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. Told contact about a job but don’t want to recommend her

The other day I ran into a former coworker. I let her know how things were going, and she mentioned she was looking for work so, I let her know my company is hiring and encouraged her to apply on her own through the public website. My company has an employee referral program but, I didn’t mention this because I don’t want to give a reference for this person. I mentioned the job opening to her to be friendly but, felt like if she got an offer it would be on her own reputation and decidedly left out mention of the referral program.

To my surprise and embarrassment I was contacted by our HR team because she listed me as an employee referral! I don’t want to stand in the way of her getting a job but, at the same time I don’t want to risk my reputation and give a professional reference. Was the mistake mine? Was mentioning a publicly advertised job opening inadvertently offering a personal referral to this person? Should I muster up a few positive words putting my reputation at risk or simply let our HR team know I did not refer this person?

You did actually refer her to the job. That’s not the same as recommending her, but you told her about the job and suggested she apply, so she didn’t do anything wrong but noting that. However, that doesn’t bind you to giving her a recommendation. Simply tell your HR person, “Yes, I told her about the job, but I wouldn’t be comfortable giving her a recommendation.” (I’m assuming here that you don’t want to give a recommendation because you don’t feel you can honestly recommend her work. If you do think she’s great and just don’t want to go out on a limb for her, that stance is worth reconsidering.)

2. Is this rejected candidate really alleging discrimination?

I recently sent out a host of rejection letters through our Applicant Tracking System, and a candidate (who wasn’t even close to qualified for the position) responded with, and I quote, “Was the applicant a whiteboy?”

How ridiculous is that? Have you ever received a similar email, and is the best course of action always to ignore baiting emails? I’ve been in HR for 7 years, but have never received should a blatant question of discrimination.

Yeah, I would ignore that. It sounds like a hostile response fired off in frustration and not a genuine question, not all that different from “did this job opening even exist?” or other hostile responses that some candidates send when they react poorly to rejection. Someone who genuinely wants to raise issues of potential discrimination doesn’t go about it this way.

3. Past work with a competitor

I’m looking into applying for a job with a very well-known company in my industry. The thing I’m worried about is that I recently finished an internship with the company’s biggest competitor. I’m worried about whether I should include the position in my resume. I should mention that the internship was not a good experience, and I’m worried that the tasks listed on my resume for the internship will not impress (basically receptionist type duties not industry specific or useful). Should I include the internship? And if I get an interview, what’s the best way to discuss past experiences with a competitor?

Yes, you should list the internship. Industry experience is a good thing, and you shouldn’t need to worry that it was with a competitor. However, when you say it wasn’t a good experience, if that indicates that you didn’t do well there, that element could be an argument for not including it — but not simply that the work for a competitor.

4. Explaining why I’m leaving a boring job

I took a job in June for what I thought would be a good opportunity. Well, I quickly noticed on day one that this maybe wasn’t the best move, when in my orientation I saw they had added a new person to the HR group and she was now working on the projects I was supposed to work on. I have been in the job for about 4 months now, and I still don’t have a full concept of what my role is supposed to be. Within the first 5 weeks, I didn’t have anything to do and I was bored to tears. I don’t speak to anyone and no one speaks to me in the office, which can be quite boring. I have now made the decision to move on, as this is just not for me. How do I address this in my resume, cover letter, and interview without being negative?

It’s certainly reasonable to explain that you’re looking for a new job because of lack of work at your current one. But before you do, have you been assertive here — talking to your boss about your concerns? If not, I’d try that first. While your boss certainly bears some responsibility for this, you do too if you haven’t raised the problems with her. (And not speaking to anyone in your office is something that you can potentially change on your own.)

5. Can an HR rep date someone at work?

I work in HR at a small-medium company, and I am basically the HR manager for the hourly manufacturing employees and any issues involving them (including terminations, investigations, disciplines, etc). I know you’re not in HR, but in your opinion, is it ever ok to date someone who you have that type of authority over?

There is a mutual interest in a personal relationship between one of the employees and myself. Nothing has happened so far — just the exchange of some emails and some conversations, but he has started talking about wanting to meet up outside of work. I’m not sure when or how I should bring this up with my boss, because I know she will NOT be happy, although there is no written policy regarding personal relationships within the organization. I’ve never been in this situation before and I’m not sure how to handle it. I know my boss will want to know and I don’t want to sneak around. I’ve been very clear with him that personal life and professional life have to be very separate things. We seem to have an understanding on that level, but I don’t want to jeopardize my reputation or bring any risk to the organization.

Talk to your boss. If your organization is large enough, it’s possible that she can arrange things so that you’re never involved in meetings or decisions involving this potential paramour. Alternately, she might tell you that no, your department simply can’t date at work because of the nature of the work you do. Either way, you’ll find out the answer, and you’ll show you have integrity by raising the situation on your own before acting on it.

As for what to say, I’d say this: “I want to talk to you about something potentially awkward. I’m considering dating someone in another department, but before I do, I want to talk to you about whether that would be seen as inappropriate because of my position.” If you can’t bring yourself to say that, assume that you aren’t sufficiently interested in the person.

6. Quitting an internship to take a dream job

If you are currently working as an unpaid intern and receive a job offer for a “dream” job in your field (a paid one), is it considered horrible form to end your program early, or just out and out quit? Is it worse to damage your reputation by quitting or pass up a potential career opportunity that may not come by again?

It depends on what arrangement you have with your employer. If they’ve stressed that that expect interns to complete their commitments, then yes, that’s what they expect and breaking that agreement would probably burn that bridge. But there are plenty of organization that understand that unpaid interns may leave if a paid opportunity appears. If you don’t know, talk to your manager and find out.

7. Overcoming the call center stigma

I’ve recently graduated (with a first class degree, the U.K. equivalent of the U.S. summa cum laude) and am now working full-time hours in the call centre that I worked in part-time as a student. At the same time, I’m actively searching for other jobs with better hours/pay, with the full approval of — and glowing references from — my current manager, who’s very understanding about the fact that this isn’t a long term career for me.

At the interviews I’ve had, I constantly come up against the barrier of call center work being regarded as “work lite.” Not really customer service because I’m communicating over the phone or online; not really administration because it’s a one-stop shop; not really sales because we don’t build relationships. All of this is patently untrue: I’m well regarded in what is the best performing center of this FTSE 100 business estate and seem to spend half of my waking hours filing complex reports and checking in on customers with special cases. How do I overcome the stereotype of call centre workers being lazy, reading from scripts, and never following up on their promises?

You need a resume that more clearly describes the work you do and what you’ve accomplished there. If employers aren’t getting the right idea of the work you’re doing, it’s because your resume isn’t telling them. I strongly suspect you need clearer, more compelling bullet points describing your work there.

{ 81 comments… read them below }

  1. wow!*

    Speedy reply. I didn’t expect that. I guess I emailed you at the right time! I wrote in question one and your assumptions are spot on. If this was a person whose work I could recommend I would. I’ll be following your advice. Thank you!

  2. Brett*

    For #6…unpaid internships are usually illegal so I wouldn’t feel guilty about leaving one (unless you’re certain it meets the strict requirements to be unpaid). That won’t stop the bridge from being burned at that place.

    Am I the only one that pretty much looks at an unpaid internship basically as volunteer work?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      a. Unpaid internships are not illegal at nonprofits or most government entities, or at for-profit companies if they meet certain criteria.

      b. Regardless, if you’ve accepted one, you’ve accepted one — and can burn a bridge and harm your reputation if you leave earlier than you committed to, if there’s not an understanding that it’s okay.

    2. Rob*

      They largely aren’t illegal, as Alison states, but I strongly recommend against taking them.

      If it is a for-profit company, they should pay their interns. Otherwise, they are getting their work done for free and taking advantage of the interns.

      Only non-profits ‘can get away with’ not pay their interns, and even then, they should pay them.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        We’ve beaten this issue to death here many times before, but many nonprofits simply wouldn’t have interns at all if they had to pay them. The positions often exist because they’re unpaid. It’s not always a choice between paying or not paying; it’s often a choice between offering an unpaid internship or offering nothing.

      2. Brett*

        The Fair Labor Standards Act only exempts food banks, though the DOL doesn’t seem inclined to enforce that law much in general (many for-profit industries routinely use unpaid interns to do non-educational work…entertainment, fashion, and other creative industries) and in particular for non-profits.

        But that doesn’t mean what they’re doing isn’t wrong.

          1. Just a Reader*

            I did a two-year paid internship in my field of choice (public relations), at a nonprofit (major aquarium). Because it was a nonprofit, I did real PR work–dealing with media, helping design press events, writing press releases, etc.

            It launched my career and 13 years later, I don’t know where I would have been without that great start. The quality of work I got to do was worth the lack of a paycheck.

          2. Hmm*

            So why not just call all unpaid workers volunteers and then employers can stop pretending they are giving you a good deal in convincing you to work for free as an “intern”? Maybe 10 yrs ago this was a good idea, as it would actually lead to something (because there were actually jobs), but not anymore.

            There are many, many unpaid interns, oops I mean volunteers, nowadays outside of college. And I very rarely see them get anything out of the deal, except for a bullet point on their resume (which is irrelevant since there are no jobs to apply to). Only in America are we crazy enough to work for free and think it’s a good deal. How brainwashed we are…

            If a company offered me my dream job, and I was working as unpaid intern, I would burn that bridge so fast and never look back. Of course you take the job that has the decency to pay you!

            1. Jamie*

              I think there is a huge difference between an intern and a volunteer in that an intern is specifically supposed to be given tasks that benefit her more than the employer, and which are educational in nature.

              Volunteers can be asked to do anything to help out the org. I’ve volunteered at an animal shelter scooping poop out of the dog runs. It was necessary and I was happy to help the little pups have a cleaner place to play…but it sure wasn’t an internship.

              1. Hmm*

                My point exactly. If the job benefits the employer, and requires some important skills, it should most certainly be paid, regardless if it is a corporation, non profit, or what have you.

      3. S.L. Albert*

        I spent most of my summers during college doing unpaid internships. They gave me experience in fields I was interested about at an experience level and a duration where if I got paid, it would be minimum wage anyway. I’ve found that places where I was paid, they were always trying to come up with “busy work” to make sure they got they’re money’s worth, while at the unpaid ones, I was free to read past research/reports or listen in on calls with clients in my free time. Guess which places I wound up doing the dishes?

        I never felt abused or misused as an unpaid intern. In fact, in addition to the experience, I was able to use them in my interviews for “real” jobs (Tell you about a time where I did X? Well, during my internship with Big Name in Field, I did X, Y, and Z) and I was able to graduate with offer letter and a diploma.

        Don’t knock the internships, man. They totally beat bagging groceries.

        1. LL*

          Many people are not financially privileged enough to afford to “invest” in unpaid internships. This gives such an advantage to the young people coming from wealthier families, thereby stifling class mobility. If you believe in equal opportunity, how can you support this system?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Many unpaid internships are done as part of a college course load (it’s rare to do one outside of college) and some colleges subsidize them or otherwise help their students find ways to do them.

            1. LL*

              That’s certainly true in some cases. In my experiences both as a student and later as a university employee, these grant programs – where available – are entirely inadequate. Especially for some fields like politics or high finance. What poor kid can afford to intern in an expensive city like DC or NY for a summer without pay? Financial aid and/or university-sponsored grants won’t cover it. Not even close. When unpaid internships are necessary stepping stones to highly coveted careers, I truly believe it creates an uneven playing field. JMHO.

              1. S.L. Albert*

                Because there are internships in not-expensive cities, too, trust me. I went into a finance-related field, as a result of finding internships in finance in bass-ackwards Tennessee of all places (no offense to my fellow Volunteers, but let’s be honest, country music and whiskey is not normally where finance internships are round.). Internships don’t have to be with a Fortune-500 company in a big city to be worthwhile.

          2. S.L. Albert*

            Because most summers since I could legally work, I worked two jobs and found internships in my home town. Before I got working papers, I babysat, did yardwork, and tutored. When I had full time internships, I would normally have a paying weekend job as well, and sometimes evening shifts. Plus, as Allison says, I haven’t heard of a college that doesn’t offer some type of stipend or reimbursement program for internships.

            If anything, such programs support class mobility. “Wealthy” kids tend to grow up in families with experience in higher-level fields, or have family friends, etc. How else will someone with no experience and no connections get experience and connections?

            1. Hmm*

              “If anything, such programs support class mobility.”

              No, they don’t do any such thing! How can someone who is poor be able to work for free?

              Upper middle class kids can work for free, and get the experience, because mommy and daddy will pay their rent. Rich kids don’t work, and get in thru family connections.

              1. S.L. Albert*

                Like I said, I lived at home, went into work with one parental unit and was picked up by the other parental unit, and I still found a paying job to help with expenses.

              2. Omne*

                How can someone who is poor be able to afford college?

                Same as internships- loans, grants, second job, living with parents etc. Take your pick.

              1. Hmm*

                But what about the kids who have to work full time while in college to support themselves or pay for college? How do they have time to intern for free?

                1. Hmm*

                  And I am not talking about the people who need to work for “beer money”. I’m talking about the people who cannot rely on their families in any way, maybe have a kid or two, and if they don’t work, they will get evicted.

                  Thus, since these people can never work for free, they will never get to move up the ladder, because they literally cannot afford to get the experience they need to move up.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Many colleges do it as part of coursework, so that’s like asking how they have time for their classes and homework. Or, you know, what about the kids who can’t afford college? Or can’t afford Ivies? Or can’t afford tutoring? There’s inequalities out there in a lot of places.

                  As for saying people who can’t afford the same advantages will never be able to move up the ladder: What?!? Lots of people don’t have unpaid internships. It’s just one option of many.

                  And regardless, it’s not an employer’s problem to solve. They need to act in the best interests of their organizations, within legal and ethical limits. And plenty of people (as you see here) have found their internships hugely worthwhile; some of them weren’t wealthy and had doors opened that otherwise would have been closed to them and built connections they otherwise wouldn’t have had. Why should we deny them those chances?

                3. Anon*

                  I paid my living expenses my last two years, starting the summer before my junior year. I was still able to do an unpaid internship with a known organization for one summer-part time with a job on the side-and study abroad for a semester, where I did an internship for credit. It can be done.

    3. John Doe*

      Some bridges are worth burning. Just because it may piss some people off doesn’t mean taking the job isn’t the best course of action.

    4. Hari*

      Most unpaid interns (at least in my industry) are current university students. Post-undergraduate internships are paid. That said if you were working post grad unpaid (with no guarantee of full-time employment) I can’t see why a reasonable employer wouldn’t give you their blessings to leave, especially in this economy. I could only really see a bridge being burned if the explicitly told you they needed you to stay on for a certain amount of time and offered it to you expecting you would.

      I feel like looking at unpaid internships as volunteer work is a good way to set yourself up for a failure due to a bad work ethic. You should consider any experience that could further help you in your career as serious. That being said these days people have to do what they have to do. Even if this bridge was burned I can’t see it following OP for the rest of their career.

  3. Sally Go Lightly*

    Re: #1–As an applicant, if someone went out of their way to recommend I apply to the job, I would assume that was because they thought highly enough of me to recommend me or thought I might be a good fit. I was recently encouraged (unsolicited) to apply for a job by someone I had done volunteer work for, and while I didn’t list her as a professional reference since I had never worked for her, I did list her as the person that referred me, which I believed would carry some weight because she was high up in the department I was looking for… Unless you’re asked outright if there are any job openings at your company, why would you not only notify someone about an opening but also recommend they apply? I don’t mean to be harsh, but I think you’re unfairly sending a mixed message to the candidate and also putting yourself in an awkward position unnecessarily–regardless of whether you mentioned the referral program.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I hear what you are saying, Sally.
      I just thought I was naive. Up to now, I thought if someone told me of a job opening in their own company that meant that they were enthusiastic about me joining the company and would be comfy giving me a reference.

      Should I point blank ask them if they would be willing to provide a reference just so I can avoid this situation that OP has?

      1. Ellie H.*

        I don’t know if I would think that telling me about the job opening implies that he or she would be willing to give me a recommendation (it would depend on my relationship with the person), but at the least I would assume that he didn’t hate the idea of my working at the same company. Or at least that he could *accept* the idea of my working at that company. I guess from the scenario the LW1 describes it sounds like he or she was pretty meh about being able to accept the idea.

        1. Hari*

          +1! If someone told me about a job opening at their company told me to apply, especially a former co-worker, I would be thinking “great, I have an internal recommendation!”

          1. Kou*

            So would I. Or, like Ellie said, I would at least assume they thought I was good enough to work there even if they didn’t think I was phenomenal. I would be really confused if someone who didn’t think I was worth recommending at all told me to apply at their company.

        2. Rana*

          Huh. I can easily see mentioning a job to someone without also being convinced that they’d be a good fit. I’d view it less as “Oh, gosh, you’d be so good at this and it’d be perfect for you; you should apply!” and more like “Hey, I know you’ve been looking for work; there’s an opening here that might be something you’d be interested in.” This would especially be the case if I didn’t have a strong sense of that person’s particular credentials, but only a vague recollection that they worked on spouts for chocolate teapots and were looking for work.

          1. Kerry*

            I agree; I’ve passed on job openings to people like this before. Sometimes I’m not sure about their work (as in, genuinely don’t have enough information about them), but I figure it’s on the hiring manager to figure out whether they’d like them as an employee or not.

          2. Anonymous*

            My thoughts exactly. I’m really surprised at how many people are reading a lot into this. I would take such things as a friendly pointer in the direction of a possible job, unless they specifically say “We are hiring for X position and I think you’d be a great fit and should apply; let me know if I can help.”

          3. Hari*

            Then you should say so up front, “I didn’t work with you enough on making chocolate teapot handles as I was in the spout making department, so although I can’t personally recommend you I think you should apply for this position at my company.” I think the clincher here is that it is a former coworker, not a friend, etc. Unless these two were at a pretty sizable company and had zero interaction at all (which raises the Q how do they know each other as coworkers then?) you are going to know something about their work or work ethic, even through the grapevine.

            To me OP here, for whatever reason, does know enough about said coworker and either for personality or work ethic reasons does not want to recommend them and are backtracking. I think OP mentioned the job out of pressure to courteous and word diarrhea, saying more than they wanted and not intending for their coworker to actually apply.

            1. Laura L*

              Right! I’ve had people I’ve never worked with (or only worked with briefly) tell me about jobs to apply for. I would never assume they’d give me a good reference.

              However, if it’s someone I’ve worked fairly closely with, I would assume that a) they think my work is good enough for the job and b) they would be okay with me working there.

          4. Elise*

            I don’t think it would be so awkward then for the OP. In that case they could just tell HR “Yes, I let her know about the position. But, I don’t know her well enough to comment on her work.” No harm done and neither the OP nor the applicant would be in the wrong.

            A lot of those “How did you hear about this job?” questions are done for market research. If they see a lot of applicants saw the ad on Monster…then they will put more effort into those ads. If no one lists Monster as their source…then they might not need to bother listing it there in the future.

    2. Liss*

      I agree about LW1 making this unnecessarily awkward. I also hope that your former coworker is not impacted by the non-referral. With the current job market, applicants don’t need additional odds against them.

      1. Just a Reader*

        Disagree–I had someone use my name once without my permission and I had to let my employer know that I couldn’t recommend her.

        Which worked out well for me when she was fired at her 90-day assessment.

        However–she had sent me an email giving me 24 hours to let her know if it wasn’t okay to use my name…I didn’t see it…and off she went. I guess that’s what passes for permission with some people.

    3. books*

      I don’t know if OP #1 went out of her way, to me it sounds like she mentioned it in a conversation around job search. I’ve suggested people apply for jobs at my company because I know them personally or professionally and think that they’re smart, when I’ve done that, I’ve told them to list be as a referral (it helps that this means a bonus). I wouldn’t tell someone who I wouldn’t want to work with to do that.

  4. AdAgencyChick*

    OP #3, why wouldn’t you list work experience with a direct competitor? I, for one, dream of seeing resumes from candidates who’ve worked on or are currently working on accounts that compete with the one(s) I’m working on, because it bodes well for them having an understanding of the issues in the marketplace and an ability to hit the ground running.

  5. Boring Job*

    Thanks so much for the quick response to my question (#4)! I haven’t spoken to my manager about it because I came to the conclusion that I just don’t care for the company or management. I realized I made a mistake with this selection so I am just trying to get out and move on. Just trying to figure out the best way to do it without looking negative or like I am job hopping.

    1. EngineerGirl*

      I think you are making a mistake. First off, you’ve only been there for 4 months. You need to give your manager the opportunity to correct the situation. If nothing changes, then move on with a free concience. But if I were hiring you I would absolutely want to know why you left after 4 months. And if you gave me the answer above, I wouldn’t hire you. I want someone that will try to work things out first before abandoning a problem.

      1. Just a Reader*

        Don’t you want to find out why someone else was doing the work you were told you were hired for?

      2. Boring Job*

        Thanks for the feedback, I agree the whole situation is bizarre. I also need to make it clear I am not leaving because I am bored I want to leave because the job that was described to me in the interview is not what I am doing. There is a lot to the story that I didn’t include for the sake of asking a quick question. At times I feel like an admin assistant and the next day a manager, the sad part is I am neither one of those positions. By the time I accepted the offer and started the director quit and they transferred a person from another department in, this person is currently working on the projects indicated on my job description. In regards to your comment below I have gone to my boss about not having enough work and the response I get is I don’t want to overwhelm you. Well after 4 months of nothing are you supposed to keep asking, so he knows the situation? At one point he brought me into his office and while laughing asked me not to leave yet. That is what is bizarre to me.
        Another issue is, I came into the role to help employees because in my last position I was a behind the scenes person and missed employee interaction, so I was excited about the new job only to be told shortly after starting don’t talk to employees and then I am constantly asked am I talking to employees, my supervisor went as far as to read my message log book to see if he could see employees names on it! I don’t get it; I thought that is what the job was. There have just been red flags all over. As far as the talking to anyone no one around here talks you can hear a pin drop. I have offered a smile and a good morning and people look at you like you aren’t from around here right. I have people ask me all the time how long have you been here I tell them, and they say wow and you are still here huh that is good. To me it is just not a good situation and I think I knew that on day 1 and I told myself to give it a try. I just don’t want to be stuck in a job 1 year from now still miserable like I am now.

        1. Jamie*

          “At one point he brought me into his office and while laughing asked me not to leave yet. That is what is bizarre to me.”

          This says to be they know they are in a state of transition with your position and are asking for a little time to iron things out.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I have been in a situation like that. So I read that comment as a show of empathy. The boss knows the situation is not good.
            OP, have you tried asking for a time frame?

        2. Ivy*

          Wait… they actually said your not allowed to talk to employees and then monitored you to make sure? What!? That just makes no sense… Are they trying to run an office or a prison?

          Boring Job, I think we all reach a point where we just say to hell with the consequences, this isn’t worth it! I would still suggest really trying to find a job before you quit, but if its really THAT unbearable then I can’t and wouldn’t stop you. As to what to say to address leaving the job, I would talk about the fact that some key people left your company and there was a reorganization that left you in a completely different position from what you applied for. You can also talk about how you tried to adapt to this position and to speak to management. I don’t think you should say anything about it being boring because that would raise red flags. This is something more for the interview though than the cover letter…

          1. Ivy*

            Also, I feel there are a lot of people who are second guessing OP. OP isn’t asking whether she should quit or not, she’s asking what to say when she does leave. Why then, is everyone trying to convince her to stay when her mind is already made up? (And given our limited knowledge, was made up due to serious enough reasons.)

    2. AnotherAlison*

      So, you are bored because you don’t understand your job duties, and you won’t talk to anyone about it because you decided after the first day that you didn’t like the company and management?

      Perhaps the reason no one is talking to you is because they recognize that you walked in on day one with a lousy attitude and that you don’t do any work. It sounds like you are doing absolutely nothing to help yourself find a place there.

      FWIW, I was in a similar situation when I started a job where the project I was supposed to work on had fallen through the week before my start date. My manager was great & helped me keep busy by training me on the new software, taking me to her meetings, having me help others in the department with things they didn’t really need help with. I CAN see how if your manager isn’t helping you get involved, it could be boring and uncomfortable, but not all managers are proactive. Your manager might think things are fine since you haven’t said otherwise. The fact that you haven’t talked to your manager about it reflects poorly on you as much as it does them.

    3. Jessica*

      I was recently in a similar situation. It was so bad that I had to turn my watch off because the ticking was so loud…no one said good morning, hello, or even “going to lunch”…my boss sat ten feet from me but went days without saying a word to me. It was depressing, and quickly started to affect my mental well-being. I was also bored out of mind- I would do the same piece of work, over and over over again, just to look busy. It’s important to not let other people judge your situation0n- you know in your gut if this is worth any more effort on your part or not. Me, I left after six weeks. I sometimes second guess myself, but I know it was the right decision.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is, I feel your pain. It sucks. But do what you need to do to be happy.

  6. EngineerGirl*

    #4 This just sounds so bizarre. If you don’t have enough work to do you should go to your boss! They need to let you know that they didn’t task you appropriately. Bosses can’t mind-read.

    #5 This would be so banned at my workplace! You are in a position to influence the career of your potential date. Anything that happens with him will be viewed as due to favoritism, even if he earned it by merit. It will also severely undermine your own authority and impartiality. I hate to say, but as the woman you will be judged as less professional (it is what it is, sorry). And what if you have disciplinary actions against him or one of his buddies? Yikes. Don’t go there.

    1. Anonymous*

      I work in HR and this is always strongly advised against. At my old job (it was a VERY relaxed atmosphere, I thought it was odd this was allowed..) our Benefits Admin was dating someone in another department and thus socialized with a lot of that department…. it was VERY hard for her when she knew of upcoming terminations, disciplinary actions, etc. and people would legitimately get mad at her for not disclosing this CONFIDENTIAL information. I think when someone in HR dates someone in another department it really ends up being hard to differentiate between personal and professional, because professional HR matters can be very personal at times.

    2. BW*

      #5 – I was surprised the response was “Yikes. Don’t go there.” this person asked outright if it was okay to date “someone who you have that type of authority over?” Dating someone who falls under your HR-type authority is as ill-advised as dating someone you manage directly for all the reasons you point out, nevermind the awkwardness. What happens if the relationship goes sour or if she expects the HR person to favor her because of their relationship, and he doesn’t. So many nasty traps there. Just stay away.

  7. Hari*

    Receptionist type duties are still useful, I wouldn’t knock them, especially for entry level in an industry! It just depends on your outlook and showing in your resume and cover letter how you grew from the experience. Answered phones/emails? You now have experience communicating with a variety of different internal departments, vendors or consumers (depending on company). People usually give the receptionist lots inane little duties to do but that still takes multitasking and time-management skills to get them done. Not to mention you are gaining knowledge about their job and the tasks they have to accomplish while you help them. Also as the gatekeeper often the receptionist can get first wind of news or interesting things/ventures the company will partake. As a former intern for an ad agency when I subbed in for the receptionist I got to direct a VP of a major network’s call to our managing director. The VP gave me quite a bit of info on the phone, so I knew even before the creative directors or producers that we were about to start an exciting new project. Reflect back, you probably got a lot more information and industry knowledge than you think. Unless you think your managers will give you a bad review I say put it on your resume. Also as a bonus often companies will want to recruit from the competition.

    [Side note though, barring a hostile work environment, an internship is only as good as the intern makes it. It’s up to the intern to ask for additional responsibilities, extra-training or questions, don’t take for granted all the professionals around you!]

    1. OP #3*

      Thanks for the feedback on this. I’m mostly concerned with the image I give off in my resume for this particular internship and how that can affect me when I apply for similar jobs. The company name and position itself should look great to hiring managers, but I’m worried that the tasks I performed aren’t impressive.
      It’d be one thing if I had a great learning experience at the internship but that’s just not the case- I really only answered the phone and ran personal errands for my boss when I asked him for more work. I certainly could have pushed my boss for more meaningful work, but he was extremely intimidating and had no patience for teaching new things.

  8. LOLwut*

    #4 (Sorry no answers here, just more questions)

    I’m kind of in the same boat as OP, except I’ve tried the proactive route. I’ve given suggestions for new projects that are flat-out rejected for no reason, and been told I’m wasting my time with said suggestions even though it’s pretty obvious that I don’t have enough work to justify my salary.

    Its frustrating dealing with a situation like this when you also have to deal with an uncomminicative, passive-aggressive boss who resists change and won’t give constructive feedback. I honestly get the feeling that my company is changing directions (like they do every few months) and my position is going to be eliminated anyway. Of course, I don’t know this for sure, because nobody wants to talk to me, but it’s the impression that I get.

    With that in mind, is there anything I can put in my resume or cover letter that might be able to explain this without coming across as a complainer?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You don’t want to address this kind of thing in your resume or cover letter; those are both to show how you’d be a strong candidate for the jobs you’re applying for. You should be prepared to talk about it in an interview though, and it’s fine to say you’re leaving because of lack of work.

  9. Jamie*

    #5 – given your position I would be prepared to have this affect your job, even if you don’t pursue it after speaking with your boss.

    Personally I think even considering this is questionable judgement at best, and that’s my attempt at diplomacy. And you’ve already opened the door with conversations and emails…so I would expect your boss to look at you with increased scrutiny.

    I could be wrong, but I wouldnt be on any mfg company for which I’ve ever worked. This is a very bad idea. If you take the risk be very prepared for this to damage your career.

    1. office person*

      Agreed. Bad judgement to even think about it. What would your response as HR be to a manager if you found out he/she were dating a subordinate?

  10. kbbaus*

    Hang in there #7. I worked in a call center for 4 years after college and ran into the same attitudes.

    Alison is right, make sure you’re really highlighting your accomplishments in your resume bullet points. And in cover letters be sure to spell out how a certain task or responsibility from your current work relates to the job you’re applying to.

    It’s rough to hear someone say that you’re work history is ‘work lite,’ as you put it, but someone will look at your experiences and realize how well a call center prepares you for many other kinds of jobs.

    1. Brie*

      Thanks to both you and Alison – I think that I need to have much more confidence in confronting the stereotype, both through more specific resume points and building up a larger base of go-to examples for interviews.

      The postscript that Alison (quite correctly) didn’t put in the post does reflect my opinions on the situation: “if I can handle a thirteen hour shift of strangers yelling at me, how hard can filing memos be?”. I think that I need to do a better job of emphasising skills rather than responsibilities.

      1. Heather*

        Also, see if you can find little things to do: during my call center stint, I ended up winning an award for most errors found in our documents. Got me $ and a nice bullet point on the resume. :)

  11. Anon*

    #1: I would always tell HR who referred me, so they get credit when I get hired, if there is some sort of incentive in place. If the LW thinks she is okay, but not great, she can always dodge it by telling HR “I did mention it to her, but I’m not familiar enough with her work in this area to give you a clear idea of her abilities”.

  12. KellyK*

    For #5, I think the answer to “Is it ever okay to date someone you have that type of authority over?” is “No.”

    As Alison said, if there are multiple HR people doing the same type of work, things could possibly be set up to avoid that conflict of interest. But even if that’s possible, and even if you’re both scrupulous about keeping personal life and work life separate and have your boss’s okay, that won’t necessarily be obvious to other employees. It’s likely to look sketchy no matter how well you handle it.

  13. KarenG*

    Thanks for the quick answer to #2. I emailed a few attorney friends who said the same thing. I’ll definitely be ignoring. Thanks so much – love the blog! :)

  14. Steve G*

    Where in the world did that Call-Ctr stereotype come from? The fact that so many reps are bad at what they do points to the fact that the job is difficult (snarky remark after trying to deal with Verizon).

    Reps have tons of stats they get rated on and upselling quotas. My best friend manages one and the # of details and stats and programs they need to keep track of is rediculous.

  15. LK*

    2. Is this rejected candidate really alleging discrimination?

    Candidates like this are the reason normal candidates never hear back! In what world is that person’s response to a job rejection normal?

  16. UK HR Bod*

    #7 – I might not consider call centre work directly experience for a management job, but I certainly wouldn’t consider it ‘work lite’. Depending on the role you were going for, it could easily be more important than your degree – although my organisation has a lot of highly specialised roles which do require degree, second degree, peer-reviewed work etc, we also have a lot where a degree is a nice-to-have but not essential. It may not be as important as how you shape your experience, unless you are looking at highly specialised or academic roles.
    Be really clear in your CV or on the application form what your key responsibilities and achievements are: you mention working with clients on special cases, are there any key accomplishments (“I resolved 3 long-standing cases within a week of taking them on”), and use your covering letter (or the ‘why’ section on an application) to show how your degree and work experience together make you a great candidate. And make sure you are being realistic about the roles you are applying for with the experience and qualifications you have.

    1. Brie*

      Thanks for this, UK HR Bod – the fact that you’re UK based makes it so much more reassuring!

      At the moment I’m looking at entry level administration assistant posts in HR, higher education, law and other professional areas, with an eye to going into postgraduate work once I’ve saved up the funds.

      I think that a major problem I have is that examples such as the one you mention (“I resolved 3 long-standing cases within a week of taking them on”) have always seemed to me to be somewhat brusque. Do I just need to learn to play the CV game, or is there a way to integrate these things more elegantly into an application?

      1. UK HR Bod*

        You may need to learn to play the game somewhat – if Alison doesn’t mind playing postbox on emails, I’d be happy to look over your CV for you.
        In application forms, it can be easier to form a narrative, but even then hiring managers are looking for the information quickly. We can get 100+ applicants for roles (senior or entry), so it’s really important to make the reason to hire you stand out – Alison has had a lot of great advice about this, although there is a cultural difference (for instance I think when you and I say CV, Alison would say resume).

  17. Intern*

    Thanks for answering my question (I’m OP #6) – seems like it’s not really a cut and dry thing as there’s quite a bit of debate in these comments! Mostly I’m nervous that if I approach my intern managers about potentially leaving early (even just to breach the subject) they’ll have a bad reaction, and it may make them angry for no reason. You’d be surprised how many seemingly normal young professionals have Devil Wears Prada complexes concerning their lowly interns.

      1. Intern*

        I guess the consensus is as you said – if I leave I would be burning a bridge with the original company. Right now I’m hoping that I can try and push the start date of the paying gig back a bit, for less overlap.

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