mini answer Monday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Internship would be perfect for me, if it weren’t an internship

Earlier today, I found an online posting for a job that sounds absolutely perfect for me. The listed tasks fit perfectly with the education and experience I have and the office is in town where I want to move. The only problem is that this is actually an internship. It is a quite advanced (paid $12/h) internship intended for undergraduate or graduate students. I recently completed my Master’s Degree and I am primarily looking for full-time positions, and if this internship was a regular job I would be like made for it. This internship is also not meant to start until June of next year.

Now, is there any way I can contact this organization and gently propose that they turn this internship into a real position or perhaps an apprenticeship and just hire me now? I realize this is very unorthodox and bold, but I am going crazy looking at this job description, thinking about how perfect this is for me. Any advice about this? Or should I just give up and move on?

Well, just because that would be perfect for you doesn’t mean it would be perfect for them. There’s a reason they’ve made it an internship; it could be that they don’t have the budget to make it a regular position, or that they already have someone in a regular position doing that work and don’t need someone else at that level, or something else.

That said, there’s no harm in reaching out to them and saying you’d love to do that work at a staff-position level, and if they ever have those positions open up, you’d love to stay in touch. But don’t just say “hey, turn this into a regular position and I’ll take it.” (Plus, keep in mind that if they did turn it into a regular position, they’d presumably then advertise that and solicit other applicants, not just hire you without talking to other candidates too.)

2. Can’t get interviews for a lower-level position

I have worked in the same field for over 7 years as a department manager. After leaving this field, I took some time off and I now want a position that is not as stressful. I have applied for office manager positions, administrative assistant positions, etc., but so far cannot get an interview. How can I overcome this? I have tried to redo my resume to reflect the skills and abilities needed to fit the position(s) of an office manager, administrative assistant, etc., but not one nibble!

Well, it could simply be there are far more applicants for those positions than openings right now. Plus, you haven’t been working for a while, which is also a strike against you in most employers’ eyes.

But it’s probably not helping your chances that many employers will look at your background, think you’re overqualified for the work or that it’s not a natural fit for your career progression, and discard you simply based on that. To overcome that, you’ll need to explain why you’re applying for this particular job. Read this for help.

3. Nervousness in interviews

I went to an interview for a job that I applied for because I assumed it wouldn’t require a lot of interaction with people (I am not good at, and do not enjoy, working with people), but it turned out that it did. I didn’t get the job because the interviewer realized I wouldn’t have been a good fit for it, partly because she pointed out that I seemed nervous during the interview. I’m worried now that being nervous is going to screw me over in all future interviews.

I always get nervous talking to strangers for the first time, and there was additional nervousness from the fact that I was dealing with a stranger in an interview context. I’ve been this way all my life, so I know I can’t change that, but is there a way to reassure interviewers that if they hire me, I’m not going to be nervous just interacting with coworkers and an occasional outside person? If an opportunity arises, should I explain I never had problems working with coworkers (I’m comfortable with them after getting to know them a bit) or the occasional outside person before?

Rather than try to reassure your interviewers, you’ll be better off actually tackling the nerves and finding ways to keep them under control during interviews — or at least looking like you’re not that nervous, even if you are. Easier said than done, I realize, but you might try the advice here, and there’s also a big section on fighting nerves in my free guide on preparing for interviews, which you can get here.

4. Mentioning race in a cover letter

I have a question that I know may sound a bit odd. I know that it’s technically unlawful for employers to use race as a determining factor in hiring decisions, but logically there are some jobs where they do want a certain race. I’m an African American male. I’m considering applying for a mentor type job for inner city youth. Based on everything I’ve learned about the organization, the majority of the kids they mentor are African American as well. So it stands to reason that if they are looking for mentors or people to handle to mentoring program, they would want people the kids can identify with, correct? My question then is whether or not including something about my ethnicity is a bad thing. I know that usually that is something you would avoid, but in this situation, should it be addressed?

Well, when you’re applying for any job, you can always mention a personal connection you have to the work in your cover letter. So for instance, in applying for a job with, say, an organization that works on fighting MS, you might say, “As the sister of an MS sufferer, I have a personal interest in your mission.” And in your case, I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t say something like, “As an African American, I’m deeply committed to providing mentoring support to kids of all races” or whatever. (Similarly, if you happened to come from an inner-city background yourself, you could throw that in there too.) The key is to say it to explain your interest in and commitment to their work, but not to present it as a qualification.

5. Breaking a contract mid-way through

I am in my first year of teaching. For many reasons, I cannot stay there any longer (no desire to be a teacher anymore, the students in the building, high demands from administration, pressure placed on the teachers, etc.). I had to sign a one-year contract at the beginning of the school year. How should I go about breaking this contract? I am skeptical of who to ask. Also, how much notice do I need to give that I am quitting my job? It will be awkward to tell too far in advance, but unprofessional otherwise. I know I am supposed to keep this commitment as I signed the contract, but I can no longer continue at this school.

There’s not really any way to do this that isn’t going to reflect really badly on you and make you look like someone who either doesn’t think through your commitments before making them or doesn’t honor them once made, even when they involve something as serious as kids’ education. That’s why schools have contracts: to ensure you’re willing to make and stick with the commitment. Someone leaving partway through the year is a huge disruption. In any case, if you’re going to do it, you’ve got to forget about the awkwardness of telling “too far in advance” and tell them right now. You owe them that, at least.

6. What happens once a candidate is chosen?

When a candidate is chosen, what happens next internally, even before the candidate is contacted and offered the position? And what happens internally and what wheels start moving after the offer is accepted?

Totally depends on the organization. Some will call you and make an offer that day. Others have reams of bureaucracy to work their way through — layers of approvals, etc.

Once an offer is accepted, a well-run employer will (a) reject other candidates, (b) announce the hire to the rest of their staff, (c) get the wheels turning on getting your computer, business cards, etc., and (d) starting working on other logistics, such as a training plan. Of course, plenty of employers are not well-run and only do some of this once you’ve started, if at all.

7. Employee fears new technology

I work in a technology heavy field, and I have an employee who both fears and loathes technology. I’ve tried to work with her over my 4-1/2 years (3 as colleague, 1-1/2 as manager) to get her more comfortable, with support, extra training, even reassurance etc. as new things pop up, but she’s just not getting it. With every new thing, she has a panic attack and decides she can’t do it, and overall we have a habit of deciding if you can’t do it, you won’t have to ever again and it’s not fair to other employees. In other aspects of the job, she’s wonderful, with customers who love her, she’s flexible with scheduling, and incredibly accommodating. I don’t want to fire her because staff morale really can’t get any lower (both the corporation wide culture and the department) and she’s been there for twenty years, but enough is enough already.

Assume that based on the evidence of many years, she’s not going to change. You’ve now got to decide if you’re willing to keep her on knowing that she won’t change and knowing that it’s unfair to other employees. I don’t know enough about your context to know whether or not she’s valuable enough for that to be reasonable; that’s a call you need to make. If you do decide to keep her, you might consider explaining to her that you’re not going to hold her hand on this stuff anymore, and that if she doesn’t turn around her approach to technology, it will impact her future raises, performance evaluations, and projects and opportunities. But really, you’ve got to make a final decision about whether or not it makes sense to keep her in her role, so that either way, you can stop banging your head against the wall.

{ 117 comments… read them below }

  1. KellyK*

    For #5, I totally understand and sympathize with not wanting to be a teacher anymore. (I taught for two years, and that was enough!)

    That said, it’s going to look terrible if you quit partway through the year. I mean, it’s October. Kids have only been in school 2 or 3 months at this point. I can’t picture any way you could handle this that isn’t going to look incredibly flaky.

    If there’s any possible way you can tough it out and then give notice in March or April that you won’t be returning for the next school year, that will get you out of teaching without the giant black mark on your record.

    1. Chinook*

      I agree with Kelly. That being said, you still have to look after you and if you are feeling in fear for your safety, you should get out. In that case, leave the best notes possible for the next teacher so that is as non-disruptive as possible. Remember that there is always atleast one kid in the room who is not causing the problem and they deserve not to lose a year of schooling.

      I speak from experience. I left a teaching position one November (I actually quit twice, the first time the VP convinced me to stay, a move he later apologized for). But, I was not the first nor the last teacher to leave and we were an hour from emergency services (something I learned form experience). I knew the woman, a non-teacher, who was going to take over my room and left her everything, including my email address, so that I could help her keep my boys on track.

      I did leave the job on my resume and have always had a way to respond when asked the inevitable questions (I mentioned going immediately into subbing again, working on my classroom management skills, and mentioned that I, in general was worried for my safety so I left as were others who left which included a 2 year veteran of the school). I even got offered a job based on working there because of how I responded to the questions. Turns out that new job had similair discipline issues but better leadership and were looking for people who knew what they were getting into. I turned it down by truthfully telling them that I didn’t think I could mentally handle it.

      After a few years of working as a sub, I was able to move into another teaching position, much wiser and more aware.

      1. Katie*

        I’ll chime in and agree here too. Do a quick Google search of “I want to quit teaching” and you’ll find dozens of posts just like yours. You’ll also find dozens of posts from battle-scarred veteran teachers who advise newbies to tough it out. According to this chart, what you’re going through is pretty normal.

        That said, ultimately you need to do what’s right for you. I’d disagree with one of the posts below that it’s worth being miserable for a year just to ostensibly prove some point. It’s not, particularly if you are working with young people. They deserve to work with someone who is elated to be doing his or her job. Give some serious thought as to whether or not you feel that way or anticipate you will in the future.

        Also, many contracts have clauses that excuse you for medical reasons. Is this job affecting your health?

      2. Another Ellie*

        I agree with the sentiment from Chinook and Katie. OP #1 needs to evaluate the problems that they’re facing, and decide whether this is just first-year-teacher growing pains, or if they’re actually in a situation that is threatening their mental and/or physical well-being. If it’s just adjusting to a job that is harder than was expected, evaluating the issues and trying to work with the administration or veteran teachers to find solutions might be the difference between quitting now and sticking it out through the year. If it’s a problem of health and well-being, physical or mental, still try to address the specific issues (is there a student making threats, is there not enough support from the administration in curbing behavioral issues?) and then, if it’s still clear that the situation will not change, look into breaking the contract. But, if the school is at all reasonable, try to do it in a responsible fashion, ie leave over Christmas break, rather than dropping everything immediately.

    2. Josh S*

      Since a lot of teachers are unionized, it may be good to contact your school’s union rep for advice as well. They will likely have plenty of advice for how to go about doing it.

      That said, the first year of teaching is HARD. Like, make-you-cry-daily-and-rethink-your-life-choices HARD. Find someone you can talk to and vent to, and see if you can possibly push through. It’s a hard job (even after the first year), but can be so much worth it.

      Good luck.

      1. JEM*

        I serve as a Citizen Representative on the HR Committee of our School Board. Many schools have clauses requiring financial penalties for breaking contract. You should have a handbook or details in your union contract on penalties for terminating employment before the end of your contract is up. I agree with other posters here that the first year of teaching is very hard. Do some soul searching before you make this decision.

  2. Aunt Snow*

    Sometimes a paid internship is funded by another organization. Here where I work, our cultural affairs division has two paid internships that are funded by the local County Arts Commission. So in that case for one, the internship can’t be altered.

  3. Joey*

    #4. I have a hard time understanding why it would be relevant to mention your own race in your application. It would be the same as a job description preferring a race for the same reason. It implies that being of a particular race helps. It’s far better to mention something that is actually job related. For example when I hired for an inner city library I asked for folks who had worked in lower socioeconomic areas and had experiences dealing with the types of issues that come with that. I’d be sort of offended that a candidate felt it was important to mention their race when they apply.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s potentially relevant here because there’s a strong desire among people who work on these issues to provide inner-city African American kids, especially boys, with more African American male role models.

      1. Joey*

        I don’t buy it. That would be like listing “prefer African Americans” in the job description. Or preferring to hire black teachers at predominantly black schools. Or only men to work at an all boys school. Race has absolutely nothing to do with how good you’ll be on the job.

        1. BCW*

          As far as hiring black teachers at black schools or men at all boys schools, you can bet that those things are definitely considered. Of course you wouldn’t hire only those things. But if there was an all black school without even a couple of black teachers, or an all girls school without a single woman teacher, I think that would look really bad as well. You want to have people there who represent the make up of the school, at least to a point.

          So no, that doesn’t mean hire only certain races or genders, but those things are taken looked at.

          1. Joey*

            The only time I think race should be a factor is when the race makeup of the staff doesn’t look similar to the race makeup of the available applicant pool. You know what’s interesting, I’ve had minority employees worry about this very issue. They were worried that they weren’t “good enough” to work at locations in the white areas of town and they would have been insulted if they were assigned to a particular area of town based on race.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I don’t think it’s realistic to think you can ignore race in this particular context. It’s pretty widely agreed upon that it’s helpful to have African American males mentoring African American boys.

                1. Ellie H.*

                  I think there’s a difference between making something a “preferred qualification” and having a deep roster. Presumably there is more than one person working in this role for the organization. In other words, that it wouldn’t be desired or required that every single person in this position be an African-American male, but that they would like some of the people in that position to be African-American males. I think there’s an important difference.

                  Of course, one can always sue.

            2. twentymilehike*

              I’ve had minority employees worry about this very issue. They were worried that they weren’t “good enough” to work at locations in the white areas of town

              Sometimes I think it is cultural, rather than racial. For example, I was looking for a job in a particular field at one point and was finding positions near my town, but they were all in facilities that catered toward the people in a specific neighborhood … who happened to be almost exclusively Vietnamese. I’m not Vietnamese and It would have been really, really awkward for me because I have not spent time exposed to that culture, especially when a lot of the clientele would have been immigrants. I don’t have a background similar to that culture, so I probably wouldn’t have been the best candidate, even if I was qualified for the position.

              On the other end of the spectrum, I used to have blond, blue-eyed American born and raised roommate who for years lived with a Mexican family, learned to speak Spanish fluently, and she feels completely comfortable working with people from that culture. It’s not awkward for her, because she’s familiar with the culture and she can relate.

              I’m sure different jobs have different cultural relevancies, but some social service jobs need to be sensitive to people’s cultural backgrounds because it will in turn better serve the clients.

              1. Natalie*

                I think it’s often a combination of demographics, for lack of a better term – race, class, and culture all interact in a way that is hard to untangle.

                My partner just finished a year of service in a middle school through AmeriCorps. He is white and most of his students were black, but his background – poor, grew up in Flint, was a troubled middle school boy with behavior problems – really helped him connect with the kids where they were coming from.

          2. Josh S*

            I don’t think the issue is about how it ‘looks’, especially to outsiders. The issue is whether a person is relatable and can be the sort of person a kid can look up to and imagine being. It’s hard to do that across racial boundaries.

        2. Josh S*

          Race has absolutely nothing to do with how good you’ll be on the job.
          Except that it does. There’s a quote, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” If you are a young African-American male who has never known a successful African-American male role model (a really plausible situation in some areas), you can’t conceptualize an alternative. A white mentor–even a really good one–may not be able to help a kid ‘see’ that alternative, while a black man could.

          Doubly so if the African-American mentor comes from a similar background/neighborhood/culture and can relate to the pressures in a way that perhaps a white mentor could not.

          1. Anonymous*

            Here’s the thing: when you make race a factor in hiring mentors you’re effectively telling the kids that race matters. You’re telling kids that the best role models for them are those that have the same skin color. How can you do that while teaching kids to look beyond race?

            And I do agree with you that exposure to a similar background/ neighborhood/ culture is relevant- those are job related. But that doesn’t mean that somehow African Americans have better experience with African American boys who grew up in the inner city.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Their mission generally isn’t to teach kids to look beyond race; it’s to give those kids the best shot at doing well in the world. There are tons of studies showing that having role models of the same race is key for minority kids.

    2. OP #4*

      Its as AAM said, in this position, when you are mentoring minority youth, especially boys, it is a benefit, like it or not. I mean having people that the youth can identify with is a big plus. Its not to say that a white girl from the suburbs couldn’t do great things with them, but its not giving the same type of example that having an african american male would.

      Again, if this was just for an accounting job at a firm, I’d agree with you, but this is a job that I think is a bit different.

      1. fposte*

        I think it *can* be relevant, but it’s relevant because of the context, and that’s what you need to bring to it–for one thing, because it demonstrates that you understand that it’s not simply a matter of your being the same race.

    3. Mints*

      I think it should be mentioned. (in the way Alison said).
      Comments like the above show ways that people of color are more sensitive to these issues. We understand privilege because we live without it

      1. TheSnarkyB*

        Agreed. And I think this is well put. However, OP, I wouldn’t phrase it in exactly that way because I think it makes it a little unclear why you’re mentioning race. (The “kids of all races” is what’s getting me.) I’m not saying you should write, “As an African-American man, I have a particular recognition of the importance of mentoring for MY PEOPLE ONLY”, but perhaps something about how you grew up (esp. if you grew up in an inner city, as Alison said.) or what mentoring has meant for you? I’m not being super clear here but hopefully you’ll get my drift.

        Thanks for continuing to post race questions, AAM! They’re often super relevant and very important, and I happen to enjoy these discussions in the comments.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t know, but I put in an app for a position at a disability center that mentioned “Personal experience with a disability” as one of the qualifications. I don’t think they meant “We’ll only hire disabled people,” just that they would like staff who are sympathetic to the clients. Lucky for me, I have one :P so I mentioned it in my cover letter in passing, in the context that I was interested in supportive organizations.

      1. books*

        Many federal contracts for projects related to people with disabilities actually ask for the number of people you are bidding/in your organization who have or have experience with a person with a disability.

    5. Anon*

      I agree, simply because a friend and I (Latin and white, respectively) had done a program where we mentored inner city students of both genders, mostly African American. We were able to connect with our students, not due to race or gender, but because we both knew what it was like to go without and either came from or had parents who came from lower income backgrounds. Meanwhile, we saw plenty of African Americans in our program who grew up quite privileged (well educated parents who were doctors and lawyers), expected the students to connect solely based on race and culture, and they had a very difficult time with their students.

      I understand it should be one factor, depending on the context, but it should be one of many. Students need someone who believes in them and loves them, especially when they get older and, instead of people seeing them as cute, they see them as annoying at best and dangerous at worst. Yes, it’s helpful to have a role model who can relate to them and may look like them, but they need someone who loves them and can understand and connect with them, regardless of what the person’s background is.

  4. BCW*

    As a former teacher, I can feel your pain on many fronts. I also know how much it can suck when a teacher leaves (my last co-teacher left mid year). However, I don’t think you should try to tough it out all year if you are already miserable. My suggestion would be to try to talk to your administration and then make it to Christmas Vacation. I assume you have 2 weeks off around then. I think that could be a nice compromise. It gives the administration plenty of time to find someone else, but its also as much as an easy time to transition as any. I mean the first week back, you basically have to go over all the class rules and norms again, so this way your students can start fresh. Good luck.

    1. The IT Manager*

      Or try to last through mid-term (which may or may not line up with Christmas vacation) if you’re teaching at a school that has mid-terms. This or Christmas vacation is easier on the students and the teacher who replaces you.

      Also give the school as much notice possible so they can find a permanent replacement and not a string of substitues which could really hurt the students’ learning. In this case you need to give more than two weeks notice.

  5. jmkenrick*

    Re: #5

    Maybe you can talk to the administration about some of the things that are bothering you, in order to create an enviornment that you can tolerate for the remainder of the school year?

    My math teacher quit mid-way through the year when I was in the 7th grade, and I still remember that so vividly. We had a string of substitute , everyone’s grades fell significantly, and the replacement was found on such short notice that they really weren’t able to screen for the best canidate. It was awful.

    Not to mention how demoralizing it is as a 12 year old to hear your teacher explain that he no longer wants to work with you.

    1. Chinook*

      When it isn’t your students that are the reason for leaving, it is also heart breaking for the teacher. I will never forget the look on one student’s face as he helped me, on his own accord, pack up my stuff. He had witnessed the final incident that caused me to leave and I can only hope that he and my other boys have forgiven me and understood. (it was a statistical anomaly that gave me an all boy class in a mixed gender school)

    2. Anonymous*

      Not to mention how demoralizing it is as a 12 year old to hear your teacher explain that he no longer wants to work with you.

      Didn’t have it that way at that age. In my case, it was the head of year telling the class to be nicer to our form teacher (about midway through the first – and only – term we constituted her class).

  6. danr*

    #5… dig out your copy of the contract and reread it. There should be provisions and notice periods for ending the contract early. If you are having such a bad time teaching, talk to your principal about it after you read the contract. He might have suggestions for making it through the year, and then you won’t be offered a contract for the next year. If you really feel you can’t make it after talking with the principal, have your letter of resignation ready, and be sure to mention the contract provision notice.

    1. Chinook*

      And, if there are true problems in the school administration, be prepared to have letter firing you waiting for you in your mailbox the day you submit your resignation.

      And, honestly, the only reason for not toughing it out a few more months is if there are problems with administration because everything else is dealable if you have a strong administration and/or mentor.

      (Sorry for hogging this comment stream. This one just hits too close to home. To put my school in perspective, 8 years later there was a report of 2 20-somethings shooting at RCMP in the community in the news. I looked at my husband and said that the place is so small that those 2 kids are probably the ones the principal refused to discipline for “idle” threats.)

      1. Ariancita*

        Don’t apologize for taking up the comment stream–this is really educational and I am sure super helpful for the LW.

  7. Rob Bird*

    #3-This is very common. Interviewing is not something that people do everyday. The best thing to do is to practice, practice, practice.

    Many of the Job Service offices in the US will do mock interviews for you for free, all you have to do is ask.

  8. fposte*

    On #5: I would advise you to run your contract past a lawyer to find out what penalties you might suffer for breaking it so you know whether you’re prepared to face those.

  9. Anonymous*

    #4. I can definitely see why this would be revelant and agree on mentioning it in a way that’s relevant. In the past I’ve applied to a few jobs that did work with the LGBT community, so in my cover letter I’d say something like how I was passionate about working for progress for “our community.” It was a mention that, I think/hope, acknowledged I had a personal knowledge and passion about this, without going “Hire me because I’m gay!” (I didn’t get the jobs, but I think that had more to do with the fact that, for the most part, I was applying to prominent civil rights organizations that were also outside of my current state… doubly difficult!)

  10. Emily*

    On #2 one of the issues I also see here is that office manager/admin assistant jobs are very often not low-level or entry-level jobs. They want people with years of experience running an office. Most people get their start in that field either because they got pulled into it from an unrelated role at their company, or they knew someone who knew someone who pulled strings to get them a receptionist job at a small company and then parlayed that experience into later jobs at bigger companies. It may be hard to find a company who is willing to turn over the smooth operation of their business to someone with no experience and no one to network them in.

  11. Penguin*

    1- I am unclear what the problem is with the intern position, other than it not starting for 9 months. Surely an apprenticeship, as the OP suggests, would not be paid well either. Is it that OP does not like the title “intern”? Or the fact that internships usually have a limited duration? If the latter- surely applying and showing how you are a great fit would be good, may lead to permanent employment later and if not, a job in your field on your resume?

    1. The IT Manager*

      The internship is intended for undergraduate or graduate students and LW#1 is a recent grad. In 9 months s/he’ll presumably be 1 year out of school. LW#1 might not get considered because s/he’s not the target demographic.

    2. Student*

      Usually these internships are strictly for current students. A grad wouldn’t be eligible at all.

  12. sr*

    #1 – The market is too tight at the moment for recent grads (and others) to turn your nose up at a good opportunity even if it is not exactly the conditions that you would have thought you’d be working in just 4 months from graduation. Speaking from experience, there is nothing more humbling applying for an internship or otherwise underpaid job that you would be perfect for only to not even get a call back. I suggest you put in your best application and see what happens. Every application you put out there is an opportunity to gather more information about your target market and employer base. At the very least, the feedback you get (some or none) will give you an indication of your competition, that employer’s interest level, etc.

    1. OP #1*

      It is not that I don’t think an internship isn’t “good enough” for me, but this one is intended for students and I’m not a student anymore. In my experience, if an employer is looking specifically for students, they do not want applications from others. In that sense, I don’t fit the description of what they are looking for. I also really need a job as soon as possible and wish that this position would open up sooner than summer next year. But it’s good advice to try to apply anyway just to see what happens. Thank you for your reply.

      1. Anonymous*

        I hope it doesn’t sound callous when I say that wanting a job now and getting a job now are two different things–the OP could find that they are still unemployed as of next June.

        OP, is there contact information attached to the internship posting? If so, it wouldn’t hurt to send a gentle email to the hiring contact. Something along the lines of, “Is this internship open to recent graduates? As a 2012 graduate of MA Program, I am seeking exactly the sort of experience this position would provide. My experience is ABC and my qualifications are XYZ. ” Something fairly short, but laying out your situation and interest.

        If the position isn’t open to anyone but students (possible, especially if it could be funded by a grant or other outside monies), they will tell. Then you can send them a polite reply that thanks them for their time and expresses your interest in working for them in the future… and you can move on to more fertile job-hunting ground.

        If they say yes, they would consider you, you can put together the best application you can and also continue applying to other jobs.

        1. fposte*

          I agree entirely, but it sounded like the OP was actually hoping that it could be turned into a non-internship job *and* would start right now. And I don’t think there’s much chance of that.

          1. Zed*

            Agreed! (That was me up there.) I doubt there is any chance of them turning this internship into a staff job–they obviously want an intern, which could mean that they can *only* have a student or it could mean that they are looking to mentor a young person starting out in the field. But it definitely can’t hurt to clarify.

            And IF they are willing to consider the OP, and IF they make an offer, and IF the OP doesn’t have a job lined up by the accept-or-decline deadline, a dream internship that pays is definitely better than unemployment.

          1. Zed*

            You’re welcome! I too had the experience of graduating with an MA and coveting some awesome internships. I inquired after two using the general terms I outlined above. One was student only but the hiring manager said she would keep me in mind if a staff job opened up. One was open to recent grads and I applied but wasn’t interviewed (a current student ended up getting it). It didn’t work out for me, at least in terms of getting the internships, but in both cases the hiring managers were kind and understanding. Being polite and interested goes a long way, I think.

        2. JT*

          I did that and it worked – wrote to and got an internship intended for current students right after I finished my school program.

  13. Phyllis*

    #5: Also depending on your state law, if you break your contract in this manner, it can result in your state certification being revoked. And while, right this minute you may be thinking ‘Never teach again’, never is a long time.

  14. AnotherAlison*

    #3 –

    “I always get nervous talking to strangers for the first time, and there was additional nervousness from the fact that I was dealing with a stranger in an interview context.”

    OP, is there more generalized social anxiety going on with you, as compared with only getting nervous in interviews? I felt like I was picking up on that, but maybe I’m reading too much into it.

    Anyway, if there is, I strongly suggest addressing it with a counselor. This can wreck relationships. I don’t want to go into my experience here, but it can really hold you back in ways you don’t even realize.

    1. Guest*

      I was going to gently suggest that you speak with a doctor/therapist/counselor because this sounds like general social anxiety. If you’re okay with non-strangers, it’s not crippling, but maybe there’s therapy or medication that can help you get over the initial anxiety, since it does seem to be affecting your career.

      Then again, I used to have nerves about job interviews, when I was a newbie, because I wanted A Job, and was eager to please. Then I had an interview where it became clear after hearing about the job that I really wouldn’t want the job. It really lit a light bulb off in my head that I was interviewing them, too, and deciding whether I wanted to work for them. (A mindset that is far easier to have when you have a job or other safety net, I admit.)

      1. OP #3*

        I can’t speak to a doctor/therapist/counselor right now. I don’t have a job and I need my savings to pay for other things. Thanks for the suggestion though, guys.

        I’ve been thinking about how interviews help me decide if I want them too. I ended up rejecting two interview requests when I found out more details about the jobs. I wouldn’t have even applied for this last one if I had known they wanted outgoing people who loved working with people.

    2. ChristineH*

      I too was thinking there might be some social anxiety because I have very similar issues. I feel your pain, OP3.

    3. OP #3*

      I probably do have some sort of social anxiety (I’m very shy and have low self-esteem so just not happy about interacting with people and avoid it when I can). Part of the problem is the anticipation of meeting someone for the first time. I start thinking about it the night before, and then I’m really nervous by the time I actually meet them. (Like, when new college classes start, or when I have appointments with someone I’ve never met before.) I still don’t like having to interact with people out of the blue, but it’s not as bad because I’m not spending time thinking about it before hand.

      1. BW*

        I do have an anxiety disorder, and have been this way my entire life. I went through much of my early childhood not speaking to people I didn’t know well or in group situations. I would get so anxious I could not talk. Although I have had years of help and medication, I still avoid crowds when I can. If I see a full parking lot at a store, and my errand can wait, I am likely to turn around and go home. I plan things around times where there aren’t a lot of crowds and traffic. I do not go to the store to shop for anything other than groceries between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

        Since you can’t afford right now to pay a professional, I highly recommend looking into avenues of self help and learning some exercises to help you take control of the anxiety and staying grounded. I have found learning meditation technique and visualization very helpful to me, though it can be hard to learn, especially for anxious people, but as with anything you have to keep at it.

        When I find myself anxious, I find it is a big help to *remember to breathe* – stop and take some deep calming breaths. I firmly believe in “fake it ’til you make it”. No matter how anxious I am about the interview or meeting someone for the first time, I take a breath, look the person in the eye, and give a firm handshake. That sets the stage, starting out looking confident even if I am sweating bullets in my suit jacket. I rehearse in my head a lot, visualizing myself being confident and having a successful interview…and breathing, lots of breathing…and while I’m in the lobby waiting, lots of breathing and looking around finding random things to focus on other than being nervous.

        I hate hate hate hate mock interviews. I am more nervous doing that than I am about the real thing, but some people find this helpful. Personally, it freaks me out, and I find it more helpful to me to think of questions and answers ahead of time on my own and just rehearse in my head. YMMV.

        Tackling the low self esteem issue with help a lot – again, go the self-help route there until you can get insurance to pay for professional help if you want to try going that route.

        1. Camellia*

          I feel for everyone in this position since I have my own demons to fight. And it is interesting how our society has changed. Now we have ‘anxiety disorders’ for crowds, etc., and back in the day we had Lewis & Clark and Daniel Boone et al. What would they be today? ADHD, anxiety disorder, something else? We’ve lost many of our alternatives for people who can’t sit still and not talk in kindergarten, hate sitting in a cubicle all day, don’t want to talk to or interact with people much.

          Okay, stopping now. I guess I’m in a weird mood today.

          1. BW*

            There’s a huge difference between things that are just part of a person’s personality (introverted, extraverted, high energy, etc) and getting a flight or fight response or having full on panic attacks, or in the case of ADD/ADHD, having the inability to focus. In cases of having ADD or anxiety disorder, not having to sit in a cube all day doesn’t fix it. I actually enjoy interacting with other people and wouldn’t be happy in a job where I could just isolate myself in an office all day and never speak to anyone, but I’m chronically anxious, not just on an emotional level but especially on a physiological level. I’m not sure how to describe it.

            1. AnotherAlison*


              We went to my neighbors’ on Sunday, just to drop off a gift for their daughter’s birthday (not staying for a party or anything like that.) My husband kept talking and talking, and I found myself petting their dog, just to have something to focus on to stay relaxed. I know these neighbors, but for whatever reason, I was having a day where I just couldn’t deal.

            2. Laura L*

              YES. I’m anxious around people, too, but I love being around people. I would hate to sit alone all day and have no human contact.

          2. AnotherAlison*

            I’m not quite sure what you’re saying. Back in the day the people who couldn’t stand crowds trekked the U.S. instead of taking Paxil? Honestly, a lot of disorders ARE byproducts of modern life. I don’t think anyone made Daniel Boone plan himself a “Sweet 16” party or sit with only his 4th hour class at lunch, in which he knew no one. Without those types of modern-life forced situations, maybe I’d have been fine.

            Once you are an adult, you really can live virtually now, similar to pioneers trekking out on their own away from the cities. Work from home, order everything on line, cut ties from your family, friends, and neighbors. It’s possible, but I think what people don’t understand is that while you might have social anxiety, you are not necessarily a misanthrope. Some people are, but others aren’t. You might be lonely and want interaction, but you can’t do it without freaking out.

            1. fposte*

              “Back in the day the people who couldn’t stand crowds trekked the U.S. instead of taking Paxil?”

              Sometimes, yes. Look at the records of Arctic/Antarctic explorers once they got back to civilization–they often had a lot more difficulty at home than they did eking out a living on an ice floe. (I’m not taking a stand on anxiety disorders or anything here, just noting that exploration did in fact seem to be kind of a self-medication for a lot of people.)

              1. Melissa*

                Or it could have been that they were perfectly fine in social interaction before they left, but months or years of trekking alone made them socially awkward and they had to get used to being in regular social interaction again.

          3. chiming in*

            These ‘anxiety disorders’ are real, and I’m sure folks suffered from them then as they did then. Like then, a lot of folks find ways to overcome, manage or deal with their anxiety. And Paxil or running off into the wild is not always the answer.

            I can’t explain to you how uncomfortable it is to answer my own front door – even if it’s for the pizza guy that I called. Most folks I work with now would be shocked to hear that I was (am) shy.

  15. MM*

    #1 – Many internships are funded by grants as well, meaning they only have enough monies to fund the position for a certain amount of time.

  16. Student*

    #4 – If you think your race will help your job application, there are a few ways that you can drop hints other than stating it in your cover letter.

    You can mention volunteer work in traditionally black organizations and still be completely “legit” from an application point of view, but make your race obvious.

    You can also mention any special honors associations you might’ve been associated with in college that are “black.”

    If you have a “black” name, you probably don’t need to worry about getting your race noticed. People notice stereotypical names, be they black, Jewish, Asian, or WASP. If you have a name like Mike Smith or Dan Jones, obviously this won’t help you.

    A word of warning, though – just because you are well-suited to work with these kids, partially based on race, does not mean that the hiring manager will judge your race favorably. People tend to pick employees based on whether or not they like the applicant and can relate to the applicant. Black hiring managers can be just as biased against black men as white hiring managers. Racism and unconscious biases are likely going to work against you, even when it goes against all common sense.

    1. fposte*

      “People tend to pick employees based on whether or not they like the applicant and can relate to the applicant.”

      I think that’s way too broad a generalization to make.

    2. mh_76*

      If you have a “black” name, you probably don’t need to worry about getting your race noticed. People notice stereotypical names, be they black, Jewish, Asian, or WASP.

      There are people who don’t “match” the stereotypes that their names might imply. People’s names change for various reasons including (but not limited to) getting married, being adopted, converting & taking a religiously-appropriate name (like Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam did) etc. Many of the Latin American names originated and still exist in Spain/Portugal. There are people w/ English ancestry whose last name is “Lee” (a stereotpically Asian surname) and I know a person of Asian ancestry (born & raised there) whose “original” (still current) last name is Latin/Spanish…

      The list goes on. The moral is don’t assume ancestry/race based on name alone.

      1. Anonymous*

        You maybe shouldn’t do that, but it’s proven that people who are in charge of hiring DO (see all the experiments where they submitted the same resume with a “white” name vs. a “black” name, etc), so the advice is still true.

        1. Anonymous*

          Yes! Or think of it this way: Suppose you’re reading three resumes, for Jennifer Smith, Carlo Ramierez, and JuChen Lee. You mean to say that your mental image of all three is a gender-neutral gray blob?

          I agree that it shouldn’t factor into hiring decisions, but let’s be realistic – people will form these mental images based on what they know – female Jennifer, hispanic Carlo, and Asian JuChen.

        2. fposte*

          There’s a difference between “can have an effect” and “has that effect every time it’s submitted,” though.

      2. K.*

        I’m African-American; my last name (and it’s my maiden name) is one that’s very commonly associated with a religion that’s NOT very commonly associated with African-Americans. I’ve had many interviewers and receptionist express surprise at my race – and I have an African-American professional organization on my resume, partly because it’s relevant and partly to try to avoid this reaction.

      3. LadyTL*

        I’ve been hit with that myself. My first name is a popular one with African Americans and I an very Caucasian. I can tell when people have assumed my race from my name though because when they meet me they look confused or stunned. It’s happened a few times now.

  17. AnotherAlison*

    #5 – what bothers me about this is that I assume it’s also the OP’s first real career job (assuming this since she said it was her first year teaching, although I realize she could be a career-changer).

    I’ve said on here before that I get frustrated with people who don’t give something a chance before quitting. I understand your concerns and if it’s a toxic workplace, it can be miserable. But, teaching at another school or grade level could be a great experience and a perfect fit. You’re presumably 2 months into the job, and you’ve decided it’s perfectly wrong for you. If you leave now, you won’t have a chance to see if it could have improved, or even become something great.

    You went to school for 4 years to teach, and student taught, and you’re ready to toss the whole career after 2 months? It’s really an impulsive thing to do. I’d stick it out for the year. You CAN stand anything – even abuse – for 7 more months. Not that you should tolerate abuse, but I think you’ll have a new confidence, pride, and inner strength that will help you in your next career if you tough out this year. I’ve endured working for a year for someone who once cussed me out because I was sitting in his project area & billing another project part-time. I wouldn’t let someone like that end my career on his terms. Dig deep, stick it out. You’ll save your reputation & you’ll feel good about it when you know you didn’t give up.

    1. Josh S*

      You CAN stand anything…

      Physical threats and assault from the kids is not something you should hang around for. It can get legitimately bad, and sometimes the dysfunctional administration lets it happen.

      I have a friend that taught in a public high school on Chicago’s South Side. She’s a petite, white gal who weighs maybe 130. One day, two of her students (girls) were having a knock-down, drag-out, hair-ripping, scalp-bleeding fight. She called for the security guy, but she was afraid they were going to do SERIOUS damage, so she stepped in between them to break it up. One of the girls went after HER and wrenched her shoulder–dislocated it.

      Yes, this should have been written up as assault, the student suspended and probably charged. But the administration didn’t call the police, my friend got suspended from teaching (for getting ‘involved’ in a physical altercation while not being Security), and she was considered the ‘bad guy’ by the powers that be.

      So yeah, there really ARE legitimate reasons to quit after 2 months. Give the gal a break–you don’t know the situation.

      1. Kou*

        You’re right, but don’t assume it’s as extreme as that. I know someone who started teaching this fall and he’s already planning to bail entirely, with nothing bad actually happening to him. It’s just the overall stress that comes with the job; a lot of people don’t like it and can’t handle it.

        She’s certainly made it sound like it’s the host of standard teaching issues– bureaucratic messes, ridiculous parents, unruly students –rather than a pattern of abuse or danger that she needs to escape from. So while I wouldn’t write off that option entirely, I also wouldn’t assume that just because she feels the need to flee that she must be in imminent danger.

        1. Josh S*

          Oh, I agree with you that this OP probably doesn’t fall into that category (though it’s far from certain).

          I just wanted to respond to AnotherAlison’s comment regarding “you can stand anything for a year” and point out that sometimes your physical well-being can be threatened.

  18. Andy Lester*

    Re: Nervousness: PRACTICE.

    I’m guessing that 99% of the nervousness is from being afraid of saying the wrong thing, right?

    Go through your top 10 interview questions you know you’re going to have to answer (“Tell me about yourself”, “Why do you want this job?”, “Tell me about a project that didn’t go well”, etc) and practice giving the answers out loud. Give the answers to a friend, or in front of a mirror at least. Repeat. Repeat until it’s smooth for you.

    Key here: Out loud. Speak the words. We think that so long as the words come to mind that we know what we’re going to say, but that’s no substitute for saying the words. Record yourself and listen afterwards.




    1. OP #3*

      I’ve tried to practice presentations by speaking out loud before, and felt really horrible listening to myself. I had to have myself recorded on a video camera for a school project before, and I was mortified watching it later. I think practicing or recording myself will just make me more nervous because it makes me more aware of how bad I am at speaking. =/

      1. L.A.*

        I thought I was the only one who felt this way! I absolutely hate the sound of my own voice. At my job we used to (before the recorder “broke”) have to record 60 second “chat-ins” for the sales associates to listen to at the beginning of their shift. It was a running joke that they had to wait for me to leave that little area before they could play the message when i recorded it.

        One thing that helps me – without saying everything out loud – is I write things down. At least a dozen times. The exact wording may very but this is how I commit things to memory. If I write it enough then it gets ingrained in my brain. I used this when interviewing for an internal promotion and it really helped me (and must have worked because I got the position).

        But, different methods work for different people.

        1. OP #3*

          Writing answers down sounds like a good alternative to practicing out loud. I’m actually very good at writing when I’m able to edit the writing, and writing and editing helps me think more in depth and organize my thoughts. I wish I could do interviews through e-mail or IM!

          1. Sandrine*

            Ah, then maybe you have a friend who could help you practice that way first ? This way, when you are more at ease with the concept of an interview in general, you can move on to “live” practice ?

          2. BW*

            I find writing down answers as practice very helpful. It helps me organize my thoughts and helps me to remember them later.

      2. Jenn*

        Run water while you’re speaking out loud – seriously. It works, because it partially drowns out the sound of your own voice, which can be really distracting. Don’t let it run at a trickle – fairly blast it, and start practicing. I used to do this while practicing public speaking. I’m telling you, it works. :-)

        1. OP #3*

          My only problem with that idea is I’d be wasting a lot of water, which I’d feel bad about. Maybe I could find something else that’s loud, but not irritating.

          1. L.A.*

            What about an old school box fan? The super loud and obnoxious ones? If you talk into it *sometimes* you can’t hear yourself. Or something equally loud and obnoxious… like an older washer/dryer/dishwasher. Or even turn your cable box off to get that white/static noise (assuming you don’t have HD or whatever).

            And i second the idea of being able to interview via email. That would be amazing.

          2. Anonymous*

            Vacuum cleaner, if you have carpets. You’ll get a dust-free, dander-free place out of it, and your friends with allergies will love you. The rhythm is relaxing, too.

          3. Lisa*

            If you’re a driver you may find that practicing while you’re driving is helpful. When I have to give presentations I often run through my talking points while I’m driving. Because I have to pay attention to the road I’m not as focused on listening to myself and I get far less anxious.

      3. BW*

        Same reaction here. I appeared local cable show 10 years ago, and I have still not watched the tape. :D

        I don’t find it helpful to listen to or watch myself at all, but I do find it helpful to get advice from others who have watched or listened to me. I’m too busy going “OMG AAAHHHHH!” in my head watching or listening to myself to pick out what I can improve and how to improve it.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I can’t even stand to watch video that is of others, but I happened to get voice-recorded on. (It doesn’t help that my family makes fun of stuff I say. These are my kids & husband, not my parents/siblings.)

  19. Sabrina*

    #2 I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there’s plenty of people who have YEARS of experience as an Administrative Assistant that can’t find a job doing that.

  20. De Minimis*

    #4—I can think of one situation where you absolutely should mention your race, if a position is being filled according to Indian Preference and you are Indian [that is, you have a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and/or are an enrolled member of a tribe..] Of course, that isn’t the same situation as with the OP, but I thought it should be noted that in a few cases it is a big factor, if you are looking at jobs with a tribe or with agencies that serve the American Indian population. These of course are more common in some states than others.

    But that of course is a different situation from the OP, but I would definitely let them know anything that shows that you might be good at creating a connection with the kids, a similar upbringing, being from a similar or even the same area, etc.

  21. Ivy*

    #4: AAM I really like your response. Your responses are realistic rather than “in the perfect world”.

  22. Zee*

    #5 – OP, do you have a fellow teacher you can talk to? It doesn’t have to be with a teacher from this school, but maybe like a high school teacher you can visit and speak to. How about your cooperating teacher from student teaching back in college? Is there someone who can give you perspective or advice on how to tough it out until June (or even make it better)?

    You say right now you don’t want to be a teacher anymore. Maybe it’s the fit with the school system you are not meshing with (and that includes the students). But you don’t want to burn bridges that can burn this career out entirely for you – or for references into a different branch of education or another career completely. Just don’t take any drastic measures until you have thought every avenue through.

    And one other thing – the students will pick up on your happiness, and they will make it even more miserable for you. Try to leave the unhappiness at home and be content in school. They can smell that like you wouldn’t believe!

  23. EngineerGirl*

    #7 – if the job category requires technology and the employee can’t perform then it is time for a reclassification. Move the employee to a different category with the appropriate reduction in pay (tech jobs pay more). Obviously before doing this you’ll have conversations with the employee about job expectations for that category and give her an option to shape up or be reclassified.

    1. Jamie*

      It depends what the OP means by technology. Sure, it would pay more if she could troubleshoot a server with a memory bottleneck – but I doubt that’s what she needs her to do since it’s been optional thus far.

      If this is just a matter of storing files electronically, using Office, etc. that’s not going to get additional money for a tech job…it’s just the bare minimum required of most office workers and you shouldn’t get more money for doing it – you should be in fear of your job if you refuse.

      I hope the OP chimes in as I’m curious as to what level of tech is being balked at.

  24. A Bug!*


    It may well be a hit to your employees’ morale to let this one go, but don’t underestimate the effect a chronic complainer has when you keep one around. Even a person who is pleasant and friendly and gets along with everyone can plant seeds of resentment, often without even realizing it.

    If she regularly draws attention to things that she doesn’t like about her job, even if she does it in a pleasant or joking manner, can have a pretty toxic effect by skewing the perspective of the people exposed to it.

    1. Sara*

      I came here with a similar comment. OP #7, you know your environment better than us, of course, but are you sure firing her would have a negative impact on morale? In my own workplace, morale is incredibly low in large part because poor performers never get moved out and the rest of us have to pick up the slack.

  25. Seal*

    Re: #7

    As a new manager, I inherited a long-time staff member who flat-out refused to use a computer. Since he claimed he was planning to retire within the year I thought I could wait him out, but when his intended retirement date came around he changed his mind. Although there were a number of other things he did that didn’t require computer skills, as our department’s focus was changing it became obvious that in the long run he would be a detriment.

    The solution HR and I came up with was to rewrite his long-obsolete job description to reflect what he job was supposed to be and tell him that he would be expected to attend training sessions that we would pay for to bring his skills up to speed. If he attended and successfully applied his new skills to his position, great. If he attended but still couldn’t manage his job, or if he refused to attend, he’d be fired. Within days of being presented with his new job description and training schedule, he chose to retire. Problem solved. And although most people in our department liked this guy, morale shot up once he was gone.

  26. CatB (Europe)*

    #7: depending on the specifics of the situation, I think I will respectfully disagree with AAM and the above commentators, with some conditions: IF the technology-savvy part is not central (but still important) to the job, IF she is otherways doing wonderful work, IF you really want her to stay (for any number of reasons), maybe you can team her up with a techology-savvy colleague that lacks in the fields she’s brilliant in. You might turn two struggling individuals in a performing team.

    But in any other case than that, all the above advice is spot-on.

  27. Colleen*

    #3: I remember once interviewing someone who was quite visibly nervous. Her hands were shaking and her voice trembled. I don’t know if it would have been better to recognize it and try to help put her at ease, or just ignore it (which was very difficult). This was also a position in which she would have contact with the public (mostly by phone).

    However, the content of her answers to our questions were spot on. As soon as she left the room, my boss and I gave each other a knowing look of “that’s the ONE.” I took her nervousness to mean that she was really interested in the job. It was a great hire. She’s been here for now for 12 years and has received a significant promotion in that time.

    Hopefully, more interviewers will see your nervousness as excitement for the job!

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