open thread

image-4It’s our biweekly open thread!

The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

{ 642 comments… read them below }

  1. Annette in Milwaukee*

    We had a nice AAM at the Milwaukee Public Market on Wednesday. All you SE Wisconsin folks, find me or Jennifer on the AAM LinkedIn group so we can let you know about the next one!

      1. Annette in Milwaukee*

        I tried to print an avatar, but couldn’t, so I printed your photo and wrote “AAM” on it and held it in front of me as I approached a group I thought was AAM folks.

        There were four of us. We talked about the impact AAM has had on our careers and we just shook our heads at our friends who refuse to take AAM advice. They are not doing it right.

        We laughed about the fact that we were complete strangers who were meeting in person just because we all read the same blog!

      2. mollsbot*

        We had so much fun! I was even able to toss out tiny hurdle I have at work and got some great feedback. We talked a little about Milwaukee’s job market a little too.

        All in all I say it was a huge success!

      3. Claire MKE*

        Agreed with the other ladies – a lot of fun & useful, too! Weirdly enough we’re in pretty much the same/similar fields, although there was a nice variety of industry & point in career path. Any other SE-WI folks should definitely join us next time! I promise we’re nice :)

      4. Jamie*

        Next time you get together shoot me and email and I’ll fed ex the Alison action figure. I think it would be awesome if she traveled around the country at AAM gatherings – like flat stanley.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Ooh, and people should sign the back, or put the city name and date or something, so there’s a record of where she’s been.

        2. mollsbot*

          I love it!

          Also Jamie we talked about you a little. I hope that’s able to boost your ego a little before the weekend. ;)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Click on Connect at the very top of the page, and you will find instructions on how to join the LinkedIn group. (There are other tabs up there too, which I suspect no one ever notices!)

        1. tcookson*

          I’ve never wanted to join LinkedIn before, but the prospect of getting to meet AAM readers if a group gets together around here is the best carrot I’ve seen so far.

          I’m going in!

      2. mollsbot*

        After you join the group, make sure you change your preferences so you receive updates from it, or check it frequently. I missed the announcement on LinkedIn and thankfully someone mentioned it to me here in the comments.

        1. Beth Anne*

          I’ve been really bad about checking linkedin lately b/c most groups were inactive this is going to motivate me to be more active on the site!

  2. Audiophile*

    Yay! Open thread time.

    Olive has gotten big. So cute. I’ll come up with something I want to ask.

      1. Laufey*

        The same thing happens with goats. Kids are the cutest things ever – and if you pick them up and pet them, they will even purr in your arms – and then they turn into goats. How does that happen?

        1. hillberry*

          I saw the best calendar the other day–Goats in Trees. Exactly what you’d expect from the title. Cracked me up!

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          I do have to agree. My squishy-fuzzy pillow pet didn’t know how to sleep through the night when she was a kitten.

      2. KJR*

        Same thing with children…I gave birth to two adorable infants and now I have 2 teenagers. Go figure… :P

    1. Elkay*

      I love the look on the other cat’s face, it’s full on “Well if I must pose for my public I suppose I will tolerate this”. What’s his name?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Sam! And the smaller adult cat (not pictured here, but seen on other open threads) is Lucy. Olive now devotes all her play and wrestling time to Lucy, and much of her sleep/cuddling time to Sam.

        1. Elkay*

          I always said if I got a ginger cat I’d call him Sam, short for Yosemite Sam, then I got one and forgot I’d ever come up with that and called him George. Sadly he’s no longer with us :-(

        2. KJR*

          Since we’re talking about cats…:) I was always scared of them, until we found a 4-6 week old kitten wandering around in the woods and parking lot outside our office. Some of the folks had seen her earlier in the week too, so she’d been out there a while. They finally caught her, and someone asked if I wanted to hold her. I declined, citing my fear of cats! But really, who can be afraid of a tiny little kitten? So I held her, and the rest is history. I still have her 8 years later, and she is a precious little soul.

          Further irony, my daughter was volunteering at a cat shelter cleaning cages and such, when her best friend decided she didn’t want to do it anymore. So I said I would go with her, and now it’s a thing that we do regularly. So the person who was terrified of cats now has one and works in a cat shelter! Life is funny.

          1. kelly*

            Cats have a habit of finding my parents, even my father who is a convert to cat ownership. He comes from a dog family, but we don’t hold that against him. The latest one he found and reluctantly bought home from the work parking lot. He knows my mom is a sucker for kittens and orange ones in particular. The ladies were scared of this small and helpless orange kitten and dad had to rescue Elmer. Elmer was intended to be an outdoor only cat because he thought 2 cats plus a dog was enough, but he’s now mostly an inside cat. He has a nice personality, probably the most dog-like of all the cats, and is quite a cuddler.

          2. Melissa*

            I’m still afraid of cats. I started volunteering in the cat rooms at the ASPCA and so I am slightly less afraid of them, but I had both positive and negative experiences with the cats there so…very small net gain. While some cats are sweet and snuggly, other cats are unpredictable and some are just plain mean. I also can’t read them very well.

            1. KJR*

              I definitely have some residual fear that comes out with some of the meaner ones. Luckily they are few and far between, and there is always another volunteer who can help out in those cases. In my case, it helps to remember that the ones who are mean are mean because they are scared and have been mistreated. Doesn’t make the scratches hurt any less though!

    2. Jen in RO*

      Hijacking: I got a new kitten yesterday and I’m stressed out. Vet no.1 said it’s female and 3 weeks old. Vet no.2 said it’s male and 2 weeks old. I already have a 2.5 year old tomcat. Baby cat is now in the kitchen, because I’m afraid big cat might hurt him… what do I do to make them friends? Big cat is not aggressive towards small cat, just curious/apprehensive. And the small cat is so… small! It eats fine, but I don’t think it’s litter trained… Aaaa panic! But it’s so cute!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Keep them separate for the first week and then gradually introduce them, supervised.

        Also, 2-3 weeks is tiny — do you have to bottle-feed?

        There’s loads of good stuff on the internet on this that I read when we got Olive — google terms like “introducing kitten and cat” but also “kitten development” so that you can see where your kitten is. You can litter-box train her but she’ll need help — you’ll need to rub her, uh, Personal Area with a wet washcloth after she eats, for instance, which is how mother cats do it (but with their tongues, which you do not want to use).

        1. happycat*

          I recomend a warm washcloth, careful not to rub too much! NO SOAP!! but do wash the cloth between uses. Also, try leaving the kitten a magic bag to sleep on, it might be too tiny to keep itself warm. You can make your own by stuffing DRY rice or barley into a bag. Microwave it to warm it up, make a hollow for the wee one to sleep in.
          Kitty introductions: pet one kitty, go pet the other kitty. Let them sniff each other under the door, find ways to introduce the scents in a friendly way. And, google for more advice, yes!!
          and as Bob Barker used to say, spay or neuter your pets ^-^

        2. Jen in RO*

          It’s eating canned (wet) food and the vet didn’t suggest milk, so i guess it’s OK? It’s got a good appetite, it eats everytime it remembers the bowl. I introduced the two cats but only with baby held in my arms. I’ll keep them separate for at least a week, maybe more. It’s a stray so probably has worms, but I can’t give it the deworming pill for 2 more weeks… I don’t want to get big cat sick.

          Thanks for the advice! It’s scary being responsible for something so tiny.

          1. happycat*

            I don’t think milk is a good idea for cats anyway. You can get a kitten milk from your vet or pet store, it has to be specifically for kittens. They get the runs easily, and, believe it or not, they can dehydrate very fast. Keep making sure she is eating her canned kitten food, and introduce dry food in a few weeks, or whenever your vet recomends.

            1. Jen in RO*

              Yeah, I was thinking of the special kitten milk, not cow’s milk… but since it’s eating regular food I guess there’s no need.

              I’ll try the warm cat bed suggestion tomorrow! Right now it has a car carrier with a big towel in it, it’s all snuggled up there.

              1. Julie*

                I found a 2-week-old calico kitten when I was in college (I worked part-time next door to a vet’s office, and someone had dropped her off in the parking lot!). She was so tiny! I took her to my office and made a bed for her in a shoebox, and then I took her to the vet’s when they opened. He examined her, and she was in good shape except an infection in one eye. The doctor only charged 1/2 price for the the exam and medicine. He also taught me how to feed her and gave me a syringe (minus the needle!). I took her home, and I named her Querida. The doctor told me to smash the dry food with a hammer (with a towel over it) and put it in the syringe with water and feed it to her. Her little tummy expanded after a few syringe-fulls of food. I also fed her water this way. After about a week and a half, she just started drinking water out of a dish by herself. Also, the first time she pooped on the rug, I picked her up, bonked her gently on the nose with my finger, and put her in the litter box. After that, she used the box. It was like she just needed to know where it was! I had to keep an eye on her because she was climbing the curtains and doing a lot of exploring. She also wanted to play with me all night (cats are nocturnal, after all). I finally had to pull the sheet over my head and completely cover myself so she would go to sleep. I really liked having her, but after two weeks, the apartment manager said I couldn’t keep her there (no pets allowed). I found a family with kids who wanted to have a new kitten, and they adopted her. I wish I could have kept her!

      2. ExceptionToTheRule*

        Sex determination of a kitty can be done at home. Google “Cat Gender Determination” and the difference will be pretty self-evident.

        Lots of cats can be lactose intolerant, so if you need to supplement the wet food, get the special kitten milk.

        For litter box training, make sure you get a low-sided box that s/he can easily clamber over. Your adult cat will be very helpful with the litter training, but most kittens I’ve had take to the box readily.

        1. Jen in RO*

          What I don’t know is: do I *need* to give it special kitten milk as long as he’s eating (lots of) kitten food? Is it getting enough nutrients from that food? The vet seemed OK with what I’m feeding it, but I’m still worried since it’s such a small cat!

          Its litter box right now is the top of a shoebox, filled with litter… I’m gonna have to teach it to use it, I don’t want to introduce my two cats unsupervised just yet – my big one gets aggressive when he’s scared, and he’s still skittish around tiny cat.

  3. The Other Dawn*

    I clicked just at the right time!!

    OK, this is for anyone who has a federal job.

    Today I submitted an application through I got through the process, uploaded my resume, and finished the application. Does it not allow you to upload a cover letter? It seemed as though it only will allow something that’s part of the document requirements. And is a cover letter standard when applying for a fed job?

    Just gotta say, reformatting and fleshing out my resume into more of a narrative was a week-long project. I am SO happy I had a few people to guide me on that.

    1. De Minimis*

      I believe you can attach a cover letter with your profile [the same way you would with your academic transcript.] Been a while since I applied so I don’t remember for sure.

      But in general, I don’t know if cover letters are that important or standard for most federal jobs. It generally comes down to what’s in your resume and how you answer the questionnaire that is usually part of the USAJobs system.

      It also depends on the agency.

      1. A*

        Agreed, cover letters aren’t that standard for federal jobs. The hiring manager might not get to see all of the documents you submitted anyways. In my agency, HR usually does the initial check and determination of qualifications.

    2. Amanda*

      I applied for a whole slew of federal jobs while I still had my Non-competitive eligibility (through Peace Corps) and got a big fat nowhere with it. I’m pretty rusty on usajobs but I do remember that I always attached a cover letter. On the very last page of the application, there was a place where I could “attach additional documents” or something, so I selected the “cover letter” category and attached.

      I will say that I was applying mostly for NPS jobs with involved historical interpretation so maybe the application was a bit different than in other sectors. Plus it was over a year ago.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Yeah, there was a spot to attach additional documents at USAjobs, and I did, but when I got through the application on the agency’s website, “cover letter” wasn’t listed. It was only performance evaluation, DD214, and a couple other things. The impression I got was that they didn’t want anything other than what we “required”. It’s too late now anyway so I won’t worry about it.

        I’m hoping I make it to the interview process. I’m coming from the private sector, from a job I had for 17 years no less, and it’s a whole other animal. Thankfully I know several people in the agency, including the hiring manager, and they guided me through reformatting my resume, explained how the application answers had to be referenced in the resume, use of key words, etc. They have me so paranoid about the scoring system and use of key words, though.

        1. littlemoose*

          If you do make it to the interview stage, I advise preparing a list of your complete employment history and residence history. I had to provide all of that information for background checks when I was hired, and it was surprisingly time-consuming to assemble that information (and I was/am relatively young). The need for background checks depends on the agency and role, but you may want to start gathering that info if it looks like you’ll be moving forward in the hiring process. Good luck!

    3. dr lemur*

      A few years back a federal employee suggested to me that you could put the cover letter in front of the resume PDF you submit. Not sure this is the only answer, but it was the only one that seemed to work at the time. Even with that, I had no success getting an interview.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        The few people I know in the agency heavily emphasized the use of a scoring system and key words. It’s got me worried, but I know I’ve done my absolute best so I’m not going to try to not think about it. It’s out of my hands for the moment.

        1. dr lemur*

          It can also be difficult to tell if the job is actually as someone’s promotion, but has to be posted due to federal regulations. For that reason, I stopped applying for anything open less than a week, unless it was clearly an open call (ie, multiple jobs/locations listed).

          1. The Other Dawn*

            Yes, it’s for multiple locations. Plus, I was told that the job had been posted once and they didn’t get any qualified applicants, so they’re reposting.

            1. De Minimis*

              If you’re got people there who know about you and are helping you, your odds are probably somewhat good to at least get an interview.

              It also isn’t necessarily the case that single jobs already have handpicked candidates–some of these are newly created [mine was] and I’ve seen cases even when the hiring people did have someone in mind they did seriously look at and interview outside people. The internal person had to prepare just as much as the other candidates. She did end up getting the job, but was very well-qualified and prepared.

        2. Chrissi*

          I work for a federal agency and the scoring system is key (for my agency – some work differently than others). Essentially, the HR part of our department (that knows very little about what we do or what we need) looks at the application and determines if you are qualified. For entry-level, they are checking to see if you meet the minimum requirements (20 credit hours of Economics, etc), then you get “points” based on additional experience, GPA, etc. Additional points are added for an application from a Veteran or people with Disabilities (as long as both are minimally qualified for the job). Once the job opening closes, they put together a list of applicants ranked by the number of points they get (called a “certificate” I think) and the hiring manager gets that list. They may get the entire list or they may request to only get the top 10 applicants. So if you aren’t getting anywhere, you might not be making the final list given to the hiring manager.

          For non-entry level, there are a variety of application types, but they are also scored on points. Some of them are a list of 30 or so multiple-choice questions about your work experience, and you are given points based on your answers, some require a written section answering questions and points are assigned based on key words. The point being, that you have to score over a certain number (usually 90 out of 100) to make the cut. Also, in our agency, they have to post the job to the public, but in reality only current employees will meet the qualifications for the job. But I’m pretty sure that’s not the case with all of the departments and agencies.

          I think it’s a passable system for the entry-level jobs and a terrible system for everything else. I truly do not understand why HR employees that NEVER talk to us, have no idea what skills we need, etc. are the ones that decide who we get to interview, but that’s the system. I know it’s designed to give everyone a fair chance, but in reality, only people that understand the system have a chance in hell of getting an interview.

          Also note that agencies will post jobs with opening and closing dates (usually for multiple cities) that don’t necessarily exist at that exact moment. If it’s a job with high turnover, they want as many applicants to choose from as possible, so they just leave the job “open” all the time, and then when it’s time to fill that position, they look at everyone that has applied since the last time and use that to put the list together. However, that is much rarer than it used to be, what with hiring freezes and everything.

          Finally, if there is ANYTHING wrong with your application – didn’t submit a particular form or required document, or didn’t sufficiently show how your previous job experience fulfills the requirements for the job, your application is tossed. They are ruthless about that.

          Anyway, don’t get discouraged and Good luck!!

          1. The Other Dawn*

            “I know it’s designed to give everyone a fair chance, but in reality, only people that understand the system have a chance in hell of getting an interview.”

            Yes! Had I not talked to several people I know in the agency, I would have sent in my standard 1.5 page bulleted resume and then wondered why I never heard anything. I was SO glad I called one of them to ask a question about the online app, because that lead into a long discussion about how to write the resume.

    4. Federal Govt Job Seeker*

      Ugh. I feel for you! I applied for a federal job, but it wasn’t through that website. I sent my cover letter & resume as one document. A narrative resume sounds great, though.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Yeah…it sounded great until I had to recount the 17 years at my job. :) Very small company, wore MANY hats, involved in just about everything. Yeah, the resume was LONG and it took me all week.

  4. Betsy*

    So, I had a job interview yesterday, and today, I sent a mail to the recruiter and hiring manager telling them that while I appreciated the opportunity and enjoyed speaking with them, I didn’t think the position was a good fit.

    It was a weirdly empowering experience, and I got to have it largely because of reading AAM, in part because of her emphasis on interviewing being a 2-way street and in part because the answers to “what is the difference between a good candidate for this position and a great one?” were the things that convinced me I was reeeeeally not the person they wanted.

    It was pretty awesome, and I’m feeling very good about life today.

  5. Laufey*

    I need advice on how to manage a coworker/peer.

    Context: we were hired at the same time for the same role. In our small and mathematically oriented office, every set of numbers that leaves the office must be math checked before it leaves. In theory, you are supposed to respond to math check requests unless you are under an imminent deadline, even if you have billable work to do. Coworker in question never volunteers to help, even if she had just that day complained about only having nonbillable work all week and had been surfing the internet most of the time. The projects I usually work on are fairly long and involved, requiring many people to volunteer (sometime requiring everyone in our position to do a piece), but she never offers. Her never volunteering also means that there is more work for the rest of us to do (you wouldn’t think one person would make that much of a difference, but it does).

    Is getting her to pull her weight just a lost cause/none of my business, or is there something I can do about it?

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Have you asked her to help and gotten a “no,” or has she simply not offered? Because I think even if you’re not her boss, you can ask, “Do you have time to do some math checks?”

    2. BCW*

      Well, the problem is she isn’t your direct report, so you shouldn’t look at it as “managing” her. It sounds like it being a system where you volunteer is set up for one person to do more than others. How many of you are there? Could you make it so if it comes from certain people you check it and if it comes from others she does? Or maybe alternate days? It seems like you need a better system other than volunteering. I’d talk to your manager about that, and not frame it in terms of what your co-worker isn’t doing.

      1. Jessa*

        This sounds like it needs a rota sheet. I think they call them a wheel in the US. You make a list of everyone who can do the checks, and you start at the top, only skipping someone if they’re doing work they can’t put aside, and then you go back to them once they’re free making sure they take their turn. Then you start the list at the top again once everyone has gone. Stuff like this being done on a hit or miss volunteer system usually means that one or two people who are “obeying the rules” about stuff like this get stuck with it. Because other people make excuses.

        It also lets the bosses see who is actually pulling their weight. If necessary, write out a wheel yourself and just tick off who does it when. If it’s really out of balance that someone isn’t doing any, you can take that to the bosses as “Look, I always pull my weight but I’m seriously tired of covering for Sally. Either she’s never supposed to do this, which is fine if you tell us that, or she’s got to be told to do her share, because it’s killing morale here. And paycheques since this cuts into our billables.” (On the presumption that part of your pay is due to amount of billables, if you’re straight hourly, not so much to complain about.)

    3. Betsy*

      I would agree with BCW that it sounds like this is more a problem your manager would address instead of you. I’d talk with your manager and tell her, “Sometimes it can be hard to get math checks done in our current volunteer-based system, because some people tend to volunteer more and less than others. Can we look into another means to share that responsibility?”

      There are a lot of ideas for handling it I can think of (change who is responsible for math checks daily, approach it like a round robin which each person always checks one other person’s work, a system where everyone has to respond with either a yes or an explanation as to why they can’t, etc), but ultimately, I think it’s your manager’s job, and she can’t do it unless you tell her it’s an issue.

      1. LCL*

        Your manager needs to fix the workflow. Sit down and explain how things are flowing now, and how you think changing them would help the company.

        I’ve been on the quasi-management side of “She never helps”, and then found out that she never helped because she was deliberately shut out of the discussion, or he never helped because he was so green he didn’t understand when to drop what he was doing and help and thought someone would ask him. Nothing got solved until I asked for specifics from all parties.

    4. Paul the Builder*

      In one of the First Aid classes I’ve had to take over the years, we were told that in an emergency we shouldn’t just yell out, “Someone call 911”. Instead, it’s recommended to look/point at a specific person and say, “YOU call 911”. The reasoning is that it’s very easy to assume that someone else will do whatever it is that needs doing- and then no one does anything. I understand that you are peers, but it it possible to simply ask her for her help? If everyone around the office is volunteering, I can imagine it would be easy for her to assume that “everyone else has it covered, so why should I get involved?”.

      I’ve also found that many people are loathe to volunteer, but many of those same people react well to being asked for help because it makes them feel needed and included in the team.

    5. VictoriaHR*

      Is this like a queue system where your math check request sit out there and whoever is able to check it out and do it, does? Or is the “volunteering” done through email/IM?

      I would do as the other poster suggested and flat-out ask her for help. If that doesn’t work, I’d go to my boss and say something like, “I’m having trouble completing XYZ because math checks are getting held up. Is there a way to review the system and see if there’s something we can do to fix it?”

    6. The Other Dawn*

      I’ve learned that if you wait for someone to offer, it’s likely never to happen. I would just ask for the help or the math checks. It’s much harder for someone to ignore a direct request. And then if she does say no, you then have a case for going to the manager and saying that you’re not getting the help you need and it’s impacting your work and the rest of the office.

    7. plain jane*

      A couple of thoughts

      – it isn’t your job to get her to pull her weight, and you need to try to work on feeling like she’s ‘getting away’ with something (I know it is hard, I struggle with it too). You should be sure to tell managers about how much you appreciate the people who do – she will be obvious by omission.

      – do you know when you’re going to have numbers that are going to need to be checked? If you are doing big projects, can you line people up ahead of time?

      – in your requests, can you instead have an assumption that person you are asking will support, instead of having to raise their hand? (e.g. I’m going to need 2-3 people for at least a half day towards the end of the week, please let me know if you won’t be able to support on the important delivery of project x)

    8. Lynn Whitehat*

      Is it possible she doesn’t know how to do them? Or submit them, or something? In that case, she might be ignoring them because she’s thinking “oh, that’s for the people who have been trained on it”, and it could be as simple as showing her how to do it or where to get the forms or whatever.

      1. Laufey*

        Well, we all went through training together, so any training she missed, the others of us missed as well.

    9. Laufey*

      Thanks for tips, everyone. I’ll think about it over the weekend and figure out which approach will work the best.

  6. BCW*

    This kind of piggybacks on a discussion from yesterday, but it was very timely for me. I’m waiting to hear back from an employer, and I got a notification that they started following me on Twitter. My Facebook account is very hard to find due to privacy settings, but I don’t have any on twitter. I don’t do much, but I did recently rant about an issue on the bus, with some colorful language. I’m not looking for a lecture, so please don’t do that. I have since deleted after I saw that they are following me, so there is a good chance they saw it anyway. My question though is for people who do hiring and look at social media (or if you just know people who look at that stuff when making hiring decisions). Its 3 part.

    First, why do you do it? I mean you are hiring for a work position, so it should be based on what they have accomplished and can add to your company, not someone’s personal life. I just don’t get it.

    Next, what exactly are you looking for? Do you want to know how they spend their weekends? What kind of friends they have?

    Finally, what kinds of things could you see that would make you not want to hire that person? I get if its like smoking marijuana or something illegal, but what else? Is being drunk in pictures a deal breaker? Are the pages the like a deal breaker?

    Thanks for any input

    1. cf_programmer*

      It depends on the job. Where I work, we have a written social media policy. Even a rant with language would probably rule you out. I am sure every workplace is different. Government agencies, obviously, have to maintain pretty strict standards.

      Also, I don’t think deleted actually means deleted like you and most folks think it means. I *never* delete records…most dbas do not. We just mark them deleted so they don’t show up. But they are still there…

      1. Anonymous*

        Yes, but let’s face it, prospective employers are not going to take more than a cursory look at someone’s twitter feed. Unless they’re applying for a job at the NSA, “delete” is good enough.

    2. Elkay*

      Following on from this – as an employer is it wise to “openly” track a job applicant on a social media site? Does this leave you open to claims that you didn’t employ the candidate based on information you found there – e.g. that they have kids, a disability or are a particular ethnicity?

      1. BCW*

        See, thats another thing I was wondering about. You can’t “ask” their religion, but if you happen to find out based on their social media that they are muslim for example, doesn’t that open you open to all kinds of things?

        1. Trixie*

          I would expect they can ask just about anything but if they discriminately opt not to move you further along the hiring process, that’s another matter.

          As far as “happen to find out on social media,” it’ not about them following on FB or Twitter, etc. It’s that you (or anyone) puts that out into the universe. There’s no expectation of privacy. (A bad but good example: Anthony Weiner, recently used as a storyline on Special Victims SVU )

          1. Erika*

            Ding ding ding. I would never not hire someone because I found out that they follow a specific religion, whether I got that information on Facebook or in person; I WOULD not hire them because their Facebook is all half-naked selfies and racist rants.

          2. FRRibs*

            This. If your settings allow your social media musings to be viewed by the public, and someone reads them, how can that be an invasion of privacy?

    3. Danny*

      I do check out social media (just what’s publicly viewable) for my incoming employees.

      1) Because social media is part of the gig – so I want to know they’re competent at it. (I hire mostly entry level folks, so if they have “420 Weed erryday” pics on their public feed while job searching, then it’s likely they’re not social media saavy/competent if they haven’t tinkered with their basic privacy settings.

      2) I belong to an mission-driven organization. It’s non-partisan, but for a progressive cause (LGBT advancement), so I do check to make sure if they’re publicly posting about LGBT issues, they’re not insulting members of the community/posting slurs/etc. Stuff that I wouldn’t want community members to see as representative of our organization.

      3) I don’t care what they do on their weekends or who their friends are. If they’re posting pics of a round of beers on their instagram, I could care less.

      4)I’m curious to see if they’re using social media effectively for whatever they’re doing. Are they hashtagging? participating in online communities? I don’t care much what they’re interested in personally, but if say, they are blogging/tweeting for a gamer community, responding to community member questions, and throwing up links of interest to their community, then that’s a pretty cool indication that they have the abilities I’m looking for.

      This is all just a minor part of a large package of their qualifications and interviews, but it is a detail that I make sure to check out.

      1. BCW*

        See, if social media is a part of the job, and you are an advocacy group, all of that completely makes sense. There are jobs though where that stuff has nothing to do with the actual job though.

        1. Erika*

          But social media (at this point) is rather like what you wear – it’s information about yourself that you personally place in the world. If you don’t have it locked down via privacy settings, you may as well go out in your underwear. If you do it voluntarily, you can’t complain if people find it distasteful.

          1. BCW*

            But using that analogy, if you wear very revealing, tacky, borderline inappropriate clothing in your personal life, why does that matter if you dress professional for your interview and at work?

            1. Erika*

              In my experience, anyone who feels comfortable putting racial slurs out there on their Facebook is just one step away from tossing out an N-word joke at work. It comes down to judgment, and I don’t want to hire anyone who doesn’t understand about keeping offensive material under wraps online. I won’t trust their judgment when I need to.

              1. BCW*

                As I mentioned further down, the racist/sexist stuff I get. Aside from that though, everything else seems a bit much.

                1. Rana*

                  I agree. However, I’ve found it’s just easier to have either a locked account or to tweet under a pseudonym for the less professional stuff, while maintaining a more “clean” stream for my public-and-searchable profile.

                  (I have a lot of social media platforms, and they’re divided up into locked/personal/professional across the board. It’s sometimes frustrating if I have something in one I want to take credit for on another, but that’s the cost of controlling my online image.)

            2. Danny*

              I consider social media to be a different animal than simply a wardrobe. It’s a form of self-publishing. And what a person publishes under their name is absolutely under consideration for whether I’d like to bring them onboard.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      I’ve Googled applicants to see what I could find. I don’t care about someone posting pictures of them drunk at a party or whatever. I don’t care about their religion, race, the friends they keep, etc. If I came across someone’s profile and it was obvious they were into heavy drugs, member of the KKK, or were an abuser, that’s something that would be a deal-breaker. I think most companies are just doing their due diligence to try and avoid anyone that might hard the company’s reputation, open them up to lawsuits, etc. And it all depends on the company and type of job you’re applying for. Some companies won’t care, others will.

    5. NBB*

      Things I could see that would make me not want to hire someone: any sort of racist, sexist, or homophobic statements. Vulgar statements, cussing, angry rants, etc. An expletive isn’t a deal breaker to me, but it depends on the context.

      Poor spelling, grammar, punctuation (I mean really bad, not just a typo or something).

      Picture with alcohol, not a big deal (to me personally). Picture of you puking or passed out? A big deal.

      And any sort of statements, rants, opinions that suggest the person is hateful, not reliable, is not responsible, and would not make a good employee or person to work with.

      1. Jen in RO*

        Pretty much this… and curiosity about a potential future coworker! Social media didn’t influence us when we called people in for interviews at my ex-job – we even interviewed the guy who wrote sexist statements on his blog, but he was rejected for unrelated reasons.

        There *was* a guy whose profile said a lot about his (lack of) judgement, but it was under a fake name and we only saw it after he got hired. He had posted FB pics of himself and his girlfriend of the month, naked in the tub. You couldn’t see details, but the nakedness was obvious. He failed his trial period because he was incompetent and hit on several women in the company…

      2. Kelly L.*

        How about excessive LOLdogs and comments about how much I want coffee? Because I’ve realized that’s about 90% of my social media presence. ;)

    6. Erika*

      When I look at a candidate’s social media, it’s for three reasons:

      1. I hire for positions that require accuracy and attention to detail. I have noticed that candidates that I’ve hired whose social media accounts feature a lot of misspellings or “creative” language” tend to make more computer errors that I then have to fix.

      2. I want a chance to get to know them better, including what kind of judgment call they made regarding privacy settings. For example: I have an easy-to-find Facebook with tight privacy settings, so employers could see that I have one, but not actually see anything on it. If the candidate has an easy-to-find account that is nothing but ranting and/or gibberish, I can assume that they will be difficult to manage and probably not someone I want to hire.

      3. Finally, I want to make sure that the candidate is an out-and-out racist, misogynist, or other sort of bigot. Yes, I interviewed someone before who seemed lovely in person and turned out to have all kinds of racial slurs and neo-Nazi propaganda on their Facebook. NOT someone I want around.

      As for your situation…we all use colorful language at my place of work, so unless your rant included something I personally find offensive (or unless your Twitter was nothing but complaining), it wouldn’t have any effect on your candidacy (with me).

      1. BCW*

        I guess here is my thought. Now granted, you can hire for whatever you want. But I think assuming how someone posts on FB, or twitter, or an employment blog, is going to be reflective of how they treat their work writing is a stretch. I make tons of grammar mistakes on here, but you’d be hard pressed to find those same mistakes in professional correspondence.

        Going along with that, your “getting to know them better” really has no bearing on how they will be at work. I assure you, I know some people who are all smiles and sunshine on their FB page and are very different at work, and vice versa. So I think you are basing that judgement on something that may or may not be there.

        Its clear based on your responses that you are all for snooping on people’s social media to make your decisions. And again, thats fine. (Also, I can sense that your argument will be that you aren’t snooping because they put it out there, but to me its like following someone to a bar and basing your hiring opinions on that). But it just seems so ridiculous to me because. aside from the racist and bigoted remarks, the rest of it really has no bearing whatsoever on the type of employee they will be. I’d even argue knowing people socially has no impact on their professional life. It’s the reason that if you know someone because you play softball with them, their reference for a job won’t carry nearly as much weight as someone you actually worked with. You can be the most professional person ever from 9-5 then be the craziest person outside of work, and there is nothing wrong with it. I just don’t think it should be used to make hiring decisions. Again, the exceptions are if your job is social media or you are representing an advocacy group.

        1. Ag*

          Once you hire someone, they are a representation of your company/brand to some degree. If you list your place of work on your LinkedIn profile, and someone (a client, for example) finds you on Twitter and sees a bunch of posts about drugs, alcohol, sexism, etc., they may make decisions about working with the company based on the lack of professionalism.

          I’ve seen this happen. A client of ours found their account manager on on Twitter and discovered lots of drug/crude references… then brings it up to us, asking what the deal is. This person even listed where they worked in their Twitter bio. It just doesn’t look good.

          1. BCW*

            That is a valid point. And I think if you choose to employ a policy about social media (privacy settings, not mentioning your employer) thats one thing. But I think to not hire someone based on that is a bit much. Was your account manager an otherwise good employee? Did knowing this have any bearing on their work results? I think you would be perfectly fine to have a conversation about it to him.

            I’m curious though, how did you handle it? On both the client and employee side?

            1. Ag*

              We do have a social media policy, which everyone is required to sign when hired, so the account manager definitely knew the potential consequences for not complying. When asked about the posts, the account manager didn’t really have an explanation. The client asked to switch account managers. The account manager was written up…. and later let go because he shared data about a different client on Twitter.

        2. Colette*

          I disagree. I do think it’s relevant – in part because people who can’t spell don’t magically learn to spell when they’re at work*, and in part because it’s about your judgement. If you have a social media account that is public and in your name, what you think is appropriate to share with the world is a judgement call.

          * I recognize that people are more casual with spelling on social media, and I’m not talking about minor misspellings, more like someone who misspells every second word so drastically that you don’t know what they’re trying to say.

          1. Erika*

            Exactly. Or people whose usage of grammar on social media is so far out there that you can’t understand what they’re saying. A type or a single misuse of “lie” or “lay” is NOT what I’m looking for.

        3. FRRibs*

          Where are you more likely to get a in depth picture of someone as a complete package; a one hour conversation and a two page work history, or four to ten years of online scribblings?

        4. Erika*

          Your analogy about following someone to a bar doesn’t hold up though because, as someone else said above, people are voluntarily putting this information about themselves out there in a way that is very easy for others to find it. They’re publishing it in a format where it’s not only never truly deleted, but also can be multiplied and sent to others. It’s the same reason I wouldn’t want my kids sexting – once you put it out there, you can’t control what happens to it.

          That’s where my questioning their judgment comes in.

          As far as “getting to know them,” what they put on social media can give me a clue about whether or not I’ll be able to manage them. A candidate who constantly complains about their jobs or makes semi-sexist statements is likely to be a problem employee for me, and not someone I want to bring onto my team.

    7. Brett*

      Twitter is easier to deal with than Facebook because you can set up as many twitter profiles as you want.

      If your twitter profile is for social interaction with your friends only, then make it a private profile. Then if an employer or potential employer tries to follow you, you can say, “Sorry, I use that profile for communicating with my friends only and not for any professional communication.”

      If you must have a public social profile, do not put your real name on it and do not use an email address connected to your resume to register it. Use this profile for your public rants with colorful language, etc.

      If you have a public twitter profile under your real name, then assume that you are professionally networking with the profile and treat it that way. Employers, co-workers, potential employers, clients, etc. will all read it and can read it whether they follow you or not.

      When I look at a candidate’s twitter profile under their real name, that is what I am looking for. How much do they talk about the industry, who do they communicate with, what are they talking about. To be honest, if I look at a profile like that and see that it is a purely a professional profile, I just move on and pretend the profile doesn’t exist.

      (Though if the profile belongs to a co-worker and they are saying things that could be particularly damaging, I advise them to lock the profile or change the username or name on the profile so they are not readily identifiable.)

      One last important issue… because there are so many tweet archiving services, it is essentially impossible to delete a tweet. You can remove it from your profile at least, but someone who wants to find it can find it.

      1. Brett*

        Instead of “To be honest, if I look at a profile like that and see that it is a purely a professional profile, I just move on and pretend the profile doesn’t exist.”
        I meant to say “To be honest, if I look at a profile like that and see that it is a purely a SOCIAL profile, I just move on and pretend the profile doesn’t exist.

    8. fposte*

      On the bright side, they openly followed you rather than just looking at your tweets without alerting you.

        1. voluptuousfire*

          I would reckon this all hinges based on the idea that your social media presence is linked to your given name or email address attached to your resume. I have a Facebook page but it’s under a nickname. Unless I told you the nickname or the personal email address I use, I’m not searchable. Same for my Twitter. I don’t post anything egregious on Twitter, but it’s *my* Twitter account. There’s no need for a prospective or current employer poking around my social media presence. I may rant a bit occasionally and use a few curse words, but I never mention anyone by name or elaborate too much.

    9. A*

      I check a potential employee’s FB to see how they present themselves. I also check their linkedin, if they have one.

      Remember, if a potential employer can find you on social media, so can a client of the organization. If you have weird/inappropriate stuff on FB/Twitter/whatever and a client finds it, that reflects on the organization.

      1. Kat A.*

        I agree with Erika and A. on this topic. Sorry, BCW.

        When we were hiring for an illustrator, I checked out our 1st applicant on Facebook and found a profile pic of him lying naked on a sofa with a drugged-out look on his face. I had met him at a recruitment event so I knew the picture was of him.

        I checked his profile again a few days later, and it showed him looking straight at the camera with his middle finger up.

    10. Amanda*

      Great question. Here’s my follow up: do employers look at timestamps of social media? My Facebook is locked down as tightly as possible, but I definitely use Twitter through the day and a quick look at timestamps would show that I have done so.

      In my own case, I’m less worried – I use Twitter in a purely professional capacity, and often use it for professional development and to source examples of programs and other things that I’m trying to develop at my own job. I also don’t use it all that extensively during the day. But what about people who use Twitter personally and are sending things, say, at 1:30 pm on a weekday?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I notice. If it’s a few here and there during the workday, I’m not going to think anything of it, but if it’s a constant stream during the workday and it’s a regular thing, I’m going to wonder about their work ethic.

        1. Ag*

          The issue with this is you can schedule posts to go out throughout the day. When promoting a blog post, event, fundraiser, etc., I schedule tweets for various times of the day.

          1. Rana*

            Though those tend to look different than random, frequent posts, right? I assume that scheduled ones go out at set points around the clock, which would be something easy to check for.

            (Of course, that’s assuming that a would-be employer does pay attention to such things.)

          2. SamTowana*

            Yes, but nobody is going to believe you’re scheduling multiple “casual observation”-type Tweets on your personal account every day.

      2. Colette*

        My thought was that it would depend on whether you occasionally (less than once a day) update during the day or whether you’re posting 100 times every day. Of course, the threshold would vary depending on your job.

    11. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Like a lot of folks, I’m looking for racist/sexist/NOT COOL stuff like that.

      Maybe they followed you because they found you interesting?

    1. Jessa*

      Hey you said the most important part. KITTEHS. Do we need anything else? Oh yeh that advice stuff…but KITTEHS.

  7. Rose*

    I faintly remember reading a post about this but I can’t seem to find it. I have a great job right now that I love. Unfortunately, it requires long hours and the company doesn’t pay very much. It isn’t a non-profit or anything like that but the salary for my position is less than half of what the market rate is in my area. At this point, the pay is so horrible that I cannot continue to live on this for much longer. I’ve talked to my supervisor and she said a higher salary is out of the question. How do I handle this in interviews when I’m asked why I’m leaving my current position? Is it okay to say it is because of the salary?

    1. VictoriaHR*

      You can, but you can couch it as unfortunate, because otherwise you like the job: “Unfortunately my current employer isn’t able to meet the going standard rate for the XYZ role, and I’m not able to make ends meet. If they were able to pay the going rate, I wouldn’t be looking for something else, because I love the job and would love to stay.” That way you’re not bashing your current employer but giving a perfectly plausible reason for looking elsewhere.

      Re-reading that, it sounds bad .. I don’t know, it’s just a thought.

      1. thenoiseinspace*

        I like the upbeat tone, but I don’t know that I’d say I’d love to stay, because you don’t want New Employer think that you’ll go running back to Old Employer as soon as they can pay more. I’m mean, definitely be positive, but also be positive about your possible future with New Company.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          True dat. I might think, “Oh, this person will accept a counteroffer if one is made.”

          This may not be typical, but I as a hiring manager would not think one iota less of a candidate who simply said to me, “I’m making 20% less than the market rate for my role, so I’m looking.” I wouldn’t think any less of the candidate for being motivated by money — it’s not like we all work for the sheer unmitigated joy of it.

    2. thenoiseinspace*

      From what I’ve heard Alison say in the past, there are two sides to this:

      1. You can’t do anything like call the salary ridiculous or insulting because you took the job, and agreed to do the work for the salary.
      2. Salary is a perfectly acceptable reason for looking for a new job. People want to get fairly paid for the work they do.

      So, what I draw from that is that you can say something like “I’m currently looking for something with higher salary,” and if pressed, say that you were happy to do the work for that salary, but now you are looking to grow and would like a salary that would allow your standard of living to progress.

      Other thoughts? If I’ve got this wrong, speak out!

        1. Jessa*

          Or simply “I am just looking for more growth and responsibility now, moving my career forward, there are not a lot of ‘x’ positions available where I am.”

      1. Parfait*

        Don’t make it about your standard of living. Companies don’t care about that. You can say that their pay was not market rate and you are looking for something where compensation is more correctly aligned with the value of your mad skillz.

        But honestly I would come up with another reason. There’s no more room for advancement and growth at Current Job or some such.

        1. thenoiseinspace*

          Agreed, but if the job has always been that far below market value, you can’t complain about it always having been too low because you agreed to work for that. But I agree that lack of salary growth should be a perfectly fine reason to look for something else.

      2. Jessa*

        There’s a difference between taking a job at salary x and still being at salary x after learning 5 new things that weren’t originally part of the responsibilities and also being there 3 years.

      1. Anon Accountant*

        Great minds think alike! I was searching the archives and typing additional things with my post and there’s the exact link I quoted from.

    3. Anon Accountant*

      This is quoted from the archives from AAM directly “I’ve loved the work I’ve been doing, and I was willing to do it for well-below market rates because I was so personally invested in the organization and I was learning a huge amount that I wouldn’t have had the chance to learn somewhere else. But now I’m ready to move on from that stage, and part of the reason I’m leaving is because I want to be paid a normal market rate.”

      I’ve quoted that verbatim. Now she was working for a non-profit at that time I believe, so keep that in mind. Either similar wording to the quote above or saying you’ve learned a lot and are seeking greater challenges.

    4. COT*

      I think in a for-profit setting it’s okay to acknowledge the salary issue, as long as you can also state other reasons why you’re excited to be interviewing for this particular job. Don’t make money the only factor.

      In a nonprofit setting or something similar, I think it’s even more important to show a passion about this new opportunity/organization because people have high skepticism about nonprofit employees who appear to only be in it for the money. (Even if I don’t think that’s particularly fair.)

      I left a similar situation this year, except at a nonprofit. I loved the workplace, liked my job duties, but was underpaid and they weren’t able to give me a raise. Salary was the main driver of my departure, but I was also able to give some other reasons in my interviews about why I was excited to take on new duties.

  8. Sandrine*

    First, thank you. Kitties? Awesome!

    Now, heh, just wanted to say… I finally realized why I “hate” my job! All it took was two days of training and one particular sentence to make me realize, basically, that my job equals doing the same thing I have been battling against for 15 years in my personal life, dragging me and triggering things I did not realize were there.

    Now I have more tools to resist a teeny tiny bit before I can move on :)

    1. Frances*

      Good for you for figuring that out. I had one myself about this time last year and it went a long way towards getting me motivated into a much more suitable position while helping me better manage the stresses of my bad job while job searching.

    2. Treece*

      Sandrine, please give more detail on your “ah-ha” moment. Something about what you said there is giving me pause.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I think I understand what you are saying.
      A family member said to me “You took what you learned from Bad Situation X growing up and leveraged that knowledge/insight to get this job you have.”

      All of the sudden, I had great clarity. I could see that my work was an extension of my life growing up. I thought I had moved on but I really hadn’t moved anywhere.

      This is like a moth to a flame thing. Just because we understand or have insight into unusual things does not mean we are obligated to work in that arena.
      Just because we are good at a particular thing does not mean we have to work in that field.

      If we develop ourselves well in one area then we can develop ourselves well in another area.

      Avoid jobs where you know the work is similar to emptying a lake by using a soup spoon.

      Go towards jobs that make you feel proud of YOU. (Does not matter what others think of the work. How do you feel about yourself when you describe the new job to others? )

      1. Julie*

        To respond to Treece, who wanted specifics from Sandrine. this might be helpful. I had a situation like this when I was younger. I grew up being constantly told what to do and how to do almost everything. I hated it, but one of my first jobs (that I stayed at for many years) was with an organization that basically told everyone what to do and expected people to do their work without a lot of disagreement. To be sure, some people disagreed and discussed these disagreements with their managers, but in general, most of us just went with whatever the plan was at the time and didn’t really think of doing anything differently. It was comfortable and easy for me because that’s what I was used to. The job had its advantages and disadvantages (I’m trying to say that it wasn’t all bad just because of this one component), but it’s helpful now to look back and see why I picked that particular job and organization – just in terms of knowing myself better.

  9. Addy*

    I’m not sure if this is illegal (I know, probably not) or just sketchy.

    I submit requests for mileage reimbursement on behalf of some of my employees. My boss doesn’t want to pay the IRS rate of .565 cents a mile. But she wants it to look like she pays that to other folks in our organization. So she asks me to only submit a fraction of the miles that the person actually drove and then reimburses them at the IRS rate. This means that people receive less money than they are told they should get. No one has figured out the discrepancy yet, but I feel uncomfortable lying to my employees. I also think this is probably against our organization’s policy, but can’t ask questions without it looking fishy. I’m also worried that if this is discovered, I would take the fall for it, not my boss. It also just seems dishonest and I have a bad feeling about this. Plus, my employees are on pretty limited salaries, so I know this is straining their budgets.

    How should I proceed? My boss is very powerful and tempermental, so it’s hard to push back about things like this. I worry about what would happen if they took a closer look at our paperwork.

    1. Poster formally known as Jane Doe*

      How bad do you need this job? I’d report it at the risk of taking the fall for it, because its just wrong and I couldn’t deal with it.

    2. AMG*

      I would start documenting right away. Try to get her to say it over email so that you have more than just the record of your conversations.

      I think I saw Alison say something about a similar issue once. Say that you are worried that it may not be legal, and you just want to make sure that ‘we’ are protected. Keep it we, us, friendly, protection, that sort of thing so that you aren’t saying ‘you are doing something illegal’.

      I would also consider reporting it. Maybe there is a way to do this without tipping anyone off that it was you who said something?
      Let us know how this goes.

    3. the gold digger*

      Wow. I would totally figure it out because I want my money! And I would be TICKED.

      (I was shocked to realize that we had forgotten to pay a vendor – I submitted the check request in mid-August and then noticed that the financial reports didn’t show the expenses I was expecting. I asked the vendor if they had gotten the money and they said no. The request must have been lost – but if someone hadn’t paid me the $50K they owed, I would be calling!)

    4. Addy*

      I’ve read the IRS website. There is no law that says that people who use a personal car for business purposes MUST be reimbursed, or that they must be reimbursed at a certain rate. (Just like there’s no law that you have to give people vacation days, etc.)

      So I don’t actually think this is illegal. But I do think it’s wrong, and dishonest. I would be fine if we just said, “Sorry, we only reimburse .25 a mile and so here’s your check,” or whatever.

      And yes, I really need this job, but I am planning an exit strategy and searching for other positions every day. My boss is a BIG DEAL and could blacklist me so quickly.

      1. AnonHR*

        I don’t think it’s wrong/potentially illegal because they’re not paying .565/mile (we don’t, either).

        But it might be now that your business tax records are purposefully incorrect. This is the documentation your company uses to write this mileage off at tax time. And, what if the employees want to write off the amount they don’t get reimbursed on their personal taxes? Is it in writing anywhere (like a handbook) that employees are getting reimbursed at the full IRS rate? This is majorly unethical at the least and I’m glad you’re carefully planning an exit. I would document, document, document. If those instructions came in an email, print that bad boy.

        1. fposte*

          Right. It’s not illegal to short the employee, but it is illegal to short the IRS.

          The employee should keep in mind that the action isn’t likely to change what they get for mileage–it’ll just change how the owner does her books.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            If the employee is keeping track on her own (which she should) she has to show how much she was reimbursed.
            I was taught that the IRS will compare tax forms to check for the flow of money.
            For example:
            Company A has two employees.

            Each employee receives $100 travel reimbursement ($200 total) and shows that on their tax forms.

            The IRS then checks to see how much Company A claimed to pay out. Let’s say A claimed to paid out $400.

            The IRS will want to know where that other $200 went.

            I don’t know how true this is- but this is the way I was taught to think about taxes. You have to consider how things will be reported on other people’s forms.

        2. Jazzy Red*

          It *is* wrong that boss is trying to hide the fact that she doesn’t give the employees the IRS standard amount. It’s apparently against policy or the boss wouldn’t be trying to trick people.

          OP, good luck with your exit strategy. If your name is on any of this documentation, you could end up taking the rap for your boss’ cooking of the books. Get out as fast as you can!

      2. IndieGir*

        It IS illegal. Your boss is telling you to report inaccurate numbers to the IRS. She is taking a deduction at the maximum reimbursement rate the IRS will allow, while paying her employees less than this. That’s called tax fraud.

      3. Anon Accountant*

        I don’t think this is illegal but that can depend on your state laws. So to be clear- Joe drove 100 miles but your boss is reimbursing him at a rate of .565/mile for 50 miles for example?

        And she’s submitting the paperwork to make it look like he drove 50 miles instead of the 100 miles? Yeah, that’s sketchy and unethical. I

        ‘m not sure if this can be considered detrimental reliance as employees rely on being reimbursed at a certain written rate for business expenses but aren’t reimbursed fully. Maybe someone else can weigh in on this?

        1. doreen*

          It sounds like this is actually not the employer , but the individual manager as she wants to pay less than the IRS rate but have others within the organization believe she is paying the IRS rate. I would notify whoever it is she is trying to defraud- finance, HR whoever. Your employer doesn’t have to reimburse anything- but if the employer’s policy is reimburse .565 a mile, then the manager is not following the employer’s policy.

        2. CEMgr*

          Yes, state law in many states protects the right of workers to be reimbursed for all expenses required by their employer, including mileage in their own car.

      4. Jessa*

        There’s a difference between choosing to pay less (or nothing) and posting fraudulent records. This could have a knock on effect if you’re being audited, etc. I mean sooner or later someone is going to check the documentation. Making the amount x isn’t the issue, lying about it is. And I think a good case could be made against the company for the missing money. If I’m told I’m getting x money and I get y and I catch it, I’m going to raise heck with accounting in a major way.

    5. Betsy*

      I usually kind of roll my eyes at the “is this illegal” question, but in this case… it sounds like your employer is telling the employees they reimburse at a certain rate, then giving them less than they should. If their expense policies are clearly laid out and they are not following them, I (who am totally not a lawyer!) have a gut feeling that they may be leaving themselves vulnerable to legal action via contract law. The employees took certain actions based on expectations of compensation, and they are being denied that promised compensation without being informed.

      1. Jessa*

        This. Exactly. Also sooner or later the records will catch up with them and whoever gets caught being the one doing the alterations (which will fall on OP because they’re helping this,) is going to be in a world of trouble if the boss is able to step back and say “I paid what I was given by OP.” OP seriously needs to document to protect themselves. ASAP.

    6. Ms Enthusiasm*

      Do you have some kind of confidential code of conduct hotline or something similar you can call? Or would your Human Resources department be confidential if you brought it to their attention?

  10. thenoiseinspace*

    Yes! I’ve been waiting for this one!

    Question for the group: what are your own personal rules for the job field or job hunting? Do you have any particular standards to which you hold yourself?

    For example, my rule is to never go more than 6 weeks without adding something demonstrable to my resume (new publication, new skill, new job title or duty, etc). Of course, I’m a bit behind on that at the moment… what rules do you guys go by, and how do you do it?

    1. the gold digger*

      That would be tough for me – it takes more than six weeks to see results for the things I do. But I do track everything and put numbers on it so I have the information for my performance evaluation and for my resume. I put just the highlights on my resume – the three most significant accomplishments – but keep a list of all accomplishments so I can use it for interview preparation. It’s easy to forget things as time passes!

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I have already mentioned on here that for every interview I have, I apply for another job (even if it might not be quite right) so that I am using up any nervous energy, and keeping a few more irons in the fire.

    2. VictoriaHR*

      I always tailor my cover letter & resume to each job posting that I apply for.

      I only apply for jobs that I know that I would enjoy, not just jobs that would pay the bills.

      I only apply for jobs that are a step up from my current position, not lateral moves or a step down, even if it pays more.

      I always send thank-you notes for interviews.

    3. FD*

      In the hospitality field, for entry level, most places still take paper applications. And ALWAYS wear a suit to pick one up because some managers like to do on-the-spot interviews.

      A lot of places even have you mail your resume for management jobs. And when they say ‘We’ll keep your application on file?’ They literally mean ‘in a file’.

      I’m still not sure why we’re so behind the times in terms of using technology. But then again, I have several coworkers who literally do not know how to attach a file to e-mail, so maybe the explanation’s right there…

      1. thenoiseinspace*

        Ooh, I’ve gotten caught in the on-the-spot situation before! I saw a help wanted sign while out shopping and stopped in to pick up an application, and the manager interviewed me then and there – I was wearing a t-shirt and flip-flops. Luckily, this was just for a part-time job in a restaurant and I ended up getting the job, but man, did I feel awful in that interview.

        1. Lucy*

          I’ve done some on-the-spot interviews when I managed a retail store/art gallery and I always took into account that they may not have been totally prepared for an interview. I did take note of general cleanliness and grooming.

          That said – when interviewing someone on-the-spot I thought it was a very good sign when the applicant asked about dress code or acknowledged that they would dress differently when on duty.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      1. Thank-you notes. If I can’t do it by email, I write a short letter and mail it. But I prefer email.
      2. Always wear at least business casual when going to an actual wokplace to fill out an app. I’ve had impromtu interviews when doing that.
      3. If I don’t hear anything after a reasonable amount of time and follow-up, LET IT GO. (I am awesome at doing this professionally, but not personally. Anxiety sucks.)
      4. Keep track of all apps/interviews. I used to use a Word doc, but it got insanely long. Now I use a color-coded spreadsheet and highlight stuff as it’s finished.
      5. Always, always download a copy of the job listing (I use Cute PDF Writer). By the time some employers got around to calling me, the listing had vanished. If I made a copy, then I could print it out and review it before the interview so I didn’t forget what the hell I had applied for.

    5. Amanda*

      Keep a copy of EVERYTHING. Every accomplishment you get, make sure you either a) document it yourself in clear detail or b) keep something of the product that shows what you did. I’ve kept copies of exhibit production files & taken photos of the end product, kept audio copies of programs I’ve run, and keep PR examples that show I was in charge of various things. Obviously don’t steal from your employer or pocket anything confidential, but make sure that you’re also documenting yourself as well as the institution.

      I also do a regular SWOT analysis, though not quite as formally. I find things I’m good at and make sure I am doing those. I do a self-analysis and think about ways to shore up the things I’m not good at. I do a quick skim through calls for proposals, etc., to see if there are any good opportunities. And I am always on the lookout for things that might skewer my career – in nonprofits, it seems like there’s always something on the horizon that could nuke your funding.

      1. Julie*

        I attended a workshop for job-seekers a couple of years ago, and they mentioned keeping a portfolio. One for yourself, so you don’t forget everything you’ve accomplished. And you can also put together one for employers if it makes sense for there to be written (or at least physical) materials that you can show interviewers. I haven’t looked for a job in a while, but I used to keep a brief portfolio with examples of technical materials I had written, materials for courses I had taught, and student evaluations (the ones with written comments). Usually, interviewers are glad to look at examples of work I’ve produced. One time, though, I went to an interview with my portfolio, and the interviewer was really weird about it. During our conversation, it came up that I hadn’t been actively looking, but I had seen their listing and it looked interesting to me. When I showed her the portfolio, she accused me of lying. She said there was no way I wasn’t actively job hunting, or I wouldn’t have something like that prepared and ready to show to a potential employer. Whatever…

  11. Audiophile*

    Here’s my query for everyone. I was contacted about doing an informational chat, related to an application I submitted. There was no mention of which position this was in regard to (I applied for more than one). What are others opinions on this? I feel like it’s mostly a waste of time, because they likely have someone in mind. My issue is, these type of interviews never seem to result in anything and sometimes they don’t even happen at all. One more than one occasion, I’ve been contacted and chased the interviewer, until I finally gave up. Most recently, I was contacted and the position was filled before I even had a conversation with the person.

    1. VictoriaHR*

      That’s kinda weird. I’ve never heard of an “informational chat.” Is it an interview, or isn’t it? I’d go ahead and do it, because you can get your face in front of an actual hiring manager, which is always a good thing, even if you don’t get the job.

    2. Sadsack*

      I am confused. Is the person who contacted you a recruiter who is contracted or is it someone from the actual hiring company? I find it hard to believe that someone from the company would waste time contacting you if he already had someone else in mind. Also, I have only heard of informational meetings being requested by people who may be interested in applying for a job, not by the hiring company.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I bet they’re misusing the term “informational chat” and in fact mean “interview.” I’d assume that’s the case until you see otherwise.

      1. Audiophile*

        To elaborate, I was contacted by a recruitment coordinator for a big PR firm in NYC. The email states it will be a quick chat about my experience and what I’m interested in doing for my next position. To me, it doesn’t not seem like a traditional interview, more than likely it an informal chat and they’re not planning to move me forward for either of the positions I applied for. Thoughts?

        1. Audiophile*

          Ugh posting from my phone again. That should be “doesn’t or does not”, but not that awful “doesn’t not”. *facepalm*

          1. voluptuousfire*

            To me it sounds like a phone screen to me. The RC sounds like they just phrased it badly. I would think that if a RC at a direct company wants to speak to you, it’s probably to seek out more information about what/who you are. They probably have you in mind for something there. Generally speaking, a direct company I don’t think would contact you about an “informational chat” unless they had some level of interest in your resume.

            If it were a contracted external recruiter, I could see this just as an attempt to meet their quota and add your resume to their stockpile of candidates. I’m with Alison. Treat this as an interview until otherwise specified. I know I’ve gotten calls from recruiters and their language was similar to this but did mention the position I applied for. Good luck!

        2. Julie*

          I don’t understand why you assume that “they’re not planning to move [you] forward for either of the positions [you] applied for.” Just going by what you posted, I don’t see any reason to assume they’re trying to waste your time. It sounds like they want to talk to you because they liked what you sent them, and they’re interested in you.

  12. CH*

    My question is research for a fictional story I’m writing (as a side gig) about a character who goes back into the workforce after spending several years not working. So I have this question for you: What has been a big change in work culture since you started working? And if you don’t mind, tell me what year you started in the full-time workforce. If you’d like, you can say if the change is for the better or for the worse.
    For example, I got my first “real” job in 1983. A big change in work culture that I have noticed is the dress code. In that first job I was in the lowest clerical position and never even saw a client, but I mostly wore suits, dresses, or slacks with a nice blouse to work. Now, casual blue jean Fridays are increasingly creeping to the rest of the week and if I wore a suit, they would assume I was interviewing (although I do occasionally dress up just to keep them guessing). Although it’s nice to have choices, for me, I think it is a little easier to set professional boundaries when I dress up a bit for work. So I would say it has benefits and downsides.
    How would you answer this question?

    1. Yup*

      In the nearly 20 years I’ve been working:

      I remember when some people smoked in the office. Like, had an ashtray on their desk. (And having a drink or three at lunch wasn’t unheard of.)

      Diversity. Long way to to go yet, but I perceive workplaces as looking much more like actual society, with the presence and distribution of people across gender/racial/ethnic/culture/religion/physicalspectrum/language/sexuality lines in more positions of visibility and influence. Still a heavy presence of class structure, though.

      Technology. Work from home, mobile phones, video meetings, tablets in meetings. The whole environment is wired up, and is much more of a 24/7/265 show now.

      1. the gold digger*

        Omigosh! I forgot about the smoking! Yes, in my first job, people smoked at work. They abolished that after a few months – I worked for a health insurance company and they said, “This is crazy.”

        We used to get 11 federal holidays.

        Our insurance was paid for 100%.

        At 10:00 a.m., a cart came around with coffee and donuts.

        At Christmas, we got a turkey.

        Overnight mail was a BIG DEAL and then faxes really revolutionized things.

        Companies would hire liberal arts majors and train them on a career-track position.

        There was no voicemail and the receptionist left at 5, so even if you wanted to work after hours, there wasn’t much you could do.

        My boss kept a small fridge with beer in it in his office for Friday afternoons.

        1. Jessa*

          We worked 9 to 5, an 8 hour day, we got paid for 8 hours, this included lunch or breaks if we got them. Most of the time your pay was calculated by the week, IE you got 200 bucks a week, only factory types had hourly pay that was actually paid out on a cheque as “20 hours x rate.” Nobody made the big distinctions about exempt people back then. If I took a longer lunch for some reason, I still got paid my money.

          1. Jazzy Red*

            We worked from 8 to 5, with a one-hour unpaid lunch break. My lunch break is still unpaid, although morning & afternoon breaks are.

        2. Littlemoose*

          I worked at a law firm with a big tobacco litigation dept in 2006, an a few people were still permitted to smoke in their offices. I was really, really surprised.

        3. coconutwater*

          Oh the Turkey! I miss getting a Turkey at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas. The last time I got one was in 1999. It was a nice bonus and everyone got one no matter what your job title :-)h

    2. Jessica*

      How about the advent of so-called “fun” offices? The ones where people ride around on scooters and drink beer at work and brainstorm with crayon or whatever else cockamamie things those places do.

    3. the gold digger*

      I started full-time professional work in 1985. I stopped working in 2005 after I was laid off. I met my husband at the same time. We got married and didn’t want both of us working crazy jobs, so I retired, which was great, but then he wanted to run for public office, which meant he had to take an unpaid LOA from his job, which meant I had to get a job.

      I started working again in July 2012.

      The biggest changes:

      1. I am now in a cubicle instead of an office. I had always had offices, except at the very end of my last job, when I was on a big IT project and everyone was in a cubicle.

      2. People dress like crap. I wear nice clothes – a skirt, blouse, and jacket or a dress – because I want to look professional, but I don’t wear the suits I used to wear.

      3. I can easily have conversations with people on the other side of the world now.

      4. This might be because I went from for-profit to non-profit, but the benefits are awful. I was used to good insurance but now I have a $2,500 deductible and RX is not covered.

      5. People work on the weekends now. Being accessible 24/7 has not accrued to the benefit of the rank and file.

      6. However – it is very easy to work from home. I can get my work email without having to have my work computer.

      7. There is this undercurrent of fear – I think people worry about losing their jobs more now than we did before. The economy is so bad and there are so many people out of work.

      1. the gold digger*

        I also forgot – no professional woman would have been caught dead at the office in pants back then and even a dress was pushing it. It was a suit and a blouse. Dark-colored suit, light blouse.

      2. FRRibs*

        Number 5! Up until the mid-late eighties you didn’t have beepers, then cellphones and email reaching into your private life. Vacations and weekends were actual downtime.

    4. The IT Manager*

      The technology and 24/7 availability.

      When I started in 1997, if you needed to be reached after hours you were given a pager.

      Then they started issueing cell phones for people who needed to be reach in an emergency. Now that has gone by the wayside because so many people have personal cell phones, even if you’re not on call people expect you to be reachable at all hours through your cell phone. Not that everyone takes advantage that way, but it’s now much, much harder to get away. Before when you were on vacation you were unreachable unless you left the phone number of where you were staying because of the lack of technology. Now you may really have to make a effort to get away.

      Blackberries used to mostly be work issued, but now the prevelence of smart phones means that we’re moving to the expectation that everyone will be reachable by email on their personal smart phone.

      Add to that email, teleconferencing systems, IMs, and desktop meeting applications means that working from home or with a virtual team is possible. It really wasn’t in 1997.

      1. Julie*

        Yes, I remember being glad that my group had to have BlackBerries because we taught people how to use them (this was around 2002). Now, I’m still glad to have one because I can answer emails even when I’m not at my desk, so no one needs to know my doctor appointment (or whatever) ran long (I don’t work in the same office as the rest of my team).

    5. Jazzy Red*

      OK, I keep saying that I’m older than dirt, and now I’ll prove it. I started working in 1967, right out of high school. I’m planning to retire next year, like the MINUTE I turn 65, and I can’t wait.

      So many things have changed during this time, that I can’t even list them all.

      1) I had to wear nylons (pre-pantyhose), a slip, and a dress even during the summer. And no slacks until the late 70’s. I remember one girl being sent home for wearing a skort, nylons, heels, a white blouse and blazer. Her boss didn’t even know that her skirt was really a skort until someone told him.

      2) There was a lot of on-the-job training, and I had many managers who didn’t have college degrees.

      3) Yeah, I smoked at my desk. I do remember one guy’s lunchbag catching on fire (he had it on the floor, under his table and the guy next to him was shaking the residue out of his pipe. Apparently, there was still a live ember in there.)

      4) Not “family friendly” offices. It was HUGE when companies started acknowledging that employees had families, who had emergencies now and then.

      5) No internet, no cell phones, no voice mail. Fax machines were a big deal, and the bosses secretaries guarded the hell out of them. No personal faxes allowed!

      6) Really good insurance. I had surgery and paid for almost nothing. Prescriptions were no charge, then $2 and we almost rioted over that. Now I tell my doctor not to prescribe anything that’s not on the $4 generic list.

      7) Lots of vacation and holidays. The whole week between Christmas and New Year’s off. 10 paid holidays, 7 paid personal days, and vacation. Sometimes sick days, too.

      8) Our companies were owned by the boss, not by conglomerates. Our company owners and our bosses lived in our neighborhoods, shopped at our stores, went to our churches, etc. They understood us and what our lives were like.

      9) Travel plans were very complicated and there were only certain people who could make these arrangements.

      10) The secretaries were in charge of office supplies, and we had to turn in our dried out pen to get a new one, and hand over the pencil stub (couldn’t be longer than 2″) to get a new one. People started buying some of their own office supplies just to avoid

        1. Jazzy Red*


          I’m the family historian. I’ve written up a few essays about how we lived when I was a child, mostly for my nieces and nephews. I want them to remember their grandparents for the rest of their lives. One of my brothers paid me a “compliment” by saying that I write like The Reader’s Digest – easy to read and not too long. If he wasn’t 700 miles away, I would have punched him in the arm. (The sibling thing never really goes away.)

    6. The Other Dawn*

      I started my job in 1996 and the job ended last month. I’m in banking.

      I think for me it’s a couple things that are industry-related. The number of paid holidays has been reduced. Not necessarily at my bank, but at others. It used to be that banks were closed on every holiday. Now some banks are only closed for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. The other thing would be how the number of gifts from customers has drastically decreased over the years. When I started as a teller, we would be inundated every Christmas with gift baskets, goodies, booze from the local liquor store (who was our customer), Christmas cards, all sorts of stuff. Last year the tellers told me they just got some boxed candy from a couple people and that was it. I’m sure a lot of it is the economy and an aging customer base.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Another very big change was the changeover from welfare checks and food stamps to EBT cards. It used to be on the first of the month that there would be a monster line out the door for people waiting to cash their checks and collect their food stamps. When the state changed to EBT cards, the line shifted to the ATM and we ordered a minimum of $1 million in cash just for the first three days of the month.

      2. Julie*

        I worked summers in a law firm – it was my first paying job other than babysitting, and I was thrilled. I got to meet new people, and I had enough money to see just about every movie that came out that summer. In my second year, I was promoted to relief receptionist (not on the main floor – still too young and inexperienced for that at the time). The regular receptionist smoked the most disgusting-smelling cigarettes at the desk, so I tried to breathe through my mouth the entire hour I sat there. Otherwise, it was a fun way to break up my day, and I liked answering the phones, and every now and then I got to type something, which I also enjoyed. The rest of the day I was back in Office Services, which at least had variety. We sorted mail, delivered it to three floors with the mail cart, bound documents for the attorneys, created our own paper pads (that was fun – you would line up all of the sheets of paper, press down the stack with a clamp-type thing, and then paint the glue along one edge and wait for it to dry), stocked and gave out supplies, and sent faxes and telexes. I learned a lot at that job about office culture and how to “be” in an office.

    7. Lils*

      This is fascinating!

      I’m in my late 30s, had my first office jobs during college in 1997. I was often hired as a temp to file papers and stuff envelopes in government offices and banks. It seemed like there were 100s of feet of those long file drawers. The temp agencies made you take a typing test and a filing test.

      One thing I miss is stamps–so cathartic to bang down one of those giant date stamps on papers–“RECEIVED FRI OCT 25 2013”

      1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        I still get to stamp stuff– did it this morning (invoices that I received electronically but that are processed using paper). :)

      2. Yup*

        I just had a flashback. Do you remember the giant reams of dot matrix printer paper, that you’d have to fold accordion style without tearing, and then tie up with pressed cardboard tops & bottoms & little plastic threading doohickeys? I think I filed more a million miles of paper that way as a banking temp.

        1. Lils*

          That sounds horrible–I just had to do regular papers. I remember processing store receipts for WIC recipients though.

          Also: TYPEWRITERS, argh

        2. ExceptionToTheRule*

          We had dot matrix, carbon-less paper for scripts that we would have to rip apart, then separate and sort. The closer to news time the producer printed, the more people we had walking in a circle ripping scripts.

          The teleprompter operator then had to scotch tape the script pages back together and fold them to feed them through the prompter conveyor. And, ah, the paper-cuts you could get.

          They were best medicated by the bottle of bourbon kept at Master Control.

        3. YoungMeg*

          I still have bills like that coming in from some of our vendors! I didn’t realize they still made parts for that style of printer, and I wish they would go out of stock. It slows us down so much to rip apart all 30 or so pages, toss the duplicates, then get started processing. Every time one comes in like that I wonder what’s wrong with a normal computer and printer.

        4. Ellie H.*

          I worked at a bookstore (it was just ten years ago, but I guess it was the last gasp) where we had a dot matrix printer. It was very finicky and some people were better at threading etc. than others. You couldn’t leave until the reports ran and if something was wrong with the printer the reports wouldn’t run.

    8. AdAgencyChick*

      I’ve been working for close to 15 years:

      * The clients used to send us on travel all over the place. Market research? Go watch it in the city where it’s being held! Industry conference? Sure! Now they want all kinds of business reasons before they will let us get on an airplane.
      * Health insurance was covered 100%
      * My current company used to close the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Now you have to take PTO (and accept that all teams “have” to have coverage even if there’s nothing going on, which means someone always gets told no, you can’t take those days).
      * Clients now send texts and emails at all hours, and often do expect responses at all hours.

    9. Elizabeth West*

      Training. Hardly anyone trains anymore; they expect you to know the job out of the gate. The only training you get is on procedures and equipment, and sometimes not even that.

      Something like that would depend on the type of job your character gets, however.

      1. Ruffingit*

        This is very true and something I’ve noticed as well. Training used to be much more of a given. Now, not so much.

    10. Ruffingit*

      I think the advent of Facebook and the Internet have changed things massively. My first job out of college was in 1998 and although the Internet was a “thing” then, it wasn’t nearly as robust and helpful as it is today. Downside of it though is the fact that workplaces now have to have policies or altogether block social networking because people waste so much time on it at work. I am sure there have always been lazy people who did things at work other than work, but Facebook and the like have made it a heck of a lot easier to waste time in the office.

      1. Jen in RO*

        I started my first full time job in 2004 and the internet (and technology in general) really changed things in less than 10 years.

    11. CH*

      Thanks everyone for your replies. Nothing like walking down memory lane.

      I get strange looks from my kids when I tell them about how we sent information by computer in the late ’80s–we had to dial a number on an (old-style) phone and then put the receiver just so into the external modem. And we had to do it at an appointed time so the computer on the other side was prepped to receive it. Almost 30 years later, I can still remember that sound.

    12. SAK*

      My first real job was in 1990 after finishing college. In addition to a lot of the comments already posted, a change for me is how little business is done over the phone. That was my primary method of communication with coworkers, vendors and customers. Now it’s email and if someone actually calls me it seems weird.

      Also I don’t remember spending so much time in meetings as I do now. It was very rare, maybe because it was more difficult to arrange in pre-Outlook days.

    13. Not So NewReader*

      I started working in 1979.
      I remember to check on a credit card we had these little books made of almost tissue paper. The font was size 4. You had to make sure the customer’s account was not listed in that book.

      I took a waitress job while in college. Coffee was 35 cents. And you could get a refill. Two slices of toast, two eggs and a coffee came to 99 cents.

      Cash registers were not computerized. You did an x report to find out how much money was in the drawer. At the end of the day you did a z report to close out the day. That report also told you how much money was in the drawer.

      No one id’ed for tobacco or alcohol. If a kid said he was buying it for his parent that was probably okay. And if it wasn’t “oh, stupid kids….” The cigarette machine never asked for ID.

      You went to work for a company in a real job then you were expected to stay there for life. Changing jobs was still a big deal. You better have a good reason or it would reflect poorly on you.

      People complained a lot less about their jobs/employers. Or at least I thought so. This blog is the total opposite of what I saw decades ago- no one discussed how to handle problems at work. I think the open discussion about work place situations is a major improvement in our society.

      The only real place to look for jobs was the newspaper. No one talked about networking but the word “favoritism” would come up. You could go to the employment office… but if you were from the wrong family, forget that.

      I remember my weekly check hovered around $80 for a 40 hour week. Apartments were easily $300 per month. I thought I would never move out. Now it is much worse.

    14. the gold digger*

      I just remembered – defined benefit retirement plans. Not something you think about when you are 21, but I sure think about it now, especially as I will probably never again work at a place (unless I go into government) where I get a defined-benefit plan.

        1. the gold digger*

          Yes, a pension of a certain amount (ie, $900 a month) vs a defined contribution plan such as a 401K, where the employer may contribute x% of your salary every paycheck.

          The problem with defined benefit pensions is they create a huge potential liability for employers that is hard to quantify. Many pensions have been funded with the idea that there would be an 8% return on investment, which is something I have never gotten in my own investments. So pension funds become underfunded and then they’re in big trouble, because the employer is still on the hook to pay that money.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            There are retirees out there now that are being told they no longer have a pension. The pool has dried up.
            One complaint about pension plans is that the individual has no control over the investment choices. Therefore the managers will do as they see fit. I know of one person who is just watching his pension plan die- the funds are just disappearing because of bad decisions by the fund managers. The company will not release a lump sum distribution to the pension holders. Which makes everyone even more angry. Yes, it’s legal. They can refuse to give you a lump sum distribution and insist that you take monthly payments.

    15. Sophie*

      This is slightly different, but a woman at my former workplace went on maternity leave for about 2 years. Before she left, I was a junior and she was my supervisor. When she returned, I had passed her in the ranks. She had difficulty adjusting to the following things:

      1) People who used to be below her, now being her boss. This is probably pride, but she didn’t believe that we knew better than her now, and did not want to follow orders and didn’t take direction well.

      2) The responsibilities of the job had only changed a little, but what was considered “great” performance at the job had changed a lot. She often would do tasks that were no longer necessary, or she would prioritise tasks that are now considered irrelevant or low-priority. She did a lot of “when I worked here” stories trying to justify it, and didn’t adjust well (especially I think since it was left to people like me – now her direct supervisor – to tell her that we do things differently now.)

      I imagine a lot of this was her individual personality, but might give you an idea for your story!

  13. Elizabeth*

    This is slightly a whine/vent.

    I’ve been sitting & staring at my evaluation form for the last hour. Sort of like I did for 2 hours yesterday afternoon, and multiple hours per day each day last week.

    My employer changed evaluation forms this year, and I absolutely hate the new one. The previous form was narrative with questions like “In the past 12 months, what did you do to improve your skills & knowledge?” and “What core functions of your position do you feel you need to improve upon?” I loved it, and I wrote a freaking novel every year for virtually every section. I felt like it was my opportunity to show off my accomplishments and acknowledge my weaknesses.

    Now, it is “everyone is a 3/Meeting Expectations, unless you can write War & Peace and justify why they are a 2 or a 4.” The bar for “5/Distinguished Performance” is purposely so high that it isn’t possible to meet it. Getting a “1/Unacceptable” is supposed to be grounds for immediately removing someone from a job role.

    If your real goal is to make sure that no one ever tries to excel, just say so.

    1. Betsy*

      I hate that almost as much as I hate evaluations where anything less than a 5/5 is a failure.

      I have salespeople tell me “if you give us less than a 5 in anything, we get negative consequences and can lose jobs,” which is STUPID, because nobody is actually awesome in everything. I tend to just refuse to fill out the evaluations for positions where I know they really translate to acceptable/everything was awful.

      1. SevenSixOne*

        At OldJob, random customers would get satisfaction surveys like this and it SUCKED. Staffing budgets were mostly dependent on the results of the survey–if a branch rated below 80% for three consecutive months, the staffing budget got slashed so much the company couldn’t afford to keep everyone (forget about hiring anyone new!)… which made it that much harder to provide A+ service the following month.

      2. Liz in a library*

        Customer evals at my job are like that. We need to maintain a minimum 4.6 average across the board, but some of the eval questions aren’t even about us individually…

    2. VictoriaHR*

      Feh. Here you don’t get a good raise unless you’re at “Exceeds Expectations,” but my supervisor has flat-out told me that he never gives that score because he doesn’t believe in these types of evaluations :(

    3. Kaz*

      Ugh, ours are like that and I hate it. The first time I did it, I graded myself pretty high – mostly 4’s with a few 3’s and 5’s.

      My supervisor brought me in to go over what she’d written and said, “Don’t be too alarmed, [Big Boss] wants people who are doing good, average work to be graded as 3’s.” She’d given me mostly 3’s with, I think, 2 4’s. So then it looked like I was totally out of touch with what my supervisor thought I was doing. We don’t base our raises on it though.

      1. Windchime*

        At OldJob, it didn’t take us long to figure out that our raise percentage was directly correlated with our scores. So if I rated myself 4.5% on everything and my co-workers did the same, then my raise would be 4.5%. Obviously people want the highest raise they can get, so instead of an honest self-evaluation, it was over-inflated because….raise.

        NewJob has a similar evaluation form, but the raise isn’t directly tied to the score on the form. It makes it much easier to give an honest self-appraisal, because I know if I give myself a 2 or 3 in a troublesome area, it’s not necessarily going to drag down my percentage increase for my merit raise.

    4. Manda*

      At my retail job, sometimes I felt like the numbers didn’t jibe with the comments I was given. Often the comments said or implied “great,” while the numbers were a lot of 3’s (i.e. satisfactory). I was often praised for being a good employee. Obviously, I wasn’t amazing at everything. Who is? But I was considered a good employee overall. I specifically remember my supervisor saying to me during a review, “You’re a very good employee. We don’t want to lose you.” It just made me wonder, how great would you have to be to get mostly 4’s and 5’s out of 5? I suspect even the best employees didn’t get graded like that. Our reviews dictated how much of a raise we got (which may have only been the difference between, say, 5 and 25 cents an hour), and maybe this is just a conspiracy theory, but I had to wonder if they ever deliberately tried to grade people lower than what they deserved to avoid giving higher raises.

    5. Julie*

      Forced rankings are awful, too! The division I was in was bought by another company about eight years ago, and it was generally a positive change. However, the old company used forced ranking, which really doesn’t make sense for teams with diverse job roles, and we were looking forward to getting rid of it. But the new company heard about it and thought it was a great idea, so we’re still stuck with it. (Forced rankings – where the manager ranks everyone in the department, regardless of whether their jobs are very different, client bases are different, etc. from 1 to 50 (or however many people there are in the department), and the people at the bottom usually get a PIP, or they get fired.)

      1. Manda*

        Ugh. Not only are you comparing apples to oranges, but you could have a department of high performers and the bottom few will get reprimanded for doing a good job. It’s like when teachers curve marks. The idea behind that is that with a large class, the grades will naturally follow a bell curve, where a few do great, a few fail, and most are somewhere in the middle. But then sometimes they’ll try to force curve the marks with a small class and it doesn’t work out. Theoretically, everyone could score above 80% and then someone with an 81% fails the class.

  14. thenoiseinspace*

    Second question (which I’m separating to make it easier to read/respond) what are your best tips on networking and job searching across the country? I really want to move next summer, and ideally I’d like to have a job lined up before I go. I tried once, but couldn’t afford it and run up against the “hire local movement” – I was informed a few times that not being a local candidate really hurt me.

    Has anyone successfully done this, and if yes, what tips do you have? I’m trying to network now, but as I know very few people there (and just utterly fail SO hard at networking in general) it’s really difficult for me to even know where to start. Any tips would be much appreciated!

    1. Pam*

      My networking plan of action has always been as follows:

      – Join the professional association for your industry.
      – Take a leadership role in the local chapter.
      – Do the work of your volunteer role as if it were your job. This earns the respect of your fellow volunteers.
      – Start attending the national conference for said organization. Attend meetings and tours where you would idea share or be forced to talk to other people (one time I attended a brewery tour alone and ended up with a TON of industry contacts)
      – Join committees at the national level

      Then – between your contacts at the local level and at the national level, you can start to discretely let them know you are job hunting. Yes, this is a lot of time and effort but I have ONLY gotten jobs through the associations I’m a part of, and I know 50+ people who would really go to bat for me if I needed a job, because they know my performance style, work ethic, and quality of deliverable I expect through my volunteer work. The time (and money) spent is 100% worth it.

      1. Sabrina*

        Just to piggy-back on this, what if you can’t *afford* to join your industry’s profesional organization?

        1. Brett*

          First thing is to try to get your employer to pay for it.

          If you are unemployed or cannot get your employer to pay, contact the organization. They do not publicize it, but many organizations will often give people breaks (such as charging you the student rate while you are unemployed). Same thing for conferences as well as professional organizations.

          1. Pam*

            Agreed. All of the professional organizations I’m a part of have “unemployed” rates for membership and for conference fees.

            I worked for an employer once that would only pay for a single association membership (and only then if you had a leadership role) and I’m heavily involved in two. It is such a priority for me to be a part of these groups that I made it part of my own personal budget. I know that’s not realistic for everyone.

            One other idea- almost all of the conferences I attend offer discounts for speakers or for volunteers.

    2. Amanda*

      I struggled with this. I finally snuck through with a seasonal position–little less risk for the company because if I moved and was miserable, I was only there for the summer. I emphasized how much the move would benefit me career-wise in the long run and made it clear that I would need no relocation assistance.

    3. LizNYC*

      Do you have a friend’s address you could use for the area you want to move to? This could mean that you run the risk of being called in for an interview at the last moment, but it would get you over the hump of “locals only.” I know it’s fairly common to do that in NYC.

    4. Ag*

      I did this about two years ago. I went to college out of state (across the country) but wanted to relocate back to where my family was. The problem was, I had no professional contacts at home because I went to school/started my career 3,000 miles away.

      I reached out to every connection I had kept in contact with (mostly on social media) in anyway I could – LinkedIn, Twitter, email, etc, no matter where they were located at the time. This included people I met through professional groups, on social media or at conferences. Most people surprisingly had a contact or two (who were located where I wanted to move) that they were willing to introduce me to. I made a ton of new connections this way. So, I’d say, if you’re comfortable sharing that you’re planning to move with the connections you do have (despite their location), ask if they have any contacts they could set you up with.

      I eventually got a job from asking someone I followed on Twitter (who I didn’t know otherwise) if he knew of any job leads for the area. The place he worked was hiring and I ended up getting a job there. It can be done!

    5. Trixie*

      Have you also perused AAM “Networking” folder, I bet there are similar questions/answers. Good luck!

    6. LibrarianJ*

      I struggled a bit with this, too — I relocated about 500 miles from my preferred region for graduate school, and then was looking to move back once I finished. It was difficult, especially since my ‘home’ region is a major metropolitan area with another graduate school in my field (but not the programs I needed). Ultimately I made it through by securing a job at my alma mater; I’m not sure if my affiliation made up for the location issues, since I don’t know who else was interviewed, but I was not given any indication that it was an issue (even to fly me up for an interview) .

      One thing that I did was establish in my social media profiles, cover letter, etc. that I was already planning to move back to this specific area, in the hopes of mitigating concerns about whether I was just applying aimlessly or the difficulty of getting me back to the area (or relocation costs, which I footed myself in the end).

      I also attended the annual meeting of the local chapter of my major professional organization (although I was not a member of the chapter and had to stay overnight, so that was a pretty expensive trip), and made sure I was open about my intent to attend so it was clear that I was committed to being in the region. I don’t know if this will help in your case, since I don’t know if you have a specific area in mind, but these are things I tried that I felt got a reasonably-positive response.

    7. Anon scientist*

      I did this, although I was moving to a part of the US I had worked in previously and I still had some connections. I made it clear in my cover letters that I was ready to move ASAP (I was prepared to stay with friends temporarily) and during the interviews I mentioned that both my husband and I were job hunting, and the other partner would follow whoever got a job first. I hoped this showed that we were ready to move… I did get a job.

  15. Poster formally known as Jane Doe*

    Just started a new job three weeks ago and I love it? A gazillion thanks to AAM readers who told me not to feel guilty about leaving my old job.

    My question for this thread is this: how does one stand out in a firm full of stand out employees?

    1. AMG*

      Ask the ‘Best Interview Question Ever’: what will determine a great job in this role versus a good job?’ then listen.

      Try to give just a bit more than what someone is asking you for. If they ask for data, compile it, double and triple check it, and then add a % difference column or something that you may find useful. Try to always be anticipating need.

      That’s what’s worked for me in the past.

    2. Pam*

      Are you trying to stand out just to stand out? Or because there may be a promotion coming up you want to be considered for?

      Do a one-on-one with your boss and discuss your concerns and talk about where you can improve.

      1. Poster formerly known as Jane Doe*

        There is nothing specific – but when promotion time DOES come up, I want to be considered. I work in a field where promotions are basically just joining the leadership ladder and then working your way up the rungs. At my last job, I was friendly and nice and had a positive attitude, but I stood out mostly because I did my job better than anyone else. I don’t think that will be the case here, so I’m trying to figure out how I can be on the minds of the leadership. I got recruited to come here, so I believe there are already going to be high expectations for my performance, and I want to make sure I can meet them. I’ve already got short-mid-and long term goals that I’ll discuss at my 90 day review, but I was just wondering about anything else people may know.

  16. ThursdaysGeek*

    I’ve noticed that a lot of people here like “The Cat Who” series of books, and I’d like to know why. Yes, it has cats, and that’s nice. But the few I’ve read aren’t really mysteries: the people live their lives and the cats do something unexpected that provides the clue to solve the mystery. The last I read didn’t even have a plot, and the cats just lived their lives too. The writing isn’t compelling, the stories are fluff (at best), they aren’t standard mysteries where the user has a chance of solving the problem as they read the story. Is it just the cats?

    1. mina*

      I love that series – to a point. All the ones where Quill is in Chicago and a few after he moves to Pickax. I think after that someone else started writing it and the charm was gone. And the way they ended the series? Really, very badly done.

    2. Cat*

      I haven’t read those (name notwithstanding) but I often like books that don’t have a “plot” per se and are just about people living their lives; sometimes it’s a nice way to look at society or at characters from a new lens.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        I hadn’t heard of those: I’ll have to pick a few up.

        There, I have one on my wish list so I don’t forget. :)

    3. Jazzy Red*

      I liked that Lilian Jackson Braun killed off people with wild abandon! She wiped out most of the Goodwinter family in one book, and regularly introduced likeable characters that met unpleasant ends.

      They’re not your run-of-the-mill murder mysteries. I like that they’re heavy on relationships, even between Qwill and his cats.

      I didn’t like Polly, though. I tried thinking of her as played by Ingrid Bergman (one of my favorite actors), but even that didn’t make Polly any nicer.

      I haven’t read the last book yet. I’m not sure I want to…

    4. Jamie*

      They are fluff – I love them, but I read them for happiness and comfort and not to expand my mind.

      I read them when I was younger, I read them aloud to my mom when she was very ill with cancer…I knew it wouldn’t be anything too gory or any sexual scenes to upset her. I just like how she takes you to a simpler place.

      And yes – as Jazzy mentioned – she kills everyone! It’s kind of awesome because you know someone isn’t safe just because they are a major character and have been in a zillion books.

      I also love the theme of having an endless amount of money to do with what you want – support the causes you choose, pick your own projects…I find the thought of never worrying about money again to be very escapist.

      But if they were food they’d be mac and cheese with chocolate milk where Jane Austin would be an impossibly perfect souffle with fine wine.

      They are cozy like fuzzy socks.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        My sister said something similar — she reads them when she doesn’t want to think. I understand that, and do the same, but with Amelia Peabody mysteries or perhaps PG Wodehouse.

        And, no matter what I read, if I was reading it to my mum when she was sick — it would become beloved.

  17. Anonymous!*

    I have been in my current position for 1 yr and 8 months. I originally applied for a different position at the organization (in my field), but was passed over for someone with more experience (this is my first job post-grad). I’m now in an administrative role, which I am not especially interested in. I love my co-workers and the organization is great, but the work is absolute drudgery.

    I would like to find another job, but I am a) afraid to leave this–relatively comfortable–position for the unknown and risk ending up in a horrible situation and b) slowly becoming attached to the organization and the people.

    I feel obligated to stay, even though logically I know that is not true. However, it’s a small (~20 people) office and most people have been around for at least 10 years. All things considered, it’s not a bad place to be, but I am not sure I want to be here.

    So my questions are these:
    1) How long is an appropriate stay at a first job?
    2) How can I convince myself that leaving a job is normal and that I don’t have to feel like a horrible person for “jumping ship”?
    3) How do you recommend getting into a new field when there aren’t a lot of opportunities in your area? In order to get the type of job I really want, I will probably have to move. I’m ok with that, but there isn’t really an opportunity to volunteer or network in my area so I’m at a bit of a loss.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Calla*

      Since this is your first job, I think you’re totally in the clear. It’ll be two years before you find a new job, most likely.

      However, have you talked to your boss or anyone about this? Is there a possibility of you moving into another department, or at least expanding your role? It may not be possible with your company, but if you haven’t I’d give that a shot since you say you love the workplace, just not the work. Especially with admin roles in smaller companies, in my experience, it’s easy and reasonable to expand the role to include something that interests you more.

      If you definitely need to leave, it’s hard to get over that horrible feeling. My last job was horribly negative and adding to my depression and I still felt so guilty about leaving. Just remember that while you are certainly valuable to them, it’s your career, they’ll be able to find someone else, and you’ll get to move on to something better for you.

  18. VintageLydia*

    Please tell me if you think this is excessive or not.

    BFF is applying for an internship with a company that has a reputation of hiring their interns full time when they graduate from school so maybe that’s the reason for all this. So far she’s had a phone interview, a panel interview with 4 people (with one scheduled on Monday with 4 MORE people) an extensive application asking right down to where she went to elementary school, and TWO long (over 100+ questions) personality tests. I think that last interview is THE last interview, but I’m not sure.

    Otherwise, it seems like a decent cultural fit and the job is a good stepping stone, both the internship and the possible full time position, so if offered, she’s taking the job. But the screening is a bit… much. At least to me. Am I alone?

    1. AMG*

      HR may be a bit overboard, but maybe the department where she would be working would be ok. Hard to say. Has she been to Glass Door yet?

      1. Trixie*

        The company may have a history of grooming interns for permanent positions, in which now is the time weed out the weakest links. And not for anything, excellent job interviewing practice/experience for your friend.

    2. The IT Manager*

      elementary school???

      Okay that’s just dumb. Even where you went to high school is irrelevent once people graduate college. Although for a undergraduate college intern verifying the high shcool degree doesn’t seem too far out there.

      1. VintageLydia*

        I’ve had applications for big-name retailers even ask about pre-school and wouldn’t let me continue without it. It’s pretty ridiculous out there right now.

        1. Evan*

          I don’t even remember the official name of my preschool! (Though I could probably find the name of the church it was at, if I decided to do that instead of closing the application in disgust…)

        2. YoungMeg*

          Oh no. I didn’t go to preschool. Going straight into Kindergarten doomed me to dead-end jobs for the rest of my life!

  19. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

    So back in 2008-2009, I worked for a year (to the day) in HR at a local movie theater chain, which was part of a larger group of companies that included sports teams, retail outlets, and auto dealerships. I started as the HR Admin Assistant, but was promoted after 9 months to Training Coordinator (which handled new employee orientation, employee onboarding, and ongoing on-the-job training at our various locations). Through the whole process I was also in (sole) charge of employee benefits for our 100+ full-time workers. I loved it– my boss was a fabulous mentor who saw my potential and encouraged me to learn and grow, I actually enjoyed working with so many different people and helping employees, and the company was pretty great. Unfortunately, due to the death of the companies owner and the financial woes of other parts of the overarching company (i.e., the auto dealerships) they restructured a large part of the movie theaters to increase profitability, and I was laid off on my one-year anniversary.

    It took me nearly two years to find another job, and although I tried very hard to stay in HR, it didn’t end up working out that way. I’m now working for my state government in a high-level administrative position, and while they pay is pretty good (all things considered) and the benefits are great, I’d really love to get back to HR at some point. The problem is, with only a year of experience and an unrelated degree (I have an MA in English Literature) I don’t know how to position myself to make that jump. Getting an MBA in HR seems like a bad plan, adding to my too-much-schooling-for-my-experience problem, but I don’t know of any other way to get hiring managers to take me seriously.

    Any suggestions for HR-type folk? I’m not planning on leaving my current job for a couple more years (so that I can be vested in the state retirement plan), but that’s two more years away from any experience I had.

    1. adrienne*

      Make an effort to grow those skills – maybe there’s a way to volunteer in an HR capacity, you could interview folks for your alma mater, etc.

    2. AnonHR*

      I ended up getting an HR Certificate from my local Employers Association. It was more expensive than a PHR (and ultimately less valuable), but cost a lot less than masters classes, and didn’t have the experience level requirement. It kept me informed on recent updates, and I could demonstrate a continuing interest in HR on my resume.

      It may have only given me a boost in my area because the Association is very active and all employers I’ve worked for have used their services and data. I don’t know if that’s regional or if most areas have something as well known and trusted. I am not usually in the “take more classes!” camp, but it might be worth looking into.

      Good luck!

    3. kaybee*

      If you’re interested in continuing to work in training, maybe look into the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD)? There might be a local chapter that you can join. ASTD also offers a certification in learning & performance if you are interested in continuing education. I don’t know how much certification would cost, but it’d definitely be less than an MBA.

    4. Charlotte*

      I’d really recommend getting involved in the local SHRM chapter…sometimes dues are really reasonable. It’ll give you lots of networking opportunitues as well as a stronger background in HR.

  20. Pam*

    For those of us who struggle with attention to detail vs. perfection…

    Now that I’ve recognized I’m one of those people and I need to stop when the project is done and stop polishing forever… how do you go about changing the expectations of co-workers and managers? If my reports and presentations aren’t as pretty and well put together as they were in the past, I’m worried they may perceive that as me slacking off even if the deliverable is still quality work.

    1. SevenSixOne*

      No snark here, asking sincerely. I know no one but me notices most of the fiddly perfectionist polishing I do… are you sure anyone else will notice a difference in your work?

      1. Rana*

        My thought too. One of the reasons overpolishing is a waste of time is that, honestly, few people notice it aside from the perfectionist. Typos, spelling errors, and grammatical problems, yes, but the difference between a well-crafted sentence and a tossed off one? Not so much.

    2. ArtsNerd*

      Steel yourself, turn in the projects, and don’t work on “managing expectations” or other negative consequences until they actually happen.

      You’ll probably be surprised to see that no one even notices the drop in polish. If someone does say something (which I doubt will happen) just say “Given my workload, I had to move my attention on to other projects.” Every one in a busy office can relate to that.

    3. Tennessee*

      Maybe just wait until someone mentions it or it otherwise comes to your attention that people are noticing. It’s been my experience that others don’t notice the ‘errors’ the way we do. It may be that no one will even notice the change!

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I think that what you are saying is that there will be less bells and whistles on your work. Less WOW and more practicality.

      Your coworkers might be relieved. It could be that the added inputs were of little value to them. Or it could be that they are tired of standing in your shadow and very happy you came down to figuring out what is reasonable. It could be that they did similar things when they started and gave up for their own full set of reasons.
      Not saying this in a snotty way… I have tried going the extra mile. And these are the responses I got when I downshifted.
      The tricky part was for me to decide how much of the old stuff I was going to keep doing. I found that I had to take back some of it because it was of value to the workplace. (Other people mentioned how it helped.) The downshift was a little trickier than I thought and it took a bit longer than I thought it would.

      My lesson was to only put extra effort (the bells and whistles approach) into things that would be of definite benefit. Now I listen for where the concerns are- what are people talking about? What are the hurdles? And that is where I put my extra efforts.

  21. adrienne*

    Question about leaving jobs –

    My organization isn’t doing so hot (five people quit this month…) and I’m starting to feel like a rat on a sinking ship. I’ve been approached with a great opportunity, which I am pursuing. As a result of the bad organizational issues, those of us who remain have kinda banded together to keep moving forward. My supervisor and close work friend asked me to make a pact to tell her if I’m looking for jobs. I’m not super actively looking (just this one) but I’d feel terrible quitting without giving her warning… but also don’t want to jeopardize my job.

    Any thoughts??

    1. BCW*

      I wouldn’t say anything. I’m in a very similar position, and everyone knows that everyone is keeping their eyes open for new positons, but I haven’t mentioned the actual interviews. If you feel like it, maybe when things get close to getting an offer you could give a heads up that you have gone on a couple interviews. But right now, you have nothing, so I wouldn’t say anything

    2. thenoiseinspace*

      This might make me a bad friend, but I wouldn’t tell her. It’s unlikely to end well for you (like the LW this week who told her boss she was looking early, and now might be pushed out before she gets another job.

      Particularly since you were contacted (and not the other way around), you can say that this opportunity was a surprise and once you’ve got an offer, give her as much notice as you can.

    3. AMG*

      careful–don’t want to find yourself ‘out of the club’. You have to be extra cautious in dysfunction environments–the human survival instinct can bring out the worst in people. I’ve had a boss that I thought I had a good relationship with, but he(mistakenly) thought I was against him and turned on me. Don’t want to see you put yourself in a bad position over this.

    4. LizNYC*

      When I was at dysfunctional OldJob, my two coworkers and I would keep each other posted about our respective job hunts — but we were on the same level / not each other’s supervisors, so we didn’t have anything to lose, really, by one person leaving. I’d tread carefully since this is your supervisor — maybe wait until she divulges she’s interviewing so you can be sure there’s an equal sharing of info?

    5. fposte*

      That wasn’t fair of her to ask. I’m sure she didn’t mean it that way, but basically it uses the power of friendship to give your supervisor a lot more leverage.

    6. Kaz*

      She just wants to make things easier for herself if you do go – which is totally understandable – but I do think that on some level there will be a change in her attitude towards you if you tell her, and she may not treat you the same, like this week’s letter.

      What you should do instead is to work on a manual for doing your job, and tying up loose ends, and getting all your projects absolutely shipshape. That way when you leave, you won’t be leaving a huge mess, which she will also greatly appreciate.

    7. SD*

      I know this is splitting hairs a bit, but based on how you phrased it (“been approached” and “pursuing” rather than “applied and got an interview”), I’d say not to say anything. If it’s looking like they actually want to hire you, maybe a second interview or an offer, that might be the time to mention to her. Maybe phrase it like “Though I wasn’t out looking…”. It’s perhaps a little disingenuous, but I think in this case bringing up something at an early stage could have a worse impact than graciously saying something later on. And if she’s someone who might not be understanding of that, professionally or personally, then better safe than sorry.

    8. Elizabeth West*

      Don’t say anything to your supervisor. I know she’s your friend, but work friends are not the same as outside friends, and if she is also your boss, in this situation, her professional interests will need to take precedence. I wouldn’t say a damn thing until I had an offer and was giving notice.

    9. Anonymous*

      I don’t think you should feel obligated to say anything. Even if you were actively looking, I don’t think you should have to tell them (because that’s an unfair thing to ask, at least on the part of your supervisor), but this is especially true since you aren’t even actively looking. If you get the job, you can always say that you weren’t looking and they approached you – which is true!

  22. Amanda*

    Any tips for leveraging my connections while applying for positions at a place I temped at over the summer and still sporadically do assignments for?

    1. adrienne*

      Absolutely! I would email people you worked with, let them know you’re applying, and ask for any tips. They can then decide whether to support you internally on their own. If you had particularly good relationships with any, you could ask for that as well.

  23. Lori*

    How Important are White/Clean Teeth?

    A recent graduate from my school, several years younger than me, has not had any luck finding a job and has been asking me for advice. The advice that I really want to give her is to get her teeth whitened and to make sure that she brushes thoroughly every morning. Honestly, she has dirty-looking teeth, and I find this distracting when talking to her. But is this reasonable advice to give? Do interviewers really care that much about people’s teeth? How can I convey this in a friendly way?

    1. PEBCAK*

      FTR, discolored teeth can have causes that can have nothing to do with oral hygiene or smoking/drinking too much coffee. I had discoloration from a medication I was taking as my adult teeth grew in.

      But if this woman has asked you for candid advice, I think you should tell her.

      1. the gold digger*

        PEBCAK, me too. I knew I had some staining from whatever drug that was (tetracycline?), but there is nothing I can do about it. Teeth whitening would not work and I am not willing to pay $30,000 to get new teeth.

        It wasn’t until last year that I found out that my husband thought I used to be a smoker because of my teeth. But what can you do?

        That said, I have gotten several jobs despite my teeth. :)

        1. fposte*

          I got veneers for the same reason. Much cheaper than new teeth, and I’ve been pretty happy with them.

      2. Chocolate Teapot*

        Isn’t the discoloured/wonky teeth issue a running joke about how to identify a Briton? (Austin Powers immediately springs to mind).

        Similarly, in the UK (and possibly other European countries too), a stereotype about Americans is that they all have dazzling brilliant white teeth.

    2. SevenSixOne*

      FWIW, even though (full disclosure) I spent a fortune on cosmetic dental work because my own funky teeth made me feel ugly and I hated them and I’m fanatical about my own oral hygiene, the only time I notice or care about someone else’s teeth is when they have nasty rotten-mouth stink.

    3. fposte*

      I think this is industry dependent, and it also matters how else the person presents herself.

      But I think it’s a lot likelier to be her interview skills (you know that she’s getting lots of interviews, I assume, because if she’s falling at the resume stage it obviously isn’t her teeth), and I’d really hate for her to start to obsess over high-priced cosmetic dentistry when she should just go over some questions with a friend.

    4. Kaz*

      You might phrase it as part of a total appearance appraisal – maybe say something about a couple other aspects, like getting a new suit, and throw it in there. The “my friend did this” approach may be helpful here.

    5. Trixie*

      It may just be the same difficult job market everyone else is facing. As a recent grad, does she have any experience? How does she appear on paper?

      I think I would find it distracting too, and whether fair or not would include this in my overall recommendation to present a professional groomed appearance. Between Costco/Groupon/LivingSocial, its pretty easy to pick up whitening strips/systems (or office visit) for $40-$50.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Yes, maybe it’s the getting to a final stage in the interview process, and it’s the teeth which are the reason why she isn’t progressing?

        All things being equal, non-brilliant white teeth shouldn’t make a difference, as long as they are healthy, but it may just be the clincher.

    6. Jamie*

      It’s important to remember that people naturally have different shades of teeth (shades of teeth is a horrible phrase – but you know what I mean) so more on the yellow scale doesn’t always mean they aren’t practicing proper hygiene.

      I don’t think interviewers care about teeth specifically – but teeth are a huge confidence thing and can change how much confidence one projects.

      I recently got mine done (caps for the top front six) just because one cracked and so I redid a couple of other caps and had them do them all to match. There were two color pallets – one in the natural realm and one which you can only get artificially. I find blindingly white teeth distracting, so I got the brightest/lightest color in the natural realm and the weirdest effect wasn’t from anyone else…it was my own attitude.

      I’ve never been a big grinner – just not my nature – but holy crap I was grinning at everything when they were new. Like a fun new toy – and people wondered when I became so perky.

      Novelty is over – so I’m back to me – but when you’re not 100% confident in your smile you tend to put energy into smiling just so…and when you know you’re all good you just don’t care – smile when you want to as big as you wish.

    7. Rana*

      I would be depressed if this were the case, honestly. I have naturally yellow teeth (aggravated by a tea-drinking habit) and they’re crooked to boot (despite years of orthodontia). The amount of work and money it would take to make them “professional” is daunting.

      I suppose it’s a good thing that my clients hire me based on my skills, and not on my appearance. :/

    8. Anonymous*

      I don’t think having sparkly white teeth is important, unless the position is public relations or something that requires frequent public appearances. I’ve hired someone who had, in my opinion, terrible teeth. It was distracting during the interview and remained distracting the entire time he worked with us (because he got the job) but it definitely wasn’t a factor in the hiring decision. Would your friend really want to work for someone who made such important decisions based on factors that were unrelated?

    9. Manda*

      I would feel depressed and insulted if I found out people weren’t taking me seriously at a job or during interviews because of my teeth. They’re not super dirty, but they’re kind of yellow and I’m pretty sure my enamel is wearing down to some degree (acid erosion). I wish I had known about this issue years ago. Apparently, brushing your teeth right after eating or drinking can cause you to brush some of the enamel away because it temporarily softens. I drink tea regularly, which stains on top of being acidic. In recent years there seems to have been a lot of hype about enamel saving toothpastes, but unfortunately, they aren’t going to work for me. I can’t stand mint and I don’t have a lot of options in the way of toothpaste. And I’m not touching those white strips. I think it’s the dentine underneath that appears yellow when the enamel wears thin so it’s not as if my teeth are yellow from just stains. Plus, I’m worried those things are going to be abrasive and just make things worse.

  24. Victoria Nonprofit*

    Anybody interested in a Twin Cities or Indianapolis meetup?

    (Yeah, that’s right – I live in two cities. It’s like I’m a pop star with houses around the world. Or just a road warrior. Sigh.)

      1. Victoria Nonprofit*

        Check back here – when we sort it out we’ll post the details on the comment thread.

  25. cf_programmer*

    How does one stay focused when you are nearing retirement and thinking about what work you will do then? I can’t focus some days…work just doesn’t have the importance it once did.

    1. Sadsack*

      You sound like my manager. He’s retiring next year, has no focus and basically gave up remembering anything, constantly asking me to remind him how to do simple things because he just doesn’t feel like he has to know. I don’t blame him for I would probably feel the exact same way — that said, it is no fun working with someone who just doesn’t care anymore. I don’t think he realizes (or maybe doesn’t care) that it is at times burdensome on the rest of us. Maybe you could think of it that way; you still have other employees/coworkers/managers depending on you to do your job until you leave, so get with it and stay there until your last day.

      Congratulations on your upcoming retirement!

    2. fposte*

      Maybe think about what you want to leave behind when you go? (Sorry if that sounds like an estate plan.)

      1. Anonymous*

        Upon reflection, I think I just want to opt out of mentoring yet another young hire. After so many, it’s just too repetitive. There’s is nothing they say that’s new. Okaaaay, good thing it’s Friday. Let’s get some lunch in me. ;)

    3. Jazzy Red*

      I have the same problem, compounded by the fact that I don’t have nearly enough work to do. Sometimes I just want to drive past the office and spend the day at the lake.

      Try to focus just on “today”, especially while you’re at work. Make sure you leave your job as a STAR, not as a black hole.

      I remind myself several times a day about my countdown. How many Mondays, how many Tuesdays, etc. How many weekly standing meetings are left. When I’m tempted to just do the minimum, I think about my favorite boss in the whole wide world, and how I would go overboard for that guy. THAT’S the kind of work I want to do today.

      Make sure you have some concrete plans for your retirement, too, not just “whatever I feel like doing”. These dreams will help you get through the day, too.

      Happy Retirement!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Definitely have concrete plans for how you will spend your time once retired. From the reading I have done, I guess the first six months are great. Then after that the health issues kick in. Part of that might be because of no longer having goals or daily commitments.
        In your spare time, research what your next gig will be. This just may help you to focus when it is time to do you job.

  26. Ellie H.*

    I’m getting moved out of my office in the near future. I can make a case to be moved into the small office next door to mine (currently empty) but may likely go back into the open area or front desk. I realize it’s not the end of the world, I worked adequately in the open space and I’m lucky to have had an office for any period of time but it’s still a little depressing. Here a key justification for an office is to meet with students or faculty regarding personal information, which I really don’t do. I do discuss these matters over the telephone (potentially a justification), view confidential information on my computer screen and work with personal financial information in paper and electronically. However these are also done by others in open space so it isn’t in itself a justification.The main reason an office is useful to me is to concentrate uninterrupted on demanding work: analyzing data, financial calculations, and just generally important projects. The open space has frequent interruptions.

    Again, it’s not the end of the world but if anyone can think of succinct or compelling ways to express these motivations it would help me make the case for the small office!

    1. Kaz*

      If there’s no one else going in that small office, I’d ask your boss about it with the points you just made (although maybe pick just a few!) but also note that you’ve really been able to get a lot done when you’ve been in the office.

  27. AdjunctForNow*

    What do I do about a reference who agreed to write me a letter, but hasn’t followed up? I’ve gently nudged him twice, and I know that I am applying to TONS of schools, but how many times can I ask without being annoying?

    1. the gold digger*

      Maybe draft a letter for him that he can edit. I wrote my own recommendations for grad school and the references altered them as they pleased.

      Many people hate to write. Make it easy for him to do what you need him to do.

      1. AdjunctForNow*

        Here’s the thing: I know he sent letters to the first three schools I asked about, but then I asked for like five more. So the letter is written; it’s just a matter of sending it to a few more places.

        1. Sadsack*

          Maybe it is too late, but couldn’t he write a general letter of recommendation without addressing it to anyone? I had a professor do this for me once. It sounds strange but it was acceptable to the places I sent it. She wrote only wrote about my attributes, nothing about a potential job I may be going for, so why would it need to be addressed to anyone specific? Too bad I can’t remember how the letter was addressed exactly, might have just been To Whom It May Concern.

        2. Rana*

          Have you considered signing up with a letter handling service? It’s often easier for both you and your references. My husband has used Interfolio – it works pretty well.

    2. TL*

      That’s one of the things I hate about letters of rec in academia – a lot of professors (assuming that’s your rec) are notoriously bad at doing things like that.

      I had one flake out on me about a week before an application was due (when I’d asked him about 4 weeks before) – and then about two months later, let me know that he felt comfortable writing a letter again if I needed one.

  28. TL*

    I need a bit of encouragement/advice. I’ve been in my current position for 6 months. I was really excited to take this position, working in a non-profit seemed like a great place to use my skills and do something bigger than me. However, I’ve been ostracized since day one. Nobody really speaks to me, not even a hello in the morning. The only person with whom I have regular contact with is my supervisor, the CEO. I’ve since learned that part of the office culture is just very cliquey, but there is also some racism and discrimination happening here. The CEO told me that half of the administrative team wanted to hire me, the other half wanted to hire another candidate. I’ve tried not to take this personally, but the staff switches exclusively to Spanish whenever I am around. One person has even quit over the discrimination, which the management is aware of, yet no action was taken. This all makes it very difficult for me to do my job. I’ve been looking for another position because it’s gotten to the point where I just feel so awful being here. While I am looking though, I have to find a way to tolerate it here. I’ve tried being friendly with all of them, asking about families, interests, their work, etc. anything to try to find commonalities, and build some rapport. This hasn’t worked at all and they pretty much all just ignore my attempts. I’ve started to close my office door to create external boundaries, but I’m worried this is just making it worse. Any advice for what to do?

    1. AMG*

      That sucks. I think managment needs to drive this. If you are being friendly, polite and professional, maybe some will warm up in time.

      Perhaps this is a good example of when to bring in donuts or cupcakes?

      Put a candy jar in your office just inside the door–that’s what I would do.

      Prep yourself every morning and pretend that you are in a bubble of happy, positive energy. It sounds cheesy, but I do this sometimes if I know that I am going into a tough situation.

      Try to schedule lunch dates with friends, go shoe shopping, something to get you out of the office and clear your perspective.

      Maybe you could also talk to the CEO to see what ideas you can come up with together. Change people around in their roles? Team building events in small groups? Small group lunches with the CEO? change the layout of the office to make it more collaborative? Find out who is driving this and get those key people out, then maybe some of this will break up? other ideas?

      1. TL (OP)*

        Thanks, AMG. I’ve tried bringing in treats, was even asked to bring them for a staff meeting because every one likes them! That doesn’t seem to help though. The CEO and I have discussed some of this, have brainstormed about ways to make the rest of the staff more receptive. However, CEO keeps flaking out and not doing anything. We’ve got an organization-wide problem with communication and respect, and nothing has really been successful in changing this. There is a small admin. staff, the bulk of which is in this clique that doesn’t like me. If I was an awful person who hadn’t tried any of these things, I’d understand it a bit more. But I’m not” I’m actually a pretty friendly, funny, nice person and I feel like these people haven’t even tried to get to know me. I sometimes feel like I’m just being overly sensitive, but I’ve described the situation to others, tried to justify it, and I just keep coming up blank. I try to not let it get to me, it’s been a tough week though!

        1. AMG*

          Sometimes it will though. You ARE human. I would just keep trying, and recognize that you need a break from this sometimes.
          Perhaps the CEO will let you work from home on Fridays since he does recognize that this is a problem.
          Hang in there.

    2. Marina*

      Learn Spanish? Going the extra mile to try and participate in the office culture can definitely make a difference. Duolingo is a free app/website that I’ve found very helpful in learning Spanish.

      1. TLT*

        Since I’m actively looking for a new job, and I don’t know that learning Spanish would help considering all of the other ways I’ve tried to make friends here, I don’t know that I want to do this (nor do I really have the time). I took it in HS, but it’s been replaced by another language. Thank you for the suggestion, though!

    3. Anonymous*

      Coworkers don’t always have to be friends – sometimes it’s just not the right fit. A new coworker started in my office a few months ago and she’s very nice and friendly and I’m sure she’s an awesome person but I really don’t have any interest in chatting with her. We just don’t have similar interests. She insists on talking to me several times per day about things that don’t interest me and honestly, every time she does, it makes me LESS interested in getting to know her better. So, unless their behavior is making it impossible for you to accomplish the work you were hired for, one approach might be to just put your head down (not necessarily close your office door) and work hard to prove that you’re a good employee. If they’re impressed with the work you do, they may start to come around.

      1. TLT*

        I don’t want to be friends with them, they’re kind of awful people. I do, however, except some degree of professionalism from them. Which to me would include responding to emails, answering questions related to our mutual work, and just overall being a grown up. Their attitudes make it difficult for me to do my job, which is probably the biggest problem of the whole situation. I do agree that coworkers don’t need to be friends, but they do need to be respectful. Luckily, my CEO does see me as a valuable employee and respects the worker I do, so at least there’s that!

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Is the boss willing to do something about them switching to Spanish to exclude you?

      I don’t see how anyone can do their job if the work group cuts them off like this. It sounds like work place bullying to me.

      Oddly, though, their issue is not with you. Their issue is probably with the boss. If they make your life miserable this as good as getting even with the boss for his “transgressions.”

      Try looking for one of them that seems slightly empathetic to your setting. Maybe if you can get one of them to be civil more will follow.

      1. TLT*

        The boss doesn’t really do anything about all of the issues going on in this very dysfunctional work place and I am not really expecting anything will change. Keeping these fingers crossed that interviews will start happening soon on the jobs I’m applying to!

    5. The Other Dawn*

      I say just continue looking for a new job, make the best of it by doing a good job and getting along with people as best you can. It sounds as though the CEO is part of the problem. People usually look to higher ups to model the behavior for the company. If the CEO doesn’t try to make a change, why would anyone else? And I think the CEO was wrong to tell you that half the staff wanted you and half wanted someone else. Why would he say something like that? Sounds like he’s implying that you’re lucky to have a job there.

      1. TLT*

        Dawn, I agree about continuing the job search. I think he was trying to “explain” why I have been receiving the cold shoulder, which was a bit helpful, but also probably not the best thing for a boss to do…

  29. CollegeAdmin*

    Thank you to everyone who chimed in on my car shopping question a few weeks back! I just purchased a 2012 Mazda3 last week and am loving it so far :)

  30. ChristineSW*

    It’s the bi-weekly cute cat picture!! :)

    Warning: Semi-long rant ahead!

    Okay….I know there have been a million posts about networking, but I am SO BAD at it! :( I have the habit of reaching out to people for either an informational chat or, in the case of the PhD Program Director I met with last month, contact information of other people for said chats, but not assertively following up if I don’t hear from them. One of my best friends from my field told me that you have to be a squeaky wheel. But….he’s GOOD at building relationships and making connections. That is so not me. The people I’ve been trying to contact are extremely busy by the very nature of their jobs (mainly university faculty). There’s the saying, “The squeaky wheel gets the oil”, but I just don’t want to come off as a nag.

    I’m just at a point now where I feel like I’ve exhausted all of my options. I don’t know if I need a stronger “pitch” (I admit…my pitch isn’t very well-defined) or if I’m just dealing with very busy people in a weak economy.

    Oh, and I’ll admit too that I don’t always put forth a strong sense of self. Not a negative “I suck” attitude; it’s more of a “Hmm…I’m not so sure…” thing. I’m getting better though; I’ve been volunteering as a grant proposal reviewer for a couple of groups, and I’m really starting to feel competent at it, though there’s still much I need and want to learn. I am itching to combine these new skills with the specific area of specialization I long to be involved with; I just hope I haven’t dug myself too deep a hole up to this point when it comes to reviving my career. I know that having a disability shouldn’t matter, but I feel like that’s not helping either.

    What I need is a good mentor! lol.

    1. fposte*

      Being good at networking isn’t about what you are, it’s about what you do. Can your friend who does well at it share some of his emails with you so you see what he’s doing? Note what he says, the timing of his followups, etc. Also, are you limiting yourself to email? I know traveling can be a pain if you can’t drive, but if you can attend a seminar or conference they’re a gold mine of networking opportunity.

      I think you’re stuck in the paradox of not liking it because you feel like you’re bad at it. But not doing it isn’t going to help that at all. How’s your self-talk when you’re sending out a query? Are you reinforcing the “They’re so busy and I’m so not worthy” line of thought, or can you muster something more matter of fact?

      1. ChristineSW*

        Reading your response reminded me that my friend did offer to help me with proofing any networking emails (my sister has helped me with this as well). I just got back from an 8-day trip on Sunday and squeezed in two days of reading grants, so my mental energy has been focused on those. Now that I’m caught up and free through Wednesday, I can try to refocus my energies now.

        Actually, as luck would have it, I’ve signed up to attend an alumni reception at the school where I got my Masters in two weeks. So I’ll definitely take advantage of that! The school is easy to get to because it’s accessible by public transportation. Plus, I’ll be in the area already anyway for a grant review meeting (last one of the year for this particular group).

        As for self-talk: I do show in my emails that I respect their time. When I don’t hear back, I’ll admit that I do tell myself, “They’re probably very busy and don’t see my query as a priority…I shouldn’t bother them again.” I just get frustrated when said people specifically invites me to contact them.

        1. fposte*

          Knowing you from your posts, I was pretty sure that you weren’t disrespectful of their time :-). But I think it might be interesting to treat this like a cover letter and have a look at what your friend writes that gets results.

          I saw a student do some awesome networking at a recent conference. One thing she did really well was follow up *immediately* with her main contact the day after the conference ended, with a nice email that placed their conversation in context and reiterated her interest in the possibility they’d discussed. If you have cards, bring them.

          1. ChristineSW*

            Actually, I’ve always wanted to pick your brain about working in an academic setting. I don’t remember what you do specifically though. Not sure if you’ll see this, but if you do, could you refresh my memory?

  31. Jen*

    So here’s a conundrum. My husband has recently accepted a promotion (yay!). The downside is that his company is currently in the end stage of a merger with another company. His new role requires him to be located physically at headquarters. He’d previously reported to their headquarters in Chicago, but was working remotely. The kicker: we don’t know where that will be, yet. We are hoping for an announcement in early Nov. The options: Chicago or Boca Raton, FL. Long story short, I don’t know when we will be leaving or where to start job searching. Anyone else ever find themselves in this situation? What did you do? How do you network half way across the country without knowing a single person in your industry?

    1. LizNYC*

      Maybe this is a case for LinkedIn? You could join your industry groups and post your quandary there and say you’re looking to make connections with people in either city. I’ve found that recruiters monitor group boards and then contact you outside them for opportunities.

    2. NBB*

      I’ve been in the same situation for three totally different cities/states within the last few years now. I never really started applying/networking until I had moved to the new location. Moving is hard enough by itself!

      In the accounting/finance industry, there is a big need for temp or contract employees. So in each new city, I contacted some reputable temp/contract/recruiting agencies and got work through them. Which usually led to permanent jobs. At the very least it gave me contacts that I could network with. Other than that, try to meet as many people, neighbors, etc. that you can, and let them know you are looking. It’s tough, but not impossible. Good luck!

      PS – Not sure where you live now, or what your personal style and preferences are, but we cannot wait to move away from Florida. Chicago is fantastic though :)

  32. Shelley*

    How would one differentiate between ‘venting’ and ‘gossiping’? In all contexts, not just work.

    My line is that ‘venting’ should be to people who aren’t involved in the issue, and the issue at hand should somehow involve you personally. If you’re just a bystander, you really shouldn’t be talking about whatever issue it is, but if you’re involved somehow (or if the others got you involved), then talking about your feelings with an uninvolved third party is more like venting than gossiping. (Ideally, the venting should never get back to the people involved in the actual issue.)

    This was inspired recently by a social circle rift that had nothing to do with me, but I somehow got involved as ammunition. I admit to venting (gossiping?) about the whole thing to clear my head.

    1. SevenSixOne*

      I think your approach is sensible. Ideally, you can talk to the person/team at the center of the rift directly about the situation, but I understand that sometimes that isn’t possible.

      My own sacrosanct about venting/gossip: If I’m talking to Mary about Jane while Jane isn’t there, I keep the conversation strictly to neutral facts about things Jane DOES (venting) and not my personal feelings about what Jane IS (gossip)– so like “Jane has been late to work every day this week”, not “I’m really annoyed that Jane is so unreliable.” I never, ever, EVER say anything to Mary that I wouldn’t want to get back to Jane with my name attached.

    2. Ellie H.*

      I think this is an excellent delineation. Gossiping is discussing a situation or aspects of a situation with people who are either involved with or familiar with those involved with it, when it would be more appropriate for them not to be aware of those aspects of the situation.

    3. Poster formerly known as Jane Doe*

      For me, it’s always seemed that gossip is pettier than venting. Sometimes you get mad, and you have to talk through things so you don’t explode, because the thing upsetting you actually matters. Gossip can sometimes just be plain mean, or something that you are discussing that serves no purpose to discuss it.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This. Venting happens once in a while with a cause. Gossiping is more frequent and the real purpose is to uplift the one who is relating the stories.

        I will put up with venting if a person is looking for a solution/insight. I think that people who are looking for solutions go to people who might have thoughts on that particular matter. If I hear Sue telling Bob, Jane, Steve, Joe, and Stephanie the same story she told me (meaning she has told the story SIX times so far) then I tend to believe this is not a person who is looking for solutions or insights.

  33. Jessica*

    Here’s a very important question for everyone: Would you consider a Grumpy Cat calendar unprofessional? I really want to get one for my cubicle next year but am worried people of a certain disposition might take it the wrong way.

    1. Calla*

      I think it really depends on your office — where I work it would be totally fine. In fact, now I want one! Or maybe a Lil’ Bub calendar…

      At my last job I worked with the office clerk/receptionist who put up a FFFUUU meme or whatever that involved hating his job, which I thought was totally out of line (though no one could see it from the other side of his desk). But Grumpy Cat is just a kitty, whose face is made that way. :)

    2. ArtsNerd*

      Can you elaborate on your concerns? If you’re not actively entertaining customers/clients in your cubicle, I don’t see why not. (Even if so, it would be a pretty conservative company for that to be a problem.)

      1. Jessica*

        Well, Grumpy Cat says some pretty misanthropic things like “Have a Heart…Attack” -which I find amusing but I fear a squarer person may take as a reflection of a bad attitude on my part. On the other hand, I feel like most normal people think he’s funny and wouldn’t take offense, so…

        If only there were a Pusheen calendar out, my problem would be solved.

        1. Sadsack*

          I think anyone who actually focuses on your calendar and gives it any thought just doesn’t have enough work to do. If you really want to blow some minds, check out the Breaking Bad News With Baby Animals calendars and postcards. They are hysterical – and so terrible.

    3. ExceptionToTheRule*

      I have a Demotivator calendar hanging in my office, so I wouldn’t find it unprofessional. I’d find it humorous.

    4. literateliz*

      Tee hee… I happen to work for the company that makes those Grumpy Cat calendars (among other things), and not only are they everywhere, but a fair amount of our passive-aggressive signage (“PAPER TOWELS GO IN COMPOST, UNDER SINK. GOT IT?”) around the office is Grumpy Cat-themed, and my official work email signature had Grumpy Cat in it a few months ago. We all also got Grumpy Cat temporary tattoos for the book release.

      Damn it feels good to be a gangsta.

  34. Shannon313*

    Silly question for others’ input: does anyone else have coworkers who compulsively click their clicky pens as they walk thru the office and even as they talk to you? Aside from directly telling them it drives you nuts, which has thus far been unsuccessful, any ideas on how to make it stop?

    1. ArtsNerd*

      I’m a compulsive fiddler. Once in college, a friend casually took away the noisemaking object I was playing with, and handed me a quiet napkin to tear apart. If you’ve got a good rapport with your coworker, switching out the object is probably more effective than asking them to stop altogether.

    2. LCL*

      Isn’t that what clicky pens are made for? Are there really people that don’t click them? Seriously, tell them to stop it. Or start doing it yourself during conversations, then you won’t notice.

    3. Windchime*

      I tell them directly. Most people who do this don’t realize they are doing it. To one person, I said, “Hey, how’s that pen clicking going over there?” At one point, I jokingly took his pen and put tape around the clicky thing.

      He also called me “Buddy Rich” because apparently I was tapping my fingers on my desk while I was thinking. So it goes both ways. I think mostly it’s a habit and people don’t even realize they’re doing it until you ask them nicely to stop.

      1. ChristineSW*

        Oooh those clickity pens drive me nuts!! (actually, a lot of sounds do). I feel so foolish saying, “could you please stop that” for fear of seeming too pesky. I like the idea of a funny remark.

        At one point, I jokingly took his pen and put tape around the clicky thing.


    4. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Sorry about that. If I’m doing something compulsive that’s driving someone else nuts, I would just expect to tell me. First, I probably don’t realize I’m doing it and second, I probably don’t know it annoys you.

      If it’s the 1,000th time you’ve had to tell me, though, you can be as snarky about it as you want to or use the gold digger’s answer.

      1. Julie*

        I like to flip pages (of books, notepads, anything with pages), but this annoys the sh*t out of some people, so instead I play with my miniature Slinky. Sometimes people can hear it through the phone, so I have to stop altogether, but it’s generally quieter than some other things I (or other fidgeters) could be doing.

  35. Meghan*

    Question for others at tiny companies: How does your company address sick days? My company’s structure is such that we have a small retail store selling chocolate teapots, but most of our profit comes from after school classes (at the schools) and in-shop workshops and birthday parties teaching children to build chocolate teapots. I am one of two full time employees, and our jobs are related to the special programs, not the store itself, but in order to make sure that someone is in the retail store during operating hours, our schedules are staggered so that I come in earlier and leave earlier and my coworker comes in later and leaves later. The accountant/office manager is in two days a week at most, but frequently calls off for one of those days (she has another job on the other days), and the owner stays away as much as possible. This means that if I or my coworker are ever ill or unable to come in for any reason, we’re making the other person work a VERY long day, which we don’t want to do. Aside from not loving 11 hour work days, my company is somewhat sketchy about paying overtime for those hours, so, you know.

    That turned out to be a really long explanation. Just wondering if anyone else has a similar situation and how they address it.

    1. AVP*

      That’s hard! I also work at a tiny company, but we are exempt and it’s less crucial to have 100% coverage all the time, so if someone needs a day off we just work around it. If it’s the receptionist, I’ll answer the phones and watch the door.

      Is there anyone in the area that the owner trusts to be able to work a few hours on their own? Maybe someone who has worked part-time for you in the past? Do you or your co-worker ever take vacation days? What do you do then?

      For a while a few years ago, I was the only one here pretty much all the time, and when I got sick my boss called in a former intern and paid her a day rate to cover me.

      1. Meghan*

        We have a team of instructors who teach the after school classes, but that job is only a few hours a week, so all of them have other jobs or are in school and therefore aren’t really available to help in the store (especially on short notice).

        We don’t have paid time off, so as far as vacation days the most we ever take is a long weekend. If we do that, we try to stagger it so that we know ahead of time that one of us will have a really long work day Friday but have the day off Monday and vice versa.

        I’m job searching for this reason, among others, but trying to deal with flu season in the meantime.

    2. Chuchundra*

      People generally won’t fix things until they break.

      The solution for this is simple, more staffing. Obviously, this has to come from ownership. As long as you and your coworker pitch in and work the 11 hour days when the other falls ill, then they have no motivation to fix it.

  36. Anonymous*

    I’ve been out of the work force for about a decade due to mental health issues. This past January, a family friend who knew about my situation and needed help with his struggling business asked if I’d be willing to help him out.

    It turns out that he was having trouble finding or retaining any halfway decent employees at the rates he was willing and able to pay. I was fine with the money side, though, because I had quickly fallen in love with the field (one I’d never considered before) and wanted to get the experience, plus it’s not like I had anything better to do.

    I was less fine with my boss’s flakiness, unrealistic and ever-changing expectations, and the fact that whenever he had an issue with me, he’d call my mom instead of working it out with me. And whenever I did manage to have a conversation with him about my work, anything I told him I was having trouble with just went in one ear and out the other. It got to the point where it wasn’t worth trying to talk to him at all.

    And then he had a huge personal financial crisis, had to start using business funds to pay his living expenses, and stopped paying me altogether. He told me it was temporary and I told him I was fine with it. I resolved privately to just think of it as an unpaid internship; in retrospect, I may have overestimated my ability to be okay with the situation. The fact that it has now dragged on for six months and that my boss has been lying and stringing me along about the money issues hasn’t helped.

    So I’ve been struggling, as the job has been exacerbating some of my underlying issues, plus now there’s this huge layer of resentment and apathy I can’t seem to throw off. I’ve definitely been what you’d call a poor performer in the last few months, mostly in the areas of communicating and meeting deadlines.

    Last week it all came to a head when my boss sent me an email detailing all the ways I’ve screwed up. I would see this as completely reasonable, and most of them are incidents where my actions did indeed cause a problem, but he misremembered/exaggerated my part in these incidents and sees nothing wrong with his part in them (and he did play a part in nearly all of them).

    On top of this, he talked about things like my health issues and the lack of pay as if he couldn’t understand why they were problems for me and demanded an alternate explanation (there isn’t one). He then closed the whole thing out with a statement that he has been far more patient and flexible than most employers would be in this situation, which, as true as it may be, had me seeing red. I know perfectly well that we’re both in this because we have no other options, and the idea that he’s doing me some huge favor by not paying me to keep his business afloat just really rankles.

    I know I’ve got bigger problems to deal with, but for the moment I’m stumped as to how I can even begin to answer this email and was hoping I could get some advice. I can’t seem to get past my desire to respond with incredulousness, anger and/or what would surely be looked at as thin excuses.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      I’m not diplomatic enough to suggest a response to this email, but is there ANYONE else in that company you work with (or a client) you can use as a reference instead of your boss? You now have experience in the field and you need to be looking for another position RIGHT NOW. Don’t feel like this is your only option, because it. is. not. Especially if he’s not paying you!

      1. Anonymous*

        Unfortunately, I’ve only worked directly with him for any length of time (and the only other people involved in the company are his business partner and a revolving door of “interns” and “independent contractors” who unsurprisingly don’t last long).

        Our clients do have a good opinion of me but I was wondering how useful they would be as references, since they’re not in our field. Wouldn’t giving them out as references just look like exactly what it is, which is that I don’t really have any professional references at all?

        1. fposte*

          If I’m hiring, I’m going to find recommendations from clients a lot more helpful than no recommendations at all.

    2. AVP*

      Ugh, what a terrible situation. My main advice when it comes to dealing with crazy emails from crazy and unrealistic bosses (I’ve had a few) is to take a deep breath and respond as calmly as possible. Apologize if you feel you have anything to apologize for, but don’t be defensive, or angry, or accusatory. Just think of the driest professional letter you can. Ask someone who is out of the situation to read it over before you hit send. Take your time, unless you’re going to see them immediately. Your goal here is to defuse the situation as much as you can, and take your own emotions out of it. And then get out of the situation as quickly as possible so you never have to deal with this again!

      1. Anonymous*

        This is really helpful, thanks! I think I’ve definitely been letting emotions take over, especially since my boss is a friends and the lines can feel pretty blurred at times because of that.

        1. Rana*

          I think at this point you need to stop thinking of him as a friend. Friends don’t treat each other the way he’s been treating you.

          You deserve better, both in terms of bosses, and friends.

    3. Brett*

      This literally sounds like an abusive relationship. He points out all of your flaws and tries to make you feel like you are damaged goods that no one else will take. He is belittling you, treating you like a child, and devaluing you while trying to claim that it is all for your own good. He shifts all blame on you as a flawed person and places himself as beyond reproach. He has you seeking elements of truth in his slams even though it sounds like most of what he has told you has been lies.

      Time to take the experience you have and get out and find that you are a valuable employee to someone else.

    4. Kaz*

      I would contact the state department of labor about filing an unpaid wages claim, and see if you can quit and claim unemployment. I would not try to salvage this at all.

      1. Anonymous*

        I am so, so tempted to do this, but the fact that my boss is a family friend has been holding me back from going to what would essentially be the nuclear option even if I’d be right to do so. I’m definitely starting to realize that the situation’s not salvageable, though, or at least it’s one that I can’t continue with.

        1. Kaz*

          This person has lost his right to be called a friend of any kind after treating you this horribly. He has been destroying his own reputation and it is NOT UP TO YOU to preserve it.

          Let me reiterate: you do NOT OWE HIM ANYTHING. He may think you do, but all you owe him is showing up to work each day and doing your assigned tasks, for which you are paid. And since you’re not getting paid, you do NOT OWE HIM ANYTHING.

          He sounds like he enjoys having someone to blame all his problems on, so he might find this perversely satisfying if you took this to the labor board.

    5. fposte*

      The best way to answer this email is with a resignation notice, and that’s polite.

      You’re *not getting paid.* He is using you as illegal labor. At this point it doesn’t matter if you’ve set fire to the computer every day. He is legally required to either pay you or terminate your employment. As was noted by Brett, this sounds like an abusive relationship, and you are not going to be able to reform or please this man. Unfortunately, you’re probably also not getting a reference out of him, but given that he’s freaking deranged, his reference was as likely to sink you as help you.

      You deserve to be paid for the work you do and not be abused by somebody who, I suspect, is using that to excuse himself for breaking the law in making you work for free. Read the AAM archives if you haven’t and go apply for a job at a more functional place.

      1. Elizabeth West*


        You need to leave. Pronto. This is a horrible situation in every way, whether you have issues or not. And it’s illegal to hire people and not pay them.

        1. Julie*

          I completely agree. Your mental health will likely improve if you are no longer working for this person, and you can better spend your time looking for a new job.

    6. Colette*

      You’re not getting paid, and your boss is not reliable or reasonable.

      Use the experience you got here and find something else. I know that’s scary, but you need to get out. You do have other options.

    7. Marina*

      “This seems to no longer be a good fit for either of us. My last day will be [date]. Thank you for the opportunities you’ve given me.”

      1. Nikki T*

        Today, today would totally be my last day. I’m not sure trying to work with him after resigning would even be possible….

      2. Anonymous*

        That was definitely my first impulse when I got the email! Well, with a few curse words added in, of course ;)

    8. Not So NewReader*

      Print out the email. Save it… AT HOME. Print out any other emails that are similar.

      This person is NO friend to you. Grieve the lost of the friendship but understand you are not standing next to a safe person. This person is abusive. He probably hired you with this in mind- that he could prey on your good will and withhold pay. He probably figures no matter how bad it gets you will NEVER report him. He has two cards to pull out. He has the friend card or the abuser card. He knows he can kick you because you are already “down” in his mind. Either way, he feels assured you will not report him.

      Friendships are reciprocal relationships- there is a back and a forth. I do not see that here.

      So print out all relevant emails. Send him one final email that says “I quit, effective immediately.” Do not write anything else. And walk out the door. Go home call the department of labor, file for unemployment and whatever else you need to do.

      Neither friendships nor jobs should require you to give away huge parts of yourself.

      Let us know how it goes.

      1. Natalie*

        Just want to underline this because unemployment is so often misunderstood: Your employer’s behavior likely rises to the level of constructive dismissal, which usually means you’re eligible for unemployment. He may contest it but you will probably win. And really, there is literally no downside to trying to file other than your time – it doesn’t cost you any money and you won’t get in trouble if, for some reason, you are not found to be eligible.

  37. Federal Govt Job Seeker*

    Happy Friday to you all. I’m wondering if anyone has any firsthand knowledge of the recent government shutdown affecting hiring for federal jobs. I recently contacted the hiring manager of the federal position I applied for, wondering if there’s going to be a delay in hiring, but I’m curious to hear anyone’s stories from the inside if the government shutdown has affected their filling of positions.

    1. A*

      We only have money through January 15th, thanks to the short-term CR. I haven’t of any openings in my department and I don’t expect any until we know what our funding is for the entire fiscal year.

    2. Chrissi*

      I would expect that there would be a hiring delay because whoever is processing the applications has been off work for nearly 3 weeks. Essentially, I would expect the timeline of hiring to be extended by the amount of the shutdown.

      1. Federal Govt Job Seeker*

        Thank you! I would imagine this means the people who process the security clearance/background checks, too.

        1. Kaz*

          Yes, I have a friend whose husband’s start date for a job was pushed back and back because they use the e-verify system, which was not working during the shutdown. So they probably have a huge backlog as it is.

    3. Littlemoose*

      Govt hiring takes time even when there’s no shutdown to deal with. The shutdown had caused delays and links in payroll and benefit management, so I’m sure hiring has been adversely impacted as well – OPM and the HR components of various agencies probably have to work out a lot of that stuff for existing employees, so new hiring could be affected.

      As another commenter mentioned, we do only have funding through January 15 right now. The bigger issue for a lot of agencies, I suspect, is that they don’t know exactly what their funding will look like for the upcoming fiscal year, due to the lack of a budget. That makes hiring a lot more difficult. The sequestration provisions that have taken effect have also adversely impacted hiring; my agency hasn’t done any external hiring for quite some time. That said, one positions have to be filled and will almost certainly be needed regardless of the eventual details of the budget. It may depend on the agency (and how vulnerable its funding is), and the specific role in that agency. Being a federal employee can be great, but things like this make it tough, and I’m sure it’s even harder for job seekers who are on the outside. You will probably have to be extra-patient. Good luck!

      1. Federal Govt Job Seeker*

        Thank you for the perspective and shedding light on the situation. This job involves a relocation, so I actually don’t mind if there’s going to be an extra delay on top of it already being a slow process.

    4. Xay*

      The hiring process was already very slow before the shutdown and probably will not improve before the end of the current CR. The agency I am contracted to is doing a budget review to determine what would be cut in the event of the anticipated additional sequestration cuts that are scheduled for 2014 and that will probably affect hiring as well.

  38. Jubilance*

    I’m back job hunting after only 14 months in role :-( It’s a combination of factors – I don’t like my new boss or what I’m working on, and I don’t have confidence in my company. They recently did layoffs and while it was a small number of people (only 1% of the HQ force) there was no statement made internally but there was a statement made to the local paper. Many people feel that there will be additional rounds coming at any time, including myself, considering how the economy is going and the company is doing right now. I don’t want to sit here in limbo.

    I do really like the company and I enjoyed my job before I got a new manager this summer. It’s been so demoralizing to the team due to his management style. He also put me on a project that I can only describe as the 7th circle of hell – its been an entire clusterf*ck from the very beginning and it keeps getting worse instead of getting better. I’d love to go to another team but I don’t feel confident that my manager would support it; in fact I think he’d block it simply because he can. So back to job hunting I go.

    1. fposte*

      Oh, Jubilance, I remember the manager problem. Do you think you can avoid going back to research with this job under your belt? If so, then it still did you a good turn.

      1. Jubilance*

        I think so, which is my goal. I really like being on the cusp of technical work, doing mostly project management and process improvement. Here’s hoping I can find something that allows me to still do that.

  39. Raine*

    Just wanted to say thank you to the anon in the last open thread who coached me on what to say at my annual review! I was the legal assistant at an IP firm wondering what to say to my bosses about…not being keen to continue in law.

    Turns out they didn’t ask directly! We’re adding to my workload a bit (because I’m bored and have nothing to do a lot). They still love me, and I negotiated a 16.7% raise!! :D I still don’t have much take-home pay due a) industry norms and b) I do a strict 8-hour day instead of the typical crazy hours of law folks, but I’m happy with how things went.

    Thanks again!

    1. Anonymous*

      You’re very welcome – and congratulations on your raise! 16.7% in this economy is worth smiling about – enjoy. :-)

  40. Chriama*

    I’m a full-time undergraduate student. I’ve worked part-time jobs on and off since high school and I’m in a work study position on campus now. As I get closer to graduating, I’m really starting to wonder about what my life is going to be like. The thing is, I’ve never really liked any of my jobs. I can remember things I like from each one, but the work itself has never been fulfilling. Now that I’m looking for full time jobs, what is it going to be like? I don’t want to be the employee who surfs social media for hours instead of working, but the thought of having to sit still and concentrate on one thing for 8 hours straight concerns me. I honestly don’t know if my work ethic is ready for something like this.

    TL,DR; For people who recently entered the workforce from a traditional middle-class education (school and then university full-time), what was it like? Do you like your jobs? What advice would you give to someone about to start their first “career type” job?

    1. Anoners*

      I finished grad school a few years ago, so I can relate. I like my job now, but it took a few years of having to go through the motions of a job that didn’t exactly fill me with joy to get here. My advice is to try and find something that’s reasonable for you to start at, and work your way from there. It might be something that gives you a sense of satisfaction, but it might not and you need to be prepared for that (not that your job will be horrendous or anything, but it might not be your “dream” job). My advice is to do whatever the job is you get to the best of your abilities, even if you find it boring. People will notice and it could lead to something directly in your field (this happened in my case). If you give off the impression that you’re bored / too good for it, people will also notice and not want to work with you. Hopefully you’ll find something that challenges you in some way. It’s a tough market for new grads out there, so just do your best!

      1. Chriama*

        Thanks for the input. I think my concerns are more with the ‘day-to-day’ aspect of everything. School (and especially university) is so unstructured I can do whatever, whenever. If I end up in a job where I have to be in an office every day for certain hours, what’s to stop me from spending all my time surfing the internet? All my work has been task-based so far, so how do people transition to office life?

        1. kaybee*

          I graduated in spring 2012 and went straight into a full-time position in my field. (Yay for using my degree!)

          You’ll probably feel like you have a lot of downtime the first few weeks or even months on a job. I was bored a lot when I started; I’d complete tasks much more quickly than my boss anticipated and there’d be no follow-up task. It’s okay to ask your boss for guidance then or to ask co-workers if they need your help. My boss was pretty busy when I started and not always available to coach me, so I’d just ask co-workers if I could help them out. I got to jump in on some interesting projects and get to know my co-workers – and my boss was really impressed that I took some initiative, so she wasn’t afraid to give me more challenging assignments.

          Once you have a better feel for the job, you’ll know how to fill those down moments — or if there is legitimately nothing else you can do today and how to deal with that.

          What kind of job/field are you looking for? I can’t tell from your post if you want something more structured (to prevent you from surfing the Internet all day) or less (so you can set your own priorities). I like my job because I am now leading projects so I plan out my deadlines/priorities; but, if you like to know exactly what you are doing and when you need to do it, you’d probably hate my job!

        2. Rachel*

          I’m coming from a similar background- the only full-time work I did before graduation was in summer internships, and those only lasted 10 weeks. What I’ve found is that much of my work in the “real world” is still task based- it’s just that some of the tasks are shorter, or they repeat on a regular basis, or something like that. The trick is figuring out what tasks you’ll actually be happy to do in the workplace. I hated being an administrative assistant, where my tasks were frequently very short, very repetitive, and boring. Now I’m in a communications role at a non-profit, and I still have tasks that I repeat every day, but my tasks are more varied in length and involve more interesting content.

        3. Marina*

          Office life is very task based. The major difference for me was figuring out that there are no “passing grades” or points for effort at work. You either do what you need to get done or you don’t. I’ve had very few jobs where I’m actually concentrating on only one thing for 8 hours–usually it’s more a question of prioritizing between different tasks.

        4. The IT Manager*

          what’s to stop me from spending all my time surfing the internet?

          Some suggestions to help with this:

          1) Only take out your phone, to check texts and facebook or whatever you have on your smart phone at certain break times during the day. Limit your usage to those times only so you never develop the habit of checking always during work or jumping to look whenever it pings which can interupt your concentration.

          2) Only go to certain websites on your work computer. Skip the facebook, pinterest, whatever is your big internet time wasters at work so you don’t get caught up in it.

          Everyone needs downtime. In an office enviroment you may have it so surfing for a quick break if your work is done is fine, but I’d limit that to professional type sites like AAM and news.

          And when you see an AAM open thread, don’t click on it at work. That can suck in your whole day right there. :)

    2. TLT*

      I finished my PhD in December and have been in the “real” workforce (I put that in quotes because anybody who has been there knows that writing a dissertation is real work), in April. The biggest change for me is how tired I get. When you’re in school, you set your own schedule, can change tasks releatively easily (sick of this paragraph? Clean your house! Stumped on that chapter? Cook dinner!) In a business setting, you really are tied to the 9-5 lifestyle and it’s a a big change.

      The other significant change for me is that I really hate my job (see above, TL but not the letter writing TL :-) ), so I’m pretty frustrated. Also, because I have an advanced degree but not a lot of experience, and I’m obviously not working in my a field tied to my academic background, I have had a hard time convincing employers of what my skills entail. Which translates to not finding jobs that value me (I wish I’d known how undervalued, both professionally and salary-wise with this org. before I took the position, but they put on all the charms during my interviews).

      My advice is to really take your time in your job search, if you can, and do informational interviews. Find out what people actually do in the jobs you’ve seen in your search. Think long and hard about whether or not you’d be happy doing that, and remember, nothing it forever and people change jobs all the time (though in this economy it can take a while!).

      Good luck!

      1. kaybee*

        Great point on being tired. Your lifestyle changes a lot when you start working full-time. It doesn’t matter how much you worked in college or how late you stayed up – something about having to be somewhere at 8am EVERY day for eight hours is exhausting. Especially when it’s an entry-level job where you might be bored or feel under-utilized…it takes a mental/emotional toll.

        There was definitely an adjustment period for me when I started FT work. I would come home and CRASH immediately after work. It gets better, though! I’ve had to start prioritizing my free time a lot more and learned that it’s okay to say “no” to friends/family sometimes.

    3. Bryan*

      I’m pretty new out of school and in a typical 9-5 job. I think what was the biggest surprise to me was how tired I was when starting out (less so now but it’s still an issue at times). Having an 8 am class a couple days a week is nothing compare to waking up early, having to look presentable, sitting in rush hour traffic etc.

      The structure at times is a down side. While in school if you aren’t feeling productive you can put something off but now you’re forced to be productive during certain hours. I try to save some tasks for when I know I’m not feeling like a superstar employee. On the other hand I enjoy being able to leave my work at 5 and not think about it (I have a position with a good work/life balance).

      As for worrying about self control surfing the internet all day. At best there will generally be some measure of productivity that somebody will notice if your tasks aren’t being done, at worst your company will strictly monitor computer usage.

      Other random items I noticed for me:
      You’ll probably be earning more but your money will also go away quickly. It depends on the situation you were in before. I feel rich on payday but had to take my car in for service.
      Getting your benefits package at a new job will confusing.
      I found myself needing a lot of new clothes as I only had casual stuff and my office requires a tie every day. Now when going on vacation I feel like I don’t have anything but button downs and dress pants.

      If you have any questions feel free to ask!

    4. The IT Manager*

      I was in the military so I’ve changed jobs a lot. IMO the people/bosses/culture make or break the job. My last job before getting out was not in my field and I did not like the work, but my co-workers and boss made it bearable. And since all the military people kept rotating quickly, most of my co-workers changed out before I left, but the team culture remained. So look for a culture, boss, and co-workers that you think will fit your personality if you can.

      I took the job I have now to get my foot in the door. I actually made the statement “it’s not my dream job” when describing it to others, but it is different than I expected and I am enjoying it a lot along with working with some more good people so I am pretty happy. Not that this is helpful, but you may not know what you like until you try. (But I know now form reading AAM that there’s no such thing as a dream job.)

      Also training is important. I have been a project manager before and felt out of my element, unsure of what to do, and did not enjoy it. I am a project manager now and really like it, but this job offered a lot of training and mentoring so I now feel alike I know what I am supposed to do. So if the job requires some getting up to speed, look for an organization that will provide you the training or mentoring needed.

    5. Colette*

      Well, keep in mind that there are a lot of jobs that don’t require concentrating on one thing for 8 hours straight. I do a lot of analysis and even that doesn’t require me to do one thing for 8 hours at a time, which is good because I have the attention span of … something with a short attention span. I like to tell people I’m interrupt driven.

      Depending on your job/field, you might have a lot of autonomy or none at all. Make sure you’re keeping track of what you need to do, and do your best work.

      Ask for help when you need it – I’d much rather have someone ask for help than struggle for weeks and miss a deadline.

      When you get help (or meet with someone about a project), take notes so you don’t have to ask again.

      Do your job well, even the tedious parts. Don’t slack off on the parts you don’t like because your coworkers will pick up the slack.

      Do what you say you will do when you say you will do it.

      If your company matches funds into a retirement plan, contribute whatever percent of your salary you need to to get the match. You won’t miss it.

      Understand your company benefits and take advantage of those you can use.

      Be polite and respectful to everyone, even the ones you don’t like (unless, of course, they have done something outside the norm e.g. harassment or assault). Work isn’t middle school.

      And pack your lunch (and breakfast, if applicable) at least 4 days a week – it’ll save you tons of money over the long run.

    6. Ellie H.*

      I’m lucky because I have a (to me) very intellectually stimulating job, so your individual experience may vary. But I LOVE working, I like it more than I did being a full time student. (I finished university coursework in 2010 and started my full time job in January 2012.) To me the structure of the workday is actually much better, not worse, for time management and avoiding procrastination. With most jobs you are definitely not trying to sit down and concentrate on one thing for eight hours straight. (Honestly, at this point, I would LOVE to have eight uninterrupted hours to focus exclusively on a single one of my projects!) It’s actually quite the opposite of college work, where you really do have to focus on several hours of reading, a long paper-writing session, etc. at a time. In most jobs you have to switch from task to task quite frequently and deal with many interruptions e.g. phone calls, responding to email, answering questions, meetings etc. It can be pretty stimulating. I think that the structure of the workday (time to work, time to not be at work) also benefits focus and lack of procrastination because you have clearly delineated time for work and for recreation, you’re not constantly in the position of having to decide when to do which thing as is the case when you’re a student (“do I work on this paper or go hang out in the dining hall with my friends?”).

      Blocking certain websites at work also really, really helps. I use Leechblock; you can set it so that you are 100% incapable of altering it (to guard against a moment of weakness) during the self-determined restricted times.

  41. Going anon for this*

    I would like to ask your advice about a situation that’s come up at work. This is my first career-type job, so I’m having trouble assessing whether this is normal or not.

    I have three managers at work. We’ll call them Managers A, B, and C, with A being the highest ranked manager and C being the lowest ranked manager and at one rank above me.

    Manager A is new (relatively, he’s been here for about a year), and is generally really awesome. This is his first job at this level, but he’s walked into a messy situation and has been cleaning it up. However, the way things were handled before him means that most of his attention is restricted to things in immediate danger of blowing up.

    Managers B and C have been here a really long time (10+ years) and are pretty obviously miscast. Manager C hates managing and refused to tell anyone what to do or discipline anyone. Manager B works in a different part of the building and is hopelessly disorganized.

    I’m not a manager, but for a number of reasons have been put in a position where I’m expected to take responsibility without any actual authority to back it up. The result has been that I keep getting flack for things that were basically screwed up by Managers B and C–specifically that they don’t give me the information to do my job or refuse to deal with issues other coworkers are causing and I get blamed for it by customers.

    I’ve tried to calmly bring this to Manager A’s attention but since things basically aren’t in danger of blowing up, he just tells me to take it to Manager C.

    Is it reasonable to find this situation ridiculous or is this all fairly normal? I was hoping to wait to make a move until I found a job that’d be a promotion (I’ve been job hunting for the last 6 months), but I’m starting to consider looking to make a lateral move just out of sheer frustration, even though it’d probably delay the promotion I want.

    What’s your take on this?

      1. Going anon for this*

        Customers mostly but sometimes Manager A, thinking the screwup is on my end.

        And no, because Manager C is never on duty when this happens and things have to be handled right away.

        1. fposte*

          Sorry, you said that and I missed it–that basically customers are frustrated with you about organizational errors you have no control over. The way you describe things suggest that it’s not going to change, unfortunately. I would be surprised if Managers B and C pulled up their socks even if Manager A did start to supervise them more closely, and he’s told you he’s not going to do that.

          I don’t have expertise enough on the politics of lateral moves to advise on what effect that’s likely to have, and obviously in any job where you deal with customers you’re always likely to deal with a fair amount of grief. That being said, maybe there’s a lateral move that would be interesting or allow you to develop a new skill; it certainly wouldn’t hurt to explore the possibility.

          1. Anon for this*

            It’s not really even the customers giving me grief that I take issue with (I expect that in this field, it’s normal). It’s the not being given the information to do my job well that’s driving me up the wall.

            Thanks for the feedback, I appreciate it.

  42. Sofia*

    I’m a first time commenter, so hopefully I’m doing this open-thread thing right, because my question is more general and not directly related to job searching (although I have to say finding this website was wonderful and I fully credit it to helping me get my first job after grad school!!!)
    My question is, I moved from one side of California to the other for my first job, and this is my first time moving away more-or-less permanently from home. I am now looking for a new primary care physician and the one I first found made some decisions related to my health that I didn’t quite like, so I’m looking for someone else. Does anyone have any tips on finding a new doctor when you don’t know anyone who can give you a referral? I have some medical issues (that are under control), so I want someone who will be sensitive to that and be more careful when helping me figure out what to do when I’m dealing with getting sick, etc.
    Any tips?

    1. Calla*

      I wish I knew what company you worked for, because my employer is actually a health benefit like this offered through many (but not all) employee health plans :)

      But I empathize with you, I had some very specific requirements when searching for a new doctor and it can be overwhelming! What I did is find a list of who was in my network, and then do a search of names + words related to my requirements (in your case, perhaps the medical issue). This can be a quick way to find reviews where someone says “They deal with this and do a great job.” The other possibility is, are there any organizations or support groups related to your condition? They might be able to suggest doctors in your area.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        Seconding this.

        Through Yelp, I finally found a primary care doctor who listens to the whole of what’s going on in my life and health, doesn’t make me feel weird about asking little questions, and treats me like an adult when it comes to prescriptions. That’s also how I found my gynecologist, who I adore.

      2. Rana*

        Thirding. Even if you disagree with the reviews, they give you a sense of what to be looking for when you interview someone.

        It can also help to start with a list of doctors accepting new patients in your area who take your insurance (your insurance will make it easy to find them, in my experience) – from there, use reviews, Yelp, and location to winnow them down.

        Good luck!

    2. Brett*

      Can’t help with finding your first doctor, but if your first doctor doesn’t work out, switch to a new one.

    3. Bryan*

      I have a similar issue recently moving 500 miles away. I started with was a list of doctors my insurance covered (from the insurance company’s website). From there I would search the name and check each one out. How far away are they, what are their hours, what is their background, what reviews are out there for them.

      Are their message boards for your medical condition? I have diabetes so if I didn’t find a good doctor I would look on diabetes messages boards and ask there. Hope this helps!

    4. Federal Govt Job Seeker*

      If you go or think you will go to support groups for your medical condition(s) in your new location, those can be a fantastic resource for doctors, clinics, etc.

    5. JJ*

      My sister made the same move and I think what she did was: look for physicians who will accept the health care plan you already have, in the area that’s close or convenient for you, and then read some reviews online if you can find any.

    6. Anonymous*

      When I was in your situation, I started out by looking for doctors in high-income neighborhoods. Yes, I know it sounds awful and cynical, but the bottom line is that people who can afford to choose will not put up with crappy health care.

    7. Julie*

      If your company has an EAP, they might be able to give you a few names. This is one of the benefits the EAP at my job specifically mentions.

  43. AdminAnon*

    Resume question–do you write in past or present tense? I’ve always used past tense, but I’ve never sent out resumes while currently in a position (I’m a recent grad and my previous positions–aside from food service, which I don’t list– were all internships, etc during school). Currently, my bullets/accomplishments are all in past tense aside from the ones for my current position, but the inconsistency is driving me batty. Any thoughts?

    1. Chriama*

      If it’s something you’re currently doing it’s present tense. If you did it in the past but don’t do it now, past tense. Relax — this is one detail you shouldn’t worry about!

    2. JJ*

      I’ve been told that for all past jobs, everything is in past tense. For current jobs, use present tense if it’s an ongoing thing, but if it’s a one-time deal (like a project you managed and have completed), put it in the past tense.

      1. Toast*

        But if the resume should be all about accomplishments on the job, shouldn’t it be past tense even in a current position?

        1. JJ*

          True, but if you’re listing a position that doesn’t have a lot of accomplishments yet since it’s newer and you don’t want to show a huge unemployment gap, or if it was a really small position in the past that didn’t allow any room to shine (just some examples), you might not have enough accomplishments to list. You might have to fill the space with some of your more important duties instead. At least, that’s what I have to do sometimes… generally I try to list as many accomplishments as I can but some of my positions really didn’t have any room to pitch ideas and make a difference besides fulfilling the routine duties, so for those positions I have done a mix of duties/accomplishments.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Not literally everything has to be an accomplishment; you can have some responsibilities on there too. It’s just that the more accomplishments you have on there, the better.

  44. Windchime*

    I had my ankle surgery and have been off work completely for the past two weeks. I have contacted my boss and a coworker (once each), but other than that I have done a good job of not working. It’s been a full-time job to figure out how to do things such as shower, navigate stairs, and load the dishwasher, all on one leg! I have to say that the knee scooter is a god-send.

    Any tips about easing my way back to work with my leg in a cast or boot? I will still be non-weight bearing for another 4 weeks. I may be able to work part-time from home next week, but I think I want to try to go into the office after that.

      1. Windchime*

        Thanks, Alison! I will re-read these. I remember that you were off your foot for quite a long while, it seems. I just got my cast off, but the stitches will stay in for another 10 days and I’m still non-weight bearing for at least another month. So frustrating!

    1. squid*

      I came back to work 5 days after surgery to repair a broken leg. It wasn’t a particularly good idea, but I was fortunate to have a) a co-worker who was able to give me rides, and b) an environment (and hip flexibility?) where I could elevate the leg without causing a disruption. I can’t say I got all that much done in my first days back, but was able to manage a lot of routine tasks.

      By the time I was weight-bearing the only thing I needed help with was getting coffee.

      It very much depends on your environment, but your co-workers will hopefully be understanding and helpful, and you may be able to rearrange your work to favour things that can be done while sitting at your desk.

      Good luck!

      1. LCL*

        The largest portable fan that you can find-have someone set it up under your desk. Those boots get uncomfortably warm inside. Obviously have to wear pants instead of a skirt with this.

    2. Brett*

      Knee scooter!
      One of my co-workers at another site with a very mission critical job had ankle surgery as well and the knee scooter has been a lifesaver for her.

      1. Windchime*

        Oh, I am loving my knee scooters. My house is a two-story with kitchen downstairs and everything else (bedrooms, showers, laundry) upstairs. Renting a second scooter (at my own expense) was the smartest thing I’ve done in a long, long time.

  45. Anonymous*

    A former supervisor likes to help out former interns and volunteers get jobs. In doing so, he sends out job ads every so often. It’s great, but while I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds us, there is one issue I’m not sure if I should address:

    He send the ads too late to apply. I don’t mean the job has closed, but the job is within 24 hours of closing. Usually, I see the email a several hours after he’s sent it, either when I can’t sit and craft the appropriate materials or when there isn’t enough time even if I do have the chance to sit down.

    Is there anything I can say to him about this? I don’t want to sound ungrateful though. Would it better to just ask him what his search terms are so I can open more avenues that way on my own? I have a list of terms for my own searching on these sites, but sometimes he’ll come up with stuff I don’t see within my own.

    1. CoffeeLover*

      I wouldn’t ask him to send things earlier because he’s really going out of his way with this, and honestly 24hours notice should be plenty. It might look bad if you’re the only one complaining while all the other interns seem to find time to apply. You could ask him what sources he uses to find these jobs, but it’s possible he’s getting these jobs sent to him through his connections. I would just try to be more on top of his emails (mark them as high importance) and find a way to manage your time to apply.

    2. SD*

      I do think your idea of asking him his search terms is on the right track, although I have a hunch that’s not the trick to it. He may know of sites you’ve never heard of, maybe he’s subscribed to a listserv or is a member of a professional organization that compiles job ads. Maybe just send him an email, perhaps with a touch of flattery, asking how he finds these great postings, then hopefully you can find them yourself with more time to spare in the future. If he consistently sends the ads along with no time to spare, that’s kind of clueless of him, but I think it would be unrealistic to complain to him about it– it’s reasonable that it’s not as much of a priority for him as it is for you.

  46. Rebecca*

    I feel like I’ve exhausted all my options at my current job. The company I work for was purchased several years ago by a much larger company. New Parent Company does not give cost of living increases. I asked what I could do to earn a merit increase (note I did not ask for a handout, I asked what I could do to earn it), and my manager can’t answer me. I inquired about working from home on some days to help with commuting costs, but that isn’t allowed because everyone can’t be trusted to work from home. There are zero opportunities for advancement or increased earning potential.

    We’re also losing good people from other offices due to lack of opportunities for advancement. They’re being replaced with less experienced (and most likely lower paid) personnel, which only adds to the stress.

    I’m looking for another job, closer to home, but so far, nothing. This is a rural area. My home county (I travel to another county to work) has a high poverty and jobless rate. I live close to my parents (in their late 70’s) and I’m an only child, so I feel like I need to stay close in case they need help.

    I hate coming to work knowing nothing I do, or don’t do, makes a difference. The only good thing about this whole situation is the 20 paid days off per year, plus holidays. And I’m inside a climate controlled building, so it’s basically physically comfortable. That’s about it.

    Thanks for letting me vent.

      1. Rebecca*

        Thanks – I have some coping mechanisms! I’m working on my resume, and I put up extra pictures of my pets, so when I get frustrated, I look at them (and that makes me smile). I’m concentrating on my hobbies after work. It’s really helping. Plus, I keep reminding myself that (1) I am employed and (2) I’m not digging up a broken sewer line outside, by hand, in sub freezing weather.

    1. Brett*

      That is pretty much where I am. The merit board was closed in 2007, the last COLA was before I started working here, and we are under a wage freeze that is supposed to last through 2018. Already hired into the highest possible pay grade for me, so no promotions either.

      Main difference is that instead of hiring less experienced personnel, positions are just going vacant and exempt employees are working more hours.

      A few months ago, I started doing industry related volunteer work that was very fulfilling even if it took even more of my time. I have since started a very successful meetup group, served on a conference board, and even organized a couple of successful tech events. My employer even gave me permission to take a very part-time consulting gig that came out of this, which basically amounts to a 16% raise for a 10% increase in hours.

  47. CoffeeLover*

    This is a salary negotiation question. AAM has written before that it’s not wise to ask for a raise based on an offer from another company. As a new grad though, I find myself in a situation where I have two offers. Offer 1 is at the company I would prefer to work at but pays about 10K less than Offer 2, which is from a good company as well and their direct competitor. Is it alright to go to Company 1 and ask for more based on the second offer. If this is a good move, how would I phrase it?

    1. CollegeAdmin*

      Disclosure: I graduated in 2012, so I haven’t been in the workforce long. Take this advice with a bit of salt.

      I would ask Company 1 if there is any room for negotiation on salary. If they ask you to quote a figure, you *possibly* could explain that you are entertaining an offer from another company (not sure if I would specify which one) and that you really would prefer to work for Company 1 for xx reasons. (Their culture? Their stance on a particular issue? The role responsibilities?)

      However, you should be willing to accept Company 2’s offer – that’s the only way this works. If you’re not, you run the (very slight) risk of Company 1 saying, “We can’t match that offer, we will move on to another candidate.”*

      *And yes, that’s legal. :)

    2. Jubilance*

      I would frame it this way: “I’m really excited about this opportunity with Acme, but I’m looking for $X as a salary. Is there any way we can make that happen?”

      I wouldn’t bring up the other offer, instead I would talk about what I would bring to the role as my reason for wanting more money.

    3. Trixie*

      It’s still not a wise move. If its about the money more than anything else, go with Offer 2. If you’d prefer to work at Company 1 at almost any cost, try negotiating their offer based on what your experience, accomplishments, etc. Of course, this may not be an option if Company 1 was upfront about the salary range and their office falls within it.

      1. Anonymous*

        Why not? This is different from the counter-offer situation. When there are multiple offers on the table, why not ask Company 1 to match? That’s what “market” salaries are – the price that the market is willing to pay someone.

        1. Trixie*

          Company 1 may have been completely upfront about what their hiring range was and CoffeeLover may have already said he/she would accept something in said range.

          I think he/she can still try negotiating but I would use a different reason than “going market rate” like experience, accomplishments, etc. Company 1 may say if that’s the going rate, how come you’re not earning that now? Or they could say “That’s more than we’re able to pay and we’ll have to move along with other candidates in our range.” Just depends on how the salary range was first introduced.

  48. Danielle*

    A quick and simple question:

    I e-mailed a company recruiter expressing interest in working for her company. She took the time to get back to me saying there were no positions currently but when there are they’ll be on their site, please apply etc.

    The question is, do I send a note back thanking her for taking the time to reply? Or is that just one more e-mail taking up space in her inbox that she won’t care about?

    1. CoffeeLover*

      Definitely send a thank you. My general rule of thumb is to send a thank you if the person is going out of their way, and really she could have just not replied at all.

      1. Danielle*

        Thanks! I’ve only recently become addicted to this blog and the finer points of job search etiquette are still new to me!

    2. Danielle*

      Ok, now I have another question:

      I noticed in her e-mail she said not to hesitate to contact her if I have any questions. Obviously I have a few that would be more appropriate for an interview and normally I would maybe want to know about the hiring process but their website has pretty well laid out all the info you could possibly want to know on that subject (which is so AWESOME in my opinion!).

      Would it be appropriate to ask about specific skills/experience that they would be looking for in the area I’m interested in? Or at least a few of their top qualifications?

      I’d take any suggestions for some top notch questions if anyone has any!

      1. AB*

        I suggest waiting to ask questions when they have an opening you feel you are qualified for.

        Otherwise, as the recruiter, I would be very annoyed to getting questions about a theoretical situation (what skills/experience they will be looking for will depend on what position opens in the future).

        Good luck!

  49. Ash*

    Here’s a big dilemma for you all —

    I took my current job almost a year ago (11 months). It was originally advertised as a senior position but upon making me an offer they said they couldn’t give me the title it advertised because I “didn’t have enough years of experience” (yet, I have an advanced degree and exactly the skills they needed). They said we could renegotiate after a year. I took the job because I needed to leave another because it was being restructured by an awful boss that made me cry on a regular basis.

    Not two months after I arrived they promoted someone who is younger than me and has even less experience in her field to director of her department. Now her situation was different since she was running without a director, but it negates the reason they gave me for not giving me the title.

    It is becoming increasingly clear the person they have as my “supervisor” will not let my program go from his. But, I still want to ask and I want to be prepared to leave if they say no, because I’m ready at this point in my career to have that title.

    But who do I have this conversation with? Obviously my “supervisor” wouldn’t be this person — but who? The Executive Director?

    1. CoffeeLover*

      Who hired you and made you the promise of reevaluating the position in a year? I image you would talk to that person because s/he is the one who would know about your agreement.

      Also, I don’t really think the other girl getting promoted to director negates the reason they gave you. She may be younger than you, but a) she may have more relevant experience than you, or b) she may have been a star managing without a director and they were confident in her ability to move into a senior role whereas you don’t have a track record elsewhere and have not proven yourself to them (at the time of your interview).

    2. fposte*

      Is the supervisor the person who said the title would be renegotiated after a year? Then that is exactly the person you talk to. And even if she wasn’t, it doesn’t make sense to go over her head to initiate the conversation. The facts that you know this other person got a thing and you have these suspicions about your manager aren’t more significant than taking this issue where it’s supposed to start. Since you’re using the term “title” and not “promotion” you’d still have to report to this woman, and leapfrogging her will seriously sour that relationship.

      Also, what’s the rest of your job history? Would this be your only short-term job or was the previous one short as well? If the previous one was short as well, the apparent job hopping may get you a reputational hit that’s going to lengthen your job search–would it be worth it to you just because of title dissatisfaction?

  50. Sascha*

    I just wanted to say that before reading this blog, I hadn’t really thought much about networking. I’m fairly young, been in the workforce about ten years, and I’m at the point in my career where networking and being picky about jobs is super important. Reading this blog has given me confidence and focus to network. I even set up a very successful networking lunch with some software developers (who are working in the field into which I want to transition) at a conference last week, and I NAILED IT, thanks to tips from this blog – both Alison and the commenters. I’m a rather shy person who has a difficult time talking to strangers, but since I was prepared going into it, it turned out well.

    So thank you, everyone. :)

      1. Sascha*

        1. I changed my view of networking from “how do I talk to this person so I can get a job” to “what can I offer to this person and how can we benefit each other”. I talked to people where I was genuinely interested in who they are and what they do, and focusing on that was helpful. I thought up what kind of knowledge I could offer to them that would help them out, and viewed it as relationship building – instead of just me awkwardly asking them for a job or something like that.

        2. I asked specific questions, instead of just “tell me about your job.” I prepared those lists ahead of time.

        3. Overall I started thinking concretely about networking – what do I want to know, what can I offer, be more specific! If I wanted to talk to someone, I would break it down and think about those questions, also what does this person do, why are you interested in it, what aspects are interesting, what does this person find challenging about this role, etc.

        I hope this all makes sense. I think this blog gives solid, concrete advice about how networking works and what you can do, instead of just “go out and network!”

  51. RNEducator*

    I have a question about a co-worker.
    I work as an educator in a hospital. I have a co-worker who is not good at her job and really never has been. She and I have a very intertwined relationship. First, she hired me as a staff nurse and was my manager when I started at this hospital. When she was found another job in education at the hospital because she was not effective as a manager, I ended up as an assistant manager for her successor. About one and half years ago, I moved over to the education department, where she still works.

    I am VERY familiar with her work and her antics. By her antics, I mean slamming the phone down, swearing out loud when she doesn’t like the email she receives, constant complaining, etc. She had been protected by our previous director and now she finds herself in hot water with the interim director.

    She is now on a performance improvement plan about her antics as well as other elements of the job. She has told every one in the office about the performance improvement plan which is why I know. One of the items she needs to do is to facilitate a class next week. She is not a strong presenter and her PowerPoint skill are like that of a 5 year old. She asked for help yesterday and I gave her some ideas of how to make her PowerPoint a tool. This morning, she met with the interim director to go over it and the director was not impressed with her work. My co-worker then threw me right under the bus, and said “Well this is what xx told me to do.” Not quite, she has since sent me her presentation and asked me to look at it again and see what else she could do to make it better. I read it and she only changed one thing I said.

    I am wondering if I continue to help her or just let her know she is on her own. I certainly don’t want to watch anyone lose their jobs but I also don’t want my name to be part of what she does. I have a very good reputation and I don’t want that tarnished.

    1. fposte*

      I doubt anyone is putting you on the hook for what she does regardless of what she says (and I bet the response was some serious raised eyebrows that she tried to outsource her assignment while under a PIP). It doesn’t sound like you particularly want to continue to help her, and that’s reason enough right there to stop. I think it’s perfectly fine, with somebody this mercurial, to blame time and workload and say you just wouldn’t be able to get to it. But seriously, if she’s so incompetent she can’t do what she’s asked without a colleague carrying her, termination would seem to be an appropriate response.

    2. Marina*

      Is helping her part of your job? Like, are you supposed to be available to coworkers for help with PowerPoint or is this something you did on your own initiative? If it’s not part of your job, I think you’d certainly be justified in being very, very busy next time she needs help.

    3. Rana*

      If it’s not part of your responsibilities, I don’t see why you should help her. She’s shown already that she won’t listen to what you tell her, and will throw you under the bus when she screws up. Why would you want to help someone like that?

  52. Katie the Fed*

    Hi guys – I wanted to thank everyone who piped in with support on my guest post the other week regarding the government shut down. I was actually on a vacation I had planned in advance so I didn’t get to see the comments until later, and they were very much appreciated. It all worked out in the end, I suppose, and those who were furloughed are getting back pay after all. But the uncertainty gets old.

  53. Green*

    Soooo I called in sick to a new job on my first month today. Food poisoning. Like the kind where you really can’t leave the house for 30 minutes to get to work because you need to be near the restroom. My manager was very nice about, but how should I handle when I go back to work Monday?

    And it’s a Friday, so the cynic would assume I just wanted a 4-day weekend.

    1. fposte*

      I misread this as your first day. If you’ve been there a month, there’s nothing really to handle–you say you’re so sorry about the sudden absence and you expect to be caught up on [anything that needs catching up] by this afternoon. This isn’t a big deal unless you’ve been visibly slacking up to now, and something tells me that you haven’t been :-).

      1. Green*

        I am pretty strong at work and am in a fairly high level job. I am just feeling like I’m starting all over again since I’m new with this employer.

        Andddd of course the first thing I do is “calling in sick my first month” and then Google has hundreds of people saying “THIS LOOKS REALY BAD”, so I had to come to AAM for a gut check since I also have anxiety issues. I’m transitioning from a high-stress job, so I’ve been excelling at my training, etc. and been pretty diligent (even when my boss has told me to go home at 4 on light days as part of my work/life management, I usually stay until 5:15 or so) and am enjoying the lower stress environment. Just don’t want them to think I’m abusing it.

        1. fposte*

          This is like the health anxiety people who Google for “headache and cancer.” What do you think they find :-)?

          You’re fine. (Except maybe mathematically–if you only were out today and are going in Monday, isn’t that just a 3-day weekend?) You need to find a way to define “doing okay” that isn’t killing yourself. Being home with food poisoning is doing okay.

        2. Colette*

          My dad died a month and a half into my previous job. I was gone for 7 days. My manager was awesome – good managers/businesses understand that life happens. You should be fine.

        3. Anonymous*

          I don’t really understand what the problem is. Any reasonable workplace should understand that people get sick. You haven’t been there long enough to have shown if you have a chronic absentee problem so I wouldn’t worry about this too much. Just do the best job you can do once you are well enough to go to work.

    2. Jazzy Red*

      Someone will undoubtedly chide you for taking a long weekend. Ignore it, and just tell that person you hope he/she never gets food poisoning.

    3. CollegeAdmin*

      If you do good work and have a good boss, you should be okay. I had to call in sick twice in the first three months I was working at my current job – strep throat once and a mysterious allergic reaction the second time. I was terrified – there’s technically a policy at the college that you can’t take any time off (sick time or otherwise) in the first 90 days – but my boss completely understood.

      Recommendation: If possible, don’t go see your boss first thing on Monday. Instead, try to take 10 minutes and check your inbox (email and/or physical) so you can go in and say something like, “I apologize for not being here on Friday – obviously I didn’t plan for food poisoning! I checked my email and I see that Wakeen sent those numbers we were looking for, and I plan to finish up that Chocolate Teapot Conference flyer by this afternoon. Can you tell me if there’s anything important that I missed?”

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Years ago, I was several weeks into a new job and got into an accident. I was out of work for SIX weeks… my brand new job.
      I ended up okay with the job after being in total fear for six weeks. Stuff happens. You will be okay.

  54. Marina*

    Help me decide whether to accept a job!

    Pros: it’s not my current job, which has gotten progressively wackier in the bad way. This new job seems to have a saner approach to training, management, evaluation, etc. (Thanks to AAM I was able to ask some pointed questions and feel fairly confident about this.) More responsibility for me, especially in managing staff and budget, which are areas I could really use experience in.

    Cons: Money. If they offer at the very top of their range, it would be a 1% raise for me. Probably a pretty stressful job–their clients are people I CAN deal with, but don’t necessarily enjoy.

    What would you do??? I really want to get the f out of my current job, it’s pretty toxic, but the money issue feels like a real downside. I have a second interview next week that I’m almost thinking about canceling, if I decide I wouldn’t take this job at this pay range.

    1. The IT Manager*

      I don’t understand your concern. Jumping from a toxic job to an apparently sane, albeit stressful, job at about the same pay seems like a win to me; although, full disclosure I in no way associate my salary with my self-worth due to my career in the military and government where employees do not neogiate salary.

      The only thing you may lose with taking the new job is time since if it does turn out to be bad or you want to move to negoiate a higher starting salary, you probably need to stick it out a year or two before changing jobs again.

      – Is the new job offering a salary within normal market range?
      – Do you have any other job leads on the hook or is this a rare opportunity?
      – How long have you been in your current job? (Because if it was a while you can change jobs again sooner than if it was a short term job.)

      1. Marina*

        Yes, I should have said, the main concern with the money is that I’d find it financially difficult to stay in a position paying that level for more than a year or so. I’ve been at my current job just under 3 years; my previous two jobs both lasted just under 2 years, although for reasons out of my control. My resume would definitely look a little spotty with another shorter term job on it. It’s on the low end of normal market range, but not entirely unreasonable.

        I do have an interview for another job the week after, which would pay much better and I think be less stressful day to day as well. And of course I’ve been applying to many other jobs and haven’t put that on hold during the interview process. Of course none of that is for sure, but I’d just hate to be in the position of turning down an interview for a well-paying job because I’ve accepted a lower-paying job just to get out of my current job…

        1. The IT Manager*

          That does put a different spin on things. The potential low paying job is not even the best one that you’re interviewing for. And given that your resume will show you staying at your previous jobs for 2, 2, and 3 years, you will probably want to stick this next one out for longer. So I understand you dilemma much better.

          With other options out there, I understand why you want to turn it down. Frankly since you have interviews and are still looking, it sounds like turning it down might be the best thing.

    2. The IT Manager*

      Oh, but I wouldn’t cancel the second interview unless you are absolutely sure that you won’t take it and you can’t neogoiate them up. Maybe you’ll discover something that makes the lack of pay increase worthwhile.

  55. TRT*

    I have been dealing with a weird situation at work. I work at a non-profit organization and we have been without a direct supervisor for about 2 years. As myself and another peer (similar position) were starting here, the former supervisor left. This peer is very manipulative and condescending and feels as thought he should have gotten the supervisor’s position, even though he never interviewed for it. He instantly claims to not like the new supervisor and is bashing him behind his back. In meetings (with our smaller team) he challenges him and generally never agrees with him.

    I tend to keep quiet because I don’t want to become his next target, but I feel that his behavior is unprofessional. He is going above and beyond to bad mouth this new supervisor, even so much as to let our director know how “displeased” he his with his work. I think the supervisor is doing a good job and is bringing in much needed strategy. I would like to tell my new supervisor this and let him know that I do not share this peer’s thoughts, but I don’t know how to do so in a diplomatic way without bashing this peer. I do not want him to think that my being quiet means that I agree with him. Any ideas?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Actually, why not tell your director, so that he’s not getting one-sided feedback from your peer? Email him and say how thrilled you are that the new supervisor has joined you and then be specific about why — what you see him doing well. Your director likely knows it’s weird to get a new manager and will be glad to hear that feedback about him.

      (You should tell the supervisor himself too, of course — but I wanted to add in the director part.)

  56. Lils*

    Been sitting through a lot of academic job presentations lately. AAM readers sometimes ask about how to do these successfully. Random thoughts in no particular order:
    -Nail the time requirement, but leave time for questions
    -Cover the topic…don’t talk about your vacations instead (yes, that happened)
    -Don’t include pictures of your baby
    -Don’t say “I would have covered X if I’d had more time to prepare” or “I didn’t know anything about this, so I did some research…”
    -Not sure everyone agrees with this, but please go light on the citations and the dictionary definitions (ugh!)

    1. SD*

      Yes to all of that. I think “cover the topic” is what I’ve seen people have the most trouble with. A surprising amount of candidates seem to take a topic relating to the role they’re applying for and make it all about what they’ve done in their current role. Some also seem to feel like they neeeed to make themselves more relatable, or something, and then you get things like baby or pet pictures, anecdotes about what great friends everyone is in their current department… I seriously don’t get it. The candidate is a human being, we’re human beings, you’re standing in front of us talking for half an hour or an hour. If I can’t relate to you from that, knowing that you have a dog isn’t going to do it for me, plus trying to be “nice” to the point of not following directions really doesn’t lead to getting hired.

      …yeah, sorry, that got a little out of hand. I’ve sat through a few of these, too, apparently.

      1. Lils*

        Yeah, I don’t get the more relatable thing. Just be warm and professional and everybody’s going to be so relieved that you aren’t a creeping weirdo that they’ll love you.

        Also–don’t list 500 best practices. That is not a presentation.

    2. Trixie*

      Out of curiosity, how does someone new to academic job presentations learn what is and isn’t appropriate? Are the details and perimeters included with the job posting/instructions?

      1. fposte*

        As an academic, you’ve been doing presentations at conferences; this is just a version of those. That’s why people don’t want to see dogs and babies in them (unless they’re test subjects).

        You may get some mentoring and word of mouth on tweaking them for job talks, but in general, academia is notorious for expecting people to figure stuff out without formally being advised.

        1. Rana*

          Yeah, it’s very much a learn-by-observation-and-practice mentality.

          Another thing I’d add to the advice:

          If you’re using technological aids (PowerPoints, slides, whatever) be sure that (a) you know how to troubleshoot them quickly, and (b) you can give your presentation without them if the troubleshooting fails.

          There’s nothing like planning an image-heavy presentation only to discover that you’ve been scheduled to present in the only room without AV, or that your laptop isn’t compatible with their smart cart system.

        2. Sophia*

          I would actually say job talks are very different from conference talks, even if you use PPT in both – and not just the difference between 15-20 min and 40-45. From advice I’ve been given, job talks need to start with a puzzle, and is much less text-based. Although lots of text is frowned upon in general, it’s more acceptable at conferences

          (Ps I noticed that there is a new poster also named Sofia…trying to decide what to add to my user name)

      2. Lils*

        I think reading this blog is a good start: listen to Alison’s advice about what to avoid and what to emphasize in cover letters and interviews. You wouldn’t think of making a point about your babies when asked an interview question, so leave it out of your slides. The interview request will come with info about the topic of your talk, the length, etc. It’s ok to ask the committee chair if something’s unclear. Otherwise, be extremely professional and polished, practice the heck out of it, and be prepared for difficult questions. Those of us who have never defended a dissertation have to get used to that last one. Like Rana said, be prepared for tech failures.

  57. Mimi*

    Could anyone help me analyze my fear of commitment? I have been offered the job I thought I really wanted (permanent, good salary etc) and have worked toward for years, really. And now I am hesitating and continue to take interviews elsewhere. I was divorced a few years ago and ever since have moved a few times and feel a bit lost. I wish I could just make a decision and make something stick. Maybe this one is obvious.

    1. Colette*

      Well, this is a job, not a life commitment, so it’s possible that you’re putting more pressure on yourself than necessary. If you take it and it doesn’t work out, you can leave. That’s OK. Look at it as a “what I want to do for now” and see if that changes how you feel about it.

      1. Mimi*

        Thanks, I see your point. However it is not that easy to get a job in my field, I did really have to work at getting this so I wouldn’t be able to just quit and be jobless. I need this job and that’s sort of my point. I thought I’d be more pleased now that I have the offer.

        1. Colette*

          Sure, it might not be easy to find something else in your field, but maybe you could change fields, or lower your living expenses so you could take a lower paying job, or find something outside of work that is fulfilling enough that you can endure a job you don’t like while you find something else.

          I find that remembering that it is a choice – and that there are other, equally valid choices – makes me feel more in control and better able to evaluate the pros/cons.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Grief will do this. Divorces do cause grief, grief is not just for death. But yeah, grief will do a real number on anyone, making them feel like they are lost and they just wander around.
        I am widowed. My family tells me that divorce is harder than widowhood. (People who have experienced both are saying this.)

        So this is from this basis that I am thinking and writing. I say remember your commitment to YOU. You got involved in this field a long time ago. You have worked hard to get here. You owe it to you to take this job and TRY. This is not a plan you hatched yesterday. It is not some pie in the sky thing you dreamed up over coffee this morning. It is a plan you have had for a while now.
        Personally, I love time frames. I can do sprints. So set a time frame- say, an 18 months sprint. Re-evaluate after 18 months.
        Meanwhile set a small goal that actually makes you happy and because of this job you can now actually do this small goal. This could be anything from bicycling to puppy to whatever.

        The worst thing that will happen is that you might find you do not like the work and would prefer to go do X instead. A cool thing that will happen is that you will feel like you followed through on what you had plan. And that is one good feeling.

  58. Ali*

    So perhaps it is a little early for me to be worrying about this, but I have a dilemma.

    I am starting grad school in January to further my education in my field of choice (sports management) and to gain the experience I want working for professional teams. And yes, I did read Alison’s and other AAM-ers’ thoughts on grad school more than once, but this is something I wanted to do for personal/professional enrichment.

    Anyway, with that said, I have a job right now that is closely related to what I want to do, but any internship I will be doing will bring me closer to my goal of working for a sports team and I will get experience that my company, while wonderful, won’t give me. As I’ve searched around, I notice that some internships are part-time and some are full-time. I’ve pretty much held off on applying for any full-time internships while I get adjusted to school, but sometimes I wonder if that’s really doing the right thing. I am trying to focus on internships that have a more part-time commitment attached for now so I can keep working my regular job, but at the same time, I don’t want to overly limit myself.

    My question is, is it ever OK to quit a job for an internship? I have been thinking about moving on from Current Job anyway, and internships are going to boost my resume and hopefully get me more calls for the jobs I want to apply for. But at the same time, I feel irresponsible even though I would be getting a step closer to achieving my eventual career goal.

    Note: I have not been offered anything yet and will not quit my job, of course, until I have something else in line. I am just asking this as a hypothetical question. And also, my boss is aware that I will be starting school and I mentioned to him that an internship is required of my program. I did tell him not to hurry to change my schedule though because I haven’t actually gotten a position. Turns out, though, that a couple other people in my company have master’s degrees as well even though we don’t require them by any stretch.

    1. Colette*

      Can you afford to quit your job for an unpaid internship?

      How much will the internship help (i.e. increase the chances of getting the job you want from 10% to 90%, or from 1% to 2%)?

      Are there other ways to get that experience you need?

      It’s really a judgement call on your part.

      1. Ali*

        No I cannot quit for an unpaid internship. If that’s what I got offered, I would find a way to stay on at my current job. It would be exhausting for a few months, but I’d be willing to make things work. If I got a paid internship, I would consider it though. I can’t say with an exact percentage how much my chances would increase, but I can say those who do internships in sports that want to work in the field definitely have an advantage over those who don’t do any.

  59. Tex*

    I am wondering about the ethics of changing other people’s words in a forwarded email chain.

    Specifically, my manager and a project director had gotten into a spat over email over the due dates for deliverables. A lot of team members were affected and cc’d on those messages.

    On another email exchange (with completely different people) that included a lot of vendor data, the manager asked me to forward the messages and coordinate with the project director so he could amend his “important deliverables list”.

    I felt the wording was a little snarky, so I deleted “important” and sent it on. Normally, I would never touch anyone else’s message and I really hesitated before I ended up doing it. I was just trying to head off more tension but it becomes a slippery slope when you try to define a bright line about what is too much editing.

    Thoughts? Comments?

    1. fposte*

      I wouldn’t; I’d delete the original text and write a summary (“Bob asked me to send this list along”). But I’m with you in thinking that it was a moment for a bit of tactful intervention.

  60. Me from NY*

    A manager at my company invited me to his house 50 miles from me for an afternoon BBQ. I don’t really get along with him and am not looking forward to it. I don’t like weekend BBQs anyway because I like to do active things on the weeend and not just sit there, like I do all week long, and I don’t want to drink on the weekend.

  61. Anonymous*

    I’m a young female professional and was hoping to ask advice about being more assertive (both internally and with clients). I can talk to people easily but can be somewhat shy.

    Any recommendations? Thanks in advance!

    1. kaybee*

      I’m also a young female professional that interacts a lot with clients. When you say assertive, do you mean managing conflict or do you just feel that you need to contribute more in meetings?

      I work with clients and co-workers who are usually 10-20 years older than me. I definitely have to establish my credibility upfront with people. For meetings, I find that it helps to review the agenda prior to meetings so I can think of a few things to contribute. Or, if I’m leading a call, I write up an agenda and spend a few minutes before the meeting reviewing it and adding any ad hoc items. And then, during the meeting, if a client asks for follow-up, I write it down and follow-up with them as soon as possible afterward. These seem like really simple things, but I get great feedback from clients and I definitely can tell a difference in how they respond to me before/after a meeting. Establishing that little bit of trust (following up when you say you will) goes a long way.

      Managing conflict can be a trickier. I find that once I’ve established a relationship, clients are more willing to listen to me and understand that despite my age, I know what I’m doing! You have to be confident in your abilities and be able to project that – don’t think “I’m so young/inexperienced, they’ll never trust me!” You got hired for a reason!

  62. Can't wait to leave!*

    Anon-ing for this one, but a question for all of you clever folks:

    I found out on Tuesday that I am being laid off. I have another four or so weeks on the job to train various people in what I do, then I am outta here. After the initial “oh my God” moment, it was a big relief–my office is an incredibly toxic environment, my boss is a bully and my coworkers are stuck in high school. I’m pretty much counting down the days.

    Looking forward, I’ll be trying my hand at freelancing (I’m a writer/editor, if that makes a difference), including some work for my current company.

    Any advice about the layoff situation, or freelancing? Thanks in advance!

    1. Colette*

      – Get up & get dressed every day – not necessarily at the same time as when you were working, but putting on “real” clothes helps
      – Make a point of getting out of the house – I had a gym membership, so I went to the gym every day
      – Talk to people (especially if you’re looking at freelancing)
      – Set yourself goals each week – maybe it’s applying to X job or reaching out to Y people or maybe it’s something totally different, but having a goal is good
      – Think about how you’re spending your money. Make a budget (or new budget) and think about what your financial priorities are.

    2. Trixie*

      Whether or not you actively use LinkedIn currently, I would connect with anyone you think would be a good source to network with. It’s much easier to do it now than a few weeks or months down the road when you’re no longer associated with the company.

      Spend some time updating your resume while everything is fresh in your mind. Some times you forget the details–out of sight out of mind kind of thing. I wouldn’t worry about perfecting, just getting the basics up to date as far as recent projects, accomplishments, etc. And quantify them when you can. If your resume is already in good shape, I’d start submitting now to anything that you’re interested in.

      If you’re not already, I’d also recommend starting some volunteer work. I just started tutoring ESL once or twice a week, and its a great way to keep engaged on something else other than me :) Plus it helps account for how I’m spending my time.

      Let us know how it goes, and good luck!

    3. Ruffingit*

      I was in your position not that long ago so I know exactly what you’re talking about in terms of relief at being laid off. It was such a relief to me to know I wouldn’t ever have to go back to that job again and I counted down the days too (I was given two weeks notice).


      1. See what you need to do to file for unemployment (I’m assuming you plan to do that).

      2. If you’re going to go the freelance route, start setting up your contacts/gigs now. The four weeks will fly by and if you can make a seamless transition into freelance work, that will be all the better. If you’re going to do freelance full-time or even part-time, talk to an accountant about your quarterly taxes and other tax issues. Freelance has its own stuff you need to deal with in those areas.

      3. Your health insurance. Figure out what you will need to do to continue it or insure yourself assuming you’re not in a country where this isn’t an issue.

      4. Congratulations!! There is no better feeling than getting out of a toxic work environment. Soak up that feeling of relief. Sure, it’s hard not having a steady paycheck anymore, but freeing yourself of the toxic sludge is awesome!

    4. Rana*

      Re: freelancing – if there are others in your field doing similar work, make a strong effort to reach out to them and stay connected. It keeps you current in your field, and discourages you from thinking that you’re on perpetual vacation. (In your case, I’d recommend the EFA – there are a lot of great folks on the forums, and it’s a wonderful research for job leads and professional development.)

      To that point – remember that as a freelancer, you are the business. Taxes, health insurance, income management, client relations, marketing – all are you. Don’t let them slide, and don’t let yourself lose sight of them when you’re doing the work you’re contracted for. Doing something like setting up a business account with your bank or credit union, and getting an EIN can help you get in the proper mindset – plus they’re useful.

    5. AVP*

      Decide what room/desk/surface in your house are going to be your work area, use them for that purpose, and don’t sit there otherwise. -Former freelancer

  63. JJ*

    I have a q about references. If you’ve already given a prospective employer a list of references (as per instructions on the job app so there’s no way to get around this requirement), would they explicitly tell you that they are planning to check in with your references after an interview? Or do you just assume they will, and let your references know?

    I have an upcoming interview – I wasn’t told what the hiring process will be like in terms of how many interview rounds – and am wondering if I should let my references know since I have already submitted their info. While my references all know I’m still job-hunting, I don’t give them a heads up every time I have an interview and am asked for references on the job app. In the past it’s happened that the final interview then fell through or for whatever other reason they were not contacted at all. So I’d prefer to only give my references a heads up when I know there’s a good chance they will be contacted. Should I wait until the interview when I can find out if there will be a second interview or not, and then let my references know?

    1. Dang*

      How long ago did you ask them to serve as references? Usually when job searching I will let them know and confirm with my refs that they’re still willing and consider it a blanket approval for a reasonable amount of time.

      1. JJ*

        About 15 months ago (it’s been a long search and I wasn’t actively searching for a sizable chunk of it because of some personal reasons). Two of my references are current supervisors in my PT position and they’ve been supportive of my job search, the other is a former supervisor who I keep in touch with every now and then and have visited at the office recently.

        1. Dang*

          Then I wouldn’t worry about it at all, since they all know you’re actively looking now. I don’t think you need to alert them every time you think they could be contacted. Or since you work with two of them, maybe just ask if they’d like you to let them know each time as a heads up. It depends on their personality too, I guess (mine work in academic settings so they’re used to this kind of thing, but people who don’t frequently give references might appreciate knowing when to expect a call).

          Also I’ve found something that’s helpful is to ask the potential employers if it’s possible to email them first. My references are notoriously difficult to get on the phone if they’re not expecting a call, and maybe this would help so yours aren’t caught off guard, if that’s what you’re worried about. Good luck!

  64. JJ*

    Another question just occurred to me… one of my references recently got married and has changed her last name. Should I change this on the reference list? Her work email is the same with her original last name, and on her signature she continues to include it as First Name (Former Last Name) Married Name

    1. Sadsack*

      When the company calls her and references her maiden name, she’ll probably recognize it and correct them. I am not sure I’d bother contacting the company to make a change like that, but I’ll be curious about what others think.

    2. COT*

      I’d list it on your reference list the same way she chooses to deal with it herself: Firstname (Oldname) Newname.

    1. Anonymous*

      Make them pay a hefty advance before beginning the job, and don’t complete it until the remainder is paid.

      1. AH*

        This is what I’m trying to convince my husband to do, but most of his freelance clients are friends/people he went to school with so he feels bad about implementing a deposit.

        1. Anonymous*

          That’s what professional freelancers do. Is he a professional or isn’t he? Implement the tough love. Get him a book like Small Freelancing for Dummies, maybe.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          There are ways of presenting that. “I have overhead costs i have to cover.” (It’s true. You have to eat.)
          “I have found that people appreciate breaking this into two payments. They tell me it’s easier.”

          Yes, he may lose a few people. And there maybe times he will waive the deposit fee. But the longer he goes without it the harder it will be to implement.

  65. Kerr*

    How do you deal with interview questions that don’t demand extensive answers? Especially when the interview as a whole hasn’t given you an opportunity to really explain your suitability for the position?

    Situation: several interviews I’ve had for entry-level administrative positions. I’ve come prepared for behavioral-type questions, and have a few examples (I don’t have much experience) of situations, projects, weaknesses/strengths, etc. And then I get to the interview, and there aren’t that many questions, and the ones they do ask are mostly yes-or-no, basic questions that could have been answered in a phone screen – or off-the-wall ones that don’t really relate to the job. I find myself giving brief answers to obvious questions, wondering when we’re going to get to the meaty stuff, and then we don’t.

    Afterwards, I feel like if I were better at coming up with pithy summary statements on the fly (I’m not), I could have shoehorned some of my examples and experiences into those few answers, even if they were only marginally related. But I can’t know in advance that the interview is going to go that way, and I don’t want to monopolize the conversation from the start, trying to cram in the kitchen sink. (I’m also afraid of being super-aggressive and using up all my examples, and then getting the in-depth questions I was expecting in the first place! I’ve had at least one interviewer push for a different example for a second question, when X situation was all I had.)

    In these cases, I also often sense that the interviewer isn’t prepared for multiple in-depth questions from me. And I don’t mean 15 questions, I mean 4-5 – about management, culture, specifics about my daily tasks, etc. Is their antsiness just a sign that they’re not that into me?

    Granted, there were other issues with most of these interviews, but I’ve noticed this common thread, and I’d like to address it, if possible. I tend to come off as quiet and shy anyway, and my sparse responses just exacerbate it.

      1. Kerr*

        The really obvious, basic ones are like what Marina posted below: Do you have experience with Word/Excel/etc.? Do you have experience with social media marketing? (No.) Have you done any accounting? Sometimes, I’ll be able to say “Oh, yes, I used Program extensively at XYZ Company” and elaborate, but I don’t do this unless I think I have something outstanding. My Word skills, for instance, are just basic, so that generally means a flat “Yes”.

        Also, sometimes they’re not even asking questions; they’ll explain the job, and then answer their own questions as they run through my resume. I try to nod/smile/act affirmative, or interject a “Yes” now and again, but it would be an interruption to stop them mid-ramble and hold forth.

        Or they’ll discuss, say, the importance of great customer service and answering the phones with a smile. They’ll explain all of this without asking me any questions, and I’ll smile and nod, but not come up with anything to say before they move on to their next topic.

    1. Marina*

      Pretend that the yes/no questions are phrased as open ended questions. For instance, “Do you have experience with Microsoft Word?” would actually mean “Tell me about your experience with Microsoft Word.”

      For entry-level jobs I think it is less common for people to bring up in-depth questions in interviews. Maybe aim for 1-3 questions at the first interview, and then when you get a second interview or offer ask any other questions you need to know.

      1. JJ*

        I agree with this and was going to write about something similar. For example, if you were asked, “Do you have experience with x?” and the answer is no, you could say no but elaborate (“Given how quickly I’ve picked up on programs y and z, I feel I would be able to learn x easily” yadda…) so that you answer the q but also provide more info about yourself.

      2. Kerr*

        I like that idea – thanks! If I can train myself to think of all the questions as open-ended, regardless of phrasing, that may help with the yes-or-no questions, at least.

        Good point about the questions. I don’t think I’ve had more than one second interview, and never had more than one before getting an offer in the past, so I tend to forget that there may be another opportunity coming along.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          You could review each interview afterwards and write out answers that you would have preferred to give.
          Then review the q and a’s before your next interview. Get your brain in the groove, in other words.

          1. Kerr*

            That’s a great idea, and I wish I’d started doing it sooner. I realized after the past couple of interviews that I should probably write down all of the questions while they’re still fresh in my mind. Writing down improved answers would be even better.

  66. AH*

    Any ladies (guys too!) out there working in the arts (admin or performing) who have kids? I work for an organization where all of the female department heads are fairly young (under 40), unattached, and workaholics. I am married, want to have kids, and see myself staying working for arts organizations but it doesn’t seem like there’s a path that allows for kids in a field that requires nights/weekends work by its nature. I only know 2 other women in the field with kids. Any insight? I just feel like it’s not going to be possible and would love to hear from people who are making it work (or aren’t! Speak up for that too!). Thanks.

  67. Julie*

    I just have to say that those kitties are adorable! We have two dogs – one who is almost 7, and a new puppy who is almost 1. The older dog has warmed up to the puppy (even though he wasn’t thrilled to have a new brother in the beginning), and they sometimes play together and run laps around the inside of the house.

  68. PB*

    Apologies if this has been handled before, I’m relatively new to AAM, but here goes…

    I have a dilemma over the office Christmas party (ugh, yeah, I know, Christmas talk in October!). I started in this job in September, it’s a big (huge) employer but I work in a team of about ten. Apparently, traditionally, they go for a Christmas lunch on one of the Fridays leaving up to the holiday. From what I can gather everyone leaves around 1pm to go to this and there’s no expectation to return to work that afternoon. Great!

    Here’s the dilemma, I can’t afford the $60 cost of this meal. I moved for this job so I’ve had all the costs involved in that, inc. a hefty security deposit on my new place, and I’m playing catch up to cover those. I have enough to get by, but I really don’t have $60 to spare, at least not in one payment. On top of that cost it sounds like there is also an office Secret Santa I’ll be expected to get involved with, adding an additional December cost.

    I was hoping I could just avoid the lunch as originally it was going to be held on a date I have a meeting in another city. But they’ve realised I couldn’t make that date so they’ve decided to have it the week before. Since they’ve made this change to accommodate me and as I’m new, I don’t feel I can not go. Obviously, I also can’t not pay!

    So, any suggestions?

    1. Marina*

      Is the $60 cost absolute, or could you order something cheaper? Say, claim to not be hungry and order a small salad or appetizer, then plan to eat at home after the lunch.

    2. Kerr*

      Ouch. Where does lunch cost $60?! As others asked, is it a fixed cost, or just the average cost? The way you phrased it, it sounds like one of those prearranged group events, where everyone pays the same amount and orders from a limited menu.

      On the bright side, I guess you have a month or so to save spare change?

      1. PB*

        Yup, it’s a fixed cost. It’s a set Christmas menu at the chosen restaurant, three course meal, drinks, etc.

        1. Sadsack*

          $60 is ridiculous for lunch! Anyway, since that’s what it is and it in only October, can you put away a few dollars a week between now and whenever the money is due? $60 can go pretty fast, but also doesn’t seem like so much money that it is impossible to save over a 2 month period. Include an amount, say $15, into your weekly budget, and you’ll have $60 in 4 weeks. Make it $12 per week and you can do it in 5 weeks. $10 per week for 6 weeks!

    3. Cat*

      This is really awkward and it sucks that your company isn’t sensitive to (a) the costs they’re imposing on their employees, and (b) your attempts to wiggle out of it subtly. But since they’re not, I feel like you have three options here:

      1) Level with whoever is organizing the lunch about the cost being unaffordable for you (and insist that they not cover you if they try to). The problem is, since you’re new, you might not yet have gotten much of a vibe about how the organizer will react to this. But if they seem like a reasonable, sensible person who just has a blind spot, this might be worthwhile. They could then switch the lunch back to the original date or go along with another reason you’re unavailable at that time and it would all be kept quiet with the rest of the team.

      2) If it’s not a pay ahead deal, fake sick the day of. Listen, I’m as pro-honesty as the next girl, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

      3) Figure out how to pay the $60. Bad deal, but if there’s not a graceful way out . . . .

      1. PB*

        Good suggestions, thanks!

        I might try speaking to the organizer, but I think she will try and cover the cost for me, which I really don’t want. They seem really keen for everyone to go, so I can’t see the woman organizing it letting me out of it so easily!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          If they paid for half?

          Do you have a family member that sends you a check for Christmas? Can you ask them to send it early? I know-really tacky. But some families are okay with this type of request.

  69. Anonymous*

    Talk to your manager about it. Others are probably miffed at the cost as well but have probably never spoken up about it.

  70. JustMe*

    I have been in talks for a new position. The potential employer indicated after we began these talks that they share their office space with another company. The other company is not in the same field (I’ll call it Field A), but Field A often works with their field (Field B). So, there is some overlap in knowledge between the two.

    Employer A (where I initially applied) wanted to know if I would be willing to be shared between Employer A and Employer B. This is optional. In this setup, I would be an independent contractor at first and would be invoicing both companies (or each?). Then, depending on how things work, if I am brought on full time, maybe I can do both. Employer A assures me that whether I do one or both, there is plenty of work to do.

    I have some questions of my own jotted down about the contracting and how the split would work, but I am wondering if you have suggestions of things I need to make sure I know going in. There could be something I haven’t thought of. I am very excited about Job A, and I am open to gaining knowledge in Field B, but I don’t want my excitement to overshadow my better judgment.

    I am also wondering if I should try to counter the whole independent contractor aspect with just a 3 month contract. The details of the share and the contract issue are my only reservations right now.


    1. PX*

      A bit late, but I would say basic things like benefits (not sure if you get them as a contracter, but it never hurts to be sure) and conflicts (who has final say over what)

      1. JustMe*

        Thanks.I’ve gotten most of those things nailed down. It’s just confusing because not only am I trying to figure out if independent contracting is worth my while or just a big headache, but also I’m trying to figure it out between 2 companies. Had anyone here done something like that before?

  71. RetailManager*

    How do you stay motivated and motivate your staff when you hate your job and your company is actively disinterested in your development? I’ve been a store manager with a very well known company for 3 years and often collaborate with our corporate headquarters, which my store is near, but haven’t been considered for any internal promotions. I am actively looking for positions outside the field and went back to grad school, but I still need to do my job (I am being paid for it, after all). Everyone feeds off my moods so I try and stay positive, but I can’t keep this up much longer!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Do you like your staff?
      Sometimes liking the people can be a life saver. Gives you something to redirect your focus.

      1. RetailManager*

        I do like most of my staff; I hired them! But as most of them are part time employees/ full time students, I know it is difficult for them to stay interested in customer interaction over talking about this weekend’s party.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah that is a tough one. Some times you can say stuff like “Ok, let’s get this set up over here and you can tell me about the party while we do that.”
          But sometimes you just have to say “Focus!” in a mom voice.
          I have also used a steady stream of redirects as a subtle guide rail.
          “OH, how is X coming along?”
          “Did you check Y, yet?”
          “Here, ABC just came in, would you help us here?”

          It does not take long they catch on that I am focusing on the work at hand and their focus shifts.

          I find that if I like the people I work with that keeps me going. It’s nice to see my at work friends and it’s a privilege to work with likable people. In a bad work place, if I do not have anyone that I look forward to working with the all is lost.

  72. Rayner*

    AAM, you have spam on the racist costume post. Someone by the name of elizebertzele, talking about how to get your boyfriend back with the amazing art of magic and spells.


    I have no idea why I’m still following that post, most of the people who are still commenting on it now, are just being frustrating.

    1. fposte*

      Wow, I had no idea how long that thread kept on rocking. You’ve got some really nice comments in there that I missed.

  73. Ruffingit*

    Anyone else read Debbie Macomber books? I’ve been reading the Cedar Cove series and while I’m basically enjoying it, there are some things that drive me crazy. Would love to discuss if anyone else reads them.

  74. Anonymous*

    I need some advice. I am very unhappy in my job for a lot of reasons but most of all I have no passion for it. I left a job I loved for this job in the hope that I would learn new things and advance my career. I have learned new things but no passion. Also I am not big fan of my boss. I have been looking for a new job for over a year. I have changed my resume and I even have a website (I just go it) to showcase my work. I don’t know where I am going wrong. I work in a specialized profession. Everyone in my type of profession, works where I work in my city. Most of my peers are gossips. Where can I go for some advice, some constructive criticism? I got 3 rejection letters this week from my new resume/cover letter and website. Am I not giving the new changes long enough? Is it because I am looking for jobs outside of where I live (niche profession)? I am starting to become very down on myself and very depressed.

    1. Colette*

      Job hunting is hard, and even with the best resume in the world, you will be rejected for some jobs, especially when you’re job hunting somewhere you don’t live.

      Have you identified why you loved your old job and what is missing in our new job?

      Is there someone at your old company who can give you honest feedback on your résumé?

      I believe that the archives contain suggestions on ways to look for jobs that would require you to move – you might want to do a search.

      1. Anonymous*

        Thanks for encouragement.

        Yes, I have identified why I loved my old job … the people. The people I would meet everyday and some really great co-workers. My current job is pretty cut throat. Most employees don’t care about the customers or everyone really but themselves… Strangely, I work at the same company but in a different facility/department.

        I have read some of the posts about relocating and cover letters. I have been racking my brain trying to figure out someone who I can trust for some feedback …

        I do believe it will come but I hope I don’t lose my mind and myself first.

  75. DinnerTime*

    It’s Friday, but I have a question anyway. Apologies ahead of time for wordiness.

    I’ve spent the last 3 years in an industry which requires temporary employees (the bulk of the workforce) take contractual time off every few months. I opted to take my time off earlier than usual, and when I was informed I could return to work, chose to go a different direction. Same temp contract, same company, different tasks: I went from a desk job to a production job.

    I’ve succeeded in this type of work before, and made the move with the intent of remaining for only three to four months. This is something that can be done in the current department, but may have been problematic in the former. The agency I work for and the contracting company are aware of my intention to end the contract after the holiday season, and the reasons for it (returning full-time to school).

    I made a misjudgment in my capabilities. This isn’t about becoming accustomed to the task. This is about how I feel that I am a worker’s comp case waiting to happen.

    There is no rotation policy while out on the floor, and employees spend eight hours performing the exact same task while standing in one spot. Standing or walking is no issue for me, but within a week I was having sharp, stabbing pain go from my wrists to my elbows within a couple hours of starting my shift. The culprit is RSI, and the cure is to move on to another position. I wear wrist bands and compression gloves (purchased myself) when I can at work, and brace both wrists at night. The pain lingers, however.

    Other employees have the same issue, but it seems very few actually say anything. When I reported my problems, the temp agency representative saw to it that I received a day off. Due to near-inability to work, I have now had five days off in six weeks (including two sick days–I was bed-bound). Personally, I don’t like that at all.

    The representative has bent over backwards to assist me, to the point where I feel like I’ve taken advantage. I know I haven’t, but…
    I’ve been moved around to separate tasks, but the pain continues to grow worse. It extends to my neck and shoulders now about midway through the day. It became bad enough that I requested to go on furlough until a position opened in another department. I was given a week off, which doesn’t help my feelings of guilt *at all*.

    I am set to return to work Monday. My shoulder and neck are recovering, but my wrists may take months to heal. Financially, I’m OK for another month (just), and I am actively job hunting for something that will be a less injurious and better fit. In the meantime, however, I am debating heavily on the soundness of actively returning to this job.

    A position has opened up in another department (definitively short-term at eight weeks), and I have had coworkers tell me to apply for it. With all my representative has done for me, the days I’ve had to take off and being in this position for only five weeks, is it even appropriate for me to even broach a transfer request? My current and my former reps would be the ones to handle any transfers. I don’t know if

    Do I return to work and grin and bear it until I find something else? Or do I remain in furlough and hope something shows up *fast*? I’m strongly considering returning to retail at this point.

    1. Cait*

      Absolutely ask about the transfer. It’s great that your rep has been so accommodating, but it sounds like there is no accommodation that will make this job safe for you. By trying to “grin and bear it” you’re doing a disservice to yourself, and possibly to your colleagues if they have to cover for you on the days that you need to take off.

      I’ve been in a very similar position: I have fibromyalgia, and took a retail job that exacerbated it. My manager helped me out as much as possible, including scheduling me for four weeks instead of five, but the bottom line was that I could not do that job without compromising my health. I stuck it out for too long because, among other reasons, people had been so accommodating to me, so I know the impulse. But please, take care of yourself.

  76. anonie for this one*

    Hey, I may be a little late, but I have a question:

    Is it acceptable to leave a first job after less than a year if it’s for school reasons?

    I got my first job in a retail store in September. Now, I’m in my last year of high school, and I may move away for university next year. At some point during the summer, my parents will want to fly to LA for a week (it’s a bit too far to drive, lol), so that they can celebrate their 25th year of marriage together, and that will probably be in August. I would be moving to university in the last week of August, and anyway I would like some time to prepare and spend with current friends in my city before I move away!

    I was thinking of coming home every weekend, but since it’s about two hours by train (I won’t get to have my car, because we can’t afford it) one way, and I’ll have lots of homework (I’m going into engineering), I’ll probably be staying in residence most of the year and have no choice but to quit. I’ve read that you have to stay in a first job for a year or so in order to not look like a job hopper, but I’m 17 and I need to not have this job in time to ensure that I can go with my family to LA, and also to ensure that I can move into residence on time with everything packed up, ready to go, and all squared away in my hometown.

    So, basically, I’m intending to quit this job somewhere between the last week of July and the first week of August (via two weeks’ notice). Will this hurt me?

    1. Skye*

      You’ll be fine. Really. Give them notice, or not if they have a habit of sending people home right when the give notice. Just don’t flounce out of there is all.

      Future employers aren’t going to not hire you simply because of not working at this single job was for less than a year. My first job was for four weeks (summer camp), and it hasn’t hurt me at all. Don’t worry, and have fun with school and uni.

    2. Manda*

      I thought that advice was geared more toward your first job out of school, not your first job ever. I bet a lot of people get their first jobs as seasonal retail employees over Christmas. That’s not to say you should get a new job every 4 – 5 months either. Retail has a high turnover. If you work September till August, that’s almost a year anyway. You may even want to get another part time job (maybe at another store) near your university and work a couple of days a week during the school year.

    3. The IT Manager*

      First things first, that advice does not really apply to your situation – a part time job during school especially when you are moving for school. As others have already stated, you should have no concerns with quitting when you want.

      But if this were your first post-school full time, professional job, then difference between 11 months and making it to a year is negliable. In general professional jobs with much steeper learning curves than retail jobs, can view stays less than two to three years as unexpectedly short. The exact time varies from job to job and individual situations, but a year is a very short time to stay in a professional job.

  77. Fiona*

    I hope this is not too late – just need some advice!

    It’s quite a strange situation – I’m from Singapore (so we’re a mix of Chinese and Western culture) and I am one of the lowest level executives in my newly-set-up department (about 9 months). My boss’ birthday was last month, and a fellow (cheapskate and opportunistic) colleague suggested that our boss should treat us. However, I couldn’t attend the birthday celebration. During the celebration (without my presence), my manager said that it’s the company culture to treat colleagues for birthday celebrations and suggested that this should apply to everyone.

    My birthday is this month and my colleagues have settled on a date to celebrate it and keep asking me for input on where to dine, since “you’ll be the one paying”. As a note: In Asian culture, and everywhere else, usually the organizer of the party pays, or the boss/manager pays to reward their staff for their efforts. However, I did not ask for such a celebration, and there is no good reason for me to pay. What should I do? I don’t mind paying, but it makes me feel very uncomfortable, especially when I earn one of the lowest salaries in my department.

    1. Anne 3*

      Your coworkers set a date to celebrate your birthday and are expecting you to treat them to lunch? A bit presumptuous… scratch that, a lot presumptuous!

      Depending on what would be best received, I’d tell them something like “Sorry, I haven’t budgeted for a celebration like this” or “Sorry, I prefer not to make a big deal out of my birthday”, tell them to stop whatever they’re planning, and then on the day of your birthday, bring in a box of chocolates or whatever to be shared with your colleagues

  78. Annoyed Anon for this*

    Just anon so it’s not in the search – hope it’s not too late to use the open thread as a mini-vent.

    I worked from home one day last week because of a medical thing – doctor had me on temp bed rest for something (no big deal but I wasn’t supposed to drive and I needed to limit activity.) I worked 9+ hours and got caught up on a crap load of backlogged development.

    2 days last week I needed to leave early for appointments…so I came in at 5:00 am to get things done. Still put in 9+ hours.

    One day I was coming in late due to an early am appt which went way late – while at doctor for testing we had a problem with the internet/phones at the vendor level and service kept cutting out so I took a total of 8 calls between our vendor and the techs – not counting the calls to the office to keep them updated. Then we had a issue with the ERP server and I had a DBA emergency which required a reboot. So I called back and forth to the office to get people out of the system, since no one was reading my freaking email, and spent quite a bit of time clearing out the system for a reboot – then rebooting remotely and getting the system up again (starting some manual services etc.). All this while wearing a paper gown in a FREEZING room covered by a paper blanket.

    (Seriously – paper is not clothing – even a little bit).

    So then Saturday had an issue with another server (don’t ask) and had to come into work and fix manually – worked at home about 14 hours this weekend.

    Last night I got up about 11:30 to go to the bathroom and grabbed phone to check email, because that’s what I do, and noticed no email. Go to log in – everything is down. Everything. Call service provider at 11:3o and there is an outage. Two more update calls in the night – woke up extra early to make sure service was restored …

    Anyway not complaining about any of that – that’s fine – that’s my job. But today? I find out that the receptionist went to the boss and wanted to know why I am not working as much anymore (and she knows I have a medical leave coming up and is notified every single time I’m out for appointments) and how it’s not fair that I don’t have to be in the office all the time.

    How is this any of her business? At all? And she knows what’s going on – she’s been notified. She’s absolutely not privvy to payroll and has no idea if I’m using vacay time for this or whether the time I’ll be off for leave is paid or not – she knows nothing about my payroll situation.

    So why am I super annoyed? Because my boss, who is awesome and who I really care like and respect as both an employer and a person…defended me. She explained all the work I do from home, how I usually work weekends, how I deal with middle of the night things when needed…how many hours I put in the office before she gets there or after she leaves and that my schedule is flexible based on my job – and most positions can’t work remotely as easily as mine, certainly not reception.

    She should have just told her it was none of her business. Seriously, if my boss is fine with my schedule right now why did she feel the need to justify it to someone to whom I don’t report.

    And she knows I work from home because I’m done stuff for her from home.

    I am so stressed trying to get everything ready before I leave and make sure I have everything buttoned up…I’ve never been out and unavailable for a whole week ever nor worked exclusively from home for weeks – this is not relaxing for me. But nice to know this looks like a vacation to her – like it’s some super awesome perk she wants.

    My employer goes out of their way to accommodate all medical issues to the extent possible – for everyone – I’m not special.

    Maybe I’m just cranky – but I think a terse answer of how I work remotely would have been enough – she didn’t need to detail how much I work as if to justify my schedule.

    yep – re-reading this tldr I am just cranky. :)

    But seriously – people need to mind their own business.

  79. Kelly O*

    I know I am late to the open thread, but you all have shared so much with me over the last few years, I felt like I needed to share about my absence. My younger brother passed away unexpectedly on October 22. He had just turned 33 on October 6.

    We are still waiting on the coroner’s report to find out what the cause of death was, but he had lots of health issues and had been sick with flu-like symptoms for a couple of weeks.

    I just returned to work today, and am catching up on things.

    Just remember to take care of yourselves, please. Try to stick with a doctor you like, and if you do go to an urgent care, make sure your doctor gets those records.

    If you are single and live alone, or with a roommate who also works, make sure someone out there knows about your accounts – banks, cell phones, whatever. No details are really necessary, just something that will help your loved ones in the event something does happen and you can’t communicate (not necessarily a death, but even an illness or accident.)

    We did bring his cat home with us, so our family has another four-legged member, which is the bright spot in this. Fizzy is a sweet natured cat who purrs so loud it woke me up last night when she decided to climb in bed with us (I was absolutely not expecting that.)

  80. AgilePhalanges*

    Oh, Kelly, I’m so sorry. I have a younger brother about the same age as your brother, and I can’t even imagine what you’re going through. I’m glad Fizzy brings you a little happiness in this very sad time.

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