open thread

photo 5It’s our monthly open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything you want to talk about. (If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.)

On the left: our six-week-old foster kitten. (Click to enlarge!) She weighs less than a pound and fits in a single hand.

{ 958 comments… read them below }

    1. Lillie Lane*

      Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur…Happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr, purr, purr.

    2. Anonymous*

      I love cats! God bless you AAM for giving this wonderful creature a warm place to live with an equally loving heart….

  1. Jobseeker1*

    People need to stop telling job seekers to get jobs at McDonald’s because A paycheck is better than NO paycheck. For some reason, people think McDonald’s just accepts every applicant who comes in. Not so. There is competition for those jobs too. I really wish people would understand that McDonald’s is not the answer to every job seeker’s search.

    1. De Minimis*

      Very true…and especially true for areas that tend to have tougher economies. I think what people often don’t realize is that a lot of places have a permanent workforce of low-wage workers, and those are the people who are going to be hired at these jobs. There is this image of the service industry as a place for students or anyone else who just needs to pick up some extra money, and that is not the case.

    2. Anonymous*

      Just McDonald’s? Maybe they mean “a job is better than no job”… Which, frankly, these days is mostly true. You don’t necessarily always have to wait on the dream job. Gaps in employment are much more detrimental to someone looking for a job than a job at say – McDonald’s. Not to say that you shouldn’t find what’s right for you, but don’t hold out for something that might or may not be available *right now*. Best wishes on your search!

      1. fposte*

        I think what Jobseeker1 is referring to is the myth that there are unskilled jobs that you can have just by asking for them, which in much of the U.S. isn’t true.

      2. Jamie*

        This – I think McDonald’s is just the generic term of taking an unskilled job in fast food or retail rather than waiting for a career job. I don’t think they mean McDonalds itself as the option. I have a kid who works there while in college and there is definitely not room back behind the drive thru counter for all the unemployed.

        1. Felicia*

          I got rejected from a job at McDonald’s recently, which is what I tell everyone when they suggest that. I’ve graduated from university have no food service experience and my last retail experience was 6 months at Walmart, 6 years ago. Since I’m not a current student it’s going to be extremely hard to get a retail or fast food job with no experience, they all ask for previous experience unless you’re like 16. Maybe. And I’ve tried. When anyone says that to me I want to say “Don’t you think i’ve tried that?” Which is why I hate unsolicited advice. When you suggest someone try something, it’s likely they already tried. I’d have 10 retail jobs if all you had to do was ask politely.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            Yeah, the unsolicited advice isn’t so helpful. While I was unemployed, I’d have friends tell me about computer jobs that I wasn’t at all qualified for, but because I work with computers, I should consider them. Or jobs advertised in another area that they were sure they’d offer telecommuting, if I asked. Please, I know from the ad whether they’d even consider me, and I’m not going to spend time on jobs where I won’t even be considered. I know they thought they were helping, but I wasn’t able to get through to them that they didn’t know enough to help.

            1. Felicia*

              Really you’re the only one who can know everything you’ve tried and the only one who knows exactly what you’re qualified for. And when someone suggests something you’ve actually considered a long time ago and realized it wouldn’t work for whatever reason, the person trying to help sounds condescending because they assume you haven’t tried something obvious. And the implication is of COURSE you’d get a job if only you try what they suggest. So when you do or did try it, and you don’t get the job, then you end up feeling worse and they end up being the opposite of helpful.

              1. Lynne in AB*

                Felicia, here’s my bit of unsolicited and totally ignore-able advice: have you thought about moving west where the unemployment rate is lower? It might be a leap in the dark away from your support systems, and I don’t underestimate the difficulty of that (and I don’t know how long you’ve been trying, either), but it might be a lot easier for you to find entry level work in the prairies than in Ontario. I know people who’ve come to Alberta in the past few years because trying to find a job where they were just got too frustrating, and they’ve been glad they did.

                I hope you do find something soon, regardless.

                1. Amber (OP #3)*

                  I have a friend who’s trying to get a job with either Canadian National or Canadian Pacific as a freight train conductor. He can’t get a job, and he’s been to at least one interview with CN (he’s working at a fast food place in the meantime), and when I saw an ad in the newspaper and suggested he move out to Alberta, he didn’t reply to my Facebook message and I guess he’s not willing to move. Really hard to find a job in certain industries! :$

                2. Felicia*

                  i have considered it and don’t want to do it for a variety of reasons I won’t get into. It doesn’t necessarily work for all industries. I live in Toronto, and I’m focusing on all of the GTA, including surrounding cities like Richmond Hill, Mississauga, Ajax, Pickering etc. And also places where I have friends/family and would actually want to live beyond just having a job there such as Hamilton, Kitchener, Ottawa, Montreal and a few others. I guess for me I want to live somewhere where I know at least someone, and would like to live for reasons other than work. Especially since potential employers will ask you why you want to move there and I don’t want the answer to be I actually would rather not. I also know of people who struggle to get into the kind of field I want in Alberta.

                  That being said, anytime anyone asks me if I’ve thought of something related to job searching the answer is yes, I’ve considered everything.

            2. JMegan*

              I think it’s a fine line on this one. On the one hand, I do appreciate people sending me job ads, because there are lots and lots of people out there who know things that I don’t!

              But on the other hand, because I work in a pretty esoteric field, people often send me things that I’m wildy unqualified for, because they’re only distantly related to the work that I actually do.

              So my generic response is “Thanks very much, I’ll take a look!” And then, as often as not, I look and decide not to apply. I figure it’s important to acknowledge the effort, and also I don’t want to discourage them from sending something else, just in case the next one IS one that I want to apply for!

              And the flip side is, when I’m sending random postings to other people, I assume it’s up to them to decide if they’re interested, qualified, etc. So I send the ad, say “thought you might be interested”, and leave it at that.

              /end unsolicited advice on a comment about unsolicited advice ;)

              1. Oof*

                I like your response. Appreciate the effort of your friends trying to help you. I’ve sent my friends jobs they’ve gotten, or offered to connect them with people. Sometimes I probably send them jobs that are totally a wrong fit or offer to connect them with someone unhelpful. But we’re friends, so the point is that you’re complaining, I’m tired of offering a shoulder and want to offer some tangible assistance.
                And being polite and friendly to your friends who are trying to help you is part of networking and landing a job. If you can’t be kind to your friends and family members (and argue with them, telling them every listing is unhelpful), then there are probably deeper problems with your job-seeking strategy.

            3. Cat*

              My friends have sent me some awesome job ads, some of which I had not previously seen. (I am a pretty compulsive job searcher, I check every day) Of course, my friends, co-workers and family members have given me some good and terrible job advice. I spend a lot of time smiling, nodding and saying thank you. It is much better than trying to explain to people that their advice is unhelpful because it would take way too long xD

            4. Treece*

              My husband sent me a job description for a job in Paris, France. We live in the US. I asked him if that was some kind of hint. Thankfully, it stopped him from sending me any more.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            When you suggest someone try something, it’s likely they already tried.

            True for unsolicited dating advice, too. Yes, tried online. Yes, tried church. Yes, tried the library. No, there’s no one in any meetup groups. Yes, tried activities. No, I don’t want to meet your nephew’s son’s cousin who lives in his momma’s basement and hasn’t dated a woman in ten years “because he got his heart broken.”

            1. Amanda*

              I remember that part of being single all too well. I hate online dating and I wasn’t going to find religion just to get a date. Did anyone want to accept that as an answer though? Noooo…

            2. Anonymous*

              +1! I almost spit banana on my computer while reading that last line. I think I dated that guy, and his brother who lives in the attic, has no driver’s license, and has has 20 different jobs in the last five years.

              1. Elizabeth West*


                The worst part on the last one, my SISTER actually tried to fix me up with that guy (her friend’s brother). “But you both like Lord of the Rings!!!!”

                No thank you!

                1. Ruffingit*

                  All long-lasting solid relationships are built on the common theme of liking the same books or movies. Doesn’t matter that the guy in question is a weirdo with serious mother issues and is named Norman Bates.

                2. Jamie*

                  @ Ruffingit – by that logic Elizabeth should be dating my 22 year old son – who loves LOTR!

                  Then they could fall in love, marry, and then when she posted here about her evil mother in law I’d know she hated me and it would end in tears and some very uncomfortable Thanksgivings.

                3. Elizabeth West*

                  Jamie–my last bf was much younger than me (although 22 is pushing it). I actually like younger guys because we like the same nerdy stuff.
                  Man, I miss my ex…. :'(

              2. Jobseeker1*

                How is it these guys can always find work even though they are creepy and weird? They have 20 jobs, I have a hard time finding one. LOL! ;)

          3. Hannah*

            When I first was laid off, I applied for a job at Whole Foods as a bagger. (Not even a cashier.) I interviewed and when, a few weeks later, I called to inquire, I was told the position went to someone with “more experience”.

            I have an undergrad degree from an ivy league school, a MBA and over a decade of business management/non profit management experience. I am pretty sure I wouldn’t GET a job at McDonalds so when people tell me to go get a job at McDonalds if I really want to work, I, too, am like, how nice of you to offer such good advice. And by nice, I mean not at all.

            1. Anon*

              The reality of it is these retail/service job managers for the most part aren’t stupid; they know you’ll leave as soon as something better comes along. Perhaps they are overestimating how soon that will be but there is no chance you’ll stay and then they have to start the whole hiring process all over again.

              Not that long ago I was in a similar situation, not unemployed, but under-employed, I REALLY needed a second job. Fortunately, I had a manager at a big box home improvement store have some mercy on me and offered me a part time job. I don’t think she knows how much that made a difference in my circumstances at the time. So I guess it does happen, but don’t hold your breath.

              1. Lillie Lane*

                Oh, absolutely. I would be very wary of hiring someone that would be likely to drop the job if something better came along. On the other hand, it can take months (if not years) to find something and the hiring manager might be pleasantly surprised by taking a chance on someone “settling” for such a job.

                When he was unemployed, my husband applied to everything he could (including the big box home improvement store you likely work at, as he has some applicable experience/knowledge for the garden center products), but the only place that would take a chance on him was Domino’s. And that was only because we knew one of the managers from church! I believe he was the first person with a PhD to work at that pizza franchise. But the owner liked him because he was reliable and he lasted a LOT longer than some of the post-high schoolers that would flake out or cause drama.

                1. Anon*

                  I ended up working 7 days a week (full time job + part time job) for about 6 months before “something better” came along, so I hope she got enough out of me to make it worthwhile. I wish I could remember her name as I really should have told her how grateful I was that she hired me when she did.

        2. Anonymous*

          I wasn’t saying “so apply at McDonald’s”, I was saying that a job is better no job. There are plenty of people who’ve been out of work for a really long time not considering these jobs. Many of them have or are about to lose their unemployment benefits. What the issue with trying??? It can’t hurt you.

          1. Jobseeker1*

            The problem is not trying to get a job at McDonald’s. There’s no issue with that for me. Try to get a job anywhere, I’m all for that. My issue comes from people who say “Just go work at McDonald’s” and they have the idea that it’s very easy to do. Walk in, fill out an application, and voila! Instant employment!!

            That simply isn’t the case and it would be helpful for people to stop advising job seekers of that avenue as though it’s the easiest thing in the world and why haven’t you done that? Because, as someone else pointed out, they have applied there and been rejected. McDonald’s is just a euphemism, it can really be any retail/fast food job that people suggest you apply to because they have it in their minds that it’s instant employment and/or that everyone can just get a job there. Nope. They have standards in hiring there quite often, which includes recent fast food or retail experience. And, again, there is competition for those jobs just as there is for others.

            So, it’s really more about people understanding that applying at McDonald’s is not the answer for everyone.

            1. Twentymilehike*

              “Walk in, fill out an application, and voila! Instant employment!!”

              It’s funny you say that, because that’s actually how things used to be … I got almost all my college jobs that way. Walk by a store and see a help wanted sign, fill out an app, wait ten minutes to get your new schedule. I worked at three coffee shops and a retail store using this method.

              Now, that’s not so much the case, I’m sure, and I think that’s one reason a lot of older people get frustrated with younger people not getting jobs .

              1. Felicia*

                Wow, sounds like it was a good time to live in:D But hasn’t been like that since at least I’ve been legally old enough to work (2006) , probably much longer. When I hear older people talk about that it feels so hard to believe (though of course I believe you) because it’s never been part of my reality. When there’s 100ish other people who see that help wanted sign and apply to its hard to imagine that ever happening. You do still walk in and fill out an application – but then 1-2 weeks later you maybe get called in for an interview if you’re lucky but usually you never hear from them again. I’d say after applying/handing out resumes to 10 retail stores in a day i’ll hear back from maybe one of them for an interview. I wish it still worked like that though:)

                1. Twentymilehike*

                  Yep … That was the 90s and like 2000-2002-ish for me. DH is ten years older than me and says it was even easier before my time. And gas was around $1-2 a gallon ….

                2. Pussyfooter*

                  I want a time machine and a map to where Twentymilehike used to get jobs! I graduated high school in 1990 and had to do the full seek + apply + appointment + interview thing for entry level jobs.

          2. fposte*

            I don’t think there’s that many people like that myself, but you doubtless know different people than I do. The issue for me is that you’re suggesting that people should be obliged to apply for jobs they’re not qualified for and have little chance of getting, and that ends up being a hell of an expectation for the struggling jobseeker, because when would be “enough”?

          3. Mike C.*

            I don’t believe this is a true statement, or at the very least true for a statistically significant amount of people.

          4. Lynn*

            I disagree that it “can’t hurt you”. That’s a lot of hours spent slinging burgers, which are hours that you’re not applying, interviewing, networking, learning skills, doing side projects, or in any other way advancing your actual career. In exchange for maybe not very much money, relative to what a job in your field would pay.

            For some people, the benefit of money now may outweigh the opportunity cost of losing those hours of pursuing something in their field. But I disagree that everyone is better off getting a minimum-wage job.

          5. Amanda*

            I admit I have never applied for food service, but I did apply for some retail positions when I was unemployed. Have you seen retail applications lately? Gone are the days where you could fill out one in 15 minutes while at the store and turn it right into the manager. One application took me a week to complete, no joke. I had to create an online account (complete with multiple security questions), fill out the application, upload a resume, take a 73-question values survey and do a bunch of other stuff that I don’t remember now. I neglected other job applications and got a big lecture from my parents, which made me feel like I was about five years old. Contrast that with professional jobs where I mostly have to just send in a resume and cover letter. Considering that I have zippo experience in retail, besides a summer stint back in 2004 where I was almost fired, and you can guess where I’m going to put my time and effort.

        3. Anonymous*

          I wasn’t saying “so apply at McDonald’s”, I was saying that a job is better no job. There are plenty of people who’ve been out of work for a really long time not considering these jobs. Many of them have or are about to lose their unemployment benefits. What’s the issue with trying??? It can’t hurt you.

          1. MissM*

            But how do you know they aren’t trying? Just because they have been out of work a long time doesn’t mean that they haven’t attempted to get a lower paying job just to have a job. Maybe they can’t get hired.

            1. Felicia*

              Thats one thing that annoys me about that kind of advice. You can’t know anything about another persons level of effort or what another person has tried so there’s no point in making assumptions.

          2. ThursdaysGeek*

            There are a lot of people out of work who ARE trying for those jobs, and you’re in competition with them. Many of them have food service or retail experience and if all you have is chocolate teapot design, they are more qualified. So it may not hurt, but it probably won’t help either. There are more people than jobs — why try for one you won’t get?

      3. Dan*

        Not always, people who usually have professional jobs can come across as pretty desperate if they go from “IT Manager” to “Cook at Mcdonalds”, for such examples, I think it’s better not to work at all (or not put it on the resume, at least).

        1. De Minimis*

          My feeling is, they would probably not be hired in the first place. If I were a manager at McDonald’s why would I hire someone who is obviously just applying because they want any job, especially if there are experienced applicants or even applicants who obviously aren’t “settling” for a job there? I think I’d probably be a little insulted, honestly.

        2. Jamie*

          Trust me you don’t want an IT manager working at McDonalds – most of us aren’t in customer service gigs for a reason.

          1. Chinook*

            I have done retail and I hate retail. I even told my mother so whiel workign in her store (when it was empty and we were hanging and coutnign baby clothes). True, I can sell ice to an Eskimo (really easy after a hot day on the footbal field – Go Eskies!), but that doesn’t mean I like it.

            Now washing dishes in a kitchen is more my speed, but even that has loads of competition.

            1. Rana*

              Oh, god, freakin’ baby clothes. One of my first jobs was in a discount department store, and before we could go home at night we had to make sure all the departments were clean and tidy for the next day. The baby clothes department was the worst for messiness, always, with only the shoe department as a distant second.

              1. Chinook*

                Actually, in my mother’s store it isn’t that bad because it is a small section and there is a kid’s play corner, by the door, where children can be left and you don”t have to worry about them breaking anything (because it is that type of store). It doubles as advertising because little ones will ask dad or grandparents, when they go downtown, if they can go to the store to play.

                That day we were unboxing and hanging them. The job is so simple that my 2 y.o. and 4 y.o. neice and nephew have been roped into doing it when being babysat by Memere. They even got paid by being taken out for lunch at McDonald’s. (And here is proof that a family business does end up roping in everybody!)

      4. Kim*

        If you have a child and have to factor in childcare costs then “a job is better than no job” isn’t true at all. I got my current job after a year of being unemployed and I had to take a 25% paycut over the previous job. I currently spend 50% of my income on childcare. It is hardly worth it some days. If I were working minimum wage then I’d be paying more to send my child to daycare.

        1. FRRibs*

          I ran into this issue too; with the small job market in Vermont, the only available jobs were essentially only able to cover the cost of daycare for two kids. Cheaper to stay home and tighten the belt.

    3. some1*

      Also, don’t say tell people on unemployment to apply for jobs with salaries that they can’t live on or are less than unemployment. You can get kicked off unemployment for turning down any work.

    4. Liz in a library*

      So so true! It’s nearly impossible to get a retail or food service jobs in my area without a decent amount of experience in those areas…and I’m seeing fewer younger workers in those kinds of jobs around here.

      1. De Minimis*

        What I’ve seen are adult people who usually get by on multiple part-time service industry jobs and the occasional seasonal gig. They often live with parents or other family and usually get some type of government assistance.

      2. LPBB*

        This is kind of one of my pet peeves. People have this impression that retail/customer service is a job that anybody can do and that retailers just hire anybody that walks in off the street. But that’s not true. There are skills, particularly soft skills, that are necessary to be successful at customer service.

        I know everybody has horror stories about poor customer service, but I firmly believe that is reflection of poor training, poor workplace culture, and also poor hiring.

        When I was still working in retail, we definitely preferred people who already had retail experience. There were two people that we hired w/o prior experience who turned out to be excellent employees, but overall, the one’s who didn’t prior experience tended to either wash out or quit. We really really preferred people who knew what retail was about, especially because we were a bookstore and people have fantasies about bookstore work (hint: you don’t actually sip lattes and talk about books all day!).

        Plus, why should retailers be the only employers who are expected to hire people who just want any job vs wanting *that* job? Why am I going to pass over someone with a proven track record of customer service and retail work to hire someone without that record who may leave in 6 months because they finally found something in their field?

        I know the suggestions are coming from a good place, but reality is a little more complicated.

        1. LPBB*

          OMG, I’m so embarrassed. That should be “the ones”. I almost never have unnecessary apstrophes!

        2. danr*

          “… people have fantasies about bookstore work (hint: you don’t actually sip lattes and talk about books all day!).”
          It’s the same as the misconceptions about librarians… you don’t get to sit and read all day.

          1. De Minimis*

            I worked at a Borders for a while, and although I enjoyed it most of the time, it was definitely a customer service job. But knowing about books allowed you to provide better service—as long as you were working in the book section. I was almost hopeless when they’d stick me in the music department.

        3. Manda*

          This. If you want to please your customers, you damn well better invest the time and effort in training your staff so they know what they’re doing. The store I used to work at claimed they wanted us to provide “never before seen customer service in Canada.” Well they did nothing to teach us how to go about it. You can’t expect a bunch of people making minimum wage to care that much and to just know how to give excellent customer service. I am not a people person so this doesn’t exactly come naturally to me but I did make the effort to try to be friendly and help them as much as I could. You can’t expect people to just be good at their jobs without proper training. It also might help make staff more comfortable and therefore happier and more likely to stick around longer.

    5. Josh S*

      What’s telling is that the “fallback job” in common lore has changed from Starbucks (who provides/provided more than minimum wage, and health insurance for even part time workers) to McDonald’s (who provide a lower level of benefits).

      It was never ever a ‘given’ that anyone would get those jobs. And as a ‘fallback’ was a kind of lousy thing to say. Not to mention demeaning to the folks who work (hard) at those places.

      “You can always get a job at Starbucks/McDonald’s.” should never be in the vocab of anyone who is giving work-related advice.

      1. De Minimis*

        I think it’s a Catch-22…if the job market is to the point where “fallback jobs” exist, it’s probably a good enough job market to where people don’t need “fallback jobs.”

      2. TK*

        Uh, I come from a rural area where the nearest Starbucks is 40 miles away (and even farther for many people nearby. But there are half a dozen McDonald’s (and Wal-Marts) closer by. The default “fallback job” there has always been these sort of places, not a coffee shop with benefits for part-time workers!

        1. De Minimis*

          I grew up in an area like that, that was another place where you saw a lot of 30+ year old people working in fast food or convenience stores.

    6. Anonymous*

      I actually did fold and eventually started applying for retail jobs, but thankfully got a “real” job before anyone called for an interview. But if I ever found myself between jobs, I would definitely turn to retail. Working retail sucks. A lot. But I’d rather have some money coming in than only live off savings and credit.

      1. Jobseeker1*

        Again, this assumes you can get the retail or fast food job. For all the reasons myself and others have covered, not everyone can get those jobs. It’s not a matter of “I’m too good for that,” it’s a matter of “They won’t hire me” or “Working at a minimum wage job means finding childcare, which would cost all the money plus some from the job I’d be working.”

        1. Anon*

          I think you’ve beaten this horse enough.. please stop with your sermons. Based off of what this person wrote, it seemed like she did get interview calls but after she already accepted another job offer.

          1. Natalie*

            Sermons? S/he has posted three comments in this thread, including the opening comment, and none of them are especially long. That’s not like any sermonizing I’m familiar with.

    7. Kate*

      I really hated this advice when I was in a long job search because when I expressed that I wasn’t interested in going that route (at least not yet), I always got the line “well it’s a job!” Yes, that’s true, but for me, it made more sense to try to live off savings for a while longer and try to find something more related to my (very expensive) college degree. Job searching was hard as it was, but I couldn’t imagine having to try to muster up the energy to write cover letters after working a cash register all day for minimum wage. I worked in food service through college and knew how exhausting it could be. For people to suggest that I was ungrateful or entitled for not wanting to do that again after I graduated was just insensitive and unhelpful.

    8. Ally*

      Totally agree with Jobseeker1 original comment. Somewhat related to this conversation, I volunteer working with young adults who are aging out of the foster care system to help them secure housing, job, training, whatever they need to get stable on their own. I keep getting matched with young people who have (minor to very extensive) criminal records. In all instances they are very much ready to move on with their life, regret their past, and desperately want a normal *legal* job.
      One person in particular I’m working with would like to work at popeye’s or something like H&M, but is having a very difficult time and will be homeless soon. It’s very unfortunate when people say things like “just get a job at McDonald’s!”
      That said, I would appreciate any kind of guidance on how to coach young people in applications and interviews in addressing a criminal record. Are there particular companies that have a record for re-entry programs? Most of the places he has applied to do not want in-person applications anymore and want it all online, so I feel as though he is automatically removed from the candidate pool.

      1. Jamie*

        Most manufacturing facilities still have paper applications in addition to online – for the floor personnel. In our ads we have an email address for resumes, but will also post hours and address where you can come and fill out an application in person. Much of the demographic just doesn’t have access to a computer at home so this makes it easier to get a large pool.

        We work with agencies similar to yours, because we have a hard time finding entry level people willing to do factory work. But all of our production managers and supervisors started on the floor, and many of the engineers. It’s a way to get in the door and manufacturing may not be glamorous but it’s still one of the places you can make a decent living without college (in some positions.)

        I will be honest, a lot of places have conviction for violent crime (especially recent) a deal breaker – but it’s a place to get in and rebuild.

        Entry level in manufacturing looking for a couple of things:

        Dependability – show up when scheduled
        Conscientiousness – work and don’t screw around on your shift.

        Oh and COVER LETTERS. 99.9% of the people won’t have one and those that do are form letters that suck. In the years I’ve been here every single applicant for floor positions who sent a personally crafted cover letter was called because it’s so rare and impressive.

          1. Ruffingit*

            Also, try the trades fields. I know someone who was a convicted felon, spent 7 years in prison, got out and got a welding certificate. That has opened doors for him and he’s working as a welder now. So, if possible and the kids are able to pursue the training, that is another avenue when there are criminal records to overcome.

          2. Cali7*

            Ask them too why they were in jail, or why they lost their last job- etc. Practice with them how to answer those questions without bluntly saying things indelicately or going on long diatribes about how it wasn’t their fault because their boss/coworker/customer/judge was a jerk, etc. Also, went to a training once where the trainer emphasized that the important thing is for them to admit they made a mistake, and then outline the steps they are taking/have taken to improve themselves.

        1. Chinook*

          I worked for a warehouse and distribution company and they would hire someone with an iffy background to work in one of the non-regulated areas (i.e. not with tobacco) if they were willing to do the physical labour, take direction and be dependable with their work schedule. They too also accepted walk in applications and you could probably mail or fax it in as well for the warehouse work.

          As well, if these people you are working with are aging out of fostercare, would that also mean that most, if not all, of their juvenile criminal record would be sealed? You may want to check into that because, while it is a technacality, you are describing the number one reason for sealing juvenile records – to allow people to realize that they were idiots when they were younger, have learned from their mistakes and want to move on with their lives (which may be how they want to phrase it if asked about it.) They can also show how they have moved past their criminal behaviour (no longer hang out with those “friends,” moved to a different neighbourhood, trying to get a legal job, etc.)

          1. Natalie*

            Even if the record isn’t sealed automatically, can’t a person petition to have it sealed? That might be worth looking into for the kids with shorter records and anyone who’s record doesn’t really have anything to do with a job.

          2. Ally*

            Where we live, you age out of the system at 21 years old. Most of the charges are from ages 16-21. I believe the record has to be crimes before age of 18 and has to be five years after the offense. I will definitely look more into that. I looked into getting some of them expunged and was definitely not eligible for that.
            This is all great advice, thank you all so much! This is seriously the best blog and by far the best comments section on all the internet universe (lol).

        2. Twentymilehike*

          Paper application? Oh I remember those! :)

          I just had to mention that I was out buying a bagel this morning and they had a “now hiring” sign in the shop window that requested that interested people TEXT them. Whaaaaa?

        3. RedStateBlues*

          I don’t speak for all manufacturing companies, but many of the supervisors/managers where I work treat the production workers like commodities, so there is that, but if the people you are trying to get hired can check the ego at the door and understand this is a means to and end, then they’ll be o.k.

    9. Julia*

      Back in the day, my friend’s parents told her she had better get a college degree “because do you want to end up flipping burgers all day?!”

      Now that she has a degree but can’t find a relevant job, they’re giving her a hard time because “you think you’re too good to flip burgers?!”

      1. Felicia*

        I think a lot of parents do that – i know mine did that. I just answer now ” I don’t think I’m too good to flip burgers, but no one will hire me to flip burgers because I’ve never done it. “

  2. VictoriaHR*

    Squeeeeeee callie kitteh!

    People need to remember that sometimes managers can’t tell subordinates every little thing that’s going on. Maybe they can’t give anyone raises right now due to financial difficulties, not just the person asking. Managers can’t always be transparent. And too often HR is stuck in the middle. In the past 20 years we’ve become this society that wants to know everything OMGRIGHTNAO and that’s just not possible. Like I tell my kiddos, “worry about something when it happens.”

    1. SweetMisery*

      To be fair, I do think people respect management more if they are honest when they can be, so when they can’t be, the people below them have some trust.

      My boss tells me as much as he can, and he’ll be clear when he can’t tell me, or can’t tell me now. It is so much less nerve wracking to have some sense that someone is looking out for your best interest when they can.

    2. BCW*

      Well, while I get that, having a reason gives the person a bit more context to the situation. If I have outworked my position, and I ask, and my manager just says “no” with no context, that isn’t a good way to operate. Now if I ask, and they say due to financial reasons no one is getting a raise at this point, at least I think it has nothing to do with me.

    3. Mike C.*

      I think employees have every right to know when their employer is having financial trouble. They should have confidence to know that their paychecks will clear the bank, and may have some interesting ideas for saving money and other process improvement.

      1. Jamie*

        Agree. Maybe not all the specifics (i.e. if there are paycuts people shouldn’t know who got them) but transparency as much as possible gives security.

        In any situation when someone keeps telling you everything is fine – when you KNOW it isn’t – it just makes you more nervous because they are either oblivious or lying…neither of is calming.

        1. Chinook*

          I mentino the floods in Southern Alberta a lot but how Calgary and High River mayor’s dealt with it prove how important transperency is. In Calgary, Nenshi (our immigrant, muslim and I think gay mayor – not bad for rednecks, eh?), held multiple news conferences and was willing to say “I don’t know” or “we will look into it” when asked a question. He also called people idiots when they acted like idiots (rafting down a flooded river? really?) and acknowledged that the uncertainty would cause anger.

          The mayor of High River, though, didn’t hold news conferences to explain why the city had been evacuated for weeks, communities allowed to flood, or why the cops were going to house (looking for stragglers and securing any weapons or animals). The anger was palpable on the news because no one knew what was going on, for how long, or even if someone was in charge. And there are still royally ticked off at their entire town council because they didn’t see them doing anything. A simple “we don’t know and we are as frustrated as you” would have gone a long way to make people felt heard.

    4. Lily*

      “Managers can’t always be transparent.” The longer I have been a manager, the shorter my explanations have gotten. (I used to overshare.) Since I represent the company, I can’t complain about other departments or superiors and since I am a manager, I can’t discuss my subordinates.

      Employees don’t always understand this. Some need me to “prove” that I am on their side, that I am not favoring their colleague, … and I’m sad when they need so much reassurance, (when I suspect that they would only feel good about themselves if I trashtalked their colleague) but I can’t provide enough. Some demotivate themselves by not believing the truth. I have really come to appreciate those who trust me.

  3. anon*

    I was laid off from Company X in 2011 after 4 years but am now employed. When I was laid off, I, my then-boss and X’s HR Director signed a severance/separation agreement that stated X would only give me a “neutral” reference if contacted by an employer.

    After I was laid off, my old sup resigned from X for another company. Does she still have to abide by the agreement she signed? Not job searching now but just wondering.

    1. Anonymous*

      It depends on what the language in the document says… But I wonder if you would want her to?

      1. anon*

        Well, I wouldn’t anticipate a very positive reference from her, so I have never provided her name as a reference, but on apps that asked for my work history and manager’s name I have listed it.

    2. fposte*

      It would depend on the terms of the agreement, but it’s likely that the contract is with the company, not with the specific individual. However, what’s probably more important is whether she *feels* bound by the agreement or not–if she doesn’t think she is and gives a negative reference for you, the law isn’t going to get you the job that negative reference loses you.

      Hopefully at this point you wouldn’t need to include anybody from there for a reference at all.

  4. LPBB*

    What a pretty little girl!

    Question for the crowd: I just started working as an Independent Contractor and yes, I actually am an IC, I’ve already checked on that. I was wondering if anyone could recommend any blogs or websites that address the ins and outs of independent contracting, most specifically the tax issues.

    I’ve already looked at the IRS’s website, which was helpful, but I would also like something with a little less IRS-speak. I’m hoping this is only a temporary situation, but with the way the economy is, I really want to be prepared in case this really is my new normal.

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      I recommend two things: 1) pay quarterly taxes. Generally speaking the IRS will ding you for a penalty if you don’t; 2) I always figure that about 50% of my gross freelance income will go to cover all taxes (federal, state, etc). YMMV based on your tax rate, but it gives me a rough estimate to hold back.

      Good luck

      1. Rana*

        That’s very good advice. They’ll let you get by the first year, but after that, do the quarterly taxes.

        Also, save every possible receipt for anything you can use as a deductible. I didn’t see the point when I wasn’t self-employed (because the standard deduction was usually more) but it is really, really helpful when you’re calculating your taxes as a freelancer.

        Oh! You might also want to get an EIN from the IRS so that you can use it in place of your SSN when your clients need that information for their own tax reporting. It’s free and takes maybe 5-15 minutes to apply for it online.

        1. Natalie*

          Yes, definitely get an EIN. You would think everyone would be good about keeping that information locked up and shredding it when they don’t need it anymore, but I’ve been surprised at the places I’ve found SSNs in my office.

    2. Malissa*

      The basics are that you have to pay all of your own employment taxes. This means filing quarterly and sending in deposits if you income is significant and you don’t have spouse adjusting their tax with holding to compensate.
      But you do also get to deduct any supplies and expenses you pay for directly in your contracting. You’ll file a 1040 long form at the end of the year with a schedule C. I’d download one now to get a sense of what you can deduct.

      1. Chinook*

        Defintiely keep track of your expenses and income as you go, even if it is in a spreadsheet. This will save you a headache at tax time as you try and piece together what all the receipts mean. Plus, 15 mins. a week to do your books is no where near as stressful as doing it over a weekend with a deadline looming. This includes tracking your housing and vehicle expense as part of that, I believe is tax deductible, especially if you are working from home.

        Also, write on the receipt stating what it is for (business reason) when you log it into your records. Work under the assumption that you will be audited at some point. I don’t know how it is in the US, but if you submit electronically in Canada, you don’t have to submit your receipts unless requested to and audits can happen randomly (I have had 3 and never ended up owing money in any of them).

      1. Rana*

        +1 – Also look around to see if there are any organizations specifically related to the field you work in (for example, I’m a member of both the Editorial Freelancers Association and the American Society of Indexers). Such organizations will be able to offer specific advice relative to your particular area of work, often have special discounts or job lists for members, and typically have forums in which you can ask experienced people for advice (or lurk and learn things that way).

    3. MissM*

      My husband started working as an independent contractor this year, and after searching around on the internet, I ended up meeting with a tax accountant to discuss a number of issues, including quarterly taxes and what kind of things we can deduct. The accountant considered this just a consultation and didn’t charge me, although I spent about an hour with her and she gave me lots of good specific advice.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        I would second checking with a tax accountant or attorney, especially if this turns into a long-term or permanent situation. Independent contractors & freelancers have the type of tax returns that place them at a higher risk for audit.

    4. LPBB*

      Thank you all for the good advice! You’ve given me a lot to think about and some good places to start.

      I’m a terrible procrastinator and tend to do my taxes April 15 at 9pm, but I guess that’s not going to fly this year! If it breaks that particular habit, I guess this will be worth it.

      1. Malissa*

        Depending on what kind of work you do and how complicated you get, a program like quickbooks could make it easier on you. You can also deduct it as a business expense. Be wary of the home office unless you have a VERY separate space. That’s a big IRS flag and they’ve been denying lots of home office deductions. For mileage keep a log in your car if you use it for business. you’ll have to track all miles business and personal.

        1. LPBB*

          Right now I’m just contracting with one company, so I don’t think it will be too difficult. This is work that tends to be contracted out though, so there is a possibility that I may end up contracting with multiple employers in the future.

          1. Ruffingit*

            I did IC for a year. Things to do:

            1. Consult an accountant. They can help you figure out deductions and such that you never even considered.

            2. Establish a savings account for your taxes. Immediately take a percentage off the top for your taxes and deposit it from every paycheck. You can ask your accountant what you should be taking out percentage wise.

            3. You can pay your taxes quarterly online. I used this site. There are others, but this worked for me:
            (The Electronic Federal Tax Payment System)

            4. Keep track of your mileage driving to and from the businesses you’re working for.

            5. If you’re doing work from home, you may be able to deduct parts of your mortgage or rent for home office space. It’s REALLY IMPORTANT to consult an accountant. You can usually find one for fairly cheap assuming you don’t have complicated issues. Mine answered my questions and did my taxes for less than $100. She was excellent. Ask around for recommendations.

        2. Courtney*

          +1 to QuickBooks! and also being careful of deductions such as home office.

          And finally there is a LOT of bad advice out there about what is tax-deductible and when. If this turns more permanent in any way I HIGHLY suggest finding a CPA or tax attorney to guide you through the process.

          1. Jamie*

            This! And they aren’t that expensive. It’s so worth a couple of hundy to not have to spend the time trying to figure out what percentage of your internet bill is deductible.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      The best move I made was to establish a savings account just for taxes. I carry deposit slips for that account. When I go to cash that check I put money in the tax account first thing. There. Done. Over.
      Total peace of mind.

      1. Rana*

        Heck, just setting up a separate checking account for your business is helpful (and often very easy to do – it was free and a matter of filing out a form with my credit union). That makes it much easier to track cash flow and helps you distinguish between business purchases and personal ones. (If you need the money for things other than business expenses, you can always pay yourself by transferring funds between checking accounts and labeling it as such.)

  5. Anon*

    That is such a cute kitten!

    I was wondering what is considered “job hopping” in this market these days. I have an SO who, after graduating, worked a temp job for 3 months before finding full time work. However, he is extremely unhappy and not performing the work he was told he would. He also has terrible health due to allergies that are associated with this job. He doesn’t want to leave (he’s been there about 8 months now) because his parents told him he’d be considered a “job hopper” if he doesn’t stay there for more than a couple years, and he already has the temp job on his resume. Advice?

    Thank you!

    1. Liz in a library*

      I would look a little askance at an 8-month tenure, but if he can explain the shift it shouldn’t be too prohibitive. If he could hold out a little longer, it will be easier.

      Was the first job planned to just be temporary? If so, then he should make sure to mark it as a time-limited temp job on his résumé, and it shouldn’t hurt him at all (at least it wouldn’t if I were hiring).

      1. Anon*

        The first job was meant to be temporary, but was terminated due to the contractor ending the study prematurely. I can see if he can hold out for a year, but it also takes a little while to find employment even if he were to start looking now, so maybe he’ll hit the year mark before actually finding a new position. I hope that will be alright.

        1. Liz in a library*

          There is no harm in him looking now; it can take a while, and if the perfect thing shows up now, he should certainly pursue it. And, thing is, if he finds a good job and stays a few years, that will repair the “job-hopping” look of his résumé for the future.

    2. Calla*

      IMO, he’s fine. Temp jobs are supposed to be short-term so he’d really only have one “short” stay — and by the time he finds a new job, he’ll probably have been there at least a year. I don’t think leaving after a year-long stint at your first real job, especially if the job is totally different than you were told, is bad.

      Keep in mind I’m not a hiring manager, but I did have a series of short jobs on my resume!

      1. TheSnarkyB*

        I think the issue is that this is the post-temp job job. Anon above, how long has he been at this job?

        1. Calla*

          Right, anon said his current job (the post-temp job) he’s been at 8 months — and by the time he finds a new job it’ll be longer, probably a year. That means it’s only one truly short stint. And IME, it’s not unusual for someone to stay at their first “real” job only a year or so. That doesn’t mean some hiring managers won’t side-eye it, I wouldn’t think it’s such a hurdle that he shouldn’t even bother trying to find a new job.

    3. Anlyn*

      It takes so long to find a job, that after 8 months, he could probably start looking. By the time he finds one, he’ll have been in this job for a year.

      Is this the first full-time position he’s had? Based off Alison’s advice in other similar questions, I would say he could get away with it once, but he would need to stay with his next job for probably two or three years at least.

      1. Anon*

        This is his first full time position. He would plan on staying at his next position longer than this one.

        1. MissM*

          IMO, the biggest risk is that if he finds a new job, he may be so anxious to leave the existing one that he leaps without looking too closely. Since he will need to stay in the next job for awhile, he should be very choosy about accepting any offers.

          1. Elle D*

            Good advice. Since he already has a job, he should thoroughly vet the next employer and not just take the first thing that comes his way. I was very anxious to relocate about a year ago, and took my current position without asking enough questions. I love the company culture and don’t mind coming to work each day so it ended up working out pretty well considering, but the job is completely different than what I expected and I never would have applied for it if I had fully understood the position.

    4. VictoriaHR*

      If he’s got allergies that are enhanced by his current job, to me that’s a perfectly acceptable reason to look for work elsewhere. He can just address it in his cover letter.

    5. Mallorie, the recruiter*

      I think the temp position won’t hurt him, and the 8 months is not THAT bad for the 2nd job- however, has he ever worked anywhere else? Job hopping is my personal pet peeve and I look at a pattern of it. Even though the positions I recruit for are very entry level, they are not meant to be someone’s first job ever. I like to see that someone can stick it out somewhere (even if that somewhere was like Walmart for 2 years). So, if he ONLY has these 2 jobs, I would be weary that he doesn’t know HOW to stay at a position for the long haul. Even if he worked somewhere in HS for a few years that would counter-act it I think. Its tough in this economy and even when someone has a perfectly acceptable reason for short term employments, often they won’t even get the chance to explain because so many resumes flood each job! Good luck to him though :-)

    6. jennie*

      I don’t think he has anything to lose by getting his resume out there. Some employers will be turned off by his short tenure but others will overlook it. He just needs to make sure his next job is a good enough fit that he can stay a few years.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      At the risk of sounding rude…. I don’t mean to… how about seeing an allergist?

      Having wrestled with a high allergy load myself, I know the allergies will win in the long run, if there is no treatment or minimal treatment. Allergies can run a person down to a point where they cannot get out of bed.

      My concern here is that if he is just putting his teeth together to get through it- this guy is going to be in misery.
      Additionally, if you have alternative medicine practicioners near you, they can help make major improvements, too. That is how I finally got a handle on my allergies. Now I can work almost any where and I do not worry.

  6. Anonymous*

    Anyone got any tips for how to accept positive feedback? I’ve just had a really good review but I didn’t know what to say other than “thank you” when my manager gave me the feedback. I’m new to the organisation, having been here less than a year. There was a bit of back and forth/information/ideas sharing over things I’m not yet covering but no clear “You need to improve on x, y and z”.

      1. Amy*

        Congrats! I would say a sincere and simple “thank you for your feedback, it was very helpful” or something along those lines would be sufficient. It’s great that you were given positive feedback! You could also add something like, “if you think of anything I could improve on in the future, just let me know” to indicate you’re open to constructive feedback should they have any going forward.

    1. Jubilance*

      What’s wrong with just saying “thank you”?

      If you really want to get development feedback, you should ask for it in a specific context – don’t say “what do I need to work on?” but ask about specific things, like maybe your presentation skills, or your ability prioritize, or something like that.

    2. TheSnarkyB*

      I think just “thank you” is fine, but if you feel like their language is much more effusive than what you have to work with, you can also say: “I’m so glad to hear that”..”I’m glad you’re happy with my work, and also that I have a concrete sense of your expectations. I look forward to facilitating more successes for our team!” and other similar things (That last one would be way too extreme if somebody just says, “Great job on that spreadsheet!”, obviously, but there are some contexts that would warrant it.)

    3. Not So NewReader*

      “Thank you. Your comments are meaningful to me because I truly enjoy my job. I am glad it is working out well for both of us.”

  7. Victoria Nonprofit*

    Alison, I want to talk with you about your performance. You do a great job here. I am especially impressed with your insightful responses to questions from jobseekers, and your management of a potentially unruly comments section.

    However, there is one area in which I’d like to see improvement. We need someone in this role who posts multiple pictures of adorable kittens, not just one. Is that something you can do? If not, we need to talk about whether this role can continue to be a good fit for you.

    1. Jamie*

      If you need another managers signature should this progress to a write up just stop by my office.

      I am in total agreement that performance is excellent across the board and there is no better work product anywhere in this industry….but the limiting of one picture per month is really going to lower the review overall.

      (How cute is she?! My co-worker/friend just brought in her new baby this week, now this. People are trying to kill me with cuteness on every angle.)

      1. Chinook*

        And remember that the improved performance will be expected to continue after the end of the PIP and, if it doesn’t, would probably have consequences.

        1. Ruffingit*

          And of course, we will need Joaquin, Wakeen, Shavon, and Siobhan to sign off on the Performance Plan.

      1. Windchime*

        She is absolutely beautiful! I know you said you are fostering her; any chance that you will keep her? She’s so cute!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I am fighting my urges to keep her, since I already have two cats … but she’s hard to resist. She’s curled up on my chest while I’m typing this.

          1. Kelly O*

            This is why I could not foster – children or animals. I would start saying “well, we could make more room.” or “we really don’t need internet/cable/electricity” and just take them all in.

      2. Jessica (the celt)*

        Whoo-hoo! The one of her sitting is the most adorable thing I’ve seen in ages. You’re making me really miss being able to have a kitty. :( (I’ve never had baby fever, but I just realized that it’s probably similar to what I feel when I see pictures of adorable kittens…? I just want more kittens and more kittens and more kittens.)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          No, good for you for adopting adults! Because everyone wants kittens, adult cats are harder to get adopted and often get stuck staying in shelters for a while. (When I adopted my oldest, who was five years old at the time, he’d been in the shelter for three months. And some adults have been there even longer.) Adopting adult cats rules.

          1. Amber (OP #3)*

            We got our first cat from a pet store when she was just a kitten. Tiny… 8 week old, just barely… and fit in a single hand!!! :) But when she ran off from a friend’s house one time (we went away for a weekend and left her at a friend’s house across town – she ran away and we never saw her again, which makes me sad because I LOVED that cat) we went and adopted an adult cat from the shelter. She’s such a sweetie and we were super lucky that WE got her!!!

            Adopting adult cats is the best! d(ouo)b

  8. Stanley*

    After 19 years with my company, I was laid off. My severance package was actually pretty awesome, and with paid out PTO and vacation, I walked away with a year’s salary clear.

    During my time off, I looked for work, but was, admittedly, very choosy. Knowing I had another 25 years in my working career, and knowing I was financially OK for the time, I actually took an extended vacation. But I honestly did nothing. Traveled to see friends (though no exotic travel to be impressed by). Read books (nothing to really expand my mind). Did DIY projects (nothing that expanded my working skills). I did not volunteer, did not do any real networking, and did not take any classes or learn any new skills.

    I was recalled by the company that laid me off 9 months into my “vacation.” My time was bridged, and my original hire date re-instated. But a year and a half later, I’m ready to move on. The manager who asked me to come back is no longer my manager, and frankly I don’t see that as a company they really changed anything to stabilize themselves for the long haul.

    My question is how to address this employment gap without looking like a flake? It was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to relax and rejuvenate, but I don’t want to be thought of as a layabout. As hiring managers, how would any of you feel about someone who did nothing to advance themselves during a period of unemployment?

    1. some1*

      I really don’t think you need to address the gap at all. The company hired you back, so it clearly has nothing to do with your performance.

      1. Anonymous*

        Some job applications make you account every month (ours does, as annoying and off-putting as that is). So it may come up.

        1. Stanley*

          If any reference checker spoke to manager Bob, he would say positive things and would probably never mention the layoff. However, should they speak to manager Bill, he would surely mention the layoff (as in “I hated to lay him off” thinking he was saying positive things). So that’s another way I could see it coming up – and I don’t want to appear as if I’m hiding that fact.

          Thanks for the advice so far everyone!!

    2. Anonymous*

      It doesn’t sound like to me that you’re being lazy. You did look and they can’t know that your job search was only a small part of the time. What you did in your spare time is not the issue. I would just say “actively seeking employment” and leave it there.

    3. Lucy*

      They reinstated your original hire date so that you don’t have to worry about this kind of thing. Don’t even put the gap on your resume.

      1. Colette*

        I disagree. I’d suggest something like:
        Company X
        Jan. 2007 – Feb. 2011
        Oct. 2011 – present

        It could come up in reference checks (e.g. the “I was sorry to have to lay her off”), and you don’t want to lose a job just before you get offered it.

    4. Beth*

      I see nothing wrong with saying that you were laid of and while looking for your next career move, you took advantage of the time do complete some personal projects that you hadn’t the time to complete while working full-time. While you were happy to be recalled to your former company, you realized that the overall corporate picture is not that much better financially than it was before you were laid off and you realized that it was time to revisit your efforts to choose your next career move rather than to be put in a position where you might be laid off again.

    5. AdAgencyChick*

      Nine months? If I were looking to hire I wouldn’t really bat an eyelash. I might even think you had just taken a leave of absence after so many years with the same company.

    6. jennie*

      I don’t know if you even need to mention it. I’m in Canada and I see resumes all the time that say employed at X company 2001-2013 and don’t mention the one (or two) years of maternity leave taken.

      9 months off out of a 19-year career seems like a drop in the bucket.

      1. Felicia*

        I think in Canada it’s different, because we get the one year of maternity leave as standard, while in the US they don’t officially need to get anything, and many can only take like 6 weeks. While here everyone takes the one year pretty much, so you assume that happens, I imagine in the US there is not that assumption. – but really in other circumstances 9 months is not much.

          1. jennie*

            But he’s re-employed there with the same start date, so it seems like a similar situation to me.

            The only way it’s going to come up is if a reference specifically mentions it.

          2. jennie*

            He could even say that when he was laid off he thought it was likely he’d be called back so he spent the time on personal growth and travel rather than job searching.

    7. Cathy*

      I honestly think 19 years with the same company will be a bigger hindrance in finding a new job than 9 months doing nothing. You need to be prepared to talk about how you’ll make the switch and adapt to a new workplace.

      1. Anne 3*

        Unless he’s been in the same exact role for 19 years, would it really matter all that much?

  9. AnonyMouse28*

    Any tips on negotiating a raise? I’m in a notoriously underpaid media industry (but our company just merged into the largest of our kind in the world, if that makes a difference), and I just hit my two year anniversary. I’ve gotten three merit raises (including a promotion) of about 5% each time, and my responsibilities have skyrocketed (including increased visibility at the senior level), and I’ve also had a couple of offers from competitors in the last year that have offered me significantly more money (I just didn’t want to relocate, so I turned them down, but still have the offer letters).

    How could I leverage that when I sit down with my boss to discuss salary? Any advice would be awesome!

    1. Jane*

      Depending on your role in the industry, I would see only senior level individuals having salary increases due to the merger. With something this large, I doubt we’ll see major impacts within the next 6 months.

      1. AnonyMouse28*

        Makes sense, thank you! We (i.e. one of the two merged companies) typically do yearly raises on the anniversary of employment, however, and that’s what I’m up for. Do you think they’ll have cancelled that? That wasn’t the impression I’d gotten from anybody in my office (basically it’s all business as usual until the start of the new year, which I took to include standard raises as well). What do you think?

  10. Liz in the City*

    I’m proofreading a resume for a friend — she’s been a SAHM for the past 3 years — and I was wondering what I should suggest she do to fill in the “gap” since she’s now looking for PT or FT work. I think she’s been involved in a local dance group, but other than that, what are some good strategies? And should she mention that she’s been a SAHM in passing in her cover letter? Any suggestions?

    1. Anonymous*

      I think it’s alright to mention she’s been a SAHM in her cover letter. If she volunteered for the local dance group and gained valuable skills through it, I think it’d be alright to put it on her resume.

    2. some1*

      Not sure about whether SAHM should be mentioned, but if she does, please have her list it as “SAHM” and not some euphemism like “domestic engineer”.

      1. Liz in the City*

        I wasn’t thinking I’d have her add it to her resume, since I personally think that’s silly (this is NOT a slam against SAHMs — she juggles 3 kids and makes it look easy — I couldn’t do the same by any stretch), since it’s not a job in a professional setting that most business people who read resumes expect. Would this line work? “While a stay-at-home mom to three children since 2010, I volunteered my time with XXX Dance Group and remained active in XXX.”

        1. Liz in the City*

          OK, maybe not “silly,” but yeah, not “domestic engineer.” Now I don’t know. Should it be on her resume as a line item, maybe under “other experience”? Argh. Friday.

          1. fposte*

            Oh, *hell* no to putting it on the resume.

            And don’t push to fill the gap if there really isn’t anything to fill the gap. Spackle looks a lot worse than the fact of being out of the workforce.

            What did she do for the dance group? What did she achieve? If you just make it sound like it was something to get her out of the house once a week, a hiring manager isn’t going to care.

            1. fposte*

              Wow, that all sounds really harsh to me now–sorry.

              I think that you have to accept an absence from the workforce as what it is and not try to sell it as if it was the same as going to an office every day. If she did cool stuff for the dance group–kept them afloat, organized the budget, whatever–that’s a great thing to talk about (“kept my administrative skills sharpened by operating as volunteer support–and sole budget manager–for the AAM Street Dancers”); if she was one of a crowd who turned up four times a year to take tickets, maybe not so much. I’m wavering on whether you mention the SAHM thing, but I do think the cover letter should acknowledge returning to the workforce so that it matches the resume’s silence/scarcity on the last few years.

          2. Lucy*

            I always wonder about the general consensus on this.. I know it’s a big debate, but if I were a hiring manager, I’d probably roll my eyes at any sort of reference to being a SAHM on a resume (cover letter to explain the gap – sure, resume.. no). It’s not a professional accomplishment. It’s just not. I’m not saying it’s easier than having a regular job, because I would probably lose my mind at having to stay home all day. But what kind of things does it bring to the table for a job that doesn’t include watching children? The only thing I can think of that would be transferable would be budgeting and managing schedules, and I do that for my family too.

            1. BCW*

              I agree. I mean people like to compare their pets to kids (and i’m not trying to start a debate about that), but it would sound equally ridiculous to me to say “adopted 3 month old puppy and raised as a animal care technician”

            2. Jamie*

              Totally agree with this – and I was a SAHM for 15 years and didn’t get my first job until I was (ahem) late 30s.

              I had volunteer stuff on there for educational advocacy which clearly translated to a business environment – but not about raising my kids and taking care of my family.

              Yes, in some ways it was harder than ‘work’ but that’s irrelevant – it’s not transferable. And we all budget – keeping the books for a family doesn’t translate to any kind of accounting position.

              That doesn’t mean it wasn’t important – it was the best choice for me and my family and I’d do it again – it was crucially important to us…but it wasn’t a job.

            3. Lucy*

              Plus, with any sort of other job, you can reference check to see if they actually did a good job in that position… how do I know you didn’t nearly bankrupt your family? Should I call your husband? :)

        2. Mallorie, the recruiter*

          I think cover letter is good, something like “After spending time at home with my family for the last 3 years, I want to get back into the workforce.” While some people may look down on moms taking some time off, I think there are just as many who think that is totally normal. And that at least explains the gap… and to who ever said not to put Domestic Engineer – right on. If I see that on a resume one more time I will lose it! LOL

          1. Liz in the City*

            Thanks, all. And yeah, no to the resume line, yes to the cover letter line. I think she was teaching some stuff at the Dance Studio (not totally sure), but she was also juggling a now-5 year old, a 2 1/2 year old and a 1 year old. So, she was busy, just not in a “business” sense :P

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Would this line work? “While a stay-at-home mom to three children since 2010, I volunteered my time with XXX Dance Group and remained active in XXX.”

          Too much detail about the motherhood part. “When I took X years off to care for children, I stayed active in XYZ” and nothing more — no need to mention how many kids, etc.

        1. Colette*

          That’s … both misleading and transparent. My perception is that people who try to wordsmith what they’ve done this way are not terribly comfortable with what they were actually doing. There’s nothing wrong with staying home to look after your children, but there is something wrong with trying to make it look like a professional accomplishment, which it is not.

          1. Kat_M*

            I worked in childcare for 6 years, had all kinds of training, and never heard of anyone called a “technician.” Teachers and caregivers don’t think of themselves that way, and I know parents don’t! It sounds like the title of someone in charge of monitoring childcare-providing robots or something. ;)

            1. Jamie*

              I think of my servers as my children…and I’m technically their technician…

              Kind of works? If I was pathetic enough to admit I have anthropomorphized my computers and they are now family members. Which I’m so not admitting.

              1. EA*

                Depends on your server naming conventions … I’ve seen some companies that named their servers for famous scientists, I’ve seen some companies that name them for fictional characters, some companies name their servers for pets of the SysAdmins, and I’ve seen some that used very technical server names (for example, OhioProdWinVirtualMachine028).

                If you use one of the Human/Pet naming conventions for your servers, then anthropomorphizing them is fine … however, I just don’t get that warm, cuddly feeling from “OhioProdWinVirtualMachine028”

                1. Marina*

                  I know a place that started naming their servers after South Park characters, then realized what a bad idea that was when they got to Kenny…

                2. Nichole*

                  Our servers have names like rc-bashful and rc-sneezy. Campus myth is that an IT person years ago was a big Snow White fan. I didn’t realize how plausible an explanation that was!

        2. Chinook*

          Childcare technician would imply to me that you had safety training (i.e. first aid) and met certain state requriements for the job. It would also imply that you were caring for children not your own (as in the choices for discipling them are much different – it is hard to ground a daycare child for a week or send them to bed without dinner because they don’t lvie with you.)

          1. RG*

            I agree on childcare technician=caring for other than your own children,if it means anything at all.

            When you take care of your own kids, it’s called parenting.

          2. Andie*

            I was joking about the child care technician. That what I call my cousin when she calls herself babysitter.

    3. Elizabeth*

      What about volunteer work? Did she put her kids in daycare/preschool/school at all while she was staying home? If so, did she help out at the school or with a parent organization? Does she attend a church? Did she help out there? If she did, maybe what she was doing reached resume-worthy levels. Or maybe there’s something else she’s been doing . . .

      Sorry, I have no suggestions for just filling the gap.

      1. Tina*

        Glad to see this question, I occasionally work with alumni who have been stay at home moms. Now I’m going to search Alison’s archives and see what else she has in there about this topic.

    4. Beth*

      I think it’s fine to say in her resume that she stayed home to raise her kids from x year to x year. I don’t have kids, so this opinion is not coming from any place that is defensive … it troubles me that some think that a SAHM has to volunteer or study or do something in addition to raising her children. If she’s in a position to stay at home YAY for her. I think coming back into the workforce would require her to take a more entry level position than if skills had acquired during that time, but YAY her. For most parents the best testament they will leave to their lives is their children, not their professional accomplishments.

      1. Lucy*

        Well, I don’t think anyone’s saying that you HAVE to do that kind of stuff to justify staying home, you just have to do it to bridge the gap if you want to stay relevant. Staying home with children, however noble that’s perceived, is just not going to add any skills to a company.

  11. AdAgencyChick*

    Open thread! Squeeeeee!

    Help me do a post-mortem on a work situation that I’m wondering whether I could have handled better.

    Last year, I was at a company I hated (Company A) and was trying hard to get out. It’s a small, niche industry and everyone knows everyone. Despite my best precautions, my boss found out I was interviewing, and the job I was interviewing for ended up disappearing into thin air. Awesome.

    Although the conversation with my boss went positively (as in, he didn’t decide I was a flight risk and that he had to replace me ASAP), I had to be extra cautious with my future searching. A position opened up at another agency (Company B) that I really wanted, so I started the process, but knew that it was far from a sure thing. In the meantime, I had to interview candidates for a direct report at Company A. I found one who was really good, and we made him an offer. Almost immediately after we made him an offer, Company B started making noises that we were getting close to an offer for me.

    I wanted very badly to tell this candidate so that he could make an informed decision on whether or not to accept the offer (because he had expressed a strong desire to work with me). On the other hand, never assume you have an offer until you have a written offer, right? So all of my friends told me not to breathe a word to him, because I couldn’t necessarily trust his discretion and he might tell Company A, “I’m not so interested now that AdAgencyChick is going somewhere else.”

    I didn’t, and I felt horrible about it. As soon as I accepted the offer from Company B, I did call the candidate, who by then had accepted HIS offer from Company A, so that he at least wouldn’t be taken by surprise to arrive at his first day at work and find he was no longer going to be reporting to me. He sounded pretty taken aback, and I don’t blame him for being upset with me. But could I have done anything differently to help him make an informed decision?

    1. some1*

      I don’t think you should have given him a head’s up. Sure, it’s natural for him to be taken aback, but he is an adult who should have based his decision on more than just working with you.

    2. Lucy*

      I don’t know.. it kind of sucks for him and I get that, but this kind of thing is the risk that you take when you accept a job. If the only reason he was accepting it was dependent on another person, that’s not really solid ground to begin with. I think you handled it the best way you’d be able to.

      1. Judy*

        When I interviewed at my current job, part of it would involve interfacing with the group at X factory. It was certainly a bonus for me because my co-op position had been in that city, and I had lots of friends and even some family there. During my 2 weeks notice, the company announced the closure of that plant. Now that part of my job would be supporting Y factory, which was a plane ride instead of a 4 hour drive from my location. I was disappointed, certainly, but it didn’t stop my move to this job.

    3. Jamie*

      You did nothing wrong. You didn’t have an offer so there was nothing to tell.

      You’re being way too hard on yourself, you don’t owe it to people to tell them stuff that may or may not happen. You may not have gotten an offer, or gotten one and refused it….in which case you’d have risked your trust at work.

      It’s great he wants to work with you, but he cold have taken the job and the next day you win the lottery, decide to leave the industry to study penguins, get hit my a bus, move out of the country…there are no guarantees for any of us.

      As an aside – that’s a huge compliment that someone wanted a job to work with you – how flattering.

      1. Windchime*

        You did nothing wrong. You didn’t have an offer so there was nothing to tell.

        Yes, this. Alison frequently reminds us that until there is an offer, there is no new job. It’s unfortunate that your new colleague won’t be working with you as he had hoped, but there really wasn’t any other way to handle this. Best of luck with your new job!

    4. Josh S*

      No. It’s a lousy timing issue, but you did everything right.

      If you had told Candidate in advance that you might not be the manager, and things fell through, you would have potentially lost a good candidate for the position AND undermined your own standing at the company in the process. By telling Candidate as soon as you knew for sure, you gave them as much information as possible as soon as you knew it with a relative degree of certainty.

      Not much else you could do. After all, even if coming to work for you was a significant part of Candidate’s decision to accept the offer, there is no guarantee that you wouldn’t have left after a month.

      The only thing you *might* have done (and this is above-and-beyond territory) is working out a longer start date for Company B. That way, you’d be there to ‘greet’ Candidate, and then leave. But that might be just as awkward. IDK.

    5. Yup*

      I honestly don’t know what you could have done differently. But if you want, you could offer to stay connected with him as a professional resource — meet monthly for coffee for a little while, check in over email, meet up at the next industry conference, etc. This is obviously super dependent on whether *you* want to do this at all. But if you feel it’d be a good potential mentor-type relationship for both of you, it could be a gracious way to wrap up.

    6. Jubilance*

      I think you did the right thing. You couldn’t share that information with him without him running the risk of saying something to your employer at the time. It sucks that it worked out that way, but you have to do what’s best for you.

    7. Lily*

      I think the chemistry with a future boss is very important and I was very dismayed when my future boss had his farewell party during my first week. That job only went downhill. Still, I don’t think you could have done anything else.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      She’s actually mainly black except for her head and her paws! But she’s covered in this picture, so it’s misleading :)

      And she is not eating very much, so we are worried about her — anyone with tips on getting a kitten to eat, please send them my way! (We’re going to start giving her Nutrical and an appetite stimulant today, so hopefully that will help.)

      1. Elkay*

        I don’t know if it’s suitable for kittens but my cat loves yoghurt for cats. She makes her displeasure known when she thinks I’m serving it up too slow, which is every morning. It’s like crack for cats. When she was a kitten she loved cat milk and used to whine for it every time we opened the fridge.

      2. Alicia*

        We have an 18 year old cat, and at times we’ve resorted to syringing lots of food/water into him (I’ve never had a kitten, so that might be the norm). We also do the Nutrical supplement, but I’ve also heard to mix the syringed food with human baby food (meat based).

        Good Luck!

        1. Show don't tell*

          Medical marijuana. ;) For a serious answer, we happened to have leftover Jevity/high-calorie, non-dairy liquid nutritional substitute, and kittens found it delicious.

        2. Windchime*

          How old is she? She looks pretty tiny. The kitten milk (from a vet or pet store) is a good idea, maybe even from a bottle? My cat was bottle-fed by a foster mom and he turned out to be a wonderful pet, so I appreciate people who do this work!

      3. TL*

        My mom fed her cat mac and cheese when she was a kitten. (They were very poor at the time and couldn’t afford specialized kitten food.) But the cat loved it.

      4. Elizabeth*

        When my in-laws had a cat that had serious sinus issues and couldn’t smell her food, we found that really stinky fish helped. Anchovies, sardines, tuna, etc. Even just putting anchovy paste on her regular food made it more appealing to her.

        Given that this little girl so young, you might not want to get her addicted to fish just yet. I’ve also heard of mixing canned pumpkin with full-fat yogurt, to help with the bodily functions that kittens can sometimes have trouble with.

        1. Chinook*

          I second canned pumpkin (but the pure stuff, not the pie mix). My vet reccommended to keep my cat regular because it is high in fiber. Both he and the dog loved it.

      5. Camellia*

        Sometimes when kittens don’t eat well it is because they are actually dehydrated. We found this out the hard way but my vet handled it by an infusion just under the skin. It’s really weird, it makes a lump and then it is simply absorbed into the muscle.

        Also, every cat I’ve ever had goes mad for strawberry flavored Ensure, I have no idea why, but that might be an adequate substitute for a while.

      6. Sascha*

        You might try chicken noodle soup broth. Like Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. Don’t dilute it with water, just pour some of the broth into a dish and warm it up just a little. My vet recommended this to me when my 3 month old kitten was sick with worms, and he didn’t want to eat anything. He was able to eat that alright. I don’t know if that’s okay for a kitten as tiny as yours, but you could check with a vet.

      7. Kim*

        Try warmed meat-flavored baby food. My vet recommended it for my sick 18-year old kitty, and it worked. Then I added in warmed pouch food such as Wellness Healthy Indulgence.
        You want something nice and aromatic to stimulate the kitten’s appetite without being too heavy or hard to chew.

      8. Lia*

        Sometimes warming food helps: not hot, but take the chill off it. Syringing is another way — also, you can try to soften dry food if she is getting that by moistening with water or broth.

        For my foster kittens, I always left dry out and they got wet food 2-3 times a day.

      9. Chinook*

        Is she old enough to be eating food or should she be still suckling for some of her meals? If so, maybe try an eyedropper of whoel milk. She may also be missing the heartbeat nearby while eating, so you could either hold her next to your chest or put an actual “tick-tock” watch or clock in the blanket with her (which I know is a trick for making young puppies calm down).

        Also, is she getting enough exercise or is she being carried everywhere? Maybe she needs to work up an appetite? Or maybe she is inbetween growth spurts? I know that human babies can have small appetites at times.

      10. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I tried to feed her with a bottle earlier today and it was Not Successful … but then she suddenly ate a whole meal out of nowhere, without any coaxing. I’m not sure what happened, but I’m relieved!

        I have a theory that the de-worming medicine she was on for part of this week may have caused this ordeal, as I read that it can cause loss of appetite. I’m hoping it’s wearing off now.

      11. Diane*

        Baby food. When my cats are sick, the vet has me give them strained beef, chicken, or ham (their favorite), but NO ONIONS. Onions are poisonous to kitties. It’s very rich, so you can dilute it with water and use a syringe. Usually after a taste, she’ll want more. As a bonus, it’s less smelly than cat food.

        Yogurt also works well.

        1. Marie*

          For my sick cats, I would mix their dry food with some luckywarm water, smells terrible, but they loved it.

          i also feed one with a mixture of egg whites and water with a seringe (vet recommended).

  12. Calla*

    Here’s something I’d like input on. I’m an admin for 2 VPs and 2 Directors in the Operations department of a good-sized healthcare company. I’ve been in the position about 10 months now. Recently, I’ve also expanded to other stuff like intra-departmental marketing and employee engagement. My boss has said on a few occasions that he loves me and does not want to lose me, but I am well exceeding the position and to let him know if there’s anything else, anywhere in the company, I’d like to do.

    I really enjoy the marketing and employee aspects but I do not want to move to Marketing or HR – I love my department and want to keep working with my boss. I’d love to stay here and take on more of those department-focused activities – maybe handing off my more tedious duties to a new admin. But before I propose that I want to get an idea of what that would actually *entail* and where it would be on the career path. Office Manager or Administrative Manager is kinda what I’m thinking of, but since we are a company with many departments, it would be focused only on my department.

    So, I guess my question is, are there any positions that already exist out there like this, so I can use that as a model?

    1. Adrienne*

      I’d look up positions for Special Assistant to the ___ or Special Projects Associate. You could also call it administrative coordinator?

      1. Calla*

        Ooh, I think Administrative Coordinator might be exactly what I’m thinking of (I can’t believe that didn’t occur to me!). Thanks!

    1. LPBB*

      I really prefer male kitties for a variety of reasons, but calicos are sooo pretty. They’re my weakness too. I can’t wait until I move out of this crappy apt so I can get a kitty of my own!

  13. CompensationStudy*

    I’ve been at a loss to find any info on how to deal with this one, so maybe there are some AAM readers out there who have dealt with similar situations.

    I work for a large (4000+ employees) local government. They recently made the announcement that they have hired a consultant to do a total compensation study (salary + benefits). The consultant hired has a reputation as downsizing consultants for the public sector, and based on what they have done in other cities, this reputation is deserved. I saw several people updating their resumes at work within hours of the study being announced.

    I am not sure how to react to this study or even if there is anything I can do about it.

    I am the only person in my job title, and all positions in the job title below me are currently vacant. I was hired during a hiring freeze, so I have the lowest seniority in my entire job band and the second lowest seniority in my unit. Unfortunately, I am frequently brought in as a technical adviser on procurement contracts, so I also fall under a one year post-employment ban for my field that applies if I quit or am laid off.

    But I also have opportunities. I have access to salary surveys specific to my field, so I know that salaries have skyrocketed in the last 5 years. I am making around 10th percentile for my position and experience (that’s why so many similar positions in our organization are vacant). Two other local government agencies in our county recently hired positions nearly identical to mine (I was initially recruited for both) but with 60% higher salary and better benefits. Without the post-employment law, I probably would have already left.

    The announcement also mentioned that “unique” positions will not be evaluated, so my position may not be included at all. I have never been through a compensation study before and have no idea what to do.

    Should keep my head down and hope I get excluded from the study and have no risk of getting laid off? Or should I be speaking up about my far below market wage (and how would I even do this)?

      1. CompensationStudy*

        Would it be too late at that point though if my position is excluded from the study?
        We do not have merit raises, so this probably the only way to get a raise.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      I don’t get it — how can you be made not to work in your field for a year if it’s not your choice to leave? I’m not a lawyer by any means, but maybe someone who is can chime in on whether such a thing is enforceable, especially if OP is laid off?

      1. CompensationStudy*

        I’ll just call my employer “gov” in this to make the explanation easier.

        Basically, every gov vendor has to sign an agreement that if they hire a former gov employee who had any role in procurement on a contract for which they were eligible, they have to pay a fine equal to that employee’s first year salary with that vendor. The gov has the option to cancel all of that vendor’s contracts, and excluded the vendor from all new contracts for a year. This includes other government entities.

        Since this gov entity is so huge, and my field relatively small, every potential employer in the region is registered as a vendor.

        I have consulted with a lawyer on this, and while I could possibly successfully challenge this law, the what ifs are extremely risky. I might not have standing to sue, since the restriction is on vendors rather than employees. The compelling government interest (preventing corruption) might be strong enough to justify the impact on one individual. And I would still have to convince a new employer to take on all those financial risks even if I might win the court case. So, challenging it could leave me out of work for a year anyway.

    2. Anonymous*

      Are you sure the post-employment ban is as wide as you think it is? From what I understand, they can’t actually stop you from making a living, so if you’re a Chocolate Teapot Designer, they can’t tell you to not design chocolate teapots for a year.

      1. Anonymous*

        Oops, didn’t refresh (to see the conversation above). In that case, why not take those other government agencies’ offers? Surely they aren’t vendors to your agency?

        1. CompensationStudy*

          Both entities had signed the vendor agreement. The state and nearly all other local gov agencies in the region have as well. I am not sure the federal government has signed the agreement, so that is probably one option if I can get a security clearance.

          But even without the potential severe consequences of getting laid off, I would rather not get laid off. I think I made this too much about the post-employment law and really am wondering more if there is a greater risk of getting laid off from a study like this, or greater reward of having my salary finally compared to market.

          1. Cathy*

            My experience is all in private industry, but I’ve been through several compensation studies. None of them have ever led to layoffs. Usually they involve managers answering a lot of questions about what job duties each employee performs and helping the consultant match those job duties up to specific job descriptions.

            After that comes title normalization, so we no longer have “application software engineers” and “application developers” and “java programmers”; everybody ends up in the same title grouping, differentiated by a level indicator such as I, II or Jr, Sr.

            The last step is to start looking at appropriate salary ranges for each job family and each level, including benefits, and then make a multi-year plan for bringing people who are out of range into the appropriate range. This usually means market increases for some and salary freezes for others. It doesn’t mean massive raises all at once. If someone is really 50% below the lowest amount in their position’s salary range, and they’re doing a great job, then they’ll get larger than average annual raises until they reach the appropriate salary.

            There may be more that goes on behind the scenes in HR, but this is how it appears to a first or second level manager not in HR.

            1. CompensationStudy*

              Well, good to hear that these typically do not lead to layoffs.

              What it looks like this consultant has done with other public agencies (all cities so far, which we are not) is normalize titles, like you mentioned, and then the city eliminates an entire title. But that was when the economy was much worse.

              My worry is that I am a combination of an oddball position with unique duties, low seniority, and way below market rate wage, with $400k+ in vacant positions around me. Seems like that could make me a big target for budget cutting if they use this study to cut the budget.

      2. CompensationStudy*

        I’m not sure. Since it is a fairly new law (it was passed during the last election to show that the current elected officials are serious about ethics), there is not a lot of detail about enforcement actions involving it. It does definitely scare off other potential employers.

  14. Joanna*

    I would love your thoughts on this: I recently interviewed for a federal job and sent a follow-up email after their stated timeline in getting back, but still no word. I know federal hiring can take a while, but was wondering if it’s out of my hands now. I’m still pursuing other opportunities but this would be my first pick, thought I don’t want to annoy the hiring manager. Should I follow up with the HR person listed in the posting, and then mentally move on? Thank you!

    1. De Minimis*

      It’s definitely out of your hands. A lot of the time in federal hiring even the people who make the hiring decisions don’t have control of the process itself.

      Sometimes you never find out what happened. Does the job announcement have a stated start date?

      I might do one follow-up, depending on how long it’s been since you last contacted them. If it’s USAJobs they usually have an HR contact, that is who you should e-mail. One thing is that since the HR person is usually not involved in the actual hiring decision, you won’t have to worry too much about alienating them by a 2nd follow-up.

      Stuff happens all the time with federal jobs.

    2. Kyle*

      You can absolutely follow up with the listed HR contact – they are usually quite helpful. But you will most likely find out from HR or through the automatic notification system in USAJobs whether or not you were hired and not from the people you interviewed with. Also most federal hiring managers are instructed not to give feedback after interviews (or much contact to those they don’t select) so be prepared to hear crickets if you try to contact the hiring managers.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      You can ask for the status with the HR person, but it won’t tell you a lot. It will be something like “the hiring process is still ongoing” or something equally useless.

      Consider it done for now. It is REALLY frustrating. Even for internal positions it’s taken me as long as 4 months to hear. When I’ve been on selection boards it can take months too, which is frustrating when we’re waiting for someone to start, and good candidates might get other jobs in the meantime.

      Also keep in mind that we’re almost at the end of the fiscal year, which might slow things down too. We’re all so strapped for cash right now I can’t even begin to tell you how stressful things are. For departments hit by the sequester, things are REALLY, really bad, and they might not know if they’ll have the funding for those billets in a few months.

      Hang in there, but I wouldn’t be too optimistic. But you did get an interview, which is a big deal!

      1. Nerdling*

        I agree. It’s likely they won’t know what funds they’re going to have available until after the new fiscal year starts (so, October 1) and Congress decides to pass or not pass a continuing resolution to fund everyone. Between that and the sequester, I wouldn’t expect to hear back anytime soon, and I would definitely keep looking in the meantime. Good luck!

    4. Joanna*

      De Minimum, Kyle, Katie, Nerdling, thank you all for your helpful comments! I’m pretty sure the position has been filled unfortunately :( though I applied through USAJobs and didn’t know anyone at the agency…so I’m glad I was able to get an interview at all. Do you have thoughts on how to increase your chances of building relationships and getting hired at a federal agency (perhaps it’s really about who you know as they say)?. What you said in regards to timeline is helpful and I’ll continue to keep my eyes peeled. Thanks again!

  15. Kate*

    I’m starting a new job as an in house recruiter for a research university. I’ve done some hiring before, but never been a recruiter.

    From reading AAM, I know that people have some strong opinions about recruiters. Obviously good communication and straightforwardness are essential. Beyond that, what could I do as a recruiter to make the process less stressful and make you more likely to accept a position?

    Thanks for any advice!

    1. Jubilance*

      Here’s what I would like from a recruiter, as a job seeker:
      *Honest & timely information, especially about salary & the possibility of negotiation.
      *Timely responses to emails/voicemails
      *Understanding that I’m currently working so I’m not able to drop everything for a same/next day interview, or that I can’t return personal calls/emails until lunch or the end of the day, etc.

      1. Kate*

        Thanks– all good stuff to remember. The salary thing is something I’m little unsure of how to handle. All job postings have a range posted. Everybody thinks they’re at the top of the range; most aren’t. Decisions about what to offer within that range aren’t made until there’s a finalist.

        Is there a tactful way to give candidates a heads up about this? I don’t want to waste someone’s time if they would only accept the top of the range. I also don’t want to scare off someone outstanding who really would fall at the top of range.

        I’m sure as I’ll progress I’ll gain a better sense of what a given candidate could be offered. But I’m worried about those first few hires and how to handle salary questions.

        1. Natalie*

          Personally, I don’t think you need to give people a head’s up. The sort of people who are going to assume they are the top of the range will probably continue to assume that even with your head’s up, and rational people may be kind of put off by hearing “BTW, you probably aren’t in the top of the salary range”. Be honest and trust your candidates to self-select.

        2. Lisa*

          I work in academia, and when I was interviewing, I was told by HR that most people start at the mid point of the salary range or below. If that is true in your institution, I think it’s helpful for candidates to know that, especially since the ranges can be quite large.

    2. VictoriaHR*

      I’m a corporate recruiter. Just make sure that you communicate as much as you can to candidates – sometimes it’s out of your hands and you’re not allowed to tell them anything, but you can at least let them know that you got their app or that the timeline for making a hiring decision is XX. But always remember that your loyalty belongs to your employer, not the candidates.

      1. Kate*

        Thanks, Victoria. What do you tell candidates when hiring managers say they’ll have a decision by X date, but miss that date (sometimes spectacularly)? Universities are notoriously slow with hiring.

  16. Joey*

    I’d like to thank Alison and all of the commenters (I’m looking directly at you Jaime, Fposte, Mike C, BCW, Katie the Fed, and Rana). I’m typically the one who hires, but I was recently on the other side of the table interviewing for a promotion. I’m convinced that all of the great discussions and debates here are a big part of the reason I got it. So now I’ll be managing about 1200 or so employees.

    1. Jamie*

      WOW – That’s amazing!! Congrats!

      1200 employees! Just remember not to shake them down for bosses day gifts (but if you do, we’d like a cut.)

      1. Dana*

        And Chinook, too! Love getting a Canadian viewpoint on things, and his/her sense of humour is always appreciated :)

        1. Jamie*

          Oh me too, love her.

          When I was little and threatened to run away from home my mom asked where I was going and I said Canada. It was July and I had a bag of M&Ms and some unsweetened lemonade powder tied in a bandana hung on a stick.

          As a 5 year old my only idea of running away meant becoming an actual hobo, apparently.

          My plan was to go to Canada and sell lemonade and M&Ms. So 40+ years later it’s still a family joke so now whenever anyone asks me where I’m going my answer is always Canada. Although, usually the real answer is less exciting – like “the kitchen.”

          Anyway, Chinook and 20MileHike – our favorite fake Canadian (where has she been, anyway? Miss her posts) have made me really want to go there now.

          1. Chinook*

            Jamie, you only love me because we aare each other’s doppelgangers (right down to spousal job histories).

            But why would your bring M&Ms when we have Smarties which are much,much nicer (even if one does end up eating the red ones last).

            1. LPBB*

              I don’t know, my American M&M eating 8-year old self was not impressed with Smarties when we moved to England. Although I have to admit that they had grown on me by the end of my three years there. :)

          2. fposte*

            I’ve also been noting the absence of khilde–I hope she had her baby safely and that she’s been successfully avoiding the evil in-laws.

            1. khilde*

              I’m back!!!!! Just got back on the 19th. How nice to be missed – this is such a great community I feel like I’ve been going through withdrawals from great conversation these past two months.

              I did have the baby: a daughter named Bryn on Jun 14. She was 5lbs 11 oz – a tiny little thing. My evil in-laws have only come out once a few weeks after she was born. We haven’t had to deal with them at all – it has been bliss!!

              Now, though, I have the daunting task of figuring out how I go back and skim through the hundreds of posts that I missed. I don’t even know if I can bring myself to just wipe the slate clean and start fresh from now. I know there are some gems that I missed out on. Oh well, it’s good to be back. Hopefully I have something to contribute again.

    2. fposte*

      Joey! Aw, thanks, and right back at you–you will seriously kick ass at this, and they’ll be lucky to have you.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      Awwww a shout out for me!

      Thank you :)

      And congratulations! That’s a LOT of people – bigger than my high school. Good luck!

    4. ChristineSW*

      Congrats Joey!!

      FTR: I always enjoy reading posts from the same commenters you mentioned. In particular, I appreciate fposte’s responses and I absolutely enjoy Jamie’s witty humor.

      Everyone here is awesome though!

      1. Jamie*

        I just want to give everyone a hug…and then buy everyone a drink.

        Awww…I love you guys!

        (Serious case of Friday giddiness.)

    5. Rana*

      Congrats, and thank you! :)

      (1200 employees! Wow! I am seriously impressed just thinking about that.)

  17. Usually not anonymous*

    So…I have an awkward issue that touches my professional and personal life. My SO was recently approached out of the blue by my company (which is huge) about a job. I was all set to break up with him this past week (he’s a great guy, I’m just not feeling “it”), but he told me he had an interview the next morning and was really nervous, so I didn’t, because I felt like I’d be sabotaging him. He thinks he nailed it and will likely get an offer this week. It’s a great opportunity for him – a step up and his current company is unstable. I’m planning to end our relationship when I see him tomorrow. Do you folks think I need to say anything about the potential of him coming to work for my company when I do? He’s a really sweet, reasonable guy, and he’d be working for a different division, in a different location, completely different type of job, so I doubt our paths would ever cross. I think it’s a non-issue (esp. since he doesn’t have an offer yet), but my sister is saying it could be a disaster and telling me horror stories about exes in the office. She thinks I need to set strict boundaries for contact if he does take the job. Thoughts?

    1. fposte*

      If you’re reasonable people and the breakup goes reasonably, I’d just tell him “I don’t see this as affecting our work lives, and I still wish you good luck on getting the job.” Sister is bringing the dramz.

      1. Usually not anonymous*

        That’s what I thought. Sister hangs with too many unreasonable people. :) Thanks.

    2. R*

      I think your sister is overreacting. If this guy hasn’t shown boundary-crossing or controlling or vengeful behavior in the past he likely won’t show it when you break up. It doesn’t sound like your job duties would put you in contact in thew new position so I wouldn’t borrow trouble.

      1. Usually not anonymous*

        Not that long…we just crossed the six month mark, and we don’t live together. It should be a relatively clean break (although I know it will hurt him, and I feel terrible), and while it will be sad, I doubt it’s enough to spark a Jekyll to Hyde transformation.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Assuming he’s otherwise reasonable, it should be okay. Six months isn’t very long, and if he gets the job, getting oriented will give him plenty of other stuff to think about. And if your locations aren’t even near each other, you won’t be in his face all the time.

    3. Marina*

      Strict boundaries might be something to keep in mind just in case he does start making you uncomfortable, but I don’t think it’s necessary right out of the gate if he seems like an otherwise reasonable guy. Prepare yourself for a “Look, I need you to stop dropping by my desk/badmouthing me to coworkers/stripping off your clothes and singing me ukulele love songs” conversation if necessary, but you don’t need to borrow trouble.

  18. teeny tiny company*

    Hey all, I’ve been considering starting a teeny tiny consulting company for something I’m rather well versed in.

    Let’s say that my SO started his own chocolate tearoom, and before and since it opened, I’ve a key behind-the-scenes participant. I’ve been creating specialty teas, teaching tea classes, doing tea-related research, etc. I love contributing – it’s a lot of fun for me – but I’ve been approached for doing private parties and special events that are outside the confines of his physical chocolate tearoom business.

    This would be very small scale, but it would feel really good to have something that’s ‘mine’. Any advice on the next steps? This is totally uncharted territory for me. I have a business name in mind, and already locked down the twitter/facebook pages.

    1. Chinook*

      Jamie, you only love me because we aare each other’s doppelgangers (right down to spousal job histories).

      But why would your bring M&Ms when we have Smarties which are much,much nicer (even if one does end up eating the red ones last).

      1. Chinook*

        Sorry about the double posts.

        teeny tiny company, I would say that, if you are going to start a small business and you have the basicss outlined, print up some business cards to hand out at SO’s tearoom and just start doing it. Of course, keep track of your expenses and paperwork, but sometimes you just have to take the first step. Don’t expect it to be a flying success and do expect that this will start as a part-time gig and anything more before you are really established will be a bonus.

    2. Contessa*

      That sounds like fun. I have several friends who have done something similar, and they love the flexibility and freedom of their own small businesses.

      I would recommend investigating your local and state tax situation, taking into account the differences between being incorporated vs. remaining a sole proprietor. It’s also important to have a strong, well-written contract before accepting any work. Any particular client or project can go south quickly, so you’ll want to be protected. Take a look at the contracts for other people in your field, and see what sorts of things they include and what sorts of policies seem common.

      Also, start hanging out on message boards/social networking groups/etc. for members of your industry. My friends seem to have gotten a lot of help from other professionals in their field. If you can hook up with some local members of the same or related industries for regular chit-chats, all the better.

  19. alex*

    Should I include a failed business on my resume? I’m very proud to have owned my own business, but it failed after a few years, and I’m wondering if it makes me look bad to explain the failure. Also, the business was way outside of my normal field (think arts and crafts business with a career in IT or something).

    1. alex*

      I should add – I have other activities to cover the gap if I leave it off. (Part time job and some volunteer work)

    2. Jamie*

      If you do, make sure you address in your cover letter how you want to work for another company, etc.

      When I’ve gotten resumes from former owners and they don’t address that they’ve made the leap for themselves where this is something they want there is a fear that they will be resentful of having a boss again, or be difficult about following procedures.

      When someone used to own a factory that went under and is not applying for a job paying $17 an hour doing shift work…that really needs to be addressed up front because the real fear is he will run right over the supervisors.

      1. alex*

        Thanks Jaime! I think I’ll leave it off, unless I apply for a company that particulary values entrepreneurialism, like Google. Hehe. Otherwise the potential negatives seem to outweigh the positives.

    3. Brett*

      New businesses fail all the time. If you bootstrapped (sounds like you did) and were targeting long term viability rather than a short-term exit, the risk of failure is even higher.

      So, there is nothing wrong with a failed business. You lasted a few years even, which I would consider extremely positive. Even if the business eventually failed, that sounds like positive job history to me with tons of transferable skills. Don’t bother explaining why it failed. But I’m sure you can find time in an interview to explain why it succeeded (and it did succeed to some extent if you kept it going for a few years).

      1. Evan*

        This. I’ve heard that a number of tech companies see running a startup as a very, very positive thing, even if it failed. I’m not sure what your field is, but I’d definitely leave it on.

  20. Felicia*

    How do people deal with hearing the same advice while job searching over and over? They’re all well meaning, and they don’t know they’re the millionth person who’s told me “why don’t you get a retail job?” “why don’t you look outside your city?” “why don’t you look outside your field?” I’ve tried all those things, and some people tell me them anyways all the time! Or all they can ever talk to me about is my job search, and I want to talk about something else for once. So what I want to say is “I tried that already go away and leave me alone” but that doesn’t sound like the most polite thing.

    1. Colette*

      My favourite phrase to shut down unwanted advice: “That’s good information.” It’s polite, doesn’t invite further conversation, and commits to nothing.

      1. Elle D*

        Good advice. And if they persist, you can always deflect and ask the advice-giver a question about themselves.

      2. College Career Counselor*

        Unless your family is in higher education, in which case they’ll STILL give you the justification/lecture! ;-)

    2. Natalie*

      Assuming these are acquaintances, I would try the “bean dip” method (as Etiquette Hell calls it) – saying something vague and positive and then change the subject. “Thanks for the suggestion! Anyway, did you watch Project Runway last night?”

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          It was reading Etiquette Hell which led me to discover Ask a Manager, for which I will always be grateful!

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I found AAM through Evil HR Lady. I love Suzanne Lucas.

            She followed me on Twitter!!! 0_0 Oh the pressure to be witty!

    3. Rana*

      If it’s the same group of people who keep doing this (as opposed to getting it from people who’ve not offered advice before), you’re perfectly justified in telling them, “You know what? I’m tired of talking about my employment situation. It’s stressful and I’d really rather save my time with you for talking about other things. So, how is X going with you these days?” Repeat as necessary.

      (I had to do this with with family, when I found myself dreading the annual Thanksgiving interrogation/advice session/commiseration/discussion of poor-Rana-why-doesn’t-she-have-a-job.)

      It also helps to have some other topics to talk about when people ask how you’re doing, such as hobbies, a recent activity you did, etc., when asking them about theirs doesn’t sufficiently distract them.

      1. Cait*

        Having other activities to talk about is definitely a good suggestion. I’ve found that if I can make myself sound acceptably busy, people are less likely to get on my case about job-hunting because they don’t assume I’m just loafing around in front of the TV all day.

  21. MadamX*

    I quit smoking.
    I hope to find a new job by the end of the year, the one I have is sucking the life out of me.

    1. Jamie*

      Good for you! I quit last December and the cravings went away in March – you will be so happy you did this. Sucky jobs make it harder, but so worth it.

    2. Anon for this*

      Someone I know was able to quit after going to a hypnotist for it. Let’s just say I was extremely skeptical that this would work…but it did.

      1. Anon for this*

        I meant to add that a sucky job will make it harder to stay smoke-free, but when you’re ready, you’re ready.

        Might I add that not having to worry about smoke breaks at a new job, smelling like stale smoke when trying to be at your best for interviews, etc., are all things that will work in your favor.

        1. Jamie*

          Okay – funny story (at least to me.)

          When I used to smoke it was light – only to and from work – never at home. But I did have one on the way to an interview once.

          Flash forward to a year + at the job and the HR person mentions that when they smelled smoke on me on my second interview “I almost didn’t hire you.”

          Me: “You only had 4 responses to the add and I was the only candidate to have blah blah tech stuff needed.”

          HR: “Yes.”

          Me: “So what was your plan B. Since as I was told you were already instructed to process my new hire paperwork.”

          You: “Well, I wanted to not hire you.”

          He was the one who hooted like an owl when bored and said my quiet work style “thwarted his creativity” and the one who kicked a beach ball into my office knowing down my monitors. So – I considered the source when he told me he wanted to deny me a job he had no hiring authority in whatoever.

  22. Jen in RO*

    Story time! When I started reading AAM, I had no plans of job searching, I just enjoyed the letters, the advice and the comment section. Fast forward to this year, I decided that I’m tired of certain things in my current company and I’d like to try something new. While some of the advice doesn’t apply to me (different country, different job market), one thing I’ve learned is that an interview goes two ways… so I was not afraid of declining offers when the company didn’t seem a good fit. In the end, I accepted an offer I’m very excited about and I start at the end of September! (Even better – I had scheduled vacation before I even had an offer and the timing couldn’t be more perfect: I work out my notice, go on holiday for 2 weeks, then start the new job rested and full of energy!)

    1. Jamie*

      This needs to be retitled – “Open Thread: The Good News Version”

      That’s awesome. In the new company will you still be working for a boss overseas? I’ve always found that intriguing. Can I move there and interview for your old job? Oh yeah, I only speak English…nevermind.

      But YAY!!

      1. Jen in RO*

        Thanks! My direct boss will be local, but *his* boss is overseas (US again) and I’m told I will work with him too. I had a Skype interview with him and he seemed nice, so I’m happy.

        A remote manager was good and bad. Good, because I had a lot of independence and I got to do a lot of things that weren’t in the job description. Bad (and one of the reasons I left), because he wasn’t here to see what we struggled with. He wrote some stuff off as us “just whining”, but I hope that my leaving will make him realize that there really are problems that need to be addressed.

        1. Jen in RO*

          Oh, and I always feel a bit guilty when talking to Americans about my overseas manager… four people in NY lost their jobs when my department was created in Romania. I didn’t have any contribution to that, of course, but it still felt weird knowing that those people had to train their replacements (me and coworkers)… must be a crap situation.

          1. Chinook*

            Honestly, I don’t think individual workers shoudl feel guilty for taking the out-sourced job (speaking as one who worked in the outsourced R&D division of a US scanner company) because we have a right to work. I look at it as no different from competing with others who get a job interview – there are limited resources and someone has to win. as logn as I am doing nothing illegal and I can do nothing to change the situation, why should I feel guilty about the job I need?

            1. Jen in RO*

              I agree from a logical p.o.v., but I still feel guilty from time to time. After all, being cheaper is just about the one thing distinguishing me from them. I don’t regret getting the job – I’ve since realized I want to make this my career – but I guess I’ve been feeling a bit blue knowing that in 3 weeks this stage of my work-life will be over. (My first career-type job – I’m sure I’ll be more jaded in the future).)

  23. Jane*

    My boss has terrible spelling at times. A specific example is when she’s updating a roster of contractors and then their names don’t match. I use this list to maintain our user database. Other times, I’ll need to pull together a report and the vlookup won’t work because there’s a space at the end of the name.

    I’m going to just ask if I can maintain the list myself. She’s higher up and I can take on the administrative aspect.

    No real question for the group, just needed to rant/tell everyone my next steps.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      It’s a good idea to offer “to take this task off her hands”. Things like that drive me crazy, plus I can usually do them faster than my boss can.

      1. Anonymous*

        If you boss won’t let you take it of their hands. The add on tool Fuzzy lookup for excel ( it’s microsoft and free) can be useful in situations of bad spelling.

    1. Jamie*

      They occasionally have some amusing workplace articles on Cracked – which I read daily. And Passive Aggressive notes about how to tell my co-workers not to drink my soda.

      Not so much workplace blogs, though.

      Spiceworks for IT – absolutely invaluable cannot live without it and searching the archives when I’m up against a problem I can’t solve has saved my ass and made me look like a freaking genius more times than I care to mention.

      I always get a kick when I see AAM recommended over there by someone besides me. Makes me all warm that worlds are colliding in the nicest way.

    2. Joey*

      Seth Godin and Execupundit are great. Stanford Professor Bob Sutton has some great stuff on his blog although he hasn’t posted in a while. Evil HR Lady is great although I wish she would post more frequently.

      1. Jamie*

        I miss the old b-net. I hate the new format so much I haven’t been in months and months. I miss the EHRL and Steve Tobak posts.

        1. 22dncr*

          Yeah – I still look at Steve Tobak but it’s a bit of a pain. I also get the feeling he’s not posting as much so maybe the mess is on both sides?

          1. Jamie*

            I refuse to wade through stuff to find what I want – they lost me when they stopped posting by-lines and went with just the article title and graphics.

            It just feels shady – because I have to click on tons of things to get what I want so those are disingenuous page views.

            Yes, I am very selective about my moral outrage, but page views are right up there with human rights for me.

            1. 22dncr*

              I have him in my Favs so I go right to his articles at Inc. so at least I don’t have to wade. If I had to do that I’d quit 100%. Also like Geoffrey James though he’s now at Inc too and doesn’t seem to be posting articles that appeal to anyone but Sales people – he used to be more varied. And, yes I know he’s in Sales, it’s just he used to be more varied.

              1. Jamie*

                I agree about Geoffrey James – I liked him years ago and found he usually had some pretty valuable advice, but then he got so targeted on sales he lost me.

      2. College Career Counselor*

        I believe Bob Sutton has recently begun posting again. I read his book, “The No Asshole Rule” and really enjoyed it. Have not yet read his “Good Boss, Bad Boss” yet.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I mostly read Cracked, AAM, a God blog (although I’m not all that religous, the author is a really sweet person dispenses very calm, thoughtful observations) and not much else lately–by the time I get through all the material, it’s time to go to bed.

      I need to go back to reading writing-specific blogs. I have a roster of them but haven’t checked them in ages. The amount of articles I will have to read to get caught up probably numbers in the thousands. Author! Author! is a good one (beware; her posts are lengthy), and several agent blogs too.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          No, it’s one I found when I was doing a blogging challenge. This person followed my blog (which is writing-related), and then I followed hers. She’s very nice and I like her a lot. It’s called The Watered Soul, and her name is Wanda. :)

    4. Rana*

      Captain Awkward’s good for the interpersonal stuff – lots of excellent advice on setting boundaries, dealing with difficult people, and so on. Most of the letter-writers are focusing on things in their personal life, but a lot of her advice (and suggestions from the commenters) can be applied to relationships with co-workers, too.

      1. Natalie*

        In particular, Captain Awkward does a pretty good job with work-related questions for someone who is not primarily a manager or work-focused. I cringe every time a work question comes up at another advice column because the advice is so frequently terrible, but the Captain has always been solid.

  24. VictoriaHR*

    Does anyone have experience doing resume critique or interview advice for returning veterans? I am registered to do some of this as a volunteer next week and my experience with vets is limited, but I really want to help them.

    1. Joey*

      The best advice I can give about vets is to teach them to speak corporate on their résumé. Lots of military specific experience is transferable, but I’ve found it cumbersome to try to figure out military speak. They’ll get much better results if they speak in civilian terms.

      1. GOVHRO*

        You’ll want to keep in mind that if they are applying for government jobs, the resume does not need to be 1-2 pages. It should be much longer, as there specialized experience is what gets them to the hiring manager. For each job posted on usajobs, they should re-write their resume to show specialized experience. Further, they may need help translating what their military job is into the civilian version of that job. Finally, don’t let them use abbreviations-they will want to-stop them.

  25. Numero Tres*

    Hi everyone… I am OP #3 from this post:

    I just wanted to thank you all for the incredibly kind and caring responses… there is such a great community here! The comment from “The Editor” really helped me a lot, so I hope you’re reading this.

    Just an update- I didn’t disclose anything specific because the stories about being judged and passed over for promotions really worried me. I did tell my manager that I was working through some health issues, which she had already guessed. We sat down to talk through workload, and divided everything up so it was more manageable. Fast forward to a few months later, and I’m doing much better but still not 100%. I’m seeing a therapist for the depression and a borderline eating disorder, taking zoloft, and making good progress although I do have relapses. Thankfully none of them have involved bawling through lunch in my car!

    Career-wise, we are looking into expanding my team which would involve more responsibility for me, and direct visibility to senior management! So I guess everything is going as well as it could be, given what a mess I was earlier this year.

    1. Anon*

      I’m so glad you’re feeling better, if not 100%. It really helps to hear you’re not alone, doesn’t it? I’d like to tag on to your thank you by thanking whomever linked to the Captain Awkward post about coping with depression at work – it really helped me. Somehow thinking about it as a “jerkbrain” in my head telling me what a crappy job I’m doing of everything helps me set it aside and keep moving forward.

  26. Anonicorn*

    I’d like to share that the collective intelligence on this blog helped me to decide to tell my manager that I am going back to school for a different degree, assuring her that it isn’t because I’m unhappy in my role (I’m not) and that I will be staying for at least X amount of time.

    She was so supportive, told me I could have flexibility if any of my classes were day-time only, and helped me get tuition advancement through my work!

    So it really can be beneficial to be forthcoming with your manager – providing you have a good relationship and she has handled similar situations well in the past, as were my circumstances.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      Wow! This is so great to hear.

      This blog is great. I’m not a manager, but I’ve learned a lot about managing communications between myself and others. It’s really helpful to read the varying comments and see situations from other viewpoints.

      Good luck with your studies!

  27. Loose Seal*

    I have a question on behalf of my husband. He’s only taught at his current university and wants to know if their practice is usual. He’s a tenured professor who is required to publish an article a year. However, he has to pay the journals to publish the articles once they are peer reviewed. This amounts to several hundred dollars. When I heard this, I asked if he gets reimbursed. He says he’s never asked because he just figured that it’s the cost of doing business. I say that the uni is getting the publicity so they should pay.

    He hasn’t asked his supervisor yet because he doesn’t want to look idiotic if paying for your own articles is the common thing for university professors. Can anyone weigh in on their experience?

    1. fposte*

      Back up one step–what the heck field is it where you have to pay to be published? I’ve never had to pay, and it sounds shady to me.

      1. Loose Seal*

        Statistics. He says the charge is a per page fee that ranges from $50 – $100 per page. I’m not sure if it’s all journals that do this because he’s got an article accepted by a British journal that hasn’t mentioned a charge yet. He says he asked a co-worker when his first article submission wanted a fee and the co-worker said that was the way it goes.

      2. LPBB*

        It’s a lot more common nowadays for journals that aren’t by behomeths like Elsevier. It believe it’s pretty much standard for the big Open Access journals. I was a little weirded out when I first about it.

        Loose Seal, a quick Google search turned up this page which may be a helpful starting place:

        Publish to Maximize Impact

        And, even though I’m sure that your husband is familiar with the journals in his field, if he has any doubts it’s always a good idea to take a look here and make sure that they are reputable journals:

        Scholarly Open Access

        1. Loose Seal*

          Thanks for the links. He’s going to look into it. He’s not at a research-first sort of university so there are not a lot of people he can go to for mentoring on this topic. Most of his co-workers publish in smaller, regional journals.

          1. LPBB*

            One other thought that occurred to me — university librarians are usually very up to date on scholarly communication trends. He might want to consult with the librarians at his university as well.

    2. Brett*

      Sounds like page charges. These are common in scientific journals, though sometimes optional. In exchange for the page charges, the author receives reprints. These can easily be several hundred dollars, and some institutions mandate that authors pay them even if the journal makes them optional.

      Also, the institution might have a mandatory open access policy for publications. Since this diminishes the journal’s ability to get subscribers, this carries an additional open access page charge (normally mandatory). Some journals are open access; these almost always have a mandatory open access page charge. These charges can run even higher than traditional page charges.

      Although I know these fees are common, I have no clue how it is determined who pays. I have seen these fees paid by grants, by departments, by institutions, by private sector collaborators.

      1. Loose Seal*

        Thanks, Brett. He’s decided that he is going to ask for reimbursement if this current publication wants to charge. If the answer is no, then he knows in the future to really look for no-cost or low-cost journals. And really only go after the minimum publishing requirements of the university.

    3. Tasha*

      In atmospheric chemistry, several popular/high-ranking journals are free. The ones that charge, as far as I know (I had a few years of research experience in undergrad and am a new grad student), cost much less than $50-$100 a page. For a 20-page article, that sort of fee wouldn’t be trivial.

      If his research is funded by a grant, I think the cost of printing would be covered by the grant and not by his personal funds, but I’d check the terms to be sure.

      PS–Pardon the self-promotion, but I just had my first journal article accepted this week!

      1. CathVWXYNot?*

        Yeah, this is really common in my field (life sciences), and the publication charges are paid by the grants that fund the research that gets published. We request an average of $2,000 per year for publication costs in every grant we submit.

    4. Dang*

      I worked for a med school and have been involved in publication, which was paid for by the lead authors expense card when needed. Usually this only involved a submission fee, though..

  28. ThursdaysGeek*

    Safety in the workplace: what are some examples of unsafe workplace conditions, or, on the other hand, workplaces that exemplified safety?

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      I worked in a building that was not in the best of shape. It had a flat roof, and we are in the desert, but when it did rain, the roof leaked. One time in late winter or early spring, someone decided that rather than having the water dripping into a garbage can in the hall, it would be better up in the false ceiling. It was put up there and forgotten. Over the summer the water probably mostly dried up, and then in the fall it started filling up again. Sometime in late spring the next year, the garbage can, filled with slimy water, fell through the ceiling. Fortunately, it didn’t hit anyone.

    2. Jamie*

      Where is Mike C when you need him?

      We’re extremely safety focused here and one of the best things is anyone can stop someone else from doing an unsafe activity and not only are their no repercussions, but they are lauded for doing so.

      Make sure everyone who has any dealings with a machine is properly trained in Lock Out/Tag Out.

      Training, training, training…on safety protocol and outside certification for First Aid/Responder training. Someone(s) on each shift certified in CPR.

      Most dangerous things I’ve ever stopped at another workplace:

      -Idiot ordering the driver to put haz mat in the company van. Apparently he never heard of OSHA.
      -Idiot fixing a gas line on an injection machine with a LIT CIGARETTE IN HIS MOUTH.

      1. AnonForThis*

        My last boss regularly packed chemical reagents in perfume bottles and put the bottles in checked luggage to save on shipping costs.

        1. Mike C.*

          The last boss I worked for shipped mercury thermometers internationally without the proper paperwork or packing materials. These ones where huge, too!

          I’m kicking myself now for not calling Customs with the package info.

      2. Chinook*

        Jamie and Mike C, since you are both safety people and I am having to monitor this for some of our contractors, what is your opinion about using company’s like ISNetworld to monitor safety standards and qualifications of contractors? I like the idea in theory but, since this is a new world to me, I don’t know what this type of thing is like in practice.

        1. Jamie*

          I’m not a safety person outside of knowing company policies and enforcing when necessary. And I’m super paranoid about people getting hurt so focus on safety more than some.

          Hopefully Mike has more helpful advice.

        2. Mike C.*

          All the safety stuff I’ve done was internal, and while I don’t know these particular groups, it’s certainly better to have experts running the show, regardless of the color of their ID badge.

          The best thing I would say to do is to ask a lot of detailed, industry specific questions. Ask them about legal compliance and what sorts of things they would do to make the workplace safer, and why. Make sure that their first and primary focus is on safety – not saving money, not “enforcement” but ensuring that each and every employee goes home in the same condition they came to work in. Also ensure that they’re teaching safety in everything they do, that’s a big one.

          Best of luck!

          1. Chinook*

            I am lucky because safety is our number one concern because not only lives are at stake by environmental damage. Literally, money is no object (as long as paperwork protocols are followed) for my department because this is all we deal with.

    3. Felicia*

      I worked in an office that had a warehouse attached. A lot of the guys in the warehouse wore sandals and no one seemed to care. I even mentioned it to my supervisor and she said it’s not big deal they know what they’re doing. It was a summer job when I was 17 and I guess I didn’t know any better, but I wonder from time to time if any of them ended up with crushed toes.

    4. Chinook*

      At one office, the boss regularly got propositioned by working girls. We finally got permission to find a new location after the visiting president of the company got similairly propositioned. (The boss never admitted to paying her to do it even though our president was there for only one day).

      In the same office, I was told that the men’s washroom had wired internet access. The cables were hanging down over the urinals.

    5. Kat_M*

      Had a boss that wanted us to re-use the same blankets with multiple clients. EW, NO. Also worked in a school once that was literally falling apart. One of my coworkers was electrocuted while trying to plug in a TV, and ended up with a trip in an ambulance and some exciting scars on her hand.

    6. Rana*

      I temped in a place that was definitely unsafe. Some of it was chronic – things like not providing enough lighting or workspace for labor-intensive, repetitive tasks – but some of it was particular to one situation.

      Basically, the site location was near to one of the wildfires in California (this was about a decade ago) such that the whole location was inundated with smoke. While they did shut down for the first day of this – the smoke was so thick the neighboring freeways were closed – they reopened the next day, despite the smoke. Being a temp, I didn’t have to go in until two or three days later, but the air inside was still practically unbreathable, even with several giant fans blowing things around. I had the luxury of calling my agency to quit (I was the fourth temp hired for that job, even before the smoke became a factor, because the working conditions were so unpleasant) but the regular staff? Poor things were stuck there, breathing that crap.

  29. Bryce*

    Your kitty is adorable! She could be my Cally’s little sister!

    Question: I worked for a defense contractor several years ago and worked on some really interesting projects and learned some helpful skills, specifically instructional design, technical writing, usability, and research, but because many projects I worked on were classified, I can’t share many details. How best to talk about it in interviews, elevator pitches, etc.?

    1. Anonicorn*

      My very first job was for a government contractor as a tech writer, and I had the same problem. Fortunately I did have a few samples I could use, but I was always careful to explain that the rest of my work was classified and I couldn’t share it.

      If you don’t have anything “public” at all, maybe you could adapt some of your work to use in a portfolio, leaving out anything classified of course.

    2. Lynn*

      You could ask security at your old job for guidance about what you can say and what you can’t.

      No interviewer is asking you “tell me about a time when you…” because they’re trying to elicit classified. I sure hope not, anyway! They’re trying to understand skills that would transfer. Focus as much as possible on the process of what you did (how you gathered information for technical writing, how you determined what to include in a course, etc) and stay away from what kind of information you were writing about, designing classes about, and so forth.

      If you need some content for examples , use obviously fake content. “The details of what I was writing about are classified, but let’s say it was chocolate teapot manufacturing…”

  30. Show don't tell*

    “Our” kitten, Ms. Alison? Is there a nice young man in the picture? I forget your living situation. In this open thread, I request gossip! Cute kitten, btw!

    Incidentally, on the topic of kittens: if anyone in the NY area is looking to adopt a kitten, we have three who need good homes. The feral in the back yard — who is now spayed and will go back into the cat colony once kiddies are taken care of — gave birth to a litter of 7. Six lived, 3 have homes, 3 need loving human companions. They’re all very sweet.

    1. Jamie*

      Speaking of cats…

      I have several and our last little girl was a stray we found walking around inside the factory. After taking her to the vet and searching high and low for an owner we became her family. She was about 2 when we found her and by the looks of things was a house-cat which was abandoned (not uncommon, unfortunately.)

      Here is the problem – all of our kids are indoor cats. We have plenty of screened windows and perches galore but they don’t go out. They are all rescues, but she’s the only one who spent part of her life as an outside cat.

      It’s been over a year and she still sneaks out when we open the door, no matter how carefully we try to guard against it.

        1. Jamie*

          LMAO! That would be way easier – with a co-worker you follow the process. You can’t write up a cat for a corrective action – well, you can, but they don’t care.

      1. LPBB*

        I adopted my* cat 15 years ago after I found him in a storm drain in Druid Hill Park in Baltimore. He’s been an indoor cat ever since, but he’s still in denial. He tries to run out the door every chance he gets.

        I found over the years that he really just wanted to go outside and sniff the grass, so if we didn’t immediately chase after him, he’d stick close to the house and let you grab him without too much fuss. The one time he was out overnight, he stuck really close to the house (it was winter and we could follow his little footprints in the snow) and ended up spending the night under our next door neighbor’s deck. Your cat may be more of a wanderer, so YMMV.

        *I still call him my cat even though he’s been “temporarily” living with his grandparents for about 6 years now. Every time I visit my parents, he runs over to me and demands to be petted, then he cold-shoulders me for the rest of the visit, so I think he still thinks of himself as my cat, too.

        1. Chinook*

          My cat learned the hard way that he never, ever wants to be an outdoor cat. When we were trying out a rescue to see if he would work with our pack (and after this incident, he most defintiely did not), this dog knocked the cat out the screen window on the 1st floor. We don’t know how long the cat was gone before we noticed and we spent 24 hours looking for him. I almost got him at one point but I was walking the “evil dog” and the cat spotted us across the parking lot. I think the look was a cross of “you love him more than me” and “you are evil, evil people for moving me across the country and replacing me with that monster.”

          He eventually scratched at the back door when he got really, really hungry. He had lost his collar (it had a catch that released under stress) and quite a few scratched from fighting but he never again made a mad dash for the door.

          The dog was returned to the shelter that weekend. (The otehr strike against him was that, in front of us, he lifted his leg and peed on the Playstation and TV.)

      2. Jen in RO*

        I rescued my cat when he was about 6 weeks old, and I think he was only on the street for a few days (I found him next to my building in a box, and the box was not there the day before). Despite this, he’s always wanted to be an outdoor cat… he tries to run out every time we open the door! I sometimes take him out on a leash, but my boyfriend dreams of the day when we’ll have an actual house and the cat will be free to roam.

      3. ExceptionToTheRule*

        I saw this company on My Cat From Hell:

        they make fence conversion kits & freestanding cat-tainment units. It works relatively well, until you realize that the determined cat will first wiggle through a gap smaller than themselves and after you’ve secured that point, will the start jumping onto the rain barrel, then the garage, cross to the neighbor’s garage and then be out & about…

      4. Elizabeth West*

        My cat is a tortie who looks a lot like my childhood kitty. She used to belong to the neighbor, and she was hidden by her mother as a kitten, so she did not get socialized to hoomans. I’ve had her long enough and played with her enough to be able to pick her up occasionally and hold her on my lap (only outside, in the designated chair, and only for a short while). But other than that, she’s terrified of everyone except my neighbor, who feeds her when I’m out of town and whose porch she likes to hang out on.

        She won’t come inside unless I force her (in a tornado warning, etc.). She doesn’t like it if I move anything, change anything, or substitute anything in her little back patio world.

        If I wear any shoes other than my Crocs or go barefoot, she freaks. If I go back there with my hair loose, she freaks. If I’m wearing my work badge on a lanyard and bend over, she freaks. I have to make her a box to eat in during the winter, so she’s out of the wind, because she won’t come in the garage unless the door is wide open. If it shuts, she freaks.

        Poor little psycho kitty.

        1. Jamie*

          You’re a very good kitty mom. :)

          We were just talking about pets and someone said, in my office, that they hate cats and all dogs over 8 lbs.

          Well, to quote Ron Swanson any dog under 40 lbs is a cat anyway.

          Seriously – I told her to get out of my office and rent The Grinch – and not to come back until her heart grew two sizes!

          1. Jazzy Red*

            Yes, you ARE a wonderful cat mom!

            I have two dogs, and found out last week that my boy dog does NOT have cancer! Happy day!

            1. Jamie*

              Yay!! That must have been so scary for you, I’m so happy. When my eldest Borador was sick I was so afraid until the test results came back.

              In other good medical news – the meds we have him on for his cushings are working and his coat is growing back. In hilarious, completely random patches. He’s like the worlds oldest punk rock dog. Some parts bald and then splashes of thick wild fur sticking straight up.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            Aww, thanks! High praise indeed! :)

            Unfortunately, I’m stuck in this stupid house, because if I moved, what would I do with her? Unless I bought a new house with a fenced yard, she would be hysterical.

          3. Chinook*

            “any dog under 40 lbs is a cat anyway.”

            Which is ironic because I think any cat over 20 lbs (and his belly doesn’t touch the ground when he walks) is a dog. Then again, I do live in a world where I have a cat who thinks he is a dog, a wolf who thinks he is a cat and a a 13 y.o. senile dog reverting back to those annoying puppy habits (luckily, he has lost half his teeth, so I doubt there will be chewing of furniture).

      5. Chinook*

        My aunt and uncle (life long dog people) inherited a cat from their son when he changed apartments. They treat the cat like a dog and put him a on a long leash attached to a clothes line that runs across the backyard. The leash is long enough that he can jump on the shed and into the odd tree if he wants. He even goes out in the snow!

      6. Camellia*

        Jamie, my Sassy Kitty is almost sixteen years old and STILL tries to sneak out every time any door is opened. And she is unnervingly successful at it. I swear she must teleport sometimes…

        1. 22dncr*

          My Mama kitty can teleport – she just spent all night in a hot garage because she got through a closed door! Then I had to hear all about it – she has some Siamese in her. She also still tries to go out even though I’ve had her for almost 10 years. About the only time she’ll let pick her up is when she’s really wanting out and I pick her up, walk outside, and let her look around. She doesn’t even try to get out of my arms. She knows she really doesn’t want to. What’s funny is when her 2 boys follow her wanting to know what the fascination is and are petrified – never have to worry about them (;.

      7. Rana*

        The only advice I can offer is to install screen doors if possible (to at least allow a bit of delay when she bolts for the doors) and to make sure that she wears a collar (and maybe it’s worth chipping her as well). Training her to come when called is also a good idea, if you haven’t yet.

        (I’m basically working under the assumption that, even with precautions, this is a cat that will still get loose from time to time, so having safety measures in place will at least make retrieving her less stressful.)

  31. Constant Reader*

    Welp, after 9 months of unemployment I start my new job on Monday. It’s a huge pay cut, a step down title-wise, half the vacation I used to get, and the salary exactly equals my unemployment benefit . . . less, actually, since I could make around $900/mo and continue to collect unemployment (which equals my new salary.)

    I know I should be happy I have a job, but I want to move in my field from chocolate teapots to chocolate cups and saucers and this position doesn’t do much in that direction either. I’m thinking I will have to try to freelance in my spare time.

  32. The Other Dawn*

    I’m trying to figure out how to deal with a direct report who is very anal about things. Let’s call her Jane. She’s a great worker: very punctual, accurate, hardly ever makes a mistake, and gets all her work done on time. Part of her job is to ensure that things that are done on a daily basis at our other location are done correctly and that all the paperwork is completed accurately, make sure nothing is missing, etc. We are in a regulated industry so it’s important that everything be in order to prove that we are in compliance.

    Last year we hired a new manager for the other location. Let’s call him Bill. He came in after the exit of a horrendous manager and had to pick up the pieces. He’s had to deal with computer issues, untrustworthy employees, property management issues, etc. Bottom line, he’s had to deal with a lot more than other managers in the past and he’s done a great job getting everything squared away. It’s normally the manager’s job to oversee the office on a high level, bring in new business, and build relationships in the community in order to bring in more business. Because of all these issues this past year, it’s been Bill’s job to do some of the daily tasks that would normally fall to someone else. Since this isn’t normally part of his routine (and it wasn’t in previous jobs either), he has a little difficulty getting all the details nailed down the right way. Basically he gets the task done the right way and faxes the paperwork to Jane as required, but Jane usually has to call him because he missed filling out something on a form or he sent us one document twice and didn’t send the other one at all.

    In terms of Bill missing something minor, like a checkbox or something, I don’t see it as a big deal. I had Jane’s job for many years and at that time I was dealing with not just one location, but three. And dealing with having to chase after documents and such for those three locations. A definite pain in the ass, but I learned to not be so uptight about it. Yes, all this has to be done correctly, but it’s not time-sensitive and it’s not going to cost us any money. If something was processed Monday, I was fine with waiting until Wednesday or Thursday to fix the paperwork. So Jane has been here over a year and it hasn’t been much of a problem for her, but lately she’s become more and more bent out of shape when Bill misses something and she has to call or email him, to the point where’s she’s constantly talking to herself about Bill and mumbling that she “doesn’t get paid enough to deal with this sh!t.” She’s also been very close to tears, or in tears, about it. She can be very obsessive and sees things as black or white, not usually in between. Things have to fit into a neat box. If they don’t, she has a hard time dealing with it. While her attention to detail is great to have for her job, it’s also her undoing sometimes.

    I’ve talked to her several times explaining that her level of detail isn’t the same as Bill’s. Hers involves making sure all the Is are dotted and the Ts crossed, the checklist is done, and all the paperwork is there. Bill’s is very different. His level of detail is making sure the customer is happy and has the products and services they need, making sure the office runs smooth, and that any problems are taken care of. He’s not a “checks and balances” guy, just like Jane isn’t a “relationship-oriented” woman. I’ve tried explaining that while it’s annoying that Bill sometimes misses certain details, he’s doing the job we hired him to do and doing it well. He’s had a tough time with having to clean up after a poor manager and he’s done the best he can with what he’s had. Even though I have told Jane that I am fine with not having every single item right away or having to make a few corrections, she refuses to back down. She’ll keep going on about how Bill should do this or Bill should do that. It’s his office to run, not mine, and as long as he’s doing the job, I have no issue. Jane also argues that if X isn’t done that I will question her and she’ll be in trouble. I’ve NEVER given her a hard time because Bill, or another employee at the other office, missed something so I don’t know where that’s coming from. I’m tempted to jump in and “fix things”, but I’d rather just ignore it until she comes to me with something other than emotional rants. I just don’t know what to say to her anymore. Jane obviously doesn’t accept that I, HER MANAGER, am fine with the way Bill operates. Any suggestions?

    1. Jamie*

      I work with Jane’s identical twin – but she isn’t a direct report, but reports to me for some stuff. Lines are blurry more than dotted.

      So I have no advice, but I need this same advice so I’ll be anxiously awaiting the replies this gets.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        It can be very frustrating. The way I see it, I’m the manager and if I’m OK with it, she should be OK with it. It’s not costing us money or causing problems otherwise. The more I see/hear, the more I am turned off. And to talk to her about it is frustrating because she constantly wants to interrupt to justify her feeling the way she feels. I hear a lot of “they can’t do anything right” or “why don’t they just do it right the first time”. Yeah, I agree, but reality is that we’re dealing with humans, not robots.

        1. JFQ*

          The Janes and Bills of the world have to get along somehow, but I would quibble with this statement: “Basically he gets the task done the right way and faxes the paperwork to Jane as required, but Jane usually has to call him because he missed filling out something on a form or he sent us one document twice and didn’t send the other one at all.”

          I’d call that getting the task done mostly the right way, but part of the task is apparently the paperwork, and it sounds like he’s messing that up; he’s not sending the paperwork “as required.” Jane may be a pain about it, but she is right that a mistake is made, which is important to remember.

          The issue to me then becomes what level of performance is expected with that part of the task–is that clear to all involved? Is there a normal level of mistake making that Bill is exceeding compared with the other people Jane deals with or other people in his role? Does he officially (i.e., in writing) need some allowance because of these other circumstances you cite? The other side of that coin is maybe that Jane needs a job description that explicitly includes mopping up when mistakes are made and some standards for how to address mistakes if her badmouthing Bill is a problem. An explicit statement about what she can be held responsible for when mistakes happen would also help if your reassurances don’t work.

          With the above in place, at least everyone can make informed decisions how to proceed.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            Jane has been in this role before, although with bigger organizations. Maybe she’s more frustrated now because we’re so small and mistakes tend to be magnified. She does know that “cleanup” is part of this job and was told so when she was hired. I’ve also told Jane that Bill’s more frequent mistakes are offset by the fact he has had a real sh!tstorm over the last 9 months to deal with (short-staffed, systems issues, employee issues, etc.), more so than a typical manager, and that he needs a little more leeway until things can get back to normal. He’s almost there, luckily.

            1. saro*

              I know you’ve talked to her before but what do you think of just saying, “You’ve complained about this before, it’s not that big of a deal. What I’m saying is that it’s your job to catch these mistakes. I am happy with Bill’s work and will not be discussing this with you anymore.”

              I know it sounds harsh but it seems like she’s really not getting it?

        2. AB*

          I’d use the method prescribed by address the undesired behavior, and make the person responsible for describing how they are going to change it:

          “Jane, when you keep complaining about Bill missing some details, you come across as not being a team player. Bill has a lot of things in his plate and can’t be expected to have the same level of focus on details as you do. What can you do differently?”

        3. Lily*

          I have had endless discussions before. It is very frustrating. So, I was very interested in the manager tools advice on feedback which in the situation you describe might be summarized as: make a brief statement, without allowing interruptions, do not let her draw you into a discussion, agree with her and walk out. I think the relevant manager tools podcasts would be “There Is No Why In Feedback” “The part after feedback” and “shot across the bow”.

          1. AB*

            Exactly, Lily!

            I found their advice very useful, I think because it places the ball in the court of the person with a behavior problem. “There is a problem, what are you going to do to solve it?¨

            It’s been very effective in getting people to take responsibility (and if not, well, the consequences will be spelled out the next time I need to provide the same feedback).

      2. AB*

        I’d use the method prescribed by address the undesired behavior, and make the person responsible for describing how they are going to change it:

        “Jane, when you keep complaining about Bill missing some details, you come across as not being a team player. Bill has a lot of things in his plate and can’t be expected to have the same level of focus on details as you do. What can you do differently?”

    2. fposte*

      Urgh. I understand Jane–being an editor, I have an interior monologue that starts with “Why can’t people get this stuff right?” and ends with “If they did I wouldn’t have a job.” How to tell Jane to move from that start to the finish? That’s harder.

      It sounds like you have a pretty good relationship with her. I can’t tell how much this issue has been a main focus of a meeting or discussion, but I might call her in for a discussion just on this. The note I’d take is that I’m truthfully concerned for her, because this is a regular part of her job, it’s not going to change, and yet her frustration level with it seems to be off the charts. So assuming that Bill’s never going to change, what does she think might make this task be less frustrating for her? I understand that errors bother her, but that’s why she’s the excellent person for this job, and that it’s SOP to have the eagle eye like her be the quality control.

      It seems like she may feel like this is not a normal level of proofing and that she’s having to overintervene to keep things to acceptable standards, which is why I was thinking of ways to emphasize that this is normal, that her step is expected, that this isn’t going to change, but that I would like to find a way for a good employee not to be distressed by a regular part of her work.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        We’ve had a few discussions on the spot when she gets into one of these emotional states. It usually becomes a discussion when I pop my head out (she sits outside my office) and either tell her to take a deep breath or ask what’s wrong. Then it’s a tirade. I’ve tried telling her that it’s a normal part of the job and it’s never going to change. I’m ready to say that if she can’t accept that, maybe this isn’t the right job for her.

        1. fposte*

          Try having this discussion when she *isn’t* in the throes of frustration and when this isn’t a current thing she’s dealing with. You’ll likely get a lot more information and a lot less emotion.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            We actually did have a couple conversations at other times, but she still got upset and was emotional about it (not crying, just frustrated). She very much sees it as, “this is ridiculous, I’m right and they’re wrong.” It’s hard to talk to someone when they’re being this rigid and emotional.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, that’s a relationship-killing kind of response.

              Your other option is to stop caring. She’s frustrated, the situation isn’t going to change, she isn’t going to change–you can be the person who makes a change, and that’s to let her fuss slide off you.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              It sounds to me like she does not want to be consoled. Matter of fact it sounds like she does not even want to try to make a go of it. I think you are on the right track when you say that maybe this is not the right job for her.

              Have you tried saying that her emotional tirades are of more concern than Bill’s errors?

              I am going back to “part of what you are being compensated for is your willingness to get along with others.” Jane’s not willing.
              Maybe it is time to set up a time frame for her to get a handle on all this fake drama. She might have the potential to be a good employee, but how much time per week do you spend calming her down?

              1. The Other Dawn*

                Jane’s been here almost two years. She never got this upset with the previous manager, even though he was, in my mind, a very bad manager. But, since he didn’t do anything else all day, he always has the Is dotted and Ts crossed, so that’s probably why she didn’t get the way she’s getting now with Bill and his office in general.

                I actually don’t spend a lot of time consoling her. It’s been a few occasions where we’ve had some discussion while she was emotional and a couple discussions when things are on an even keel. She started the other day and I basically just ignored her. She was talking to herself, but some things she was saying were obviously pointed towards me as a way to justify why she was pissed off, even though she didn’t come in my office or call me over. She sits outside my office so I can hear everything she says.

                You know, she’s a very capable person who has many years of experience in this industry (she’s from the Baby Boomer generation). She’s always on top of things and is extremely accurate and knowledgeable. When she acts like she’s acted recently, it makes it hard to remember all these great things and see her as the professional she is. I think that’s something I will mention to her in the future.

    3. Yup*

      There are about eight different sub-issues going on here. Are there any plans to hire someone at Bill’s location to do the tasks that he’s handling on an interim basis? Does Jane have this issue working with people generally, or is it Bill-specific? You probably get where I’m going with this. If someone is coming in to handle to the interim work on a regular basis, I’d tell Jane, ‘I know you’re having to do extra work right now, but so is Bill, so I need you to hang in there for X longer until we hire someone to handle it regularly and then you can work with them on how to do this properly.” If Jane deals with people like this generally, the need is to remind her that work isn’t just about completing tasks, it’s also about working well with others and seeing the big picture. If the problem is Bill-specific, then maybe there’s some more interpersonal stuff going on there about how Jane feels disrespected by Bill’s attitude when she calls him for the paperwork or something.

      But I’d stay away from the “he’s a relationship person, and you’re a details person” phrasing because that makes it sound like these are unalterable personal attributes that she just has to live with and there’s no way to find common ground. FWIW, she does sound very unbending in her approach, but I think that you’ll gain more by approaching it with her as a ‘”I understand that this isn’t ideal, but we need to find a way for you to be able to support this process and resolve the challenges you’re going to encounter when working with others.” Because what she needs to do here is problem-solve: can paperwork be prefilled for Bill’s site so that unnecessary errors don’t get made while he’s filling in? Should she just schedule a standing 15 min call on Tuesdays with Bill to resolve the findings from that week? Maybe she needs direction to get her head away of who’s right or wrong, and towards what-can-I-do-to-improve-this-situation-from-my-end.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Bill now has a full staff (as of three weeks ago), but as of yet he hasn’t let go of all tasks. Due to the size of the office, the manager has always done some of the tasks that may fall to someone else and that’s just the way it is and always will be. He’ll always be doing something where he needs to send docs to Jane (or me if she’s not in).

        It’s definitely not Bill-specific. She’s this way whenever she find errors and has to go chasing after people. She used to mumble to herself quietly, but it’s getting a little louder and she’s more emotional about it. I feel like maybe she’s unhappy here because not everything fits into the neat box. I don’t know.

        I do think there’s something to be said for “relationship” people vs. “checks and balances” people. I do think to a certain extent it’s unalterable. It’s just the way the person is. Some people are just bigger-picture-type people and no matter how hard they try, they’re only going to be detail-oriented to a certain point. They can improve, but some of that is just hard-wired. Same goes for the more anal “details” person.

        1. Yup*

          Gotcha. Three ideas:

          Clarify her role, even to the point of modifying a job description or annual performance goals. Part of the Teapot Analyst role to successfully resolve queries and troubleshooting (like acquiring missing paperwork), to the extent of regularly needing 5-10 hours per week.

          Empower Jane to improve the process. Have her write a training guide for new Paperwork Submitters on how it should be done. And a mandatory part of the manual is the common fail scenarios and how to remediate them. Get a feel for whether a mini-training session led by Jane would be welcomed by other sites.

          Have a frank conversation with her about reasonable expectations and professional relationships. Share with her (in a discreet way) about all the things that you have to do to fix other people’s mistakes or deal with their weaknesses in your job. Tell her all the nice things Bill has said about her attention to detail and how much he appreciates her patience as he tries to manage his 150% new job. Ask her to think about times when she really struggled with something at work and someone was kind to her about it and helped her get through it. How can she model that behavior to others?

          By the way, it sounds like you’re being really patient with her. She might not adapt in the way that she needs to, but that’s on her. Playing well with others a valuable workplace skill that you’re trying to help her build, which is a great thing for a boss to do.

          1. Chinook*

            Have Jane and Bill ever met? I know the relationship I have with the guys in the field is different with the ones I have met and the ones I haven’t. If they haven’t met, maybe Jane can go to that office for a quick meeting (with her shiny new Paperwork Submitters Guide) so she see what Bill is dealing with. This may help with empathy for his situation.

            1. The Other Dawn*

              Yes, they have. They see each other maybe every few weeks when Bill drops something off here or meets the CEO to go out on a business call. AND…yes, she has gone to the other office. She and a few others from here went over for a day to work and see things from the other office’s perspective. Basically to see what the front end does and how that translates for them on the back end. So, yes, she knows what he’s dealing with and sees his side of the process. Nope, didn’t help with empathy.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If she’s like this with everyone, I’d suggest talking to her about that overall issue. Part of the job is to handle this stuff without drama and without the sort of disruptive angst that she’s regularly displaying. I’d nicely tell her that, make it clear that it’s not okay and needs to stop (and/or that you’d like her to take some time to think about whether she can be happy in the job as it’s configured), and then handle it as a performance issue if it continues after that.

    4. Colette*

      I’d suggest:
      – Explaining (again) that her priorities are not the same as Bill’s priorities, Bill is doing the job well, and, while you are open to substantive complaints about Bill, you are not open to hearing complaints that Bill is not doing the job the way she would, and those have to stop.
      – Since this isn’t time sensitive, figure out when Bill normally gets it done (i.e. X days after it happens) and task her with following up at X+2 days – i.e. give Bill time to get it done naturally without her nagging him, and make it clear to her that her if Bill hasn’t done it before X+2 days, it’s not her responsibility.
      – If there are no issues with her correcting minor issues on the forms, task her with doing that. (If there are legal issues with that, then of course that’s not appropriate.)

      1. The Other Dawn*

        In regard to follow-up, we’ve had many discussions about the frequency. I’ve said that if Bill does X on Monday, she reviews the resulting output report Tuesday, do not follow up until at least Wednesday, maybe even Thursday. And don’t call. Email instead. And if there are several things, send one email at the end of the day. Unless it’s critical, of course. (Bill used to be very frustrated because she would call every few hours if she didn’t get something; she hates having anything in an “incomplete” status.)

        Some things she could correct herself, but she would have to send the copy back to the other office anyway. There have been things she’ll correct herself.

        1. Colette*

          What stands out to me is that she can’t understand that not everyone functions the way she does.

          I used to be much more of a by-the-book person, and I still get frustrated when people don’t play by the rules (just listen to me rant about people who pull into the off ramp on the highway, pass 50 people, then merge back in), but I’m better at seeing the big picture now, and that’s really what she needs to learn.

          1. Colette*

            It might be worth pointing out the consequences of Bill making mistakes/not doing things the way she prefers. And if the biggest consequence is that she has to go back and get him to update it, that’s kind of not a big deal. It’s certainly not worth the focus and stress she’s putting into it.

          2. jennie*

            I’m the same. I used to let stuff like this get to me but I’ve loosened up a lot over the years. Now I don’t see any point in getting worked up over something I can’t control. I get paid either way. :)

    5. BCW*

      Tell Jane to lighten up. I know I’m over simplifying things, but really if she is this high strung about little things that just take a quick phone call or email to correct, then that is a bit of a problem. I think it comes down to Jane realizing that no work situation is perfect, and sometimes you have to work with people who don’t work the way you would prefer. If you are her manager, and don’t have a problem with some of these things, she needs to accept that.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        It seems like she’s very hung up on “why can’t people do it the right way to begin with”. I agree that I want people to do things the right way (some mistakes are totally careless and it’s not just Bill), but that’s not realistic.

        1. Jamie*

          OMG – we all want a perfect world but it isn’t and STOP complaining about things which are just part and parcel of dealing with fellow humans!!

          That goes out to Dawn’s Jane, my Jane, and all the other Jane’s out there.

          FFS – Do you know how tightly wound you need to be if *I* think you need to lighten up? Sheesh.

      2. Lynn*

        It sounds like a lack of perspective to me. Bill is kicking butt and taking names at the main part of his job, but all Jane can see is that he’s not putting cover sheets on his TPS reports.

          1. Rosey Posey*

            I too have an employee with the missing empathy gene. Despite my many attempts to “fix her”, I can’t — she is hard-wired that way.

            The message we have given her (and has been successful at least part of the time) is that:

            1. You are allowed one professional opportunity to discuss how Bill’s performance impacts your performance

            2. If Bill’s managers determine that it is not a significant issue to them, you cannot complain, mutter, whine, and definitely NOT CRY about Bill.

            If you cannot go along with these rules, you will be dinged on your performance evaluation.

            At this point, she is impacting your day, Bill’s day, and not forwarding the company’s goals.

            As I said, it does not always work (she deals with a number of individuals in the company), but it keeps the disruptions down.

            1. Chinook*

              Rosey Posey, that is the perfect way to deal with it (and I love “missing the empathy gene”). She needs to realize she has been heard and it has been dealt with, so suck it up, buttercup.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Really. If I behaved like that at most the jobs I’ve had I would be out the door.

        1. Camellia*

          Maybe I’ve missed this in the comments but I’m curious about Jane’s side of this. When she has to call Bill about these mistakes, is he dismissive of them/her? Does he really follow-up in a timely manner? Does he treat the paperwork/mistakes as insignificant and beneath his notice and does that carry over in his attitude toward and treatment of Jane?

          Sometimes people fall into patterns that escalate without it being noticed – one phone call to Bill doesn’t get the job done, so she has to call again. And again. And pretty soon before you know it she is “proactively” calling him every few hours about the issue.

          Maybe some concrete rules would help them both. “Bill, Jane will email you one time on an issue and you must fix it within 48 hours.” If Bill follows through with that, it should ease Jane’s anxiety.

          As I said, just curious…

          1. The Other Dawn*

            I would say Bill is not dismissive of her calls asking for missing items or when something is incomplete. Yes, there are times when he will say, “I have a customer at my desk. I’ll take care of it this afternoon.” But he gets it done. Once in awhile he will forget because he’s on the customer-facing side and it gets busy, but that’s not very often.

            The answer I have gotten from Jane as to why she will keep calling is that she “doesn’t want Bill to forget”, “it’s just a reminder”, or “well, I want to get this off my desk. I can’t file it away or pass it on to you for review until it’s take care of.” I’ve told her many times, that’s what a “pending” file is for. And the review function isn’t really time-sensitive. To put it in the simplest terms, she reviews input documents against output reports as one part of her job. It’s something that only takes up about a half hour a day and is a minor, but important, task. As long as she hands it off with a note saying what is missing, I can review the bulk of it. It’s just a second check, really.

    6. Chinook*

      BIll and Jane sound like the perfect team if Jane could see how to work it. I do a job like Jane’s and I call myself the team chihuahua because I can be annoying if you don’t get the paperwork done but it is not like I have any power to cause damage if they don’t (but the regulatory board will). So, when they send in incomplete paperwork from the field, I decide if I can fill it in on their behalf (like date and employee code) or if I need them to do it (like a signature). They have learned that I will only bug them about the important things and that I will also go to bat for them in head office if they or their vendors end up being the square peg in the round hole of procedures. I have also made both our lives easier by having them send me the info for the form, filling out the form for them and sending it back for a signature. As a result, I am repeatedly getting requests to never, ever quit because they feel like they finally have someone on their side even though I am a stickler for having things done correctly (i.e. No – you are not suppose to have an invoice for work completed BEFORE you submit the PO. Bad manager! Don’t do it again!)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This is what I was going to suggest. Jane should decide which things she can fill in and which ones she needs Bill to do, then send ONE email (I know The Other Dawn already said this–I thought of it too but way too late) that addresses them. This is how I deal with questions when I’m editing report sections. Since I don’t have a background in this industry, I often have to ask my team members what this thing is, or if I reword that thing like so, will I change the meaning?

        I just keep those things organized and when I send the email, I task it so I can follow up if I don’t hear back right away. Jane can go through the pile and set the question ones aside. Then she can do the email later, and then maybe she won’t feel like she has to keep interrupting herself.

        1. Chinook*

          When editing audit reports, I would often ask if a sentence was “accounting speak” or if they wanted it written with standard grammar rules. I am a quick learner so, luckily, those requests got fewer and fewer. I honestly do miss the boss, though, who could intellectually debate the use of a comma in one of the reports.

      2. Lily*

        “I have also made both our lives easier by having them send me the info for the form, filling out the form for them and sending it back for a signature.” I do this, too, but I had very mixed feelings about it, so thanks for telling us that it is appreciated!

  33. Ally*

    Will it look unprofessional or ruin my reputation to apply for jobs that require 3-5 years experience when I am fresh out of school? I know that applying will be reaching and my chances are SUPREMELY slim but I don’t know what else to do! I know this blog has talked about having more experience, but i’m unsure what to do with a lot less experience. I am in legal office admin if that’s relevant.

    Thank you!

    1. Sabrina*

      I’m having this exact problem. I’ve been applying. Worse they can say is no. I figure a job ad is a wishlist and they won’t get everything they want.

      1. Adrienne*

        I don’t think it will look unprofessional or ruin your reputation – but I do think you’re unlikely to hear back unless you worked extensively in college. 3-5 years doesn’t necessarily mean you need a ton of experience, but it does mean they’re not looking to train someone with no experience at all.

        Are you having trouble finding jobs that are entry level? Is that the issue?

        1. Sabrina*

          I can’t speak for Ally but I am personally. I’ve even seeing unpaid internships that are asking for experience.

          1. Felicia*

            I recently saw an unpaid internship that said minimum 2 years relevant experience required. Most jobs that say they’re entry level are now asking for 3-5 years experience. I have about 1.5 years from internships/volunteer work but even the jobs that say 1-3 years experience required often go to someone with 5 years experience, while the person with 1 years experience being told t hat’s not enough

        2. Ally*

          Yes, I am having a really hard time finding jobs in my area that are entry level! Some require a year experience (I have a 6 month contract), so I have been trying to aim for them, but I recently found two that sound amazing and I am very interested in the company but it has the “3-5” preferred which makes me nervous. Thanks for your answer!

          1. LPBB*

            It seems to me like 3-5 yrs has become the default. I can’t tell you how many job listings I’ve come across that list 3-5 years of experience as a requirement. It is very very frustrating.

            1. Adrienne*

              If you don’t mind me asking, what field are you all in?

              I’m in the non-profit sector, and I was able to find the job I wanted by doing a year-long fellowship program which allowed me to get into those 3-5 jobs at the end.

              1. Sabrina*

                (I feel like I’m hijacking) I’m looking for something in digital or Internet marketing, SEO, SEM, social media, that kind of area.

            2. Camellia*

              And it sometimes leads to really funny listings in the IT field, like ‘3-5 yrs experience with Windows 8’!

    2. vvondervvoman*

      I’d say that unless you can really say something unique in your cover letter, and have some passion/experience that the position would particularly value, shoot for more the 1-3 year experience range, which is already a stretch.

      Even if you have 1+ year of relevant internships, then 3 years is probably the closest you could justify.

      Good luck!

    3. Jamie*

      If they are asking for experience preferred – then the worst they can do is ignore your resume. If they are asking for experience required especially if an ISO registered company, that means something else entirely and if you do definitely address in the cover letter what you think you bring that’s transferable to meet the requirement.

      1. Jamie*

        I do think it’s my ISO training having become so ingrained in me – but if I write required there is no f’ing around – I need it – and if it’s preferred…you have some wiggle room.

  34. Spoiled AAM Reader*

    So we’re hiring at my office for a part time position, and have advertised on Craigslist, local university employment boards, and just recently,

    In the requirements for the job, it lists “detail oriented”. That is followed up with the instructions to “Submit resume and cover letter”. 85% of the applicants have not submitted a cover letter, so they’re automatically going in the no pile. :(

    Any suggestions for being a good interview-er? It’s been a while since I interviewed anyone to hire them, and I’m nervous! (This is assuming I get more than one good resume/cover letter combo, which is what I have currently.)

    I’ve also gotten spoiled by reading the recommendations here for good cover letters – most of the ones I receive are “I find my qualifications to match what you are looking for. I want to work for your company.”

    1. Anonymous*

      Then maybe it’s time to reassess that cover letter requirement. Someone can be a perfectly conscientious and detail-oriented worker, but just not have the time to write a custom cover letter for you. Does that make you the “dream company”? Probably not. But the whole “in this economy” thing works both ways. Good candidates are still hard to attract.

      1. Spoiled AAM Reader*

        Just to clarify – any cover letter at all will get them considered, even a generic “I saw your position on x, and am interested in working for your company.” I’m only ruling out the ones that send no cover letter at all, simply because details are very important in this position, and if they can’t follow the instructions, I’d like to head that off early.

        I just see all the generic cover letters, and want to send them a link here!

      2. fposte*

        If they don’t have time to do what’s asked of them when they’re trying to look their best, I don’t have much faith that they’ll do it when they’ve actually got the job.

        It’s a cover letter; it’s not brain surgery. You want thousands of dollars a year from my budget? You can write one.

  35. Sabrina*

    What do you do when everyone from co-workers, to vendors and clients get your name wrong and it’s not even close? I’ve been called Gloria more times than I can count and it annoys the crap out of me. I know it’s because they look at my last name which starts with Glo and then I guess they stop. It didn’t start until after I got married and changed my name.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit*

      Ha – people do this to me, too. There’s something about the “V” names that make them interchangeable to people – Victoria, Vanessa, Veronica. I don’t mind, so unless it will be awkward for me to NOT correct someone I leave it alone.

      However, if people call me “Vicky?” I just gently say “Oh, it’s Victoria. I never go by Vicky.”

      1. Felicia*

        My sister’s name is Tori. It’s not short for anything, her name is just Tori. People assume her name is Victoria all the time. I don’t think Felicia is that unusual of a name but some people have trouble pronouncing it. I don’t mind correcting someone once. When someone gets it wrong again and I just told them how to pronounce it yesterday, I admit I get a little annoyed.

      2. Sabrina*

        I have that too. Most commonly I get Samantha. I don’t mind that as much. But from Sabrina to Gloria is uber annoying.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I get “Lisa” instead of “Liz” all the time. I like Lisa; it’s just not my name. :P

    2. Calla*

      My real name is an usual name that ends in -y. I’ve had people at two different workplaces call me “Courtney” or “Tiffany.” I think it’s funny, but probably because it’s not a common problem. If it’s happening frequently I would correct people. In speech, just “Oh, it’s ___” or “Actually, it’s ____” and then hopefully they apologize and remember. In email, I would sign off with your first name, even if you have a signature block — a lot of people ignore the signature block imo.

      1. Paul*

        My last name could also be a first name, so I get called that a lot and am used to it. Wierd thing is, a new neighbor moved in a week ago and I introduced myself as “Paul” (no last name). The next time I saw her, she said “Hi, lastname.”

        1. Calla*

          Ha, I had that happen to me for the first time a few months back. My last name *can* be used as a first name, but it’s very rare, and also masculine. I think my first name is more feminine. I sent off an email (to someone in the U.S., so it’s not like there’s different naming conventions) and the person replied with “Hello (My Lastname).”

          1. Nikki T*

            That happens to me at work. My emails are signed:
            *my first name*

            (fancy signature)
            **First name last name**

            And people write back, “dear last name”. I can’t figure it out. Someone called once looking for “last name”, I said yes, this is “first name”..very odd.

    3. Claire*

      I think I mentioned this in another thread, but I get called “Josh” in email A LOT. Because it’s email/whatever, I just make sure to sign off with my actual name (only one person has ever apologized for it, though…), but in real life, I’ve always just corrected people who get my name wrong with “Oh, it’s X, actually!” Although I will admit that when I was around 12 I did let a distant relative call me by my sister’s name for a whole day.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Let’s say my name is Megan.

      Person: Hi, Margie! How are you?

      Me: I’ll be ‘Megan’, today! I am great, how are you doing?

  36. Katie the Fed*

    I just need to vent.

    I’m frustrated and tired. My team is frustrated and tired. We’re overworked, budgets are getting slashed, there fewer and fewer opportunities for promotion for them, and it just sucks. There are reorgs and good idea fairies running about, and we just need some stability. I try to take care of my team and make sure they’re on track and not getting burnt out but I’m worried the stress is going to break them.

    That’s all.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I hate whining, I really do. But we’re political pawns these days, and I don’t think people realize what a toll that takes.

        1. Littlemoose*

          +1 from another federal worker. I know how you feel and I think it’s awesome that you care about your employees’ morale and professional development. And yes, feeling like a political football is so frustrating – I just want to go to work and do my job, which needs to be done regardless of political shenanigans.

    1. Joey*

      Join the club. Although, I’ve found transparency, frankness, caring, and looking for any opprtunity to laugh and celebrate go a long way.

      1. Chinook*

        “Join the club. Although, I’ve found transparency, frankness, caring, and looking for any opprtunity to laugh and celebrate go a long way.”

        You need an un-birthday cake coffee break (optional to attend, of course) during working hours. When they ask why, tell them it is because they deserve it.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Ha, I was going to say cake too!

          Cake breaks are da bomb. (But don’t say “bomb” in a federal office, LOL.)

          1. Chinook*

            “(But don’t say “bomb” in a federal office, LOL.)”

            Unless you can do it from one of those spots that can be heard elsewhere (i.e. not traceable back to you) and then you can get an afternoon off!

  37. Sara M*

    Hi all. This is an embarrassing question, but I hope someone can help me.

    How can I learn to pace myself when I’m self-employed?

    For background: I was a superstar in school, straight A’s with little studying. It got a little tougher in college, but I was able to study for classes and finals. The semester-end was a nice way of stopping perfectionist-me from overdoing it; it was a “hard end” after which I couldn’t change things.

    My only jobs in the workforce were way below my capabilities–a promotional marketing gig (“go out and talk to people”) and phone customer service, for example. I could fill minimum requirements in my sleep. I amused myself by seeing how much praise I could accumulate for as little work as possible (i.e. finding clever ways to go “above and beyond” that weren’t actually hard to do).

    Now I’m self-employed and I’m getting burned by having little ability to self-manage. I don’t have a realistic sense of how long things take, and I’m working in a creative field. So it’s very hard to say, “get X done by Y time,” because the ability to achieve things varies so much. And as a perfectionist, no matter how much I do, it seems like I haven’t done enough. I feel like part of the problem is that I have literally never had a job where I was the sole person responsible for anything. Always before, the limits and guidelines on my accomplishments were provided by other people, and now that it’s just me, I… don’t quite know what to do with myself.

    1) How can I make realistic and achievable goals, when it always feels like “do more” is the only thing that makes sense? (I’m in a field where I am only limited by my own productivity; if I could produce more work to sell, I would have places to sell it. So it feels like no matter how much I produce, I wish I had more.)

    2) How do I know when I’m doing enough? When I was one of a team of people, all doing the same things, it was easy: do better than the people around me, and management would love me. Now, I have no idea how to measure whether I’m doing well or not. If I try to set my own standards of “well I think I should be doing this by now,” it falls apart because of perfectionism; I set the standards too high and then fail. I always think I should be able to do more. In the official work world, it was easy; look at the list of requirements, excel just enough to impress management, then don’t worry. But self-employed, I don’t have a good sense of what I “should” do, and my sense of what I “want” to get done is absolutely out of whack.

    It seems clear to me I never learned whatever skill it is that gets people setting realistic goals and working hard to accomplish them. I know, this makes me sound like a horrible lazy person, but I’m here asking for help. Maybe I can learn how to do this; maybe I just never realized I had to learn this.

    Any ideas, please? Thanks.

    1. fposte*

      Oh, as somebody with a ton of flexibility, I revisit this question periodically. I’m even encountering this with retirement planning. What I need to do is make my own expectations and formally codify them–that way they’re external enough that I’m pretty convinced of them.

      I can’t tell what you’re already doing, but for one thing, I’d quantify the hell out of the process. Sure, it takes different amounts of time to produce the work, but do you track the actual hours? Have you figured out all the self-employment business management stuff like how much your profit is per item and what your ROI is per labor hour? How many tea widgets do you have to sell a year to break even? What salary do you pay yourself from your business? What do you hope to do for your life this year, and how many tea widgets will you have to make to get that? (Are you doing a SEP IRA in there? You should be.) I think you should probably look to some books or external resources to guide you through this, but I don’t have recommendations–hopefully somebody else self-employed will chime in with a good reference to recommend.

      That’s how you get numbers for “enough” that you’ll find convincing. That way you’ll know whether you’re making this tea widget for a vacation in Tahiti or because otherwise it’s ramen for the rest of the year. There’s no value in doing more for pure moreness–is it getting you something that you value more than you would spending the time on something else?

      You haven’t talked about time management, which is often an obstacle as well; I hope it’s because that’s not an issue.

        1. fposte*

          On time management: I’ve gone to weekly task lists (get to cross stuff off!), longer-term goal lists, and weekly schedules in Excel form (freely downloadable from Microsoft) with time blocks identified. Anything I can do to externalize it!

        2. ExceptionToTheRule*

          fposte has (as usual) some awesome suggestions. In terms of time management, don’t forget to schedule personal time. Things as basic as getting enough sleep, meals, out of the office time, exercise (if you do), personal enjoyment, AAM time, etc – scheduling some of that important personal stuff helps set boundaries and let you schedule the rest of your time.

          For example, my personal scheduling starts with what time I need to get up in the morning & how much sleep I need. I can then back time what time I need to go to bed, and everything else flows from there.

      1. Rana*

        fposte nails it about the importance of time management. I use timeEdition (free, available online, no frills but adequate), Cultured Code’s Things, and Google Calendar to track all sorts of tasks, from individual tasks within a project, to the overall time spent on a project or client, to blocking out periods on the calendar for particular projects or processes, etc. It helps you not only manage your time, but to get a feel for your own work process, where your own inefficiencies lie, and so on. Plus it gives you a basis for calculating rates for future projects.

        Another thing you may want to do, if you’re not doing it already, is to connect with other people in your field doing this sort of work. In person’s better, but online communities are fine too. Basically, the more you listen to other people’s work processes, frustrations, etc., the better a sense you’ll get of what’s reasonable for your own. If you’re spending days and days on one sort of task that everyone else handles in an hour or two, that’s useful information. Or maybe you’re breezing through something that other people struggle with – on the one hand, that may mean you’re missing something important, or it could be that this is an area where you have a special gift, and that’s something that’s useful to know when promoting your skills to future clients or collaborating with colleagues.

        1. Rana*

          Oh, also, depending on your personality, it may or may not be useful to do the sort of scheduling ExceptionToTheRule describes. I have some friends who find it enormously useful. Me? I find myself fighting the schedule and wasting energy that could be spent more productively. I function best when I have hard project deadlines, many specific little tasks to tick off as I complete them, and complete flexibility as to when during the day I actually do them. I find telling myself “you need to spend at least three hours doing four tasks today” works better than “you will spend three hours from 1:30 to 4:30 doing x, y, and z.” But you may be the exact opposite. ;)

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Very cool suggestions here.
      Here is something to consider.
      Let’s say that your business is painting pictures on chocolate teapots for people.
      You know for a fact that people will not pay more than $50 to have a design put on their teapot.
      You have already established that your labor is $20 per hour. (Bear with me, as I make up impossible numbers.)
      Plus you have materials- paints, brushes etc. You figure out that you spend $15 on materials per teapot.

      The math shows you that you cannot spend ten hours on one teapot. Your business will fail if you do.
      Out of that price has to come your overhead costs, your paycheck and your profit. All of these things must be covered.

      Yes, you have to have profit, that is how you will grow your company once it is underway. Right now you need the profits to launch the biz. You have to have a paycheck because you have to eat. And of course, you must cover your costs.

      Do you know where your break even point is? How many chocolate teapots do you need to decorate in a month to cover this stuff?

      Back to the example: Let’s say you decide that you can spend exactly one hour and 20 minutes on a teapot. This is where the creative side kicks in. How are you going to make the best possible product in that time frame?

      The more you assign a dollar value to everything, the more streamlined your biz will be. You will not be losing a lot of time making that absolutely perfect teapot. It will give you guidelines for how much time you can spend on getting things done. Numbers are your friend. Perfectionism will sink your biz.

      Other things such as bookkeeping, updating your website etc, will go faster as you get into the swing of doing this stuff.

      In answer to your questions about “how do I know when I am doing enough?” I don’t know of any business person that feels they are actually doing enough. Some of the business people around me are able to say “I am happy where I am at. I make a comfortable living. I know what I can do, what I am willing to do and I know what is out of my league.” They know that they could get bigger/better/faster and they chose not to. I think when you arrive at that balance point you will recognize it. One person has been doing his biz for ten years and in his field for 25 years. He recognized his balance point a couple months ago. I don’t think this is unusual.

  38. No Time*

    I’m in a bit of a tight spot with my employer. I started my current position 6 months ago and am non-exempt. I was hired to work a sort of dual role in my office. When I came on it wasn’t well defined, but my boss (who is a c-level executive) promised that if any timing issues came up we would work them out so that I’m not overwhelmed.
    Fast forward a couple months and I’m completely overwhelmed. The clock was starting to catch up with me, and it was clear that, to get everything done, I would need to start billing overtime. Before I did that, I went to my boss. I brought with me a list of projects I was currently working and the typical duties I perform with the due dates and time spent on each project/task. I sat down and explained that I had more on my plate than could be completed in 40 hours, and asked him if there was a way to either restructure some of my tasks, reprioritize and move deadlines and/or what he would like me to do about over time as it came up.
    My boss completely ignored my sheet. He said he would “think about it”. He then proceeded to explain his “philosophy” on overtime. He told me that I should “absolutely get paid for the time I worked”, BUT that he didn’t really consider coming in 20-30 minutes early, staying 30 minutes late and working through lunch as overtime. To him, that was being a conscientious employee, and that he would council his own kids to come early and stay late to get work done without nickel and diming the company. He said that overtime is if you have to work at home or on the weekend for several extra hours. He also said it would be a problem if I started billing for 10 hours of overtime (5hrs per week) per paycheck. He said he knew I was “bright enough to understand that he was just giving friendly advice”.
    I was flabbergasted, but later followed up to see if there was any changes to the workload and he said he hadn’t looked at my sheet, but that everything on it needed to be done. I’m not really sure what to do. I feel like his “advice” was essentially a shady threat not to take over time. He’s a very high level employee in the company, and I feel if I were to go to HR with this, it will come back to bite me. My workload is about to significantly increase, and I’m already struggling to keep up. I need some advice on how best to proceed. Do I suck it up, do I go to HR (and possibly get fired)?

    1. Jamie*

      Your boss is a complete and total unethical shit.

      Everything you did is exactly what I would advise someone to do in this situation. You acted perfectly professional and his response was to counsel you on letting the company screw you out of money owed?

      I’m not one to pull the “look for another job” trigger too soon, but look for another job because if he’s capable of disregarding the easiest of all labor laws to police and follow I don’t think anyone would have a good future there.

      And you sound awesome by the way.

    2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I would try being even more stark:

      “When you hired me, you said that because a lot of these duties hadn’t been totally worked out yet, if things ended up being overwhelming for me, I should talk to you and we would work it out. I’ve now come to you twice telling you I’m overwhelmed, and all you’ve told me is that you expect me to work unpaid overtime.

      Here is the list of things I can, and will, accomplish working 4o hours a week for the next month. Here are the things that will not get done under this arrangement. This arrangement can change, but I am not willing to work unpaid overtime. Let me know if there are any issues.”

      It might be too abrupt for some situations, but I think it’s either that, or just doing what he says (working no more overtime than you can bill), looking for new work at the same time, and risk letting your work slip enough as a result to lose your reference. It’s definitely not going to change unless you really paint the picture of what was promised, versus what is being delivered.

      I’m sorry you are in this position! I’ve been somewhere similar, and it sucks.

      1. fposte*

        While it’s slightly adversarial, I might even include “which is illegal” after the “unpaid overtime” thing. Stupid boss is justifying this as okay in his head; it wouldn’t hurt to remind him that the feds don’t agree.

        1. 22dncr*

          +1000 on this. Or what Colette says BUT, in my experience, soft pedaling has never worked. And look for another job because this dude has major ethics problems. You screw with my $ and I am so out of there!

      2. Laura*

        I think this is good advice, and it might make your jacka$$ boss back off a bit.

        I worked for a crazy woman once who would needle, harangue, and nag you about things, jump all over you for making the slightest mistake, and just generally make you miserable…until you stood up to her. Then the tone of the relationship would totally change, because pushing back and standing your ground are what would make her respect you.

        This happened to me, as well as my co-workers who also reported to her. That could be what’s going on here.

      3. Laura*

        Another alternative would be to tell your boss that if this is what the expectation is, then your job needs to be reclassified as exempt, and you will be expecting to re-negotiate your salary as part of that process.

        I reported up to a C-level exec once who was a complete moron. We desperately needed either more headcount, or funding to invest in tools to help streamline processes. He would approve neither, citing budget restrictions. His great advice was always along the lines of “We need to do more with less” and “We need to work smarter not harder.” I always wanted to ask him if he’d seen those platitudes stitched on a pillow at a management seminar.

        1. Natalie*

          Eh, I would be wary of doing that with this boss. Leaving aside the fact that exempt/non-exempt isn’t actually up to the company, the boss has already shown that he is willing to take advantage of the OP. He has implied that he expects to be able to take advantage of the OP. If the OP is reclassed as exempt, I wouldn’t be surprised if s/he was suddenly expected to work a lot more.

        1. HR Competent*

          If you have an HR Director/Manager then speak with them. I’ve had to educate and clarify simple employment law to a few execs in the past.

  39. Anda T*

    Long time reader, sometime commenter with good news to share. After one year of being laid off and trying to go into business for myself, I’ve landed a great job that allows me to do both! I’m officially a telecommuting hourly employee as of this week. I’m thrilled, and thanks to the salary negotiation advice on this blog, I got a wonderful rate.

    Thanks to Alison and all the super-awesome commenters on this blog!

      1. Anda T*

        Thanks! The state your rate/salary and then shut up advice was the cherry on top. I got what I wanted and I’m happy with my new team, and company! I’m very excited to work with such an awesome global company.

  40. BCW*

    If I could get advice on dealing with this, it would be great. My company is based in the UK, but has a much smaller and newer US office. I work in the US office. My now manager (who was made this because of restructuring and the exit of my hiring manager) is best friends with a person in the UK office, lets call her Jill. Me and Jill have somewhat similar positions, just in different offices. My manager insists on making me work with Jill on many projects. The problem is working with her A) adds no real value and B) just increases the time it takes for me to complete it because she isn’t very timely. To give a concrete example, last summer Jill was given a task by my former manager (who was also Jill’s manager) that I very easily could have done myself. The thought was Jill had already done something similar in the UK, so she should have been able to just adapt it. Jill never did it at all, and now my current manager just had me do it instead.

    Essentially, I don’t see any value in working with her, and want to explain that to my manager. I think I could make a very good case for why, however this wouldn’t come without in some ways bringing up Jill’s shortcomings. Being that she is best friends with my current manager, I’m trying to figure out a diplomatic way to handle this. Any suggestions?

    1. Joey*

      So Jill doesnt pull her weight. Don’t focus on her, focus on you and the work. Focus on the fact that the projects are more easily managed by one person and you have the capacity to handle them.

      Stay far away from not seeing value in working with Jill because of her shortcomings. That’s not for you to address. Stay focused on how two people handling projects is inefficient and your solutions for getting the work done quicker.

    2. Yup*

      What reasons does your boss give when wanting you to work with Jill? I get that they’re friends, but what value does boss perceive in the partnership? Rather than just diplomatically telling your boss that you don’t want to work with Jill on these things, I’d really encourage you to find out why she asked you to do it at all. Maybe Boss thinks you’re super awesome at project management while Jill isn’t so great, and Boss wants you to help polish up Jill. Maybe Boss knows that Jill is fast tracked for superstardom at the head office and is trying to do you a favor by getting your work on Jill’s radar. Maybe Boss has instructions from her boss that “all projects must be co-partnered across the two offices” and this is her way of meeting the corporate mandate.

      So first, I’d try to get into your boss’s mindset and clarify what she thinks the project roles are supposed to be. “I’ve noticed that you partner us up pretty frequently. Is it for general efficiency and partnership, or are there particular skills or talents that you think come into play?”

      If the reasons are bogus but you still have to pair up, I’d come out of the gate strong with Jill and passively assign her a minor role that requires involvement but doesn’t mess up the deadlines. “Hi Jill, I’m currently working on Project 123 and, given your background on widgets, would really appreciate your guidance on Minor Aspect Z12b as we proceed. Are you free for 30 minute calls every other Wednesday to discuss the issues as they come up?”

      1. Jamie*

        That’s what I was thinking. Maybe these assignments are meant to foster cross-branch cooperation, developing relationships, or maybe she wants to Jill to learn from you. If working with Jill is less efficient than doing it yourself, ask her about the reasons.

      2. BCW*

        Honestly, I believe my manger thinks she is helpful to me. Plus, Jill likes to involve herself in everything, without actually contributing anything. Based on the status of the company, I can almost assure you no one is moving up anytime soon, so thats not really on the table either. It really comes down to differences in perception of people. Sometimes when someone is your close friend, its hard to not see the best in them. I think my manager see’s Jill as a resource that I should take advantage of when in reality she is a hindrance to my productivity.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          If Jill is a resource, then does he think is her specialty?
          Can you ask your boss to clarify where Jill excels so that you can be sure to seek her inputs in those areas?

          I also thought- maybe she is wondering why she has to work with you. Sometimes people get “thrown in a room together” and no solid explanation is given. Does she have a clear understanding of what the boss thinks your strengths are?

  41. Audiophile*

    Loose Seal- if that’s an AD reference, I love it!

    The retail job advice really struck a cord. I’ve heard this repeatedly in the last few years, since my degree has not heeded jobs in my field. Mainly I hear get a second job, everyone your age and older has one. “Apply to Dunkin Donuts, McDs, Starbucks or anywhere.” I was actually told on more than one interview that I was overqualified. I’ve been rejected for those types of jobs for a while now, despite previous experience.

    1. Loose Seal*

      It is!! That part where they shout “loose seal” made me laugh harder than any other television show has. I had to pause the TV to get it out of my system.

  42. Cody C*

    Help me please! My wife just made an awesome contact for me at the neighborhood ladies bunko night. The long and short of it is this lady is the purchasing manager at a big facility that is in fact getting bigger and she made mention that they are hurting for buyers and I have purchasing experience. She gave my wife her card to give to me. So the question is how best do I follow up?
    Email without resume
    Email with resume
    Phone call?
    Heck she lives three houses down do I take her a bowl of my neighborhood famous guacamole? I welcome any and all suggestions and tips. Also Calico cats are Awesome ours is named Chloe.

    Thank you

    1. some1*

      When did your wife give her the card? I’d follow up with an email and a resume that is casual, simple and not-pushy.

      The guac sounds awesome, but it might be seen as too eager.

      1. Cody C*

        Thanks some1. The guacamole comment I made was a bit tongue in cheek as I would put that on the same plane as showing up at HR with a cookie bouquet . Also of note as a coincidence I had filled out the online application for this company a few days before. I just didn’t want to come across pushy or needy or tsunami her with information.

        Try these tricks with your guacamole
        Use margarita salt
        Add a capful of tequila

        Thank you

        1. AB*

          Oh! I’m definitely going to try your guacamole tips :-).

          On your question, absolutely include your resume in the email. AAM also suggested that another day for a similar question (don’t make the person ask for the resume; attach it so she can check it out before deciding if it’s worth following up with you. Good luck!

  43. Lee*

    Totally weird comment/question here but….what happened to prefacing the 7 daily questions&answers with an alliterative phrase referencing what day of the week it is (e.g. “Wee-Answer Wednesday”)?
    I have no idea why but I really liked it (and I loathe inexplicable change), and perhaps using that method is unnecessary as the site evolves or whatever…just wondering! :)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      A reader suggested changing it since it was resulting in tons of posts in the archives with identical titles (and in search results), and interestingly, as soon as I changed it, there was a not-insignificant bump in my daily traffic, which has lasted. I think because people Googling things are more likely to click on a post with a more descriptive title, maybe?

        1. Jamie*

          I love when other people ask stuff I’m thinking…but when she tells us how many people read this I get all stage frighty about posting. For about a second – then it passes.

          Speaking of numbers, though – the Linked in Group on AAM is over 1000 members now!

          1. Mike C.*

            You could do a post with nothing but pretty charts or even raw data to see what sorts of posts get the most hits.

            But for now, how big of a jump did you gain by simply changing the titles?

            1. fposte*

              What do you mean, *nothing but* pretty charts?!?! A really pretty chart can give a cute baby mammal a run for its money on appeal. (Oh, God, I’m Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins, aren’t I?)

              1. Jamie*

                If you’re Mr. Banks I’ll switch to the TV genre and I’m Mr. Dysdale…because I agree. There is nothing prettier than an informative data chart.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Someone needs to make me some pretty charts!

              Traffic went up by about 1,500 visits a day after I changed the titles, and stayed up. It could have been coincidence because traffic does that periodically, but I think it was linked. (We’re averaging about 32,000 visits a day on weekdays and about 15,000 a day on weekends.)

          2. Chinook*

            Did your numbers go up after you told us that you got paid by the hit and a number of us said that we would unblock your ads and visit here more rather than reading it in an RSS Feed (with no ads)? I remember that post and there being feedback that people were changing their habits to make sure you were getting paid.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Not noticeably, but it’s also worth noting that I (along with lots of other bloggers) was worried that traffic would go down after the death of Google Reader, and it has not gone down at all (has actually gone slightly up).

      1. Bagworm*

        I understand the reason for the change but I have to say I really liked it for some reason, too. It seems like such a little thing and I can’t explain why but it did always make me smile. Oh well, it’s a small sacrifice if it gets you more well-deserved traffic.

        1. ArtsNerd*

          This just reminded me to add an exception to my adblock extension for! Sorry it took so long!

  44. BCW*

    So this is something I’ve brought up in other threads, and maybe my timing wasn’t great because they were on some fairly divisive topics. But I’m really curious about this. What do people think is a “reasonable” expectation of how much your job should be concerned with what you do outside of work. So where is the line on where you should be disciplined? And lets keep it to things that are legal.

    A couple of examples from this blog recently. Negative Facebook posts about anonymous co-worker, even if people you work with know who you are talking about. Heavy drinking outside of work and talking about it, but it not affecting your actual work? Even other things that weren’t on the blog. Piercings and tattoos (if there was no written policy).

    I think many people like to argue that you are “always” representing your company, so they should have a say in things that happen outside of work. But I think most of us can agree that cases like the teacher getting fired for having facebook pictures of her drinking is crossing the line.

    Just some conversation.

    1. Joey*

      Reasonable depends on the environment. Most people will agree its reasonable to care less about a factory workers FB postings about getting wasted on a Friday night at a strip club and smoking weed. A teacher, public servant, or surgeon not so much.

      1. Mike C.*

        I always find the societal restrictions placed on teacher to be interesting.

        After all, they’re locked in a room full of other people’s children for hours on end every school day, dealing with all the nasty, ugly, uncomfortable things that entails, and then when the day is over, teachers get to deal with folks who brought those offspring into the world. After that, they turn on the television and hear about how terrible they are at their job, how their salaries are turned into political talking points, and that if they were actually competent at what they did, they would be “doing” instead of “teaching”.

        I can’t think of anyone who needs to get wasted on a Friday night more!

        1. Chinook*

          When I was teaching in a smalltown, you accepted that everyone knew you and cared what you are doing. Even after I got laid off, former students would shout my name out when they drove by (and it freaked out my now DH that teenage boys would do this to me. I just laughed). Luckily, there was a tolernat attitude in small town Alberta that it is okay for teachers to drink as long as the students didn’t catch them. Since I was teaching the “bad” kids who would often talk about sneaking into bars, I outright told them that, if they went to “such and such” I would be legally required to tell the bartender they were under age. In this way, I established a student free drinking area without acknowledging I was going out drinking and dancing with guys from the local base (who were banned from the bar known to be frequented by the under age set).

        2. Not So NewReader*

          My aunt taught in a time when the rule was if a female teacher got married she had to quit her job.

          It would be unacceptable for a pregnant woman to be teaching children.

          In those days of course there was no technology. But everyone, I do mean everyone, watched every single thing a teacher did. Teachers could not walk into a bar, period.

          I don’t know how anyone could withstand that level of scrutiny. Almost a sure fail.

          These rules about teachers go way back into our history.

      2. Mike C.*

        And not to pick on you Joey, it’s a very common belief! My brother is a teacher, and he’s absolutely paranoid about where he goes and who is photographing him.

      3. BCW*

        I used to be a teacher, and I totally get that, but I don’t know that it should be so. If I can go out and get wasted on weekends, and then be a great teacher during the week, what does it matter?

        Funny story. I had a fundraiser for my students DC trip one year, and I held it at a bar, since I knew alcohol was one of the ways to get my friends to show. Of course I invited the other teachers. One teacher brought one of my students parents, because they were friends. I was terrified. Until the parents called me to the bar and bought me a few shots. Felt great after that. They got that I needed to be a real person while not working, which was great. They also had raised a great kids.

    2. Jamie*

      For me “reasonable” is what will impact the work.

      If your co-worker drinks on the weekend, or dances ballet dressed as Jeff Spicolli – that’s their business.

      If you post anonymous comments on Facebook and your co-workers know who you’re talking about – that can impact work. If you post about how shitty you think I am at my job, or how much you hate me, or how ugly you think I am how am I supposed to have a productive cooperative working relationship with you in the office.

      Or if you have a racist blog, or make racist comments online where it can be traced to you…that can cost the company customers. That can make people with whom you work really have a hard time being civil to you.

      If you want to go out in support of a political candidate on your own time I don’t think it’s any of the employers business. If you go to rallies on the platform that women aren’t as smart as men and we shouldn’t be in the work force because we’re taking away a man’s job…is it reasonable for me to expect that we can have an equal professional relationship or that you would be able to work with me and fairly evaluate my contributions.

      If I came to work with a No Fat Guys bumper sticker on my car and parked it in the lot…and you report to me and are an overweight man. Do you think I would be as fair to you and as helpful career wise as I would be to the other men who aren’t called out via bumper sticker.

      But on the flip side, if your boss sees you coming out of a sex store or porn shop it shouldn’t matter…none of their business why you needed help getting the box with the swing structure into the back of your car.

      1. BCW*

        These are fair, but some of it is still a bit grey. If you have a bumper sticker and go to political rally’s of candidate x, who has made it clear that he doesn’t like certain behaviors that your employer engages in (lets say planned parenthood for arguments sake), does that cross a line? I think the “No fat guys” is very blatant, but I think there are other ways that make it harder. Lets say you like a facebook picture that says “no fat guys”, should that matter?

        Again, I’m not trying to pick on your arguments, because all in all, I think they are good. But I think it just becomes very complicated to say where a line should be drawn.

        1. Jamie*

          Oh it’s complicated, no question. That’s why it really depends (for me) on how it affects the workplace.

          If I liked a Facebook pic like that who would see it? Would it affect someone with whom I work.

          I don’t want to live in a world where big brother is breathing down our necks. Or where supporting a mainstream political party will brand you as a racist or communist by the other else…and what about non-mainstream?

          As a parent I can’t imagine caring even a little bit if a teacher drank or smoked when not working – who cares? But I’d care a lot if they posted on Facebook mocking students where it could be read by the kids and/or parents.

          It’s definitely a complicated issue and it’s a case by case thing – which I’m assuming makes it really hard to navigate when you first join the workforce.

    3. Mike C.*

      I think that’s a very important question to ask actually!

      One thing I think employers need to stay away from are political activities employees engage in – anything from protests to public commentary to political donations. I honestly believe that these classifications should be treated as a protected class much like race or gender. And in much the same way, employers that have an actual legitimate business reason for discriminating based on these beliefs – political candidates come to mind – will still be able to hire/fire who they need to.

      Similarly, there were a few employers who threatened layoffs and pay cuts if certain people were elected, and I find this simply disgusting. It’s one thing for an employer to say, “Hey, we have a company PAC, if you want more info check out the web page”, but more than that I find incredibly disgusting.

    4. Baxter4*

      There was a student teacher in Pennsylvania who was just about to complete her teaching assignment and earn her degree, when her supervisors discovered her MySpace page and found a picture of her drinking alcohol. (She was, like, 27 mind you.) While they said her evaluations had not been great, this picture was the reason they gave for firing her from the student teaching position, and that led to her school denying her an education degree (I think they reclassified the credits and gave her a degree in something else.) So, she can’t teach. She sued and lost.

      It may seem rotten for your personal, legal activities to get you fired or in trouble, but realistically you have to be prepared for it. Unless it’s directly related to you being in some protected class, there’s not much you can do. Certain professions (like teachers and public employees) must be more on guard than others, but still.

      1. Baxter4*

        Sorry I misread your last sentence and then tried to edit this comment but it didn’t work. Obviously you know about this story. In any event, the point is she took it to court and the court said “sorry, you’re out of luck.” So, whether we think it crosses the line is beside the point.

    5. Mallorie, the recruiter*

      Very interesting and I think to a degree we ARE always representing the company we work for. I have viable tattoos and even though that is against our dress code policy, I have never had an issue (anymore, I think very few people are truly ‘offended’ by tattoos). But I CAN see the whole social media thing playing a role in the workplace. I think it is very inappropriate to post about work or coworkers because you really never know who will see it. I am FB friends with someone who posts things about her “jerk boss” a lot and it makes me question her judgement. What if a customer saw? A future employer? At the same time though, we should have privacy. If you want to drink all weekend- DO IT! YAY! But don’t talk about it at work. —Interesting post. Very relevant… I feel like I see something like this in the news every other day!

      1. Chinook*

        Some people publically represent their organization more than others. DH pointed out how he figured out a rule for who should be more careful: if there was headline about your activity, would you be considered “local citizen” or “local cop/teacher/priest/soldier/etc.”? If you are in the later category, you represent your profession and should be aware of what you do publicly. After all, how often do we hear about “local plumber” being arrested for drunk driving? But if it is a cop, you bet it is news!

    6. Anonicorn*

      I mostly have the “it’s none of their flipping business what people do away from work” attitude, but some things are gray areas and I don’t think there’s an easy answer.

      With the Facebook example, if you have your employer listed on a public profile and friended several coworkers, then I think a negative comment about another coworker is something an employer could be legitimately concerned about. Facebook/blogs/etc. aren’t always (almost never) private conversations, and people should be aware of that and understand the consequences. That said, I still don’t particularly like the idea of employers “policing” what people do on their own time.

      I’m not sure this is something people even considered much before the social media era. Maybe I’m wrong?

    7. Xay*

      It should concern your job as much as your outside activities affect your ability to do that job. If you signed a morality clause for your job, you are bound to it because you agreed to make your outside activities subject to review. But do I care if my son’s teacher drinks and goes to clubs? Only if she is tired and hungover in the classroom and it affects his education.

      That said, I think the constraints on public servants re: political activity/donations are kind of silly because the people who let their political ideology affect their work are going to do so whether they are allowed to have a sticker on their car or not.

  45. Anonymous*

    I am in an awkward situation at my employer. Due to what I feel is mostly a personality conflict between me and the boss, I have been asked to leave. I was given four months to leave, and if not gone by September I will be fired. I appreciate the notice but I am in absolute panic mode. I have been looking for a job like crazy and have been on interviews, but no good news yet. It has been really, really hard to watch all of my projects get put on someone else’s desk while I have nothing to do. I know I’m marketable since I’m getting interviews, and I try to avoid sounding negative or bitter, but it is SO hard. I am terrified of being out of work and I know that once I am out of work it will just take me even longer to get another job somewhere. Any sage words of wisdom from the AAM crowd? I know plenty of people have been let go from their jobs and have turned out okay, but the horror stories of the last few years are all I can think about.

    1. Colette*

      Have you thought about what you could have done differently in your current job? I feel like there’s some room to learn more about how you present yourself there that could come in handy when finding something new. Personality conflicts are rarely one-sided.

      You don’t want any job, you want a job you will do well in, right? So figure out what you like and what drives you crazy. Network – not by asking “do you have a job for me” but by asking for advice on what would match what you are good at and like to do, what it’s like to work for Chocolate Teapots, what a day in the life of a teapot designer is like. Talk to people you trust and find out what they think about how you present yourself. Let people know what you’re looking for.

      And, if you haven’t already, stop spending money on things you don’t need – and be very clear that “need” means basic (not restaurant/take-out) food, a place to live/electricity/water, one phone, child care, basic transportation, and, perhaps, internet access for job hunting. You may need to make your savings last for a while.

      1. Anonymous*

        I’ve thought a lot about what went wrong at this job. Luckily it made me aware of the kinds of environments I don’t work well in, which has been an asset in the job search. Luckily we are savers and have a good nest egg established, and my spouse has a good job. So, my family and I are not in dire straights but I really never thought I’d be dealing with a job loss.

        1. Colette*

          It sounds like you’re on the right track. I’ve been laid off twice, and one of the things I found helpful was networking with former colleagues, because they knew me as competent, even when I was wondering if I’d ever work again.

          The other thing I’d recommend is looking at your skills without thinking about specific jobs or industries – in other words, there may be options that you’d like and be good at that you won’t see if you’re too focused on industries or job titles.

          It’s a hard thing to go through, but being unemployed can also open doors you didn’t even know existed.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          All the comments here are good advice. I would add, don’t think this makes you a failure/incompetent, or that no one will hire you. I’ve been fired a few times and laid off too. I’m working at a much better job, and you will be again too. You live and learn, and then you pick up and go on.

          *HUGS* Try to do the best you can while you’re still there. I know it’s hard but hang in there. The advice about cutting back expenses is good advice, especially if you have to leave earlier than you planned.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Probably your current setting is pulling you down- it has to be impossible to go in everyday and face something close to nothing.

      Stop the panic first- do you take walks? Read uplifting books? Put something good into you- be it good thoughts/foods/exercise.

      Focus on jobs that went well. Focus on coworkers who were a positive in your life.

      Pretend you have eight more months of job hunting ahead of you. (You probably won’t have that long- it will probably be less.) But prepare as if it will take eight months. This will help ease some panic because you have a PLAN for coping with worse case scenario.
      I find that having a plan for my “nightmares” lessens my nightmares.

      1. Alicia*

        Aww, come on… when I was little I used to rock out to Phil Collins, singing in my hair brush.

        It’s not so much that I loathe these sings, but somehow they get stuck in my head for WEEKS on end: In The Jungle, Who Put The Bomp, Menomena. Enjoy :)

      2. Windchime*

        :::::whispering sadly::::::: I feel like I don’t know you anymore, Jamie.

        Seriously….I LOVE the BeeGees. Love.

        Worst song ever? “Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald”. Closely followed by “Wildfire”. She ran callin’ wiiiiiiiiiiild-fire…….arrrggggghhhh.

    1. LCL*

      Sappy love songs and whiny tenors. Here’s a few that are on my ‘throw the radio thru the window’ list
      Peg and Hey Nineteen by Steely Dan
      Some love song about a rose by Seal
      Love lift me up/back where I belong by?
      Roxanne by the Police. God I hate Sting’s voice. And that song.
      Anything by the Police, except ‘Invisible Sun’

    2. Calla*

      I have an irrational hatred towards “What Would You Do” by City High.

      And in general any really overtly sexual songs (my little sister used to sing/blast “Candy Shop” all the time). I’m not a prude but they seem to gross a lot of the time.

    3. Laura*

      That song by the Charlie Daniels Band about the devil being in Georgia playing a fiddle…..HATE HATE HATE

      That horrible song by the double-name idiot that won American Idol…it is on ALL. THE. TIME. On the radio, on TV, everywhere, because for some reason everyone has decided it should be used in every commercial.

      Anything by the Alleman Brothers….their songs go on forever and aren’t even that good.

      Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey, because it just reminds me of the utter travesty that was the series finale of The Sopranos.

      1. Chinook*

        Have you heard of “The Superman Song” by Crash Test Dummies from 1992? It is about Superman’s funeral and has the most awesomest bass singer’s voice ever!

    4. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Gangham style. (sp?). I freelance at college sports events. I HATE THAT SONG. /vent

      thanks. i feel better now.

    5. Pussyfooter*

      I think it was called “Boom Boom Boom”….and that’s about half the lyrics. It was in the 80’s, it was horrible, and it was ear-wormy enough that I actively covered my ears and tried to sing other melodies so it wouldn’t get stuck in my head.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Oh, I think I remember that one. Was it the Outhere Brothers? If not, there’s the Venga Boys, and I am really showing my age. (Informer by Snow anyone?)

        The Rose song by Seal is Kiss from a Rose, which was in one of the Batman films. However, I am firmly of the opinion that the only proper Batman is the 60s TV show.

        1. Jen in RO*

          Hey, I remember the Venga Boys and Informer – and even liking them! I am most definitely not showing any age except the best one – almost 30 and loving it.

      2. fposte*

        By the Iguana Brothers? That was used awesomely in an episode of Homicide, so I have great fondness for it. Does it count as an earworm if you like it?

        1. Pussyfooter*

          It can.
          I think any piece of music that keeps repeating in your head once you’re ready to quit thinking of it is an ear worm. I get pleasant song ear worms sometimes (yes! I like it! shut up already!)

          p.s. fposte!
          You are an Editor, or have some editing included in your work–yes?
          I’m curious why there has been so little interest in my proposed cover letter downthread. I knew it wasn’t done, yet. But I thought it was at least entertaining enough to gain more than 2 comments and a +1. (I agree w/the comments…but what can I do to make it *BETTER*?) I wish a couple more people would give suggestions. Interested?

          1. fposte*

            I’m afraid that after a long week of editing I stay away from doing any more off the clock :-). I might think about changing the rhetoric of the first sentence, though; for busy readers of cover letters, that’s a long time to read about stuff you think is more interesting than working at a book store before they get to the fact that you *do* think working at a bookstore is interesting. The later reveal may be more narratively satisfying, but it’s not as persuasive.

            1. Pussyfooter*

              OK, no more requests.
              That is, by the way, exactly the kind of “higher perspective” on the content that I was hoping bloggers would throw at it.
              Thanks Very much.

      3. Chinook*

        We use to play “Boom, Boom, Boom” in the back of the bus on the way to volleyball tournaments (someone actually paid for the giant D batteries for the boom box!) and during our warm up. I think we did it because it annoyed our teachers almost as much as “Mony, Mony.”

      4. Laura*

        Was that “Boom, boom, boom let’s go back to my room, so we can do it all night and I can make you feel right?” LMAO! Classic 80’s cheese right there.

    6. Felicia*

      What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction. Its not even that bad theoretically – my little sister just played it over and over and over for a year so now whenever I hear it it makes me want to punch something.

      1. 22dncr*

        Yellow Submarine by The Beatles. I had an evil, evil co-worker that used to lean over my cube and sing it to me! Then I’d have a brain worm all day and night. That said – does anyone else have a brain radio that goes all the time? If I wake up at night I have to be careful not to think about it/pay attention to it or I’ll never get back to sleep. I get this from my Mother who has the same problem. Right now it’s playing Happy Holidays – don’t ask me why!

        1. Chinook*

          I have heard that an anti-brain worm song is “O Canada.” it is a simple tune but not at all catchy and it has a definite ending.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I do; it’s nice when I am bored and have to sit somewhere. I just zone out and play music in my head, usually soundtracks. But it’s awful when a horrible song gets stuck on endless repeat. Arrrgghhhh.

    7. Jessica (the celt)*

      I really dislike that “Fly Like an Eagle” song as well as “Age of Aquarius.” *shudders* I was raised on “oldies,” but those two … just … ick.

      I always get “Informer” stuck in my head when I think of it or hear it!

      1. Jessica (the celt)*

        Darn, was trying to add (when I accidentally posted) that MTV used to sometimes put the lyrics of songs at the bottom of the videos when I was in jr high and high school, so I actually know the words to “Informer.” ;~)

  46. Ag*

    I know many people advise against going to grad school for a number a reasons. My question is… if my company will pay for me to get my MBA and it is something I would like to do personally, should I get it?!

    I work in marketing and am already at the manager level, so I’m not sure how much it would help my career in the future. However, I do want to move up to the director level at some point.

    1. Kate*

      Is it an evening or exec program, or would you have to take two years off from work? Does your employer require you to stay with them for X years after finishing?

      If the answers are “evening/exec” and “no,” go for it. If it’s free, you have the time, and you’d enjoy it, there’s no reason not to.

    2. CoffeeLover*

      I think the advice for not going to grad school is really: “Don’t go to grad school right after you finish your undergrad because you think it will help you find a job”. If you do that then you end up being over educated and under experienced. You can’t find an entry level job with an MBA, but you can’t find a senior job because you have no experience.

      Going to grad school for your MBA is a great idea when you have experience under your belt and when the organization is willing to pay for it. Some organizations even require senior management to have an MBA (consulting firms come to mind).

      TL;DR: Definitely get your MBA!

    3. Lynne*

      Going to second the “don’t go to grad school unless you have experience”; speaking as someone who did that. it took a long time to find a good job and it’s taken a lot of work to feel like I’m on equal footing once I did.

      That said – you have experience and want to advance. It’s hard but so rewarding both personally and professionally, and depending on where you are, can really help. Where I work everyone from Sr. Analyst & above essentially has either an MBA or 20 years of experience. If they’re paying for it, absolutely go for it. And while you didn’t ask, I’d also suggest going to any conferences and networking events while you can get the student rate!

    4. Rana*

      From my sense of it, an MBA program is likely to be more practical in terms of job stuff than a traditional academic graduate program; if you can handle the time demands, I’d see it as less problematic than if you were going for a different sort of master’s degree.

      But that’s from the perspective of an academic grad school alumna, so take with the appropriate grain of salt.

  47. Mary Sue*

    I’ve spent the last year as the equivalent of the president of a nonprofit board. It’s a volunteer position that takes about 20 hours a week of my time outside my paid job, but I have a lot of legal and budgetary duties and supervise several paid employees. I’ve also been the project lead on several large initiatives. I’m looking to move into management in my career and the supervisor of my paid position (I’ve been in for eight years) wasn’t going to offer me any experience in management, so I took the volunteer position to get it. Would it look weird if the volunteer experience section for this job was as long as my current position? Also, who would be a better reference, one of the other board volunteers or one of the paid employees who handle the day to day?

    1. Baxter4*

      I’m no expert but if this is one of those nonprofits where the board really runs things, and you actually supervise people in any sort of day-to-day way, I would absolutely highlight it on your resume. This is not such a rare occurrence and I think smart employers would appreciate it for what it is. As for the reference, I don’t know. Perhaps one of the other board members, such as a financial or fundraising chair, who knows the full extent of what you do in your role.

    2. Adrienne*

      ABSOLUTELY highlight this on your resume. 20 hours per week managing staff with legal responsibilities is fully legitimate, whether or not it pays.

      The amount of space it takes up should be dictated by how relevant it is to the work you’ll be doing in the position you’re applying for. If it’s relevant, take as much space as you need (within reason).

    3. Lynne*

      Agreed! I have board experience from forever ago still on my resume when it’s for a relevant experience, and people always mention it and want to know more. I’d list someone from the board if they’re in the best position to know and speak about all the work you do.

    4. Glennis*

      I don’t see why it would be necessary to separate your resume into Paid vs. Volunteer experience – if it’s a real position, with real duties, I would list it along with the rest of your professional experience.

      If you volunteer as a usher, maybe, or a museum docent (not that those aren’t valuable) that’s one thing, but service as a Board President? That’s professional experience. List it as such.

    5. dejavu2*

      Rather than dividing your resume into “paid” and “volunteer” experience, you should just stick it all in a “relevant” experience section.

  48. Mike C.*

    So have anyone here been watching “Below Deck”* on Bravo? If you haven’t, it follows the crew of a rather large yacht for hire in the Caribbean, which is hired out to various guests for trips and the like.

    I thought it might be interesting to discuss here, because it feels like one of the worst run workplaces ever. Management is a mess, employees are openly insubordinate, everyone has to live together on the boat, people are sleeping around with each other and there’s trivial access to alcohol.

    It’s like every last rule of a workplace (including many cultural rules specific to work on a ship) has been broken in amazing ways.

    Anyway, just curious if I’m the only one.

    *Don’t judge me, we all watch bad tv sometimes… ;)

    1. BCW*

      I’ve never seen it, but being “reality” television, which I too am guilty of watching, I’d have to imagine a lot of it is played up for the camera’s. I’m sure management must be somewhat competent for the thing to be successful.

      1. Jamie*

        Yeah – I used to recap for reality shows and once the veil is lifted you see how much of it is really directed.

        Have you guys seen Restaurant Stakeout on Food Network. No one will allow their face to be filmed if they’ve been caught stealing on camera! The whole thing is scripted, what I can’t figure out is why businesses go along with being made to look worse than they already are on TV. That can’t help business.

        1. Xay*

          I wonder the same thing about Mystery Diner. I assume that it’s scripted, but why would you want that kind of publicity?

      2. Mike C.*

        Indeed, Bravo is notorious for using sleep deprivation to get the best results out of their casting decisions. Not forced stuff mind you, but daily challenges in a party atmosphere with lots of alcohol to encourage people to interact rather than rest.

    2. Glennis*

      I’ve often wanted someone to create a sitcom based on my former profession as a theatre technician, but I always thought it would be too unbelievable. ;-)

      1. 22dncr*

        Gods yes! I’ve done some theater tech and it was something (;. Rivaled my Ballet world. Which, by the way, if you are watching Breaking Pointe, is about 20 times more than that! They have WAY watered that down. I can see why – who would want the public to know what REALLY goes on?? Lift the veil and all that.

  49. Rebecca*

    I mentioned to one of my coworkers today that I had to reach out to a middle manager at the home office about an issue, and she remarked “don’t poke the bear”. I’m just an hourly worker, and a good number of the middle managers in the home office are just downright nasty to us for no good reason, just because they can be.

    And yes, we take it. As someone said recently, we like to sleep inside and have heat. It’s not like there are a ton of other jobs to go to. But I’m hopeful the economy will turn around and those of us who bear the brunt of these rude managers can go to work for someone else who is more appreciative.

    And kudos to managers who treat their reports with respect. We appreciate it.

    1. Jamie*

      I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. I first read this as call the manager at home, in which case I think everyone should be sure it’s necessary before doing that…but no excuse to treat people badly who are just trying to do their job.

      1. Rebecca*

        Thanks Jamie! It’s gotten to the point I won’t suggest anything, try to address procedures that just aren’t working, or much of anything. I just come to work and keep my head down, trying to stay off the radar so to speak.

        The last time I tried to point out something that simply wasn’t working, and made good suggestions to help make it better (at my manager’s prompting, I might add), I was scolded like a small child. I reached out privately to this person , and when she replied, she included a pile of middle and upper management as well.

        Now I’m actively job hunting and hope to get out of here.

        1. Jamie*

          I actually have run across this a lot when we get new employees who came from nasty environments.

          Even when I’m auditing I don’t play “gotcha” – a question is just a question. But some people come in so afraid of everyone in management it tells me all I need to know about their previous job.

  50. Anonymous*

    How can I politely get my boss who likes to overshare to stop? If it were a coworker I would just ask but I don’t think I can say that to my boss. He comes in to everyone’s office individually and talks about thinks like his ringworm infection (in detail!). He can also go on for an hour about going to Penney’s to buy a shirt or any other completely mundane thing he did yesterday. I do turn back to my computer to work which works somewhat, but I’d like to reduce the frequency and length of these completely one-sided conversations even further.

    1. EG*

      Keep bringing up work questions or updates. Either he’ll switch topics, or move on to someone else.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      I recommend making it about getting the work done on time. “So sorry, I’ve gotta get back on the TPS report or I’ll never have it done by 3.”

    3. Sadsack*

      My manager does the same exact thing. Could be his dog or his vacation or something that happened 20 years ago that has nothing to do with anything. When I am very busy, I try to be polite, nodding and acting remotely interested, while staying turned toward my computer and typing away, like you said. If I am in his office and the conversation turns toward unrelated matters, I find myself turning it back toward the original topic or I edge myself toward the door like we are wrapping up. My manager knows he talks a lot though, and sometimes realizes what he is doing and says, “Oh, I have been going on again, sorry,” so it is easy for me to try to get away or redirect us because he gets it. Not sure if your boss gets it, but you might try waiting for a pause in the conversation (or his monologue, depending) to say, “I’m sorry, this sounds interesting, but I am working on _____ and really need to get it done by ______.” He’ll probably say he understands and excuse himself — hopefully. Good luck!

    4. Rana*

      I think keep doing what you’re doing. If he’s not getting any positive reinforcement for his stories, maybe he’ll tell them to people who do respond more.

  51. kbeers0su*

    I’d love to get some feedback on a conversation that I had with a colleague yesterday. The colleague, whom I work closely with and whom I very much look up to (he’s been in the field much longer than I) came to see me in person to talk about how my “self-deprecating language” was potentially hurting my professional reputation. He is another department within my division.

    A day prior he had led a training with our staff. I’m the most long-standing person in our department and was one of the two most senior people present, and about half of our staff are new. We were discussing maintaing positivity in our various parts of the department. I’m not a “fluffy” person, but I’m in a field where most people are (higher education- working with college students in the Student Affairs/Life side of things). Given my position and length of time with the department, I often find myself being open about the fact that I’m not fluffy- not as an excuse, but to show that other people entering this field who are also not fluffy can do well.

    Nothing was said in that meeting about what I said- most people laughed, because they know me well enough to know that I’m not fluffy, but I’m positive I’m still highly regarded within the department.

    I’m just interested in hearing thoughts about whether I should stop being so open about my own challenges, or if there is a better way to frame them so as not to potentially harm my professional reputation.


    1. fposte*

      This is a little vague for me–it depends on what you said specifically and the culture of the place. It is true that a funny comment about yourself that everybody laughs at because it fits your place in their narrative can be a way of limiting yourself, so the incident could be both what you describe and a sign of what he’s worrying about.

      But I really think you should be asking him. I don’t equate “self-deprecating” with being “open about my challenges,” so it’s possible that he’s talking about something else–or maybe the frequency of that openness, if it always comes up when it doesn’t need to–and if this is to be valuable information, I think you need to know what kind of behavior he’s referring to. It’s also possible that this is just his viewpoint and you don’t need to change anything, but without more specifics it’s hard to say.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree. It could be the frequency with which you put yourself down.

        I have one friend that I cherish- however, she has 900 million ways to put herself down. No topic is safe. She manages to work in something about how she is less than into every topic. Yet, she talks so fast there is no room to say “stop it”.

        I have a family member- another dear person, yet his constant stream of put downs about himself almost feel artificial. Like he is fishing for compliments or affirmations.

        I would take a look at what you are saying all day long – it adds up. You talk about your ugly hair. Someone compliments you on your sweater and you reply “oh, this old thing?” You lock your keys in the car and the first thing you say is “stupid me.”

        I would not openly talk about my own challenges UNLESS I was actively engaged in fixing those challenges. Yes, dial it back. Cut it in half, see where that puts you. You see, people sometimes think that a person feels they are off the hook for their challenges by simply saying “I have challenge A, B and C.” If they admit it they do not have to do anything further.
        As the years roll by, it gets tiring to hear “Yes. I have challenge A, B and C.”
        I have been that person who tried to tell someone to quit putting themselves down so much. It fell on deaf ears. Please do not be that deaf-eared person. You are discrediting yourself and making it harder on your coworkers.

    2. Anonymous*

      I am somewhat self-deprecating too, but I am always on guard about this coming across as negativity. For example, if someone is praising me for a successful proposal, I’ll say “oh I hardly did anything, Joe got all the data and Jessica did the layout.” I won’t say “It’s no big deal, I doubt the contract will last more than a year.” It might be helpful to just consider if your language may be coming across as harsher and more generally negative than you mean for it to.

      1. Windchime*

        I have a co-worker who is constantly making negative comments about how she is (self-percieved): too fat, not very smart, not pretty, etc. She also spends lots of time cutting down the person who replaced her when she moved into her current role. It’s exhausting and I’ve grown tired of refuting her when she does this. I can’t tell if it’s super-low self-esteem or if she is just a negative person, but I almost no longer care. I am her co-worker, not her therapist.

        So be honest about challenges, but don’t talk about them all day long. It wears people out and it’s negative.

      2. AB*

        ” For example, if someone is praising me for a successful proposal, I’ll say “oh I hardly did anything, Joe got all the data and Jessica did the layout.” ”

        Oh, wow. If I heard that from you I’d be thinking 2 things: 1) this person just showed me how wrong I was to assume she did anything in this project; 2) she is not as smart as I thought, as it looks like she didn’t do anything for the proposal.

        (I’m sure the 2 conclusions are wrong, but based on your comment, that’s what what would come to my mind. I hope you will reconsider and practice saying “thank you, it was a great team effort” instead.)

    3. Lily*

      I thought if I was open about my mistakes, that my employees would feel comfortable being open about their mistakes. No. It didn’t help my employees and I think it did harm my professional reputation. It can be useful to mention my own old mistake when talking one on one to an employee who is really upset about their mistake, but I think I would avoid openness in group discussion.

      I’ve been trying to tone down the self-deprecation ever since, but it isn’t that easy when I was raised to be modest (in my minority culture).

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Right on. There are other ways to use our mistakes to teach others- as you are saying in one-on-one convos. Another way to teach is to just confidentially show the person how to fix their own mistake. “Oh, thanks for telling me about this. Here is how you fix it…”
        And yet another way to “use” our own mistakes is to learn patience for ourselves and others. This is a quiet activity, involving “inside voice”.

    4. Diane*

      I just gave the same feedback to a younger colleague! In her case, she would preface her ideas with, “I don’t know much about this, but . . . ” or “I’m not very good at this.” Yet she did have smart, valuable things to say. She didn’t want to be perceived as arrogant, so she went overboard. I told her that in most professional circles, it’s welcome to be clear and direct with opinions and ideas, as long as she’s not cutting down other people’s contributions.

  52. Jen in RO*

    About a week ago someone posted about raiding in WoW as an analogue to managing. I know that Nyxalinth and I are WoW players (or ex-players) – anyone else?

      1. Calla*

        Ha, my girlfriend used to play it seriously and I would moan about being a WoW widow. (She plays only very casually now.)

      2. Jen in RO*

        My boyfriend introduced me to WoW before we started dating… and for a while I played more than him! I’ve since quit, but I just changed the MMO – I’m playing Rift now.

        And, really, good raid leaders do have qualities that would transfer perfectly to management, too bad there’s no way to mention WoW in an interview…

      3. Thomas*

        Some of the best video games, no matter how fun, are also horrible time sucks. Minecraft, I’m looking at you.

    1. Liz in a library*

      I’m about to start up again, but it has been almost six years since I last played… I doubt my twinkled level 60s are going to have much power these days. ;)

      1. Jen in RO*

        But you’ll have a cool transmog and you’ll be able to tell them young whippersnappers about how in vanilla you had to walk uphill both ways!

        (Not trying to say you’d be obnoxious about it, but I’d totally do this if I could! Sadly I only started in TBC, when you only had to walk uphill one way.)

        1. Liz in a Library*

          Back in the day, we used to raid Molten Core on dial-up. And we liked it too! ::shakes fist::

          Get off my lawn! ;)

    2. Chinook*

      I prefer videogames that bribe me into wlakign me on my lunch hour by letting me grow flowers (one of them was a cake flower and another a butterfly flower) and even make friends I have never seen. I have passed the same person twice on the bus and have no clue who or where they are.

      If you have Nintendo 3DS, will you be my friend? There are so few of us here in Calgary that I have taken to making Street Passes part of my payment for tutoring.

    3. JR*

      YESSS! I have like 6 classes maxed out. But then Guild Wars 2 happened and I’ve never been able to look at WoW again… :(

      1. Jen in RO*

        I found GW2 sooo pretty, and my tree girl was cool, but something was missing… What ultimately made me quit after a month or so were the crazy respawn rates. So frustrating!

    4. MR*

      I used to play quite a bit – then I got married and I rarely play. Maybe someone needs to start an AAM guild to get me back into it ;)

  53. Tintree11*

    I have a weird problem. I recently started a new job. The building has main doors and an internal hallway that leads to all the offices; but, this being California, there are also covered verandas that wrap the outside of the building, and some offices, including ours, have doors that open directly to the outside. It’s not a public entrance and most people wouldn’t even know it’s there; but the staff use the outside door and the internal hallway door probably 50/50 when coming and going.

    Our downtown is somewhat plagued by petty crime, and everyone is on guard about break-ins. I’m finding that I am now incredibly paranoid about whether I’ve locked the outside glass door if I’m the last one out (which is often). On more than one occasion I’ve made a special trip to my office on a Saturday just to make sure that door is locked. (My office is only a 5 minute bike ride from my house so this isn’t as crazy as it sounds, but still.) Almost every time I leave the office, just before I walk away from the building I double back and go BACK to the outer door to check that it’s locked.

    Part of the issue is that right when I started, our building did have a series of break ins, but all to offices where they hadn’t locked the deadbolt on the hallway door. Does anyone have any advice for how to get over this paranoia, or deal with it in some way?

    1. fposte*

      Add cues. Put a hairband around your keychain that you put on your wrist when you lock up; say “Locked!” audibly (I remember saying “Unplugged!” about heating elements even when I don’t remember unplugging them); things like that.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Oh good idea, or you could move a bracelet from one wrist to the other. Or something similar.

        I’ve done that too; I drove halfway home once and then back to make sure I turned off the coffeepot at Exjob.

    2. Spoiled AAM Reader*

      I sometimes have this problem with remembering whether or not I’ve locked my front door.

      I read that if you try to be more mindful, it can help. For example, while you’re locking the door, if you look at it, and say – “Today is Friday, and it feels like fall, and I am locking this door!” (in your head) that will sometimes kick you out of the locking the door as a habit but not really thinking about it mindset. Or, you can send yourself a text as you lock the door, so you know that you’ve done it.

    3. Bagworm*

      In one of my first jobs, I worked nights alone and closed the store. I was always freaking out and thinking I had forgotten to lock the door (and making frequent trips back in the middle of the night even though I never had left it unlocked). Someone suggested I do a little dance or some other silly thing out of the norm when I locked it because I would remember it as something that was not part of a routine. I did it and it worked for me. Now, dancing around your office might not be terribly professional but I’ve done something similar in more professional settings (like reciting a little poem in my head or observing three things around me as I leave), just doing something that will make an impression. I’ve also sent myself emails or texts just as a reminder that I did it. Something written in the moment that I can check back on later.

    4. Baxter4*

      These are really good pieces of advice! I have noticed that if something strange happens, like a car backfiring, as I’m locking the door, I distinctly remember it and I’m not paranoid. I will see if I can incorporate this into my routine.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Lock the door. Tug on it HARD. Say out loud: “This door is locked and I have tugged on it to prove it to myself.”

      I have a similar relationship with my coffee pot. I now pour my travel coffee then unplug the pot. “I am unplugging the coffee pot. There. Now the pot is unplugged.” The travel coffee is a memory trigger AND an assurance later on.

      I bet you have never left the door unlocked. I have never left the coffee pot plugged in. One coworker said to me “You did not leave the coffee pot plugged in because your nature is to be careful about these things.”

  54. WorkerBee*

    I was laid off a little over a year ago after a new system implementation rendered my role obsolete. I was well given six months notice about the layoff and well compensated. I spent the last year completing a bachelors degree in my area and I’ll be done next week. I found a job listing for another brand in the same company so I applied. I was called within a few days and an interview with the hiring manager was scheduled (they asked me to meet with the hiring manager and not with HR for that sort of interview I assume because I worked there before?).

    I have friends who work at the company still and can see the grade level for the position and it is the same level as my old job. However, I was really underpaid in that position before. Do you think if they offer me the job it is possible that I would be offered something more since I have a degree now? Or is it normal for them to just offer what was paid before. They aren’t the same position and the new one actually is generally a higher paid position, but as I said, it is the same grade level in the company. I know they take degrees into account since I was previously promoted and the compensation department told my manager that they couldn’t give a larger raise because I didn’t have a degree. Perhaps they will offer what I made before and I can negotiate to a higher salary? What I am hoping for is about 12% more than I made before.

    1. Pussyfooter*

      If they were knowingly paying you below market rate in another position, why wouldn’t you expect them to do the same toward everyone they hire for this position?

      You *are* making yourself an expert on local price ranges and planning on asking for more than they offer, right? Because of A) market rate B) you are now worth more/their policy has been to reward college degrees and C) you can ask for more no matter what they put out there first. Your post mainly sounds like asking us to guess what this company will/should offer, and we can’t tell. But that’s beside the point since you can ask for things they don’t suggest for you.

      1. WorkerBee*

        There were other people at the company who were not underpaid, so it isn’t systematic of every hire for them. However, I worked for them for many years. When I was hired I had moved from a small midwest town and this is a large metropolitan area, and I was told later (by a manager that left) that they paid me at the low end of the range because of that and then each promotion I received I only got a small bump in pay because 1) each promotion happened while the company was experiencing financial issues (think 2009 and the subsequent slowdown) and 2) they cited my lacking a degree, as I said.

        The question was that is it expected that they would offer the same pay as I made before? I obviously know I can ask for whatever I want (I am an AAM reader!), but I’m just curious if anyone else has left and went back to a company without having additional work experience in between. If so, then was there a difference in the offer? I know a large gap is difficult to negotiate though so this question is more about me managing my expectations than thinking strangers will be able to predict an offer.

        1. Windchime*

          Remember that you don’t have to accept an offer. That’s what negotiation is all about. They offer, you counter offer, and hopefully you all come to an agreement. :)

  55. T*

    Question for all you higher-ed types! I’m looking for suggestions for getting back into student affairs, preferably without going straight to grad school.

    I graduated with a teaching degree in 2011 and have been subbing in K-12 (mostly 10-12) since then. I would really like to get back into student affairs, but I know my undergrad experience in that is getting pretty old (I was an RA for 3 years, ending in 2009), and it’s a tough field to come back to.

    I’ve been applying for mostly residence life positions, but obviously, available positions are starting to dry up. I was hoping to work a bit and narrow down a focus before going to grad school; I spent a long time in undergrad after a huge switch in majors, and now don’t really want to use the degree I ended up with, so I really don’t want to do that…again. Especially since I know my experience is in residence life, but I don’t see that as a long-term place for me (though I do see it as a good place to start).

    So I suppose a more specific set of questions is this: Since at this point, it’s unlikely that I’ll find a job for this year, how can I find ways to get involved? I am happy to contact people locally, but what can I expect? Like I said, my experience is in residence life, so that’s something I’ve been looking at a lot. I also have interests in academic advising and possibly career counseling (I’ve had so much trouble figuring out my own life that it’s led me to think about helping others so they don’t end up like me). I would love a little guidance, if anyone has thoughts. :)

    1. Tina College Career Counselor*

      Have you thought about doing an internship? In higher ed they don’t typically pay, but maybe you could balance it out with the high school subbing? I work in a college career center and we’ve had several career changers intern with us over the last couple of years, and they’ve been able to successfully leverage their experience with us to get other jobs at our university. (These were people making more significant changes than you, since you’re in a related field and working with students that are close in age range.)

      When I finished my graduate degree, it took a while for me to find a related job. In the meantime, I volunteered weekly at a local facility run by TERI, called the Higher Ed Information Center, which was physically located at our local library. They helped advise students who were considering going to college, with looking for scholarships, filling out financial aid forms, and related activities.

      Other possibilities involve getting involved in your college’s alumni activities, helping plan or organize activities and such. It can help with your skill sets as well as networking.

      I also hope you haven’t entirely written off looking for jobs this year. While they usually try to have those positions filled by the new semester, things happen and you never know what else may come up, if someone leaves, etc.

      Good luck!

      1. T*

        I’ve definitely considered internships, but haven’t seen anything advertised anywhere. Is there some resource hiding somewhere I haven’t found, or is that generally a use-your-network situation?

        I am still looking, for sure. Just being realistic and trying to stay busy. :)

        Thanks so much for your input!

        1. Tina College Career Counselor*

          My office publicizes our internships to related graduate programs in the area, to colleagues in the field, and to related professional organizations. But we often have individuals contact us directly to ask about interning, so I would also encourage you to do that. Since offices and staff need to be accessible, you can find pretty much everyone’s information on a university’s website. Try contacting the career or academic centers (or other departments you’re interested in) and ask them if they have any internship opportunities.

  56. AnonForThis*

    I’m not sure how to handle a performance review when I don’t think I’m doing a great job.

    I’ve been with my organization for a year and am just starting the performance review cycle for the first time. This job hasn’t been a good fit for me and I’ve been pretty unhappy. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what the problems are so I can be smart about my next steps, but I haven’t yet decided what to do (try to shift to a new role internally, start looking for a different job, continue to work in this role, etc.).

    I’m used to excelling and I don’t know how to honestly evaluate my performance when I’m not. I wouldn’t be surprised if my manager gave me anywhere from a 2 to a 4 on our 5 point scale on most items; a 2 is deeply problematic and a 4 is nearly unheard of, so that’s a deceptively large range of performance.

    So my questions are:

    – How do I (mentally) prepare for a performance review where I really have no idea where I stand?
    – How should I handle the self-evaluation? I suspect I’ll be much harder on myself than my manager will be, which feels like it could cause problems (affecting my compensation, but more than that triggering concern if she thinks I’m excelling and then sees that I think I’m barely keeping my head above water)?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I am not sure if you have decided you want the job or if you feel like a hostage. I had one job where I felt certain I was a hostage.
      It is incredibly hard to go into an eval for a job that you do not even want.

      To prepare for this review figure out where you WANT to stand. You may need to start the job hunting process. If this is the case, then your baseline is you do not want to come across as an apathetic employee. You want to put things in a peaceful place before moving on.
      As far as your own self-eval, I would pick three things that you feel you could do better. The things you chose should be something that would give the most bang for the buck. Be able to describe the problem, either offer a solution or ask the boss’ advice.
      As far as what the boss has to say sometimes the most intelligent response is to sit quietly and just pay attention. Perhaps you are always late by three minutes every day. You think that is a big deal. If you listen you find out that the boss does not care about that and is more concerned about how you sound on the phone with customers. Be prepared for the unexpected and be willing to listen and think it through before speaking.

      Worst case, if you cannot come up with anything to say then say the truth but keep it very short. “I am concerned that I may not be a good fit for the job.” Then just listen.

      I went into an eval once and said “I do not think I am grasping the job and I think I should be more effective.” My jaw hit the floor when the boss said “Yeah. The rest of us feel the same way.” That opened the flood gates, I got all kinds of inputs and the job turned around for me. I was spending too much time inside my head and not enough time talking with others.

    2. Anonymous*

      I can sympathize. My natural tendency is to look for ways to improve anything and everything – which means I’m always looking for flaws. You have to learn to recognize and acknowledge them without magnifying them.

      I am a little concerned that you have “no idea” where you stand. A better manager would have been messaging you about your performance regularly. If this is truly not happening, then your performance review is a good opportunity for you to get that feedback.

      For both questions, try to assess your performance in the role as honestly as possible. That means going back to your job description for the core duties of the position, and then expanding your view to encompass other aspects of your performance that make a difference to the company and your manager (getting along with others, good judgment about when to escalate issues, etc.). If there are others in the role – or others who have similar duties – this can help you calibrate your scale.

      If part of your job is responding to emails, for example, do you respond as quickly as others do? As quickly as your manager would like? Have you received any “thank you for getting back to me so quickly” messages from your work partners – or is your inbox full of “why haven’t you done this – we’re waiting” messages? Try to be as objective and data-driven as possible.

      Think about what your impact has been to the business. Did you work extra hours to finish your part of a successful new business proposal, or offend the firm’s biggest client? Improve the efficiency of a process, or force others to redo their work because of a mistake you made? Think about this from the perspective of a business leader who does not know what you’re thinking. If you smile and say cheerfully “I’ll get right on it” when someone hands you a task you hate, no one else knows that you are secretly seething. Like the old song says, “You can’t go to jail for what you’re thinking” so set that aside and focus on your impact, your performance, and your visible behavior.

      In speaking or writing about your performance, manage your adjectives and adverbs. Up the positives very slightly, and acknowledge any issues in a neutral fashion. If you are unhappy – or are thinking about the negatives – you will have a tendency to overdo the discussion of those items. “I was concerned that I didn’t position the message properly for the audience when I sent the email about the Chocolate Teapot account to the board, so I’m [taking extra time to review / having trusted colleague help me with] any future emails to this audience” is appropriate. “I know the Chocolate Teapot account email was an unmitigated disaster – completely inappropriate, and totally destroyed the our reputation with the most important people we deal with” may convince the manager that he or she didn’t realize just how bad it was. Pay attention to your wording.

      If your manager gives you any positive feedback, thank them and let them know you appreciate the recognition of your good work / contribution / positive attitude or whatever. For negative feedback, take it well. Late report every month that preventing the closing of the books? You’re sorry about that, and [corrective action you can take / frank discussion of legitimate issue you need your manager to help with (such as not receiving the data on time)].

      If the feedback seems a little more personal, keep your cool and pretend you are a scientist hearing the results of an experiment and preparing to try again after making adjustments. Sarah thinks you’re unfriendly? Discussion of what would help, followed by conclusion that you’ll make sure to smile, greet her, and chat for a few minutes every morning. You are adjusting the part of the work system you control (you) to improve overall efficiency. It’s not personal. As a manager, I am happy to work with someone who is willing to be coached. I don’t need to deal with unconstructive attitude or ego (well, actually I do – it’s part of the job on occasion, but I will avoid the problem by eliminating it where I can).

      Think about what you can get from your manager in this discussion. You should expect an honest appraisal of your performance, and some coaching about areas you can improve. No one is perfect, so don’t let the latter crush you without reason. Even if the message is that your manager also thinks you are unsuited to the job, it’s not personal – it’s just not a good match. Unless your manager is a sadist, this feedback is not given to crush you. Keep repeating to yourself that it’s not personal, it’s just business.

      If your manager is good enough – open, understanding, wants to help the employees succeed (even if that means losing them) – then you may be able to have a frank discussion with them about your concerns. You’re not sure you’re well suited to this position – you want to do your best, and are struggling with where to focus your energies, etc. Sometimes it’s a little overwhelming.

      A good manager will be open to hearing this and giving you honest feedback – not just “I’m concerned about the slip in teapot quality” or “That’s normal in the first year, but I promise you it will get better” but even “I think you’re right that this isn’t a good fit for you. You’d be much better in teapot sales.” Not all managers are open to this, however – some are just focused on making the donuts and don’t want to hear that you’re not sure you want to get up that early for the rest of your life. Listen to your instincts about what your manager is open to – discretion may be the safer choice.

  57. A Non-Mouse*

    This is just a rant, and fits in the “how is this person employed when these million people aren’t” category. I have a friend of a friend who I have been acquainted with for a while but not close to. He decided to move to my city, and I let him stay with me while he was interviewing for a job at a nonprofit agency – which he got.

    I said he could stay with me while he looked for a place to live, and he’s been at my place for about 2 months; he’s leaving Sept. 1. In this time I’ve gotten to know him better, and I’ve realized that he is one of those people you hear about – really lazy, no work ethic, few marketable skills, no sense of what “professional” even means, and an overpowering sense of entitlement that the world owes him a fulfilling job. It’s as though he grew up in a completely different culture and doesn’t know how to operate in this one.

    He has alienated several clients in his current job, so he’s already been bumped below full time (everyone’s fault but his). He was looking for a new job within a week of starting this one – not because it’s a bad job, but because he sees everything as a “gig,” and there’s always another gig that might pay more.

    He has blown off several team meetings because there’s some other interview or training session he wanted to go to for a different job. He has even taken temp assignments from an agency, and traded shifts on his real job to do them. He also blew off a day of work because he found someone on craigslist offering $100 for a day of work on a landscaping project. I can’t believe he hasn’t been fired yet.

    One interviewer told him to set up a linked-in page and do a little networking to improve his candidacy for certain types of job. So he did this, and added me as a contact. I saw his employment history and I don’t think he’s ever had a steady job for more than 9 months, and they are in all kinds of unrelated fields. Basically he takes whatever falls into his lap. He told me about some of these jobs; inevitably he “left because it was stupid and I didn’t want to settle” or “got fired because my boss was a b—-.”

    He has an unbelievable unprofessional demeanor in general – like, you couldn’t even imagine him acting professionally, yet he clearly aspires to “professional” jobs. He has temper tantrums and he’s totally emotionally volatile when he doesn’t get his way about something. PS he is 32 years old and still dresses like a 14 year old skater kid, so I hope I’m painting a complete picture. He is essentially an overgrown 14 year old in every way, yet he imagines himself qualified to work in HR at Yahoo or something like that.

    Meanwhile, although he’s been working mostly full time for almost 2 months, I know for certain he has spent every dime and is totally unprepared to pay first month’s rent on whatever kind of living situation he can afford. This is an extremely expensive town and he clearly didn’t put a moment’s thought into how he would ever afford a place to live. He is still leaving my place September 1, but I think he’s going to end up couch surfing for a few months, getting fired from whatever job he’s doing, and moving back from whence he came.

    Anyway this is the first time I’ve ever really interacted with someone like this who has a college degree and 10 years of SOME kind of work experience, yet hasn’t developed the basic coping skills to live an adult life. I wish there were some kind of advice I could give him but I think he is beyond help.

    1. Yup*

      Sounds like he’s all about the short-term self-gratification.

      It’s amazing when you see it up close, right? I know someone who’s like in this relationships, and I always wonder where it started and how he got that way.

      In any case, this guy probably doesn’t even want your advice, so save your energy. It’s not like he’s trying to be responsible and messing it up. He’ll keep doing what he’s doing until he decides it isn’t working or that there’s another way.

      1. 22dncr*

        If he was a she I’d think you were talking about my Aunt! All I can think is that in her last life she must’ve done something really amazing because she ALWAYS fell in clover. And was a b%$#% about it and to everyone around her. It was amazing to watch.

    2. Rana*

      Just as a head’s up – as September 1 gets closer and closer, expect more in the way of attempts to get you to feel sorry for this person and to let them stay “just a little longer.” I don’t think you’d succumb, given how clearly you’re seeing them now, but be prepared. My sympathies for having to live with them until then!

    3. EM*

      I once worked for a boss who was essentially a 17-year-old in a 45-year-old’s body. He was a bit of a train wreck. It was pretty awful at the time, but at least I can laugh about it now.

      Good for you for keeping a good perspective and having boundaries.

  58. voluptuousfire* OK, ever since my calico kitties were kittens, that is. :) She looks like my oldest calico, the grand dame at age 18.

  59. jennie*

    I’d just like to say how much I love this site. I have learned so much about management and workplace issues from Alison and the commenters. I don’t post that often, but I read everything.

    I think the reason I keep coming back on a daily basis (multiple times a day, usually) is because of the uniformly civil, literate, thoughtful comments. You just don’t get this level of thoughtful discourse on most blogs/websites. So thanks everyone!

    1. Anonymous*


      I have learned so much from people here! Just yesterday I was reading a comment thread about behaviors versus character traits. It was interesting and something I’d never really thought about before. Reading the advice and comments here have helped me make it through a very difficult time at my current job with professionalism and grace.

    2. Chinook*

      I agree. I love how helpful this commenting community is. And how varied the opinions are, especially because, if 90% of us agree on something, then it is important to take note. Plus, the slightly off topic conversations are both interesting and funny.

      I also like how, even though this is an American blog, there is an active international commenting contingent and that our opinions are not written off because they are from a different culture. I have worked for US based companies (and currently am) and being able to voice my canadian opinion and have it debated by Americans and Everyone Else really helps give perspective.

    3. Littlemoose*

      Late +1 from another faithful reader and sporadic commenter. Both Alison’s content and the commentariat are insightful, useful, and pragmatic. I know it’s made a positive difference in how I approach work and deal with situations.

    4. Aisling*

      I think the reason I keep coming back on a daily basis (multiple times a day, usually) is because of the uniformly civil, literate, thoughtful comments. You just don’t get this level of thoughtful discourse on most blogs/websites. So thanks everyone!

      I usually don’t even read comments on other sites, as they are terrible in so many ways. The other commentors on this blog are hugely insightful and civil, and I love reading them.

  60. Amanda*

    How long do resume gaps haunt you?

    I have two substantial employments gaps. The first one was 2008 and the first half of 2009 and I did absolutely nothing for the first nine months (which I regret now) and did an unpaid internship for the rest of the time. My second gap was a little over a year and a half and it was filled with six months of international travel and a year of substantial volunteer experience (as in, 20 hours a week and significant responsibilities). I’m more worried about the first gap because I wasn’t proactive about filling it with volunteer/temp work. I have never been fired or laid off-all the jobs I’ve had have been designed to not be permanent.

    Is this going to be an issue for me going forward?

    1. Kristi*

      I don’t think so, especially these days when its just not as uncommon as it once was. I hear what you’re saying about the first gap but that was five years ago plus you did have an internship for part of it. And the second gap includes volunteer work so that reads well. Whatever gaps/employment history you have, I think the key is to own it. Present it as what you planned, completed and learned from to take you to the next level. If you’re not working now, you should consider volunteer work again so you’re current and keeping active.

      1. Amanda*

        Thanks, that makes me feel so much better! I am currently employed but it’s another short-term stint. So I’m launching myself into the job search again (ugh).

    2. Littlemoose*

      I think you’re right to be a little concerned, but also keep in mind that the 2008-2009 time period also closely coincides with when the economy tanked. You may get more of a pass from anyone who recognizes how terrible the job market was then. And Kristi’s advice below is quite good.

  61. Pussyfooter*

    Yay! Open thread!

    So here’s my 3 things for this morning:

    1. Two minute video I can’t get enough of (my first hyperlink–wish me luck)

    2. If my former employer contested my workers comp claim, and we settled out of court, is that the same as my claim being “denied”?

    3. I’m too nervous to critique my own writing today. How’s this for a cover letter to a used bookstore that also carries music/electronics/knicknacks? Missing any major elements/too casual/does the humor at the end “work”, etc.?:

    Dear Manager:

    I want to be a bookseller for Excellent Bookstore.

    Helping someone find a new book or pick out the right music isn’t as flashy as rescuing an entire wedding or coordinating emergency help between my co-worker, Campus Security, and 911–which I’ve done at other jobs–but it does give me a satisfying little spark. I already re-shelve books when I find them misplaced in stores, direct fellow shoppers to the right aisles at the grocery store, and critique what I’m reading for my curious Current Job customers. I’d need you to tell me if years of belly dancing has warped my musical taste; is it wrong to like Nickelback, Benny Goodman, and a yelling Tunisian lady all in the same set? (You’re insight could prevent musical tragedy.)

    I would love to see if I’m a good “fit” with your business. You can reach me at (###) ###-#### or


    1. Pussyfooter*

      Well the hyperlink doesn’t even show up! I have no idea why not.
      Here’s the web address to see a baby squirrel rescued my a mother cat with kittens: www.
      OR search youtube for “squirrel purr” :’)

    2. LouG*

      I think the cover letter sounds great and really shows your personality, but honestly, you lost me at “belly dancing”. I would get rid of that sentence!

      1. Pussyfooter*

        Yeah, I’m not sure where to go after the first 2 sentences. They sell more than books, so I need to show some kind of interest/ability with the other stock.

    3. AlaLaw*

      You have a typo:
      “You’re insight could prevent musical tragedy.” should read “Your insight could prevent musical tragedy.”

      1. Pussyfooter*

        Luckily this only happens on the computer. My their/there/they’re and its/it’s functions seem to be disabled by staring into a glowing screen.

          1. Pussyfooter*

            Yeah, I was hoping to finish it Friday, but will send a polished version Monday.
            This went strait from wee-hour scribbles to computer screen ten minutes after I woke up. 8’P

    4. Jen in RO*

      With the usual disclaimers that I’m in a different country etc, in not too fond of the ending (from belly dancing to the joke).
      1. I find it a bit to conversational – why would they care about musical tastes?
      Does the job involved making music recommendations? In that case, it could work.
      2. I think that semicolon is iffy (before ‘is it wrong’). Two sentences don’t flow together very well. I think it would be better if you found a third thing to add, or if you broke up that section into two separate sentences.

      1. Pussyfooter*

        I love your Gravatar, Jen.
        And, yes, that sentence is gone.
        The “bookstore” also resells music, movies, etc.
        I’m having to teach myself to write cover letters off the internet and some of the Authoritative Looking Advice is laughable (“paragraph 3, this is where you persuade the reader”?!?!).
        So, I’m trying to hit the spot between dogmatic-high-school-clunk and over-the-top. This was my best version, so far. I think less “conversational” will address fposte’s point, way above, too.

        1. Jen in RO*

          Pink Kenny rocks! (Though I’ve had this avatar for years and years, so long that I don’t even remember what the episode was about.)

          I will confess something now (it’s so late in the thread that no one will probably see it): I applied to ~10-15 positions in my latest job search, I didn’t write one cover letter, I got interviews for all but two jobs, I got two offers and I accepted one of them. This is not bragging, just a long way of saying that my experience with cover letters is close to nil, but I do love editing! Doing it for other people is much easier than doing it for myself – I’m sure I’d be so embarrassed if I read my old cover letters…

          1. Pussyfooter*

            Thnx for the input.

            And you made me curious. I thought the Gravatar was a custom Fan-Jen. I love to figure things out, so….
            It’s Kenny’s 2nd outfit, half way through “South Park is Gay,” (season 7) and that’s the episode in which the
            Crab People are trying to take over humanity by turning all the men “metrosexual.” * streams all 17 seasons of full episodes*

    1. Pussyfooter*

      Interesting, but depressing. I agree with a lot in here.

      That said, this article brings out my critique-nazi. What’s the author’s definition of working class? And “working-class youth” have a “fundamental distrust of others”? Excuse me? These and other statements in the article would be strengthened with some explanation.

  62. Katie the Fed*

    Alison – I have a question.

    The comments section of your blog is one of the nicest on the internet. How does that happen? Do you carefully police it or does it police itself?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t police it that much — occasionally (as you’ve probably seen) I’ll tell someone to cut something out, or ask that we move on from something. And if someone posts something openly hateful/profane, I’ll delete it if it’s bad enough (but that happens less than 10 times a year).

      My only explanation for the amazing comment section is brilliant post content that attracts other brilliant people and turns off all the rest :)

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I’m going to make a few Hitler comparisons sometime just to spice things up. It’s the height of refined argumentation.

      2. Chinook*

        AAM, I think part of the reason the comments are respectful is because your comments are respectful and you are willing to let us disagree with you.

        Also, there have been a core group of us that have been here awhile who really like new voices, have learned not to feed trolls (or roast them over an open pit with on-point comments) and try to stay relatively on topic.

        1. Jamie*

          I just got an email from my husband asking what I wanted for dinner. I suggested roasted troll.

          He did not find it helpful, but it amused me.

        2. Rana*

          Agreed. I’ve been involved in blogging and blog communities for a long time (over a decade at this point) and the one common feature for all the ones with a great commenting community is a blogger who is actively interested and engaged with the comments. I think it makes a real difference when there’s a sense of a host in charge of the space (no one wants to be rude in someone else’s living room, especially if the other guests disapprove) as opposed to it being an ungoverned free-for-all.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I agree. Groups tend to go in the same direction as their leader. If the leader is a thinking, respectful person the group will tend to do the same.

            There is definitely a need out there for this type of conversation, too. A huge need.

      3. Natalie*

        I think you underestimate how much your presence here has an effect. Many blogs I read have no direct input from the blogger in question – if there’s any attempt to shut down trolling and other shitty behavior it comes from other users only. My experience here and at a couple of other sites suggests that even mild, polite intervention from the blogger makes a big difference.

        There’s a great article from a couple of years ago that touches on this issue:

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I have a comment code on my blog, and because I have so few commenters, it’s easy to respond to each one at this point. (If I posted more often I might have more. :P) So far all I’ve had to deal with is spam. But I’m going to remember this, in case someday I actually publish something and get more activity.

  63. Mike C.*

    So since we’re all professionals, this news hit in the past few days.

    In a nutshell, anyone who uses certain models of Xerox machines to scan documents for later preservation may find that numbers and letters have been switched around due to the compression algorithm. So if you have one of these and deal with say, invoices, engineering materials, medical information, etc you may want to look into this.

    And yes, it’s been confirmed by Xerox.

    1. Chinook*

      I heard that story too about messing up scanning and, frankly, I am not surprised and am wondering how this will affect archived copies of everything we scanned and shredded. I worked for a scanner company that did work for Xerox and my first thought was “I hope it wasn’t their machines” but I also knew they did thorough beta testing in the devlopment stage. But, one of the issues they always had issues with was the OCR (which is the thingy that changes the pictures of words into text that is searchable).

      Xerox did ssay, though, that the issue didn’t occur when you used the default settings. Since most users don’t play around with settings, hopefully that means it didn’t do too much damage.

  64. LisaD*

    I have a question for the crowd!

    As part of the constant contact generation, I have a lot of time-consuming hobbies, and people who know me through them tend to call/email/tweet/Facebook message me at work and expect me to respond during the workday. Sometimes I can, but often (especially for phone calls) I can’t. To make matters even more confusing, I’m in a social media related role, so I AM logged into these services during the day; that just doesn’t mean I’m available to take a blog post idea pitch or discuss my availability for a volunteer gig when I’m trying to work on company social stuff.

    Anyone have tips? I used “It doesn’t look good when I take personal calls at the office, can I call you on my lunch hour?” earlier and got a chilly response.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m the queen of training people not to bother me at work. Try just a quick “swamped now — will respond after work” or “busy day — can’t talk now.”

      Calls are a little more intrusive than the rest, and for those I’d actually suggest telling people at a different time (not when they just called you), “No one in my office really does personal calls, but if you need me during the day, you can always try email.”

    2. Leigh*

      First off, anyone who gives me a chilly response about my availability when I’m at work is not someone to whom I’d pay much attention. How ridiculous.

      Secondly, I’d advise just responding when you can. Let the calls go to voice mail and respond to emails/FB/texts as you’re able. Most people who have jobs will understand, and no one (other than your boss) should ever feel entitled to an immediate response from you.

    3. EG*

      Don’t respond to online messages until after work hours (except in an emergency). They’ll get the idea when your responses only come back after hours, but if you even take a few seconds to answer during work…well you must have the time to talk any day of the week, right?

      Phone calls might require a couple of quick “can’t talk now, call you after work” responses, but unless it’s a true emergency there’s no reason they can’t wait.

      1. Chinook*

        I have been known to reinforce “only answering in an emergency” by answering my phone with “are you okay?” DH was the worst for this because he can chat when is on the job and it is quiet but I can’t. But, now he only calls when it is an emergency (the last reason was that he saw an ambulance call to my apartment building and he wanted to make sure it wasn’t me). Eventually, though, I might even train him to leave a voice message (especially since his number is blocked).

    4. Chinook*

      Does your phone have the option to ignore calls and send a message at the same time stating you are busy with owrk and leave a message? If not, I believe that there is an App for that.

    5. Rana*

      Well, if people get their panties in a twist about it, that’s their problem, not yours. I agree that someone who responds to a reasonable bit of boundary-setting with a “chilly attitude” is someone who needs to grow up a bit.

      The phone calls are more of a nuisance, but, again, maybe the solution is to put your phone on airplane mode or use Google Voice to screen calls while you’re at work.

      But I think the most important thing is to be confident about your right to manage your time as you see fit, rather than according to the whims of pushy and demanding people. Reasonable people will accept that you have a life and responsibilities outside of their needs; unreasonable ones will get huffy. Drawing clear boundary is a good way to screen such people out, as well as protecting your time and energy.

      1. Tina*

        Since I work with students and don’t want to set a bad example, my cell phone is on silent when I’m at work, which my friends and family know, so they don’t have any expectation of me answering. It’s also a pretty convenient excuse to avoid people when I don’t feel like talking, even after I’ve gone home – oh, I forgot to turn my phone back on! lol

        I can see how in the case of you managing social media and being visibly online would make it difficult to get people to stick with boundaries. Where possible, I’d just ignore them, especially with phone calls where it’s easier to get sucked in to conversation, and get back to them when it’s convenient for you. I agree with everyone above that if someone is giving you attitude because you can’t discuss their non-work related needs immediately, then they’re the rude one.

  65. Jenn*

    Alright, I feel embarrassed about asking this but: When applying for jobs, who is considered the hiring manager? Is it normally the person the position directly reports to? I just want to make sure that I’m addressing my cover letters to the right name and am following up with the correct persons.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Not always. I’ve definitely been in situations where I have been the person who makes the final decision on whether to hire someone, but one of my direct reports is the one to whom this person will actually be reporting. I think it depends on your level of experience — if you are fairly senior, it’s likely that you will be interviewed by your direct manager. But more junior people may be hired by someone a level or two up from that, simply because the direct manager doesn’t have a lot of experience hiring (although the direct manager should still be part of the interview process).

      1. Lily*

        I wish, wish, wish, that we had had this policy! My boss prevented me from making a 3rd bad hire when she joined me in interviews.

    2. Tina College Career Counselor*

      I wouldn’t be embarrassed, it’s not a silly question, as some offices have different structures, and there are times when one person is officially or technically the hiring manager, but someone else is actually running the process. For example, in my office, each Associate Director reports to Director. However, when a position is open, we create a search committee of other Associate Directors (they’re a dime a dozen in higher ed lol), they review all the applications and do first round interviews, and the Director doesn’t get involved until the final round (by her choice). She is technically the hiring manager and she’s certainly the one that makes the final decision, but until the very end, it’s the committee members who are the most up-to-date on the status.

    3. Jenn*

      OP here – thanks for your comments! I forgot to add that I’m looking for entry-level positions. So when I address my cover letter and follow up on job applications, should I be communicating with the person who is listed as the supervisor? (I have no problem just using “Dear hiring manager” on my cover letters, but following up on the apps has me stumped!)

        1. Jenn*

          Thanks for the link! I’ve been reading up on how to follow up, but the question of who to follow up with is what is confusing me most haha (which is why I was asking how to determine who the hiring manager is) :)

  66. Ashley*

    I had an interview yesterday afternoon. The company is moving fast and had a good reason for it so I’m comfortable there. They called after I left to clarify a couple of things in my background and said they will definitely bring me in for a 2nd interview early next week. I was planning to send a follow-up email after the weekend but it sounds like I will probably be talking to them in that same timeframe to arrange the 2nd interview. Should I wait and send the follow-up on Tuesday if I don’t hear from them on Monday? And if I do have another interview early in the week, should I just hold off and send the follow-up after that 2nd round? It’s been a few years since I’ve job searched and I’m a little rusty!

    1. Lynne*

      I’m no Alison but I’d say give them a few days – at least til mid-week. A follow-up email’s purpose is to follow up, so it really doesn’t need to be there until an appropriate amount of time has passed since last contact. Personally, I’d probably wait until the end of the week or the beginning of the following week.

  67. LV*

    A brief rant:

    Earlier I read an advice column in the paper. Someone had written in to complain that it bothers them that one of their friends is constantly talking about which celebrities he finds attractive.The (male) advice columnist sympathized with him, and his answer included the following: “it would bug me whenever any woman praised any man, even celebrities, when I was in the vicinity” and “fascinating question of whether it’s acceptable to praise members of the opposite sex in the presence of that sex, or not.”

    What is this nonsense about it not being “acceptable” to praise members of the opposite sex if there are actually (other) people of that sex around? It just strikes me as so profoundly absurd, I can’t even express it in a coherent manner. Who the heck is this advice columnist that nobody should ever say a kind word about another man as long as HE is “in the vicinity”? Ughhh, it’s just so gross to me. He’s not saying it’s unacceptable to comment on people’s attractiveness, just to generally *praise* them, and he actually objects to that? And thinks these views are perfectly okay and worthy of being disseminated in a nation-wide paper? WTF?

    1. Jamie*

      I told my husband yesterday I was leaving him for a Young Sean Connery and I was taking the animals.

      It was his punishment for refusing to humor my Inuvik fantasy even in jest.

      Being a secure and normal man he is okay with the fact that I’m not blind and can in fact see that YSC is quite handsome. Now if I had gone on and on about it, or told him his buddy Mike was yummy that would have been rude.

      Someone finding you attractive doesn’t mean they find everyone else on the planet unattractive. And in the case of my husband, there are a lot of other handsome men out there, but he’s the only one I let help pay my bills and fix stuff around the house.

      That’s love.

      1. LV*

        Co-signed. My husband is more than happy to hear about which celebrities I find attractive because if I get started on that topic, it often ends in fun times for him! I can’t imagine being in a relationship with someone who is so offended by harmless fantasies like that.

      2. Chinook*

        Sorry to say but Sean Connery would never agree with Inuvik either. He is a die hard Scot through and through.

    2. Calla*

      I googled this and came up with an article in the Globe and Mail published yesterday, is that the one?

      In that case I think the scenario in the original letter is being misrepresented here. In the letter-writer’s scenario, s/he and their partner are going out with the other couple, and while they are out together, the male in the other couple comments on how hot other women are, *including exes and friends*. I think that’s different than commenting something like “Why yes, I agree Amanda Seyfried is beautiful.”

      That said, I don’t think there’s inherently wrong about it, if both people in the relationship are fine with it. I don’t know how I’d react to my girlfriend waxing poetic at length about how hot a former flame was, but we have no problem sharing that a friend is gorgeous or something like that. And “the fascinating question of whether it’s acceptable to praise members of the opposite sex in the presence of that sex, or not” *is* BEYOND ridiculous. (As Miss Manners once said, gentleman are so touchy.)

      1. LV*

        Yeah, that’s the one! You’re right, I didn’t represent it entirely accurately (I read it a few hours ago – the cafe where I have lunch gets copies of the G&M). However, I still think it’s odd that the original letter-writer felt quite that offended about the other guy’s behaviour when Other Guy’s WIFE didn’t mind. I feel like the G&M tried to put this “feminist” spin on it, especially since the title of the online version of the column is “How can I stop my friend from objectifying women in front of me?” when I definitely got the feeling that his problem is he’s a big ole prude, not that he’s offended by any objectification that might be going on!

        1. Calla*

          I can imagine a scenario where it is skeevy and objectifying, like if the friend is a guy who is constantly commenting on/to other women and ignoring his wife and meanwhile the wife just pretends she doesn’t notice. But there’s no indication that’s definitely the case in the letter. Lots of couples have no problem doing that, as demonstrated in the comments here!

    3. Glennis*

      Wait, what? The guy is bothered if a woman – any woman who happens to be in his presence – praises another man (even a non-celebrity).

      Yikes, what a sense of entitlement.

      Does he feel that way if a man in his presence makes complimentary remarks about another man? Is his sense of privilege because of being “the man in the room” or does he feel privileged over all human beings?

      1. Jamie*

        Is it just an appearance thing? Because there are traits a whole lot sexier than what a guy looks like.

        Smart, funny, and fascinating, and competent when fixing stuff trump looks every time. Can we not appreciate anything about men except their ability to open jars and kill spiders?

    4. LMW*

      I have a friend who talk about people’s (mostly celebrities’, but sometimes people we actually know) hotness constantly, and it drives me nuts, regardless of gender. I don’t mind if it comes up as a topic (i.e. We’re going to see a movie with Brad Pitt and Friend says “Brad Pitt is so hot), but when it just constantly comes up any time any celebrity is mentioned it bugs me to no earthly end. It’s entirely looks related, and it bothers me when worth is equated with something people have very very little control over.

  68. Lynne*

    So this is a weird situation. My partner (I am a lady) is female, but when I started my job (just under 2 years ago) was identifying as FTM and using male pronouns, and so I referred to her as him/boyfriend/etc. Fast forward about a year, and this is no longer the case. My workplace is one of the few places where she’s still referrred to with male pronouns. We’re planning to get married next year, and we live in a smallish area – we’re bound to run into people from work (and have, but no one I work with closely) and they’re going to want to see the wedding photos.

    I’m not close with anyone I work with, but friendly, and we’re a small group that works very closely together. I am not concerned that they’re homophobic, but this is just a weird topic to bring up as it’s so intensely personal and they’re just coworkers. I’ve been considering in a team meeting being like “so, by the way everyone, X is now using female pronouns. I’m happy to go into as much detail as you’d like offline.” It feels so weird! I’ve been avoiding dealing with it since I expected to be leaving, but things have recently improved and so I am no longer planning to leave. Anyone have any tips??

    1. Calla*

      Have you asked your partner how she handles it at work? I don’t think I’d make a team meeting about it, just correct anyone when they say he. “Actually, she is using female pronouns now.” (I’d imagine she does it on a case-by-case situation, too — just like any situation where a pronoun needs to be corrected.) Or, if you ever gather together casually you could bring it up then.

    2. Felicia*

      I think it won’t take too long for someone to use the wrong pronoun when referring to X, and it’s best to just casually correct each instance like it’s no big deal, because it’s not.

      I never officially came out as a lesbian at my last workplace in that I didn’t make an official announcement. But everyone assumes I’m straight, so I just corrected the assumption every time I heard it and people got the picture fairly quick.

      If you want to be more proactive, in the course of casual conversation you can just mention the correct pronoun in casual conversation. Like “Last night I was talking to x and she said…” People will take your lead..

      1. Jamie*

        This is perfect. Correcting someone who makes a wrong assumption in casual conversation is natural and organic – and then you go on talking without skipping a beat.

        An announcement seems like it would be awkward, because I think I’d feel like it required a response and I’d have no idea what that would be.

        If I were talking to you and referenced your boyfriend and you corrected me, cool, now I know to use the right words when I ask you about your weekend or whatever. Exactly what I think Lynne should do…because you’re right – it’s not a big deal.

        No bigger deal than correcting someone on a name.

      2. Rana*

        Yeah, I think you may be best off just correcting as needed, and not making a deal out of it, just as you would if someone got your partner’s name wrong.

        Congrats on your engagement!

  69. P, Queen of the Desert*

    Happy Friday everyone!

    Like other posts here, I need some advice! I have a new (3 months in) co-worker who I thought was going to be a great addition to the team. The majority of the time things are fine, but I am finding that at times she is lazy (watches Netflix at her desk for hours) and gives me attitude (ex. she got sassy with me when we were setting up for a training).

    There is a supervisor and manager above us, but she is essentially only under my guidance even though we have the same position. What do I say when she gives me attitude? Do I say something when she isn’t doing jack at work? I feel like it isn’t my place and I feel like if I say something to our supervisor and manager it will look like I can’t handle myself. Thanks in advance for your words of wisdom!

    1. P*

      I think you’re in a pretty good spot to correct this since she’s a new employee. You can frame it as teaching her the culture rather than scolding her – like if you catch her watching Netflix, something like “oh, dabbling online is pretty frowned upon around here. usually if we have a spare moment there are some back burner tasks, would you like me to help you find something so you’re not bored?”

      Obviously the tone and delivery are going to matter a lot here, but if you take the attitude of “we’re in this together” she might be less resistant.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This is good; and she very well may BE bored. I’ve had times at Newjob where I literally had nothing to do–and it’s not the type of place where you can pitch in and help other departments. That’s changing now, as I receive more responsibility and more projects. Sometimes when you’re new and learning, if it’s being parceled out slowly to you, when you get on top of it, you find yourself at a loose end.

        I don’t know what to say about the sassiness. Frustration, maybe?

  70. ChristineSW*

    Why does it seem like the Open Threads occur on a day I decide to go volunteer?! :P Will read everyone else’s, but first….

    I hope people are still reading after 450+ comments, but I have been rethinking things career-wise and wanted some feedback, particularly from readers with PhDs and those who work in Higher Ed. Please be gentle!! LOL!

    I’m actually contemplating getting a PhD, probably in social work. I’ve done the research, and I know it can be a very intense, rigorous experience, particularly when it comes to the dissertation, and probably even when prepping for the Qualifying Exam (or whatever other schools call it).

    I got talking with my sister while on vacation last month, and she helped me realize that my personality and skills are probably better suited for a more academic-minded career; that is, conducting research and writing articles or books. This is nothing new; I’ve had this inkling myself since being laid off a few years ago and have contemplated the PhD off-and-on, but now I’m starting to take concrete steps for further exploration, including looking into the GRE.

    I have a meeting with the PhD program director at my university on Sept. 10, but I wanted to get a sense of what the experience of a PhD program is like, particularly the coursework portion. I’m picturing it to be comparable to a normal classroom setting, but with MUCH more reading and perhaps more focus on discussion rather than lecture.

    (FTR: Finances is not an issue (I don’t wish to go into detail, but I just wanted to put that out there proactively).

    Even if the PhD ends up not being feasible, I’ve always wanted to work in a higher education setting, but it is IMPOSSIBLE to get your foot in the door.

    Also, during my MSW program, I developed an interest in program evaluation (that was the advanced research course at my school); that interest has since grown, largely due to my volunteer work in reviewing grant proposals and conducting site visits.

    I know I’m probably leaving out a lot of detail, but I didn’t want to make this too long and rambling. So don’t be afraid to ask for more detail, and I’ll fill in what I can.

    1. Z*

      I have a PhD and work in higher ed, but as a staff member, not a faculty member. During the course of my PhD, I decided the tenure track wasn’t for me, so I chose another option that still lets me work with college students. (I’m happy to answer questions about this if this is the type of work in higher ed that might interest you.)
      In terms of the experience of getting a PhD, the coursework portion is really the least of it. The coursework will probably be a lot like the coursework for your MSW (assuming getting an MSW is like getting an MA) – reading-intensive, lots of discussion in the classroom, responsibility for writing papers on original research topics. However, what really defines one’s ability to complete a PhD is the ability to come up with a large-scale original research topic for the dissertation and then actually follow through on the research. You need to be able to set schedules for yourself and stick to them. In the classroom, you have frequent deadlines and lots of hand-holding. When working on your PhD, you might go over a month at a time without setting foot on campus or talking to your committee members, but you still need to be able to stay on task and make progress on your work. You need to be able to discipline yourself to sit in front of your computer every day and analyze that darn data, even when the weather is beautiful and it seems like no one will know if you goof off. That is, a completed PhD indicates perseverance and diligence more than intelligence.
      Finally, just some advice that I’ve gotten third-hand: a friend of mine who has a BA in psychology and an MSW has told me that she’s always been told that a master’s in psychology is useless – you need the MSW – but a PhD in social work is also useless – it’s better to get the PhD in psychology. So that’s something you might consider. (But I’m in a completely different field, so please take this advice with a grain of salt.)

      1. ChristineSW*

        Oh mannnn, I had a whole response typed up and I accidentally deleted it. Grrrr.

        The need to set your own schedule and be on top of your dissertation without a lot of structured guidance does worry me a bit. I’m hoping that my interest in whatever topic I’d be writing about would be enough to keep me focused and disciplined. If nothing else, my husband would certainly see to it that I stay in line! Hee hee!

        (But I’m in a completely different field, so please take this advice with a grain of salt.)

        I appreciate any insights people have, so no worries!

        Actually, I’m not interested in any clinical work; I think I’m more interested in “best practices” in human service delivery–hence why I enjoy my volunteer work reviewing grant proposals and conducting site visits so much. The track I took in my MSW program was very clinically-oriented (so more focus on therapeutic theories and approaches rather than case management or working with community resources and understanding the “system”); my volunteer work has allowed me to get a good sense of all the different programs out there for various populations and needs.

        My top areas of interest relate to people with disabilities, so I’m certainly open to other avenues if the social work PhD isn’t the right way to go.

        Thanks for the website suggestions you gave below.

    2. fposte*

      LIS has some similarities with SW, I think, in that there’s a big difference between the terminal/professional master’s and the doctorate. However, I don’t think coursework is the difference there, and it wasn’t so much in English, either; it’s not the coursework that makes doctoral work difficult. It’s the combination of infantilization, teaching obligations, and the need to prove yourself at a professional level that you’re still trying to understand that’s challenging. Talking to the director of the program is a good plan; get names of current doc students who wouldn’t mind giving you info too, as they’ll know more than the director about the day to day experience. Is program evaluation the direction you’re thinking of for research? In LIS we’d expect a prospective doc student to have a research project in mind upon application, and they would be wise to know what faculty at the institution they’re applying to would be relevant to that project. It’s also a bit of a double-edged sword to take finances off the table, because that might impair your completion momentum and the unit’s dedication to getting you through; if that’s a concern to you, find out average completion duration (which varies strongly from place to place) and decide which kind of risk is a better fit for you, the risk of being overdriven or the risk of languishing on for decades.

      It sounds like you’re doing good stuff as far as gathering information and looking around, but remember, even if it’s not what you wanted once you start, this isn’t a blood contract–it’s perfectly legal to stop if it turns out you hate it.

      1. ChristineSW*

        Thanks fposte, you were one of the ones I was hoping would respond :)

        “infantilization” – I’m not sure what context you mean here.

        Program Evaluation is one direction I’ve been thinking of, at least as a career direction. I’d have to look at other dissertations to see what other research methods have been used, but I have some starting ideas for topics. Speaking with the program director and current doc students–which I had in mind already–should hopefully give me further insights. My school does not expect a specific project in mind upon application, but they do like to you have some general areas of interest.

        I didn’t mean to suggest I was taking finances off the table entirely; I definitely plan to use whatever resources are available to me should this all happen. Let’s just say that I have a supportive family :)

        1. Rana*

          Regarding the infantilization, I suspect that what fposte’s referring to is the boot camp aspect of a lot of grad school, especially the first few years. Grad school isn’t just about gaining mastery of a subject; it’s about molding grad students into academics, through a process of intense forced acculturation, which can often be damaging as well as transformative.

          The program I graduated from – which I actually had good experiences with – had a number of professors who were deliberately brutal in terms of workload the first year, because they wanted to wash out people who didn’t have the strength (or stubbornness – I always have said that the reason I got my doctorate was due to stubbornness, not intelligence) to complete the program. I also had one professor express doubts – in a written evaluation, no less – that I was even qualified to be there (and I’d been an honors student as an undergrad). Given that I’d just about killed myself over the assignment that comment got attached to, it was incredibly demoralizing to hear. (Luckily I had other professors who were far more supportive.)

          So a lot of the first year