will a back-up job hurt me in the future, companies with no online presence, and more

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

1. Is a back-up job going to hurt my chances in the future?

I graduated in January and despite having experience have not been able to find a position in my field. I’ve been pushed by my family to take a retail job as a “back up,” especially since my family and I have started paying my loans back. I’ve recently taken a job at a big box retailer. I was hoping I could do freelance on the side, but I’ll be working in the store 30+ hours a week so I don’t know if that will be feasible. I know I’m not the only one in this economy who’s had to take a retail job to keep their head above water financially, but I’m afraid it’ll hurt my chances in the future and I’ll be stuck there. Do you have any advice?

Also, do I have to list this job on my professional resume? I obviously wouldn’t try to hide it from employees if they asked, but this job is in no way related to my field and it would be a waste of space on my resume.

Retail work isn’t likely to hurt your chances more than simply not having recent work experience in your field. So the question is really whether it will make you less likely to pursue other jobs, go on interviews, and take on freelance work that could bulk up your resume. If you can minimize those impacts, I wouldn’t have any worries about this at all; if that’s the case, you’re not adding any problems, just income. (And even if that’s not the case, financial realities might dictate that you need to take this work anyway.)

You don’t need to put it on your resume. It’s generally better to be able to show recent or current work, but (a) it’s not at all in your field and (b) as a recent grad it’s not unusual to not have been working in your field yet. That said, you’ll want to be prepared to talk about what you’ve been doing since January to stay current in your field — so make time for at least a bit of those sorts of activities too.

2. Can I decline this networking request for our alumni’s contact info?

I work as a graduate program admin in a state university. A few days ago one of our graduates — someone who graduated in the mid-80’s — emailed me and asked me if I could send him names and emails of people he went to graduate school with (in our program) so that he could network and make new connections. He wants to network because he has written a book and would like to “advertise it and sell his wares.” I do have some of their contact info, but it doesn’t seem right to share any contact information with him, and certainly not information for people who have not been here for almost 30 years and who did not ask to be “networked” with. Is this an appropriate request, in your opinion? What would you reply to a request like that? I’m sure he’s not trying to be jerky, and I certainly don’t want to be rude.

Yeah, I’d tell him that you can’t allow your alumni list to be used for advertising. However, it really depends on the policies of your program — most alumni offices have guidelines about how they will and won’t supply people’s contact information, and to who. So ideally you’d already have some rules in place to cover this. If you don’t, though, I don’t see any reason why you can’t decline, perhaps also explaining that these people haven’t given permission to have their information shared.

3. Should I have told my interviewer about another job I’d prefer?

What is your opinion on telling potential employers about other job offers or that I’m waiting to hear from offers during an interview? I ran into this problem on an interview that was my second choice, with an interviewer who wanted to hire me on the spot. But I told her that I had another opportunity in the works that I felt was a better fit, I just didn’t have the final word. It turned into an awkward situation and now I wonder if either one of them will hire me. Would you have done something different? How do you think I should handle this?

Yeah, that was a misstep. You basically told her that you’re not especially interested in the job and would only take it if something better doesn’t come along. That may well be true, but it’s close to impossible for her to feel good about hiring you when you’ve told her you don’t think it’s a great fit (which is how “the other job is a better fit” will often come across). Generally, it’s better to stall if you get an offer while you’re still waiting to hear about another (see here), rather than essentially say “I’m hoping for something else.”

4. Is it a red flag if a company doesn’t have any online presence?

I am in the process of searching for a new job. I found a posting on a job board run by my state. It seems like a really cool position doing graphic design with a small company that makes displays for trade shows and other events. It’s something that I would enjoy doing and would give me great experience, but I’m having a hard time finding information about the company. They have a website that is about half finished with very minimal info. They don’t have a Facebook page, Linkedin page, Twitter, nothing. I always like to do my research on any company I apply to just to be sure that it’s somewhere I really want to be and so I can things to my cover letter about work they do, etc. I’m pretty positive it’s a legit business, but I guess they’re just really bad at marketing themselves. Should I be wary of applying for a position with a company that I can’t find a lot of info on?

On a side note, would it be rude to mention in a cover letter that I would be more than glad to help them with their website, if offered the position?

If they’re a small company, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. A lot of smaller companies don’t have much presence online; believe it or not, not every business requires it! (And even those that have websites often don’t have Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook pages — that part definitely isn’t weird.) If you’re worried about whether they’re legit, tell them during your interview that you had trouble finding much about them online and ask them to tell you a bit about their history and keep your eyes open for red flags — but the lack of online presence alone isn’t troubling.

I wouldn’t mention that you’d be glad to help with their website in your cover letter if it’s not a part of the job — this seems like a company that doesn’t much care about the Internet, and while it’s possible that they’d love the help, it’s at least as likely that they’d take that as a sign that you’d be focused on things they don’t see as priorities.

5. Are clients being insensitive after my coworker’s death?

I work in client services for a tech company. Our organization is structured so that each client has a dedicated account manager and dedicated project manager. Last week, the account manager who I worked with on two of my clients unexpectedly passed away. It’s a big loss both personally and professionally.

The reason I’m writing though is that I’m perplexed about how some of my clients are handling the situation. I know it’s business and business doesn’t just stop when someone dies. However, the way some of my clients are acting isn’t sitting well with me. One particular client is coming to town for the funeral and wants to have a business meeting discussing the transition plan right after the service. It hasn’t even been a week since my coworker’s death! And the day after my coworker passed, a different client wrote me an email asking for updates on a project and closed it with “P.S. Sorry about John.” And another client called to express condolences, but then was all “so about that TPS report.” I kind of expected they’d give me and my company a little space to deal with the loss of our coworker and friend. Am I being too sensitive or are these clients being insensitive?

A little of both, probably. The reality is that business does go on, at least outside your firm — and that’s what you’re seeing. These people need to continue to conduct their business, and they’re dependent on your firm for some of it. You can certainly push back on the guy who wants to have a transition meeting right after the funeral, but you’re going to need to have that meeting fairly soon — they do, after all, need to move forward with their work. The other stuff, though — well, that doesn’t seem terribly offensive to me. These people just aren’t as close to the situation as you are, and people don’t always realize that the death of a coworker can be quite different than the death of another type of business contact who you see less often. I’m sorry about your coworker, by the way.

6. If I spot a mistake on a time card, who do I talk to?

If I am in charge of time cards in payroll and I see a mistake that wasn’t there before, am I supposed to ignore it, take to the manager, or go to the employer for correction?

This is exactly the sort of question you’re supposed to ask your manager. This kind of thing varies widely by office. You need to find out how your manager wants you fielding this sort of thing — so ask.

7. Fired and charged for burglary

Our 19-year-old son was working in a grocery store. He, along with the night manager and other crew, were ringing each other up for $1.00 and eating a piece or two of day-old chicken and Jo Jo’s on their break. A security company came in to do questioning and began with my son. They made it a huge deal for three hours, forced a confession, and actually arrested him for felony burglary. The others kept their mouths shut, didn’t confess, and still have their jobs. The security company told our son he would be called by the store the next day and fired.

No one called, no one sent a letter. We finally contacted an attorney, who worked his way to the headquarter’s HR manager who stated that the security team was overzealous and they were dropping the charges for a fine. And the town prosecutor is dropping the charges. The whole thing is ridiculous and has cost us >$1,000.

Now our son is looking for a new job. Was he fired? What should he put on future applications? Should he send them a letter of resignation?

Yes, he was fired. The charges being dropped doesn’t change the fact that your son was fired; those are two different things, and so it wouldn’t make sense to send a resignation letter.

Ideally, he’d just leave this job off of future applications. There’s no reason to call attention to a situation that’s likely to hurt his chances.

{ 242 comments… read them below }

  1. Eric*

    #2, if you all don’t have a policy, one that I have seen (and I think that works pretty well), is that you will agree to pass his contact information on to other people for him, and then it would be up to them to get in touch with him. Have the alum send you a list of specific names of people he wants to get back in touch with, and then you send them a note saying that he wants to get in touch, and let them know how (and also tell them to let you know if they don’t want to get such e-mails in the future).
    But definitely find out if you already have a policy, first.

    1. Elise*

      That’s exactly what I was going to suggest. He is obviously willing to share his information, and then the other alumni can decide if they want to network with him or not.

      1. Jessa*

        Yeh that always works. Give them the info and let them decide. Or possibly if you have some kind of alumni newsletter, he can put a blurb in it saying he’s interested in talking to people from this class or that class regarding x project.

        1. Felicia*

          I’ve seen such things in my alumni newsletter that said something like this person wants to get in contact with people from x class for x reason with info on how to contact them.

        2. Lynn*

          A lot of colleges have alumni groups on LinkedIn nowadays. He could join that, and post his thing there.

        3. Jamie*

          I was thinking newsletter, too.

          Who thinks it’s a good marketing idea to sell books to one person at a time?

          1. College Career Counselor*

            Agreed on passing his information along to the alumni in question. I was going to suggest that this person contact the alumni office, but it occurred to me that maybe he already had, and they shut him down. Most alumni offices (at least the ones at the places where I’ve worked) have rules about solicitation for products or services through their alumni list–ie, the list is there for finding people and getting back in touch, not marketing your real estate company, selling time shares, or getting people to invest.

            That said, a number of colleges and universities have created a somewhat separate “alumni-owned companies” section on their alumni portal to allow members of that institution’s alumni community to reach out to and do business with those organizations/individuals directly. Perhaps that’s an option for Mr. Individual Marketing Strategy?

      1. Anonymous*

        I think FERPA is for specific information only. Name, email and, program of study is usually public information.

        1. Tina*

          Alison’s right that most universities prohibit use of alumni info/directories for sales and advertising purposes. Doesn’t always stop people from doing it when they can access the info themselves through an online directory or such, but you can probably decline to give it to him.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, I worked for an alumni association for a little bit, and my surprise is that the guy here is asking before spamming.

            1. Tina*

              An alum from my graduate school had the nerve to solicit me at my work phone number one time. I told him it was an inappropriate use of the information and promptly reported him to the alumni office.

    2. Kate*

      When I worked in alumni relations, this was our policy for one-off requests. But if this guy provides a long list of names and #2 contacts them to provide the guy’s information, #2 is essentially soliciting on that guy’s behalf.

      #2, I know you don’t want to damage your relationship with this particular alum, but you run the risk of damaging many relationships if you fulfill his request, even indirectly. People are understandably very sensitive about how their alumni associations share their information. I’d tell this guy that you are so sorry but unfortunately can’t share contact information and suggest that he post about his book to the university’s or alumni association’s FB page and use LinkedIn and FB to reconnect with old classmates.

      1. some1*

        “I’d … suggest that he post about his book to the university’s or alumni association’s FB page and use LinkedIn and FB to reconnect with old classmates.”

        This was my first thought. Authors, especially first time authors who don’t have a fan base built, have to do lots of self-promotion. This isn’t your job.

    3. the gold digger*

      A woman tried to get my friend and me – we ran the Memphis returned Peace Corps volunteers group – to send an email to everyone in the group asking for money to pay her landlord, who was about to evict her. (And you have to be really far gone for a landlord to be able to evict in Tennessess.)

      We told her that was not an appropriate use of our mailing list.

  2. Karl Sakas*

    Re: #4 (the tradeshow booth company without a web presence) —

    Companies that make tradeshow booths/displays are essentially manufacturing companies that “get” marketing (because their products are used primarily for marketing/selling purposes). So I’d expect more marketing from a semi-marketing firm. But it’s also a cliche that marketing firms tend to put clients first and struggle to keep up with their own marketing.

    Go ahead and apply, but try to figure out if this is a case of their being too busy to market themselves (common) or being incompetent at a core part of their business (not good). Good luck!

    1. Anonymous*

      But it’s also a cliche that marketing firms tend to put clients first and struggle to keep up with their own marketing.

      Yeah we do this. We have a ton of big clients as an online marketing company, but our social media and website are horrific. We recommend that people be up to date on social, create blogs, etc. but it take a lot of effort to make that stuff work and flow without a dedicated person doing it. We focus on doing work for clients, not making ourselves look good with constant posts, we don’t need to go after business, it comes to us so our presence online is lacking. We work for our clients, not ourselves.

      1. Anonymoose*

        This is to your detriment, I’m afraid. If someone is looking for a person to provide these services, and sees that you’re doing a “horrific” job of it for yourself, it does not instill trust in your abilities. If they’re anything like me, they will keep right on trucking. Yes, you have clients regardless…but your diminishing your credibility as well as your growth potential. (IMO, anyway.)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I have to agree with this. For this type of business especially, I would expect a website, and if there wasn’t one, I might pass.

          If that’s not a priority for the company the OP wrote about, they don’t strike me as very competitive.

        2. Chinook*

          It is a detriment only for garnering prospective clients. If you already have a solid client base and none of them mention the lousy website because they never use it, why would you put money into it (which is what you are doing when you have an employee keep it up to date). I suspect that for these types of businesses, the power of Word of Mouth is more powerful than anything else.

          1. Chinook*

            I should add that this is a discussion we kids have with my mother about her business about once a year (and is even brought up by customers who travel 100’s of kms to buy there). She always counters that she has enough customers to make her business successful and she doesn’t want to create the expectation that she is a mail order business (she owns a gift store and gift basket business). If someone really wants to order something, they can take her business card and call her and she will help them.

            She had the same attitude when running for town council. Why advertise if she was going to win by acclamation/apathy? But, this year there are multiple candidates and an important issue (art centre vs. soccer field) and she has had my sister create a facebook page, tweeter account and is even putting up posters.

            1. Jazzy Red*

              Your mom sounds like a smart woman. I hope she wins the election (and I’d vote for an art center, if there isn’t one already in the area. Kids can play soccer in a field, like we did.)


    #3 Should have stalled w/o mentioning the other job. I would have said for them to complete the background check and then make you an offer that you would like to think about for a few days. In that time I would contact the other company as to a status.

    1. Felicia*

      I think it’s weird to be offered a job on the spot so it would be totally ok to say you need a few days to think about it. You should take a few days to think about any offer ideally, even if it is your first choice.

  4. Jenn*

    Regarding #1 – if the writer doesn’t include the retail job and has a huge gap between jobs, would that be a disadvantage when hiring managers look at the resume? Would s/he even make it to the interview stage and have a chance to explain the gap then, or would hiring managers tend to discard the resume because of this huge gap (assuming there’s been nothing on the resume since Jan – Aug)?

    1. Tina*

      Most employers don’t have the same expectations for recent college grads when it comes to consecutive work experience and gapes, so it probably wouldn’t be a big deal.

    2. Anon*

      As someone who hires recent grads – yes, it can be a disadvantage. We want to see recent grads doing something while they look for a job, be it retail work, and unpaid internship, or volunteering. For recent grads, it’s always better to list jobs like that, rather than leave them off.

      However, this does not apply to mid – senior level professionals, who already have experience in their field. But when we hire recent grads, one of the main qualities we’re looking for is work ethic, so we don’t like to see recent grads sitting at home and doing nothing for months on end.

      1. LibraryLand Mgr*

        I agree that depending on your field it can be a good thing. I hired someone with no experience in my field whose most recent job was in fast food. I liked that she was willing to work a crappy job instead of doing nothing (and it sounds like her particular job wasn’t that awesome). It also showed that this was someone who had customer service experience, and for many jobs this is a huge plus. It showed that she could be flexible when things didn’t work exactly to her expectations, and it was also nice that she didn’t have a chip on her shoulder about it. She turned out to be one of my best hires ever.

        1. anon o*

          I was thinking something very similar – and a job out of your field can provide you with a reference, even if it’s retail your manager can attest to your work ethic, attendance, reliability, etc. When I’m hiring recent grads those are huge things that I’d like to know about. I’m expecting to have to train you anyway.

          1. anon o*

            I just want to say that when I said “even if it’s retail” I wasn’t disparaging a retail job but I meant it in the sense of “even if it’s something you don’t intend to do long term.”

        2. Frieda*

          I agree entirely. I think OP#1 should keep in mind that just because the retail job is not in her field does not mean that she can’t learn some useful skills that will help her get a job she wants. Retail can be hard work and you have to deal with difficult customers while staying professional, be a good team player, multitask, etc.

          For example, I work in publishing and get questions from recent grads all of the time. Most of them are like, “I love books and am a good editor, so I should be able to get a job, right?” I point out to them that everyone applying for an entry-level editorial assistant position is an English major who loves books and can read/write/edit. So what really sets someone apart is proven experience being able to deal with all of the other parts of the job: How do you manage your workload when multiple people are demanding different things from you? How do you deal with a difficult author who won’t deliver their manuscript, but with whom you need to maintain a good relationship so they don’t go to a rival publisher? How do you handle feedback on your work–because actually your editing skills are not as good as you think they are? Retail experience is great for a lot of these, especially if you really stand out and have a great reference, because it shows that work ethic is important to you no matter what work you are doing.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Oh heck yes. And there are a TON of transferable skills in retail / food service, depending on what your responsibilities are. Inventory management, supply procurement, customer service, payroll (if you’re managing or assistant managing), etc. etc.

  5. Pussyfooter*

    About #7, I realize this OP’s son is 19 and not in a corporate career. But since whacky things happen to people in more “serious” jobs, what would you have suggested if this happened to someone who’d held a career level job for a couple of years (like the Night Manager mentioned in the post)?

  6. Lily*

    #7 As a parent, I hope that life will teach my children that there are consequences to their actions (beyond my lectures), but the consequences will not cause permanent damage (thinking of the post from an OP whose daughter misplaced a child on a cruise ship without mentioning it to her supervisor). The experience of interrogation and arrest seems sufficiently (and maybe too) harsh, so I hope OP has not neutralized the message by overemphasizing the ridiculous nature of the situation and I’m glad that the solution seems so easy. However, I’d be really ticked off at the night manager for being involved and teaching teenagers the wrong work ethic!

    When I was a teenager, I had a manager who drank on the job together with other employees. I was among those working rather than lazing around and drinking when his boss came by and discovered it. I threw a tantrum when his boss simply told me to put everything away and return to base, because I thought everyone had gotten away with it and to add insult to injury, I was being told to clean up!

    I didn’t realize at the time that discipline was private, although it could have been considered public since they suddenly spent some time closely supervised at hard physical labor (compared to mowing the lawn and trimming weeds). If official disapproval hadn’t been obvious, if I had only been told off for the tantrum (which I would have richly deserved – I learned a lot of profanity at that job and demonstrated my knowledge during the tantrum), I might have decided that slacking off made sense and professional behavior was goody-goody!

    1. some1*

      “However, I’d be really ticked off at the night manager for being involved and teaching teenagers the wrong work ethic!”

      The LW’s kid, while a very young one, is an adult. Why is it the responsibility of a supervisor to teach a good work ethic and lead by example greater when supervising a 19-yr-old than 30-yr-old?

      1. Laufey*

        I think it’s partially/mostly an experience thing. By 30 years old, society expects a person to be a generally functioning contributor to society. A 30-year old has been in the workforce almost as long as s/he has been out of it. A 19-year old, by comparison, has only been out of high school one year and just lacks life experience in general. Society doesn’t expect the same of 19-year as it does of the 30-year old – the 19-year can’t even decide if an alcoholic beverage at the end of the day is acceptable or not.

        It’s often remarked in this blog that fresh out of college workers need more guidance than those with more experience – it’s the same principle at play.

        Also, if I (or someone I knew, for that matter) got in trouble to doing something that had the approval/encouragement of the night manager in power, that is a serious problem. I know that “just following orders” hasn’t cut it since Nuremburg (and shouldn’t), but it’s very possible the 19-year old was under the impression that this was normal/expected/fringe benefit of working late, especially if he hasn’t had any other working experience.

        1. some1*

          Sorry, I have to call BS on this. In general I see your point that young people can be more impressionable, but I learned stealing was wrong by the time I started kindergarten, and when I worked as cashier in high school I didn’t steal/undercharge myself or my co-workers because “everyone else was doing it”.

          1. Laufey*

            What I’m trying to say is that the 19-year old might not even have seen it as stealing. If it’s old chicken that’s being thrown out, and the night manager is ringing it up, the 19-year might have just assumed that it was a fringe benefit of working late. For example, one place I worked let us eat the left over cookies while we were closing shop. Someone showing up would assume we were stealing the cookies, but we had been told by management it was okay, and everyone working there knew this.

            Now, unlike my cookies when I was 16, it doesn’t sound like the boss’s boss was okay with this, and it ended up not being legal. However, if my manager had told me it was okay, either by outright telling me or by giving them to me, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, and would have gotten in trouble with my boss’s boss. My issue with the whole thing is that the night manager was there. Now, it could have been that the 19-year old was willing and eager to eat the chicken, it could also have been something that he only started doing because the night manager invited him into it.

            1. Stevie*

              It would also depend if it was covered in the employee manual or not. A good establishment would have a policy for this in place already, and everyone should be liable for their own actions despite what the manager said. They probably also had to sign that they received the handbook and will abide by the rules. But not every business has a strong handle on employee policies. So if it *wasn’t* covered, then I would say it falls squarely on the manager’s shoulders.

            2. some1*

              I see your point, if this is his first job ever and the Night Manager told him it was okay and no other manager had ever told him one way or the other, than he didn’t know.

              But I think the fact that they were ringing each other up for a dollar should have been a red flag. At the convenience store where I worked, the stuff we got for free (day-old donuts or sandwiches, pop from the fountain, coffee) didn’t get rung up at all.

              1. Kelly L.*

                When I worked in food service, our free stuff did get rung up (even though the total was $0.00 after applying the employee-meal code). It kept the inventory correct.

                1. Chinook*

                  Exactly. I would be more suspicious if it didn’t get run up because how are we suppose to know what is inventory. As for it being a dollar, I would think it would be to show we weren’t getting it for free, just a discount (which is what the the donut shop always did – half price for “extras.” When they were free, they discovered there were always lots of “extras” being baked.

            3. Chinook*

              I have to say that, even at 30-something, if my manager gave me leftover chicken and rang it in, I would assume it was okay because she is the manager. Add to that the fact that I don’t know a 19-year-old who would turn down food, and I feel sorry for the guy because the night manager gamed the system and the 19 y.o. paid the price.

              1. Bea W*

                Exactly, if it is your superior who is doing it, and not telling you that it being caught could get you fired, what else are you supposed to assume, especially fresh out of school and no working work experience? Ringing it up for a $1 actually makes it seem like a legit discount, rather than just taking it and not recording it somewhere. That’s probably what got the guy caught. Someone who knew better probably saw a pattern of odd $1 sales on the night shift and thought it was fishy.

                Some shops do allow employees to take leftover or otherwise not fit for actual sale food for a discount or have some kind of an employee discount or perks. As someone else mentioned, it usually gets rung up just as a matter of accurately recording the movement of inventory.

          2. some1*

            Sorry, I didn’t mean this to sound so harsh. I guess my basic point is that it’s not okay for a manager to condone or participate in theft or under-charging to any of his reports. I don’t believe it automatically becomes more egregious because it involves a 19-yr-old.

        2. Jamie*

          I agree with Laufey – it’s about experience.

          I’d expect a 19 year old to have less experience in the workplace than a 30 year old….I’d also assume they’d more easily follow the lead of a manager because they don’t have the experience in place to alert to red flags – you learn that by working.

          I’m not saying a 19 year old shouldn’t have internalized basic ethics by now – but there is a lot more to learn when following workplace norms.

          1. some1*

            I agree with you that a 19-yr-old with his first job should be cut some slack on workplace norms, and gently guided that certain things are not acceptable. But any manager should be upholding the law and the policies of the business because it’s her *job*, not because she has a responsibility to be a good example to a young & inexperienced report. Imo, “It takes a village” ends when a kid turns 18 if I didn’t give birth to him. I would guide my hypothetical 19-yr-old on workplace norms because I want the business to succeed, not because I owe him a mentorship.

            1. Jamie*

              I don’t think there is anything wrong with people mentoring because they want to help someone new to the workforce develop good habits.

              I agree it’s not owed to anyone, but I’ve done it to other people’s kids and I’d like if someone would do it to mine if they needed some guidance.

              1. some1*

                I completely get all this ^, but if an older manager chooses to steal or drink on the job against the rules (to use examples from the thread), they should be punished because it’s wrong, not because they have a responsibility to be a good influence to their 19-yr-old reports, as Lily implied.

            2. Lily*

              “It takes a village” continues during college, because so many students enter college unprepared to live and study independently.

          2. Linda*

            Hi everyone, this is the mom of the 19 year old. Yes, this was our son’s first job and no there wasn’t a whole lot of training or orientation. Our son was NEVER told this was wrong by the night manager. I think he had an inkling it was wrong, but on the level of going 3 over on the highway or a bank employing taking a pen home – certainly he didn’t see it the same as taking something from the shelf and putting it in your pocket. A very hard lesson learned.

            The security woman hounded my son with bible verses, influencing him to state that he knew what he did was wrong, they even told him what to write and what not to write for a confession.

            To me, the punishment should have been, “Hey guys, stop taking the day old food (which we tell customers we don’t sell) and you need to pay us the difference. You will be written up, so straighten up and get back to work.” Not – you’re being charged with a felony – but the others who kept their mouths shut are still working. What we see here is liars win – not justice served.

            Our son is a good kid, never in trouble at school, at 18 he volunteered for the fire department and another youth organization. (He was volunteering 3-4 evening a week.)

            But my answer is still not clear. Alison says that he was fired, and yet, he did not receive such notice. I am wondering if legally a business must provide such documentation?

            Thank you all for your thoughts!

            1. Jamie*

              He’s fired because he didn’t leave his job of his own volition – so even without a letter he was technically fired as they made it clear they didn’t want him returning to work.

              FWIW I don’t think this makes him a bad kid by any stretch – he followed the lead of his manager on day old food so while maybe he should have known not to, I can see this being a really gray area.

              Hell, I’m a whole lot older than 19 and I’m having trouble seeing why the staff isn’t allowed to eat food which is still safe, but will be tossed anyway and not sold to customers.

              I’d look at it this way – he lost a crappy job (their treatment of him means bad management) and learned a really valuable lesson at 19. The ones who got away with it might learn a different lesson and break rules down the road where the stakes are much higher.

              So were cops involved at all? Because if the security staff actually told him he was “being charged” that’s completely OTT and I’d have my lawyer draft a letter to that company about bad practices.

              What I can’t believe is security isn’t free – I can’t imagine it was worth the time spent on this for some old chicken and potato wedges.

            2. fposte*

              There is no federal requirement to document a firing or provide any notice. Some states have laws that would require the employer to provide employee with info, personnel file, etc. kinds of info upon request, but those aren’t hugely common and they don’t prevent people from simply being fired in your son’s situation and in the way that it happened.

              1. Chinook*

                The U.S. doesn’t require a Record of Employment be given to a former employee stating what was paid and a generic reason for firing? In Canada, the one we receive is a copy of the one submitted to a federal department to us as proof of employment if you ever need to apply for government benefits (i.e. I am not eligible for Employment Insurance this time but, if my next job lays me off, I can show that I have worked this many weeks this year.)

                1. Felicia*

                  I think we require that here in Canada because we don’t have at will employment like in the US. So we actually need notice before being fired or without notice a good reason. Though I know you need a record of employment to prove you’ve worked enough to qualify for unemployment and you didn’t leave the job voluntarily…would you need somethign to prove you qualify for unemployment in the US too?

      2. Emily K*

        When I was a shift worker I worked for night managers who were often college students. I never had one over the age of 25 and I once even had a 19-year-old night manager. The career/adult store managers tend to want the steady daytime hours and the nighttime manager position often goes to the hourly worker who shows the most responsibility. I wouldn’t be so quick to assume a night manager is 30.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Well, your kids should already have consequences for breaking rules beyond lectures. If they break something, they pay for it, right? If they don’t have the money, do they earn it? Lather, rinse, repeat.

      Best consequence example I can ever think of was this: when we were kids, we were allowed to draw on the concrete patio with CHALK ONLY. One boring latchkey day, we decided to make it pretty. So we colored it with our crayons.

      The. entire. patio.

      We spent that Saturday scrubbing it with soapy bleach water. And we never did anything like that again. >_<

      1. Linda*

        The night manager is in his mid 30’s, the 3 other guys who also did this were in their mid 20’s-50’s.
        The security company was the only one he spoke with – the security company told him they didn’t have the power to fire him, but that they would report to management and management would get back to him. They never did.

        The security company hounded him for 3 hours and then they charged him with a felony! Yes, they called the cops and he was arrested, but sent home. The prosecutor has agreed to drop the ridiculous charges, but this will have cost us close to $2,000 – while the other guys are still working. (Oh, very small rural town, asst. manager brother to the sheriff.)

        When we initially called an attorney, he said, “There must be more to the story – this is unbelievable.” There wasn’t. It was an over zealous security company trying to earn their keep. However, they were able to talk our son into a confession that would be considered a felony in this state. We (the new folks in town) could choose to fight and risk a felony charge, or settle, we settled, they settled.

        Our attorney told us to hammer into ever we know – NEVER NEVER EVER talk to cops or security people. You will end up in more trouble than you can imagine.

          1. Linda*

            You’re right. I don’t know what you would call what they did. They wrote up a document accusing him of a felony. They had him write out a confession, told him what to write, and after three hours of this, they called the police, who read him his rights and arrested him. Then sent him home.
            Our attorney contacted HR and they decided to drop the civil part and to recommending dropping the criminal part. However, in the meantime the cop filed charges. When the cop filed the charges, he filed it as a misdemeanor, but when the prosecutor called the cop to get more information – she decided to dismiss the case.

      2. Jazzy Red*

        Wow, you are really being harsh. It’s the kid’s first job and his MANAGER told him it was OK. How was he suppposed to know it wasn’t? It’s sensible to have people eat food that is still good but will be thrown away, so that’s not a red flag (we used to donate our corporate meeting leftovers to the men’s shelter, so that it wouldn’t go to waste).

  7. Chloe*

    #5, I do feel for you, having seen similar behaviour. A co-worker of mine died last week, and some clients have been really, amazingly, insensitive. She was extremely ill (more than her manager realised) for a month or so, and made some mistakes that only came to light when she was admitted to hospital. We have refunded clients and done our best to make up for what happened. But some just don’t care, even now that she has actually died, and only care about what went wrong. I get that they’re in business, but for goodness sake, when someone has died you can surely take a breath and put others above yourself momentarily, even for a few days.

    1. Elise*

      Have you told them that even though you are in the office that you need time to grieve? I know that I am not the only one who would actually want to do some regular business during this time. It forces you away from the sorrow for a while.

      I tend to see at-home time to be grieving time and at-work time as trying to do something normal after a death. But, if someone says they still need time to work through something, I’ll give them that (as much as possible under whatever the circumstances are at the time).

    2. Colette*

      You knew the coworker, so of course it hit close to home for you. That’s normal.

      But … people die all the time, and if your clients don’t know them personally, it’s just not going to have the same impact.

      They may understand that it’s sad that someone died, but they still need their issue resolved. Depending on what went wrong (i.e. whether it’s something you can really fix vs. something that can’t be undone), your clients may have legitimate questions about whether your business has the proper procedures in place to prevent someone making a mistake that causes major problems.

      It’s certainly reasonable to be understanding if, for example, the business shuts down for the funeral, but it’s not reasonable to expect everyone outside the company to wait weeks or months for business to resume.

      1. fposte*

        I’m with Colette here (as I find I often am). It’s sad when people you care for died, but that happens at every company we deal with, and we still get our phone service, our medical procedures, our Amazon orders and don’t consider ourselves insensitive for inquiring when we’re going to get them if they’re delayed. It’s not putting yourself above the death to have a problem when you’re deprived of a contracted service. One of the few things academics does tend to deal with well is the death of key personnel, and I think it’s okay for a student to be more worried about her graduation than the loss of Professor Old.

        If people are being genuinely rude about it, then they’re just rude, period, but if they’re trying to talk to an operating business about getting what they agreed to and are concerned that that’s not happening, I think that’s valid.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          One of the few things academics does tend to deal with well is the death of key personnel

          This is interesting — I’d love to hear more about how this plays out.

          1. fposte*

            I may have overgeneralized–it certainly doesn’t extend to people like doctoral students, who are often left on their own to solve the problem if their advisor dies, and it’s doubtless heightened in my current unit because it’s a shorter-duration professional master’s so the consequences of blowing it really hurt students. But I think it’s generally true that if a teaching professor dies mid-semester, the “what do we do with the classes?” question is an immediate admin go-to (though “who will get his place on the committee?” might beat it out sometimes), and I can’t imagine a full week going by without an answer to the teaching question. If it’s a very specialized course or it’s very early in the semester the course might be entirely canceled, but otherwise there’ll be one classtime skipped at most, and then there’ll be a doc student, colleague, or adjunct (or all three taking turns, who knows) finishing the thing up. It’s kind of like journalism and getting the paper out–it’s an article of faith that we will not be stopped.

            1. Rana*

              That’s been my experience of it, too – and I’ve seen it from the side of the people called in to act as a substitute (I took over a course three weeks in once when a colleague was in a car accident, for example, and my husband was once contacted the night before classes started to take over a course that the original instructor had bailed on).

              Weirdly, the downside of this “the show must go on” mentality is that it’s often difficult to get across to other people that you don’t ever get substitutes at the college level for instances short of that sort of dire emergency; if you’re sick for a day, it’s on you to make it up the next class or two. And vacations can only be taken during official breaks, for the same reason.

      2. the gold digger*

        Sort of related – the CEO of my company, who has been CEO for two decades, announced recently that he was retiring. He called everyone in for a 30-minute meeting in which he explained his decision and asked for questions.

        Then my boss later asked my group if we had questions.

        None of us did because none of us cared. It didn’t affect our day to day work and all his announcement meeting had done was make my next meeting run into lunch so I had to miss the noon spin class at the Y.

        He expected us all to be devastated, but – we weren’t. People retire all the time.

        Of course, if he had died, it would be sad. But this was a retirement.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Yeah, that’s kind of what I thought when the CEO at an older job died in a car accident. I was shocked and saddened, but didn’t think it would affect me.

          But it did, immensely. The new managment changed things in many ways, removed my boss among other things, and in less than a year our very happy department of 6 (some of whom had been there 12-15 years) went to a department of 0. His death changed the job from one I loved to one everyone left. Upper managment matters a lot, and often you don’t realize how good it is until it isn’t any more.

      3. Chloe*

        I agree with all of that, and peopel were working to fix the problem, but just want to note I said I thought it was reasonable to wait “a few days”, not “weeks or months”.

      4. Ruffingit*

        Agreed and I don’t think it’s fair for the OP to push back on the guy who wants to meet after the funeral to discuss the transition. The OP mentioned the guy is coming into town for the funeral. It may be that he cannot make two trips depending on where he’s coming from. This one trip may be his only chance to handle these issues.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      No, you don’t always get space. We lost a coworker at Exjob and although he wasn’t in a client-facing position, business went on as usual. We were all very quiet for a week, and you would occasionally see people (especially his supervisor, whom he was also friends with) looking sad, because the coworker was extremely well-liked. But we had to do our jobs regardless. I busted out crying when I was told, and I still had to pull myself together and answer the phone.

      What really bugged me wasn’t that, but the managers did not even MENTION him at the quarterly meeting. No “As you know, we lost longtime employee Bob Smith this quarter. He will be greatly missed,” or anything. I don’t know if they were afraid all the shop guys would cry, or what, but I was hugely offended by that.

      I’m so glad to be out of there.

  8. LeeD*

    #2 – Many institutions consider their alumni lists a commodity, so I definitely wouldn’t just give out the information to whoever comes asking, grad or not. It doesn’t sound like you work for alumni affairs, so your best course is to refer the request to those that do.

  9. Cat*

    What is going in #7? By “ringing each other up for $1.00,” does that mean they were only charging each other a nominal amount for the fried chicken and jojos? Or is this some sort of tiny amounts of money embezzling scheme?

    (BTW, as someone who grew up in the Pacific Northwest, I miss jojos. They probably sell them here, but nobody ever calls them that.)

    1. Mike C.*

      I’m with you here. That, and the idea of a private security team interrogating someone, then arresting them doesn’t make any sense either.

      1. Chinook*

        I have been told by DH the cop that, atleast in Canada, a private security firm doesn’t have the right to detain you unless they place you under citizen’s arrest and then immediately call the police. If they delay calling, you can insist they call and they may be charged with illegal confinement. You would still be tired but you would be able to sue the security firm for their behavior.

        The only ones allowed to detain you in Canada have either a yellow, blue, red or brown stripe on their pants and are called police officers.

          1. Chinook*

            The stripes colour signifies the type of cop: Yellow for RCMP, red for municipal and military, blue for provincial and brown for Surete de Quebec. The regulations about police uniforms are very tight and security guards are not allowed to mimic it any way as that would imply they are police officers.

            It is useful because you can spot the stipe from a distance and can tell if the person approaching you is a cop long before you can see their arm patch.

            1. Chinook*

              I should clarify that the RCMP ore our national police force and are considered paramilitary as well, which is why they have their own colour. The Surete de Quebec are the Quebec provinicial police (with the ugliest coloured uniforms ever that make the brown part look good) and, like California, Quebec always likes to be different.

              1. Felicia*

                I didn’t know the thing about the stripes! Although since I’m in Ontario and only know things that apply here, I always say Quebec is probably different. So for a Canadian blog any is it legal question would probably be followed by except in Quebec ;)

        1. Anon*

          It’s the same in the States. They can absolutely question you, but they can’t prevent you from leaving (that would be false arrest or false imprisonment, which are illegal). They *definitely* can’t arrest you, unless, like you said, they place you under citizens arrest and call the real police.

          1. Laufey*

            Well, sort of. A person can make a citizen’s arrest for misdemeanors (in many states), felonies (in most states), or breaches of peace (in some states). However, for a citizen’s arrest due to a misdemeanor (which is really the level we’re talking about here), the arresting party must have seen the accused of actually performing the misdemeanor. It’s not clear if that’s the case.

            At any rate, citizen’s arrest only covers preventing the person from leaving, not interrogating/filing charges/extracting a confession, and the police should have been called right away.

            1. Anon*

              Which is pretty much what I said. I take issue with your statement that they can’t interrogate you or extract a confession. Security can absolutely bring you into a back room and question you. But if you get up to leave, they are not allowed to stop you. If you decide to stay put and answer their questions, that’s up to you. My answer may have been an oversimplification, but I know what I’m talking about.

              1. dejavu2*

                At least in some states, they can actually hold you there against your will for a reasonable amount of time.

          2. Jess*

            Some states also give “deputy” rights to certain security personnel. Many times campus police fall under this. They can certainly arrest you, though for convenience they will probably ship you off to the “regular” police pretty quickly. If someone who is deputized in this manner is questioning you then your constitutional (“miranda”) and state constitutional rights apply.

        2. Sourire*

          I’m also very curious where this “felony burglary” charge came from as well…

          The people involved were employed by the store, therefore were not unlawfully on the premises. This should really be some type of larceny charge if anything. The only thing I can think of is that if the employees were on break and therefore technically not “on the clock” AND the building was otherwise closed one could possibly argue that entry upon break time was done for the express purpose of unlawful behavior. But I’m not really sure you could successfully argue that the kid was unlawfully in the store in the first place, since he was in fact an employee in good standing at the time.

          1. Loose Seal*

            Yeah, I thought a felony was if the value of the goods was over $500. That’s an awful lot of food. I can’t imagine anyone (even a teenaged boy) eating $500 worth of chicken at one sitting.

            1. dejavu2*

              It varies by state. Some states don’t require a breaking for burglary, and I was surprised when I discovered in law school that many crimes that really don’t seem that bad are categorized as “felonies.”

      2. Cat*

        I buy that they would interrogate someone, whether it’s legal or not, but the arrest part of that is weird.

        1. TL*

          Oh, yum! We call those potato wedges (or sometimes steak fries, depending on the place) in Texas. They were a staple of my childhood.

    2. Stevie*

      There’s a whole boatload of issues from the retail perspective with what they are doing. First, day old chicken is still edible, so it makes sense that they would want to eat it on the job. However, most places need to trash any leftovers to discourage employees from purposely making more than necessary with the intent they can take it home at the end of their shift. Second, these small transactions are probably paid in cash and allow people to have access to the cash drawer, at which point larger bill can go missing. It would be considered theft, because it is stealing profits from the company. (Isn’t burglary a stronger word, or am I mistaken?)
      That being said, the manager should have been given the most severe punishment if he knew this was happening.

      1. Natalie*

        Burglary is a specific sub-type of theft, involving unlawful entry. That is, you have to break into someone’s house, car, etc *and* take their stuff for it to be burglary.

        1. Sourire*

          Not that it’s really relevant to the topic, but just to clarify, burglary does not need to involve theft actually. Burglary is unlawful entry of a structure/dwelling combined the committing (or intent to commit) a crime. Said crime can be theft, but it needn’t be.

          Just a pet peeve of mine, much like people saying they were robbed (involves use of force) when they were actually burglarized (house broken into while no one was home) or a victim of larceny (laptop stolen off a library table when they left to use the restroom).

          1. Natalie*

            Ah, fair enough. I think in my city they use “breaking and entering” to refer to non-theft burglary so I assumed they were separate things.

          2. dejavu2*

            In some states, burglary doesn’t require an entry. It’s a very broadly used term when it comes to state law!

          3. Elizabeth West*

            That burglary/robbery mistake bugs me too, especially when they do it on the news. >_<

  10. Jamie*

    I’m not sure why OP #1 would think a retail job would be worse than nothing at all, and putting on my curmudgeon hat if your familyis supporting you and paying your student loans they shouldn’t have to “push” you into trying to find something to contribute in the meantime. The letter came off as if you think you’re entitled to have others pay your loans until you find something in your field, but maybe it was just badly worded.

    #7 – I don’t understand this at all. Burglary needs to involve unlawful entry or trespass – he was working there so while it can be theft, how could burglary apply? And if it was theft, how cold a couple pieces of chicken and a drink rise to the level of a felony? That’s petty theft which would be a misdemeanor at best.

    Also, what kind of store doesn’t have security cameras? So you see who was ringing up whom at the register and pull the register data so they’d know who else was involved.

    Also, a security company cannot press charges. They can question, but they can’t legally charge him with anything – the police have to do that. If my kid was arrested I’d call a lawyer, but not for a security firm.

    Ether way, Alison is right and he should just leave it off his résumé – but there is a problem in how this was written or there is a lot kore to this.

    1. Jamie*

      Because I’m me I looked it up – for theft to rise to the level of a felony it needs to be over a certain dollar amount – most states it’s $500 – $1000. That would be a lot of day old chicken.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This is correct. It is not a felony. Someone was trying to use big words to leverage the situation. Additionally, I believe the son can turn in other people for doing the same thing he was charged for.

        These and many more reasons, are why the charges got dropped. They bungled the case and they know it.

        OP, let sleeping dogs lie. Hopefully, your son had a massive learning experience including “The people you work with may seem friendly, but that does not make them your friends. Work is not a place where you are ‘hanging out with a group of friends’.’

      2. Sourire*

        The burglary is what makes it a felony, not the dollar amount. However, per my comment above, I am also having a hard time understanding how they construed it as burglary instead of larceny.

    2. Anony1234*

      In regards to #1, I know what the OP meant by being “pushed.” If we don’t have a job in our fields, that’s what we want to focus on, and if there’s something else in the way, we fear it might take us off track. I say “we” because I’m in the same boat as the OP, sans student loans. I now have a part-time job in my field as well as volunteering, but I’ve kept my retail job because it actually is the money-maker right now as I job search in my field. I don’t think she feels entitled and that her family should be paying the loans back instead of her contributing towards it. I think there is a fear, which I had and still have, about the potential “damage” one will have to a resume if there is a job in a non-related field.

      If the OP decides to get a retail job, s/he should watch the job carefully to see what skills s/he is obtaining, such as customer service skills, for example. That way, when they are interviewing for their field, perhaps there is something to show. I’m trying to do that as I job-hunt now. However, it is waiting to be proven, at least for me.

    3. Erin*

      This is OP from letter #1 and I’d like to clarify something.

      In no way do I expect anyone to pay my student loans. It breaks my heart that my parents are supporting me. However, I did have money saved up just in case I hadn’t found a job that would hold me over a few months with student loan payments until I found something (“Back up” job or otherwise), but my father refused to take it. When the notifications started coming that my grace period was about to expire and I told him about the money I had saved he said, “Don’t worry about it, just concentrate on finding a job and we’ll figure it out from there.” Even with this job they will still have to support me one way or another because I won’t make enough to completely support myself, but at least it’ll ease the pressure.

      Yes, they did have to push me to do it a little bit. Not because I expect them to support me for forever, but because it’s obviously not what I want and I’m afraid of getting stuck in retail. Eventually, I had to suck in my pride and take whatever offer came first.

      Though I’ve noticed on the whole many families I know pay their kid’s loans, sometimes at the risk of their own future, because of guilt. They told us as kids the only way to get ahead was to go to college, and now that doesn’t mean the same thing as it did when they went. I know one friend who her parents are taking out of their 401k to pay for her and her brother’s loans. Another friend, her mother took out of the equity of their house to pay for school. They see the weariness on our face every time we get a “Sorry, better luck next time”, and it wears on them as much as it does us. It scares them, because 30 or so years ago we would have had stable jobs in the field we went to school for within a couple of months. Now parents are “proud” when their kid comes out of college and gets a job at a grocery store. I cringed when my mom said she couldn’t be more proud of me for getting a job in retail, because it shows what kind of world we live in.

      1. Mike C.*

        I wish you and your peers the best of luck. I escaped that fate in the nick of time, and I can’t imagine what it is that you guys are having to deal with.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I did not read any entitlement in your post, OP. I read it as a straightforward “how does this work?” question.

        Retail is tricky because some places expect 24/7 availability. (I guess you should never go to the doctor or have a broken car.) But I think that if you can find volunteer work or something related to your field to do while you do retail then you will land in a good place.
        Hopefully, you told the manager up front that you will be needed time to do things career related. Sometimes managers will hire you on that basis. If you have a company that thinks your job trumps everything else in life- that could be a problem. But some companies will work with people, especially if you give it your ALL when you are at work.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        know one friend who her parents are taking out of their 401k to pay for her and her brother’s loans.

        This is a really bad idea! Do not let your parents do this. (I’m directing this to anyone reading, not you specifically, OP.)

        1. some1*

          Just out of curiosity, do you have to take the tax hit at the time you take it out, if someone did this?

          1. Laufey*

            Yes. You lose some money to the taxes, plus that money is no longer earning interest/being invested.

            1. Liz in a library*

              I’m pretty sure there is also a significant penalty if you aren’t of retirement age and just totally withdraw the money (instead of doing a loan, which is still a bad idea).

              1. Bea W*

                There usually is – a penalty of 10% except in certain circumstances PLUS income tax on that money. Withdrawals for tuition and educational fees are exempt from the 10% penalty, but that money is still taxed as income. It’s a lot of number crunching to figure out which way is the best way to go, but in general, borrowing from your 401K is a better idea. There are limits on what you can borrow (1/2 the balance up to $50K), and the loan has to be paid in full within 5 years or when you are no longer employed with the company sponsoring the plan, whichever comes first.

          2. ExceptionToTheRule*

            It depends on how the loan program with your 401K works. I borrowed from mine & didn’t take a tax hit. There are certain circumstances where it makes sense to borrow from your 401K, but to pay student loans isn’t one of them, IMHO.

            **not a tax attorney or an investment advisor. Do not play one on TV.

          3. Chinook*

            I think the money from the 401K is added to your annual salary earned and this will probably raise your tax bracket. The benefit of taking it out after you retire is you have no other income so you are at the lowest tax bracket anyway. And, if it is locked in (which usually garners a higher interest rate), there may be a withdrawl penalty.

            I agree with AAM, this is a financially bad idea and should be done only when there is no other money coming in (i.e. verge of bankruptcy).

            1. Bobby Digital*

              Yeah this is my understanding. (I know I’m late commenting here, but…) A friend was recently unemployed and took from her retirement plan. At tax time, the amount she took was added to her other taxable income (a few thousand dollars from a short-term weekend job), and the total still left her below the poverty line sooo…no taxes need be paid.

              Though this isn’t to contradict Alison’s point above. It might seem really desperate to be 22 and in crazy debt, but the potential for a 22 year-old to eventually recover and be able to chip away at the debt is -much- greater than the potential for a parent, near the end of their career, to replenish their retirement funds.

        2. Erin*

          When she told me I was shocked, because my parents have explained how a 401k works. I don’t think my friend, or her brother, understand how risky that is. Most young people don’t. Though like I said, I’ve noticed a lot of guilt from parents with kids in my age bracket when it comes to college and student loans.

    4. Natalie*

      Regarding the loans, I wonder if the OP is referring to a parent loan, like the PLUS loan, when she says “we” are paying them back?

    5. Jazzy Red*

      A couple of thoughts…

      The OP said they live in a small, rural town.

      They are new in the area.

      A lot of security “cops” want to be SWAT or NCIS, and they had a young boy to badger, harass, and intimidate. A young boy who wouldn’t know that they can’t do that, legally.


  11. Brandy*

    #4: I’d agree that it totally depends on the type of company. My dad is (was) a small business owner and his company has a TERRIBLE online presence. Think AOL-era website. Think the sort of website *I* could design–which is to say a “drag and drop” type site. That said, his business is super successful and there is no reason for anyone to ever need to find him via website. I think he literally maintains the website so that he can fill in the required spot on all of the online forms…

    1. Judy*

      I guess I don’t care how “wow” a company’s website is, but I care if I can see the name, address, phone number, and hours… especially helpful if there is a holiday hours section that says “but we will be closed at 2pm on Christmas Eve”. Maybe see directions to the store.

      If it’s a restaurant, I’d like to see the menu, even if it doesn’t have prices. If it’s a specialty store, I’d like to know what brands they sell… like bike or shoe brands.

      1. Chinook*

        That information can be found if they are listed in the yellow pages. I know I can find my mother’s store’s information if I try. But, the types of business who do this truly don’t mind if you call them for the information.

    2. the gold digger*

      Exactly. I tried to convince my uncle and cousins, who run a deer-processing and sausage-making business in northern Wisconsin that they needed a website. But then I found out that they have more work than they can handle. So then I suggested that they raise their prices.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Yes, it really depends on the type of business. A firm that designs signs and graphics for trade shows really should have a decent website. Someone doing something like shoe repair or a small store just needs something basic.

  12. Library Jen*

    OP #1 I’ve been working in retail since graduating from my MA last year and in 3 weeks I start my first paid job in my field!

    I think the key to me getting out of retail and into my chosen position was volunteering. Alison has definitely mentioned this before! I fitted in just one hour in a library to start with and then another couple after a few months of fitting it around my job. The best thing about retail is that it can be flexible! If not, helping out in your field on more of an ad hoc basis would still give you an ‘in’. Through volunteering I’ve made lots of contacts and had relevant info and skills to put in my cover letter. It also demonstrates to employers that whilst you are earning money to pay the bills, you are also doing what you can to stay relevant. I also found that the one hour of voluntering was the highlight of my week and gave me the drive to apply for jobs away from retail. Good luck OP!

    1. Erin*

      Thank you and congratulations!

      I want to back to school so bad, to potentially get my Masters in Library Science, Publishing, or English so I can work on teaching at the college level. However, I’ve been “forbidden” to go back until I find a “real job”, which is frustrating because I miss the academic stimulation.

      I just found out that my library takes volunteer book reviewers, so I’m going to apply for that since the commitment is only around 10 hours a week and I used to work in the local library system,

      1. fposte*

        Digression here, but I’m concerned: I’m somebody in this very combination (came from English, do publishing and book reviewing, in Library Science):, and a master’s isn’t usually enough for a college-level teaching job. Those who are teaching with a masters but no doctorate generally have built an established career that brings considerable value in its own right, and even then it’s often an adjunct position with the established career being the main salary. Is there a model that you’re specifically following here?

        1. Erin*

          From the information that I was given a Masters gives you the ability to work on the community college level (We have a ton around my area that are easy commutes), though I don’t know how reliable my source was and I don’t remember who said it to me.

          1. fposte*

            It’s not impossible, but it still generally would need to be bolstered with some serious field experience to translate into a living income (experience with teaching composition and a master’s in English can take you a long way, but a master’s in English with no experience isn’t likely to get any further than a per-capita payment for a single course) , and I would really recommend you exploring this further with the community colleges you’re considering likely employers before you tie a master’s program to this expectation.

            I’d be happy to talk to you more about this–are you on the LinkedIn Ask a Manager group?

            1. Erin*

              No I just found this site a few days ago and have been reading up on the posts. I didn’t even know there was a LinkedIn group! I just joined so my application is pending.

              I’m still not entirely sure which way I want to go yet, but I’m leaning more towards Library Science or Publishing. The former I already have two connections (One being my best friend, which I know she’s going to be biased, but we went to school for six years together and worked in the same library.) and it just generally seems like a better fit than the other two. However, there is still a part of me that is interested in teaching and publishing.

              1. Liz in a library*

                If you are looking into academic librarianship at all, keep in mind that generally you will need a second subject master’s or other advanced degree in addition to the library degree.

                What kind of librarianship are you exploring? I’m just nosy here… :) So don’t mind me, but if you need any advice I think there are a number of us on this board and in the LinkedIn group (as fposte suggested).

              2. Chinook*

                To join the LinkedIn group, go all the way to the top of this page (there are a lot of comments) and click on the “connect” tab. There are instructions there.

          2. Felicia*

            What Erin says about Master’s degrees giving you the ability to teach at the community college level is true here in Canada. You don’t really need serious experience, just some which generally comes from volunteer/internships – and not necessarily experience teaching though many get that as a TA. Now since she called it community college I know she’s not in Canada, but perhaps it varies by state/region?

            1. fposte*

              You can often get a chance to teach a single class pretty easily in the US, but being hired as salaried faculty, which presumably is Erin’s goal, is a lot different. Community college is srs bzns in the US, and hiring is very competitive at most places (and if it’s not, odds are good it’s a place you don’t want to work at).

              1. Jamie*

                My kids are doing community college before transferring to a 4 year school and the vast majority of their teachers have doctorates.

                With the exception of the Math/Com teachers who have a whole schedule, the vast majority also have other jobs and just teach a couple of classes.

          3. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Just seconding that this is something you really need to make sure you research well before putting the time and money into going back to school, particularly since if it doesn’t help in the way you hope it will, it can actually make you less marketable (by taking you out of the market for longer, making employers think you don’t really want the jobs they’re offering, etc.). So just be sure that you have good, solid information on this before making any decisions.

          4. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

            Technically you can get a job teaching at the community college or adjunct level with a masters in English. Realistically, there are so many unemployed and underemployed PhD’s out there that getting a job at a community college without a doctorate is nearly impossible, especially if you have little or no teaching experience.

            The same is true for library science– there’s a glut on the market of people with MLS/MLIS degrees, and not enough librarian positions to go around.

            I have an MA in English and was considering getting my MLIS, but experience has let me know that it would be a bad idea to get yet another degree that wouldn’t help me get a job, and in fact would be a detriment to getting the kinds of jobs I am otherwise qualified for (can’t tell you how many times I got rejected because they thought I was over-educated for the role I was applying for). I think your parents are right on this one– get a job, work in it for a while, and then see about grad school later. The last thing you need is a useless degree and several more years worth of student loans.

            1. LPBB*

              If you are interested in becoming a librarian, then I would strongly urge you to find a paraprofessional library position that does not require an MLIS and do that for several years before library school. Like Emily said, there is a glut of library school grads (including me!) on the market and fewer jobs to absorb. In my job search I have found that actual library experience is very very important when applying for jobs.

              I naively assumed that my 10+ years of retail customer service would give me sufficient transferrable skills to find an entry level job, but not so much. I also underestimated how popular of a career choice the library world is. I guess I figured that since it’s generally known to be low-paying and under siege by technology, not to mention popular conceptions of libraries/librarians in general, that people would not be flocking to it. Turns out that I was very very wrong! /self-pity.

              1. Erin*

                I’ve heard the stories, though I find it kind of funny that most of my personal contacts in the library field are doing very well. However, my county has a VERY active system that I would say is more active than most in our state, maybe even the country (Aside from major cities).

                Though could you clarify what you mean by “paraprofessional libary position”. I think I know what you’re referring to, but I want to make sure we’re on the same page (Har har).

                1. LPBB*

                  Really I mean non-Librarian positions that don’t require an MLS. The most common job titles are Circulation Assistant, Library Associate, Library Assistant. Others can probably fill in the blanks.

                  I have interviewed twice with my local public library system, even though public libraries are not at all where my interest lies, and been turned down twice. The interviewer suggested that I work as a Circ Asst for a year or two to build up some experience. Unfortunately their positions don’t pay the bare minimum of what I need to cover my bills and I’ve been lucky enough to find short term LIS related positions that pay enough so I haven’t done that.

                  I’m also pretty active in my local SLA chapter and I can tell you that experienced and non-experienced librarians in that group are having difficulty finding full-time work. My almost mentor is a highly experienced librarian who is now working outside of the library field altogether, while another woman who graduated with me last year has not found a job at all, and she was a teacher for many years, so she has a number of skills libraries want. And I live in an area that is saturated with libraries of all types.

                  This isn’t to squash anybody’s dreams at all! I know a lot of very successful librarians, but it is a competitive field. Having successful contacts will give a leg up and so will having practical library experience, if that’s the route you want to go.

                  Just in general, I think people benefit a great deal working for a year or two before going to any kind of graduate school. I think it gives you a broader understanding of how the world works and what’s important to you.

                2. KLH*

                  I am also an underemployed person with a MLIS and 10 years of paraprofessional (special) library experience who sees the growth in positions at the paraprofessional level and wouldn’t get a Master’s these days. It’s not worth it–the jobs aren’t there, and the jobs that are there tend to look for a skill set that isn’t taught in library school.

                  In my case, my current employement is at a large Swedish-American fashion retailer based out of Seattle and as a “on-call library technician” at a nonprofit hospital. At each place I work for great managers and really enjoy the work and people, and after professional lousy jobs I appreciate the environment and people a ton.

                3. LPBB*

                  +1 about the jobs looking for skill sets not taught in library school. I knew that I was going to be at a disadvantage not having many technical skills, but I completely underestimated the importance of programming and web design in library work today.

                  I know I might come off as a bitter, but I’m not really. Over the last year I’ve been shifting my focus somewhat away from libraries and I’m still confident that, in the long run, my MLIS will turn out to be a good investment. But I am frustrated with my precarious month to month existence right now.

                4. KLH*

                  LPBB–I’d love to chat with you about this. Want to start a thread on tomorrow’s open thread? I actually worked as a performance auditor for 3 years after library school as it was a job I could get. It was a good match to the skills I had–analysis, talking to people and getting the story from their perspective then comparing it to documentation and what should be going on, piecing together bits of information to see a bigger picture, research.

          5. happypup*

            Not to pile on too much here, but I wanted to echo others’ suggestions that you do some research into the job market before you decide to go back to school. It’s true that many PhD grads end up teaching at CCs, even though the minimum requirement is technically a master’s degree. You might be able to find out who the recent hires are at the CCs you’re interested in — are they PhDs or not? Are they getting full-time positions or just a class or two a semester on a contract basis?

            I recently finished my PhD, and there are folks from my MLS cohort four years ago who haven’t yet found a full-time gig. I don’t mean to be a downer, but I’ve seen a lot of people coming out of PhD programs and coming out of library school with a master’s get burned when it’s time to find a job.

            And one last thing: look at the salaries that librarians (public or academic or both) make and what CC professors make, and think very carefully about any additional debt you’d have to take on to go back to school.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I agree. I went to grad school for a year before someone told me that I needed a masters in my SUBJECT, not education, and a doctorate to teach at the university level. I kept plugging on regardless, which was a mistake.

              Now I’ve had to go back for a second bachelor’s degree, but at least it’s something that makes me employable (tech writing). And because of my LD, I’m getting help with it.

      2. MG*

        I agree with fposte’s concern — there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of English/humanities Ph.D.s competing for a very few college teaching positions. Before you decide to go back to school, spend some time reading the Chronicle of Higher Education. They have a lot of coverage of these kinds of issues. Here’s a starting point: http://chronicle.com/article/Graduate-School-in-the/44846

      3. Sophia*

        I agree with everyone that you have to research more about the benefits and disadvantages of pursuing a graduate level degree – but who is “forbidding” you to do so?

        1. Erin*

          Mostly my father, my mother hasn’t said much about it. Even though they told me years ago that any grad school would be solely on me, they support me at the moment. Many friends have told me to “screw them” and apply anyway since they’re not going to be paying for it, but they hold the purse so I do have to listen to them to an extent.

            1. Jamie*

              ITA – and I’m assuming these friends aren’t planning on supporting her if she goes to grad school. Paying for school is one thing, but living expenses need to be paid.

              Independence doesn’t come with a certain birthday, or degree…only when you are fully self supporting can you make truly independent decisions. Because otherwise you’re asking others to bear the risk and expense of your choices – and that’s not fair.

              Even when they are your parents. I am happy to support my kids as young adults as they get started in life…we pay for college 100% for all 3 so they don’t have loans, they live at home with no expenses except their own incidentals. They can live at home for as long as they like…but if they made a decision about grad school which meant I was supporting them for several more years based on their friends being so generous with my money…well, that would be an unpleasant conversation.

              Your parents love you, and want to take care of you and help you get on your feet…but extending that without their approval is really ….just entitled and rude to people who love you.

              Maybe you were planning on being financially independent in grad school and so they’d have no say in the matter…but based on the fact that they’re supporting you now and for most people grad school makes things more difficult financially and harder to work while studying…I’m assuming they have a stake in wanting you to work toward being independent and not prolonging it another couple of years.

              And as long as I’m rambling, speaking as a mom the desire for your kids to be financially independent isn’t just about the money. For me it’s far more about wanting the security knowing they would be okay financially if something happened to me. That they can take care of themselves and have great lives where they are independent and happy…sure, I look forward to the day where tuition payment time doesn’t make me cry into the sock basket…but dependence is normal at this age, and there is nothing wrong with it, but it’s scary if there is no end in sight and parents worry.

              1. QualityControlFreak*

                Agree 100%. I told my son it’s my job as a parent to raise him so that he develops the skills and abilities he needs to be successful on his own, because nobody lives forever. He’s a 10th grader now and can take classes at our com college for free as part of a program at his HS. So we’re hoping that will knock off two years of college expenses. We hope between the savings we have put aside for his college and scholarship(s) that we can get it done w/o student loans.

            2. Erin*

              I don’t know how earnest they were when they said it. It might have been something they said offhandedly and hadn’t really thought through what they said. However, from their prospective I think it’s hard for them to see that I’m not entirely happy where I am right now. This is doubly true for the friend who is on the same track I’m interested in. I think for them it feels like the equivalent of “Little Jane isn’t allowed to play outside today.”

              That being said, my own personal preference is to be own my own before grad school. If that wasn’t the case, I wouldn’t really dream of going without their blessing unless it got to the point where their ban on grad school was severely impacting my career. Then I guess I would have to break out the fightin’ words.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I think for them it feels like the equivalent of “Little Jane isn’t allowed to play outside today.”

                Then your friends need to realize that you’re all adults now, and no one is entitled to another adult’s money, even their parents’. And that in fact people should be grateful when someone helps them out, not annoyed that they’re not getting more.

                1. Erin*

                  I don’t think they’re looking at it from a money perspective, they’re looking at it from a happiness perspective, which I guess is the problem. They’re annoyed that I can’t make that decision on my own terms, that I was shut down before I could even make a case as to why I wanted to go and for what. They don’t believe I’m entitled to my parents’ money, since they aren’t either, but they’re mad I wasn’t given a choice. They weren’t really thinking about the money aspect of it.

                2. Forrest*

                  Except you can make that decision on your own terms. You would just have to give up financial support from your parents.

                  And I’m on your parents side to be honest. They helped/are helping to pay for a degree in a field that is growing smaller each day. Why should they support sinking more money into it?

                  You’re an adult now. You need to stop looking at this from the point of view of a child. You’re not asking your parents to support an after school activity. You’re not entitled to having your parents listen to why you want to go to grad school when the argument involves their money at all.

                  Its hard transitioning from the child role to being an adult. But you need to do that before you start spending more money on something that may not go anywhere. I think taking the retail job and just working for a while is probably a good idea.

              2. Jamie*

                However, from their prospective I think it’s hard for them to see that I’m not entirely happy where I am right now.

                Maybe it would help to know that very few people are ever entirely happy at any given time. Even fewer who are just starting out.

                Paying dues isn’t a bad thing.

                1. Erin*

                  Well either by luck or satanic ritual, all of them are. They all have jobs and/or were given permission to go to grad school immediately after undergrad. They are exactly where they want to be right now, so I’m the odd one out.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  This whole “given permission to go to grad school” framework is really getting to me. You’re an adult. You don’t need anyone’s permission to go to grad school (well, except the school’s).

                  However, if you’d like financial support from your parents, you need them to agree to provide it to you. That’s not permission; that’s someone offering you a favor and you accepting their generosity.

                3. Erin*

                  For some reason, it’s not showing a reply button under Alison so this is going to get to do.

                  I can see where you’re coming from in terms of semantics. No, no one can stop me from going technically. Realistically, when someone else is holding the money you have to live within their rules. One of mine is not going to grad school and if I went against that, well, I’m assuming there would be unpleasant consequences for me.

                4. KLH*

                  I’m hearing that you don’t actually want to be independent and adult and successfully separated from your parents. Because if you did, you’d get a job doing anything and take over paying your own bills, and maybe ask your parents to subsidize a shorter work schedule that allowed you to intern/take an interesting but low-paying job on the side/whatever would help you to get to where you wanted to be aside from grad school. Or would give you real life experience to get you into grad school.

                  It would not involve asking “permission” to go to grad school or having your parents subsidize it, or whining you didn’t want to get a job and that others are right where they want to be because they got to go to grad school. Try to be an adult. They do things they don’t want to do and trust they can make it work out even though there’s no map.

                  Or even get a hustle. My sister got started selling antique silver as a side hustle during early 20s unemployment and she’s kept it as a business for 12 years now. This is long after working in cancer research and other science gigs have not panned out.

                  Sorry, being in your 20s and working and not making any money is a story of suckitude for the ages. (see GenX classic, “Reality Bites.”)

                5. Erin*

                  You have no idea how much I would love to move out of my parent’s house and be financially independent. I love them, but living at home can trying as anyone can attest to. My boyfriend and I have been talking about moving in for months and assuming all goes well that’s what we’re shooting for, aside from being able to pay for our own bills. My father also has cancer, so I would love to take my burden off of them so they can save money for treatment.

                  However, you’re right. I didn’t want this job and I am annoyed with the whole grad school thing. On the same coin, with this job I will be able to at least pay my student loans myself (Though not much else. We haven’t sat down yet and figured out yet what bills they want me to be responsible for because I don’t know what my paycheck will look like after taxes.) and as others have noted waiting for grad school/potentially avoiding it might be the better option. Plus, it does get me out of the house. So even though I’m not thrilled about it, it does have a huge silver lining that I’m grateful for.

                  I do realize that I have tendency to get complainy when I’m stressed /frustrated (This whole year for my family has been cruddy, so we’ve been stressed pretty much 24/7) , but make no mistake that I take any joy off of living off mom and dad. I’ve had anxiety attacks over it, but at least for now I’ve got something to tide me over until a better opportunity comes along.

                  How did your sister get into antique sliver? I’m curious.

          1. Rana*

            The other issue with grad school is that while you are in it, it is an enormous time suck. When I went in, I had no real clue about this aspect of it; I thought it would just be a more intense version of my undergraduate work (which I pursued at a very intensive liberal arts college, so I thought I was ready).

            No. As an undergraduate, I had a lot of downtime, even with my obligations, but not so as a grad student. For the first couple of years, all I did was eat, sleep, and deal with coursework or teaching. Literally. I think there were maybe three or four weekends the whole first year when I felt like I could take an afternoon off for something fun?

            Now, after the first couple of years, the workload can ease up – that’s usually when people start taking on TA-ships or other part-time non-academic work – but masters programs are short compared to doctoral ones, so it’s not like you’re going to have that much time, relatively speaking, to get all your work done within the time allowed.

            Short version: be VERY sure that you NEED a masters (and also that you don’t need more than one) for your career goals, because if you don’t, faffing around with grad school can screw you up in far more ways than just financially.

      4. Frieda*

        DO NOT GET A GRADUATE DEGREE IN PUBLISHING. I have worked in book publishing for over 7 years and I don’t know how a graduate publishing degree is anything other than a scam. Publishing is very much an apprenticeship system: you get a crappy entry-level job and work your butt for 3-5 years learning the ropes, and hopefully cultivating a relationship with a mentor. It’s really the only way. Also investigate what specific jobs you want to do, and what people in those jobs ACTUALLY do all day. Editors do not edit all day, or even most of the day. They spend most of their time on marketing/strategy and babysitting troublesome authors.

        1. Forrest*

          I’m actually surprised that more people aren’t pointing out that maybe the OP should find another field that she would like to do that’s growing or at least not shrinking.

          I believe in following your dreams but you also have to deal with reality. You’re in debt, can’t find a job in your field without more education (which means more debt) and you’re not looking at alternatives? Maybe working for a nonprofit that helps kids? Or a corporation that produces education materials?

          I got a degree in Communications because I wanted to be in PR and plan parties. But when I graduated in Dec 2008, guess what I found out? Marketing is one of the first things cut. So I ended up in a field that’s close but not PR.

          I would recommend the OP cast a net outside of her choose field right now.

  13. Sherry*

    #1 – If you want to pursue your dream job, guaranteed you will need to put more than 30 hours into it.

    1. FiveNine*

      I took a big box job during the recession and, quite contrary to what Library Jen advises just above you, found it allowed almost zero flexibility. On top of that, the work hours changed day to day — the shifts you worked were rarely the same — and from week to week, meaning, the managers didn’t have you on any sort of set schedule. Even if you wanted to break out, if you were truly dependent on the income, it became more and more impossible to ever have any hope of getting out just because of strange way they did the hours (and I became convinced this was deliberately, partly to ensure that people didn’t leave and their turnover wasn’t as high as it would have been otherwise). Then there is the pay that is so low that if you stay too long you can’t afford to buy new underpants once a year, nevermind get a haircut for a job interview or a new suit and possibly not even have money for transportation.

      I understand the need to have some money in. But OP is correct in more ways than she knows that it’s the type of job that once in you might never be able to leave.

      1. Library Jen*

        I guess I was lucky with flexibility in retail? We had a changing rota that you only received a week in advance and it was difficult to book time off. In terms of flexibility, I meant that retail often operates outside of 9-5 office hours and so I could volunteer in the morning and still do a full shift from 12. We were also able to give our ‘availability’ to the managers in charge of making the rota so I was free to work anytime except Thursday mornings. I still did a full 30 week with a changing rota but getting that volunteer experience was still possible.

        1. Colette*

          That’s what I was going to suggest – take a job in retail, but keep one day/half-day blocked as unavailable so that you can volunteer/job hunt/whatever you need to do to keep actively looking for something else. It won’t help for interviews, necessarily, but it will give you some time to keep your focus on what you want to do.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            This. Excellent advice for the OP. I did this at my retail jobs and it went very well.

        2. FiveNine*

          I didn’t at all mean my comment to sound harsh (sometimes in casual email/text/print things come off the wrong way), my apologies! I know what you meant — and I’ve had, for example, positions at restaurants waiting tables that allowed for tremendous flexibility (and also serious cash) in both the hours and in letting me off at the last minute if I could find a replacement. What really struck me about the big box job was that (1) it was next to impossible to ever get time off, (2) they required you to be there a minimum of 9 hours, the 8 hour-shift plus a mandatory 1-hour unpaid lunch, so you could be talking 10 hours out of the day when you include travel time, but mainly (3) the all-over-the-board scheduling made it extremely difficult to impossible to even be able to schedule in any kind of outside appointment, because not only could you work different shifts every day of the week, they didn’t keep even that weird schedule constant week to week and just carry over that weird schedule. If you were trying to schedule a doctor’s appointment a few weeks out you just couldn’t know what hours you’d have to work around. And it was all the more difficult if you were trying for anything like scheduling an interview with much shorter notice.

    2. Anonymous*

      There is no dream job so, yes, you’ll spend billions of hours looking and still never find it.

      Despite what people may tell you, you don’t actually have to put in 40 hours a week looking for a job. You do have to put in time, and you may need to sacrifice other things, like weekends or mornings or evenings, but you can find a job while working a wonky retail schedule.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        This is what I came here to say — it’s not a given that a job search needs to take 30+ hours a week. If you’re being selective about only applying for jobs that are a good fit (not resume bombing) and focusing on quality over quantity in your applications, there’s no reason it would be essential to put in that much time. More here:

      2. Felicia*

        I think it’d be easy to look for a job with a retail schedule, but it might be hard to find time to do interviews. Depending on the place you might have to take unpaid time off, which some places frown upon if you do too much without a doctor’s note.

        1. Erin*

          The attendance policy is so harsh that you don’t get an excused absence even with a doctor’s note, unless you take medical leave for something serious. However, if you get the flu and you need 4 days rest you’re up a creek without a paddle. The same goes for severe weather. So any interviews I do will have to be on my days off, since we’re not allowed to work more than 6 days in a row. I’m interested to see how that is going to work out.

          1. VintageLydia*

            Yeah I think a lot of people don’t realize most retailers don’t offer sick time–paid OR unpaid. Most people I know when I worked retail would come into work–weak, feverish, and occasionally actually getting physically ill–just to be sent home. You see, if they called out, they got written up. If you get sent home, you wouldn’t. Sometimes it would backfire depending on the manager. I had one coworker who vomited in a trash can in front of two different customers in a shift before the manager would allow her to go home.

            1. Erin*

              I would get time off eventually (They didn’t specify sick or vacation and whether it was paid or not), but I have to be working there a year before I see it. I’m hoping by then I’ll have found something in my field.

              1. Library Jen*

                Erin, does you know if you can swap shifts in this retail position? When I had an interview I was too late to book the day as a holiday or request it off unpaid and so I was put on the rota. Even though it was generally frowned upon to swap shifts because so much work went into the rota, having a legitimate reason and finding someone willing to swap or cover for you was often allowed. Saying that, my retail job didn’t mind if we were open in saying we had interviews as there was a high turnover of staff and most employees were students and recent grads.

            2. Marie*

              I think it depends on the store, when worked in retail I neved had problem having time off or changing my schedule for interviews or other job schedule

          2. Felicia*

            That sounds like the retail place I used to work, which is why I figured getting time off for interviews would be the hardest part. I do really flexible volunteer work in my field – basically there are things I need to do by certain deadlines, but it doesn’t matter what day/time I do them. If you could possibly find something like that even vaguely related to your interests I think that would be the best idea. The freelance work I do occasionally is also flexible like that.

  14. Brett*

    #7 Outside of the work issues there…. the security company likely committed false imprisonment and false arrest. They have zero authority to hold someone for three hours against their will.They have no authority (not even citizen’s arrest) to arrest someone for “felony burglary”. It is possible that a member of the security team was a commissioned officer to execute the arrest, but that only makes the false imprisonment even worse. (And, as mentioned above, there is no way this was a burglary nor rose to the level of a felony larceny.)

    That may be why “no one called, no one sent a letter”. That HR manager was probably doing backflips after getting off that call without any mention of a lawsuit. Maybe the OP’s lawyer already arrested these two issues, but the violations are egregious enough to consider raising them with the security company and maybe the original store.

    1. Brett*

      That should be “Maybe the OP’s lawyer already addressed these two issues….”
      Most of the time the answer here is “It may be unethical but it is not illegal.” I think this is a real case where the actions of the employer’s agents were not just illegal but criminal.

    2. Anonymous*

      There’s nothing in the letter that indicates the young man was held against his will. Many people (especially younger less experienced) when being interrogated by their employers (or the employer’s representatives) do not assert their right to leave. People are intimidated and/or not aware of their rights. If he didn’t ask to leave, he wasn’t improsoned. Agreed that the “arrest” is very odd though. I wondered if maybe it meant they had him arrested (by the police) and it certainly doesn’t seem there’s any basis for the alleged charges. I think security personnel sometimes use some pretty exaggerated or inflammatory language to “force” confessions.

      1. bearing*

        It occurs to me also that 19 year olds who have just had an encounter with the law (or security) sometimes carefully craft the language they use when they describe those encounters to the parents who are paying their legal bills.

  15. Chinook*

    OP #4 – I work with a number of companies that have limited or no web presence. A few still do their invoices by hand and fax them in! Yet, these are respectable businesses with a long history that we are willing to work around because they would be hard to replace. The reality is that a web presence is a type of advertising that requires manpower and technology. If an older business is well-established and known in their field, it is an expense they don’t need to incur.

    1. Anonymous*

      I strongly agree with this. I’ve known quite a few business who do things that are marginally marketing adjacent who don’t have any online presence. Some were union print shops who did work with political parties and they were never hurting for work. Some were businesses that only did contracts with big companies or government agencies so they were doing all kinds of RFPs etc but they never had a web site.
      I’d also say that if this company is hiring chances are they are doing ok at least.
      Not everyone needs to tweet, despite what twitter will tell you.

  16. Del*

    #5 – First of all, I am so, so sorry about your coworker. That kind of thing can be really awful to deal with, and you have my condolences.

    Last year I went through a similar situation; our department manager passed away very suddenly, after a severe car accident, and all the worse, it was not long after she had successfully gotten through a very serious illness. It was a very hard blow to the entire department; we were all very close-knit and some of the team had been working with her for over a decade. So it was an enormous blow to our morale, and left a lot of confusion and sadness in its wake.

    The people we worked with in other companies were also very insensitive — for weeks after her funeral, they would still be sending emails asking for a response from her, and it took a few people MONTHS (and several very pointed requests) to stop cc’ing her on emails. They didn’t seem to understand why it was upsetting for us to keep seeing “Could you pleast have Manager respond to this today?” in emails.

    Unfortunately, there are not a lot of ways to confront people over their insensitivity while remaining professional. It’s a sad truth that “professionalism” often means “pretend like you have no emotions” and that’s just how it is. You can ask — politely — for some time if you need it, but there’s not a good way to say “Look, we’re still hurting over the loss of Coworker, could you act like you at least understand that?”

    That said, I think pushing off the post-funeral meeting is absolutely appropriate in that case. You don’t have to give a long explanation, just state that that is not a good time, and perhaps could you reschedule for a few days later.

    #1 – Yes, going out of order today.

    A little while of retail, especially fresh out of college, is generally not going to be a crisis. You’ve just graduated and suddenly you need a job, stat, with not much to show for experience (unless you really loaded up on internships).

    How much the retail position can help you really depends on what field it is you’re looking to go into, but don’t discount the skills you can gain there. My #1 best “Describe a time you dealt with…” interview answer is still one that hearkens back to my retail days, just because of the entertainment/shock value of it (a woman threw a very large and heavy book at me because she was upset about the contents; I talked her down and made a $100 sale), and in general, working retail was a fabulous thing for my soft skills.

    Look at it this way: being unemployed and job-hunting earns you nothing toward the success of your job hunt except lots of free time. Working retail earns you money, gains you soft skills, if you do well you get good references and potential networking connections, and fills a resume gap. It’s not as good as having direct field experience, of course, but it’s literally better than nothing (ie being unemployed).

  17. Nikki J.*

    #1 – You need to open your mind a bit and not just think of this as a retail job. Every opportunity has it’s purpose, but it’s your responsibility to find it. There are many skills you can work on, improve and gain from working in retail. It’s not an easy environment, there is lots of people interactions of all levels and if you actually step-up and prove yourself you’ll get good references. 30 hours a week isn’t much, and retail has very sporadic/flexible hours so you’ll easily be able to network and do freelance if you commit to it. Not sure what “big box” place this store is, but all these stores have cooperate offices that need whatever field you are in.

    1. Stevie*

      I would also suggest talking to your manager about supervisory experience. Retail stores can allow you to get a shift supervisor or assistant manager position pretty quickly compared to typical office jobs. That’s one more “soft” skill you can add to your resume that other recent grads probably won’t have.
      I’m currently working for a fast food franchise, so I know there is a little more flexibility in how things are run – but I applied as a minimum wage worker and within a few weeks I was given the opportunity to doing basic accounting work in the office instead. Carry yourself professionally while at the job, and you’ll stand out quickly!
      Plus, I’m not sure about others, but I would be extremely impressed by someone who has some kind of management accomplishment in retail/fast food since the people you are managing can have very little emotional investment in what they are doing.

  18. VictoriaHR*

    #2 – I would suggest to him that he sign up on LinkedIn and look for other graduates of his program, and harass (uh, I mean network with) them there.

    #4 – any small business that wants more customers or new clients needs to have an online presence. I’d be personally wary of any company that didn’t have one but claimed to be growing.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Word of mouth can do a lot. I work with a client who does no marketing at all but is expanding pretty rapidly because of word of mouth about how good they are. So I think it does depend on circumstances.

      1. Liz in a library*

        Absolutely! Our contractor has no website, no business cards, no any kind of marketing…just word of mouth. He is so busy all the time that he’s actually asked some of his clients to *stop* recommending him.

    2. TL*

      My parents don’t have any online presence – they own a small niche store and it’s been growing quite a lot over the past couple of years. Word of mouth is pretty much their entire marketing plan and it’s been working well for the last 30 years or so.

      1. Judy*

        As I said above, I would still love to see small businesses have at least a single page with name, phone, hours, and maybe a list of their brands. I use the web so much to figure out the hours of stores, etc.

        1. TL*

          If it’s word of mouth, most people who pass on the information usually have the hours memorized or know the phone number (and it’s most likely in the phone book, as archaic as that is).

          I just don’t think there would be any benefit for some small businesses to develop a web presence. Especially for my parents’ business, where the customers are either service repairmen or do-it-yourselfers who call ahead anyway.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Facebook pages and free blogs like WordPress. The former is used by a LOT of small businesses around here, and you can Like them and get updates on hours, specials, etc. One exclusively local food truck here, that makes a delicious frozen treat, uses their page to let everyone know about the revolving flavors.

            Contractors such as freelance writers and artists can use WordPress to post clips, contact info, etc.

            *Disclaimer: I don’t work for WP, but I recommend it because it’s very easy to use and allows commenters to post without a whole log-in rigamarole.

  19. HR lady*

    I’m very sorry for the loss of your coworker. I think the fact that one of your clients is coming to town for the funeral is a really big deal – that shows that the person is really serious about paying his/her respects to your coworker. (I read “coming to town” in your post to mean that they are flying/driving in from some distance, but it’s a big deal even if not a great distance. I’ve experienced coworkers dying and only a handful other COWORKERS – from the same company – attended their funerals. )

    Assuming the client is coming from a distance, I can understand why he/she wanted to make the best use of the travel time and schedule a business meeting during the same trip. That said, it’s up to you whether you feel up to conducting that meeting at that time.

  20. Mike C.*

    When’s the next open thread? I’d love to see what the folks here think of that trashy Bravo show “Below Deck” from a management/professionalism/general workplace standpoint.

    /Not going to discuss it here however, I know the rules. :)
    //By the way, Allison, would you be up for a weekly open thread? Maybe to take some load off of you on Fridays or something?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I have one scheduled for tomorrow! In part because we have a tiny new foster kitten and I need to show off her picture.

      I would indeed be up for a weekly open thread! I am all about things that take work off me these days (although I always have to allot a couple of hours to read through all the comments those generate!).

  21. BCW*

    #5 My condolences to you and your staff. However, what you see as insensitive, may be just this person needing to cover their ass. If these people are depending on you to get things done that impact their ability to do other things, then yeah, they have that right. I don’t know what business you are in, but if you are a supplier, and someone needs your supplies to run their business, how long do you expect them to wait for your grieving to be over? Also, their boss may just see the fact that THEY aren’t getting their things done. It sucks, but business does still need to go on.

  22. Not So NewReader*

    OP #5. My heart goes out to you, I am very sorry.

    My husband has been gone a few years now. I still get people saying “How is the hubby?”
    Sometimes word travels slowly.

    Sometimes people don’t absorb the words “my husband is no longer with us” and jawdroppingly they will continue in conversation as if he is still here.
    I just calmly reiterate: “My husband passed away a while ago.” And I let that hang there in thin air.

    Sometimes when I tell people he is gone now, the conversation turns VERY AWKWARD. These are the people who do not know how to respond to death.
    Interestingly, a simple “I am sorry” and then a pause can make a person look very intelligent and very sensitive.

    Sometimes people panic- I can see that they are thinking “Oh NO, now what do I do?” I try to have a redirect ready “I would go talk to so-and- so they are knowledgeable about this topic.” People panic and say seemingly stupid things. But death is such an awkward topic for some folks that they truly cannot handle the topic.

    And once in awhile I am in the presence of a gracious, kind person. Someone that thinks with their head and their heart.
    These people are called a “gift”.

    You see, I learned to lower my expectations of people. I learned to focus on the people who get it right. Sadly, I have to say, please learn to expect people to be awkward, say silly/odd things, and (worst case scenario) skate right by the topic totally.

    I have gone to a place in my head where I accept a sentence said in passing as being a really good thing. I accept that as the best I can expect.

    Please look at what you do have that is right. You have a group of coworkers that share your grief. You guys can support each other and grieve with each other. Perhaps you have family or good friends that offer good support, seek those people out, too. Deliberately seek out these understanding folks to help counter-balance the awkward or cold people out there.

    People do not express condolences in the way we want them to. They express condolences in the way they know how. I had a tough time getting this into my brain.

    Frankly, I was never good at this stuff. Now that I have seen people who do it well, I have learned more about what to do and what to say to others bearing a loss.

    For the immediate concern- can your company send out an email blast notifying folks –“In sadness, we must inform you that Jane Doe, (job title), has passed away. Please remove her name from your email address book. All emails for Jane can now be sent to Debbie (insert email address here) who will see that your question goes to the correct person. We appreciate your patience with us as we reweave our flow of correspondence. ”

    Again, I am sorry for your loss. The world looks a little tilted right now and that is very hard to have to deal with.

    1. Judy*

      One thing my sister and I discussed on the way back to the airport after my aunt’s funeral was how the rest of the world was still spinning when there was such a huge hole in it. Intellectually, we knew that there were only a few people with this sense of loss, but emotionally, we were barely functioning.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        That ever spinning world is annoying and comforting all in the same stroke.

        A loss rocks OUR world but it doesn’t rock THE world.

        And yeah, grief can be temporarily crippling. I am glad you and your sis could go together.

  23. Anonymous Too*

    #1 I too was pushed into retail by my circumstances when I graduated in 2002. No jobs at all. Plus, it didn’t make it any better that I still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grow up. My family couldn’t help pay my loans, but I was warned that if I take a retail job, I would be stuck and never able to get out. They were right. Now that I’m in my 30s, I finally figured out what I wanted to do. My childhood passion of being an artist. Now, I have ran out of money pursuing my goal. Guess what? It looks like once again I will have to go back to retail. I hate retail with a passion now.

    Don’t get stuck like I did? I encourage you to keep looking in your field. Stay positive. It makes me happy when someone reaches there ultimate goal.

  24. Lily in NYC*

    #1 – It is absolutely feasible to freelance and work 30 hours a week. One of my best friends is a graphics artist at a major newspaper and works 50-ish hours a week. He also does a lot of freelancing – and to be honest, he does it by staying up late and working on weekends. You just have to make it a priority.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I meant to say good luck and I hope you find something in your field. We just hired someone with a masters from a very well-regarded school for a low-level admin job and she was so thrilled to get the offer after searching for a year – it really does suck out there.

      1. Erin*

        Thank you for the well wishes :) I hear stories like that all the time, so I know. Hell, I am one of those stories.

        I’m just afraid of overworking myself, which I did in college and lead to almost disastrous results. I had a friend who was in a similar situation, except she couldn’t see she took too much on and actually failed out of college despite how brilliant she is. She pleaded with me to slow down, and I’ve tried to since then. I’m not the kind of person who can live on little sleep and/or not much down time for myself to decompress. I get really cranky and no one likes it when I’m cranky. This store is open 24/7 so I’m going to be forming some wearing sleeping habits as is depending on what shifts I get.

        I admire your friend, though. I wouldn’t mind working weekends if I had to, but I wish I had that kind of stamina.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Yep, I’ve written whole books while working 40 hours a week. I don’t think I got much sleep–but at least I was able to work on them in my jammies.

  25. Gene*

    Grammar curmudgeon point.

    In the answer to #2, “most alumni offices have guidelines about how they will and won’t supply people’s contact information, and to who.” should end with “whom”.

    Who/whom is one of my pet peeves. :-)

    1. Editor*

      Yes. However, on this blog I have learned to actively restrain my peevishness. It’s pretty clear most of the people posting want to focus on the topic at hand. Plus, a lot of people make typos and slipups either because of keyboard misadventures or the difficulty of posting on a smartphone, rather than ignorance. I go over to John McIntyre’s blog at the Baltimore Sun or Language Log when I want to discuss whom or other linguistic issues.

  26. OP #2*

    OP # 2 here… Thank you all for your wonderful suggestions!! I love this blog because of Alison’s and the readers’ experience, wisdom, and insight. Your input on this has been invaluable. I’m going to refer this person to the university’s alumni association and suggest he post it on our Facebook page and yearly newsletter. Thank you all so much! :)

  27. Bea W*

    #5 I am very sorry for your loss. Losing a co-worker is difficult and can throw things off kilter while people simultaneously grieve and try to conduct business as usual.

    I didn’t find those responses deliberately insensitive.You have to remember that these people did not share an office with your co-worker. They are much less emotionally invested than the people who had face-to-face contact with him on a daily basis. They certainly did not know him on a personal level the way co-workers in an office together might sometimes also know each other. For them it is business as usual, and it’s no different than if their contact had suddenly quit. The outcome is the same for them. That sounds awful, but they’re pretty removed from it, unlike you and your co-workers who are now adjusting to an environment noticeably missing a colleague and friend.

    I think it would be reasonable to push back on the client who wants to meet immediately after the funeral. That’s a bit much. I assume some people, yourself included, would like to join the family for either the burial or collation if one has been arranged. I imagine some people will just want to go home and not think about work. Perhaps the client would be willing to put his meeting off a day, depending on his travel arrangements. Offer to schedule a meeting at another time in the near future. I’d expect a client would be accommodating under the circumstances unless s/he’s a jerk.

Comments are closed.