applying for a job where my manager’s husband works, is my masters degree hurting my job search, and more

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

1. Is my masters degree hurting my job search?

I graduated with a masters degree in Communications Management and have spent about a year doing various part-time jobs and internships to gain more work experience and am looking for a full-time job. I also applied to a temp agency after I felt like I need some help in the “getting a job” department. I got a call from the agency about a position and they called back saying the company felt I was overqualified. I laughed as I’ve never heard that before and didn’t agree that I had enough experience to be considered overqualified. The temp agency person retorted that I do have a masters degree.

Is my masters degree hurting my job search? Should I leave it off in some instances? I have been trying to apply to more entry level pr and marketing positions since most of my work has been part time or internships for a few nonprofits. I don’t know if I am undervaluing my skills going for positions that only require a bachelors or even a just a high school degree.

Maybe. One problem with getting a masters when you’re seeking work in a field that doesn’t require it is that some employers will think you don’t really want the job you’re applying for, since it’s not in “your field.” That alone can end up being a reason not to hire you—for the exact same job you might have been a stronger contender for before you got your graduate degree.

On the other hand, that’s not what’s necessarily happening here, and it’s dangerous to let one company’s opinion dictate how you present yourself. But yeah, it’s useful to be aware that advanced degrees aren’t always exclusively helpful.

2. My manager is over-scheduling and under-paying me

As a recently transitioning officer out of the Marine Corps, I found myself with several months of “free time” prior to my next career starting up. So, as a means to keep myself physically active and busy, I took a Job for part-time hours working in a warehouse. I specifically asked for no more than 30 hours a week. It is now going into the third month of employment and I have been consistently working 50 hour weeks. Because of these tremendous hours, I have not been able to focus my spare time on my GI-Bill.

As a part-time employee, I am making $10 dollars an hour with no benefits. The full-time employee I work with in the warehouse makes $25 an hour with full benefits. But we are now working the same hours day on stay on.

As a former officer, I knew it was on me to bring this issue up with my manager immediately, and his response was as follows: “Oh, you are such a good employee and we need you here! You working 30 hours a week was just a white lie, I actually expect you to work 50 hours or so a week.”

So basically, because of my work ethic, I have been forced into doing a full-time job (that I am extremely overqualified for) for part-time pay with no benefits. How should I address this with HR, as I know this will come down unfavorably on my manager? And ultimately my next career starts in January, and I fear for the event that they ask for a review from the part-time transition job.

Well, first, try talking directly to your manager. Say something like this: “I’m glad that you appreciate my work. However, we agreed when I started work that I’d be scheduled for no more than 30 hours per week. I cannot work more than that because of other commitments. Will that be a problem?” If your manager says that it will in fact be a problem, then you have to decide if you’re willing to work the additional hours (at which point you should insist on receiving the corresponding benefits and consider negotiating a higher salary) or if you’d rather decline all the hours. It’s not unreasonable to do either of those, and it shouldn’t harm your reference as long as you do it in a pleasant, professional way.

3. Working at a large organization where the rules change constantly

I am new to a position as a state employee. How do I handle being at a large organization that no one seems to have answers to the simplest questions or you get conflicting answers. You don’t need receipts to be reimbursed for travel but when you hand in the travel voucher you are asked, “Where are your receipts?” I am accused of having attitude when I remind the person I was told I did not need them. It is very frustrating and the rules change constantly. They is no leadership and HR is absolutely no help. How do I deal with this frustration on a daily basis? I am reconsidering this position.

You basically have to decide if you’re willing to put up with it because you like other parts about working there well enough or not (whether that’s the work, the pay, or whatever). But one thing I can tell you is that if you’re being accused of being snippy, you’ll get better results if you don’t let your frustration show — particularly at someone who might not be responsible for it. There’s a big difference between “Jane told me I didn’t need receipts” said in a defensive or annoyed tone and “Oh! I’m sorry — Jane didn’t think I’d need receipts — do I?”

4. Applying for a job where my manager’s husband works

I recently saw a position that is a great fit for me — the type of job I am looking for at a great company. The problem is that my current supervisor’s husband (I’ll call him Bob) works at this company. The job is at a very small division of a large company. Bob is in a related department, not the one I am applying to work in. The thing is, he used to work at my current company for several years and just moved to the new company a few months ago. Since it is such a small division and Bob previously worked at my company, I am fairly certain that the hiring manager or the recruiter would ask him about me. I would even expect that he would be part of the panel that interviews for the position.

How should I address this? Bob is very professional and not one to gossip, but not to tell his wife one of her employees is applying for a job at his company seems like a stretch. I am afraid to discuss it with my boss because I am afraid that would limit my future growth opportunities at my current company if I don’t get the other job.

It doesn’t seem like you can apply for this job without your current manager hearing of it — which might mean that you can’t apply for it at all, if you don’t want your manager to know you’re job-searching. That sucks, but it sounds like the reality of the situation.

5. Sending thank-yous to interviewers who said that future communication should go through HR

Quick question regarding follow-up notes – what if you interview with a few people, but they tell you to funnel all future communication through the HR person who scheduled the interview? Is figuring out how to contact them each directly something that goes above and beyond, or does it disregard their instructions? If I do communicate through the HR person, do I ask them to pass along my note?

If your interviewers specifically tell you to funnel all future communication through the HR person, you should follow that instruction when it comes to communications that require a response — such as checking in about the hiring timeline, asking for an update, or asking a question about the position. But a thank-you note doesn’t fall in that category, and you should be fine sending thank-you’s directly to your interviewers. (It won’t count as above and beyond though; it’s not sufficiently above and beyond for it to be perceived that way. But it’s still a good thing to do.)

{ 68 comments… read them below }

  1. Jake*


    My internship was with a state DoT. I was offered full time employment, and turned it down in large part because of what you are saying. I think it is just part of working for the government because behavior I saw there on a routine basis would be a 1 strike and you’re out type of offense where I work now.

  2. The Engineer*

    #3 The rules don’t “change” at a government agency. Find out what the are (they will be written) and follow them. Local and State government has been my career. I’ve dealt enough with the federal level to comfortably state that no government agency properly reimburses without receipts.

    1. LeeD*

      +1 on the rules not being in constant flux. My guess is that you were not given clear information, or that you misunderstood what you were told.

      The good news about working for a state agency us that absolutely everything is in writing. You should be able to find the official rules with little effort.

      1. Bea W*

        I was a government contractor for many years and did a lot of travel. Government work is full of rules and policies, especially around travel and reimbursement, down to dictating how much you are allowed to spend on certain items (depending on region if it’s federal job). Government agencies in the US have all kinds of written rules and procedures. Everything is in writing. I assure the OP, whole forests have been sacrificed in the name of documenting policies in government workplaces at all levels.

        I now work entirely the private sector for a huge company and have run into the same issue. There are written policies in place, but the communication around them leaves a lot of be desired. The company intranet is my best buddy in this case. When I can’t easily find a written policy or it is confusing, I will find a contact for the relevant department or process and ask directly either for clarification of what I found in writing or where I can find the written policy.

      2. Judy*

        In my first job out of college, I was given a “mentor” who was a young engineer, about 2 years out of school. He was to show me the ropes of the mechanics of the job, things like expenses, getting the POs for the items we needed, etc. He would help me do something the first time, and then the second time, the procurement people would say “We really need this to be done X way. We let him do it the other way but we really need you to do it X way.”

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          Yeah! In some cases, it’s definitely true that what one (more senior, more valued, or whatever) employee can get away with is not the same as what is expected of a brand new employee.

    2. Another Job Seeker*

      #3 – I have found (working at a state agency) that the rules do not change, but the implementation of them can. I agree with The Engineer – follow the rules as they are written. That may mean that if Person A is assigned to processes your travel, she may tell you that no receipts are required – and give you your reimbursement right then and there. It may also mean that if Person B is assigned to process your travel, she will require that you provide her with your receipts. So if Person A says, “no receipt needed, here’s your reimbursement check!”, accept it graciously. But keep your receipts in case you need them – even a year or 2 later – to cover yourself if necessary.

      I’m not saying that Person A is operating appropriately, but I am saying that this is what can occur sometimes.

    3. V*

      Oh, the rules can certainly change at a government agency . . . . but they shouldn’t be doing so *that* frequently.

      There can also be different rules depending on the funding source (if it’s our basic department funding no receipts, but the grant we got to cover training requires receipts for everything).

      My suggestions are:
      (1) get it in writing whenever possible.
      (2) When you’re told you did something wrong, saying something along the lines of “I’m so sorry! I got that from X official handbook, or an email from Y official person on such-and-such date. Where should I check in the future to get the correct policy?”

    4. doreen*

      Rules change, but not so drastically that receipts are suddenly needed when they weren’t before. It may be that the rules weren’t clearly explained the first time ( I don’t need receipts for putting $2 in a parking meter but I do need a receipt for $20 at a parking lot ) , or it may be that some people don’t follow the rules and reimburse you without the necessary receipts, but you will never go wrong by following the rules as written. And they are always written – often in excruciating detail

      1. De Minimis*

        I agree, it’s not that the rules have changed [probably,] but you see a lot of employees just doing things the way they’ve always done them, or the way they were told to do them when they first started. This happens at all levels.

        It’s not unique to government, I think it happens anytime a company or organization gets beyond a certain size.

        1. tcookson*

          “you see a lot of employees just doing things the way they’ve always done them, or the way they were told to do them when they first started.”

          And multiply this by the number of people, departments, or separate units in the organization, and you’ll find that even though the rules are written, there is a surprisingly large degree of nuance in interpretation and implementation that, as long as it’s not extremely egregious, is allowed to fly.

          I just moved in to a new office space with the admins from two other departments in our school who have been in separate buildings up until recently. We’ve been comparing notes on how we each do the same procedures, and there is variation on even the most basic things.

          It’s not that the policies change very quickly at all, it’s just that people gradually migrate, over time, to different habits of implementation. So just pick, as your habit, the way that most closely resembles the current written policy and do it that way, making adjustments for the preferences of whoever you’re dealing with on either end of the transaction.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve never worked for the government, but I questioned that as well. Usually those procedures are written in stone, and from what I’ve heard anecdotally, it’s more trouble to change them than not. This sounds like a problem with the people, not the procedure.

      1. fposte*

        Or the explanation. Sometimes it’s “you don’t need receipts, because it was local and under $49.99,” but nothing after the “don’t need receipts” was actually told to the employee.

    6. Nicolette*

      There are a set of policies or a handbook that will tell you all the rules you need to know. Especially for things like travel. The rules that seem to change all the time are the “regional” policies that don’t seem to actually be written down anywhere. Rules also seem to change from unit to unit, and then there are all the rules that some supervisors enforce and some don’t. Such are the politics of many agencies to work for, unfortunately.

  3. EngineerGirl*

    #2 Part time, by definition, is under 35 hours a week. Your boss doesn’t get to define that – others have. The bigger issue is the manager knowingly lying to you. And calling that a “little white lie?” Really?

    But you are not being “forced” to do a full time job. You have options that you have chosen not to exercise. A good work ethic does not mean that you have to work 50 hours a week, because the agreement was 30. You have fulfilled your mission at 30. But your boss saying 30 and demanding 5o puts the company at risk, just like illegal orders put your unit at risk.

    January is just around the corner. You need to decide on the cost of good will.

    1. EngineerGirl*

      BTW, I would make one more run at the manager just to be fair. But you need to really talk to HR. By my calculations, you are losing at least $1000 per week between salary and benefits.

    2. Anonymous*

      Part-time is pretty much whatever the company defines it as. There is no legal definition. But I certainly agree that the OP should speak to someone other than his manager about this, and decide if he wants to continue working for a manager who would lie (white lie or not) about this issue.

      1. Bea W*

        There is no federal legal definition of “full time employee”, but there is a legal definition of “overtime” for non-exempt employees which is anytime worked in excess of 40 hours per week. They can require he work it, but they do need to pay him time and a half for anything over 40 hours. He doesn’t mention it, but it the letter made me wonder if he’s not getting the time and a half for the extra.

      1. RG*

        30 hrs a week only makes you “full time” for the purposes of being eligible for health insurance from your employer. It doesn’t mean you are “full time” under the employer’s definition.

        1. The IT Manager*

          Right. This: As a part-time employee, I am making $10 dollars an hour with no benefits. The full-time employee I work with in the warehouse makes $25 an hour with full benefits. But we are now working the same hours day on stay on. is perfectly legal because it is legal for employees that do the same job to be compensated differently.

          Not being paid for OT (if that is happening); that is not legal.

          What I am unsure about is when a person who is designated as part time legally becomes eligable for health insurance benefits if they consistantly work more than 30 hours a week.

          1. RG*

            This is where the variable hour portion of the IRS regulations come into play. If it is unsure that an employee will work more than 30 hrs/week when that employee is hired, then the employer can set a measurement period to calculate that average number of hours worked per week. That measurement period can be anywhere from 3 to 12 months and is at the employer’s discretion, but must be consistent for all variable hour employees. Once the measurement period is over, if the employee has had 30 hr/wk or more on average, then the employee is eligible for health insurance coverage for a stability period that is at least 6 mths or the length of the measurement period, whichever is greater. The employee gets coverage during the stability period regardless of whether they work 30 hr/wk or not during the stability period, but the time spent working during the stability period will affect that employee’s eligibility for the next stability period.

    3. V*

      After you speak with your manager about hours moving forward, you should speak with HR about backpay owed to you for the past OT (if you are non-exempt).

    4. VictoriaHR*

      I’m furious at the boss in #2. He’s trying to get around paying this guy full time hours and benefits for the short term that he’ll be working. Because he admitted that he lied when you and he agreed to your work hours, I would think that you could make a case to get back pay at the full time rate. That’s up to the OP to follow up on, but don’t let the fact that it’s a short-term job negate the fact that this manager is breaking the law (IMO).

      That manager should have gone through a temp agency if he only needed someone for a short term position and didn’t want to pay full salary + benefits.

      1. RubyJackson*

        And this coming on the heels of Veteran’s Day makes it even worse. It’s exploitation of someone who the boss should be showing gratitude towards.

    5. holly*

      yes, “white lie” in the workplace is BS. it did not make the receiver feel better as white lies are supposed to do. it was actually just a straight up lie.

  4. Anne*

    #2 – A “white lie”? Oooh, that makes me angry. That is not a little white lie. That is a huge whopper.

    1. Bea W*

      Double huge if they are not paying him OT for any hours he works in excess of 40 per week. If he’s non-exempt, that crosses the line into illegal.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        If I found out a manager I supervised did this, I would be furious. I’d really have to run around the building a few times before I talked to him. And you better believe he’d be under scrutiny afterward, too.

  5. Bea W*

    #1 – Have you applied for jobs that are a bit less entry level or where an advanced degree is part of the desirable qualifications? I do wonder if you are undervaluing your skills or abilities to some extent. Then again, many new grads are in the same boat in this economy – applying to jobs that they seem “overqualified” for because it’s difficult to get work either in their field or in a job that requires advanced degree. If you haven’t tried already, also try applying to some jobs that seem a bit of a stretch, but where you meet most of the qualifications. The worst thing that will happen there? The employer will think you are not qualified enough due to lack of experience, and you’re no worse off. Don’t totally discount your experience in part time work and internships. You do have some experience. That’s better than no work experience at all.

    If you haven’t already, check out the resume and cover letter tips here. A great cover letter and resume tailored to the types of work you are applying for can make all the difference. I cast a wider net on my last job search and had slightly different versions of my resume that highlighted different skills and knowledge areas depending on the type of company and position I was applying to.

    Are you putting the education section at the top or otherwise calling immediate attention to it? I know this is the advice to recent grads – put your education first, but when applying to jobs that require less education, it’s not as relevant and might lead to the hiring manager assuming “overqualified” or “probably not really interested in this type of work”. In those cases it may help to list work experience first and education below that so that it’s not the first thing a hiring manager sees.

    1. Jen*

      Did you get your Comm Management masters right after your undergrad? That could be the problem. If you’re applying for entry level jobs, the masters will make you overqualified in the sense that they might feel you are priced out of what they are willing to pay an entry-level worker. However, if you went straight from undergrad to grad school, you would be expected to have more work experience to get an actual management position.

      Definately agree with the previous poster about your cover letter and resume. Also, when you apply, you might want to look at very large national or international companies. I’ve worked at a few of those and very often they have interns or co-ops who are in their early 20s and working in masters degrees and then hire them on full-time in the hopes that they then will rise through the ranks.

    2. Hooptie*

      How do I say this without offending people? I guess I just say it. As a hiring manager for more ‘entry level’ positions, I can tell you that in my peer group we have discussed many times that it is hard enough to transition someone with a Bachelor’s Degree into the working world without those extra years of schooling thrown into the mix.

      Again, not to offend, but there is a huge difference between school and the working world (wasn’t there just a post on this?), and we (my group) tend to generalize that the longer someone is in school the longer the learning curve becomes.

      Add in the idea of training an ‘overqualified due to education’ employee for a year who then leaves to work in their field, and it is just not a risk we’re willing to take in most cases.

      I understand that we are generalizing, but in the end we have to hire the best candidate not only for the job but to meet the short and long term needs of the business.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        True, but don’t leave out graduates who aren’t applying for their very first jobs. Remember, there are non-traditional students who, as recent grads, may apply for entry-level positions and have work experience (perhaps they are changing careers). I know you probably mean the former; I just wanted to remind you that the latter are out there.

        I understand completely about the training thing. That is both costly and frustrating, I’m sure.

        1. Anonymous*

          Good point and you are correct – if I were to receive a cover letter that basically says, “Please disregard my Master’s Degree; after going through the program I realized I really wanted to get back into Sales”, then I would consider that person as someone who I could build for the long term. OR, if they can point out how their Master’s and work experience make them a great long-term fit for the job and company, I would certainly interview them.

          Part of it is the approach, I think.

  6. Not So NewReader*

    OP 2. Numbers don’t lie. You have your pay stubs. I should think that in order to be part time you would have to spend most weeks working 30 hours or less. ( I can see an exception once or twice a year. Personally, I would call that good will and let it go.)
    I would make a chart of dates and hours worked. The chart will speak for itself. First show your boss then if no result show HR.

    Be aware that if you push this envelop too hard you could possibly end up with a formidable work place. (Nasty boss.) So think this over carefully before you proceed. Do you have plan B to replace the income stream? How much difficulty are you willing to put up with to keep this job?

    Are there job openings in other departments? A lateral move might be your way out of this one, if you found a department that would keep their word. This solution would allow you to side step the whole confrontation here.

    Alternatively, is there similar work in another company near you? I have had employers approach me saying “OH you work for so-and-so. WOW. Would you be interested in talking with us about a job?” There are two competing chain stores up here. If you walk into Store B and tell them you worked at Store A, if they chose to hire you it is an automatic one dollar an hour raise. This is because common knowledge is that Store A trains well but pays poorly. This may or may not apply to your setting.

  7. Not So NewReader*

    OP 3. UHH. It might not be the rules changing. It might be your information source. Try to keep track of you gives you bad info. Some workers make more of an effort to convey accurate information that other workers do. I am not saying that people are lying to you- rather some people are so apathetic that they do not even care if they give you the correct info or not. No, they don’t perceive this as lying- they think it is okay.
    This holds for any sector you may be working in. I have seen it in retail, human services, factory work etc.

    Go back to the people who seem to be steering you in the correct direction. You can also look around and see if you can figure out who everyone thinks is the “go-to” person for problems/questions.
    You want someone who sounds like Engineer Girl, earlier in this thread. Someone who has that confidence in their subject matter.

    1. LCL*

      For procedural things like this, that are outside the scope of what you are hired to do but you still have to comply with, find out who is in charge. Not the manager or supervisor, but the person who actually runs the group and does the day to day work. Then talk to that person, in person if possible.
      HR isn’t any help to you in this, because this isn’t what they do.

      1. tcookson*

        . . . find out who is in charge. Not the manager or supervisor, but the person who actually runs the group and does the day to day work

        Yes. For my state university, for example, if I have a question about travel receipts, instead of asking all the other admins, I’ll call the travel office manager and ask her. If it’s a procurement question, I’ll call the business office and speak to either my buyer or my payer (whichever makes sense for the type of question I have). At least then, I’m keeping in sync with current practices at the offices who generate the policies.

  8. Colette*

    #1 … they called back saying the company felt I was overqualified. I laughed as I’ve never heard that before and didn’t agree that I had enough experience to be considered overqualified.

    It doesn’t matter whether you agree that you’re overqualified – it’s their call as to whether they believe you’re someone they want to consider for the job.

    If you are consistently getting this feedback, look at Bea W’s suggestions above, and also consider whether you’re demonstrating in our cover letter what interests you about that specific job – what about it do you find fascinating? Overqualified can mean that they believe you’ll move on as soon as you find something better, so you’ll need to consider how to best combat that assumption.

  9. AdAgencyChick*

    OP #4, I think you have to proceed as if your manager definitely will find out if you apply. That might be okay, if you have a *really* solid relationship with your manager (and perhaps she might even understand your reasons for looking, given that her own husband left their company for the new one). But if you have even the slightest doubts about whether your manager would start pushing you out before you’re ready if you don’t get the job, I’d say let this one pass. There’s no way a husband is going to keep material information from his wife.

  10. Brett*

    #2 If you are working on classes (GI-Bill reference?), you need to consider the cost of your impact on classes. My first attempt at college, I was a straight A student until I took a “part-time” job that had me working 50 hours a week. My grades dropped precipitously and I dropped out. That cost me far more than I ever earned. I learned my lesson and never did more than 20 hours per week while in school after that.

    Even if you can handle a 50-hour per week job while taking classes, you performance will be worse than it would be without the classes. That worse performance translates into money lost from your pocket.

  11. Brett*

    #3 It might not be that rules constantly change. It might be that the rules changed and the person who told you the rules was unaware. Government travel for training and education used to be freely allowed even just 10 years ago. Now it has become an extremely touchy flashpoint. I know of states that banned travel for -all- employees for several years (leading to things like helicopters pilots being decertified because they could not afford to pay out of their own pocket to travel for recertification). As a result, those rules have been changing while some employees have been unaware because they travel very little.
    Odds are the person who said you needed receipts is correct. The rules have been rapidly shifting to more stringent requirements and more accountability.

    1. tcookson*

      At my state university, each academic unit is required to abide by the minimum regulations imposed by the travel office, for example.

      But each one is also allowed to tweak the rules to suit its own needs, as long as their rules don’t contradict university travel policy (much in the same way that states can have their own laws as long as there is no conflict with federal laws).

      So our travel office does not require meal receipts; they will just pay the per diem. But my school does require meal receipts, because it is a cost-saving measure (paying only for what was used vs. the straight per diem amount).

  12. Joey*

    #2. I’m curious. Is it only you that he’s working full time. Are you mentioning your veteran status because you think that’s why he’s taking advantage of your work ethic? Because if it is that would be potentially illegal per USERRA.

    1. The IT Manager*

      Highly doubtful. LW#2 is being taken advantage of because he’s allowing it possibly because of greater allegience to the “chain of command” due to his service than a veteran. He’s not being discriminated against because if his military service.

      ** Having a high work-ethic or being a strict rule follower is not limited to veterans. Other employees could be taken advantage of as well. I would say as an officer, this Marine has more experience asserting himself and tallking to “management” than a person who had spent only a few years as a junior enlisted member.

  13. Joey*

    #3. This is one of the reasons public employers look for public sector experience. It can be hugely frustrating to navigate your way through the bureaucracy that is public employment.

  14. The IT Manager*

    #2, You were an officer in the Marine Corps. You are allowing yourself to be taken advantage of here. Just say no to any hours beyond 30 per week. You did the right thing in bringing up the problem, but you completely folded when your manager told you that he lied to you. You should have said then and there, I agreed to work 30 hours a week, I can’t work more, stop scheduling me for more.

    You are no longer in the Marines. You manager is not a commanding officer telling you to do something life saving or even terribly important. You can and should tell him “no” so that he knows he can’t push his employees around and take advantage of them.

    And if, IF, this results in a bad reference, you can explain that your manager was dissappointed that you were unable to work more hours than you agreed to because you had other obligations and that’s why you may not get the best reference.

    1. Chinook*

      No. 2 – listen to the IT Manager. The hardest part of transitioning to civvie street (from what I have seen) is getting used to the idea that the chain of command isn’t a solid line anymore, doesn’t always have “the men” at heart and you can talk back. As DH pointed out when he got out, the worst they can do to you now fire you! Scrubbing toilets with a toothbrush, docking your pay and comoing in to your room and screaming at you to get to work at 3 am are no longer options available to your boss.

  15. Mena*

    #1: I am curious if you worked/gained experience before entering graduate school, or if you went from undergrad straight into a graduate program. This may be the problem. If you didn’t work for a reasonable period in between programs you are indeed lacking in work experience despite the educational background. This also means that your graduate education is solely in an academic environment and without the context of previous work experience. When hiring, I view this as a handicap. It isn’t that you have a graduate degree but perhaps that you lack real-world work experience.

    1. OP1*

      Hi! I did have a gap between the bachelors and grad school where I worked for about 2 years doing PR for a non-profit. I have also been working as an office coordinator part time during those 2 years and grad school (grad school classes were in the evening only)

      1. Jen*

        So it’s about 4 years of profesional experience, plus a MA?
        I would think a project manager type position would totally be within your experience level and education. I would think a larger non-profit PR management job or a Sr. Specialist level for-profit PR/MarComm would be totally appropriate to apply for and if I were hiring, I would certainly not think you were over or under-qualified for that.

  16. Ann Furthermore*

    #2 – That is just all-around wrong and it really makes me mad. Shame on that manager for his “little white lie” which is actually completely shafting the OP. And to do that to a veteran — exponential shame.

    #3 – It’s not just government agencies that have strict travel policies, many companies in the private sector have them too. There is so much potential for abuse with travel expenses. At my company I’ve heard rumors of a person fired because she went to a training class in another city and also charged a plane ticket for her boyfriend. Someone else was using their corporate card for personal expenses — for something like furniture or other expensive stuff. Someone else did not file their expense reports in a timely manner and then turned around and tried to expense over $1000 in late fees. I believe someone did catch that and made the person reimburse the company for that via payroll deductions. It always stuns me when I hear stuff like this — I would never have the audacity to do something like that. One time I mistakenly used my corporate card to pay for a tank of gas…I just grabbed a card out of my wallet and stuck in the card reader at the pump, and I wasn’t paying attention. The next day I went to the travel person, all worried and apologetic. She told me to just pay it with a check when I got the statement and it was all good.

    1. AVP*

      Last week I accidentally charged a season pass to The Walking Dead: Season 3 on my company card! Somehow (legitimately) it got linked with my itunes account and I didn’t realize until I got the receipt. Luckily I work for a tiny company so I just charged an equivalently-priced work item on my personal card and sent an email to the bookkeeper.

  17. Bluefish*

    I’ve completed two masters programs while working full time. My decision to do both programs was the result of having a mind-numbingly boring job, having no luck finding a new job because of my lack of qualifications, and needing to do something to keep my sanity. Both times were great experiences, I learned a ton, increased my knowledge and skills in numerous ways, and grew overall as a person. While its clear from the comments here (and also how I’m questioned in interviews), that most people view my degrees as a bad decision, assuming that I’m all entitled and that I think I’m worth more money, I wouldn’t change any of it. I am grateful for the knowledge and experienced I gained. If someone is going to see it on my résumé and judge me because of it, that’s fine. I love to learn and better myself and I’m always striving to expand my knowledge and skills. IMO, that’s why people pursue advanced degrees. To draw a different conclusion about someone you’ve never met seems presumptuous and short sighted.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Since many people (probably the majority) pursue advanced degrees because they think it will make them more marketable and/or they plan to work in that field, I don’t think it’s presumptuous to assume that’s the case.

      1. AB*

        I totally agree. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect hiring managers to think, “oh, this person probably just went through a Master’s to grow as a person, I’m sure she is happy to stay long-term in a job that doesn’t require her degree.”

        They will think their end goal is to work in the field of their degree, and will have a hard time placing the candidate ahead of others with a background that is more in line with what the job requires.

        1. Bluefish*

          And this is exactly what I’m talking about. People who see a masters degree and assume the person is looking to be placed ahead of others, or presumed to be more qualified then they really are. I never mentioned anything about a masters replacing experience, or expecting that my masters be held in higher regard then experience. That’s the judgment that you placed on it, not me. Also, both my degrees are related to my industry.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Wait, but neither I nor AB mentioned those things. We’re talking about assuming the person actually wants to work in a job that will use their degree, not that they expect they should be held in higher regard.

  18. ChristineSW*

    *sigh* I definitely feel OP #1’s pain. After finishing my MSW, I deluded myself into thinking I’d easily find a job knowing that I’d likely run into obstacles due to 1) that I can’t drive and 2) that I didn’t have my license (LSW) in-hand for several months after finishing my coursework (having the LSW “in-hand” was–and probably still is–required for many post-MSW jobs). I did eventually find something, but was laid off after less than a year. Long story short, my interests changed and everything just unraveled from there. To this day, as much as I’ve enjoyed getting to network with some really awesome colleagues during and after the program, I still question whether or not getting that degree was a smart idea :/ (and I’m still tossing around the PhD idea?? Am I insane?? lol)

    1. MissDisplaced*

      @ChristineSW: Only do the PhD if you want to teach at the university level (unless you work in a medical or science field where a PhD is common or expected). I loved my master’s program in communication, and would love to pursue a PhD in it… but it’s just not practical.

      OP#1 I feel your pain! I’ve also been told that I am “overqualified” for a number of jobs, even though I fit their profile and skills list perfectly. In my case I also have 15+ years of publishing and graphic design before I got my master’s in communication. I thought it would be a good compliment to my hard skills to learn the theory behind what I do. Now, I’m not so sure, and I think it hurts my chances with some jobs I apply for.

      Do a test: Remove the master’s degree and apply for a few jobs without that detail on your resume. If you get more calls and interest, then you know. I realize this sucks, as we’re taught to value our hard-fought-and-won education, but the working world doesn’t always value tooting our own horn.

  19. Vicki*

    At a previous job, I was employed doing QA and tech writing/editing for one team. Then we had a reorganization and my new manager decided that I should be writing kernel tests in C++ (not a language or area that I knew). Why did he think I was qualified for this work?

    Because I had a Masters Degree (received 10 years previously).

    The conversation with HR went like this:
    Me “… because have a Masters Degree”
    HR “Well, you do have one…”
    Me: “Yes. 10 years ago. In Microbiology.”
    HR: “I begin to see the problem.”

    I moved to another group.

  20. AB*

    #2: “I am accused of having attitude when I remind the person I was told I did not need them.”

    Hmm… Totally with AAM here — pay attention to how you are reacting when you are frustrated with the apparent inconsistency of rules.

    I have a friend who is the first to admit that she feels like she has to tell others when they are doing something wrong or changing their story after explaining how something works. Her husband has been trying to get her to understand that she can catch more bees with honey. AAM is totally right that you’ll get better results if you don’t let your frustration show. With time you’ll learn now to navigate the system, and having people on your side will help, so don’t try to “prove your point” when you get frustrated with the conflicting answers. Just listen when someone corrects the information, and take note for next time.

  21. Cassie*

    #3: I’m at a state university with some of the same ambiguity regarding procedures, so I feel ya. Speaking about receipts – our written policy states that entertainment (like lunch or dinner) under $75 requires only a proof of payment and no itemized receipt. This is also the message given during the training courses.

    So when a reimbursement got dinged for not having the itemized receipt – I checked in with the central office to see if maybe the policy had changed. The staffer confirmed that the official policy states no receipt is needed, BUT that because their office wants to see the # of guests and if alcohol was purchased, they will ask for the itemized receipt anyway or provide some other proof about those two issues. So it’s better just to provide the itemized receipt regardless.

    It’s all about how staff choose to interpret the policies and whether they enforce it or not. Also, our depts can impose some stricter guidelines (receipts for meals during travel are not required by the central office, but your own dept can require it if they want). The best thing would be to find out what the policies are in your dept, even if they are more stringent than the official written policy, and go with that.

    In re: to having an attitude – I’ve seen too many cases in my own dept where the higher-ups will get upset when questioned, even though the new employee was never taught the correct departmental procedure. If it was me, as the higher-up, I’d simply acknowledge the written policy and state that the dept also wants XYZ. You can’t expect people to just magically know how you do things and get mad when they don’t follow along. That’s just bad management.

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