how to play office politics, leaving an internship early, and more

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

1. How can I ask to leave my internship a day or two early?

I’ve been doing an unpaid internship for six months, and I have two days left. I’m pretty much done all the work I was supposed to do, just waiting for my supervisor to give me feedback on something I wrote so I can edit it. I’m fairly sure the editing isn’t going to take long, probably under one hour, maybe two. Last week, I said I could get another project organized and started if I finished my assigned work early. Buuuuut, I’m super busy right now for various reasons, so it’d be super helpful to have a little more free time. Now I wish I could end the internship after I’m done editing, rather than spending nearly two full days starting another project that I won’t be around to see through.

How would I go about asking if I can just end the internship a little early? Or would it be really bad to ask to end a little early when I already said I could start another project? I don’t want to disappoint my supervisor or have them to think I’m flaking out or rushing to leave them.

While it’s possible that you could pull this off without raising any eyebrows if you have exactly the right type of boss and handle it in exactly the right type of way, this is risky enough that I’d say you shouldn’t try. It’s two days — fulfill your commitment and don’t make them question your work ethic and follow-through right at the end of the internship, thereby undoing some/all of the work you’ve done to build your reputation there. It’s two days. You can handle it.

2. How do I play office politics?

I’m starting a new job with a Big 4 accounting firm in September. I’m sure I can do well at my job duties — learning to be an accountant — but I’ve always had problems with the softer side of work, what people call office politics. In my previous jobs, I’ve usually found myself on the outside of friendship groups and cliques. I often found I’d be in my office while groups of people chatted in the break room discussing the latest news on the grapevine. I’ve usually been the last to know gossip and find out that people are leaving, etc., and never felt like I had the ear of a manager. I can easily see the reason — I used to have severe anxiety problems and was cripplingly shy. I’ve improved with a combo of medication and therapy, but now I have no idea how to play the office politics game. I don’t want to be a gossipy Machiavellian sneak, but I’d like to make strong relationships and stay on the inside loop.

So, how do you play office politics? Or should I stay above all of that?

What you’re describing isn’t office politics, which is using power sources within an organization to act in your own self interest. It sounds like what you’re talking about is simply building relationships with your coworkers, and it is indeed a good thing to do. And it’s not as hard as you probably think; it just requires talking to people, asking them about themselves and their work, and taking a genuine interest in them. And then poof — relationships formed.

3. How do managers adjust their expectations when an employee is on intermittent FMLA leave?

I’m curious about how managers generally manage their expectations when an employee is on intermittent FMLA leave. I’ve been approved for about 10 hours of leave a week to help manage my parent’s serious medical condition. I’m taking much less leave than what’s been approved, but I still feel a little uncomfortable about my absences. I’m non-exempt, so if I’m out for half a day, that’s half a day of productivity I lose for the week. There are occasional times too when the general stress of the situation leaves me feeling like I’m doing less than my best at work.

My manager is supportive and seems happy with my work. We recently had a mid-year review and it was very positive. Do you believe that good managers can adjust their expectations to account for times when an employee is working a shorter week and perhaps accomplishing less than she would in a standard week? Or does even approved leave start to affect a manager’s opinion of a worker who temporarily is missing more work than otherwise appropriate?

It depends on the manager, and it depends on how much the absences affect the work. The best thing you can do is be open with your manager about what you need and your plans for minimizing the impact on your work, and to show that you’re aware of whatever impact it does have (as opposed to seeming cavalier about it). A good manager will work with you within those constraints, or will let you know if it’s becoming harder to accommodate.

4. How long after the application due date will employers contact applicants?

I recently started looking for a new job. I found a position that sounds pretty perfect (just like everyone else in the job market, I’m sure), and it asked for applications by today. I sent mine in, no issue, and I’m continuing to hunt and apply at full capacity. I’m just curious (and I know this likely varies), from your experience, how much time typically passes between application due date and the next round of contact with applicants? Like I said, the job hunt continues; I’m just interested to hear your insight.

It varies so much that it’s impossible to give you a real answer. Sometimes people hear back after two days. Sometimes people hear back after a month. Sometimes people hear back after five months (yes, really). Sometimes people never hear back. Companies are just wildly different in this regard.

5. Can I thank someone and ask about job opportunities at the same time?

A few years ago, I interviewed at a company for a position. I didn’t get the job, but I had the contact info of the interviewer and eventually connected with him on LinkedIn. A few months ago, I got in touch with him regarding a professional license and he was helpful regarding that. I’m now in the process of obtaining that professional license (cleared the exams, now waiting for the background check, which should take 2 months). I plan to drop him a note with an update and saying thanks for helping out.

My question is, would it be inappropriate to also ask about future job opportunities and if he could keep me in mind?

You can do that, but your note will actually carry more weight if you don’t. If you thank him for helping you and ask about job openings at the same time, it’ll look like your real reason for writing is about the job openings and the thanking-him is just incidental. It might be better to just thank him for now, and then get in touch again closer to the time that your licensing process will be over.

6. Online application systems that don’t allow the correct answer

I’m hoping you can help with a conundrum that I faced when trying to categorize seasonal/limited-term/contract positions on an online application. In the employment history section of an online application I recently filled out, a mandatory field was a pull-down menu of 5 options for reasons you left that position: Currently Employed; Laid Off; Resigned; Promoted; and Terminated. I have a number of previous positions that were seasonal or were contracted for 3, 6, or 12 months. I struggled with how to categorize these positions since I simply left when the season or contract was over, no firing or quitting involved.

I ultimately selected Terminated for these positions, since technically they did just come to an end, but am still worried that all those “Terminated”s on my application will throw up a red flag to a reviewer. Luckily there was a field below the pull-down menu to provide an explanation, where I entered “3 month contract ended,” etc., so I hope they will see that I didn’t get fired from all those jobs. Did I make the right decision? Any advice for if I encounter this in the future?

Oooooh, no, don’t put Terminated — that looks like you were fired.

Systems like this are ridiculous because they don’t allow for exactly the types of situations that you described. There’s no good option here, but you’d be better off putting Resigned or Laid Off than Terminated (and again including the explanation in the comment field like you did before).

7. How to state the salary range you’re seeking

I just had some advice for some other of your readers. It might seem obvious, but I messed it up when applying to jobs out of college.

When giving a requested salary range, always state the actual numbers. For example, if you want $30k – 50k, say “I am looking for a salary in the range of $30k – 50k.” Don’t say, “In the 30s or 40s,” even though it’s technically the same thing, because people aren’t used to it and can mishear you (not to mention that it sounds lower than it is).

I made this mistake when first applying. After my interviews, they offered me $40k, and when I tried to negotiate, they said, “Well, we offered you the top of your range; I think we’re being generous.” They didn’t exactly believe me when I tried to explain I said “30s or 40s, as in 30 to 50.” I guess the manager had heard 30k – 40k, written down 30k – 40k, and told the HR manager 30k – 40k, so I couldn’t convince her that she misheard me. (I later found out that the job actually paid 45-55, so it’s strange that they wouldn’t negotiate with me at ALL anyway.) I hope that this information is helpful in some way!

Thank you — passing it along here.

{ 148 comments… read them below }

  1. KarenT*


    “Gossipy Machiavellian sneak” is my new favorite phrase. Especially because as I read it a former co-workers face popped into my mind…

    1. Josh S*

      #2 — If you’re able to pony up the money (or get your work to do so!), I strongly recommend the Dale Carnegie Course. It’s rather long, quite involved, but it will give you a LOT of the ‘soft skills’ that you’re looking for.

      Disclosure: I used to do sales for a franchise of Dale Carnegie Training. Don’t anymore, but they are AWESOME and I still really recommend their ‘training’ to people.

      Look ’em up!

  2. Anonymous*


    The job actually paid $45k-$55k and they thought they were being generous giving you $40? Very liberal use of the word “generous.”

      1. #7 Author*

        Umm… yes! And the previous person made $53k starting out! The whole office culture is kinda skewed here … but I’m happy to say I’ll be leaving very soon!

      2. #7 Author*

        But I’ll also say — part of the reason I took the job anyway is because I had gone to a lot of recruiters who changed my perception of what I was worth as a candidate. They offered me these “great” temp-to-perm jobs that paid $13 an hour, and they said that just being out of college (despite already having work experieince, and despite getting perfect scores on their assessment tests) that I would be really lucky to be making $28k – $30k (in New York City!). So I wasn’t completely unhappy that I was still making more than the recruiters had been offering me, but it still didn’t exactly sit right.


    #4 Like AAM said it varies widely by the company. I was contacted one week after applying and I was contacted 5 months after applying. I got an e mail rejection today from an application from 2 months ago. What stupid companies think someone is waiting around to hear from them.

    1. YoungMeg*

      I had one company contact me for an interview two and a half months after I applied and then get huffy when I turned it down because I had accepted another offer already. Yes, I would have preferred your job. No, I was not willing to wait and hope for it. I wrote you off months ago*

      *Said only to fiance later that evening, not to woman on the phone. Thought it though

      1. Rose*

        I had a company contact me NINE MONTHS after I had applied. I interviewed with them and got the job.
        When we were looking at moving to the area, my husband applied at the same company. It took over a year for them to respond and the woman he spoke with seemed really surprised that he wasn’t interested in the job anymore. She asked why he wasn’t willing to wait for a position with them. Well…. We have to pay the bills and eat so we wrote you off almost a year ago.

        1. Gjest*

          Have you found that this delay is indicative of how the company operates as a whole? Just wondering if they are disorganized, or take forever making decisions, etc. etc.

          1. AB*

            In my experience, it’s totally indicative.

            I normally only change jobs when relocating because of my husband, but when that happened, if the process was fast, the company moved fast in everything: approving projects, getting the right resources to run them etc. If the process took forever (and in a few cases I did wait, since I had well-paying contract work to do in the meanwhile), then everything in the company was dysfunctional, confusing, disorganized, and frustrating.

            Obviously I’m just one data point, and there could be exceptions in a company with one particular situation of hire freeze, etc., but now I definitely take this into account as indicative of the company’s culture (even hire freezes — if they need a person, and can’t approve an exception, having to wait 5+ months to fill the position, that should give you an idea of what will you be dealing it).

            1. Ornery PR*

              Just to offer the other view point, I was hired at my current company 14 months after I first applied. But it didn’t indicate anything nefarious on their part. They had hired someone else the first go-round and after he had been here for 5 months, was offered and took a position at another company that he had applied to 6 months earlier. So by the time my company was ready to hire again, a year had passed, and they emailed me out of the blue. I had just completed seasonal work so the timing was perfect for me. Strange things can happen without indicating deeper problems in the company.

          2. Rose*

            Yes, it highlighted a lot of issues in that company. I think the company’s main problem is that they have grown exponentially in the last couple of years (think tripled in size) but they are still operating like a small company. Getting leave approved, or really anything approved takes, at minimum, several weeks. They have a tiny HR department and only one Hiring Manager serving a company with over 2,000 employees. Basically, nothing gets done outside of the departments.

          3. Chloe*

            In my case – totally indicative. Shouldn’t have taken this job, really, given how much inefficiency and delay bothers me.

        2. voluptuousfire*

          *She asked why he wasn’t willing to wait for a position with them.*

          LOL. Silly recruiter. Wishin’, hopin’, dreamin’, prayin’…like that old Dusty Springfield song. :)

          1. Ruffingit*

            Just by asking that question, the woman made it clear why it was smart for the guy NOT to work for her. No one I know has the resources to wait around wishing and hoping for a job. And even if they did have the resources, no one I know would do that. They all want to work and set about doing so. A year is way too long to think someone is going to wait around for you. What kind of entitlement minded crap is that??

    2. My 2 Cents*

      I’ve literally heard back on some within 30 minutes, and some 6 months later, I have found absolutely ZERO way to predict.

    3. J3*

      Sadly even with these “perfect job” jobs you kind of have to just apply and then set ’em free from your heart. At the beginning of the year I applied to a job that literally sounded written for my precise experience, focus, skills, trajectory– I mean that truly, not in the semi-BS cover letter way– …and radio silence. I’ve followed up politely something like five times because I am crazy and because, seriously, perfect job. Nothing. The job is still posted today. I know my self-assessment isn’t *that* wildly off, so at this point I can only assume it’s them, not me. Who knows.

    4. RubyJackson*

      Government positions usually take 2 years to contact you for the initial examination after you apply. Then, if you pass the exam, it could be another six months for the *first* round of interviews. And first round interviews usually include hundreds of applicants. Who has the time for that?!

        1. Xay*

          Hasn’t been mine either. I’ve seen 6-9 months start to finish for federal positions, possibly longer for states, depending on the political/financial climate of that state. Of course, if funding is in dispute, the process can take a lot longer.

          But I also haven’t applied for mass hiring positions such as for the Census.

          1. doreen*

            Depends on the government agency and the job. In my experience ( one state government and one municipal) you can be hired fairly quickly for titles that don’t have a formal written test , especially if there are a limited number of positions in that title. For jobs that do have a formal written test, you apply one to three months before the test , it usually takes 6 months to a year after the test for the list to be published, and it could then take years before someone with a passing score is interviewed My city right now is still using a sanitation worker list based on a test that was given in 2008- and there are no plans to give a new test .

            In the state system, the applicants with the top three scores must be offered an interview- but that’s not three applicants If one person scored 100 , one scored 95 and 100 people scored 90, then all 102 must be offered an interview, so for popular test, there may be hundreds of interviews.

            1. mirror*

              It took 2 years for my husband to be hired as an air traffic controller for the FAA. You have to take an aptitude test at the right time of year, wait some months, get your score, officially apply, selections are made twice a year based on your test score alone, if youre lucky enough to be selected then you must wait a few months to be interviewed, then wait for a class date to be trained in OK before you arrive at your facility, which is usually a year wait, spend a couple months being trained, then finally get to your facility. All the while you could fail any of these steps and have to start over.

              And if you get selected for a state that you dont want–good luck turning it down. You have a 99% chance of never being selected again.

              1. Jessa*

                Yep. They do not give a darn if you don’t want to go where they want you to. It’s kind of like being in the military. You take what they give you or forget it.

              2. De Minimis*

                That is not really the typical federal job, though. A lot of them are just general office work that often don’t really have a lot of specific training.

    5. College Career Counselor*

      Same here. Contacted the next day (and of course then waited months for an interview), as well as 3 months later.

  4. LadyTL*

    In regards to #2 sometimes talking to people, asking them about themselves and their work, and taking a genuine interest in them doesn’t actually work. I’ve tried that for years at the jobs I’ve had and the poof relationships never actually happened. I still have been kept outside the circles of conversations mostly because my interests are different from my co-workers. I think the poof only happens if you both share interests so if you don’t you may be resigned to being on the outside. It can get better though if only in not being penalized for being outside of the office circles.

    1. Ornery PR*

      I think you’re right that some places are just cliquey and there’s not much you can do to break through that. At my work though (which is small – only 25 employees total), being friendly, helpful and having good personal hygiene are all you need. But you must have all three. Outside of those, personal interests are irrelevant.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I think that’s right on the money. For example, I worked at one place where everybody was into sports and I am SO not interested in that. The only things anyone talked about were fantasy football, real football, their team, why the other team sucked, what they drank while watching the team, the Super Bowl (the only conversation I could get in on), what they drank/ate/wore while watching the Super Bowl, and the size of the TV on which they watched it. Not all of them were guys, either.

      Yet at Oldjob, the shop people (all guys and one woman) had this same interest in sports and could still have really cool conversations about other things. I always took my break so that I could sit with them for at least part of their lunch hour because you never knew what the topic would be. They even suggested a character name for my third novel, and I used it. I don’t miss the job, but I sure do miss them.

    3. Jennifer R.*

      Well, I think in the “clique/different interest” scenario you make a sincere effort to learn more about their interests. For example, I know next to nothing about flying or planes but my boss is a hobby pilot. I use my lack of information as a jumping off point to ask him about what he does, etc. Yes, honestly, sometimes I don’t mean it when I say “wow, that’s so interesting!” but that is just how the game is played. Most everyone loves talking about themselves, just ask questions and listen intently…. relationships will follow!

      Another idea… say you are a huge video game and technology/entertainment buff but your coworker is one of those people who doesn’t own a tv. Google their stance on things and email them an article they may be interested in. “Hey, I saw this and thought of you… it is really interesting!”

      Some people aren’t good at this stuff. These are usually also people with very poor social networks and, unfortunately, that will limit you professionally.

  5. EE*

    #2, I’m not sure what country you’re in, but my experience was that you’re expected to be a screaming extrovert. It’s far more casual in terms of behaviour (clothes, acceptability of swearing, expectation of getting blindingly drunk with your fellow trainees at least fornightly) partly because there are so MANY young people at the bottom of the pyramid.

    Gossip is quite common because you’ll be working for a variety of managers in a variety of small teams, and people will share their memories of other people they’ve worked with…

    I found I had to conceal my introversion so as not to stand out too badly. For example, if I’d met a friend for a quiet chat over the weekend I’d say I “went out for the night with a bunch of mates” when inevitably asked what I got up to.

    In terms of the managers/non-trainees: they’re very stressed and appreciate brief, efficient communication. When you don’t know how to do something, your first port of call needs to be your fellow trainees in an older year. You’ll learn exponentially and when in second, third year, you’re expected to be the response unit for the more junior trainees.

    1. EmmaOP*

      OP of #2 here, thanks for the industry-specific insight. The general ‘huge group of young people’ dynamic must apply wherever you are as a trainee, but I’m in the UK. Where did you train?

      1. EE*

        Just swim a few miles west…
        I’d say you’ll have a similar environment although your fellow trainees probably won’t be as sports-mad as mine.

        1. calibrachoa*

          Gotta be the rain, I’m in your neighborhood and the nordic call centres are all like that.

      2. Antipodean Big4*

        Yeah, the Big 4 culture can be pretty full on, particularly when the grads join and spend the first 6 months trying to out-do each other and impress the managers. Be wary of aligning yourself too closely with groups who fit into that mould, because sometimes the ringleader in that scenario, the one who seems super popular and like they’re going to fit in really well, falls flat on their face after a short time. Be social, but don’t overdo it. Don’t be the one getting roaring drunk at Friday night drinks, or dancing on the bar at the office Christmas party. Do good work and be friendly, thats really the best way to start your career. Looking at everyone who became a partner, they were the ones who were well liked and outgoing, but also worked extremely hard and got a reputation for being reliable.

        1. EmmaOP*

          Thanks for this, it’s good uncovering inside advice from the Big4. I find it hard work being social, but not impossible (any longer). I’m a little older than the typical grad, so I’ve already had the regrettable fall-down-drunk office party incidents at previous jobs and learned from them! Do good work and be friendly is excellent advice. Can’t go wrong with that.

          1. $0.2*

            Do you mind sharing your age, I am 32 trying to get into big 4 but I “think” I get discriminated against because they cannot ask a 32 year old to make copies lol

            1. EmmaOP*

              I’m 30, nearly 31. If I had to guess, I think what got me in despite my age (ha ha, yes, so old!!!) was showing that I was really dedicated to the career change and had good reasons for wanting to move to audit. I got two weeks’ audit work experience at a large mid-tier accounting firm to really make sure I liked the work, and it gave me lots to talk about in my covering letter and in interviews.

              How far are you getting? Written application stage/interview? The forums at are haphazard but very helpful for Big 4.

            2. EmmaOP*

              I thought I wrote a reply but it must have been lost in the aether.

              I’m 30, nearly 31. I can only guess what got me in the door given my age (!!! yes, so old!), but I think what helped me was showing I was really serious about the career change. I got two weeks’ work experience at a mid-tier firm so I could say for certain it was work I’d enjoy and do well at. It gave me plenty to talk about in my cover letter and in interviews.

              How far are you getting? Applications stage, interviews?

              I met candidates who had PhDs and looked to be in their late 20s/early 30s at the assessment centre. I honestly don’t know how they look at age, but don’t write yourself off at all.

          2. De Minimis*

            Ex-Big 4 here as well, had difficulties precisely because of the whole social issue…but for me it was just the wrong fit from the very beginning. My big difficulty was just getting connected to where I could get enough work in the first place, but my office really overhired so that was part of it. Hopefully you don’t have a problem with being attached to projects and work assignments. If you prove yourself to be reliable and teachable, you won’t have any problem getting connected to good projects where you can grow. One big thing people always said was that as a new associate, the best thing you can do is make your senior associate’s job easier and make them look good.

            I don’t know how much Big 4 culture differs in the UK from the US. I worked on the West coast [Silicon Valley area] and for my office the key was really just to be engaged–participate in activities, volunteer for things. Go to any events that they have. It can be easy to get lost in the crowd there, so you have to go the extra mile.

            As far as age, I was 36 when I got in…it can be done, and it’s probably better now since I started in 2008…but there is often some level of age discrimination there, sometimes not intentional but just in the sense that the networks tend to be created by people who hang out together, went to school together, etc., so if you’re older you kind of start out on the outside.

          3. Big 4 Spouse*


            My husband has been with a Big 4 firm (Deloitte) for 8 years now, starting right out of college. He’s in audit so if you are in tax or IT, this may not fully apply, but here goes:

            First, in audit especially, they are sent in teams to the client for weeks at a time, so it’s an automatic built-in networking situation. You work during the day but then have time at night to go out with your coworkers and have dinner, sometimes movies, casinos, etc. So, take advantage of that and just get to know your co-workers by hanging out with them, you’ll be forced to spend time with them anyways.

            If you are located mainly in the office, you will still have plenty of opportunities. You’ll be sent to trainings a few times a year so make sure you meet the others while you are there, they are from all around the country and are a great way to meet others in the same industry and company. You never know when you’ll decide to switch offices and move to another city and having some people that you already know there will be very helpful.

            There are also A LOT of social functions. Happy Hours, holiday parties, going away parties when someone leaves (and people leave A LOT, it’s the nature of the business), so just make sure you go to those and hang out with your coworkers.

            Do NOT feel like you have to drink and get drunk if you don’t want to. My husband started with a guy who drank way too much at every event and was quickly fired, so ignore those who say you are expected to get drunk because you certainly aren’t, and it can certainly hurt you if you go too far, but you are able to drink if you choose.

            Depending on your city, you may also have access to the firm’s box at sporting events, so if you are offered tickets, take them up on it. The partners use the tickets for clients and bring in the employees who work on those clients, so take advantage of those times and go see a game even if you hate sports, the boxes are very nice and catered so it’s a lot of fun regardless!

            Hope this helps!

            1. De Minimis*

              I worked in tax, and it’s true that it can be a little tougher since you don’t usually have the “instant networking” situation of working at the client site, unless you happen to be working on the income tax portion of an audit.

              Although there was a lot of alcohol at events, I did not notice that anyone seemed to care about who was drinking and who wasn’t. Sometimes I almost thought the alcohol was like a trap, to see if someone would be dumb enough to get drunk and do something foolish.

              1. Sara-OP #5*

                Hi! Just read that you’re in the tax field. Would you mind expanding on that a bit, since that’s the field I want to enter?

                1. De Minimis*

                  Hi, unfortunately I no longer work in tax. I left the Big 4 after my first year and that was it for me and public accounting, I am a non-practicing CPA working in governmental accounting.

                  As far as finding work in tax I would probably join a local chapter of your state CPA society. From my experience, if you have your license you often can at least get interviews, especially with smaller local firms. It can be tough to get into a larger firm [Big 4, regional] because they tend to only hire within their college recruiting pipeline.

              2. Chinook*

                Speaking as a former AA at a firm that was #5 (i.e. right below the Big Four) and sat in on meetings where managers discussed future placements, I want to second that you don’t have to be an extrovert to excel but you do want to be involved in anything the firm does. Remember that the ones who decide what work you do and whether to promote you are not your peers but your managers.

                True, you want to be friendly and build relationships, but the managers are perfectly aware of who is working hard and learning and who is there for fun and entertainment. They also notice who helps each other out when it comes to prep for the various exams and courses and who doesn’t. They were also more impressed with those who could balance life and billable hours, but when in doubt, the billable hours are the most important thing.

                And don’t be afraid to ask your managers for help. If they are constantly bringing in new students, they know you don’t know everything and will be patient if you ask questions (just make sure you are remembering their answers). Figure out who the best person in your department to go to on your team is and use them.

                And two quick survival tips:
                1. Always bring a notepad and pen to a meeting. Not bringing one the first time will be mentioned, even if not to your face, when they discuss your readiness to move on.
                2. Treat the Admin Assistants, File Clerks and other support staff with respect. We may not be working towards those fancy letters behind our name, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know some of your job better than you and, if you are having trouble with a deadline looming, we have the ability to pull you out of the fire if we want to. And, when we find mistakes when doing data entry or formatting, we can either tell you about them or tell the managers who decide your fate.

                1. De Minimis*

                  My office would have fallen apart pretty quickly without the EAs [as we called them] and other support staff.

            2. EmmaOP*

              Thanks Big 4 Spouse for the inside knowledge. Yes, I’m going for Audit so all that applies. I’ve just been invited to the office Summer Ball (in September… eh) at a fancy location, so it’s all gearing up already!

              Warning about drinking heeded. I’m glad I’ve already had a few jobs under my belt, and I’ve seen some ‘interesting’ co-workers, a scandalous firing and drunk managers. I hope that gives me a slight advantage over the younger trainees with less experience of the pitfalls of office life.

              I can’t wait to get in on the sweet opportunities for tickets and dinners. I’m work at a huge law firm until I start my training in September, and I’m extremely envious of the lawyers getting goodies from clients!

              Thanks for all the advice and the time you took to post it. It far less daunting now.

              1. De Minimis*

                Audit is much better for exit opportunities so even if you decide this isn’t “a fit” you can probably be in a good position for a job elsewhere if you persevere for 2-3 years.

                1. Big 4 Spouse*

                  This!!!! After even a year of service you’ll be fielding calls from recruiters all the time wanting to poach you away. The longer you stick around the better, with really good opportunities arising after 3 years or so.

                  My hubby could go out and get a hundred really good paying job offers tomorrow, auditers are in HUGE demand. So, stick with it and enjoy, it’s a lot of hard work but it pays off.

          4. Nutella Nutterson*

            It might be worth checking out some “emotional intelligence” advice. Emotional Intelligence 2.0 has concrete tips, you could talk them over with your therapist. Working With Emotional Intelligence may have good content, I got buried by all the research in the first third, though!

        2. Natalie*

          Bleh, this all sounds horrible. I am strongly considering pursuing additional education in accounting but this culture would be terrible for me, personally. Can I just go in-house somewhere and avoid this nonsense?

          1. De Minimis*

            There are plenty of jobs in accounting that don’t involve Big 4 or that type of culture. Smaller firms, government, industry…

            The funny thing is that most people in Big 4 or in public accounting end up in industry [“in-house”] anyway. They just usually get a better industry job than someone without that experience.

            I would guess a good way to start out in-house would be to try to get some accounting clerk work while you are taking courses. I think the reason more people don’t go this route is that the salaries tend to be a lot lower in the beginning. It can also be limiting for people since most likely they won’t be able to get the CPA and might have a harder time moving up, depending on the company.
            Big 4 and public accounting in general is really pushed in the various accounting programs, but it’s not the only path.

            1. Natalie*

              I’d say that’s good advice, as I actually am an accounting assistant right now, which is what inspired me to go back to school and pursue this as a career. I’m not sure if I want a CPA at this time but I’m sure I’ll figure it out if and when that time comes.


  6. Malia East*

    Re: #6 – I feel your pain! I’m sure many of us would appreciate if AAM could feature a post (or maybe in one of her great external columns linked to here) about these online systems that create MAJOR problems for professionals (with excellent creds) to navigate these applications. Understanding how the system may indeed auto-reject those that don’t answer the “right” choices from the menu (even if their qualifications do include that, but where it would be false in a literal sense to select the preferred option.

    I’d be curious to know from OP and others the typical app menus that give them the most challenge – maybe HR folks reading AAM will consider revising their company’s online system if they were clear about the ways it thwarts ostensibly qualified applicants from applying.

    For example, as a consultant/contractor within a particular specialization, my workscope during any long stretch of months or a few years will comprise a series of contracts, often overlapping. While my resume will be tailored/structured in the order to emphasize the interests of a prospective employer, the online app (that often creates an automated resume superceding the applicants’ own!) will totally re-order things, often putting the least relevant/impressive project first. Sure, I could theoretically fudge dates to force it into the best order, but I certainly don’t want to lie.

    Another problem I find arises with online apps’ drop-down menus to select “location” of a prior job. Alas, working in a field where international experience is very important (and I have heaps) my contracts might cover aspects of a project in 3 different countries—yet the online apps most often allow only one to be noted. In that case, I feel compelled to site the headquarters of the client/organization, which would usually be in the U.S. Doing so, however, makes the system think I have no non-U.S. experience (this particular menu category doesn’t normally allow for comments to expand on the selection.) I’m stuck putting New York-only, instead of NY/Brussels/Tokyo or NY/Dubai, etc. If I just put an overseas location, where the client has no office (but does engage in work.) If an HR person were to do look up the company online, there would find no location listed for that entity there—surely making it seem I’d been untruthful.

    Of course I realized that cover letters are the place we could (at least theoretically_ emphasize such things, but I am concerned—as OP must be—that the online system will disqualify us before such a letter would even meet human eyes.

    Would love to hear others experiences and if OP finds any of others suggestions useful.

    What is an otherwise qualified, reputable and experienced professional to do when online multiple-choice/ menu-based applications make telling the truth impossible, and due to the limited menu options, any answer selected would ultimately be a lie

    1. WWWONKA*

      I hate the app system that does not pull your info from your resume or the on that has you manually fill out the app and then asks for your resume.

      1. voluptuousfire*


        I had an online ATS the other day where it on the first page it asked you to paste a text version of your resume and it would parse out the contact info. The next page you had to fill in your work history manually. What’s the point of that? It seemed contradictory to the first page!

    2. Elise*

      Put the foreign country. If it gets reviewed by a human they will be reading your notes, too. If it is rejected by the computer screening, your cover letter or resume won’t help.

    3. Anonymous*

      Do whatever you need to do (that isn’t an outright lie) to work the automated system, then include clear, concise explanations of anything necessary in the notes section (hopefully there is one), and make sure your resume is accurate (especially if the system lets you upload your own document).

      1. Malia East*

        Oh how I wish I could do this. Generally, the menu categories that mess me up are ones where there’s no place to explain. Thus, every menu choice will ultimately force me to lie – when, if I could actually put the facts, it would make things not only very clear, but show that I have very desirable experience in that area. The online app does not give a place to explain, so I can’t tell them :( It matters only as I am looking to shift from contractor to staff opps at this point.

    4. Paul*

      I could write a book on the terrible things that are required in online applications. The worst one, after having already entered the same information in prior steps of the application, asked five or six “supplementary” questions. For example, “Do you have a CPA?” In the text box provided for the answer, I wrote “No.” When I pressed “submit” I got an error message that my response for that question had to be at least 100 characters. Didn’t have a lot more to say other than “no,” so I added spaces. I didn’t count the spaces. Then when I pressed “submit,” I got an error message that I had exceeded the 100 character limit. So I deleted some spaces. Turns out my response had to be EXACTLY 100 characters. All of the questions in that section had to be a specific number of characters.

      It must have been an isolated incident, but I did let them know (nicely) via email that there seemed to be an issue with their system. Someone actually called me the next day to say they had fixed it.

      1. Mike C.*

        I will bet 100 internet dollars that they complained for the longest time about the stupid applicants that went on and on about having a CPA or not.

        “It’s a simple yes or no question what’s so hard about this?!”

      2. Natalie*

        Ugh, badly designed online forms. I use some internal software with that same problem – when you update your password the requirements are not displayed. If your password is rejected it only tells you that one rule. At least once I had to try 3 different passwords, learning a new part of the password requirements each time, before it finally took the 4th. That has now become my personal version of hell.

        1. Evan*

          Actually, a knowledgeable but interpersonally-inept IT department might find themselves doing something like that. The big advantage of having passwords containing digits, punctuation, etc. is that there’re so many possibilities, meaning it’ll take a lot longer for a hacker to guess a password (even if he uses a program). But, if he knows every password is required to have at least one digit (or be longer than 8 characters, etc.), then he can ignore everything that doesn’t fit that requirement. So, it’s best for companies to make sure to keep such requirements away from hackers.

          On the other hand, actual users really need to know those criteria. An IT department can’t forget that, either.

          1. Natalie*

            As far as I know, in order to get into this software someone would have to be using our internal network or a VPN. I sort of feel like if they’ve gotten that far, knowing the password requirements is probably not going to be a huge hurdle!

          2. Lynn*

            I know the passwords are more secure if they are longer, contain non-alpha-numerics, etc. But for something like this, I have to question how ultra-secure it really needs to be. This isn’t the NSA. It’s not even the bank. What, someone is going to hack their way in and… apply for jobs on my behalf? I feel like some of the requirements are over-the-top for the context.

  7. Carlotta*

    #2 – I work for a large corporate and although I’ve not really made any friends for life, I am pleasant and make conversation when the opportunity arises. I don’t really ‘do’ gossip so if I’m the ‘last to know’ I don’t mind so much and make a joke out of it if appropriate. I don’t know what the other poster is saying about dress code, where I am everyone wears business smart like suits etc. – and in fact the more junior the person the smarter they tend to dress! If you are friendly and always say hello to your colleagues, go to a few social events and chat to people you will get a good reputation for being friendly. Too much water cooler chat (I.e. hour long catch ups which I’m sure you weren’t planning anyway) might not get commented on, but will likely be noted and damage your professional reputation so there is a balance to be struck. Going to lunch with different people etc is a good idea to make opportunities to get to know people if there’s not much moving around ad changing teams going on for you. Politics is something else completely and there will likely be much of it. If I sense something odd is going on I always check with my line manager because sometimes she is aware of situations or changes which might be relevant and I want us to work as a team. Good luck with your career and I’ve no doubt you’ll find others just like you once you start. You might even enjoy it :)

    1. EE*

      It was more in women than men that the dress code ‘slipped’, actually. I saw a lot of outfits that looked more appropriate for a night out, especially on non-client-facing days.

      Although one of the Big 4 (not mine) was business casual across the board.

      1. abc*

        what does dress code have to do with forming relationships with coworkers though? that kind of came out of nowhere and has no relevance

        1. Elsajeni*

          It may not directly help you form relationships, but matching your co-workers’ style of dress (not just “within dress code,” but finding where within that range everyone else dresses) is a part of fitting in — and dressing much more formally than everyone else, especially, can be a hindrance to forming relationships, because some people will interpret that as signaling that you think you’re better than them.

      2. De Minimis*

        Ours was business casual, I gather that there were a handful of audit clients that wanted men to wear ties, but it was pretty rare. Many of the clients were tech companies so often they thought even business casual was a little too formal.

    2. jesicka309*

      Simple things like helping other people can go a long way too. Holding open an elevator for someone that’s rushing to catch it, offering the milk to someone making a cup of tea in the break room, passing a tea cup out of the cupboard to the person wiating behind you etc. can all go a long way to opening up doalogue such as ‘how’s thing going?’ or ‘coffee time, right? It’s like rush hour in here!’ and other meaningless dialogue.
      The other trick is to ask about their weekend. On Friday: plans for the weekend? On Monday: How was that party? Or if they have leave, ask about their holiday. Little things like that will make it easier on you – eventually, you will have a little mental file of something to talk about with everyone you work with. Jane fosters puppies, Bob REALLY loves Masterchef, Wakeen is training for a marathon in October, Cindy’s kid just started day care etc. It definitely makes those moments waiting for the microwave or elevator a bit nicer, even if you’re not socialising with them outside of work (who got time for that? NOT ME)

    3. fposte*

      Echoing what Carlotta says on being the last to know–that can actually help you bond with your workmates, because people love being able to enlighten you. It’s even a great catchup intro–“Okay, what have I missed this month?”

  8. Limon*

    #2, Please just be your wonderful self!! You will do just fine. In the workplace, it can be so hard to do your work best and also navigate the office politics. In a good environment, the work takes precedence and you can just focus on that and having friendly banter with your coworkers.

    In bad environments, the politics become more important than the work (it seems). Ugh.

    Let’s hope your new job is the first category and you can just do your best and be your best self. Think of all the other people like you who just want to be themselves, you can make friends with them. Talk about your dog, friends, hobbies or whatever! The Machiavellian creepsters you will see a mile away, don’t fall for their false behavior. If in doubt, just start by smiling at people and being open in your body language. A smile goes a very long way in most situations.

    1. Stevie*

      If you’re just having trouble building connections and friendly chatter, I’ve found that asking coworkers about their kids goes a long way (provided it’s not creepy). The parents I’ve met, even in the workplace, love talking about their kids during lunch and whatnot. Plus it shows that you pay attention and care if you can ask how little Johnny’s first day of kindergarten went or if Sarah’s job search panned out.

      1. A Teacher*

        or if you know they have pets, ask about their pets…single, no kids here but I do have 3 dogs and I foster so I like sharing puppy stories.

      2. Loose Seal*

        Of course, the downside to this is that you then have to listen to people talk about their kids…

  9. Confused*

    #2 I feel for you. Same boat.
    Alison, it would be great to hear more from you about office politics and how to navigate. Much like OP#2 I find mysel struggling with that as I’ve never been the type to fit in with the clique of cool kids. One former boss and senior co-workers were basically the gang from Mean Girls (down to the Regina “compliments”). It was my first experience in such a political environment and very confusing.

    1. Anonicorn*

      Sounds like the problem is with them, not you.

      Most workplaces are probably going to have “cliques” of people who are more friendly because they’ve been working together a long time or naturally get along well. That’s normal. But people are who are mean are just mean people.

      1. De Minimis*

        From my experience, it didn’t really get “political” until you reached manager level and above. For the associates and senior associates, it was more about being able to get onto the right projects, not so much about politics but being able to prove yourself and to be able to get into an area where you had a lot of interest and aptitude.

    2. Julie*

      I’m lucky because my boss navigates our office politics and shields me from most of it. Also, I’m a contractor, so others tend to leave me out of the loop. But my manager fills me in on what I need to know (she often includes gossip, opinions, and information that I don’t, technically, need to know but that is helpful to have as background information).

      Regarding the comment directly above, it sounds like you’re talking about cliques and insecure people, which I don’t see as “politics.” I think of office politics as knowing what can and can’t be done/said due to the agendas and allegiances of the people higher up (who make the decisions). It would be interesting to know what others view as “office politics.”

      1. Julie*

        By the time I finished writing my comment, the previous one was no longer “directly above.” I was responding to Confused’s comment.

        1. Confused*

          The specific situation I mentioned wasn’t an issue outside the workplace. They wanted to hang out. Fine.
          It was an issue when boss went out of her way to give opportunities and projects to people in the clique and let them get away with anything/everything but nitpicked the “uncool.” Personally, I was picked on/mocked by members of the clique, they even threw things at me once. Boss made fun of me to another employee (same level as me) behind my back (HR was unprofessional and in the clique too). There was also a lot of backstabbing, alliances, and gossip among the lower level staff.
          Typing it out makes me realize how surreal it was.
          I always thought of “political” as code for “immature, gossipy, and dysfunctional” because it was my first experience with a job/company described as political. Perhapse I was wrong.

  10. Tina*

    Alison, related to OP #7 post, what do you think about a candidate giving a $20k range at that level? Is saying $30-50k too wide of a range, or is it ok?

  11. Chocolate Teapot*

    For Question 1, two days isn’t very long, and will soon fly by. Also, I sometimes find that being busy peaks and troughs.

    1. Kerry*

      Whatever you do, though, if you’re a lady, DON’T TALK ABOUT CARS OR SPORT. You’ll only make yourself look foolish. Stick to knitting, recipes, and childcare.

      1. LPBB*

        Ha ha! My poor boyfriend has to listen to endless rants from me about being a female sports fan.

        Protip: Quite a few women actually really like sports and are quite knowledgeable, while at the same time, not all men like sports or know much at all about them!

        1. Chinook*

          Speaking as a femal Canadian who actually took out a book on hockey in grade 7 in order to understand what the guys were talking about (because all the girls did was talk about fashion and squeal), please include anyone who has a point of view on sports. I promise I won’t talk at all about the tight pants they wear in football and instead we might be able to get in to a debate about why Canadian football is better than American and why European football seems to have a lot of people fallign down when a foot is swung anywhere near a shin.

          1. Dana*

            Do you mean Canadian football is better than American football (I agree) or American soccer (I may have to disagree), especially if we’re talking women’s soccer. Totally agree on the European floppers. :)

        2. Evan*

          I’ll second the last part: I’m a man, and nothing bores me more than sports. Really – I’d rather hear about the weather, your latest haircut… anything.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Ha ha!

        I have a hard time because I’m a nerd, and no one on my floor seems to be. I have a TARDIS on my desktop and someone asked me why I had a Porta-Potty on my computer.


    2. The IT Manager*

      I’m a woman and can talk sports. If you follow the local teams a bit, you can usually talk about that.

      Although to be honest football is easiest because they play one game a week. All other team sports require much more effort to actually watch the games and follow the teams.

      ** I’m not saying so this to have something to talk about, but if you already follow the sport, you can probably find someone in the office to chat with about it. And as someone else said, people usually like to talk about their children and pets and in those you cases, you don’t have to be any more knowledgable on the subject than the average human being.

      1. De Minimis*

        UK may be different, but in the US most Big 4 associates are younger people who just got out of college, and few of them have children.
        However, you do start seeing more employees with kids at the manager level and above, and those are the people that you really need to connect with the most anyway, I guess.

    3. Eric*

      I’m a man and my eyes would glaze over if you started talking to me about cars or sports. Now, if you want to talk about Star Trek or share cookie recipes, I’m your guy.

    4. Eric*

      I’m a man and if you want to see my eyes glaze over, start talking to me about cars or sports. However, if you want to chat about Star Trek or share cookie recipes, I’m your guy.

      1. Jamie*

        Star Trek, cookies, and a pic of a cute dog in exchange for endless yammering about whatever the White Sox are up to would be awesome.

        I’d work with you anytime.

        1. Chinook*

          If I throw in an awesome brownie recipe and a promise not to rant about fur bikinis in Star Trek, can I join?

          See, some of us can follow sports and be geeks at the same time.

      2. VintageLydia*

        My husband, too. His topics are Trek, kids, dystopian sci fi, and dirt biking. His response to sports is the same has Roy’s from the IT Crowd. “Did you see that ludicrous display last night??” It works no matter the sport.

        1. Emma*

          “Fing about Arsenal is, they always try an’ walk it in” – Moss

          LOL. When Moss got that app that let him talk football with the mailman? Brilliant!!! That is IMMEDIATELY what I thought of when I saw this bit of thread

    5. Natalie*

      Ha, that wouldn’t work with my ex, who hates sports and doesn’t own a car. 100 mile bike rides, on the other hand…

  12. Brett*

    #6 As someone who did way too much temp work in my life (over 4 years worth), you should put Laid Off.

    Whether seasonal or contract, your job ended because of a lack of available work. End of the season meant that work slacked off and not as many workers were needed. A contract can certainly be extended if work is available; there was not enough work to justify extending your contract or making you permanent. (Even if you did not want permanent work in that situation, there was some number they could have offered to convince you.)

    Lack of work = Laid Off.

    If you do have any doubts, such as you were offered a contract extension but refused it, you could put resigned. But in nearly all cases with temporary work, you should be putting Laid Off even if you were not eligible for unemployment.

    1. KellyK*

      Yeah, I would agree with that. If you have choose from only those categories, any time that the job ceased to exist should fall under “Laid Off.” Regardless of whether that decision was already made when you took the job, or whether it came later.

      1. Malia East*

        I would caution using that if you are by the nature of work a contractor/consultant. You are ALWAYS working – somethings doing R&D, something doing research to apply to the next project, sometimes you are doing grant writing (whatever it is in your field, I mean) so putting laid off makes a sole proprietor appear that they were unemployed – rather than self employed, with clientele.

  13. Elkay*

    I’ve just had a massive realisation that I should have given a range for salary when I was applying for a job. I’d come from jobs where they advertised the salary band and you always started at the bottom so when I was asked how much I wanted I named my lowest price. I feel like a prize idiot now.

    1. RubyJackson*

      Don’t be so hard on yourself. Next time, you’ll know. That’s what this site is for: to learn.

    2. #7 Author*

      Yeah, giving a range is good! (I’m sure there are articles on this blog about that.) That way, you don’t eliminate yourself as a candidate in case the one number you choose isn’t within their range. Also, it’s easier to negotiate once you get an offer.

      I think my range was too wide though. Unless you’re making above $100k, I think a range of $10k (or $15k) is standard.

  14. some1*

    Related to #6, when I left my govt job, I had to fill out an “exiting” sheet. The only choices for Reason For Leaving were Retirement, Layoff and Termination. I was really annoyed that “Resigning” wasn’t a choice, because it implies they terminated my employment instead of me terminating my employment by choice, but it hasn’t affected any future employment.

    1. Brett*

      My current local gov employer considers anything past five years a Retirement. Since you are pension vested at that point, you do eventually receive your pension once you are old enough (although if you only worked 5 years, it is going to be somewhere around $200/month).

      I wonder if the three choices had something to do with rehire policies. For example: Layoff gets priority in rehiring. Retirement is eligible for rehire, but no priority. Termination is
      not eligible for rehire.

      1. Malia East*

        AAM, your thoughts would be so appreciated on this. In the above examples by “some1” and “Brett” the employee is being forced to put a blatant falsehood on a form that goes into their record – which HR or whomever may consult when contacted by future prospective employees. How can someone (CAN someone?) assert and stand firm in refusing to lie on a form, when the form expressly prohibits telling the truth AND lying can hurt the person, too, when discovered by someone who may not ask for explanation but instead deny an opportunity? Reputations and opportunities are at stake here!

      2. Malia East*

        AAM, your thoughts would be so appreciated on this. In the above examples by “some1” and “Brett” the employee is being forced to put a blatant falsehood on a form that goes into their record – which HR or whomever may consult when contacted by future prospective employees. How can someone (CAN someone?) assert and stand firm in refusing to lie on a form, when the form expressly prohibits telling the truth AND lying can hurt the person, too, when discovered by someone who may not ask for explanation but instead deny an opportunity?

        Reputations and opportunities are at stake here!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s really just picking the answer that most accurately answers the question, within the confines of the possible answers they’re offering.

  15. MJ*


    Even if you had given a range of $30k – $50k, they could still have come back with $40k and been within your stated range.

    What you really need to do is not include numbers in your range that you wouldn’t actually find acceptable. You don’t have to give a $20k range, just give the range you’d actually want to do the job for.

    1. #7 Author*

      (Just want to point out that I accidentally left a new comment in reply to your post instead of an actual reply…)

      1. #7 Author*

        But also in my naivete, I was more concerned about just getting a job, than I was about getting a good job (with a good salary).

  16. #7 Author*

    Yes I agree completely!

    I left this as a comment at the top:

    Part of the reason I took the job anyway is because I had gone to a lot of recruiters who changed my perception of what I was worth as a candidate. They offered me these “great” temp-to-perm jobs that paid $13 an hour, and they said that just being out of college (despite already having work experieince, and despite getting perfect scores on their assessment tests) that I would be really lucky to be making $28k – $30k (in New York City!). So I wasn’t completely unhappy that I was still making more than the recruiters had been offering me, but it still didn’t exactly sit right.

  17. OP3*

    Thanks for answering my question, Alison. I think the part that makes me nervous is being able to recognize when the situation might go from working within the constraints to being more of a problem to accomodate. I’m keeping the communication up on my side, and I’m lucky to have a good manager, so I’ll just have to trust that she’ll discuss it with me if it becomes a problem. FMLA is great in that it protects my job, but it doesn’t do a thing to protect my career or reputation. :)

  18. ChristineSW*

    #2 – Oh how I can relate!! I too struggle with anxiety and shyness and have experienced feeling like I’m on the outside looking in, even if I was initially accepted. Just being friendly and courteous can really help.

    I honestly never understood “office politics” myself; I too thought relationship-building was part of it!

  19. Stephen*

    #6: You didn’t quit, you weren’t fired, the job you were in ceased to exist. That’s a layoff: end of employment due to shortage of work.

  20. Felicia*

    #6 I’ve run into that exact same thing with so many application systems (i too have had a few contract jobs). That’s one of the many reasons I hate such systems.

  21. Felicia*

    #4 the quickest I ever heard back was within 1 hour, asking me to come in for an interview the next day. The longest was 6 months later and I didn’t even want the job anymore. Typically it’s either never (if you don’t get an interview) or 2-3 weeks if you do get an interview, but it varies so much. Sometimes you hear even before the job posting has closed

  22. Elizabeth West*

    #1–leaving internship early

    Probably already said, but OP, why can’t you spend those two days helping get the project ready to go? If the company is going to do it anyway after you’re gone, it would be a great way to leave a lasting good impression if you assist in its setup before you leave. You’ll get a much better reference that way.

    #6–inappropriate app fields

    Gah, I hate those pull-down things. They never have the right categories. They should be nuked from orbit; it’s the only way to be sure.

  23. EC*

    #6. yes, when a position ends that is technically a layoff. the position is being eliminated because there is no more work available to be done. Nothing related to the person filling the position. so Layoff in that dropdown would be accurate. Terminated generally means ‘fired’. ‘separated from employment’ is global for no longer employed without indicated the ’cause’, which is why most unemploymen claim offices in States ask ‘reason for separation’?

  24. Vicki*

    #6 -Of the options given, I would use “laid off”.

    Layoffs used to be pretty standard for seasonal work… or any work where the work itself dried up. (These days they’re more commonly used to get rid of a bunch of employees the some company doesn’t want to pay).

    But if the job stopped and the work stopped and you would have been happy to keep going if it hadn’t stopped, I’d say “laid off” is your closest option. With the explanation you’ve added.

    Don’t use resigned” unless you told them you were leaving”.

    Terminated: They don’t like you and you’re out.
    Resigned: You have a better offer or don’t like this job and give notice that you’re leaving.
    Laid Off: They like you; you like them. But there’s no work for you to do. They may bring you back some day.

  25. Dahlia*

    #7 – I recently took a class in negotiation and was taught that you don’t want to give a range because it reveals your resistance points. It shows you would take as little as $20K and don’t think you’re worth over $40K. If you thought that you were worth $45K, you should shoot for $50K as your opening offer. Of course, this would ideally happen after you are given an offer. You want to avoid talking salary until that point. It’s imperative to do research on the average salary for your position. That way you won’t be surprised to learn that the job is typically paid more than they offered you. Most companies are going to pay you as little as you will take.

    If you feel compelled to use a salary range, I’d use a much narrower range of $5K-10K.

    1. Jamie*

      The lower the salary the tighter the range should be.

      For instance in most places 100-120 k are in the same pay grade. Very few jobs are the same at 20k as at 40k and are certainly in different pay grades and places on the org chart.

    2. #7 Author*

      Interesting … is there a book that you read as part of the class that you’d recommend?

      Also, if you do give one answer, how do you keep them interested in you as a candidate if they require you give a salary early on — if it’s not EXACTLY what they’re looking to pay? I thought that it was better to give a range of $10k – $15k so that you can have a greater chance of being considered, and then if they do offer the bottom of your range, you can still negotiate to the top of your range. Because at this particular company, if you say a number that’s out of their $10k range, by even $1k, they completely throw you out as a candidate.

      Believe me — I would LOVE to not discuss salary until I have an offer. And I did try to avoid talking about salary for all the people I was interviewing with, but they would keep hounding me for an answer. I did, at first, keep diverting the question … but after I would divert, and they would ask me again, and I would divert again, the employers just got really annoyed and didn’t call me.

      And this job, I really believed it paid $30k because that’s literally what all the other entry-level jobs I was interviewing for paid. I didn’t WANT $30k (where I would actually be losing money with rent and student loans) but at the time, having a job and starting my career was better than reaching too high and not being considered for any job at all.

      I really appreciate your feedback. Thank you!

      1. Dahlia*

        We used the book “Negotiation: Closing deals, settling disputes, and making team decisions” by D.S. Hames (2012).

        You did exactly what I was taught – divert, divert, divert. Another tactic is to answer the salary question like this- “From the research I’ve done, a person with my experience in this position starts at 50K.” Then you wait for his or her response and/or counteroffer. If you have to fill an online form, you should try to leave it blank or fill it “negotiable.”

        You can also negotiate for other benefits besides salary e.g. vacation days, office space, parking/metro cards, etc. Doing this may create a better overall package especially if they can’t meet your ideal salary. To prepare for the negotiation, you should rank the items that are most important to you and come up with an overall number (adding up all factors) that you would need to reach before accepting the deal.

        The most important thing is your ability walk away if you aren’t satisfied with the deal. That’s not always possible, but you have more power if it is (such as when you are interviewing for positions while you still have a steady job).

        I hope this was helpful!

  26. Ruffingit*

    Off-topic and sorry about that, but is anyone else having trouble posting here sometimes? I want to know if it’s just me or what. It takes much longer now for a post to submit and sometimes it goes to a “500 inservice” screen so I go back and if I try again, it tells me I’ve already made the post.

    Just me or…?

      1. Ruffingit*

        It seems to have been better this afternoon in general, but I did get one of those error messages in the later afternoon today.

  27. Emma*

    I feel that this is at least the second question to ask “how do I play office politics?” when the OP really means “How do I – as an introvert or less sociable person – engage my coworkers and become friends/friendly?”

    It strikes me as an honestly-mistaken twist on “is this legal?” when the writer really wants to know “is this fair/reasonable?”

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