returning to work after 10 years as a “kept woman,” should I let my manager know about my crippling anxiety, and more

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

1. Should I let my manager know about my crippling anxiety?

Over the past two or three years, I seem to have developed a crippling case of social anxiety in certain work situations (namely, talking in meetings) to the point where if I’m asked to share an update with the group or even introduce myself, I have a panic attack, start trembling, quite literally can’t speak, etc. I’m mid-level career-wise and am not sure why this has started (other than some traumatic experiences in a past position at another company), but it’s becoming a real problem. I’m afraid I won’t be able to advance my career if I can’t talk in meetings, give presentations, etc. So far I have done a fairly good job covering it up (saying I had to go to the bathroom when really I was hyperventilating outside the suite) but know I can’t keep this up.

In addition to wondering if you or anyone has any advice on overcoming this, I also have been wondering if this is something I should share with my manager. On one hand, it might give him insight to what’s going on with me in these situations. But on the other, I’m afraid I’ll be marked, intentionally or not, as someone who can’t handle the stress of more responsibility, a promotion, etc. I know I’m great at what I do but am afraid I’m going to sabotage myself.

Get professional help with this, ASAP. It’s likely to make a huge difference, and if you do it quickly enough, you may be able to side-step the whole question of whether you need to talk to your manager about it or not.

As for the question of whether you should tell your manager what’s going on or not, it depends on (a) whether he’s noticing that something’s going on and (b) what he’s like. If he’s not noticing — and thus doesn’t need an explanation — I probably wouldn’t. There’s just too much potential for it proving to be career-limiting, without enough reason to take that risk. But if he is noticing, and he’s a generally kind person, it’s not crazy to let him know that you’re dealing with some anxiety issues that came up suddenly and that you’re actively working to resolve. But seriously, get yourself to a therapist immediately — as in, stop reading and go set up an appointment right now — because it will make a big difference in your quality of life.

2. Returning to work after 10 years as a “kept woman”

I was unemployed for the past 10 years. I was someone’s “kept woman.” I considered myself a leisure domestic manager with a comfortable monthly allowance from my man. To be honest, I do not feel that I have been missing out on anything from the corporate world at all. Three months ago, I made the critical decision to leave my “husband” for good. I found a decent apartment, moved out of our luxurious house, and returned all his credit cards.

Now I wonder how should I explain my ridiculous unemployment gap to future employers. I have a degree in Tourism Management and worked for 10 years before resigning for my man. I do hope people will be less judgmental, though I am not looking for sympathy. My most immediate task is to find employment to sustain basic living. I am very prepared to take on entry level jobs. Grateful for assistance you can offer.

Well, I wouldn’t go into details with employers about the nature of the relationship; it’s irrelevant, and it’s going to make many people uncomfortable. But you’re basically in the same situation as women who stop working during a marriage and then want to return to work later, and your best bet is probably to frame it that way — that you took time away from work to manage a household but now are ready to return. The bigger issue is going to be competing with candidates who have recent experience, when you don’t — so this advice for stay-at-home moms returning to the workforce might help.

(And for the record, this is why I worry about anyone dropping out of the workforce who might later need to return to it — it is much harder to do later on than if you have a record of steady employment.)

3. My cover letter said I’d follow up in a week, but they don’t want follow-ups

I recently applied for a position with a nonprofit. I submitted my application to a generic email address ( In my cover letter I said that I would contact them the following week to request an interview. However, on the website for the company they have posted the following message: “Due to the volume of applications received, we regret that we are not able to respond to individual inquiries regarding application status. Only candidates selected for an interview will be contacted. No phone calls please.”

Is it sill appropriate for me to send a follow-up email requesting an interview? I don’t want to pester or annoy a potential employer. However, I also don’t want it seem that I cannot take initiative or follow up when I say that I will do. What are your thoughts on this issue? Should I follow up and request an interview?

Nope. You applied, so they know that you’re interested and would like an interview; that’s what applying communicates. You should stop writing in your cover letter that you’ll contact them in a week about an interview, because that is annoying and unnecessary. If you absolutely must follow up because you can’t stand the thought of saying you’ll do that and then not doing it (although I’d guess that 85% of the people who use that line in their cover letters don’t actually follow up), then you can send one low-key email … but only if you promise to strike that line from your cover letter hereafter.

4. Prospective clients are asking for my resume

I’ve recently been hired by a facility within a university to provide a technical service on a fee-for-service basis. I’ve been emailing clients of the facility to let them know we’re offering this new service and ask if they’d like to meet to discuss their needs. Twice now, I’ve had clients who are happy to meet with me but would like me to send them my CV. Does this seem odd to you? It seems like a weird way for them to operate. I’m not applying for jobs in their labs; I’ve got one here.

It’s not unusual to want to know the background of someone you’re considering contracting with to do work. They want to use your background to assess whether you’re a credible person to offer the service you’re offering, at the fee you’re requesting.

5. Interviewing when obviously pregnant

I’ve recently been laid off by my current employer – leaving me in search of new employment. The kicker is I’m six months pregnant. I’ve read some articles on how to address this issue and I’ve found conflicting answers.

Obviously, if a woman was early in her pregnancy it’s not as much as an issue, but for someone in my situation, it’s a lot harder to hide and the issue of maternity leave poses a threat. I know legally the employer cannot ask about it during the interview or deny you the position because of pregnancy – even though I suspect that might happen in some situation. So how does a potential employee bring it up in the interview? I want to ensure the company that I’m upfront and honest and not hiding anything.

If they’re going to realize you’re pregnant whether you mention it or not, you might as well raise it and address the questions that are likely on their mind — when will be out and for how long? They’re unlikely to ask those questions themselves since they can’t legally consider your answers, but will certainly appreciate hearing your answers. So you might say something like, “As you can probably tell, I’m pregnant. I’m due in June, and plan to take three months off then, but I plan to do X, Y, and Z to mitigate the impact of that.”

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 242 comments… read them below }

  1. KarenT*

    It’s not unusual they’d ask to see your resume, but if you’re reluctant to share it you can head it off in the future by providing an introduction in your initial email. Think about it from their perspective –even though you’re employed by the university they don’t know anything about you. And since your service will be charged to them, they are hiring you in a sense, and want to see why you’re qualified.
    In your initial email add a few lines like, “I’ve worked been in the chocolate teapot design industry for 15 years. Most recently I was head of design at Teapots inc. Before that I was employed at Teapots Ltd where I spearheaded new teapot manufacturing processes. I attended the University of X, where I majored in chocolate.”
    It helps people see your qualifications and get to know you without you having to provide a resume.

    1. Anon1*

      I think the CV request is an academia issue. If I’m hiring a contractor, I do want to know your background to make sure you can provide the service. The academia version could be a CV vs a private sector asking for references or examples of previous work.

      1. Harriet*

        I’m in academia and we need to have a copy of a contractor’s CV on file for various things – we have to be able to provide them if we were audited for some services we provide, for example.

      2. Chinook*

        And request for a resume from a potential contractor is also common in my field of oil & gas. We want to ensure that the project manager and key employees have the correct experience and training. We also go as far as requiring certificates to prove individual credentials/training.

      3. Ethyl*

        I don’t know. When I worked in environmental consulting it was standard practice to append the resumes of the project team to all proposals. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking for a resume from a consultant or contractor prior to engaging them for work.

      4. Abby*

        My consulting experience is the same as Ethyl’s. It was standard practice to include the resumes of all key staff members when submitting proposals. However, we did not use our “job searching” resumes. Instead, we created corporate resumes so all were consistent in terms of format and type of information. Perhaps you can prepare a “corporate” version of your own resume to include with your emails to clients.

        1. Ethyl*

          Oh right — we did that too. It had a lot of the same information but was more “PR-y” than what a hiring manager would look for, and were formatting consistently etc.

  2. Artemesia*

    Alison said it of course, but calling to request an interview is poison. Nothing is as annoying as an ‘initiative taking’ applicant who ignores the fact that the employer, not the applicant, gets to decide if they are worth interviewing. I can remember vividly a candidate for a job I was hiring for who pretty much put the nail in any interest we might have by hassling the secretary for an interview. (we had 200 applicants and eventually did 6 phone screens, followed by two on site day long interviews and hired one of those candidates.) After we didn’t go forward with him, we then got letters demanding why, since he was so well qualified, he wasn’t at least interviewed. (oh let me count the ways)

    It is one thing to follow up AFTER an interview when you can reasonable expect responsiveness — one way or the other. Before an interview, when they have made clear what their procedures are — NO.

    #4 — if they are asking for your CV then you may not have provided them with adequate information about your qualifications and the service you are providing for that fee. Why would anyone use this ‘service’ without knowing its value? I am getting a whiff of nutrition coach here. You do need to make the case; do you really ‘have a job’ if no one is persuaded to avail themselves of the ‘service.’

    1. Anonymous*

      Not quite sure it’s “poison” in the sense that it means you won’t get an interview if you’re otherwise the very strong.

      The candidate you mention sounds like she/he was bad and the request was a final problem.

      But it’s generally useless. I’m hiring right now and a few people tried to talk to me. I simply told them we’d contact them if we wanted to interview them.

      1. Artemesia*

        Actually Mr. Annoying passed the first two screens; he was in the final pool of 10. This was not the only thing that didn’t send him forward — his bizzaro Email handle was a flag, and we had one iffy bit of feedback from someone we knew in the company who had worked with him — but he was well enough qualified that he might have advanced to interview stage if we hadn’t seen a personality that didn’t bode well for the future.

    2. Graciosa*

      Requesting an interview may possibly not be fatal if you’re an unusually strong candidate, but it would definitely be damaging.

      It shows a lack of understanding of the hiring process (ignorance – possibly survivable) but can also show a lack of respect for that process and for my time (definitely negative). Why should I have to tell you not to follow up in order to get you to understand that I will review your application and make my own assessment of its merits? Depending upon how it’s done, “following up” can also show extraordinary arrogance (potentially fatal).

      The applicant hasn’t seen the pool and has no way of knowing how he or she compares to the rest of the candidates. Even solid candidates don’t always make the cut for interviews. If you’re already convinced that you’re a special snowflake before even interviewing, what kind of a pain will you be on the job?

      I understand that some people do this out of ignorance – or really bad coaching in aggressive sales tactics – and don’t realize what kind of an impression they are creating. OP#3, take Alison’s advice and don’t be one of them.

      1. Fiona*

        Well said.

        Also, your perceived “taking initiative” will be more than offset by “inability to follow instructions.”

    3. Canadamber*

      I know a girl – I used to be friends with her but she’s toxic so I’ve distanced myself from her lately – who did just the same thing as what you mention up here!!! I got a job at this one store because my best friend’s mom was the cash manager, so she interviewed me and then hired me on the spot. :) I told this OTHER girl that they were hiring, and she had an interview, but ultimately wasn’t chosen. She decided to apply again a few months later but, from what I heard through my best friend, called and called and CALLED asking her for an interview until my manager finally just threw her resume in the trash. Calling does NOT work!

  3. Jessie*

    #5 – I have a friend who was recently laid off at 6 months pregnant. Not fun. Not fair. I really feel bad for my friend and your situation.

    I’d definitely mention it at the interview. Sometimes employers take FOREVER to make hiring decisions, and these things can drag out for 3 months or longer until an offer is even made. So you are giving yourself time, really. Also, sometimes when people interview and accept jobs, they want start dates one month out as well to have a bit of a break.

    Most importantly, please focus on yourself to keep your stress at bay. Best of luck with your pregnancy!

  4. Minnow*

    OP#1, Alison’s advice is spot-on. Unfortunately there is still a lot of stigma and misinformation surrounding mental illness and it’s a lot safer not to bring it up unless it’s notably impacting your work and/or you require accommodations. If you do feel like it’s something you need to bring up I would make sure that you frame the conversation around what you are doing to address the issue which should help mitigate any concerns about your ability to function in the workplace. I’ve dealt with anxiety as well and therapy has helped immensely. Best of luck to you OP.

    1. abankyteller*

      Agreed with all of this. In a perfect world there wouldn’t be so much of a stigma and it wouldn’t be so much of an issue, but we don’t live in that world.

      I really hope the OP gets themselves some help.

      1. Sara M*

        OP, definitely get therapy as soon as you can. You might be amazed at what a good therapist can do.

        Anxiety has a physical cause. You might (under supervision and advice from your doctor and/or therapist) get a prescription for use in such situations, to bring the physical reaction under control so you can safely do the mental work you need to stabilize. Your doctor or therapist may prescribe something like Ativan or Xanax for occasional use. I use the former and a friend uses the latter; both have found them very helpful for “emergency calming”.

      2. Anon1*

        In terms of telling your manager, depends if they’ve made reference to your lack of speaking up in meetings. If they have say you are addressing it. If they are truly open (proven from your experience) you can get into what you are doing to deal with it. Mid career, definitely deal with it. Meetings aren’t going to disagree as much as many people would like them to.

    2. Anon for this one*

      OP: Get help, get help, get help. Both because it might help you manage the problem, and also because it can help you frame the conversation with your boss. Your manager is likely to react better if you can show him that you’re working on improving the situation as well as asking for his help in managing around it.

      1. MissD*

        Agree with everyone here that you need to seek help ASAP for the anxiety. I’m sure it will help you immensely with the panic attacks and what you’re experiencing right now.

        As you get better: If you still find you have trouble with public speaking or giving presentations, I would also recommend joining a group like Toastmasters where you can practice the art in a safe and nonjudgmental environment and gain confidence.

        1. OP #1*

          Wow, Alison and everyone who commented, thanks so much for the kind comments. I feel sorta dumb that I didn’t think I needed to go to a therapist about this but I will, I really will. I also won’t mention it to the boss until I absolutely have to — and hopefully that will be never if therapy works. I’ve been in therapy in the past, too, for depression issues in my 20s, so I’m not really sure why I have been so hesitant to do it again. Perhaps because that is admitting that there is a problem (uh, and hyperventilating hasn’t been a clue?!)

          I have thought about Toastmasters too … I’ll really work on doing both. Thanks again for the kindness everyone.

          1. Meg*

            Don’t feel dumb. It’s easy enough to fall into the trap of “well it’s not a REAL problem”, especially if you’ve gone to your PCP before and had them brush it off as nothing (which happened to me). Finding a good therapist that you trust can be life-changing, and I’m with everyone else that it’s probably the first step you should take.

          2. anon this time*

            I was in the exact same situation recently. I suddenly had panic attacks before work presentations when I never had problems with anxiety before.

            I treated it like a health emergency and went to my doctor right away. He recommended cognitive behavioural therapy which was covered (anonymously) through my work EAP.

            The CBT really worked because the therapist gave me practical tricks for when I felt a panic attack coming on (like yawning and stretching to trick the body/mind into thinking it’s calm). I’ve also been taking Effexor for anxiety. Things are a lot better now and I’m so glad I acted so fast.

            1. EE*

              Effexor worked like a dream for me with work-related anxiety. It was like a blanket between me and the panic.

          3. The Other Katie*

            Don’t feel dumb at all. Sometimes it takes an objective observer to see what we really need. I recently had a similar issue with panic attacks, and it wasn’t until I was telling my best friend about it that she strongly encouraged me to see a therapist, and that therapist helped me immensely.

          4. the invisible one*

            Keep in mind that if you’re having panic attacks in meetings, you probably want to get that under control before joining Toastmasters.

            I don’t have panic attacks in meetings, only a fear of public speaking, but I nearly had a panic attack in my first (and so far only) Toastmasters meeting.

      2. Artemesia*

        I’d also frame is more like ‘phobia about public speaking that I am working with a therapist to overcome’ and not ‘crippling anxiety’. The first sounds like a common quirk; the second like a basket case. Framing is everything here. If no one has said anything, or seemed to take notice, then get therapy and begin to work on asserting yourself in meetings as part of that therapy and with the support of your therapist. She can give you assignments to try this out.

    3. Laura*

      I know that therapy and medication have both immensely helped my sister deal with her major anxiety issues, and I hope that the OP is able to get equally good help. I think when talking about anything your manager might perceive as a problem , it makes it easier if you come prepared to also tell them how you hope to address it. If the manager has noticed, it’s probably better to tell them, but due to unfortunate stigma and misinformation not teling them yet is something to consider

    4. Midge*

      If your manager is reasonable, I say bring it up and here’s why: your manager has probably already noticed something is up. I know you say you’ve done a good job covering up your anxiety attacks, but it can be hard to be objective about one’s own behavior. If I had an employee who suddenly had to go to the bathroom every time I asked her to talk, I would suspect something was going on. Probably that she was unprepared. But maybe your manager has already picked up on your nerves.

      I’m sure you can find something to say that gets the message across without giving too much detail. For example, “I’ve been having trouble speaking to groups lately” vs. “I’ve developed crippling social anxiety”. And continuing on the assumption your boss is reasonable, she can probably help you make some accommodations while you’re getting help, like you giving her updates so that she can update the group.

      Best of luck dealing with this, OP!

  5. abankyteller*

    5. I interviewed at 5 months pregnant, didn’t mention the pregnancy, and by the time they let me train and start working I was visibly showing. It was awkward. I found advice later on that said to not mention it during an interview but do mention it when you are offered the job.

    I understand you are probably self-conscious of your growing belly, but you might not look as pregnant as you think. My belly is larger now than it was for the majority of my pregnancies and it’s been a while since I gave birth. Lots of women carry some extra weight in the middle.

  6. Anon*

    To #1, there are medications that can help enormously with anxiety (xanax and klonopin are two) and they work quickly. You may want to ask your doctor about them. There is really no meed for you to suffer the way you have been – I’ve been there and 1/2 a xanax made the difference for me between feeling so terrified that I was unable to function, and feeling like my normal not-anxious self. My anxiety developed over months as a result of an extremely abusive boss and I wish I had known earlier what a help the medication can be. If taken in low doses or only occasionally there is little risk of addiction or bad side effects. I am wishing you well.

    1. In progress*

      Just as another perspective, I have general anxiety (and PTSD) as part of my disability. Doctors have refused to give me anxiety meds because they’re worried about dependence in the long term and possible interference with another medication I’m taking. I find it really frustrating that I’m given not given that option because I desperately want fast relief sometimes. I do encourage the poster to see if they can get medication, but there are options if they can’t. There might be ways to bring unobtrusive self-care items into the workplace.

    2. RB*

      My son suffered through this. He got on low dose meds and went to a therapist that provided cognitive therapy and self management tools. He hasn’t had an episode in over 2 years now.

      Get some help, OP. This is treatable and will make a huge difference. Good luck!

    3. fposte*

      Also, there are some decent free online cognitive behavioral programs for anxiety (CBT being the therapy that seems to work best for this kind of thing). If you Google “online cbt for anxiety” you get several hits–the one I know of is‎

      A lot of people like Claire Weekes’ books, too.

    4. L McD*

      Agreed. If medication is an option, it’s a great way to deal with the immediate issue. Studies have shown that therapy can just just as effective as medication at treating anxiety, but it takes longer.

      For the long-term, I definitely recommend talk therapy and something like yoga and/or meditation. The breathing techniques I’ve learned in yoga are extremely helpful in dealing with my anxiety, and my overall stress level is much lower. Stress and anxiety can be devastating on your body, so don’t ignore that aspect of it. Any kind of exercise can be hugely beneficial to your mental health, allowing you to “switch off” for a period of time. But something like yoga will have more guided meditation and breathing etc. So it could be very helpful.

      Also seconding toastmasters or something similar, if that would help with your issue. I’m getting the sense this isn’t really about anxiety with public speaking so much as anxiety surrounding specific work situations, especially since it just cropped up recently – so maybe it makes sense for you, and maybe it doesn’t. But it’s an option out there if you want to try and get more comfortable with speaking to groups, once you’ve started treatment for the underlying anxiety.

      1. fposte*

        I’d also like to dispel the myth that medication is “just masking the problem.” I’ve had a flying phobia for years, and medication has actually reduced the phobia overall, because the brain doesn’t keep reinforcing the panic mode and the behavior therefore weakens.

        1. Kathryn T.*

          Yeah, this. I was having panic attacks once or twice a week for a while — I got a prescription of extremely low-dose xanax to help manage them, and they almost immediately dropped to a frequency of more like once a month, just because once I knew I had a way out, they didn’t spiral up so badly in intensity.

          1. lifes a beach*

            +1000. The best thing I ever learned about my panic attacks is the “no one has ever died from a panic attack”, it just feels like you will. Once I learned to recongnize the onset, I practiced controlling my breathing and self calming. I also had a prescription for low dose Xanax, and after a while learned that I did not have to take it all the time.

  7. Ali*

    I have never heard of the situation in No. 2, but I do know someone who hasn’t had a job in 13 years so she could be a stay at home mom. She went through a very bad divorce and is now having trouble getting any kind of work. She has done a lot of volunteering and has her MPA, but it hasn’t been enough. When I posted that I was seeking a job in another industry, she said good luck b/c she’s been trying to do the same thing and can’t get a position anywhere. I thanked her for the support but in the back of my head I was thinking how hard it was to take advice from someone who hasn’t had a job in so long. I do wish her well, but I also know it’s a heck of an uphill battle for her.

    1. Zillah*

      Yeah, this is why I’d be really leery of leaving the work force for an extended period of time, whatever the reason. Even if you’re mostly at home, it seems to me that at least trying to have a consistent part-time job could be really helpful later on.

      Not that that helps the OP now, of course. Good luck!

      1. Rayner*

        Unfortunately, for many families, it’s just not possible to have both parents out of work due to needing to provide child care, etc. A woman’s dollar is usually worth less than a man’s in the world of work so if the family has to choose, it’s her job that goes first so she can stay home full time to support the family.

        It’s sad, and it would be best to have a part time job but it’s ridiculously difficult to manage sometimes.

        1. NK*

          Sort of a tangent, but I went to a talk for women in business where the speaker said that it was a mistake for women (or men, I suppose) to take the cost of child care, subtract it from their salary, and assume the balance is the net value of the woman continuing to work. Because even if it zeroes out, by staying in the workforce, you are building your skills and experience, and thus increasing your future earning potential. You don’t get that when you leave.

          *Obligatory disclaimer: this is not about women who choose to stay at home because they want to – that’s a whole different decision set. But for those who would prefer to work but don’t feel they can financially justify it, it’s good to think about it this way – the long term financial value of staying in the workforce.

          1. some1*

            Totally. You won’t be paying child care forever, and you may have more trouble than you think getting back into the workforce. Not to mention, even if child care is taking a sizable chunk of your salary, you can still contribute to SS and a retirement fund.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes, this is a huge point that women/families often miss when they’re figuring out how to handle this stuff. Even if you’re just breaking even (between your income and the cost of of child care), you’ll usually come out far ahead in the long-run by continuing to work, because of the impact on your career later if you drop out now.

            1. Dan*

              Which also means that even if child care costs more than once spouse is bringing home, it actually makes sense for that spouse to continue working, even if it appears that they could “save money” if that one stayed home.

              The problem with being a math major is that I know how to run numbers… and there’s far more numbers in most “life” equations than people want to think about. But because certain ones are harder to measure, they get ignored.

              We’ve covered the costs of being a stay home parent pretty well here: The immediate wage loss, the lack of “value building”, not putting money away for retirement, and for that matter, the “cost” of re-entering the work force with outdated skills.

              Another one that comes up often is: “I can get a ‘raise’ by taking a job further away.” Few people take into account that the tax man is going to grab almost 1/3 of that raise, the opportunity cost of the commute time, and the increased commuting cost, both in terms of gas increased service intervals, and even replacing the darn thing.

              Home ownership vs rent is another favorite: You can’t just look at mortgage vs rent and compare the difference. There’s other things like property taxes and maintenance expenses that are very real.

              Bottom line is that people tend to consider only the costs that they can easily measure, when all of those other expenses are very real, just a bit more stealthy.

              1. AnotherAlison*

                “Home ownership vs rent is another favorite. . .”

                And don’t forget risk! No one ever talks about risk. A home without equity is just renting with debt. . .and risk.

              2. Emily K*

                I’ve unfortunately seen some of my young friends make that mistake, rushing into home ownership because they got a good deal on the mortgage and the first-time homebuyers tax credit made the downpayment doable.

                Then a couple years later, suddenly the water heater or the furnace breaks and they have a $2500 deductible to meet on their homeowners insurance and they have to dip into emergency savings.

                1. Artemesia*

                  homeowners insurance doesn’t pay for furnaces and water heaters (although it will pay for flood damage from broken water heaters.)

          3. Dan*

            While this goes hand in hand, it’s a slightly different point: When we look at aggregate income studies that compare a woman’s dollar to a man’s dollar (stealing from Rayner’s terminology), one of the reasons the wealth gap exists is women tend to be the first ones to stay home with the kids.

            If I’ve been at my career for ten years, and I work with a would-be parent for the first five, and then s/he drops out of work for the next five to stay home with the kids, it makes no sense that s/he would be able to come back with half of the experience that I have but make the same amount of money. Also consider that that experience is pretty out of date, so there’s a huge uphill battle of getting back in the work force.

            Not to mention that nobody has an f’ing clue what the economy is going to be like when mom/dad try to re-enter the workforce in a couple of years.

            1. Jamie*

              I’m glad you made this point. So many people reference the wage gap without taking the variables into account and it’s a huge pet peeve of mine.

              I’m not saying Rayner was doing that – but the reference to a woman’s dollar being less…you have to account for the number of women who do take years away and the fact that women as a group tend to go into lower paying fields in greater numbers.

              It’s not a matter of an employer noticing the lipstick and lowering the offer. It’s often a sum of life choices (field, time away) which would impact men as well if they made the same choices in the same numbers.

              I made the choice to stay home with my kids for 15 years and I know that will impact my earning potential for the rest of my career. But I don’t think that’s unfair – all choices have consequences, good and/or bad.

              1. De (Germany)*

                “…you have to account for the number of women who do take years away and the fact that women as a group tend to go into lower paying fields in greater numbers. ”

                I think we also need to not just dismiss that as “well, women earn less because they choose to work less and work at jobs that get less pay per hour”. We need to ask “why do women proportionally choose these careers more often” and “why do these careers that women choose more often pay less than those that men choose”.

                It’s just as simple to just say “oh well, women just make the life choices that lead to this” when an interesting question is “well, why do they do that?” Why are nurses paid less than male-dominated professions with equal requirements in education and physical labor and value to society?

                I found this an interesting blog article on that: (it’s not worded neutrally or objectively, but the spirit is interesting)

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Absolutely. That said, though, people talking about the wage gap often (not always) talk about it as if women simply get paid less than a man doing exactly the same job. While that’s sometimes true, it’s far more often true that the gap results from women making different choices (like taking time off for child care, picking different fields to begin with, not negotiating, etc.). It’s still worth exploring questions like why it is that women pick those lower-paying fields and why those fields are lower-paying to begin with, but sometimes discussions of the wage gap imply that women are just paid less for the same work, period, which is misleading in many (not all) cases.

                2. Schnauz*

                  Another interesting facet, to me anyway, is this idea that women are choosing – implying that they’re unilaterally making this decision. I have known a few women who certainly made it seem like they chose to stay home with their kids without regard to their husbands’ opinions on it, but I don’t think that is the norm. At least amongst couples, this is a joint decision but the consequences are assumed almost entirely by the partner who stays home. Which I find frustrating when so much of the “blame” that people sling ends up on the women for making choices, as if they are making them alone.

                3. Jamie*

                  I agree that the questions about why women disproportionately care for their families at the expense of their careers as compared to men as well as why some careers tend to have much lower salaries despite the training needed and value to society are important.

                  As a society we need to look at those issues.

                  My quibble with the article is I think she’s drawing the same kind of over-arching comparisons she’s complaining about.

                  Comparing the value of engineering vs social work to society would be a very complex undertaking. It’s not as simple as people vs science and engineering does lead to a lot of benefits to society as a whole and individuals.

                  And whether or not engineers are paid too much or social workers too little it’s still about choices. You can’t have come of age in this generation or the last and not know that choosing a career in social work will net you less money than other more lucrative professions. That’s true for men or women, so if the argument that more women go into social work then it’s still a choice that’s being made where the financial consequences are clear from the outset.

                  Not to mention the fact that there are far fewer opportunities for social work positions in the private for profit sector where salaries can skew higher. An engineer can work for the government, a non-profit, or private industry far more easily. I know she was going for a stark comparison to make her point, but it’s would have been more balanced to choose two professions with more equal fluidity between sectors.

                  I found the nursing vs. jobs requiring equal education and physical labor interesting…but I don’t know what jobs she’s using in comparison. Nursing is also somewhat unique in the professions where easier than in most to work part time or unconventional schedules – which will draw those who need that kind of flexibility.

                  And I’m using consequence in a neutral sense – every choice has it’s own set of outcomes. And while the big picture of why some important jobs are paid far less is important for us to look at – the reality is that some are and those who choose to go into those fields have that information when making their decisions.

                  But I don’t think it’s sexist or using “bogus statistical arguments” to point out that the wage gap doesn’t exist in a vacuum and choices to take time away from the work force, require more rigid schedules/lack of availability to travel due to child care, and choice of fields are factors which needs to be addressed as well as the bias and discrimination.

                  In a perfect world everyone would make the decisions which are best for themselves and their families without societal pressures and the market for different jobs would be correlated to their value. But we still need to make our choices based on what is and not what we would like it to be and that does play a role into the wage gap. We can’t have a discussion about that or the societal issues which may be contributing without being willing to look at all the variables objectively.

                4. Jamie*

                  Which I find frustrating when so much of the “blame” that people sling ends up on the women for making choices, as if they are making them alone.

                  Who is blaming women for choices?

                  Parents should decide together how to care for their children. If someone will stay home who that will be is a choice they need to make together with all the data. There is no blame involved.

                  Whomever stays home will have some career ramifications, but they will also presumably have some benefit to their family which is important enough to them to willingly make the trade-off. If there was no benefit to their household they wouldn’t do it. Unfortunately most of those benefits are impossible to quantity and compare against the hard numbers of loss of income over time.

                5. Dan*

                  Not sure where to stick this in the very nested thread, but the WaPo just did an article about a study from a female Harvard economics professor examining why females tend to drop out of economics programs at the BS level.

                  She looked at the various grades males and females got in Econ 101 classes, and how they correlated with students who chose to major in the subject. She found that no matter what grades the guys got, they didn’t influence their decision to continue in the major. But for the girls, there was a very well behaved curve that as the grades started to slip (starting at the A-/B+ level) there was an increasing likelihood that the women would drop out of economics.

                  There was also some discussion (IIRC) that “soft” science major tend to graduate students with a full half-point GPA higher than STEM majors.

                  As an aside, one of my old female college friends is an OBGYN. I met her in engineering school freshman year, when she decided to be a doctor. So she switched to something (I think philosophy) where the grading was easier so her grades would look better for med school applications.

                6. Schnauz*

                  That’s why I put “blame” in quotations, it’s not always a blame game but it IS disproportionately assigned to the women (historically women, but whomever stays home) even though the couple made the decision.

                  I was trying to be brief, but I’ll expand. I see a distinct lack of compassion for the predicament many women find themselves in. Yes, there are great rewards and benefits for families if a spouse can stay home. However, there are great risks for that spouse too – difficulty finding a job when they return, decreased earnings (typically), lack of respect for what they do, more vulnderable if they divorce or the spouse dies, etc. There are also consequences to women in general, this enduring discrimination that hiring women, especially married women, means a gap in their career at some point to have kids. And not just at their own urging – all of this is also at the urging of their husbands, parents, etc who encourage people to stay home regardless of the documented consequences.

                  I’m not trying to say that someone who is absent from the workforce for 5 years should be treated the same as someone who stayed in. I’m not trying to argue that they don’t lose skills, likely don’t maintain current trends, etc. I’m saying – why isn’t more done to help those people who want keep a hand in? Why aren’t professional organizations brainstorming this problem and offering ways for engineers and scientists and teachers, etc to not lose so much when they stay home?

                7. Schnauz*

                  @ Dan –

                  One of my cousins, male, used to say “C’s get degrees”. LOL. He isn’t a doctor or engineer, but he does project management for construction projects. He’s very successful at what he does. He had a bit of a head start since members of his family are also successful at similar work, so his network for jobs was awesome, but he carries his own weight and does a great job. He’s also an awesome human being.

                  Anyway, your mention about the grades just really reminded me of him. :)

                8. Kay*

                  This is interesting. I’m always torn about this issue because on the one side, Alison is right that dropping out of the workforce is incredibly dangerous to your career, but on the other, it may not even be the wage vs. child care expense, but taking into account how important it is to be there for your child during their formative years. I don’t know that a monetary value can be put on those things. It’s sad that so many people have to choose between family and work.

              2. Sunflower*

                Studies have also shown that women 1. tend to negotiate less than men and 2. don’t ask for as much as men and that is a big contributor to the pay gap.

                1. aebhel*

                  Studies also show that women who ask for the same amount as men and in the same manner are less likely to get it, so.

            2. Elkay*

              I wish some of my previous colleagues would realise this and stop saying they’ve got five years of doing the job when they’ve actually got three years over a five year period.

            3. AnotherAlison*

              To everyone in this thread:
              I listened to an HBR podcast this weekend that discussed a new book by Wharton business professor – Baby Bust: New Choices for Men and Women in Work and Family.

              The book was based on research comparing surveys of Wharton graduating seniors in 2012 and 1992. Questions were about work and family expectations.

              I’m sure it’s all great info, but one thing that struck me in the podcast was that Friedman said 50% of moms of 2012 grads were full-time workers, while only 15% of moms of 1992 grads were full time workers.

              The 15% figure was shocking to me. Like, I quit running and replayed it. I was in high school in 1992, so I identify more with that group. My mom had worked full time since 1987. My aunt was divorced and worked full time. My other aunts were from poorer blue collar families and worked full time. I had no idea the figure was so low.

              Anyway, my point is with regard to career choices of young women, we forget that the history of women in full time positions is SO RECENT. We later gen-x folks barely saw our mothers working, never mind in professional, male-dominated roles. (I had a friend in college whose mom was one of the first female grads at University of Missouri Rolla (MS&T)).

              According to the Wharton data, the way women are going now isn’t to drop out of the workforce, it’s to drop out of the baby business. The young women seem to be too overly concerned about being perfect, like Dan mentioned above. They worry about messing up their careers or their kids, and pick the former. I worry about that too, so maybe they’re smarter than me. I do both and just have constant anxiety that I do neither well.

              Well, not sure I really had a point, but lots of thoughts on the whole topic. : )

              1. Dan*

                Kids aren’t just a sacrifice for females either. While we frame the discussion in terms of women giving up (or taking time out) from their careers to stay with the kids, the working spouse will still have to foot all of the bills.

                I have to be honest, my parents had two kids they couldn’t afford. They weren’t able to provide any assistance for college, and I did something stupid and borrowed a ton of money. Those student loans are going to be with me for a long time, and my thoughts are about paying them off and living a life I can afford to enjoy. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about “settling down” because when I do, all I think about is the expense that entails.

                1. AnotherAlison*

                  Oh absolutely. That was part of what the Wharton research showed. Men and women both had dropped significantly in whether they planned to have kids. Both were around 78% in 1992 down to 42% in 2012, but the reasons were different.

                  I am 35. I have 2 kids. We dumb-lucked our way into something that worked (no really, my oldes is 16). I graduated college debt free & my husband does not have a college degree. He is self-employed and makes good money with a flexible schedule, while I have a professional job in the engineering industry and make good money with good benefits. If I was to go back in time, I’d have done the same thing, but I probably would have put more parenting on him and more career advancement on me. I deliberately avoided heavy travel positions or relocations. I kind of think we ended up with that gray area the grads now want to avoid. Not enough to the career, not enough to the kids.

          4. Lalou*

            This is an interesting sort of tangent to me, NK. I am planning to have children at some point in the future and I have always wanted to stay at home and raise them (until they are at least of school age) for many reasons, including the high cost of childcare if I didn’t. I had never thought about how just the act of taking time out could significantly affect my career afterwards. Aaaand this is a problem for future me because this decision looks even scarier now.

            1. Zillah*

              There are ways to balance it, though! They’re not easy and also require trade-offs, but I do know people who have sort of done both.

              I have a good friend whose mother was essentially a stay-at-home mom for virtually his entire childhood, but who had only actually left the work force for a couple years; after that, she’d always worked part-time. When he and his brother were very young, that sometimes meant that she was only working one day a week, but she’d always explained it as wanting to keep one foot in the work force, even if she wasn’t making much money, so then she remained familiar with new research, technology, procedures, etc. As they got older, she worked more, but she was generally home before they got home from school. Now that they’re both grown up, I think she’s generally working 4 days a week (or something like that).

              She did choose a profession and career path that lent itself to that flexibility, but that was also a calculated choice on her part.

          5. Kat*

            Plus I find the idea that a woman’s work outside the house is only worth it if it brings in a certain amount of money a bit sexist. If working makes you happy and you want to do it, does that not have value in itself? Women shouldn’t be expected to stop their career just because they break even after child care costs. I understand of course that adjustments may be necessary, part time work for example, or a job that requires night or weekend work so the father can take care of the child. But I cringe at the thought of women taking 5 or more years off from working when in that time they would or could have received raises and promotions that would allow them to afford child care.

            1. Anon for this*

              I dread having to work this stuff out when I decide to have kids. From the brief conversations I’ve had with my SO, he’s firmly in the ‘it doesn’t make sense for women to work if their salary just breaks even with childcare costs’ camp. Well, why should childcare costs be deducted from my salary, not his? Why should I stay at home when he could, and his career would probably take less of a hit than mine? I should probably start laying the groundwork for these conversations now. But just thinking about it makes me ragey.

              1. Dan*

                As a freshly minted divorcee, I will tell you that you absolutely must work this out for yourself now. The choices you make now regarding careers and child care will affect you for the rest of your life.

                Do not commit yourself to anything until you’ve figured out for yourself what you are willing to live and not regret later.

                If he doesn’t seem to be as willing as you are to sacrifice for the relationship, think long and hard if he’s the guy for you.

    2. Jax*

      For #2, temp agencies are a great place to get back into the workforce, and many positions become temp to hire. It probably won’t be as prestigious as the job you left but it will get your feet wet.

      I started back after a 3 year absence (stay at home mom) with a temp agency for general office work. It took 5 years, but I’ve been able to climb to a career that I’m very proud of!

      1. some1*

        This is what I would suggest as an idea, but I don’t think temp agencies are the doors-opener right now than they are in a better economy. Temp agencies have a bigger pool of candidates right now, and companies don’t have as many full-time positions to offer someone when they can use a temp.

        1. Jamie*

          I agree – and it kills me because this was an awesome way to get in back in the day. I learned so much as a temp – it was like job shopping.

          But from everything I’ve heard the market isn’t what it was. Even inside companies, where once it was automatic to call temps to fill in now they just make due until the person comes back.

          I really wish this would take an upswing again, because it’s such an excellent way for those new to the workforce to gain experience and a reputation.

    3. Canadamber*

      Ugh, my mom’s having the same issue. She came to Canada with my dad when she was 22, I believe, and immediately started university while my dad took on multiple jobs (sometimes totalling 60-80 hours a week, from what I’ve heard!) to support them. I was born when my mom was 29, but she was working on her PhD then and soon dropped out of university in order to stay at home full time so that I wouldn’t have to be in daycare (I have two little sisters who followed shortly after as well). She got a job at the local library when I was 10 and really wants to move out of that now but with an almost useless degree in Psychology, it’s nearly impossible. :/ She doesn’t regret it but she’s applied to so. Many. Jobs over the past few months, and it really, really sucks. Granted, at least she has a job, but she wants something full-time, not part-time like she currently has (like 10-30 hours a week, and less lately).

  8. Seal*

    #1 – I have suffered from severe performance anxiety for years, ironically enough despite having an extensive background in music performance and improv. When I went to grad school and had to do presentations and later interviews, I realized I needed to get professional help if I ever wanted to get a job. I found a psychologist who prescribed Klonopin to be taken as needed for anxiety. The results were almost miraculous – rather than shaking so hard I could barely stand and losing my ability to speak, I could stand in front of an audience of strangers and give a good presentation. I still get nervous, but not incapacitated; I always make sure I’m prepared and try to leave nothing to chance. The downside is I always need to know in advance when I’m going to need to speak in public; if I’m ever called on to unexpectedly to speak at a meeting I tend to lose it. At some point I would prefer to not have to rely on drugs to speak in public, but until then this is what works for me. In fact, these days people are astonished when I tell them how hard public speaking is for me.

    Alison’s advice is spot-on as usual – get help for this, because help IS available and you’ll be amazed how much better you feel.

    1. MissD*

      Taking improv or acting classes would be a great idea too for public speaking and performance, and likely a bit more fun than Toastmasters if you’re inclined that way. I just immediately thought “Toastmasters” because I believe it to be more business-oriented.

      Anyone have any other good advice on public speaking help?

  9. Puffle*

    #1 without going into too much detail, a friend had similar issues about 18 months ago. He’s an experienced employee in a reasonably senior position, and suddenly he found going to work a source of immense anxiety (there were a few other issues as well, mostly related to social situations). Things started to get better for him when he began seeing a therapist, who also prescribed him medication. It wasn’t a quick or an easy recovery, but he’s feeling far less anxiety now, and he feels like he’s doing much better at work. I’m honestly not sure if he would have been able to carry on working without professional help, especially since his boss was far from the sympathetic type (and in fact drove several employees into therapy).

    Mental illness is hard to deal with, especially with the way that our society stigmatises it, but it doesn’t have to be the end of everything.

    1. OP #1*

      All I can figure is now that I’m slowly progressing in my career over the years to more and more responsibility, now I’m really concerned with how I come across and want to seem super smart and promotable … when I was 23 who cared if I even showed up, you know, but now I’m on the radar and having trouble with that. Thanks for sharing this with me.

  10. Anon*

    OP 1, I went through something similar last year and just wanted to give you cheer that not all places hold mental illness against you. In my case, I had no choice to disclose when I became unable to hide it from my employer.
    The most essential things for my employer(and I imagine any good boss) were:
    That I was taking action to address it, and
    agreement on reasonable modifications to any duties that were problematic with the illness (eg can you hold off on any presentations for a temporary period, or does being given extra time to prepare help, etc)
    Having an excellent track record in your career also made a huge difference – my boss didn’t hide the fact that they were willing to put in these temporary allowances in part due to the fact that they saw me as valuable.

    Finally, I don’t know if the US have similar resources (I’m from Australia), but I found these pages very helpful in preparing to talk to my boss (in particular see the ‘should you disclose’…)

    1. OP #1*

      I appreciate the advice to, if I have to disclose it, to show that I’m “taking steps to handle it” — I wouldn’t have thought of that, and it does make sense and sound more proactive. Thank you.

  11. Anonymous*

    #3, another reason you should remove that line from your cover letters is that it comes off a bit presumptuous. You’ve made your interest clear by applying, and this company will contact you if they’re interested- you don’t get to decide that for them. I don’t really see the value in following up this early in the process, as you haven’t really had any dialogue with the company. It’s different if you’re following up after an initial interview or phone screening, because you’ve established a relationship that extends beyond your application.

  12. Cheryl*

    #1 I second the option of getting a therapist to help you through this and I would also mention doing EMDR therapy, after a couple of sessions; it will take the edge off the anxiety while at work. Then through therapy or medication or a combination of, you can work through whatever has caused the issue.

  13. Elkay*

    #4 this is perfectly normal in lots of sectors. My other half has to keep an up to date CV for his company to send out when tendering for work, my previous boss had to do the same when we went for new contracts. It’s a quick way of saying “Here’s who we’ve got to offer you”.

  14. Someone Else Today*

    I’d be interested to know if it is harder for a man who has been out of the workforce for a similar period, for similar reasons. Specifically, retrenched from work, stay at home parent when kids were small while wife worked (better job, higher income), missed the wave when kids went to school. No recent volunteering, no skills upgrade, little interest in putting themself out there (possible depression and social anxiety).

    1. majigail*

      I’m not sure gender really matters much in this case. I think the only place it might is if the positions he’s looking for are good ole boy types of places that wouldn’t understand why a man would be the caregiver. I’m hoping those places are fewer and farther between everyday.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it’s hard for either gender in this situation. I’m not sure it’s particularly harder for men. In the case you describe, though, I’m sure that the depression/social anxiety is making it even harder.

    3. Mel Not Missy*

      I think it would affect men negatively, and not just for the same reasons listed for women (i.e. big gap in employment, concerns about keeping up with skills, etc.). While staying home with the kids/managing the household is still considered socially acceptable for women, a lot of people still (unfortunately) don’t consider that an acceptable option for men. I can imagine some hiring managers looking even more askance at a man with a large employment gap for this reason than at a woman.

    4. Anonymous*

      My bf was in his last year of undergrad when we had a baby 3 years ago. Since he was in school part-time and working full-time (in a non career related job) while I already was years into my career, it made sense for him to be the stay at home parent.

      It’s been brutal for him now that he’s trying to return to work when he is forthcoming with why he has been unemployed. The judgement for not “manning up” has been a real blow to him (from everyone). It just so lined up that he’s graduating in May, so while I guess this is a lie by omission he just lets employers assume he was in school full time for the past 3 years instead of a stay at home dad. He’s gotten a ton more phone calls and interviews since he’s added his anticipated date of graduation to his resume.

      1. Sunflower*

        But how much of that is attributed to him being a man? I think a woman would be struggling just as much and would see the same change once adding the graduation date. I think he’s getting more interest now, not because he is no longer assumed to be a stay at home dad but because it now looks like he spent the last couple years on education(which he did).

        1. Zillah*

          Maybe, but I do think that men who choose to stay at home with their kids face a slightly different set of prejudices than women do. I know a lot of people who would look down on a man more so than a woman for choosing to stay home with his kids.

    5. Sasha LeTour*

      I absolutely think it’s as hard for a man who left the labor force to get back in. My husband is going through this now. He was in a skilled trade for 14 years, and after the economy tanked, the trade more or less ceased to exist in the United States. With the exception of the full-time job he held from Summer 2012 to Summer 2013 (manager of all tech support for a fashion company – looks great on a resume but is outside of his “field”), he has bounced between temping and functioning as the stay at home spouse since 2009.

      I am endlessly grateful for his role as the ‘support spouse’ since my career will be the one to sustain us now and in the long run (tech-focused advertising pays very well), but we’re both concerned about being a one-income household. The cost of living in NYC makes it absolutely nail-biting to the point where we’re compulsively ‘hoarding’ money.

      He has tried so hard to get back into a full-time role, to the point where he’s asked to work apprenticeships and retail/service jobs like Starbucks, but no dice. In the end, we decided his best bet was to start over and finish his bachelor’s degree at CUNY. Fortunately, he’s already at enough credits to have an associate’s so it shouldn’t take but a few years. He will be a hair shy of 40 when he gets back to full-time work, but he can always re-write his resume, and he is blessed to look 10 years younger than he is, so we are tentatively optimistic.

  15. Hcat*

    #1 See a psychotherapist trained in the area of CBT – Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

    1. Leah*

      Yes. I think CBT would be just the ticket from what the poster described. I suffered similar issues in specific social settings, and I found CBT to be very helpful. It’s worth checking out a few therapists if possible because different therapists use this approach in different ways.

    2. D*

      Yes yes yes yes. OP # 1 — I suffered from anxiety (not social anxiety, but other types) for a long time, and CBT changed my life. I saw my therapist about 7 years ago for a few months to get it down, and even though I haven’t been back in years, I still use the tools when I find myself starting to get back into the anxiety cycle. I think the others have good advice for the boss issue, but I just wanted to throw in my experience that there is hope for you, and you can overcome this!

      1. BGirl81*

        CBT worked for me too! Mine also seemed like it came on out of nowhere and, nevermind talking in a meeting, I couldn’t even face going on an interview. It was BAD. The hiring process for my current job involved a panel interview, something that would have been absolutely out of the question for me before I tried CBT, so if it worked for me, it can work for anyone! Good luck OP and I hope you’re feeling better soon :)

    3. Elizabeth West*

      CBT is great, because it gives you actual tools you can use and helps change your thought patterns. With anxiety, your brain gets off on a tangent and stuck in a loop and it just gets bigger and bigger and bigger and aaaah, until you’re freaking out. CBT helps you break that pattern.

      1. OP #1*

        I am actually familiar with CBT and will giving that a try. The King of CBT Dr. David Burns has a book on panic that I just bought … but now I’m realizing I might need more than a book (especially when I leave it unopened on my nightstand because the Real Housewives of Atlanta are on).

        1. Anonymous*

          I love that after having bought The Feeling Good Handbook, I’ve noticed it on the bookshelves of about 75% of the homes I’ve visited. It helped me to realize how normal mild depression and anxiety is.

        2. BGirl81*

          I think there’s actually a lot the can be learned about human psychology from watching RHOL :)

          “How does it make you feel when your attempts to TWIRL are thwarted by your friends? Does it make you feel ‘less than’….Gone With The Wind Fabulous?”

    4. The Real Ash*

      I would just like to say that if anyone needs a good, free resource for CBT therapy, try www dot moodgym dot au. It’s an Australia-based website that features self-paced CBT therapy activities. I’ve recommended it to a lot of people (and used it myself years ago), and it gets rave reviews.

  16. Ms Enthusiasm*

    #1 I also agree about getting counseling but thought I might also suggest Toastmasters as a way to practice public speaking. It might be a way to ease into it once the benefits of therapy start paying off.

  17. Fiona*

    #1 One thing I wanted to clarify so the OP knows what to expect when seeking professional help: a lot of people (and TV shows/movies/books) use therapist/psychologist/psychiatrist interchangeably, but in general, psychologists (and social workers, clinical counselors and marriage/family therapists) are master’s or doctoral (PhD/PsyD)-level providers who practice a variety of models of talk therapy, and psychiatrists (and advanced practice nurses), who are full MDs or RNs with extended training in psychiatry, prescribe medication. There are only a couple of states (New Mexico and Louisiana, if Google is up to date) where psychologists are legally allowed to prescribe medications, and in my personal experience, it’s rare to find a psychiatrist who does talk therapy as well as medication management. The recommended new patient route at the clinic I work for (we have both therapists and psychiatrists) is to schedule a therapy intake appointment and have the therapist refer you to one of our psychiatrists for your medication – most of our psychiatrists are so booked out that they don’t take new outside patients, only internal referrals.

    Your mileage may vary regarding any and all of the above, of course, but one of the biggest customer service hurdles my clinic faces is managing people’s expectations regarding therapy vs med management, so I tend to do my pitch whenever I get the chance. :)

    1. Loose Seal*

      Around here, in a place where only MDs can prescribe meds (so psychiatrists for psych meds, instead of psychologists), most people see a therapist and take their recommendation for meds to their regular family physician for the prescription. I don’t think it’s as effective as getting a psychiatrist’s prescription but psychiatrists are few and far between here in rural-land so we do what we have to. So maybe that’s another option for the OP.

      Also, another place in the US where psychologists can prescribe psych meds is the US Virgin Islands. So if OP is lucky enough to live there…

  18. CAA*

    #4 – you need a Proposal Resume for your prospective clients. If you google that phrase, there are lots of articles about how to edit your regular job-hunting resume for inclusion in a proposal.

  19. Allison*

    OP #2: as someone who looks at resumes all day, it’s not uncommon for me to see a former stay-at-home mom try to “spin” her experience as such to look more . . . professional, I guess. They wouldn’t just mention it, they’d list it like you would any other job, with a title and a list of responsibilities, like “managed weekly carpool” or “coordinated household events.” Personally, I found it gimmicky at best and downright creepy at worst – like when they’d list their family or husband as their employer.

    1. Anne*

      “list their family or husband as their employer.”

      Eeeep. Yes. That’s a bit… yikes.

      What would you suggest to those women, though? Aside from not referring to their spouses as their employers.

      1. fposte*

        Combovers look worse than baldness. If you were seriously active in an external organization or process whose skills genuinely translate, it’s worth mentioning, but don’t try to fill the gap with stuff that doesn’t fill the gap.

      2. Allison*

        Take classes to update their skills, I’d say. Employers don’t want applicants with translatable skills, they want people who have THE skills necessary for the job. So these people should learn how to use modern versions of common office software, like MS Office and Google Apps, and how to use them in a professional environment, along with any other industry-specific skills they may need.

        1. Jax*

          Hmmm…I don’t agree. Most personal computers have MS Office programs, and Google is full of solutions to walk you through hangups. It seems more like something I’d do out of desperation to list *something* on my resume, which is a horrible reason to shell out money for school.

          I have read a couple “transition back to work” books that advise stay at home moms to list what they did at home exactly like that. It’s terrible advice, but if you think about it, no one would bat an eye at a woman listing her duties as a Nanny on a resume. When a woman is taking care of her own kids, it looks weird…but if she’s an employee of another family, it’s acceptable.

          1. some1*

            The nanny vs. SAHM isn’t really comparable, though. I can give birth to a child without any child care experience and learn “on the job”. Nannies often have special training and are trained in things like CPR and the bar for firing a nanny is much lower than taking a parents’ kids away.

      3. Sunflower*

        I think this is where a cover letter can come in handy. I think it’s okay to mention your weekly carpool as adding to your organizational skills in a cover letter. It seems to sound more natural when it’s written out in sentence form as opposed to in bullets and listed as a ‘job’.

        1. Lynn Whitehat*

          Agreed with AAM. A weekly carpool is just “regular life stuff” that doesn’t qualify as experience in anything. It happens to be specific to parents, but it doesn’t belong on a resume any more than “responsible for car maintenance and upkeep” or “walked dog daily” does. Resumes are for things that qualify you for the job beyond what any functioning adult would have.

    2. Sunflower*

      This kind of reminds me of a post from a couple months ago where someone asked if it was okay to put planning their wedding and their family vacation on their resume as experience. Yes it does speak to a lot of skills but at the end of the day, there isn’t someone judging your performance and there aren’t strict guidelines that need to be followed in order for you to keep the job. I’m not saying that this stuff isn’t hard but it’s hard to quantify the results of your work, which should be the focus on a resume anyway, not just your job duties.

      1. some1*

        I agree. Working parents organize carpools, too, so it’s irrelevant and comes off as naive.

        It would be like saying I have accounting experience because I handle my personal finances or fashion experience because I can put an outfit together at the store. Sure, there are adults who don’t do either of those things for themselves, but enough do that it’s too obvious to include on a resume.

        1. Dan*

          I think that’s the crux of the stay-at-home parent argument: Whatever it is that you are doing that you want credit for, working parents do it too.

          My ex-SIL was a SAHM with four credits. Hard work, no doubt, but I know single mothers who have full time jobs. That’s harder.

          1. Jax*

            “Whatever it is that you are doing that you want credit for, working parents do it too.”

            Not really. I’m working 50+ hours per week and see my girls for about 2 hours each night. Our caregiver is grandma, and she is worn out when I pick up the girls at 6 pm. She’s given them meals and snacks, coordinated their preschool schedules and play dates, got the older one on and off the school bus, helped them finish up their homework…

            There’s more to taking care of children than just getting the up, dressed, and off to wherever they need to go. The people who teach and care for our children do a very real and very hard job, whether they are taking care of their own children or work in a daycare.

            1. A Cita*

              Not to downplay how tiring and hard child care is (I know, I’ve done it), but many (if not most) working mothers don’t have a grandma or other full time (perhaps live in) help with children. They really do do it all themselves. They take jobs with flexibility that allows them to get their kids to school or day care and pick them up, arrange all the activities, and so forth. And for single mothers with low wage jobs, after they get them to bed, they leave again for their second, evening job. This is not unusual.

              Sometimes I think this blog has a blind side to the vast amount of folks who are not working white collar jobs or are living in a much lower social economic setting with fewer resources to manage their lives (like having a nanny or an extended family member to help with child care, or having a spouse to divide cost of living, or making enough in one job to pay all their bills with options to find another job if that one doesn’t work out, or having access to a car, or owning their own home, etc. etc)

              1. the gold digger*

                having a nanny

                Yes, I just wanted to cry a river for those people who work long hours at the White House (story in the Post this weekend) and don’t get to spend time with their kids but have nannies and housekeepers. Try working long hours when you don’t have the money for that kind of help.

                (Full disclosure: I have no children, but I watch other people juggle without nannies, cooks, and housekeepers and can tell it is not easy.)

              2. Dan*

                We have that blind side because “those people” don’t have jobs that allow them the luxury of screwing around on the internet all day offering strangers advice when they should be working instead. So they don’t come here and talk about their experiences.

                I spent my 20’s doing a lot of low-paid blue collar work, which did position me very well for the job I have now. I get paid a lot of money to show up to work at whatever time I feel like, surf the internet more than I should, and nobody cares as long as the work actually gets done. TBH, those jobs I had back then make me really appreciate what I have now.

                1. A Cita*

                  Very true! Heck, I have a great job and if one were to notice my behavior here, they’d notice my comments are feast and famine–when I have a lull, I comment. When I don’t have a lull, I rarely comment–don’t even get to read the other comments. :)

                  Btw: my minimum wage fast food job was the best job of my life. I still think back fondly on it. I was working an unpaid internship full time (7am – 3pm) and then working that job to pay the rent (4pm – midnight), and although I was thoroughly exhausted, it was so much fun. Being able to take that internship set me up for where I am now, but taking that job allowed me to take that internship, and sometimes I fantasize about how great it was to be done with work when I clocked out and not be on call 24/7 and to have zero stress. So this job now really makes me appreciate the low wage job I had then. :)

            2. Dan*

              I don’t have kids, so no skin in this game, but you do realize you just sold out single working parents, right? After reading your response to me, I thought I had said something about how raising kids is pretty easy.

              I took a second look at what I wrote, which was along the lines of “raising children is hard, raising children as a single parent with a full time job outside the home is harder”. Clearly it is hard, because you have grandma stepping in to do all of the work.

              1. Jax*

                My point is that I’m paying someone else (grandma) to do the work of taking care of my children from 7 am to 6 pm.

                I’m not “doing it all” and I’m not going to sneer at stay-at-home parents and say that I’m doing the same thing they are PLUS working. That’s simply not true.

                1. Dan*

                  Ok, but I don’t think anybody can realistically construe my comments as meaning that between 7am and 6pm working parents are both working and tending to their children’s needs at the same time. Give it a few years and your kids will all be in school anyway, which is where it will get really fun.

                  I don’t sneer at anybody, because presumably we are all making the best choices that we can. But there’s no way anybody will ever convince me that being a stay at home parent is harder than being a working parent. I work. I don’t have kids. It’s pretty easy.

            3. Anonymous*

              Taking care of children is a lot of effort, but it does not require a lot of skill. You do the same things thousands of times. It’s work that essentially anyone can do at an acceptable level, too. All sorts of people manage to raise children. My own mother was a stay-at-home, an alcoholic, and had some sever mental illness. She wasn’t a paragon of office skills, nor a particularly good parent, but she managed to not kill either myself or my brother, and didn’t leave any injuries severe enough to get the state to intervene.

              That’s about the minimum that “being a parent” really proves to anyone – you managed not to abuse your kids badly enough that child welfare intervened. Sure, many parents do more than that, lots more – but you can’t effectively prove that to an outsider on a job application. Who is the hiring manager going to call to vet your self-described parenting skills? Your spouse, who has a pretty vested interest in the outcome? Your minor children? The PTA?

              1. Sasha LeTour*

                Anon, my mother in law went through something like this, and my spouse and I are both highly concerned for her welfare. She has a chronic autoimmune disease that has kept her out of the workforce since the 70s, and it is my hope that she will begin receiving SSDI and spousal Social Security before major financial problems pour in.

              2. Jamie*

                Taking care of children is a lot of effort, but it does not require a lot of skill. You do the same things thousands of times. It’s work that essentially anyone can do at an acceptable level, too.

                There is a difference between taking care of children in an adequate fashion so they are safe and fed and actually rearing children properly so they get what they need intellectually, socially, and emotionally as well. Not everyone can do the latter.

                I was a SAHM for years and I’m not going to tell you that coordinating little league car pools and making cupcakes for the class is as hard as my job – and yep, there is a lot of low level very unglamorous work which you do over and over again.

                But kids do have individual needs beyond someone getting grape juice out of their snoopy pajamas. And for many parents throw a special needs kid into the mix and no – not everyone can do that adequately.

                Educating myself and advocating for my son whilst trying to make sure he had every appropriate intervention for his autism was absolutely harder and more rewarding than anything I’ve ever done at work.

                That’s just my personal situation – but there are millions of parents in the US alone where “adequate” supervision or care would be to fail that child. Physical, cognitive, emotional challenges or disabilities. Some kids need a lot more than someone to make sure they get a PB&J and don’t run into the street.

                Some kids need more. Just for my son who was high functioning there was OT, physical therapy, speech therapy, doctor’s appointments…and his need to structure (I have two kids who were so flexible we could have joined the circus – and one who really needed a stable schedule.)

                Just as you can’t compare the complexity of any two jobs without more data, you can’t compare the level of difficulty involved in being a SAHM without more data.

                I am sorry you went through what you did as a kid – it’s so hard for any kid to grow up without the proper support. And I’m really glad you and your brother are okay…every kid deserves so much more than to just not be abused to the level of state intervention. Every kid deserves people who put their best interests ahead of all else.

                But I do agree you can’t prove any of this to an outsider and general parenting accomplishments have no place on a resume.

                1. Dan*


                  Your comment comes off as contradicting anon, but really does support him/her when one thinks about what you are both saying.

                  My mother was a SAHM, and thinks she was a wonderful mom because she was home every day and put food on the table, and I never went to juvie hall and got a good job. Therefore, she must have done a really good job.

                  Keep in mind she was so wonderful that I still only talk to her twice a year. I talk to my dad every week — and they still live together.

                2. Jamie*

                  @Dan – my point was in response to the comment that caring for children doesn’t require a lot of skill.

                  I do agree that regardless it doesn’t go on a resume. The main point of my tldr ramble is that the level of skill involved is really variable.

                3. Dan*


                  I understand that. But I do think Anony meant that direct quote in a tongue in cheek fashion, which was what I was trying to say. If she said it with no context, yeah, your interpretation was reasonable. But continuing to read what she had to say, it makes it obvious she was talking about literal definitions, which pretty much mean the bare minimum of making sure your offspring can function as living organisms.

                  She was trying to say that raising kids properly takes far more work and skill than that. Which is why I said your comment came off as contradictory, but when you read what you are are saying (including the TL/DR parts) you really do support each other.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I’m also opposed to things like playing up the position as “president of the parent-teacher committee” and things like that as work experience.

      What do the rest of you think? I realize you can’t hand prospective employers a blank piece of paper. . .

      1. Kathryn T.*

        It depends on the PTC. Sometimes, that “job” can mean sending emails four times a year. . . sometimes it can mean doing major event planning, facilitating meetings with the community, putting together and managing sub-committees and task forces to address specific issues, creating and following through on processes to get measurable results, and managing teams of volunteers. In the latter case, I definitely think that could go on a resume.

      2. the gold digger*

        Actually, I think a leadership role in a community organization is a good thing to highlight. Managing volunteers is a lot harder than managing employees and it does require skills that are very useful in the workplace.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Yeah. . .I guess it can depend. I have managed volunteers for a Habitat for Humanity project, and I’ve managed employees, and I definitely don’t agree that managing volunteers is harder. I suppose it is good to include, but I think you have to be careful how you frame it to an interviewer. Acknowledging what the experience did give you but also acknowledging that it was not anywhere near the scope of a full-time job would go a long way with me.

          1. the gold digger*

            I think it is harder than managing people in the workplace because you can’t fire volunteers. (I guess you can, in the long term.) But you really have to convince a volunteer to do something whereas at work, some of the convincing is already done because that person is being paid to work on whatever project you are leading.

            However, I see your point that you don’t want someone equating volunteer work to paid work.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              “But you really have to convince a volunteer to do something whereas at work, some of the convincing is already done because that person is being paid

              You would think so!

          2. Anon*

            This thread has a lot of bias against stay-at-home moms.

            Stretching duties like carpool into “Executive Scheduling” is lying, and it’s absurd. But that doesn’t mean that anything having to do with motherhood should be left out. Leading the local MOPS group, PTO President, volunteering at the preschool–those are all valid volunteer positions that can go on a resume under a Volunteer section.

            Why should a former sahm applicant scuff her feet in the carpet and say, “Well, it wasn’t as important as what YOU do in the day!” How ridiculous! If you think she’s exaggerating, ask for a reference that you can call at the school just like you would for any other past job.

            1. Dan*

              The point is working parents do the things you just listed. In my line of work, they won’t help your resume. But if I did them and was getting into something where they would be an asset, I would add them.

              And I’ll be honest, I have it pretty easy with a job that isn’t very stressful and no kids. I know that having kids and a job would be harder, even with a SAH spouse. It would be harder still with a working spouse.

            2. Lynn Whitehat*

              Sure. Actual volunteer positions are fine things to put on a resume. Regular life things are not.

            3. AnotherAlison*

              Don’t you think it is important to advise SAHMs that they might come up against a career bitch like me who is anti-SAHM, rather than try to change my mind?

              I’m being a little over-the-top on purpose. I wouldn’t say volunteering at a preschool is more or less important than what I do, but it is in no way providing work skills that are required to do MY job. I’m sure there are jobs that translate better than mine, but mine requires hard technical skills. So yeah, if I interview a female engineer who’s been out of the workforce from age 27 to 37, I’m going to have to see how she kept up on relevant software and skills, not how she filled her time organizing the school carnival. If she was volunteering helping high school kids with engineering projects, maybe that’s a different story, and that’s my point. Don’t try to sell me on something that is completely irrelevant and spin it so that it looks like relevant experience. It’s just not.

              1. Jax*

                Reading this and Hello Kitty Jamie’s responses that basic parenting doesn’t belong on a resume…I see what you’re saying. I didn’t before, but I see it now.

                It is spin and not relevant for most positions. You either have the skills and experience for the job or you don’t. The PTO isn’t wowing anyone.

                I’ll take it a step further and say that maybe, instead of SAHMs trying to justify how they spent their time at home doing super special things…maybe it’s better to calmly and confidently explain the gap as, “I took a few years off to take care of my children.” Period. Move the conversation back to your work skills.

                1. Jamie*

                  Spin bothers me for two reasons – one it’s insulting the intelligence of the person reading your resume if you do the household CEO thing…but it’s also really diminishing stuff that’s really important – just not in a work context.

                  When I entered the workforce for the first time after being a SAHM for 15 years I only put on my resume stuff I had references for – educational advocacy, work as an IT consultant…but that didn’t mean the other stuff didn’t matter. It just didn’t matter in the workforce.

                  I have a lot of things I’m proud of and feel accomplished about that has zero to do with work so it’s not part of that conversation. But it’s still part of my life, and if I felt I needed to spin it to bolster the image of it to someone else it would cheapen it for me.

                  Not everything we do will translate to a resume, so it’s better to just know that and not feel like you have to apologize for your choices.

                  If you’ve taken time out to raise your kids you may have some catching up to do, career-wise. But that doesn’t mean you owe anyone an apology for your life choices.

                  When I was home with my kids no one who judged me for that was sending me a check – so since they weren’t supporting me I didn’t see how it was any of their business.

                  Just because stuff isn’t important to the world at large doesn’t mean it’s not important. We all get to decide that for ourselves.

                  But your advice to explain confidently and move on is exactly correct.

              2. aebhel*

                Ok, but your job =/= every job. If organizing large events and managing volunteers is relevant experience, I don’t see why someone should leave it off their resume just because it wasn’t paid.

                I think most SAHMs re-entering the workforce are WELL AWARE that they might face judgement. People are asking for and brainstorming ways to mitigate that. Telling them ‘well, just get used to the fact that nothing you’ve done in the past ten years is relevant’ is…not really useful advice. Or advice at all, for that matter.

                1. Jamie*

                  Right – and while there are hurdles people need to take into account while making the decision it’s also not so dire that people who’ve stayed home should just curl in the fetal position and accept being chronically unemployed.

                  I never even had a real job (part time college things I didn’t take seriously don’t count) until I entered the workforce at 37. And I’ve done okay. I’ve worked with several women who have taken time time and reentered successfully.

                  Yes, statistically over my lifetime I will make less than I would have if I had entered the job market after college and not left. No question – but I also could have gotten a bigger house for the money if I’d waited a year until the market dipped, and I’d worry less about skin cancer if I’d only invested by b-day and Christmas money in Apple stock back in the day…

                  All we can do is make the best decisions we can, for ourselves and our families, with the information we have at the time. Very few of us navigate perfectly.

                  It’s an obstacle, but a lot of people have obstacles and it’s just a matter of overcoming them and getting a foot in the door.

                2. Jamie*

                  I was going for the sunscreen analogy and switched to Apple and made a mess out of that entire sentence.

                  Just to prevent a lawsuit – “To my knowledge there is no correlation between skin cancer and Apple stock.”

                3. Anonymous*

                  Obviously. That’s why I said, “I’m sure there are jobs that translate better than mine, but mine requires hard technical skills.”

                  And, I disagree that I was saying people should just get used to the idea that nothing they’ve done over the past 10 years is relevant. The advice is to be aware that some people hiring you might think nothing you’ve done is relevant.

                  If organizing large events and volunteer staff is relevant, sure put it on. I’m all for putting it on your resume for ANY job, if you want. Just don’t come in with some contrived explanation of how that built skill XYZ relevant to the job if it isn’t relevant to the job . It’s not much different from the challenges faced by anyone at entry-level.

  20. Allison*

    For OP #1: not sure if it’s illegal for a manager or employer to fire you for having a mental illness, or just a jerk move, but it is reasonable for an employer to expect employees to minimize the impact of whatever illnesses they may have on their work performance. So if you have anxiety, your manager can expect you to get therapy and try to get a handle on your anxiety, and your manager is more likely to be patient and willing to work with you on the issue if you do.

    1. fposte*

      You can’t legally fire somebody for having a mental illness (assuming a large enough workplace to be covered by the ADA); you can fire somebody for having a disability that can’t be reasonably accommodated by the job. A hypothetical pilot who suddenly developed a prohibitive flying phobia isn’t fired for having a mental illness, she’s fired because she can’t skip the flying part of the job.

      1. KJR*

        Exactly. Flying is an “essential” part of the job. It’s the “essential” part that is important here.

      2. Dan*

        They can also fire for no reason whatsoever, meaning they *can* fire you for having a mental illness, they just can’t say it.

        1. fposte*

          Hence the “legally” in my statement. I mean, they can knock you down and take all your stuff, too, but that also would be legally problematic.

          1. Dan*

            Firing somebody for whatever reason you want and publicly calling it a “business decision” is not legally problematic.

            Legal problems come from making it obvious you fired someone *for* being a member of a protected class. Legal problems do *not* arise from firing someone who just happens to be a member of a protected class. Go ask AAM about that, who’s counseled a few letter writers about that exact issue. She makes it clear you certainly can fire old people, minorities, and women without breaking the law.

            Employment law is a real bitch. You either have to have the money to sue, or you have to find a lawyer who thinks you have enough of a case where you are either 1) Going to win or 2) Going to get them to settle out of court for an amount that makes his time worth while. Then, you’ve got carry around the stigma of being someone who sued a former employer. AAM has written several posts on areas where people *can* sue an employer, but it’s rarely wise.

            So, OP should consider the potential she could be fired for disclosing.

            1. fposte*

              Well, since we’re splitting hairs, I’m going to split them further :-).

              You may get away with firing somebody for their disability and calling it a business decision, but that still doesn’t make it legal, any more than it’s legal to kill somebody as long as nobody finds out.

              It’s perfectly legitimate to discuss the precise legalities in this situation. It’s legitimate but a separate conversation to say “But the law may not help you much once it happens, because these things are hard to prove and take a long time to get redress for even when you do.”

              The fact that it’s illegal does make a difference about how most workplaces will approach this conversation; it’s true there can be a risk in exposing health conditions that might worry an employer, but there can also be a risk in keeping information to yourself when a condition is impacting your job performance. It’s up to the OP and individual employees to decide what risk is likelier to be more significant for them, but the information about what is technically illegal is an important part of the picture.

              1. Dan*

                I actually don’t consider that to be splitting hairs. What you’re doing is laying out the complete picture, which is what advice seekers actually need.

                1. fposte*

                  And I’m totally with you that it’s important for people to understand that “it’s illegal” isn’t a magic wand that fixes a bad job situation once it’s happened.

        2. Emma the Strange*

          If you assume that the fired person was willing to fight it in court (and I realize that that is a very big if), then that isn’t precisely true.

          IANAL, but this website provides some info. There are basically two ways to prove wrongful termination in cases like this.

          1) You have proof that the employer said something damning like “I don’t want to work with crazy people” in reference to the firing.

          2) You can show that the employer’s stated reason for firing you is BS. An example would be if the employer had claimed they fired the employee for X, Y, and Z performance problems, but the employee shows that their most recent performance evaluations were very good and did not mention those problems.

  21. Ali*

    Was re-reading these this morning and just came across #3. Looks like more bad advice from career centers and job hunting books for new grads. I remember reading one book that said you should call to request an interview. I actually used that line in my cover letter once. What on Earth was I thinking? (And no, I no longer do that.)

  22. Jen*

    For #2, tell all of your close friends you are looking for work. I have a few friends who have been able to get jobs after 10 years out of the work force by being hired by friends or friends of friends. One got a receptionist job at a church, another one works in retail and a third is a greenhouse assistant and they were all able to get the jobs through friends/family. You have a big hole in your resume so bosses are going to wonder if you are a safe bet. A personal reference can go a long way with a lot of entry level jobs in letting people know that you are worth a risk.

  23. CP*

    #3 (author) Thank you for the advice Alison. I will definitely remove the line requesting an interview from future cover letters. I added that line because resources at my college career center recommended including it. It can be so difficult know what the appropriate protocol is when applying for jobs. Thanks again.

    1. Gjest*

      Tell all your friends, and if you can do so diplomatically, your career center, too, that it is bad advice! Good luck with your job search.

    2. Poohbear McGriddles*

      I think college career centers are sometimes repositories for bad advice. Especially if they are using outdated material.
      The follow-up promise (threat?) has gone the way of the objective statement, high quality resume paper and bugging the employer until they “make” a position for you.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I think the “Calling for an interview” appears in Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions. I also seem to recall there was reference to firing somebody in order to give a spontaneous applicant a job.

    3. Loose Seal*

      You aren’t the only one who’s used that line prior to finding AAM. I still cringe at some of the stuff I said/did!

  24. Gilby*

    First off it is good thing you recognized that entry level is where you are going to start. Do you have basic computer skills? Depending on what you want to do most places are going to need them.

    I’d try a couple of things to help get a job and to attractive employers:

    Go the the library or job center if you have one and ask about using their computers to hone up on some skills if you need to. Someone should be able to help you get started. There are some on-line programs that will help as well and books too. That will show you are serious about getting yourself up to snuff with skills.

    Go to a temp agency ( a couple of them ) and talk to someone there who can help you with a resume and getting you a job. You are most likely to need a advocate for you to help you break into the work world. And really try to explore what you might want to do.

    I know you want and need a job for the money and experience but you don’t also want to get stuck in a job you hate and nor will advance you if you so desire. You want to show the best of you and if you hate the job that will not help.

    So a receptionist with basic office skills, that might lead you too admin assistant and so on? Or maybe you want to do factory because you like to assemeble things ( or whatever).

    I would just like to see you ( Like what I want matters ?? …lol) try go into the workforce in the right direction to start with. Maybe it won’t be the right one in the long run but at least make the best informed decision you can at the time.

    So if you have choice of putting dark chocolate with toffee bits truffles in a box ( think Lucy and Ethel ) or answering telephones and connecting calls, just make sure you know enough of each job and where it might take you before deciding.

    Best of luck too you !! ( I be all over the truffles myself….)

    1. HR Lady*

      I agree about basic computer skills if OP #2 wants an office job. If you haven’t worked in Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook in 10 years, it’s very possible you will have a lot of trouble adapting to the new (or newer) versions. And, as an entry-level worker, it’s likely that many jobs you’d be looking for would require reasonable computer skills. If nothing else, at least Word.

      Look at the library (or at your home online) for free tutorials and practice exercises. My public library has tons of computers available for free for library members (and membership is free, too, even if you don’t live in our town).

      Also you should have some decent internet skills. Know how to google to find things, know how to set bookmarks/favorites on a browser, know how to copy and paste a website link into an email or Word document, etc. Reasonable email skills are helpful, too (how to attach a document, how to read an attachment, how to use Reply and Reply All, etc.)

      1. Anonymous*

        That last point (‘reply’ vs ‘reply all’) is really probably the most important skills of that list! Nothing like emailing an entire list of people when you only meant to reply to your boss, for example.

      2. magonomics*

        + 1,000

        The line that really stood out to me is “To be honest, I do not feel that I have been missing out on anything from the corporate world at all.”

        Some skills (great communication, being organized and on top of things, and the ability to work seamlessly with a variety of co-workers) are timeless. However, technology has changed a lot of aspects of business in the past ten years. Just to name a few:

        -With Smart phones becoming ubiquitous workplace communications have changed.

        – Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, all have changed dramatically.

        -Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and countless other companies have formed the Social Media industry. This, and things like Google Analytics, has forever changed how companies communicate, market, and brand their business/products.

  25. Cath@VWXYNot?*

    #4: Prospective clients are almost certainly planning to pay for your services using grant funding. They’ll therefore have to justify the cost in the budget justification sections of their grant applications. Having your CV handy to summarise or attach to the application will help them make a stronger case to the funding agency and its peer reviewers, which means more funding for your facility.

  26. Anon this time*

    I’m sorry you’re going through this, OP1, but know that there are things you can do that will help.

    I started having panic attacks a few years ago when I had a job that somehow managed to be both stressful and boring, a terrible combination, especially with a micromanaging boss and a toxic corporate culture in the mix. I’d had some partial panic attacks before in various work situations, but then had my first full-blown attack during a management meeting and thought I was having a heart attack. I went straight to a doctor, who was absolutely wonderful. He recommended reading as much as I could about what causes panic attacks and how to deal with them, and luckily enough, for me, this was enough to start helping me deal with the problem. I learned what my specific triggers are (people being between me and an exit is still a big one for me, although at the time the fear of another public panic attack was actually my biggest trigger), how to recognize the very earliest signs of a coming attack, breathing exercises to help mitigate them (basically breathe in as slowly as you can from your diaphragm, hold your breath for a few seconds before breathing out as slowly as you can, repeat), and that following the very natural instinct to run away to the bathroom or other private space will make things worse in the long term.

    My doctor told me that if these tips didn’t start helping within a week, to see a therapist. I didn’t feel the need at the end of that week, but I know people who have seen therapists for anxiety and it’s really, really helped them.

    Because that’s the thing – this is waaaaay more common than I ever realized before, it’s just that people don’t talk about it. I had to ‘fess up in my office, because my colleagues were worried and asked why I’d dashed out at the end of the management meeting and then called in sick the next day (which is when I was speed-reading every single relevant book I could find in the local library). When I rather shamefacedly said it was a panic attack, I learned that three other people in my department of 14 had had the same experience. Non-work friends also shared their experiences once I shared mine. This really helped me realize that this is a fairly common thing, and in some ways a very natural response to stressful situations that we just didn’t evolve for!

    I’ve been out of that toxic job for 7 years now. It’s been more than 6 years since my last full-on panic attack. I’ve learned to avoid as many triggers as I can – I quite cheerfully admit to being “quirky” when explaining to colleagues that no, I don’t want to sit at the side of the meeting room table furthest from the door, or that I HAVE to have an aisle seat on an airplane. I still very occasionally feel the first symptoms starting up, but I know how to deal with them now.

    Good luck – and this, too, shall pass.

      1. Anon this time*

        Not only are you not alone, but the odds are that you’re not alone even in your office.

        BTW, I went anon because of the need to maintain a good relationship with the former employer I criticized, not because of the stigma of panic attacks – I’ve blogged / tweeted about my anxiety under my real name before, just haven’t linked it specifically to that job :)

  27. Anonymous*

    Keep in mind, #5, that you only get FMLA maternity leave if you have been at your job for at least 1 year first. I sincerely hope you get hired somewhere, but this is a huge hurtle to overcome, despite laws that are aimed at preventing discrimination against hiring pregnant women. Keep at it, and don’t get discouraged if it ends up taking until after the birth.

  28. DeAnna*

    Am I the only one monumentally offended by OP#2’s referring to herself as a “kept woman” and referring to her former partner as a “husband”? I am married, and was a SAHP for 9 years, and I in no way, shape or form consider myself to have been a “kept woman.”

    1. Kathryn T.*

      Enh, I’m a SAHP myself, and I don’t consider myself a kept woman, but I think everyone has the right to self-define. It sounds like she didn’t have kids, which might be driving the terminology.

      1. Confused*

        When I read OP#2’s description, especially with the ” returned all his credit cards” statement I sort of assumed it has been a sweet relationship, as in “Sugar Daddy”/”husband.” Perhaps I was way off base and I apologize for this thought.

    2. some1*

      I think you are looking for offense here. She was describing her own situation, not defining the situation of every woman who’s husband is the breadwinner.

      I just took the husband-in-quotes to mean she technically wasn’t married to the guy, and isn’t entitled to any alimony after the break-up — I don’t think she meant to imply her relationship was as “serious” as yours or anyone else’s.

      1. DeAnna*

        I’m not convinced that I’m being over sensitive — what if she decided to “self-define” as “a money-sucking parasite living off my husband”? — but I’ll consider the possibility.

        1. some1*

          She can define herself however she wants — it says nothing about you, me, or any other commenters in the gallery. I’m really not getting what is so upsetting about this.

          1. Jamie*

            If the OP was using “kept woman” to describe someone staying home to care for her family people would find it an offensive bit of shorthand.

            The same way people would rightly be offended if someone wrote into Alison referring to themselves as an ethnic slur. They may be fine it, that may be how they self-identify but something universally offensive also appears to paint others of that group with the same brush.

            It’s one person’s wording so I’m not saying anyone should start a campaign over it were that to be her meaning (and I don’t believe it is) but of course there will be some eyebrows raised when people use a less than polite term to refer to any group of people.

    3. CEMgr*

      I’m not personally offended, but I would say to this poster that her self-identification as a “kept woman” is not going to do her any favors in the job market, workplace, or world at large. It’s TMI and reflects no credit on her.

      1. fposte*

        I think it’s quite possible it was just blog-letter shorthand, though, and it is simpler than a long screed about, say, how he was totally going to leave his wife for her but then decided to wait until they were old enough for college and in the meantime she realized her best years were passing and finally they broke up and now she needs an income.

    4. The IT Manager*


      I thought she was someone’s mistress who’s lover paid for her living expenses and “husband” was in quotes because he wasn’t hers. I thought some of the problem is that she cannot explain her time out of the workforce as being stay-at-home-spouse because she never had one.

      Not sure why that would offend you.

      1. Andrea*

        Ha, this is what I thought, too—that he was married to someone else and just took care of her. I mean, I guess it doesn’t matter that much, but the “kept woman” description is often used in a situation like that, so OP #2 ought to be aware that folks might think her personal ethics are lacking, in addition to her work ethic and work experience. Maybe it’s not fair, but I bet that lots of people would think that’s what it meant.

      2. Jamie*

        That was how I read it, also.

        This sounded like someone was taking care of her financially for personal reasons – not the typical SAHP or SAHW.

        If I’m wrong then I think “kept” woman in regards to choosing to stay home and care for a family is an offensive choice of words. If it’s something outside of that then I don’t have the personal experience to tell someone how to self-identify.

      3. EM*


        It’s obvious they don’t have children together, so she can’t explain the gap as saying she took time out of the workforce to raise her children, which I think is a fairly normal reason that most people would understand.

        I do think (rightly or wrongly) people judge when one partner in a relationship does not work and there is no extenuating circumstance — ie illness, children, etc.

        Kind of like, “Well what do you DO all day?” And yes, like the working partner is supporting the lazy stay-at-home partner. For women especially, I think this becomes the “gold-digger” stereotype.

    5. A Bug!*

      I’m starting to think I’m way off-base here, but my initial interpretation of that letter was that the OP’s arrangement was not that of your traditional stay-at-home-spouse.

      That is to say, my impression was that there was an actual ownership element involved in the relationship.

    6. Sarahnova*

      Personally, I just assumed that a) they were not married and b) they had no children, so she was not technically either a stay-at-home spouse or a stay-at-home parent.

    7. Andrea*

      I replied below, too, but yeah, I’m with you—the term is kind of offensive. And I’m pretty sure she didn’t mean “stay at home spouse / mom.”

      When my husband and I first got married, I had just quit a soul-sucking job and we had bought a fixer-upper. We didn’t have kids; still don’t. But for the first two years of marriage, I worked on house projects (laying hardwood flooring and tile, painting walls, installing trim, replacing and installing windows and doors and sinks and toilets and faucets, building and rehabbing furniture, planting and maintaining a huge vegetable garden in our adjoining lot), and ran the household (cooking, cleaning, organizing, grocery and household shopping, errands, coordinated with repair workers when we had to hire pros (roofers, sheetrock hangers), etc). It was full-time work, and I was constantly researching and learning and doing things, plus I had time to preserve the garden harvest and do various chores like car maintenance, and I went to lots of early-morning garage sales in search of bargains. It worked for us, and I loved it, but if anyone had referred to me as a “kept woman,” I would have been quite offended. I wasn’t shopping for fun with someone else’s husband’s credit cards and sleeping late and lunching in restaurants—I was improving our home and saving us money by doing projects myself and growing a lot of our food, and I volunteered in the meantime. And it was only for two years, then I went to grad school, and now I work from home (and still maintain a large garden and do a lot of DIY projects); I don’t think the two-year gap hurt me professionally, but I was probably lucky. A ten-year gap is a different thing, in my opinion, but I’d feel that way no matter what the reason.

      1. some1*

        “if anyone had referred to me as a “kept woman,” I would have been quite offended.”

        She wasn’t referring to you or anyone else as a kept woman, though, just herself.

    8. Admin*

      I might be totally off here, but I took kept woman plus the “husband” to mean she was his mistress.

    9. Anonymous*

      People self-identify as all sorts of things. You wouldn’t judge someone for being asexual or genderqueer. Why judge on relationship status?

  29. AmyNYC*

    Question for Alison (sort of related to the pregnancy questions) – My understanding is that an interviewer can ASK anything they want (kids, marital status…) but cannot use the answer to inform the hiring decision, but a friend was saying that it’s illegal to even ask about protected class stuff. I feel like most interviewers/employers will avoid the question to be safe but what’s the legality there?

    1. fposte*

      The questions are popularly referred to as “illegal questions,” but as far as I know the only area where it’s genuinely illegal to ask is disability. It’s *stupid* to ask the other stuff, because you can’t hire based on it and it’s now going to be difficult to prove that you don’t, but it’s not itself an illegal action.

  30. Justine*

    Actually, there have been several studies where resumes that were identical were sent to employers for evaluation, and simply changing the name of the applicant showed a huge bias in favour of hiring men and hiring them for more money. (There is also a bias to hiring people with white names.) This study shows how childless women are still paid substantially less than men despite identical qualifications:

    “The wage gap has been largely explained away as the result of two primary factors besides gender. First, there’s history. It was assumed that much of the gap was due to the long-term compounded disparity caused by historical pay inequities of older women. It was also assumed that, once this generation left the workforce, the gap would narrow, if not disappear.

    Second, there are the choices women make. The wage gap was attributed partially to women’s choices to enter low-paying fields. (But why, we then need to ask, are women-dominated fields systematically underpaid?) And it was partially attributed to women’s choices (the “mommy penalty”) to off-ramp from the workplace to address family needs, thus forgoing career and salary advancement.

    The NACE report lays to rest these explanatory excuses for good. New college grads have no salary history. And they haven’t off-ramped. The study convincingly demonstrates a systematic gender pay differential by: 1) taking into account the gender and salary differentials between high-paying career-oriented majors such as engineering and business and lesser-paying academically-oriented majors, and 2) comparing men’s and women’s salaries within the same major. The result? With few exceptions, men out-earn women across the board.

    What are we left with? The discomfiting reality that the workplace is not a level playing field. Right out of the chute, women are deemed less valuable than men. Seventeen percent less valuable. The wage gap is but another expression of how systematically and asymmetrically our culture insists on regulating gender status. By default, power, privilege and money still accrue to the man in the room. ”

    “$44,149 median starting salary for males with a bachelor’s degree, as of 2010
    $36,451 median starting salary for a woman with the same degree ”

    This is a quote taken from the original report which seems to be no longer available:

    “Another frequently cited explanation that relies on somewhat older women is the choice many women make to leave the labor force to start a family. This generally occurs at a point where a career is about to take off and the individual should start seeing significant increases in compensation. The overall levels of female compensation are therefore lower because these women voluntarily chose to have lesser economic careers, according to this explanation.

    Both of these explanations appear to have some validity and some impact on the overall gender differential. However, they do not explain the lower starting salaries that women still encounter when they begin their careers after graduating college. The data presented here are not definitive but they are consistent in building a prima facie case that wage discrimination based on gender continues to exist and will likely persist unless measures are developed to adequately protect women—the coming majority of America’s professional work force.”

    Cordelia Fine discusses this in depth in the book Delusions of gender. One thing that I’ve got out of the book that is interesting (still haven’t finished it) is that mothers aren’t favoured in the workplace but fathers do not suffer the same treatment, even if the mothers work just as much as fathers.

    *Another* thing that is frequently left out of the wage gap discussion is that race is a huge factor. On average, white women and black men earn ~80 cents to a white man’s dollar, whereas black women earn ~60 cents and latino men and women earn ~50 cents.

    There’s *a lot more* going on here than women’s life choices.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Comparing bachelor’s degrees to bachelor’s degrees doesn’t work though — you need to look at the specific jobs people are applying for. And also what salaries they were initially offered, since men negotiate more often than women.

      1. Kathryn T.*

        Did you see that recent flap where a woman had been offered a tenure-track professor job, attempted to open the floor to negotiate on salary and a few other issues, and had the offer promptly withdrawn?

      2. aebhel*

        There is also evidence that women who negotiate are less likely to get what they’re asking for–and more likely to be perceived in a negative light for asking–than men.

        Can’t remember the study off the top of my head, I’ll see if I can find it later.

      3. CC*

        How about comparing identical applications?

        Blinded study; identical (fake) application packages for an entry level lab manager job, between bachelors and grad degrees; randomly assigned male or female names. The initial ratings of hireability and the initial offered salary were significantly lower for the applications with female names.

        This is even before the candidates could try to negotiate.

  31. Andrea*

    Panic attacks can be the result of taking Benadryl or -D type antihistamines in some people. I suffered for two years before my doctor told me that the Benadryl I took at night to help me sleep/keep my allergies in check also was shown to trigger panic attacks/ claustrophobia. I’ve stopped the medicine and the panic attacks have stopped.

    Just a random PSA.

  32. Emma*

    Re: the kept woman….

    Does anyone else remember about 10 years ago, in the United States, all the media coverage of educated, career women “opting out”? About how they were sick of the corporate life, trying to have it all, and were pursuing the higher calling of stay-at-home parenthood?

    This situation reminds me of that, for some reason. And the follow up to this little social phenomenon – The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In ( There are a few other articles on this topic too, if you Google.

    1. Sigrid*

      That’s an absolutely fascinating article; thanks for the link. I remember the “opting out” TIME magazine article — I was horribly offended by it, because it focused on white, highly educated, upper class mothers who had husbands with very well-paying jobs, and attempted to generalize their experience to every working mother. It’s very interesting to read a follow-up.

  33. Sigrid*

    This discussion on the difficulty of getting back into the work force after having taken a long break (for any reason) made me think that my mother was exceptionally lucky to get right back into teaching after having taken ten years off to raise my sister and me (as well as dealing with some health problems) — only then I remembered that she had actually continued substitute teaching throughout those ten years, including taking more long-term substitute teaching positions as we got older. That’s one of the advantages that teaching has as a profession, I think.

    1. Sharm*

      This is what scares me. I would like to be a SAHM if I have kids. Problem is, I didn’t know what I wanted to do at 22, so I have been sort of doing a few things here and there. There is somewhat of a narrative, and it has been relatively consistent, but it’s not like I’m in a high-level position where I could potentially work with clients or work out a generous leave policy with my employer. More than even my career right now, I’m trying to figure out how to set myself up to be a SAHM for a few years before going back to the workforce. It looks like I won’t be able to do it.

      Strangely, my friends think I could do it (though none of them will choose to), but this board makes me feel like it will be impossible. :-\

    2. AnotherAlison*

      A friend of mine is doing this right now, after 4 yrs off. She was steadily employed as a sub at her former school and will go back to her old classroom next fall. I do think this works well for teachers, too, since many of them understand that people go into it because it works (in theory) with family schedules.

  34. Vicki*

    #3 – I think you can take it as pretty much guaranteed that no one will think that you cannot take initiative or follow up when I say you will” if you don’t contact them about an interview. And, for this, you should consider yourself lucky. :)

  35. the SAHM Letter Writer!*

    Hi, I wrote the February 2013 letter that Allison references here in her reply to the “kept woman” and I can tell you it has been a slow slog. Also, I am getting divorced. So anyone dreaming about being a SAHM, I would tell you not to do it. My child had health issues, and I didn’t really feel like I had much say in the matter, and then there were elderly caregiving issues to deal with. My point is, DO SOMETHING. Because of the level of volunteer work that I did (not typical), it does help to a degree – it helped find a PT job, and now that I am working PT, I am hoping it will lead to something FT. That’s my two cents…..

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