open thread

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

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

And meanwhile, as your Friday entertainment, this 1944 training video will tell you how to manage women. You’ll learn that they can be awfully jealous of each other! And they don’t mind repetitive work, but it takes time to make them feel at home. (Thank you to the reader who sent it to me.) (Update: And since this has already sparked one silly gender war in the comments, stop that. This is for entertainment purposes only.)

{ 562 comments… read them below }

  1. Hari*

    Joe: “Women scare me… at least in a factory.”
    Guy: “Well, maybe the women are scared too Joe.”

    Scared that they might suffocate from all the toxic levels of misogyny? I would be too.

    Thanks Alison! Only 2 minutes in and already I can tell this video will be good for all the lulz its about to supply.

    Sidenote: I bet this video is how a certain politician got his idea to keep binders full of women.

    1. Ryan*

      I couldn’t even watch 2 minutes of that horsesh*t. Kind of sick how utterly stupid men used to be.

        1. Anna*

          It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a binder full of women.

          (Sorry, couldn’t help it…)

    2. Just a Reader*

      Maybe Mittens watched this early in life, and that’s what shaped his ideas about women in the workforce.

  2. Chloe*

    I’d really appreciate advice on this conundrum I have. I’m at the end of a long recruitment process for a fantastic job. I’ve had two interviews, both went really well and they were very positive. They asked for references on Tuesday, and called Wednesday to say they’d had two great references, but….one of them disclosed that I’d had cancer last year. I didn’t tell the prospective employer, because I’m totally recovered and there are no ongoing health issues. Since then (only two days, I realise, but they gave the impression they wanted to move quickly now) I’ve heard nothing. Should I be worried? Could the revelation of a prior health issue ruin my prospects? Thanks so much for any advice.

    1. Chloe*

      I should add, the recruitment agent did the reference checks, so I wasn’t speaking to the actual hiring manager when I spoke to them on Wednesday.

    2. Josh S*

      Two days is a heartbeat in business-time. Even when companies want to move quickly. Don’t freak out.

      That said, if it’s just the recruiting firm that knows about the cancer thing, I really wouldn’t worry at all anyway. They probably don’t consider it relevant. If the company itself is now informed of this prior health issue, you can certainly address it. But don’t make a big deal out of it, and try to frame it positively.

      Only if they ask you about it or say something to make you think it’s on their minds, say something like, “Last year, I was diagnosed with cancer. After treatment, the cancer is in remission and I am completely healthy and ready for work. If anything, it’s taught me how strong I am and how to deal with overcoming obstacles. I’m absolutely ready for this position, and I’m itching for the chance to show you what I can bring to the company.”

      But most likely, it’s not a concern of theirs and probably shouldn’t be a concern of yours.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, have a talk with that reference! And also be aware that they can’t base their hiring decision on this, which it might not be bad to mention to the recruiter. Not in a confrontational way, but more like, “I know it’s illegal for them to take that into account, but should I be concerned about it?”

      2. Bobby Digital*

        Yeah, I agree with Tiff, especially if that reference is someone you know well and have a good rapport with (which is hopefully the case if you’re using them as a reference).

        I don’t think it has to be accusatory, but maybe just frame it like “Hey, thanks for providing a reference for me. By the way, the recruiter mentioned that you were concerned about my health. I’m sorry I haven’t updated you, but I’m actually in remission – yay! Actually, it’s given me a really strong, positive outlook, so I’d really rather keep it private going forward. Thank you so much for your support and help then and now…” blah blah blah.

      3. ChristineH*

        Completely agree…that was not her place to discuss in the first place. I like the positive framing that the others above me suggested.

        If you do get to speak with the hiring manager directly, I wouldn’t mention it unless he/she brings it up.

        Congrats on your recovery!

        1. Anonymous*

          Thanks everyone, yes it was a bit of a shock that he mentioned it, I guess not everyone has the same boundaries when it comes to what they will and won’t discuss. I’m hoping he said it in the context of “it’s amazing how well he has recovered”! Or something. I guess time will tell.

  3. Hugo*

    Let’s face it folks, while men can be a bunch of whiners and babies at work, a bunch of women working together isn’t the paradise of workplace efficiency that many of you think it is. I have talked to plenty of women who would avoid, at all costs, working in a majority-female office. I have supervised both groups of majority men and majority women, and I suppose my observations of behavior boil down to this: men complain about work-related issues (the way we’re doing it this way stinks, this equipment could be better, etc.), while women complain about each other (I can’t believe she’s wearing that, how come so-and-so is still on break), etc. The difference is that men usually let the topic go after getting it off their chest – since they were complaining about a “thing” – whereas the women would hold their petty grudges until something more juicy to complain about came along.

    So yes, I suppose you could say that men were at one time “uncivilized” in regards to their perception of women in the workplace. But on the other hand, ladies, please don’t think that your mere presence in the office instantly creates some kind of civil balance leading to workplace nirvana, because it doesn’t.

    Note from the editor to anyone else tempted to respond to this: It’s already been done and there’s a request from me at the end of the responses to end it there, lest this entire thread be taken over by gender-based generalizations and responses to them.

    1. Anonymous*

      Your post just makes me go: UGH. Really? Women are gossipy? OMG STOP THE PRESSES. No one has ever heard that before! Woman don’t like working with other women? We should write Congress!

      You are just promoting the horrendous stereotypes that women have to fight every. single. day. because people like you just can’t let crap go. We talked about this in another thread this week, and I was the Anon who said that we need to stop pretending that this is a real thing that only women do. Like I said before, I’ve worked in both predominately-male and predominately-females work places and BOTH workplaces had drama.


      I hate to break this to you Hugo, but _people_ are petty and vindictive and gossipy and cause drama and hold grudges, not just women or men, but _people_. Women say they want to avoid women-dominated offices because we’re all told they’re terrible places to be because women are terrible. We internalize all of this misogyny and then project it onto other women and it’s disgusting.

      Please stop adding to this BS, and other women reading this, this goes double for you. To paraphrase Dr. King, it’s not about what someone looks like, but what the content of their character is. Someone being a bad employee is completely separate from what they’re packing in their pants. Now can we please put a moratorium on this site regarding how terrible women are to work with? Please?

      1. Yvi*

        I never get why people think that’s something surprising that we have never heard before – I am a women in IT and the only woman in a technical role in a 40-people department. The rest of the women are in admin roles.

        I have heard that women are “catty” and “vindictive” and like the drama so many times in my life, it gets really old… I don’t get why Hugo would present this as some kind of new information, and also be condescendin in the process. It’s something that I would bet almost all women have heard before. Many times.

        1. Anon @ 8:23*

          Regardless of whether they’re a troll or someone who actually believes this crap, it’s something that shouldn’t be tolerated.

      2. Katie*

        Wait, is this AAM, or Jezebel? Because suddenly those two comment streams look awfully familiar. This post could have been written by Lindy West.

    2. fposte*

      I work in a majority female department, and it’s one of the saner ones at my university.

      No gender is free from idiocy, I agree with you there. But suggesting that female-dominated workplaces are bitchiness minefields is no more true than saying male-dominated workplaces require mandatory public ball-scratching and chest bumps.

      1. Amouse*

        True and I think the more that we buy into these sorts of salient gender stereotypes the more it becomes like a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we believe something to be true or expected of us as a gender, we may be more likely to subconsciously or consciously play into that. That’s why I like to look at people as individuals. No two people’s lives are the same so why do we make these sweeping mass generalizations about entire genders?

    3. Anonymous*

      And I know plenty of women, including myself, who have and loved working in all-woman workplaces. I’d be thrilled to get back into a woman-only office.

      Also, I looooove when men respond to evidence of misogyny with “YEAH WELL LADIES YOU’RE NOT ALL THAT GREAT EITHER YOU COMPLAIN ABOUT STUFF I DEEM THE WRONG THING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT” or some variation of irrelevant complaints about how ladies aren’t perfect which obviously cancels out sexism against them.

    4. BCW*

      Why is he misogynistic when he is giving his opinion. I’ve seen plenty of “men are dumb” type posts here generalizing male behavior, but somehow thats ok? Heaven forbid someone make an observation about their experiences.

      I’ve had similar experiences. If I were to look at the jobs I’ve had where there was the most drama, it was jobs where the office was majority women. That doesn’t mean that ALL women are dramatic by any means. But to ignore the fact that the social dynamics between a group of women and a group of men are different is just absurd.

      For example, on the whole, women are more emotional. If that statement makes me sexist, then fine, but its true. Now, being emotional isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This emotion is why most of us have such a strong love for our mothers. But when you have a lot of people reacting based on emotion, things tend to be a bit more dramatic.

      1. Josh S*

        Generalizing based on gender is silly. The differences within groups are far greater than the differences between groups.

        It’s not like women are from 300-350 on the random-characteristic scale and men are 240-290 on that scale. It’s women 300-390 and men 290-380. If there’s any difference at all, on average, it’s far outweighed by the likely difference between individuals. You’re just as likely to have a man at 370 as you are to have a woman at 310.

        So if you’re making the claim that because, on the whole, women are higher on that random-characteristic, you’re shooting yourself in the foot, simply because of how much overlap there is between the groups. It might be true on the whole, but even when it is, it’s still useless for determining differences between Man A and Woman B. And further, most of the things that are claimed (emotional women, tougher men, whatever) are demonstrably, statistically FALSE. Particularly if you do studies that control for cultural influences.

        You might not believe it, but 30 years ago, pink was seen as a ‘male’ color because of its association with the color red, which was seen as strong and masculine. Most of the things we’re taught are male/female are little more than the result of the effects of marketing and culturally-influenced bias.

        So please stop trying to generalize based on gender.

        If you choose to share your opinion (which you have every right to do), please realize that when people say that you’re being misogynistic, they are correct. Even if it’s not your intent.

      2. Natalie*

        “I’ve seen plenty of “men are dumb” type posts here generalizing male behavior, ”

        Yeah, [citation needed].

        I’ve been reading almost every post plus comments for two or three years now, and one thing I’ve noticed – and love – about the people who comment here is how often they challenge generalizations.

    5. Josh S*

      You’re gonna take it for this one, Hugo. Good luck. I’m going to enjoy the slam-fest that follows. (Like watching a car wreck, you can’t look away!)

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hugo, your views are gross. In any case, I’m pretty sure Hugo was trolling, and if he wasn’t, he’s been sufficiently responded to. I hate hosting this kind of thing, so would love it if everyone moved on to something more interesting/constructive.

      1. Hugo*

        I think “gross” is a bit of an exaggeration, as I called out the shortcomings of men as well and basically said that both complain, but in different ways about different things. And I wasn’t “trolling,” unless trolling is meant to describe a comment which somebody might disagree with.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Trolling = posting comments intended to be inflammatory in order to provoke people. Mass generalizations of the type you made are difficult not to take that way.

          In any case, let’s move on. Thank you.

          1. Hugo*

            As if a video from 70 years ago about how simple-minded men were regarding women in the workplace would not incite comments. You want to move on now, but you were the one who originally rewound to the 1940s to showcase an issue on which men and women have worked together to overcome.

            Anyway, thank you for listening and regarless of my perceived “gross” views I will continue to visit the site because I enjoy reading the daily posts.

  4. Girl Scout Leader*

    There have been several mentions of Girl Scout cookies on here, and I wanted to let everyone know that there are apps for phones to locate cookie booths and links from local council websites to a website for locating cookie booths.

    The cookie coordinator for a troop enters information about the cookie booth in a website, and the rest is supported by the back end at the cookie bakers (Little Brownie & ABC I think). You might need to know which baker is used by your council.

  5. Sharon*

    I want to know how you navigate the political waters of internal transfers? Say hypothetically you don’t like the dept you work in or the boss, whatever. But there is another dept where you get along with the people and they have a job you could do. How do you feel the waters with the other group without insulting or ticking off your current manager? I keep envisioning something like this, which is what I want to avoid: “Hey Bob, Sharon was asking me about my open analyst position yesterday. Looks like you might have a problem. You might want to open a requisition yourself! hahah!” Well, there are many ways it could go, but…. I’ve never done an internal transfer so I don’t know how to you do it without ruffling feathers. Anybody here know?

    1. Anonymous*

      It depends on what kind of relationship you have with your boss. Are they the nice, approachable kind? If so, just be frank with them. Don’t say that you don’t like working for them in their their department; couch it in terms of it being a big advancement for your career, etc. If you feel that your boss will get upset, why not approach the other manager and discuss the issue with them? Say you’d love to put in for that position, but you’re afraid of what your boss might say or do. If nothing else, you can always talk to HR and see what they suggest, or if you are really desparate and absolutely cannot talk to your boss because they’ll bite off your head, go to your boss’ boss and discuss it with them.

      1. some1*

        Or if it’s a lateral transfer, you can couch it in terms of “I want more flexibility in my career”

    2. kbbaus*

      I moved from one department to another in my company last year. What I did was approach HR about the open position. They forwarded my resume on to the department I was interested in. And when I got the interview, HR scheduled it.

      I think having HR involved is what kept the whole process confidential, because it was through the official channels. I don’t know if that’s an option for you in this case, though.

      I should also mention that our employee handbook addresses this kind of situation. We have a policy that states that an employee applying for an internal position or transfer has a right to do so anonymously (meaning that their current supervisor or department will not be notified), so that their current position isn’t jeopardized.

      1. Sharon*

        I’ll check my employee handbook. I’m curious how those anonymous transfers work, though. Your boss will find out eventually, when you don’t show up for work but then he sees you sitting in a cube with the other group. LOL

        And of course, my other fear is that if I don’t have a good relationship with the current boss, he may badmouth me to the boss I would like to work with. This actually happened to me at a previous company; I got on my current boss’s bad side (after 9 years of a good relationship) and he ruined my reputation with the entire group of managers at his level and above. He gave them the impression that I was unreliable or difficult or something. I’m not really sure, just that at the point in time when I really needed a change, the only option left to me was to find another company.

      2. Long Time Admin*

        ” We have a policy that states that an employee applying for an internal position or transfer has a right to do so anonymously (meaning that their current supervisor or department will not be notified), so that their current position isn’t jeopardized.”

        WOW!! We have to have our manager sign off on our requests for transfer BEFORE even talking to the hiring manager or applying for the job.

  6. B*

    I am sad EmailYourInterviewer is not working. After having two phone interviews and a 2 hour round-robin in-person interview, I never heard back. And it does color my opinion of the company as a whole, which is disheartening because it is one in which I had previously held a high opinion of.

    1. K.*

      I’m in the same boat – I had a phone interview and two round-robin in-person interviews. Although in the second/final round, they did keep me waiting for half an hour (well, 40 minutes, but I was 10 minutes early) with neither explanation nor apology, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. I’m not going to use EmailYourInteviewer because it would be too obvious who sent it, but I’m annoyed.

    2. Anonymous*

      Right now I am wishing EmailYourInterviewer had different options. Because last month I got a rejection email from a place *I* turned down, and yesterday I got a “Thank you for taking time to interview but we’ve hired someone else” email from a place I never interviewed with! I wanted to email them back with “Thank you for your email. If you had interviewed me as you say you did, you certainly would have hired me after seeing I am best suited for the job. For example, I would ensure that our post-interview rejection letters went only to those we actually interviewed.” (I, of course, didn’t actually do this.)

      1. K.*

        I won’t lie, in the latter case I probably would have emailed back. I’d have phrased it as a concerned question, like “So sorry, but has there been a mix-up here? I don’t recall interviewing with this company.”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Ack, you’re right! It’s broken. I just tried to fix it but it’s not looking simple. At least for now, I’m shutting it down due to the work involved in upkeep :(

  7. Scott Woode*

    I have a question for the group. I am a receptionist and when I was hired for this position I was told that they were looking for someone to fill this role long term. I was told that I would also be given increasing responsibility based upon what I had demonstrated that I could handle and that promotion out of this role into something bigger was possible. I assured them I was willing to stay for 3 years (verbally, not written) and that everything they said sounded good to me.

    It has been about a year now and it has become clear that there is no increased responsibility; I haven’t been given something new in 8 months. The kicker is, I routinely receive emails lavishly praising my assistance. The most recent one even included the line, “Scott Woode is really incredible at what he does (massively under-utilized in my opinion)…” which then went on for a few more sentences. I could easily point to 15 such emails I’ve received over the past year, all of which have been passed along to my manager, but nothing is being done, nor is it being said. I regularly have my duties accomplished well before then end of the day, and the rest of my day is spent idle. All I want is more responsibility, something more than ordering the catering, answering the phone, and opening the door, because I’m at my wit’s end and I feel miserable!

    I’ve started applying to other jobs as a result, some of them administrative, but not all of them. Before my present work, I had built a successful reputation in my city as a server and host, developing a strong guest base. These guests would follow me when I switched from one restaurant to another. The soft skills I learned in hospitality have helped me daily in my work, always ending with the client/guest’s satisfaction. That same work ethic was transferred into this job and I have had similar success.

    My question is three-fold:
    1) Is there anything I can do to increase my responsibilities at this job? What avenues to make this happen have I overlooked?
    2) How do I include some of this positive feedback in my cover letters for other jobs? Do I include this information or just wait to hear back about an interview?
    3) Do I go back to serving/waiting tables after I give my two weeks notice here because I am so unhappy and apply to jobs in the interim?

    Please help. I’m at a loss and just don’t know what to do…

    1. Anonymous*

      I don’t see in your post anywhere where you’ve said that you’ve actually sat down and discussed this with your manager. Have you actually tried talking to anyone who can actually do something about your situation, or are you just waiting for someone to do something for you?

      1. Scott Woode*

        I’ve spoken to my manager about this at three different times, each time it has been met with the same, or similar, response “There is very little else we can offer you.” My apologies, Anonymous, for not making that clear.

        1. Josh S*

          Push for more details. Is there little else they can offer you…because they don’t see you as capable? …because they don’t have any openings? …because the company is in the crapper and they’re barely making payroll as it is? …because they can’t stand to lose you as a kick-a$$ receptionist? …because they have a longer time horizon for vetting your abilities (though that seems a bit odd, given the feedback) before they consider you for promotion?

          Remember that you’ve been there for 1 year. That feels like a LONG time, particularly if there’s nothing they’ve been adding to your plate. But in company-time, it’s really not super long. That’s frustrating, I know.

          It may also be worth figuring out a relevant position at the company (or a way to redesign the Receptionist role into something more substantive) that you WANT to have. That way, you wouldn’t just be saying, “What career path is available to me at this job?” but rather “I would really like to transition from my Receptionist position to a _______ position. Do you see that as a possibility? What steps do I need to take NOW to make that happen the next time a ______ is available?”

          If the manager simply says, “We don’t have anything for you,” or whatever his standard reply is, push back. Ask why. Tell him you’re looking for additional responsibilities, or challenges, or ways to make a bigger contribution. And if he simply says, “Nope. You’re our receptionist,” ask what else you can do from that position, since you’re ahead of the curve with your work. If he’s got nothing, then, well, you at least know where the company stands.

          2. How to incorporate into cover-letters:
          You obviously can’t incorporate ALL of that into your CL–it would be massive. But you can summarize it. Say something like, “In my job as a receptionist, I wowed my office, receiving comments like, ‘incredible at what he does.'” Of course, it will be more impactful if it includes a specific example of what you did. But that’s the sort of thing you want to say–the soft-accomplishment that shows your impact but isn’t quantifiable into a specific achievement that would go on your resume.

      2. fposte*

        Seconded. This could definitely fall into the category of things your boss means to get around to but hasn’t. Open a mouth! Make it politely clear that growth is important to you, and that it’s important to know if that’s no longer a possibility in this job; if it’s still in the workplace plan to expand the role, let’s create a timetable for these developments. If there’s resistance to a specific timetable, then it’s not going to happen here.

        If you’re an asset as a receptionist, you probably already know this, but this should stay a polite and professional conversation that’s moving forward with concrete details on an already stated plan or finding out if the plan has changed, not a personal upset about who promised what. ( And good job on wowing people in a job that’s often taken for granted!)

        1. fposte*

          Okay, your followup suggests that such a request hasn’t worked. Do they know you’re unhappy enough to leave as a consequence? That’s the only other factor that might change this, but honestly, even that’s a longshot if you’ve specifically requested this and been turned down.

          For 1), in some offices you can scavenge for projects you can help out on; that can be tougher if you have to stay at your desk, but you might ask some of the people who’ve commended you if you could help out with any project they’ve got or will soon have.

          For 2), I’d be inclined to stay away from including the praise in the cover letter; instead, demonstrate your philosophy to the work that’s earned you that phrase. However, I think you might be able to pull off a brief quote of a key adjective as a parenthetical drop in: “I’m committed to seeing that the front desk is not only the welcoming and efficient first point of contact for clients but also can take a hand in solving traffic-juggling issues (a colleague called my contributions in this area ‘miraculous’).” That’s the most you can really do–a sentence quote is dull in this context. The things to avoid: ambiguous adjectives that could be sarcastically referring to ineptitude, and phrasing it so that they’re calling *you* miraculous.

          On 3) I think it’s somewhat preferable to hunt for office work from office work rather than server work, from a candidacy standpoint. I would also understand a candidate who wanted to leave because of failure to grow but I’d be surprised by one who found that so intolerable he quit to wait tables. That doesn’t mean it’s a huge mistake to quit for server work, especially if the money is better and the hours are more flexible for job-hunting. But be ready to put that into context if it comes up.

    2. Natalie*

      I would not do #3 unless you think you would like to go back to restaurant work longterm. Keep applying for admin jobs now but keep the job you have. IMO being underutilized and bored is not enough of a reason to quit without something lined up.

      That sucks that your boss isn’t giving you more work. Are there any projects you could take on yourself? Does the file storage closet desperately need an overhaul? Is there a manual for the reception desk? Complete some software tutorials and build your skills?

        1. Scott Woode*

          Thank you to everyone who commented and offered their candid, constructive criticism. I have a review coming up at the end of the month (that I believe I’ll ace) and when the time comes to respond or ask questions, I’ll be bringing up the points you mentioned. Once again, Elizabeth West, Natalie, fposte, Josh S, Anonymous and of course Alison for hosting, thank you for everything. You’ve been amazingly helpful!

    3. Tiff*

      Creat your own work, that’s how I got out of receptionist/admin hell. A lot of places aren’t going to groom you to move to the next step, you have to direct yourself and then have a *voila* moment where you show them something that they didn’t know you could do. Really look at how the office operates, and begin by looking for efficiencies and cost saving measures. Supplies, copier use, etc. Look for problems that no one is addressing, and find some solutions. Create reports. Track the number of calls/visitors/emails your office gets in a day. Do certain issues create more customer traffic? It sounds like you would do great in a public relations/customer service environment.

      I recommend doing whatever you can to develop your skills. If your manager is oblivious, talk to some of the folks who praise you and ask them about their jobs. Once you get some of this going, rework your resume.

      I was in a very similar position, except my old job wanted me to create presentations, ghost-write for the vp, coordinate (single-handedly) events for 500+ people and be there corporate level customer service person….from the front desk. Even when I sat down with the vp to have a well thought out discussion about why my duties did not lend themselves to the front desk, I got nowhere. Literally, “But I just really like coming in and seeing your face.” Fortunately I had taken the advice that I just gave you, I’d been interviewing heavily by that time and about a week later I was able to hand in my resignation.

      My sort of drawn out point here is that you need to develop yourself. It will be useful at your present company, or it will be useful on your resume, but self development is a no-lose proposition for you. Good luck!!!

      1. Natalie*

        “Really look at how the office operates, and begin by looking for efficiencies and cost saving measures. ”

        Oh, good call. I once made a project out of verifying all of our phone lines (commercial property management, so we have dozens of phone accounts), removing various services we didn’t need, and talking to our phone company about discounts. Saved a bunch of money.

    4. Kathleen*

      Listen, everyone has boring jobs. But having a job is important to getting your next one. Keep a list of those folks who send you the great emails complimenting your ability and professionalism.
      When you are ready to look for another job, ask them if they will be a reference for you. They may know of another job!
      Hang in there!

  8. Mike*

    I’m looking at moving from a non-exempt salaried position at a K-12 school to a exempt position at a private company. Both jobs involved programming but I’m a little nervous about the differences in culture. This will be my first private sector job (previous jobs included military and interning at a state agency) and was wondering if anyone had any advice.

    1. Josh S*

      Expect that you will work longer, but more flexible hours. The public sector jobs are probably more stringent about sticking to your ‘stated’ hours, particularly for non-exempt positions. Private sector probably cares less about exactly when you’re in the office, so long as you get your stuff done. But the flip-side is that you’ll be expected to get your stuff done, no matter how long it takes, so there’s a possibility that you’ll have to work beyond the 40 hours, without OT pay.

      You’ll probably have a more functional workplace too. Military may have been good, if bureaucratic. But I expect that the state agency at which you interned and your K-12 school were both peppered with incompetence and indifference (if my experience is generalize-able). In a lot (but not all) of private companies, the incompetent/indifferent people get pushed out. So most of the people are likely to actually do their stuff. Well, more often than public sector, anyway.

    2. Malissa*

      Oh the differences between public and private sector! In the private sector you’ll get great perks like office lunches that are paid for, employee appreciation gifts that are more than trinkets, raises that are based on merit and not the availability of tax revenues, and more room to grow and expand your career. You’ll also get less job stability, higher benefit expenses, and longer required work hours. It’s a trade. I’ve been in the public sector for 6 years now. I’d honestly trade all the stability and benefits in to get back to the private sector where I don’t have to play politics as hard to just do my job, never mind the waiting until someone dies or retires to move ahead.
      My advice for transitioning is to know that your benefits will change. Also your actions will have swifter consequences now as well. If you are nice and helpful and have a great reputation it will pay you back hugely. If you act like a giant douche you’ll find yourself lonely and looking for work quicker. Also the speed at which you can affect change in an organization is going to change. Good luck in your new role!

      1. Editor*

        Huh? Office lunches? Not these days. The private sector job with nice lunches sounds like descriptions I’ve heard from people in financial services (think New Jersey offices of Wall Street firms).

        I’d say in general private sector work is more flexible (new equipment may or may not require innumerable requisition forms, for instance) but may have a culture requiring more seat time or more evening and weekend work. Supervisors may add responsibilities any time, but there’s no protocol for reclassification — salary and title changes depend on the health of the business and your negotiating skills. Raises may be based on how the business is doing and won’t necessarily be automatic even with a good performance review. Unless the job is unionized, don’t expect a cost-of-living raise.

        Try to find out about the culture of the private company. Some are as rule-bound as public employment; others are more flexible.

        As noted, health insurance will cost more. The plan details may change every year, too, and you may have to switch doctors as a result.

        Reimbursement rates for using your own vehicle may not be anywhere near the federal rates (my last employer was paying between 20 cents and 30 cents a mile depending on the price of gas that month).

        HR assistance and power depend on the company, and I’d say HR often may be weaker in private companies (or more designed to protect the company rather than the employee) than in public, taxpayer-funded jobs.

        Vacation schedules and holidays may be much different. MLK day may be a holiday for many public-sector workers, but it usually isn’t for private sector. Vacation may be given out by calendar year, fiscal year, anniversary of hiring, or doled out in some other scheme. Some plants shut down at certain times and vacation is the shutdown. Expect less time off in the aggregate.

  9. Josh S*

    I’m just gonna throw this out there–
    After 4.5 years of freelance market research & business consulting, I’m looking to transition to a full time gig.

    I’m in Chicago. Would LOVE to work for a consulting firm–but I’m not willing to put in 80 hour weeks or travel Mon-Thurs. Does anyone know of Chicago-based mid-sized business/management consulting firms (that are relatively non-dysfunctional), who handle mainly local clients?

    Oh, and I’m not opposed to working for a big firm either. I’m just under the impression that they pretty much always require 4-day-per-week travel and/or quite long hours.

    1. KarenT*

      Have you looked into Aon/Hewitt Associates? I know nothing about Chicago, and less about consulting, but I did work for a magazine that compiled businesss lists like best companies to work for, or companies with high rates of satisfied employees, and Aon/Hewitt always made the list.

      1. Josh S*

        Thanks Karen! I hadn’t considered them. Which is funny–I used to work there at my first job out of college, back when it was just Hewitt Associates. But that was in their benefits administration call center (which, at the time, I was told would hold a career path to consulting, though it did not).

        It feels so…weird…to be considering going back to a previous employer, with all the good, bad, and ugly I know about them. No place is perfect, to be sure, but, I dunno, I think it feels like getting back together with your ex. Just…not sure I ever want to do that.

        But I’ll take a look and see what they have posted, just to see if my scorned ex-lover has something that would make me want to take her back. LOL.

        1. Anonymous*

          I actually started at Aon a few months ago and I’m really enjoying it. I’m not sure how much insight I could give you because I work pretty much exclusively with my department, but let me know if you want to discuss further.

          1. Josh S*

            Sure, I’d love to hear your experience and which department you work with. Are you part of the LinkedIn group?

            1. Anonymous*

              I just joined the LinkedIn group.

              I actually work for the corporate Talent Aquisition group, but I work mostly with reporting so I don’t have much influence on the hiring process.

              Find me on LinkedIn and we can talk further.

              1. Josh S*

                I’m trying to figure out who you are on LinkedIn, but all I have is “Anonymous” to go by, and no searches for Aon are turning anyone up. Can you give me a clue or something? :p

  10. cat*

    I’m leaving my current hell-hole of a job for what I consider to be my Dream Job in a city 1,300 miles away. I’m a few years out of graduate school and I have more than 8 years of working as a professional under my belt, so I’m not new to the business world. But the thing is, I really want to build a *career* at Dream Job – I can see myself being there for a long, long time. So, without getting into specifics of the job function itself, I’m looking for advice on how to hit the ground running in this new job – what should I do in the first week, month and year that will impress my team and help foster my career?

    1. Josh S*

      Step 1: Listen. Figure out what is expected of you–what the management wants vs. what you (or your co-workers) think the position should be about. Do that.

      Step 2: Work hard. Take care of your stuff and then look for ways to go above and beyond.

      Step 3: Talk to your manager. Regularly. See what they think, how they view you, and what they think is your potential.

      Step 4: Once you’re somewhat established and have a decent reputation, find someone who is considered a ‘rock star’ on the team. Talk to them. Talk to their co-workers. Find out why that person is valued. Try to emulate it (without being a straight-up copy-cat–we’re talking work ethic and area of expertise, not hair style and mustard-yellow short-sleeved dress shirts here).

    2. Jubilance*

      Without knowing the specifics of your industry or the job, here are a few things you can do:
      * Try to have an open mind – you’re walking into a new location, new culture, etc. Embrace it for what it is & try not to compare it to your other experiences & how you’ve always done things.
      * Ask lots of questions. That on-boarding time is often the time when ppl are most responsive to questions, whether its where to get lunch deals or why a process is done in a particular way.
      * Solicit tips on how best to integrate yourself into your new company & make the most of it – I recently started a new position myself & I’ve been asking everyone I’ve had a chance to do a 1-on-1 with for their tips on how to make the most of my career with my new company & everyone has had great feedback.

      Best of luck!

    3. some1*

      Make connections with people around the organization as much as possible. Take an active interest in the organization and its history. Be positive and self-motivated — that might seem obvious, but I have always looked forward to coming into work and being greeted by name and even a simple “how’s it going?” by co-workers, even when it’s just an acquaintance.

    4. LMW*

      One thing I did within the first week at my current job was to sit down with my manager and figure out 30, 60 and 90 goals–not just what I should have accomplished by then, but the type of information about the company and culture that I should know by then. That gave me a lot of structure for getting started.
      We also talked about how she saw me contributing to the departments overall goals and how those goals fit into the overall strategy of the company. So within the first week I had both detailed goals and and big-picture understanding.
      We also talked right away about who I would be working with outside our department, and which leaders I would want to connect with, and I set up half-hour long meetings with all those leaders and some of the people I would work with day-to-day, to find out what they did, how their work intersected with mine, and what I could do to make their lives easier (in the capacity of my role). Super helpful! I feel like accomplished more in the first 3 months in this role than any other I’ve ever had.

  11. some1*

    This happened awhile ago, but I know there are some sharp people who comment here so I’d be interested in your thoughts.

    At my former job a co-worker confided in me and two others that she was frustrated about being passed over for promotions. This co-worker had pulled something that made her extremely lucky she wasn’t fired, let alone promoted. When she said this, I vaguely sympathized by saying, “yeah, that’s too bad”. And didn’t offer my opinion, because it didn’t seem like she was asking for it.

    If I had I would have told her she probably needed to look elsewhere if she wanted a higher position (because she didn’t have a good professional reputation), or else do a 180 and become a rock star employee for at least a year before trying to get promoted again.

    1. Josh S*

      What’s your question?

      I think you did the right thing as a friend. You were non-committal. She didn’t ask for your opinion, so you were probably in the right (and probably kept the friendship) by not offering it.

      And if your friend needed the perspective, the analysis you said above is probably correct.

      1. some1*

        Sorry, I guess my question was “Would you offer your opinion in this situation?”, although I should say we were not close friends.

        You are correct, I didn’t want to make waves, I didn’t want to feel like I was calling her out in front of people, and given that she knew she had made some mistakes and wasn’t getting the Cause & Effect part of that, made me think she wouldn’t appreciate it anyway.

        1. Anonymous*

          I think the bigger issue is saying such a thing to her in front of other people.

          In public, I’d just keep my mouth shut, or suggest that she talk with management about what she’d need to do to get a promotion. I’d assume she just wants attention and an ego massage, and I’d decline to give that to her but also try not to bruise her ego even more.

          If she brought it up repeatedly, as though she were really looking for more information or holding a misguided grudge, I’d talk to her in private and let her know why she isn’t going to advance any time soon. I feel it’s better to be honest with your friends when they’re harming themselves. I think it’s compassionate to try to actually clue her in if she somehow doesn’t understand. I think it would be a terrible mistake to say such a thing to her in front of others, though.

          The only time I’d publicly scold her is if she were to go way over the top in complaining about not getting a raise – for example, by gossiping about whoever did get the job. This doesn’t sound like an issue for your case, though.

        2. AviG*

          I would have probably slightly mentioned it to her, but discreetly enough so that she gets the hint.

    2. Bobby Digital*

      (I was going to ask if this was a friend or not but you answered that question below.)

      I think you did the right thing by staying quiet, especially considering that this wasn’t a close friend. If this person is wise and truly deserves a promotion, I think she can figure out for herself that her past actions reflect really poorly and that, in order to overcome her mistakes, she needs to get her butt in gear.

      I think it could be argued that, if she can’t sense that herself, and if the offenses were bad enough that she was lucky to have not been fired, she’s not ready to take on more responsibility. In other words, in that case, she really shouldn’t be promoted.

    3. The IT Manager*

      I’d probably do what you did since you decsribe her as a co-worker and “not close friend.” A close friend or subordinate asking for advice deserves the explanation, but with a co-worker who you are not close to I think it’s better not to offer unsolicated advice. Especially since she seems sort of clueless which might mean she’d get defensive about having her faults pointed out.

    4. Andie*

      Your co-worker knows exactly why she is being passed over for promotions. She just wants you and your other co-workers to tell her what she did wasnt so bad to ease her own mind. If she did something that she could have been fired for she knows that there is a lack of trust with her. People forgive but they don’t forget!

    5. Jen in RO*

      I’m in a similar situation (with a current coworker, who is not a close friend) and I keep it noncommittal. It has been raised to our manager several times that she doesn’t always complete her tasks in time and he was fairly annoyed. I don’t know how much of that annoyance was conveyed to her – she seems pretty oblivious, even though the manager *has* told her to get her act together. Promotions should be announced soon and she’s convinced that, since she’s been here 2.5 years, she deserves one. We’ve tried telling her that promotions don’t just fall on your lap for coming to work every day, but I don’t think she gets it… In my opinion, that’s enough from me and if she doesn’t realize the situation she’s in… oh well, she’s going to have a nasty surprise if she gets passed over and newer people (who work harder and better) get promoted.

  12. Jubilance*

    No questions, just an update – I recently switched industries/companies/careers & I’m 6 weeks into my new position. Its been a complete change but I really enjoy it so far. While I’m not doing what my degrees are in anymore (I was a lab chemist for 6+yrs), in my new role I use a lot of data analysis & Six Sigma methodology & already I’m making contributions to the team, which I’m proud of. My group has been very welcoming & so far it feels like I made a great choice in deciding to take this opportunity.

    I also found out from my former technican at my last position, that during interviews to find my replacement, they made one of the interviewees cry in the interview! Can’t say I’m surprised tho – it was a high pressure environment & I did my fair share of crying the lab (but only after I had the job & with the door closed).

    1. fposte*

      I was wondering how your new position was going–that’s terrific news. It’s a great example of how somebody can effectively reposition their skills in a different situation.

    2. moss*

      congrats! that sounds like an awesome move, I wish you all the best!

      I’d say good luck but it sounds like you’re not just lucky, you’re also good. :)

    3. Ivy*

      Congratulations! I love hearing happy-ending stories, especially when someone decides to take a leap/go in a different direction! :D

      1. Jubilance*

        I made a huge switch – I was working in one of the industrial divisions of a HUGE company running an analytical chemistry lab, and now I work for a large retailer in distribution & supply chain as a senior BI analyst. Big switch in many ways but the actual work is essentially the same – data analysis, process improvement, Six Sigma, etc.

  13. Anonymous*

    I know something like this was posted a few months ago, but I’m curious to get people’s opinions again.

    Do you guys consider sick days as something that should be used only for emergencies when you or your child are actually sick? Or do you consider them a full part of your compensation package, and feel that you can use them as you like for “mental health days” or anything else?

    Personally, I think you can use them as you like, especially if your calling in sick doesn’t really affect anyone else. If companies want to discourage that, they can do like my job as a teacher did, and pay you out yearly for any unused sick days. But I think if you have 5 sick days, and you are lucky enough to be one of the people who never gets really sick where you need to take off, why should you work more days than someone else and see no benefit? Take a long weekend here and there, or a midweek break. I don’t see the harm.

    I know a factor in this is the type of company you work for, since some places frown upon you taking your sick days when you are actually sick. But I’m curious as to your personal thoughts.


    1. KayDay*

      If you have separate sick and vacation days, sick days should be used for emergencies (and usually medical appointments) only. If you have one bank of PTO, it’s not an issue. Since sick days aren’t planned it is often disruptive if people take off. However, I don’t think your boss should care if you take one day off when you aren’t actually sick. That really isn’t a big deal, and a good boss won’t worry about it. But if you are consistently taking every single sick day every year, it might raise some flags. Again, I don’t think it should get you fired, but it probably will affect your bosses perception of you and your commitment.

      It’s also not a great idea for you, since if you have a major medical issue and need to take a lot of time off, you won’t have the sick leave built up and won’t get paid.

    2. Natalie*

      Personally I think it depends on too many factors to make a blanket statement for everyone. But generally, if you are taking a sick day for something that’s not contagious (i.e. hangover, mental health day) you should be really considerate of your co-workers and not do so if being absent is going to really screw up their day.

      1. Anonymous*

        I’m the poster of this question, and I completely agree that if your calling in sick will mess up other peoples day, then you should really consider it. But in my job, for example, if I take a day off the only person it affects is me in that I’ll have more work when I come back

    3. Malissa*

      What you say it exactly why I think sick leave should be able to accumulate. If you are healthy now wouldn’t it be nice to save those sick days up for the future? Wouldn’t be nice to have 2-3 weeks worth of paid sick leave to recover from a surgery or to get over the flu?
      Using sick days for non-sick issues seems dishonest to me. But I will agree that mental health days are sometimes a necessity and a good use of sick time. Often taking a free day to reduce stress can actually keep you healthier in the long run.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The most important thing is to know how your employer and manager view it! If you think that it’s a benefit that you should use all of, and they think it’s a safety net for emergencies, you’re going to run into problems. Be transparent and get on the same page as your manager.

    5. twentymilehike*

      Personally, I think you can use them as you like, especially if your calling in sick doesn’t really affect anyone else.

      I’ve actually had this on my mind lately, also. Which leads me to want to ask what people would do in my situation … I work in an office where we are open regular business hours, but it’s not uncommon for me to be the only one to actually show up when we open and stay until we close. There are three other people (a coworker and two owners) that can answer the phones and help people when I’m not here, but it’s myself and the other coworker that are the primary phone answer-ers.

      For example, right now that one other coworker is traveling (for business), one boss is on vacation (for the second time this month .. commence eye rolling) and other boss is pretty much MIA the majority of the time. I couldn’t take a sick day if I tried. If I couldn’t come to work today, we’d just be closed.

      Just the fact that they expect me to be here all day, every day, is enough to stress me out! There are a plethora of other serious issues going on here, but really, what would everyone else do if you really just could not make it to work, but you were the only one working?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I would ask your boss about how to handle this (now, rather than waiting until you actually are sick). There might be options you don’t know about.

    6. KellyK*

      To me, it really comes down to honesty. If you’re pretending to have the flu so you can take that mid-week break, then, no, that’s not appropriate. But if you can tell your boss, “I just finished the XYZ project and I’m really in need of a mental health day. Can I take a sick day tomorrow?” then that’s fine.

      Frequently, people get more sick days than they really are expected to use because it’s an emergency back-up. This year, you might never be sick and only use one day. Next year, you might come down with pneumonia and blow all your sick days at once, or develop some chronic issue that eats up a day or two every month. So, I wouldn’t use them if you don’t need them, both because they aren’t really meant for that purpose and because that means you may not have them when you do need them.

      That said, mental health is absolutely as important as physical health, and I wouldn’t make a distinction between “can’t drag yourself out of bed due to the flu” and “can’t drag yourself out of bed due to depression.” Both merit a sick day, even if only one is contagious. (Migraines aren’t contagious either, but I wouldn’t expect someone to come to work with one.)

      In my perfect world, everyone would work in a ROWE and it wouldn’t be an issue.

      1. Anonymous*

        Question Poster here. I’m just saying in general. I don’t necessarily even give a reason, I just say “I’m taking a sick day”. So with that I don’t think I’m being dishonest at all. I’m not saying “I have the flu, so I can’t come in” or lying. So I could understand saying the lying is a problem. But there are no lies, its just basically an unexpected day off I’m taking

        1. Amouse*

          OK…but it’s called a sick day for a reason. They aren’t like personal days. You aren’t supposed to just arbitrarily use them for whatever or play games with words so you technically aren’t “lying”. Sorry to come down on you but that sounds even more unethical. Your boss might be kind and let you use sick time for other extenuating circumstances but I think it’s only honest to get permission to do that. Am I way off base on this?

          1. BCW*

            I guess I don’t see it as unethical. I get these days to use if I’m sick or can’t come into work, right? So whether I have the flu or am hungover or just need a mental break, whats the difference. Would you say its unethical for a mom to use her sick day if her kid is sick? I mean the employee isn’t sick, so by your reasoning thats wrong too.

            1. Amouse*

              That’s a grayer area to me. Any co-worker I’ve worked with would say they were staying home for their child if that were the case. I worked in an office with two non-parents (myself included) and one parent and the parent completely appeared to abuse this privilege while my boss did nothing so I’m a bit biased against that. In those cases I don’t think it’s unethical because they’re saying “my child’s sick, I’m using my time for that”. What I think is unethical is when bosses allow employees to abuse that privilege while non-parents pick up the slack constantly for them. There needs to be a balance. But that’s a separate issue.

              It’s a very foggy area. I tend to like suing personal days for stuff other than being sick but maybe you don’t get those. I know it’s hard sometimes and you do just need a mental health day but i think fundamentally that’s what vacation time was created for, not sick time. It depends on your employer’s view and workplace culture as well.

              1. BCW*

                Thats fair enough. But whatever they are saying to the boss (my kid is sick, etc) if they are still taking “sick” days and not being “sick” then its either ok or not. I think many companies/managers don’t really mandate that the employee be physically ill to take them, they are just called “sick days”. I know some places have vacation days, personal days, and sick days. Some, like my job, only have vacation and sick days. So there are occasions, that may not be physical illness, that you have to take an unexpected day off. Even something like waking up to find your car is broken down, you may have to take a “sick” day because its unexpected and thats really the only option you have. Now if you think it matters what you tell your boss (which I personally don’t) then that is a different story.

                1. Amouse*

                  Then I’d be taking vacation days for anything other than being sick. And no, they’re not called sick days for no reason. I believe taking the day off because your kid is sick is stretching it but at least someone’s child actually is sick. I try to think of myself as a parent and if I was in a situation where I didn’t have childcare and had a very sick child and so I give them the benefit of the doubt on that.

                2. Jamie*

                  This is a grayer area for me, because when a child is sick (just like when it’s the employee) there is no advanced warning. That’s totally different than just taking the day off for personal reasons, since you couldn’t possibly have planned and asked for the time off in advance.

                  I do believe that if they want to allow parents to use sick days for their kids (which I’m cool with) then they should allow that to all employees for people in their families. If I can take a day off because my daughter has the flue than Amouse should be able to do the same if she has to take her boyfriend to the doctor, or you need to take your cat to the vet.

                  Calling in at the last minute happens, we’re human, but it should be for things that came up last minute and for which you couldn’t schedule the time off in advance.

                3. Amouse*

                  Yes! That’s the difference. Advanced notice vs. no notice. So I guess if your car broke down you could take some time off but I can’t see that taking a whole day.

                4. anon*

                  At my company “sick” days are actually part of our short term disability plan, and you can only use them if you personally are actually sick. If your child is sick, you need to take a vacation day if you want to get paid, or if they are sick with a longer term illness (like chicken pox) you need to fill out paperwork to take unpaid FMLA days, or you can take vacation days to get paid.

            2. Anonymous_J*

              Sick days generally cover dependents, I believe, and at my company, domestic partnerships are recognized, so I am able to use sick leave to help my BF out with medical issues.

              Taking time off to tend to a sick child is NOT the same as what you are talkign about.

          2. Jamie*

            I agree Amouse on this.

            Personally I think PTO should all be in one bucket to use as you see fit (with approval of times off, etc.) That would eliminate the last minute absences not due to illness which can be so inconvenient to co-workers.

            But if a company has sick time and the policy is that it’s to be used for when you’re sick, that’s what it’s for. If you use less of them than a co-worker who had a bout of the flu – well any unfairness should be mitigated by the fact that they were home sick and miserable while you were feeling fine.

            I have issue with the ‘mental health days’ as well. Sure, take the day off if you have an actual mental issue and need to get in touch with your doctor – that’s medical. But too often this is a euphemism for wanting a day off or being stressed out. So take a day off, scheduled with your boss, and recharge. Don’t call in with no notice and make co-workers pick up the slack for you all day because you’re in a pissy mood and don’t feel like going to work.

            If that’s the criteria a lot of us are going to start needing mental health days 5-6 times a week.

            1. Amouse*

              yes and I admit I’m biased because if you’ve ever worked with someone who calls in “sick” or is off sick because of their child or takes a day off “to run errands” (my boss actually told us she was taking the day off unexpectedly “to run errands” you know how unfair it feels. BCW I’m not assuming you do this just pointing out the effect it can have if one does.

              Like Jamie said if it’s mental health day…just schedule the thing a week in advance or so and that way everyone knows and you can get your stuff that you need to get done before your day off like you normally would with vacation (presumably) and your co-workers aren’t unexpectedly thrown left in the lurch.

              1. Amouse*

                lol oh wow. “Thrown left in the lurch”…yeah…that made sense. Can you tell I switched expressions halfway through ?

              2. BCW*

                I also think a big factor, which the poster mentioned, is how it affects other people at your job. In some positions someone taking an unexpected day off doesn’t affect anyone except that person, in which case I don’t really think its that bad. In the situations where others have to pick up your slack, then I think its definitely something which should be considered.

                But, that can be bad too. One year when I taught, our school didn’t want to pay for substitutes. So if someone called in sick, they made the research and technology teacher cover their class. And if your class was supposed to have research and technology that day, you didn’t get a break. It started making people mad because your sick days (whether actually sick or not) ended up screwing over someone else.

                1. Amouse*

                  yeah those are good distinctions: whether it impacts others and your workplace culture, what your boss thinks.

                  I don’t mean to judge or make any mass generalizations. What I’m saying is just generally my view. But I work in a place that’s really generous with vacation and has an unlimited sick day policy so you can imagine how that gets abused.

                2. BCW*

                  Amouse, I can see how an unlimited sick time policy can be good and bad. I mean its good that employees are that generous, bad because it can be abused.

                  At my job we get 5 days a year. So thats essentially one day every 2.5 months. So if someone needs to take a day when they aren’t seriously ill and its not affecting anyone else, I don’t see why it should be considered a problem since in theory they may just be messing it up for themselves in case they really are sick later.

                3. Amouse*

                  Sorry this is nested too far to respond directly. But yes, five days is pretty stingy. I worked at a company where they told you it was five days but it was really ten just that after five days they could use it against you on a performance review. So glad I don’t work at that place anymore. I guess that if it isn’t affecting others in your case it could be OK but I’d still say if you know in advance and can avoid using sick time that’s probably more ethical to do. I don’t understand how employers can think five days is enough sick time in a year. If a person even has a bad cold they’re contagious for probably a week. Do they want them coming in and making everyone else sick? It seems odd to me.

                4. Jamie*

                  My place has a very reasonable view on sick days – you have none on the books. There is no magic number.

                  If you aren’t feeling well and feel you need to stay home – do so. By all means keep your germs home when contagious. If you can work from home, fine – if not we’ll see you when you’re well.

                  Nothing is micromanaged – you just need to call in and as long as things are communicated properly it’s fine.

                  You’d think a system like that would be rife with abuse, but you know what? It isn’t. We’re small enough that abuse would be noticed, but besides that we’re small enough that no one wants to upend the day of their co-workers because they didn’t scheduled a day off.

                  If you need time you put in for it, unless there is a wildly extenuating reason it’s approved, and you can take your time off properly and you and your co-workers can prepare.

                  Alison talks a lot about treating employees like grown-ups – and IME with this it works.

              3. Vicki*

                Not every mental health day can be planned. The “problem” with mental health is that, like physical health, it can turn on you unexpectedly. And often does.

    7. moss*

      I try to use ALL my days. If I have sick time building up that I am about to lose, I use it for mental health days or whatever. I try never to leave money on the table.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Keep in mind that at some employers, this could impact you. If it’s an employer who sees sick days as a safety net for emergencies, not as a benefit that you’re expected to use up every year, you could start to look unreliable.

        1. Anonymous2*

          My employer does not include time accrued on my paycheck, therefore I never know how much time I have. I requested a total weeks ago and she replied, through office e-mail, that she was backed up by 5 months in accounting. That was a couple weeks ago. My hourly wage does not appear on my check either. Is this against the law?
          This is a private business, and the management, or lack of it, is driving me mental!

        2. moss*

          An employer like that, I would not be interested in working for. Everyone here knows we have a use it or lose it policy so December around here is like a ghost town.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            That might be overly black and white. Some employers give generous vacation time, and expect sick leave to be for when you’re truly sick (especially since calling out at the last minute is much more inconvenient than pre-planned vacation time).

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Sure, but the fact remains that some places give generous vacation time and the sick time is truly for emergencies. If you don’t want to work somewhere like that, it’s obviously your call, but I think you’d be missing out on plenty of good employers.

                1. moss*

                  That’s never been the case anywhere I’ve worked. We don’t get what I would call “generous” vacation time and I have never had a manager indicate to me that sick time was only for true emergencies.

                  Sick time is sick time and we have to take time in 4 hour blocks, so if I have a dentist appointment and a ton of sick time built up and not much else is going on, I will take all day.

                2. dood*

                  Someone earlier said 5 sick days a year is stingy? My job only gives me 2 sick days a year! Since starting my job I’ve already been sick twice (sever ear infection with a fever, and an unknown fever/sore throat/chills/aches thing) but I haven’t used the sick time because I was afraid a time would come up when I would need those two days more. Do other people have only one or two sick days? How do you decide what merits taking a sick day if you barely have any to take?

              2. Amouse*

                @dood oh that is ridiculous! You need a union or something 2 days is honestly crazy for an entire year.

          2. Jamie*

            My husband’s place has a use it or lose it policy also. He also gets 8.5 weeks a year (vacay and personal – sick days and holidays are separate).

            He’s at home now for the next three weeks to burn time, and will be on 4 day weekends from November – January to kill the rest.

            I’m trying very hard not to resent the heck out of him – ha.

          3. dood*

            Someone earlier said 5 sick days a year is stingy? My job only gives me 2 sick days a year! Since starting my job I’ve already been sick twice (sever ear infection with a fever, and an unknown fever/sore throat/chills/aches thing) but I haven’t used the sick time because I was afraid a time would come up when I would need those two days more. Do other people have only one or two sick days? How do you decide what merits taking a sick day if you barely have any to take?

            (sorry to post twice, there wasn’t an option to ‘reply’ to my other post)

    8. some1*

      At my former employer, they didn’t allow you to take a personal day without prior notice and supervisor approval. So if you woke up in the morning and your furnace blew up, you either called in sick or took a day without pay.

    9. Anonymous_J*

      Personally, I only use sick leave for being sick, doctor’s appointments for me or my BF, and medical emergencies. I never, ever use sick time to go on interviews, for instance.

      That said, what’s “sick” to me may be different to someone else.

      I just can’t reconcile using sick leave for anything else.

  14. Anonymous*

    I’ve recently found out that a couple of my co-workers have apparently taken up residence in the building that I work in. As in, they actually and literally live in the office, at their cubicles. At minimum, they are sleeping at work often enough to become the target of office jokes (one of them has been unofficially nicknamed “Naps” because of the reliability and frequency with which he can be found sleeping on his keyboard).

    I’m at the bottom of the work hierarchy, and I’m leaving the job soon anyway. However, sleeping at work with great frequency (or moving in) seem to be a pretty big problem that I should probably do something about. The thing is, I’m not sure how to address this. The boss of these two folks is not here most of the time (that’s a separate problem that is way outside of my pay grade to address). My own boss has been known to occasionally sleep in his office (not daily, though!) so I don’t think he’d take the issue very seriously. Should I try to tip off HR as I leave? Should I just laugh it off as I walk out the door?

      1. Anonymous*

        It is, unfortunately, not terribly bizarre in my area of work.

        However, as I happen to be working in a nuclear facility at the moment, I am rather concerned about how this would look to our funding agency (The Government). I’m also passingly worried about various matters of health, safety, cleanliness, mental well-being, common courtesy, and ethics.

        I don’t really have anyone to bring it to that seems to make sense, and I know that the HR people I could tip off have no real recourse to address this kind of matter (but they might be able to complain loudly enough to attract attention).

        1. Katie*

          You work in a federally-funded nuclear facility where people are sleeping and bosses are not showing up? Am I the only one who thinks there could be very serious consequences to this? Tell someone. Please. I beg you as an American taxpayer.

          1. Anonymous_J*

            Yeah. That’s pretty darned scary!

            Is it possible they are homeless? Maybe find a way to subtly offer them resources for help.

        2. KayDay*

          Ok, I’m a little slow on the reply, but after reading this, I would like to amend my response. It is now:

          WTF?!?!?!?!!!!!! Please tell someone.

    1. some1*

      Um, yes, HR needs to be told. There could very well be serious liability issues with employees sleeping in the office. What if there’s a fire?

    2. Anonymous*

      Hard to say, but I have seen this before. When I was a grad student, one of the (seven) people I shared an office with appeared to live there. He was there all the time, and all of the phone calls were for him! I came in one weekend and found him snoozing in the aisle between cubicles in a sleeping bag.

  15. KayDay*

    I frequently get headaches by the end of the day at work, I think from looking at my computer all day. (Stress does NOT seem to be a factor, as this happens on very calm days.) I also have some difficulty reading long bits of text from my computer. I have gone to the eye doctor a few times, and finally have glasses that help, but don’t solve the problem.

    I have my own office with an overhead florescent light and a very large north-facing window. I’ve tried turning off the overhead light which worked in the summer, but now that it’s fall I don’t always get enough light through my window. I bought a little desk top stick lamp, but it really doesn’t give off enough light.

    I’ve also tried messing with the brightness settings on my monitor many times, but it doesn’t seem to help. Right now, the brightness is down to almost the lowest setting. (I have a 17″ LCD monitor.)

    Anyone have any thoughts on how to make it easier to read from my computer without getting a headache?

    1. Jamie*

      Have you tried putting an antiglare screen on your monitor?

      That solved it for one of my end users that was having this issue.

      Also – the flourescent lights can do it by themselves. See if they can swap those out, or get a stronger desk lamp and leave them off.

    2. Natalie*

      There are filters that can be put on fluorescent lights to reduce their horribleness. Your building maintenance staff should be able to take care of it.

      Another option might be taking some of the bulbs out of the fixture, or taking all of the bulbs out of the fixture immediately above you if you have more than one fixture in your office.

    3. Malissa*

      First take out some of the florescent bulbs and have the remaining ones changed to the full spectrum day-light type bulbs. They are much easier on the eyes. Also I’ve noticed that the new LED back lit monitors are much easier on the eyes.

    4. Jay*

      I’m not sure if you’ll be able to download it on a work computer, but there’s a free program called f.lux that adjusts the color of your screen to be easier on your eyes in low light; it’s not noticeable once your eyes adjust and it’s really helped to get rid of my nighttime headaches.

      1. Rana*

        I love f.lux. There are times when I have to switch between it being on and it being off sometimes, and the difference is rather startling.

    5. The IT Manager*

      I do not know if this works or not or if they’d work for your probelm, but I recently read about glasses that reduce computer eyestrain. It might be worth asking an eye doctor about it if these aren’t the glasses you already tried.

      Here’s a link to an article about them:

      Gunnar’s website claims they protect your vision by filtering out “artificial” light, and relaxes your eyes, so you get tired slower. They also claim that it prevents dryness

    6. moss*

      I used to get headaches a lot and fixed it by improving my posture. I have a footrest and a lumbar support cushion and I use a trackball mouse so I don’t have to move the mouse around.

    7. Kate in Scotland*

      My new office sounds just like yours, although I read more on printed paper than on the screen. Taking out 2 of the 3 fluorescent bulbs above my desk helped a lot, but I was still squinting at the paper.

      On the advice of my sister, I just ordered some dyslexia/visual stress overlays to use when reading and the difference is amazing (even though I have no diagnosed reading condition). Interestingly, my sister and I turn out to need much the same colour (she has actually had visual stress testing, I just played with them to see which one worked best). I also set my Word backgrounds to pale blue which is way easier for me to look at than white. You can also get monitor overlays.

      I still intend to get a daylight lamp, but I’m really pleased at the difference I got from a piece of plastic.

    8. AviG*

      I have the same issue and usually take my contacts out during the day and go with glasses, but I heard that there are special glasses for computers. I would love to hear if that works.

  16. Danni*

    I currently work in a research institute, where my company also funds my MA degree.

    My degree and contract are done in December and everybody knows I am leaving and searching for a new job, and they are all happy to provide references.

    However…even though I studied this field in undergrad and grad school, completed an internship at this company and then landed a job there…I am not continuing on in this field. I have realized over the past 2 years of working here and being in grad school that it’s just not for me.

    I am going to be applying for jobs in a DRASTICALLY different industry. Is it going to be weird to have references from my current employer? How do I tell my employer where I am applying for jobs if they ask? How do I explain to them that, despite their giving me a job and funding my MA, I am taking my life in a new direction?

    1. Malissa*

      Be honest with your employer. They often see paying for the degree as another form of compensation. So don’t sweat that too much. Tell your boss that while you’ve worked in this field for however many years you’ve realized this just isn’t where you passion lies and you are going off into the new field in hopes of finding it. Your boss is human and should understand it.

      1. Bobby Digital*

        I agree with all of this. I doubt they’ll be upset about about paying for the degree. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have done it. That said, I understand your discomfort with it and I think it’s probably because you’re considerate and conscientious. But, really, try to look at it as a form of compensation.

        And I definitely agree that most bosses would completely understand and would be grateful for your honesty and candidness. Talk to your boss.

        As for the references, I don’t think it really matters that much that the fields are different. When a potential employer calls your references (usually one of the last steps in the process), they’ve decided that you’re qualified, despite the fields being different. At that point, they’re looking for fit/work ethic/strengths/weaknesses, which any Research Supervisor should be able to communicate in general terms to any Teapot Supervisor.

        Good luck!

    2. LMW*

      I’d just be honest, and tell them that your work and your studies have been a great opportunity to learn what career path is really right for you, and it turns out it’s something different from what you originally thought. That doesn’t mean that your experience with them wasn’t valuable–no matter what you do next, you’ll be taking the skills and experience you gained with you; you’ll just be applying it differently. If there’s a connection between your old job and your new career, you can emphasize that. For example, I had an internship in PR that left me knowing I would hate working in PR–but it was still a great experience. I ended up going into book publishing, so there was a strong connection in skills. I told myinternship reference that I wanted to concentrate more on the writing and editing side than developing pitches and press releases, and they totally understood and focused their comments about me on those areas.

    3. fposte*

      Just in case you haven’t already checked, do make sure that the MA funding isn’t dependent on your staying for a certain time–often there’s a contractual obligation attached to such a perk.

  17. BCW*

    Are “family friendly” work places unfair to single people?

    I think often they are. I work someplace that most would consider very family friendly. People are able to leave early, come in late, work from home whatever if they have issues with their kids. However, I’m a single guy with no kids. I feel like this family friendly attitude is actually very unfair.

    Here is a perfect example. There are 2 of us who do my job. The other girl (who is great, so this isn’t a knock on her) just had kids like a year ago. When she came back, she is now able to work from home 2 days every week because of the kids. Now good for her for getting that perk. But I know if I were to ask for that, I would need a reason to want to work, and saying that my commute is driving me crazy wouldn’t be considered a valid excuse? So is that fair?

    I just know that if Bob wants to leave early because his kid has a softball game, its fine with management, but if I want to leave early to go to watch a pro baseball game, I’d be looked down on if I said that was my reason.

    Also, I know parenting is a hard job, so in no way am I knocking parents. I just think when work places try to be super flexible to people’s kids, its not always good.

    1. some1*

      Ugh, as a single woman without kids I can so empathize with this! It was worse when I was young and had jobs as a cashier and then in retail. Both places were pretty much always open and it felt like parents got first pick of time off for holidays because “they have a family”. Like I don’t have any family members because I didn’t give birth to them.

      However, I know for myself I would like to have kids someday, and if I do, I would hope I work for an employer with some flexibility. Even if I neverend up having kids, I still want the children in my community to have their parents be able to come to their basketball game once in awhile. It makes a kid happy and healthier mentally to have involved parents.

      Also, when my mother became incredibly ill in the hospital, it was nice to know I could take as much time as I needed to be there with her.

    2. Omne*

      It depends on the management and the nature of the work. In my area I pretty much allow the same flexibility to all of my employees regardless of their family status. If someone wants to take an afternoon off that’s all I really look at, not the reason. Same for telecommuting, everyone has the same opportunities.
      We don’t have staffing issues since the positions primarily involve field work.

    3. Anonymous*

      No, it’s not fair. The thing is, your expectation of fairness is unfounded and very narrow. Fairness is not a requirement or even a common occurrence at a job in the US.

      Let me ask you a question: what if you found out tomorrow that you get paid 25% more than she does? You say that she’s a great worker. Would you offer to forgo your extra 25% for fairness? Would you offer to split the “extra” pay with her, given a chance? Would you go tell your boss he ought to pay her more, or offer her advice about getting her “fair” pay?

      Or, perhaps your boss doesn’t give a darn about fairness. Most employers don’t really bother with it. It’s not a priority for them. Research shows all sorts of biases, some downright stupid, in comparison to pay. I’d expect that follows over into benefits, too. Employers, broadly, tend to favor tall folks over short folks. They tend to favor guys with good hair over guys with bad hair. They tend to heavily penalize women for being overweight and reward them for being underweight. In my field, men get a career boost out of having a family, and women suffer a career penalty for having a family, while singles of both genders have a more intermediate level of career achievement.

      1. Mike C.*

        Just because you’ve settled on the idea of “that’s how it is” doesn’t mean that you should just stick with it.

      2. BCW*

        That logic is ridiculous. Thats like saying, women make less than men, and thats just how it is, so there is no point in women fighting for equal pay

    4. Xay*

      Have you asked your supervisor about working from home and gotten a negative response or is this an assumption?

      I don’t doubt that there are some family friendly work environments that are unfriendly to single people who do not have children, however, I don’t think you can make a blanket statement. The supervisors I have had who were symphathetic to my need for flexibility due to family issues also allowed my coworkers to flex their schedules to accomodate pet appointments and their commutes.

      1. AgilePhalanges*

        This. I work for a company that is pretty family-friendly, but the definition of family is pretty broad. Even non-exempt people are allowed flexibility to attend appointments of whatever kind (kid-related, personal including for “frivolous” things like a massage or just to run errantds, pet-related, whatever).

        We also have a loose policy that dogs are welcome in the office. Many co-workers bring their dogs in at least weekly, so when it made more sense for my middle schooler (who is less disruptive than a dog, because no one wants to stop working to “pet” him) to ride the bus to the office than to be a latchkey kid, I checked with the appropriate people first, and he now does so. He’s quiet and stays out of the way, either working on homework at an empty cubicle or watching TV or reading a book in the break room.

        We have a few people who have regular work-at-home schedules, and none of them happen to have children at home.

        Have you tried asking your boss for a few of the concessions you mention? Though I do think there’s a difference between wanting to attend your own son’s (or niece’s or nephew’s) ball game, and going to a pro game–not that you CAN’T go to a pro grame, just that you should probably be more careful about planning in advance for something like that.

    5. Malissa*

      I used to feel like you. I work in an office that is very much similar in attitude. I really was flabbergasted at the amount of leeway the parents got. Then I had to deal with and aging Father-in-Law. I was ever grateful for the flexibility for family situations then.

      1. Amouse*

        See in my office we had similar issues with parents getting more leeway than non-parents. My co-worker (non-parent) was going through her father-in-law dying and in no way got the same privileges or leeway as my other co-worker got on as regular basis for child-care issues. Had the situation been like you described where leeway was equally given both ways that would have been a different story. So I think the key is that giving flexibility to parents is fine but it should be given equally across the board. When a non-parent is dealing with a death or sickness in the family or other such situations one way for employers to eliminate the feeling of favoritism toward parents is to give non-parents the same flexibility. In my office’s case this would have made all the difference in the world in our perspectives.

    6. Anonymous*

      I can’t speak for your workplace of course, but I’m single no kids and I expect and get flexibility for the things that come up in my life, just as parents do.

      It sounds like from your post that you haven’t asked for flexibility because you “know” you won’t get it…so you’re mad about your company possibly saying “no” to something you haven’t even asked them for!

      Figure out what you truly want to ask for (not just because someone else has t, but because you actually want it) and ask for it and see what happens. Try to put your resentment aside when asking for it because if you go in with a chip on your shoulder already, that’s not a great start to the conversation.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes. And if told no, say “I’m interested in understanding why benefits that have been made widely available to others aren’t available to me.”

    7. KayDay*

      I think it depends. Good “family friendly” policies, where everyone has the same amount of flexibility should also be good for single people. It’s more a question of how the policies are implemented. In my workplace, I (childless) have received the same flexibility as parents have.

      The only benefit that parents should get that isn’t available to non parents is maternity/paternity/adoption leave and childcare (having a child care facility available near work)–I generally feel that these benefit society as a whole (particularly in terms of providing all women more opportunities), even if I don’t directly benefit from using them, but my feelings about that better suited for an entire blog post and not just a little comment.)

      1. twentymilehike*

        The only benefit that parents should get that isn’t available to non parents is maternity/paternity/adoption leave

        I wanted to add two things …

        1) Much agreed to the above post. Yes, maternity/etc. leave is time off, but it’s not like a vacation! The same could be said for things like taking time off to go to your child’s baseball game, vs. taking time off to go to a pro baseball game. The parent taking time off for their child could very well come back and say, “well I need more time off for ME.” But then again, you sort of give some of that up when you have kids, anyways …

        2) There are also places where the opposite is going on. My bosses have adult children and one of my coworkers has young children. One of my bosses used to always expect the coworker to stay late, go out for drinks after work, etc., and finally coworker had to tell him how much he was taking from his family time by expecting these things.

        I guess the point there is, it can really go both ways and if you have a need for flexibilty, then as others have mentioned, the best thing to do is bring it up to your manager. I don’t have children either, but my bosses know how important it is for me to have time for my “non-children” family, or other personal things that are important to me.

    8. KellyK*

      I think a workplace should be flexible to people’s *lives* whether they have kids or not. A crappy commute is a valid reason to want to work from home.

      But at the same time, “equal” and “fair” are not always the same thing. I wouldn’t be counting the days your coworkers get to come in late and leave early and thinking you should have exactly the same. Instead, everybody’s fun social things and voluntary obligations* should be treated the same (in line with their responsibilities), whether it’s going to a kid’s softball game, going to a concert, or volunteering at an animal shelter. And everybody’s emergencies should be treated the same, whether it’s your kid, your mom, or your dog you’re rushing to the hospital.

      People who have more responsibilities outside work are likely to have more emergencies and therefore need more flexibility (and might be ineligible for certain jobs because of it).

      *Childcare in and of itself is not voluntary. I’m talking about things that *won’t* get social services or the police called on you or cause someone physical harm if you blow them off.

    9. The IT Manager*

      Sometimes yes and sometimes no. It sounds like your might not be, but maybe you’re assuming too.

      1) You appear to not have asked to telecommute. I think you should. I’m not sure if you really need to provide a justification on why you want to. Saving time/gas costs on the commute, recucing stress of the commute etc are perfectly valid reasons.

      2) If you have the vacation time to take to go to a baseball game, I say go. (A co-worker of mine did that in the last month.) Can you take vacation without explaining why? You shouldn’t have to if you have earned it. “I have plans.” “I have an appointment.” are both vague but true.

      1. BCW*

        To your point number 2, I guess my point is I shouldn’t have to use my vacation time to go to a pro baseball game is my co-worker doesn’t have to use their vacation time to go to their kids game

        1. The IT Manager*

          Well, I agree with you there. It would never occur to me to leave early in my current job without taking vacation time. (Ex-job I was exempt and could get away with a little bit early if I compted it somewhere without any paperwork. Notice I was still compting it though.) And people with kids should have to do the same. My co-workers with kids do.

          OTOH I think you’re stuck. You can ask about the telecommuting and if denied ask why benefits that have been made widely available to others aren’t available to you. You can try the same thing about leaving early, but it seems less likely to fly because frankly it sounds like the parents leaving early for their kids game are getting away with something they shouldn’t be.

    10. Anonymous_J*

      It totally depends on how the company applies it.

      Where I work, it is considered family friendly; however, they seem to respect all kinds of families. My BF and I are a family without kids. Generally, I can take time off to tend to family things. I try to keep my pets out of it, but they were recently very kind about my taking some unexpected time off, because one of my cats died (just a half day.)

      If your company is even handed in allowing people to take time, then no, it’s not unfair. If they are not, however, then it stinks!

  18. JG*

    I’ve worked for my current company for just shy of 15 years. I’m not in a management position due to (1) lack of available opportunities and (2) the frank realization that I’m a much better worker bee than king bee. While I’m still not seeking a management position, recent developments in my company have made me realize it’s past time to start looking elsewhere. I’ve been in the same department my entire time with this company; however, a couple of reorgs have both added new tasks to my job and changed the job’s title itself. How should I reflect this “progression” on my resume? Should it be something like this?

    2011-Current: Widgets/Whirligigs/Whatchamacallits Analyst
    All tasks from previous position, expanded to include responsibility for planning and administration of Whatchamacallit product line

    2007-2011: Widgets/Whirligigs Analyst
    All tasks from previous position, expanded to include to include responsibility for planning and administration of Whirligig product line

    1998-2007: Widgets Analyst
    Responsible for planning, administration and product deliverables of the company’s Widget system.

    Of course I’ll need to flesh out details, and especially add some accomplishments, but getting some opinion about the general plan for presenting a progressively “enlarged” non-management position would be very helpful!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      List it like this:

      Company Name
      2011-Current: Widgets/Whirligigs/Whatchamacallits Analyst
      2007-2011: Widgets/Whirligigs Analyst
      1998-2007: Widgets Analyst

      Then bullet out all the responsibilities under that. They’ll understand from the titles that there was a progression in responsibility.

  19. K.*

    I just had a call with, perhaps, the rudest recruiter I’ve ever encountered. I’ve encountered one who are ineffectual, or ones that are rude in that they disappear, but I’ve never encountered any who treated me with contempt before. He actively sneered at my volunteer experience, which is directly related to my field – “But that’s just volunteering.” He’d cut me off (he was clearly reading from a checklist – when he ) when I was explaining my previous experience, so I started just giving yes or no answers, which he clearly preferred – which is insane! How can you get a sense of someone’s work history with yes or no answers? He sneered at the part-time job I have now … he was awful.

    He was calling about a specific position that I think I’m interested in (I was asking him questions about it and he clearly didn’t appreciate having to answer them, it was like pulling teeth), but is there a way to gracefully say I don’t want to work with him, or to ask to work with a different recruiter?

    1. Malissa*

      “I’m sorry but we just don’t seem to be clicking.” Say this then go look for a new recruiter.

    2. KimmieSue*

      I hate stories like this one. Terrible recruiters like this give the rest of us a bad rap. I’m curious…was this an internal corporate recruiter or an agency recruiter?

      Sorry for your experience. Most of us are more professional and compassionate than this clod.

      1. K.*

        An agency recruiter. I was not familiar with the agency. I looked at his LinkedIn profile and he’s both young and new to recruiting; he’s five years out of undergrad and had a couple of internships and one entry-level job in a different field before becoming a recruiter (he’s only been in recruiting a year), so I suppose I could chalk his rudeness up to lack of experience, but that doesn’t make it OK.

        He also has volunteer experience on his LinkedIn profile that isn’t in recruiting or his previous field, so I have no idea why he would sneer at my own volunteer experience.

        He said he’d follow up with me via email and hasn’t, so maybe he doesn’t want to work with me either. If he does follow up, I will politely decline to work with him.

        1. Ivy*

          I think rudeness and experience are not directly correlated… So, regardless of his experience, I think it just boils down to him being a jerk.

  20. Anon.*

    I’m sure AAM has answered similar questions so I didn’t want to send this in, but I would love to get some feedback:

    Some background:
    I graduated in 2011 and completed a year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA in the office of a national non-profit organization. The office is small (8 employees) and I left on very good terms. The ED and my supervisor offered to assist with my job search in any way they can. After my VISTA term ended, I moved 500+ miles away from the city I served in and have been living with my parents for the past few months.

    My question:
    The organization I worked with as a VISTA just received a huge ($10M) grant and is now hiring new staff. There is a position that is PERFECT for me and I am obviously going to apply (the position descriptions have not been officially released, but I have a friend at the org. who is keeping me updated). My question is how to approach the application process. I don’t want to assume anything, but I’d like to think that my VISTA service would at least get me an interview. I’m not sure how to approach the cover letter. Should I bring up my VISTA service? They obviously will know who I am and what I did for them, so I feel like it would be unnecessary to re-hash that. However, I also think it would bring value to my application. I don’t want them to think that I expect special treatment, so I’m tempted to write it just like any other cover letter, but that feels a little awkward given how close we were during my service year.

    I would kill for this job, so I really don’t want to screw it up by being overly casual or overly formal. I’m still new to this process, having only held retail jobs in the past (and obviously my current interviews/cover letters have gotten me nowhere). The added challenge of applying to a previous workplace has me over-thinking like crazy (a particular talent of mine). Any advice would be greatly appreciated! :)

    1. Amanda*

      You should definitely mention your VISTA experience in the cover letter.

      The organization already knows what you did, but the cover letter is a place for you to talk about things that don’t fit nicely in your resume. Like how working for the organization has influenced your career path, what you admire about the organization, and anecdotes about your time there that show your work ethic and passion for that work. The cover letter is a place to let your personality shine. (FYI, I tried this in a cover letter recently and while I ultimately didn’t get the job, I did get my first and only in-person interview. I can email you my cover letter as an example if you would like.)

      1. Anon.*

        I have such a difficult time inserting personality into my cover letters. Try as I might, my instinct is to make them as professional as possible. I’m getting better, though, largely thanks to AAM!

        I would love to see your cover letter if you don’t mind! I’ll give you my old university email instead of my personal email:

        Thanks so much!

    2. Bobby Digital*

      I’m a little confused, I guess. Are you applying to the same office (small, 8 people, etc.) or to the organization of which that office was one of many?

      Either way, definitely mention your VISTA experience. The terms by which you mention it and discuss it depend on the answer to my question above.

      Also, if it’s the same small, 8 person office, I’d call or email your contact there right before you send in the application. Hell, I’d call/email that office in the other situation, too, just to see if one of your former coworkers could put in a word for you with someone in the larger organization.

      And, before you say it, this is an exception to AAM’s no-call, no-contact policy during the application process. You know these people and it sounds like they loved your work, so this is Your Network, not some Anonymous Hiring Manager. Good luck!

      1. Anon.*

        Sorry, I should have been more clear! I’m applying to the same office in which I completed my VISTA term. The grant they received is allowing them to expand the office. To clarify further, the ED I worked under is still in charge, but the position I’m applying for will be directly reporting to a new hire (a woman I have met twice before–I’m connected to her on LinkedIn and we have a good–if not substantial–relationship). I haven’t been able to determine who will be doing the hiring, but it is my assumption that the ED and my potential supervisor will both be involved.

        Also, two of my references are currently working at that office (my former supervisor and a co-worker with whom I worked on many projects). I assume it’s still appropriate to use them, but should I look for others as well?

        Thanks so much!

        1. Bobby Digital*

          Yeah, do not pass GO, do not collect $200: email/call your contact in that office with the most sway over hiring decisions. No, seriously.

          And, yes, definitely use the former supervisor as a reference, but not the coworker, if possible, unless there’s a really great reason to. (Usually supervisors make better references.)

          So, as for the cover letter, you really want to explain why you want to return & what aspects of the old position are relevant to your interest in the new one. Try to keep it focused on the mission, specific insights about projects, etc., not just “these coworkers were awesome.”

          As an aside, if the position you’re applying for is different than the one you held before, explain why you’re qualified for it and try to explain what you could bring to the new position by using examples from your previous experience. (Example: Though X job did not involve a lot of event planning, I really enjoyed the time we successfully coordinated Y and Z for the community meeting.)

          Good luck!

          1. Anon.*

            Thank you so much for all of your advice!

            The reason I want to use the co-worker as a reference is that the new position is directly tied to the work I did under her supervision. It’s not a hill I’m willing to die on, though, so I’m not at all opposed to using another former supervisor instead.

  21. Amanda*

    How much does volunteering negate an employment gap?

    I have been officially unemployed for over a year, but for part of that time, I was taking the time to travel and for part of the time, I have been actively searching, but also volunteering. I currently volunteer at three different organizations and each volunteer position builds on skills I already have and is giving me valuable experience.

    Will my current volunteer work help fill the resume gap, or will an employer not care, since it’s not a paid position?

    1. K.*

      The rude recruiter I mentioned above actually, literally sneered at my volunteer experience, which was directly relevant to the position we were discussing (I was a volunteer Director of Chocolate Teapot-Making; we were discussing a job as a Chocolate Teapot-Maker), but I think he’s just a jerk – that hasn’t been my experience with other recruiters or hiring managers. I think if you can directly link your volunteer experience to your desired paid roles by talk about the skills you’ve developed and how they’d make you effective in the roles you’re seeking, it’ll help.

    2. Anonymous*

      It will depend on each employer and possibly vary between different interviewers at the same company. I think you just present it as part of your story — “During this time, I’ve volunteered with X, Y and Z and been able to gain great experience with A, B and C. ” — position as positively as you can and then the interviewer’s reaction is up to them. You could get a dismissive response from a few people but I think most interviewers will want that info on what you did during that time.

      1. some1*

        Agreed. IMO volunteering during an employment gap is better than nothing. It shows you kept a commitment and did something productive with your time.

  22. Elizabeth*

    How long did it take people to work up to a real living wage? I make $8.40 an hour and, at 31, still can’t afford to move out from my parents’ house, which is becoming depressing. I’m applying to jobs that offer day hours (which would be a dream for me at this point since I work nights/weekend nights) but only paying out $9-10 an hour. While this is an improvement, it still doesn’t mean I can live on my own comfortably. I also have a Master’s Degree though only about 3 years of actual working experience (but I show up every day, have been sick only once in 19 months, and have never had any bad reports or anything).

    I guess I just hope to hear from people who have been in my situation and can offer some hope that I won’t be forced to live with parental roommates forever and that making a decent salary will come (at this point in my life $25k and up sounds wonderful). I’m scared that each year I’ll only be making a few dimes more and a few dimes more the next year, taking forever to build up to a “real” salary. Give me hope, people!

      1. Elizabeth*

        Well, I’ve been working in libraries (first 2 jobs were per diem jobs for the public library and now I work in a small medical school library) BUT I have no desire to get a library science degree. I’m only working here because I had some experience from the public library who (thank God) hired me. I’m looking at clerical/administrative jobs because in my region (northwest Pennsylvania) there aren’t a lot of other jobs out there. I’d love to get in to my local university but they are hiring super duper quadruple qualified candidates. I like working with the students and think I’d be good at working with them in a more meaningful capacity… But…until that magical job I’m perfect for opens up, I’m just applying to anything clerical since I do a lot of copying, emailing, scanning, etc.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think the problem is that the magical job isn’t going to open up, and you’re kind of drifting meanwhile … which is going to make it harder and harder to get a great job, the longer that goes on. It sounds like you need a more aggressive plan to figure out what you want to do and then the steps to get there, and then start doing them.

          1. Rin*

            What happens when you just don’t know what you want to do? I have a half dozen ideas of things I’d probably like to do, but how do you break into a new field, and how do you know you’ll like it?

            1. Anlyn*

              Start checking around and see if there are volunteer opportunities in the fields you’re interested. Look online to see if there are possible courses to take. Check Facebook to see if there’s an active community that talk about the field, and ask them if they have ideas. Google the field and do the same thing.

            2. Bobby Digital*

              Rin, it’s taken me a long time to realize that the old cliche is true: most people never really know what they want to do.

              So that’s really unhelpful, huh? Basically, it’s a matter of carefully hedging your bets. Take the 6 things and consider aspects like:
              – Necessary qualifications (do you have them/can you get them?)
              – Job availability/salary (is this position in demand right now/does it pay a satisfactory salary?)
              – Room for growth (if you try it and get bored or don’t like it, are there are careers in the same field/company that you might like?)
              – Personality (how does this position fit in with your extroversion/introversion?)
              – Interests/priorities (would you be invested in this position and its goals? Is that something that’s even important to you? How would this position fit in with your other priorities?)

              For me, room for growth is huge; I left teaching because I was going to have to invest in classes to get certified. And, once I did, I’d be pretty much resigned to teaching, administration, etc.

              Conversely, if your 6 options are things like writing, sales, teaching, etc., there are fields that provide options in all of those things (marketing, as one example). Again, IMO, it’s a matter of making a careful, calculated bet; lucky are the few who just “know.”

            3. K.*

              You don’t know you’ll like it; trying something new requires a leap of faith. It’s helpful to recognize that there are very few irreversible decisions in life; if you take a job or enter a field you don’t like, you can switch. It won’t necessarily be easy, but it is doable.

              1. Mike*

                Having gone through the same thing: agreed. I like the “Strengths Finders” approach, from Gallup. Identify the skills that you love to use – teaching, organizing, networking, writing, critical thinking, etc. and almost any felid will have a position that will emphasize certain skills. Let’s say you like to teach. You don’t have to be a teacher, you can be a corporate trainer, a career coach for nonprofits connecting people with job opportunities, a manager, etc.

                I think finding a field that you like can be second banana, but as you gain experience and play the field, it’s not so important right off the bat. I think.

    1. Malissa*

      From the time I first started working to being in a job that actually paid good it was 9 years. but it that time I also graduated high school and got a my bachelor’s degree.
      What kind of Master’s Degree did you get?
      The way I read your problem is that you lack relevant work experience to get a job in your field. If that is the case I would suggest keeping the night and weekend job so your days are free to find volunteer opportunities that will lead to more relevant experience for your chosen field and that will also increase your contacts in the industry.

      1. Elizabeth*

        The degree is in sociology but I don’t expect to do much with it at this point. The problem is I don’t know what I want to do with my life. All the tests I’ve taken have said “secretary” and “policeman.” I guess because I like rules and organization. So I’m just going for clerical stuff right now because I feel it’s at least a good foundation to have for future jobs (and it’s what I’m most qualified for with work experience at the moment).

        1. KayDay*

          You should be able to translate your social sciences masters into something research-oriented (e.g. “research assistant” or “research analyst”). Those jobs don’t necessarily pay a whole lot, but the pay should be livable (in the social sciences).

        2. Malissa*

          Would you be interested in law enforcement? Sociology is a great degree to have in that field. The first step in that direction is to find out when the next civil service test will be and sign up for it.
          The best way to get your foot in the door for that field is to look for jobs at correctional facilities. The Kitchen and the control room are great places to start. Some prisons have ways to volunteer as well. If available this is a great way to get to know the area and if you’d be interested.

          1. Anlyn*

            Yeah, you don’t necessarily have to be a cop to be in law enforcement. I don’t know much about the field other than what I see in Law and Order and NCIS, but there are probably a lot of different jobs that don’t require you to go to an academy or carry a gun. Unless you want to, of course.

            1. Natalie*

              I don’t know much about local/ law enforcement, but federal law enforcement has a number of research, analysis and other office-based positions where you don’t have to qualify with a firearm. (Yes, I wanted to be some sort of FBI analyst at one point.) And there are at least a dozen federal LE agencies to consider, including the often forgotten US Marshals and the non-security side of the Secret Service. Government pay doesn’t rise to the heights of the private sector, but for people in the lower or middle areas it’s pretty solid (better than $8 something an hour) with good benefits.

              Possible downside – they can and will move you to some random place somewhere else in the country where they need X, which may be a deal breaker for you. The application and background check are pretty onerous. And (only a downside for some) you are immediately disqualified if you’ve used marijuana in the past 3 years or any other illegal drug in the past 10 years.

        3. fposte*

          You might need to think about what’s more important to you at this point, developing a career trajectory or finding a field that’s Goldilocks “just right.” Lots of people either work in fields that aren’t something they felt a particular calling toward or work in a job they only later realized existed/pleased them. It’s not a life contract, either–you can switch fields later if you like but you’ll have more skills and experience to market when you do.

          Clerical/admin stuff can make a fine career, too, but I don’t think it’s one where the income rises very quickly, and I also think it sounds a little like you’re doing it because you feel that’s not really committing to a career path. Just be alert that this is one of those situations where not committing is also committing.

          1. Cruciatus*

            Well, I do apply to other jobs (non-clerical) but the problem is that, even if I meet minimum qualifications, the jobs that would be more fulfilling are being filled by people who can prove qualifications above and beyond what they’re asking for. It’s an employer’s market. I would do the job well (I think, anyway) but I can’t prove it enough in my cover letter or resume. Without showing everyone my resume, I can just say that the few jobs with libraries have led my qualifications to be more with customer service and administrative tasks. I know I need to figure out what I want to do, or at least a direction, but my work experience is so limited. I don’t hate what I do now, but working nights and weekend nights is terrible and I can’t do it much longer, and the pay is awful. So right now I’m just looking to get out of this and maybe work for a company where there is a chance for growth and where I can see more positions and see if those appeal to me. So I’m not committing only because I don’t know what to commit to. Yet.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It seems like you’re sort of waiting for the right thing to fall in your lap, but it doesn’t generally work that way. You need to figure out how to make yourself a strong candidate for the jobs you want, and then do that stuff — whether it’s volunteering or interning or learning new skills or whatever. Otherwise you’ll keep losing out to people with stronger qualifications.

            2. kimberly*

              I just want to mention how much I love working nights and weekends.

              I know that it is a little different for me, because as a nurse I’m well-compensated for the off-shifts, but working those off-shifts can give you SO much time to get other stuff done during normal business hours. It makes getting your car fixed and going to the bank and all of that routine stuff so much easier.

              It also makes it easier to volunteer on your off days. I recently changed jobs to something more administrative, and my shift changed too — I’m now working weekdays. Before that, I volunteered every Wednesday for a cause that is very important to me. Now, I am struggling to find time to help them out.

              And while it is nice to have weekends off for the first time in 10 years, I really miss having the weekdays off.

              Anyway, as is often mentioned here, Volunteering is a great way to explore new career paths, and also a great way to network.

              I also wanted to mention two potential jobs in hospitals that don’t involve patient care: unit secretary/unit clerk, and admissions. I’ve seen motivated people at both of these positions really impress higher-ups and move into better paying positions in hospitals. (I was a unit clerk while in nursing school and absolutely loved it. It would be a great match for someone who is both well-organized and good with customer service.)

              1. Elizabeth*

                You thought you were done getting emails from this thread, but you were wrong!

                There are things I definitely like about working nights: I can wake up whenever I want, it’s easy to get a workout in, I can build up my sick time by having doctor’s appointments on my days off, and of course just running normal, everyday errands.

                It’s not the nights I dislike as much as the weekend nights that are the hardest. But either way, I am alone the majority of my shift. The only person I see (that isn’t studying and therefore wanting to be as quiet as possible) is the security guard who relieves me for my single 30 minute break. And watching my coworkers leave at 4:30 when my work day has just started is only getting harder as time has gone on. They have student workers for occasions that neither I nor my coworker can work nights (because everyone else in the department is M-F, first shift), but they refuse to use them to allow us to have weekends off once in a while (unless we used vacation time those days), not to mention I am not paid well at all which does not make me feel better about the situation! The work/life balance is just not where I want it to be with this position: I haven’t seen some of my friends in a long time because we just can’t coordinate schedules.

                And no, I haven’t figured out what I want to do yet, but there is an administrative assistant position open at my company. I’m going to go for it and, if I get it, I can make more informed decisions about what tasks I like/don’t like and will hopefully be able to open more doors for myself as I build new skills. So hopefully things are on the up and up.

              2. Jamie*

                I would love to work nights. I get so much more done when there is a skeleton crew – if I had the type of job where this was optional I’d definitely opt for nights. I think left to my own biological devices I’d sleep during the day and wake afternoon and work hrough the night.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        On a possibly more helpful note. . .there is a huge gas industry boom in the marcellus shale in Western PA. Might look into energy companies for possible admin positions.

        1. Tex*

          Agree with AnotherAlison. I’m in Houston and know people who fly out for the week to PA because the company can’t find people locally. One friend in particular is a lawyer and deals with researching deeds in order to buy mineral rights. And where there are lawyers, there are paralegals and clerks. They might really welcome someone with your background and education.

    2. Anonymous*

      You need to figure out your priorities. Most of my co-workers live on their own with a comparable income. I get a bit more than that, about $20k per year, and I’ve been supporting two people on that without much effort at trimming costs.

      $8.40 per hour is enough money to live outside of your parent’s house in most of the country. Obviously it won’t do you very well in San Francisco or Manhattan; if you’re in an area with extremely high cost of living expenses, then you’ll probably need to move to meet your goals.

      Get a room mate to split costs with – a friend, an amicable cousin, or perhaps you could (carefully) vet a stranger. Then get a two-bedroom apartment at roughly $970 per month (total) or less. You’ll be looking for something that’s not the newest, coolest apartment on the planet, but it should still be quite livable and decent. You might be able to get a small house too, but it sounds beyond your ability to plan for at the moment.

      Think carefully about what other expenses you really need. Can you get around without a car? Can you pass up a smart phone in favor of a standard model? Do watch enough cable to justify the expense? Can you cut back on the trips to Starbucks or other expensive foods? Can you budget your spending decently?

      Admittedly, it’s not a glamorous lifestyle. No fancy new cars and no expensive new gadgets each month. But it’s enough to put a roof over your head, food in your belly, and still have some cash left over to enjoy and/or save.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        “$8.40 per hour is enough money to live outside of your parent’s house in most of the country.”


        I live in the Midwest and I cannot pay my bills on that. $8.40 is what I made eight years ago, before there was a recession. And I’ve cut and cut until I can’t cut anymore, have a mortgage payment that is less than most rents around here, don’t have a car payment or a smartphone, no cable, etc. Energy and housing are the two biggest expenses here–especially with extreme heat and cold. Gas is getting nuts. For me, it would take at LEAST $10.00 an hour, 40 hours a week to even cover expenses.

        Getting a roommate is a good suggestion for the poster, as is public transportation. If the city she lives in has decent public trans, that should help cut down on costs. If she’s not paying rent at Mom and Dad’s, only helping out with household expenses, I hope she’s saving.

        1. Jamie*

          I’m with Elizabeth…where?!?

          Without assistance either government or from friends/family I have no idea how that’s even close to what you need to maintain the basics of food, shelter (and utilities), and clothing.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          My DH and I did a calc based on my bills and local rent/expenses, and we figured you would need $16,000 per year bare, bare bones, which isn’t far off $8.40/hr — although I think you need a little more per hour once your payroll taxes are taken out. This was for someone specific, so since she didn’t have health insurance, loans/credit card debt, or a car payment, we didn’t count those expenses, and yes I know a $500 medical bill would crush your budget.

      2. LL*

        The median living wage in the United States is approx. $13/hr FT. And by living wage, I mean the minimum income to meet basic needs (shelter, clothing, & food). MIT has a website that will give you living wage data for specific cities.

      3. K.*

        Maybe it’s just not enough money and there are no priorities to figure out. The OP said she can’t afford to move out of her parents’ house on $8.40 per hour. We don’t know where she lives or what her expenses are; it is entirely possible that it is simply not enough to live on in her part of the country, even with everything cut down to the bone. I have no trouble believing that, in fact, because I haven’t lived anywhere where I wouldn’t be running a deficit on $8.40 an hour. I own neither car nor smartphone, don’t have dependents, make my Dunkin’ Donuts coffee at home every morning, and buy generic except for my produce, which I get at the farmer’s market because it’s cheaper than the grocery store.

        I believe you when you say it’s possible where you are (although I find it shocking), but I also believe the OP when she says it isn’t possible where she is.

      4. Natalie*

        Half of a $1,000/mo apartment is $6,000 a year, or 36% of the OP’s gross pay. That’s already a higher percentage of income that is recommended, without even knowing the OP’s take-home.

        Given that the OP has mentioned a graduate degree, they likely have at least a little student loan debt. I took out a fairly small amount and my payments would be 14% of the OP’s gross. So we’ve wiped out half her income already.

        1. fposte*

          I think that most people exceed the recommended percentage for housing in their early years (and in expensive cities), though.

          1. Natalie*

            Certainly, lots of people do. My partner and I have been paying about 40% of our income into housing until three weeks ago when he got a much better job.

            That said, I think it’s something worth highlighting – someone who pays a lot of their income towards housing may be one crisis away from homelessness, which is a pretty compelling reason to keep living at home.

  23. Amouse*

    My office mates and I have this co-worker who is a casual employee. She is under my boss’ management and is considered part of our team but works off-site a lot of the time. She is also the wife of one of our extremely valuable scientists that comes in on a regular basis for experiments at our facility and we deal with him on a very frequent basis. This woman is a loud talker for starters. She comes in to our usually quiet office and is extremely loud and tries to draw everyone into a conversations. I’d be OK with that since she’s in a few times a week. But she’s gross. She talks about her sex life with her husband which is even worse because we know him! She makes sexual references and will say things like: “usually I withhold sex with (husband’s name) to get him to do things around the house”

    I know this makes my co-workers grossed out and uncomfortable but she’s so loud and overpowering we laugh uncomfortably and my boss seems to love her. I suspect the fact that she’s also the wife of a valuable client has something to do with how my boss treats her. Should i say something to my boss about this? Do I say something to her directly next time it happens ? Or do I just ignore it? It’s so awkward every time she’s in here.

    Suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Malissa*

      How has no one looked at her after that kind of statement and said, “Wow, I really didn’t need to know that.” She actually sounds like a person who might actually understand the phrase “TMI dude.”
      Otherwise I’d just find a place to hide until she leaves.

    2. Just a Reader*

      I’d tell her to cut it out and bring it up to your boss. No way should you have to tolerate that kind of talk in a work environment.

      Quit laughing and tell her she’s crossed a line. Nicely, of course.

    3. BPotter*

      I don’t know a ton about the office environment, but I would definitely be direct with her about it. It sounds to me as if it might be affecting productivity, and if it is, that is a huge problem. Tactfully changing topics with this woman does not seem like it will be effective if she is that crass, so saying something along the lines of “Suzanne, I like the fact that you’re outgoing, but I would love it if you would discuss something other than your relationship. It is distracting!” Amend said response to fit your relationship with the co-worker, and your level of tact in general.

      1. Amouse*

        OK I will try to control the knee-jerk reaction to laugh awkwardly next time. I just get so grossed and weirded out that I kind of freeze when she brings this up. Not because it’s about sex but just the inappropriateness of it and yes, the context of it being in our office. I think she actually would get the whole “TMI dude” thing. Maybe she just hasn’t stopped because she thinks people find it funny. I’m not convinced she’ll stop but I will try :-) Thanks wonderful people!

    4. KellyK*

      Yikes. I definitely understand the “nervous and uncomfortable laughter” response. Laughing seems to be my default when I’m thinking “Did you really just say that? Please excuse me a minute while my brain reboots.”

      Because the laughter makes her think you actually think she’s funny, rather than inappropriate, you probably need to ask her straight out to lay off the TMI comments at work.

      (It would also be awesome if the chronic oversharers learned to differentiate the “Wow, you’re hilarious!” laughter from the “WTF??!!” laughter.)

  24. BPotter*

    Good morning,

    Long time reader, first-time poster! You all have such great insight, I was wondering if you’d be able to weigh in on a situation I am currently navigating. I am finishing my M.L.S in December of this year (God help me), and am completing a practicum in order to graduate. The practicum is at a local university, and they happen to be going through some staff changes at the moment that have me demonstrating flexibility by filling different roles along with the projects I was brought on to complete. There are two openings, and while I am not an exact fit for either one (my undergraduate degree was in History, the preferred degrees are either in the Sciences or Social Sciences depending on the opening), I am already performing the tasks of this job on a regular basis and have been told “that I should apply.” Although I am only 25, I have 5 years of experience, and know this doesn’t mean squat until I get a written offer.

    I just received a fantastic evaluation from my site supervisor…who is also on the committee for these two jobs, and let me know about the second one even though it has not been officially announced yet. How do I make sure I land one these jobs, aside from continuing to excel at the tasks I perform now in the practicum? My site supervisor knows I applied for the first one, and also knows I will be applying for the second opening. Additionally, she had me sit in on a person’s interview for a previous posting (that I did not apply for) so I could get a feel for the “professional interview process.” Any advice?

    1. Malissa*

      Um, they are all but telling you the job really could be yours. Apply! Then let your supervisor know that you did. Unless a true rock star comes in, it sounds like they’d prefer working with you because they know you. That means a lot. You wouldn’t need the training a new person would. You might actually be doing them a favor.

      1. BPotter*


        I hope you’re right! The signs are all there, but I’ve been burned by so many potential leads in the last year or so, that I am trying not get my expectations up. I do feel I fit well, and I believe that the feeling may be mutual. Let’s just hope the rock stars are off applying for other things :).

    2. Noelle*

      I agree with Malissa, definitely apply! Also, history IS a social science so you’d have the qualifications asked for anyway…

      1. BPotter*


        They consider history a humanity at this particular institution, though I do agree with you. Thanks for the support! I had known I was going to apply, but was wondering if there is anything else I could do to give me the edge without looking horribly desperate.

    3. -X-*

      Don’t get your hopes up too much but it sounds like you are doing everything right.

      Keep doing what you’re doing.

      Also, history is generally part of the humanities, not social science. But you can’t control that, so keep on keeping on!

      1. Bobby Digital*

        This is really picky, but…

        History is pretty much equally seen as being in both the Humanities and Social Sciences. By that I mean: it really depends on the institution, and institutions are pretty equally split on this. (In fact, when I was majoring in History, students could generally choose whether they wanted to classify a History class as “H” or “S.”) A lot of the time it can depend on how research-oriented the school is (but not always).

        Anyway, I know it’s really nitpicky, but (in theory) “Humanities History” is different than “Social Sciences History” and, in fact, as I said, schools are pretty evenly divided as to which they prefer.

        1. Rana*

          Yep. History can end up in either, depending on the institution. Some of it has to do with a moment when social sciences were viewed as more prestigious, some of it to do with the institution’s organizational structures, some with inertia, etc. It’s an old discipline that’s gone through a lot of evolution; the inconsistency reflects this.

      1. twentymilehike*

        My friend and her mom walked into her office after hours to find her assistant and assistant’s BF having sex on my friend’s desk. The assistant and BF didn’t even notice the friend and mother walk in.

        She texted her later and reminded her to lysol the desk.

    1. Natalie*

      I have never been around for this, but some of my former co-workers claimed to have seen office-parking-garage sex on security camera footage. (I’m in commercial property management.)

          1. Katie*

            See, I think this is what ultimately makes me not a very good professional, because my response to that was mostly, “Really? Well, good for her!” She had been married a while and had two small children. I guess I was amused and surprised at the wild streak.

            That was a pretty lax office environment, though. We all got away with murder.

    2. Katie*

      The most unlikely person in an office I worked in apparently had sex on the office couch with her husband. We had it steam cleaned.

    3. Jamie*

      “Does office sex happen? Like in TV shows?”

      Oh and just as an FYI – it’s not really a perk in most offices, so I wouldn’t ask about it at the offer stage. :)

      And what Katie mentioned is so common just assume that everything you touch has someone’s special DNA all over it.

      I want to get into a bio suit now, anyone else?

    4. Ivy*

      A coworker of mine always takes the stairs, even at her old company where she worked on a ridiculously high floor (lots of stairs), and where people almost never took the stairs. Apparently, one time when she was making her way down she found a couple having sex. During regular hours. Just… out there. I guess they thought they were safe since no one took the stairs.

      My coworker says that from that point on she made sure to make a lot of noise walking down the stairs to give people enough time to get uh… decent :P

    5. Sandy*

      I heard about an incident from my boss (HR Manager) that happened before my time. Apparently there was a stairwell involved and both parties were fired.

    6. Mike C.*

      I know he doesn’t discuss offices specifically, but Anthony Bourdain’s first book, Kitchen Confidential, confirms your worst nightmares.

    7. Sara*

      This is slightly different, but we have had TWO people at my company get caught publicly masturbating at work. Both of them were employed by the contracting company that provides our cafeteria staff. I’m not sure if they were actually fired by their employer, but they were taken off the assignment for our office. One guy was doing it in his car in the parking lot RIGHT in front of the building. He had his hood up which I guess was supposed to hide it, but that made security more interested. They thought he might be stealing because it looked like he was pulling money out of his pants but…he was pulling something else out. When security found him, his excuse was, “I’m on my break!” The other guy was at least doing it in the bathroom, except he was laying on the bathroom floor. Wtf??

      1. Anonymous*

        When I was in IT, one of our technicians was caught masturbating in the machine room while doing backups. He kept his job, but our manager told us: “For the sanctity of the machine room floor, get that boy a home internet connection!”

  25. nyxalinth*

    That video just calls for the MST3k treatment! If I can stomach it enough to be able to riff on it, that is.

    Hmmm, no questions to think of this month.

  26. ChristineH*

    What is the best way to handle getting a connection invite on LinkedIn from someone you don’t know? I’ve gotten a few invites from people who have similar professional interests to mine and are connected to others in my network or are in mutual groups. Sometimes I might write back and say something to the effect of, “Thank you for the invitation to connect. Your name isn’t familiar to me, have we met before?” I don’t always get a reply, however.

    PSA: If you’re connecting to people in LinkedIn, please personalize your invitation! I’ll be more inclined to accept if you either tell me how we met or why you’re interested in connecting with me.

    1. ChristineH*

      Argh…I wish this had an edit button to add something!

      Sometimes the invitations come from people who I’ve seen post many times in whatever group we mutually belong to. I’m sure in this case or the case in my original question, they’re just looking to add to their ever-growing list of connections…I understand that, but that’s not really my style.

      1. Anlyn*

        For me, it would depend on how well I knew that person. If it was someone I chatted with regularly in our mutual group, I would probably be more inclined to accept. If it was someone who rarely commented or made themselves known in the group, I probably wouldn’t.

        Others may handle it differently…I think it’s really up to you and how comfortable you are with LinkedIn. I rarely check mine…in fact, I had a message from someone wanting to talk to me about a job opportunity, but I didn’t see it until a month later (I didn’t know him). Oops.

      2. Blinx*

        I just ignore these invites. No harm/no foul. What’s weird, though, is when you send an invite to someone that you DO know, and never get a response. I guess they use the ignore technique too!

        1. Rana*

          Or they’re never on LinkedIn. I’ve had close family friends who told me to connect up with them take several years getting around to accepting my connection request.

    2. KayDay*

      If I don’t know someone and don’t have a connection to them at all (besides being in vaguely the same field) I’ll ignore them. If I don’t know them, but think there is a chance that I might reasonably run into them at a seminar/industry meeting/happy hour/through a mutual friend then I’ll accept them. My linked in profile is really designed to be fairly public, so I don’t worry to much about it.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      If I don’t know them, I don’t connect. Especially if they don’t say anything. I’ve gotten a few random ones, and I can’t fathom how that happened, unless they read my Clerical Chick blog, which is connected to that site. I don’t have my writer blog connected to LinkedIn because I sometimes cuss or put funky stuff on it, like mouthy LOLz of my cat snarking on stuff. :)

      Exceptions would be, for example, someone I submitted a story to, who then sent me an invite. I figure that’s a good connection to have. :)

  27. Anonymous*

    I was tempted to write in with this question- but I got promoted at my current job making it kind of moot. Prior to actually getting said promotion, I was wondering if I’d have to start looking for other work. The problem for me is references. I’ve been at the same place for six years and it’s the only job I’ve had. Every person I could think of to use as a reference would be inclined to tell my manager I was looking. I wouldn’t want to put them in a position where I asked them to lie- but if I had started looking I wouldn’t have wanted my manager to know. Has anyone been in similar circumstances? How do you find someone to be your reference?

    1. Bobby Digital*

      First, I would use your manager (not your coworkers) as a reference. Most places you apply to/interview with will be receptive to refraining from calling your current manager until they’re serious about your candidacy.

      Secondly, for the other three references, if you truly don’t have any other work experience at all, try to think of people you’ve done work for, even if it wasn’t necessarily in an “official” position. Volunteering, babysitting, housework, etc.

      After that, move on to people who could comment on your work ethic and general strengths/weaknesses in the most objective, work-related way possible (i.e. not family or friends). This could include former coworkers, professors, coaches, etc. This group of people is really a last-resort, in my opinion, simply because employers want to know about your work abilities in a real-world work scenario from a real-world work supervisor.

      Glad you got the promotion! Now, hopefully, you’ll have at least two references! :)

  28. Bobby Digital*

    Okay, girls, how do you wear your hair to a job interview?

    I’m in my late 20s, have medium-length hair, and want some ideas. Up/down? Any particular styles? Any particular reasons? Thanks!

    1. VivWalker*

      I have thick, wavy, WASP hair. Before I got a good haircut my go-to was to straighten it and tie it in a low ponytail. Mostly because it made me look older and couldn’t easily backfire. Recently I went out and spent money on a really good haircut. Since then I wear it down because it sits nicely, but I make sure to hairspray it so that the front part stays out of my face. You don’t want to be playing with your hair through an interview.

        1. Diane*

          I came of age when ponytails were strictly casual, so I would not wear my hair that way to an interview. Low bun, sure. Neatly pinned, sure. Simple waves or natural and neat, great.

    2. KarenT*

      Ok, this is a million dollar question that I would love to know the answer to. I have thick curly hair, but usually straighten it for job interviews since the curls are gorgeous one day and a disaster the next (in other words, highly unpredictable). My hair is really long, which is fairly necessary when curly, but now that I’m a certain age long hair feels “young.” I often opt for low ponytail or low bun.

    3. Amouse*

      I’d go for simple and neat. I usually wear mind back in a neat ponytail or bun. You don’t want your hair to be the focus. If you can style is down in a really polished way go for it. I don’t because my hair is naturally curly and annoying to straighten and I think it looks neater back. fwiw my two cents. I’m as female in my late 20’s too.

    4. Jay*

      I have it short now, but when my hair was longer/shoulder length (like KarenT, it is curly and unpredictable) I used to wear it in a low bun (just a pull-through ponytail one, nothing complicated) – I usually had layers so I’d have a few shorter bits left to “frame” my face. I would worry about not knowing how my hair looked after walking in from the car (esp if it was inclement weather) and it falling in my face while I was trying to focus, so pulling it back eliminated the issues. Also I felt kind of like a sassy librarian, which I guess is my spirit occupation.

      1. Amouse*

        hahah sassy librarian. I love it! I feel that way too with my hair back. I also sometimes wear my glasses as opposed to contacts for interviews just because it makes me feel smarter for some reason :-)

    5. K.*

      This question comes up a lot among black women who don’t straighten their hair or wear extensions, like me. “Natural hair” is often seen as unprofessional. My hair is more curly than Afro (but still kind of big and wild), between chin and shoulder-length and I tend to wear it pulled back for interviews. I wore it out in previous jobs and didn’t have a problem with it (I get compliments on it!) but I know women who have been told their natural hair violates the dress code, so they wear wigs to work. (I have a friend with shoulder-length dreadlocks that he wears pulled back at his conservative workplace; he has said he’d quit a job that asked him to cut it.)

      1. KayDay*

        I know women who have been told their natural hair violates the dress code, so they wear wigs to work.

        okay, I’m white, so I admittedly cannot relate at all, but I would be highly offended if I was ever told that the natural hair I was born with violated the dress code. Actually, I am offended by that. (On the other hand, not allowing males to have long hair is quite common, and while I don’t really agree with it, it doesn’t both me as much).

        Btw, I had a boss a few years ago who had natural hair and pulled it into a big, poofy, high ponytail.

        1. Anonymous*

          How do you feel about shaving your legs? Many people consider the natural hair on your legs to be inappropriate (to show) at work.

          1. Bobby Digital*

            For an interview or at work?

            For an interview, no. No hair on the legs. Of course, if you’re opposed to shaving you can wear pants or thick tights.

            At work, I don’t know. I highly doubt that anyone would say anything to you if you wore knee-length skirts and didn’t shave, unless your legs were distractingly hairy.

            (But if you’re insinuating that this question is at all similar to K.’s comment above, rest assured that it isn’t. Shaven legs is an expectation for all women, right or wrong. Artificial hair isn’t.)

            1. KayDay*

              Yes! I agree with this, both that there are options to get around shaving your legs if you don’t want to do so, and that it’s something that is applied to all women (grr). Now, if you were expected to both wear a skirt and shave your legs, I would also feel that was wrong. (I nearly threw my remote at the judge on law and order who told ADA Novak to wear a skirt!)

      2. Bobby Digital*

        K., my aunt and two cousins wear their hair natural, too. To my knowledge, no one has ever said anything outright to them, but they have definitely felt indirect pressure about it. I think that many people don’t realize what a personal decision it is.

        (And then some other people just decide to embarrass themselves by going around telling grown women they can’t wear their hair naturally.)

      3. Natalie*

        “I know women who have been told their natural hair violates the dress code, so they wear wigs to work.”

        It’s obviously a personal decision for your friends to pursue any sort of action in this regard, and you are probably already aware, but just in case!

        A dress code that prohibits natural hair styles without a very compelling business reason is considered a form of illegal workplace discrimination. If I recall correctly, a couple of black women who wore braided styles successfully took similar dress codes to court in the 80s or early 90s.

        1. K.*

          I actually was not aware – thanks! Filing that away in case I ever need to use it. What would constitute a “very compelling business reason?”

          1. Bobby Digital*

            I’m no lawyer so I hope everyone will correct me if I’m wrong/add to this, but my best guess for “compelling business reasons” would be if you worked for a company that sold wigs/relaxers/hot combs, etc., they’d want you to represent the fact that you were using their product.

            I really can’t think of another one. Or at least another one that could specifically prohibit black hairstyles but not white ones. For example, everyone working in a cafeteria has to have their hair pulled back and netted, but you could definitely have natural hair under that hairnet.

            1. Natalie*

              I think it’s actually even more restrictive than that. “Business” was probably the wrong adjective.

              A good example would be headscarves that many Muslim women wear. A company may have a dress code that prohibits hats and so forth, but they would only be allowed to prohibit religious head coverings if it was a safety issue (for example, in certain factory positions).

              The EEOC specifically calls out natural hair in their compliance documents: “Employers can impose neutral hairstyle rules… as long as the rules respect racial differences in hair textures and are applied evenhandedly. For example, Title VII prohibits employers from preventing African American women from wearing their hair in a natural, unpermed “afro” style that complies with the neutral hairstyle rule.”

    6. Rachel*

      Up in a ponytail, always. I do that so they can see my face and I’ve found it just looks a bit more professional that way.

    7. AnotherAlison*

      I’m surprised so many are pro-ponytail. I think a ponytail can look professional, but I think it’s difficult to pull it off well, and I don’t see it as the go-to look for most professional women. A bun or twist has less of the am-I-going-to-work-or-going-running feel.

      I like hair down and styled (straightened or curled-whatever works) for a professional look, never longer than the bra strap.

      I always had short hair in my 20s, but I was happy to find that in my latest hair cycle, the waves, coarseness, and thickness have mellowed a little, and I can actually wear long hair!

      1. Bobby Digital*

        Whoa – that’s possible (the mellowing out)? OMG, that’s something to look forward to! I just wore it down for the first (job interview) time. I always did updos prior (buns, ponytails, etc.), but sometimes, depending on my outfit, a bun can look really austere on me.

        I’ve also done a neat braid. Anyone else think braids are good/bad?

        1. AnotherAlison*

          According to my hairdresser (a male Bobbe, interestingly enough), your hair regrows itself every 7 years. I had heard that before. My hair was straight as a kid, really wavy & coarse through puberty, and has improved in the 20+ years since. I still look like Monica in the Friends resort episode when it rains, though.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          Also, no braids! Unless you are applying at a fundamentalist Christian school and are trying to look 14. (My exception to this is for really curly haired people whose braids don’t look so braid-y).

      2. Anonymous*

        I can’t figure out how to do a bun. I wish I knew how to make them work. I also fail miserably at braids. So, ponytail it is!

        1. Amouse*

          How to do a bun: smooth your hair as if you’re doing a ponytail either with or without a part (whatever looks best of you) and then instead of tying it back you just twist it around and around and then pin it under with a few bobby pins. That’s how I do it anyway. It looks like a legit bun.

          1. Jen in RO*

            Unless you have sucky hair and you’d need all the pins in the world to make the bun… not disintegrate.

            What has worked fairly well for me are things like these:

            Now, since I have shorter hair, I’d just straighten it and that’s it. (Very easy to do, since my hair is naturally straight anyway.)

        2. fposte*

          Some hair strongly resists confinement. Throughout the years that my hair was long, I was able to do braids, but buns were a limited-time-only prospect.

          1. Amouse*

            fposte, if I may ask: are you female? I had always assumed you were male for some strange reason lol

            1. fposte*

              I am indeed female. And had long hair for years (it’s still not really short, but the only way I can put it up to work out are in absurd little pigtails, which I don’t recommend as a work look).

              1. Amouse*

                I always saw you (not to sound creepy, by always I mean the amount of time I’ve been reading this blog) as a scholarly male…no idea why lol It’s kind of like when you need to talk to people on the phone for your job that you don’t meet for several months or even years and then discover they look totally different than the image their voice formed in your mind

                1. Jamie*

                  Weird – in my mind fposte has always looked exactly like Amber Brkich from Surivor.

                  I have no idea why.

                2. Amouse*

                  googling Amber Brkich

                  hahah! Yeah no I pictured male, scholarly academic, gray hair, glasses, 50’sish. I’m sorry if that offends you fposte it was just my image for some reason lol

                3. fposte*

                  Hey, you were right on the “scholarly,” so that’s batting .500. Even Ted Williams didn’t do that.

                4. ChristineH*

                  Too funny….I even sometimes try to picture people on message boards, sometimes even their speaking voice! I’m never usually right, though.

                  By the way Jamie, thank you for the Abby reference…I used to get such a kick out of her!

                5. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Ha. When I first started Ask a Manager, it was written anonymously. When I attached my name to it (about one year later), a bunch of readers were surprised and said they’d been assuming I was a man.

            1. Jen in RO*

              That looks so complicated! Can you do it yourself? Don’t you need insanely long hair? (Assuming the pictures I found reflect what you meant…) I had hair almost down to my waist and I don’t think I could have pulled that off…

              1. Malissa*

                I always started with a pony tail. You braid the pony tail and stick a small hair band on the end to hold it. Then wrap it up and tuck the end under. Secure with two big bobby pins and you are good to go.
                Works best with single length longer hair.
                Hair cut in layers will come right out of the braid, so mouse is required in that situation.

                1. Jen in RO*

                  Sorry, but I pictured a mouse in my hair and it’s so hilarious :D

                  Thanks for the explanations – with my hair, it would probably take 15 big bobby pins… so happy I decided short hair is my new look!

          2. Rana*

            My hair also resists confinement, but in the opposite way: it’s really fine and wavy, so it likes to escape and stick up in little wispy tufts – which is cute, but not professional.

            The only style that corrals it is – you guessed it – the ponytail, but I have a long narrow face so with my hair pulled back I tend to look like a pinhead.

            The only solution I’ve found is really good haircuts, so it looks okay when it’s just down and unstyled.

    8. KellyK*

      My hair is straightish, usually long (just above shoulder-length is the shortest I’ve cut it), and prone to frizziness. I usually brush the heck out of it and put it in a ponytail to keep it neat and orderly. I wear it down at work, but I have a brush in my drawer so I can tame it if it gets unruly.

    9. KayDay*

      My go-to interview style is straightened, side-parted, and pulled into a low pony-tail.

      My only really strong feeling about interview hairstyles if your hair is longer than shoulder-length, it should be pulled back away from your face in someway. Down or up doesn’t matter, but it must be off of your face.

      1. Jamie*

        Why? I’ve never heard of that before.

        I mean, no one should go into an interview coiffed like cousin IT – so maybe I just don’t understand what you mean by off your face.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I was also thinking this. . .
          I admittedly don’t work with thousands of women, but what???

          Does this only apply to the teenage goth girls who have half their hair covering their face normally? Because I cannot think of 1) any women I work with whose hair is in their face, or 2) and senior level women who have ever worn a ponytail.

          I have no bangs and put my hair behind my shoulders or ears. It seems to get me by just fine.

          1. Jamie*

            That’s how I wear mine usually. I have some tortoise shell barrettes and headbands to mix it up – but it’s usually down with loose curls (naturally straight – think Marcia Brady straight).

            My hair is a couple inches shorter than bra strap length and I live in pony-tails and with it up in clips when not working – but I wouldn’t do a pony tail at work. It feels too casual.

            But right now I’m wearing a pair of safety glasses on my head, so clearly I’ve forgone my right to opine about this.

          2. KayDay*

            “Because I cannot think of 1) any women I work with whose hair is in their face” Okay, now I’m getting really paranoid that my hair has a bad case of ADD, because it is always getting into my face (or it did when it was longer) if I am not sitting completely still! How do you keep it back? Do you use a lot of hairspray? (This is a serious question, I am really curious as I am growing my hair long again after cutting it into a bob). The “face framing” parts of my hair always getting too close to my face (not quite to emo teenager level, but close). =\

            As for Jamie’s “why?”, I just think it’s a bit distracting if you have a hairstyle that requires you to tuck it behind your ear or otherwise mess with it during the course of the interview/meeting. (BTW, but “strong feelings” I mean that I strongly advise my friends to do so, not that I would ever knock a candidate I was hiring for not choosing my preferred hairstyle!)

            I’m surprised about your ponytail-stance; I see women (mostly 20s and 30s) wear ponytails (or buns) all the time, when out and about during the workday. Not going to the gym type high ponytails, but lower, well-styled ponytails/bun. As far as senior-level women, most women old enough to have reached senior level positions seem to have shorter hair. I’ve seen a few pictures of Huma Abedin and Sen. Olympia Snowe with a ponytail. A very well regarded expert (but not public-figure level) I worked with had very long hair and frequently wore it in a low ponytail when giving presentations.

            …and now I am somewhat embarrassed that I just wrote so much about hair and ponytails …I really need to spend less time on pinterest…

            1. Jamie*

              I don’t use any hairspray – I just curl it and it frames my face – it’s never in my face unless I’m bending over to fix a computer tower or recable something…I do pop a scrunchy or clip in for that. That’s work mode :).

              And I think a bun is absolutely fine for work – I don’t wear them because all my hair pulled back is a particularly unflattering look on me, I can admit my face needs framing.

              I was thinking of the high “gym” ponytail – which is casual for work, imo. I’ve seen women pull all their hair back in a low barrette or hair bob type thing and it looked cute and very professional. I think for me if it’s a hair band or scrunchy it can be a little casual, but there are ways to do it.

              Do you feel better now that I’ve also wasted time typing about ponytails? :)

              1. Diane*

                No! Ponytails will always be casual to me. I feel weird wearing them to work, even though I see younger women do it. Maybe it’s a 40’s thing.

            2. Jamie*

              “As far as senior-level women, most women old enough to have reached senior level positions seem to have shorter hair”

              I remember being a kid and my mom got a short hair cut when she turned 40 – and I cried because she had the most beautiful thick wavy hair – it was fabulous. But she said once a woman turns 40 they should wear their hair short – otherwise it looks like they’re trying to look young.

              This comes to mind every time I get mine cut, because I’m a few years past the 40 mark and I still keep it between just past my shoulders and just over my braline.

              I just do not look good with short hair and the thought of cutting it short – I can’t breathe. I need it. I think I would be in a full fledged panic if I had to wear it short.

              So I’m choosing to believe that A. my mom was wrong about this. B. Times have changed making her even more wrong than she was then. And C. I don’t care of she was right and I’m wrong…I’ll go through life with the wrong hair before giving up my safety net.

              I don’t do it in front of people – but alone in my own office every problem I’ve ever solved the solution came from my thinking with my hands in my hair. Take that away and I might lose all my thinking power. I’m like Samson, but instead of brute strength it’s analytical skill that resides in my hair.

              1. AnotherAlison*

                My aunt still has long hair – a little past shoulder length, layered, naturally not gray – and she’s 65. It looks perfectly normal and professional, not at all like she’s trying to be 35.

              2. Diane*

                When I turned 40, my hairdresser made me pinky-swear I would not cut my hair. He railed against the notion that age dictated hair length.

                1. Jamie*

                  I would like to send your hairdresser a giftbasket – just for being awesome.

                  Perhaps a gift bag instead – containing a tin full of a cake and framed photo of myself…

                1. Rana*

                  For a long time I really wanted to be an old lady with long white braids. It was with some sadness that I realized that with the hair I have, it’s just not going to happen. :(

                  On the other hand, short white pixie cuts with spiky tufts are also cute…

                2. fposte*

                  Plus it takes color really well once it silvers out–I think I’ll finally succumb to the temptation for a pink streak then.

              3. Mike C.*

                The 5th or 6th level Quality Director above me has long hair, and she looks just fine with it. My thesis adviser in college also had long hair and she was the smartest person there.

                Don’t let those doubts about your professionalism keep you from being you. There’s enough pressure on professional women as it is.

              4. ChristineH*

                “But she said once a woman turns 40 they should wear their hair short – otherwise it looks like they’re trying to look young.”

                Ha! Good think I DO look young…I turn 40 next October! (my hair right now is past my shoulders and recently straightened).

            3. Bobby Digital*

              Well, I have that really wavy, coarse, “ugh” hair that other people have talked about. It’s really heavy so mostly, yeah, it stays back. When I wore it down to the interview, I did use hairspray and I pinned the shorter layers back with bobby pins. But mostly, one of the only good things about my hair (if you want to see it that way :) ) is that it doesn’t move around very much.

            4. Jen in RO*

              I hate hairspray and I thought that if I cut my hair it would always be in my face… and I hate that even more than hairspray! Now the strands in front are too short to be tucked behind my ears, but I’ve found that, if I part my hair down the middle and make sure I dry it in the way I want it to look like when it’s dry… it stays that way. Sorta like this, only a bit shorter in front:

              1. Jamie*

                That’s really cute – I love that. sometimes I wish I could do short hair just to really change it up.

                1. Jen in RO*

                  I had long hair for ~13 years. About 2 years ago, I realized that having long hair doesn’t mean anything if you don’t style it, and my perma-pony tail was ugly. I’ve seen cute pony tails on the red carpet, and mine wasn’t one of those. So I took a leap of faith and I love the results! I’d had varying lengths and cuts of “short hair” and I loooove it. Best of all, it doesn’t get tangled up anymore! It used to be impossible to comb if I let it loose, hence the pony tail from hell… now, problem solved! <3

            5. Ellie H.*

              My hair gets in my face all the time too. It just . . . does. Sometimes I force myself to wear it down (I had SUPER LONG hair for a long time, cut it “short” two years ago and haven’t looked back, but for some reason it hasn’t been as short as I like it in a long time) but once it is long enough to put back, I find it almost impossible not to. I usually just clip the front-sides toward the back of my hair with one of the mini-size hair clips. I think this probably doesn’t look great from the back but it looks good enough from the front.

      1. Bobby Digital*

        I like that – yay, pics! That’s actually very similar to how I wore it a couple of days ago (first time wearing it down to an interview), minus the barrette.

    10. Hari*

      I always wear my hair down and straightened for interviews and my hair reaches the top of my bust. I have bangs that frame my face nicely or sometimes I will pin them back with a conservative hair pin or headband (Nordstroms is GREAT for professional hair pins/bands that don’t make you look 14).

      I hate ponytails, I can’t stand them. Maybe cause I feel they make my head looked egg shaped or maybe cause I always felt there was something homely and unfortunate about them (personal bias here) but I never wear them unless I’m running.

    11. some1*

      Early 30’s here, long, thick, wavy one-length hair. Pony-tails look either too casual on me or don’t stay (they also give me headaches) unless I flat-iron my hair, so for interviews I usually pull the top and sides back into a nice barrette. I have a loooot of hair and I like to know it’s out of face for something that important, plus I don’t have to flip it over my shoulder or behind my ear.

      1. ChristineH*

        I am loving this hair talk!

        Hair is a weird thing for me. Partly due to genetics, my hair is very prone to frizz. Because my hair is so unpredictable, I never really got the hang of styling it or even putting it up. I tend to just brush it out, take a flat iron to it, and pray for the best, so you can imagine my nerves if I’m going for an interview! Sure I could put it back into a nice headband, but they bother me after awhile, especially with glasses and over-the-ear hearing aids to contend with at the same time! Too much on my head!

    12. Zed*

      I have hair down to my waist and I always wear it down. I can’t stand ponytails. I keep it clean and brushed, and I’ve never had any complaints.

    13. Jen in RO*

      I’m enjoying the conversation, but I’m intrigued: do interviewers really care about your hair style? Really? I mean, as long as you don’t look homeless/like you just stuck your fingers in a socket, shouldn’t be clean, tidy hair be enough? (I can’t comment on black women’s issues since I come from a country that’s 99% caucasian.)

      1. Bobby Digital*

        I don’t know if they care, like somehow a braided bun would get you the job over a low ponytail, but I guess I think of it as part of the total package. Just like how I don’t think they’d care if you wore a skirt or pants; it really would just depend on the skirt or the pants.

        I asked the question because I don’t think I look good with my hair tightly pulled back/in a bun/etc., and wanted to know what other ladies were doing. I do think that, as long as it looks clean, professional, etc., it won’t matter one way or the other.

        1. Jen in RO*

          Thanks for explaining! (And I kinda agree – when I look back, I realize how awful my pony tail looked. )

    14. shopaholic*

      I’m in my late 20s, and my hair is short-medium length. I’ve always seen advice to put it up in a ponytail but I hate that….I’m fat and hair pulled away just emphasizes my double chins… hardly want to feel unattractive and ugly at an interview. I finally decided to just wear it out, and just blow dry it nicely….

  29. JessA*

    The company I work for is very inconsistent with how they handle deaths in the family.

    I found out yesterday that I coworker was out due to a death. (I believe it was his grandfather.) (Both he and his dad, work for the company.) They passed a card around. When a lady on my team passed away, they bought flowers, and over $200 worth of groceries to give to her daughter who also worked for the company.

    When my grandparent passed away a year ago they did nothing. No card. No food. No flowers. Nothing. They actually called me on the day of the funeral to ask what time I was coming in. Because I was late to begin my shift. Apparently, my boss did not communicate that I was out due to a death in the family. Once, I explained that there was a death in the family, explained that I cleared it with the boss, and told them when I would be returning they were okay.

    Am I wrong for being annoyed by this and feeling snubbed? How do I address this? Or do I just let it go?

    1. KarenT*

      Is it the company that is doing this (ie. HR or upper management), or is it your colleagues undertaking this themselves?

      1. JessA*

        It’s the company.

        (I actually don’t know who bought the card, but the supervisors were the ones who let me know that there was one going around.)

        But management did buy the groceries and flowers for the lady that passed away on my team.

        1. Editor*

          This sounds like the response is based on the relationship the company has with the families. I can see why you would feel hurt.

          If there is an HR person you are talking to about benefits or company charitable donations or whatever, you might want to ask if bereavements are supposed to be reported to people other than your supervisor, then explain about getting the call and note that there was no card.

          In general, I’m not happy with corporate bereavement leave. Most companies seem to think that it only takes a day to go to a funeral, as though all their employees are local. But these policies are decades old in some cases, and don’t reflect the way families are spread out. I lobby hard for weekend funerals in my family, but we’re not Jewish so we have more flexibility.

          When my husband died unexpectedly in his 50s, I received three days off, and my oldest received one day when her grandmother died and they grilled her about why she needed three days (grandmother lived eight hours away by speeding car). A couple of people in my grief group applied for and received paid leave of a month or more when their spouses died, but they work for government entities.

          1. AgilePhalanges*

            My company has two levels of bereavement leave, depending on the distance from you to the deceased. Longer distances equals more days leave, regardless of the relationship. I believe it’s three days for <150 miles, and five for longer distances, but I'm not positive off the top of my head.

            I think it seems odd to have the same length of time for a distant relative than for a very close one (child or spouse), but I guess the leave itself is more just for the immediate aftermath of getting to/from the funeral, and you can meet any emotional needs for time off with PTO, disability, or whatever else applies. Besides, some people are estranged from their "close" relatives but are very close with a youngish grandparent whose unexpected death would be devastating, so it makes sense that the company doesn't differentiate based on relationship. (And by the way, step- and -in-law relatives are counted, too, not just immediate relatives of the employee.)

            1. Jamie*

              I agree that an employer shouldn’t make assumptions about the relationship or the significance of the loss. However, when you lose someone for whom you need to make the arrangements, and especially if you shared a home, it takes more time just on a practical matter.

              There is a big difference between having to make arrangements to attend a funeral and having to make arrangements for a funeral and dealing with the banks, insurance, packing, etc.

              Of course you can’t build that into bereavement time, but hopefully employers will be compassionate during the aftermath.

    2. LL*

      My company does the same with birthdays. Some people get cakes, cards, and/or gifts. And some people get jack shit.

    3. The IT Manager*

      You’re totally entitled to your feelings, but it seems like your boss may have dropped the ball in your situation since you told him and he told no one. Perhaps if a card was to be passed around, he needed to get it or ask someone to get it. Being annoyed is understandable.

      Also your company doesn’t seem to have a standard policy so it’s inconsistant, but don’t compare your situation (an employee’s grandparents died) to the situation where an employee (and mother of another employee) died. Different situation entirely.

      If there is to be consistancy a single person/entity needs to run it for whole organization. I’ve been places where a club ran it and people contributed dues periodically to keep the fund funded. I’ve also been places where the supervisors would take care of their own employees and pass the hat for money in each siutation. If you really felt strongly, you could recommend such a thing, but I’d be inclined to let it go. It doesn’t sound like anyone snubbed you on purpose.

      1. fposte*

        I even think the other grandparent death is actually a parent death, since the late gentleman’s son worked for the company as well; that’s why it was treated as a primary bereavement.

        In my experience, places do have inconsistencies (the relevant supervisor makes a big difference, for one thing), but what I have consistently found is that anything other than immediate family (parent, spouse, sibling, child) is unlikely to be noticed at an administrative level. That’s a “I’m out tomorrow for my grandfather’s funeral”; “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that–see you Wednesday” conversation thing.

    4. Jamie*

      It could be they do it for immediate family and not grandparents.

      In both the other instances it was a parent who passed.

    5. AnotherAlison*

      For your coworker’s grandfather, it was his father’s (who also worked there) dad, and the other woman who passed away actually worked there! One was an employee and one was a first degree relative. A grandparent is a second degree relative. It doesn’t matter how close you are, they don’t consider it the same and I don’t think you should be annoyed. My company did send flowers for one of my grandparents but not the other two (happened different years under different managers). I didn’t feel slighted at all. When employees have passed away they have done substantial things for those people’s families, and of course it varied because one time a young man with a young family passed away and another time it was an older woman near retirement age (and some in between).

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, but if they were okay with it after it was explained, and the OP’s boss didn’t tell them, then it was the boss’s fault for not passing it on. Although what you said may have been the boss’s attitude about it.

        It still sucks.

    6. Anonymous*

      I had the exact same thing happen to me. Grandparent passed away (I got the news at work and broke down so everyone HAD to have known), and except for a few people saying “sorry for your loss” no one did anything. I didn’t even take all the bereavement time I had, which contributed to feeling hurt. Adding to it was the fact that at least for 1 co-worker, I am the one who organized a card getting signed and a gift card for the daughter of said co-worker who was having a child.

    7. AviG*

      Sorry to hear about your loss.

      I agree with what others are saying about how it depends on the tyoe of relationship you have, which I think is unfair and they should treat everyone the same.

      I know in my office, 2 of my coworkers had bereavement. 1 co-worker got card and flowers, another just got a card only. Bdays are the same, some coworkers got pizza, cake and gifts, others just got a cake.

  30. Anonymous*

    I hope I can get some help with this.

    I’ve been at my new temp job for about 5 weeks and I really love it so far! However, I always get the sense that my manager thinks I have no common sense. Admittedly I lapse in common sense at times, but not all the time. I’m still trying to figure all the things out about this job. I’ve struggled with it in past roles where I didn’t get training or guidance. But I realize that in most jobs nowadays, I won’t be getting training or guidance from my manager or coworkers. So what should I do to stop making silly choices and ask stupid questions that make it seem like I have no common sense?

    1. Rin*

      I had this problem when I started my job, too. My number one suggestions is to write down everything. If you ask someone how to do something, or even if you figure it out yourself, write it down–in a way you’ll understsand later–so you’re not going to people for the same thinkg over and over.

      1. Anonymous*

        I’ve done that at my current job and it’s really helped me a ton, though with all the information being thrown at me and things constantly changing, it’s been hard to get everything down. I would have to ask questions that would count as “common sense” questions because I either forgot or I had a phone call to attend to. I hope it gets easier.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I do this too. I also tell people in the interview, if they ask about organization, that I do it and it really helps me get up to speed.

        I had a job where nothing I did was right. It ended up really sucking and I ended up leaving. I felt extremely stupid there, and did things that to me didn’t even make sense! I think it was mostly the atmosphere, and a lot of misrepresentation. But here it sounds like you’re still just really new. Five weeks is not very long to learn everything, and some jobs have a steeper learning curve than others.

        1. Anonymous*

          My previous job was almost exactly like that, where nothing I did was right. I was a summer receptionist for my company’s personnel department. I had some experience with receptionist work, but I was really in over my head here. I made so many mistakes because I just didn’t know how things ran, I didn’t know all the little things and I had my coworkers say that I was “stupid” and “had no common sense” behind my back. They would nitpick, criticize, embarrass and be condescending towards me because I didn’t do things “their” way and that I wasn’t saying the “right” things. I felt so stupid and incompetent and I dreaded going to work.

          I eventually got transferred to my current department because the summer term ended, but I love it here! I only have my feelings and doubts that my manager thinks I don’t have common sense. I do silly things, but like you said, I’m still trying to learn everything. But I still get the job done and I do a good job of it, too. I just might not do it in the way that’s conventional or I might ask obvious questions when the answer is just usually “known.” But at least here I don’t feel stupid and incompetent. :)

          1. some1*

            I can’t believe there are companies that still call it a “personnel department”! I haven’t heard that expression since the Mary Tyler Moore show.

    2. Amouse*

      I’m the same way. Until I get my duck in a row and learn a job well I can seem disorganized or lacking common sense but really inside I’m figuring out how to organize myself and once that’s locked down I have it all together (for the most part). As others have said, write stuff down and most importantly perception-wise: think before you speak (wait until you’ve completely understood and processed your own thoughts to say something). People often jump to conclusions that people are flaky when they are really just saying things that aren’t completely processed yet.

  31. Anlyn*

    So, this is a “is it legal?” question. A friend of mine received a very strong implication–almost stated outright–that his job hinged on who he voted for. His manager basically asked, “you’re voting for [blank], right?”. It was not a joke.

    Election laws and workplace laws may not meet up on this issue…we weren’t sure if this type of coercion is legal in the workforce. Given that 99% of “is it legal?” questions on AAM are answered “yes”, I am inclined to think it is. Google searches seem to bear me out.

    Anyone know?

    1. Anonymous*

      I’m not an expert, but I don’t think there’s a protection for people with different political beliefs. It might be illegal on the state level, but as far as I know, there’s no federal protection. But anybody can correct me if I wrong.

      1. Anlyn*

        That’s what I thought. My friend was thinking it applied to companies threatening to lay off a bunch of workers at once; I figured it applied to individuals as well, since there was nothing to say otherwise.

    2. Josh S*

      A) Good thing there’s secret ballot, right? Your friend can say whatever he wants and there’s no way the boss can find out one way or the other.

      B) The proper response in this situation, IMO, is “The people I vote for–or even whether I choose to vote at all–is something I don’t want to discuss at work.” If the boss gives blow-back about it, you can simply repeat, “I’m not talking politics in the workplace.” (Obviously, this doesn’t work if you work at a campaign or for a politician or a political think tank or the various partisan political jobs that are out there.)

      This has the potential upside of limiting the idiotic partisan rants, which no doubt crop up occasionally.

      C) I’m perfectly fine discussing politics with anyone and everyone–so long as it’s a discussion of the merits of various positions and qualifications or whatever, rather than a “OMG isn’t [politician] the absolute worst!? If s/he gets elected, this country/our economy/the world/the American way-of-life is going to be destroyed!”

      But for the people who don’t understand that you can, you know, be FRIENDS with people who hold differing opinions than you do, I’ve got no patience. I couldn’t work for a boss who was continuously talking about how CandidateX is the only human choice.

    3. some1*

      My brother was in boot camp during a presidential election. They were brought to the poll & told who to vote for.

    4. MsMac*

      Not somewhere your friend wants to work!

      My last boss asked who I voted for. I said I didn’t talk politics, particularly at work. She immediately stopped speaking to me, I stopped being invited to meetings, and every single thing I did she found fault with. This went on for 3 months until I found another job.

      Some people cannot accept differing opinions and your friend should not expect this boss to be any difference once he starts working there.

  32. Colleen*

    I hope everyone isn’t “commented out” yet.

    I just (5 mintues ago) got a call to set up a phone interview for a potential job. I was not seeking this job, but was found on a networking website. I am excited at the prospect of working for this company.

    Here’s the kicker: the person interviewing me knows a manager who I work with at my company. I found this out on the same networking website.

    Question: Do I contact the interviewer prior to the phone interview (via e-mail) and ask him not to contact his acquaintance at my company? I really don’t want anyone there to know I am interviewing. Or should I assume he wouldn’t do this at these early stages of the interviewing process and wait until we have the interview to say something?


    1. Bobby Digital*

      Hmm, my gut says “no,” don’t email the interviewer. I think it’s safer to come up with a contingency plan if your manager is contacted. In this case, if your manager asks you about it, something really simple like, “I actually wasn’t seeking this job, though it was a pleasant surprise and, yes, I’d like to talk to them about ____ to see what the opportunity’s all about” would be fine. But, then again, I’m no expert. It just seems kinda weird to demand things from an interviewer you haven’t even spoken with yet.

  33. Amara W.*

    Good Morning All!

    Quick question – I recently went on a job interview for an assistant position that involved meeting an HR Generalist, Head of HR, a two person hiring panel, and meeting with the person who is looking for an assistant to her. I received from them 5 business cards, and of course them telling me to contact them with any questions. After the interview I sent thank you emails to all five. It’s been two weeks, and from my understanding of the time line they (hiring panel, and the person who is seeking an assistant) will meet early next week to choose the final candidates for a second round interview. I want to send a follow up email sometime today or Monday asking about my status, and reiterating my interest in the position. Who should I email the follow up email to?


    1. fposte*

      I would recommend not emailing at all. You know the timeline, and you know they’re not going to have anything to tell you–this is just going to seem like you didn’t pay attention when they gave you the timeline, or that you’re using that as an excuse to try to get an email in just for profile’s sake. Neither of those are good. The earliest you could fairly inquire about the status of the search is a week from Monday (and do that to the head of HR), and even that’s a little early.

      1. Colette*

        I agree it’s too early – but I’m not sure the head of HR is the right person to follow up with. I’d pick the person you’d be working for. The head of HR is presumably running HR and I wouldn’t expect her to be driving the hiring process for a single position.

  34. The IT Manager*

    Why do you want to send a followup when you know that the decision will not be made until next week? Unless I’m missing something, there won’t be a status change to update you until after the meeting next week.

    1. Amara W.*

      Ah! Sorry! I forgot to add I was given the okay by a member of the hiring panel to check in with them in two weeks for a status update (receipt of application materials and hiring status) and I have a friend who works in the department who told me they are meeting early next week about the last round interviews for final candidates because of conflicting schedules (I was never told a timeline, I found out the time line little by little from my friend).

      Should I still email, or wait till next week? I assume though my application materials is important to have before they meet?

        1. Amara W.*

          To be honest I do want to know about my application materials but at the same time I also want to look like I followed their offer to follow up two weeks later. I also don’t want to look like I have insider information on their hiring process by not contacting them. Actually now it does sound a little weird/dumb.
          I will just check on materials, and wait out their decision. Normally I mentally move along after the interview process but having an “insider” has derailed that.

      1. fposte*

        In that case, I’d email the member of the hiring panel who suggested confirming receipt of materials, saying that you were, as suggested, checking to make sure your stuff got there, and if there was a timeline established for the process? I think the check in with us for your status thing is kind of weird, and I’d stick to asking for a timeline at this point unless you get further indication that they won’t tell you where you are until you ask.

  35. Jamie*

    I love a good open thread…

    Why oh WHY are people still sending me ghost poo? Boxes of this crap, no matter how carefully I try to unpack it gets all over my office.

    There are better ways to pack fragile items…time for an email request to the vendor.

    1. moss*

      well… if they are the biodegradable kind you could melt them all away just by holding your cigarette lighter under your fire extinguisher…
      Nothing can go wrong with this plan.

      1. Jamie*

        I always try to be quiet in the office, but this made me laugh so loud the guy walking by jumped!

        Even funnier – the data center is in my office – a bank of servers which would not appreciate the sprinklers.

        1. 22dncr*

          Angel turds. And one vendor used to send so much of them they would explode out of the box when you opened it It then became a game for the guys in Receiving to cram as many in the return boxes as possible. I can still see them sitting on the box flaps to hold it closed while some taped it. LOL – fun times!

    2. LL*

      I only know of one definition of “ghost poo.” (I won’t go into the nastiness here; do an internet search if you’re interested.) But the context you gave makes me think we’re not talking about the same thing! Do you mean the packing peanut thingies?

      1. Jamie*

        Yep – those little styofoam things that get everywhere. I’m convinced the person who invented them did so solely because s/he hates me.

        1. Anonymous*

          You could ask (if you wanted) around the local non-profits. Packing peanuts aren’t expensive persay, but the shipping can be murderous. I’ve routinely accepted popcorn overflow from friends. (And our organization’s volunteers!)

    3. KayDay*

      When I was little, I used to jump into big boxes of it, like a ball pit. It was a lot of fun and I strongly recommend it. Trust me, it’s not really all over your office unless you do this. (Of course, as a person older than 5, you would need a really big box…)

      (I much prefer brown paper crumpled up as a packing material…it’s much easier to save and recycle).

      1. Jamie*

        If you visit Chicago you will not be allowed in my office until I make sure I’ve taken this stuff out of my office.

        You sound like nothin’ but trouble, missy!

    4. Anonymous_J*

      LOL! I have never heard it called ghost poo before! That’s hilarious!

      I tend to keep it in its box, take it home, and either use it in my own shipping or put it on Freecycle. I agree it’s a a pain, though. I’m always super happy when they use those air cushions and super-super happy when they use shredded paper/cardboard, which can go right in the recycle bin!

  36. Malissa*

    So how does a person install a trap door to drop noisy coworkers through when they are on the phone? Or would fitting everybody with shock collars be a better option?

  37. Lily*

    I heard second-hand that I may have violated a rule, so I brought it up with the manager who mentioned it, someone I respect highly. I did violate the rule and am going to have to figure out a new procedure. What bothers me is my emotional reaction. I argued with him for 15 minutes, and watched myself arguing with him and couldn’t stop myself, because I didn’t want to believe that I had violated this rule. However, I stopped immediately when he explained that he didn’t have any more time. I went back to my office and felt worse and worse. I wasn’t productive for at least an hour. Do you have any tips on how to not take mistakes so personally and get over them quicker?

    I was thinking of apologizing for my reaction and telling him how I was going to avoid the rule violation in the future. The last time something similar happened he didn’t seem to remember the incident. I tend to think he was being gracious about it, but maybe he doesn’t want an apology?

    The rule is important, but I had used my procedure openly with many people for several years already without anyone even questioning it, so I don’t think it was obvious that what I was doing was wrong.

    1. Just a Reader*

      How bad was the argument?

      I think women are a lot more likely to apologize in the workforce than men, and that often those apologies aren’t warranted or are delivered in a weak way. My own (female) boss has a policy for only apologizing for earth-shattering, egregious errors (ie never), and it works for her.

      You’d be better served to create a new process and ask him to review it before you implement it because you value his opinion.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, if it was genuinely an argument about what the rule could mean, that might not need an apology. But if ultimately you think it was defensive rules-lawyering and you’re uncomfortable without an apology, I think you could consider including that in the conversation or email where you shared the new process: “Sorry about the pushback–I really wasn’t seeing the situation the way the rule intends. Here’s what I’ve put in place to make sure my procedures are good in the future.”

    2. Jamie*

      I apologize if I feel I was wrong and I’m genuinely sorry. I don’t really worry about whether or not the person receiving it wants an apology. Just remember that an apology doesn’t have to be a conversation.

    3. Lily*

      Thanks for your comments and questions!

      Just a Reader, I started out asking questions to figure out if I had done something wrong, but I didn’t stop once I had figured out “YES”. I think I should have postponed thinking about how to change the process for later, because I started to complain like I was the victim, which I wasn’t.

      Jamie, that’s a good point. I want to apologize when I think I’ve behaved badly, but I can keep the apology short and move on to the solution as Just a Reader and fposte suggest.

  38. Anoanervous*

    I have an interview today and for one of the first times in my life I’m nervous. I love public speaking and people and I’ve always been able to get over my nerves for those things (I’ve spoken at 2000+ people events).

    The problem is, today’s interview is with someone I work around. I respect her very much and would love to be just like her further in my career. She has a lot of great qualities that I think make her one of the best managers at my company. I also don’t know her very well and haven’t worked closely with her.

    I’m nervous because I really WANT to impress her and I know she expects good work. My mind keeps telling me I need to be perfect.

    I keep telling myself she’s just another person but boy am I nervous! Can anyone take my mind off my nerves? I feel like a little kid.

    1. Diane*

      This is tough, because I feel the same way around people I admire. Try thinking of this as a conversation, not an interview. Make yourself put less of a stake in it. Assume you have nothing to lose. You’re not going to lose your current position if you aren’t steller, so there’s actually less pressure to impress, and you’re more likely to relax and have a good conversation.

    2. Jamie*

      Diane has good advice – try thinking of it as just a conversation.

      Oh, and don’t tell her you want to be just like her. I had someone say that to me once, and it was really sweet but it totally weirded me out at the same time. I had no idea what to say – you don’t get a lot of fans in IT so it came out of the blue.

  39. Meghan*

    Does anyone have any advice for breaking into Federal work? Like DoD or DoS, although I’m really not picky.

    1. LL*

      Did you go to grad school recently? If so, I’d strongly recommend the Presidential Management Fellowship. In my experience, the process was poorly managed but once you secure a placement, you were golden. You start at a minimum of a GS-9 (guaranteed), though depending on the job and agency you can also be classified as Gs-10 – GS-13. It’s one of the best ways to jump start a career in federal gov’t.

    2. Mike*

      There is a lot of advice out there…two pieces that I wished I knew when I started out.
      -Be sure to read some about federal resumes and the application process. The standard resume advice about length doesn’t apply to federal jobs.

      -Be patient. It is a long process. I started my first federal job about 6 months after that announcement closed. I was recently offered position with a different agency – that announcement closed in May. I may start in December.

    3. The IT Manager*

      What do you want to do?

      Sadly I do not have any great advice because, it’s hard. Lots of DoD and presumably DoS will have security clearance requirements. And the contract companies that provide contract workers will often only hire someone with an active security clearance (prior military or govt contractor) because the companies have to pay for the clearance and you can’t work for the govt until you have that clearance.

      Security clearances not withstanding, some jobs are only available for people already in the government system. I’m not saying its necessarily easier, but depending on what you want out of a government job, there’s DHS, ICE, VA and other less well known govt agencies that may not be quite as competitive for jobs.

      Being a military veteran can help you beat out someone else for a govt job all other things being equal, but that’s probably not the career path you want to follow.

    4. Hugo*


      I would suggest a few things:

      1) purchase a book about writing federal job resumes. You can find some on Amazon and just look for one that has received good reviews. As someone else commented, federal resumes are MUCH different than corporate/civilian resumes, for many reasons. They are much longer (5-6 pages), require a SPECIFIC format (which you can learn from the books), and you really do have to include every keyword you can. Just looking at such a book will be a great eye-opener on how to apply for a federal job.

      2) visit the website “federalsoup” – it is the biggest federal jobs forum site out there

      3) sign up for an account on USA jobs to input your preferences and receive job agents on a certain schedule

      4) again, as somebody else said – be prepared to have a lot of patience and a “black hole” feeling when submitting your resume

      5) you need to learn all the terminology and stages of progression in the federal resume process – again, something you can learn from the book or forum site

      6) applying for a federal job is not as simple as uploading a resume to a corporate job site. Even AFTER submitting your resume, you typically have to fill out a questionnaire in which you need to provide more information, and sometimes duplicate information, from your resume

      If you can’t tell, I have gone through the federal job application process a few times, and though I was considered a “best qualified” (one of the terms you’ll learn) applicant, I never received an actual interview.

      The application process is very laborious – I applied for three government jobs, and each application took me about 16-20 hours to complete. Every resume must, must, must be specifically tailored to each job.

      I’m no expert, but feel free to ask any more questions. Best of luck in the application process.

    5. KayDay*

      It is sometimes easier to break in as a contractor (i.e. the type of contractor that actually works on site at the agency, but is officially an employee of another company). There are lots of little consulting firms that do this (in addition to the big ones) so it can be hard to root them out. State is extremely competitive, especially if you do not have a masters degree–be open to similar positions at other agencies.

      You need to be patient, because hiring (at least, directly to the govt) takes a long time.

      You also need to keep applying–a lot of jobs on USAjobs aren’t really available–the agency has an internal candidate in mind for a promotion, but they are still required to post the job.

      Good luck.

  40. sab*

    Ok, so I am under the impression that a lot of librarians and library folk read AAM, so maybe some of you can chime in, even though this is more about how to respond to awkwardness at work.

    Background: I work at an academic library where all the books are arranged with Library of Congress’ call numbers. I’ve been here 2 months, one of the other librarians in my dept has been for 3 months, and our boss, 1 year.

    Weird, awkward “incident”: I was walking through the Archives section of our library when a woman I hadn’t met called me over and asked me if I was “[my name], the new librarian.” Obviously, yes and this woman turns out to be a Library Technician who used to work in my department. She starts quizzing me about my experience and asks me, in kind of a pointed manner, if I knew how to do LCC (Library of Congress classification, i.e. call numbers). I said yes, and then she asks me if the other new librarian does, I answer yes, and then she smirks at me impishly and says, “good! Now you can teach [my boss] how to do it!” and then slaps herself in the face, obviously to emphasize the effect of saying something she shouldn’t have. Awwwkaaarrd pause, and I fumble, saying it’s always good to learn new things, blah blah blah, chit chat, and move on. But the rest of the conversation, she definitely had a snide and condescending tone.

    I really don’t care what she thinks, since she’s not in our department anymore, and I’m not really worried about anyone in my department’s ability to assign call numbers as we’re more than a capable group of librarians who get our work done. I guess my question for you all is… so how do you handle it when people make weird comments about your new boss? Or just weird comments like that in general? I feel like I could’ve a little more graceful than awkwardly pausing and fumbling up a response. :/

    1. fposte*

      I think a confused awkwardness is actually a pretty appropriate response to that–anything in the “Um–okay” realm covers it nicely. This is extremely weird, whether your boss is a Dewey devotee or not, because this is the co-worker thinking she gets status somehow by snidely pointing out a higher-up’s flaw to a newbie. If you want to an actual sentence, you can always go with a cheerful “Actually, working with her has been really great” while you’re walking away.

      1. sab*

        I’m glad I’m not alone in thinking it was weird! My boss worked at a public library prior to this position, so I’m wondering if there’s an attitude towards going from a public to an academic library as well. I guess confusion wasn’t the worst response then — I just hate being taken aback like that and not having anything smarter to say!

        1. BPotter*

          Yeah…in her own weird way, she was probably trying to “bond” with your by establishing a shared understanding that her boss is an idiot. Libraries do attract some odd people, unfortunately! Lots of great quirky people as well, but like any profession, you have your catty oddballs too. You reaction would have been mine as well.

          1. sab*

            Oh, no, she was talking about my boss, not hers — kind of weird to “bond” with someone by bad mouthing their boss. But you are so right about libraries and quirky people. So, so right.

          2. Natalie*

            Or maybe trying to compliment you in some kind of way? I could see a previous version of myself making that sort of comment in an awkward attempt to be nice.

    2. Zed*

      Yeah, that’s weird. It does sound like there was some weird academic vs. public library snobbery going on there, doesn’t it? And also maybe some paraprofessional/professional tensions as well.

      Are you and your boss in tech services? Because if not I can’t image you’ll be assigning too many call numbers, anyway…

      1. sab*

        Oh, we are in the cataloging department, so it is an essential task.

        Professional/paraprofessional tensions sound about right to me too. She late did carry on about working there for 20 years when I was trying to politely get away from her.

    3. PuppyKat*

      When I read what sab wrote, I took her co-worker to be one of those passive-aggressive types who says something cutting to put someone down and then immediately says, “Oh, did I really say that?” I don’t hear any compliment or bonding in that kind of thing at all. That type of person really twists my tail. Unfortunately, there’s one in the organization where I work now.

      I avoid him as much as possible, but have to interact with him at times. And when he pulls that stunt while talking with me, I either just look at him until he moves on or I reply with a complimentary remark about the person he just slammed. Then I go back to work.

      He’s been there ten years and I came on board just last year—but I have no use for someone like him.

    1. Jamie*

      Amazing Race
      British Office
      The Ricky Gervais Show
      An Idiot Abroad
      Impractical Jokers

      Then join the AAM Linkedin group so we can talk about them in the Off-Topic thread.

    2. Josh S*

      -Doctor Who –British sci fi
      -Downton Abbey (I don’t watch it, but my wife and all her friends swoon over it) –British period show about some rich people and their servants
      -The Good Wife –Chicago lawyer and politics. REALLY good plot.
      -Firefly –Scifi / Space Western
      -Arrested Development –Comedy
      -The Unit –Drama about military special ops guys

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Firefly! I surprised myself by loving it.

        Don’t forget the amazing Battlestar Gallactica (not the 70s one, the remake).

        And Breaking Bad. Oh dear god, Breaking Bad.

        1. Meg*

          Just last weekend I finally finished watching the Battlestar Galactica remake series. It destroyed me in the best possible way– what an incredible show!

        2. Josh S*

          Was it you (one of the other readers, maybe?) who was initially turned off at the gender stereotyping in Firefly?

          I liked the first couple seasons of BSG, but it seemed to dive down the rabbit hole of believability after a while.

          And I simply couldn’t get into Breaking Bad. The first episode was a total ‘meh’ experience for me, and the second one didn’t do anything for me either.

          I went back and watched a bunch of The Walking Dead the past few weeks. I really like it, though I am pretty sure it’s going to drag out forever without ever resolving my big questions (Where did the zombie outbreak come from? Will there ever be a cure? Will civilization be rebuilt, or will the ‘survivors’ always remain barely making it?) I kind of think the point is to show life in the post-apocalypse, rather than ‘fix’ the world… *sigh* oh well.

  41. Jamie*

    If you go to Linkedin just search for Ask a Manager in the groups. Click request to join – I make sure to check requests for approvals at least once a day – usually more often.

  42. ....*

    I am wondering if anyone has any advice for dealing with a group of supervisors who have HUGE egos?

    I am a project manager with a group of high-power professionals who get very territorial over ‘their’ parts of the project (although they are technically a team, they are all very concerned over their own parts and as such, can seem sensitive over things that don’t seem to matter to an outsider). They frequently butt heads and I, as the PM, just found myself in an awkward position today when responding to a request for information (apparently one of them thought I sent out too much, but I thought I was just being thorough…)

    I really do think this comes back to navigating egos and not stepping on toes, which I am normally very good at avoiding… but does anyone have advice for this sort of thing?

    1. Jamie*

      Truthfully, the less fear I have about my part being sublimated and backburned until the last minute which will cause me stress and 80 hour weeks the less territorial I am.

      So long term, I think managing projects in a reasonable manner so everyone gets the information and resources they need eventually they will learn to trust you and will relax a little bit. Assuming they are like me, I’m a lot like a squirrel you see in the park. Once I realize you aren’t there to steal the nuts I’m carefully squirreling away (ha – a squirrel who uses his own species as a verb!) I will stop being so aggressively territorial. And if you help me by bringing me nuts, and shooing away the other nut stealers, I may even learn to trust you.

      Seriously – where the hell am I going with this. If I told you the week I’ve had you wouldn’t believe me…and I think this is evidence that I’m cracking up. The wall – she’s hit.

      But short term – develop relationships. Try to get a good rapport going with them individually and you’ll get a feel for the way (and how much) they communicate.

      Just remember that egos are a pita, but they are also a weakness. You can appeal to a big ego in a way you can’t with someone more grounded.

      1. Bobby Digital*

        Seriously – where the hell am I going with this.
        LOL – I think I was actually following but this was hilarious.

        Just remember that egos are a pita, but they are also a weakness.
        Great point. I like the (very insightful) positive spin.

      2. ...*

        HA, thank you! Sorry you had a bad week. But you were more coherent than you imagined, because I followed :)

        I hadn’t really thought of it being a weakness, but you’re totally right. Thanks for your input!

    2. EM*

      In my experience, the best way to deal with big egos is to not care about their egos at all, and don’t make it a secret. It is a bit of a power play, but acting as if you don’t care about stepping on toes (in instances where it really doesn’t matter) gets you respect with people (usually men) with big egos. I share an office with a man with a very large ego, and most people in the office don’t like him at all, but I’ve managed to get along with him just fine. One day, I questioned something he said, and he said to me, “Do you realize the position I have in this company?” My response was, “I realize perfectly well; I just don’t care.” (ha!) He merely replied, “Fair enough”, and we both went back to whatever we were working on. :)

      1. ...*

        That is an awesome response! hahaha.

        I think the challenge for me is that their are dueling egos here, and they are both men and women- which gives it an interesting dynamic (the bigger problem I’m having is with a woman, but there is definitely power play between her and her male coworkers so I think that’s what makes it worse. They just don’t get along but they have to work together). It feels like I am getting caught in the middle but it’s better for me to just engage it as minimally as possible, I think..

  43. Jamie*

    Weird – non work related question. How do tastes change all of a sudden?

    I always hated plain water, love ice/hate water. Last two weeks I cannot believe how delicious it is. I’m drinking water all the time and except for coffee in the morning have lost my taste for soda/tea etc.

    Speaking of losing taste – I went from about 8 cigarettes a day to 2 in the last 2 weeks. I didn’t quit smoking on purpose – I just stopped wanting them. It is the weirdest thing. So I lit one yesterday on the way home to see what was up – it tasted the same as always…and it didn’t gross me out like it would a non-smoker – I just got bored half way through and put it out.

    It’s like my body decided my brain shouldn’t be allowed to make these decisions anymore.

    Stupid to post this here because with the exception of my contributing the cost of bottled water in the office now, it’s not work related. But you guys know tons of weird stuff – so I thought maybe this was one of those things that I think are just me but actually have a name.

    1. KayDay*

      This has actually happened to me quite a few times since my late teens/early 20s. First, I woke up one day and like asparagus, prepared the same way as always. Literally overnight. I think my mother almost took me to the hospital the first time I asked for it. Then I started hating potato chips, which I loved as a kid. Then I developed a love a cream cheese and avocado, which I hated just 5-10 years ago. Most recently I went from barely tolerating a sweetened latte to loving coffee with just a bit of milk. This has happened a few times, particularly with vegetables (I’ve never liked veggies much, but I like more of them now than I did prior to college). Fortunately, the majority of these changes have been for the healthier.

      The only scientific reasoning I have ever heard of (thank you internet) is that your sense of tastes dulls as you age, particularly for bitter tastes. But that doesn’t explain waking up one morning and wanting asparagus.

      1. LL*

        Great point. As you age, you lose your taste in this order: sweet, salty, bitter, then sour. This totally explains why kids love sweets and adults appreciate the more bitter veggies. Also, a 20yr old have 6x the taste buds of someone in their 70s!

    2. LL*

      There’s a lot of things that can affect your taste buds – aging, illness, medications, pregnancy, etc. And it could be connected to lowering the number of daily cigarettes. Smoking dulls your taste buds, so expect that cessation – or even decreasing – will result in foods tasting richer and more flavorful. In terms of the water, nicotine is a laxative. Once you lower your intake, your body will start wanting more water and fiber to compensate for the loss of the laxative.

      If you want to quit smoking, it’s probably your ideal opportunity. I used to be a smoker and wasn’t able to quit cold turkey. It was difficult to slowly go from 20/day to 5/day. But after that, it was surprisingly easy to go to 4, then 3, then 2, then 1….

    3. Anonymous*

      Have you had your blood surgar checked? Drinking a LOT of water is a sign, but if suddenly sugary drinks don’t taste good that could be a sign too.

      1. Anonymous*

        And your thyroid hormone levels too. I know someone whose tastes do change if they’re out of whack.

    4. Ellie H.*

      I think your tastes can definitely change. I’ve mostly heard of it in the context of changing in between being a child or adolescent and being a grown up though. I had a dramatic tastes changing experience myself. When I was younger there were some foods I didn’t like, like olives, avocados and anything made with coconut milk. I had a serious eating disorder when I was 17 and ate only about four different foods for about a year. When this ended all my tastes mysteriously “reset” and I liked all the things I hadn’t liked before. Avocados and any Thai thing made with coconut milk are basically my favorite foods now! I had also been a vegetarian before and started liking meat again. It was weird. I wish the smoking thing would happen to me, I used to say I would quit when I turned 25, which used to seem really far away and is now several months overdue.

    5. The Other Dawn*

      I feel the new love of water is a direct result of the reduction in smoking. I’m not a smoker, but everyone in my entire family either is or was a smoker. The ones who no longer smoke have said how different food and drink tastes once you stop smoking. Smoking dulls the taste buds. A co-worker of mine was a heavy smoker for years and it would just turn my stomach to see how much salt and pepper she put on her food, even Chinese food. When she quit she used hardly any, if at all.

  44. Anonymous*

    My second job (degree-related) gave me more hours which do interfere with my first job (not degree-related). My co-manager, who makes the schedule, doesn’t like this and has now become cold and distant towards me. The main manager understands my situation and has no problem with me working more at the second job; he and I had a good conversation about it. Most of my coworkers are okay too (although one refuses to help-out…not a team player unless it benefits her). My co-manager refused to discuss the situation with me to make it work for everyone affected, including offering to do a part of an affected shift. Instead, he gave it to another coworker who couldn’t cover it entirely either. He has been rather passive-aggressive through this whole ordeal. It’s not the first time an employee has allowed another job to rule the schedule here, but I have not seen the same hostility displayed. Any suggestions on how to diffuse his cold, distant behavior? If not, how can I keep it from bothering me? I thought I was a good employee – on time, worked diligently/efficiently, no hassles, helped out many times, etc., but that apparently was then, this is now in his eyes. I took the hours; I’d be a fool not to.

    1. Colette*

      My first thought (which isn’t what you asked) is that it looks like you may be coming to a point where you have to make a choice between job #1 and job #2.

      With respect to your actual question, how does this affect your co-manager? Does he, for example, get less flexibility about when he works because he has to be there when you’re not? Since he’s in charge of scheduling, does this change make it more difficult? Try to understand if he has a legitimate issue.

      Once you’ve done all you can to determine how this affects him, I’d bring it up to him directly – in private – and reiterate that you want to come up with a solution that works for everyone, and that you’re willing to be as flexible as possible.

      If that doesn’t get you anywhere, you have a choice – if he’s not friendly towards you but it’s not affecting your ability to do your job, you can let it go. If it is affecting your ability to do your job, you need to talk with your manager and ask for help figuring out how to resolve this with your co-manager.

      1. Anonymous*

        On certain days, he is there regardless of who else is there – my coworkers or me. While it’s retail, my coworkers and I are like assistants to both him and the other manager. They do not own the company though. Therefore, it’s more about him having help rather than coming in when he’s not supposed to. I cannot do his job.

        Neither job is enough to keep up with finances. That is another thing which is why I need to find an agreeable solution for all. The second job has a more promising future for why I went to college whereas the other one, based on what I’ve seen from another coworker, is not as promising or what I would prefer to get out of in life (plus the company isn’t exactly dealing well with these economic times). I would love a full time position in job #2.

        Due to the scheduling now, I haven’t seen him in over two weeks. I might, though in another few when a coworker goes on vacation. Maybe I’ll determine his attitude then and take it from there. Anything else I might be missing here?

        1. Colette*

          That’s probably your best choice – wait and see. This may be something you have to address directly, but it could easily have blown over by the time you have to work with him again.

          1. Anonymous*

            Thank you for listening and offering advice.

            It just bothers me that others have done this in the past, and when it is basically my turn to start juggling jobs, I get treated like this when, from my knowledge, the others had not. I have two ideas on why he is being this way – one positive (if I can say that) and one negative. Another former manager had said he used to be like that towards another employee he disliked, but he yelled at her. I guess I haven’t reached that level yet.

            It just bugs me enough that I don’t really want to go in; I dread what else has happened or has been said due to all of this. Another thread had said you can’t unmarry the job from how you feel about it. I like the job itself – the tasks. I just am not liking the environment. Yes, I upset the applecart, but I never expected to be treated like this. I definitely need to grow thicker skin.

  45. Rob Bird*

    While I don’t agree with how Romney said it, I do agree with what he does in principal.

    How handy would it be to have a binder/folder/safe/flash drive full of resumes of people that you already know are qualified to work for you? What employer wouldn’t kill to have a pool of people, who were referred from people the employer trusts, so when a position opens they can fill it almost instantly?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Unfortunately, the post-debate reporting says that it didn’t happen the way he told it — he did not request the binders; they came to him from an advocacy group in the state. Furthermore, there’s something a bit odd about rising to the level of governor and not knowing any smart, qualified women.

      1. Rana*


        I think it would also be problematic in that the “binder” would either have to be huge (to cover all possible such positions) or so tailored that it would need to be constantly updated. And what if the people “in the binder” weren’t available, because they were working somewhere else? Then what?

        1. JT*

          The other issue is that a “binder” including just people referred by someone the employer trusts is part of why we have “old boys” networks of people of similar social/economic backgrounds.

          More aggressive collection of names of diverse candidates is a good thing though.

          1. Some European*

            I know nearly nothing about this issue (I just saw him making some weird accusations about oilfield licenses until I couldnt stand watching this any longer although I initially wanted to), but isnt it a bad thing to just accept people referred to you by some lobbyist groups when you are in a government position?

    2. fposte*

      Taking this out of the political realm, I don’t actually think it works. This isn’t hard material to get when you need it, and if you get it in advance it dates with incredible speed. It’s also merely an enhancement to your general networking and field awarenes. Keeping a constant file means that you’re likely to be fatiguing your sources by updating constantly but for no particular reason and inefficiently spending a lot of time on this just to keep the file up. It’ll take less time overall just to pull the info together when you do want to hire somebody, and honestly, that’s not a decision that you should be making in a split second anyway.

      1. Bobby Digital*

        Yeah, I agree with this and I think the point about short shelf-life is especially important to consider. Coupled with the points JT made above, I really can’t see how arbitrarily stockpiling candidates would be useful.

  46. Laurie*

    This has been on my mind for a few months now, so I’ll throw it out there.

    I am at a senior-analyst level with almost 6 years of work experience, a bachelor and a masters. I’m not currently looking to change my job, but I might be ready in say a year or two. I am finding myself interested in making a switch to managerial positions.

    My question – I perceive this to be a difficult jump because of the inherent catch-22 nature of this i.e. you’ll have to prove that you’re a good manager to be hired as a manager etc. Is it as tough as I perceive it to be? Is getting promoted internally the best way? Quick background – I do have experience managing projects, being an SME in an area and making the final recommendation, communicating with c-level execs, and unofficially training and mentoring interns/new employees but no direct reports.

    For those of you who have hired for managerial positions, what signals do you look for in a candidate’s experience and resume? Previous managerial experience? Leadership? Have you hired someone in an analyst position who was successful in translating their non-managerial experience in a way that it highlighted their leadership ability?

    1. Lily*

      I’m really interested in the answers to this post!

      Previous managerial experience would be great, but the readers here know that there are many bad managers out there!

      Personal leadership experiences are good, but stories of “managing” your family and friends have to reflect typical management concerns rather than simply being organized.

      Stories of conflict and resolution with colleagues, other departments, clients … using a variety of strategies would be good, but I guess I would expect them in the interview.

    2. Meg*

      I’m interested in this as well– I eventually would like to run a non-profit, and since I got my masters in social work (macro focus rather than clinical) have been working in the development field for the past two years. I wonder if I should collect new skill sets in the different areas of non-profit management (HR, program management, and so on) every few years, or is that going to present a disorganized picture to potential employers? Should I stick with development and continue my growth in that field? Move to program work? I just know I have a lot to offer as a leader, and I don’t want to mess up what I’d like to be my career’s trajectory by making the wrong decisions here.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Laurie, this might help:

      The most important thing is experience managing (and doing it well), but that post talks about ways that you can get some of that experience without being in an official management role. Also, demonstrating maturity, good judgment, an understanding of the trade-offs managers must make, the ability to see the big picture as well as the details, the ability to structure large projects, and the ability to set and meet goals. And the ability to be assertive and direct without being antagonistic.

      Meg, to run a nonprofit well, you need to be excellent at fundraising (which a lot of your time will be spent on) and, if you’re going to have a staff, really know how to manage — meaning knowing how to set goals and holding people accountable to them, building a strong team (hiring well, developing and retaining your best, moving out those who don’t meet a high bar), managing the work itself (not just the people), building a culture that puts the emphasis on results …. That’s stuff you can learn in lots of different fields.

  47. Zee*

    In regard to the clip, Alison, you should flip through The Army Officer’s Wife (c. 1941). It was supposedly written by a woman telling Army wives how to behave, dress, and understand proper etiquette amongst other things. However, too many of the phrases used in the book suggest a man wrote using a female pseudonym. For example, to describe a delicate lace neglige, the author calls it “cobwebby!” You don’t have to read it cover to cover to get the tone of the book.

  48. Rana*

    It’s late in the day, so I’m hoping people are still reading these:

    This is, I know, a total “newbie” question, but: How exactly does the recruiter thing work, anyway?

    Between being an academic and now a freelancer, I have no direct knowledge of how a recruiter works, and mostly when I read AAM questions about recruiters I come away as much puzzled as enlightened.

    Do they just randomly call you out of the blue with a job possibility? Or do you seek them out? Or both? The whole concept confuses me, honestly.

    1. Bobby Digital*

      Yeah, I think both, although I’m not entirely sure. I think some people use the word “recruiter” for a lot of different hiring positions. For example, I applied to a fairly large company and, during the interview process, I dealt primarily with their in-house “recruiter.”

      My dad – a salesman in a very specific industry – gets unsolicited calls about twice a year from recruiters (here, more like headhunters) who have somehow heard of his reputation/success/etc., and want him to interview for specific opportunities.

      In my dad’s case, he isn’t soliciting their services. But I do think that, with that kind of recruiter, it could work backwards and candidates could solicit the recruiter’s help.

      But…yeah. It always confuses me, too.

      1. KayDay*

        Please do–I keep seeing all these “recruiter” posts and the only people I know who have used recruiters are senior level consultants. (e.g. the ex-presidential appointee looking to make bank at a private law firm, the person who is uber-specialized in a certain technical system, etc.) I’ve never met anyone who is at the mid-level stage in their careers who used a recruiter.

  49. Vicki*

    That video actually does a surprisingly good job of providing good rules for supervising _people_. The women are said to not have experience in mechanics or the terminology (not to be too stupid to understand). That’s true. And I Loved the “terminology” section.

    I also liked the tongue-in-cheek response of the wife when she agreed that the women “probably can’t stay on task” and then listed every thing she did that day, including putting up 17 jars of jam… and her husband got the point.

    It’s not nearly as sexist/stupid as I expected. It wouldn’t take much to bring it up to date for modern factory employees.

  50. Abby*

    Hi. Long time reader, first time poster. I love Ask A Manager. I just wanted to know if there were any websites for human resources regarding people who work in direct health care field (for example nursing)? A lot of content on Ask A Manager apply to the healthcare field, but I also feel that more information might be out there in regards to patient’s personal health information, their privacy, while also dealing with family members. Any information would be helpful.

  51. N.*

    I hope I am not breaching any etiquette by sharing this article I found today, be warned this is a humor columnist’s article and it contains, as such, vulgar language and general coarseness.
    He makes a few good points though…

    This one is written by a different author same online magazine, again beware it may be a little more frank than what some may be accustomed to (coarse language etc.) But it helped me realize some things, maybe some of you will find it useful.

    Thank you for this indulgence. Enjoy!

  52. Meg*

    Tangentially related to the sick leave question, I’m wondering about my boss’s (and sometimes my co-workers’) reactions to people taking sick days. I only take off when I’m legitimately sick, say that I’m too sick to come in when I email or call our HR person who then alerts the office, but when I come back everyone seems to want the gory details! Literally one time my boss straight-up asked me if I took off because of my period, which I had never indicated was an issue and feel like it’s no business of hers if it were one. But I also didn’t feel like speculating with her every single symptom associated with a stomach bug, or strep throat, or whatever I’ve had over the two years I’ve been here. I do get that when you work in an office primarily composed of old ladies, they seem to think that every young person’s business is theirs to know, but how do I politely but firmly get my boss and my co-workers to back off?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The question about your period: “Uh … .wow.” Said in a tone of shock that someone asked you that.

      Other questions about your illness: “Oh, I’m feeling better now,” followed by immediate change of subject, preferably a question about work. For instance: “Oh, I’m feeling better now. By the way, I keep meaning to ask if you’ve had a chance to look at the XYZ report I sent.”

    2. EM*

      I tend to be way too sarcastic, so take this with a grain of salt. Granted this only works if your boss is male (let’s face it, I think it’s always a man who asks this type of question.) My response would be something like, “No, but is that why you took 3 days off last month?”

  53. Anonymous*

    I had a phone interview with a candidate who clearly has read her AAM. (I noticed it in her cover letter/resume as well) I was so blown away that I wasn’t my usual top notch phone interviewing self. Thanks AAM – it is so nice to have applicants that know what they are doing. And candidate, if you are reading this, GOOD JOB!!!!!!!!!!!!

  54. AviG*

    Does anyone think that it might be a bad thing to finish your work too quickly?

    I work in a very small team of 5, but the other 3 chit-chat a lot throughout the day. I’m introverted so I don’t talk too much and I am able to get done my work early so I e-mail it to my boss days, sometimes a week before it is due. Is that a bad thing or should I wait closer to the deadline?

    1. Diane*

      Depends totally on workplace culture and your boss.

      If I were your boss, and if your work were done well, I’d love it. I’d also see about finding you more challenging or complex work. Long term, I’d work with you to look for ways to grow into other roles, while the chatty types would have less opportunity for that.

      But in real life, it can backfire. It depends entirely on your workplace culture. If relationships are regarded as highly (or moreso) than productivity, your chatty coworkers might be getting the plum assignments, while you’d be seen as not fitting in. Worse, as happened to me, your boss could decide you don’t have enough to do and therefore your position isn’t critical.

      So weigh the culture, and if your boss is a decent person, have a chat about it.

    2. The IT Manager*

      No, I don’t. It may only be a problem if you don’t to attract more work (since you’re done and no one else is you get the next job). I imagine that this could only be a good thing and you’ll be noticed for getting work done faster than expected and not waiting until the last minutes.

    3. EM*

      “Depends totally on workplace culture and your boss.”

      This. I was severely underutilized at my last job. There just wasn’t enough for me to do. When I would ask my boss for more work, he would get visibly uncomfortable. I eventually learned to stop asking. *sigh*

      My current job is much different. We have a ton of work, so it’s a good thing to finish early. One major caveat. You have to actually be finished. It has to be a good work product; it can’t be something you rushed through and shouted “done!!!” at the end. If there are careless mistakes, it will make you look bad. If you are finishing that quickly, double-check your work and make sure you are really done.

    4. ...*

      As long as you’re not rushing through it and are doing what you’re supposed to be doing, I wouldn’t worry about it.

      But I also wouldn’t start asking for more work multiple times unless that’s encouraged. You can let it be known that you’re willing to take on more (if that’s the case) but this requires prep and sadly some managers aren’t “on it.” I have been chronically underutilized at my jobs but I also stopped asking for more because it just became uncomfortable.

  55. helixhelix*

    Random question:

    I had an interview for a position that I wanted. My beloved dog was sick and went into surgery that same morning. I dropped him off at the vet before the interview.

    I had prepared for the interview and did the very best I could to present well, but I wonder if there was any chance I wasn’t as on due to my furkid being in surgery. Should I have mentioned something then, or in the follow up note? At least one of the people I interviewed with would have been a little sympathetic as they were clearly a dog person – they had multiple photos in their office.

    (This is all hypothetical – I didn’t get the position, I was later informed that it was turned into a postdoc.)

    1. Anonymous*

      In my opinion, you either show up for the interview (without excuses) or you cancel but going on the interview, then following up letting them know reasons why you might not have done well would come across as weird behavior. I say that as big animal lover, spend lots of time volunteering with a rescue group, but I wouldn’t want a candidate to follow up with any excuses: ” By the way I was sick when I interviewed,so in case I didn’t do well, that’s the reason”….it just doesn’t seem like it would go over well.

    2. Josh S*

      If you’re visibly distraught you can mention it at the start of the meeting as a really odd thing–expressing all the appropriate mortification for bringing it up in the process.

      Similar to taking the train to the interview, and having the guy next to you dump his mustard-filled hot dog down the front of your suit. It’s appropriate to apologize to the interviewer at the start with a brief explanation.

      But that should only be for extreme situations, and I’m not sure this counts, since it’s largely under your control.

      But never mention it after the fact. And I would lean toward letting it go anyway.

  56. Anonymous*

    Personally, I wouldn’t mention it and agree with the comment above. There’s no empathy in the workplace.

  57. DawnSpringHR*

    I have a tough one: mostly because I know what I ‘should’ do and I don’t want to. My (small, 17 people) company is in trouble, has been for awhile. We keep putting employees on a Shared Work program and then taking them off. I am in management and *I* am looking for another job. But the two people I supervise aren’t (to the bets of my knowledge). I think they should be.
    How can I tell them that? (Can I? all the ‘rules’ seem to say no. But as an ethical human, I want to find the loophole.)

    1. Colette*

      I’m not familiar with a Shared Work program – I assume it’s a sign that the company is in trouble? Is this kind of thing visible to the rest of the employees?

      If they have the information that the company is in trouble, it’s up to them to take action (or not).

      If the information that the company is in trouble is not visible to them and is confidential, there’s not much you can do other than encourage continuous career development to whatever extent you can.

      1. Josh S*

        Work Sharing is taking 2 full time staff and turning them into 2 part time staff. The two people are essentially sharing ONE position. That way, you can avoid layoffs (which suck even more than getting your hours/pay cut in half), and you avoid having to lay someone off only to rehire when business picks back up in a month or two (and then repeat the cycle endlessly).

        It might be a situation where it makes sense to hire a freelancer on a contract basis, though, which may not be a situation that DawnSpringHR has considered? (Or maybe the work isn’t appropriate to 1099 workers, I dunno…)

    2. Josh S*

      As a good manager, I would try my best to be honest with the employees about the state of the business. You could say something like, “As you know we’ve had a rough patch financially. We’ve had to put you on a Work Sharing program, which has cut your compensation significantly. Thankfully, we are doing marginally better at this point and can afford to provide each of you with the full time position you originally signed up for.

      “However, the overall situation does not appear to be changing significantly. The possibility remains that we will need to go back to a Work Share situation in the future (though we do not see that in the immediate future). Out of concern for you, I wanted to let you know this so you can, if you choose, begin a job search outside of work hours. I will give you every support I can, including a great reference and an explanation that you are leaving because of our company’s situation.

      “Of course, we’d love to keep you here–as you know there’s work to be done! And we will continue to do our best to keep things going strong so that there will be work to do and paychecks to be had. If you choose to look for other work, please let us know as soon as possible so we can factor that into our planning. And please know that we will not take any action against you for looking for a more stable work situation.”

      I dunno if that would solve it or not. But I see nothing ethically wrong (or legally dangerous) about being up front with your employees. Especially if you make the commitment that you want what’s best for them, and want them to be up front with you.

      Cuz how awful would it be to find out that 10 of the people are actively searching and all happen to find jobs within a few weeks of each other. You’d be a struggling company without enough employees–and you’d have the job of restaffing into a bad situation, which makes it even harder than normal to attract good talent.

      Good luck!

      1. KellyK*

        I think that’s a very good way of wording it. If the people you’re supervising aren’t the ones who are on the shared work program, you could still use a lot of this. Basically telling them that while there aren’t immediate plans for shared work or layoffs for their positions, you want to make sure they’re aware that the company’s going through a rough patch so they can make whatever decisions they feel they need to for their own careers. I particularly like the reassurances about good references and backing them up on their reasons for leaving.

  58. KayDay*

    Public Service Announcement (just because I feel the need to vent):

    If you are sending out a 1 sentence notice, it is not necessary to email an attached memo. Just write what you need to say in the body of the email.

    I just received this:
    Email: “Dear Tenants: Please see the attached memo regarding window washing at XYZ building”
    Body of attached memo: “Window washing will take place on Wednesday, October 31.”


    1. Editor*

      Similarly, the memo about the PTO event that someone is passing on — which has been attached somehow so I can’t open the images in it.

      Just forward it, checking to make sure the attachments are still there. Or save the attachments and reattach. Don’t do this other complicated stuff that somehow imbeds the original email in some cranky file.

  59. Job seeker*

    I have a question. I have lately been getting responses to my job search, but am kinda putting thing on hold because I have a family member maybe having to have surgery soon. I don’t have a problem responding to places I have applied. I am getting phone calls for an interview from them. But, I placed a job searching ad of my own and am also getting responses from that. The problem is most of the responses are from men. They want me to send them information to non-business e-mails. I am a out-of-the loop person who was just a mom for a long time but that sounds funny to me. I specifically said to please send me the job description and a business e-mail. I am getting quite a few of these responses sometimes placed at 2:00 in the morning. Is this strange?

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