terse answer Tuesday

It’s terse answer Tuesday. Here we go…

1. Employers’ experience requirements

Are many employers now asking for several years of experience in job advertisements 1) to discourage the number of applicants they receive (and thus reduce their workload), or 2) because the position genuinely takes that many years to master, and employers are attempting to avoid the financial resources neccessary to train a potential employee? The thought crossed my mind; I would enjoy your insights when you have time.

It’s a buyer’s market. Employers are asking for several years of experience even for entry-level positions because they know they can easily get those candidates … and if they can, why wouldn’t they want them? In most cases, it’s easier to hire and train someone who already has some experience than someone who’s starting from scratch. So of course employers prefer that. If the market were tighter, you might see this change.

I know some people feel that employers — as a group — have a responsibility to society to train people rather than preferring already-trained candidates … but if you’re an employer, you’re looking for the fastest, most inexpensive path to your goal, which is to hire someone who can get to work right away. Your goal, after all, is to run your business efficiently, not to solve a larger social issue, altruistic as that might be.

2. Some bathrooms are off-limits to employees

On the second floor of the restaurant I work at, there is an event room with three restrooms. We are being told not to use two of those restrooms but to use only one of the three up there, or to go use the restroom two levels down taking an elevator which takes long (about 5-10 minutes; that is a long wait in the restaurant business), since it is used to move cargo for another company in the building. One night, I was feeling sick and I really needed to use the bathroom as soon as possible. One of the owners of the restaurant saw me walking into the event room, which was empty at that moment, and I stopped on the entrance of these “forbidden restrooms” when I noticed he was there with another of my coworkers. I turned around and started walking to the other restroom that we are allowed to use. Right after i started walking, he called me and said “How do you even dare to go over there — that is no man’s land and you are getting a write-up for this.” Is it legal to deny access to the restrooms like this?

Yes. They’re offering you three other bathrooms. It’s legal for them to designate one for guests only. Your boss sounds like a jerk though.

3. Explaining a short-term job

I worked for a major national bank in a call center recently, for all of three months. Honestly, I am ashamed to say that I was there such a short period of time. When I interviewed for the job, I was told that sales were a requirement of the job — something I thought I could deal with. What I didn’t realize was that sales were virtually the ONLY part of the job (where the people calling in are already upset), despite there being an entire separate department for that. After a matter of a few weeks, I was so emotionally miserable and uneven that I began getting physically ill. I began searching for a new job before I left there, but it eventually became too much and I did end up leaving, without a new job. It’s been almost three weeks now since I left, and I’m still scrambling trying to find a new job. My question for you is this: Is there any way, any wording, that I can explain to an interviewer why I left that job after so little time, without sounding unreliable? My previous job lasted eight months before I left, and that was due to unstable hours and income (again, not proud to admit that short of a stint). Before that, I spent five years with a major national retailer before I left after my fifth job position was cut by corporate downsizing.

“The job turned out to be almost entirely sales, which I hadn’t realized when I took it.” Loads of people hate sales; this is going to be a perfectly understandable explanation.

4. My coworker was hired because of nepotism

I recently accepted a position and have been working there for about a month now (yay!). I think it’s going to be a good opportunity, and there are some nice perks that go along with it. But (isn’t there always a but?) I have a coworker who started shortly after me and is about 4 or 5 years younger than everyone in my department, makes really unprofessional comments, and has no direct experience in this type of work (customer service to a pretty niche international field). She’s smart though and is learning, so I am trying to overlook everything else and give her a chance.

The issue is the blatant nepotism. One of her parents was a huge player with two of the organizations we work with and it’s just so obvious they got her the job. Several senior directors still haven’t learned my name (or the names of people that started before me), but they already know my coworker’s birthday. Several of the newer staff (including me) are often left off of department-wide emails, but never my coworker. And people ask about her family all the time, so it’s like they’re not even trying to hide that she’s getting special treatment. It’s just frustrating and kind of killing the morale, at least for me. Any advice on moving past this or making peace with nepotism? I’m not in a position to look for another job (and otherwise this is a pretty good fit) and I know that she’s probably not going anywhere.

There’s nothing you can do about it, and you’re otherwise happy with your job. There’s always going to be something you don’t like about an organization or something that isn’t perfectly fair. Your best course of action is to stop thinking about it. (And if you can’t do that, then try to find it amusing.)

5. Employer asked me to “keep in touch”

I applied for a position with an organization that was my first choice, until they took so long to make a hiring decision that I ended up taking a different position. They recently got in touch with me to say that they had had budget issues, but would love to talk to me about another position. I replied back to say thanks, and that although I was very interested in their organization, I’d already accepted a position elsewhere, and wished them luck in their search. They replied back asking me to keep in touch. I would love to do this, but how? I basically went on two interviews with the organization and that’s the length of my connection to them. The field I work in now and have worked in previously, isn’t really related to what they do, so it’s not like we’re going to similar conferences or anything like that. Is it more of a “if you end up looking for a job in the future, keep us in mind” kind of request?

Yeah, I think it basically means “we’d be interested in talking if you’re in the market in the future.” That said, you can certainly do things like connect on LinkedIn, send them the occasional interesting article you come across that you think would be of interest, etc.

6. Listing a store transfer on a resume

I work for a nationwide clothing retailer as a part-time sales associate. I recently moved to a larger city so I could be closer to my boyfriend and have a better chance at finding full-time work. I’m keeping my retail job, just transferring stores. It’s the same job and same responsibilities, but in a different city. How should I put that on my resume?

Like this:

Sales associate, Chocolate Teapot Factory
Maui, Hawaii, 2012-present
Washington, D.C. 2010-2011

Or if that messes up your resume format, you could do it as the first bullet point in the series of bullet points describing your work there:

Sales associate, Chocolate Teapot Factory, 2010-present
* Based in Washington, D.C. 2010-2011; based in Maui, Hawaii 2012-present.

7. Including class projects on a resume

I am a soon-to-be-grad with a major in marketing. My classes have a heavy emphasis on projects rather than exams. Would it be acceptable to include relevant projects from my classes on my resume (especially if they are always group projects)? I would obviously focus on my work experience (a full-time key holder position at a retail store as well as a research assistant position at my university that I have just started), but I feel as if some of my projects would also apply. For example, one of the projects I have recently completed was for a well known pizza company, where someone from corporate was present for the final presentation. Another project required that I worked with exchange students to create and complete a business plan for a restaurant concept, complete with all the necessary financial information.

I feel that, because each project was pretty big (a semester long, with a complete report and presentation at the end) they could be relevant depending on the position. I would only include one or two projects underneath the Education part of my resume, which would come after the Work Experience section. Currently, after each semester, I sit down and type out a several bullet points of what I accomplished that semester with each project. Am I wasting my time?

Eh. You’re not going to harm yourself by including them, but I’m skeptical that they’re going to add anything. Doing a project like that for class just isn’t the same as doing it in the workplace — it’s not subjected to the same rigor, and it doesn’t involve navigating the politics, competing priorities, and other elements you’d get at work. If the work were actually used by a business, it would be different, but it doesn’t sound like that was the case here. So I wouldn’t put a lot of weight on it for your resume.

{ 69 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie*

    #1: This seems logical enough, but hiring managers would be wise to consider whether or not someone who has mastered a particular role would want to stay in that role for long. If employees can’t grow with a company, will the company still grow? And will it ever not be a buyer’s market again?

    #2: “Forbidden Restroom” seems like it came from an R.L. Stine novel.

    #3: Just wanted to offer my e-sympathies. That sounds like a rough spot. Follow AAM’s advice (unless you’re applying for a sales job!) and hang in there!

    #6: I have to do this! I listed both cities next to my position title. Sometimes people get confused, but it’s easy to clear up (No, I live here, not there).

  2. CatB (Europe)*

    #1 (experience requirements in job ads): in my experience that is sometimes just boilerplate phrasing. Some jobs do need specific experience (the technical ones, or IT or medical, for example), but in most cases it’s just “let’s put in some deterrent for resume-bombers”.

    Working as a hiring consultant, I discovered that in many cases the client didn’t really need that level of experience, they were just going along with the trend. And, though there are those who really think experience is the key (mainly because they do not have the time or budget to train greenhorns), after a Q&A session about the real needs of their organization many will be more that willing to ditch (at least some of) their “experience” requirements in favor of attitude, hunger (as in “determination to work, learn and grow”) and quick learning.

    #3 (CSR turned sales): I had a candidate in a similar situation (not exact, but similar) and he said something along the lines of “between the interview and the actual start the focus of the position changed, including much more sales activity than I was ready to put up with”. I, for one, found that wording natural and convincing.

  3. Anon*

    #4 If your coworker is smart and doing well, what’s the problem? You’re assuming her parents phoned her in without any merit of her own– it’s more than likely, since everyone appears to know her, that she had social connections to the company because of her parents’ business. Yours supervisors probably knew her already and trusted her to learn fast, which it appears she is doing. What’s the big deal?

    People get jobs through connections all the time, in fact AAM gives advice for utilizing your connections pretty frequently. So they figured she could learn, whereas normally an employer might not want to risk that since they don’t usually know their candidates in advance. It kind of sounds like you’re offended on principal even though her performance has given you no reason to, and I get that. Sometimes I look at the people I know who got jobs through happenstance connections like that and think “How in the hell did they get so lucky and have it s easy?” But you need to let it go. There’s nothing wrong with this situation, or your new coworker.

    1. Tamara*

      This is exactly what I was thinking as I read #4. Nepotism is just another form of networking, it just tends to be more personal (and perhaps that’s why it’s taken so personally by others!) The problem with it is when it turns from giving a someone with a potential a job into keeping someone who didn’t fulfill their potential in a job without any repercussions. I’ve known many people hired through personal connections that stepped up and were valuable members of their team. I’ve also seen people hired the same way who slacked off, never learned the job properly, and were a burden while they were still employed. It’s the latter type that you would need to be concerned about, but from the description it sounds like this employee is stepping up so far. The best way to deal with it is to treat her like any other employee. If her performance is great, let her know. If it’s not and it’s affecting your job, then address it.

    2. Hari*

      Another +1. You’ve pretty much said what I had plan to say. Seems like OP is a bit jealous at the personal connection to the superiors and doesn’t want to be passed over chances for promotions, etc. due to this personal connection (especially if OP just started and forgive me if I miss interpreted but it sounded like they were on the same job level).

  4. Kerry*

    Regarding #5, I’ve often heard advice to send articles to people I’ve networked with, want to stay connected with but don’t see often (or ever). I’ve never done it because it seems stilted and awkward to me – but now that Alison’s mentioned it it’s officially a real thing rather than questionable advice. *g* Do you literally just email it to them and go “Here’s this article relating to your field I thought you might like to read?”

    I guess I assume they know more about what’s going on in their field than I do, and it’s a bit presumptuous to be sending them things like that – especially when it’s clear the real reason is “Hi, I’m a person in your network sending a Network Keeping Up With Email ™ so you don’t forget me!”

    1. Anonymous*

      Totally agreed–I’ve had vendors send me articles, and it’s never once felt useful to me or inspired me to want to develop more of a relationship with them. Most of the time they are off base enough that it’s mostly a reminder that the vendor doesn’t understand my needs or my business.

      I wonder how to effectively network with industry people in a way that doesn’t scream “I spent five minutes googling your industry just so I can talk to you!”. Going out for coffee is great if the contact has free time, but sometimes they really only have the five minutes to respond to an email.

    2. Jen*

      I thought I was the only one who found this weird… and I’d find it weird even if I was in the recipient’s position. Wow, you found an article – now what, a pat on the head?

      1. Esra*

        Ouch, maybe this depends on the industry? There’s always new/niche-y stuff going on in graphic and web design, so I have a lot of people in my network who will share random, neat articles. And I do the same, if it’s done genuinely and not the random googling mentioned above, I think it’s a great way to keep in touch.

        1. Jen*

          I’m really curious, how does this go? Do they share them with you only? Several people? Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter? Do you know all your people in your network closely?

          I find that sharing articles with a larger audience (i.e. as a status update) is great – if I find it interesting, I’ll say so, if I don’t, I can ignore it. But I would be really baffled if someone I barely knew sent something to me only. Even if it’s something totally related to my industry and super interesting and new.

          1. Esra*

            Just one on one, through email or twitter. Could be a quick shout out like “Hey, Did you see this new modular typeface from Lamesville? (link) Saw it and thought of you” or a longer email/check in. Either it’s something new or it’s something I’ve seen and we can chat a bit about. Either way, as long as it’s not totally ridiculous or old, it’s a nice way to keep in touch.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I know I’ve written about this once before but can’t seem to find it — anyway, somewhere around here, I basically said that the trick with this is that the bar is fairly high if you do this. You can’t just pick any old relevant article and send it; it’s got to really be something that you genuinely think would be of interest. Otherwise, yeah, it comes across like you’re just sending an I’m Keeping Up With You email or, worse, naive.

    4. Ellie H.*

      My “industry” is academia, which is quite different, but this seems normal to me. I wouldn’t say anyone should go out on a deliberate quest for articles to send for networking purposes, but there are so many articles I come across where I can think of someone who’d be interested in it, so if the opportunity presents itself it wouldn’t seem weird to me to do, if someone had said “keep in touch.”

    5. Natalie*

      You really do need to send the right thing. I find it helps to not try and think of articles Joe would like, but rather send something to Joe if you read it and think “you know who would find this interesting? Joe.”

      This has only ever happened for me once. In college I interned as a research assistant to a historian. Like most historians he focused on a pretty specific topic, so when my local NPR affiliate did a show on the history of that topic in our city, I sent him an email with a streaming link. We had a nice email exchange and that was that.

  5. SC in SC*

    #3 If I was in your situation I would give consideration to dropping this one from my resume. This may sound rude and I am not directing these comments at the OP but consider that this is the second short term job in a row. You quit both jobs in a very tough economy for reasons that were largely based on issues that you were unwilling to tolerate. And although I personally agree that they were both legitimate reasons, someone else may see it as you being naive or a high maintenance employee. Again, I’m not saying you are but getting an interview will be more difficult with two short term jobs in a row. Anyone who has spent any time on AAM knows how much competition there is just getting to the first interview and any red flag will make that even more difficult.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      I had the same thought (not that the OP may be high maintenance, but that this may cause some hiring managers to dismiss his/her resume out of hand). One job of less than a year can be explained; two is harder.

      1. Katie*

        While I know this advice is well meaning (and probably right), it’s frustrating to hear when I know so many people in this position, particularly because these people would truly thrive if offered more fitting opportunities. The OP was right to leave his/her job, it sounds. It’s too bad s/he might be punished for making a life choice that was better for him/her (and that company, probably).

        1. Jamie*

          Yes, there are people who would thrive given a different opportunity – but there are those who job hop looking for the perfect fit. Since the perfect fit doesn’t exist for any of us, that’s the red flag.

          Based on nothing more than a resume it’s impossible to separate those who left for legitimate reasons and those who are high maintenance…another argument for a well crafted cover letter.

          I’d leave it off, if it were me.

          1. Anon*

            It seems like an exception to this should be temporary holiday retail positions as well as temporary work through an agency? A lot of these positions only want you for 2-6 months but I think they’re great experience.

            I’ve done holiday work at Macy’s (2 months) and REI (5 months) and gained a ton out of both positions. I list both on my resume but I make sure to bullet my responsibilities and areas where I excelled (ex: Surpassed weekly sales/membership/CC/whatever goals by 150%).

            I also think someone who’s temped as an executive assistant for 6 months would have a lot of great skills (it’s not an easy job).

            1. Jamie*

              Absolutely. Things that are temporary from the start are excepted – because there is no reason to explain why they ended.

              Working with a temp agency – your longesvity is with the agency, whether the contracts were short or long term is no reflection on your.

              Contracting work falls into this also – a lot of IT projects are > 1 year.

              It’s just the jobs that were offered/taken with the expectation of a longer run on both sides which were prematurely terminated (by either party) are the issue.

  6. MaryTerry*

    #4. Maybe you could mention to IT or whoever administers the email distribution lists that you don’t seem to be on your department distribution list – it could just be an oversight.

  7. Sparky629*

    #4-Your co-worker probably hates the attention just as much as you do. Do you have any idea what she’s going through? She has to come to a job every day and be better than everyone else because all of her co-workers assume that she only got the job because of mommy and daddy. All of her bosses know her parents so she may feel the pressure of every little thing being a reflection on her parents. That’s a LOT to deal with, seriously. Please cut her some slack and treat her just like everyone else.

    #7-Those projects could be included in a portfolio for the interview. I work in an environment with web designers and it’s common for them to bring in samples of their work for interviews.

    1. LMW*

      I work with a really smart, savvy and hard-working young woman who happens to have a parent who is a high-level exec in our organization. Even though she’s entire capable, I can’t help but think she has to do twice as much, twice as fast to prove she’s not just here because of that.

    1. SC in SC*

      A year is probably reasonable but I can think of all sorts of exceptions to that. For example, if you were relatively young and just getting out of school, I would fully expect to see a series of short term jobs. If you had a position but got laid off after 6 months through no fault of your own then I would have no problem seeing it on your resume. It all depends on your individual situation and the position you are seeking. Also, even the 1 year time frame doesn’t always make it okay. When I see a resume for a staff position with a series of 1-2 year positions, it raises a big red flag that I would expect to have a good explanation in either the cover letter or during the phone interview (if it gets that far). As unfair as this may seem to people looking for work, the point of your resume is to get an interview or further consideration for a position. Competition is extremely tough right now so you obviously need to consider how you will be perceived compared to your competition.

      1. AdAgencyChick*


        A job tenure of a year, when the applicant has previously been at other places for three to five years at a time, tells me, “This is a stable person and their last job wasn’t a good fit.”

        Several job tenures in a row of less than two years make me think, “The second the grass is greener somewhere else, this person is likely to leave.” Not saying definitely will leave, so I’ll bring the person in if I really need someone and I haven’t been seeing a lot of good resumes, but if I have a stack of resumes on my desk to go through, you bet I’ll ask to see the people who have spent longer at each job first.

        And a job that lasts less than a year tells me that something went wrong. Not necessarily that the candidate did something wrong, or has something wrong with him/her. You can have this happen once and I won’t bat an eyelash (hell, it just happened to me, and fortunately I got out after 9 months). Twice — especially twice in a row — and I start to wonder whether the candidate did something so egregious that s/he was let go after just a short time, or whether the candidate REALLY won’t stick it out if the work gets the least bit unpleasant. It also makes me wonder: Does this person know how to figure out that a job is likely to be a good fit? If not, what if s/he thinks we’re great now only because s/he’s not asking the right questions, then quits after less than a year? (I was EXTREMELY careful about whom I interviewed with before I quit my last job, because I knew that I could get away with quitting after less than a year once, but not twice.)

        Again, it won’t stop me from interviewing you if my resume pool is dry — but it will definitely move you to the bottom of my stack, if I have a stack.

        Also — NOT saying that people don’t have perfectly legitimate reasons to have short-term jobs twice in a row. But, it probably is best to leave some of that off your resume to increase the likelihood of your getting in front of judgmental people like me. :P

        1. Hari*

          Your in the advertising industry correct? [assumed from the name :) ] Isn’t it common especially since a lot of agencies hire freelance to see a bunch of short-term jobs on applicants? I have a few on my resume, I always do point out that they are freelance though to avoid confusion. I am currently now looking for full-time work for something a bit more stable but as freelance for short-term work is common in our industry I never thought people would look down on it or judge.

          1. AdAgencyChick*

            Oh, I 100% think differently about someone who’s been freelancing and had multiple short-term assignments than someone who’s been hired as full-time staff and hasn’t lasted very long at any of those positions. Usually candidates who have been freelancing for a while list themselves as self-employed and then list some of the places they’ve worked as part of that. Or whoever has put the resume in front of me (the agency recruiter or an internal employee who’s referring someone to me) almost always tells me “this person is currently a freelancer.”

            Thanks for making me clarify that!

    2. Jamie*

      It depends on the position, as well.

      In upper management a series of 1-2 year jobs would be a huge red flag. Unless you’re a hired gun who is brought it to right a sinking ship and it’s known from the start it’s a short term thing, then a bunch of 1, 2, even 3 year stints as a CFO, Director, etc. could be a problem. Sometimes with the higher level jobs it can take a while to show the incompetence. Being asked to resign and resigning of one’s own volition can be hard to distinguish without digging.

      1. Katie*

        A flip side to this question: I worked for a company where 1-2 year stints were the norm, with an even sprinkle of people quitting, getting laid off, or fired. Would you say this reflects poorly on the company in the same way it reflects poorly on candidates, or is the situation different?

        1. fposte*

          It certainly could, but again, it would depend on the industry, the kinds of people who churned, and the company. This could actually be a counterpart to the upthread discussion–one possibility is that they were poor hirers, failing to consider that people with multiple short-term jobs would be unlikely to become long-term there. But you were there–do you think it was because the company had a problem, or was it just a fast-moving volatile place?

          1. Katie*

            They are certainly a fast moving, volatile place, and IMO it’s not doing them any favors. I think they wear rapid change like a badge of honor, and the implicit assumption is that those who are let go just can’t keep up with the pace. But I think it’s hard for most people to succeed when you turnover management once or year (or sometimes even less frequently than that!).

              1. Katie*

                Interesting article. I definitely hit that “value apex” with my old company a while ago, but I think I was scared to leave. Money was part of it, but it was also just hard to let go. I really used to love that job, and it was hard to admit that the time had come.

                I wouldn’t say they believe in “a culture of quitting.” They’re just constantly changing strategic direction with what seems like little thought as to long term consequences or implementation. And while I love the “this is impossible and crazy…let’s do it!” attitude, it’s no longer fun when it lines people up to get thrown under a bus.

  8. Ivy*

    #7 I’m a marketing major myself and I feel like the types of projects we do at uni don’t belong in a portfolio. For all the reasons AAM mentioned. While the projects may be large, they just don’t carry the same real world relevance or accomplishments. These projects would not add anything to a portfolio (might even hurt it by making you appear naive).
    I have large projects with some accomplishments listed under education (i.e. one of my projects was selected from the class to participate in a presentation competition so I have that on my resume). I think this is different in the i.e. graphic design field since employers are looking for technical skills.

    #4 OP, you haven’t said your coworker is entitled or anything along those lines, which makes me think the attention she’s getting is beyond her control and probably unwanted. Don’t let it bother you or affect your relationship with her. Knowing a higher up might get you more attention initially, but it certainly doesn’t give you the skills to succeed. I guess what I’m saying is, let your skills shine! :D

  9. Elle*

    #7 – I think it depends on the nature of the project. One marketing project I worked on in college included the company providing our team with actual money to design and execute a marketing campaign. We created advertising that was used by the business, held special events, created and maintained a social media presence, etc. I included this project on my resume and every interviewer I met with asked me about the project and found it very interesting, and my classmates have had similar experiences. Interviewers at two separate companies also asked to see work samples from the project, and I am not a designer. That being said, I applied to companies located near my university that were familiar with the business we worked with, and I removed it from my resume for my second full time job search since I now have professional experience. It worked great for when I only had limited experience in marketing though!

  10. K.*

    #4: I lost out on a job to the CEO’s niece and when I found out who she was, I was like “Well, duh.” I mean, I was a great candidate, but she was the CEO’s niece. Our education and experience were similar; she had the edge. Most people get jobs through connections, especially in this market; nepotism is just another form of that. (When I find a job I’m interested in, the first thing I think is “Do I know anyone who works there?” And if I come up with someone, you better believe I email them first.) You say she’s smart and is learning; I’m guessing she’s young (you mention she’s 4-5 years younger than the rest of the department), needed a job, and someone gave her a break. Unless you have evidence that she’s not qualified – she’s actively screwing up, slacking off, whatever – I’d let it go.

    1. K.*

      Actually, I would amend the last sentence to say “Unless she’s actively screwing up and it affects you directly, I’d let it go.”

  11. Jamie*

    #4 – with the exception of “makes really unprofessional comments” I am on board with the other commentors who don’t know what the issue is. People get jobs via networking all the time – this is no different.

    But because I’m incredibly nosy I am curious as to what kind of unprofessional comments you’re talking about.

  12. Xay*


    Unless the project was for a business or specifically relevant to the job you are applying for, don’t do it.

    I am in the process of reviewing resumes and I’ve noticed a lot of new grads (undergraduate and graduate students alike) devoting pages of their resumes to descriptions of classes and projects that are not relevant to the position that is available. At best, it wastes space and at worst, they put their work experience after these descriptions and I’m ready to move on to the next one.

    1. Katie*

      I wonder if these new grads are misjudging what makes them most valuable to employer. What makes you stand out as a student might not be the same as what makes you stand out as an employee (but professors and college career counselors might not see it that way, so steeped in the academic world as they may be). Maybe that’s why it’s so tough for new graduates to find a job – all of a sudden, the rubric for success has changed.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think this is completely true. It’s also why students and recent grads see those school projects as useful experience and people who have been in the work world for a while don’t.

        1. Katie*

          Right. It’s particularly frustrating because professors might not have a good understanding of the professional fields they teach towards, as their professional field (academia) tends to be kind of idiosyncratic (I mean, c’mon…in what other professional setting can you get away with letting your wife answer your emails?). So they teach towards their own professional standards, and while that’s certainly their prerogative (and I’m sympathetic to arguments against the professionalization of the academy), it might be doing their students a huge disservice.

          Universities would do well to strike a balance. Sure, teach your students the postcolonial aesthetics of chocolate teapots, or whatever, but also teach them how to run a hustle on the side.

          1. OP #7*

            Thanks for all the feedback. I am graduating within the year an am trying to figure out what I should be including on my resume now so I am not freaking out about it when I am graduating and applying for jobs. While I do have work experience, I have been at my ‘first’ job for just over 3 years (I’ve worked my way up to a full time key-holder position during that time though) so I don’t have a lot of stuff to include compared to some kids I know who ‘job-hop’ every summer. I just started a research assistant position at my university though, so that will help.

            Is there any context in which I can include some of the skills I have learned in school? Perhaps under a (small!) skills section?

            1. Anonymous*

              Great that you’re thinking about your resume before you graduate, but you should ramp up your job search now to secure a full-time job post-grad. So many students don’t realize this, but the majority of employers do the bulk of their entry level hiring in the fall for positions that will start spring/summer/following fall.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                This is another case of “know your field,” I think. It’s more common in big companies. For the rest of us, apply 2-3 months before you hope to start!

              2. OP #7*

                If I didn’t have a plan I would be freaking out already. I know not everything (or even anything) will go according to plan, but it’s whats been keeping me from having an anxiety attack.
                I’ve kind of ‘mapped’ things out to where I will begin applying 3 months before I graduate (I am also a list maker and have a list for anything/everything) and go from there.

                I happen to be in a very lucky position where I am currently employed full time, with benefits and vacation time, so I can afford to spend some time looking for a new job after I graduate, especially since I am still growing within the position.

                The down side is that it is retail, and I know it’s not what I want to do forever (I happen to be an introvert who can fake it for the 8 hours necessary, but its exhausting). This also means that, unfortunately I cannot dedicate a whole lot of time interviewing during the fall due to it being our busy season and PTO after mid-October is a big no-no.

                Thank you everyone for all the advice! I feel a lot less freaked out about my resume-in-progress.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Maybe not, but if Dreamjob calls me for an interview, I will definitely mention that we did police reports in class, and name-drop the teacher (who worked there for years). Because I want them to know that yes, I know basically what a police report is supposed to look like.

          They’re scheduling testing for the position but have not contacted me (noticed this posted last Friday, while I was on vacation). I sent a follow-up email after my application which was answered; wonder if it would be too forward to send another one?

  13. JT*

    Re #4

    There’s a problem with nepotism from the standpoint of our society as a whole – it means that groups that are in power continue to remain in power, with a result that is different than a true meritocracy and is unfair to those people without connections. This is something to keep in mind in recruiting – at a minimum trying to reach all sorts of people who could do the job and not just “friend of friends.” There are costs in doing that – it can take time for outreach and more time for vetting. But the benefit is a stronger, more diverse workforce.

    That said, I don’t think anything should be held against the beneficiary of connections in this case. Don’t hate the player – hate the game.

    1. BCW*

      I agree to a point, however its not always a bad thing, assuming the person is qualified to be working there. I think its a matter of trust, most people trust their family more than complete strangers, so it would make sense for them to hire that person.

      The question is, do you have a problem with any networking that leads to jobs, or just if it involves family members?

      1. Katie*

        I think it’s more pernicious than one might initially think. Sure, you trust your family and friends more than you might trust a stranger, but that stranger just might be better equipped for the job. By relying heavily this kind of social capital to make hiring decisions, we perpetuate class strata that, as JT writes, have nothing to do with merit. There’s about 300 comments in the “parent achievement” thread that speak to how frustrating this reality can be.

        The worst part, in my opinion, is these personal prejudices have a significant impact on work performance and success. If your boss doesn’t think you will succeed at your job, you probably won’t, irrespective of whether or not you can.

        This is why I won’t take a job (well, won’t take a job again) where people express doubt about my abilities at the time of hire. It’s like already having one foot in the grave.

        1. BCW*

          Again though, I prefaced my statement by saying that the person with the connections is actually qualified. If they aren’t, then I agree, nepotism (or any other form of favoritism) is horrible. But if they are qualified, I don’t really have a problem with someone getting a job because they know certain people, because its worked in my favor before.

  14. ROC Recruiter*

    #7 – I would argue that for soon-to-be grads it’s not a bad idea to include one or two major class projects you participated in. Especially if it is sponsored by a well known company or organization. In place of work experience, it can tell a Hiring Manager what type of employee you would be; how well you work in a team; what role you like to take when working as part of a team. Hiring Managers I work with love to ask questions about class projects when applicants don’t have much work experience. After getting one full-time job experience under your belt though, I would remove it from the resume, as it is no longer relevant.

  15. Dan*


    I tried this tactic, and got enough phone screens where I was confident that it worked.

    While ROC Recruiter brings up points I hadn’t though of, my theory is that you’re trying to create a marketing document that distinguishes you from someone else. When you’re fresh out of school with no real work experience under your belt, a bland “fresh out of school” resume isn’t going to set you apart. IMHO, good or not, your class projects are all you’ve got, unless you’ve got good co-op or intern experience that surpasses the project work.

    In my case, all of my class projects that I listed used real world data sets. That way, while businesses may not have actually used my results, I can claim that they answered questions a real business may ask. Now that I have “real” work experience, the school work, absent my thesis, gets removed. (I found on interviews we only had time to talk about my thesis anyway. But you never know what hobbies/interests your interviewers have, and what catches their attention enough to call you in.)

    For your projects to add value to your candidacy, and not just be filler, be prepared to answer:

    1. How did you make your projects as real-live relevant as possible? (Projects where the prof hands you a step-by-step “how to” guide aren’t going to cut it. Show me that *you* had to think, or contribute to a group discussion.)

    2. What assumptions did you make? This is key. Assumptions make or break your analysis, and in academia, it’s all too easy to assume away difficult issues so that your work is easier. But if you pick something that totally violates Real World Requirement, your analysis is toast, even if you can get a good grade for it. I want to know how you worked around the hard questions.

    3. What did you learn from your work? I’m looking for you to concisely tell me something that is clear and understandable. As an undergrad, they teach you how to write 15 page papers with a lot of filler. I’m looking for an executive summary that, in one page, tells me that you understand the problem posed, the challenges you encountered and how you resolved them, the technical approach to the solution, and what your results are.

    Granted, you’re not squeezing all of this on a resume, but put down the ones where you can talk to all three points during an interview.

    1. OP #7*

      Thanks for the advice! I do have a little bit of real world experience, but it’s three years of retail (I have worked my way up, but am at the same store/company) so I am trying to figure out what to put on my resume to “spark” an employers interest.

      I know what you mean that there is a difference between a project in which the professor “holds your hand” through it and when a professor gives you the most bare-bones instructions. It really does make a difference in the way you approach the project.

      For one of my projects we did consumer analysis for a national pizza company and presented our findings to the head of marketing, which was one of my favorite (but most intense) project and I would love to figure out a way to include it on my resume, even briefly.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        For me, the issue isn’t whether a professor holds your hand through it or not, but simply that when you’re not doing the work in real-life conditions but instead for a class, it’s just not the same thing as doing the work for real. It’s like the difference between an experiment in sterile lab conditions versus the real world. Students often aren’t in a position to really understand that distinction.

        1. OP #7*

          That is true. While I know that the projects in the real world are different than those done for a class, I don’t really know how they are different, just that they are. I know it will be hard to anticipate the types of challenges and issues that will come up in the real world versus the ones that I’ve come to expect as a student.

  16. Maria*

    #1 – I have been having this issue with colleges. I’d like to get an entry-level admin job at a college, but it’s a transition for me, so I don’t have much related experience, and all the “entry level” jobs want 3-5 years! It is frustrating. I could do the jobs well, and I would like to make a career out of it. It’s hard when you can’t get a foot in the door.

  17. Eric (#3)*

    I’m the one who asked the question in #3. Because there seems to be some great insight from the commenters here, I’d like to give a bit more background info. I’m by no means expecting anyone to read or answer, but wanted to give some more info for those interested. Also, Katie, I am male, and I appreciate your sympathy. =)

    Also, thank you Alison for your response to my question. Though I’ve once already used the line you gave, it’s nice to have the reassurance that it’s one that people can understand and possibly relate to.

    I worked for a national craft store for five years. During this time, I held numerous positions – PT Sales Associate, FT Lead Sales Associate, PT Product Flow Coordinator, FT Lead Sales Associate, PT Sales Associate, PT Front-End Supervisor, PT Replenishment Associate. Positions 2, 3, 4, and 6 were all eliminated from the store’s roster by corporate downsizing, and the shift down from Position #4 resulted in a pay-cut of almost a dollar, as well as a loss of all benefits – and I still stuck around. I enjoyed the job, but in the end, it was not financially viable (the final position was about 15 – 20 hours per week at best). This ended August 2011.

    I had never worked in commissioned sales before I started with a local wireless retailer that operates about a dozen locations. It sounded like a great opportunity, I was assured by numerous people that I was a “sales person”, and it was Full Time. Three months after I started, it was already beginning to look grim. Then it started to look up – I had been travelling between the few service center locations the company had supporting and aiding them when they needed someone knowledgeable with service and repair. One of the service center managers was caught stealing and fired – from everything I heard, I was the sure bet to replace him in a role that had a much, much smaller sales goal. I’d even heard from my manager that the company’s “District Service Manager” wanted me to be in the position.

    But a few things got in the way. One, because it’s a high turn-over industry, by the beginning of this year, I was the only non-management certified technician who could touch phones for repair, meaning I was tucked away in the back most often without my sales goal being adjusted or reduced. Two, I ended up replacing the two remaining Service Center Managers for two weeks once each, further affecting my sales performance. Three, the District Sales Manager saw my “performance” in the recent sales and decided I shouldn’t be in the running for the Service Center Manager position. At this point, my manager was given direction by the DSM to tell me “get your numbers up, or…”, and because my sales numbers were only barely past 100% my first five months, I opted for the “or…” and gave my two weeks. This job ended at the end of April this year, and when asked why I left that job, I give them one of two answers, both true: 1) “That kind of sales environment wasn’t for me,” or 2) “There was some financial instability in the company which resulted in reduced hours and a lot of uncertainty.”

    I had interviewed at “The Bank” and been offered the job as a Phone Banker before I left the wireless company. When I interviewed, I was told “the job includes some sales”. I honestly thought I could do it, because I didn’t think it was as high or rigid as my last job. Even the first three weeks of training didn’t give me any idea of how bad the sales part was. Four weeks in, and I began getting an idea. Eight weeks, and I knew I needed out. Ten weeks, and I was becoming physically ill and beginning to miss days (which I don’t do, nor like to do – I don’t “play hookie”, either). Twelve weeks was the end.

    I’m ashamed of how short an amount of time I spent there, because I do _not_ like to job hop. I absolutely HATE job searching, so why would I hop? As Katie said, leaving was a better choice for me, and I even agree it was better for the bank – it’s not that I couldn’t tolerate the job, I couldn’t _survive_ the job, and they don’t need someone like me there. It was a terrible fit, unfortunately, for both sides of the equation. I don’t even blame the company, because for the people with the personalities and emotions that can handle that line of work, the company treats them like gold. The pay is great (imo), the insurance is decent, the PTO is generous, the attendance rules are surprisingly lax, and they have various [paid] events and pot-lucks and such for their teams. No sales, and I would have stuck to that job like industrial Velcro. But I couldn’t do it.

    So now I’m in a tough spot. I really don’t like to job hop, but I’m in a bind where I have to accept whatever I can get until I can find something enjoyable. I’m looking at seasonal work in retail, stores I would never have thought to apply at before, trying to weed out the spam job postings on Craigslist, and browsing listings on CareerBuilder.com, among other things. The CB.com one is a bit aggravating… because my resume includes previous customer service AND sales, I’m getting a lot of interest from employers and recruiters for sales jobs, and I’ve shot each and every one down… including one that claimed the average income was twice what I made at the bank. I’m _still_ told by people, managers, and even interviewers that I’m “a sales guy”, and I end up having to tell them they’re wrong (not in that direct of terms).

    To those suggesting I leave the bank off my resume, I’ve already done that. I had it there for a few days, then removed it once I’d read other advice suggesting the resume doesn’t need to be an explicit, detailed work history, but is meant to highlight achievements, things a person is capable of, and what they’ve enjoyed.

    Any constructive insight or criticism on any of this, from anyone, is appreciated. If you only want to say, “Yeah, there’s no way I’d hire you with that work history”, please keep it to yourself. I already know I messed up and the hole is still being dug – I’m trying to slow the shovel so I can start filling the void back in. Thanks in advance, everyone! =)

    1. fposte*

      I don’t have much in the way of advice, but if I’m understanding correctly, I would not consider the bank experience to be your second short-term job but your only one; changing positions *within* an organization is a very different thing. I’m not up on my retail averages, but I’m guessing that your commitment to that workplace was actually unusually long, and the fact that you moved into various positions there demonstrates more breadth and flexibility than “short-timer’s syndrome.”

      You just had the one bad match, which you figured out fairly quickly. I think you get a mulligan on something like that.

      1. Eric*

        I’m worried you might have missed the second job in that I worked five years at the craft store, eight months at the wireless retailer, and three months at the bank.

        I moved around at the craft store, tried to at the wireless place, and wasn’t allowed to at the bank (they require you be a phone banker for a year before you can even think about moving inside the company).

        I don’t consider my position changes at the crafts store anything short-term – I have that company a solid five years. I consider the wireless retailer the first short-term job, and the bank as the second.

  18. some1*

    #2, I agree that the boss is a jerk, but could the bathroom be off-limits so it doesn’t have to be cleaned as often? I’ve never worked in a restaurant, but I have friends who have told me sometimes sections would be have to stay closed for weird reasons, even though people were waiting.

  19. ROC Recruiter*

    #7 – AAM – I have to say I strongly disagree with you regarding your opinion that the work experience gained on some school projects is not comparable to real world experience. I hire many students for internships and entry-level full time positions, and the ones that stand out in interviews and are more likely to be hired are the ones who can show that they played an integral role in a school project. Of course real-work experience is preferred; unfortunately not everyone graduates from college with experience related to their degree field. I think a lot of it has to do with the school they attend. A school that I routinely hire graduates from has a very rigorous cirriculum and in my experience, the professors assign the projects and then leave the students to themselves. The most impressive students get really involved and take a lead role, skills which are easily translated to the real world. And like the OP said, many companies work closely with colleges to have their students work on projects for them, and consider this valuable work.

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