wee answer Wednesday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

First, if you haven’t yet voted for Ask a Manager in the Bloggie Awards, would you please take a second to do it now? (I’m nominated in the Best Topical Blog category). Thank you!

Now that we’re done with that … it’s wee answer Wednesday, with seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go.

1. Being transferred to a location without public transportation

Recently there has been talk about my colleague and me being re-located to another office on the other side of town. This would be problematic for me, as I don’t have a car and public transport between my house and the new office is near nonexistent. I currently walk to the current location from home. Is there a reasonable way I can approach this when it becomes a reality?

Why not talk to your boss about this now, before any decisions have been made? Tell her that you’re concerned by what you’ve heard, because you don’t have a way to get to the other location. A reasonable employer will try to work with you on that, unless they don’t have options and your position absolutely has to move.

2. Required to submit photo and personal info for company directory

My company wants me to submit a photo and some info about myself for the company handbook. Is this an invasion of privacy? They say they want it for the new employees to get to know how you are. There are 3 separate buildings and we don’t have a lot of interaction going on between us. We don’t even get to see each other. I don’t want my picture taken an posted for an employee directory. To me, it is an invasion of privacy, as I am not well liked and it would open doors for me to get further picked on. Or if a job was to come open, people tend to be discriminatory about how you look. They have the nerve to make it mandatory. What can I do ?

Sorry, but nothing. This is very, very common for companies to do. You need to provide the info, although it certainly doesn’t need to be particularly personal.

3. Applying for multiple openings at one organization

Can you say anything about applying to multiple positions at one organization? I do not mean indicating, “I would also like to be considered for the [position 2] and [position 3] … positions” line in the cover letter for position 1, but applying separately to new open positions that are advertised after you’ve applied to position 1. In some cases I assume I should not send additional applications because the listings say they will review the application and match it against open positions. So sending multiple applications would be pestering, right? But what about situations where this is not stated? Is it safe to assume that if I’m not what they’re want for position 1, they will keep me in mind for future openings? If it’s not safe to assume this, should I just go ahead and apply to multiple jobs at the same org, as though I have not applied for an earlier opening?

You can’t always assume that. In some organizations, hiring managers won’t see candidates who applied for jobs outside their department.

People always ask this question, and there’s no good answer. You can go ahead and submit multiple applications on the assumption that they have different hiring managers who may not see your other application(s), but if they do, then you risk looking scattered and unfocused — that you’re not targeting what you’re really interested in or good at. So there’s no perfect answer.

Because of that, though, what I can tell you is that you’re better off if the positions you’re applying for are all similar to each other — in job substance and in level — so that you don’t look like you’re taking a scattershot approach.

4. Creating a contract for an unpaid internship

I am back in college earning an associates degree in a technical field. I will have to do an internship for one of my classes. I have only done them before with nonprofits. This will be different. I thought I heard once that you can’t do an unpaid internship with a for-profit company. Is this true? According to my instructor, we could set up a contract between me and the company that says I am working for them for educational purposes only and that I won’t collect unemployment from them after I leave and that they don’t have to pay me minimum wage.

It’s not illegal to do an unpaid internship with a for-profit company if the internship meets a set of criteria laid out by the Department of Labor, including that the internship must be similar to training which would be given in an educational environment; the internship must be for for the benefit of the intern and the employer must derive no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and the intern cannot displace regular employees and must work under close supervision of existing staff. (Of course, this law is broken all the time, but that’s what the law says.)

If your internship doesn’t meet these criteria, then there’s no legal way to waive your right to be paid at least minimum wage for your work. And any employer who would let you sign such an agreement is foolish, since it wouldn’t have any legal weight.

5. Does the file name of your resume matter?

Do hiring staff care too much about the file name of your resume? Most of my resumes are titled something like “Jane M – November 2010,” and I began to wonder if that would make them think that I’ve just been sending out this outdated file en masse since then. (The date indicates to me the date of creation or redesign rather than a “last updated.”)

Yeah, it’s going to look like an old resume. Document titles don’t matter much as long as there’s not something directly problematic about them, but in this case, yours is mildly problematic. Drop the date altogether or update it to the current year.

6. Should I get a masters in English?

I have an MBA from a top 25 business school. Over the years, I think I have made great use of it, starting as a financial analyst in a large corporation, rising to a recruiter role, etc. In my current role, I’m an assistant director and I oversee three senior staff and five junior staff. I’ve gotten glowing reviews though I’ve only been in the role about a year and a half. My question is whether I should pursue a master’s in English. I know it won’t help my career trajectory in my current role and will cost money and time, but I truly love writing and English. I can get the degree at a university that is about 20 minutes away in the evenings and it will take 3 years. Everything I have searched on the internet says a degree like this is a waste of time and money, but I have to say this is the field I’d always wanted to be in. Thoughts?

There’s a reason you’re hearing that everywhere. You don’t need a graduate degree to write professionally. If you want to write, start writing. What will get you writing jobs is having well-written published clips, not a degree. So start working on getting clips.

You might also read this post and this post and the comments on them.

7. When should I start job searching?

I’m a recent grad and so far I’ve only got a minimum wage retail job, which pays the bills but is obviously not my dream position! Thanks to your blog, I also volunteer in my area of interest and have redone my CV and cover letters.

My other half is currently studying, but where we live is too expensive so we are aiming to leave once his course ends in June. At the moment, I am keeping my eye on relevant jobs around the country, but I can’t really apply to any that state they are interviewing soon, as I am tied to my flat here for the next few months. If we are looking to move from June onwards, when would be the best time to step up my job search? I worry that something great will slip through my fingers because I left my job hunt too late.

Start now. If you’re contacted about a job that needs you to start earlier than you’re available, then you can simply explain that and withdraw from the process. But lots of others will move much more slowly, and if you wait to start, you’ll miss out on those.

{ 94 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike C.

    I keep seeing the contract thing pop up and folks need to understand something: you, me, Ms. Greene, your boss or anyone else cannot enter into a meaningful contract where parties agree to violate the law. I can’t sign a contract with my boss saying that I can ignore the speed limit if I’m late for work, or that if I do really well I’m allowed to embezzle a little money.

    Signing a contract for free work outside of the confines of an internship or volunteering is no different.

    1. Evan the College Student

      if I do really well I’m allowed to embezzle a little money

      But if it’s contractually agreed on, isn’t it not embezzlement but a bonus? :D

  2. Emily, admin extraordinaire

    #6: Unless you’re planning on going on to get an English Ph. D (which I also wouldn’t recommend until/if the academic job market recovers), don’t do it. The only thing my English MA got for me was to make me *less* employable. I even considered leaving it off my resume, except that my being in school was the one of the only things that explained my spotty job history (it was a lot of internships and getting laid of 3 times in 3 years). I was looking for mostly admin assistant jobs, and I can’t tell you how many times I was told that I was over-qualified, that they were afraid I’d get bored, or that I’d leave for something else and/or get promoted too quickly. I’m only in my current job because a) I temped for them first and proved my worth and b) it’s a state department of education and they actually like things like advanced degrees, even in support staff.

    Plus, what you learn in an English MA isn’t so much writing and reading as it is critical theory. Well, and that you’re not actually good or smart enough to be an English grad student.

    1. Rana

      I was just about to offer a similar caution: MAs, unless they’re aimed at specific vocations (like education) are usually more about theory and analysis than love of subject and practical skills (you pick up some, yes, but you’re generally not taking classes in them per se). If you’re really interested in the writing aspect of it, you’d be better served with an MFA in writing – BUT! most of the writers I know who make a living at it tend to find a lot of the coursework in an MFA next to useless.

      If you “love English” and want to write, there are cheaper and less-soul-searing ways to develop skills in those areas than going to grad school.

      1. Rana

        That said… if you want to do the coursework for its own sake, go for it! Just don’t expect it to be useful in furthering your career ambitions.

      2. fposte

        You might find it more rewarding to remove the credential from the picture and take courses at a community college, at a MOOC, or as a student-at-large or whatever similar program your local university has. That way you can really pick and choose what pleases you and not find yourself knee-deep in seventeenth century sermons and fourteenth century drama due to program requisites and course fill (and maybe that’s your idea of heaven, but it isn’t what most people imagine when they contemplate an English MA).

        1. Judy

          That’s what I would suggest. Just take the courses you want to broaden your knowledge and experience in the ways you want to. You can enroll in a MA program without actually completing it, or most schools let you take some masters level courses before applying for the program (2-3 classes maybe). There’s also the online “open university” courses.

          That way you’re also not saddled with an MA on your resume, if that makes you overqualified for something.

          1. Jessie

            All this +1. There are even correspondence courses with published authors to help you improve your writing. I would only pursue an MA in English if you want a PhD or have been told explicitly that you need it for a job you want.

      3. AdAgencyChick

        This.

        OP: A lot of people want to write. This means that you’ll find a lot of people writing for hobby wages or even for free. If you really love writing so much that you’d be willing to be one of those people, by all means do so. But if you want to get paid real money to write, you need to find a way to distinguish yourself from the pack.

        You have one: you’re a financial analyst. This means you can write about finance from a perspective that most writers can’t. I’m not sure how finance works in terms of whether an analyst writes her own reports or whether she just puts together the data and the general idea and has someone else ghostwrite, but if it’s the latter, could you get a position or freelance work doing that? There’s also stuff like writing for financial publications and websites — I imagine that kind of thing is harder to break into and pays less than corporate writing, but would still be easier to get into with your background than, say, writing for the New Yorker.

        Also, is there anything else you do outside of work that you know a lot about/have been doing for years? It could be anything from an exercise program to a part of the world you’ve visited a lot. Again, these things are going to be good starting points for pitching stories, if you decide to give freelancing a try.

      4. LMW

        I loved my MFA program but regret doing it. It was so expensive. And, until my most recent job, it was so much money that didn’t increase my earning power (and I have no idea how much my degree played into their decision to hire me). If you have the means to pursue it purely out of love that’s one thing, or if you can get into a program that covers you entirely by grants, etc., it might be worth it.
        As someone who analyzes and writes, and who hires people to write – just write! That’s way more important than a degree.

    2. Anonicorn

      Absolutely. While some English classes are worth taking to gain practical skill (technical writing, technical editing, business writing, etc.) most are only going to be a pedantic game of who has the biggest grammar/literary penis.

      1. fposte

        It’s actually pretty unusual for grammar to come up in a masters level English course, save in paper corrections.

    3. WorkIt

      “Well, and that you’re not actually good or smart enough to be an English grad student.”

      Amen to that. My program was far from competitive, and I was still one of the least competent students there. I figured I was “the third dumbest” student in the program.

    4. just jane

      Have to offer a different perspective on this. Yes, an MA program in English will focus on lit crit, theory , etc — it’s not the place to go if you just love reading and writing, and/or want to write professionally (it will teach you how to write academic papers, not how to write for a general audience). If that’s what you’re after, don’t do it. But I’m troubled by this idea that getting an MA because you’re passionate about a subject will ‘saddle’ you with ‘too much experience.’ If you have a stable job, a good income and the time and space to pursue this because you have a deep and abiding interest in it, then do it. It’s no different than taking up an expensive and time-consuming hobby like horseback riding or yachting or photography. Yes it takes time and $ and will probably not advance your career, but you need to balance that against the joy you get from doing it, and what it contributes to your life, to you as a whole person.
      I’m doing grad work in a field largely unrelated to my current career, & the degree may or may not be ‘useful’ in my professional life, but the intellectual engagement and opportunity to study something I’m really interested in, in a deep, systematic and structured way, has been incredibly personally enriching. Doing grad work when you have a career is the best of both worlds: you already have a job so you’re not going into debt with uncertain career prospects. You don’t have to structure your coursework around what you think will get you a job, you don’t have the stress of grad school poverty, and frankly it’s easier not to get bound up in ‘student-think’ — that your entire worth as a person is being determined by professors deeming you not good/smart enough. But you also get a very specific sort of intellectual engagement that’s missing from most corporate work environments.

      tl;dr: go for it.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        It does potentially make it harder for you to find jobs outside the field you got the degree in though, because many employers will think that you don’t really want the job you’re applying for, since it’s not in “your field.” That can end up being a reason not to hire you.

        That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it anyway, if you’re convinced the benefit to your life will outweigh the potential drawbacks. But people should do it with their eyes open about that potential consequence.

        1. just jane

          True – though if you get an unrelated degree while still working as a Chocolate Teapot Analyst, continue to excel in that job and then apply for a Chocolate Teapot Supervisor position, I’d assume that having an unrelated degree on your resume would matter less than your work-related accomplishments. But I agree this would be a challenge if the OP just left their job to get an English MA & then went back to looking for financial analyst positions.

      2. Anonymous

        Thank you so much for posting this point of view! There’s something to be said about education for education’s sake (or education just for the fun of it) and if someone wants to do it and can afford it, why not? Not everything we do in life has to have a particular goal outside of personal enrichment. Getting a Masters degree could be one of those things for some people – like the OP.

        1. Angela

          #6—I have an MA in Professional/Technical Writing and Rhetoric. My graduate studies included courses in professional and technical writing and editing; rhetoric; composition theory, pedagogies, and course design; reseach writing; modern grammar and linguistics; etymology; and document design. I loved my school and the program (which was both stimulating and extremely rigorous–I rarely had enough time to sleep). My program also required completion of an internship and a research project. I went to grad school because I loved school, and I wanted to learn more about this field. It was a “for the love of education and knowledge” decision, and I’m well aware that I am fortunate to have been able to make a decision based on that. I was also interested in developing marketable skills in this field, of course, but mostly, I loved school and wanted to learn.

          Getting this degree turned out to be a smart, rewarding, and profitable decision, and I use my degree in my job. I am a writer for several lobbying and PR firms, and I call my own shots and work from home, which I prefer to working in an office or being employed at just one firm. I am constantly writing about new things and learning about fascinating subjects. I’ve been doing this work for about eight years now. I also do some editing for a company that publishes academic journals, which is interesting as well. (I also taught at the college level for 5 years, but there’s no real money to be made as a part-time adjunct instructor; additionally, budget cuts are always threatening your job, even if you’re really good at it, and it is frankly a lot of work with some rewards–so I decided that it ultimately wasn’t for me. I miss it sometimes.)

          Now, I have no commute, and I no longer own any khakis or other clothing that I hate. With my skills and experience and contacts, I’m sure I could work in-house as a technical writer (or similar) again if I liked, and I could perhaps make more money, but I prefer working from home, being self-employed, and having plenty of time for volunteer work and hobbies (I have an extensive herb/vegetable garden, and I love working on various projects around the house and in the yard). I work 22-30 hours per week, on my own schedule, and I am making very good money. So, my degree helped me to reach personal and professional goals, and the coursework was worthwhile and fulfilling. My MA absolutely helped me to find a career that I like and to make a life that is relatively easy, but my experience isn’t universal–I’ve been fortunate and lucky, and if I wasn’t married, I would need to buy my own health insurance or find a full-time job with coverage. If your goals and your potential MA program are drastically different from mine, and they may indeed be, then your experience could be quite different.

          That said, a degree in literature or critical studies or something along those lines–which most English MAs tend to be–isn’t going to make you marketable unless you want to teach at a high school or something, and even then it might not help. If that’s what you love and if you can afford it, go for it. But there were literature majors in my department in grad school, and some of them are my friends. Of the literature majors I knew and am still in contact with, two went on to a PhD program (one burned out; I lost touch with the other one), at least four are teaching part-time as adjuncts at one or more schools (which comes with little or no job security), four are stay-at-home moms, and at least three are teaching high school English. Most of the others are working in fields that aren’t related to their lit degrees, which is not to say that they wouldn’t do it all over again if given the chance–I’d have to ask them. (There were about 35 literature majors in this graduate program, so I didn’t account for all of them.) They may well all believe that their degrees were worthwhile and useful, and I’m not going to argue otherwise. I thought my experience might be helpful, and I hope it was. (I’m actually finishing up a piece now, so I didn’t have time to read the other responses; apologies.)

      3. Christina

        Agree with this. I am lucky enough to work at a very well regarded university and in my mind it was downright stupid not to take advantage of the tuition benefits they offered to pursue a topic I loved (Literature in my case as well).

        Yes, I could have pursued a more “marketable” program and maybe I will in the future (at the time, the program I was in didn’t offer a part-time marketing/communications degree) but it was a matter of taking advantage of an opportunity to study my passion at a time in my life when it was easy to do so, at the beginning of my career when I didn’t have a lot going on elsewhere in my life.

        Granted, no, it will likely not do anything amazing for my career because not many employers care about the connection between the American Dream, consumerism, and Nelson Algren’s Man With the Golden Arm, but it made ME proud. And yes, I can always take it off my resume if for some reason it makes me appear “overqualified.”

        1. fposte

          Sure, but it’s different when you get a tuition break and you’re already in the infrastructure.

          I’m not dissing the degrees–I’ve got the MA and PhD in English, and they’ve been crucial in a career I really enjoy. But right now the OP’s goals as articulated don’t seem to be answered by a master’s. It may be that there’s more to what she wants than is in the post (I imagine there would be), but if she’s going to do something that takes up this much time and money, it makes sense for her to have as good an idea as possible about whether it will actually get her what she hopes.

          1. Christina

            Sure, absolutely on your first point. At that time (or rather, now, I only got my MA 2 years ago) in my life/career there was no way I could swing full tuition and wasn’t willing to take out more student loans (and for what it’s worth, I had to apply to the program like any other outside applicant, I didn’t get in just because I worked there).

            I was commenting more on the “it won’t help your job prospects” part and the sense I was getting from other commenters that you should only pursue degrees of academic programs that (you hope, god help you if you change career paths down the line) will be marketable in your career. I know the style of learning I get the most out of (small class discussions and close work with professors) which I personally wouldn’t get from a MOOC or some of the other options people suggested. But that’s just me, I tend to jump to the defense of education for education’s sake–but maybe that’s also why I found myself working in higher ed :-)

            1. fposte

              Yeah, you’re not going to get that from MOOCs. And it may be that she just really, really wants a master’s to have a master’s and it’s worth it to her, in which case yes, do it. But the combination of “I love writing” and “this is the field I’d always wanted to be in” makes me think that the OP may have expectations that aren’t going to be fulfilled and needs to be clear-eyed about what she’s doing this for.

            2. fposte

              Oh, and to be clear, I didn’t mean to suggest that you had a special “in” as far as admission is concerned; I was referring to the fact that both the financial and conceptual obstacles are minimized when you’re pursuing a degree “in-house” like that, so there’s a somewhat lower bar for the return on investment. It’s one of the great perks of working in academia, as far as I’m concerned.

  3. Amber

    #2. “as I am not well liked and it would open doors for me to get further picked on” This sounds like the more important problem then having a photo taken. There should be no “getting picked on” at work. That’s simply immature and unprofessional. If you haven’t addressed that with those offenders or your manager, you should.

    1. Tasha

      Under some managers, that could only make things worse. It’s hard to tell without more details.

    2. COT

      Agreed–this part of the letter stood out to me. Being in or out of the photo directory won’t address the real issue here.

    3. A Bug!

      Yes, I agree. You shouldn’t be getting picked on. Without more information about your situation I’m hesitant to offer any real advice about that situation, but can I suggest seeing a therapist about it (before going to your manager)?

      For the immediate concern, one thing that came to my mind when I read your question is that refusing to be placed in the company handbook is more likely to attract more attention than to cooperate and forget about it.

      And anyway, if you succeeded, you’d either create a situation where your entry’s the only one without a photograph (thus inviting speculation), or you’re the only employee without an entry at all (in which case, if you are being targeted for negative behavior, the people doing it are going to notice anyway). And on top of that, new employees would have no idea who you are and would wonder why you’re not in the book when they learn that you’ve been there longer than the book’s existed.

      (It kind of reminds me of when I was younger, and I was embarrassed to wear a bathing suit at the beach. So I wore a T-shirt over my bathing suit all the time because I didn’t want to attract attention – because the only attention I was accustomed to was teasing. But when you’re at the beach, and everybody’s in a swimsuit, the one in a soggy t-shirt sticks out like a sore thumb, so I still got picked on. When I finally mustered up the courage to go without the T-shirt nobody gave me a second look.)

    4. Anonymous

      What really popped out for me was the phrase ‘they had the nerve to make it mandatory.’

      I’m probably not going to articulate this well, but if you’re viewing work through that lens, especially work-related items that yes, the company has every right to make mandatory, then I’d be wondering what you’re calling ‘picked on.’ Before I join the group in condemning this ‘picking’ behavior, I’d like an example.

      In general, I want everyone to be treated the way they want to be treated. There’s a line, though: just because someone wants different treatment doesn’t make the treatment ‘picking on’ or ‘bullying.’

      1. Ashley

        I agree, I read a lot of attitude coming from the OP and it makes me wonder if he is being “picked on” or is a negative person who is getting negative blowback as a result.

  4. Chaucer

    As someone with a BA in English, I can honestly say that I personally would not go back to school to get my masters in it (instead, I am aiming to go into business school to get an MBA.) I love English, and I had the time of my life studying the subject in undergrad, but I can’t find the strengths of getting a masters in the subject in terms of helping me find gainful employment (I am having a tough enough time as it is doing that with my bachelors.) If you love the subject, and if you can afford the costs of getting the degree without it impacting your current job, then by all means do it.

    1. JT

      #5 It’s a good idea to have a folder /directory on your computer for each place you apply, and save the resume that you send to a particular place under a simple name such as Your Name resume.pdf in that folder.

      Then you have a working resume folder with the resume in Word or whatever software you use with names that are useful to you for management, including perhaps dates in the file name.

      1. Alicia

        Absolutely – this is exactly what I do… especially since every job I apply to I tweak the document a little bit to match the posting. I ended up with a folder of folders with each sub-folder having a cover letter, resume/CV (depending), job posting (because there’s nothing worse than getting to the interview stage and the posting having been taken down from the site!) and any research I might have done on the company.

  5. PEBCAK

    #6: What is the field you want to be in? English is not a field. You want to teach? You want to be an editor? You want to write fiction? If you can be more specific on what you want to do, maybe people could give you more targeted advice.

    1. Sascha

      Yes, it’s unclear what specifically makes you want to get an English degree, other than just a love of writing and literature. Those are great things, but they can be nurtured in much less expensive, job-impacting ways.

  6. Dan

    #6

    I actually don’t understand the question. The OP says that his research indicates an English MA is a waste of money, but he wants to do it anyway. What advice is he looking for?

  7. Anonymous

    OP #6: Could it be more that you are looking for a new challenge and you happen to like school bc grades are a form of direct feedback? There doesn’t really seem to be any big picture motivation going on–you aren’t mentioning what you’ll do with this degree other than that you like the field. If that’s the case, I’d consider it through the lens of a hobby–do you have money/time to pursue it? And I’d comment that the time is a huge factor. I’m in an MBA program right now that is geared towards working professionals, and it’s not easy balancing work & school bc work deadlines aren’t on any particular schedule. If I had to manage a team on top of this, it would be *very* hard to do both well.

    1. jennie

      In addition, OP, your company would probably be more supportive and understanding if it was something that would benefit them or your work directly. Even if they don’t have tuition reimbursement, they may be flexible with time to study for exams or reduced availability for overtime.

      On the other hand, for something unrelated to your job it’s like any other hobby. Most employers are going to be less understanding of any time off needed or reduced output from you because you’re busy with classes.

  8. Jamie

    #2 – I was surprised to hear this is a common thing. It makes me wonder what else goes on in large corporations that would baffle me. It sounds like of like a yearbook.

    #4 – As Alison mentioned the laws are super strict for profit internships. That’s why when we do them we definitely follow the spirit of the law so they get a broader educational experience than if they were just hired to do set tasks, but we also pay (considerably more than minimum wage) just so we don’t have to constantly police how much we’re benefiting. We don’t do a ton of them, but everyone who started as a paid intern has stayed as an employee…so it works for us.

    #5 – Pet peeve of mine is naming it resume. So if I’m saving it the first thing I need to do is rename it for you. Not a deal breaker, not a big problem, but it’s an eye roll on my end that you didn’t assume I might receive more than one. I like resume_name, myself.

    1. Lora

      #2 Have worked for a few companies who were all about the personal profile thing. It depends what they are using it for specifically when they say “get to know you,”; one company wanted me to list professional skills and specialties so that people outside of the department could easily look up an expert in a given field in case they had been thinking of hiring a consultant–company was huge enough that we would likely already have someone with the expertise and not necessarily realize it. Another company wanted it more to describe the department: Lora The Bioengineer and Sarah The Builder work for Mike The Crazy Academic. Current employer uses it for internal social networking and wants me to post non-work stuff, so I put a picture of my dogs up (not kidding, cue the jokes of, “hello? yes, this is dog,”)–other folks have pictures of their boats, kids, etc.

      If you’re not comfy posting actual aspects of your non-work life, this is a situation where making it up seems appropriate. e.g., “What did you do this weekend?”
      What I thought: tequila karaoke and the whole bar saw my underpants!
      What I said: Oh, just gardening, how was your weekend?

      1. Jamie

        And this is why they say that having a couple of work friends makes a huge difference in how much you like your job.

        When you have work buddies you get to hear the good tequila and underpants stories…if you don’t you just have to try to stay awake while hearing about yard work.

      2. Judy

        Our company online directory has a place to put a photo, there’s someone from corporate who takes the photos, has open time yearly, or we can upload our own photos. Each employee’s page has tabs on it, one for contact information, one for org chart, and one for “about me”. The contact information has the work address, phone number and email address on it. The org chart has a list of manager, peers, and direct reports, with links to the directory page for each person, that seems to be coming from an HR database. The “about me” has a place for the employee to edit things like languages spoken, professional experience, etc. It’s basically a watered down linked in profile. The photo is fairly strongly encouraged. The profile they ask you to do, but I’ve not been asked specifically to do it, like I’ve heard people have been about the photo.

        They use that photo for all communication about you that includes a photo. Most org charts have photos along with the names, and any “in the move” job change announcements use that photo, or any recognition announcements.

        I have paper copies from the ’90s that truly look like a yearbook. 4 photos wide by 4 photos tall, with names under them and a phone directory and org charts at the end.

        1. Janet

          Yeah, I’ve worked at two places that did this exactly. To be honest, I loved it. If a company is very large and I know that I have to meet “Cheryl on the 4th floor” – I like being able to look her up and figure out what she looks like before I go reading name plates on a million cubicles. My last job was a huge company and I’d constantly hear people grumble that there wasn’t a photo directory. Sometimes you’d do a lot of business over the phone and then two days later you’d be behind the person in line for the cafeteria and have no idea because you had no idea what anyone looked like. With the photo directory I’d look people up if I was on the phone with them and then if I saw them in person I could be like “Jerry? Hey, it’s Janet, we spoke on the phone yesterday regarding the 4th quarter results.”

          1. K

            On the other hand, a photo directory would have short circuited the Joaquin/Wakeen thing, and we’d all be the worse off for it.

            1. Katherine E.

              Whenever Wakeen shows up, I feel this overwhelming urge to high-five everyone around me.

          2. Anonymous

            My old company did this and I loved it. As someone who works in HR, it was nice to be able to look up the face of the person with whom I was meeting with so I could spot them in the waiting room, etc. Also, when you work in HR, everyone knows you because you are their go to person for benefits, payroll etc…. but it gets really hard for us to remember everyone’s names! So this was super useful.

            It was also nice for new hires, so they could familiarize themselves with the faces around the office…. and so they knew who the big wigs were :)

    2. Riki

      5 – Same! I get so many “Resume” files. If the job post asks for resumes and cover letter files to be titled a certain way, then follow those instructions. If there are no instructions, then the file names should contain your last name, at least! Job hunters need to remember that their files get filed somewhere and the person on the receiving may not have the time, or be in the mood, to rename everything.

    3. Cathy

      +1 on naming your resume “Jane_Smith_resume.doc” or something similar that includes your full name and the purpose of the file. If you include a cover letter in a separate file (not something I want, but a lot of people do it anyway) then name that “Jane_Smith_coverletter.doc” so your files will be together when sorted by name or date.

      When somebody does this for me, it tells me they’ve thought about how I will need to handle these files, and they’ve done a small thing to make my life easier. The little tiny positive glow I get towards you probably won’t make a difference in the long run, but wouldn’t you rather have me feeling that way when I open your resume and start reading it for the first time?

      1. UK HR Bod

        Absolutely. Really, you aren’t the only person who calls their CV “CV.doc”. Even putting a date on doesn’t clue me in to who you are. “Smith, Jane CV” or “Jane_Smith_Resume” as above – any variation on that works well. As Cathy said, it doesn’t really affect your candidacy, but it’s certainly courteous!

      2. Zahra

        My uni requests that files uploaded be named LastName_FirstName_resume (or _coverletter or whatever else fits). Since they were one of the first employers I applied to since I started looking, I took to naming my current resume that way, while also keeping a copy named Zahra_resume_02_2013 for my own files. Same thing for cover letters, although archive copies are named Cover_letter_company_position_02_2013

      3. AL Lo

        That’s exactly what I do. AlLowe_Resume_ApplicationDate and AlLowe_CoverLetter_ApplicationDate. Yes, the files will also have the date when sorted by date, but this is just one extra step in making it easy to organize.

        I typically have them as two separate documents, unless specified otherwise. I figure that, as long as they’re labelled properly and easily identifiable, it doesn’t make a huge difference, and keeping them separate allows them to be forwarded on separately if that becomes necessary.

    4. danr

      #5… I use Name-resume. No dates. Dates are for your own files. I assume that the person that gets the resume will rename it.

  9. Jamie

    Apropos of nothing I noticed that your icon took off her winter wear and is dressed for spring, Alison. Since the news said your neck of the woods will be getting some of the snow from our recent hit (10 inches last night) your icon might want to hang onto her hat and scarf – it could get chilly down in the Mid-Atlantic today!

      1. The IT Manager

        Continuing this thread, is she holding a megaphone or something else? It looks like a megaphone (“rah, rah, rah”), but that doesn’t really make sense. And as great as Alison is, She doesn’t quite have the cheerleader attitude.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Oh no! If it looks like it’s supposed to be a rah-rah thing, I will need to remove it immediately! It’s supposed to be a megaphone for amplifying the message of the site. (And maybe occasionally yelling at people.) This is troubling…

          1. Christine

            If it makes you feel better, I interpreted the megaphone just as you intended it :)

            1. Jamie

              Me too – and I’ve been to cheer camp and never made the connection.

              Now if Alison starts demanding Roll Call and telling us to Beeeee Aggresssssive….that would be something else entirely.

              1. fposte

                You went to cheer camp? Of your own volition? It seems unlike the Jamie we know, love, and torment today.

                1. Jamie

                  It was many years ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I jumped about voluntarily.

                  Actually, I never cheered but cheer camp had a pom faction and I there was a time when that was my main identity.

                  I’ve also done the cheer camp thing as a cheer mom and that was horrible…I just brought cases of water and tried not to speak to anyone. They didn’t like me because I refused to wear the Cheer Mom t-shirt – fortunately shunning doesn’t really effect someone as introverted as I am so it took a while for me to notice.

                  Funny thing though – senior year I was offered a co-captain spot on my pom squad which I argued against because the other “co-captain” sucked and I knew would leave me to do all the work and if I wasn’t getting full credit I wasn’t about to carry some incompetent slacker. The peppiness and smiles were totally faked – but that moment was genuine and a sign of the PITA I was to become.

                  And yeah – they replaced me with another co-captain and they both totally sucked and the coach had to carry both of them. That will teach people not to listen to me.

          2. The IT Manager

            It does look like a megaphone. I just didn’t understand why you were holding it.

  10. Famouscait

    To Q #3: in my last job search I applied for over a dozen positions at the same University. Before I did this, however, I called the HR office and asked for some information about the application/hiring process. They confirmed that the process was not centralized, so the hiring manager in the school of music wouldn’t also see my application to the central development office, and so on. This was the peace of mind I needed to submit so many applications. The HR office seemed happy to talk through the process with me. Call and ask questions – you’d be surprised how much information may be available to you.

    1. Kristi

      Famouscait, this is very good to know. I’m considering applying for multiple fundraising/development positions at one university. I will call their HR office and hopefully they will confirm the same thing.

      1. fposte

        Though be aware, if it’s like our university the people in the different development positions will know one another. Not that that’s a bar to multiple applications, especially since there’s a lot of commonality there; just don’t burn any bridges with one if you still are interested in others (and, conversely, it may be that nearly getting one position could get you a referral to another).

        1. tcookson

          At my university, the development directors in each individual academic unit are hired in collaboration with the development office, and their salaries are paid partially by the development office and partially by the academic unit. So the development office would always know all the applicants and whether they were applying for multiple positions; I’m just not sure how much it would matter.

  11. Sascha

    #6 – I have a BA English and contemplated an MA when I thought at one time that I wanted to be a professor. Other people have made some great suggestions on how to develop these interests without getting a degree, such as MOOCs and continuing education courses. I’d also like to suggest working with a tutor. Many graduate students and professors provide private tutoring, and that would be a great way to develop your writing in an inexpensive way (certainly less expensive than a degree).

    I have had a hard time finding jobs with my English degree, even jobs like technical writing and copywriting, where you think an English degree would be desired. In my experience, most employers in the area of corporate writing want Communications or Journalism degrees. Even though my particular degree had a strong focus on technical writing – and not literature – I’m sure many of them saw “English” and equated it with “reading Shakespeare all day.” If your resume came across my desk and I saw that you had an MBA and an MA English, my first impression would be that you didn’t have much job experience and chose to stay in college longer than necessary.

    So if you want to become an English professor, then go for the MA (and eventual PhD), but for anything else, I’d say find a less expensive alternative.

  12. Yup

    #5 – For each application you send, save a version of your resume with your name and the position title, like “Allison Green_Teapot Manager,” and send that to the hiring manager. If they get a lot of applicants, this will help them sort and search.

    1. Anonymous

      This is a logical naming convention but strikes me as a little presumptuous if you’re not already a Teapot Manager. But perhaps I’m overthinking it?

      1. Yup

        So “Alison Green_Applicant_Teapot Manager” instead? Plenty of latitude, just something clear and specific.

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        You guys are over-thinking this :)

        It’s not going to be presumptuous to include the title, but really just FirstNameLastName.doc is fine. So is Resume.doc, for that matter — no one is going to reject you for doing that, although I agree it’s nicer if it’s your name.

      3. KayDay

        I don’t think so–that’s the position you are applying to. Personally, my naming system is “Day_Org_Resume,” but putting the position instead of the org doesn’t seem weird to me.

        When I look at resumes, the names only are noticable if they are particularly awful (but I appreciate people who use some version of Name_Resume).

  13. WorkIt

    #6 If you’re considering getting a M.A. in English solely to get into writing, I wouldn’t do it. I did the same thing a few years ago and I wouldn’t say the *degree* helped me. It was the internships I completed while pursuing the degree. In other words, experience. However, I found getting the degree very fulfilling and would do it again even though it makes absolutely no sense from a financial perspective. Personal development and all that.

  14. KayDay

    #6 – I know two people who are pursuing MFAs in Fiction/Poetry. Both are doing it because they want to be authors and the programs grant TA-ships (so their tuition is waived and they get a (small) salary for actually teaching intro-level courses). Those programs are a full time job between teaching, lesson planning, grading, and then writing for their own degree. If you are able to get accepted to a program with a TA-ship, or other fellowship that will pay you, and you really want to be a writer, it might be worth it.

    But if you just want to write as a hobby, in addition to your “real” job, it would be far better to simply take community writing classes, work with a tutor, or take a MOOC instead. Three years of college tuition is not worth it for a hobby.

  15. Ann O'Nemity

    I can think of only three reasons to get an MA in English, and all involve teaching in some capacity. (1) You want to teach secondary school, and an MA will give you a boost in salary; (2) You want to teach at a community college; (3) You want to get an MA *and* a PhD in order to be a university professor. For reasons 2 and 3, only do it if you would be happy doing nothing else, as the job market has been/ is/ will be lousy.

    1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

      I’d say you don’t want to do it for (2) either, because while having an English MA technically qualifies you to teach at the junior/community college level, there are so many unemployed and underemployed PhDs that you can’t even get a part-time adjunct position with only an MA. Ask me how I know.

  16. ExceptionToTheRule

    Resume file title – please don’t title your resume “resume.docx” and then have the name & contact information in the header auto-fill from “owner/user” of the software. I’ve now opened & printed your resume & it has my name and contact information on it and your resume file, generically named “resume” is essentially lost.

    1. Anonymous

      I find that the “author” field preserves pretty well, but yes, do type out your name!

  17. girlreading

    #5- I usually put my name and the job title in my resume title.

    #6- don’t waste your time and money if you’re not planning to pursue a career that requires this degree. If you love writing and English, there are other options to study this than getting a masters. Search for continuing education courses- these will be much cheaper. And you certainly don’t need a degree to be a writer.

    #7- start searching now! I wish I’d started sooner when I graduated (and that was in a decent economy). Also, having just been job hunting again, I’m still getting responses from jobs I applied for months ago. Some companies, esp big ones, move really slow. I would also put your expected graduation date on your resume so employers will know when you would be available.

  18. perrik

    #6 – If you want to write, write. You can take a workshop, work with a local writers group, start prepping for this year’s National Novel Writing Month, or just curl up in the corner and write. Do you want to write poetry, or spend a lot of tuition money to write intense critiques of someone else’s poetry?

  19. Anonymous

    #2-You don’t have to tell them your deepest darkest secrets but perhaps sharing your favorite hobbies or home town might go along way to create better relationships. You admit you aren’t well-liked and that people pick on you and you want to move yourself further from the circle. Do you not remember middle school? The kids who were picked on and then further sidelined themselves got picked on even more. It sucks but we are all really still middle schoolers at times.

    #3-My only caution in applying to multiple positions at one location is to honestly make sure that you are qualified to apply for ALL of those positions. We just switched from a very disjointed system to a centralized computer system. I can see all the positions you’ve applied for and your status in those applications. I try not to let it bias me but if you are applying for positions all over the totem pole and across fields, I have to wonder if you are really qualified for all of them or just spamming us.

  20. Lily in NYC

    #3 – Multiple positions. One thing you should NOT do is apply for multiple positions in the same dept for a company if they are different seniorities. Figure out the one you have the right experience for and apply to that one. I am screening for 3 open positions in one dept. right now – One is for a project manager, another for a sr. project manager, and another for a vice president. I’ve gotten tons of people applying for all three, even though the requirements vary a lot. I get annoyed by people that haven’t even graduated yet but apply to senior positions. We clearly state we want X years of supervisory experience, but for some reason people think just because they go to Harvard I am going to jump to hire them even though they won’t graduate until June and have no work experience. It t makes me assume the person doesn’t read carefully or is just blindly applying to everything they see and I rarely send those resumes to be screened by HR.

  21. Amanda

    #7: As someone who has been there (I was abroad and I didn’t start applying to jobs in the US until about three weeks prior to my return) I really, really regret not starting earlier. I came back with no network to speak (because I truly didn’t realize how important it is) and I hadn’t yet discovered AAM so I was floundering in a sea of bad advice (such as “put in your cover letter that you will call to schedule an interview”). It takes time to build/re-establish your network and it takes time to perfect the art of writing a compelling cover letter and resume. Get in contact with people in the city you want to move to and start learning about the market there, organization you might want to work for and major players in the field. And start applying for jobs-it will be good practice and as AAM pointed out, the hiring might take longer than expected. Do it NOW.

  22. Hannah

    #2 — If possible, why not submit a long shot photo of yourself? For instance, if you’ve gone hiking or something, a full body shot of you from a bit further away rather than a close up of your face? Now maybe this type of photo would be rejected by your company since it defeats the purpose, but that’s the point for you if you feel it’s an invasion of privacy.

    For “about me” stuff — anything vague/non-specific will do.

    1. Lily in NYC

      I’m not sure it’s a good idea to send such a different type of photo than everyone else if he/she feels picked on and disliked. If that’s truly the case, anything that makes him/her stand out as different is just giving people ammunition.

  23. TL

    Alison, would your answer change if the photo and personal info in OP #2’s case were being posted to the (public) company website, as opposed to being an internal thing? I ask because I’ve seen a few company websites where this seems to be standard, up to and including a bunch of personal info like “Jane is our Chocolate Teapot Admin, who lives in Vanilla Wafer City and enjoys paragliding, baking, and salsa dancing on the weekends. Her favorite color is aquamarine blue, and she has a dog named Snuffles.” I admit I’d be pretty annoyed about a requirement like that.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’d be annoyed too because I’m pretty private, but it’s just one of those things that will do you more harm than good to object to. The exception would be if you had a really good reason, like it you had a stalker — and then they should respect that.

    2. Cassie

      It might also depend on position. Our faculty members have their photos posted on our website. Staff don’t, with the exception of our PR guy (who has since left and his replacement did not have a photo).

      I could also see it being reasonable for the people in our student affairs office, since they interact a lot with students and maybe the photos create a more friendly relationship. (There’s a Seinfeld episode based on this…)

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