snow day open thread

photoIt’s our monthly open thread!

The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything you want to talk about.

If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

{ 749 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I am going to kick this one off myself, with a rant about how you really shouldn’t send hostile emails (plural) to a stranger who you asked for free advice, telling them that they didn’t provide you with enough advice or the type that you wanted, and that they didn’t give you enough “support.” Because it makes you look a little unhinged and out of touch with reality.

    It also is not helpful to end your email with “P.S. Perhaps I’m the one who should be running an advice blog as I have worked in the corporate world for 33 years and have a degree in Counseling Psychology to boot.” Because that is weird.

    1. Janet*

      Wowsers. Why do I feel like others have probably also e-mailed you for advice on dealing with this person at one time or another?

    2. Gobbledigook*

      This person has a degree in psychology? So they could be getting paid to counsel people on life? *shudder*

      1. Lanya*

        Yes…I am confused as to why this person would even be asking Alison for any advice at all with all of these degrees and 33 years of experience! LOL

    3. Blinx*

      I think they need a hug. Can you connect them up with that creepy munching burping guy from the other day who wanted to hug?

      P.S. Your free advice is AWESOME and is much appreciated.

      1. B*

        +1 on your advice being AWESOME!!!!

        I have noticed that those who are “experts with their psychology” are the ones most in need sometimes

        1. twentymilehike*

          I have noticed that those who are “experts with their psychology” are the ones most in need sometimes

          I was a psych major in college and one of the things we were told as noobs was that pscyh major have very high suicide rates. Just an interesting thought …

          1. KellyK*

            Well, that’s depressing. I wonder if it’s a cause thing or a correlation thing. That is, does being so continuously exposed to other people’s mental illnesses and life struggles affect people’s ability to cope in their own lives, or are people who are already prone to depression drawn to psych as a field?

            1. twentymilehike*

              I always was under the impression that it was people who were already prone to depression (or other mental or emotional disorders) … but this is just based on my experience as a pscyh major and the people I went to school with.

            2. Elizabeth*

              I’ve been told by several people in the mental health field that almost all of them are in therapy for their own issues, which are often made worse by the issues of their patients. Being able to off-load the FeelingsDump that they get onto another person, who has the same ethical & professional responsibilities to them that they have they have to their own patients, is extremely important.

              I’ve also had several joke that they swear they went into the field to find out “What Is Wrong With Me.”

          2. nyxalinth*

            I think so. I once met an industrial psychologist on a dating service, and until he found out that at the time I was working as a housekeeper in a nursing home, he was interested in me. Then suddenly he became super paranoid that I was after him for his money, which I knew nothing about until he told me what he did for a living and mentioned making 60k a year (back in 1993), berated me for my job choice (not so much a choice as an emergency stop-gap while I decided my next move) and told me I lacked ambition. I didn’t even get to explain any of that to him before he went on his rant, which he finished with “You’ve obviously made some poor choices in life. Good luck in straightening yourself out.”

            What the actual hell? I’d say he had some issues, himself, for sure.

          3. Anonymous*

            In my university, the higher rate belonged to the Criminal Justice majors apparently.

            But yeah, going along with what B wrote, I’ve noticed psych majors usually have issues, and if they are in an argument with someone, they will try to psychoanalyze the other person to explain why the other person is behaving “irrationally.” I got into an argument with a psych major friend, and she tried analyze my reactions to take the attention of herself and her own responsibility in the argument – to make me look like the psycho.

    4. Ashley*

      Well if they feel like they should be running an advice blog, then by all means!

      Honestly, I’ve never understood this. I’m about to finish my masters and am currently on the job market. I had someone I was asking for advice disappear on me (and they hadn’t been very helpful). What did I do? I sent them an email thanking them for taking them time to talk with me, because no matter what, they still did me a favor.

      Sometimes I’m just not sure what people expect… for most anything.

      1. Sara*

        OK I bug Alison all the time, and yes most of the time it’s something I don’t want to hear. But it is helpful. and I really really hope I’ve never come across as rude or nasty.

          1. Jennifer O*

            Clarification: Not “I am a jerk that way.” Rather: “I am awesome that way.” :)

        1. Mary C.*

          I bug Alison all the time too. Her ideas are always SO helpful, it’s not even funny. I will admit, I often check in with other people who might have suggestions/advice, as well, before I email Alison, so it’s wonderful to have an unbiased opinion who can help clear the air. Thank you, Alison! I love this blog!

    5. Yup*

      Did they initially contact you for advice on dealing with other people? Just wondering… ;)

    6. Kelly O*

      Because that is a reasonable, stable, and sane response to answers you might not have really wanted to hear.

    7. Mike C.*

      Hahahahahahahahaha! That’s AWESOME!

      Be sure to cite them in your end of the year follow up to see how their advice blog is doing. :)

      1. Andie*

        It is kind of scary that people who have degrees in Pyschology, Counseling, etc., do not know how to react to hearing things they don’t like. They are suppossed to be the rationale one!

        1. Josh S*

          Counseling/Psychology are not, in my experience, about being rational. Through most counseling strategies, the goal is more about being an objective mirror through which a person can see a situation and how to respond more appropriately.

          The trouble is, this is much easier to do with someone in whose life you have no stake. That is, you can help a stranger be more objective than you can with your own friends or family. And it’s nearly impossible to do with your own life, since you necessarily and definitionally have blind spots that you cannot see.

          Yeah, a lot of counselors and psychologists have messed up lives. But that doesn’t negate their ability to be a rather objective mirror for you to understand and respond to your own life better. Because it’s not about being rational (or else Spock would have been the best counselor)–it’s about being an objective mirror with insight.

          1. Katie in Ed*

            Hate to spoil the thread’s good time, and I realize this is all in response to an aggressive and disrespectful email, but it’s unfortunate so many folks are ready to dismiss people in the field of psychology for having mental health issues (or perceiving “all psych majors” as such). We wouldn’t have the same disdain for someone with cancer who decided to become an oncologist, or a hurricane victim studying climate change. This attitude makes it harder for people in any profession to manage their illness in the workplace without shame.

            It’s unfortunate that someone wrote Alison a hostile email and used psychology as a defensive banner, but we shouldn’t let him/her speak for an entire profession or an entire group of people with a type of illness.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I don’t think anyone is saying that all psychologists are screwed up. If anyone here seriously thinks that, that would be silly — but I don’t think anyone does.

              Rather, I think people find it especially ironic and worth commenting on when some psychologists aren’t well adjusted, because of what they do for a living.

            2. Josh S*

              I’m not trying to be dismissive to people in the field of psychology (so I’m not sure why you’re saying this in response to my comment).

              Perhaps this line: “Yeah, a lot of counselors and psychologists have messed up lives.” I should have taken it another line and said, “But so do lots of people in other professions too.” Cuz it’s true.

              Having come through a psych department in undergrad, and having a lot of friends who have gone the clinical psych route, I can attest that they are more aware of their personality dysfunctions. IMO, they’re no more or less crazy than the rest of us, but they at least see it… or most of it, simply by virtue of delving into that aspect of the world.

              The point is, Alison is right — it’s ironic when people who devote themselves to a field of study also struggle within that field. Like a mechanical engineer who can’t change his oil, or a doctor who can’t shake a cold (nevermind the 2 packs a day he smokes), etc etc. Ironic when it happens — not a description of all people in those fields.

              1. Katie in Ed*

                Actually Josh, I responded to your comment because I found it to be more sensitive and in line with my opinion than some of the others. I definitely read your comment that many “counselors and psychologists have messed up lives” to be one of understanding and not dismissiveness. I agree with you that inability to see past ones own blind spots might not negate ones ability to see the blind spots in others, and I’m reluctant to judge someone too harshly for said blind spots when I know I’ve got my own (though I respect the point that hostility can dampen ones sympathy). Sorry for the misunderstanding.

                But I think you’re wrong on one point. Memtally ill folks who devote themselves to a field of psychology don’t struggle with that field – they struggle with an illness. Knowing your symptom doesn’t make you immune to it. And for all the reasons you mentioned in your post, these people could still do well at their jobs. When people write comments like, “psych majors usually have issues,” or that “I’ve heard from several people in the mental health field that they are all in therapy for their own issues,” or that “those who are ‘experts in psychology’ are the ones who need it most sometimes,” it dismisses both the illness and the profession. Yes, we could see a mentally ill person studying psychology to be ironic. Or we could see it as a person bringing a unique and useful perspective that could benefit a clinical field. I’m troubled that so many people default to the former here. We all suffer professionally when we start judging people by their perceived “issues” as opposed to what they actually do. So judge this letter all you want for being hostile and out of touch, but not because of stereotypes about so-called crazy people.

    8. Min*

      I know it would be completely out of line and unprofessional, but I’m so wishing we could read the whole email chain. It’s been a horrible day and I do love me some crazy.

    9. Aimee*

      I’m so sorry that happened to you! People just can’t stand to hear the truth. Just remember that there’s always a small percentage of people who are never happy no matter what. They’re what I call the vocal minority.

      For what it’s worth your blog is awesome! I’ve asked you a few questions over the years and you’ve always gave me great advice.

      Some people just can’t stand to hear the truth. Always stay the way you are. I love your blog!!!!!

      1. Kelly O*


        Although I also say “bosom” and “suss out” so take whatever I say with the proverbial grain of salt.

    10. Rob Bird*

      Interesting side note: most everyone I know with a Psychology degree has been treated for mental issues. And don’t say the thing the have in common is me…

      1. Josh S*

        Likely because they’re more aware of the psychological disorders that the rest of us cope with in dysfunctional ways. Nevermind that 1 in 4 people struggle with a mental disorder of some sort at some point in their lives.

        Perhaps we should applaud them for going to seek treatment, rather than condemning them for not pretending they aren’t sick?

        1. Waiting Patiently*

          Thanks to you and Katie the Ed for getting this back on track. Also it is highly recommened and at times required for licensed counselors to be in therapy not only for their issues (if any) but because of the nature of the work.

    11. Job seeker*

      Just know you are awesome and have a wonderful blog. Many people here appreciate you so much.

    12. JRM*

      Late to the party, but I just wanted to add that you have been so helpful to so many people, myself included. Thank you for all the advice you’ve given me!

      1. KarenT*

        That was my question too! “Hey Alison, I’m having trouble at work. How should I handle X, Y, Z? Oh, by the way, I’m an expert and should be giving the advice, not you.” WTH?

  2. Doogie*

    I emailed this to Alison, and I’m at work so I’m having to do this from my phone… Sorry it’s so long! It’s easier to copy and paste without a keyboard.

    I’m very young for my job. I’ve always been young for my class anyway, but I also graduated early from university and scored an awesome non-entry level job because of some great internships I had. I currently work on a team of 4, most with masters degrees and around 10 years of experience. The youngest is 10 years my senior.

    I carry the same load and type of work as my teammates and all my reviews have been overall positive. However one of my teammates tends to treat me like an intern. She asks me to do secretarial work for her that she easily could do herself, talks down to me in meetings like I don’t understand what is going on, and tells everyone not in our group that she allows me to work with her on some projects because I need to start meeting more people in the company… I’ve been here for nearly a year and a half and I’m doing just fine!

    Often times I help out on smaller tasks because I work quickly. I don’t want to give the wrong impression, because I’m happy to help, but I don’t want to get walked on either. How should I handle myself in the future to make her see me as an equal? I don’t have this problem with any other of my teammates, including our manager.

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      Have you considered that with 1.5 years of experience you’re not her equal?

      1. Doogie*

        Well of course I’m not her equal in the Big Wide World of Working but she has been in this position only 6 months longer than me (after an industry change from academia) and on the org chart and with levels of responsibility, we are equal. Not saying I wouldn’t have anything to learn from her if I were looking to her as a mentor, but I don’t think the things I described are appropriate, regardless of age difference.

        1. Lora*

          I would set a boundary with the secretarial stuff, but it is also possible that you DO need to meet more people in the company than you realize, or that you might legitimately need more background info, even if you are getting good reviews and whatnot.

          Sorry Doogie, about three years ago I could have been your colleague, just about, except I never asked The New Kid to do my filing or anything. The only reason New Kid had the same title as me was because we had a corporate takeover and they assigned everyone without a PhD into the same rank regardless of experience or BS/MS level or field until they could re-rank us at some future, never-specified time. New Kid got along great with his immediate colleagues but lots of people outside of the department thought he was a jerkface, and when I would suggest he make an effort to befriend these senior managers who could influence his career, he brushed it off because he was best buddies with his immediate supervisor and the guy in the desk next to his. He didn’t know the names of the women who sat one desk down from him, even though they worked with him on several projects, but hey, he ate lunch with his boss all the time and got great reviews! We had the same rank, who did I think I was to give HIM advice?!? Why, I hadn’t even gone to a very elite private school! Nevertheless he came across to these not-his-department people as arrogant and rude, and within two more years he had decided the whole field wasn’t really for him–after I had told him that biotech is a small world and you need to remember that even if you quit, you’ll likely work with these folks again.

          Set boundaries, sure, but also realize that a job title doesn’t necessarily mean much, and that there is not really a down side to meeting people in other groups and learning what they do.

          1. Doogie*

            I think you’re probably letting a negative experience you had lend a lot of assumptions to your answer. I assure you, I know plenty of people in our company. I’m active in plenty of committees and certainly remember everyone who has worked with me on a project.

            Like I said before, I’m sure I have plenty to learn from her in a mentor setting, and when she is legitimately trying to help me grasp a concept I’m grateful. But it’s easy to tell the difference between someone trying to help and someone who is talking down to you.

      2. BCW*

        Well if according to the org chart they are on the same level, then they are equals, at least in terms of how the company sees this.

      3. Lisa*

        But he is her equal in terms, of if there is a project that should be assigned to a team member and said project doesn’t need to be assigned based on more years experience or a specialized expertise, but merely assigned to a member of the team, then there is no difference between the 2 individuals. Just cause Suzy has 10+ years more under her belt, doesn’t mean the OP sits twiddling his thumbs, while she gets backlogged with projects based on a number. They both do the same job, and most work is assigned based on availability / bandwidth not # of years.

        Maybe I am over thinking it as ‘typical project’ assigned to next person in line; therefore, they are equals in terms of they both can do the work. If he couldn’t do the work, he would be entry level and ‘still in training’ needing an mentor to check his work constantly versus a self-sustaining working employee that is no longer under probation for seeing if it works out.

        And yes, I know we are all still learning, but at 1.5 years he is independently able to do his job without constant supervision, which makes him an equal in terms being able to do the majority of his job same as her. long drawn out comment,. sorry

          1. Lisa*

            Please stop doing her admin tasks now. Sorry, I’m working on X … can you ask Phil? (name other person , who she thinks is her equal.) If she won’t ask Phil, then she sure as hell shouldn’t be asking you.

            1. Lisa*

              Helping, doesn’t mean being walked on. Help on projects, not grunt work. Your job is not for her to avoid menial tasks that she doesn’t like. There are people for that, they are called interns, admins, etc. If there are times, she needs all hands on deck .. fine, but ‘stapling’ and ‘filing’ do not trump your actual work even if your deadline is a bit off.

              1. Colette*

                I agree.

                However, if you have any doubt about whether it’s something you should be doing, you could also go to your manager and say, “Co-worker has been asking me to help her with A, B, and C – I wasn’t sure whether this was something you’d discussed with her?” Maybe there are exceptional circumstances that your manager is aware of (although the most likely scenario is that your coworker is doing this because it works).

          2. Anon*

            This happened to me. Someone who decided she was my mentor thought I was her secretary (I provide data support for the entire department, and administrative support to no one). I was okay with helping with emergency things, but once she called me on the phone to dictate an agenda she wanted me to type up, while I was in the middle of a huge project. I said no.

            She went to the boss to complain, made it a huge problem for me. We eventually sat down and talked it out and she said she had expectations when she asked me things, I told her if she’s asking, that means I might say no. She seemed like she had never considered that.

            It was an uneasy truce and still is. The department eventually hired a new admin person for the department, who now gets dumped on by my coworker. But at least it’s her job to be dumped on. :(

    2. Jazzy Red*

      It’s my bet that she does this to all newer and/or younger people. It is annoying, but if you can, let it go. Everyone at the company knows that she’s like this. Just do your job well, don’t trash talk with anyone about her, and people will see you as a professional.

      You are young and new to the working world. This stage in your career is often called “paying your dues”. Besides the work you do, you can also learn a lot about dealing with other people, how offices operate (there’s “one of them” in every office, believe me), and how not to treat newbies later on in your career. Good luck to you!

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        But it’s not appropriate behavior, to treat someone differently just because they are young, nor is expecting them to somehow “pay their dues”.

        It’s sometimes odd when I realize some of my co-workers are young enough to be my kids, but when we’re working, we are equals. They can learn from me, and I can learn from them.

        Any disrespect based soley on age is just…immature.

        1. Jazzy Red*

          You’re right, and what I was trying to say was that the OP can learn how to deal with people like this, without turning it into something bigger than it really is. This is not the only person the OP will deal with during his/her career who does this.

          Personally, I work with, and for, people much younger than me. I enjoy it, and I always learn from people with experience that I don’t have.

    3. Jubilance*

      I think its important for you to let her know that you appreciate working with her, but you two are peers/colleagues. You don’t have to make a production out of it – the next time she asks you to do an admin-type job for her, you can say no politely & remind her that you’re her peer, not her admin.

    4. Frances*

      If she’s giving you tasks you aren’t supposed to be doing, or trying to manage the way you do projects that are supposed to be your sole responsibility, you should bring it up with your manager — preferably at a time that you are calm and can talk about it tactfully. I let a similar situation fester until I wound up near tears in my manager’s office because my coworker insisted I handle a project that was my sole responsibility her way and actually said it was her job to manage me to my face. (However, that at least forced a clearing of the air, and my manager made it very clear to both of us that it was NOT, in fact, her job to manage me. I wish I had addressed it earlier when we were all calmer, though.)

    5. Runon*

      Sometimes the way you present yourself can make a big difference here. Dress older, do what you can to speak “old” (slower, keep the pop culture references down etc), try to appear more measured and calm (this is viewed as older), weirdly if you can wear shoes with heels (taller is equated to older in brains).

      And also don’t help on the things that are not really appropriate. Right now my priority is Project X. Every time you do help you are encouraging the behavior, so stop. Today.

      In meetings come prepared so if she does talk down to you, you can quickly say, “I understand that concept, I’m more concerned about Y.” if she’s talking to you directly.

      1. Anon*

        I have some issues with this as well. I am one of the youngest people in my department (and if the rumor mill is to be trusted, within a few months I will be THE youngest), and this is my first job in the field. It doesn’t help that my sub-department is new, and everyone is finding out that contrary to their expectations, we were brought in to do an actual new job, not to take over the work they think is beneath them. Striking a balance between being myself (I’ve discovered that being likeable goes a long way in my office, so having ‘personality’ is important) and not being treated like a kid is tough-despite the qualifiers above of being young and new to the field, I am qualified and very good at my job. I bristle at the necessary evil of the whole thing. I do a lot of modeling, using the cues the person I’m talking to, which includes posture and vocal inflection. I also wear heels when I want to be viewed as important at conferences, important meetings, etc. It’s always been a confidence booster for me, so it’s an extension of that. I have to admit I wriggled uncomfortably a little at your comments about speaking slowly and dressing “old,” but I make adjustments to be taken seriously all the time, so maybe it’s just a part of the workforce that part of me recognizes and acts on, even if the progressive liberal bows-to-no-man part of me doesn’t like seeing it put into words.

    6. Malissa*

      Stop doing her stuff. Always say you have your own work to do. You need to draw a hard professional line in the sand. This will get you more respect from her or it will make her stop asking you. Should she not clue in to this and continues asking you you can look at her and say, “I’m sorry I don’t have time to do your work. If you feel the work is too much for you I suggest talking to the boss about your work load.”
      This is her problem, not yours. Remember that. She wants to make an issue of it, put the ball back in her court.
      As for what she tells other people, you can’t control that. I’m betting that others are seeing her as the self-important fool that she is showing people.

    7. OP #5*

      “How should I handle myself in the future to make her see me as an equal?” — Doogie

      Here’s a quote from a novel by Stephanie Laurens (yes, I know this totally reveals some of my reading habits. But I keep seeking a repeat of the reading-Pride-and-Prejudice-for-the-first-time experience):

      “The man was supremely conscious of the lines of class; he treated everyone he considered beneath him with dismissive arrogance, all those above him — like Huntingdon and the earl — with toadying deference, while those he considered his equals — such as Barnaby — he acknowledged with an unruffled air. In Barnaby’s experience, only those not secure in their place in the world expended so much effort reinforcing it.”

      So I’m wondering if the colleague from academia is insecure in private industry because she’s not sure about the rules, so she’s falling back on the kind of hierarchy that exists in academia. Or she’s unaware of the differences in hierarchy between academia and private industry — a sort of Dunning-Kruger social blindness. Or maybe she’s just insecure generally.

      Either way, it seems to me a tactful effort to derail the assigning of clerical work sounds appropriate. Maybe the next time she asks you to do something like that, you could say, “I’d be glad to show you how to send that if you’re having a problem with it.” Or maybe you could ask her point-blank why she’s asking you for help instead of others on the team.

      Whatever, I’m sure other posters will have good suggestions. Maybe it will come down to falling back on the old assertiveness communication formula: “When you tell people in our meetings that you’re going to help me meet other people in the company, I feel like you want me to be your administrative aide or assistant, not (insert title here) member of the team that I was hired to be.”

    8. Jane*

      Just needed comment that I’m so excited that there’s someone like me! Landed a non-entry level job, coworkers have always been 10+ (even had interns who were older than me, that was strange).

    9. Doogie*

      All of your advice is incredibly helpful and I really appreciate it! I’m going to keep deferring the admin work and keep helping when it pertains to a project or a team effort. This extra work is nearly always assigned by our manager so I won’t have much of an issue differentiating.

      A lot of things she needs “help” with is using newer technology or a software we’ve received training on as a group. I don’t want to say no to helping with that, but maybe it would be a good move to help her the first time by teaching her again, and then suggest she asks the manager for more training if she is still having trouble?

      1. Doogie*

        I just realized that sounded badly. The software that we are learning isn’t difficult, and she doesn’t want to take the time to use it herself. She never asks for me to show her how, just tells me to do it for her.

        1. ExceptionToTheRule*

          My two cents is to tell her “I won’t do it for you, but I’ll walk you through it.” If she isn’t receptive to that, then tell her you don’t have time. If she is receptive, show her a couple of times and then ask your manager for advice on how to handle her from there.

        2. Natalie*

          Are there user guides or similar types of materials you could direct her to? I’ve dealt with a similar issue from someone in my office by lightly saying “Oh, there’s instructions in the XYZ folder.”

        3. Sydney*

          I agree with ExceptionToTheRule on this one – offer to teach her and if she is resistant, tell her a benefit she will gain from learning the software herself. Don’t do it for her no matter what. I like to throw humor into these situations so I would make a cheesy joke about teaching her to fish instead of giving her one. Go to your manager if it keeps up and ask his advice for how to handle.

          Or if you’re feeling a little combative, be forceful and condescending when refusing to help. Give her a taste of her own attitude. (Only I would definitely do it in private so she gets the message without being humiliated by others) The first solution is the better choice though, but isn’t usually as fun.

    10. Anonicorn*

      You might directly tell her, “I’ve noticed you assumed a sort of mentorship with me. While I appreciate your advice, my performance has been excellent (assuming that is the case), and, after 1.5 years, I can work independently. But of course I will ask you questions when I need help.”

      If something like that doesn’t work, you might talk to your manager. “Hey, I was wondering how you think I’m performing. I’m asking because Jane has been sort of mentoring me, briefing me before meetings and asking me to do XYZ. I’m worried that I’m coming across as someone who really does need help, because that’s not the image I want to project.”

  3. JustTheIntern*

    Ok, I had an interview yesterday. But how do you handle it when something not on your resume comes up? The interviewer mentioned working with (aid program) as a part of the job. I worked with (aid program) ten years ago in college. Not on my resume owing to that, but worth mentioning.
    I mentioned it in my thank you note…..

    1. Hmm*

      Your resume isn’t meant to be an extensive list of everything you’ve ever done (although it should highlight what is relevant to the position, or put that in your cover letter). Did you mention it during the interview? Other than that and reminding her in the thank you note, there’s really nothing else to do about it. You handled it fine, I’m sure.

      1. JustTheIntern*

        I didn’t mention it in the interview (fail), but it was in the thank you note.
        I’ve had interviewers start looking for it on my resume.

        1. Jazzy Red*

          If people are looking for it on your resume, you need to put it on your resume. Make it as easy as possible for them to see what they consider important experience.

          1. Oxford Comma*

            That’s not always feasible though. It might be for me. I’m in academia and my cv is about 12 pages long. It might not be for JustTheIntern who probably had to keep the resume to a certain length. So you say, “Although it’s not recent, I do have experience with such-and-such.”

            1. Elizabeth*

              If a potential employer will be excited about your prior work with a certain aid program, though, then I think it’s worth bumping something else out to put it in there! That doesn’t mean it needs to be on your resume when you apply for any job, just for jobs where it’s more relevant. Alternately (or perhaps instead), it could go into the cover letter: “I am particularly excited about the possibility to work with Pigeon Rescue at Organization X. I volunteered as a pigeon rehabilitator with this program in college, and found the experience of helping young pigeons recover from bread crumb abuse to be extremely rewarding.”

              1. Oxford Comma*

                Yeah, but you can’t always tell what they’re going to bring up in an interview. If it wasn’t mentioned in the posting or doesn’t seem like it has relevance, most applicants aren’t going to have it on their resume. It sounded like this just came up in the interview and wasn’t really an expected thing.

    2. Wilton Businessman*

      Thank you note is a perfect place to reiterate it. Ideally, you’d tell them that when the point was brought up. Effective thank you notes are more followups in addition to thank yous.

    3. Kristi*

      I have a similar question re: items not included on your resume. My current resume is limited to the last ten years but includes only two positions of some length. They’re both similar in field/expertise. A third position/company is attractive to a totally different field. (Nonprofit vs hospitality.) I can probably make it applicable to my current field but would skip it altogether if last two positions was sufficient. Plus I’m not looking to go back more than 10 years.

      1. JustTheIntern*

        FWIW, I split my resume into human services, and then put my two years in a call center under “other experience”
        But I’m a two-pager. I found my 2004 college resume the other day..LOL

  4. C*

    I’ve had a chronic illness since a young age although I am incredibly fortunate that it doesn’t;p unduly impact my day to day life. I’m als fairly tough and hate attention called to my limitations and what I describe as that “ooh, you are a delicate little flower” look or “so brave ” statements when it emerges that I am sick. Despite this, I’ve been sick as a dog and had to cancel work and other obligations. Any idea how to gracefully address this? I tend to mutter “I’m fine, stop fussing” which is neither convincing nor helpful.

    1. B*

      I would be honest. Say I have a chronic illness, that I prefer not to really talk about or have a fuss made over. However, when it flares up it hits me hard but I do the best I can to deal with it.

    2. mary*

      I would say “Thank you for your concern/support but it is easier for me to manage my illness on my own”.

    3. KayDay*

      I would try to use the phrase “flare up” or “bout with” because that tends to convey that yes, it’s serious this week, but won’t be serious next week, but yes, it might come back.

      E.g. “I had a flare up of my chronic illness, and won’t be able to work this week. It’s normally not a big issue for me, but every six months or so the symptoms require time off.”

      Then, if people start bugging you about it, politely inform them that it doesn’t require a discussion: “Thank you for your concern. I’m feeling fine right now and it’s not an issue at the moment. However, I actually would prefer not to talk about it.”

    4. Coelura*

      I also have a chronic illness that flares up and makes it obvious to my coworkers that I have this illness. It always results in my employees & coworkers fussing. This last time, they were even texting me to see if I was doing okay.

      It helps to see that folks are truly concerned about you and its sweet that they care enough to express that concern. I simply say “Thank you for being concerned, its nice to know that others care so much. I am doing better.” It won’t reduce the expressions – but it does help with people understanding & supporting you down the road in the next flare.

      1. Elizabeth*

        Along with this, it might help to get an ally, perhaps your manager, to pass along this message as well. There have been times when my principal has said something at a faculty meeting like, “As you may know, Jenna has been out for a few days. She has a medical condition that she’s dealing with that sometimes flares up. It’s not anything serious; it just flares up once or twice a year and she needs time off to rest. She’s doing well and anticipates being back at school by Thursday. She let me know that she prefers not to talk about this, so when she comes back please respect her privacy.”

        1. Katie in Ed*

          This is a good idea. I’m sure your coworkers are simply unsure of how to act, so they err on the side of cloying. Best to find someone who can communicate your needs clearly for you.

  5. Gobbledigook*

    Does anyone know: Should you approach a university entrance interview in the same way as a job interview in terms of presentation or should you be a bit more casual in tone of answering questions etc. since they’re looking at you as a potential student and not professional? Any advice would be a big help! :-)

    1. JustTheIntern*

      I’ve done both (I interview candidates for Alma Mater at Starbucks), but I’ve also stressed professionalism myself.

    2. Sascha*

      I say go professional. It doesn’t have to be stiff or rehearsed, but appearing professional will make you look more mature. Be prepared, considerate, and straightforward. I would do that for any kind of interview.

    3. Gobbledigook*

      Thanks! My instinct was to go professional, so it’s good to hear some affirmation of that.

    4. Frances*

      I work for a department that does grad school interviews. What our faculty are looking for is how well prospective students will fit in our program — so yes, a lot of the questions in Alison’s “interview questions” post today will apply. And it’s definitely good if you can be as detailed as possible in your answers — one of the biggest complaints our faculty have is when candidates give such brief, vague answers that they can’t get any idea of a candidate’s real interests and personality.

      1. Mary C.*

        I just came from an interview for a grad program and as someone who used to participate in this from the other side (like Frances, above) I would stress professionalism in your answers, be yourself like you would be one-on-one with your mentor/adviser/professor, but think about the goals of the university and the program when answering. It may be great that you are interested in X issues, but if they are saying Y issue constantly in their admissions material, during the conversation, etc., you need to stress that you know X issue, how your interests relate to it, etc. So that is more like a job interview, I’d say.

      2. Gobbledigook*

        detailed, specific answers, great tip ! I’ve done some auditing in the field I wish to pursue, meaning i sat in on sessions for what I would want to train to do so I’ll make sure to cite that. I’m also volunteering to organize a conference in this field all as experiences in the field and also so that when I’m asked those questions, I can honestly say it is what I want to do. I’m hoping this all helps out! Thanks for the reply :-)

    5. Editor*

      Is this a U.S. university or elsewhere? Because my understanding is that British universities put a lot more weight on the individual interview, although my impression is um… dated.

      1. Gobbledigook*

        The interview is in Canada actually. It is for a general honours program but with the intention of entering into a more specialized field in third year. It has to be done this way as there is no direct entry to said specialized program. So what I’m thinking is getting across that I have direction and long-term goals and am really interested in pursuing the general program as a stepping stone to the more specialized one because the grades in the first two years determine in large part, acceptance in to the third year.

        I got in contact with someone is the specialized profession in my area and audited her sessions so that I could find out if I really see myself in this field so I’m definitely planning on telling them the work I’ve done to figure out my career direction. Hopefully they see I’m dedicated :-)

  6. Sarah*

    My nonprofit is hiring a new Communications Coordinator. What type of questions should I be asking a potential co-worker? There has been a lot of internal staff issues, and I want to be sure we find the right fit for our staff of 8! Thanks.

    1. Jane*

      How about behavior questions geared towards their ability to address issues?

      – Give an example where you and another person had strong differences of opinion. What was the issue and how did you handle it? What would you have done differently? And were you successful in getting them to see your viewpoint?

    2. fposte*

      But don’t skip the actual job task questions–what do you focus on in this situation, how would you promote this event, etc. And in addition to questions, are you going to ask for work samples? Give her facts and x minutes to create a press release (assuming that’s relevant), etc.?

      1. Sarah*

        Thanks for your thoughts. Yes, we asked all candidates to submit work samples (mostly graphic design) as that person will be the graphic designer and p/r person (and event rental coordinator). It’s a tricky position to fill because we someone that can do the communications from start to finish.

        1. Just a Reader*

          P/r = public relations, or something else? Graphic design, event coordination and PR are really different proficiencies.

          Overall, I’d ask about their preferred communication style, how they handle a situation where they’re relying on someone to get something done (are they comfortable pushing, are they tactful) and how they manage their time/prioritize work.

  7. B*

    I wrote this to Alison but am thinking this could easily be done here. Now that gmail is what we should use, what font style and size do you use on gmail for sending cover letters in the body?

    Sans Serif? Garamond? Tahoma? A different one?
    Normal? Large?


    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ack, I already had an answer to this written for tomorrow!

      (The answer, though, is that you should use the default text that comes with the mail program and not change it.)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Nope, no problem! Ideally, I’d like people not to post questions here that they’ve sent to me in the last week, since I might have an answer queued up to go for it. (If it’s been longer than a week, I still might be planning an answer, but at that point all bets are off and I’m not going to be sad if you try here too!) But I realize I can’t totally control this stuff, as much as I would like to :)

      1. littlemoose*

        I know it’s terrible, but I cannot take seriously anything written in Comic Sans. I have a couple of coworkers who use Comic Sans as their default font in e-mail, and it drives me crazy.

        1. Frances*

          I discovered a small department in my institution a few weeks ago that still has comic sans headers on their portion of the website. I had to email them about a separate question and it was really tempting to comment on it (obviously I wouldn’t really, but boy did I want to know how no one had ever bothered to change it in 20 years).

        2. Anonymous*

          my coworkers (who are all 50+ years old) use the fake handwriting font in their email signatures.

          1. Jamie*

            Sig tags – bane of my existence. I just made new company sig tags so we’re all uniform and seriously…you cannot make everyone happy. Express yourself on your own time, I’m just trying to get contact info out there in a way that doesn’t parse weird in non-html formats.

            It’s not about self-expression. / rant – thanks, I feel better.

        3. Chinook*

          I laugh at this because I saw an article in a news feed about the Vatican sending out a note about Pope Benedict yesterday in Comic Sans. I guess they were trying to emphasize it’s light and fluffy nature?

    2. Jamie*

      I only respond to emails in Calibri 11 pt. Fuscia for personal email, navy blue for business.

      I delete everything else without reading.

      1. Josh S*

        Yeah, but you’re weird. You like Kiss Hello Kitty, and you stitch strange sayings onto samplers. And you don’t parallel park. Just…weird.

      2. Runon*

        Is it creepy if the last email I sent was in Calibri 11 pt fuchsia for personal?

        Cause I’m a little creeped out.

        (Calibri/11 were defaults, fuchsia was cause AWESOME.)

        1. Jamie*

          I think that is possibly the most awesome thing I’ve heard in some time.

          It just takes the two of us to start a trend. Soon we’ll revamp everyone’s idea of what’s acceptable and it will be fuscia calibri for everyone.

          1. Kelly O*

            Oh lord. I wage a personal war against pink fonts. Fuchsia, okay I might say that’s this side of purple and okay, but we have some people intent on using pink, and I cannot read it.

            Mrs. Magoo

      3. Editor*

        My mom, who’s in her 80s, was agonizing recently over the font to use for a Word document about some family history. She’s going to then send the thing out via email. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that anyone who got her Word file could change the font with a couple of clicks.

        People who really want others to see their documents as formatted send pdfs. I don’t know if she knows how to make them or not. It’s possible. A couple of months ago I showed her how to search Google to get help information so she could do things with Word. No telling what she’ll get up to.

        1. Elise*

          Your mother is in her 80s and she’s bouncing all over the interwebz? That’s great!

          So how come I have so many fools call me at work with a technical problem because they are in their 50s or 60s and are “too old” to learn computer things? Could your mom maybe teach a class at a community college so she could put them in line when they try that “too old” nonsense?

          1. Editor*

            Teaching would be way out of her comfort zone. And to be candid, she tires more easily these days and she has a more active social life than I do.

            I don’t know why people in their 50s and 60s can’t handle computer stuff. Some of it must be they don’t want to. I am in my 60s — there are computer procedures I use so infrequently I only do them once every two years, and they’re a pain to remember. Also, people who’ve never used a particular type of software may have a harder time learning it — I can’t do much with Excel yet, but its because I never used any spreadsheet software until a couple of years ago and I don’t use it regularly even now. Plus, I had no training and had to teach myself (which is why Google and YouTube and I are good friends). The other problem is that some people don’t think like computer programmers. There are some things programmers think are logical that just baffle me.

  8. Down in the dumps*

    2 months ago I scored a super awesome assignment through a temp agency. Everything was going great. And suddenly I was let go. It’s been 2 weeks now and I have a zillion and one questions, about my resume, about my job skills, etcand don’t really have anyone to reach out to at home….I’ve spent too much time wallowing in it. I just want to stop being so depressed about it. I miss working, and what I could be learning in all this time, and of course I miss the paycheck. I’ve never been fired or let go from anything, and its hard not to take it so personally.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      You need to talk to your temp agency about this. I’ve been there, too, and I know what you’re going through. You need to be strong enough to hear constructive criticism and accept it as help. Yes, it hurts, but you can’t fix what you don’t know is broken.

      The agency really wants to place you in good assignments. That’s how they make their money, so they are usually happy to help people who are having trouble with something. Also, find out if they offer any training that might be helpful to you.

      When you earn money, they earn money.

      1. Down in the dumps*

        My recruiter told me the reasons and so did my boss. Two of the things I feel were extremely unfair and not something I could change even if it came up in the future (the client had raised a big fuss over paying me OT and two coworkers accused me of being disrespectful and giving them a hard time one day). What I could address, I’m looking for solutions to fix that problem so it doesn’t come up.

        1. KellyK*

          First off, wow that stinks.

          Secondly, if *two* people accused you of being disrespectful and giving them a hard time, the odds are that there was something in how you presented yourself that’s coming across wrong. Not that you were necessarily being rude to them and certainly not deliberately. Could be something as little and stupid as not saying hello to them or having a look on your face that they read as “grouchy” but was really “concentrating on something.” If you can get more info on what and why, it might be something you can work on avoiding.

          For the overtime, it’s probably a good practice to ask about it before working overtime, either when something is assigned or when it’s getting close to what would be your normal time to leave. For example, “You gave me X to do by tomorrow morning at 8. It’ll take 3 hours, and it’s 3:30 now. Would you like me to work overtime, or do you want it later tomorrow morning?”

          1. Down in the dumps*

            That whats and why’s……if I’d had a chance to explain myself and even apologize I think it could have been smoothed over, but it was my day off and by the end of the day I was told not to report back.

            I was pretty friendly and pleasant to work with, and I’m not kidding, there never seemed to be any indication that one of them had a problem with me, and I’m usually good at picking up clues. One of them, from the first day on I had a feeling she didn’t like me but since it was only my first day I figured it was all in my head and still continued to be friendly though. I know that at every job there’s going to be someone you don’t like or whatever, but I never thought I’d lose my job over it.

            With the hours, initially what had happened was that the client was pretty mad when I’d submit my timesheet. I had only put down the hours that I had worked, and I honestly had not even thought about the OT. There was confusion over it and she said that was her mistake, but I apologized many many times for that. So going forward I could ask someone and make sure we’re all on the same page..excpet then I’ll worry if they think I’m just really really stupid and fire me for that.

            Part of why this whole thing is hard to get over is because its shaken my whatever little self confidence I had—-if something that didnt’ even happen can get me fired…..does that mean I’ll be walking on eggshells for the next 30-40 years of my working life, afraid of getting fired or not promoted.

        2. AB*

          Down in the dumps:

          First, take a deep breath. It hurts to be let go like this, but you do need to address these issues so they don’t happen again. It worries me when you say,

          ” Two of the things I feel were extremely unfair and not something I could change even if it came up in the future (the client had raised a big fuss over paying me OT and two coworkers accused me of being disrespectful and giving them a hard time one day).”

          Well, at least the second part you can definitely address (like other commenter said, you can ask before you go into overtime whether that’s acceptable or if you have to leave as soon as you completed your normal hours).

          You wrote in a subsequent comment, “So going forward I could ask someone and make sure we’re all on the same page..excpet then I’ll worry if they think I’m just really really stupid and fire me for that.”

          Wow! Nobody would fire you for wanting to confirm OT policy. I’m sure people will be grateful that you clarified first, as opposed to submitting overtime for payment after the fact. Please don’t make this a larger problem than it is; it was a reasonable mistake that you can avoid in the future, and it doesn’t help to think that you could be thought as stupid and fired for being proactive and asking.

          Lots of companies have restrictions on overtime and require previous authorization. They should have told you so in your last job, but we can only control our behaviors, not others’.

          1. AB*

            I meant “at least the first part you could address” — the part of submitting overtime without checking the policy first.

            Although, if two people accused you of being disrespectful, I’d also try really hard to figure out what you could change in the future. It’s not easy to get criticism like this, but it’s in your best interest to change your behavior so the next time you have a job you like, you aren’t let go like this. Good luck!

            1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

              This. It’s also worth remembering that people are probably not going to bend over backwards to let a temp know what they’re doing wrong, or even bother to send hints about how they feel. It’s easier to just get a different person. It kinda sucks, yeah. But it’s the truth. There have been several temps that I’ve brought in for a day, and then never called back. I feel a bit bad about it, because I’m sure they have no idea what the problem was, but most often it’s something like the above; just a bad personality match for the office, and I don’t want to try to explain that to someone. Especially since there’s often nothing that can be done.

              Honestly, it sounds kinda like bad luck in this case. Like someone heard you say something that just randomly happened to rub them the wrong way. It happens. It’s definitely worth checking yourself and trying to see if there’s something you can change, but it’s also not worth beating yourself up over, or making yourself miserable. Good luck!

      2. Down in the dumps*

        Forgot to say this in the last comment, but I’ve tried to contact my recruiter again about work opportunities that I’ve seen on the website but she did not give any response. So now I’m worried my future at this agency is over and that recruiter won’t look for any assignments or consider me.

        To the person who said that there’s something better….I hope so. I had just had a really bad experience right before this and I thought THIS was going to be the “better thing.”

        1. Jane Doe*

          It’s often hard to get a hold of temp agency people, because they’re trying to juggle placement for several people at once. Also, there just might not be any assignments for you right now – the market for temps is bad right now because companies are less willing to spend money on hiring temps to fill in for non-essential positions, and would often prefer to just re-assign any extra work to another full-time employee.

          Also, it’s a good idea to read the terms of temp assignments carefully. The temp agency I worked with was pretty strict about things like OT, time off, alternate work hours, etc. If we needed OT to complete something, we were supposed to contact our temp agency rep first, and then he/she would contact the supervisor at the work site with the request. Same for time off – the reason being that we were “employed” by the temp agency, not the client.

    2. Anonymous*

      my boyfriend was let go from a temp position out of nowhere. he’s pretty down about it too, since there was no warning. sometimes these things just happen.

    3. Sydney Bristow*

      I’ve been there and understand how you feel. The thing you should focus on is that it was a temporary assignment through an agency. It is not the same as being fired or let go. I’ve temped on both long and short-term assignments and it always feels weird when its over, especially if it was going well, but there could be a million different reasons that it ended for you. They could have finished what they needed you to do, they could have brought you on to fill a gap while someone was finishing up the hiring process for the same role as a “permanent” employee, etc. I’ve been on assignments where half of them temps were released because the amount of work had decreased and there didn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason to why certain people were asked to stay or leave. Unfortunately, its the nature of the work. Hang in there.

      1. KC*

        Agreed. You have to remember this was a temporary assignment and that means the client can decide that the project has ended at any time. The duration of a project is typically an estimation and can be cut short for many reasons. I have temporary staff during our holiday season, we always anticipate keeping them on board through the end of January but many years the workload decreases and we let them go a week or two early. It has nothing to do with them or quality or work. I have also let people go mid assignment for work quality and hygiene (ick! that’s a whole other post) issues. Both were addressed with the individuals and improvement was necessary. But the short term nature of temp work means that issues need to be addressed immediately.

        Try not to take it so personally, I know that’s difficult. Doing temporary work is challenging, you can’t treat it like a permanent job. You have to ask more questions, get more permission, and overall be a nicer more congenial worker. Not fair, but generally true. A good manager will work with a temp employee to make improvements, but many will take advantage of the large pool of people waiting to step in behind you.

        There are some good take a ways from the comments, and from your own assessment of what happened. Hopefully you can turn them in to a better assignment in the future!

    4. mary*

      It is hard not to take it personally but you need to let it go. I’m not saying it’s easy to let go but having only had the position for a couple of months is not a long time. It happened to me and a group of co-workers and I had had my job for over 8 years.
      Give yourself a deadline of a few days to let it go and then move on. There’s something better waiting for you. Good luck!

  9. littlemoose*

    I mentioned this in another thread once, but the open thread seems like the perfect place for this question: what’s the most ridiculous attire you’ve seen in the workplace?
    I’ll start. On one coworker, white sweatpants with a matching hat. On another, rubber flip-flops. It was a pretty casual office, but still.

      1. littlemoose*

        Wow. Who wakes up on a random Tuesday and thinks, “I’m wearing my evening gown to work today”?
        Also in my mental image she has a tiara and possibly a scepter.

      2. The IT Manager*

        Formal and innappropriate for work at the same time. Could be our winner simply because she made that much of an effort to get it wrong. (But there is probably something more outragious out there.)

      3. Emma*

        She saw that episode of The Office, didn’t she? When Jim tries to disprove Dwight’s allegations of him not being professional by wearing a tux to work.

        In my old job, one receptionist wore shirts that fit only if she stood stone still and didn’t breathe. She was a larger woman. So the first thing you (or any patient!) often saw when walking in that door was the abundant, pale real estate of her lovehandles and back.

        1. Jamie*

          Anyone ever get to work wearing something that looked totally appropriate at home looking straight into the mirror. Good coverage, well fitting, only to get to work to find out it’s an entirely different view if someone is a little taller than you or if you bend over, or someone stands behind you?

          Just me? And this is why there is always a black cardigan stashed under my desk.

          1. Emma*

            Yes, ma’am! Or thinking your sweater is just fine only for your (internship) supervisor to say “your tag is sticking out. No, wait, your sweater is just on inside-out.” Swallow me up, ground, swallow me up.

            1. Jamie*

              OMG Me too! And once, I cannot believe I’m stating this publicly – one super early morning meeting I feel something weird inside my pant leg about calf high…

              I had pulled pants out of the dryer and got dressed in a hurry so I didn’t notice the pair of panties stuck inside the leg!

              I had no pockets and spent the rest of the meeting trying to figure out how to get to the ladies room without them dropping to the floor on the way. (answer – there was no way so I waited till everyone left the room and shoved them up my sweater and ran to my office and managed to get them in my purse without anyone seeing.

              The most embarrassing part? It’s possible they had Cookie Monster on them so it would have been REALLY hard to live down if they had dropped.

              1. AdAgencyChick*


                Not nearly as bad, but I noticed the other day I had a huge lump on one of my shoulders. It took me several minutes fishing around inside my blouse (which had a couple of layers) in the handicapped stall of the bathroom before I pulled a sock out of the blouse. But I cringe knowing I was walking around the office with that thing on my shoulder all morning!

                1. Natalie*

                  Just today, my boyfriend was getting dressed and somehow misplaced the socks he was planning to wear. So, of course, he grabs some different socks, put on his coat and leaves.

                  When he gets to work, he takes his coat off and a sock falls to the floor. It turns out he had draped the original socks over his shoulder and then forgot about them.

              2. Rana*

                Hah! Yeah, I’ve found socks and underwear staticked to my other clothes too. I’m always grateful that they didn’t fall out!

              3. KC*

                I’ve totally had this happen to me. Except it was a thong statically-clinging to the inside of my work pants. I fortunately noticed while I was at my desk that something was in my pant leg, and I made it to the bathroom to remove it with no problems.

                Of course, then I had the “what do I do with this lacy fuschia thong between here and my desk” conundrum. I hadn’t thought to bring my purse with me.

              4. BeenThere*


                Though now I must know, where can I buy adult size cookie monster underpants?

              5. twentymilehike*

                I had pulled pants out of the dryer and got dressed in a hurry so I didn’t notice the pair of panties stuck inside the leg!

                HAHAHAH this happened to my husband … only with MY underpants.

                1. bearing*

                  I have to tell my husband this story so that he will stop mixing our laundry baskets.

          2. Nicole*

            Yes! I (luckily) only lived about 5 minutes away at that time. It was a Friday, which at our company is jeans day, but the rest of the dress code is still in place. I threw on a shirt that was sleeveless (the kind that is verging on being a cap sleeve) and t-shirt material, but before coming out of the dryer the last time, had been the loose cut that was cinched at the bottom and wide enough shoulders to seem appropriate. However, after I got to work I realized I really just showed up in a shrunken tank top. Being in HR, I sent my boss an email saying I sent myself home for a wardrobe violation on an early lunch break and would be back shortly. Thankfully she was a good sport!

          3. Natalie*

            In the summer I bike to work, so I wear jeans or bike clothes and change into business clothes in the office.

            A few years ago I had been experiencing some weight fluctuations that wouldn’t have been significant, except that the only place that was fluctuating was my waist/hips area. So one day I packed some grey checked pants in my bike bag and peddled off to work, only to find once I got there that I literally could not get the pants closed. And I was the receptionist so I couldn’t really go home.

            Thankfully I had biked in dark jeans that day instead of spandex, so I just wore the jeans.

      4. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        LOL, I wore a prom gown to class a couple days in college. I had an interesting sense of fashion back then… I guess I still do. :)

        1. Your Mileage May Vary*

          I was observing in court one day and one of the defendants showed up in a prom dress from the 1980s.

    1. Anonymous*

      leggings as pants that were stretched so far they were see-through. every day. until this woman was asked not to come back.
      also once my manager sent a coworker home for wearing leggings under a knee length dress. i would have just taken the leggings off in the office if i were her, since the dress was fine.

      1. KellyK*

        Why on earth would leggings under a dress be a problem? Isn’t that what they’re *for*?

        1. KayDay*

          I think the leggings + dress combo is perfectly fine in a casual/business casual environment, too. However, I could see it being a problem if the office was more stringent more professional attired.

          1. KellyK*

            Yeah, that makes sense. I was assuming business casual if bare legs would’ve been okay with the skirt, since a more strictly “business professional” environment sometimes frowns on that. (Not to start the great pantyhose kerfuffle again or anything.)

      2. Allison*

        yeesh, I’m wearing leggings under a dress today! Well, fleece-lined tights, but still. In my office it’s typically considered okay to wear leggings or opaque tights under a dress or skirt as it is really cold outside.

      3. K*

        I feel kind of bad about it – because surely I shouldn’t care about it – but leggings-as-pants are my business casual dress peeve. One day not long ago, I came into work and immediately saw three different women wearing leggings with pants (two with normal-length blouses; the third with an extreme mini-dress); I felt like I had walked into an episode of the Twilight Zone where somehow pants had become taboo or something.

    2. Yup*

      Same office, two separate coworkers:

      Cutoff jean shorts and a bikini top. She was leaving the office early on a summer Friday, but still. There was a subsequent dress code lockdown by HR.

      Gold lame stretch pants, cowboy boots, one of those netted/crocheted poncho style tops (with a tank top underneath, thank heavens), and a jaunty hat. People were falling out of their cubicles to stare open-mouthed as she sauntered down the aisle.

      1. Lisa*

        I wear my bathing suit during summer fridays, but under my clothes. My coworker noticed during a conf call once, and tugged at my bikini string that was visible at my neck. Thick one, literally sticking out. It was funny, and everyone knew I was going straight to my sisters pool when I left.

      2. Natalie*

        Literally anything that starts with “gold lame” is going to be a hilariously awful outfit.

    3. Sascha*

      Pajama pants, ratty t-shirt, and flippies. From a coworker who had the attitude, you treat me like a bad employee so I’ll act like a bad employee. She would meet with clients like this. Our office is very relaxed but this was too far.

      1. De Minimis*

        This was in a blue-collar environment, but one co-worker used to wear various camoflague/military attire every single day. That by itself is not that unusual….I live in an area where hunting, guns, etc., are pretty popular and a lot of employees would occasionally wear things like that, but he took it to an extreme, he had outfits that seemed to be from armies of countries that might not even exist anymore. Jaunty red berets, desert khakis, etc.
        Every single day. I don’t think I ever saw him wear regular clothing.

        He was also a little weird in how he behaved, but…this was the Post Office, so some of that went with the territory.

    4. ExceptionToTheRule*

      I only mention this guy’s physical traits because they are germane to the story: he was a tall, stocky, hairy guy in his early 20’s and he came to work one day in a mesh tank top that showed us all exactly how hairy he was and wearing some kind of large bone tribal throat choker. And cut-off shorts with flip-flops.

      We have a very casual environment, but even 10 years later that one continues to be our example of “anything but that.”

      1. Editor*

        I once had a college student show up for an interview for some freelancing more than 20 minutes late. On a 45 F. degree day, he had wet hair and was in sweatpants and flipflops. No shirt, no shoes — and no work, either.

    5. Jamie*

      What is a matching sweatpant hat?

      And regarding the tiara talk – I desperately want one and my boss promised me one for Christmas – but I have yet to receive it.

      I am considering a formal grievance.

      Kidding about the grievance – not kidding about the promise. :(

      1. littlemoose*

        It was a white ball cap. I meant that it matched the white sweatpants in terms of color. Not sure about the fabric of the hat – it could well have been some kind of sweatshirt material, I suppose.

        1. Sascha*

          I was thinking of a ball cap made of sweatshirt material, which I imagine would look extremely douchy. It probably exists somewhere.

      2. Lisa*

        We had a miss mass contender in the office last year. We got her a princess tiara and sash at iparty and another guy a bunch of fake mustashes. They wore them proudly, but then the tiara become the property of the guy with the mustaches and he wore it for like a week. we took pictures, and had a great time when the ‘adults’ were at a meeting. Of 11 people, 6 would go to a monthly meeting and leave 5 of us to our own devices. they came back to Joe typing away wearing his sash, tiara, and 70’s mustache like nothing was out of the ordinary.

      3. Jazzy Red*

        Did you see the episode of Big Bang Theory where Sheldon gave Amy Farrah Fowler a tiara? In case you haven’t, I’ll just stop now.

        1. Lisa*

          Its awesome, have you seen the episode where sheldon tells penny that he its conceivable that he may have sex with amy some day?? It was sooo freaking funny!

        2. Jamie*

          Yeah – whenever it airs my husband prepares for another diatribe from me that my promised tiara never materialized.

          He told me to buy one. Men. He doesn’t get that there are some things that just don’t mean anything if you buy them yourself…tiaras among them.

          1. Elizabeth*

            I have a close friend who celebrates Tiara Tuesday. She bought her own, and she wears it to work every other Tuesday (she manages the office of a real estate leasing agency). Her boss loves it.

    6. Andie*

      Once a co-worker who was the Executive Assistant came to work in a old dingy & wrinkled sweatpants and a sweatshirt, uncombed hair with an old baseball cap on. I sent her home to change immediately and I wasn’t even her boss. When she walked in the door, I said “Oh Hell No!, Go home and change now before your boss get here!”

    7. Blinx*

      Ok, I have to preface this by stating that I’m a graphic designer and as such, some in the design field express their creativity through their appearance. BUT, I’ve only worked for conservative companies.

      One designer wore vintage cocktail dresses or what looked like church/house dresses from the 50s. One design intern had pink streaks in her hair, and got told off by a higher-up in the hallway (he was just passing by and had no connection to our department). She went into the ladies’ room and cut off the streaks!!!

      And then there was the tights or leggings + long sweaters craze in the 1990s. Fine for home, but an office?

      1. Elise*

        I love the old dress styles from the 50s. Wouldn’t wear one to work, but that’s mostly because my legs get cold and leggings would ruin the look. :)

      2. Jamie*

        There isn’t a job on the planet for which I’d randomly hack off hunks of my hair. Wow.

    8. Joey*

      Ooh, too many but the one that sticks out:

      A Mexican guy wearing a shirt that said “I got your Dirty Mexican right here” with an arrow pointing down.

    9. Majigail*

      Tee shirt, sweat shorts and flip flops- all in primary colors, for a 2nd interview for an admin position. And she had a picture of herself with her husband (better dressed) on her resume. AND listed playing with her grand kids as other experience.
      She did not get the job.

    10. JB*

      There’s a woman in my office who owns sweatsuits made of what looks like crushed velvet. One outfit is in red, and the other in purple.

      1. Jamie*

        That sounds horrific and super comfortable. Kind of like being dressed up as my gramma’s old couch!

    11. Jane Doe*

      A bright, shiny, tight, polyester minidress that would be far more suited (and was probably intended for) a nightclub than an office. This was in a business casual (everything but the suit jacket, not jeans and a nice shirt) office. It wasn’t even a Friday.

    12. RB*

      We have business professional attire and for the most part, staff dresses appropriately.

      However, I did interview a woman who wore her circa 1985 wedding gown.

      1. Jamie*

        How do you end a story that way? Details!! And did she have the matching beaded headband and fingerless white satin gloves with a bow at the wrist?

        Not that I am describing my first wedding in 1989…that you know of.

        Details…please? :)

        1. fposte*

          And if it’s something dull like she was married in an office dress, make something up that’s better.

          1. perrik*

            I was married in an office dress. Now I need to go buy a wedding dress to wear to work.

            And a veil. With a tiara.

        2. Jesicka309*

          Obviously it’s a November rain mullet dress. :D that’s what I’m picturing anyway. Lots of lace and ruffles.

    13. AdAgencyChick*

      Ohohohoh…I love this question.

      At a previous company I worked with a woman in a very senior position who really loved to dress like she was a 25-year-old at a nightclub. Tight, short, low-cut, five-inch heels. Yes, like many ad agencies this one had a casual dress code as long as the clients weren’t in…but this kind of clothing would have been uncomfortable to look at even if she had been 25 years old with a bangin’ bod. (She wasn’t.)

      One day was designated as “come to work in your pajamas day,” just for fun. She showed up in a purple caftan cut so low, I could see the band of her bra. Not the straps…the band. In FRONT. That’s not cleavage, that’s the Grand Friggin’ Canyon.

    14. K*

      1) I once saw a co-worker in two different colored crocs; one was bright green and one was bright purple. I still haven’t decided whether I think she did it deliberately or not.

      2) I had a professor in law school for a Wed-Thurs-Fri class. She always wore the same outfit for two days in a row (so Wed/Thurs or Thurs/Fri or Fri/Wed depending where in the cycle she was), and they were amazing outfits, like shiny velour jumpsuits. Brilliant, brilliant woman, but eccentric.

    15. VictoriaHR*

      This was 15 years ago or so – a girl that I worked with was obsessed with Tommy Hilfiger clothing. Which is fine, except that she was easily a size 26 and would wear his miniskirt dresses that were a size 18 or smaller. In other words, very very tight. And unfortunately she didn’t have a body that benefited from tight short clothing. Hey, I’m plus sized, no judgement, but .. wow. Just wow.

    16. So Very Anonymous*

      Baby-pastel cardigan sweater with an applique of a Disney character, jeans, sneakers, and matching pastel socks. Not a soccer mom (or any kind of mom), just dressed like one…

    17. Hooptie*

      One of my direct reports – A bandana a la Axl Rose and knee boots. I was like, “WTH, is this dress like a pirate day?”

    18. jesicka309*

      There’s one girl in my office who seems to have no idea. She’s a team leader as well, and some of the girls in her team have started to emulate her and it’s scary.

      One day it’s a loose weave flourescent green jumper over tight dark jeans (could be a shirt underneath, but Ididn’t look closely for obvious reasons).

      The next it’s a little leather bustier that stops under the bra line, and a high waisted, long gauzy skirt(no slip) that stops about two inches below the bustier. That’s two inches of bare torso (no bellubutton, but still…)

      White T-Shirts with onbvious black/coloured bras underneath.

      And half the girls seem to wear leggings as pants. Not thin cottony ones, mind you, but the thick leathery ones you might see on a runway model. Still inappropriate. Ugh. Or they wear skinny black jeans as work pants….THEY’RE STILL JEANS. If they’re in a skinny cut and are made of demin, no matter the colour, they’re jeans. Buy some real pants, idiots.

      The poor men in the office complain about why they can’t wear shorts for business casual if the girls can get away with that stuff. They’ve tried cracking down through a passive aggressive email, but no one has been sent home, and no one has changed their clothes, so flip flops, leggings, skinny jeans and bustiers are everywhere. :(

    19. Foam chick*

      This past summer while the boss was out, our inside sales rep wore knee-high boots, skin tight barely covering her cheeks shorts and a tank top. *shudder*
      I think she is the reason HR just sent a email blast out a few months ago. Bullet points of note were: “Be sure to wear undergarments” and “lingerie looks are unacceptable work attire”
      I almost choked on my coffee!

    20. Lindsay*

      I was in HR the other day and a kid was filling out an application in a t-shirt that said “Caution: Dangerously Lazy”. It’s the type of position where you fill out an application and then do the interview on the spot. The HR manager was chuckling about the shirt and said that he was going to ask the kid about it when he interviewed him.

    21. 05girl*

      We work in a very casual setting and many entry-level folks are fresh are fresh out of college.

      So, one girl started coming into work once or twice a week in gym shorts, sweatshirt/tshirt and running shoes! Eventually she was given some feedback. but cmon, where is your home training, who does that?

      1. twentymilehike*

        We work in a very casual setting and many entry-level folks are fresh are fresh out of college.

        Haha .. reminds me of my first admin job while in college. I was so SO naive. I would regularly come in wearing nice pants, but with flip flops, beach hair, shirts that showed a sliver of midriff, no make-up. I’d also walk in with a skateboard under one arm, or sometimes my surfboard. I was such a tomboy and completely clueless on how to dress. All my clothes were from the local surfshop. I didn’t even know how to apply blush. I’m shocked them kept me for as long as they did ….

  10. Cruciatus*

    I realize it’s probably too subjective, but so many job applications ask for your Microsoft abilities on a scale of 1-10 for each program. I wish there was some standard for each number rating. I never know what to put. I don’t know everything (and I think only MS software engineers do!) but when I have many programs in front of me, I know how to use buttons I didn’t even think about off the top of my head. Is there any standard out there like (for Word)
    1-2 Able to type and print simple document
    3-4 Can do 1-2 and copy and paste
    5-6 Can do 1-4 and insert pictures, change fonts, line spacing, etc.

    I just made that list up off the top of my head so probably you should be able to do more than that by the time you get to 5-6. But does anyone have any sort of guideline for judging how proficient you are. I always give a somewhat lower number which, oddly enough, has been appreciated by hiring managers because they told me so many people say “10!” But I don’t want to rate myself out of the running because, once these programs are in front of me, I know more than I think.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      You can do free tutorials at the msn website, which will give you a better idea of your proficiency. Microsoft also offers a certification, but I know there’s a fee for that.

      When you interview, you want to let the interviewer know what you can do in word – mail merges are considered quite advanced, so if your skills are at that level, you’ll impress people. I alway use keyboard shortcuts and buttons more than the menus, so I don’t do well on the tests that won’t let you do those.

    2. mary*

      Check out the word training at You can see what is covered in the Essential Training and that might give you a better idea of what your skills are and how to rate them on a 1-10 scale.

    3. Laura*

      I’d be interested in others responses also (especially for excel). At my job, where everyone is an excel pro (to the point they could probably program a new, better excel from scratch), I am about a 3 compared to my co-workers. I can’t write macros also.

      However, I interviewed at another place that considered a 9-10 being able to use pivot tables and vlookups. In my current position, being able to use those puts you at a 1.

      My plan, when asked this question is to just explain my skills. “I can write my own formulas, vlookups, pivot tables, merge databases, and all the formatting, conditional formatting that goes along with it.” Hopefully the hiring manager will decide!

      1. The IT Manager*

        At my job, where everyone is an excel pro (to the point they could probably program a new, better excel from scratch)

        They sound like a 15s. Seriously from what I hear being able to use pivot tables well has got to be at least 8. If I were you, I’d probably rate myself a 9 and explain what you can do.

      2. girlreading*

        Ditto, the skills you mentioned are very advanced for most people. As a recruiter, I had a client that was constantly looking for data analysts with these skills and they were hard to find. Consider yourself advanced for any other companies.

        Did you mean to say you CAN write macros? If not, I bet you could. That was also part of the aforementioned job description and I had no clue what this stuff was so I looked it up. I googled macros, found an easy tutorial and did a very simple macros in a few minutes just to see what it involved. I am not super tech savvy, so if I can do it, you can!

    4. Jamie*

      I don’t like the number rating because as you said it’s meaningless.

      This is just my opinion based on a career worth of knowledge of the average office worker’s (in my environment) Office knowledge:

      For Excel:
      Basic: You can type in cells and save the file.
      Intermediate: You can format cells, basic formulas, subtotals, import/export, etc.
      Advanced: Pivot tables, queries, advanced formulas, macros, sheets pulling data from multiple cells.

      Basic: You can type in an doc and save the file. Add some clip art and format the font.
      Intermediate: format for different needs (headers, sub-headers, etc.) with templates or freehand, mail-merge, setting mark-ups, printing labels.
      Advanced: Some of the stuff from intermediate, I guess? I have never had a need for more advanced functions of Word so I don’t know.

      Basic: I can check my email and I think the deleted items folder is appropriate storage for things I will need later. These people make my brain bleed.
      Intermediate: Can set up tasks, calendars, meetings, create rules, folders, archive their own stuff, sig tags, etc.
      Advanced: Understands Outlook integration with 3rd party programs (soft phones, CRM, etc.)

      Basically my rule of thumb is if I had to divide up users into three groups based on skill where would you fall. As I said, very unscientific.

      1. Josh S*

        Word Advanced: Creating Forms that send inputs to a spreadsheet/database (like the reverse of a Mail Merge); Extensive, proper use of the review & markup function (including how to delete the review history prior to publishing); Editing templates; Changing default styles and fonts; Creating/saving macros.

        Beginner: Can open a project, edit text on slides, and save.

        Intermediate: Can create and use a master slide, add different elements to a slide piecemeal, add animations, and use the ‘notes’ function.

        Advanced: Using action buttons to create interactive, non-linear presentations; using timed slides to auto-scroll through a presentation; linking external documents to populate fields/graphs/charts dynamically; etc.

        I’d say I’m expert in Word, Excel, and PPT, and intermediate in Outlook. Not that I have to use more than intermediate skills more often than once in a blue moon.

        1. Jamie*

          I am thrilled when I’m not called in to re size a column because “the numbers went away.”

          I don’t know how someone can be shown that literally every few weeks for years, not grasp it, and still manage to get themselves to and from work without assistance.

      2. Sue D. O'Nym*

        Where would I fall if I’m very strong in writing macros (an “advanced” skill according to the list above), but have never needed to use a pivot table (another “advanced” skill), and thus, have no familiarity with how to create them?

    5. Jess*

      I always thought the emphasis on this was kind of weird. To me, MS Office programs are something you learn as you go along. They’re not exactly rocket science. If I don’t know how to do something in Excel, give me five minutes and I’ll figure it out.

      1. Mike C.*

        I feel the same way. Whenever I’m asked, “How would you go about doing X” I respond “hit F1” if I don’t know offhand.

      2. Jane Doe*

        I agree. All the MS Office programs have a help section, and if you can’t find it in there, you can always just google it and 9 times out of 10 you’ll find the answer on a forum somewhere.

        Not knowing how to do something specific is usually not as useful as a skill as having the ability to look things up or use trial and error to find a solution.

      3. K*

        You’d think, but in my experience plenty of people either can’t or are unwilling to pick up things in Office as they go along. (Some of it may be “I can’t possibly do this” paralysis; I don’t know.)

        1. Chinook*

          My experience has been it is more of a “I don’t want to break the computer” thing.

      4. Rana*

        Exactly. There’s a bunch of stuff I know the key commands for, but everything else takes at most 5 minutes playing with the menus or running a Google search.

        (Some temp agencies – Manpower in this case – include software tests to ascertain your abilities, which might be another way of getting this information. According to them I’m a “master user” of Word, which I honestly doubt, because there are many things I don’t know how to do off the top of my head, but the ability to figure it out quickly on the fly apparently makes up for it.)

        1. Jamie*

          Absolutely right. I was tested at a temp agency years ago and tested in expert in all but Access – where I was ‘advanced.’

          At that point I had never used Office or even seen the full programs – this was just due to playing around with the online training the night before. That made me quite skeptical of the testing process.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      I’m sort of a medium, but I wager by the end of a year in this position, and adding school onto that, I will be a damn expert. I’m already doing things in Word and Outlook at work that I have never ever ever done, and I’ve only been there a month!

  11. Anonymous*

    I’m considering applying for a federal government position through USAjobs. I currently work in academia and have no experience with government positions. Are cover letters and CV’s the norm? Or resumes? Put another way: is government more like academia or more like corporate?

    1. littlemoose*

      In my experience, it’s more like corporate – resumes and cover letters. Be sure to read what the job posting asks for, but a resume is probably what you want to submit.
      Also, if the position requires a background check, you may be asked to list every job you’ve held and every place you’ve lived. Just FYI.

      1. De Minimis*

        If I recall correctly, you build a resume using the website, which is a little tedious but once it’s done it becomes easy to apply to things. You can create multiple versions of your resume which is really useful if you’re looking at different types of positions.

        You will be at some kind of offer stage before having to deal with any background check issues, but it is wise to start getting the information together for future use.

        1. Rana*

          This. It’s pretty automated.

          One thing to be aware of: they are pretty crap at communicating with you, and the feedback you get can be unclear. The last time I applied for a government job the only response I got, aside from the automatic “here’s where your application is in the process” stuff, was something that it took me a while to understand was a rejection. (It told me I was qualified for the job. Period. Which, well, okay, good to know, but the “but we hired someone else” part was unclear.)

    2. Arts Nerd*

      I was under the impression that federal resumes are more than a corporate resume–an exhaustive list of your jobs, complete with contact information (and that’s what I used to apply for a federal gig.) It’s possible that I was given old or wrong info, though. My application didn’t go anywhere.

    3. The IT Manager*

      I would say, it’s not like either. (Disclaimer I am not really familair with academia.) It may be a bit more like corporate, but a good federal resume (in USA jobs) looks like a horrible, horrible corporate resume. It would make Alison’s eyes bleed. So if you’re doing this don’t bother looking for “good” resume advice and creating a normal resume. Find advice specifically for the federal resume.

      1. Elise*

        This. Federal resumes are screened and rated by HR employees. Do not skimp on details and do not feel shy about listing job duties. If the posting says “must have experience with toasting waffles” then your resume needs to say something that tells them you have experience with toasting waffles.

        My USAJobs resumes are about 3-4 times the length of my regular resume. Luckly, USAJobs lets you save multiple versions so you can tailor it to each job more easily.

        The government applications will also ask for references and salary information.

    4. Anon*

      Hi! The absolute first thing you need to know about applying federally is that there’s a book for that: Federal Resume Guidebook, by Kathryn Troutman.

      I took a couple trainings given by HR employees who hire people on how to use USAJOBS, and got a job based on what they told me. The most important points:

      -Use the Resume Builder, which will tell you what they want. And then TAKE that info, dump it into Word, and format it nicer, upload that as a resume as well. Apparently they want all the info from the Resume Builder, but it’s formatted very weirdly, so they want it prettier. The presenter referred to people who didn’t do this as “lazy”; it was, sadly, a very frequently-used term in the training for people I would usually refer to as “not mind-readers”.

      -Bullet points. In them, you need to hit every single thing listed in the job description and in the questionnaire.

      -Which: most jobs will have, at the bottom, a link to a questionnaire. If you do not know to click it there (the usual assumption would be that everything necessary would be higher up; this is not true), you will only see this questionnaire AFTER you have already uploaded your resume, so click on this link to see it first. After you upload your resume, etc, you will go through rating questions. Your answers to these questions MUST BE SUPPORTED in your resume (they are legally not allowed to make assumptions). Therefore, if the questionnaire wants you to rate yourself on Microsoft Excel, including X, Y, and Z, your ability to use X, Y, and Z must be supported in your resume.

      -If one applicant doesn’t upload a cover letter, they don’t look at anyone’s cover letters.

      -PUT YOUR SALARY. It’s listed as optional, but it’s sort of not. They say they use the salary to gauge the importance of the job. Anyone can have a fancy title, but if you make X vs. Y, they look at that. It WILL NOT, however, have anything to do with your starting salary, as that is listed in the job descrpition already.

      -And lastly, and this cannot be stressed enough: DETAIL DETAIL DETAIL. My normal resume is 2 pages long. My resume for USAJOBS was 4. You really need to hit every single thing. I know this site tends towards “hitting keywords is a myth”, it’s really not a myth for this.

  12. maisie*

    Is anyone here in the UK? I just moved here, but most of my experience and education was in the USA, which is fine, but most of my job searching knowledge was obviously learned over there. I read the thread about international work customs, but I’m wondering what differences there are specifically about job searching?

    1) Is it rude/weird to send follow up emails?
    2) Is sounding too enthusiastic in your cover letter a turn off?
    3) Do cover letters need to be/do anything specific?
    4) What kind of resumes are considered good?

    My main fear is that I have too much “American enthusiasm” which doesn’t often translate well in the UK. What is seen as enthusiastic and acceptable in the US (following up) seems like it might be considered pushy here?

    (For the record, I’m a UK citizen and have lived here for many years, but only when I was younger and a student, so I have never had a ‘real’ job here)

    1. Kay*

      I’m an American, but I’ve applied to and interviewed with UK employers.

      For the most part, they seemed really keen on my “enthusiasm” and were always totally fine with my sending follow up emails. I know of at least one occaision where my super-ballsy cover letter is the only thing that got me the interview. It made me stand out from the normally low-key UK applicants.

    2. Marmite*

      I’m a UK citizen and moved back to England two years ago after 5 years in the US. I think part of the answer to your question about “American enthusiasm” depends on how American it is. Do you have an American accent? Would people think you are American or just enthusiastic. It matters because there is some negativity surrounding Americans and the stereotypes of Americans being loud, pushy, overly dramatic etc. I don’t think enthusiasm (as a trait by itself) is looked upon negatively though.

      Addressing your specific questions:
      1) I wondered about this too, having never heard of the practice before reading about it on this blog. I asked around employed and unemployed friends in various professions/career stages and didn’t find any who had sent follow up e-mails. A friend of mine who is a manager and regularly involved in hiring decisions said she would find it pushy to receive a follow up e-mail unless it contained questions that hadn’t been addressed in the interview.

      2) No, enthusiasm for the job is still regarded as a good thing here. You want to sound like you want the job not just need some form of employment! What you want to be careful of is sounding cocky (“I would be so wonderful at this job because I just love carpentry!”), which Brits really don’t like.

      3) I think the advice on this blog for cover letters applies to the UK too, although the formal Dear Sir/Madam still seems to be acceptable here.

      4) Again the advice on this blog is good. There is some difference in listing your education though, especially if you are a recent graduate. While in the US you may not list your GPA unless it’s exceptional over here you do list your degree classification, so, assuming you have a UK based degree you should put 1st, 2:1, 2:2 etc. If you don’t you risk people assuming you got a third or just scraped a pass without honours. Many jobs require a 2:1 or 2:2 as a minimum (this would be stated in the job advert).

      1. Kate in Scotland*

        Agree with all of this. I would only send a follow-up if it was about something really specific that had been discussed in the interview (“here is that article we talked about”), the address if you don’t know who to write to is Dear Sir/Madam (definitely not Dear Hiring Manager!) and I’m pretty sure all of Alison’s cover letter advice still holds – make sure everything is realistic and backed up by evidence, pull out the particular things that make you a great fit for the job.

        Almost nobody here has any idea what a good GPA is so I’d list it but also put a line saying ‘ top 10% of class’ or ‘equivalent to 2:1’ or something to give them a baseline.

        A resume is called a CV here but it’s still a 2 page document, reverse chronological, I think mostly it’s pretty similar to a US resume.

    3. Kerry*

      Hi! I’m American but I moved to the UK six years ago – I’ve been hired for several jobs both here and in the US, and there are definitely some differences in the process.

      1) Is it rude/weird to send follow up emails?

      It’s not rude, but it is weird. I once interviewed another American for a job in my company, and she sent us all thoughtful, personalised thank-you cards. The senior interviewer dropped by my desk with hers and said “Is this…normal in the US?” with an expression like, “who is the intense stalker candidate?” I explained that it was totally common etiquette (and we actually ended up hiring her, she was great in her interview) but the follow-up cards were definitely a minor negative point until I explained them.

      2) Is sounding too enthusiastic in your cover letter a turn off?

      The main difference between UK enthusiasm and US enthusiasm I’ve found is that in the US there’s an focus on actively selling yourself in a way that comes across as very artificial in the UK. Alison’s advice is generally very good here too, but (it’s hard to describe this because it’s such a tone thing) the energy is just toned down a little.

      3) Do cover letters need to be/do anything specific?

      No, they’re exactly the same – Alison’s advice as always will servce you very well (as it has me).

      4) What kind of resumes are considered good?

      Two pages, listing interests and extracurricular stuff. This is very different than US versions. UK hiring managers want rounded employees who will be good to work with.

      I learned when I was applying for jobs early on that my one-page, work-only resume was turning some people off because I came across like an automaton. I went into one interview where the hiring manager turned over my resume (expecting a second page) and then asked “So, what do you…DO outside work?” She relaxed a lot more when I started talking about how much I like theatre, and I was called in for a second interview on that one.

      I hope that helps!

  13. ANON*

    My company is based in the UK, but I work in the US office. There is a woman there, who if I was in the UK would be my boss, but technically has no real authority over me based on the separations of our branches. Despite this, she is on occasion brought in to “help” me and my co-worker. She is a very nice woman, however she is rarely useful, and always makes things far more complicated than they need to be. To make matters worse, my boss is on maternity leave and the person I’m reporting to is best friends with her. She is originally from the UK office, but is now in the US office, so they have known each other for years. Its to the point where anytime we see an email from the woman in the UK, my co-worker and I cringe because we know its just going to be a pain to deal with whatever it is.

    I do respect her as a person, and I feel like she is probably good at her job in the UK, but as we are in different markets, I don’t think she is as helpful here as people tend to think she is. Any suggestions for how I can deal with her? Should I talk to her? Talk to the woman I’m reporting to (her best friend)?

    1. fposte*

      What is the actual nature of the problem? Do you have to spend time following her suggestions on projects when you know they won’t work, take time to read her emails, or what, exactly? Who is bringing her in to help, and how much attention are they paying to the result? What kind of help is she supposed to be bringing?
      Right now it sounds like you could get away with doing some nice “Thanks for the input!” email responses and carry on as you are, but that’s going to depend on the answers to the above.

    2. Jamie*

      She is a very nice woman, however she is rarely useful, and always makes things far more complicated than they need to be.

      If not for being in the UK I’d wonder which of my co-workers you were and tell you to stop writing about me here.

      I’m useful in ways not everyone understands.

      I’m with fposte in that I’m confused as to the problem. Are you required to follow her directives and they are wrong? I think we need more details.

      1. ANON*

        Do I HAVE to take them? No. However I do think if I was to repeatedly ignore her suggestions, that would cause trouble for me as well.

        1. Elle*

          Can you be more specific? What is wrong with her advice? Why is she brought in to help? What is the issue?

          1. ANON*

            Her advice isn’t necessarily bad, she just makes things way more complex than they need to be. Its like there is being thorough and then being unnecessarily complicated. She is the latter. Without going into specific projects, its a constant issue. I once asked another co-worker who has worked with her before in the UK, and he replied how awful it is anytime she is brought in on something.

            Also, she feels like she must be involved in every step of everything she is involved in. She can’t just have an overall understanding. She has to email about the minute details of the planning. Its maddening.

  14. Anonymous for this question*

    I need serious advice on how to handle this internship I am doing. I made the mistake of not interning during college (I was working and student teaching a couple classes,) and being a woefully underemployed graduate tried to find internships in my area of interest but has little luck as most places required you to be a current student. I finally found an (unpaid) internship at a law firm, and I thought it would fit my interests and goals but the vast majority of what I am doing is calling people who have inquired about us to try and get appointments from them. I’m about halfway through the length of the internship, but I am still just mostly calling. I had a talk with my supervisor recently asking for more challenging tasks, but she insists I am learning things through the calling. I don’t know whether to suck it up for the next month and a half, or to leave. I am also concerned about burning bridges because one of the high-ranking people at the firm is a heavily involved alum for my alma mater.

      1. Anonymous for this question*

        No, I’m trying to get experience in Public Relations. After graduating, a couple friends of mine got PR jobs and I find it to be a field that I am highly interested in. I originally went for HR, but those jobs are scarce.

        1. kristinyc*

          If you want to go into PR, you will need to have some phone sales/pitching skills, so this will be a little relevant.

          But there are plenty of PR specific internships out there. Find one of those!

          1. Just a Reader*

            Hello from a PR vet. The best thing you can do is go for a paid internship at a PR agency. What region are you in? If US, what city?

            Unfortunately PR is one of the professions that you really need experience to get your foot in the door–you also need to demonstrate a real passion and understanding for it. So an internship is a great way to go but those are also very competitive.

            My best advice:
            Join your local chapter of the PRSA and attend all the networking events you can.

            Beef up your resume to highlight your marketing/comms classes (assuming you’re a recent grad).

            Take any classes you can find focused on business writing and communication–if you have a good adult education center or community college, that’s a good place to start. 1-day classes are fine–you just want to hone your skills.

            Read up on PR successes, PR disasters, the role of social media in PR and corporate communications, how digital media is changing the landscape, what the world of publishing looks like now, etc. Identify who’s known for good PR and marketing and be ready to talk about the whys behind their success.

            And subscribe to Help A Reporter Out so you get a feel for what journalists look for.

            Good luck!

    1. COT*

      If it’s only 6 more weeks, I’d stick it out unless you get a job offer elsewhere. Not honoring your commitment could definitely burn some bridges. If you had six months left, my answer might be different. Six weeks isn’t that long even if you’re bored to tears.

      If you have a good relationship with your supervisor you could try talking to her again from the angle of “my duties don’t match what the position description implied they would be.” It might help, might not.

      1. fposte*

        Ditto. Suck it up, get a good recommendation, and move on. (Though it sounds to me like this internship might not be legal, which would be a real can of worms to open.)

        1. danr*

          She’s in a law firm… how could it not be ‘legal’. (grin). I’ll echo the others. Finish the internship and move on.

        2. jesicka309*

          This was my first thought too – unpaid, yet she’s doing significant work like calling clients? And isn’t recieving credits for classes fromit? Illegal. (at least in the states, as I’ve learnt a lot about employment law hanging around AAM haha). The company is recieving immediate benefit from your activities, and really, they SHOULDN’T be giving you as much work as you’re doing already without paying you, let alone more significant work.

          1. Anonymous for this question*

            Yes, I am not receiving credits from it, but there are 3 or 4 other interns who are still in college and are receiving credits for it, so I am not too worried about that aspect. I just took it as a graduate because I needed experience.

            I just wish I was learning more, or doing something a bit more challenging.

            Though I do admit, calling for a full day is draining; it makes me happy when I go to my current paying gig of being a waitress, lol.

            1. Maria*

              That is to say, the internships that really aren’t “legal”…I’ve done a few myself, and I see them listed everywhere these days. Problem is people need experience, paid or not. And really, where does it leave you to raise the issue of the legality when you’re trying to get a foot in the door?
              For what it’s worth, in a legal office it’s very difficult to find work appropriate for interns. Most of the substantive work needs a legal mind, and usually that is handled by law students (clerks) because they have the training. Interns end up generally with filing, running (filing things at court or otherwise delivering papers) or scanning/photocopying…so calling really isn’t the worst thing you could’ve gotten stuck with, if that helps.

  15. De Minimis*

    With USAJobs you can create and attach cover letters/resume, etc., to make an application packet that you can use to apply for multiple jobs. I don’t know how much they really look at a lot of the documents at the initial stage but you need them in order to apply. The requirements for documents vary with each announcement and for different agencies.

    There is often some kind of questionaire/assessment with a lot of the positions asking about your experience in certain tasks/functions, and that is the main thing they will use to determine if you will be on the list of people they contact. In my case I don’t think they looked at my resume until the interview stage.

    It can be tough to get on board if you aren’t a vet or in some other preference group, but a lot depends on what you do, and the location.

  16. Esra*

    A question for all those non-profit workers out there: How do you feel about your org soliciting donations from staff? We’ve been getting the hard sell and push for 100% participation over the past few months and I’m a holdout. I have a set charitable giving budget and besides the fact it’s all already spoken for, I also don’t believe in volunteering or donating to an organization I’m currently working with/for.

    1. SJ*

      Are you kidding me? I would never donate to the nonprofit where I work, and would be particularly offended if I was expected to. They can consider the low salary my donation.

    2. Josh S*

      I don’t work in a non-profit, but I think your position is entirely reasonable. (And honestly, speaks well of your ability to manage your finances.)

      Say this, “I have a set charitable giving budget, and it is already spoken for. Please do not ask me again since I am not able to give to the organization at this time.”

      If you get push-back about needing to be a team player, the company’s 100% participation goal, etc etc etc, you can approach your manager and say something along the lines of, “I fully support the mission of this organization. It’s why I enjoy working here. It’s why I commit my time and energy to being here doing excellent work. My personal finances are, to me, completely separate from that work, and while I understand the company’s desire for 100% participation (or whatever the complaint is), my finances do not allow for me to make a contribution at this time. Can I have your support in respecting that?”

      The answer you receive will tell you a lot about whether failure to make a ‘voluntary’ donation is a deal-breaker for your boss.

      The whole situation sucks, by the way. Your compensation ought to be yours to do with as you please, and you shouldn’t feel compelled to use it in a manner contrary to your personal financial goals, whether it’s to make a charitable donation, to give a gift to the CEO, or to buy TastyKakes to share with co-workers.

    3. Jess*

      It might be okay to ask the higher-ups, e.g. directors and whatnot, but everybody else? No way.

    4. Anonymous*

      If 100% participation is their biggest concern and somehow benefits the company, could you give $1?

      That goes against your (totally reasonable) desire not to blur the lines your charitable giving and your work, but it might be a practical solution. I agree that they shouldn’t be asking you at all, but I could also see myself in that situation deciding that I was willing to give $1 a month or a year if it would make me look like a team player.

      I did something similar once for my alma mater – there was some setup where if more than X% of our class donated, there would be matching funds from another class, so I sent in $1 even though I don’t normally feel obligated to donate, being a graduate student with lots of loans.

    5. fposte*

      Our university’s big on this. They really want a participation rate more than dollars, and it’s mostly just mass emails so I wouldn’t call it a hard sell, but I find it particularly annoying that it only counts for donations within a particular period of time as I actually gave a donation outside of it that doesn’t count.

      I get the point, it’s good to have and to demonstrate buy in of those who work there, but I think it really has to be done tactfully and respectfully to avoid the “Give us back our money!” flavor and to avoid ambushing people who really don’t make enough money but will feel pressured because the demand is from their employer. And too often it fails there.

      1. kristinyc*

        I used to work for a nonprofit that does a lot of workplace donation campaigns. 100% participation was pretty much required of us (not officially, but some of the rewards were things like “If we get 100% participation this year, we get to wear jeans on Fridays,” so no one wanted to be the jerk who prevented that from happening.). We made it to 100% that year, but there was no “minimum” requirement, so there very well could have been people who gave $1.)

        I would just do a very small amount, but still address it with management. You’re probably not the only person who feels that way, especially considering how nonprofits pay.

    6. E*

      I used to work at a non-profit (a large museum) that did this. I HATED it. It didn’t help that I was in a low-paying temporary position, so I thought it was really insulting to ask me to donate money (or take it directly out my check – yes, that was an option) when I was barely scraping by and there was no guarantee that I would have a job in a year.

      Fortunately, although they did strongly encourage participation in mass emails, posters, etc, there was no in person request. So it was very easy to ignore :)

      1. Esra*

        They’ve put forward taking it out of your cheque as an option here too. I’m hoping it doesn’t become a thing, because I feel pretty strongly about not donating to my workplace.

        1. Josh S*

          At least in the US, they cannot take money from your pay without your approval (or a court order in some situations). I’m guessing by the way you spell “cheque” that you may not be in the US though.

          1. Esra*

            Canada. They can’t do it here either without permission, but strongly encourage us to sign up for it.

    7. Anonymous*

      Bad to solicit. If people want to give, they can find the website/gift form themselves.

      Some of our senior staff, especially the CEO, contribute on their own.

    8. Majigail*

      It’s the norm in a lot of places. The way it’s explained to development people is that it is hard to ask others to give if you don’t give yourself. I believe everyone, staff, volunteers, clients, families should be asked in most cases because you just never know and its a rare bird that gives if shes not asked. However I do prefer when asks come from development and not management and really hate 100% giving goals. However I have noticed a general correlation to lower commitment to the mission and that employee choosing not to give.

      1. Jessa*

        I dislike the idea that somehow someone is not committed to the mission if they do not give.

    9. Rachel in Minneapolis*

      I’ve been in non-profits for over 12 years and I always have given to the non-profit. I work in the faith-based realm, both with churches and separate non-profits, so it is definitely the norm to donate.

      That said, your desire not to mix your charitable giving with work is totally reasonable and understandable. Even in my world, we’ve never achieved 100% due to specific individuals’ situations and everyone has been fine with that.

      Can you ask if they will accept time donations? I know when I was in graduate school, by donation was in-kind hours on a specific project outside my job description. This counted as a donation since it was quantifiable.

      1. COT*

        Good idea if your organization allows this. My nonprofit specifically prohibits unpaid volunteer work by employees, I think because it gets too messy and there is potential for abuse.

        Perhaps your employer would accept in-kind item donations, though, as part of the giving campaign.

        1. Jessa*

          I can understand that. The labour issue can get very convoluted. If the person does anything remotely job like, there are huge issues if they’re not paid for it, particularly if the “volunteer” hours would have put them into overtime.

          All it takes is for someone outside the company to wonder if so and so is being taken advantage of.

    10. Anon*

      I’m in fundraising and my university has an employee giving program (though I don’t manage it). I completely get why it can rub people the wrong way. That said, here are a few reasons these exist besides the obvious (more money!).

      -Boards are a potentially huge source of fundraising dollars, but a lot of board members don’t donate. This is true even of boards that have an explicit giving minimums. It’s much easier to get the board to give when you can point to XX% percentage of staff donating.
      -It’s a useful statistic to cite in grant requests that demonstrates staff buy-in.
      -At a really big, silo’d organization like a university, the education piece of employee giving campaigns is important. At the very least, employees hear about the accomplishments of other divisions.
      -For employees who like and participate in these campaigns, it’s a morale booster and helps them feel more connected to the mission and their coworkers. Of course, whether this is outweighed by employees who hate these campaigns is debatable.

      Done well, employee giving campaigns can be positive programs that provide essential funding, increase employee connectivity, and demonstrate commitment to outside audiences. My university’s program has been upbeat, informative and deliberately low pressure, and it’s massively exceeded its fundraising goal.

      Again, these can be done very poorly, and I understand why some people hate them, especially those working in environments that are already high stress. Just wanted to provide some insight as to why you’re being asked for money in the first place.

      1. fposte*

        This was my introduction to the term “siloed,” and since I’m at a land-grant school it took me a minute to realize you weren’t speaking literally.

        1. Anon*

          Ha, sorry for the jargon. I used to hate when people used that term, but sometimes it’s the most accurate way to describe things. But yeah, I’m a pretty literal person and I still imagine an actual silo with the college staff in one, and the grad school staff in another, and so on…

          1. So Very Anonymous*

            Same here. I also can’t helping imagining the Death by Corn Silo scene in “Witness.”

    11. Anonymous*

      I work with charitable foundations that donate to non-profits and I do not think we would find it a “plus” for a non-profit to say that they are supported by 100% of their employees. I would assume (and rightly so, by some of these comments) that this was achieved only through coersion and would actually see it as a negative against the non-profit, not a positive.

    12. Sarah*

      I work for a nonprofit (in development) and I would advocate for all (higher level and development) staff to donate to their nonprofit. I’m at an art museum. My argument with my current staff is if you were not employed here, would you join as a member? If yes, then you should join as a member (we all know we eat and drink at the member openings).

      This is especially important for development staff. How can someone ask someone else to support their institution without first supporting it themself?

      While your nonprofit cannot force you to give, I think you need to ask yourself if you believe in the mission of your nonprofit. If you do? Why not give? It doesn’t have to be a lot. And it doesn’t have to be money. Maybe you can give something in-kind that they could use (copy paper, etc.).

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Hmmm. Are your salaries at the same level as for-profit salaries? Because if they’re not (as is that case for many nonprofits), they’re already giving by working for you for lower-than-market. And possibly longer hours than they would somewhere else too. Giving isn’t just monetary.

        1. Jessa*

          Thank you, you said it better than I did. This is my point. If someone is working at market level -$2 then they’re giving $2 an hour in in-kind donations. That comes out to $80 a week on a 40 hour week. That’s a heckuva lot of money.

          And honestly, if the non profit is paying so much that their employees can afford to hand back $X then they shouldn’t be paying them that in the first place. If they’re NOT paying enough that the employees can without stress or stretching their budgets afford to hand back $X they have no damned right to ask them to. Development or not. The donation of the staff is working for the company.

          And the problem is while there are some very nice groups and companies to work for, there are far more that are obnoxious and pressuring and make it clear that you’re really a lousy worker if you don’t give. Even if you can’t afford it. Even if you chose to for instance give to Hospice because they helped your parents when they died. And you get lousy assignments, and bullied about it all the time. And everyone knows, despite the fact that it’s supposed to be private that you’re the one that cost them their 100% whatever it was.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            The one tweak I’d make to that is that good nonprofits will pay their people enough that donations wouldn’t be a stretch (not that they should have to donate — they shoudn’t I’m responding to the point that if they can’t afford to, they’re overpaid). You want to hire the best people in order to get the best results, and that means paying as competitively as you can.

      2. Anon*

        The problem is, you don’t know other people’s situations. There are causes I support, but don’t have the time or the spoons to volunteer, so I give them money. Other things, I can’t give them money, but I can give them my limited time.

        If I’m working for $nonprofit, I’m already supporting them by *working for them*. I’m actively supporting and helping the cause.

        If I want to go above and beyond and support them financially or by working for free (aka volunteering), that needs to be my choice. But they’re the ones paying me, so them then asking me to give them back some of their money strikes the wrong chord. Same with any sort of volunteering: I work for you for money, but since I like the cause, I should work more for free?

        Some people can do it. Others can’t. People need to be able to decide for themselves, free from pressure from higher ups who *can* financially or time-wise afford to do it. Because some of us can’t.

        “If you believe in our cause, you should donate” is a fallacy, you’re saying that if they don’t donate, then they don’t really believe. But that’s not true. They’re already working for the cause, do you want them to bleed too? (This reminds me of the place where I had to flat out tell them why I was unable to donate blood; very fun!)

        tl;dr: While you can try to dictate how someone shows their support, it says more about the dictators than the dictatees. ;)

        1. JT*

          Advocating they give is not the same as requiring they give, or looking down on people if they don’t give.

          Asking someone once (a year or so) is not coercion or pressure unless there are other messages or bad stuff going on at the workplace too.

          And I don’t think it’s appropriate to resent being asked occasionally.

          Being asked *often* or with pressure is obnoxious. But just being asked? It’s just being asked. No more, no less.

          1. Jessa*

            But the fact is that it’s NOT without pressure most of the time. And honestly if you’ve been asked once and turned them down, it IS annoying to be asked again and again. Now I’m not talking about some once a year or something fundraiser and you get a single request and nobody says anything whether you do or don’t give. But the fact is that it’s a rare organisation that acts like that.

    13. Rana*

      I always resented the fundraisers at the places I worked (colleges and universities) and never paid anything to them. My thinking was that my salary was part of what the fundraising was for, so why would I be paying them to pay me? If you need my money so badly, pay me less, but once it’s in my bank account, it is mine to decide what to do with.

      1. JT*

        ” If you need my money so badly, pay me less, but once it’s in my bank account, it is mine to decide what to do with.”

        I don’t understand how asking you to give is undermining your ability to decide what to do with it. We you asked over and over again, with pressure or something?

          1. Rana*

            It is particularly annoying being asked by an institution that is too cheap to give you benefits or even a proper office in which to work.

    14. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I absolutely think that people that work at a non-profit should donate to it. I have the same reason that others below/above have; I believe in the cause, that’s why I’m working there. I didn’t go into my salary negotiation saying “Well, I’m OK with taking a lower salary because I’m donating my time.” I got the most I could out of my salary. Where I work is irrelevant to the equation. I donate to causes I believe in, and I have insider knowledge of my org, and I know that they will spend my money well.

      Everyone has jobs (well, you know what I mean), and many people are underpaid. But my development officers still ask those people for money every day. We get $1 donations in the mail from people on very small fixed incomes. If I don’t believe in the cause at least as much as those people, I shouldn’t be working there. I’m inspired by the people I work with, and the people we do our work for. I can give $5.

      If your salary is low enough that you’re offended at the idea of monetarily supporting the cause, even to the tune of $1, maybe you should find a new job!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t think it’s about being offended at the idea of monetarily supporting the cause, but rather about being expected to donate to your employer. Generally your employer pays you, not the other way around.

        Donations tend to work best when they’re truly given freely, not when there’s a feeling of obligation or entitlement attached. I really, really don’t want people who work for me feeling obligated to donate their money to the organization. I’d be glad if they were moved to donate on their own, but it’s really not good for them to feel obligated to. And really, their work is far more valuable than the 25 bucks they might give. I want to keep high performers happy, not annoy them with a request for a donation that’s worth far less than the extra 2 hours they put in yesterday.

      2. Esra*

        I support the cause by working there, doing a fantastic job, and embracing the spirit of the organization in my day-to-day life. My policy of not donating or volunteering at organizations I work for/with is all about not blurring the lines in regards to my role. I want them to value my time, and giving time and money to them when I’m working for them muddies the water.

    15. Small non-profit employee*

      I don’t like it. I was really turned off my first year at my non-profit job when they asked for donations. I feel like my donation is doing a really good job for them, while making less than what I would make in the for-profit sector with terrible benefits as well. So I feel like my donation is the difference between pay/benefits somewhere else, and the pay/benefits I get here.

      I do donate money to other organizations. I have interests beyond just the org I work for, and like to be able to support those with money.

      Thankfully, this is my last week here! No more being solicited for $ from my employer!

  17. Josh S*

    I just want to say… KITTIES!

    Also, you should really let us know an update on your foot. How’s it healing? Has it made any more rants that haven’t been posted to its blog?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Thanks for asking! It’s … mixed. It’s not perfect: I still have a barely perceptible limp, minor enough that some people don’t notice at all. If I have that for the rest of my life, it’s not the worst thing in the world, although I’m hoping it continues to lessen (and that does seem to be the trajectory it’s on). But I can’t really run, which concerns me, since at some point I might be in a situation where I actually need to run.

      My doctor and I decided to give it more time, but if I still can’t run by next fall (2 years from the injury), we’ll consider surgery. (Which would mean another two months of not putting weight on it, which would suck, so I’m leaning away from that unless absolutely necessary.)

      The foot has basically stopped writing rants, although it does occasionally have weird and random short-lived pain, which I like to think is the foot of yore, re-asserting itself.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Do some research before having them put any plates in your foot, if that is what the surgery requires. It might be a good fix, but it might also cause other issues later on. I broke an ankle, had a plate, and that changed the foot geometry slightly. Over time I’ve developed a bunion, and the foot is slowly getting more awkward and painful. A podiatrist recommended surgery for the bunion, but that seems to be just fixing the symptom.

        In any case, I do hope your foot continues to improve and heal.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, that seems to be the sticking point: Surgery isn’t guaranteed to help and might make things worse … so if I’m basically okay, is it worth the risk? It’s not like I was running marathons before or anything, but I keep thinking I might someday need to outrun a lion or something.

          1. fposte*

            The other problem is that foot issues affect gait, which can complicate the situation all the way up your body. You may want either way to find a really, really good biomechanics person to talk about how you’re using yourself when you walk now and what weaknesses you might be able to work on to minimize disproportionate strain. I’m kind of obsessed with the Gait Guys right now ( –they’re smart and skeptical, despite their utter inability to keep web housekeeping links up.

            1. Josh S*

              OK. I’m going to waste hours with that site. Thank you for making me interested in a whole topic that I never knew existed.

              1. Jamie*

                AAM is legend for that. I had never heard of reflexology until Alison mentioned it in a post – now I’ve seen every related video on youtube.

                And I will always love whomever on here pointed me to passive-aggressive – where I killed an entire weekend reading the entire archives. I don’t remember who it was – but I do love you.

          2. S.L. Albert*

            Ah, but you don’t have to outrun the lion, you just have to outrun whoever you’re walking with. :)

          3. Seal*

            If you ever need to outrun a lion, I suspect adrenaline would take over to the point you wouldn’t notice your foot pain (or much else, for that matter).

            Foot and ankle injuries are odd things. I badly sprained an ankle as a freshman in college over 30 years ago, and that ankle has never been the same. Changed the geometry of my foot and everything. Sprained the other one about 10 years later and although that one is allegedly “looser” according to my doctor, the first one I sprained is the one that still bothers me. Weird.

          4. Jessa*

            Also a good orthotist might be able to brace the foot into a position that will help it. Before surgery try looking into custom support (your doctor can refer you.)

            Also as suggested above you might have the gait looked at, some of the residual issues may be from the fact that you’ve spent all this time walking differently to accommodate the pain in the foot. Someone in physical therapy might be able to help. Also the above mentioned orthotist as well. Your muscles have reacted to the limp now and are working differently.

            To use a Hollywood example of someone who is NOT actually injured. Because the costumers on the set of House fitted the good Doctor with a too short cane, Hugh Laurie developed back trouble and had to have treatment for it. From walking with the “pretend” limp for so many seasons.

            NOT a Doctor, or a therapist but a former Special Education teacher who had to deal with students with musculoskeletal issues a lot. Also someone who has had knee surgery and had to deal with orthotics for that.

  18. SJ*

    Pet peeve: how obnoxious it is when people write “THIS!” after a comment. It makes me feel like I’m reading a teenager’s Twitter feed.

    1. KellyK*


      I mean, um, nevermind.

      Clearly, it doesn’t bother me (and it strikes me as more bloggy than twittery…I see it on comment threads a lot).

    2. Josh S*

      Meh. If I got annoyed at all the annoying customs that have arisen through forums, blog comments, and social media, I’d never stop being annoyed.

      The things that bother me I simply don’t do, and hope that others will follow my sterling example.

      I get your annoyance, but I don’t think there’s an icicle’s chance in hell of changing it. So the only options left are a permanent state of annoyance or a change in your own attitude. Sorry.

      1. Ellie H.*

        This is my general attitude, but the one thing that I hate beyond all rationality is tl;dr. If I could abolish that phrase from the internet (and all users of that phrase, too) I would do it in a heartbeat.

        1. Jamie*

          I don’t mind it if people are doing it in response to their own posts – but I HATE it when it’s in response to someone else’s but they are offering an opinion anyway.

          If you don’t want to read that’s fine – but don’t tell people you can’t be bothered with the stated information and then criticize anyway.

          1. Ellie H.*

            Oh, yeah, I don’t mind it at all when someone says it in a self-deprecating way, but when people are genuinely using it as a reply to someone else, that is the worst.

        2. LMW*

          I’ve just noticed that on here over the last few days and I have no idea what it means.

          1. The IT Manager*

            I usually can never remember what it means, but looked it up again after looking it up this morning.

            tl;dr = Too long; didn’t read.

    3. Andie*

      I don’t know what THIS! means…. Feeling like an old lady right about now…………………:-(
      Luckily I look younger than I am.

        1. Josh S*


          It’s basically saying, “This statement is exactly right!” but in a shorthand that strips out all relevant meaning.

          1. The IT Manager*


            The same thing … expressing agreement. Often strong agreement.

            I don’t see it as annoying in a blog.

            1. Jamie*

              Especially since you need to post in order to get replies in your email the +1 by themselves serve that purpose.

              And I like ‘this’ it’s just shorthand for, “I would like to post my most emphatic and sincere agreement with the points that dear The IT Manager made in the post to which I am responding. It is both an acknowledgement that they are not alone in their opinion and a public show of solidarity for the views expressed – and a thank you for saving me the typing to express the same.”

              It saves a lot of typing.

    4. Jen in RO*

      I am always tempted to do this… and sometimes I really, REALLY want a Like button for some people’s comments.

      1. Rana*

        Exactly. There’s no “like” option for showing support and reinforcing the message. It seems less obnoxious to me than restating the original comment again in one’s own words. It’s not like it’s hard to skim past.

        1. Jessa*

          And as stated above if you want email, there’s no automatic tick box to mark off “email update me on this thread,” so you have to post on it.

    5. ThursdaysGeek*

      My pet peeve is the lol at the end of a sentence, almost like a punctuation mark. But as Josh S says, it’s better to let it go so that I’m not in a constantly annoyed state lol.

      1. Jamie*

        I think that’s just shorthand for to indicate you were kidding. I’ve done it in lieu of / sarcasm or j/k.

      2. Emma*

        Does it help to think of the lol as a person drowning with their arms out for help?

        You might benefit from reading the comic Hyperbole and a Half, specifically her post about the Alot.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          I’m going to have to track that one down, since ‘alot’ is another pet peeve (I like having lots of pets!). No, I never noticed the drowning person before, and now I’m going to be smiling when I add that mental picture to sentences I read.

      3. Katie in Ed*

        Is it possible to not be aware something like this annoyed you? Because now that it’s been brought to my attention as something annoying, I definitely find it annoying.


  19. Christine*

    In order to appear overqualified for some positions, I’ve had some people suggest I leave my Masters degree off of my resume. What do you guys think of that? I’d be concerned that, when filling out an actual job application, I’d have no choice but to include the Masters since that’s a legal document. Even if I were to omit it from an application, wouldn’t it come up in background checks, even if I were to apply for temp positions?

    Just wanted to get some feedback since I’m thinking of possibly applying for lower-level positions in nonprofits or postsecondary education settings to get my foot back in the door.

    1. Christine*

      “In order to appear overqualified for some positions” – Argh, should be “NOT appear overqualified…”

    2. fposte*

      I think it’s fine. It’s a summary of relevant achievements, not a testament to your life–it’s not a weird discrepancy for stuff that appears in deeper biographies not to turn up there. If you fill out an application that demands all your education, you do include it. (And if you’re doing temp work in a place that has background checks, wouldn’t that be in your field anyway, making the degree relevant?)

    3. Sascha*

      As a person who has worked for two universities, it can go both ways. Some universities and departments are degree crazy, so even if you have a master’s in an unrelated field, they will love you for it. Others will think you will eventually leave in order to pursue a job in the relevant field. However for all university positions to which I’ve applied, they want to know about ALL degrees you’ve obtained, and they usually want transcripts, even if it has absolutely no bearing on the job. So I would list the master’s for higher ed positions.

      I don’t know about non-profits, but plenty of people here are more than qualified to answer that.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, good point on the higher ed–I was focusing on the “is it okay to omit?” question.

      1. Christine*

        My question is just a general one – there is no specific employment opportunity at hand, unfortunately.

    4. Maria*

      I have a J.D. and struggled with the same thing. I’ve heard both to leave it on or remove it, but I had some very strong negative reactions by some people that led me to keep it on. I have been trying to transition into work in higher education. Since transcripts were required it was information they would receive sooner or later, and I risked appearing dishonest by not including all my degrees. I would suggest it may depend on the industry somewhat?

      1. Maria*

        I would add it really comes down to the hiring manager (or committee) and whether they’re interested in getting someone highly qualified and good for the position for what might be a shorter length of time, or whether their concern you’ll cut and run because of your degree will make them pass on your application. I always try to say I’m interested in transitioning and really want the job for the long-haul in my resume, but I think it comes down to them and their bias, or lack of, more than anything you do as the applicant. Just my opinion.

      2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        I’d say include a JD more often than an irrelevant masters. I think JD’s tend to be more useful than not, and I think there are (unfortunately) enough out-of-work JD’s that hiring managers understand they’re not a flight risk in the same way that hiring someone for a job that is clearly not their passion is.

  20. Anon*

    In the same spirit as the fun question about ridiculous attire: What’s your best “bosses behaving badly” story? I’m not talking about evil bosses who make the workplace a living nightmare; I’m talking about fair-to-good bosses who have the occasional, let’s say, lapse in judgment.

    I’ll start with a pair of tidbits from my past work life: One was the new boss who, on his first day on the job, decided his desk chair was old and uncomfortable. Instead of going through the office manager to ask about a replacement, he simply swapped chairs with one of my coworkers who happened to be out that day (I guess he noticed me goggling at him, because he trilled, “As the boss, I can do these things” on his way back to his desk). He actually turned out not to be a bad boss, but that was not the way to make a first impression!

    The second is one I know I’ve mentioned in a comment thread before but that bears repeating: I once had a boss who got a juicy promotion that came with a corner office on the top floor of the building. He threw a party (mandatory attendance for our whole department) in the middle of the workday just to celebrate his new pad, with music, drinks and food. It was…awkward.

    1. twentymilehike*

      haha … I SO have one of these bosses.

      My favorite Boss Moment so far is the day I saw my boss take his leftover coffee from his mug and pour it back into the coffee pot. Of course, to follow in the comedic way we handle things here, I promptly told my coworker who subsequently yelled at him for being unsanitary. Repeatedly. For years.

      Lately, his thing has been to just dump the leftover coffee out of his mug into the sink, and then put the mug on the dish rack to dry without washing it … or even rinsing it for that matter.

      1. Sascha*

        I had a coworker who did this. He said that the coffee remnants “enhanced the flavor.” I guess the mold enhanced the flavor, too.

        1. fposte*

          That’s the rule with tea–you’re not supposed to wash the teapot. But that also presumes you’ll empty the thing out speedily and let it dry and therefore there’ll be no moldy tea leaves in there. In my case, that presumes wrongly.

          1. Jessa*

            I know about not washing, but a quick rinse to get the leaves out, definitely, you don’t want mouldy leaves in your pot. Obviously not a scrubber and soap and water. I tend to treat my teapot the way I treat my cast iron pans. Light rinsing.

            1. fposte*

              It’s a British tradition. I don’t know the history or the spread, but if you Google “not washing teapot” you’ll find lots of people talking about whether they abide by it or not.

              1. fposte*

                To expand, the theory is that the buildup adds taste. I suspect that was a legend to avoid the annoyance of scrubbing a teapot, given the narrowness of spouts, etc. I’m all for getting out of work myself, but I can’t be trusted not to go too far on this one.

        2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          I have a former co-worker whose mug was just *caked* with coffee. He never washed it. It was there for roughly a year and a half, and I don’t think he washed it one time.

          (of course, now that I force myself to choke down tea most days, I find myself doing the very same thing).

        3. Rana*

          I have to admit that my tea cup gets pretty grungy in that fashion, though in my defense (a) it gets sterilized every morning with boiling water, and (b) I’m the only one who ever drinks out of it.

          Also, I do scour it out every few months or so, which (weirdly) means that the handle overheats in the microwave until a new coating is established. Given a choice between needing a mitt to take it out and putting up with the coating, I’ll take the coating.

          1. Sascha*

            I can see doing this with tea, but my main concern with coffee is that people usually put sugar and milk in it, and those things breed bacteria like wildfire.

          2. fposte*

            I think the theory is with the teapot is that the inside doesn’t even get touched by human hands (or lips). Mugs get a lot of touching :-).

        1. twentymilehike*

          Well, Sascha, the upside of his behavior now is that he doesn’t usually show up until the rest of us are going to lunch. That way we can get our coffee in before he has a chance to contaminate it.

          I do have to keep my eye on the fridge though … This came up in another post somewhere eons ago: He will go out to some fancy lunch and bring his leftovers for the lowly minions. Except he just puts them in the fridge without saying anything. Then at the end of the week I get to throw away moldy sushi. I know this because I’ve asked who’s food is in the fridge before I throw it away and he’ll say, “I brought that back for you guys.” Gee thanks, I wanted to finish your meal.

          Don’t even get me started about the time he brought in the leftover pizza from an event we had … It was the day before my anniversary. After I ate two pieces, someone mentioned that it had been out all night, not in the fridge. Instead of going to my fancy anniversary dinner, I spent about 12 hours puking and crapping my brains out wondering at what point do I go to the ER. I don’t eat anything he’s touched anymore. Ever. I have never forgiven him.

    2. Sascha*

      Not my boss, but I regularly see the account manager for the application I support at conferences. And he ALWAYS gets drunk and does karaoke. He can’t resist the karaoke. So then I will see him again for a meeting, and have to stifle the giggles as I remember him trying to sing Backstreet Boys.

          1. Jessa*

            fposte, you just make me snork Pepsi up my nose. I should have known better than to read this blog and drink.

    3. Frank*

      In my first “real” job in a corporate environment, I had a boss who asked me repeatedly why I didn’t have reduction surgery. She said her back would be killing her if she carried around what I did on my chest. I repeatedly said it was not an issue for me but she kept bringing it up!

  21. Jen in RO*

    I’ve been wondering about this for a while and I was waiting for the open thread. Salaries are often discussed here. When you say X is making $20.000 a year does that mean before tax or after tax? If it’s before tax, how much do you have to substract to get the actual take home pay?

    1. kimberly*

      It is pre-tax.

      How much you have to subtract depends on how much the person makes, but I generally estimate take-home pay to be roughly 2/3 of the pre-tax amount.

    2. ExceptionToTheRule*

      It’s generally pre-tax/overtime/benefits because people’s deductions vary. I’m single with no dependents, so I generally whack off about 35% to figure take home pay. I prefer to underestimate and then be SURPRISED! when I make more than I thought I would.

  22. Miri*

    It’s so petty and I don’t know why it gets to me so much, but I am SO FED UP with a coworker of mine who talks a lot during the day. It’s difficult because we’re in an open plan office, and everyone else chats a bit too. I think the difference is that (a) most other conversations are about work or industry topics, while she tends to yak about not-overtly-inappropriate-but-unpleasant-to-hear-about stuff – last week it was a loving description of all the dead mouse bodies she found after fumigating her house – and (b) she talks much more than anyone else. And she sits right behind me so of course I’m grumpier about it.

    After the (literally ten-minute-plus) dead mouse discussion with her desk mate, who wasn’t contributing anything but going “Mmmm” and “Gosh, that sounds awful”, I shot her an office IM saying “Hi, I’m really sorry but it’s hard to concentrate – is it OK if you take it to the break room?” After a minute or so she cut off abruptly and then pointedly ignored me for two days.

    A few months ago I was passing our desk on the way to lunch and overheard our manager saying something gentle like, “Sometimes when there’s so much non-work talk it’s hard for people to focus.” She laughed and responded, “That’s funny, I don’t have that problem at all! Chatting to people helps us remember we’re alive, and not just soulless little office creatures!” The manager said something like “Mm, yeah, just something to keep in mind”.

    I’ve tried headphones, but a lot of relevant work discussion does happen informally around our desk, and when I tried headphones for a week it really affected the communication with my team.

    It feels SO SO petty, and I hate being a complainer, but the constant yak-yak-yak is really driving me up the wall. Any suggestions/advice?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Your boss is lame for backing off when your coworker responded that way. But it sounds like she’s at least aware of the issue and was willing to speak up about it, so you might go to her, tell her it’s distracting you, and ask if she can speak to your coworker about it.

      1. Miri*

        Yeah – I also suspect part of it is that it was in public and (if I were a manager) I wouldn’t want to go into full-on YOU MUST FIX THIS ASPECT OF YOUR PERFORMANCE mode there. And I don’t know how the conversation started, either.

        I just worry that going “Jane talks too much and it’s super distracting, which is different from all the talking the rest of us do, because…yeah!” will sound gossipy and petty – many of us do talk about non-work stuff, we just don’t do it as much (or keep it to office IM so it doesn’t distract people).

        1. Jamie*

          Well, congrats for handling it well when you overheard the response. That would have infuriated me.

          And your office plan sounds like it sucks if a boss can’t even have a conversation with an employee about a work problem in private.

          Chatting helps us remember we’re alive? It would have been all I could do not to ask her if lack of chatter is what killed all the mice in her house.

          And seriously – the hell? Yuck.

    2. Anonymous*

      I had a boss a long time ago, in a small factory, who would just yell out the ceiling “Shut the fuck up!” Then look around the shop floor at everyone briefly. And finally settle one person who was talking too much, point to them, and say “You.”

      1. Kate in Scotland*

        Every open plan office I have worked in, I have wanted to do this at least once a day.

    3. Malissa*

      Well until you can get a push button trap door to drop her through, you’ll need a better solution. I’ve had good luck with the blank stare until the offending person quiets down. Otherwise interrupt it and say, “I’ve got to get X done and you are making it hard to concentrate, please take this conversation else where.” –Note that this is a direct approach and not a question.
      I feel for you I’m in an open office environment and if I could drop loud people through the floor when I’m on a call I would. I’ve actually got it set up where I can now take conference calls in a conference room with a door that closes.

    4. Ellie H.*

      I commiserate. I sit at the reception desk of our office (and have my own problem with this, below) and the way it’s set up everyone walks by many times a day because the coffee and water cooler are on one side and the photocopier is on the other. So many people talk to each other right in front of, or next to, my desk. It is so distracting, moreso when it’s work related because I can’t help but pay attention.

    5. Jax*

      Our front office is set up in the same way. Lots of young women with nothing to do between customer phone calls but talk. It’s not unusual to hear shrieks of laughter all the way down the hall, and the gossip and dirty jokes run rampant.

      I think they need something to work on between calls–and management to step in and lay down some boundaries.

      1. Jessa*

        Yeh particularly the dirty jokes and things. I mean if someone does get a call, all that neighbour noise could be heard by a customer.

    6. Katie*

      This only works if she sits close enough behind you, but if she’s talking really loudly and you’re, say, on the phone, try tapping her on the shoulder and miming that she keep it down. Or if you’re in her line of sight then just wave over and mime it.
      It’s a little passive aggressive but it could be saved for times of desperate need.

    7. Rana*

      Given that she shut up and ignored you for two days after the last IM, I’d be tempted to do it again. ;)

  23. Kay*

    I’m starting a new position on Monday that I’m very excited about and after speaking with my soon to be boss, they seem very excited to have me.

    One problem- I get absolutely crippling “new job” anxiety. This has happened with every job I’ve ever had. The first few weeks I am absolutely terrified of screwing something up and I get physically sick. I’m a few years into my career and I know I am qualified for the job and will be able to perform well, I just can’t shake the nerves.

    Does anyone have any tips on how to manage the anxiety?

    1. Anon*

      Kay – I feel your pain, I’m the same way. The thing that has helped me most is to mentally review previous jobs and the things I’ve been afraid to screw up on that never came to pass. Or the things I DID screw up on that turned out to be no big deal. Whenever you start to have that panicky “omg omg what if I blow it?” thought, replace it with a thought like “I’ve never blown a job yet, and there’s no reason to think I’ll blow this one.”

      Good luck! You’ll do great!

    2. Wilton Businessman*

      Congrats on the new job. You can do it! It takes time to learn the ropes at a new place and most employers understand that.

    3. Sascha*

      What helps me is acknowledging the fact that I will be inundated with new information, and I won’t have all the answers. You are learning a new culture, a new work place, and how these new people operate. If you are afraid of screwing something up, just ask before you do it. Ask lots of questions. Congrats on your job!

    4. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      Actually, what’s kind of helpful to me is *knowing* that I will screw things up in my first couple months, and probably at least one major thing. Knowing it will happen, and knowing that unless my new boss is crazy, it will be OK, helps me a lot.

      Do you typically make a lot of mistakes when you start something new? I kinda do, I can have a difficult time learning new things, so for me it’s truly an inevitability, so I can focus my mental energy on dealing with it effectively, instead of worrying about it preemptively. However, I can see that if you’re someone that learns more easily and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, that that could make it a more high-stakes situation in your mind.

    5. girlreading*

      I feel your pain! I’m starting a new job Tuesday and I’m starting to get so nervous even though I know I can do the job. I think everyone gets nervous, it’s natural, that’s been helping me to know, but I’m not sure there’s much to do about it.

      Part of the fear is not just about doing the job, but learning how the office works, how everyone communicates, what the lines are (who will understand my sarcastic sense of humor and when is it safe to reveal that because some people are very sensitive to it) what are the “real” rules vs the ones they tell you (like start times, lunches etc, that are flexible, but are they really?). Not to mention, I’m very shy and introverted, so meeting a lot of new people and trying to make small talk is my least favorite thing ever- even though I can fake it well externally, it stresses me out internally.

    6. Jessa*

      Honestly, talk to your doctor, they might actually be able to give you something (not that you’d HAVE to take it) but something to help settle your stomach or give you a calm down. I have panic disorder and it doesn’t occur regularly, but my doctor prescribes a handful of pills as opposed to a daily dosage, and I can take a whole one or a half of one when I need it. That may be a little drastic for you, but your doctor can help you with temporary measures if you need them.

      Also if you’re able to take them (no allergies etc.) some of the over the counter seasickness or car sickness remedies can help settle your stomach and they often relax you a little. Sometimes treating the actual physical symptoms of the anxiety can help. If you like the taste of mint, it can be a stomach soother too. If you have a go-to something, that can break the anxiety cycle a bit.

      The other thing you can do is pick a time maybe after a week or so and sit down with your supervisor and check in that things ARE going right. You don’t have to tell them you’re having anxiety, you just “want to make sure you’re getting on track properly, since you’re new.”

      I was on a temp assignment once and they were so vague about whether we were doing it right. We didn’t get the same feedback quality routine that the permanent employees got. I finally took the supervisor aside and said, “can you do me a favour, I’m new and I just don’t know if I’m doing it right, because of my prior work experiences, silence to me does not always equal “doing it right,” so how’m I doing?”

      We talked a bit and this particular sup said “don’t you worry, silence here is good, if you’re not getting it we’ll tell you.” And bang it was dealt with.

  24. Angry Writer*

    Just jumping on to say that that cat is gorgeous and needs its own thread of cheesecake cute cat photos.

      1. Anna*

        I was about to post that, too. (Good thing I hit control-F first!)

        That kitty loves her cat tree, doesn’t she?

  25. Anony1234*

    This year I want to move out of my retail job of a few years (< 5 years) and move fully into my field. I have a foot in the door already, but part time jobs aren't cutting it anymore for several reasons – one major reason being money.

    My patience with this retail job is wearing thin:
    -No performance evaluations. All pay raises (from 10 to 15 cents) are based on how long you've been there, not how well you do your job.
    -Managers do not acknowledge accomplishments, ability to solve problems, etc. They only acknowledge what you do wrong. For instance, I used my knowledge of a foreign language to help the manager work with a customer. Once the transaction was over, the manager did not acknowledge my help with what was starting to become an increasingly frustrating situation. Knowledge of a foreign language is not a job requirement, but I used it to solve a problem.
    -The company is dire financial straits, and it is constantly looking to cut hours. It's just a matter of if and when the company goes bankrupt or gets bought up.
    -If I need a shift off but is willing to swap with someone, I have one coworker who will gladly take my shift but not give me any of hers. And she always works mornings, never nights. She pulls rank so she can't be forced to be more flexible, and subsequently, people are afraid to talk to her. Therefore, I lose money that week.

    Those are what bug me the most. Maybe I sound like I'm whining, but it is difficult for me to continue to put in as much effort as I have. I cringe when I have to go there. Does anyone have any tips on how to stop thinking negatively on it and keep working well until I secure a new (and hopefully) full time job? How do I turn these lemons into lemonade?

      1. Anony1234*

        That’s the ultimate goal, but as Alison has mentioned many times over on this blog: no one should leave without another job offer in hand and getting that job offer is something that doesn’t happen overnight. So how do I deal until I say good-bye for good?

          1. Anony1234*

            Luckily I do have another job along with this one. There’s a possibility on the horizon, as rumors have it right now, that the retail company can either go under or be bought up. I do look at the paycheck every week as some incentive, but being only a couple of dollars over minimum wage, it almost doesn’t seem worth working there, especially when dealing with the issues I’ve mentioned above. It more or less has become going to work just to get the check and hoping the economy will turn around enough to move on.

            In the meantime, I’m using your blog to study cover letters, resumes, and interviews do’s and don’ts!

    1. Natalie*

      Maybe keep a little log of your own successes. I used to keep a file of complimentary emails people had sent me when I had a similar type of boss. Even if you don’t have things in writing, you could write them down in a journal somewhere – “Monday – used my fluent Farsi to help a customer”

      1. TL*

        Do this! If for nothing else, having a record of those “little” instances where you achieved something/used a skill/dealt with an angry customer/etc. will be helpful in coming up with interview answers and resume bullet points. I did *not* do this (never realized I needed to), and only started keeping a very few notes in my last job. I wish I’d done more, because my memory gets fuzzy after a while, and I tend to remember the few times when I bungled things, instead of all the times when I did a great job and everything went smoothly. (Stupid memory.)

      2. Anony1234*

        Natalie – That’s a good idea. Like TL wrote in reply to you, it will help with interviews when I have to answer questions asking about skills or conflict resolution, etc.

  26. Amanda*

    Where do you think about the placement of relevant volunteer work on the resume of a currently unemployed person?

    I have been out of work for a year and a half, actively searching for just over a year (the first six months were spent traveling and not actively searching). I volunteer at two places, I put a significant amount of time and work into them and I definitely have some responsibilities (in one case, I teach an ESL class for recent immigrants). This stuff is relevant to the jobs I’m applying for. I had it at the bottom of my resume (since paid work is more important) but I’ve recently moved it to the top since I’ve been out of work for so long now and I don’t want my resume to be chucked because at first glance, it looks like I’ve done nothing since August 2011.

    What do you think? Good move or not?

    1. fposte*

      I think it’s an “it depends” thing. Is your last paid job relevant to the employment you’re seeking as well–like a paid ESL job? I’d be likelier to keep the paid job up top if so. As long as the volunteer experience is on the resume, it answers the “what has she been doing” question, and you don’t want to make it look like you quit your job to be a volunteer tutor or consider it the equivalent of the job you had previously.

      However, I think this might be a case where it doesn’t matter a huge amount–if, say, you’ve been teaching ESL for pay and that’s what you’re looking for again, they’re going to see that you do that regardless of what order things are listed in.

      1. Amanda*

        Yeah, I see what you’re saying. But someone recently told me (in regards to my resume) that if my current volunteer stuff is at the bottom, someone might see my last job at the top, think “August 2011?!” and dismiss me without even reading the rest of it and making it to the bottom where my volunteer stuff is listed. And now that my employment gap is getting bigger and bigger, I’m getting increasingly concerned about that happening.

        1. fposte*

          Was that someone doing any hiring? Not being snarky–I’m not usually hiring from that kind of resume myself–but just inquiring because a lot of people who have opinions on resumes don’t have much to back that with.

          I’m staying tentative because that’s not my area, but the thing is, either way you’ve been unemployed for that period of time, and I think there’s a slightly greater risk of making it look like you’re treating volunteering as a job equivalent if you put it up front. If you’re applying for openings that require a cover letter (that’s another “It depends” element), you can certainly put the volunteering front and center there to answer the “what have I been doing since then” question right away.

  27. Jenae*

    What is a diplomatic way to give a reference for a good, productive coworker who quit because of a bad manager? The coworker did excellent work, and I would definitely recommend her, but I don’t want to say her reason for quitting was her incompetent manager (although it was). I want to keep it positive.

    She had a client-facing position that required a lot of travel, and the manager was not good at scheduling (by that, I mean some staff are on the road for 10 to 12 weeks in a row while others sit idle in the office for months). Is that sufficient?

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      Wonder if her new job requires a lot of travel?

      You can never go wrong with the truth.

    2. fposte*

      The situation didn’t allow her to work to her full potential. It’s both euphemistic and true.

    3. The IT Manager*

      First of all, they may not ask you, as a co-worker, why she left the job in such detail. Alison can speak to this better. In reality people often sugarcoat why they are leaving or outright lie to their supevisors. And supervisors or HR would be the ones to know for sure if she quite or was fired or quite before she could be disciplined.

      She left of her own accord. If her new job doesn’t require much travel, I think it’s perfectly fine to say that she didn’t care to be on the road for 3 months straight months. That’s totally valid.

  28. MizK*

    I have a question for the group: tell me about the best job/professional experience you ever had. What was it? What made it awesome? How did you get there? Are you still there now or did you have to leave? Why?

    1. Jubilance*

      I started my career at a Fortune 500 company, and I was the first new hire in this dept in a good 10 years. I was also the youngest & the only woman & POC. It could have been a daunting situation, but I had an AMAZING manager. From my first day, he really took me under his wing & served as a role model & mentor. He allowed me to gain experience through stretch assignments that I probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, and really supported me in that crucial beginning of my career.

      I absolutely loved working for him, but unfortunately I didn’t love the city/state I lived in and after 4 years I decided to leave because I was so unhappy in my personal life. If I could have picked up that job & manager & moved it to a better location, it would have been perfect.

      1. MizK*

        Thanks for sharing, Jubilance! I agree that it could have been a daunting situation and love that you had a manager and mentor.

    2. Anonforthis*

      I worked for a large media firm that I loved. The work was stimulating, the people were great, my boss was amazing and the corporate culture encouraged creative thinking. The only problem: It was across the country from my hometown, and ultimately, I decided to move back so that I could be near family and my roots. That was absolutely the right decision, but if the company had been anywhere close to my home state I would still be working there.

      1. De Minimis*

        Best job—data entry job that was my first full-time job out of college. Had it for over three years, loved it because I generally could do my work and not have to get involved or deal with people if I didn’t want to. Unfortunately we were made obsolete by technology so I had to move on to another, less pleasant position with the same employer, although I remained working for them for another three years or so after that. Still my longest stretch of employment.

        Career-wise, it has to be my current position even though I’ve only been here six months. Enjoy the people, the pace, the work I’m doing, and my boss is talking about having me take over for her a few years down the road…I feel like finally, after years and years of false starts, poor decisions, etc., that my career is finally starting. I still plan to move on in a few years [had to return to my home state for the position and I don’t wish to live there permanently] but I’m enjoying it while I’m here.

    3. Victoria Nonprofit*

      I’m not sure I can really answer this. The best job I ever had eventually became a job I desperately wanted to leave – but an organization that I’m still heavily involved with (and would go back to in a heartbeat). It’s just more complicated than “best” or “worst!”

      But, here’s the details: It was my first job after graduate school. When I saw the job description, it felt as though it had been written for me – and I was surprised, because I didn’t really think there was work in the field I invented for myself (I cobbled together a couple of graduate programs into one degree, with a thesis advisor from an entirely separate department and research done under the guidance of a retired professor). The only downside was the pay, which was roughly half of what my fellow graduates were making.

      I applied cold, got an interview, and later realized I had some connections to the organization through the board. I honestly don’t remember if I took advantage of those; I doubt it – I was foolish about job searching and scared to do anything “wrong.” I’m quite sure that my graduate degree (which is from a fancy university, and wasn’t listed as a requirement or preference on the job description) is what got me into the “interview” pile; beyond that I think it was just a good cultural fit between the manager and me.

      What made it awesome was that the organization had just come through some soul-searching about whether to close up shop or change the way it was doing business, and having decided to keep going was very open to trying new things. At a very early point in my career I got to dream up projects and programs, try them out, and if they worked run them myself. I was also there during a brief period of great cash flow, so my salary was raised quickly and significantly, and by the end of my four years there I had basically “caught up” to my peers at graduate school.

      It’s hard to describe why I left. Looking back now, I think I was unhappy in my personal life and attributed that to my work. Certainly my work was a part of it; I was allowing it to take over my time and mind.

    4. Lindsay*

      I would say my current position is the best so far. I work in the amusement park business, and started at a park in my hometown when I was in high school. I initially thought I would go off to college and get my degree and move on to something else.

      Well, I graduated with my degree, began working in an office in my field, and realized that I much preferred working in amusement parks.

      Well, the park president of the first place I worked got laid off a couple years ago, but later found work in a very large hospitality company that is just starting to get into the amusement park industry. They opened up a new park across the country, but he brought in some people from the first park where he knew he needed experienced people he worked well with and I was one of them.

      What makes it awesome is that I really like what I do – there is enough variety in my day that I am never bored. I have also been given a great deal of freedom to make changes that need to be made to enable my department to run better, and the authority I need to make those changes. The people I work with are a lot of fun, too. Also, since the company is so large and the division is growing there will be plenty of opportunity to move up the ladder over time. It was also nice moving from the mid-Atlantic area to where I am now – my Facebook feed is full of people talking about snow while I am enjoying 60* weather and looking out my window at palm trees and the gulf.

    5. ThursdaysGeek*

      It wasn’t a perfect job, but I was having a lot of fun solving problems, which I could usually handle, and was always learning. When I had to ask for help, I learned even more, and I was doing a very wide variety of work, including database support and queries, reports, straight coding, writing, training, server debugging, and all sorts of software forensics. If something broke, I’d be called, I’d find out why, get it fixed and documented, and the customers liked me. I liked most of my co-workers and we had fun working together. My team lead was a bit disorganized, and I was organized, and together we meshed nicely and made each other look better. Plus, I could mostly work on what I wanted. My manager knew what I did and thought I was doing a good job. Our team worked hard and had fun together.

      Then my manager retired. They put in a temporary acting manager, took him back off, put him back on. There was a lot going on, some of my decisions didn’t take into account the turmoil above me, and I became part of a layoff. One decision was that I had an offer to change jobs in the company, and I turned it down. In hindsight, I would have made the same decisions.

      I’m finally working again, for less pay, less variety of work, and a lot less fun. But it’s still better than it would have been if I had made different choices and were still there. I turned down a job that made me sick to my stomach just thinking about, and I’m no longer working for a government contractor that is now facing more layoffs and furloughs.

  29. Anon*

    I want to put this out there to see if this is any kind of normal: For a few years now my husband (I will call him Joe) has worked for a firm he likes with great people, but it’s small and has its quirks. They have just hired a new guy who will report directly to Joe. What I find weird is that his salary is about 20 percent higher than Joe’s, which I would understand if (a) the new hire had more experience than Joe and (b) his job duties were much more complex, specialized or crucial to the firm. Neither of these is true. He is young and pretty new to the field and has less responsibility than Joe.

    Does this happen a lot? Joe asked his boss why the new emplyee’s pay is so high, but never got a straight reason. Is this a case of suck it up and deal with it, or does the HR department need to be made aware?

    1. Catherine*

      It could be that the job was restructured with a new pay grade, and that’s what he came in with.

      As for why your husband is making less but managing him, and the bosses who won’t give a straight answer…well they sound like bad bosses. Good bosses usually give straight answers. A coworker of mine was promoted to my level after the job was restructured and the salary increased. I was not happy about that, but whatever. Fast forward a year, and I have been doing way more than he has, and my manager told me I received the highest raise out of the whole team…and yet this guy is still making more than me. It sucks but it’s not a battle I’m willing to fight right now, because I’m about to leave this team thanks to a promotion.

      So I would say he should make a case for a raise, based on his performance and new managerial duties.

    2. Wilton Businessman*

      Does it happen, yes. There are situations where team members make more than the manager depending on their skills, worth, and negotiating skills.

      But it’s rare, IMHO.

    3. fposte*

      It’s not uncommon–the new guy may well have been a great negotiator–and there’s certainly nothing HR would have to do with it in most organizations. The question “Why is his salary so high?” is not a good one, because what he really wants to know is “Why is my salary lower and can that change?” But has he been satisfied with his salary previously? Is it growing the way he would expect? Those are important things to note, regardless of what New Guy is making.

      One thing he could do, if his manager is open to such discussions, is meet with his manager and talk about his own future, asking if, in light of the change in entry salaries, there are goals he could meet to earn a bigger bump. But it’s pretty rare that salaries are always straight out fair and logical, and if he was okay with what he was getting before, that’s not something he should let go of just because of this development.

    4. Jane Doe*

      I don’t think this is an issue that HR would want to deal with, since it’s not illegal or unethical for a subordinate to be paid more than his boss, as far as I know. It sounds like he should be making a case to his boss for a raise based on his accomplishments and looking at what the current industry rate is for his job title in other companies.

      It’s possible your husband’s salary hasn’t kept pace with the rest of the industry, whereas the new guy is being brought in at current industry rates.

    5. Adam V*

      I don’t know what “making the HR department aware” means – presumably they already know the new employee makes more, since they should have access to all employee records.

      This isn’t an HR issue to me – this is something that his boss knows is an issue (because Joe told him) and doesn’t seem eager to fix. Unless he gets a straight answer, I would a) assume there’s a reason (just one that no one wants to share) and b) start looking at the market, just to see what else is out there.

      (The reason for a) is that it makes your day-to-day life a lot easier if you just assume the best, instead of the worst.)

    6. Jamie*

      They just hired him – it’s possible that his position at the moment is because he just started and they have different plans for him which would warrant a higher salary.

      Or he’s a great negotiator, or your husband was hired in during a rough patch in the economy and there was less money to go around, or the new guy doesn’t need benefits and this is one of those companies that give you a little extra something in the check if you aren’t on their insurance.

      There could be a million reasons, but I agree with others that he should focus on his own salary and and not present it as the other guys’ salary being a problem. That just looks petty. (totally understandable, but petty.)

  30. Bess*

    I am curious — how do people change file names for individualized resumes and cover letters? Because it’s often the case that the file names are seen by the hiring manager, ideally I would like them to say something informative yet generic, like [name] Resume. However, I’m customizing my resumes and cover letters for each job application, so I need a way to name them uniquely. Putting the company name doesn’t help when I might be applying to more than one job in the company, and putting the company name AND the job name starts to get really unwieldy, plus, I feel like it is giving away too much information (that I’m applying to lots of jobs, and that I have different resumes for all of them). A file name of “Jane Doe Resume University of Nowhere Editor III” is just ridiculous. Any suggestions?

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      Folders are your friends, use them wisely.

      JaneDoe.doc can be in Resume/IBM/Poughkeepsie/SrDeveloper, Resume/IBM/Poughkeepsie/JrDeveloper, Resume/IBM/MtKisco/Architect, Resume/Dell/Houstan/Janitor

      1. Bess*

        Thanks, that’s what I was leaning towards. I hate having too many folders to navigate through, but it does solve the unique file name problem.

        1. danr*

          Use different levels for your folders… Top level is ‘job hunt’. The next level is the year (depressing isn’t it?), then each company or recruiter has a folder. If you apply for multiple jobs at a company or recruiter you make subfolders. There is no ‘hunting’ since everything is in one place.

          1. Colette*

            Exactly. I store a copy of the job posting as well as my resume & cover letter in a folder specific to the company (or a subfolder for a particular job, if I’ve applied to multiple jobs at one company). That way when I get a call about some company I don’t remember applying to, I can easily check to see what the job posting was and what I said in my cover letter/resume.

    2. Anonymous*

      When I was job searching last year, I saved customized resumes and cover letters with the same name, but in separate folders for each job. (I also saved the job description, in case the posting got removed and I still needed to reference it.)

      1. Bess*

        Thanks, that was what I was leaning towards, even if I do have a personal objection to excessive numbers of folders. *sigh*

    3. danr*

      As the others have mentioned, use a different folder for each job. Have a working resume and your final one. Your cover letter goes in there too. A copy of the job ad and a log showing when you saw the ad, applied and any response. You should also have a shorter master log with the general information. If drive space is limited, or you need access from other places, consider one of the ‘cloud’ services. My in progress resumes also have the name of the position that I’m applying for and the place so I don’t get them mixed up when I have multiple documents open. Your last step before sending something out is to make a copy of your final document and give it the real name and send or use that one. This is also the time to make a text copy of your resume in case the application process needs one.

        1. Jessa*

          I do pretty much the same folder thing. The only other thing I do is in the top folder of the tree I keep a master resume (every last thing I’ve done, CV, publishing, education, etc.) Full on reference list with names, addresses, etc. in case I’m asked for them, and stuff like that as master copies.

          That way I can cut and paste stuff into the specialised resumes for each posting.

    4. Sarad*

      I would focus on the information which will help the hiring manager file your resume in the correct folder. They should know the company name (unless it’s a recruitment agency or similar), so I would go with SaraD.TeapotPaint.March13 or similar. You need to know which resume you’ve sent to which company, but you can do that in your own files.

    5. E*

      I would create a ridiculously long name for my resume/cover letter in Word (TeapotAssistantTeapotsRUsNov2010.doc) but then I would save it again as a pdf with just LastNameResume.pdf. I would send the pdf and then delete it so I could use LastNameResume.pdf for the next one. I still had the resume and could easily print it/convert it into a pdf again, but there was no real reason to save the pdf version as I couldn’t make adjustments to it anyway.

      1. Elise*

        Oooh, that’s what I do! Works great and then you have easy access to the editable resume again in case you apply to a similar job. It makes it easy to create, edit, and rename a copy.

    6. mary*

      I create a folder with the company name and position. Within the folder I have the job posting, my resume and cover letter.

  31. Rose*

    I want to apply to two positions at the same (large) organization, one entry-level and one internship. They’re in different departments, and it’s possible that no one will ever know that I applied for both, but I’m still concerned that applying for the internship will hurt my chances for the entry-level position. At the same time, I’d really love this internship and there’s no guarantee I’ll be a standout candidate for the entry-level job.

    I can’t apply to and wait to hear back from one before applying to the other; I would need to apply to both this week. Can I apply to the internship without shooting myself in the foot?

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      Internships are for when you are in school. Jobs are for after graduation.

      Value your time and start your career. I’d rather see you with 1.5 years of an entry level job than six three month internships.

      Others will disagree and that is fine. I hire people.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit*

        Plenty of people take internships after graduation – it’s often their only option to build experience.

        And, for sure, there are plenty of hiring managers that would rather see 3 relevant internships than 18 months of unrelated entry-level work on a resume.

        1. Rose*

          Thank you both for your input! I’m looking to relocate and connect some dots on my resume (I’ve made chocolate and served tea; now I want to go into chocolate teapots). Based on the lack of responses to entry-level job applications, I think an internship might be a more feasible next step as I make both transitions. (Well, and polishing my resume and cover letters.)

    2. fposte*

      I would think so. If I saw them both, my read would be that you’re interested in what we do and you’d like to join us in whichever relevant capacity we have, which is good; those two levels aren’t hugely far apart, either. Since internships are generally term-limited by definition, you don’t have the “is she just going to jump ship?” question lurking that you might have if you were applying for an entry level position you were overqualified for along with a higher level position.

      1. Rose*

        Thank you! I hadn’t thought of it through those lenses; I’m glad to know it could be seen as a plus (commitment to the organization) rather than potentially undervaluing myself.

    3. Sarah*

      Internships can be for after you graduate too. There are plenty of post-grad internships (12 month length, etc.). I think it’s fine to apply for the internship IF you are not going to leave it if you get a full-time job offer somewhere else.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        Even if you might leave it early for an offer, I think it’s still worth taking an internship if you start feeling like that’s the only option.

        It does suck when interns jump ship, and it happens reasonably often where I work, but 1) everyone here has more or less the same attitude about it, which is that it sucks but we all completely understand that a paid real job is better than an unpaid temporary not-real job, and 2) they’re internships, so it’s not likely that you’re doing mission-critical work that they’re doing to be in a super bind to finish when you leave.

        As the person to reviews resumes and whatnot when we hire interns, it also gives me some gratification… after all, if we’re having interns hired up from under us, that probably means we’re generally hiring some of the best candidates that are applying. We can focus on what we would need to do to keep them, rather than having the opposite problem, which is either mediocre inters, or the ones that you lose not because they got hired, but because they just stop showing up or you have to fire them… it’s not the WORST problem to have!

        1. Jessa*

          And entry level positions often come open again at a later date. if you end up doing the internship and doing it really well and you do really love the company that might give you a leg up on getting a permanent job if one is posted.

          You might even be able as an intern to apply for internally posted jobs as a perk.

  32. Anonymous (for now)*

    I’m a somewhat regular poster here, but going anon for this comment.

    I got a promotion at my current job a few months back after being in my old role for two years. I made sure I listened to the feedback I got and that my boss knew I was interested in a higher role. Well, I got the new position, trained for it and have been doing it on my own for a little under two months. I got a decent raise to boot.

    However, being in the role has come with some increased responsibility and some pressure, and now I am no longer sure I want to be in this industry. The company I work for is great, as they regularly promote from within and are growing a lot, so it has nothing to do with them at all. I will be with them three years this year, and my plan was to stay another year or two (so no longer than five years) before moving on.

    I am now considering a career change to something more stable with more promising employment prospects. I have not, however, decided what to pursue yet. What can I be doing now to lay the groundwork to stay on plan or as close to it as possible?

    1. fposte*

      This sounds a little backwards–you don’t have a plan yet, so how can you stay on it? I think the notion of staying on a couple of years or so is good, both for career stability and for preparing, and it’d be excellent if you can put some money aside to cushion any change you make. But what you really need to do is start thinking about what that change would look like and where you want to go–so use this time to be really open and connect with people and possibilities.

    2. Colette*

      I’m confused about whether you’re dissatisfied with the industry, or the increased responsibility/pressure with your new role.

      Regardless, I would suggest listing what you like/don’t like about your current role vs. what you’d like in a new role.

      If it’s truly the industry, are there equivalent positions in a new industry? Do you want to swap because you’re going towards an industry you like better, or are you trying to escape an industry that’s dying?

  33. Lisa*

    I was going to email this, but I’ll try here:

    When an initial stock options agreement fully vests, is it typical that if the company wants to keep you they offer you a new equity plan? I was hired with options vesting over four years and my last vesting period for that option agreement will be this year. This is my first time fully vesting with a company (last startup I worked for ended up belly-up when the recession started, and I’ve been with my current company since that time) so I don’t know how this is usually handled.

    I received a high performance rating for the last year but haven’t had my compensation conversation yet–my company separates performance rating and compensation reviews by a few weeks–so I am wondering if I should expect my equity to be addressed in that conversation. (Yes, I am aware I am very lucky to have options that are worth anything at all — I took a salary cut from my previous position to join a startup I believed in and get those options. However, it does remain that for the last four years, my vesting schedule has meant significant additional total annual compensation, which will not be present for 2014 if I don’t have a new equity plan.)

    1. Mad Quoter*

      Depends on the company.

      If you haven’t been getting annual options as part of your compensation, it’s probably a one-time deal. They give you the options and if they are in the money they continue to grow as the company grows. In this case they’re probably not going to offer you a new option package.

      If you have been getting annual options as part of your comp package, then as you know, your golden handcuffs are forever renewing.

      1. Lisa*

        Hi Lisa! (that feels weird…)

        We got bought by a big company :) my startup options and vesting schedule carried over but were converted to big-company options.

  34. LuckyTemp*

    Not a question or a rant, but: I GOT A NEW JOB! I’ve been temping for 6 months and with my end date coming up, I was scheduled to take on another temp job (that I definitely didn’t want) with the parent company of my current place. But I just got offered a full-time permanent position working for a university – YAY!! Huge thanks to AAM for the cover letter advice (that got me in the door), interview questions (that made me stand out), and negotiating tips (that helped me get a larger salary and an earlier review/bonus date). I’m so excited!

    1. Mad Quoter*

      Congrats!!! So happy for you. Go in there and make them wish they hired you two years ago!

  35. sab*

    The situation: I have been suddenly promoted to head of my department. This came as a huge shock to me (and the rest of the department), as I was just a mere 6 months into my first post-grad school position, but I am excited to take on the work on the responsibility. As background, I am the youngest person in the department as I am just entering the latter half of my 20s.

    Most of my former co-workers, now employees have been kind and offering congratulatory remarks. One co-worker, who is 20 years my senior, has been very sullen about the whole thing. He was stone-faced during the announcement on Monday, and my interactions with him, has been awkward. I’m trying my best to be friendly, but I don’t want to act as if nothing has changed as I am his boss now. For example, when I asked him if he could take care of something, he just took the stuff I was giving him out of my hand and glowered at me wordlessly as I said thanks and left his office.

    How would people deal with that? I’m trying to let him feel his feelings and give him some time to adjust, but I’m thinking if this attitude continues, I need to sit down and talk with him, but don’t know how to best go about that conversation. :/ I’ve heard from another person that his work is not up to snuff and may need some retraining, so it is really important to me that we get started off on the right foot if it is the case that I will need to retrain him.

    And if anyone has tips on being a new manager, especially so early in their career, I’d greatly appreciate it. I will say that I bought Managing to the Change the World last night. :)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I just removed it for you. (If you fill out your email address on the comment form and you have a Gravatar account associated with that address, it will display your Gravatar image.)

    1. Scott M*

      My suggestion is not to wait. Do something about it now. Take into account that the recent change might be affecting him pretty hard for some reason, and talk to him gently at first, but don’t wait.

      As for being a new manager, I would find out as much about your employee’s work as possible. There is not much that is more demoralizing than having a manager who has no idea what you do.

    2. Sydney Bristow*

      I read recently that when handing out assignments it’s best to have that person come to your office because it shows your authority. I’m not sure I agree with that idea for all circumstances, but if this coworker takes his discontent beyond just being unhappy and not friendly to not following your instructions, it might be worth trying.

    3. Rana*

      I wouldn’t be surprised if part of his attitude is because he’s been trying to move up and is upset that he’s been passed over, despite being older and more experienced than you. If that’s the case, it might be useful further down the line (after his resentment has had a chance to cool) to ask him about his career plans, and see what he needs to be working on to move forward, and what’s currently holding him back.

      1. Rana*

        I mean, it might be as simple as he keeps expecting your higher-ups to read his mind about wanting a promotion, but never actually says anything. (Though it could also be about his attitude and work quality, obviously.)

  36. RR*

    Hi, everyone! I got linked to this site a few days ago and it is AMAZING. It has really been helpful.

    My question: I’m wondering if I should tell my boss I’m looking for a new job. I work for the federal government and they cannot advertize for a position until I’m out of it, and it can take 6 months to fill. I was a temp for a couple years and was only hired full-time last fall. In my 3 years here, only one person has left a full time position (temps have left when their term was up) and everyone knew he was leaving, and nothing bad seemed to happen, although there was some awkwardness. There were other issues with him, as well, which are not factors with me.

    The upside of telling him is that he might help me, because I’m looking to transition within the federal system a different city, and I know he has contacts where I want to move to.

    The downsides are the usual. They can’t fire me, but they can make things horrible if they wanted to, or just horribly awkward.

    Everyone’s told me that the federal government is great because people understand transitioning elsewhere. But while I’ve been here for 3 years, I’ve been permanent for less than a year, and it took A TON of effort for them to hire me, so I don’t know how that kind of thing would color the issue in terms of not wanting me to go.


    1. The IT Manager*

      As always, it totally depends on you boss and how he reacts. Has he been supportive of your career advancement? Has he been grooming you for more responsibility in your own office and might be upset?

      Since he may be able to help you network, I’d lean towards telling him. But if it weren’t for that, I’d recommend not telling him at least until you’re further in the hiring process since there’s nothing he can do before you actually leave. Either way what you can do is document what you do so you can have a good continuity binder to hand over when you do leave.

      1. RR*

        Because I was a temp, I’ve been documenting extensively already, and have been training others in the office to do what I do. If I dropped dead tomorrow, hopefully not too many things would break. ;)

        He’s never talked to me at all about career advancement or anything else like that. I’m not being groomed for anything. He does pressure me to mentor interns and stuff, but we don’t actually have any interns around, so it’s weird, like, who am I supposed to be mentoring? ;)

        …Is it weird that he’s never talked to me about career advancement? He’s completely unreliable and doesn’t do what he says he will, but he’s actually the best boss I’ve ever had. I wonder what that says about my employment history, but I have no idea what Good Bosses even do or act like.

        1. The IT Manager*

          I wonder what that says about my employment history Not good things, but that’s not on you.

          Is it weird that he’s never talked to me about career advancement?
          I don’t know. I was military so I had bosses – both military and civilian – discuss career advancement and what I wanted to do next. Now I am a GS (not for the DoD), but I am in a “junior” position with an expectation to grow and be promoted and my current supervisor has a history in training so I get a lot career advancement from him.

          It’s really hard to say because so many GS jobs don’t really seem to offer a path towards promtion and so many people are waiting out the days until retirement.

          I fall back on, do you really think he could help you network into a job in the city you want? Does he know people that can at least even give you a heads up as to if you really have a chance at the job (or if they’re already eyeing someone internally)? You say he’s unreliable so he may not be so helpful. But you are lucky. He can’t fill your position before you decide to leave or fire you for job hunting unlike a civilian company could. He could make you work life unhappy though.

          You have to make your decision based on what you think he will do. I could see someone being annoyed to have the gear up to fill a position that they just hired for last year because government hiring is a PITA.

          1. Emma*

            I’m in the federal system as well, as a temp (just applied to the rare permanent position to open up, using AAM’s cover letter and resume tips!). Are temporary details available to you? Can you spend a few months working for your division in a different field office, in a city that you like? That might be one way to “have your cake and eat it too.”

  37. Marissa J*

    I’m wondering how much money temp agencies typically get per hour for their placements? I’m now in my 5th week at a contract job that I found through a temp agency.

    Last week I was at the printer and saw that the person who had hired me had forgotten to take some emails she had printed. I saw my name and was instantly curious. I ended up finding out that while I am making $17/hr (much less than I would normally accept, but I was desperate) the company is paying my temp agency $34/hour! This seems like a really big gap. I was expecting that they were maybe charging $25/hr and taking $8, but if my company is essentially willing to pay double what I’m making right now…that makes me not so happy with my pay.

    I realize that without the agency, I wouldn’t have this job at all, but isn’t this excessive?

    1. Joey*

      Depends on the job. I’ve seen as low as 20% markup all the way to 100%. Things that typically make it more expensive:

      1. More risk for injury
      2. Short term need
      3. High recruiting costs ( ie hard to fill position)
      4. High admin costs (ie. extensive screening process)
      5. Hard to retain people
      6. Poor company credit
      7. Short temp to hire period
      8. Short turnaround time

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        I would say it might be a hard to fill position. I’m not very versed in the world of temp hiring, but a $17 hour temp position seems like a decent amount (especially considering that OP notes its significantly lower than she’d like). So OP, if you have a kind of hard job, or one that not a lot of people go into, and you kick ass at it, it might just be that you get a premium for the agency because you’re a more valuable temp than others. So… congrats? :)

    2. LuckyTemp*

      My temp agency was paying me $14/hour and charging the company just under $25/hour – I work in administration.

      I have a friend who works in IT (for a different temp agency in a different state) who told me her agency/contract company makes TRIPLE what she makes. Plus, her agency pays her a set salary per year but charges the place she works by the hour, so if she works any overtime (and I know she has), she doesn’t see a dime of it but the agency rakes it in.

    3. Claire*

      The one time I saw the billing statement for my temp agency (bc I was in charge of mailing it!) I was getting $10/hour as a short-term receptionist and the company was paying the agency $20/hour, so that doesn’t seem out of the ordinary.

    4. Rana*

      Keep in mind that part of that money is going to the temp agency for arranging the hire, for taking responsibility for replacing you at short notice if you can’t do the job, etc. – their client isn’t just paying them to cover you, but to have their needs met, regardless of who does the job. This way, too, the client doesn’t have to address things like health insurance coverage for you, as you’re still an employee of your agency.

      Also, even if you’re not getting benefits from your agency, they do have to cover things like your Social Security taxes, and those can easily add up to nearly a third or a half of what you’re earning. (If you ever freelance, you’ll see what I mean.)

      You’re just getting to see more of the usually hidden costs.

  38. Kara*

    This is a question I asked Alison recently (but more than a week ago – Alison, you said all bets are off! lol), and I hope it doesn’t mess up her answer queue.

    My question regards finding a job with a felony record. My fiance’s sister is currently in state jail for several convictions in several counties. Not violent charges – burglary of habitation. She will likely be getting out in the next year or so, but I’m afraid she won’t be able to find work because of the nature of her convictions. Before she was arrested she was a stay at home mom, has no form of higher education, and the only other job I’ve heard of her having was as a corrections officer in a jail (yes, I see the irony), but that was at least ten years ago. I’ve been writing resumes and cover letters for friends and clients for a few years now, and have helped many people get jobs, so I’m feeling increased pressure on me from my fiance and his family to help his sister when she’s released. However, I can honestly say this is way out of my element.

    What advice would you give for this situation? How can I write a resume for someone with this background? Even if she manages to get through to a company with her lack of work experience and education, when the question of felony convictions comes up, will she be automatically disqualified for jobs? Are there any organizations out there that can help? I’m all for giving someone a second chance when they’ve paid their debt to society, but I don’t think employers will be so willing.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m glad you posted it here, actually, because I kept meaning to write you back and it kept getting pushed down in my in-box. I don’t have a ton of great advice for this situation, but others do: Do a search for “job search felony” or terms like that, and you’ll find a lot of advice for job hunting when recently released from prison.

      With no work experience, she probably won’t need a resume — she should probably target retail, food service, etc., at least until she builds up a solid bock of work experience. (And for those, it’s just an application, not a resume.)

      1. ThatHRGirl*

        As someone who hires for no-resume, no-experience-needed type positions, I agree with Alison’s suggestions to target retail & food service positions. I’d also suggest targeting manufacturing and distribution type jobs – because although there are certainly businesses who would hire candidates with felony records, she may have a problem obtaining a job where she has access to money or product (think cashiering, retail stock room, etc) since the charge was theft-related.

        1. Jamie*

          I was going to chime in with manufacturing also. Many entry level positions will hire with felonies, especially non-violent offenses. There are temp agencies which specialize in mfg placement.

        2. Kara*

          ThatHRGirl – that’s exactly what I was thinking, that she’d have a problem working in jobs like retail where many positions would involve cash handling.

          Alison – Thanks for your answer. I’ll have to do a little more research on it, as you suggested. Good to know she won’t need a resume. She’s basically going to be applying for jobs like a high schooler would then, except with a big black strike against her. I’ll have to look into the industries you both suggested and see if there’s any companies known for hiring employees with a record. Thanks for your time!

          1. Jessa*

            Also although I do not like them because of their issues with LGBT persons, as long as she’s not LGBT you might want to have her contact her local Salvation Army. Aunt Sally is well known for outreach, half way housing and job assistance to persons leaving jails. It is one thing they do very well.

            Also if she has a parole officer (as opposed to simply being released for serving her time) said officer might at least be able to advise her on the local agencies that would possibly help her get a job. Mostly since many parolees have a “get a job requirement,” they’re used to being aware of where that kind of help can be found.

            Ditto your state job agency.

            Oh, and it’s possible that the prison she is in has a social worker or office that can assist with leaving the system. It might just be a printed list of places you can go for information, but she wouldn’t be the first person to ask.

    2. fposte*

      There are also employers who openly invite invitations from those with convictions–Goodwill has been mentioned there (just reporting, not vouching), but there may be others, especially if you expand your reach to local organizations. But as people note, this isn’t a resume/letter application project (so in that sense you’re kind of off the hook).

    3. COT*

      There may also be job-training or reentry programs in your area for people coming out of prison. Look into those; they could offer good support and opportunities.

      1. ThatHRGirl*

        This. If she has a PO or someone she’ll be reporting in to after she’s out, that person might have info on how to get into these programs.

  39. anon in the uk*

    Advice sought. I have a job interview on Monday. Thanks to a sports accident, I also have four stitches in my eyebrow and what will probably be a beautiful black eye.
    I am hesitant to try to conceal it with make up because it is extremely tender to the touch. However I also do not want the interviewer think I get into fights of a weekend. Ideas?

    1. fposte*

      I think it’ll be less tender by Monday but it’ll still probably be visible even under concealer (could you even use that on eyebrow stitches without wiping out your whole eyebrow?). Use the concealer to minimize it, and defray the concern up front in the interview–“You know how I said on my CV that I play rugby? Now you know I mean it.” You don’t need to do that with every new person if you’re meeting in sequence–they’ll pass the info along.

    2. littlemoose*

      I like fposte’s suggestion. Make a light-hearted comment at the beginning of the interview (e.g., “Please excuse my injury, I got a little carried away playing basketball this weekend!”) to acknowledge it and defuse any potential awkwardness about your involvement in a fight/victim of abuse/other bad situation. Good luck on the interview!

        1. Jamie*

          Me too, although I really like Malissa’s pirate theme.

          The Johnny Depp kind – not the Blackbeard kind.

    3. Malissa*

      Eye patch? While distracting it would minimize the questions. Unless you can go in a pirate costume–then that would be the way to go.

      1. Elizabeth*

        I feel like if I interviewed my binocular vision suddenly removed, I’d be walking into chairs and things all day! Not the impression I’d want to give. :-)

        I think just to say upfront & lightheartedly that it’s a sports injury is the way to go.

    4. Rana*

      Maybe you could get some of that spray-on concealer, so you don’t have to touch as much of it?

      1. Rana*

        Also, if you get a concealer (or under-concealer) with a yellowish undertone, it will help minimize the bruising color. (I learned this covering up under-eye bags.)

  40. ThatHRGirl*

    I recently had a phone interview (as the interviewee) and got a question from the interviewer that I hadn’t ever heard phrased quite this way before – and I’m wondering if you folks have some feedback about how you’d answer it?

    She said – “Understanding that we all have different things we’re good at, and different things we’re not so good at… What could I NOT count on you to bring to the position?”

    I took a moment to respond, but I told her that I wouldn’t be bringing a “sensitivity” to the role, as I tend to be more direct and blunt in my communication – precisely why I’m more of a fit for a recruiting role vs. one focusing on employee relations.

    How would you have answered differently, or if the question was asked of you (for any type of role)?

    I wasn’t super-psyched about the job in general, since she couldn’t tell me which location I’d be sitting in and what type of positions I’d be recruiting for – both big deal makers or breakers if I’d be looking to leave my current position. I was just curious if others have heard this question before!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It sounds like a slightly disguised version of “what are your weaknesses?” I’d bet she wanted to ask that but feels like it’s dated/cliche.

      1. ThatHRGirl*

        That’s what I thought – so it was a good question in a way, because everyone (myself included) typically has a canned answer for what their weakness is, framed in a way that sounds positive….
        I usually say that mine is “I often try to multi-task and tend to have many projects in progress at one time, which tends to make my current manager nervous – but we’ve been working on a way for me to keep her informed as far as progress goes, so that we’re on the same page with priorities and deadlines”.

        But for the question she asked, I couldn’t say that – since I can’t say “I won’t bring single-tasking to the role”…? I don’t know. It was interesting. I might use it in the future.

        1. Jamie*

          I don’t hate this question either – because for me what spring to mind immediately was that I wouldn’t bring micromanagement. It’s not in my nature, I’m bad at it, I resent having to do it, and I want to select out of any role that requires it.

          But I don’t see it as a weakness – so this phrasing works better for that.

          1. KellyK*

            Yeah, I think it’s a good question to get at “what are you like to work with” without implying that the thing you don’t bring is necessarily a failing. Bluntness isn’t a failing, but it’s not good for some environments. “Not micromanaging” is another good example, because it’s a good quality in and of itself, but there might either be positions where you need to micromanage (supervising high school kids in their first job maybe?) or where the people around you are micromanagers, so it will cause conflict if you can’t.

  41. Bess*

    Question #2 — I’m throwing this out there in the likely vain hope that anyone has any idea.

    I’m transitioning from academia (I recently finished my PhD) to a non-academic career. I wrote in to Alison about how to change an academia-focused CV to a more corporate-focused resume, which she answered this past Sunday. Alison’s answer and the many answers I received in the comment thread were very helpful, and I’ve dramatically shortened my resume by removing all of the research I did in undergrad (no one outside academia cares) and rewriting my PhD research as more a job, listing my duties and accomplishments rather than the details of my research.

    However, I’m having trouble with the advice “What did you accomplish in this job that someone else wouldn’t?” with respect to my graduate research. I… discovered stuff? That no one else had? And published papers on it? But all of that is sort of the job description of a science PhD. I can list things like “contributed to the writing and submission of several federal grants”, “presented and defended my research at academic conferences”, “managed the laboratory budget” and “mentored younger graduate and undergraduate students”, but again, all of this is expected of a graduate student.

    Any help with this quandary?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Think of it more as: What made you awesome? Why should a hiring manager be excited about hiring you in particular, over other qualified candidates?

      1. Bess*

        I took over managing the lab budget after my adviser completely failed to keep track of it, thus preventing us from running out of money a year before the grant was due to be renewed.

        How do I write that in a way that is not critical of my adviser (essentially, my previous employer)? Especially because if anyone calls her as my reference and asks specifically about it, I know she will deny there ever was a budget problem. (She is a good scientist but a very, very bad manager, of both people and resources.)

        1. fposte*

          By talking about what you did, not what she didn’t do. You brought a whole new system that documented your burn rate and ensured that you’d stay within the budget. You don’t have to state whether they’d foolishly planned for lab rats to handle that or the PM got eaten by rogue bacteria–just state what you did. And it’s a good achievement to bring to the table, too.

  42. Frank*

    I am currently working as an accountant but have decided to change careers. I am taking classes towards a degree as a software developer (it’s a passion). I have been planning on getting a 2 year degree only but worry that I will not be able to find a different job without a 4 year degree.

    I have a 4 year degree in accounting from a traditional school, I am attending an accredited on-line school and I have worked as a tech support for 2 1/2 years but the experience is now 10 years old.

    The biggest problem right now is that I am not happy in my current position and I cannot get an interview anywhere else in my company. I have been asking around about the IT positions to find out if there would be a place to transfer internally, but I think I may have to change companies to work in development.

    If I make good grades, is the 2 year degree good enough or will I need to complete another 4 year degree to change jobs?

    1. Jamie*

      I can’t answer the question you’re asking – but I wanted to let you know that I have worked closely with two ERPs as they were developing modules and I would have killed for any of their developers to understand the flow of accounting from a business perspective and not just a data table perspective.

      A lot of ERPs have accounting modules and I think there is such a need in that niche for someone with experience on both sides of the ledger, as it were.

      1. Malissa*

        Agreed. Even with a two-year degree in IT, you’d be a catch for a company that does anything with ERP development. Especially if you could travel and be an implementation specialist.
        I would have killed to have an implementation person who understood the difference between a debit and a credit.

    2. Sascha*

      I don’t know about software development, but for many IT fields, experience is key. A degree is good, but typically IT employers value experience over degrees and certifications. I would try to get a job or internships, and stick with a 2 year degree.

    3. Colette*

      Adding my two cents that experience is extremely valuable.

      Software development theories/languages change frequently, so your education becomes less valuable as time goes on (which is why I’m no longer a software developer). Requesting code samples is also becoming more common, but you’ll get those in either program.

      There will be companies who will prefer the four year degree, but there will also be companies (most likely smaller companies) who won’t care.

    4. Wilton Businessman*

      Um, yes, no, maybe. Yours is a difficult question to answer because of your experience.

      If you were somebody fresh out of Technical School with no other degree, no, that is not enough to get you a job as a developer.

      If you were 10 years out of school and had ERP implementation experience laced in there, I’d say that a 2 year technical degree would be enough.

      It’s going to be a rough road with 10 years as a bean counter and totally switching gears with a two year degree. For that matter, it’s going to be a rough road with a four year degree also. Ideally, you would be able to mix your current role with some IT functions and start making the switch now.

      As an aside, accountants and programmers have two different minds. One copes with the structure of rules and regulations, one is creative and is constantly questioning exiting procedure.

      1. Henning Makholm*

        While accountants probably have less opportunity to be creative in their work on an ongoing basis than programmers do, the ability to cope with already-existing structures is also essential for the working programmer. Otherwise we end up with monstrous programs that are compatible with nothing and do everything differently for no good reason. The trick is to be able to recognize when there is a good reason to do something (byut probably not everything) differently.

    5. Henning Makholm*

      Don’t take a longer degree just to impress employers. Your time will be much better invested in developing a portfolio — hobby projects of your own to scratch worthy itches, or significant contributions to free software projects. That will show a prospective employer that you are an awesome developer, not just that you have an education that might enable you to be one.

      A 2-year degree might be useful as a signal that you mean business, but the incremental advantage of going for 4 instead is probably not as large as it would be to spend the same time on actually developing something.

      This assumes that your only reason for taking the longer degree would be to get a nicer bullet point on your resume. (Since you already have a passion from somewhere, I’m assuming that you know some programming, so the classes may not tell you much you don’t already know). If you learn something interesting and useful from the classes, then by all means continue following them as far as they stay that way — but even then don’t forget to have some non-classroom projects to link to in your resume. Class projects that candidates present in lieu of hobby ones when they are asked for code samples tend to be somewhat synthetic and artificially delimited, so they don’t give a good impression of that candidate’s skills.

    6. Elizabeth*

      Can I beg you to get involved with a couple of the Open Source projects for finance management for small businesses? Getting some experience with those under your belt as you work on your 2-year degree will give you some nice relevant experience on your resume, while at the same time providing real world expertise to the projects.

      I say this as someone who volunteered for 2 years with the medical office management project. I have the relevant experience to be able to tell them “you need to account for {x}”, and be able to back it up. Many programmers who sign onto those projects don’t, and the projects fail.

    7. BeenThere*

      Understanding finance, accounting where everything fits in the ledger is HUGE in investment banks. I’ve worked in the industry as a developer and a support analyst. A good percentage of the developers had both a Computer Science/Software Engineering degree and an Accounting/Finance degree. If you want to write software and can prove you can program using their current language they will take you on and value your finance knowledge.

      If I knew what the content in a two year degree was I could comment on it’s value in IT. However where I am from the degrees that lead to software development are either a three year BSc in Computer Science or a four year BE in Software Engineering. We don’t have any two year degrees.

      I would suggest you look at current job descriptions for the type of development jobs you want, I have seen them request four year degree here and there but it depends on the industry you are supporting. What type of software development do you want to do?

      1. Frank*

        I don’t really have a specific type of software development I am looking at. That may change as I continue on in my education but I just really love the thought process and creating programs that work! The only specific programming classes in the 2 year degree is Java, SQL and C++.

        The four year degree is just additional higher level functions including operating systems and networks.

        I may get the 2 year degree, get certifications in a few languages and try to get an internship.

        1. BeenThere*

          Ok, so you like programming in general. I would probably stick with the two year and definitely get involved in open source projects. That should make up for the experience missing from the four year degree and give you some real code to show employers.

          However that won’t fly if you want to work at places likes Google and the big tech companies because they will expect you to have a thorough understanding of the theory behind it all, the hardware/networks/OS/algorithms. These sort of places need people than can do more than write something that works, they need people that understand how to write something scalable, supportable and robust. Not saying you couldn’t learn this on your own as there is plenty of good information out there, as well as a lot of “religious wars” on how to do certain things. Just understand there is a lot more to programming than writing code and I want to give you advice that leas you to being an excellent programmer not a code monkey :)

          Good Luck!!

    8. Rana*

      I can’t answer your specific question, either, but I can say that the great majority of my employers were completely uninterested in my grades (and I worked in academia). They wanted to know what I did with my education, and what my transferable skills were, not how well I did on tests and exams.