my friend lied to me about a job, rigid interview dates, and more

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

1. My friend applied for the job I wanted and lied when I asked her about it

I am planning a cross-country move to a city a good friend lives in. My good friend just happens to be unemployed and looking for jobs. I scheduled an interview with this awesome opportunity and shared the details with my friend. (It was for an assistant to a family, and I shared the family’s name and occupations days before my interview.) When the interview came, they asked the name of my friend in town and I told them, and their response was “Oh, we just met her!”

I thought the interview went well. I texted my friend the details and that they thought they knew her, and she replied, “I interviewed with them today and I didn’t realize it was the same position you have been talking about until my interview,” which I don’t believe. I said, “Oh well, I just wish you would have told me.”

The job was offered to her and she accepted. Now I am debating moving to this city as she is my only good friend there. I’m totally in love with the town and have other interviews set up. I feel conflicted/concerned as my friend and I would be roommates and she would be helping me out a lot since I’d be new to the town. How should I proceed? How would you feel? I don’t mind she applied at all, but going behind my back applying is the issue.

I can’t tell you whether you should move or not, or whether you should live with her if you do … but if you’re confident that she lied to you, this is a friend with major integrity issues who’s willing to lie to you if she thinks it’s to her advantage. Proceed with caution, at least.

(I can tell you though that if you’re sold on moving to that town for reasons that have nothing to do with your friend, there’s nothing to stop you from following through with your plan and simply not living with her. Years ago, during my extreme youth, I was supposed to move to Portland with a friend, who ended up getting a great job offer in another city at the last minute. I went ahead and moved anyway — on my own, to a city where I knew no one — and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. So your plans don’t have to be linked to her, whatever you decide.)

2. What’s up with California labor law?

I always notice you making exceptions for the state of California when you talk about labor laws on your blog. Really interested in this but I don’t understand it at all. Is there any way you could explain the differences for outsiders to the US, and why they exist?

The way it works in the U.S., different states can set their own laws on all types of topics, including employment. They can’t pass laws that lessen any of the protections offered at the federal level, but they can pass laws that offer more protection. So you’ll sometimes see states have more employee protections than what is offered federally. California, in particular, does this quite a bit.

3. Mentioning my company’s financial issues in a cover letter

Currently, I’m an in-house attorney at a small subsidiary office of a large, multi-national corporation. We’re not doing very well business-wise, and our CEO (my direct manager) is talking paycuts for managers. I’m not paid very much, and I really can’t afford a paycut, so I’ve been looking for other jobs.

My title and responsibilities usually belong to someone with many more years of experience than I have (as in, I have 2 years, others usually have 7-9 with my title), but I’ve been able to overcome the steep learning curve and be pretty successful.

My niche industry is quite small and gossipy, and so I haven’t mentioned my company’s financial woes in my cover letter as reason for why I would want to leave my otherwise awesome-sounding job and company that apparently thinks I’m great. Instead, I’ve focused on how I’d like to do more client advocacy than what my position allows (and would ever allow) and move into a law firm setting. However, they seem like softball reasons to leave compared with “I may not get paid in Q4” (and there are other, managerial and political, reasons why I’ve been looking, but I’m making money the reason to not burn bridges). On the other hand, I’m not sure about the etiquette of saying “I’m looking for a different job because we can’t make payroll,” in a cover letter. I’m also applying for positions that don’t have anything to do with my industry, so I could mention the financial woes for those people.

Is it improper to mention the company’s financial issues in a cover letter as the reason why I’m looking away from an otherwise awesome-sounding job? Or can I come out and say that I’m looking for other jobs because we’re experiencing some major financial difficulty?

I actually don’t think you need to get into it in your cover letter at all. Someone may wonder why you’re thinking of leaving your awesome-sounding job, but if they want to know, they’ll just ask you in the initial interview — not reject you over it without talking to you. And once you’re talking in person (or over the phone), if you’re not comfortable revealing that your company is having financial issues, I think your other reasons (wanting to do more client advocacy work and in a different setting) are perfectly compelling.

4. What do interviewers mean when they ask about leadership?

What does “leadership” mean to employers? What are they looking for when they ask applicants to “describe one thing that demonstrates your leadership skills” or describe what leadership means?

I always get thrown by these questions, perhaps because it is not clear to me how “leadership” is different from “being a good employee.” My current understanding of workplace leadership comes down to:
– treating everyone they way you would like to be treated (with kindness, respect, and the benefit of the doubt),
– doing what you say you are going to do (aka being responsible in all matters),
– being consummately hard working and dedicated.

Is the point for employers to learn how the applicant defines leadership? Any guidance you have in this area would be greatly appreciated!

Leadership is a bit different than just being a good employee, because it’s about how you lead a group, not just about your own work habits. It’s about how you lead a group to get something done — so things like communicating a vision, motivating people, influencing people, ensuring your team performs effectively, and creating change.

However, it’s so broad a concept that interviewers who ask the questions you talked about are pretty much setting candidates up for confusion, just like you’re experiencing. Instead, they should ask about the specific trait they’re really interested in, like “tell me about a time when you had to motivate a group of people” or “tell me about a time when you brought a group to an agreement when there had previously been differences.”

5. Employer won’t offer me an alternate interview date

I recently applied for a job that I want so badly it hurts! I got shortlisted for an interview and was really pleased! However, the interview is on the day the I’m flying to my brother’s wedding on Italy, and I wouldn’t be able to do both. I asked to reschedule but was told they could only do interviews that day and I would be considered if the post reopened.

I’m so upset! I even asked if they could swap my time with another candidate so maybe I could make the interview and my plane. I have been told that under employment law, they have to offer an alternative date. Is this true?

No, that is not true. They can offer interviews only for 90 minutes in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve if they want to.

Go to your brother’s wedding and don’t agonize over this — first, because if they truly thought you were the best candidate, they’d probably try to be more flexible with you (at least letting you swap your time with another candidate, as you requested), and second, because at this stage you know next to nothing about what this job is really like and your “wanting it so badly it hurts” is based on what you imagine, not anything you know for sure. (Or even can know for sure at this stage — read this.)

6. Job-hunting as a military spouse who has to move all the time

I am a military spouse who has lived in 5 different states in a 6-year time frame. I was a chemistry professor before we started the major moves more recently. As this wasn’t a very portable job, I did a career change to a drug/alcohol counselor position by going back to school for more education. Now I run into a situation where my resume looks like a written “Where’s Waldo” game. I have job positions in different fields, in different parts of the country, for months at a time. Every one of my past managers has loved me working for them, and they are happy to provide references, but I feel I don’t get a lot of response from my resume because of my “shoddy” employment history.

I don’t like to start a conversation off with strangers that I am a military spouse because I know they are legally not suppose to ask this at interviews. I am not sure how to overcome this hurdle. I would love to have a stable career, but stability is not a possibility with my husband’s career! I have applied for lower level positions and I get the “you are too qualified for this position” speech because of my multiple advanced degrees. So I feel I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. I don’t know how to approach future employers with this situation.

You should explain that you’re a military spouse. Otherwise, you’ll just appear to be a job hopper who can’t or won’t keep a job for more than a few months. That looks much, much worse than simply explaining that you’ve moved so much because your husband is in the military. (And by the way, it’s not illegal for them to ask about that — and there’s certainly nothing wrong with you explaining it yourself.)

If you’re truly moving every few months, it’s true that it will be very hard to get many employers to invest in training you, only to have you leave. In that case, you’d want to look at other types of employment, like temping and contract jobs. Either way, though, this is one of the few scenarios where it would be worth having letters of recommendation from previous employers to offer; seeing previous managers rave about you and how it was worth having you even for only a short time will be useful here, because it will address some of employers fears right up-front, whereas otherwise it will be too easy for them to reject you without even talking with you.

7. How do I network with a new contact?

I am a graduate student who recently attended a convention for my field of study. While presenting a poster for my research team, I met a professional whose background and research interests are similar to mine. He gave me his contact information and seemed sincere in wanting me to keep in touch. Although I enjoy what I do and felt enthusiastic about making this contact, situations like this fill me with anxiety as I am pretty introverted and I don’t know how to network.

I thought it would be a good idea to send him an email with my info and thank him for his interest as an icebreaker. Beyond that, I’m kind of at a loss.

Go a little bit beyond just sending him your information. Tell him how glad you were to meet him and why — explain what it is about his background and interests that are similar to your own and why you’re excited about that. Ask if he’d mind if you bounce a question or two off of him occasionally — and then do that. Think of what you might ask a mentor type; that’s the kind of advice you want to ask him for. (But be alert to signs from him about how much he’s willing to give — don’t overwhelm him with a bunch of questions all at once, unless he clearly welcomes it. Also, read this.)


{ 165 comments… read them below }

    1. Jazzy Red*

      And if a potential employer refuses to be flexible with the interview schedule, what do you think they would be like to work for?

      Another thing – don’t take any more advice from the person who told you they would be required by law to offer you an alternative interview time. That person has blown their credibility with such asinine advice.

      I think you’re dodging a bullet here.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        See, I could argue that one differently. It’s possible that they really do only have one day to do interviews because it’s the only day that they’ll have everyone who needs to be involved present in the same office (if they’re geographically dispersed or if someone is on vacation that month or if someone involved travels a lot). Or that they originally had 2 days scheduled, but one is booked up. Yes, a good employer will be flexible for a very strong candidate, but in situations like the ones I described, unless the person is head and shoulders above the rest, I could see them not being able to do anything about it.

        1. AB*

          “#5. A job will never love you back. Go to your brother’s wedding.”

          Hmm… As much as I love my brother, I could easily see myself skipping his wedding if I thought a rare opportunity to interview for a great job with great potential (few qualified candidates, etc.) would be lost.

          And I am 100% sure that my brother would be perfectly fine with it, the same way I’d be if he couldn’t make it to my wedding due to work-related reasons. We can always celebrate later, and between a ceremony and party or the chance to be considered for a job I might enjoy for years, I’d definitely go with the latter.

          To me, the only people who need to be in a wedding are the bride and groom (plus their parents, if they find it important to witness the occasion). I barely said hi to my brother at his wedding (too many people trying to get the couple’s attention), so I can’t imagine how it would negatively affect our relationship if I had to miss the celebration. We’d definitely find a way to spend quality time together, perhaps watching the wedding video, which I’m sure the couple would enjoy.

          Having said that, if I had a trip scheduled to Italy, wedding or not, I’d be inclined to skip the interview and enjoy the experience :-).

    2. Forrest*

      We know nothing about the OP’s personal relationships or anyone’s personal relationships.

      The OP should go to the wedding because this is just an interview, not a promise of anything more.

      But I hate when people suggest family members should trump some things. Not everyone has great relationships with their families and not every family member is worth giving up things for.

      1. Ellie H.*

        Sure, but given that the OP is going to his/her brother’s wedding, and even flying to Italy (presumably, from the US) in order to do so, I think we can assume that it’s important to her to go.

        1. Forrest*

          Sure, but 1) I’m addressing the broadness of J’s comment and 2) the OP is trying to do both and asking what should she do. AAM said to go to the brother’s wedding since the interview wasn’t a promised thing. We don’t know what the OP would do if AAM said you have a good chance at getting the job, so its really up to you to decide one or the other.

          We also don’t know if the OP is going to the wedding because she has nothing else in place of it (I’ll go to a family event if I have no other priorities but if I have a priority that weights higher I won’t) or if she’s going because its an all expense paid trip to Italy, etc.

          We can only assume one thing: The OP wants to be able to do both of these things. They’re both important to her. If she had better odds with the interview then what? Or it if was another work related thing?

          I don’t think we can assume anything other than the OP wants to do both. That doesn’t mean we know which, if either are more important to her for any reason.

          But generally saying, the advice of “a job won’t love you back, put family first” isn’t necessarily the best one to use at all times for all situations. A job may not love you but it provides you with money for a home, food, clothes, etc, stuff that family members may not.

          1. Jamie*

            But generally saying, the advice of “a job won’t love you back, put family first” isn’t necessarily the best one to use at all times for all situations. A job may not love you but it provides you with money for a home, food, clothes, etc, stuff that family members may not.

            This! No, I wouldn’t donate a kidney for my job, the way I would for my family…but I wouldn’t ask my sisters to pay my mortgage. Some people take the work/life balance thing and use it to put work as separate and often diametrically opposed to your real life.

            Your job is what enables you to support your life – job and life aren’t working at cross purposes.

            1. Cranky Beast*

              They may not work at cross purposes by definition, but they are certainly in constant conflict. Most people I know – myself included – could live full and rewarding lives if freed from the burden of needing the paycheck. Every person has to decide for themselves whether work or real life drives the boat, but they do have to choose one or the other.

              1. Jamie*

                I don’t agree with that argument – it doesn’t have to be one or the other. At least not for everyone.

                Plenty of us love our jobs (most of the time) and our jobs are a integral part of our lives – not something separate from our “real life.” For me balance is sometimes work taking precedence, sometimes personal life taking precedence and the rest of the time just making sure everything (work and personal) gets the attention it needs.

                If you don’t like what you do I can see feeling like it’s in constant conflict with your personal life, but it doesn’t have to be that way and for many people it isn’t.

                1. Cranky Beast*

                  “For me balance is sometimes work taking precedence, sometimes personal life taking precedence” Agreed that is the most practical approach to the issue, but it assumes that your employer is willing to give way when the need arises. Not all of them are, or even can. (Fair disclosure – I used to work in broadcasting. I was told on my first day that broadcasting isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle, and I was on-call 24-7-365. They were not exaggerating.) I think in my case, it’s a growing sense that every day at work is a day less I have to cross items off my bucket list. I know this makes me no different from 100% of the population, but the reality remains.

              2. Colette*

                Constant conflict? That hasn’t been my experience – even occasional conflict would be overstating it.

                And many people live full and rewarding lives even though they require a paycheck.

                I don’t think it’s a one-time decision (“I’ll prioritize work vs. I’ll prioritize life”) – if there’s a conflict, you evaluate that individual situation based on the big picture, just as you would any other time you have conflicting priorities.

                1. Judy*

                  I can’t say constant conflict, because I understand I’m a grownup and need to pay my bills, but many days that it’s sunny out, I think “Wouldn’t it be nice to go on a hike or bike ride this afternoon?” So for me, there are certain pulls when hearing my family members that have retired or stay home when they talk about the ability to do something nice for themselves or others, that I can’t do.
                  And I like my job 90% of the time.

          2. Felicia*

            Not that it’s the case for the OP at all, but for some people family isn’t going to love you back either.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I agree, and the trip is probably more than likely nonrefundable. It’s not possible to move the date of someone else’s wedding–the OP indicates she was hoping they would work around it, so she really wants to go.

          Given all the variables and what we’ve talked about/heard regarding dream jobs, if it were me, I would let this one go and attend my brother’s wedding.

          1. Forrest*

            I do too but its wrong to assume that every life/work conflict could be solved by simply thinking “my family loves me and my job doesn’t!”

            Its not that always that simple and its never that absolute.

          2. Z*

            At the end of this all, I imagine the regret of not attending your brother’s wedding in Italy would mean much more in the grand scheme of life than an interview for a job.

  1. Jessa*

    #1 if you do move in with your friend, please be sensible and get your living arrangement agreements in writing. Particularly since even if your friend wasn’t 100% sure the job she interviewed for was the exact one you were looking at they were probably sure it was the same company and it’s a little disingenuous that they’re telling you they had no clue. Really. It might not be an outright LIE per se, but it feels a little skeevy either way. If you decide you like them more than them being a little sneaky about this you really do want to make sure they cannot be sneaky with your living arrangements.

    Not to mention, it’s just sensible business practises anyway.

    1. some1*

      It’s not even a company, where a misunderstanding like this could easily happen, it’s a married couple who hired an assistant for their family. The letter stated she specifically told her friend the name of the couple and their occupations.

      Unless the couple is John and Jane Smith and they have extremely common occupations for that geographic area, imo, there’s no way the friend didn’t know. And if she didn’t know, because she responded to a blind ad, she should have figured out when she met them in the interview.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Yes. Always get this sort of thing in writing. I see stuff on Judge Judy all the time where living arrangements are broken and the aggrieved party has no way to either get belongings back, get the other person to pay bills, etc. Just approach stuff like this as though you will always have to go to court. Especially if you still plan on moving in with someone who nicked a job right out from under you!

      1. FiveNine*

        I don’t know that the friend “nicked a job right out from under” the OP. They both interviewed for the job. The friend was offered the job, not the OP. In fact, OP says the friend is unemployed and has been interviewing for jobs (and is the one in the city in the first place, which I thought the OP wasn’t even located in at this point). The whole thing seems off to me, and I honestly can’t tell which side seems more off than the other. Given that OP is willing to basically convey that the friend did nick the job away, and even use the word “lie,” I think it would be better all around if OP didn’t move in with this person at all.

    1. tcookson*

      I would like to see Alison do a post (and see the discussion from all the wonderful commenters on here) with more specific details about how to “do” leadership. I’ve worked 99.9% of my work life as an individual contributor, and the one time where my individual contributions got me promoted to the department manager position, I HATED it so much because I really just like to do my job, behind the scenes with no high profile, without having to concern myself much with what others are doing.

      However, I’ve noticed that one of my counterparts (admin for one of the other department heads in the college where I’m admin for one of the department heads) does the same job, but she loves to be high-profile about it. So she gets a lot of public acknowledgement for doing the same things that I’ve always done without expecting to be acknowledged for (except by my boss in private). Now I’m rethinking whether I need to try to be a little more like her in my approach . . . I vacillate between admiration, a little jealousy that drawing attention to everything she’s doing comes so naturally to her, and wondering if it’s against my natural inclination to put myself out there in an attention-getting way anyway. But I think I should at least try a technique or two to show that I’m valuable, too . . . if I can find something to do that wouldn’t make me feel ridiculous or fake.

      1. The IT Manager*

        I’d be interested in a discussion like this too. I have a skewed perspective. I was in the Air Force so I got nearly 20 years of training on how to do leadership. The one thing they do is try to teach pretty much everyone to be a leader/manager. (That can be a subject of heated debated.) For officers they start right away. For enlisted troops its once they reach, about E-4 level. Because once people start moving up, they have to know how to supervise, manage, lead, and deal with what civilians would consider HR issues.

        That said. I don’t think leadership is about being in public and getting public attention, praise or blame. Leadership is about trying to get a team to accomplish something. Do you want to be responsible only for yourself and your own goals or do you want to be responsible and succeed or fail on the shoulders of others’ work? Since not everyone is an awesome employee this requires dealing with the poor-performers as well as the super-stars and average employees. If you want to manage or lead you’ve got to be at least a bit of a people person. but you don’t have to be an attention seeker.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes — I wouldn’t lump the two in together. Getting attention for your work can be important, but I wouldn’t say it’s leadership. In fact, leadership can be very quiet and behind the scenes, in some contexts. It’s about getting things done through other people.

        2. Colette*

          I’d add that leadership doesn’t necessarily mean being a manager – it means:
          – being able to prioritize and get others to work together
          – having the respect of others (so that they believe that you’re right about the direction you’re suggesting)
          – listening to input and being open to new information without being defensive (but not necessarily changing direction)

          That can all happen without being a manager.

          1. Hooptie*

            …yes, there is ‘quiet leadership’ which I’ve seen practiced by someone without the title or authority. Leadership at the peer level really comes down to leading by example.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Informal leaders. People who shape opinions of others. Some people become influential simply because of their level of expertise and their ability to handle anything thrown at them.

              1. tcookson*

                We have an informal leader at our office. She is the person that nearly everyone confides in, and a lot of people run ideas by her before trotting them out formally for mass consumption. I don’t know how she does it without breaking anyone’s confidence, but if anyone wants to know which way the political winds are blowing and how an action is likely to be interpreted, we ask her.

                We also have a person whose position is supposed to make her the dispenser of information to the staff, but she has lost a lot of personal credibility by being unnecessarily heavy handed and having been caught several times claiming (falsely) that what she’s asking is on behalf of the powers that be.

                Both of the above people’s real leadership status comes from their personal credibility, not necessarily from their formal position in the organization. People trust them (or not) based on their experiences with them, not on their position on the org chart.

                That’s kind of what I meant about my new admin counterpart . . . she seems to be building a lot of personal credibility really quickly, but it’s based more on projecting a self-confident image than anything else. She hasn’t been here long enough to prove one way or the other whether that is justified. I think it probably is; I’m inclined to want to follow her myself, and I’ve been here longer than she has.

                There are parts of my job that I’m really good at, but being the one to (overtly or actively) lead and inspire the other admins isn’t one of them. I just wonder if I should make more of an effort in that direction, or to continue to follow my more natural inclination to be a quiet, individual contributor rather than the person who rallies others.

                1. Min*

                  I suppose for me the question would be were you happy with your job and your performance before you had her around to make the comparison? And also – would the possible benefits be worth trying to change your natural working style?

                2. tcookson*

                  Min, yes I was happy until I started comparing myself with a way of being that is pretty opposite of me, but seems to get so much positive attention. I still feel that I have the respect of my bosses, it’s just that now there’s someone around who is getting lots of vocal recognition for doing the same things that I do, and not doing them necessarily better, but just making sure that everything she does gets noticed by everyone. It makes me wonder if people will begin to mistakenly conflate “high-profile” with “higher quality” . . .

        3. Rana*

          Leadership is about trying to get a team to accomplish something.

          Nicely put. That jives well with the sort of leadership training I received through NOLS. Some of the best leaders were those who just quietly stepped up when it was needed, and modeled positive group behavior themselves.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I am not a big fan of the style of leadership that uses repeated publicity of any sort. I think that it dilutes the individual’s actual ability to lead for several reasons.
        For one thing, the individual is distracted. “Oh, I can get a good story out of this!” Meanwhile, the trash can in front of them is on fire and they never notice.

        It can also skew one’s actions in a direction that may or may not be favorable. “I will cut the operating budget to the bone and boy, that savings will make me look great!” This happened at a human services organization near me. When the numbers of employees went down (budget cuts), so did the quality of service and in turn so did the numbers of people wanting the service. They took their business else where.

        This last one is subtle but probably the biggest impact on the individual- the publicity seeking leader can (NOT ALWAYS) end up with a superficial understanding of his job/workplace.
        Subordinates never miss this point. Subordinates always know when the boss does not “get it”. This erodes the leader’s ability to lead her people.

        Tcookson, go at your own pace. Don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what Janie in the next department is doing. You have your own claim to fame and you don’t even realize. You probably have the respect of your boss and the people around you. That is huge.

        1. tcookson*

          Not So New Reader, you are probably right that I need to just do my thing. I haven’t made a wrong step yet with my bosses, and I do have their good opinions of me. I just work in a way that, if I contribute to an outcome that we’re all working on, it appears to come solely from them (which I have always thought was the right thing for me to do until my observations of my coworker caused me to start second-guessing myself). But my bosses know what I’ve contributed and it shows up in my evaluations.

          I think that, if I want to do something to step up my game, it will be to continually work on strengthening the communication between me and my bosses.

    2. The IT Manager*

      #4 … I expected your question to be about the difference between leadership and management which are very similar, have areas of overlap, and can be confused.

      Your understanding of what it means to be a leader is wrong though. If you used those traits to help you influence others co-workers, subordinates, even superiors, you could you be deomstrating leadership skills. But even if you are the best employee if you don’t influence anyone, you aren’t a leader.

      Keep in mind, though, you do not need an official or even unofficial position of authority to be a leader. You just need to influence others to get things done.

  2. Brett*

    #7 I am on the professional end of this all the time. Most people never follow through, which is fine with me. There are a few things I expect out of this….
    an opportunity to cheerlead for my area of the profession. I enjoy it and I want more people in it and more people ready to develop the future of my profession.
    a chance to recruit talented people. I don’t know yet if you are talented, but hey, you are presenting at a conference and that’s a good sign.

    I would like to know more about what you are working on and what you are planning to do next (both of those help for my first two goals).
    I will answer questions as best as I can, but don’t always have the information. If you seem like a person excited about the field, I’ll refer you to others too if I can’t help you. I would rather tackle questions one or two at a time.
    I will definitely put you in touch with jobs opportunities. Tell me -where- you want to work and what kind of work. If I tell you a job opportunity sucks, I really do think it sucks (especially if it is local to me).
    But…. don’t ask me to find you a job. That is not what I am here for. The best I can do is put you in contact with key networks that can help you. You have to take it from there. I am probably not going to put you in contact with specific people unless you fit a position they are recruiting for or you have specific interests/questions that mesh well with their expertise.

    1. COT*

      I also often offer to be available for advice, informational interviews, etc. to people entering my field. I wish more of them took me up on it! I actually enjoy mentoring and seeing people enter my sector. So many people along the way have helped me move forward and I’m happy to pass that along to others.

      OP #7, if this person’s offer seemed genuine then please don’t be too shy about taking them up on it. I bet they’d be happy to hear from you on occasion when you have a question about your research area or working in the field.

      1. Ms Enthusiasm*

        Brett and Cot, great replies. I think many people are nervous about networking and don’t realize people like you both genuinely like it when people reach out to them.

  3. Chocolate Teapot*

    This is a quote from Admiral Sandy Woodward, who died recently when asked about Margaret Thatcher. He was the Admiral who was in charge of the Naval Force during the Falklands Conflict.

    “My opinion of her skills became one of respect, if of no great liking. A truly good leader should seek respect and regard any liking simply as profit.”

    1. tcookson*

      Well, that answers one of my upthread questions about how to “do” leadership . . . I think I need to shift my daily thinking/motivation from valuing being liked to being respected. I’ve just recently realized that I am a career admin . . . at first I thought that I “should” be trying to do something beyond that career-wise, but I really like doing assistant-type work. But becoming more invested and serious about it means that I need to cultivate respect as a higher priority than being liked.

      Thank you for that “a-ha moment”!

      1. Ruffingit*

        Yes, absolutely! And start with respect for yourself! You like admin work and it’s a perfectly respectful profession, it’s necessary and needed. Give it the respect it really deserves and yourself too as a practitioner of your profession. Starting with getting clear in your own head that admin work is a profession of its own and that it’s worthwhile in and of itself, not just as a stepping stone to something else, will help. It sounds like your colleague that you mentioned upthread realizes this and therefore champions her work product and herself as the respected professional she is. You should definitely do the same, you deserve it!

        1. COT*

          Agreed–a talented, passionate “career admin” makes nearly every workplace better. I’m sure that the work you perform is indispensable to everyone around you, far more so than if you were just using it as a stepping stone. Like Ruffingit said, start treating yourself like the professional you are and I’m sure that others will follow suit.

        2. tcookson*

          I really appreciate everyone’s encouragement and practical advice! Ruffingit, I think you hit the nail on the head in bringing up self respect and respect for admin work as a profession. I do tend to feel “less equal” than the professors I work with, and it does gradually wear me down over time. Someone on Alison’s post about what it means to be professional said that they were told when you’re the expert, you should talk like you’re the expert (I think it was Jamie’s dad telling her that) . . . and I tend to use ‘”softening” phrases (such as “well, I think . . .”, etc.) instead of sounding more certain and confident.

      2. Jazzy Red*

        t- I’m also a career admin, and it took me a long time to start making myself visible. It isn’t always easy, but really, it’s just about letting your competence and confidence show through. It’s not grandstanding – there’s a big difference. You deserve a little limelight for the work that you do, and there are low-key ways of doing this.

        You might consider looking into The International Association of Administrative Professionals. They have chapters all around the world and offer many opportunities to nuture your leadership qualities. That’s where I learned to “remain calm” and perform public speaking, as well as finding other ways of becoming more professional.

        1. tcookson*

          We do have a chapter of IAAP that meets on campus, and many of the members are assistants working at the higher levels of the campus’ upper administration. I bet I could learn a lot from some of them about embracing admin work as a professional career!

    2. Elizabeth West*

      That’s kind of what parents should shoot for, IMO. You’re guiding a person toward adulthood, not being his/her buddy.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Whoops, meant to add, of course it’s not quite as hands-off as work, nor is work so hands-on as parenting!

    3. A Bug!*

      I know it’s just a minor oversight but I can’t resist noting that on first reading I parsed it as the man dying as a direct result of being asked about Thatcher. What an awkward press conference that would be!

      1. Becca*

        Not just you – I read it the same way!

        “Admiral, your comments on Margaret Thatcher?”


    4. AgilePhalanges*

      A co-worker and I often talk about how the opposite is true, as well. You don’t have to LIKE your leaders (especially in a work setting), but you DO need to respect them. Further, if you just can’t respect them in your own mind, then (while you’re looking for another place to work where you do respect the leaders) you don’t have to respect them but you DO need to show respect FOR them in public.

  4. Pandora Amora*

    #3 If your parent company is publicly traded and has not announced upcoming paycuts, then including the paycut information in your cover letters would be revealing material non-public information. So you may need to choose a different “reason” for leaving.

    You should think over the real reasons you have for leaving. There’s probably something legitimately explainable to some hiring manager. (If not, take that as a sign that you haven’t legitimately exhausted all your tools for dealing with these problems. Maybe a solution is still reachable at your current job.)

    One final note: a skilled interviewer will notice that you’re not being entirely forthright about your reasons for leaving, and will pursue that topic. Chances are that whatever you want not to say will not be a super unique problem: so either consider a more full and complete answer to “why are you leaving”, or practice answering this question with a friend as your foil.

    1. Min*

      Even if I loved everything about my job, an impending pay cut would be enough to get me looking elsewhere. I’m not saying the OP should divulge that information, but it is a real and valid reason. If it is the only reason a person has for leaving, I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to state that they haven’t exhausted all their options.

      1. anon*

        +1. If a paycut is going to drop you beyond what you need to get by (or even alarmingly close to that threshhold), then there is no point in continuing to stick with that job. People work to get money, not for fun.

        1. Jamie*

          I’d argue that it doesn’t even need to meet the threshold of what you need to get by. Any paycut of any sort is a totally valid reason to look, just as it’s totally valid to not look if you can manage on the paycut and want to stay.

          But no one should feel like they are obligated in any way to hold off looking just because they are still making enough to meet their needs. Maslov’s hierarchy and all that.

          1. AB*

            “I’d argue that it doesn’t even need to meet the threshold of what you need to get by. Any paycut of any sort is a totally valid reason to look, just as it’s totally valid to not look if you can manage on the paycut and want to stay.”

            Jamie, as I read the previous comment I was having this exact thought. It’s only the 392,401 time that happens with a comment of yours (you save me a lot of time typing, so thank you :-).

            Sometimes I feel like our brains are frighteningly similar (but then you comes up with an awesome observation that wouldn’t come naturally to me, so I think perhaps I can compare myself to you in your first job, maybe ;-).

        2. Anonymous*

          Besides, the first paycut would just be a red flag for me. I would always be wondering, what’s next?

      2. JFQ*

        Agreed. Couldn’t the OP just give some legit reasons and say that there are other issues that he or she can’t discuss? Would an interviewer really look askance at that?

        Also, why would exhausting all one’s options at a job be necessary to have legitimate grounds to leave? It’s not like leaving a job before exploring every possible solution to make it work is the same as bailing on a marriage after a couple of fights.

        1. HR lady*

          How about something like “I’m looking for a financially stable company.” (Or “more financially stable company…”) I think AAM recommended saying something like this the other day to someone with a similar question.

          1. Tony in HR*

            I’ve used that phrasing in the past, and really like it. Using stability as a reason is very clear, but general enough to not get you into sketchy territory.

            It implies that there’s a problem with pay, benefits, or the company has been in upheaval, or whatever.

        2. Colette*

          I’d say give legit reasons (like financial instability/looking for a new challenge, whatever makes sense), but would not say there were issues I couldn’t discuss. That would be a red flag – it could include “I punched my manager” or “they’re doing an audit, so I’m pretty sure they’re going to figure out I’m embezzling” or “I hate everyone I work with” or “my manager is a jerk who insists I show up every day“.

    2. OP3*

      Hi, I’m the OP for this letter – thanks for your feedback! There are other reasons why I’m looking to leave that boils down to how the job just isn’t a good fit for me. My coworkers are great, the work is decent, but working with everyone above me on the hierarchy is like House of Cards, and I’ve been told I need to be like Kevin Spacey’s character to really “be a manager,” which really isn’t my speed. So I had been looking since before our (rather sudden) financial issues developed (we’re a private company). I suppose I’m also afraid of people looking at my cover letter and resume and thinking “She must have screwed up big time…”

      1. Jazzy Red*

        No, they won’t necessarily think that. Emphasize the other reasons that you are looking for a new job, and do not mention the financial difficulties your present company is having. An employer wants to know what you can do for them, so that’s what you show them.

      2. Annie the Mouse*

        You are wise to be looking elsewhere, if they were being serious about you needing to be like Frank Underwood to be a manager. Though that is an interesting point: anyone care to comment on Underwood’s management style? Homicide aside, he is certainly effective…..

      3. Catbertismyhero*

        Just another voice to remind you to not share any non-public confidential information about your client/company as part of your search. You can be sanctioned or disbarred for that.

  5. Chocolate Teapot*

    6. Not that I come from a military background, but are the moves from garrison town to garrison town? I would assume that employers in these places would be aware of people who were accompanying a serving partner and needed work, but could not necessarily say for how long they would be living in the area.

    1. some1*

      Some military towns are like this, where it’s all people from the base and employers are used to it, but not all. My brother spent most of his time at a base near a pretty big Southern city that doesn’t need to rely on the base for the local economy. If I’m an employer and I am down to two candidates who are both equally great, I am going to pick the one who is less likely to have to leave at any time, and maybe not with much notice.

      1. Chinook*

        I had to deal with the question about my likelihood of being there a year later when I made an internal transfer. I pointed out that no one can honestly predict where they will be a year in future, especially women of a certain age and no one would dare ask if a woman was expecting to be pregnant. I then told her that, to our knowledge, DH’s position at headquarters was going to be there for another few years and I would give them as much notice and assist with training my replacement as much as possible and that my references would back this up. I got the job and 13 months later DH retired (at the ripe old age of 27), transferred to the boys in red serge and big cowboy hats and we got transferred again. Yet, I still work for that company once a year when they need someone to proctor there exams my new province.

      2. GOVHRO*

        What about applying for government jobs, not just DoD, under spousal Veterans preference? Good way to get your foot in the door and the moving around won’t be as big of a problem, as you’ll essentially be working for the same employer (for retirement, etc purposes).

  6. Riki*

    2 – What Alison said. There’s Federal employment law, then each state can have its own laws that build upon Fed law. For example, Fed overtime law is X, but a state’s law can be X+Y+Z, which is the case for California. My old employer almost got into huge trouble because they were not complying with state OT law for their out-of-state satellite office (which happened to be in CA).

  7. Del*

    Man, #3, I’d almost say you were me, except your situation’s a whole lot more explicit. My company insists it’s doing fine, and if you only look at the stock reports they are, but there’s so much instability behind the scenes it’s scary. I’ve been putting out feelers for different jobs, and contemplating how to politely word “I’m gonna be the first rat off the sinking ship” to interviewers.

    Given most of our tech stuff is still pretty Jurassic (in tech terms), I’ve been thinking about wanting a more tech-savvy workplace, but I’m not sure even that will be a positive enough spin on things. My job really is great on paper… except for the financial instability and outdated technology, that is.

    1. Ruffingit*

      It’s always awesome when companies insist their doing fine, meanwhile it’s one big reenactment of the Titanic sinking scene. Enron anyone??

      Good for you for seeing the writing on the wall and getting out now.

  8. kdizzle*

    #6…Not quite as many moves as you, but I’ve had 4 jobs in 7 years as a military spouse. My hat is certainly off to you.

    I used to try to hide the fact that I was a military spouse…maybe it was because it felt oddly personal to divulge something like that in a professional setting, or that I felt weak for volunteering to be the secondary wage earner in my home and follow around my spouse like luggage (that was my personal insecurity, not trying to project it upon anyone else).

    However…it’ absolutely necessary to explain that you’re a military spouse. Not only are there many people who share that characteristic with you (good conversation starter), but it’s a perfectly plausible reason to job hop and not be labeled a flake. Let the employers know that you enjoyed your last job, and you almost certainly would’ve stayed longer if you hadn’t been forced to pick up and move. Let ’em know that you’ll be entirely committed to the job for as long as you’re in the area. One thing I found helpful was to look for jobs with large corporations /contractors that had ties to the military; that way, if we picked up and moved to another military area, it would be easy to make a transfer or get my foot in the door as a relatively known quantity.

  9. Chinook*

    OP #6 please mention that you are a military spouse and, if possible, if the intention is for your spouse to be there, in you cover letter. I went through this, complete with a career that wasn’t easily transferable, and it is the best explanation for your resume. I would also mention in the same paragraaph (which should be after you explain what you would bring to the job, that you have excellent references.

    While you may get rejected from some places becaus of your spouse’s job, those aren’t places you want to work anyway. But, because you are presumably living in areas near bases, employers are probably aware of the risks and benefits of hiring a militar spouse.

    1. Chinook*

      Also, I don’t know how the US bases are for support, but the Canadian military has family resource centres that often have job boards for postings from military friendly companies as well as access to daycare programs (including emergency daycare). Remember that the base is full of spouses like you and, with luck, you may be able to find someone to give you advice on the local job market.

    2. The IT Manager*

      5 different states in a 6-year time frame

      That’s an unsually high amount of moves. Once your spouse finishes training shouldn’t his stateside assignments last at least two years and more likely three? If that’s the case, I think you need to tell potential employers that you expect to be in town for (2 or) 3 years at least. That’s not normally a selling point, but it may help make up for the really short term jobs on your resume. Definately tell them upfront – in a military town hopefully the employers will be military friendly and you’ll likely be competing against other spouses.

      1. Judy*

        I have a cousin who is a trailing military spouse. Their son is not yet two, and he’s lived in 3 states. He was born right before they transferred, and they just moved again in June. I think the US Army moves people around a lot more than the other branches of service.

        My aunt once said they had 20 homes in the first 25 years of their marriage, as an Army family.

      2. Jamie*

        It didn’t seem that unusual to me. I was a Navy wife in my first marriage and we had 8 moves in 10 years.

        And Chinook mentioned it earlier – look to the support system on base because employers advertizing there know most spouses aren’t permanent residents of the area.

        While it will hurt you for jobs where they want someone long term, make sure you emphasize your strengths when you do interview. You are bringing to the table adaptability, the ability to hit the ground running, a short learning curve (which I assume is true of you or you wouldn’t have so many glowing references.)

      3. Chinook*

        I can feel the OP’s pain as I made 5 moves in 7 years after I married DH (and have been in the same town now for…carry the 1…3 summers!) and he had techincally 2 more on top of that as he would be away at training at a different place from where we were living (military spouses often deal with the actual move while the spouse is away). And every spouse I have met has told me of atleast one time where they thought they were finally going to be somewhere for a while only to get a call with some “really good news.” There is one former general who I think was almost lynched by his wife when she got home from her new job to discover a “for sale” sign on their house (he thought she would think it was funny)

        Luckily, those types of moves do become fewer and farther between over time.

  10. Joey*

    #2. In fact, California is so different from the rest of the states lots of people involved in labor laws think of them as if they were another country.

    But some states do pass laws that indeed purposefully conflict with federal law. I’m thinking of medical marijuana laws in particular.

    1. Cat*

      There’s a whole complicated body of law regarding when and how federal laws preempt state laws; and when states can and cannot act in spite of state laws. State laws that explicitly conflict with federal laws (or the federal Constitution) are preempted and invalid. With something like marijuana, states can lift state penalties for its use but can’t prohibit the federal government from enforcing federal marijuana laws in that state. And there’s also something called field preemption, where the federal government has so occupied a particular field that states are unable to pass laws even if they don’t seem to conflict. So with most types of employment laws, states have pretty broad discretion to offer more protections than the federal government (e.g., they can set a higher minimum wage or require paid sick time). But there are areas where they can’t, particularly when it comes to the balance between employers and unions; that’s an area the federal government has already occupied.

    2. HR lady*

      Joey, you’re right. In the HR profession, you can get a general HR certification (called the PHR) which is applicable to all U.S. states, except CA. There’s a separate certification called the PHR-CA because there are SO MANY different employment laws in CA.

  11. Cat*

    Re #1 – While it sounds like the friend did not cover herself in glory with this one, I think there are a lot of possibilities that are somewhere in between “went after a job her friend tipped her off to and then lied about it.” For instance, maybe she applied and only realized after some time that this was the same job her friend was so excited about; then she figured it she probably wouldn’t get it so it was less awkward not to mention it, and then she did. Or perhaps she applied some time ago; never heard anything; and then you brought it up. She didn’t mention she had also applied figuring she had been rejected, but then it turned out she hadn’t. And this is the kind of thing where if you don’t mention it the first time it’s brought up, it gets more and more awkward to mention and so often you just don’t.

    Or, for that matter, even if the friend did know it was the same job – if she told you she was applying, would you have been mad at her? If the answer is yes, that also says something about why she didn’t.

    I don’t know, of course. It’s possible it’s a lot more black-and-white than this. But I could also imagine a lot of situations where this was as much awkwardness (and youth and inexperience) as sneakiness. If this is part of a pattern of behavior, that’s one thing; if this feels like it came out of nowhere and is an isolated incident, that might well be another.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I tend to err on the side of simpler explanations, which is that the friend “stole” the job. The thing is, the OP even said it’s not that the friend got the job that’s the problem, it’s the lying about it.

      I think the OP needs to confront the friend in a kind way of course and just say “Listen, I need to know if you used the information I gave you to get the job. I’m not angry about it, but it’s important to me that you tell me the truth.”

      Because really, that’s what it’s all about. It’s not the job, it’s the lying about it that is at issue here. You want to feel like you can trust your friends and in this case, if the scenario is such that the OP’s friend took her info and swooped in on the job, trust is a big factor and you can’t live with someone who does that.

      1. Cat*

        That’s only the simplest explanation if the friend is the type of person to do that. If this otherwise seems completely out of character, I’m not sure it is. (Also, the friend finding the job on her own at some earlier date is not a huge stretch – if two people are applying for the same types of jobs in the same city, it’d be shocking if they didn’t encounter some of the same ones unless they’re both trying to be waiters in New York or something.)

        But I agree that having an honest conversation with the friend about it is probably a good idea.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Agreed that it’s the simplest explanation only if the friend is the type to do that. Thing is, since OP wrote into AAM to ask about it, she already suspects that’s what happened, which means she thinks her friend is capable of doing this. If she didn’t think she was capable of it, shr wouldn’t even be thinking it, let alone writing to a public forum about it. That’s where my feeling of “simplest explanation is that your friend screwed you” comes from.

          1. Cat*

            Or she’s reasonably mad and hurt and was looking for some perspective from someone who wasn’t inside the situation. It’s hard to know.

            1. Ruffingit*

              Except for the fact that the OP stated this texted my friend the details and that they thought they knew her, and she replied, “I interviewed with them today and I didn’t realize it was the same position you have been talking about until my interview,” which I don’t believe..

              She flat out said that she doesn’t believe her friend. She believes the woman lied to her. She’s not even asking AAM if she thinks the friend lied, she’s asking what to do in light of the fact that she did. So the OP already believes this of her friend. Given that, I’d say the OP suspects the friend is the lying/deceiving type. She’s already stated she’s not angry about the friend applying for the job, she’s angry about the lying about it.

              Given all that, I’d say don’t move in with the friend and certainly never share job details with her.

              1. Cat*

                I think your comment that she shouldn’t share job details with her is maybe the heart of why we’re seeing this differently. I don’t see her applying for the job as a betrayal; of course if you have friends in the same field and in the same geographic area as you, you’ll be competing for jobs. I do think lying is a betrayal, but I don’t think the underlying action was a problem.

                1. Ruffingit*

                  I do think the underlying action is a problem because it’s not something I would do to my friends. If they shared with me a job they were excited about interviewing for, I wouldn’t swoop in and try to get that job. It’s just my personal belief that it’s not OK to do that. That said, I respect the fact that others feel differently. Either way though, the OP clearly feels as though her friend lied to her and that is a problem for the OP so I wouldn’t share a place with her. I’d find someone else to room with or my own place if possible.

                2. Jamie*

                  @Ruffingit – I agree. To fall back on the whole job hunting is like dating thing you don’t hear your friend go on about how awesome this new guy she met was and then before their first date swoop in – because hey – he sounds like fun for me, too!

                  Roommate situations can be tough enough when everyone has good intentions …it seems like it would be nothing but trouble to tie living arrangements and finances with someone you don’t trust not to screw you if it suited her.

                3. Not So NewReader*

                  I am hoping this comment falls under Jamie’s. I was just thinking of the boyfriend analogy as I read along.

                  Maybe I am wrong in feeling this way but if a friend tells me they applied at X- I think of X as a no fly zone if there is only one opening. I will apply elsewhere.

                  Let’s say it is true- the friend actually did not know OP was applying there. This friend has such poor attention to detail that her lack of attention is detrimental to the relationships around her. I wonder what else she forgot.
                  If a friend were moving to my area, I would stand on my head to pave an easier path for my friend.
                  OP, your friend is not this type of person. Do you have a plan on how you will manage in New City if your friend is always out to lunch?

                4. Judy*

                  But if she shared that she had an interview days before the interview, what’s the likelihood of her friend finding the job posting from that information, and then applying and getting an interview before her. It seems much more likely that the friend already had submitted for that job, and maybe didn’t know the name of the family at that point.

      2. Ellie H.*

        Eh, I also think the friend “stole” the job, but I do not think the best course of action is to confront the friend and try to find out whether she lied about it. There’s nothing to be gained from that; you already know that she lied about it, or at least was fuzzy with the truth about it. I think the best course of action is to just add it to your mental file of things you know about your friend and proceed accordingly.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I agree, and if the OP does decide to move in with the friend anyway, get everything in writing so there are no fuzzy areas.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      Eh, I think the friend sounds dishonest. At worst, the friend heard about OP’s upcoming interview, subsequently applied herself, and lied about the whole thing. At best, the friend heard the details about OP’s upcoming interview and decided not to share that she was also in the running for the same exact job. The topper is that the friend played dumb when confronted instead of offering some kind of redeeming explanation. Frankly, I’d be very wary about living with a “friend” like this.

      1. Cat*

        As I said, she obviously didn’t behave well. Just, well, even your best friends are sometimes going to screw up and sometimes there are reasons to give them slack.

        1. Del*

          If it were just a friend, I’d absolutely agree with you to consider this a “first strike” and maintain the friendship. But when you’re dealing with a potential roommate — someone whose dishonesty can get you in very deep trouble if it extends to things like utility payments, maintenance issues, rent, and of course free access to your belongings… well, that’s a different situation.

          I would be cautious about staying friends with this person, if I were in the OP’s shoes, but I would be WAY MORE than just cautious about being roommates. That’s a major red flag.

          1. Rana*

            Agreed. Good communication – especially when difficulties arise – is essential in a roommate situation. This friend, whatever her motivations, has shown that she lacks those skills.

            1. op*

              I am continuing interviews in the city, but I have also lived with the other party previous for two years with no problems. I feel like she would stick to her story still if confronted again though.

          1. Cat*

            You know, people have different lines and that’s fine. But if it was me and it was my very best friend who I had planned to move to a new city to live with? No, I wouldn’t assume that she was suddenly a terrible deceitful person who was doing this to spite me. Or rather, I might, but once I cooled down, I’d think – wait, maybe she got herself in a bad situation and muddled through it badly because she was worried I’d hate her for that, and maybe I should talk to her about that before assuming that she’s a horrible person who doesn’t deserve my friendship.

            Now, I don’t know if any of this is true. It’s possible this friend has been toxic, manipulative, and dishonest before and will be in the future. That matters. It’s also possible she’s a good friend who screwed up, feels terribly about it, and is sitting at home right now thinking of how she can make it better without burning all her bridges with her best friend forever. It’s easy for us to sit on the internet and judge her but in real life, good people do make mistakes, our best friends do hurt us, and sometimes it’s worth doing some work to move on from that and maintain our relationship with them.

            1. op*

              Yes I feel it is not the latter. Ironically if I could choose a best host/helpful in a new situation it would be her. She was desperate for a job and the line of work wasn’t at all what I thought she would be interested in doing.

      2. Lanya*

        +1 to this – OP #1, I hope you weigh very carefully what your instincts are telling you here.

        If you still move to the new city, I recommend finding other living arrangements.

    3. Kayley*

      Yes I feel that she may have not wanted to mention it due to pride of maybe not getting the job. The job was posted on a website 2 weeks ago I was called a few days after and kept in constant contact with my friend regarding the job – as it also offered housing we had/are planning to use together – 2 hours before my scheduled interview she told me to let her know how it went – She was also fired in the last month and was desperate for a job and I would have definately been okay if she also wanted to apply – I felt it made the situation with the family a little awkward during my interview and then I just felt snowed afterword – before accepting the job she called to discuss it with me/housing

      1. FarBreton*

        That doesn’t sound okay to me. I get that she was desperate, but since this job was a really big deal to you and she knew it, she shouldn’t have been applying to it at all. Let alone behind your back! I recently found an ad for a job a close friend and I are both pretty qualified for, at a place we both know. I told him about it because I thought he’d be interested, and after making absolutely sure I wasn’t, he said he would apply. And even if I became interested in it, I wouldn’t apply now. And that’s just a part-time job that wouldn’t otherwise affect our lives at all!

        It sounds like you’re pretty giving and a good friend–you wanted to share the job’s housing with her, and you even would have been okay with her applying for a job you really wanted. But your friend, while I’m sure she’s great in other ways, sounds selfish. If you do move to this town, I wouldn’t depend on her for a social life, and definitely do not live with her.

  12. ExceptionToTheRule*

    #4 – part of leadership is being a good employee, because good leaders are also good followers. It is a hard and complicated question to answer, even if you’ve done years of study on it, but it boils down to management is about processes (budgeting, forecasting, staffing, etc) while leadership is about vision and empowerment of people (among other things). A good answer to your question might involve both management & leadership because a lot people people incorrectly conflate the two concepts. Talk about process issues like hitting metrics and managing budgets AND leadership issues about how to inspire and grow both your staff and your part of the business, how you bring big-picture ideas to the table, etc.

    There are thousands of books out there about leadership. I’d highly recommend one called “The Servant Leader” by James Autry.

  13. Lisa*

    #3 Related – But also – is it legal? Q.

    There seems to be a misconception among people I ask that think its illegal to get paid monthly. Found this, but are there exceptions like is it an exempt thing? My bf started working at a university (in Mass) and he is being paid monthly. Trying to figure out if that is legal.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Depends on the state. Most have laws that you must be paid with X days. I just googled “Massachusetts paycheck law” and it looks like employees in the state must be paid “at least weekly or biweekly” and within 6 days of the end of the pay period. However, exempt employees can elect to be paid monthly, but there’s no exemption for non-exempt employees.

      1. Lisa*

        MIT didn’t give him a choice in the matter. That is interesting. Thanks. And of course Harvard (old job) never paid out his vacation time. Figures. 4k gone. Wish there were laws to pay out vacation time.

        1. Cat*

          I feel like I’ve heard a lot of bad things about how Harvard treats its (non-faculty) employees.

        2. Meganly*

          Massachusetts absolutely has laws that require payout of vacation time!!

          M.G.L. c. 149, s. 148. Withholding vacation payments is the equivalent of withholding wages and, as such, is illegal. Employees must be paid for all earned vacation upon termination of employment.

          I had no idea Harvard was such a terrible place to work. I guess I should be glad I didn’t get the job I applied for there!

          1. Lisa*

            Its fine there, just annoying that it could take months to get that money. No vacation for us, we were counting on it to go to Iceland. He left, so not a termination so they have every right to take their sweet time.

            1. Meganly*

              They actually can’t take their time. They have to pay out the vacation time with the last paycheck (which would occur on the normally scheduled day).

              1. Meganly*

                To be more clear—they could be jerks and not pay it out in a timely manner, but they face some pretty stiff sanctions for not doing so. Perhaps your bf should check in with the DOL?

        3. Frances*

          I used to work at a university in NY and when you passed a certain salary threshold you automatically got moved to monthly from bimonthly. When I got a raise that put me over, they didn’t bother to tell me until a few days before it switched, which since they were always a pay cycle behind effectively meant I got half a month’s pay and then didn’t get paid again for a month. (lucky for me I wasn’t in a position where I was living paycheck to paycheck.)

      2. Tasha*

        I just started at Harvard as a graduate student, and I’m paid monthly. That never struck me as unusual because many of my relatives are K-12 teachers and university professors in other parts of the country, and they always get paid monthly. The odd thing, though, is that I’m paid the month’s salary at the beginning of the month instead of the end. (Yes, I confirmed this with payroll.)

      3. Academic*

        I think that it is a little more nuanced…if you are, say, a TA, and you work 20 hours/week, but you are non-exempt, they can pay you monthly as long as they are pre-paying you. So if you get a paycheck on the 15th of every month to cover that month, that complies.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      I’ve working at two different universities and both paid monthly. It never even occurred to me that such a thing may not be legal in all states.

    3. CollegeAdmin*

      I work in Mass – I am paid biweekly (non-exempt), but I know my boss is paid monthly (exempt).

      1. Lisa*

        We were originally paid monthly and it was horrible. Switched to 2x a month cause they found out it was illegal, but chose 2x because they thought they were being in compliance this way. We recently opted for some new APD features and suddenly we are on biweekly. IE – Its illegal too and they just found out. Shouldn’t payroll companies know this and force clients to use the correct method?

        1. Tony in HR*


          It’s not their job to police their clients. Someone within the payroll organization can certainly serve as a whistleblower if they choose. Also, if it’s a big company, it’s very difficult to police. My last job had employees in 31 states. Would you expect the payroll company to police each state or trust that the employer is doing things legally?

        2. LV*

          This is probably a stupid question, but I don’t see the difference between being paid twice a month and being paid biweekly.

          1. The IT Manager*

            Twice a month is twice a month for example the 1st and 15th.

            Bi-weekly is literally every two weeks ie every fourteen days so it gets ahead of the people who are paid twice month.

            Legally I’m not sure why it matters.

            1. Chinook*

              Of all the ways I have been paid, bi-weekly was always the nicest because you got 2 “bonus” paycheques during the year (because 52/2 = 13) when there would be an pay cheque at the end of the month. I think there was even one year where it worked out that you get 3 “extra” cheques. Of course, the money isn’t extra because it covers the work form the previous 2 weeks, but it feels nice because most people budget monthly.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            There usually isn’t a difference, except for biweekly people, there are a couple of months a year (May and November, I think) when there is an extra paycheck. Twice a month is two checks a month, period. Biweekly is every other week, no matter what month the weeks fall into. The rest of the time, you get two a month.

            Those two months with extra weeks are nice–it gives you a little catching-up room, especially if you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck.

          3. Another Anonymous*

            The simple answer is that it is 24 vs. 26 pay checks/pay periods and there are often differences in deductions during 3 paycheck months on the biweekly system. But I’m sure you are also interested in what the benefits are for one over the other. Maybe someone with more comp experience can comment on benefits of both?

        3. Anonymous*

          I don’t understand why it would be so upsetting. Yes, the first month might be rough if you’re starting a new job, but after that it should work out the same either way.

    4. Rana*

      Um, that’s sort of bizarre. Out of all the jobs I’ve worked, setting aside the temp jobs, only one of them paid anything other than monthly. To me, that’s the default.

      (And most of them were in fact university jobs, so that makes your BF’s situation even more normal.)

      1. Jamie*

        And I have never known anyone paid monthly except for company owners. In manufacturing weekly is the default – although bi-weekly is common also.

  14. Jen*

    For #4, I am not a huge fan of self-help books for office culture but I did have to read this one book called, “You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader: How Anyone, Anywhere, Can Make a Positive Difference” – it’s a very quick read. Your library probably has it. I found it very helpful with that question. While I’ve had project manager positions in my career, I have not been a “people manager” other than interns and volunteers. So when I’m asked that, I think of a time I showed leadership within a group. It helped me think of times that I used initiative and worked though problems and made decisions or choices that positively affected the organization.

    1. sara*

      If you dont mind me asking why are you not a huge fan of them? Ive been looking into a few books on hiw to deal with office politics and culture since thats definitely an area i need to improve on

  15. Joey*

    To me leadership means you can get people to follow you and keep them following you. That can mean great ideas, doing things the right way at the right time, pushing back on dumb stuff, suggesting improvements, treating people with respect, making those around you better, getting shit done, and keeping your word.

  16. Anonymous*

    I would not say that a great employee = a leader. Leadership requires affecting other people, whereas a great employee could never affect others and still be great. A good leader is also almost certainly a great employee, but not necessarily the other way around (cf. a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t necessarily a square). Not sure how those things got conflated, #4.

  17. Felicia*

    #5 I’ve encountered a few places that only have one day (or often only half a day) to do interviews, and I wasn’t able to do it for whatever reason. I was a little upset when I heard that, just because I felt like i could have gotten the job, but in the long run its really not that important. Maybe I could have gotten the job but maybe I couldn’t have. They were often places that gave me 24 hours notice to interview, which I think I would have seen as a red flag either way (if they knew they only had one day, why couldn’t they tell me before?) Your brother’s wedding is far more important.

    1. Tony in HR*

      Amen. If they’re that inconsiderate/inflexible to their potential employees, you might be dodging a bullet.

  18. ChristineSW*

    #1 – Honestly, I wouldn’t have given so much detail to your friend. Because of a couple of awkward instances, I tend to avoid discussing specifics if I know the person is in the same field and searching in the same geographic areas.

    Unfortunately, I can’t offer any sound advice about going forward, so I’ll defer to Alison and all of the other excellent commenters for that :)

    1. Felicia*

      I try not to give out too much detail too, because all of my closest friends are looking in the same field as me, at roughly the same level in approximately the same geographic area. It’s still happened where I’ve interviewed for the same jobs as friends, and once they got it and I didn’t (though I didn’t even know we were interviewing for t he same job until she told me she got it). In that case she wasn’t lying to me, because we didn’t give out that detail. I just kind of assume we’re all applying for the same things.

      1. Kayley*

        Agreed, she was also out of job so I should have been a little more thoughtful before disclosing all the details. It is a great opportunity as it does offer housing in one of the most expensive cities to live.

  19. J*


    RE: “I have been told that under employment law, they have to offer an alternative date. ”

    Who have you been talking to about this? Tell them to stop saying things like that. Whack them on the nose with a rolled up newspaper if you must.

      1. Chinook*

        Ther’s your prblem, Not So New Reader. You are taking your advice from a dog! Cats are much more knowledgable.

  20. Anonymous*

    #5: No, that is not true. They can offer interviews only for 90 minutes in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve if they want to.

    I realize you’re being hyperbolic, but isn’t that one of the things that an employer can’t do? Don’t they need to provide reasonable accommodation so as to not be treating an applicant unfavorably because of religious beliefs? Or can an employer who doesn’t want to hire candidates of a particular religion require interviews on Christmas/Yom Kippur/Eid/etc?

  21. Tony in HR*

    #2- California labor laws are often so strict that we HR people call it the Republic of California. I’ve run into other states that have equally restrictive laws though. For example, Oregon requires that you’ve actually given an employee a conditional job offer before drug testing them.

    Good rule of thumb is just to Google your question. Most states have all of these laws posted on easy to find websites.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Even California’s climate and topography are like another country, all varied and self-contained. If they split off from the mainland like everybody jokes that they will someday, they could just float out in the Pacific and mind their own business like a great big island.

      I love California.

  22. Paulus*

    Speaking as a Californian, it’s honestly somewhat horrifying to talk with friends in other states about their job situations and whatnot. 14 hour days, no lunch break, and no overtime because they didn’t go over 40 hours in a week? Thank God for California. Incredibly fun to make a nursing friend jealous by bringing up regulatory nurse staffing ratios though.

  23. Patty*

    Re #6 — I’d look at online teaching at the high school or university level in Chemistry — if you were a prof, then you’re qualified. That way you can do your job from wherever you end up.

    I’d also look at government jobs, it may be that they’ll give preference to trailing military spouses.

  24. FiveNine*

    #1 makes me really uncomfortable, I’m not nearly as willing to assume the friend is lying or stole a job from OP. Look, they both interviewed for the job, and OP was never offered the job (the friend was). The friend lives in the city and has been unemployed and applying for jobs (did OP even have an in-person interview in contrast?), and this friend apparently was going to do a lot for the OP like letting OP live in the apartment, etc.

    The friend must be at least as competent as OP to have been offered the job. The friend, who OP says has been unemployed a while and looking for jobs, nevertheless is generous with OP and has the ability to offer OP living space etc. And OP is accusing this friend of lying and going behind OP’s back, etc. Why doesn’t OP just ask, if they’re friends? The first thing that occurred to me was how awkward would it have been for the friend in the city to realize the remote OP was describing a job the friend had already applied to and now had to weigh saying they might be competing against each other against Is it worth bringing perhaps unnecessarily drama into the friendship. Whatever. Who knows. OP doesn’t. In any case, OP already thinks this friend lies, stole a job that OP interviewed for and didn’t get in OP’s own right, and went behind OP’s back (should friend tell OP every single interview the friend has? If they live together, should the friend tell OP about every single person the friend runs into or would that be behind OP’s back if OP had a crush on someone? etc.) . I don’t see how starting off like this is going to work for OP and, frankly, it could be a real nightmare for the “friend,” too.

    1. Felicia*

      It’s also occurred to me that the OP never really had the job in the first place, so it’s not exactly stolen by the friend. Who knows, even if the friend had never been interviewed, maybe the OP wouldn’t have gotten the job. maybe I’m so used to applying for/interviewing for the same jobs as my friends that I just wouldn’t be too upset about this even if they didn’t tell me….though it’s common for my friends to send me job descriptions saying “i applied for this, you should too!” I think it’s possible that the friend already applied but then felt super awkward about competing with the OP so they just didn’t mention it figuring she didn’t have that great a chance at the job.

  25. op*

    I strongly believe I applied before she did, they called her almost a week after I began talking to the family. She did tell me she’s been applying to everything but the opportunity included housing/car/great pay (w a lot perks that I wouldn’t have forgotten) which I invited her tohare housing if it came through. She has now offered me the same. My confliction comes from not disclosing she applied as 2hrs before my Skype with the family she told me to let her know how it went when she omitted she was just there also interviewing

  26. Karin*

    To the networking question: networking is intended to create relationships that benefit both individuals so be sure to offer something in return. If you ask ( as suggested) if you can ask that person questions sometimes, what will you offer back? To send interesting articles related to your mutual interests, to respond to questions the other person has, to introduce them to someone else? The absolute worst thing anyone can do in a networking situation is to miss the opportunity to be clear that this is of mutual benefit to both parties and to be clear what you can offer in return. And be sincere.

    Also, be clear on the fact that being an introvert isn’t a reason to think you aren’t good at networking. It simply means you prefer to process information and formulate your response first, it means you need quiet time to recharge your batteries, it does not mean you can’t reciprocate effectively with a new connection. There is a substantial difference between being an introvert and being shy-one is not the other.

    If the other person provided their contact information and encouraged you to stay in touch, they have already observed that you share common interests and they think what you said is interesting. Trust that and don’t get tangled up in over thinking what you have to offer.

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