open thread

photo 4-5It’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.

{ 625 comments… read them below }

  1. Anon for this one*

    Raise your hand if you’re a mid-career professional who’s starting to worry about what the future looks like: how much longer can I do my job (doing it well, natch) before I get pushed out in favor of someone younger and cheaper?

    I don’t want my boss’s job, but I also know I’m pretty well paid for my title, and that eventually my company could decide I’m too expensive.

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      *hi* And at what point do I start putting my retirement options ahead of other considerations? I have a pension & a 401K at my present job. It’s starting to weigh heavy on my mind that if I want to change jobs, I’m going to lose that.

          1. Judy*

            If you’re vested, you’d not loose what you already have. From what I remember about US Pension law/regulation, your pension has to be vested before either at 5 years or 20% at 3, 40% at 4, 60% at 5, 80% at 6 and 100% at 7. You would still get something at 65.

          2. fposte*

            How long until you’re vested? (And have you checked to make sure there’s no transferrable option like an IRA conversion?)

            I’ve been doing a lot of retirement exploration lately, and the decisions are so personal that it’s hard to give a broad rule. If you don’t get a match in the 401k (which you probably wouldn’t at a place with a pension), you might want to prioritize a Roth IRA, since that will be unaffected by where you’re working in the future and you can pull your contributions back out without penalty if you need to. Then if you can afford to contribute above the Roth limits (and presuming you have a good solid emergency fund) I’d turn back to the 401k.

            1. ExceptionToTheRule*

              I knew people here would have good info. I’m honestly not sure on the vesting and that’s something I should look into.

              The pension is a hold-over from a previous owner and only those who had them before the sale have them now. I do get a company match on the 401K and I’m pretty well versed in what I can/can’t do with that.

              I’ve been with this company for going on 17 years and have really been thinking hard about whether I can or want to keep doing this for another 25. High stress, crappy hours and even crappier pay. It’s not healthy. Hell, one of the guys I work with had a stroke a couple of weeks ago and he’s not even 50. Stuff like that makes you stop & think.

              1. fposte*

                17 years? I would be stunned if you weren’t vested. Find out what the possibilities are “upon separation,” as they politely say around here. Usually they can roll it into a qualified account like an IRA.

                You might also have the option of leaving it in place and taking it when you qualify even though you stopped working for the company a few years back; it would just be smaller than if you were paying into it in the meantime. (Since I’m not eligible for Social Security, I never factor that in, but you might want to see if keeping the pension meant a bigger Social Security hit than rolling it into an IRA.)

                But basically, find out the money rules on your pension and bust out the Excel for different scenarios. It’s incredibly enlightening.

                1. Editor*

                  ExceptionToTheRule — Check into this, as fposte says. My former employer had a pension plan and the company was sold — we received letters about the pension and eventually there was a deal where they gave us rollovers.

                  My late husband had two employers who provided pensions, and there were letters sent out that were required by ERISA. Pension outlay varies by years of service, age at retirement, and factors in the plan, such as cost of living allowances. Don’t be afraid to take a retirement income calculation sheet of some kind to HR and ask questions about the pension.

                  There are various sources I found in a Google search:


                  I liked the spreadsheet from BYU (based on a Kiplinger form) and the Morningstar sheet better than some of the others.

                2. Julie*

                  I would add that you might want to consider rolling the pension into an IRA (or other type of account) that YOU control. I would hate to leave my pension or 401(k) funds with a previous employer.

                3. Frieda*

                  Great advice from everyone but I just wanted to throw in my 2 cents: I’m only 30 but about 10-15 years ago my parents started working with a financial planner and it has been worth every cent. And they’re strictly middle class–joint income ~$90K/year, working at the same jobs for 20 and & 30 years. My dad has a pension from before his company was sold and my mom has a 401K, but they are 60 now and very confident that they will be OK for retirement. The financial planner helped with specific investment decisions but also in discussing details like what age they should plan to retire at, what they want their lifestyle to be like after they retire, etc. They also weathered the financial crisis pretty well. There are just so many options out there and so many things they didn’t even know about–and the learning curve is steep–that finding a financial planner you can trust will both help you make the right decisions and also feel more secure in your future.

      1. LMW*

        I left a position after 6 years, and the pension was vested at 5. Since the amount I qualified for was so minimal, they just gave it to me in a lump sum payout and I rolled it into an IRA. So it’s still going towards my retirement, just not as a pension.

    2. [anon]*

      I work in social media and communications, and I’m in my early 30s with a young child. Most of the people doing my job are in their mid 20s and can afford to do it for a lot less–as I discovered on an early-2013 job search. I’d really hoped to get at least to 40 before I started being priced out of my own field! It sucks.

      1. Audiophile*

        I have a communications/media degree and I can’t get a foothold in the social media field. I don’t know where your based, but social media seems to be in high demand. If you’ve been doing it for a while, you may be able to move elsewhere.

        1. [anon]*

          Yeah, I’ve got work right now and have a couple other things on the horizon so I’m not too worried at the moment, but I feel like the writing is kind of on the wall and in five years I might have a real problem.

          1. Audiophile*

            What makes you say that? The reason I say hold out, is I see a lot of high level social media positions listed all the time. I don’t think you’d get passed over for someone younger in those cases.

            1. [anon]*

              Maybe, and I could be lucky! It seems to depend on the industry and I could always take the skills and hop fields with them. Time will tell.

              1. Audiophile*

                I’m getting passed over for positions because I don’t have enough concrete experience. I’m attempting to use my connections as a springboard of some sort. I think I have a pretty solid understanding of social media and communications, but having held administrative positions for the past three years, is making things difficult.

                1. Kristen*

                  Me too! I’ve worked in PR for the last 5 years and in all of my positions have been involved in social/digital media. Now that I’m trying to focus on that and leave traditional PR behind, it’s not working out well for me. It’s definitely a competitive market, and I find that depending on where you go the skill set companies look for is so different. Some places seem to favor strong marketing backgrounds while others are more focused on writing/messaging skills. Any advice from other social media people out there?

                2. AVP*

                  Do you have any marketing experience you can emphasize? Sales? Many people think of social media as an extension of communications/media but after working with a ton of social media people over the past few years, I’ve come to realize that a lot of the relevant skills there come from the marketing side.

      2. Anonymous*

        Me too, SEO here. entry-level kids get min wage and I am at 80k, they can pump out just as much as me if not more – less quality – but they are cheaper, so I am waiting for the point where I am no longer a good ROI.

      3. Jen*

        I think you’ll do fine honestly. I see a lot of people (a ton) who list social media as an area of expertise or a skill that they had but they simply mean that they did the tweets for their college club or a deli they work at part-time. I have noticed that very few people have corporate social media experience in the sense that they understand the metrics and the programs. Having the ability to look through a Radian6 profile and figure out peak times and users and influential relationships is not an easy task. I have seen a few people who do social for years moving into Digital Marketing management positions.

        1. Just a Reader*

          Yep. I have agency and corporate social media experience. It’s not my core competency but I use it and counsel on it in my current role. Every aspect of marketing does (or should, at least) have a social flavor today. It might be worth expanding the skill set in your current role in order to bounce to an appropriate marketing job with a social element.

      4. long time lurker!*

        I’m also in my early 30s, working in social media (though with a strong marketing background), with two little kids. I haven’t had an issue, because there are a lot of kids who can do it, but not a lot who can do it well. My competitive advantage is my years of experience and my broader marcomms and branding background, which is really crucial if you want to go further with social media than populating SM channels with vaguely brand-relevant content.

        Some companies/clients prioritize low cost in this area like anything else, but if they want someone REALLY good, they’ll have to pay for experience and expertise like in any other field.

    3. LOLwhut*

      I hear you about not wanting your boss’s job. I’ve been so apathetic about going for a management role that I’ve basically had the same title, with different companies, for 8 years. Tough to prove you’re ambitious with a resume like that.

      1. LisaLyn*

        I hear you! And I don’t know why promotion = management and nothing else to so many people. I talked to my manager about maybe getting my job status upgraded and he immediately was thinking of people I could supervise, but that’s not what I meant at all. I’ve been taking on a lot of advanced technical tasks and I wanted that recognized.

    4. MissM*

      I definitely relate to this. I’ve worked in my industry for 20 years and have 17 years until retirement. Throughout most of my career I’ve always been focused on moving ahead – as soon as I took a new position, I’d start to think about the next step. Then a couple of years ago I was promoted into a position that, to my surprise, has turned out to be my “dream job.” I love what I’m doing, have a great boss, I’m being paid well. But how long can I just stay in this job? I don’t want my boss’s job – too much travel and stress. But I can’t see just camping here until retirement. It’s too easy to be considered obsolete if you’ve been in the same job awhile.

      Another issue – I said no to a job opportunity (within the same company) a year ago. I’m worried that I may drop off of everyone’s radar if I stay in one place, and if I need to make a move down the line, it may not be as easy. Career inertia?

      1. Julie*

        I worry about this, too. I’ve been with my company for 11 years (going in, I never assumed I’d be at any job that long). I still like what I’m doing because the work changes pretty often (different projects and initiatives), and my mangers respect my work. I do wonder, though, how long I can stay here, being satisfied and with my bosses being satisfied with my work. I’m also somewhat concerned about the software training field in general since a lot of companies don’t consider training to be essential. So I’m glad I have a job that I like, and I’m wondering what I would do if I had to find a different job. I’m not sure what other kinds of work my skills could transfer to.

    5. Windchime*

      I worry about it sometimes, even though I just got my second promotion within a year. I don’t have a degree and that hasn’t hurt me thus far, but our team is getting older (the youngest person is a contractor and he’s 36; the rest of us are in 40’s and 50’s with one guy in his early 60’s). Additionally, I have been here less than 3 years so I’m one of the newest people on the team. So yeah, sometimes I worry about it. My place of employment seems really stable, but doesn’t everyone think that about their job before the layoff’s start?

    6. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

      Yes, you may be more expensive, but your work experience and knowledge of the company is worth more than someone who is entry-level and hired in from the outside. I think that most companies see it this way. As long as you are doing your job well and bringing value to your role, you should be fine. Just solicit feedback from your manager on an ongoing basis so you always know where you stand. Good luck :)

    1. Joey*

      Nope. The best day for me is anytime within the first week of the job posting. That’s my mark to start looking at resumes

    2. CN*

      Does this mean that the hiring manager is LOOKING at the application on a Monday, or that all the applicants who APPLIED on Mondays had a higher success rate — even if the hiring manager didn’t get around to it until Thursday, Friday, or 2 weeks later …?

      1. Amanda*

        From what I gathered, they noticed correlation between people who applied on Monday and people who got a call back.

        As far as explanation, I think what they were getting at is “the early bird gets the worm.” But plenty of job postings go up on other days of the week too.

    3. AmyNYC*

      When I was job hunting I had a crazy theory about what day of the week to submit resumes and applications. Here was my logic: Monday morning, my resume will be tossed aside with an “UGH MONDAY, look at it later” attitude, Tuesday to Thursday was safe and Friday was again “ugh, I’ll look at that when I get back.”
      No idea if any of that mattered, but it let me take the night off on Thursdays after work!

    1. Judy*

      Yeah, I thought she was saying that she would post while coming out from under the anesthesia.

      Not saying I thought she was serious, but after seeing my parents coming out from under, it would really be amusing. Basically it made them “more them”, removed the filters.

        1. Lucy*

          my experience is the only people who DO recover faster than the norm (a rare thing) are the people who planned on a longer recovery than the norm.

        2. Windchime*

          Yep, that would be me. I had surgery on my Achille’s tendon on October 14th and I have made it into the office a grand total of 2 days. I thought I would be going back to the office after 2 weeks; we are now at the end of Week 4. My foot feels fine, but the actual surgery itself seems to have drained me of all energy.

          It will be better once I can start putting weight on my foot. Two more weeks to go.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        LOL I posted in my chat room after I got home following my gallbladder removal–it was quite amusing. I don’t really remember everything I said while zonked on hydrocodone.

    2. Jamie*

      Awwww…I’ve been lonely without you all! I am so looking forward to getting caught up on all the posts I’ve missed. Seriously I bookmarked this and it’s making me all happy and weepy.

      Everything went well and I’m home now waiving my hello kitty fairy godmother statue at everyone when I need something. My sister got it for me before surgery and explained to my family that HKGM is non-negotiable and must always be obeyed. It’s totally working and as soon as my husband gets up she’s going to order up some pancakes.

      Of which I will take 2-3 bites and fall back asleep…ha.

      Work sent me huge bouquet of roses yesterday with card saying how much they miss me already…but I’m not even stressed about what that means. Apparently a medicated me is a very relaxed me…because that’ll worry me later. :)

      I hope I can post this – it’s my 3rd attempt but they keep vanishing. Posting is HARD!

      1. fposte*

        Jamie! It’s so good to hear from you and to hear that you’re getting suitably cosseted.

        Enjoy your pancakes. You’ve earned them!

      2. ChristineSW*

        Wonderful to see you Jamie…thanks for checking in!! Wishing you a speedy recovery! ((gentle hug))

  2. Sophia*

    I’ll start! I’m 8 weeks pregnant and for the past few days have been increasingly nauseated – throwing up etc – and in general, feeling pretty crappy. I’ve been eating ginger tablets and those are helping a little. But I haven’t been able to concentrate to do any work. Does anyone have any suggestions for dealing with nausea? I have an important presentation on Monday and am terrified of throwing up in the middle of it. I also have a paper due and it’s frustrating how much this is making me feel crappy and interfering with my ability to do work.

    1. Anon*

      talk with your doc. There are a lot of meds out there that you can take to help with that. And they are totally safe too. I’m at the 8 month mark and have two weeks left at work. Best of luck.

    2. Arbynka*

      That had these preggo pops when I was pregnant and they helped me. Also snacking on plain goldfish. And remember to stay hydrated. Sipping on cold water might feel good.

      I would also suggest talking to your doctor about options. And just to check in. Sometimes morning sickness can progress beyond what is normal – not saying that’s what happening with you but it does not hurt to keep an eye on it.

      And {{hughs}}. Hang in there. This usually does get better :)

      1. Judy*

        I found that spreading the meals into many smaller ones instead of big meals helped me. It seemed like before pregnancy, I’d notice I was hungry, and was grumpy but physically fine if I ate within several hours. While I was pregnant, I would notice I was hungry, move through starving, and start to get nausea in 15-20 minutes. Having protein+carb snacks everywhere helped me a lot.

      2. coconutwater*

        Graham crackers and water worked fairly good for breakfast for my first pregnancy. I could only do small meals also.

      3. Kelly O*

        Have to chime in with a second to the preggo pops or whatever they call them. You can get them at Target or WalMart now, I think. I got a ton of them from a friend when I was miserable in my first trimester with Sarah.

        Also, totally agree on keeping meals small and evenly spaced. I also could not do greasy stuff. I think I lived on bread and potatoes for three months.

        The other thing that helped me in general while pregnant was cutting out sodas. I don’t know if it was the carbonation or whatever, but I noticed a marked difference in how I felt and it’s why I’m still keeping them to a minimum now.

    3. coconutwater*

      There are wristbands that people wear for seasickness that I used and they did help. I just googled it and a link for “Sea Band” came up. They look like the same type I used but now you can get them in nicer colors. These are a good alternative to medications. Google “Sea Band Mama” and it should give you a link.

      1. Arbynka*

        The Sea Band did not seem to work much for me but is doing wonders for one of my friends. She has started to use it in pregnancy but since she gets sick on a airplane she started to use it for travel as well and it does help. I witnessed it :)

      2. holly*

        yea, i used one on a boat trip once and it totally worked, but i had no idea it worked for other types of nausea.

    4. Jen*

      I did the preggo pops and I also did just regular Jolly Ranchers. I confess that with both pregnancies I did the bare minimum of my job for about 12 weeks. I would work as much as I could at home or I’d do things that did not require much moving around.

    5. Anonymous*

      Yes, call your OBGYN! I took Zofran and it helped tremendously. There are other drugs as well. If your OBGYN doesn’t take your request seriously, consider switching!! (What else won’t they take seriously as things get closer to the Main Event?)

      1. Just a Reader*

        Congratulations! Zofran (prescription) helped me a lot during the morning sickness phase. So did saltines and ginger ale–but make sure that has real ginger in it. Lots of liquid with electrolytes (gatorade, smart water).

        Definitely call your doctor, but know that you don’t have to suffer! And in the meantime, eat whatever sounds good when it sounds good.

      2. Kelly O*

        FYI, they also make Zofran that dissolves on your tongue. I was so sick I was not even able to keep them down at one point, and someone gave me the tablet and it helped a lot.

    6. Anon Accountant*

      Can you eat smaller meals spread throughout the day? Snacking on crackers, goldfish crackers, or combining protein plus carbs can help.

      Have you talked to the doctor about a mild pill to help with nausea?

      When my aunt was very sick from chemo, a nurse recommended she eat gingersnap cookies. They helped to settle her stomach so it’s worth a try. Can you sip caffeine-free ginger ale or caffeine-free Coke? And congrats on the pregnancy.

      1. LCL*

        Congratulations! Never been pregnant, but here goes:
        sip/chew crushed ice for nausea. If you do vomit, replace your fluids right away. Gatorade, though it is high in sugar and is made in frightening colors, always works to snap me back to normal if I get that kind of sick.

        1. Arbynka*

          You can also cut the Gatorate with water some. I do that for my longer runs. I don’t like straight Gatorate but with little water it’s ok. And the less sweet it is, the more berable it becomes when it gets warm.

    7. Sophia*

      Thanks everyone! I have an appt on Monday, so I’ll ask. I’m actually glad, on one hand, to have such bad nausea because I had a missed miscarriage about a year and a half ago and for that pregnancy, I had little to no nausea. I’ll look into pregnancy pops, jolly ranchers and the like. I already eat small meals throughout the day so I’ll keep that up. Thanks again!

      1. Arbynka*

        Sorry to hear about your miscarriage, Sophia. I had miscarried my first pregnancy and then went on having three nice size babies. Congratulations and wishing you all the best :)

      2. Piper*

        I’m 9 weeks pregnant and I’ve been struggling with the same thing. I’ve found that I absolutely cannot let my stomach get empty, so small meals eaten often are a must. I also keep ginger snaps and saltines nearby. I try to eat high protein meals because that seems to help, too. My doctor didn’t want to give me meds because I’m not actually throwing up a lot, I’m just in a constant state of nausea.

        Ginger ale also helps, even though I despise consuming soda. I’ve heard that Whole Foods has ginger chews that are supposed to be good and I’ve thought about trying a few drops of ginger extract in some sparkling water, too.

      3. Collarbone High*

        Do ask for some Zofran — I have Crohn’s disease, so unfortunately I’m something of an expert on throwing up (should that go on my resume?) — and it’s by far the best anti-nausea drug I’ve tried. The best part: the pills dissolve under your tongue, so you don’t have to worry about vomiting up the pill before it’s taken effect. And congratulations!

    8. Pussyfooter*

      My Mom had daily nausea. She said vanilla ice cream was the only thing she could keep down much of the time.
      Do cold things help or upset your stomach? Maybe fruit popsicles would be a good thing?

      That said, you’re having enough troubles that a doctor’s Rx for anti nausea are probably warranted. Remember the princess’ trip to the hospital? Go get yourself some relief if you can :)

    9. Anonymous*

      If you can just get through another month maybe it will get better. I was sick with all three of my pregnancies. The worst was number 3 child. I found I could eat cream of wheat, rice krispies and yogart. I lived on that for awhile with my vitamins. I remember cooking Christmas dinner and setting a beautiful table. After dinner I threw mine up. So sick. Hang in there honey, it will get better.:-)

    10. Rin*

      I heard this theory: cut down on meat. Obviously you need protein, but I read somewhere (that reliable source) that it’s one major cause in nausea during pregnancy. I’m a vegetarian, and when I was pregnant, I never had morning sickness. I read whatever article this was after the fact, and I wonder if it’s true

      1. Piper*

        I’m a pescatarian and right now I can’t even stand the thought of fish. I get my protein from vegetarian sources, but I’m still nauseated all the time (9 weeks pregnant), so maybe that works for some people, but sadly, not me.

    11. saro*

      Peanut Butter and toast was the only thing that helped me. Before bed and in the morning – and I don’t even like peanut butter! Hope you feel better soon!

    12. Harriet*

      If you feel nausea coming, sip very very cold water. I used melted ice rather than water – fill a glass with ice, add a little water and sip at that. If smell triggers you, smear some Vicks under and around your nostrils.

    13. VictoriaHR*

      You can try an aromatherapy oil diffuser, the kind that you can burn a tealight candle under (if your workplace will allow that) or, barring that, an electrical one.

      These essential oils are good for helping with nausea: ginger, peppermint, wintergreen (do NOT put wintergreen oil on skin!), spearmint, tarragon, lavender.

      Hope you feel better!

  3. Sandrine*


    I will shortly post a link to an audition from French version of American Idol.

    I am only in for ten seconds but I need comfort in the fact that I do not suck completely lol.

      1. Sandrine*

        Posted on my fb page (linked here). They laughed at me so hard at work I had to laugh with them but I went… “Hey insult my singing all you want but not my accent darn it” :p

        1. fposte*

          I’m trying to see it but I can’t find it–I bet it’s in the part that my browsers say they can’t load. Stupid video code! (I tried to see if I could hunt it down on the rest of the internet but apparently one of the presenters is also Sandrine, which confuses things!)

      1. Sandrine*

        Thank you. I saw the complete show. They had the audition city wrong and they put me in that clip to showcase people with a bad accent indeed.

        I’m SO re-filming this first chance I get and upload it on YouTube again xD …

    1. fposte*

      OMG, I love your hair! And no, you don’t suck; your voice is very nice. The English pronunciation seems an odd thing to poke fun at, given that native English speakers are often incomprehensible when singing in English. Imagine the subtitles you could get for Mick Jagger.

      1. Felicia*

        Your English pronunciation isn’t even that bad! It’s actually good! Your voice is good too, but it’s weird they would make fun of how you pronounce it when it’s not even bad – most of the people in that clip weren’t even bad with their pronunciation.

  4. JustMe*

    My question is: Does anyone have experience doing independent contracting? Was it a good experience? Too much to keep up with, etc?

    I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can about it because I’ve been job searching for quite awhile, and have recently been in talks with a new company. They wanted me to do independent contracting first. My thought is that this would be just for a few months, but I just found out they want me to do it for a year, with the possibility of becoming full time after.

    My initial impression is to see if I could do the contracting part time from home while maintaining my current job, just for the purpose of job security. However, I haven’t made a final decision yet.


    1. periwinkle*

      I did this after grad school. It helps to create a weekly schedule with certain hours reserved for the consulting work, and to set reminders for deadlines. Ensure that you have an appropriate workspace at home (or elsewhere) that is conducive to concentration!

      If you have a smartphone, there are many apps for tracking your work time. I use HoursTracker, which can be set up for multiple projects at different pay rates, pay periods, billing increments, etc. I customized templates downloaded from Microsoft’s site for the invoice and timesheet (submitted with the invoice).

      Taxes are the annoying bit, because as an independent contractor you are responsible for calculating and submitting your quarterly payments. Tax prep software will save your sanity! (I use TurboTax) Luckily both of the companies for which I do project-based work have now converted me to W-2 status.

    2. cecilhungry*

      What field? I’ve done freelance/contract/temp work off and on for years since getting my bachelor’s. In some ways it’s really great (working from home, making your own hours, writing off EVERYTHING). Here are the downsides:

      1. Work is often feast or famine. I was always either buried under work or poor as balls.

      2. It can be really difficult to motivate and finish your work if you’re doing it from home. I would suggest having SOMEWHERE that is not your bed/desk to do all the work. Starbucks or the library are great for this. Going to an “office” makes it seem more like real work and not a time to goof off. (This was the biggest hurdle for me).

      3. At a time when you have a lot of work, you may feel guilty any second you’re not working. Weekends are especially bad, when everyone else is carefree and planning events and you’ve got a project due Wednesday (or even a month from Wednesday–but you could be working on it right now! There’s no reason you can’t!). Having a 9-5 schedule can be very freeing in ways you may not realize until you’ve done freelance.

      4. Taxes are way more complicated, and you’ll be paying a lot more during tax season because it’s not withheld on your paycheck.

      Overall, freelance/contract isn’t for me, but I still do it when I need the money. Some people love it, though, so it really depends on your personality and work style.

      1. cecilhungry*

        Oh, it’s also important to research freelance rates vs employee rates when you’re negotiating for a project. Freelance rates are generally significantly higher due to the tax stuff and also that you’re not actually working 40/wk * 52/yr. Don’t just figure out your normal hourly rate based on your salary! (Learned that one the hard way.)

        For instance, for editing work, the hourly pay might end up being between $15-20/hr, but most freelance editors charge $35-50/hr.

    3. RedStateBlues*

      My wife was asking the pros/cons of being an independent contractor to one of her former colleagues and she mentioned her regret that she didn’t hire/consult an accountant. She totally screwed up her taxes the first year and got hammered, had to set up a payment plan with the IRS, the whole nine yards. I don’t remember the exact figure, but she owed a substantial amount of money.

      1. JustMe*

        Well, the prospective employer guaranteed me 38-40 hours a week, so I don’t know if poor as balls will apply or not…well, at least not before taxes.

        The tax issues concern me because with other increased expenses I’ll have next year, I don’t know if it will be feasible to drop everything and do this full time. And especially just on the *chance* that it’ll turn full time. That’s me taking a *huge* risk, especially considering how long I’ve been job searching (hint: way over a year), and that this is the only offer I’ve gotten in all that time.

        So, then I think keeping a stable job in the midst of this uncertainty could be good. At least that way, if it doesn’t work out, I’m covered. (And if I’m contracting part-time, I don’t have to apply for a tax number, so slightly less hassle and the extra cash I need.)

        But then, I go to my stable, full time job (which I hate), and the idea of dropping it all doesn’t sound so bad.

        Hence, why I’m coming to you guys. :)

  5. PollyRhea*

    I have a question that’s managerial related, but concerns a student organization.

    So, anyway. I’m the student chapter president of a pre-professional society at my university. It’s been going great, however there’s been a… clash of personalities, let’s say.

    Someone on my e-board is very detail-oriented, which is great! But that leads to her coming off as “not very nice.” Several of the other e-board members have come to me, and I have spoken to her about her tone in a, “You probably meant this text as a joke, but you should think about how you sound.” sort of way. It was nervewracking, but I’m glad I did it! Hooray for me.

    I guess my next question is, what’s next? Do I just sort of let things lie? Should I tell the people that had an issue that I’ve spoken to the young woman in question? If this escalates, I can probably go to my professor. She’d help me out, but should I try to speak to her (the girl) more seriously?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I had someone like that on me team. Very very detail oriented, very good at getting things done, but an absolute trainwreck when it came to human interactions.

      You can point out more constructive ways for her to handle things in the future, but you also might have to limit her interactions with people in favor of more behind-the-scenes organization work. That’s what worked best for my problem employee. I let her focus on what she did best – getting stuff done, and I focused on what I did best – communicating with people.

      1. fposte*

        Though it might be trickier since it doesn’t sound like the problem person is PollyRhea’s employee. Polly, do you get to supervise this person or is it more collegial than that?

        1. PollyRhea*

          Nope. We’re both students and her position is one in which she has to coordinate between several different board members. (She’s the activities planner, basically) I also forgot to mention that I don’t have any classes with her this semester, so I’m seeing her in-person about once a week. So I’m not sure if there’s a problem until other people bring it up.

          1. Colette*

            If you don’t have the authority to, for example, remove her from her position, you can’t make her change. You can, however, point out how she’s coming across and give her tips about how to change that, if she’s open to that.

            The other option would be to suggest that the people who are telling you they’re having issues talk to her directly.

            1. Sophia*

              I agree. The best thing to do is to try again to talk to her about how she’s coming across – with a very specific example. Another thing is for people to ask for clarification when things happen. She sends a text or email that rubs people the wrong way, the recipient should reply with a – Hi X, It seemed in your email you think I may be doing something wrong, can we talk to clarify? – or something similar.

    2. Poster formerly known as Jane Doe*

      Do you have any examples of a text or whatever that’s making her come across bad? As an extremely detail oriented person, I’m curious of what’s coming across poorly, and my thoughts may vary depending on it. ;)

      1. Kerr*

        I’d be interested, too. I can be very detail-oriented, but I also deal with other detail-oriented people who sometimes make me feel like I’m easygoing, so this topic interests me. :)

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I would let this lie for the moment. See what happens over a period of a couple weeks.
      No, do not tell anyone that you had the convo unless one of the original complainers comes back and asks.
      And then, do not explain the conversation to the complainer. Just give a general response “Yes, I spoke with her about that. ”
      If it escalates to a point where you do not know what to do then yes, go to your prof to get advice.
      In the mean time if you can find a little reading material that covers personality that may help you find words to actually help this girl. As you say she is that detail-oriented type of personality- so check out that personality type. There is nothing wrong with pointing out to her that not everyone has her gift of following details like she does. But she should be aware in conversation that others may not be following what she is saying, simply because they are not following along as closely. As to the emails maybe she can read them out loud to herself before she hits the send button. Doing a double check to see if her response matches what is being said in the original email is helpful too. We all do it sometimes- where we reply to what we THINK is being said.

      Lastly, don’t allow yourself to be used as The Diplomatic Core. By this I mean, don’t let yourself fall into a position where you are negotiating people’s relationships with each other. So that might look like this:

      Cohort: Susie’s email last night was very abrupt sounding. Do you think she is mad at me/us?
      You: No, not that I know of. But why don’t you shoot her an email asking if she is okay?

      Cohort: Susie sent me a massive email with tons of details. I can’t tell- is she trying to tell me I don’t know what I am talking about?
      You: I have not heard anything to that effect. Why don’t you email Susie back and ask her “Did I miss something here? I think you are concerned about some aspect but I am not sure which part.”

      I see it as a two way street. The detailed oriented person has to learn to work with other types of personalities AND other types of personalities have to learn to work with detail people. Instead of just focusing on Susie, I would focus on everyone. If you try this and no change occurs definitely talk with your professor.

  6. KM*

    How do you self-motivate/discipline? I have been having trouble getting myself to really get into personal work (art/writing), but have no problems motivating myself at the office. In fact, I’m almost too motivated at the office and have nearly run out of improvement projects just fifteen months into the job. Now I have plenty of downtime, but instead spend it distracted and online instead of leaning into personal work that I hope to pursue one day as a career. Any tips?

    1. Colette*

      Commit to doing 15 minutes a day, and then don’t allow yourself to do anything else during those 15 minutes.

      (You can continue longer if you want, but you can’t cut it short.)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes! This is why I do when I’m procrastinating on something — although I sometimes say 10 minutes. I figure I can do anything for 10 minutes; how can I really not even be up to that? And then once I start, I usually continue.

      2. KM*

        This seems like it would work, but I often find myself staring into dead air for 15 minutes, trying to corral my thoughts out of the ethereal and onto the page. Maybe I need to be more specific with it – such as 15 minutes of straight typing, even if it’s mostly blather. It’s just so hard to smear something useful onto the page.

        1. Colette*

          I tend to procrastinate on things like “clean out the drawer with the plastic containers”, which are much more cut-and-dried, so you might need to set more concrete goals (write one sentence per minute for 15 minutes, etc.)

          I think the first step is to get something onto the page, not necessarily something useful – it’s about getting the ideas to start flowing.

    2. fposte*

      Well, read Bird by Bird; that’ll delay you further but it’s worthwhile.

      But also set specific and manageable goals for yourself. Not “I will write for eight hours”–either “I will lay out the structure of chapter three,” or “I will come up with an idea for the meeting between the shark and the cardinal,” or a very short interval where you can see the light on the other side when you start, like 15 minutes. I find it easier to nudge my brain into the work space by doing something before it, like a walk or housework, where I can begin to think about what work I will be achieving when I get to it. (I don’t do well with sudden transitions or spontaneity.)

        1. KM*

          I’ve read “On Writing” and liked it a lot. I’ll check out Bird by Bird (though I think I’ve heard it quoted somewhere before…).

    3. ExceptionToTheRule*

      When I was writing more and found myself that distracted, I’d unplug & write long hand for a while. The the act of transcribing for me would then get me focused enough to keep writing when I plugged back in.

      1. Poster formerly known as Jane Doe*

        +1! I’m in the design industry, and whenever I get stuck for a writing or drawing task, I pull out my trace or pad of paper and get it going again. In one drawing class I took, we had to spend the first 15 minutes of every class basically scribbling. Sometimes we were corny and scribbling “anger!” or “happiness!” and sometimes we were literally just scribbling, but it got things flowing and was kind of fun too. :)

    4. Arbynka*

      This might sound silly but I make schedule for my at home time. And post it on my little board. I set aside time for doing my homework and other work and stick with it. And I put a sign “keep out” on my door and close it so my kids know I am working.

      1. KM*

        You know, I mentioned that I wanted scheduled time to write/draw to my SO the other day. Like most things, he looked at me a little crookedly and then said, “Okay then.” But I bet it won’t be long until he’s scheduling time to do his tasks (+ then excitedly telling me how it was his original idea).

    5. LisaLyn*

      Ugh, I’m struggling with this myself. I think art/writing is so … I don’t want to say draining because it can be very energizing, but in general, at least with me, I have to go to some emotional places when I do it and I think that holds me back sometimes. I just don’t want to deal with those emotions — even ones like, “OMG, this sucks, I stink at this”, etc. You know?

      I do agree that agreeing to do it for a short amount of time, with no pressure except to be in your studio/at the computer/whatever helps. Usually once you take the pressure to produce or work at it for a LONG time, you can at least get yourself started.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      Sometimes writing is as good as the best thing you can think of, and other times it’s like doing dull homework for six months. My biggest procrastination issues happen on first drafts, especially if they aren’t flowing easily.

      When I have a hard time getting started, I remind myself that it’s okay to expect some throat-clearing before I get to what I really want to say. So many writers fear the blank page because they think whatever they put down has to be perfect. Hell no; that’s what revision and editing are for. :) So I’ll just blather on for a while and then go back and delete all the junk I started with (unless it comes out brilliant, hehe).

      This could also apply to art or crafts–a blank canvas, an unformed lump of clay, a ball of yarn and that scarf pattern, or an unfinished dollhouse (I have WAY too many of those!) can be as intimidating as a page.

      Another thing people do is not start because they think they don’t have time to finish. Like Colette said, just do a little bit each day. Set a time to do it and then do nothing but that. All those little bits of work will add up. :D

      1. KM*

        +1 The blank page thing is so, so true. I haven’t quite been able to get my perfectionism to shut up long enough get anything down on the pristine new pages. /sigh.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Make a short and doable list each night before bed.
      “tomorrow, I WILL do
      When you hit that point where the internet is calling you- tell yourself “I can look at the internet after I do my short list of daily goals.”
      The trick is keep it short and do it daily. It adds up over time.

    8. Frieda*

      YMMV, but have you tried a writing group or art class? I’m a person who needs external deadlines–if you are fine with deadlines at work, maybe you are too. I know that the quality of criticism you get at a writing group or art class may vary, but in the past I’ve found that even if the feedback isn’t the most helpful, just having someone else give you a deadline (and knowing that they are going to give you their opinion of your work) is very motivating.

      If the cost of such a class is prohibitive, could you start an informal group with friends or at a community center or something? It’s less about the prestige or credential of a class and more about having someone else hold you accountable for producing something.

  7. Meghan*

    Am I wr0ng to be annoyed by this?

    I had been temping at a company last year and was officially hired in Nov. 2012 in the role I had been occupying since March. I received a glowing annual review (my overall rating was significantly exceeds expectations) and thus, was very excited to see what my merit increase would be. My coworker, who started a few months before me, had a terrible review (overall rating was do not meet expectations).

    When it came to the raises, she got nearly a 5% raise. I got a 1.5% raise and was told I got prorated because I started so late in the year. Is this something to let go? I’m grateful I got a raise period, but it’s aggravating, especially since a couple days after we got our raise notices, I was told I’d be taking on the duties of another FT position, in addition to my own.

    1. Colette*

      It’s possible that you were hired high within your salary range, so there was less room to provide a raise – companies often have targets (“everyone has to be at least at the middle of the range”), so people who were already high get less and people who were low get more. In order to get you a bigger raise, you’d have to be promoted to the next band, and they don’t want to do that because you just started.

      However, 5% is a big raise for someone who doesn’t meet expectations.

      Are you wrong to be annoyed? No, but your choices are still the same: asking about it, getting over it, or looking elsewhere.

      1. Bean*

        I would speak to your boss about the possibility of giving you a higher raise due to your increased responsibility. Explain that you understand that your raise was prorated due to your late start, but just say that your increased responsibility should warrant a higher raise. I would not go for the full 5%, but even 3% would be a good increase.

    2. plain jane*

      IMO a raise shouldn’t be pro-rated, because it’s a number going forward. If they’re saying it is pro-rated, ask when it will next be up for discussion. If instead they meant that you were hired at basically market rate, and you haven’t had enough time to change the level that they see you at then that makes sense (but I wouldn’t have used the term pro-rated).

      A _bonus_ can be pro-rated without much comment (because it’s looking backward).

      If you are taking on more duties, this should be viewed like a promotion, and you should discuss a salary adjustment in light of it. And if your co-worker got 5% – was she paid less than you and they’re trying to even you up? (You can also ask what you need to do in the future to get a more aggressive raise and keep them updated on your progress toward those things.)

    3. BCW*

      Realistically you shouldn’t be annoyed, but in a practical sense, its hard not to. I say you shouldn’t because whatever her raise was really has no bearing on yours. I don’t know why you know what her review and raise was, but either way, its not really your concern. Plus she got a 5% raise, but I’d say the total salary as opposed to the raise is what matters. If she started off making 10% less than you were, then maybe its just to even it out a bit for the same work.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I worked for a company where people routinely LIED about their raises and evals. The odd part was that the people sounded so legit when they were talking about it. I fell for it.
      You might not want to put a lot of energy into this one just in case the whole thing is some sort of magical story.

      1. Windchime*

        Very good point. At my work, 5% is exemplary and is very tough to get except for people who exceed expectations in most categories. It would be very, very unusual for someone who did not meet expectations to get a 5% raise, so it’s possible that your co-worker isn’t being forthright with you.

  8. Chrissi*

    How do you prioritize your work? A little background for me – I have an assignment of about 130 companies that I work with at any given time (not large projects, just three or four hours worth of work per company, give or take). Of course you can’t work on all of them at once, but in order to meet deadlines, you have to be working and completing that work on an ongoing basis. To boot, as I have gained seniority, I also have quite a bit of other administrative type work that I have to accomplish (reviewing other employees work, helping create new materials for our job, etc.). It always feels like everything is a priority and I have a hard time choosing what to work on in any given day because there’s so much to choose from. I’ve heard a quote that says that if everything is a priority than nothing is a priority, and I agree with that, but I seem to be bad at setting them nonetheless.

    So how do you set your priorities and enforce them?

    1. [anon]*

      I make people give me deadlines (today, tomorrow, this week, if after this week, a hard date) so that I can perform task triage. If the projects and tasks really don’t have deadlines, or if there are competing deadlines, then I kind of take the strategy from ye olde standardized test days of yore: I do the easy things first, as quickly as I can, and then I move on to the more complicated ones, saving the hardest things that require the most of my attention for last.

    2. fposte*

      I’m always changing my strategies, but right now I have a weekly list of tasks (just a Word doc) that I can cross stuff off of, and a daily list that I tend to create the night before. I also finally put together a weekly timetable with activities blocked out, which is *really* helpful for me in making sure I get to some stuff that tends to fall by the wayside and in avoiding the “I could do any of four things and I’m paralyzed by that” problem.

      1. Ellie H.*

        That is so great. I have major problems prioritizing my to-do list and this is definitely a helpful way to think about it.

        By the way, I forget where it was (I think one of your US News & World Report articles maybe?) but I recall you recommended making a running to-do list, where you don’t make a new list each day but instead keep it on your computer and write down literally everything, no matter how big or small. I started doing this almost a month ago and it is enormously helpful. I number the items and I change them to a nice shade of blue when they are completed. I put the day in in each day, so I can see what may be outstanding that’s fallen off my radar, or so that I can take things off it if they have become irrelevant after a couple weeks. My job requires me to flit from task to task constantly and it’s really helpful not to lose track of longer-term projects. If I have a moment where I’m not sure what to do next, I look at the list and see if there are quick things I can take care of that will clear some items. Another idea I’m going to try to implement is to note deadlines for tasks where they exist.

        1. Lils*

          I do this also and I love it. Another thing I do is to tick off what I’ve done as I accomplish it. At the end of the day I move all my ticked-off things to another document that I can then use as a reference, documentation, and for my self-evals at the end of the year.

          1. Windchime*

            I used to do something similar to this, only using OneNote. Maybe I should try to get that going again; it was helpful back when I did it before.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I use the Outlook tasks function for this (I used to do sticky notes, but those suck). And I try to do stuff as it comes to me, instead of waiting until it piles up. There is a database I have to update but it’s only available the second half of the month. So if something happens that I need to update and I can’t get in there, I add that to my tasks and date them for the day it opens. Then I just click off each thing as I do it. Every email I get is flagged and categorized as Urgent, Attention, or Information. When it’s done, I click the flag and file it.

          If I’ve got three or four things at once, I figure out how much time it will take to finish before the deadline and work on each one a little bit every day until I’m done.

      2. Kate*

        I do this. I get so many household chores done when I’m livid because the husband isn’t doing ANYTHING.
        I have channeled the Dark Side successfully.

      3. Windchime*

        Very interesting! I bought “Getting Things Done” on my Kindle and got bored and distracted before I was done with the first couple of chapters. I must not have read enough, because it just seemed like a lot of introductory words without any actual action plans.

        I’m chronically disorganized.

    3. PragmaticRed*

      I have similar challenges! I’ve started using my goals document as a guideline.

      Each Monday, I open my goals document, put in what I accomplished last week, and use that as a guideline to decide what I want to get done by Friday.

      I use that to write a long to-do list and then dive in to the biggest tasks first. (I am more productive in the mornings, so I try to save the administrative stuff for the afternoons.) I feel like setting priorities once at the beginning of the week gives me the option to have some daily variety and still feel like I’m making progress. (Plus, making the decisions once takes some of the guesswork out of my daily routine.)

    4. Jules*

      I would start by listing out my task list/project list.
      Next I break it by urgent/important.
      Finally arrange them as scheduled.
      I do this daily before starting work or I might just get overwhelmed.

  9. Amanda*

    Is there a rule against posting links here? I posted on from an article I thought was interesting when the thread opened up and it still says “comment awaiting moderation.”

      1. Elizabeth*

        Yup, it’s to prevent the kind of spam comments you sometimes see on other blogs. You know the type – “Great article. This was so interesting. Check out my site too!” Then it has a link to either a “blog” that only exists to generate revenue from the multitudes of ads all over it, or to a retail site selling something totally unrelated to the blog where the comment was posted. Or, more rarely but not unheard of, to a site that tries to install a virus on your computer…

  10. no names*

    I took a temp position in April and accepted it on a permanent basis in June. It pays very poorly but everything else about it (type of work, location, work-life balance) is pretty solid. The pay is a big sticking point though (especially as I had a baby this year, and those critters are expensive even if you keep ’em clothed in secondhand), and there’s no room for growth. It’s a tiny organization.

    When I accepted the position in June I agreed that I could stay through an event in the back half of 2014, and I stopped looking for other work with no plans to resume until early-to-mid 2014. Only a friend of a friend reached out with a “we’re hiring and this sounds OMG JUST LIKE YOU” and suddenly I find myself with an interview next week.

    I’ll do what I have to do for myself and my career, and if this other position is a good fit and a good salary and all those things are good and I get an offer I will take it. But I still feel like a rat. And the head honchos here will take it very, VERY personally when I leave, doubly so if that’s before 2015. Argh.

    1. A Teacher*

      I think its your intention behind it, if you sincerely meant to stay there through 2015 then that’s what you said. Life changes, in a snap for some of us and ultimately you have to do what is best for you and your child not what makes your boss the happiest. They will find someone else and you will be able to move on.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Agreed. You can present it as “This opportunity fell into my lap, and I just couldn’t say no to $X,000 more a year when I’ve got a kid to raise.”

        If they freak out about it, they ought to pay you the $X,000 or else shut up.

        1. Poster formerly known as Jane Doe*

          I just went through something similar, although instead of saying I would stay through a certain date, I had just gotten an important promotion, and the idea that my employment was long term was sort of implied when I accepted it.

          But then the opportunity happened. I begged AAM readers to absolve me, and I spent weeks feeling horribly guilty, and frightened of telling the partners who I knew would take it insanely personally.

          And then I took the job and told the partners. One was upset but came around, the rest all told me that they’d welcome me back at any time, no matter what.

          So I spent 2 months feeling horribly guilty and losing sleep when it turns out I didn’t have to. I know it’s hard, but I wish I had spent less energy worrying about things that hadn’t happened yet, because in the end, they didn’t happen at all!

    2. Elizabeth West*

      This is business; it’s not personal. They’ll survive without you, even if they don’t think they will. You are doing what is best for you and your family; if they don’t get that, they can go jump in the lake. I hope the other position is exactly what you want.

    3. Jazzy Red*

      I had to do this twice. Both times, I had said that I planned to stay for a long time, then a much better job sort of dropped in my lap. It’s not easy (especially if you grew up with “your word is your bond”), but you have to do what’s best for you. AdAgencyChick’s comment is great. Don’t say much more than that.

      Your company will survive without you.

  11. Emsz*

    In May of last year, I was officially diagnosed with Asperger’s. At that time I’d been working at my current part-time job for six months. I was still coming to grips with the diagnosis, although I was relieved, and I didn’t tell people other than my parents for a long time.

    I am still struggling with whether I should tell my boss/colleagues at the job I am now, and whether I should tell my future bosses at all. Are there people who have experience with this who could give me some tips? Or people who have some tips in general?

    1. Anonymous*

      I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but I’d hazard a guess that you’re doing yourself more damage by not letting them know so they can make accommodations for you if necessary.

    2. LadyTL*

      I’ve found it to be a toss up for if it helps or hurts. It honestly depends on the type of person you are working with. Some people ignore that you said you have it, others listen and still other then act like you can’t do anything anymore. I tend to skew towards telling people though if only because it does make things easier with manager and coworkers who listen to what I say about it.

    3. Payroll Lady*

      My son has Asperger’s and he generally does mention it to his boss/co-workers, but in a casual sort of way. He does this just as a head’s up that he may have a bad day, and what may seem minimal to some, can be a major catastrophe for him, so he will need to just walk away. It seems to be working for him.

    4. Rayner*

      I can’t tell you whether or not to tell but there are some pros and cons to both sides.

      The biggest one for me is that “would telling get me labelled in a negative way?’ As in, does your office appear to treat people with disabilities fairly? Does it feel like your boss would be supportive of you in a different way/treat you the same/treat you worse because you’re not neurotypical? Do you think that it would ease your job’s demands on you in some ways or do you think people wouldn’t accommodate you?*

      *Illegally, but even so.

      Those are real questions to consider but telling people can also help them to make adjustments for you – e.g. different paper, change of lighting, using ADA things etc. It can also make people more understanding about, for example, the way you conduct conversations or prefer email as opposed to the phone as related to your condition rather than just being awkward.*

      *IDK if these are the same things for you, but they’re just examples.

      I would only tell if I could be sure that I would be treated fairly and be able to get any accommodations that I needed, in order to protect myself and to make my own life easier. But that’s me.

    5. TL*

      If you think it’s impacting your relationships at work and you need their patience while you work through and/or you have specific tips that will make it easier for you to relate to them, sure. (If you have a certain tic that might be seen as weird, for instance, I would give them a head’s up, or if you boss has had feedback for you that directly or indirectly relates.)

      But if you don’t feel Asperger’s is impacting your work/work relationships at all, then I would say it’s not necessary and depends only on how comfortable you are with letting them know.

      1. Ellie H.*

        I agree. I am no kind of expert whatsoever, but as a layperson, if it were me in the situation, or if I were advising a friend of mine, I would first try to figure out whether or not the Asperger’s has a significant impact on my performance or interactions at work.

        If it’s hard for you to figure out whether or not Asperger’s has had a negative impact on workplace situations (or other kinds of situations) in the past, maybe you could ask a friend who is aware of your diagnosis. For example by describing a few scenarios when interacting with other people at work, or anything else at work, didn’t seem to achieve the results you expected and see if your friend thinks that if the other person had been aware you had Asperger’s, it would have improved the outcome.

        A good book that comments on some of the difficulties managing work with Asperger’s is “The Journal of Best Practices” by David Finch (maybe you’ve already read it though).

      2. Elizabeth West*

        This is very well said. I don’t have a problem letting people know I have a learning disability–it takes far too much energy to hide it, especially when I’m dealing with numbers and need some help. But that doesn’t mean I tell EVERYONE–only people I think will help me without treating me like I’m weird or something. For those people, I just say I have trouble with math, because a lot of people don’t like it and tend to react more sympathetically than if I use the word “disability.” It’s a judgment call and it varies from situation to situation.

    6. NewGirlinTown*

      While I am not dealing with Aspergers, I am managing Crohns-colitis.

      I don’t mention my illness unless necessary, because it’s my personal business. I had a good rapport with my last boss, and she was very flexible with my schedule because she knew of my illness. However, the vast majority of my co-workers were completely unaware.

      Unless your Aspergers is impacting your job or you feel that you require additional accommodation, I don’t see why you would need to mention it.

  12. JustFired*

    So, I’ve been told I’m going to be fired, but that I can stay a couple weeks. Is this normal? It feels so awkward to be here.

    1. louise*

      Not normal in my experience, but I would ask my manager what her highest priorities are for my remaining time, i.e. crafting a handbook for the position? wrapping up a particular project? cleaning up some relevant files? just doing my normal duties as if nothing changed? and then focus on that. They may decide they don’t want to give you as long as they first said, too, so be prepared in case they cut you short.

      1. JustFired*

        I do have a couple projects that need finishing up, but it seems I’m just supposed to continue as usual. My boss even said to come as go as needed for interviews, doctor appointments, etc. I guess I should just count myself lucky for having some notice.

        I’m trying to stay upbeat, but I just don’t know what I should do next. AaM is great for workplace questions, but is there a blog/other resource that anyone here has used to help decide on a career path?

    2. Bryan*

      Did they give you a reason? Now would be a good time to figure out what type of reference you can get. At least they gave you a couple weeks more of pay while you start your job hunt.

      Also I’m sorry to hear you were fired. It happened to me earlier this year for the first time and it sucks.

      1. JustFired*

        Thank you.

        They did give me a reason and said this has nothing to do with my performance, just that I was showing that I didn’t want to be there anymore. My boss told me that if I got my life together and figured out that this is the field I want to be in, he would hire me back in a couple of months.

        I was recently diagnosed with ADHD (but haven’t tried medication yet) and I can’t help but think that I could’ve avoided this if I had gotten evaluated earlier. :(

        1. LCL*

          Your performance is good but they are letting you go for vague “not-fitting-in” reasons? If you can find another job you are better off not working there. I am sorry this happened.

          In the meantime, meet with your manager ASAP to talk about getting a good reference, severance pay, cashing out your leave if any, what will happen with your medical, when and how to get your final check, etc. You may especially benefit from writing up all these questions and bringing the list to your meeting. Be professional.

        2. HR Lady*

          To JustFired: a million years ago I was fired (albeit very nicely) just a day before or after I was diagnosed with ADHD (I can’t remember if it was before or after). I actually took it as a piece of confirmation that my ADHD diagnosis was valid, and that I did need medication & treatment. I’ve been on medication since then and never got fired again :). Best of luck to you.

  13. Anonymous*

    Does anyone have any tips for how to answer the question “What do you do?”/”But what exactly is that?”. My job is quite a vague title and I have difficulty defining exactly what I do when people I don’t work with ask (sometimes it’s difficult when people I work with ask too) because if you’re not in the company none of the words mean anything.

    Alongside this I haven’t been in my job long but I’ve got very good reviews from my manager but I honestly don’t feel like I do anything of any importance (“Paper pusher” was an insult once thrown at me). I’m being told I add value to the organisation but in the real world none of that seems important. I don’t create, market or sell anything, I exist to provide information to management, and I can’t answer the question “Why do they need you?” because the honest answer is I don’t know.

    1. LisaLyn*

      I’m in IT but what I do doesn’t even translate well to other techies, so I feel your pain.

      However, providing information to management … Heck, there has to be good ways to say that! You compile information? You synthesize information for executive consumption? Seriously, it sounds important to me. I wish we had somebody like that where I am!

    2. ExceptionToTheRule*

      A lot of people have jobs like that. They aren’t “insurance agent” or “lawyer” or “doctor” – they have jobs that make companies actually run and many people don’t know those jobs actually exist. So, don’t feel like you’re alone on this. Don’t get down because other people don’t see your value. Your boss does & that’s what’s important.

      I try to break things down to their very base level for people who only have a vague idea that there’s more to what they see on their TV news than just the reporter and the pictures.

      At the very core of my job, I tell people what to do. In reality it’s much more complicated than that, so I try to compare it to something that’s more visible to society. “Like an symphony conductor or an air traffic controller” and then they tend to be satisfied. It’s a variation on an elevator pitch.

      1. Cat*

        Heh, actually a lot of lawyers have that problem too, at least if you can’t tell people you’re a “real lawyer like they say on TV.”

        1. littlemoose*

          Yep. I never go to court and don’t practice law in the commonly known sense. I do have a quick, one- to two-sentence description of what I do, just giving the very basics, and that usually satisfies casual inquirers.

    3. periwinkle*

      “My title is [insert vague non-descriptive title here]. I make sure the organization’s management has the information necessary to make the right strategic decisions.”

      1. Rayner*

        But even that’s not particularly clear.

        I’d say, “My title is [vague title]. It’s in the Accounts department, and I co-ordinate X with departments Y and Z about A, B, and C. My objectives are H, J, K.”

        1. Anonymous*

          I’m really not that articulate. Also, people’s eyes tend to glaze over when I speak. I frustrate myself just thinking about it :(

          1. fposte*

            You don’t have to be articulate–this is something you have pre-prepared as a go-to. “I work with databases in the teapot industry” or “I work with databases over in spout design.” Think of it as a picture caption. People really don’t need an explanation–they’re making polite conversation, or trying to figure out if you’re that person from accounting.

        2. Jen in RO*

          In my opinion, periwinkle’s description was better. Corporate departments tend to have non-self-explanatory titles, so referring to them might be even more confusing. And, to me, telling someone about your objectives is too much corporate-talk.

          1. Jen in RO*

            After reading fposte’s reply I need to clarify that my answer refers to explaining your job to friends, not coworkers. It just occurred to me that Rayner might be taking about coworkers.

            1. Rayner*

              Yeah, I was talking about co-workers or to a new manager/interviewer etc, where detail is important e.g. someone wants to know where you sit in a particular process.

        3. Jazzy Red*

          OK, so who needs to know every detail of your job? And why do you let them judge you?

          I’ve done clerical, secretarial, and administrative work my whole adult life. People would be bored to death hearing the details of my job, and it’s really none of their business. But those of us who work “behind the scenes” know that the place would fall apart without us.

          If you’re earning money legally and paying your taxes, that’s all anyone needs to know.

    4. fposte*

      I can’t tell whether you’re talking about describing your job socially or to people in the organization who don’t work with you. I have a vague-ish job, and I have different explanations for different scenarios. Where are you getting the information, for instance? “I cover research journals so that management knows about relevant findings” is a fine elevator description.

      But I also think you sound kind of demoralized about your value, and that may be what you’re really struggling with. (I work in a university, and every single person here is a paper-pusher–so what?) Do you like what you do? Do you like what the organization does enough to find satisfaction in being a part of it even if you weren’t the one stepping on the moon? Have you felt more valuable elsewhere or do you tend to suffer from impostor syndrome generally?

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I found that it made a huge difference in how I answered this question when I was at Exjob vs. Newjob. When Exjob started to slowly devolve into a living nightmare, I would answer as generally as possible and I didn’t even want to say the name of the company. “I work in a manufacturing office.”

        Now I say “I’m a departmental admin at [Company].” And I say it with pride, because I like this job.

      2. Anonymous*

        I’m talking socially, at work I’m pretty much known as “I don’t know what to do, I’ll go and talk to her”.

        I love certain parts of my job but I’m really not used to enjoying work (the previous three years or so I was fairly unhappy in my job) so I feel like I’m cheating my boss and company by spending time on work I enjoy.

        The last time I tried to explain it someone said “Oh so you’re admin”, which felt like I was being judged on my age and gender. While it’s an administrative post, it’s not what you’d call admin.

        I really need an “elevator speech” but I get myself tied in knots just trying to explain to myself what I do because I cover so many small bits and pieces that I feel like I’ll never be able to explain to anyone else.

        1. fposte*

          This might be a local/national culture thing, but I don’t see admin as being gendered or “aged,” and I don’t think covering a lot of bits and pieces makes it not admin. I wonder if you’re getting a little bogged down in trying to give people a clear picture of your job, when the truth is that most of us have only the dimmest grasp of what anybody does in a day’s work. If you have a reason to hate the term “admin,” you can use another short one, but mostly people don’t want the detailed understanding of the bits and pieces. We’re past the Richard Scarry world where we were all firefighters or bakers or something recognizable, and I think most people get that. Is it that you’re concerned about framing your job so it conveys you in a way that matters to you? That’s fair enough, but it really isn’t going to immediately translate to other people anyway, so I don’t think it’s a disservice to you to be considered something broader than what you do–most of us are.

        2. Lucy*

          You might find it helpful to describe your job not in the tasks you do but role you fill/problem you solve.

          “at work I’m pretty much known as “I don’t know what to do, I’ll go and talk to her”.” is actually a very descriptive statement. I know more about your role from that sentence than I would from your title.

          Unless your field is particularly interesting, people really don’t want to hear the nitty gritty.

    5. Colette*

      I used to have a job I couldn’t explain in less than 10 minutes (I worked on a very small part of a machine that is a small part of telephone networks), and it’s OK to say “oh, it’s complicated” if you don’t want to get into it.

      I agree with fposte, though, that maybe what you really need is to understand for yourself why your job is important.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      “I herd cats.”

      If you don’t feel comfy with humor then go with what you said here “I provide information to management.”

      I had a job where my tasks changed almost daily. People had a tough time envisioning my work environment, forget about figuring out what I did for a living. In this case, my default answer was to talk about today’s (or this week’s) project. “Well currently, I am sorting through widgets to find gadgets. I have a crew of people helping me do that.” Sometimes the conversation would digress and I would get off the hook that way.

      I got to the point where I really did not want to talk about my job much. It was just too hard to describe.

      You could just vaguely respond by saying “I am enjoying parts of my job and the boss thinks I am doing well.”

      1. Windchime*

        I have a fancier title these days, but I still tell people ( outside of work) that I am a programmer because that’s still basically what I do and, as others have mentioned, I don’t think that anyone is really interested in the nuts-and-bolts and daily tasks of my job.

        The job title that used to confuse me was Project Manager. It sounded like a made-up thing, until I started actually working with some Project Managers and realized how complicated and difficult a job it can be!

  14. Brett*

    So I posted a while back about a compensation study that our organization was going through to adjust salaries (I think under a different handle, but it was me). I have an IS position where I am pretty undercompensated versus the industry right now (I would need about a 50% raise to reach median).

    Well, earlier in the month the budget came out with a 3% increase in wages (including new positions). So, I already knew that there probably would not be any dramatic increases in salary. Two weeks ago, my boss’s boss’s boss (who had already been briefed on the compensation study) randomly told me that I was one of the people he could least afford to lose in the department. Then yesterday, the agency CIO told me without prompting that he was fed up with the compensation study because, “The purpose seems to be to justify paying more to your replacement after you quit in disgust.”

    I’m guessing these are bad signs? The compensation study was my only option to get anything resembling a merit raise.

    1. LisaLyn*

      Yeah … We are sort of in that position where I am. They won’t give incumbents decent raises, but will pay outsiders tons more once the people already here leave. I know that sometimes that practice is defended with “Oh, they need fresh blood”, “people who are already there are so stuck in their ways”, but I don’t buy it.

      But, yeah, sadly, I would have to agree that it doesn’t sound good for your particular position. Have you thought about moving on?

    2. Malissa*

      I read the situation as you’ve got two frustrated bosses that figure they are going to lose you once they figure out what you are worth. While you may not get up to market rate, I do think you may end up with a good raise.

    3. AB*

      Brett, is there a solid reason why you aren’t looking for another job at this point? It looks like your company values you, but not enough to “fight” to bring your salary to a reasonable level.

      Sometimes, there’s not much to do but to go work elsewhere, if the company can’t match compensation because the rule is you can’t give an employee more than X% raise (but you can hire a replacement for double their salary — sigh). Some of my friends had to be laid off in order to go to a better paying job, because they couldn’t make themselves leave even knowing they were under paid, but they are all very happy in the new positions, and I think it’s healthier to leave voluntarily for a better offer. If you don’t do something, like lining up offers from competitors, you’ll be just telling your company that you are willing to work for much less than market value, and that will make it extremely hard for you to get any substantial raise in the future. Good luck!

      1. Brett*

        Yes, I am bound by a complicated revolving door ordinance (not a non-compete) that creates legal repercussions for any company that hires me away. Similar the restrictions on merit raises also come out of legislation rather than just company rule. When I say the compensation study was my only option to get a merit raise, I truly mean it was my _only_ option. (And I guess it is not really a merit raise, since it has no basis in my job performance, only my job duties.)

        I can work secondary employment with permission, which I do now (and get paid double my primary job rate). I actually turned in my latest secondary employment application last month, so that might be linked to these comments from higher ups too.

        1. Frieda*

          Well if you can’t leave because of your employment contract, what motivation do they have to give you a raise? Companies do not pay people’s salaries (or give raises) out of the goodness of their hearts. They pay specific salaries as a retainment strategy. If they do not need to pay you more to keep you there, why would they?

          I am not defending them and I totally agree that it’s BS for them to take advantage of you like this. But the reality at most companies is that an employee’s salary is just another business expense, so if you are going to ask for a raise, you need to make a business case for it; what are the benefits to them to give you a raise, not just what the benefits are to you.

  15. LivelyDiscussion*

    I’m asking this question for a good friend of mine.

    She’s been in job for five years now that she hates. She was put on probation a couple of years ago, not really due to her quality of work, but more so because she was not a “cultural fit” for the company. It was a demoralizing experience for her, and I encouraged her to look for another job, as did her organization.

    Fast forward to three years later. She claims that she can’t find a job, but I know for a fact that she isn’t applying for anything. I’ve tried to encourage and help her (even offering to help her make connections at companies she’s really interested in working for), but she doesn’t want any “help.” She wants to be able to earn a job based on her own merits, which I respect, but I know that it takes more than a great resume to get a job these days.

    (I guess I should mention that she found her current job through a friend, who worked for the company. The company was in dire need of her position and the friend basically jumped through hoops to help her get hired.)

    I’ve tried to be encouraging, I’ve tried “tough love,” everything – but nothing seems to stick with her. I’m trying to be helpful and kind, but honestly, I have little sympathy for people who don’t want to help themselves.

    1. fposte*

      See Colette’s response above–you can’t make people do what you think they should do, so I’d recommend accepting that she’s not interested in doing things your way.

      I do think, though, that you can redirect her on the venting if that’s what’s really chafing you, whether it be a simple acknowledgment that you two see the work situation really differently so you’d like to stick to other topics, or a compassionate question like “You’ve seemed unhappy there for a while but you’ve seemed reluctant to take real action about changing–is there something else going on?”

      But it’s also good to accept that she might be in the same position even if she took your advice, and that the way it would be for you isn’t the way it is for her. Make the friendship be about something else than the job for a while.

      1. Colette*

        Totally agree – focus on other things and let her own her job hunt.

        If she insists on venting about it, something like “Oh, how do you plan to handle that?” gets you out of the role of trying to help her.

        1. Editor*

          Some people really hate searching for and applying for jobs. It’s too bad the recruiting business has deteriorated so much, because there are people who really need it.

          If the friend complains about the job and you don’t want to try what fposte and Colette have suggested, you’re just going to have to endure the complaining. The people I know who’ve really hated job hunting ended up finding permanent jobs through temping, but they had been laid off.

          1. LivelyDiscussion*

            Thanks everyone for the feedback. I really like the “How do you plan on handling that?” response – I’ll be using that this weekend. :)

            I guess what bothers me so much is that she has repeatedly asked me for help with job hunting. I give her ideas/tactics and she never implements them.

            On a friend level, I just hate to see her struggle and go to a job she hates every day. :(

            1. Not So NewReader*

              “Friend, I hate seeing you struggle so hard and going to a job that you hate is just eating you up inside. I can see it. I have given you some of my better ideas and strategies, I really don’t know how else I can help you. I think you need to broaden the group of people you discuss this with because I am not sure I am of much help. “

    2. Once a good listener*

      I’ve been guilty of throwing the odd jolly pity party myself, especially when I was younger. My nearest and dearest were merciless about giving me back ownership of the problem when they’d had enough. “What are you going to do about it?” “What do you think I can do about it?” Ect. I hated that, so when I got older I felt obliged to be the good listener, until I wound up in a similar situation to yours. The friend in question is now very much an ex friend, having shafted me on a professional matter and then cried poor me.

      In the aftermath I realized that if someone can potentially leave a situation without tangible risk to themselves and won’t, they’re getting something out of it. It may be the feeling of being safe from change, it may be the feeling of being martyred and misunderstood, it may be not having to disturb their family or step out of their role, it may be the claim on other peoples’ attention or the get out of jail free card for bad behaviour. But the person stuck in the role of sympathetic ear gets only the negativity. Me, I’m done, and my relationships are much better ones.

    3. Marina*

      I’d go with either

      1) bluntness. “Hey, friend, you say you want a new job but you’re not applying to new jobs. Why are you doing that?”


      2) listening to what she does, not what she says. She says she wants to leave, but her actions say that she wants to vent about it, but stay. That’s a reasonable choice. You can either listen to her vent, remembering that’s all it is, or change the subject whenever her job comes up.

  16. louise*

    I’m a new manager of a tiny retail boutique in a small town. I have one employee who was hired two days after I started. I did not interview or offer the job to him–the owner handled all of that.

    This man started out with strong enthusiasm, but because I only had a 2 day head-start on him, I didn’t have all the procedures in place for how I’d like to handle things. It’s becoming apparent a few months later that he really enjoyed the casual, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach of those early days (a kind of chaos I can’t live with!!) and is now bristling with each procedure I get ironed out (things like how to keep the paperwork on deposits for special order items, how to receive payments upon delivery, etc — things that *definitely* must be done the same way each time to keep the books organized.)

    When I say “bristles,” I mean that his face changes–like he checks out or something–and he’ll respond with “Okay, boss” or a dismissive “Yeah, yeah, I get it” but then he does whatever I ask either half-way or completely right 1 time and then never again.

    I’m a huge fan of written protocols, so I’ve also tried typing up some instructions (which the owner wants anyway so that there is a handbook of how things are handled) and leaving those with him. He’s not a fan of that, either and I suspect his reading comprehension skills are very low based on a few things he’s said (and his inability to follow the written instructions).

    We’ve also got soft skills issues — things that I just know from 10+ years in office settings, like good phone manners, seem to elude him. Suggesting other ways of handling a situation has been met with him giving (extremely long) explanations of why he couldn’t do that/why he did what he did/etc. Oh–and basic professionalism isn’t his strong suit, either: he carries around a package of sunflower seeds at all times and keeps an empty water bottle or a red solo cup with him to spit the seeds in. In the shop. While customers are shopping. Super gross.

    There are a handful of things he does well, but frankly, I can find other people who do those things well *plus* what I need. So how do I explain better what I need from him and that these things are non-negotiable if he wants to stay employed here? He has definitely shown that he takes all criticism very personally and the owner has told me several times that she really likes him, but will defer to me if I’m convinced he won’t work out. I’m ready to give up on him but don’t feel like that’s fair without giving him more obvious instructions.

    Can anyone give me suggestions? Actual scripts of what to say are quite welcome!

    1. fposte*

      Dude. He’s spitting in your store. That’s not a gentle, thoughtfully worded conversation–that’s an immediate “Hey, Bob,” (sorry, Bob, you really do always get into trouble) “that’s not acceptable on store premises. No more sunflower seeds.”

      The problem here is that since you haven’t intervened on stuff before you’ve got a laundry list now, so it’s going to be a lot to hit him with. The seeds thing has to be stopped now in its own right; for the conversation, I might talk about the response to feedback as the key issue, using that as a window on the improvements you need to have him make to see if he’s able to change his approach to accept coaching and then talk about the stuff you’d like to coach him on.

      But it just sounds like a bad fit in this situation, so I’d basically treat this as a PIP and be specific about improvements and dates.

      1. louise*

        Yes! It is a laundry list. To further complicate it, I’m not in the shop at the same time as him. I’m set up as hourly and the owner is only willing to pay for the number of hours the shop is open–therefore, there can be very little overlap of my full-time and his part-time. So, I feel like I drop and run, and then I can’t follow up until I find the mistake again the next time I’m in, but then have to wait until he’s in again to have another conversation…ugh.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, if he’s unsupervised most of the time this is going to be tough; defensive and inflexible people like that are going to be very tempted to fall into their old ways if nobody is watching. Do you have the full backing of the owner if you choose to let him go, and do you get to do the hiring next time?

          1. louise*

            I need to have another discussion with her to ensure I have her full backing. Yes, I would get to do the hiring–and I would really like to vet better.

    2. Malissa*

      You have two issues here. One is that you aren’t around to properly manage Bob. This needs to be addresses with the owners. As in until you get Bob to a place where you like how he’s working you need to spend a few more hours with him.
      The second issue is you now have a list of things to address with Bob. Bob is super defensive so, I’d pick one thing at a time to work on. Put the work things first. Paperwork and the bones of the operation should be first. Yeah, you may be able to get him to stop spitting seeds, but what good is that if he can’t get a deposit straight? Besides if you concentrate on the big things first he’ll either quit or get the message and the little things will become much easier.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This. Definitely get that money under control. This guy can cause months of clean up work- trying to sort through all his errors.

        As far as the spitting tell him that needs to stop immediately. Foods and beverages can be consumed on breaks and only in the break area. Tell him that if health code inspectors see this he will be fired on the spot. No more food/drinks in front of the customers.

        Basically, you start the whole conversation by saying “Bob, we were both new employees at the same time, so things were kind of casual. But the owner hired me to set up procedures and standards. So this is what I am working on. Expect many changes to be happening over the next few weeks. I would like to start going over some of those changes right now. These will be permanent changes and you’ll be expect to be using these procedures and standards all the time.”

    3. A Bug!*

      I’ve had a coworker similar to your employee. She was completely uninterested in following instructions. She only wanted to do what she wanted to do, how she wanted to do it, even if it was harmful to the business’s needs. She had a terrible attitude, and her tasks were always done wrong, if they were done at all. And never particularly bothered about it when brought to her attention.

      Ultimately, the only solution was to fire her. I hope you’re able to resolve your issue some other way, of course.

    4. Lily*

      Can many of the items be summarized together as “you need to follow my instructions”? If you’ve got procedures written down, it would be easiest to start with those. Add check boxes or a line where he can add his initials as he has done each step. Go through the procedure with him line by line. Encourage him to add his own notes. Tell him to report back when he has finished. Check his work. Yes, you will be micro-managing but it sounds like he may need it; either his reading comprehension or his memory may be a problem. He may improve quickly. If his attitude is the problem, then you’ll catch him lying pretty soon and will have a good case for firing.

  17. Nikki T*

    Hi, my name is Nikki and I always forget what I needed by the time the open thread rolls around.
    But I show up anyway, because it’s a nice place to hang out.

    That is all.

    1. Amanda*

      Ha! That’s happened to me too. Or else I’ll have a really pressing question I can’t wait to ask and I’ll be away when the thread opens…and by the time I get back there’s 300+ replies and my questions gets swallowed.

  18. ALex*

    Does anyone have any experience/opinions on disclosing non-visible disabilities to employers?

    I would love to hear from any supervisors or managers especially, as I am pretty young, and entry level.

    Some background: I am an administrative assistant but I have a ADHD coupled with a learning disability. At times, it impacts my ability to do my job but I fear that if I explain this to my manager or to the Office Manager who handles HR that I will soon be terminated. My fear is that they will make assumptions about my disability’s influence on my performance and choose to replace me.

    This is my first job and I’m still figuring out how to manage my ADHD within an office environment, 9 to 5 weekday work schedule. In the past I have worked in restaurants and was a full-time student so I don’t have experience managing my symptoms in the “real world.”

    Any thoughts?

    1. Kacie*

      I had a staff member with a learning disability (not ADHD). She told me after we were working together for a few weeks. Her email spelling and grammar were off. We offered her opportunities to take classes on business writing, etc. Life got in the way, and I don’t think she actually took us up on it.

      If she had to send an email to a really large group or administration, she’d often ask me to take a look at it to make sure it wasn’t completely off.

      I would say to disclose it if you have concerns that it will directly affect your work. And then (hopefully) your administration will do its best to accommodate you as needed. If you don’t say anything, they can’t help you out.

    2. Anon*

      I guess my question is why do you think they would fire you upon learning this information? Is the work environment that hostile? Or are you just assuming that this would happen, like a worst case scenario type of thing?

      If you feel comfortable with your manager, then do mention it. Talk about the strategies you’ve put in place and ways that she can help you stay on task.

      If I noticed things like that and called you on the carpet for it only to find out that you’d been struggling with dealing with ADHD and assorted symptoms, I’d be ticked…that you hadn’t told me earlier.

      If you don’t, then you need to do a lot of work on your own. Figure out your coping strategies and triggers. Find a way that works best for you to stay on top of things.

      1. ALex*

        You guys make some good points! I will consider things from my managers perspective in that light.

        I assumed that they might fire me (not immediately in an obvious way but maybe after a few weeks) because they might assume I cannot perform the essential functions of the job. On the surface, people who suffer from ADHD do not seem like they would be a good fit for an administrative position because thier problems with disorganization, poor communication, and inability or difficulty with multi-tasking, etc. So why would they accommodate me when they can just hire someone who doesn’t have ADHD?

        Since I’ve been here (only 10 months) 2 people have been fired and I’ve heard stories about those who were fired in the past and there are a lot so it sounds like there is no employee development to speak of and they solve those types of problems by replacing people :\

        1. Anon*

          Please keep an open mind regarding the firings you have heard about. odds are you aren’t hearing the details of the firing from the people who would know them (HR/Managers), so it’s probably a lot of “I heard that…”. If you are hearing details from HR, I’d run far away. Remember people do get fired for legit reasons.

        2. Stryker*

          I’ve been at my temp job for, oh, 4 months and we’ve had at LEAST 10 people walk out or quit. I’m shaking in my boots, frankly.

    3. Marina*

      If you tell them, ask for specific accommodations. “Go easy on me if I make mistakes” is not specific enough, but something like Kacie’s example of asking another staff member to look over important emails before they’re sent out would work. I don’t know what might help you best, but it could be things like changes to the work environment (quieter?), length of deadlines, that sort of thing.

      1. Lucy*

        This is really important.

        You shouldn’t be asking to be held to a lower standard because of your ADHD. You should be asking for specific accommodations so that you can excel in your position.

        I think one challenge is that you don’t know what those accommodations are. You are young, and may not have had the trial and error that allows you to find what works for you.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      All these thoughts and suggestions are good ones, but you have to let go of the fear or it will paralyze you. You know best what your strengths and weaknesses are, so do what you can to identify, accommodate, and control them. If you need to disclose because something is difficult, then you can already show that you’ve taken charge of the rest of your job.

      Multitasking is a myth, by the way. People can really only focus on one thing at a time. The trick is not to get scattered when they all happen at once. Good triage helps with this; you can prioritize what gets attention first and then deal with that before the rest.

      If you already know what your daily and weekly responsibilities are, you can triage ahead of time. Make policies for yourself, too: “If X, Y, and Z happen, handle Y first, because that deadline is always shorter.”

  19. Anon for this one*

    I need your advice AAM readers! Should I rent or buy?!

    I’ve never been able to afford rent in the NYC area (including outer boroughs, at least not without roommates–and my having an annoying small dog makes roommates untenable), but I just found out that I can afford (??) to buy a one bedroom co-op in the suburbs where I’ve been living with my family. I’m torn, because:
    a) I’ve never lived on my own before (excluding study abroads, which I don’t count), so I don’t know what expenses I’d be facing a month;
    b) everybody keeps insisting I’ll “miss not being in the city” if I stay in the suburbs and end up regretting the buy;
    c) What if I’m underestimating my costs and I end up buying too much house for my income! Lenders I’ve talked to have quoted loans that are different sometimes by 100K, and this is confusing!

    Details: I work in NYC (make about 40K a year), and I’ve been living with my family up in the county closest to the city for the last couple of years. I have perfect credit, zero debt, and a sizable downpayment saved up. I’ve only been looking at co-op’s and condo’s, and averaging up the loan quotes I got from the lenders I spoke to, I think (???) my budget is $125-175K.

    Any advice or tips people in similar boats can send me?

      1. MousyNon*

        I want to move out of mom’s house (desperately), and can’t afford to rent (ironic, I know). Rent on studios and one bedrooms are really high in neighborhoods that don’t completely suck (i.e. that I can walk my dog safely late at night), where as if I buy, my mortgage (because my credit is so good) payments would be pretty low, so I could conceivably afford to pay mortgage plus a maintenance fee (I hope!).

        1. Elysian*

          I’m not an expert, but I would be really skeptical that your mortgage payments + taxes + maintence costs + utilities + homeowners insurance is going to be cheaper than renting, even if you have good credit. Good credit just gets you a low interest rate.

          I’m not saying its not possible, but I would examine this claim really, really critically.

          Have you looked at the NY Times rent v buy calculator? I think its one of the best out there for this purpose.

          1. MousyNon*

            I did! It told me buying is better after 2 years (and that’s at least as long as I would stay somewhere).

            The median rent in Brooklyn, on the other hand (where everyone tells me I should rent) is at about $3K. My monthly housing budget is $1100 not including utilities (if my math is right, fingers crossed). Even if I look only for dog-friendly studio apartments, I’ve been able to find nothing in my price range. I’d need to have a roommate, and with my dog (cute, but satan), that’s just not reasonable (not to mention I don’t really have alot of patience and don’t think I’d get on with roomates).

            On the other hand, an approximately $500 mortgage payment, plus $600 or so in maintenance fees (co-op’s roll property taxes into the maintenance fees, fyi), seems to put me right on the money.

            I dunno, thoughts?

            1. Elysian*

              Watch out about what you think they roll into the maintenance fee. It may include taxes, but it may not include other things that you would think of as “maintenance” – does it include water? sewer? electric? gas? What repairs does it cover – usually condo/co-op fees only cover repairs to the community spaces and things that would affect the community at large. Does your unit have its own water heater? Washer/dryer? It probably wouldn’t cover repairs or maintenance on those things. If your sink is clogged, it’s probably you calling the plumber. Those things add up.

              You mentioned that you’re looking at buildings that allow renting – even if no units are open right now, what is the prevailing rent in those buildings? That’s probably a half-decent (though imperfect) indicated of the low end of what your costs will be.

              If you’re comparing rents to buying, be careful to avoid letting yourself compare renting in Brooklyn to buying in the suburbs. That’s an apples to oranges comparison.

              1. MousyNon*

                All good questions! It looks like most of the co-op’s I’ve been seeing roll water and heat into the maintenance costs, but not electricity and gas. No sewer in this area. I’m not sure about repairs (that’s co-op specific, I imagine, but an excellent question to add to my growing question list. Most of the co-op’s I’ve seen have laundry on site but not in the units themselves.

                Also a good question to ask about the average rent of those units!

                On your last point, I’m honestly not sure what I should be comparing! Buying in NYC is definitely out of my price range (and it feels like rent is as well), and it seems silly to rent in the suburbs when I could build equity and buy for the same amount (or even less). How do you think I should be weighing this, in your opinion? I’m worried my desperation to get out of mom’s house (we’re |_| close to spontaneously combusting), coupled with lender and realestate agent’s optimism about how ‘smart this is’ is clouding my judgement…

                1. Lore*

                  One thing to check re “heat”–most often it’s technically included in maintenance, but a lot of coops keep that maintenance artificially low by budgeting for heating oil with the baseline month as, say, April, and then doing a heating oil assessment in the colder months. Which can get really pricey.

                2. Elysian*

                  I totally get the spontaneous combustion! I can barely go home for Christmas without sparking flames with my parents. But you might dig yourself an awful hole if you jump at anything just to get out of your mom’s clutches.

                  I think you should compare rents and mortages in the same neighborhood. People rent in NYC partly because it takes so long for a purchase to become a good investment. But if you’re willing to live in the suburbs at all, you have to compare buying in the suburbs to renting an approximately equivalent place in the same suburb. You WILL lose money buying in the short term.

                  For instance (and I live in DC, so all these numbers are different). I pay about 2,300 for a 1 bedroom in DC. I could buy a condo across the street, 1 bedroom, about the same sq ft, for about $500,000. It’s a slightly nicer place, but its not nicer by much. Condo fee of $529 a month that doesn’t include utilities. Buying that place across the street will NEVER (Not in 30 years, at least) be cheaper than renting EVEN THOUGH the mortgage payment plus condo fee is only about $2,700 (just a little more than I’m paying now). Even when you take into account “building equity.”

                  So that’s really the comparison you should be making, I think. It’s about renting vs. buying an equivalent place, because buying has so many more costs associated with it than renting. You can’t compare “rent in the perfect place” vs. “buy in an imperfect place because its what I can afford.” Of course then buying will be cheaper, that’s how you’ve engineered it.

                3. Colette*

                  Keep in mind that you build equity over time – so if you’re planning to move in < 5 years, you might not have much (or any) equity. And if you don't buy, you can invest your down payment and get returns that way.

                  In my mind, it's more about the life you want than the money you might make.

            2. Lore*

              Will you be able to afford Williamsburg or Cobble Hill for $1100 a month? No. But how far out have you been looking in Brooklyn, and have you looked at Queens? This is harder than it used to be, of course, but there are still safe neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens where that should get you a studio or a small 1-BR. I would look, if you haven’t already, in Kensington, Midwood, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Clinton Hill, Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights, and/or Sunnyside, Woodside, Jackson Heights, Astoria in Queens, as well as Inwood or Washington Heights in Manhattan, just to really know what your options are. There are great things about owning, but the big problem with a coop is that you’re essentially becoming a business partner with a bunch of strangers, and unless you want to really get involved and take on the work of participating in running the building, pricey decisions that will affect you can happen around you and you have not a lot of recourse but to pay what is asked.

              1. MousyNon*

                (nesting limit, so I’ll reply up here ;) No need to apologize! I find all of this really helpful, and I don’t think you’re being negative at all. I’m glad you’re asking tough questions, because I don’t know to ask them of myself!

                Thanks so much for the heads up about the heat in co-ops, I had no idea! Another thing to add to my list. Also, I’ve only been looking at lenders that will loan out for co-op’s, in answer to one of your other questions.

                Like I mentioned below, I did look at some of the neighborhoods you asked about, but I admit I find the process really really daunting. I’d love to find a broker that could just do the legwork for me, but it’s been an uphill climb (if anyone has any suggestions, I’ll try anybody!)

                The other thing is–I admit, I don’t know if I even LIKE the city that much. I’m a light sleeper, I like alot of green, and I’m an introvert that would rather watch movies with friends on the sofa than hit the newest lounge or restaurant. I grew up in the Bronx (in well, the hood, honestly), so admittedly my limited urban experience isn’t a very good one. That, coupled with the effort it takes to actually find a place, plus the fact that if you do go looking at apartments you have to jump on them immediately (which is hard on me, because I’m a bit of a compulsive researcher) all just feels…well, impossible.

                I don’t mean to sound negative either, but if I could figure out how to overcome some of this maybe renting would seem more attractive.

                I’ll try to do the walk-around like you suggested, maybe that’ll help?

                1. Lore*

                  The question of whether you actually *want* to live in the city is an entirely separate one, and if you’re genuinely ambivalent about that, then someone else’s suggestion from below about renting in the area where you’d consider buying in Westchester is a great option. There’s no “right” answer or right place to live; the advice to not make a compromise out of frustration goes the other way too: don’t move to Brooklyn because people are telling you it’s where you should live.

            3. Frances*

              The thing about Brooklyn is many areas are *more* expensive than parts of Manhattan at this point.  You have a couple of options, rent wise, in the city. You could look further out in Brooklyn (Sunset Park, Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst) where rents are cheaper and commutes can still be 30 minutes or less if the subways match up right – I lived out there for years and only moved when I took a job on the UES and the commute became more than an hour.  But, since you were considering a commute down from Westchester anyway, I recommend looking in upper Manhattan.  Harlem has some nice places now but is still affordable and Inwood, though still a bit out of the way if you don’t work on the west side, is beautiful and quite affordable (I’d look up there myself except I currently work all the way at the other end of Manhattan).   I also had a small but nice one bedroom on the UES for a while that was less than $2000 a month (though those rents are going to skyrocket as the T gets closer to completion).  Definitely don’t make a decision until you look at more areas in the city.

              1. MousyNon*

                I went to school in Harlem, and honestly there aren’t any places I can afford (it’s gentrified quickly) in the neighborhoods that I’d feel totally comfortable walking the dog before bed every night.

                Inwood was my next step, and west of broadway there are some lovely 50’s era apartments I can afford, but the commute is so long my inherited-catholic-guilt keeps telling me I may as well live for ‘free’ (sans sanity) in Westchester then pay rent so far away.

                I emailed a few brokers in Bay Ridge because there seemed to be some nice options there, but I never heard back from any of them and I second guessed myself, thinking maybe the reason they ignored my emails (despite referrals!) was because my criteria didn’t match my rent range (dog friendly, no roommates, max 1100, safe neighborhood).

                I’ll keep looking in the city, but honestly I find navigating craigslist exhausting and frustrating. I’d rather deal with an honest broker, but I either get scummy ones (like one claiming an apartment was in one neighborhood when it was in another one–the actual neighborhood? east flatbush), or never hear back from them.

                Somehow (and this makes no sense, I recognize) it feels simpler to buy in the suburbs. But maybe you’re right and I should keep looking…

                1. Lore*

                  Sorry to pepper with comments! And I do not mean to come off as negative about buying, or buying in the suburbs. But it does seem a bit like you’re writing off renting because the legwork is daunting–which it no doubt is–and I think there are definite downsides to buying, especially in a neighborhood you haven’t lived in.

                  If you have time, give yourself a weekend (or take a day off work); go out to neighborhoods you’d consider, and walk around. Look for local rental agencies, and go into them and talk to agents personally rather than sending an email inquiry. Also, walk around at night–I think a lot of neighborhoods can feel daunting or unsafe out of unfamiliarity, and when you spend an hour and see how many people are walking dogs, and running to the drugstore, and so forth at midnight, it gets a lot easier to imagine living somewhere.

            4. AVP*

              I think you should chat with a real estate agent that handles Brooklyn rentals before you commit – do you know anyone that you trust? I’m not sure where you’re looking, but I live in Brooklyn and to say that the median rent is $3K is really misleading – it SO depends on the neighborhood. Yes, you’re probably priced out of Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope and Williamsburg, but there are plenty of nice, safe neighborhoods a little farther out that are pretty reasonable.

              Here’s my monthly breakdown – I have a small but nice studio in a brownstone in Bed-Stuy, heat included, for $1,150. My electricity comes to something ridiculously low ($30 month) and I pay another $30 for internet. I would say another maybe $20-30 per month in laundry, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, etc. $100/YEAR for Citibike, and another $75 for the subway. If I didn’t bike a lot, I would do the monthly metrocard for around $115.

              TL;DR – you can live in Ditmas Park for $900 and spend the other $200 on the subway and utilities. And don’t move to East New York.

          2. Frieda*

            I think that this may be true in most places, but the NYC rental market is not most places. For example:

            Average rents increased in Brooklyn by 12.6% this year alone. ( If you buy with a fixed-rate mortgage, your mortgage payments don’t go up 12% a year.

            Inventory is ALWAYS low, so demand is always high, so rental rates will just continue to go up. (Fun fact: NYC rent stabilization/control law states that if rental vacancy is over 5% for the city, all apartments will be deregulated. Rent control was started after WWII and this has never happened. It’s usually around 1%.)

            Also buying is REALLY expensive, and there are not a lot of single-family dwellings compared to other places in the country, so the investment needed to buy is out of reach for most people. That’s why buying an apartment building in NYC is such a good investment if you have the capital: the income generated from renters more than offsets the carrying costs of owning the building.

    1. Bryan*

      Disclaimer, I am not a financial planner or anything even close.

      The general rule is three times your income for house, so part of your budget might be on the high side. Be sure to calculate taxes as many surrounding suburbs (looking at you NJ) have very high RE taxes.

      As fposte said, why do you want to buy? It really ties you down and the maintenance you are responsible for can be a headache.

      1. MousyNon*

        I’m looking in westchester county, where property taxes can get highish. On the other hand, I’m only looking at co-op’s, and I was told that co-op’s role property taxes into the maintenance fees. Do you think there are other taxes I’d need to keep an eye on?

        And like I told fposte–I just desperately want to move out of my family’s home, and I can’t seem to afford to rent anywhere in commuting distance. My credit is really good, however, so I’ve been told that I CAN afford to buy (because my mortgage payments would be really low).

        1. fposte*

          I know nothing about co-ops, but I know enough about money never to commit to anything based on an “I’m told.” Check that sucker out. Another piece of advice that gets tossed around for something like this–pin down the actual amount it would cost you and live on it for a while, putting the pretend mortgage payments into savings. It’s not perfect–as Brett notes there are other expenses involved–but it’s a good first step.

          Are you completely roommate-averse, by the way? You mention being uncertain about living alone but all your financial parallels seem to be single-occupancy.

          1. MousyNon*

            I’m pretty roommate-averse. I have a (cute but obnoxious) dog, and when I ventured into roommate territory (I even went so far as to meet up with some potential flatmates via craigslist), the dog plus my finickyness about peace and quiet just makes roommates seem like a bad idea.

            I’ve been advised to have an accountant or lawyer review the financial records of any co-op before I sign on the dotted line, so that’s something I plan on doing (if I go foreword on buying). Also, interestingly, your advice is kind of what I’ve been doing–I live pretty minimally and put everything else in savings, which is why I have such a sizable down-payment (and a very healthy 401K) at 28yrs old.

            Also, I just noticed I fail at anonymity. Ah well. Hello again!

            1. fposte*

              Ah, dog factor. That definitely ups the value of buying over renting to me, because your renting options are so restricted.

              Is your down payment enough to avoid PMI, and if it’s not, will the PMI requirement go away once you’ve paid enough? (Apparently these days some loans are trying to make it a full-term requirement.) PMI isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, but it’s an awful lot of money for nothing, so if you can avoid it without waiting forever, it may be worth doing.

              1. MousyNon*

                The dog is definitely a huge (possibly the biggest, honestly) part of this–I think I’d already be renting if it weren’t for the little monster.

                I have about 11% down at the top end of my budget if I don’t pull from my 401K, which I’d like to avoid (and enough liquid for closing costs of course) and around a 790 credit score, so lenders claim I’m eligible for their lowest rates on a 30 yr fixed. I’m only considering lenders that will remove the PMI once I’ve hit 20%, since I have the luxury of time and can shop around. Unfortunately, I don’t want lenders running my credit yet (don’t want hard inquiries on my credit report until I’m absolutely sure I’m buying), so they’re not willing/able to give me firm numbers, so it feels impossible to estimate my monthly expenses.

                1. fposte*

                  You sound like you’re doing an excellent job of investigating this. Are you eligible for any first-time home-buyer programs? I’m guessing that those might not be a big thing in Westchester County, but I figured it was worth asking :-).

                2. Lore*

                  Another thing to make sure you’ve covered: do the lenders know you’re looking at coops? Not all lenders will do coop mortgages at all, and for many of the ones who do, the rates are slightly higher.

              2. MousyNon*

                (sigh, nesting limit)

                Thank you! I’m trying really hard to do my due diligence, but I think I’m battling all of these emotional responses as well (wanting to live on my own, frustration at the shady-craigslist-NYC-rental-market, fear at my inexperience) that I feel like I can’t trust any of my decisions.

                No first-time homeowner programs that I’ve been able to find in this county (other than FHA loans, which aren’t an option because co-op’s rarely ever accept them).

                Maybe I should consider renting in the suburbs first instead of buying, but I keep bumping into the “what’s the point of that” voice in my head, because I’ve been so careful about saving that it feels odd to pay to live in the suburbs when I could live there for free or build equity in a home. This makes no sense, I recognize. Maybe there’s a medicine I could take to shut the voice up (it sounds disconcertingly like my mother…)

                1. fposte*

                  I think buying can be a fine thing to do, and I don’t think you need to go overboard to test yourself against various possible regrets if this scenario resembles a life you currently enjoy (you’re not actually legally required to prefer to live in the city even if you’re single!). However, the days when buying automatically trumped renting because of “your home is an investment” are gone, so don’t give buying extra points just because it’s buying.

                  I was nervous about buying, and it worked out incredibly well for me; I really love it. I don’t see any huge red flags in your approach, and while it would be annoying to lose money if you have to sell in a few years, it’s not the end of the world, either. So assuming the numbers work, it’s a quality of life question, and that one’s for you.

                2. Elysian*

                  Oh my! I worry that you’re thinking of renting as if its the red-headed stepchild of homeownership. People don’t always rent because they “can’t” buy. Renting has so many perks! I really think you should try renting in the suburbs, if that’s where you think you want to live. Renting is generally cheaper; gives you flexibility if you end up not liking the neighborhood, or need to move across the country to take your dream job; is super-super easy. The maintenance guy came and fixed my stove the other day, and I didn’t have to pay him, or be home to let him in, or shop around for stove fixing companies, or fiddle with it myself until I lit myself on fire.

                  I know its really attractive to think about building equity in a home – but a lot of people thought that until the housing market crashed and they were underwater. No equity for them. People think that, and then have to move a year later and end up losing money with all the closing costs.

                  I think renting is perfect for someone in your situation. I think you’re selling yourself short if you look at it as “Well, I can’t afford to rent where I want so the next best thing is to buy where I don’t really want.” Renting is NOT a waste of your money. Buying frequently makes sense if you (1) can’t find a place to rent that meets your needs (not a lot of 4 bedroom rentals…) or (2) are going to stay in one place for a long time. Give renting a try; at the very least it’ll only set you back a year. You might even find you like it (I love it. I don’t wanna fix anything, ever.)

                3. happypup*

                  MouseyNon, it sounds like you and I have similar anxieties about money and penny-pinching tendencies :)

                  When making decisions like this, it’s helped me in the past to try to put some dollar values on the intangibles that trip me up. How much would you be willing to pay to have a better relationship with your parents? To get rid of the stress that living at home puts on you? Think about the things that are making you miserable about living at home, and balance the cost of rent against *that*. Living at home isn’t free if it takes a toll on you in non-monetary ways.

    2. Brett*

      Two big hidden costs: Maintenance and gas (and time) for commuting. Not sure how maintenance works on your co-op, but it could eat up more money than you think. Obviously you also have to make all of your utility payments too.

      If you have good credit, zero debt and a 20% down payment, even at the top end of your budget ($175k), your monthly payment would be about 25% of your income. That is a really good debt to income ratio.

      The “missing the city” part is tough. If you end up not liking the suburbs, you will end up losing a good chunk of money in closing costs and will not build up very much equity if you move back too soon. Leasing your property is an option, but being a landlord is a lot of work too. On the bright side, if you are willing to give it a chance for at least 5 years (which probably seems like a very long commitment right now), then you will probably build enough equity to get your money back on the closing costs plus some return.

      1. MousyNon*

        I’m only looking at property’s that are walking distance from the commuter train (which I already take, since I’m currently living in the suburbs). I don’t drive, so I just run all of my errands in the city.

        I do like the quiet and safety of the suburbs–I never have to worry about walking the dog at 2AM. The lack of walkability is tough, but like I mentioned I run all of my errands in NYC (e.g. I go to my doctor during weekdays when I’m in the city for work). On the other hand, tried-and-true brooklynites swear I “don’t know what I’m missing.”

        5 years doesn’t actually seem that long (I should have mentioned in my initial email that I’m almost thirty–that’s a LONG time to be living with family, sigh), and I’ve been looking at properties that allow renting, so I’d be willing to rent out the property if I decided to leave it.

        It’s reassuring to get an objective opinion about the debt-to-income, because this is really what’s stressing me out. I don’t want to be house poor, and I’ve been so so careful with my credit that I’d hate for my eagerness to move out on my own to screw me.

    3. Colette*

      Don’t depend on the lender to tell you what you can afford – they don’t care if you have money for anything fun. Do the math – the general rule is that your mortgage + condo fees + maintenance (up to 3% of your purchase price/year – your condo fees) + taxes + utilities should be less than 35% of your take home pay.

      Renting means you don’t have to worry about maintenance, and you can pick up and move in a short time frame.

      Buying means you can cut holes in the wall or paint the kitchen in a zebra print and not have to move because the place is sold out under you.

      And don’t forget closing costs (property taxes, legal fees, transfer taxes, etc.).

    4. Elysian*

      If you’ve never lived on your own before, I would suggest renting first. Is anyone renting a place in any of the condo building’s you’ve considered buying in? You can check Craigslist and Zillow and whatever else is good for your area to see.

      You learn a lot about your needs and wants when you’re living on your own. If you’ve been living with your family for a long time, you might find out that:
      Living on your own is lonely.
      You need more/less space than you think when its just you.
      Your lifestyle changes when you don’t have to take other people’s schedules into consideration, which could save or cost you money.

      Even just outside the expenses and city vs suburbs, I would be concerned that you would buy a place that doesn’t end up suiting you because you don’t know as well what you need. I think if you spend some time living on your own before you buy, a lot of these questions will clear right up.

      1. Kerry*

        I second this. You’re proposing two new situations: living on your own,and owning property. If I were you I’d rent for a year in the neighborhood in which you’re looking to buy. If that works out, then look to make it more permanent. You have too many variables at the moment, and another year won’t kill you. (Once you actually have a mortgage, the slowness with which your principal is reduced will astound you.)

    5. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Do your research on what the staples you need will cost. IE – electricity, TV, internet, food, transportation, insurance, etc, other debt. That’s your base budget. Compare it to what you’re making and whatever’s left is what you can really afford for housing on your own.

      Also, don’t forget to figure property taxes, homeowners insurance, PMI (if you don’t have 20% to put down) and maintenance into your housing costs. It might look like you can afford a $125K mortgage until you add another $300+/month on to it for those things.

      Good luck!

    6. Audiophile*

      I have a cousin who makes about what you make, found places in Westchester county to look at. Well below $100k and in good condition. As others suggested, look at Zillow and some other sites.

    7. Eric*

      I guess I’m not really sure what your question is? You say you weren’t willing to make the sacrifices necessary to live in NYC (not a judgement, that’s a personal decision that I respect) so where does missing the city come into this? Isn’t the choice between continuing to live with your family in the suburbs, or buying a condo and still living in the suburbs?

    8. LibrarianJ*

      Just as an aside/thought (and I can’t say I have expertise with house buying, so this may or may not be an issue), I would make sure to get confirmation on what kind of mortgage rates / loans would be available to you.

      I also have perfect credit, zero debt, and make $40K a year in a metropolitan area, and recently moved out on my own for the first time (rental). In theory, I should have been qualified for pretty good interest rates on loans etc. However, when I went to lease a car, it turned out that high credit score aside, my complete lack of debt was a serious handicap and led to me being entirely rejected. No amount of down-payment or higher monthly payments would qualify me for the lease without bringing my folks on as cosigners. I definitely had not anticipated this and probably would have seriously reconsidered my car options had I known in advance — so I’m just putting it out there in case this might be an issue for you as well.

    9. MousyNon*

      Thank you all so much for all of the great advice! I filled out an entire page with thoughts and questions, and I’m going to ruminate on everything and try and make the best, most responsible choice.

      You’re all the best, and this is why this is my favorite blog!

    10. Not So NewReader*

      Negative Nancy here.

      Get a mortgage calculator. You can find them online.
      Put in the amount you feel comfy paying each month.
      Estimate the % rate that your mortgage will have= use a high number. Put the rate into the calc.
      Put in 360 months (30 yr mortgage).
      Ask the program to “solve for loan amount.”

      I did this twenty years ago with my mortgage. I used a mortgage calculator- handheld variety at that time. I hit solve for loan amount.

      I was SHOCKED by the answer I got.

      The answer was 30% less than what the lenders were telling me I could afford.
      If I had listened to the lenders I would have been sooo very screwed. We used the number that I came up with and ignored the higher number the lender had.

      When the dust settled and we were in the house we did not even have a dollar to buy a cup of coffee. And this was with buying a more modest home!
      What we had left of our savings we chewed up in buying (used) yard equipment for our house. (Mower, snowblower). Then the washer broke. Whoopps. Out of money.

      Fortunately, we both had annual raises on the horizon in six months. At the six month mark we exhaled. It felt so good to be able to buy a cup of coffee again. But it was a few years before we were able to make any major purchases such as an appliance.

      After seeing this, I would not attempt a $125K mortgage on a $40K income. To me that would be stress beyond belief. My advice is to figure out for yourself how much loan (debt) you are willing to carry. Do not rely on the lender’s calculations. They are selling you a product. It is in their interest that you take the highest loan possible. (Commission)

      (Just as a reference point: We started out with a good credit rating, a modest savings and no other debt.) I don’t want to be a downer but I don’t want to see someone get messed up either.

      1. Diane*

        100 Giant Yesses!

        I did the same thing, buying a much cheaper house than lenders qualified me for, and then the market crashed. I’m treading water and can’t sell for at least five years–but I can buy coffee these days.

  20. Ag*

    Question about my resume…

    In the beginning of my career, I was at one job for only 6 months before leaving due to a family matter (my sister was very sick). I had to move across country to be with my family. I obviously wasn’t planning on leaving after just 6 months, but staying really wasn’t an option. Since I stayed in the job for such a short period of time… I didn’t really accomplish much. I worked for a big corporation and there was lots of red tape – small projects took weeks/months to get accomplished. Because of this, I don’t have too much to put under this position on my resume.

    Should I still include this position on my resume? Will 6 months look like too long of a gap? This was years ago and I have had jobs (with longer tenure) since. Also, I was freelancing (writing) at the time, so I have that experience that I can point to over the same time period (so it wouldn’t look like I was doing nothing). What do you think?

    1. Elizabeth*

      I’d say leave it off, too, especially since you have years of more relevant, longer-term experience to highlight. If you ever get asked about the gap in an interview, you have a perfectly reasonable explanation: “I was helping to care for a sick family member and doing some freelance writing.”

  21. KarmaKicks*

    Perfect timing!
    I’m getting ready to apply for a part-time position, which would be in addition to my full-time job. I know I need a cover letter, but is there a good way to address the fact that I have a full-time job? I’ve been with my company as an admin in various departments for 16 years. I don’t want to leave where I am, but the job I’m applying for has flexible hours and I could use the extra income. It’s not an admin job, but will use some of the same skills, mainly scanning and copying :)


    1. AB*

      KarmaKicks, I’m not sure why you want to address the fact that you have a full time job in your cover letter, but if you do, I’d make sure to reassure the company that you would be able to accommodate their needs in terms of the hours they would expect you to be available for the part time job. Otherwise, they will most likely prefer to go with other candidates who don’t have the same potential restriction that a full time job would impose.

  22. anonymous me*

    I don’t have a question, but figured I would post anyway. This is a little long.

    My job at the place I work for is coming to an end on 11/27 due to the company going out of business. I’ve been there for 17 years and worked my way up from part-time on the front line to VP (2nd in charge after the CEO). I’m actually feeling wonderful, like I’m free. I spent an awful lot of time and misery wondering if I should stick it out, go elsewhere, is it the right fit, etc. I stayed out of fierce loyalty to my boss. He gave me so many great opportunities, put me through school, paid for an industry-related certification, etc. and I built an awesome resume over the years. But the last few years have been very trying. Very stagnant because we were trying to raise capital and couldn’t. So I’m glad it’s over. This year I get to enjoy the holidays stress-free this year. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve taken time off around the holidays. Usually the same people blocked off the same weeks every year, which was quite annoying. And my direct report had young kids, didn’t have the money to pay for daycare for the week, etc. so I would let her take the time off. So this year I can plan my dinners, keep the house clean, and actually Christmas shop at a store during daylight hours!

    I applied for a federal job and the waiting is killing me. I know the process won’t move as quickly as it does in the private sector, but I’m still antsy. I’m excited about this job and I’m hoping I make it through to an interview. Thankfully I had a couple people to give me advice about writing a resume for a federal job application, otherwise I would have been rejected right away.

    I was offered a job right after the business closed (we’re still here, in the process of cleanup) and ultimately decided not to take it. It’s just not the direction I want to go with my career. I’ve done many different things at this company so I have my choice of several different career directions, but obviously some areas I like more than others. Originally I told the hiring manager that I wasn’t ready to start another job until at least December 1, because I had some surgeries coming up and needed the recovery time. I am so glad I told him that because the federal job opportunity came up in the meantime. I felt excitement for that opportunity that I didn’t feel about the offered job and that made my decision for me. The hiring manager was very disappointed, but he respects my decision. And he told me the door is open.

    1. fposte*

      Well done to you for negotiating some difficult situations well. It sounds like you’re pretty awesomely sane despite the situation, too! Good luck with the fed job possibility.

      1. anonymous me*

        Thanks! Yes, I am so glad I didn’t accept the first job. After 17 years, I was a deer in the headlights being offered a job that fast (about 5 days after closing). I would have been miserable within months. The position was risk management/IT vendor liaison/information security and that was one of my least favorites areas at my current job. It’s 10k more than I make now, but I don’t want to settle. I spent way too much time at this job being wishy-washy about whether I want to stay or leave. I don’t want to get into that situation again.

    2. The IT Manager*

      Overall great news. It wounds like you weathered a difficult situation very well. The only possible misstep I read in your letter is that you may be counting a bit too much on getting the government job. Depending on circumstance, you may want to plan to start job hunting in January after a well deserved break. It totally sounds like you deserve that break, but that government job may take longer than you want to wait or my never come through.

      1. anonymous me*

        Oh, I totally realize it’s not “in the bag.” But I’m definitely hopeful since several members of the agency sought me out at the current job and asked me to apply. They told me they didn’t get any qualified candidates in the last go around and want someone with my perspective on the team. I’ve been told the timeline for hiring is at least 60 days and I’m OK with that. Regardless of whether I get it or not, I’m happy I didn’t jump into that other job and I fully plan on starting the search in January if the fed job doesn’t come through.

    3. Nerdling*

      Another thing to consider about the federal job is whether it will be affected by the sequester and Congress’s budgetary issues. It can take a long time to get an application processed at any federal department, but for agencies that have gotten the short end of the sequestration stick and may be facing more cuts under whatever budget or continuing resolution Congress comes up with in January, new hires may be one of the first areas cut.

      I don’t mean to be a downer, honestly. I love my job, but the hiring process wasn’t a short one. And we’ve had to put a hiring freeze in place until 2015 with sequestration. So I would hate to see you pin all your hopes on this job when it may completely fall through due to funding.

      I hope you find a job you truly love soon, whether it’s with the government or in the private sector!

      1. anonymous me*

        I appreciate the concern. It’s a quasi-government agency so they weren’t affected by the sequester. I was sure to ask about that when I talked to the hiring manager.

  23. AnonAnon*

    Just started a new job three weeks ago (thanks to AAM)! My boss has only been on the job a couple of months. This week, my boss’s boss said she wants to fire the my boss for not getting things done, being disorganized, etc.

    Here’s the issue: my first paycheck paid for me for two weeks, even though I had only worked one. I raised the issue with my boss, who said he would look into it or I could consider it a bonus. My paystub came this week, for the second paycheck, and none of the overpayment has been withheld. I raised it with my boss again, and he told me not to worry about it and keep the money.

    Normally I’d let it go at this point. But the big boss was going to fire my boss today, except that she had a medical emergency and is out of the office and she’s worried about letting him go so close to the holidays. What should I do? Ask the big boss about it? Keep the money in a savings account and bring it up later, if he gets fired?

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I would say to put the money aside and raise it with your boss’s boss. If you don’t say anything and they find out later, you’ll look dishonest.

      And considering your boss said to keep the money as a bonus, I’m not surprised he’s getting fired.

      1. LisaLyn*

        Ha, yeah! But yeah, I totally agree — take it up with the boss’ boss. You need to be very clear you are not trying to keep this money.

    2. Bryan*

      Don’t spend the money (in case it needs to be paid back). If your boss is going to be fired soon I would tell big boss anyways.

    3. AnonAnon*

      Thanks for the replies! I just had another question – how do I raise the issue with my boss’s boss, without looking like I’m throwing my boss under the bus? Something like, “It looks like there was an error on my paycheck, and I’m just not sure how to go about correcting it?” Do I mention that I talked to boss?

      And since she’s out of the office, is there a sophisticated way to do this by email?

    4. Payroll Lady*

      It is possible the company pays current (through the pay date) and that is why you received the 2 weeks. Since it seems the “boss” doesn’t want to be bothered, than go to payroll yourself. They should have no problem explaining if this is the case, and if it’s not, then payroll will still be happy… we like honest people. Just make sure you mention to them, you did ask your boss and he was supposed to look into it.

      1. AnonAnon*

        I like this idea, except I’m at a company with only four people and no payroll department. We outsource our payroll and they don’t have the authority to change the amount of checks, etc. without talking to my boss first. So I’m not sure what would be the best way to do this?

        Appreciate your comment though – thank you!

        1. Payroll Lady*

          So you boss calls in the payroll to the outsource company? Or does his boss? If it’s his boss, ask him. If it’s your boss, let his boss know what is going on! The outsourcing company is only going to pay what your company tells them to not the other way around, that’s why they can’t make any changes. Definitely throwing up some red flags!

        2. Elizabeth West*

          You could let Big Boss know, using the words in your post above, which sound fine. Just mention that you talked to Boss about it, but that the error doesn’t seem to have been corrected on the new paycheck. That leaves it open as to whose fault it is (you’re not really blaming Boss).

  24. The Other Dawn*

    I want Olive!! I have to tortoiseshell cats at home and she would match perfectly with them. ;)

  25. periwinkle*

    I recently accepted a verbal offer for a rather awesome position. Naturally, as an AAM reader I don’t consider this set-in-stone official until the offer letter turns up, but nevertheless plans must be put in motion now because it involves a cross-country move. I’m totally on board with the relocation, as is my husband. However, he has work commitments, plus it may take a while to find a rental that accepts 4 kitties, so I’m going to be on my own for a few months.

    So here’s the question. I’ve got to drive from one coast to the other, settle into a short-term furnished rental, and then start a new job that will launch me right into a huge high-profile project. How much time should I allow between arriving in New City and the start date? I won’t have to deal with a lot of unpacking (not until we get the “real” rental), just clothes and sundries, but on the other hand I should probably take some time to re-orient myself to a new region, climate, time zone, etc.

    One or two days seems too little, but two weeks seems like too much. Or is it? Any relo veterans out there with advice?

    1. Bryan*

      I had about 10 days with unpacking a 2 bedroom apt and I could have started a little earlier. I’d say no less than 5.

    2. Colette*

      When I moved across the country many years ago, I had a week before I started working – that gave me time to find a place to live (but not move in) and figure out how I was going to get to/from work in the meantime.

    3. Malissa*

      A week for the move and a week to settle in. If you get bored in the second week you can usually go by your new office and get a few things figured out and possibly set-up your office if it’s ready.
      Being on your own you’ll want to find places to eat and where things are to shop. Also you’ll need time to find a post office box and to get utilities set-up, even if it’s just being there for the cable guy to come out.
      Being across country from your husband you’ll want a good internet connection. Trust me on this. ;)

    4. ADL*

      Having just down a half country move, give yourself at least one week to unpack and get things situated. You need to do things such as get your drivers license, go food shopping, etc. Much easier to do when you have business hours and no pressing needs to take care of such items.

  26. Anon*

    Hi – I’m curious as to how you would (or wouldn’t) advise me to address a situation where a high-level manager is causing a bottleneck in workflow. As consultants, we often need to be responsive to contractual deadlines and quick turn-arounds for ad-hoc client requests. My manager prefers to give a final sign-off before anything is sent out of the office. This would be totally reasonable, except that she is often too swamped to give timely feedback, and our deliverables fall behind schedule. Sometimes this results in an unhappy client, but more often, the rest of the team works furiously at the last minute to try and get the project back on schedule. This causes a chain reaction of late nights, sloppy work, and other projects suffering.

    Every now and then, she’ll say something to the effect of “we should figure out a way to make this less hectic next time,” but whenever someone gently suggests that maybe a streamlined edit process or communication protocol might help, she’ll brush it off. I don’t think she understands the way her role is impacting these projects (and the team), but I don’t know how to a) make her understand without being too pushy or critical or b) whether her understanding would even help the situation. Any advice?

    1. The Other Dawn*

      “gently suggests”

      I don’t think making gentle suggestions will work. You, or someone who’s maybe more comfortable with it, should talk to her very directly and explain how her untimely feedback affects the process. Give concrete examples of when this has happened and give ideas as to how to make it better.

    2. LisaLyn*

      It sounds like, to me, you have to try to address it. It sounds as though she knows there’s something of a problem. What I would do is perhaps make sure you have specific examples from yourself and others and present those in a neutral tone and make sure to approach it from a process standpoint for the whole department, not just “YOU AREN’T DOING THIS AND IT IS SCREWING US UP”. :)

      I would also have a plan of action — some suggestions of what would help. Maybe with a little nod towards giving her some sort of control or approval, but in a way that doesn’t hold things up, if that’s feasible. Like … I don’t know, a weekly summary of what has gone on but maybe after the fact?

    3. fposte*

      Does she do anything but rubber stamp on that last phase? If not, can you ask to change the default so that it’s “Let us know if there’s anything that needs to be changed; otherwise this will go out Friday at 3”?

      1. Anon*

        All helpful suggestions.

        Re: fposte’s comment – her actions on final phase have actually been inconsistent. Sometimes she’ll rubber-stamp what’s in her inbox, and sometimes she’ll come back with extensive comments and edits. It’s probably worth it for me to consider further whether there’s an inconsistency on my end (if the quality of work I send her is fluctuating), or whether there are dynamics at play that I’m not aware of (sensitive issues with the client that she needs to manage before making a decision about how a deliverable should be structured).

        Either way, would it be too much of a bother for me to inquire about whether either of those mitigating factors are at play in her review time? Ultimately, I want to make her life easier, and if I have more information about quality control processes or client issues I can help troubleshoot them … but does that make me seem pushy?

        1. fposte*

          I think that’s actually a good way of framing it–asking if there’s anything that can be improved in the way stuff gets to her. You might also see if there are early signs that would differentiate a rubber stamp from an edit/comment round so you can plan a bit ahead–maybe Jane the client’s stuff is always fine-tooth-combed, for instance.

  27. hfsteph*

    Quick question:
    I work in a pretty concentrated field. I’m looking to move to a similar company to get away from a toxic work environment. Most of the companies I’d like to work for are similar if not bigger in size and can offer more opportunities for advancement. The problem is that I’d like to apply to companies where my boss has many many many contacts. I don’t want her to know that I’m applying for jobs elsewhere, but I’m afraid that as soon as they see the company name they’ll contact her. I think the company name will give me a leg up because we have a really good reputation in our field, but I really don’t want my boss to know I’m job searching. She has a history of treating employees poorly to begin with, let alone when she knows they’re actively looking for other work. Can I say “please don’t contact my current employer” in my cover letter?
    Any advice is greatly appreciated! Thank you!!

    1. fposte*

      I think it would be odd to put it in the cover letter. It’s no secret that currently employed people are usually searching without their boss’s knowledge, and that message will get in the way of what you want the cover letter to convey. I’d save it for the interview or references discussion.

      There are no guarantees, of course, but there’s no guarantee even if you do mention it in the cover letter.

    2. Anon T*

      I feel your pain. The last interview I went to I found that one of the people on the interview panel was the manager of the group both my boss and I worked in at a previous employer. The most recent place I applied is the company my boss’s husband started at a few months ago, when he left my current employer. I would be very surprised if my boss does not know I am job hunting. She has been supportive when I have looked at internal positions saying I need to do what is best for my career, but I still think it would be awkward to tell her I was applying outside the company.

  28. Thulani*

    So I’ve been looking for a new job since May 28th this year (layoff due to position elimination) and have tried every new job search tactic I come across: call, network, LinkedIn participation, resume review, volunteer, job boards, recruiters, Liz Ryan, twitter, temp agencies, niche job boards etc. to no avail.

    My question is, what in the ham sammich am I doing wrong? I’ve gone on several interviews where I’m told – over-qualified (dang it just hire me! I’ll do the job!), 2 where I was under-qualified (needed an MSW), no answer at all or just scams.

    In August I even made a personal resume blog/site ( if you would like to see/critique) to showcase my skills and answer some of the common interview questions (why should we hire you? What skills do you have? etc) with a ‘Hire Me’ giveaway contest trying to drum up interest. So far, 295 views and no cigar. I even tried out for the Katie Couric show – they were doing an unemployed show taping. Perhaps I’m not pitiful enough? lol

    So, at my wits end, I ask you guys – how do I get hired? Short of renting a billboard or using bill money to buy TV airtime, what to do?

    1. Jules*

      I understand your concern. My contract ended March this year too and I just very recently was hired for a permanent position.

      I applied and looked at every position that I could possibly fill. Even the ones that looks about 60% match sometimes. A lot of times, I read the ad but when I interview it seems like they wanted someone less experienced? But the JD probably fits my experience to the T. I interviewed quite a bit, made to the final round quite a bit too. But it didn’t work out until I found this job.

      It’s a little like dating. It’s not a problem with you or them (although sometimes it could be you or them). You just don’t click. Keep on trying. Keep on interviewing. Hopefully you will find the people who really needs your talents and will appreciate you for having them.

      1. Thulani*

        Thank you :) Sometimes it does feel like it is my fault because every “do this to get a job” post points a finger towards the one applying – even to the “don’t post this online” or “don’t have that there”. Yes I’m bellyaching this point: I’m an introvert by choice *lol* and all this self-promotion and being “on” all the time wears on one’s spirit! I mean seriously!

        I’m glad starting up an addictive behaviour just isn’t in the budget right now – because cigarettes and good liquor just cost too much *LOL*!!!

        1. Jules*

          I have cried more then once when my final interview fell through. The feeling just drowns you sometimes. There were times I walked away and look for something else to drown my sorrows. I found books to be excessively helpful. As far as looking for a job advice, I stick to AAM and pretty much filter out the rest.

          Some of the career advice writer writes from a different point of view (they might have never been through the same experiences are we have). They might have someone specific in mind when writing their articles. I find AAM to be fair and she gives a balance view.

          As far as looking for something positive to do, I started visiting the local library. I worked part time as a delivery person (I am a mid-career person but I don’t think any job is beneath me if its putting bread on the table). I keep myself current on the professional news and updates through blogs/professional website.

          And I whined a lot. A WHOLE LOT. To my best friends, family and spouse. Somehow it grates me when people asks me how I like Michigan. “Errrr… you mean how I like not having a job in this quiet part of the state?” I lie a lot about how I like it until I see how wonderful the people are and beautiful the area is. I liked it a whole lot once I have a job though, I am not going to lie.

    2. Marina*

      Shorten and focus your resume. You may want to create two or three slightly different resumes for different types of jobs. The variety of types of jobs makes your current resume look a little scattered, it’s very difficult to tell what type of job you’re looking for and why you’d be great at that particular job. Most organizations aren’t looking for someone to do everything, just one or two skillsets. And you should be able to condense it to at least 2 pages.

      Also, look over EVERYTHING (resume, cover letter, website, etc) and make sure it’s achievement-focused. When you say you’re great, a hiring manager has only got your word for it. How do you know you “fix problems better than most”? What experiences have you had that made you aware of that?

      1. Thulani*

        For every job I apply to, I focus both the resume and cover letter towards whatever I’m applying to – be that shorten, lengthen to cover experience, dumb-down (pull experience off) or whatever. Then, I craft the cover letter to match.

        That resume is just a generic cover all – I don’t know who will see it or if by leaving off/shortening it I would shortchange myself of a possibility since the site isn’t focused on an industry or function, just a decent job. I’m really open at this point since this stage of my life-plan allows for it. I also (as a single parent) don’t have the time to waste or luxury to be so item specific :) I craft carefully and apply to those positions I’d love, but am happy to get a “just maintain me in the meantime” job too.

        Thank you for your feedback.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      It will take time–the economy isn’t quite back up to snuff. Oddly, I was out a year and a half before I found Exjob, and that was before the recession. This last time, it only took a year.

      That doesn’t mean your job search will last that long, however! Remember what Dory said: just keep swimming. :)

    4. AB*

      Hmm… I’m not sure the blog is working on your favor:

      ” I solve puzzles and fix problems better than most;”

      Really? “Better than most?” And puzzles in any field, without any qualification? Do you have any evidence to back your claim?

      ” I speak my mind if you’re willing to listen and stand my ground when I’m right.”

      I don’t know, I think that if I were a hiring manager reading this, I’d be thinking, “oh, my — this is one of these persons who ALWAYS think they are right and will be a pain to work with!”.

      Sorry, but I’d change the entire text (and also review your cover letter) to indicate specific accomplishments — show, not tell, that you are awesome. Good luck!

  29. Jillyan*

    I’ve been working for the last 10 years or so (27 now) in office or professional jobs. Because of a bad relationship in my early 20’s, I had a major career setback but I’m happy where I am now. Now that I’m moving forward with my career, I was thinking of other setbacks I had had and I remembered something that happened to me when i was 17, a seasonal teller at a bank.

    As seasonal tellers, we were told to go to different branches. One branch I went to had a manager, in his 30’s, who clearly had a problem with boundaries. I was younger than the other staff by about at least 20-30 years and I remember him fixating on me and feeling uncomfortable. Once he stood directly behind me when I was tallying my cash drawer and said some pretty awful things, which he probably thought was him being flirtatious, but to a girl from a really conservative background, I found appalling. The other staff (all older women mind you) laughed about it and told me to lighten up. I mean he basically told me I had a great body, that he loved the way I counted money, and really cheesy but totally inappropriate stuff like that.

    I remember being very quiet, doing my job, and not saying anything. And then I went home and I cried for hours, humiliated and angry not only at the manager but at the other women thinking this type of behavior was OK. It was my first real job and I didn’t tell anyone about it. But I refused to ever go back to that branch without giving anyone the reason why. In fact that branch manager would often call the satellite office, where I was stationed, requesting me but I would throw a tantrum. Looking back I see what I could have done differently. But I was young, he was in a position of power, and it’s a memory I hid for a long time. If that ever happened to any employee in front of me, not only would I stop it now, but I would most definitely report it to their manager, HR, and whoever would need to be contacted about this. As a professional working women I feel I have a responsibility to those that are starting out to watch out for them. Do I actively seek out these things, vigilante style, no of course not. But if I see something, I say something. Since it’s an open thread I wanted to hear if anyone else had to go through something like this, what they did, and how it’s affected them even to this day.

    1. LisaLyn*

      I’m sorry you went through that.

      It’s so weird that you bring this up, because I was just talking with my partner this morning about the moment I realized how sexual harassment of the sort where they are complimenting you can be so devastating. One of my very first jobs during college was at the college library and I worked in the basement. A lot of guys from maintenance would hide out outside of our office area because no one would see them goofing off. Well, every time I would come out, they would say, “Hey, there goes Miss America.” Not a big deal, right? But every time — with hoots and whistles? It was horrible and it made me realize that there is much more to sexual harassment than “sleep with me for a raise”.

      So, oddly, in a completely different field, I now work often with college students and I give them all, especially the women, the same speech — if anything makes them uncomfortable, come to me and I will deal with it without telling anyone it was them. I also am not afraid to be the “bad guy” and tell the other people in my department to knock it off (off-color jokes, anything like that), especially when the students are around. It’s not appropriate and I do feel like I need to not passively let it go on.

      1. Jillyan*

        Thanks for sharing your experience with me! I know now that this is so common. I think if hadn’t been standing literally an inch behind me and breathing down my neck it wouldn’t have bothered me as much. I love that you promise to use discretion because sometimes people are afraid of speaking up because they don’t want to be seen as being trouble makers, rather than looking at it as this is a professional setting, here’s a problem, let’s deal with it.

      2. Anonymous for this*

        I wish you were around for our job.

        I have a coworker who tells jokes about going to strip clubs, looks at pictures of half-naked or naked men all day (but also goes to great lengths to insist on his heterosexuality), and tells inappropriate racial jokes. I’ve spoken to my managers several times about this, but they won’t do anything. It’s also not a position where I can avoid him at all, he works in a shared space with me about half the time I work.

        At least it’s just two more weeks, and then I’m out of there.

    2. Anonymous for this*

      I was thinking about something similar the other day when sexual harassment came up in the column. I’m a regular commenter but going anonymous for this… though I feel mixed about this because *I* didn’t do anything wrong.

      When I was in the very beginning of my teaching career, I rode the school bus as a bus monitor. This was great because a) I didn’t have a car, so had no other way to get to the suburban school and b) I got paid extra to supervise the bus. The bus driver and I developed a friendly relationship. He was a middle-aged man with a good sense of humor, which I think you need to drive a bunch of elementary school kids around in a bus. The kids loved him, too.

      One day in the spring, I think basically apropos of nothing, he asked me my favorite color. I told him green, and asked him why. He said that he has always liked “pretty things” and that he likes to buy nice things for women, but his wife doesn’t like those things. I think he might have said “She doesn’t like to wear things like that.” He said sometimes he buys things for female friends or for friends’ wives, and that he wanted to buy something for me. I’m still honestly not sure just what he meant – a dress, lingerie, or maybe jewelry. I felt incredibly uncomfortable, though. I didn’t know how to respond, especially because I wasn’t wholly sure if he was actually being suggestive or not.

      And still I’m not sure – maybe the guy just felt fond of me in a totally platonic way, like an uncle or something, and felt like buying me a piece of costume jewelry. But I felt skeeved out. I sort of stammered out something about no thanks, I wouldn’t feel comfortable about that, and thankfully we were at my stop at the end of the route in just a few minutes.

      I never told anyone at the school about it at all. As I said, I didn’t feel confident that I wasn’t just plain overreacting to something that was actually innocuous, especially because he was such a good bus driver. But I felt weird on the bus after that. It was still the only way I had to get to school, too. I started sitting closer to the middle of the bus and chatting with kids there instead of sitting near the front as I had been. The next year I got a car and started driving myself to work. It was more expensive, especially because I lost the extra income of being a bus monitor, but it was a lot more convenient to be able to stay late at work – and, I have to admit, a relief not to rely on this man for my ride home.

      I only ever told one or two people about it, one female friend who was very sympathetic and my boyfriend who didn’t seem to really get it. (He wasn’t intentionally dismissive about it, but just said something like, “Oh, that must have been awkward,” and I didn’t feel comfortable pressing it to explain how bad it had made me feel.) Even right now, writing this down years and years later, I feel kind of gross and guilty thinking about it. Ugh.

      Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share.

      1. Anonymous for this (bus story)*

        I am not the same “Anonymous for this” that replied to LisaLyn’s comment and who has the coworker that looks at naked pictures all day. But it feels sort of good to not be the only person who wanted anonymity.

      2. fposte*

        There’s a reason why old etiquette rules forbade such gifts. I find it helpful to lean on those to shut down such a suggestion, even if his intentions were kind (and I think his sound a little murky anyway). “That’s sweet, Bob, but I’m afraid I couldn’t accept anything. My favorite color is a donation to the school fund.” In general, I find the awkward situations I’ve recovered best from are the ones where I was able to clearly express myself. (For instance, I politely refused a gift from a very nice neighbor once, because I was saying no to possible implications beyond it.)

        You don’t have to analyze the suggestive or no question–you can just decide that whatever’s on offer here isn’t something you want regardless of intentions. You still might have felt uncomfortable enough to change your patterns, but I think it would feel less retrospectively haunting to you if you’d been able to put a period on it.

        1. Anonymous for this (bus story)*

          “I think it would feel less retrospectively haunting to you if you’d been able to put a period on it.”

          This nails it. The thing that makes me keep having such strong feelings when I think about it isn’t that I think I was in even the slightest danger, but that I felt so uncertain and left it so unresolved. I know I’m not ever going to act on it now, so I think what I need to do is just forgive my younger self for being young and unequipped to decide what the best action was at the time.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            This. Forgive you, for things that are not your fault. The best that comes out of this stuff is that we learn the importance of standing up for ourselves.
            Cannot change the past, but we CAN promise ourselves a whole different future as in “I will never, ever let a remark like this fly by me unchecked again! I will have a reply that indicates this is not acceptable.”

            Sometimes people that I like (and know to be basically harmless) say things that are ambiguous. I have my stock answers ready:
            Wow. (Thanx CH!)
            Ok. Stop.
            Don’t Go there!

            With people that creep me out- I am much firmer and more direct.

            And the other half of the story is to help others around us. I include speaking to men that I felt were being harassed by a woman. I let them know that I thought the treatment was unfair and totally inappropriate.

            Yes, do forgive your younger self. It will come in handy when you are talking with younger people about their own situations. You’ll have a better idea of what to tell them.

        2. ChristineSW*

          Thankfully I never got into a situation like the anon poster with the bus story, but I remember during a social work internship at a nursing home, a couple of prickly things came up because one of the residents wanted to give us interns a gift (I think he usually wanted to buy us something from the cafeteria). We knew the intentions were always good, but because of ethical concerns, we were not permitted to accept gifts from those we serve, i.e. the residents. In fact, if memory serves, the social work code of ethics prohibits a social worker from accepting gifts from any clients. I imagine that’s common in other “helping” professions too.

          Anyway, long story short, I can absolutely get the discomfort when it comes to gifts in gray situations like that.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        If it made you feel weird, then you were right to decline, no matter what his motives. But I have to say, that’s pretty freaky. I would be livid if I found out my husband was doing that. Although I don’t assume everyone is like me, and I’ve seen some damn strange arrangements in people’s relationships, I can’t help but think that is a very odd thing to do.

      4. Jillyan*

        so sorry to hear this happened, first of all, and that you weren’t able to confide in people who could have helped you. It’s a horrible thing to carry around and to me, it’s like an undiagnosed disease that you carry. You know something is wrong but you don’t know what exactly or how to deal with it. I think the important thing is to be self-empowered and know that this is something that happened to you, a bad thing, but it does not define you or your life. Even if his intentions were totally innocent, the fact of the matter is he was older and has more of a responsibility.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      Not in a work setting, and not repeated or witnessed, but yeah. Friend of the family propositioned me (he had kids my age!), and I didn’t know what to do or say. I politely turned him down, and made sure I was never around him again, but it was several years before I told anyone, many years before I told anyone in my family. I was young and innocent and totally humiliated and embarrassed.

      I can’t imagine laughing if it happened to a younger co-worker, but I can imagine calling him out on it, letting her know that others didn’t think it was appropriate either, and supporting her in telling her boss.

      However, a lot of it depends on the age and experience of the harassee. Because I’ve had coworkers say inappropriate things and have not in any way been offended or embarrassed. It’s still better to shut that down, because the people most embarrassed are those least likely to speak up.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I can’t imagine laughing if it happened to a younger co-worker

        I can’t either. That is just disgusting. If someone were brave enough to tell me a story like that, and I didn’t help them as best I could, that would haunt me to my grave.

      2. Jillyan*

        What an awful thing to have happened! I’m glad you did tell because this isn’t something anyone should ever carry in secret. I think a lot of it had to do with jealousy because I’ll admit I was *good* at my job, something I had only been doing for a month and was really just a summer job for me where those women had been doing it for decades and were slower than some eager teenager.

    4. Anon for this*

      Ugh. I’m so sorry this happened to you. I can’t imagine laughing if I saw that happening to a coworker. :( Thank you for being aware of this kind of thing, and shutting it down.

      I haven’t had to deal with anything that obvious at work, but I’ve encountered it elsewhere. You’re not alone (sadly). The skeevy “compliments” can do a number on your emotions, especially when you’re young and clueless. A few times, I’ve found myself feeling awful, and suddenly realized that I was still processing the effects of JerkComments, which I thought I’d successfully dealt with much earlier.

  30. Amanda*

    OK, I’m applying for a job where I want to mention some customer-service type experience I had during my college summer job, back in 2005 and 2006. Since it’s so far back, is it even worth it to put it on my resume or should I just do a brief mention in my cover letter? If I do put it on my resume, any suggestions for how to make it “flow” smoothly in conjunction with my much more recent work experience?

    1. LisaLyn*

      How far back does your resume go without it? Like if you put it on the resume and are doing things chronologically, would there be a huge gap? If so, I would vote for mentioning it in the cover letter and leaving it off the resume.

      1. Amanda*

        It would lead to a gap of three years, two if you’re accounting for the fact that I was in school for a year after the second summer. Would it look any better if I did it in different sections, ie professional experience and other work experience?

        1. LisaLyn*

          Oh yeah, I think that would be the way to go — the different sections, grouped by the type of experience. I mean, three years isn’t huge, but I would hate to think someone would glance at it and think, “Was she in JAIL for three years?” or something. Not that they would, but people are always looking for a reason to pass over a resume!

          1. Amanda*

            Thanks, that’s what I ended up doing. The job really stressed CS experience, so I didn’t want to leave off those two summers. Wish me luck!

  31. LisaLyn*

    I have been toying with sending this in to AAM, but I’ll just post it here! Here is the situation: a higher up in my smallish department is basically having an affair (confirmed to be “just” emotional at least, maybe more) with someone slightly below me in the pecking order. I do not report directly to this guy, but he does have a lot of influence in the department. He is giving this woman assignments and projects well beyond her skills and her job status. He is playing favorites to the point that my rather spineless (love the guy, but …) manager said something to both of them about it. Nothing changed.

    The other thing is I’m the only other woman in the department and this guy tried to be my “friend” when I first started because, in his words, women are so much more sympathetic than men and he needed a sympathetic listener, but being the introvert that I am, I did not take him up on that.

    So, my question – should I go to HR? It’s affected my attitude towards the job substantially and I’m afraid it’s limiting my growth in the department since my manager doesn’t quite see the entire situation and/or is unwilling to do anything about it. Has anybody ever had any experience bringing something like this up to HR? Any advice at all is appreciated!

    1. KimmieSue*

      First of all, are you sure that this personal relationship is happening? I mean, really sure? Not just speculation because of the perception of extra projects and such? If YES, do not walk, run, do not collect $200. Make sure you are prepared with real examples of what you’ve seen or heard, including what you say is the favored behavior.

      By the way, your manager should have already reported it…as if its true, it can be the beginning of a breeding ground for a sexual harassment suit later.

      What a terrible situation that you are in. Good luck.

      1. LisaLyn*

        Thank you for replying. I am really sure because she has told me directly about the sexual conversations they have, the late night texting, and the frequent meetings outside of work. I actually had to ask her to stop talking to me about it, that’s why I’m not sure if it has gone beyond that. Unless she is making it all up, but then that would also be a crazy situation!

        I’ve been keeping a record of what’s been going on, with dates and stuff like that. It’s just that I know this is the real world and things are not always fair. I do wish my manager were less clueless. Again, thanks!

    2. BCW*

      I’m just curious, how do you “confirm” an emotional affair? And I say this not to be snarky, but how do you know its not just a friendship, albeit maybe a closer one than is appropriate given the reporting structure in your department.

      Aside from that, I don’t know what HR can/would do. I mean, I’ve had female managers that gave assignments to other female employees that probably should have been given to me, but it was helping them “grow” (more experience on the resume basically). Is this person not doing these assignments correctly? Maybe she asked for these growth opportunities and he is trying to provide them. I just don’t know that unless things are clearly inappropriate, which they may be, but I don’t see, I think HR would have a hard time intervening.

      1. LisaLyn*

        Not snarky at all, and it’s because of specific things she has told me. They talk about sex all the time, she flat out told me she would like to have a physical relationship with him, they sneak away from their spouses to see each other outside of work.

        But I take your point and that’s actually where I’m at with this. In the real world, I don’t know what they can or would do.

    3. fposte*

      What’s the problem you face in your work here? Do you have to clean up her work, or are you not getting work from him that you should? Since the manager is aware of this already, I’d want a work reason of my own to escalate it above her, not just discomfort with the situation.

      1. KimmieSue*

        Great point from fposte…be prepared to provide details about how it’s impacting you and your work.

        Good job LisaLyn, telling her to stop discussing it with you.

      2. LisaLyn*

        There are work reasons. For example, because he will only give her assignments, we nearly lost a mission-critical piece of equipment because she was on vacation when the system had a problem and he would not allow anyone else to fix it. We were running without redundancy for a week which was really, really bad. That’s the most egregious example because, seriously, our department would .. I can’t even imagine what would have happened. I almost think we would have all been fired. :)

        Other things are that I do need this woman to help me with projects sometimes, but if he ever finds out I’ve given her a task, he will intervene and try to get her out of it (and not in a nice way — he’s very rude about it). It’s getting so I put off projects if I’m going to need her assistance.

        And I’m not really uncomfortable with the situation if I didn’t feel it affected me at work. People have all sorts of needs and people do things that to them are ok (or not ok) and I’m not going to judge them for that.

        Also, now that you’re making me think about it (ha ha) it’s not all just in relation to her. Because I am not his “friend”, he does tend to belittle me and my work, but I know that’s way too vague for HR.

        1. fposte*

          So “We have a workflow issue that’s affecting performance, and though I’ve discussed it with Manager, I’m concerned that Manager is reluctant to intervene because it involves an employee’s personal relationship. Do you have any suggestions for how to handle this?”

  32. Keren*

    Any job hunters out there want to share horror stories? I’ve been looking unsuccessfully for months, and recently had something happen that was so awful, it’s comical:
    I’m a mid carreer professional in marketing and communications, have a varied job history and lots of technical skills. I’ve been underemployed for a few years while caring for my young kids, and am now looking for a full time job. I interviewed for a job as a webmaster, to cover for an employee going on maternity leave. This was a skilled technical job. They decided not to fill the position. In the email where they told be about their decision, they referred me to a job in a friend’s business: a cat hotel. The job was cleaning cat litter on Sundays and holidays.

    1. anomnomnomimous*

      Wow. I would seriously look at the way you’re presenting your skillset, because it sounds like they thought you were COMPLETELY unqualified for the job. It sounds like it’s been a while since you’ve had any full-time jobs and that’s likely to make your skills sound outdated, or make you sound like you don’t have the skills that are now required at all. You need to address this head-on, and pronto. Try finding a training program that offers certificates on something in your field. Even if you already know how to do it, a recent certification is undeniable proof that your skills are current.

      It’s also possible that it was all a scam – that their friend just can’t find employees and they’re trying to help (in a rather sleazy way.) Is it possible that you misunderstood, and the job is marketing for the hotel (unlikely, but just thought I’d ask)?

      1. Keren*

        that’s what I was hoping for when I called to check on it, but no, they are looking for someone to clean up and give cats medication. ( I don’t think it is a presentation issue-I’ve had other interviews in my field lately. I think it’s just this particular person.)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I’ve had people refer me to something wildly out of my radar just because they knew about it and assumed I would take any job.

          When I was trying to figure out what to do with Vocational Rehab, they sent me to a job developer first, who asked me “What about OTR truck driving?” I was like, “Really? Did you even look at my resume?” Sheesh.

  33. Jubilance*

    Any advice for how to handle a stressful/demanding day job while also trying to start a business during my non-day job hours?

    I’m super excited about this idea and I think my business would be successful, but by the time I get home I have little energy to do more than eat dinner and lay on my couch. My day job has gotten so much more demanding in the last few months, thanks to a high visibility project and it also being the busy time of year for my industry. After 9 or 10 hours of meetings, frantic analysis work, and staring at numbers all day, I don’t have the energy to put into my business but I want to make it happen.

    All suggestions welcome! Thanks.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t really have any suggestions, but I think it’s awesome that you’re starting a business. I so admire the way you dive in to new challenges–I could stand to do more of that, so I find it really impressive.

      My only possible tip, as somebody who does an “evening shift” at home, is to know how your energy works and don’t fight it. I need a work-free zone between the two shifts, so I don’t dive into work again until after dinner; I also am pretty strict about bedtimes, which seems like folly until I see how unproductive I am when I’m chronically underslept.

      1. Judy*

        Similar with my home “evening shift”, although mine is the wife&mom evening shift. When I get home, I journal for 10-30 minutes, depending on how the day went, before I get pulled into the round of dinner, homework, cleaning, etc. It makes me much better at those other tasks, because I can get it all out on paper. Much more patience for handling all I need to do in the evenings.

    2. Malissa*

      Break up what you need to do in small bite sized chunks. Maybe spend a free day laying out your plan. Then mark it off in easy deliverables. Small wins expand motivation.
      When I needed to write a 20 page research paper while working 10 hours a day I would break it up into, find 5 references a night. Then I would set one night to lay out an outline. Then I’d tackle 1 or two things on the outline a night. By the end of the week I usually had a paper, mostly because by meeting one small goal I was more motivated to get ahead on the next one. And if I had a day in the middle where it just wasn’t going to happen, no big deal I was already ahead of schedule.

  34. FD*

    I just need to share this.

    I got a management job! I’m insanely excited, since this is my first management position (and some things were happening at work that make me very uncomfortable).

    I’m also terrified since the imposter syndrome is setting in already: “They hired you? It has to be a mistake…they’ll find out that you don’t have any clue what you’re doing.”

    1. louise*

      Congratulations! Wishing you much luck~and I bet you’ll find frequently finding yourself wondering WWAD? You know…What Would Alison Do? (or maybe that’s just me!)

    2. E.R*

      Congratulations! Is it in the same company or to a new company?

      Re: that imposter syndrome. I dont have all the answers to suffocating this beast, but I had a talk with my boss last week about how sometimes when I’m talking to clients, I feel like “who the hell am i to be giving advice or suggesting anything?” and he, the CEO and a rather prominent figure in our country, said “oh yeah, I feel that all the time”. The difference between he and I, at least right now, is that he goes ahead and does the things he wants to do anyways, and I stew about how anyone else in the world could do a better job than i ( im working on it)

      If you genuinely want to be a good manager, and you are committed to working at it, you will be better then 80% of the managers I’ve ever had just out of the gate.

      Have fun!

  35. TS*

    I need help. I’ve a repeat problem at work and I just don’t know how to handle it.

    The repeat problem is some guy getting very aggressive with me and treating me like an assistant (im a lawyer, hes on the finance & economics side). In meetings, he tries to out me on the spot. E.g. Yesterday, he said, “I’d like to hear what TS has to say on Really Broad Topic,” like he was my boss and I had to give him a presentation. (I asked what part of that topic he wanted to know about, and that stopped him for a bit.)

    He also does things like demand to know WHY someone who couldnt attend was out of the office (not his business & i wasnt going to tell him someone ekse’s concerns or set a precedent for answering to him) when i already explained we couldn’t meet because that crucial person was out of the office. The next day, he called demanding I check she was in for the meeting. It was a fair enough point that I double-checked, but I also said to him in an email he should feel free to check with her directly next time. I got an attack of how I’d organized the meeting and how he’d contact her directly, and I ended it with a “sounds good.” Then we had the meeting which involved him cutting me off whenever possible (though I didn’t speak much on purpose since I figured he’d run his mouth off to make me look incompetent – I’m more the type who has to stop and think first and the meeting was for info-gathering and strategy talk).

    What do you all do with jerks at work? What should I do with this jerk? I don’t think talking to him will work. He argues and resists over EVERYTHING.

    So far I’ve decided that I’m not taking his calls and am keeping everything to email. But seriously, this is not the first time a guy at work has acted like this and it’s so unpleasant and each time, I feel stumped, even though I should know by now what to do. But I don’t, so help!

    1. FD*

      He’s not your boss. Is he your subordinate, or a coworker.

      If he’s a subordinate, you *must* talk to him about this ASAP. Take him aside and say, “Bob, the way you’ve been talking is inappropriate and must stop now.” If he continues, than you’d say, “Bob, we’ve spoken before about how inappropriate your behavior is. This could impact your ability to keep this job.”

      If he’s a coworker, I’ve found you should never, ever underestimate the value of a cool stare when it comes to handling boors. The next time he challenges you, look him levelly in the eye, raise an eyebrow if you want, and wait a couple of moments. Most people backpedal at least somewhat at that point. It sort of helps to reestablish your control of the situation.

      After you feel you’ve made your point with that, you can move on calmly but politely. “Bob, if you would care to clarify your questions, I would be willing to address them.”

      When he calls you, avoiding taking the calls is about the worst thing possible with this personality type. It makes him feel you’re afraid of him. I would suggest saying something to the effect of, “Your tone is inappropriate. If you wish to discuss this further, please speak in a more respectful way.”

      This guy sounds like a classic bully. In my experience, those are best dealt with by acting calmly and coolly, and showing you aren’t afraid of them. The one exception here is if you feel your safety may be at risk from him, but he sounds more like a blowhard to me.

    2. LCL*

      People get away with acting like this guy because other people don’t say no to him, and other people think they have to answer his questions. Incessant questioning is a form of harassment and control. STOP EXPLAINING YOURSELF AND YOUR ACTIONS TO HIM.

      You have two choices. Meet with him, tell him to stop being a jerk and treat you appropriately. Which probably won’t work.

      Or, don’t answer his questions except to shut him down. Put yourself in that 13 year old frame of mind ‘you’re not the boss of me’. Then using professional language, answer back as appropriate.
      “Will Joan be at the meeting?”
      I don’t know, you could call Joan and ask her.

      “Why is John out of the office?”
      Managing employee leave is not my job, how would I know that?

      Your response to asking him what he specifically wants to know when he tossed a general question at you was perfect.

      If you are a lawyer, you earned that degree. You don’t have to explain yourself to him, or to anybody. You do have to answer legal questions as part of your job.

    3. Colette*

      There are 2 ways I could read this:
      1) This guy is a jerk, or
      2) You don’t like him, so you take everything he does in the worst way possible.
      (It’s possible both are true.)

      For example, checking to see if someone is in the office so you can go ahead with an already-rescheduled meeting – I have schedule conflicts a lot, so the intent behind this doesn’t seem out of line.

      Luckily, the rules for dogs/children/coworkers are the same – you get the behaviour you reward.

      If his reward is watching you squirm, minimize your reaction and stay calm.

      If he likes to feel like he can boss you around, gentle pushing back (“Why do you ask?”, “I wasn’t done talking”, or asking what specific part of the topic he wants your opinion on) is the way to go.

      If he’s really out of line, “Wow” or “Excuse me?” with an icy tone are useful.

      And, of course, public praise when he does something good.

      Since he argues over everything, a serene expression and a few shut-down phrases might be necessary. How far you can go depends on your relative positions.

    4. TS*

      Everyone, thank you so much. I think I need to work out a few shut-down phrases and to practice the cool stare.

      I’ll consider whether I answer his calls or not. The reason is that I think he’s pushing buttons, and as the saying goes, wrestling with pigs only gets you dirty while the pig enjoys it. And since his calls seem aimed at being bothersome and/or inappropriately bossy, he can put his thoughts in writing.

      Yep, he’s getting away with being a jackass.

      1. Marina*

        I tend to take phone calls from people like that, but limit my responses to “Hm” and “Interesting” and “Could you email that to me?”

    5. Malissa*

      If a jerk has a problem with how I run a meeting I ask them if they would like to run the next one. One time I actually assigned it to them–that was a funny disaster.
      If a jerk wants to rant endlessly I ask them to get to the point because I have other work I could be doing.
      If a jerk cuts me off repeatedly in a meeting I tell them they can talk when I am done. Or I ask them if they are done so I can resume what I was saying.
      Jerk wants to know what someone else is doing, I tell them to ask them directly.
      Jerk wants to be rude to me on the phone, “I’m sorry if you talk to me like that again I will be hanging up on you.” Then hang up.
      Calm, cool, collected and take no BS is the only way to handle jerks.

  36. Mints*

    Oh yes! I was thinking about sending this to Alison, but I know we’ve discussed it.
    Okay–I might get a job offer soon (fingers crossed!)
    This is the first time I feel like I can be more picky. If I get an offer (thru email), I’m thinking a good response is something like “I’d love to accept (some excited line). I do have a few more questions about the role”
    Should I then offer to go to their office, or give availability for a phone call, ask questions in email?

    The questions are about salary if they don’t give it, schedule (in the interview he said “not 9-5” and I was just like Okay), and title (its anew role, and it is has goofy startup title, and I’d like to see if I could use something else concurrently)

    What are folks’ thoughts about how to discuss job offer details?

    1. anomnomnomimous*

      honestly, it seems kind of odd to me to have several major sticking points still up for debate. Why didn’t you talk about them during the interview process?

      1. Mints*

        Well, the title isn’t really a deal breaker for me, it’s just something I’d about. As for salary, it seems typical that numbers aren’t given until job offer stage. I’ve seen AAM suggest waiting to negotiate about salary and teleworking until the offer, so it didn’t seem that unusual.
        But I’m still kind of wondering how job offer negotiation actually plays out.

        1. anomnomnomimous*

          Yeah, it was the scheduling thing that mainly stuck out to me. “Not 9-5” is pretty open and can mean any number of things, and I’d have wanted at least a little more clarification. For the salary, did you at least discuss a range? I know I’ve seen Alison mention that you should have at least some idea, otherwise you risk getting to the final stages, realizing you’re too far apart, and wasting time. The title wouldn’t have been a big deal to me either. I guess really it just depends on how much you discussed in the interview.

          As to your actual question – you could always let them decide. Maybe respond via email and say you’d love to work out the details, and ask which method is best for them?

          1. Mints*

            Okay, I have a tendency to mince words; he did talk about checking email nights and weekend (but I still have questions about weekly workload)
            Anyway–I should just ask, duh! Most of my job hunt questions are answered like this, haha. Thanks anyway

  37. Spitting mad*

    I have been talking to another department about an internal move. When I first talked to the hiring manager, he told me the pay would be $83K with 10% bonus. (I am currently making $54k.)

    When I saw the offer letter yesterday, it was for $70K with 4% bonus.

    The explanation I got was that $93K is the total compensation package with benefits, vacation, holidays, etc.

    I told the hiring manager that NOBODY thinks that way. Nobody hears a number and thinks, “Well, my paycheck will be only x% of that stated number.”

    Has anyone else ever run into this? I feel as if I have been baited and switched. I am quite cranky.

    (PS The hiring manager also pointed out that the new salary is a significant boost from what I am making now. I did not have the presence of mind to say that the worth of the new job has nothing to do with what I am being paid now. I did note that I am being grossly underpaid for my level of responsibility.)

    (PPS I have already told my boss that I have applied for this internal position – required to do so by HR – so now I am really screwed.)

    1. KimmieSue*

      Sorry this is happening to you. My gut is that the hiring manager should NOT have quoted a salary to you all. It’s possible that the $93k (total comp) was the target for a hire, but depending on the size of your organization & HR department, the range for internal candidates might be different. Although it probably doesn’t seem fair (and it’s not), there is really no set salary for any given job (unless you are protected by a collective bargaining agreement). I can see HR/Compensation totally freaking out about an increase that would nearly double the compensation an internal candidate was receiving.
      I apologize as I know this probably feels very wrong…but am guessing that might be what happened.
      Now the comment about total cost of compensation (including benefits) was kind of a BS response. Certainly, benefits are included in the package of employment BUT no one really speaks like that…I think the hiring manager was trying to cover his booty.

    2. Just a Reader*

      Also i hate to point out the obvious…but 70K plus 4% is not in any way close to 83K plus 10%.

      1. Spitting mad*

        Just a reader, I did alter the numbers a little bit just in case someone from my company is reading this, but yes – even with the true numbers, the math does not add up.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      “Tuesday you said your dog ate The Big Report that was due on Wednesday.
      Wednesday you came in and said your dog died last week and you had to leave early on Wednesday to bury it.
      Thursday you came back to work with a new hairdo, tan and manicure. But you had to leave early to bring the dog to the vet’s for shots.
      Friday you were here long enough to pick up your paycheck. And you cried and said the dog died again so you had to leave.
      For this past week you have worked one full day and four partial days. Perhaps you are not in a position right now to be working?”

      Put several examples of excuses together and show the employee how these excuses do not help the company, nor does it help to secure her job.

  38. happycat*

    I have a question I just cannot come up with a good answer to.

    I am a receptionist for a global consulting firm. I started off in our larger office, 250 people when I started, and 450 when I left that office for another reception role in a much smaller (same compnay) Down Town office. Thirty people here, and now 500+ in the larger office I came from.

    Long story longer..

    My old role at office A has had a tiny bit of trouble filling the receptionist role. Their first replacement was a nice lady, but she ended up leaving, stress leave. Office A says she left due to ‘personal stress’ but I happen to know that was only part of it. The role is SUPER work heavy and stressful.

    Since the office has nearly doubled in size, the phones ring that much more. When I started seven years ago they estimated they rang once per minute. Reception also has to do all the shipping, receiving, supply ordering, catering ordering on top of greeting guests and phones and other odd duties as they come up. Add to that small things like booking boardrooms, handing out and tracking numerous key cards (guests and employees who forget’ theirs) keeping track of the weekly massage therapy calendar and communicating with her, sorting incoming faxes, being the main liaison with the building and cleaning crew, the role is crazy busy. I personally have told the groups manager (my manager at that level too) that the role really is to task heavy. She replied she did agree, but the ‘owners’ won’t agree to hire more people for that role.

    Oddly we are having a new office built and in that building they WILL have two people up there, AND reduced the work load. Yet, in the meantime, they still have one person doing a LOT of work.

    They have receptionist number two up there. And like number one, she takes a lot of sick days, sometimes just not showing up for work at all and leaving others to scramble to fill her shoes.

    I think both people did amazing in the role, and do not fault them for their attitude, which has been awesome. At the same time, they were both hesitant to say the work was / is too much.

    Now receptionist number two is getting super stressed. I can hear it in her voice when I call, and she does odd things as a result of the stress. I won’t go into too much detail, but she now thinks that her coworkers are conspiring against her.

    That sounds extreme, but, I have done the role and trust me, while I know I rocked it, it came at a huge personal toll for me. My life outside of work suffered a great deal and I almost ended up divorced, I did end up on anti-depressants and after being away from there for the past 2.5 years still feel terrified to go back there. The work space can be very toxic. Pair that with the heavy work load, and yes, one gets ‘odd’ as a result.

    But maybe this is all in my head. I don’t know what to do to support receptionist number two. I can’t go above her and tell our supervisor how stressed she is, not if she won’t do that. It also is not my job to do that. I have let number two know how much I support her, and how awesome I think she is.

    Is there anything else I can do for her? Is this even a ‘big deal’? am I just over reacting? Maybe this is normal for most workplaces, just work reception till they break down and hire another one?

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think it sounds normal, but I also don’t think it sounds like you have the power to do any of the necessary things to change the workload. This is a top-down problem of staffing decisions that can only be remediated by people with the power to put somebody else in. I understand your connection to a role you had and your sympathy for people suffering in it, so I’m sure it’s tough for you.

      But I also think that no-call/no-shows aren’t merely stress related, nor is a belief in conspiracy, so maybe the hiring could be better, too, and the current occupant might benefit from being directed toward an EAP, if you have one. I’m a little concerned about the sound of her.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      They need more than one person on the desk. For a company that size and for that workload, one person is clearly not enough. I’ve been there and it SUCKS.

      Unfortunately, there isn’t really much you can do about it, I’m afraid. If it’s impacting your work directly, then you can certainly tell your supervisor. And I second the motion of concern for the other receptionist. It sounds like she’s about to crack.

  39. Joey*

    Is it just me or do you have concerns when a candidate lists dates of employment as 2009 to present and come to find out they left before the résumé was submitted?

    Obviously I understand the rationale behind it but it worries me that he’ll be deceptive in othe ways.

    1. De Minimis*

      I would be concerned too. I wouldn’t see anything wrong with a candidate leaving a job they’d held for the last few years, so why be misleading about it?

      I made a similar mistake once, I submitted a resume saying my CPA license was active–and it was at the time, but I knew that it would be inactive within a few days. Foolish move on my part.

    2. BCW*

      Possibly. I think depends on realistically when they left. Its possible they had a resume they were sending out a lot. They left, and a week later submitted the resume, and later realized they hadn’t updated it. I know I’ve done that with addresses before (not that its the same, but its kind of a small change). Now if they were gone from the company for like 6 months, that is a bit different.

      1. Joey*

        That’s why I wonder- is it an oversight (in which case I might worry about attention to detail if its relevant) or is it deception?

        1. FormerManager*

          Another possibility could be they were let go on say the 15th but were getting severance through the end of the month. That happened to me–was let go on June 30 but received severance through the end of July.

  40. Danielle*

    Has anyone ever used Resunate or RezScore? If so what are your opinions on these sites? Are they actually helpful? Are they more helpful for resumes going through and ATS? Or should I just steer clear?

  41. TL*

    I’m waiting to hear back from a job interview, and the HR person just emailed me to say their decision-making process has been delayed.

    I emailed back expressing my appreciation for his consistent, considerate updating through this whole process but I didn’t ask for an updated timeline because I’m not a good waiter and I would spend the whole approximate deadline (quietly) freaking out if I didn’t hear back in the first instance I was supposed to.

    That’s okay, right?

      1. TL*

        Oh, they’re trying to move quickly, so I’ll follow up in two weeks if I need to – though with them, every time I’m thinking “I’ll follow up tomorrow” they’ve contacted me with information.

    1. Pussyfooter*

      I don’t think it would be normal for an employer to ding you for not asking.
      Asking to keep yourself on top of things is a choice. As long as you have a practical reason for skipping that, I don’t see a problem.

      1. TL*

        Thanks. I’m not a patient person and this whole interview process in particular has been exceptionally hard on what little patience I have!

  42. Pussyfooter*

    Just wanted to pop in on a Friday and say Hi to all the people who’ve been teaching me these last months. Hope Jamie is feeling better quick.
    And I can’t believe no one has posted anything with the word “kitty” in it! I love Halloween and that’s a great photo of Alison’s kitty.

  43. BCW*

    This is a rant/question. I’ve known for some time that at some point my position would probably be eliminated, but there was never a timeframe. So I’ve been applying, but being a lot more picky in the jobs I apply for. For example, I wouldn’t apply for jobs in the suburbs, only in downtown. In this time, I’ve gone on a few interviews. Most of them seemed to go very well, but I’ve not gotten the job. I even went so far with one place that I met with the company psychologist, only to not get the job (yeah, that doesn’t make you feel good). When I get feedback, its always that they liked me a lot, but they went with someone with more experience, but I was the 2nd choice. By the way, knowing you are the 2nd choice almost feels worse then just being rejected outright. Its so frustrating though because they know exactly what my experience is when they interview me, so its almost like a waste of time if that experience wasn’t enough. I feel like I’m either overqualified (or my desired salary is too high) or not enough experience. Finding that perfect middle ground is almost impossible. Any tips?

    1. Pussyfooter*

      Are there one or two processes/techniques you could teach yourself that would add to your repertoire? Maybe that would make you more versatile and more competitive with more experienced candidates?

    2. Joey*

      Don’t give up on the 2nd place places. I will be hiring my 2nd 2nd choice shortly. They both reapplied and were in the right place at the right time. Frequently that’s what it comes down to.

      1. Joey*

        Also ask for feedback and thank them for it. Both candidates did this and it was refreshing.

        When both asked it wasn’t a dry and generic “can you provide any feedback?” It was more personal, conversational and therefore more genuine.

          1. louise*

            I had a great conversation a few years ago after I was told I was told they went with someone else but I was their 2nd choice. I said I was eager to move into a role like (one I was rejected for), so what types of skills could she recommend I develop further?

            I don’t know that asking that always results in as much helpful feedback as I got, but I knew the manager had formerly been a teacher and, more recently, a career development advisor, and that she enjoyed giving practical advice. I do think that

    3. fposte*

      I think the “experience” thing doesn’t work quite the way you’re looking at it. You and Jane are both compelling enough candidates that I want to interview you, even though Jane’s experience is greater than yours. If you brought in stuff at the interview that outweighed Jane’s experience level, we’d hire you. “More experience” is a simpler way of saying “it came down to experience in this case”–but it doesn’t always, and they don’t know until they’ve met you how it all weighs out.

      1. Joey*

        Agreed. It’s not strictly years of experience. Id much rather have breadth of experience although its tougher to have breadth with fewer years.

    4. Felicia*

      I know what you mean about how it feels to be a 2nd choice…it happened to me for 3 jobs i really wanted, all back to back. One gave me a lot of compliments, said how great my interview was and how great my writing samples were, and how great i did on the writing /editing test they take. Then they say i dont have the job and i was the second choice. So it’s like ok i’m great, but it doesn’t matter because i didn’t get the job. And when they give me that many compliments, it’s like there was absolutely nothing i could do (when it comes down to experience, there’s nothing you could do)

  44. TLT*

    In an email exchange regarding scheduling an interview, I asked what the salary was because I don’t want to waste their time or mine by meeting if the salary is too low for me to move. She said what’s your range, I sent back a number and said there’s room for negotiation. Yesterday we were emailing back and forth quickly, now after the salary email, it’s been 2 hours and I’m (admittedly, this is crazy), freaking out! Provide solidarity, AAM readers! (Also, I should say I’ve never been asked this question before, I did research on the average salary and my number is within the range given my experience/qualifications, and am willing to go between $5-8K lower than the number I gave her). EEk!

      1. TLT*

        I didn’t put the $5-8K in the email, that was just info for you :-). I said I was willing to negotiate to find a number that works for both of us (and I have a number in mind that I’ll leave my current, craptastic job for that I also did not share with the hiring manager).

    1. badger_doc*

      Mentally move on. If they want to interview you, they will. No point in waiting by the phone for them to call. Go on to the next application.

    2. Malissa*

      You put a price on yourself before you even interviewed? Yeah, that’s a risky move.
      Hopefully they are just deciding if they can afford you.
      Good luck!

      1. TLT*

        Malissa, I didn’t want to interview if the position pays less than I’m making now so I asked what the salary was forcing me into naming a number, which yes, was admittedly a little risky, but as I mentioned above, I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time. :-)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Two hours? That’s not much time. Once you named your range, they probably have some checking to do anyway. I would not expect a reply so quickly.

          Move on to the next one or you’ll make yourself crazy!

        2. Malissa*

          Oh I sooo understand that concept. Life would be so much easier if people would name numbers up front. I finally gave up on having to know a number before I interviewed. I figure if the position doesn’t pay enough at least I got practice on interviewing. I actually flew 1400 miles for an interview for my current job with-out knowing if the salary would be enough. Once they decided they wanted me the negotiation on the salary went very much into my favor. As in I named a reasonable price and they said yes.

  45. Cath@VWXYNot?*

    I interviewed someone for the first time this week!

    I’d been part of some “meet some of our team!” Q&A sessions after the main interview before, but this was my first time taking part in the main interview. The professor I work with asked most of the questions, but after spending the morning looking over some AAM posts about interviewing I chipped in with a few of my own. I even turned the “magic question” around – the role will involve some grant writing, so I asked the candidate “what do you think distinguishes a good grant proposal from a great grant proposal?” (The professor said afterwards what a great question that is – he plans to use it himself from now on).

    The prof gets to make the final decision, so we’ll see if I get to work with the candidate or not. She’s had a very interesting career path and gave some good answers, so I hope so.

  46. Claire MKE*

    Any advice about how to adjust to an expanding role? I’ve been really looking forward to my new manager starting, since I’m hoping to take on more projects & be able to go full time at my job…now she’s here, and she’s already pulling me into the loop on a lot more stuff which is great but also terrifying! This is what I wanted, but I keep finding myself reacting with anxiety and “oh god why are you asking me I don’t know anything” (internally, of course!).

    1. Leslie Yep*

      That’s so exciting and I’m right there with you! Here’s what I have done, which has been really helpful:

      1. First make sure your house is in order. Make sure your organizational system/planning and prioritizing system is nailing it so you and see how and where to fit these new things in. For me there has been a 1000% improvement in feeling like I Can Do This since I walked into my office every day with a clear understanding of the non-negotiables, the nice to haves, and the let’s not kid ourselves-es.

      2. Try to start building your “boss hat” by asking her lots of questions that aren’t really necessary for your job. Make it clear you’re doing this so you don’t seem like a Bossy Glossie but stuff like:
      – What other options did you consider?
      – What are the benefits and risks of this approach?
      – Who all did you consult before coming to this decision?
      Basically, all the stuff you’d ask your direct report to probe into their approach, all of that will help you start to be able to apply your boss’s viewpoint to different situations and expand your own thinking.

      This has been critical for me in terms of being able to see the far-reaching consequences of my decisions. Make better decisions, get more information, get more responsibility, the cycle goes on!

      3. Just resolve yourself to the fact that you are probably going to be in a bit over your head, and that’s OK! Try giving your opinion, or at least your list of “here are the things I’m thinking about…”, and get continuous feedback from your manager.

      I hope that’s helpful! I find myself constantly thinking about the Peter Principle lately, but I’m starting to have more of those, “Oh yeah, I know how to do this!” days. It’s a great feeling and you’ll get there too!

  47. Giles*

    Anyone got advice about what to do in this particularly…awkward situation?

    So, I met this very nice guy on a business trip, and I casually mentioned that my companion was looking for a teaching position. Business Guy said he was close friends with the president of a charter school, and he thinks they’re hiring for the subject Companion specializes in (fyi, Companion is fresh out of college) and he’ll talk to the principal to confirm and call me if so. He called me a few days later to say that the position was open and to tell Companion to email Business Guy with his info, which he’ll pass along.

    I told Companion and he emailed all his info, but he hasn’t heard back from Business Guy. It’s been two weeks. I’m trying to stay out of it for relationship purposes, but I’m worried on the professional end because what if Business Guy took one look at Companion’s resume and balked? I kind of worry how it reflects on me because Business Guy’s got my card and he’s actually kind of sort of a client of my company’s, etc. Do I email Business Guy and ask how the process is going, or have Companion do it, or let it go, or what do I do?

    1. fposte*

      Let it go. Companion may have the option of mailing his info directly to the school, especially if the position is posted, but you’re out of it now (if it is that he loathed Companion’s resume, what do you propose to do about it now anyway, dump Companion?). It’s also nothing to see as hugely awkward–these exchanges are generally on a par with “let’s do lunch soon” as far as certainty goes. If Business Guy raises it again when you see him you just thank him for the thought.

      1. Giles*

        Last I checked the position wasn’t posted. And yeah, if he didn’t like Companion’s resume, there isn’t anything I can do about that (I’ve offered to give Companion some of AAM’s resume advice, but I dropped it because he wasn’t interested.. and no, I’m not dumping him.)

        1. fposte*

          The dumping was hyperbole :-).

          One possible follow up might be for Companion to follow up with Business Guy inquiring if there’s somebody at the school he should send his application materials to directly. And if there’s still radio silence, let it go.

          1. Giles*


            It might be something he can ask if he emails him and asks if Business Guy received the materials. I’ll consider possibly bringing it up to Companion this weekend (trying to walk a tight rope because I’m sure Companion doesn’t want me being pushy.)

            1. fposte*

              I would avoid advising Companion further if Companion isn’t initiating the discussion. Consider yourself out of the equation on this one except as co-Companion and sounding board.

    2. Marina*

      Definitely don’t follow up yourself. I think it’d be appropriate for Companion to follow up just to make sure the materials were received, since they were sent directly to Business Guy rather than through a more standard application process.

      1. Giles*

        I was leaning toward kind of casually asking Companion if Business Guy has replied at all, and if not, maybe he should email him again to ask if he got everything/if the position is still around. Otherwise, it does seem to make more sense to be hands off about it – both from a business and personal standpoint.

  48. WazSup*

    Here’s a funny interviewing story to kick off the weekend…

    A few years ago, my friend (an editor) went on a job interview at a local media/publishing company. She was scheduled to meet with the Hiring Manager we’ll call Jim.

    She arrived early to the interview. After waiting for almost an hour, Jim arrives and invites in his office. She sits down and he closes the door. He starts chatting and in mid-conversation he asks, “Hey, do you mind if I light up?”

    He wasn’t talking about a cigarette, if you catch my drift.

    She said that yes, in fact, she did mind.

    She didn’t get the job, but she did get a legendary story out of it.

  49. Anonymouse*

    Does anyone else feel the “golden handcuffs” effect of their job? I have been at the same company since I graduated 2 years ago, and the only jobs I get interviews for are in the same field that I am trying to leave. I am paid very well at my firm, but don’t have enough experience to command a high starting salary in a new, less-related field. My company is filled with “lifers” who all thought they would move on, but the paycheck incentive is too great…

    1. Colette*

      I had that at one point. I decided that I was willing to take the salary hit to get a job I liked. (And then I got laid off, which meant I got severance & thus the best of both worlds, but I don’t recommend it as a plan.)

    2. louise*

      Yup. I get it. I stayed in an admin role in dentistry for waaaay too long for that very reason. Left for a position in a different field, slightly less pay but lots of promises…no promises panned out and then they fired me. (At least the timing was such that unemployment payment factored in my higher dental world pay.) In the end, I landed a position I NEVER would have taken because the pay is terrible…but I’m having fun and loving it! I never would have guessed it would be worth it to take such a pay cut, and never would have done it if the fates hadn’t thrown me into desperation, but it has paid some serious happiness dividends.

      I don’t wish you the same journey, but I do wish you a happy outcome, whatever you decide. Sure, those cuffs are golden, but are they worth it?

  50. RedStateBlues*

    So, I have an interview next week. While it’s not a deal breaker, I’d really like to not start until January. Do you guys think that a start date in early January for a job I’m interviewing for in mid November is too far off? I know ultimately its going to depend on their needs, but generally speaking, do you think a January start date would be unreasonable?

    1. Just a Reader*

      It doesn’t sound crazy at all with the holidays thrown in there. It’s worth testing the waters at the offer stage.

    2. PEBCAK*

      No,you can ask, and for a lot of companies, this would be a relief. Tons of people take vacation during the stretch from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, and bringing someone on during that time can be difficult.

    3. Colette*

      It sounds totally reasonable.

      You’ll be interviewing (for example) on November 12. They’ll probably take a few days to finish their interviews. Let’s say they get back to you on the 18th. Throw in a couple of days for negotiations, and you could put in your notice on the 22nd for a start day of Dec. 9, which gives you three weeks in December, at least one of which is less productive. Definitely worth asking if you can start in January.

  51. Just a Reader*

    I have been back from maternity leave for a few weeks now. Before I left our department head told me there were “big plans” for me after coming back from leave. I haven’t seen any evidence of these big plans and I’m wondering if they are forgotten.

    I initiated a separate conversation about growth with my boss and was told to get settled after being out for so long, before this conversation could progress.

    I’ve been recognized as a high performer and am wondering if maternity leave counted against me or pushed me out of mind for opportunities.

    Does this sound normal? Advice?

    1. Malissa*

      I think they are feeling out how you are going to handle work and a kid. If you go back to being that super high performer things should get back on track quickly.
      Honestly I’ve seen so many new parents (men and women) flounder for the first few months after a baby that I can understand their trepidation.

  52. Marina*

    AWESOME timing. Okay, so it’s a bit of a moot point considering I already sent the email, but…

    Is it creepy or showing initiative to email a follow-up note to an interviewer if they didn’t actually give you their email address? Keeping in mind this is someone at a public agency and all their email addresses are

  53. Beebs*

    I love Open Thread because in addition to reading all the interesting things others have to say/ask about, I can insert my own totally random whine.
    I work in academia and we always have to do a full open search for permanent positions, no matter what. So while I have been in my current role as an interim for over a year, now I have to apply along with everyone else for the “real” job. And I’m the boss in my area, but we always have people who the new hire will supervise on the committee so there are direct reports in my office who currently reading applications. They are trying to be subtle about it, but of course every time I see it out of the corner of my eye I wonder if it’s mine. And what if I missed a typo or something. Or my essays don’t live up to expectations. And of course we Absolutely Cannot Talk About The Hiring Process because of our positions relative to this hire, so there’s this weird cone of silence about the whole thing. I should get an interview (God help my ego and self-worth if I don’t) and then I get the double horror being formally interviewed by people I work with every single day.
    Okay, that’s all. Thanks for listening. :-)

    1. SD*

      Ugh, academia can be so strange about hiring, and what a frustrating situation! It’s not at the same level, but I was a candidate for a position in the same department as two mentors/friends of mine, and we felt (and I think one of them was actually told directly) that they shouldn’t be sociable with me while the search was going on, or it would look like favoritism, I guess? I mean, come on, they would have been happy to give me tips that would help me get the job, but it’s not like there’s a secret password they were going to pass me under the table that would magically give me the position. Spoiler alert: I didn’t get the position, and it was actually closed so the higher ups could re-think what they want. Now it’s been reposted and we get to do the whole dance all over again (hopefully?)!

      All to say, I hear you. It’s madness. Take deep breaths.

      1. Beebs*

        I hope that this time the’s charm and you get the job! We’ve actually not completed a hire because no one was really suited based on the job description that went out–but we realized the problem wasn’t the candidates, it was the way we’d framed the job. After a second posting, the job went to someone who hadn’t been successful the first time around.

        I’m trying avoid the people not in my office who are on the committee until the whole thing is over–don’t want to put them in an awkward position. Right now I just wait for the phone call with fingers crossed.

  54. CollegeAdmin*

    In the comments on Wednesday’s post about the “insulting” email line, there was some discussion about whether one asks for time off or states the intention (“Could I take Monday off?” vs. “I will be taking Monday off.”). How do you phrase time off requests?

    I’m doing a pretty terrible job of it right now, so I’d love to hear how others do this/what standard company culture is. A sample conversation of how I ask for a day off:
    1. Ask DisorganizedBoss if she has anything that needs to be done on X date and what events are on the calendar.
    2. Say, “I’d like to take December 6th off for a family party, if you didn’t have anything that you needed me for. But if you need me, that’s totally okay, I can be here.”
    3. Assuming DisorganizedBoss has no problems, go to ParanoidBoss and repeat steps 1&2.

    This is terrible. Please save me from myself.

    1. fposte*

      I think this feels bigger to you than it is. If you need to check with multiple people, that’s a pain, but that’s not you, it’s the situation. You might be able to condense it to one exchange with each boss–“I was hoping to take off December 6th, and right now the schedule looks clear. Do you have any possible conflicts that haven’t made it onto the calendar? No? Then are we good with my putting that absence on the calendar?”

    2. Jazzy Red*

      When I finally decided that I was a real grown-up (around age 40), I started saying “I’d like to take December 24th off, if that’s convenient”. When I did more “secretarial” work, I’d check the bosses’ calendar and all the team members’ calendars to see if something big was coming up around that time. Sometimes they would need me to be there, other times they wouldn’t, but at least I wasn’t caught by surprise if i couldn’t have that day off.

    3. Jen in RO*

      I’ve always felt like asking is the way to go. I usually phrase it similar to: “I want/need time off on the dates x, y, z. Is that OK with you?”.

    4. Windchime*

      Ugh. If I were requesting, I would probably send an email that says, “I’d like to take Nov 1 and 2 off as PTO if possible. Please let me know if this won’t work out.”

      Fortunately, we use an online system so I just fill out a little online form. I select what day(s) I want off with a short (optional) note. Once completed, the request goes directly to my boss and he has the option to click Approve or not.

  55. Amanda*

    I found out today that interviewing for a job you’re not very excited about is a good experience. I just had a phone interview for a seasonal retail position. I don’t think it went very well, but since I’m not that invested in getting this job, I feel that I can be more objective about my weaknesses in interviewing.


    I was recently really screwed over by a relative. They promised to do something for me, I relied on that promise and yesterday, they backed out. This is causing me significant distress and I guess I just need to hear other people’s stories about times they relied on someone and got screwed over. Sort of a “it’s not just me” kind of group therapy if you will. So tell me your story of being screwed over by someone you relied on for something. Thanks.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      That sucks.
      I really don’t wanna relive my versions of that… but I have to tell you that people wonder why my contingency plans have contingency plans. ha! (sarcasm)

      Maybe it is just me. But sometimes I find that friends are more reliable than family. I think it depends on the setting. My friends have really bailed me out here and there.

      It’s tough when family lets you down. Really tough.

      1. ANONFORNOW*

        Sure is tough NSNR! And I agree that friends are sometimes more reliably than family members. The unfortunate thing about the situation with my relative is that what he backed out on is major. It’s not just loan me $50, it was a huge, major deal involving legal stuff and his backing out has caused me to scramble big time. I’m literally praying now that something will work out because it’s the last weapon in my arsenal for this situation. Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts, I appreciate it.

    2. Lily*

      Managers always have to rely on others and it’s part of the job description to have to pick up other people’s pieces. Of course, the manager can hopefully fire people who drop the vase too many times, while you can’t fire family. However, you can avoid family members and managers can’t avoid their employees.

      Carolyn Hax has great advice about setting and enforcing appropriate boundaries with family. Lots of stories there!

  57. Marina*

    AWESOME timing. Okay, so it’s a bit of a moot point considering I already sent the email, but…

    Is it creepy or showing initiative to email a follow-up note to an interviewer if they didn’t actually give you their email address? Keeping in mind this is someone at a public agency and all their email addresses are firstname.lastname at

    1. The IT Manager*

      Nope. Not at all creepy.

      Only be aware if was to someone with a common or semi-common name especially at a large agency, it may go to some other John Smith than the one you intended.

  58. Grumpy*

    In light of the recent, interesting, threads on email etiquette, what do you all think of emoticons?

    Specifically, one of my bosses includes at least one smiley face in every single email he sends me. No matter the topic, no matter how neutral of a message, there is a smiley face (or several). This irritates me. I am not 12 years old. I find it rather condescending. He wouldn’t do this in an email to higher ups. I am an experienced professional, and I don’t need smiley faces when you are sending basic information or requests to me. It has a hint of “oh aren’t you cute…” and it makes me think he doesn’t take me seriously. Am I overreacting?

    Obviously there are worse things he could do. Yet, I feel that emoticons should be used sparingly (they can serve a purpose to soften a message occasionally), if at all.

    So how do you use emoticons or not? Does it change depending on who the recipient is?

    1. Ruffingit*

      In a work setting, I use emoticons only if the message calls for it such as I include a joke to a co-worker and I want them to know for sure that I am kidding. But in general, no I wouldn’t use them because they aren’t necessary for most work communications I don’t think. Doesn’t mean I’m against their use, but it does seem odd when conveying work messages that someone would overuse them.

      Could be that your boss got in trouble once due to tone or something not being conveyed in his message or that someone has told him they’re unsure if he’s kidding or something in his email and he’s now gone overboard with trying to be very clear. Don’t know, but I can see the irritation with this.

    2. Colette*

      I rarely use them in e-mail (unless it’s a joking e-mail to a close colleague) but do use them in instant messaging (again, with close colleagues). I wouldn’t use them when talking to my manager’s manager’s manager, no matter the medium, because that relationship is more business and less “wow, great Halloween costume”.

    3. BCW*

      I personally wouldn’t use them, but I think it is a bit of an overreaction to find them condescending. If the two of you regularly are communicating, I’d say its just because of familiarity. I can say I’d rather have a bit of levity than the totally cold emails that some people like to send. No greeting, just a sentence of what they need, and no sign off.

    4. Marina*

      Is it a generational thing? I’m pretty likely to include smiley faces in work emails, actually more likely to do so in emails to higher-ups.

      Does he seem condescending in other ways? If this is part of a pattern, then yeah, I can see how it’d be annoying. But if this is the only potentially condescending thing he does, I’d write it off as a communication quirk and not worry about it.

    5. The IT Manager*

      Hmmm. I think you’re reading too much into his use of emoticons. I use them in IMs and emails (now that I think about it) in order to convey that something is meant to be funny or amusing or excitement or disappointment about a piece of information. I wouldn’t use them when I was being more formal with higher supervisors or people outside my team, but I am pretty free with them with people on my team (bosses, peers, and subordinates) with whom I have more friendly relationship with.

      I don’t ever use them to convey a message of “oh aren’t you cute…” or lack of respect.

        1. Grumpy*

          Ok, good points! I agree too, that they totally can be used when communicating something funny, or amusing, or excitement, etc. And I wouldn’t find that annoying at all. Heck, I use them too, when I feel it’s needed!

          It’s just that they are used in every. single. email. No matter how mundane. Some examples:

          “we did have legal and compliance both approve the revised document :)”

          “Ladies, if you haven’t officially heard yet :)
          Just an update that effective Yesterday, we have taken over management of xxxxxxx and xxxxxxx. :)”

          “Not sure why it did that I updated and completed course for you on this end :) what version of explorer are you using? Could also be that :)”

          I guess…this isn’t that bad. He IS a pretty nice person. It’s just a quirk. However, he doesn’t do this when communicating with his peers. And, he has done other things that make me think he just thinks of me as young woman and not much else (I am not that young either). Like, lie to me about stupid stuff because he assumes I don’t know any better.

          But thanks for the feedback, I appreciate it.

          1. The IT Manager*

            Yeah, that is actually so much that it might well annoy me and also seems kind of inappropriate (all of those sentences didn’t seem to need/warrant smileys).

            OTOH I still don’t think he’s sending veiled hints to you, but it says something about him.

          2. Becca*

            We have a guy we work with that does this. He sent us a letter in the mail and drew the creepiest smiley face on the paper ever. It’s a running joke in our office because literally every email has a winky face. He sent me an email asking me to send out an email marketing piece that his company designed. Guess what was in the title of the email marketing? A big fat ;-)

          3. Jen in RO*

            That’s excessive, but I know people who write like this on FB… maybe he just lets it seep into his professional emails too. It would bug me a ton (Smileys are not punctuation! Learn to write!) but I don’t think they signify more than a boss who sucks at emails.

          4. Colette*

            The “ladies” would annoy me more than the smilies.

            I’d just think of it like a nervous tic – the written equivalent of laughing at the end od every sentence.

  59. PuppyKat*

    First of all, the kitty with the jack o’lanterns is adorable!

    Next, I have a request that I hope some people in the AAM community can help me with: coping techniques for dealing with a move from the “outside” world into a heavily bureaucratic organization.

    Two years ago I joined the staff at a university. Same type of work—but most of my career up to that point had been with non-profits. You’d think by this point that I’d have gotten used to the mind-numbing jaw-dropping bureaucracy, but I haven’t. Yesterday was a particularly bad day. Does anyone have any tips they can share? Thanks!

    1. Lily*

      Fatalism! I used to be as tenacious as a bulldog about achieving my goals. Now, I will spend a reasonable amount of time and energy and then let go of parts of the goal if my boss can’t think of a solution either. However, repeating this too often saps my motivation. Some people are able to USE the rules of the bureaucracy and I’m trying to learn from them.

      1. PuppyKat*

        Thank you, Lily! Yes, that’s my biggest fear: that the bureaucracy will sap my motivation and make me as complacent as a lot of the other people who work at the university. I came in as an high-achieving performer and I want to remain that way.

        But some days, after hearing something like “You need to fill out form X-1 before you can submit request R22I45TM,” or that nine people will have to review a small change in a document before I can start handing it out, I just want to bang my head against the wall! I remember reading somewhere on AAM—maybe Alison wrote it—that bureaucracies value process more than results, and it’s so true.

        Anyway, I’ll continue to work on accomplishing what I can and let go of/postpone the rest. Thanks again!

  60. kasey*

    Dear Universe,
    I never, ever want to hear an employer say “we’re like family here” or “we’re just one big family” to describe what is almost certainly a highly dysfunctional workplace or office again. I suspect it is some some of code.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Totally agree. I’ve never heard that term used for anything less dysfunctional than the Manson family. That term is a huge red flag for me.

      1. BCW*

        I don’t mind that one myself. I mean, I like to know that a company isn’t just all work all the time.

        1. LOLwhut*

          Sure, but term is usually code for “We work til 9 and then go out and get blitzed.” If that’s your thing, more power to ya, but that stopped for me by the time I hit 30.

          1. Colette*

            Personally, I’m more of a “work hard, then go home and do my own thing” type, so it’s useful in letting me know I don’t want to work there.

            1. Windchime*

              Exactly. “Play hard” makes me think of a bunch of people heading to the bar and getting blotto, or of required, rowdy Wii tennis tournaments. I like to work hard and I like my co-workers, but I really like to just go home after work and chill in my sweatpants. Yeah, I know I’m totally uncool but I’m good with that.

    2. Yup*

      It is a code. It’s exactly like real estate ads — you need to know the lingo.

      “We’re like family here.” = Picture the worst Thanksgiving dinner of your life, every day. We have no boundaries, are way too involved in each other’s lives, and expect you to spend all your waking hours at work.

      “We don’t have office politics. Everyone gets along.” = We will make A Man for All Seasons look like Winnie the Pooh. You won’t even feel the blade until you see it emerging from your chest (after we’ve stabbed you in the back).

      “Personal fulfillment is the most important thing we offer.” = You will be paid in compliments and bubble gum. Your office computer will be a Commodore 64. And don’t plan on cashing your paychecks right away.

      “We’re looking for confident self-starters who can hit the ground running.” = You will receive absolutely no training whatsoever, and your manager will be a wraith on the wind. Expect to fight other employees a la Thunderdome for assignments, office supplies, and advancement.

      1. Sadsack*

        Had to say that this is the funniest thing I’ve seen all day – thanks for the laugh to end the week!

      2. BBelle*

        I. Love. This. Going to keep this in mind when I hear these wonderful phrases used in the future.

      3. Marina*

        “Must have sense of humor” is my other favorite. I tend to interpret it as, “If you’re not able to laugh in the face of death, you’ll spend most of your time crying.” Or, “We all say really inappropriate things and the last three people in this position have harassment suits pending.”

        1. ChristineSW*

          I tend to read that as “must have a thick skin” in the sense that “someone may say something inappropriate or potentially offensive; if you react poorly, we’ll tell you that we were just teasing and to stop being so sensitive.”

      4. kasey*

        That is so true Yup, especially on the “confident self starters” = code for no training. At all. Zilch. I can’t resist adding one:

        “We value teamwork” = We can’t make decisions without buy in from absolutely everyone in the organization, whether or not they are actually working on a given project or knowledgeable on a subject. We’re pretty much held captive by our incessant collaboration, group think and meandering: expect to hear, “guys am I hungry?” daily. We firmly believe there ain’t nothing that another meeting won’t solve.

    3. A Teacher*

      Or send out emails that say “Dear team” or start the email with
      Team: on every single email, or mention teamwork in about every single email–I’m a colleague or a co-worker but it isn’t basketball and I’m not on a “team…” sorry I get tired of the term.

          1. fposte*

            See, I’d rather “Team” than “All”–“All” seems like a blank space in a MadLib to me.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I say “Hi all” or “Good morning, all” or sometimes just plain “Good morning!” Exclamation point optional depending on whether my coffee has kicked in.

    4. ExceptionToTheRule*

      What’s the worst is when they actually refer to it as a “big DYSFUNCTIONAL family” – which is code for “we were the model for the Office Space.”

  61. Another Sara*

    What great timing! I’m a bit late to the game, but I hope a few of you will scroll down this far and weigh in :)

    So, people in my field all belong to one of two professional societies which publish membership directories. It is common practice for job seekers in this field to look up employees at a company to which they want to apply and email them directly. As a result, I often get unsolicited resumes from recent grads looking for entry level jobs.

    I’d really like to respond to some of these applicants with advice about their resumes and cover letters. Some have serious problems, while others are just not particularly compelling. I have sent a few of them to AAM with a general “this website has great resume/interview/workplace/job seeking advice” comment, but I’m itching to be more specific.

    How can I do this tactfully? Is it rude to offer unsolicited advice, or do they open the door for that by sending me their materials? Should I first ask if they’d like my advice, or just dive right in? What would you do in my situation? If you were on the receiving end of such advice, how would you want it to be phrased?

    I feel like I need a magic template I can pop into my replies :)

    1. BCW*

      I think its nice to tell someone how to improve their resume. I”d say something like “At my company, your resume wouldn’t really stand out as it is. If you are interested in ways of improving, I’m happy to give you some specifics”

      1. The IT Manager*

        BCW had a great template, and I think it’s awesome that Another Sara is willing to offer such help.

    2. SD*

      If they are sending you an unsolicited resume, they should be asking you for information/advice and not for a job anyway… I prefer feedback, always, but not everyone does. If you do, be prepared for snarky responses.

  62. BBelle*

    Awkward networking story…

    I was representing my company at a college job fair, trying to recruit recent graduates. My table was next to a table to a rental car company. Because it was a long day, I struck up a conversation with the man at the table next to me. Nothing more than chit-chat, and certainly no personal talk.

    Anyway, as I was leaving, the man handed me one of his cards and suggested we go to lunch sometime (as in a date) and ran away! The man was quite a bit older than me, so I really wasn’t interested.

    I decided to look this guy up on FB later in the day and it turns out, he was married (but legally separated), still living with his soon to be ex-wife and had three kids.

      1. Ellie H.*

        And, I’d argue that many people would interpret “semi-weekly” as “it mostly happens once a week, but sometimes it doesn’t happen.”

        1. Laufey*

          Yes, and this is exactly why.

          And it’s another excuse to use a word as awesome as “fortnightly”?

          1. anonintheUK*

            I find it bizarre that ‘fortnight’ didn’t jump the Atlantic (or did it go to Canada but not the US?). It’s an entirely normal word in Britain.

            1. Felicia*

              fortnight is not a normal word to use in Canada. Most people know what it means, but people don’t use it.

  63. Jazzy Red*

    I got laid off from my job on 10/29, so I’ve been at home for around 2 weeks now. I feel SO MUCH BETTER! I didn’t realize just how toxic my dysfunctional company was until I got out of there. I had to stop in and pick something up at the receptionist’s desk, and as I drove into the parking lot, all I could think about was how much I had dreaded going in to work every day.

    Life isn’t all settled, but I’m just so much less stressed than I was! I’m glad it happened.

    1. fposte*

      Jazzy, I’m so glad to hear that this is bringing you some relief! It’s amazing how much easier life’s challenges seem when you don’t feel under attack. Good luck with finding the path you want going forward!

    2. ChristineSW*

      Sorry to hear about your layoff, but I can COMPLETELY relate to the utter relief of being let go from a toxic work environment. This was way back in 2000, but to this day, I remember the feeling of a weight being lifted off my shoulders. The difference was like night and day.

    3. Ruffingit*

      Layoffs suck as a general thing, so my condolences on that, but I totally get what you mean. I was laid off back in April from a soul sucking position and I hadn’t realized just HOW soul sucking it was until I was laid off and spent a couple of weeks basking in the supreme glory of not having to ever set foot at OldJob again. You just don’t realize the stress you were under until you’re not under it anymore. May great things come to you quickly Jazzy!

  64. Confused*

    I asked for the range of a position after the 3rd interview (it all happened fast, at a company where I freelance) and was told “I’m going to get all of the candidates together and then decide” The hiring manager seemed insulted – he asked for some spec work and although I’m not happy about doing it, I might not have a choice but I wanted to make sure it was within my range before I handed over ideas for free. This is not the first time I’ve come across attitude when I’ve asked about salary. When did asking the range for a position at an interview become verboten? Personally, I don’t understand the games.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t understand spec work. If you’re in a creative industry, you should have a portfolio and that is your spec right there. In the words of the Joker, “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.”

  65. Newbie*

    Long time reader and lurker – first commenter.

    I left a (toxic) dead end job in December 2012 to return to school – training to transition into a new field. Upon graduation, I followed Allison’s advice, and despite it being a tough job market in my (Canadian) city, it only took 3 applications for me to score an interview – and a job offer.

    I’m two weeks into the new job, and it feels like a great fit for both me and the company. :)

      1. Newbie*

        Thank you! I’ve read so many success stories on this site, and was shocked at how quickly I became one of them. :)

    1. A Bug!*

      Hello, welcome, and congratulations!

      (It’s nice to see so many Canadians around here. It makes me feel less weird for reading a US-based blog with US-based advice.)

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, I wish we had an equivalent – I know there are legal differences between our countries, but I don’t always know where they are.

      2. Newbie*

        Thank you so much! While the legal/state specific advice for US people doesn’t apply to me, I find it interesting to read and it makes me thankful for the Employment Standards Act in Canada.

        The advice on this blog changed my thinking about the job hunting/interview process. Proof? The interview I went on (and later got an offer from) was almost fun. I never thought that was possible. :)

      3. Felicia*

        Congrats! another Canadian here:) I find most of the advice on this blog does relate to me other than the is it legal stuff. Though i do wish there was somewhere i could ask my is it legal questions:)

  66. BCW*

    Do any of you work anywhere that gives yearly company wide bonuses based on the company’s income? I recently had a phone interview. At the end the asked my salary range, and I gave it with minimum $X. Then they asked was $X my base number or did I just need to make that much total. My assumption, since of course they wouldn’t give me their salary range, is X was a bit higher than the range for the position, but with the company wide bonus it would put me over that amount. If you do work at a company that does this, how consistent is the bonus really? Does it usually vary pretty widely or is it usually around the same amount? I know its a bonus, so there is no guarantee, but I would be a bit wary of taking a job and banking on that bonus to meet my salary requirements.

    1. Jen in RO*

      My ex-company did that. I was there for 3 years: year 1, bonus was ~1/3 of a month’s take home pay; year 2: nothing (company didn’t meet its revenue target); year 3: ~1 month’s take home pay. I never really understood how it’s calculated and I found it weird that it varied so widely. (I also missed out on the last bonus, because I had quit; even thought I had been employed at the end of the fiscal year, they didn’t give me the bonus because my last day was before the day the bonuses were paid. Cheapskates.)

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      I worked at a place like that, only the bonuses were quarterly, based on how profitable the company was. You had to still be there when the bonus checks came out, which could be anywhere from 2-6 weeks after the quarter ended. But they ranged from about 8% to 25%+, so it was a lot like getting an extra paycheck every quarter.

      The mistake I made was not including and remembering that when I was asked my salary when interviewing for the next job. (Yes, I know it shouldn’t matter, but they still ask and require an answer.)

    3. AVP*

      I work for a very small company who does that, and it is wildly inconsistent. Usually the idea is to lower the profit margin so you have less money to pay taxes on (if you have to give it to somebody, might as well be your employees rather than the IRS). But because of that there is really, really no way to tell how much you’ll get and whether it will happen at all, so you should not factor it in to your expectations. Also, you never know when another 2009 is going to come around…

  67. NewTemp*

    I’m a new, 3-month temp in a marketing department finishing up my second week. They’ve talked about bringing me on full-time after my contract ends and seem really happy with the work I’m doing. I personally love this new department and could easily see myself having a career here.

    I just found a marketing training seminar that is outside my budget but would be relatively inexpensive for my boss/department ($75). I really want a chance to improve myself and be a better member of the team and show my enthusiasm to learn and grow.

    Would it be totally crazy to ask my manager to pay for it, since I’m so new and a temp? I don’t want to come off as entitled to anything extra, especially things that only “real” employees would enjoy. They’ve already gone out of their way to accept me as an equal team member and give me more responsibility, though. What say you guys? Would I be overstepping my bounds?

    1. Jen in RO*

      I wouldn’t ask for it unless something indicates that it would be OK, e.g. everyone goes on trainings all the time.

      1. NewTemp*

        Thanks for that advice! After reading your post, I ended up going to the colleague who has been training me and telling me how things are done around the office and asking if it would be appropriate to approach the manager with it. One of the first things she said was, “While boss is really good about listening to people and wouldn’t be offended, we just don’t normally do those types of training here.” And immediately I said, “Enough said; thanks for the advice! I won’t ask her.”

        Painless and I didn’t overstep with my employer.

  68. nyxalinth*

    Have any of you ever had someone take an intense dislike to you in the workplace because of a hobby you have?

    Two years ago, I took a job in a small call center for a company that provides health insurance to pets. As an icebreaker, we were asked to share a little about ourselves, including hobbies. I will say right now, that even in the stuffiest, most corporate call centers imaginable, I have never had anyone take exception to the fact that I like playing World of Warcraft in my off hours.

    So I mentioned it, and my trainer’s whole demeanor towards me changed. His expression went cold and his jaw tightened and he said “Oh, yeah. I know people who play that.” The company I worked for is headquartered in Irvine, CA., which where the company that created WoW also is, and he normally lives there unless he’s coming to Denver to train.

    he was never very friendly to me after, and often made little digs when I struggled with the information that we were learning (I found out after taking the job that were were required to memorize a whole ton of very complicated information, with little to no hands on training, before testing. Every call center I’d ever been in recognized that some people would test better than others–within reason–and understood that the call center floor is a whole different environment to the classroom, and made allowances for this. Also, hands-on training is how I learn best. Had I known their requirement to memorize it perfectly, I wouldn’t have accepted the job) once even going so far as to say “Well, I bet if this was world of Warcraft, you’d have it down already.” He was NOT joking. my co-workers in training with me looked horrified and sympathetic, but said nothing. I didn’t blame them.

    I ended up being let go because I couldn’t pick up the information in the way they were teaching it. I did my part–brought up how I was struggling and why, and to their credit they tried to help as much as their policies could allow, but since I was told I failed the test by a super narrow margin, I’d often thought that there was one of those “She’s really close to passing, and I could allow it with no repercussions to me or the company, but I dislike her too much to do that.” sort of things but that was probably me just being paranoid and having hurt feelings.

    So since then, I’ve learned to not mention it, and I stick to the mundane stuff that people can accept. Has anyone else ever garnered irrational dislike based on a hobby they have?

    1. Jen in RO*

      That guy was a dick. In lucky that I never met anyone like this… but my Deathwing mouse pad was a great conversation starter at my new job!

      1. nyxalinth*

        He really was. All I can think of is someone he cared about had become addicted, or he had a general contempt for gamers in general. Or the fact that he works in Blizzard’s hometown has given him a poor impression. In any event, work is not the place for dickery.

        But hey! Deathwing mousepad is awesome. also, they announced the new expansion at Blizzcon today:

        1. Jen in RO*

          Maybe he read too many news stories about WoW addicts playing for 40 hours straight and missing college/work. I have done quite some educating among my friends/coworkers about this, along the lines of ‘Do you think I’m weird and/or a slacker? No? Good, I’m a typical WoW player.’

          (I don’t even raid anymore, but I am pissed off at 20-man only heroics (mythic). I love 10s and the best part of my WoW life was doing heroic 10-man ICC. I miss that :( )

    2. Colette*

      I once had a coworker take an immediate dislike to be based on … I don’t know what. Some people are just like that. I don’t see anything wrong with sharing it.

    3. Amber*

      I was volunteering at a TV station, and one of the girls there decided that she disliked me because I like trains! Odd…

    4. LadyTL*

      I regularly have women get irritated with me because of my hobbies in various flavors of gaming and general geekdom. I have yet to figure out why it is so offensive for me when they are fine with guys having those hobbies.

    5. MissDisplaced*

      Weird, but yes sometimes people just take a dislike for any or all reasons. Once had a woman I worked with who hated me for no apparent reason (though much later I found out it was because she liked my then-boyfriend!).

      WoW seems to be a mighty strange one though.

  69. MJ*

    Perfect timing!

    I have a team of seven starting on Monday. SEVEN. And this is my first true experience as a team leader.

    Mostly, I think I’m on top of things, but we have an hour-long induction at 8am and I need to think of a way to get them to introduce themselves to each other that isn’t too cheesy or over-the-top.

    1. Marina*

      I may be alone in this, but I really like the “what is your work communication style” quizzes. Most of the ones I’ve seen use directions, colors, jargon, whatever, but boil down into separating people into action-oriented, people-oriented, vision-oriented, or detail-oriented. I’ve found them genuinely helpful in interacting with coworkers, knowing that I need to approach Wakeen with bullet-pointed options A, B, and C, where with Shavon I have to plan in five minutes to ask about her weekend before we get down to business or she’ll think I’m angry at her.

      Does anyone hate this kind of thing? Am I alone in finding them useful?

      1. BCW*

        I think those are good, but not right away. I only say that because if I’m meeting 8 new people, and the first hour we do that. I’m not going to remember that Jane likes to communicate this way vs. Jill liking to communicate another way. I may not even remember Jane from Jill at that point. So maybe that would be better after the group has worked together a bit more.

      2. Kerr*

        I’m afraid I’m in the “hate this kind of thing” category, at least as an opener. There’s a real danger that, instead of getting to know your teammates and their communication preferences individually, you’ll start putting them into boxes (possibly poorly researched, or overly stereotypical), and assume that you have all the info you need without engaging with them. (Generic “you”, not you specifically.)

        I love to do personality tests and quizzes on my own time, but I’d hate to do them in a work setting. It never seemed to work out very well in school.

    2. Jen in RO*

      I like presentations that are ‘free’, ‘tell me about yourself’ kinda things. Maybe with a little guidance, like telling them to focus on professional experience, why they chose the field, what their hobbies are.

  70. Rebecca*

    Very late to the game today, but I have to ask: has anyone had any luck getting a chronic smoker with a heavy, wet cough moved someplace away from the rest of the group, or at least getting the company to foot the bill for some sound proofing materials?

    I know this is the fatal third rail of office politics. One of the ladies on our staff smokes – a lot – as in smoke breaks every 1 1/2 hours, and she coughs very loudly. It’s distracting and people complain, wear headphones, etc. but nothing seems to help. It really sounds like she’s going to spit up a lung. It’s not a seasonal thing; it happens all year long.

    If you have a helpful suggestion or workable solution, I’m all ears!

  71. Anonymous*

    Just throwing this out there as a potential not-so-distant future post Alison can write about: gifts for coworkers for the holidays.

    Even though it is early, I’m debating first of all if I should get anything for my coworkers. It apparently was tradition before I started this job nearly 4 years ago that the coworkers exchanged presents amongst themselves and the bosses! Luckily there’s a small handful of us, but after some of the grief I’ve been getting from the coworkers, I am really not in the mood to give them anything for Christmas. Yet my argument with them is that they aren’t team-players and therefore I do not want to be considered a non-team-player if I don’t participate in the Christmas giving.

    And I wish I knew Alison’s advice back then – that gifts should be from top down when it comes to bosses.

    I welcome any ideas for the coworkers – cheap and if applicable, easy to make (and no, I’m not baking).

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Google ‘snowman soup poem’ and add one of those versions to a Christmas mug filled with a package of hot chocolate, some mini marshmallows, a candy cane, and perhaps a piece or two of chocolate. We all have mugs we want to get rid of, and the rest can be bought in bulk and distributed between mugs. Homemade, cheap, insincere — what’s not to like?

      1. Kerr*

        This, only I’d leave out the poem. Mugs can be found at the craft, dollar, or discount store. Add a few fancier candies/chocolates in nice wrappers. And wrap it up in a bit of cellophane and ribbon. I’ve received several of these over the years – they’re a good, inexpensive gift if you’re giving gifts to lots of acquaintance and coworkers. (FWIW, I always liked them. Chocolate! And sometimes the mugs were cute.)

        1. Anonymous*

          I’ll look into the poem. I’ve never heard of it so I’ll see what it is.

          But the dollar store! I forgot about the dollar store. There are some around near me so I’ll take a look at them. I was also thinking of making cheap Christmas and Hanukkah decorations using mason jars – snow globes, candle holders, etc. (I have to include both holidays as there is at least one representative from each.)

          Thanks! And if anyone wants to add, please do so, I’ll be checking here for a couple of days before this post gets old and ignored.

            1. Felicia*

              Hanukkah and American Thanksgiving are actually the same day this year! So you’d have less than 3 weeks to do that:)

    2. Colette*

      I made soup in a jar one year when I was in a group that did gifts. It was cheap – about $20 for 7 or 8 jars – and people liked it.

      The next year I made marble magnets, but those were more work.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      Can you just get ONE bigger thing that all can share/enjoy?
      Maybe a pizza day, lunch, gift basket or big box of chocolate?

      Not as personal, yet it is a way of participating.

      Lottery ticket scratchers also make good gifts for co-workers, and you can make it into a fun “event” even by scratching them off together over coffee and treats.

    4. RJ*

      I always try to convince my team to adopt a family or participate in an angel tree for the holidays. None of us needs another $10 knickknack, so we can pool voluntary donations and help get some gifts for kids who might otherwise go without. Voluntary, feel-good, no stupid gift exchanges!

  72. BertineC*

    Oh good – open post!

    I was thinking of submitting this to AAM direct, but I will throw this out to the crowd too. (FYI – Typically I post under BCranston, but since that was confused with Breaking Bad, I will use the reverse of that nick!)

    I will be resigning from my position in the next few weeks as my partner and I have decided to move forward with our lives and relocate somewhere better for both our careers. Yes, we are moving without jobs, without a place to live, etc, but it is an overseas destination where we both have experience/friend networks, etc. I know it is a risk, but we have saved the money to make it for almost a year without jobs, and frankly I haven’t been interested in any jobs here because we don’t really want to live in our current city long term. Where we are moving to we hope to be our “forever home” or hell, at least some place we actually enjoy being on a daily basis, rather than just enduring.

    At any rate – I have been trying for almost SEVEN MONTHS to get a job shadowing going with another department that I was interested in potentially moving to, where I have a good profile for the work, and they were interested in trying me out. Between timing issues, problems on my departments end with amount of time they wanted to let me go, cancelled projects, illness, etc its been terrible. I really want to learn some more about this type of work before I leave, though, and having invested this much time into it well – I want some sort of payoff.

    There is a three day off-site research program coming up with that department that I have been invited to attend. It is the first week of my two week notice. Can I ask when I hand in my resignation to be allowed to go? What is the protocol here? My department isn’t particularly busy at this time, but this is a heavy political environment where people bitch over resourcing. Add to it the fact that I am leaving on my own regards without something else lined up, and I worry that asking to do the offsite will be a bit much.


    1. fposte*

      Oh, that’s tough, and it will depend a lot on your relationship with your manager. I’m not quite clear what would be happening–would this basically be three days off from your work during your last two weeks, and would it cost attendance fees? I think anything that would cost them money is out; I think that you have to consider offering them some flexibility in exchange if you’re talking about functionally shorting them more than half a week of notice–in other words, I think you’d need to be willing to start your two weeks after the three days, because otherwise they’re not really getting two weeks’ work notice from you. And are you already approved to go for those three days, or do they not even know you want to take the three days yet? I really wouldn’t wait until I dropped the resignation news to ask for three days of it out of the office.

      That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to feel it out, especially if you get on reasonably well with your manager, but I’d really think about ways to propose it that make a “yes” easier. An “I’m leaving in ten business days, and can I have three of them off?” query isn’t aiming for that yes.

      1. BertineC*

        Thanks for the input – very helpful to work through this.

        I get on much better with this manager who tends to be very straightforward and accommodating with my needs if it doesn’t cause too many ripples in the business. He’s been aware of me wanting to do this for months, but I understand he has to balance it all with productivity hours.

        To answer the clarification questions:

        1) No attendance fees for the offsite, however the catch with my department is that they are paying my wage out of their budget to go help out another department that is essentially getting free labor.

        2) The offsite is a user lab set up, to test user experience and feedback to a new product under development. So the new dept (UX) is inviting me to come with them and shadow (and work/help out) to see how they run a study, what it entails, etc

        3) Boss is aware of the timing off the offsite, but he is in firefighting mode all the time and hasn’t put much thought into it. No approval to go yet. for prior attempts at all day events suggested by the UX department he offered half days, though those were in the building

        4) My leaving date is not flexible, but my notice period still is, so I can offer more weeks up front giving notice (three or four weeks).

        This was also not a happy place for me, and I really just want to get out of there with the least amount of drama and questioning. This location and department were awful, but this is also a very large company with substantial operations in the city I am moving to, for both roles (the one I currently do, and the one I would like to do), so I want to make sure this is done professionally, with no bridges burned, despite what I may feel!

        1. fposte*

          Well, I think you’ve got a good view of the situation, and I think it’s tricky just because it is indeed tricky. I’d try for early notice and explicit prioritization of leaving on good terms–“I’d still really like to do the offsite shadowing, but I want to make sure that I leave the unit in a good position for transition. Is there a way we can still make this happen?” And mature acceptance if the answer is “We’re not paying for you to gain skills to use in your new job.”

  73. ThursdaysGeek*

    I know it’s probably too late to get a reply, but…

    At what point do you notify your manager when a parent/in-law is seriously ill? If all goes well, the manager need never know, but is it good to give them a heads-up, just in case?

    In general, my work isn’t time critical, so if I do need to take leave suddenly, it should be ok. I’m leaning towards not saying anything at work unless and until I do need to be gone.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I always told the boss as soon as I knew it was very serious.
      I preferred this method because when bad things happened it was not news to the boss. I could just say “Gotta go. RIGHT NOW.” I did not have to start at square one and say “My parent has been seriously ill for months now and today the heart stopped and they are trying to resuscitate right now.” That would have been too much (emotionally) to have to explain while facing the immediate crisis.

      I found I could talk to the doctor and get an idea of how to pace the information I gave the boss. (Doc, when do I let my boss know that I am on standby for my parent?)

  74. Spolio*

    This is kind of random, but does anyone know of any resources similar to AAM that are in Spanish? I have a friend that doesn’t speak much English and has received some of the usual bad job searching advice, and I’d love to be able to point her to a resource with better info.

  75. Kathryn*

    On my way to a job interview earlier this week, I fell down the subway stairs and ended up spending the morning in the emergency room.

    I am, fortunately, okay besides bruises, and I’m working with them to reschedule the interview.

  76. Ali*

    Go figure I thought of nothing to put here until the thread reached almost 600 replies. Boo for me.

    Does anyone else have a coworker who basically does the bare minimum? I do and it’s kind of irritating. I work with this girl who never volunteers for extra hours or to cover for other people. She is always right out of the door on time (well, cyber door since we all work remotely) and is constantly requesting time off. I think since I’ve been in my new role, she’s requested more off time than anyone else I’ve worked with. She was off for a week twice in three months and has been off the last two Saturdays, and guess who has been stuck covering for her…? Yeah. Now she is on a four-day weekend, as she’s normally off Mondays anyway but she took off Friday-Sunday because her husband’s family is coming to visit. Mind you she was just off last Saturday AND has requested two days off at the end of November.

    We are in a job where we have people working almost 24 hours a day (so no, not healthcare/police/fire/etc.), and my manager was recently asking everyone to send holiday requests in. This girl has requested to work no more than four hours per holiday and wants to be done by 4:00.

    Is it mean that I wish she’d quit and go get a 9-5 job? If she has zero interest in doing any kind of evening work, especially on holidays, I really wish they’d tell her she needs to chip in or they’ll fire her. And no she doesn’t have kids, so that’s not the reason either. Her excuse is always something with her husband or family, and it seems like they’re just going on trips or having visits a lot. Or maybe I’m just tired of covering for her and understand that I want to pursue a field that requires evenings and weekends. And sometimes holidays.

    Or I could just be cranky because my six-day work week has no end in sight…

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Oh, these people are so frustrating! That being said…

      Where is your manager in this? I can’t believe this has gone unnoticed all this time if the norm for you industry requires a lot of on-call, weekend and overtime work.

      Are you sure that you’re not just placing this pressure on yourself to “cover” those hours? Are you directly being asked to cover her hours?

      It’s hard to say here what’s going on exactly, or know if your slacking co-worker has some type of arrangement with management to be working fewer hours/having extra time off.

      If YOU need time off (and it sounds like you do) then you should discuss this with your manager about how best to schedule it so that the necessary workload gets covered.

      1. Ali*

        My manager…well…as I’ve written on here before, he is kind of disorganized. He is younger than me (and some of my other coworkers actually), it’s his first management job and, as such, he often misses big picture things. He is fine with giving feedback and can certainly point out things like typos…but I digress…

        Anyway, my company’s culture is set up as such that it’s a relaxed/casual atmosphere, so no one is ever told they can’t have a certain day or time off. It’s a good benefit in a way, and then times like this, it’s a darn pain! Yes, I have been asked specifically to cover her hours, as have other colleagues who have similar open availability when Slacker calls off. Unfortunately, no one really ever responds to these requests when they are sent out. I would know…I need off this Thursday and tried to cover my own shift per a past request from my manager, and NO ONE offered to switch their shift for me/come in for me. Thank goodness my manager is OK with me taking the day anyway.

        I do need the time off. We are in a busy time right now so everyone is working six-day weeks. I am absolutely drained from it, and my manager is trying to hire people, but is taking his time in the evaluation/hiring process. He too agrees we can’t get hires in fast enough to take some of the burden off. And what’s worse is that the people who submit coverage requests for us are STILL saying we don’t have enough coverage on certain times. Alas, this is a Fortune 500 company and I have decent pay and health insurance, so right now I have nowhere else to go, and if I did, I doubt I’d find anything that matched the pay and benefits I get. :/

    2. Colette*

      I don’t see a problem with this woman.

      I can see that there might be problems with the organization (they never say no to time off?), but there’s nothing wrong with having a life outside of work.

      So if you don’t want to cover for her and you resent her for the fact that you are covering for her, why are you agreeing to do so?

      1. Ali*

        The problem is that I work in a field and for a company that is not strictly 9-5. If we’re all expected to work evenings and extra hours to some extent, I just don’t feel she should be exempt from that requirement and should also have to work past 4:00 on holidays when it’s clear we’re a mostly 24/7 operation. If she thinks she is that special, then she needs to quit and get a 9-5, no evenings/weekends/holidays job.

        I am no longer going to be covering for her when asked, especially since no one returns the favor when I need help.

        1. Colette*

          But that’s up to your manager to manage.

          Maybe she’s working more than you know, or has made special arrangements, or it’s not really as critical as you think it is for someone to be working.

          The only piece you own is your own. If you want extra hours, take her shifts. If you don’t, be choosy about when you cover. If you wnt more time off, book it. But don’t cover for her and then spend your time telling yourself how unfair it is.

          1. MissDisplaced*

            I sort of agree with Colette here as well, even though I also agree that the slacker co-worker IS a problem.

            Unfortunately, she is a problem you cannot control (that’s for your manager to step up and deal with).

            Colette is right in that you only own what you own. So, that being said, don’t cover for her any more unless your boss DIRECTLY asks you to (and make a note of it when that happens). Make sure you schedule your own vacation and holiday time off, and/or work out a decent schedule with your boss about what hours and weekends you WILL cover without question, since the unusual hours seems to be expected in this industry.

            It sounds very frustrating and dysfunctional, but until your manager either hires more people or steps up and works out the scheduling issues, you’re going to have to try and work out a your own schedule that won’t drive you crazy.

  77. MissDisplaced*

    Question: I was in contact with a potential employer recently via email and was asked for my college GPA’s. While I’ve seen this often on online applications, I have ever been directly asked for them. I can’t really see why this was relevant. Any ideas?

    Note: I am a recent (adult) college graduate, but I am NOT an entry-level employee just starting out in the work force.

    1. fposte*

      They wanted to know and forgot to request it in the application? Honestly, I don’t think it’s hugely relevant for applications either, so I suspect you’re fruitlessly looking for logic when the answer is just “because we always do.”

      1. MissDisplaced*

        “Just because” probably fits it, I just thought it a bit weird to be emailed solely asking for it.

    2. anony*

      That’s usually seen in larger companies who hire a bunch of recent grads. I’ve been asked for my SAT scores once.

  78. Elkay*

    Hope I’m not too late on this to ask – I had a post show up in my RSS feed (using Feedly) called “good things that have come from blogging” when I tried to click through to the website to comment it wasn’t there. Did anyone else get this? Is there a gremlin in the system or should I just assume Alison didn’t intend to post it?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It was a mistake that was quickly recalled! I actually wrote it a few years ago and it’s been sitting in my drafts folder in WordPress and somehow I accidentally published it while mucking about in there the other night, but then undid that.

  79. redvelvet cheesecake*

    I was wondering something. I’m pretty sur ethis may have been a question but I’ can’t really recall

    A few days ago I had a particularly long interview-2.5 hours and 4 different people. I had brought my professional-portfolio which has a notepad and my resume. Anyways, so I was wondering, wuold it have been strange/unprofessional to take notes? It hadn’t occurred to me to do that, but later on when I was trying to write follow up notes I was struggling to recall things to write about.

    Would it be awkward or unprofessional to do that in future interviews?

  80. Hannah*

    I’m a bit late to the open thread, so I hope some people are still here, but I was wondering if anyone has any ideas for good lunch food. I normally eat a sandwich for lunch, but I get really exhausted an hour later (I would LOVE to take a nap, but that sadly not a possibility). I wonder if it has something to do with the food : is there anything I can eat that gives me energy instead of taking it away? Thanks :)

  81. So Anxious!*

    I had a great interview on Monday, the woman told me she really liked me, that she wanted me to meet the team, and that she’d follow up with me in a day or so to schedule a time to meet the team. I sent a thank you email the following morning, asked a few questions and said I’d look forward to hearing from her. Now it’s Thursday and I still haven’t heard from her and I’m freaking out! I shouldn’t follow up again, right?

  82. Natilya James*

    NHS Pensions will only pay the Annual Allowance charge from the NHS ension Scheme if it receives a scheme pays election notice on time and if mandatory requirements prescribed by HMRC are met, which are that the member’s

  83. Eric S Benard*

    Thank you so much for these all thoughts about retirement planning and regarding to pension . To make your future safe it helps lot so being careful for this is good always .

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