my company monitors us to make sure we don’t job search, school-issued email addresses, and more

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

1. My employer monitors employees to make sure we’re not job-searching

I am employed for almost 2 years now with my current employer and I already feel the need to explore opportunities somewhere else. I am an assistant manager and I love my team, they’re actually one of the biggest reasons why Im still here. However, I’m beginning to dislike the company. For me, the corporate values are just engravings on the walls- something that isn’t really embodied by the organisation.

However, our COO is watching every move of all managers. He tracks our jobstreet/monster accounts and flags anyone who he thinks is exploring other jobs. Yes I admit that my loyalty to the company is not 100% anymore but that doesnt mean I’ll not meet my deliverables as I ease myself out. You see, it has been a recurring thing that he is bitter whenever someone leaves the company for greener pastures. Now I don’t know how to make my career move. I want to explore but I don’t know how. Is it unethical to update my job accounts while I’m still employed? Do I really need to explain myself?

Your COO is ridiculous and I can certainly see why you’d want to get out of there. Luckily, you can conduct an active job search without ever updating a or similar account. In fact, simply passively posting your resume online is one of the worst ways to job search. Instead, leave those accounts alone and just apply for specific jobs directly. That’s going to get you better results anyway, and your activities won’t be broadcasted online for your absurd COO to track.

2. Required to sign a non-disclosure statement in exchange for severance

Did you see Gawker’s bit about the guy whose severance was withheld because he refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement? I always thought that pretty standard and would love your thoughts.

Yeah, it’s completely normal, so I’m not sure why Gawker presented it as a noteworthy thing. Generally, in exchange for receiving severance, you sign what’s called a general release — a legal document agreeing not to disparage the company and releasing them from any future legal claims of harassment, discrimination, etc. You’re asked to sign this not because the company thinks it did something wrong (usually), but because they’re giving you free money that they have no legal obligation to offer you, and so it’s generally considered reasonable for them to say “hey, we don’t want to give you free money if you’re going to turn around and stab us in the back.”

3. Using a school-issued email address when job-searching

I know that you have addressed using a yahoo or hotmail account as your primary email, but is using a school email ( going to hurt you on an application? My boyfriend and I have been having this discussion for a long time, and I think that being a person in their late 20’s still using their school based email is not going to look good to any potential employer. My boyfriend is still in school, but trying to find a better job, and he thinks that it’s fine and why start a new email when the old one works just fine?

School email accounts are completely fine to use in job-searching and will not hurt you.

4. My coworker slacks off on shared responsibilities

I work at the front desk of a doctor’s office with two other women (let’s say Barb and Suzy). We all get along, and we all really like each other and have had no issues so far, but recently Barb and I have started noticing that Suzy is slacking off. We have duties that are given to us as a whole, and we each have our own personal duties, and Suzy is doing her personal duties just fine, but when it comes to the group duties, she never does them. We have two or three things that are quite time consuming and no one likes doing them, but she never even attempts to do them. We are very behind on one of the tasks, and at the beginning of the day Barb will say to us as a group, “How about we each do 20 of the calls we need to make?” and Suzy never completes any. Suzy will either ignore that the work is there or she will say things like “I don’t know how to do that” or “Oh, you guys will have to show me how to do that again” when she has been trained 3 or 4 times already.

Barb and I aren’t sure what to do, because we don’t want to cause friction by going to Suzy directly and say that this is bothering us, but we also aren’t sure that going to our manager is the right thing to do either (it feels a bit like tattling, and other people in the office have a very bad habit of tattling about anything). Any advice?

It’s not tattling. It’s reporting an issue that’s getting in the way of own work, because you’re having to pick up Suzy’s slack. It’s absolutely reasonable to ask your manager for advice on how to handle this or even to intervene, although you should talk to Suzy directly first. If it causes friction, that’s on Suzy, not on you, as long as you do it in a pleasant, professional manner. I’d start by just getting more assertive about dividing the work: “Suzy, I’m doing X and Barb is doing Y, so you’ll need to do Z today.” If she says she doesn’t know how, say in a genuinely puzzled tone, “What’s going on that you’re having trouble with this? I know we’ve talked many times about how to do it.” Or, “I know you’ve mentioned that before, but you’ll have to be responsible for this on many days, so let’s figure out right now how to ensure that you have all the training you need and this isn’t an obstacle going forward.”

From there, if she continues to slack off, say, “Hey, we keep getting stuck with X, Y, and Z and we don’t have enough time for all of it. Can we work out a better system so that it’s evenly divided?” And if that still doesn’t work, that’s when you need to get your manager involved.

5. Can I ask for an informational interview when I’ve applied for a job with the same company?

I’m a recent graduate looking for work in the human rights field, and I recently applied for a paralegal position at a prominent civil rights firm that I would be incredibly thrilled to join. As I sent in my application, I thought of the following question— is it okay to contact someone at this firm for an informational interview even though I applied for a job there? If that’s inappropriate, can I ask later on, if I get rejected? I really don’t mean it as a sneaky way to get an official interview, and I don’t want it to be perceived in that way. It’s just that I’m in the “informational interview” stage right now, particularly concerning legal aid services, and I really would love to speak with someone at this very impressive firm, but I don’t know if it’s appropriate, as I applied for a position there.

Nope, don’t do it. Because you’re currently applying for a job there, it will come across as a back-door attempt to get an interview. However, if you get rejected, you can absolutely ask at that point.

{ 98 comments… read them below }

  1. Jessa*

    Regarding Suzy – You may need to use stronger language than “Why don’t we each do 20 of these.” You may actually have to say (and may have done, if so I’m sorry,) “Suzy here are your 20 items to do.”

    But this does need one of those “Manager when we try to have Suzy do her 20 things, and we do ours, she never does them, and we’re behind. How do we handle this.”

    1. Chinook*

      I agree. When dealing with Suzy, you need to stop using polite requests and start using forthright language so there is no room for misunderstanding. Until you do this, a good manager could take Suzy’s side. But, once you have made clear her tasks and she clearly avoids them, then you can go to your manager.

      And remember, being assertive and clear is not the rude nor aggressive even if it feels like it to youm

    2. Windchime*

      Agree on the stronger language. “Why don’t we each do 20 of these calls?” is a suggestion, so evidently Suzy feels it is OK to say, “No, thank you.” Splitting up the task and saying, “Suzy, here are your 20 calls for today” may get better results; if not, then it’s time to talk to the manager.

  2. Audiophile*

    Regarding school email accounts – it’s fine to use them when job hunting, but keep in mind that once you stop attending classes, whether you graduated or not, you generally lose access to them. Each school has a different time frame, at my alma mater it was a good 12-18 months after I graduated before I lose access to my email. So he may want to make sure he has a second address setup so that he can get emails there.

    1. EAA*

      I was surprised to find that my son’s college allows e-mail use for what appears to be forever. 2008 graduate and still uses school e-mail for all his contacts. Didn’t seem to cause any problems when he was job hunting in 2012.

      1. Anonymous*

        Someone recently was telling me that their school recently cut them off from their supposedly-forever email address now that they’re a few years past graduation. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using a school email while job searching, but you’re going to need a professional personal email account eventually so you might as well start transitioning now.

          1. AB Normal*

            My husband got his email address removed a year after graduation. Policies can change, and since some people get contacted months after applying to a job (when a new position opens after an unsuccessful application), it’s safer to have an email address that you control and doesn’t depend on the educational institution to remain active.

          2. Vicki*

            That’s different.

            You (along with a friend of mine) have an alumni address.
            Others, including the OP, are talking about a student address.

            Big difference.

      2. Brett*

        Same issue here. Although I can still get email forwarding from my “forever” school address, I now cannot send out email from it.

      3. Audiophile*

        I’m surprised as well. I’m also an 08 graduate and my university changed their policy for student emails, several times. They eventually decided to cut everyone from 07 and earlier off, I think it was talking too much space, they had several increases in enrollment, so they reasoned they needed the space for current students.

        I don’t have an alumni email either, they said
        mailers when they want money.

        They also changed their career service policy. Initially, you could have free access for everything(counseling, job search board, etc) then a few years ago, they decided that anyone who wanted face time needed to pay an annual fee. They changed that again, I’m assuming because they didn’t get the response they wanted.

    2. Noah*

      I still have mine and I graduated in 2006. We were told it’s ours to use forever. I’m sure it’s one of those things that vary by school. Don’t know if it makes a difference but I attended a private university.

      1. Anonymous*

        Especially as storage gets cheaper, it’s yet another way for the school to build loyalty/visibility. (My school deletes the mailbox, but graduates can forward the email address to anywhere they like)

    3. CK*

      We got emails after graduating, which are supposed to last forever – I just assumed this was a common thing for places to do, as it automatically shows you’ve graduated. If I was job hunting again (10 years later) I wouldn’t hesitate to continue using it.

      1. Al Lo*

        I also got an account when I was in grad school — which was actually my student email account from day one.

        I don’t use it much anymore because it’s in my maiden name, so it doesn’t reflect the rest of my personal information, but I still use it for the odd account/contact here and there. It just forward into my regular email account, so I never need to worry about checking it separately.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I got an alum email but I have never used it. I used to use my Yahoo email, but then I went to Gmail for queries and job hunting. The Yahoo mail is now for bills, junk, and personal stuff.

      3. Vicki*

        To repeat – big difference between an alumnus address and a student address (the address given to you as a student).

        From reading the OP’s letter, especially the example address, I get the impression the boyfriend is still using the address he had as a student.

        Did he graduate?

    4. Alumnus*

      I’ve had my university email address since 1985. It turned into just a forwarder after I graduated, so I can use whatever email system I want and still have the same address.

    5. Cassie*

      When I graduated, my university’s policy was that your email address would be valid until (about) 6 months after graduation or something along those lines. Unless you become an employee, like I did, where your email address will remain valid until you leave. And once you choose your email address, you can’t change it – unfortunately for me because I used to use my email address for message boards and forums, so it’s basically collecting junk/spam now. Thankfully I have a univ email address that’s managed by the dept I work for so I don’t have to use the generic univ one.

      A few years ago, they changed the policy to allow lifetime email forwarding, so you can keep using your email address (as an alias) that gets forwarded to whatever gmail / yahoo / hotmail / isp / etc address you want.


      I agree with you @Audiophile, it’s not okay to use your school email account when doing a job search because you will lose access to it several months after you graduated. It’s better to create new email account either in Gmail or in Yahoo.

  3. Anonymous*

    #1, your boss sounds like a paranoid jerkwad. However, Alison is right – posting your resume to big job boards like that are a waste of time and are just going to increase spam. In terms of your online job hunting presence, update your LinkedIn profile. If your boss notices it, it’s much easier to pass that off as “oh I was just updating all my social media for the new year.”

    1. Kat A.*

      Maybe note that listing your job at that company gives the company more visibility. Said with a smile.

    2. Michele*

      I haven’t used Monster in years. Every so often I will get an email about jobs that I am no way qualified for and not even located in my city. I live in NYC and they send jobs in Portland, Oregon.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Monster’s really gone downhill in the past few years. It used to be one of the best mega job boards, but now I’m lucky if I see 5 jobs listed for what I do. Maybe it varies by city? I don’t know, but CareerBuilder has more listings where I live.

        And agreed. I use the mega boards to search, but never make my resume public. Ditto with Linkedin and Facebook (not that I really use Facebook for job hunting though).

        1. Audiophile*

          Well your LinkedIn profile can kind of act like your resume on that site.

          I’ve made my resume public in the past, with identifiers removed for protection. And all I got were emails from Aflack and similar companies telling me I’d be great at selling their products. And then trying to convince me that was marketing.

    3. Steve G*

      Last time I posted on Monster, ever single day I got emails/calls from recruiters with the same shpeel -” I have an opportunity that you’d be perfect for. Please come for an interview.” The job was always insurance sales. Sorry, if I’m not getting a salary, I don’t consider it a job. Furthermore, I’ve never worked in sales so why do they keep emailing me saying the job would be perfect for me?!

    4. Vicki*

      I have to respond here to say that no, posting to monster or dice, or simplyhired is _not_ a waste of time and does not increase spam.

      It does increase recruiter contact.

      For people who don’t have a manager with nothing better to do than scan job boards, job boards are actually a perfectly good _additional_ way of looking for work.

  4. FiveNine*

    #4 — I don’t see a reason to pretend that there’s any other issue with Suzy other than that she is blatantly refusing to do shared duties (she has none of these issues when it comes to covering her personal assigned tasks). In a situation like what you describe, at this point I don’t know why you continue to indulge her game playing or treat her with kid gloves. She’s putting all your jobs in jeopardy.

  5. V*

    #4 – Unless you’re the team lead or otherwise in charge, I don’t see any reason for you to be assigning duties. How about starting the morning by saying “Suzy and Barb, how do you want to divide up X, Y, and Z projects?”

    That way, Suzy feels included in the process, instead of having her coworkers randomly assign additional tasks on top of the individual work she got from her manager.

    1. Adrian*

      V, I second your answer. It seems the most assertive option of all. Maybe also add a solution to the question, just to give it some momentum: “I was thinking that if we each do 20, we could finish 10 min earlier and take a coffee brake together”

      I’m assuming that people posting comments/ questions here don’t share the same geography, and each answer is biased by cultural differences.

  6. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd*


    I see the problem as the way the task is structured, rather than Suzy. It’s not tattling to go to your boss and say, this structure isn’t working to accomplish your (the boss’s) goal.

    Perhaps the calls are past due bills? Ask your boss if the task could be restructured so that each team member is responsible for certain letters of the alphabet or whatever.

    If the boss doesn’t want to directly supervise this as a group project, then she has to make individual members responsible for individual pieces. Many problems disappear when structure or process is changed.

  7. Anon1*

    AAM, you probably need to modify op2. The severance included a non disparagement clause and was permanent. It isn’t an NDA. For a journalist, this could be a major problem if you ever decided to do a story related to your old company, or shareholders, officers, etc… It would be a show stopper for me.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Permanent non-disparagement clauses are typical in severance agreements. I’ve never seen one that didn’t include it. (And yes, it’s different from an NDA.) If you don’t want to agree to that, you can turn down the severance and retain the right to disparage them (just like you’d turn down the severance payments if you wanted to retain the right to sue or otherwise didn’t want to be bound by the agreement). It’s completely up to you. But it’s pretty reasonable and normal for a company to say that they’ve not going to give you free, completely discretionary money if you’re not willing to agree not to badmouth them in the future.

      1. Anon1*

        My issue is that if the wording in gawker is accurate, it will prevent the employee from writing negative (and arguably anything but powder puff pieces) articles on the company, shareholders, officers and others in the future whether or not the information was gathered in the course of employment. Very different issue. I think this is one of those questions where the general answer is not a problem but could be a major issue for someone working in certain fields like journalism.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, I can see how that would be more of an issue in journalism than in other fields. I don’t know if journalism’s standard severance agreements generally leave this clause out, but it’s a really, really normal clause to have in there in most fields.

          But again, no one makes you accept the severance. You can turn it down if you don’t want to be bound by the terms.

          1. Cat*

            My dad is a newspaper journalist; and this never used to be standard in the industry. It is becoming standard as media outlets change; but not something journalists consider in any way okay to bind themselves to do (however, since they have to eat like everyone else, that doesn’t mean they won’t do it).

        2. FiveNine*

          The editor was fired. It’s already not a typical journalism relationship. And any writing he wants to do about the company? Lord, he really shouldn’t be touching this at all, it’s just fraught with all sorts of conflict of interest. On top of that, any publisher would be out of their minds to allow him to “report” on his former employer unless it were quite deliberately a take-down piece of his time there combed through extensively by the legal department.

  8. straws*

    #3 – The only email addresses that are an instant negative for me are those with a questionable or inappropriate username.

    I also question email addresses that are a different name than the applicant, although they aren’t an immediate negative. I just have trouble moving forward without a little extra caution on those, after we had candidate whose mother applied for him.

    1. YoTeach*

      I teach college freshmen and I tell them all the time to get appropriate email addresses for job hunting. “Hottiecoed69” is never really appropriate for anything unless you work in the porn industry maybe, but it’s definitely NOT appropriate for general job hunting. Sad I even have to say that, but there it is.

      1. Mrs Addams*

        +1. I used to help run workshops for the unemployed, and saw a horrendous amount of inappropriate email addresses on CVs and application forms. Ones that come to mind are “weedsmoker1”, “brummiedyke69” and worst of all “fcukdasystem”. And they wondered why they weren’t getting responses…

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          Good God. It’s hard to be sympathetic though, to people who clearly don’t have enough sense to come in out of the rain.

  9. Pringles*

    I’ve had several people I couldn’t contact because they used a school account and then graduated. I typically tell our recruits they should get another account if I see it on their resumes now. It also gives the impression that they can’t let go a bit – I might question their experience and maturity.

    1. A Teacher*

      Really? My sister’s university, a small liberal arts private university, literally gives access to their alum forever. My sister uses this as her primary email. She’s applied for and accepted several positions using this e-mail account and at 6 years out of college, she’s got more credentials, tons of experience, and serves as a charge nurse in her ED. Given her plethora of experience in both EMS an emergency room nursing, I doubt most hiring managers hold her .edu address against her. I mean realistically, how many can say they deal with and manage life and death situations on a daily basis?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, my school, another small private liberal arts college, offers the same thing.

        As long as you have permanent access to the account (or reasonably long-term access), I don’t see what the problem is. It’s a good option for people who have privacy concerns about Gmail and other free email accounts and don’t want to set up their own email hosting.

  10. Anon*

    #4 -that sounds like a co-worker of mine when I was right out of college. Any projects that she was solely responsible for, she did a great job. Any joint projects, and she did next to nothing. Since this was my first job out of college, it seemed pretty much like every group project that I was ever assigned in college. There was always someone who slacked off, and if you wanted a good grade, you just had to suck it up and do it yourself. So I never complained about my coworker, and just did everything myself, while we both got the credit. If that had happened a few years later, I would know to speak to her directly and go to the manager if that didn’t work. College professors may not care if someone isn’t pulling their weight on a group project, but a good manager will.

    1. Thomas*

      Ah, group projects. There’s something I don’t miss from college. The main lesson I learned there is the pain of working on a project team of five when you’re the only person who cares.

  11. GenericGen*

    #4 – had a coworker like that too. She was fresh out of school and was hired for a position that most companies will not offer to someone with little or no experience. She bragged about how smart she was and wanted to be manager of the department (despite the fact that there was another coworker at the company for 25 years who wanted to be manager and wasn’t considered “qualified” enough).

    She was supposed to be backup to my function, so I started training her. After a few weeks, she was to be able to do it herself, but had a litany of excuses why she couldn’t, none of which were legitimate. All the while, as I trained her on parts of the job, she would impatiently interrupt me and ask me to move on to another part, as she was “so smart” and already knew how to do that. I would explain to her that I could not “move on” until I had completed the process and she would have to sit with me and take note of what I did. My job was not difficult, but had many exceptions in the software and one needed to know them. The only way to cover then all was for the trainee to sit and watch.

    Yet, when I would have her come over to “shadow” me while I did parts of the job, she would claim I had not trained her on certain things, when I know that I had. I kept detailed notes on my training, so I know this was not true.

    Seven months after I started training her, I received a job offer at another company and put in my two week notice. She panicked and said she was not ready to take over. Sweetie, you had SEVEN MONTHS training. To put this in perspective, I had about one months training and took over this position from a retiring coworker. In seven months time, she never did complete the process from start to finish, despite my urgings that she do this, as she was backup for me and would have to do this job if I were ill or otherwise not able to work.

    I agree with the other posters in that involving the manager is the best way to deal with this. Good luck. You have my sympathies.

    1. majigail*

      Documentation of the training is key here. What’s even better is if you can do a training memo and have the trainer and trainee sign off on the fact that it happened… doesn’t have to be anything simple- just date and that Jane trained Suzy on dipping teapots in chocolate.
      I’ve also found when I’m working with the Suzys of the group, I insist they take notes… just in case, I say.

    2. Ruffingit*

      She shouldn’t have had a problem taking over for you when you left because, you know, she was SO SMART! Ugh. She sounds insufferable and I hope she fell flat on her face in that job. I know that makes me sound bitter, but seriously people who come in thinking they know it all are so annoying.

      1. GenericGen*

        LOL. That was my thought exactly. She could be very insufferable. There were key pieces of the job she said she knew at the time and freaked out about when I put in my notice, because she claimed I had not trained her. Too bad. Had my notes to show her and our supervisor. Just like Majigail said, I asked her to take notes in addition with following alone with the instructional binder, but she didn’t.

        I ended up with a much better job and better pay/benefits. Having to put up with her attitude was the final push out the door for me. The company deserved her because she was underqualified for the position for which she was hired. I know this because she told me.

      2. Ann Furthermore*

        Oh, I know what you mean, and I’ve been there too. The thing is, it’s always good when someone new joins the group, because a fresh set of eyes can be hugely beneficial. Someone more removed from the situation might see opportunities to improve or streamline processes, whereas people who have been immersed in the subject matter or business process for a long time often have trouble stepping back and being objective.

        But coming in just assuming that you’re smarter than everyone else, or that you know everything, is a really good way to immediately alienate all your co-workers. I had a boss once who walked in thinking that he knew everything, and announced he was going to implement sweeping changes, before he ever spent any time with anyone on his team. I would have been more open to his ideas if he had not said to the whole team, in his first staff meeting, “Don’t worry everyone. I’ve cleaned up way worse messes than this one.” Gee, thanks boss. So glad you’re here to rescue us. Ugh.

  12. majigail*

    #3- I kind of disagree with Alison’s response, the school email is ok, but I think it would make me scratch my head if the application was anything but an entry level position. Email addresses are free and you can forward bunches of addresses to one place these days, I don’t see the benefit to sticking with the school address. (and what if the hiring manager was an alum of the school’s archnemesis!)

    1. Ruffingit*

      That was my thought as well. I don’t know that it would make a huge difference per se, but it’s so easy to get a gmail address, just go get one and be done with it.

    2. A Teacher*

      My sister’s gmail was hacked. Twice. After that she resorted to using her .edu email that she gets to use for life. She’s had no problems when applying for jobs with it.

      1. Chinook*

        I agree with AAM that the free email accounts aren’t for everyone. Every service comes with a price and yahoo and gmail ask for your privacy. As well, these companies are American based, which makes them subject to American laws and surveillance. I have come across many people and groups who object to this on principle and prefer to deal with Canadian based servers/companies (to the point of refusing to answer Survey Monkey questionnaires which led to one organization I work with to have to manage their surveys internally).

        1. the_scientist*

          Ugh, here in Canadian research/academia this is a real pain because the research ethics boards of some universities/institutions won’t approve projects that use surveymonkey for this reason. Allow me to take a moment to schill for Fluid Surveys; they store their data in Canada. I use them exclusively now.

      2. Ruffingit*

        Doesn’t have to be gmail, they could set up their own address as well or, as PEBCAK said, use two-factor authentication, which isn’t that hard with gmail.

        If someone wants to keep using their school email, go for it, but as a couple of others have commented, it might make some hiring managers wonder. Doesn’t mean they all will or even most, but some will.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Even with two-factor authentication, there are legitimate reasons not to want to use Gmail (privacy concerns, them owning your data, etc.). You can set up your own hosting (like but why spend the money and take on the (minimal) hassle when you have a free account from your school?

          Sure, some hiring managers may wonder, but that’s true of literally everything. Some hiring managers will wonder why you attached the cover letter to your email rather than putting it in the body of the message. And vice versa. You can only really play what feels reasonable to you, with an understanding of where the majority (and/or people who are like-minded to you) stand.

  13. Ruffingit*

    #4 – Did anyone else notice that the OP said this slacking off by Suzy is a recent development? That leads me to believe it wasn’t this way before, which makes me wonder what is going on with Suzy that she’s doing this now. Perhaps it might help, since everyone does get along, to pull Suzy aside and have a frank and honest discussion. “Suzy, we notice recently that you’re having a hard time completing the shared tasks. We know you’re trained on them and you know how to do them because you did them before. What’s going on?”

    1. tcookson*

      Oh, I took OP #4’s comment to mean that she and Barb only recently noticed that Suzy was slacking off. Like maybe the shared tasks were getting done, and it only recently became apparent that Suzy has had nothing to do with that.

  14. anon-2*

    #1 – way back when, I was familiar with a sleazy manager who posted want ads – for fictitious jobs — at a fictitious company – in the paper – to see who among his staff was looking for work, and why.

    Another dinner table story .

    #2 – yes, a non-disclosure is one thing. It’s very common in high tech.

    Just make sure you’re not signing a NON-COMPETE, which some people do without realizing it. Even if it’s not enforceable, and some aren’t , from a legal standpoint — some companies won’t get near someone who might have one.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      OMG! My former boss did that as well!
      He would post fake jobs on Craigslist all the time hoping to “catch” someone.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd*

        This place makes me feel naive sometimes.

        What would he DO if he “caught” somebody looking for another job?

        What’s the thought process? Fire them proactively? Withhold a bonus? Glare at them sharply from across the room?

        I don’t get it.

            1. anon-2*

              It would have been detailed in my Dinner Table Stories collection .. but … nah, it didn’t make the cut.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          Well one time at my work, the boss had a big meeting (with all 6 of us) about how we needed to “REALLY WORK HARD and PUT IN THE EFFORT” and that there weren’t “greener pastures” elsewhere and blah, blah, blah…

          The company wasn’t doing well at the time (as in we weren’t getting paid!) and I think a bit of this was in response to a job reference call he received about one of us. It was a terrible meeting, and he tried to make US all feel guilty the company was bombing due to his bad judgement calls.

          Needless to say, I would never ever use him as a job reference, which sucks.

    2. Judy*

      Actually, at all of my jobs (except the one with the security clearance, it had something more) have had NDAs in place as of hire. Basically saying that you will not disclose proprietary information about the company for ever. (Also because of being in engineering, I’ve always had invention agreements, which means even though I have my names on patents, they are assigned to and owned by the company.)

      That’s different than the agreements in a severance form, I’d guess. Those agreements probably say you won’t talk in a public forum about the company and won’t sue them for anything.

      Our company has non-compete agreements for Senior Managers and above, but I understand that it is only for 1 year and is only in very similar roles. So the marzipan platter advanced development manager can’t go to another company and do that for a year, but they can be the teapot spout design manager at another company. I think it also has a clause about only under force for “voluntary quits” and not for RIFs or other job actions.

  15. anon-2*

    I do have to qualify the non-compete – some do willingly sign, in exchange for extraordinary compensation.

    Example – you got in on the ground floor of a startup and stayed there for five years. BigShots, Inc. decides to buy out your company. You hold $5 million in stock. They may ask you for a non-compete in exchange for your stock (and the $5 million).

    On the other hand – if you are an employee, and you’re being terminated, and they say “we’ll give you six months’ severance, all you have to do is sign this —” and “this” is a statement preventing you from working for any competitors, or even in your field, for a period of time – three years is typical, but I’ve seen five thrown under people’s unsuspecting noses — RUN.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      That last bit is terrifying. And a good argument for reading something before you sign it. Make them sit there while you do.

      I had to sign a non-disclosure when I left Exjob (and so did anyone who toured the facilities), but it was mostly about proprietary processes. For me, it was just a formality; I didn’t know anything more than what was publicly available.

      1. anon-2*

        I have no problems with non-disclosure or non-disparagement; I don’t even have difficulty understanding *some* non-compete agreements. For example, if I were a principal owner of a firm and sold out, the buyer could expect me not to go out and start another company and undermine him.

        On the other hand – signing a non-compete – either as a condition of employment, or upon ending employment – as an ordinary line person – can be dangerous.

    2. Too true*

      My husband’s (former) employer tried to get him to sign a non-compete agreement when HE gave THEM his two week notice. The agreement went so far as to say that he could not do business with any of their vendors for a period of two years – even to the point of not buying gas from the station they had an account with, or paperclips from the same office supply store. He laughed and refused to sign it – what were they going to do at that point, fire him?

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd*

        That’s hysterical.

        My niece had someone tell her once that she was banned from working in an entire industry, anywhere in the US, because she’d signed a paper and had worked with them for three weeks as (wait for it) a 1099.

        What’s not hysterical is that these insane, unenforceable non-competes are an attempt to bully little people (and I don’t use the word “bully” lightly at all). I’ve had to talk friends and relations through this crazy stuff maybe 20 times in my life – “Calm down, they can’t do that. It’s okay, here’s what we do next.”

        1. anon-2*

          You laugh. And smile.

          And then say “I’m not laughing with you, I’m laughing AT you…” and then, walk away, not smiling.

          Had to do that once.

      2. Grace*

        So glad I’m in California where the California Supreme Court has ruled non-compete agreements are illegal and that employees can sue employers who try to prevent them from marking a living.

  16. PM*

    I thought maybe Letter 1 was referring to an employer monitoring internet activity to make sure employees weren’t job search on the clock, which makes sense. But to monitor your online accounts? That’s insane!!

      1. Hcat*

        I’m also wondering in general how effective those sites are for landing jobs. Has anyone ever had success posting an online resume and being contacted by a company? Seems to me that a site like Linked In is more widely used and more practical than Monsters or Indeed, and would not raise suspicions of a paranoid boss with what appears to be too much time on their hands.

        1. Anon*

          I got a job applying with Indeed, and scored a few interviews as well. However, I replied directly to the posting and didn’t have just a resume hanging out passively.

        2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd*

          We ran though the posted resumes on all of the majors when we had to hire for a specialty that we’d never hired for previously. It was a pretty painful experience but helpful because we were so green, we didn’t even know how to form a proper posting. (And such a specialty, we didn’t have other people’s ads to cheat off of.)

          I doubt I’d do it again. The candidates who had posted resumes were weak compared to those who responded to the ad we were finally able to place.

          I do think that our internal recruiter keeps her eye on the posted resumes on the majors for our common needs areas.

        3. JoAnna*

          My husband got his current job (he’s been there five years now) by posting his resume at and CareerBuilder. He didn’t apply to the company; they called him and asked for an interview. So yes, it does happen.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      It’s not unheard of for your employer to check your public LinkedIn or Facebook/Twitter accounts!

      Now WHY you would even friend or link to your employer, I don’t know. I don’t, so they can’t really “see” anything but my basic profile. If my work should “require” me to have a Facebook or Linkedin account, I create one just for work that is used ONLY for work. Be safe people and protect your privacy!

  17. Tara T.*

    There is only one way to solve the Suzy problem, and that is to set up a calendar in which everyone takes turns with the shared tasks. For example, one week Bill cleans the kitchen, the next week Jane cleans the kitchen, the next week Ed, and the next week Suzy. Everyone gets one week. If someone is on vacation on their week, they trade with another person.

  18. Vicki*

    AAM –

    What would your advice be to OP #1 concerning LinkedIn? I have read some things here before concerning updating LI while working and usually that’s seen as a normal thing for a professional to do (as long as you don’t add “Looking for New Ventures!” prominently at the top of your profile.)

    But how would the OP go about this when her boss is a paranoid loon?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, unless the manager is batshit insane (and he may be), it should be fine to update her LinkedIn profile. If asked, she can say she read an article about the importance of up-to-date social media profiles or something.

    2. AnonK*

      I had a batshit insane boss once. I subtly delinked from him on LinkedIn before I started my job search so he couldn’t see my profile. I may have limited how often I came up in a recruiter’s search, but I felt it was a worthwhile trade off to protect myself. I ended up finding a new job via my personal network, and would have never found it without LinkedIn to communicate with my professional connections.

      At one point, he noticed we were no longer connected in LinkedIn and I explained it off saying that I had been having problems with my contact list, send me a new connection request, blah blah blah.

  19. Cassie*

    #3: it’s a little confusing when I see people in industry using .edu addresses when they are more than a few years removed from school. I wonder if the person is currently affiliated with the university (e.g. are they adjunct professors?) – why else would they not be using their company email address?

    Obviously it’s different if you are applying for jobs (in my example, these would be guest speakers and such), but it would still be a little confusing unless the candidate was a recent graduate.

  20. Not an Email Snob*

    It would take a lot for an email address to prevent me from moving forward with interviewing or hiring someone who is otherwise qualified. e.g. is probably someone I’m going to pass over if I’m hiring someone for a job in PR for a finance company. Of course, if I’m hiring a burlesque queen, I’d probably not give it a second thought! Context matters. :) But an edu address? I wouldn’t think twice about it 99% of the time.

  21. Tara T.*

    My university used to not have the student e-mail addresses after a student graduated. However, they made a switch to Google Apps & told everyone they can keep their university e-mail after graduation. I still have mine. However, I would not use it for job searching, simply because school is separate from work. I am also afraid employers might wonder if I am still not happy with my career and considering others (so needing classes in other areas), or something like that. In any case, it could bring up questions. So, I use my Gmail or Yahoo address for job searching. I use my university address to get the newsletters with daily e-news from the university. So, my school e-mail address is still school-related.

  22. A Jane*

    #1 – job searching

    Under your LinkedIn privacy settings, there is an option to turn off your profile broadcasts. Basically, you can edit your profile and you won’t appear on the news feed with your new updates. It can help reduce the amount of noise if you’re job searching and you’re connected to your boss or other coworkers.

  23. anon*

    One thing to note about university addresses is that just because it’s .edu, it’s not a guarantee of increased privacy. For example, the university could be using Google Apps for Education, so while it wouldn’t be on the same public system as Gmail, it’s still powered by Google (and you could be accessing it through Outlook or Apple’s Mail client, but it’d still be the same back-end system). If the university uses Office 365, it’s the same deal, but with Microsoft. And truthfully, if the email is an on-premise-based system, they’ll have more issues with constrained space and will end up deleting your account in the future as a result. So while the school address might offer some limited additional protection, it’s not exactly a magic answer to privacy concerns.

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