mini answer Monday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Is my company handling a coworker’s outburst correctly?

I am new to the professional world and am wondering if my employer is handling an unprofessional coworker appropriately. Recently, in a meeting, one of my coworkers openly chastised another coworker for an innocuous comment. After the meeting, the chastiser followed the coworker into her office and proceeded to yell at her (using profanity) for about 10 minutes. The offender then left. Management is aware of what happened and is dealing with the situation by giving the person a verbal warning. Apparently, their procedure is to first give a verbal warning, then a written warning and then terminate someone. How they are handling this was not made public; I only know this because I personally spoke to management to voice my concerns over how the open display of hostility is affecting productivity. From anyone else’s perspective, it appears that the situation has been ignored, as business has proceeded as usual.

I’m wondering: Is this how companies generally handle unprofessionalism? Honestly, I was expecting the offender to be fired or at the least not be at work the next morning like nothing happened. I didn’t say anything when management outlined their strategy, but I was a bit surprised. In case it matters, this is not a union or government job, it is a for-profit company and we are all employed at-will.

Yes, that’s pretty typical. People don’t usually get fired on the spot for a first offense, unless it’s especially egregious (like punching someone or embezzling). Your company’s system of warnings is the most common system for handling problems. It’s also typical that your managers aren’t sharing with you how they’re handling this; disciplinary measures aren’t generally shared publicly.

2. When you struggle to sit still in interviews

I am a adult with ADHD, and it is very difficult for me to sit still. When I am sitting down to interview, this usually means that I talk with my hands a lot. I have been told that talking with your hands or fidgeting is a big turn off when being interviewed. Is there a way that I can tell whoever is interviewing me of my difficulty with sitting still without coming across as an excuse-maker?

I wouldn’t. It’s not that you’ll come across as an excuse-maker; it’s that you’ll draw attention to something that you don’t want attention on during an interview process and — rightly or wrongly — potentially raise concerns in the interviewer’s mind about your ability to focus on work. I’d just try to keep your hands clasped on your lap as much as possible to resist the temptation to move them, as much as you can.

3. Company requires employees to share email passwords

At my former place of employment, my boss required that our work email passwords be kept public and would frequently log into our work emails to find information, and encourage us to log into others’ work emails if we needed something. Is this practice ok? I had nothing to hide, but I feel there is a level of privacy that was being broken, especially on a coworker level.

It’s an unusual way to operate, and I’d be curious about how efficient it really was, but as long as everyone understands that they shouldn’t have any expectation of privacy, I don’t see anything to automatically condemn about it. But it’s certainly odd. (Although here’s a story about a company doing exactly this.)

4. Explaining why I’m leaving a job after four months

I have been in my current role for four months. I work at a children’s hospital as a child life specialist, which is providing direct patient care addressing psychosocial needs. I have decided I no longer want to be in a clinical role and want to get into nonprofit work for causes related to children. I have been getting callbacks for interviews, but I know it doesn’t look so great leaving a job after 4 months.

How should I explain my situation at interviews? I thought about saying something on the lines of, “I am looking for more career growth and a challenge and want to still be helping children but in a different role.”

Don’t say that! You’ll sound unrealistic, like you think that you should be getting more career growth and challenges from your current job after just four months. If you’re leaving a job so quickly, you can’t attribute it to any of the usual safe answers, like looking for more responsibility or being ready for a change. You need to more specifically address why you’re leaving after such a short time. In your case, that probably means addressing why you want to leave clinical work — but you’ll also probably need to address why you didn’t figure that out before taking your current role.

5. How do U.S. employers see foreign degrees?

Can you tell me what hiring managers in the U.S. think when they see a resume with a college degree from a foreign university? I graduated with a college degree from a national university in France. I have 2 internships under my belt and I worked for a couple years after graduating as a marketing assistant and as a bilingual executive assistant. All Fortune 500 companies. When I came to the U.S. 5 years ago in 2008, I took a retail job because I needed to work and the job market in my area was pretty small and bad.

Now that I am divorced, I want to go back to a career and I don’t know if having a degree from a foreign university is lowering my chances. I had it accredited by 2 companies that are recommended by top-notch universities in the U.S. They determined that I had the equivalent of a U.B. bachelor’s degree. On my resume, I specify that I had my degree accredited (and I can provide proof if they ever requested it). What do you think?

You’re probably worrying about it too much. Being out of your field for a while and not having a ton of experience is likely to be a bigger obstacle for you — the degree won’t register too much with most interviewers. They may be curious about how the school ranks in a general sense (since when they see a U.S. school, they typically have at least a general idea how good it is, and they typically won’t have the same reference points for foreign schools), but most employers don’t care much about where you went to school once your graduation is more than a few years in the past anyway. (A few fields are exceptions to this, like law, but in most it barely registers.)

6. Will leaving my job make me look like a job hopper?

I have been at a new job as a mechanical engineer for 10 months now, and it has become apparent that it is not a good fit for me. I have started the process of updating my resume to search for new jobs, but am nervous that only being in this position for such a short time will not look good to potential employers. My previous two jobs since I graduated college (May 2010) were also short term, but they were contracted positions (a 5 month stint followed by a 10 month stint). Will this hurt my chances with other employers by looking like I will jump from job to job?

Potentially. You should make sure that you indicate that the first two jobs were short-term contracts, but yes, having three short-term stints in a row does potentially raise red flags with employers.

7. Should I list a side business on my LinkedIn profile?

Should list a business I own/run on my LinkedIn profile? It’s an online niche retail shop that I started a couple years back from an idea for fun and to earn extra money. It’s really different then any of my professional “day job” experience.

My concern is with any new potential employers and/or recruiters. On one hand, it shows I have a lot more capabilities, but on the other, it could be a potential red-flag making them think I wouldn’t give 100% to full-time employment. I accomplish more than most and it’s never been an issue. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, but don’t want it to hinder my employment opportunities.

I’d list it, since it demonstrates additional skills that your main work experience doesn’t. You might run into an employer who will express concern and even ask if you’d be willing to close to it to focus 100% on work with them, but if that happens, you can decide at that point if that’s something you’re willing to consider. (And frankly, if an employer has that concern, you’re far better off finding out before you’re working for them than after.) In general, though, it’s unlikely to hurt and could possibly help you.

{ 97 comments… read them below }

  1. Josh S*

    3. Sharing passwords for email

    This seems really odd to me. Not because having open access to see emails sent/received is a bad thing, but because it allows anyone to basically create a ‘paper trail’ for anyone else.

    Want to ‘prove’ that Jane never sent you that memo so you can CYA for not getting the next step done? Log into her email and delete it from the ‘sent’ folder.
    Want to get Wakeen in trouble for badmouthing a client to the whole office? Log into his email and send something offensive.

    Open email is one thing — creating some sort of shared interface where anything is searchable or accessible. But having insecure email is problematic, simply because it tends to be readily assumed that anything sent from Jane’s email actually originated with Jane (and the password is the guarantee that this is the case). Once that password is ‘out there’ for anyone to use, there is no longer any implication that Jane is the author of any message that comes from

    This is fraught with problems.

    1. KarenT*

      Completely agree. This truly seems like a recipe for disaster. I picture issues of accountability. Client A is upset because of a rude email from Bob, but Jane was using Bob’s email. Or Jill is upset because of an inappropriate email from Jane, but Bob was using Jane’s email…

    2. Jamie*

      This is fraught with problems.

      You said it. I would bet a paycheck that this place either has no IT or has one who is has been overruled and is is marinating in stress and stomach acid as we speak. I refuse to believe that any IT, no matter how incompetent, would give this their blessing.

      And it isn’t like there aren’t a million other ways to properly share access to email, etc. without blocking the most basic of best practice out of the water.

      FWIW it’s not the privacy aspect that bothers me – if they were all hooked up to an email sharing CRM where everyone read everyone else’s stuff that would be fine with me – as long as the company doesn’t create an expectation of privacy that’s fine. It’s the lack of tracability and people sharing e-footprints that bothers me…not to mention it’s just teaching such bad habits and someday these people will go on to other companies and then have people like me on their case because the think this is okay.

      Toothbrushes, underwear, and passwords. Three things that just shouldn’t be shared.

      1. -X-*

        @Moe – Privacy in an email you send to a business address? No. I write to all kinds of people where I assume they have assistants who may read the email. Or that they’ll pass it to colleagues as appropriate to their internal organization.

        The problem here is internal accountability as several people have said.

        1. Chinook*

          I think that the one expectation of privacy at work, though, would have to do with emails to/from HR. I can’t speak for the US, but in Canada HR needs specific permission to share personal information like addresses and birthdays. How would an employer guarantee such privacy unless HR’s email was exempt from password sharing and only communicated with personal emails?

          1. Jamie*

            I can see this being an issue with external emails to HR. If there is no expectation of privacy internally then people should know that applies to what they send to HR as well – but if HR is getting confidential information via email (communications from medical professionals, for example) then that should absolutely be a secured email account.

            I don’t know the specific legalities, but having medical information unsecured should make employers nervous.

        2. Chinook*

          Actually, there are ways to send emails to a person who’s assistant has approved access to their email – Outlook let’s you mark things private or confidential and cannot be opened by proxies. HR depts. U have worked with use these settings as their default setting.

          1. -X-*

            What is the recipient is not using Outlook and has set up some sort of rule to forward/copy emails to an assistant?

            I am doubtful it’s possible to control email once it’s sent.

            1. Chinook*

              You have pointed out one of the reasons I love Outlook and hate that I have to use Mac at work. One of the Outlook settings doesn’t allow you to forward the email (but of course you can still copy and paste – nothing can stop that). I haven’t been able to figure out if you can do this in Gmail.

              Speaking as someone who, as the receptionist, had to share her login with those covering the desk, I was ready to quit when one of my “subs” saw an email to my supervisor and then complained about its contents (ironically, proving my point about her behavior). I only stayed after they gave me a computer that allowed for different logins. Strangely, the number on of missing phone message complaints that were focused on me suddenly disappeared.

              I love how computers can make you accountable for your actions.

        3. blu*

          I agree with moe. I think there is a difference, between thinking that people directly involved in your business will see the email, and the idea that passwords are just handed out freely so that anyone can see it. Some things are confidential even within an organization.

        4. moe*

          But there is a difference between “this might be read by an assistant or necessary colleagues” and “this could be read by anybody at the company.”

    3. Ariancita*

      I’m also wondering how this works when, say, management sends an email to another manager to request a meeting to discuss a certain employee. Or an employee wants to schedule a meeting to address a coworker problem with their manager or a manager problem with HR. Usually you have to give some indication about what a meeting is about, at the very least. In many cases, where it’s a busy office and meetings are hard to get, it takes more than an indication. Also, what about when a manager sharply criticizes your work product on email? Now everyone can see that? That turns a learning moment into a humiliating one. There are plenty of privacy reasons for why this is a bad idea.

      1. Jane Doe*

        What probably ends up happening in situations like this is that people are reluctant to commit things to email if they’re even slightly controversial or personal (like emailing the boss to remind her that you are leaving at 4:30 for a doctor’s appointment – not inappropriate personal things) because they know everyone else can see it. So on one hand you end up with a paper trail that is possibly unreliable because anyone can send an email from anyone’s account, and on the other hand, you end up with a paper trail that’s incomplete because people don’t want to commit anything to writing.

    4. KC*

      And depending on what sort of business the company is in, this would be a PCI violation. In my last two companies, we underwent PCI audits yearly. Something like sharing email passwords would be a HUGE no-no.

        1. Jamie*

          Payment Card Industry. If your business takes customer credit cards it’s a heavily audited function to make sure you’re following strict security standards to safeguard customer information.

    5. Anonymous*

      What everyone else said
      But also, if I were in this position I would rather that the company give me a password to use rather than opening my passwords to everyone else. Everyone tends to use passwords in more than one place, so unless you create a new one just for this email (and why does it need to be different if everyone is getting in your stuff anyway?) then you risk at some point people getting crafty and figuring out that they know how to get into your facebook or gmail or whatever else account.

        1. Anonymous*

          I agree, however I still don’t see the point of having to create a new one yourself if you’re going to share it! The point of passwords is to keep people OUT. Maybe they should have some sort of intranet wiki or other source of easily editable and collective forum of communication.

          And I was thinking that the problem could come around not immediately but during those times when you have to change passwords because you think you’ve been breached. It can become complicated when you’re juggling 15 or so passwords.

          1. Jamie*

            KeePass is great for that. It’s a little database app for password storage. They have a an app for iPhone and iPad (not sure about android) or just on your desktop and save it to a flash drive – keep it on your keyring. So you can store all your passwords in one place so if you need to change you just refer to that.

            The organization tree is windows like – so it’s easy to create categories and you can opt to have it secured only by a password to unlock OR by password and file key.

            I have no affiliation with them – I just use it and it’s a great way to store passwords.

            And you should have separate passwords for everything so if someone gets in one place they don’t have the keys to your whole online life.

            1. Your Mileage May Vary*

              Thanks for the Keepass heads-up. I’ve been looking for a password keeper for a while.

    6. AG*

      Well I think the password-sharing is terribly weird to begin with, but this is definitely a concrete reason to stop the policy immediately! Then again I had coworkers who shared their logins very freely even without a policy like this.

    7. aname*

      I agree. I have access to a colleagues emails and regularly get involved in matters during her absence as she only works part time. However I do it under my own name and view her email box from Outlook as a separate box below mine. I can open other peoples emails – if I’m marked as allowed to do so – and see their received items but not their sent – via the ‘open another box’ command in the menus. If I try to send as anyone else it shows up as AName (As Other Name) or such like and is obvious and traceable.

      The facility is there to have this system without sharing passwords and therefore mucking up audit trails for the future.

    8. anon-2*

      COMPLETELY AGREE. The main reason for a unique password for each user – is to establish accountability.

      You allow password / id-sharing, you lose that. And if there’s an incident – you don’t know who did what.

      I once worked at a company – pre-e-mail era – and the entire operations crew used the same login and password to get into the system.

      Then one night there was an incident of sabotage. And I was asked = “WHO DID THIS?” I did an investigation through the records. I knew WHEN it was done and the ID it was done under. But I could not identify whose hands were on that keyboard.

      When pressed “do you think it was ….” I replied – “like anyone else you could have suspicions. But I am saying nothing because I can’t definitively attest to whose hands did this. Was it a disgruntled underling? Or a boss trying to make that underling look bad?”

      Now, the question “but wait. If this happens everyone would have to have an ID, and remember their password.” Yep. Damn straight. And if they can’t remember that, maybe they shouldn’t be working in this business.

  2. Rana*

    OP#2 – I don’t have ADHD, so take this with a grain of salt, but I am a fidgeter who sometimes finds it hard to concentrate while sitting still. What helps me is taking notes. It gives my hands something to do, it forces me to pay attention, and there’s a record of what was said later (which is helpful if you’re like me and prone to forgetting things explained verbally rather than in writing). It also looks more professional than jiggling or shifting or clicking your pen a lot. (Or knitting. I have gotten in trouble for knitting in public, sigh.)

    Sometimes I also find it helpful to have something to play with in a pocket, but be absolutely sure it doesn’t make noise (no clicky beads, or pens with noisy caps, for example) and that it doesn’t look weird and distracting when you do it. Taking notes works better.

      1. Rana*

        People at plays and movies can become surprisingly angry if they become aware of someone knitting in the audience, alas. The most humiliating incident was being told at intermission that I was distracting the actors.

        (I swear I wasn’t doing anything extravagant – just knitting a small scarf in dark wool low on my lap. But I guess the fourth row was too close to the stage.)

        It makes me sad and frustrated because I pay attention much, much better when I have something to distract the monkey mind, but I’ve resigned myself to only knitting in public when I’m among friends.

        1. Jamie*

          The play thing is bizarre – but movies? I’ve been at movies where I’m in ear shot of people yammering on their phones or texting without the clicking turned off so it’s like being in the midst of very tiny gunfire.

          I’d opt for a theater full of quiet knitters in a minute.

          1. Elizabeth*

            I opt for the theater that puts up a message that anyone who takes their phone out during the movie will be escorted out and then enforces it. Of course, they also have an adults-only balcony with reserved seating and full meal & bar service that we pay extra for.

        2. K*

          I always feel bad about it, because I know it’s helpful for people, but I’m one of those who finds knitting in a place I can’t look away from incredibly distracting. It’s something about the quick repetitive movements that also seem to take up more vertical space than, say, taking notes. So someone sitting in front of me at a play or lecture is going to make it seriously hard for me to concentrate if they’re knitting. That said, I’ve never said anything about it because I figure it’s up to the person running the space to set rules for what’s allowed and whose focus they want to facilitate.

      2. Elizabeth*

        Repetitive clicky sound. I’ve got a friend who used to knit prolifically while working her help desk job. She would stop while she was on the phone, but it drove her co-workers nuts.

        I don’t use clicky pens for that reason, either. I will unconsciously sit & click them, and it makes everyone around me nuts.

        1. Your Mileage May Vary*

          Bamboo knitting needles don’t make a clicky noise.

          Rana, at first I thought you were advocating knitting during the interview. lol.

  3. Bwmn*

    I was just going to recommend having a pen and small pad of paper/notebook. Even if you don’t actively take notes, it offers you two things to physically hold onto with your hands that both appear professional and appropriate for the situation.

    Obviously if you fear pen twirling then this is a problem – but it’s been a very big help to me just to have things to hold onto.

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      Honestly, if a candidate I were interviewing were twirling their pen while taking notes, it’s not something that would be a problem for me. The main (perhaps only) people I’ve ever seen regularly do it are college debators/speakers, who in my experience are smarter and harder-working than the general population, so it’s a positive association. In general, I have a hard time imaging a pen twirl (or speaking with your hands, in general) to be something that would bar you from a job they otherwise like you for.

      1. fposte*

        I’ll differ on that–I would actually be put off by pen-twirling. You need to be able to sit quietly while interacting with people in the positions I’m hiring for, so I’d want to see that displayed in an interview.

      2. Chinook*

        Unless of course it twirls out of your hand and across the room. It used to happen to me as a teacher while (adult) students talked. They soon learned I was weird and to not offer to get the pen as I always had spares in my pockets.

        (BTW, this never happened around teenagers and younger because I spent my energy by constantly walking around the classroom, monitoring behaviour)

        1. Min*

          I have done this in meetings at work on more than one occasion. It’s so embarrassing, but it seems I never learn.

        2. Jamie*

          I’m a leg/foot jiggler – almost every waking moment.

          I can keep still when I have to by gripping my shoes with my toes. You can’t tell I’m doing it, but if it’s for any length of time I actually have sore muscles when it’s over from tensing the whole time.

          And pen twirling doesn’t bother me, but clicking should be grounds for justifiable homicide. Fidgeting never bothered me – as long as there is no noise.

          Worst? Jingling change in your pocket when speaking to me. Metal on metal clinking makes my teeth hurt – literally – and I don’t like to see pocket activity of any kind if someone is standing on front of me. It’s disconcerting.

          1. Christine*

            but clicking should be grounds for justifiable homicide.

            I was getting close to that point with the grocery store cashier yesterday. In fact, ANY sort of tapping or clicking sound drives me bananas. I’ve been that way my entire life.

            Haven’t been on an interview in awhile, but I’d say I do move around a lot wherever I’m sitting or standing whenever I’m nervous, excited or agitated. I’ve never been diagnosed with ADHD (one counselor thought I might have slight ADD), but I wonder sometimes!!

  4. Bwmn*

    OP#5 – I am a US citizen with a masters degree from a European insitution and I think that it’s actually quite a bit of a struggle depending on where you’re looking for a job.

    For a start, in global rankings – US institutions do appear to fare better (my undergrad university I believe is ranked in the 20-30’s in the US, and in the world rankings only moves into the 30-40 range). That being said, I still had a degree from a school that ranked in the top 70 – and for someone not going stirctly into academia – it was a struggle for me.

    When I was finally hired full time it on a research project where the lead investigator had also gone to school abroad and was familiar with the grading system – so when I would tell him my marks or about how I’d received a first on my thesis, it meant something to him. If your university has any kind of alumni network system available in the US, I would reach out to that for suggestions and networking opportunities.

  5. Jen in RO*

    #7 – My company doesn’t hire anyone who has a side business (unless they’re willing to give it up). If you find a company like this, it’s better to have it out in the open from the start – someone who was supposed to be hired on my team had her offer rescinded during the last interview because she had a side business… It would have been better for all parties if they had discussed this issue in the first interview.

    1. Coelura*

      I run a farm in addition to my regular job. Needless to say, it involves a significant amount of time. Not only is it included in my LinkedIn profile, but I always use examples from my farm business in answering interviewer questions. This enables me to bring it up without making it an issue. Even at a senior level, it has never been an issue for me. Most of my managers have even followed my farm business on my farm website and ask questions all the time. It might be unique to the farm concept, but it has always been a plus for me in my career.

  6. ConstructionHR*

    #1 +What Allison said. We reserve the right to skip steps if necessary for more egregious offenses and some are considered ‘Zero Tolerance’ and we are in an at -will state.

    I am more than a little concerned that no one intervened in the 10 minute tirade though. If the time length is accurate, that may indicate a deeper underlying problem.

  7. moe*

    #1: Tirade-er
    > I personally spoke to management to voice my concerns over how the open display of hostility is affecting productivity.

    I would never tell a person to stay quiet when they had legitimate concerns about working with someone… but “affecting productivity” isn’t the way I’d address it, especially as a person new to the job. Unless you were just talking about your productivity, it could come across a bit officious for a new person to go to management over the office’s collective response to an incident. At least to me…

    1. moss*

      witnessing something like that would totally affect my productivity. I would be upset and unable to focus well.

        1. Anonymous*

          I’m the OP here. I spoke to management about my and my office mates productivity. After the incident the three of us basically did no work for the rest of the day. We just debriefed and tried to console the victim, who was quite shaken up. It’s also caused the walking on eggshells effect for me so I feel it’s hard to do my job when I have to work with this particular coworker, because now I just avoid her.

          1. AG*

            The thing that’s hard to realize (when you’re new, especially), is that disciplinary things are often dealt with quietly. You have no idea who has gotten warnings/conferences or what’s in who’s files.

          2. moe*

            I understand your response and your intentions, but conversations with supervisors about others’ behavior can easily be seen as tattling. I would probably be ticked if a new person went to my boss and told them I/we had all been “unable to do work the rest of the day,” because there are all sorts of implications about my work ethic there.

            Unless you had the co-workers’ explicit approval to approach it this way, it’s a “tread lightly” sort of conversation.

  8. Mooch*

    Can I piggy back off #6? I’ve been at my current job for about 10 months now. It’s my first job out of college and while I really truly love the company, the work just isn’t fulfilling for me. I was told that it would be creative, but due to some recent structure changes the priority now is just to crank out as many widgets as possible, and the less hands on we have to be in that process, the better.

    I’ve recently updated my résumé and started casually looking around.. The only places I’ve applied to so far are those that I’ve had my eye on for years, so it’s kind of easy to say that normally I wouldn’t move on so quickly, but that I wanted to take advantage of the rare opening. I might start more aggressively looking within the next few months, but I really don’t know what to tell employers that won’t make me look naive and a job hopper..

    1. Jamie*

      I would say to both you and #6 that in some positions it’s hard to get a clear read in only 10 months.

      Sometimes you can tell if you will be miserable – or decide a path isn’t for you – but if you like the company but want to bail after less than a year because it’s not creative or fulfilling enough…well, expecting it to be fulfilling right off the bat especially at the very beginning of your career might be a little unrealistic. Often you have to pay your dues learning the less creative sides of a job or industry before you can make a job your own.

      If someone told me they were leaving a company they loved because it wasn’t fulfilling enough and it was their first job out of college and they’d been there under 10 months? I would think there may be some entitlement going on which would make me nervous – I think professional fulfillment is great and it’s something people should strive for – but it’s rarely found immediately…it usually takes some work and some time to get there.

      1. Mooch*

        Ouch. I will say that I’m not really looking to get my life’s work from my job, but I think if anyone was told that they had a job that would allow them to paint unique works of art all day, and they ended up making prints instead, they wouldn’t need 10 months to figure out its not what they signed up for.

        I’ve already been working on the level of my colleagues that have been there for a few years for months now, so I’m confident I’ve gotten the full picture of what the position is. I started higher than entry level so even if I stayed for another year or two, i would be doing the same thing. i just feel like I’m wasting time being underpaid (according to current market value) and not growing at all.

        1. Jamie*

          Not sure what the ouch was for – you asked how it could be perceived and I gave my opinion of what perception you may need to counter if you jump now.

          Maybe in some industries you can tell 10 months in that this is the job it will be in two years. A decent company will provide avenues for growth, but those are usually given to people who have put in some time because they want to invest in people who will stick around. It would be unusual to be at the point where you have a voice in shaping your position less than a year in – so what you would have to address to a future employer is the fear that you aren’t willing to pay your dues.

          If there was a bait and switch and it’s not the job for which you’ve interviewed – that may very well be a good reason to leave. But then I would stick to that when explaining why you’re jumping rather than talking about fulfillment and even salary at this point.

          Market rate is just that – a general rate for the position in the market itself irrespective of what companies or employees are bringing to the table individually. It’s a good gauge – but it doesn’t determine what you’re worth. We’re all only worth what someone is willing to pay us to do our jobs – and less than a year on one’s first job it’s even less reliable since market rate isn’t typically calculated by months on the job rather than years.

          1. Kevin*

            I like the debate going here. I’m the author of #6, and appreciate all the comments.

            To build on my original question, I’ve read that one way to be successful in the work place is to have a passion for who you work with, have a passion for the product, or both. Well, I don’t have a passion for the company or the people I work with. I have never had a problem getting along with adults throughout my life, but at this job the personalities of my managers and I for whatever reason don’t mesh (I’m more laid back, and they are more serious and straight faced).

            The job feels like its getting to a boiling point between my managers and I, no matter how hard I try to do my job to the best of my abilities. As a relatively new engineer, I make mistakes any rookie would. Some of the mistakes were innocent, some were a bad judgement on my part that have been pointed out to me and I have been working on correcting. They seem to be keeping a tally though, and are growing less impatient.

            It’s becoming obvious they are about fed up with me, and I don’t think I can do much to change their mind. I am considering asking for a transfer within the company, along with looking for another job and just chalking this one up to a bad fit. Is this the right thing to do?

            1. Min*

              I have never had a problem getting along with adults throughout my life

              I don’t know how to word this without sounding rude, so I apologize in advance, but this statement concerns me. It reads like you are still considering “adults” to be something other or different, if that makes any sense.

              The fact that you specified that you can get along with adults comes across to me as though you don’t consider yourself to be one.

              1. Kevin*

                Cold, but honest. I appreciate your insight. Perhaps some looking in the mirror for this situation is necessary.

                1. Kevin*

                  I was far from offended by it. Just appreciated the frankness of the comment, and got me thinking. No harm done.

            2. fposte*

              We’re not going to know if it’s the right thing, and probably neither will you for sure until later. I will suggest you worry less about passion, though–that’s a concept that’s self-help book/blog-click bait more than a way people really build their careers, and if you keep leaving jobs looking for passion, you won’t be hireable by your dream job when you do find it. I would strongly suggest you stay where you are until you find another job rather than leaving straight out, at least, and the hunt will probably give you a clearer idea of what your skills are worth. But make sure you’re going to, not just fleeing from.

              I’ll leave it to actual engineers to weigh in, but I’m also a little spooked by a work-world novice who finds his workplace’s seriousness to be a bad fit–I think there’s a risk that you’re minimizing underperformance as being “laid back” rather than realizing you’re not respecting the importance of the organization’s goals. Just a thought.

            3. Jamie*

              I’ve never had a passion for who I’ve worked with – and I’m not sure passion is always needed. In some jobs – sure – but I know plenty of people who are very successful and who enjoy what they do without necessarily having a passion for it.

              From what you say here it sounds like your employer is questioning the fit also – not just you. I think anyone who is struggling at work should have a frank conversation with their boss about areas of concern. This will show them you take your job seriously and want to do well, but need some guidance, and you can determine together if it’s a fit problem or something that can be mitigated via training, etc.

              Something else jumped out at me – you mentioned that are serious and you are more laid back. I know people have different temperaments, but sometimes laid back can be interpreted as not caring – especially by people who tend to be a little more tightly wound (not that I’d know personally – ahem). If you want to stay there I would make sure they know how seriously you take your performance and whatever you’re doing to improve.

              But I would recommend anyone prepare themselves if they feel their boss is at the boiling point – because job hopping isn’t great, but being fired isn’t preferable either.

            4. AnotherAlison*

              I’ve read that one way to be successful in the work place is to have a passion for who you work with, have a passion for the product, or both.

              Sorry to say it, but my take on this sentence is that it’s nonsense written by people selling some find-your-dream-career-related info product online. Yeah, I think for Bill Gates-type success, passion is needed, but I think for most of us, an enjoyment of what we do grows out of experience and skill. I work in power. I didn’t grow up with a burning desire to be in the power industry (are there people who do?), but I’ve still been able to succeed in the normal-career-path sense. As for the people, as my husband always tells me, there’s always going to be someone work with that you can’t stand.

              More specifically to your situation, I have been a new ME myself, and I think it’s expected that you’ll make mistakes . You can’t get a PE for 4 yrs, so one could argue the State Board doesn’t think you have good judgement for 4 yrs. However, if you’ve had 15 months of contract work, and 10 months at your job, maybe they are thinking you’re 2 yrs into this career, and you should be doing better work by now. It’s important for you to figure out what kind of mistakes you’re making.

              If it’s a mistake in approving a drawing for production that was wrong, and it doesn’t get caught, that’s a huge, expensive deal. I’ve seen experienced people make 6-7 figure mistakes, and it usually results in a step back in responsibility and a chance to re-prove themselves as capable engineers. I don’t see this as a mismatch with your career or company. It’s something that happens once in a blue moon, and you would need to do some work to improve, but it doesn’t show that you are always careless with your work.

              Another mistake could be that you are doing something procedurally wrong repeatedly — say forgetting to up-rev a drawing, for example. I’d be completely annoyed if I had to come back to you every time I checked your drawing and remind you to make the change. To me, it’s this type of thing – where you need to be detail-oriented and thorough, and you aren’t – that indicates you’re in the wrong job.

              If I were in your shoes, I’d hang in there a little longer. I like the internal transfer idea, but I don’t think you’ve been there long enough to ask for that. If something comes up, like an email goes around saying they really need someone to fill role X, and you want it, fine, but as an external department manager, I think that right now you might appear to be someone who doesn’t stick with things and I probably wouldn’t consider your application for my opening very seriously. Same thing with moving on to a new company, although in that case, I think you also need to decide if engineering is right for you. You’re going to reach an awkward point where you aren’t a new grad and they expect you to be skilled, but if you’ve had 3 roles <12 months each, you have 2 yrs experience, but you probably aren't as skilled as someone with 2 yrs in one position. If you want to try a new field, then leaving probably doesn't matter as much.

              1. Kevin*

                Because the word ‘engineering’ is such a broad spectrum of jobs, what do you mean by ‘if engineering is right for me’? I’m assuming just the current role I’m in, or do you mean switching to say something in business?

                I ask because I have often thought about if engineering was right for me, but was never sure where I would go from there. Thanks.

                1. AnotherAlison*

                  It could be that engineering isn’t right for you, or only your particular engineering job isn’t right.

                  My field, power engineering is ridiculously broad, so you obviously can’t try every engineering position to see if it’s a fit. I work on the EPC side, and there’s even a lot of variety just in that, nevermind going to work for an OEM or a utility. You could be a field engineer on a new construction job, or you could be a heat transfer expert.

                  I had plenty of career ambivalence, too, so here’s what I did: I worked as a mechanical design engineer in EPC power for 5 years (got licensed & MBA during this time), tried project controls, tried estimating, went back to ME design for total engineering time of 8 years (2 companies), then moved to the business side in strategy and development.

                  I’ve been on the business side for 5 yrs, and I’m still not 100% certain that moving out of engineering was the “right” move. I definitely do not see power engineering as the best fit for me. I was technically competent, but it was a daily slog. I love the role I have now, but there was a point somewhere in my long story when I had an opportunity to get a PhD in biomech engineering with a research focus on neurodegenerative diseases (as related to ME). To me, that was my “passion” but paying my bills, living my lifestyle, supporting my kids was another “passion”. I could see myself being happy on my current path, or happy on that path. You have to make choices, and I don’t believe there’s only one true path for any of us. (Few power or biomech engineers existed in the 18th century, yet those folks didn’t feel they were thwarting the Universe’s destiny for them.)

                  Anyway. I didn’t mean to share my whole story, but my net advice to you is to explore a few other areas while hanging in there with your current job. Get some measurable experience with what your doing before making a change, in case other options don’t turn out either. Oh, and if you’re going to the business side in engineering, I’d get an MBA with a finance focus or even a law degree (commercial contract work is prevalent in engineering).

            5. Rana*

              I agree that the “passion” thing is overrated. In terms of personal reward, it’s more normal to feel a quieter satisfaction of goals accomplished well, than to feel like some deep soul-itch has been scratched. In terms of doing a good job, what’s needed is usually less passion and more care and attentiveness and doing what’s necessary.

              I am “passionate” in my work in an abstract sense – I think that what I do is important and helpful and worth doing – but on a daily basis? Not so much. Work consists not only of the big grand picture, and some activities that I enjoy, but also a lot of little fiddly and tedious tasks that are necessary for supporting the overall strategy. It’s difficult to be passionate about, say, answering emails, or chivvying a financial department into disbursing a check, or fixing a document that got corrupted, or sorting the invoices so you can file your taxes, but they’re all necessary.

              Since you’re at the starting point, you’re far more likely to be tasked with the small-picture stuff, so you’re inevitably going to suffer if you expect it to be as emotionally rewarding as the big-picture stuff. The key is to learn to take satisfaction in the mundane task done well (like yesterday, when I was quite proud of myself for figuring out how to deal with a file that was too huge to open) and to remind yourself that, if you care about the larger mission of your company, your smaller, more boring efforts are what enable it to accomplish that larger agenda.

            6. AB*

              Kevin, do yourself a favor and read the book “So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love” from Cal Newport. The author graduated from MIT and went on a quest to discover what makes us love our work. You may change your opinion about the need for passion to find bliss in your career.

      2. Judy*

        I’d say the same. As a software engineer, it’s been my experience that you start out doing testing of other people’s work, even if you’re experienced, because one domain to another is slightly different. Then you move up to small changes on your own, that you test yourself. Then you move up to large changes on your own, that you test yourself. Then you move up to really large changes, that someone else tests. Then you move up to software architecture. These are companies with 3-20 software engineers on a project.

        Our company has 3 categories of engineering work, the terms were something like constantly supervised, independent work, and groundbreaking work. As you start, especially straight out of college, you would be 100% constantly supervised. Even very experienced capable employees that are not in an advanced development organization might only be doing 25% groundbreaking work.

        I wouldn’t expect anyone to hire someone straight out of college to be the software architect. On the ME side, it seems like there’s a need to get the widget designing basics down before designing more creative widgets. Otherwise you end up with an AD group that designs lots of cool things that can’t be manufactured.

        1. Mooch*

          I guess my use of the word widget was. I’m actually in marketing. Our position used to be creating campaigns and making sure they’re successful and the customer is happy. It’s turned into (also for those who have been here for 5+ years) that we are just supposed to sell as many projects as possible and not waste time on them being successful. That’s where my frustration lies.

          1. fposte*

            And it’s understandable to be frustrated. But short-term employment is kind of like an emergency fund–you don’t want to burn through the reserve until you really need to, and it’ll limit your options for a while to do so.

            You know better than we do whether now’s the time to use that fund. It helps that it’s your first job out of college, and it will help further that you’ll probably be in it at least a year by the time you leave. #6 is in a tighter situation because she’s three years out of college, hasn’t demonstrated a history of sticking in a position, and will be competing with people who have, but both of you need to think about whether it’s worth the possible setback.

            1. Victoria Nonprofit*

              Love the “short term employment is like an emergency fund” metaphor! That’s a really helpful way of thinking about it: it’s there if you need it, but if you use it now you have to build it back up, and while you’re rebuilding you have fewer options.

  9. danr*

    #1… Yes, it’s typical, and usually effective. Discipline is usually handled privately with the supervisor and HR.

    #4… Be honest with why you’re leaving. Knowing that direct work with the children in a clinical environment is not suited to you is a plus when you’re getting out of it, since it’s not good for the children. State it plainly. When you get a new position, and you find yourself working with the active clinicians, don’t hide the fact that you used to do that. You’ll be respected because you know about their work and were also smart enough to get out when you realized it was wrong for you.

  10. Mel*

    That’s a good point. Part of it, is that I don’t like the program. I came from a 4 person program to a 26 person program so I feel like I am making less of an impact and that size is just not for me. I also am not happy about the specific areas I am working in, my schedule, the management style, and have asked for a transfer but I don’t think that’s going to make me happy long term. So there is more than just wanting to leave clinical work.
    I was doing something a little more similar to this new job I am applying to in 2011, then that contract ended. It was overseas so I came back to the US. I returned to clinical work, but I miss more of the community work I was doing before, so that’s why I am interested in their position.

  11. Mel*

    sorry for # 4 – That’s a good point. Part of it, is that I don’t like the program. I came from a 4 person program to a 26 person program so I feel like I am making less of an impact and that size is just not for me. I also am not happy about the specific areas I am working in, my schedule, the management style, and have asked for a transfer but I don’t think that’s going to make me happy long term. So there is more than just wanting to leave clinical work.
    I was doing something a little more similar to this new job I am applying to in 2011, then that contract ended. It was overseas so I came back to the US. I returned to clinical work, but I miss more of the community work I was doing before, so that’s why I am interested in their position.

  12. Ruby*

    #1- People like that are real morale killers, even when they aren’t angry.

    We have a woman a work who is like that, and she’s been that way for years. Everyone avoids her, doesn’t want to work with her. Our nincompoop supervisor is for some reason, after six years in his position, now trying to ‘create a professional’ atmosphere. Problem is, unless he tells this woman to remove the wholly offensive bumper sticker from her desk, which in effect says “watch out, I’m a B**” then it’s just talk. And, she is in a senior position.

    1. Jamie*

      #1- People like that are real morale killers, even when they aren’t angry.

      This is a great point. It’s easy to address specific incidents and even require apologies, etc. It’s a lot harder to repair the damage to a cooperative environment. Once someone has a reputation for volatility and verbal spewing, even when things are calm there is a walking on eggshells approach that most people develop around them. The understandable desire to avoid this kind of caustic scene can really hamper the work flow.

      People don’t have to be BFF to work together – heck, I’ve had some excellent working relationships with people I didn’t even particularly like – but loss of civility and professionalism does put a very real tear in the fabric of most teams.

  13. Sue*

    #5 – I think a foreign degree shows that you are well-cultured… and BILINGUAL for real. I work in a very global field, and some of my “foreign” friends in America have faced adversity with their overseas degrees because employers automatically assume that they require visa sponsorship, even though they do not. If that degree is recent, I’d suggest sneaking in your residency status in your professional summary or cover letter.

    1. Chinook*

      While I would agree with that to a point, it is possible to have a foreign degree that that is English only (i.e. Oxford in the UK) or you could have a domestice degree in a foreign language (i.e. my university in Canada (University of Alberta) has a college within its boundaries (Faculte St. Jean) that is francophone and grants french language degrees (i.e. the language of instruction is French). There may be schools in the US that do the same in Spanish?

      1. Bwmn*

        To add to this – there are also university in countries that are not English speaking where they offer degrees where all lectures are given in English and papers are submitted in English. There are university programs where all lectures are given in the foreign language, but assigned texts books and articles and submitted papers/exams are in English (particularly popular in smaller countries that don’t have a large body of academia in their native tounge). While a program in France may be more “obviously” all in French – the difference of these is important in inidcating your level of writing in the language vs speaking/listening.

        I think the biggest disadvantage of a foreign degree (in the US), is the lack of familiarity and name brand recognition. While I’m sure this is a good tip for anyone – if your foreign university has any kind of alumni networking done in the US, definitely try to tap into that.

  14. Helene*

    #5: I have a degree from France and one from Scotland. I know live in Canada.
    For me it’s never been an issue. I graduated 4 years ago so I feel like it can still be relevant. I usually just put a description of the degree so that potential employers can see what a Canadian equivalent would be.
    Also, in most professions, you don’t need to have your degree certified.
    And it’s mostly your experience they will be interested in. You can also use your cover letter to explain how what you did in Europe is relevant.
    Good luck

  15. Tiffany*

    #7 Thank you Allison! I had been pondering this for months. I really appreciate your response. I agree and honestly feel so much better having it known upfront and not being deceptive about it. And like Coelura mentioned I believe it can be a plus to my career as well. My shop is now added to my LinkedIn profile. :-)

  16. Christine*


    In your case, that probably means addressing why you want to leave clinical work — but you’ll also probably need to address why you didn’t figure that out before taking your current role.

    It’s possible that the OP didn’t realize that clinical work wasn’t a fit for her until she’s held the job for a few months. I can vouch for that: I had every intention of pursuing clinical/direct service social work, but it wasn’t until roughly the end of my Masters coursework that it wasn’t the direction for me. My one post-Masters job almost definitively proved that.

    On the other hand, are you absolutely certain that clinical work isn’t the direction? Could it be the job itself, and not the field in general? Again, from my own experience, I still have a tiny flicker in the back of my mind that it might be possible that I’d be fine with at least providing concrete social work services, but haven’t been able to make that leap. That’s why I said “almost definitively” in my paragraph above.

    Good luck OP#4 – I can completely empathize with your situation.

    1. Christine*

      Meant to say “On the other hand, are you absolutely certain that clinical work isn’t the direction FOR YOU?”

      Definitely need an edit button today :/

      1. Anonymous*

        The job definitely isn’t helping. I have done clinical work for two years and just want to be on the other side of things. I feel I am stuck in this niche, and want to expand my horizons while still applying a lot of my training to a different type of role. Hey, maybe that’s what I can say! haha!

  17. BW*

    #2 – I feel your pain. I constantly fidget when unmedicated and I always talk with my hands even when medicated. (I’m not sure the hand issue is a ADHD thing. Some people/cultures are more expressive than others. People in my region don’t seem to regard this as weird.) Luckily, it hasn’t bothered people enough to say anything, and I have been told I interview well. It may not be as big a turn off as people make it out to be though it probably depends on the type of fidgeting. Never been medicated through an interview, and for me they last 4 hours. :-/

    Someone up thread mentioned holding a pen/taking notes. I have done this, mostly because my auditory memory sucks and I find it helpful to write things down, but the added bonus is that I have something I can do with my hands that doesn’t look like fidgeting. Definitely avoid the clicky pen. If they offer you a water or something to drink, this is something else you can use as well. No one thinks sipping water they offered you is weird. If it’s a long interview with multiple people, it’s fine to say you need a quick break for the bathroom. That will get you out of your seat and moving for a couple minutes.

  18. BW*

    BTW – just telling someone with ADHD to sit still and try not to move is pretty useless advice. Most adults already know this, but it’s not something that’s simple to control. Someone with ADHD will start fidgeting without even realizing it. It is thought fidgeting for someone with ADHD is really a way to self-regulate and help them focus on a task.

    What might help the OP is to try using something small like a paper clip or a pen in your lap under the table. That way you can play with it out of view, keeping your hands occupied while not being distracting.

  19. VictoriaHR*

    #7 – Interesting! I own a small soapmaking business and sell at craft fairs and online and such. Would that be something that I would list on a resume? I had assumed not…

    1. Anonymous_J*

      It depends on how YOU view it. Is it a side BUSINESS for you, or do you do it as a hobby and to raise a little extra cash?

  20. Anonymous_J*

    #7-I do it without hesitation! It’s also on my resume, and beside it in parentheses, it says “(part-time)” just to be clear that it’s a sideline and does not compete with my day job.

    The way I see it is it demonstrates extra skills that I have that I am unable to express in my day job.

    As a matter of fact, most or ALL of my major accomplishments have taken place outside of my current day job. My day job, at this point, is just a paycheck.

    (I’m hoping to find a job that can be more than that to me soon!)

  21. Cassie*

    #5: In the administrative support field, I’m not sure where you got your degree really matters. Yes, there are some people that will sneer at state schools vs Ivy League, but it doesn’t happen as much in admin. If you were in a specialized field, say science or engineering, I would assume that the hiring team would have a general idea of the top schools in various countries – if you aren’t from one of those schools, they may not be sure how that school ranks.

    #3: I strongly advocate granting access to a shared email account (with each person having their own logon) rather than sharing passwords. We utilize Google Calendar for meeting rooms and a bunch of people know the login and password – it would be much better (IMHO) if each person used his/her own Google login so that we can see who booked what. As it is now, there is no way to tell since it’s with the single login.

    On a related note, how do we feel about people sharing logons for applications? I’m seeing a lot of staff log in for their student helpers (who do not have access) and letting the students print documents or find information. I think it’s wrong – even if the password is not given to the student (staffer logs on and then passes the keyboard over to the student), the whole point of requiring logons/passwords and training is to limit who has access to the information. Isn’t it?

    Or like new employees who have not finished training yet (and have not been granted access to a specific application) but are already processing stuff using another employee’s logon? That is just so wrong.

  22. IT PuffNStuff*

    I apologize for replying late to a post from last week, but I feel strongly about #3 (sharing email passwords) and feel a need to reply.

    There is NO VALID REASON to ever share your passwords, period. Email group access is possible by assigning another user permissions to read your email/calendar/etc. and even send on your behalf if needed. Your friendly IT staff can help you set this up.

    3 reasons you should NEVER give anyone your email password (and shame on your boss for not know this):
    1. plausible deniability — as long as anyone else has your password, you can send any message, delete any message, pretty much do whatever you want and after the fact present a believable claim that you did not do these things. It invites people to behave irresponsibly in ways that can have consequences for the company or its clients.
    2. the corollary to #1 — anyone else can log into your email and delete items, send items, or pretty much do whatever they want and later blame you for it.
    3. if you are like many email users, your email password is quite likely similar or identical to the password you use to access other systems. since your coworkers have your email password, can they use that same password to log on to your domain account, your file shares, your applications, or even your company’s HR system (allowing them access to your social security number, benefits, and pay information)?

    NEVER share your passwords, period. If this boss is violating a company policy, engage him/her and HR to see if something can be done. If forcing users to share passwords is not a violation of some IT security policy, I would start looking for a new job today.

    -IT PuffNStuff

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