my office-mate’s breast pump is too noisy, negotiating a 4-day work week, and more

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

1. The noise of my office-mate’s breast pump is driving me crazy

My office-mate and I are both women in our late 20s. She came back from maternity leave about three weeks ago. My workplace switched offices around about 7 months ago and we chose to bunk together. She pumps breast milk at her desk, as it’s apparently the most convenient place for her to do it. The pump makes a mechanical sound (like a little “hee-haw”). I am 100% fine with her pumping at her desk, despite the noise of the pump, in theory. The problem is that I guess she’s having supply problems (?), and so she ends up pumping for many hours of the day. I thought pumping was more like, twice a day, 30-45 minutes a pop or similar. This is 3-4 times a day, 60-90 mins each. The sound is becoming seriously irritating to me (and there is no end in reasonable sight), but our office doesn’t have anything alternative set up for her, and she would have to go to some trouble to do it while she’s trying to get back into the swing of things (in a job that’s not really conducive to being a new mom in a lot of ways–she’s had some trouble already with sick days, etc.). Also, it seems that it would be very difficult for her to pump elsewhere, given that she is pumping so many hours of the day at this point.

We’re a pretty informal office (see, e.g., my office-mate pumping in the same room as me), but we’ve had drama in recent months about people moving offices and switching office-mates, so I don’t want management to think I’m being high-maintenance or bitchy about the woman with a new infant. Suck it up? (So to speak.)

Yeah, I think that if you sucking it up is an option, that’s the easiest solution here. If you can’t, can you try headphones or something else to minimize or block the noise? But if those aren’t options and it’s getting in the way of your ability to focus, then it’s not unreasonable to ask if you can temporarily work in a different space.

Since you’re worried about being perceived as cranky about a nursing mom, just make it clear that that’s not the case, by being explicit about that — as in, “I love sharing an office with Jane and I think it’s great that offices are able to accommodate nursing moms now, but I’m having trouble focusing on work because of the noise pumping makes. I didn’t expect that to happen and I wish it weren’t the case, but it is. Is it possible for me to move to a quieter space? I’d be glad to move back once we’re out of this period or do whatever’s easiest for the situation as a whole.”

2. Asking for a four-day week when negotiating for a junior-level position

My boyfriend is currently in the process of interviewing for a position he’s fairly interested in. It’s a junior position and would be a pay cut for him, but would be a lot more reliable and steady for him compared to his current situation. They’ve asked him a few times if he’s okay that it’s a junior position, since his experience indicates that he might be happier with something at a higher level. (He probably would, but he’s been searching for about a year, and this is the first promising opportunity to come along, and he’d still get to expand his skill set).

If he is offered the position, the starting salary is $30,000 a year. He would like to try to negotiate a higher salary, and plans to do so. If, however, it turns out that they aren’t willing to budge on the salary, do you think it would be completely out of line to try to negotiate in terms of work hours? For example, if he were able to do a 4 day work week at $30,000, this would this would bring him closer to a rate of pay with which he is comfortable. The position doesn’t seem to require him to work with clients, and would involve mostly independent work. I think this could be a great solution, but I’m not sure if it’s completely unheard of to negotiate in this way.

It’s easier to do for a senior position than for one more junior, because junior positions tend to be easier to fill and senior candidates are usually in a better position to make demands (their skills are more sought after, etc.). With a junior position, I’d only ask for a four-day work week if it’s truly the only way he’d accept the position; in that case, he has nothing to lose if they say no. But if he’d want the job regardless, he risks them thinking he’s less committed and will be dissatisfied with the salary (and thus likely to keep looking at other jobs).

And while the chances of them saying yes aren’t zero, they’re fairly low — they’d have to (a) really want him, enough to be okay with him working 80% of the time their other good candidates would work, and (b) be convinced that the workload of the position allows it (what’s going to happen to the other 20% of the work?).

3. What can I do now to make my next job search (in a few years) easier?

After seven months of searching, and with a lot of help from your blog, I’ve found a job that looks like a great fit! However, in the process of this search, I discovered that my skills and my network were woefully inadequate, and I wonder whether it might have taken less time if I’d done some things differently in the years before I decided to change positions.

Do you have suggestions for things a person can do while she has a job to make the next job hunt easier?

Yes! Start thinking now about what move you’re likely to want to make next (in a few years, say), and then take a look at ads for those positions now. What skills and experience are they asking for? Once you know that, you can start thinking about a plan to get that experience and develop those skills over the next couple of years, so that by the time you’re looking again, you’re better positioned.

4. Should let terrible applicants know what’s wrong with their applications?

I’m a hiring manager at a small business, and we add part-time employees every 6-12 months. In my job listing, I ask for a concise, specific cover letter that includes some specific information regarding availability, etc. My listing even pokes fun at ourselves, in hopes that it will encourage those applying to be a little more relaxed with us. Without fail, I receive applications that do not mention the company name, don’t have a cover letter, claim to want to work in my restaurant (which is nowhere near accurate), or are barely in English. Today, I received a link to a cover letter hosted on DropBox (with no file extension, so it couldn’t be opened), which told me that it was last updated 3 months ago. When I see things like this, I’m not surprised that these applicants are still looking for work. I find that I want to reply and explain to them why they’re not going to be considered, hoping that it may help their job hunt in the future. Is this inappropriate? Rude? Or should I just ignore them and go to the next applicant?

Well, some people will genuinely welcome the feedback, others think they would welcome it but will bristle when they get it, and others will respond with outright hostility. So one question for you is whether you’ll mind it when that happens, because it will happen.

Overall, it’s a kind impulse, but ultimately it’s not your job, and probably not the best use of your time either (and it’s worth noting that there’s no shortage of advice online about this stuff if these candidates cared to go looking for it). So sure, maybe if you have a particular rapport with a candidate, you might offer advice to them, but I wouldn’t spend the time to do it across the board. (Says the person who was so annoyed by this stuff that she started a blog about it seven years ago…)

5. Including a language on your resume that you’re in the process of learning

Is it appropriate to say you’re currently learning X language on your resume, or should you only mention a language if you are fluent in it? Does the answer change if you’re having formal classes or being self-taught?

Sure, you can include that, and it can be helpful to do so. If nothing else, it’s a point in favor of you being someone who goes out of her way to learn things. Make sure that you’re clear that you’re currently learning it so that people don’t misinterpret, but as long as you’re clear, it’s fine.

{ 199 comments… read them below }

  1. justmary*

    About q#1, is there anything that nursing mom could do to muffle the sound of the pump? i.e.Wrapping the pump in a blanket or sitting it in a drawer? I don’t have experience with this but just trying to help with a couple of suggestions. Good luck!

    1. KarenT*

      Good call. I just Googled it and apparently this is a common issue. There are breast pump cozies for sale and others recommend wrapping the motor in a sweater.

        1. Jessa*

          That and possibly headphones that do white noise or music you like, could be the ticket. Especially since it seems the company is not gung ho on people switching rooms and this is a touchy situation. The next person might not be close enough to the OP’s friend/coworker to be willing to pump in the same space.

    2. rando*

      Yes this seems like the best option. Search with the mother for ways to deal with the sound. Also, headphones would be a great solution.

      Eventually she will stop pumping. I would stick around if you like her as an office mate. Other people could be clipping their toenails at their desk for all you know!

      1. Nursing Mom too*

        I agree; try to work through it together or wear headphones if possible. As a working/nursing mother myself, I would add that chances are – after pumping that long (and she probably is experiencing supply troubles based on the time she spends pumping), she probably loathes that pump at this point. Stress is a huge factor with milk supply and being at work makes it really tough. I feel for this mom! I would bet a hefty sum of cash that she is as sick of the sound as you are, trust me, pumping is not enjoyable at ALL. But it’s a necessary means to end for those who want to continue to provide breast milk while working outside the home. Hang in there, try to offer her some support too, she might be really struggling!
        (And Letter Writer, on behalf of all pumping moms, thank you for taking the approach you have already, its refreshing!)

        1. hilde*

          I totally agree with everything you said. Stress is a MAJOR factor in a milk supply, so it’s probably vicious cycle for her (being stressed there’s no milk decreases the milk, which stresses her more, which decreases the milk, etc.). Also, having a job that’s not very nursing-mother friendly is stressful and if she’s been sick that can really affect milk supply. Also ITA that pumping gets old. I had/have a great nursing relationship with my babies and I nursed them for a very long time, but good grief pumping got old. I drag my feet to do it now so it’s not all fun and games. I feel for her, too ….but I also feel for you, OP, because having to essentially share in the pumping experience all day has got to be annoying.

          I agree with the ideas above about trying to muffle the noise/wearing headphones. Is it possible for you to work from a different place in the building when she’s pumping? Maybe one of the long sessions just to give you a break from it, too? Otherwise, I think if you can just find a way to not focus on that noise or drown it out and ride it out for the next several months it might be the best way to maintain a good relationship with her after it’s all said and done. I hate to say it, but if she’s having supply issues this early she may not continue pumping/nursing for that long because it’s too hard. It makes me sad for the mother when that happens but I have seen it happen more often than not.

          1. AnonNE*

            +100 as a former nursing/pumping mom who used the ladies room – yuck! This poor lady is stressed and maybe has an inadequate pump too. Headphones or a break for you is the best way to go. Good luck and kudos for being a good office mate.

          2. ggg*

            That poor, poor mom. If she really is pumping for hours a day, she needs a lactation consultant and/or a better pump. Also, I cannot imagine pumping at my desk and I have a private office. Maybe that is what is getting her into the stress/low supply feedback loop.

            It won’t go on forever. Try some noise canceling headphones, and be as supportive as you can.

        2. Erin B.*

          I’m nursing and pumping at work, too. I can’t imagine having to go for an hour at a time.

          I hope the OP can find some way to address this with sensitivity. That poor woman probably already feels enough anxiety about pumping without thinking about annoying her coworkers, too. (My sister once joked that my pump sounded like it was laughing at me, and I burst into tears.)

      2. Meg Murry*

        Yes to the “other people could be clipping their toenails”! If you got along well with your officemate before this pumping situation I highly suggest you try to ride it out with headphones, a fan or white noise machine or earplugs. Because chances are good that the office you would move into would have an officemate with other habits that annoyed you like toenail clipping, loud chewing all day, overwhelming perfume, etc – I think this might be one of those “devil you know vs devil you don’t situations” The only exceptions I could see to this would be if 1) You have another good friend at the office with an empty desk that you could ask to move to.
        Or 2) The noise is preventing you from doing a large part of your job, like making phone calls to clients.

        And for those of you who have been there and have heard the pump “speaking” to you, you might find this amusing:

        1. snippet*

          That article about the pump “talking” is hilarious! I laughed out loud! So, so funny. I can completely relate!

  2. Wen*

    #5- I am a project manager in the translation industry, so of course a language is always a must. In terms of listing your languages, list them based off the level of fluency that you feel the most comfortable USING them. I speak fluent French and fluent Spanish, but on my resume I say that I am “fluent in French and conversational in Spanish.” I do not say that I am fluent in Spanish because I am not fuy comfortable using my Spanish in depth.
    Either list the language you are currently learning as “elementary proficiency – currently learning,” or “conversational – currently learning.” Again, list this based off of level of COMFORT, not based off of passing a language test or whatnot, because when push comes to shove, if you claim to speak it and you are put on the spot, you best need to be able to speak it.

    1. Puffle*

      +1 for basing off comfort. Having a piece of paper that says you passed a test in a language is one thing, but being comfortable with and feeling able to speak a foreign language at work is entirely another. As a side-note, it’s perfectly fine to feel uncomfortable about speaking a foreign language at work, but it’s best to be up-front about your boundaries and your abilities to make sure that you’re not going to be asked to do something that you honestly don’t think you can do well enough.

    2. De*

      Exactly. And if it’s really, really basic and you are not currently learning leave it off. I can speak a little Dutch and like most Germans can understand much of it but that’s not something I would feel comfortable adding to a resume. So it’s fluent German and English and moderate French :-)

      1. Jen RO*

        I am officially a beginner in German, but since I can barely say two words, I’m leaving it off until I can hold a basic conversation.

    3. Jen RO*

      I list mine as “beginner”, “intermediate” or “advanced” (and you could add “native” if applicable). In Europe, CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) levels are used sometimes. I won’t link to wiki because it’s the middle of the night for Alison and my comment would be stuck in moderation.

      I also list my certifications – I don’t know if they exist/are used in the US or not, but in Europe there are official certifications for most (all?) languages – such as DELE (Diploma de Espanol como Lengua Extranjera), CAE/CPE (Certificate of Advanced English/Certificate of Proficiency in English), DELF/DALF (Diplôme d’études en langue française/Diplôme approfondi de langue française) or ZD (Zertifikat Deutsch).

        1. Lucy*

          I also include “elementary” which I use to mean “I would be comfortable talking to a 4th grader, and I can understand what everyone is saying, but I’m not fully conversational yet.”

          1. Green*

            I’m not sure I would include “elementary” unless it would be of some value. I took Farsi and French but would never be able to add value to my employer through those languages and having them on my resume can only lead to the mistaken impression that I may be able to use them.

            I am able to use Spanish in the workplace, but I was often expected to go above my level of comfort in the language (because there was nobody else), and when we needed additional Spanish speakers I often turned to a database populated by the employees themselves. It was extremely irritating to try to draw upon resources of people who really meant that they took a year of the class in high school, could count to 10, say their name, order a beer and ask where the bathroom was.

            I’d put it under hobbies/interests as “learning new languages” or something if you aren’t able to use it in the workplace.

            1. Ethyl*

              Or like I did when I was unemployed and listed it in my cover letter as part of the “what I’ve been doing since being laid off,” along with my volunteer experience.

            2. Elysian*

              I agree, I wouldn’t include a language unless it would be useful to your employer. If someone “remembers” that Employee “speaks” X and forces Employee to translate, it could lead to misunderstandings, discomfort, and occasionally legal trouble.

              I’ve notice this is particularly true with sign language – there are a lot of sign language variants, and too often I’ve seen employers grab an employee who basically knows only the alphabet and is stuck trying to translate something complex to someone who can’t even express that they don’t understand. Things can only go downhill from there, honestly.

            3. anonintheuk*

              Or my former colleague, who announced he spoke very good German, so I left him a German double taxation claim to make while I was on holiday, to find I had to do it when I came back.
              (I would say *I* spoke fluent German, but I have a degree in it, lived there for 18 months, and have been mistaken for a native speaker).

              1. Beth*

                To be fair — you can be a very eloquent conversation partner and become completely stumped by trade jargon. It can even happen in your native language. I’ve had to ask people at work to explain something as though I was a complete idiot — because I just had NONE of their jargon. And just this morning I had to translate jargon to idiot language myself.

            4. Lucy*

              I’m marketing – and in some cases I need to translate advertisements from French, Spanish and German into English, which my elementary proficiency allows me to do, but I can’t be on a conference call with people speaking any of those languages and be expected to contribute.

          2. Poohbear McGriddles*

            I considered myself to have an “elementary” proficiency with German, but then I tried watching Bernd das Brot and dubbed episodes of SpongeBob Squarepants (Schwammkopf?) while on a business trip to Hamburg a couple of years ago. So I would imagine it will take some work to get to 4th grader level!
            That said, I did find that my high school German lessons helped a lot in terms of cultural exposure as well as understanding sentence structure. And high school Latin has been very useful in figuring out signs in French and Spanish!

    4. S.K.*

      This entire subthread makes me feel like a lazy idiot for only knowing English.

      I guess I know a little Spanish through osmosis from when my kids used to watch Dora. Largo, corto, rojo…

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        And the subthread made me feel like a geek, because when she asked about learning another language, I thought she was talking about c# or ruby or python or something like that!

  3. neverjaunty*

    Isn’t the real problem for OP #1 that their workplace won’t find a better way to accommodate her co-worker? I think OP has a wonderful attitude toward the situation, but I can’t imagine even so that it’s a comfortable situation for the new mom to pump at her desk in a shared office!

    1. J.B.*

      As someone currently pumping at work (in my own office thankfully!) – for the OPs office mate pumping at her computer may help her keep from taking extra time in the day. However, having to do that in a shared office or be in a shared office with someone pumping – uggh!

      I’d recommend the OP talk to her office mate about it first, see if she is just as uncomfortable and what her thoughts might be.

      As to the hour at a time – yeah I’ve heard of people doing that, but 15-20 mins is the usual recommendation.

    2. Anon*

      Agreed. I would suggest the OP take this approach with the higher-ups: mention that while you love sharing space with your office mate, common decency dictates that a different arrangement should be worked out for the next several months for the sake of the new mom’s privacy while pumping.

      Many states even have laws in place regarding the accommodations that offices need to make for breastfeeding/pumping mothers.

      1. Domi*

        I would be careful about the language used around “accomodating” mom…maybe mom doesn’t feel she needs further accomodation. Insinuating that its common decencey for someone breastpump or breastfeed in total privately can also interpreted very negatively – I’m a full supporter of the right for mom to breast feed in public, and for accomodations to be made by coworkers and employers alike around something as important as breastfeeding! And maybe she prefers to pump at her desk given the extended period of time its taking – so she can get work done. Not saying this is the case – just worth thinking through before we decide what accomodation mom needs. My preference would be to ensure mom is comfortable and then focus on what could be done for the OP in this situation (ie: quiet area she could sit at for periods of time where intense concentration is needed, headphones, etc.)

        1. Just a Reader*

          The office environment is different though. An officemate has the right to not want to share an office with someone who has her boobs out all day.

          1. OP #1*

            I use the t-word in the office with her. I meant it when I said we are informal. Amazingly, due to the setup of the desks in our shared office, I have not seen her t-words once.

          2. Beth*

            I agree – I’d find that seriously awkward for everyone involved even if nothing was flashed or whatever.

            1. sunny-dee*

              Yes, this. I am not a mother, but I would feel terribly uncomfortable being in an office with someone who was partially disrobed for 4-5 hours a day.

              Likewise, I would feel uncomfortable being partially disrobed for 4-5 hours a day, even if I were with a good friend.

        2. Anon*

          Please do not put words in my mouth – I was in no way insinuating that it would be common decency for the new mom to pump only in private. Rather, it would be common decency (and in some states, it is a legal requirement) for her workplace to offer her privacy for the task. Very different angle.

          1. april*

            This is my first time posting. But it is now a legal requirement in ALL states which started when ACA was signed. I am not a lawyer but I was a pumping mother and that was my savior. Now, it does only cover exempt employees so it may not cover the OP’s office mate.

        3. cmg16*

          Im a nursing mom and I pump at work. There’s a world of difference between nursing (which I do any/everywhere including at times in work-related settings) and pumping! I can’t imagine pumping with someone else in the room. I pump in a supply closet where I have a chair set up…it’s nice because I know no one will come in, and I can bring my computer in and have 15 mins of quiet time. Pumping for an hour in a shared space sounds like hell.

    3. Kacie*

      Considering that sometimes “accommodations” means the mom will have to pump in the staff restroom, I think the mom is in the best situation she can be here. Like others have said, I applaud the office mate for trying to work this out while being sensitive to the workplace issues mom might be facing.

    4. Hiring Manager*

      I want to know what state the OP is in. For example, in California an employer must provide a private place (not a toilet stall) for women to pump. While that can be the employee’s office, it fails in this instance because it’s not private.

      1. Jamie*

        I know what they need to offer, but is it an absolute in that the employee can’t waive the privacy aspect if they (and others) don’t mind?

        Per the OP she’s pumping between 3-6 hours per day. If she had to take that much time away from her desk on a break other issues come into play. I doubt any court would side with an employee taking 6 hours worth of breaks. So since the OP doesn’t mind and the woman pumping doesn’t mind it would seem that enforcing the letter of the law would be worse for the pumping mom.

        I agree with the law, because privacy should always be available both for the mom and others who don’t want to happen upon her pumping – but it seems like this is one of those things that they should have to provide, but maybe not require it’s use in instances when it’s not warranted.

        1. Hiring Manager*

          But the OP does mind. The noise is driving her nuts and I’m guessing the lack of privacy could be impacting her office mate’s ability to produce milk. The office mate can pump and work so the best solution is to simply give her a private office while she’s still breastfeeding her baby.

          I agree that 3-6 hours of pumping per workday probably wouldn’t meet a reasonable test for a normal non-exempt employee. I believe non-exempt employees have to use their state mandated break time for pumping.

          My offices have a “mothers’ room”. We built it when Cal Osha first implemented this law in 2001. It’s got full plumbing, a refrigerator for expressed milk, comfortable chairs, plugs for laptops, wireless, a lock on the door, etc. We chose to build a room even though some women said they were comfortable pumping in their offices (no locks but would put a DND on the door; and glass wall starting at about 6′) in order to accommodate those women who don’t have a private office. At any given time, I probably have 2 women using it; I issue a key to them and we let them work out the schedule with each other. I work in legal so we there’s extra incentive for them to follow the law. While nearly all of the users have been exempt (attorneys, managers), we have had a number of non-exempt staff and assistants also use it.

          1. Judy*

            When I was pumping at work, there were two/one/two of us. They set up an office out of the way, swapped doors out so there were no windows, and put a lock on that only the security staff had keys. We had to clean up after ourselves and did after each session, so that we didn’t leave a mess for the other and leave the trash can outside the door. They put in a mini fridge for us to use, and there was a phone and ethernet and power. Basically a standard office, but with locks and no windows. It was not far from a restroom, so if we needed to clean something up, it worked out well.

            When I came back from maternity leave, another mom was using it, then after 3 months or so, she was done. I had the room to myself for a few more months, then shared it again.

          2. Jamie*

            Right – and that needs to be addressed…I was speaking to the privacy issue which she doesn’t mind.

        1. Hiring Manager*

          Bummer. Here’s a link to a roundup of all b-feeding laws in the states, including the pumping at work stuff. Good luck! I hope you guys and your employer can find a solution that works for all of you. Your office mate will appreciate the privacy, you will appreciate the quiet and maybe when she’s got a better routine/production going you can move back in together.

  4. vvondervvoman*

    Re #3, I thoroughly enjoy updating my /resume a little bit at a time. Big accomplishment? New certification? I go home and write a line in! It’s way less stressful than trying to do it all at once, possibly after being laid off or feeling desperate to move on.

    Same with networking. It’s infinitely more difficult to do when you’re looking for a job. Much easier to talk to folks because you’re interested in talking with them and genuinely want to build relationships.

    This is more long-term rather than for a next job, but one particularly dorky thing I do is I have a “future resume.” I have pretty lofty goals as to what I want to be doing in 10-15 years. So I do what Alison suggests and look at the job descriptions of those positions and figure out what skills/experiences/education I need to acquire. And then I find other jobs that would give me those qualifications and write up an example of what the next 10 years of my professional life *could* look like.

    I keep it light (the accomplishments I list are things like “Implemented super cool program for refugee population with limited resources”) because it’s not meant to be serious or absolute, just a fun way to get inspiration and brainstorm different ways to obtain those qualifications.

    1. Sunflower*

      I just want to say looking at jobs you’d be interested in and then finding jobs that would give you those qualifications is a really good idea! I would never think if doing something like that but it makes a lot of sense!

    2. themmases*

      I do these too! It’s easy and kind of fun to just update your CV as things happen, when you have the relevant information in front of you. It also helps if you do what some people here do, which is keep a long master resume of every job and then cut it down for specific openings. (Personally I keep a spreadsheet of every project, and a CV of what’s likely the most important stuff.) When you always have an up to date resume, you can find other uses for it, too, like always being able to offer a copy to someone you’re asking for career advice. In my industry, some sponsors want them from everyone working on a project, too.

      A few years ago when I was really unhappy with a situation at work, I wrote up a list of ways my ideal position would be. There are many different roles someone could have in any given industry, and it really helped me clarify what type of organization I was willing to work for, what role I wanted on a team, and which skills it was personally important to me to develop.

      1. Anonymous*

        These are great suggestions! I’m the letter writer on that question, and part of my issue was that I was trying to get into a new field in a new town, so I hope things will be easier next time around.

        As an tntrovert, I’m worried that I’ll let my networking slip as soon as it doesn’t seem like an urgent necessity.

        1. vvondervvoman*

          I’m introverted too, so what I do is pretend I’m not networking. Sounds a little weird, but instead of calling it networking in my head, I make a goal of going to one professional development training/certification/etc. either every quarter or 6 months (depending on the commitment). That forces me in a room with other professionals in similar fields for hours/days and by nature of what you’re doing, you’re forced to chat with them.

          I did/do this in the beginning to sort of “practice” networking because it was lower stakes (they weren’t in my field, but would be good contacts). Now that I’m more comfortable with talking to strangers, I’m going to make it a goal for this year or next to attend a national conference in my very narrow field and will flex my networking muscles.

        1. themmases*

          I coordinate clinical research, so I created one with a yes/no column for every task I might normally do, who owned the project, and what the outcome of a project was. Reading down, you get a list of every project I’ve spent significant time on. Reading across, you get a column for every possible outcome (paper, presentation, was I an author) and every possible thing I normally help with (set-up, collect data, edit the paper, etc.). Then each cell just has a 0 or 1. If we did have an important result, like getting published, I put the specifics in a comment cell.

          I really like this because it lets me say very specific stuff in cover letters like “I collected data for 4 projects that were later published as papers” really quickly, knowing it’s true and how I decided that.

          I actually set this up this year because I was revising my CV and realized I couldn’t remember where a project count came from in talking about my job. It’s hard to do when you’re new to a role and can’t know everything you’ll accomplish yet. Before I set up this spreadsheet, I had a more free-form one where I just listed the project name, results, collaborators, and important dates; and I saved the most important emails about each project’s purpose and outcome.

  5. Stephanie*

    OP #3

    I’d get involved in local relevant professional organizations now (like, say, The Society of Teapot Designers, Albuquerque chapter). It’s way less stressful to network when you don’t need a new job. You don’t feel pressured to make every connection count and people don’t feel pressured to help out someone they don’t know well. Plus, you’ll get exposed to colleagues at different companies.

    1. Sunflower*

      Along with this, attend conferences or seminars related to your industry.

      I’ve always found these to be the best networking opportunities since conversation about the industry flows easier than say a networking event at a bar. Plus you’re building your knowledge and skills.

    2. Fiona*

      Agreed! It’s also a great way to stay on top of what’s happening locally in your industry, which helps you sound smart in future interviews.

    3. Artemesia*

      And you may be able to do a few favors to these other members — perhaps pass along job notices at your current employer. You become someone who is giving assistance and then it is easier to ask for it down the road. The new member of a group who is immediately trolling for jobs tend to put people off. The new member who can announce a job opening instantly has more credibility.

      My son in law has been very active in receiving job notices from some of his networks and passing them along through other networks or even to specific individuals. So when he suddenly needed to find a new job, it took him all of two weeks with his well developed network in place.

    4. squid*

      Best part about networking now, when you don’t need anything, is you can stop thinking of it as “networking” (a task) and start thinking of it as “meeting interesting new people in my field” (a pleasure.)

      +1 to all the other comments to this post.

  6. heyyoume*

    To #2 – I think this is risky. If it were me I would ask about moving to a four day week after six months when I had proven myself in the role. When I’m hiring if I ask someone if they are comfortable with the fact that it is a junior role I mean ALL aspects of the fact that it is a junior role. That would be the point that I would expect them to raise the salary question especially if I had been explicit about the pay rate.

    1. Jen RO*

      Yeah… it sounds risky to me too. Especially since the hiring manager is already unsure the boyfriend is OK with a junior job. Asking for a 4-day week would say to me that he is not actually OK with it.

    2. John*

      “Junior” role typically means you need to be there when things happen. I know people like to say, “But I can get all my work done in four days” but that’s not true if you aren’t there when they need you.

      Bad idea, OP.

      (I say this as someone in a more senior role who would also be missing some of the work if he tried such an arrangement)

      1. OP here!*

        Yea, this answer isn’t a surprise. And it makes sense that it’s not a good idea for all the reasons mentioned. It’s just a bit disheartening that the shift to something more reliable (as opposed to well-paying but ultimately unreliable contract work) seems like it’s going to require such a massive pay cut, despite being qualified for higher paying jobs that just aren’t calling back.

        Such is the job market right now, I suppose.

        We’re still not sure if there’s a benefits package involved or not. That may be the job’s saving grace.

        1. Graciosa*

          Taking a pay cut to move from unreliable contract work to a more reliable position is not going to be just the job market right now – it’s pretty much the norm. This is the typical trade off between contract work and regular positions.

          The job market could certainly be influencing the level of permanent positions if that’s what you meant – assuming that there are a lot of well qualified candidates competing for a few openings. Improvements in the market from a candidate perspective could certainly change this at some point, but the disparity between pay for contract work and more permanent positions will probably remain, so you shouldn’t expect this to change.

          I say this from the frustrating perspective of knowing someone who has consistently chosen the position with the highest pay rate without regard to permanency, benefits, or the volatility of contract work. I tend to believe that most individual households do better with steady work, and that the lower pay rate can be a better deal when you have a better chance of continuing to receive it. The high pay rate for contract work has to make up for periods of no income at all.

          That said, I have to say that I’m definitely on the side of those who think asking for reduced hours or a compressed work schedule would be a mistake. As a manager, I have $X in my budget to get certain work done. Spending $X to get 80% of the work done is not an attractive proposition, while also suggesting that the candidate is not that interested in the work and is already looking for ways to slack off.

          1. AVP*

            Agreed- in my field people can go back and forth from contract/freelance to permanent employment easily and often. Our general shorthand is that your freelance day rate is twice your staff day rate.

            Reasons for this include: as a contractor you’re being compensated extra for the convenience to your employer (it works out better for the company that they can only call you in when needed), you are responsible for all your own taxes, you’re not using the benefits package that staff has.

        2. Chriama*

          Since they’ve asked him if he’s ok with the junior level role they probably already suspect that he’s going to jump ship as soon as he can get a better offer. I don’t judge him for that, but a company that has already expressed reservations about his long-term commitment will probably go for a safer bet if they can. If his aim is to have this job, he should probably be quiet. If he doesn’t mind a longer search and definitely wouldn’t take the job at 30k then he can speak up because he has nothing to lose.

        3. The IT Manager*

          What Graciosa said! The reason contractors are paid more than permanent employees is the temporary, uncertain nature of their work.

          I know your BF is also looking at a junior level position which makes the pay more, but a contractor will probably always be paid more because the extra pay makes up for the uncertainty on his part and the flexibility on the company’s part.

          1. Emily K*

            Self-employed contractors are paid about 7-8% more in taxes for Social Security and Medicare (if you’re employed, your employer pays half of the 15.3% tax and you pay half, but if you’re self-employed, you pay the whole thing).

        4. Robin*

          I don’t know what industry we’re talking about here, but if a junior level position is all that’s available, but he works hard and really proves himself, he’ll be in a great position to move up to a more senior level pretty quickly. Look at it as paying his dues.

      2. Cat*

        This is a good point. In the energy markets, you sometimes get paid separately for capacity vs. actual generation – that is, you receive one payment for agreeing to make your generator available to run at a certain time and another payment if it’s actually called upon to run. If you’re a full-time employee, you’re only getting one payment but that payment encompasses both energy (the work you do) and capacity (your availability to be called upon when needed), but you are actually valuable for both reasons. And I think you’re right – junior-level positions are often more capacity-heavy then senior ones.

      3. books*

        Right, junior roles are expected to be the catch all of the office and pick up slack or do mundane but important things at the drop of a hat. If I drop the hat on Friday and he’s not there, that’s a problem.

    3. Colette*

      The issue with asking later is that if you work 5 days for $X, working 4 days would reasonably involve a salary of $X*.8 – in other words, there’s no reasonable way to ask for it then that doesn’t involve a pay cut.

      1. fposte*

        And as a hiring manager, I’d just be scratching my head. So you want me to find a second hire who comes in only one day a week, or just do without 20% of the work? The fact that the candidate is taking a pay cut doesn’t lessen the amount of work I need this position to accomplish.

        1. Anonymous*

          I’d think that depends on whether the role is new or not. If the new hire is replacing someone else, then yeah, 100% is surely needed. But sometimes in new positions that’s not the case.

          1. fposte*

            At least in my organization, if we could have gotten by with an 80% position it would definitely have been listed as that–we’re too cheap to default to full-time.

        2. Sunflower*

          This whole question had me scratching my head. I think OP sees it since he has more experience than other people in this position would, by working less hours hes getting paid more for his expertise. They’re paying a junior level position so they don’t care if you can do your manager’s job. They aren’t paying for your expertise.

          I get where OP was going but…no. just no.

          1. AdAgencyChick*

            +1. Especially since OP’s BF has already been asked several times whether he’d be OK with a more junior role. To me that question means, “Are you okay with the fact that we’re not going to reward you for your additional expertise?” That means both salary and hours.

        3. Colette*

          Yeah, it might be possible to do this in some situations, but you’d need a compelling reason (one strong enough that you’d be willing to quit if you couldn’t work 4 days a week – I’m thinking something like needing more time for family commitments). “I don’t think I’m being paid enough” isn’t enough.

      2. Sunflower*

        I feel like he would have to be asking for more work or more advanced work for it to equal out and then it becomes a totally different position…

      3. Celeste*

        I don’t think that when somebody offers you a junior position, you should think it’s okay to offer working less hours for the salary in order to bump up your own hourly rate. I understand all about the past as a contract worker, but it’s not a fair comparison when he was being more highly compensated at least in part for the instability.

        I think you have to factor the stability into it. If there is opportunity for mobility, all the better. If he’s interested in doing a great job as a junior, he might be really positioned to make the jump back to a senior. But at the very least he’d have stability and an income while he decides what he thinks of the company.

        I hope it works out!

  7. Mary*

    #1 Being European and not US based I probably have a different view of this to the majority. But should the op ask to be moved out of the shared cube/office to give the office mate privacy while pumping, rather than the noise is distracting the op from her work.

    Do workplaces in the USA have breastfeeding policies?

  8. jennifer*

    Nursing and pumping mom here. OP1, your office mate is really pumping a lot. I pumped 3x/day for 15 to 20 mins each. If you can suck it up, she will probably be pumping less and less as she learns which times of day are most productive and also starts to hate the thing. For instance, I learned quickly that pumping 4x/day gave me the same amount of milk and took more time from work.

    You might want to somehow ask if she’s really pumping the whole time. Because the tubing gets condensation in it and I was told to just run the thing with the tubing attached to dry it out. I vant suggest how to say it though. I had some snarky comments about the amount of time I spent in the conference room (where I pumped) but I decided to just ignore it. But when things are not going well (I’m assuming they aren’t based on the amount of timeshe spends pumping) any comment can be the last straw.

    1. Stephanie*

      Another pumping mom here.

      Just want to chime in that everyone is different and responds to pumping differently. My daughter is 10 months old, so I tried eliminating one of my day pumps for a few days last week (still pumping 30 mins, 3 x during the workday) and my output dropped too much. I’ve tried decreasing my pump time too, but I get a similar drop in a day or two. So I am back to pumping 3x, 30min again.

      That all said, I am pretty sure I would have given up if I needed to pump an hour plus at a time!

  9. Anon*

    #1: Breast pumps are very noisy. I had to pump and the noise level and the stupid sound it made drove ME crazy. “Hee haw” is actually a pretty accurate description. I can only imagine how maddening it would be for a colleague to listen to all day, every day.

    You’re not being unreasonable. I’d have a quiet word with the boss and see if it’s possible for you to move offices. It’s nice that you care about your colleague but, ultimately, you need to be able to get your own work done.

  10. Grant*

    I feel so badly for that new mom. That’s a lot of pumping. I’m sure she wishes she weren’t pumping that much. Could you suggest she see a lactation consultant or get some domperidone (a magical and safe drug that increases supply). It would probably be weird to make those suggestion…. But maybe not since she is pumping in the same room as you!

    1. Grant*

      Actually maybe pumping in front of someone is part of the problem. I had a much easier time when I was relaxed and watched/listened to a few small videos of my baby.

    2. jennifer*

      Personally, I would shy away from making any suggestions or offering any advice–no matter how well-meaning, thoughtful or well-researched. Being in the thick of it myself, with a 1-year old, if you don’t have a kid, I don’t need or want your advice. It just feels like criticism.

      1. fposte*

        This is what I’m thinking. I think with an existing good relationship it can be fine to talk about a white-noise fan, or even, if you get along really well, the motor mufflers, but anything about the actual lactation process is off limits to me.

      2. some1*

        “if you don’t have a kid, I don’t need or want your advice”

        I would think even if you *do* have a kid, if the mom wants your advice she will ask for it. Every woman is different, and presumably she has a doctor and knows that lactation consultants exist, ntm, I’m sure she knows how to use google if she wants to search online for help.

      3. k*

        >> Being in the thick of it myself, with a 1-year old, if you don’t have a kid, I don’t need or want your advice. It just feels like criticism.

        So those who have been in a similar situation (dealing with a pumping coworker) are simply criticizing? I would find it EXTREMELY distracting to listen to “hee-haw” so long during the day. I’m surprised this is even allowed and that the OP is bending over backwards to accommodate this.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          But I think there’s a difference here between criticism and raising an issue.

          Offering unsolicited advice = criticizing, and is unlikely to be welcome.

          Honestly being unable to deal with the situation (and OP, I don’t blame you if you can’t), and going to the manager and asking for some kind of resolution — which could mean moving OP, moving the nursing woman, or finding a better space where the nursing woman can go — is not criticism. It’s “how can we make this work for both of us?” as against “you’re doing it wrong,” which is how I think unsolicited advice would come off.

          1. k*

            I completely, completely agree.. I am just tired of the “I’m a parent, your advice doesn’t matter unless you’re a parent” and the “As a parent (because my input has more weight than yours)…” comments.

            I think OP1 is being extremely accommodating, way beyond what I would expect one of my employees to do. There comes a point where your personal productivity loses ground to try to accommodate someone where the employer should be doing their job to do this. The new mother needs better accommodations, plain and simple.

            1. Anonymous*

              Well, there’s a difference between “I am being affected by the situation in this way and would like this change to happen” and “I think I can suggest a better way for you to do a thing that has nothing to do with me.”

              The OP has legitimate input into the noise level if her/his own office, but not into the breastfeeding behavior of her/his officemate.

    3. Brandy*

      You should not suggest anything, unless she has expressly asked for your advise. Or unless you are personally a lactation consultant.

      It will only end poorly.

    4. Zillah*

      Unsolicited health advice like that is super rude, especially since the new mother presumably has more information about her health and possible treatments than the OP does. Do you really think she hasn’t thought of consulting something about this problem?

    5. Del*

      New mothers get way too many invasive and unsolicited suggestions already; I wouldn’t advise adding to them at all.

    6. Observer*

      Others have already addressed the issue of giving suggestions to the new mom.

      Secondly, medical advice of this sort is never a good idea. You simply can’t make a sound suggestion of a medication for anyone when you know exactly ONE thing about the woman in question.

      Besides, your advice is off the mark. There is no such thing as a drug that is “magical and safe” across the board. And, while domperidone works well for many women, there are some real issues with it that make it unsuitable for many women.

  11. Just a Reader*

    I’m guessing that her supply is seriously tanking if she’s having to pump that much. All the lactation consultants I spoke to basically told me to permanently attach myself to my pump. Once baby came home from the NICU my supply dried up due to stress…I can see the same thing happening at work, especially if there’s no private place to pump.

    I have a friend who is currently pumping in a supply closet. And a friend from my last job used to have to contact our ops oerson, who would call building management, who would call another company to escort her to pump in one of their empty offices.

    It really is awful to see how hard it is to be a nursing mother in today’s workplace.

    1. Judy*

      I’m pretty sure 10 years ago most states required companies to offer a private place to pump. There was some size minimum for number of employees, though.

        1. KJR*

          Apparently I’m not talented enough to reply from my phone! I had my babies 15 and 17 years ago. I did have a private office at the time, but my pump was also very noisy, and I was just so self conscious about it for whatever reason. It didn’t help that I worked with mainly men. So I stopped nursing when I went back to work. I really admire this mom, and you, OP, for your understanding nature. But I would think listening to a pump all day would wear on my last nerve too! I am in the camp that thinks the stress of pumping at work at her desk with another person present might be contributing to her possible supply issues.

      1. CAA*

        It’s part of the Affordable Care Act, which amended the FLSA. If you’re a non-exempt employee in the U.S, and your workplace has at least 50 employees, then the company is required to provide “reasonable time” for breaks (unpaid) and a private place to pump. State laws may impose additional requirements on the employer.

        This case sounds like the employee might be exempt, and 4 hours per day probably exceeds what’s reasonable, so Federal law might not apply. Nevertheless, I think she should ask for a private place to pump. This might work best if both women approach the manager together and explain that this situation is not working well for either of them and they need a temporary solution.

      2. Just a Reader*

        private doesn’t necessarily equal good though, is my point. A supply closet is private but not comfortable or even humane. My friend who’s pumping in there gets people banging on the door all the time, even with a DND sign on it.

        When employers do the absolute bare minimum it’s the moms who suffer.

    2. Jax*

      It is awful.

      My company converted a small room into a “pumping room” complete with sink, comfy office chair, and mini-cube fridge. But new moms have to clock out when they pump, and they only have (2) 15 minute breaks.

      On one hand it’s reasonable for the company, but on the other it’s not exactly something that a new mom has all figured out and scheduled at 12 weeks post partum. Having a maternity leave policy that matches the rest of the free world would be a great place to start. A mom of a 6-9 month old could make that schedule work.

      1. Just a Reader*

        My company has a mother’s room and lots of moms just take their laptops down there, hook up and keep working. No breaks required.

      2. JoAnna*

        My company has a pumping room (it doubles as a small conference room for 2-4 person meetings), but I have to use my lunch break plus my two 15-minute breaks to pump. It truly is a pain. I pump 3x per day for 15-20 minutes.

    3. Anonymous*

      I am really lucky: the week after my maternity leave at a small company with an open floor plan ended, in November, I received an offer for a job that started in mid-December that has a private office with a closing, solid (not windowed) door. I count my lucky stars every day that I have this space for pumping and that I can keep working at the same time and nobody cares. Because yeah: the world is really NOT set up to accommodate working mothers and pumping at work, even with the private office, is such a pain in the butt that I can really understand why a relatively small percentage of women make it to the 6-month point with breastfeeding.

      (I certainly won’t make it to a year. I hate my breast pump and am ready to throw it from a high window. And I hate having to haul it with me on the subway, and figure out where co-workers have shoved my cooler of milk bottles, and I really sympathize with OP #1 about the noise, because I hate that too.)

    4. themmases*

      This is such a good point about stress that I think non-parents (like me) can forget.

      I wonder if the OP can ameliorate both of their problems by being sympathetic. (Not to suggest the OP is being unsympathetic now– just how she could frame things.) She could offer to put on music or contribute something to muffle the noise so *the office-mate* can feel more relaxed. Or she could work out a way to be out of the office more with the goal of giving *the office mate* more privacy, such as by returning phone calls from a nearby conference room or asking people to email her about meetings to be held elsewhere rather than drop by the office.

      This coworker’s situation sounds so stressful, and personally trying to imagine that situation I would be pretty upset by even implied criticism during it. But the above approach might really help me– again, just trying to think about how I would want to be treated. The OP is great for trying to think of a sensitive way to handle this.

      1. Colette*

        I think the most she should do is ask “is there any way I can make this easier for you?” She shouldn’t try to figure out what would make this easier for her office mate – that’s a recipe for becoming resentful for doing something that, it turns out, wasn’t even important to the coworker.

    5. Nonprofit Office Manager*

      At one of my jobs, nursing moms had to pump in the copier room. It was frustrating to not have access to the copier several times a day, but I imagine it was infinitely more stressful for the moms to be “causing” the frustration, even though one could argue our company caused the frustration by not providing a better place for pumping.

      1. OP #1*

        Yeah, I feel like this is the issue. However bad it is for me, it’s probably at least twice as bad for her, but this seems to be the best solution for her overall situation.

  12. Feed Fido*

    Um, I believe there is a LAW for hourly employees-

    March 23, 2010, federal law requires employers to provide break time and a place for hourly paid workers to express breast milk at work. The law states that employers must provide a “reasonable” amount of time and that they must provide a private space other than a bathroom. They are required to provide this until the employee’s baby turns one year old.

    And check your state law regarding the workplace and breastfeeding.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Federally, I believe (although am not 100% positive) that it only applies to employers of 50 or more people. But some of the state laws cover smaller employers. (Again, going off memory here and I could getting it wrong.)

      1. CAA*

        Yes, the Federal law only applies to employers of 50 or more and only non-exempt employees.

        California’s law applies to all employers (specifically including the state itself) and all employees and has no time limit.

        1. annie*

          And its worth noting that 96 percent of the businesses in the U.S. have fewer than 50 employees, which means there are a lot of us out here without these protections, legally. That said, most businesses do offer the same protections voluntarily.

  13. Brandy*

    Current pumping mom here! The noise annoys ME! I throw my down jacket over it to drown out the noise. That combined with headphones on your end should solve the problem.

    I can tell you, she is embarrassed. And probably annoyed at the noise herself. And probably completely sleep deprived and stressing that she has to pump all day long. Whatever you say or do, do it in the most gentle way possible and don’t take offense to her reaction if at all possible.

    Signed, mom of a 4 month old

    1. Judy*

      Yes, that noise is really annoying. I remember having thoughts of beating on the pump after a session of “feed baby at 2am, then pump for another 10 minutes to get the supply up”.

        1. Meg Murry*

          Yes, I had serious thoughts about going Office Space on my pump after using it 4 times a day for a year!

  14. The IT Manager*

    For #2, it’s unclear to me if BF is asking for a 4 day, 32 hour week or a 4 day, 40 hour week (ie four 10s). I would not expect a 32 hour week to be accommodated since they are looking for someone for full time. Four 10s could still be a problem if he works with others (not just customers), but its more likely. He could ask about schedule flexibility in general just to find out what policies are currently in place.

    I do like the idea of him doing a good job for six months and then asking for some perks.

    1. Brett*

      I immediately jumped to 10 hour days too, not 8 hour days 4 days a week. 10 hour and 12 hour day (you rotate in a 4 day week every 3 weeks) are considered a major perk in our organization.

      Since we get a paid lunch, you actually work more hours with the longer days.

      1. The IT Manager*

        I know. A three day weekend all the time sounds pretty awesome, but my 8 hour days (really 8.5 with lunch) and my commute manage to take up any extra, fun time in the evenings. A 10 hour day, plus lunch, plus commute really seems to result in a person just working and sleeping those 4 days and starting their 3 day weekend exhausted.

        1. Anonymous*

          Agreed. I work 4 10’s because of other life commitments and my company is fine with that… but man, it can be a killer sometimes. You can pretty much forget about taking care of errands or anything like that in the evenings because stuff is closed before I get home. We usually end up doing our food shopping at like 10 at night at the 24-hour Jewel.

          Especially in winter when public transport is completely messed up and it takes me an hour each way to get to and from work. (and I only live 3 miles from work!)

    2. CAA*

      According to the letter he’s trying to get a higher hourly pay rate. The only way he could do that without getting a higher annual salary would be to work fewer hours, so he must be asking for a 32 hour week.

      As an employer, I certainly wouldn’t go for this. If I’m offering a fair market wage, then he’d be asking for 25% over the market rate.

  15. just laura*

    #1– I think that privacy would make everyone’s life better. Does your office have the room where you could move temporarily to give her a solo office, and then you can move back later?

    1. ETF*

      This seems totally reasonable to me. OP 1, I doubt you will be perceived as dramatic if you frame your request to temporarily move the right way. Think of it as moving away so you can give the new mother some privacy.

  16. LV*

    “For example, if he were able to do a 4 day work week at $30,000, this would this would bring him closer to a rate of pay with which he is comfortable.”

    But OP’s boyfriend’s issue is that he wants his salary to be higher. Reducing his work week would make his hourly wage higher, but the total amount earned would remain the same, so how does he actually benefit?

    1. tesyaa*

      He could work a different job on day 5. That’s all I can think of. Or use it for a job search, in which case the company’s concerns are completely justified.

      1. tesyaa*

        Or he could save a little money and time on commuting. Like others, I’m having trouble understanding this request.

      2. OP here!*

        Yea, essentially that’s the idea. He currently does contract work for someone a few days a week, and could possibly continue to do that once a week (If the terms at this other company would allow it).

        I guess it’s because he’s currently working at an hourly rate, so it’s hard to not compare this salaried job to the hourly equivalent. He’d be going from 27$/h to less than 15$/h.

        It’s true that it wouldn’t benefit the company at all to agree to this, so why would they. They would be acquiring someone with more skills than they were originally asking for, but thinking about it now, it does seem better to see how this allows him to advance in the company in the future rather than right away.

        1. Colette*

          I think this is one of the situations where he has to decide what he values more – the high pay rate or the consistent pay. As others have mentioned, the high pay rate is, in part, to compensate for the inconsistency. It’s unlikely he can get both.

        2. Labratnomore*

          A different approach that would give him another day to supplement the income without requesting to work only 80% of the time at the new job would be to request working 4 10 hour days. This may not be possible for some people, but if it was I think there would be better chances that this would go over at the new company. This could be a semi-temporary solution until there is a raise or promotion to replace some of the lost income.

    2. Gilby*


      OP, does your boyfriend think that reducing to 32 hours gives him more money?

      Or is it the thinking that he isn’t giving them a full 40 hours that compensates for the $$ he wants? He has less office time.

      Kind of like getting a ” paid ” free ( not using PTO) vacation day a week. So he says… OK I can deal with the 30K but I will not work a full 40 hours. I will work 32 that I believe is in check with the salary.

      I am not sure if I made sense here…..

      1. Jamie*

        A lot of people would be willing to trade less money for a shorter week/more time off, that’s what it sounds like to me.

        It’s not ideal, but if he has to take a less than ideal salary he wants a benefit to offset that.

    3. Artemesia*

      Which means he is not satisfied with the junior role and if he asks this question will almost surely not get the job.

      I have worked in an office where someone was allowed a part time schedule with some ‘work from home’ which in this job was a total joke as in ‘what work?’ It meant that the person never seemed to be there when there was work we needed her to do. You have to put up with this inconvenience with an intern who works only a few days a week but you don’t have to put up with it for a full time employee who is there to provide support to senior people.

  17. AB Normal*

    #3: In addition to what AAM said, make appointments in your calendar to reach out to the network you had to rebuild during your job search. Each month, you could reach out to a few different contacts — ask them how they’ve been, forward an interesting article you genuinely think they’d enjoy (and likely wouldn’t have read because it’s not from a source they’d be obviously following), mention something from your work (not to brag, but to strengthen your relationship, etc.

    It may be years until you need them again, but I recently went through a job search while still employed,and my contacts from 5, even 8 years ago were very helpful, because during all this time, I kept in touch, even with the ones who are now retired while I was in a prestigious job. By keeping in touch, thanking them for articles they shared with me and reciprocating the favor, keeping them informed of my professional goals, etc., when I finally outgrew my current position, it was very easy to receive lots of referrals.

    In one of the companies I interviewed for, the hiring manager told me that a well-known consultant had called him to recommend me–I had merely told the consultant I was going to be interviewing, and he took upon himself to call and praise my skills to the employer.

    This sort of thing only happens if you maintain your relationships while you DON’T need them. If you wait until you do need help, then it’s already too late. Great that you are thinking about it now, as when it’s time to move on, you’ll be in a much better position to quickly land on a great job like I recently did.

    1. OP*

      That’s a great suggestion. I like the idea of building those relationships while I’m not asking for anything!

      My new company has a reputation for helping people build a national network, which is something I’ve never had before (always worked at little tiny places), so I need to break out of my shyness and make the most of it while I have the luxury of doing it slowly!

  18. AmyNYC*

    #2 – a four day work week typical means 4 days at 10 hrs/day instead of 5 days at 8 hrs/day. If your boyfriend does get them to agree to a 4 day week, he’s not making more per hour, he’s just shifting his same 40 hours around.

  19. Katie the Fed*

    OP#1 – your workplace is in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. It’s required to provide her with “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”

    “A bathroom, even if private, is not a permissible location under the Act. The location provided must be functional as a space for expressing breast milk. If the space is not dedicated to the nursing mother’s use, it must be available when needed in order to meet the statutory requirement. A space temporarily created or converted into a space for expressing milk or made available when needed by the nursing mother is sufficient provided that the space is shielded from view, and free from any intrusion from co-workers and the public. ”

    Now, if it’s working for her to pump at her desk and you don’t mind, that’s fine. But she SHOULD have a private place to go.

    1. Hiring Manager*

      If she’s in CA (and several other states have similar legislation), the employer is in violation. They have to provide a private place (not a bathroom) for her to pump. A shared office is not private.

      The woman pumping deserves privacy as much as the office mate deserves not to listen to a pump for half the work day.

  20. NomadTX*

    For #2, I understand all of the answers that he just doesn’t have the negotiating power as a junior employee. But I am curious, would a senior (non management) employee be reasonable in asking for something like this? I am an entry-level engineer and by the time I reach the senior level, I would expect to have a very reasonable salary to the extent that working 3 days at week for 60% of the pay would be enough and I’d be able tip the work-life balance in the favor of life.

    Has anyone seen anything like this before?

    1. gd*

      My husband is an engineer (senior level) and would so happily do something like this. Problem is that at his level, he doesn’t work just 40 hours a week, so his employer probably wouldn’t be willing to cut him to just 24 hours.

      I think he should ask, but I doubt they would let him because they would be paying a higher rate for less work.

      1. Anonymous*

        I had a fairly senior salaried position but wanted to work less so asked for that a few years ago. Went to working four days instead of five with a pay cut, but in practice it meant working about 4.5 days most of the time to deal with stuff.

        Still, it was awesome.

        Did that for a few years then went back to five days a week recently for more money.

        I think in the US people work too many hours in general – it’s not healthy for individuals and it’s not healthy for the overall society. I get it for people who need the money, but wish our society wasn’t that way.

    2. Joie de Vivre*

      It’s possible but will be largely dependent on your particular company/management culture. Besides the lower salary, it’s important to consider the effect that request can have on your career overall. It can limit further career growth and change the types of projects you are assigned, as part time is often equated with a lower level of commitment. Even in a culture where that is not the case, there are practical requirements of some higher profile, complex assignments that require a full time presence.

      That being said, as a senior non-management employee (not an engineer though…) I switched from a 40+/hr week to a 28/hr week 6 years ago and can’t even begin to list the ways the new work-life balance has made the sacrifices in salary and career advancements worth it to me.

    3. JM*

      I’m not sure what type of engineer you are but I work with engineers and I cannot imagine how they would get anything done with only coming in 24 hours. As it is, most of them work more than 40 hours in the office, plus checking in nights and weekends.

      1. Anonymous*

        My wife’s a fairly senior electrical engineer for a major global company and almost never works more than 40 hours. Her boss loves here work too.

  21. BadPlanning*

    Can OP1 pick up a laptop and do her job for awhile in another location in the office? I know it’s not fair to be “chased out” of her office. But she could think of it as a break for herself and her officemate — maybe pick up a coffee and take advantage of a new location to stimulate those brain cells (or something like that). Her officemate can pump alone (ish) for awhile and OP can take a sound break. I’m not thinking the OP jump up and run away every time the pump goes on, but taking a break for part of them might help.

    Of course, this only works if OP can work away from her desk for a bit and there’s some reasonable place to do it. At my job, it would be, but then my work location is large enough that we have a nursing station. But I’m thinking the OPs officemate is trying to work through these marathon pumping sessions.

  22. OP #1*

    Thanks for the kind words and sympathy. To address some issues and concerns that have arisen:
    1. We have more than 50 employees but are exempt.
    2. I’m away from my desk frequently anyway (nature of the work), so there is plenty of time that she has the office to herself to pump. There’s also plenty of time that I’m in here by myself.
    3. There really isn’t spare office space to move me to. We’re fairly junior, which is why we’re doubled up in the first place.
    4. The only other way it affects me is that other colleagues can’t drop by my office to talk to me (a formerly semi-frequent occurrence–we don’t really have formal meetings or use email or chat for that kind of thing) when the “do not disturb” sign is up.
    5. She’s a first-time mom and already prone to anxiety, and she has already been very falling-all-over-herself “Tell me if this annoys you” etc. But what do you say? “Yes, it is hella annoying, but obviously you need to both work and nourish your child”? “It wasn’t when it was 90 cumulative minutes per day but NOW HOO BOY”? I feel like I want to be exquisitely careful not to offer advice (“Have you tried Mother’s Milk Tea? A blogger I read got awesome results!”) because I feel like it will send her into a martyrdom tailspin (“Oh my God, I’m so sorry, I’m so annoying, this must be awful for you” etc, forever) and then, honestly, I will probably get even more annoyed. And also it would probably be insanely obnoxious for my childless self to offer advice on this issue.
    6. I also know that it’s probably in my best interest to be as chill about this as possible so her stress goes down, her supply goes up, and she pumps less often!
    7. I do worry that my presence is exacerbating the situation, but I’m not sure what else she could do, given that she’s pumping 3-4 hours a day and that management can’t stash me elsewhere. (Although she does watch videos of the baby.) So we’re back to #6.
    Which I think leaves me with headphones. (She wears them, actually. So she may not be as annoyed by the noise as I am!) It helps that her baby is really, really, really cute.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit*

      Nothing to add except that this seems like a tough situation and you sound awesome.

      Oh, and: Given that you’re over 50 people, doesn’t it sound like your office is obligated to give her access to a private room? And, like, actually private – not “private but she shares it with a colleague.”

      1. OP #1*

        I feel like yes? At least definitely in theory. But the problem is that she basically seems to spend 60%+ of her desk/office time hooked up to the damn thing, and I don’t think she can spend 60% of her office time in a private room pumping. (i.e. away from her desk, email, phone, etc.) She’s also already stressed (ahem, vocally) about daycare, the baby getting sick, our leave policy, etc etc etc. It’s been fun.

        1. bearing*

          I can totally understand choosing NOT to use a space that meets the legal obligations of the employer. When I worked and studied at a university 10 years ago as a new mother, the university provided a very nice nursing mother’s room with comfy chairs, a fridge, an updated supply of books and magazines, and a hospital-grade electric pump (the kind that each mother brings her own attachment kit to use with the shared motor — it was the Cadillac of breastpumps).

          But it wasn’t in the same building as me, and after a while I switched to using a locker room off one of the women’s bathrooms in my building. Walking to a different building just made it not worth it, even though the room was lovely. The locker room was private enough and clean enough, and it wasted less of my time.

          OP, can your office’s do not disturb sign be amended to add, “If you need to contact OP, please text/call [OP’s number]”?

    2. Just a Reader*

      You know, not many childless people would have this type of empathy. I certainly didn’t before I had kids. You sound like a gold star coworker.

      1. OP #1*

        I may or may not be knocked up myself. :)

        I’m also a total nightmare in a lot of ways (my desk looks like a bomb hit it, I drop f-bombs like it’s my job, I can be judgy and passive-aggressive when I get tired) so I think it balances out!

        1. hilde*

          Agreed – congrats. I would LOVE for you to come back and do an update after your babe has arrived. My view of children and parents was rather dim until I became one myself and the ground literally shifts beneath you, your perspective changes so much. Like most things, it’s hard to understand until you’ve been in that situation. So kudos to you for being really thoughtful and considerate about it, even though it’s just a miserable situation all around.

        2. Meg Murry*

          Congrats! I agree that offering unsolicited advice to her when you haven’t been there would be crazy annoying to her. However, one thing that does affect supply is having enough calories and water – if she’s strapped to her desk all day, is she taking a lunch break & eating/drinking enough? If you suspect not, you could offer her snacks and water refills as a kind officemate – and it might help you out too.
          Also FYI oatmeal and fiber are excellent for supply, so if you are so inclined, making a batch of oatmeal cookies to share would be kind AND delicious!

        3. J.B.*

          Congrats! And best wishes on pregancy and baby stuff. Just remind people not to drink the water :)

    3. Artemesia*

      You are being great about this. And I appreciate your sensitivity about medical advice. It does seem reasonable though to think about sound damping and suggest some specific way to do that e.g. would thick bubble wrap work? That plus earphones for you?

    4. Meow*

      While it certainly doesn’t excuse the bad behavior of corporations towards working moms, it helped me to hear my parent’s (less educated) perspectives on breastfeeding at work. My mom is of the generation that believed formula freed women from staying in the home. Formula = freedom. We could now be equal to men! Some of her generation do not understand why working mom’s today want to breastfeed when formula is available. Mom’s of this generation have been drilled with “breast is best” and don’t want to have to choose between work and the hypothetical lesser for their child. But, the people making the rules at work are often of my mom’s generation. They are often the dad’s that saw mom go back to work with no issue because she used formula. To some of them formula is a reasonable accommodation and breast feeding is just wanting special treatment. I 100% disagree but thought I’d share what I’ve learned some of the older generation think.

      1. hilde*

        That’s interesting – and I think a person’s place in history really affects how they interact with others. The revolving debate of breat vs. bottle has been really fascinating to learn about. I’m not usually the type of person to chest-thump while screaming about my rights, but even I think that bathrooms are a shitty (ha!) place to pump. I refuse to pump in a bathroom (because also there’s never a plug-in?). But I think you’re right that how a person was historically/societally taught how to think of this issue greatly influences how likely they are to perceive it in the workplace.

      2. J.B.*

        And there’s more research to suggest that breastfeeding benefits aren’t as huge for baby as suggested, plus as noted by some breastmilk is only free if mom’s time has no value. I am still pumping for now but am much more relaxed about the idea of giving up sometime.

  23. Nonprofit Office Manager*

    #1: Just want to say that this thread has been interesting. Until today, I assumed that breasts just operated like a bladder in that milk just collects and sits there until it’s pumped out. But it sounds like the act of pumping itself can influence supply, among with a lot of other things. As a woman, I feel silly for not knowing this until now!

    1. hilde*

      Our bodies are crazy amazing. What continually blows my mind is how when my baby nurses she is somehow telling my body just what her body needs from the milk. And somehow my body figures all that out and adapts the calories and quality to fit her needs at that age. I have loved this thread, too. It’s nice to hear from so many other nursing mothers in the workplace – we all seem to have the same challenges and reasons for doing what we’re doing.

    2. Mephyle*

      Absolutely, the act of pumping (or expressing in general—nursing the baby does it too) is precisely and principally what stimulates supply. When everything is going well, the more the baby nurses, the more milk is produced. For instance, that’s how a mother can meet the full nutritional needs of a 6-month old who weighs twice as much as a newborn. Don’t feel silly, there’s lots of aspects that one doesn’t realize until one’s BTDT.

    3. Anonymous*

      Having never had a baby, I wouldn’t have known that either. And back when I was born, breast feeding was definitely out and formula was the in thing.

    4. J.B.*

      If you are interested (not that anyone is reading these comments now, but I feel pretty strongly about the subject :) google Graham Norton and breastfeeding…lawn sprinklers!

  24. Poohbear McGriddles*

    #4 – Don’t do it. It’s great that you want to help, but their response may not be what you are expecting.
    For example, if you point out that their English was terrible and they are not a native speaker, you’ve just given them ammo for a discrimination lawsuit.

  25. Area51*

    OP #2:
    If the company agrees to a 4-day/32-hour workweek, your boyfriend should still prepare for a normal 5-day/40-hour workweek eventually, and negotiate whatever salary he’d want for that, given his more senior experience.
    The company can change the initial agreement basically anytime, and they probably will.
    They’re already getting him for a good hourly rate for the position since he’s got more experience. They can just dump more work on him and get more hours out of him at an even lower rate. So then he might be working at an even lower rate than someone with the appropriate junior level experience for the job!

  26. Another former pumper*

    Regarding #1: Another cautionary tale about trying to get your officemate private space . . . my employer had a room set up, but it turned out that about a dozen people also used it as a changed room. I would have people banging on the door all of the time scaring me half to death, and that would stop the whole process, if you know what I mean. Given the whole situation, I would have been better off pumping in my cubicle in front of everyone wearing a nursing cover.

    I also second the advice about the pumping mother getting enough food and water, perhaps offer to pick up lunch for her. And second lunch.

  27. anon-2*

    “Yeah, I think that if you sucking it up is an option, that’s the easiest solution here.”

    Hey AAM, was that intended to be .. I dunno, a pun? (on the noisy pump situation)… if so, it’s good… !

  28. Abby*

    Some states including Illinois require that a business provide a private room (not a restroom) where nursing mothers can pump. This is also a possibility./

  29. abankyteller*

    #1 OP: I’m a nursing mom and I just stopped pumping at work recently. Trying to pump in a shared space would have been a nightmare. It’s possible your officemate is trying to pump a lot to try to produce more but it isn’t working because of the stress of trying to share a space. Can you ask her if it would help her if you left the office a few times a day to give her some privacy? 20 minutes every 3 hours is plenty of time for most moms. If she’s really having issues let her know that La Leche League has local groups almost everywhere and will be able to help her. It’s kind that you’re concerned about her through all this, too. She’s lucky to have you!

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