short answer Saturday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Asking my future boss to stop emailing me until I start my new job

I don’t start my new job until March 20. My new boss is already sending me emails detailing meetings I will have to attend after I start — sort of setting up a calendar for me with names, locations, things I am unfamiliar with. At the moment I am dealing with relocating and finding a place to live, which he is aware of. Can I ask him to stop? I am not even on the payroll yet, it seems not nice to bombard me with this stuff when I am already spending all my time setting up my life to just get my life situated to start the job. I don’t know if I can diplomatically say something now — and set some boundaries — or just let it go.

Send your boss an email saying something like, “Thanks for all this! Because I’m in the middle of a move, I probably won’t have a chance to read these thoroughly until I start, but I’m setting them aside for now. I’m really looking forward to the 20th!” Then put them all aside into an email folder and don’t look at them until you start.

In other words, you’re not telling him that he can’t email you — but you’re alerting him that you’re not going to be looking at any of it until you begin work.

2. Asking to leave early every two weeks for a doctor’s appointment, when you’re new

I’m entering my fifth week at a new job as an executive assistant. I’d like to resume my semi-regular mental health doctor appointments. What’s the appropriately professional amount of time that I need to wait before I can ask to leave twenty minutes early one day every other week?

Go ahead and ask now. Just explain that it’s for a recurring medical appointment so that your boss understands the request is more important than if you were asking in service of a movie matinee habit or something like that.

3. Rigid rules for job searching when collecting unemployment

I’m sure it’s no surprise that the Department of Labor is encouraging what constitutes bad job searching tactics, but I’m really curious to know what you think of the new Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which requires those receiving unemployment benefits to track their job search and apply to at least three positions weekly. We are to list the job, where we found it, and any information that we have made available to us. Those who don’t make those three contacts can have their benefits suspended.

I happen to be one of those on unemployment, but my market is a small and tight-knit one. Making three job applications a week would be considered flooding the market. Putting jobs that aren’t in my career choice would possibly trigger the audit process they have now, which also suspends or eliminates your benefits. Three job applications a week seems a bit much to me, especially if you’re already into your career a number of years. Is there a good way to meet the new DOL law requirements without being a bad job applicant, or is this a matter of following the spirit of the new law rather than the letter?

The unemployment benefits system seems to be set up to deal with blue collar jobs and blue collar job searching conventions and not as much with white collar jobs, particularly more senior ones. You could try explaining your situation to your unemployment agency contact and asking for her advice, but with unemployment, the rules tend to be the rules. I agree that they’re not particularly well-suited to quite a few industries.

4. Listing a nearly-completed master’s degree

I never completed the requirements for my masters degree. I attended the program for all 4 required semesters and took all the necessary classes, but due to some personal crap, did not hand in my final paper and so never put in the graduation request.

Should I list on my resume that I attended this school/program? Currently it’s on my resume, and instead of MA, Arts Administration, I state “post-graduate coursework in arts administration.” But I’m worried that having it on there at all leads to questions and confusion and might be turning people off from calling me in for an interview even.

Does it relate to your field? Do you have a gap that you’ll feel awkward about explaining if you don’t list it? If the answer to either of those questions is yes, I’d list it, and wouldn’t worry too much about turning people off. But if it’s not relevant to your field and not causing any work gap issues, listing it might not serve any real purpose.

5. Is this job ad bordering on age discrimination?

I don’t have a problem with jobs listing the number of years of experience wanted in applicants, although I’m aware it can stratify applicants by age. But I’m wondering if this job description is a bit too close to the edge of being discriminatory: “If you are newer in your journalism career, have a passion for politics, an enthusiasm for online content, and a comfort moving through the digital world of web-posting, social media and the Internet, this is your opportunity to develop your skills and take your career to the next level.​”

I think this employer should be a little more careful — this seems to me to be a big red flag saying “no one old need apply.”

It doesn’t strike me that way — they’re looking for someone at a certain stage of experience, which is legitimate and pretty typical. If they rejected a newly minted journalism grad who happened to be 55 because she wasn’t young enough, then sure … but the ad on its own doesn’t raise alarm bells for me.

6. Did I go wrong with this follow-up email?

Within a couple days of applying for a job, I decided to send my first follow-up email. I have heard so much conflicting advice on this subject. Fearing I would come off pushy and desperate, I put a little spin on the email. I emailed the HR person, included some of my interests/experience, and informed her that I had just applied for the open position. Then, I noted that according to their website, they were launching a project that was in line with my interests. Duties pertaining to this project were not in the job description. So I asked her for more information on the project and how someone in the position they were hiring for would/could fit into that project.

My hope was that I would stand out by demonstrating that 1) I am very interested in the position [by sending the email], 2) I actually took the time to research the organization before I applied and 3) I have experience in an upcoming project. Even though she answered my questions, her response to the email was very formal, and the tone seemed like she may have been a bit agitated. I fear that I crossed a line. Would you recommend that I do something similar again, or should I just stay away from any from of follow up e-mails?

Yeah, that’s all stuff that should have gone in your initial cover letter. Sending it later on, before you’ve had any contact from them, just seems like a second cover letter, which is annoying. And asking questions about the project is asking for her time before she’s even determined that you’re a viable candidate, and it’s asking for her time on something that will only be relevant to you if you move forward to an interview — at which point it could be discussed then anyway. So it comes across a little like you’re being disrespectful of her time in order to try to advance your own agenda.

7. Explaining a layoff

I’m hoping you can help me phrase something in interviews so it doesn’t sound awkward and “fumbly.” I began applying to jobs about two months ago after deciding that keeping myself in good mental health was more important than sticking it out in a job that turned out to not be right for me on multiple levels (this was the workplace from hell for me; I was there about 6 months). It turns out that this job search was in fact a good idea because last week the company decided to stop publishing the magazine I was attached to (due to recession-related low ad revenue) and I was therefore laid off.

Now some of the companies I applied to are getting in touch and scheduling interviews. I’ve had two phone interviews so far and of course the “Why are you looking to leave your current position?” question has come up. The resume that these people are working from shows that I’m still employed and I’m afraid that I stumbled my way through the answer, explaining why I wanted to leave and then having to explain that I was just laid off. Even though the layoff was strictly business and not related to my work performance, I’m afraid the timing is making me look bad in terms of when I applied to these jobs and when it happened. With jobs that I apply to from this point forward, this question won’t be a problem, but what’s the best way to phrase my answer to the companies that I applied to before being laid off?

I’d say, “The magazine stopped publishing, and so all the staff is gone as of (date).” You don’t need to get into details about the fact that you were actually sending out resumes before you knew about the layoffs; this is going to be good enough for people. Although if by some chance someone asks you when you knew (which is very unlikely), you can always say that you saw the writing on the wall and started looking before the layoffs were announced.

{ 187 comments… read them below }

  1. AB*

    I’m surprised OP #1 didn’t think to follow AAM’s suggestion on her own.

    I’m pretty sure the manager is simply trying to make his life easy by forwarding to the new employee things he knows will be important when the OP starts. I don’t think he expects the OP to read through or act upon any of this information before the OP’s first day.

    OP#1, by asking “please stop sending me emails”, what you would be doing is create extra work for your new boss — making him save anything he sees that is of interest to you on a folder to forward you all at once on your first day. The burden on your side is much smaller (just keep the messages in a folder for future retrieval after a quick message informing your boss that’s what you are doing, as AAM suggested).

    Instead of looking at it as “not nice of him”, look at it as a reflection of a organized manager who is already planning ahead how you will be spending your first days at work (many people who spend their first weeks figuring out what they are supposed to be doing would be grateful).

    After all, it’s not as if he is emailing you requests to perform tasks before you start your new job.

    1. JL*

      +1 here
      My previous manager did that too, and I was really glad to be able to start getting a real flavor of the actual work even before I started. This helped me better understand what people were talking about during meetings when I started (instead of being limited to giving blank looks and wait to catch up afterwards).
      I wish that all managers were so organized!

      1. Josh S*

        To the OP:
        If the email is pinging your smartphone and causing you to interrupt your other activities when you’re busy, you could try to find a way to filter the boss’ emails.

        Gmail allows you to set a filter so that if an email comes from Boss@Newemployer, it will automatically skip the inbox, or be labelled to be read later, or whatever you want. Then you can deal with it at your leisure. Other email systems may not be so simple to use in that way, but you might check into it to see.

        Just don’t forget to check it when you start, and remove the filter once you actually need to get the Boss’ info! :)

        1. Elise*

          I think most email systems have a similar option. In Outlook, you can do anything you want with new messages. These you would create a rule that any messages from the new boss get filtered directly to a New Job folder that you create.

          1. AG*

            I was also going to suggest setting up email filters. It can be very overwhelming when you are moving and have a zillion things going on. Setting up all emails from your boss or company to go into one folder (or label, with Gmail) will make things much easier.

    2. Kelly L.*

      Yup. He’s sending info as he thinks of it, not necessarily expecting the OP to process it right.this.second.

      1. class factotum*

        Exactly. We had a new person start this week, but early last month, I knew she would need to be involved in some meetings I was holding. I included her in my meeting invitation using her personal email. I didn’t expect a response from here – it was more of a, “Hey – we are already including you and I just wanted you to know.” And I wanted it on her calendar, if possible, because I didn’t want to have to go back once she got her work email and remember to add her to the meeting request.

        1. Maggie*

          Wow, I would have loved to have a boss who thought to include me prior to my start date! To me it says the boss wants you to have information you will need in order to succeed.

          1. K*

            Agreed! That period between accepting and starting a new job is often pretty nervewracking, and knowing that people are eagerly awaiting your arrival and already planning to fit you into the department would be pretty great, I feel like.

      2. Andie*

        +1000! Why do people not get that? Just because someone sends you an email doesn’t mean they are expecting an immediate response. People actually send emails when the thought comes to them and do not expect a response in 5 minutes.

        1. Jamie*

          I agree with Andie – I so wish people would get that.

          I personally will shoot off emails at all kinds of weird hours and weekends – because I’m thinking about it while I’m working. When someone new starts working with me I make it super clear that this is just what I do as I’m thinking about it and I’m in no way asking them to log in after hours or on weekends to answer my questions. And I get similar emails from others I flag them and attend to them the next time I settle in to work.

          Unless it’s urgent and then I deal with it immediately – but that’s my job and not required in a most others I work with.

          If people respond to email with the same dread and ugh of a phone call – i.e. resentment that they need to stop what they are doing because they are being summoned – they are missing out on the beauty of email which is that you can attend to it when more convenient.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Yep. My company (and boss, a little bit) did this too. A large portion of it was just scheduling, etc. Most of my time over the last month has been spent wading through an enormous amount of policy training (my company services clients in the financial industry and is very corporate). I’m FINALLY getting stuff to do, and this coming week Boss is flying in to meet with me and our team for training me and discussing a huge report revamp I’m to be coordinating. I would at least read the emails when you have a chance–at the least, save them in a folder so they don’t get accidentally lost or deleted.

  2. Anon*

    Hi, I’m OP #1. Thank you Alison as always for the useful advice and perspective you offer. I don’t like sounding defensive, but I did just complete a multi-year job search while working full time, go through major family changes, relocate to a new country for this job and am currently without housing. I’m tired. While I am grateful to have the job and also that my new boss is enthusiastic, I have no interest in hearing about any responsibility other than what I can complete in the next 24 hours.

    I am not the etiquette police, but as an appreciative poster and commenter on this blog I feel I should express my understanding of the purpose and spirit of it: a means to provide support to people who need it and in that vein to include respectful comments. While many times reading this blog I may have said to myself “wow, you didn’t think of that on your own, OP?” however I never, ever would have written or posted it. So to commenters 1, 2, and 3 I say achtung, disparity alert in blog etiquette, say something that will help me take you seriously in the first line of your comment.

    Back to my post, I think it’s a little more presumptuous than organized of this new boss the more I think about it, and I like Alison’s take on it. (Aside: he doesn’t know that my Gmail calendar is actually scheduling the stuff in my original time zone which is 8 hours off and that I have no plans to use it for work, etc.) I just don’t see any reason for me to see these commitments before the day I start work and I trust him to have the common sense to contact me if there was something urgent I really need to know about. Thanks again AAM.

    1. SCW*

      If I was your future boss and read what you are writing, I would be alarmed for your future working for me. Saying “stop e-mailing me before I start!” sounds complainy, and is not a good first impression. Would you be upset if your boss sent you e-mail at night when you weren’t at work? Do you expect him to read your mind at this state? I would worry if he was asking you to complete work before you start, or send complicated responses. But just sending you information about what you will be doing when you start seems considerate.

      Of course, you seem to be in a very sensitive place right now, where any feedback from posters or e-mail from your boss is interpreted in the worst possible light.

    2. Elle*

      Why do LW’s post if they KNOW it will appear defensive and petty? LW: if you really read this blog, you would know that the comments here are much less “fluffy” than on the rest of the internet. I think it’s closer to real life that way. I don’t know what your circumstances are currently but I would caution you against taking a grumpy defeatist “leave me alone” attitude into the new job. Take a few days off and do something to decompress. Because bad first impressions last for long time and I’m nervous for you that in your current state, you would burn a lot of bridges because your tiredness is clouding your judgment.

      Yes, you are tired. Yes, you climbed Mount Kilimanjaro while solving rubix cubes with one hand and birthing children with the other. (I have no idea what you did but you seem so proud of having done it that I thought I would guess.) However, that doesn’t change the fact that your boss’s actions are not presumptuous or rude.

      1. Anonymous*

        Is is me or have the comments gotten more harsh as of late? I’ve noticed a lot more piling on as of late. This comment is a good example. I don’t expect this site to be “fluffy,” but I do hope that comments will be in the spirit of actually helping the LW.

        1. Jamie*

          I think there has always been a mix of blunt and fluffy – and as long as they don’t veer into nasty (which is rare and always called out when it happens) I think both have their place.

          Taking Elle’s comment above as an example – yes, I can see where someone could be taken aback by the tone of the last paragraph (although I saw it as making a point with sarcastic humor, which happens to be my favorite kind of humor).

          However, her first paragraph was dead on and excellent advice. Because it is easy to burn bridges when you’re tired or overwhelmed and yes, even thinking of directly telling your boss not to email you until your first day is either symptomatic of being really overwhelmed or just not thinking.

          If someone new told me to hold my emails until they started it would kick things off on a bad foot…new jobs are stressful enough without needing to do damage control right off the bat.

          It may be nicer to hear that the boss is wrong and “not very nice” t0 send these emails ahead of time – that’s validating. But it wouldn’t do the OP any favors because it isn’t reality – and in the end telling people how they will be perceived is kinder than telling them what they would find soothing to hear.

          It’s just my opinion – but I don’t think it’s generally harsh here – even when people express things differently than I would. That said, there are a lot of different opinions flying around here and not everyone is right every time, and even great advice isn’t applicable to every situation. But when it happens that multiple people from all different levels, industries, fields, and personal philosophies keep reiterating similar advice it’s worth considering.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’ll add to what Jamie said that when a letter-writer starts lecturing commenters on how they should and shouldn’t respond to her — as happened here — people are naturally going to get more blunt in response.

    3. JL*

      “I did just complete a multi-year job search while working full time, go through major family changes, relocate to a new country for this job and am currently without housing.”

      OP, that was exactly my situation before too, so I understand how mentally/emotionally draining it can be. This said, I was still glad that my then-manager had started to include me as soon as I’d accepted the offer. Even though I, like you, was not in any shape to actually do anything about it, I appreciated having the extra time to assimilate let his emails and let the information sink in so that my first days were less stressful because I felt I already had some exposure and thus was not starting from absolute zero.

      I know it can feel rather overwhelming right now, but try to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Your manager is excited to have you on board, and it’s a GREAT thing that he’s already thinking of you as a member of the team instead of just another headcount to be “used” once you’ve started.

    4. Josh S*

      I get your point — you want your start day to be your actual start day, and not the “Grand Opening” after the ‘soft launch’ a few weeks before. Dealing with all that when you’re exhausted from the rest of life can be overwhelming, particularly when your head isn’t in it.

      I think that Commenters 1, 2, and 3 were trying to share the boss’ perspective on things. It’s not that NewBoss wants you to start working (or thinking about work) before hand, but rather that he’d like you to have a bit of context so that the first-day jitters aren’t so bad, and so you don’t get a ton of stuff dumped on you (more than you already will).

      Plus, like other commenters have said, it’s a good sign that the boss is already preparing for you mentally. It means it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll show up the first day and sit at an empty cubicle for 6 hours, waiting for someone to bring a computer and establish a log-in for you.

      As for advice–don’t tell your NewBoss that you don’t want emails. Rather, find a way to ignore/deal with those emails later. If you use Gmail (which it sounds like you do considering your use of GCalendar), you can filter them (as I noted upthread) so that they skip your inbox and don’t get added to your Google calendar.

      You may also want to ‘unplug’ for a few days. It sounds like you have a lot going on. For me, having constant access to internet/email through my smartphone and laptop is a guarantee that I won’t actually rest. Try to ditch them for a few days, or to turn data/sync off for the majority of the day (from 10am-8pm, for instance) so you aren’t constantly interrupted. Would that work?

      Oh, and congrats and good luck with your new job!

    5. fposte*

      I can see that it’s tiring, and I agree with Alison’s answer too. But I’m still not thinking that your new boss is out of order, and I’m not seeing that Alison thinks he is either–she just offered a way to deal with the situation. While “wrong” or “right” doesn’t really matter ideologically here, I’d hate to see your overtired first take color your approach to your new job, so I hope once you stop seeing the emails you’ll exhale a little and start afresh.

      (I also think Alison’s statement “This blog’s highest value isn’t kindness; it’s helping people make good decisions for their career” suggests that support is not actually considered its primary purpose, and I hope you’ll see that the earlier responses provide you with useful information even if you don’t enjoy them.)

      Alison has stated that it’s not a support blog

      1. fposte*

        Oops–sorry about the last line! I went back to check and put in the actual quote instead and meant to remove that once I’d found it.

      2. Josh S*

        I agree. That’s one of the common ‘disputes’ here on the blog — the difference between “the way things should be” and “reality, with all its stupidity”.

        I can’t recall how many times someone disagreed with Alison and her response was basically, ‘Yeah, it’d be nice if things worked that way. But they don’t. My goal is to help the people writing in to deal with the way things work, even though it’s unpleasant, rather than deal with the hypotheticals of how things would work in an ideal world.’

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        This is true, and thank you for clarifying it. Obviously I prefer for us all to be kind to each other, but I also believe that the kindest thing is sometimes to give people a perspective that might not be the most comfortable for them to hear, but might actually be the most useful. And ultimately that is the site’s goal: to help people make the best decisions for their career and, as a result, find the most career happiness that they can. It’s a nice side benefit when people feel supported by that, but the ultimate goal is to help people make good decisions, and sometimes that can get uncomfortable. Hopefully the discomfort is short-term though and turns into more peace of mind once it’s processed.

        1. Anonymous*

          There’s a distinction between telling how it is and being socially aggressive about it. Someone who sincerely wants to explain that something works a certain way because life isn’t fair makes it clear that while (for example) a good employer would do X, unfortunately too many do Y due to money, overwork, etc.

          The problem comes when responses or comments not only state abruptly that X isn’t going to happen, but basically jeer at the LW for thinking they could ever hope to deserve X treatment. It’s like the “Um, no” response versus a simple ‘no.’ Confident professionals don’t need to use sarcastic little jabs to get their point across.

          There’s a large grey area between being a fluffy support system and using the anonymity of the internet to jab at others in order to feel superior.

    6. The IT Manager*

      I strongly agree with Alison, but I do find it odd because it’s going to the LW’s personal email. In my experience, most business’s have work email and that’s what the LW will be using at work – especially for scheduling meetings.

      OTOH unless the boss is asking you to do something now, the best course of action is to ignore (after alerting him that is your plan because you don’t want to miss something actually critical to know before you’re start). Some people would be ecstatic about having a heads up about what to expect. Maybe your boss is one of them and thinks you’ll like it to.

      1. Josh S*

        Well, the LW probably hasn’t been set up with a work email account yet…or certainly hasn’t been given access to one yet. So the default mode of electronic communication is going to be the email address that was on the resume.

      2. aname*

        The OP won’t have access to that until they get to the actual start date.

        I suspect this is being copied to both the work email account and the personal one so that they can read them before actually starting.

        I would at least want to check whether the other employees can see her actual email address or if its blind copied so they don’t have access to it.

    7. VictoriaHR*

      If it were me, I’d be extremely grateful for the opportunity to hit the ground running on my first day, rather than slog through a lot of email reading and learning about the company’s policies and procedures. I’d also assume that the boss would expect me to be able to do so, from the emails that he’s been sending me.

      1. jennie*

        I agree, and I’d vastly prefer the emails over the alternative – making an international move without hearing anything from the company between the acceptance of the offer and the start date. These emails reminding me preparations are being made for my arrival would be very reassuring to me.

  3. De Minimis*

    #3–I was on unemployment back in 2009-2011 and had a similar problem, what I would do was apply to government jobs out of the area when I needed to come up with a job search contact and had exhausted everything locally. Unless you’re a veteran [and these days, a disabled veteran] you probably don’t have much chance at being considered, but it’s a legitimate job contact. I see no problem with doing that, although I guess some might. If there were tons of jobs to apply to in your local area, you probably wouldn’t be unemployed

    It may have changed since I was on unemployment, but back then there were so many applications it was unlikely you would ever be questioned about anything so long as you wrote something down, although I always heard they did pick people at random.

    1. Op #3*

      Hi all. Op3 here. A little background on the whole situation. I was laid off in June after being asked to end my fmla maternity leave after six weeks. Two weeks later I was laid off due to the college president overspending budget for the previous three years. T hey could no longer make payroll without massive cuts. I was the only full time position in my department other than high level administration, so I was let go along with 300 other college employees. (Later I found out that the admins were promised no one from their ranks would be let go during the layoffs.) I had to yank my 8 week old out of daycare I could no longer afford and begin job searching. Thankfully the four year old was slated to start in state funded pre k by August. My husband had taken a low level job after his industry tanked in the economic bust, so we were struggling already. This was a massive blow as we had used our savings to you know, have a kid. We certainly did not see this coming.

      Previously in my state, you only had to turn in job app confirmations when you hit tier two level benefits. Now it’s being done across the board. I don’t have an issue with turning them in but because I’m a graphic designer in a large art industry city (three art colleges to boot), it can be a tricky job hunt. It’s very close knit and in just about every job I’ve had in the last 15 years that I’ve been here, I’ve run into former coworkers and managers. If you apply to one, you’re essentially applying to all of them. Apply to three in a week and tongues will start to wag. Lucky for me, my state does allow freelancing while on benefits and I’ve been able to make ends sort of meet with that and my UI.

      I certainly don’t feel entitled, in fact I completely understand the need for the requirements. I’m just not sure how to abide by the new rule without hurting my professional reputation in my industry. And since I was previously employed by the state, taking 45% of my former salary would absolutely send us into the red every month. I’m not looking for my dream job but I certainly can’t take just any old job just to get off benefits.

      1. courtney*

        What state are you in? In my state it was similar, but we could do other job activities at the local unemployment office to fill in the gaps if we didn’t have enough jobs that week. They had different classes each week, like resume writing, etc. They were an hour or two long and counted as one job search. Does your state have anything like this?

      2. VictoriaHR*

        Are you able to count applications on freelancing websites such as odesk or elance? I wish you lived here – we’re always looking for graphic designers!

        1. OP#3*

          VictoriaHR, I’m not sure, but I’ll definitely ask. My official orientation is tomorrow at the Dept. of Labor. Most of my job contacts have been through agencies, so maybe I can lump them together? (I can telecommute! ;) )

      3. Judy*

        Wait, you were asked to end your FMLA before you were planning on it, and then were laid off during the time you would have been on FMLA? That seems a bit underhanded, to say the least.

        1. OP#3*

          Yes Judy, I was. I had been planning on three months. I was made aware of the issues surrounding the budgeting issues while I was home with my newborn. I was told to come back or they couldn’t assure me my job would be there. I came back for all of two weeks. It was heartbreaking for me since I hadn’t wanted to put my son in daycare so soon, but I thought I was saving my position.

          1. Jamie*

            Did you fall under the Key Employee Exception?

            Because I agree – this smells very shady to me.

            From DOL website: “”Key” Employee Exception

            Under limited circumstances where restoration to employment will cause “substantial and grievous economic injury” to its operations, an employer may refuse to reinstate certain highly-paid, salaried “key” employees. In order to do so, the employer must notify the employee in writing of his/her status as a “key” employee (as defined by FMLA), the reasons for denying job restoration, and provide the employee a reasonable opportunity to return to work after so notifying the employee.”

            1. OP#3*

              Probably not since I was anything BUT high paid, even for the department. I had to fight for what I got as a salary and still ended up with a loss at the end of the month. (I was part time and they elevated me to full time. I actually made MORE part time after all the benefits and mandatory retirement contributions were deducted.)

              It was very shady, but given my situation at the time, I didn’t see any other option but to return to work. Even while I was out on short term disability, I was technically working from home. There wasn’t a day that went by where I wasn’t taking care of things, despite leaving them everything I had, an SOP manual and where I had left each and every project and what next steps were.

              When I was laid off, they weren’t making payroll, so going after them for the FMLA violation didn’t make sense. I’m still not sure if there’s anything I can about it now, other than keep trying to abide by the rules for the UI until I can find a real job that pays enough to live on.

            2. OP#3*

              I know they didn’t submit anything to me in writing. My boss called and said if I didn’t come back, she couldn’t guarantee I’d have a job by the time the layoffs were decided. I was so sleep deprived and exhausted when all this happened, I remember thinking this had to be a nightmare. When I did come back, they gave me flack for having to pump during working hours. After I refused to use the bathroom, I set up in the breakroom and make them all wait to get their morning coffee.

  4. Christine*

    #3 – Unemployment rules

    I thought that’s always been the rule. I received unemployment from 2008 to 2010, and I had to fill in information for 3 contacts per benefit pay period (got the checks every 2 weeks). Ugh that was a PITA!!

    1. Blinx*

      It varies by state. In FL, I think the requirement is 5/week. Here in PA, it’s now 3/week (not pay period), but in 2011 it was none.

      Today’s now Saturday, and I’ve been combing all the search sites all week for 3 that I’m qualified for, so that I meet the midnight deadline tonight. I found 2, but will probably end up applying for a job that is my same position, but has requirements that I don’t meet (software that I don’t know).

      1. De Minimis*

        In CA I think it was always 3 a week, at least while I was on it. It was either 2 or 3.

      2. Anonymous for this one*

        In NY it is one per week. I didn’t (and don’t) even have that every week, but “other job activities” count too, including attending OneStop workshops and revising your resume. Even meeting with contacts that can be verified. It helps when the “counselor” puts your job category into Indeed and three jobs come up.

      3. Christine*

        On second thought, I think my requirement was 2 or 3 per week also, not per pay period (I’m in NJ). My mistake.

      4. Anonymous*

        That’s what it is in WA state, too (or at least it was when I was unemployed in ’08). A big pain in the butt! Good luck.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Yeah, WA is 3+ contacts a week, but at least for me, they could be out of area or telecommuting. It’s a good thing, because I’m in an area that wasn’t posting 3 local jobs a week in my field. And if I took something in a completely different field for vastly less money (if they would even take me) then that’s what they’ll count the next time I needed unemployment. I did try to find jobs that were close, that I would take if they’d take me. I’m working again, for money I wouldn’t have considered at the beginning of the unemployment.

    2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      What I’m confused about is this thing that you’d trigger an audit if you applied outside your field? Is that a real thing? And, I mean, typically, when the government audits you they’re not going to cancel your benefits unless the audit uncovers a reason to, right?

      Personally, I am of the belief that unemployment should be supporting those that can’t find *any* job, not letting white-collar professionals coast while they look for a specific job in a specific field, so I can’t advocate any sort of trickery to getting to your 3 jobs a week. Apply outside your field, to jobs that you would legitimately consider working at. If you have extensive experience in another field, you’re less likely to get picked up for jobs outside it anyway, right?

      Also, am I the only one that really doesn’t think three jobs a week is too much to ask?

      I wish you luck in your job search – it must be difficult to find jobs in niche industries and possibly in cities where that niche doesn’t have a ton of presence? – so I do hope you find something in your field.

      1. Jill*

        Yes! The idea is to support yourself somehow, not to let you leisurely look for the illusive dream job in your preffered field.

        1. OP #5*

          #3 — The three-job-applications-a-week thing isn’t very helpful in some industries. When my position at a newspaper was abolished, I didn’t have much luck applying for newspaper jobs because I’d been doing a lot of basics and supervising instead of trendy social media or even traditional layout, so my software skills had atrophied. The papers near me are mostly downsizing.

          I did apply to jobs in related fields I thought I could do, I applied to clerical jobs I thought I could do, and I applied to jobs out of state that came up in Most newspaper jobs are still email applications rather than online applications, so I would email my letter and resume and clips off to someone and annoy them — because some paper 500 miles away was not going to pay to move me and my stuff there for a job that paid $24,000 a year — well under what I’d been earning. One hiring editor was frankly annoyed I applied to a job and told me so in an email. I felt guilty for bothering him, but I wasn’t willing to tell him I was applying to meet a quota. I didn’t want him to write a column in his paper about the evils of the regulations and posting my name for all to see.

          Then there were some disasters with my house. I own it and I can’t really get the money I’ve sunk in for repairs if I move immediately. But the state unemployment office and lawmakers don’t think about how I can live more cheaply in my house than if I sell it for a loss and move to a job that doesn’t support me only to end up needing more or different public assistance.

          Freelancing is sometimes a good way to get a foot in the door at a new job. Pennsylvania informed me (after I called to find out how to report freelancing income from a job I accepted) that freelancing will get me cut off unemployment. The also told me I could turn down freelance work. If they want people to look for work, why don’t they allow people to freelance?

          Lawmakers and bureaucrats seem to be particularly blind to the truth that some jobs in some categories at some times are in short supply, and applicants may have family or geographical constraints. When an employer dumps a worker after almost two decades of service, then maybe the worker should have some time to search for that elusive job, even if another perfect job is an illusion.

          I’d be happy to support myself any legal way I could if choosing to take a low-paying, nontechnical job wouldn’t be held against me and I could have the four weeks of vacation I used to have (I don’t go on vacations — I spend a lot of time with elderly relatives helping after hospitalizations or cooking and cleaning periodically).

          I’m tired of trying to sound interested in jobs that I couldn’t take if I was offered them. It’s hard for me to accept that even though I have great editing and writing skills, without project management software experience, I won’t get into technical writing areas, or without experience in other areas, I won’t be going into certain PR areas or corporate writing jobs. Yes, I’m going to have to redesign myself — but that doesn’t help when the Saturday night deadline for applications is looming, as the poster above noted.

          1. AP*

            I’m sorry that I’m really only replaying to 1/16th of your message here, but do you get the weekly Gorkana blasts? They are new in the US and, if you don’t, you have 90 more EAST minutes to find something to apply to!


          2. Anon*

            I feel your pain, OP#5. I recently lost my mid-level specialist white collar job, and the state of Oregon wants me applying for three jobs a week in the Portland metro area. Not even other town in the state count. There are three companies that do what I do in town, including the one that let me go. The other two aren’t hiring. I applied for jobs in other states, and even other countries that I’m qualified for, because I am willing to relocate if necessary. However, I was told that I need to apply for local jobs for UI. I’ve been a specialist my entire career, so I’m not really qualified to be a generalist, and certainly not one at my level.

            Imagine a pediatric oncologist of ten years. Probably not the first choice for an internist, and certainly not ready to be a dermatologist. Should I really apply for a job as a nurse’s aid, or waiter at Appleby’s, when the potential employer knows that I’m going to keep looking, and take that job from someone who really could use it, just to appease someone’s Dickensian sensibilities? (I’m not really in the medical field; this is just an example to illustrate job hunting for specialists.) I’m good at my specialty, and I’m sure that there’s a need for it somewhere. I’m willing to follow the need, but it may take a while. I’ve got some savings, but those could run out if the job hunt takes too long, because student loans and housing take huge bites, and UI helps alleviate some of that.

            1. Op #3*

              Same rule for my state. Must be local and qualified jobs. Which would be fine had I not been a graphic designer for the last 15 years in a town that has no shortage of designers and three art colleges flooding the market with kids that will work for French fries and hope.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        A good rule of thumb is probably to apply for the jobs you’d be applying to if you weren’t receiving unemployment (and thus probably felt more urgency about getting a job, even if it wasn’t in your field). I think that’s how unemployment is intended.

      3. Op #3*

        Actually they cancel your benefits while they audit. If nothing’s amiss they reinstate. Any time there’s a flag they suspend benefits. They suspended my benefits for four weeks while they processed my addendum to my claim for freelance work. I hadn’t gotten the freelance work at the time, but one of the companies I worked with happened to be international. It triggered all sorts of fun stuff.

        I’m definitely not wanting to come off as entitled. I make sure that even if I’m frustrated no one at the UI office knows that. I know it’s not their fault they’re system can be bassackwards.

        I just don’t want to hurt my chances at landing a job. My industry is very close knit in this town. I’ve yet to have a job here where someone didn’t work with me in the past at a difference agency. If my résumé starts hitting a ton of desks, it could hinder more than help.

    3. Rana*

      In California, back when I was on unemployment (c. 2004) no specific number was given but I was supposed to be “actively searching.”

      Like the OP, I was in a field with limited opportunities, most of them were out of state (which the unemployment board discouraged), and job postings tended to cluster in the fall, and the spring, with no notices in between.

      I ended up being audited once (and had to plead for reinstatement of the benefit) and applied to far too many jobs that I was uninterested in and not qualified for, just to meet their requirements. It was a total waste of everyone’s time, IMO, but it was what it was.

    4. girlreading*

      It’s always been 3 where I am too. I was on that a little while and it sure was a pain. The problem is they basically tell you apply for any job you’re remotely qualified for and you should be willing to accept 75% of your previous pay (even if you could barely live on that) and after a couple months unemployed be willing to take a 50% pay cut. And if you apply for something that would be a big step down but you’re qualified for there’s a chance they might call and you have to report it if you turn down an interview or job. But it’s hard to find 3 new jobs a week you’re qualified for and interested in.

      1. Christine*

        That’s interesting that a couple of you mentioned a requirement to be willing to accept a job within a certain percentage of the pay of your previous job; I don’t recall that being a requirement for me. Must not be a requirement in every state.

        1. Jessa*

          In Ohio, you cannot turn a job down because of the pay. Even if it would leave you with LESS than the unemployment cheque AFTER you include small things like gas to get you TO the job.

          You can turn it down for distance, or lack of bus travel or something, but you CANNOT turn a job down for pay at ANY rate. Whether its 75% or 10% of your former salary.

          1. KellyK*

            Wow. I mean, yes, I agree that turning down a job, in general, should take away unemployment benefits because now you’re no longer unemployed “through no fault of your own,” but when the job itself pays less than the unemployment benefits, that’s pretty ridiculous.

            It also creates a perverse incentive where people feel the need to game the system. If you need another app to meet your quota, and the choice is between a “reach” job that you probably won’t get and a lower-level job that’s likely to pay less than unemployment, then without that requirement, it would make more sense to apply for the job you have a chance at and see how flexible they are on salary (or to go for both). But with the requirement, it’s shooting yourself in the foot to go for the lower-level job.

          2. Jamie*

            But I would assume that you wouldn’t have to accept a part time job, correct?

            Because it’s my understanding that most of the fast food/retail min wage jobs are part time by nature. The only other near minimum wage jobs I know are factory work and generally those are $1-$2 above and offer OT on a regular basis so would definitely out earn even the UI max in my state.

            I wonder if it’s even a problem in getting offered jobs lower than the UI max, though, if you’ve earned a great deal more?

  5. Seal*

    #4 – One other consideration on whether or not to include your incomplete degree: if you worked as a teaching or graduate assistant while pursuing the degree and list that as work experience on your résumé, you need to list the incomplete degree under your education. Many if not most academic institutions require TAs to be working towards a degree; listing that as work experience without a corresponding degree or near-degree will potentially attract attention, particularly if your pursuing anything in academia.

    Just out of curiosity, is the OP planning on completing the degree? If so, you can certainly list the degree with an note that it’s in process or with an expected by date. For PhD candidates who didn’t finish their dissertation, it’s not uncommon to list their degree as ABD (all but dissertation). Can’t think what the equivalent is for a Masters degree, but you get my point. Given the amount of time and effort such degrees take, I’d rather get credit for all of my education, even if I don’t yet have the degree.

    1. OP #4*

      So relieved that I’m apparently not screwing up that part of my resume, and thank you for the quick response, AAM!

      To answer your question, Seal, I did hold an assistantship at a local theater, so that is listed by the job title I held there. At this point, it only gets included on resumes where it’s relevant (like events management or patron services applicaions) as it was a pretty specific role and my job search currently isn’t contained to arts administration or theater roles.

      As to whether I’ll complete the degree: that depends on scraping together enough money to pay for more graduate credits, as I’ve missed the deadline for handing in that final paper and would need to retake the “course”. Also, right now I’m working through a lot of the shame and feelings of inadequacy that crippled me in grad school (and for several subsequent years.) Honestly, the thought of communicating with anyone in charge of the program still makes me a bit sweaty and nervous, since I was such a “big failure” (in my head, anyways.)

      1. Anonymous*

        Lots of people don’t complete degrees, and it’s often not an issue, especially at higher levels where they just want to know if you know the info, rather than using it as a screening tool.

        As far as the degree requirements go, are you sure you need to retake the course? It’s worth asking, especially if you have documentable reasons why you didn’t do the last thing needed. I know of a few cases, where someone didn’t quite meet the requirements, but still managed to get a bachelors by personally explaining why they should still get a degree.

        1. OP #4*

          Thanks for the response!
          I don’t have documentable reasons for why I didn’t finish the requirements for my masters, sorry to give that impression. I was/am depressed, and didn’t seek help until late last year. There’s no proof from that time period.

          1. KellyK*

            You had a medical condition that wasn’t being treated and was affecting your school work, and you ended up withdrawing. You weren’t a failure; you were sick.

            If you do end up talking to someone in the program, maybe telling them that would help. Even if you don’t have documentation of the illness at the time, you have documentation of it now. *Especially* because you’re not looking to get a position with them and your bridges there are already pretty burned, disclosing a mental illness isn’t going to be as fraught as it usually is. Still scary as all get-out, though, and I sympathize with that.

          2. Anonymous*

            OP4, I encourage you to reach out to your old program. I was an assistant professor in my last career and my program HATED to see students liked yourself get so close without finishing. Frankly, from a ratings standpoint, it’s in the best interest of your program to get you graduated. If you have any interest in completing the degree, do get in touch and see what’s needed.

            1. OP #4*

              Thanks for the responses and the new perspective.
              I’m not in a place where I can do that now, but I will tuck this away for when I feel well enough.

      2. Dan*

        I was in the same boat you are. I finished my full time studies in 2008, but never got around to completing my thesis. In my program, they kick you out for good if you haven’t graduated within 5 years of your start date.

        In my field, my MS is actually worth something, and I would have forever been kicking myself if I never finished my thesis. (In fact, the last quick job search I did November, 3 out of the 4 jobs I applied to had “PhD preferred.” Glad I got the MS, the BS won’t cut it anymore.)

        So, with four months to go on the clock, I mustered up the courage to talk to my advisor to get the ball rolling. It was a PITA, but all in all, really not that bad. I’m glad I checked that box off. I’ll need it if I get laid off with this sequester nonsense. (I’m a fed contractor in the transportation sector.) I would have been kicking myself if a stupid paper is all that got in the way between me and a really decent degree.

        Oh, I will say that because I hadn’t been a student for so long, they charged me 1 credit hour per year I hadn’t been enrolled — for a total of three years. I also had to pay for one credit hour in the academic year in which I graduated, so all in all, I was out a little under $2k. I got lucky — my employer paid for *everything*. But I would have paid it if I had to.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        It’s the same way for me, OP, about my unfinished master’s in education–I felt like I had failed, when actually I was in the wrong program. I sometimes mention it when asked about my writing, because the English classes I was taking got me writing again. I also learned a lot that is valuable to me, even though I have no plans to finish it and won’t be teaching at all, unless I end up doing workshops, or something at work. So it wasn’t a total loss even though it’s not on my resume.

      4. Emily*

        A lot of people don’t quite finish degrees, for a variety of reasons. The way you are listing it now (post-graduate work in…) is perfectly valid.

        I am a graduate advisor working with MA students. You are, by far, not alone. I regularly contact students who have “left,” but didn’t finish. Some want to finish; others finish that last requirement or two and graduate. Some jobs will want the degree, while others don’t care about the diploma and only
        want the experience.

        In our program, courses “expire”after 5 years, but our school has a revalidation process

        1. Emily*

          Oops! Posted too soon.

          Don’t feel as though you failed. You haven’t. If finishing is something you’d like to do, there probably is a process to do so. Check your bulletin or contact your advisor (or grad secretary). If they are anything like us, they’ll be happy to hear from you and do what they can to help.

          Best of luck!

  6. Hannah*

    Question #3: I read your question as sounding a bit entitled to keep your job search narrowed to the small field you’re interested in, while living off unemployment. I would try to think about the goals of the rigid requirements from a different perspective. They aren’t tailored to help you find the perfect job in your career of choice, they force you to apply for *any* paying job you can get, so your benefits can be ended and the next person in dire need can receive them.

    There are lots of people who are currently working in jobs or industries they don’t love because they haven’t found the right opportunities in their desired field yet. Many people have to compromise to make ends meet, whether they are currently employed or job seeking.

    1. Dan*

      Yeah, unemployment is really touchy in that regard. Should the taxpayers pay for someone to wait for the perfect job to come around? It may never. But does someone need to take the first crappy job they find?

      A co-worker of mine just got laid off, and he falls under Texas’s unemployment rules. Assuming I understood his explanation correctly, I like the way TX does it. You have a period of time where you are permitted to look for jobs withing X% of your previous salary, and then it progressively drops. I think that’s a fair way of balancing out some level of fairness to the applicant, yet make them realize that they got laid off for a reason — meaning they may no longer be worth what they thought they were. After all, if the person was “profitable” they would not have been laid off.

        1. Lulula*

          Yikes, agreed! So all 500 people I got laid off with were worthless, eh? The shareholders/board of my former employer might want to look into the apparently crappy hiring practices there, then…

          1. Dan*

            I didn’t say worthless, I said not profitable. What crappy hiring practices need to be looked into? Did your company dissolve a profitable unit?

            1. Lulula*

              In my case, they just decided to consolidate business, and actually regretted some of the force-reduction later. It also makes your revenue look excellent when you reduce expenses by that degree, despite the fact that the remaining employees are having nervous breakdowns over the new “profitable” workload. Point being, the profitability of a position to a company’s bottom line isn’t always a reflection of the value of the employee.

          2. Op #3*

            In my case they should have fired the president of the college I worked for, since it was his crappy spending tactics that resulted in myself and 300 other people getting laid off to make payroll. Being the only full time employee in my department and being on maternity leave were my only drawbacks. I produced more work at a higher level than both my bosses. Too bad a back door promise that no admins would be laid off hurt me instead of them. Sure, I totally deserved it.

            I don’t plan on being on UI forever. In fact I’d rather have a decent job that doesn’t put me in the red each month with child care, bills and rent. Finding that in my state is not easy.

        2. AB*

          I’d say it’s also misleading. I’ve never been laid off, but had friends lose their jobs due to outsourcing to India, their large companies deciding to leave a specific market, and so on. Had nothing to do with the person’s abilities, even though I suppose it could be said that they stopped being “profitable” for reasons completely unrelated to the quality of their work.

          1. AP*

            Very true. If one large company buys another, the truth is that they don’t need two separate marketing departments, accounting departments, etc, and even if the bought-out company had hired literally the World’s Best Marketing Asst, chances are that the buyer isn’t going to care enough to keep that person on while letting go all 100 other people.

            1. Dan*

              True, but how many companies do a wholesale layoff of the redundant units of the acquired company? There’s usually some sort of competition and what not for the surviving position. My background is in aviation — when United and Continental merged, there was a lot of having to reapply for new jobs. It’s not like everybody from one side or the other was canned, no questions asked.

              But economically, one way to get around the tough decisions is to create an environment where the people with reasonable worth on the open market self select out. Afterall, if I live in Houston, my wife has a job, my kids are in school, and I have good prospects, I may very well chose to take my chances instead of uprooting my whole family.

              1. class factotum*

                My former employer – I was one of 800 laid off in the sixth round of layoffs – closed the entire customer service department for a division because they shifted operations to Poland. My former employer also closed paper mills and converting plants, which meant everyone who worked there lost their jobs. It wasn’t that those employees were unprofitable compared to other employees, it was that there were some acquisitions and there was geographic redundancy and also that there is too much capacity in the paper industry. You increase prices by reducing supply. There were a lot of good people who lost their jobs. I hope it never happens to you because it is horrible.

          2. Dan*

            I’m fully aware that I (we all?) sit in a “but for the grace of God go I” position. Let’s talk about worth for a sec: I’ve mentioned in other threads that my asking price to leave my current job is about 50% higher than I would accept if I get laid off. (And with the whole sequester thing, layoffs are a possibility.) The variance in my valuation of my worth has nothing to with my skills and abilities, but everything to do with market conditions. After all, how much have my skills changed in the preceding month before I got the hypothetical pink slip?

            If I get laid off, and accept a position that pays less than what I get paid now, am I underpaid? I don’t think the answer is that clear — if my work was valuable/profitable/worthwhile at my pay rate, presumably the government would have determined that I should be kept on. The fact that they would let me go indicates that I did not provide enough value to them.

            1. Anon*

              if my work was valuable/profitable/worthwhile at my pay rate, presumably the government would have determined that I should be kept on

              1. Government is different from the private sector. I do have a friend who was laid off from NASA (I don’t hear about gov’t layoffs very often), not because he’s not a good engineer but because NASA has changed directions. His entire department was cut.

              2. If you are in a union, layoffs are often determined by seniority.

        3. Dan*

          Why is that harsh? Companies aren’t in the business of letting go people who make the appropriate contributions to the bottom line. And when someone gets laid off, they absolutely must reassess their skills and market worth — are they likely to find a similar job at a similar compensation package, or has there been a fundamental shift in market forces and their skills are no longer in demand? I’m only worth what someone is willing to pay for my services. When I have a job, I have more negotiating power. No job = less power = smaller pay check, unless I get lucky.

          1. class factotum*

            Again, wow. You’re a manager. Corporate has just told you to cut 10% from your budget. You don’t have a choice about it. Whom do you cut from your hand-selected team?

            Again, I hope you are never in this position. It’s very easy to be judgmental if you have never been laid off or don’t know anyone who was laid off. If you work for a company in a highly-competitive commodity industry where you can’t raise prices, then you have to cut expenses – even if all your employees are rock stars.

            1. Dan*

              Easy peasy. I cut the people who are the least productive for the paycheck they get.

              My company has gone through two ownership changes in the last few years, and over time has laid off about 20 people, which represents some 10% of the company. I’ve known many of them, some better than others.

              But be honest with me — how many departments are full of rock stars? I’ve never met one. Every place I’ve worked, my department has had some employees who are better (and worse) than others.

              1. ThursdaysGeek*

                Sure, it’s easy — providing you’re not a temporary acting manager and you actually know what all those people do and how well they do it, and you care to cause the least harm to the company and the work they do. But if you’re evaluating people by what you hear about them and whether they like working with the people you’ve heard vague murmuring about, not by looking at results, because you really don’t know or care, you might just end up not laying off the right people.

                Or, if the company has got to the part where they’re cutting bone and muscle instead of fat, good people can be let go.

                As someone who was laid off, it sure does make me think that I’m inadequate in some way. But I also know that if my previous manager had not retired, I would not have been selected — because he know what I did and how well I did it. Plus, I was underpaid for the position, related to my co-workers, so he got more for the money for me. He would still have lost some good people, because they were cutting so deep.

                It’s not so easy when you have to cut to the point of permanent damage. But if the money isn’t there, cutting is what has to be done. At that point too, everyone who is good and has mobility options will be leaving soon, so you’re now losing some of your best people too.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            “Companies aren’t in the business of letting go people who make the appropriate contributions to the bottom line.”

            But that sounds like you’re saying that everyone who is laid off was deficient in some way, and that’s not true. Sure, that’s sometimes the case, but often they worked for a division that the company decided was unstrategic (while doing an excellent job themselves), or the company simply found itself in a financial bind and needed to cut pieces of its business.

            I can think layoffs that I was involved with where the people laid off were great, but where the organization had decided for financial reasons not to do the work those people did anymore.

            1. Dan*

              Sure, but how many of those layoffs involved profitable business units? Let’s talk about dial-up internet for just a moment — I might be the best modem maker in the world, and an awesome employee, but in this day and age, what am I really worth? Not much.

              The whole thread stemmed from UI and its purpose. Should UI force people to take the first paying job (in the most broadest sense) that they find? If I’ve only been on the unemployment line for a couple of weeks, I’d argue that I should be given a fighting chance to find a job at my old pay rate.

              At some point, I’ll need to read the writing on the wall, and realize that there just isn’t demand for my old skill set. For how long should I receive UI compensation? For what purpose? If I will never find a job making modems again, aren’t I wasting taxpayer dollars?

              That’s why I said I liked TX’s system. It seemed to strike a fair balance between giving the unemployed person a chance to find work at his previous salary, but still recognize that there may no longer be demand for those skills at his former rate, and that he should take a different paying job.

              1. danr*

                I’ll take the job… my company was acquired by a rival and closed. Everyone was dismissed. We were in a niche field, but my skills are transferable. My application are for jobs related to what I did and at a much reduced rate. All I have so far are rejections of one sort or another. I’m not looking for my old job, I’m not looking for the “dream job”, I am looking for a job that will bring in more than unemployment and bring some value to the employer. I’m applying for part time positions that might cut me off from UI, but if that’s how I get my foot in the door, then I’ll take it.
                I think most folks will do the same.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                But not everyone involved in business units that were cut have unprofitable or outdated skills. Units get cut for all kinds of reasons, and they also often include various types of support staff (communications people, for instance).

                Moreover, start talking about nonprofits and the entire context changes — since then people/depts get cut when funding is lost, and often has nothing to do with the skills of the people being let go.

                1. Dan*

                  That’s all very true. But nowhere in my many comments on this thread should my position be construed to mean that all people who get laid off are worthless, useless, outdated, or unwanted.

                  You’ll note that my opening comment was in reference to public policy on the UI system. My response was to Hannah, who had said that UI just wants you to take literally any paying job and get off the roles. I then responded that I liked TX’s system, which seemed to strike a fair balance between letting a candidate try to find a job at his previous income level, yet also helping him realize that his skills may no longer be worth what they thought they were.

                  UI in Virginia sucks, the maximum is something like $375 a week. I make that in a 12-hour work day. You can bet at that rate, I’m not going to sit around and “milk the system”. After taxes, that doesn’t even cover my rent.

                  If Virginia paid something anywhere close to what my normal paycheck is, you can bet I’d take my sweet time and be really picky about the next job that I take. But from a public policy standpoint, how long should the state pay for me to wait around? 6 months? 1 year? At some point, I have to wise up and realize that if I’ve been unemployed long enough, that the market for my skills isn’t what I want it to be. A good system strikes a balance between letting me test the waters but at the same time, make me realize that I may need to reassess the value of my skills.

                  All I was getting at with the “profitable” comment was that the mere fact one got laid off is a pretty strong signal that one can’t lean on the salary of their previous job as a clear indicator of their market worth. My current job is a very strong baseline for negotiations with a prospective employer — without it, my position is a lot weaker, and I may very well have to settle for a lower pay rate. $70k is not appealing when I have an $80k job, but is very appealing when I have no job. Am I underpaid if I accept a job at $70k when I was laid off from a job paying $80k?

                2. Jamie*

                  My current job is a very strong baseline for negotiations with a prospective employer — without it, my position is a lot weaker, and I may very well have to settle for a lower pay rate. $70k is not appealing when I have an $80k job, but is very appealing when I have no job. Am I underpaid if I accept a job at $70k when I was laid off from a job paying $80k?

                  Even without it being a strong baseline for negotiations (which it is) it’s the question of how appealing the other job needs to be in order for one to take it.

                  I have a good job – I like it here. I like what I do and I like those with whom I do it (for the most part – nothing is perfect). In order for a new job to be appealing to me – enough for me to consider leaving my known situation – it would need to pay 35-40K over what I’m making now and have the same or better work environment (or at least not materially more sucky).

                  However, if I were unemployed now a new employer doesn’t need all that to be appealing to me. They need to offer anything more than unemployment and not actively hit me with sticks each day.

                  That’s why I really think looking for work while unemployed (if you need the income) and looking for better work while happily employed are two radically different scenarios. Which is why it always kind of baffles me that some employers only want to hire those currently employed – because they will cost you a lot more.

    2. De Minimis*

      One can easily apply for a long period, willing to compromise in all sorts of ways regarding type of work, pay, etc. and still not find anything. I know this from personal experience. Employers are extremely picky in areas with high unemployment, and can afford to be. The OP’s area sounds like mine, where you often have to struggle to even come up with new job contacts each week because there just isn’t much out there.

      In these areas you also often have a large permanent low-wage service industry type workforce, and those are the people who will be picked for the “survival” type jobs instead of people who used to do something else.

      I’ve never liked the belief that people on unemployment are just waiting for their perfect opportunity that matches what they used to do, and that they’ll find someone once their benefits expire. I can tell you that isn’t the case. My benefits were gone for nearly a year before I was able to find even part-time work.

      1. Lulula*

        I’ve never liked the belief that people on unemployment are just waiting for their perfect opportunity that matches what they used to do, and that they’ll find someone once their benefits expire.
        Anyone who reads half the conversation here would realize the truth: the market is not only extremely tight, but full of unrealistic employer expectations in many cases. This includes not recognizing “transferable skills”. So while someone in a niche position might be open to a variety of other opportunities, the reality is that those opportunities might not be open to them. (Obviously, this is not ALL employers or ALL job seekers, but it is definitely a pervasive trend that many are dealing with.)

        1. Rana*

          Agreed. I was certainly willing to apply for clerical and administration jobs (the best match out of the jobs available in my area); they were not, however, that interested in hiring someone with a lot of specialized experienced in a niche field with more degrees than necessary, when they could get a person with ten years of specific office-focused experience. And, honestly, they were not wrong to view me that way.

          (The other options were blue collar jobs I was either physically unsuited for or lacked technical skills for, or highly technical positions that were completely outside of my areas (such as medical engineering). I wasn’t being picky so much as realistic about my chances and my “fit” for various positions.)

          1. OP #5*

            Sometimes I wonder if state lawmakers and officials who pass these regulations realize a person can’t get hired for an admin job if they only know how to type. It seems to me that a lot of the political complaining about unemployment is driven by people who think that those without work should be walking around and presenting their resumes to employers, using heavy bond paper and putting in their objective, “will work for food.”

            I wonder how many politicians have ever actually been hiring managers for mid- to low-level non-government, non-political positions, and whether government hiring is comparable to business and NGO hiring.

            1. class factotum*

              I wonder how many politicians have ever actually been hiring managers for mid- to low-level non-government, non-political positions

              I think there are four of them.

            2. K*

              Oh, I think plenty of politicians have hiring experience. The issue is not that they’re incapable of figuring out how people get jobs now; the issue is that they don’t actually care, and feel that being realistic about that fact doesn’t win them any votes.

  7. Sharon - OP*

    #3 – When I was on unemployment a couple years ago I had the same experience. Fortunately I’m in a good area with lots of places hiring in my career area, so having three applications a week wasn’t a problem. I did feel that the questions asked in the “proof of job hunting” form were pretty stupid. As Allison said, they seemed aimed at blue collar workers, or more accurately they were straight out of 1960. I not only had to tell them who I applied with, but how I applied and what was the result. You could say you applied over the internet and was hired the next day – as if that was realistic.

    It did make me think that the unemployment office is unknowingly collecting some pretty good data about the job hunting situation today but don’t know how to analyze or make use of it.

    1. Josh S*

      “It did make me think that the unemployment office is unknowingly collecting some pretty good data about the job hunting situation today but don’t know how to analyze or make use of it.”

      This is, sadly, the case with a lot of government offices. Some of them collect, analyze, and release information that is wonderfully useful. Others just collect it because they’re required to, but never analyze it or make it publicly available (or even analyze it internally to check for effectiveness of their programs).

      Sometimes, they even refuse to release it in response to a FOIA request. As a market research analyst, there’s been a couple times I’ve submitted a FOIA to a government department for a certain data set that I’m *almost* certain exists and been denied because they hadn’t anonymized and aggregated the information. And they can’t release the raw data because it could be used for nefarious purposes, even if it had certain fields redacted (which I totally get).

      *sigh* Government fail. I really shouldn’t be surprised.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        “Others just collect it because they’re required to, but never analyze it or make it publicly available (or even analyze it internally to check for effectiveness of their programs)… Government fail.”

        With respect and certainly not as a political statement, but I hope you understand that these government programs have been subjected to the same type of budget and staffing cuts that everyone else in the country has?

        1. Josh S*

          Oh, I absolutely do. I know plenty of folks who work for various branches of the government, and they all tend to be pretty stellar workers (contrary to the stereotype, but then again, I’d like to think I choose my company well…and I hear stories of *those* government workers and the inefficiency, and the idiocy, and the bureaucracy, and… and…)

          I don’t blame any of the individuals involved — more the institutional culture that fails to use the plethora of data collected. Or the failure of people in leadership (whether the elected officials making the decisions or the high-mid level management that sets internal policy) to ever ask “how should we be doing this?” or “how could we be doing this better/in a way that helps people more?” or to recognize that they have the tools and information to answer those questions.

          Anyway, just a tangent. Carry on, citizen. ;)

          1. Jessa*

            The biggest issue is that the data were not set UP to be properly analysed. If data needs to be anonymised to be given out then that should happen at inception of data collection. The programming require to collect the data should be set from get go to be able to do this. It’s not so much that they don’t have the staffing anymore. It’s that nobody bothered to set up the data collection right in the first place.

            Nobody asked the critical “okay we’re collecting data – WHY, for what purpose, to what end?” before starting.

            When my friend was doing her PhD the first thing she did when starting to collect the data (it was medical data, she’s a nurse,) was to build into the collection the methods of assuring the anonymity of the patients. You do this before you even start collecting. Not after the fact when someone wants to peer review or statistically analyse what you have.

  8. Nichole*

    When I worked in UI, I encountered several people who had the same issue as OP #3. While I’m not saying OP 3 would behave this way (and it’s a perfectly legitimate question), the people who asked me about it in the office almost universally came at me with a nasty, entitled attitude that they were above job searching and often got rude with me when I explained that I didn’t have any power to give them an exception. They didn’t want help figuring out how to adapt their usual job search strategy to meet the requirement, they wanted me to override it, and we don’t do that. Indiana has used the 3 search a week rule for some time, and it’s not negotiable unless you’re in full time training. If you want state money, you cooperate. What a lot of people don’t understand is that UI isn’t intended to support you while you search out your dream job, it’s to keep you from starving between dislocation and finding another job-ANY other job. As a career advancement strategy, it sucks. But for the purposes of the state, it’s fine. In Indiana (at least as of a couple years ago), you would not be suspended for applying for jobs outside of your desired field unless it was clear that you were routinely applying for jobs that you were vastly unqualified for (ie, you have an associate’s degree in computer science and are applying to various physician positions at the local hospital). And while we’re at it, people with professional histories and advanced credentials also seemed to disproportionately tell me that they “paid” for their benefits and therefore deserved them regardless of their actual circumstances. No, you didn’t. Your employer did. It was never your money. It did not come from your check. If they took it from you in some indirect way, that’s between you and your former employer. Stop acting like bullying me will get you your money. Claims reps in the line of fire often make less than the average UI check and have almost no discretionary power. Being unemployed sucks and can be a huge blow to the ego, but please don’t take that out on your friendly local claims taker. /rant

      1. MA*

        I’m sorry but my husband had to use unemployment benefits and we were VERY grateful to have the money because it did help us until he got another job (and not his dream one!). We didn’t assume we “paid” for the benefits or that it was some sort of vacation. Instead it was a terrible, heart wrenching time in our lives when we were very scared.

        I’ve done a lot of direct client work through a non-profit and have encountered a lot of people who feel “entitled” to services so I can relate to your frustration. However, I see it as my job to understand that they are under an immense amount of stress and not acting in a way they normally would. Trust me, I’ve had people threaten me and others, scream, swear, call me names, hang up the phone…I’ve had it all. Rather than assume things about my clients, I spend a lot of time (as my whole office does) learning how to deal with high conflict clients so that we can provide the best service possible.

        1. Steve G*

          Interesting comments Nichole and MA. I was unemployed for 6 weeks in summer 2010. Very scary. What I noticed when I went to the unemployment office was that despite the fact the workers were offering service and to help, it was, ironically, only the people with the skills to help themselves that took advantage of the service and knew how to comply with the rules – mostly the white collar ones.

          The blue collar – mostly younger guys that showed up in tshirts, etc., left as soon as they could. It was only the few white collar types that stuck around to sign up for emailed job listings, ask about training, and use the resume printing station. I realized it was a skill in and of itself to know how to utilize the services unemployment offers, and not everyone has the skill.

        2. Nichole*

          Absolutely. That comes into play in the “be nice anyway” rule-even when someone comes across as an entitled ass, you give them the benefit of the doubt because you don’t know them, or their situation. This doesn’t help people in that position to understand that coming at a UI staff member with an expectation of special treatment will not improve their situation. Since the OP asked, I provided my experience from the other side of the desk so that he or she will be able to better cope with the frustration. Since certain attitudes seem to be common among UI recipients with stories similar to the OP, I threw in some extras. YMMV.

    1. -X-*

      “ANY other job. ”

      So an unemployed research scientist is expected to apply for and take a minimum wage job, even if that will result in her having to sell her home and go on welfare because her income will be below the poverty line for her family size, etc.


      And for the purposes of the state, that’s a good thing? Another person on state support, but a different sort.

      1. Anonymous for this one*

        No… at least in NY, there are income tiers based on how long you’ve been unemployed and a percentage of your former wages. You can refuse a job offer where the salary offered is below your income tier.

      2. Lulula*

        This is my impression of the CA stance, at least. (Un)lucky for said scientist, the minimum wage job is unlikely to even agree to an interview due to perceived overqualification, though… They don’t care about whether you make a living wage, just whether or not you earn *something*. It’s been awhile since I was qualifying for benefits, but from what I remember you’re not “allowed” to turn anything down.

        1. Rana*

          That was how it was when I was on unemployment there, about ten years ago. You had to apply regularly, and accept the first offer you got – if you turned it down, you faced the very real chance of losing your benefits.

        2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          This. And, to be fair, people who earned minimum wage and then go on unemployment have to deal with the same rules, the exception being that they’re doing so on a fraction of the UI that the scientist is, don’t lose a home because they never had the ability to buy one in the first place, etc.

          It actually kinda irks me that the amount you get for UI is different based on how much you made in previous jobs. Shouldn’t it be keyed to some kind of basic standard of living?

          The thing is, white collar workers should need UI much less, because theoretically they’re able to save more money, build up retirement accounts that they can draw from in an emergency, etc. But I get the impression that white collar people are much more aware of, and willing to take advantage of, the benefits that they’re legally allowed than many poor people are. So we end up in a situation where we have 2 unemployed people, and the person with the fewest other resources is also the one getting the least money.

          So, in short, yeah, if all you can find is a minimum wage job then you take it. Other people live on minimum wage all the time, without any prospects of saving an emergency fund, having health insurance, or any of the other benefits a newly unemployed white-collar worker would enjoy. You’ll live. And I’d bet you’ll get another job in your sector, if you keep applying and building your skills in your spare time.

          1. -X-*

            There’s a certain animosity toward more fortunate people in your note. Which is understandable. But rather than wishing that what I’ll call the “40%” (people from, say the top 50% to top 90% of income) were less secure, how about pushing that losing a job for a long-time shouldn’t be so disastrous for any of us? And that benefits and laws that help people making less money were better (such as via higher minimum wage).

            Sure, the 40% people should recognize how relatively fortunate they were. But it would be better for all of us if they could afford to get job closer to their skills again, both so their lives and the economy would be less disrupted and also so people who can only look for lower-wage jobs would face less competition as well.

            It’s really bad news then the bottom of our economy is pitted against the middle (and vice versa). The problem is elsewhere.

          2. class factotum*

            white collar people are much more aware of, and willing to take advantage of, the benefits that they’re legally allowed than many poor people are.

            For what it’s worth, when I was laid off, I did not draw unemployment. My thinking was (in addition to the fact that I did not want to go to the unemployment office every week and waste time for what would be about $170 a week after taxes) that I had a good severance package and savings and there were limited funds for unemployment payouts. I thought those funds should go to people who had made less money than I did and had not been able to save.

            Now, if I had had children I could not feed, I would have done what I had to do.

            1. The IT Manager*

              I did something similar. Granted I was attending classes on the GI Bill and planned to leave the area as soon as school finished. I choose to live off my savings and what came with the GI Bill rather deal the the hassle of unemployment. I sometimes wonder if that made me dumb or lazy (for not taking advantage of the benefit).

              But I found the time to focus on school (not quite full time), fitness, and cooking to be very relaxing. And six months after leaving my old job while still in school, I very luckily stumbled into a new one.

              I have an awareness, though, that if my situation had ended differently, I might be regretting my choice.

          3. Jamie*

            It actually kinda irks me that the amount you get for UI is different based on how much you made in previous jobs. Shouldn’t it be keyed to some kind of basic standard of living?

            Why? People don’t earn the same amount while working, why would the UI be the same?

            Employer’s pay both state and federal UI taxes and it’s a percentage of salary. They paid in a lot more for someone making 100K than someone making 20K which determines what you would be entitled to.

            If they paid in at the same rate, regardless of salary for different positions, then lower earning positions would become too cost prohibitive and there would be even more unemployment.

      3. fposte*

        If she doesn’t have an emergency fund, the max UI (in my state, anyway) isn’t going to keep her in her house either.

        1. -X-*

          But if she finds a better job in a few months she might. Whereas if she goes to $8/hour for a year she’ll lose it for sure.

          1. -X-*

            So does she have to take a $8/hour job (that is, say, 1/6 of her former salary) now? As opposed to trying to find a job at, say, half her former salary?

            People here keep saying “you can’t hold out for your dream job” but not wanting to take *any* job isn’t the same as holding out for a “dream job.”

          2. fposte*

            That doesn’t make any sense–why would she lose it for sure? You think a research scientist is going to stop job-hunting because she’s finally found that Wal-Mart job? Either way she has the chance of finding a better job in a few months.

          3. Jamie*

            If she doesn’t have an emergency fund, the max UI (in my state, anyway) isn’t going to keep her in her house either

            This. I have never been on UI – but in my state the max is $413 a week. If you have a non-working spouse you can get $492 per week – add depended children (and no working spouse) and it’s $562 per week. I’m in Illinois and that’s from the IDES website.

            That works out to between $21,476 and 29,224 annually.

            And to get the max you need to be making much more than 30K per year so even at that it’s probably not keeping you in your house.

            It’s just not intended to maintain a standard of living on either end of the spectrum – just something to help you get by.

            And yes, to Kimberlee’s point people who have made more money should have more resources to sustain a job loss…but very few people have several years worth of living expenses banked.

            And it’s not like you can just downsize quickly either. Most people with car payments would take huge losses if they sold their cars and traded in for cheaper and less reliable transportation. An apartment would be cheaper than my house, but how long would it take me to sell my house? In the meantime the mortgage payments need to be made or I will end up with no where to live AND no credit to rent an apartment.

            If this happened to me I’d immediately cancel the frivolous stuff – do serious belt tightening on all necessary purchases and discretionary expenses would stop. I’d have to have the kids look into financial aid for school…but the house and car payments? We’d still be in a world of hurt.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      …UI isn’t intended to support you while you search out your dream job, it’s to keep you from starving between dislocation and finding another job-ANY other job.

      +1. It doesn’t even come close to being enough for that. I went to about half what I was making on UI, and lucky for me, I had already cut back quite a bit, so with a bit of help now and then from my parents, I managed. And I cannot tell you how grateful I was to have it. I thanked God every day for those extensions–without them, I wouldn’t have made it. I literally got my new job a couple of weeks before the end of the last extension. X_X

    3. Yvi*

      ‘ No, you didn’t. Your employer did. It was never your money. It did not come from your check.’

      Of course employers know about that cost and consider it when thinking about what wages they offer. It’s not paid from their own paycheck. It’s part of the employee’s benefits.

  9. Karen*

    #3 I was a 99 weeker back in 2009-2010. No one is going to check and double check the job leads that you applied for. They want to see you list that you are actively job seeking. You can make stuff up and they won’t check. but YOU HAVE TO PUT IN SOMETHING!

    1. Elizabeth West*

      LOL, I applied probably a hundred times at the hospital (for secretarial positions, not just any old thing), even though they never called. I didn’t even think they would, ever, but it filled up the requirement. Ironically, my first week at NewJob, they called me!

    2. In Cog Neeto*

      When i was on unemployment last year, i was told i didn’t have to actually put in an application, i just had to “make contact.” (Fwiw, i am in California). So the vast majority of my entries were websites of companies i looked on for jobs, and then “no positions available” for the outcome. I really hated that i couldn’t report progress either… how one week i would submit my report with some applications, and then i’d get a result the following report period, but that wouldn’t “count.”

      I found the rules very un-white-collar friendly as well, which was frustrating too. I get they don’t want people milking the system, but they need to update their proceedures to match today’s (pretty awful) job climate.

      1. Lulula*

        +1 You can also apply to jobs via those sites that you’re vaguely qualified for. I personally never felt comfortable making anything up, as you never know when they might decide to follow up on something, and who knows who’s keeping track of what – plus, I just didn’t want to lie outright. But I could say that I applied to x position at y company via, and that was fine. There was one time before the regular reporting was required when I was asked to submit my list of who/what/when, and I remember including a note that I didn’t include ALL my contacts because I didn’t want to jeopardize my networking by having some people contacted. Not that I thought that would really mean much, but I felt better remarking on the issue at least! I can’t imagine trying to cultivate a potentially useful contact, only to have them rung up by EDD…

        My benefits have since run out, but I did get the impression that they reserved the right to request a record of your job search activities at any time – yes it’s highly unlikely, but still… You’re better off at least making a token effort if “real” opportunities aren’t presenting themselves during a particular time period; it will also keep your momentum up.

        1. Blinx*

          I know in PA it’s apply, not contact. After a year, I was called into a “group audit” where you only had to bring in your application log from the past two weeks. Those who didn’t, or who had only applied to some, were marched out to where the computers were and had to apply to jobs! At least they gave you a chance. I keep all my records on the PA CareerLink website, but I don’t know if anyone from the state can access that.

          Also, we’re told to keep your records for a year or more after we stop receiving benefits — they can audit us and request that we pay back benefits if we don’t have it!

    3. Charlotte*

      I’m going to have to correct you on that…I work in an HR dept and I take the phone calls and emails verifying whether so-and-so applied to my company on such-and-such date. I was also on the conference call with the court when a gentleman’s unemployment was revoked for saying he applied to jobs that he had not.

      So, for your own sake, apply to what they require you to.

      Oh, and unrelated side-note, fill out your own book. Ask for my business card and take it home later and do it…for better or worse, the second you pull that book out, my opinion of you slips. (And mind, it’s not because the person is on Unemployment.)

        1. fposte*

          It sounds like people are asking Charlotte to fill in their forms for them, which is their responsibility.

          1. Jessa*

            Or they’re wasting her time filling it out in her presence, instead of just getting the info and doing it later like they should. Sitting there asking all the information from her.

        2. Min*

          I certainly wouldn’t speak for Charlotte, but my own opinion would be negatively colored by someone asking me to complete paperwork for them that they could complete themselves (assuming there was no requirement from the state to have the business fill in your book for you).

    4. Jill*

      Nope, there are random audits. The odds are good you won’t get audited, but I was. I was interviewed multiple times and every business I listed was contacted. I only drew benefits for a few weeks and was already employed when the audit took place.

  10. Zed*


    Your question about the upcoming project would have been PERFECT for the “Do you have any questions for us?” part of the interview.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think she’s gotten an interview–I think she’s just sent in her application. You’re right that it would be perfect for that question, though.

      1. Zed*

        Yeah, I got the same impression. Sorry if that was unclear. I just meant that if you’ve already sent in your cover letter, then the interview (should you get one) is the place for that sort of question.

  11. Arci*

    I’m the person who wrote number 6. I’ve never written a follow up email before. I’m a “follow instructions on how to apply” person. I did not want to annoy the woman by simply asking ‘did you receive my resume’ so I tried to be creative. Although I tried to be polite and thanked her for taking time out of her day to answer my questions…I can see how that may have still annoyed her. The job posting just closed yesterday….here’s hoping I get a call.

    1. Anonymous*

      Yeah, but most employers don’t want you to follow up on an application. After an interview, sure, but not after applying. Think about it, in this job market, they are getting hundreds of applications for a single posting. They don’t want to be flooded with follow up emails and have to respond. Unless it’s an automated system, it’s highly unusual to receive confirmation of receipt on your application.

      1. Arci*

        Ok. I have not searched for a job in awhile and I have heard that’s some people advice on doing that. Even though It doesn’t seem very natural to me I thought I would give it a shot. I go with my gut instinct next time.

    2. fposte*

      In general, a follow-up email just after sending the application isn’t likely to help you and could hurt you, so I’d definitely go back to sticking to the instructions for that phase. Keep in mind that following instructions is pretty key in lots of jobs, so it’s actually a better support for your candidacy to follow them than to try to work around them. When “being creative” means “asking for more time from somebody you’re hoping to impress,” it’s not the way you want to go.

      1. Anonymous*

        I could be fishing here…..but do you think it makes a difference if my email way redirected? I initially sent it to one woman, just stating I had appled and had a question about the organization. A different woman emailed me back and asked me to direct any questions regarding “—” organization to her. ..So, I did per her request.

        1. fposte*

          When you say “organization,” do you mean “project”? If so, then I don’t think it was really redirected; I think the recipient just forwarded it to the woman who contacted you.

          Unfortunately, I don’t think anybody here could really tell you, without knowing you and all the people involved, what made a difference here and what didn’t, and even the people involved probably don’t know how significance that difference is at this point. You’re just going to have to wait and see, which is hard, but it’s just an inevitable part of job-hunting.

          1. Arci*

            lol very true. I really do have no way of knowing and I can be very antsy and impatient at times. I am trying to work on my e-mail etiquette, so I have the tendency to really pick things apart after it is all said and done.

            Thank you for responding to me though!

    3. Zed*

      Hi, Arci. I think part of the issue that follow up emails are generally used after the interview – or at least after the hiring manager has first contacted you. I think it is not inappropriate to follow up on an application once after a significant amount of time has gone by, but even that is not likely to do much good. Following up after only a couple of days, however, is just going to be an annoyance, and annoying someone who is doing the hiring is never a good idea!

      Also, my gut reaction is that asking a question was a misstep, because it required time and effort from someone who hadn’t yet decided if you were a good enough fit to be worth the time and effort of an interview. Even though follow up emails are generally frowned upon, if you *were* going to email, you would have been better expressing your interest in this additional project and saying you looked forward to discussing how the advertised role could be involved. That way the email didn’t require anything from them. But, also, to me it sounds like you had no reason to assume that the new hire WOULD be involved in this new project… so expressing too much interest in it could also sound like you wanted that job, not the one that was advertised.

      Best of luck in your job hunt!

  12. Katharina*

    In Germany, we have similar unemployment rules. What people do who do not want to find employment is (1) make up contacts they never applied to or (2) actually apply for positions for which they are not a good fit and will not be considered.

    1. Dan*

      My dad hires for low wage positions. He tells me plenty of times he gets people dropping by just to get a box to check on a UI form — even if he’s not hiring.

      1. SCW*

        I work at a library where a lot of unemployed folks come to use our computers, and some of them will ask every day if we are hiring so we will sign their papers. Even though we explain that the library doesn’t hire at the branches, that it is all handled by the county and on line–they never stick around to have us show them the website to look to see if we are hiring–they just want their paper signed.

        1. Anonymous*

          I called the unemployment office once to ask if I had to sign, as I’d had several people walk in clearly just looking for a signature – not to apply for a job. It made me very uncomfortable. They said I didn’t have to sign, so the next time it happened, I didn’t and explained why.

      2. class factotum*

        Very slightly related – but that setup – a guy wanting to get his slip signed so he can get his benefits – is the setup for the movie “The Intouchables,” which I watched on a 16-hour flight from the middle east back to the U.S. last month and liked very much.

        1. Laura uk*

          Years ago, I was hiring at a non-profit and was interviewing for an admin position in my team. I was interviewing a guy who was good on paper and he’d done fine on the data input test we’d set up and various things. He was also doing fine on answering questions when he suddenly said out of the blue “I can’t stand fundraisers.” I paused dumbfounded and said “er, well, that’s a bit difficult because as you’ll know from the job description, the post requires a lot of work with fundraisers and this doesn’t sound like a good fit and it seems strange you’d apply for this job.” At that point he turned really nasty and said “well, I wouldn’t get out of bed for what you’re paying anyway. I’m only here as I have to apply to keep up applications and interviews for unemployment. Now, I was promised my expenses.” At this point he pulled out a train ticket, smashed it down on the table and said “that’ll be £24.” I wish I hadn’t paid him and reported him but I was so shaken up and felt so threatened I just gave him cash and got him out of the building.

          In no way am I saying anything other than how extraordinary that was. But this particular thread was an excuse to share my most traumatising hiring story. Urgh. Still makes me shudder 6 years on!

  13. Anon*

    OP#1 here. Thanks Josh S and JL in particular for the substance.

    Other commenters are making assumptions about how writing to this blog is somehow a reflection of how I conduct myself professionally and that has nothing to do with my original question.

    For some of us, advice and support are one and the same.

    I appreciate this blog as I said before. I probably have too high an expectation of it in fact because of my previous experiences writing and participating in comment threads. I don’t need validation from anyone on this point but I am a firm believer in thinking before you write. There will always be questions submitted which you may not think warrant posting to begin with. One person’s common sense is another’s need for perspective, etc. That’s a bit difficult to write into guidelines or rules perhaps.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      ??? I don’t see where anyone said your question didn’t warrant posting.

      I’m sorry you’re so overwhelmed right now; that happens with big life changes. No one meant to chastise you; they were just trying to help you understand why your boss might have been doing this. Things will settle in and you’ll be fine. Congratulations on the new job. :)

    2. Josh S*

      Thanks for the shout-out.

      Just to note — there really aren’t written guidelines or rules, beyond “Be respectful and don’t be an ass.” Everything else is the result of self-policing and Alison’s participation in the comments, keeping things from going off the rails.

      This freedom from formal guidelines typically means that there are a lot of different viewpoints, and a lot of different communication styles. And sometimes that means that comments come across feeling harsh to the person who is asking the question and isn’t necessarily accustomed to getting very forthright feedback. Sometimes commenters are just jerks, too, but that’s uncommon.

      Sorry that you found the first few comments to be harsh, but reading back over them I don’t get that impression. They are just people trying to share things from another point of view, so that you get a fuller picture of what’s going on, and perhaps how to make the best of what is annoying, but ultimately a good sign from your future job.

      1. AB*

        OP#1, as the commenter #1, I’d like to confirm Josh’s impression.

        Because this is a blog that many people read — and want to learn from — the point I was trying to make was to a broader audience. I didn’t mean to be harsh or point to any flaws in your behavior.

        The point I was trying to make, to you and everyone who finds him/herself in this situation in the future, is that receiving emails from a future boss in advance of starting a job is usually a good sign.
        Like others have pointed out, it’s quite possible to stop being interrupted by these emails while you are busy with your move (create a filter in your mailbox so messages from your future boss don’t even hit your inbox, and go directly to a separate folder, that you can wait to read on your first day if you don’t have the time before then).

        I think Josh is right to conclude that differences in communication style is behind the disconnect between the intention of my initial comment and from others agreeing with it vs. how you perceived this comments as rude. I also agree with Elizabeth’s take on this. I hope Alison’s advice and the additional tips you got here will help you feel better about your boss’ emails.

      2. Jamie*

        “Be respectful and don’t be an ass.”

        That’s a good motto for everywhere – not just here.

        I think I’m going to stitch this on a sampler.

  14. Mike*

    To number 3:

    I am actually working on something closely related to welfare and was just given a high-level overview of the welfare system. Many programs will have extenuating circumstances clauses that require further review from your case worker. Even if this particular program doesn’t though, chances are that you still qualify for another program that might not have benefits that are as good but also has less stringent requirements.

    Talk to your case worker. There are a ton of programs and sub-programs. If you’re unemployed, you probably qualify for one.

    1. OP #5*

      In Pennsylvania, unemployment is administered through the Department of Labor and Industry, not the Department of Public Welfare, so I don’t think there are caseworkers. Every question i had was answered by a different person in a regional office, and their answers contradicted each other.

      They have people come in for one in-person meeting, but generally they prefer phone queries and online filing for benefits.

      1. De Minimis*

        In CA we didn’t have caseworkers either. There were so many unemployed at one point the state would have gone broke if they’d given people caseworkers.

    2. Op #3*

      Nope, can’t get welfare. With my husband check and my UI it got us over the limit by get this… Five bucks. We do qualify for WIC which has been great with the wee one since I got laid off in June. Without it, there would have been some long hungry nights for all off us.

  15. Lulula*

    #1 While I agree that it makes sense that the new boss would try to get you in the loop as soon as possible while at the same time not necessarily expecting you to participate in real time before your actual start date (and that this is indeed welcome by many people), it would have been nice if he’d said up front “I’ll start forwarding you info to get you in the loop, but I’m not expecting you to reply.” Although he’s probably busy and glad to finally have someone to bring on board, so not thinking about that either way.

    I think a note to acknowledge you’re seeing things come in, thank him for including you, and stating that you’re extremely busy with the relocation so are not in a position to actively get involved yet (but to let you know if something that urgently needs your attention comes up) would be fine. Odds are that’s what he’s assuming, but always best to be clear. I can identify with being exhausted and having reached your limit on daily must-do’s: hopefully once you’ve acknowledged the situation, you can put those emails on the back burner until you’ve got everything else sorted.

    #2 I’ve wondered about this myself, even as a longer term employee. What happens if the boss says no? I always feel like I’m the only one who has regular appointments of any kind – maybe my departments have been uber-healthy (or uber-stealthy) – so never really figured out whether most people just find ways to schedule appointments really early in the morning or on weekends or go without. This is one reason I rarely ate lunch with anyone else: always trying to cram things in then, handle what I could on the Blackberry if something came up and just work an extra 20min at the end of the day. This would be why I gave up on allergy shots!

    #3 In addition to my comments upthread, I just wanted to say that while this may seem like a reasonable requirement in general – showing evidence that you’re not just at home re-watching Firefly all week – it definitely feels like an additional stressor in an already stressful situation. I know I tried to be reasonable and not get too irritated about it, but when you’re already frustrated by a crummy market and the 5001 other things you have to do/read/participate in to try to get a job these days, it can be difficult to maintain equanimity. I did deal with some nice people and some not so nice people on the phone, and while I did my best to not take it out on them, I’m sure I wasn’t always as patient as I could have been. I certainly feel for anyone who’s at the other end of the EDD phone line; that has to be a very long day of unfun conversation!

    The allowance of noting sites such as Monster, Indeed (or a company’s own job site) vs a specific human was extremely helpful in this regard; usually you get a confirmation from the site of your application, or you can just do a screen grab of the confirmation page after you submit. No one’s living high on the hog on their unemployment checks, but it made a huge difference to me vs not getting anything supplemental at all, and I did my best to fulfill my side of the bargain even if it seemed rather pointless in terms of actually becoming employed.

  16. JustMe*

    #5 – “an enthusiasm for online content, and a comfort moving through the digital world of web-posting, social media and the Internet, this is your opportunity to develop your skills and take your career to the next level.​”
    Sounds like job requirements to me. And it sounds like they are willing to settle for someone who will be enthusiastic to learn rather than an experienced person. I live in a small town and it is interesting to watch our local newspaper trying to figure out how to survive in the 21st century. On-line and social media is where journalism is going and they want someone who can help them get there.

    1. Jessa*

      They may be looking for someone with a brand new viewpoint. Someone without experience coming in, so that they can look at the place with new eyes, and maybe even say “hey I dunno if this is going to work the way you do THAT thing there. Nobody I know does Y that way in blogs any more. Or all the people I’m in touch with want Z.” Instead of someone with 20 years of doing Y the way everyone has always done Y.

      1. The Chris Pride*

        I read #5 as “We want someone who is new to journalism and has a passion for politics so we can teach them the “new” journalism style that furthers our political agenda: more opinions and less facts/accuracy.”

  17. Cassie*

    Echoing the other posts about #1. Hopefully the boss is not expecting any action from the OP before her start date and is just copying her as fyi. I’d also proceed carefully when drafting an email to the boss – some bosses can be unreasonable and even the slightest hint of pushback from an employee could sour the boss’s impression of the employee. You don’t want to start off your new job on the wrong foot.

    Not that you have to kow-tow to the boss, but it’s best to proceed with caution/diplomacy.

  18. Erik*

    For #3 – I’ve had to deal with some of those “rules” in the past.

    In CA at least, they’re pretty much useless for white-collar work. I even told EDD many years ago that they’re not able to help engineers or similar technical staff like myself. One person agreed with me.

    They require you to upload your resume to their state web site and they tell you to look there. The problem is it’s literally impossible to find any positions, given that their search functionality is from 1980. The noise to signal ratio is way too high for it to be useful.

    I’ve been busy hitting up my network at business school, conferences, LinkedIn and professional meetings.

    1. Jessa*

      When I still had benefits (I ran out of them,) the state website would send me emails, supposedly tailored to my resume and the information I gave them on their site and in person to their counselors.

      Every single solitary job they recommended – I did not meet the stated requirements. They asked for things I clearly never did or could not meet. Degree requirements higher than what I have. Some technical experience I never heard of.

      Not one job they recommended did I qualify for.

      So yeh, signal to noise? What signal. I didn’t even find the signal.

      1. De Minimis*

        I remember uploading my resume to the CalJobs website and would occasionally check it, but it more or less had the same phony recruiter jobs that you’d see on Careerbuilder that were several months old. It was obvious no one posted anything of value on there.

        1. Lulula*

          Oh totally – took me awhile to figure out where to even look, as their categories were so bizarre (as Erik said, must’ve been set up and forgotten in 1980, although even that seems generous). As I had to keep checking in there in order to avoid triggering some non-search red flag, my visits became more fascinating journeys through employment areas I wasn’t aware even existed. In EDD’s defense, I do have to say I found it really helpful how much could be done online vs having to show up in person all the time, at least. But in terms of actual help provided in my search… um, no.

  19. OP #7*

    Thanks for the advice, Alison. In those two phone interviews, I just found it awkward because everything was phrased in the present tense and with it all being so fresh in my mind, I couldn’t get beyond the “Er, yes, well, funny thing about that ‘current position’…” train of thought.

    Since writing I’ve scheduled an in-person interview for next week. And they got my post-layoff resume, so now I’ll know exactly what to say. I’ve also got two phone interviews scheduled as well, so hopefully something pans out. Thanks again!

  20. Jamie*

    I do have a pet peeve about the requirements for applying x number of places – not that I have a problem with requiring people to look for work (I agree with that) but with how it’s being policed.

    Not a week goes by since I’ve started working that at least two people don’t come to by to drop off resumes/ask to fill out applications. Many times (not all) they don’t bother to ask if you have openings or even have the slightest idea of what you do as a company. I’ve had everyone with nothing on their resume except babysitting to a PhD in microbiology fill out applications and have zero interest in even hearing about what we have available.

    I’ve had multiple people come in all at once, all ask for applications, loud and boisterous – and it’s all to get you to sign the form they have that they filled out an application.

    If someone appears serious – i.e. asks about openings, listens to what they are, and shows even the slightest bit of polite behavior I’ll sign the form and take their application. If it’s clearly just about pencil whipping it through then get someone else to do it.

    The thing is this requirement and however they are or aren’t checking it is a pita for businesses who have to deal with the uninterested. And never once have I had anyone call to confirm my signature on a form.

    It just seems like the intention is good but it’s really badly managed.

    1. Lulula*

      I find it interesting that some states are requiring actual signatures for this – must be a HUGE pain for everyone involved! I can only assume it’s because CA is so large (as is our unemployment) that we didn’t have to do it this way, otherwise I’m pretty sure we would have ceased productivity altogether…

    2. Laura L*

      I’m actually surprised that Illinois requires signatures. When I was on unemployment in 2009, they did not require that. And I only had to keep a paper record of applications I sent in.

      All I had to do was call in every week and answer questions about whether I earned any money that week and whether I was available for work and actively job searching.

      They must have changed it. Or maybe it’s related to the extension that’s funded by the federal government? Is that extension funded by them?

      1. Jamie*

        I don’t know anything about the back end of the process – just that I know everyone who comes in asking for an application asks for a business card and if you won’t give them one (I don’t) then requests you sign their form with name/date/title.

        I assumed it was universal – it’s possible it’s part of some special program? I don’t know – I just know there is one form I typically see and sometimes it’s a homemade form with the same info requested.

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