short answer Sunday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Explaining doctor’s visits — and their side effects — to your manager

Recently, you answered a reader’s question about explaining frequent doctor’s visits. I have a similar situation, but mine causes significantly more disruption to my work and I’m not sure how to talk about it with my boss.

I’ve rewritten the paragraph trying to describe my situation without giving away my problem a bunch of times, but I give up. It’s warts! I have a several big, nasty warts on my foot. Ugh, so embarrassing. Anyway, so I have these warts. Had ’em for years. I’m finally getting serious about getting rid of them and it’s a real endeavor. The treatment (cantharidin) that is finally working requires biweekly application and is significantly debilitating: It’s very painful and as a result I am pretty sleep-deprived/loopy on painkillers the day after the treatment and can’t drive for four or five additional days. I just had my third treatment today and will probably need at least three more.

I work remotely, don’t manage anyone, and control my own highly flexible schedule, but my job requires me to be out and about in the community, attending meetings and events. So far, I’ve been able to schedule around my appointments (arranging to have the appointments late in the week, blocking off the couple of days immediately following an appointment for desk work, etc.) and it hasn’t had a direct effect on important meetings, etc. But it does limit the time I’m able to spend on outreach, and the pain is significant enough to be distracting for several days after each treatment.

I work in a Results Only Work Environment, and I’m months away from deadlines on my biggest goals, so I’ll be able to catch up once the treatments are done. But I feel like I need to loop my boss in a bit more. Do you have suggestions for how I can handle this conversation?

The key in situations like this is to distinguish between info that would be helpful for your manager to have (that your’e dealing with something medical, it’s nothing she needs to worry about, and that it’ll affect you/your schedule in X ways) and info she doesn’t need (warts). So you might say something like, “I wanted to let you know that I’m having a series of medical treatments over the next few weeks for something that’s minor, but that is going to impact my ability to drive and sometimes focus for a few days each time because of the painkillers they’ll be giving me. I’m scheduling meetings and work around it, but I wanted to give you a heads-up that it’s going on, just in case anything seems different than usual for the next few weeks. It’ll all be finished by January.”

2. Did my manager rob me of this internal promotion?

Recently an internal job was advertised through my manager for 3 positions. I applied for the role with my manager’s permission and had a successful interview. When my manager was told that both I and another member of my current team had been successful, she made the interviewer pick between us, as she said she could not give us both up due to resources. The interviewer picked my colleague.

I feel like I have been robbed of an opportunity to better myself and my career. My colleague will be replaced with a member of staff from a larger team (who I will train) and the interviewer has been told to pick another member of staff from one of the larger teams. Is my manager within her rights to do this? If they are replacing my colleague within the team, why could they not have replaced me as well?

Sure, your manager can do that. It’s often much harder to lose two people (and be training two new people) at once, so it’s not surprising that she didn’t want to lose both of you. This is often part of the deal with internal promotions: Your manager’s input counts for a lot more than it might if you were looking outside your company, and she can often control timing and whether a promotion happens at all. I wouldn’t look at it as being robbed — this is pretty par for the course with internal moves. You don’t always get them, for reasons that aren’t always entirely about your qualifications … which, of course, is also true with external moves as well. Stuff isn’t always fair.

3. My post-interview follow-ups were forwarded

I’ve applied for several jobs in the last three months; many of them I had phone screenings and a full interview, and then I followed up with an email sent to the interviewer. For three of the jobs, I received quick emails acknowledging receipt of my follow-up email, but I also noticed on the bottom of them they had been forwarded to human resources or the recruiter who made initial contact. I’m assuming in these cases I was not suppose to see the forwarded message that contained quick phrases such as “FYI”, “forwarded as per discussion” and a similar message about my follow-up letter, followed by a private conversation about the interviewer’s dog and personal relationship issues.

It’s one thing to see this once, but to see it three different times over the last few weeks seems very strange. Is forwarding follow-up emails to recruiters/HR standard? Is it a part of a file they keep on applicants? What would be the reasoning for forwarding a follow-up email to HR/recruiter? Should I email the interviewers about this, or leave it alone, especially in the case of the really long email about the dog and relationship issues?

All these interviews seem to have gone well, and the follow-up letters were very short but included two reasons I would do well in the position and touched on one or two points the interviewer had mentioned in the interview in terms of looking for a solution to an issue they were having (e,g. streamlining data entry, client relations, and event planning ideas), and to be honest they weren’t remarkable.

Yes, it’s normal to share correspondence like this with anyone involved in the hiring process and to keep it part of your overall file for that job. After all, you sent those follow-ups as part of your candidacy, and they’re treated that way. You shouldn’t email them about it; that would be weird. And you should simply ignore the personal message that you weren’t meant to see.

4. Leaving previous career experience on your resume when graduating into a new field

After high school, I spent a short time in college because I was unsure of which path I should take. I opted to explore my interests, and over a few months I tried a hodgepodge of jobs until eventually settling into a retail position I enjoyed. I worked with a major cosmetics company that promoted me several times over a 7-year period and gave me a tremendous amount of responsibility. But I decided I wanted to do more with my life, and I could only do that by finishing school. I left my job and returned to academia. This month, I will graduate from an Ivy League university with a degree in English. I am passionate about publishing and have been working in the industry for the last few years through various internships and freelance writing jobs. Now it’s time to move from an internship to something that actually pays. Suddenly, at 30, I’m applying for entry-level jobs that most people hold in their early 20s. Luckily the cosmetics experience kept my skin looking young, but I’m afraid HR will see my previous career as a red flag.

Should I take this off my resume? The professional experience I gained formed a practical basis for my academic career and I know that it will continue to serve me professionally. I just wonder if HR will see it that way.

Nope, leave it on there. For most employers, the fact that you have previous real-world work experience will be a plus, not a negative.

5. When should you send interview thank-you notes?

I have a quick question regarding thank-you/follow-up letters. I know you said to wait at least a few hours before sending a follow-up letter, but how long should I wait? If the interview was on a Friday, would waiting until Monday to send it look bad? I would send it today, but I take quite a while to write them as I tailor each one… and by the time I finish the interviewers will probably no longer be in the office. Anyway, your advice would greatly be appreciated.

Sending it on Monday is fine. You’re not expected to have these sent instantly. The whole idea is that you don’t want them to appear perfunctory; you want it to appear that you’ve thought about your conversation in the interview, digested it, and are still interested. You don’t want to wait too long, or they may have already made a hiring decision, but sending them on Monday after a Friday interview is completely fine.

6. PTO when converting from hourly to salaried

I am soon going to be converted to salary. I have been hourly for almost a year. What happens to my PTO earned? Can they just tell me that since they are converting me, I now lose it and part of the company’s salary vacation policy?

It depends on what state you’re in and what your company’s policy on PTO is. No federal law requires that employers give paid vacation time at all, so at the federal level, employers are free to handle their vacation policies however they want, including telling you that you’re losing all your accrued PTO when you transfer to a salaried job — although that would be both unusual and dumb. However, some states (like California) have laws that govern how accrued PTO is handled, so your state’s laws may require that they pay it out, leave it accrued, or otherwise handle it in a specific manner.

7. Using a title below your official one

I’m wondering what advice you have about using a job title below the title you’ve officially been given. I am a young professional (just finishing a master’s degree), working at a small non-profit with two staff members (me and the ED). A few months ago, my boss decided to give me the title COO. Since that is my title I’ve been using it, but I’m starting to look for a new job (I’ve been there about 18 months and I don’t see a growth path where I am now). As I said I’m a young professional working for a small organization and I think that title 1) doesn’t reflect what I do very well and 2) seems too senior for someone with my level of experience. Do you suggest I use the COO title and give an explanation when looking for other jobs, use a different title, or talk to my boss and change my title all together?

Don’t use a title different than the one that your company will give out to someone calling to verify your information. You’re better off trying to get a title that reflects your real responsibilities.

{ 23 comments… read them below }

  1. littlemoose*

    OP #4, you should absolutely include that experience on your resume. It shows progressing levels of responsibility and achievement that translate across fields and show capability and motivation. I imagine you can draw on this responsibility, etc. in your cover letter as well. And, of course, you don’t want to have a big gap on your resume, but I think just putting a line saying that you were in retail for that time is really selling yourself short (no pun intended). Good luck on the job hunt!

    1. Nontraditional Student*

      Thanks littlemoose! I guess I just need to remind myself that being a nontraditional student isn’t such a bad thing.

  2. sarah*

    I feel you have covered this seperately, but these “title” questions always perplex me. In my company, you basically are “chocolate teapot maker I” then “chocolate teapot maker II”, etc. Sometimes you are given a additional (non-HR) title through the program you work on, such as “teacup verificataion lead”. Most of the internal resumes I’ve seen use the non-HR titles or add more description to what the person actually does. Such as “Chocolate Teapot Requirements Writer”. Or perhaps they are in a HR group that doesn’t actually describe what they do (this is, unfortunately, quite common), so they just pick a title that describes what they do at least a basic level. I’ve never seen anyone include the numbers in their resume.

    Anyway, the point is that titles are not really a big deal, at least until you get to the highest ranks or into management. This seems to be industry wide, but I’ve seen fewer resumes outside my own company.

    Apparently, this is not the norm in most industries. My good friend is a “senior manager” by title, and she manages no one! (Though i do suppose she may manage projects/accounts? But i got the impression the title was a big deal to her.)

    1. Anon*

      The bottom line is that, unless you are in an industry where it’s fairly standard (like auditing), it doesn’t make one lick of difference, because the bullet points UNDER the title on your resume should give the real info.

      1. IT_Person*

        Agree here.

        Example: my job title may be “chocolate teapot maker” but my responsibilities/achievements for the role all imply “chocolate quality tester” or similar. Most reasonable recruitment agents “get” this and deal with accordingly, and small-medium companies are even better at getting this. The barrier is with larger organisations, which have a more regulated approach to recruitment.

  3. Anonymous*

    #4: So you’re working at a three-person startup? I think that future employers will understand the COO of a three-person organization is a little different from, say, the COO of a Fortune 100 company. In the tech industry in particular, lots of young people form startups and use those C-level titles, and I don’t think it ever hindered anyone’s career.

    1. Anonymous*

      Also, #7, not #4. And before people call me ageist, when I say ‘young people’ I was referencing OP’s situation of being relatively inexperience with a ‘high-level’ title. Obviously, people of all ages can form startups.

  4. Victoria*

    Oh, I do think the title thing is a challenge. My title in my last role was Vice President (at a nonprofit, not a finance company where VP comes fairly early in a career). It definitely affected how people read my resume – in a positive way, mostly. But it did beg the question of why I was applying for program manager positions (answer: I was transitioning from a tiny nonprofit to a larger org… And I was relocating, so I applied for plenty of jobs that were “below” me).

  5. Nontraditional Student*

    Thanks Alison, this was extremely helpful. Sometimes it’s a strange feeling, graduating with people who are 7 or 8 years younger. But I guess I need to keep telling myself that I’m the one graduating with the advantage of real-life experience. All the best and keep up the fabulous work!


    1. Not So NewReader*

      Looking one way you can see people younger than you– but don’t forget to look the opposite way and notice the people that are older than you who are just getting degrees and starting new careers. I finally finished my degree in my 40s. (life!)
      Keep up the good work. It won’t be long and you won’t even think about this.

    2. J*

      Don’t forget, that Ivy League university thought you had something special to offer. You made it through even though it had to have taken a lot of guts and you (will) finish! Don’t sell yourself short!

  6. Sarah G*

    #2 – I can see how this would be upsetting and demoralizing. From my angle, the real issue is that you never should’ve been offered the job or told you were selected until this was all sorted out btwn your current manager and the hiring manager.
    Surely your current manager knew that both you and your colleague were applying for these positions, and that it was a possibility you both would be offered the job. She should have made it clear to the hiring manager she wasn’t willing to lose both of you. Failing that, it would’ve been prudent for the hiring manager to contact your current manager behind the scenes so that you wouldn’t get your hopes up, and wouldn’t feel this opportunity was pulled out from beneath you. It would be less upsetting to just have to accept that your co-worker got an offer and that you didn’t, than to know your manager stood in the way of your offer and then still have to face her every day. That’s a big pill to swallow — my sympathies. This was all preventable by better judgment on the part of your superiors.

    1. EngineerGirl*

      I have to agree. It would have been far better never to have known. The particulars should have been worked ahead of time between the managers. That said, a manager can do exactly what she did. Moving forward, I think you need to have a discussion with your old manager on what’s next. Reiterate that you want to gain skills and that you want a promotion. Ask her what you need to do to be positioned to be selected the next time around. And if she says that you are too valuable to go somewhere else, then know that it is time to start looking for another job.

      I actually had something similar happen. We had several leadership positions (with promotion) listed on our internal site. I interviewed, and was selected along with a few others. Those that came in from outside the program were given promotions. Mine was denied because HR said that they weren’t giving any “growth” promotions at the time. Except that it wasn’t a growth promotion – it was a change in jobs! I had the largest group and ended up managing multiple people who outranked me. I was fairly angry at HR and also my manager who wouldn’t stand up to them. I did complete my assignment, and then left. If you promise something, you need to come through with it.

  7. Tim C.*

    I would think if PTO were “earned” it is part of your pay. It can not be taken away. If you resign, it is still owed to you. Also check employee handbook and policies.

  8. AdAgencyChick*

    OP #1, I totally feel your pain. I too am getting serious about battling warts I’ve lived with for years and it stinks!

    I have let my colleagues know that I have them, without going into gory details about what that looks like, because my doctor’s choice of therapy has been laser treatments, so that means I have to skip out for an hour or so once a week and when I come back, my gait is a little gimpy because I can’t put weight on the area that’s just been treated. I figured I was going to get a lot of “why are you walking funny?” questions if I didn’t explain it proactively, plus I didn’t want the frequency of my appointments, coupled with my age, to get the pregnancy rumor mill started.

    YMMV, but I don’t think it’s always bad to share just enough details about your condition so that people understand why you need a little extra accommodation or will be doing things a little differently for a while.

    1. fposte*

      I’d also be prepared in case the manager busts out the FMLA talk. My impression is that this usually wouldn’t meet the standards (though it could tip in if there’s an underlying autoimmune thing or something), but since the company is required to do FMLA where it applies they may want to hear something more specific than “medical problem” before they’re sure they won’t get in trouble. So you might want to be prepared either to fess up or have something vaguely descriptive (“Stubborn but merely cosmetic problem,” maybe?) that makes the situation clearer from an FMLA standpoint.

    2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      I had a single wart on the bottom of my foot that I ignored, and it proliferated to one big wart and a whole bunch of little warts. Finally it became painful and embarrassing enough that I had to do something about them, but I was unemployed and uninsured at the time , so any doctor’s treatment was out. I tried the extra-strength Compound W and the home-freezing kits, but they both did nothing but make me limp in my high-heeled shoes during interviews.

      I finally decided to try the urban legend method– I applied a piece of duct tape to the area and wore it around all day (even in the shower). The next day I’d remove the duct tape, scrape away the dead skin, and reapply.

      2 weeks later, the warts were gone, never to return.

      1. Going Anon*

        I have successfully self-treated a couple of individual warts on my hand using clear nail polish. It’s the same idea–prevents air to the area. You apply, and when it seems to start peeling off (whether on the same day or a couple days later), you peel it and any dead skin off, and reapply immediately). It’s a little more subtle than duct tape for visible areas, though duct tape is probably more practical for the feet (showering, etc., as you mention).

    3. Wart OP*

      Oh, lord, I’ve tried it all: the gels, the liquids, the wart stick, the at-home freezy thing, the heavy-duty freezing at the doctor, the duct tape, the laser treatments (which actually worked pretty well – they got me, like, 75% of the way to Death To Warts). Now I’m doing the horrible, awful, disgusting blister beetle juice + heavy-duty freezing + high dosage of Tagamet. One day I will be free!

  9. Joey*

    #2. This is a bogey on my course. Both because your boss should have let you take the promotion And because of the lack of coordination between the two managers. You don’t promote then take it back because its an inconvenience- that causes resentment. What they should have done was coordinate a transition to ease the loss of losing two folks. Whether that’s delaying your promotions effective date until someone was hired and trained or splitting time for a while there is usually a solution. Doing this kind of thing causes good people to walk.

  10. saf*

    #3 – That happened to me, kind of. I mistakenly got copied on the email that my interviewer sent to the board of the small non-profit I was interviewing with.

    On the up side, I found out that I would not be getting the job right away, and saw their reasons.

    On the other side, I had NO idea how to handle it. I settled for ignoring it.

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