should you offer your business card at a job interview, applying for a job with an ex’s father, and more

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

1. How to ask if I’m getting paid for work I’ve been doing or if it’s volunteer work

I would like to nominate myself for stupid question-asker of the year.

I did some at-home work for a nonprofit a few weeks ago that was paid for with the remainder of a grant. Recently, they contacted me and asked if I was available to do more of the same type of work. I agreed to do it, picked up the materials, and have done about 25 hours of what’ll probably be 50 hours of work. I assumed the work would be paid even though it wasn’t explicitly mentioned, and now I’m wondering if they wanted me to do it for free, because they have a volunteer working on the same thing (though she was also working on it when I was doing the paid work before), and if the grant was used up, where are they getting the money to pay me?

Is there a way to ask if this is paid work without sounding as stupid as I feel? Or do I just hope they ask for my hours at some point? I’d send them the hours I’ve done so far since it’s been two weeks (I was paid biweekly before), but I’m afraid they’ll respond with, “Um, weren’t you doing this for free?” and it’ll be twenty kinds of awkward. I’d still finish the work even if I found out I wasn’t getting paid since I already agreed to do it, but I’d just feel better if I knew if I was getting paid or not instead of wondering about it.

Unless they specifically asked you to do this as a volunteer, I would assume that you’re still getting paid. It would be utterly unreasonable of them to just assume that you understood that you’d no longer be getting paid, since you were previously being paid for; this is something reasonable to assume they’d tell you about. So I would simply submit your hours just as you did before, and assume that pay will be forthcoming. If you still feel weird about doing that, though, then it’s fine to send an email saying, “Should I submit my hours using the same process that I did before, or do you want me doing anything differently?”

2. Applying for a job with my ex-boyfriend’s dad

So, I’m looking at this bangin’ internship with the… wait for it… OLYMPICS! Awesome, right? Here’s the thing: One of the people that I assume would end up seeing my paperwork would be my ex boyfriend’s dad. So:

1) Is it weird if I apply?
2) My ex’s parents never hated me; in fact, I’m still friends with them on Facebook and communicate with them often.
3) Because of my previous statement, is it weird to namedrop?
4) Wouldn’t this look so amazing on a resume?
5) Am I being immature about this whole thing?

No, it’s not weird to apply. It wouldn’t be weird even if you weren’t still communicating with your ex’s parents, but it’s especially not weird since you are. I’d really consider his parents as being just like anyone else you know, and apply the same “not weird” standards to them that you would if they were, say, family friends.

And in fact, you should send your ex-boyfriend’s dad an email and let him know that you’re applying, because he may put in a good word for you.

3. Should you offer your business card at a job interview?

What is the etiquette on using your current business card at an interview? I’m leaning against it – they already have my contact info, so I don’t need to give them a card. However, our business cards are unique and it will make me stand out a little.

I don’t think it really matters either way. I wouldn’t, just because they already have you info so it seems like overkill — plus you’re not there as a representative of your employer, so your business card is a slightly ill fit for the situation. But it’s no big deal either way.

4. How can I keep my manager from making a scene at my goodbye party?

I have been bullied by my line manager for the last year and i have made the decision to leave my job. My problem is that i don’t trust him not to turn up to my leaving party and make a scene. Can you advise me how i can prevent him from coming without putting the idea in his head in the first place?

Unless your manager is truly evil, it seems unlikely he’d make a scene — and if he did, it would reflect more on him than on you. But if you’re concerned, just decline the party. You can’t have one and then forbid your manager from attending.

5. My company fired me but is offering to send my resume to other companies

I have a question about finding another job after being fired. Here’s what happened. “Sarah,” someone senior to me and the only other person on my team, was a perfectionist and needed to be in control. Because of this, she delegated no work to me and left me in the dark on most projects, and thus I came off as “not doing much” even though I always asked for more work. Well, finally this issue came to a head and my boss put me under review, and at the same time Sarah was instructed to delegate to me and include me (before I was not included in the majority of projects and tasks).

Well, at this exact time, several *huge* projects came up, and I was tasked with taking the lead on several these — and I believe I did a good job all things considered. One of my weekly check-ins with my boss ended with him patting me on the back and saying “You’re doing a good job.” But when our weekly check-in came around this week, I was taken straight to HR, told I was terminated, and was escorted out. This came as a total surprise because even though I was under review, I had received nothing but positive feedback, with the exception of small email formatting edits. This job was toxic and I am much happier away from the negative environment, but now I’m looking for a new position.

Here’s my question. During the termination meeting with HR, the HR manager mentioned several times that he would help me out if I found any other positions I was interested in. He said if I found any other jobs I was interested in, I should let him know and he would forward my resume to the respective hiring managers. I asked him what the benefit of doing this was, and he said that it looks better if a resume comes from someone in HR rather than the person themselves. But that makes no sense to me! This company decided I wasn’t good enough for them, but now they want to help me find something else? Why do they care what happens to me now? I was not let go for any willful misconduct (other than not being up to their standards that they still can’t define), but still why would they want to help me? It all seems so strange. But is this normal? Does this usually happen?

I don’t think it’s weird that your company is offering to help you find another job; that’s not uncommon, and just because you weren’t right for one particular job with them doesn’t mean that they think you wouldn’t be right for plenty of other jobs with plenty of other companies. However, I do think it’s weird that he’s suggesting that he send your resume to companies himself. It’s great for him to do that with his own contacts, but just to random companies where you happen to be applying and where he doesn’t have contacts? That’s odd, and I don’t think I’d take him up on that.

{ 53 comments… read them below }

  1. Not So NewReader*

    OP 4. I really doubt the boss will throw a party because you are leaving. I have heard that as a joke and made that joke in the past myself regarding certain people but in all cases there was no intention of carrying that plan out. If you think about it, you know that this would be very disturbing to the coworkers left behind because they will realize this is how they will be treated, too.
    You do have leverage here. You can chose to celebrate new job. And that is what I would focus on. Celebrate in whatever way you chose to. I might consider having a lazy day at home on my days off OR maybe get together with a few friends. If you felt really gutsy you could order pizza for everyone at work- take a pre-emptive strike, in other words. Beat. her to the punch.
    Basically, think along the lines of being professional and courteous. Remember she needs to retaliate because she privately feels that your absence will be HER loss. If she did not feel a loss she would have no need to think about retaliation.
    All the best in your new job!

      1. Judy*

        Right. Any “going away parties” beyond retirement parties at my company are unofficial, just set up by co-workers. “Meet us at Joe’s pub at 5pm to wish Wakeen well.”

        1. Ruffingit*

          This is what I assumed was going on here. The OP does not mention that the boss is throwing the party, only that she is concerned he will come to the party and make a scene. Sounds to me like co-workers are doing a going-away thing for the OP, not the boss.

    1. jesicka309*

      At least the OP in this situation was offered a going away party by their coworkers – when I left my previous job, no one threw me one.
      In fact, my team leader was so aware of the hostilities that he asked if I’d rather receive my leaving gift in a private meeting with my immediate team, as opposed to a department wide presentation. The fact that he even asked made me embarrassed enough to choose the private meeting,w hcih was lucky, because upon reading the card and gift card, I realised that not many had contributed.
      I even had former managers emailing me to ask if I was having a going away party ecause they wanted to drop by – I shamefully had to tell them that no one had organised one. And I was sure not organising one for myself to have only a handful turn up!
      If it’s only the OP’s line manager that’s the issue, then I’m sure everyone else would be aware of what’s going on, and will probably be your biggest allies in preventing drama. :)

      1. Anonymous*

        “I shamefully had to tell them that no one had organised one.”

        I don’t understand why you had to reveal this, as opposed to just saying “No, I’m not having one” with no mention of why not.

        1. jesicka309*

          Well, when they were asking, I still had 3 weeks left at my job, so I wasn’t sure whether one would be organised. I was honest and said “I’m not sure what is happening, but I’ll let you know.”
          It became apparent closer to the date that nothing was happening, and I told my former manager “I don’t thinkthere will be going away drinks.” He responded “Are you sure? Doesn’t Louise usually organise something for when people leave?”
          And I had to tell him, nope, I don’t think Louise would do that for me, so I’m not counting on her organising one. He thankfully left it at that.

          1. Anonymous*

            If you don’t want to share, practice being more evasive.

            In response to first time question is asked “Not planning on having one.”

            Then if it happens, (happy surprise) email that contact again and say “Oh, it turns out we’re having on at YYYY time/place.”

            It may take practice to be able to have these kinds of plausible, truthful but less-open responses come to mind quickly, but you can do it.

            1. jesicka309*

              At first I’d hoped one would be organised (also this former manager was my reference for my new role, so I was genuinely excited to see him and thank him).

              I could have been more evasive, but he is friends with some of the current management – odds are, if I said outright “no, I’m not planning on having one” he might have gone and asked other coworkers, and it would be even more embarrassing if my coworkers were forced to host leaving drinks because management felt bad.
              At the time, I decided it was better to be a little more upfront so that he didn’t go digging into why no one was planning to throw me a leaving party. I wasn’t embarrassed that I’d not been evasive enough etc. I was embarrassed that it was an issue at all.

  2. thenoiseinspace*

    #3 – I think OP meant personal business cards, not company ones. From what I’ve seen (though this may be my industry), most people use business cards for themselves, not as a representative of a company – it’s their personal email, links to online portfolios, etc. Especially if you freelance, I think it’s a good idea – resume materials probably get either tossed or filed away after the position closes, but a business card might go into the pile with actual business contacts and you might get some freelance work out of it.

    1. CAA*

      The statement “our business cards are unique” made me think she means the cards supplied by her current employer, not something she dreamed up on her own.

      “Unique” business cards are as bad as “unique” resumes. They don’t make you stand out in any good way if they’re a different shape or size than the standard or if I have to look twice to find your name, your employer’s name and your phone number.

    2. Professional Merchandiser*

      I do merchandising work, and I got plain business cards made up with my name, contact info and the title Professional Merchandiser in bold.

      Back in the day when all resumes were mailed, I would attach a business card to it.

      I got a bunch of jobs that way ( I know because they told me this touch professionalism impressed them.)

      A lot of times when I was working I had different company reps ask me if I would be interested in working for them, and ask for my contact info. I could just hand them a business card instead of scribbling on a piece of paper. Score another point for professionalism!!!

      Basic business cards are very reasonably priced, and if they’re generic like mine, you don’t have to worry about them not being usable when you are interviewing and such.

      P.S. I’ve been trying think of a good name to post with, rather than Anon. so that’s gonna be me from now on!! :-)

      1. Professional Merchandiser*

        I may be “professional” but obviously my proof-reading skills leave a lot to be desired. It was supposed to say “I know this because they told me this touch OF professionalism impressed them.”

        At least I caught the one at the bottom that said this was the name I was going to “pot” with from now on. Arghhh!!!

  3. Michele*

    LW 5 I was in a situation with my previous employer where I negotiated myself out of my job. It was mutual between my manager and I. I was so excited to be out of that toxic environment and to have some power in leaving. While working with HR on my exit she made a point in telling me she would do anything she could to help me, look at my resume, put out feelers with other recruiters. She really felt the situation was unfair. My last day in the office she was crying. I did reach out to a couple of her contacts but in the end I found my new job, that I love through my own network of friends/old co-workers. I have a feeling that your HR person may not agree with what happened and how it was handled by your manager so offered to help in the only way he or she knew. So in answer to your question yes I think it is normal.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      That was how I felt about it. The HR person knows the situation was a bad one not of your making and is trying to help you find something else. I didn’t read anything “evil” into it.

      However, I would still tread lightly. Connect with them via LinkedIn or something. If they happen to have contacts at a particular company, then by all means ask them for an introduction (as you might any other contact). But you needn’t go through them for everything.

    2. Ruffingit*

      This was my feeling as well. The HR rep either knows this was totally unfair and/or has seen it happen to others before you and wants to do what he can to help. I would ask him if he has any leads you could send your resume to and perhaps he can put in a good word for you, but I absolutely would send the resume myself. It is odd for him to act as a middle man.

      1. Wakeen in a Winter Wonderland*

        I totally agree on the notion that the HR rep thought the termination was unfair. The resume bit’s a bit odd, but maybe he/she thinks it will have more clout (is that a word?) coming from him/her? As in ‘I’ve read this resume and I’m so impressed I have to forward it to you’

        1. AnonK*

          I read even further in between the lines that HR sending a resume to another company’s HR contacts could bypass some of the applicant management software nonsense that most candidates encounter.

    3. Joey*

      Negotiated myself out of a job? What the hell does that mean? Did you negotiate your way out of a contract or something?

      Fwiw anytime you put “mutual” as a reason for leaving hiring managers are going to call BS. I know mutual doesn’t sound as a bad as fired, but there are only two things mutual can mean. Either they agreed you needed to quit or you agreed they needed to fire you. Both are equally bad.

  4. Chinook*

    #1, keep assuming you are being paid for the work because they didn’t explicitly change your terms of service. If it does end up that they expected you to volunteer your time, the awkwardness should be 100% on them because they weren’t clear up front.

    That being said, in the future, you may want to do up a quick memo whenever they give you piece work like that that confirms all the terms of service like deadline, timeliness, supervisor/person to submit work to AND payment. I would even recommend doing this for any volunteer work you do to them so it is clear to both sides. By doing this at the beginning of the next project, you can use the excuse of trying to get more organized with all your contracts (they don’t need to know they are your only contract at that moment) and it emphasizes to both sides that this is your source of income andnit just a hobby.

    1. OP #1*

      “If it does end up that they expected you to volunteer your time, the awkwardness should be 100% on them because they weren’t clear up front.”

      Thanks! If it turns out to be volunteer work, that’s a comforting way to look at it. I was thinking it would be totally my fault before.

      This wasn’t a contract thing at all, it was very informal, but I will definitely get the details you mentioned (payment, deadlines, supervisor, etc.) agreed to next time before starting any work for anyone. Even with volunteer work because, like you said, it’s good to be on the same page.

      1. MR*

        It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to get this type of stuff in writing ahead of time next time. That way you and the non-profit (or some other organization or company) are on the same page with expectations.

        Good luck!

  5. Leslie*

    #4 my bully left work as soon as my party was announced at about 3pm my last day. Everybody kept asking where she was and it was so awkward and quiet. It wasn’t like a “congratulations on your better job offer/move to a new city/choice to go housewife” party. It was more of a courtesy to me, even though I asked for no party and for my boss to keep a secret that I was leaving, but my bully promptly spread it around so I could deal with the questions I was trying to avoid.

  6. Ruffingit*

    #5: I wonder if the HR rep is trying to build a side business as a recruiter. That’s the only thing that makes sense to me in terms of his offering to send out the resume. It would be one thing if he said he’d give the OP some contacts and/or put in a good word for her with people he knows, but to actually send her resume himself? Makes no sense. I think he’s trying to get into the recruiting business myself and he’s using people he knows need a job to do it.

    1. Joey*

      He probably didn’t agree that the op got a fair shake(or at least that there wasnt enough documentation of a problem) and this was the consolation prize.

  7. brightstar*

    Just a note, there’s a typo in the answer to #3, instead of employer you typed employee.

    For question 5, would the HR person be an acceptable reference? That might help more and seem less suspicious to the OP than HR’s current offer.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Fixed — thank you.

      It’ll depend on the employer, but in general a good reference-checker will want to talk to the manager rather than HR (since the manager is the one who supervised the OP’s work).

      1. OP*

        OP here. I actually asked about references in the last meeting. HR said they could only confirm dates of employment. I asked my manager what he would say if someone called and asked for a reference and he said he would say this “OP is a wonderful person and anyone would be lucky to have her”

        Bizarre to say the least. I am going to reach out to HR to see if I can have a recommendation in writing.

        Thanks everyone /Alison for all the helpful advice!

  8. OP #1*

    Thank you for answering my letter, Alison.

    I’ve been really stressed out because, despite doing some unpaid internships, I haven’t been able to get a job, which means I’ll have to find some place to volunteer. So when my friend asked me if they were paying me or not, my jerkbrain immediately jumped to the conclusion that I shouldn’t have assumed I was getting paid and this was probably meant to be a volunteer thing. Which might not be logical to normal people, but I guess I’m falling into an any-work-I’m-capable-of-isn’t-worth-paying-for mindset.

    So thank you for pointing out that it actually was reasonable to assume that I would be getting paid. It helps a ton to have a rational/honest/unbiased/uninvolved person tell me my original assumption was reasonable.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I completely understand why you might think this was an issue. I hope you will follow Alison’s advice and get it cleared up for your own peace of mind.

      And I also get falling into the any-work-I’m-capable-of-isn’t-worth-paying-for mindset. Been there myself. It’s not easy, but comes after long stints of unemployment and feeling worthless when you can’t even land a minimum wage gig. I know that feeling and it sucks. Hang in there and just know that it’s rough out there and it’s not you! Keep moving forward, it will get easier.

    1. Kaz*

      The thing that gets me about this is, how did no one in props realize “acquisitions” is missing the c on the cards?? Bateman wouldn’t have missed it!

  9. Dan*


    I’m surprised Alison didn’t feel more strongly about not giving out the current business card. (My reading of the question, using both the words “current” and “our” make me think he is talking about the employer’s cards.)

    See, we already know that job hunting using your current employer’s resources (email address, computer, telephone) is an no-no. A big no-no in fact. Presumably, the info on the OP’s business card is going to be his work email and work telephone. So the OP is basically suggesting that the prospective employer use his current work resources to respond back to him, which is a non-starter.

    I’m a bit bothered by the statement “they already have my info.” Did he mean his work contact info? If so, he may have already committed a rejectable faux paux.

    1. SJK*

      I’m the question writer from #3.

      The card is my company provided card. The (only) phone number on the card is my cell number. (I bought the phone, the company pays the monthly bill. We’re expressly given permission to use it for personal reasons.)

      My work email is listed, though. I don’t use my work email for job searches, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they used it to contact me.

      1. Dan*

        I think you’re missing the point. Prospective employers generally frown upon candidates using their current work resources for job hunting. It may very well be the end of the world if you for over that business card — I commented because I think Alison should have put more emphasis on that.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        You could hand your business card as an example of work if you had input in creating it, and if that was at least loosely related to the job you are interviewing for.

        This would be common in marketing or design positions, although it would be included in your portfolio and not handed at the end of the meeting.

        Even if you don’t have a portfolio, there are ways you could use the card if it is somehow your work product…an example of project or vendor management because production of the creative card was difficult and you had to find the right vendor, etc.

        That’s when it makes sense as a tangible leave behind.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think most employers would reject someone for handing them a workplace business card, although I’d certainly raise my eyebrows at it a bit.

      I don’t think it’s quite the same as using a workplace-provided email address to job search; it’s pretty expected that people will use their cards in all manner of non-work situations.

      1. Dan*

        I don’t mean to be argumentative, but it’s also pretty expected that people will use other work place resources in all manner of non-work situations, but it doesn’t make it acceptable.

        But what I don’t understand is your logic: My work place business card has my work place email on it. If I hand it to you in an interview, I’m all but asking you to use my work place email to contact me. That counts as using my workplace-provided email to job search in my book. Contact info is for contacting people; it’s not just for making yourself look like a somebody at a cocktail party.

        So, all I’m saying is that I don’t understand why using my work-place email is a huge faux paux, but handing you a business card during an interview with the same info on it is not.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, that’s why I think it’s weird and it would raise my eyebrows. But people are so used to exchanging cards in all kinds of non-work situations that I’d just attribute it to that and not reject someone over it.

    3. Anonymous*

      “If so, he may have already committed a rejectable faux paux.”

      Oh come on. There’s all sorts of work-related networking for future opportunities where people share current contact info and aren’t all secretive and only using personal means to communicate.

      It’s just like BYOD stuff for work, there is some use of resources the other way.

      If you are really making hiring the sort of thing we’re you’re looking for reasons to reject people, have at it though.

  10. coconutwater*

    4. Maybe someone above the Bully Manager can find an excuse to call the Bully Manager into a meeting while the party is going on thus sparing the OP from any antics.

    My experience with Bullies is that they have traits of personality disorders, especially Narcissitic Personality Disorder and they HAVE to make everything about themselves. They can not stand when attention is focused on someone else so they have to steer the attention away and if they can insult their target in the process and make them feel bad the Buulies become absolutely giddy.

    I have chosen to not have parties except for one time. I predicted my Lead would steer the conversation to being all about her and her sexual escapades and I was right. Others tried to steer the conversation back into something appropriate but they were unable to. I left my own party and went back to work to finish up loose ends. She kept talking until she was the only person left in the room.

    1. AnonK*

      I had one bully who was almost certainly a sociopath, but I agree with you on the narcissistic personality disorder. It’s such a relief when you are moving on and realize that this is no longer your problem!

      When it isn’t all about them and they no longer have the power to make it all about them, they aren’t interested in playing. Therefore, I wouldn’t be too concerned about the going away party. In my experience with my own bully boss, and with coworkers who have had a bully boss, the bully either doesn’t show up or does come for a brief appearance and then moves on.

    2. Loose Seal*

      Being a bully is not a criteria of any personality disorder. A bully may have a personality disorder but they might just be a jerk instead.

      1. LM*

        +1000. In spite of what seem to otherwise be very good written communication skills, that screams “YES” to question #5 in that email..

  11. SA*

    #5 I had it out with my psycho manager and told him I was leaving which turned into an argument with him claiming to fire me instead. How do I handle this? To make matters worse with this job from Hades I was denied a review and a raise, and the only person who has offered a reference for this job is a back stabbing alcoholic. Is there any way to get a real job without having prospective companies I would like to work at talk to these people?

    I repeatedly told both supervisors (married but cheating on each other with one committing tax fraud again) about problems with other employees not filling out information on work orders and having angry customers contact me. I even had a customer complain about a supervisor speaking to them on the phone while said supervisor was drunk! Boy am I glad to be gone though.

    If I were them I would not take them up on their offer because of sabotage. The last time I heard of an employee taking a former employer up on their offer after they were suddenly let go it was just so they could black list them. I would be wary of a company with professionals who lack the professional courtesy to tell you what is really going on. If you were doing something wrong and no one told you it’s not helping either you or the company frankly. It shows a complete lack of communication which is something I frequently see with bad companies. (Including my former job from
    Hades). What I don’t understand is why a company that suddenly fires a person thinks it’s a good idea to try to help them afterward. If they are such poor communicators at the company I would avoid any miscommunication with any other prospective companies through this company/representative because you have no control over what they are saying about you. I see a lot of red flags sadly due to my experience with horrible companies.

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