where are they now: 4 more reader updates

Here are four more “where are they now?” updates from readers whose questions were answered here earlier this year.

1. Update from the reader whose boss worked in a different country

I want to thank everyone for their suggestions. It helped me realize that this situation is not unusual and that there are ways to make it work. My new boss was very responsive, we had one-on-one phone calls every other week and she was extremely timely in responding to e-mails. However, the management changes were a part of a larger organizational overhaul and there was a great deal of uncertainty in the new structure. Also, my job duties changed quite a bit and the new role turned out to be quite different from the position I had originally been hired for. The new position was filled with projects that I did not enjoy doing and it also would have included a great deal of travel which I also don’t enjoy. The story has a happy ending though — I was able to find another position at another company. This position is a better fit for me and my previous work experience and the job duties are more aligned with my skills.

2. Update from the reader wondering about interviewers who talk about how well everyone gets along in their company (#1 at the link)

I never added feedback to the original post because nothing came of those interviews, but I liked what you and reader Jamie had to say. About a month and a half after that post, I was hired for a part-time position after another interview in which comments about camaraderie, etc. were offered. Thus far, those kinds of comments have translated to the following: (1) The staff are tight knit, and while there are normal work grumblings, they have great teamwork and seem to love their jobs and each other; (2) There is a good deal of socializing outside of work; and (3) The staff are pretty friendly and have already invited me out a few times.

If anything, the interview comments hinted at more of a “social” commitment than I have time for; I’ve had to decline more invitations than I’ve accepted because of other obligations. It’s not a terrible problem to have at a new job, though.

3. Update from the reader whose boss had died

Thanks to all the commentators and advice — I’ve tried to take it all in stride and move forward the best I can. As Alison suggested, I spoke to my boss’s boss (MBB). Sadly, she was less than helpful. It turns out that my boss served as a buffer between my department and the upper bosses, and now, no one has any idea what we do or how we do it.

To help ease the process, my coworker and I arranged a meeting with MBB to explain our backgrounds and what we do. She was enlightened; we were depressed. When asked what she thought we did, she said something along the lines of “Oh, I don’t know, I just knew your boss handled you guys. You have degrees in [completely unrelated field], right?” It was almost like interviewing all over again, except you have to take the job at the end, no matter how clueless the interviewer.

Since she now has a very limited understanding of what we do, we’re being asked to handle FAR more work, as well as projects completely out of our expertise. When we try to correct her on how we typically handle things, she gets very stubborn and informs us that her way is better, even though she’s had no experience in our field and makes no attempts at understanding it. For example, we had a 12-month strategy for releasing 6 new products. She scrunched that all down into 4 months and rolls her eyes whenever we tell her we cannot handle this workload. Yes, 6 product launches in 4 months over the holiday season is an absolutely fabulous idea.

I mentioned previously that I was job searching — that hasn’t stopped, although it slowed a little. I knew before my boss died that I wanted to work with a different company; MBB’s reaction and current management style has only clarified exactly how much I need a new job.

As a kicker, when asked about replacing my boss, MBB says that they’ll start looking for a new person in Q2/Q3 2013 with a hope to hire by Q4, but maybe not until Q1 2014. That’s an entire year without a head of a department (and what’s more, an entire year without someone understanding what we do)! I hope to be gone long before then.

4. Update from the reader whose interviewer was worried about her “big personality”

First of all, thank you for answering my question. I’d like to report that I did in fact get the job and love it. It happened to be the most drawn-out hiring process I have encountered (had initial phone interview in either April or May and was hired on mid-August), but could not be happier with this team. The work is fun and challenging, and the office includes some of the smartest, inspiring people I’ve had an opportunity to work with.

After I initially came to AAM with my question, I went ahead and contacted the hiring manager even though it was not advised. It was a gut feeling that my mentor would not steer me wrong, and the hiring manager ended up being pleased to hear from me, as the job opening had fallen off his radar due to personal and professional circumstances. Yes, he was open about this. We agreed to meet up once again for a casual lunch meeting.

Here is where it gets a little interesting and I would really love to hear reader feedback on what you all think. I called my mentor to let him know the hiring manager was glad to meet up with me and to thank him for the suggestion of calling him (as a note, both mentor and hiring manager are males while I am a female.) My mentor went on to give me unsolicited advice on what to wear as well as how to make up my appearance. He told me to not wear any makeup, wear flats, and wear pants (he specifically told me not to wear a skirt) as my physical appearance, including my height, may have intimidated the hiring manager at the in-person interview. Alison, I just want to make it clear that when I went into interview at this company, I wore a basic black pantsuit, no jewelry, 1.5-inch conservative heels, and wore my shoulder-length hair back. Now, I am naturally 5’10, but there is really nothing one can do about their stature and had certainly never received interview advice of this flavor before. Also, can you see a man ever giving appearance advice to another man in this way? That said, I bit the bullet and followed what he suggested because I really was not in a financial place to continue in the retail world for much longer.

In any case, I ended up getting the offer and get along great with my hiring manager now supervisor. What is interesting is that my mentor seems to cause some level of headache within the office. Fellow colleagues have actually commented to me about him, but I just keep my mouth closed and go about my business because, well, I am happy just to be able to work here and could care less about office politics.

In addition, as far as my “big personality” goes, as it turns out I am probably one of the more quiet people in the office. Everyone else seems to have no problem with swearing out loud at their desk or having arguments with office doors open that can sometimes escalate to yelling. Again, I just keep my head down because I love the work and while friendly with my coworkers, my main focus is the job itself.

Me again:  Wow. Given that your mentor was the one who originally said there were concerns about your “big personality,” and given his later advice on makeup and clothing, I have to wonder if the “big personality” thing really came from him and not from the interviewer. In any case, I’m glad it worked out so well!

{ 25 comments… read them below }

  1. Kou*

    I can’t help but chuckle when men tell women not to makeup to look more professional. Oh yeah sure, I’ll just show up with greasy skin and big dark puffy eye bags. See how far that gets me. Proof again of how many people think minimal, natural makeup is actually no makeup and that we really just look like that all the time. High-larious.

    I’ve also heard the no-heels rule (from women, though) despite being scarcely five feet tall. I’ve also heard the bitter debate over whether pants or skirts are more professional– “Skirts are more conservative, always go conservative!” cry some. “You must not do anything too feminine because you won’t be taken seriously!” cry others. And then there’s pantyhose. No matter what you do there is a rather unpredictable group of people out there who will find it grossly unprofessional and foolish.

    That’s some catch, that catch-22.

    1. Anonymous*

      Double plus 1 on the no make-up thing! I’ve had guys point out women with expertly done make up exclaim how beautiful they were with “no make-up”! Meanwhile, I can count 5+ products on their face and that’s excluding things like primer, lotion, and wrinkle creams.
      Nothing wrong with it. I love and wear make up daily even if the only people I’ll be seeing are my husband and young son. I just find it funny that so many men have such a screwed up sense of what a woman’s face actually looks like.

      1. Kou*

        And, sure, I know plenty of women who don’t wear makeup and don’t want to, but that is a luxury of pretty ladies with pretty skin that I do not have. My issue mostly being my big dark “allergy shiners” that even strangers will comment on (asking me if I’m ok) if I don’t thoroughly cover them up.

        Tried to find this earlier– story of my life, right here:

        And on the way I accidentally found this, haha

      2. Rana*

        There was actually some article earlier this year about make-up and perceptions of professionalism; as part of it there were four pictures of the same woman wearing different amounts of make-up. Both the picture without make-up and the picture with heavy make-up were deemed “unprofessional”; the two in the middle (one “natural” and the other “polished”) were considered the most professional and trustworthy.

        (Which is a bit sad for me, since I dislike wearing anything more than lip gloss, but I tend to treat it like wearing either business casual or a suit; just because I spend most of my days wearing the equivalent of jeans and sweatshirt doesn’t mean I shouldn’t know how to polish myself up when the occasion warrants.)

          1. Kou*

            Good lord I WISH I looked as clean and alive as the no makeup photos of those women. That’s like me with base makeup and my brows filled in.

          1. fposte*

            I remember that New York Times one–I thought it was really interesting too. I’m fortunate to work in a field where makeup is definitely optional, so at least there’s no standing out either way.

      3. Ellie H.*

        Yes, as loathsome as sex-based generalizations are I have often found that men really can’t tell when a woman is wearing makeup if it’s the “natural look” as opposed to eyeshadow and lipstick, etc. One of my best friends in college used to always proclaim his preference for women without makeup – and the girl he started (and is still) dating wore a lot of makeup. It was just in the “natural” style, but in quantity to the extent that girls would sometimes comment on it. Pretty funny.

  2. Anon*

    Everything about #4 is weird. The hiring manager forgot he had an opening? The mentor interjected unsolicited advice? I’m glad you got the job, and I’m glad you are happy there, but wow. Wow.

  3. dejavu2*

    1 and a half inch heels aren’t particularly “conservative.” That’s pretty high! It makes me wonder if there are unprofessional aspects of LW’s appearance (for example, too much make up) that the mentor was trying to address indirectly. Sexism is very real, and yes it can often manifest as unwarranted attention to women’s attire and makeup, but that doesn’t mean it is *always* inappropriate to discuss presentation. Plus, because some hiring managers are sexist, they might well be intimidated by a 5’10” woman in 1.5″ heels. Sure, her mentor might be a chauvinist pig, but I also think it’s completely possible he was providing good advice.

    1. K*

      Good lord, have you actually looked at a 1.5 inch heel lately? They’re not “pretty high” and will look conservative in pretty much any U.S. office environment where business dress is the norm. (Obviously it’s different if you’re going to be out on the factor floor or something but this doesn’t sound like that type of situation.)

          1. Lisa*

            Now I think those heels are perfect height, what
            I see as unprofessional would be http://m.zappos.com/nine-west-justcruise-natural-multi-pony-hair

            Even if these were black shoes, i find over 4 inch heels to be obnoxious and more appropriate for going out than for going to work in a corporate office or worse just a basic office setting where most people are business casual versus a wall street type place where everyone wears $200 suits even the admins.

  4. Not So NewReader*

    OP #4. I am shaking my head. You could ask your mentor why he made those suggestions without prompting from you. Did you find that you were dressed in manner similar to other people? Do you dress that way now? How much different were his suggestions for your usual work wear? Maybe he thought that the drab wear would dial down your “big personality”?

    Anyway- based on everything you are saying here you might want to be thinking about a new mentor. Although, I will say, I have seen mentors that have a knack of ticking off a few out-spoken people but the mentor is a keeper because the advice is solid most of the time.

  5. Copy Editor*

    “…I am happy just to be able to work here and could care less about office politics.”

    Sorry to do this, but it’s a pet peeve of mine. It should be “couldn’t” care less.

    1. Ellie H.*

      I typically say “I couldn’t care less,” but I don’t have a problem with “could care less.” I think it has become a received phrase and I have always taken it to have a sarcastic origin – like the sentiment being expressed, is “As if I could care less!”

      1. fposte*

        Yup, it’s a preference thing, not a right or wrong thing. I prefer “could care less” myself for euphony reasons, and I think if you start requiring figures of speech to make sense, your brain’s going to explode when you hit “head over heels.”

        1. Copy Editor*

          Actually, it is a right or wrong thing. To say one could care less, means that they care. To say they couldn’t care less, means they don’t.
          Not trying to get a debate going. I’m just saying as an FYI.

          1. fposte*

            No, you’re misunderstanding how figures of speech–and for that matter, language–works. “Sucks” historically wasn’t a disapprobation based on anything sexual, but it sure has sexual overtones now. Originally, the term for a person who felt superfluous was “fifth wheel”–that’s now predominantly “third wheel” (granted, if a copy editor changed “fifth” to “third” in my journal I would definitely change it back). “Head over heels” is perfectly correct now, but it’s a corruption of the original, more logical phrase “heels over head”–are you going to correct all the “head over heels” usages to “heels over head” because they’re wrong? Of course not, because usage has made them okay.

            It’s a style sheet point, not a law of physics.

            1. Anonymous*

              Nope, I’m with Copy Editor on this one – to say you could care less means that you do care. I agree that language is fluid, but that does not mean it is correct to leave “not” out of this phrase. It changes the meaning entirely.

  6. fposte*

    #4: That definitely sounds weird to me, and I suspect your mentor of projecting like crazy onto the hiring committee. Any chance that he’s not very tall himself?

  7. LCL*

    I am 5’10 and female. And I think I did lose out on a job because of my height. It was an interview for restaurant work, I was dressed appropriately for the time and culture (dark pants not jeans, conservative blouse, flats). Because the interviewer was busy, I was told to sit and wait. He came to where I was sitting and interviewed me. I think I killed the interview, good rapport and he said he would call me. We both stood up to shake hands, and he kept looking up, and up, and up, at me, and his expression changed from pleasant to a scowl. He never did call me, and I didn’t pursue it because I had just left a job with a psycho manager and knew it when I saw it. Oh yeah, he was about 5’6.

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