short answer Saturday — 6 short answers to 6 short questions

It’s short answer Saturday — six short answers to six short questions. Here we go…

1. Following up on a promise for connections

About a month back, right before the holidays, I met with a high-level manager from my previous employer. He’s the direct boss of a former
colleague that I keep in touch with, and she let me know he was in NYC and asked him if he’d agree to meet with me. He was willing to meet
for coffee and during our meeting said he would connect me to three different people at organizations that might be looking for some one
with my background. I was extremely excited and grateful because these are organizations I would love to work for. I followed up immediately after our meeting to send him my resume (as he requested) and thank him. He responded he would be connecting me with the people he mentioned and bcc me on the emails.

It’s been a month and he still hasn’t sent them. I figured he wanted to wait until after the holidays. I know he’s extremely busy and it was incredibly generous of him to meet with me and to offer to connect me, but how/when do I follow-up and politely remind him to send those

Send him an email and say something like, “I hope you had a great holiday. I wanted to check in and see if you might be able to connect me to Jane Smith, Bob Dunbar, and Lucinda Rogers, as we’d discussed. I’d love to speak with them, and I’d be so grateful if you’re able to put us in touch.”

After that, though, if he doesn’t do it, at that point I’d move on, because you can’t really ask an additional time without being pushy.

2. Moving on from a morally questionable job

I have been employed as a paralegal for over a year now. When I graduated in 2011, I hoped to work for a nonprofit or in an admin position, but the only place I got an interview for an entry-level position ended up passing on me for a candidate with 20 years of experience. Needless to say, it was a tough job market and I grew desperate as the months dragged on. To make a long story short, I ended up accepting a paralegal job in a field of law that I find objectionable because I truly could not continue to be unemployed. The field is one that many others would find objectionable as well (imagine being a paralegal for a cigarette company — it’s not what I am, but it’s not dissimilar). I agonized over the decision to accept the job and have doubted it frequently ever since.

The job itself hasn’t been bad (I like my coworkers and the organization’s flexibility and they are very happy with my work), but I’m ready to move on. My question is about how to explain this paralegal job. It’s my first job out of college and I don’t want to act defensive in interviews, but I anticipate problems related to the work. How can I continue to look for nonprofit jobs, which were my original interest, and explain that I basically sold out on my beliefs for a full-time position? I’m afraid that I’ll be judged for my work and that it will reflect badly on me until I have enough experience to leave it off the resume. Do you have any ideas for how I can express that I work in a field I don’t believe in now, but that I was willing to accept ANYTHING in that job market? I’m smart and a great worker with passionate beliefs about many specific current issues, but I don’t know if anyone (especially in the nonprofit world) is going to see that. I also don’t think they’ll see that accepting this job wasn’t easy and that I have debated myself about it for the whole time I’ve been working there.

Well, first, you’re unlikely to be questioned aggressively about this. It’s more likely to be something like, “That’s a pretty controversial issue to work on!” — not a demand for you to account for your sins in working there.

But regardless of what types of inquiries you get about it, I’d say something like, “With the tough job market, I figured I’d try it for the experience, but it’s not the place for me. I’m really looking for something more in line with my beliefs. I’m excited about (the organization you’re applying with) because I’m passionate about (issue).”

And in your cover letter, I’d really emphasize your commitment to whatever issue the nonprofit you’re applying to works on.

3. Listing a sporadic role on a resume

I recruited for a company in September and October of last year. I had interned with this company in college and it is in my chosen field. As I had developed a close relationship with a couple of supervisors, they had asked if I could fill in some holes in their schedule. With another recruiting season upon them, they have asked if I could reprise my role a few times in January and February. How do I format this on a resume? It currently states that I was a recruiter for them in September and October. Do I just extend that to present? However, I don’t want to give the impression that I was consistently working for them as that was not the case.

Recruiter, ABC Company
Sept.-Oct. 2012 and Jan.-Feb. 2013

4. Including unrelated jobs on your resume

I’m a recent college grad and have been doing what is necessary to make money while I pursue a full-time position. Do I put these positions on my resume? I was working in the kitchen and cafeteria of a hospital. I had held this job since senior year of high school and worked during school breaks. However, I just left that position as I moved to Boston, which has been my ultimate destination. This job is currently on my resume, but do I leave it on there? Additionally, I’m starting a part-time job next week at a grocery store to help pay the bills. Do I include this job as well since it’s technically my current employer? My concern is that I don’t want to waste precious resume space on jobs that aren’t relevant to the positions I’m applying for. Additionally, I don’t want to give the impression to employers that I’m starting a position only to leave it, which isn’t the case. Even when I do get that full-time position, I’m planning on staying at the grocery store and working a couple of weekends a month to pay for my “extras” (gym membership, etc).

Yes, include them — especially since you’re a recent grad and therefore probably don’t have a ton of other experience. (My advice might be different if you had 15 years of work experience on your resume.) However, you could consider putting them in an Other Experience section that’s below your main Experience section.

5. What to say in post-interview thank-you notes

I have spent the morning pouring over your “thank-you note” section and I’m still a little confused as to how to write a follow-up note. I agree that just treating it like another step in the process without putting much thought behind it doesn’t make good use of the note. However, I am not sure how to build on what we talked about at the interview without coming across as overly salesy (after all, I should have already shown why I’m a good fit for the job in my application and interview) and taking up too much of the interviewer’s time with a long note that goes over things we already talked about. Do you have any more specific guidelines about how to write this note or even an example of a note that does this effectively?

It shouldn’t be a long note — just a paragraph or two or three. Say you enjoyed meeting with them, you’re more interested in the job than ever (if true), and refer back to something from the conversation — something that particularly excited you, or a joke that was made, or an article they referenced that you sought out afterwards. That’s it. The most important thing is that it be genuine and not sound perfunctory or like you’re trying too hard. You want it to have the tone that you’d use if you were following up after a meeting with a client or a colleague.

6. When Facebook postings make it clear your sick employee really isn’t

I have seen employees post negative things about their job/other employees on Facebook, or call out sick and then post on Facebook that they were going away or put up photos of themselves partying or otherwise clearly not sick. What’s your opinion on using this info for disciplinary action? For the sake of argument, let’s assume that there’s not some kind of misunderstanding here, like the person was really talking about someone else, or the photos were old, that kind of thing. I’d be inclined to use this as grounds for a verbal warning at least. (Also, there’s no explicit company policy on this.)

If it were absolutely clear — like, say, the person called me Friday morning coughing up a lung and claiming they had the flu and couldn’t leave the house, and then posted a photo of themselves at a baseball game three states away with a comment making clear it was taken that afternoon — I’d treat it the same way I’d treat it if I’d run into them at a bar that night. Serious conversation about expectations around honesty, person on thin ice.

If it were less definitive, I’d say something like: “It’s probably not the best judgment to post things on Facebook like you did yesterday when your profile is connected to your manager’s, and I’m not thrilled to be put in the position you put me in. I’m not going to get into the specifics of what you said, but I want to be clear with you that I need to be able to trust you to deal with me and everyone else here with honesty and integrity. Please make sure we don’t have issues like this again.” And then, frankly, I’d watch them like a hawk for a while, because whenever you get signs of problems like this, there are often more if only you look for them.

But I’d encourage managers not to connect to employees on Facebook — too many possibilities for boundary violations.

{ 88 comments… read them below }

  1. Coelura*

    Echo the comment about not connecting on Facebook. I am not connected to anyone in my organization and I make the same recommendation to my employees. Far too many opportunities for problems. Not only from posts, but also issues when you are separating from the company. There are precedents with LinkedIn where the company has demanded the separating employee hand over their account because the company considers the relationships company policy. The same thing can happen with Facebook. So I do not connect with anyone associated with my job on Facebook.

    1. Mike C.*

      I’m sorry, but where in the heck does your company get off demanding that a separating employee hand over their personal LinkedIn account? Or am I completely misunderstanding you?

      1. Coelura*

        My company hasn’t done this before, but there is precedence in the US. If you use your Facebook to connect with work related contacts, you could face the same situation.

        I did have a company require that I change my personal cell phone number when I was laid off because I had used in the course of business and vendors had the number. I fought them in court and lost. Since then I have kept work and personal resources strictly separate.

        1. KarenT*

          Wow, that’s scary! I’ve heard of people losing their cell numbers before, but social media seems worse to me.

          1. Jamie*

            This is news to me, about people needing to change personal numbers.

            I know I beat this drum too much, but this is why if you need to do business via cell pone it would be company provided. At separation you just turn over the phone and problem solved.

            1. KarenT*

              It’s not ideal but I’ve seen it happen a fair bit, both with landlines and cellphones. For example, our sales reps work out of their home offices. They have an existing landline, and use it for their home office. Company reimburses for the bill. Sales rep exits from the company, and all of his or her clients, vendors, other business partners, all have that number as their main point of contact. Sales rep wants to keep said phone number because it’s also the phone number that the family, friends, bank, dentist, etc., have. Company confiscates number and transfers to the new rep. I’m not defending the practice but I think it’s fairly common.

    2. KarenT*

      I don’t get how a company would expect a former employee to comply! They don’t have much leverage after you separate. Even if they take your LinkedIn, that certainly doesn’t void any relationships you have– they can’t make you “un-know” someone.

      Are you in sales?

  2. Nameless!*

    6. When Facebook postings make it clear your sick employee really isn’t

    Another reason to separate social life from work. Why would you befriend co-workers, let alone your boss? I am not condoning lying but bosses should stay away from snooping around employees on social media. Just my 2 cents

    1. JT*

      “Why would you befriend co-workers, let alone your boss? ”

      Maybe because you’re *actually* friends with them. Just saying.

      1. Chaucer*


        While I agree that having superiors friended on facebook is not a good idea, I see nothing wrong with friending your fellow co-workers, so long as you are actually friends with them. I don’t friend everyone who works there on my page, though.

    2. Amber*

      Also most people are responsible and don’t post negative things about work, pictures they shouldn’t, etc so they have nothing to worry about by friending co-workers.

      1. dejavu2*

        Right. And if for some reason you felt compelled to post something inappropriate, the privacy settings make it really easy to block certain people (cough*coworkers*cough) from seeing certain posts.

        1. Victoria HR*

          Gotta make sure that those privacy settings are locked up tight also. I checked a job applicant’s FB page a few weeks ago and everything was locked down except her “likes,” one of which was “Blunts & Bongs.” Oops…

    3. Lulu*

      Wow that just makes me sad – most of us spend a huge amount of time at work, I can’t imagine not being friends with *anyone* at work. In fact, the times I’ve been in that position, I’ve been absolutely miserable at work. Of course, some of this is due to different people’s personalities, but still… I’m shocked at the number of people who say you shouldn’t be friends with coworkers.

      Now being “friends” on FB with managers, or coworkers you’re not actually friends with, I agree that’s dicier territory (more the former than the latter, but still something to think about). But I think we all just need to remember that SOCIAL media means that whatever gets posted on FB, Twitter, G+ etc is there for anyone to see, so even if you have strong privacy settings, really think for a minute before you share something.

      1. Cassie*

        I don’t think it’s so much an issue of being friends with people at work (in real life) as there is with being “friends” on Facebook. Of course, you probably don’t want to get “too close” to someone at work (unless you are truly good friends and not just good work friends) but it’s not like you have to be a loner at work either.

    4. Cruella DaBoss*

      “Bosses should stay away from snooping…”

      Didn’t sound like anyone was snooping. Sounds like the boss, who is a obviously a friend, saw the post by the employee.

      I’d be more concerned with the untrustworthy employee myself.

  3. ExceptionToTheRule*

    Our parent company requires all managers to have a Facebook profile. My solution to that was to block them. Then they can’t find me.

    A couple of years ago, I had a co-worker who would leave Friday after work to go see her significant other in another country, post about it on Facebook and then be sick every Monday. It got really old, really fast because her position had to be covered and that meant someone got called in on their day off to cover it at the last minute.

  4. Katie the Fed*

    I’ve been wondering about facebook. What if you were already FB friends with people and then you became their manager? That’s what happened in my case.

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Katie: that happened to me too last year. I was fortunate that the people I was friends with weren’t prone to doing things like that. It’s mostly pictures of their kids.

    2. Anonymous*

      I just posted about that below. Its a rough situation. I think you as the manager should just tell them that you are blocking/defriending or whatever. I know in my situation, I’d feel really bad blocking my friend, but if she explained that now that she is managing me, she doesn’t want to be put in an awkward position based on my posts, so she is blocking me, I would totally get it.

      1. Lore*

        You can customize your default setting for postings (for example, my default setting excludes a number of family members with whom I’m happy to be in touch, but who don’t need to know quite so much about my day-to-day activities) as well as who appears in your newsfeed. That way you can stay connected with people if you think they’d note or take offense at defriending them, but they won’t see your postings unless they actively go to your Timeline page, and vice versa. It’s not foolproof, of course, because they can easily go to your Timeline, but it helps.

        1. S.L. Albert*

          This, definitely.

          My company actively recruits at my school, and I’m friends with the person they hired last year. Our friendship pre-dated being coworkers so we were already connected on Facebook. You can create special sub-groups of friends on Facebook, so I created one specifically for “coworkers”, added her to it, and set my default post to be everyone but cowokers. She does something similar to me. We already spend 40+ hours a week together, we really don’t need to know what the other’s doing after we clock out.

        2. Rana*

          Yes. You can both control who sees your posts (for example, mine are default set to “Friends but not Acquaintances”) and remove specific individuals from your feed without blocking them. Unless you make a special effort to go to their Timeline* you’ll not see anything they post.

          *I’m already feeling dated because when I signed up this was one’s Wall. Remember “poking” and that app that allowed you to throw sheep at your friends?

          1. B*

            You should be careful about this. Remember, Facebook can change their settings, timeline, and updates at any point in time. Just because people are in one category now does not mean tomorrow they will not be in another category.

    3. EngineerGirl*

      I think it is appropriate to have an in face conversation with your suborinates. Let them know that in order to maintain professional boundaries you’ll be blocking them. It allows a separation between work and play. The key selling point is that it gives both of you extra freedom to be yourselves. Do you really want someone who gives you your performance review to see all of the extra stuff?

      1. Brett*

        I think this is pretty easy for a manager to do…maybe I’m not speaking for everyone out there but most people would be perfectly satisfied with not having their manager seeing everything on Facebook (unless they were unusually close…). They’re basically doing a favor for the employee.

        It feels a little bit different to do is as the subordinate, because it could imply there will be some shenanigans that need to be concealed (not the case of course, but it’s awkward!).

  5. Anonymous*

    #6 is a kind of weird position I’m now finding myself in, sort of. My boss is out on maternity leave. Due to some corporate restructuring I’m now reporting to someone who I was on the same level with before, and that I considered a friend (she even played on my softball team). I feel like now I have to block her, which sucks. Now I’m smart enough to not call in sick and then post pictures of me partying that night. But there are things that I may post that I wouldn’t mind my friend seeing, but don’t want my boss seeing.

    Now in your situation, I almost say leave it alone. the trash talking thing I don’t really think is your business honestly. I mean, unless they are giving away company secrets, if they complain about the “bitch in the cubicle next to me” I don’t see that as something you need to involve yourself in. The sick day thing to me is more an issue of stupidity or questionable judgment as opposed to an actual work issue. I think there are a good amount of people who have taken a sick day to go have some fun. Not that I condone lying by any means, but it does happen. This goes back to the debate which I’ve seen on here many times about taking sick days if you aren’t actually sick, which people are divided on (personally I think if you have them you can use them, especially if your absence doesn’t really affect others in your office in a major way). But to call them out on that… to me its not something I think needs to be done, unless the sick days are a habit. Maybe it was a one off thing like someone called them the night before with baseball tickets to a big game and the timeline for using a vacation day had passed. Who knows.

  6. B*

    I have a Facebook policy of never friending anyone I work with. It makes it easy to say “oh I’m sorry I keep my work life and personal life separate.” That is the best way to start defriending people as well. If anyone asks you can say you decided to separate those two lives.

    I find this important especially now. For example…If you are friends with a coworker, but no bosses, they may still be able to see your items. That is because your coworker is friends with her boss or another boss. Said coworker comments on your picture or update and everyone can see/know it.

    1. KellyK*

      I *think* access to the post itself only happens if you have posts visible publicly or to “friends of friends.” However, people can see at least the beginning of their friends’ comments on a non-friend’s post.

  7. Mike*

    Re: #6

    This is one reason I don’t say why I’m out only that I’ll be out and taking a sick day. I actually liked the term my previous employer used: “personal necessity” which covered both sick and “I need to take care of this during work hours” time.

    As for the whole “running into them at a bar that night”: I’ve called in because I slept horribly and knew that I was too tired to work productively. I then rested and felt better by that evening. Not everything is a lie.

    1. Anonymous*

      That is 100% true. Just because at 8 in the morning I feel like crap, it doesn’t mean that by 10pm I won’t feel better. Also, right on this board people love to say how if you are sick you shouldn’t come into work even if you feel like you can. So I may be coughing, but want to go out with a friend that night. Doesn’t mean anything

      1. just me*

        Umm kind of disagree. I personally would feel pretty guilty calling in and then feeling well enough to go out later. And what is the difference between calling in because you don’t want to get your co-workers sick, but going out to a bar… and getting everyone else there sick?

        I have been a boss and if I saw this type of thing calling in and then seeing a post about going out later I would question that person’s honesty. Not that I would fire them or write them up right away but I just would question them. Maybe have a quick chat.

        I think people tend to rationalize out this type of thing a little too much. I am way too sick to go to work.. for even a half a day… but golly… Susie wants to go to dinner and that is OK and risk giving her your illness? Yes maybe you are feeling better but still looks too suspicious to me.

        1. Anon*

          Yea, but just because you’re sick, doesn’t mean you’re contagious.

          I used to work as a receptionist. One week, I came down with laryngitis. I felt okay – just my throat hurt a lot. I live alone and sit in silence all day and evening except when I’m at work, so was very surprised to find that I could barley talk when I answered the phone that morning. My boss sent me home.

          By that evening, I couldn’t say a single word – and even though I felt pretty good, I had to use several sick days simply because I couldn’t do my job (talking!).

          A couple people commented when they heard that on the third day of sick leave I had chosen to go to a planned movie with a couple of co-workers late in the evening. Did I care what they thought? No. Was I guilty? No.

          I was too sick to do my job – my boss and my co-workers knew it. But just because my throat was swollen to the point of not talking from allergies or who knows what, didn’t mean I wanted to sit at home doing nothing for 3 days!

          I think the same applies to nearly anything else – maybe you have food poisoning. It may be hard to focus on work with the bathroom calling – but I could see wanting to go do something in the evening once all the food was out of your system.

          1. just me*

            Sorry still disagree. The overall idea of calling in sick regardless of why and then going out to wherever still lends it itself to suspicion.

            Not to say your examples are wrong and not without merit but the overall idea of it is still wrong.

            With all due respect, you illustrated my point exactly. Reasons why you can’t work and but then why you can go out. The bottom line is, going out was more rationalized to do so then going to work. The priority was going out. The cure was just in time to go out or the problem ” really wasn’t THAT bad ” that someone had to stay at home from going out.

            No matter how you slice it it looks bad and I can’t believe a good manager would see it any other way.

            Even if one feels better at least don’t compound the problems created of not being at work that day ( people having more work to do, loss of production etc…) and then deciding it is OK to go out. I know I’d be irritated as a co-worker if I knew all that.

            1. Mike*

              > No matter how you slice it it looks bad and I can’t believe a good manager would see it any other way.

              I would hope a good manager would look at my work output and realize that is what’s important. If I need to take a day because I’m nearing burnout and just need to chill then so be it.

              I’ll admit it is different in a setting where someone has to actively cover for you.

              1. just me*

                But we are not talking about your work. This post was about going out and posting on Facebook what you are doing when you claim to be sick. We are talking about honesty. Are you sick or did you just want the day off?

                A good manager should know your work and should be able to trust that if you call in sick, you are sick, or just need to chill.

                Posting you are at a baseball game having a blast, partying at a bar because your NFL team won still looks like you are lying about why you called in.

                I am not talking about a Friday you are sick and by mid Saturday you go out for a while.

                And again, if I am covering for someone who clearly is having some fun while out “sick” I’ d be a little irked. Legit or not.

              2. Jamie*

                If I need to take a day because I’m nearing burnout and just need to chill then so be it.

                There are a lot of companies that don’t do sick days, but instead offer PTO to use as you see fit. Also, I’ve never worked at a place that didn’t let you use vacation time in single (or even half) day increments – neither of which would require you to lie.

                My concern in companies with separate sick days is that if you are lying and using them for mental health days – what happens if you get really sick once you’re out of sick days? Are you coming into work contagious because you’ve already used your allotment – or are you taking the days anyway and if exempt being paid anyway, as required by law if you worked any portion of the week?

                Everyone has their own ethics – but this is why using “sick leave” as mental health days raises eyebrows with many employers.

                1. ARS*

                  I have never worried about the “but what if I’m sick later?” question. You can easily reverse it. What if I’m never sick and never use them? Either way, if I’m too mentally sick to do my job, then I’m still too sick to do it. If you accrue sick days, you’ve earned that time and if you need a day to recover, physically, emotionally, or mentally, then take it. I’d rather you take a mental health day once in awhile than have to deal with your grouchiness or distractedness in the office.

            2. BCW*

              But really what is your timeline? If I have a 24 hour bug and feel really sick Friday and call in, should I not do anything all weekend because you think it looks bad?

              Again, depending on whats wrong, being in bed another 6 hours and eating soup can make you feel much better. So I don’t think its a problem. Now yes, if you call in Wednesday, feel better that night and go out, then call in again Thursday, that I think is dishonest. But not feeling well at 8am doesn’t preclude you from doing anything all day.

          2. Jamie*

            I agree that your examples have logic, but logic doesn’t save one from being badly branded by tis sort of thing.

            I mean logic would dictate that it doesn’t matter if I wear a suit or track pants for an interview – it’s all about perception and impressions.

            If you give the impression of slacking, which it can when you go out after calling in, you risk your boss having that perception. All the logic in the world can’t make your boss think about it deeply enough to understand that and if you were to explain it it can look like excuses.

            Work life isn’t always about what is, sometimes it’s a lot more about omit appears.

            1. just me*

              ” If you give the impression of slacking, which it can when you go out after calling in, you risk your boss having that perception. All the logic in the world can’t make your boss think about it deeply enough to understand that and if you were to explain it it can look like excuses.”
              Yes, that is the point. And I guess my question would also be.. would you do that to a friend? Tell them you don’t feel well enough to go shopping for the day but then go out with other friends that night? You all of a sudden felt better? I couldn’t care less how ” sick ” you are, I’d think you were lying. Especially if you posted it on Facebook like this post was about.

            2. KellyK*

              Good point. “What’s actually appropriate” and “what might look bad” are two very different things, and you can’t assume that your boss will get the whole story in a way that doesn’t sound like excuse-making.

              It’s perfectly reasonable to go to a movie when you have non-contagious laryngitis. You’re avoiding going stir-crazy in an environment that still rests your voice. But that doesn’t mean that it will look good, or that posting about it on Facebook where boss and/or coworkers can see is a good idea.

          3. Lisa*

            You are assuming that the entire 24 hours of the sick day belongs to your company. You only get paid for 8 hours, why does the rest of the day mean you have to fake being unable to leave the house? Its work hours that you are calling out for, not after work hours. This is why I hate sick days, because they imply you must be sick to take them, when you don’t have to be at all. Think of it as PTO, if I used all my sick time and then got this nasty flu that is going around, and I need to take a day off and had a vacation day. I will be forced to use a vacation day. My flu doesnt mean I get a free sick day, it means I use whatever time I have left and if I don’t have any type of days left, then I have to make up the time or take it unpaid.

      1. Euny*

        Someone at my organization just got fired about six months ago for calling out sick & posting pictures at a concert.

  8. just me*

    The job itself was a real job and what you did was not illegal.

    When I interviewed no one really cared that I sold widgets or peapods for a living. They wanted to know how I did the job. Did I create a better filing system for customer orders? Did I save a sale when a customer was angry? Did I increase sales. Whatever.

    All you have to say if asked why you are leaving that field is it was not the right fit. You did well and learned a lot but just not your cup of tea so to speak.
    If they agree inside their own mind that the type of stuff you did can be a moral debate the fact you are leaving it shows them what your beliefs are on that issue.

    Don’t worry it won’t be a problem. Good luck

    1. Listy Lowe*

      My first job out of college was as an Assistant Account Executive at a PR company that represented (not sure if I’m allowed to say company names on here or not but let’s say it’s a big tobacco company associated most often with a guy in a cowboy hat riding a horse).

      I’ve had several jobs since then as I’ve worked up the PR ladder and I have never once been questioned on my choice to represent that client.

      Unless you want to make a really radical change, say, taking a job at NRLA after doing publicity for Planned Parenthood, I can’t imagine you would have any problem. I think for most people a job is a job; it’s not a representation of one’s ideology.

  9. Anony-Me*

    Another thing folks should consider (especially if a person’s current field or role is in the public eye, or media, PR, etc.) Facebook can be part of personal brand management. While the folks in my office know that I may be “coughing up a lung with the flue” I may have subscribers or client-friends, etc., for whom I need to project consistently positive, on-message stuff. Sometimes, even if not related to one’s current job, but a field one is looking to shift to.

    For an example, say you are a sales rep and you to want to get into Sports PR or journalism, then you need to be posting about the important sporting events, etc. You may be sick in bed, but better make sure you write a riveting comment about the games (even if you are watching on ESPN in your robe.) Absolutely, it should appear to all readers that you actually attended that game – not by lying, but in the “insider” or “expert” views you share. Not posting anything during such a key event, or posting “hey I’m sick” would reflect badly, for sure.

    1. Lulu*

      I’ve also seen people handle this by creating two accounts, one being the more “branded” one. Don’t ask me how this works as lord knows I don’t need to get involved in this kind of juggling, but it makes sense if you want to separate your kids pictures from your work sharing. For my purposes, I try to keep Linked In the “professional share” and Facebook more social, though because I have a bunch of actual friends who I also worked with, sometimes that can blur a bit on FB.

      1. Rana*

        Yes. I created a Page for my business on Facebook and I’m pretty careful to keep the posts and links topical and professional.

        It’s pretty easy to manage, actually. There’s a drop-down menu that allows you to select whether you’re posting something as “you” or as your page, so if you’re diligent about switching and checking your “posting as” notices, keeping the streams separate isn’t hard.

        1. Lulu*

          I was more just thinking of yet *another* place to regularly communicate, rather than logistics (although with FB’s history of being not-so-user-friendly…). I’m not really regularly posting (or trying to brand myself) on LI or Twitter, but still commenting occasionally, so between those two, personal FB, here, and a couple of groups – I’m starting to feel like I spend an inordinate amount of time communicating online while not getting other things done! I suppose these days it’s kind of expected, particularly if you are using it to promote your business or network. I’m just loathe to add yet one more thing to “manage” on that front ;)

      1. Coelura*

        Why not as important? My entire team is geographically dispersed (multiple countries) and I haven’t met most of them. The only interviews any of my employees ever had were phone interviews. They are just as important as in person interviews in this case since there won’t be an in person interview.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That’s fairly unusual to do — but yes, if this is a phone interview in lieu of an in-person interview (meaning it’s a full, in-depth interview, not just a preliminary screening), you’d want to do the same sort of follow-up that you’d do with an in-person one.

          1. Coelura*

            That interesting to hear. I’ve been a telecommuter for the past 15 years working in multinational companies and most of my coworkers are telecommuters. Perhaps as a result, I rarely encounter in person interviews.

            My last hire went through four phone interviews after the recruiter, each lasting about 45 minutes.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Thanks for the good vibes, everyone! I hope it gets me an in-person. The job is still posted online and I irrationally want to erase it so no one else will apply, muwahaha.

  10. Anonymous*

    2) It’s a job! Don’t make this a bigger deal than it is – that could be what raises eyebrows and red flags, not that you worked there.

  11. ABC*

    Nothing beyond nitpicking I’m afraid!

    “I have spent the morning pouring over your “thank-you note” section”
    >>> its ‘poring’

  12. Nyxalinth*

    #2 I’ve not had this precise situation, but yeah, being a paralegal for a cigarette company or working for one of the big oil companies wouldn’t feel right to me. Now, I’ve left jobs that while what they were doing was legal, it was a gray area ethically for me. I worked for the “Watchable Instructor” (You know, the guy who sold “how to use your computer/Excel/Etc.” lessons on late night TV and said they were free…only for people to have huge charges on their bill because it was a recurring shipment) in their call center in 2008…it was so shady. Once I had to talk the son of someone in a nursing home with dementia issues into keeping the 400 dollars worth of stuff she’d received. (I’d called my supervisor over and explained to him what was going on and he told me I had to at least try to get her son to keep it, we were supposed to say “You can give them as gifts or donate them to charity…”) I felt so slimy that finally I just gave him the process for returning the items and took a verbal warning. I ended up quitting a few weeks later.

    Even though the company in question is out of business, I disguised the name because then former CEO is well known here in the Denver area for being more suit-happy than the Men’s Wearhouse when it comes to anyone saying anything even remotely negative about his company.

    1. Lulu*

      more suit-happy than the Men’s Wearhouse LOL nice! And that does sound terrible :(

      I’ve actually struggled with this as I look for jobs because I do rule places out that I have issues with that probably wouldn’t even seem significant to other people (equivalent to “I wouldn’t work for TLC because I’m morally opposed to Toddlers & Tiaras”), and I realize at this point in the game I should probably find a way to suck it up in the interest of getting a paycheck. It’s tough.

      In the OP’s case I do think making it A Big Deal in advance might make one look more kooky than principled (unless you’re targeting really militant nonprofits). Emphasizing what you ARE passionate about, as AAM suggests, sounds the best strategy – just treat it as you would any other job that’s not really a good fit for you, but still gave you some kind of learning experience/achievements that you can now utilize somewhere you really want to work.

      1. Bwmn*

        As someone who works for a nonprofit, I think that it is important to address the issue in some way. Even if it’s just to say indirectly that you’re looking to transition to working on issues that you’re very passionate. My experience in nonprofits has been that there is a serious application concern in how passionate you are to the cause. Partially because they know that they will be paying you less than the corporate world could, and want a guarantee that your committment to “the cause” will compensate for other luxuries/benefits they can’t give you.

        That being said, there are plenty of people who start off in the “anti-cause” world, and that experience has served to highlight how strongly they want to work in the “cause” world. Selling that side of the story (working for x company has only reinforced how important it is to work on y causes) is something that I’ve seen a lot regarding the cause my nonprofit works for and it is successful for job seekers.

        For the people saying “it’s just a job” – that is definitely not a good attitude to have. For many people working in the nonprofit world, that’s not how they see their work and it may just serve to prevent building rapport with the interviewers.

        1. Lulu*

          I like your suggestion of spinning it to emphasize how the experience served to make it even more apparent how important working for “the cause” is to this person. My thought wasn’t to not say anything, but rather just to not start in with “I can’t believe I debased myself to this degree and worked for the evil empire,” if only because that seems to put the emphasis on the negative experience and not on the passion for the positive experience. But not having worked in non-profits, I certainly don’t have my finger on the pulse of standard practices/perceptions in that world.

  13. Elizabeth M*

    #4: I had an “other work experience” on my résumé the last time I was job hunting, because I only had two jobs and some volunteer work directly related to my field (teaching) so far. I didn’t put as much detail about those jobs, so they took up less space than the ones that were more relevant, and I tried to highlight skills I’d gained/used in those jobs that would apply to teaching. For example, part of my role managing a short-order breakfast kitchen in college was to train cooks in how to make the different things we served, so I emphasized that more strongly than my excellent pancake-making ability itself.

  14. Elise*

    #6 – I might double check some of their work since they don’t appear to be very bright or, at minimum, they have very bad judgement. Common sense says that you don’t advertise when you are playing hooky. Sadly, common sense is not as common as it should be.

    1. just me*

      Exactly. Who you are friends with isn’t as important as what you are posting.

      I like my new boss a lot but I am not now and nor am I going to friend her. Not because of posting issues ( I live a really boring life anyway so it would not be very exciting ) but because I don’t want to cross that line of employee and boss.

      But my point is it is still my problem and my problem only on what I post. Regardless of settings, who I am friend and so forth it would be pretty dumb of me to post something that would incriminate me like the post is talking about.

      But people don’t think, they post things as if no one is going to read it or there will be no action taken.

      My friend and I were meeting another gal out for dinner. She cancels saying she had to work. I go and visit her at work after dinner ( she works in retail ) and she is not there. She was at dinner with other people and posting all over Facebook who she is with and how much fun she was having.

      My friend and I were laughing at her stupidity and gall to lie to us and then post what she was doing . I challenged her on all of it, she lied and lied and lied and needless to say… we are not friends anymore of Facebook. She deleted me!

      People do this all the time I know but if they get caught that is their own doing. If the boss see’s they are lying about calling in and then posting a picture of themselves at the ball game, then let the chips fall where they may.

  15. KarenT*

    I wonder if you can mitigate by including job duties that reflect your values, like “organized charity fundraiser” or “wrote warning labels” or whatever makes sense. At the very least you can bury any seedier job duties (ie., don’t write “led youth marketing campaign to increase youth smoking”). I know these are silly examples but I think you could make your duties/accomplishments align with a nonprofit where it makes sense.

  16. perrik*

    #2: I spent two years doing IT work for a company that falls into that category (in fact, it was tobacco-oriented). I’ve spent the rest of my career in companies related to health care. No one ever interrogated me about the “morally questionable” job. They wanted to know what kind of employee I was, not what icky product the company promoted. Honestly, any hiring manager who would flag your candidacy for such an issue isn’t going to be calling you for an interview anyway, so problem solved.

    #4: The hospital job shows experience in being a reliable, competent employee. Why leave it off?

  17. Lisa*

    #2: I am a very values-oriented person with a strong sense of ethics, and even if interviewing for a nonprofit I wouldn’t reject a candidate for a morally questionable paralegal job. I once considered taking a private investigation assistant job helping to clear drivers accused of DUI. If it’s legal and it pays, I figure that someone who strikes me as a good person overall probably did it because they needed a job and like having a home and food. We’ve all done things we wouldn’t do again… that’s how we know we wouldn’t do them again.

  18. Legal Eagle*

    #2: I would not worry about your job. This would actually be easy to explain in a cover letter or interview:

    “While I appreciate the opportunity to develop my paralegal and I get along well with my co-workers, I’ve realized that I would rather use my talents to support [insert cause here].”

    Don’t beat yourself up about selling out either. Normal people won’t judge because you took a job (that was not illegal) in a less-than-ideal practice area during a recession just after college. In fact, if an interviewer does that should be a warning sign to you! Even non-profits have terrible, irrational managers. You should avoid them like the plague.

  19. Lisa*

    #2 – You are in a great position to use your current job as learning the inner workings of the ‘opposite’ side. This is valuable experience knowing how the evil-doers work / think and you can position yourself as wanting to get a taste of how to better work on the ‘good’ side by learning the inner workings of the ‘dark’ side. (insert comic book jokes here), You can say your goal was always X, but when this opportunity came up you were intrigued to learn those inner workings before you got to X that would give you valuable knowledge for working for X for your entire career.

  20. Lisa*

    #6 – this is why I don’t even connect to coworkers, because those idiots are connected to the boss.

    Me > Connected to Julie
    Julie > Connected to Boss
    I post me hitting a pinata with my boss’ picture on it on FB
    Julie > Likes Pinata Image
    (FB privacy settings suck a**)
    Boss > Can now see that Julie liked said image in his friend feed cause he is Julie’s friend and anything she likes / comments on are public based on HER privacy settings not mine.

    So I think we all smart enough not to friend a boss, but are we smart enough to not friend the idiot who is friends with the boss and doesn’t understand FB privacy settings? Just saying…

    1. Jamie*

      I admit I don’t understand the desire to post every thought and action publicly so I don’t get Facebook’s appeal…but I would argue that it’s impossible to keep up with all of your FB friends and their friends – which can change at any time – and it’s just a really bad idea to post anything which could hurt your career online – be it FB or anywhere else.

      I also agree with Mike C above where he pointed out those security settings can change at any point. Maybe I’m just paranoid, but I would be uncomfortable posting anything online that I would be ashamed to have pulled up in front of my employer.

    2. KellyK*

      The only way to make sure your boss doesn’t see that picture is to not post it. Even if you haven’t friended *any* coworkers, who’s to say that your cousin won’t repost it publicly, or that in six months your boyfriend, who has since become your vindictive ex, won’t e-mail it to your boss? Or any number of other things.

  21. KellyK*

    #6 – I totally agree with AAM’s response. If it’s crystal clear that they’ve claimed to be sick and aren’t, then they should be on thin ice. If someone lies to you, and you can’t trust them, that’s a *huge* big deal.

    If it’s criticizing coworkers or the company *by name,* (or if it would be obvious to a coworker who saw it who’s being discussed) it absolutely warrants a very serious conversation explaining that it’s really poor judgment and it needs to *not* happen in the future.

    If it’s general griping, that’s less of a big deal, and that’s where I’d say, “If you have problems with X or Y, let me know so we can deal with it productively, rather than posting about it on Facebook where I and your coworkers can see it.” It’s not professional to bitch about your job in front of your boss, but I don’t think it’s in the same category as lying to them.

  22. JM*

    OP #6 here! Thanks to AAM for your response, and to everyone who commented. The employees in question were people I was friended by before I became their manager. I do think it’s inappropriate in many situations to “friend” someone who reports to you. I’m not sure if I will go back and un-friend (de-friend??) the people in question, but I would think twice about accepting a similar contact in the future, and I will likely follow up with them about exercising better judgement (or doing a better job of hiding it from their manager, ha ha). I realize people do a lot of stupid things in their personal lives and frankly, I don’t have the energy to get worked up about all of them!

  23. Anonymouse*

    #6— Just last week had an incident that makes for a great qualifier for this question. I started to feel nasty flu symptoms like headache, bodyaches and sore throat, and since the flu is currently rampant, I figured I was probably headed to Flu-ville fast and called in sick. Felt crappy the better part of that day. As it happened, an old friend was in my town and really, really wanted to see me and dinner was all planned at her parent’s house a few miles away. I felt crappy but, as I realized, maybe not quiiiiiiite flu-crappy just yet…. And my friend wasn’t concerned about possibly getting flu from me, and insisted since I wasn’t feeling as bad as I expected that I should just come for dinner then turn around and make it an early night home. Well, with help of trusty old Dayquil, I mustered up and went and actually ended up having a great dinner with her & her family…. but…. without thinking, ended up posting a picture to Facebook of how bad the traffic was on the drive over (no details as to where I was headed). Doh! I was supposed to be home in bed, suffering!

    As soon as I posted the in-transit-clearly-not-in-bed-suffering pic, I remembered that my employer is friends with me on Facebook and all my stuff is set to public. It occurred to me to take it down, but then I thought that would look even more suspicious if my employer had happened to catch it on first post and then it was deleted, like some admission/hasty erasure of guilt. As it happens, I continued to spend the next several days (which included this past weekend) feeling the same: crappy, some symptoms, but likely not full-blown flu just yet. Because of this low-level malaise, I’ve not wanted to leave home during this period and have, to occupy myself and to keep from going bored out of my mind, been pretty active online: on Facebook and elsewhere, just chatting and status’ing/commenting about a bunch of random stuff. Some may even find this level of at-home Facebook activity suspicious for someone who is “sick”, whereas others may relate to the idea that the brain & fingers may operate perfectly well even though the head throbs and the throat aches and the nose is dripping…. maybe even more so on sickish stir-crazy overdrive.

    Anyway, after all this self-mental-torture over the whole thing, I then had the following thoughts: “I haven’t lied about anything. I felt legitimately crappy earlier today and then started to feel a little better. I was erring on the safe side by presuming I must already have full-blown flu– nothing wrong with that. Damn responsible, in fact. My employer has no idea about the exact fluctuations of my symptoms nor the extenuating circumstance of an old dear friend visiting town begging to see me, later, on my off-duty time. My employer also has no way of knowing whether I was not, in fact, driving to a doctor or clinic nor how long I was outside of my house (when I should have been in bed suffering). Moreover, my employer also doesn’t know whether or not I in fact took the photo of the traffic THAT DAY or if I had —as some people do, as have I, I admit it— drawn from a “saved up” bank of gags to trot out on Facebook during dry spells of wit (as, indeed, one could be more likely to have when one is under the weather). I am a good employee. My employer should have other evidence of gross untrustworthiness on my part if they’re going to presume the worst from one vague Facebook post. If they presume the worst from this one Facebook post, they should address it with me directly.”

    MY POINT: I wasn’t deceptive to my employer. I felt legitimately like shit when I woke up. There IS a known flu going around, but what is UNKNOWN are a bunch of other factors in these kinds of sick-or-not-sick situations. So I guess what I’m saying is I think in most cases it would be hard to call Facebook tidbits definitive 100% proof. I think the employers should consider the general solidness of the employee before presuming anything is shady. And even then –dare I say– expect that sometimes even great employees may occasionally call in citing a specific-sounding ailment even if the truth of it is more like: “I just feel like crap and I’m not sure why but I’d probably be pretty useless today anyway and would rather just bum out, thanks.” It’s been known to happen (but generally doesn’t “play” as well as something more specific-sounding), and as long as it’s not costing the employer above & beyond allotted sick leave and in the absence of real 100% proof of deception, a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy on occasion may not be unreasonable.

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