terse answer Thursday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s terse answer Thursday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Should I try to get a job now?

I have anxiety issues which make me hypersensitive. I also have chronic fatigue syndrome which, most of the time, is under control but whenever I get sick with a viral infection (which is probably slightly more often and lasts much longer than average) I’m far too tired to come into work. I’m also unemployed. I tend to be a good worker — smart, polite, organized, and efficient. I can have problems though with absenteeism and also with the fact that working overtime (especially after 5pm) is very tiring and difficult for me. Should I even bother trying to get a job right now? Technically, while the extra income would be very nice, if my partner and I live thrifty, we don’t need the extra stream.

Depends on how often you need to be out. If it’s more than the average worker and you don’t need to work right now, you might be better off waiting. You want to work somewhere where you’re not under a shadow for excessive absences, and that shadow might add to the anxiety. However, you could also think about what jobs you could do that will be more flexible with hours. In fact, since you’re in a position where you don’t need to work, one option would be to launch a job search but determine that you’re only going to focus on jobs with that kind of flexibility.

2. Managing someone who earns more than you

I’m a relatively new manager in a smallish nonprofit. I have been in my field for a while, but this is the first time I have had more than one direct report. I’ve been soliciting a lot of feedback and am growing into my role well. We are hiring for a position that reports to me, and we need a particular set of advanced skills and experience for what we want to accomplish as an organization. However, our first choice candidate’s salary requirements are greater than what I earn, and it seems like our leadership are going to offer the candidate whatever it takes to bring him on board. Is it common (or appropriate) for a manager to manage staff who make more than they do and have more experience to boot? I am concerned about what our dynamic will be like. In another company and an alternate reality, this person could easily be my manager.

It depends on the field. In IT, for instance, it’s not unheard of for some people to make more than their managers — it just depends on the market rate for their relative skill sets. What’s important is that you’re earning market rate for your work yourself (which could very well be different from the market rate for this guy’s work), and that you’re able to effectively manage someone more experienced than yourself (totally doable, but sometimes hard in practice, particularly for new managers). You’d want to really pay attention to how you’re managing, agree on big-picture goals up-front and plans to achieve him, then give him the room to get there, etc.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. How should a resume describe a job you just started?

I just started a new job this week, but in the interest of expanding my skill set and making some extra money, I’m considering picking up some part-time work (my full-time job is very flexible, so I don’t anticipate this to be a problem). I certainly haven’t accomplished anything of note in the short time I’ve been at this new company, and my job description is still being worked out. What do I put on my resume in the meantime?

Responsibilities. It’s not ideal, but there’s no way around it when you’re new.

4. Why would several positions close at once?

Three weeks ago, I had a phone interview with an aerospace company for an engineering position. During the call, the hiring manager mentioned there were several positions open in his group. I thought I did well in the interview and was eager to hear back.

Two days later, the group’s recruiter called me. I was told they thought I was a great fit for the company and that I was on their radar, but the group I had interviewed with had reached the limit on their head count and had no open positions. When I later asked if this meant that they had open positions but were simply pursuing other candidates, I was told the positions had closed and got no more clarification. My application online is still listed as under review and I have kept in touch with the recruiter.

However, I am still confused about what happened and what I can expect next. I find it odd to go from several positions open to all closed in two days. The recruiter hasn’t given me much clarification other than to say I’m on his radar and I should also apply with positions in other branches of the company that interest me. Is this unusual, and what should I do next?

It’s not that unusual. It could be any of the following: a hiring freeze in that division, a key player suddenly leaving so they’re taking a new look at their plans, a coming reorg, or all kinds of other things. Take the recruiter at his word.

5. Explaining why you’re job-searching soon after starting a new job

How do you explain to prospective employers that you are looking for a new job because you realize you’re not a good cultural fit/right person for the workplace you just joined? I started a new job 6 weeks ago, the boss that hired has been on maternity leave (coming back in a few weeks), and it’s been a frustrating, chaotic, anxiety-inducing transition since I started. The role is a newly created one and I’m struggling with navigating the politics (seems to be a lot even though it’s a small place), carving out my role, doing what I’m tasked to do and I’m not feeling like this was a good move.

“It turned out not to be what I had thought during the hiring process.” Be prepared for questions about how.

However, why not wait and see what happens when your manager returns from leave in a few weeks? It’s often chaotic for new hires when a boss is on leave when they start — it’s almost impossible that it wouldn’t be.

6. Acting as a reference after leaving your company

I have been working on a project for the last several months and have hired an unpaid intern to help me with it. The project is coming due soon (the intern knows this) and, coincidentally, I have accepted another job offer elsewhere. I am leaving my company on good terms, after the project due date, etc.

I think the intern has done a good job and would be happy to be a reference for him to help him secure a better, paid internship next year. I know potential employers prefer to reach out to the company where they were employed directly, but he hasn’t worked with anyone else in my company at all. Would it be okay for the intern to list me directly as the reference/contact, with my personal cell number? I want to make sure he gets stellar reviews for future job applications, but don’t trust the coworkers I’m leaving behind to be able to do this for him in much detail.

Yes, that’s very normal.

7. What’s going on with this employer?

I would like your take on a situation that is driving me nuts. I met briefly with a hiring manager a few weeks ago and returned within a week to interview for a day with 5-6 people. I also met with another person the next day by phone,. I was told that all the feedback was good. At the end of the day, the hiring exec asked me — hypothetically — when I could start if they made me an offer the following week (last week). I indicated 2-3 weeks, and I could also be flexible. Today I called the recruiter and left a message asking for a status, mentioning that I was asked when I could start if offered the job.

I still haven’t heard anything. Since I have come this far with other companies and never heard anything from them, I am getting a queasy feeling. What do you think is going on? I know there was a holiday in there, but the silence is deafening!

It’s pretty normal to be asked when you can start during an interview; I wouldn’t read into that either way. But it’s only been a couple of weeks. Be patient — hiring always takes longer than anyone expects it to. They may or may not end up making you an offer, but don’t read anything into the amount of time it’s taking.

{ 46 comments… read them below }

  1. Jamie*

    #5 Newly created positions are often chaotic for the first few months, even if your manager there. I can’t imagine it with the manager out of the office.

    New positions have a break in period, where everyone is trying to figure out what it is, and as importantly, what it isn’t.

  2. Marcie*

    #5 It’s interesting how employers are so picky in this so-called “employer’s market” taking their sweet time to choose the best fit and at many times stringing along backup candidates for at the end not hiring the best fit. Go figure.

  3. Bob G*

    #5 I have to second what Jamie and AAM said. I’d try to hang in there for a while and see if you feel the same way once the manager returns AND you have time to get comfortable in your new position.

    @AAM, Regarding #2 I would love a post dedicated to managing someone who either earns more or has more experience than the manager. I have never been in that position before but I’d be really curious how others have handled that and what could be recommended.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s really the same as managing anyone well, except that in some ways it just becomes more important to do the basics well — get aligned from the start about goals, etc.

    2. Joey*

      The most important thing to remember is not to be intimidated or threatened by someone with more experience or who makes more. And there’s a wealth of knowledge at your disposal.

      1. OP for #2*

        No doubt he has much he can teach our whole team. You’ve put your finger on something I didn’t even realize. I am a little intimidated at the thought of managing him and that’s my problem to work through. I want him to succeed and I want my management to help him do so. The people we serve depend on it. Thanks!

  4. Dan*

    #5 If you’re trying to move on after a month or even two, you’re probably not going to be at the top of my pile. If I make it that far down, be prepared for some real tough questions about fit and what not.

    If you’ve been at it for six months or so, I’ll actually assume you stuck it out and did your best and it’s just not the right fit.

    At two months, my thoughts are: What’s the root of the fit issues? Is this something you should have discovered during the interview process, but didn’t, because you were desperate to take any job? I don’t want you to be so desperate that you just want to take any job (including the one I have) without making an effort to evaluate fit. I don’t want to go through this whole stupid process again in two months.

    Second, have you tried to work this out with anybody? If not, why not? I don’t want somebody on my team who is just going to up and quit when things don’t go their way.

    Third, I want to make sure I don’t hire someone who thinks they are so entitled they don’t have to roll with the punches. We ALL have to roll with the punches.

  5. LB*

    #2: I have a staff of 5, two of whom make more than me and another who is going to match me this year. If the right person is right for the job, it’s not about how much they get paid vs how much I get paid, it’s about their skill set matching my needs…it did make me realize (they were on board before me) that I should have negotiated better, but that’s not their fault, it’s mine. AAM is right, it’s about the job they are expected to do (they are required to travel @40% and have experience I don’t have in our field. I do bring to the table management experience, which is what my salary is based on…I accept it but it was a a little hard to swallow at first (and will negotiate my own salary better next time :). One has just gotten a new position and I would be more than willing to match her salary if the replacement can equal her talent!

    1. Tiffany*

      I had a position in which I was managing a small team; I had one guy who was a bit older, had more experience in his field but what stood out most Of all he had the best attitude that I’d ever seen in an employee. I often thought that he should have my position because honestly he was just awesome. He was/is quite honestly the best example of how an employee should be. I mean he could easily have used his customer service skills and experience and used it to undermine me at my position (there were a few who did that) but he didn’t; anyway my point was I wouldn’t let the salary/experience get in the way. In this case attitude counts the most, if he has a good attitude he may be a great fit for your org.

  6. Dan*

    #2 I’ve worked in an industry where it is common for “middle managers” to make less money than the front line employees they supervise. This happens a lot in an environment where the everybody “in the field” (so to speak) gets paid by the hour, including supervisors. When the sups are getting a healthy base rate and 1.5x OT on top of that, it adds up. I can very much imagine guys pulling in $60k+ when management is getting something in the $50’s.

    More importantly, your underling won’t know what you’re making unless you tell him. So the issue might be all in your head ;)

    I think the larger issue is that you’re managing someone who is older than you or more experienced than you, and it could create a weird dynamic. Sure it might. But you’re part of the interview and selection process, right? Evaluate for fit. I know that the way my company runs projects, I’m getting to the point where I “manage” (at least supervise the technical work of) people who are older and more experienced than I am. (And I have a supervisor who’s younger than me, too.) As long as everybody has an adult, mature, collaborative respect for one another, there won’t be any issues.

  7. clobbered*

    #1 – if you don’t need the salary or the benefits, consider looking into websites where you opt to do casual work on a near-daily basis – eg. Task Rabbit or Mechanical Turk. That way you can wake up in the morning, see if you feel up to it, and then decide whether to go for it or not. You’re not going to make a lot of money doing it, but you’ll make some, and it will give purpose to your day. The other option is to volunteer somewhere where their need for help is bigger than their need to show up predictably. You will still gain skills that you can use if you are ever in need to get a job.

    #2 Yeah, very common in IT where typically high-caliber technical staff report to project managers. I have to say it never occured to me that it is a problem; as long as I am fairly compensated I don’t care what anybody else earns. Plus, the more I can pay the gang, the less likely they are to be poached, so I am all for it!

    1. Same Boat as #1*

      Thanks for the links. I’m in the same boat as #1 & was considering writing to AAM. (Unfortunately, my chronic illness isn’t covered under ADA. I just started yet another new med today & have been queasy for 8 hours. Not fun)

      AAM, any advice for those who have to work while chronically ill? Is it ok to take a job hoping you’ll be able to handle the tasks? How do you approach this in an interview? What if I have to quit again?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Is it possible to apply similar advice here — looking for jobs with more flexibility? Harder, I know, but possibly the better option if you think there’s a decent chance that you might end up with a lot of absences.

      2. KellyK*

        There are definitely employers out there who are willing to work with people with chronic illnesses and go above and beyond what ADA requires in terms of accommodations. And there are definitely jobs that can be more flexible in terms of schedule.

        Depending on your situation, it might be better to be up front in interviews about the issues you have and the flexibility you would need. The downside is that that’s going to make it a lot harder to actually find a job, since it will take you out of the running many places. But if you’re not desperate for a job, any job, right this minute, screening out those employers that wouldn’t be willing to accommodate your needs isn’t all bad.

    2. Steve*

      Just for kicks I gave Mechanical Turk a try a few months ago. I think after 2 hours I earned about 50 cents.

  8. Karthik*

    #2: Absolutely normal. You’re getting paid what it takes to find a good manager, and s/he’s getting paid what it takes to find someone in that role. For example, an aircraft carrier based surgeon with rank of Captain in the Navy will make quite a bit more than the actual Captain of the ship — even though the ship’s Captain has authority over everything on his or her boat.

      1. Bowman*

        I work in a legal nonprofit, and it’s fairly common for attorneys with a lot of specialized experience to be paid more than their manager (who is not always an attorney).

        I really just have to echo what has been said about having very clear discussions about tasks, goals, expectations ahead of time. Also, speaking from the ngo perspective, a lot of attorneys in this position are happy not to be management. They want to do their casework and not have to be concerned with donors, government reporting processes, hr issues, etc. So the more clear the relationship is regarding what you’re going to do for one another the new hire may also greatly appreciate he doesn’t have to do in his position.

  9. Unna*

    I’m hoping people here can help with some advice. I just started a new job at an emergancy homeless shelter and I’m having doubts already that this is the right place for me. When I signed on, I thought there was a security person to eject high/intoxicated clients. There is not. It is a sober shelter, but high/intoxicated people try to access the facilities on a nightly basis. Part of my job duties is to identify these people and deny them services if not sober. I didn’t expect this and the idea of saying No to people with possible control issues conserns me. Physical fights between guests is a constant possibility. This week a guest broke a computer monitor and threatened the receptionist staff member. What bothers me most is the bus shuttle system. The bus runs from the downtown to the shelter in the evenings. One staff member rides the bus to mantain order and kick people off the bus if abusive. Again, though only sober people are allowed to ride the bus, no system is perfect. 90% of clients are male and I am female. I’m worried about my safety and have been talking to co-workers about their experiences. They seem unconserned and I was advised to “Just call the police” if abusive guests refuse to leave the bus. I knew working with the homeless population would be rough. But, dispite my best pre-job evaluation, I didn’t expect things would be like this. Given my very short time on the job, should I wait and see if I eventually become more comfortable?

    1. Ellie H.*

      Are your coworkers who seemed unconcerned also female? I’d feel really uncomfortable too if I were in your position. If you are genuinely fearful for your safety at work then I don’t think it’s worth continuing to work there. But if you have female coworkers who have been there longer than you and are now comfortable with the circumstances, it’s possible that this would be the case for you too if you stay longer. I’m sorry that your coworkers were unhelpful. Is there anyone whatsoever whom you could press for more details about techniques for dealing with difficult guests, becoming more authoritative when turning intoxicated people away, when specifically to call the police, etc? This seems like a difficult situation and I wish you the best of luck.

    2. NewReader*

      Did they tell you point blank there would be a security person?
      Do they give you instructions on how to handle a situation with a drunk individual?
      Are you working your shift alone?
      Are the guests regulars? Or do you constantly see new guests?

      Definitely watch other women and see how they are handling things. Do as they do- as long as it is legal, ethical and within guidelines. Perhaps you can find out how long people have held their jobs with this place. That would give you clues, also.

      With what I have seen, I would recommend that you keep looking for another job. I am sorry to sound like Debbie Downer. These jobs are rough. And as the years go by, these jobs get rougher. Some people can’t do this work. Some can do it for a while, then they must stop. Others can do this work indefinitely.
      I am in the middle on that spectrum.
      I did a “rough” job for a while, now I find that I must move on. I did find there was a learning curve and yes, I moved through the learning curve. What made it hard for me- was the amount of heartbreaking stories. And the government regs were straight-jacketing.
      On the good side, I learned a lot about people and a lot about myself. Stuff that I can keep and use for the rest of my life.

    3. Jamie*

      For me this is the exception to holding out to gain some time.

      One staff member on the bus, not even in pairs, and lack of security are real safety issues.

      I wouldn’t put myself in this situation, and if one of my kids took a job with this lack of security my poor husband would be going to work with them every night.

      Nothing is worth your safety.

    4. COT*

      I also work at a sober homeless shelter, though it sounds like there are some stark differences in our organization’s policies and practices. I rarely ever feel unsafe around our residents, but we have had other staff/volunteers who are not as comfortable.

      What helps is actively creating a safe environment. That requires smart practices, the right attitude, and staff training. This will take some management buy-in.

      Smart practices: while we recognize that the vast majority of our residents are kind and harmless, we’re also aware that substance use and mental illness can alter a person. So we have a controlled entry (doorbell) that we can open from behind the front desk. That way when someone walks in there is a physical barrier (the desk) between us. We can also use our intercom to speak to someone outside if we have concerns that it would be unsafe to allow them in. We also use other safety features like good lighting, security cameras, etc. We require any knives or other weapons to be locked at the front desk, we breathalyze at evening check-in, etc.

      Attitude: we are intentional about building community and making our residents feel welcome. Because our residents feel respected, they in turn usually respect our staff and building. When another resident is out of line they are usually the first to intervene or alert staff. It’s not perfect, but it does create a culture of responsibility and safety. That keeps the small portion of problematic residents from putting the rest of us in harm’s way.

      Staff: ask for some staff training in nonviolent self-defense, conflict deescalation, recognizing and working with folks under the influence, personal boundaries, etc. This has helped our team feel more comfortable in uncertain situations and make smarter choices. Even just the open “I feel nervous when…” conversations have been helpful. For instance, I admitted that sometimes I feel a little uncomfortable answering the door when I am the ONLY one in the entire building. This led to other people offering their support and advice so I felt less alone. If your management won’t offer training, seek it yourself. Self-defense training is easy to find and often free or inexpensive (try your police department, community education, etc.).

      You might not have the power to make all of these changes. Even if you do, there’s no way to remove 100% of the risk. But from what I’ve seen and studied, most people who are harmed in this line of work are victim of poor safety practices, either because they didn’t follow the rules or the organization’s rules are bad in the first place.

      Starting off in this field is hard, and nearly everyone I know was intimidated at first. If you give yourself some time to feel more comfortable, get to know the job and your clients, and ask your management for support, and you’re still getting nowhere, then get out.

    5. Sarah G*

      It’d be helpful to have more info in order to give advice (Are you the only staff member on-site? Is there an emergency/safety protocol?).
      First and foremost, ask your manager for training! And you should not have to pay for it! Ideally it should be on the clock too, not on your own time, but either way it should not come out of your pocket. I HIGHLY recommend training in Non-Violent Crisis Intervention through The Crisis Prevention Institute is great: http://www.crisisprevention.com/Specialties/Nonviolent-Crisis-Intervention
      I’m not sure where you live, but they offer trainings all over the country, maybe even webinars.
      Also ask your manager for the protocol when someone is escalating. If you are alone at night when people are arriving, or if they won’t provide training (even one full day of training through Crisis Prevention Institute is really effective), then maybe start looking elsewhere. Signed, someone with nearly a decade of experience working with the homeless

  10. Anon*

    #1 – my thought is that if you’re looking for jobs that can be flexible a bit, it might make sense to look for a job with (a) longer-term projects that, (b) is willing to hire you at 80% time. Then you can leave at 5pm when your health is good, and bank that extra time for days when it’s not. I know that a lot of employers aren’t open to this kind of thing, but it work for, for instance, a law firm that is, so some are.

    1. Starts & ends with A*

      Or op #1 can look for contract positions! We hired several people as contractors and they ranged from student role who were students, had another full time job, were stay at home parents, were unemployed because they were chronically ill. Since you don’t need to be employed, this could be a good option to maintain skills and contact with an industry. I also seconded finding a volunteer position.

  11. NewReader*

    For OP #2 wondering about the work dynamic with higher paid employee. This sounds like a variation of supervising someone older than you. The first time I encountered the situation of supervising someone older (significant age difference) I was intimidated for many reasons.

    That was a waste of energy. I found out that people just expected me to do my job and be professional. As time progressed we were able to have some good talks. One thing that came out was that some of them did not want the supervisor title. They did not want the responsibility, they did not want to deal with all the different types of personalities, the at home dramas, the emergencies, and the decision making. “You can HAVE it!” they told me.
    And they were great to work with- they clued me in on what was meaningful to them. Basic respect. Clear instruction. Ownership of my own mistakes. Keeping confidential information, confidential.
    And, oh yeah, they saved my neck many times. “Hey, boss, did you know we have a problem here????” Uh, no, I didn’t…. whoops.
    I became a better supervisor because of them.
    I recommend a wait and see attitude about the pay issue. You might figure out in the end that you are okay with it all.

    OP#1. I have had numerous issues too. I missed huge amounts of time from work. I developed a plan, and stuck to it. If I stumbled, I got up and brushed me off and tried again. I do a lot with diet and nutrition, I work with a practitioner that keeps me up and running. This is a story too long/not really appropriate here. But I kept showing up for work because I wanted to pay for the help I was getting. I think that was the ONLY thing that could have made me get to work at that point! It was like I had fallen into a black hole- I had to get out. What worked was a very simple diet- whole foods- veggies, fruits, fish, etc. Very simple meals.
    My suggestion is as you search for what will work for you, see if you can find work with modest hours- say ten hours a week or less.

    What is that annoying expression? How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Same here.
    I learned through all my little experiences- that if a person truly cannot work, it never occurs to them to think about getting a job. I bet you can do something.

    Hang tuff. Good luck!

    1. OP for #2*

      Thanks! I don’t have an issue with what he will make on its own. He deserves it. I also make a salary that enables me to be very comfortable and I’m grateful for that. As you point out, it is more a variation on managing someone older (he is also that) and more experienced (ditto). Older, more experienced, and makes more. So as you and someone above pointed out, I think the underlying issue is I am intimidated. But I can work through that. Your points are well taken. Not everyone wants to be a manager.

      1. NewReader*

        Part of being a good manager/supervisor is self-awareness. You are off to a great start. You are aware of a possible difficulty (discomfort) and you found a way to ask advice (AAM). You make this a career habit and you will be a good boss to these folks.

    2. Jen*

      “Never want to be a manager” here. I hope I can dodge the bullet as much as possible. Managing people seems like a huge pain the ass and I would much rather be really, really good at my job than have to deal with (for example) my current coworker who is rude and lazy. I feel very sorry for my manager when he has to talk to the coworker. It’s easy for me to avoid promotions (I’m 28 and have been in my field for 3 years only), but my boyfriend (18 years experience) has to struggle a lot to explain that he became a programmer to *code*, not to herd cats. We are very happy when we get a manager to deal with the annoying (to us) stuff and we can focus on what we care about!

      1. NewReader*

        Herding cats.
        I love this. Very well put.
        A wise manager would say it’s a privilege to work with you or your BF. Because it is a privilege to work with capable professionals. Not everyone gets to do that. And we see that over and over in this forum.

      2. Anonymous*

        A (small) caveat to this though is that one day you may not be able to cut code as sharply as someone younger (I know it sounds ageist, but you’ve probably witnessed the same phenomenon yourself), and may need to develop some cat-herding skills in a hurry.

        1. Lily*

          Ah, but anyone who is already reading AAM has a head start when it comes to developing the art of herding cats! I really don’t know how people learn on their own. Years of being a productive worker did NOT prepare me for dealing with less productive workers.

        2. Jen*

          He’s good at it… unfortunately for him, since his bosses realize it and make him do project manager work. I would be bad at it, because I realllllly hate conflict… but I’m trying to learn from my current boss, just in case.

  12. Katie*

    #1 I wish I had some specific employers to point you to, and I’m not sure of your particular skill set, but I would definitely consider doing some low-stakes freelance work that best fits your needs. I wouldn’t let your anxiety or and CFS discourage your job search entirely. Yes, there’s work that you are not well suited to do. But the same thing could be said about the rest of us. Considering you have the advantage of not needing the money, use this time to thoughtfully pursue a job/career that works for you.

    AAM, do you have any good posts where you discuss ADA accommodations? The first poster might find these protections comforting and empowering.

  13. Liz*

    #! I have a family member who was in your exact position, and had a small child that she couldn’t afford to put in daycare, but she also couldn’t afford not to work. She took a low-stress job in niche retail where she was allowed to sit down, and where the hours totaled fewer than 40 a week. It ended up becoming a great career. They trained her for management and once you move up in this field you make great money.

    The things that made it work for her (and it would not have worked for me or a lot of people): 1) She was totally honest about what she wanted at the start. 2) She had already been a passionate hobbyist in that niche field, and so she only targeted employers in that field (Her job search was the exact opposite of the advice here or anywhere, to be honest – she just walked into places she liked, with a baby). 3) She actually WANTED to start with only a few hours each week, which let her fill in for a small-business owner. So she worked one or two days a week for a couple months until they trusted her.

    I have to admit she’s also really pretty persuasive (our whole family is nuts but smart). And I always suspected she was sort of hoping to prove that she couldn’t find a job so people (ok me) would stop pushing her, which meant she had a completely take-it-or-leave-it vibe rather than I-need-a-job.

    So I don’t know how replicable her system really is. But I think the main take away could be: Come up with a REALLY specific plan that would actually give you a few things you would like to have right now, and start small. That way the job is just a small asset to your life with the promise of some potential – a sort of a down payment on a future when you’re healthier – rather than another source of stress.

    1. Anonymous*

      Wow! Good for her. Not that I would recommend it but sometimes you just get jobs the most random ways. I got one job just because I asked–and my manager at te time said she liked that I was honest! Sometimes things work out, sometimes they don’t but just gotta try and stay positive!

  14. KellyK*

    For #1, I don’t think there’s any one good answer, just lots of things to consider. If you have extra income, can you spend it in a way that benefits your health (therapy, getting a massage every so often, having someone else clean your house–anything that would help you feel better but is out of range financially right now)? And would that be enough to offset the added stress of working?

    Another thing to consider is whether you have emergency savings, and if you don’t, are you able to save for emergencies without working? (As someone who does a lot of “worst-case scenario” thinking, I feel much less anxious if I have a backup plan or a cushion, so that emergency savings can be a mental health thing too.)

    Are there ways you could make a little extra money without a job, either the websites that were suggested, freelance work, etc.? Maybe you make awesome knitted hats or do really cool paintings that you could sell on Etsy or eBay.

    The other thing I’d ask myself in your shoes is whether not working now will help you get to a point where you’re better able to work in the future. For example, if you just started new meds, it might make sense to wait a few months to see how well they work and what you’re able to do. Similarly, it’s fall, so we’re getting into cold and flu season. You might want to aim to start working at the time of year you’re *least* likely to be out sick, so you’ve had a chance to prove yourself before you start having to miss a bunch of work.

  15. anon-2*

    #2 – absolutely right , ATM — it’s not all that uncommon for a manager to make less than his subordinates in the computer industry.

    BUT — BUT — once, a long time ago in a far-away land, I was in such a position where my manager was not making what I was making. I played hardball during the offer cycle “I am not taking a cut, and I will not work for less than I’m worth.”

    The discrepancy in pay came out later. My boss told me — and I said “Now – THAT’S not fair. You SHOULD be making more than I do — and a LOT more.”

    I stressed “I hope you used my paycheck to get negotiate a better deal for yourself”…. “Yeah, I did.” Good for him!

    1. Jamie*

      This reminds me of the episode of The Office (US) where Darryl saw Michael’s paycheck and felt sorry for him.

  16. Carl*

    #4: Aerospace hiring also tends to be based around large (often government) contracts. A contract comes in, and they hire. A contract completes, and they lay people off. There’s some core staff, but many more come and go.

    Losing a contract (or having a contract start delayed) would explain this. As this sort of thing affects profitability and earnings, they tend to be very tight lipped about the details.

  17. M-C*

    #7, I think it’s here that I read a very helpful point – when there’s talk about a start date, make it from the date of the offer letter. Motivates them to get off their duff and put out the letter, as many companies seem inexplicably negligent on that point. And also ensures that you aren’t put in a spot where you might be resigning your former position without a letter, or having to move in 2 days instead of 2 weeks etc..
    And if you didn’t do that in the first conversation, there’s nothing wrong with pretending you don’t remember that :-), since it’s perfectly normal.

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