do I need an outgoing voicemail message, pay transparency, and more

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

1. Do I need to have an outgoing voicemail message when job searching?

I don’t have an outgoing voicemail message on my phone — I gave up trying to record a normal-sounding message after several tries, and never got around to actually recording one. Is this a Bad Thing, or not really a big deal? I’m job-hunting right now and am wondering if it would reflect negatively on me if an interviewer called and got my generic-robot voicemail.

I don’t think it’s a big deal, but I do think it’s better to have a message with your name that confirms the caller has reached the right person so that there’s no uncertainty on their side.

2. Am I being taken for a ride?

I recently discussed the possibilities of starting up an online store for my employer. I also suggested that, with my background in running an online store as part of my own business (in the same industry), that I could design and implement it for them, including all graphic and web design, marketing, product research, etc. They were not aware I had these skills when they hired me.

I submitted a proposal and presented a mock-up store to our dealer principal, who was very impressed, and we had another meeting (my manager, the dealer principal, and myself). As part of this meeting, they wanted to know my expectations regarding remuneration. I gave them an idea of what I thought was reasonable if the position was full-time, and they basically said that they couldn’t justify paying me any more without seeing results, which is to say: “Get the site up and running, and when we start seeing some growth, come and talk to us.” On top of this, they want me to continue doing my current job as they “can’t afford to let the retail business suffer.” They also said “if this project is successful, we’ll make sure everyone knows it’s yours” and that “there’s huge potential for you to progress within the company.”

Later that day, I told my boss that I wasn’t really comfortable putting my extra skills to use without any extra remuneration. He said that his hands were tied and that I would have to accept this is the way it’s going to be, and that I’d be in a better position to negotiate for a pay rise when the site is up and achieving good growth.

What’s your opinion on this? Is it unreasonable for me to expect extra compensation while using these skills? Am I being taken advantage of, considering it could cost them upwards of $40,000 to have someone else set it up? On one hand I think this would be a great project and would give me something to sink my teeth into, as well as a great addition to my resume if it’s successful, but on the other hand, I feel like I am being taken for a ride.

Hard to say without knowing more about your employer. Some would mean everything they said to you, and some wouldn’t. What do you know about your employer that can help you evaluate this?

I can say that if they’re planning on hiring someone to do this work regardless of whether or not it’s you, then yes, you should expect to be fairly for it. But if they weren’t planning on doing this and you’re the one pushing the idea, then it’s not surprising that they’re not willing to hand over a bunch of cash that they’d never budgeted to spend for a project that hasn’t been a priority to them. In that case, their stance is more reasonable than it would be if they were seeking a solution for this work on their own.

3. Should I mention on my resume that I’m represented by a literary agent?

By day, I work full-time at a media company, but in my spare time, I write novels. While I have yet to achieve my goal of being published, I do have a fairly well-known literary agent who represents my work (a quick Google search will show she has many successful clients). Is this something to include on my resume or is it more likely to scare people off (i.e., I will not be fully committed to my job because of my writing)? Of course, a search of my name on the internet will bring up this information, as my Twitter is mostly dedicated to my writing. I’m just not sure how big a deal to make of it. While I do want to be published, I do not plan to stop working full-time when/if that day comes, as mid-list debut authors certainly do not make enough money to support themselves.

In summary, would you recommend including this somewhere on my resume/cover letter, and if so, where?

Unless it’s relevant to the work you’re applying for, I wouldn’t include it. Simply having an agent isn’t going to be considered enough of an achievement that it belongs on a resume and you risk looking a little naive for including it. And yes, you also risk turning off employers who will assume that your heart will be with your novel writing rather than the work they’d be hiring you for (which it may well be, but there’s no need to highlight that fact).

4. Quitting without notice because of a seriously ill relative

I’ve been working for my company for only about 5 months and I just got made permanent last July. My dad is in the Philippines and he’s in a critical health situation right now. I asked my supervisor if he can give me two weeks unpaid vacation. If he approves my vacation and while I’m in the Philippines I realize that I can’t leave my dad in that situation (because my mom told me that anytime he might forget us because of the infection in the brain), can I quit my job or it would give me a bad record?

Yes, you can if you need to. This is one of the few situations where quitting without notice is understandable. You would simply explain that your father is critically ill and you need to stay with him, and apologize profusely for not being able to give notice. Any reasonable employer would understand that.

5. Interviewing for a job with politically sensitive responsibilities

I’ve been asked to interview for an administrative assistant job at a university’s medical school. When I was phoned by the department to interview, they brought up some of the services they do for patients, and said that occasionally part of my job would be scheduling appointments with patients. Some procedures are very politically sensitive, and so I was asked on the phone if I was comfortable talking to patients to schedule those procedures. I’m a pretty apolitical person, so my initial reaction was to just say yes, so I could at least have a little bit more time to consider it.

Now, my own feelings about the topic aside, is it smart, career-wise, to work in this department? I know that even if I’m not politically invested one way or the other, future employers might be.

Unless the name of the department or your prospective job title make it clear that sometimes you scheduled whatever the procedure is, I don’t see how a future employer would even know about this or why it would come up unless you raised it yourself. And no reasonable employer is going to say, “I see you worked in the women’s health department. Did you ever have to schedule abortions?” So in that case, I wouldn’t worry about it.

If the name of the department or job does make this clear, then yes, you’d need to decide how you feel about some prospective employers in the future potentially having strong feelings about it.

6. My employer is now telling me I’ll need training I don’t have

I was hired five years ago at a nonprofit childcare for a job that required a college degree or commensurate life/work experience. I did not and do not have a degree. My past job experience with more than 15 years experience qualified me for the position and I was hired.

My employer just informed me that I would now be required to hold a status in a childcare registry in my state. The registry is not a required thing for childcare workers. In order for me to hold the required status, I will need to take 20 units of college classes or 200 hours of training. If I refuse to do this, I have been informed it will hamper my ability to keep my job. Is this legal?

Yes. They can change their job requirements at any time, and it sounds like they’re doing that here. If they’ve decided that they want to have (and want to be able to tell parents they have) all registered childcare employees, that’s not unreasonable of them.

7. My company gives all employees access to everyone’s salary information

I just started working at a company that sells basic home electronics and appliances. I recently, by accident, discovered that I can go into our computer system, enter my employee number, and see details about my earning (past, present, future). The problem is so can any other employee/coworker! And I can enter their employee number and see all the details of their earnings anytime I want to.

Does this not seem to you as a legal privacy issue? I don’t like coworkers coming up to me and saying “loan me $20, I know what you made last week.”

Legal issue? No. Privacy issue? Maybe, depending on your perspective. But some companies — including yours, apparently — do make people’s salaries public (at least within the company), and some people actually like this and want to see more companies doing it, so that it’s easier to see how various employees and types of work are valued, whether there are patterns of discrimination based on things like gender or race, and so forth.

But if your coworkers are hitting you up for money based on knowing what you made last week, your problem is rude coworkers, not pay transparency.

{ 149 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike C.*

    OP 7:

    While it sounds like the computer system you have is simply insecure, there are many, many protections you gain by having access to everyone’s pay information.

    1. You now know whether or not people are being paid fairly without consideration of their gender, ethnicity, race or other protected classes you might be under. This is a good thing. There have been many, many documented cases of certain groups being paid less than others for similar education, experience and merit. Look up Lily Ledbetter if you’re curious.

    2. You can also see very clearly how your company values different positions, experience, education and performance. Looking at a lateral move? Now you know what the position pays in the real world. Thinking about getting a degree? Want to see the value of staying at the company for a while? You get the picture.

    3. Look, unless you work with a bunch of children, no one cares what anyone makes outside of the person writing the check and the person cashing it. Many folks here work in public service and have their salaries published online. Where I work, we see the pay bands for each position and level. Look, some countries make tax returns public and they haven’t fallen into the sea.

    Look, the reason talking about salary has become taboo is because many employers assume that employees will complain that Ann made more than Bob, but both received a smaller bonus than the owner’s son Clyde. But so long as the employer is using concrete rubrics for determining wages that are applied to everyone in an appropriate manner, there’s nothing to be afraid of.

  2. Rich*

    OP7- Sadly, this is a new trend, and a lot of job seekers rely on it. There are sites out there that employees can report their locality, position, and pay rate (anonymously), which can then be viewed by anyone interested in the company. However, coworkers asking you for money is very rude, and you should either say as much to them, or maybe talk to your manager about withholding the names of employees with what they made because it has happened.

      1. LisaLyn*

        As painful as it may be, I’ve seen VERY good arguments that the only way we as a society will have pay equality is if employers aren’t able to hide what everyone makes. So, not sad to me!

    1. BCW*

      I don’t understand either why you call this sad. Even the sites you mention are a good thing. What better way to negotiate than when you can have a great idea what the average income is for that position?

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      I don’t think it’s as sad as it is short-sighted. People immediately focus on salary to the exclusion of everything else, which often turns out to be a mistake. Plus, intangible things that may be important to one person may not be as important to another.

      I posted yesterday in another thread about a company in my city that is well known for paying its people top dollar. Many people (including some of my former co-workers) are dazzled by the salary offered to them, and jump at it. Then reality sets in. Yes, the pay is fantastic, but the benefits are terrible, so potentially a big portion of all those lovely big paychecks will be spent on medical expenses because the insurance plans are so crappy. And hey, wanna take a vacation? Sure, that’s fine – but take your laptop with you so your boss can call you and ask you to work. Someone at my company who used to work there told me that his boss was emailing him chastising him for not working while his wife was GIVING BIRTH TO THEIR CHILD. And that is the norm for how people there are treated. The huge paycheck is great, but clearly comes with strings attached.

      My point is that money should not be the only factor when considering taking a job, or when evaluating an opportunity to take a job elsewhere, but too often that’s all that people focus on. And making everyone’s salary information public knowledge just perpetuates that, and people forget about the more intangible things that can really either enhance or detract from a job overall.

      The things that are important to me may not be the things that are important to someone else. For me, it’s important to work at a company where I can flex my schedule to accommodate me when I have a daycare issue or need to take my daughter to the doctor during the work day, but can log on later in the evening and finish things up. The fact that I work for a company that is one of the few that still offers an honest-to-God pension is a big consideration in my decision to stay there now that retirement is only about 20 years off. Working for a huge company means I have outstanding insurance coverage, since my husband runs a tiny company and the benefits he’s able to offer his employees is not great, so I can carry him and our kids on my plan and know that we’ll probably be covered for any medical issues that may arise, and not be driven into poverty because of it.

      Now if I was young and single, would those things be important to me? No, not really, and I would focus more on the salary than the other intangible perks. But people lose sight of things like that and are pre-occupied with the number on the paycheck. Yes, salary is important, but other things are important too.

      1. Xay*

        Of course money shouldn’t be the only factor in taking a job but hiding salary information doesn’t make money any less important. I work in a field where everyone acknowledges we are not here to get rich or even upper middle class. The fact that it is a field where most salaries are public does not change that.

        Furthermore, the fact that you are in a position where you can focus on the other benefits besides salary is a nice one. That isn’t everyone’s position and being willing to trade off some benefits to have a high salary is not automatically an invalid or immature decision.

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        Of course other things are important, but I don’t see how salary transparency inherently causes people to overlook other aspects of the job that are important. If a company were paying well above market rate for their employees, sure, I’d be asking why. Maybe I’d be okay with the answer, maybe I wouldn’t be — but either way I’d be making an informed decision. In my industry there’s one employer that often lures people away with a large salary bump, but they’re also well known for laying people off if the client they’re working for jumps ship, unlike some other companies that pay less but will retain you until the next client comes along. Maybe if I were at an earlier point in my career, I’d want to work there to build my salary up, but at this point I’d rather have a little more job security.

        But simply knowing how much companies pay relative to each other? That helps me make a more informed decision, not a rash one.

      3. Jamie*

        But you’re making the point in this post – what’s important to one person isn’t necessarily important to the next. I know some people who’d happily work for less money to have great health insurance. Personally I have excellent insurance through my husband so that would be irrelevant to me personally…I want the money.

        For some being on call 24/7 is a trade off we consciously and deliberately make because the salary is worth it. Doesn’t mean that doesn’t get reevaluated at some point…but one person’s deal breaker is someone else’s no big deal.

        ITA that salary isn’t the only factor in deciding fit, but it is a critical factor and the more information you have the better equipped you are to negotiate.

        Regarding the OP – my concern would be this was intended to be locked and it was a security breach. If the SSN #s, addresses, home phones, and other personal demographic information is stored where it’s visible on the same screen (garnishments, child support, etc.) that’s a huge issue…but while I once thought salary should be as private and protected as any other personal data I’ve come around, over the last year or so, to understanding why it’s not the violation I once thought it was.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          I should have added that the sites where people can anonymously post their salaries are a great tool, as are the other sites that post salary ranges for jobs. This information is much easier to obtain than it used to be, which is a very good thing.

          My issue with having this information be public is that it just creates noise, with Joe being up in arms about Sally’s salary being higher than his. Joe spends all of his time being mad about Sally making more than he does, and doesn’t focus on his work. He’s in people’s offices griping about how unfair it is that Sally makes more than he does. Well, maybe when Sally was hired her skills were in high demand. Maybe Sally has more education than Joe does, or perhaps she has a certification that allows her to command a higher salary. Or maybe Sally just negotiated more skillfully than Joe did during the hiring process. Bottom line, Sally’s salary has absolutely nothing to do with Joe, but Joe is not able to let it go, spends all his time stewing about it, doesn’t get his work done, deadlines slip, and his crappy attitude affects department morale. I’ve seen it happen, as an employee, and as a manager. As a fellow employee, Joe feels that I should share his outrage, but I don’t – because during my own hiring process I negotiated a salary that I felt fairly represented my experience, skills, and expertise, and was also based on my own individual research. Joe should have done his homework but he didn’t, and the only person he should be angry at is himself, but Joe feels that everyone else is to blame.

          1. Jamie*

            I agree with this – and it’s really common in workplaces where salary has been confidential.

            People who work for the government or in other jobs where salary info is transparent and/or public don’t have the same issues…but absolutely going from not knowing to knowing is a huge transition for a lot of places and I would imagine there are more than a few noses out of joint when this happens.

            It’s a huge culture shift.

          2. Mike C.*

            I think the assumption that noses will be out of joint is overblown. Unless your workplace hires children, we should assume they will act like adults.

            As I said above, so long as the business is using a concrete rubric for determining wages, there shouldn’t be any problems. I really have a hard time believing that otherwise intelligent people would ignore relevant factors for differences in salary such as education, experience and performance evaluations. No one is going to bat an eye when they find out the head engineer makes more than the receptionist, right? So why would they bat an eye when experience or education is also taken into account?

            And isn’t it worth the slight risk of total emotional breakdown to know that people are being paid fairly regardless of race, gender or other protected class?

            1. Ann Furthermore*

              In my experience assuming that people will act like adults is giving people way too much credit.

            2. Jamie*

              You don’t have to hire children to have employees with issues with this…there are plenty of petty adults.

              I agree it’s not a reason not to go transparent, but it is something of which to be aware. I’ve seen people get up in arms because so and so is making .25 per hour more than they were, and not caring at all that they came in with prior experience hence the increase.

              But you can’t write policy around people’s unreasonable responses. As long as the salaries are defensible and fair people should be able to ride out a rocky transition.

              1. Manda*

                It sucks in minimum-wage-type jobs because as staff get raises, minimum wage also tends to go up, so you end up with people who have been there a few years making 25 cents an hour more than people who have been there a few months. In that case I totally understand why the more experienced people would be peeved, but that’s how it is.

            3. Jessa*

              Except that in most companies they are not able to articulate why the difference exists because they do NOT have an actual salary scale mapped out. This would require them to actually think this procedure through.

              Up til now a lot of companies just negotiate on a person by person basis instead of actually sitting down and figuring this out. Which is why you DO have such wildly different numbers.

          3. Jessa*

            And if the reason that Joe has lower salary than Sally is because Joe is an immigrant or a disabled person or a person of colour and NOT because Sally negotiates better or has a degree Joe does not have? Or just because Joe isn’t a good negotiator and still is being paid below market rate because instead of paying market rate like they should they’re taking advantage of the fact that Joe wasn’t able to find out before they were hired what Sally and people like Sally made?

            Salary information should not be some huge secret. If companies were required to be open about it across the board most salary discrimination would not be able to continue.

          4. ThursdaysGeek*

            And you also have the other case, where Josh was a better negotiator than Sandy, both have similar education, were hired about the same time, and are doing similar jobs, although Sandy is doing better work. But Sandy is professional and doesn’t spend her time moaning and whining, but realizes that the ONLY reason Josh gets $15K more per year is because he was a better negotiator. She’s quietly unhappy, but still works hard. How is Josh worth that much more?

            I always hear about the Joe and Sally cases, but I’ve only seen in real life the Josh and Sandy cases.

            1. Ann Furthermore*

              My example of the Joe and Sally situation was based on experience. I was the co-worker who Joe kept trying to work into an outrage and I just refused to be drawn into his drama. I would have been very uncomfortable if he had also known my salary and tried to use it to further his cause.

              I agree with Jessa that if the lower salary is based on anything discriminatory, then having access to others’ salary information is very important. But I disagree that if Joe isn’t astute enough to ascertain on his own what the market rate is – or more importantly, what HIS market rate is – that the employer is under any obligation to pay him more. Its Joe’s responsibility to figure out what he feels is a fair salary based on his skills and experience.

              My company has salary ranges for each job and that’s how they make sure everyone is in the same ballpark. Exactly where you end up depends on things like your experience, education, and how well you negotiate.

              1. Jessa*

                I respectfully disagree – example:

                I have asked everyone I know in my field. I have researched people in my graduating class and they all tell me that $75k is a fair salary for me. I negotiate this salary. I then find out that Joe has a salary of $100k.

                The reason for this discrepancy is because even the men I asked filter the answer through the fact that WOMEN in my field make only 75% of what men make. I thought the number I was presenting was fair. But due to lack of transparency I was perpetuating the discriminatory salary systems of the past. The fact that I was not given a fair and accurate picture of my market value is because my market value is unfairly deflated by the fact that I am (pick one – female, disabled, older, a person of colour (I personally am not but someone else could be.))

                Just because I did my due diligence and my due diligence caused me to under price myself does not mean I should be UNDER PAID. I was negotiating from an unfair starting point. And the system was set up to put me there.

                If Joe is a person of colour for instance, he very well may have tried to find out his market rate and it well may have been 75-80k in a market where a person with privilege with the same experience is making 100k.

                I maintain that any system where you have to GUESS market rate and where market rate also depends on your gender, race, age, disability status, etc. is systematically unfair. There is no place where you can look up a number and KNOW that a person with 5 years of experience and a masters degree in x field should be making x-x salary and find that pretty much across the board that’s what they’re actually GETTING.

                Any company that is paying people because Sam negotiated better than Joe instead of because Sam has 2 more years experience or a masters when Joe has a bachelors, well Joe shouldn’t act like a 3 year old about it, but Joe has an absolute right to A: be upset and B: be paid what the JOB is worth.

                And if Sam can negotiate more then the JOB is worth more. Salary honestly shouldn’t be a negotiation except with in minor parameters. You negotiate leave, insurance, perks. Salary should be “the job is worth x. Everyone doing this job with these experience, etc. gets x. If you chose not to take perk y, you get z more dollars because we’ll pay you the difference, but that’s not a higher salary per se, that’s you decided to get paid in lieu of perk y.”

                1. Jessa*

                  Sorry – edited to add –

                  Within a single company surely, and adjusted for cost of living across a country naturally.

                  Also a lot of companies base their offer off your previous salary – so if Sally has been in the workforce 30 years her salary is ABSOLUTELY below market rate because she’s been being paid at 75% of what men have been making for a very long time and only recently has it been socially permitted (thank you Lilly Ledbetter) for her to actually try and fix this. So saying “you only made 75k in your last job, well yes, she was there 20 years and 20 years ago there was zero chance of a woman ever finding out that the men in the next cubicle were getting paid 100K.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  only recently has it been socially permitted (thank you Lilly Ledbetter) for her to actually try and fix this.

                  I don’t think that’s an accurate assessment. Lots of us have been negotiating well for ourselves for years, with no ill effects. It’s not that it’s not socially permitted. It’s that some women have been socialized not to.

                3. Jamie*

                  There is no place where you can look up a number and KNOW that a person with 5 years of experience and a masters degree in x field should be making x-x salary and find that pretty much across the board that’s what they’re actually GETTING.

                  That would be absolutely impossible, though. It’s not like pricing a car – there are way too many variables for there to be empirical data like this on the vast majority of jobs.

                  When all is said and done my rate is determined by how much someone is willing to pay me and I would submit that if you took 1000 people with my title and years of experience there wouldn’t be any 2 of us with exactly the same jobs. There will be differences in scope, company size, how many others with our skills are on the market (i.e. how easily replaced are we if we walk), type of systems manages, and a million other factors.

                  And frankly I’m worth a lot more to some companies than others. You need a CIO who is also happy to head up cost accounting and be the Management Rep for the QC system who is a certified Internal Auditor? Well, I’m your purple unicorn and you might be willing to pay me a lot more than a company that just needs a CIO where the other skills are irrelevant…who I guarantee you will offer me a very different number.

                  My point is there is no fixed rate for any of us, outside of absolutely basic entry level minimum wage jobs. We all have a fair rate for our services based on our skills, the position, and the competition which will vary from job to job…some times slightly and sometimes wildly.

                  The other thing is the gender pay gap cannot be looked at in a vacuum. Sure, if a man and a woman had exactly the same credentials and experience and did exactly the same work the pay should be the same…no question. And the people out there offering less money to women based strictly on a lack of Y chromosome should quit their jobs immediately and remove themselves from society. But sometimes women make less because of very real and reasonable choices we’ve chosen to make.

                  I know women who consciously take jobs which pay less because those jobs offer fixed hours and OT or long hours are deal breakers for them due to child care issues. I personally don’t make what I would if I had entered the job force immediately after college rather than after being a SAHM for 15 years first.

                  Those are choices some women make, of their own volition, which do result in lower salaries – but that doesn’t mean those salaries are unfair in those instances. And men would be taking the same salary hit if they made the same choices, but in our society it’s still the women, by and large, who are primary care providers for kids and so we makes these choices more often.

                  Gender pay gaps look inherently unfair, but you have to parse out which gaps are fair due to conscious choices and which are rooted in sexism.

                4. ThursdaysGeek*

                  In my case, I don’t think it was a gender pay gap, even though I am female and the person who was paid about $10-12K more was male. We were in the same job, and my co-workers and managers would have all agreed that I was the better and harder worker. However, I was unemployed when I was hired and I’m a poor negotiator. So, even though I was in the same company and doing a very similar job, negotiation skills alone provided him more pay. Should that be all my fault or should there be a system where the value we bring a company is also a bit more standardized?

      4. Mike C.*

        Just because you’re young doesn’t mean that you ignore things like pensions, insurance or useable vacation time. And not everyone loses their mind when they see a number.

  3. Eric*

    #4 -Quitting due to ill family member
    I’d be inclined to not present it as quitting, but as needing to take an extended break, and acknowledge that you understand if they can’t keep the job open for you while you are gone. But I guess that would depend on some sense of how open-ended your stay in the Philippines would be.

    1. Poster formally known as Jane Doe*

      This seems reasonable to me.

      Even if that doesn’t work, anybody who wouldn’t understand this isn’t someone to work for anyway. OP should feel no guilt on this one. Family is more important.

    2. Sourire*

      Agree totally. It sounds like OP understands and is mentally prepared for the (very, very likely) possibility that he/she will not be able to come home to a job at this company, but phrasing it your way at least keeps the door open.

      Depending on how large the company is, phrasing it this way may also lead to the suggestion of submitting a new application once back in the states. OP hasn’t been there that long, so it’s unfortunately not that likely that he/she is of enough value to the company to keep on indefinite hiatus, but handling it professionally should hopefully keep references strong and doors open.

      And just a note regarding the worry about reputation and references – if the company is reasonable enough to allow for last minute unplanned time off like this for such a new employee, it logically follows they are reasonable enough to understand if anything justifies quitting with no/minimal notice – this is it.

    3. Lisa*

      Isn’t this FMLA? I am confused just because you are going to another country to provide the care doesn’t make it any less an FMLA situation.

  4. EngineerGirl*

    #4 Please explore taking Family Medical Leave (FMLA) if your company has more than 50 employees and you are US based. This allows you up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave and you can still come back to an equivalent (not necessarily the same) job. Even if it goes longer and you need to quit, by that time your employer has off loaded a lot of the work so there will be more understanding if you quit. It also looks better to future employers because you did everything you could to stay employed.

    1. EngineerGirl*

      Oops. I just noticed the only working for 5 months part. You don’t qualify, as you need to be employed for a year. Sorry. But stay in communication with your manager while you are gone (via phone or e-mail) so the company isn’t surprised.

      1. De Minimis*

        Some places will really try to work with you. My father-in-law was terminally ill and my wife’s employer was able to figure out a way to where she was able to have unpaid leave, even though she had not quite reached the year of employment.
        It’s worth it to explore all possibilities before quitting.

  5. D*

    #2 :
    Beware! This exact thing happened to me. I became the company (it’s a retail store as well) web developer/social media/online store guru and I did not ask for a pay increase when I took the new tasks on because I’m a nerd and it sounded too darn fun. (Also I’m a young woman and terrified to ask for a raise, but that’s another story.) I regret it now because it’s now part of my daily expectations as well as my previous responsibilities. If you’re doing extra work, get paid for it. If they want it done that badly, they’ll adjust your current workload to make space for it.

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I agree totally with what you’re saying, but I do think there’s a difference between your case (where you just did it and kept your mouth shut) versus OP’s case (where he’s already expressed his doubts and feelings and promises have been made).

      While it’s certainly possible that OP is going to be fleeced, it’s harder to say you were. If you were my employee and you expressed an interest in doing certain work, and then saw you were good at it, I would definitely move stuff around so that you were doing more of that, if that were possible and reasonable.

      If you don’t complain, as far as your employer knows, you are *thrilled* to be taking on more responsibility in a specific task that you’re excited about, even if it means a general increase in hours. Employers don’t necessarily know something is a problem if nobody is telling them it’s a problem.

      In OP’s case, they know what he thinks is reasonable and what is not, and they know there will be consequences, in some form, with this employee if they break their promises. Clear communication is almost always the first step to problem resolution.

    2. Carlotta*

      I don’t want to sound naive, but when I was hired, I was hired for my skills to do a job and contracted for a minimum number of hours per week. However many jobs do give you the freedom to decide (or at least have a say in deciding) priorities and autonomy on what you spend your time.
      So if a project like this came up or I suggested it and it was well-received, I’d obviously manage expectations about my time but I’d certainly do the work without thinking about it. It strikes me as being like a ‘lite’ version of a software package: “you can’t have my skills in this area because you haven’t paid for them”.
      My employer pays for my time and hired me for my skills (whether they fully know and understand all of them or not) and I negotiated my pay. Therefore they get the full version, not ‘carlotta lite’.
      Maybe I’m ripe for being taken advantage of but that’s just the way I work. Obviously if the project was successful I’d certainly ask for a raise – but that’s based on performance, not ‘unlocking’ another level of skills you have, but are apparently currently not using anyway.

      1. Stevie*

        I think it depends on how big of a jump it is from what you were hired to do. I currently do basic accounting work and data entry. Let’s say that I’m a CPA for argument’s sake (I’m not) who wanted to have a lesser workload for whatever reason. If my employer wants me to start making big financial decisions or advising on tax returns even though I was hired as doing data entry, I would expect to be paid at a much higher pay grade. There is a lot more responsibility and stress that comes along with that.
        On the flip side, if I was hired in as the social media coordinator for the facebook and linkedin profile, I’m going to seem high maintenance if I expect a raise to start a twitter feed too. But if they want me to take on accounting data entry work in addition to the social media, then yes, pay accordingly.

    3. BCW*

      I’m on the fence with this. I’ve definitely taken on some tasks that were my idea because I thought it would be a good thing to do. Now its essentially become an expectation that I don’t really have the option of not doing. This is along with what I was really hired to do. Now it does build my resume, and I admit I enjoy it more than many of the tasks in my official job description. However the fact that I’m not getting compensated for it is somewhat annoying. It doesn’t help that my company is in an odd state right now where they haven’t given raises.

      If I had it to do over, I may not have had as many ideas. But now that I’m doing it, I know it will help me either get a bigger raise when they do start offering them again, or leverage a new job someplace else.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think your last paragraph is key : You can go above and beyond — suggest ideas, do the work of implementing them, have them become part of what’s expected of you — and possibly not see compensation for it immediately or in the medium-term, but over the long run you will get rewarded for it, either by your company or by the next one you go to, and have the sort of enhanced reputation that generally makes your work life easier and more secure over time and gives you more options.

        Or you can decide not to go above and beyond if you don’t see short-term pay-off. If you go that route, you get the benefit of not being expected to do “extras,” but you lose out on the pay-offs above.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          I agree. I’ve heard too many people in my company say, “They better show me the money if they want me to do X.” People don’t seem to realize that the reward comes after they have proven they can deliver. Why would I pay someone extra for a job they haven’t proven they could do yet? Obviously there are times when I may pay something extra ahead of time as a retention strategy, if it’s a star employee, but that’s not the norm.

      2. Joey*

        This is a lesson a lot of people don’t realize early enough- If you’re going to contribute ideas you’d better be willing to carry them to the finish line.

        I think too many inexperienced folks think when they make suggestions someone else will carry them out.

  6. sab*

    #7 — Try being a state employee where anyone with an Internet connection can look up your pay, your (few and far-between) bonuses, etc. I think it’s a liiiiitle paranoid to assume that co-workers are going to hit you up for money because they can see how much you make, and I agree with Alison — it’s their problem, not the situation.

    1. Brett*

      And your scheduled vacation days! I’m not paranoid about co-workers hitting me up for money, I’m paranoid about someone breaking into my house while I’m on vacation.

      1. Nikki T*

        We haven’t gone electronic with vacation days, but I hear it’s on the horizon, ugh. I hope it’s only open to the official office timekeeper and supervisor.

      2. fposte*

        Wow, we haven’t done that. And I’m so glad. Does your state interpret the law as meaning Outlook should be publicly available, or does this happen another way?

      3. KellyK*

        I’d be vaguely paranoid about that too, but it’s also work-related information. If someone needs something from you, it’s useful for them to know that you’re not available and when you’ll be back. Ideally, this would be handled with an auto-reply and having your boss and any administrative personnel in your building know your schedule, but I can see where someone would think this info should be widely available.

        (Also “on vacation” doesn’t necessarily mean “out of town,” so I’m not sure having your vacation time posted is quite the same as advertising that you’re gone.)

        1. Gjest*

          Along those lines, if the point is just for someone to know whether they are available or not, it should just say “unavailable,” which could mean on vacation, or business travel, or in meetings all day, etc. I don’t think it’s a good idea for something publicly available to say “on vacation.”

        2. Brett*

          We have to indicate for our PTO requests if we will be outside the state or outside the country (people inside the state are called in first, outside the state next, and out of the country as a last resort).

            1. Brett*

              Not up front, and I am pretty sure some employees have said they were out of state to avoid being called in. I assume if someone was caught lying about that, they would have to deal with our normal disciplinary procedure.

      4. Brett*

        So far the vacation day releases are all paper.

        We have scheduled vacation weeks that we schedule at the start of the year (in addition to our PTO days throughout the year). This vacation schedule is an open record. It is only paper released, but it certainly does get requested.

        At the end of the year, the local papers always request all of our PTO days throughout the year too (as can anyone else). They have yet to publish this info online, but they have it. This also includes all the auxiliary information, such as if we are out of state while on PTO!

  7. Sunshine DC*

    Re: #1 – i personally think is a really bad idea to ever say your name on a voicemail that is NOT your office number. With so many telemarketers, wrong numbers, campaigners, scammers, etc., you should make sure that no one who rings your number (who would NOT know whose number it is otherwise) won’t easily obtain that information.

    What I recommend, if anything, is to state the phone number clearly. Then the caller can confirm they did reach the number intended. Something like: “Hi, you’ve reached (555) 123-4567, please leave your name and number and the reason for your call” (or however you’d prefer to word it.)

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I never really understood this level of paranoia. The vast majority of lists that have your phone number on them also have your name; I don’t know that I’ve ever gotten a scam call that didn’t include my name. The only exceptions for me have been recordings, which of course aren’t picking up your name from your VM. I’m generally an advocate of using your name in your VM.

      That being said, of course, phone number only is better than nothing!

      1. Sunshine DC*

        There’s no list with people’s cell phones that I am aware of. So no one should have my cell if I haven’t shared it. Also, in my field, most of my colleagues are in the public eye. Not a smart move to be accessible.

        1. V*

          People’s cell phone numbers are all over telemarketing and telefundraising lists (call center veteran here). The lists are compiled from a variety of sources, and cell phone numbers appear very frequently on them.

        2. Colette*

          The lists for these calls are often created from information they obtain from sources you actually gave the information to. For example, you signed up for a loyalty card and provided your phone number. That list then gets sold, and you start getting marketing calls.

          And your name on your voicemail is only available to someone who already has the number, so I don’t see any additional risk there.

      2. Jamie*

        I don’t think it’s paranoia – for those of us who go by a shortened version of our name, or by our middle name, it’s an excellent screening tool.

        If you only go by Stacey and no one ever uses your full name if someone leaves a message for Anastasia then you know it’s either your bank, doctor’s office, or someone selling a time share. If you have Stacey in your message now the telemarketers are asking for Stacey next time…and the assumption is they have had some personal connection with you.

        1. Rana*

          Heh. I have so few regular callers that if I don’t recognize a number, I just automatically assume it’s a telemarketer of some kind.

          I also have no issues whatsoever ending such calls quickly, so I don’t really see why people make such a fuss about it. (I’m sure there are reasons, but, for me, getting one telemarketing call a month or so isn’t really a problem.)

    2. A Dispatcher*

      You know what is really helpful for us at 911 when your cell phone dials us, you are in an emergency and can’t talk/tell us where you might be — a voicemail with your name on it.

    3. Anonymous*

      In our building, the telephone is hooked up to the front door intercom, so we will get random dials from the lobby. So, no, no name on the voicemail.

      1. Anonymous*

        If you just know who would visit you this isn’t a problem. My phone is hooked up to the front door and I do (rarely) get random dials. But every time answered or not I know if I’m expecting someone and if I should let them in. I’m much more worried about the people who don’t actually know if they intend to have guests and just buzz everyone in than I am someone learning my first name and saying it.

    4. The IT Manager*

      I hate, hate, HATE those messages b/c unless I have memorized your number, I do not know if I have reached the right person when I get that kind of message.

      I don’t know what kind of damaged you imagine someone can do with your first names and phone number if they randomly dial your number and hear your name in your VM.

      1. Jane Doe*

        Yeah, I rarely memorize people’s numbers any more, so leaving the generic message up with just the phone number makes me think I may have reached the wrong person, or that I’ve reached a phone number that no one answers (if calling a business or something similar).

    5. Anonymous*

      Hi, you’ve reached (first name) please leave a message.

      This is not going to get me scammed, or make a wrong number call me back again, or encourage a telemarketer. It may in fact deter that wrong number who called for (wrong first name).

      I’m shocked that so many people have such an enormous problem with these calls. I get maybe 2 a month that aren’t meant for me. And I’ve had my phone number for well over a decade. Don’t give your number when it is requested for a loyalty card or other such things and you won’t have nearly such an issue.

      1. Natalie*

        I get quite a few more robo-dials (you’ve won a cruise, this is Sarah from cardmember services, etc) but they never, ever leave a message.

      2. Jamie*

        You’ve had your phone number for a long time, so you will get fewer of these. When I first got my number about 3.5 years ago I got several per day every day looking for Tammy or Sheila…both of whom had to have used my number because their creditors were relentless and refused to believe I wasn’t Tammy or Sheila. In addition I’d get work calls for Sheila and Tammy’s kid’s school would call me. The school calls I’d return and let them know they had the wrong number, but it was still months before they stopped calling me completely (and I don’t provide field trip money for other people’s kids…sorry.)

        During campaign season I get literally between one and two dozen of calls a day from the rob0dials of Chicago politicians. I am not using literally figuratively either…I mean between 12-24 calls each day with the pre-recorded spiel.

        I don’t even live in the city, and if I did I would refuse to vote for anyone who thinks annoying their constituency to the point of hair pulling is a good idea. And I can’t turn my phone off because I’m always on call.

        I never give my number out to anyone – but if your phone is a newly assigned number it can take years for the calls to stop…and even then sometimes you can’t stop the robocalls.

        1. Anonymous*

          If your state has a state-run donotcall service, and you’ve signed up for it, you can report anything without actually having to answer the phone, or a even having a phone number. You do have to agree to release phone records to them, but then the state agency does the investigation and follows up with whoever is making the calls. It’s usually just a cease-and-desist letter, but that usually gets telemarketers or collection agencies to stop calling.

        2. Anonymous*

          I spent several years getting the creditors of the people who had my phone number before me to stop calling me. Most of the collection agencies were nice when I explained, but a few thought I was lying and covering up for the debtor. But after those first three years I haven’t had any problems.

      3. OP #1*

        I like this idea. Using just your first name seems a good compromise between maintaining privacy/security and risking annoying interviewers.

        I hadn’t even considered the privacy/security thing, honestly – it was just laziness on my part – and I don’t think I need to worry much about being scammed or spammed, but it’s good to know that I’m not going to put myself out of the running by not having a voicemail.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        My landline is one digit different from the local Child Support Enforcement office, and I get misdials all the time. People used to leave messages on my machine, thinking they’d called the prosecutor.

        I changed my machine message to say “Hi, you’ve reached 555-1212. If you need Child Support Enforcement, please hang up and dial 555-1213. If you’d like to leave a message for [Name], please do so after the beep and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Goodbye.” Now I get hang-ups, but no messages, and far fewer of those.

        I used to be nice and call them back to let them know they had fat-fingered it, until I called one guy who yelled at me because he was 100% SURE he had dialed correctly. But I did call the lady who left her Social Security number, and told her a version of “Aack, don’t do that!”

        1. Felicia*

          My phone number is apparently close to a Dr. Hong’s office, so I get so many calls of people who want to make an appointment and I have no idea what this Dr. Hong’s number is always is.

    6. KJ*

      I frequently call job applicants on their cell phones to set up in-person interviews. I don’t think twice if there is only the default message. As long as I know I’ve reached the number listed on the resume, I’m good.

    7. Not paranoid*

      If you’re that paranoid about leaving your name, how about getting a Google Voice number and using that for job apps, and have your name on that voicemail greeting only?

    8. Wren*

      I hate it when people don’t have their name. I know what number I called, I want to be sure it is the right person. I just skip leaving a message when I get this.

  8. Jessa*

    OP 7, it depends, if you can see information like their social security number, their tax status, etc. that might be an issue. If it’s just their salary number, not so much. The truth is however, that a system like that should probably have a password to get into, especially if employee numbers are commonly known, if only because there are probably other things those numbers can get you into that someone should not be in. Knowing your salary not so bad, it lets people know that people are being treated fairly. Potentially getting into other records? BAD.

    1. Jessa*

      Sorry, entered before I meant to.

      I guess my point is that any time you have a computer system where access is SUPPOSED to be limited and you find out it’s really not, IT needs to be told so that can be fixed, because it shows leaks in the system or bad procedures that could possibly show up in other areas as well. It’s poor security practise.

      1. MJ*

        Based on the OP’s description, I’m inclined to agree with you and wonder if this data exposure is intentional or not. Certainly some companies have started publishing employee salaries, but this could also be an oversight as you suggest.

        Consider another take on this. Accessing a computer system without authorization, or in excess of your authorization, can be a crime in certain circumstances. Now, I’m quite sure you won’t be getting arrested for this, but it could be a fireable offense.

        1. Jessa*

          And in this case if you’re supposed to be doing what a lot of companies now do to save paper, IE look up your own pay stub, shouldn’t you have an authentication beyond just your employee number to get into that system? Because that’s not just pay, that’s your insurance choices, that’s your deductions (what if you’re paying child support? What if you have a garnishment? or other private deductions from your pay on that record?) There’s a lot more information there than just your salary.

          Your marital status or in some states your domestic partnership status could show your orientation when you’re not “out” to your fellow employees, it could even show a gender different to your public presentation because you haven’t legally changed it yet. There’s a lot of information that could be gleaned from something that’s not just a list of salaries. And some of that information could be protected data.

          My point is that normally data you need to put in an identifier to access should have something more to let you in. There should be a second point, a password or something. And if somehow they left this off or left in a back door or forgot about it, that’s an issue for the future even if they didn’t think about it.

          Because a pay stub if you have direct deposit might also have banking information attached to it, possibly tied to your social security number, and enough information for someone who was unscrupulous to steal your identity too. And if they weren’t supposed to be ABLE to access that information, nobody would think to look at that file as a source for the information leak.

          If it’s NOT unintentional it should have been. And the leak needs to be plugged.

          1. MJ*

            I think you might be missing the point I’m trying to make here. While there’s a remote possibility that some information presented in this system could be protected by privacy laws, that’s somewhat orthogonal.

            The employer generally isn’t required to *prevent* you from access materials to which you aren’t entitled. They can simply tell you not to do so, and as an employee, you are expected to comply. If you don’t, you get fired. It’s really no different than an HR person who might have wide-ranging access to employee data but is still absolutely prohibited from accessing that data without a legitimate business reason.

            I don’t disagree that sensitive systems *should* be protected, in the majority of cases that’s probably the employer’s prerogative unless they have a specific legal obligation otherwise. And even then, employee discretion and judgement is still central.

            1. Jessa*

              Actually I disagree with that. I do believe they need to take reasonable precautions to restrict access. Now that doesn’t mean Fort Knox style locks and key cards and daily passcodes. But it certainly means needing a password not just an ID number to access a record.

              Because if all you need is a number, how do you know the cleaning crew at night isn’t getting into your systems? Seriously. Yes you discipline or fire employees that overstep their access responsibilities. But there’s also the concept that you don’t leave the open cash box on your desk with money in it.

              I have no idea if in the case of the OP the data is actually anything that needs protecting in any way at all. But if it did, and the company didn’t even make a general pass at protecting it (the basic one would be requiring a password, which is usually an available procedure in most programmes that deal with financial information,) I can’t see any situation where the company would not be liable in the event of a data breach.

  9. MiaRose*

    #2 I work for a small retail business, and when we started the online portion of our sales, we had to hire not only a part-time web developer to work and maintain the site, we also had to hire an extra person part-time to process and mail the orders. It was worthwhile, as our sales have jumped as a result.

    Either way, I would be wary about doing this extra work without compensation. You can keep things separate by doing your regular work during normal work hours, and bill them separately as a consultant for the web design work. It will be extra hours for you, but may keep them from taking advantage of you in the long run. Designing and maintaining an online retail site is a heck of a lot of work, and I do feel you should be compensated fairly for it. Especially if the salaries for both your current position and your consulting work vary greatly.

    1. Jamie*

      Well salaries usually do, and should differ from consulting fees. When you set your consulting fee it includes your overhead, coverage for your benefits, and taxes. It costs a lot more to employ someone than just their salary.

      I actually think its reasonable to expect to to see results before increasing compensation, however there should be a timeline and measureables determining the success or failure and revisiting at the end of the trial period.

      1. Judy*

        It would make more sense for the agreement to be about % vs current salary. Like an agreement that 25% of profit off of the web sales goes to her for as long as she maintains the website plus 2 years.

        I’m assuming the discussion is because web development pays much more than working retail.

    2. Colette*

      This approach doesn’t seem to make sense in this situation. First of all, I don’t see a company being willing to both pay the OP for her regular work and create a separate agreement with her for consulting work. That sounds like a bookkeeping nightmare – it would be much more sensible for the company to keep the OP in her regular job and hire a different consultant to do the store.

      Secondly, the company isn’t driving this – the OP suggested it in the first place, so pushing for consulting work to develop an idea that the company is not 100% behind will likely result in it not happening at all.

      1. Cathy*

        I had an employee working two jobs for me once. She was our regular part-time receptionist, but she also ran her own business as a translator. So when we needed some of our software translated to her native language, we hired her to do it. We did that as a separate contract after checking with HR to make sure there was no issue with benefits / working more hours / etc.

        1. Jessa*

          I think however, that this is a clearly separate thing. The employee already has a side business. The translation work is clearly not within any possibly description of their normal job duties (receptionist.) It was also probably not done during work hours as part of their regular job with you, but as part of their own business hours.

          There is however, a question with the OP as to whether this is done on work time or not, or whether this is part of or could be part of their work. Also whether this is actually something their office wants done or wants to spend money/time on at this point.

          You had a clearly defined project – translate x product into x language. That has a beginning and an end and a method of determining whether it was done properly or to spec. That’s different to what the OP was suggesting.

      2. MiaRose*

        What if an outside developer comes in, having done research on the store, and does a sales pitch and submits a proposal similar to what the OP presented to her bosses, including costs? I don’t think telling the outside developer “they couldn’t justify paying [me] any more without seeing results” would go over well in that case. Yes, the OP already works for them, but in a different capacity.

        One thing that wasn’t quite clear to me in the original post was whether the OP would be doing the website work during regular hours (which wouldn’t make much sense, since there is probably ongoing work on the floor), or whether the OP would be doing this work outside of regular hours.

        1. Colette*

          The company would have to decide they wanted the store enough to pay what the outside consultant wanted. It’s not clear that they do – it seems like the OP is the one driving this.

          But the fact of the matter is that the OP is already employed by this company. It’s not likely she’ll get paid more to build the store – it’s far more likely that she just won’t be the one building the store. If she does it at her current salary (and gets a bonus or raise if it does well), she’s competing against … no one, because with someone else doing it there is a cost. If she charges her regular consulting rate, she’s competing against anyone else who could build the store – and she may not be the one chosen. Personally, if it were my business, I’d go with someone else. (If the store goes down during her regular work hours, or she needs to meet with stakeholders or suppliers, does she clock out and start recording her time as a consultant? What happens to her regular responsibilities?)

          1. MiaRose*

            The web designer we hire only sets up and maintains the website. She does not meet with stakeholders or suppliers, as that is not part of her job. That would be the responsibility of the owner and the person who handles our ordering and inventory.

            Even if the OP is the one driving this, there should be some kind of compensation at fair market value for the work. They could simply tell the OP they are not interested if they are not committed to this project all the way.

            As a side note, I work two different positions at our store, and I get two different pay scales as a result. I get the regular hourly rate when I work the floor and booking classes and events, and I get a higher, but variable, payment when I teach at the store.

  10. Cube Ninja*

    Re #2:

    You’ve made a proposal to your boss type people, they’ve given you clearance to spend time on it around your other duties and you’re asking for additional money for… what, exactly?

    I don’t mean to sound rude there – it’s a legitimate question. It sounds like this project wasn’t on the company’s priority list until you brought it up and they’re giving you time to work on it because they’ve agreed that your idea makes sense. If you spend a large amount of time creating this “extra” stuff for the company and it’s a complete failure (for whatever reason), the company is out all the time you’ve spent on it.

    Now, if it’s a success, great! That’s the time to bring up something like a raise, title change and so forth. What you’ve basically said to your managers here is “Hey, I have this great idea. Raise?”

    Sure, there’s a risk associated with taking on a project like this and not getting anything additional out of it, money wise. There’s also a good chance that you will, especially if it leads to increase sales for the business. Asking for a raise before you’ve delivered success seems a little shortsighted to me.

    1. Brett*

      “they’ve given you clearance to spend time on it around your other duties ”
      From the letter, it sounds like they were not given clearance to spend time on it around other duties. They are expected to spend additional unpaid time on it outside of their duties.
      (Which I think is a FLSA violation)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s only an FSLA violation if the OP is non-exempt and not being paid for all the hours she’s working. If she’s exempt, or if she’s non-exempt and being paid for all hours, there’s no problem.

        1. Brett*

          Based on the work being retail and the OP not being the manager, I assumed non-exempt. Not really enough information in the letter to know if the OP is exempt or not, or even if the OP is expected to do the website work unpaid.

  11. Manda*

    RE #1: I’ve been wondering about this too because I use a landline and I still live with my parents so I did not record the message on the answering machine. Maybe I’m old school, but I’d rather not be called on my cell phone. I usually have it on vibrate and I don’t keep it next to me at all times, so I’m not likely to answer it. Also, my cell phone just plain sucks. The sound quality is awful and I don’t want to spend money on a new one right now. Do people really just assume they phoned a wrong number if they don’t get someone’s personal voice mail, confirming their name? How would they know if it’s my dad, brother, uncle, husband, friend, or whomever else I might live with? The situation isn’t ideal and I’ve worried it might seem odd or unprofessional, but there isn’t much I can do about it. I’m probably in the minority here, but the reality is that there are people who prefer to use a landline or only use a landline. Some of those people share that phone with others.

    1. MJ*

      As a hiring manager, I would probably find it a little odd if I called a candidate and their parent answered. And to be honest, I really can’t remember the last time I called a candidate and got *anyone* other than them or their voicemail.

      You might consider getting a Google Voice number. It’s free and you could have your own private phone number with voicemail. You can even setup the number to ring your landline (or cell phone, or both) and require confirmation before putting the call through. It also has the nice feature of allowing you to keep the same number if you do end up moving out or getting a better cell phone.

      1. Mike C.*

        You find it odd that in a bad economy that families would move in together? Are you implying that you would hold it against the candidate because they were presumably “still living with their parents”?

        1. BCW*

          I think it would be a bit odd because this person clearly has a cell phone. Most people use that so they can be in charge of the messages they get. What if mom or dad accidentally deleted the message? She would probably be upset. However if she used her own phone, she would have no one else to be mad at.

      2. Sourire*

        Great advice. I also remember growing up a friend of mine had a “group mailbox” feature on her home phone similar to what many offices have, where each family member had their own separate mailbox. I thought it was the coolest thing at 13 that she had her own voicemail. That could be something to look into, though I agree that google voice is the preferable option.

        As a side note, I don’t know your situation Manda, but as someone who lived at home for a bit after college while looking for jobs, I was so thankful to not have to use my parent’s landline when job searching. My parents, and mother in particular, bothered me enough about how it was going without being able to listen to the voicemail from Mr. X at company Y and asking me all of the details. I hope your family is much less intrusive, but if not, that may be yet another reason to look into getting a separate line of some sort.

        1. Manda*

          Pfft, I’ve been harping at them for years to get a phone with call display and they can’t even do that. I may have to look into this Google Voice thing. I just don’t want to fork out the money for a new phone while I’m unemployed. I’ve got a prepaid service, so I would have to actually buy a phone, and a plan would cost more than I’m currently spending. And as if the phone situation isn’t bad enough, my laptop crapped out too and it sucks having to use the family computer while I’m job searching. I’m sure as hell not spending money on that right now either.

          1. Manda*

            Ok, never mind Google Voice. I just did some searching and since I’m in Canada it’s a PITA to set up and if I were to go to the trouble I’d end up with a US phone number. Not a good idea if I’m applying for jobs.

            1. Chinook*

              Manda, if you do prepaid phone in Canada, it should be no issue to use it for work purposes. I did this for years on a phone with only numbers (I.e. Not a smartphone) and was able to find prepaid plans that allowed me free voicemail and would allow me to roll over my minutes because I automatically topped up every month via credit card. Telus has had this option since 1999 (when I first did this) but I am sure all of the companies do too, they just don’t advertise it. In fact, I think basic voicemail and call display was included.

              The trick to keeping your minutes down is to check your voicemail from your parents’ landline. This way, employers are still calling you and leaving a message. And you don’t have to worry about someone not passing it on.

              1. Manda*

                My main issue is that I don’t want to use my cell phone for job searching because the sound quality sucks. It’s old and I get a terrible echo. I don’t want to have someone call me when I can’t hear them very well. It’s not that I’m afraid to use minutes. I’ve racked up plenty because I never use them up before they expire. If I were to sign a contract (which I don’t want to) so that I could get a free or cheap phone, I would be spending a lot more each month than I do with my prepaid service. I could buy another cheap crap phone, but I’d really like something better and that isn’t money I want to spend when I’m not making any. It’s lose-lose.

      3. Manda*

        Ok, for mid-level and up, I could see finding that odd, but if it’s an entry level job, plenty of those candidates live with their parents. But if someone else answered the phone, how would you know it was a parent? It could be a spouse, live-in boyfriend/girlfriend, sibling, roommate. Hell, maybe a relative was at my house and answered my phone when I was in the bathroom or busy cooking. Or maybe my cell calls were forwarded to a landline and someone else answered. You just don’t really know.

    2. Cat*

      I don’t assume I’ve gotten someone else but I do worry a bit that I or the candidate might have written the number wrong and that I’m leaving a message for a total stranger. That said, if you and your parents have the same last name, that probably more or less solves the problem. Though then I might wonder if you actually go by your mom’s name and not Manda but that’s minor.

    3. Del*

      I would be pretty concerned if I called a candidate’s number and got a voicemail with someone else’s name on it, yes. If they only give a family name (ie “You’ve reached the Smiths”) that would be less of an issue, but if I’m calling for Jane Q. Smith and the voicemail says “You’ve reached Margie Smith” I would have some concerns about having gotten the right number, especially if the surname is a common one.

      You might ask your parents about including your name in the voicemail (ie “You’ve reached the voicemail for Jane, Bob, and Manda Smith”) but that may be more family information than you want to give out. In that case, it would probably be helpful to give out the family name as a group.

      Having just the number (ie “You’ve reached (555) 123-4567”) is less concerning, since that’s a default, but having someone else’s name on the voicemail would cause some confusion, yes.

      1. Jessa*

        Especially since a lot of single women who live alone are told “just put the number on the voice mail and if you can leave it using the generic recording from the phone company or have a guy acquaintance record it for you, do it,” for personal safety reasons. Some phone companies provide a pre-recorded option of a standard “You have reached 123-123-4567 please leave a message” as an option for your voicemail system.

        1. HR Anon*

          I’ve had many applicants who’s number was shared with parents or their spouse or children. It helps a lot if the message tells me that it’s the right number for that person by listing their name in the message or repeating the phone number. Other note – don’t get upset that I called your mom’s phone, if your mom’s phone was the number provided. And if your parents answer your phone, make sure they know not to carry the phone with them when they yell at you to get out of bed at noon for your (scheduled) phone interview.

    4. Kerr*

      Can you have them (or you) re-record the message to include your last name only? E.g. “This is the Smith residence,” not “This is the home of Joe and Jane and Manda Smith.” Or, instead, first names only, possibly with your name first? That would let any callers know that they’ve reached the right number, without tipping them off to the fact that you live with your parents, if you’re worried about that. Most people probably use their cells now, but it’s not exactly unheard of to use a landline, or to share said landline with other people (roommates, family, etc.).

      Just make sure your parents know how to answer any phone calls professionally, and without saying things like “Sure, I’ll tell my daughter when she comes back from the Extreme Zombie Pingpong Tournament!”

      I use my cell, but use the generic robo-response with my phone #. I’m not sure how it comes off, but I don’t think I’ve ever lost any interviews because of it (I’d know if a number called without leaving a message, and I look up unknown numbers).

      1. Kerr*

        I didn’t read properly, and missed that your name apparently isn’t on the voicemail message at all. Yes, I would definitely make sure your name is there someplace – last name or first name. I’m not a hiring manager, but I’d be surprised if I called someone for something business-related, and they weren’t even an acknowledged resident at that number.

  12. Katie the Fed*

    #4 – you don’t necessarily need to quit. Just talk to your manager if you realize you need to stay longer. You might be able to take Leave Without Pay or something else. Not a guarantee, but it’s possible.

  13. One of the Annes*

    #2 – Could you use a contract to spell out possible future compensation for your work, say a fee of $X for your work building the online business if that business increases sales by at least X percent + X percent of sales? Is that “done”?

  14. Tina*

    I was interpreting OP 7 comment about coworkers hitting her/him up for money as a hypothetical. I certainly hope no one actually did that.

  15. Brett*

    #2 I am wondering how the hours situation would work with this. From your letter, I get the impression that you would work your normal retail hours for the store then build the website on unpaid hours in addition to your retail hours.
    You are not an exempt worker in this situation. Website design is generally not exempt anyway, and if you are making less than $27.63/hr doing it (e.g. $0) then it is not exempt anyway. And it is not your primary duty, so even if it was potentially exempt computer professional work, since it is not your primary duty it is not.
    That means that this “do it now and we might pay you later” situation is probably a FLSA violation unless they are at least paying you your normally hourly pay rate plus appropriate overtime.

  16. Sara*

    For #7 – it depends so much on context. My organization (a local government in Canada) operates under a law that considers salary information to be personal information which cannot be disclosed. (There’s another law entirely that requires disclosure of salaries over $100,000.)

    If you’re concerned, say something: to HR, or to IT. If the response is “yeah, and?” you’ve got your answer. Same if they panic.

  17. Navan*

    OP6- get the training. Child care is finally being recognized as not something any old ninny off the street whose good with kids can do ( not saying you’re a ninny- but that is historically the general public’s perception.) Employers who insist on staff with child development education are only going to increase, especially given that parents want the latest researched and evidenced based methods being used with their children. It’s finally being seen as a profession you need actual qualifications to do, not just a uterus and a smile. Child development research has come so far in the last 10 years, it really would be in your best interest to receive the education, both because it will potentially increase your income (whether or not with your current employer) and better your practice with children.

    1. Jessa*

      Also the laws grandfathering people with experience are falling off the books, and mostly apply to people with a great deal more experience than you have. More and more locations are closing off their grandfather clauses as the older workers are retiring.

      If you have a company that wants this especially if they’re going to pay for it, or even pay you to get it or help you in any way to do so, go for it. It’s going to be absolutely required going forward if you stay in that field. If your local laws don’t require it now, they will. Sooner rather later any agency that pays aid for services is going to require certified participants. Most of them already do. So jobs for non certified people are going to become more and more scarce.

  18. B*

    OP1 – Yes, you should have a message because it is nice to hear the name of the person you are calling. It irks me when I don’t know if it is the right person, what if I wrote the number down wrong.

    To do a good voicemail, smile. I know this sounds weird but when you smile through the phone your voice changes and it becomes a bit brighter. It also enables you to have a good message. You can also type out what you want to say and then just read it while smiling. It sounds less rehearsed.

  19. Natalie*

    OP #1, have you ever had someone else listen to your voicemail and tell you if they think it sounds normal? I wonder if you are just reacting to the different sound of your voice from the recording and perhaps not evaluating it well.

    Alternatively, if you have a well-spoken friend perhaps they could record an outgoing message for you. Chances are no one will notice, and if they do notice they probably won’t care.

    1. OP #1*

      I’m sure I sound normal enough, but it was just one of those “bah, forget this” moments that turned into never having a voicemail. It’s never been an issue until the thought occurred to me recently that it might affect my job-hunting, if slightly.

      I’ll probably record one, just to be on the safe side, but there are some good points to keep in mind, in the comments above.

  20. justmary*

    OP#2-No designer in their right mind would take on a project of that size on spec (do now, maybe get paid later). You shouldn’t either.

    1. VintageLydia*

      Agreed. It’s one thing if you’re doing minor edits to an already-built site (updating pictures or prices or whatever) but creating it from scratch? No. There is a reason why designers charge as much as they do with one price to build and another to maintain. This is WAY out of scope of your current work, OP, and being retail I can’t see how what you’re currently being paid would even come close. Even well paid retail workers outside of general store managers (which it doesn’t sound like you are) make well below what a decent web designer can expect.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Add me in to the chorus of “Hell no.” Having designed websites and run them just as a hobby, the sheer amount of work involved is mind blowing. If I was doing this for a company AND doing my regular job, I’d want to be paid. People do not say to their doctors “Go ahead and run those tests and let me see if I like the results. If I do, then I’ll pay you.” No, you pay for the service whether or not you get the results you’re hoping for. The OP is looking at putting in tons of work and extra hours on this. She needs to be getting paid as she goes along. If they aren’t interested in doing that, then she should not put in the work.

    2. MJ*

      I disagree on this point. Yes, the OP will not be properly paid for the scope of this work, but if they don’t have formal web development experience, this could be invaluable to them. Plus, it sounds like doing it is something they would enjoy, and that’s actually quite priceless. Consider if the OP presses for more comp and is told that they don’t want to proceed on this project, or worse, that they might proceed but they’ll bring in a professional to do it. Would that be a beneficial situation for the OP?

      So, OP, if you would enjoy doing this and if you think having it on your resume would be valuable to you in the future, go right ahead and do it. Don’t focus so much on the principle of the matter, but rather on what you can get out of it.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        Agreed with MJ. Tech is more prone than most professions to the catch-22 of “you need experience to get experience”. If web design is something you want to get into, here’s your chance to bootstrap yourself. (If you have no interest in web design, and it is not enough of a priority for your employer to pay you for it or reduce your other duties to make time, disregard.)

  21. Ruffingit*

    #3 Literary agent – I see no reason to mention that. It would be one thing if you had published a book successfully and you were applying for jobs as a book editor or something of that nature. Even then, it would only be worth mentioning you were a published author. I just don’t see where having a book agent would ever be something worth mentioning. The fact that you have a well-known agent indicates you have promise as an author, but you’ve not yet fulfilled that promise. It’s like being admitted into Harvard. You have promise of a great academic career, but no one cares you were admitted there. They care what you do while you’re there. In other words, when you publish your book, you can maybe mention that depending on the job, but otherwise, the agent is not germane to anything.

    1. Sara M*

      OP 3: I’m a professional fiction writer. I’d like to back up Alison here: her answer is spot-on. Don’t put this on your resume. Interviewers misunderstand the fiction world; they worry you’ll make millions and leave them. (HAHAHAHAHAHA. That was my gloomy laugh of woe.)

      Depending on the way the interview is going, it _could_ be useful to discuss your accomplishments as a writer when you’re talking about overcoming challenges and so on. This is once they’ve already met you. You can use your judgment here; just remember that few people outside the fiction world can appreciate how absolutely rare it is to see much success as a fiction writer. (But wait to discuss it until you actually have a significant accomplishment in the eyes of the wider world. I’m sorry, but getting an agent isn’t big enough–even though I know how hard that was!)

      1. Jessa*

        Yeh the only time someone I know mentioned the professional writing at all was when it intersected because he took a job at another division of a company that publishes. He just asked when they made the offer was that considered by them to be a conflict of interest if he accepted another job from them freelance while he was working for them, before he accepted. But he didn’t put it on his resume at all.

      2. OP 3*

        Thanks for the advice, everybody!

        My inclination was not to include it (it’s not on there now), but I did wonder if it was something that something that would display hard work and drive (I’m 24 so on the young side of publishing), but I understand that not many people outside of the publishing industry really understand how it works. It was certainly a huge accomplishment for me, but I can see how it might not translate.

        I DID have an interviewer who had Googled me bring it up in an interview so I know some people do find it interesting. I think that is good enough.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      This is relevant to my interests: same situation, though without representation.

      OP 3, I’m curious; how is it that you have an agent, but are not published? Did the agent accept you as a client but hasn’t found a home for the book yet? I’m asking because I haven’t gotten that far quite yet, and was wondering what would happen if that were the case for me. I have something in a professional critique situation at the moment and want to resume querying if the author doing it thinks it’s worthwhile (and may actually have recommendations if so–I HOPE!)

      Alison and Ruffingit are both right, though; I wouldn’t put it on the resume or even mention it for a non-writing job. Your published works can go on the resume for a writing-related job, but no unpublished ones, from what I’ve found.

        1. Sara M*


          Some writers publish their short fiction first, and that’s unagented. Most writers with a book-length manuscript get an agent first, and the agent shops your book to publishers. (Agents get faster responses from the publishers and a lot more interest, because the agent has already vetted the book as “does not suck”.)

          It’s possible to sell your book without an agent (and then acquire one, which becomes pretty trivial if a publisher wants your book), but this is much harder.

      1. OP 3*

        Hey Elizabeth!

        Alison and Sara are correct. If you are looking into being traditionally published, especially commercial fiction, you will need an agent to get consideration by the Big 5 publishing houses (99 times out of 100). When I finished my manuscript, I queried agents; my book has not yet even been submitted to a publishing house.

        However, if you are looking into small presses, you can query some of them–but not all–with an unagented manuscript.

        From stories I’ve heard, having an agent is very important when you get a book contract as well. They negotiate it for you and make sure you don’t get screwed :)

          1. Sara M*

            Usually, you write a new and better book that your agent actually _can_ sell. You can also try getting a different agent, because sometimes the problem is the agent.

  22. Alan Wexelblat*

    #2. Your situation reads like it’s right out of the all-time-best-ever-no-really-this-is-awesome book called “Difficult Conversations.” I highly recommend reading it and trying some of the strategies they describe if you want to continue this negotiation with your employer. The book is by the people who did “Getting to Yes” if you’re familiar with that – it’s based on some pretty decent real research and it’s presented without any of the usual salesy or woo-woo stuff.

  23. Richard*

    Welcome to the many dangers of offering IT services in a non-IT job.

    Since you say that they were unaware that you had these skills when you started your role, it’s reasonable to assume that this isn’t part of your role in the company. Asking to be paid for this additional work outside of your role in the organisation isn’t unreasonable. Web development and design, and setting up an online store isn’t a simple job, and I can guarantee that they’ll be consulting you for years to come even once it’s done.

    So I’d lay it out on the table for them. Explain that this isn’t a simple job that you can do ‘on the side’ of your current role, and that a considerable amount of your time and resources will be required in order to pull it off.

    If they want to promote you to a role that matches your skills, where you will be responsible for this during your work time, then they need to offer you a competitive salary to match it.

    If they expect you to work on this outside of your existing role, then you need to negotiate being brought in as a contractor for this task, give them an initial quote, and any subsequent consulting fees if they require ongoing support (or the Service Level Agreement expected from the initial contract). This contract needs to be thoroughly outlined, agreed upon by both parties, and signed before you start any work, otherwise there’s a chance that they’ll screw you in the long run; why bother when they already have the finished product, right?

    (Though that said, I don’t know the legalities of simultaneously being a full time employee in one role, and a contractor in another at the same organisation. Maybe someone HR related can comment?)

    If they’re still unwilling to budge, tell them that they are welcome to get quotes from other contractors, but that you’re more than willing to start as soon compensation for your additional work is agreed upon. Assuming that the services you’re offering will cost them significantly less than the average contractor, they’ll either come back to you, or they won’t. Either way, you either get paid, or you avoid the headaches of becoming their online store consultant for free. As someone who works in IT, let me tell you; you certainly don’t want to set a precedent for the latter.

    Note that this might not avoid awkwardness in the future, but it beats working for an employer who’s willing to try and get you to start work without discussing compensation first.

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