terse answer Thursday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Employer won’t let me continue to use my maiden name professionally

I have a question about dealing with married vs. maiden names. I was married several years ago and just kept my maiden name for a while. I recently legally changed my name to be: Firstname MaidenName Husband’sname.

Anyway, before I changed my name, I applied for a federal govt job. I just found out last week I got hired–yay! I was talking to the HR rep today about my background investigation and paperwork, and I mentioned to her that, while I have since legally changed my name, professionally, I would like to keep my maiden name. I understand legally my name is Mrs. Husband’sName, but I would like my email address, business cards, etc to say Ms. MaidenName. She told me “No because paperwork, investigations, blah blah.”

I was a little surprised because I didn’t think this was a big deal, and I thought more women did this. Do you have any ideas on what I can do? I really didn’t think it would be a problem, and I would really like to stay “Ms. MaidenName” professionally. What do you think?

It’s certainly true that the government is a massive bureaucracy with all sorts of barriers to doing what’s logical and reasonable, so I suppose it’s possible that there really is some rule against it — but tons of women do this at other employers, particularly when they already have an established professional identity.

Of course they need to do your official paperwork using your legal name, but I can’t see any possible justification for refusing to allow you to use your maiden name on things like business cards, email, etc. And given how many women continue to use their maiden name professionally even after changing it legally, this is a bunch of BS. But because the federal government is a notoriously rules-laden employer, she might be right — but it would still be worth trying to push back and point out that women are increasingly taking this option and it’s something they should find a way to accommodate.

2. How to motivate a lazy coworker whose work I’m getting stuck with

I work at an entry-level position for a government agency and I have a question about coworker motivation. Our job is for a two year term and a coworker, who is leaving in 3 or 4 months, has stopped doing any work. Her lack of motivation affects my job and has been causing issues. The management philosophy here is more “it has to get done” rather than “this is X’s responsibility, X needs to do it,” so my workload has been increasing and I feel like I am getting blamed for this coworker slacking off. It is long before the period when she needs to transfer her tasks before she leaves. One permanent employee is aware of her problems but has been unsuccessful in motivating her as well as he is not her direct supervisor. Unfortunately, she somehow has very good standing with our bosses and they have not listened in the past when I have asked for the workload to be redistributed. Do you have any suggestions for how to motivate this coworker to complete her assigned work?

You can’t motivate her, nor should you have to. But what you can do is deal with it the same way you’d handle any other workload issue, totally ignoring the fact that this one is being caused by your lazy coworker (and her manager who won’t manage, which is actually the bigger problem): Go to your manager and say, “I can do A and B, but not C. Or if C is really important, I’d need to move A off my plate to make room for it. Alternately, I can be a resource to Jane on C, but I can’t do the work of C myself if I’m also doing A and B. How would you like me to prioritize, and what would you like me to put on the back burner?”

Also, read this.

3. Do resume objectives make sense at recruiting events?

I notice you are always against objectives on a resume, but now I am out of school (where, by the way, the objective was “highly recommended’) and have taken part in some recruiting events for my corporation. I would like to suggest that the dreaded objective is highly valuable when the resume will be presented in a forum where the recruiter will be talking to people interested in many different fields or positions. Knowing at a glance if the person standing in front of me is looking for a full time position or an internship is very valuable, as is if they are looking for a commercial or engineering position.

Perhaps this is an exception to your “no objective” rule?

There are other ways to achieve that than with an objective, which pretty much always look dated and awful. Try a more modern profile or summary or something that doesn’t have the stale odor of 1982 to it.

4. Unethical bonus to coworker?

I work in a small office — 2 bosses, 3 employees. One boss gave her close assistant a secret bonus for “working there for 15 years.” This assistant’s husband recently lost his job. I am the one in the office who writes a check to cover the payroll. I asked the other boss why payroll was so high, and he said, “oh, Kelly gave Diane a bonus for working here 15 years.” Kelly and Diane are very close. Before I had asked my boss about the payroll being high, they tried to hide the payroll report from me. This whole situation is affecting my work. What should I do? Do you think this conduct by my bosses is unprofessional or unethical? I have worked there for 10 years.

It’s not unethical to give a bonus to an employee. If anything is unethical here, it’s your using your access to payroll information to form opinions about your coworkers’ pay, which is really none of your business. Drop this; it’s truly far, far outside the range of what’s appropriate for you to involve yourself in.

5. Job-hunting outside of academia with a PhD

I was hoping you could address a few issues that apply to people who have PhDs but decide not to go into academe. My university’s career center has been completely useless in advising me so I am turning to you. I have been applying to “industry” positions for the past six to eight months, and haven’t heard a peep. (I am a non-clinical psychologist.) I am religious about tailoring my resume and my cover letter (per all your advice in past postings), so I figure it must be that I’m applying for positions for which I’m either under- or over-qualified.

I typically apply for positions that require an MA or a PhD (because I want to use my PhD), and to my eye they look attainable. (I do, however, stay away from positions that have “Director” in the title–I know I’m not experienced enough for those positions.) Usually they require 3-5 years experience, fluency in various statistical methods, project management experience, and sometimes expertise in a content area (e.g. education, child development, psychometrics). I count my laboratory experiences and psychological studies in graduate school as “counting” toward those years of experience, because I did the work–just didn’t get paid for it (graduate experience was five years total, and I conducted research in a business setting for two years prior to that). I have been afforded the opportunity to work within several niches, so I do have a pretty broad set of applicable experiences. I am well-versed in most statistical techniques, have a great deal of experience with project management (managing undergraduates and colleagues on various projects), and I apply for positions that are situated within my area of expertise.

Is it as I fear, and PhD-level candidates are not taken seriously outside academe? Any advice on how to not look like a fresh graduate, though I do actually have quite a bit of relevant experience? I am hell-bent on applying my research skills and expertise in a practical way, not within the insular world of academia, so I would really love any perspective you might have on finding–and getting!– jobs for PhDs.

Well, if they’re specifically asking for a PhD, I don’t think the issue if that they’re discounting you because of your PhD. I don’t have a ton of insight into what’s going on, other than what I’d tell anyone in your shoes: If you’re not getting interviews, take another look at your materials, no matter how confident you are that they’re good. Read this, in particular. But you also might try meeting with a few people in the field(s) you want to work in and ask them for insight into what could make you more attractive to employers. Sort of an informational interview, in the way that too few people use them.

6. Which GPA should I include on my resume?

I have a question about GPA and including it on your resume, as sometimes it is requested. I initially went to a smaller community college and subsequently transferred to a large university. On my resume, I only indicated that I went to the university that my bachelor’s degree is from, but included a cumulative GPA from both schools that I calculated. Is this deceiving, and should I indicate only the GPA received from the university? I haven’t really run into any issues yet, but I am curious if I should or should not do this.

What would the university say if contacted to verify your GPA? That’s the number you want to use, since otherwise you can run into issues if an employer verifies. But that’s if you include GPA at at all — I wouldn’t include GPA on your resume unless it’s very high (3.7 or higher).

7. Am I asking too much of this networking contact?

I had a networking meeting with a GM in an industry I’m not interested in joining. He’s a great contact, offered awesome career advice, and told me he would be willing to help in any way he could. I have not narrowed down specific companies I’d like to work for and I’ve just started seriously considering making a change and leaving my current job. I’ve been at my current organization for 5 years and am ready to acquire new skills that I won’t get from my current position/boss.

I’m looking for a new challenge and a salary reset. Once I identify a few companies I’d like to begin to pursue jobs at, would it be too forward to give this contact a list of companies I’d like to get into along with my resume? He has contact with many high level executives in a number of companies locally and nationally. I almost feel as if that’s asking too much.

He’s offered to help you, so let him know what would be helpful. What you’re proposing isn’t too much at all, as long as the list of companies isn’t ridiculously long. But make sure you’re clear with him about what you’re asking him to do — presumably, to see if he has any contacts at the companies on your list who he’d be willing to reach out to on your behalf. (In other words, don’t just hand him a list; be clear about what you’d like him to do with it.)

{ 124 comments… read them below }

  1. PEBCAK

    #3: I would argue that it’s even LESS important at a job fair. Can’t you just ask the candidate? Making note on their resumes is just fine, even if they see you do it.

    1. Anon

      That would involve open communication, a possible handshake, and dare I say… eye contact. How dare you suggest these things!

    2. Evan the College Student

      The problem, I’ve heard, is that too many recruiters don’t make notes at the time. Then, later, when they’re sifting through a stack of several hundred resumes, they don’t remember enough to connect any one to one of the many students who stopped by for a minute or two.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.

        Yeah, if anything, job fairs should be an exception to the rule of not including photos with your application. How great would it be if people had photos on their business cards? Alas, it’s so weird (and most of the time, rightly so) that it will never be widespread…

        1. AG

          Ugh we have a couple of these floating around, and they’re creepy. I don’t want the person’s photo staring back at me when their card is on their desk!

  2. Azar

    I too am a PhD graduate looking for non-academia jobs. It has been 6 months since my defense and I have been to 5 onsite interviews. Zero job offers. I am getting positive responses from phone interviews (evidenced by their willingness to fly me out for an interview) and I have gotten what I interpret as positive responses in person. I have either heard nothing about why they did not chose me or am informed that they went with a more experienced candidate. Before you suggest that I apply for lower level positions, I have, and after following up I have heard back stories about how I am over qualified.

    Sorry, person who wrote in I can offer solidarity but no advice that does any good… on the other hand, if there are any readers who do have useful advice please share.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      You’re getting interviews, so the problem isn’t your background or resume. (And 5 interviews in 6 months is good in this market.) It might be your interviewing skills — I’d try focusing there and see if that changes anything.

    2. Elise

      I think the problem comes if they are looking for a PhD and the 3-5 years experience. They want both. They know anyone with a PhD will have some experience from graduate school and I don’t expect they are counting that. I would limit the search to jobs that said either PhD with no experience or Masters with 3-5 years experience (since in most job postings I see, it seems that each degree level counts as a few years experience).

      Unless your PhD dissertation was in some niche field that they are specifically seeking–then it will count for more.

      1. NL

        Elise is absolutely right. You should be targeting jobs that require a PhD but no experience or jobs that require a master’s with 3-5 years of experience. This is what I did, and I found a job as a social science researcher when I was ABD. A close grad school friend had a very similar experience. You may start out making less that you want, but you can move up quickly. (I got a 15% raise after 1 year & finishing the PhD, and my friend just got a new job making over 15k more than she did initially.)

        A fewother things:

        1) Are you applying for jobs nationally, regionally, or locally? It’s always easier to find a job when you live in the area in which you are job-hunting. I found that the career change + out-of-state move combo was often a bit much for employers. They could have handled one but not both at once.

        2) Are you applying to prestigious places in major metro areas in which you don’t live? You usually need to network your way into more prestigious institutions.

        3) Make sure you explain why you are interested in that particular job & possibly that you aren’t interested in an academic career. I sat in on a round of hiring about 6 months in, and I was surprised that almost everyone who applied made absolutely no effort to explain why they were interested in the job. If we research chocolate teapots, but your dissertation explains how to hail a cab in Paris, you need to explain why you now find chocolate teapots compelling.

        4) Some of finding a job is simply luck too. I actually work for a place where my dissertation research is quite relevant, and there are very, very few jobs where that would be the case.

        1. MNT

          Regarding #3, do you think I ought to reference my reasons for not wanting a career in academics in the cover letter? I’d say I’ve addressed WANTING a career in research but never considered addressing NOT wanting an academic one. I guess that it makes sense to address it on some level, since it’s not out of desperation but desire that I want to do non-academic research… thanks!

          1. College Career Counselor

            I wouldn’t, if I were you. I’d keep the focus on why you want to work FOR the organization and not why you DON’T want to work in academia. Otherwise, you run the risk of looking like you’re fleeing from something rather than choosing something.

          2. M

            I’ve gotten interviews with both types of cover letters. At first I just addressed why I wanted the particular job, and didn’t say anything about my degree or why I was applying outside of academics/research. But when I did more informational interviews the question always came up (and also was pretty ubiquitous in actual interviews), so several times I did write a paragraph at the end of a cover letter that said that while it might seem unusual for someone with a research degree to be applying for a non-research-y job, that particular job was exactly what the opportunity I was looking for, and then I said why, with a quick few sentences that explained my motivation and then linked my background and skills to the job description. I did get an offer from a great job where I used that strategy, so I can say that it can work. I think it’s also important for you to have a clear story about why these non-academic jobs would be a great fit for you, and what you bring from your experience (e.g., What are you really great at, that a research/academic job wouldn’t give you enough room to do?) – at the very least, it helps you let yourself be known in networking situations, and it will come up in interviews, so you’ll be prepared.

          3. NL

            I adopted a pretty similar strategy to M above, and it worked for me. (The rest of M’s advice is great too, especially about having a clear story.) I wrapped not wanting an academic career into what was appealing about the job to me. I think it did help me get interviews (and perhaps my current job), but I also think it is very dependent upon the kind of job you want to get. It will not work for every job or every person.

            What it does is signal that the job is your first-choice career & something you really want, not a second choice that you may leave quickly when a tenure-track job becomes available. It mitigates some of the risk that an employer is taking by hiring you. Again, it won’t necessarily work in all circumstances, but I found it to be helpful. As M says, employers will ask about it in interviews–it was ubiquitous for me too–so you might as well address it up front.

            Good luck! Getting the first non-academic job is the hardest part. Lots of us have done it, and I’m sure you can too.

    3. PhDCandidate

      The problem, for a hiring manager, is that they don’t know anything about how you operate outside of an academic setting. At the same time, hiring a PhD to do research is much riskier than hiring an intern or even an entry-level employee. So, you have to find a way to give them that information, and the best way to do it is to build a real network.

      Go to the non-academic conferences in your field. One of the biggest problems I see among people in my research group who have graduated in the last few years is that they have NO network outside of academia, and neither do their advisers. If there’s a local trade association or something, get involved with that, too.

      I’m a returner (after more than a decade in industry), so I have my own network, but I see the younger (read: straight from undergrad to PhD) students really underestimating the importance of KNOWING PEOPLE.

      1. M

        For OP #5 – I really sympathize with you – I also have a non-clinical social science PhD and did not want to do the academic track, and was submitting applications for close to a year (with some interviews and offers) before accepting a great job recently. (It will happen!). A few things that I think helped: 1) I identified a target field (higher ed administration, in my case) that I had work experience in, and which my degree was also related to, 2) I reached out to people I knew in the target field and asked them if they would review my resume and a sample cover letter. I got great feedback from them, and it was also a way to let them know I was looking for work and what skills I had in case they heard of open position, 3) I had a strategy for how many applications I would put in over the course of 6 months … early on, I think I grossly underestimated how many online apps I would need to submit. I aimed to get 1 interview for every 10 applications I submitted, and 1 offer for every 7 interviews, which really made me step up how much I was applying for. Also very important, 4) I had a few people I could call regularly who could encourage me and keep me motivated over those months. Good luck, and please keep us posted!

          1. M

            Hello again, One more thought – I think for those of us with research degrees looking for jobs outside of academia, we need to work extra hard to get the potential employer to see us as a fit for their organization … and when they look at your resume and see your degree, publications, etc. right away, if those aren’t the norm for their organization they might cast you off before really giving you a chance. One attempt I made to counteract this was to create a summary section on my resume, as explained here: . That lets you frame yourself to the employer before your research degree does it for you … often in a way that doesn’t help you. You can list skills in the summary that come directly from the job description. The exercise may also help you identify key words that will translate skills you learned in academia for another audience (e.g., listing specific research/analysis skills, advising or teaching skills, managing project timelines, etc. as they are described in the job description). Again, best of luck!

            1. M

              Oops, I see the link didn’t post. You can find it on the 5 O’Clock Club site – it’s a post entitled “Building a Great Resume the 5 O’Clock Club Way,” and it has a link to an example resume.

    4. Jessica

      #5: There are TONs of PhDs looking for jobs outside of academia, for example in my (bio) field, only ~16% of people end up in tenure track jobs. From this, we can conclude 1) there’s a LOT of competition and 2) you’re not alone no matter what you think. You guys should look at forums and sites for PhDs seeking industry jobs.

      There are a number of resources out there, start with these sites and check their links to other sites:
      http://myidp.sciencecareers.org/
      http://www.nationalpostdoc.org/
      Run your resume past people on The Science Careers Forum (http://scforum.sciencecareers.org/viewforum.php?f=1&sid=fca75916a1d816cf2a47ced01a03a3f6)
      VersatilePhD – (more humanities-oriented last I looked)

      1. MNT

        Really appreciate these links, thanks! I think versatilePhD is a great resource for humanities PhDs, definitely. I’ve only found a few pertinent to my particular field, but it’s a great resource regardless. And thanks for the other resources!

    5. Athlum

      Azar – I absolutely intend no insult by this and I apologize if I am way off base, but – are you a native English speaker? I ask because even in this short comment, there are a few patterns common to the non-native speakers I know (the one that really jumped out being ‘chose’ for ‘choose’).

      If it’s just a typo and comma issues reflective of informal comments rather than formal written work, I am so sorry for going down this path — but if not, that could be part of your answer, as written grammar and syntax would be a deal-breaker for me. With speech it’s not really an issue, but when it comes to manuscripts and grant-writing, I already spend enough time cleaning up after native speakers who type like their keyboards are having seizures — I expect anyone I hire to help alleviate the problem, not add to it. (Of course, one would hope to catch this in a writing sample or phone interview, not after flying the candidate out to interview on-site…)

      Just one perspective and again, I apologize if the question was indelicate or totally off base!

      1. Nichole

        If this is the case, it may have something to do with the interview issue as well. Some behavior patterns that are acceptable and even expected in other cultures are considered rude in American interviews. Even if they aren’t dealbreakers, they may peg you as “odd” or raise questions about fit within the group. If cultural differences are at play here, identifying any cultural norms you might be breaking could make your interviews more successful.

  3. Anon

    #1: I am XX Maiden Married name (no hyphen) and I had previously used Maiden name for work and Married name for real life. I signed up with the federal government several years ago and now ALL my paperwork says Maiden Married name.

    However, my email and my title are Maiden name. If I had business cards, they would say Maiden name. You may want to push back on this because it works differently for me.

    1. #1 poster

      Thanks Alison! And thanks to this poster. This is helpful to know someone has done it before. I really didn’t think an email address was a big deal!

      1. Joey

        Although dont be surprised if they say its too confusing to use different last names. If someone needs to quickly find you or they get a FOIA request it can be hugely confusing if your official last name and working last name don’t match.

      2. The IT Manager

        I am a woman, but have never been married. I am baffled about why you decided to change your name legally but want to continue to use your maiden name for work. If your maiden name is that important to you why did you make the decision to legally change your name.

        It seems like a huge hassle. Your work credit card and travel (flight) arrangements would have to be in your legal name that you are not known by at work. As other have mentioned below whatever federal identifaction card/badge required by your job(along with your state driver’s license) will have to be in your legal name which won’t match what others know you by. Your email should be able to handle both (using aliases) if your agency allows it, but overall it seems you’re inviting confusion, difficulty for others to contact you, and hours of your own time spent explaining to people why your go-by name does not match your legal name that’s on all your picture IDs.

        Nick names and use of middle names are one thing that people can handle, but different last names seems like your inviting a mess.

        1. mas

          I always wonder this too, why people change their name legally if they are just going to use their husband’s last name in social situations.

          1. Jamie

            Me too. Not judging, but if you want to go by two different last names it seems easier to keep the legal one the on you’d use at work. Your husband’s great Aunt Tilly isn’t trying to match it up with legal records when she sends you a fruit basket, but the people at the airport will when you travel for business.

            People can do what they want, of course, just seems like it would be less hassle and in social/personal situations use the non-legal name.

          2. ThursdaysGeek

            Yeah, in a social situation, people know me by Thursday Husband’sName, but at work, on my driver’s license, passport, taxes, etc, I use my legal name of Thursday MyName. (I was too lazy to change, and he didn’t care.)

            1. Anonymous

              Same for me- I didn’t change my name when I got married, so work , drivers license, SS ,bank accounts are all in my maiden name. Aunt Tillie doesn’t need ID to send me a check. I can still cash it if she sends it to the wrong name but I can’t get on a plane if the ticket is in the wrong name. Just to point out another problem with the email not matching the official name- unless you work in a small agency, the people outside of your immediate office are not going to know which name you go by. Payroll, human resources, training, the counsel’s office- all those areas that you don’t have much contact with are going to try to email Married Name not knowing your email is Maiden name.

          3. Diane

            Well crumb. I may be facing just this dilema soon, and I’m not sure what to do about my name. I’m used to my name. I tried smooshing our names together (Spock and McCoy became SpoCoy), which resulted in a great last name for our dog, but I don’t think anyone’s going to buy that for humans.

        2. Fedguy

          Exactly- this is more a technical problem than anything. Your legal name follows you through-out your government career in DOZENS of databases. You can print your business card and ask people to call you whatever you want — but you have to pick ONE name for any official paperwork. The federal government, for example, is so large that you will have numerous people you will NEVER meet entering information about you into multiple computer databases that are linked by your social security number and your name. By using two names, you are potentially jeopardizing everything from your time in service to retirement benefits to finding your emergency POC in a crisis. Furthermore, you often access these using databases using a single formal login (sometimes a common identification card) tied to your email. A different name on your email means you don’t get into those other accounts. Pick one name for official duties – and just advise your coworkers of your “nickname” if using both is that important.

          1. The IT Manager

            +1 This is an unusual case where I disagree with AAM’s answer and Fedguy explained why much better than me. At a small business you can say, “for legal purposed I am , but for everything else call me “. That will not work for the federal government.

            LW#1’s badge, CAC, PIV (whatever) is going to be a federally issued form of ID and will have to reflect her legal name.

            PS I do understand that it’s possible she may want her legal name to be the same as her husband in order to have the same name as any of their children, but in that case I think she has to suck it up and accept that that’s her name for business too. Working for the feds will probably require it.

          2. Anonymouse

            True dat. If you are a Fed, you’ll be filling-out lots of forms throughout your career that say “Have you ever gone by a different name?”

            If you don’t want to use your legal name, download some amusing apps, because you are going to spend a lot of time in the lobby when various departments can’t reconcile your information and your badge is turned on, then off, then on, then off.

    2. Carrie

      #1: Do you have to get a security clearance? I would think this might make a difference in whether you can use a non-legal name on your business cards or email.

    3. Judy

      One thing to keep in mind is travel arrangements. Our company’s policies are that your ID matches your credit card matches your travel profile, which is certainly a must these days. It could certainly cause confusion in group travel if the names are different.

      I think they also have a tie-in with the employee records (HR database) and the IT databases. Everyone’s account is firstname_m_lastname or f_m_lastname. Even the IT guy who goes by Mike is Robert_M_Jones, so I’m assuming it’s policy.

      This is for a F50 company.

    4. Sarah

      I do the same thing! I have a double last name. Some people use it at my work and others refuse to (will only use my married name, maybe because it’s a local name). My maiden name is on my degrees and publications, so I like to keep it. I have found that the more I use my double last name with confidence, the more people pick up on it. So once you do get a job, just continue to say it how you want to!

  4. Anonymous

    #1 I work for the government and I know people who use their maiden name professionally even after changing their legal name. However, the person has always worked in our office under their maiden name prior to getting married. Maybe your new employer is just uncomfortable with you asking to use a name that is not your legal name because they don’t know/trust you yet. They might be worried that you’re trying to hide something or deceive them for some reason.

    #6 Universities cannot and will not verify your GPA, unless they have your written permission to disclose it. Grades and GPA are protected information under federal law (https://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html). They can only disclose “directory information” like dates of attendance and degrees awarded. If, however, you did give them permission to disclose your GPA, they would verify the GPA earned only at that institution. This is also the GPA that would appear on your transcript if your employer asked for a copy. My recommendation would be to list both institutions if that’s the GPA you’re using (again, only if it is an impressive GPA though).

    1. TheSnarkyB

      Agreed – this is covered under FERPA.
      That aside, using your cumulative GPA next to just the name of the university is lying. I don’t personally have a huge problem with it, but it is definitely and without a question – a lie. The person reading it is going to assume you got a 3.6 at Big Deal U, with their own ideas about the prestige of Big Deal U and how hard the classes there must be. But that’s not really ok to say if you got a 2.4 at Big Deal U and a 4.6 (curved or something, i dunno) at Lil Awesome Comm. Coll., which the resume reader will have their own ideas about (prestige, etc.). The way different institutions are viewed is sometimes elitist B.S., but it’s sometimes legit. So yeah, that’s lying – I’d change it even though they can’t verify with the school.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      They can’t verify with the school without permission, but employers who want to verify GPA will require you to give them permission, so it’s kind of moot!

  5. Jessa

    Regarding number four – before saying it’s strictly none of the business of the employee I’d want to know why the issue of “the payroll was high” was on their radar. If they’re worried about other cheques they have to write bouncing, or if they’re supposed to issue things like the tax payments or something, suddenly finding out that a “secret bonus,” was given, could fall back on them. If they are responsible for the withholding and stuff, it could come back on them if the IRS comes after them for not having withheld on that bonus cheque. If they’re NOT responsible that way for finances then no, it’s not their business.

      1. Anon

        Quite. And I’m not at all sure what is meant by “secret bonus”. There is no implication from the posting that there is anything “secret” in terms of any evasion of any kind (though of course this might be the case). From the posting, it seemed more that the OP called it “secret” as it wasn’t transparent or discussed with the OP, which, of course, there is no need for it to be whatsoever. The OP’s objection seems to be based on a mistaken belief that he or she needs to be informed of the bonus and approve of it, and the reasons for it to be given, for it to be “ethical” and valid. And whether it’s “ethical” to the OP or not, doesn’t make it inherently wrong and or illegal. Definitely back off on this.

        1. Daisy

          The OP’s objection seems to be based on the fact that she didn’t get a bonus herself. I bet she wouldn’t be trying to find a reason to call it ‘unethical’ if she had.

          1. Mike C.

            Regardless of how wrong the OP is, I don’t think it’s fair to put words in their mouth.

            1. Daisy

              Well, since she mentions twice that the other employee is getting a bonus because she’s been there 15 years, and then ends on the complete non-sequitur that she’s been there 10 years, and the tone of the whole letter is extremely bitter- yes, I do think jealousy is a reasonable guess.

        2. Meg

          I think the OP assumes that the bonus was given because money is now tight with the employee’s husband being unemployed, so the Bonus Giver says, “Hey well, since we’re really really close and fantastic buddies, I’ll give you a bit more in your paycheck to help make up for lost finances due to your husband’s unemployment and call it a bonus since you’ve been here 15 years.”

          While I can see how the OP could have come to that conclusion, WHY she got a bonus is none of her business. But being the person who writes the check for the payroll, I’d notify someone higher up that it’s higher than what normal payroll is normally.

          Instead of asking, “Why is payroll higher than normal?” I think the OP could have said, “Hey, did you know payroll was higher than normal?” just in case someone was trying to sneak extra money out, or there was an accounting error, or something. Why it’s higher than normal though, is none of the OP’s business, and neither is why the employee got a bonus.

          1. Meg

            Also, I think I should say “higher than normal” one more time for good measure, since I clearly didn’t say it enough the first time. Whoops.

    1. Malissa

      Actually the fact that the OP picked up on the payroll being higher than normal is a good thing. Jumps in payroll could be an indicator of fraud. So to question this is should be normal business. But the conversation should end after finding out that a bonus was issued to X employee and that was reason for the jump and management is aware and approved this.

      Ideally the conversation would go like this:
      Employee- “Hey this payroll is X amount higher than normal.”
      Manager- “Oh yeah, X got a bonus for about that amount.”

      Well actually in the real world management should have told the person responsible for reviewing payroll that this payroll was going to be X amount higher this time.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yep, but the key thing is that it stops there. The OP isn’t positioned to judge the bonus or the reasons for it, and that stuff needs to stay none of her business.

        1. Malissa

          Thanks! I meant to include that’s where the conversation stops. I must need more tea this morning.

        2. Jessa

          Exactly. But really, it looks fishy if they don’t. The idea that they’re trying to slip it by the payroll people is the flag raiser to me. Either they’re trying to keep it from them (because they know it’s either not equitable or fishy,) or they’re trying to sneak something past that they know they really should not have done even if they have the authority to. When you start fiddling with the people who manage the accounts, I begin to wonder what else you’re doing.

          A lot of small companies have issues with the owners/higher ups playing fast and loose with the money. It’s why a lot of them go out of business. It’s fine to give a bonus but dammit there should be rules about how this is done. I wonder if the other partners/owners/stakeholders had any idea that this money was going out of the building?

          However, even non equitable is allowed. If they were worried that the financial person would be all “UNFAIR!!!” then I can see why they’d keep their mouths shut. Even though it’s stupid in the extreme to because it has the appearance as they say of “the near appearance of shady (sin.)”

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            In a 5-person organization, I’m thinking they weren’t doing anything fishy; they just didn’t care to advertise the bonus to the coworker (the OP).

  6. Jberry

    #5, I work in an environment that seeks a PhD or MA with 7 years’ experience. For candidates with PhDs, that 7 years’ experience is usually not necessary, though 5 years’ experience typically is. If you’re applying to jobs that pertain to policy, or even perhaps applied research, those 3-5 years’ experience are probably going to have more weight than your PhD, unless it brings some subject matter expertise that is critically needed for projects. Before I got this experience, I was in your shoes. I had the qualitative and quantitative in-school experience. I had research and teaching assistantships and overseas development experience. My graduate work was content and theory related, with little practical application beyond understanding the full picture, its theoretical implications, and what things really look like on the ground. Your graduate experience may be different. But I’m writing this to say that without relevant experience, you should be applying for more “higher level” entry-level positions, if that phrasing makes sense, that have the potential for rapid advancement, once you understand the nuts and bolts of how projects are managed (Gantt charts, budgets, coordination of staff, and being the subject matter expert to boot), client expectations, etc. Your graduate degree will probably allow you to grasp policies and procedures much more quickly than others without that content expertise. But without those directly related hard skills, particularly if they are prominently placed in the job ad, I don’t know that you’ll have much of a chance against others who have similar qualifications, but actual experience. It really is a different world. Could you do an internship while you look for work to get this experience?

    1. MNT

      I do have 2 years of experience in survey research prior to going in to graduate school, and I try to highlight that in conjunction with my experience as a graduate student. Any advice on how to pinpoint “higher entry level” positions? I’m definitely willing to do the work, and network with anyone I can. I’ve got a few informational interviews scheduled, and I hope that they help to clarify some things.

  7. Athlum

    #5 – You don’t say where you are located, which is fair, but I know of two major west coast regions, two major east coast regions, and one midwestern region where PhDs are regularly being hired outside of academe — even in the current economy — so it’s safe to say that’s not it. Here are some red flags that jumped out at me from your letter; giant “YMMV” disclaimer, of course:

    – You…went to your university’s career center. Frankly I’m honestly surprised that anyone with a PhD would do that to start with, for any reason, but after (presumably) reading this blog and encountering the many horror stories of how career centers fail even undergrads…it is a small thing, but it makes me question your judgment, just a little.

    – You’re applying to “industry.” Is this “industry” as in “anything non-academic,” or industry as in private sector? Are you considering government and non-profit jobs, and applied science jobs that are affiliated with academic centers but which are not faculty positions?

    – You’re staying away from director-level positions, which is great, but what about all the levels between director and “grunt”? You may still be aiming too high…

    – You say: “I am well-versed in most statistical techniques.” I don’t know what that means, “most statistical techniques,” but I wouldn’t even say it about myself. What can you do: simple univariate and bivariate stuff; ANOVA/regression; cluster analysis; factor analysis; meta-analysis; SEM; HLM; growth curve modeling; LCA/LPA/LLCA/LLPA; power analysis; MCMC simulations; Baeysian approaches; other techniques I’m not even thinking of right now? I appreciate simplifying for the purposes of asking a question to the AAM blog, but I hope you’re not saying you have a command of “most statistical techniques” in your cover letter or resume.

    – Similarly, you “have a great deal of experience with project management (managing undergraduates and colleagues on various projects)”…oh wow, no, just no. I don’t mean to devalue the experience you do have — and I ran a lab in grad school too, I know how much work that is — but “experience managing projects” is not the same as “project management experience.” Maybe double-check the language you’re using to be sure you’re highlighting the work you’ve actually been doing, and hopefully not stepping on terms that have their own meanings outside the ivory tower…

    I’m sorry if any of this comes across as harsh; doubly so since I’m a fellow non-clinical psychologist who made that same transition, and I was in your boat once! But you’re coming across to me, at least, like someone whose head is still wrapped up in the academic point of view — a little egotistical (and you have to be, to survive, I get that), and a little clueless, and like you’d be a whole lot of work to train up in the non-faculty-researcher’s way of doing things. You do come across as smart, and your work would probably justify the investment, but it seems like it’d take a lot of work up front to get you there…and that’s a hard sell when there are other candidates at your level who seem easier to bring on board.

    1. MNT

      Hi, #5 here. Thanks very much for your comments so far, but I thought I’d clarify/address a few things.

      I’m in the midwest, about 1.5 hours from Chicago. I hadn’t considered that applying to places in DC or Seattle or even Chicago would be hesitant to hire (or even interview) someone when they live so far away. I haven’t been geographically restricting my search, and so have been applying to positions posted anywhere in the continental US. in speaking with a few others, this appears to be a pretty significant concern, so I think in my subsequent cover letters I’ll be explicit about relocation (e.g., “I plan to relocate to X city in Y month and will be available for interviews at Z time” or something similar, but I welcome specific suggestions).

      Okay, to specific points:

      -Question my judgment all you like, but I went out of desperation. I couldn’t just sit around waiting for the phone to ring, so I went. There is one person at my career center whose job is exclusively to help PhD students transition into the non-academic work world, so I figured I might at least learn something. I did not, so fail on my part, but I wouldn’t know that if I didn’t try, right? Also, I stumbled on the AAM blog after going to the CC.

      -Until recently, I had been applying to positions specifically within the private sector, but more recently have applied to government positions and a few non-profits as well.

      -I would LOVE specific feedback regarding the levels at which I should be aiming, actually. I see everything from Research- Assistant, Analyst, and Scientist, to Psychologist, Methodologist, and Psychometrician. Of course the job descriptions vary, but I can’t tell if there’s an inherent hierarchy embedded within these titles or if it really depends on the organization. What’s “grunt” level? What’s aiming too high? I read elsewhere on AAM that if you have 80% of what they are looking for, you should go ahead and apply. Maybe that seems over-ambitious to a hiring manager, I don’t know. How do you know when something is “higher entry level”? I am happy to work my way up, just need to know where to start.

      -I shortened that for the purposes of this AAM blog, and yes, I spell out the techniques explicitly in my application materials. I figured spelling out all the acronyms and techniques would be boring for those readers who are unfamiliar and come off as egotistical (look what I can do, guys!).

      -Noted, thank you.

      In my own defense, I’m not egotistical. It’s part of the reason I’m leaving the “ivory tower”, because too many people in academe think too highly of themselves, and I am uncomfortable with that mindset and around those kinds of people. I like work and research to be about the research, not about the egos behind it. And I actually really struggle with confidence, so to say I’m egotistical misses the mark. However. The being a little clueless, and a lot of work for someone to train up, probably hits a little closer to home and I genuinely do appreciate your feedback.

      1. Nichole

        FWIW, I think utilizing resources is always a good thing. Going to the college career center is taking advantage of the resources available-and there are some good ones out there. I wouldn’t question someone for asking for advice unless they followed it blindly.

      2. Athlum

        Hey MNT – thanks for checking back in. And oh man, I am trying very hard right now to NOT figure out if I know you, or if we went to the same institution!

        Re: location, your new approach sounds great, and should definitely make a difference — many of the research and analysis jobs are on the coasts, and there are enough strong local candidates (from very strong local schools) that it can be hard to pull an interview from a distance. Definitely commit to the move and express those dates in the cover letter.

        Re: sectors, I would strongly recommend ramping up your search in government (slow but plentiful – also, consider state, not just federal) and non-profits. Most major universities will have a number of affiliated centers (medical or otherwise) that are run as non-profits and engage in a lot of research — don’t be afraid to search out university job listings, even, where some of these non-faculty positions may be housed.

        Re: levels, certainly it varies by industry, but in mine (biomedical) you would be overqualified for Research Assistant or Associate, and underqualified for Manager and up (based on work experience, not skills). Something like Scientist or Staff Scientist, Analyst, Statistician/Biostatistician, etc. does sound appropriate, and if you’re not getting interviews for those jobs, your resume is either stuck in the system or you’re not conveying in your cover letter what you (as a theoretically trained content person!) bring to interactions with investigators that pure math/stats people don’t. Read Psychologist job descriptions carefully — here, that title is reserved for folks who do clinical psych, but there are other places where it may include I/O or comparable areas. Methodologist and Psychometrician may be appropriate or not; here, you’d be too junior for those — they’d be reserved for someone who’s been publishing in methods for a few years — but again, that could easily differ by institution.

        General advice I forgot to mention last time: always connect with hiring managers directly, and watch out for HR/application system hell. You do have skills that map on beautifully to research in other areas, but HR staff may not be qualified to recognize that: if the job description says “Master’s in statistics or biostatistics required, PhD preferred” and you show up with a PhD in psych, you’re still potentially dead in the water. The hiring manager ought to recognize that a lot of stats coursework and a few pubs where you do the analysis they want amounts to adequate expertise, but HR might not put those pieces together even if you lay it out in the cover letter, and God help you if you’re subject to automated systems that do keyword searches.

        Lastly, re: judgment and egotism: I’m not suggesting you ARE egotistical – I’m saying, to me, your writing makes you come across that way. I get your point about having gone to the career center before reading AAM; I don’t necessarily understand why you chose to mention it in your letter, only for the sake of calling it “completely useless.” You ask “is it as I fear,” which implies looking for excuses why your attempts so far haven’t succeeded (confirmation bias?) — look, all of these are teeny tiny small things and I am having a damn hard time expressing myself clearly this morning, but for me they all added up to an overall impression of someone who would be difficult to acclimate to a collaborative, team research environment. (Not as bad as today’s Biology PhD letter, but that’s not saying much.) And I guess what I’m saying is, I used to be in your position and I presented myself differently and I got a job; now I hire people like you, and your letter made me feel like I wouldn’t want to consider you for a job. So maybe there’s something in there, however poorly I’m getting it across…

        1. MNT

          Athlum-I actually wondered the exact same thing (re: location), and I genuinely wouldn’t be surprised if we did go to the same institution!

          Just wanted to let you know that I genuinely appreciate your feedback, including the part about coming off in my writing as egotistical. I decided initially to write in because I was tired of floundering, and realized that something was amiss. From yours and others’ comments, it seems there are several things I can address and change, including the tone of my writing. And were I to write the letter again, it’d probably be less whiney and a lot more solicitous, but thankfully people are piping in with good suggestions, feedback, and solidarity regardless. And you’re right–you’re the one who’s employed right now!

          Anyway, mea culpa on that, truly.

          Back to it.

          Re: Levels–This helps, thank you. Will do.

          Re: Connecting with hiring managers directly–this seems like pretty good advice, and I’ve certainly been caught in the HR application hell. You don’t think connecting directly with HR directors is presumptive? I guess it all depends on how it is phrased, but I’ll give it a go.

          Again, thanks for your feedback!

          1. Athlum

            No worries, and I’m glad you’ve gotten some useful advice as a result of posting :) I hope your search goes better in the future.

            One clarification on the end – “hiring manager” and “HR director” are two totally separate people — AAM has a post on here somewhere specifically about that, but HR is a department full of people who handle the business end of hiring, processing, terminating employees, administering benefits, etc. The hiring manager is the person in the department you’re applying to, who actually wanted the job ad to be posted, and who will likely be your supervisor or boss.

            There’s no good reason to talk to HR any more than you need to, to provide information as requested. But there are very very good reasons to reach out to the hiring manager if you can find out who they are, especially if your application is likely to get lost due to those keyword mismatches. AAM has a great post on June 4, 2009 explaining the process on the employer’s side; the key note at the top, though, is that “larger companies often automate the early stages of this” (or let the recruiter deal with it). Which is why your materials can mysteriously vanish even when your hiring manager would have been really interested in you.

            So, disclaimer, I am not every hiring manager either, and following this advice could hurt you some places as much as it would help you in my organization, but: I would be thrilled to have a candidate email me — once, and a good 2-4 weeks after having already applied — to make sure their resume came across my desk. Don’t email multiple times (even if you don’t get a reply); don’t call; and really don’t show up in person. But in a single (short!) email, you can convey that you’re enthusiastic, that you have the skills we need even if your credentials differ slightly from the job posting, and you understand the system enough not to let HR or automated programs derail you. Again, this would likely bother hiring managers accepting applications for jobs where you will get 100+ applicants. When you’re hiring a researcher, or heaven help you a methodologist, the applicant pool is much smaller by nature, and it’s less of a burden to receive cold emails from prospective applicants. (And I at least would hate to miss out on a great applicant with exceptional skills because they happened to be trained in my own field, as opposed to public health or epidemiology or whatnot.)

            Best of luck!

    2. badger_doc

      +1 I wholeheartedly agree with this! When we are hiring PhDs directly out of school, often they start at lower levels than Masters candidates with 2-5 years of industry experience. That experience outside of academia is SO valuable. Industry and academia run at completely different paces and “project” management of your dissertation does not even come close to project management of an actual commercialization project. I think OP is aiming too high at the positions he is applying for. When I was in the biotech industry, we liked to hire PhDs at no higher than a Scientist 2 or Engineer 2 level and sometimes that was even too high for some candidates. I now work in the consumer products industry and I see brand new PhD candidates struggle daily with the fast paced commercialization environment at an entry level position. I am not trying to discount all the hard work and effort you put into your PhD, but to be honest, that doesn’t matter to anyone in industry. No one cares where you went to school or what your degree level is. All they care about is how you perform. My advice is to get into a small start up company at an entry level position, prove your worth, get promoted rapidly, stay for a few years and you can pretty much go wherever you want after that. Good luck to you!

    3. Toast

      Hey Athlum, would you be willing to specify what industry you transitioned into from academia and how you went about selling your academic training to employers?

      1. Athlum

        Toast – sure thing! To the first part, see yesterday’s “should I be grateful to have a job” post on AAM, comment at 4:31 pm :)

        To the second part, part of it was networking – the school job and postdoc were both via people involved in the work I did that funded my dissertation – and part of it was reading everything I could find about the jobs I was applying to (job description, sure, but also the institutions, facilities, management structure) and writing my letters with an eye toward what I could bring to the organization in addition to being a good fit for the posted job. I also made sure to follow up directly with the hiring manager (who had a similar background to me) — absolutely essential, since my resume had gotten lost in HR’s system for three months!

        But a lot of it was really just thoughtful anticipation/speculation about why I would be a good investment: “You want someone who can do analyses X, Y, and Z for this project. And I can totally do that; here are the courses I took, and samples of written work where I demonstrate those skills. But I can also help you write those up for publication at the end, and manage your summer interns so we can be even more productive, and I learn pretty quickly so if there’s a new technique or approach that would help the team, I’m always eager to expand my knowledge…” Didn’t go into that in the cover letter, of course, but it did come up in the interview, and sure enough I’ve developed skills in two totally new fields as a result. :)

        But yeah, they’re hiring both for what they need now and what they (might not even know they) will need in the future. There’s always going to be strong competition for the former category; if you can steer them toward seeing you as a safe bet for the latter category, you’ll be in a strong position.

  8. Clint

    One thing to consider for #1 is what kind of federal job it will be. If it is one where you will need to be issued an CAC/ECA/HSPD12 card, then those by regulation are typically required to be issued in your legal name and then your email address is tied to credential.

  9. Jubilance

    #3 – when I worked on the recruiting team, our company had a policy of noting the important info for a candidate in the lower right corner of the resume. Things like GPA, FT vs intern, and geographic preference. Couldn’t you do something like that instead of suggesting candidates have an objective?

  10. Anon Fed

    #1 It depends very much on the type of job.
    If you have a fed job that requires a security clearance or gives you access to sensitive information, I can see why your email would need to match your legal name on all your hiring and official paperwork. Your IT folks will need to be able to match what you send out with with the specific employee in the files. If you send information by email that you shouldn’t (PII, SBU, or sensitive information), the security and tech guys need to know who to come after quickly. Also, if your emails get FOIA’d, they need to have your name, not nickname. Depending on your agency, the computer systems make also be integrated into payroll, travel, leave, medical clearances, etc in such a way that doesn’t permit two names in the systems for one employee. Travel orders could get confusing, for example, if your emailing from one name but need travel orders and voucher payments in another. If you send an email or log into the travel system using your email or computer username, tickets get issue and emailed to..whom? In short, I think it would very much depend on the type of federal job you have. For some federal positions and agencies, I think it would be very possible to use both Maiden and Married name, in whatever combination. For other positions, I can see it would be both a legal and a security risk, in addition to endless potential for all sorts of annoying chaotic bureaucratic things that you’d spend hours and hours fixing later.

      1. -X-

        It’s kind of funny that a government that assigns a unique numeric ID to almost every person at birth can’t have systems that use that ID or a similar ID number to reconcile multiple names…..

        Names are not unique. Many people have the same name and many people have more than one name. In taxation, the SS# solves problems that come from this. In government employment there could easily be a similar system – a unique ID# assigned with the first job.

        And agencies relying on names to add security? Weak. Names are not unique.

        1. Anon Fed

          True. But SSNs have to link up to a specific name, not two or three names, if they are to be useful for security purposes. Also, SSN’s must not be shared nor stored except in certain circumstances, by law, and the name will still be necessary in most circumstances. SSN’s are not used for travel purposes nor vouchers – it’s the name on the ticket that the TSA checks, for example. There is no need for the travel folks to have my SSN, but they do need my name and DOB. The SSN+name+DOB, and in some cases + Unique Employee ID number is the double check that is often used for security purposes. If the SSN does not match the name, it’s a fraud indicator, which may shut down all sorts of things and create problems. In addition, a SSN won’t help you if you’re FOIA’d – the person asking for a copy of your email conversation with X isn’t going to do it using your SSN. I could go on, but you have the gist.

        2. The IT Manager

          It’s more that the unique identifier is associated with only one legal name.

          1. -X-

            My point is that there is no reason that the names have to be part of the security process at all. They’re just labels over the unique identifier that is used (with other credentials/passwords/tokens/whatever) for security.

            “But SSNs have to link up to a specific name, not two or three names, if they are to be useful for security purposes.”

            No. They just have to link up to a single, specific person. Logically the names are just labels that can be used in different circumstances to describe that person.

            1. Cat

              But someone’s interface in the real world is their name, so if the government is trying to match up real world actions with a specific SSN, it gets more difficult the more different names a person uses.

  11. Ann O'Nemity

    #3 – Networking is going to be really important in transitioning from academia, especially if you’re lacking non-academic experience. Do any of your professors have contacts in industry, gov’t, or nonprofits? I’m really surprised that they haven’t played a bigger role in your job search. In my experience, PhD students do not go to the university career center; instead they receive very tailored career advice from their professors for the last two years of their program. Reach out to your chair and committee members if you haven’t already.

    And consider the Presidential Management Fellowship program. It’s highly competitive, but it’s an amazing way for new grad school graduates to get on the fast track in a federal gov’t career.

    1. Toast

      As a non-clinical psychology PhD myself, I speak from experience in saying that it is extremely difficult to get access to non-academic job hunting information from advisors. In fact, I ended up taking a tenure track job which was a horrible fit for me in part because of the lack of information available in non-academic careers for PhDs. Even talking about looking for a career outside of academe was hugely frowned upon by faculty. Anyhow, I just wanted to thank the LW for submitting the question because I’m also looking for a job where I can use my non-clinical psychology training.

      1. Athlum

        “Even talking about looking for a career outside of academe was hugely frowned upon by faculty”

        Now that is a familiar sentiment — and a not insignificant factor in pushing me out! One of my area’s faculty actually said, with a straight face, “applied science isn’t really science.” Because lab experimentation on undergrads is SO much more important, amirite? :\

  12. taivins

    For #1, that’s frustrating. I ran into a similar issue, only with my FIRST name. In school I established my personal brand/web presence and published my thesis with a common diminutive of my first name (legally Tamara, but I went by Tammy); I still used my legal last name. When I graduated & got a job, I had to fight with my new employer to let me go by “Tammy.” They insisted that my name tag & business cards read my full name and that people refer to me that way (because of unexplained ‘legal reasons’). They caved when I explained that I would continue to publish professionally under the diminutive first name, but there was grumbling about me being unreasonable. Siiigh.

      1. Jamie

        Totally odd – and that sucks. This would result in a lot of Tamaras, Michaels, Katherines, Cynthias, and Thomas’ wasting a lot of time telling people to call me Tammy, Mike, Kate, Cindy, and Tom.

        Ridiculous policy.

  13. Chocolate Teapot

    Oh, the number of people I have difficulty finding because I know them as Cathy, but in the company database they are Catherine. (Repeat ad-infinitum for Kates, Joes, Wills, Bens and the person who goes by their second name…)

    1. BLUEFIN

      I’m Kate (legally). Just Kate. It’s on my birth certificate, and every other legal doument, always has been. BUT people are ALWAYS changing my name to Katherine or Katelynn on things. It drives me nuts. My name is Kate! :)

  14. Meg

    #1: As a federal contractor, I too have to go by my legal first name (Megan). My email and usernames that use my first name, all the databases, my paychecks, my IDs, etc have Megan on it. But my email signature and my cubicle tag with my name on it uses “Meg.” If I ever had business cards, I would use and be able to use “Meg” but my PIV/US govt ID says “Megan.”

    I would use your legal name for anything that people need to legally identify you with, including employee email, paychecks, etc. As far as business cards go, or your cubicle identifier/placard/whatever else that doesn’t have legal implications, your maiden name.

    1. Jessa

      On the other side of this there is no reason really why you can’t sign your emails as Meg Smith. Or Mary Margaret “Meg” Smith.

      Or stick out your hand and go “call me Jessa,” I do it all the time. People are fully aware that legal names and what people are called are not the same.

      Heck Jessa is my legal first MIDDLE name anyway. Nobody seems to have an issue with it on the job even if my email is Legal First Name, Last Name. Technically my first middle name is Jessica. And I still manage to sign my emails “Jessa” if they’re informal, and “L. Jessica” if they’re not.

  15. AdAgencyChick

    #2: You can’t change other people’s behavior (unless you are their manager, and even then you still can’t make them change, just make it clear how they need to change and what the consequences are if they don’t, then manage them out if they don’t). You can only change how you react to their behavior. So Alison is totally right: although you cannot make your coworker pick up her own slack, you can go to your manager and explain what you can get done in the time you have, and how would s/he like you to prioritize your work list based on that?

    Your manager is happy to let you take on the extra work because it’s easy for her to do so — you’re doing it and not bringing up the issue. Once you tell her “I can do X amount of work, how would you like me to prioritize?” it becomes her problem, and she will have to figure out how to motivate your coworker, or accept that certain work won’t be done on the schedule she’d like. If she’s unreasonable, she may just say, “I expect you to get it all done,” but I think you’re pretty safe saying, “I can do only X, if you want Y and Z as well, then I have to hand something off, or else change the deadlines, because there’s no way I can do X, Y, and Z in so many hours a week.”

  16. Anonymous

    #5. So a Ph.d is equal to a Masters + 3-5 years experience. How about a J.D. relative to experience? This is for an admin job at a university.

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.

      At a university, it might be different, but as a hire-er I’d be really reluctant to count a JD as an exchange for any amount of experience. I mean, unless you were applying for a paralegal job, maybe? But for admin, I don’t think it translates.

      1. The IT Manager

        I think the idea is that a Phd student was a researcher in a lab during his/her schooling (some anyway). Law students can do internships and will show that on a resume, but it’s not the same.

  17. W.W.A.

    Re: #2: I know AAM often gives the advice that, when your workload is too much, you need to speak with your manager and make it clear what you can and can’t reasonably do. However, I just want to say that I did this once and my manager literally told me to stop whining and get out of his office. I think you need to know your manager and figure out if you’re going to get pushback during this conversation, because you might. And then you may need a plan B.

    1. akb

      #1 – I actually tried to do this as well, and although I’d HEARD of many employers accommodating this situation, I’ve never actually encountered it personally. My current employer is actually willing, in principle, to let me use my maiden name professionally. But in practice it’s complicated. My business cards and office plaque say “FirstName MaidenName”. My e-mail address is FirstNameMaidenName@company.com, but the name that shows up next to it in e-mail application and on our website is “Married Name, First Name Maiden Name.” Essentially it’s because all of these applications draw from the same database as HR, and there’s no field in the master database for “Preferred Last Name.” The best I could do was change my “Preferred First Name” to include my maiden name in it. For my employer to accommodate me, they’d have to change the structure of their database to distinguish between legal and preferred last names.

      It does cause confusion at work. My colleagues weren’t sure which name I prefer. I told them to use my maiden name, which they do, but then the admin staff at other offices get confused when they’re asked to set something up for “FirstName MaidenName” when no such person exists in their database.

      My frustration with this whole issue made me realize that I never really wanted to change my name. I’ve since filed a petition to change it– now I’ll be FirstName HusbandsName MaidenName legally. I wish it had occurred to me to just do that in the first place, but I’m not especially creative.

    2. akb

      W.W.A. – apologies! I didn’t meant to reply to your comment. I can’t internet today.

  18. Smithy

    I get very cross about this married women’s name thing. Changing your name on marriage dates back to when a female was the property of her father (and thus had his name) until she married and was ‘given away’ (do you use that expression in the US?) during the marriage service, by her father to her new husband – and then she became her husband’s property and thus took his name. And in this enlightened age, we still expect women to take their husband’s name!!!!

    I’m in the UK (as you may have guessed) and in this country you can call yourself absolutely anything you want so long as there is no intention to defraud. So I’m completely unfamiliar with you folk referring to the husband’s name as his wife’s ‘legal’ name. Is that really the case?

    There are hundreds of people with the same name as you – in a big organisation there may well be several people with the same name. So citing ‘security’ is a nonsense. Anyway, some women get married several times, so do they have a succession of ‘legal’ names?

    So to the OP – sounds to me as though that HR person is quite simply wrong.

    1. Anonymous

      With all due respect, I think you’re reading something that’s not there. Women can *voluntarily* change their name, the same way that women in the UK can voluntarily change their name, when they get married. The “legal” name is the name that a person is known by legally. You can call yourself whatever you want, but you still have one legal name at any given time. It has nothing to do with women in particular, although marriage is one of the more common situations for name change.

      1. Anonymous

        to add – as an analogy, it wouldn’t be OK for someone to have a different name on the passport than their driver’s licence, right? (Transliteration issues for foreign names aside) Same with their tax records. In my experience that’s all anyone means when they say legal name.

    2. Jamie

      Many cultural customs have less than pleasant roots if you trace them back far enough. And no one expects anyone to do anything – a woman take change her name if she likes or not – personal choice.

      Some women like the tradition – that’s why I did it. Most of the women I know have taken their husbands name after marriage in some fashion – either a direct swap or hyphenating …but never because it symbolized transferring the title.

      A lot of women still wear white wedding gowns…despite what that used to symbolize to many people. I know I’m not the only woman in the world for whom the white dress was merely a quaint custom best not to be examined too closely.

      1. Kou

        I would also argue that people definitely expect a name change and some can get very snippy if you don’t do it, even people who have no connection to you whatsoever. My mother never changed her name and mine is hyphenated with both, and I have spent my entire life getting crap about it from people when telling them my name. I have people I barely know, upon hearing my last name for the first time, tell me that my mother is uppity and selfish probably once or twice a year, to say nothing of what people actually say to her. And we know plenty of people who refuse to use her maiden name and always use her husband’s.

        1. anonintheUK

          I have a cousin who did not change her name at all when she married, as she decided being Jane Solo for work and Jane Skywalker for private life would just lead to confusion. This led to one of our more traditionalist relatives addressing correspondence to her and her husband as ‘Mr Skywalker and Ms Solo (a married couple)’.

        2. KellyK

          Yeah, definitely. No one *has* to change their name, but there’s a lot of pressure for the woman to do so. In some cases, it’s also a huge legal hassle for a man who wants to take his wife’s name. (The two guys I know who have done it haven’t had any problems I heard about, but a guy in Florida got his driver’s license suspended for “fraud” when he took his wife’s name.)

    3. Sarah

      I understand your frustration. I will say that I know a couple where they combined their last names and both people took that last name. Kind of cool!

  19. Smithy

    With all due respect, I’m not sure what this concept of a ‘legal’ name actually is. Any name which is not ‘illegal’ I suppose – and that would be a name used to defraud.

    As for using different names on your passport, driving licence, etc. No reason why not. It could occasionally cause practical problems, but not legal ones.

    After all, it is extremely common for politicians, doctors, scientists and all manner of professional and other women to continue to use their single names all their lives – even if they marry one or more times.

    But it does seem odd that women have this issue, but in all my years at work I have only come across one man who changed his name. (With the exception of people in entertainment.) And he did not do it in order to bond with his wife.

    1. Jamie

      As for using different names on your passport, driving licence, etc. No reason why not. It could occasionally cause practical problems, but not legal ones.

      I don’t even know how you could do that in the US without breaking the law. You need multiple forms of ID to get either a DL or a passport.

      Your legal name is what is attached to your SSN. It’s the name under which you pay taxes, the name under which you register to vote, and the name they will call you in court if you go to trial for anything.

      You can certainly go by anything you like, the government doesn’t care how you introduce yourself or the signature you use for your Christmas cards. But if you have official business it’s the legal name that matters. When you go to buy a house or car – signing the paperwork – you have to use your legal name which ties to your SSN.

      I can decide that every Tuesday I go by Jamie Maidenname…and on weekends for fun I go by Jamie Jamie’sMom’sMaidenName..and I perform my nightclub act under Jamie Van Halen. All of that is fine – crazy, but fine – and it’s within my rights…but I certainly can’t expect the government to recognize a non-legal name.

      It’s also not that big a deal to change it. I went from my married name > 1st husbands name > maiden name > current husbands name. So I’ve had 3 different last names in my life – and each time it was changed I got a new social security card. So you really can go by whatever you like – but if you want it to be legally recognized you have to do the paperwork. It’s just recordkeeping.

      And women don’t have this issue. No one is making anyone change their name. The issue is in wanting to go by a name that’s not your legal one in the workplace – a man who wanted to do the same would have the same issues.

      1. Anonymous

        There’s an excellent example upthread about a man that usually went by a diminutive of his middle name – so “Mike Jones” was legally “Robert Michael Jones”.

      2. Cassie

        I don’t know if it’s true that the name on your SSN is your legal name, though – I think US birth certificate/US passport trumps SSN. Especially since social security cards do not have photos on them.

        I just googled SSN and identification – looks like past versions of the SSN card had “not valid for identification” stamped on it. Interesting!

    2. Cassie

      In California, the DMV now requires that you use your “True Full Name” for driver’s license or state ID card. Basically whatever your name is listed on either your US birth certificate/passport or other legal presence document is the one that will be on your DL/ID. It didn’t used to be like this (I’m thinking pre-9/11).

      My dad goes by his transliterated given name, although his US passport has an American name. However, when he first came to the US, he went by “Harry” so his DL has his transliterated given name and “Harry”. He can’t change his DL though because he would be required to show his passport which has a name that he only uses for 1) traveling abroad and 2) voting. For everything else – work (he works for local government), filing taxes, etc – he goes by his transliterated name. (His SSN is tied to his transliterated name – but that is not legal presence evidence so tough luck for him).

      For athletes who go by different names, I think those are mostly “nicknames”. Like Magic Johnson’s legal name is still Earvin Johnson (I think?). But everyone knows him as Magic. Unless we’re talking about Metta World Peace (formerly legally-known as Ron Artest) but he changed his name legally.

  20. Smithy

    Well in that case, the law is different in the USA to the UK.

    I don’t have any ‘paperwork’ to support my choice of name, and I am certainly not breaking the law in this country. The police are not going to arrest me and take me to court for choosing a different name.

    As far as having a hyphenated surname – mum’s name-dad’s name. It is so common for parents not to be married nowadays, that having both parents’ surnames joined with a hyphen is very common indeed.

    And as for wearing white wedding dress – that is of course a popular choice. But you still find people who think that a female changing her name on marriage is actually a legal requirement, but I don’t suppose many of them think that their choice of wedding dress is as well.

    NB – I assume an SSN is similar to a National Insurance Number in the UK? National Insurance being a sort of additional tax which entitles the individual to unemployment benefit, sickness/disability benefit, free healthcare, state pension, etc. And you need an NI number to work, and to open most bank accounts.

    1. Cassie

      It sounds like an SSN is similar to the National Insurance Number in the UK. SSN is a number assigned to you so you can report your income/pay taxes, which is linked with any unemployment benefits, disability and retirement. It’s generally for people who have income – I know that international students who don’t have jobs here usually cannot get an SSN.

      There’s also ITIN (individual taxpayer identification numbers) for people who aren’t eligible for SSN, but need a number to use to pay taxes – those are less common.

    2. Anonymous

      Maybe it’s a question of terminology, but when I read “I don’t have any ‘paperwork’ to support my choice of name”, I think of a “nickname” or a “preferred name”. The only thing “legal” about legal names is that they go on your paperwork, that’s all. So if you have a chosen name that’s not on your paperwork (say, for example, Lee Yoo Chin goes by “Harry Chin”, to steal a first name from another comment), then in North America, you’re simply Lee Yoo Chin on all your paperwork, and Harry Chin socially.

      1. Anonymous

        And for completeness, since this is a career-advice blog, people in those circumstances often put “Lee Yoo (Harry) Chin” on their resume so that people know what they like to be called, along with the name that can be used to verify education and past employment.

  21. ITPuffNStuff

    #4 – this depends on what is normal in that company. If Company X normally gives bonus Y for 15 years of service, I see no issue here. On the other hand, if the company does not normally give bonuses based on years of service, and particularly if the amount of the bonus is substantially higher than normal at this company, I would interpret that as an indicator that this bonus had nothing to do with the employee’s work.

    Would that be unethical? Possibly. Is there anything the payroll person can do about it? I doubt it. Unless there is some clear violation of law or written company policy, no action from the payroll person will change the bonus, and may have a negative impact on the payroll person’s professional reputation. Even if there is a clear violation of company policy, whether the policy will be enforced really depends on that company’s management. Some companies reward whistle blowers; others view them as complainers.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      It’s only unethical if the person giving the bonus had some way of hiding it from the person who needed to sign off on it, which is extremely unlikely — and doesn’t sound like the case here or what the OP is complaining about. She’s upset that it was hidden from her.

    2. Jamie

      Why would it be unethical? Small company most certainly doesn’t have public stockholders to whom they need to account.

      If the boss wanted to give a bonus out of the blue because you were wearing cute shoes they can. Advisable – maybe not – but they can and certainly don’t owe other employees an explanation.

  22. Cheryl Becker

    #1. I am going to come off as very biased here, so I apologize for that up front. But, I have to say, the solution is, don’t ever change your name. Men don’t. I didn’t. Sometimes I cannot help but laugh (or really, cluck my tongue) when women marry, divorce, marry, divorce, and keep changing their name. There’s a solution: Don’t ever change your name. Full stop.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this lately since I’m getting married this year and do like the idea of us both having the same last name. But I definitely wouldn’t change my name professionally, and using two seems like a hassle. I could see doing it if I’d gotten married at 23 when I didn’t have an adult identity yet, but at 39? I think I’m going to leave everything as it is. (Which is not to judge other people who choose differently, but this has ended up seeming the most reasonable way to me.)

    2. Jamie

      It may be harder for some than others – I would imagine for women who have very public facing jobs or like Alison are so extensively published it would be complicated to change. Not impossible – just more of a PITA than as Alison says if you do it early twenties before you are really established.

      I do take issue with your “solution” in that it’s just as one sided as those who expect women to change their names…which is also wrong. You laugh or cluck your tongue at women who make a different choice than what you made – and I don’t understand why. Not everyone needs your solution because it isn’t a problem for everyone – it’s an errand. A trip to the DMV and SS office and done.

      IMO I don’t know why people waste time judging others for things that don’t affect them personally instead of just being happy we live in an age where we can make our own choices about this.

      1. Athlum

        Jamie — the cheeky answer is because people waste time judging each other for EVERYTHING, so why not this? ;)

        The more considered answer — and I try not to judge, but it is hard — is that it’s a feminist issue. Consider all the comments upthread about the social pressure on women to change their names upon marriage — Kou’s in particular made me really sad. That pressure exists because of a norm that is deeply entrenched, and those who challenge that norm (by keeping their own name, or insisting both partners hyphenate, or whatever) often see those who don’t as reinforcing it. Which makes life harder for those who do want to make the other, less socially approved choice. Choices aren’t made in a vacuum, the political is personal, &c.

        I believe the same argument undergirds the often intensely vitriolic arguments surrounding stay-at-home motherhood, not that I want to poke at that particular beehive in this thread. :)

        1. Jamie

          Isn’t feminism about the right to make our own choices and follow our own paths?

          If women who want to take their husbands names refused to do so and kept their own to make a political statement that’s not being true to ourselves. The response to some women feeling backlash from people who disapprove of them not changing their names isn’t to create backlash to women to who for making a different choice.

          I totally understand what you’re saying – I just don’t agree that personal choices should be made to make a political statement. Kind of like having kids isn’t a statement that everyone should…people need to follow their own paths.

  23. J.R.

    #6. I’m disappointed to read that anything below 3.7 is too low to show. I am pretty darn proud of my 3.4. I went to a public university but it known for it’s difficulty. I qualified for Cum Laude status, which I believe is top 10%. Are there other guidelines to take into consideration here or should I do away with the GPA mention all together?

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