Christmas open thread

IMG_0044It’s a special Christmas 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.

{ 332 comments… read them below }

  1. Jessa*

    Happy Christmas, and every other holiday at this time of year. Olive needs her own blog she’s so adorable she could become the next major meme cat. She’s getting so very big.

    1. Blinx*

      She’s such a floofer! It warms my heart to see her under the tree. My cat’s always liked napping under there.

  2. stupid question but...*

    Yessss, in the Open thread!!! :)

    I emailed Alison but I’d love to hear from you guys too!

    So I’ve been working PT for a month at a company I really like. Another company I had interviewed with prior to this one made me an offer and after weighing the pros and cons I decided to take it. The motivating factor is $$, otherwise I truly like where I am and the coworkers/owners. I’ve been getting + feedback for hte most part and if it wasn’t about the $$ I wouldn’t leave.

    I am planning on emailing the HR contact tomorrow, and give in my notice when I receive the offer in writing. I’ve rehearsed my speech; my spouse suggested I resign over email because things could get very heated and they could make me feel awful for leaving them right before the busy season and my reputation could be soured.

    I THINK the worst that can happen is that they won’t allow me to work through my resignation period (1 week–which given how long I’ve been there and hte nature of my position,I think is sufficient?), and that I won’t have a reference from them in the future…

    Is there anyting else I should worry about? FWIW from the little time I’ve been at this company, I don’t think any tempers would flare or I’d get thrown out right then and there. I know it’s just business/work, and emotions shouldn’t be a motivating factor but I guess I just feel guilty; I’m not the type of person who quits easily but I’ve also NEVER been in a situation where I have an option. soooooo…idk?

    1. not a stupid question*

      whoops! posted another question with this username…….not that I think this is a stupid Q :)

      1. The Editor*

        You get one of those in your career… Choose wisely. It’s never great to bail so quick after starting a job, but I think you can limit the damage by being open and honest. But even then, do know that you’ve blown this bridge sky high, lost most (if not all) credibility, and won’t be able to turn to many/any of these people in the future. All things to weigh and consider.

        Good luck!

        1. not a stupid question*

          ” It’s never great to bail so quick after starting a job, but I think you can limit the damage by being open and honest.”

          You’re totally right and I get that….that’s why I feel terrible about this.

    2. Kerry*

      The motivating factor is $$, otherwise I truly like where I am and the coworkers/owners. I’ve been getting + feedback for the most part and if it wasn’t about the $$ I wouldn’t leave.

      Really liking where you are and your coworkers is very valuable – I’ve taken a pay cut before to leave a job I liked on paper, but turned out to be slightly toxic, for one where I liked all my colleagues (well, except That One, there’s always a That One); my performance also improved a lot.

      Money is super super important too, but don’t discount the massive benefits of liking your workplace when you’re thinking about this.

      1. Lindsay J*

        +1. I recently turned down a job offer from an old workplace. I would be making significantly more money there than I currently am here and it is a more prestigious role.

        However, I love what I do right now and I like all my coworkers and my boss. Previous job had had a lot of turnover between when I left and when they called and offered me a job, but from what I knew about the environment and the people that were left I just couldn’t be confident that I wouldn’t be miserable there.

        Turning down that money did hurt a lot. It was significantly – like quality of life changingly – more. I don’t regret it, though.

    3. Audiophile*

      Is this new job full-time? Or are you leaving for another part-time roll?

      I watched a former friend do this, in fact I had a large role in making sure she did it correctly (initially she didn’t plan to say anything and just ignore their calls, I nixed that). But she still managed to burn the bridge even more, later on.

      You do need to resign in person, the only time email is acceptable is when you don’t see your boss frequently. I’d say I’m old-school, in that I still give a formal resignation on paper. Rather than just trying to think of what to say in the moment. That way I have some “proof” that resigned appropriately, because if they feel the relationship has soured, they can say anything “she didn’t resign, she didn’t resign in person, she abandoned her post.” I always make sure I have a written copy to go back to.

        1. voluptuousfire*

          In reality, you have to do what’s best for you. The days of loyalty on either side of the table is long gone.

          I’m definitely on the bus with the idea that a great work environment can make up for other things but if the environment the new job is just fine and it’s a much bigger increase over your current job, I say put in your notice. You gotta do what right for you because you only have to answer yourself in the long run.

          1. Anonymous*

            Most people understand leaving a part time gig for a full time one. If you are there through an agency (temp to perm might be), be sure to resign with them first & ask how they’d like you to handle resigning from the office. Resign by letter handed to your boss in a meeting you request. Ask about prioritizing things as you wrap up your time there. Compliment the team.
            Best wishes on your new position.

            1. John B Public*

              You’re wondering about leaving a temp job for another temp job? I understand that they’re temp-to-hire, but as of right now the job you have is temp. There is no reasonable expectation for you to stay; that having been said, if you and your manager have had conversations about staying permanently then receiving this offer would have been great as a “what am I worth” data point. There are posts here about how to ask for a raise, obviously use those guidelines but if you wanted to stay and the only reason to leave was the money, just ask for the money!
              Hindsight is 20/20, but I hope you’re in a position in the future to need this sort of advice =)

        2. Audiophile*

          Haha, it was too early in the morning to try to write an eloquent response, I should I have known better. Yes, rolls are things that you eat.

    4. smallbutmighty*

      I’m actually not sure this is as big a deal as you feel it is. (I’m glad you feel it is a big deal, because that shows that you’re conscientious, but bear with me while I explain.)

      I’ve worked plenty of part-time and temp jobs in the past, and have now been permanent full-time at a big company for a number of years. My company employs a number of temps and part-timers, and we are always sorry to see the good ones go. And yes, we’re irked when they do it at an inconvenient time, even when they offer proper notice and do everything by the book.

      But the fact is that none of us who are permanent full-time would trade places with a PT or temp. We know there are things that are inherently sucky about not having as much money or as many options, and we’re generally aware that people in these roles are looking to better their situation. When the good ones get an opportunity to move on to better things, the back-room conversation is way more “good for her, she’s smart and she’s going to go places” than “it sucks that I’m going to have to do her reports for two weeks and train someone else on how to do them going forward.”

      It’s a job, not an indenture, and people in all areas of the org chart know that. Give your notice and be professional about it, and I’ll bet you get lots of congratulations and maybe even some contacts you can preserve.

      1. Chinook*

        I agree with small but mighty – moving from a p/t role should always be understandable. If the company wants you, then they need to find you a f/t role. But, giving your notice in person (either written confirmation in hand) is the only professional way to deal with it.

        My only caveat is to have a response in mind on the off chance they offer you a f/t position. It is rare but I have had it happen to me and it caught me offguard. Luckily, my boss’s offer was very generous but, if it hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have been in a position to bargain.

    5. Graciosa*

      Why only one week of notice? Can you be a bit more specific about the nature of your position? I think of two weeks as the minimum, but I am open to hearing that there are some types of work where a shorter notice period is the norm.

      I would probably not use the length of my tenure at a job to shorten the notice period though. “Unprofessional Former Employee left with only X notice” can damage your reputation if X is less than the industry standard, even if you were only in the role a short time. That is why I inquired about the industry standard – you want to make sure anyone hearing about your notice is going to think you behaved well.

      The big “anything else” you should worry about is your reputation. The length of notice you give, the manner in which you do it (do you approach your manager directly or try to avoid dealing with the situation by using email or HR) and your conduct during the notice period will all make a difference.

      You probably haven’t been in role long enough for your productivity to outweigh the cost of bringing you on board, and you need to acknowledge that to your manager directly. Since you’re leaving over money, I’m not sure how you make this argument effectively – you’re not acknowledging a poor culture fit or bad match of skills – but you do need to show you’re aware that this is an imposition on your employer. If you’re lucky, there is a second choice candidate from the search in which you were hired that can be brought in quickly. Offering to use your notice time to prepare a good set of instructions for your replacement (with whatever you’ve learned, however incomplete it is) may help show you understand the impact rapid turnover has on the business.

      If you’re resigning after only a month, you’ll need to make sure that the rest of your conduct does not give them anything else to criticize.

      1. not a stupid question*

        Oh, the reason I said 1 week is because I don’t think the new company will budge on the start date, and since I’ve been only there 1 month/part time I thought 1 week/10 days feels reasonable-but I accept I could be wrong here.

    6. fposte*

      Right now it sounds like your plan to guard yourself against any possible unpleasantness is actually making you handle the situation worse. If you handle it directly, courteously, and professionally, they’ll likely say “It happens” and be mildly disappointed until the afternoon when they’ll forget. That’s fine. If you try to slip in a resignation notice and stay under the radar so that OMG you never have to talk to somebody about taking another job, that becomes a “Seriously?”

      Resign face-to-face. Apologize, thank them for the opportunity, and acknowledge that you can’t turn down full-time. If they’re as sane as they sound, it’ll be fine.

      1. not a stupid question*

        Oh I would NEVER resign by email–I disagreed with my spouse about resigning over email, but I asked this question because I wanted to know if there was something I wasn’t thinking of. Honestly, I have been bracing myself for the possibility that they may make me a counteroffer (which I would take) but I’m not pinning any hopes on that–also I’ve read all the posts here about how taking counteroffers cna backfire badly but I don’t think my personal situation fits that usual scenario that’s talked bout here.

  3. JC*

    If I know I will need time off for IVF (possibly one or more cycles), how do I bring that up after receiving a job offer?

    1. Elizabeth*

      I would frame it as “time off for a medical procedure.” You don’t need to get into the specifics; they’re not your employer’s business (giving birth obviously affects an employee, but that doesn’t mean the employer gets to give input on the employee getting pregnant!)

      Good luck!

  4. guest*

    How much longer after Xmas is it ok to keep wearing sweaters that have Christmas patterns?
    My Canadian City is bitterly cold until end of March and sweaters are a necessary office wear. I own a couple of comfy Xmas sweaters and do not feel like putting them away just yet!

    1. Anon*

      Yay for Christmas sweaters! I think you can wear them until January 1st but I really LOVE Christmas and never want it to end. Some people might think that’s too long.

      1. Jessa*

        6 Jan is only the 12th day after Western Christmas. I think you get 12 days after Eastern too :-) in 2014 it’s 7 January.

    2. Blinx*

      Only until New Year’s — then anything Christmas is just stale. Time to stock up on snowflake sweaters and fleeces!

      1. voluptuousfire*

        Or you can use the Xmas sweaters as a layer and remove it when you get to the office instead of wearing it all day.

    3. canadiantoo*

      If it has more of a winter theme than a Christmas theme, I think it’s okay to wear them. Warmth is important/

      1. Chinook*

        I agree – anything overtly Christmas (think presents, decorated tree) is not good after Jan. 6th (the end of Twelve Days of Christmas) unless you go by a different calendar (Ukrainian, etc) and then you may have to explain why. But, any winter themes are good as long as there is snow or threat of snow (so until June?).

    4. Trillian*

      I feel your shivers, and I say warmth wins! I’m in a similar situation – temperatures well below zero with inadequate heating – and if anyone objects to my winterizing, they might just wind up tied to my chair until they repent.

  5. M*

    Where can a job seeker go for advice when the people whose job it is to give advice are not good at advising? We’ve discussed that college career counselors give notoriously bad advice and mine were no exception, nor did I get any helpful information from my program administrators or from my university’s mandatory resume-writing class. My family have given me very poor advice, due in part to things like having gone through their first major job search out of college (which point I’m at now) at a time when prospects were different, in part to laypeople’s inexplicable need to pretend like they are experts in my field, and other reasons I can’t exactly use to justify that older people would mislead their younger family member. I’ve even been set up with a university career counselor who was a friend of my parents, and she suggested things like a resume objective (which gave me a bad gut feeling even then before I had ever read AAM, although I went along with it). AAM and the internet have been very helpful for more general information, but where can I go to get some guidance that is specific to my (many, inter-related) questions? I’d be happy to pay for it if that’s what’s necessary.

    Also: I feel like, when I’m filling out job applications, I spend a lot of time on formatting/getting kicked out and losing all my info/other issues that have nothing to do with the substance of my application. Maybe I’m doing it wrong.

    1. The Editor*

      A few thoughts…

      Find yourself a mentor. Pick a coworker or professor who seems to have it together and start picking their brain. I think most people would be flattered to mentor someone, and some people (me, and I think AAM) actively look for that.

      I build all my application stuff outside the system because the application systems often crash like that or time out.

    2. AdjunctForNow*

      Do you have any adjunct professors who are currently active in your industry? They are a good resource, even if they aren’t *directly* in your field. Like, if you are trying to get into marketing, you could still go talk to the adjuncts in econ.

      1. A Teacher*

        I second this, working as an adjunct at a junior college, I teach one class a semester so I am active in both of my fields (teaching and athletic training). Asking an adjunct specific real world questions wouldn’t surprise most because we are used to being in the real world role more often than not.

    3. Sunflower*

      The university I graduated from has one of the top 5 career services centers and one of the most helpful things they did was connect me with alumni in my intended field. They worked a lot with me to identify what fields I might be interested in that my skills fit with. Once we worked on that, they were able to connect me with alumni who worked in those fields and jobs who gave me much more helpful information and answered lots of my questions.

      Also, online job applications suck. They just do. Everyone is different and some are just absolutely terrible. Just remember to save all your info once you submit so when you apply to another job at that company/site, the info is still there.

  6. Windchime*

    Happy Holidays, everyone! I’m looking forward to a peaceful day at home. One family member is coming over for a simple dinner and a gift exchange; other than that, I have no plans other than making fudge in the morning and quite possibly taking a nap.

  7. HappyHolidays!*

    Happy Holidays, everyone!

    Quick question that I emailed Alison about but am curious to hear your responses on. I’ve been applying for some entry-level positions with companies who look great from the outside, positions that sound like they really fit my experience and what I want to do, etc. However, their online reviews (glassdoor et al.) are pretty negative. How would you all approach a situation like that, in terms of being skeptical of the reviews or getting more information from the company? It’s surely poor form to ask in an interview, “Your reviews are terrible – what’s up?” so I’m looking for an alternative, assuming I don’t know anyone at the company that I could ask in confidence.

    1. Ruffingit*

      What are the reviews negative about specifically? You can tailor questions around those topics that are just good, general questions to ask. For example, if the reviews say something like “The managers don’t bother to give feedback, I’m stuck here on my own all the time, people jump ship like it’s the Titanic around here…” you could then ask about the turnover rate, how feedback is given, and so on. Basically, take the negatives and turn those into questions.

    2. Elizabeth*

      Are there certain things mentioned in the reviews? If so, I’d ask about them specifically. I don’t think you need to reference what you’ve heard, either – just ask directly.

    3. snuck*

      I would try also to take the reviews in context. People rarely post online about good experiences, so remember that you are seeing more negative than might be total/truth.

      The contextual relationship between this company (is it big or small?) and the types of people responding to online reviews (are they young entry level vs experienced professionals) is also important. What expectations do these people posting the reviews have and how fair, experienced and professional are they?

    4. Anonymous*

      It would definitely be helpful to follow the advice other commenters have offered, but I’d also would not discount the reviews. I have worked at 2 places that have negative reviews and they are quite truthful. Another idea is to look up some people who used to work there on LinkedIn to see if they’d be open to providing insight on their experience. I would never bash a former employer on Glassdoor even if the company truly deserved it, but I would not be shy about being truthful with someone about thinking about taking a position at such a place.

      1. voluptuousfire*

        I’d consider the number of reviews in general vs. negative reviews. One company that contacted me a handful of times over the past year or so had 140+ reviews and the majority of them were incredibly negative. After reading those plus the disastrous, impromptu phone screen I had with them solidified that I did not want to work with them. Having to proactively go after unemployed candidates in an economy like this is a massive red flag. It’s got to be a toxic scene if even those who need a job (possibly badly) won’t even consider your company.

        But aside from that, take the reviews with a grain of salt. People don’t generally post reviews unless their experience is terrible or absolutely fantastic. There’s never a mid-range review.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I read the reviews carefully. Things like “their paychecks bounce” is a big deal. But things similar to “my supervisor was a jerk”- there maybe another side to that story. Look for comments that seem to repeat- “there was no training” in a number of comments probably means you are going to hit the ground running. Some jobs I don’t care about that, other jobs I want to learn a little about the boundaries of my position etc.

      Don’t forget your experience might be totally different from other people’s. I would take in numerous factors and not lean too heavily on the reviews. If they seem fairly normal, you’re satisfied with the explanation of the job, the pay is agreeable and other things then go ahead and try.
      One huge advantage we have now that our grandparents did not have is that it is okay to (thoughtfully, with careful consideration) change jobs. It’s not the ball and chain it used to be. Even in this lousy economy people are still changing jobs successfully. The last tidbit of thought: There are no perfect workplaces out there. Each job has its advantages and disadvantages. When you accept a job offer make sure you have a clear definition of why it is an advantage for you. It’s easy to fall into the pit of taking any job just to have a paycheck. No, that is not a reason that is strong enough to keep you at a job.

    6. Stephanie*

      I always think of Glassdoor as Yelp for workplaces. Read enough reviews and you’ll figure out which ones to take at face value. But you will get a lot of one-star reviews where someone complains about his manager being a jerk.

      Just really read through the reviews and look for repeat mentions. I’d probably take more stock in the reviews if it was a smaller company. At a really large company, a lot’s going to be really specific depending upon the manager, project, etc.

      I wouldn’t use it as the final decision if you were offered the job–just think of it as one more data point.

    7. kelly*

      I think sites like Glassdoor do provide a valuable service for both people currently employed and those looking for work. It gives the ones looking a peek at what the company’s culture is like, how they expect to be treated, etc.

      The best reviews to look at are the ones that have about the same amount of comments in the pros and cons. Those types of reviews tend to be the most relevant for a job seeker. The overly negative ones seem to be written by those people who have had very negative experiences with the company and left very disgruntled. I would be really skeptical to think that the positive reviews were actually written by actual employees. My hunch is that 75% of the glowing reviews out there, especially for those companies where the vast majority range from neutral and mixed to negative, are corporate plants. I am pretty sure that the very positive reviews left by associates at at last retail job are mostly corporate plants.

      There are companies where the average employee experiences a high degree of personal and professional satisfaction. My inner cynic thinks those places are few and far between.

      I haven’t written a review for my current job, but am overall satisfied with it. There are a couple downsides. I work for a major research university and we are paid about 10 to 15% less than peer institutions. That makes keeping the innovative and talented professors and staff hard. The other downside is that there is no cost of living adjustment for the campuses where the cost of living is higher. I think that the campus I am at and another should be paid higher because those are the two most expensive areas in the state, not to mention that they are also the two largest campus in the system.

      The last downside is something that most public university and government employees have in common – the fact that our budgets are controlled by the state legislature, which in my state is composed of mostly idiots. Most flagship public universities don’t get that much state funding compared to the smaller campuses. I think University of Michigan at Ann Arbor gets less than 20% of their annual budget from the state of Michigan, the rest comes from tuition, grants, and donations. Most of that money goes to the hospital. It’s a common situation in most large public university systems with multiple branches.

  8. Ruffingit*

    I am so tired of the whole it’s Merry Christmas not Happy Holidays thing and also of the whole Duck Dynasty thing.

    1. Chris80*

      Me too. I keep getting invites to “Support Duck Dynasty” pages on Facebook, and all it’s doing is making me reevaluate my Facebook friends! Am I the only person is the world that has never watched Duck Dynasty and doesn’t ever intend to watch it?

      1. Rebecca Reeder*

        No, you’re not alone. I don’t have cable, so as a benefit, I get to avoid a lot of this drama :)

      2. smallbutmighty*

        Ugh. I’ve actually gone on Facebook hiatus in part to escape from this kind of nonsense. I had actually never heard of Duck Dynasty before this whole kerfuffle.

      3. Windchime*

        I’ve never watched it and only have a very vague idea of what it’s even about. I cannot stand most “reality” TV. It seems to be mostly people screaming at each other.

      4. Stephanie*

        I really had no clue what it was until I tripped on a cardboard cutout at Walmart a couple of months back.

      5. Jamie*

        I had no idea who these people were until this nonsense…I remember when reality TV was the real world and survivor…it used to mean something…dammit.

    2. Nyxalinth*

      I’m Christian, support gay rights, can’t stand that show, and am sick of the whole flap over what to say! Not everyone is christian, and I can respect that. I’m tired of both issues, tyvm :P

      1. Chinook*

        I am a Catholic and I have a lot of empathy for gay rights and am in conflict over how to balance a respect for all humanity and equality for all with other church teachings as the church contradicts itself when the issues are viewed through modern eyes.

        That being said, this man (and I know nothing about the show) essentially lost his job for expressing his personal opinions when asked a direct question. He is not in a position power and the company he is in charge of is family owned. Would it have been better for him to avoid the question with double talk or lie (and then have some tabloid dig out proof that it was lie)? I guess my honest question is: should it be punishable to express an opinion that is different from the mainstream when said opinion doesn’t effect another person’s actions). Was it James Henry who said that “I disagree with your opinion but I will fight to the death your right to express it.”

        1. Audiophile*

          Chinook – he didn’t lose his job (yet), he was only suspended. The rest of the family is basically threatening to walk off. But that’s a whole different matter, their contracts may not allow for that.

          Either way, he represents the network and they are basically his employer in this instance. The same way you represent the company you work for. You don’t have free speech in the work place, not the same way you do out in the rest of the world. If you go out in your company uniform and express an opinion your company does not agree with, they are free to reprimand you any way they see fit and that includes termination. I’m sure it’s come up here before in other posts.
          He expressed his opinion and he’s certainly entitled to it, and the network suspending him does not trample on his free speech.
          The network was stuck in a difficult and uncomfortable position, and really a PR nightmare. They had to say and do something.
          I don’t think anyone is suggesting he should have lied about his point of view, the family has made it very clear on the show what their religious views are.
          But it’s not just the comments about homosexuality, it’s also the statements he made about race. So while the initial reports only mentioned his statements on homosexuality, as more trickled out, it certainly didn’t make things better.

          1. Chinook*

            I didn’t realize his comments included race but I also wonder why the company is shocked by any of this. If he is a public figure, shouldn’t they have either discussed this with him before hand or limited his interviews? I always got the impression that people enjoyed the show because it was about a bunch of rednecks and the viewers either had the chance to see someone like them or someone to look down on (in the same vein as Honey Booboo). Can anyone be really shocked that the family that they chose because they were stereotypical rednecks actually had stereotypical views? It is not like they were chosen because because they are shining example of a modern lifestyle. Frankly, you can’t play in the manure and get angry at the stink (I am not saying the family is manure, but I can’t think of another analogy).

            1. Audiophile*

              He made a comment in the same interview, that he never witnessed the mistreatment of a black person and that he believed they were happier before entitlements and welfare.

              I’m not sure the network is shocked by this, as similar comments have been made before (at least as far as sin and homosexuality are concerned) but in those previous instances, the comments were not picked up by mainstream media. This recent interview was with GQ, which has a wider audience and readership.

              As for limiting what he says, outside of the show and how the network edits it, I’m not sure they have any clause in the contracts with the family about what they can say. They’re not actors, so I don’t think it’s treated the same way.

              I don’t know exactly why people watch, though I’m inclined to agree that it’s for both of the reasons you listed.

              1. Stephanie*

                Yup, Chinook nailed the reasons right on the head. And, to some extent, I think lower-class whites are one of the groups people still view it’s “okay” to mock. (Although, I think even before Duck Dynasty, those guys were millionaires.)

                1. Nichole*

                  I agree. My husband (who is a quintessential good ol’ boy with a DD beard who also happens to be creative and intelligent) made a comment about this that made so much sense. He said he thinks it’s silly that when people like what the Duck Dynasty cast says, they’re educated and smart businessmen, but when they say something unpopular or do something perceived as “country,” they’re dumb rednecks (his term-while I don’t love it, it captures what he meant quite well). Can’t have it both ways. You either acknowledge that educated and intelligent people can have hobbies and opinions that differ from your own, or you mock them for being low class and ignore the fact that they are a group of people with a multimillion dollar business and a wall full of degrees. I have opinions about what he said, but I find the kerfuffle so much more interesting than the actual issue!

            2. Not So NewReader*

              I think you’re right, Chinook. A lot of those shows are for the purpose of feeding the appetites of people who want other people to look down on.

              I tend to think about this is true also with shows about hoarders and parents with tough kids etc.

              Clearly, if that is the only way a person has to uplift themselves then they are not doing that well, either.

              Perhaps it is all a PR ploy. “Say something that provokes everyone and draws attention to our show.” What was it that Miley Cyrus told Barbara Walters? Something about she managed to keep her name in the news all year. Yeah, okay. Maybe this Duck Dynasty thing is a PR ploy.

              I have not watched tv in years. I only know what I hear/read others saying. It saddens me that this is the level we (society) has sunk down to. It does not take any talent to get people arguing/agitated/worried. Do we not have enough of this going on?, Do we need MORE? The real talent lies in building bridges building cohesion and finding common grounds.

              It is what it is, I guess. It sells a lot of toothpaste and floor cleaner and a lot of folks laugh all the way to the bank. (Am shaking my head…)

              1. Editor*

                As far as I can tell, Duck Dynasty sells a lot of chocolate bars. I had never heard of them until I went into my local gas station/convenience store to get a gas receipt when the pump was out of paper, only to find giant candy bars with four bearded guys staring out at me in camo. The beards reminded me of Fidel Castro, which is apparently not the message the Duck Dynasty guys intended to send.

        2. WIncredible*

          This tired “freedom of speech” argument is SO TIRED. Did the US Government in anyway infringe on this guy’s right to say his hateful homophobic or racist things? Did the IRS audit him? Did the military confine him? No? Well, IT’S BECAUSE HIS FREEDOM OF SPEECH WAS NOT INFRINGED.

          Only the government is prevented by the Constitution from infringing freedom of speech. The TV channel A&E is not the government. Private industry can do anything they want to you..they are free to do so. Also, “freedom of speech” does not mean freedom FROM CONSEQUENCES of said speech.

          This is so tired, please try to understand your Constitutional freedoms versus “nebulous outrage..freedom….religion…blargh!”

          TL;dr: He said what he wanted (freedom) and suffered the consequences of it…still Constitutional.

          1. Editor*

            Not only am I tired of the “freedom of speech” trope in this brouhaha, I am even more tired of the “persecuted Christian” trope. When you’ve been jailed or exiled because of your religion, we can talk persecution.

    3. Audiophile*

      Me too. I’ve never seen one episode of “Duck Dynasty” and I never plan to.
      The “free speech” discussion, just makes it blatantly clear how many people DO NOT understand how free speech works. It makes me sad.

      1. Jessa*

        This, every time someone says “free speech,” about this or anything like it, I want to say “Read the Constitution dammit,” that’s NOT WHAT IT SAYS. Same thing when people complain about speech restriction at work (unless they work for a government agency, or a law has been passed (wage discussion, etc.))

        1. Jamie*

          Thank you, seriously. The whole freedom of speech misinterpretation is up there with the mattress tag thing landing you in jail. It’s illegal to sell them without tags, not to snip it off when you get home!

          Huge pet peeves.

    4. Chinook*

      Actually, today it should be Merry/Happy Christmas because that is the holiday on December 25th and not any other holiday. I don’t have a problem with a generic “happy holidays” during the season, but please don’t ignore the actual day because it does exist and is important to many for both secular and religious reasons.

      Now, because I know Alison is Jewish, I wouldn’t think to wish her a Merry Christmas not because I wish her ill but because I assume she isn’t celebrating it and I can’t even assume she has the day off (though I do like her tree). But, I cannot see what is wrong in wishing someone who I don’t know a positive greeting on the day of a given festival.

      1. Ruffingit*


        I don’t care if someone wishes Merry Christmas on the actual day or if they say Happy Holidays. That was the whole point of my original posting. I just can’t get all that up in arms about the whole thing. My feeling is let it go, be glad someone wished me a good day, and I don’t make a big thing out of “But it’s CHRISTMAS DAY, you should say MERRY CHRISTMAS.” Someone wished me a happy day. Whatever way they chose to do that, I’m appreciative and I’m not going to require they do it in a specific way or with specific words for it to “count.”

        1. Loose Seal*

          I agree. Nor do I wish people a Happy Saturnalia or anything else. Just because they celebrate it doesn’t mean I have to (or should be expected to) make a verbal acknowledgement of their holiday. But I’m not going to get bent out of shape if they say it to me.

          1. fposte*

            Yes, every day several different days/holidays/celebrations/birthdays–it’s not like there’s any one unique day that has an inherent identity in a way the others don’t, and it’s not accurate to say that there’s nothing else today but Christmas (Wikipedia lists five other holidays before even getting into the other Christian holidays, and of course a fair number of Christians don’t consider December 25 to be Christmas anyway). So I accept whatever happy day anybody wants to wish me and would hope they’d feel the same rather than considering it not to count if I don’t indicate the same day they’re thinking of.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, this isn’t trolling. Even if Chinook weren’t a regular commenter (which she is), it’s not trolling to civilly present a different point of view…

      2. Anonymous*

        I agree with you about Merry Christmas. It is a religious holiday. The part about the Duck Dynasty is so odd to me. I do not watch the show and I do not agree with all this person’s statements. But, as a Christian, I do agree with his biblical viewpoints. I just believe the left has a different standard when it comes to the conservatives point of view. Just my opinion.

    5. Ann Furthermore*

      The Duck Dynasty controversy seems to be dying down, at least a little bit. I’m sick to death of the whole thing.

      Here’s what ticks me off about these manufactured dramas: most people are complete hypocrites about this kind of thing. When the controversial comments are something they happen to agree with, they will rally around the person who made those remarks, and say that person was just expressing their opinion, and they shouldn’t be penalized for it, and then there’s usually something thrown in about how we, as a society (I’m talking about the US here), have become too uptight and politically correct. When the controversial comments are something they disagree with, they shout from the rooftops about how the person should be fired, suspended, or otherwise punished, and that people need to be held “accountable” for what they say. That’s a load of hooey. You either support someone’s right to express an opinion, or you don’t. You don’t get to pick and choose based on whether or not you find those remarks to be offensive.

      And the other thing that irks me no end is that this Phil guy and his family are just experiencing one of the downsides of fame. They *chose* to allow cameras to document their every waking moment. They *chose* to allow A&E to make it into a TV show. They *chose* to put themselves on display as if they were animals at the zoo.

      There are many benefits to those choices, the biggest one being obscene amounts of money. But when you agree to put yourself into the spotlight, people are going to pay attention to what you say and have an opinion about it, one way or the other. Right or wrong, that’s just the way it is, and it is one of the consequences of that choice.

      They were more than happy to accept the huge piles of money, be on the cover of People, attend the awards shows, and all the rest of it. So now that the one guy has really stepped in it, they just need to suck it up and deal with it, and stop complaining about the big meanies in the media. If the spotlight is so awful, then quit trying so hard to be in it.

      Sorry. Rant over now. Carry on!

      1. Anna*

        I’m so over it too. One of the things that was driving me crazy (and seems to have dropped off as a rallying cry) is how his 1st amendment rights were being trampled by A&E for suspending him. 1. The 1st amendment only refers to the government censoring your words; it doesn’t protect you from your employer taking issue with something you’ve said in public. 2. He is not going to suffer for the suspension. From what I understand, they’ve finished taping season 3 and his suspention will be over before they start taping season 4. So who is being punished for speaking his mind? Exactly no one.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          Oh it’s about as far away from real as you can get. I absolutely hate it…I think it’s asinine, ludicrous, and represents the general dumbing-down of America.

  9. NewToThis*

    Merry Christmas!

    I should be sleeping as my entire family is celebrating Christmas at my house tomorrow and I have to wake up early to get so many things done but I’m stressing over a work situation.

    I requested for my final paid personal day a few weeks ago for this Friday and the scheduler nor my manager have let me know if it’s been approved! They told me I can’t find out until Thursday which is SUPER inconvenient. My manager assured me he would take care of the situation and not to worry, he’ll have the scheduler put it through but after following up numerous times (as I did not see it changed on my schedule) he finally said I may actually have to come in. Not to mention I had to sit and listen to him talk about how relieved he is that he has the Friday off. I’m just really frustrated and will most likely have to cancel my plans now. Ugh ..

  10. Ali*

    Ugh…my last comment posted before I was ready, so here’s the continuation:

    Does anyone else tend to hate the advice “never give up”? I realize the people telling me these things have good intentions and are just trying to help, but when I get frustrated over a goal and entertain quitting, people rush to say “but you can’t give up!” or “You were made to do this!” It’s meant to be inspirational, but I feel so damn annoyed whenever I hear it.

    I am trying to break into a competitive sports industry, and I think I want to give up on that dream. I have a full-time job (in media, but I’m ready to leave that behind for reasons I won’t detail lest this post get way too long) that is paying me decently and giving me benefits and relates to my major. So while I want to look for a new job for other reasons, at least I am OK for a while. Plus, with sports, I would basically have to find a way to squeeze in interning/volunteering with my full-time job, and some teams expect you to work 40+ hours a week with no pay. While I realize it would only be a temporary/internship situation, the very thought of having to do two full-time gigs horrifies me. And no, I don’t believe that work is beneath me or that I’m “entitled” or whatever some might like to say. I just…like time to breathe?

    I’ve also been writing for a couple of sports websites for free for about three years, and it is not helping me on the job search. I have writing colleagues who talk about how much they love it and how they’re not giving up on their goals, but they too have been writing for free forever and they aren’t exactly getting paid offers out the wazoo. I mean if they were…they probably wouldn’t be writing for free. Well, I wouldn’t. But yet I keep being told I have to keep plugging and that something will fall into place for me.

    Truth is, I’m sick of writing for free hoping for my “break” and I’m tired of hearing how to improve my SEO tactics. I’m tired of hearing that I *have* to tweet my articles multiple times a day in order to get Twitter followers. (I was actually told by my editor I don’t tweet my articles enough.) I want to write for quality and I want to be paid for it, even if that means breaking away from sports. (Surely, there are places to write that don’t care how many hits you get or how many times you tweet, right?) At this point, I have come to terms with the fact that I may never work in sports and that I should search for jobs both in the industry and outside of it.

    I feel like I’ve been putting in too much free work for too long and that if it’s not going to pay off soon, then I need to walk away. I’m not saying I want friends/family to say that I should be a quitter, but I wish people were more realistic and would at least assure me that it’s OK to let go and do something more practical. Hearing “don’t give up!” makes me feel like I should keep banging my head against the wall and praying. I ask for advice and everyone’s just like “you have to keep at it.”

    Not sure if that made sense, or if anyone else feels the same, but I had to get that out there…

    1. Lacey*

      Well, as somone who recently gave up on a long held dream, I would advise you to listen to yourself. If you read your question through again, it seems like you’ve come to the conclusion that you want to move on from the idea of being in the sports industry, but because of outside pressure, you feel you can’t actually openly acknowledge that decision. I think your reasons for concluding its not working for you are all excellent and make sense. So that just leaves explaining it to everyone – including yourself. And really…you don’t have to eplain to anyone but yourself. No-one else is going to pay your bills or do your job for you, you have to do those things so only you really have any say in what you choose to do for a living.

      Maybe re-phrasing it would help. Instead of looking at it as ‘giving up your dream’, look at it as deciding to follow another career path. Although I started this comment by saying I had given up on my dream, I actually look at it differently – I’ve spent 15 years developing a career specialising in tax law, I never planned to do it and always thought I’d do criminal law. I’ve finally realised that being a criminal lawyer, the career I thought I ‘should’ have done, was just not the right one for me, for many reasons – a lot of that financial. Do I wish deep down that I’d pursued criminal law right out of law school and never come to rely on the higher income I have as a result of the choices I made? Yes. But do I enjoy all the things I can do because I’m not scraping by on half my current income? Definitely.

      The other part of this is actually holding my current career in higher esteem. I’ve always looked down on being a corporate lawyer, as not being a ‘real’ lawyer. I finally realised I was really doing myself a disservice by essentially disliking myself – I AM a corporate lawyer, so it was ridiculous to continue doing it whilst secretly disliking myself for that choice.

      This has got really long. Basically, stop justifying what you’re doing to everyone else – its your life. And try to find a way of thinking positively about the job you are doing, its a lot easier on yourself.

    2. Zillah*

      I think that there’s a huge difference between thinking work is beneath you and not wanting to work a full time gig for free when you have another option!

      Volunteering can be all well and good, depending on the situation, but on a practical level, not everyone can afford to volunteer or intern full time, nor does everyone want to work that into their schedule. And to be honest, IMO, it can definitely get frustrating and demoralizing to feel like you’re trying to break down a door that just isn’t budging. It’s not being a quitter – it’s knowing when to cut your losses rather than being stubborn.

      I think it’s completely valid to say that while you would love this career, it’s something you need to table (either for the moment or forever), because it’s simply not feasible right now. “Not feasible” doesn’t have to mean that there’s no way on earth you can do it – it just means that the cost of doing it is higher than you’re willing to pay. And IMO, that’s completely, valid.

    3. FD*

      The kind of pressure you’re experiencing is part of why people get stuck in bad relationships and jobs. ‘Don’t give up’ is a nice sentiment in the abstract, but in reality, there are a lot of cases where giving up is exactly the right thing to do!

      It’s a highly competitive industry, from what you’ve said, which will tend to mean that there are hard-working, talented people who just never get their break. Moreover, because it’s so competitive, they can expect people to work frankly excessive hours in order to get started. For some people, that’s worth it; for many others, it just isn’t.

      There’s nothing wrong with wanting a good work-life balance! It’s a perfectly reasonable desire. So, what I would say is this.

      How will you feel if you give up on sports writing? Honestly assess it. Imagine yourself out of this field entirely. How will you feel about it–not how you’ll feel about what anyone else thinks, but how will you feel? If the strongest emotion you feel is relief, or the idea of not being in the field anymore doesn’t really evoke an emotional reaction, you should probably walk away.

      People, at least in the US, tend to think of One True Thing. That people have a destined job, partner, etc. etc. If you find it, you will live happily ever after, and if you don’t, you are doomed to misery and regret. In reality, I think that most people have a wide selection of paths they could follow. I could never have been a nurse (I can’t handle needles at all and I only scraped by at best in biology) or a professional athlete, but I probably could have been an accountant or a teacher. Even if you might have gotten your break soon, that doesn’t doom you to a life of disappointment because you walked away instead.

      At minimum, I would say explore other options! It can’t hurt, after all, and you might end up finding something that’s a better fit for you.

      1. Jessa*

        And there’s no reason you can’t end up where you originally wanted to, just coming from another direction a la the blue haired accountant.

    4. Brittany*

      Ack, the well intentioned can be infuriating sometimes. Seriously, though, one of the best lessons I have learned is that no one can, make me do something. You know. Aside from taxes and things. Point being, if you don’t like where you are and what you’re doing, it might be time to find another path. And there is nothing wrong with that!

      I am a writer, too. Practically, I suggest looking for another way to secure your dream–a way that will make you happier than you currently are. Niche areas, like sports and travel, are really tough to crack. I would try to work on getting paid for your writing by increasingly good publications, and then use that portfolio to help you get in the door at the pubs you really admire. Remember, though: writing is so much hit and miss. It’s about how fantastic your pitch is…and do they have room for it right now, have they done something similar lately, etc. There will be lots more no’s, but it’s essential to remind yourself that they aren’t personal. Godod luck!

    5. Coelura*

      You can always pursue another path today without “giving up” on your dream. In the future, you can write sports articles on your local high school teams or other fun ways to participate locally without volunteering full time or expecting it to lead anywhere. I followed a different path than my dream and found ways to dabble in my dream through the years. Now, 25 years later, I am back to pursuing it as all the pieces came together and I have the money to pursue it. Don’t give up completely, but there is no reason to make the pursuit your consuming passion. Not when you are not progressing the way you want and need to.

    6. smallbutmighty*

      Have you ever thought about working in a role that is related to sports but maybe not 100% focused on sports?

      I’m an avid recreational participant in a sport, and through my interest in that sport I wound up working in a consumer support role for a major sportswear company. (If you’re wondering which one, let me say you’ve definitely heard of us. Do your shoes have a Swoosh on them? Yep, that’s us.)

      We love to hire athletes and people who are passionate about sports, because sport infuses every aspect of our business. Even the IT guys go running on their lunch break at our company. We have sub-elite and semi-pro athletes on our payroll in corporate jobs, and these people often have flexible schedules to accommodate their sport. Obviously these people also have to have the qualifications for the job–they can program or write or manage or whatever they were hired to do, and they generally do it BETTER than a non-athlete because they’ve learned self-discipline, perseverance, and other key qualities through their sport.

      I know this doesn’t really answer your question, but I thought you might like knowing that other interesting options exist for people like you.

      And oh yeah, generally “don’t give up” is a platitude, not advice, unless you are, like, literally running a marathon or something when you’re told “don’t give up.”

    7. Graciosa*

      There are lots of good comments here, so I’m going to focus on positioning the decision with your family and friends. My short answer is don’t talk about it.

      My longer answer is it sounds like you’re ready to shift focus and start working in another area (where you can write for quality and get paid for it) so go ahead and work toward that goal without making a big deal out of it. If this succeeds, you can make a very natural transition.

      Mention that you just placed an article in a [non-sports] publication and you’re really excited about it (or you’re going to use the money for X or whatever). The response should be congratulatory and supportive. If someone asks why you’re writing for this other publication, the answer is that the topic interested you or you always wanted to write for X or whatever AND the compensation was good. If someone points out that this isn’t what you wanted to do, you respond the same way. If someone asks is you’re giving up your dream, you start off saying “Of course not! I’m not taking advantage of a great opportunity to [fill in the blank]”.

      As time passes, people will become accustomed to hearing about your new accomplishments, and this will gradually change their thinking and manner of dealing with you. Eventually, you may decide to acknowledge that over time, you decided [alternative] was a better path for you – you didn’t give up on your dream, you just changed it, which is perfectly normal.

      1. Ali*

        Wow so many good comments! This is what I meant the other day when I said to a friend that I was hoping for things for Christmas that money couldn’t buy me. I feel a lot better, especially hearing that “giving up” can be phrased differently.

        I have thought about different areas of writing but I’m not quite sure how to start breaking in besides doing a volunteer role that doesn’t require a full-time commitment (like maybe 10-15 hours a week tops?). I read a couple books about copywriting/marketing writing, and that intrigued me, but I don’t know how to start building my portfolio when I can write, but I don’t write that kind of material.

        Not sure if any marketing/advertising gurus will see this reply, but you get my drift.

        1. fposte*

          Ali, have you read the threads here about career trajectory and how few of us have ended up where we planned–but instead have really interesting professional lives that we would never have imagined?

          I think that’s probably easier for those of us who had no stated “dream job”–we’re not bucking a narrative that everybody around us has embraced. I think that’s possibly what you’re getting pushback on–they’re not seeing it as your looking into other fields, it’s that you’re giving up on the dream and anything else is some kind of bitter grey defeat. And of course it’s not. There are other things you’d enjoy doing and be good at doing, and it’s reasonable for you to start considering those. You could even consider framing it to the don’t-give-uppers as you realizing you want to be less narrowly focused rather than using the phrase “give up.”

        2. Anna*

          This is really hard because I know a LOT of creative types who would definitely tell you to stop giving away your work. I also have an acquaintance who has a part time gig doing what he calls the “Tragedy Writing Job”. He writes news stories about awful things, but I don’t know for who. I would say if you’re interested in writing and you’ve been doing it for free for a number of years, you already have a portfolio. Start submitting stories to the types of sites you’re interested in working for. You’ve been writing sports stories, what are you interested in writing that isn’t that?

    8. Ruffingit*

      It’s OK to let go and do something more practical. It really truly is. Quitting gets a bad rap. The word “quit” has become pejorative in nature, but you know what? We can only open so many doors in this life and opening one precludes another. If you decide to get married, you give up the single life, if you decide to have children, you give up the child-free life, if you decide to become a race car driver, you give up the safety of a desk job and on and on. Life is a series of choices and we have to make the ones that most resonate with us.

      For you, it’s OK to say “This choice to break into sports isn’t working for me anymore and I’m moving on to…” fill in the blank with whatever that is for you.

      Also, realize you don’t need to defend your choice to family or friends and if someone calls you a quitter, you can say “Yes, I am a quitter. I quit something that didn’t work for me and moved on to something else.” That is the smart and right thing to do FOR YOU. If someone else wants to continue to toil for free or whatever, then that is the choice they are making. Doesn’t mean everyone else has to do the same thing.

      Move on. It’s really OK.

    9. Lindsay J*

      Yeah. I recently had a big career decision to make (basically going back to my old job in my old industry for a significant pay increase and a title bump, or staying at my current job that I love).

      The only advice people would give me is, “You need to do what’s best for you!!! :) :) :).” I know they meant well, but it just wasn’t what I needed and wasn’t helpful to me at all.

      What I needed was somebody to talk me through my options and the decision, and once I got that it became pretty clear to me what I wanted to do.

      From what you’ve written here you sound like you’re pretty clear on the idea that you do want to move on from the sports industry. If that’s the case, then do it and explain to your friends and family that it’s not that you’re giving up it’s just that you don’t want to do what it seems like it takes to be able to make a living in that industry.

      It definitely is okay to let go and do something more practical. You’re not even a quitter – you’ve just realized that your desire to not work a million hours of unpaid time is stronger than your desire to be in that industry, and that’s okay. I’m sure your friends will be okay with it, too – they’re just saying “Keep at it! Don’t give up!” because they feel like that’s what they’re supposed to do as good friends.

      1. Jessa*

        But if you need specific advice, like “help me make a pro/con chart for these two choices,” you need to ask for that advice. Honestly the “what’s best for you” response is mostly a “whatever you pick we won’t feel badly or treat you badly because we think it’s a lousy choice, because both choices are good.” Which you know. Sometimes you have to be specific in what you want.

        Too many people who DO have good advice have been hit with “But I only wanted to vent, why are you telling me all this stuff I don’t want to hear, I didn’t ASK you for a solution.” So they stop giving advice even when the person really wants it.

        It took me a long time with my father for instance, to learn to say “I’m venting, just shaddup and let me get at it,” vs “I want all your solutions/advice here.” Before that no matter what I said or why, it was an advice list a yard long. In your case it’s the opposite, they presume you’re venting.

        1. Lindsay J*

          Yes, this is true. Honestly I didn’t know what I needed and thought I would be conflicted forever until somebody did talk me through it – mostly by asking pointed questions about how I felt when I got the new job offer, how I felt when I envisioned myself working the job and turning down the job, etc. If I had known this was what I needed I would have specifically asked for it. Since I didn’t, I couldn’t.

          And I certainly don’t fault my friends for giving the “Do what’s best for you,” advice. It’s the good friend advice – they’re acknowledging that it’s your life and your decision and they’ll support you no matter what. I got it from two types of people – people who I could tell were actually neutral and just wanted me to do what I wanted, and from people who weren’t neutral and had a vested interest in me doing one thing or the other but didn’t want to try and sway me because I was the one who would have to live with the decision.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      Tell them “yeah, I am giving up on my dream because I am going after a BETTER dream!”

      It could be their own fear of giving up on their own dreams that they are projecting all this on to you.
      However friends and family should love us FIRST and love our dreams SECOND. You are still you, no matter how many dreams you have.

      Another suggestion I have is quit calling a particular goal a dream. Instead refer to it as “my plan”. No more dreams. Just have plans. At least when you are talking with your close ones. Sure, in your mind you can have dreams but it seems like your loved ones get too invested in dreams. So shift to “plans”.

      Very seldom is anything that happens to us in life a failure. We have “experiences” and we go from one experience to another. In years to come you will find that you have a rich story book of experiences. Nothing is ever a total failure or a total waste.

      And uh- not to be mean- but I must share: A friend just gave me a stern talking to about working for free so much. Stop it, he said. Stop giving yourself away for free.
      He is right. I had to decide that what I bring to the table is worth money. Until I made that decision not much was going to change. That. Was. So. Hard. (Ten thousand reasons why- stop with the reasons why it is hard and just DO it.)

      Yeah, I am doing different work now. And I am VERY happy.
      Bonus- my bosses are happy. Oddly, what I came up with for employment is so different/interesting that people forget to ask “what happened with that other thing you were doing?”

      It was like stepping off the edge of a cliff to make that transition but I am happier than I thought possible.

      Cheers to a great new year for you!

    11. Lora*

      I think the phrase you’re looking for is “cut your losses”.

      People don’t like the notion of Quitting, but they do understand cut your losses. They know what an opportunity cost is, even if it seems a bit nebulous to actually calculate.

      Also, many many publications have taken heat recently for failing to pay writers for content and instead telling them, “But you’ll get great exposure!” to the point that several writers called them out as exploitative. So, that’s another frame for “quitting because nobody is paying me”: You SHOULD be paid, and in a righteous world you WOULD be paid, but greedy jerks only want free content and have no intention of paying anyone, ever.

    12. Sunflower*

      A lot of things change as you get older and your passions are just one of them. Especially in competitive industries, once you get to the top, you have to work just as hard to stay there. Your friends probably think working in sports entertainment seems so cool but I know lots of people who work in what other people would call ‘dream jobs’ and they hate it. I also know people who work in ‘boring jobs’ and they love it. Just remember at the end of the day, the only person who has to live with your decision is you.

      Also your friends may think you’re looking for encouragement when you when you talk about how frustrating this is. It might help if you say to a trusted friend or family member that you think your career goals may be changing and are interested in maybe doing something different.

  11. Lindsay J*

    Does anybody here know of some good management (or other workplace related books) books (other than Alison’s awesome book, which I own)?

    I’ve read One Minute Manager and Fish! and Who Moved My Cheese. I’m open to the ideas and reading the books, but I’ve found that I really hate Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. I’ve found all of the advice and information in the books to be overly simplistic and the writing style dumbed down to the point of being condescending.

    I’ve read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, and How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling by Frank Bettger and I liked both of those. Any others of that ilk that y’all know of? Or at least something that doesn’t feel like it was written for a first grader?

    1. snuck*

      Why not look at some Myers Briggs type stuff? Personality understanding stuff – because you really can’t change people!

    2. Jen in RO*

      In my former job, the manager sent us “Fish!” because (I guess) he felt that we needed to see things in a more positive light. We found it insulting, not uplifting – it really did feel like it was written for a first grader! Did we really look stupid to him? We *were* getting too negative, but a self-help book was absolutely not the way to solve this.

      The only good thing was that the team lead (who was given the book as “assigned reading”) highlighted the stupidest parts and read them aloud to us. Bonding time!

      (Sorry, no suggestions I’m afraid!)

      1. Lindsay J*

        Yeah, my boss is super into all of these and it actually fuels more negativity.

        I’m not really in the line of fire because I’ve read all of these (or pick them up and read them in 45 minutes) so I tell her that, we have a short discussion about them, and she moves on.

        My coworker on the other friend is firmly in the line of fire. He resents being basically given assigned reading. It makes him less open to change. And he and I spend time complaining to each other about the books which is more time spent being negative.

      2. A Teacher*

        I hated Fish! I get the concept behind it but being forced to read it and watch the video once a year for 4 years straight killed my joy. I don’t even use it in the college career courses I teach.

    3. Jessa*

      This is going to be an odd suggestion, but it helps so much in managing people. Any of Suzette Elgin’s Verbal Art of Self Defense books especially the workplace ones. They’re gold for dealing with groups that have mismatched ways of expression and how to deal with the bully types that always retort with “I wasn’t talking about you, or OMG you’re so sensitive, geez, it was a joke.”

    4. periwinkle*

      When in doubt, go to the primary source. Read Peter Drucker’s work – start with either “Management” or “The Practice of Management.” Drucker is widely considered to be the father of modern management theory. Thankfully his major works are now on Kindle; you could use the hardcover edition of “Management” to kill a grizzly bear if necessary. (nevertheless I’m lugging it across country and to my new office – it’s that necessary)

      1. Lindsay J*

        Now that you mention it, I’ve heard that name before. I guess I know what some of my Amazon gift card money is going towards.

      2. Trillian*


        Also The Effective Executive. Short, personal, highly readable. Since he is so well regarded, his best known articles – even those from before the Internet – are available for Googling – try Google Scholar.

        I wish he were still around; he was very positive about knowledge work, and I wish I could hear his interpretation of the various forces at work now.

    5. Lora*

      The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton.

      I agree with you about the first grader books. I find a LOT of those books beyond stupid and useless. I was asked to read Who Moved My Cheese once and the manager in question asked which character I thought I was. “Holden Caulfield” was not the right answer…

  12. Lindsay J*

    Also, anybody have any good sales advice?

    I feel like the biggest thing I have trouble with is consistency. I have more high dollar sales than other people (I had two of the highest sales for the month in the past month, and I won our selling contest for selling the most of our high dollar items in our store) but I also have more low dollar sales than other people, so my sales average winds up being middle of the road rather than fantastic.

    However, I feel like I’m being consistent with the way I sell and the way I interact with people in general – there’s not something I can point to and go “Well, in my high dollar sales I tend to do this and in my low dollar sales I tend to do this.” From my view they’re all the same.

    I almost want to chalk it up to people just not wanting to spend money or bad luck, but I’ve got my averages for 9 months and 500 sales and I’m consistently not as good as the top sales people in my store, and numbers like that don’t lie.

    My boss can’t really help me because me trying to act like her when I sell just wouldn’t be congruent with my personality – she’s very loud and bubbly and off the wall and I’m just not like that. My style is more similar to our top sales person – kind of laid back and chill, and he’s given me some tips which have helped. He is also more mattress/used car salesman-like than I am comfortable with. Others seem to be able to sell without seeming overbearingly pushy like he does, and I know a lot of his customers feel pressured which hurt our guest satisfaction ratings.

    Overall it’s not a huge deal. Obviously the owners like to see good sales numbers, but they’re not mandatory for progressing in the company. (In fact the two most recently promoted managers had two of the lower sales averages in the company before they were promoted. Mine is higher than one of theirs and on par with the other’s). However, a large part of my job is sales and I like feeling like I’m good at my job. Plus I know that if I were looking to promote two people with similar backgrounds, and one had sales numbers significantly higher than the other I would obviously go with the person with better sales (especially in light of the fact that some of the existing managers are weaker in that area).

    This is more retail sales – think people coming into Sears and shopping for TVs vs somebody selling insurance or something like that where following up on leads is important. We all have a sales script that we follow which hits on major points, too. So it seems like the issue is less what I say and more how I say it and interact with people in general.

    1. Zillah*

      Hmm. Maybe I’m completely off base, but I’m not sure that going with the person with higher sales numbers is that obvious? It could be that this just isn’t a field I understand, but it seems to me that the skills needed to be a good salesperson and the skills needed to be a good manager aren’t necessarily all that similar, which seems to be born out by the fact that people with decent-but-not-great sales numbers have gotten promoted?

      Again, I could be completely off-base, and I don’t really have any good advice for your specific problem, but that did pop into my head as I was reading your post.

      1. Lindsay J*

        Yes, obviously you can be a great salesperson and be an awful manager.

        I’m just looking at my general performance as a whole, and my sales performance seems to be the one thing that has the potential to hold me back so I’d like to improve it if I can.

        1. Editor*

          When I was dealing with customers in my work, I found Jeffrey Gitomer to be helpful. Last I knew, he had a regular email people could subscribe to with pep talks from him and tips he and other sales pros provided.

          My personal preference when dealing with sales people is to talk to someone who will listen and will try to find a product that is right for me, either because they know the details of everything on the floor or because they will find the details. I just bought two appliances, and the original sales guy for the refrigerator was not in the store when I came back to finalize the purchase. The guy I had to deal with just started right off in his pitch instead of providing the answer to the one question I had left even though I had told him I had dealt with someone else and only wanted one measurement.

          And I am sorry to rant here, but why are so many appliance sales people men, when they don’t seem interested in stuff like the shape of the ice cubes or where the coldest spot in the refrigerator is? It seems to me defacto evidence of discrimination when I go into an electronics store and all the sales staff are white males in their 20s and 30s with one token woman and one or two token people of color, or when I go into an appliance store or department and the sales staff are all white males in their 40s or 50s with one token woman and one or two token people of color, or when I go into an auto dealership and the clerical workers are all women and the sales staff, mechanics and managers are almost all white guys. Sure, some white guys to listen to me. But so many male salesmen have been dismissive about my preferences (ever asked a guy selling a car where the designated location to store a purse is?) that I have developed an active resentment of the prejudices and also the work environment (very unreasonable hours and commission structures) that keep women and minorities out of those jobs.

    2. Anonymous*

      It sounds like you don’t push people to upgrade their purchase beyond necessary. Does your company not have customer service satisfaction numbers? It sounds like the numbers are the problem, anyway – you could fix your average selling fewer priced items, and any number can be improved by you performing less well isn’t useful.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Make sure you are open to ringing the customer up for what they want. Make sure you are not selling down, even if you cannot always bump the sale up. Sometimes people want to buy bigger than what they need- it is fine to show them that it is too much but don’t press the point if they insist they want the “super delux”. If you are doing this all the time that would reflect in the numbers.

        Watch those metrics they are using. Maybe Top Sales Person Anne had 50 less customers than you. Or maybe Second Top Sales Person Bob works weekends when the most people come into the business.

        There are no perfect numbers out there and numbers pretty much can be used to paint any picture one wants them to paint.
        Since the bosses are happy with you, I would not put a lot of time into it. This is the type of thing that can become a distraction and take away from your own productivity.

        Just double check and make sure you are familiar with all the higher end products. Know them like you know how to breathe. The rest is a mix of luck and just consistently putting yourself out there in front of people.

      2. Lindsay J*

        We don’t have customer service satisfaction numbers. We’re a small company.

        My boss has been talking about implementing a comment card system though, so we should, soon.

        Mostly they use Yelp, Groupon, and Facebook comments to determine guest satisfaction, but since very few people leave ratings or messages on these sites they’re not all that useful.

    3. FD*

      I’m not in a commission-based sales position, but I’ve sold a lot of hotel rooms, including having a lot of people call back and choose my ‘product’ over cheaper alternatives.

      For me, the three things that matter most are really, really knowing your product. You need to know it inside out, know the advantages and the disadvantages, and you need to like it. If you think you’re product is crap, being a pushy salesman is basically the only way to sell. People can tell when you’re excited about what you’re selling, and it has to be genuine.

      You also…really need to like people. That can’t be taught, I don’t think, and there’s nothing wrong with not liking people in general. I.E. do you enjoy working with new people? Oddly, you can have this quality while still being an introvert; I love working with people in a directed setting where I know what my goal is, but in social settings I freeze and don’t know what to do. (Not all introverts are like that, of course. just to clarify.)

      Finally, it’s paradoxical, but one of the best way to drive sales is to let some go. If you really don’t have what the customer wants/needs, tell them where they can find it. People remember that, and they’re more likely to come back or to send someone else to you.

      1. Zillah*

        “Finally, it’s paradoxical, but one of the best way to drive sales is to let some go. If you really don’t have what the customer wants/needs, tell them where they can find it. People remember that, and they’re more likely to come back or to send someone else to you.”

        I cannot agree enough with this.

    4. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd*

      Actually, your well rounded sales figures are the person I’d be most likely to promote because you can sell across a spectrum of dollar points and customer’s needs. I’d think that shows a larger skill set that you could then transfer to a bunch of sales staff if you were promoted.

      The top $$ sales person is not usually the person to promote. That’s usually someone who lives to sell and you want to keep them selling and make sure they are happy and compensated in a sales position.

      Having the highest number of low dollar sales means one of a couple of things.


      1) you aren’t qualifying out customers that other sales people are. You’re spending time equally on everybody, while other sales people are choosing whom to spend time on more carefully. This is either an excellent, neutral or negative practice for your business, depending on business type, management and goals.

      2) you aren’t upgrading sales you could upgrade. Asking questions can help you identify additional needs and opportunities. If you play with this, you might find the “oh yes, you know what, I need an X also, could I buy one from you?” happening more often.

      Mostly though, especially by the way you are looking at these stats, you sound like someone who would do well in sales management.

    5. canadiantoo*

      The way I see it, you are catering to the widest range of consumers, which is a good thing. Consumers are going to buy what they can afford so some spend more, some spend less.

    6. Graciosa*

      An earlier post by Snuck suggested Myers-Briggs as a useful area to learn about for management. I would add that this is also something useful to learn about for sales. If the issue is about how you interact with people, familiarity with MBTI can give you some insight into preferences among different personality types – including how to identify those preferences and adjust your approach. If you’re using a consistent approach, you’re missing opportunities.

  13. Kerry*

    Happy Christmas to those celebrating (whether religiously or secularly)!

    I’m one of the got-a-new-job people of the past year (started in June) and as the newest member of the team I got the Christmas morning shift this year (it’s in news so someone has to be on shift 24/7). Upsides are that I’m doing it from home in my PJs and my husband is doing all the cooking until I get off at 3pm. But what I’m happiest about is that I was actually excited about logging in this morning and seeing what there was to do. Like, the fact that I was looking forward to having to work on Christmas morning seems like a pretty good sign I’ve found the right job. :D

    I hope Employment Santa brings everyone what you’re looking for in the next year!

    1. Lindsay J*

      Yes! I thought it was pretty telling the other day when one of my friends was talking about a schedule change. He said he woke up and got ready and was like, “Yay, I get to go to work now,” and then wound up being disappointed when he realized he was an afternoon shift instead of morning and still had like 5 hours before he got to go to work.

      It’s nice when you feel like you “get to” go to work rather than “have to”.

    1. fposte*

      I love the tinsel in the treble clef. I thought before I clicked that you were talking about the individual tinsel strands and I couldn’t figure out how you’d get a visible clef out of those!

      I admire your cat’s stealth for aligning neatly with the tinsel vertical and therefore not standing out in the picture–it took me a minute to find her.

      1. Jen in RO*

        My other cat was older the first time he saw a Christmas tree, so he wasn’t very interested in it, but this little bastard already destroyed the tinsel clef and chased ornaments around the house… he’s having the time of his life.

    2. Jen in RO*

      And thanks, Alison, for recommending all ages cat food! I found a vet who sells it for a reasonable price, the cats like it, and big cat has not gained any more weight.

  14. Dani*

    One year out of graduate school (during which I worked in my field), I married someone who is in the military. We immediately moved to his training base, where I worked for less than a year. Then we moved overseas for a year, where I’m teaching English (it’s a one-year contract, so I won’t really be quitting a job when I leave). We will be relocating again in a few months, so I’m preparing to reenter the job search. We are *supposed* to be at his next base for three years, but of course nothing is certain.

    Normally I wouldn’t volunteer that I am a military spouse in my cover letter or interview. However, since I’ve had two different jobs in the last two years, I’m thinking that I should directly address the job hopping and explain that I expect to stay put for three years. I understand that three years isn’t really that long, but it’s a lot longer than my last two jobs.

    In addition, I’m sure they’ll assume I’m a military spouse anyway (moving from overseas to a town with a large military population), so I think I should address the elephant in the room.

    Any input? If I do volunteer an explanation, at what point should I bring it up?

    Thanks in advance, and Merry Christmas!

    1. Graciosa*

      I think you need to figure out if there is a way to position this as a positive rather than a negative. Can you use these transitions to show that you are flexible, get up to speed quickly, or accomplished a lot in a short time?

      I would also point out that the fact that you looked for a contract position when you were not likely to be at the location for a longer time can be used to your advantage (the implication being that you were too professional to make a commitment you couldn’t keep) – leading in to the discussion of why you’re excited to have the opportunity to [work in the great new role you’re applying for] now that you are relocating to the new city.

    2. NBB*

      I have been in the same situation (4 cities, 4 jobs). What I have done is mention the move in the cover letter (“I am excited to be moving to ____”) and put the cities of all the previous jobs on my resume, like this:

      ABC Industries, Jan – Oct. 2010, San Diego, CA
      XYZ Incorporated, Feb – Nov 2009, Washington D.C.

      and so on….and when they see all the locations, they usually figure it out on their own. I could never come up with a good way to word the military thing in the cover letter, but I don’t think it would hurt at all if you do put it in there. I personally don’t mention the military specifically until an interview. And often, they are interested in chatting about the different places you’ve lived, and quite supportive of your situation. Good luck!

    3. Chinook*

      I would absolutely cover that you are a military spouse in the letter, but do it in passing. It has always been in my second paragraph after I set up who I am and what I can do for them. It is the only legitimate explanation for moving large distances every few years (because “on the run from the law” raises red flags). I also then explained that the plan was to be there for a number of years (even though anyone who knows the military knows that nothing is guaranteed) and that I always give as much notice as possible and help with transitions and that my references can verify that. When asked in an interview about how sure I was about the timeline, I said as sure as anyone can be about anything as many things can happen, including illness, pregnancy or a building being destroyed.

      The thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to work for someone who isn’t “military friendly” or who is anti-military. You are part of a lifestyle that is not completely civilian and are married to someone whose life is not his own. This creates challenges (and rewards) that a lot of people may not understand (for example, you will never have immediate family around to help out and you will always have to have room on a credit card for a flight home if/when someone in your family is dying). An organization that realizes that your only choice was in who you married and that, ever since then, the government is truly in charge of your life choices will be flexible enough to work with you when the unexpected happens.

      1. Anna*

        Also keep in mind that if you’re moving to an area with a large military base, the businesses in that area will be familiar with the life of a military spouse and all the trappings that go with it, including moving frequently.

  15. Pepper*

    Ok, I have a question thats really preying on my mind.

    I have applied to a job at a company that is really, really keen on its people being resilient. Their career website, which I’ve read extensively, has multiple references to resilience as being a key quality of its employees.

    I have resilience in spades. I’ve survived cancer twice and there is nothing, literally nothing, that anyone can throw at me in the workplace that fazes me. I’m known for being someone who just takes setbacks in my stride and forges on. I attribute that in huge part to my personal experience with cancer. I am 100 times more resilient now than I was before.

    If I get an interview for this job, should I mention the background to my resilience? My husband thinks not, as he thinks my health background would scare employers off. I am well now, but can see his point.

    Also, I’ve had a reference mention one of the cancers before during a reference check (didn’t stop me getting the job, luckily, because he also raved about me), and that experience made me feel that being honest and upfront about this kind of thing is better than having it come out unexpectedly.

    Any opinions on the value/harm of mentioning this? Thanks.

    1. Chris80*

      I can see it both ways, but tend to agree with your husband regarding not wanting to scare off a potential employer with the idea of a history of health issues. For every person out there who would be inspired by that kind of story (like me!), there will probably be another one who just subconsciously worries you might get sick again and cost the company money. Also, resilience in the workplace doesn’t seem exactly the same to me as resilience during a personal crisis, but someone correct me if I’m wrong.

      1. Pepper*

        Good points, thanks. As for the difference between work and personal life, it’s probably different for different people, and some people might be more resilient in one than the other, but for me personally there isn’t a real difference. I guess the subtext is that nothing less than a potentially fatal situation really rattles me, but I wouldn’t ever put it like that in a work situation!

        1. Jamie*

          I get that, and I’m so glad that’s behind you…I can’t imagine how hard that was to go through.

          But it’s hard when you have tons of personal examples which prove your point, but you never know how other people are going to react to health issues. I think Chris is right in that it’s safer to stay away from it in an interview, but totally stress this part of you which is really a huge asset.

    2. FD*

      I’d focus on the job-related resilience examples. If your references bring it up, they aren’t likely to think you’re hiding anything from them, since you’re healthy now.

    3. Coelura*

      I can also see it both ways. But I vote to share your story. I am a foster/adopt mother and there is literally NO way to rattle me in a work situation anymore. I’ve just had too many other things happen where I could not react or it could affect the child too much (like when I would hear a new horror story). Sure, some interviewers were turned off by my examples and wondered if I was going to be fully committed to my job or distracted by foster kids stealing my car. But others asked thoughtful questions and made me offers rapidly. The key though is to relate your personal examples to the workplace. It’s hard for employees to rattle me because I’ve learned not to react to some of the worst abuse horror stories imaginable…etc. if you don’t relate the personal experience to how that learned resiliency would play out in the workplace, all the interviewer has is the worry that you’ll get sick again.

      1. Me2*

        I’m the same way. I’ve worked in three different fields that involve a lot of intimate, deep, difficult stuff. I’ve heard it all. Nothing anyone says is shocking, weird, embarrassing, etc. It’s just not possible to faze me anymore. That can be a good or bad thing I suppose, but I tend to look at it as a positive.

      2. Elizabeth*

        If you used examples from fostering kids in an interview with me, I’d be concerned about your ability to draw appropriate boundaries in your life and maintain confidentiality.

        In any profession where you’re dealing with confidential information, knowing what you can & can’t say to individuals who are not immediately involved in the confidential situation is critical. Even my closest co-workers sometimes cannot know beyond the barest outline what I am working on, if it involves patient privacy or payroll processing issues. Being able to draw that boundary, even if I don’t always want to do so, is essential to confidentiality.

        1. Anna*

          Why? After facing serious potentially life altering situations, there’s nothing that can happen in an office that could be worse. What does that have to do with boundaries? “I have dealt with young people with issues ranging from M to X. This has taught me to take things in stride and I can honestly say since I’ve started fostering at risk youth there hasn’t been a single work sitution where I’ve felt rattled or out of my element.” How is that not drawing boundaries?

  16. Diamond Lil*

    Just got a job rejection notice – on Christmas Day! I’m admitting to feeling discouraged. I’m a recent graduate w/ a PhD & 2 Masters, working in office admin because I needed to pay the rent (plus, health insurance!). I feel like taking the advice at the time – any job shows a work history, work hard, etc. – is being held against me as I try to move into work that’s more in line with my actual qualifications. My current job is in my field (I’m a PA in teapot making, my degrees were in aspects of teapot making) and I’m making connections and doing all the stretch stuff that’s recommended (learning computer programs, working on projects, etc.) to make it the best that I can make it. But oh, I would have done so well at this job that didn’t choose me. :(
    So to throw the question out there – how do I get out of the office admin ghetto when I can’t just quit? (this isn’t to knock office administration as a field, since I’m working with some really wonderful fellow admins, it’s just that I spent 10 years getting a degree and would like to repay the taxpayers of America by putting my knowledge to action).

    1. Audiophile*

      This is tough, and one of my biggest fears (as I look at grad schools again or possibly getting a second bachelors). I think you’re doing the right things – making connections, etc. I’m sort of in the same boat, in that I do admin type work, but it’s not related to my field. Can you re-title your position at all? By that I mean, using your PHD field or your Masters field and find a unique or semi-related title. For instance, I had an HR person recommend to me, that I stop labeling all my positions “receptionist” and put a spin on it, because I was pigeon-holding myself. So I used this suggestion and re-titled my current position. I’m honest interviews about what my job entails and it’s actual title and I’ve haven’t run into any issues.

    2. Ursula*

      I’m sorry you received a rejection on Christmas! Yikes!

      I was out of the workforce for 10 years staying home with my babies. It took a really long time for me to get a job, and I realized that I would have to get back in at a lower level than I had been working before. I thankfully got an admin job which I really didn’t enjoy, but basically cross trained on whatever I could with the analysts in our department. One of them left after I had been there about 9 months and I was able to do the crucial parts of his job. After 6 more months I was offered the job. Long story to make the point – look around at other people’s positions and see if there are crucial aspects that you can cross train on (while you are being amazing in your current position of course!).

      Good Luck!

  17. Jamie*

    Merry Christmas to those who celebrate! I’m having a cup of coffee in a new HK mug whilst wearing the softest new HK jammies watching the old Land of the Lost waiting for the kids to get up.

    Watching absurdist shows from my childhood while cozy and surrounded by fur babies is the best part of Christmas…I don’t ever want to get up.

    I’m making a prime rib today for the first time…I’m nervous…but I’ll be doing a back up turkey as well (a good IT is always prepared for disaster recovery.)

    Oh, and we finally did it! My husband is tough to buy for because he doesn’t want much, so his list is always filled with boring practical things we’d buy anyway. Seriously, a new leaf blower? His point that we can use it is refuted by my better point that we use a years supply of dishwasher soap, too…but I’d better not be unwrapping a box of it for Christmas.

    So anyway, his chair broke about a week ago and he kinda fixed it but he’s been sitting g weird and it’s not comfy anymore…but with Christmas, recent car repair bill, dryer dying, and a broken front window (tree got away from us, oops) he was just going to deal with the lousy chair.

    So yesterday we went and got him a new Lazy-Boy and while we were able to get the backrest portion home in the car, couldn’t get the base in. So…one of the boys wheeled it home on a dolly whilst I drove along side him the 5 blocks home.

    The weirdest Christmas parade ever.

    If I were a smarter person I’d have found an excuse to swap cars with my husband, because as it turns out it’s easier to move furniture in an Expedition than a Mustang. Who knew?

    Anyway, it was worth it because he was so surprised and really, really touched. He never gets all sappy about stuff for himself so that was a total win.

    Any tips on a decent rub for prime rib?

    1. Kelly O*

      I actually thought about you – the girls had Hello Kitty filled stockings this year. Between Target’s Dollar Spot and the Sanrio store, I got them hooked up. My little one wore her HK necklace all day, and was so sad when I told her she could not wear it to school.

      Although I will grant you the stepdaughter’s stuff was more expensive, but she’s got a cool new sparkly case for her phone and her DS.

  18. Merry Christmas!*

    Thank you Alison!

    I work in two completely different careers. One is what I studied in college, the other I fell into when the economy was in the sewer. These jobs, though, are not full time, and thus, I have yet to get a full time job in my field after college. Advantages: I have been able to do some things my peers have not been able to do (like travel). Disadvantages: It can’t go on forever like this. The non-major job has more to offer in terms of the number of job openings I can find on any given day (a mixture of part and full time). This particular job I have is it; I cannot go higher without going back to school for 5-6 years in order to get the degree my boss has. Furthermore, to me, it’s mundane and a dead end. But my actual career choice is very hard to find and hard to break into even though I have the degrees now for it. I enjoy what I do, and it constantly changes.

    So, am I crazy to keep pursuing the jobs I went to college for? Or do I have to face the music and see that the other job is what I might be doing for the rest of my life, making my skin crawl? I say that because I feel like a failure if I start to even think about going into that field instead of the one I studied.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I say keep pursuing the jobs you went to college for if that is what you really want to do. Work the skin crawling job that pays the bills and network like crazy in the field you want to be in. Perhaps even find volunteer ops in the field you want to be in, if you can. Basically, just strengthen any and all connections to the field you want. I know it’s hard, believe me. I’m with you 100% on the difficulties of finding a job in your field and having to do something else to pay the rent. Just do what you can. It may take longer than you want, but nothing is lost in the pursuit of where you really want to be.

  19. Anonymous*

    Anybody have any tips for moving out of hospitality? I went to college for hospitality so i feel really stuck but I am so burned out. As an introvert/socially awkward person I went into this field to try to become Normal and i can’t do it. :(

    1. Graciosa*

      Are there any niches that you can transition into? Hospitality does not all have to mean customer interaction – this is still a business that has IT and accounting for example. If you think you would be happier in another career, you could pick up those skills on the side and then use your hospitality background to show why you would be the best choice for an X job which happens to be in the hospitality industry.

      This is a risky approach, by the way, as there are a lot more accounting jobs in general for example than there are accounting jobs in the hospitality industry. It is more likely to work well if you can leverage your hospitality contacts to give you a shot as a computer programmer or whatever in spite of the fact that you’re not likely to be the strongest candidate when you’re essentially starting a new career – however, I say that knowing that networking can be challenging for introverts.

      If you reach the point of having significant experience in a new career that can translate to a general business venue, your opportunities will expand over time, but this kind of a transition takes a lot of work and a lot of time.

      One possibility that occurs to me as needing less preparation than others (not requiring another degree!) might be something related to electronic customer service. I’m surprised by how much customer interaction is now done by email / web form / IM. There must be people on the other end of this in some fashion, even if they never meet customers face to face. Perhaps interposing a computer between you and the customers might be enough to help you be more comfortable.

      Good luck.

    2. Sunflower*

      I also went to school for hospitality and hate it. Mostly I just got tired of working with high turnover employees, most of whom had about 100 things that took priority over work. That’s a different story though. Also, I am an extrovert so I hope this info is still helpful!

      I work in corporate event planning now and am much happier. I work mostly with managing logistics and do a good share of building and nurturing relationships. Now that I am in a position that isn’t 100% about personal interaction, it makes the personal interaction that I do in my job so much easier(hope that makes sense!)

      If you still are maybe interested in a job with some personal interaction, look at office or administrative management jobs. A lot of universities need administrative coordinators and those jobs are a nice mix of interacting with others as well as planning/logistics and data entry. Plus if you’re at a university, you can look into maybe another field you’d like to go into.

      Don’t downplay your hospitality skills though. Any job/company, regardless of duties, looks highly upon customer service experience. Every job interview I’ve had has also looked at my hospitality experience and known I’d be able to handle anything that was thrown at me.

      Don’t try to force yourself into a job you’ll hate because you think it will help your social skills. There are lots of other ways to do that that don’t take up 40+ hours of your week. I think once you find your niche though, you will also be able to open yourself up more. Good luck!

  20. Career Change*

    I am looking for any advice for a career change. I have a 4 year (Home Economics/Fashion Merchandising) college degree already. I have never worked in the fashion industry and most of my jobs have been admin or office support jobs. What is the best way to go about researching: payroll type positions, accounts payable/receivable, entry level accounting positions (what types of daily tasks) Any advice would be appreciated.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      I’ve studied the AAT qualification in the UK and it’s a very good course that will help towards an entry level job, I’ve moved in to IT support for a finance system so it still comes in handy, but pure number crunching isn’t for me.

      Check out the AAT website, they have a lot of information on there and as far as I know it’s international, not sure how well known AAT is in the USA but it’s worth a look. The AAT have really good networking events via local branch events which would give you the chance to meet people that work in the industry.

      There is another accountancy body called ACCA that also do an entry level course, they are international but the top end of their qualification is really hard going and would make you a fully qualified chartered / certified accountant, although it’s modular so there’s no need to do every exam unless you want to.

      There is a really good job board in the uk called reed, they have a load of jobs on it, maybe there is a similar site in the US that you could look at.

      If you work in accounts payable (what we call purchase ledger) you must have a good eye for detail to make sure invoices are correctly approved and the cost recorded to the correct department, and it can involve a lot of numerical data entry.

      Accounts receivable (credit control) will involve a lot of phone calls to clients that owe money asking when they are going to pay what they owe, from what I’ve seen the jobs are ever target drive, the amount of old debt on your accounts is tracked and reported on.

      There are entry level accounts jobs, which involve a lot of number crunching and reconciliation of accounts, for example to make sure all sales are correctly entered in to the accounts, or to prove all items in the bank account have been recorded in the nominal ledger accounts.

      Brush up on your Excel skills it’s something you’ll need to use everyday. Also I’d take a look at double entry book keeping to make sure you’re familiar with the concept, as it under pins all the accounting transactions you’ll deal with.

      One of the best things I’ve ever done was sign up for the AAT, I hope you find the information here helpful, let me know if there’s anything else you’d like to know.

    2. SA*

      My first job out of college was in accounts payable. I was an English major with no finance / accounting background but it really wasn’t required for an entry level job. I ended up leading the department for several years before moving into a different field. Most of my coworkers also did not have an accounting background. The important skills were data entry, communication – internal and external, and attention to detail.

      You may want to look for a temp to perm situation. Many temp agencies will do testing for skills like Microsoft Office and data entry and then vouch for your ability with an employer.

      Good luck!

        1. Editor*

          One of my family members with general background started out in an HR call center for a large company and moved into more specialized compensation and payroll areas. This year the company where she now works added a temp to help with payroll data entry and other HR duties. Both of those entry level jobs could lead to more payroll work; her employer paid for her to obtain the Certified Payroll Professional certificate from the American Payroll Association in Austin, Texas, which involved independent study, a review course, and an exam. You would want a job that leads to a position where the employer would pay for the certificate.

          You might want to see if a branch of SHRM has meetings (rather than just HR training units) that you could attend to make some connections in order to get into jobs that involve (in the U.S.) payroll data entry, payroll processing, 401(k) administration, and so on.

          In one company I’ve heard of, the admin to the corporate secretary does a lot of accounting-type tracking to prepare data for the annual report. It might be worthwhile to look at smaller corporations where an admin wears more than one hat and growing in the job is a possibility, as long as the company isn’t one where only family members get those opportunities.

          Admins in places like car dealerships and other places that sell a lot of stuff deal with numbers and Excel more, too. Some admins for financial advisors who sell stocks and financial products handle a lot of accounting-type duties, but some admins who work for insurance agents don’t really handle numbers — it seems to be more a case of document management.

  21. Loose Seal*

    Anyone shoot their eye out with their Red Rider BB Gun yet?

    Happy Day Off for most of you and Happy Time-And-A-Half for others!

  22. Is.This.Legal*

    Anyone who works in public accounting? I left public accounting (tax) 4 years go without CPA, now i want to go back to public accounting preferably audit. I know that transition is not easy, how do I switch? I need to get my CPA license now.

  23. smallbutmighty*

    I sent a version of this question to Allison, but I might as well run it by you all, too.

    I am lucky. I work in a cool creative role for a big, high-profile company in a really great city where seemingly everyone wants to live. I have this job in large measure because a friend of a friend who worked for my company was willing to help me pursue my first role here. Although I was a stranger, he spent an afternoon of his time talking through my resume, talking to me about the job, and putting in a good word with the hiring manager. I’m eternally grateful. I actually email him a thank-you on my hire anniversary date every year. More importantly, I strive to pay it forward by helping people who are trying to network their way to a job at my company.

    I don’t take this lightly. I generally try to help the candidate identify roles that would be realistic to pursue, tailor application materials to those roles, bounce back after rejection (it usually takes a few tries to get a foot in the door here), and generally answer questions and be supportive through what can be a long process. At last count, I’ve helped six people get hired here in my slightly more than six years here. They’ve all been successful in their roles and I’m proud to have been a part of getting them hired here.

    But here’s the rub. Sometimes, in the course of the getting-to-know-them process, I get a sense that the person I’m working with wouldn’t really fit here. Sometimes it’s a personality thing–we have a pretty distinct corporate culture where some personalities just don’t thrive. Sometimes they’ll say or do something that makes me question their business savvy. Sometimes they’re too needy in the networking process, which makes me fear that they’d be needy as a new hire, too. Whatever the specific situation, at some point I find myself thinking, “I really don’t feel great about recommending this person for a role here, and I’d like to back away from their networking efforts.”

    I am at a loss as to how to convey this message kindly and constructively, especially when we have spent time together and built a relationship and the person has come to regard me as an ally in their job search.

    Any suggestions?

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Based on what you’ve wrote, it seem as though you ARE already doing a great job with that.

      I would just tell them something similar to what you’ve said here. As in:

      “Jane, although you have good skills in X and Y, I feel I should tell you that our company has a pretty distinct corporate culture were some personalities don’t thrive. I’m sensing a career with us may not be as a good of a fit as you might think at this time, though I wish you the best of luck should you still decide to pursue employment here.”

      1. PEBCAK*

        I would, however, be careful about someone not being a “cultural” fit. That can too often, in my experience, mean “any sort of diversity makes us uncomfortable.”

    2. Ruffingit*

      I think you should do it on the front end. That is, when you first meet someone to begin the process of assisting them with getting a foot in the door, you can say “Our company has a distinct culture and if during this process I sense that you would not be a good fit or that we would not be a good fit for you, I will let you know that. I do not want it to come as a surprise or for you to view this negatively. It’s simply that I want to ensure that both you and the company have the best fit possible for the job. What do you think about that?”

      This might also be a good way to cull candidates in the beginning as you can get a better sense of how they handle such things right off the bat and/or find out more about them as they answer the “what do you think about that” question.

  24. smallbutmighty*

    One quick addition: a lot of people contact me for this kind of help. So this is actually something that comes up pretty frequently. I’d estimate I get pinged at least once a month by a friend or friend of friend who wants to work here. I try to be as good a resource as I can for the ones who have a realistic shot. (The ones who don’t? I try to break it to them as gently as possible and suggest ways they could set themselves up for a realistic shot by acquiring whatever skills, education, or experiences they’re currently lacking.)

    1. alfie*

      I don’t have a good answer for you because I was about to post a nearly identical question, but I’ll be watching for your answer! I am off this week and have gotten two of these requests from friends/contacts asking me to talk to others who want to work where I work. (We have an opening for a job similar to mine, and I have a lot of contacts.)

      Although I understand the motivation, that it bothers me a little that people say they just want to know about the company culture, when really they want a leg up in the process for jobs they have applied to (which are very competitive). I’m honestly not sure if it’s fair to give them information other candidates don’t have, although taking initiative to educate yourself , networking, and a certain amount of chutzpah are positive qualities in nonprofit fundraising.

      When I know someone and think they are a good fit, I really go to bat for them (although three times now my choice has made it to the finals but ultimately were not selected) but I am tremendously busy and I’m not sure I want to spend a lot of time with people I really don’t know when I’m not the hiring manager.

      1. Ruffingit*

        I think it’s fair to limit your assistance to people. You are not a career coach, therefore you are not required to help everyone who wants help. It’s nice if you can do it, but if it’s taking too much of your time, it’s absolutely acceptable for you to say “I’m sorry, I can’t help you.” Just want to say that because a lot of people feel guilty for not being more helpful or whatever, but in truth you have your own job and life and if it’s not actually something you can or want to give time to as often as others would like you to, it’s OK to say NO.

      2. Jessa*

        If you want to be a little helpful, work yourself up a boilerplate document of advice/company tidbits, links, whatever you think is reasonable and valuable, and then send people who ask an email that basically says “these are the questions I’ve been asked, I wish I had more time to help, but I don’t at this point. Hope this gives you a place to start.” And then stop.

    2. Jean*

      Your method of “break it to them as gently as possible and suggest ways” to improve themselves sounds like a good beginning. I recommend using the same approach to communicate the uncomfortable-to-hear news that, based on your personal observation and experience, the person will not be a good fit with the company. In other words, before you give the hurtful news, find a way to compliment the person for NOT fitting the mold for the job they think they want. Quick and dirty example: “Your deliberation and keen attention to detail would be very helpful in product review or customer service, but our sales people are usually much more outgoing, assertive, and decisive.” This takes the sting away because in addition to saying “you won’t fit in HERE” you’re adding “but you would probably do well OVER THERE.” I would also be clear that your comment is based on your own experience and observations at your company; it’s not intended as an all-purpose judgement on this person’s suitability at every other position in every other organization.

      Now it’s time for my own disclaimer! Although I’m responding with good interpersonal instincts I’m not confident that my response is based on a sufficient knowledge of business situations or etiquette. (I’ve worked almost entirely at universities and nonprofits–not in big, sleek, conventional business environments. I’ve also not worked at universities which have adopted aspects of the conventional business world.) So, other readers, please add your own wisdom.

      1. Felicia*

        I think your answer sounds really good! I recently asked for that sort of help from somebody, Although it was at a company that I had done an internship 2 years ago (so I somewhat knew the programs and company) and I had somewhat worked with the guy before, so we weren’t total strangers. But if I wasn’t a good fit, i’d want it to be something like that.

    3. Anna*

      You don’t happen to work at Dark Horse Comics do you? Your description about the culture and the frequency with which you hear from people made me wonder. .. :)

      1. smallbutmighty*

        Haha. Same city (well, suburb of same city, if you want to get technical), much bigger corporate behemoth. I’ll bet you or someone in the room you’re in right now is wearing our logo.

        1. Stephanie*

          If it involves a Greek goddess, I totally interviewed for a role there. I didn’t realize it took several tries to get in there!

          ITA in regard to the culture (if I have the right place). I like to stay active, but just to the point to maintain mental and physical well-being. I had visions of company marathons and got a little freaked out.

          Prior to interviewing for that role, I worked at a large federal agency. From the recruiter’s description, it sounded like night and day between the culture there and at my old job.

  25. victopus*

    Merry Christmas! And I want to thank Alison and everyone on this blog because I FINALLY GOT A JOB!

    After reading this site pretty much every single day, taking in all the great advice, and applying for too-may-to-face-counting positions, I at long last got a job. I’m in the midst of a career change and had been despairing that I would ever get anything in my desired field, but just got word on Saturday that I landed a role that puts me right on track with my goals. I start January 1 and couldn’t be happier.

    Hope 2014 is a great year for us all!

  26. Felicia*

    I’m in Toronto and after roughly 75 hours, we have our electricity back! About 100,000 people don’t so it’s going to be a cold, dark Christmas for some, but for me, it’s a Christmas miracle! I don’t even celebrate Christmas, but still:)

    1. Jessa*

      That’s wonderful. I know there have been a slew of power outages this season (we had one in Ohio, friends of mine have been out twice in Michigan…)

    2. Chinook*

      I have been impressed by how forthright your Mayor has been about desires vs. expectations vs. reality when it came to getting the power back on. Rob Ford is actually looking sane and capable again.

  27. Felicia*

    For those of you participating in the Jewish Christmas tradition of Chinese food and a movie, what are you seeing? We’re still debating between Her and Saving Mr. Banks!

    Anyone who’s considering American Hustle, I saw an advanced screening of that, and it really wasn’t that good.

    1. fposte*

      Our Chinese food place is closed this year! We’re just going to have a fry-up instead.

      I really want to see Inside Llewyn Davies but it’s not here yet. I would actually enjoy American Hustle because I remember the Abscam fiasco when it happened.

      1. Felicia*

        We have many Chinese food places and they never close:)

        The vast majority of American Hustle was made up, and not like the real Abscam in very many ways, or even much focused on the parts that are sort of like the real thing. Like it says at the beginning “some of this really happened”, but not all that much of it! So if you want a movie about the Abscam fiasco, that’s not really what you’ll get. I felt like it dragged on way too much and was just too long. It had funny moments, especially Jennifer Lawrence, but she was barely in it at all! The general consensus as people were exiting the theatre (part of my job was to get comments) was meh, it was ok I guess, not bad but certainly not great. A lot of people liked that Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams don’t wear bras all movie:)

        I saw Inside Llewyn Davies too (worked at a film company, saw an advanced screening. It as really good! Not typically my type of movie, but I enjoyed it .If you find the concept interesting, you’ll like it.

      1. Felicia*

        Wolf of Wall Street has a LOT of nudity and sex and drugs . A LOT:) Nothing wrong with that and I still liked it, but I’m going with my parents and 19 year old sister, so that would be awkward.

        Actually Anchorman 2 looks good too!

        Problem with just finishing a 5 month contract at a film company – i’ve seen so many things already! and the things i haven’t, i chose not to for some reasons!

    2. A Teacher*

      We celebrate Christmas but don’t have much extended family that we actually talk to so we do the movie thing to. We’re watching Mount Olympus has fallen. I’ve seen it, my family hasn’t. Americsn Hustle was literally “okay” I would wait ror it to come out on DVD but that’s me. Unfortunately no else likes Chinese food.

    3. Jessa*

      We’re going to Mr. Banks and a Chinese buffet here. I heard Mr. Banks is really good and I love Emma Thompson.

      1. Felicia*

        That showing of Mr. Banks was sold out though we got there 40 minutes early! Ended up seeing Anchorman 2, I thought it was good in a stupid comedy way.

    4. Anonymous*

      I celebrate Christmas and in years past, I’ve had Chinese food on Christmas Eve and went to the movies on Christmas Day!

      If I was going to the movies today (I’m not because I made a resolution for 2013 to not go to the movies – too expensive I think), I’d pick “Saving Mr. Banks.” I’ll wait for my local library to get it on DVD so I can borrow it (yay for no charges! *crosses fingers and toes library doesn’t get the idea to charge*).

      1. the gold digger*

        It is in our state charter that libraries cannot charge for DVDs. I know because I suggested to the head librarian that they charge.

        Until they do, I will keep getting my movies and TV shows from the library, too.

  28. Audiophile*

    Merry Christmas everybody. I want to thank all the commenters and Alison for being awesome. I’ve started utilizing this blog more and more, as well as recommending it to people. It’s been incredibly helpful as I continue my job hunt. A few of my friends have recently gotten better jobs, which gives me a lot of hope that one will come my way very soon. Maybe that will be my birthday present. *fingers crossed*

  29. Brett*

    I’ve written in the comments before about our extensive employee support network where it is not uncommon for thousands of dollars to be donated to employees with health problems (especially on the job injuries).

    Unfortunately, we had two of our newer officers severely injured in head on collision two days ago. One is still in the hospital Christmas day, but both should recover. Other employees have stepped up to provide both families meals through mid February, and we are all chipping in to cover the out of pocket payments for the hospitalized officer.

    There are lots of things about this job that bother me, but the ability of everyone to rally around as a family when tragedy strikes is amazing.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I love that, thank you for sharing this! It is wonderful to know that people will come together for those they work with.

  30. HeatherSW*

    Anyone else spending the holiday break updating Linkedin/resume etc? I graduate in May, so I want to get it as set up as possible.

    1. Looking*

      No, but I’m going to be updating my resume in prep for sending out to several jobs I recently found. Good luck to us both! :)

  31. Felicia*

    I remembered I had an actual question!

    So I did an internship somewhere roughly 1.5 years ago that I absolutely loved, adn a job was just posted for that company. It’s a fairly good fit for my skills and what I want to do, though not a perfect fit, i think it’s about 80%. And I LOVE the company. I really believe in what they do and I know their programs quite well.

    So what should I do to use the fact that i’ve worked there to my advantage? The person I use from there as a reference doesn’t work there anymore but I contacted her anyways, and she will still be a reference for me. I applied the normal way and in my cover letter talked about my experiences with their programs and how the skills i’ve gained in the 1.5 years since working their would make me a good fit. I know pretty much everyone who works there to varying degrees, though they posted the job Dec 18 and their last day was Dec 20 as they’re closing for the holidays, so i’m not sure if there’s anything else i should do to help my candidacy? I know the person who would be the boss, but not well, and i didn’t work witih him directly often, although I could contact him. I know someone in another department decently well and worked with him quite a bit while i was there, so maybe i could contact him, and it’s a 15 person office so everyone talks. I also know the person who used to do the job that i applied for, we became friends while working there. I just really want this job, and I’ve never had a situation where i’d worked with almost everyone at the company before , so not sure how to use what feels like an advantage, if that makes sense.

    1. KatieBear*

      This is a textbook example of why it is important to have a good professional reputation and maintain a network of former co-workers who can help you get in touch with the right people! You’ve already done the right thing by mentioning your past experience with the company in the cover letter and deserve bonus points for building on the skills that you’ve learned there in the past 1.5 years.

      You have an excellent reference, you are known by the other current employees, and have a lot of positive factors in your corner. Even though it’s hard to wait, understand that this time of year can lead to delays on the hiring side of the equation.

      Keep calm and stay patient! If you are on good terms with HR/hiring manager/whoever you know sees these applications, consider sending an email asking if they received it if you haven’t heard back after the New Year. Good luck :)

      1. Felicia*

        Thanks Katie! I know their office is closed until January 6th, so I know they probably haven’t even seen it yet, just want it so much that it’s hard to wait! Since I still know their programs well, I know that their biggest event of the year is January 27th, so they might even only want someone to start the day after that. For clarity, I worked there January-June 2012! I’ve kept in touch since, and was really happy to see the job posted. I know who sees the application, and we’re more on professional acquaintance terms, but good professional acquaintance terms, so I figure an email is still ok! Since I’ve worked there i’ve gotten more somewhat relevant experience, and I think the fact that i know the programs might be a big deal. There would probably be people more qualified than me in general terms, since i only meet the minimum of the stated qualifications, but I figure my passion for their programs and the fact that I know a lot about what they do already might make up for that.

        1. KatieBear*

          These are all good factors in your favor! I’d say you know enough about their busy time to understand if it takes awhile for them to get to your application, and you sound positive and enthusiastic.

          Keep that attitude, stay busy, and above all, keep looking at other opportunities, too. As we have all learned here, don’t count on a job until you have an offer in writing. If nothing else, consider it good practice :)

          1. Felicia*

            Definitely still looking at other opportunities and not counting on this one at all, I just really really want it:) I’ll try not to think about it too much until/if they respond to my application. Of course, when they do I’ll probably think about it far too much:) And at least I already know that I’d like the culture there, because i’ve already worked there!

  32. KatieBear*

    Merry Christmas everyone! I was hoping to get some advice on industry blogs, instructional resources, etc. I trust the advice I find here on AAM, and was looking for recommendations of similar quality. I know it’s a tall order but I hardly know where to look.

    I was very intrigued by the open post about the best Excel tips the readers here knew, and spent a good week updating my own knowledge in that area based on the tips in the thread. Consequently I’m now very interested in learning more about math, computer science, and programming languages as they apply to website/application development. I am in complete beginner mode here.

    So far I’ve signed up for some Udacity and Coursera MOOC’s, specifically statistics, and a really interesting course that explains the technology behind the internet, wireless and online media industries, and how technological and social networks work. I spend a lot of time googling questions, reading blogs, and looking for good online communities I can learn from.

    So, any recommendations of good online resources and communities for beginners? I love the format of Alison’s AAM, where career questions are answered that has an active, vibrant community. I’m jumping in with both feet here, any advice is welcome :)

    1. Stephanie*

      I like CodeAcademy for learning the basics. If you have the time and need a more structured learning environment (like me), community colleges should offer pretty affordable intro programming classes.

      When I was trying to beef up ancient software skills in MATLAB, I found out that MathWorks offered a free 30-day trial. I found a MATLAB Guide at a used bookstore and just powered through that during the trail.

      1. KatieBear*

        Thanks for the recommendation! I’ve already bookmarked it, and figured I’d start re-learning my very basic, very rusty HTML. I’ve heard good things about CodeAcademy, not so good things about W3Schools.

        Thanks for the step in the right direction.

    2. Trillian*

      Not a pro here, but I’ve maintained my own website for – yike! – 15 years, ever since I taught myself the basics of HTML from library books, followed by CSS and enough PHP to let me hack up templates nondestructively. I still cruise the local library’s technology section on a regular basis. Since I live in a city with a vibrant start-up and freelance ecology, I’ve also benefitted from local enthusiast groups, open workshops and volunteer-run conferences. I don’t have a general list for webdev, but check out the WordCamp page for 2 day volunteer-run conferences on WordPress – my local one runs a parallel beginner’s and developer’s tracks. Other active areas: Drupal, PHP, open source graphics programs, Python. Twitter’s also good for keeping up with local events, once you’ve identified people active in the local tech scene, since they will tweet and retweet announcements of related events. On line, StackOverflow has multiple communities, and their top-rated answers can be amazingly comprehensive and nuanced.

      The other set of resources I know a bit about is statistical programming (data analysis and graphics). Over at Computerworld, Sharon Machlis has written a beginner’s guide to R and collected start up and more advanced resources, including an article on data wrangling I wish I’d had 5 years ago. I’m in an R-related circle on Google plus, and follow a number of programmers and developers on Twitter.

      Oh, and organize your bookmarks and pieces of work from the start. Future-you will thank present-you for not having to re-solve problems because you cannot find the code you wrote or the tutorial you used.

      1. KatieBear*

        This is a lot of good information to get started, especially the advice of keeping track of tutorials, articles, and websites that have helped so far. My bookmarks have grown exponentially over the last few weeks, and I’ve got pages of notes that I can look back on, as well.

        Thanks for the suggestion of Sharon Machlis’ work, I’ve been looking for a beginner’s guide to that. I haven’t gotten to it yet, but I know that R is on my list of skills to gain as I get up to speed.

  33. Anonymous*

    I have a question I’m hoping some may be able to help with. I recently started a job that requires overseas travel (I’m in the US). I’ve only been on a plane once many years ago. Crazy, right? So my question is, what to expect while traveling overseas. And what tips might you have for someone with limited air travel experience? The trip is to Europe in March for 4 days. I’m really quite excited but nervous too. I’m sure my co-workers will help me out but I’d really like some other people’s insight. Plus none of the people on my team will be on the same flight. Thanks in advance for your help!

    1. PX*

      Depends on where specifically in Europe you’ll be, but be prepared for rain/make sure to check the weather before you go. Its only 4 days so you should only need hand luggage – which also means small quantities of liquids allowed on aircraft. Check with the airline/online about exact amounts and think about how best to pack what you need. But – ofcourse – keep in mind the possibility of delays etc, so make sure you’re covered for an extra day or so.

      Make sure all your electronics will be compatible with different sockets and voltages. Give yourself enough time to get through security at airports. Depending on where you’re going – not all countries are credit card friendly, so make sure you have some cash as soon as you arrive. Double check with your company what rules are regarding expenses. And are you insured abroad?

        1. AVP*

          Sorry for the late reply!

          I just got back from a work trip to Amsterdam and very much second the credit card/cash idea. Most European vendors won’t take Amex, and if you have an American Visa or MasterCard you can run into problems because it won’t have the chip technology that Euro cards do. It’s easy to get cash from a bank ATM but will be more expensive than if you get it before you leave.

          Also, no matter what else you’re offered to drink on the plane, stick with water! A red-eye free-wine hangover is NOT recommended.

          1. Windchime*

            I agree about the credit cards. My son went to Ukraine a few years ago, and the banking system there was terrible. He was on a mission trip and they told him to bring over $2k in cash to pay for his lodging and education, etc. I didn’t want him carrying that much cash, so we thought he could just wire it to himself when he got there. Big, big mistake. It took several months to find a bank (and a person who spoke enough English) to be able to get the transfer to go through. I sent him with an emergency credit card, but he didn’t even try to use it until he had to unexpectedly book a hotel room in London on the way home.

    2. FatBigot*

      A couple of obvious points:
      Get some local currency in advance (Pounds if UK, euros if eurozone), as the rates at airports can be rip-offs.

      Language: Be aware of differences between American and English if going to UK or Ireland. Professionals in other countries are likely to have very good English, but you might have difficulty in a corner-shop, for instance. A phrase-book could come in handy.

      1. Stephanie*

        I find that using ATMs in the airport upon arrival is the best way to get local currency. Rates are very reasonable, unlike the currency exchange windows. You use your home bank ATM card, just like at home, only the amount you choose to withdrawal will be in the local currency. The converted amount in dollars plus any transaction fees (check for your bank, but I have found these to be minimal) is debited from your account.
        For such a short trip, you’ll probably just have to contend with jet lag, rather than try to adjust your body clock. Hope it goes well for you and is a satisfying adventure.

  34. ChristineSW*

    Believe it or not, no whiny questions from me today! Just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!! Hope everyone has a wonderful day. Will read through all of these when I get home :)

  35. Sandrine*

    Merry Christmas to all.

    I’m a little off now, shoulder’s being wonky and I managed to watch the Doctor Who Christmas special.


  36. In the middle*

    Anyone have advice for a new employee (6 months) that will be taking their first overseas company trip? I am in the US and traveling to Europe (never been) in April for 5 days. I will not be traveling with co-workers(meeting them there) and I’m a bit nervous about the whole thing. I’ve not been on a plane in a few years. Any tips would be appreciated!

    1. fposte*

      I’m presuming you’re also Anonymous above–otherwise there’s quite the coincidence!

      There are a lot of different steps that you might be advised on, I suppose, but you’ll be fine. If you have to pay for stuff, make sure your credit card companies know you’ll be out of the country; if you need cash generally the ATMs have better rates than the humans. Most big European airports include English in their posted languages so they’re pretty easy to negotiate even if you don’t speak the language, and customs and airline personnel will generally speak English or have a colleague who can be grabbed to do so. Dress comfy, wear slip-on shoes, and bring an empty water bottle through the TSA so you can fill it up on the other side (I also have some favorite airport food kiosks so I tend to travel with provisions :-)). Find out if you can at least leave stuff at the hotel if you arrive too early to check in.

      And try to find a little time to have fun!

      1. Anonymous*

        Yes, my first post didn’t show up for a couple hours so I tried again. Thanks for the tips! I like to be prepared if at all possible.

    2. Jen in RO*

      Cards without PINs are very uncommon here, so talk to your bank and get a PIN. Otherwise, you might have trouble. Note: A friend of mine did get a PIN and she still couldn’t use her credit card to pay in stores, it only worked at ATMs. Make sure you have some cash too.

      Unless you’re going to a small town/village, just assume that everyone knows some English and will understand what you’re saying. Also, don’t be the stereotypical loud American.

      1. fposte*

        Chip and PIN is so uncommon here that most banks can’t issue one–that’s probably what happened with your friend (she had a PIN but no chip). I’ve only traveled in northern Europe and in big cities since chip and PIN got established, and I’ve rarely had a problem there without it–the card has to get humanly handled a little more, so every now and then somebody balks or doesn’t do it right. My impression is that the problems are greater in smaller towns, less industrialized countries, and machines (somebody said that the Paris Metro ticket machines don’t work without chip and PIN). So I think given the odds of a single business trip the OP is probably okay without chip and PIN, but you’re right that it’ll help if she’s aware that her card is a little different.

        1. Jen in RO*

          Yeah, I think that might have been it, the lack of chip. My friend was in Sofia, Bulgaria… big city, but Eastern Europe. I think there *was* a workaround (the store employee had to press a certain button), but my friend always found people who had no idea how the POSes worked and were unwilling to try anything except the one button they knew.

          And I need to clarify something about what I said above – I wouldn’t necessarily count on people being able to understand and answer you if you need something, I was talking more about stuff like talking freely on public transportation, thinking no one can understand a thing.

          Of course, this will vary from country to country – Northern Europeans are amazing at English, Eastern European (especially the Slavic countries), not so much.

  37. WorkerBee*

    My boss just quit with little to no warning. Fortunately, we’ll have a replacement after the first of the year. Any tips on getting adjusted to a new boss?

    1. Graciosa*

      Imagine that you are taking a job managing a new department with a staff unknown to you. What do you want to know?

      What is the department’s mission? How is it currently performing (key metrics)? Are there any issues or obstacles in the way of improved performance? What other functions or departments are key to the success of your department (and what do they want from you and who are the critical contacts in those departments)? What other work could your department perform (although it is not doing it now) that would impact the overall success of the company?

      As a manager, you want to know what you have to work with to succeed in your mission. This includes resources of all kinds (people, systems, money, and good will). For people, what are their strengths and weaknesses? What are their normal job duties, and how are they performing them? Who is the best resource or subject matter expert within the team for each task? What systems are in place (technical, policy, etc.) and how are they working? Where are the major bottlenecks, and what has been tried in the past to address them?

      Keep brainstorming questions that you would ask as a manager, and then think about what you can do appropriately to help your manager answer them. “Appropriately” is in there because you need to be careful discussing certain items with your new manager. Budget issues, for example, may well be the purview of the new manager’s boss – not a place for you, as an employee, to insert yourself.

      This situation calls for a little more candor than a job interview in certain areas, but not all of them. An unsolicited announcement that Bobby has a tendency to call in sick the first day after a three-day weekend is only acceptable if you’re Bobby’s manager explaining the terms of his performance improvement plan – otherwise, this is off limits.

      Be extraordinarily careful about any negatives you share. An individual employee does not need to share the weaknesses of other employees, although you can mention their strengths. “Jane is a whiz at Excel, so she usually takes care of that report, with Sam as her backup” is legitimate when New Manager mentions asking Wakeen to do it – but that’s about as far as you can go, and you need to be prepared to accept a directive to give it to Wakeen anyway. You want to show that you are helpful and competent without appearing to challenge New Manager’s authority.

      Our team recently acquired a new manager, and we provided the equivalent of a welcome packet of everyone’s resumes and organizational charts, along with summary project status information (overall team performance). Each individual prepared similar material for one-on-one meetings (not formally, but personal notes) which included information about ongoing work, key extras (“You might not know that I [am going to night school for an MBA/ also sit on the standards committee / joined toastmasters to improve my public speaking / telecommute on Thursdays” etc.), and biggest present issue on the job. This turned out to be well received, but we were all mentally prepared to be told that our new boss wanted something different and to respond cheerfully if that happened.

      Having said all that, the most important thing I can tell you is that your job just changed, and you have a new boss. Good ones will try to get the lay of the land before doing anything too drastic. Introductory meetings (group and individual) are common first steps. I would treat your first individual meeting with your new boss as a blend of a regular checkup meeting (here’s how things are going) and a job interview despite knowing you already have the job. You can be more relaxed than is typical for an interview, but this will be your boss’s first impression of you.

      On a cautionary note, there are people who will want to shake things up just to establish their authority to do so – it isn’t always productive, but it does happen. If you encounter this, I would suggest riding it out long enough to see if the resulting chaos is likely to be a permanent state before worrying about it too much (it usually stops as soon as the new manager is a bit more secure).

      If you are competent and genuinely try to be helpful (without overreaching, jockeying for position by putting others down, or challenging New Manager’s authority) you should be fine.

  38. Heddi*

    Question about references, hoping for some advice – sorry about the novel!

    About 6 months ago, I was out from work on medical leave. I used up all of my vacation time, and then switched to FMLA. They had about 5 months notice before I took the time off – it was for a pregnancy that I knew from previous experience would likely get dicey near the end, health-wise, and it did.)

    While I was out, about 4 weeks before I was due to come back, my family made a final decision to move for my husband’s job, which meant we were too far for me to commute (4 hours round-trip without traffic.) We had been going back and forth on the decision, and I didn’t say anything to my boss earlier because I really wasn’t sure if we were going to do it.

    I then contacted him a week later to let him know what was going on (so 3 weeks before I was due back to work) to see if I could arrange telecommuting. The company decided that they didn’t want to allow that, so I had to resign.

    They sent me a big bill for all of my vacation and sick time, and made me send them a check. I paid it, though I had to contest the amount they requested, because they wanted me to pay back to them the taxes they had paid to the government. (!) My boss asked me to come and train my replacement for two weeks. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to, since I had a very young baby to be leaving with someone for full-time work plus a commute of at least 4 hours. I made some baby-sitting arrangements (and cried about it) and agreed to do it.

    I knew they had paid the traveling expenses of the person who held my job previously when they asked him to commute for training after he moved away, so I asked them to do the same for me (just gas + tolls, which was $50/day). They said “that wasn’t part of the deal, no!” and acted like it was an outlandish request. I said that I couldn’t afford to pay a babysitter for 13-14 hours/day for a newborn + $50 gas and tolls – after taxes I would literally be losing money to go to help them out each day.

    They got really angry and out of nowhere sent me a legal document that they wanted me to sign that waived my rights to sue for any gender discrimination that occurred while I had worked there. WHAT? I didn’t sign it; I just ignored it. Why would I sign that, and also, WHAT?! I had never complained or mentioned anything of the sort. (I found out later that the man who had the job before me was paid more even though he had less experience. Maybe they were worried I would find out? Who knows.)

    ANYWAY, I have several friends who still work there, who say that my boss is bad-mouthing me to everyone, saying that I totally screwed them, that I quit without notice, etc. He has completely trashed my reputation and I’m devastated, because I was his favorite employee, had exemplary performance reviews, and was generally treated like a super-star (as far as feedback is concerned, anyway).

    I’ve been freelancing while casually looking for my next opportunity, and I just got called for an interview for a wonderful job. I’m terrified about the reference that he’s going to give. I worked here for a long time, and ran my own business before that, so this company is really my only relevant professional reference source.

    What do I do? Have my husband or someone call and pretend to ask for a reference so I can see what he says? What do I do if he lies and says I was horrible, or that I gave no notice, etc.? I’m so sick about it (and disappointed in the company, but not surprised…) that I don’t even want to know what he says. Ugh! Any thoughts?

    The idea of having to confront him if I find out he’s lying is really terrifying…

    1. Zillah*

      I’m not hugely informed about this stuff, but…

      I would definitely have your husband call pretending to ask for a reference, provided that your old boss doesn’t know your husband’s voice. You know he’s been saying bad things about you; I think it would be really beneficial to know what he would say to someone looking for a reference.

      If your old boss does say terrible things, is there someone else you could call and ask to use as a reference, who presumably won’t say awful things? Alternatively, would it be possible to explain the situation during your interview? Obviously, you shouldn’t give lots of details, and other commenters will have much better concrete suggestions than I do for what that can be, but I feel like it would be better to head this off rather than wait for a storm that destroys your chances of landing a great job.

      1. Heddi*

        I could use someone else who works there as a reference, but they didn’t directly supervise me, so I’m not sure how valuable that would be considered by a hiring manager? If it would be okay, that would be a great alternative!

        You’re right that I might want to head this off at the pass at my interview by saying something. I’ll have to figure that out after I find out what my boss says. I have no idea how to word it, though. That’s a tricky one.

    2. Loose Seal*

      The idea of having to confront him if I find out he’s lying is really terrifying…

      There’s no point in confronting him even if you do find out he’s saying untrue or even malicious things about you to your reference checkers. Even if you think you have convinced him to be reasonable, you’d never know for certain if he was telling future reference tellers even worse things. It would be better to have your husband or someone else call pretending to check your reference just like you suggested. However, if you find out that he’s saying bad things about you, then you tell future jobs that, while you’re willing to give his contact info for a reference, he wasn’t thrilled that you left and may not be an accurate reference. Then offer additional/different references. At least then, if they called your previous manager, they will be able to filter out some of the more unjust things he says because they already know he’s mad at you.

      About the paying back the vacation/sick pay/taxes, you might want to contact the Dept. of Labor in whatever state this job was to make sure that the company was supposed to collect from you what they did. Also, check with the IRS and the state tax collector to make sure that your company unpaid the taxes and reported your income correctly. The last thing you want is for the government(s) to think you made more and need to pay taxes on more than you did.

      1. Stephanie*

        Also, check with the IRS and the state tax collector to make sure that your company unpaid the taxes and reported your income correctly. The last thing you want is for the government(s) to think you made more and need to pay taxes on more than you did.

        Yes to this! A friend got laid off from her company after it went under. Turns out the company’s finances were a mess and the company hadn’t paid payroll taxes in six months. My friend had to take all her old paystubs to an accountant and get him to estimate how much tax she/the company should have been paying all along.

      2. Heddi*

        That is absolutely fantastic advice! I will definitely be waiting to see what my W-2 says re: my income total for the year. I bet they never changed it, and you’re right, I don’t want to owe taxes for income I never earned!

    3. fposte*

      Did you get in writing what it is you were asked to pay back? Is it possible that we’re talking the employer portions of your health insurance premiums, which FMLA explicitly allows employers to recoup if an employee doesn’t return from FMLA? And I definitely agree with checking on the references and finding a way around it if there’s a problem, and I think some of their actions, like the waiver, are pretty weird.

      However, I also think that while your actions made sense to you, you’re not seeing how things look through their eyes and why they’re unhappy. Here’s their take: you got extra leave from them (most places would run FMLA concurrently with vacation but they allowed you to add them together so you could keep your position for longer than the law requires) and after that generosity, you waited until only three weeks before your planned return to tell them you weren’t coming back to the office (I know you were initially asking to work at home, but that’s still not coming back to the office). When they asked you to help with the unexpected transition they were suddenly facing as a result of your decision not to return to the office, you said sure, but it’ll cost you.

      I’m not saying this to say you’ve been Bad, just that I think that their unhappiness itself isn’t completely irrational.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        So in this situation the lady asked for to be able to work from home, for what ever reason this was not possible, she then gave three weeks notice, which is more than the normal amount. And it was not a simple case of trying to squeeze money out of the company but trying to not be out of pocket (my reading was she only asked for travel expenses back not anything for child care, that seems to me like she has a fair idea about what’s appropriate to want back) I wouldn’t pay money to go to work so why should this lady not ask for out of pocket expenses back with out it reflecting badly on her epically when the had previously paid these expenses to another person.

        The employers reaction seems irrational to me, there is no place for them to be emotive about this lady leaving. The boss telling the remaning employees that she screwed them isn’t professional or helpful to anything.

        1. fposte*

          I’m not saying they’re right and she’s wrong. But she’s not thinking about the company’s read on her basic action and *why* they’re unhappy enough to badmouth her–she seems really puzzled by it. Put it another way–if a reference simply said “We gave her another two weeks [or whatever] of leave on top of FMLA and then just three weeks before her return she said either she’d have to telecommute or she wouldn’t come back, and she insisted she needed to be paid $500 extra just to train a replacement” that would be true, and it wouldn’t be a great recommendation.

          And I do think that three weeks’ notice is problematically short after a place has held your job for you for over three months. Coming back after leave, when the company has neither had the benefit of your work nor your replacement, is different than giving people notice for departure while you’re working. I know this was a move rather than a decision based on having the baby, which is why I think this a more complicated situation, but it still is really tough on a workplace to have run thin for several months on the basis that the person would come back. (And if what they asked for back were the health insurance premiums, that’s pretty common in this situation, so it’s not really proof of villainy.)

          1. Heddi*

            It was the sick+vacation time that I took, and also the health premiums that I paid back (I didn’t mention that, because I totally agreed that it was appropriate for me to pay it). It’s not necessarily wrong for me to pay back the vacation and sick time too, I can see the argument for that, but I mentioned it more to show that I was being as agreeable as possible, and that I had just written them a huge check, so yes, I was surprised that they were as emotional (and what felt vindictive) as they were.

          2. Anna*

            I think under no circumstances is badmouthing appropriate. If they’re unhappy, the professional and business minded thing to do would be to button their lip and then give her the most minimum of references (Yes, she did work here, period.) I also think that if she’s being asked to see the world through their eyes, they should have the decency to do the same and if they’re not willing, she doesn’t owe them a damn thing.

        2. Heddi*

          Yes, I wouldn’t have asked for childcare reimbursement at all. I just asked for flat gas and tolls, which I assumed they would approve without a problem because it was always approved for everyone else before.

      2. Heddi*

        I get what you’re saying, and you make a good point. I can see their perspective and why they’d be frustrated. Just to clarify, though, I didn’t take “full” FMLA; I took 3.5 weeks vacation and sick time, then took 8 weeks after I had the baby. I gave them notice when I had used 5 weeks of the 8 (3.5 vacation before baby was born, then gave notice 5 weeks after baby was born, 3 weeks before I was due to come back).

        1. fposte*

          Okay, sounds like they may have been running FMLA concurrently after all, then, since that’s just .5 of a week short of full FMLA. (And thanks for clearing up the payback issue. I think that’s probably legal in states where it’s not considered part of your compensation, which is most of them, but that is not something I’ve heard of organizations doing, so it does seem on the punitive side.)

          Honestly, I don’t know what I’d have done in your situation–I think talking to them about the possibility of a move or at least the possibility of telecommuting earlier might have helped, but there’s risk in early disclosure too, as you clearly realized. This is one of those situations where the situation just leaves people screwed to some extent. That doesn’t justify their getting nasty–I wonder if some of what’s going on there is the same irrationality that creates a favorite employee in the first place now feeling betrayed by a favorite–but it makes it, I think, understandable why your stock would fall with them at that point.

  39. Zillah*

    I have a little bit of a silly question.

    I’m building a linkedin profile, and I’m trying to figure out what’s appropriate to put on it. Should I be listing coursework? (I’m a grad student and will finish up my MLS degree in May.) And, should I be listing projects/etc? What counts as a project?

    Argh this is difficult.

  40. Nikki T*

    I’m on a search committee, we haven’t started reviewing applications as a team yet…I’m trying not to be too hard on people.


    I won’t hold anything against the right candidate, but it’s all in my head! Since I have to read everybody’s information, I do wish candidates wouldn’t make me scroll all over looking for stuff..

    1. Anonymous*





      1. Nikki T*

        As I said, it’s not something I would hold it against anyone, it’s just that thing that stays in the back of your mind.

        Tailor the resume, it’s takes forever to wade through all the irrelevant stuff. So far it’s a small number of applicants, expecting an influx right after the new year…

        Just sayin…

      2. Aisling*

        It’s actually quite common for the resume writer to tailor the resume for the specific job, and not include extraneous info – such as an unrelated associate’s degree (which I’m taking to mean unrelated to the job posting). Throwing everything on to a resume, and hoping the hiring manager can sort through it and pick out the good stuff, is a waste of time for the hiring manager.

        And since typing in all capital letters is the internet equivalent of SHOUTING, I’m wondering why you’re so bent out of shape about this. Your formatting makes your response seem meaner than you may have intended it to be.

      3. LD*

        The fact that irrelevant information is included or highlighted just makes it harder to assess the individual’s suitability for the job.

  41. Zillah*

    Oh! Something else. (Sorry, several job-related things have come up for me recently.)

    I have a friend who has been temping at a company for over a year. He graduated last spring from undergrad, and other than a job at a resort-type thing last summer and being a camp counselor when he was in high school and college, it’s the only real “job” he’s ever held.

    They keep telling him that the home office “won’t let [them] hire anyone,” so he’s continued to be a temp, despite the fact that he’s doing exactly the same work as salaried employees – in some cases, more work.

    He says that the managers are helping him try to find full time work elsewhere, but some of the advice he’s mentioned has seemed really off to me. For example, one of them “worked with [him] a lot” on his resume, but when I asked to look at it out of curiosity, there were a few things that jumped out at me as being a problem.

    1) Length. It was a little over two pages long. As I said, he’s been in the workforce for about a year and a half. It seems overkill. Part of the problem is that everything is really spread out – I think it’s double-spaced – but there’s also just too wordy.

    2) There seems to be too much detail and too many adjectives. I’m obviously not an expert, but it seems to me that a good rule of thumb would be to have 3-5 bullets at most for each job, especially when you’re still essentially entry-level. He has 14 for his current job, which is the field he’d like to stay in, as well four for his three-month job last summer that’s in a completely different field and five for his time working as a camp counselor. There’s just so much information, and I feel like he’s including a lot of things that he really doesn’t need to.

    3) Coursework. He has “relevant course work” listed, but most of it is coursework you’d assume someone with his major would have, and the rest of it I feel like could be addressed in a cover letter.

    4) Skills. He has 14 very specific skills listed, and I feel like there must be some way to condense that. IMO, a lot of the stuff he talks about should, again, be included in the cover letter. It’s also listed at the very end of the resume, and I can’t believe that that’s the best way to present it.

    5) Graduation date. They didn’t have him include the year he received his degree. That seemed off to me, too, because when someone has such limited work experience, it seems like it’s good to offer an explanation, and especially since he’s in a STEM field, the more recent the degree the better in some ways, I’d think.

    So… I don’t know. I’m not an expert, so I don’t want to push too hard, but at the same time, I kind of feel like his managers – one of whom *does* theoretically hire people – are giving him bad advice. I’m not sure if it’s on purpose or not, but they seem to be, and he seems way too comfortable relying on them and trusting them.

    :/ Thoughts? Does this sound off to anyone else?

    1. Stephanie*

      Whoa, yes!

      1. Two pages is too long for someone with like one year of professional experience.
      2. Yeah, he’s probably including way too much, especially if he’s keeping it accomplishment-based (and if he’s not, he needs to do that!)
      3. Best advice I heard re: coursework is to limit it to major electives (so like an advanced thermodynamics course) or electives that could provide an extra dimension/selling points (stats for a humanities major; public speaking for an engineering major). Anything that you should have taken for your major (say, like calculus, for an engineer) doesn’t need to be listed.
      4. Fourteen?! If it’s software specific or lab specific, sure. But if it’s something like “communication”, remove it.
      5. I think this is more common for big corporate jobs where they require candidates be within so many months of graduation. But it’s a good thing to have on there.

      1. Zillah*

        Thank you! It’s so good to hear that it’s not just me.

        2. No, it’s definitely not accomplishment-based – any of his coworkers could turn in exactly the same description. It seems to me like he’s trying to include every single thing he does when he’s at work, when IMO, the point is to include important bullets. Maybe I’m crazy, but I don’t think you need “ensuring proper amounts of clay and glass were used in the making of each teapot” (for example). Relevant highlights, not exhaustive list, right?

        3. That was my thought… but yeah, literally all of it is stuff he either had to take for his major or was one of two similar choices, and he had to take one. His program wasn’t especially remarkable, either, in the coursework they required. I also know that he did very, very poorly in the classes, and in one case almost failed it, so I’m not sure how much he wants to be talking up those skills… but apparently his managers actually told him to put it in.

        4. Most of it is lab specific, in all fairness… it just seems like they’re skills that it could reasonably be assumed he knows by the virtue of having his job, you know? But if I’m wrong and it’s really that important, doesn’t it belong on the top, rather than the third page?

        5. Oh, absolutely – I don’t think it’s necessary. But I can’t see how having a grad date on there can hurt a recent grad, where I can see how it might help them.


        I don’t know. I feel like relying almost exclusively on your current managers in supporting your efforts to leave their company when the company is happy with you and the situation they have with you just isn’t good. He talks about unrealistic expectations and six-day workweeks and then says, “But everyone’s pissed! We’re in it together!” And I just want to sigh and say, “No, you’re not. They are salaried, for one thing. For another, team spirit should not come from, ‘We all hate our jobs.'”

        1. fposte*

          I don’t think it’s sinister, though; I think they just suck at advising on resumes, which many people do. And I think they feel bad because they don’t particularly expect to hire him (which isn’t sinister–it’s a lot easier to deal with temps in many cases) and he listens so eagerly when they give advice.

          This doesn’t need an intervention; he just needs to get advice from some other place and to be willing to move beyond his comfort zone a little.

  42. Indyjones*

    I have been in my new job for a little over 3 months. After 6 weeks on the job I knew it was a poor fit. The culture is not comfortable for me, the job responsibilities are not as advertised, and the manager’s style is to micromanage and criticize. I was offered a position this week with another company which I have accepted. However, due to holiday schedules I will not be able to resign until the new year. Due to the circumstances of the new position, I will be giving a bit less than 2 weeks notice. But the timing is such that the previous phase of the project I work on ended before the holiday and the next phase will not start until mid January. I have done all the preparatory work and the transition should be straightforward. I realize this is still not ideal, but I’m hoping to weather it as well as possible. I am hoping for a better 2014.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Given the circumstances you’re operating under, I’d say it’s as ideal as possible. You finished up one project, you’ve done prep work so someone can more easily move into your position and you’re moving on from something that’s a bad fit so you can be happier. Life is short, go forward and I wish you the best in your new job and the new year!

      1. Indyjones*

        Thanks! I love reading this site and it has provided me so much comfort during these past difficult months. It helped me set the criteria for evaluating the circumstances and to make a decision. I hope everyone here has a happy new year!

  43. Anon for this*

    I started a new job over the summer (my company was closing, and I was fortunate to get out before the layoffs began.)

    The job was presented as half HR (as it relates to payroll) and half finance (with a bit of AP.) As time has passed, the job is 50% AP, 45% AR, and 5% uploading payroll to another system and updating a couple of spreadsheets.

    So basically I’m not doing anything that is of any interest at all to me, and it’s frustrating. The pay is good and the benefits are good, so there’s that.

    However, there are other downsides. We are hourly, and are tracked constantly. There is a heavy emphasis on every single clocking. When I started, we didn’t have to clock in and out for our 30 minute lunches, but now we do – even though we normally don’t even get that lunch break. Granted, the powers that be will tell you we’re encouraged to take that break, but it is not realistic given the demands of the job day-to-day, and the precedent that’s already been set. So we dutifully tromp downstairs, clock out, go back upstairs and get back to work. (I set up an Outlook reminder for clocking in and out so we don’t forget.)

    Additionally, there is a huge expectation that we will work “whatever the operation demands.” When I signed on, the question was asked about occasional overtime, and I answered honestly. From time to time, I can stay late, however I have to deal with childcare, and my spouse cannot always pick our child up if I cannot leave at a reasonable time.

    My office-mate often stays hours past closing time, and I hear her talking with her family at least twice a week about how she cannot do this or that with or for them because she “has” to be at work. (She is one of those people who talks about how much she dislikes it, but it’s fairly clear she enjoys feeling like she’s the one people depend on for things. Which is fine, just be honest about it.)

    Additionally, last week our HR person came upstairs and told me that I could not post on Facebook during the day. We had friended each other some time back, as we share common interests and I thought we could be friends. I posted one time during the day while waiting on IT to handle an issue for me. It was even a joke about how I have to wait for IT support since I’m not married to the IT guy anymore.

    I even said “look, I was on my personal phone, waiting while an issue that prevented me from doing anything else was being fixed on my computer.” That doesn’t matter. Because the part-time hourly, customer facing people at our company are not allowed to do that, and so “if it happens again I’ll have to write you up.”

    Now seriously. I am an adult. I am here ALL the time. I took a moment one time to post one thing, and now I’m in danger of being written up? But it’s okay for her to text her kids all day, and it’s okay for my office-mate to argue with her husband and kids on the phone all day, but one Facebook post, when I have one person from the office on my friends list is enough to get me written up?

    Between that and the constant stress, the demand to be here all the time, the three or four hour meetings that stretch into the night… I am just not sure how to deal with this. I don’t want to run the risk of looking too much like a job-hopper (because I do have a bit of that in my past from a difficult period a few years ago) but I don’t know how long I can keep this up.

    Suppose I just needed to vent about this in a safe place, but I’m just growing tired of feeling like the company treats me like a child who needs constant supervision rather than part of a working group of adults headed toward the same goal.

    As an aside, I had qualms the first few weeks, but thought perhaps I was reading too much into it (and since my old company was closing and I’d already resigned, I had no way of getting that option back. Not working is not an option at this point in life.) I should have listened to my gut.

    1. fposte*

      “So we dutifully tromp downstairs, clock out, go back upstairs and get back to work.”

      Assuming you’re in the US, I’m pretty sure that’s not legal and is seriously asking for trouble by being outright fraudulent. Not that that helps you any, but it does indicate they’re more than simply bad managers of employees. (And if HR wrote me up for posting, I’d be sorely tempted to say that the DOL would be writing her up for having non-exempt employees work off the clock.)

      1. Anon for this*

        The HR director dutifully spouts her line about how she wants to do this or that to provide us an area for breaks. What she’s not recognizing is I can’t even go downstairs to get mail without having a fifteen minute trip, answering questions or trying to direct people to the person who can help them. (This morning it took me a full five minutes to explain to a new mechanic that I do not have a key to the shop, and I do not have a key to the GM’s office, and he could not enter the shop that way anyway.)

        Seriously. This company spends more time trying to figure out how to get the most work out of individuals while paying them the least that I have ever seen in my life. If I hear “well, Obama care will take care of the insurance problem” one more time as it relates to a certain class of workers, I may just say what I think.

        I’ve actually heard someone say “well, if we call and tell him to come in, he will have to. He works here. We own him.” It was said with a bit of a jokey tone, but the underlying message was crystal clear. You cannot expect loyalty out of an $8/hour manual laborer when you’re calling him in on his days off, and then complaining when he has a clock issue. This could work, given the right structure, but no one wants to repair the underlying problems.

        Likewise, putting someone in the position of having to navigate between two bosses, when one insists all information MUST come through him first, and the other boss says “nope, that’s why we have you, to make sure we’re getting better information” – all while making that person work with older technology and a life of work-arounds? Not exactly endearing.

        Again, don’t get me wrong. The pay is great. I just wish I felt like an adult with input and intelligence, and not just the person who should be falling all over herself to work longer hours or ingratiate myself to the bosses more. (The office mate? She’s the one who keeps trying to get others in the office to make coffee for our bosses, or provide lunch, or worrying about “keeping the guys happy” – which makes me cringe.)

        1. fposte*

          And I’m mostly focusing on the things that are genuinely illegal, and not just sucky. Additionally, if you’re non-exempt and staying longer than eight hours for those long meetings, you should be getting overtime for those. Betting you’re not.

      2. Jamie*

        Non-exempt people clocking out and working is direct violation of labor law, as fposte correctly noted…but even if exempt it’s fraudulent record keeping. It may not be relevant to any governing body, and these no legal requirement to track expert time like this, but if you’re tracking it why go to the trouble of falsifying records.

        This isnt just a red flag, it’s a red flag warehouse.

  44. Kat*

    Does anyone here know anything about the electrical engineering field? My little brother graduates from college with his degree in electrical engineering in May. He’s yet to hold an internship or any sort of job at all and has no plans to. My father keeps telling him that with a degree alone he should be hired in somewhere with a salary of at least $60k pretty quickly. In my experience, that’s not exactly true of someone without any work experience at all including volunteer or internships. However, I’m not in that field. My dad has not successfully navigated the job search process since the mid-90s so I’m not sure if what he’s telling my brother is truly reflective of that field or a result his experiences from when he graduated in with a similar degree in the 60s.

    Any advice would be appreciated! I’m concerned he will turn down opportunities because they don’t live up to the expectations set by my father. But I admit that my experience looking for marketing positions is wildly different than engineering…

    1. Stephanie*

      I know a little about EE (I was mechanical engineering), so I’m commenting just from a general engineering recruitment standpoint. EE’s in demand enough that he’ll have some luck, but it’s pretty common for engineering students to have at least one internship (or some sort of research experience), so it’ll look a bit odd that he has none of that. I would just tell him to really hit the ground running.

      Also, he should be prepared to explain how he’ll be an asset for a role without any experiential education. Engineering in school tends to be a lot of theory and not very hands on, so an interviewer may worry he only understands EE from a coursework perspective versus actually designing a product (or testing or whatever).

      1. Kat*

        Thank you! I just hope he doesn’t turn something down because it doesn’t pay what he thinks he should make. He’s really stubborn, just like his fantastic older sister, so I’m just a bit concerned he will stubbornly follow my dad’s bad job hunting advice (which I successfully stubbornly did not follow).

        1. Stephanie*

          He may get offers around that? Unfortunately, I don’t know entry-level EE salaries that well. It does sound a little high. I know large companies will sometimes pay that or more, but they usually like to hire former interns or people who have had prior internships (since they have their pick of candidates). In engineering, it just always looks a little strange to have NO work experience, since most (if not all) internships are paid (i.e., fewer economic barriers to gaining experience). If he did some kind of senior research project or thesis, he should definitely lean on that.

          I would suggest that he look at smaller companies or even startups. They’ll probably be a bit more flexible with requirements. Luckily, his skills are in demand enough now that he should be able to land something (maybe not at Google).

        2. Delurker*

          I’m a EE that went on to a grad degree due to lack of jobs in 2003, and that was with a year internship and summer jobs on my resume. While he may be able to get $60k if he can secure a job, he may find the job hunt a lot longer than he expects. I’d encourage him to get involved in his local IEEE chapter (assuming you’re in North America) and network like crazy.

  45. Katie the Fed*

    I don’t know if anyone’s still here, but I have some general questions on holidays:

    When you’re preparing a family dinner, like Christmas dinner for several guests, how do you manage the multitasking of timing everything right on the cooking front and still entertaining the guests who want to talk to you even though you’re mixing a spice rub for the meat, chopping potatoes, etc? And how do you keep people out of the kitchen where tehy get underfoot, especially if you have a REALLY tiny kitchen?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      What works for me:

      If you are coupled, ask your partner ahead of time to run interference for you and keep people out of the kitchen. If you are not coupled, you can ask a friend to do it.

      Alternately, put people to work on tasks that happen to be outside of the kitchen — like setting up drinks in the living room, etc. People generally are happy to help and won’t necessarily realize that you’re intentionally having them help in a different room.

    2. Stephanie*

      1. Wine for the guests (if you drink). This distracts everyone from the kitchen because well, wine.
      2. Alternative to #1: I usually place out some finger foods and this keeps people munching and out my way.
      3. I prep as much as I can ahead of time (like rubs, sauces, etc) so I do have some time to entertain.
      4. In general, I try to limit the meal to one piece de resistance (which may even be an appetizer or side).
      5. Like Alison said, tasks for people outside of the kitchen are a good way to chase them out.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      Ah these are both very good. I don’t think I delegated enough tasks to others because I was too focused on being a good host.

      Both my family and the future in-laws are here so…gahh! I’d better get used to it!

      1. Jamie*

        I know I’m late, but this was always a horrible problem for me and I found the answer this year.

        I figured if we were having tons of people and some brought dishes we’d heat them up…so I went with that and prepped stuff earlier in the day and just did a fast warm up before. I was always struggling with last minute potato mashing, pierogi frying, meat tending, cranberry scooping …and it frazzled me. So this year I did almost everything earlier in the afternoon so by the time the turkey and prime rib were done everything was good to go and I just dealt with meat and biscuits (you can’t do biscuits ahead of time – that violates the holiday rules.)

      2. Kelly O*

        I’m fortunate in that my tiny kitchen has a pass-through to the living room that’s basically the whole wall, so I can be part of the conversation even while trying not to knock myself over in the kitchen.

        The other positive of that is being able to put something on the counter and ask someone to start passing it around, or put the drinks there for refills or whatever.

    4. ThursdaysGeek*

      The size of the kitchen doesn’t make a difference in people underfoot. I have a huge, poorly designed kitchen, so people naturally gravitate to this open space. And everything I need to use, every drawer I need to access has a person leaning against it: “Excuse me, I need to get in here to get a spoon.” “Excuse me, can I open the fridge?” “Excuse me, I need to throw this away.”

  46. Jamie*

    Anyone else dealing with the post-holiday blahs?

    It’s always so anti-climactic but this is the first 12/26 in years I haven’t worked so I have more mental energy to indulge the letdown.

    Laying around watching TBBT and feeling crumby I’m not up cleaning. So I get up to clean then I’m bored and want to sit down and do nothing.

    Just blah. Just me? What do you all do to get back into the “Yay, vacation days” mode?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Three thoughts:

      1) Don’t dismiss that you could be experiencing seasonal affective disorder. It’s a real thing, and I suffered VERY real depression every January for years until my doctor finally convinced me to take a low dose of antidepressants for a couple months a year and Vitamin D and it helped a lot.

      2) When I was furloughed and feeling really blah-ish because I’m so used to work to orient my time, I did a lot of catching up around the house. I had a long to-do list and I started going through it – it made me feel productive even when I wasn’t doing anything. I find doing a winter purge of old clothes and junk that has accumulated is really good for me too, plus you get that tax deduction if you donate it this weekend :)

      3) You’re allowed to veg out and relax for a while. There are entire saturdays where I don’t leave the house and just veg and recover from a long week. It’s important to recharge your batteries. Especially for introverts – I felt like I was hit by a truck today just from all the social interaction yesterday. Enjoy the time to yourself!

      1. Jamie*

        I know it’s a real thing, but for me it’s just the blahs after all the running around and disappointment that the holiday is never as great as I think it should be. Don’t get me wrong, it was fine…but whoever is our generations Norman Rockwell won’t be showing up to immortalize my family for the New Yorker. :)

        I watch way too many made for Lifetime TV movies this time of year and even though I know better intellectually I think I but. To the whole thing about looking for some huge emotional catharsis or psychological redemption. I need to stop looking for magic and be happy with a perfectly medium rare prime rib and kolachkis.

        Great tips, to flip a coin between a nap or cleaning out the family room closet!

        1. Katie the Fed*

          There’s always a little post-holiday consumerism too. I was just looking at some online sales….

  47. fposte*

    Very late, but we’ve talked about how money does and doesn’t affect performance, and there’s an interesting piece on the PBS site about research on that:

      1. Jamie*

        That was so interesting, I was especially struck by the findings that the company reaped more benefits by giving bonuses to the lower performers rather than the high.

        I’ve always disagreed with studies that show money as less of a motivator, because for me it has always felt like the main motivator and the one that really matters…but putting it this way I realized that money never motivates me regarding performance – money motivates me to stay or look elsewhere..but my work product and ethic is what it is (fwiw).

        So basically giving me a bonus or a raise won’t make me more productive…but absence of fair (to me) compensation will cause me to explore other options. I think a lot of people fall into that category.

        This study does go to show it’s important to hire for people who are internally driven…although I don’t understand anyone who would take a thank you pizza over $25 – so I clearly still don’t get people.

  48. Beth Anne*

    How do you know if you need to relocate in order to make living wage? I’ve lived here for almost 3 years and haven’t been able to find a job making more than $12/hour.

    I can’t tell if it’s just me, I’m doing everything wrong, or it’s the area. I’m currently in a certificate program that will end in May and will be back on the job hunt. I’ve created some job alerts for many cities and just not sure what I’ll be doing come May. Any advice is welcomed.

  49. Anna*

    I’m currently dealing with the frustration of working in a job during the holidays where the main focus is outreach to local politicians, organizations, and other public figures. There is nobody in and only so much I can do in my office. Spending a lot of time here and reading my Kindle. While I love the holidays, I’m looking forward to everything getting back to normal.

  50. Elizabeth West*


    I didn’t have any internet at my mom’s house and I WAS DYING. Now I’m home and all is well.

    My family went together and got me a Coach purse. Nice. I felt bad when I opened it because I didn’t get the adults any presents–just the kids (furnace repair cut into my holiday budget). Urp. Oh well.

  51. Ali*

    If anybody is still reading this, I have a question about job searching:

    Four years ago (well, will be five in 2014), I was fired from a job mostly because of poor performance, but I honestly think part of it was because I didn’t fit the culture. The job was at a company in my field, but the job title/duties itself didn’t fit my interests. There was another girl who had the same title as me and a lot of the job responsibilities went to her while I often got no work to do. I pretty much felt like a warm body and lasted seven months, even though I hoped to work there longer.

    I am looking for a new position right now, and I saw today that Old Company has a job open in a different department than the one I worked in. The department/job fit better with my goals and experience than my old position did. I did not work with this department in my first stint with Old Company, so I would only know some of the people still employed there in passing, not really as former colleagues. Also, ever since I left, there has been decent turnover, and the managers I used to work under are all no longer there. There is also a new manager in the department I’m hoping to apply for. The person who is accepting the applications is still with the company, but her title, to my knowledge, is an admin/executive assistant. (I don’t remember which one she goes by.) I knew who she was but am not sure if she remembers me.

    Anyway, with all this in mind, should I apply or just not bother?

    1. Jen in RO*

      As I see it, you have nothing to lose by applying. It was a long time ago, all the old managers are gone… if I were a hiring manager, I’d interview you even if you did have a “black mark” in the HR archives – if only to see if it was justified or not.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        I’m not sure, if I were a hiring manager, that I’d use an interview slot for someone who had been fired from the company. But Jen is right: you have nothing to lose from trying. The worst that can happen is they’ll say no. If you don’t try, you’ll have no chance at all.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Sure why not. Depending on how long ago it was, they may not even remember you. I would also not disclose this unless it specifically comes up. However, be prepared if it does, what changed, and how you’re different now.

  52. EE*

    Is it okay to let my organization know about my graduate school graduation only after I find a field within the organization that is related to what I am studying at school? My current work is not related to what I am studying. What are your thoughts?

  53. Jenn*

    Question! I sent in my resume for a non-profit camp job and the camp director replied with a general email, but mentioned restructuring at the camp and hiring for several full time positions. I did some digging and apparently all of the staff have been let go! So, my question is – is this a good or bad thing? A fresh start seems like a good thing, but why would some sack their entire staff??

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