naming your dog after your manager, tying pay to off-duty conduct, and more

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

1. When an employee names his dog after his manager

One of your employees gets a dog and he names it after his supervisor and makes sure he tells all of his coworkers. I think this is disrespectful. What do you think? (And no, it’s not a common name.)

It’s either disrespectful or … a sign of honor! Especially if the manager has a sense of humor. It’s hard to evaluate it without more context, like what this employee is like more broadly. Are there problems with his performance or attitude? Does he seem to dislike the manager? If that kind of thing is true, then the manager should be focusing there — but I wouldn’t get too worked up about the dog name alone.

2. My retail experience is harming me with employers

I recently graduated with my B.S. in Business Management … only to discover that employers no longer seem to care if you have your degree. I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a 3.84 GPA. All employers see when they look at my resume is that I worked retail while I was in school. They feel I have no real skills in anything — even though I had held two different supervisory positions and maintained that job for 10 years. I do NOT want to work in retail anymore. I have a family and a different life now. This was a job I obtained out of high school and kept to get me through college.

I recently applied for a job at the corporate level with a different company. The recruiter loved me and said my skills matched the requirements perfectly. I got a second phone interview with my potential manager. I thought I answered his questions well on my part, but he seemed less enthused. I thought I would at least get a chance to complete the next step — a role playing assessment. The next day, the recruiter emailed me to tell me the manager felt my qualifications were inadequate.

Is there anyway to salvage this? Can I reach out to him and try to demonstrate that I am fully capable of doing more than merchandising (which by the way was listed as a requirement for the position)? Or would this just annoy him and burn bridges (which I really do not want to do)? If not, how do I get past this with other employers? I am really devastated about not even being given an opportunity to do the assessment. Most other companies just email me rejection letters a few months after applying. Am I doomed to be stuck in retail forever?

Sure, reach out and tell him why you’d be awesome at the work. Don’t couch it as “your decision was wrong,” but rather as “I’d love one more opportunity to tell you why I think I’d excel at this role, and what I can point to in my past to demonstrate it — but I also respect your decision if you’re not convinced” (followed by compelling evidence). If you approach it that way, you’re not going to burn a bridge, and so you have nothing to lose.

As for the broader situation, it’s true that employers often discount retail work and want to see evidence that someone else has already taught you how to function successfully in an office … which is legitimately a different thing than retail. It doesn’t mean that your retail work is hurting you, but the lack of office-type work probably is.

If you have any non-retail work you can highlight on your resume — internships, even volunteer work — putting a stronger emphasis on it will help. (And this is why it’s so, so important to do internships in school, even if they’re only half a day a week and you’re doing them on top of paid work. It really helps once you’re out of school and looking for a professional job.) If you don’t, can you get some now, by interning, temping, or volunteering? It’ll help, in a job market where you’re up against tons of candidates who do have that experience.

(Also, it’s not that employers don’t care that you have a degree. It’s that it’s become such a prerequisite that it doesn’t qualify for you anything on its own.)

3. In my thank-you note, can I clarify an answer I gave in the interview?

I just interviewed with a great organization, and I’m really excited about the job. Upon thinking through their questions and my answers, it’s occurred to me that I didn’t quite make something clear, and it feels like it could be a deal-breaker. I was answering a particular question, and it led to other questions, which were fine, but I didn’t quite wrap up my train of thought before we continued. Can I include a short explanation/clarification in my thank-you note? Mostly in a “further explanation” sense, not in a “said the wrong thing” sense.

Absolutely. Phrase it as something like, “I also wanted to build on our conversation about X and mention that blah blah blah.” (And you’re right to make it further explanation rather than sounding like you’re second-guessing yourself.)

4. My employer ties pay to off-duty conduct

My current employer has decided that for the benefit of their employees, they will now tie the employees’ compensation to how safe they are off the clock at their homes. While documenting safety items you can and should improve upon, is it legal to hold you accountable on your yearly review for things you do at home on your own time? It just seems to me this is crossing a line and is an infringement of your right to privacy and freedom of choice.

As an example of what I am talking about, if I say I will use safety glasses while doing yard work, but then when cutting my grass I have an eye injury and was not actually wearing safety glasses, they can count that against me for the annual review rating for my raise.

What the … what? How would they even know if you wear wearing safety glasses when cutting your grass? How would they know that the eye injury was caused by that and not by, say, a rowdy gang of squirrels?

In any case, it’s possible that this would violate the law in California, where the state constitution provides broader privacy protections than most other states do. But aside from that or a similar state law, yep, it’s legal. It is, however, a ridiculous overreach and terrible use of company energy.

5. Asking an interviewer for a 12-month vision of the job

Sometimes when I apply for positions, they mention on the ad “position ends April 2015” or “prefer candidate to commit for two years.” However, I had a job interview recently and the interviewer seemed offended when I asked about his 12-month vision of the job, like I asked what he saw this position looking like in a year or two because I was trying to gauge what kind of a commitment they were looking for and whether or not they mentored employees into other positions. Anyway, the bottom line is that he told me he had no idea what was going to happen in 12 months and couldn’t really comment. Do you think this is a fair question or should I avoid this in the future?

You should avoid that interviewer in the future because he sucks. If he truly has no idea what was going to happen in 12 months, he’s got some serious planning problems.

The question itself is fine. Or at least it’s fine as long as you’re not implying that you’d hope to be promoted or doing significantly different work in a year or two, but it usually takes longer than that to get promoted — and employers want to think that you’re excited about the job as it currently exists, not what it might turn into it.

{ 348 comments… read them below }

  1. Bea W*

    How would they know that the eye injury was caused by that and not by, say, a rowdy gang of squirrels?

    Squirrels go for the nuts.

  2. Seal*

    I recently took in a kitten my idiot neighbors abandoned and wound up giving him the same name as my supervisor. It’s a common name – in fact, I know several other people with the same name – that just seemed to fit the little guy. My coworkers think the kitten is adorable (of COURSE I had pictures!) and are highly amused that he and our boss share the same name.

    1. V*

      I have the same situation – the name I chose for one of my cats happens to be the name of my supervisior.

      OP 1 – Are you sure that the dog was named after the superviosor, as opposed to simply having the same name as the supervisor?

    2. Loose Seal*

      When I was a teenager, I got a dog. I named it a Russian name that I had read in a novel, thought was the most beautiful name ever, and had never heard anyone in real life having. About six months later, my step-brother (who was quite a bit older) had his first child whom they named the Exact Same Name! So I had to keep my dog’s name a secret for its entire life so they wouldn’t think I had named my dog after their kid.

  3. Chris80*

    #1 I would never name my dog after someone I disliked. After all, I could easily be repeating that name multiple times a day for however many years the dog lives. For me, it’d be more likely to be a sign of admiration than disrespect, although I wouldn’t personally do it. We’d really need more context about this particular manager/employee relationship to say for sure, but I would assume a lot of people wouldn’t name a beloved pet after a hated manager.

    1. KarenT*

      Agreed. And it sounds like the OP doesn’t know for sure the employee named the dog after the supervisor–she’s assuming it because the supervisor’s name is unique.

      1. BethRA*

        No, she’s reporting that the employee is making a point of telling people he named the dog after the supervisor.

        I love dogs, I have dogs – including one that comes to the office with me on a weekly basis. But if one of my colleagues named their dog after me, I would find it weird at best.

        And you and I might not name our critters after someone we disliked, but you and I are not jerks (at least I hope I’m not). I definitely have known people who would do that and think it’s funny.

    2. AnotherAlison (also the Market Analyst below)*

      I was thinking the same thing when I read it. I have a former manager that I don’t get along with, and I’d never name anything after him.

      We did have some goldfish named Barbara and Steve, though. My kids picked the names, so none of my coworkers named Steve need to worry that I was honoring or disrespecting them.

      1. Chinook*

        The problem with children giving human names to goldfish is in reporting their deaths to other family members. We kids named my dad’s fish after ourselves and then my sister reported to my grandmother that John was flushed down the toilet. It took a lot of explaining from my parents for her to understand that we kids we not torturing each other.

    3. Anonsie*

      This exactly. Hasn’t anyone seen King of the Hill? “I warned them about that tornado and they’re still naming dogs after me.”

    4. Koko*

      Exactly. If he did it as a dig at the supervisor, that seems to suggest he doesn’t like his dog.

  4. Lizzy*

    1.) That just seems odd. I hesitate to call it disrespectful because people tend to really love their pets, especially dogs. People also tend to put thought into naming dogs, right? I suppose I would be flattered if a friend named their beloved dog after me, but naming it after a supervisor?

    2.) I have encountered this with some of my background skills and experiences. I agree with Alison that you should try gaining other experiences (if you didn’t have them already). It is unfortunate, though, that employers look down on retail experience. My time in retail was short-lived (and I hated every minute of it), but talk about a learning experience. Same goes for working in the food and restaurant industry.

    5 ) If I understand the question correctly, I tend to frame it as what types of goals or accomplishments are expected within a certain time frame (i.e. 6 months, one year, etc). I notice when hiring managers can’t answer, they are usually new in their position or the position itself is new. On the rare occasion, I get the sense that the hiring manager isn’t crazy about the position (or perhaps the previous person who held it) and is being pushed to hire quickly or in a way that aren’t too fond of.

    1. Lizzy*

      I forgot to add to #1 that perhaps the supervisor and the employee are close? Or that the supervisor is seen as a mentor and a role model? Some context into their relationship would be more helpful.

    2. Sarah*

      In regards to 2: it is unfortunate that I don’t have any other experience in an office type setting. I was going to school full time and working full time and didn’t feel I had time for an internship. I mistakenly thought my GPA spoke for itself. If I could go back, trust me I would have gone for it. I agree with you that employers seem to look down on retail experience and it is a shame because I feel there are so many transferable skills I have learned! Multi-tasking, customer service, leadership, working with a sense of urgency, and that’s just to name a few. It’s getting to a point where I almost just want to leave that experience out, and focus only on my skills. (I could explain where I learned them after the interview.)

      1. Colette*

        I don’t think leaving that experience out (and thus having no experience on your resume) will get you an interview.

        It’s unfortunate, but Alison’s advice to work on getting office experience is probably your best bet.

      2. fposte*

        I don’t think it’s so much that they look down on retail experience as they don’t find it interchangeable with office experience, which I think is fair. The problem is that they’re seeing candidates with skills that don’t need transferring, and that’s what you’re competing with.

        I love seeing some retail/restaurant/bar experience in my hires–it genuinely does boost them as candidates–but it’s in addition to experience that’s more specifically tailored to the job I’m hiring for.

        1. College Academic Counselor*

          Exactly. I often see people who want to get in to my career field from some other related area. The problem is that there are usually several candidates with work experience in the exact line of work that we’re hiring for, so they are almost always going to be stronger candidates than someone who has transferable skills from a different field.

          I agree with all of the other advice here: I don’t think your retail experience hurts you but it doesn’t help as much as you’d like to think it would. You need to be able to show that you’ve used your skills in a work environment substantially similar to the workplace where you’re applying – by interning or volunteering if necessary.

          My only other suggestion would be to reframe your retail experience to make it as clear as possible what the connections are to office work – for example, when I worked in retail, I spent some of my time in the stockroom and was responsible for reconciling purchase orders and things like that, which are more directly related to office work.

      3. Lizzie*

        Employers really don’t care about your GPA, because it doesn’t say much about your professional skills- those are what you have to demonstrate.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          And GPA is so variable. Chances are I know nothing about how rigorous your school is, or how well-connected you were, or how valuable of an athlete you were (all of which can affect grades in non-merit ways). So, while a high GPA is better than a low, I don’t really care about it when I’m looking at applications.

      4. LMW*

        I actually love people with retail experience (coupled with necessary skills of course), because they often are very good at responding to problems and finding solutions when they run into roadblocks. Also, they tend to be very responsive to requests from coworkers and have a generally helpful attitude (less “its not my job” attitude). Of course, you can find employees with these traits without the retail experience, but that tends to be more about personalities than on-the-job experience (those with retail experience tend to have extensive training in these skills — it’s second nature to them).

        1. Mallory*

          This. When I went from retail work to being an admin with twenty faculty members to support, I thought of it as if my “customer” base had shrunk in number from “the general public” to “these twenty people”.

      5. Anonsie*

        Gah. This transition sucks and I have heaps of sympathy. I did it a few years ago at the peak of the recession and it’s not a whole lot easier now.

        The fact is that people generally don’t care about your grades. Your GPA is only important in that it shouldn’t be terrible– your experience is the only thing that really gives any picture of what you can do, and as it is you haven’t done any of the work you’re trying to get now.

        That said, don’t feel to aggravated by the “you should have worked in an office even just a little” advice because that’s not really enough, either. I anticipated the need for office experience as a student, so in my third year I stopped doing paid work in favor of an unpaid office-based internship (which I did for the rest of my time in school) and some industry relevant (non-office-based) projects separately. I thought ~2 years of 10-20 hours a week in an office was a good start, but what I found when I was looking for full time work after uni was that everyone specified they wanted 1-3 years of *full time* work, or even better, full time and *paid.* Seemed like everywhere was specifically trying to exclude internships and volunteer work. I could barely get an interview here or there.

        And in the meantime I followed the “get some volunteer experience” advice and I almost wish I hadn’t. I was always with other people who were out of work and the organizations seemed to not really like that because they knew we could vanish at any time if we found a job, so nowhere would give anything much to do that was worth reporting to potential employers. It didn’t even help in terms of making me look motivated, I don’t think, since it seemed to be met with a little bit of an eye roll by employers. “Oh good for you, you stuff envelopes sometimes. Don’t care.” All in all it felt like it didn’t really do me any good and it made me feel worse. I did eventually get one volunteer “job” that was amazing– until they discontinued the program two months in.

        What I’m getting at here is that you shouldn’t feel like you didn’t do enough or if only you did x you wouldn’t have this problem. This is a really tough transition to make, and you can follow all the typical wisdom and still be in this spot. I know “you’ll find something eventually” is the most annoying platitude people give, but it is true at least– there is an end point, you just don’t always know when.

        1. VintageLydia USA*

          You said plainly what I was trying to get at below. Internships are not enough. Volunteer work is not enough. Some employer needs to be willing to “take a chance” and actually put forth the effort to train people, but many (most?) don’t. Full time paid work in another industry is not enough. Student work in the administrative offices are not enough. It’s never enough. How long does it take to train someone to take phone calls, greet visitors, and sort mail to someone with a proven work ethic in a customer/client focused industry? An hour for the basics, at most? A few weeks in real time as different duties come up?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            But often this stuff is enough. Does it guarantee everyone who does it a job? Of course not. But more often than not, it significantly helps. It would be irresponsible not to steer people toward doing those things, because it make them much stronger candidates than if they have none of it.

            1. Anonsie*

              To be clear, I’m not telling the letter writer to *not* do any of those things or discard the advice. Just that I know the advice is absolutely maddening to hear when you’re actually in that situation, and she shouldn’t be under the impression that she made a horrible mistake and wouldn’t be in this situation if not for that.

              1. Sarah*

                @Anonsie-Thanks for this. I did a lot while I was in college. No it wasn’t an Ivy League School, no it wasn’t professional level work. But I supported myself, paid my own bills, cared for my own family (I’m in my late 20s to clarify, slightly older than the average college student). No I didn’t do an internship. I have friends who did and they agree with you- it hasn’t been enough. I understand that GPAs are variable and not totally reflective of success in work- but at the same time it’s something I am proud of and something I worked hard for. Employers don’t count it for much (and I know this) but I do feel as though I’m not given enough credit for having done it.

          2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

            Some employers do need to be better about this, sure. But the fact remains that in any given candidate pool, one person is getting hired for that job and everyone else is getting rejected, regardless of ability to do the job. And if you only non-office work on your resume, and you’re competing with people who have office work, why on earth would it be in the best interests of the employer to take a chance on you? And why would that be in anyone’s best interest in general, as those people with office experience are people also, who presumably need and want the job just as much as you do? And in 3 years when you’re looking at new jobs, do you think you’d be happy to know you were passed over for someone dramatically less qualified because the employer was willing to “take a chance?”

          3. Colette*

            Our shipping/receiving person is also responsible for maintaining the conference rooms, covering reception, and helping everyone in the building with our printer/photocopiers (which is really technical, since almost no one can use them properly – and I work in high tech). There may be companies where people do one, easy to learn job – but those jobs are going away.

            It’s true that getting experience won’t guarantee you a job – but not getting experience makes it a lot harder.

        2. Paige Turner*

          Thanks for your comments- my job searching experience has been similar, and it actually helps to hear “no, you’re not lazy/incompetent/delusional, you really are doing everything you can, the job market is just like that.”

  5. Sam*

    #1 I think it could be seen as disrespectful, in theory, if the co-workers are picturing the new dog owner at home yelling “Bad Wakeen! No!” and telling stories about how Wakeen pooped in the hallway AGAIN. But people (usually) really, really love their dogs, and even if it was (initially) a flip, disrespectful choice to have a “pet” Wakeen at home, that novelty will wear off pretty quickly, I bet. 5 years from now the dog owner probably won’t be reporting to human Wakeen anymore, but canine Wakeen will still be just as happy as ever to see him come home every day.

    1. Jamie*

      For every time an animals name is used to tell them no there are usually 100x it’s used in a baby talk voice talking about their cute tummy or what a pretty baby they are.

      I am so verbally affectionate with the four leggeds in the house I could never use a name of someone I disliked. Or a manager even if I liked them, really…now that I think about it. Kind of creepy telling ‘manager’ that they need a bath or that they are such a pretty girl with her new pink collar!

      1. A Teacher*

        The worst name I’ve seen in my time doing rescue work is “Lover Boy.” I assume that wasn’t after a boss and I know the new owner changed it because she couldn’t picture yelling “Lover boy” out the back door when he needed to come in…

          1. A Teacher*

            +1. She was a 70ish year old woman living in a retirement community so her granddaughter came with her to pick the dog up and kept saying if you yell “lover boy” all the widowed old guys will come running :)

  6. Geegee*

    #2 – It’s a shame that so many employers seem to look down on retail work. I worked retail/food services/customer service jobs while going to school. I never did an internship. I applied to internships, but I was never qualified enough. When I graduated, it was that much harder for me to find a job in my field. It was very frustrating. I was also embarrassed to show my resume because all I had were those retail jobs. It’s a shame though because I learned so much while working retail. Sure some of these jobs require that I wear a ridiculous uniform, but I learned to multi task, I developed a strong work ethic, leadership. I learned to deal with difficult people in professional manner. I improved my interpersonal skills and so on… But employers just aren’t impressed of course. I got pretty depressed about my job search. I began to think I was doomed to work retail forever. It took me a few months but I was able to find a crappy filing job which I held for a couple months. And then a mind numbing data entry job which I also held for a few months. It’s kind of funny that these kinds of jobs look better on my resume but required very little of me. The argument I guess is that these office jobs show that I am able to work in an office. But is it really that hard to learn office etiquette? I really don’t think so… But from there, I was able to move on to better jobs. It’s extremely frustrating, OP, but hang in there. I’m sure you will find something better.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not that employers look down on retail work. Well, some do, of course, but plenty don’t — and plenty recognize that retail work can instill valuable skills like the ones you described. But yes, office experience does matter. And it’s not just office etiquette (in fact, that’s the least of it), but things like sending professional emails, working on long-term projects, business writing, and other things that you often don’t do much of in retail work.

      When you have a candidate with work experience closer to the job you’re hiring for, and one without that experience, the one with it will be more attractive. And of course, it’s not just one — it’s hundreds with that experience that’s closer to what you’re hiring someone to do.

      1. JCC*

        With 10 years of experience in retail, it sounds like #2 is suffering from “typecasting”. (Is there another term for this when one is talking about non-actors? “Career lock-in” maybe?) I doubt it is retail-specific — if they had 10 years of experience as a cook, or 10 years of experience as a janitor, they would probably run into the same problem. I wonder if switching careers is harder than it used to be?

        1. Harper*

          “Typecasting” — I like it. I see that a lot. I know when I’ve been hiring for my IT department, there will be people who worked in other fields, while getting IT certifications and even running a computer fixing business on the side, but the other members on my team will be like, “Oh, why is this janitor applying for one of our jobs?” I find that really unfair.

          So, yeah, I do think it happens and can be really , really difficult to break out of. My brother has been struggling for years to switch careers and has pretty much given up.

          1. Sarah*

            “Typecasting” is definitely what it feels like. The job required 2 years merchandising experience and a B.S. in business or a related field. I have probably five years experience in a merchandising specific role. I understood everything about how the work I would have been doing would have impacted the store level. To be told my qualifications were in adequate really hurt. Especially because I’m sure he’ll end up hiring someone with no retail experience whatsoever who has no idea how their role affects the store. (It happens a lot at my current job- it’s obvious the people planning the store don’t understand the real life results of their work.)

            1. fposte*

              I think you might be taking a single experience too much to heart here, though. Rejections don’t come with truth claims, and it’s possible that qualifications were simply a cover story for a phone interview with the manager that you yourself said didn’t seem to go all that well.

              1. AB*

                I think this is a very scenario. The “not enough experience” is business world equivalent of the old it’s-not-you-it’s-me in the dating world. It’s what people say when they either don’t want to tell you the real reason or there isn’t one real solid reason and they wanted to go with someone else.

                There was one position I applied for where I knew several people at the company, received the highest score on skills assessment out of everyone else and otherwise had skills and experience that matched the job requirements. The internal recruiter moved me ahead to the next step which was a phone interview with the local HR person before I could move on to an interview with the hiring manager. The first thing the local HR person said on the phone was “sorry, I just don’t think you have the right experience for this job”. Before she even asked me a single question she told me that she wasn’t going to put my resume forward to the hiring manager. Come to find out from a friend in that department, that the person who was hired was a friend of the HR person…

              2. Sarah*

                I probably am taking this experience too much to heart. And you are probably right that it wasn’t necessarily a truth claim about my experience. In my case the stakes are very high. Retail doesn’t pay much at all and I have a mountain of student debt about to come crashing down on me- in addition to the cost of living. This was also sort of my dream job- so it hurt a little more than a rejection from a company or another role I wasn’t as interested in.

                1. fposte*

                  I absolutely understand how that can be; it’s particularly distressing to get rejected for a job you thought was a great fit and have them blame it on fit. And it’s no fun to be a new grad with loans in full flower.

                  It also occurs to me to wonder if there might be somebody in your orbit who’s made this kind of transition who might be able to advise you a little here. Are there alums from your department that the career center could connect you to? Was there anybody in your retail career on the management side that you had a good connection with?

                2. fposte*

                  I think by “management” I really meant “corporate,” but you’ll probably know what I mean and what term is appropriate.

            2. Persephone Mulberry*

              For this specific job, I wonder if the issue not JUST “never worked in an office” but also that the manager doesn’t see the OP’s store-side merchandising experience as a replacement for two years of corporate-side merchandising experience? The two factors combined make for a pretty big hurdle to overcome.

            3. Anonicorn*

              I do feel heavy empathy here. I was unemployed for 6 months after graduating with a similarly impressive GPA and had to work during college – so no internships. When I did finally get an offer it wasn’t ideal, but it was the “in” I needed for those other opportunities that required those couple years of office experience.

              It sounds like if you can find a lower-level office job of some sort, even if it isn’t exactly in your field, you can then take those skills and pair it with, as you said, the real life results in the store.

        2. Bea W*

          This happens in my field, but is dependent on what kind of company you work for. The skills needed for the job are the same no matter where you work. So this is just stupid frustrating, especially when companies are complaining about not enough qualified applicants and yet they are overlooking a whole group solely based on where they were previously employed.

        3. Shana*

          As an aside, I worked for a restaurant once who used to ask new servers how long they had been in the industry. High end dining, so most of us had quite a few years built up. The response to us was, if you’ve done something for close to ten years, it is officially a career and you need to treat it with that level of respect and commitment. Honestly, it was a useful thing to hear, and made me handle myself a little better in the role. Restaurants have always been my fall back during bad economic times, but at that level I was making more than my previous office job that had laid me off.

          Maybe emphasize the work you did over who you did it for on your resume? I had to do this quite a bit when transitioning back from the restaurant world this last time (yes, more than once, thank you economy).

        4. chewbecca*

          It definitely feels like typecasting. My past few jobs were taken out of necessity, so they’ve been customer service or reception positions. Now I’m having problems getting my foot in somewhere that isn’t reception or customer service.

        5. Anx*

          I think typecasting is a good term for it.

          I don’t leave off my retail work and food service jobs because most applications are done online, where you are asked to list all jobs. But in the instances where someone doesn’t know about them, I stopped naively thinking that work ethic would be impressive and tried to frame my student life as a more leisurely one. Of course, it comes out eventually and the illusion that I might be ‘one of them’ is shattered.

    2. Marie*

      It seems to be country-specific, though. In my country (South Africa), internships are helpful, but so many kids come through college with great marks, but without any experience of boring/unpleasant work that must be done anyway, that the large law firm I work at is specially interested in hiring people who have worked entry-level jobs before coming here. I have a friend here who started out dirt poor (as in, her family ran out of food before the end of the month), worked retail for five years to save for university, and then continued working retail while studying, and the firm was so impressed by that in her interview. Of course, her straight-A average helped, but it was the real-world experience that clinched it for them.

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        When I first started working, I worked in bars. Then I graduated into retail. My experience of these sectors totals around 6 years or so. After I left retail, I worked in libraries and from there I now work in an office. It is difficult to go from retail to office but is there anything like cataloging, ordering stock, taking customer orders (names/phone numbers/what they’re ordering/etc) that you currently do that you could try and show that these are skills you have already and could take with you into an office job?

        1. FiveNine*

          The ability to multitask really cannot be overstated — wait staff, for example, who excel at their jobs are holding in their minds the pressing needs of several different tables (mini-projects) that all must be delicately balanced and timed and on top of that there’s on-the-feet problem resolution and PR, basically. I have seen college grads who are under the impression the job will be a breeze fail spectacularly; it is not easy to do well.

          1. Chinook*

            I think the ket for career transitioning is to use the cover letter to explain how your previous experience applies to your future career. Forr example, when I went from teacher to office assistant, I pointed out that I knew how to deal with confidential material, schedule trips for multiple people, deal with various personalities in a positive way and can manage multiple issues/schedules/tasks at once while still keeping in mind the big picture.

            Ironically, though, the two employers that gave me the break to change careers (at the temp agency and the employer who gave me the tem contract) both had parents who were teachers so they understood that it wasn’t B.S. but the truth.

    3. Sarah*

      Thank you for your insight. I definitely agree about the skills. I think some of them are mostly learned in retail and food service (like how to work with a sense of urgency- I swear most people behind desks move slow as molasses-no offense to anyone here). I am trying to get any office job I can! Data entry, secretary, filing, I would do any of it. These are the jobs I never here back from. Your story gives me hope though. I will keep on keepin on.

      1. Celeste*

        I think it can be a catch-22 with lower-level office work if you have a degree. I think then they decide you aren’t planning to stay so why bother.

        Maybe a temp company can get you into those office jobs easier than applying directly? Just a thought.

        1. Geegee*

          Yep I hated staffing agencies but they’re probably your best bet rather than applying specifically for low level office work.

        2. Sarah*

          I am looking into temp agencies as well. I hear a lot of negative things about them though which makes me nervous. For example, posting fake job ads in order to gather resumes and candidates. I don’t feel like I have time to waste writing individualized cover letters for fake job postings.

          1. Celeste*

            Write something, submit your resume, and let the chips fall. If it works, great. If it doesn’t work, then you know not to keep on with it and to find another way to get your office experience.

          2. teclatwig*

            Oh! Don’t let those stories scare you away from staffing agencies, please. Look up the major staffing agencies and then call or email (or follow whatever instructions are on their website). Others on here may be able to speak to how to assess the quality of the agency (Glassdoor? Yelp?), but you won’t be wasting your time.

            Once you get sent on a job and get stellar reports, you’re more likely to get better and better positions. Be sure to remember that every interaction is part of your audition, and any poor behaviors (being late, or slovenly) will become part of their profile of you.

            1. Chinook*

              I agree – temp agencies are a perfect way to get a foot in the door if you approach them instead of them approaching you. I have worked three times with agencies and all three times have had them turn into more permanenet positions (two as staff and one as an independent contractor who has cut out the agency middleman and keeping their profit for herself.) I can hoenstly say I would never have found these positions if it weren’t for the agencies plus there was the added bonus of not having to do the running around to get them!

            2. Kerr*

              +1. Find several agencies that look good, and call them directly to apply as a candidate.

              Temp agencies DO often post nonexistent (or already-filled, or likely to be filled as soon as they post the ad) jobs. Some of the agencies I’ve worked for did that – and I never heard a thing about the specific jobs I’d applied for. I did, however, sometimes get other work from them, once I was in their systems. So don’t bother applying to their ads – just contact them directly.

      2. Colette*

        I swear most people behind desks move slow as molasses-no offense to anyone here

        Things definitely move at a different pace in an office, but that doesn’t mean the people are working more slowly, just that it’s a different kind of work, which requires a different approach. For example, I’ve been working on implementing a major project since September. It’s complicated and it involves hundreds of people, so it takes a long time.

        A sense of urgency is a good thing if it’s actually urgent, but not everything is and knowing the difference is critical to success.

        1. Kelly L.*


          The biggest thing I learned from retail and food service–and I’ve talked about this in interviews, though phrased better than I’m going to here–is the “the only way out is through” thing. In food service, when the lunch rush descends upon you, it does no good to freak out. The lunch rush lasts as long as the lunch rush lasts, and the only way to make it stop is to just keep making food until it’s over, and you might as well do it calmly because it’s better for your own sanity that way. ;) That, and if you rush too much, you’ll make mistakes and get further behind because you have to redo stuff. Better to work at a moderately-fast pace that you can be accurate at.

          1. hildi*

            “In food service, when the lunch rush descends upon you, it does no good to freak out. The lunch rush lasts as long as the lunch rush lasts, and the only way to make it stop is to just keep making food until it’s over, and you might as well do it calmly because it’s better for your own sanity that way. ”

            This is so profound in its simplicity and I think could so easily apply to many other situations in life that are hard, unpleasant, or overwhelming. I love the way you worded this.

        2. Miz Swizz*

          I just want to second that knowing the difference between urgent and normal business requests is so important! I supervise a woman who’ll send me an email, then pop in my office and if I’m not here, go to my boss because someone sends an email about a report not returning the desired information. The report is working as requested, the person just wants to tweak it. But she freaks out like it’s mission critical. She’s a whole other story though.

        3. Sarah*

          Sorry- I probably should have been more diplomatic in that statement. I agree rushing is not good, especially if mistakes are being made. It’s not fair of me to generalize that statement, or make judgements about it when I have no office experience. I just mean when someone has an actual line of people waiting for their services perhaps they could walk a little faster between point A and point B instead of meandering about almost aimlessly.

          1. Colette*

            Agreed, and there certainly are people in office jobs who are slow (maybe for legitimate reasons, maybe not), but trying to move into an office job with the attitude that most people in the environment work slowly will not do you any favors. If it was just an offhand remark, you may not have anything to worry about, but comments like that will not help you in your search.

        4. jennie*

          This is a really good point Colette. I actually have an employee who comes from a retail background and this is her first office job. I love her sense of urgency when it’s required, but she often applies it to non-urgent situations and ends up making snap decisions that should have been more carefully considered. It’s been a challenge retraining her that an immediacy isn’t always required like it was in her retail job.

      3. Celeste*

        I’m also wondering if your college can help with any kind of internship assistance. Mine pushed hard for everyone to do even a semester’s worth of it somewhere. Inquire to see if they have any opportunities to match you up with.

    4. Em*

      Agreed about food service/retail/customer service. Office jobs have their own challenges, but the fact that they can’t see those skills translate is frustrating, furthered by the fact that college should be filling in those gaps.

      I appreciate the idea of an internship – but not everyone can afford to work for free, not even half a day. I had to work more than one job to be in school, and you can usually only get an internship if you’re in school. It can become a really vicious cycle.

    5. Lisa*

      I once had been called in for an interview for a gift shop job at a museum. I got there and gave my resume copy to the person who had called me, she was pleasant and I sat down on a bench outside the offices. She went in the hallway and talked to her boss and gave her my resume. The boss glanced at it, crumbled it up and threw it in the trash can, then said ‘get rid rid of her’. I was 7 feet away.

      I knew my retail experience wasn’t great for finding an office job, but I didn’t expect other retail jobs would be snobby about my retail job at home depot, apparently cashier skills don’t transfer if its a snooty museum gift shop.

      1. JMegan*

        Ouch. :( Sounds like you dodged a bullet in any case, I don’t imagine he’d have been all that pleasant to work for!

      2. EM*

        That sucks. :(

        I’ve heard Home Depot is a great company to work for!

        I was in AmeriCorps for a year and I often worked with Home Depot employees who were volunteering with us for home renovations and such — they always said they loved working there and the company was great about promoting and such.

    6. K*

      It’s ridiculous how many employers will look down at retail and food service experience considering they’re often a lot harder than office jobs.

  7. Rayner*

    The problem I have with the whole concept of internships etc, is that my field (and the one I want to aim for) of work offers few internships, even fewer paid ones, and the competition for them is ridiculously tight now.

    If you aren’t on track for a first class degree (high GPA if you’re not British) and don’t have an absolutely exemplary glowing recommendation for the review, like I didn’t, you can’t get in. Game over. Beep, no second chances, off the ride, chump.

    While internships are valuable, and they are definitely worthwhile, for many who maintain, through no fault of their own , C or B averages (mine was due to disability and attention issues that medication did not come in time to cure), you are SOL. And then you can’t get into that field without doing a huge circuitous route through numerous hoop jumping like I did to get in here.

    Maybe the concept is different in America, but many of the internships available in the UK in ‘arts’ or ‘business-y’ (not economic/management track ones) are not good for students who may have to work to support themselves or need more than the bare minimum of study hours per week. Few are paid, few offer actual work experience that you can take home and use outside of that place, and most don’t lead to anything beyond a ‘Thanks. NEXT INTERN, PLEASE.”

    Maybe I’m just grumpy. It’s Wednesday.

    1. Attorney (Marie)*

      What about volunteer work, even if it’s slightly outside of the field you want to work in? And if you can’t find anything, what about starting your own organisation with a few like-minded friends? I only had one internship, and by the time it took place it was AFTER I’d accepted a job offer, since law firms here sign us up more than a year before graduation. But my very generalist volunteer work (Habitat for Humanity, various kids’ projects and fundraisers) was sufficiently impressive to employers that I was still able to get interviews.

      1. Rayner*

        Volunteer work is good, but for me, I had to work while I studied. Period. Had to, no choice. My rent+food+everything else expenses as a student meant that if I didn’t earn (or at least broke even with expenses paid), I was actually paying (and losing out on good food money) to work as an intern. Same with volunteering (tiny town for uni, thousands of students, they wanted all or nothing, basically because they could). The experience value to cost was not worth it unless you got a fantastic internship/position for v. and with my grades, that was not going to happen.

        Shame but there we go.

        But now, I see other students (where I work in Finland, but same principle), younger than me in their second or third years, looking at that same choice and struggling to make that decision, and it frustrates me. Campus career office recommends internships but hell if you can get ’em. I still think internships and volunteering are great. I just think they get a lot of press for not always a lot of results.

        And I’m no good at the ‘own business thing’, lol. Don’t have the mental capacity to focus that hard. I like a job where I come in, do a fantastic job, rock out where I’m good, but go home at the end of the day, leaving payroll and insurance up to someone else.

        1. A Cita*

          Yes, this is a huge problem with unpaid internships. It exacerbates socio-economic issues (which often fall along ethnic/racial lines as well), where only those who can afford to work for free can take them. And you slowly end up with certain sectors of the job market reserved for a privileged few.

      2. Anonsie*

        This advice always surprises me because I have volunteered a lot in my life and I have yet to encounter more than maybe two organizations that use volunteers for anything other than extra hands. Set up tables before an event, hand out flyers, stuff envelopes, answer calls for a fund drive… It’s not a really good route to get the kind of experience a job or even a mediocre internship can give you, unless you happen to find a program that bucks the trend there. And in those cases, the time commitment and hours they need you for is going to be much too large/inconveniently timed to do around university.

        Hell, even some of the extra hands type places won’t let you in unless you commit to a minimum of 1-2 years 10-20 hours a week on a regular shift. It’s kind of insane.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          You need to find small organizations that will let you do substantive works — the ones that are young/small/desperate for help. That’s where the substantive volunteer opportunities are easier to locate.

          1. Anonsie*

            It’s more common with the smaller ones, yeah. But even the really tiny ones vary just as much as the very large ones in terms of what they find appropriate for volunteers, in my experience. It looks to me mostly like a culture & institutional structure thing, so while more small nonprofits might be ok with a volunteer “staff,” I’ve still seen almost the same amount of that in the larger ones.

          2. annie*

            It’s also not just about the work, but about the connections. If you want to go into marine biology and are stuffing envelopes for a dolphin charity, you are making a lot of connections to people who are going to be more relevant to your future career, even if you are just stuffing envelopes. This is why I think people should do this earlier in their college careers, so they can build those connections and perhaps even get some practical advice, i.e. hey, I’m registering for classes next semester, do you like to see graduates who have X coursework or Y coursework more? Later on maybe they have an entry level marine biologist opening and they think of you first because they have gotten to know you, even though they have only seen you stuff envelopes. I volunteer on the board of a nonprofit that is in the same general industry as my career, and I’m always willing to talk to my fellow volunteers about career or school stuff.

            1. Rayner*

              Not… really.

              Most of the places my friends worked at barely even called them the right name – it was literally, “Here, sit down, make phone calls/stuff envelopes/run around doing the coffee thing,” and then three months/two months/however long later, “Bye. Send the next one in.” If you wanted a reference, get a letter on your last day, or you were SOL. Try to use it to get back in after uni? Pfffft, whatever. They had interns for a reason. You never met anyone high up enough to make connections with: you were the filing clerk. Not even a real employee, not paid, not covered for expenses. You just filled a quota to look good. .

              Internships are a system to be used and abused, at the moment, and I feel they’ve lost a lot of prestige in the process.

  8. Vicki*

    Has anyone else noticed that question #5 seems to be a flip on the usual “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

  9. carlotta*

    #4 – so no sky diving, climbing or cycling etc for you or your colleagues then. And definitely no skiing! I met a HR person once who wished she could stop their employees doing adventure sports because it was the biggest cause of injuries which prevented then coming into work and pushed up insurance premiums!

    (Oh and by the way I don’t actually think those sports are dangerous per se. I mentioned cycling particularly as I’m a road/track cyclist and I’ve had a couple of crashes, which is what happens sometimes. Not enough to see me out of work but enough to cause some issues!)

    1. EngineerGirl*

      Actually, all of those are safer than getting pregnant. Really. The people in Britain actually have the actuaries for them.
      Don’t tell the HR person though. I’m sure they have enough problem with kids as disease vectors.

    2. Anne 3*

      People frequently get into car accidents too, so maybe we should all just go on foot. The roads would be so much safer :)

      1. Rayner*

        But you could wear high shoes and fall of them! Or trip over your laces!

        Everybody has to wear velcro shoes, and wrap themselves up in bubblewrap to go anywhere. In fact, wear it in the house too!

      2. OriginalEmma*

        You might not want to do that in the United States. Our rates of pedestrian injury due to motor vehicle collision are shameful. Almost 70,000 last year, and this doesn’t include other non-motorized victims of vehicular assault. Better off staying home!

        1. carlotta*

          Yes in London too. People don’t realise it but a greater % of people get injured walking than any other form of transport. My family do not believe me.

    3. Harper*

      I mountain bike so I have felt that pain, often. :D

      But yeah, I rant sometimes when I am feeling ranty, about the growing proliferation of medical offices on site at businesses and all of the “health incentives”. And this seems as though slowly, it will progress to where employers feel they have a right to dictate that their employees do nothing but supposedly “healthy and safe” things in their off-time, not because the employers really care about keeping people unharmed, but because they want to keep costs down.

      Of course, I am a suspicious and grumpy person. ;)

      1. gabrielle*

        I mountain bike so I have felt that pain, often. :D

        Heh, me too. Usually the prime topic Monday mornings is “Where’d you ride” and “Where’d you crash”.

    4. AnotherAlison*

      Welllll, my coworker broke his collar bone skiing. And when you add up the lost work time from him telling the story three times to every. single. person. there was a lot of lost work time.

    1. Anne 3*

      Yes. And like you’re supposed to answer that one with how the prospective job fits into your overall careers and goals, I’d be very wary of an employer who can’t tell me how my role will fit with the company in 12 months.

  10. Jen RO*

    #1 – When my friend got a cat last year, I was convinced he had named it after a coworker. The coworker had an uncommon name so it was “obvious”. Well… no. My friend didn’t even know he *had* a coworker with that name, he just liked the sound of it!

    1. Mints*

      Yeah it depends HOW uncommon. I mean, my sister’s name is so uncommon I don’t want to post it because it would blow my anonymity completely away, even without knowing anything else. Meanwhile my name is uncommon enough that I’ve only met like two other “mints” in person, but almost everyone has heard of it. (my name is in the top 200 for the year I was born, but that’s much lower now)

      Although the letter looks like the coworker says they did out on purpose, so the point is moot

  11. Chocolate Teapot*

    4. Have you recently noticed a large owl in your garden which always seems to be there? Well, he has just gone on your company’s payroll.

    1. Heather*

      I wouldn’t know whether to be pissed about the spying or excited that owl post could be a real thing ;)

    2. AndersonDarling*

      Na, this must be the same company that was talked about last week… the one that had a private investigator on the payroll and was there to check on FMLA and PI claims. Now he is checking on your at home safety.
      He is in your garden.
      Now he is in your kitchen.
      Now he is in your shower making sure you use organic shampoo.

  12. Blue Anne*

    Oh man, I should have named my hamster after my manager. She just wouldn’t have known how to deal.

  13. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    5. Asking an interviewer for a 12-month vision of the job

    I love this question! Positions in our company are fluid, everything always changes, and this question is a springboard to have a back and forth about what might happen next (and what other areas interest the interviewee).

    The best part of the question is that I can’t answer it. What I can do is talk about potential paths, and it’s a great setup to find the right cultural fit. The person who is shook up that I can’t say “12 months from now, your job duties will be XYZ”, not a good fit. The person who lights up and talks about possibilities for 2o minutes, that’s my hire. (Well, that coupled with a good attitude about “there’s probably some crap things you’d have to do for 3-6 months to get the knowledge base you need to move along”).

    It’s too rare to get questions from potential hires that are useful, but that’s a really useful one. (Please don’t ask me how long you get for lunch if that is the only question you can think of because as soon as you do, I’ve mentally move on to the next candidate.)

    1. Graciosa*

      I was a little taken aback by your comment that you couldn’t answer the question. I may not know *exactly* where the role will be in twelve months (yes, we get new projects, and have to make course corrections sometimes) but I have a clear vision of our direction and can certainly tell applicants what I expect a year or two down the road. Five years out it gets a little higher level and less detailed, but I have that too.

      I suspect we’re closer on this than the first comment would indicate, as you do mention potential paths, but I did want to echo Alison’s point that the manager should have a plan. It’s not always perfectly scripted – I just jumped in and accelerated one transformational project by a more than a year because I had the opportunity and wasn’t going to waste it – but a leader should have ideas to express and some sense of what direction the team should be going. From reading more closely (and having seen other comments you’ve contributed) I think you do this, it just didn’t come out clearly here.

      I totally agree with you about the lunch question, by the way. I was in an initial interview with a candidate who had no questions for us about anything other than the benefits (when they kick in, did the plan include Dr. So-and-so, etc.). If that’s the only thing that interests you about this job – and you’re not even smart enough to hide it from me! – I can definitely do better.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Yeah, we are exceptionally fluid, which is a great match for the right people. It’s a combination of business needs that come up (we’re in 30% growth range atm) + skill sets identified after hire + what the employee is interested in…none of which I can predict at the interview table.

        My answer, of course, isn’t “no idea”, but instead a back and forth about areas of interest and possibilities.

    2. periwinkle*

      I’m trying to imagine how my current boss would have answered this question. It would probably have been along the lines of, “I have no flippin’ idea. Your particular role is to sort out this huge important project, pinch hit on other projects as needed, handle whatever weird things come up, and make it up as you go along. If that scares you, this is the wrong role.” Like you, he talked instead about possibilities and problems rather than guarantees and predictability. Definitely a good way to check fit on both sides!

  14. Retailer here*

    I have worked my whole career in retail…started as a part time associate, became a manager, buyer, and now divisional manager. I had an associate’s degree when I started, and about 10 years in, went back and got a BS and an MBA. At that point I was trying to get into banking or sales forecasting type jobs but no one could see past the retail experience. Even though it gives you skills in dealing with people, multi-tasking and business analysis. So I have stayed in this industry, (which I love) and worked my way into a nice position. When you are a retail manager, you deal with people, customers as well as associates, product, which makes it fun, like shopping, and being able to interpret the numbers…sales, inventory, payroll, etc. It can be very rewarding.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      A new hire left us once because she’d gotten the job she’d been waiting for – assistant manager of the liquor department at Wegmanns, which including buying.

      I said, I’m sorry to see you go but, that job is way cooler this one. Go have a great career!

  15. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    2. My retail experience is harming me with employers

    I love seeing retail and restaurant experience on resumes. Everything we do is customer-centric, whether is customer facing or not, so this experience is a plus to me.

    Here’s the problem we’d have with your resume. I don’t put much weight at all on undergraduate business degrees without office type business experience. I feel business classes are useful when they are integrated with application, otherwise it’s just a bunch of exams studied for and passed, and none of it translates well into the real world.

    Are there practical skills that you excelled at in school? Statistics comes to mind. More number analysis! So hard to find people who can rock this.

    If you can break out practical skills acquired with your degree, it may work out better.

    FWIW, I think trying to work your way up into the company with which you’ve been retailing might be the easiest path. Companies love to say that the SVP of Merchandising started as a stock clerk.

    1. Sarah*

      I really like the idea of adding in some practical skills acquired with my degree. Perhaps I’ll list it under the education section of my resume? It can’t hurt to give it a shot.

      I agree with you trying to work my way up in this company would probably be the easiest path- my managers keep asking me if they can help me do this. The issue is they work 50 sometimes even 60 hour work weeks for not a whole lot of pay. I have a baby at home now and I don’t want to be away from her 60 hours a week. At only 40 hours a week I feel deprived as it is.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      I was thinking along those same lines. There is experience gained in all jobs that is relevant no matter where you go: multi-tasking, dealing with angry customers, and so on. Other things learned in retail might apply to other jobs too: like if you know how to do an inventory, if you’ve got experience scheduling people’s work shifts, etc.

      Your cover letter might be a good place to start, by saying something like, “My time in retail has been invaluable, but now I’m ready to take the next step in my career,” and then highlight some of your experiences in retail that would apply to the jobs you’re going for.

    3. Prickly Pear*

      My thing with climbing up with ranks that if they’re like my company, they’re facing a lot of weird ‘jumping tracks’ issues. Our thing is that we have two basic tracks in our retail arms- Teapot makers, and Teacup makers. The two can overlap, but mostly don’t, and the two sides can get really antagonistic. If you’re on the Teapot side, your track goes a lot higher- but Teapots are considered the more ‘non-professional’ of the two and Teacup people are not likely to jump tracks. Teacups don’t have that many places to go if they’re not in charge with advanced degrees. It’s like Teacup-Senior Teacup-Teacup Trainer and that’s it.
      When I first started, I was one of the youngest, and I had the reputation of a young turk. Now that I’ve been in this role a while, I’m in the middle of the pack age wise, but considered one of the seniors. There’s no up for me here, only out.

  16. Katie the Fed*

    #1 – If nothing else, there seem to be some boundary issues in play. It’s not necessarily offensive, but it’s strange.

    Also one thing to keep in mind is that different cultures regard dogs very differently. Right now my dog is burrowed under the blankets next to me, snoring and farting happily. In other cultures that’s unthinkable because dogs are lowly working animals. I remember telling a friend in Egypt that my dog sometimes sleeps in my bed with me and his look of utter and abject horror. It would be like telling someone I shared a bed with a goat.

    So…that may be some of the offense. I do think it’s strange though.

    1. Jen RO*

      I’ve definitely seen that reaction from people in my culture… including my mother! For her, the idea that the cats are allowed in bed is utterly disgusting, whereas I *wanted* the cats to sleep in my bed.

        1. Jen RO*

          Well, I have heard of well-behaved cats that don’t jump on kitchen counters… mine aren’t well-behaved so the counters have to be scrubbed before using them for any food-related task.

          1. class factotum*

            A friend, who apparently has never owned a cat in his life, after seeing a facebook photo of my cats on the counter, asked, “Why don’t you just keep them off the counter?”

            It is to laugh.

            And it is why I use a cutting board for all food prep.

            1. Rayner*

              Double sided sticky tape. They only do it once – also, don’t do it when they’re unsupervised. They will tie themselves in knows to get it off.

          2. Office Mercenary*

            My cat knows he’s not allowed on the counter but I got him a stool that’s roughly the same height so he can sit nearby and watch me cook without getting on the counter. If someone is sitting on the stool, the cat will tap their leg a few times until they leave. It’s like he’s saying, “Excuse me, you’re in my seat.”

      1. Katie the Fed*

        To be honest, I’d snuggle that. I already feel like I sleep at Noah’s Ark Bed & Breakfast what with two cats and a 65-pound dog all vying for cuddles all night (not to mention the fiance).

        1. A Cita*

          Yeah, I think goats are super cute. I’d totally snuggle up with one as long as I was wearing something I didn’t mind being eaten.

          1. hildi*

            Goats are insane! In high school and college I worked at a tourist attraction where we had trained farm animals that did a funny little family show (the overall park was a reptile zoo, but we had these random trained farm animals. Right up my alley). Anyway, the theme of the show was an old west town and we had a goat that was Billy the Kid (ha) and his trick was to break out of jail. He was nuts. He would break out and then run all over the stupid place. We didn’t use him very much because he was hard to wrangle. So it’s obvious to me where the term ‘goat roping’ comes from. Because they’re crazy.

            1. fposte*

              And the males urinate on themselves deliberately and smell accordingly, so I’m not excited about having one in my bed at night. Nannies aren’t so bad.

              1. hildi*

                Did not know that. I think goats’ biggest draw is that they are hilarious in a shake-your-head-they’re-so-insane kind of a way. They make for good YouTube videos.

            2. Gene*

              Reptile Gardens of South Dakota?

              Mom worked there in the 60s and Dad helped the Brockelsby’s move to the new site. He got bitten by an alligator; in South Dakota; in January – he kept the shed tooth on a chain around his neck until he died. The insurance company bounced that one back multiple times; would have given the employer in #4 a coronary.

              They’ve been doing that same show since I can remember (early 60s.)

            3. Office Mercenary*

              Yes, goats are gross! They’re adorable for the first month or so, and then they get those freaky rectangular pupils and sit in their own waste. Those eyes give me nightmares!

      2. Jamie*

        One of the smaller goats? I’d move over – as long as he didn’t eat the duvet and smelled like goat shampoo.

        I would not however share a bed with a Koala because I recently learned that they have a huge chlamydia epidemic and this results in incontinence. (Big push on treating them though, so that’s great news.)

          1. Persephone Mulberry*

            I, however, DID learn all about koala chlamydia on GFY. Are you going to the NAB/Tractor Pull Conference?


            1. Heather*

              I have to know…by GFY do you mean Go Fug Yourself? Because if so, I REALLY need to catch up there. Koala chlamydia?!

            2. Al Lo*

              I’m totally going. Still working on my seminar schedule, though. Too many good ones to choose from!

    2. Sunflower*

      Yes I feel like the culture thing is coming into play here. I’m in the US and my dog is probably our most loved family member. His name is a variation of my mother’s maiden name and I can’t imagine naming him anything other than something wonderful and adorable like he is :)

      I’ve never named anything after something I’ve disliked. Even when we had mice in our apartment, I think we named them evil things but those might qualify as something you’d name after your terrible manager!

    3. Laura C*

      I was thinking something very similar – culture differences regarding animals are probably coming into play here. If I saw dogs as lowly working animals or “below” humans then I might be inclined to name the dog after someone I disliked. Since I don’t – in fact I’m a dedicated animal lover/rescue worker – I would give my pet a name I loved.

      Personally, I’d be tickled if someone told me they named their pet after me!

  17. Katie the Fed*

    #2 – a lot of volunteer organizations need office help, just basic filing and database stuff. It’s not the most glamorous of work but it might help round out your resume.

  18. Katie the Fed*

    #4 – could this be one of those wellness programs run amok? Do you work at an insurance company and they’re trying to set an example with the employees?

    It seems a bit crazy for sure.

    1. Harper*

      Ah, I was just saying the same thing — although with many more words, above. I think it is!

    2. Judy*

      We have to do a wellness survey every year, to get contribution to our HSA. It does ask questions about use of seat belts, alcohol usage, etc. You get a report at the end “good behaviors to continue” and “items to work on”. I believe the aggregate is reported to the company.

      1. LBK*

        Yep, we take the same thing at my company, but it obviously doesn’t tie into our raises at all!

  19. Harper*

    #1, I think it depends on how the coworker thinks of and treats his/her dogs. I always said I would name my next dog “Steve” because I thought it would be funny and cool to have a dog have a “normal” person name and be all, “Come on, Steve, let’s go!” However, I ended up having bad supervisor named “Steve” so there is NO WAY I would ever name a dog Steve now, because that guy was bad and I love my dogs. So, yeah, as others have said, it depends.

    1. mina*

      My kittehs are Toby and Leia. The Cat Who Came Before was Mina. I don’t choose animal names.

      1. Chinook*

        I grew up with dogs called Cuddles, Misty and Muffy but I adopted an older dog named Pete and never looked back. Between DH and I, there are dogs named Pete and Mable, a wolf named Marley, a cat named Max and a flying monkey/squirrel type named Winston. To outsiders, it sounds like we like have actual children with old-fashioned names (though I do not consider myself their mother but their owner and protector).

        1. Paige Turner*

          This is amazing and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter (with photos of Marley & Winston please!) ;)

          1. Paige Turner*

            (Not meaning to sound stalkerly, just impressed! My dog refuses to allow other animals to challenge her position as Only Child)

      2. Koko*

        I have a Toby cat too! Well, Tobias is his formal name, but that’s strictly for his vet papers. He’s Toby at home.

  20. plain jane*

    #2 – is there a way that you can rework your story so that you highlight how your real world retail supervisory role played well with your schooling, or vice versa? (multi-tasking, dealing with multiple stakeholders, leading a team, understanding how small improvements can make a big impact, how communication approaches lead to improved outcomes)

    Can you coach your retail experience to be speaking more directly to the new job (worked as liaison between head office & floor staff, handled customer escalations, dealt with lots of paperwork…)? If this is first “real job”, should you refocus the resume to be less about recent job experience, and more focused on what a new graduate looks like? Perhaps call out that the retail work was concurrent with schooling in your resume so they don’t see you as a lifer.

    1. JMegan*

      I agree. You’ve been really good at describing here how the skills are transferrable – make sure some of that gets into your cover letter, if you’re not already.

      I also agree with fposte above, that you seem to be putting a lot of weight on this one situation. People have job interviews all the time, and they get rejected all the time, at all stages of the interview process. Chances are that it had nothing at all to do with you. Whether another candidate was more qualified, or they hired the CEO’s neice instead – it comes down to “they’re just not that into you.”

      And I disagree with Alison’s advice here about calling them back for another chance. I would go with her usual advice to mentally move on, and keep applying for other positions. Good luck!

      1. Sarah*

        The support on this site is really great. So thanks to all for that! I am finding myself very discouraged by this one rejection, but this is coming from a pile up of rejection and just blatant lack of responses I get to the many many applications I fill out. I tend to be my own harshest critic (although aren’t we all?) so it’s just whittled away at my confidence and I sort of feel as though I have reached my breaking point.

        Before I begin applying I think I will take some time and try to rework my resume towards “new grad” and transferrable skills. If I have any better luck I will try to let people know. Hopefully it can help someone else as well.

  21. GigglyPuff*

    #1: It could just be that the coworker was running through a list of names they knew, and that one stuck. Whenever I name a pet, that’s usually what happens, even if I don’t particularly like it, it just fits and everything else feels forced. Of course if that happened to me, I might be a little more bashful about the entire thing than this coworker sounds.

    1. LPBB*

      When I found my cat he went unnamed for about two weeks. During that time I collected a whole slew of names and then tried each name out on him to see what he responded to. He responded multiple times to Rocky and not to anything else, so that’s what I named him.

      1. Windchime*

        My kitten also went unnamed for several days. I had 3 potential names for him before I got him, but none of them fit. I finally found a totally random name off the internet that I loved, but I still shorten it up and call him Mike most of the time. You just never know how these things are going to work out!

        1. Jamie*

          Apropos of nothing, my gramma once complained she hated the name of her 6th son. I asked why she named him that and she said the nuns in the hospital kept pushing her to put something on the birth certificate so she could go home so she wrote down the first name that came into her head.

          I am still incredulous that at a time when they not only kept you in the hospital 10 days post birth and this was her 6th child she didn’t kinda see the need for a name coming.

          When I asked her she said you have 5 kids in 7 years and see how clearly you’re thinking after #6. She had the snark and led by example how if you snark with a smile you can get away with a lot of smartassy stuff.

          Although seriously – Catholic woman in the 1930s…have a list of go to names.

        2. Koko*

          The last time I adopted a kitten, I also waited a few days to name her. She was the runt of her litter but very adventurous and exploratory and not at all shy, so I named her Kira after Kira Salak, the adventure journalist that NY Times called “the real-life Lara Croft.”

      2. Elizabeth West*

        My cat’s name was Miss Piggy (the neighbor who owned her called her that). But when they dumped her on me, I shortened it to Pig. When I tell people “I have to go home and feed Pig,” they sometimes think I’m talking about a real pig.

        She doesn’t respond much to her name; she knows it but just can’t be bothered. :)

        1. short geologist*

          My next door neighbor had a Miss Piggy! Can I ask where you’re from? Maybe it’s a regional thing?

          My neighbor’s Miss Piggy lived to be 17 or so and went senile and would follow me home because she forgot which house she belonged to. She died almost 20 years ago.

    2. Susan*

      I lost a kitty recently (about a week and a half ago) to cancer/heart disease. She had been named by the people at the shelter, and I didn’t feel strongly enough about the name to change it. I didn’t realize until my first vet visit with her that her name + my last name = a famous actress’ name. Oops. Luckily it’s an actress I feel fairly good about, but I’m sure that people believed I was over the hills about this actress, that I would name my cat after her.

    3. Gene*

      I have friends who named their cat Beaner when they lived in Boston; he was about the color of baked beans. All was well until they moved with the cat to Tucson. Their first clue was when they hit the Immigration/Agricultural check station entering AZ. When asked if they had any fruits or vegetables, they said something like, “No, just the Beaner in the back.” After the full search of the U-Haul, they continued on. They couldn’t call the cat by name outside the house in Tucson.

  22. Mrs. Badcrumble*

    OP #4, it sounds like you work in the same place as my husband (Mr. Badcrumble). They profess to care oh-so-much about how safe you are in your off-time, but when it came to closing the office when the roads were a mess this winter, you know, so their workers wouldn’t have to risk injury? They sang a different tune then, let me tell you. Anyway, I don’t actually have any advice, I just wanted to commiserate and let you know that:’re not alone, and 2. the company is ridiculous.

    1. AB*

      Yes, this, thank you! Our office is so uber safety conscious that you aren’t allowed to even wear high heels to the office because they’re “tripping hazards” and bad for your feet (I work in a regular office environment). But when we had that freak ice storm, they didn’t close the office until later in the afternoon which caused several people to get stuck either at the office or in their cars which also meant that several people had kids stuck at school or daycare overnight.

      1. hildi*

        “several people had kids stuck at school or daycare overnight.”

        Wow! I am honestly curious how a school or daycare would handle that? “(i’m thinking a center; not home daycare). I can’t imagine how hard that would be on everyone.

        1. VintageLydia USA*

          The teachers stay overnight, gather the kids in the gym or other large room, pile as many mats and blankets as they can muster so the kids can be as comfortable to sleep as possible (easier at a day care which is usually set up for kids to have naps than at a school.) I imagine the teachers sleep in shifts, if at all.

        2. AB*

          It was a city-wide thing, not just related to our office. The storm stranded pretty much the whole city. So, parents couldn’t get to their kids, but that also meant that the child care workers and teachers wouldn’t have been able to get home either so they all just stayed put. The schools had kids sleeping on mats with their coats as blankets. There were schools that tried to send kids home early on busses and the busses got stuck. But everyone else was stuck, so emergency workers couldn’t get to the kids. In those cases, people living nearby and drivers in the stuck cars around the busses got out and helped get the kids to churches or fire stations. The result was a lot of people didn’t know where their kids or spouses were.

          My brother abandoned his car after being stuck in traffic for 5 hours, walked 4 miles to the daycare and then carried his daughter 2 miles home.

          The whole city seriously resembled some sort of apocalyptic disaster-scape.

  23. BCW*

    #1 This blog has taught me that anything can be taken as disrespectful to someone. In my wildest dreams, I couldn’t see how naming a dog after a boss could be one of those things. Maybe the dogs mannerisms remind them off the boss, for example he is stubborn but loyal. There are a ton of reasons. Hell, maybe he just thought the supervisors name fit the dog. However based on how you are writing, you don’t seem to be the supervisor, so why do you really care? Another case of MYOB.

    #4 Seems like a stretch, but really lets be real, it happens in other ways. Not necessarily tying pay to off duty things, but tying employment. We have all heard the stories about teachers getting fired for pictures of them online with booze. I’m fairly certain some places can require you not to smoke as one of their employees. Also, marijuana. Even in states where its legal, they can still drug test you for it. This just seems like an extension, albeit a silly one, of those things.

    1. Sigrid*

      Yes, hospitals in Michigan (and I hear other places as well) now will not hire smokers, and employees hired after the smoking ban went into effect (Jan 2013) are subject to termination if they are found to have nicotine in their system during random drug tests. Marijuana use is also prohibited in your contract, although technically it’s still illegal in Michigan so it shouldn’t need to be called out specifically. (I think they’re hedging their bets for when it’s inevitably decriminalized.) And we are of course required to get vaccinated, including annual flu vaccines; none of that “personal belief” exemption for hospital employees.

      All of that is written up in your hiring contract, though, and it’s also all things that can be tested for with a drug test while at work or documented in your medical record. I don’t even know how they’d enforce something like “you must wear safety goggles when mowing your lawn”, because how would they even know?

      1. The Real Ash*

        I think you’re mistaken on your Michigan information. I have yet to hear of a hospital here in Michigan that will fire any employees with nicotine in their system, let alone all of them in the state doing so. I know our local hospital (the largest one in the metro area) has smoking areas where you can see people in scrubs standing out there all the time. And the smoking ban that went into effect in May 2010 (and bans smoking in enclosed, indoor workplaces places, but all hospitals here already banned indoor smoking years ago), so I don’t know what 2013 smoking ban you’re referring to.

  24. Maple Teacup*

    #1) as an interesting twist I am named after a dog. My dad loved the name of the canine next door and decided to give it to his unborn child. It could have been a compliment to name doggie after the boss. Even if not, this shared name could be passed off as a coincidence.

    1. Hummingbird*

      I was wondering what people would think if they were named after a beloved pet. One of my dogs (who has since died) had a name I would love to save for any future children, and the dog just had the personality to go with it too. But I thought some might be insulted if they found out they were named after a dog.

      Anyway, to add to the original post from the OP, my bird shares its name with my boss – or rather my bird has the shortened name of my boss’s name (like Tommy for Thomas). However, I’ve had my bird for about 12 years now whereas I’ve only been working at this job for about 6.

      1. Windchime*

        Remember the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin? He had a dog named Bindy that he loved, and he later named his daughter Bindy as well. I always thought that was funny (and I kind of like the name).

    2. Felicia*

      My sister is named after a dog too! The dog did have a name that humans often have though:)

      Maybe they just heard the supervisor’s name, thought it sounded nice and realized it fit the dog. I have a supervisor that I think has an awesome name that I would use for a pet – because I don’t have kids, and I like how the name sounds. She’s not my favourite and we’re not friends or anything, but I also don’t dislike her.

      1. Aunt Vixen*

        SALLAH: Please, what is this “Junior?”
        HENRY: It’s his name. Henry Jones – Junior.
        INDY: I like Indiana.
        HENRY: We named the dog Indiana.
        SALLAH: You are named after the dog?!
        INDY: I have a lot of fond memories of that dog.

        1. VintageLydia USA*

          My dad is retired from the Navy and loved boats since he was a kid. Apparently I’m named after a particularly pretty sailboat an acquaintance owned. Thank god it’s a people name (Lydia isn’t my real name.)

          1. Paige Turner*

            Nice! I did once hear of a girl named Raleigh, but named after the bicycle brand, not the city (or Sir Walter). Of course I have no proof that this is really true, but I like bikes, so I believe it :)

    3. Jamie*

      I just remembered that one of my cats has the same middle name as one of my sons.

      I always loved it as a first name, he didn’t mind so we gave it to one of our rescues that didn’t come pre-named. But then I immediately started calling the cat Gryffindor so I forgot that his official name is the same as my kiddo’s middle.

      Yeah – it’s not an insult unless it was intended to me.

      1. Jamie*

        My cat’s first name is the same as my son’s middle name.

        Someday I’ll get a hang of this communication skills thing.

        1. hildi*

          Actually….it wasn’t all that odd to consider that a cat had a middle name. I bet a lot of people do that :)

          1. Jamie*

            All of my four leggeds have middle names.

            And confirmation names – despite not going through CCD or parochial school. (It’s how I compensate for adopting older pets who typically come with names I don’t want to change and confuse them.)

            Mine also have royal titles, so perhaps I’m not typical, however we leave these off the paper work at the vet because the titles are honorary.

            1. NOLA*

              The first time I took my cat to the vet, I told the vet tech/office person that his name was Mr. Sly-vester, Mister Sly for short. The vet insisted they weren’t that formal there and Sly would do just fine

            2. Koko*

              My own cats don’t have middle names, but my eldest cat did earn the honorific “Professor” when he took to wearing a collar with a tiny gingham bowtie on it, and I have taken to calling my neighbor’s cat, Doug, “Douglas T. Cat” (the T stands for The).

          2. ThursdaysGeek*

            One cat is Lola Kiger Myotis , and she goes by Kiger. Another is Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz , and he goes by Baz. Are those middle names? The vet has ‘Lola’ and ‘Maher-Shalal-Ha’ or whatever fit, and I always have to remember they only have their first names, not what they go by.

      2. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)*

        That’s okay–I deliberately named my cat Willa because it sounded great with my last name and was a great name for the daughter I’m not having.

  25. Brett*

    #2 There’s a problem with filling in interning and volunteering to offset a retail work history.

    People do not normally work 10 years of retail because they want work experience. They do that because they need the money to survive, and retail allows them to exchange hours and energy for money. Those hours and energy are not available for interning and volunteering, and and any time and energy spent interning and volunteering directly cuts into their ability to survive at that point.

    1. fposte*

      No disagreement, but that doesn’t mean we should be quiet about its advantages, and it sounds like Sarah might now be in a place where she could do some volunteering anyway.

    2. Colette*

      At some point, it comes down to making the decision to prioritize interning or volunteering because you believe it will help you get a better job in the long run. It doesn’t have to be 20 hours a week, either. Retail schedules have some flexibility, so maybe she could volunteer every Monday morning, or cut her expenses so she could afford to take a six week internship.

      1. the_scientist*

        This logic makes me laugh because it’s so laughably out of touch. Someone who is living paycheque to paycheque or otherwise on a shoestring budget doesn’t have a chance to cut their expenses, because all their expenses are necessities.

        Beyond that, internships usually have costs associated with them- maybe it’s business-casual clothing, bus/train fare, parking or gas. That adds up, even over 6 weeks- and especially over six weeks when you aren’t working.

        It’s really tough to get an internship once you aren’t a student, and students get a lot of discounts/breaks that are unavailable to graduates- I’m thinking for example, of loan deferral. My loans were deferred while I was a grad student, but once I graduated they started accruing interest. I’m employed, but if I was to take a six-week internship, I’d still have to be making loan payments.

        1. LV*

          I read a great but very sad article in Medium yesterday called “The minimum-wage worker strikes back” about fast-food workers in St. Louis. They were trapped in the fast-food world because the extremely low salaries made it impossible to improve their situation. Many of the people profiled had been attending college or some sort of vocational training, like nursing school, but had to drop out because they could no longer afford the tuition, or had to support an out-of-work parent. All their money went to rent and utilities, food and bus fare. It’s so, so classist and out of touch to tell people in that situation, “You just have to want it enough to work for free for weeks or months.”

          1. VintageLydia USA*

            Most of those people are getting money from somewhere else, though, like parents. Some people are able to forego things like sleep in order to have the hours available to work 40+ hours, go to school and study for 40+ hours AND do an unpaid internship (where they still have to pay for things they may otherwise not have to spend money on like certain clothing,, childcare, and transportation costs) but that’s hardly a standard everyone should be expected to achieve. The current system is set up for those with fewer resources to fail. The few that don’t are not the norm.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              But the goal of this site isn’t to take on the broader system; it’s to tell people how to get what they want within it. So if there are things that will help, it doesn’t make sense to refrain from suggesting those things just because not everyone will be able to take advantage of the suggestions.

            2. LBK*

              Not really true. If you’re a part-time cashier, sure, but for someone who’s been in retail for 10 years and has a management position, you probably aren’t living paycheck to paycheck even without an outside source of income. If I had stayed in retail and moved up one level to a manager role, I’d be making about $20k more a year than I am in my office job. If I’d stayed long enough to become a store manager I’d be making over $100k. Not every retail job pays minimum wage, especially once you start getting promoted.

              1. VintageLydia USA*

                That’s hilarious because as a retail manager I was making ~$20K a year. My boss was salaried but was working 60-70 hours a week and not even making minimum wage once he did the math. The store general manager was still just barely making ~$50K in a very high cost of living area. I still have friends in that company and raises are scarce, even with promotions, and things have gotten worse (and it’s a big company with nearly a thousand stores across the US and Canada, so hardly a mom and pop that can’t afford paying a living wage even if they wanted to.) With friends who work in many different retailers, large and small, your experience isn’t the norm.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  That’s one reason I didn’t bother with management when I worked in food service. Besides the difficulty I had figuring hours and payroll, the money wasn’t much higher than making sandwiches and busing tables. I didn’t love it enough to work my way up to a job at a higher-end restaurant; I got out of it as soon as I could. It tears you up physically.

          2. Heather*

            To me, there’s a difference between suggesting that a person try it if they can, and implying that they’re irresponsible or not disciplined enough if they can’t.

            In your answer, you phrased it as one of several possible approaches: “Can you do an internship, volunteer, etc.?” That seems reasonable to me – you’re acknowledging that it may not be possible for her, but saying that if it is, it’s worth a shot.

            But Colette said, “At some point, it comes down to making the decision to prioritize interning or volunteering because you believe it will help you get a better job in the long run.” That implies that regardless of their situation, if someone doesn’t prioritize interning or volunteering, then they must not deserve a better job in the future. (Colette, I’m sure that isn’t how you meant it! Just trying to put my finger on why your comment elicited the reaction it did.)

            To be clear, I don’t think people should feel obligated to turn down an internship that will help their careers just because the same opportunity isn’t available to everyone. It’s at the systemic level that we need to work on making those opportunities more accessible, so I think the movement against unpaid internships at profitable companies is a great start.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I don’t think that’s about thinking someone “doesn’t deserve” a better job (and would be shocked if anyone here really thought that), but about pointing out a reality — a hard reality, yes, but often a reality just the same. I think some people are bristling because it was stated so plainly, but it’s far kinder to people to point out that that might be the case than to downplay how much it might really matter.

              1. Heather*

                Right, I don’t think anyone here really means that. That’s why I think it’s about the difference in framing/phrasing – “if it’s possible for you to do this, it could really help you” vs. “if you really wanted a better job, you would do this.” It’s a lot easier to read the second version as being dismissive of different experiences…even if that’s not how the person meant it.

            2. Colette*

              I don’t think it has anything to do with deserving it – but it does affect whether you will get that better job.

              Should someone with relevant experience miss out on a job they are perfect for because someone else may not be able to get that experience? That’s what people seem to be suggesting – that someone who is missing some relevant experience should get a job without it, which will leave people who do have that experience jobless.

            3. Jamie*

              But Colette said, “At some point, it comes down to making the decision to prioritize interning or volunteering because you believe it will help you get a better job in the long run.”

              I didn’t read this as an indictment or that everyone should be able to do it, but just a general statement that does apply to a lot of people. I know you said later in your post that you didn’t think she meant it the way it sounded and I just wanted to chime in that I don’t think she did, either.

              There are absolutely people who are living on very tight budgets working multiple jobs where an internship isn’t feasible – just as there are people who truly are on such a tight budget that even transportation to an unpaid internship would make it impossible.

              But there are a lot of people for whom Colette s advice would apply. Just like people who work full time and still make time for school. I can’t imagine that’s easy and if you ask most people with a full time job if they had the time to do that they’d say no – but many people somehow make it work through a lot of sacrifice and careful planning.

              I can’t think of one piece of advice that would apply to everyone in every circumstance – there will always be exception. But I’d hate for people to not toss out ideas which could be very helpful to a lot of people just because they can’t be universally applied.

              I do understand the concerns at a system level with internships, but as you noted you wouldn’t suggest someone who could do one turn it down on principle – so imo it’s important that we all clearly delineate advice to individuals working within the system we have now and issues with the system itself – because both are important but are very different problems.

              1. Heather*

                clearly delineate advice to individuals working within the system we have now and issues with the system itself

                Thank you!! I gave up on a bunch of draft posts because I just could NOT think of a way to phrase this. It was making me nuts (and therefore at risk of squirrel attacks :D).

        2. Colette*

          Agreed that some people live close to the edge – but if this is what you have to do to get a better job, you either you figure out a way to make it work (maybe by volunteering for a half day a week), or you decide that you will stay in your low-paying job.

          Someone who worked full time and went to school should have more free time (even continuing to work full time) after they graduate, shouldn’t they? Yes, they may need to work more hours (or at a second job), but they may also be able to carve out some time to get experience that will help them get another job. Can everyone? Maybe not. Can some people? Absolutely.

          I find a lot of time “I can’t” actually means “I don’t want to make those sacrifices” or “it will be hard”.

          1. VintageLydia USA*

            More free time maybe but less money. Most people I know is school can use student loans to fill in the gaps (yes even those working full time) but now you not only have those loans, but you have to start paying them back which is usually several hundred dollars a month. Plus add in how much money it costs to do unpaid and low paid internships (remember OP is a parent so childcare costs must be considered and they are almost universally astronomical) and it’s little wonder that recent grads have a ton of CC debt and those who can move back to their parents’ house typically do.

            I know I’m raging against the machine here. Complaining about it won’t solve the issue, but so many people don’t even realize how much of an issue it is and saying “Well suck it up!” isn’t actually solving the problem either.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I guess I’m confused about why you and some others are criticizing people for offering the suggestion and implying it’s unhelpful. No one thinks every suggestion offered here will help everyone, but that’s no reason not to mention helpful things.

              1. Heather*

                It takes me forever to organize my thoughts coherently enough to post (ADD + copyeditor = a shit-ton of rewriting), so I ended up crossposting…but I think my response to you above at 11:09 touches on this.

            2. Colette*

              So is your solution that businesses should hire people who are less qualified, because they may have had a hard life?

              I’m confused about what you’re suggesting here. You’ve ruled out volunteer work, as well as low-paid internships.

              The system may be broken, but that’s not something the OP can affect. She can only change things that are within her control.

              1. Brett*

                Well, I have seen several amazing hires develop out of less qualified people who had a hard life. Because they have had a hard life, their qualifications often do not match their abilities. So, they end up getting hired into positions that are slight reaches for their qualifications… and turn into rock stars.
                To be successful with that kind of hiring, though, you have to be very good at evaluating ceiling and upside potential rather than just experience and development. And then you have to be able to manage someone with upside without putting crumbling pressure on them to develop. Even experts get that wrong most of the time, so you have to be willing to deal with a few failures if you go that route (but qualified people fail too).

                1. Colette*

                  I’m definitely not saying it can’t happen, but right now, many companies are stretched thin, and they want someone they don’t have to take that kind of chance on. Since there are still lots of people looking for work, they don’t have to.

              2. VintageLydia USA*

                Isn’t that what they used to do? Receptionist jobs used to require no college degree and no prior experience. Nothing has fundamentally changed about most reception, or mail room, or other equivalent low-level office jobs, including the relative pay. This push for nearly every white collar job to require years of experience and an expensive degree isn’t helping anyone. There are real hurdles out there and you don’t even have to be that poor to run across them.

                1. Colette*

                  I’d disagree that nothing has changed. There’s a lot more computer knowledge involved in all of those jobs than there used to be. There’s also more of a chance that those jobs are bundled, so instead of doing one job, you’re now handling tasks that used to be associated with different jobs.

                  Is that enough to make a degree or previous experience necessary? Maybe not. But businesses are able to find people with degrees and experience to fill them, and so if they’ve decided they want the person in that job to have a degree & experience, there’s no need for them to hire someone who doesn’t have one or both of those qualifications.

                  Things change. They used to hire people to do filing, typing, and to route calls – now those jobs don’t exist.

                  Is it harder than it used to be to get an entry level job? Absolutely. Is getting the qualifications harder for some people than others? Absolutely. Does that mean the world will change so that you don’t have to do those hard things to get your foot in the door? Not unless there are more jobs than people with those qualifications.

                2. Jamie*

                  Nothing has fundamentally changed about most reception, or mail room, or other equivalent low-level office jobs, including the relative pay.

                  I disagree with this. As Collette mentioned, there are computer skills needed now that weren’t in the past. And I can’t remember the last time I heard of anyone being assigned filing – there are also a lot fewer admins or people hired for basic clerical work because of a lot of reasons, but one is the advances in technology and running leaner a lot of even top level execs are putting back their own files and making their own copies.

                  Not everywhere – but in my industry certainly.

                  Reception rarely means just phones anymore – often it’s bundled with AP and/or AR and various admin tasks.

                  I agree that far too many entry level jobs require a degree to get in the door (although that is still not the case in my industry) but to say admin work hasn’t fundamentally changed over the last couple of decades isn’t true, ime. Admins are now expected to do a lot more for a lot more people than they used to – and a lot (not all) of the lower level work has been eliminated.

                  My siblings are much older than I and after highschool in the late 70s my sister was in a typing pool. That was admin and completely archaic by my time. The phones/filing type jobs have largely gone the way of the typing pool.

              3. Elsajeni*

                I wouldn’t say “hire people who are less qualified,” but I’d like to see employers, in general, not define “qualified” so narrowly. The OP has 10 years’ retail experience, including supervisory tasks and merchandising; is she really inherently “less qualified” than someone who has 2 years’ office-work experience? Or, is someone who has no degree but 5 years’ full-time work experience “less qualified” than someone with a BA and two summer internships? Not that the answer can never be “yes” — but I think a lot of employers jump straight to “you’re only qualified if you meet these very specific requirements,” even when other combinations of past experience would, realistically, prepare a candidate just as well for the job.

                (Of course, I do actually understand why requirements like those are so common — it’s so much easier to deal with a huge number of applications when you have straightforward, bright-line cutoffs than when you have to weigh things like, “What’s the conversion factor between retail management experience and office supervisor experience?” or “Is this semi-related work experience close enough to count?”, and I’m not unsympathetic to that. But employers are hurting themselves, too, by ruling out qualified-but-not-in-exactly-the-prescribed-manner applicants.)

              4. anon-2*

                Well, that’s what the old “affirmative action” system was about, wasn’t it, to a great degree?

                1. anon-2*

                  Clarify = under AA, somewhat often, the most qualified external candidates did not get employment offers.

                  And when it happened INTERNALLY – it wreaked havoc concerning those who were passed over.

    3. Annie O*

      Thanks for this comment, Brett. I think it’s easy to forget that some folks literally cannot afford to take an unpaid internship or volunteer opportunity. It’s not always a matter of “prioritizing.” Not everyone gets help from their parents; heck, some students are actually giving support TO their parents while trying to go to school. Sometimes it comes down to a choice – rent, groceries, tuition, or the electric bill? When you’re facing that kind of choice on a regular basis, the thought of spending hours working for free is almost laughable. In this situation, it can be so freaking difficult to claw your way out of poverty. It’s like a catch-22. You need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience. Good luck with that when you literally can’t afford to work for free.

      If you can’t tell, I’m at that point where I think that unpaid internships – and those who support them – are perpetuating and deliberately increasing inequality in this country.

      1. the_scientist*

        A++ for this comment. I’m an extremist on the issue and I oppose all unpaid internships on the grounds that they are inherently inequitable are a major driver behind increasing inequality in North America. Furthermore, because economic and job inequalities are often divided along racial lines, you could make the argument that unpaid internships perpetuate racial inequality.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t see anyone here criticizing people who can’t afford to do these things. But plenty of people can, and why should they not be made aware of the ways that it can help them? I mean, it’s also true that not everyone has a professional network that they can use, but we still talk about using your network when you have them.

        1. annie*

          Also, a lot of people who come from nothing and work three part time jobs while going to college and paying their own tuition while also maintaining a high enough GPA and other commitments to keep their scholarship can, and do, also do internships, paid and unpaid. I did, and I recognize that I was privileged to be able to have the kind of energy to keep up with that all back then, but it does happen, frequently. In my experience some of the least wealthy amongst us are the best hustlers in terms of finding opportunities for themselves to take on more work and thinking creatively on how to make it all work.

          But also, I think it is okay for the OP to cut herself some slack and say to herself, “I have a young child at home, and this is not the time in my life where I desire to “lean in” to 40+ work weeks and that’s the right decision for me right now.” There’s nothing wrong with that! You just have to accept that your candidacy is not going to be as strong as other people’s might be.

    4. Brett*

      AAM did clarify that the volunteering and interning suggestion is from a broader perspective, which I take as not necessarily for the OP (who has already graduated and missed some of the better opportunities to intern, like some of the other comments have pointed out).

      I think though, that presents a dilemma for those with less resources too. Work full-time, go to school full-time (and perform well in classes too), parent, and then add intern/volunteer work? I think even three out of those four would crush most people. Ideally you would cut back on full-time work and not school or parenting. But when cutting back on work is not an option, that means cutting back on the other two to make interning work out.

      I think a lot of the letter was really about the frustration of doing the “right” things by getting through school with an awesome GPA, and then finding out that all of that work got the OP no closer to changing their situation.

      1. fposte*

        Absolutely. And this also goes back to the college-preparing-people-for-careers thing–apparently nobody at the OP’s school mentioned that GPA wasn’t going to matter much later and that a clerical stint in Fundraising might have helped her more than staying with the retail job.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, that’s something I’ve been fuming over while reading all this this morning — that no one at the OP’s school guided her well on this.

    5. Sarah*

      Wow- a lot of replies to this. Not sure where to even begin addressing it. Thank you for understanding I did not work 10 years in retail because I wanted work experience (it was indeed survival related). Someone here commented that internships are difficult to find after you have graduated– I cannot stress this enough. I’m open to ANYTHING that will get my foot in a door, but I have yet to see an internship posted that does not require that you still be enrolled in school.

      Volunteering is hard because as someone else stated I do have a child at home. I do have help with her, but I am limited as to when I am able to receive this help. (Her grandmother watches her during the day, but also has her own commitments.) To find a third party to watch her at a time when I could volunteer would require paying that third party. Financially I’m not sure I can justify paying someone to watch the baby while I work for free.

      Hypothetically speaking, if I was able to volunteer even a few hours a week at a time when her grandmother could watch her- how long would I be expected to have been volunteering before this can count for something on my resume? (3 months? 6 months? 1 year?) I am not going to say this is bad advice- I appreciate everything everyone has to say. But the logistics of it are more difficult than some are trying to make it seem. I am dedicated to providing a better life for my family, even if it means working for free. I just feel as though the clock is ticking- I am not sure I have the time or the resources to make volunteering a significant part of my resume.

      1. Geegee*

        Personally, I think volunteering is great only if you can afford to do it. For example, if you live with your parents or you have a spouse who is supporting you financially, it makes sense. If you have enough savings to live comfortably while you are volunteering, that’s great. Also, you should also be truly passionate or at least interested in the organization where you are giving your time away for free. Other wise, it’s useless. Not only are you not bringing in any money, you are spending money on extra transportation, clothing, lunches, etc. so you are broke and miserable. Therefore, you are likely to bring a negative attitude to the organization where you are working for free. If it makes no financial sense, it’s probably not worth it. Same goes for an unpaid internship. Now I know someone who did an unpaid internship while working at a restaurant part time and babysitting on the side. She was a rockstar. Most people can’t handle this. And you have a baby. It sounds to me like you do not have the luxury to work for free right now. Your best bet is to work with temp agencies while you work at your current job, which is probably very flexible. Take some temp jobs as you get them. Also, tailor your cover letter and use some of the great tips you got here about explaining how your skills transfer into the job you want. The right opportunity will come and the right opportunity will be a paying job.

      2. CTO*

        One suggestion: some organizations offer volunteer projects that you could largely do from home, like planning an event, managing social media, or writing a grant. It could give the appearance of “office-based” work on your resume without actually requiring much time at the office. I am definitely empathetic to your other concerns about volunteering, and they are completely legitimate. I just wanted to offer one potential compromise if you do decide that volunteering is something you need to do.

        Anyone with a track record of ten years of success and growth in retail impresses me. In fact, I hired my last intern because she had that kind of work experience. She had little to no relevant experience in our field, but I knew that those entry-level tasks were teachable. Her background (food service, with crew leadership) showed that she was hardworking, reliable, committed, and knew how to work with people. I hope that someone sees the same promise in you soon, even for a very entry-level job. Good luck!

  26. Sarah*

    Thanks Alison for taking time to answer #2. I will spend some time today trying to come up with a thoughtful and diplomatic email, followed by hard evidence. I didn’t feel I really had a chance to showcase my ability in the phone interview because it was all about task related work.. Not tell me about a time when you helped lead an initiative at your company type questions. (I also feel like he had his mind made up before I even opened my mouth- which is totally unfair.)

    Unfortunately I have no office related work to add. I’ve applied for tons of entry level, data filing, secretarial type jobs but I mostly never hear back. It doesn’t help that I live in the state with the highest unemployment rate in the country either.

    Thanks to everyone else for your fantastic advice. I will definitely take it to heart. (And thanks for your sympathy, it has uplifted my mood a bit.)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      “It doesn’t help that I live in the state with the highest unemployment rate in the country either.”

      Then you’re competing not just with other recent grads (some of whom have office experience), but also with people with post-college work experience under their belts too. From an employer’s perspective, there’s not a lot of incentive to take a risk on you when they have candidates who have a track record doing the exact work they’re hiring for. If you can find ways to flesh out your resume (again, volunteering, temping, interning, even if only for a few hours a week), it will help.

    2. Windchime*

      I saw this mentioned earlier, but it bears repeating. Is there any way to move off the floor and into the “office” part of your current company? You mentioned that the hours are long and you have a little one at home, but I wonder if there could be something structured so as to give you a good work-life balance. Another idea is to move to a similar company; for instance, if you currently work retail at Macy’s, then perhaps you could move into a corporate job at Nordstrom or Kohl’s. Related companies would surely see the value in your extensive work on the floor (at least I hope so!) while also understanding that you now also have the education to work “upstairs”.

      Best of luck. I was very fortunate; I had an office job but it was something that people off the street were trained to do, back in the day (lucky for me). After attending several years of college, a position came up at the same company in the IT department and they gave me a shot. I’m not sure they would have given the same opportunity to an outsider, so it worked out well for me to stay with the same company as a way to get my foot in the door.

      1. Sarah*

        Hopefully this doesn’t come up as a double post- I apologize if it does.

        My company’s headquarters are in a very distant state. I am currently not in a position to move to that state. That was partly why I applied at this new company. Not only should my retail skills transfer a bit, but HQ was half an hour away.

        All this talk about office work has given me a new idea though. There is one position at the store level that acts as a sort of HR assistant. They answer the phones, schedule interviews, call people in, help with scheduling, that sort of thing. Perhaps my HR manager can help me find one of these positions either at this store or a different store. It’s tough because there isn’t a lot of turnover for this role, and they generally only employ one person for that position. My managers keep asking how they help though so maybe they could make an exception and let me get some experience doing this at night.

        1. CTO*

          That assistant job would be an incredible boost to your resume and offer lots of different industries to move into afterwards. Otherwise, I know my retail store (for my weekend gig) also employs an admin who handles office-type tasks. Even if that’s not an open position at your store, perhaps your managers would let you add a bit of that on to your job, or fill in for your current admin when they’re on vacation, or something like that.

          I hope that you’ll share an update with the AAM community when you do find the right opportunity!

  27. Lily in NYC*

    #1 – I’m finding it hard to get worked up about this considering my parents gave me the same name as their beloved pet dog who had recently died (my name is not really Lily).

    1. LV*

      I remember reading a letter to Ann Landers in which the LW explained that her whole life, she had dreamt of having a daughter named Emily but her doctor had told her that she wouldn’t be able to have children. She and her husband got a dog and named it Emily, and a few years later the LW got pregnant. She was writing to ask if it would be okay to name her daughter Emily as well and make her dream come true.

      1. louise*

        Not just okay, brilliant. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called my niephlings by my dog’s name. And my dad says his mom always called him Spooky (their dog’s name) when he was growing up. Seems smart to just make it the name! In fact, my dad has a terrible 1st name and has always gone by his middle…I think he would have actually preferred Spooky. :)

        1. Chinook*

          I swear the inability to remember the names of family members is genetic. My grandmother did it, my mom, sister and I do it (to the point that we don’t even correct mom because we know who she is talking to) and now my nephews are doing it. The line in our family is “once I get to the dead dogs, then you can correct me.”

  28. Ann Furthermore*

    #4: Unfortunately, I think this is the wave of the future. Health care is a huge expense for most companies, and they’re constantly looking for ways to control it. And I do get this, but companies are using it as an excuse to inappropriately over-reach and dictate how people live their lives.

    My company, an enormous multi-national corporation, started this a few years ago. First, you had the option to take a “health assessment” before the open enrollment period each year. The next year, it was still optional, but if you opted not to take it, you’d be paying another $20 for your health insurance. This also applied to your spouse, if he/she was covered. Last year, you had to disclose whether or not you used tobacco, and if the answer was yes, you either had to enroll in a quit smoking program, or pay another $50 a month for health insurance. So if you and your spouse are smokers, and opt not to do the health assessment, you could be paying another $140 a month for your health care!

    I get where this is coming from, but it still seems Big Brother-ish and creepy to me. Where do you draw the line? Yes, I’m an ocassional smoker, but I don’t do drugs and I rarely drink alcohol. So why is my bad behavior targeted where others’ is not? Is the next step for people to disclose how much alcohol they consume and pay a monthly fee if their usage is deemed too high? Or maybe overweight employees will be next — if your BMI is over a certain amount, then you have to pay some additional amount for your health care. How long until they just go the full distance and implant chips in all of us, so they can monitor what we’re doing 24/7, and perhaps deliver shock therapy when we do something deemed unsuitable or unhealthy?

    1. Judy*

      Next year my company is moving from “Behavior Based Rewards” where we get $ in HSA for doing things (like having a physical, taking the health assessment quiz, participating in a wellness activity) to “Results Based Rewards” where we’re gauged on 3 measures – BMI, Blood Sugar and Blood Pressure. To get the $ for each one, you need to meet the criteria, or show a certain % improvement over the year.

      1. hildi*

        I would love it if my company did that! We have the exact same set up as Ann F above, but I think incentivizing rather than punishing (or in addition to punishing some areas) would net better results for them. I’d be curious to know how well the employees in your org receive the changes.

    2. Heather*

      My company does that too – nonsmokers get a $600 discount per year on their health insurance & if you take the “health assessment” you get a $100 credit toward the annual cost. Luckily I’ve never smoked, but I refuse to take the assessment. I’d rather pay an extra $9 a month than help them move further down the road toward Big Brother.

      That’s something I will never understand about some people’s objections to the ACA – they freak out because they believe (wrongly!) that the government will get all their personal health information, but they have no problem with their employers & health insurers actually having that information.

    3. Windchime*

      My company does one of these ridiculous self-reporting programs, and if you don’t meet the qualifications you pay an extra $600 a year for your health insurance premiums.

      A few weeks ago, there was an email to all employees that there would be a nurse coming to the lunch room to take blood pressure and measure percentage of body fat for those who needed the data for their health documentation. Great; just what I want to do on my lunch break–be measured with calipers while someone shouts out my body-fat percentage in front of people who are eating their lunch.

    4. Kay*

      Yep… It may be 2014, but 1984 is happening. I really need to re-read that book. So interesting, and so disconcerting. It’s been a few years since I picked it up.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      We do this too–but I refused to let them weigh me. I said I thought that was ridiculous and I don’t even weigh myself and I don’t let the doctor’s office tell me my weight either. The screener agreed with me, but they had to put something down so we just estimated. I think the machine’s default made my BMI higher than it actually is, but whatever. I’m surprised people are even still bothering with it.

      The good part is that they’re so health-conscious here that it’s fine for people to take a break to walk outside and for me, do stair climbing. :)

  29. dahanaha*

    #2 I had the same issue when applying to jobs out of college I had worked in mainly hospitality and serving jobs all through highschool and college. What I really needed to do was pull out the skills I learned that weren’t necesserily industry related and play them into all the interview questions. So i wouldnn’t talk about how I can carry 4 plates AND a tray of drinks to a table (though quite impressive) But I would relay how working in a customer is always right environmet influenced my ways of working.
    And how dealling with unruly and ssometimes irrational customers gave me amazing problem solving and other skills. After one interview I actually had a hiring manager comment that he was impressed at how I translated bartending into an office environment.
    Also in the opposite I was recently passed over for a job because they wanted someone who had previously worked in a retail environment…. you never can know where your skills or lack thereof will be important!!

    1. Sarah*

      That’s an interesting approach, but I think I might be able to make it work for me. Sometimes these kinds of answers and transferrable skills are so simple and transparent to me that I forget that maybe they are not as simple and obvious to someone else. I don’t mention it and then my point doesn’t get across so these kinds of things are important to keep in mind.

      Sorry you didn’t get that job with the retail experience though!

      1. dahanaha*

        For sure you definitley need to sometimes spell out the connections especially if you are interviewing with people who are far into their careers. They may not necessarily put it together themselves but when you draw the conclusions for them in your cover letter or interview answers it really works you can almost see the lighbulb going off when they make the connection.
        Good luck in your search I’m sure you will be successful soon!!!

  30. All Trails Medical Coverage*

    Always found this funny…
    We want to make sure you’re taken care of after you fight a Grizzly (or squirrel) and win.

  31. SaraSmile*

    #4 – IME, this is a fairly common approach in the Oil&Gas or EPC industry. In these industries, safety is a huge issue and is heavily ingrained in the company culture. The idea here being that you think about safety in everything you do. If you are likely to cut safety corners in your own time, you are likely to do it on the job, when lives are at stake.

    Many companies in these industries will start every meeting, even if as small as 2 or 3 people, with a safety tip. You will have ‘small’ safety rules to live by – like hold the handrail when walking up or down stairs, etc. – and many of those small safety rules are fireable offenses. Every person in the company will be given a ‘stop work’ directive so, if you see something unsafe, it is your obligation to stop the work (even if isn’t your work area). And again, if you are deemed not to have ‘stopped work,’ you can be fired just as easily as the one committing the safety violation.

    Some may see it as a waste of company energy but the notion is firmly built around ensuring you are safety minded at all times. Many of the multi-nationals have been around the block proving this approach cuts down on injuries or fatalities so many in the industry would say it’s a really good use of energy.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      We also have “stretch & flex” in the morning so everyone is limbered up for the day. I LOL at this, because we’re a division office for an EPC, not a job site office.

      They also send a safety newsletter to your house periodically, with seasonal home or personal safety tips. Makes sense in construction, but I can see how it might seem strange to people working in a bank or a marketing agency, for example.

    2. Kay*

      Definitely. I temped at a large oil & gas company and they had everyone sign safety pledges for things that generally didn’t apply to me (I seem to remember one of them being not to walk over large vats of hazardous chemicals, lest you fall in and either die or become an epic super hero.) The one that struck me most was that I had to promise not to talk on my cell phone while driving. I didn’t, and as a temp never would have access to, a company vehicle and rode the bus to work, so any driving I did would be completely off company time. I understand the safety concerns, but it felt very over-reaching to require that in my off time in a city where it was not (and still isn’t) illegal to talk and drive.

    3. Tinker*

      My first job was like this, only perhaps not quite such a strict environment — there was the thing about handrails and about safety at home, but a lot of enforcement for low-level things was done with the fisheye. It was actually a great place to have for a first job, because I still have a lot of the “What Would [Safety Director] Say” reflex regarding things like standing on rolling chairs, doing anything that would cause me to dally on a railroad track, etc.

      Shortly after I bought my (first? may soon have to disambiguate?) house, I decided to fix the drywall in the basement bathroom. To this end, I went down to the farm supply store and bought me one of those drywall trowels that are a flat piece of metal with a handle in the middle of the back. Got home, put the bag on the stairs (it was kind of a split level thing with stairs going up and down from the front door), went down to the basement to play with computer. Kicked off my shoes. Then went to kitchen for snacks in bare feet. Then went down the stairs aaaaaand… stepped on the raised corner of the drywall trowel with the side of my left foot.

      I ended up heading out to the ER with a handful of paper towels and a wooden closet rod, on a Friday night in Pueblo, CO, to get thirteen stitches in my foot. This was an adventure in itself. I couldn’t walk anything resembling normally for the next week, and spent the whole time with my head on a swivel for the safety director because I had a distinct vision in my mind that if he saw me stumping around the office like Captain Ahab I was pretty much 100% certain to end up being fodder for his next Fun Safety Anecdotes presentation.

      But in that case, the penalty I’d pay to the company would have come out of my dignity, not out of my paycheck.

  32. Career Counselorette*

    #1, the context is really critical, as is the comment made previously about the cultural context. I know that in Brazil about 10 years ago, they wanted to pass a law prohibiting giving animals human names, because children might feel depressed knowing they share a name with an animal. (I don’t think it actually passed.) As someone who has a name that seems to be the go-to animal name for some reason, and who’s definitely been a little put off to introduce myself to someone and hear, “Oh, that’s my dog’s name!” many times, I can see why it might give a manager pause to hear an employee excitedly talking about how they named their dog after them. (Particularly if the manager is female.)

  33. Anon*

    I actually do know someone who named her dog after her boss. The dog is sweet but not very bright, and…well, let’s just say the name fit. :) I doubt my friend made it known at work, but she did tell people outside the office where the name came from.

    This registers no bigger than a “meh” for me. Worst-case scenario, this is a very mild act of rebellion. The supervisor may or may not find out, and may or may not be annoyed, but I really can’t picture any possible harm that could come from it otherwise. With the usual disclaimer that if there are behaviour or attitude problems at work, the supervisor should address them in that context, of course. But on its own, I really wouldn’t give this another thought.

  34. JC*

    I think #4 is ridiculous, but I wonder if you work in a safety-related field. At least this would make SOME more sense if that were the case. To give an example, I work for an organization that works on traffic safety issues. If I got arrested for drunk driving, I would be fired, because it would make the organization look bad. But that’s an extreme example; I wouldn’t be fired for doing something lesser, like not wearing my seat belt or getting a speeding ticket (even though those things go against my organization’s mission and are against the law). Obviously it is legal to not wear safety glasses!

  35. Vice President of the Universe*

    Re #1
    My husband was in the Army when he was younger, and had an officer who had an unusual first name. He always thought to himself, “that’s a dog name, not a person name.” Once he was out of the Army and we got married and got a dog, that’s what we named her. 10 years later, we still run into folks who knew husband in the Army, and knew the dude with the dog name. It always makes for a good laugh when they meet our dog. But we’re terrrrrrrified that some day we’ll run into the guy when we have our dog with us.

  36. Former Retail worker*

    One thing I found helpful in moving out of retail and into more office-based work was to move into an industry related to my retail experience. I spent many years working as a pharmacy technician so I started off by moving into healthcare focused office jobs. In part, I made this transition by playing up my direct experience with patients, experience working with insurance companies on billing issues, managing our pharmacy inventory, etc. I’m not sure exactly what retail work you are doing but this might be a useful approach for you as well.

    1. Sarah*

      It’s discount retail- not that one that begins with W though. I have been trying to do this as it is, but unfortunately discount retail is discount retail. I have applied to other retail stores management positions (I’m not totally out of touch with my skills) but it seems higher end retail stores really look down their nose at us ‘discount retail’ folk. Seems really stupid because customer service is customer service, merchandising is merchandising, supervising is supervising. Just apparently not to some people.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        See, here’s where I think you’re going wrong. Supervising in retail is not the same as supervising in professional environments. There are different skills involved in things like the complexity of the day-to-day management decisions (more about the day-to-day versus longer-term planning, for instance).

        While it’s absolutely true that many skills are transferable from retail, I think you might really be underestimating some of the ways in which they aren’t, which is going to make figuring out how to approach this harder.

        1. VintageLydia USA*

          She’s talking about applying for management in other retailers, not in offices. She mentioned above applying for reception and similar roles in offices.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Ah, I was still thinking about Former Retail worker’s suggestion just above.

            That said, Sarah, I do think that my comment above hits on something that I’m seeing coming through in some of your comments elsewhere on this post — I think you’re under-appreciating some of the differences and why they might matter to an employer.

  37. Anonaconda*

    LW2, I’m wondering what kind of jobs you’re applying for? If they’re management level, then no, having a degree in business management without any work experience in an office environment does not make you qualified. Maybe aim for assistant or coordinator level jobs if you really want to work in a corporate environment. You should be able to move up relatively quickly at the right company.

    I recently transitioned from an office job to retail and they are very different. There are some things about working in an office that you just can’t learn except through experience– navigating office politics, communicating professionally, how to conduct yourself with difficult coworkers. Many of your skills will transfer, but it’s kind of like learning a different language. I think it would be very challenging to jump into a management position right out of school.

    1. Anonaconda*

      Oops, just missed the OP’s update. Definitely play up those crossover skills. Good luck!

  38. Henry Gondorf*

    #4: does your employer have some kind of DoD or military affiliation? That totally sounds like the sort of program the Army would dream up.

  39. Jamie*

    I desperately need a workplace injury right now, because I so want “rowdy gang of squirrels” listed in an official document.

    To the OP’s point – I have never heard of such a thing and find it wildly invasive. If you’re a driver and keeping a clean driving record is required for the job, sure…your off time reckless driving shenanigans will affect work. But whether or not I have tips from McGruff the crime dog on my fridge or wear a helmut in the shower is none of my employer’s business.

    1. Chinook*

      Jamie, you need to work in my industry because legit reasons for not doing a job in the field include “rowdy murder of crwos dive bombing workers” and “bear/cougar walking in the area ” and “fish spawning/bird nesting season” (the later so we don’t disturb wild animal sex).

    2. BethRA*

      Went to work after receiving stitches in my lip once, and after getting tired of repeating the accurate-but-long version of the story, I started telling people “monkey knife fight”

    3. VintageLydia USA*

      A friend of mine went to a fast food drive through on her lunch break and a squirrel jumped into her car, ran around, scratched her all up, then ran out. We sent her home for the day after that. The struggle is real.

      1. fposte*

        We had an altercation with a visiting squirrel in our office once. It became known as “squirrel rodeo.”

        1. Jillian*

          There is a hilarious old country song about a squirrel loose in the church. The chorus:

          The day the squirrel went berserk,
          In the First Self-Righteous Church
          in that sleepy little town of Pascagoula.
          It was a fight for survival,
          that broke out in revival.
          They were jumpin pews and shouting Hallelujah!

          1. Mints*

            Okay, I was once bullied by a squirrel.

            My school had (has) what I call a squirrel infestation and what others call lots of friendly squirrels. They’re really fat, and people like to feed them. So one time I was planning to read before class and also eat the lunch I packed. So I find a bench in a kind of secluded area, and I’m minding my own business, reading, and this squirrel runs up to me, like five feet away and stops and stares. So I stomp my foot at it, and it runs away, but comes straight back, so more stomping, a couple more times. THEN, it runs into the bushes and comes back with a friend, and now they’re more like two feet away, and one is on the bench. One is on the floor, on it’s hind legs, and waving its arms at me.

            So I leave, letting them win the bench, and decide to read in the safety of a library

            1. Koko*

              Omg, I used to have a boyfriend who would feed squirrels in the park when we were picnicking. I couldn’t get him to stop and the squirrels would totally try to intimidate us like that! They’d creep closer and when you shooed them away, if they backed off at all it was only a few feet until you turned your back and then when you turned around again they’d be practically on our picnic blanket! I was so afraid of one of them attacking and biting me to get my nut butter, and so annoyed with my boyfriend that day for not taking my fear seriously.

              1. Colette*

                I had a coworker who fed a monkey a piece of pizza crust while we were at a game reserve in Botswana. Monkeys came running from all over. It was … concerning.

          2. Koko*

            Billy Ray Cyrus! Oh, the fond childhood memories I have of listening to that cassette tape in my dad’s car on long trips. To this day I probably still know all the words to that one and “Erik the Awful.”

  40. Jamie*

    The dog name thing – if it’s a name they would have used anyway or just liked the name, nothing wrong with that. I can see mentioning it once or twice at work because it’s funny…but if making a big deal out of it that’s weird – like sucking up in a very obsequious way.

    I don’t see any insult though – people who have dogs usually love them so I can’t imagine taking it as a shot. My gramma got mad at my cousin once for naming her dog the same as my daughter’s nickname. I couldn’t believe she would care – I never see this cousin and even if I did I didn’t copyright a fairly common Irish name.

    But just saying, if anyone is looking to adopt a dog Jamie works for both genders.

    (That’s the one and only downside of my penchant for adopting older animals from shelters…they already have names. Good thing I’m a nickname savant.)

    1. The Real Ash*

      When I volunteered at a local animal rescue, our trick with older animals was naming them something that sounded similar to their original name. That way the intonations and length would be very close, and would help the animal transistion to the name much more easily. For instance, if you had an animal named Fry, you could change her name to Sky or Pie or whatever.

      1. Kelly L.*

        My BF’s dog is Willie, and I tell her all the time that she is silly, and I think she thinks Silly is her name now. :D

        1. Koko*

          Like that scene in Look Who’s Talking Now where Daphne asks Rocks what his name is, and he says, “Me? They call me No.”

  41. Risa*

    For #5 – 12-month Job Vision

    I just started a new job last week, where in separate interviews I asked both my direct manager and the VP how they would view success in the job in 12 months, not just for a good employee but a great employee. (A slight variation on the vision question.)

    I honestly think this question was a major part of why I got the job and why I decided to accept it. The VP’s immediate response was to actually comment on how good a question it was. I think it told them that I was really interested in how I could be successful in the role and that I take pride in doing not just a good, but a great job.

    The thing both their answers told me was that they were in alignment for what the position would entail and what the expectations are for performance. For both of them, they answered the question with the same objectives and measurements of success, almost word for word. It told me that there would not be competing priorities, that they communicated about the vision for the role and that they understood exactly what this role would be contributing over the next year.

    It’s a valuable question for both sides of the interview – don’t stop asking it just because you got a crappy interviewer who wasn’t prepared.

  42. Anon today*

    #1: I used to work in a horribly dysfunctional privately-owned company where people sucked up to senior management through the names they gave their KIDS. I was only there for two years and during that time there were 2 children born who were named after the owner, and 1 after his daughter. Several people who reported to a VP who was from from another country gave their kids names originally from that country, even though their own ethnic background was from thousands of miles away (and made a big deal about choosing a name from the VP’s country because everyone knows those are the best names). It was out of control!

  43. Anonymous*

    Re #1- I had a pet mouse once that I named after the head of my organization. He would hide almost all of the time in his tube, come out every once in a while and ran around frantically for no reason then hide back in his tube again.

    Just like the political appointee that runs this place….

  44. Chris*

    Been reading some of the comments about #2’s situation. There’s some discussion that seems to be ignoring some elements:

    a) GPA does matter to a certain extent

    There’s been some discussion about how high GPA’s don’t necessarily correlate to high skilled job performers in companies. However, most job seekers do not care about job performance, most care about getting a job in the first place . When you apply for internships and entry level positions, the difference between a 3.4 and a 3.5 can mean an auto DQ if the electronic sections specifically state “Did you graduate with a GPA higher than 3.5?” (i.e. USAjobs). From my experience, 3.5 / 4.0 has been the electronic benchmark that opens up 99% of the doors in terms of academic standing (aside from the odd internship that requires a 3.8 / 4.0).

    The other thing is, employers need ways to differentiate candidates, and GPA is one standardized metric that allows for clear differentiation. If you lack in that value, you will have to compensate for it with other things (experience, skill sets, achievements, etc.) that make you stand out from other candidates.

    [That being said, I do not like using GPA as a metric in the first place since GPA for a lot of classes is highly dependent on how well you performed on midterms and finals, which relies on having skill in taking tests as well as not feeling depressed the day of. And if you’re in an environment where competition is understandably high, people will cheat. Pro-tips for teachers:

    -do not give out take home finals with classes of 25+ people
    -if someone needs to take a test early, make sure he gets a different version. People do leak this stuff on Facebook.
    -finals with grades 50% or higher are asking for trouble. ]

    tl;dr: The GPA barriers generally disappear for candidates above 3.5. If you’re below that, you will have to deal with applications that can filter you out if you aren’t above that margin.

    b) The assumption that you can “just get” an internship

    Personal story. When I applied for internships in 2009 as a freshman, many of them required coursework in statics / dynamics that I just did not have. 2010, I applied some more, but got rejections (including one for a research position which a couple people recced me for). 2011 was jury duty year, and I couldn’t get in touch with the court in time to back out of it . 2012 I got no dice. During that time, people at career fairs would tell me “Come back when you’ve joined the Aerospace Department. Come back when you’ve taken coursework on electric propulsion. Come back when you’ve worked on a complex project involving space systems design. ”

    The other side of the equation: for every internship / job posted, you’ve got to assume 40 – 300 are applying for the same thing. What’s the message: Getting an internship, especially that first one, can be very difficult to do.

    Watch this video:

    Now, there is one other devastating side to this coin /tetrahedron. Many places do not offer internships for people that are no longer earning a degree (B.S., M.S., PhD, etc.). Some people have explained to me that it involves college credit issues and the law. I don’t like it, but if that’s the case, then that’s the case. All that means is that it’s going to be a much steeper hill to climb than for the average person.

    1. Anonsie*

      “Many places do not offer internships for people that are no longer earning a degree”

      Oh I forgot about that– I remember trying to get another internship right after I graduated and for a long time I could not find a single one that would let in someone who wasn’t enrolled in a degree program.

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