open thread

Olive stretchingIt’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.

{ 1,148 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    So I switched to 3 posts a day (instead of 4) this week (except for yesterday) — did anyone notice or feel bereft?

    I might stick to this for a while. I’m also playing with the idea (as some people have suggested) of breaking up the daily short-answer post. Currently the first post of the day is the “5 questions/5 answers” post, which lets me answer a bunch of questions that usually have short-ish answers all at once. But I’m hereby soliciting your feedback on breaking some (not all) of those up into their own questions … which could potentially help some of those questions get more attention. Input welcome.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I like the 3 posts. I also like the idea of breaking up the daily short-answer posts, or maybe just using it for the pretty simple/non controversial questions. I’ve noticed that when there is one “OMG WTF!” kind of question in that group it tends to pull most of the attention away from the other questions.

      1. JamieG*

        I agree. Some days I read the short answers and before I look at the comments I know that 90% of them are going to be about the same question.

      2. A Bug!*

        I think there’s another way to address that trend:

        WTF Wednesdays. Post them all together and let them fight it out for attention.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            Or, every post on wednesday can be a WTF topic. Separate posts, but a theme for the day. It would be a great mood booster for the doldrums of the week.

    2. Liz in a library*

      I did notice that there were fewer posts, but I can definitely understand why you would want to do that, and it didn’t impact my enjoyment of them any. :)

      I really like the idea of breaking out some of the short answers, because many times if there is a controversial question, other questioners can be completely ignored in the comments. It might also make it easier to follow the comment threads as a reader.

      1. Manda*

        Fewer posts was fine for me too – I would prefer the short answer posts to be separate so that I don’t get lost in the comments field. I have been a long time reader and I appreciate all that you do – so please make sure this is sustainable for you personally – two posts would be fine as long as there are plenty of commentators and that never seems to be a problem these days.

    3. Bryan*

      I’m fine with 3 posts. I also really like the idea of breaking up the short posts since it would be easier to find comments to a specific question.

    4. The Nameless*

      I noticed. I found your blog just a few weeks ago and have been addicted to it since. I love that you have multiple posts every day and I noticed the lack for the fourth post (excluding yesterday) and was disappointed. Of course, I think you should be updating with new posts every time I check your blog (approximately 8 times a day, BTW) so I might not be the person to judge this. Luckily for me, you’ve been writing this for a while so I have a lot of old posts to catch up on. But warning…I read fast. (normally I’d stick a winking emoticon here, but in a post of yours I read recently you think they’re slightly lecherous. Instead I’ll just say how much I love your blog.)

      1. danr*

        I tried to read all of AAM after I found it, since I’m a fast reader. I figured that a chronological approach would work. But I kept getting sidetracked by the suggested posts at the end. I’m still finding older posts that I missed. But, good luck on the attempt.

        1. en pointe*

          Yeah, I also found reading chronologically hard for that reason. Though, if I have a spare moment, the Surprise Me button is good for finding something I haven’t read before.

        2. Fiona*

          I started reading backwards and managed to get 300-some pages deep which is mid-2008. I’ve also read every post tagged “cover letters” and “resumes”. :)

      2. lns120*

        Glad to know I’m not the only addict around here! I was beginning to worry I’d have to stage my own intervention and start holding my own Ask A Manager Anonymous meetings (AAMA) in the near future…
        I do like the idea of breaking up some of the short questions so that each gets more a little more focus. I think it would help make the comments easier to go through, also!

        1. AnonNE*

          You both are not the only addicts! I found 3 posts a day easier to read than 4. I generally cannot read as much as is posted. Although I keep trying.

          1. en pointe*

            I also sometimes have trouble keeping up. Lately, I haven’t had time to read four per day, so I prefer three.

            1. Academic Librarian/ Curator Midwest*

              I get to my blog reading at night, rarely checking in during the day so I don’t really notice how many…just that you certainly are filling my needs. Somedays I may not check in because if work that I have brought home but I do enjoy catching up.
              Last night the husband called down the stairs :ask a manager wants you to go to bed!”

          2. TheSnarkyB*

            Alison, not sure if you’re still reading this thread, but I also found 3 better than 4. I think the reason for this is that the commentariat has grown and therefore, it’s rare that I read a post anymore without also reading all the comments. That said, I do get annoyed when so many comments are “+1” or “yeah wow this is crazy” x6- but since those comments are our best way to get across to the OP, I understand.
            I think dumber commenters would solve the problem of too much to read, but I quite like it the way it is now with 3 posts a day and genius thoughts below :)

      3. AdAgencyChick*

        I also noticed and was sad, but I can’t blame AAM for scaling things back on what is essentially her volunteer work.

    5. Barbara in Swampeast*

      I would actually read as many posts as you could possibly post. But since you have kitties, you obviously have other commitments in your life, so I understand limiting the number of your posts. And yes, I did notice the difference, but it’s your blog and I will read whatever you publish.

      Another vote here for breaking up the 5/5. Maybe publish two at a time? (that way we get six instead of five :) )

      1. Artemesia*

        I agree — I will read and enjoy as many as you post. I like more. But I also blog and am not anywhere near as productive as you are and appreciate that it takes time. So I am good with what you decide.

      2. Fiona*

        Or three per, twice a day…then the readership still nets four, but Alison is only answering one additional short-answer question, instead of composing a whole extra WTFOMG post per day.

        I would also be in favor of seeing the posts spaced out a bit more. Its harder to keep up with the comments when they’re closer together and I feel more “bereft” by the fact that there are no new postings after 2:00 CST than by how many posts there actually are. Having some fresh reading material to get me through a late-afternoon slump or to look forward to when I get home would be sweet. :)

          1. Chriama*

            I’d also like the posts to be more spread out in the day, especially when some of them generate a huge amount of comments. Sometimes I skip commenting on a post because I figure people have moved on to the next one already.

            My ideal would be 1 in the morning, 1 right before lunch, and 1 around 4pm.

          2. LAI*

            Yes, I would love to see posts at different times of the day! I’m PST, so usually the whole day’s worth of posts are up by the time I check in at lunchtime. It’s fun to have a lot to read at once, but it’s sad when I check back later in the day and find nothing new… :(

          1. Laura*

            +1. Also, +1 for splitting out the short-answers, especially if there’s some large WTF in them that may “drown out” the others.

            Plus, while someone posting “OP #3 – comment here” and then immediately replying “Oops, I meant OP #4” is vaguely amusing once, it’s yet another sign of a confusing discussion. :)

    6. ZSD*

      I noticed the reduction but wasn’t bothered by it. I feel spoiled getting multiple posts per day anyway!
      Yes, I think breaking up the short answer posts would be great.

      1. The IT Manager*

        It’s not worse for me, but I noticed. I have since been trained, but for the first few weeks, I would check Sunday morning first thing and be disappointed.

        That said I work Monday – Friday and check back very regularly most weekdays. On Saturdays and Sundays, I would usually only check once first time I log on.

      2. vvondervvoman*

        Yea, I am really missing Sundays. I’d rather have it spread out with less posts all week than have a post-less Sunday!

    7. EAA*

      Might want to consider the timing of the posts with only 3. Concur with the idea of breaking up the short answer ones. Like the idea of 2 of 3 each. Certainly consider making some their own posts if you feel they may draw a lot of response compared to the others.

    8. Ashley*

      I have missed the afternoon post, but that’s because it’s usually up right when I get back from lunch, and it’s a nice way to ease back into work mode. :) I totally understand your desire to move to 3 posts per day though, and honestly I think it’s fine.

    9. Anon #2*

      I noticed, but knew it was coming, so it lessened the bereft feeling. :-)

      Breaking out the 5/5 definitely has some value, especially if it helps you with your efforts to be more efficient. With that being said, perhaps offering a 5/5 once a week could satisfy the need for the “short answer” approach, while lessening your burden?

      It might also be interesting to have a 5/5 that’s entirely reader-response based. Perhaps having questions that are equally “controversial” would encourage reader responses to all of the questions? Just thinking “out loud”…

      1. Camellia*

        Just because you would break up the posts doesn’t mean you have to make the answers any longer than they would be if you chunked the questions together.

        Maybe you could subtitle the posts. If you would have posted five shorts answer together, you could break them out and label them ‘1 of 5’, ‘2 of 5’, etc.

        1. CAA*

          This is my take on it too. I don’t have a minimum length that I expect a blog post to be, and a short question with a 3 sentence answer is just fine with me.

          1. Anon #2*

            Sorry – I guess I wasn’t very clear. I meant the “short answer” approach as it relates to the “5 Short Answers…” title, vs. a lengthy reply by Alison. :-)

            1. IronMaiden*

              Some questions are very basic and concern topics Alison has well and truly covered. Generic answers to most situations are available in the archives. These questions only need a quick answer.

              The questions I love are the totally off the wall ones, where AAM’s first reponse is “What? No! What? These people are whack jobs!”

    10. Kirsten*

      I miss the 4 posts! Mainly because I love your blog and would read as much as you are willing to post. I understand though why you would want to scale back. I do agree with breaking up the short answers and also having the controversial ones have their own post.

      1. De Minimis*

        I’ll be honest, I didn’t really notice the change and I check a lot during the day so I’d say it’s fine to stick with 3 a day.

    11. Anon*

      I’m going to be selfish and say that I’m sad there’s only three posts a day not (I totally understand why though!). If I could have my way there’d be 12 posts a day ;)

      1. cat*

        Couldn’t agree more! I miss the 4th post, but if you gave me 10 posts a day, I’d be begging for 2 more…

      2. H. Vane*

        I’m fine with the three posts a day thing, but what about maybe posting them a bit further apart so those of us with a long slog through the afternoon have something to look forward to?

    12. Just a Reader*

      It made me sad, but I may have an unhealthy addiction to this blog.

      I think fewer posts on days when the comments really blow up would be a good idea, but on slower comment days, I’d love to see more posts!

      1. Kirsten*

        That’s a good point- when there is a post that has a ton of comments, I don’t notice as much because I am so absorbed in reading those!

    13. Jen RO*

      I agree with breaking the “short answer” posts up. The controversial questions (like the “men went to watch hockey during work” one) really should be separate, even if the answer is short, because they *will* attract tons of comments.

      1. Julie*

        Alison – have you ever been surprised that a question got a lot of comments or do you pretty much know which ones are the WTF/OMG types of questions?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I usually know which ones will generate huge discussion, but occasionally I’m surprised. For instance, I was surprised by the number of comments on the “new hire insists we call her Mrs. Stark” letter last week — I knew it was a hilarious letter, but didn’t anticipate that response. But I know, for instance, that anything about sex, sexism, or sick leave (the 3 S’!) will always produce a big response.

    14. NK*

      I also would read as many posts as you could post! But I do understand it’s a lot of work. I agree with the many others who think it’s a good idea to break out the more controversial short answer posts into their own posts. Could lead to more interesting discussion on the less controversial posts that people may still have differing/interesting viewpoints on, but forget about because the controversial post grabbed their attention.

    15. Smilingswan*

      I’m a newish reader, but I visit daily. I don’t know how much work an “open thread” is for you, but if it’s less work than the traditional posts, maybe you could add more of those? I hopped on to the open thread today at 1:00PM, and there is already over 400 posts. I would love to see one every day, or at least every other day.

      1. DeAnna*

        I would LOVE to have the short answer ones broken up. I think the nested comments (I think that’s the right term) works well with the single-question posts, but it makes it hard to follow for the multi-question entries, especially if you’ve read some comments in the morning, and then come back again in the afternoon.

        1. Penny*

          I wouldn’t mind having at least only 2-3 questions for the short answer. It seems like there an increasing number of comments and it can be hard to follow conversation with so many replies.

    16. JamieG*

      I noticed – maybe because I knew it was coming – but like everyone else has said: even if you posted hourly I’d still be sad when there’s no new post to read.

    17. A Bug!*

      I’ve noticed the difference but I don’t think it’s a big deal. I wouldn’t mind seeing more posts of yours which link to work by others, with or without commentary from you, if that’s something easy for you to do on a semi-regular basis.

      Either along the lines of Wednesday’s post, which linked to one specific story, or a post that just kind of rounds up articles that you’ve read recently and found interesting, significant, or thought-provoking.

      (Also, and I know it’s fluff so maybe you’re not keen on it, I love seeing “weird search terms that landed people here” posts.)

    18. anon in tejas*

      I did not notice the difference, but I just wanted to take a moment and thank you for upkeeping this blog with new content and continued discussion/success. I’ve learned a lot. Thank you!

    19. ThursdaysGeek*

      I noticed, and as I expected, I’ve been able to keep up with the comments better. I’d be sad if I were only reading the posts, but there is a lot of great content in the comments.

    20. Chriama*

      I don’t remember where I saw this recently, but what about a weekend open thread?

      I know you like to keep an eye on the comments and you still have to moderate links, but I kind of hate that I miss the critical 3 hour period for posting questions or replying to other people in more or less “real time”.

    21. Mishsmom*

      personally, i’d rather you post 10 a day and take photos of your cats and share them, however 3 is just fine :))

      1. Mishsmom*

        ok and on that note, just when i think i’ve seen the cutest cat pics, you go an post one with pink paws…. awwww

          1. Julie*

            I don’t know if it’s just my laptop, but I always get a gigantic version of the kitty photo (which is not a problem!).

    22. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Since I hate missing anything and I am crazy busy at work, reduced posting is working for me. :)

      Breaking up the short answer posts will, I think, encourage more comments. I feel hoggish if I reply to more than two issues in a five issue post….and can’t miss the WTF ones. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

    23. The IT Manager*

      I would have noticed if this week weren’t so crazy. I visit when I need a break from work or have some free time. I did come looking for a break a few times and did not notice a new post, but I was so busy, I only had a vague feeling that a post was missing.

      I do like the short answer posts grouped together. However I do think thought that the comment generating ones should be separate so as not to overwhelm the other questions and responses to those questions. As someone mentioned below – the WTF ones – either manager/business or sometimes the LW – tend to generate the most comments.

    24. FD*

      I love all your posts…but I have to admit I sometimes end up missing some when there are four a day. For me, I find three a day is easier to keep up with reading.

      1. Ali*

        I am still of the opinion that we should try for two separate open threads: one for personal stuff and one for work stuff. No offense, but I am not really a cat lover and it drives me nuts having to scroll through everyone talking about cats to get to work issues. Well, that and books, TV shows, weddings and God knows what else. Sorry for being a little cranky right now, but it does get annoying for those of us who do want to talk work stuff and risk getting buried by OMG CATS.

        1. Stephanie*

          As a dog person, I’m with you. Although I will admit to veering off-topic from work stuff myself. Not really sure how Alison could enforce separate threads (or if she even wants to).

          1. Ali*

            It doesn’t really have to be enforcing or being strict about it. Just make one thread the “personal open thread” and one the “work open thread.” I think that would help. But what do I know? Haha.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I hear you on that. I can’t really see hosting one that’s specifically for personal stuff, so I’m probably going to keep them combined, but it’s a reasonable point.

          1. Gjest*

            What about the personal open thread being on Sundays, when you won’t have a post anyway? I admit I don’t know how much work it is for you to moderate an open thread, though, if you are trying to keep your Sundays to yourself (totally understandable) But if Sunday was a personal day, then ask the people commenting on the Friday open thread to keep it to work-related issues.

    25. TheExchequer*

      I’ve definitely noticed the lack of posts – but I’m one of those people who would read it if you posted ten times a day. :) Any number of posts you’re comfortable with (as long as it’s more than zero!) is fine with me.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Which makes it all the more challanging, because I want to rub their bellies with my face! When they turn, I have to extricate my head with a cat wrapped around it and holding on. D:

          1. Julie*

            I have a friend with asthma and a serious animal allergy, and she also wants to rub her face in the kitty bellies, so she just has to stay away from cats. So sad!

            1. Jessa*

              I am allergic and have asthma, I’d rather not breathe than give away our cat. My main thing is she’s not allowed in the bedroom so I can sleep without cat. Otherwise, inhalers are my friends.

      1. Anonymous*

        I’ve been volunteering with cat rescue groups for a long time and I’d say about 85% of kitteh bellies are traps! But there are a small percententage who truly want a belly rub :) There’s a cat at the place I volunteer now who has a huge pink belly he’s always showing off, thankfully, he does accept rubs (because it woudl be sooo hard to resist).

        1. Elkay*

          Yeah, one of mine actually likes belly rubs she normally flips down just far enough away so I have to move to get to her – she knows who the boss is.

          1. Mel*

            My family’s cat did that too. She wants attention and skritches… and flops just out of reach. I’m not actually sure if it’s a dominance ploy or good kitty manners – anyone know?

        2. ExceptionToTheRule*

          One of my boys will flop over and look at you woefully until you give him a belly rub. He’s got a big Buddha belly, so it can take a while before he’s satisfied.

        3. Cath@VWXYNot?*

          Both my cats will lie on their backs on random parts of the floor, patiently waiting for the next passing human to rub their bellies. Sometimes I get up off the sofa and they’re both right behind it, just waiting.

        4. Elizabeth West*

          My kitty is getting better about being brushed/petted. She does like a belly rub now and then, but I’m always cautious and ready to yank my hand back if she tries to spring the belly trap because OW.

    1. Jen RO*

      My older cat only shows his belly when he wants to maul you. My younger one seems to love belly rubs! I wonder if he’ll grow out of it. (He’s only 5 months old.)

  2. Ali*

    Yay I finally get in before a million comments!

    So I have pretty much decided to give up on my goal of ever working for a sports team. Bummer, but I don’t see the point of taking an internship that expects full-time hours for little or no money while balancing my current job. So right now, I am going to stay at Present Company while considering where else I can use my skills and experience.

    I kind of hate this because I feel like a kid just out of college trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives. But at the same time, exploring and being more open to job opportunities beats banging my head off a wall in frustration over a dead end that wasn’t opening up.

    1. chmur*

      My husband works for a concessions company in an arena and sometimes people are able to move over to the team from there.

      In his arena, most events are in the evening and people work full time jobs. A lot of arenas use non profit groups to staff the stands as a fundraising opportunity, so that could be something you look into.

      Let me know if you want to chat further. His company handles arenas all over the country, so he might have some additional information for you.

      1. Ali*

        That sounds interesting! How can I get in touch? I have a couple other e-mails to send today before I go out of town, so I’ll put you on my list!

            1. chmur*

              I saw you emailed me, but I didn’t receive anything. Let me know if it’s easier for me to reach out to.

              Sorry for all the comments on this!

              1. Ali*

                That’s weird…yeah maybe you can write to me or we can try LinkedIn! I am leaving soon to go out of town though so may not make a lot of headway today!

      2. athek*

        I really like this idea. My next door neighbor, who sadly passed away a year ago, was an usher part-time in the evenings and then worked his way into locker room attendant. He was elderly, so I don’t think he had long term aspirations of working his way into a career there, but it seems like a good way to make connections and get your foot in the door.

      3. Sunflower*

        This is a good idea. I have lots of friends who work for third party companies for stadiums. They do concessions plus facilities, uniforms and they also run the merchandise stores. If you can get in there doing admin work or anything else, try that. Ara mark is big in stadiums so try there.

      4. MaryMary*

        Concessions or merchandizing is also a great way to see if you REALLY want to work for a sport team. It may turn out that as much as you love the sport, you’ve romanticized the work aspect. I worked at the retail store of a MLB team when I was a teenager, and learned that retail is retail, except there are fewer drunks at the mall and the mall doesn’t stay open until 1am if the game goes into extra innings. I’m much happier as a fan!

    2. Cody c*

      Don’t give up that goal. Perhaps as an alternative look into companies that manufacture sports equipment. Where I live is a company that does golf and lacrosse shafts and I have made it my goal to get on there because they are involved in a lot of sports events!

      1. Stephanie*


        This was my thought too. One of the big apparel companies could get you exposure to a team.

        Alternatively, maybe something in municipal government? My city out here in Arizona constructed a spring training facility for an MLB team. There had to be someone in the city who dealt with the team for the construction.

    3. Sunflower*

      I haven’t been following you too closely but I do remember seeing your initial post about whether to give up or not. Don’t think of it as ‘giving up’- just sounds like you’ve decided you’ve decided you’re not going to quit your stable job for something with no pay and is shaky. And that’s called being an adult(I think)? It doesn’t mean that you’ll NEVER work in sports and you’re shunned.

      As someone who is also freshly out of college and trying to figure out what to do with her life, I understand the feeling. I work in event planning which people seem to be climbing over each other to get into and I’m saying to myself ‘is this really worth the low pay?’ My friends in fashion feel the same way. Hang in there at your job, keep your eyes open for a PAYING opportunity that looks good and maybe something will come along.

      1. Dan*

        I believe the pay is low in fields like that *because* people climb over each other for those jobs. My background is in aviation, and entry level pay for pilots is terrible. Like $20k/yr to start terrible. Sure, everybody is expecting that big payoff down the road, but for a lot of people, it never comes. And if you do get there, it’s a really bumpy road unless you get really really lucky.

        I found a happy medium, and the advice I would throw out to you guys is look and see if there is a way where you can make a good living doing something on the peripheral of the industry.

        For example, I’m good at math, so my academic pedigree reflects that. For a career, I’ve chose to do aviation research work for the federal government. The pay is pretty good, the hours are awesome, and I use my background every single day I go to work. Maybe about once a year I regret not being a pilot. But the other 364 days, I really do like how my life turned out.

        1. athek*

          +1 I know someone who went to law school and became an investigator/litigator for airplane crashes (this was quite some time ago in a different market… not so sure how lucrative law is anymore.)

          1. A Bug!*

            It’s highly dependent on a lot of factors, but for the most part, nowadays a law degree in itself is not the meal ticket it once was. Lots of lawyers are stuck working outside law entirely or taking jobs as paralegals or legal assistants, if they can even find work at all.

            1. littlemoose*

              This is so true. There are a lot of lawyers and many markets are oversaturated. There’s always some demand in specialty areas like patent law (for which you need a science/engineering degree as well), but on the whole, it’s not a tight job market. It does not pay nearly as well as people think. At my friend’s first legal job, she made less than a new public school teacher.

              1. Stephanie*

                Eh, even in patent law there’s some oversupply. The oversupply is probably smaller compared to other legal fields since you need the technical degree to enter the field. But I had coworkers with JDs doing the same job I was at the Patent Office and at a search firm.

            2. Windchime*

              I sometimes read Corporette, and there are a lot of lawyers who post there. You’d think that all lawyers make in the high six figures right out of law school, to hear them all talk. I always feel like such an underachiever after reading there for awhile.

        2. Stephanie*

          I saw a Frontline special about budget airline pilots. After hearing that, it is amazing more planes don’t crash given how overworked, underpaid, and sleep-deprived those pilots are.

        3. BettyD*

          Sorry, semi-off-topic and rather late, but have you ever listened to the radio program Cabin Pressure? It’s a comedy about a British charter airdot (because you can’t put one plane in a line) so budget that they only have two pilots and one of them works for free because it’s the only way he can be a Captain. Anyway, I read this comment and thought of that show.

    4. A Teacher*

      I have a friend that just left the front office of a MLB team. She started as an usher, become a PA and then moved into the office from there. She finally got tired of the long hours and not very much money for how many hours she worked (less than 40k) and skill set she was required to have. She did like it for a period of time though.

  3. thenoiseinspace*

    AAAHHH FLUFFY KITTY BELLY. Want to snuggle!

    But actual question: To the creatives among us who have online portfolios, how many pieces do you have on it? When I first set mine up I posted every published piece I had, simply because there weren’t many yet, but now that I’ve been doing this for a while, I’ve got a nice selection. I want to show that, but I don’t want it to be overwhelming.

    Also, in my current job, the articles are much shorter than my previous ones. Would an employer care more about longer, in-depth pieces or more recently published works? Bonus points for anyone who has links to good sample online portfolios I can look at! :)

    1. danr*

      I would suggest a selection of longer and shorter pieces. You’re showing off what you can do, not just your latest stuff.

    2. AmyNYC*

      This is reminding me how out of date my portfolio is… I have 3-4 abridged projects (2-3 pages, verses 5-6 or more in the portfolio I bring to interviews). Enough to see what I can do, but not so much that they’ve already seen everything before they meet me.

    3. Chloe*

      +1 – should be a selection. I actually started a Pinterest board when I was job hunting with links to my work that was posted online (so originally sourced, skirting the copyright thing) and got a lot of compliments on it. I also put contact info and LinkedIn profile on there and used it as a sort of visual resume, sorted by client with a brief overview of the work I did on said client and higlighting my best work for each. I don’t do website design, so even though I fiddled around with creating a WordPress site I found that this way the best way to quickly show hiring managers some of my work and the variety of clients I worked with.

    4. esra*

      I separate mine into categories and try to have at least 3-5 pieces per category. I wanted to show the breadth of my skills, but still have in-depth showcases for particular talents (like, the people looking for illustration want to see pretty different things than people looking for UX or editorial or event etc).

  4. Camellia*

    Is anyone else but me disappointed in the new TV series ‘Bitten”?

    I keep watching since I love her books so much but the series just seems flat somehow.

    1. Random*

      Yes! :( I REALLY wanted to like it. Kelley is my favourite author, and her series is in one of my top ten favourites of all time so I really hoped I would love the show.

      Kelley has also been attacked by various people on twitter/tumblr because people think she has something to do with the show/creative control! (her name appears in the credits, apparently) so I feel bad about that too! Good lesson to authors: Be careful about selling the rights to your books.

    2. KC*

      I haven’t seen Bitten or read the books, but I had a really similar experience when I watched the Under the Dome TV show after having read (and really loved) the book. Flat, disappointing…

      Maybe I’ll look into Bitten, though. I’ve never read the books, so maybe I’ll have a different experience?

      1. Jen RO*

        I liked Under the Dome! I managed to get it into my head, early on, that’s it’s a completely different story with characters that just happen to have the same name as the ones in the SK novel. I also hated the end of the novel, so these changes are making me hope the entity behind the dome will be different in the series.

        1. KC*

          I have to admire your ability to do that. I think the ONLY thing I’ve done that successfully with was when I saw Wicked on Broadway.

          I think my problem was that I just couldn’t get over some of the character smooshing/combining or how the main characters’ background stories were completely different (for no obvious reason) from those in the novel.

          Then the “big bad” of the piece didn’t read very foreboding to me in the show, and in the novel I remember just FEELING like Big Jim was dangerous. To be fair to the TV series, though, I think I only got 4 episodes in before calling it quits. Think I should give it another chance?

          1. Jen in RO*

            I had read the book a few years before the show started, so I couldn’t remember all the details, which helped a ton, otherwise I’d probably feel the same as you.

            Honestly, I don’t know if it’s worth giving it another shot. It’s not a bad series, but I wouldn’t say it’s a particularly good one either. If if didn’t grab you after the first few episodes, it probably won’t ever.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Honestly, I hate that. At least TRY to stick closer to the book. And they made Julia a hot twenty-something, when having the character be older in the book was far more interesting (not to mention the thing with Barbie).

    3. AWill*

      Same feelings. I really loved the books when I read them a few years ago, but the show just seems really flat to me. The characters just aren’t as dimensional as their book versions and I’m finding the various relationships just not anywhere near as compelling as I want them to be.

      1. Laura*

        At first I wanted them to bring in the other character like Paige, Savannah and Jaime, but I’m afraid they’d ruin them

  5. thenoiseinspace*

    Another question (keeping them separate so hopefully they’ll be easier to read) – does anyone have any tips on how to find a good recruiter/ “headhunter?” I’m starting a long-distance job hunt and I’ve been told they might help, but I don’t know where to start and I know there are tons of traps out there. :/

    1. Stephanie*

      LinkedIn. If there’s a local professional group in the desired location, they might be able to direct to some recruiters.

  6. Calla*

    I was waiting for this!

    I have a question that I know has been answered here, but I can’t find the post. Say I have some references who have moved companies since I last worked with them (I do). Do I list their role at the company we worked at together, and then also list their new role? Just the company we worked at together? Something else?

    Also, is it important to make a distinction between people who officially “managed” me (i.e. I reported to) vs. people who I supported but did not directly report to (like a secretary who supports many people but only reports to one) — or are they all basically the same in the realm of references?

    1. Calla*

      P.S. Cats are terrible, because I know they know EXACTLY what they’re doing when they show their fluffy tummies and our inability to resist them!!

    2. athek*

      Generally, if I have a situation like this, I list their current position and company. If is asks for a relationship, I say something like “former supervisor”. I think generally if a person knows you well enough to be able to give a reference, they can articulate your relationship in the reference check “I worked with Wakeen making chocolate teapots”

    3. CAA*

      As a hiring manager who checks references — here’s what I wish people would do (assuming you’re submitting a piece of paper with the list of references; it’s harder if you’re filling in an online app that doesn’t give you enough space.) This is also how I write my references down when I’m job-hunting, and it’s worked fine for me.

      References for Abby Jobseeker

      John Smith — was my manager at Company A
      currently: President and CEO of John Smith Consulting, Inc.
      cell: 555-555-5555

      Mary Jones — I supported her department at Company B
      Manager of department x at Company B
      business phone: 555-555-5555
      cell phone: 555-555-5555

      1. Calla*

        Thanks! This makes a lot of sense. Yes, at the time I asked I was filling out something that get me just a text box, but I can definitely do this on my reference page.

  7. Cody c*

    I thought I felt a disturbance in the force!
    Taking a cue from the guy who wants to work 32 hours for 40 hours pay are we???
    How do you pronounce schadenfreude ?
    Has you view on letters of recommendation changed? What if they are unsolicited?
    Are career transition groups a good thing or a bad thing?
    Phew I feel better now

    1. CollegeAdmin*

      Schadenfreude: Shah-den-froi-deh

      And somewhere, my beloved IPA chart from my college linguistics course is crying…

    2. TL*

      Avenue Q has a song about schadenfreude and I promise you’ll only have to listen to it once and you’ll be able to spell and pronounce it correctly for the rest of your life.

  8. Stephanie*

    This may be job interview anxiety and imposter syndrome. I interviewed for a job and the company asked me to fill out a long application had me list employment history, schools attended, etc. It also wanted my desired salary (I couldn’t put $0).

    The salary websites were useless (the pay was listed as everything from $50,000 to $120,000). I asked a friend in a similar role in the same industry and metro area and based my request on her best guess to the salary.

    Now I’m wondering if my request was too high (I’m guessing like $5,000 too high). I definitely typed in the number like “Heeeeee, they’d pay me this?” It does seem like a big jump from my last salary, especially when you factor in that this job would be in a cheaper area.

    Would it be strange to ask HR if I can amend my application? Should I just let it slide? I did make it through two additional rounds of interviewing, so maybe my request wasn’t that ridiculous.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      If you were invited for an interview, I don’t think they have a problem with your salary request!

    2. LF*

      Stick to your guns and don’t sell yourself short. Sounds like your request was reasonable. If they continued interviewing you after knowing your salary expectations, it’s their fault for wasting your time and theirs if they have no intention of even coming close to the salary.

    3. Random*

      I would just let it slide, I definitely don’t think it’s that big of a deal. If they couldn’t/wouldn’t be willing to pay you that; i’m sure that would be mentioned already.

      Good luck!

    4. danr*

      I’ll give the advice that AAM always gives…. you’re over thinking it. If you made it through three rounds of interviews, your figure was probably well in the ballpark. Don’t try to change it or you’ll appear indecisive.

    5. Mena*

      $5,000 too high isn’t likely to be a huge percentage of total. More importantly, if you have the skills and experience they need I think they will call you in for an interview regardless. And likely in that interview they will feel you out for how solidly you are attached to that salary number, or if you are flexible. And if they LOVE-LOVE you, they might just give you what you want. Good luck!!

      1. Stephanie*

        Actually, it hasn’t come up again. I did an initial screen with a recruiter who asked. I gave my previous salary and said I’d be interested in a “fair market offer” for the new job. After that, HR asked me to fill out the long application. They advanced me past that to talk with the hiring managers, so yeah, I’m guessing it’s not a huge issue.

    6. Sunflower*

      Stick with where you are. Even for an entry-level job, 5,000 isn’t going to throw you overboard. I’ve given out high numbers before and I’m usually told ‘That’s higher than what we’re looking at,how about xx-xx” and then you can decide

    7. Bryan*

      At the end of the day, 5 grand isn’t enough to say, hey we can’t afford her. Plus companies never mind taking your number and offering a lower one ;)

      1. Stephanie*

        Ok, true. Some of that was my thinking as well–I figured it’d be in my favor to overshoot a little bit.

  9. Midge*

    Does anyone know anything about the Masters in Computer and Information Technology at the University of Pennsylvania, or other similar programs (computer science for people without computer science undergrad degrees)? My employer has great tuition benefits, and I’m trying to decide how I want to take advantage of them.

    1. Barbara in Swampeast*

      All I know about it is what I read on their website and one of the articles they cite. It sounds like they teach you to code, which is very good. How are you at figuring out a new computer program? If you are comfortable with figuring things out on your own, you might do well. If computers scare you, it might not be the best option. Is there a community college near you that offers a programming course (JAVA would be good since that is used in the MCIT program)? You could take that and see if you like it. I don’t mean enough to want to be a developer, but that you are comfortable in knowing how to do it and the processes involved.

      1. Midge*

        I’ve started learning basic HTML and Python on CodeAcademy, and I’m enjoying it. I think I’m pretty good at figuring out new programs, but I mostly use database software, or try to learn new things in Word or Excel. So programming would be pretty different.

        1. Barbara in Swampeast*

          My undergrad was in management information systems and I never understood fellow students who didn’t understand why they needed to know a little about programming to manage developers! If you can afford the tuition without taking on horrendous student loans, then go for it!

  10. Mike C.*

    The issue of women in male dominated fields comes up occasionally here, so I wanted to post this piece from someone I graduated with about her experience as a chemist.

    For those who don’t really understand the challenges women face in these fields, I would really encourage you to give this a read. For those who already know, this story will sound quite familiar.

    I Didn’t Want to Lean Out – Why I Left, How I Left, and What It Would Have Taken to Keep Me in STEM

      1. ArtsNerd*

        Also I want to say that the forces that pushed away from a career in science which I was seriously considering at the end of high school, and into one that’s incredibly female-dominated were much more subtle. I had a traditionally feminine upbringing that encourages nurturing, community building, and negating my own ambitions for the sake of others – the latter to an extreme, due to some health issues my sister has.

        Then I went to a great university, full of pre-meds, where all of the science courses were graded on a curve. It seemed like everyone was absolutely obsessed with their GPA. My immediate reaction was “screw genetics, I’m gonna take the courses that let me do my own thing.” I’m happy with my career, and where my path has led me – but I was actually a stellar science and math student who abandoned those courses as quickly as I could in undergrad due to the culture of the STEM departments, which was incredibly off-putting to me at the time.

        1. Evan*

          Would you say the GPA obsession was limited to the pre-med courses, or did it extend throughout the STEM departments? I’m asking because, as an engineering student at a somewhat-top-ranked university, I never noticed it. But then, I placed out of most of the freshman general science courses, so my experience’s definitely limited.

          1. ArtsNerd*

            Because my university didn’t have a pre-med major (but DID have a relationship with a med school), the students who had med school ambitions were throughout the STEM departments – except engineering. (Actually I knew at least one English major and one art history major who went on to med school, but they were rarer.)

            My interests were bio/genetics, so there would have been no avoiding it. My roommate was a physics major and I saw LOTS of it among her study group. She was even competitive with me, peeking at my English papers to see what grades I got, making “jokes” to her friends about how I “wasn’t stupid, but never took calculus in high school” (simply for scheduling reasons; not that I couldn’t hack a high school level math course.) Ugh.

            I actually did not notice it among engineering students, but I also didn’t interact with all that many.

        2. AnonAthon*

          I had a similar experience. I did really well in math in high school, but the high-caliber math department in college was so off-putting. There was this “too bad for you if you don’t get it immediately” attitude. I did great in my first class … because I spent a million hours teaching myself from the book. And then I never took a second class.

          I do some math tutoring to this day though, and more than once, I’ve had kids tell me that they are “bad” at math and science when they really aren’t. I think that there is some prevailing idea that being “good” at math means being fast and instinctive. And kids pick up on that. I wish that I could better explain that math is just like reading or playing piano, you can get better with work and practice. You don’t need to be born with ability.

          1. TL*

            “a million hours teaching myself from the book”
            I lived with a physics and math major who did exceptionally well and pretty well, respectively, and that’s what they did, both in groups and by themselves.

            I was in biology and there was a fair amount of that for me (and friends) as well, at least in the upper division. And it was hard for some kids to not care about how stupid they seemed when they talked a prof – I didn’t, and I would always walk out with the knowledge I needed but it was a hard attitude to face.

            1. Stephanie*

              Yeah, I struggled with this in college (I was in engineering). I just assumed everyone “got it” and that I was the dumb one. Turns out it wasn’t that people were “getting it” faster, they just asked for help sooner or realized they needed to do extra studying sooner.

        3. the_scientist*

          I’m going to second this experience. I studied molecular biology/genetics in undergrad. I was a good student, and did quite well, but I went to a very prestigious research university and my program was absolutely overrun with grade obsessed med school hopefuls (I’m in Canada so we don’t really have premed programs). I’m also in Ontario, which is, statistically, one of the hardest places in the western world to get into med school. It was not a joyful or collaborative learning environment; it was a stressful, competitive pressure-cooker.

          I did my master’s degree in epidemiology, in an ALL FEMALE class at a different university (seriously, what the what? How common is that? It was amazing!) The very first day of grad school, the faculty members introduced themselves and told us that they could give out as many As and A+s as they wanted, but being a scientist means working with other people. This was going to be a collaborative program, and they expected us to work well with each other. It was a totally different, and really wonderful environment to grow as a scientist.

    1. Anon*

      I came across this article in another blog too. I really like how it’s written for a broad audience, with both a brief Feminism 101 on victim-blaming for the hard science readers, and a quick mention of the chemistry terms for the non-chemistry audience.

      Not exactly the same, but I have a BS in chem and as a man of color it’s also a very isolating environment. I can especially relate to the push-for-diversity sentiment that places the burden on the underrepresented group to just put up with the oppression instead of actually trying to address it.

      1. Kate in Scotland*

        Absolutely. And funny how the burden of sitting on diversity committees, doing outreach talks etc also lands on the people of colour, women etc (who then get judged negatively for doing such soft stuff and not attending to their science).

        I’ve gone from always being the only a woman to a career that’s 40% female, and it’s amazing the amount of pressure that lifts when you’re not the only one.

    2. Mike C.*

      One thing I want to add: the labor issues she touches on are very, very real – H1B visa holders are really in a precarious situation.

    3. AVP*

      Interesting! My mom is a chemist at big pharma and when she first started (in the 70’s) she had the hardest time convincing her co-workers that she wasn’t the secretary. It’s interesting to me how things have both changed significantly since her early days, and yet barely at all.

    4. Anonynon*

      I really enjoyed this link. I’m headed into the sciences, but in a much more female dominated field- nursing. Thanks for posting.

    5. Jubilance*

      I can relate a lot to this piece – I’m also a chemist, in polymer chemistry (a subset of organic chemistry). During my PhD program I realized that I didn’t want to go into academia like I thought – most schools make it extremely difficult to be a wife/mother and also a successful professor & researcher with tenure. I sat through a lot of round-tables and presentations about how schools could do a better job with women but I never saw any changes actually implemented. Even though my graduate program had a lot of women (though at Georgia Tech which was formerly all-male & even now has about 25% women overall) there were very few women postdocs or professors, not only in chemistry but across Georgia Tech. When I arrived in 2004, the Electrical Engineering dept has just graduated their first woman PhD & then hired her, making her also the first woman professor in the dept :-/

      I decided to leave and then go into industry, but even in that environment there just aren’t women in the labs. Add to that the fact that I’m also a woman of color, and I’m even more alone in the lab. I’ve now since left the lab completely, and the fact that I was the “only” for all my years was one of my motivations for leaving the field.

      1. Stephanie*

        Thanks for your take.

        I agree that the issue with these diversity initiatives is there’s a lot of lip service…and not much done to change the culture. I’m guessing the issue is that it’d take a major cultural overhaul to make academia more hospitable to women.

        As another woman of color in a technical field…I agree that it gets lonely. The lonely aspect definitely drove a few people out the field.

  11. BB*

    I’ve been at my company, in total, about 9 months. I spent the first 4 months part-time before interviewing for a full-time position here.I was not happy with the salary and tried to negotiate with no luck. I asked if we could consider a renegotiation in 6 months if my work was impressive and I was given a run around about how people get salary increases after 1 year. When it comes to policies, I am treated as only being here for 5 months since I’ve been full time that amount. In a couple weeks I will hit the 6 month mark. Is it bad a idea to bring up renegotiation then?

    1. danr*

      Yes. If they are impressed they’ll surprise you. And I feel that being told that salary increases are given after a year is not a ‘run around’, but an answer to your query. It isn’t the answer that you wanted, but now you know how they do things.

      1. Random*

        I agree with danr completely, you asked and they gave you an answer of one year. While that sucks, it’s not a good idea to try and push them into giving you a raise after 6 months, it could backfire.

        1. Mitchell*

          I would ask for feedback at 6 months and say that you understand that raises are given at 1 year so you want to make sure your performance is on track for a raise. Ask for specific things you can do to make sure that you get a raise at 1 year.

  12. Anon*

    I’m interviewing for an associate position at an old fashioned law firm in the southeastern U.S. I have a call back next week. Lucky me, my reference is a partner there. He mentioned that Mr. LastName with whom I interviewed this week called him about me. My reference said he and FirstNameAssociate gave a great review. Should I use last names in the call back interview? I call my reference by his first name because he told me to a couple of years ago. I use the reference associate’s first name because we’re somewhat peers. But I feel like the interview is a good bit more formal. So my gut says to use last names. Thoughts?

    1. AnonOP*

      Note: I didn’t send a follow up thank you because I already had a call back interview set up a couple of hours after my initial interview.

    2. The LeGal*

      Take your clue from how the people refer to others (i.e. you’ll have an interview with FirstName on Monday.) If you can reach out to your contact, ask him or her. If all else fails, go formal with FirstName LastName. And, major kudos for getting an interview at a law firm. They are hard to get these days!

  13. duschamp*

    I would like to put my dilemma before you AAMers & would appreciate any input:
    For the last six months I have been volunteering at an art gallery. It’s not particularly challenging, but it is fun and it’s nice to be involved in the art world (my field) while I am unemployed. In that time I have been trusted to undertake additional responsibilities beyond the usual volunteer remit, including organising the library and archive, researching and building databases of previously unrecorded data, and doing assorted clerical work after the gallery administrator left on maternity leave. I’ve been repeatedly told by several members of staff – including the director – how appreciative they are of the work I’ve done, and much of my enjoyment at volunteering comes from the belief that I am offering valued assistance to the institution.
    My problem arose when I applied for the maternity cover administrator post. I thought, having done a substantial amount of the work in the job description already that I would at least merit an interview, but I was wrong. I also realise that there are certain strikes against me, namely that with a PhD in Art History I am “overqualified”. I had hoped, however, that having actually seen my enthusiasm and work ethic in person would help to overcome those prejudices.
    My problem: I don’t see how I can go back to offering my time and work for free when I have just been informed that they wouldn’t even interview me for a paying role. I didn’t start volunteering in order to get a paying gig; I get that galleries are seriously underfunded, and I have always been happy to volunteer in the belief that they would pay if they could. I enjoyed my volunteer work and took it very seriously, but I don’t know how/if I can continue.

    1. Elkay*

      I would advise against stopping immediately because you didn’t get this job. If you want to leave wait a few months and then go, you don’t want to leave them with the impression of flouncing out because you didn’t get an interview.

      1. duschamp*

        I think you’re right. The idea of saying: “Fine, well expletive you!” is by far the least appealing of the available options – though I admit it was the 1st place my mind went.

    2. Anon*

      Hey, I don’t have any advice, but I understand.

      I’ve been volunteering at a museum for years, and thinking I did a pretty good job. A position finally opened up that I was qualified for, and I applied.

      And like you, NOT A WORD. At least send me a rejection. I don’t merit a response at all, but I’m good enough to volunteer for years, for free? (Not even for free, all volunteers have to be museum members.)

      Really hurt my feelings and changed the way I think about my volunteer work. :(

    3. Lisa*

      I also had a similar experience (though at least I was a low-paid summer contract worker, not a volunteer). The museum world can suck.

      Personally, I wouldn’t quit volunteering right away, not only because it would be cutting off your nose to spite your face but also out of pride. (What, that little job? Why would I need that with my PhD?) But I am a spiteful person.

      However, I would reevaluate what kinds of work you do there, and stop doing any work you don’t really enjoy or that should be done by a paid employee. If you were initially engaged to give tours, for example, and you like doing that, I would talk to your supervisor about how you look forward to handing over the clerical work to the new employee and getting back to your own work.

      1. duschamp*

        Thank you. I think both you and Anon (above) are right. I’m not even sure that I really want to stop volunteering, but I do need to rethink what that will entail.

    4. Midge*

      That’s rough. It can be demoralizing when you’re complimented profusely for your work, and then when an opportunity opens up they aren’t interested in you. If you would still be open to administrative positions down the road, I would stay in this volunteer gig since it sounds like you’re doing administrative work. I think you have to hope that they will notice your good attitude about this and it will pay off down the road. (At least that’s what I tell myself when things like this happen.)

      Eventually if you want to move to another gallery to diversify your experience, that’s fine. But if you leave right now it will look like sour grapes.

      1. duschamp*

        You’re absolutely right. Fortunately, the rejection came between exhibitions so I have a week to build/practice a good attitude before heading back in :)

    5. fposte*

      What Elkay says. Pragmatically, especially if this is a role you’re counting on for your resume and might even want a reference from, but also on principle.

      Is it possible you’re feeling like they didn’t want to interview you because they want to keep you working for free? That would be pretty atypical for most volunteer-supported organizations I know. I think they just felt other candidate would be a better fit. And presumably you’d have been willing to go back to being a volunteer after the interim job ended anyway, yes?

      1. Zillah*

        It didn’t sound to me that she was so upset that she didn’t get the job at all – more that they just didn’t even bother to interview her or even send her a rejection. That seems pretty awful to me, too – if someone has been putting in a lot of work for you, the least you can do is tell them “No thank you!”

        1. fposte*

          I think it was a different poster who didn’t get the rejection–duschamp is the one who didn’t get the interview. I agree I’d definitely be pissed if I didn’t even get a rejection, but I think an interview if they know they’re not hiring you is unfairly wasting time on both sides, so I’m not holding that against duschamp’s museum.

          1. Zillah*

            Ahhhh, my mistake. Yeah, I think not interviewing you if they’re sure you’re not what they want is reasonable.

    6. Manda*

      I would be gutted not to receive an interview, they may well take you for granted and not want to pay you when they already get you for free. This is unfair but is more likely to happen if there is no end-point to your volunteering, maybe you should make it clearer to everyone that you cannot survive on fresh air – although your application should have alerted them to this possibility. This happened in an organisation that is local to me, a woman from the neighbourhood had set up and voluntarily led a successful crafts group in a library for years; when funding came through she was expected to continue to do what she was doing for free as the managers felt that they would not gain from the grant otherwise – so despite being the best candidate she didn’t stand a chance. Could you reduce your voluntary activities or start afresh elsewhere?

    7. Gilby*

      Do they think you are going to want more money? What is your job goal for this gallery ? Or is there even one ?

      Do they not want to in that job because you do other stuff that more fits your degree? Are you more valuable to them in other ways. And $$ really isn’t the issue?

      I would see if you can talk to them before you decide anything and see what they say more in depth.

      Maybe you guys are not on the same page for what they are thinking and what you are thinking for you.

    8. Fiona*

      Personally, I’d take advantage of your status as a known quantity and valued contributor to ask for feedback on why you weren’t considered for the paid opening.

    9. athek*

      I don’t really have any advice, but I’m sorry. It sounds sad.
      The eternal optimist in me wants to think that they had some great reason for not considering you — they expect movement in the short term and think you’d be a better fit for that position or something. I really hope that’s the case.

    10. cs*

      I used to intern at a nonprofit art gallery. Many of the employees only had a bachelors, one of the curators had a masters, and the director had a Ph.D.

      I am thinking from now on avoid applying to where you volunteer. Also, if it’s just an art gallery and you’re applying for roles in admin or something not related to your degree, to leave off your higher degrees on your resume– at least your Ph.D. It’s great if you were applying for a teaching position at a university or a research position at a big museum, but its more than they want obviously at a gallery. On the other hand if you are working your way up from one paid position to the next in the same museum/gallery, then all your degrees would need to be mentioned from the start to avoid any problems later.

    11. Chriama*

      You might have been thinking that temporary work is better than nothing, but the gallery was probably thinking that if you got a full time offer they didn’t want to have to rehire 6 months into a 1 year contract.

      I don’t think you have anything to lose by asking for clarification. They know you’re volunteering because it keeps you active in your field but you’re obviously looking for work. You can ask both
      1) Is there anything that makes you unattractive as a candidate other than the fear that you’ll leave as soon as something better comes along? It could be that there’s a skill you’re not updated on because you haven’t been full-time in the field for awhile.
      2) You are looking for paid work, and would like to be considered for any contract work that may come up (e.g. if they get a project grant or whatever)

    12. Not So NewReader*

      Maybe I am splitting hairs but there is a difference between saying they would never hire you for a paying role vs saying that you are over qualified for this temporary position.

      I understand the emotions run hard and fast here. But see if you can figure out if they would never, ever consider you or if they just did not want you on a temporary basis.
      Do you have a confidant there that is in a position to know what the background story is?

      Under the heading of playing two ends against the middle: I would be tempted to stay on volunteering. Simply because when you apply for a job elsewhere you can say “I am already doing a, b and c for X museum on a volunteer basis.” Maybe dial back on how many hours you put in because you want to “have time to ramp up your job search”.

      And I would start thinking about the outside contacts that were made because of this volunteer work.
      You could leverage this position and once you find a paying job just leave and never look back.

    1. Jamie*

      Depending on the phone system (internal and service) often there is a finite amount of numbers which can be blocked without reconfiguring or going through the phone company. So, from a work perspective I wouldn’t block without good reason (I don’t need the gory details – but something.)

      Also, if the reason for blocking is someone getting harassing calls at work I’d definitely need to know that before blocking because if obsessive people get blocked sometimes they get pissed and managers need to be mindful of the safety of everyone in the workplace. If someone is being harassed we’d need to know what to look for, after the blocking, to tighten security measures.

      And if it’s for bill collectors, etc. – no way would I even consider it. Too many of them and they change numbers all the time and it would be like a full time job to keep the list updated.

      1. Stephanie*

        And if it’s for bill collectors, etc. – no way would I even consider it. Too many of them and they change numbers all the time and it would be like a full time job to keep the list updated.

        Ugh, yeah. There are a ton of retirees in my area and we get so many telemarketing calls on the land line about Medicare Part D and questionable annuities. Do Not Call has been pretty useless. The telemarketers change numbers ALL THE TIME, so we’ll get calls from numbers that just say “Austin TX” or “Mineral VA” on the caller ID (one time it was from “Beverly Hills CA” which was kind of amusing). It’s gotten to the point where we only answer the phone line if we recognize the number or it’s clearly not a telemarketer (but even they have gotten sneakier and now have their calls show up as “Cell Phone AZ” or something).

      2. fuyu*

        Thank you for replying. A few weeks ago, my mom who I no longer talk to (mostly because I don’t want to be yelled at whenever she’s in a bad mood) called my phone number at work and I wasn’t sure if I should just ignore it or what else to do. I’m also worried she’s going to call my manager. She has called my brother’s manager to rant that my brother’s a horrible son. I moved out two years ago and I’m not even sure how she found my office number, maybe through linkedin. I feel embarrassed that I don’t have a good relationship with my mom so I wasn’t sure what I should say for asking MIS to block her number.

        1. Anon*

          Holy hell, are you me?! My mom decided to call my former employer to inform them that I was no longer talking to her, thinking I was still working there. Only I was interviewing there at another department, and that probably killed my shot at getting the job.

          Good luck in keeping your work life safe from your mom, and solidarity fist-bumps.

          1. fuyu*

            That’s awful. Sorry to hear that happened to you.

            Sometime I think the only way to escape her is to change my name and move to a different country and even then that doesn’t seem enough.

            1. Anon*

              Personally, I’m considering a strongly-worded letter from a lawyer and failing that, a restraining order. The financial coercion underlying these phone calls is a serious matter and, with how manipulative my mom can be, I can’t have her turning my work contacts against me.

              In the mean time I’ve been explaining to anyone who asks about her calls that I’m not talking to her because of we’re not on good terms, tell them honestly that she isn’t emotionally well, and apologize for their being involved in my family issues while also mentioning that I’ll try to be more careful with my contact information. I really wish there were a way to communicate this that didn’t make me sound like a teenager giving their mom the silent treatment.

              I hope you manage to get away from your mom without anything so drastic as changing names or countries. This is such a crappy position to be in.

              1. Mel*

                Your explanation sounds good to me. “I’ve chosen not to be in contact with her, partially because of the behavior you’ve just experienced” works as well.

                If you told coworkers this, and then they hear you on the phone with your mother on a regular basis, that might look like a misbehaving teenager. Being consistent in your behavior and as calm and brief as possible is how adults handle things.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                I am not sure but you may have to have an open charge in order to get a restraining order. This means you could have to press charges against your mother.
                You local police station can help you answer that question.

                It might be wise to go through the other steps first anyway. A strongly worded letter from your lawyer and a chat with your boss. Some bosses have very strong backbones and will tackle phone harassment no matter who is delivering the harassment.

        2. Stephanie*

          Don’t feel embarrassed that you don’t have a good relationship with your mother. My dad had always had a strained relationship with my grandmother. I wouldn’t go into the specifics with your IT department, however.

          1. Jamie*

            No, specifics definitively aren’t needed – but she should be prepared to be questioned regarding security.

        3. ExceptionToTheRule*

          Don’t be embarrassed about your relationship with your parent. A lot of people in all age groups are in your shoes. If you’re concerned about her calling your manager and think it’s a real possibility, I would suggest you consider warning your manager.

          Good luck. I know how hard it is.

        4. A Bug!*

          Even if you are able to block the number, your mom might figure it out and call your manager from a different one. She might even just realize you’re screening her and try a new number anyway.

          So with that in mind, what’s your manager like? I don’t really like bringing my personal life to work, but given your mom’s behavior with your brother I don’t think it would hurt to go to your manager and provide a discreet heads-up, if you don’t think it will cause other problems for you.

        5. Not So NewReader*

          Adding my voice to the chorus of voices saying “don’t be embarrassed”. We cannot control other people’s behavior, therefore it is not your embarrassment to wear. This rule even applies to parents. All you can do is control you and what you do.

          If you feel you have an upsetting situation starting to unfold take steps now to protect yourself and your job. Do not wait until things are in meltdown to say/do something.

  14. visenya targaryen*

    Any good tips to let go after an interview and not hearing back from the employer?

    I am in the stage where I had a second interview & “test” a week ago and now the silence. I am so tempted to email them, because what if they lost my email with the test in it? What if they think I am not interested anymore? I was suppose to meet with another person that day who couldn’t make it, should I email him? (I forgot to ask about their timeline!)But my brain tells me to back off, wait, and just start prepping for my next interviews.

    What have you guys done to get over this terrible feeling? Or how not to build too much emotional attachment to a job you are prepping for.

    1. Sunflower*

      I think just keep applying. You are attached to this job until you see another job that looks great. Keep going. Sometimes I like to look at jobs in other cities and consider if I’d ever want to move there. It’s like in that movie, just keep swimming.

      1. Ollie*

        This. I keep applying to other jobs regularly even when I go to multiple interviews or get asked for references, and I think of prepping and going to interviews as “practice” for other jobs instead of getting attached/excited about it.

        It also helps to keep busy with other things to take your mind off it, like getting your home super clean and organized, or spending more time on hobbies.

  15. Moving out*

    Context to my questions: I started working at my current company, a large European multinational, about two and a half years ago. It’s my first job out of college, and I started in a graduate programme. I worked in several different shorter assignments before landing a permanent position, in which I’ve now been for a year and two months. One of the shorter assignments was with a manager I really liked working for, whose department was moved abroad, and whom I’ve kept in touch with since.

    Last week, this manager asked me if I was interested in coming to work for him. I said I’d consider it. I would have to move abroad (but to a cool European capital, so it would be fun) and I really like the type of work I did for him previously (more so than my current job).

    My questions are

    – If I get a real offer, how do I bring this up with my current manager? At what point? The company’s internal policy is that people should stay in one position at least 3 years, so I’d be going against that (so is my former manager by asking me)… and I’m fairly entry level, too, in the scheme of things.

    – Will I be totally freaked out moving to a new country purely for work and having no family and friends around and having to speak a different language I don’t know very well?? AAH! Anyone been in this position?

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      You’re pretty close to the 3-year mark so I wouldn’t worry about that!

      I can’t really comment on when you should say something to your boss given that it’s Europe — I know notice periods are very different there than in the US.

      1. Moving out*

        I’ve only been in my current position 14 months, though, and they want 3 years in each position. It might be annoying for my current manager that I’d be moving on so soon after she spent a lot of time training me. But at the same time… I know I’d kick myself if I passed up this opportunity!

        I’m not too worried about the notice period since my former manager would give me a few months of flexibility and I don’t think the legal notice period applies here as it’d be an internal (though cross border) move. Not sure though, I should check on that. Thanks for your reply!

        1. Colette*

          Would your current manager be likely to hold leaving before 3 years against you? If so, are you OK with the potential fallout?

          Really, that’s the only downside. Outside of the company, no one will care, but you may lose a potential reference & have issues moving again internally.

          1. Carrie in Scotland*

            I think there could be “meetups” in your city for people like you or maybe your new workplace wpuld have clubs or similar to join? Is it a city in an English speaking country?

            1. Moving out*

              French, which I understand fairly well but speak only on a beginner level (won’t be a problem at work though).

              1. AVP*

                If you do end up moving to France, I cannot recommend enough Rosencrans Baldwin’s “Paris I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.” It’s not as depressing as it sounds, and there’s a lot of dissection of French workplace culture compared to American/NYC.

          2. Moving out*

            Good question… I’m really not sure. I think I’d be OK with the potential fallout. My reasoning here is I’m in my twenties and not really tied down to anything in my life right now, when else in my career am I gonna be offered a cool job abroad AND be in a position to be able to just pack up and move?

    2. Jen RO*

      1. I don’t get this policy. Does anyone seriously expect people to stay 3 years in their position just because they promised? It’s not like you’re leaving after 2 months, you’re on 14 months now and you might be on a year and a half by the time you leave. Based on this, I’d give it a shot.

      2. I’ve never done this, but I would image it will be very hard living in a foreign country when you don’t speak the language well and you are alone. If you get to the offer stage, I’d suggest you ask a lot of questions about relocation help – will they pay for a hotel at first, will they help you look for an apartment, will they pay for moving all your stuff? Personally, I don’t think I’d be able to move to another country all alone. You will pick up French in no time though, especially if you already know it a bit.

      1. Anonymon*

        Amen to your first point. I don’t know many young professionals who stay in one position (especially their first position) for three years. Seems a bit ridic to me.

        And secondly, YES TO FRANCE. I have never regretted the times I up and moved somewhere new, and I would kill for that opportunity in Europe. I suggest asking a lot of questions as suggested above and making sure you’ll be paid enough to afford the flights back and forth.

    3. cs*

      In answer to your second question, living abroad at first will be exciting. You’re learning new things, learning about yourself, learning to live in another culture. Several months later your excitement will fade. If you don’t have a few good friends to hang around when you’re not at work, you will feel very lonely. However, some times you will be able to push it aside and go explore Europe.

      I say go for it. Do it for the three years. If you miss home, you can transfer back. :)

    4. Gjest*

      Almost a year ago, I moved to a new country (Norway), solely for a job, where I knew no one, had no family, and did not know the language at all. It has been a great adventure, I do not regret it in the least, but I will not lie to you that it was TOUGH the first few months. I was just telling someone today that everything was hard in the beginning, right down to the difference in paper size. My 8 1/2 x 11 plastic folders that I loved and used to carry around paperwork when necessary were useless. This is such a silly example, but hopefully illustrates that you expect the big things to be challenging, but then you get here and realize everything is challenging!

      The language barrier is tough. It is hard to make friends when everyone speaks another language. In the US if you move to a new city, you can join groups, clubs, volunteer, and meet people there. But I can’t join some groups because I just don’t know the language (not that the groups are discriminating, but, for example, what’s the point of joining a book club when the books and discussion are in Norwegian?) I am trying to learn the language as fast as I can so that this is less of a barrier. And it makes everyday life easier, too, of course.

      And it is tough to be away from friends/family. Another commenter suggested making sure you are making enough money to go home every so often, and I agree with this. My employer pays for 1 trip home a year, and I make enough and have enough holiday time that I can go home 2-3 times a year if I want (although now I travel so much for work that adding more trips just sounds painful!).

      All in all, I recommend it, but you should go in knowing that it will be really hard sometimes. And think about how you handle change and stress. You will have a lot of change and stress.

      1. Marcy*

        I lived in Sweden for ten years and it is pretty similar to Norway as far as language and culture goes. It helped me a lot to not hang out with other Americans. I learned the language much faster by being forced to speak it instead of English all of the time. Force yourself to read in Norwegian, too, even if you don’t understand it all. It really helps with learning the language. You are right, it really is hard sometimes and I was eventually homesick enough to leave a job I loved and move back to the US. I still keep up with my Swedish friends, though, and it was ultimately a great experience and worth every minute.

    1. ZSD*

      Well, back in college, I once had a first round interview where they asked relevant questions (why do you want to work at a bank, how would you deal with a customer who was simply incorrect…), and I did awesomely and progressed to the second interview.
      At the second interview, they asked me what my favorite color was, then for three words to describe that color. (???) Then they asked what my favorite animal was, then for three words to describe that animal.
      Then I didn’t get the job.

    2. Diet Coke Addict*

      As a university student I applied for a summer/part-time job at Victoria’s Secret. I had a nice little interview, followed up with a phone call about a week later to which the manager said “Uhhh, I don’t know? Can’t tell you anything” and promptly forgot about it. I received a postcard in the mail SEVEN WEEKS LATER thanking me for my interest but I had not been selected.

      Thanks, I had figured that out by then. Usually a retail cashier position does not require eight weeks to make a decision.

          1. anonintheUK*

            It was in recruitment, an entry level job out of university.

            Apparently part of the issue was that they ‘weighted’ your actual scores based on your mathematics education. I gave up maths at 15 because in England and Wales, certainly when I was at school, you only took 3 or 4 subjects for the last 2 years. So, in getting correct all the ones which were basically long multiplication/division and basic algebra, plus 2 quadratic equations, I got 183% or something similarly preposterous, and broke their spreadsheet.

    3. Lalou*

      As I’m pretty early in my career I have only been rejected from a few jobs (so far), but one sent me a rejection exactly a year and 3 days after I originally applied! I know hiring processes take a while but this was only a cashier type job. I had obviously already moved on, but better late than never to let those hopeful job applicants know I suppose!

      1. Dana*

        My husband had the same thing happen to him – he applied for a job at a large bookstore chain literally 2 YEARS ago and just got a rejection email this past week!!

    4. AmyNYC*

      After college, I need ANY job and applied to vaguely related retail (my field is architecture, I applied to furniture stores).
      After an interview that went well, and calls to my references, got a post card from (nation chain – “Dock Two”, let’s call them) two months later.

    5. Mimco*

      I once talked to an HR person who wouldn’t even take my application for not having the “required” certification when the certification I possess is actually two steps above and I am qualified to train people at the “required” level. I tried to explain to her, but she couldn’t be bothered. She didn’t turn me down for being overqualified, but for not being qualified at all! “We only accept applications from qualified applicants.” She acted very annoyed that I would even waste her time. I still laugh about it 20 years later!

    6. Lynn Whitehat*

      I once interviewed for a job at a start-up and never heard back. FIVE YEARS LATER, the founder wrote to me and said that he was sorry it hadn’t been a match at the time, but he sees on LinkedIn that I’ve been doing stuff that would be relevant to his company.

      1. GoodGirl*

        Five years later?!? That’s crazy.

        It just goes to show that interviewers should also at least have the courtesy to follow-up (regardless if they get the job or not) with the people they interview – you never know when you might run into them again.

    7. 22dncr*

      I once got rejected because I would be the 3rd person in the department with the same name and that would be too confusing! So why did they have me waste my time interviewing with them????

    8. Elizabeth West*

      I applied at this trucking company once. They weren’t very polite to me while I was in there, and I got a rejection postcard THE NEXT DAY. They must have mailed it before I was out of the parking lot. :P

      1. Stephanie*

        I had an interview where I got an email autorejection 20 minutes after I left. They must have logged onto the ATS immediately.

        1. 22dncr*

          I got one while I was still trying to finish their stupid automated application system!

          1. Stephanie*

            HA. I’ve had that. Or the system immediately classifies me as “not qualified” as soon as I hit submit.

  16. judy*

    Any suggestions for introducing a cat to two other cats? I’m moving in with my boyfriend soon and he has 2 cats, I have 1.

    1. visenya targaryen*

      I would introduce them slowly and with food so they associate the food with each other. They usually say you should keep them separate but expose them to each others sent through toys or something that belongs to them. But meal time I would say has worked for me in the past! Good luck.

    2. Gene*

      Here’s a post that recommends what I normally do.

      That said, they may never take to each other as BFFs, or they could end up as one big furpile in the sun. My cat sitter, who also does reacues and owns an ever changing squad of cats has one cat that lives in the rafters of the garage, that’s where it’s happy It wants nothing to do with other cats, but humans in the garage (with no other cats around) are subject to rubs and head bumps.

    3. Del*

      Pick one room that will be your cat’s room, and start them there with litter, food/water, and a closed door — let them acclimate to the room until they feel like it’s their territory.

      Next, start doing cracked-door introductions to the other two — use doorstops to pin the door about 1-2″ open, so they can sniff noses but not squeeze through or get more than a single paw through the doorway. You’ll want to supervise these because how they react to each other will tell you how quickly you can finish the process.

      Next step, supervised together time. Put two in the room together (yours and one of his) and supervise for a while. Give a rest period, then swap.

      Unless you’re seeing signs of genuine aggression (not just play-fighting or wrestling) then you’re probably fine to go whole-hog and give them all the run of the place.

    4. Mena*

      I have a lot of experience with this … take your time. Place your cat in a room my herself and leave her there for a few days (yes, you’ll need to visit a lot – sit in there and read with her, etc.). They will be smelling each other under the door. After several days, put your cat in a carrier and bring her out into a main room where the other cats are – they will come over and circle around. Then put your cat back in her room – no drama or fights, just a calm introduction. Do this for a couple days. Next, if you can, open the door to her room but block it off – I used a large window screen – now we have some face-to-face without getting in each other’s faces. Lastly, I then moved the screen to block the hallway, and allowed the new cat out and about in one end of the house. And lastly, supervised one-on-one interaction, preferably with your BF playing with his cats and you playing with your’s, all in the same room. You’ll need to watch the one-on-one to assess behavior. And I’d recomment putting your cat back in her room when you aren’t there until you’re confident everyone is getting along. The whole process can take one month but it is worth it.

      And I strongly suggest feeding them separately during this one-month process. You don’t want any territorial outbursts over food – no one should feel protective over his/her dish.

      Good luck!!!

    5. Mason*

      Keep them in separate rooms with the doors closed, but feed them on either side of the door. They’ll smell each other through the door. Do that for a week or so. Once they’ve gotten used to the smell of the other side, you can open the door and let them roam a little. Moving is tense to the cat, then the extra tension of a new person and new cats is hard too.

    6. duschamp*

      In my experience, the most important part is making sure that the “outsider” cat (in this case yours?) has a safe space they can retreat to. This is all the more important since your boyfriend has 2 cats: they are comfortable in all of the home & they have each other. Everyone else has already given excellent advice about socializing them to one another. You guys know the cats’ temperaments best, so make small changes and progress to the next step when all three have acclimatised.

    7. Diane*

      Also try Feliway, a cat pheremone that you can spray or plug in like an air freshener. It makes them calm. It’s worked wonders for my anxious cats when I moved, added a kitty, and introduced a puppy–and it calmed my very sick senior kitty.

      1. 22dncr*

        Feliway actually made my fav cat sick! And it didn’t help the one I wanted it to help. Total bummer!

  17. J*

    I know there’ve been a million posts about this, but every creepy coworker is a unique snowflake, so…

    I just started a new job in December, and we are in an open plan office (my first ever). The coworker in the cube next to me is really starting to drive me crazy. The big thing is he doesn’t respect personal boundaries–he butts in on conversations, hovers outside my cubicle when he’s waiting on someone else (or just…because?), and earlier today actually leaned over the cube wall to look at my computer screen before providing his opinion on something he heard me discussing with my boss. He’s also…just….creepy.

    I work with headphones on due to the nature of my work most of the day, and when he tries to start conversations with me just pretend I can’t hear/am concentrating on work (I can “tune out” people pretty easily actually), but he doesn’t seem to get the hint. He’s part-time and the nature of his job keeps him away from his desk a good bit, so I’m hesitant to complain to anyone because a) it’s not an all-day, every-day thing and b) a lot of it seems nitpicky and c) he’s got a reputation as not being the most popular guy in the office already, so I don’t think it’s news to anybody.

    So my question is basically….how direct can I be about “hey, I’m talking to M, not you” or “uh, you don’t need to lean over the cube wall,” or “can you stop hovering, it’s kind of distracting.” without coming off badly or escalating the situation? I tend to err on the side of being too unassertive.

    1. Jamie*

      First thing I’d do is get one of those screen protectors so your screen can only be read at your angle. You didn’t say your information is private, but it will annoy him.

      This would annoy me so much – and my only advice is what I do when people encroach on my personal space which is to say “Can you not do that?” with a resigned smile. I know it’s not grammatically correct, but it feels kinder than “knock it off.” And if they keep it up…”I’m really going to need you to not do that.” And I stop what I’m doing until they back off.

      For me it’s not a cubical issue, I get it when I’m working on someone’s computer and they are standing way too close.

      For some humor works. “Jamie says two giant steps backwards and wait for me to be finished” with the people I like and goof around with which just don’t realize they are on top of me.

      Seriously – if I can feel your breath in my hair and we are not hugging or in love you’re too close to me!

      Weirdest true story, I’m under someone’s desk running a cable for a second monitor – average sized desk – and he got down on the floor and stuck his upper body way in to see what I was doing. I’m plugging a cable into port, I’m not discovering electricity…back off! Two fully grown people should not share the same 20 cubic feet of space unless something a heck of a lot more interesting than hooking up cable is going on.

    2. athek*

      I have a worker like this. He buts into every conversation — it’s distracting and annoying. You have to enforce boundaries firmly but politely. He’s hovering — “did you need something? I’m trying to get this done.” The butting into other’s conversation one is harder, I think, but the same concept applies “Thanks, but M and I have this covered” etc. Repeat as necessary.
      I was reading something in the archives yesterday about shorter sentences are better because it gives less to respond to — I think that was really good advice. Good luck!

    3. Anne*

      I would recommend asking him questions that call attention to his behavior, but that don’t put him on the spot.

      For example, when he leans over your cube wall, you can say something like, “Hi Bob, how can I help you?” He says something like, “Oh, I was just looking at what you were doing.” You say, “Oh that’s OK, I just talked to Manager Jane about it.” *put headphones back on and go back to work*

      You can use the “How can I help you” and similar phrases to let him know that you see him and are aware of what he’s doing.

      Of course, if it gets to be too much, ask your manager for help. Something like, “Hi Manager Jane, I notice that sometimes Bob will hover outside my cubicle or lean over my cube wall to see what I’m working on. I find it a bit distracting, and I wonder if you had any advice about what I can do to minimize these distractions?” Asking for advice is nice because you’re not just complaining, and your manager becomes aware of the problem if she isn’t already.

      1. Andrea*

        Great advice Anne, I especially like the part about asking the manager for advice on what the OP can do to minimize distractions.

    4. Vicki*

      I’m confused. If your setup has cube walls, it’s not an “open plan”.

      As to your co-worker, I think this is one of those cases where you say “Bob, I’m working here” and, if necessary, let the manager know that you can’t get your work done because of Bob.

  18. NotAGradStudent*

    I have a question sort of related to yesterday’s topic about including unnecessary degrees. Would the same guidelines still apply for dealing with half of a master’s degree? I made the mistake of fleeing to grad school straight out of undergrad and started to get my MLIS, but realized halfway through I didn’t actually want to finish the degree. Now I’m at a loss for how to address it on my resume, since it leaving it off entirely will leave a full year gap directly after undergrad graduation on my resume (I know it’s not ideal, but I was /really/ not good for much of anything that year). I can explain in an interview my reasons for why I didn’t finish, but I don’t know how to deal with it in a resume/cover letter (if at all).

    1. J*

      It’s a tough situation, but depending on what industry you’re looking to work in, people may generally be aware that MLIS degrees were overhyped a few years ago and have terrible job prospects now. I would include it on your resume (don’t make it look like you got the degree, just note that you attended for a year and was in the program, maybe that you “left to focus on developing a career in XXXX”) and in interviews explain that you realized during the program that the job prospects were bad/it wasn’t what you wanted to do and after research decided you wanted to focus on X. You could put a positive spin by pointing out some skills you gained from the time in the program.

    2. Yup*

      You can list it on resume as University of XYZ, 2012-2013, Coursework in Advanced Teapot Design.

      I don’t think you’d need to mention it in your cover letter, unless it’s so recent that it explains why you weren’t working in the past year or two. In which case, I’d probably note it briefly as “Most recently I was a full-time student in graduate teapot studies; I left the program in 2013 to begin my current position as Teapot Engineer for ABC Corp.”

    3. Leslie Yep*

      How long ago was it? If super recently, I’d probably keep it on for the reasons you mentioned, using Yup’s language below. If 4-5 years ago or more, take it off.

      The only time I include my half of a master’s is when I need to talk about formal training I got there (in my case in a particular research methodology that I continue to use in my work).

    1. Sunflower*

      THANK YOU! I have been looking for someone to vent my frustrations too.

      Total bust! He is hot but I scratched my head when he was picked as the next bachelor. He had no substance during Des’s season and it was pretty obvious he wouldn’t be able to communicate with the girls. Not sure if he’s really a sleeze or if he really is THAT bad at dealing with women.

      I think he really didn’t know what he was doing with the Andi situation. Think he thought he was doing the right thing telling her ‘eetss ok, eets fine’ when she wanted to leave.

      I also liked her until that episode. She needed to dump him and leave. Thought she looked desperate trying to make him beg her to stay.

      I’m hoping for Renee as the next bachelorette!

      1. Elle D*

        So glad to see I’m not the only one who regularly watches this trashy show! This season has been a train wreck I can’t look away from. It seems pretty obvious that Juan Pablo has no intention of being with any of these women long term, and quite frankly it doesn’t seem like any of the women are that interested in him either!

        I was with Andi when she first called him out on his behavior, but wished so badly she would have quit while she was ahead. I think offering a brief explanation of her grievances would have been fine – as a viewer, I definitely agreed with her – but trying to make him feel bad when he clearly didn’t was a lost cause and made her look desperate.

        I love Renee, but she’s way too down to earth for this show. I hope she finds a great guy in Sarasota and never looks back!

        1. Sunflower*

          I’m also obsessed with Sharleen! Talk about someone who really exposed the ridiculousness of the show. I’d love to see her as the next bach but I can’t see her going back to this show. Maybe they’ll pick the crazy free spirit next. That would be interesting…

          If you are on Twitter and don’t already, follow the live tweets of the show. They’re better than the show itself!

          1. Anonymous*

            Initially, I didn’t like Sharleen. But the more I watched her, the more I realized she was probably one of the smartest, sanest people ever to be on the show. I can’t wait to hear what she has to say at “The Women Tell All.”

        2. Anonymous*

          Renee is my absolute favorite as well! I can totally see myself being friends with her. And as much as I would like her to be the next Bachelorette, I can’t imagine ABC doing the whole “single parent” thing in back-to-back seasons.

          I wanted to like Juan Pablo – I really did. But he seems like such a player.

          And Nikki just seems downright horrible! And Claire…oh boy. Something about her strikes me as really fake (she just seems way too happy all the time). She also gives off that stalkerish vibe too (IMO). But that being said, I’d take her over Nikki any day.

        3. Anonymous*

          That entire situation with Andi went on about an hour longer than it needed to. It takes all of five seconds to say, “This isn’t working for me – see ya!”

          1. Dang*

            I feel like we didn’t even hear half of how “horrible” it was. Did she really JUST realize how self absorbed he is??

  19. Diet Coke Addict*

    Is there a nice way to tell someone their employment hopes aren’t realistic? Like if someone is looking for an entry-level job in a desirable industry with flexible hours, able to work at home right from the get-go, pays upwards of $20/hour, leaves evenings and weekends free, and involves plenty of travel to exotic places? So far my strategy has been to say, nicely, “Well, which of those things is most important to you? Maybe focus on that first” or “Wow, I don’t know of any jobs that fulfill all those requirements!” or what have you, but I’m thoroughly tired of this person complaining that they can’t find any jobs that they actually WANT to apply to because they don’t [offer flexible hours/offer remote work/pay enough/have any travel/etc. etc] whatever.

    Other than that my strategy has been to ignore and disengage.

    1. Sunflower*

      I think maybe try being straight up. Just say ‘Look, I don’t know of any opportunities like that because I don’t think they exist, especially in this economy. Most jobs that offer you work from home and travel also require lots of over time. Jobs that have lots of travel and not a lot of time won’t pay you anything.’

      Something I had a lot of trouble grasping right out of college was 1. A dream job doesn’t exist and 2. If something close to it does, you’re not getting it until you’ve been working for quite some time. Maybe by telling her this straight up, it can add into ‘what is more important, focus on that and the rest of the pieces you can focus on later’

      Maybe bring in some stories about your ‘friends’ you know. I work in event planning and get to travel to some cool places every couple months but I also get no work from home opportunities and can barely pay my bills.

      Honestly this person is, for lack of a better word, deluded. People in their 60’s can’t get these kinds of perks.

      1. Colette*

        Yes. Or directly asking why they think they can get that kind of job, they can’t find that any postings that meet the criteria.

        Of course, it depends on the relationship you have with that person, but you could also respond to complaints that there’s nothing to apply to with “Really? So what do you plan to do?” – i.e. put the onus back on them, and dissociate yourself from providing advice they aren’t listening to.

    2. Jax*

      I know a guy like that! He’s a recent college grad and feels entitled to a great job that has a big impact on the world.

      He really wants to work for a local Christian coalition group that leads college kids on nature/camping excursions and short term mission trips to India or whatever. The problem is that about 10 people are employed there, and the director worked over 20 years at very crappy pay to reach where he is. The place won’t pay nearly enough (and they aren’t hiring anyway!) so he whines and kicks his feet in the dirt over it.

      He’s working as a case worker placing kids in foster care and adoption, but that isn’t enough. It’s very “political” and “boring”. I think it’s a maturity issue.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it’s far kinder to tell them straight-out. They can make better decisions for themselves if they have the facts, whereas if they continue living in a cloud they may make decisions that will ultimately hurt them. I’d just say, “I know this sucks, but here’s the reality of how this works.”

    4. Nodumbunny*

      I’m in a similar situation, except with a person whose unrealistic expectation is that they can change fields *very* late in the game (this person is 25 years into their career) and move directly into a senior position in a new field. They’re not even clear on which field they want, just don’t want to do what they have the education/experience/credentials/contacts for. They want glamour, high salary, flexibility, you name it, but don’t get that you can’t just wish that and make it so.

      Unfortunately I don’t have any good advice. Upon request, I have referred this person to several of my contacts for “informational interviews” (as has almost everyone this person knows) but now I’m mostly avoiding this person as much as humanly possible.

    5. MaryMary*

      What is your relationship to this person? Family? Friend? Acquaintance? If it’s someone I cared about, I’d be blunt but kind. Otherwise, I would ignore.

      1. Nodumbunny*

        Mine is a family member. Other family members have tried to be as blunt as their natures will allow, with no resulting change. Family dynamics are such that I can’t be more blunt than they are without being labeled a bi&*%.

        1. TL*

          Just say it as bluntly as you can and then relax, knowing you’ve done what you can. S/he’ll figure out the rest.

    6. Elysian*

      This reminds me of House Hunters. I feel like every episode goes the same way – “I want everything amazing in my house, for no money!!!” and then the real estate agent has to keep showing them houses slowly that they reject because it doens’t have xyz or is too expensive… and eventually it just sinks in that what they want doens’t exist.

      If you’ve come straight out and said “Wow, I don’t think that exists anywhere.” you might just have to let him/her look at enough jobs that eventually it’ll sink in.

      1. Emma*

        It’s like the buyers who demand large bedrooms and full-size fridges in houses within walking distance of the city center (typically for less than the price of the home they left in the states) on House Hunters International. Not gonna happen, friend!

        1. Nina*

          Don’t forget the “I must have stainless steel appliances and an open-concept kitchen…even though I don’t cook.” Cracks me up every time.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Wait, I have to finish chuckling.

      Okay, better now. When you find this job for him will you tell us so we can all apply,too? Many of us want this.

      Redirect the conversation each time every time. “Did you try that employment agency?” OR “How is your career research coming along?”

      Reality is that there is no nice way to tell him that his thinking is unrealistic. If you must be nice, even though he is not worried about being nice/polite to you, then just say “I have nothing to offer on this topic. Let’s talk about something else.” Repeat as needed.

      In my opinion, after the twentieth time a complaint is mentioned, gloves are off. “Yes, Bob, you have mentioned this before and we have pretty much decided that I have nothing to add that will help you. Perhaps it is time to seek advice of career professionals.”

      The guy is using you for a dumping ground. He vents. He feels better and continues doing what he is doing. If you start to act like you expect change in the story line he will find someone else to vent to.

  20. Katie the Fed*

    How do you deal with the guilt over firing/putting someone in a position where their best option is to resign? I know I did everything right – gave this person multiple opportunities to correct his behavior, but I still can’t help feel a little bad about it all :(

    1. RJ*

      In those situations, I’ve found it helps to tell myself the person was not a good fit and that in some way they can now hopefully find a better role that’s more suitable.

      When I heard one of my most difficult employees (who I did have to fire) was now working in his desired field, I was actually happy for him.

    2. Chrissi*

      Rather than thinking about the immediate effects of firing him, imagine that this will help him in the future. Maybe he’ll move on to a job that he is more naturally suited for, or maybe he’ll take this as a wake-up call and work on his weaknesses. If he wasn’t doing well, he probably wasn’t very happy with his job anyway. There’s no way to know what will happen to him down the line because of this. I think it’s more likely to be positive than negative.

    3. Amy B.*

      I sometimes feel guilt when I can’t hire all the good candidates and have to choose just one; but I don’t feel guilt when I have to fire someone. As RJ said, it may be better for them in the long run.

      I was once at a place in my life (young and dumb) where I should have been fired but the company kept putting up with me. I had become so accustomed to them accepting my behavior, I saw no need to change it. I ended up quitting and turned my life around with the next job where I was held to a higher standard. The rest is career success history.

    4. Anonymous*

      I think it’s normal and perfectly fine to feel a little guilt, no matter how well you handled it. If you are deeply bothered by it and found the expereince overly upsetting, that’s another story. I had to do this once and it was valid and documented and the person was given many chances to change. havign to deal with it was very stressful for me and I was happy to get ot over with – but there was still some small part of me that felt guilty. It’s human nature too, to think that we have more control over things than we do — to think “But maybe I *could* have done somethign differently so this didn’t have to happen” and that plays into the guilt.

    5. IndieGir*

      Oooh, I feel your pain! Try not to feel bad about it. Sometimes you can do everything right as a manager but you can’t fix someone — they have to fix themselves. It’s never fun to fire someone, but just try to remember that employees have to meet you half-way, and its not fair to his/her co-workers to have someone on the team who is not cutting it.

      Hmmn, along those lines maybe it will console you to think that his co-workers are probably happy and relieved that now you may be able to hire someone who will do what needs to be done.

      1. De Minimis*

        I was the bad employee at a former job and although I had a pretty tough time afterward, I was still more than a little relieved when they finally let me go. I knew it wasn’t a fit and that I didn’t belong there, and was glad to finally be able to move on.

        I don’t know how this employee is, but a lot of the time people are aware it isn’t working out and just want it to be over with, although of course the best situation is to leave for another job before you get fired.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          This is a good point. He doesn’t have to resign. He could stay, just with a negative administrative action in his employee file. I think this may have been the sign he needed that it was time to move on.

    6. Joey*

      I always remind myself The longer you keep someone in a job they won’t succeed at the longer you’re preventing them from finding something they will. Get the pain over with quickly.

    7. Stephanie*

      As someone who’s been on the other end, it sucks but you might be doing the person a favor. I was in a job at that I was awful at (and hated) and was making me physically ill. Being unemployed sucked, but I was glad to get out. The firing also really forced me to look for something I actually wanted to do. Also, unless the person is really oblivious, he’s probably wondering when the axe is going to fall anyway.

      Tell yourself that this person really isn’t a good fit for the role and that you’re saving yourself a lot of headaches down the line. And if you feel comfortable, offer to give him a neutral (or even good if there were a couple of things he excelled at) reference.

    8. MaryMary*

      I had a coworker who was laid off because he wasn’t enough of a poor performer to fire, but he was on everyone’s shortlist when the department had to do a RIF. He was upset about the layoff, but described it as “being forced on to better things.” Think of this situation as forcing your problem employee on to better things.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Yep. And part of it the problem is that the process took so long that by the time it caught up with him, he was actually doing much better. But his errors were so egregious that he had to face disciplinary action, even though it was after the fact. It’s like grounding a teenager 6 months after they missed curfew.

        I think he’s actually not that well suited here anyway. But I still feel bad.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I think that is the key right there. He was starting to do better.

          It is much easier to let go of employees that flip you the bird all day long.

          I feel that it is pretty normal to feel bad about it all. I would autopsy the situation to double check to see if there was anything I could have done differently. (Usually, I find a couple things. It helps a tiny bit to feel I learned something as I would hope the ex-employee learned something.)

          In your story here, you cannot help the fact that it takes TPTB six months to react. That part is beyond your control.
          When reviewing the situation in your mind ask yourself “Did I actually have some control over X or is that not realistic?”
          Ask yourself that at numerous points in the story.

          We throw out safety nets to help people and it is amazing who jumps OUT of the safety net. Some people jump in, and amazingly jump right out again.
          And some people understand that “my boss is helping me to keep my job”. They stay in our safety net.
          We don’t get to pick who responds well to our coaching/counseling and who doesn’t. More than anything that baffles me why some people just have to carve out their own path despite warnings.

          The only thing that I have ever found to counter-balance this is to be a little more joyful when someone follows the advice, turns over a new leaf and grows. I try not to take that change for granted so much and try to enjoy their success a little more.

    9. Marcy*

      Oh, I’m in the middle of that right now so I know how you feel. I have just started with the weekly meetings to discuss how he can improve his performance and attitude. The first week, he spent the whole time coming up with every excuse there was to explain all of his mistakes- anything to keep from accepting any of the blame himself. The second week, he had apparently been coached by someone to say all the right things. He appears to have improved his performance, but it has only been a week and I am not sure he can keep it up for good. I feel terrible because it is his first job, but it is hurting the rest of the team to drag it out too long. They are the ones having to deal with all of the mistakes.

  21. Elkay*

    Ok, now I’m over the kitty belly (almost) – I posted a couple of weeks ago to say I was struggling in my new job and basically wanted to cry every day, I didn’t get around to contributing to the open thread last week but wanted to say thanks to the people who took the time to respond (Lindsay, Beth, Adam V, themmases & Not So NewReader).

    Just wanted to check back in and let people know things are going better. I’m still not doing what I want to do but I have my performance review next week so I’ll see what comes out of that. At the moment I still feel like a dead weight on the team but I’m going to try and stick it out for a few months while I look into what I would need to do to get a job doing what I’d like to (playing with data).

    1. Not So NewReader*

      You sound better. I am glad. At your review ask them how long is a normal time frame for settling in.
      Nothing wrong with asking how you can make more of a contribution, either.

      Good luck with the search and let us know how it goes.

  22. Zillah*

    I’m putting together my resume and updating my linkedin account, and I’m having a couple issues. (I am always saying that. Sorry!)

    1) I am so confused about what I should list as “skills.” I’m going into archiving, and I’ve done a lot of processing, organizing, describing, etc… And I know the adobe products and have some experience with graphic art and copy editing. However, I have no idea how to express that.

    2) I’m doing an independent study processing a collection in my school’s archive/writing a finding aid for it on my own. Can I include that under relevant experience?

    Bleh. I just want a job!

    1. SD Cat*

      1) As you mentioned LinkedIn- one thing I’m finding helpful is looking at LinkedIn profiles for other people in my field and seeing what words they used to describe their previous/current experiences and skillsets. The things you mentioned would be considered skills, at least to me.

      I’m job searching too…yuck

      1. Zillah*

        I’ve tried doing that, but unfortunately, I’m not sure that what I’m getting is all that useful. :/

    2. Ashley*

      1. Look at other people in similar fields. I had the same issue, and once I looked at other profiles, I was like “hey! I know how to do that!” It gave me a starting point.

      2. Yes! Or Other Experience, but it’s worth including.

    3. Fiona*

      1) Skills can literally be anything you want to put in there. I have both broad categories (“marketing” “real estate”) and more specific items (“Adobe Illustrator” “copywriting”). These are the things that your connections can “endorse” you for – they’ll see a little box on their screen that asks, “Is Zillah good at ____?” And they check yes or they hit skip.

      Alison has said that recruiters/hiring really don’t pay much attention to the endorsements section, but it’s a nice little ego bump to see all the people who think you’re good at something. ;)

      2) I would put something like that either under Experience or under Projects.

  23. Noble*

    Hi, everyone!

    I also have a salary question. On Monday, I applied for a job that sounds incredible. It would be a lateral move, but I would absolutely jump at it. I heard about the job via an alum from my school, so I emailed her to let her know I applied and she said she’d tell the hiring manager. I’m trying (and failing) to not obsess over not having heard anything yet, even though I know that’s completely normal given the timeframe. After reading through the entire cover letter and resume archives here, I overhauled mine so I think they were both excellent. I’m hoping they agree.

    Anyway, the job application asked for salary history. I gave a 10K range, which I now know wasn’t the right thing to do after reading that part of this site. I did some very intense sleuthing and saw that the salary for the position is 5-10K less than what I posted in my history. And now I’m nervous I shot myself in the foot. I would still want to interview and probably take the job even if they couldn’t give me more! Thoughts?

  24. non*

    I don’t understand professional clothes rules. Im in a business casual leaning more towards business environment. How many shirts do I need to own? Can I wear the same jacket several days in a row? How many jackets do I need to rotate? What about pants? I’m the kind of person who would wear the same thing every day if possible, so this stuff is sort of the bane of my professional existence. Any help? (I’m sure it makes a difference, so I’ll also add that I’m a woman).

    1. Anonymous*

      Youcan wear the same jacket everyday until you spill something on it. Since you’ve got a shirt underneath it wont be smelly.

    2. Del*

      Minimum I would say you should own at least one shirt for every day of the week. Pants you can probably get away with 2-3. Jackets ditto. A good way to keep your wardrobe minimal is to have everything in colors that go together and are seasonally neutral (so no white jackets or pants, for instance). Tan and brown are good base colors for this, or black and grey. Mixing and matching will get you a variety of different outfits without actually having a ton of clothes.

      1. non*

        I stick with black, black, more black and a colorful, mostly patterned top, but I think I need to find more basic tops to rotate without feeling like it’s obviously. Thanks :)

    3. Colette*

      I often wear the same pair of pants twice a week, usually not one day after the other (i.e. Tuesday & Thursday). Shirts are much more memorable, so I’d only wear a shirt once a week (and maybe not that often – maybe have 6 or 7 so there’s a little variety in what you wear each week).

    4. Chrissi*

      I wouldn’t wear the same jacket everyday. Why don’t you just come up with an outfit for each day of the week and stick to it like a schedule? So, every Monday you wear the blue sweater w/ black pants, every Tuesday you wear the pink button-down w/ brown pants, etc. I personally own a ton of tops, but only a few pairs of slacks that I wear in the office (3 black, 1 gray). I will wear the same pair of slacks twice in a week, but not the same top.

    5. Mena*

      It is difficult to give you exact numbers of each item that you need but I would suggest keeping a common color theme so that everything goes well with everything. For example, gray pants and black pants, and tops that go with either gray or black. Same for skirts, gray or black, and your tops then go with either pants or skirts. And don’t forget shoes – they can make or break the outfit.

      Too often, people view business casual as too casual, which can make the office atmosphere somewhat sloppy. I have one little rule that I stick to: no flipflops or athletic shoes, ever, ever – even if others where them all the time. No.

    6. MK*

      I think blogs like Corporette, Capitol Hill Style, and Extra Petite are great for women who want advise on what to wear in the workplace. If you want to wear blazers and pants multiple times during the week, you should consider buying neutral colors (black, navy, grey, etc.). If you wear different tops, especially if they’re brightly colored or patterned, then people will not notice if you wear black pants 2, 3 days in a row.

      1. plain jane*

        I quite like The Vivienne Files for reminding me that you can get away with surprisingly few pieces if you are careful to buy things that go well together.

        Also try looking for people doing Project 333.

        1. Windchime*

          I love the Vivienne files! She shows that there are so many ways of pairing wardrobe pieces together and helped me to realize that I really don’t need as many clothes as I have; it’s better to have fewer carefully chosen pieces than a bunch of colorful, mis-matched stuff (like I currently have).

    7. MovingRightAlong*

      I agree with Del’s numbers, best to have back up jackets/pants in case you DO spill something and belatedly realize it’s a stain that’s not coming out. However, one bright spot is that many manufacturers of the clothing style you’re describing will make one cut of pants/shirts/jacket in multiple colors. You can probably get away with buying three pairs of the same pants in different colors and no one will notice.

      The suggestion of sticking to always-in-season colors is also a good one. Blue, brown, black, and gray are your friends. A good sales person can help you with that, too, if you’re looking in a department store. Ask about a designer’s core collection or business collection: these tend to be made up of basic items that never go out of style and include both seasonal and year-round colors.

      1. non*

        I actually tend to stick with all black pants and jacket with a more colorful top, but maybe I’ll try to branch out to other neutrals too. Thanks :)

    8. cecilhungry*

      I have 2 colorful cardigans and 2 neutral cardigans, ~3 neutral camis, and ~3 colorful/patterned camis. I will repeat these items, but if you pair them differently, people don’t notice. I REALLY like wearing color at work because it helps keep me feeling interested and awake. I pair them always with skirts or dresses and black tights, because I dislike wearing pants, but I would generally agree with the idea that you can get away with wearing bottoms twice/week if you don’t wear them on consecutive days. I wouldn’t wear the same jacket every day, but you can probably get away with just two jackets, with maybe a third extreme backup emergency jacket.

      1. cecilhungry*

        (I do the cardigan/cami thing because I’m pretty busty and jackets look awful on me. I generally do a neutral/bright pairing, although if it’s really awful out I’ll do a bright/bright to liven things up. I should note that “bright” means teal or a nice pink, or a blue/white geometric pattern, not some sort of eye-searing Lisa Frank combination)

        1. non*

          I’ve only recently switched from cardigans to jackets, mostly because of feeling weird about not knowing how to successfully style them. I think I work in a more jackety environment though, so I’m switching over.

          I wonder though — is it weird to switch up the jacket and cardigan, or is it better to keep a kind of consistent level of formality in your dress so you don’t end up looking comparitively less polished when you’re not wearing a jacket? This stuff gives me nausea/anxiety.

          1. no name yet*

            You can switch it up. It’ll depend on your office and your job. A cardigan is a bit less polished than a jacket. If you’re in a very formal role, you could wear the cardigan on Fridays or on days when you are having only internal meetings.

    9. athek*

      If you do want to wear the same jacket or sweater every day, think about leaving it on your chair. That way, it looks more like you have it in case you get cold and use it often, and less like you only wear one jacket/sweater

    10. Fiona*

      I have enough pants for every day of the week because I don’t like re-wearing them (jeans are a different story) and don’t want to have to count on finding time to wash during the week.

      I have probably a dozen tops that I rotate, and as someone said above, when I’m shopping I try and keep a balance of what I typically wear with the black/gray pants and what “goes” with the brown/camel pants.

      I have a handful of cardigans in neutral colors that are more about staying warm in my office and not looking too mismatched than they are about being a fashion accessory.

      Related note: is there a word for “a step up from business casual but not quite full professional (all suits all the time)”?

      1. non*

        Fiona, not sure about a better name for that, but if you hear about one, let me know. It might make googling this stuff easier :)

      2. Sue D. O'Nym*

        I’ve always heard that described as “Business Professional”

        Why does it seem like every open thread has at least one “what should my wardrobe look like in a professional environment” topic?

  25. Audrey*

    My cat has started behaving oddly – my best explanation is that he has become afraid of the floor! He travels about by leaping from table to sofa to table, and when he can’t avoid the floor – like when he wants to go from the front of the house to the kitchen, where his food and water is, he races down the hallway at 100mph!
    He is six years old, and has been doing this for maybe a month. Has anyone ever encountered kitty behaviour like this? Should I take him to the vet? I’m really baffled – he used to spend a lot of time on the floor, but now he is always on furniture!

    1. AAA*

      Maybe he is playing the floor is hot lava game?

      Seriously though, I would check to see if anything has changed about the floor in your house. (Static electricity? new cleaner?) Maybe there is something he doesn’t like about the floor anymore.

      1. Audrey*

        Nothing has changed that I am aware of. We had a heat wave last month and this behaviour started around then, but we have had hot weather in other years.

    2. Kat*

      We call this the floor is lava syndrome. I think cats just get silly and like to make up games for themselves. Maybe he’s entered middle age and his second childhood?

    3. Amtelope*

      Do you have carpeted floors? If so, you might check the carpets (and your cat) for fleas — sometimes cats will avoid carpets or bedding if they’re getting bitten by fleas when they lie down on them.

    4. Diane*

      If he’s more active in general, more vocal, and eating or drinking more but losing weight, get his thyroid checked. If it’s overactive, he will act more like a kitten, but it’s a bad, bad thing for him.

      1. Audrey*

        He’s eating about the same but drinking more – I don’t believe he’s lost any weight but it’s hard to tell. I think a flea treatment and a trip to the vet is needed. Thank you for your thoughts.

  26. Chrissi*

    I have a motivational issue and was hoping people might have some ideas for how I can overcome it.

    I’ve been at the same job for about 9 years, and I like what I do and don’t want to leave. Technically it’s the same job as when I started, but in reality, I am now a “Senior Teapot Painter” instead of just a “Teapot Painter” and so the job has evolved over the years to where I have a lot of additional responsibilities in addition to the main part of my job (which is the part everybody in the division does).

    The problem is that I have no problem doing all of the “additional responsibilities” and doing them well, but over the last couple of years, I haven’t been doing as well in the primary responsibility. It’s not a matter of quality so much as quantity, and it’s all my fault. I procrastinate like hell (usually by doing the “additional responsibilities”) and can’t seem to figure out how to stop. I’ve always been a procrastinator, and I’ve read every book there is on the subject (I also have mild ADHD which I take medication for, FYI). I’ve found, in all aspects of my life, that if I have a long-term goal that I can motivate myself very well. For instance, I wanted to gain the “Senior” part of my job title and for the couple of years leading up to that, I was really really good at my job. But once I got it, I started slipping. Another example, I trained for a half marathon w/ my sister and I was able to stick w/ it the whole time, but once the race was over, I stopped running entirely.

    I’m trying to find another “goal” that I can work towards that will motivate me. There are certain metrics that we are supposed to hit for our job, and I’ve tried to use those as my goal, as well as the thought of the end-of-the-year review (which means almost nothing), but they don’t work. Also, minor rewards like “I’ll buy new shoes if I get X number of things done this month” never works for me either. I think I need something attainable and very concrete.

    Any ideas for me? Or, since that would be hard without knowing my job and how my organization works, what goals do you set for yourself that help motivate you? Or any other ideas for how to motivate yourself?

    I’ve always wished that I were more intrinsically motivated, but I’m just not, so I’m hoping there are some ideas out there :)

    1. smallbutmighty*

      I have a lot in common with you and found myself nodding frequently as I read this. I can’t say I have all the answers, as you’ve mentioned things I continue to struggle with, but here are some things that helped me:

      –Look for opportunities to connect with more junior people who are good at the things you feel you’re not doing as well as you could be. You have to trust the people you’re reaching out to, and you have to check your ego at the door! Say something like, “As my role has expanded, I feel like I’ve lost a bit of my connection to the fundamentals of chocolate teapot painting. I really admire your ability and work ethic in this part of the role. I’m wondering if you could tell me a bit about the tools and workflows you use to be so good at what you do.” They’ll be flattered and you might learn something useful and/or gain some inspiration.

      –Focus on systems instead of goals. There have been some great articles on this in business blogs recently (here’s my favorite, from the creator of “Dilbert”: Basically, the takeaway is that if we’re strictly goal-oriented, there are multiple opportunities to fail and really only one possibility of success. If we instead analyze what does and doesn’t work for us and create systems that suit us, we can create an agreeable daily rhythm with lots of opportunity for small successes.

      –Figure out if procrastination actually is a problem, or if you just tell yourself it’s a problem because the conventional wisdom is that procrastination is bad. I don’t think it’s always bad. I think if you’ve done a task a bunch of times and know how long it takes, it’s find to create your own reasonable timeframes apart from externally imposed deadlines. I think procrastination is really only a problem if a) you’re part of a team project and your teammates are bothered or inconvenienced by your procrastination; b) your procrastination causes you to miss deadlines because you put things off TOO long; or c) you report to someone who wants visibility into your progress on a project and needs you to show your incremental work. I’ve constructed a kind of for-my-eyes-only procrastination matrix I use to decide whether or not I’m going to procrastinate. When I know procrastination is a reasonable choice, I can do it without the guilt.

      –Find people who inspire you in your group or your bigger organization, and try to find ways to connect with them regularly. I’ve found that touching base with people who are enthusiastic about their roles helps me remain enthusiastic about mine.

      –If you trust your manager, talk to him/her about this stuff. Burnout, boredom, difficulty finding focus and motivation . . . these are real problems. If you go to your manager in a spirit of sincerely seeking a solution, he/she might be able to help.

      1. MeganO*

        Oh my god thank you so much for this. I was struggling with how to articulate it for myself, but I’m in a similar situation as well and this is really helpful advice, smallbutmighty!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Use the “additional responsibilities” as bait?

      I come home from work and I do not want to do certain tasks around the house. I will find 100 reasons not to do these tasks.

      BUT there is usually one or two tasks that I cannot wait to start and get those tasks accomplished. So I do 2-3 bad tasks and then do 1 good one. Repeat. Do 1 or more bad tasks then do another good one. I find that things hum along when I do this.

      So for you maybe you could mix your more enjoyable responsibilities in between your mundane tasks?

  27. Lalou*

    I wrote to Alison about this a few days ago but I thought I’d ask it here too. Every few weeks I’ll either be in a meeting or someone will come into the office to talk to one of my coworkers and they will occasionally curse or make a slightly rude joke. They will then immediately apologise directly to ME for saying it or for being rude. Every time I am apologised to I try to reassure the person (always male) that I Really Don’t Care, but the same people keep doing it. I am the only female in my office of four people, in a very male dominated field and company and I believe it is a gender thing. Even the new guy in my office who nobody really knows yet doesn’t get this special treatment. I was the only female in a meeting last week where a coworker was talking candidly about a problem and he then made the comment “oh I won’t say what I was going to say because there are ladies present!” As if I would faint or something if he said the word “shit”.

    Every time I am singled out for an apology like this it makes me feel like an outsider and that I am spoiling their fun by simply being there and being a girl. I am a very laid back person but this is really starting to get to me. This was mostly a bit of a rant, but if anyone has any suggestions for what I can do or say to stop being singled out it would be very much appreciated! Am I overreacting?

    1. R*

      There’s probably a much more elegant solution to this, but I would just start swearing every so often!

      Hope others have better ideas!

      1. Sadsack*

        Maybe when it is one or two others, you could say, “Go ahead, Bob, I don’t give a shit.” See how they respond. I wouldn’t do this is a large group meeting, but if it is just a couple of the guys and one of them swears and then immediately apologizes to me, that’s when I would say it. Maybe if you say this to enough of them, they will all eventually relax.

      2. Lalou*

        I do occasionally slip up at work and say the odd swear word but that sort of language just doesn’t come naturally to me when I’m at work. (After a few glasses of wine at home that would be a different story!) I’d have to work at sounding less professional which to me sounds like a step in the wrong direction, although its true that may be what I would have to do to blend in.

      3. Jen RO*

        The guys in my office did this too, when I was new, and swearing around them absolutely worked. However, it came very (too!) natural to me; I swear a lot and I was actually holding back too since all the guys were so polite.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I still didn’t have it so I checked my spam folder and there it was. For everyone: If you ever email me and don’t get the auto-reply, it means your message didn’t make it to my in-box for some reason (so try contacting me by some other means to fix it).

    2. Chrissi*

      I’ve gotten that over time. I would just reply “I don’t care” or (eventually) “Meh” w/ a gallic shrug. It took a while, but eventually the stopped apologizing. Just be consistent.

    3. IndieGir*

      Hmmn, the joke at my office is that to outsiders I look very prim and proper and ladylike, but those on my team know my use of vulgar invective puts rappers to shame.

      I agree with R, start swearing every so often. But I’d also say, do it very strategically — save it for some time when you really want to make a point. I actually wish I could do this myself, I think my swearing would be far more effective if I could tone it down.

    4. ExceptionToTheRule*

      A good “I don’t f’ing give a sh!t” might work. If (and only if) you’re comfortable saying it.

    5. MaryMary*

      I used to get those comments when I started at my current job, but now the men in my office tell me they appreciate that I’m not “sensitive” or “emotional.” Sigh.

    6. Anonylicious*

      I usually say something along the lines of “watch your f-cking language” or “oh, no, I’m getting the vapors!” Jokingly, of course. I’m also a woman in a male-dominated field that’s kind of known for coarse language, so it’s good to have a standard comeback line if swearing doesn’t come naturally to you.

      Not that I’ve ever had difficulty being foul-mouthed. I’m sure my mother’s proud.

    7. JM*

      It used to be like that in my office as well, but then I dropped an f bomb or two and maybe a rude joke here or there. Now they tell me they talk to me like a dude with the exception of a few people.

    8. OfficePrincess*

      Did I post this under a different name and forget about it? I run the office in a very blue collar facility and am the only female management staff. The number of times my boss has apologized for swearing with me in the room is ridiculous, especially since half the time he’s saying what I’m already thinking. He will even acknowledge that he knows I don’t care, but I think in this case the age difference also plays into it (I’m closer in age to his kids than him). I have let a few words fly and have muttered many a phrase at my computer. The guys who are at my peer level just say whatever they want to say in front of me and don’t care, but my boss and any outsiders still try to censor themselves around me. I just roll with it and make sure that when I do let loose it really counts for something.

  28. AAA*

    Ok, so I just got my paycheck. I was supposed to get a “step increase” raise (government job) starting 2/15. This is in the middle of the pay period, which is two weeks, from 2/8 through 2/21. No raise is reflected on my check today. Can they wait until the end of the pay period to increase my pay, or must they pay me the higher rate after the date of the increase (that is, for the second week of this pay period)? This is my first increase so I don’t know how these things work, and I don’t want to contact HR if it is standard practice that pay raises go into effect only in a new pay period, not on the date of the actual raise…

    1. Chrissi*

      Government step increases will start on the first day of the pay period following your anniversary. If you look at the paperwork that they file (it will post to your personnel folder in a couple of months), it lists the date that the step increase will be effective on. I definitely wouldn’t go to HR about it because A) They won’t be able to do anything about it even if it’s wrong and B) It probably calculates out to about $20 if you think about it.

      1. AAA*

        Thank you! I thought this might be the case, but I am trying to be more assertive over things like remuneration, and hey, I could use $20 if they gave it to me. But it sounds like the date of the increase is not the same as the day it actually goes into effect.

        1. De Minimis*

          Think this is why most agencies try to start people on the first day of a new pay period to avoid this kind of issue.

          What was really sad was the raise we just got. I’ll take what I can get, but it really amounted to maybe an extra $20 a month for me, at the very most [and I think it was a bit less.]

        2. Chrissi*

          Also what might help – the WGI (term for step increases) is awarded after a waiting period of 52 weeks from the previous WGI or from your start date – so it won’t be on the same date every year like an anniversary. And your WGI Date (see your online personnel folder if you have one – it will always list your next WGI date) is the first day of the pay period after you’ve completed the most recent waiting period. I know I said that already, but this is more precise.

          See this link for more info: “”. Sorry I don’t know how to make that a hyperlink.

  29. Too much profanity at work*

    Just an update from last week. I was forced to work without a workstation for the first two hours of my shift and had to sit on a floor until they even set up a terminal. I was mocked by my coworkers. No one addressed the situation that day. I am still in the process of finding another job while I’m in this horrible situation. Hopefully something better will turn up.

  30. Little Elm*

    Does anyone have best practices or tips for approaching your boss’s boss about your boss’s behavior?

    I have been working for my current boss for about 9 months, and it’s been absolutely miserable. So much so, that it’s triggered anxiety and depression because of the stress. (I’m on medication and in therapy to help manage it; although I’d prefer not to be.)

    I have a good relationship with my boss’s boss, whom used to manage me. However, my current boss is highly emotional and insecure, gives vague feedback/direction and flips out easily – everything is a fire drill. I have tried subtly coaching her and asking for better feedback/direction to no avail. I believe people can change, but I don’t think the boss is one of them.

    What’s my best approach now?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I would approach your boss’s boss with the perspective that you’re approaching her as a mentor and since you’ve always found her so helpful, you’d like her to help you develop strategies for dealing with your boss.

      This does three things:
      1) alerts her to issues with your boss that she can try to address and
      2) does it without putting you in a position where you’re ratting on her, since you’re only officially asking advice and
      3) you might actually learn some useful straegies for dealing with your boss

      I’ve done this kind of thing before. It’s a wee bit shady, but it works very well.

  31. Holly*

    Labor law question: there’s a feud going on between HR and Finance in my office: HR currently has a policy that you have to use PTO any time you leave the office outside of lunch – so it’s common to eat 1 hour there, 1 hour here, etc. Finance is insisting that if a full time, salaried, exempt employee works more than 4 hours that day, they have to get paid for the full amount of a day’s work without necessarily eating PTO. They’re citing it as a legal issue. Who’s right?

    1. TK*

      An exempt employee has to be paid the same amount every week if he/she works any part of the week (with a very limited range of exceptions), regardless of how much time is actually spent working. (IANAL; someone correct me if I’m wrong or being unclear.)

      That’s the only legal issue here. There’s no law about PTO, so that’s completely up to your company’s discretion.

      1. Holly*

        So could it be interpreted as both parties being right in some way, because HR can take away PTO for any amount of time away from the office, but if the exempt full time employee doesn’t have any PTO and they work part of the week, they have to be paid for the entire week regardless?

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The law on exempt employees is only about pay, not PTO. As long as their paycheck is untouched, the company can do whatever it wants with PTO. But the bigger issue is the morale effect this will have on people — if the company nickles and dimes them like that, why would people ever want to stay a moment past 5?

      You could also frame it as a competitiveness issue — you will lose great people over policies like this; they will go somewhere that doesn’t treat them that way.

      1. Holly*

        The morale effect you cite is definitely an issue at my company – there’s next to no morale. Pretty much everyone comes in a little bit later than they should and leaves right on the dot, because they figure anything additional is free labor to a company that doesn’t care about them when they have a doctor’s appointment etc.

        We’ve lost about half of our office of 50 over the past year for reasons such as this. It’s just one of those “the people at the top don’t care” things.

      2. Joey*

        Yes. I think finance is trying to extrapolate the law to apply to PTO as well which makes good sense.

        What’s weird is the arguments are usually the other way around. Typically finance wants to minimize costs and HR is thinking about morale, retention, etc.

        Although I’m guess this HR probably assumes the role of police.

    3. Anonie*

      My company used to do a similar thing. A couple of years ago we changed our policy to say that exempt staff had to use PTO in 4 or 8 hour blocks (basically a half day or whole day), anything less than 4 hours was considered a benefit of being exempt as long as it did not become an attendance or performance issue, subject to manager discretion of course.

  32. R*

    I just want to say thank you to Alison and the rest of the community here! I’ve just found a job that seems to be a great fit for what I’m looking to do. I really appreciate all of the advice!

    For those of you still searching, I’ve found two pieces of advice on this blog the most helpful. 1. Fix your cover letter! I followed Alison’s advice and got a ton of interviews, unlike in earlier job searches. 2. Go into the interview thinking they’ve already filled the position (or, the alternate version, that you will definitely turn the position down). For some reason, this made me much less nervous and somehow the interviews became more conversational.

    Thanks again everyone!!

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Congrats and I really like your advice to pretend you are going to turn down the position when you interview.

  33. Yup*

    How long have you been an AAM reader? If more than a year, what changes have you noticed to the site, in terms of the types of questions and comments?

    Me: 4 years. I’ve noticed more workplace advice versus job hunting/hiring advice recently — maybe post worst-of-the-recession? Also, commenting has picked up hugely, starting when the nested replies allowed for more conversational back-and-forth and now with open threads.

    1. SD Cat*

      I’ve been reading for about 3 years. What I’ve noticed the most is the increase in comments, as you mentioned, which I’ve really enjoyed :)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, that’s interesting! (And I’m eager to read responses to this.) I think any shift to workplace advice vs job hunting advice might be on my end, not the mail’s end — I sometimes feel I’ve answered the job hunting stuff over and over and so look for more variety (which the workplace stuff usually provides).

    3. danr*

      I’ve been reading AAM for about 2 years. I haven’t noticed a big difference in the types of questions, but I have noticed the increase in comments. Especially Open Threads. I like it, but don’t feel an overwhelming need to read every comment.

      1. Lalou*

        I have noticed a massive increase in comments on the open threads too. By the time I usually get to open threads there are so many comments I feel a little overwhelmed to comment at all but tend to skim read a few of the comments.

    4. smallbutmighty*

      I started reading AAM about six months ago, so I can’t comment much on changes. But this blog has been invaluable for learning about the weird little unwritten workplace rules no one talks about but (it sometimes seems) everyone knows about. I recommend AAM to everyone who is interested in getting a new job or being more awesome at the one they have.

      And yes, the commenting community here is one of the best I’ve seen anywhere.

    5. Joey*

      Probably 6 yrs. what I’ve noticed most is how Alison’s views and the issues she writes about have evolved. The questions are more in the weeds now although Ive seen the comments become more Informed. I like seeing what issues others face, but at the same time its a whole lot easier to play armchair quarterback. I know she still writes about recruitment type issues she deals with but i miss seeing her write about other types of management issues that she’s dealing with in real life.

      1. De Minimis*

        Just over 5 years! Knew I was in trouble at work and trying to see if there was anywhere to get advice on what to do.

        I can’t remember if I explored the comments as much back then, but it seems like there’s way, way more activity now than there was then.

    6. amaranth16*

      I’ve only been following for a few months, but in that time I’ve been recommending this blog to basically everyone I know. Alison’s advice is spot on and I LOVE reading the comments.

        1. MeganO*

          Yep – I’ve been following for a little over 3 years, and I *still* talk about this blog to people at the drop of a hat. Alison’s advice has never steered me wrong yet, and I only wish more people knew about AAM.

    7. Lalou*

      I’ve been reading every day for about 2 years now I think. I have only very recently started commenting though, as the vast majority of the time I either have nothing to add or someone has already put into words what I was thinking. Reading AAM is part of my morning routine now: arrive at work, read AAM and answer emails while eating my granola bar, get onto some real work. I don’t allow myself to read at the weekend so that the blow of it being a Monday morning is softened a little when I get to read more posts.

    8. Bryan*

      I’m a little over a year. I found it after I was fired from my last job and then back read more than I’d like to admit.

    9. Joey*

      You know the biggest change of all though is that she used to blog anonymous which was cool in a I’m blogging secretly and underground because the value of this information is more important than my job kind of way. I have no idea if that’s true, but that’s the vibe I had

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I love that it gave off that vibe! My boss actually knew about it for a while before I shed the anonymity — I had just wanted to be anonymous because I thought it would be super weird for my staff and coworkers if they knew about the site and it had my name attached. (Plus, I admittedly wanted the ability to write about them without them knowing it.)

        It was pretty fun being anonymous, I have to say.

        1. Joey*

          I will say though that having so many commenters try to pick holes in potential solutions or give feedback about them has been hugely valuable to me. I bounce around ideas at work, but don’t get nearly the amount of feedback that this site has provided.

          It’s been eye opening also to get so much more candid feedback. Of course when you’re asking employees for feedback its understandable that they’re not nearly as candid as anonymous commenters are.

    10. Andrea*

      Over 5 years, I think! I was searching for a way to deal with a jerk at work, and stumbled into Alison’s “jerks” category. Been here ever since.

      1. IronMaiden*

        I’ve been reading for about a year and a half. I stumbled across this site after typing “why is my boss such a jerk?” into Google. The increase in posts and posters has probably been the biggest change I’ve noticed.

    11. A Jane*

      A little over a year. I was searching for resignation etiquette — due to circumstances, I gave my resignation via email during holiday.

      What I’ve noticed over the past year is actually the consistency of quality dialogue through comments. This is the only website I’ll ever read the comments.

      1. Lucy*

        I totally agree- this is the only site where I actively seek out the comments. For the most part, people here are respectful and thoughtful- it feels like a true community.

    12. ChristineSW*

      I think I started reading in mid-2011, so about 2.5 years. I just happened upon this site looking for job search/career development advice. I think it took awhile for me to get comfortable commenting.

      The changes I’ve seen pretty much mirror what everyone else above me said, mostly the increase in comments (big time!!). I also think the questions have become more varied.

    13. littlemoose*

      About two and a half years, perhaps? I started my job four years ago, and I know I didn’t find AAM until after I got the job. It wasn’t until then that I realized how much I had done wrong in my job search!
      I don’t feel like I’ve noticed much of a change in AAM’s writing or posting topics, but the commenting community has exploded. If you re-read the older posts, most have under 30 comments or so; the newer posts are much more heavily commented. Given that there is such a good, knowledgable, and practical readership here, I think the comments add a lot. I may read the site in an RSS feeder, but I always click through to see the comments too.

      1. TL*

        It’s weird to go back to posts and not see Jamie or fposte or Joey or BCW (or any of the many others) posting, especially if it’s something you’d think they’d have a strong opinion on.

        1. Joey*

          Interestingly, when I read some of the really old posts my thumbs start itching to type, but it feels like there’s no one to engage with so I don’t.

    14. The Other Me*

      I’ve been reading the blog for over three years and LOVE it.

      I recommend it to everyone and anyone that I can.

    15. TL*

      2 years! (Ah!)
      I came in after the nesting, but before the commenting explosions. Hmm… More short answers, more commenters (lots of them!) and I think agree with the changes from job searching to workplace questions (though there were lots of job searching questions when I first started.)

      Also, I think people have grown braver in the comments – I see a lot of people only commenting infrequently but doing it with a strong opinion/willingness to engage.

    16. ThursdaysGeek*

      About a year and a couple of months, although I don’t recall when I started commenting. I wish I had found this before I made a huge blunder in a salary negotiation, or better yet, when I was first laid off.

    17. 22dncr*

      4 years – ever since I got this BORING job (that I had to take due to the economy). It’s been the best way to pass the day till I can find something more engaging. When I do I know I’m going to have withdrawal (;

    18. Elizabeth West*

      I think about a year, year and a half? I started reading it when I was laid off (I think I found it through Evil HR Lady). Now I’m hooked and I can’t stop. My favorite posts before were all the looking-for-a-job help ones, and now I love the open threads and the WTH ones, although I usually read every post.

    19. Smilingswan*

      I’ve been reading about 6 months. At first it was sporadic, but now I’m a daily reader. I haven’t really noticed any changes.

  34. Anon for this*

    I’m a regular commenter. Just going anonymous for this one as I can’t remember if the friend in question reads AAM or not.

    So I’m unemployed and living with my folks while I job hunt. I’m fairly burnt out on the whole process.

    I talked with a close friend about visiting him (and combining it with a job hunting trip). I ended up backing out after crunching some numbers with my savings. We talked again about this recently and friend offered to donate miles or offer other assistance. He makes a fair amount of money, so I don’t think donating some miles or giving me $200 for travel expenses would be a huge imposition.

    Two main thoughts:
    1. I’m feeling pretty sheepish about accepting the charity. Of course, on the positive side, it does mean a lot that he’d even offer. And Gawd, I could use the break. (It does feel a tad goofy to claim a need a vacation from job hunting.)
    2. Do I offer to pay him back? Repay the favor down the line?

    1. AAA*

      I’d accept with as much grace as you can, and then find a way to repay him once you are employed. I don’t mean pay him back the money, but some other thoughtful gesture. Bottom line though, your friend wants to see you and spend time with you, there’s nothing wrong with helping to pay for that!

    2. Bryan*

      If you know they honestly don’t care I say do it.

      Could you offer to cover his travel to you when you get a job?

    3. Chrissi*

      I’d do it and thank him profusely and also repay the favor down the line. While my sister was in vet school (and very broke) I was working at my first salaried job, so for that whole 4 years whenever I went home for a visit and we would go out to eat, I would pay. Once she graduated and got a job she turned around and started paying. Now we just split or take turns. In the end, she probably didn’t even come close to paying me back in terms of the actual dollar amount, but it was the thought that counted. Also, I wanted so badly to be able to go have one-on-one time with her at a restaurant, that I was willing to pay for the privilege. Finally, and importantly, I did it never counting on getting back the favor, and she was comfortable with me doing it. If either of those things are not true in your case, I would think twice.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ve been in the position of the friend offering before, and I was genuinely glad to do it and it didn’t feel much like charity — it felt like “I want to do this trip and it will be enjoyable, and I’d be glad to pay to make it happen.”

      Down the line, if you’re in the position to, take him out for an extravagant dinner or something like that as a sign of thanks.

    5. SD Cat*

      Job hunting is nothing like a vacation, so there’s nothing strange about that thought process.

      I’d accept and find a way to repay the favor later.

    6. Anony-non For This Too*

      I have several friends that make much less than I do, and sometimes I spring for things because I love them and it makes me happy to do so. I think your friend loves you and wants your company and doesn’t view the other assistance as any sort of charity. I would go on the trip and don’t worry about paying him back, but later, if you have the money, get him a thoughtful gift that shows you care. It doesn’t even have to be expensive — the best gift I ever got was something a friend made for me that I know took her hours. I still treasure it.

      And no, there is nothing goofy about needing a vacation from job hunting. It’s the worst! Especially if you are unemployed. You have all that time off but can’t enjoy it because you have no money and feel guilty for every little thing you spend.

    7. smallbutmighty*

      Say yes.

      I worked my behind off to achieve some measure of success, and I’m thrilled to be in a place where I can actually help my friends in various concrete ways. I love it when they say yes.

      Later, when you’re in a position to do so, pay it forward and thank your friend again.

    8. Dang*

      I’ve gone to visit a family member 3 times during my job search (once for an interview in his city). Each time he had been soooo generous. At first I felt awkward and guilty because I couldn’t reciprocate, but it became clear that it was no big deal to him.

      I plan on repaying him and his wife with a credit to a nice restaurant or something once I’m employed. Honestly, getting away for a few days (to my favorite city, no less) has been such a relief from the stress of unemployment.

      So I say do it!

    9. Anon for this*

      Thanks for the advice, everyone. I talked to my friend and agreed to the trip. I told him thanks and said I’d pay it forward when I was employed again.

      I was initially feeling sheepish just because I’ve always been adamant about covering my share of things. And it does make things more difficult that I have all this time and can’t enjoy since I’m watching every dollar like a hawk.

      Agreeing definitely gave me a mood uplift. I think he needs the break just as much as I do (he’s a corporate attorney).

      Thanks for the advice everyone!

    10. Iain Clarke*

      It’s probably a bit late to reply. but…

      Your friend has a job (and money). You have time. She wants to see you, and a) can visit you at cost X and travel time Y, or b) you visit her at the same cost X…

      So, either way it’s the same cost, same amount of time together – but she saves time off.

      Economics for the win!

  35. Gene*

    No intent to call out anyone here, but I’ve always been confused just why people work so hard to get advanced degrees in something with essentially no job prospects and then complain they can’t find a job in ? I understand taking coursework in something you love, but spending years to get a Masters of Chocolate/Caramel Teapot Design Specializing in Nougat Handles when there is only one company in the world that makes those?

    I’m coming from being successful in a field I didn’t even know existed before I happened into a job in it. I went from High School to the Navy Nuclear Power Program to a couple of jobs, then fell into my current field, where I’ve been since 1982.

    1. De Minimis*

      I think a lot of people have still bought into the idea that any degree will equal a job, and a graduate degree will equal even more. You also see a lot of people going to grad school now for the sole purpose of delaying entry to the job market.

      1. athek*

        Definitely this is part of it. My undergrad is in history, and I was so confused when I was getting ready to graduate, and people asked me if I was going into teaching or law school. I didn’t plan on doing either… couldn’t I just be a historian?

        1. SD Cat*

          I also have an undergraduate degree in history and had a similiar experience t0 you- I knew I didn’t want to teach and that the law school wasn’t a good option in the economic climate. I’m in grad school now, but the master’s degree I’m getting seems to be considered entry level for the field I’m interested in- so I’ve been getting as much experience as I can while in school and am hoping something will work out eventually.

      2. ChristineSW*

        This is something I’m fighting myself about. I mentioned in last week’s Open Thread that I was contemplating a graduate certificate, but it’s in a relatively unusual field and, on the surface, sounds more academic than useful (disability studies–probably similar to such degrees as women’s studies or urban studies).

        When I originally got my Masters, I bought into that idea too, that once finished, all would be right and I’d easily find a job in my desired niche upon graduation. WRONG! First of all, I didn’t even count on the fact that I’d have to wait until I had my license “in hand” until I could apply for many post-Masters jobs. Second, I kinda knew that driving would be an issue (due to fieldwork) but convinced myself that something would work out.

        So now I’m trying to keep myself from making the same mistake and being *absolutely certain* that if I do go for another degree or credential, it will be for the right reasons and that I know *exactly* what I’m getting into.

      3. Ai*

        I don’t think people who pursue a grad degree go into it thinking that there will be more jobs available to them. I think it has more to do with getting an edge over those who only have a bachelors. The thing is LOTS of people have at least a bachelors which is why even getting an entry-level job is competitive.

        As for Gene, it’s great that you were able to find success through chance but you are overlooking the fact that you come from a different generation and didn’t have to build your career /find work during a recession. Another thing is I don’t think these people pursuing a masters degree would go into it if, like you said, there is only one company where such knowledge could be applied. One would probably not even find a graduate program for something if it wasn’t in high enough demand.

        1. Gene*

          Look up the early-80s recession, prior to the one we are in now, it was the deepest recession since WW2. And yeah, I admit I fell into my current career; but I was job hunting daily for ~18 months with a couple of short-term jobs of less than a month each. This was before the internet existed, before Skype, before word processing to customize cover letters and resumes. One found job announcements in the newspaper want ads, drove to the location to apply, and waited for the phone call. If you found something in another city’s newspaper at the library, you travelled there to apply.

          Heck, I had to walk to interviews uphill. Both ways. Barefoot. In the snow!

          Yeah, it’s really tough right now, but it has been tough in the past and will be tough in the future.

    2. Moving out*

      For me, personally, I chose to get a degree in Journalism because I was 18 and it seemed adventurous and exciting. Of course when I graduated a few years ago to a horrible job market, I adjusted my expectations and got a job in a different field (I’m currently in finance). But I think my experience applies to a lot of people having to make these major life decisions as teenagers: We simply didn’t know that much about the working world/the economy, we didn’t see the recession coming (if there was one when you graduated), and/or our school counselors were telling us we should follow our hearts and get a degree in something we loved because a any college degree would get you a job (ouch).

      1. De Minimis*

        And it’s something that’s always happened…I studied English lit/writing as an undergrad and had to go back to school in my thirties before I could actually embark on a professional career.

      2. FellowJSchoolGrad*

        Are you me? ;)

        I graduated from high school in 2000 and when I was visiting colleges, all the talk was around “following your heart” and “doing what you love.” I choose a fairly big university that offered many programs because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I chose journalism because I enjoyed writing and like you, it seemed exciting.

        Fast forward to my junior year – I found out how much entry-level journalists actually make and decided I couldn’t live on that amount. So I chose a slightly different career track (marketing) and became a freelance writer.

        My younger brother was visiting colleges in 2006/2007 and the message was very different – this time, they were promoting their job placement rates and programs that had a high rate of graduates/placement rates.

        I do career counseling now and I also tell my clients (who are mostly college students/new grads) to do their research when choosing a major – look at the average entry-level salaries, the type of work it is, the hours, etc. Don’t go into a field because it seems glamourous, sexy, or will pay you a lot of money. Nothing breaks my heart more to see a kid going several thousands of dollars into debt for a degree that will earn him/her a whopping $20,000/year.

        1. Ali*

          Oh my God I was a communications/journalism major too, and I wanted to write for a newspaper. I went into college in 2004. Fast forward to 2007 and then I decide it’s not such a good path anymore. I work in online media now but I don’t think I want to do journalism forever!

    3. Cruciatus*

      I graduated from college in 2002 and grad school in 2004 and was basically told all my life to at least go to college. Went to grad school (sociology) because I didn’t know what else to do after graduation. My mom would tell me stories about how when she was in school, having a degree meant you could be trained–in anything!–and getting employed was easy (which it was, in the ’60s…) And I guess I had a bit of that mindset when I continued on to sociology in grad school. Sure, my degree was in that, but I thought grad school showed I was motivated, capable of learning, and all sorts of things. Then the economy tanked and now I make $10 an hour as an AA and can’t find any other prospects. But, even so, I think I still would have gone to grad school knowing what I know now. I’m still hoping it’ll help me out in some way!

    4. Midge*

      I just didn’t believe it when my undergrad professors told me how bad the job market was. And this was pre-recession.

      They organized a talk for the seniors in my major and told us, “Don’t become a Chocolate Teapot specialist. You won’t get into grad school. And if get into grad school, you won’t finish your degree. And if you finish your degree, you won’t get a job. And if you get a job, you won’t advance.”

      I think I had been told to do what I loved for so long that I just thought they were exaggerating, or something.

    5. Anna G*

      I agree with Moving out–some of it has to do with being young and not understanding how the economy works. This includes not understanding that whole line of “in five years, there’s going to be a huge decrease in the amount of [insert your chosen profession here] as boomers or whoever retire” is BS. At the time, I thought that was gospel, because I’d never heard it before. :)

    6. Ruffingit*

      I have no idea why people do this. I have a master’s, but it’s in a field where I can use it for a variety of different positions. I have never understood the idea behind, as you stated, majoring in the History of Chocolate Teapots in the 19th century or something of that nature.

      One of the things beyond the job prospects that I’ve always wondered about is the fact that getting a grad degree is no picnic. I did mine in a field I love, but even so it was not an easy road. I was commuting to go to school, I was working, I had to be cognizant of the comprehensive exam required (that took quite a bit of study time), etc. Just getting through it was rough, I wouldn’t have bothered if I knew it wasn’t going to lead anywhere.

    7. AAA*

      I believe in getting an education. I wanted an education and I was fortunate enough to have the means to be able to pursue a so-called “useless” degree. (I don’t mean independently wealthy, just well-off enough that I didn’t have to work more than part time while pursuing full time education, and I did well enough to get graduate school paid for by my institution) — While yes, many people go to college with a job as the end destination and this is perfectly reasonable, I went (naively, I admit, but happily) to become an educated and well-rounded person, and hopefully to pursue something I loved.

      I don’t expect to use my graduate degree as the only means to get a job, but it did teach me plenty of skills that are transferable, if an employer can see past what s/he might see as a “useless degree”. I get a little frustrated that people currently see education as only a means to getting a job at the end. Not all higher education *has* to be vocational. I wasn’t fooled that I would get some high-paying job after finishing my doctorate, but that doesn’t meant that my skills are totally useless to traditional employment (e.g. outside the academy).

      I also get frustrated (now that I have a graduate degree, a considerable amount of debt, and would like to live like an adult and not a student) that I automatically get labeled as “overqualified/underexperienced” for entry-level positions. I get the underexperienced part, as I spent my 20s in the life of the mind…but how to gain the experience when (without speaking to me) an employer assumes I will not accept a position that does not require a Ph.D.?

  36. dahanaha*

    OK so I know you are not supposed to give salary/benefits as the reason to want a new job but what about if its a mind numbing factory job and you are 54 years old (my father) and just want to make more than your current mind numbing factory job. My dad currently works for just above minimum wage as a line worker for Chocolate Teapots Inc. and has a interview next week to be a line worker at Mockolate Coffeepots Inc. that pays about 50% more. Same hours similar benefits almost exactly same commute.
    When he gets asked why he wants this job what should he say??
    Both companies have similar reputations within the communitty as well. And he is clearly not looking for growth potential he’s been a factory worker for 29 years!!!

    1. Ashley*

      haha, Mockolate! Sigh, I love Friends.

      I think his reason can be the same as anyone looking for a similar job in the same field…looking for a change, he’s enjoyed his current time at Chocolate Teapots, but he’s been there for x number of years and he’d like a new environment, challenge, etc.

    2. Anonymous*

      I may glaze over the $$ part and say something like “I would like to work for an organization that treats their employees better.”
      Good luck to him!

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Hm, is that too close to badmouthing one’s employer during an interview? I think some people might take that comment the wrong way. After 29 years, his best bet is probably to simply say that he’s ready for a change.

        1. Ashley*


          Don’t ever say anything that could be taken as badmouthing your employer. It’s about you, not them.

  37. Audiophile*

    Hopefully, I’m in before the rush. Here goes.
    Does anyone else do this – see a position they like, are qualified for but then sit on the application?
    I’m currently going through this, found a social media position that I’m qualified for (i.e. they’re not asking for 10 years experience) and could likely excel in, I want to apply, everyone I’ve told has said I should apply. But as I’m sitting here re-writing my cover letter from scratch, I’m having a bard time powering throw to finish this. I’m not sure why, part of me is convinced I won’t get the job or even an interview. I certainly won’t if I don’t submit my application.

    1. Sunflower*

      Yup me every couple weeks. I find a position I LOVE and then freak out about whether the application is perfect. I try to give myself a deadline. I say I will send this application by Monday and then just send it.

      I remind myself that they are busy people too. No one is going to re-read too hard into anything I write. They will spend 10 seconds reading my resume and there isn’t one little thing that is going to stand out so much they are going to interview me just for that skill alone. Or that skill is one that is on there and I don’t have to think too hard about whether I should put it on there.

      Just gotta bite the bullet and hit send!

    2. Nodumbunny*

      I do this. What I do is bribe myself – when you finish the first draft of your new! improved! cover letter, self, you can take a break to have lunch/walk the dogs/eat chocolate/play solitaire on your phone. Keep repeating until the task is done.

      Someone above said they just landed a job and part of their thing they did differently was to go into an interview assuming you won’t get it. If you are sitting there talking yourself out of the job (I am doing this right now), maybe just assume you aren’t going to get it, but hey, you’ve written a better cover letter so might as well send it in, right? Why not?

    3. Stephanie*

      Bribing yourself is a good trick. Tell yourself you can go watch an episode of House of Cards after you finish that cover letter. I also like to trick myself into thinking the position is closing in two days and that I HAVE to get the application out.

      1. Audiophile*

        Haven’t watched House of Cards, but now I’ll have to check it out.

        I like the idea of pretending the position is closing. And in this case it very well could be, since it was posted last week.

        Up until now, I hadn’t done a drastic overhaul of my CL. I was still getting interviews, but now that I’m narrowing my focus to social media and communications jobs, I’m sure I’d be better served by a CL that doesn’t talk about my reception experience.

        1. Stephanie*

          Outlook alerts help too (or whatever alert you like) help a ton too for getting you to complete the task.

          1. Audiophile*

            I don’t actively use Outlook so that wouldn’t work.

            But I ended up convincing myself to finish it by the end of my shift. I opted to minimize my cover letter as much as possible, and focusing just on the social media work I’ve been doing with this non-profit recently. I think even though, I haven’t been doing it long term, I’ve accomplished quite a bit to off-set some of that. I’m going to finalize the draft and send it off, either later tonight or early tomorrow.

            1. Stephanie*

              Phone alerts! It’s gimmicky, but seeing some alert that says “Finish Teapot Manufacturing Engineer Cover Letter-3 pm” helps me create structure. I definitely struggle with that while job hunting.

              1. Audiophile*

                I finished it. Sent it last night. It also made me realize how long my standard one had become. The new one – 190 words, previous version – 350+ words.

    4. T*

      Ugh, I do this all the time. I don’t have much to add that hasn’t been suggested…I’ve been known to go to a coffee shop and not let myself leave until I’ve sent the application, on top of the self-imposed deadlines and bribes. Just wanted to add that you’re definitely not alone, though! :)

    5. R*

      I get so bored writing cover letters that sometimes I have to fool myself into think it’s not actually a cover letter. Sometimes I start it off like i’m writing it to a friend, or I change my font to be something all elegant or silly. Then I go back and fix it!

      1. Lalou*

        Yes! I always change my font when I’m writing something important to comic sans or something swirly so I feel like Jane Austen writing fancy letters to people. Nothing looks scary or intimidating in comic sans, and it looks different to my normal boring work. Forgetting to change it back afterwards would be an embarrassing mistake to make though.

      2. 22dncr*

        I deliberately do this because if I really like the job I tend to gloss over the bad parts and only read/comprehend the good. If I make myself wait 2 – 3 days and then go back to it I notice the deal breakers. Saves me grief (;

    6. Lalou*

      You’re not the only one! I saw a great looking position advertised back before Christmas for a company that I have admired for years . I have attempted writing the cover letter a few times now but I always choke before the end. Possible theories for me include; I think I’m worried that if I mess up that means that I can never work for them ever, or just that leaving my current job now would be too much of a scary change, or I don’t have enough confidence in my own abilities that anyone would employ me (I still have massive imposter syndrome where I am now). The last point is probably the best explanation even though rationally I know that just applying won’t bring me any harm.

    7. CollegeAdmin*

      Yes – I actually did this when I first saw the posting for my current job. I finally told myself that there was no way I would get the job if I never even applied, sent in my resume/cover letter, and then told myself, “Well, there’s no way you’ll get it, but at least you tried.” I was stunned when I got an interview (which I then swore I tanked), stunned when they asked for references, and was bouncing while in shock when I found out I got it.

      The moral: You have nothing to lose. A job you don’t apply for is a job you have no chance of getting.

    8. ChristineSW*

      No advice–just wanted to say that I do this alllll the time (at least when I was more actively applying to jobs). For me, it’s more out of fear that I’m stepping into something where I might get in over my head.

      1. Lucy*

        I have a tendency to talk myself out of applying for jobs that sound great, then wonder about them longingly- finding a job is challenging enough as it is, without standing in your own way!

    9. Ruffingit*

      Late to the party, but yes I’ve done this. It’s the perfectionist/anxious side of me. I’m not normally a perfectionist in general, but with job apps I think that I want to do a great job with them and there is a lot of pressure in that kind of thinking so I end up sitting on them. I know this about myself so I tell myself that I can have a day and then I just need to write the cover letter. That works because once I get started on the cover letter, it usually goes pretty quickly. It’s sort of the “Just do it” mentality.

      1. Audiophile*

        That’s how I feel sometimes too. Because I’ve been horrified later on to discover there were mistakes and then think ‘well that’s probably what cost me an interview. ‘

  38. S*

    I was just laid off yesterday due to tardiness. It was only a few minutes each time and it was due to commuting traffic. It did not affect my work performance whatsoever and I was told I was a great worker but I was 5 months into my probationary period which was set to end next month, so they could pretty much could fire me at any point.

    My question is how do I explain why I left my last position without revealing the real reason in my next interview?

    1. Mason*

      Learn to love the little white lie!
      “I was laid off due to not enough work and I was the junior member of the staff”.

    2. Sunflower*

      1. Technically, anyone can fire you anytime they want, probationary period or not.

      I would try to spin it that the end of a 6 month period was approaching and even though you were a great work, there wasn’t room on the staff. Try to make it look more like a temp job than anything else. Or just leave it off

      1. S*

        Can the recruiter find out the exact reason why I was let go when they check references? I’m just afraid of telling a white lie and then getting caught.

    3. Colette*

      Are you going to keep this position on your resume?

      If so, I suspect your best bet is to screen for somewhere that doesn’t require a specific start time, or else explain what happened and what steps you’re taking to make sure it doesn’t happen again (e.g. you’ve learned that you need to leave much earlier to make sure traffic issues don’t make you late).

      1. S*

        Yes, I am going to keep the position on my resume because last month, I was contacted by two recruiters from a different institution to interview but I declined due to the fact that I had just gotten hired in Sept 2013 to my current (former) job and I had written that in my e-mail back to them. :(

        I called the recruiter up today and asked if the position was still open and she said yes and to send her my updated resume.

        Is it possible for the recruiter to find out the exact reason why I was let go? I can chalk it up to medical issues and I can get a letter from my doctor and assure them that my flare ups have been resolved. Would that be enough? Or would a recruiter look down upon that reasoning?

        1. fposte*

          Huh? It had nothing to do with anything medical in your earlier comment, and bringing a doctor’s note would be weird anyway.

          Yes, the recruiter can find out why you were let go and will probably ask for the reason.

          And listen to Colette–you were leaving too late for work. You’ve figured that out and now how to avoid that now, right?

          1. S*

            Well it was partly due to a medical condition. I forgot to mention that in my first comment. Either way, I’m going to go with the truth and say that I’ve learned my lesson and that it will not happen again.

            Do you think a recruiter would give me a chance with that explanation?

            1. Colette*

              I’m sure there were multiple factors – but your most productive approach here is to take responsibility for the pieces that were in your control, and be honest about what happened and what you have changed in response.

            2. Zillah*

              IMO, the simpler what you say is, the better. It’s like the old saying – one good explanation is better than five.

              Just say that you had some issues with punctuality, which you have been taking steps to address, but your work was otherwise good.

              No doctor’s note (what???), no “it was just a few minutes,” no “But I was still in my probationary period.” Just give the basics and let it go.

        2. EE*

          S, has your former manager offered to be a reference? Ideally, you’re in a situation where she feels bad that she had to fire you and would really like to give a glowing review of your work. If it’s like this, then chat to her (NOT directively) about how she’s going to describe you.

    4. Lily in NYC*

      How about calling the company yourself, say you are a recruiter, and see what kind of refrerence you get?

      1. S*

        Do you have any tips on what to say or ask them? I’d feel weird just calling and saying something stupid and have them become suspicious.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Alison had a very recent (this week) post about how to check references – I would read that and google a bit for help. I’ve never checked references so I don’t have advice, sorry. And I hate talking on the phone.

        2. Zillah*

          I wouldn’t call them yourself – they’d likely recognize your voice. Get a family member or friend to call, if anyone.

    5. Elysian*

      “without revealing the real reason” – I think anything other than revealing the real reason would be a lie, and a lie would be found out. You shouldn’t lie.

      You could, however, spin – “I was let go during my probationary period due to some tardiness. The particulars of my commute made getting to my last job on time difficult for me and it wasn’t something I could fix at the time. I don’t anticipate that being a problem here, though, because [I’ve fixed the problem in some way].”

      1. S*

        thank you. I think I’m going to go with this and hope that the recruiter understands and gives me a break.

      2. Zillah*

        Yes, I like this a lot, though I’m not totally sure about “it wasn’t something I could fix at the time” – it opens up a lot of questions like “Why not?” and “How can you guarantee that won’t happen here, too?”

        1. Ruffingit*

          Agreed, I’d leave that part out because actually you could fix it by leaving earlier. Being late is one of those things that can be fixed fairly simply by leaving your house sooner so this line doesn’t really work unless you want to reveal medical issues, etc, which you do not.

    6. JM*

      Were you laid off or fired? If you were laid off, just say that. You don’t need to offer anymore of an explanation unless they specifically ask. I think if someone called your previous job, they would probably just say you were laid off and not go into some lengthy explanation unless it was provoked.

      1. S*

        well I was late so I guess I was fired. my co worker told me that HR will not tell a recruiter why I was fired. They will just tell them what dates I worked. I don’t know how true that is.

        1. Zillah*

          If you’re not clear about these things, why aren’t you asking HR/your old boss yourself? Don’t rely on what a coworker says – they may be misinformed.

          I don’t know about this specific company, but yes, many HR departments will only give the dates that you worked. However, even if that’s the company policy, supervisors will often speak about you in more detail.

          If you haven’t asked your supervisor about using them as a reference (both whether you can and whether they would give you a good one) and what the protocol is for this sort of situation, do it.

  39. Lisa McS*

    I just wanted to say “thank you” to everyone who commented a couple of weeks ago to my open thread post. I’d asked for feedback about managing my new senior-level IT person. Its early days yet, but I’ve been able to use some of the suggestions and we’re getting along a lot better than we did initially.

    While I’m at it, THANK YOU Alison!!!! Both for answering me the few times I wrote privately and for creating this amazing (safe) space for all things work-related. It’s an enormous resource and I gladly recommend it to anyone in the workplace as essential reading.

    So, just a bit of gratitude before I go back to my piles of work.

  40. Josh S*

    Hi everyone! I miss commenting as much on here, but since NewJob started, I haven’t had much time to read, let alone lend my voice. It’s intense trying to ramp up on a ton of new tools/project/client asks all at the same time.

    In any case, hooray for new jobs! May you all have a ton of work success this year!

      1. Josh S*

        Well, I’m WFH today (because of a horrific head cold that has me feeling like crap) and in my jammies so my answer might be a bit biased….but no. I don’t miss it. I like my job. I like my client. I like the work I do. I like my manager. I’m (pretty) happy with my pay. I’m loving the feeling that I’ve ‘made’ it to the career I’ve wanted for the past 8-10 years.

        And if that means that I have to get “all dressed up” in jeans and a collared shirt…well, that’s an easy price to pay.


  41. BN*

    I just want to thank all of the wonderful people who replied to my question a few weeks ago, where I felt, at 25, I was in the wrong career. You were all so helpful, and I wish I could thank each of you in person.

    With the help of Alison’s e-book, the advice from this wonderful group, and some networking, I got an interview with a great company and absolutely nailed it (my contact said the panel thought I was one of the best people they’ve ever brought in for an interview, and before reading all of Alison’s interview advice I was NOTORIOUS for being a basket of nerves and desperation in interviews; this time, I actually had a conversation with the panel, and it was amazing to see the difference!).

    It’s a completely different position than what I am in now, at a company with a great culture. I’m very excited about the responsibilities of the job, and it will shed light on whether (like a few posters noted) the desperation I felt in my old position came from the environment or whether I am actually better suited for other types of work. Either way, I’ll soon be in a company that makes a priority of having employees in the right position and will work with them to get there. :)

    Thanks again to all of you great people!!

    1. Sunflower*

      This gives me hope! I’m also 25 and question myself everyday if I’m going into the right career. I posted last week about my anxiety over where to go with my next position because my job environment is so bad now. Congrats!

      1. BN*

        I remember, and please know you’re in my thoughts! It will all work out.

        I, of course, was nervous accepting the position. “Maybe it is the environment. Is going to a position that does Y too much of a leap? What if that doesn’t work out and I realize it WAS the environment, and that really I’m better off doing X?”

        But I kept a few things in mind:

        1) I’m 25 and, like Alison said, I will likely have a few different careers in my lifetime. I can always adjust accordingly.

        2) I made sure to vet the company’s culture and work environment. The environment is a drastic change from what I have now, and if everything else in this is totally wrong, I’m at least in a place that values its employees and will work with you to get you in the right place.

        TL;DR: gather the facts, and even if you make a decision that doesn’t work out, it won’t be the wrong decision :)

  42. LV*

    A couple of days ago I went to a networking event and struck up a conversation with a man I’m acquainted with from seeing him at other networking events. When I mentioned that my current contract is ending soon he said to send him my resume because his organization is hiring. (He’s quite senior to me and would be doing the hiring for that position.)

    After thinking about it, I don’t really think it would be a great idea. The job is in my field, but it’s not the area in which I want to focus/have been focusing so far (which I have really been enjoying), so I wouldn’t feel fulfilled in that role in the long term. Also, my former boss from 2 jobs ago is working there too, and I promised myself I would never work with her again.

    I don’t want to just ignore his offer, though. Would anyone have any suggestions for how to graciously explain that I’m happy he thinks I might make a good addition to his team, but it’s not the right fit for me?

    1. Kerry*

      “It was so great to see you at The Annual Teapotting Conference! I was flattered by your invitation to apply for the Spout Shaping position. I have given it a lot of thought, and while I think Chocolate Teapots, Inc. seems like an a great company to work for, I am really hoping to keep working in Caramel Handle Designs, and just don’t think the position would be the right fit at this point. Thank you so much for the offer to apply, and if I hear of any budding Spout Shapers, I’ll send them your way.”

  43. Zelos*

    Can anyone recommend any good grammar books? I’ve read Elements of Style, and I’ve heard Eats, Shoots, and Leaves is good although somewhat simplistic.

    I think I write all right in a day-to-day fashion, but grammar follies are ever-present. So something that can explain grammar rules in detail would be nice, and include exercises to practice with. Not completely dry/boring would be a bonus.

    For the record, I am looking for something that’s more detailed than your usual subject-verb agreement and so on. Maybe something marketed towards college-level English.

    1. CollegeAdmin*

      I’m guessing by your phrasing of “heard of” Eats, Shoots, and Leaves that you haven’t read it yet. I’d highly recommend it – it’s one of my favorite books (and bonus – not dry!).

      1. cecilhungry*

        I second Eats, Shoots, and Leaves! I was a copy editor and I still went back to it to check things every once in a while. Definitely not boring!

        Something else I would do is that if I found myself checking the same thing over and over, I would write the answer on a note card and stick it to the wall above my desk. For instance, I could never (and still can’t) remember premier vs premiere. I know one of them is an opening night and one of them is the best in its category, but I’ve looked it up SO many times and can’t keep them straight!

      2. HR Lady*

        I’m not sure if people are still reading this thread, but just in case… I read Eats, Shoots, Leaves but I found it to be focused on British English rather than American English. There were a few points that would actually be wrong in American English but are correct in British English. So I wouldn’t recommend it to someone wanting to improve their American English.

        Then again, it’s been years since I’ve read it. Did I remember the British/American thing incorrectly?

      1. LMW*

        Yes! I had this book as an assigned text in multiple classes and it was the single most useful book on teaching the rules in a way that really stuck with me.

      1. Zelos*

        Unfortunately, I’m completely useless at absorbing information through auditory channels–it’s some weird quirk of my brain. I can glance at and absorb information through text (and to a lesser degree, pictures) about 10,000x better than I do listening to something. If I’m not using 120% of my concentration on listening, my brain basically filters out speech. (This is why I hate going to the movies: no subtitles!)

        I do peruse Grammar Girl, but usually when I am specifically looking for something. Her archive isn’t sorted by categories, so I don’t usually do a general browse unless I have tons of time on my hands.

        1. Anonymous*

          With your learning style, you may have better results looking into books on sentence diagraming instead of straight up grammar books. (If those books still exist?) If your good at reading to learn, you may learn grammar better from a structure perspective.

          And diagraming current pop music makes a great party game!

    2. ZSD*

      When you have a question about a specific point of grammar, the Purdue OWL is a good source. You might try browsing their site.
      My mom taught community college English comp using Harbrace, and both her students and I found it clear and helpful.

  44. Trixie*

    As if the recent AAM salary survey wasn’t interesting/enlightening/depressing enough, I made the mistake of watching HGTV’s “House Hunters” or something similar. This particular episode/marathon included millennial home buyers and I can’t imagine purchasing in my early 20s. I’m assuming some of them included co-signers or they maxed out on their pre approval offers or didn’t take a really good look at the most recent housing bubble burst. Another good reason I tend to avoid reality t.v.

    1. Anonymous*

      Also if you watch House Hunters on a regular basis, you will become convined that you cannot live without:
      – Stainless applicances
      – Granite countertops
      – Master bath with DUAL sinks
      – Walk-in closet (insert joke about butwhere the husband’s clothes will go)
      – Open concept floor plan

      1. danr*

        And after 25 years you will still love the granite countertops in the kitchen, realize that two sinks is silly in the master bath but still a good idea in the second bathroom, get rid of that huge jacuzzi tub, put in a bigger shower and more storage.

        1. Stephanie*

          Yes! My favorite episode was one where the wife wanted a cookie-cutter subdivision and kept complaining when the houses in the neighborhood looked too unique.

        2. Midge*

          My apartment has a pedestal sink in the bathroom and it drives me CRAZY. The edges are slanted so you can’t even rest anything there, because it will fall into the sink. So if I was every on House Hunters I would totally be that person.

          1. Laufey*

            They’re so easy to replace, though! I mean, obviously that doesn’t help you in an apartment, but it always bugs me when people on that show complain about things that five seconds with a wrench would solve.

            1. Stephanie*

              No, my favorite is when people complain about a room’s paint color. That’s like $100 and an afternoon of work!

              1. Laufey*

                Even easier before you move in and there’s no furniture, and/or you want to pull the carpet out anyway!

                Obviously, I have hung too wallpaper and put in too much tile in my time.

              2. Windchime*

                This bugs me, too! “We can’t buy this house; the bedroom is painted green and it has CARPET”. Puhleeze. Buy a can of paint and get busy! Paint is SO easy and it can change the feel of a room in just a few hours.

                I LOVE to paint! Love it! I once painted my kitchen twice in one day because I didn’t like the first color. (There was a third attempt in there, but I only did a couple of swipes before realizing that I didn’t like it).

          2. fposte*

            And I love my pedestal sinks, because it makes little bathrooms so much roomier. So bite me, House Hunters.

    2. Stephanie*

      Yup. I’m 27 and living with my folks at the moment. I watch House Hunters and see a 23-year-old buying a house and am like “OMG, how?!”

      But then thinking about friends who have purchased at my age, most had cosigners, went through a first-time homebuyers program, or were buying starter homes in a low COL area.

      1. HM in Atlanta*

        I didn’t buy a house until I was 35. I wanted to wait until I really knew where I wanted to live and how I liked to live (I moved apartments a lot; it really helped me figure it out).

      2. Wonderlander*

        I’m 26 now, but bought my first house at 25. I bought it after about 6 months into my first “Big Girl” job as a paralegal. I worked in real estate all through high school and college as a realtor’s assistant, so I got to see and walk through hundreds of houses (it was a lot of fun). I really DID know what I wanted, how much I wanted to pay, and where I wanted it to be. But I lived with mom for 2 years after college to save up while I earned my paralegal certification. So some young buyers DO know what they’re doing, and they know that if you can, this is the best market to buy in.

        1. Stephanie*

          Oh, oof! Didn’t mean to imply that young buyers were unknowledgeable! You sound like you did your homework. :)

    3. Lily in NYC*

      I’ve noticed the young ones with the big budgets seem to have “internet entrepreneur” as their job title. Meaning: running porn sites must pay really well. I must be the only person in the world who is not fond of stainless steel kitchens and granite counters.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I didn’t think I liked granite counters until I found a stone called “white fantasy.” (And yes, I’m highly uncomfortable with the name.) It’s quartzite, which is different from quartz. It’s grey and white and looks exactly like marble. I still swoon every time I walk in my kitchen and congratulate myself on my excellent taste.


        1. Lily in NYC*

          Oh, that’s really nice! It looks enough like marble instead of granite that I could live with it. I much prefer light-colored granite. The name is ridiculous!

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Nope! I did stain it very slightly the first week I got it and thought “holy crap, this is going to be a nightmare,” but it hasn’t stained since (and it’s been a couple of years).

      2. Stephanie*

        The “internet entrepreneur” made me snort. There was one I saw set in some coastal Florida city and the couple’s budget was like $800k (they couldn’t be older than 30). It didn’t seem like the wife/girlfriend was working. I just scratched my head like “What the eff does this guy do for a living?”

        1. Ruffingit*

          I seriously ask that every time I see the show. I also ask it about the people on that landscaping show on HGTV where the budgets for the backyard are $100,000. Yes, I once saw a show where that was the budget for landscaping the backyard. WTH???

    4. Elysian*

      I think that until they get to the running the numbers part of the show and its like “They’re taking out a 100% mortgage with additional money built in for the closing costs, so their payment will be…” and then I’m like “Oh yeah. People are stupid.”

      Maybe its a different show that does the numbers at the end… either way, I think that’s how it happens. That’s how much (much younger) brother just bought his house. Just think about how much trouble those 0% down people can get in… ugh. Waiting is better.

      1. De Minimis*

        I miss the flipping shows, especially the ones like Property Ladder. They never listened to the host’s advice, and they almost always had to pay for it.

        The best were the ones where they were never able to sell the house at all. I think only a couple were that bad, but those are the most memorable.

        I liked the initial Flip This House on A&E, with the company in South Carolina, but they ended up suing A&E [and won] so that was the end of that…I recall them trying a few times to get a show started on TLC but the housing bust killed it.

        1. Stephanie*

          Oh you mean that one that’s set in LA? I forget the name. It seems fairly often that they can’t sell the house. I kind of like that (well, not for the house flippers) since it grounds the show in some sort of reality.

          I have no clue why I watch so much HGTV. It’s hypnotic.

    5. Eden*

      Maybe a better bet, if it’s still on, is a show called Property Virgins. They take millennials house shopping and ask what they are looking for (always granite, huge, open, and in a terrific neighborhood), and what their budget is (always at least 100K less than any such house would go for).

      I hate to admit it, but the schadenfreude of watching their bubbles being burst is rather delicious.

      If you want to be truly depressed, watch House Hunters International. It features really entitled people trying to buy American-style mansions in other countries. Depressing on many levels.

      1. Stephanie*

        Ha, no. I kind of enjoy their bubbles being burst, too. HGTV’s really bad about convincing everyone deserves a turnkey house in a fancy area, finances be damned. So it’s nice to see at least one show grounded in reality.

      2. Elysian*

        Re: HH International – Either they want an American style house-mansion in another country, or they want something “really authentic” and nothing has enough “character” or its all too much like they would find at home.

        1. Windchime*

          And then they find out that “character” means “this house has no kitchen at all and the bedrooms are too small for an actual bed.”

    6. TK*

      Tip about House Hunters: the show is almost completely fake. To be on the show, you have to have already closed on a house. The 2 other houses you “look at” are just some in the same neighborhood, or your friends’ houses, or some other random house they find, often not even for sale at all. Usually taping is done after you’ve closed on the house but (obviously) before you’ve moved in.

      All easily Google-able to verify.

      1. Stephanie*

        I know. I definitely remember my folks looking at way more than three houses when they house hunted.

        It still was like finding out Santa Claus wasn’t real when I found the show is staged.

        1. TK*

          Same here. I always assumed they looked at a bunch of houses and then picked the 3 that were most interesting to show. Though I wondered how taping all that unused footage would make sense financially. So it is logical in a way.

          The other thing I find amusing is that they even twist the premise for moving if the producers don’t think it’s “sexy” enough. I read something written by one woman who was on the show and she was embarrassed because the show said they wanted to move because they were out of space for their growing family. She didn’t feel they had a space problem at all, they just wanted to move into a new house and keep theirs as an investment property. But of course that’s pretty boring.

      2. Cath@VWXYNot?*

        Some friends of ours were on Love It Or List It (Canadian edition) last year, and it was fascinating and hilarious to see how everything was edited, changed around, and manufactured (even the final decision – they said on the show they were going one way, but they actually went the other). As the wife kept saying on Facebook (thinking that she’d be the one they made look bad), “can everyone please remember before they watch our episode that NOTHING is real in reality TV?”

        (They actually made the husband look like the bad one, so she was quite happy in the end! In real life they’re both lovely. It was truly bizarre seeing people I know, and a house I’ve visited several times, on TV).

        1. Mephyle*

          I love the manufactured drama on Love It Or List It and its counterpart Renovate Or Relocate. Will it be: (a) plumbing, (b) a load-bearing wall, or (3) hidden asbestos that thwart the homeowners’ renovation dreams?

          1. Windchime*

            I hate the manufactured drama on Love it Or List It. I stopped watching it because I hated the way the hosts fake-bicker.

    7. Mimco*

      I LOVE all of those house hunting shows. I wonder where they get the money too. I always laugh when someone comments that a kitchen or bathroom is “outdated” which really translates to “not my taste”. One night a couple stated cherry cabinets were “outdated” tore them out and put in white. The very next episode a couple tore out “outdated” white cabinets and put in cherry. The “outdated” cabinets were both less than 5 years old.

    8. Cat*

      One of my co-workers told me he knew he was emotionally ready to buy a house because he spent a cross-country flight watching HGTV with completely rapt attention. Conversely, every time I accidentally flip to the channel I almost have a panic attack, so I’m taking that as a sign I’m not there yet. It’s pretty terrible.

    9. Anonymous*

      I hear ya, Trixie. I used to get really frustrated with myself when I would watch these shows and see people younger than me purchasing a gorgeous home in a desireable area. I’ve been saving up money for a down payment on a home for a couple of years now, so maybe that’s why I’m a little more sensitive to it.

      But then I think to myself that a.) maybe their parents are providing them with their down payment (it happens more than you think) b.) they’re not putting anything down and their payments are going to be massive or c.) they have no clue what they’re getting themselves into, financially or otherwise (repairs, insurance, taxes, etc).

      I think I’ve been listening to Dave Ramsey too much, haha

      1. TL*

        My parents gave my brother his down payment (or most of it) as a loan, just like my grandma did for them.

        They have assured me they’ll loan me the money for my down payment as well; I’ve assured them I’d rather have that money go to my student loans but with no such luck.

      1. Stephanie*

        “So we want granite countertops, open floorplan, stainless steel appliances, a guest room, and a big backyard. We want to be Inside the Perimeter* with a preferably 20-minute commute to midtown and near lots of shopping and nightlife. And, in case we want to start a family, we need to be in a good school district. Oh, and our budget is $150,000 and we can only put 2% down.”

        *They’re almost always in Atlanta.

          1. Elysian*

            My grandma once saw once that claimed to be in Washington, DC and she called me right away and was like “See, you don’t need a million dollars to buy a house in DC!!!” Turned out it was like 2 hours outside the city. Now my grandma won’t stop bugging me whenever I complain about the price of housing here!

    10. Anon*

      I love those shows! And I totally understand the whole “what am I doing wrong?” thing when you see people your age buying homes when you can’t even fathom it. But then I think of one of my very good friends who bought a condo in 2007 when she was right out of college, making $32,000 as an elementary teacher, and had $0 down payment. Seven years later she’s now married and had to short sell it for something like 60% of the original price to move in with her husband. They lost so much and with their first child on the way can’t even think about buying anything — it’s sad.

      Just makes me remember that the grass is not always greener and my nest egg is doing just fine in my savings account for now!

      1. Anonymous*

        Ditto. My friends and I both bought at the height of the market. The key difference? I put 20% down with parental help and have paid extra for almost the entire length of the mortgage. I may not be able to sell it for what I bought it for, but I’ll get a bunch of cash out of it. My friends put nothing down, have paid the minimum, and can’t even afford to sell their place now Wait until you’re ready and then buy. There is no shame in that.

  45. Ann Furthermore*

    I posted last week about a work issue that was driving me insane, and I got some great feedback from the folks here. And more importantly it helped me get to the root of what was really bothering me, which is always so helpful. So I just wanted to say thanks to everyone for talking me through my problem!

  46. Sunflower*

    Anyone have some good books for someone just starting out in their career to read. I’ve read a lot of books geared towards dealing with quarter-life crisis but these are really frustrating. Great at helping me figure out what I want to do with my life but not so good at showing me how to get a job doing it!

    1. Katie the Fed*

      This is just a general recommendation, that’s only loosely related, but I read a book called “30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans” in which researchers spoke to people in nursing homes and found themes in what they thought about at the end of their lives. There was stuff in there about finding what’s important, family vs work, things like that.

      It was a truly eye-opening read for me and actually affected me very deeply. I spent my 20s working myself to death, working weekends and holidays and getting really burnt out. Then I read this book and had a big “aha!” moment and now I think of work as a job, not my entire life, and I take vacations and time off and I’m a much happier person in general, which makes me better at work, and able to maintain better relationships, etc. That might not be what you’re looking for but I think at this stage in your life it would be a great read.

  47. Anna*

    Feeling super frustrated with the HR situation where I work. Our site is run by a contractor with help from a sub-contractor. The HR person is employed by the sub-contractor and doesn’t seem to know a lot about the policies of the contractor. So, I don’t know when I’m going to start seeing my accrued time off show up on our online portal, I don’t know who the HR person is at MY employer’s head office, and I don’t know how to get in touch with someone who would know.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Does the portal have any links that look like it might lead you to someone?

  48. Katie the Fed*

    Alison – question for you:

    Would you post the search terms that lead people to this site, sometime? Or at least the most interesting ones? I LOVE seeing those.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sure! Some of them are hilarious.

      What’s really interesting to me is that some people apparently type full sentences into search engines. For instance, here’s one of those:

      “it is getting late on friday. you are reviewing your employees annual self evaluation. your comments are due on monday. you can email your employees information to yourself so you can work on it this weekend and go home now. which method would be the best way to send this information?”

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        This makes me think of a Choose Your Own Adventure novel.

        “It is late on Friday. You have a project due Monday. Do you A) stay late to finish it? B) Cancel your Saturday plans to come in and do it? C) Promise yourself to come in on Monday early? If A, turn to page 8. You stay late, but your colleague asks for your help in completing their own project. Do you A) tell him to fuck off? B) Ask him for help on your own project instead? C) Ignore him and pretend to be deaf? If B, turn to page 16…”

        1. Schmitt*

          Oh lord, I could totally program that. I need an at-home project. (Though I think there are some choose-your-own-adventure generator websites out there, actually.)

      2. JamieG*

        I type full sentences into search engines sometimes; usually it’s a question I have, and I’m hoping to find results from people who’ve asked it before on a forum or something. Never anything that specific though!

        1. Laura*

          I’ve typed full sentences in search engines, generally with questions I have, but never that much detail. My last one was “What do you do if your best friend is dating a jerk?” and it was a sadly common question.

          1. Can't think of another good anonymous name*

            Captain Awkward is usually the answer to questions like that. Good stuff over there!

      3. Fiona*

        Sounds like someone was googling the “correct” answer to a online job application personality test question.

      4. Eden*

        I search with complete sentences. I find that I’m more likely to find what I’m looking for if I type “can I negotiate salary based on commuting costs” rather than trying to pick the most relevant terms.

        I particularly use this strategy when I don’t know what it is I’m looking for except in very vague terms. It helps me cover all the bases.

    2. ArtsNerd*

      I definitely found this site when I was looking for job search advice. Stayed for the incredible workplace advice!

  49. Mason*

    Maybe this already exists, but there should be an adjunct to this site that’s all about the small evils of the real world and office work.
    “Here’s how to get a job when you just got fired for being terrible at your last job”
    “How to make your resume make you look like a top performer when in reality you spend 4 hours a day surfing the web”
    Or maybe I’m just an evil dude.

  50. Carrie in Scotland*

    I came back from holiday to a job interview letter :-) but wait, they are asking to contact my most current/most recent employer…I am NOT wanting them to do this as they don’t know I am looking. Any way to get around this? (In the online app I ticked the “no contact box”)

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I’m sure most people feel the same way – I would tell them that you’d rather your company not know you are searching but that they are welcome to contact them if you get an offer (even just a contingency offer).

  51. B*

    After much thinking and moving around I have come to realize I am not an office desk person, sit behind the computer for 8 hours a day with only a little interaction between me and coworkers. I like to be out and about and chatting with customers. However, I do need to make enough to live decently, a regular schedule, and moving out of NYC is not an option right now.

    I looked through the past post of non-desk jobs from 2012, and will double-check the salary post for ideas, but would love some other thoughts. Besides working in retail or as a nurse/pd/fd, what are some other ideas I may not have thought of for being non-desk jobs??

    1. pgh_adventurer*

      Hard to say without knowing a little more about what your skills are and job interests! Can you tell us more about what you’re looking for, and what you do now?

    2. Sharm*

      Working with kids (like camp or after-school programs, or even private tutoring)? What about working in the performing arts? If you’re not in administration, you could do box office or ushering work. I don’t know if you have any fitness certifications, but yoga and dance teachers have an atypical schedule too.

      These may be unrealistic for you, but was just thinking out loud. Good luck! My friend works in music in NYC, and she does well by private tutoring and working for a church choral group. I’m sure there are other like her!

    3. Sunflower*

      Hotel or restaurant management work. So many different positions to go with. Even going into something like hotel sales or HR which is a good mix of desk work and being up and about. These jobs are usually a lot of hours but the salary isn’t too bad. Plus free hotel rooms when you travel!

      Any sort of sales or client relations job that has you meeting with clients mostly is also a good thing to look into.

    4. B*

      Thank you, loving these ideas…keep ’em coming. Admin and kids are totally fine by me. I didn’t even think of doing admin in schools until you all put that together for me.

      1. Sunflower*

        I was in an some what similar but opposite situation from you. I was working corporate catering and hated only interacting with customer’s but I also worked at an office and hated staring at my computer all day. I work in event planning now and it’s a good mix. Granted I don’t make much money and it’s not the easiest thing to get into but I like the mix of talking to people, doing computer work and being on my feet partially.

        I applied for a lot of university jobs and noticed they could have a good mix of both.

    5. athek*

      Training comes to mind. Either internal training type departments or people who work for vendors training clients on new products.

      1. HR Lady*

        Yes, I was going to mention training, too. Great way to meet new people all the time and not be sitting behind a desk for 8 hours/day.

        I’m not sure where you are on the spectrum between 8 hrs at a desk and almost no desk at all (nurse, fire fighter). There’s a spectrum there. Even my job as an HR director can involve lots of meetings (1-on-1 or group), training new people, etc. so that there are few days when I’m literally at my desk for 8 hours. But my job is vastly different from a nurse or fire fighter.

        Even our IT helpdesk administrator gets up and about a lot: carrying computers to new employees’ desks, crawling under desks to connect cables, etc. But that isn’t usually for 8 hours/day.

        Sales jobs where you go and meet customers in person. Even our insurance broker (kind of a salesy job) is often driving around visiting clients (new and long-term). Sometimes she does presentations in front of groups.

  52. CB*

    Hi there knowledgable people,

    I need help with references! I’m 3.5 years out of undergrad and 1.5 years out of grad school, but since then I’ve had two volunteering stints and one job (where I’m trying to leave now).

    The company I’m applying for just asked for contact info for two references, and I have no idea who to ask. My current boss doesn’t know I’m applying elsewhere, but that’s the only ‘professional’ thing I can use. Would my supervisors from the volunteering things be appropriate, even though the work I do there is totally unrelated to the job I’m applying for?

    Alternately, I can ask supervisors from internships I’ve had in 2011 and 2010. But would they even remember me? I haven’t talked to them in years. How on earth do I go about it??

    1. pgh_adventurer*

      Volunteer supervisors are fine to use as references, especially if they can speak to your work ethic, team player-ness, passion for the field, and so on.

      As for the previous supervisors, if you’re not sure they will remember you, it sounds like they might not be able to give a good picture of what you’re like to work with.

    2. SD Cat*

      I’d think you could ask your volunteer supervisors, especially if it’s been longer-term volunteering, and they know you well enough to be a good reference.

    3. B*

      Volunteer supervisors are still professional ones you can use. I wouldn’t hesitate on that as they can speak to your work ethic, your interactions, your quality of work, etc.

      In the future, I would try and somehow keep in contact with people you have worked with. Even if it’s an occasional email or lunch, always good to have that network.

  53. Jess*

    I have a question particularly for the women here:

    At professional events, have you ever had issues with being assumed to be a SO rather than a professional?

    1. Nodumbunny*

      I think this is a matter of projecting confidence even if you don’t feel it. If this is happening to you, then make sure that in your interactions with people, you step forward with a confident smile, make eye contact, offer a firm handshake and speak up. Don’t hang behind your peers, even half a step. If a male peer is being solicitous of you, try to step up and take care of yourself. If a male peer is speaking, you can glance at them, but mostly keep your eye contact with the person they are speaking to. Contribute to the conversation.

    2. IndieGir*

      That’s never happened to me. If it did happen to me on a regular basis, I’d try to figure out if my conversation had gotten too chatty/social as opposed to business oriented. I’d make sure when talking to folks to ask them business rather than social questions as conversation starters. For example “Hey, what do you think of Chocolate Teapots Inc merging with Candy Castles?” as opposed to “Where are you from? Do you have any kids?”

      1. Jess*

        I’ve found the issue is usually at the prior step. Once I’m in a conversation I can handle myself just fine. It’s getting acknowledged as a potential conversation partner in the first place, especially when there are multiple people vying for the attention (which is the norm). I’ve found I just can’t get people to listen and pay attention long enough to realize that I’m saying something about the field that’s worth interacting with. I don’t want to interrupt people, but conversations seem to flow smoothly from one male peer to another, while I have trouble getting acknowledged.

        I don’t typically have this problem with other women, and I have heard from other women in my own field that they have the same issue.

        1. Jess*

          So, for example, I’ve had cases where I say “Hey what about chocolate swirl teapots? I think there’s a really big untapped market out there!” and the conversation just sort of moves past me. Then 5min later someone else will say “Maybe we should consider chocolate swirl teapots!” and people start discussing it – but with no memory that I ever said anything about it

          1. IndieGir*

            Sorry, I just overlapped you in responding see below for some thoughts.

            For your example, oooh, I’ve had that happen in the past too, mostly when I was younger. Drove me nuts! I’d suggest the following. Start by not trying to change the flow of the conversation but by just getting into the flow of it first. It’s very hard to change the flow even if you are already a respected member of the group, and it sounds like perhaps these folks all already know each other or at least each other’s reputations. Again, ask a question, but make it about the current topic. And ask a real question — the problem with your question above was that you weren’t really looking for their opinion on chocolate teapots, you just wanted that as a prelude to share your own thoughts. You’re not up to that part yet — you have to sync with the group before they will care at all about your thoughts (yes, this sucks, but is true). Try to mirror back to the speaker what they said, and then embellish on it. If you can insert yourself in the conversation this way, then you can try to change the direction.

            I’d also say, with this sort of thing you need a thick skin and to keep trying.

            Hope this helps, it may not work for you at all, but this is what has worked for me!

        2. IndieGir*

          Sounds like a combination of confidence issue and the quirks of your industry. I’m confident by nature (can’t really take any credit for it) and come from a family where interrupting/ overlapping speech is common so don’t mind butting in. And I have a thick skin, so if they ignore me at first I have no problem trying again. If the problem is that there are multiple people vying for attention in a group, I’d try finding another, smaller group and interject a knowledgeable question that is pertinent to what they are talking about. Because folks love to talk, and they love to be asked questions, and then you have inserted yourself.

          The other thing that may feel strange for you is that in some industries what you might consider a rude level of interruption is the minimum amount required to get any attention at all. My industry isn’t particularly male-dominated, but sales events are, and I find you have to make several attempts to get into the conversation. What would feel rude back at the office or at a real party is just SOP. Also, it helps to know people’s names, so you can turn to one of them and say “Wakeen, what did you think about . . . ” I find using someone’s name makes it harder for them to blow you off.

          1. Jess*

            I think…a lot of the trouble I’ve been having is that, when I try to act more confident and put myself out there more, I feel like people do react negatively. So if I repeat myself a couple of times, or talk over someone, I get reactions like I’m being rude. But I also see other people being listened to when they talk over me, or I don’t get listened to if I don’t repeat myself.

            I really love my field, but this stuff tears at my confidence sometimes. If I’m doing something wrong I can’t for the life of me figure out what. It often seems like I’m punished or ignored for acting the same way my male colleagues act. I’d love to be able to roll out of bed, throw on some slacks and a rumpled shirt, and show up and have people pay attention to me!

            1. Laura2*

              I know exactly what you mean. I haven’t had this happen at networking events, but I have in the workplace, especially in meetings. It seems like it’s fine for men to act confident (to the point of being a-holes), but if I speak louder to counteract someone talking over me, I either get ignored or they act like I’m being exceptionally rude.

              I don’t think it’s a matter of not acting confident – you are probably doing that just fine. I think that the confidence excuse is used too often to explain away people’s behavior toward women.

            2. IndieGir*

              Are there other women in your group who seem to have an easier time with this? Maybe they might have suggestions.

            3. TL*

              There are a lot of studies out there basically saying that what you’re experiencing is true: Women are socially punished for acting like men but punished in the workplace for acting like women.

              Continue with the confidence and be listened to – it’s probably more important for people to think that you’re a knowledgeable person. You’re not being rude if everyone else is doing it and being forgiven.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      Is “SO” Staff Officer or Significant Other?

      I’ve had both. My favorite story of being mistaken for a significant other – I’m a civilian but I deployed to Iraq with the military. I flew on the same flights over with them, etc, but I wear civilian clothes, so it’s reasonably confusing for people. But when I got to the airport (BWI) to depart, the USO ladies were there to greet all the soldiers, and they kept trying to helpfully pull me out of line and ask me things like “where’s your husband, sweetie?” They meant well, it was just an unusual situation.

      1. Jess*

        Significant Other. I’m in a field where the most generous estimates say 30% women. So I do understand – but at the same time it can get frustrating after a while when you feel like you have to put out a lot more effort just to be taken seriously, whereas a lot of guys seem to get a pass for not having social skills that they really should have.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Oh yeah. I’m so used to that stuff I hardly notice it anymore. That and things like the guys expecting me to make coffee, take notes, things like that. I definitely stand my ground (politely) and invite them to all share in those great opportunities.

    4. Anonsie*

      Usually the opposite, actually. When I go to my partner’s company events people always ask me who I work with and if I met him before or after I started working there.

    5. MaryMary*

      Hate to ask, but how are you dressing? It could be that your attire is a little too casual or relaxed. For example, I wear a lot of dresses to the office, but if I’m at a conference or in front of a client I’ll wear a blazer and a more structured dress. Think about your accessories too. Your hair, bag, or shoes might appear more SO than successful professional.

      1. Jess*

        If anything, I’m one of the most formal ones there. Plus this is an area where people don’t really “dress up” normally. So at a business event your average man is wearing khaki pants and a polo shirt, or at most slacks and a button-down shirt. Whereas I’m wearing black pencil or a-line skirts, heels or nice flats, and conservative tops, and carrying a messenger bag. The only thing I’ve noticed is that my appearance is more feminine than many – skirts instead of pants, heels, long hair put up instead a super-short cut, light makeup, etc. None of it is out of line for conservative business attire, but it is definitely women’s business attire instead of more unisex styles. I’d feel so bad ditching my skirts for pants and boy’s shoes though, especially that even on my casual time I’m much more comfortable in a skirt and some mary janes than jeans and sneakers.

        1. Jess*

          Side note: I also dress up more because if I shed the makeup and nice clothes I tend to be mistaken for a high school girl. Even with it I sometimes get asked if I’m on a school trip.

          1. MaryMary*

            Ugh, there is no good professional female equivalent of a polo and khakis (of course we could wear a polo shirt and khakis, but it looks more casual and isn’t flattering on a lot of women). I thought you might have been underdressed, but maybe you’re overdressed? Could you try a more casual skirt (khaki, corduroy, nice denim, or a cute print) and flats or your mary janes?

            1. Jess*

              Well, I kind of have a death wish against prints…but I get the point. I’m just not sure – part of my attachment is that I feel like casual skirts I look decent in are just really hard to find. They’re not fitted unless you go really short, and anything not fitted tends to look baggy on me. I just tend to have the issue that when I put on the more casual stuff I look and feel like I’m still in high school. So I try to go a bit more dressy rather than a bit more casual, without seeming too “girly” or “childish”.

              Side note: I hate how much women’s clothing changes by department. The only department I really fit into is juniors, unless I want to go super-expensive for petite 0’s. So my wardrobe tends to be somewhat informed by “what can I find that actually fits and doesn’t look like it was designed for 14 year old girls.”

  54. j_e_tothedouble_n*

    I recently had a job interview and it went very well, although very quickly (like 15 mins and we were done). I feel like he was impressed with me (or at least his facial expressions seemed impressed when he was writing down my answers). He told me he had “1 or 2 more people to meet with” and that he would let me know by this monday or tuesday. I did not bring up compensation (although the ad said full time at $12/hr, which is reasonable for the position I applied for) or benefits. If he does offer me the job, how do I ask about benefits? This job seems reasonable and it is located exactly in the right place I want to be in (job market and physical location to where I will be moving soon) but I cannot take the job if there isn’t some sort of health insurance. How do I ask about it without jeopardizing the offer?

    1. fposte*

      “Oh, that’s really exciting to hear! I enjoyed our interview a lot, and I can see this being a good fit. One thing we didn’t get to was pay and benefits–can you confirm that the position will pay the $12 per hour that the ad indicated, and can you give me an idea of what benefits the position offers?”

  55. pgh_adventurer*

    This week I found myself in 2 situations where getting bad news make me start to cry or almost start to cry. Once I start, I pretty much can’t speak–which means I lose the opportunity to ask questions/learn more important info/fight back as needed. What are some ways I can overcome those feelings long enough to say what I need to say, then go somewhere else and cry if I still need to?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Oh yeah, been there. I’m way emotional, and I work in man-land so that’s no good.

      Try mindfulness exercises to get it under control. Focus on where you’re feeling the feeling in your body (for me it’s usually around the top of my stomach), and just focus on that area while breathing deeply, and you’ll feel yourself start to relax. The important thing is breathing – you’re not able to speak because you’re not breathing. Breathe slowly, speak slowly, write down some notes if you need to.

    2. athek*

      I once heard that if you pinch in between your thumb and index finger, it will keep you from crying. Never tried it, but it might help.

    3. Anonymous*

      Give yourself permission to not have to handle the situation “perfectly” in the moment. I felt tears coming on once in a meeting and I said “I’m feeling a little overwhelmed and I’m going to excuse myself for a few minutes”. I went back to my office for about 5 minutes and then returned. Was it ideal? No, I wish I didn’t have to do that but my options were, start crying then and there or do what I did. I’ve done that 3-4 times over the past 10 years or so and I only had one boss who threw back in my face. Maybe if you could knwo that you had that option as an ‘out’ – to acknowledgeyou needed a few minutes, it would cause you less anxiety.

    4. Chrissi*

      Take the tip of your tongue and touch the top of your mouth as far back as you can. That helps keep your throat from closing up and staves off the tears. I used it once when I knew in advance I was going to get bad news and googled how to keep from crying. I still looked unhappy and probably on the verge of tears, but at least I could talk.

    5. Joey*

      Why is it so hard to take bad news? Are you not use to it? Is it particularly harsh? Is it because its coming from someone in particular?is it particularly ugly or mean spirited?

      I think trying to stop yourself from crying is sort of putting a band aid on it. I would try to understand and focus on why you’re taking it particularly hard? I’m guessing you don’t normally cry at bad news?

    6. Not So NewReader*

      This won’t help much now, but for the long run: Make sure you are drinking plenty of water and eating well.
      I have seen people go all day without eating and wonder why everything. is. so. freakin’. hard.
      In the winter it is easy to forget to hydrate, likewise, a body that is dehydrating is not able to support a brain and heart that is hearing bad news. Lips chapped? Hands dry? Increase your water in take.

      I know. It does not help much right now. Promise yourself you can cry later. Then do so. Don’t break a promise to yourself.
      I have been able to transfer some tears to later on because of actually following up with the promise to me. No magic bullets here though.
      I am sorry for your rush of bad news.

  56. Sharm*

    Does anyone have advice on what to do when you’re so bored out of your mind at work you want to cry?

    Lots of folks here talk about the crazy long hours they work and how they never have enough time. I’m lucky if I have two hours of work a day. This week, I have had NOTHING. I completed all my assigned tasks for the week in half a day on Monday.

    I mention to my boss almost weekly that I am at very low capacity. I’ve stopped doing that recently because I wonder if it makes me look bad. I will probably be advised to be more proactive – but it’s hard for me as I was hired to handle specific projects and none are going on right now. I’ve done all the documentation I can, I always offer to help members on my team. But I am going so crazy out of boredom.

    I obviously need a new job, but I can’t find anything good. And I’m very worried about the bandwith situation, as this is the second job in a row where I’ve had absolutely nothing to do. I guess at this point, it’s my fault, but how can companies be so off with their work allocation? Other people at my work seem busy, but I don’t know if they’re faking it. My manager is overwhelmed, but she has not delegated as much as she should. She’s well aware, but it’s a really slow process. Even during our “busiest” time when I was still learning, I was bored. My manager mentioned last week she was worried to hire me initially because she felt my capacity was much higher than the job. So it’s not just me.

    I just don’t know what to do. And how do I make sure I get enough work at the next company? Both of these boring jobs claimed they we’re fast-paced and full of work, but it wasn’t true at all.

    1. Sunflower*

      Hi are you me? Unfortunately I don’t have much advice since I’m in pretty much the same boat as you. If you’re looking for ways to kill time at work, I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn looking at industry discussions or networking opportunities. I also spend some time researching companies since it’s not really job searching…

      Maybe ask in your next job interview what a regular day looks like in that position. See if you can talk to someone else in that position and ask how they handle their work?

      1. Sharm*

        Sorry to hear about your situation! I read a lot of AAM and am constantly on LinkedIn too. I’ve even occasionally looked for jobs and am freaked my boss will find out.

        The problem is, I asked those questions about day-to-day work. They all said I’d have lots to do. It just flat out wasn’t true. I do think I’m more efficient than some of the peer employees, but I also think because I began my career in a truly overwhelming environment, this feels like child’s play.

        I guess I’ll have to bring it up to my manager in a, “I’m really concerned about this,” sort of way, but I just worry she’ll think I’m a slacker. I’m really not though! That’s kind of the point!

        I hope things turn up for you.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      A friend of mine was in this exact situation. The company was so out of whack. They claimed there was so much work to do, it was fast paced, etc. She spent many days trying to stretch her work out while the boss ran around like a chicken with her head cut off. Boss wouldn’t delegate anything and when she would try to show my friend how to do a task she would get called away and never come back. What’s funny (or sad?) is that the boss would frequently talk about needing to hire another person because there was so much work to do. My friend left after 7 months of practically begging for work to do.

      I think that if you’ve done what you can to stay busy and have volunteered yourself to help wherever needed and aren’t getting anywhere, it’s time to move on. Eventually you’ll feel rusty and out of practice, and that won’t be good for the next job.

      Maybe when you interview you need to really probe to see what info you can get about the job. Ask what a typical day looks like, what kinds of tasks you’d be doing, express your preference for a full plate. Good luck!

    3. cs*

      Try coming up with your own work projects. Have you noticed anything that could be done better/quicker or needs to be done that no one has gotten to yet? Is there something that you can do to make someone else’s work easier? Once you find something, let your supervisor know about it (just in case, it’s not something she wants you to do) but also so when she talks about your work to the reference checker in the future, she can speak about it.

    4. NG*

      Could you come up with your own work projects? Is there something that you noticed that could be done better/faster/etc.? Is there something that needs to be done but no one else has done it yet and they just haven’t gotten around to telling anyone about it? If you do find something, let your supervisor know (in case it’s not something she wants you to do). She would then also be able to vouch for the fact that you did it when you list it on your resume.

      1. NG*

        (I’m the same poster who made the other identical post. The first post looked like it wouldn’t go through after a couple of times so I tried a different name and it posted).

      2. AnonNE*

        Try this…we have people who are clearly “bored” at their desk, while a huge pile of filing sits next to them, the paper can be replaced in the fax/copy/printer, etc. Plus the work they are ask to take on, just never gets done.
        Maybe you are already proactively looking at things to do and the like. Twenty years ago I used to walk around asking for work, now I read AAM and can’t finish my work!

  57. a.n.o.n.*

    I’ve posted in the open threads for the past couple weeks about a issue I’m having.

    To make it (somewhat) short: I was in one job for almost 20 years (jill-of-all-trades, so to speak). That job ended late last year. Company A wanted me, but I decided it wasn’t what I wanted to do. Company A contacted me in December about a different job. I emailed them twice, didn’t hear anything. I took some time for me (weight loss surgery, gall bladder surgery) and started job hunting in earnest in January. Thought I figured out what I wanted to pursue (made pros/cons list, thought about what I really liked/disliked about Old Job) so that’s the kind of job I looked for. Interview with Company B for the job I thought I wanted. Day before I get an offer, A calls me up about that other job. I say no, I want to pursue B. Well, I’m in B now and want out desperately. Decided it’s not what I want to do and didn’t realize it until I was actually in it and doing it. Even though I did it for many years, don’t want to do it anymore. Got advice from many friends and family, even former boss/CEO, and they said go for A. Even talked with the psychologist that evaluated me for my weight loss surgery. She said B is kind of like a rebound relationship, I was in one place for so many years that I chose the “safe” job. So I’ve emailed A to say I want the job if it’s still open, that A will help me grow more, I want to contribute to the mission, etc. (made no mention of my colossal “mistake”) and am waiting to hear back.

    So my question is for any managers out there. If this happened to you, would you see the person as a total flake and be leary of hiring her, or would you be understanding and give her a chance?

    1. Lily in NYC*

      This is a tough one. I think it really depends on the personalities of the people at Company A doing the hiring and the type of position. It also depends on how far along in the hiring process you were with them and if you left them in a lurch. I would probably not hire you if the position was not a difficult one to fill – but I would definitely think about it if it was a niche-type position or if I already knew you and liked you. I think the issue here is that you blew them off twice and they might feel it’s a risk to hire you. good luck!

      1. a.n.o.n.*

        To give you a little background, Company A is very small company like the once I was at for many years. The first position has been filled, which is good; it wasn’t a fit for me and I told them that. The second position is newly created and in the initial thought process, not advertised, and the CEO was going by the glowing, awesome reference provided by my former CEO (they’re friendly too). No application process or anything like that and no real backlog of work. It would be pretty specialized, from the sound of it. High level projects affecting all areas of the company. I think he would have a tough time finding someone for this position that doesn’t cost him 6 figures.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Oh, that doesn’t sound bad at all! I wouldn’t have a problem with you if I were in their shoes. I hope it works out and that you find something you enjoy.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah, this actually sounds pretty good for you. Keep going.
          Remember to give a thinking person’s answer to their questions.
          (You have written the answers right here. You are thinking this through and it shows.)

          1. a.n.o.n.*

            Thanks. That actually means a lot to me for you to say that. I’ve been feeling like a crazy person (even now, a little bit).

    2. fposte*

      Did you by any chance just post this to the Carolyn Hax chat today? Because that would be some amazing crossing of the streams.

      1. a.n.o.n.*

        No, I didn’t. I maxed out my articles for the month on the Washington Post site so I can’t get any further than the Advice home page. I’ll have to go check it when I get home.

  58. How do currently employed people find time to post here so often?!*

    I have always wondered about this. I have a relatively low responsibility job when compared to a lot of folks here, but I am still always missing out on participating in interesting AAM discussions because I simply don’t have time to keep up! Others, though, (including managers and senior level people) seem to be able to participate in the discussions in real-time, for multiple posts a day. How is this possible?! I am not in any way implying that anyone here is slacking on their jobs. I am really just curious!

    1. Just a Reader*

      Sometimes I get lucky and take a little break to check AAM right as things blow up.

      Sometimes I miss the whole thing.

    2. De Minimis*

      My work is such that I don’t have to be constantly busy and can take breaks from tasks. I have a couple of deadlines each month but everything else is just kind of intermittent. I feel like as long as I am making progress each day and completing the urgent daily stuff [requisitions to be signed, etc] it’s okay to check out AAM or whatever else.

    3. IndieGir*

      Some of us have spent the entire week in meetings, worked late every night, and generally kicked ass all week and now find a little goofing off helps to recharge the batteries and gets us ready to do battle with the forces of evil all over again next week.

      Also, we’re on our lunch break and eating at our desk!

      1. fposte*

        Lunch break, waiting for return emails, working long slow day rather than short tight one, breaking up intense-focus tasks, etc.

    4. Jen RO*

      I’ve never had a job that needed me to be 100% focused for 8 hours a day. There’s always time to hit refresh on AAM and comment, and none of my managers have cared that I’m on surfing/instant messaging, as long as my tasks are done on time. And if it turns out I spent too much time on AAM and I’m behind… well, I’d rather stay late every day than try to work for 8 hours with no distractions.

      1. How do currently employed people find time to post here so often?!*

        “I’d rather stay late every day than try to work for 8 hours with no distractions.”

        I can understand that, although I’m the opposite. I like to go home exactly after 8 hours, so I feel like I have to condense as much work into those hours as I can before my time is up.

    5. Joey*

      I usually have a few minutes before a meeting starts, am walking between meetings, or just need to walk away from my work for a minute.

    6. Anonylicious*

      Some of us are still (!) waiting for all the account access needed to actually do anything at work. Right now I feel about as useful as bull’s bosoms and it’s driving me crazy.

    7. TL*

      Same as the others: Slow day doing paperwork or busy work or taking a break from a busy day.

      I work in a lab so I tend to either miss everything completely or catch it as its happening during a slow period (as I’m not at my computer when I’m doing my intense focus tasks.)

    8. Windchime*

      I sometimes have a few minutes at lunchtime to post. Normally I post in the evening. There are a lot of people who seem to be posting all day, and I’ve wondered about that, too. Most of them are probably better at task-switching than I am. I need to stay focused on work–if I start looking at AAM, then I’ll get sucked in and not get anything done!

  59. Just a Reader*

    I’d love to hear from working parents, particularly moms, how they found going back to work. I’m very career oriented and proud of my success, but I’m struggling with finding work/life balance. As in, there is none. Work is consuming me.

    Sometimes I feel like I kill it at work and suck at home. Sometimes I feel like I suck at both working and being a mother. Mostly I feel frustrated that I’m away from my baby so much and have to delegate important things to other people.

    Is this normal? She’s 7 months old and I’ve been back to work since she was 3 months.

    1. hilde*

      I am with you. My second daughter is 8 months old right now. I went back to work when she was 10 weeks old and did the same with my first daughter. I know what you mean about feeling like you suck at these various roles you’re now playing.

      I should preface this with I am not a hard charging careerwoman. I am in a very comfortable job doing what I love. I am an hourly worker and the nature of my job is very me-driven in terms of what to do. I don’t have phone calls, I don’t have meetings, I don’t have deadlines, really, other than when I have to be ready to teach a class. So I’m not pulled a bunch of directions at work, which helps. When I am out the door I rarely think of my job. There’s no advancement potential for me and I don’t care becuase I really just want to grow in place in what I’m doing. So my perspective is probably different from you in that way – my personal life will always be more important to me than my job (but the nature of my job allows that, which many don’t).

      But as far as just feeling like you’re away from your baby and that sucks? I understand. I sort of feel like work is consuming me in that it leaves so little time to do the basics of home life. I always feel like I’m rushing and frantic at home and there’s very little time to chill.

      I get supper ready during my lunch break and have just a few min each day to relax and gear up for the next thing. My baby still wakes up multiple times a night so I’m pretty much always tired and as soon as she’s in bed I go to bed. So admittedly I”m not one of those that will burn the midnight oil to get things done. I’d rather sleep.

      I do kind of sound lazy don’t I? hmm…

      1. Nonprofit Office Manager*

        “There’s no advancement potential for me and I don’t care …. my personal life will always be more important to me than my job”

        Ditto times a million! Early on in my career, I saw the sheer stamina that it takes to be a senior-level working mom and decided I had no interest in signing up for it. Personally, I don’t have it in me. A lot of women do, and I am in awe of them, but I know I’d become a blubbering, overwhelmed mess.

        1. hilde*

          Glad to know I’m not alone. And let me be clear that I don’t wish to many anyone that wants this feel bad. I think it’s wonderful and girl power and all of that. I am very content to be a low man on the totem pole because I actually derive a lot of power from the essense of my job (which is training) and don’t feel motivated to advance from that standpoint. I also teach supervisors how to be better supervisors (and was a sup for a while at one point) and it’s a lot of damn hard work.

          Sometimes, though, I see my friends taking on director positions and rising through their ranks at work and I start to feel like a loser. Like maybe I should want the same thing? But then I see the ass-pain that comes with being in those positions (more money = more expected of you) and it reaffirms my decision. I have always been a very achievement oriented person; I have some personal and professional accomplishments under my belt, but I seem to have settled into a place where I don’t feel like climbing anymore. But I sort of feel like society/my peer group assumes that I should want to. And that just makes me feel lame.

        2. TL*

          Early on in my career, I saw the sheer stamina that it takes to be a senior-level working mom and decided I had no interest in signing up for it.

          I hate that women still have to do this but men generally don’t. :(

    2. Pepper Pot*

      I have a 7 month old too, and like you, I went back to work when she was 3 months. I need to work for the income, but I also truly love my job, and I work for a wonderful company who did a lot to make my transition back as smooth as possible. All that said, this is the hardest thing I have ever done in. my. life. I race home to see her at the end of the day, and while I’m thankful for a great babysitter, I leave her there each morning feeling the pull that someone else is snuggling and playing with her while I’m at work.

      What gets me through is trying to do my best while I’m here to make her proud one day and to help provide for her, and leaving each day with things wrapped up so I don’t have to focus on work once I leave. Also, my babysitter sends me texts and pictures throughout the day so I am able to still feel like I’m part of my baby’s care. That and a good amount of sublingual B12 complex has really helped take the edge off some of the stress.

      Hang in there mama! What you’re feeling is totally normal and you’re sure not alone.

    3. AnonAdmin*

      Yes, what you’re experiencing is very normal. I have a 5 year old and the first year back at work especially was really hard. I’m a manager and have a stressful job; I also have ambitions and was in fact promoted twice since I had my son. I’m proud of my accomplishments and my career.

      The biggest thing that’s helped me is to try to be entirely present wherever I am. When I’m at work, I’m at work. When I’m at home and my son is awake, I’m at home (I may work at night after he goes to bed though).

      I also explain to my son that mommy has a job she has to do and sometimes that means I can’t spend as much time with him as we both might like. I also tell him that mommy would not be as much fun if she didn’t go to work and have grown-up time (which is true).

      I’d also say that I couldn’t do this without a supportive partner. My husband picks our son up if I can’t get to school on time; he pitches in at home; and he’s just generally engaged with our child. I recognize that sadly, this isn’t always true.

      The biggest thing I’d say is give yourself a break, and some time. You’re four months back to work and still figuring out how all of this is going to work.

  60. Elizabeth*

    I’ve been with my organization for 19 years, in various roles. In the chocolate teapot analogy, I’ve gone from being the person who takes the order for the teapot, to the one making sure the production line ran smoothly to the one who troubleshoots the breakdowns in the line and comes up with new ways to streamline production, as well as assuring that we meet all of the government regulations surrounding production. I’ve been lucky enough to have opportunities that make me fairly well known as a contributor in my field, and I have a lot of very specialized knowledge about it.

    Recently, the management position of our department came open. I am trying to decide if I should make the leap from individual contributor to management. I’ve had bad managers and I’ve had good managers, and I don’t want to be the person who never should have moved to management (I have had the misfortune of being managed by one of those before).

    Two things are holding me back. First, I have no management experience, and I don’t know if I would be any good at it. Our organization does not have the capacity to let me move back to an individual contributor role if we determine that management isn’t my forte, since I would immediately need to hire a replacement for my current role. Second, I have spent a long time acquiring the specialized knowledge and skills that I have, and I love my work. I wouldn’t be able to make use of most of that knowledge in a management role.

    If I don’t move to management, I have topped out. There is nothing higher than my current position in our organization if I don’t make that transition. I would have to leave our organization to move to a higher, non-management position, just as I would if I made the transition and then it didn’t work out.

    How do you know if you should make the transition from individual contributor to manager?

    1. Tris Prior*

      I would say, think about how you’d feel about handing off tasks you really like doing to your subordinates. That was the hardest part of becoming a manager for me – I couldn’t spend any time doing the parts of my job I liked to do. Instead, I was managing people, managing schedules, making sure people got their work done on time and correctly, and having to explain to them how to do the tasks I wanted to do myself.

      That sucked, but some people are OK with it. I wasn’t, because I hate delegating and I didn’t like being responsible for other people’s mistakes.

    2. Just a Reader*

      I’ve made the switch from IC to manager and back again.

      Whether you’ll like it really depends on what gets you charged up. If you like working with people, being part of a team, delegating and managing at a high level, if you can let go a little bit–management is a good path. If you like individual recognition and owning your own little fiefdom, are frequently glad things aren’t your job/problem and like working alone, probably not.

      I am an experienced manager but it didn’t come naturally to me and I didn’t really like developing people or being responsible for a whole team. It felt forced and burdensome. And you can’t be selfish as a manager (ie you can’t focus only on your career).

      However, I have friends who are very nurturing who are amazing managers, and they really enjoy it.

      Does this help a little>

    3. fposte*

      All of this post is about the TO and work trajectory–how do you feel about actual managing? You’ve read a lot about management here–can you picture yourself doing the work? Do you think you could leave satisfied at the end of a work day? Would you be okay with the rocky road of the learning curve for a while when you’ve been accustomed to excelling in a non-managerial job?

    4. The IT Manager*

      Hmmm … I am a person who seems to always think I would prefer individual contributor, but I have been forced to be a manager. I like it now, but still I wonder if I want to move up much more into positions of more responsibility.

      What I will say is that I am or have been trained to take charge. Do you ever take charge of projects or meetings that aren’t going well? Do you want to?

      I had that problem with my masters degree classes. I didn’t actually want to be project leader but no one else took charge. One time I tried to wait it out, but 2 weeks before the paper was due, I just had to do it or risk my grade along with there’s.

      So … something to think about.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      “Second, I have spent a long time acquiring the specialized knowledge and skills that I have, and I love my work. I wouldn’t be able to make use of most of that knowledge in a management role.”

      Of everything you said- I feel this is your biggest hurdle.
      Your choices are: keep doing what you love OR move to the unknown, called management.

      Are you ready to let go of what you love?
      Picture yourself at 65 retiring from this position. Do you feel that you have had the working experience you wanted for yourself OR are you disappointed that you did not push harder?

      From everything you have said here, you probably would be an excellent choice as a manager. You have experience. You admit you do not know how to manage so you will probably read up and beef up that area. (That is what a good manager does.)

      If you cannot commit to it, or if you have no desire, then your answer is no.
      But if you can say “I am going to make this work because I believe this is an opportunity.” Then go for it. (Realize that there will be days as a manager that you will be absolutely certain you made the biggest mistake of your life. Are you willing to put your teeth together and chug through it anyway?)

  61. Tris Prior*

    Just venting, because this is probably a “this is what the job is and you have to decide whether you’re OK with it or not” thing.

    At my job no one wants to work the weekend shifts, including me, but we are all required to take some each month. We submit our conflicts in advance and our bosses are good about honoring those conflicts.

    This week I found out that many of my co-workers are saying that they cannot work any weekends in a given month. I got somewhat screwed schedulewise because of this since, silly me, I submitted the dates I CANNOT work rather than the dates I don’t want to work.

    The bosses are pissed about this and told all of us this isn’t acceptable, but I’ve no idea whether there will be any real consequences. (when I told my mother about this she asked me, “how are these people not fired?” I have no idea.)

    In most of my jobs I have ended up being taken advantage of because of my work ethic and honesty. I thought this place would be different, and I’m getting better at advocating for myself. But now I almost feel like I should be like my co-workers and just refuse to do stuff I don’t want to do, since it’s clearly working for them!

    1. Sunflower*

      The consequence will probably be that they will randomly pick who has to work each weekend and then you can work out amongst yourselves if you want to switch. As long as YOU weren’t one of the people who requested off every weekend, you won’t get in any trouble.

      When I worked in retail, we had to write a letter as to why we couldn’t work. I thought it was dumb but it would make sense for things like this. Maybe ask your boss if there is a way you can do something like this?

      1. Tris Prior*

        I do sometimes state the reason why I cannot work the days I’m asking to have off. I probably should do that all the time. But I worry that it’s going to turn into a contest of who deserves the day off more (like that “Hunger Games” post here a while ago re the co-workers who had to agree on who had to give up their vacation day.)

        If it ends up being done by seniority, then I’m screwed. First come first served might work; I’m probably going to give my boss my schedule, as I know it so far, for the whole rest of the year just to see if that does any good.

        It just pisses me off that I’m trying to do the right thing and be flexible when, really? My life is totally not flexible. Every time the schedule comes out I have to rearrange stuff in my life to accommodate it, and I have obligations that my co-workers do not. But I still don’t ask for every weekend off because I know that’s not OK.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Let the bosses sort it out.
          The people who are playing the system will stand out like sore thumbs.
          In all likelihood, you will be in the middle or the low end of the problem.
          If it were me, I would just lay low. Wait and find out what they are going to do.
          The reason they have not fired everyone is because they cannot afford to. And they have to develop a plan that 1) works, 2) is enforceable and 3) that will be sustainable over time.
          They will be a minute developing that plan.
          It could work out that you are pleased because those who were not pulling their weight are now forced to do their share.

          If you are really beside yourself over this go and talk to the boss privately. “Boss, I hope you don’t feel that I am one of the ones who is playing the system, I intend to do my fair share.” See what s/he says. Do NOT mention anyone by name. Limit the conversation to your own status and your own work.

    2. athek*

      No real advice, just sharing that people complaining about working evenings or weekends when it’s clearly a part of the job description drives me crazy.
      I get it if you aren’t super in to it and do it anyway, but the people that whine and complain about it constantly just make me nuts.

    3. The IT Manager*

      What the bosses should do is schedule you for weekends you can work and for those that had no “available” weekends in a month just pick one for them to work.

      Those guys sound like jerks who are going to screw up the process that was accomidating to honest people.

    4. Rebe*

      Not sure how much power you have to change things but my company runs on rotations. Every employee is assigned a Saturday/Sunday number and the weeks rotate so everyone knows from the day they start until the day they leave what weekends they work. It is also made very clear that switching weeks is for the Very Rare and Very Important circumstance but since you know your weekend in advance, it’s easy to plan around it.

      For example, I work Saturdays of week 2 and Sundays of week 3 (those are days in the same weekend b/c weeks change on Sunday). The week number is on every schedule or calendar and I can plan for years knowing that every week 2 I work Saturday and every week 3 I work Sunday. Since every employee works a weekend, it really makes scheduling and planning time-off a breeze and relatively fair.

      1. Anon*

        +1. Standing rotations make things predictable and fair, and employees can arrange to swap or take paid leave if they need their usual weekend off.

  62. Morgan*

    In the post about Mrs. Stark, someone mentioned seeing honorifics in email signatures to signify gender. As someone with a gender neutral name, I have never done this, but should I? If yes, is there a different way of mentioning gender without honorifics?

    1. Evan*

      Here at Very Big Software Company, our email program pulls up photos from our profile, which solves that problem among several others. I know you probably can’t change that by yourself, but…

    2. Meow*

      If you belong to a single gender only organization you can list that. For example, “Member of Women’s Bar Association” of “Member of Knights of Columbus” if that would signify your gender but it would be odd to have that as part of your email sig unless you were an officer of said club.

      (I’m a new poster btw. If the sn Meow was previously taken, please let me know.)

  63. BG*

    I have been unemployed for a few weeks (got laid off) and I received a job offer yesterday… But it was significantly less than what I was making and a lateral move. I countered and they came up a bit, but we are still quite far apart.

    The job in itself wasn’t really what I want to do, but there was enough crossover for me to consider it… And it’s a job. I’m terrified of being unemployed, so I was scared of even thinking about turning it down, but overall it just doesn’t seem like a good fit for me long term.

    Am I crazy for wanting to pass? I have plenty of money saved, enough for well over 6 months of being unemployed. My fiancé & family think I should pass on it if I won’t be happy/enjoy the work. Thoughts? :/

    1. Eden*

      I don’t think you’re crazy. I turned down a similar job a few months ago (low pay and not a good long-term fit), and I’m so glad I did, because now I have one (and maybe two, finding out today!) offers to choose from, for positions I would enjoy much more.

      If you have only been out of work a few weeks, and have a financial cushion, and most importantly, are following the advice on this site, I don’t see the benefit in taking a job you will don’t really want, for pay you don’t really think is adequate.

      I’m going to vote with your friends and family. The risk seems worth the potential reward, to me.

    2. De Minimis*

      A few things to consider…

      Would it be hard to look for another job while you had this one?

      Did you have plenty of things to apply to over the past few weeks? Does it look like that’s something that would continue to be the case if you passed on this job? How is the overall job market where you live?

      Would taking this position be something you’d have to explain on your resume, assuming you ended up staying at it for a while?

    3. Lily in NYC*

      Follow your gut! If you got one job offer so quickly, there’s a good chance you will get others. I was in the same situation and simply took the first job offered because I was so scared not to be working – and boy, was that stupid. I should have realized that I have a good resume and references and could have waited for a better fit. I ignored red flags and ended up only making it 5 months at that awful place. You have a nice cushion, so it might make sense to hold out for something better.

    4. a.n.o.n.*

      As someone who went through this, listen to your gut. And your family. Money doesn’t seem to be an issue so go with your gut. I didn’t trust my gut and now I’m stuck in a job I’m not happy with and longing for the job offer I turned down. If it’s not a good fit now, it won’t be in 6 months or a year either. Don’t settle. Take this time to figure out what you want.

    1. Sharm*

      I have this question too! I wish I had skills in both of these areas, as well as SEO and analytics, but it seems like unless you’re running a real campaign, you can’t simulate the latter two.

    2. Leslie Yep*

      I’m self-taught in both though I do neither professionally. (I manage a few internal google sites and do some very very basic visual design on some of our internal communications but nothing major or high stakes.) I taught myself HTML, CSS, Photoshop, PSP, and GIMP, and didn’t find any of that particularly challenging, but I really don’t have much of a way to assess my work against best practices or industry standards, so while I can definitely really quickly code a basic webpage or create a nice-looking logo for our next conference, I’m only using my own visual standards.

      So I guess it depends on your purpose for learning! But I didn’t find literally figuring out the language/programs to be difficult at all.

      1. Leslie Yep*

        Oh, and tips. I guess this depends on how you learn, but I learn best by just tinkering around and seeing what works. What happens if I apply that filter or transform that vector? I learned a lot by looking at cool graphics or websites and trying to recreate them (obviously not publishing my results!), and learning as I go.

        In Chrome, at least, there’s the option when you right click to “inspect element” which will pull up the source code for that element of the site. It’s really illustrative if you see something neat and wonder how the heck they figured that out.

        I’m sure there are lots of comprehensive courses out there to learn top to bottom, but this is how I learned best. When I came across a feature I couldn’t replicate, I googled around or checked out tutorials until I understood how to do it. If you’re a more structured learner, that might not work for you.

      2. Elle D*

        I’m also self taught. I learned when I was a teenager by starting a (very poorly put together) fansite for a TV show I liked. I found various online resources with tutorials and tips for HTML, CSS and graphic design, signed up for free web hosting, downloaded a free trial of photoshop and created my masterpiece (ha!) through trial and error.

        My first efforts weren’t very good, but as I became more comfortable with the software and coding, my ugly little site improved. I then designed a few things (logos or basic websites) for family friends who ran small businesses with no marketing budgets. I was by no means a professional, so I took these types of assignments for free and viewed it as an opportunity to expand my skill set.

        If you don’t have the money or time to attend classes, I’d recommend trying to learn just like this! You can put in as much or as little effort as you have time for, and I really feel these are the types of skills that are best learned by doing. Today, basic web and graphic design are about 50% of my job. I would never apply for a job with “Web Designer” or “Graphic Designer” in the title, but I’m comfortable enough in these areas that I can take on marketing jobs that require these skills in addition to project management and strategy.

      3. Fiona*

        This mirrors my experience. I’ve been self-taught, quasi-professional for a number of years. I’m in my first formal graphic design class right now, and I had a major attack of nerves right before the semester started because OMG, what if it turns out I suck?! (I don’t, so far.) I’m also taking a web design class next semester.

        As for resources, is TOTALLY worth the $25/month if you can spare it. They have both inspirational and tutorial videos across dozens of subjects and softwares.

        The Adobe Classroom In a Book books are also very good and better for working at your own pace, rather than trying to replicate what’s happening in a tutorial video – pause, change screens, try something, flip back, rewind to find out why it didn’t work right, rinse, repeat.

    3. AVP*

      I think it’s easy enough to earn the technical skills but nigh-on-impossible to learn good taste and creativity unless you are born with the talent.

      Seconding, as well as the monthly Adobe Creative Suite subscription (much more reasonable than buying individual programs). Also, don’t hesitate to do the built-in tutorial projects when you get a new program. They might seem a little lame but you’ll learn a lot!

      1. smallbutmighty*

        I think this is what I’m up against.

        I’m in a knowledge management role that used to be almost entirely writing-focused. I was hired for the job specifically for my subject matter expertise and writing abilities.

        The job has become more and more about the look and feel of the site, rather than just the content. I’ve learned some basic HTML and web design, but the bottom line is I just don’t have creative instincts for visual stuff. My younger colleagues are passing me by in their ability to grasp these skills and engage with the work.

        As much as I love my team, I’m actually starting to look at other roles within my company, because I don’t think I’ll ever be sincerely interested in web design. Right now I’m focused on doing the job competently, but I totally lack the vision thing.

  64. Eden*

    Thanks to the advice on this site, I got a job offer Wednesday! Hurray! The only problem is, I have also been interviewing for another position, that I really want more than job #1.

    I asked to have until Monday to give job #1 an answer (they know I have been interviewing elsewhere), and that was granted. Job #2 knows they would have to give me at least a verbal commitment today. I hate that this puts #2 in a pressure situation!

    How do I pass the time while I wait? I have been pacing, staring psychopathically at my phone, and obsessively checking my email. As you might guess, none of these behaviors is bringing me peace.

    I know the world won’t end if job #2 won’t or can’t give me an answer/offer today. But the stress of being up in the air and the sense that the path of my next several years hangs in the balance is driving me crazy. Anyone have any advice?

    1. Sunflower*

      Congrats! That’s a awfully good predicament to be put in! But i get the anxiety.

      If you’re in the office- Get up and walk around or go talk to a co-worker about weekend plans.

      If you’re not in the office, go for a run or a walk or go visit someone at work. Or grab lunch with them.

    2. Eden*

      YEEEEEHAAAAAW I just got the call, I got the job I really wanted! oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy.

      But this means I have to make a very uncomfortable call to job #1. I feel bad that they invested so much time into interviewing me, only for me to flake on them. But I will be happier at #2.

      Thank you, AAM. I feel sure I wouldn’t be here without you!

      1. Sunflower*

        Wooooo! I was hoping you’d update on here!

        And yes, you are NOT flaking! Enjoy your new position!

      2. Laura*

        Congrats! You’re not flaking out at all on #1 – maybe their second choice desperately wanted job #1 and would be very happy there, and now that you turned down the offer they will get the opportunity.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I had to do this too; OkayJob didn’t hire me but wanted me to temp for them, and then I asked GoodJob for a timeline because I had another company interested and they got back to me with an offer. I called OkayJob back immediately and told them–I basically said I was happy they wanted me but I really needed to take the permanent job. They were fine with that. I’m sure they’ll be fine.

      4. AB Normal*

        So funny! I went through the exact same thing this very week, only the days were different.

        When I called my second choice to decline after getting a last minute offer from my first choice, they were surprised (because I didn’t even think my first choice would be able to match the timeline, I was surprised that the executives rescheduled their calendar so they can see me yesterday instead of next week, when I said I couldn’t wait any longer to provide an answer for the second choice).

        But they were also SUPER nice and told me that if I change my mind — even after starting working for my first choice, if it turns out not to be a good fit, to come back to them. And also to keep in touch regardless. So, I guess it pays off to be honest and respectful while trying to juggle two offers. Yay!

  65. Sadsack*


    I was just invited to my manager’s retirement lunch, which is scheduled for his last day in the office. I can’t wait to see him go, which would probably make you think that I am looking forward to the goodbye lunch, but I am not. I will go and smile and eat my food, but I can’t think of one single endearing thing about this man that wouldn’t be a lie if I am asked how I will miss working with him or anything like that. I will probably manage to come up with something nice to say if pressed, I just can’t imagine what right now. I think I will celebrate the day after he retires like it is a national holiday each year. This probably makes me sounds terrible, but it has been a difficult, frustrating time working with him for the last couple of years. I will be so relieved when he is gone.

      1. Sadsack*

        I considered that, but this luncheon includes many coworkers and our VP. I don’t want to look like a jerk. With my luck, I actually will be really sick that day!

    1. Elizabeth*

      “Congratulations! Enjoy your retirement!” and shake his hand.

      Don’t feel obligated to say anymore than that. Demure politely if asked to give a speech. Don’t burn bridges but don’t make anyone think that you’re going to be pining for his leadership.

      BTDT, with the director who gave me my first job in IT 16 years ago.

    2. Yup*

      “I can’t think of one single endearing thing about this man that wouldn’t be a lie”

      Yes you can — his departure! Feel free to say “It won’t be the same here without him.” You could probably even say it with a giant beaming smile and it would be mistaken for nostalgia.

      1. fposte*

        “Oh, if heaven is pleased when sinners cease to sin
        If the devil is pleased when another soul comes in
        If the earth is glad to be rid of a knave
        Then everybody’s happy when Bill’s in his grave.”
        –Mike Cross, “Bill’s in His Grave”

    3. 22dncr*

      Gads, I had this same problem one time. Just could not stand the guy, not one iota. Co-workers were forcing me to sign his goodbye card (whole other prob there) so I wrote: “May you have the luck you deserve.” I thought that was very low-key but the co-workers were appalled – can’t win.

    4. Mel V.*

      Congratulations! I fully sympathize.

      Yeah, go and make nice at the lunch. It’s the VERY LAST TIME you’ll ever have to put on a good face over his bullshit. I hope the food is delicious.

      1. Sunflower*

        I’m in 2 boats. I’d like to get something long term so I can get some more event planning/marketing experience.

        But I’d also like to do short-term volunteer work to meet some new people in my area. Like day-of type stuff- handing out flyers or whatever they need done the day of an event!

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Right, but what kind of places? Animal shelters, homeless shelters, Breast Cancer walks, etc? What interests you?

          1. Sunflower*

            I’m really interested in mental health awareness and working with athletes with disabilities. I’m in Philadelphia and haven’t found too much in either of those things

            1. CTO*

              How about the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania?

              For mental health, try either advocacy organizations or organizations that provide direct services (housing, employment, etc.) to those experiencing mental illness.

    1. Eden*

      My area has several volunteer opportunity websites where opportunities are posted. Only one site locally appears to actually keep them current though. But all have email addresses for the volunteer coordinators, so you can email them for more information and for whether the opportunities are still open.

    2. GeeGee*

      I’m in the Boston area and recently found this really cool volunteer org called BostonCares. They work with different volunteer organizations in the area and you get to sign up for volunteer opportunities with little commitment. Maybe there’s something similar in your area.

    3. pgh_adventurer*

      Do some research on causes you care about! For example, I like riding my bike and want safer streets, and the bike advocacy org in my city has a bunch of volunteer opportunities from events to tabling and stuffing envelopes. Maybe find a couple interesting orgs and see if they have opportunities like that?

    4. CTO*

      Former volunteer coordinator here. First, start with a basic idea of what kind of tasks you’d want, an ideal schedule, the kind of “cause” you want to be involved with, talents you may want to put to use, etc.

      It can definitely be great to start with short-term or one-time gigs, since that will give you a clearer idea of what you like and don’t like. See if a favorite organization of yours has events they need help with, look for a Meetup group, or see if your city has a group like One Brick to advertise these opportunities.

      You can also try searching websites like Volunteer Match or your local Points of Light Network affiliate. Another route is to think about causes or organizations you like, and then contact those organizations directly to ask about opportunities. Or ask your friends/family where they volunteer and if you could join them sometime.

      Another way to get involved is to join a service-oriented group that supports community organizations. I’m thinking of places like Exchange Club, Rotoract, young professionals’ groups (many organizations have one), a religious congregation, etc.

      I can tell you that different organizations place VASTLY different value on recruiting and supporting volunteers. Some have professional volunteer managers and a culture of volunteerism, while others don’t really use volunteers at all or have a part-time volunteer managing the volunteer program. Sometimes you’ll get a response to your inquiries, sometimes you won’t. Sometimes an organization will be really prepared to welcome you in, sometimes they won’t. So don’t give up if your first few inquiries don’t pan out. Keep trying contacting new places until you find one eager and able to involve you in their work.

  66. Anonicorn*

    For those in science-related fields:

    I am currently pursuing a second degree, and right now my major is biology. My future aspirations for this degree are genetics research and/or neuroscience. However, I’m thinking I might swap to biochemistry or chemistry. I enjoy the chemistry labs a ton more than the bio labs.

    Anyone with degrees in these fields care to weigh in? What part of your degree program was most helpful as far as your current careers? What do you enjoy most?

    1. Anonsie*

      I’m not a biologist or a geneticist or anything, I’m just tangentially related, but the biggest thing I can think of is to talk to people actually doing it professionally (not at a university, but in a commercial lab or a research institute or whathaveyou) about what they actually do, how they get their funding, how they got there. Shadowing is a good idea, though I’m not sure how many settings will allow it– teaching hospitals are sometimes very open with this.

      1. TL*

        Lots of people research professionally at universities. :)

        Most basic science research is done at universities and funded through the NIH and the NSF … Hospitals also tend towards lots of research, though they tend to have at least a graduate program going on, as well.

        Industry work is quite different, though.

        1. Anonsie*

          Ah that was a poor choice of words on my part. I meant talk to people outside the university as well, since there is variance based on the type of institution and that’s worth looking at, and I’m assuming she’s already talking to the folks in her department.

    2. Cath@VWXYNot?*

      Hi! BSc genetics, PhD molecular and cell biology, now working in genomics via some time in immunology.

      It depends on what kind of job you think you’ll be looking for after this degree. If you’re thinking of pursuing a Master’s or PhD then your choice now will be less binding, because it’s fairly common to move to a slightly different field (e.g. undergrad in genetics, PhD in biochem, or vice versa). If you’re thinking industry or e.g. a hospital lab kind of role, then you might want to a) be more specific and better aligned with the field you want to work in later, and b) look closely at where the demand is right now in your field and location.

      In either case, switching to biochem now probably won’t close off very many opportunities in genetics and neurosci at all, and vice versa. However, I have no idea how easy it would be to move into chemistry later with a biochem degree – you’d need to ask a chemist. In the other direction I know there are people who say it’s far easier to teach a chemist biology than vice versa, so it would probably be easier to find jobs on the biology side of things with a chemistry degree than it would be the other way around. For example (NB I grew up in the UK where we specialise very early, choosing only three subjects for the final two years of high school at the time – it’s five subjects now), high school specialisation in biology wasn’t necessary when going into my genetics degree, but chemistry was an absolute requirement. The same was true for biochem / mol biol / microbiol / physiology.

      Hope that helps!

      1. Anonicorn*

        Thank you. Yes, that’s very helpful info, particularly about the comparative ease of teaching biology to a chemist. Having taken some of my chemistry classes before my bio classes, I can see how that might be true

    3. Jubilance*

      I have 2 degrees in chemistry & worked in labs. I really enjoyed research and figuring things out, having those eureka moments. What’s been most helpful to my career wasn’t the technical knowledge, but the high-level things I learned – how to solve problems, how to ask the right questions, being logical & analytical, etc.

      Keep mind that if you’re really interested in genetics or neuroscience, most chemistry labs won’t be in things your interested in. You’ll probably have more overlap in terms of what you like to do and what you’re interested in if you focus on the biochemistry side.

    4. TL*

      If it’s the straight lab work you enjoy most – what do you want to do with your degree(s)? If you’re looking at a Ph.D/tenure track, you’re going to spend a relatively little amount of time in the lab (and, I assume, if you want to get into higher level work in an industry setting).

      If you want to stay in the labs – lab manager/tech/mid-level industry, than if you love chem lab work more than bio lab work, you might want to look at chemistry.

      Keep in mind, though, that teaching labs are much different than actually working in the lab so I would reserve judgment if that’s what you’re basing your experiments on.

  67. smallbutmighty*

    So I’ve spent most of the past week sitting on a panel for panel interviews for a social media role at my company, and I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts and observations with those of you who are going through the interview process.

    –We really wanted to like everyone with whom we spoke. Before the candidate arrived, we talked over their resumes, and the focus was overwhelmingly on the positive. We also tried to make reasonable allowances for things we knew might work against specific candidates (e.g., youth, tangential rather than direct experience, lack of interview experience).

    –We had very positive impressions of some people we didn’t ultimately end up choosing. One guy in particular impressed us with his attitude, his work ethic, his intelligence, and his thoughfulness in answering questions. He just didn’t have some of the specific experience we needed. We discussed him extensively after the interview and decided to talk to another manager in our department about considering him for a role that was open there.

    –Because of the way the interviews are scored, we had to ding some people for things we wished we didn’t. On reflection, we determined that one of the questions we’d written should have been more clearly written, but to keep things fair, we had to keep using that question with the other candidates. There was an answer we were looking for that we really only got from one candidate. It bummed me out to know that good people were getting dinged for a process-related issue that was entirely our fault.

    –Please, if you take away anything from this novel I’ve written, listen to the questions before answering! Ask to have them repeated if necessary, or ask for clarification if you’re unsure what’s being asked. I can’t tell you how many times we had to say, “Yeah, it was great information he gave us, and I liked what he said a lot, but it didn’t really answer the question.”

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Oh yeah. This. I had one interview where the questions were unlikely to happen. (What would you do if an earthquake hit here while you were working? When we do not have many quakes in this region, sigh.)

      I answered as best as I could. Then I said “Have I covered what you are looking for in this question? I can expand my answer, if need be.”

      I did not get the job- but the interviewer seemed pleased with my answers and spent a lot of time talking to me. I found it interesting that he was pleased I thought to check in regarding my answers.

  68. hilde*

    Babies & allergies.

    Did anyone’s kid ever have an allergy when they were under a year old? Our doctor thought my 8-month old might have allergies, but he said that allergy testing at this age is unproductive (and I had read that in a different article before he told me that). He gave us a nasal spray for allergies and said to manage it for now that way. When I initially brought her in for a cough and runny nose he asked if we have cats (which we do). Then pointed out that the dark circles under her eyes look typical of a kid with allergies.

    So….it sounds like there’s really no specific resolution I’ll get right now but wondered if this situation happened to anyone else?

    I am nursing her, but I don’t drink milk or eat large amounts of dairy so I feel comfortable ruling out that cause. I am thinking it could be environmental or to the cats (the sneezing, and constant runny nose started when she started to be on the floor and putting everything in her mouth….she was probably swallowing a cats’ worth of hair and dander every day. Gross.).

    1. Stephanie*

      Your kid might outgrow his allergy, actually. And it could be something environmental.

      Actually, allergy testing isn’t even that useful for adults always. I developed an allergy to cocoa power (or something in it) at 18. I went to my doctor to ask about allergy testing and he was like “Why? You eat chocolate, you get hives and swollen lips. Why pay an allergist $1000 to tell you the specific component?”

      1. hilde*

        Stephanie – ha! That sounds like my doctor–pretty down to earth. I remember a time I told him it hurt when I moved my arm a certain way. He said – “don’t move it that way.” Duh. What I wanted to know was WHY?!

        Good point on outgrowing allergies. I’ve just done some very basic reading about symptoms of allergies and it occurred to me that I may have had allergies as a kid. I have memories of and photographs prove it that I had a constant runny nose. The allergy kind of runny nose (thin & watery). Most photos of me as a kid show a permanent red rash beneath my nose from wiping my sleeve on it so much. It actually reminds me of my daughter and how she’s just always congested sounding. We never had cats, though.

        So if it’s environmental all I can think of is animal dander–what else? It’s the dead of winter so I can’t think it would be pollen?

        But your cocoa powder thing – that’s crazy. I have a friend that has been learing about her gluten issues and did some holistic allergy testing and found out she’s allergic to TONS of crap. Vinegar and vanilla are two that I can remember. It’s overwhelming for me to think about trying to pinpoint it through elimination diets or changing the environment. Maybe there’s no point – just manage the symptoms and hope it goes away with age?

        thanks for the info!

        1. hilde*

          I’m sorry for the random jumps in thought. My mind just doesn’t function linearly very well but it’s particularly bad in this post.

        2. Stephanie*

          Probably best you can do for now is to manage the symptoms. I started having hive outbreaks randomly once and went to a doctor. She said it was probably environmental and allergy testing/elimination diets would drive me nuts (as there was the possibility I still might not be able to pinpoint the cause). I went on antihistamines for a bit and that cleared things up.

          I had a constant runny nose growing up too. We bought my mattress used. Our family got a lab mix puppy–labs love to chew anything and everything, especially as puppies. The dog got to the mattress covering and chewed it off. My mom was livid until she realized the mattress was moldy (the top covering had been hiding that). After that, my runny nose cleared up.

          Re: the cocoa, it was WEIRD. I ate chocolate ice cream one day and my lips suddenly swelled to like three times their size. I didn’t think anything of it until I had hot chocolate and the same thing happened. It’s random, but I’d prefer an easily avoidable allergen like that versus something like gluten.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        No advice, just a amusing story: when I was a kid, the doctor said I was allergic to cats. My siblings were quite clear about the solution — either I got over it, or they’d get rid of me. Fortunately it was a mild allergy, because both I and the cats got to stay in the family.

    2. EAA*

      While probably not dairy don’t automatically assume not based on your limited amounts. Wife of man I worked with couldn’t eat any dairy when breast feeding as her child was highly allergic. But this would be an issue very early on. Does sound most likely cats or dust/dirt on the floor.
      The most important thing is to keep on top of the symptoms. All 3 of my children have allergies. Two came in the form of coughing at night. One now has asthma. Coughing at night can be an early sigh of asthma. This child while not having any major symptoms has reactions to unexpected things. Most normal is seafood, strangest is mustard. Mustard shows up in all sorts of things. Also plants in the same family. As a child she was eating red hots and touched her face and it looked like she had been slapped.

    3. 22dncr*

      This was me as a child – the under eye circles are called “Allergic shiners”. You can see them in my photos. I had asthma (the coughing kind that sounds like whooping cough) and allergies to pet dander, dust and chocolate. My mother had to wash my whole room every week – curtains, bedspread, pillows – everything. I out grew it when I turned 10, thank goodness, because it about killed me not being able to have any animals in the house. Still don’t really like chocolate. Back in those pre-historic days there were little to no meds to help – you just had to suffer. I did try one syrup that I hated. When I had Galliano liqueur for the first time I about gaged – it was the same flavor!

  69. Returning To College*

    So I’ve been wondering about this for awhile, but have been a bit embarrassed to solicit advice about it.

    I completed 3 years at a prestigious and well known university in, but ended up dropping out due to personal issues/family deaths that ended up with me being diagnosed with depression. I should have just taken a leave of absence, but I keep trying to keep up with my work, but at that point I couldn’t even read my books, let alone write essays to complete my classes. I ended up going home and got a job at another university, where I have the option to finish my degree through their extension school. Would it be worth it? Or should I try to go back to my school and finish my degree there? Any idea how to even go about this? I’m really embarrassed about this situation and don’t really know who I can ask.

    1. Stephanie*

      Hmmm, would tuition at the extension school be covered under your benefit?

      It might look a bit better if you finished where you matriculated, but I know there might be costs associated with relocating and tuition.

      1. Returning To College*

        I leave near by old school so travelling costs isn’t a problem. Its more I don’t even know if my old school would let me back in to finish my last year. And classes through my extension school would be very inexpensive thanks to benefits. I’m just worried about whether it would be worth more long term to go back to my old prestigious school (if they will let me) or to have my degree finished but with “extension studies” attached to my resume forever.

        1. Stephanie*

          Can’t hurt to ask your old university about its readmission policies. My alma mater usually let people back in. If the original withdrawal was for medical reasons, you had to prove that you were medically fit to reenter.

          Unsure about how “extension studies” would be viewed. My buddy who’s an alumna of an Ivy League school said their extension school was viewed as a joke. But then, this is the view from the students. An employer may not care.

        2. Brett*

          “Its more I don’t even know if my old school would let me back in to finish my last year.”
          Ask. In particular, ask professors you know from your old department. If this is a prestigious private school, professors can often get the rules bent for you. Really, they are probably sad that you dropped out and would love to help you finish.

          Another extremely good resource can be the department secretary, especially if they were the secretary while you were there. They will have a good idea of the best people in the department to help you (whether it is the department head, a program director, one of your previous professors, etc.)

          There is no shame or embarrassment in asking!

        3. fposte*

          I think you should contact somebody in the dean of students office at your old school and talk to them. They hear stuff like this all the time, and they’re often pretty delighted to be able to have somebody come back and finish (it does look good for the school, after all). Then at least you’ll have a clearer idea of what the choices really are.

    2. Brett*

      Very similar thing happened to me. I got as far as my BS thesis at a prestigious university before my finances fell apart and my school work rapidly followed. My depression diagnosis came later, but had really been around for years.

      I did try to go back to school at my old school and finish my degree, and it was a disaster for me because my depression was still untreated and my finances were still very unstable. But… everyone in my program was extremely supportive and understanding and really wanted me to finish. There is nothing to be embarrassed about.

      I later transferred to a state school and flourished there. If you can make it through 3 years at a prestigious school, odds are you can be an undergrad rock star at a less competitive school. Finish the degree was completely worth it. It led to me changing fields, going to grad school, and finding a career I enjoy. (And the program head at my old school made me an honorary alum just to show me how proud they were that I recovered and finished my degree.)

      If you are allowed to transfer and finish your degree through the main undergrad college instead of the extension school, that might be the better route for you. (Sometimes university employees cannot do this though.) I assume your depression is under control at this point? That is the most important thing to deal with before returning and the reason why my attempt to return to school did not work.

    3. ya*

      No advice except don’t be embarrassed! Lots of people take longer than the “traditional” 4 years to complete their degree, take breaks, transfer, take extension courses, etc. It’s really not something to be ashamed of!

      I would check with the extension school that you’ll actually be able to complete your degree through them. I would also check with your original school about residency requirements (how many of your last credits have to be non-transferred courses to be awarded a degree). It might be possible to take half of your remaining classes through the extension and the last half at your original school, which could save you some money.

      Whether it’s worth it or not depends on your career goals, how much bandwidth you have to take on the extra work, and your finances, but I don’t think there is anything inherently “not worth it” about extension school/non-traditional path to graduation.

      Good luck!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, really. Took me 20 years to get my degree. Life kept getting in the way. I think employers notice that you bothered to finish what you started.

    4. Mel V.*

      Withdrawing for medical reasons is actually pretty common. Please don’t let embarrassment stop you from getting your degree. I promise no-one else will be as bothered by it as you are.