terse answer Thursday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Alerting other employers when you’ve received an offer

I was wondering about what to do with other job possibilities in various stages after one receives an offer. I have been unemployed for a few months, but all of a sudden things have really picked up, and I have scheduled a bunch of interviews within the last two weeks. One of my potential employers has moved forward with reference checking and wants me to start as early as next week after they work out payment logistics and draw up an offer letter. In the meantime, I have 3 other interviews scheduled this week. Of course I don’t want to complete my job search until I have something in writing, but I don’t want to string anyone along either — one interview is a second round, and they sound very excited about me as well. Do I go to all of my interviews this week, knowing that the other company is moving forward, or do I cancel? Whenever I end up withdrawing my applications, how do I do this gracefully?

Yep, go on all your other interviews and continue your job search exactly the way you would if this weren’t happening. First, offers fall through all the time, and you should never count on one. But second, it’s possible that they’ll make you an offer for far less than you’d accept or that you won’t be able to come to terms on something else. Keep up your job search until you have an offer — and not just an offer, but an offer that you’ve accepted.

Once that happens, only at that point should you alert other companies that you’ve accepted a position and thus are withdrawing from consideration with them. (You can do that with a short email.)

2. Telling employers that you’re not seeking rapid advancement

I have been working for about 8 years, and in that time I’ve realized that I am much more of a “work to live” person as opposed to the “live to work” type. I am an asset to my company — I’m hard-working, dependable, conscientious and have a great rapport with coworkers and clients. I recently earned a masters degree. But I dread the “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” question, both from my boss and potential future employers. To be honest, I’m content with a stable, somewhat challenging job that offers cost-of-living salary increases. I am not interested in being in my boss’ position someday or getting rich and powerful. I am not inclined towards a high-pressure job (or one with more pressure and responsibility than the one I’m in now). But I sense that employers view this with suspicion if not disdain.

I am looking for new employment and find that many employers want to hire workers who seek rapid career advancement. I really don’t know how to present myself out there (or “in here”). I don’t want to lie because I don’t want to be groomed for a more advanced position but I also don’t want to be rejected for appearing apathetic or lazy. So far I’ve mostly been skipping the openings that blatantly mention the rapid-advancement thing but it’s still an issue in my current job and I expect it would be in interviews and future jobs. Can you offer any advice or insight?

If you just want a job, any job, then yeah, you could skip saying this, so that you avoid being screened out by the hiring managers who might not like it. But if you want a job where you’ll be happy and have a good fit, then be candid about it. Plenty of managers will be happy to find someone who feels like you do — and screening for them will ensure that you’ll find a job you’re comfortable in, rather than one that expects you to be someone you’re not.

3. Should I complain about this HR person?

I interviewed for a Fortune 500 company and was told I would hear back by Friday of that week if I got the job or not. When I heard nothing, I called back the following Monday and was told they were still deciding and I should hear back from them either later on that day or the following Tuesday morning. Interesting enough, that Tuesday morning, I got a letter from that same exact person dated Thursday of the week before I did not get the job, so basically I was lied to by that HR person when I called Monday knowing last week they typed that letter to me. Should I complain about this to her superiors as this is unethical?

Uh, no. She gave you wrong information. Maybe it was a mistake, maybe she couldn’t remember off the top of her head who you were and just guessed, or maybe she didn’t feel like rejecting you on the phone. Regardless of the reason, this isn’t a big deal. If you complain about it, you’ll only succeed in being marked as a high-maintenance crazy person and never getting considered by that company again.

4. Listing year-long travel on a resume

A friend of mine is updating his resume as part of an ongoing job search, and we can’t agree on how to put a positive spin on a one-year gap he has.

A while back, he was unemployed for a long period of time. Sick of staying home, he decided he would take this time off to grab his backpack and see the world. In a year, he visited 19 countries across six continents. He calls the experience in his resume “Project Management” because he was on a budget, carried out all sorts of negotiations across cultures and language barriers, bought and sold vehicles along the way, worked with local government agencies, dealt with medical emergencies in rural parts of the world, etc. I feel that the term “Project Management” is misleading because people expect it to mean something completely different, but I might be wrong.

How would you suggest that he present this on his resume? Should this fall under the “Other Experience” section? How do you even call this?

This isn’t “project management.” If I saw that on a resume, I’d be turned off — because it would seem like the person was either trying to spin me in a really disingenuous way, or like they had no idea what project management actually entails.

This might be something he could talk about in his cover letter or list in another section on his resume, but it sure as hell shouldn’t be called “project management.”

5. Including college acceptance letters on your resume, long after you’ve graduated

I’ve just started my first hiring job, and I’ve come across a couple of resumes that list college and high school GPAs. One even listed all the scholarships she won to colleges that she did not attend, even including “Harvard acceptance letter.” Is that normal to list GPAs ? It’s completely unrelated to the job post, and most of these candidates are at least 4 years out of school.

High school GPAs don’t belong on a resume after your freshman year of college. College GPAs should come off if you graduated more than five years ago. And acceptances to schools you didn’t attend never belong there, unless you’re trying to proclaim “I’m pretentious and a little naive.”

6. Current employer asked for my resume

I’ve been in my current position for 6 months as of tomorrow. Last Friday, my boss’ boss asked if he could have a copy of my updated resume. I sent it to him Monday morning, but felt it to be weird to ask him why he needed it, so I ended up not asking. Is this common? I have never been asked to provide an up-to-date resume when not job hunting before. Googling showed that this is common for contractors, but I’m not a contractor; I work in a library. Any insight into the mind of manager for this scenario would be appreciated.

It’s not uncommon. It can be used for grant applications, professional bios, and all sorts of other things. Why not just say you’re curious what it’s for and ask him?

7. Will shoplifting harm my future job prospects?

A few weeks ago, I was caught shoplifting at a store. They banned me from that store for the next 5 years and I’ll be paying a fine. This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and I don’t know why I did it…why I almost ruined my future over some stupid merchandise. I regret it, but I realize I’m so so so so lucky because cops weren’t called, and this coupled with other things has made me seriously consider going into counselling for my issues.

Could this affect my future job prospects? Even though cops weren’t called, my social security number was taken. Would it come up in a background check? I’m currently unemployed but actively searching and I’m worried if this may follow me around.

Nope. If police weren’t called, you’re not in any system but the store’s own system (if that). If you didn’t have police contact, there’s no central database where this kind of thing can be accessed, even with your social security number.

{ 186 comments… read them below }

  1. Josh S*

    “And acceptances to schools you didn’t attend never belong there, unless you’re trying to proclaim ‘I’m pretentious and a little naive.'”

    Best line of the night.

    The only exception to this would perhaps be if you were applying for a non-academic position at the university. As in, if you’re trying to get a job as a financial planner handling a portion of the endowment at Harvard, you could put that you were accepted to Harvard back in the day. But in the cover-letter, not in the resume. (And even then, why would you note that only to have them ask, “So you got accepted here but went somewhere else? Why were we second-rate to you!?”) Just leave it off.

    1. -X-*

      Possibly with a comment that you’ve noted that huge endowment growth at the school has increased its ability to attract a diverse student body with financial aid that wasn’t available back in the day when you were thinking of going there. (This is true of the school you mention for people over the age of about 40 compared to now – it’s giving way more aid than back in the day.)

      In a letter, that *might* make you sound bitter but it could also be real distinction too. It certainly would be worth keeping this idea in mind if a question about why you care about endowment management in universities came up in an interview.

  2. Josh S*

    #7: Caught shoplifting

    Even if the police had been called, an arrest is not a conviction. So while an arrest might turn up on a background check, people are pretty unlikely to hold it against you if you weren’t ever convicted. Heck, some of those cases don’t even go to trial. So really, don’t worry about it.

    1. Heather*

      An arrest won’t show up on your record if you are a lucky member of any of the “Ban the box” states. where companies cannot ask if you have ever been arrested on a job application.

    2. mm*

      The background check forms for the company where I work ask if you have ever been charged. So you have to list anything with police involvement whether or not you were convicted.

      1. De Minimis*

        I know someone who has to complete a background check for federal government work is asked if they’ve ever been arrested at all, no matter what the end result was. Of course, that’s only for certain jobs.

    3. fposte*

      Unfortunately, there’s a private database for retail theft, and if the OP is entered in it, job-searching in retail is going to be hampered.

        1. fposte*

          Probably. I’ve posted the info below–it’s a private-subscription deal, and a lot of retailers subscribe. It doesn’t disclose its customers, for obvious reasons.

        2. ThatHRGirl*

          There’s also one called National Retail Theft Contributory Database…. I’ve never used it, but it’s out there.

      1. Sam*

        Yup, fposte is exactly right on that. My old retail company used the NRMA retail theft database. If I remember correctly, it’s only accessible to retail companies that are actually members.

      2. #7*

        I don’t plan on working in retail but does this also include store associate positions or corporate positions as well?

        1. ThatHRGirl*

          Most likely just store-related positions, but it’s possible that a retailer hiring for a corporate position would run the search as part of a larger “package” from their background check vendor.

    4. Anon21*

      Frankly, I would be fairly surprised if employers didn’t hold a shoplifting arrest against someone. You’re of course correct that an arrest is not a conviction, but most employers will assume, not unreasonably, that you did something to get yourself arrested. It might be the kind of thing you could explain your way out of if there actually was a good explanation that didn’t make you look bad, but a recent arrest for shoplifting is not a small deal when seeking employment in a tight job market.

      However, it sounds like this won’t be the LW’s problem, and that perhaps they may not have any problem unless they plan to apply to retail jobs.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Some states prohibit employers from asking about arrests at all (as opposed to convictions) or allow employers to ask about convictions only if they relate directly to the job.

        1. Anon21*

          I think that’s a good policy in general. But for those states in which employers are allowed to ask, I doubt that those who take advantage of the opportunity are as unconcerned about arrests as Josh S suggests.

        2. Sunshine DC*

          Considering the cases we hear about in the news involving racial or ethnic profiling, it seems a bit extra “wrong” for a business to base decisions on anything but *convictions.* Just because police were called or someone was arrested on the spot, does not at all mean that a judge or jury will find that that was with just cause. I believe the law should make this clear, that only *convictions* can be used as a determining factor.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes! And actually I just remembered the EEOC ruled last year that The EEOC has issued a new policy that prohibits employers from having a blanket ban on hiring anyone with a criminal conviction unless they can show the policy is truly job-related and rooted in business necessity, because such bans can have a disparate impact on minorities when employers are allowed to consider criminal convictions in hiring decisions, these should be individual assessments that consider the nature of the crime, how long ago it was, and how it relates (or doesn’t relate) to the job.

            1. Chinook*

              Same thing as the round file – all imply trash can. I am only 38 and have used both, but, then again, I also have a floppy disk somewhere in the house.

  3. Heather*

    #1 – keep your job search active until your first day at your new job. I wouldn’t even bother letting other employers know that you have accepted a new job, even after you start the new one. Heck, you might HATE the new job 2 weeks into it, and then one of the other jobs might come through! You never know.

    I was a serial job hopper in my 20’s, and I’ve worked for alot of different companies and have experienced alot of different corporate cultures. Sometimes you just dont know you’re not the right fit until you’re sitting at your desk on day 3 and you realize its a mistake.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I get where this advice is coming from, but I wouldn’t approach it that way. If your new employer hears that you’re still interviewing, there’s a good chance they’ll pull your offer; it’s not a good risk to take.

      1. Heather*

        I don’t mean to continue to interview, but rather to not alert the other employers that she accepted another offer. She could have had 3 interviews, with the 3rd being the final right before starting the new job. That final interview could lead to an offer after she starts working at the new job, and could be her saving grace if she feels she made the wrong decision.

        1. Number One*

          Thanks for answering my question, AAM and Heather. I will continue to go on my interviews this week. After the upcoming second round interview I mentioned, though, they’ve asked their candidates to work on a sample project. Do you think I should complete the project? If all goes well with the offer, the project would stretch into my first week of work at the new job.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            You should continue just as you would if you didn’t believe you were getting a job offer, because they fall through all the time. That means start it and work on it until you’ve accepted an offer … because if the offer falls through, you’ll be kicking yourself for not. But once you accept the offer, you’d then withdraw (and stop the project).

          2. Liz in the City*

            I’m clearly not AAM, but my instinct would to be to proceed with all of your interviews and their projects as if you didn’t have this other offer. Take it from someone who had SIGNED PAPERS with a start date and everything — and was then told a week before that start date, “oops, new hiring is frozen. Good luck in your search!” Do this project as you would if you didn’t have this other opportunity. As AAM said, this offer may not come through, may be insultingly low, or you may end up encountering Project Interview Person further down the line when you need another job.

            1. Chinook*

              I would think that, in this case, it would be considered breach of contract, right? After all, you made changes to your life (I.e. Stopped searching) in good faith based on a written promise.

              1. fposte*

                And even if it does rise to the level of breach of promise, that’s a couple of years of expensive lawsuit before you get a judgment, let alone collect on that judgment, so it’s not going to get you out of the immediate need-a-job dilemma.

  4. Dan*


    Did you raid letters 3, 4, and 5 from the old Cluewagon’s Tales of the Clue Free? You usually don’t get quite so many all at once.

    1. Andrea*

      I miss the old cluewagon, I mean her genealogical stuff is great, but I loved the tales of the clue free.

  5. Amber*

    #2 Having been a manager in the past, I can tell you that someone like you is fantastic to have on a team. Imagine a work team of 5 all under 1 manager. If all 5 of those workers were the type that want to rise quickly and take over the management job then most of those people will be disappointed and unhappy. This results in the manager having a problem.

    Now the other way, imagine a manager that has 5 team members who are all like you (dependable, and wants a slow/steady career). This also could be bad because if the manager gets promoted there might not be anyone interested in replacing her. She doesn’t have a backup. This also can result in the manager having a problem.

    A good manager should seek out BOTH types of workers. So I think yes mention it when interviewing because lots of managers would be happy to have you as an employee.

    1. PEBCAK*

      Agreed. Most managers think they want an entire team of A+ players, but really, a mix of A’s and B’s will make for a better team in the long run.

      1. Anon*


        I was glad to see this question, because I find myself in the same situation. Looking over my work history, I see a pattern of being offered or being asked to apply to more senior roles because I performed well. I realized that I’m not interested in managing people, which is often what these roles entailed. This review helped me assess my strengths, as the OP has done, and focus my job search.

        I do see the potential problem, though, of having this approach to work when one has been in an industry for a while. Addressing this situation (1 sentence) in cover letters as appropriate is my plan…

        1. JM in England*

          +1000 Amber!

          I am very similar in outlook to OP#3. Decided a long time ago that I’m happiest and most productive in a lower level role and that my personality is unsuitable for a management/supervisory post. Actually, I thrive on routine & stability!

          I have tried to point out to previous mangers, like PEBCAK says, that not all team members can be high-fliers; without the lower level roles (or B players), nothing would actually get done IMHO! Have worked in companies that are top heavy in terms of managers/supervisors and have seen the effects this has had on efficiency/productivity.

          Just because someone excels in a lower position doesn’t necessarily mean that they would as a supervisor/manager; the latter involves a totally different skill set.

          Can understand that current/future employers could see me as stagnating though;but what would you rather have, dependability/ reliability or someone who’s after your job five minutes after they’re hired?

      2. Victoria Nonprofit*

        I don’t think someone who doesn’t want a fast-track job is necessarily a “B player” (and I think that belief is what the OP is struggling with). I can imagine a totally A+ person deciding that they want to spend more time with heir family/really love program management and don’t want to become VP of programs/just want a 9-5, predictable work life.

        1. AB*

          I was going to say what Victoria Nonprofit said.

          “A player” and “ambicious person who wants to move up in the organizational structure” are not synonyms. And a person who doesn’t want to move to leadership/management positions isn’t necessarily stagnating. I know many who are happy to take on new responsibilities while staying in the role (e.g., mentoring new hires, tackling more complex projects).

          An “A player” is someone who excels in their job and continues to develop their skills. You don’t need to want to be promoted to be an A player.

          1. kristinyc*

            I fall into this category too. I want to have a somewhat challenging job that I enjoy. I DO NOT want to be CEO (or even senior management) ever. People define success very differently – for me, it would mean having the right work/life balance and being happy in both areas.

            But that doesn’t mean I’m not an “A” player. You can’t have a company that’s ALL leaders. (And I’m in a very specialized field, and senior leadership roles for what I do don’t exist).

        2. Chinook*

          I suddenly had to jump back into the job search and have had this asked of me twice in the last week. I always answer honestly as I am looking for a good fit And say that I am looking for a job that allows me to be in the same place in the next 5 years and would hope to be in a job where I am respected for wanting to work hard and be part of a team. Considering the amount of moves I have made over the last 20 years, 5 years in one place would be a nice change.

    2. Anonymous*

      You’d think that, but at my company, we’re expected to regularly work on our individual development plans to show that we are keeping in mind our career growth. It’s clearly unsustainable to imagine that all employees will have the opportunity to move upward every few years, especially at a well regarded company with very little attrition, but if we say we are satisfied with our current positions, the lack of ambition is considered to be a weakness. I’ve got my next few years covered by a program I’m in, but I dread having to set future goals that I don’t really care if I attain or not.

      1. Jamie*

        But career growth doesn’t necessarily mean a change in position or upward movement.

        Professional growth and learning should be taking place irrespective of promotions. For instance – I am where I am going to be as long as I am with this company. But I will still grow professionally by learning new technologies as they arise – expanding my professional knowledge base means I bring new and different ideas to the table.

        Lack of upward promotion either by choice or because there is no where else to move doesn’t (and shouldn’t) mean professional stagnation.

        1. Anonymous*

          I agree with your comments (which is why I’m in the program I’m in), but our company specifically wants us to declare the next position we are aiming for and to determine concrete actions we can take to start to move in that direction. It’s not enough to say “I want to continue to develop my chocolate teapot molding skills by doing X, Y & Z”, we’re supposed to say “I would like to move towards master chocolate teapot technician, and I will do X, Y and Z to start to get there.” On one hand, they are incredibly supportive if you ultimately want to switch departments, and managers totally will let you create a plan that would have you leave your field (“I want to shift into teapot marketing”). But if you want to stay put, it’s considered a lack of motivation and is highly looked down upon by management.

          1. Jamie*

            Wow – you’re right that sucks. And it’s shortsighted to treat everyone as if we all have the same goals.

            I personally would find it exhausting if every single person on every single team on which I work were constantly jockeying for positions.

      2. OP 2*

        Yeah exactly. I am not “career-minded” but I’m still intelligent, hard-working and serious about my job. Especially in some areas of the country it’s considered abnormal (and weak) to not be sufficiently ambitious about one’s career.

        1. LMW*

          We just went through a hunt for someone like you because we’ve had problems with people wanting to move out of their positions too fast – we’re constantly refilling. We wanted someone who cares about there job and doing it well, but is content to stay put for awhile. Excelling at a job and keeping your skills up-to-date can be an ambition – it doesn’t need to mean climbing the ladder.

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      THIS. In my line of work, good people are hard to find, so they get promoted very quickly to keep them from going to other agencies — but then there are a bunch of grand pooh-bahs and it’s really hard to find a worker bee. So I’d be *delighted* to find a solid junior- to mid-level person for my team who wanted to stay in his/her slot.

      The thing OP needs to overcome, though, is the perception that not wanting to advance is a sign that someone *also* doesn’t want to do her job the best she possibly can. Because although I would love to have a solid employee who doesn’t want to advance, I don’t want one who is just going through the motions for a paycheck and won’t contribute good ideas or who does mediocre work. I admit that, because people who do my job function typically get promoted so quickly, when I see a resume of someone who has been at the same job title for more than 3 years, my first assumption is that this person hasn’t been promoted because his work is mediocre, not because he doesn’t want to advance. (I’ll still interview the person, but it’s something I’ll definitely ask about in the interview.)

      So, I’d recommend to OP: Address this in your cover letter. Tell the hiring manager what you like about the job at the level you want, and why you’re interested in staying there. “I love being a chocolate teapot budgeter because I can crunch the numbers, which I excel at, without the customer-facing work that chocolate teapot management involves.” Or something to that effect.

      1. JM in England*

        Totally with you on this AAC!

        At various performance reviews, I’ve stated that I was happy at my current level but would strive to be the very best I possibly could at that level.

    4. Joey*

      See here’s the problem. It sounds good in theory to want someone who doesn’t want to move up, but there are some big problems with it. First you have to shake the stereotype that there must be something wrong with you if you haven’t progressed for a long time. That’s a big hurdle to get over. If you can get past that most managers will worry how hard you’ll actually work. Theyll assume someone who wants to advance has more desire to work harder and go beyond expectations. So they’ll be really concerned that while you might perform adequately you’re not going to bust your ass too hard. In fact they’ll probably be concerned that you may coast just above their minimum expectations.

      I don’t think its real advantageous to want someone like this on my team either- someone who is capable of so much more, but just doesn’t want to take on that extra responsibility. That’s hugely frustrating(that screams of a mediocre workplace). I’d rather have folks who are at different points in ther career, but all want to take on more.

      I’m not knocking you. That’s admirable to want more family time. I’m just saying its going to severely limit you.

      1. Jamie*

        I can see what you’re saying for a lot of positions – but you want this in every position?

        Lets say you had a really great HR. Great with details, seamless liaison between workers and management (hard to find) and all in all s/he serves the needs of the business and does an excellent job.

        But s/he really likes the job and is very content, and if they are the only HR if they did want to change they’d need to leave the company.

        I see it kind of like nursing. My mom was a nurse and she was excellent – it was her calling and she had a career full of accolades. But she always turned down the offers for promotion because that would have taken her away from the patient care which she was born to do and into more administrative things which she wouldn’t have loved.

        I’m just using a couple of examples where I can see people adding more value by staying in positions where they are contributing rather than always looking for the next thing.

        1. Joey*

          I just believe after a while you need someone with new ideas and a fresh perspective. I think nearly all people plateau once they’ve been in a job for 5-7 years, 10 max. I see folks who’ve been in the same job, doing the exact same thing forever and in my experience they are comfortable with routine. They’re consistent, perform well, but almost never are at the top of their game. In my experience the ones who are at the top are the ones who are out to prove something. That is nearly always someone who wants to prove they’re willing and able to take on more. The problem with having these folks on your team is that that’s one less spot for someone who wants to do more. I could say this more diplomatically, but you end up having to accommodate the persons desire to never take on more than what they’re currently doing. So when you purposefully hire a person like this you’re losing the flexibility to progressively give them more. That may work for a few jobs, but not the majority.

          1. Joey*

            Besides its much cheaper, more reliable, and more efficient to promote. Every person who doesn’t want to move up is one less candidate.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              I can want to do more, do it faster, do it better, but still do the essentially the same thing. Each year I’m more efficient and a better value to the company. (Although I’ll agree with you that isn’t the norm.)

              But it’s cheaper for the company to have something who is increasingly efficient, and that works against me. Because I can’t ever get more than tiny changes to my salary — I have to move up or leave to get more money.

            2. A Teacher*

              My administration wants me to go to “leadership” courses offered by the district and maybe take some administrative grad work because I’m great in the classroom–because I’m good in the classroom, that’s where I want to stay. I’m not stagnant and I’m constantly striving to improve my lessons–I change my coursework and lessons yearly so it isn’t boring to teach or learn about and I incorporate new technology and other ideas. I have NO desire to move into administration, sure I’ll serve on committees or maybe mentor at some point but I don’t want to be the boss. I stay up on current practices and always think you can improve in your career regardless of if you’re in management or not.

              My sister is also a nurse, they’ve asked her to be a charge nurse or apply for the educator position multiple times. She consistently turns them down because she doesn’t want the drama of managing people. She also goes to trainings and serves on committees. She also doesn’t want to be in management.

              Your definition of stagnant is pretty narrow–because sometimes the people that stay in the position learn the nuances of the position and corporation. Unfortunately, I’ve found in many cases, both in the corporate world/health care from which I came and in academia that some of those that are “motivated” and want to progress quickly are sometimes the same ones to forget where they came from and what its like to be just a worker that has a great home/life balance.

              1. Joey*

                Continuous improvement and keeping up with trends is a basic expectation in most jobs. As far as teaching there’s going to be a point where you plateau in relation to your performance measures. At that point your pay should theoretically plateau also. All I’m saying is that most people continually want more money even though their performance isn’t proportionately worth the pay increase they expect. Most people just don’t want to accept that eventually you’re not worth a raise unless you move up. Or worse the lack of potential pay increases becomes an incentive to stop busting your ass so hard.

                1. A Teacher*

                  Not as long as I continue to get more graduate hours–up to PH.D + 30 grad hours in my district, I can still earn a raise based on that. We also have steps (1 for each year of teaching)–thank you union protection for that basic right. The point is, I go above the minimum as I’m sure there are many “just employees” that do because we set that expectation for ourselves. It doesn’t make us stagnant or plateau based on your definition because we don’t strive to move up.

                2. Joey*

                  Having a PHD doesn’t mean you’re a better teacher. It just means you have a PHD. And 1 yr of experience doesn’t make you a better teacher either. It just means you’ve been on the job for 1 year. How do those things justify a raise if they’re not tied to actual performance?

              2. Chinook*

                This! Just because I am good at my job doesn’t mean I want to manage people. In my experience, promotion usually means management and dealing with people issues and not the actual work. Plus, sometimes the best manager is not the one who is best at the task but the one who isn’t, knows it and understands that a good manager is one who clears the way for those doing the actual work that is the reason the business exists.

          2. Judy*

            I guess I don’t understand about doing the same job for 5-7 years. I’ve been doing embedded software for 17 years now, 3 companies. I started doing assembly language, very small projects. As microprocessor costs have gone down (we now pay for 64k Flash about 1/3 of what we paid for 4k of ROM back then), we’ve gone from assembly language, to C and we’re now moving to modeling tools to generate part of the code. I’m doing the same job.

            I can’t imagine that any job would actually stay the same for even 5 years. The code we wrote 5 years ago, and the code we write today are very different in form, due to new design practices, etc. Not to mention new tools, etc.

            And that’s discounting the changes in the rest of the systems. Due to government regulations, the systems we control with our embedded code have become so much more complex to understand. Is there anything today that is simpler than it was? There are so many more challenges today, as energy and safety regulations increase.

            Jobs evolve, and seem to be doing it faster than ever. The people I see who want to “move up fast” don’t seem to be as concerned about the trends in the technology and doing their job well. They seem to be concerned about marketing that they’ve done their job well at the expense of others, and moving up before anyone notices.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              Yes, if you’re not learning and moving forward in technology, you’re falling behind. Perhaps some move up in jobs because they can’t keep up where they are. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing — they might be moving to where their talents mesh better with the company’s needs, but that doesn’t mean that people who don’t move up aren’t also growning.

          3. -X-*

            “I think nearly all people plateau once they’ve been in a job for 5-7 years, 10 max.”

            Maybe. But there is so much change in the world in many jobs that, at least for me, that doesn’t seem to be the case. I’m constantly learning and constantly finding better ways to do things – including ways that were not possible or extremely difficult 5 or 10 years ago.

            I see Judy said something similar.

          4. Elizabeth West*

            I think that really depends on the field, and on the job itself. For example, Jamie’s job is ever-changing. It may always be the same position, but the technology is going to change, and she will have to keep up with that. It’s growth no matter what. If she’s eager to master it, besides it being her job, that will give her the drive you’re talking about.

            Same with being a writer. I’m happy to write books, but I can also learn to write other things. And with each book I write, I learn something and get better. It’s the same job (paid or not); I’m just growing professionally. So as I add skills–improving my fiction craft, and learning tech writing so I can eat–I’m learning no matter what. That keeps it interesting.

            Doing the front desk, like I did for so long, didn’t change much. That was, for me, stagnant. But if I ran a company, I would want someone in that role who was happy to be there, even if they’d been there for 15 years.

        2. Xay*

          Exactly. My mother is also a nurse and she turned down promotions for the same reasons – she would rather work with patients than be an administrator. But she enjoys learning new techniques and working in different units within a hospital setting so that is how she facilitated her career growth.

          I’m in a similar boat as the OP – I enjoy the work that I do but having been an acting program lead, I have little desire to go much higher than I already am because I would rather do hands on tasks than become purely management and administration. In my field, there are always more opportunities to learn and enhance your skills and responsibilities without moving up the management ladder.

    5. Sam*

      I agree with Amber. And I’ve known small or midsized companies that deliberately look for these not so ambitious employees due to the lack of internal advancement opportunities.

      1. Joey*

        This is probably how most managers justify hiring people who don’t want to advance. But there’s still problems. After a while nearly everyone expects raises. The problem is that jobs are only worth so much. So it can work for a while, but eventually you run into someone who doesn’t want to do more, but wants to make more than what their work is worth.

        1. The IT Manager*

          This is not entirely true. Everyone expects cost of living raises, but I think someone who has happily plateaued in a job may not expect to keep getting more than that.

          1. Joey*

            I can guarantee you the number of folks who would be happy with no raises is minuscule compared to the number of people who don’t want to to move up.

            1. The IT Manager*

              Please cite your evidence.

              As you can tell, I disagree. People who want a promotion expect a raise to go along with it. Rightly so. It strikes me as unreasonable for people who are a happy in their job and don’t want more responsibility to expect rasises. Practically no one would turn down extra money if offered. But if someone doesn’t want to move up then they should be happy with their current salaray. That’s the trade off they make. No responsibility increase = no salary increase.

              I’m not thinking of entry level employees. I’m imaging a mid-level employee who has progresses in their career and reached a spot where they don’t want continue to progress.

              1. Joey*

                I’m telling you this as someone whose dealt with these kinds of issues in large and small companies. The majority of people who’ve been in their job for a long time and have maxed out are unhappy with their pay simply because they expect raises from time to time. Most people generally believe that simply showing up and doing their job entitles them to ongoing and periodic raises regardless of their current pay. Probably the most common folks I’ve run into that are content with no raises tend to be the people that say they don’t need to work.

                1. The IT Manager*

                  Well, perhaps you’re right, but I think these people’s thinking is flawed. They’re are an awful lot of overly entitled people out there.

                  I am, apparently, a special snowflake in that I live well below my means therefore don’t need more money. That turned out very lucky for me when my new job ended up paying signifigantly less than my old one, but still above what I needed to maintain my frugal lifestyle. My new job has built in promotion/raises for the next few years if I do well before maxing out, and then I’ll be almost back to my old salary.

  6. Amber*

    #4 Did your friend do any volunteer work during his travels? If so he could list that. If not, I wouldn’t even put the traveling “experience” on his resume because it simply sounds like an extended vacation. If he has a good resume and gets an interview, then they may ask about the gap. if they ask him about it, then he could spin it so it sounds slightly useful but don’t BS them, if you see through it then they will too.

    1. KellyK*

      Yeah, I agree. It’s very much a vacation. Unless he’s applying for a position where specific foreign experience is desired (e.g., they have customers in 47 countries who you’ll be interacting with, they want someone with experience in a country he’s been to), it’s not relevant.

      1. K*

        I think if he’s relatively young or inexperienced, this is one of the cases where an “interests” section of the resume that includes travel and language experience can actually be helpful. It’s not as relevant for people with long work histories, but when I’m interviewing new grads and have less to go on, if they can talk intelligently about interacting with foreign cultures – even in a non-work capacity – I think that speaks well of them and their potential to adapt to new situations.

    2. OP#4*

      That’s a very good point! I am not aware of any volunteer work he might have done but I’ll ask. I think he was trying to show that he’s comfortable dealing with all kinds of situations anytime, anywhere. To his credit, he’s not from the US but from a country where people can be creative on their resumes.

  7. Neeta*

    #6: This used to happen pretty often to me, at my past job.
    The resume/CV was used when the company was trying to get new projects from outside clients and would show the professional experience of people who’d be working on said project.

  8. Jamie*

    Plenty of managers will be happy to find someone who feels like you do — and screening for them will ensure that you’ll find a job you’re comfortable in, rather than one that expects you to be someone you’re not.

    Oh gosh yes. And some companies would love to have someone with this mind set in even key positions. Think middle management, accounting, or HR in an SMB. It’s challenging work, many positions are strictly limited to business hours and in an SMB there is a limit to how far anyone can go – so having someone who fits rather than a series of people who outgrow the job because they need to move upward would be awesome.

  9. Jamie*

    I feel that the term “Project Management” is misleading because people expect it to mean something completely different, but I might be wrong.

    You’re not wrong – I was offended on behalf of all the project managers I know everywhere.

    Alison is right – although she was kinder than my initial thoughts. If I read that I would assume he was lying to me and thought I was stupid enough to buy it, or was so impossibly naive that he had no idea what he was talking about.

    I mean when I find a recipe I go to the store and get the ingredients, make sure I have the proper equipment and resources, and work off a time line. By his reasoning everyone who makes dinner is a project manager.

    1. Anonymous*

      My position is generally classified as project management, and even with that, I was surprised when I took some Operations classes and found that there are “project managers” like me who just keep projects rolling along (pretty close to your dinner example), and then there are formal Project Managers who do very specific types of reporting, forecasting, etc. I know now that I’m not the latter, but I wouldn’t have known that prior to taking those classes.

      1. Jamie*

        I think there are different types of project managers and one is necessarily better than the other – just depends on the needs of the team.

        I think the commonality is that projects have an end goal and (usually) multiple people/departments who all contribute to different portions and the project manager makes sure all the different moving parts are moving correctly and on time.

        The OP’s friend doesn’t meet the criteria of an end result with measurable goals along the way coordinating various team members to the completion of a shared goal.

    2. The IT Manager*

      Well said. I was mildly offended as well. The thing about pretty much any kind of project manager is that they’re manging the scope of a project to a schedule and/or budget.

      A year long vacation, even a budget, does not apply because the friend can change his vacation plans every single day and he’s only responsible to himself. Yes, he encountered challenges, but the experiences are probably not really relevent to project management.

      1. Runon*

        If he had coordinated a group of 30 people and done all the organizing of things they did, travel, events, stay, etc. Then it might be something (I would definitely say that would be worth listing) but then that isn’t project management either. But one person who can be flexible with plans isn’t project management or really worth listing outside of an other section.

        1. Anonymous Accountant*

          Exactly. When I think of project management, I think of situations where you have strict deadlines and are working with external or internal clients to achieve a common goal such as launch of a new software or marketing program. Plus working with vendors, etc.

          I also strongly advise the LW’s friend to rethink classifying what sounds like an extended vacation as “project mgmt”. If it’s relevant to positions applied, then mention language or negotion skills under qualifications and explain in a cover letter. If it’s relevant, though. Good luck!

      2. OP#4*

        I apologize if actual project managers were offended! I did have a twitch too when I saw that on his resume. I don’t think he was trying to lie about the experience–just trying to be… creative? I see my gut reaction was correct.

    3. OP#4*

      I should have mentioned that this friend is not American, so he’s actually not all too familiar with what is/is not appropriate to include in a resume. In some countries, a resume is (what looks to me like) an ad that stands out using graphical elements and various font & color choices. I already told him to clean that up.

  10. Jamie*

    I work in a library. Any insight into the mind of manager for this scenario would be appreciated.

    This is very common. I’m in a different sector, but even I’ve had to provide and updated resume when the company was going for various certifications. And yes, the first time I was asked for one I was confused, too…so I just asked what it was for and my paranoia was abated. :)

  11. Anonymous*

    #3: maybe she didn’t feel like rejecting you on the phone. Regardless of the reason, this isn’t a big deal.

    I absolutely agree complaining about the HR person is a ridculous notion; I disagree that if the HR person deliberately lied because she didn’t “feel” like rejecting the OP over the phone, that it’s not a big deal. I mean it’s not a big deal in that the OP can/shoudl do anything about it, but why isn’t a big deal that someone knowingly lied to get out of doing something that should be SOP as part of their job? A candidate calls you; you know you have rejected them and you tell them something that isn’t true because you don’t really feel like doing that part of your. If you don’t feel like informing people the outcome of job interviews, I think HR might not be the right field for you.

    Everyone has parts of their job they don’t like or don’t feel like doing on any given day – suggesting that lying to avoid doing them is not a big deal seems off.

    IMO YMMV and of course all of the above ONLY is relevant if the situation was that the HR person knowingly lied to the OP.

    1. VictoriaHR*

      I unfortunately have to reject job seekers all of the time. Sometimes it’s because they flubbed the in-person interview; sometimes it’s because they didn’t disclose criminal convictions on their application; occasionally it’s because they showed up for the interview in pajama pants or reeking of narcotic substances. If someone were to call and ask if they got the job, I would tell them that they should be hearing from us soon via email or mail. The rejections go out via email. I don’t disclose over the phone.

      Why? For one thing, most people would argue. I was stuck once listening to a guy at a job fair go on and on about how he was qualified but had gotten rejected, etc, and the whole time I was thinking “is this really supposed to make me reconsider you?” If I tell people it’s because they falsified their app and didn’t disclose a conviction, they’ll argue and say they didn’t know they had to and won’t I give them another chance, etc. I doubt many people would accept “You weren’t selected to continue in the process” without wanting to know why. It’s exhausting to deal with day after day, and takes me away from my other duties.

      Our standard response to rejected candidates is that other stronger candidates were chosen. That is communicated in writing, via email or letter, so that they can’t say that they were promised something verbally, etc. It’s our HR procedure.

      So if OP#3’s HR person’s company has a similar policy, then she wasn’t permitted to give him/her any information over the phone. And she DID tell him/her that he/she would hear from the company by Tuesday, which he/she did, via mail.

      OP#3 is coming across as really entitled here, IMO. Nobody likes to be rejected for a job. I know, trust me! But the HR person had a job to do and procedures to follow.

      1. fposte*

        I think it’s a case of somebody who’s upset hanging the displeasure on the nearest peg, even if it doesn’t really belong there. It’s the job-hunter’s version of “I’m not mad that s/he dumped me, it was the *way* s/he did it.”

      2. some1*

        This. I have never worked in HR, but I worked for a magazine publisher that accepted unsolicited submissions. Part of my job was to email the rejections to the authors and 9 times out of 10 they wanted to know why/didn’t believe my reason. A handful of times I got abusive responses.

      3. Christine*

        While I completely agree with your post, the HR person told OP#3 that they were “still deciding”. I can see why he/she was upset.

        I will say, though, that I personally would’ve given it more time than the OP did; a couple of days at least, if not a full week. It is rare for a hiring process to happen in the timeframe you’re given due to unforeseen circumstances.

        1. VictoriaHR*

          Agreed on the timing, Christine. And honestly, if the HR person had said that they’d made their decision and those who weren’t selected would be informed, that would be tatamount to admitting that the OP wasn’t the one who was selected (since one would be assuming that the person who WAS selected had already been informed).

        2. ThatHRGirl*

          It also could be that the OP called the HR person in the morning, while the decision WAS still in process, then an hour later the Hiring Manager meets with HR person and tells her that they’ve made a decision, selected Person A, and rejected persons B-D, including OP. Then HR person types up a quick letter and sends it out the same day.

          Agree with fposte about hanging displeasure on the nearest peg. I don’t think there’s any real malice behind the HR person’s actions. However – I’m admittedly biased :)

          1. VictoriaHR*

            Right – 9 times out of 10, the HR person has absolutely zero control over who’s hired and who’s not hired. They’re told to hire person A and send rejection letters to person B, C, and D.

            Just a half hour ago someone called and asked the status of their app. I told her that she’d been sent an email on Tuesday to tell her that she hadn’t gotten the job. She started demanding why and how come all of her friends had gotten the job but she hadn’t, etc. I wanted to tell her it was because she had obviously been asleep when I called to do the prescreen, and her phone interview consisted of mumbled “yeah” and “no” answers – for a phone call center job.

                1. Hello*

                  I am the person who wrote number 3. I have absolutely no intentions on reporting that HR person, I even stated I DID NOT want to report them as that is asinine. You mistyped what I wrote. Also, I was prepared for the interview you are jumping to conclusions that do not exist and the initial response you provided came off as rude. I found out about the job at a job fair. HR told me they really wanted to interview me for this position and I did not even need to apply. They are the ones who got me to interview, they told me all the plus factors for working for them. ThatHRGirl, calling in the morning has nothing to do with it. If you read the thing entirely you would have understood that the person already wrote and mailed the letter before the fact I called them. Using dates to put this into perspective, I interviewed Feb 11th. Was told I would find out if I was chosen or not Feb 15. Did not hear anything, I thought maybe I wasn’t chosen but you never know so decided to call Feb 18th. I told her my name and I interviewed on the 11th and she said they were still deciding I would find out today or on Feb 19th through a phone call. Feb 19th I get a letter dated Feb 14th I was not chosen meaning when I called she basically lied to me. I understand fully not wanting to tell someone over the phone, but if you work in HR you should know how to handle conflict resolution, if you don’t then it is not the job for you. She should have stated we will notify you by mail not lie we are still deciding to go with you or the other person knowing I was not chosen already. HR should do things with integrity as she had me waiting by the phone thinking I was going to get a call as she stated I was going to get a call by her that day or in the morning. But by no means do I wish to report that person. Thats foolish. The point is as a HR you should not balantly lie to people who spent time investing in your company to interview with you. Simply tell them you will find out via postal mail.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Uh, dude, I didn’t mistype anything. I copied and pasted your letter directly from your email. (Do you really think I retype all these questions? I do not.)

                  After it was published, you wrote and asked me to remove that last sentence, which I couldn’t do because it had already been published with an answer that centered around that question. But that doesn’t allow you to accuse me of misrepresenting what you asked. That’s your original letter, word-for-word.

                3. Joey*

                  Yeah, I agree its not her job. Maybe I’m too nice, but I’ve always found that being as upfront as possible puts these things to a stop. My first response would have been the polite truth. If there’s pushback I give the unvarnished truth. That usually puts an end to it.

    2. Hello*

      Anonymous February 28, 2013 at 7:53 am , thanks for your understanding as they did knowingly lie. That seemed way off to me as I actually took some Human Resources and Managerial Ethics classes and know that is not something you should do as it is considered unethic.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You really don’t know that they lied, as opposed to — for instance — misremembering the status of your candidacy. But even if they did, why do you care so much? So they didn’t give you an answer on command when you called. But they did give you an answer by mail. It’s a mild annoyance, sure, but worthy of all this outrage? No.

        You’re misplacing your frustration with your job search on to this one issue, and it’s unwarranted.

        1. Alexis (OP3)*

          I was told by my college career center that if you do not get a job, you should always call them and find out why to better your chances for next time. I do not think that is a good idea as if everybody who they interviewed with did that, it would take away from other tasks they should be doing. What are your thoughts on this?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think you should probably acknowledge that what you accused me of above (altering your question) was false before asking me to answer additional questions :)

            1. Alexis (OP3)*

              I am sorry, I do acknowledge that. I also plan on buying your book as it seems very beneficial.

      2. ThatHRGirl*

        Would you be so angry if she had mis-remembered the status of your candidacy and in the end you DID get the job? The bulk of your anger lies in the fact that you didn’t get the job. Sure they approaced you. Sure, they wanted YOU to interview, you didn’t even apply. But they found someone who was more qualified, a better fit, whatever the reason was. You can certainly ask for feedback but you are not owed it.
        I think your time and energy would be better spent focusing on your search and moving on.

        A little motto I like to live by is “Assume Positive Intent”. In these types of situations, I always try to assume that the person is not actively trying to screw me over/annoy me/inconvenience me, etc.

        It makes all of this job searching/working stuff a little easier that way.

  12. Oxford Comma*

    #6 – Not sure what type of library you work in, but for several it’s very common to have to supply a resume. I have to turn one in to our director annually for instance.

  13. OP 2*

    Thanks for publishing my question (#2). I agree with the folks who are saying some places desire workers like me but I am still at a loss for how to express my preference. For instance, when asked about my career goals or my 5-year plan. “I hope to keep doing the same thing” doesn’t seem to cut it.
    My current manager seems to be getting impatient with me because I don’t have what it takes to do the more intense/complicated things that he does and I’m struggling with how to communicate that, well, I don’t really want to. It’s not a problem for me that I will never be [insert professional role here] but I don’t know how to say that without coming across as defiant or complacent. It’s the reason I’m trying get out because it’s creating tension.

    1. Foi*

      Ok, I’m a manager who just spent the last 3 months struggling to hire someone I defined as “ambitious enough to learn the job, not ambitious enough to want a promotion within the next few years” – it depends on the industry, but there’s really something to be said for knowing your employees will show up, do a good job, respond to criticism, and not demand promotions when there really aren’t any senior openings available, period.

      Maybe phrasing it as “I hope to have developed *whatever the skill set you’re being hired for is* to the fullest extent, and would be interested in mentoring new employees in that position” or something along those lines… (Only if you ARE interested in showing other people how to do what you do) – make it clear that you’re interested enough to keep up-to-date with company and professional development and changes, but not looking to climb the ladder, as it were.

      I can see how “doing the same thing” would not go over so well if the hiring manager has had any experience with people who were absolutely unwilling to change and where the average response was “but we’ve always done it this way”, and I swear, every manager has had one person like that…

    2. Jen*

      I think you need to find a good way to balance talking about your desire to keep doing what you’re great at, but also assuring potential employers that you are interested in *remaining* great at that particular function, evolving along with the job (as these things happen).

      What about saying something like “in 5 years I hope to still be a strong individual contributor in the chocolate teapot glazing team, having kept up with advances and best practices in glazing technology.”

      Also, if you haven’t yet, it’s probably time to have a frank chat with your current manager about how you appreciate his sponsorship efforts in your career progression, but you don’t actually want his job, and would love to talk about how to excel in your current role, without a move up the ladder in mind. He might just assume everyone wants to move up, and if he’s a good manager, he’ll appreciate the clarification so he can focus that type of activity on someone more suitable (and give you the type of leadership you actually need).

      1. OP 2*

        Right, that’s a nice way of putting it. If only my job involved chocolate! I definitely did not mean to give the impression I am not open to change or development; I have taken on new responsibilities since I’ve been here and often contribute ideas for projects and improving the way we do things.

      2. Anon*

        I’ve given a version of the answer Jen suggests in two interviews. My responses emphasized my desire to learn and contribute but not to lead. In both cases, it seemed like the interviewers understood my position. Though I wasn’t hired for either job, I received very positive feedback from one interviewer and was encouraged to apply for future suitable positions.

    3. K*

      I wonder if one way to approach it would be to emphasize that you really enjoy being on the “line” and the day-to-day implementation activities of your field. E.g., if you were a journalist, you might emphasize how much you like getting out there and covering stories, and thus subtly make it clear you’re not interested in being an editor someday.

    4. Waiting Patiently*

      “My current manager seems to be getting impatient with me because I don’t have what it takes to do the more intense/complicated things that he does and I’m struggling with how to communicate that, well, I don’t really want to.”

      Is your manager anticipating a move upward and is hoping to have you trained and prepared to take over his position without having to hire a new person? I’ve seen situations like that before.

    5. Kathryn T.*

      How about “I hope to be well on my way to developing the depth and breadth of experience that would allow me not only to perform highly in this role, but would also serve as an asset to the company and to newer employees”?

    1. KC*

      I don’t know that I’d list it as a sabbatical. I rarely have heard that term used except in the hallowed halls of academia (where “sabbatical” is code for “taking time off from teaching to go do some serious research for my next novel/series of scholarly articles/textbook I’m authoring/etc”). I think listing a sabbatical might be as disingenuous as calling himself a “project manager” for that time period.

      I also think that about a year-long unemployment gap in the last couple of years isn’t overly remarkable. A lot of people have been unemployed. I’d advise not putting anything on his resume in that spot. Instead, if it comes up in the interview, he could mention that he did some traveling during that period of time.

      1. Hannah*

        LOL, my aunt took a sabbatical (she was an elementary school teacher) for a year to “further her education.” Her classes involved Stained Glass 101 and Jewelry Making.

        It was pretty much a 1-year vacation, where she still was paid a part of her salary.

      2. -X-*

        A good definition of sabbatical from Wikipedia: “In recent times, ‘sabbatical’ has come to mean any extended absence in the career of an individual in order to achieve something. ”

        I don’t think travel is enough. Travel with an end goal, such as an impressive photo collection or journals that you could publish would perhaps fit.

      3. OP#4*

        I agree. A sabbatical would suggest that he was employed by an institution during that time of professional development. This was very much not the case. Thanks for the idea, though!

    2. Sam*

      A sabbatical is respected in academia, but what about the corporate world? (I ask because I honestly don’t know the answer. I haven’t known anyone outside of academia that claimed to take a sabbatical.)

    3. some1*

      A sabbatical or leave of absence implies you are leaving your current position for a period of time but you plan to return to it. It sounds like this guy resigned or was let go from a position, so neither term applies and, imo, using it would be misleading.

    4. Your Mileage May Vary*

      I thought when you were on sabbatical you were still employed by your place of business and still on their payroll. (No?) If so, there would be no need to list it on your resume because you wouldn’t have a gap.

      1. Chinook*

        I have seen sabbatical set ups where you are paid 4 years salary over 5 years with the fifth year being the one you are away (in the same way teachers are often paid their 10 month salary over 12). The advantages include a known budget and staying on health coverage (but they may also have to pay the employer premiums as well). I think the goal is for it not to cost the employer anything extra.

  14. College Career Counselor*

    #5 I can see four possible explanations (I’m sure there are more) for why you’re seeing this. In decreasing order of likelihood:

    1) Never went to the college career center (s/he didn’t need them because, hey, got into Harvard)

    2) Decided to ignore career center’s recommendations because s/he wanted “credit” for all accomplishments (ie, special snowflake syndrome = I’m unique, and the rules don’t apply to me)

    3) Mistakenly attributed career center’s advice for 1st year students to be applicable for The Rest Of Time

    4) Encountered crappy college career counselor

    1. OP #5*

      Those were my thoughts when I reviewed the resume! The candidate was 3 years out of law school applying for a position with our company so I was surprised she even included undergrad achievements (half a page). Definitely special snowflake syndrome because her undergrad degree came from Big in-state SEC University but I guess she wanted everyone to know that she was better than that.

      1. K*

        I don’t know if there’s any reason to assume the absolute worst of her. It’s a terrible thing to include on a resume, definitely, but it may well be due to ignorance rather than arrogance; as AAM’s post the other day demonstrated, there is a TON of bad resume advice out there.

        1. Lulula*

          Agreed – as I mentioned on the other thread, it’s desperate & confusing times out there! She may just have thought she was better off dumping anything that could possibly be considered an accolade on there because there’s so much competition and uncertainty as to what employers will find valuable or differentiating. That’s not to say she might not be Mlle Superpretentious, but she could just as easily be confused and really really want/need the job.

      2. Anonymous Accountant*

        That candidate may have received poor advice from a trusted source or a website as a way to “stand out”. It could have been she had good intentions and thought it would call attention to her prior achievements.

        There’s a lot of good and some very bad advice out there.

  15. Runon*

    #2: Talk about the skills you expect to gather. I had this situation in my recent review. I told my boss I’m not interested in managing people but I am interested on bigger projects, progressing in the organization, etc. In my org it is very unusual but not unheard of to progress in this manner so it was unexpected but I think good. Much of that was talking about the skills I was adding and how I was progressing as an asset to the orginization. Not everyone has to progress, but learning is good, and talking about what skills you want can help a lot.

    #6: At a library I would guess grant application or something similar. This is pretty common. Asking shouldn’t be an issue, and could be good. They might want something slightly different, a one page only piece, something that highlights certain skills, etc.

    1. Colette*

      Re: #2 – Exactly. You want to talk about what keeps you interested in the job (or what interests you in a new job). It doesn’t have to be moving towards a promotion, but it should involve new challenges – even if it’s something like “I want to improve the quality of the chocolate teapots I make” or “I’d like to develop my writing skills so that I can write better documentation for the teapots”.

    2. B*

      #3 – This happens all of the time and is an unfortunate (and rude) aspect of job hunting. It is just something you have to accept.

    3. PPK*

      I was thinking of the same advice for #2. Emphasize “lateral movement” — gaining skills and working on new projects so it doesn’t appear that you want to remain stagnant in your job (which you do not — you mention challenging work). I think a person still looks like their progressing if they are doing new or different things, even if they are not climbing the ladder things.

  16. Zed*


    I work in a library also and I have to turn in an updated resume to my director every year. It’s so he can generate an annual report that includes employee accomplishments such as publications, conference attendance/presentations, and the like.

  17. fposte*

    On #7: actually, there is a central database where information like this is accessed. It’s the NRMA Retail Theft Database, and it’s subscription-based, so whether you’re in it and whether a prospective employer knows depends on whether or not the place that you shoplifted from and the place that you apply to subscribe. Payment of the civil demand can be enough for inclusion–you don’t need to have a criminal conviction.

    As you can tell from the name, it’s mostly retail-based; non-retail jobs aren’t likely to subscribe. For obvious reasons, they don’t disclose who subscribes and who doesn’t, but most big retailers (think mall chains, Wal-Mart, etc.,) reputedly do.

  18. Anonymous*

    #2. I’m always at a loss to explain this to my family. I’m the exact same way. I just want t a job where I go to work, produce results, and come home. I have no desire to be “in charge.” I’m interested in growing in my current position and evolving in my career path, but I don’t think that makes me lazy and unabmitious. I wish other people could understand that.

  19. Sam*

    For the year long vacation…

    I’ve heard someone call this type of thing a not-for-credit study abroad. It’s not that big of a stretch due to all the language and culture learning that takes place. Certainly more accurate than “project management.”

    1. The IT Manager*

      But it isn’t study abroad. I think it can be mentioned on the resume as other experience or extensive foreign experience/travel, or something, but the LW’s friend should stop spinning the truth so hard that it becomes a lie. These “lies” are very likely to do more damage than they help because the people reviewing these resumes are not stupid.

    1. Runon*

      Likely not an official Fine, but an agreed amount. If the store says, “Pay us $100 and never come back and we won’t call the cops.” That’s sort of what I’m imagining.

    2. Josh S*

      Runon has is pretty much dead on. They pull you into a back room with an intimidating guy, put a paper in front of you, and say, “Sign this or we ruin your life by calling the cops.” The paper says something along the lines that you admit guilt, that they won’t sue you or press charges (sometimes this clause isn’t there), and that you agree to a ban from the premises (or possibly all the locations of that chain) and that you will pay a fine.

      For what it’s worth, if the “we won’t sue you/press charges” line isn’t there, don’t bother signing it. They’ll get your signature, take your money, and then press charges anyway.

      Heck, the legal side of me says, “Don’t ever sign anything while you’re being pressured unless you have a lawyer read it first.” But I know that’s not always possible.

      1. fposte*

        My understanding is that the Civil Demand, as it’s formally known, is supposed to be kept fairly distant from the issue of pressing charges (and many people get both a civil demand and a criminal record).

        Not paying it is kind of a crapshoot–they then have the right to go after you in court for multiple damages (specifics depend on the statute) and affect your credit record, which they’re generally pretty willing to do. But sometimes they let it go. I guess it’s one of those Clint Eastwood “Do you feel lucky?” moments.

        1. fposte*

          Urgh. I’ve phrased this badly. What I mean is they sometimes are forbidden to link dropping prosecution to paying the civil demand, because of the ethical issues, so don’t wait for a promise they won’t prosecute.

      2. #7*

        Oh dear god, I think my heart just stopped for a second. I signed a civil tresspass paper that says I cannot come back to the store for 5 years, and that I have to go to court to pay a fine which can be 2 to 5 X the amount of the merchandise.

        They said if I come to the store they can arrest me no questions asked, I obviously don’t intend to ever go back there for that duration…but I didn’t know they can still charge/arrest me even if I pay?

        1. -X-*

          How can “they” arrest you? Are “they” cops? If not, “they” can certainly tell you not to come on their property and ask the police to arrest you if you do.

          Sorry to be harsh, but it’s worth thinking about these things.

          1. #7*

            “They’ll get your signature, take your money, and then press charges anyway.”

            It was that comment that made me think they can still arrest me despite paying the civil fine and staying away from that place (and all their locations). I understood as pressing charges as being arrested and having criminal charges against you? Though I could have very well misunderstood.

            1. fposte*

              The store has no power to actually arrest you, but what it can do is convey information to the cops about a shoplifting incident, information that can be acted upon any time until the statute of limitations expires (depending on what happened and where you are, that’s probably somewhere between six months and two years). It’s generally in their interest to be as vague as possible about what they’re likely to do, so they’re not likely to tell anybody for sure if they’ve decided never to press charges. Most of the time they’re not likely to if you pay the civil demand and weren’t serious enough to elicit a cop on the scene, but they always *can* notify the cops as long as the statute hasn’t expired.

        2. Josh S*

          The store cannot arrest you. The store can file a police report and press charges against you, though. Not that they necessarily *will* (since they already have you banned from the store and have taken their pound of flesh in the form of however much money).

          You should talk to a lawyer.

  20. Christine*

    #2 – Not seeking rapid advancement

    I am so happy this topic came up! I really have no interest in taking on leadership or management roles; I’m not even sure I want to have any supervisory responsibilities. That does NOT mean I don’t want a well-paying, professional-level job where I have opportunities for skill and knowledge development; I just don’t want the added pressure of managing people or having an entire department on my shoulders. I’ve been scared that this could be a death-knell to my career since I have a Masters degree and have thought that it is expected that I should want to eventually take on leadership roles. Seeing this topic and all of the suggested responses to questions about career goals makes me feel less skittish about my own goals.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      I think this could be a great AAM topic. What is the best way to grow professionally when you are happy doing what you do and don’t want to move up the corporate ladder? And how do you present that on resumes and in job interviews when they want to know why you’ve ONLY been a chocolate teapot glazer for the last 3 jobs and 15 years.

      Or are we deluding ourselves and we really are slackers?

      1. Jen in RO*

        I would love this topic, and I didn’t think there were so many people around here who don’t want to be ‘the big boss’. I consider myself very lucky that I told my boss a few years ago that I would not like people management and he’s kept that in mind. Saved me from a potential promotion I would’ve hated and it got my coworker in the team leader position she’s suited for.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Me too; I would want to read the answer. I’m the same way–like the good job but have NO management aspirations what. so. ever.

        I just wanna go to work and then go home and write boooooooookss….

          1. Elizabeth West*

            This is really obvious in food service. “Congrats, you’re the manager! Here’s a dime more an hour, and you have to do all this extra work and cover when there’s no one else to do it!” Ugh.

          2. Jessica (the celt)*

            I agree. I’ve moved (laterally) in different positions in my workplace and am now in a position I really like. Both my former supervisor and my current supervisor have asked me and tried to convince me to be groomed to move into an admin (which is what they call an upper-level administrative position at the school, not an administrative assistant position. I always get a start when I read “admin” here and people aren’t talking about the supervisors, but it’s just a term difference based on where I work, I suppose) position. They both seem to think that I would do well in a supervisory/management position, but I have seen how this particular place chews up and spits out those people. No thanks. I’ll take my hourly job and go home at night without worrying about work 24-7, thank you very much. Would I like the position that they want to move me into eventually? Yeah, probably, but there’s no way I would consent to being a manager at this particular place (and probably nowhere). The costs outweigh the benefits for me.

  21. CassJ*

    #1 – I was most recently in this boat, and went out on a limb after my “first choice” made me an offer and I accepted, and I cancelled all my upcoming interviews (phone and in-person). I had faith my background check would pass and the company sent me my offer paperwork via email the following day. Alison is right though, offers can fall through, so in my case, I felt it was a mild risk for me to cease my interview processes everywhere else (personally, I felt if I had already accepted an offer, I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time by going on further interviews at companies I had no intention on joining).

    Also, when I was declining and cancelling my interviews, I only experienced one recruiter who gave off the swarmy-guilt trip attitude to try to convince me to continue in an interview process… but that’s a story for another time :)

  22. Jennifer*

    #3 – If I may ask – are you fairly young and/or new to the process of applying for jobs? Perhaps a recent grad? I only ask because when I applied for my first “real” job, the same happened to me, and I was upset about it like you. I spoke with my interviewer in the morning who said the decision was still being made, and received a letter (signed by this same person) later that day in the mail. I’m guessing it was just policy for them to only officially inform via letter.

    Looking back on it now – I’m thrilled I got a letter at all. I have been passively rejected without a word, and that is much worse.

    1. Hello*

      Hi Jennifer, yes I am a recent young grad. I think my problem is I am not use to having to wait for a decision after an interview. All the places I have had jobs at actually hired me right after the interview in person. I know this is very rare but this is what I have been adapted to. I suppose I need to understand the fact real jobs do not work this way.

  23. nyxalinth*

    #2. I don’t want to be in a big fancy position, but I would like to get off the call center phones and into a team lead or quality assurance (the people who monitor the calls to make sure the agents do and say things properly). I’ve worked on the phones since 1999 and have 5 years experience, not including seasonal positions or ones that were outsourced out from under me. I’m more than happy to pay my dues in a company before moving into such a position, and I always make that clear in interviews.

    Last year I had an interview with a call center that I really wanted to work for. They asked me where I wanted to be in five years, and I was honest about it. It worked against me, because they were basically looking for someone who would be content to sit on the phones forever. The wording was “We want people who would be happiest on the call center floor, and we aren’t planning to promote into other positions any time soon.”

    While I was very disappointed, it really was for the best. I didn’t want to be an eternal phone person! Even so, I have to say that was the first time a bit of ambition had ever cut me out of the running for a position.

    1. nyxalinth*

      (I’ve done other things–travel, a 6 year stint in an office, caring for an ailing mom) in those 14 years, hence only 5 years experience since 1999).

  24. Waiting Patiently*

    #2 I feel you. I do like advancement especially out of crappier positions, but once I find something I enjoy doing which also pays the bill too, I’m content. I did hospitality for about 6 years and I’ve been in my current position for about 6 years this March.

    When I first started working a real job, I had left college before completing my degree. I started job hopping through call centers during data entry, customer service and billing. I wasn’t content and specifically that environment wasn’t for me. I ended up applying for a night auditor position (I figured balance some books over night with no management butting in or co-workers to deal would be great!) but was instead hired for a front desk position ( I think because I was too far along pregnant when I finally got called for the interview). Anyway soon after coming back from my maternity leave, I started doing the audit and because the books were accurately balanced each night, I begin to get groomed for more accounting functions in the hotel. I loved working at night by myself but I’m also a people person. Once I was working in accounting (which I enjoyed) I would from time to time go hang out at the front desk (which I enjoyed)…until it became awkward because the front desk associate thought I was checking up on them. I didn’t have a big fancy office (just shared space w/comptroller) nor any bells and whistles (well except comp meals)….

    1. fposte*

      I would vote that it has the same timetable as GPAs; it’s not quite as likely to raise eyebrows as they are, but it’s similarly about the caliber of your achievement during a particular time, and when you move away from that time those achievements should get smaller in the rear-view mirror.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Hmm….I can see that about the dean’s list. I reaaaaaaaallllllyyyy don’t wanna drop the cum laude just yet, though. I’m so proud of it! :D

        (P.S.–the degree was in 2005.)

        1. fposte*

          It’s probably moot at the moment anyway, right :-)?

          So long as it’s still on the same line as your degree rather than adding room, “cum laude” probably isn’t going to hurt you, but it’s probably not going to help you much at this point either. The issue you want to be aware of is spending space on an achievement that isn’t relevant to the job. After a few years, a degree is more a ticked box than a relevant experience, so you don’t want to treat it as if it’s qualitatively significant.

  25. Elise*

    #4 – Does “worked with local government agencies, dealt with medical emergencies in rural parts of the world, etc” just mean “acquired the necessary visas for himself and visited the doctor when he was ill”?

    If not, then I would think he could put it under an Other Experience or even title it International Experience and list some of the work he did and how he helped with medical issues. But, if it was just him taking care of himself…then I wouldn’t list it on the resume at all and would just put it in the cover letter.

  26. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #7 = I’m a little confused here. If the cops weren’t called — I’m assuming no legal action was taken, and you won’t be seeing the court system. Why would you pay a fine? And to whom?

    Or did the store just demand a payment in lieu of calling the cops?

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