should I leave my dream job, interview makeup mishaps, and more

Happy 4th of July!  To celebrate, we have seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Should I leave my dream job?

I would like to ask your advice on whether or not to resign from a nonprofit. I was hired over two years ago by a visual arts organization. It’s been a really amazing opportunity, but a huge amount of work. It was run (somewhat poorly) entirely by volunteers before they hired me. The volunteers running the organization before did a lot of expansion without actually having the money or infrastructure, so all of the new funds I’ve brought in for the past two years are going to paying for these expansions. There’s not much chance of hiring any more staff or of me getting a raise for the next few years.

This job has been affecting me negatively emotionally for a while, I’m starting to get burnt out, I dread going in in the morning. It’s just too much work for one person to do reasonably long-term. I love the work in theory, but it’s just too much for one person to keep up long-term and I know I’m not doing as good of a job as I could be. I’m really underpaid, have never gotten a raise, and am working a second job to make ends meet.

My second job is looking for staff, and would be able to hire me full time. I would be making more money, and would actually be able to start saving. Resigning from the organization would mean sacrificing a paying job in the arts, future opportunities that it could give me and a lot of autonomy and control over my work. But in a lot of ways, I feel like I would be getting my life back. I would be able to take a vacation, save for grad school and actually start making art again.

It’s a really difficult decision. Do I leave a “dream job” because it’s consuming my life, or do I keep plugging away in the hopes of having a work/life balance in the future?

It’s not really a dream job if you’re dreading going to work in the morning, is it?

I can’t tell you to resign, but I can tell you that there are a lot of ways to be involved in the arts that don’t involve a job you dread that doesn’t pay you enough, so don’t let fear of that hold you back.

Whether or not you leave, I hope that you’ll point out to the board that the expansions those volunteers made aren’t sustainable, as proved by the fact that the work it’s generated has been too much for one person — and one underpaid person, no less. A sensible board, if they look at the situation and agree with you, will scale back, because otherwise they’ll keep losing people like you. (In fact, finding out how they react to that conversation might be the place to start.)

2. What happens if my employer gets caught misclassifying me as an independent contractor?

I have worked for a company for about 9 years now and basically helped build it from the ground up. My boss has claimed me as an independent contractor for the last 9 years and I’ve been given 1099 tax forms for each of those years. The government is now auditing my boss and wants to interview me . My boss is trying everything he can to make me look like an independent contractor, and I had taken his word for it that indeed I was. After doing some research, I now see why my boss is freaking out. I have learned that really this whole time I have worked as an employee. The investigator will find this out when they interview me because I’m not going to lie, which my boss suggested I do. When this happens, will I have some sort of claim against my boss for back pay as well as loss of benefits and the whole employee package that I never got in these last 9 years?

Your employer will have to pay financial penalties, but these are recoverable by the state, not by you personally. However, in some states, like California, employees can collect a portion of the penalties by bringing action in civil court on behalf of all misclassified employees at their workplace. You can also file to have the payroll taxes your employer should have paid on your behalf credited to your Social Security account. Beyond that, you’d need to talk with a lawyer in your state to find out what other impact this might have on you retroactively.

3. Should I ask for a raise when I don’t think I’ve really earned one?

I began working in my current position just about a year ago. It was a career change for me and I was lucky to get hired in at the next level above entry due to having a masters degree (in an unrelated field). I’m very happy with the work, but the problem is that in order to make this career change, I took a significant pay cut. After a year, I’m realizing it’s simply not sustainable unless I can earn a little more money. I live as frugally as possible, but am living paycheck to paycheck and sometimes come up short.

My options are to apply to similar positions elsewhere where I would likely earn more money (my workplace pays on the low end of the salary scale) or to ask for a raise. I just don’t think I have much justification in asking for a raise though. I feel confident I’ve learned quickly and done my job satisfactorily. That said, I haven’t done anything particularly remarkable or blown any goals out of the water. I’ve had fewer projects assigned to me than my other coworkers who have been here a year or two longer so it’s been hard to really make my “mark” or show my boss what I’m fully capable of. We did receive a modest annual cost of living increase this month so that helps, but it’s still not enough (and my salary is still lower than our competitors). Should I just try for the raise even though I’m having difficulty even convincing myself I’ve done anything to earn it? Should I explain my financial concerns to my boss? Or, should I just start applying to other jobs?

If you don’t think you’ve really earned a raise above the cost of living increase, it’s going to be hard to make a case for it. However, you could certainly talk to your boss about your desire for more projects, and higher level ones, which might give you an avenue for earning a raise over time. Meanwhile, though, you could also start looking at other jobs — if you find a higher-paying one meanwhile, then that’s an option as well. But in general, asking for a raise on grounds of need doesn’t work well.

4. I interviewed with eyeliner smudged on my face

I just had an interview that went really well, except when I got into my car afterwards, I noticed that my eyeliner was completely smudged. It was fine when I got OUT of my car, but in the crazy heat on my way into the building, it went from perfect to not so pretty. In my ”thanks for the interview” note, do I apologize for it? Or just let it go? I’m completely mortified that I didn’t have a chance to check it when I walked into the building and the interview went so well.

If we’re just talking about smudging — as opposed to it being completely streaked down your face — I’d let it go. If it was streaked down your face, though — like in a way that no one could have avoided noticing, including people who are normally oblivious to makeup mishaps; we’re talking clown-level makeup disaster here — then I think you could pull off an “I was mortified when I got into my car to realize that my makeup had run in the heat; I hope having black stripes all over my face didn’t distract from the conversation.”

But again, that’s only if the problem was truly extreme; otherwise you’d be better off not calling attention to it or seeming like you thought it was a bigger deal than it was.

5. Pregnancy, phone interviews, and start dates

Back in February, I applied to a lead engineering position at a Fortune 500 company (20 weeks pregnant). After just one phone interview, I ended up in second place, with the hiring manager stating that he would have hired me if he had another position available.

To my surprise, this morning I got an email from a friend who works for the same hiring manager, saying that the same position was reopened and that my application is still valid. Does this mean that I get to skip the initial phone interview? Also, since I’m currently 9 months pregnant, would it be acceptable to negotiate a later starting date?

No idea if it means you can skip the initial phone interview — different companies will handle that differently. In fact, I’d ask your friend what it means that your application “is still valid” — does it mean that it will automatically be considered or should you apply again or contact the hiring manager? (Actually, I’d contact the hiring manager regardless; your friend may not be fully in the loop on how the hiring manager is handling this.)

And yes, you can absolutely try to negotiate a later starting date. There’s no guarantee of success, of course, but that’s a very normal thing to do when you’re about to have a baby.

6. How will walking off the job during my notice period affect me?

I worked in a grocery store for 7 years. I gave two weeks notice and was harassed by management once I did. I ended up walking out in the middle of my second-to-last shift. They consider this job abandonment. How is this going to affect me in the future?

You probably won’t get a great reference from them (but it sounds like you might not have anyway, given the way they handled your resignation), and it could affect your reputation among coworkers who witnessed it or heard about it (unless they felt you were justified, which for all I know they did).

In general, walking off the job should be an absolute last resort (when you’re being asked to do something illegal or unsafe, for instance), because it’s rarely worth the price you end up paying for it.

7. Should I say that I have a degree that I won’t have for a few more months?

I’m applying to a government job that requires an MLS in library science, which I will have completed by the end of August (need to complete summer classes and my comprehensive exam). The posting, however, expires before that. On the resume that I’m submitting, I clearly state that my degree won’t be completed until August, and I can also discuss it in my cover letter, but considering that this is the government, I think it’s likely that by the time they start calling people for interviews, I will have my degree. I am otherwise well-qualified and it’s a position that I would love to pursue (and positions of this type don’t come up very often).

My problem is, when I fill out the required “application questionnaire,” one of the questions is “Do you have an MLS? Yes/No” with no place to enter an explanation. I obviously don’t want to lie on an application (especially with the government!) but I’m afraid that checking “no” will automatically keep my resume from even being seen by the hiring manager. Do you have any advice on what I should do?

Check “yes” so that you get through any electronic screening they might be using. You’re making your situation clear in your cover letter and resume, and this is a pretty normal way to handle it.

{ 103 comments… read them below }

  1. Chloe*

    Commiserations to the holder of the “dream job” but after initially thinking Alison is a bit of a curmudgeon on the topic of dream jobs, I’m starting to think she is right – there is no such thing.

    I’m doing my “dream job” now – but of course it isn’t. I’m working harder than ever, am constantly exhausted, battle inefficiencies and problems with co-workers and don’t even know if anyone really knows how much effort I’m putting in.

    I’ve been working now for about 16 years and don’t think there can be a dream job really, because every workplace is populated with the human race. No group of people is ever going to be perfect, there will always be people who are slow, difficult, inefficient, or whatever. We will always have frustrations of one sort or another.

    I think we’re better off re-focussing on what we can control and looking for other fulfillment outside work, so that we are not relying so much on work to validate our self-worth.

    Just my humble opinion.

    1. Anon*

      Agreed. When I was near burn-out, a friend told me very firmly that your job will never love you back, and that has stayed with me. I’ve since made great efforts to find things outside of work that fulfil me so that my feelings of self worth and accomplishments don’t come solely from my job. Best thing I could have done for myself! Hope you find your way through this OP.

      1. E.R*

        Very helpful advice from you both. I have what I thought was my dream job, from the outside (my friends and family tell me its just perfect for me, and I must love it) but every day I struggle with a boss who is all over the place, unreasonable goals, and a company structure that makes no sense. I try so hard on so many levels, and its just emotionally exhausting and I dont think the boss knows how hard I try – I suspect he thinks I’m lazy, in fact. I almost need to get the other people in my life to see how insane it is, so I feel okay about letting go and taking a job that is less impressive on the outside, but actually do-able. This job will never love me back, for sure.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I actually do think there’s such a thing as a dream job — I just don’t think you can spot it from the outside, because from the outside you can’t judge factors like culture, boss, coworkers, workload, etc. as well as you’d need to. But I do think that you can find yourself in a dream job after you’re already in — just not before.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Good point; I think it’s like being President. Everyone thinks that would be such a sweet deal, but I believe there’s a reason Colin Powell said no freaking way. He’s close enough to see what it’s REALLY like.

        And we’ve heard quite a few people say they were hired someplace they thought would be short-term and stayed for a really long time and it was great. :)

        1. Felicia*

          I think most people have a general idea of what kind of job they’d like and probably have several different jobs t hat they’d like, but I wouldn’t call anything my dream job unless it’s a job I’ve done before, because you can’t 100% know the reality of a job until you try it. I did a job once I thought would be my dream job and I ended up hating it. Now I just have jobs I’m pretty sure I would enjoy most of the time, but no specific dream job yet.

          1. Ruffingit*

            I’ve had situations where I did long-term contract work for the same small company, but several years apart. The first time around, it was fine. The second time, the company culture had changed and it was disappointing to say the least. So even having done the job before, you just never know. Things can change.

            I only know one person who has a self-described dream job and she’s a SCUBA dive master in Mexico for a nice company where she enjoys everyone she works with and she absolutely loves what she does.

        2. Ruffingit*

          Many people think certain jobs would be awesome based on no understanding of what the job really is. I’ve had a couple of different professions which people often commented would be “so cool,” but they had no idea what those jobs actually entailed. I have television to thank for the completely ridiculous notions people have about at least one of those jobs (lawyer). All the law shows on TV make people think practicing law is something it’s not at all.

          1. A Teacher*

            Welcome to being a teacher where “you only work for 9 months from 7:30-2:30” and you “make a lot of money for a great pension”–lets just say that teaching isn’t easy (which I think most on here understand and I definitely work more than 7 hours a day for not a ton of money and pay for a lot of stuff for my kids out of my pocket and this summer I’ve already attended a week long conference and am lesson planning for next school year.

          2. Kate*

            Ha! Yes. I wrote professionally about video games for a while. 60-hour weeks, hardest job I’ve ever had, most deadlines, most publicly visible criticism, and most abuse (from the audience, not the employer) but everyone who found out where I worked said, “so you just play video games all day? that sounds awesome!”

            Not even remotely like that, haha.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Everyone thinks writing would be good too. They don’t understand that it is WORK.
              –No, it’s not easy to sit there and write an entire book.
              –No, I don’t do it full-time because it pays nothing/crap and I like to eat.
              –Yes, because I don’t do it full-time, I have to do it on weekends and evenings.
              For those who do:
              –No, they don’t have time to walk your dog/run your errands/sit and gab all afternoon.
              –No, freelance writers don’t make tons of money and 99% of novelists don’t get six-figure book deals anymore. So don’t even ask.

              1. Lynne in AB*

                Librarians get “Must be nice to read books all day.”

                Yes, it would be, but this is not that job! :P

              2. Kat M*

                At least people know what a novelist is. I’ve had this actual conversation before:

                “What do you do?”
                “I’m a copywriter.”
                “Oh, so you make sure people don’t steal other people’s ideas?”
                “I think you’re thinking of copyright, R-I-G-H-T. I’m a writer. I write marketing copy.”
                “You write copy? Why don’t you write your own stuff instead? I’m sure you’d be good at it.”

                That being said, it IS a dream job. Great boss, flexible hours, and I get to learn all kinds of fascinating stuff about the insides of different businesses.

      2. EngineerGirl*

        I absolutely agree with you Alison. I was recruited to a “good job” by a friend that was a director ( he would not be in my chain of command). I took it because they really did want me to work there, the job looked interesting, and the people seemed quite nice. It was a pleasant surprise when it turned into the dream job. It was exciting, I had a lot of responsibility, we were doing new things, and I was being stretched. The job ended due to a re-org and they moved to the other side of the country. But I still think fondly of those days, and keep in touch with those I worked with.

        They do exist!

      3. Jessa*

        This, I really think that the only way to find the dream job is to do it. Because no matter how well anyone describes something, they’re NOT you. They don’t have your viewpoint and what you care about they might not.

  2. Sourire*

    #1 – Agree completely with Alison – it’s not a dream job if you dread going to work. Basically it’s a nightmare job you are just hoping could someday turn into a dream. Not too likely and certainly nothing you should count on.

    You say it’s unlikely for them to be able to hire anyone else or to give you a raise, but have you actually asked? It sounds like you have done a ton for the org, and perhaps they would be willing to find it in the budget to accommodate keeping you. If not, it’s perfectly reasonable to move on. You could also consider staying on as a volunteer. You will of course need to make clear that it you will NOT be able to dedicate as much time and effort as you were able to when it was your full-time employment and that they absolutely need to hire someone to replace you and cannot solely rely on volunteer work. If they don’t respect that, then you can leave as a volunteer as well. If they do respect it though, it’s a good way to keep connected and/or possibly still have an “in” if/when they can expand.

    1. Julie*

      I agree – find out for sure whether they can pay you more or hire another person. Perhaps if they cut out some of the expansion that you’re saying really isn’t viable, they’ll be able to free up some money for salary(ies).

    2. Anonymous*

      Transitions when you used to be “the boss” are difficult. Easier to allow for a grace period of fielding some questions while you establish yourself in your next full time job before assuming an regular or ongoing commitment to the place you used to work. Helps all parties be clear about new roles & responsibilities.

    3. Brton3*

      I think it’s amazing how people (including me!) can convince themselves they are in a “dream job” even if it’s giving them bleeding ulcers and they hate every minute of their day. I had a nightmare job for almost 4 years but even up to the end, I was half-convinced that I was leaving a “dream job.” It’s some kind of bizarre version of Stockholm syndrome.

  3. Catherine*

    #7 — Another librarian here. Definitely check yes and get through the electronic screening process. Some orgs still won’t (or can’t) consider you until you finish your MLS, but many others will, so it’s still worth applying if it’s a good fit for you. Good luck!

    1. Alicia*

      plus, the thing is… you’re two months out. I bet they won’t have the hiring process fully done by then. I am sure your resume states “August 2013” or something similar to that to show you’re just nearly done.

      1. SCW*

        Also, if you get an interview later, make sure to bring an updated resume with you. And make sure you take the “expected” off once you get the degree. I reviewed someone’s resume recently that said “expected April 2012” only it was June 2013, and they’d attached a transcript showing they had completed the degree. It was confusing, and highlighted how recently they’d graduated.

        I’m a librarian as well, and I got my first library position that required a MLIS a few months before my degree was officially complete (I took an incomplete to finish my final project.)

  4. Brett*

    #7 Since this is a government job, is an MLS listed as required for the position? If it is not listed as required, then checking no on the application may not necessarily result in being auto-screened. The screening procedures for government applications is very different than private sector and must normally adhere rigidly to the advertised description. Beyond that, the interviewing committee -not- the HR rep, will create break lines beyond the requirements.

    And this leads to another complication of this being a government position. No degree plan is lock solid. Things can go wrong (like having to reschedule your comps) and you might not have your degree completed and on your transcript by the time it gets pulled.
    More importantly, they may pull your transcripts in July instead of August. Somewhere on the application, normally near the signature box, is an explanation of the consequences of lying on your application. For ours, it is permanent disqualification for employment.

    But that leads to a flaw in the application provided to you. Most public sector applications have an explanation section at the end. On those lines, you can leave an explanation for any question in the rest of the application. I am surprised this is not there; and if you do decide to mark “No” then you should attach your own explanation sheet to the end of the application. Note the page number, section number, and question letter or number for the question and then provide your explanation for your answer to that question.

    1. Sourire*

      All very true of govt employment. I would try to contact HR or personnel (I work in civil service and all application and testing went through them) if possible and see what they can do for you. They have been able to accommodate people who need a different testing date due to conflicts, work around work-experience requirements when the applicant can prove they meet the requirement based on other criteria (school, volunteer work, or a title that is not the same as what is “required”, but has enough similar traits) etc.

      1. OP #7*

        Thanks, I’m thinking I’ll do that–unfortunately there isn’t a spot on the questionnaire that let me enter an explanation, but I can discuss the degree on the application itself.

    2. glennis*

      The government agency I work for requires that you upload your transcript when there is a degree requirement. The application clearly states that if you don’t include your transcript, the application is disqualified.

  5. Not So NewReader*

    For OP1: Working for NPOs is an experience like no other. Sometimes I think that they take advantage of good-hearted employees that believe in the cause. As you are seeing here, that tends to burn people out. People try to stretch themselves and do the work of 3-4 people, just to help the NPO.

    There are heavy workloads and then there are workloads that are impossible. Only the people in the situation can really tell which workload level they have. Your work load sounds impossible, to me.

    Just a couple ideas here. Can you go to a volunteer status to keep your hand in the arts arena but move to full time at the other employer?
    OR can you use the job you have as a stepping stone to another arts arena job? This means looking for a totally new employer. It might satisfy your financial needs and give you some sense of progress that this current job is not giving you.

    I think you do a very good job of describing the problems at your current employer. Alison’s recommendation is a good one- go talk to the bosses first. Show them how the numbers are landing that you are barely covering the projects in place. I think a secondary component of the problem is that too much responsibility is falling on you. People are okaying projects and never checking to see if monies are available to fund the project. That does not sound like it is part of your job to do that checking and you suffer the fallout of that poor decision making.

    One final question that you don’t have to answer here on the forum… if suddenly tomorrow you were being paid a wonderful salary for what you do, would you stay with your current job? If no, then I think you have your answer about what you should do now. If yes, then you probably need to go with Alison’s suggestion and talk to the board.

  6. JMegan*

    #1, take another look at these phrases from your letter:

    First job:
    *This job has been affecting me negatively emotionally for a while *I’m starting to get burnt out, I dread going in in the morning.
    *It’s just too much work for one person to do reasonably long-term. *I’m really underpaid, have never gotten a raise, and am working a second job to make ends meet.

    Second job:
    *I would be making more money, and would actually be able to start saving.
    *I feel like I would be getting my life back. I would be able to take a vacation, save for grad school and actually start making art again.

    That sounds like a pretty compelling pros vs cons list to me, especially if you can find a way of staying involved with the first job, and therefore maintaining your contacts, experience, etc from there. Based only on your letter, I think you might be a lot like me – your heart knows which way you want to go, but it takes a while for your brain to catch up!

  7. workinmom*

    Why not take that new position and VOLUNTEER where you work?

    As far as the makeup, if it were clown level mess, I ‘d say
    I am sorry I thought I was at the Barnum and Bailey Offices….
    The ability to not take yourself so seriously can be a plus. :-)

    Librarian to librarian: just mark you have an MLS and if they, on freak chance, call before you do- tell them upfront.
    And yes, it is required.

  8. danr*

    #1… When the dream starts shifting to nightmare, leave. But leaving this organization shouldn’t mean leaving the field forever. I’m sure there are other outfits doing the same thing. Take a break and let your next dream job find you.

  9. Annamaison*

    RE: Makeup smudges
    Try not worry too much about it. I interviewed for a job once with an obvious mustard stain on my (white) blouse. On my way into the interview, I walked past a hot-dog cart and got hit square in the chest with mis-directed blast of mustard. My options were few: cancel/reshedule? Put my shirt on backwards? Attempt to explain? I just went through with the interview as is. I got the job.

    After a few days on the job, my new boss did ask me why I’d showed up splattered with mustard. I told him about the hotdog cart; and he nodded saying he thought it must be something like that because in the interview he could tell I was a normal, rational human being who would not wear condiments to an interview by choice.

    Wardrobe malfunctions happen. If you presented well in the interview, make up smudgies won’t factor much into it, unless you were interviewing in the fashion industry.

    1. Sourire*

      So you didn’t mention the mustard during the interview then? I feel like this is something I would have brought up in a joking tone (got caught in a freak mustard accident). I wonder which is the better route to take? I suppose it would depend on who the interviewer is and their preferences (as can be said about pretty much all interview behavior I suppose).

      1. Ruffingit*

        I would absolutely mention it upfront in an interview if this happened. Better to let them know what happened than to let them think you have poor enough judgment not to clean your clothes for an interview. They may or may not discern that from the interview, but either way why not explain it upfront and then move on?

        1. Chinook*

          I agree that I would have brought up the freak mustard stain because I would want to point out that I do know how to dress myself appropriately. In the case of the eyeliner spotted later, I agree with AAM that I would mention it only if was hard to miss. Depending on how the tone of the interview went, I would either make a joke about it in the follow-up letter or act horribly embarrassed.

          1. Ruffingit*

            Oh definitely agree about the eyeliner. I wouldn’t say anything about that unless it was really bad.

      2. Annamaison*

        Haha. Because I was young, inexperienced and mortified beyond belief. A part of me was hoping that if I didn’t mention it, he might not notice. (As if!) 20 years later and a lot more experience under my belt – I would mention the reason and move on to the best of my dignity.

    2. CoffeeLover*

      I had a similar Icecap incident (Tim Hortons for my Canadians here). It was completely my fault being that I should have known better than to drink one while wearing a white shirt on my way to an interview. I also happened to be an HOUR late to that interview because I thought we had scheduled it an hour later. I was obviously mortified and jokingly said that I didn’t have time to get a new, Icecap-free shirt because I wanted to make sure I was on time. I got that job. :P

      1. Felicia*

        Never had the ice cap incident (I don’t like them!) but I ended up an hour late for an interview for that exact reason! I still swear we had scheduled it an hour later:) Not for an interview, but for a first date, I had an incident with teh jelly from a jelly filled Timbit getting on my shirt. Ah Tim Hortons:)

        1. Chinook*

          I learned the hard way to always look for the hole they put the filling in and bite there first otherwise I end up wearing the Boston Cream (which is not only a fashion disaster but a waste of good filling. Did you know that people look at you strange when you lick your shirt?)

    3. Laura*

      Never had a wardrobe malfunction before an interview, thankfully, but I’ve had one or 2.

      One morning I was on my way to the office and stopped at the drive through for my usual morning Diet Coke. As I pulled away, the soda spilled all over me – they had not snapped the lid completely onto the cup.

      I had a 40 minute commute, and I was already more than halfway there. So I went to work, planning to fix it when I got to the office.

      Into the ladies room I went. I was wearing a white camisole with spaghetti straps under a jacket/blouse kind of thing. So I went into the stall and turned my camisole around backwards. What I had failed to consider was that the camisole had some decorative gemstone type things on the front, and the jacket was made of a rather thin material. So when I put it on backwards, you could see the decorative stuff through the back.

      So then came the big question: Is it better to look like I can’t dress myself, or look like I can’t feed myself? I chose option A and went on about my day.

      The other was in the winter, when I tried to roll the window down to get a cross breeze through my car while I smoked a cigarette. It was very cold, and so the windows were frozen shut. I had a brainstorm – open the sunroof! So I did. It had snowed the night before, and there was about 6 inches of snow on top of my car – which promptly landed on my head as soon as the sunroof opened. I was again past the midpoint of the commute, so I rocked the drowned rat look all day.

    4. Jazzy Red*

      My malfunction wasn’t exactly wardrobe related, but kind of.

      Many years ago, I had a job interview during the summer, and I didn’t have air conditioning in my car. I wore a suit, and I put the jacket on the back seat, along with my purse and portfolio, so the jacket wouldn’t get wrinkled. When I got to office parking lot, I tossed my keys on the back seat while I put my jacket on, and somehow slammed the car door shut. All the doors were locked, and my keys were in my purse, which was on the back seat. I went into the interview without my purse and portfolio, so when the hiring manager wanted a copy of my resume, I couldn’t give it to him. I explained what happened, and we just continued with the interview. When I was leaving, I had to stop at the reception desk and called my sister to come over with my spare car key.

      It was pretty humiliating for me, but fortunately, it turned out to be a job that I didn’t want anyway.

  10. Meg*

    @ OP #4: This is precisely the reason I switched to pencil eyeliner rather than liquid eyeliner. The minute it got humid or rainy (and it seemed like last year it rained EVERY time I had an interview), I started rocking the raccoon look. As Alison said, unless it was disastrously bad, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. This is an incredibly humid summer (at least in New England), so stuff happens.

    @ OP #6: Alison has given some great advice in the past about how to deal with interviewers who ask to contact a previous manager, who you know will give you a bad reference. If you have specific examples of how they treated you, and you can state them in a calm, non-bitter manner, it might be worth looking at some of her previous entries on explaining previous bad work environments to your interviewer.

    1. Lydia Navarro*

      I just went to an interview with smudged pencil eyeliner. It’s July in NYC. We all melt here…it goes up to 90+ quite a lot. I didn’t want the job in the end, but I was still confused as to how it happened. Then, I remembered I took two trains to get there, and the station on the Lex line I transferred at was not air conditioned.

  11. Felicia*

    For the make up thing I had that exact thing happen yesterday in an interview – except I had a horrendous commute to the interview where everything that could go wrong did. There was a problem with the subway that was so bad, and so unusual, that it made all the local news channels and caused the CEO of the transit commission to apologize publicly. My make up ended being the least of my worries, but I think as long as it didn’t end up being clown like it won’t be too bad.

    1. Esra*

      Fellow Torontonian?

      I’ve had a few interviews where I left ridiculously early to avoid TTC issues… and then my interviewer was late trapped in transit.

      1. Felicia*

        Yup! Nice to see a fellow Torontonian commenting:) I did leave quite early for my interview which is why I was only 20 minutes late. It took an hour and ten minutes to get between Finch and Eglinton stations, when usually that takes about 15-20 minutes. The subway was stopped for 35 minutes between York Mills and Lawrence, standing room only, and barely any standing room at that, so I thought I was going to suffocate. I think it made roughly 20,000 people late for work yesterday, and they were understanding because how could they not be, but it was the first time I was late to an interview, so it freaked me out.

        1. E.R*

          Torontonian here, too! And only chiming in because yesterday was Awful. I complain about the TTC a lot, but that was really something. My 20 minute commute took an hour, most of which was spent between Davisville and Bloor. I was thinking how lucky I was not to have a call or meeting first thing in the morning, let alone an interview. I hope your interviewers were understanding.

          1. Felicia*

            They seemed sort of understanding, but apparently most of they all drive in and they asked if I would be able to handle the commute so not too sure. It was on the news! Not like I was making it up. I complain about the TTC a lot too, but using their CEO’s word, yesterday was horrendous. I know it’s not reliable, but it shouldn’t take an hour for a 20 minute commute, especially during rush hour when everyone’s crammed in like sardines, and I doubt they’ll fix it adequately. At my old temp position near Yonge and Bloor everyone took the TTC so I imagine everyone was late yesterday so a company like that would be more understanding.

            I think that experience made me a little claustrophobic.

            1. John Quincy Adding Machine*

              As a Vancouverite, I’m a little jealous that an extra 40 minutes tacked into a commute is a situation dire enough to warrant an apology. There have been about three or four serious transit delays just in the last month here. There would have to be multiple deaths for TransLink to issue an apology (or even an explanation — usually they just let people keep piling up at stations when the trains are obviously not coming).

            1. MrSparkles*

              Toronto represent.
              A nickname for the TTC is “Take The Car”.
              That said, it’s still a cheaper alternative to the GO Train, though that has its own set of issues.

            2. Felicia*

              Maybe we do know each other! I know I’ve recommended this blog to lots of people I really know. But with a population of 2.6 million, kind of unlikely:) If I had a car I would always take the car.

              1. MrSparkles*

                Not sure about you, but I stumbled across this site by chance.
                You also have to take into account the GTA which, depending on which stats you read, ranges from 5.5 to 6 million. So you’re probably right, haha.
                Taking the TTC does beat out paying ridiculous parking downtown though, sad to say.

    2. JMegan*

      Yet another Torontonian here! I walked to work yesterday, so didn’t get caught up in the TTC chaos, but I certainly have on other occasions. :)

      1. Esra*

        I’ve walked home before, even though I’m on the end of the Bloor line. It’s sad that a two hour walk can be more appealing than the TTC on a bad day.

  12. Steve G*

    As per #6 – I walked off a job once because the recruiter lied about the # of hours, it was 32, not 40 per week, and the hourly wage I accepted was the minimum I would need to make if I did 40/hrs a week. I called the recruiter during lunch and he didn’t seem very willing/accommodating to up to rate right away and instead tried to convince me that “full time” doesn’t always mean 40 hours.

    So, I walked off because I thought it was pointless to waste the time of the girl that was training me all day, not because I had an immediate safety/ethical issue going on – was that wrong?

    1. Ruffingit*

      I wouldn’t say it was wrong. You basically had a bait and switch situation there and you tried to rectify it. You did the right thing for the business you were working for because what is the point of training you when you’re not going to stay since it’s not what you were promised nor can you make it work for you financially.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Some retail jobs 32 hours is considered full time. This does not excuse the recruiter though, she should have explained that full time was 32 hours.
      I once was told I would be working 8-4 and getting a 4o hour week. I wondered what happened to the half hour for lunch. Four o’clock came an no one moved. That is when I learned I was working until 4:30. After that I was always on watch for erroneous information.

      1. Chinook*

        I understand that f/t doesn’t necessarily mean 40 hours, but at the very least it would be 40 – 2.5 hours for 30 min. unpaid lunches. This would mena the min. for a f/t job should be 37.5, which still sucks if you are budgeting for 40.

        1. Al Lo*

          When I temped, my full-time workweeks could range anywhere from 35-40 hours, and I had schedules that ranged from 7:30-4, 8-4, 8-4:30, 8:30-4:30, 8:30-5, and so on, with either a 1/2 hour or hour unpaid lunch that was factored into an 8-9 hour workday (although the worst was a job that was 6-2, since it worked closely with an office in Toronto and needed to be on East Coast time). I don’t think I ever had a job that was 9-5 — it seems to be very rare in Calgary for an office workday to start later than 8:30 (unless you work in the arts; arts orgs tend to start their office hours later than oil and gas).

          1. Steve G*

            Wow, as a NYer that doesn’t know anyone out west, I never thought of that. So is it normal for offices in CA, Oregon, eastern Canada, etc. to start really early then? Is it your whole office, or just some positions? Do you get paid more if you have to start ridiculously early?

            1. Julie*

              I work for a global company, and I noticed that everyone outside of NYC, CT, MA, and NJ starts work at ridiculously early hours. Colleagues in Ann Arbor, St. Louis, La Jolla, Dallas, etc. seem to start at 7:00 A.M. so they can be working more hours during the time that people on the east coast are working. (On the other hand, my boss, who is in PA (Eastern time zone), starts at 7:30 A.M., but I think that’s just because she’s a morning person.)

            2. Al Lo*

              I only worked in the one office with a 6 AM start time, but in general, in Calgary at least, I never temped at a company (oil and gas, law firm, industrial, whatever) that started later than 8:30. 8:00 was a pretty standard start time, although certainly not every company followed that — and that was the whole office (I typically temped as a receptionist).

              Calgary is 2 hours behind EST, so that still allows for a decent amount of the day that overlaps, and it’s only companies that absolutely need to be on the exact same time that would adjust their schedule to start earlier.

              (And as I said, working in the arts, it’s incredibly uncommon to see start times before 9 or 10 — but working in the arts is a different beast altogether.)

            3. The gold digger*

              I am in Wisconsin. I get to work at 7:30 and I am one of the last ones to arrive. I have always wondered about this mythical 9-5 world. I have wondered even more about the world shown in novels about working people in New York City who don’t get to work until 10.

              1. Steve G*

                Wow, I can’t think at that time in the morning. I work in Manhattan and live across the bridge in Brooklyn, and so usually intentionally get into at 9:30 and stay until 7:00, with the goal of avoiding the worst of rush hour….

            4. mm*

              I work in Portland, OR and most people in my office start between 6:30 and 8:30 am. Very common to start by at least 8am everywhere I have worked.

            5. Chinook*

              I have worked in various time zones wih various time zones and it does seem that the farther west you go, the earlier you start, but it also may be skewed by a rural influence (early to bed, early to rise type of thing). But, at some point you just learn to work with the reality that you may only have a 4 hour overlap in office hours. The national org I worked for in Ottawa also would run 2 sets of teleconferences because, no matter how you planned it, someone somewhere would be meeting during their lunch hour. It also mean that BC never got afternoon conference calls and the mritimes never had morning ones.

            6. Cathy*

              Work hours depend on the industry. I’ve been in software engineering on the west coast for over 20 years, and have usually always been one of the first to arrive when getting to the office between 8:00 and 8:30. Right now I have one team of 3 that’s coming in at 6:30 for a daily scrum meeting with guys on the east coast and they seem to like it; but most of my direct reports arrive between 9:00 and 9:30 and that’s been typical everywhere I’ve worked.

              When I worked with teams in China, I always had people working noon to 9:00 PM to get a reasonable amount of overlap with them.

            7. ThursdaysGeek*

              I’m in Washington state, and I’ve never worked a job that started later than 8am, and 7am is pretty normal too. If there is flex time or we’re working with people in a different time zone, it’s not uncommon to start by 6am or even earlier. I’ve never heard of extra pay for starting early — the advantage is you get to go home a lot earlier too.

            8. Sara M*

              On the West Coast, it depends on your industry. Almost everyone I know with regular hours works about 10-7 or sometimes 9-6. These are all tech companies who don’t have particular East Coast business. People who work in industries that interact more with the other side of the country do tend to work earlier hours.

        2. SevenSixOne*

          What’s considered “full time” is usually up to the employer. At my last job, any hourly employee working over 30 hours a week was eligible for full-time benefits (retirement, paid sick days, tuition reimbursement, etc) and was classified as “reduced full-time”.

          So the company would advertise and recruit a “full-time” position at, say, $15 an hour, refer to it as “full time” during the interview and deliberately discuss compensation in terms of hourly wage instead of hours per week or annual salary unless the candidate asked (and she usually wouldn’t, since most rational people assume “full time” means 40 hours), so she would expect to earn $600 a week, and then– SURPRISE!!!– discover in her offer letter that she’d be earning more like $450.

          1. Jazzy Red*

            I learned early on to ask if the job was 40 hours a week.

            A lot of places call 32 hours full time, but then the employees aren’t eligible for benefits. I never heard of benefits for 30 hours before. Good for that employer.

  13. non-a-mous*

    I’ve been in the situation as OP1, and i left the job. And I have regretted it for the past 10 months. I was completely burnt out, working the job of 3 people, and for the first month at the new job I appreciated the break. But now it has been 10 months and I miss the work I was doing at the last job. I’m frankly bored at my new job and it isn’t what I want to do long term. But I’ve taken this time to reflect on what I loved about the last job (and what I hated) in order to figure out what I want from my future jobs. So if you leave, try to make sure you are leaving for a job you think you’d love, not just to get away from the situation at the old job.
    If it is possible, take some time away and recharge before you make the decision.

  14. Allison (not AAM)*

    #2 – Totally lawyer up. Shame on your boss for putting you in that position, and then having the nerve to suggest that you lie to the authorities! Protect yourself, and don’t lie…jeez! I want to whack him repeatedly about the head and face with a wet noodle.

    1. Al Lo*

      Heh. I had an elementary school teacher who regularly threatened to beat us with wet spaghetti.

  15. Mike C.*

    #2 Your boss wanted you to lie to an auditor!? Be sure to let the auditor know what it was your boss wanted you to lie about. After you get a labor lawyer and tell her the very same thing.

    F*** your boss for not only breaking the law, but trying to drag you down too! You worked way too hard to be treated like this.

    1. Ruffingit*

      +1000!!! My last boss tried to treat her contractors like employees and it worked for her because some of the people there didn’t know their rights as ICs. They didn’t realize the boss is not allowed to control them the same way they can control employees.

      Your boss took a calculated risk (illegally) to treat employees as contractors and now he’s going to have to pay. BIG TIME. Choose the action, choose the consequences. No way should you lie to the auditor. This is his problem, don’t make it yours.

      1. Chinook*

        Add me to the voices that are shouting “never lie to the auditor.” It is one thing to make an honest mistake, but lieing about it is a bigger issue. The auditor will catch the lie (because that is their job) and then your credibility will be shot on top of everything else. And credibility is one of those things that is hard to win back once it is lost.

    2. EngineerGirl*

      Also don’t forget that it is illegal (yes, really) for the boss to retaliate against you for telling the truth to the auditor. That is a protected conversation.

      That said, it is time for an employment lawyer and a new job search. You don’t want to stay there even if the employer doesn’t collapse under the fines.

  16. Ruffingit*

    For OP#1, I think the bigger issue outside of the dream job qualities of the work itself is this: “I’m really underpaid, have never gotten a raise, and am working a second job to make ends meet.”

    The job is sucking the life out of you and you have to work another job just to make ends meet. You can’t save any money and you’re living paycheck to paycheck. Unless you’re able to get a raise substantial enough to allow you to have a single job and save some money, I would leave the first job. Especially since you already know what the other job is going to be like since you’re already working there. So it’s not an unknown to you.

    I’m all for satisfying work, but frankly I think you need to go where the money is in this case because not doing so is costing you more than just money – it’s costing you your ability to make your own art, your ability to save money, your ability to plan for your future financially.

    Leave. Go to the second job full-time, save money, start creating art again, and volunteer in the field you’re working in to keep your future options open for a future job in the field. Enjoy your life again!!

  17. Elizabeth West*

    #1–leaving “dream job”

    Sounds like you’ve already made your decision, OP. :) Good luck with the new job!


    If it was really super hot that day, any female interviewers might have actually guessed the reason for it, because I’m sure it’s happened to them (or wind-hair, or hat head, etc.). I’d let it go. There’s nothing you can really do about it.

    Have a happy and safe Fourth, everyone! :D

  18. Elle*

    Want to slightly play devil’s advocate on LW 1. I was nodding along until I read the words “save for grad school”. OP, it doesn’t sound like your 2nd job is in your field and if you are thinking about going to grad school, it’s worth thinking about the fact that this experience might be the only thing on the other end that will save you from the curse of unpaid internships.

    Grad school is great because while you’re there, you don’t know you are poor. Experience is better than debt and experience is often better than grad school. If the kind of job you want needs the credential or is in an unrelated field, then ignore this. But a paying job in an arts organization is nothing to sniff at in this economy. I would do anything I can – including asking for extra staff, going to the board, pointing out that you can’t make ends meet, whatever, before I quit.

  19. nyxalinth*

    I’ve never had what I would consider a dream job. I’ve had lots of “Meh It Pays The Bills” and a “Nightmare” or two, though. I’m not even sure what my dream would be right now, beyond just getting one, period. As long as it doesn’t suck my soul out, I’ll be fine.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      My dream job really is in my dreams. I can’t think of anyone who would pay me to read murder mysteries just for the hell of it.

  20. CoffeeLover*

    #2 Isn’t contractor pay inflated to account for taxes, benefits, vacation, etc.? Many people prefer to be labelled as a contractor because their pay is higher. OP, you say you want to see if you can claim benefits owed to you, but those benefits should have been reflected in your pay. I guess I’m confused as to why you feel affronted in this way. Your boss is trying to pull the wool over the governments eyes, but you should have negotiated a pay that reflects being a contractor.

    1. rlm*

      That’s true for people who are legitimate contractors and choose to work that way. It doesn’t sound like that’s the case here. Unfortunately this type of work arrangement (1099 independent contractor) is prone to misuse by uninformed/misguided employers and employees.

      1. Jessa*

        Exactly. If you’re a contractor you have other responsibilities financially that regular workers do not. If there’s slightly higher pay it’s because contractors have overhead employees do not.

      2. CoffeeLover*

        I think it’s true for illegitimate contractors too (in fact, I know several people with arrangements like these). While OP is an illegitimate contractor, she also genuinely thought she was a legitimate contractor. If so, then her salary should have reflected contractor status, meaning higher pay. Either a) OP was receiving contractor level pay and she shouldn’t be mad or b) OP didn’t negotiate contractor pay, which is a different issue, and she can take it as a learning moment to do so in the future.

  21. Anonymous*

    #5 Depending on what the maternity leave is like might tell you if asking for a later start date would be problematic. Since you know someone there you can also ask that person how easy or difficult it is for people to actually take any kind of leave.

    However I do have to wonder why the company didn’t inform you the position had opened back up (yes it’s been discussed here before that’s not common). As a woman in a male-dominated STEM field and pregnant too…it could be a big red flag that you don’t want to work for that company.

    1. OP#5*

      They actually did contact me back, but only two weeks after I had the baby. Thus, almost 2 months after the position re-opened. At that time, I had already decided that taking on a new job (if I would get it) wouldn’t be in my family’s best interest. So, I politely declined the offer and requested to be considered for a future one.

  22. JohnQPublic*

    #3- You should absolutely be asking for a raise. You’ve looked at the job market, the going rate for your position is higher than what you are being paid, and you’d like your pay to be corrected to reflect that. You have one big problem- you took the job at a low rate. Ideally you’d have armed yourself with the knowledge of what the going rate is, what the cost of living is in your area, and what sort of additional skills and experience you bring to the table and asked for more than what they offered.
    You will also want to explore other opportunities, because there’s no way of knowing if this is going to pan out. What do you do if they say no? The unspoken ‘or else’ of any request for a raise is that you will go elsewhere. Be prepared to answer that question of yourself.

  23. Vicki*

    Re #6 – I understand that walking out of a job is generally bad. But in this case, OP had given 2 weeks notice and walked off in the middle of the 2nd-to-last shift.

    Given that 2-weeks notice is polite and typical but not required, and she was harassed for resigning, this seems not so bad as just walking off a job with no notice.

    1. Vicki*

      Also: can you really call it “work abandonment” when it’s at the end of a 2-week notice period?? She can’t abandon. She’s already quit.

  24. Anonymous*

    I definetely have some thoughts to share…
    #2- as a former payroll professional, I can tell you from all of my training and experience that mis-classifying an employee is a big no no. I used to see a lot of small business owners try that. Uncle Sam doesn’t approve.

    #3- I am very grateful for this post and AAM’s response. I made a career change a year ago, and have had the exact same problems/concerns. On top of that, the organization has been struggling, so raises are not good.
    I am starting to look at other jobs to see if I can use some of my skills and pick up a better paycheck elsewhere. If I am not able to find something, I will have to change careers again, or go back to my prior career and try to pick up the pieces…

  25. Heatherbrarian*

    #7 should be aware that even if they check “yes” and explain the situation, they may still be disqualified. When I was job hunting in the month or so before graduating with my Master’s degree, I was rejected from a job that wouldn’t have started until after I had graduated because I *didn’t actually possess the degree at the time I applied.*

    (I choose to believe I dodged a bullet with an employer that rigid!)

Comments are closed.