker “no” to their demands, particularly with wanting more hours even if it takes away from me and/or the rest. Or does he have to oblige? I know I’m stuck being at the low end of the totem pole, but after being there for quite a while, it’s getting old that seniority will keep in play against my favor until I’m on that side of the seniority fence.

        I know I’m whining a little, but it’s hurting me a bit when I do well and do my job only for me to lose hours and watch others break rules without punishment.

        1. Jamie*

          That’s one of the big problems with unions. Not just the written rules which can reward seniority over merit, but the politics. If the steward gets difficult over the hours, it may not be something your manager wants to go to the mat over.

          It’s a difficult situation to be in – good luck.

  97. Anonymous*

    I would read all of them. I have yet to read a post of yours that didn’t shed some light on the workforce. You could be posting an entry per hour and I would gladly refresh to see what else is new.

  98. Diane*

    I’m not sure if this thread is still active, but I’m gonna go for it:

    I do storytelling (think David Sedaris, “This American Life,” The Moth, etc.) and I’m about to look for a new job for the first time since starting this hobby. My stories aren’t exactly G-rated (though they’re certainly not raunchy, some include references to sex, drinking, etc.). If you Google me, my storytelling website pops up, along with other articles with my name and links to some of my videos are on YouTube.

    I’m proud of the work I do, but I’m worried a potential employer might think it’s unprofessional. (I work in communications/design/website management, if that’s relevant.)

    Should I mention the storytelling at an interview? Or only if asked? Or should I try not to mention it at all? I don’t want storytelling to interfere with getting another job, but I would never want to stop pursuing my passion either.

    1. fposte*

      It doesn’t sound likely to be a problem to me. I don’t think most people would care one way or another, unless you’re applying to a company that is really conservative or your stories have really edgy subject matter (the more polished the performances and the recordings, the more you can get away with, too); you’re not in a particularly old-fashioned field, after all. I don’t think you’d need to warn anybody during hiring, which felt like part of your question, but I also think that, as with any pastime, you wouldn’t necessarily bring it up at an interview unless you felt it useful to illustrate a specific point in a way that your paid work history didn’t, or if you were specifically asked.

      The one thing I’d try to avoid, if it came up, is making people think of storytelling for kids; we actually do both kinds where I work, and we make a point of marking our non-G-rated festival as such, because otherwise people tend to think storytelling = for little kids. You’ve done a good job of contextualizing right here, and I’ve known some people who compare it to stand-up comedy, which is a reference point a lot of people will get too.

  99. A Teacher*

    I also don’t know if this is active, but I teach career ed and I’m using this column as part of my curriculum this coming school year. Please post away because my students will be reading you as well.

    1. Anonymous*

      What is career ed? Is this a college program, or high school, or a training thing, or what? I’m curious because I wasn’t really exposed to any serious career prep in my education.

      1. Jamie*

        My kids had a career course in highschool. I remember my daughter coming home saying that her teacher insisted that the best way to get noticed when applying for a job was a personalized and awesome cover letter. They had to write one for homework and I helped proof a couple of drafts.

        She had to mention assets not on resume, be personable but still professioanl and polite, express interest in the specific job and not generic, show why you would benefit the employer and not why the job would benefit you.

        Either the teacher is an AAM reader or there is some e out there spreading the same advice one classroom at a time.

        1. A Teacher*

          Jamie and Anon.,

          I’m an AAM reader–kind of a new reader, I actually just like advice columns (yes, I read Hax, Ask Amy, Dear Margo, and Dear Prudence too…) but this is by far the best career column that I can apply for my students.

          I teach a Health Sciences Curriculum–so if you’re interested in nursing, PT, athletic training, pre-med, etc…you would take my courses. I fall under vocational education that is federally funded and grant funded. All of what I teach is what is known as dual credit (they get college credit at the junior college) and I’ve taught adjunct at the community college as well. I worked as a clinician before going back for the second graduate degree so I could teach high school.

          My kids have to create resumes, job shadow, mock interview, and do formal presentations. My students hate writing papers in my class because I grade the paper for structure and organization as well as for content. You may have a great idea but if you can’t sell that idea, you will have a very difficult time getting your co-workers or supervisor to see the benefits of you idea. Spelling and grammar count–which some parents don’t like but you also have to be able to spell in your professional life.

  100. Sara*

    I love your site and read everything you post, and you currently are my top blog in my fav blog category :). Since you’re asking, I’d love more posts! At least 5 if you can a day. My two favourites are the real big questions with your advice, and secondly is your short answers – since they usually have been addressed as a bigger issue. For me, I tend to click your links to articles as a way of showing support, though I find your other posts (such as the two as mentioned earlier) have more relevant info… probably because your articles combine a lot of your good advice that I’ve read already. And just for good measure things I’m interested are managing up, how to advance in my career, salary negotiations and resume writing (even if I’m not applying to jobs, knowing how to present my accomplishments comes in handy at work and when job searching). Thanks for all your great advice!!

  101. Bionic Wombat*

    I don’t have enough to do. I’m very specialized and my work often comes in unpredictable waves. Right now, it’s slow. A huge reason is that management is in chaos, is largely green, is reactive rather than proactive, and has been unable to be specific when I ask about long-range strategy so I can help do my magic. I’ve spoken up, suggest other ways I can help, initiated my own projects, tried learning new things on my own, talked to other departments to drum up business, and point-blank told my bosses they’re not using me and my staff well. They cut my budget. What can I do to bide my time until I find another job? I’ll take suggestions ranging from the useful to the untraceable but entertaining.

    1. fposte*

      Have you written a job manual yet? That would be helpful in the transition that seems to be coming, leave you with a good legacy there, and give you something to do.

  102. Cassie*

    Most of my job involves working by myself – yes, I have to rely on other people to “push the button”, so to speak, but I prepare most everything and hand over just the final product.

    So today, my boss asked me and his other direct report to work on making some posters to be hung in the hallways. As he put it – her because she wants more work to do, me because I’m more “experienced” with that type of stuff so I’m supposed to take charge. This falls more under her job duties than mine and honestly, I would rather not have anything to do with it because I have plenty of other work that needs to be done. (I don’t think this is my boss trying to challenge me to take charge because he’s not like that).

    Several months ago, we worked on a project together (again, my boss made me the point and she was supposed to assist me) – her performance was mediocre. She was not detail-oriented (made mistakes that I found when I was looking over the stuff), and would ask about stuff that was related, but not what I was talking to her about.

    I’m wary it’ll happen again. Like now – she asked me about the poster design. I asked her to gather the info that will go on the posters 1st. I think that’s more important, but she’s still asking about what software we’ll use to make the poster, who will design it, etc.

    Any tips?

    1. Jamie*

      Regardless of what ou think of your bosses intent, he’s putting your in charge because of our expertise so that’s how I’d treat it.

      Teach her how to do it, answer questions, guide, etc. I would treat it as a mini project that you’re managing…because thats how the boss presented it.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Also, lay out a mini project plan at the start — you’re responsible for X and Y, she’s responsible for A and B, and when each part needs to be completed by.

  103. Anonymous*

    I too would love more posts AAM, but one thought – much of the fun comes from the comments section.
    Dont you think too many posts a day might lead to less comments/debates per post. That would be a loss indeed! Now there are often long & in-detail discussions with a delightful off-track now & then.

  104. Anonymous*

    I have switched to getting the daily email updates as the weekly one was too many posts at once. I am very interested in the questions and answers and enjoy your blog hugely, but more posts would be too much for me. I have stopped reading the comments too (even though these often have very interesting discussions) as I don’t have time any more. But you & your blog remain awesome :)

    1. ARM2008*

      I agree. I rarely read comments anymore due to the volume, and more posts would probably push me toward reading less often since it would become more like noise to me.

      Sounds like most readers want more – can’t please everybody :-)

  105. Anonymous*

    I have been at my current job for 2 fun but tough years. I cleaned up a big mess, worked for a year with no assistant, and now, during a time of intense change, we got a new ‘big boss’ (my bosses’ boss) who is stressed by the pressures on her and is starting to treat some of us with less than the courtesy and respect we deserve and have become accustomed to. Understandably, she doesn’t have time to come in and learn before making big changes–those are being forced on her. But I and some others feel as though she thinks we are idiots for not having some information at hand and some tasks accomplished, and she’s become short and snippy sometimes. She doesn’t know the world of trouble we were in a couple of years ago and how much progress we’ve made. She’s also never managed our type of work before and doesn’t understand some of the norms of working with outside contractors, among other things. She expects us to call them and demand information that isn’t coming in as fast as she wants it, and that’s just not how it’s done. They contact you as soon as they have it, and pushing makes them less than helpful. I’m a middle-aged professional who decided a while back that I wasn’t going to tolerate being mistreated by a boss–I had a rude one a long time ago and have been lucky since then, but I find it hard to simply stand up for myself without getting upset. I think this stems from having a father with anger management and control issues, and who couldn’t be reasoned with. He was right and you were wrong.
    First, how does one gently correct a new superior who isn’t fitting in with our culture of courtesy and respect? Or does one?
    Second, do I need brief therapy to learn how to be emotionally neutral when standing up for myself? I hate to be this age and melt into emotional states, but I’ve never learned how not to. I’m already dreading meetings with this new boss and feel stuck. Until two months ago, I loved my job. Now I’m not so sure.

    1. fposte*

      I’m sorry you’re having a stressful time. What does your boss–your direct boss, not the new person–say about all this?

      1. Anonymous*

        She said to give it time, try not to take it personally and not to doubt my abilities or value to our team. I love her.

        1. fposte*

          Then I’d say you should follow her lead; you know her and trust her. You really can’t tell the big boss to be the way your business likes instead of the way she is without torpedoing your career anyway. That doesn’t rule out the possibility of stating your preference to be addressed in a more respectful manner if the big boss is rude to you, but that’s always a risky maneuver, so it’s not something I could straight up recommend. You might also honestly consider if it’s possible that her comments aren’t meant rudely and that her style and the heightened anxiety about the change makes things hit harder than their actual weight. Another thing to try? Stop talking to your co-workers about how bad she is. That’s its own toxin after a while. Aim for the philosophical and/or echo your direct boss: “Yeah, it’s always hard to change, but I think we should give her time.” It’s really a lot better for your morale than reinforcing the OMG-we’re-trapped-and-she’s-horrible message.

        2. Jamie*

          Sounds like you boss has a handle on this. I would let her deal with her superiors deciding which battles to fight.

          Also, things may very well settle down and the new boss gains institutional knowledge. She may well adapt her expectations or be able to articulate how you can best get the results she needs. Some transitions are rockier than others, I’d give her some time.

          1. Anonymous*

            All good advice. Thank you. I have decided to work with a counselor on my problem with standing up for myself in general, but won’t try it on this boss.

  106. nyxalinth*

    Here’s my situation. I’ve been essentially unemployed since January of 2010. There have been things here and there in the meantime: a great job that didn’t work out unfortunately, and two crap-ass jobs that were the result of scraping the bottom of the barrel desperation (both phone sales, and the recent one lied in the ad about how the pay worked, which is an immediate deal breaker for me).

    I haven’t just been goofing around. I’ve done work as a freelance writer, making some money here and there, but not enough to live on. apparently, this isn’t good enough for potential employers. I never get past the first interview. The person I interview with thinks I’m great, they pass on my info to the next interviewer, then nothing. the most recent one she told me”Well unless he sees something I didn’t, he’ll be giving you a call this week.” Guess what? No call.

    So…it’s a dual issue: how do I get into round two, in other words, what can I do to go even more above and beyond than the person interviewing me on round one thinking I’m awesome to convince person 2 to give me the second interview? (I’ve almost always had issues with the second interview thing, I can count one job where there was a second interview involved where I got the job).

    Also, how can I further impress upon them “This is what I’ve been doing, I haven’t just been screwing around?” How can I make it seem more useful and relevant to them and the position?

    1. Jamie*

      I don’t know how helpful this will be, but there are times where there is almost a good-cop/bad-cop thing going on with multi level interviews.

      Sometimes it’s easier for the initial interviewer to appear encouraging so as to avoid a frank conversation and blame the rejection on the phantom second interviewer. It’s cowardly, but it happens enough to be a consideration.

      Ideally you shouldn’t even get called for interviews unless your experience on paper meets minimum requirements. If the issue is that interviewer #2 has issues with your resume than that’s a communication issue within the company. Not unheard of, either, but that’s a real waste of their time as well as yours.

      Have you asked any of the interviewers for feedback? Not all are receptive, but some may tell you where you could improve.

      1. nyxalinth*

        I’ve suspected as much :) It might also come down to Interviewer A thinks I have what it takes, but Interviewer B is more rigidly adhering to “Must have xyz and it must be exactly this recent’ or whatever.

        But seriously, you guys called me, so my resume must have at least the bare minimum.

        1. Jamie*

          It could very well be #2 having more stringent standards. That’s a huge communication problem within the company of 1 has different non-negotiables than #2. However if it’s just a matter of how strongly each weights the preferred criteria it could come down to the qualifications of the other candidates.

          But for the requirements no one should be called in unless they meet the bar of the final decision maker.

    2. fposte*

      nyx, it sounds like you’re seeing this as a judgment on your recent employment pattern, but it’s possible that it’s not related to that. Have you thought about having somebody do some mock interviews with you? I’m thinking that regardless of what people say (which is also the aspect of human behavior to rely on least), the consequence suggests that your interview isn’t rocketing you to the top the way you want. I’m also thinking about that interviewee question that comes up here–I’m not remembering the phraseology right, but you’re basically asking if they have any concerns about the strengths of your candidacy.

      1. nyxalinth*

        Yeah, that is what I’m asking, thank you for wording it better for me :D

        I’ve done mock interviews, and practiced and gotten feedback and made changes accordingly…so, either I still blow at interviewing, or a thinks I’m strong, B doesn’t. *shrug*

        Maybe I should find a job that isn’t what I want but that i can deal with and maybe come to like to build my resume up again. It also occurs to me I might be overreaching, what with a 2+ year ‘officially employed’ gap.

        1. fposte*

          I suppose that’s possible too. Is there any chance that you might be able to get feedback from one of the places you applied to recently? I’m joining Jamie in thinking that if the history were a problem you wouldn’t likely have gotten to the first interview. You’ve definitely got stuff on there that people really like, in fact, if you’re getting interviews.

          Sorry, n., it’s awfully mysterious sometimes. I hope you get a better outcome soon.

          1. nyxalinth*

            I could give it a shot! Most of the older info i don’t have now, the recent one never gave me a contact number, and i should have asked for one. She’s on LinkedIn though, so I might be able to contact her that way :)

  107. Anonymous*

    Post away. I read your posts on Feedly, so once every 2-3 days I’ll sit down and read everything you’ve written since I last checked. As a former manager (still self-employed but without staff now), I absolutely love everything you write. You have such an impressive common-sense style of management.

    You need to compile more of your posts into management books, though. I’d definitely buy them. And maybe a manual for recent grads on what to expect and what’s expected of them in the workplace.

    1. Anonymous*

      ^ this. I’m currently a student and I could see myself reading a book like that (admittedly, right now, it would probably be a copy from the library)

  108. D*

    I think it is reasonable for a blogger to post once a day, twice at the most. After that it may come to the point where it becomes too much to read them all.
    As for AAM I read them all! I do not log-in every day so I end up reading a ton of posts at once. I think what you are doing now is good (one or two a day at most?) as long as they are relevant. If there are more I would be worried I might miss sonething really good!

  109. Anonymous*

    My employer , on the day before a holiday, lets us out at 3:00 pm. We get a lunch break to eat for 15-20 minutes. So, I go into the conference room to eat and do a puzzle while I eat. I am repeatedly told I cannot do this, that I should take my break in the stairwell. Can this be legal??

    1. Jamie*

      I’m not a lawyer, but I do know there is no legal right to the conference room. Not sure why you would need to be repeatedly told this, but I’d suggest you stop pushing this boundary as they don’t have to let you eat in there.

      The stairwell part is weird – is that the only place they have made available? Can you go to a break roomer outside?

    2. Vanessa*

      Like Jamie, I’m wondering why would you keep doing something that you were expressly told not to do.

      At my employer what looks like an empty space isn’t necessarily an empty space. Management has regularly scheduled meetings in our conference rooms and in other parts of the building. Sometimes these times are posted on the outside of the door and other times not. I don’t think your employer is necessarily trying to give you a hard time…they just need to have that space available.

      I agree that the stairwell part is weird…If you’re clocked out, you should be able to leave the building if they do not have a dedicated break room.

    3. Anonymous*

      Umm… what is wrong with your desk (I am making an assumption you have one though)? Can you put your phone on DND and just not answer it? That is what most office workers do if they don’t want to leave the building.

  110. Sophie*

    I’d read everything you post, no matter how much you post in one day. I love it when blogs update regularly, it makes me very happy!

  111. Anonymous*

    My employer seldom uses the conference room. We are told we cannot leave the office. The grandson is an employee and he gets a full lunch hour.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If it’s a paid break, they can tell you you can’t leave the office and can instruct you where to eat. If it’s unpaid, they probably can’t legally prevent you from leaving the office (but can still ban you from the conference room).

  112. Anonymous*

    I would think it is paid-I work full time and get an hour for lunch. The only exception is when we close early for a holiday at 3 pm. So, there is no place else to eat in this office- Any suggestions?

  113. Anonymous*

    It’s a small office and the other 2 girls I work with ( non-family members) get to take their break when the boss, wife, daughter, son and grandson leave the office for their lunch.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Unless you have reason to believe that they’re treating you differently because of your membership in a legally protected class (race, religion, sex, etc.), there isn’ really anything you can do about it, beyond pointing it the disparate treatment.

  114. Anonymous*

    Need quick help for a situation tomorrow!
    (relevant backstory – my boss has a history of anger management issues – tossed an item at me before; yells at drop of a hat and attacks people personally, but he’s a star performer and will never be fired. I have worked for him for >5 years and get good reviews generally)

    My boss (Dept Head A/Boss) got very angry at me Friday for sending an email to Dept Head B. Dept Head B had just left a message with Boss about a customer that Dept Head B and I jointly manage from different sides. She and I had spoken separately with the customer in the last two weeks – I’d spoken with customer last week and knew there’d been a convo with the third party the week before. I thought the issue had been resolved during my call, so after Boss asked me about it Friday, I immediately emailed the third party to ask if the issue had come up again this week. (tl;dr)

    My boss flipped out right after I sent the email, and accused me of going around him and being paranoid in trying to close the loop on this issue in writing. I got snippy back (“I’m not paranoid, didn’t realize trying to get on the same page internally was inappropriate, given that I DO manage this customer relationship) – the discussion culminated in him yelling that I’m replaceable, *he’s* not going anywhere, and that it’s BS if I think our workplace is such that I need to write paranoid CYA emails. I said I know I”m replaceable, no bad intent, I put everything in writing as a general practice, and I wasn’t paranoid before but I’d become so as a result of his reaction. (not my most mature response, but I was super upset holding back tears).

    For what it’s worth, I do feel he hoards information that is relevant to managing my customer relationships, and I’ve raised that before. Hence the paranoia comment. That said, it’s his team.

    My plan tomorrow is to go in and apologize for my attitude Friday but not necessarily for what I did in sending the email.

    Does this sound reasonable? Or should I apologize for the whole thing?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it’s sensible to apologize for some of what you said, but not sending the email. I would explain that you find it very unsettling to be accused of doing something with nefarious intent when you had none.

    2. Jamie*

      I would apologize if I felt I was wrong. Otherwise, for the sake of harmony I would go in with a cooperative attitude and ask him how he would like you to handle such situations going forward.

      It’s a matter of picking your battles and bosses with anger management issues tend not to enjoy being challenged,

      This may be the first time I’ve suggested this, but in your shoes I’d be looking for another job. He threw something at you? I can’t even wrap my head around that. There are workplaces where you don’t get yelled at, and never have to duck to avoid flying objects.

      1. Anonymous*

        This is helpful. I do feel my being snippy back didn’t help, so an apology there feels right. I can see why he’d get upset about my sending the email, but I don’t feel I have much to apologize for on that front. Glad my instincts seem right to you.

  115. Anonymous*

    Yeah, I have a lot of anger about the workplace and how he’s been protected over the years. Everyone on his team could write a book. It’s a niche industry though, I’m very well compensated, and frankly I need my health insurance. But things said in anger often have some truth, so I am investigating alternatives for myself.

    1. Jamie*

      Oh yeah, I would never recommend anyone quit without something better in hand – but even getting your resume together and starting to look can be empowering.

      As anyone who has worked with similar personality types can tell you, after a while it begins to feel normal. Just know you’re entitled to professional courtesy and basic human respect.

      Any time you have to check our dignity at the door to go to work its untenable.

  116. Samantha Fritschle*

    I love reading your posts (especially as a college student who’s going into the big bad work world soon) but I can honestly only keep up with 3-4 per week!

    Even when you do post a lot, though, I never lose interest. I just skip over some and read the ones I can. (: So no worries, you won’t lose me!

  117. The Other Dawn*

    I just saw this article this morning and wonder how other readers feel about the advice given by the commentor, Bruce Hurwitz. Commentor DE is me. Personally, I think Mr. Hurwitz’s advice is terrible, but then again I’ve been on the receiving end of the “are you pregnant?” question so I’m biased. I’m curious as to AAM’s opinion also.

    Here’s the link (I hope I did this right):
    Workplace Faux Pas: Asking if Someone is Pregnant

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Wow. I totally agree with your comment there. That Bruce’s advice is awful! (And I think his use of the word “grudge” betrays something about his take on the situation. It’s not a grudge. It’s understandable discomfort.) I’m thinking there’s a very low EQ going on there.

      1. fposte*

        There are a lot of bad-advice places on the ‘net. I think I hurt myself headdesking at’s HR forum once, so I don’t go there any more.

  118. Lils*

    Oh AAM, I love reading your posts, but I can’t keep up! I read on my lunch break and only have time for a few because I like to read all the comments :) But like someone said above, if you post more more often, you won’t lose me as a daily reader.

  119. Anonymous*

    Hi Alison, I think you should post to your heart’s desire. I, like most people get an email with the most recent posts and I decide which ones I want to read from there. If I decide that there are too many to read than I make a decision on what not to read. Posting too much may be a problem for those who like to comment a lot.

  120. anonymous*

    I have you on my smart phone and one of my home pages in IE at home – post away, I challenge you to overwhelm me

Comments are closed.