open thread

IMG_0131It’s the Friday open thread!

The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

{ 950 comments… read them below }

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      I agree with this too, although my own cat can be quite cute when she wants…

      I also have a question: when an application form asks for your reason for leaving, what do you put when it’s not so much the job (although it is also that) but the fact that you simply don’t earn enough without being broke after the first 10 days from being paid?

        1. Adam V*

          Exactly. You can’t bring up money directly, so bring up “I want to keep moving up” (because that comes with a built-in expectation that you’ll be paid more for being in a higher-up position).

    2. Elysian*

      Indeed! They’re so adorable!!! Though with three cats, I don’t know how you keep anything with a fringe in your house. I could barely keep my one cat from destroying the ties on the Christmas tree skirt. Anything with actual strings hanging off it would never be able to enter my house.

    3. Jessa*

      Olive is amazing, Olive needs a blog giggle. Olive the AAMCat.

      And your other cats are also amazing, I don’t want them to feel slighted because Olive is so precious. I am hugely partial to calicoes.

  1. Lillie Lane*

    I just want to thank Alison for her great book “How to Get a Job”. It’s taken several years, but I started a wonderful job last month and I completely credit her blog and book for helping me get it.

    And the adorable pics of Olive and the other kitties brighten my day. Thanks, AAM! Happy Valentine’s Day.

      1. Joey*

        Wife got one and the blending bug lasted a few mos. now its pretty much just used for the occasional margarita

          1. Adam V*

            My wife makes occasional smoothies, and she’s makes tomato soup every couple of weeks where she blends everything before pouring it into the pot.

          2. Rayner*

            Vitamixes can make HOT soup right in the blender, and ice cream, and smoothies, and they can make purees, and sauces hot enough to eat.

            And they’re dead easy to clean.

            1. Joey*

              True. It just gets old blending everything imaginable. And at least for me its easier to use a little boat motor (the little stick blender thingy) for a lot of the same things.

              1. Rayner*

                I like those too but it’s sometimes easier to do it in a blender. Less messy, too. My plan is just to start making healthier foods and go from there – with a vitamix, you can chuck in a carrot or some cabbage, and it’s done.

              2. Adam V*

                When it comes time to clean our blender, I just pour in soap and water, put it back on the base, and run it for 30-40 seconds. It gets really foamy and cleans almost the entire cylinder.

                1. Joey*

                  Yeah its not so much that. It was a pain to pour from the pot to the blender and back. And if you’re like us and make soups in a big pot its hard not to pour without splashing. We just found it easier to dunk the boat motor to the bottom of the pot and let her rip.

                  And we got kind of worn out on smoothies. I think we were too gung-ho at the beginning and as a result just don’t crave them anymore.

          3. Fiona*

            My husband uses ours (not a Vitamix) for pancake and french toast batter, and scrambled eggs, because I am a freak and I can’t have my whites separated from my yolks even the tiniest bit. :shudder:

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I bought a refurbished one from their website because you can save about a hundred bucks, and then I got the next-gen model without programs (because I read the programs aren’t worth the extra money). I wanted the next-gen model so that it would fit under a countertop. When you buy a refurbished one, that’s all you have to specify — the models beyond that are apparently just differences in the add-ons included in the package.

            1. The RO-Cat*

              How could a Vitamix ever be off-topic? Since you wrote about the 7 soft skills already, a Vitamix is a valuable tool for a new employee to blend in, to make a smooth career change, to refresh a career, to energize someone to contribute to the team, to teach managers about carrots and sticks… all on-topic; right?

        1. S3*

          I LOVE my Vitamix. And it has seriously changed my life. It does take a bit of practice to get the perfect taste & consistency for smoothies.

          One thing that helped me was going to a demo at a grocery store. Also, I attended a free class at Williams-Sonoma on using the Vitamix. And that was great too.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      OMG, I **stalk** the Vitamix section on Amazon.

      Would you please post your Vitamix pictures and or videos in the next open thread? That would be like appliance porn to me.

      The marital negotiations re Vitamix are at a stalemate in the Wakeen’s Teapot homestead. Teh husband insists I would have to trade the counter space for both my Zojirushi breadmaker and my Zojirushi rice cooker for the Vitamix “that you will never use like that breadmaker and also the food processor with every attachment most of the attachments still in boxes..” (his list is a little longer but you get the idea).

      Anyway, the Vitamix is different as any rational person can see, but the husband gets two votes in the kitchen as he does most of the cooking.

      I almost had my two sons on my side until they realized that I’d likely try to get them to drink green smoothies once I got one. Dammit, they have known me too long.

      Yay for Vitamix. Blend EVERTHING!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I have a Zojirushi rice maker too! I love it.

        Put the breadmaker in the cabinet above the refrigerator where it belongs, far out of easy reach because you will rarely reach for it. With the ice cream maker, which you also never use. Then the Vitamix can take its place.

      2. anon.*

        I got my Vitamix through QVC–easypay plan? I got tired of stalking Amazon and they ran a special and now it’s mine….turquoise, and SO pretty.

        Love it!
        (sorry for the 4 day late comment!)

    2. Vicki*

      We have one.
      When you put in ice cubes, it makes a Lot of Noise! So we got an ice cube tray that makes long thin ice cubes designed for sports bottles. They break up faster.

  2. Sunflower*

    Any people out there who freelance write on the side of their ‘regular’ jobs. I’ve been looking for some side work and have always enjoyed writing. In fact, it’s something I’ve considered trying to get into as a career. In my job, I do a good amount of copy writing and have written articles for work in the past so I have some experience. I only work about 40-45 hours a week so I’m not chained to my desk by any means but I wonder how difficult it is to keep up with while keeping a full time job.

    Also any good web sites to pick up/find free lancing writing jobs?

    1. A Teacher*

      Not the type you’re doing, but I teach as an adjunct at as junior college one night a week and I work as an athletic trainer as needed for a physical therapy company providing game coverage for local high schools. I like being busy so its been a good experience for me. Challenging but doable.

    2. GoodGirl*

      I’ve been doing it for several years now. My biggest piece of advice is finding niche markets/industries to write about. For example, I write for a particular sport that I’ve been involved with for a long time. There aren’t that many people that have a good deal of expertise in this particular sport, so there are very few writers covering it. I don’t write enough to make a living at it, but it’s a chance to combine my passions. So…pick a few things in which you have a genuine interest in, contact the editors of publications/blogs, etc. Be prepared to have some relevant writing samples ready.

      Oh, and I’m sure you’ve heard this before but generally speaking, don’t work for free. I’ve been contacted many times by people wanting to work with me, only to hear them say, “Well, we don’t really have a budget – could you just write this for free for us?” I did a few times early in my career, mostly for experience/writing samples, but now I politely tell that I don’t work for free. It really bugs me that people don’t want to pay for quality writing (can you tell? haha). I use this analogy – you wouldn’t go to your mechanic and ask him to work on your car for free, would you? Of course not – so don’t ask a writer to work for free.

      Good luck!

    3. Christine*

      oDesk/Craigslist! Though you must wade through a TON of postings that don’t want to pay you very much, I found a good client that I write for 2-3 times a week. I write cosmetic surgeon website content for them, and though it’s certainly not my passion, it’s nice to write in the same niche because the research I have to do is minimal.

      I also have a full time job. It’s very easy to keep up with because you can always decline a job if you know you have a busy week.

      And yes, be prepared to have samples!

      1. Aunt Vixen*

        I would have sworn that used to be an underwear brand. But Uncle Google suggests it is no longer. Huh.

    4. Sunflower*

      Thanks for the helpful advice! I do have samples of stuff I’ve written, mostly business geared but I have found some free lance jobs that are more geared towards arts and entertainment and I’m wondering if I should write up a few of them just to have?

    5. LizNYC*

      If you’re interested in writing for advertising agencies, many are usually looking for freelancers to write content for blogs, etc. If you know how to write for SEO, that’s even better. If you can find the person’s contact info on LinkedIn or the agency’s website, we’ve had freelancers query us about jobs. Usually they have a niche, like healthcare writing or tech writing.

    6. Adiposehysteria*

      I’m a freelance writer. I started by using Elance, but I don’t know how much I would recommend it anymore. For starters, for most writing, the client will try to low ball you on the pay since you are competing with people from India or Kenya who will take $3 for every article. The other problem with it is that a freelancer actually has very little protection if a client decides not to pay, especially with hourly jobs. For those, no matter what the dispute is, Elance will find for the client unless you have downloaded software that takes pictures of you and takes screen shots while you are working. I had a client take my work and vanish on an hourly job and, even though I never got a complaint and they didn’t respond to my dispute, my invoice was still zeroed out and I got nothing. The final problem is that they are changing their terms of service at the end of the month so, in addition to the 8.75% they already take, they are also going to be taking an additional $5 “service fee” for using their mandatory escrow service. Since they are merging with oDesk in the next couple of months, it probably won’t be any better there.

      Two sources for jobs which pay better is and the jobs section at Those have clients who are looking for quality work rather than whatever is the cheapest. Since you are really offered no protection against being ripped off on Elance anyway, you might as well only pay the 3.5% PayPal fee and work with clients directly. There aren’t nearly as many listings on these sites though.

      Be super careful with Craig’s List, the majority of the writing jobs on there are scams.

  3. Mike C.*

    So one of the big topics we see here is the value of going to college and it’s effect on future careers. Pew research just released a multigenerational study on these topics that I found very easy to understand and quite interesting.

    Links will follow in the next post, but until that post is approved, google “Pew Research The Cost of Not Going to College”.

    In particular, the income disparity between 4+ years of college and fewer years of education has been increasing from generation to generation, incomes have remained flat despite increased amounts of education, and increased education reduces poverty and 86% of Millennials believe that their education has already paid off, or will pay off in the future.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      It needs to be worth it again–in my opinion, it’s not, if you have to spend $45,000 to get a job answering the damn phone. So employers can just stop requiring a bachelor’s degree for positions that don’t need them.

      1. fposte*

        Should happen but won’t, unfortunately.

        At this point it’s not that a college degree gets you so much, it’s that its absence hurts you so much.

        1. esra*

          When I was job hunting I saw a graphic design position that wanted a 3-4 year design education (sensible!) AND a bachelor of science in biology (insane!).

          1. themmases*

            I actually have a friend who did this as a dual-degree. She went to a school that offers that as a track specifically for people who want to be scientific or medical illustrators. I had no idea there was a program for that before she did it, but apparently it’s something real people and not just unicorns do.

            Now, whether it should be a requirement for anyone to ever work in medical illustrating, rather than just one great way to become prepared…

          2. Mike C.*

            Even though there are programs for that, who wants to bet they put out that ad such that only one person would fit that description?

          3. Cath@VWXYNot?*

            Having worked with graphic designers on biology-related projects, I understand this completely. Sooo many conversations about “why did you put in a drawing of a monocyte on a flyer about a product to isolate B cells?”

            “oh, it looked better that way, and they’re all blood cells, right?”


            1. Sara B.*

              I feel like science is interpreted almost as an aesthetic by those with little interest in it. You can’t just blow up a picture of a cell or an atom and call that science.

        2. ChristineSW*

          I see this sometimes with higher-level admin jobs at my university. I always assumed it was due to needing field-specific knowledge or certain skills that might only be emphasized in graduate-level degrees.

        3. SevenSixOne*

          I have a good friend who got fired from his (part-time, $11/hour, no benefits) library job because the city decided they wanted every library employee to have a master’s degree.

          I don’t know whether I’m more depressed because they’d toss a smart, capable employee out like trash… or because I know they won’t have any trouble finding a replacement.

        4. Rana*

          Of course, if you do have a higher degree, you also get the “oh, you’re over-qualified; you’ll be bored” dismissal. There’s no winning this game.

      2. badger_doc*

        You don’t need to spend 40+k to go to school. Counselors need to teach high school students to choose colleges wisely. Pick an instate school instead of out of state. Public over private. Start saving in high school for college. Work a couple of jobs in college to pay for tuition and housing. If you are going to grad school, be a TA or do a work study to get free tuition. I was in 6 years of school and had $20k in debt ($6k left to pay off–woot!!). On top of all that, pick a major that will open doors for you down the road. Any high school educators or counselors on this site–please teach your students this now!!

        1. Calla*

          I know your advice is probably for kids to manage how to not go into major debt and not how things should be, but this just highlights how terrible things are, IMO. I shouldn’t have to start working at 15 and then, when I get to college, work a couple jobs on top of classes, to not graduate with massive debt.

          BTW – I went to a in-state public university and it was still about $15,000 a year after grants/scholarships, which would have been $60,000 in loans after 4 years. I worked during the summer. Continuing to work a couple jobs during the school year may have helped a little but wouldn’t have covered more than half my loans, plus that much work probably would have led to me being tired all the time and aggravated my depression. I’m not saying it’s not possible, I’m just saying it’s ridiculous that this has to be our advice to students, and valid to ask if all that’s really worth it.

          1. De Minimis*

            +1–part-time work might help pay a few bills and can help with books and other expenses, but it won’t pay your tuition in many locations, not even for state schools.

            1. TL*

              And it will seriously detract from your academic and social life.

              Some people like it and choose to do so, but I hate that others are forced to do so.

              1. Gjest*

                And having to work multiple jobs in school decreases the likelihood that you can do internships, which could be what helps you get a full time job after graduation.

          2. badger_doc*

            I don’t get it–why shouldn’t you get a job at 15 if you want an education? Who else is going to pay for it? It’s great if one has parents to cover the bill, but most of us are not that lucky. I always knew I wanted to go to college so I started babysitting at 12 and got a restaurant job at 15. I probably had about $10k put away by the time I started college. Between that and working during college, I had enough to cover tuition and most of housing. Working full time over the summers saved up for the next years tuition. I only took out loans when I absolutely had to. Isn’t that the American Dream? How our parents did it? Why is that so bad?

            1. TL*

              Because working at 15 is not a great way to make yourself competitive academically. If you’re working constantly and striving to do well in school and participating in extracurriculars and at some point you might want to add in a social life – some people can and do keep themselves that busy, but for most people, something would have to give, which would probably be either the social life or the academics.

              I’m all for working during the summer – unless you’re in a field where internships are unpaid/for college credit and you need them to get a job. But working during the school year? I average 17 hrs a semester in the sciences and worked 10 hrs/week (fed. work-study) and was seriously involved in 1 student group – and I still had to pick a social life over sleeping.

              If you have to put yourself through college that way, you have to, but often grades and opportunities suffer because of it. It’s not a great solution. Honestly, I’m glad I took out loans rather than holding down a part-time job.

            2. Tennessee*

              I get what you’re saying, but it’s assuming some things. Like, there are jobs to be had at that age in the area. When I was that age, there were almost no jobs in our semi-rural area and certainly none that paid enough to cover gas bills to get to them. And that the 15-year old has time; they need to study just as much as the college student does. And they may have other obligations; again I had to help on the farm, didn’t have lots of time for outside jobs that might have paid more actual dollars (rather than keeping a roof overhead). If a high-schooler can work, I think it’s great, but it’s not that possible for everyone.

            3. Mike C.*

              These days most high schools have a lot more requirements than they did in the past, and to be competitive in college admission you need lots of different activities on top of good grades and test scores.

              There are only 24 hours in a day.

              1. De Minimis*

                My disagreement is that a student can’t earn enough money to pay for the education, and they most likely will be hurting their grades and chances at finding a job after graduation.

                Even state schools cost a lot more than they did even a few years ago—mine hiked its tuition and fees almost 300% during the recession years.

                I do think some part-time work is okay—when I was job hunting after grad school I often was given a hard time by employers for not working more while in school, even though I attended full time, but part-time work will not pay for very much.

            4. Canuck*

              These types of debates are so interesting to me. Not so much whether or not a university degree is helpful, but more on the idea of “who pays?”.

              In North America, we discuss how best to pay for school, especially for those of us without rich parents to cover the cost. In many, many other countries, they would find the mere notion of having to pay for school ridiculous.

          3. Steve*

            Did that 15,000/year also include room an board? I think a distinction needs to be made between the cost of education and the cost of education plus a dorm room and meal plan.

            1. Calla*

              Yes, but any college I went to where I was able to live at home would have cost more for just tuition. Having a roof over my head was part of my education.

        2. Joey*

          Don’t count on it. The goal isn’t preparing kids for the workforce it’s promoting their programs, teaching a class, and/or research.

        3. The Clerk*

          I picked a business major and I didn’t have any better luck finding a job than someone who majored in fine art or Russian lit; it still took almost four years. I also don’t know of any state schools that are less than $8-10K per year right now, not to mention that it’s hard for a kid to get a job when even college-educated adults are clamoring for work at McDonald’s. This advice has been around for a while, and in the early to mid-2000s it was pretty relevant, but then everyone started doing it, jobs disappeared, and tuition rose across the board so it stopped being a back door to success.

        4. Mike C.*

          I pretty much did the exact opposite of what you recommended and my degree has opened up doors I’ve never imagined would be open to me. Going out of state taught me a ton of independence, going to a small private school ensured I wouldn’t be swallowed up by an undiagnosed learning disability. There’s no way I could have worked anything much more than a part time work study position because the workload was insane. I too graduated with ~20k in debt.

          Public, in-state schools aren’t always the value they used to be because their funding has been gutted for years now. The top ten schools by 30 year ROI are private schools. Half the job interviews I’ve ever had started with, “when we saw where you got your degree, we decided you should come in”. That’s worth an incredible amount of money, and a distinction I wouldn’t have if I just went to the local huge state college down the street. (Incidentally, it’s a great school, one I would go to for further education).

          My point is that we agree with the fact that you need to do your research, but blanket advice about something as diverse as college selection. Are you really going to tell a STEM major that they should attend their local school when they have acceptance letters from MIT and Caltech?

          1. TL*

            I got the interview for my current job because my boss had worked with a prof at my small, private university and was impressed by what he had heard about it. :)

          2. Zillah*

            Public, in-state schools aren’t always the value they used to be because their funding has been gutted for years now.

            Yes. I went to a public school in-state for undergrad and felt like I got a good education, but I happen to live in one of the states that has a decent public college system, and I managed to get into one of the best.

            Many people do not have that luxury, and going to an in-state school isn’t going to get them a solid education.

          3. annie*

            I think you make some really great points here – to me the key is to go to the school that is the right fit for YOU to be successful in and graduate within four years. Going somewhere cheap(er) doesn’t pay off if you drop out within a year. So many people I knew left college after a year or two because that school was not the right fit for them, but chosen for other reasons (nearby, boyfriend was going there, etc). It’s also important to consider living expenses – if you can go to a more expensive school and live at home, that might make more sense than going to the state school in the middle of farmland where you’re captive to paying rent, utilities, maybe need a car, etc.

            Finally Mike I think you make a good point about workload. I worked three jobs myself in addition to two scholarship activities I had to put in hours on every week – but that’s me, I have always been able to juggle like that I know how I’m lucky that way. Even with those three part time jobs, I was not covering my tuition at all, just my living expenses. A lot of people understandably can’t handle that workload while studying, and I also think it is crucial to leave time for internships and student organization work/nonprofit volunteering so you can built your resume with relevant experience.

          4. badger_doc*

            I am a STEM major and graduating from my state school has worked out just fine for me. I would argue that the majority of STEM majors out there are not the elite that get into MIT. My “blanket advice” was for the average college student, not anyone extraodinary. It is the average college student struggling to get a job in today’s economy. But I am glad what you did worked out for you! This might be a YMMV type of thing, but in my field, the way I went about solving the money problem in school has worked for a lot of people I know.

            1. TL*

              Depending on where you are in the STEM fields and what you want to do, where you go can make a pretty big difference in opportunities.

              Not to say you can’t succeed, but it’s much easier if, say, you’re at a school that offers undergraduate research opportunities and has a good reputation.

            2. Sara B.*

              Eh, I know several un/underemployed graduates with 3.7+ GPAs from well regarded institutions that are also inexperienced with a generally professional demeanor.

          5. University admin*

            This! Also, don’t discount financial aid. Some of the top schools have so much aid to offer that their huge tuition figures border on meaningless (except they get to charge full price to the rich kids), and a child of middle-income parents can go to Harvard for less than it costs to go here.

          6. Sara B.*

            I had a partial scholarship to an out of state school. Going away was soo amazing for me. Unfortunately, I have regressed a bit since. It wasn’t the best academically, going away and focusing on me instead of my family was so empowering, and I learned so much about myself, my abilities, and how to do things.

            I think another issue with pushing community colleges and instate schools is that it doesn’t fix the problem. It helps individuals circumvent the problem. If everyone does that, we have a new problem because we didn’t address the real issues.

            What if schools have no more out of state students? Won’t in-state tuition increase?

        5. TL*

          There are a fair number of kids who legitimately do better at smaller, private schools or liberal arts schools with higher price tags. I don’t think it’s always the best advice to go somewhere cheaper as the first and best option. (My small, private school was definitely worth the $25k debt I graduated with.)

          My line of thought is that college is as much about the experience as the education and I hate that it’s so restricted by price. A lot of kids end up at a place where they won’t do as well.

        6. Zillah*

          This… seems really idealistic to me.

          Saving for college in high school requires you to be able to find a job and find the time to work the job, which is no easy thing, and the amount of money you’re likely to make will be pretty paltry. If your parents start saving, great, but you don’t actually have control over that.

          The same is true for many college jobs. If you have a full work schedule, you don’t necessarily have time to work many hours, and it’s often not possible to find a job at all, particularly in rural places. Even jobs that do exist are often minimum wage, which don’t put much of a dent in the tuition or housing, even for a public school.

          And, while your suggestion of public schools over private is all very well and good, I think you’re missing a couple key points. First, not all states have a great public college system. Second, it’s not always possible for someone to get into the good public schools in their state – some can be quite competitive.

          If you go to grad school, you’ll probably be awarded work study if you have financial need – but work study doesn’t always amount to more than enough to feed yourself and buy your books. And being a TA? Unfortunately, wanting to do it doesn’t mean you get it.

          I don’t mean to be negative. There are certainly things that people can do to minimize their debt. But… this just feels like a massive oversimplification that doesn’t really address the serious flaws in the system.

          1. TheSnarkyB*

            I agree with this. I know I’m late, but I just had to chime in to say that… It seems like you’re a doc student. Or just finished with a doc program. All of the things you’re talking about are MASSIVELY different btwn phd and masters students, when it comes to aid, etc. And a lot of people finish their PhDs and realize that, even if they were fully funded, it wasn’t worth the time for what you get out of it. So as someone on the Master’s side of things, most of your advice for funding doesn’t apply or isn’t fdZible when you compare the amt of money made to the amt of time spent.

        7. Trixie*

          This. Plus I love the idea of students attending a local community college for a couple years and then transfer into local college/university of your choice.

          1. TL*

            Okay. That’s a great idea for kids who need help figuring out study habits or who need a couple of years to get their act together – but it’s an awful idea for those of us who are book-smart and get bored easily.

            Most community colleges (not all) do not offer academically challenging classes and I would be so angry if I was forced to waste two years sitting through classes that didn’t teach me much before transferring to a university where I would be able to pick from a wide variety of challenging classes.

            1. Anonymous*

              I honestly felt that classes I took at a community college were just as challenging as nearly all the classes I took my first two years at two different state universities.

              1. TL*

                The ones my friends and I have taken classes at weren’t, by any means.

                Though, to be fair, I choose an academically challenging program at a really good school and my friends also were in challenging schools or challenging programs.

                1. Anonymous*

                  Yeah, I’m sure it depends on the school. Also, by “just as challenging” I meant that none of them were challenging at all. I found high school to be more difficult than the first 2 years of college, regardless of where I took the classes. I’m sure it depends on the program/major and school, though.

            2. Anonymous*

              Wow, that’s a sweeping generalization. And maybe I’m a bit sensitive because I started at a community college and transferred to a well-respected state university at the start of my junior year. Mind you, this was 20 years ago, so things may have changed, but a few things I remember:

              – the classes I selected, ones I knew would transfer to either university system in my state, were very challenging
              – the classes were small and we got lots of attention from the professors
              – the professors wanted to teach and help/mentor their students
              – much to my surprise, I found myself better prepared for higher division undergraduate classes, particularly those in my major, than my classmates who had started at the university
              – I ended up getting a master’s degree, and out-performed students in my program who had obtained all four years of their undergraduate degree at more “elite” universities

              1. TL*

                That’s definitely a much different experience than most people I know have had – though there is a notable exception with one community college nursing program I know of.

                And most of these experiences have been in the last 1-6 years or so.

                But I also know people who have benefited greatly from community college as a stepping stone to their 4 yr degree or to get an associate’s in a field that values them. They are important; I just don’t think they’re an actual substitute for a 4 yr program.

              2. TL*

                Oh, and I will add that it would not surprise me that people who go to community college and then transfer on to university do really well – most of the people I know/know of who do that are very dedicated to their education and really use their experiences to learn how to study/excel.

              3. Marcy*

                I had the same good experience with a community college (also 20 years ago). I spent my first semester at a state university, then my parents divorced and couldn’t help me pay for school anymore. I switched to a community college and there was a huge quality difference. At the state school I was in classes of 100 or more students usually taught by a TA with a heavy accent that was hard to understand. At the community college, I was in classes no larger than 35-40 with real teachers who had time to get to know their students and give individual attention. I was better prepared for the last two years at the state school than those who spent the whole four years there and graduated summa cum laude. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the value of a community college.

                1. Sara B.*

                  In my experience, quite a few classes just structured differently, making community college easier (but in a good way).

                2. TL*

                  Yeah! I’m not trying to say they don’t have value – they do – but they’re not a great money-saving choice for everyone. They’re aimed at a specific demographic and they are so important for the people who want/need them!

                  But they are designed much differently than 4 yr degree programs (and for a good reason.)

                  For what it’s worth, my classes at my university were small and challenging and would be restructured if the professor thought we were having it to0 easy.

          2. annie*

            I think this is good if you are a returning student or planning to go to school part time, however, for the vast majority of traditional college students (going right after high school, want to finish in four years), this may not be the right advice. It’s really, really, REALLY important to make sure that your community college classes will transfer to the four year school you intend to go to afterwards. Almost everyone I’ve known who has attempted to go this route has lost credits (and therefore time/money) because not everything transfers.

            1. SevenSixOne*

              My high school counselors told me over and over again that my credits will transfer!!!!!

              Yeah, only about 40% of my community college credits transfered. I felt like I’d been bait and switched AND I’d wasted about 2 years and several thousand dollars :(

            2. Payroll Lady*

              This does depend on the state. My state (NJ) made some changes a few years ago, and as long as you go from a community college to a state school ALL credits transfer. NJ realized that some young adults have transition issues and looking at 4 years can be daunting, but looking at 2 years, and then another 2 years for your degree makes it a little easier.

              1. Windchime*

                My son did his AA at community college (and he and I together did pay-as-you-go on that degree), and then the degree transferred to the state university so he was able to enter as a Junior. If he had just tried to transfer *credits*, I don’t know if it would have all transferred, but because he had an AA degree, they took them all.

                We are in Washington and it worked for him. All states might not be the same. He still graduated with about $20k in debt, but that’s better that the $40k+ that some of his friends have.

            3. TL*

              There’s also the fact that some of the classes don’t transfer because they don’t adequately prepare you for the continuing courses.

              I know that AP courses didn’t always adequately prepare the kids at my school for their advanced math and science courses, which tended to surprise the students.

              1. Stephanie*

                Yeaaaah, no. I aced the AP Chemistry exam and ended up taking organic chemistry freshman year. I thought I had enough prep. That was a rough semester.

                1. Mike C.*

                  Yeah, at my alma mater doing well on the AP exam simply opened the door to the option of testing out of the related freshman course.

                2. TL*

                  I can’t tell you how many freshmen would whine to me “but I made a 4/5 on my biology AP exam! I should be making an A!”

                  Well, you’re not.

                3. Tasha (Grad Student)*

                  Me too! I got a 5 on that exam, then earned an A- (one of only three non-As, and my school didn’t give A+’s) in first semester Organic. At least that sort of thing develops good study habits, right? :)

            4. Anonymous*

              This is super important. I did not trust what anyone told me, and confirmed with both university systems in my state which courses would transfer. I had no problem – all courses transferred, I was better prepared than and out-performed students who had started at the university I transferred into, and I graduated on time, with honors. Of course, this was 20 years ago and things have likely changed since then.

          3. Seattle Writer Girl*

            “I love the idea of students attending a local community college for a couple years and then transfer into local college/university of your choice.”

            Ok, this advice really needs to stop circulating.

            I took an academic class at my local CC and the classroom I was in had a map with the USSR still on it. And this was in 2008!!!

            If you think CCs are giving people a “great” education, perhaps it’s time to revisit that assumption….

            1. TL*

              Yeah. There are certainly people for whom this is the best route, but it should not be touted as the “cure-all” for money problems.

              I tutored for a chemistry class at a well-thought-of community college and it was miles away from the gen. chem class I took at my university.

            2. Rana*

              As a former adjunct in the community college system, and the spouse of a current instructor, I have to agree. The institutions are simply different, serving different core populations and addressing different levels of need and ability, and to claim that they’re interchangeable with the courses offered at a more elite institution is, honestly, laughable. Maybe some of the very basic first year courses – the sort that are meant to catch students up who did poorly in high school – but not the ones that lay a foundation for more specialized academic work.

              Now, if we’re talking vocation-oriented curricula, then CCs are great. But if you want to go on to get a BA in, say, literature, or anthropology, they’re a waste of time for all but the most unprepared of students.

          4. Collarbone High*

            This is what I did, but I wish I hadn’t. It was pretty much my only option, since my parents strongly believe that parents have no responsibility to their adult children — they didn’t pay any money toward college, and forced me to move out on my 18th birthday. I worked full-time to pay the bills and I took classes at CC and then a commuter school here and there, when I could cobble together enough savings/scholarship money.

            I have a good-enough degree, I guess, but I really missed out on two things. First, the experience — I never had a chance to pledge a sorority, or go to homecoming, or any of those typical “college” things.

            The second thing, and the thing that I think has hurt me professionally, is connections. I don’t know anyone I went to college with; sure, we chatted between classes, but we didn’t forge those deep, lifelong connections that can lead to jobs and opportunities down the road. I work in academia now and I see how valuable those connections can be: “I invited Jane to work in my lab because I knew her from undergrad” or “I can help you get an interview at Big Pharma Firm, the director of recruiting was my college roommate.” It’s hard to build those connections when people are just scurrying on and off campus to go to class (and even harder with online classes).

            (On the plus side, I enjoy the confused conversations with people reading my resume and wondering how I’ve been in my field for 15 years but only graduated 8 years ago.)

            1. Gjest*

              I could have written this! This was my experience, and my results as well. As a result, when hiring interns, I always had a soft spot for applicants who obviously had to work throughout college. Since our internship was paid (albeit peanuts), I knew it was probably their only chance to get some real experience while in college.

            2. Anonymous*

              While I am pleased with the quality of the education I received at a community college, what you write about is my one regret for having gone that route. The only difference is that I wasn’t forced out when I turned 18, but I had to pay rent. But you do the best you can with what you have.

        8. Malissa*

          Public is not always cheaper than private. But spending a year or two at community college is a bargain.
          I did two years at community college then 2 more years at a very nice private college that offered more scholarships and help than the state school.
          Now when I choose a grad school I picked a private college that had a very focused online program in my field. The tuition costs were cheaper than the state school, and I could accomplish my goals in half the time.

          1. NylaW*

            Community college can be great, but you can also get screwed if you transfer. I graduated from a local CC and wanted to transfer some of my credits, but the comparable classes at the university I went to didn’t line up and I lost 9 credits which resulted in me having to go an extra semester.

        9. A Teacher*

          I will disagree with you slightly–as a high school teacher that does career education for a living. I went out of state because I ended up with more in scholarships so it was less to go out of state than in state for undergrad. I also worked 3 jobs over the summer and during the school year. I was also expected to apply for every scholarship imaginable (15k+ in local scholarships paid off the hard work). Grad school round 1, I had a GA position that covered everything. Grad school round 2 I had to take out loans–because in state public school would have taken longer, I couldn’t work full time, and it was for a B.S. not a M.A. which gave me more leeway in education.

          My sister went to a $40k per year small liberal arts college for nursing. She has no debt because she had 3/4 of her tuition covered for academics, was an RA, worked, and my parents pitched in.

          1. badger_doc*

            By all means, if you have a scholarship offer to an out-of-state school that covers expenses, go for that! I was just trying to make a generalization from what I have seen from the students in my graduating class. One thing I forgot to add, that in addition to a job in high school, students should apply for as many scholarships as possible to help alleviate that burden.

            I understand that some in state schools may be more expensive than private, but I’m pretty sure, in general, in state schools are less expensive than out of state. Depending on your major, private may be the way to go. It is all up to the individual.

            Good for your sister for being a RA! That is another job I forgot to mention. My whole point is, that if you want to go to college for an education, don’t let the price tag stop you. My family grew up poor and I was the only one to attend college. My family helped very little other than the occasional gas fill up to come home or sporadic grocery trip. It can be done and paid for through hard work and a good juggling ability. My issue mostly is people going for degrees that don’t open any doors to careers and coming out with $40k in debt and complaining about the system, which everyone knows is far from perfect. I only wish parents and educators would help high school students understand this before its too late.

            1. TL*

              I think your point is more “If you’re poor and extraordinarily hard-working and talented/gifted and have good foresight and the ability to save as a youngster – which indicates a very high maturity level – don’t let money stop you!”

              Which is excellent for the kids who are all those things! But it’s not great advice for all the normal kids.

        10. Elysian*

          I’ve heard people say these things so many times, and its really just not do-able. I applied to state schools, and was accepted there – housing and tuition would have been over 25,000 a year, in-state. 100,000k total. Before expenses. My state’s public schools were really expensive! Not really a bargain. I ended up going to a private school that offered me enough scholarships to make the price of going there the same as if I had gone to a public school.

          I worked a billion jobs. I was an RA, so my housing was paid for. I worked 3 jobs on campus, totaling over 40 hours a week. I worked more jobs during the summer – over 60 a week, every week, while I did academic research. I felt like I was juggling it all at the time, but now I realize how much my academics suffered for it.

          In the end I graduated with about $50,000 in undergrad debt, which was the very best I could do. I about cut it in half, and I’m darn proud of that. But not all schools even PERMIT you to work while you go there – Law schools, if they’re accredited, don’t permit students to work at all during the first year unless students are on a part-time program. After that, no more than 20 hours per week.

          Educators and counselors are doing the best they can, but the situation just isn’t as easy as “go to a state school and get a job.”

          1. A Teacher*

            Thanks for that. Educators like me agree, it was a fight to even get the kids to understand the financial aid process and why they had to sign up for a FAFSA pin (I made them do it for a class assignment). I had parents say “well my child doesn’t need to know how to apply for that stuff, I’ll handle it, ” the problem with that mindset is that the parent isn’t taking on the debt the for the loan in most cases, the student is. I can educate, assist, and explain until I’m blue in the face but ultimately parents and students have to decide the best option for themselves–no one size fits all here.

            1. Elysian*

              Right? My amazing high school counselor’s best advice to me was “don’t rule anything out until you’ve seen their full offer.” I wasn’t going to apply to private schools at all, but she convinced me to apply and just see if they offered my any money. They did, and I went, and it was the best decision I could have made for my future.

            2. LibrarianJ*

              As a fairly recent college grad — thank you, on behalf of your students, for trying to get those financial lessons across. I feel that most of my high school classmates (and many of my college classmates) went in blindly. My own high school guidance counselor was not very helpful on this point — she pushed me to apply to some very expensive schools, not because there would be aid available but because of prestige, since after all “nobody graduates college without debt, anyway,” so why bother to worry about it?

              I think this is a serious problem with the culture surrounding college these days — student loans just seem to be a given a lot of the time, and students aren’t really thinking through what it means for them. I know that I wouldn’t have. I was lucky: my parents did the thinking for me and refused to cosign on any loans, which (since my top colleges were all pretty pricey) was the motivation I needed to go crazy applying for scholarships and get myself a scholarship to one of those small, private schools. But a heck of a lot of my friends ended up in serious debt because nobody ever acted like it was a big deal or bothered to let them know they had other options.

        11. AnonAlces*

          That a public school is always going to cost less than a private school is a myth, especially if you can get into some of the higher-tier schools which are need-blind. The trick is that almost no one at private schools pays full freight. If you get into Harvard, and your family makes less than $60k/year, you’ll basically get a free ride.

          Example: I’m from New York State. I graduated in the top ten of my high school class and went to Vassar College (class of 2003), which has need-blind admissions. My family was very strapped for cash, but Vassar ended up footing most of the bill, to the tune of $17k/year. (Out of the $28k/year tuition at the time). And these weren’t loans–these were grants. I came out of four years of undergrad with only $12k in loans, which are almost all paid off now. A friend who went to Penn State, on the contrary, ended up with debt of nearly double that.

          I also have had hiring managers tell me they picked my resume out of the pile because I had a degree from Vassar. So there’s that, too.

        12. KJR*

          Would like to add here: don’t immediately discount the private schools. They have a LOT Of money to give away in scholarships, more so than the state schools. And the higher up the student is in there class, and the better their ACT/SAT scores, the money increases exponentially. Going through this with my junior right now!! Was really shocked to see how much those private schools will give away. However, and this is the point I am driving home to her right now, the amount of money you get from the private school must be at or lower than the amount you would pay to go to a state school. You are going to be paid the same salary regardless of where you went to school (at least this is true in our area and her field of study). So, it’s not worth going into a ton of debt to say you went to a fancy private school if it’s not going to pay off in your salary down the road.

          1. TL*

            There are other reasons to go to a private school: smaller class sizes, better connections with your professor, more in-depth networking opportunities, easier to find your niche (if you go to the right one).

            I worked in my major’s department and I knew all the professors fairly well; I had been to the majority of their houses and one of them offered a class specifically because I kept on bothering them about wanting a class in that field.

        13. Dip-lo-mat*

          I didn’t work in HS. I spent my afternoons doing sports and theater (the things that got me into the competitive school I attended), and every other weekend–and half the summer–visiting my dad four hours a way. A lot of kids split time between two homes, and not always in the same area. But what gives you the “hook,” as colleges now call it, are doing interesting activities, not working at a fast food joint, especially if the job precludes you from taking an AP-heavy load.

          I also graduated a semester early and worked my butt off at a law firm for the last year of classes…skipping some to get work done or not signing up for classes that would have been worthwhile because they didn’t fit in my work schedule. It barely covered my rent, and would never have covered a lick of tuition.

          I think it’s insane that we ask kids to shoulder the financial responsibility of a necessary degree at such a young age. We have to wonder why, exactly, college costs as much as it does, when it doesn’t cost even close to that on some of the best campuses outside our country. There is funny accounting afoot.

    2. Lucy*

      I’d be interested to hear more about the 86% statistic. I think that in general, young people tend to be very hopeful about the future, so I’d say the research would be skewed to them saying that they feel like it will pay off in the future… I mean who wants to be paying off $30k in debt and answer that question with “I don’t think it’ll pay off at all”?

      1. themmases*

        I wonder if a lot of people would answer that question by considering whether they’ve already benefited. That’s certainly how I read it– I’m a millenial who nodded along with that statistic thinking my degree has paid off, too. I’m in a job where I couldn’t have gotten hired without a bachelor’s, so my degree has already benefited me. I think lots of people would endorse that position even though, obviously, the degree has not already paid off in the sense that it hasn’t yet earned the degree holder more money than it cost to earn.

        1. bad at online naming*

          Somewhat ditto.

          I actually broke down the numbers around graduation as to how long it would take to “pay off” my diploma. My projection was about 5 years after graduation I broke even (tuition + loan interest, “lost wages”), and after that it was only positive.

          Granted, the calculations were largely based on speculation (maybe I could’ve made more than $12/hr without any degree after a few years (ha), I didn’t take into account things like benefits or raises, etc.), but… overall I can’t say it was a bad financial decision for me.

          In other news, I just got a raise! woo!

      2. Mike C.*

        In the links, it shows that 62% believe it has already paid off. It’s a significant difference when compared to other generations, but given the huge differences in salary and poverty rates, I can understand why folks would be hopeful.

      3. TL*

        I totally think my degree is worth it, and I have a little more than $16,000 to pay off.

        I don’t know if financially it has worked out yet (though I have faith that it will) but I’m happy with my experience, with what I learned, and where I’m currently at – and I certainly wouldn’t have ended up here without my degree.

      4. smallbutmighty*

        After graduation, I worked briefly for my university’s recruiting team. We’d go around and do presentations for aspiring students at high schools. We’d show them all these glowing statistics and make all these glorious promises. At one point in the presentation, it was noted that on average college graduates earn $28k more per year than those who only graduated from college. At which point all of us working the presentation would mutter to each other, “Yeah, I’ll be happy just to get to $28k per year.” And then we’d tell these aspiring students, “College? Yeah, totally worth it.” We were doing the selling to them, but to ourselves, too.

    3. Anna*

      One of the problems with the disparity is also that college is not for everyone. I used to be a very vocal supporter of everyone goes to college and then I realized a lot of young people drop out because they aren’t ready. And a lot of them aren’t going to do well even if they don’t drop out because they aren’t the kinds of learners that do well in a college setting.

      1. BJ McKay*

        I am a former high school teacher. We really need to stop shoving college at everyone and start prepping kids for vocational careers. A former student who repairs air conditioners makes more than I do and one that is an electrician makes twice as much as me.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      A bit off topic, but I am curious. A friend had a situation and I felt it was a scam. Out of state college offered her a scholarship to play sports. The scholarship was 6k per year. The college was 28k per year. The scholarship came with a loan attached to it- if you take the scholarship you get the loan, no choice. So peach. 22k per year loan, works into 88k in debt at graduation. For a bachelors????

      Anyone familiar with this? Is this real?

    5. smallbutmighty*

      There are obviously a lot of opinions about this and a lot of anecdata.

      The key takeaway here, I think, is that college has shifted from being a sufficient condition to employment (if you have a degree, you’ll get a job) to a necessary condition to most employment (if you want a job, you must have a degree). With that in mind, many would-be students are mentally shifting their thinking about education debt: they’re considering it a liability rather than an investment.

      In my mind, this mental shift is good, although nothing else about the situation is good. (The job market isn’t good, rising college costs aren’t good, the loss of market value of a degree isn’t good, etc.)

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with children being raised with the awareness that college is costly and important, and that getting a college education will involve big decisions, hard work, and potentially difficult choices for everyone in the family. I like the idea of transparency and advance planning: “This is what the family can afford to do for you, these are some things you can do to contribute, these are some things you need to know about the kinds of jobs that are out there.”

      We have a lot of interesting talks about this in my household, which includes my two very bright stepdaughters who are only 8 and 12 but are already interested in where they’ll go to school, what they’ll do when they grow up, etc.

      My husband went to Harvard and his parents paid for it. He then went on to get a Ph.D at Carnegie Mellon. He has a very good job in his field, and could only have gotten it with that level of education. He considers his parents’ investment worth every penny, and he’s probably right.

      I went to a middling state school on academic scholarship, mainly because I’m freakishly good at standardized tests. I got middling grades in a not particularly marketable humanities major. I worked my way through school and graduated debt-free. I worked a long series of thankless low-paying jobs and eventually, through networking, landed a good job at a Fortune 500 company. It has been a slog to get here. But if there’s one thing I firmly believe I did right, it’s making choices that controlled my costs and let me emerge from school without debts. I often worked those thankless retail jobs side by side with people who were in heavy debt from costlier versions of the same education I’d gotten. We used to joke that Starbucks had to be a government welfare program for liberal arts grads; we were all overeducated for the job, and we were all there for the benefits.

      When we talk to the kids about college, my husband tells them to go to the best school they can get into. I tell them to go to the best school we and they can pay for. It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out.

      tl;dr = none of us are without personal baggage on this subject.

  4. Anonymous*

    Had my final interview for a job this week and the hiring manager mentioned in the interview that there’s no salary negotiation. Essentially, the company decides if they want to extend an offer and the salary associated with. Their benefits are posted online (vacation & holidays, insurance, etc) and we talked a briefly about other perks (WFH). Anyone have experience with this? The hiring manager has been very upfront about the process the entire time, but this threw me for a loop.

    1. A Teacher*

      Yeah, most union jobs, like in education are like that. You are paid based on level of education, and in some cases experience (up to 7 years in teaching). So I started out on the pay scale as Masters +30 grad hours (I have two master’s degrees) and no experience a few years ago. I get a raise based on the additional years I teach each year but until I get more grad hours I won’t get that part of a raise.

      1. Anonymous*

        Ah, that makes sense now. The company I’m interviewing is based in education, so perhaps that influences their approach to hiring!

        1. A Teacher*

          In most Illinois public districts–as in the vast majority–you are paid based on a lane and a step. Your lane is the number of years of experience your step is how much education you have, in increments of 15 graduate hours. So the teacher across the hall has 3 masters degrees and 20 years of experience, she is a MA + 75 (we max at the equivlent of 3 graduate degrees for lanes) she gets her step ever year; which is a small percentage raise. If she does extra duty, like serving on our leadership team (she does) she gets paid $26/hr for each meeting (2 a month). If she subs for a teacher and gives up prep she makes $26/hr; extra duty pay is also a percentage of our base pay–i.e. the wrestling coach gets his salary and then his stipend is 12% of the districts base pay (bachelor’s +no experience). Our sick days and personal days are set per year and we roll everything not used over into sick days; personal days roll into sick days if we don’t use them. So when my mom retired from teaching she had 300+ days that they had to pay her out for at a set rate. (she didn’t take a lot of sick time in the 30+ years she taught).

          1. Joey*

            See to me that is just a ridiculous method to use for pay. That means no matter how good I actually teach I will always make less ( and maybe way less) han the sucky teacher down the hall with more years under her belt or education.

            No thanks!

    2. Kacie*

      I worked at a library with a set pay scale and yearly step program (up to a certain number of years). There was no negotiation, but the salaries where among the highest in the metro area. Few complaints.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      I’ve seen this with schools, colleges and also government jobs. There is typically a pay grade and the job is assigned the pay grade with no negotiation. There often IS a small range within that pay grade though, so you may want to ask about that.

    4. Aunt Vixen*

      I was a finalist at a non-profit several years ago who said This is the salary, and it’s a set amount. Other people higher up the food chain were also paid non-negotiable (relative) pittances. It turned out to be good that I didn’t get the job, because I couldn’t have afforded to live on what they would have paid, but it does make me feel a little bit positive that they’re not blowing all their donations on big-ticket salaries and fancy cars for the chairman of whatever.

      1. Anonymous*

        Out of curiosity, were you looking at both non-profits and for profit organizations/companies? I’m currently looking at both and comfortable with either. From my research, the organization appears competitive for the non-profit sector.

        1. Aunt Vixen*

          I was looking everywhere. I ended up in a university-related research group, and I’m now at a for-profit company and not enjoying it much – but the for-profit-ness doesn’t have anything to do with that. (In fact one of the only positives is that I am making a decent wage for a change.)

    5. amaranth16*

      This is the case at my non-union nonprofit job too. Salaries associated with hiring/promotion offers are generally non-negotiable, but salaries are also generous and we’re eligible for substantial end-of-year bonuses based on our performance. I actually prefer my employer’s compensation structure to a place where it all comes down to negotiation (which can depend on so many factors that are not your performance!).

    6. Brett*

      Our government jobs have no negotiation. But it is not because the amounts are fixed by position. Rather, the requisition to advertise the position specifies the hiring max, and almost everyone gets the hiring max (since our hiring max is way below market anyway).
      There is no way to go beyond that without a new requisition, and a new requisition in the same fiscal year is virtually impossible.

  5. Sascha*

    We have a new hire starting next week. I’m so excited about him. We have been needing to fill a spot on our team for a long time, and finally found someone I think will work out really well. So yay!

  6. Ann O'Nemity*

    Thoughts on e-cigarette smoking at work?

    My company policies don’t address e-cigs directly, but are discussing the pros and cons of banning them. I’d like to hear what other companies are doing, and what you all think of the issue.

    1. Anonymous*

      I work in a store and we have the same rules applied to e-cigs as regular cigs (we must be away from the store and not on the property / parking lot when smoking, and must cover our uniform so we cannot be recognised as working there while smoking).

      This goes for e-cigs too, whether or not they contain a scent or nicotine. And as for real cigs, we can be dismissed if we smoke them in the building on the staff area etc.

      This is in the UK where it is also generally illegal to smoke in indoor public places (eg. pubs). I am not sure what their stance would be if a customer smoked an e-cig indoors… I haven’t yet seen it happen and they have no visible smoking policy. It’s assumed ‘regular’ cigs are banned anywhere indoors anyway.

      1. Chris*

        We updated our smoking policy to include e-cigarettes after an employee starting smoking them on break inside the break room (because they weren’t “real cigarettes”). Now you can only smoke them outside the building in the smoking hut 15′ away from the entrance.

        Personally, I am glad they tacked e-cigarettes onto the policy. I have an extremely sensitive nose, and the vapor he was putting off puffing away made me sit across the room (while eyeing him warily- my sinus infections are the stuff of legend). And it was very unappealing to watch in an eating environment. We don’t have vising clients, but I could see how people could be startled/ grossed out to find this happening inside a business.

        1. Ann O'Nemity*

          Yep, I don’t think we considered a policy change until an employee started e-smoking in their office.

    2. Beth*

      My friend smokes an e-cig and I’m honestly not bothered by them at all, though cigarette smoke can and does occasionally put me out of commission. I think that a good policy would be to allow them at desks UNLESS it became a problem. And even then, I’d say give people a chance to change flavors/vendors before wholesale doing the idea in. One flavor my friend had in his e-pipe was just gawdawful, but he changed it out for something else and it was fine again.

      My previous office allowed them, but now I don’t work with smokers, so I don’t know the current policy.

      1. BCW*

        I agree. I hate cigarattes, but e-cigs don’t bother me at all. If someone the cube over was smoking one, I wouldn’t care.

      2. Eden*

        My husband smokes an e-cigarette and once he got a flavor (ostensibly something coffee-flavored) that I guess was okay for him, breathing from the apparatus, but the vapor I breathed smelled exactly like ferret. I couldn’t stand it! I was really happy when we moved on from ‘ferret flavor.’

        If you’ve ever had a loved one who smokes actual cigarettes, it’s hard to be opposed to the vapor-based devices, but I would definitely have a problem smelling some obnoxious flavor all day long.

        When I lived in Chicago, once of my apartments was across from a flavor factory. No matter how much you think you like candy smells, a continuous heavy stream of artificial cherry will do you in after a while.

        1. Chicagoan*

          Sounds like artificial cherry was the issue, but my first thought was that you lived within a 3 mile radius of Blommers chocolate. Just biking through that area gives me a tooth/stomach ache.

          The room I lived in in my college apartment was behind a bakery, with the output vent being right next to the window I had to keep open during air conditionless summertime. Cruelest part was coming home drunk at 4am smelling fresh bread and pastries being baked feet away and knowing that I couldn’t have them until the place opened hours later. The worst.

      1. De Minimis*

        We’re a health facility and are tobacco-free….we’ve expanded the policy to forbid e-cigs as well.

        1. LCL*

          Our permanent official policy isn’t finalized, but basically the same rules apply to them as to cigarettes-no smoking indoors, within 25 ‘ of a doorway, etc.
          I hate e cigs because I think they are a gateway to real cigarettes. As a former smoker, I feel bad for people who start smoking because I know quitting is miserable.

            1. Fiona*

              Ditto. I also don’t know any non-smokers who have purposely *started* “smoking” (vaping) e-cigs in lieu of starting with cigarettes.

              1. Jen RO*

                I’m considering doing this… because I’m slowly starting to become a smoker and I don’t want to! I was thinking of buying an e-cig and just “smoking” air so I could still go on brakes and socialize.

                1. Eden*

                  I think they’re great, personally. They’re cheaper than real cigarettes, too. I quit real smoking years ago and while these smell good, I’d never take it back up on an e-cig!

    3. athek*

      I have a friend who smokes e-cigs when we are out socially, and it does not bother me, but I think it’s mildly unprofessional for the workplace.

    4. Zillah*

      Personally, while I see how e-cigs can be useful for people trying to quit, I think it’s unprofessional to use them indoors at your workplace.

    5. Ann O'Nemity*

      My thinking is that e-cigs should be banned like regular cigs. It’s unprofessional to smoke them in front of customers and some employees complain if e-cigs are smoked in common areas. Also, it doesn’t seem fair to make an exception for employees with private offices, especially when more than half of our company works in shared spaces (cubiville or open office areas).

      One of the most compelling arguments that I’ve heard FOR the allowance of e-cigs focuses on productivity, and the lost time that smokers take to leave the premises to smoke.

    6. Elizabeth*

      Our policy says no tobacco use on the campus, and they’ve included e-cigs in that. They don’t include nicotine gum or patches in it though.

        1. Daria*

          Both those statements perfectly describe my husband’s current job situation. He’s looking, and I hope he gets out of there soon before the bitterness/cynicism/shambles kill his soul.

      1. Bryan*

        I have noticed a lot of bitterness everywhere I have worked. And not just things that genuinely suck but it seems that so many people will not be happy at all. I wonder if they carry this attitude about everything?

      1. Adam V*

        Wow. When answering the phone is such a large part of your job (and customer service is so important), how do you keep it after swearing at customers?

          1. Adam V*

            Aha. That’ll do it, alright.

            It probably will take something like “our biggest customer changed to our competitor and, when asked why, said ‘I’m tired of getting yelled at by your receptionist'” before things change.

            Good luck to you in the meantime!

            1. Sascha*

              Thanks! That’s my dream. She’s been complained about MANY times, but that’s what you get with this VP.

              So maybe I should change my answer to, a VP who actually deals with problems? :)

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Yeah. At some point problems shift and become a problem in management. Your next receptionist could be loud and gum snapping. The boss probably isn’t going to do anything about that, either.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I’d make cubicles that have tops (or go up to the ceiling) and doors so they were like little offices. Officles. I sit in the middle of people who do phone support and conference stuff and it’s sometimes really hard to concentrate.

      1. Judy*

        I’m not sure that helps. You can still hear sound through the cubicle walls even if they go to the ceiling. My current cubicle shares a wall with a cubicle conference room that has the walls to the ceiling.

    2. Steve*

      REAL flex hours and/or telecommuting options. Right now it’s “kinda okay” in very limited use for special situations, but I wish it were a real everyday fully open and recognized work solution. I’d be much happier with my job if I knew I could put in the hours whenever and wherever I wanted.

      1. esra*

        Huh. Are you the Steve sitting across from me right now?

        Because we really need this at my workplace. Right now it’s kind of ‘okay until it’s not’. Not ideal.

      1. A Teacher*

        +1000 to this. I’m tired of the government blaming public sector workers that have paid into our pensions for years for the state’s problems. Maybe if they hadn’t borrowed from the pension system we wouldn’t have a problem. As it is, my school district doesn’t pay into TRS (teacher retirement system) neither does the junior college I adjuct at (SURS). About 10% of what I make comes out and goes into mismanaged state retirement funds.

        1. fposte*

          It kills the pension, it kills the working budgets, it kills the working budgets of the people I’m serving, it’s almost certainly going to start requiring us to pay more in taxes to cover the shortfalls in our own pensions (like being required to donate to the food bank you get food from). Bah. I hope you go bald, Blago.

          1. A Teacher*

            I hear you–thanks to the 2% increase in the income tax over the past year, I made less money (take home pay)with a raise than in previous years. Go Illinois!

      2. De Minimis*

        An overall understanding of the bigger picture, managers don’t need to know everything or how to do everything, but should know enough about operations to provide guidance and to adjust to changes and new policies. This goes for employees too, I think there’s just an overall lack of interest in how different roles are connected.

      3. athek*

        I have relatives in Cook County and since the holidays, many of them have rumbled to me about leaving the state.

    3. thenoiseinspace*

      HR’s many restrictive, frustrating and pointless policies. (I’ve talked about some of them on here before, such as having to interview a minimum of three candidates for each job posting even if you only have one qualified applicant, or just one applicant total. It forces you to keep reposting the job and not move forward with the hiring process for months.) I understand that they were all created with good intentions, but they’re just not practical.

    4. anon in tejas*

      the pass the buck mentality & not reading closely enough (lots of emails back and forth when the other person could have just READ MY EMAIL MORE CLOSELY instead of answering what they wanted).

      1. Gjest*

        Yes to the email thing especially! All week I kept on having to figure out how to say nicely/without sarcasm “Thank you so much for telling me about X. Now would you mind telling me about Y (Y being what I asked for in my email, X having absolutely nothing to do with what I asked about)”

        1. Gene*

          I reply simply, “That’s not what I asked.” and then I cut and paste the original question part of my previous email (after reading it to be sure I am actually asking what I think I’m asking.)

          Yeah, I’ve been accused of being rude, but I can live with that.

          1. Gjest*

            I wish I could do that, but I have to use a little more diplomacy. I think I would get called into my boss’s office for the above tactic.

    5. Chris*

      My store manager would suddenly realize that the best way to motivate his staff in the daily mini-meeting would NOT include telling us that we suck/are the worst/are stupid. And then expecting us to work even harder to make up for how awful we are >:(

    6. Kat*

      A commitment to career development that included actually developing careers and not just giving it lip service

    7. LizNYC*

      Full-on resistance to change, especially when the current way of doing something is so glaringly not working that it’s really hurting.

    8. A Bug!*

      I don’t need much, but a desk with natural light and a bit more storage space would be really nice. Maybe a new computer.

    9. AmyNYC*

      The hours! I was told they were pretty regular, but I’ve since seen that half the office regularly stays until 9 or 10 and comes in on weekends. I work my 45ish hours and go home. No one has said anything to me, but I still feel a tiny bit guilty going home at 7.

    10. Anna*

      The fact that the government dictates what we can and can’t see on our computers (I work for a contractor) so even if we have a valid business reason to use social media, we can’t. My job is marketing! GAAAH!

      1. De Minimis*

        Is there anyone you can go to for an access request? I know our agency [federal] has a procedure to ask for access to a blocked site if we feel it’s necessary for work.

    11. Anon*

      The inability to plan projects and manage for the future instead of the here and now bottom line.

      TPTB seem to be incapable of realizing that if you pay more now for some things, you’ll pay less in the future overall. They’re also pretty awful at actually planning the projects we’re undertaking, answering questions about what we’re supposed to be doing, providing direction, and all of those things that are kind of really important.

    12. littlemoose*

      Room for advancement. I’ve taken on a lot of tougher responsibilities, but my boss can’t promote me to Senior Teapot Analyst because our office already has too many of that position, though he has explicitly said he wants to. Frustrating, although the other aspects and perks of this job are quite good.

      1. NylaW*

        THIS. Our department (and organization) is so flat. There is such a thing as a Senior Teapot Engineer in my department but we don’t actually have tiers that people can move into. The two senior positions we have were basically created so that the two people who had been there the longest could be paid more and be in a higher pay grade than the rest of us who were hired several years after they were.

    13. Labratnomore*

      I would make it a requirement for all management staff to read AAM every day. We have some decent managers and but mostly mediocre managers. Most of them are great people who want to do well, but just don’t have the management skills they need to excel at their jobs. Reading AAM everyday sure would help!

    14. Jen RO*

      The fact that the new management is driving everyone out of a wonderful company. My office mate just got a job offer today and I’m sad :(

    15. Anonymous*

      The boss situation.

      See, I have two, who are theoretically on the same level. One is big picture, very creative and great at networking, but also flighty, always late, and very much “I’m going to give you something to do then never speak of it again.” The other is more detail-oriented and “all business,” but she tends to smile and nod her way through constructive comments/concerns with no intention of actually considering them. I also suspect that we are the third priority in comparison to her other professional obligations (see next paragraph).

      Neither are around very much–the former is out networking or “working from home” with her two small children, the other manages another non-profit in addition to ours and owns her own business. You can tell they don’t talk to each other, so there are plenty of awkward moments in meetings when one completely contradicts something the other has said.

      It’s a shame, because I really do like my peers, but the supervisor situation is disruptive enough that I’m currently looking for a new position.

    16. Windchime*

      The person who sits near me who will not. shut.up. and who doesn’t have time to work (but has time to roam around and yak for hours on end).

      1. Beth*

        Somedays I’m that person at my office. I apologize on behalf of people that do this — there is sometimes a good reason. My work day is sometimes so hacked up with meetings and hurry-up-and-wait tasks I get stuck in endless talking heads followed up by too little uninterrupted time to do what they ask. There’s nothing I can do, and several of us are in the same vicious cycle so we talk to take the edge off when we’ve run out of articles.

        Thanks for reminding me to remind myself to shut up.

    17. Cassie*

      Here’s mine:

      Replace the current manager with someone who is a) qualified to be a manager; b) interested in actually (you know) managing; and c) open-minded enough to listen to differing opinions.

      All the other problems within the dept can be fixed (albeit with some time and effort), but are dependent on having someone in charge who is a true leader.

      It’s funny because a lot of the responses here seem to be related to stuff that management can change or influence. :)

    18. smallbutmighty*

      A better understanding of the larger corporate matrix.

      I wouldn’t change a thing about my immediate team and manager–they’re great.

      But when we need to work outside our team, it can be really challenging to suss out roles and responsibilities. The upper management in my department feels really strongly about adhering to chain of command in all communications (don’t cc this person, don’t respond directly to inquiries from this group but instead route them through your manager, don’t reach out to your friend in this group for information about this thing).

      There are no clear guidelines on who’s who; you really only learn these things by unintentionally screwing up and getting dressed down for it. It’s a real drag, especially when you’re just trying to help someone outside the department who has reached out to YOU.

      I get that communication can’t be a free-for-all in an organization as big as ours, but it’s hard to know how to navigate these channels without some specific training and guidance, which has never really been offered.

  7. Ethyl*

    Spousal unit and I shoveled him out of the knee-deep snow in the driveway and made it to work. Work is very quiet, my boss still isn’t here. I hope everyone is staying safe and that your workplaces are being as reasonable as possible!

    Does anyone have any thoughts on the PMP certification? Worth getting?

    1. The IT Manager*

      I think it might worthwhile, but obviously it depends on your situation and aspirations. I think it is a well regarded certification, but obviously by itself without experience it doesn’t add much.

      I am a Project Manager for the government. I do not have the PMP, but I have a government PM certification – Federally Acquitiion Certified – Program/Project Manager (FAC-P/PM) which is what my agency cares about. If I were changing jobs, I might get the PMP. It doesn’t hurt to keep sharpening the toolkit.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      I thought about getting one, but then realized that I really, never, ever, ever want to be a Project Manager. From what I can tell it’s nothing but spending all your time meetings getting yelled at about why things aren’t getting done, and then going to other meetings where you incessantly nag people about why things aren’t getting done.

      I can’t imagine a job that would be a wronger fit for my personality! But I’ve worked for some absolutely awesome PM’s, and I have huge respect for them.

    3. Adam V*

      Most PMs at my job seem to have the PMP certification – I think the company pays for the training if they put you in that role. It certainly doesn’t seem to hurt; the PMs I’ve worked with here are pretty good.

    4. Anonymous*

      My company offers PMP training. I did it last year. I really enjoyed it overall. However, the test is very difficult. I took it but didn’t pass. :( Most people have to take it multiple times in order to pass it and it’s fairly expensive to take ($500 I think).

      I’ll echo what others have said that it really depends on your position/job. For my job, I don’t need it but I can definitely say that I’ve used several of the skills/info I’ve learned in my training.

    5. Girasol*

      Haven’t been on the job market since getting mine so I don’t know if it would make me as wonderfully hireable as they say. But as a IT project manager of many years, trained under a number of instruction programs, I found PMP training to be far more useful and applicable in real life than anything else I’d seen.

  8. Lisa McS.*

    My new IT hire has never had a leadership role before. He’s only supervising one person, but will be interacting with our Mgmt team with increasing responsibility and autonomy over the next year plus. I’ve never formally trained/mentored someone to be a manager. Any IT-specific advice you can offer? (I should note that I am not in IT, but am responsible for all support functions in our 20 person professional services company. So he reports to me, and probably always will, but he wants to be a CIO so that’s what he’ll leave us for in some period of time.)

    1. A Jane*

      One challenge I had while transitioning into a managerial role versus tech role was communicating the tech details without too much tech jargon. I had to learn to translate what the engineers were saying into management bullet points.

      1. A Jane*

        Also, related to that, I think being able communicate status, especially during production support incidents, is pretty key for managers.

    2. Jamie*

      If he wants to be upper management he needs to learn the business – not just the IT end. How dollars flow through – not just how the system works, but how the data moves and what it means.

      I don’t know how junior he is, but it’s never too early to learn how to do a cost-benefit analysis on IT projects, how to shop for equipment, how to create and maintain a budget.

      Communication skills are key. I know I am very curmudgeonly myself, but that’s because I’m just me here, but if I didn’t have good communication skills and the ability to build rapport and get buy in from the people I need my projects wouldn’t move, no matter how good my tech skills. He needs to be in a position where he can practice going to meetings, making a case, selling his department to get what he needs.

      1. Harryv*

        That’s describing me. I have the tech background and good leadership, people management experience but never had budgeting, finance, P/L experience. This is keeping me from getting director level posts. Any tips?

    3. Beth*

      I work in IT, and the biggest thing I wish our management would would learn is that in IT, looking busy =! (does not) equal busy, and vice-versa. we’re on a constant workload roller-coaster where if we have percieved ‘slow time’ then we are given extra work — they don’t seem to realise that slow time is used to play catch-up and clean -up. Those things are actually very important!

      Right now, we’re taking it in the teeth. A good IT manager can explain how his team works and why their workload does what it does and effectively prevent the IT team from being a place that gets overloaded with pet projects from above.

      1. Jamie*

        I wouldn’t be able to function in a place like that. If people need something done, minor troubleshoot, long term project, or anything in between I’ll get it in the queue and it will be handled based on priority. Busy work for IT? That’s ridiculous and those people who are doing this to you need to be reeducated.

        My boss told me when I started there will be times where the workload will be crazy and I’ll be putting in unbelievable hours and overwhelmed so I need to treat it as accountants treat tax season. Do what I need to do during the peak times, adjust my schedule down when I can during slow times, and when not crazy busy enjoy it and recharge so I’m ready for the next peak.

        If anyone ever assigned me a project because I didn’t look busy …I think my next project would be my resume.

  9. KTM*

    I’ve just returned from a conference and I’m wondering if anyone could share their tips for organizing business cards? I’ve been accumulating piles in my drawer for a while now…I know you can get scanners – does anyone use/like these? I’d like to start entering them into excel so they can be searchable and I can keep notes about the conversation I had with the person or where I met them, but it seems like there might be an easier way.

    1. Jen*

      Anytime I get a business card from someone, I add them to my linkedin as soon as I get back to the office. It keeps it current where they are working at least. Otherwise, I’ve been meaning to get one of those business card organizer boxes for my desktop.

    2. Lindsay*

      Can you connect with them on LinkedIn? I think LinkedIn has a private “notes” section so you can put in those details, and then toss the cards.

      I let cards pile up, then a few months later, I can’t remember any of those people so I just toss the cards!

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I just have a stack in my desk drawer fastened with an elastic band.

        At a previous job I had one of those little scanners, but I found you needed to do manual corrections, especially if it was an odd typeface or brightly coloured logo.

      2. KTM*

        Can you search the notes on LinkedIn? I’d ideally like to be able to log where I met the person and what our conversation involved so I can search keywords later when I can’t exactly remember the person’s name but I recall where I met them.

            1. Jill of All Trades*

              I can definitively say I learned something today. :)

              For the record, I’m a total carnivore but I think I’d be a bit grossed out if someone handed me a meat card at a conference. And where would I put it? In my pocket, unwrapped?

    3. AB*

      I have used the scanners, they’re helpful if you frequently get massive piles of them (if networking and conferences is a major part of your job, it might be a good investment). But, I would caution you to not skimp out and get a cheap one.
      The good ones work fairly well and will link up with your contact list, and have useful software for organizing contacts.

      If you only get a few cards here or there, or you only go to conferences infrequently, I would just enter the info in your contacts as you get them. There are also a number of apps for you phone that let you take pictures of your business cards and organize them, I’ve never tried them so I can’t say whether they work or not.

      1. Elysian*

        Yup. I use an app on my phone that scans the cards, reads the text, and ads them to group. It keeps the picture of the card and also makes the text searchable. Then I toss out the card itself. The one I use is called CamCard, but there are others.

    4. Cassie*

      Get an assistant to type these cards into excel, like my boss does.

      All kidding aside, could you scan them and then convert to text (using OCR)? That way, you won’t actually have to do the data entry, but the text can be copied into whatever contacts manager you use. We use google, which will allow me to export contacts into an Excel-readable format.

  10. Sunflower*

    Any fans of the HBO show Girls? As a millennial I can relate to pretty much all the episodes but this week’s really kind of dealt with the DWYL(Do What You Love) and working for a paycheck vs doing what you believe in. Mostly the scene where Hannah proclaims she is going to spend 3 hours everyday after work writing and then promptly falls asleep on the couch. Also I am 100% one of the those people who would be dying to have her GQ job!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I adore it and think it’s smart and funny, but it keeps getting weirdly dark, and not necessarily in a fun dark way, so I think I need to recalibrate what I expect from the show. It sends all sorts of signals that it’s going to be light but then it’s … not.

      1. Stephanie*

        Yeah, Jessa especially. Initially she started as this freewheeling hippie chick and you see now that she’s turning into an awful person. But then, maybe that’s true to life.

      2. Sunflower*

        I agree. The first season was amazing and then mid season 2 things started to get strange. I feel like I need a narrator this season because I don’t really understand what this all adding up to. I get that we aren’t supposed to necessarily like the characters and we are supposed to see most of them are incredibly, annoyingly self-absorbed but it’s almost at the psychopath point where they have absolutely no feelings or regards for other people.

      3. AmyNYC*

        As a 20-something living in Brooklyn, it hits a bit close to home (and I feel the need to say this – WE’RE NOT ALL LIKE HANNAH!) but I was kind of masochistically enjoying the first few seasons, but I’ve been loosing interest this season.

        1. Stephanie*

          Yeah, that’s been my exact take. It’s been my hate-watch. My mom and I have watched it and she’s like “Oh, this makes me worried for your generation.” I had to remind her a lot of us aren’t like that.

    2. Jen*

      I’m in my late 30s but I watch it and enjoy it. I thought that was a good ep. I can certainly identify with that feeling in your early to mid 20s when you have to confront the fact that the career you’d imagined for yourself isn’t the career that’s going to happen. I still remember when a friend of mine e-mailed me one day and said “This may sound really stupid but I’m just in a sad mood today because I realized I’m probably never going to be on the Tonight Show” and we laughed about it but I understood what she meant. There’s this moment when you realize that you probably won’t be a foreign correspondant for CNN or super famous and successful. Even if you really never believed you would – there’s a little bit of a slap that hits you when you realize “Oh wait, this is my life. This is who I am as an adult. . . this is not what I thought it would be like.”

      1. Elkay*

        I’ve been like that with the Winter Olympics. I have no aspirations to be an Olympian but it’s a bit sad to realise that I’ve missed my chance (what with not liking the cold and not being sporty).

      2. Elizabeth West*

        What’s on TV isn’t right either, especially. Notice how even the characters with so-called mundane jobs live in fabulous apartments, etc. Like on Friends; Monica is a chef and Rachel works in a coffee shop. They don’t make enough money to rent a broom closet, let alone a huge freaking apartment like theirs!

        1. TK*

          As a more rabid fan of the show than I will probably point out, the show’s way of getting around that was saying that the apartment was rent-controlled and owned by Monica’s grandmother, from whom they were illegally subleasing it.

          Not that that really detracts from your point.

        2. Sunflower*

          With the exception of maybe the first few episodes, they have not addressed that Hannah still most likely wouldn’t be able to cover her rent. She stated the rent was $2100 and now that Adam is her less than reliable roommate I don’t see how she is scraping together enough cash to pay that with only her coffee shop/ebook money

        3. Anonymous*

          I think in FRIENDS they said something about Monica inheriting the apartment or the lease (rent controlled) in the first episode or so.
          But yes! I can understand that because it’s TV, it’s a designed set. I can also understand that a TV show needs a bigger room for camera angles, etc.

          Some shows are more realistic, though. Scrubs used a hospital for their apartment shots, but it was more realistic than most sets (but it was also very much designed as a set). I like that Parks and Rec is pretty realistic. Homes with dated carpet, condos, etc. The Office did that, too, I think.

          But yes!

        4. athek*

          It always drives me nuts that people on a lot of tv shows are rarely at work….you’ll see lawyers, teachers, office workers, etc. having leisurely lunches and hanging out at their homes all day, and then suddenly having a random scene at work when it’s convenient for them.

          1. the gold digger*

            “The Good Wife,” which is supposed to take place in Chicago, never shows anyone dressed for winter. Alicia wears a cute winter coat (no such thing as a cute coat that is also warm) and high heels. Either she has underground, attached parking at both work and home and never goes to the grocery store or the show’s writers have no idea how snow works.

            1. Elysian*

              Right!? Just once I want to see Alicia or Will or Diane disheveled and covered in salt and wearing boots or something.

            2. athek*

              Being from the midwest, Hollywood’s representation of tornadoes kills me. Hot in Cleveland and Mike and Molly are two recent shows that got it completely wrong — sustained blustery winds for hours!

            3. MK*

              Yeah, the characters in the “Good Wife” don’t always dress in the most practical way. But they’re also dressed a lot more professionally than other shows. Sometimes Hollywood’s ideas of what women wear in the office is either too youngish or too sexy.

              1. Windchime*

                I agree. What’s with all the tight, sexy suits and plunging necklines with cleavage? People don’t dress like that at work (well, not in my line of business anyway…..)

            4. The Barb*

              I’m from Central MA and Dawson’s Creek made 7th grade Barb mad! It was supposed to be winter and they were running around in cardigans and no coats.

              1. Collarbone High*

                I was floored when I learned Dawson’s was set in MA. I was only an occasional viewer and I’d always assumed it was in someplace like SC since the characters were always in summer clothes.

                1. Sara B.*

                  NC! And I’m pretty sure they filmed in summer. So…I’m really not surprised about that.

                  The Walking Dead has taking place only in ‘summer’ pretty much. I don’t blame them! They film in Georgia!

            5. Stephanie*

              I have a puffy jacket from J. Crew that’s kind of cute. It’s belted and has somewhat of a silhouette. Of course…it’s still a puffy.

            6. Sara B.*

              On Degrassi (I watched the first 10 seasons or so of the next generation) they barely wore coats. In Toronto. And the show didn’t cover the school year at all.

              The pilot of Fringe was pretty snowy and set in Boston. That was pretty cool. I’m having trouble thinking of other snowy shows right now.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            Or their jobs are meta show business jobs. Like on Full House:Danny Tanner was a talk show host, Jessie Katsopolis (sp?) a musician, and Joey Gladstone a comedian. It’s only a transparent excuse to have them perform on the show. I have a hard time with the whole writers-writing-about-writers, TV-characters-are-actors thing. It’s lame and doesn’t stretch. I like it when they do actual JOBS.

            Or like with Roseanne, where they were just ordinary people and had the same bullshit problems we had (only funnier). That slice-of-real-life stuff was the best (until Roseanne turned evil). The first couple of seasons were so good I still watch the reruns.

            1. Sara B.*

              The only thing about Roseanne that felt off to me was that they made it a show about working class issues, but I don’t remember Roseanne working all that much on screen (at least working hard). She was such a bad employee at almost every job!

              1. vvondervvoman*

                Uh, they were purposely portraying what happens when someone knows they’re in dead-end job for their whole life and they’ll never make a living wage. No motivation, etc.

                1. Bar*

                  I understand that, but even when she had her own restaurant she was slow, lazy, ornery, and made no effort to provide customer service.

                  I suppose it’s a different time. I don’t think I’ve ever had a job where I wouldn’t have been fired for that type of performance.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  Bar–the character changed drastically between the beginning and the restaurant; I didn’t like the change much but I think it had a lot to do with Tom Arnold (briefly her husband and a cast member–he played Arnie).

          1. Chocolate Teapot*

            I have started listening to (the soon to finish) Cabin Pressure, which is a BBC Radio 4 comedy and utterly hysterical.

            It stars Benedict Cumberbatch, so you may have heard of it, but that’s not the only reason to listen!

    3. Sabrina*

      I watch it, but I don’t love it enough to pay for HBO. So when Game of Thrones comes back I’ll pay for HBO then and watch Girls online. I watched the first two episodes this season since they were posted for free on YouTube but I haven’t watched any since.

    4. Stephanie*

      Lena Dunham gets a lot right about millennials (I’m one). And I do like seeing an alternate version of NYC that isn’t living in a giant Manhattan apartment on a waitressing salary. This past week’s episode really resonated with me as well.

      1. Stephanie*

        Also, I can’t believe I’m finding Adam and Ray to be the most sympathetic characters on the show at the moment.

          1. Stephanie*

            Yes, agreed! I think the writers too are using him as the foil for showing how ridiculous the girls are.

        1. Sunflower*

          Ray is my favorite. He has a very interesting view of the world and is always able to put people in their place and bring them down to reality.

          I think it’s amazing how Adam is able to articulate his feelings and how open he is with his emotions. I’m getting tired of his whole ‘my art is my art and I won’t sacrifice it for anyone’ so I’m curious to see how his new acting gig is going to work out.

          I’m feeling most sympathetic towards Marnie, probably because I relate to her most in the sense that I am a bit of a control freak. She’s really losing it and just has no idea how to handle it because things have spiraled so far out of her control. I’m hoping she semi pulls it together soon

      2. Sophia*

        Ugh. I can’t stand Girls, and think that all four of them (except maybe Shos) are entitled. I like a lot of shows where there are no likeable characters, but there has to be compelling characters – and I can’t find a single one in Girls.

    5. Bryan*

      I’m in my late 20s (I feel like with the show that it’s interesting to learn the age of fans of the show) and I like it but I didn’t really enjoy season 2 until the last 5 minutes of the season. I keep feeling like Hannah is really selfish and perpetuates stereotypes of millennials but I keep watching every week. I still think it’s clever and funny.

    6. Ann Furthermore*

      I’m outing myself as a grumpy middle-aged woman, but I just don’t like it, and I’ve tried very hard to like it. I find the characters to all be very unlikeable, particularly Jessa.

      I was a trainwreck in my 20’s, but not that much of a trainwreck.

        1. Sunflower*

          Oddly enough I found the first scene to be hilarious. Probably because I found it to be THAT ridiculous and bizarre that Hannah thought she was entitled to those things and acting like she knew her parents finances.

      1. Kat*

        I’m in my 20’s but I must be equally as grumpy because I can’t stand the show either. I’m ok with being grumpy about it though!

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          Ha! Glad to see it’s not just because I’m old. I watched it for awhile and realized I was hate-watching it. I have better things to do than let a bunch of vapid, clueless, entitled people — who are all fictional to boot — get on my nerves!

      2. smallbutmighty*

        Same here.

        I know there’s been a lot of online chatter about likable versus unlikable characters, but to me the key distinction is irritating versus non-irritating characters.

        I can’t watch irritating characters on TV. I just . . . can’t. Whenever I encounter them, I think to myself, “You know, if this were an acquaintance or a colleague, I’d be screening my phone calls or taking an alternate route to the restroom to avoid this person. And here I am in my own with a magic button that can make this irritating person get off my screen! How can I NOT take advantage of this marvelous technology?”

        I’m sure Lena Dunham and the rest of the cast are lovely and talented people and worth all the ink they’re getting, but man do I not enjoy watching that show.

    7. Nancypie*

      I watch the show, and do like it, but I don’t know why. I’m in my early 40’s, and I find myself appalled over and over again at the behavior, self-centeredness, lack of insight, etc. All of these messes these girls are in are their own doing. It’s like watching trains about to collide.
      It is odd to watch a show where I pretty much sympathize with no one, except minor characters like Ray (although he is becoming less minor) and Hannah’s parents.

    8. Anon*

      I stopped watching it after I found out that Lena Dunham is kind of a terrible person who doesn’t understand when she’s being offensive and why and argues about whether or not what she did/said was offensive.

      1. Sara B.*

        At first I felt kind of bad, because seasoned execs and writers aren’t subjected to a fraction of the criticism. But her reaction, uggh.

        I wonder if we are more critical in general not just because something is assumed or purported to be more progressive right off the bat, or because we feel ‘safer’ about it. Or at least like someone might listen (that the Girls audience/creative team might be more likely to listen than the audience of Big Bang Theory or 2 1/2 Men)

      2. Anne 3*

        Yep. I go back and forth between feeling bad for her (because the criticism aimed at her should also be aimed at basically all other TV writers and for some reason she’s the one being piled on), and feeling frustrated with her for just… still NOT getting it(because well, it’s valid criticism).

        1. Stephanie*

          Are you referring specifically to the lack of diversity on the show?

          In regard to that, I go back and forth. It is her show, but it does seem ludicrous that she shows this lily-white world in Brooklyn and the only minorities you did see (in the first season at least) were homeless people or admins. Like you said, this happens in a lot of mainstream shows. The difference is that this show purports to be more realistic. The Donald Glover character in S2 almost seemed like a “Seeee? I included a black character!” move, especially with his super short story arc. But then, given the characters’ backgrounds (upper middle class, private college), it doesn’t seem like it’s that much of stretch that their social circles would be pretty homogenous.


  11. Entry-Level Expert?*

    As I’m getting ready to graduate with a Masters, I’m finding a couple positions that ask for entry-level experts. Can I be an entry-level expert in two areas? They do specifically say that they’re looking for current undergraduates and up, so this is a very entry-level position, but the way the application process is structured, I’d have to send in two cover letter & resume sets. Does that look bad? How much focus and expertise can they be expecting?

    1. Beth*

      Uhm, the answer is no. What you actually mean is an ‘underpaid’ expert. In the current economy people can get away with paying dismal wages for jobs that require all kinds of qualifications. They come up with cutesy rationalizations, like this one.

      They are expected to get you for half, or a third, or maybe even less of what you’d be worth ten years ago. I’m sorry :( But that’s just how it is right now.

    2. not funny*

      What is stopping you from writing a cover letter that links the two sets of expertise? Sometimes the most interesting candidates and colleagues have diverse skills/experiences that fit together in interesting ways – have your materials address this. I think two sets of materials would not help but might confuse the reader.

      1. Entry-Level Expert?*

        Hi, thanks for the response! What’s stopping me is the format of the (online, rigid) application, and the fact that I have to include a decent amount of supplementary material to demonstrate that I have substantial knowledge of the two areas. I can understand the benefits of having both together, though, so perhaps I can finagle a way to get both into a single application…

    3. ArtsNerd*

      If I understand correctly, and you are applying to multiple positions, that’s just fine. I would just read “expert” as specialist. By the end of my Masters degree, I could have conceivably created separate cover letters framing myself as a marketing/communications specialist, an event-planning specialist, AND a performing arts specialist.

      Now, I did have professional experience & internships through my schooling to help support it, not just academic work. Do you have that to draw on?

      1. Entry-Level Expert?*

        Thank you for the response!

        I’m applying to one listed position with multiple openings, at a large organization with multiple departments, of which I could feasibly demonstrate “expertise” (at least at the level that they’re likely going to be looking for/getting) in two areas. One I have a lot of classwork and a field-specific skill in; for the other I have internship experience in and I wrote a dissertation on the area. I think I have a slightly better chance at the area I have experience in, but I’d rather work in the other– hence wondering if I can apply for both and let them decide where they’d rather place me (if anywhere).

    4. Anonymous*

      Yeah, this sounds like a way to get experts, but pay at entry level. I really don’t see how the two can exist simultaneously. If you’re entry level, you really can’t be an expert, and vice versa.

  12. Lindsay*

    I am unmotivated at my current job. I get absolutely no feedback from my boss, good or bad, my work is unstimulating, and the workplace culture is bitter (government employees/layoffs in 2009). But the commute is easy and the benefits are good, though the pay is low.

    I’m job hunting, but worry that I’ll find myself in another poor fitting job.

    How many workplaces are actually positive places to be? Is that common/normal? Right now, I feel like I can’t even imagine a positive workplace culture!

    Does a positive work environment make you feel more motivated to do good work? (Probably a silly question!)

    1. Anonymous*

      I went from an extremely toxic workplace to a mostly positive workplace where people are genuinely kind, and there is no passive-aggressiveness. It’s really, really hard to get used to. It absolutely makes me more motivated to do better work .

      1. LizNYC*

        This happened to me too. I was in your position, Lindsay, and thought that I’d just end up in another dismal workplace that I would not dread at first, but slowly come to hate. A year+ in and it’s not looking that way. (I was at my old job for 6 years and really started hating it after 3.) It can happen. Just be picky. One place I interviewed with gave me the vibes of being a “not great” place to work. I later found out someone else had worked there and confirmed my suspicions. Listen to your instincts!

        1. Lindsay*

          Thanks for the advice! I will remember to be picky. My first impulse is to jump at anything that pays better! But fit is important to me, as is the level of work I’d be doing.

          1. Anonymous_J*

            I know how you feel. I left a place like that in mid-December, and I’m just now not feeling apprehensive about applying and interviewing, and I’m being very, very picky.

            One major decision I have made–and I have gotten my boyfriend’s support–is to try and just be a temp for at least a year. Part of it is I’m burnt out and don’t want to commit, and another part of it is I want to experience different environments and different industries, in the hope of finding something that suits me.

            Good luck. Getting that poison out of your system is very hard work!

    2. A Jane*

      Yes!!! A positive work environment makes you feel so much more motivated. The stress of a toxic work environment takes a toll on you physically. When I changed jobs, I felt so much healthier! Good luck on your job search!

    3. MissDisplaced*

      Well, the good thing is that you ARE currently employed so you can take your time searching for a really good fit!

      Companies are hit or miss, and even a great company can have a crappy boss or coworkers. I think that yes, having a positive environment makes you want to participate and be more engaged in your work.

    4. Just a Reader*

      It’s an amazing feeling to like going to work after years of having a pit in my stomach.

      I turned down a job from what seemed like a brutal workplace and took a lower offer at a place that seemed like a better environment. It was a good move–the culture is fantastic, my team is staffed with genuinely nice people, my boss is amazing and I’ve more than made up the difference in pay from the other offer with raises, bonuses, etc.

      It’s so much easier to excel in a place you love, with a team that enables you and a healthy mental state and personal life.

    5. Lindsay*

      YAY for hearing that Positive Work Environment = More Motivation. I’ve always considered myself a hard worker – but without any feedback, it’s really hard to keep working…hard, I guess!

    6. Jamie*

      Yes. I had what could have been a crappy job once, but my boss was so awesome and had this inherent gift of making you feel like you were part of something bigger…and he gave me such confidence and mentoring I actually credit him with my entire career.

      You can’t underestimate working for a great manager in an environment with people you generally like and can respect professionally.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Seriously. I am now willing to take lower pay for a better work environment having been through some places that were abusive, and hostile (not in the legal sense, just generally). A good work environment is its own reward a lot of the time.

    7. Jessica*

      Oh heck yes! And it doesn’t even have to be a sunshine and rainbows environment all the time. After my last temp (thankfully) position, I am just so happy to be somewhere where people are generally reasonable and decent most of the time, that I’m doing great (at least I hope so)! I think I do have some PTSD left over from the last place, though. I keep expecting someone to berate me for making a typo or something.

      1. Anonymous*

        Yes, me too! I think in an open thread a few weeks ago, Alison alluded to a post about PTSD-like symptoms after working in a toxic workplace. I hope she posts it!

    8. Ethyl*

      There are a lot of workplaces that are positive places to work! Here are some that I can remember:

      –Small take-out juice bar and restaurant. I washed dishes and made juice and smoothies to order. The actual work was awful and hard and smelly and demeaning but my boss and coworkers were respectful and great — my boss even once called a customer who didn’t tip me on a delivery and told them we would not deliver to them anymore!

      –Bridal and formal dress boutique. I sold dresses to brides, girls going to proms or formals, and pageant competitors. It was loads of fun, my boss loved what she did, and my coworkers were great. I bought my own wedding gown and bridesmaid’s dresses there when I got married years and yeas later and she still remembered me :)

      –Environmental consulting. Worked as a remediation geologist for 5 years with great people. The work was strenuous but the projects were interesting and I had ample opportunity for professional advancement. Got laid off, sadly, and my next 2 environmental jobs were terrors.

      –Federal government. Worked in communications and outreach as an intern with amazing friendly knowledgable people. Wish they could have afforded to hire me. Would have stayed forever.

      –Religious organization. Temp to permanent, now am an event planner and outreach/communications person for them. Great people, pay is not great, generous flex time and a boss who really respects work/life balance. Looking to take my skills back to the environmental field eventually, but would like to get more experience.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      It helps a lot but it is not a magic bullet that solves all. Once you get used to being in a good environment you start to notice that the paycheck is a little small or something else.

      I also like to factor in pay and commute time along with the environment.
      It also helps if I feel that the job is doable for me, overall. If I suddenly report for work one day and have to do underwater welding, I am in serious trouble.

    10. Viv*

      I left a job at a not-for-profit in December without a job to go to because it occurred to me one day that listening to 3 of 4 of your peers cry at work in one week was not normal. (the other one was on extended leave because our office was making her sick) This was an incredibly motivated and positive staff just a year ago and we were also loyal to our cause and to our ED. Over about three months last fall, though, she literally nitpicked us into hating our jobs and feeling anxious every time she looked at us. We’d come back from incredibly successful events and hear about how one of us looked “tired” all day, how I should have put two small boxes into one big box when packing up, how a coworker arrived three minutes late, etc. etc. We could live with no raises or bonuses for three years, but started to realize there was no flexibility allowed on our side. It’s like that “frog in the kettle” story. We just kept taking it and taking it until one day we realized how sick our workplace had become and what it had done to us.

      In contrast, I just came from a job interview at a place that seems like a good fit. The manager had one of the team members who would be at my level in the interview to help answer specific questions about the job and how they collaborate, the office is designed so there is a semblance of privacy in the cubes, and they took a minute to explain their team structure, which is somewhat unusual.

      In addition, there was natural light in the office and free parking. That counts a lot for my ability to start to day on a positive note.

      1. Sara B.*

        Natural light is so key! I can get an extra 3-4 hrs of sleep if I have access to real light. Makes such a difference.

  13. Anon*

    Since it seems like so much of the advice on here is geared towards entry-level or mid-management jobs, I’m curious what differences there are when looking for an executive director or VP role? That’s going to be my next career step and I’m guessing that my standard resume and cover letter are not going to be enough. I’m trying to network more at conferences and build a reputation for myself within my field (museums), but I wonder if anybody out there has additional ideas!

    1. fposte*

      Not my field, but it’s close enough that I’d second your impulses for networking and conference appearances–profile is important here. Also, if there’s an area of museum management you’re underfamiliar with or it looks like you’re underfamiliar with, it might be good to polish that up.

      Cool field!

      1. Anon*

        Thanks! I’m thinking that fundraising and grant-writing are probably my biggest deficiencies (most of my work has been in program creation/management and bigger-picture institutional strategy). That’s a tough nut to crack without stepping on the toes of my Development department colleagues.

        1. fposte*

          Can you offer to take a piece of the next grant, or even just to run an eye over a draft? At least around here, people are often happy to have help in the creation.

        2. NewEngland Fundraiser*

          As a former museum professional who is now a full-time nonprofit fundraiser, I think there may be a great opportunity for you to address those “deficiencies.” Are you friendly with any of your development staff? If you are a program or admin person, why not ask one of them out to lunch to brainstorm ways to creatively use programming to enhance fundraising/stewardship? for example, offer donors a behind-the-scenes tour of the collections, interview with an exhibiting artist, etc. ( if you’re not doing that type of thing already). Fundraisers NEED to connect donors to mission and you can be the catalyst. Then you can leverage that goodwill and add fundraising experience to your roster.

        3. Elizabeth*

          As a museum educator who has taken over significant duties for a vacant development position (including writing one grant and project managing another in the past month), I don’t think it would hurt to ask your development staff if they could use any help (depending on your own availability, of course).

          One of said grants is for exhibitions, and if someone on our curatorial staff would happen to ask if there was anything she could do, I would probably shriek, “GOD YES PLEASE” and shoot her over a long list of questions that she could answer in far more depth than I can.

    2. evilintraining*

      Mind you, I did NOT check to see what’s coming up and where, but this is a place to start with fundraising: A former supervisor used to actually organize two-day trainings in Pittsburgh and would also teach a module or two. It’s really good stuff — and the certification can only be a bonus for you. The people who teach have all been in the field a very long time, and the modules deal with everything from grant writing to soliciting endowments to working with volunteers.

    3. ArtsNerd*

      More than anything, I recommend *speaking* at conferences, and otherwise positioning yourself as a “thought leader” in the field. You want to be visible in the community, because I expect few ED positions are ever actually publicly posted.

      I’m sure you’re not exactly drowning in free time, but could you serve on a board? That’s networking x a gazillion, plus built-in opportunities to fundraise – which you’re right, is a massive part of being an ED. You especially need to feel comfortable talking to major gift donors and making the ask.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        BTW, from my experience, it’s a rare conference planner who isn’t scrambling to find new quality speakers, so don’t feel awkward about approaching them with panel ideas.

    4. Anon*

      Thanks for all the great suggestions!

      As many of you guessed, free time is not overflowing right now but these are great things to keep in mind for the year (working on my annual goals today — perfect timing!). Our Development staff at work is huge (over 20 people I think) and still expanding in preparation for a capital campaign, but I’m thinking I might be able to help some of the smaller historic sites that are near my home in a volunteer capacity. Definitely keeping my eyes open for presenting opportunities too! AAM readers are awesome — thanks!

  14. Z*

    Yesterday morning, I sat through an uncomfortable discussion during a birthday celebration in which some members of my unit at work were giggling over the idea of transgender and transsexual people. At one point, someone referred to someone as, “He/she/it.” I really didn’t know how to speak up. Keeping in mind that my boss and boss’s boss were involved in this discussion,
    1) What would have been the appropriate way to speak up?
    2) Since I didn’t speak up at the time, should I bring it up belatedly now, or should I just let the subject die for now and then address it if it comes up again?
    Thanks, all!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, please speak up! In the moment, I’d want to say something like: “That’s really offensive. Please don’t say things like that.” Or, “Does it occur to you that you could be speaking to people who have transgender people in their family and friends? Or who are struggling with gender identity issues themselves?” (On the other hand, this response implies that’s the only reason someone would be offended — better suggestions?)

      Later: “I was really bothered by what you said the other day,” followed by a version of the above.

    2. themmases*

      I would be really interested in the answer to this, too.

      A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with my boss about our neighborhood (we live in the same heavily LGBT neighborhood of our city) and learned that, from the way he uses it, my boss apparently thinks a very offensive term for trans people is just a neutral description.

      If it had been a peer, I could at least picture myself just suggesting a better term. Since it was my boss, even though we have a good relationship, I was really uncomfortable but let it go. :(

      1. Beth*

        It could be regional dialect troubles, to be fair to your boss. I lived one place where certain terms were not pejorative at all, and in some cases even affectionate and used by people of a particular group. I moved a few years ago and found out those same words are considered pretty naughty. It was a rough transition since I meant no harm.

        1. themmases*

          Unfortunately my boss has lived in this city his whole life. I’m from the same area, so we should have very similar regional dialects.

          It really sounded to me like he believes this is a normal term, so I’m guessing it’s from not knowing any trans people or reading about issues that affect them. Just like many people still honestly don’t know that some terms referring to disabilities are offensive and shouldn’t be used.

          1. Beth*

            Then you might try something like this: “Hey Bossman, I’ve noticed you use Transvestite to mean Transgender. I don’t mean to nitpick, and I know it’s confusing, but they really don’t mean the same thing. Transgender is the word I think you are looking for.”

    3. Yup*

      I tend to go for a matter of fact response in the moment, as though it’s a sincere conversation (instead of a mocking one).

      Coworker A: “People are different. Tee hee hee!”
      Coworker B: “More stuff about people who aren’t exactly like me. Ha ha!”
      Me: “Have you read any of the discussions about gender neutral pronouns like zie and hir? It’s pretty interesting.”

    4. Calla*

      I agree with Heather and Yup – something like “Actually, ‘it’ is an outdated term, you should only use he/she/preferred pronouns.” Assuming your boss isn’t completely out of control, I don’t think you’d get in trouble for politely correcting them.

      1. thenoiseinspace*

        I agree. One of the things I’ve learned since reading this blog is “assume no offense is meant” and it’s helped me be less negative in situations like these. It’s very possible that the “he/she/it” comment was because the person honestly didn’t know which pronoun was appropriate (though I didn’t hear the tone, of course, so I don’t know for sure.) There’s often a sort of generational ignorance with stuff like this – sometimes older people use the wrong term because they weren’t raised to think about these things and don’t know what the right term is. I’m not excusing it – he might just be a jerk – but it’s something to consider before getting angry. I’d say gently educate him – if he continues, he’s either got a bad memory or he’s a tool.

        1. StuckintheSticks*

          I think it can be a combo of age/location and being…sheltered, for lack of a better term. I was relating a story about a customer to my 42 year old co-worker that prompted him to ask me “Oh, I didn’t see her come in, was she colored?” I nicely told him that “colored” is not considered a polite term nowadays, and that he probably should not use it in the future because it could be offensive. He genuinely had no idea, but I could tell he felt a little embarrassed about it, and I know it was totally innocent on his part, he’s definitely not racist. It still floored me to hear him say it though.

            1. Beth*

              There was a period of time in the 90s, at least where I was, where ‘colored’ was apparently the preferred word. When I was very young, african-american was preferred, but then black was en vogue again, and I’m not sure what’s proper now. There was, when I was in college, a brief attempt to resurrect ‘negro’ which I found shocking to say the least.

              The net result is that at any time, no one seems happy with any of the above options and will eventually probably be forced to use the one they find the least offensive… which, because the universe has a sadistic sense of humor, will be precisely the word that the other person finds MOST offensive.

      2. fposte*

        If you’re the younger person, you can actually use that for mileage in this situation that makes your different viewpoint logical rather than superior. “I think that term’s going away–a lot more people are preferring ‘trans’ now.”

    5. Bab*

      I struggle with this! I want to be brave in these situations, but I’m so afraid of making the people uncomfortable. I mean, I want them to be made uncomfortable about what they said, as a human being. But I’m also unemployed with very little experience and am afraid to rub anyone the wrong way at this point.

      1. vvondervvoman*

        Think of it this way–even if you rub that individual the wrong way, someone who overhears it or hears about how you said something will likely be impressed.

    6. Brett*

      People get weird and throw fits over transgender people because they don’t personally know any. (And most transgender people are so ordinary that you never know they are transgender unless you know them personally.)

      For the few times I have actually discussed transgender people with others, I bring up Deidre McCloskey, who I actually met while I lived in Iowa.

    7. Marina*

      I’ve dealt with it by purposefully taking on the role of “Obnoxious Office Political Correctness Police”. But in an overblown enough way to be funny (I hope). By being the person who says “Aaaaaactually…” about everything (racism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, etc) it’s not a big deal for me to speak up any more. I try to limit myself to one sentence, unless my coworkers are actually interested in learning more, and to say it in a casual enough way that makes it clear I’m not judging my coworkers as people, just giving them information. At this point my coworkers roll their eyes a little at me… but they also stop using offensive terms around me, so I’ll take it. I am very lucky to be in an open-minded office in an open-minded city, so I know there are environments where this wouldn’t be at all comfortable.

      Another idea might be to “play stupid” and say, “What’s funny about someone being transgender…?” with a blank stare. This is one way to normalize things that are only “funny” because they’re different.

    8. Mints*

      Ooh, I was in a really similar situation. Once they said “tranny” and “transvestite” more than a couple times I just said “Transgender.” (“what?”) “Transgender. Transvestite and tranny are offensive.” I said it smiling, flatly, like I would have said “Jenny. My name is Jenny”

      1. Calla*

        “Transvestite” and “transgender” aren’t the same thing though, unless they were using it to refer to someone who was actually transgender. In that case it’s still offensive!

        1. Mints*

          Oh I know! But they were referring to transgender people.
          TBH, the whole conversation (it was like “Girls with penises! Haha!”) just made me want to yell STOP, I wasn’t just being pedantic. But this seemed like an easy correction I could make without a speech, and stull alert them to the fact that there are wrong ways of taking about it

          1. Calla*

            Okay! I figured, just wanted to be clear for any observers here on AAM :) It’s appalling how many times I’ve witnessed “please just STOP” conversations in the workplace.

          2. Windchime*

            It’s kind of amazing to me that people are actually having these kinds of conversations at work. I might just be in a super polite (or super conservative?) environment, but I really don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone having these particular kinds of conversations at work.

    9. MK*

      Organizations like the National Center for Transgender Equality (my former employer), the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce have resources on how people can talk about trans issues. It really helps to have some prior knowledge so that you can help educate others to be inclusive and open to LGBT folks.

    10. Z*

      Thanks for the advice, all. I brought it up to my boss in our meeting today, though I might have completely botched the situation. I emphasized that I wasn’t trying to claim to be Miss Tolerant Who Never Bats an Eye at Such Things, but I said that it had made me uncomfortable, particularly the “he/she/it” part. I’m honestly not sure whether to say that she took it well, but she didn’t seem angry at me, at least. It was rough.

  15. themmases*

    Ooooh, I have a question!

    I’m starting epidemiology grad school in the fall. I’m hoping to load up on quantitative coursework as much as possible and do freelance or part-time statistical work in school. My department (hospital, research) sometimes just brings in someone who knows someone they like to look at data they’ve finished collecting, and my plan is to keep in touch with my department and hopefully offer the same thing to others.

    Is this a thing? Does anyone have experience doing something similar?

    1. fposte*

      Is that related to bioinformatics? (We have a program in that but I’m not entirely sure what that field encompasses.) If so, that term might be a way you could check out such work models.

    2. not funny*

      It is a thing – so much of current and future research is collaborative. I would focus on building a network and finding a mentor that does work you’re interested in. Take advantage of the opportunities in your program/institution, and make sure that your enthusiasm is visible. Grad school is what you make it, so I would front load your time with building a network and community, and go from there. Good luck!

    3. badger_doc*

      Reach out to start up biotech companies who write grants. When I used to write SBIR grants I would have loved the input of a statistician to help design animal experiments for my grant. I even reached out to the UW Madison stats department multiple times for students/professors interested in consulting, not only for the grant writing itself, but also for the data analysis after. If you know if companies in the area who have gotten SBIR awards, feel free to put out feelers and offer your services. Small companies would be willing to pay a grad student a couple hundred bucks an hour to help them with that kind of stuff rather than try to do it themselves or hire a professional statistician for $500+ an hour.

    4. SD Cat*


      I’m just finishing up my MPH in Epi (I graduate in May). Yep, networking is very important, I would definitely keep in touch with them, as well as others you meet over next few years. Also, yes, methods classes and quantitative/stat courses, and using those skills as much as possible is a good plan (and networking helps you find those opportunities) :)

    5. Trillian*

      While doing my MSc in Epi, I worked as a part-time writer for pharma. I’ve also worked with freelance data managers and statistical programmers in the pharma industry. So it is done, within industry at least – and I’m sure by academics who have the funding. But it generally requires previous relevant experience, since there are freelancers out there with decades of experience. If you are factoring this in as a source of income, as opposed to a means of gaining experience, do your business plan – even if it’s only an informal one.

      If you’re coming in with a professional background in programming, disregard what comes next. If you’re not a programmer, and your training is like mine, you’ll get a grounding in both basic and research-grade methodology and do quite a bit of programming, but may not get introduced to the tools that professional programmers use to organize their work, code efficiently and maintain the quality and reproducibility of their code – scripting, version control, unit testing, etc. (Most scientists have never been trained that way.) If you’re going to work freelance and in restricted time, you will need to think about your workflow and your quality control.

    6. themmases*

      Wow, thanks so much for the responses, everyone! These are really helpful and I’ll definitely be bookmarking this for when I start school.

      I don’t have programming experience, but I do have lots of experience coordinating research and collecting data myself (I’m basically the person in charge of keeping the statisticians happy right now).

      I do have one more question if anyone is still around down here. At my hospital, statisticians draw a salary to help with any research that comes their way, and our department pays their department for their time. However, the fee is waived completely if we list the statistician as a co-author. (Unlike freelancing me, of course, the statistician still gets paid either way– the source just changes.) Is this a common arrangement?

  16. HeatherSW*

    Any tips on LGBT friendly job hunting? I’m graduating in May, and although I have worked for years in my field (human services/social work) for years, I’m looking for a place I can “hang my hat” for a while. As such, I’d prefer an open enviroment. (I’m femme, so I pass). Do I ask? Google? Wear a (tasteful) rainbow necklace at the interview?

    1. Stephanie*

      Could you just ask about diversity/identity groups in the interview? I believe Human Rights Campaign (or another GLBT advocacy organization) has rankings for GLBT-friendly companies. I do think it’s biased toward giant corporations.

    2. Calla*

      I had it easy – I’ve only been in my current state for a few years, so interviewers always asked why I moved here, and I could mention it was to be with my girlfriend/fiancee and see their reaction. If you can do something like that, go for it. Oh, or any LGBT related activities could go on your resume.

      Otherwise, googling might work. I also check out the visible diversity of places when I’m interviewing – some place that’s all white men, for example, I trust less than a place that I can see has an equal number of women and people of color. It’s not foolproof, but it’s a decent indicator IME.

    3. anon in tejas*

      I think that this is definitely something worth asking in an interview. I do think that the question lays the cards on the table though. It may turn off more “conservative” or less open interviewers from making the job offer.

    4. Dang*

      I’m out (but can also pass) and it’s never been a problem for me. It could be geographic areas and also the types of organizations I’ve worked at. What field are you looking to get into?

      1. Dang*

        Ah sorry, I first read on a phone and missed that you were in SSW.

        Have you ever looked into a university? I’ve worked for two, and both have had a) a lot of ‘family’ and b) some kind of LGBT organization that talks about issues within the workplace, organizes social events, etc. I’d rate them among the most gay-friendly environments I’ve worked in.

        1. Lucy*

          A hospital, too! I work for a large hospital and they have a great LGBT program, which sponsors lectures for healthcare providers on the needs of the LGBT community, but also hosts social functions.

        2. JBeane*

          Seconding the university suggestion. I work at one now, and it’s the most queer-friendly place ever. Warms my little gay heart.

    5. Just a Reader*

      Honestly I can’t believe this even has to be a consideration and I’m sorry it is.

      My company is very open about its diversity programs and benefits–it sponsors sex changes, etc.–so companies that are truly committed to diversity are probably going to be talking about it in the media and on their website.

      Best of luck!

    6. Anon Today*

      I have a question, and this isn’t meant to be disrespectful, so please don’t take it that way. I understand not wanting to work in a homophobic place, but really what exactly do you mean by LGBT friendly? Do you want lots of other LGBT people who work there too or what? Also, would you discount a place because you were the only one?

      I’m black, so as a minority I get it, but I couldn’t see needing there to be lots of other black people there for me to want to work somewhere.

      Again, I’m just trying to understand, not to be rude, so please don’t take it that way.

      1. Calla*

        There’s a difference between having a homophobic workplace and one that’s simply kinda dumb about LGBT stuff. It’d be kinda like (I imagine) how it’s different from working someplace that’s overtly racist, and someplace that’s just 100% clueless white people, you know?

        For example, in one of my first jobs, no one ever said anything overtly homophobic, but it was a religious-based organization in a conservative state/town, and co-workers only ever asked me if I had a boyfriend, make jokes about male vendors flirting with me, etc. In that kind of environment, you wonder if it’s safe to disclose (vs. saying “Wow these people use anti-gay slurs all the time, I know it’s not safe”). Knowing a place is actively LGBT friendly means you don’t have to wonder if it’s okay to talk about your same-sex SO.

        I’ve been the only openly gay person. It’s okay (assuming the workplace is still welcoming), but it’s so much better to have other people like you. Even just a couple. It’s so affirming to have someone say “You going to pride this weekend?” or “OMG, did you hear about DOMA?” Or, even some of the straight people say, “Ooh, you painted your nails rainbow!” and get it.

        You can also look at the HRC requirements — same benefits for same-sex couples, gender expression protected, etc.

        1. Gilby*

          I get it. And don’t blame you at all for wanting to be you openingly.

          But I guess my question is what is the difference between that any other issue that is not considered ” the norm” in an office.

          I have been targeted for being Jewish. Like flat out.. ” YOU don’t BELIEVE….” ?? WHY…?? I mean once I was asked to come to a persons desk to give them some” help” and it was only to start in with me.

          I was told by a manager that the old owners of a company I was at didn’t like anyone who didn’t beleive in their religion.

          I get “looks” when I when asked about how I celebrate X-mas that I don’t cuz I am Jewish.

          So, going by your thinking do I ask if there is a diversity in religion so I do not get comments made to me?

          Please don’t get me wrong. I 100% agree with where you are going with this. But how does one approach this stuff in an interview?

          1. Calla*

            Well, religion and ethnicity are a protected status — sexual orientation / gender identity / gender presentation isn’t necessarily. I mean, of course that doesn’t stop individuals from being jerks, but there’s one difference.

            That aside, like I said to Anon Today, I don’t think this is any different from other issues of *discrimination* (I wouldn’t say anything non-normal because like, my purple hair is way less of an issue even if some people still don’t like it), and anti-Semitism can definitely fall under that. I don’t know about you, and I’m not Jewish so I can’t propose tactics specific to that, but I assume a number of minority or otherwise marginalized groups (as a woman and a lesbian, I know this is true for both of those groups) have developed methods to sniff this kind of thing out early, and that’s what we’re talking about here.

    7. Felicia*

      For me it’s easy, because one of my more recent, relevant work experiences has been with a big, well known LGBT organization, so I figure if they’re cool with that, it’s a cool place.

      Also I’m focusing on a variety of non profits, and most of them mention in the job add that they welcome diverse applicants, including LGBT people. .Have you ever seen adds that have that? All really big organizations seem to have that in general. But i’m in Canada so it could be different. It’s never been an issue for me, but I can imagine certain states where it’d be more of an issue. Hope you find somewhere good!

      1. Calla*

        Good point! I’m the U.S. and have seen this, though rarely. One more common thing to look for is non-discrimination statements that specifically mention sexual orientation and gender presentation*.

        (*I always look for gender presentation too, because while I might “look straight” I think being accepting of all presentations is a sign of deeper/more genuine acceptance. Plus my gf certainly doesn’t look straight and I want to be comfortable bringing her to parties!)

        1. Felicia*

          Sexual orientation and gender identity are also a protected class federally in Canada, while they aren’t in the US, so maybe that’s why I see it more often:) Particular with national companies…I sort of wondered if they had to by federal law or something, but having that big recognizable LGBT organization on my resume I hope makes it clearer. I’ve never run into homophobia in the workplace , or even total cluelessness, possibly because I’ve always worked for big companies, partially because despite of our stupid mayor I live in the city hosting Word Pride this year, and we’re pretty gay friendly as a whole. I wish it was a protected class in all of the US!

          1. Calla*

            Me too! I’m in a state currently that protects it (MA), but my home state definitely doesn’t (TX) and that makes me sad.

  17. Anon for this one*

    This is less a question and more something I want to get off my chest.

    So I started seeing a career coach (I’m job searching right now). It’s been a mixed bag.

    One on hand, she’s fantastic. She revamped my resume really well and is great at interview prep. She’s also very accessible.

    On the other hand, her methods feel really salesy. Like she’s big on cold-calling networking contacts (not crazy about that, but I can deal). But she’ll suggest I leave a voicemail like “Hi Apollo, my name’s [anon] and I have a quick question about teapot design I’m sure you can answer”, saying that they’ll be intrigued and call me back. The “quick question” is usually a couple of targeted questions about the teapot industry. Common sense tells me this is kind of annoying and gimmicky (I dislike voicemails from friends saying “Hey, call me back” so this would be more annoying coming from a stranger).

    She also uses the buzzword STEM a lot (my degree’s in engineering) and I have to keep biting my tongue from saying “STEM’s kind of a nonsensical buzzword that ignores specificity about the career prospects and educational needs of the individual disciplines.”

    She is also big on the “if they like you, they’ll create a job for you!” Again, common sense would tell me this is bunk. I could see it if maybe you were a superstar in your field and had tons of experience to offer. But it seems like even if a contact loved you, doesn’t seem like he could just create a position. Maybe there’s no money in the budget, maybe he doesn’t have hiring authority, etc. But since I’m fairly young (and switching fields on top of it), this seems like a stretch.

    My best friend’s (wealthy) mother is paying for this (she knows this woman through her MBA alumni program) as a favor (my friend’s mom really likes me and offered it as assistance during my job hunt). So I guess I’m not losing out on too much. I also feel a bit of an obligation to work through her process. I’m just crossing my fingers that I land something sooner rather than later and don’t alienate too much of my local network.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Take what you can from it, use what feels right to you, and discard the rest. It’s nice of your friend’s mom to do this for you, but you aren’t obligated to conform to the stuff that doesn’t fit just because someone else is helping out. Not every element of coaching will apply to everyone.

    2. Mena*

      Please pick and choose what you want to apply. If some things feel to sales they probably are way too salesy. And that request for a quick call back to answer a question … that would seriously annoy me. And I don’t agree with her thought that if they like you they will create a job for you – this is a bit idealistic and not quite realistic.

      1. Anon for this one*

        Yeah, the “quick question” thing I find gimmicky and don’t use. I just say up front in the voicemail that I’m interested in learning more about Teapot Manufacturing and found the person’s name on the Teapot Manufacturers Association of Waxahachie website.

        I sometimes can be a bit too blunt, but I feel like if you’re in the position of asking a favor, you should make it as easy as possible on the other person.

    3. Judy*

      I’m curious if she’s suggesting to actually “cold call” – look someone up and contact them, or just contact people you know with these questions?

      1. Anon for this one*

        The former. So if I’m interested in Teapot Marketing, call up the head of the Teapot Marketing Chapter in my area and ask to meet. Most people have been pretty receptive. Usually if they’re involved in these professional organizations, they’re pretty open to chatting with new contacts and people interested in the profession.

        I’ve done the latter on my own quite a few times and find it easier (since I already know the person!).

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I have to cold call for book stuff sometimes, to do research. It’s harder to do when you don’t have anything published because you lack credibility, but a surprising amount of people will answer the most bizarre questions for you right off the bat, if you’re up front about what you want.

          Except the FBI, who I’m convinced was in that mysterious black car that showed up outside Exjob after I contacted them re my bank robber book. It sat out there until someone said, “Who IS that?” I went over and looked and made a joke about, “Oh, it’s probably the FBI checking me out. Hi guys!” Very shortly after, it left. Hahaha.

          PS–they did end up helping me and were extremely fabulous about it, so I kind of love them right now. So many people helped me on that book that I really want to publish it for them.

          1. Zelos*

            Wait, you called up the FBI to do book research?

            1) Props to you for going straight to the source (you’ll obviously get the most accurate information)
            2)…how did that conversation turn out, exactly? Like, did you speak to the admin and go “so, can I get someone to call me back about your procedures re: dangerous daylight robbery?

            Inquiring minds want to know.

            1. Elizabeth West*


              Well first I called the local office, and they said they’d get back to me. I ended up calling them again but it was between the first and second calls that the weird black car showed up at work. They had an agent call me back and I asked him some basic questions off my list. Unfortunately, I had to do that while I was at work, which was a bit awkward.

              When I finished the book, I had more questions, and by then I had discovered that the FBI has an office in Washington specifically for film/TV/writer inquiries. So I wrote them a certified letter, return receipt requested. They emailed me and hooked me up with a SAC (special agent in charge) in a large city near me. I sent him my questions and he wrote answers and sent them back. They were very cooperative. Probably used to it, since FBI agents are often characters in movies.

              My main LEO character is a city detective, not FBI; he’ll be the series character. I had to use him because the serial killer is chasing the bank robber, and the FBI agent wouldn’t straddle both cases (serial murder is state jurisdiction, not federal). But I needed to know how they would work with the detective. They were way more helpful than the local cops. I did have a retired city cop who was my favorite criminology instructor help me with an interview scene, though.

              1. Zelos*

                That is amazing. I play with writing fiction myself (unpublished and I don’t ever plan on publishing), but yours is a serious amount of dedication to detail.

                I kind of want to send that FBI office cookies now and I’m not even in the same country as you ;P

                1. Zelos*

                  Oops, that should read “…and I don’t plan on publishing), so I can understand doing research, but yours is a serious amount of dedication to detail. Although I guess works that are going to be published are far more rigorous in their demands.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  LOL cookies shaped like little guns.

                  I want stuff to be believable; everyone takes some artistic license with stuff (including me), but I HATE when a story goes way far off the rails.

                  Case in point: Some of the crime scene procedures in the movie The Bone Collector made me facepalm so hard I nearly put an eye out. >_<

            2. Elizabeth*

              Wait, you called up the FBI to do book research?

              Back in the dark ages, when I was a freshman in college, I wrote to the State Department to ask for non-classified material regarding the Islamic Jihad organization for a research paper on the rhetoric of social movements.

              I didn’t get any material from them, but I did get a cursory FBI investigation into my background (Midwestern farm girl in an honors program at a state university, for what it was worth). One of my roommates actually swore at & flipped of the agent who did the investigation when he tried to interview her.

              This was back in 1989/90, so long before Google could present all such information to you with a few key strokes.

              1. anonintheUK*

                About 20 years ago, when I was still at school, we were studying Communism in China. Some bright spark, who I understand now DOES actually teach history at a high-ranking British university, wrote to the Chinese embassy to ask for some information, since one of the other things which came into the course were primary sources, bias, etc.

                They sent him quite a lot of information, I understand. I also understand that his parents were not best pleased when a particular division of the police showed up to have a little chat.

    4. Dang*

      Re: STEM.. I’m assuming she’s worked at the university level a lot. I used to work in educational research and STEM was one of those huge buzzwords (especially how it pertains to gender, i.e. getting women to ‘engage with STEM.’) To be honest it annoyed me too.

      I’ve had the same view on career counselors, and I can definitely understand your frustration, but I think if you can glean 2-3 good insights, maybe it will be worth it.

      1. Anon for this one*

        Re: STEM…I mean, the idea is nice. I just think it’s incorrect to conflate a BS in biology with an AA in electrical engineering technology with a PhD in pure math. Those all have very different job outlooks. It also ignores a lot of industry-specific trends (an electrical engineer in oil/gas right now probably has more job options than an electrical engineer in aerospace).

        The cynical job hunter in me thinks it’s just a way to keep the supply high and suppress wages (or justify contract/foreign workers). It’s also one of those nice-sounding initiatives that is hard to argue against (like Sheryl Sandberg and her Lean In campaign).

        I’ve gotten at least two or three good things out the coaching. Not sure if I’d really recommend others do it.

  18. Random*

    I recently had a job interview that went well. I never heard from them so I accepted another job (and I am happy here) .. they just called me this morning and told me they wanted to discuss some changes in the job description.

    When I call them back should I immediately tell them that I accepted a different position and wish them luck in their search or should I wait to hear the changes and tell them if/when they make me an offer?

    1. Beth*

      I’d tell them right away, and rather firmly so they get a hint that maybe lackadasically waddling through the hiring process isn’t going to work for them. I’m working for a place right now that could NOT get it’s act together during the hire process and honestly, really risked losing some good people (thought they didn’t, in the end.)

    2. Bryan*

      You already accepted another job so you should tell them you accepted another position and best of luck in their search. It’s not like you would leave the position you already accepted.

    3. Ashley*

      It depends…would you consider leaving your new job if the other company did make you an offer? If the answer is no, regardless of the changes to the job description, then tell them up front. Don’t let them waste their time, just like you wouldn’t want them to waste yours.

      If you’re open to the idea of leaving, you might listen to their changes and then either move forward with an interview or tell them “Thank you for getting in touch, unfortunately it sounds like the changes to the position won’t be a great fit for me.”

      1. fposte*

        Though I’d caution the OP against leaving so soon after accepting the other job–that would be a bridge going up in major flames.

        1. Random*

          I’m definitely not interested in leaving my current position. I don’t want to burn a bridge with company B though .. they took a long time to get back to me but they were nice and I appreciated the time they took in the interview to thoroughly explain the position. I’m going to tell them when I call them and wish them luck hiring, I know it was a popular position and hugely competitive so I’m sure they won’t be upset regardless of my place in their top choices/bottom choices.

          I was told by a friend who is in HR (not related to anything I do/ever will do) to wait until I have an offer to let them know but I felt uncomfortable about that .. so I asked here and you guys reassured me, as always! :)

    4. Ann Furthermore*

      When I was job searching (and OK, it’s been 10 years) I applied for similar sounding positions at different companies. An HR person from Company A called me back within a couple days, and on the same day I had a phone interview with the hiring manager and some other people, and then an in-person interview 2 days later. And here I still am, 10 years later.

      Company B never responded until 3 months later, with an email going on and on about how great my resume was and they were very interested in speaking with me about the job, and so on. I responded and politely said that I’d already accepted another job, and assumed that their lack of response either meant they weren’t interested or the job was no longer open.

    5. Mike C.*

      Make sure they understand that they waited way too long without giving you a heads up. They need to learn that interviews are a two way street.

      1. Colette*

        I don’t think that’s a point worth making – it could hurt her chances there in the future, and it probably is not entirely within the control of the person she’s dealing with. Let them figure that out themselves.

  19. wesgerrr*

    APICS certification; does anyone in the Supply Chain and Logistics field have it? If so- has it benefitted your career/pay? I’m looking into doing it, but need to justify the cost to myself. Thanks!

    1. Jubilance*

      I don’t have one, but I think this same question was asked in the last open thread. Try searching last week’s open thread, I think there were responses. Best of luck!

      1. wesgerrr*

        Thanks! It was my question last week as well. The response I got was one other person asking the same thing… I’ll keep trying ;)

  20. Elkay*

    I’m having some problems in my new role, any advice welcome
    1) The person who used to do this role is still in the team and doesn’t like the changes I’ve made (which have been done at the request of my manager)
    2) My manager can’t answer any of my questions about where to find information
    3) My manager expects me to be working on things based on information I can’t find
    4) I feel like even though I’m speaking up no-one’s listening
    5) Mainly I want to cry at least once a day

    1. Lindsay*

      Given it a month, maybe, to see if it improves, and then start job hunting again. Sorry, that sucks! There’s many posts on this site about figuring out if a job is a good fit or not, so check those out.

      Sorry this is happening to you!

    2. Beth*

      I don’t know that I have any advice. But I’m sorry, it sounds like at best your workplace is disorganized, at worst it might be toxic in a non-confrontational way.

    3. Adam V*

      Try making a list of everything you’re looking for (and why). Take it to your boss and say “Here’s my issue – I can’t find X. I’ve tried looking here, here, and here, and I spoke to him, her and her. *wait for response* Also, I can’t find Y (repeat as necessary)”.

      For anything she can’t answer, tell her “not having Y means that I’m unable to finish report Z. Should I just put that away for now until someone can tell me where to find Y?” Hopefully she’ll realize that she’s being silly by asking you to work on something you’ve told her outright you won’t be able to complete. If not, then bring it back up (“okay, if I’m going to keep working on the report, what do I do when I need Y? Do I put in placeholder values, or do you think we’ll have what we need within a week, or… what?”)

      As far as your coworker, if you have any specific grievances (“she’s actively withholding information I need”) then tell your boss; otherwise, just try to be dispassionate about her displeasure (“oh, I’m sorry to hear you don’t like X, but that’s how [boss] told me to do things”).

    4. themmases*

      On #1, it can take people a while to really let go of processes they used to own– even when they’re glad to get them off their plates. I gave up some tasks I hated to a new coworker last year (who handled them perfectly, even), and for a long time it was so difficult not to pipe up when people asked her about them! I would just respond to this person by referring them to your manager, or by bringing their specific issues to your manager yourself.

      If you’re able to do this tactfully with your predecessor, you might even be able to turn to them for some of the information you’re not getting from your manager now.

      I’m sorry you’re going through this!

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Your boss sucks. He has very little concept of what being a boss entails. (Yeah, when I see people being treated like this it ticks me off.)

      I know that wanting to cry thing a bit too well. I think I reach a point where it is easier to push the envelop with the situation than it is to face yet one more day of tears.

      When you decide it is time, go in and explain to him point blank that these tasks are not getting done because you cannot locate XYZ. Ask him what your next steps should be. If he blows you off, repeat the question but phrase it slightly different. “Boss, I have a real problem here. It has been x days and I still have not located this information. I pride myself on being a good worker and this falls short because I am not getting the job done that you need me to do. I am asking you to help me hammer out a game plan so I can begin to solve this problem.”

      You may have to ask a third time. Let your body language show that you are determined to solve this problem. Rephrase the question again. “No, boss, it is important for me that you see this is a real hurdle here. ” What are the ramifications of not having this info- will auditors/personnel/someone else also be looking for it at the end of the fiscal year? If so point that out.

      Don’t let him wear you down. If you have to explain basics then do so. “In order to complete X, I need ABC. I do not have ABC.”

      Honestly, this stuff is more exhausting than the work itself. I could do five intense tasks and be fine. One conversation like this and I am ready to go home for the day. But if I don’t have the conversation the situation will just keep getting worse.

      Let us know how it goes.

  21. Zelos*

    One of my best friends is moving across the Pacific to accept a job at an international Big 4 accounting firm. I’m thrilled for her, but this makes me kind of depressed about my career trajectory. My thoughts keep spiralling to “big name! Important projects! Visibility! [Friend]’s career is going to take off like a rocket!” and then looking at…me. Sigh.

    Alison’s post on the fallacy of Do What You Love helped, but man, I am down in the dumps this week. (Also, school projects galore. Sigh.)

    1. MissDisplaced*

      You cannot and should not worry about your friend’s career. You are both very different people with different needs. Be happy for them that they got this great opportunity but keep searching for your own!

      1. cs*

        Totally agree with this. I had to learn the hard way about comparing myself to others. Zelos, you need to figure out what you want to do. At the same time set high standards for yourself and be open to opportunities that come your way and when they do, SEIZE them.

    2. Lindsay*

      Ugh, I feel this too sometimes! Someone else is always going to appear to have it “better,” but remember that everyone is just doing the best they can, like you are!

      As long as you are doing well for yourself, you’re doing just fine!

    3. thenoiseinspace*

      Two of my favorite quotes:

      “Comparison is the thief of joy,”

      but more importantly,

      “Don’t compare the documentary of your life to someone else’s highlight reel.” We tend to focus on the success of our friends, an often forget that day to day, everything’s not all roses for them either. Nobody wakes up with perfect hair and makeup.

      Hugs! Go buy some half-priced chocolate tonight when it’s on sale! :D

      1. Alicia*

        That second quote is so awesome.

        That’s what social media seems to be doing to many people where their Facebook Timeline is just the “best of…” rather than the regular mundane bits.

    4. Sunflower*

      I feel you on this!! I am the first to say ‘you are not what you do’. However, it’s become easy to classify people in that way. When you meet someone new the first question is ‘So what do you do?’ or “What’s your major’. When you’re in college, you’re very focused on what you want to do. But once graduation rolls around, it ends up being ‘what is available to me’. And in this economy, a lot of ‘what is available to me’ isn’t jet setting across the world.

      First off, realize your friend is probably one of the luckiest people graduating this year. Accounting is a field that seems to always need people and Big 4 does offer amazing perks. Big 4 also tends to give internships that turn into job offers so most of them don’t have to go through the grueling ‘what should i do with my life’ job search process. Also realize your friend is going to be working her tail off on 70+ hour weeks.

      I think everyone is in the same boat as you and for every 1 person who’s career seems to be taking off, there are 100 people feeling stuck and just UGH in genera (I don’t think this i an exaggeration)

      Hang in there. It’s tough but remember that everyone else is probably feeling the same way you are

      1. De Minimis*

        Used to work for one of those….it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
        Some people do really well there, others do not, and even for the ones that do, it’s a very hyper-competitive, high stress environment.

        1. Stephanie*

          Yeah, I interviewed at one (in a different, but related division from tax) and I kept hearing “Oh, the hours can be kind of crazy. I wouldn’t even say we have 50-hour weeks. But you’re bonus-eligible!” I appreciated the honesty, but it was a little terrifying.

    5. Brett*

      I was working McDonald’s while I had friends who were surgeons and silicon valley developers (and I was the valedictorian).

      I found a field that I love and have reached a recognizable and influential profile in my field, even if I still make less than a quarter of what my classmates make (but enough to be comfortable). I have had a few of them say they wished they had followed my career path because of how great my profession seems to them (they don’t know my whole “career path”).

      Just because you see behind, it can work out.

      1. Brett*

        Wow, botched that last line.
        “Just because you seem behind now, doesn’t mean it cannot work out well for you in the long run.”

    6. Eden*

      Oh, boy, I completely understand the feeling of failing in comparison!

      Here’s my situation: best friend is a PhD/MD. Hugely successful in her field, wrote a chapter for WHO, made six figures for the last 15 years, has just decided to retire (we’re the same age, mid-40s). She’s currently vacationing in Hawaii for a month on a whim, staying at enormous posh houses owned by her bazillionaire friends.

      Me: recently relocated, full-time job seeker, running out of money.

      But you know, when I really think about it, I would not trade with her for anything. Does my strange-looking work history hurt me on my resume? Sure. Do I regret it? Not for a minute. I have loved all my jobs, and don’t really regret not having a ‘real’ career path.

      I certainly don’t regret not working under appalling conditions to earn a kabillion dollars (my other best friend is the next person down from the general counsel of a huge pharmaceutical company; her stories are beyond gruesome).

      Keep in mind that your friend may HATE it there. She may end up calling you often to vent about how awful the work environment is (yes, this is the voice of experience). Of course, you’re not going to wish that on her, but not everything is as it seems.

      As others have said, your path is yours alone—and what makes you unique. I try to think of some experiences I have had or friends I’ve made that I wouldn’t trade, and that usually helps me smile in the midst of having the blues.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Comparisons are nothing but stinkin’ thinkin’. The road to nowhere and never uplifting.

      Look at it this way: If your parents said to you what YOU are thinking how would you react? “GET OFF MY CASE!”

      If it is not appropriate for others to say a particular thing to us then it is not appropriate for us to say it to ourselves. It’s self abuse.

      The one activity that I would suggest that might help is to consider ways that you can beef up your own goals. Let’s say your big goal right now is to parachute out of an airplane. Good- that is an awesome experience to have. Deliberately map out the incremental steps you need to do to get to that airplane.

      See, some times people’s success reminds us that we are not reaching our own goals. And that grates more than anything else. There is more than one way to have an interesting life and be an interesting person.

    8. Zelos*

      Thanks everyone. I know I’m being silly…for one thing, I’m not even in accounting. It’s not like I’m competing with my friend! And I am working towards a field I think I’ll enjoy, so I’m trying to look on the bright side. I just felt really low when I heard Big 4, even though it’s totally irrational.

      Thanks again for the perspective.

      1. Stephanie*

        I know I’m being silly…for one thing, I’m not even in accounting. It’s not like I’m competing with my friend!

        Yeah, I’ve done this. “OMG, Susie got this awesome role in investment banking!” And then I have to step back and realize that I’ve never had the slightest desire to work in investment banking.

        It’s probably less competition and just feeling anxious that you don’t have what your friend has right now (i.e., a job at a prestigious company in her field). It can add to the unsettled feeling.

        What really helps me is figuring out why I’m feeling that way and acknowledging those feelings as valid.

    9. Stephanie*

      I don’t know if anyone will see this at this point in the thread. I know this feeling. My five-year college reunion was last fall and I almost backed out because I was so worried everyone else had these amazing lives and that I’d be the lame one job hunting and living at home. My friends had to talk me into going (including going so far as to offer miles).

      Honestly, I was really glad I went. I got to see a lot of people I hadn’t seen since college. And no one really seemed to care that I wasn’t en route to being featured in some 40 Under 40 article. A lot of people had jobs they weren’t crazy about or were searching themselves. All the med students seemed like they were a bit weary of their long residencies ahead (as one friend put it, “I’ll actually be employable around age 33.”) A lot of the grad students had thousand-year stares (“I’m defending finally this semester…”)

      I ran into a college friend (who I also attended HS with). From the looks of Facebook, her life seems awesome–prestigious job at a Big 3 consulting firm, degree from a Top 3 business school, etc. Actually talking to her, she seemed lukewarm about having to go back into consulting and her six-figure b school debt.

      So everyone’s got their own struggles, despite what their outward appearance is.

  22. AnonHR*

    Non-work related, but does anyone use Goodreads? If you don’t, you should. I love using it, but don’t have much of an active network built up, which makes it less fun.

    I ask because I finished The Fault in Our Stars last night and just felt the need to throw that out to the universe because I can’t imagine I felt that much anguish and the rest of the world just kept on about their regular lives. But, it’s a little while until I see my book club friends and I don’t hang with many readers and I have no one to talk with this about!

    1. Elkay*

      Yes, I love it. It helps me keep track of what I’ve read. I never review anything but I do rate everything I read.

    2. Random*

      TFiOS !!! I cried for what felt like six hours after I finished that book. I still have a LOT of feelings!! I’m curious to see how the movie will turn out.

      I don’t have a Goodreads account but I constantly think about getting one .. it seems quite fun!

      1. Anonymous*

        Loved TFIOS. My 14 year old daughter is obsessed with it and made me read it. I don’t read a lot of YA fiction, but gave this a go and was really glad I did. Just don’t do what I did and read it on an airplane (or anywhere in public) . My pattern went something like 1. read five pages of TFIOS 2. cry 3. switch to a magazine to stop crying 4. repeat repeat repeat.

      2. D*

        I KNOW!

        Someone in my book club read it (it wasn’t the book for that month) and was so affected by it that she begged us to read it outside the normal book club boook just so she’d have someone to discuss it with. So I did and now I want everyone to read it so I can talk about it with everyone.

        I do not have high hopes for the movie, unfortunately. But so good! I cried so hard.

        1. AnonHR*

          You know, I was thinking that too. Just, as a movie concept in general, I think the dialogue is going to seem way too forced and you lose something when you translate a first person book to a movie in my opinion.

    3. KTM*

      I really love goodreads! I would always forget books that people tell me are great but now I just log them in there. I haven’t tried their ‘suggested books’ yet based on ones I’ve ranked but overall I love the app.

      1. AnonHR*

        I know, I started using Pinterest to track things I heard about but wasn’t ready to ready yet a little better, but it really wasn’t working for me.

        I’ve found a few things from their suggestions, but generally they aren’t as tuned into my interests as I would think considering my activity on the site.

    4. Lindsay*

      Stupid book! I listened to it on audiobook while driving across the Southwest. Picture me, sobbing quietly by myself in my car on a freeway. What a mess!

      I’m on Goodreads, though I’m bad about tracking what I’ve actually read. I use it to collect the books I want to read.

      1. D*

        I admire your control if you were just sobbing quietly and were able to keep driving. I eventually had to just carry a box of tissues around.

        1. AnonHR*

          Agreed. I am not such a stoic reader, but this may have been the first book that has literally required multiple trips to another room for tissues. Usually I’m slightly more dignified.

    5. Dang*

      I love good reads!! And that’s the best book I’ve read in a long time. I can’t get it out of my head.

        1. AmyNYC*

          +1 for libraries! I read A TON but don’t buy many books anymore – I’ve run out of room, and on rare occasions do I reread books.

          1. Anon for this*

            Also, little known fact- you can get e-books for Nook or Kindle through the library, without even leaving your computer! :) Saved me a bundle.

    6. Sunflower*

      I use it and I wish more people did! I only have 2 friends who use it and they aren’t that active on it. It’s great for keeping track of books I want to read though.

      I follow my favorite writers and Glamour Magazine since it’s my favorite. A lot of great blog writers have accounts and it can be fun to see what they’re reading and recommend.

      Oh and I seriously wish I had invented it.

    7. anon in tejas*

      great book. i love all of john greens work, but that is my fav. will grayson will grayson is another fav.

    8. The IT Manager*

      Me too!

      I haven’t yet got out of the habit of also tracking what I readon on an excel spreadsheet. (Yes, I am a bit obsessive.) But I think GoodReads will beat out excel eventually.

      Lats night I satyed up way to late to finined <u.Casting off the fourth book in Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Cazelet series. How is it I never heard of this series before? It is an awesome historical family drama.

    9. Eden*

      LOVED The Fault in Our Stars. I’ve been reading his others, and while I am liking them, they don’t come close to having the emotional and intellectual depth of that one.

      I don’t think I could bear to see a movie made of it because I can’t imagine how they would manage to squeeze all that into an hour and a half!

    10. Felicia*

      I’ve read all the other John Green, so I really should read The Fault In Our Stars. I just read his book An Abundance of Katherines, which was also amazing. I know Looking for Alaska also made me feel lots of feelings

    11. Jen M.*

      I do, and I love it. I don’t update if often, though, because it takes me forever to get through a book! (Not much time for reading.) I generally rate and review everything I read, though.

      It’s a fun site!

    12. Cruciatus*

      For avid readers, I’d also like to recommend if you don’t know about it already. It keeps track of the series you’re reading. It will tell you what the next book is in the series, or when the next one will be released. Before, I was keeping track of everything in the back of my day-by-day calendar and after a time, as you can imagine, it became a complete mess.

  23. Anonymous*

    Who else is bored much of the time in their job? What do you to do cope? I’ve been in my position for less than a year, but I’m just not busy all the time. I hate the feeling that I’m getting paid to do nothing.

    1. Lucy*

      Ugh, I feel you. The problem with my position is that when I’ve asked for more to do, the tasks have been pretty menial and not very stimulating, so I feel even less incentive to work. My supervisors think I’m doing a great job, but I feel like maybe it’s just not the right position for me.

      1. Anonymous*

        Mine think I’m doing a great job too! And it’s not an entry level position, either. But there is only so much streamlining and improving of things I can do during my down-time. Like you, when I offer to do other things, it’s usually a one-time, menial, unstimulating task. I like the job when I am busy but being bored is SO painful.

      2. JM*

        This is exactly how I feel! Some days, I feel like it’s such a waste to go in because I know that half my day will be spent doing nothing important.

      1. Lindsay*

        lmao, ME TOO! This is “professional development,” darn it! I’m learning workplace and interpersonal skills.

    2. Dang*

      My last job was like that. Is there anyone you can talk to about getting a side project? I worked on grants and once it was painfully slow. Turns out some other people I worked with peripherally really needed some help while they were hiring someone, to get a grant in, whatever. It worked out for all of us.

    3. Anonymous*

      Yes. In my first job out of college it was really bad. I did eventually start getting a little more work when I got a new manager, but I always had a lot of bored-time. I would stick it out for a few more months, and if you aren’t able to pick up more work start looking for something new. Until then, read AAM and make shopping list. Or find something to organize (like the office supply closet). Or clean out the office fridge.

    4. Rebecca*

      I bored to tears most days. It’s not that I have things to do, it’s just the work is not challenging in the least. I’m just stuck putting up with it until I find something else. I keep scrap paper nearby so if I think of something that needs to be done at home, I jot it down, make grocery lists, etc.

    5. anon too...*

      Me too….I have regular tasks but if I work on them all the time I will end up having nothing to do for large chunks of time, so I stretch things out.

      I’m supposed to replace someone who is retiring in the near future, once she does I’ll have a little more to do, but I’m still pretty unsatisfied with things. There isn’t any real advancement opportunity, and I don’t get a lot of guidance much of the time.

    6. Anonamint*

      I’m so bored. Right before I started my new job, they took half the responsibilities away to create a new position for my department director’s god-son. When I was hired, the promise was that in six months we could sit down and create a new job description.

      It’s been over a year, and, despite the best efforts of myself and my direct manager, I still haven’t gotten anywhere. I probably have 5-10 hours of legit work a week, and the rest of the time I try to look busy or pretend I’m doing “research” so it doesn’t look so obvious that I have nothing to do.

      I agree that it’s a terrible feeling!

    7. Mints*

      Me! I tried talking to the manager but it went nowhere so I’m job hunting.
      In the meantime, online tutorials are good. Microsoft has some excel videos and mini classes I liked (until I finished them all)

    8. AmyNYC*

      Glad to know it’s not just me! I try to do extra, like last time I was assigned X, I then needed to do Y; I’m almost done with X for this project, I’ll start thinking about Y. And read AAM and become SUPER detailed about stuff.

    9. cs*

      From another post I read on this blog awhile ago, if you aren’t already, you should ask for more work, help your colleagues with their’s. This will reflect will on your role there and it may lead to something bigger one day.

    10. Sunflower*

      I am in the slow time and am sooo bored. I read AAM

      I read a lot of LinkedIn discussions since so many of them revolve around best practices and tips.

      Also glad to hear I’m not the only one.

    11. Lindsay J*

      I read AAM.

      I also mess around in Excel and Access, trying to make digital versions of things we use a lot of paper to do right now (or tracking systems for things that we don’t track but that I think we should).

      I’ve also made SOPs and other documentation.

      Sometimes I’m still just plain bored though, and I accept it as part of my job. I

  24. Anonymous*

    Is anyone here in the marketing events industry? I’ve had some experience at a previous job working with trade shows. I’m interested in pursuing this more and would love to hear some insights and advice as to how to get started.

  25. Rayner*


    I just wanted to say thank you so much to everybody who gave me advice and support a few open threads back about going to address my depression and difficulties with my bosses.

    Good news! It’s all being taken care of, and I have extensions and better deadlines sorted out now! I am so happy I went to speak to them about it.

    So yeah, thank you!

  26. Mandy*

    When I left my last job, I gave my boss 3 weeks notice. I’d been in the position for over 4 years and had good performance reviews. His reaction was most unexpected- he got very angry, told me 3 weeks notice was not enough (my position was standard office work, nothing specialized), and told me I was being unprofessional.

    He then proceeded to call his wife and our department office manager to complain about me loudly (I could hear everything through his glass office door) and inquired if they could withhold cashing out my unused vacation time as punishment. He ignored me for the rest of my time in that job. I called my HR department and filed a complaint. HR informed me that I was only required to give 2 weeks notice, and was leaving in good standing.

    My question is, how should I go about referencing this position in future job searches? My boss was the only person I reported to/regularly worked with. I had never been a bad employee, but I can’t trust him to give an honest reference after the way things ended. I worry future hiring managers will see my reluctance as a red flag. I don’t think explaining the situation will work in my favor either.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      So unfortunate he acted like that. 2 weeks if very normal and typical except for higher profile management or specialized jobs.

      I would speak to HR about this. It may be possible that the job reference will go through HR, in which case they will report that you left the company in good standing.

      You could also try reading out to him now that you’re gone and he’s had some time to cool down. Is it possible it could have been a heat of the moment thing and he panicked? I must say his anger at a 3 week notice is unjustified given a solid work history.

    2. AB*

      Ugh… We have a manager like that in our office. His last assistant gave 4 weeks notice and he was still not happy. He acted like a complete child and made a massive fool of himself.

      Luckily, there’s no rule stating you have to put that manager as a reference. If a future company wants to check with previous employers, give them HR’s contact info. The HR department can verify that you worked there and whether or not you would be eligible for re-hire.

    3. Rebecca*

      This is a huge concern of mine. My manager found out I had a job interview once, and went off the deep end. I thought she was going to either throw something at me or hit me. She paced around and screamed at me.

      When I leave (not if), I will give a 2 week notice. If she throws a tantrum, I’m out of there that minute. I’m not putting up with this again.

      1. Trixie*

        Don’t do that. If you walk out, she’ll really have reason to bad mouth you. She’s already had a heads-up so it won’t be a surprise. Just because she’s not acting professionally is not a good reason for you to start. Besides, you’ll be so happy knowing you’re on the way out the two weeks will FLY by. Good luck!

  27. Anonymous*

    Any tips on getting a coworker to stop random comments throughout the day? We sit a few desks away from each other and he will often come over and comment on things not work-related. I’m trying to focus on my work but don’t want to be rude.

    1. Lindsay*


      This is what you do: ignore him when he comes over with something not work-related! Don’t make eye contact, don’t go “uh-huh, mm-hmm” or acknowledge that he’s there and talking.

      If you remove the positive reinforcement, he will stop. I did it with my coworker. I don’t have time for long random personal stories, darn it!

      1. Anon*

        Ugh I’m in the same situation. I’m just not confrontational so I won’t tell them to shut it, but I’ve been trying to just ignore all the comments.

        I guess people don’t know they’re doing it unless their told, but in an open office plan it should be fairly obvious.

      2. Anonymous*

        I’ve tried the “mhmm” route as I do other things and he gets annoyed with me! I’ll give this a go.

        1. fposte*

          BTW, it doesn’t matter if he gets annoyed with you. Your job is not to keep him from getting annoyed with you.

    2. fposte*

      Headphones. “Sorry, now’s not a good time”; head down. “Sorry, it’s tough to concentrate with you there–can I catch up with you at lunch?”

      It’s not rude to ask to do your work at work, and it’s not rude to ask somebody who’s interfering with that to go away.

    3. Rayner*

      Just address it out right.

      “Bob, I’d love to stop and chat but I need to be focused on my work right now. Let’s catch up at lunch/at another time.”

      Keep it up, and if he doesn’t get the message, turn it up a notch. “Bob, I really need to focus at the moment, and you’re interrupting me for things that aren’t related to work which is putting me off. If it’s not important, then we’ll catch up at lunch. I know you understand so thank you!”

    1. Marina*

      I think that person is totally misunderstanding what candidates are asking for when they ask for feedback. That person thinks the question is, “What should I have lied about to get a better chance at the job?” when what most of us actually want to know is closer to, “How was I or was I not a good fit for this job?” The feedback I would be looking for would NOT be, “You should have said X instead of Y,” but “We’re looking for someone with X experience and Y attitude.”

      I also think it’s a little insulting to portray job interviews as some magical process where the interviewers are casting runes or reading entrails or something to decide who to hire. (Although if their interview really is based around questions like describing yourself in one word, maybe they are…) Yes, there’s a certain level of gut instinct, but the purpose of a job interview is really, really straightforward–to find out whether the candidate can do the job. If you’re not able to articulate why one candidate was offered the job over another, I do honestly think that’s a problem.

    2. Kit M.*

      I don’t think she’s wrong that there’s limited utility in one interviewer’s feedback, but I do think she’s taking a very narrow view of what interviewees are looking for. First of all, good interviewees are not going to say, “She didn’t hire me because I said I don’t like working with people? Time to start lying about that!” If an interviewer told me she didn’t hire me for that reason, there are useful things I could take away from that. It could turn out that that is actually not true about me, and I misrepresented myself — good to know for the future. Or it could reassure me that I didn’t get the job for legitimate reasons and it wasn’t because of my lack of experience, smell, over-the-top nervousness, whatever.

      Also, she’s just one person you’re talking to. Sure, one interviewer telling you that you aren’t enthusiastic enough is not a smoking gun, but if two or three interviewers give you that feedback, it becomes something to consider.

      And, hey, is there a disproportionate number of archivists on AAM or is it just me?

  28. anon*

    My (male, married, fiftyish) colleague appears to have been having some marital difficulties and has been telling his wife about all the gorgeous young women he works with who would apparently leap at (on?) him given half a chance. While there is no accounting for other people’s tastes, I would be quite willing to bet that this desire for his person exists entirely within the realm of his imagination, simply because gorgeous young twentysomethings do not generally go for crumpled men twice their age, plus of course, he is married and a co-worker.

    I know about this because the wife has met me at a work event, clearly recognised that I am not remotely attracted to her husband, and called me at work (I have an uncommon first name so she got through) to wail about these young temptresses, many of whom are my (or his) staff. I tried to calm her down as best as possible and suggested that she find a trusted neutral party to talk to, but I’ve just had a missed call from his home number and he is in the office.

    I’m really not sure what the best thing to do is. I recognise that she is distraught, but I don’t want to get dragged into it. Her husband is a colleague not a friend, so I do not feel I can tell him that his marriage is his business and to keep his unwitting colleagues out of it.

    A friend who had a similar situation in her office told me that the distraught wife ended up phoning her husband’s female colleagues and begging them to leave him alone, which caused mystification in some of them, anger in others, and wound up getting him fired. I am anxious to avert this as far as I can, a) because I don’t want my staff upset and b) because frankly, it’s ridiculous.

    1. fposte*

      Can you just plain shut it down–nicely but firmly? No callbacks, avoid pickups if you can, and if you happen to connect, say “I’m sorry, I feel for you but this isn’t appropriate and I need to focus on my work.” Click.

    2. Rayner*

      You need to shut that down as soon as possible. “Mandy, I feel for you but I’m not the best person to be talking to, and I feel very uncomfortable. I have to focus on my work, now. Please don’t call to ask about that again.”

    3. Dang*

      I have no advice, but wow, this is so bizarre and awkward. I feel for her but wtf? And what a nut he sounds like.

    4. Nodumbunny*

      Yeah, and I wouldn’t let your colleague off the hook either. What if you just say “your wife has called me to talk about some things in your personal life and that makes me REALLY uncomfortable. I’ve asked her to stop, and I’m asking you also – please don’t put me in this position. You’re a valued colleague and I’m sorry you’re having troubles at home, but as I said it makes me very uncomfortable to be dragged into it.”

      1. Anonymous*

        It’s not even an issue of letting him off the hook. If someone is sabotaging your career like this, you deserve to be told.

        Also, it’s worth noting: I know a man who had a similar thing happen to him (wife calling husband’s coworkers about their supposed affairs with her husband), and it was because she was emotionally unstable and controlling, not because he was.

    5. Beth*

      I don’t mean to sound alarmist, but this sounds worse to me than just marital difficulties and a freaked out wife. Last time I dealt with someone that had these kind of delusions, it wasn’t just delusions over his personal appeal. We found out the rabbit hole was very deep and very wide. A small sampling of things that went wrong:

      1. Due to delusions about his prowess in all things, he did “Bastard Operator From Hell” type stuff to the computer network. (Which is funny to me — he was actually really good at networking and talented. He really didn’t need to do this stuff to prove any points.)

      2. He also refused to perform necessary tasks because it would ‘prevent him from getting fired.’ (It didn’t.) This was kind of tied into the fact that thought he was brilliant at office politics, when in fact, he was middling. Honestly, again, he didn’t need to behave like this — he’d have had more security and accolades had he just done the tasks.

      3. His attitude about his boss and department, and even the company deteriorated to the point that he thought he could, because he was godlike, do whatever he wanted on the company time and dime. Including illegal activities.

      He’s in prison now after his boss figured out what illegal activities he was up to. And the biggest clue in this mess was his delusions about his appeal to the opposite sex. Be careful.

  29. Anonymous*

    I have been applying to some admin positions. Is there a way to ask about advancement opportunities on an interview without giving the impression that I’m not interested in the admin job? (Not the case, just hoping to grow).

    1. JM*

      I think it’s pretty reasonable to ask, “what growth opportunities are available?” or something like that.

    2. Lucy*

      You could also ask, if it’s applicable, what people in the position before you have left to do- in my department it’s common for an admin to move on to another aspect of the business after a year or two, and that could also give you a sense of company retention.

    3. Marina*

      It’s tricky. I think most offices have had young admins who half-ass their jobs because they think they’re too good for it, and that’s definitely not how you want yourself to be seen. I’d definitely save it for a second interview (or when the offer is made, if there’s no second interview). You might want to ask things like how long people tend to stay with the organization, the reason the person previously in the position left (I usually phrase that as “Can I ask why the previous person left?” because people sometimes get a little weird about it), or what professional development opportunities the organization provides.

  30. Real Talk*

    So the other day I walked into a meeting with the ED of my biggest client… and my nipple popped out. I’d made the rookie mistake of combining a thin bra with a thin dress. Yikes. Nothing to be done in the moment. But anyone have suggestions?

    Molded cups used to be my solution, but I’m currently searching for a good fit (my old standbys were discontinued! ). I don’t need bra brand tips (the old Polish lay at my bra store is on it!). But other tricks? Pasties?

      1. Rayner*

        I don’t think the OP was saying the actual thing popped out, rather it showed through underneath her clothing.

          1. AmyNYC*

            I HATE built in shelf bras – if you’re bigger than an A-cup, it’s just an awkward strip of elastic across your boobs.

            1. Victoria Nonprofit*

              Yeah, I almost commented about that but decided I shouldn’t to into too much description of my breasts. :)

              But, yeah.

    1. Rayner*

      Slightly thicker bra, and having a cardigan that you can put on before a meeting like that if you’re worried.

      Other than that, don’t worry about it. It’s a natural response and if you panic about it, you’ll make it worse.

      1. AB*

        I always keep a cardigan and/or a blazer at my desk. It has been a life saver when I’ve been cold, spilled coffee or something on my shirt, suddenly realized in my sleepy stupor I put on a patterned bra and you can see it through my shirt, or the dreaded under-boob sweat (ok, so the cardi doesn’t make you cooler, but at least you can cover it up)

    2. fposte*

      Okay, I triggered a spam filter, but look on the big online vendor for something called petals that go over that part of the anatomy.

    3. Calla*

      Definitely thicker(/lined) bras, I’ve realized I just can’t wear super-thin ones. They do make “petals” that you can wear inside your bra as well, though I would definitely give these a trial run at home before wearing to work to make sure they’re seamless. Other than that, always have a cardigan!

    4. Anonymous*

      I use something called DIMRS n!pp!e covers – go to Amazon – they are seamless and work like a charm.

    5. Anon*

      DIMRS. Silicone, without any stick-on adhesive like other petals. I think other brands might make similar products, but these have worked well for me.

  31. Janet*

    Kind of a funny thing but I shared with friends and thought I’d throw it out here. Have you guys ever had an Oscar Loser moment at a meeting?

    For example, at a past job I did a lot with our community outreach and for a month every year, 60% of my job was focused on this one charity that we partnered with. At the quarterly staff meeting, the HR director said “And I really want everyone to give a round of applause to someone who has just done everything they can do to make this partnership a success and someone who has really worked beyond the scope of their job to put this event on.” and I sat in my chair thinking “Oh that’s me! Wow, he’s talking about me!” and I got my humble face on and the girl next to me said “I bet this is about you!” then he said “Mike, thanks a lot!” because this guy Mike did one aspect of the event – the only thing I didn’t do.

    Then earlier this week in a departmental meeting, the VP stood right behind my chair and gave out the employee of the month award and I swear I’m not delusional but the way she was standing and the things she was saying, I thought “Oh! This is me! I am getting this!” and then she said “Sharon! Thank you!” and I politely smiled and clapped for my co-worker.

    Two other friends said they have had similar moments where they think “Oh finally! I am getting recognition” only to watch someone else get the silly award. I kind of understand how Susan Lucci feels.

      1. Janet*

        Ha! Love it!

        I swear I don’t think this all the time but man, those two situations where I really thought “Oh wow, she is totally talking about me right now, this is awesome.” and then they’re like “NOPE! Award goes to NotYou!”

        1. Judy*

          I’ve had that happen, “Now I want to recognize someone who was instrumental in planning and implementing X”, and then have them name someone who wasn’t on the team during the planning phase, was only on the team for the last 1/2 of the implementing. He was a very valuable member of the team.

          He also was sitting there across the room thinking that they were talking about me, and even apologized to me later.

    1. anonymous*

      Sorry that happened to you but so glad I’m not the only one. It happens to me all the time because my last two bosses have been allergic to recognizing me. Yes I am bitter.

    2. Tris Prior*

      Yep, that happened to me a couple of jobs ago. It was at the holiday party and everyone at my table was smiling at me and nudging me because they were sure it was me.

      Then the presenter said something about how the award winner always “had a perky, cheerful demeanor” and my heart sank because that is totally NOT me! (I mean, I’m pleasant enough at work but “perky” will never, ever describe me.)

    3. CC*

      Yup, been there. It wasn’t an award, but I was once in a company christmas party after spending a good chunk of a year on a job site making it work. The CEO gave thanks and recognition to a co-worker who had spent a few months going back and forth to a different job site getting it built and running, then gave thanks and recognition to another co-worker who was moving to the region of the job site I’d got to the point of it being worth having somebody move there, then sat down.

      Both of those co-workers deserved the recognition and I don’t begrudge them that at all. But I was sure left wondering if the CEO even knew who I was. In a startup of less than 40 employees.

      “Oscar Loser moment”… not a bad way to put it. Though getting nominated is recognition, even if you don’t win.

  32. PX*

    In before 500 comments for once!

    Any (engineering) project managers around? Im a recent engineering grad (coming up on 1 year of working life) and am coming to the realization that I’m bored in my current role and the growth prospects dont really seem that appealing. What I really like is organizing and getting things done. I feel like project management might be a good fit, so I would love any insight on what you do on on a daily basis. How much technical knowledge do you need/use? Would it be worth me staying in my current role where I can get more extensive technical training and then moving into PM? How much are certifications valued? What would an entry level role in PM look like/involve?


    1. Judy*

      Most places want someone to have some “depth” before they move into project management positions. Everywhere I’ve worked as an engineer has not even talked about project management with someone until 5 years of technical project work, most not until 10 years.

      Project management is a “broad” role, and it’s good to get at least some “deep” experience first.

  33. The Nameless*

    Looking for some input. I am currently a long term temp for a mail order pharmacy company. I recently was told by my supervisor here that a position will be opening and she’d like me to apply. I’m pretty confident about the job as she is holding the posting of the position until my contract is up with the temp agency. Now to my problem…I have no idea what to ask for in terms of salary. Do I go by what I am currently making as a temp? Add more to account to benefits? Google??? I am really clueless. I can’t ask others in my position here as most of them have been here for 15+ years and/or telecommute so they aren’t even “here” to ask. Advice???

    1. Anon*

      Hit Monster – I have used them to get salary ranges. It’s not perfect, but it is a start.
      Many moons ago, when I went from a temp position to a perm, I negotiated too low and had to grovel my way back to ask for more 3 months later. If I had a different boss they would have left me out in the cold.
      Good luck!!

    2. justmary*

      If you’re in Canada, check out It has a tool for searching wages for occupations in specific regions.

  34. ExceptionToTheRule*

    I’m interested in hearing people’s opinions on “Employee of the Week/Month” incentives. Good experiences, bad experiences?

    Our program is going to be “grass-roots” driven (ie – a co-worker nominates you) and there are no measurable metrics. I’ve had experience where these things quickly devolve into popularity contests and I’m trying to keep an open mind.

    1. Rayner*

      Bad. Idea.

      It does devolve into a popularity context, and it can often be weighted against newcomers/people who’s job is is unpopular like those responsible for compliance with security or who have complained (legitimately or not) against the popular people.

      Such an award should be for measurable metrics (like sales, percentage of complete projects, caseloads turned over), and by a manager or someone who is aware of ALL the team.

    2. Calla*

      My job did a form of this — before I started, but we discussed bringing it back. Kind of similar to Rayner, I wouldn’t make it just nominating someone who’s a great employee, that kind of vague thing. Our program was where someone could nominate a specific instance of an employee going above and beyond, and it became equally about that act in addition to the employee who performed it. From what I was told, that was well-received.

      There was only one problem, and that was that this was done for just our department, and because other departments didn’t have it, they wanted to get included on ours — which made it a bit more difficult. So definitely make sure it’s available for everyone.

    3. The Nameless*

      The last company I worked at did a “pat on the back” recognition program. Nobody was singled out, “pats” were given at random and anyone could give them, even those not directly in my department. Basically you had to have a manager or supervisor initial them before you gave it to someone and then they could keep a copy and submit a copy for a monthly drawing. I left the company last March but I still have all my “pats” and I love seeing some of the things people thought about my hard work there. I even got one from the janitorial staff!!! I was always on the lookout for opportunities to give a “Pat on the Back” to others as well.

    4. Marina*

      We have “peak awards” that can be given by anyone, to anyone, and are read out loud at our monthly all staff meetings. Managers are definitely strongly encouraged to give them to their employees after big projects or long hours. There are definitely some people who get them more than others, although I’d say the admin team gets the most, and honestly I’m pretty happy about that, they don’t have many other avenues for recognition. I guess I’d just say it does require fostering a culture that makes it about recognition for work, not popularity, and that’s a top-down thing.

    5. AmyNYC*

      Rather than an employee of the month, what about a recognition board – you write a little note about someone and stick it up. “Thanks to Wakeen for helping me with a super last minute teapot order!” or “Joaquin made awesome cookies for our meeting!”

    6. Colette*

      At one job, we had bucks – if someone did something good for you, you could give them a buck. When you got one, you could turn it in for a gift card. (Now, this was highly honor driven, because there was no difference between a buck you had to give to someone else, and one you got from someone.)

    7. Windchime*

      OldJob had one of these grass-roots nomination things and it was kind of silly. All it would take was 4 or 5 people from your department to nominate someone, and that person would automatically win because there were so few nominations in a given month. People who won would get a gift card and a nice pen, though, and the dubious honor of having their picture up all over the facility.

  35. NK*

    My boss’ boss just left our department and moved to another group. I only got to work with him for 6 months, but I wanted to send him a note of appreciation, because he was the best people manager I’ve ever worked for. He’s extremely considerate of his employees. In addition to wanting to just give him appreciation, I also may be interested in working for him again someday, even though he’s in a different functional area now. Any tips for what to say? I want to be genuine, but not too gushing or over the top.

    1. fposte*

      What did you learn from him, and what did you particularly appreciate about his work?

      It doesn’t have to be long, either–“Our loss is Plastics’ gain. I’ve learned a great deal about management from watching you run the department, and I hope one day I can work for you again.”

  36. Aunt Vixen*

    Long time reader, relatively recent poster. Hi everyone. tl;dr – Lost a job, got a new one, don’t like it, not having fantastic luck repeating my getting-a-new-job success.

    I was laid off a few months ago, from a job I generally liked. I often catch myself thinking about it as if I loved it, but when I remove the rose-colored 20/20 hindsight glasses, I admit that there was a fair amount of the time there that I was looking for something else.

    Old job pro: I usually had very interesting work to do, a research job in my field that didn’t require a doctorate (beat that with a stick), a short commute, a bloody fantastic leave and benefits package including pretty flexible telework, and the best team I’ve ever worked with, bar none – my opinion was valued, my interests were nurtured, really, the people I worked with (who, by the way, were not the ones who made the decision that I was among those to be let go) were awesome.

    Old job con: I also had a non-trivial and frequently annoying amount of administrative Other Duties As Assigned, there was often a sense that our work didn’t matter to anyone but us, I had very nearly maxed out the growth and promotion potential of the job, and I was underpaid to the point where I qualified for subsidized housing.

    So when the budget hit the fan last Q3 I decided to at least look around and find out where the lifeboats were, in case I needed one. And I did; I got an offer half an hour before I got the call to come hand in my badge and my keys. Which sucked; even having had my eye on the door before the cull began and even having an offer in my pocket, you’d prefer to leave a job on your terms rather than theirs, wouldn’t you? It was awful, easily one of the top three worst things that has ever happened to me, but you can’t live in the past, and I started the new job a month later.

    New job pro: I’m making about 30% more than I was making before, my expertise is valued, most people on the team seem to agree that things in the What I Do area are better since I’ve been here than they were before.

    New job con: The commute is twice as long as before, I can never telework, I’m not that interested or invested in what I’m doing now, about half that 30% bump is eaten up by the fact that the leave and benefits package is merely okay (plus the longer commute), and the team is borderline dysfunctional and may not last past the spring.

    I’m sad a lot of the time and I don’t see it getting better – I don’t usually dread coming to work, but I can see that dread on the horizon – so I’m looking again. Or still. On the one hand I’m not sorry I took this job, because I have also-laid-off colleagues who are at least one rent check past the end of their severance package and still looking, and I’m pleased to be in a position to pay my bills. I’m also not sorry I took this job because it’s shown me how much of a difference there is between (a) the times I was restless at my old job and (b) really being dissatisfied. In seven years I was never as unhappy there as I’ve been in three months here.

    But I am a little bit sorry I took this job because I don’t want to get stuck here. I have a colleague who came on a couple of weeks behind me, also immediately took the place’s temperature, and has also not stopped looking for work, and who gives me a lot of advice and leads – for jobs that will be a lot like this one except for the hot-mess factor. Not that doing the work I’m doing on a team that could keep its you-know-what together wouldn’t be better; but I’d still have the distance and the buy-in difficulties to deal with.

    I’d take a pay cut – split the difference between what I used to make and what I’m making now – to be able to work from home most or even some of the time. Especially if it was work I cared more about than what I’m doing now.

    … This is a hard position to write a cover letter from, though. I’m not finding it easy to articulate what I’m interested in about each particular position, when I turned out to be so wrong about this one so I’m not entirely comfortable trusting my reaction to listings and descriptions but at the same time my subconscious is screaming ANYWHERE BUT HERE.

    1. Sunflower*

      Don’t beat yourself up for taking the job. Your instincts were clearly right about your old job and you did what you had to do. Besides the commute and benefits, it sounds like you went into the job thinking it wasn’t going to be as terrible as it’s turning out to be.

      You need to start looking for a new job- especially since you said the new team may not last past spring! Remember that no one is stuck anywhere. I think even just putting your resume out there will brighten your overall mood because you know there is a possibility you will be out of this job at some point.

      I’m not a hiring manager but if I was you, I would not even mention the new job in the cover letter or resume. You haven’t picked up enough skills there in a few months to warrant a bullet on your resume anyway. Being laid off happens and that in itself is very easy to explain on a cover letter.

      I think the most important thing is to not jump ship at the first opportunity you get. I think this is a great opportunity to sit down and figure out what you’re really looking for, especially since you don’t have a fire under your butt. It sounds like you really value working from home and being interested in what you do. Look for companies and jobs that value those things and take your time a bit.

      Any sane person in your spot would have taken this job so don’t beat yourself up for doing it! Keep applying and something that fits will come along

      1. Aunt Vixen*

        Oh, I’ve been looking for a new new job since about my third week at this one. :-/ I am being extra careful not to spin myself fantasy narratives about the jobs I’m applying for; putting my resume out there *is* brightening my mood, but then when I don’t hear back I get glum again. Sigh.

        I’m concerned about leaving the new job off my resume because the calendar year has changed and I don’t want to give the appearance of a gap in employment. Also, I haven’t picked up hardly any new skills here, but having the title has validated skills I’ve had elsewhere. (I was a Senior Research Assistant, which can mean anything; my bullets explain how much I accomplished there. I am now a Technical Editor and Writer, and having a title that doesn’t have “assistant” as the head noun – as we say in the linguistics trade – is psychologically important.)

        I’m not on fire, desperate, any of that. But I can see it in my future. I don’t know how far off, but there will come a time when I will not be able to bring myself to come to work at this job. I want to find something else *well* before that day arrives, in order to avoid the possibility that I will find myself badmouthing them in interviews or getting a bad reference or who knows what.

  37. Anon for this*

    Anyone get a Valentine’s Day gift from an ex you barely talk to? As in you’re ‘friends’ but there is still huge tension a year or so after the breakup?

    1. Sunflower*

      I am definitely no relationship expert but I think your ex is still into you. I think even if you were friends and talked a lot it would still mean he was into you so you might need to think about how you feel about him.

      1. Anon for this*

        I haven’t seen him in months but every so often he does make it clear he wants to try again (to which I say I don’t. I walked into the same wall over and over and once it was finally done, I was really done). It’s something he’s gotten me every year and I enjoy (not flowers). Awkward indeed. Especially when I thanked him and he barely said anything.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Maybe let him know from here forward- no more gifts.

          If he is giving a gift in the hopes of a relationship later then that train of thought needs to be stopped. You accept the gift and he gets hopeful all over again.

          Of course you enjoy the gift… that would be the point to push your buttons.

          1. Aunt Vixen*

            NOPE. If you want to not hear from him, you can’t respond when you hear from him. That teaches him that he will get a response – even a response saying “Stop calling me” is more of a response than dead silence.

            Enjoy the flowers but say nothing, is my vote. (And read “The Gift of Fear.”)

  38. KayDay*

    Alison, what time do you usually post the open threads?

    I never see them until there are already 200+ comments =\ (although, it’s totally awesome that you are getting so many comments within a matter of hours).

        1. TK*

          Count me in. Well, mine’s called an MSI. How is it that a field that’s based on organizing information has such inconsistency over its names/acronyms for degrees?

            1. Lindsay*

              The library school at U of Arizona gives you an “MIRLS” – Master of Information Resources and Library Science. (had to google that, oof!)

          1. Heatherbrarian*

            Coming in so late that no one else will see this but I had to say hooray for another MSI holder! As far as I know there’s only one school that gives those out… TK, should you happen to come back and see this, when were you there? (I attended 2008-2010.)

    1. Trixie*

      This would be another good subgroup on AAM Linked In. And I wouldn’t mind one for nonprofit/fundraising.

  39. Mentors!*

    Mentors, what do your mentees contribute to the mentoring relationship? What makes it rewarding for you? What makes someone want to spend lots of time helping develop someone’s career when the mentee can’t always contribute equally?

    1. fposte*

      Some of this is just structural to academics, but I would also say that I don’t do it for reciprocity–I expect it to be paid forward rather than back to me.

      That being said, there’s a fair bit of payback as people grow in their careers and do interesting things that I want to team up with. But it’s not a mutual back-scratching–it’s more like a kidney donation chain :-).

      1. Mentors!*

        I like the visual of the kidney donation chain! That makes a lot of sense.

        I ask because I’ve been thinking about how much time my super-busy, most trusted mentor spends helping me. I’ll be in his office for a million years, and the phone seems to be ringing and emails buzzing the whole time. I do the best work I can and sometimes will contribute ideas to whatever projects we’re working on, but it pales in comparison.

        1. fposte*

          I thought you might be on the mentee side. Yeah, you’re not a bank account that people expect to pay out for them. And it’s quite likely they’re doing it because somebody did it for them. So just appreciate your kidney :-).

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I think there is stuff that is not obvious- such as a 50 something might enjoy the inputs/thoughts/ideas of a younger person.
      Or might be remembering a time when the mentor felt enthused about the work and the mentee reminds them of why they started in the field.
      Or maybe the mentor knows his generation’s way does not work and he is hoping to support the new generation with ways that do work.
      Or maybe mentor is bored out of her mind and mentoring someone helps her jump out of bed and race to work.

    3. AVP*

      One other thing – I have a mentor/boss who plucked me from the admin desk and spent a ton of time training me into his department. Part of it was that he knew the person under him would leave eventually and he wanted someone he chose and trained to take over for her. Now that I’ve been in the job for awhile, I also recognize that there are certain parts of his job that are tedious but require some knowledge, so if I see him struggling against deadlines I can easily step in and take over those parts, and we take the same approach to things (because it’s his approach) so it’s pretty seamless.

      And of course, now I’m training our new admin in the same way. Kidney chain!

  40. Dang*

    I’m pretty sure I’m actually getting this job (it’s a temp job and they all liked me, that was one person’s reservation). He said something like “you’re bright, you have a master’s degree and great qualifications and I can see a long-term path for you here, but I’m afraid that in the meantime you won’t be challenged and will be unhappy.” This came from someone in his mid-late 20s (I’m almost 30, so I’m wondering if this is an age thing) who would be a supervisor of a supervisor.

    It’s an admin job, and I’m having a hell of a time finding anything else. 15 interviews in 8 months and no offers. Most of the jobs I’m applying for require roughly 2-3 years of experience and are going to people with 15+. So it seems like this is a normal thing. It doesn’t bother me to do admin work. I think I’d be decent at it. But I’m not sure how to interpret/handle this.

    1. Stuck in the Snow*

      I had the same comment from someone when I was in a very similar situation (really needing a job, taking an admin job, still looking for something more in line with my education/desired career path). I think I said something along the lines of “I appreciate your mentioning this, and I’m confident that there will be plenty of opportunities for me to grow and learn in this role”. And then I really busted my tail to impress my actual manager. :) By doing that, I gained the attention of others and have been given tasks usually outside of the role I’m in. It’s still not perfect – but it was the best option at the time I needed a paying job, and it’s paying my way while I look for something else.

      He still has problems with me working on the team, but given that everyone else is really happy with my performance/work ethic/can-do attitude, he remains just one voice. I do think it had a bit more to do with his own insecurities, as I was confident in my own professionalism (toilets? I’ve cleaned them with the same sense of pride in my work as when I was writing my dissertation – it might not matter to others, but my standards matter to me) and work ethic.

  41. Rebecca*

    I read “I made a mess of asking for a raise” with interest today!

    Background – I am looking for another job. I’ve had no performance reviews or increases in 3 years. One of my coworkers is going on maternity leave this summer, and I was asked/told to cover for her during her 6 week leave. Now, another coworker is leaving, the maternity leave coworker is moving to her role, and my manager wants me to take over her whole work load, permanently.

    I asked if it would include a pay increase, or perks in lieu of an increase (WFH and/or additional vacation days). She wouldn’t answer me.

    I just don’t think it’s fair to basically double my workload and not offer some sort of compensation. Am I wrong?

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      I agree that it’s not fair, and maybe not even possible, to permanently double your workload. Did you have a prioritization meeting with your boss? One in which you said something along the lines of “The addition of tasks D, E, and F have doubled my workload. I’ve come up with some suggestions for prioritizing these tasks, and want to make sure we’re on the same page. I can add D, E, and F but I’ll need to transfer B and C to someone else. Is that in line with your thinking?” Or something like that.

      Once you’ve shown that you’re capable of meeting the new responsibilities, you ‘ll be in a stronger position to negotiate a raise.

      1. Rebecca*

        I will make sure to lay it out in just those terms when this happens. She said she could offer data entry help if she could pull someone else aside if they’re not busy. I just don’t feel very comforted by that. At least she didn’t just tell me to “make it happen” because she told her boss it would get done. This time.

        1. Ann O'Nemity*

          Look for some of Alison’s older posts on these types of prioritization conversations. I tried to capture the essence above, but her wording is probably better than mine is.

  42. Anonie*

    I have a situation that I’m not sure how to handle so I’m putting it out here for the collective hivemind of AAM because you are all awesome.

    I am an admin assistant for our COO who has been through a lot in the last 18 months. It started when he got in a serious car accident and injured his lower left leg. Luckily no one else was hurt, but the cause of the accident was him “falling asleep” at the wheel. It turns out he had a seizure and the cause of it was a brain tumor. (Yes, it was cancer.)

    He was on quite a bit of leave, in and out of the office for all of 2013, and is finally, happily, back to work as of January 2014. We’re so happy to have him back, but needless to say things have changed for him. Personality-wise he’s still a great guy, a good boss, and he has a refreshing be happy for each day you are alive attitude that has actually raised the morale of our office area. Physically, he has a very noticeable limp from the leg injury and walks with a cane. Because of the surgery required for the brain tumor (which was also in his sinus cavity), and the subsequent cancer treatment, he has lost some bone structure in his face and one eye. He looks fairly normal overall, minus the one darkened lens in his glasses that “covers” his empty eye socket, and the limp. (He’s very good natured and immediately upon returning made several pirate jokes.) Unfortunately for now he cannot wear a patch or cover the eye socket because of infection risks. It’s something we’ve all adapted to and it’s not an issue for any of us who work with him or the managers whom he supervises.

    The issue is outside people and those who don’t know all that’s gone on for almost the last 2 years. A couple of vendors, and two interviewees for an open management position under him, had very… obvious reactions to meeting him. One was quite unprofessional, and I know some reaction is to be expected, but you could tell it unnerved our COO and probably hurt his feelings a bit. He knows how he looks, he’s not in denial, but the other admin assistants and I have discussed the possible need to give some people a heads up before they meet him.

    Is this wildly inappropriate of us? And more importantly, what the heck should we say?

    1. Lindsay*

      Ooo, tough question. IMHO, it is NOT wildly inappropriate to give outsiders a heads-up. I think it is a kindness to your COO who is probably still adjusting to getting those kinds of reactions.

      I don’t have great ideas on what to say, though!

    2. Just a Reader*

      I don’t think it’s appropriate. People are who they are and they’ll react the way they’re wired to. I think it would be far more hurtful if your COO found out you had warned people about him ahead of time, because he knows and trusts you.

      Your heart is in the right place but I wouldn’t do it.

    3. Aunt Vixen*

      Could you mention when you’re setting up the meetings or interviews that you’re so pleased to be able to arrange a meeting/interview with Mr. COO now that he’s back from his convalescence (or something extreeemely general and not HIPAA-violating like that)?

      Better yet: ask him if he’d like you to think about a way to get people’s reactions out of the way before he has to deal with them? He might prefer to meet people’s reactions head-on, as it were, but if he doesn’t, he might have some ideas to contribute.

      1. TK*

        Yeah, I was going to say just ask him. From how you’ve described him it’s sounds like he’s good-natured and understanding enough that he wouldn’t take offense.