open thread – June 6, 2014

IMG_2334It’s the Friday open thread. Like last week, this post is for work-related discussions only. Please hold anything off topic for the free-for-all open thread that’s coming this Sunday.

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

{ 1,176 comments… read them below }

  1. Annie O*

    Anyone using kanban? My company requires every single employee to use it to manage work flow, but it’s always been a struggle to adapt my work to this system. I work independently on long research projects that generally take 2-8 months. For the past year, it takes me about two hours a week to kanban, but I’m not seeing any productivity increase. What am I doing wrong? Or is this tool just a bad fit for my kind of work?

    1. Betsy*

      I love kanban, but I don’t really see the point if you’re working independently on research projects. Kanban is good for identifying and managing the inevitable bottlenecks associated with team dynamics, and for handling shifting requirements. It sounds like neither of those apply to you.

      1. Annie O*

        That was my thinking as well – it just isn’t suited for my type of work. But I’m absolutely required to continue using it…

        1. Betsy*

          I’m not actually sure what premium is? We didn’t use any specific tools for our Kanban experience other than a whiteboard and colored sticky notes.

    2. Dan*

      I hate using proces management tools that don’t help me manage my processes in a value added manner.

      At my last job, I was supposed to use MS Project to manage my project. I hated it, and I spent more time managing the tool than I did managing the project.

      1. Mallory*

        Now I’m all disillusioned because I was thinking about getting Project and using it to solve all my problems. Sounds like it won’t.

      2. CollegeAdmin*

        You guys are bumming me out. I’m taking a Project Management course right now and we start using MS Project next week.

        1. Dan*

          IMHO, Project is really convoluted. I want to make you feel better and say that it really wasn’t the right tool for what we did, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t convoluted too.

          I’d honestly hope that this was a PEBCAK issue, but there’s enough +1’s in this thread to suggest that the issue isn’t with what’s in the C.

        2. Jake*

          MS project is a very useful tool for a complex project. For example, it is used quite successfully by many construction projects with many hundreds of activities and dozens of resources to plan and run the construction project. Most people that call it convoluted say that because they are using it for small scale projects where most of the functionality is wasted. If you have less than 100 activities in a project, MS Project is not usually worth the time and energy it takes to learn how to use it well.

          That being said, it is kind of caught in the middle. Primavera provides way more functionality and takes only a little more time to learn while excel can do a lot of what project does, yet it is much quicker to learn.

      3. C Average*

        I had a colleague who was so enamored of organization/productivity tools that it actually got in the way of his organization/productivity. I swear to God the man had a different tool, approach, technique, or gimmick every single week that he was dying to get everyone on board with. He was a peer and a frequent collaborator, so I had to roll with it (without rolling my eyes, too).

        Good times, good times. Liked the guy a lot as a person, but wasn’t sorry to see him leave for greener pastures.

        1. Mallory*

          I have to restrain myself from being like that. I can fall into infatuation pretty easily with the idea of various organization/productivity tools. It took me a long time to realize that there is no magic tool that will solve all my problems (but that still has only superficially sunk in — I still can become pretty enamored with new things that I see). The only difference between young me and older me is that older me knows this about herself.

    3. SandraDee*

      I use it and love it, but we have multiple initiatives and priorities, so it helps in knowing who has what going on. Plus I got to design our board, so I total buyin, and my new manager loves it.

      Before being on this team, I worked fairly independently from the group,and had a spereaye board, just to keep track of tasks and priorities. Love is so much more than MS project.

      1. JBeane*

        What is a “spereaye” board? I tried googling and and didn’t get any useful results. Is there a typo in there?

        I’m looking for an alternative to MS Project. Thanks!

          1. SandraDee*

            Yes, it is supposed to be “separate board”. Been a long week. Lots of typos in my post. Yikes!

        1. Mark*

          Have you tried QuickBase? Customizable to your process and exact needs and not too hard to spin up an application to do whatever you want and grow into it.

    4. Elkay*

      I recently started using it. Were you given any training? It’s taken me a couple of attempt to get a working board (and it’s still a work in progress). Could you share how you are using it (board on the wall vs online, types of task)? Then maybe people could offer suggestions.

      1. Annie O*

        Yes, I went to a training last summer and it was great, actually. I could totally see the value for a lot of folks, especially for the IT team. But even the teacher struggled to find a way to make kanban work for people like me without it becoming a glorified task list. He mostly just focused on the ways I could visualize my work, manage the backlog, and limit work in progress. (Frankly, I was already doing this using my own reverse calendars.)

        Currently, I’m using kanban like this:
        My department has a physical board. A few of us who work independently and never share work have our own swim lanes. I break tickets up into the smallest amount of value I can deliver, but even then tickets will sometimes sit on the board for a long time. We have two stand-ups a week where the department discusses their work and discuss blockages. None of this applies to me, beyond knowing what my co-workers are up to.

        1. Betsy*

          From this description, I would advise this: a unit of work in Agile is defined using the INVEST acronym: independent, negotiable, valuable, estimable, small, and testable. My theory (correct me if this is wrong!) is that a unit of work for you is probably: “Research X.” The swimlanes you would use probably exist, but as very different swimlanes from most people: eg, “understand the question,” “research”, “document”, “present”. (These are probably wrong.)

          Your work really cannot be broken down into “valuable” pieces smaller that “research X”, because without all of those steps, there’s no point. You need to get to delivering the information before it’s any good.

          The other problem I see is this: if you are an integrated part of the agile team and you are correctly following kanban, then in the event that you are blocking progression, the team would “swarm” to help you clear your task. If that isn’t possible — if you cannot block the board, or the team can’t help you, or you can’t help the team, or they can’t block you — they you aren’t actually a part of the team in an agile sense. You can be an adjunct member (a chicken to their pigs, to use the classic agile terminology), but you are engaged in totally different work, with a different process flow.

          Petition to be assigned your own kanban board. Accept that the typical time to move an item through that board is measured in months instead of days. Or just accept that this is a stupid misuse of time because NO ONE DOES AGILE RIGHT. :(

          (I have feels, y’all.)

          1. Annie O*

            Yes to all this. Thank you so damn much.

            Work isn’t complete and value isn’t delivered until the whole research project is done. My process flow is dramatically different. And because I work independently, I cannot help/block the other people, and they cannot help/block me.

    5. KC*

      I’ve used Kanban for managing development teams, and I like to use Kanban for myself in managing my to-dos. It’s helpful for me to have a prioritized to-do list and limit myself to a certain number of “in progress” items (so things get done expediently).

      I’ve used Asana for this or Kanban-to-Go. Just plug in my to-do items and do work. I don’t feel like there’s any more overhead for that than, say, maintaining a to-do list.

  2. Blue Anne*

    I just got a job offer. I’m going to be starting in audit at a Big 4 firm in September.

    This is HUGE for me, guys. This is going to be huge for my career. Enormous. And I think a ton of it is thanks to this site. Thank you AAM!

    1. BRR*


      Just a heads up if you didn’t know, my bff works in audit at a big 4 and works crazy hours. I just want to make sure you’re mentally prepared.

      1. Blue Anne*

        Yep, I’m definitely expecting that, especially around January-March. I think it’ll be worth it – at the end of 3 years, if I decide I’m not up for any more of it, I’ll come out the other end a Chartered Accountant registered with the best acocunting body in my country, and Big 4 experience on my CV. It’s a long-term move.

        I’m hoping that I take right to it and stay in until I make partner, of course. ;)

        1. De Minimis*

          So glad it worked out for you!

          Those three years will fly by, and you’ll be in a great position to either move forward there or find a great job elsewhere.

          I imagine the Chartered Accountant process is similar to our CPA here in the states, if so the best thing to do is get that process finished with as soon as you can, before you get too tied up with work projects.

          1. Blue Anne*

            Yeah, I would assume it’s pretty similar to the CPA qualification process. But I’m feeling pretty lucky, because the office I’ll be in has a team devoted solely to making sure that everyone on training contracts has the support and time they need to get first-time passes on everything. And the night classes I’ve been doing might even get me some exemptions. :)

              1. Blue Anne*

                Oh my god, my friends sing that at me constantly. I’m going to have to just go ahead and memorize it.

                I also have a philosophy degree, so of course I can sing the whole Philosophers song. (And “Sit on my Face”, but not because of anything professional, luckily.) I don’t know whether it’s a blessing or a curse that my career so far seems to have a Monty Python soundtrack.

    2. Sunflower*

      Congrats! My sister works at Big 4 and while the hours can be rough, they seem to have great benefits and perks. It also seems like they care and treat their employees really well. I’m hoping to get into a support services part of a Big 4 firm for these reasons!

      1. Blue Anne*

        Yeah – I’m still waiting on the paperwork, so I’m not sure of all of it yet, but the parts of the benefits package that I do know about already have me salivating. The application process has taken me nearly two months and all the way through it, they’ve been very up front in saying “You’re going to hate everything during busy season, but we’re going to take care of you the best we possibly can”.

        Which has been borne out by everyone I’ve talked to who’s already in the Big 4. So go for it!

    3. Maggie*

      Kill it! Don’t forget – be prepared to burn out in a couple of years and have an exit strategy (I’m in finance, it’s pretty common with the associates at the top firms but its incredible on your resume! Great job!!). Ie, network like crazy with your clients to find something else if you have to.

      1. Blue Anne*

        That’s pretty much what I’m expecting! I would love to stick at this place for the long haul, but we’ll see how it goes. Very happy to network like crazy and maybe go off into industry in a couple years. :)

        1. De Minimis*

          In my experience, time really seemed to move quickly during the busy season, due to…well, being busy.

          1. Blue Anne*

            I hope it works like that for me. And that my husband doesn’t leave me. Ehehehe.

            1. danr*

              Tell him that he’s *your* support team. I was the support team for my wife when she started working in law. And we’re still together.

              1. Blue Anne*

                “Tell him that he’s *your* support team.”

                That is a perfect way to put it, thank you. :)

  3. Virginian*

    I was able to resolve a work-related situation this week simply by asking myself, “What would AAM do?” Thanks so much for this blog, Alison! :-)

      1. littlemoose*

        A shoulder angel who occasionally says “What the hell?” which, in my opinion, is the best kind.

          1. The Other Katie*

            My shoulder AAM says that a lot, which I think is a reflection on some of the crazy stuff I see at work.

    1. CollegeAdmin*

      I did this the other day for coworkers! Something had happened and they asked me, “Hey, can you write into that blog and ask if X is legal?” And with my accumulated AAM knowledge, I was able to say, “Oh, that is legal. If they had done Y or Z, that would not be legal because of A & B, but X is totally legal. Not nice, but legal.” I felt like a champ.

    2. Shell*

      Not just in work, but life too!

      I was explaining to my parents last night about some candid reasons why my professional life has gone the way it did, and noting the ways I contributed to that; my mother actually stopped and said afterwards “you’ve really matured a lot in the last few years.” (I’m mid-20s, so still “young” enough that she feels this way, I guess.)

      “What would AAM do?” is basically my mantra for my professional life. And some of it mirrors into my personal life too. :)

      1. Stryker*

        Who thinks that we need wristbands or magnets to wear/use at work that say “WWAAMD?” (What Would “Ask a manager” Do?)

        The proceeds could go to charity or subsidize college student resume reviews or something.

  4. Awkward Palmtree*

    I have a career related question. Some background: I was forced to withdraw from my undergraduate degree course a few years ago during my final year. I had been formally diagnosed with severe depression at the start of that year after having a complete meltdown. I managed to seek medical and professional help but it was way too little, too late. A few things happened that tipped me over the edge and I could not carry on. I had to move back in with my parents, felt like a complete failure, and had another few meltdowns when the rest of my class graduated, but after some months I finally got myself a job in my field and I started building myself back up.

    Fast forward to today and I finally feel strong enough to go back and finish what I started, to get my degree and feel able to ask for a payrise. Where I am now they’re very hung up on not paying any more than what I am on now for those without degrees, even though I am being paid well below market rate for what I do.

    I will be applying to a different university so I will be able to finish my degree part time. The problem I have is that I need a reference from my previous university. I don’t think I left everything on great terms because when the meltdown happened I simply shut down and stopped replying to anyone or anything. I must have come across terribly. I reached out to my tutor last year for a reference as I wanted to apply for this current semester. He replied saying that he would be happy to write a nice reference for me that week but I received nothing. I emailed a few weeks later to gently remind him and I got no reply. I gave up on my application for that round feeling very disheartened indeed. Has he remembered that I was really an awful student by the end? I have a mentor that I can ask where I work now for a reference but I need two and I don’t really have anyone else to ask at my previous university. Can I ask him again, or should I leave it? How would I address his lack of reply last time?

    Argh this turned out to be a sad, long essay of my life. Time to have a good cry and then look at some pictures of kitties to cheer myself up!

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      Colleges requiring reference letters for admission, even conditional admission, is ridiculous. I would personally find somewhere else to attend. There are plenty of accredited, online institutions that wouldn’t put you through that.

      1. Onymouse*

        In my experience it’s quite standard for competitive admissions processes. But yes, some sort of open learning institution may suit OP better at this time.

        1. Onymouse*

          That is, if they can’t secure a reference in time, or if it’s becoming too much of a problem.

      2. Lily in NYC*

        Isn’t it standard to need recommendations? I can’t think of one reputable college that doesn’t require them.

        1. Zillah*

          Yeah, when I was applying to colleges (also in the US), I definitely needed them.

        2. LAI*

          University of California doesn’t. Sorry, we don’t want to read 180,000 letters of recommendation.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            Um, I said reputable colleges. Kidding, of course!! Thanks for weighing in, I had no idea.

          2. Sharm*

            Huh, really? I went to a UC and I coulda sworn I submitted letters of rec.

            This was also over a decade ago; not sure if it’s changed.

        3. TotesMaGoats*

          I could probably quite a few that don’t require them. None of mine did. Especially for an adult going back to school. Selective admissions, sure.

    2. Harriet*

      Please keep reminding him. I work with academics and, without exceptions, they all want you to nag them to do tasks they’ve said they’ll do because otherwise they will forget. Equally, they all understand that sometimes mental health stuff happens and that it doesn’t make you a bad student/person. Just ask if he’s had a chance to think about the reference yet, and offer to write it for him and have him sign it if it will make life easier.

      1. C Average*


        Also, hang in there. You can do this and it will be worth it.

        True story: My father got such bad grades his first year of undergrad that his GPA was a point-something. He dropped out and joined the Navy and, seven years later, returned to the college he’d dropped out of because it was the only one that would take him. He graduated with honors and went on to a successful career.

        Redemption is entirely possible.

        1. Mallory*

          Absolutely. My boss is a distinguished professor and head of our department. He tells me that he flunked out spectacularly from his undergrad program due to unwarranted cockiness (and he was president of the student organization, so his failure was very conspicuous). He said it was one of the hardest things he’s ever done to return to the scene of his disgrace and pick up where he left off, but he did it, and then went on to get his master’s and start a very successful professional AND academic career (he has a private practice in addition to his university job).

          People come back from tough situations all the time. You will be a stronger student for it, too.

      1. Awkward Palmtree*

        Its a stupid reference form thing that they have to fill in unfortunately. It started off as a really awkward pdf form that you couldn’t save data into, you could just print it. I fixed that fairly swiftly with a bit of googling and hacking about with the file but there is still a bit of hoop jumping involved to do the actual reference. I think that probably put him off.

        1. Cath in Canada*

          Do you know if he has any admin support? If you can find the right person’s contact info, that usually works better than trying to contact a prof directly

    3. fposte*

      I’m pretty sure this isn’t about him changing his mind, but it is annoyingly flaky. Try again, give him a target date (and choose a date that gives you leeway), and remind him again a day or two before the target date. I wouldn’t address the lack the last time–just ask if he’s still willing to write you a recommendation.

      However: though I’m not sure where you’re writing from, a lot of North American universities are headed into summer now, and if that’s where you are, availability gets really scanty for a while. Factor that into your expectations.

      1. Awkward Palmtree*

        Giving him a target date sounds like a good idea so I think I’ll try that. Eek I hadn’t thought about semester dates! I’m writing from the UK so I just checked and I still have until around the middle of this month to catch him at work and hopefully willing to write me something. Phew!

    4. Meredith*

      Hi. My boyfriend just finished his last 12 credits of his BA after dropping out of his program about 8 years ago. Like you, he did not leave his program under great circumstances. Needless to say, he was concerned that he had burned some bridges. He was able to take his last twelve credits part-time, online through that university.

      I’m surprised that the program you’re transferring to requires references. Can you contact them to see what kind of reference they’re actually asking for? Please make sure to explain the length of time that you’ve been away, and ask what your options are if you don’t really have any real connections at your previous institution any longer. Regarding your tutor, it seems like he dropped the ball, which is not necessarily a reflection on you. I guess you could try checking in with him one more time – maybe call him?

      Otherwise, are there any other options for finishing? There are plenty of online course around that your previous institution may accept as transfers or may offer themselves. My boyfriend thought he would have to transfer to another university entirely, and then discovered that he could just complete his final coursework online (and transfer in credits from one other online course from another university).

      Good luck!

      1. Maggie*

        Yup, I had to take a year and half off after my first year for personal reasons and I didn’t give the best notice. I was able to get right back in (despite a semester of incompletes or Ds) and was even able to transfer to another location that was more ‘my style’. Talk to your old school and see if they have extensions/relationships with any other schools near you. You can also take upper divsion courses in some degree paths and then transfer them to your old school.

        Also, what about the department that you were in? Surely you have a professor that you worked with. They get these requests ALL the time, it seriously doesn’t hurt to ask. (Or an RA?)

        1. Awkward Palmtree*

          I am wanting to apply to this other university because I can finish my course completely online. I know my old school doesn’t do this unfortunately but I hadn’t thought of reaching out to them to see if they had any relationships with other places.

          The only professor that I worked with was my tutor, during my failed attempt at a final year project. I doubt any of the other professors knew who I was as my class was pretty massive and I’m not really a talker in lectures. There was a phd student in my first year that ran some smaller classes that I was in. I would have to ask if a reference from a phd student would suffice but that is another possibility.

    5. Paige Turner*

      Good luck to you- sounds like you’re doing great with work, etc. Don’t beat yourself up about the past (I know, I know). Is it possible for you to contact that tutor, or anyone else from your old school, in phone or in person? I find that emails can be easy for people to forget about, (especially around the end of the semester/summer) but that actually speaking to someone can have better results. Also, I don’t think you have to tell potential references the details of why you left the first time, but if you acknowledge that you had to leave for health reasons, they may be more understanding. I’m sure it’s happened to others as well, so it probably seems like a bigger deal to you than it does to them. Anyway, good luck again!

      1. Awkward Palmtree*

        Thank you for your kind words. I do still have bad days when it all gets ontop of me again and I start kicking myself but I find that keeping myself busy at work and slowly gaining respect there keeps me looking forward! I think I will email him once more and then follow up with a phone call if he doesn’t reply perhaps. That way it won’t be so out of the blue (and I really want to avoid calling if I can – I hate talking on the phone!)

    6. KayDay*

      Seconding Harriet. Personally, I have never heard of a university not requiring letters of recommendation. But the flip side of that is that it is part of professors’ jobs to provide recommendations to (strong) students*. And because they provide recommendations for a lot of students, (and let’s face it, writing recs isn’t so much fun), it’s pretty common for them to take a while. Reach out again. Also, reach out to any other professors that you think would recommend you–you can explain your situation to them and see if they would be willing to write a letter for you. In some cases they might not, but I’d imagine that someone would be willing to do it for you.

      *I am NOT however saying that it is there job to provide recommendations to all students. Rather I mean in the general sense, providing some letters of recommendations when they think the student is worthy of a recommendation is a part of their job.

    7. kac*

      I would chalk this up to your tutor being flaky and unreliable, not a passive aggressive attempt to not write your letter.You could follow up again, but it that sounds exhausting and frustrating.

      I would write to one or two professors (maybe from earlier in your college career?) and explain what you’ve said here: You were sick at the time, which made it difficult for you to continue, and you’ve healthier now so you’d like to finish your degree. It’s an admirable goal and I am sure many faculty members a) can identify with your struggles and b) would want to support your goal of earning your degree.

      Congratulations on taking the steps necessary at the time to prioritizing your mental health. And congrats on moving forward in your career and earning that degree. You sound like a really smart and strong person, even if you don’t always feel that way.

      All the luck.

      1. Artemesia*

        Professors have hundreds of students and this guy probably doesn’t even really remember you. It is important to provide the information you want them to include in the reference — a resume, or a brief list of things of note you did in college and something you did in his class that you did well.

        He should not have dropped the ball but it happens a lot and I would not read anything into it. I would try one more time with a letter that mentions you were ill and are well now and need to complete your degree to make progress in your career — that you are trying to enter XY college to complete and need a reference. Then list some things you did at his school and in his class. You might offer a sample letter as in Here is the sort of thing that I think they are looking for; please feel free to adapt this. I know how busy you are.

        Of course it is wise to have a plan B. If you contact other profs, provide them with this complete picture. You were in their class, you did this sort of work (paper, class project, presentation etc) and achieved an A in the class . Then you tell them you had to leave school because of illness and are now looking to complete at ABC university while you are working; you need to complete the degree to advance in your career. You understand that since you have been out awhile, that it is a challenge to write the reference and provide a summary of points or a couple of paragraphs that would work with the invitation to adapt.

    8. AnonForThis*

      Don’t feel disheartened! I had a VERY similar experience in graduate school (although I was lucky enough that my professors allowed me to take incompletes and finish up my remaining work over the next year).

      My husband also bombed out of college (and without a good reason – just teenage/young adult foolishness). His grades were pretty terrible throughout college but he was able to finish through a different local school nearly a decade later. His story has a super happy ending: After finishing his classes for undergrad, he worked a couple more years then attended a top-tier graduate school and landed one of the “hot” jobs for people from his program.

      You’re going to be fine!

    9. nep*

      Seems to me if that if your tutor initially said he’d provide something, it would be fine to follow up with him again.

      Bravo to you for reclaiming your life. An inspiring story. Wishing you all the best.

    10. Lo*

      Agreeing with the advice to keep reminding him! Call if you can. These people are there to help you–faculty, staff, etc at universities–but there are often a lot of people looking for references, recommendations, tutoring, etc and people fall through and it’s okay to reach out again. Definitely contact them and see if you can 1) write a draft and let him work from there or 2) assist in any other way, to expedite and simplify the process! Keep your head up, you’ll get there. It’s a BIG DEAL that you’ve picked yourself back up–celebrate that, and the little victories (hey even asking the question on here is progress) and I hope it all works out well for you!

      1. Awkward Palmtree*

        Thank you for being so kind! I will contact him again and remind him and keep my fingers and toes crossed this time.

    11. duschamp*

      Honetsly, nag him & reiterate your deadlines. I’ve been an undergraduate tutor before (I’m guessing you are in the UK) and if I was unwilling to write a letter, I would say so when requested. I can assure you that he has forgotten, or at worst not appreciated the timescales you are working to. When I applied to grad school I had a rapport with one of the Professors at the university. I asked him to write me a reference letter (he agreed), but I was too timid to nag him, and like you eventually assumed that he had reneged on his agreement. His glowing letter of reference eventually arrived, 6 months after I requested it and 3 months after the deadline (set by his own department!!).
      Also, tutors/lecturers/professors are very familiar with mental health problems, and are very unlikely to hold it against you. In fact, the only thing that a student has done that was bad enough for me to remember was plagiarism. Shy of that, you’re fine.

      1. Awkward Palmtree*

        I am in the UK. Thank you – I was hoping to hear from someone who has been on the other side of all this. The worst that I did at uni was becoming a massive flake at the end so my hope has been somewhat renewed!

    12. Robin*

      Struggling with stress and depression in college is very, very common. I think most people know at least one person who has dealt with that. Try to cut yourself a little slack, okay? Congratulations on everything you’ve accomplished since.

    13. Awkward Palmtree*

      Thank you so much to all of you for being so kind! Turns out I didn’t need a kitty break at all. I was a bit nervous posting about this because its all so close to my heart but I’ve found your responses very helpful. I will take the advice and assume that my tutor does still intend to give me a reference and I’ll email him again. If I hear nothing back in a few days I might contact a few other lecturers too that I had and hope they might remember me! I wish this reference thing wasn’t necessary but I think here in the UK it is quite common (?) so I suspect I’d need one wherever I applied. I may be wrong. I am applying for this particular university because they offer an online option for my degree and while I do live just about close enough to drive there, a lot of the pressure will be eased if I can work around my bad days with a flexible online course.

      1. ADE*

        I used to work in admissions and w transfer students — have you also thought about including a letter of reference from an employer? More up to date and might show the side of you that you are ready to move forward.

        Ditto on what everybody else said re: you’re not the first person ever to have medical moments that you didn’t handle as well as you could have. We ALL make mistakes and being not-responsive is one you won’t make again.

      2. Hermione*

        I currently work as an advisor/department administrator/faculty wrangler. If you can’t get through to him via e-mail, call the department’s main office and explain your problem (i.e. that Professor X promised you a recommendation and the due date is 1-2 weeks away but now you can’t get in touch with him). Usually an e-mail from me just telling my faculty that Jean Grey called and is looking for the promised recommendation spurs them into finding time in their schedule…

        Congratulations on pulling yourself up and through! Speaking both as someone who had depression problems in college due to a parent’s quick-moving cancer and subsequent death as well as someone who daily advises students with a full spectrum of health, mental health, family and disability issues, you should be very proud of the fact that you’re returning to finish what you started. Reach out for help if you need it as you go through – there are resources if you need them, and your faculty and advisors WANT you to succeed – and don’t restrain yourself from shining bright just because it’s taking you a little longer than traditional 4 years. You can do this and you can do this DAMN well. Good luck.

    14. Colorado*

      Good for you for getting help and continuing your education! Depression is a cruel disease, I battle with those same demons. I have no other advice other than keep on keeping on :-)

    15. Brett*

      I had a similar depression driven melt down at my first undergrad school. When I got back in touch with them several years later, looking to transfer, the department head was happy to help me any way he could. He wanted me to graduate finally, even if it was not from there. And when I did transfer an graduate elsewhere, he even had me added to the alumni list as an honorary grad.

      That will not be everyone’s experience; but it was my experience. So, maybe things will not be as bad as you think with your previous university. I think it is far more likely that people will be glad to know that you overcame your depression and are trying to finish what you started, rather than think that the person you were then is the same person you are now.

    16. kbeers0su*

      If your tutor doesn’t work out, you may be able to find someone in a “student support services” role at your former college who can do a reference for you. We often have students attempting to return to the college where I work, and even if they did what you did (went AWOL and then left without really talking to anyone) if they come in and sit down with an advisor, a Dean or someone else in an advocate role, and they’re able to understand what happened and how you’ve progressed since then, they usually are willing to be a reference. (And I am saying this as someone who has done just that for previous students.) Just know that you may have to disclose what occurred at the end of your tenure to someone, which isn’t always super comfortable.

    17. Angora*

      I recommend that you attend an on-line university for 12 hours …complete a full-time load; make contacts, etc. Prove to yourself and others that you can do it; than ask your fellow students & instructor’s for a reference.

      Heads up though; once you drop out of the On-line university you lose access to their website and any contact info you have in their address book. Be sure to keep your contacts you make via them through another profesional media like Linkedin, etc.

      Or take classes at your local community college for one semester … anything to make those contacts you require for the admissions process. Instead of walking away from the instution you are intersted in … see it as a goal. It’s sits at the top of the stairs; and you have to do step one and two, etc to reach it.

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        Hey Awkward Palmtree you’re doing great! :) I hope this works out for you. I’m doing a degree with The Open University, for similar reasons like yourself. All the best

    18. KrisL*

      Good for you for working on improving your life! Can you go to a community college for a bit? That can sometimes help improve your grades and give you a better chance at a university, and it’s cheaper, and also a lot of times the community college education is very good. Usually smaller class sizes, and teachers are more likely to treat students like adults.

  5. Mum on this one*

    OK, this is a weird one and no one at work knows what do to so we’re doing nothing. There is a male coworker who once worked across from a female coworker (both in their late 20s, early 30s). During this time the male coworker has been, for lack of a better phrase, emotionally inappropriate. He doesn’t always read situations right and comes across as a nice guy, but every once in a while he thinks he’s being sneaky about how he gathers information about the female coworker. Basically, he was kind of obsessed with her and asked her where their relationship was going (and she’s a happily married mother of 2). Eventually he found another job in the company and still works nearby, but not directly across from her anymore. He pretty much avoids her desk if she’s there (but if she’s not, he’ll come in and talk to the woman who replaced him, all the while looking at the other woman’s desk (We think he may have even taken a photograph of it once!)). ANYWAY, she’s leaving. Not because of this. Her husband has a job in another state. But no one wants to tell him because we don’t know how he’ll react. As I said he’s socially awkward so I don’t think he knows that he comes across to EVERYONE as obsessed. Everyone knows. He is suspicious about her leaving because he has seen the job ad posted and asked me about it. I told him I knew nothing. I don’t think he’ll blow our heads off, but I don’t think he’s going to take it well. He’s very sensitive and awkward at times. Most of the time he can seem like a totally normal person, but if you bring up the female coworkers name for something totally innocent he has to know more and thinks he’s being sly about asking. Sorry if this all seems confusing….mostly a nice guy, awkward, but too obsessed with this woman. And she was too nice to tell him to back off when he made declarations of a relationship to her. Everyone was relieved when his new desk was away from hers. Part of me thinks it’d be best if she just leaves and he finds out through the employer’s email that she’s gone. But obviously he’s suspicious and there’s 2 weeks to go. Other people have talked about how heartbroken he’ll be, but then the other part of me just thinks how inappropriate his feelings for her are and how out of place they are. So far there’s been an unspoken rule about no one telling him. But it’s bound to be broken eventually as going away parties are planned and whatnot. What the eff do we do!?

    So….anyone have to deal with something like that ever?

      1. Algae*

        I agree.

        Don’t care that he’s “heartbroken”, inform him as you would inform any other employee that occasionally crosses paths with her.

        1. Maggie*


          Technically it’s NONE OF HIS BUSINESS. None of her work affects him now so even not telling him period would be appropriate. The jacka$$.

      2. Harriet*

        I agree, and am a little disturbed that he’s inappropriate to this woman, you’re scared to tell him she’s leaving and red flags are NOT waving. Tell him like you’d tell anyone else, and be prepared to document his behavior.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes. The question here shouldn’t be how to tell him; you tell him like everyone else. He doesn’t get kid-glove handling. The question is about how to ensure that he behaves appropriately after that, and the answer to that is close monitoring with the company prepared to intervene IMMEDIATELY if he does anything off.

          Frankly, the other question is why nothing has been done before now. It’s been allowed to get to a state that’s unacceptable, and he should have been disciplined strongly before now — if for no other reason than the set the stage for firing him if it gets creepier.

          1. Maggie*

            Leadership being too polite or scared of their own authority. Happens every day, as you know.

            1. Jazzy Red*

              Burying their stupid heads in the sand is easier than actually doing anything about it.

              OP, someone needs to let HR or Security know that you’re all afraid to tell this guy that this woman is leaving/has left *BECAUSE OF HIS OBSSESSIVE BEHAVIOR*. They’re the ones who are paid to handle situations like this that might arise.

              Also, in the realm of always planning ahead, know where all of your exits are, and any safe places to hide if you can’t get away quickly. Keep you cell phone with you at all times, and call 911 if he does blow up or become violent.

          2. Artemesia*

            This. Big management fail here. A whole office is noticing and tiptoeing around this ticking time bomb. His manager should have moved his desk early on and he should have been strongly cautioned about harassment.

            The OP has already brought up the underlying fear here. We all know that the idea of some nutcase deciding to take out the office for no good reason is not in the US a fantasy but a frequent occurrence. Security should be aware of this guy and those in charge should have a plan in place.

            I would never ‘tell someone’ that someone in another office is leaving; this information just comes up in passing or not at all. I’d let him find out when he finds out but have security on high alert.

          3. Angora*

            I hope that she has enough intelligence to “not” send out a mass e-mail and/ or group email that would include him saying when she’s out the door with her contact information. She should block him on facebook and Linkedin right now so when she leaves he cannot trace her that way.

            People should give up on “being nice” in this situation and tell someone they are not interested and to back off. Document it with an e-mail to HR; and protect yourself.

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      Part of me says it’s none of his business and none of yours, and he can find out when the email goes out.

      Part of me says to give the woman a heads up, if he hasn’t already realized what the rest of feels, in case he gets cyber stalky after she moves.

      Part of me says to just be prepared, and IMO with some brutal honesty, for this guy once she does leave.

      I’m sure AAM would say that the first one is the right one.

    2. Laura*

      Hmm… Going by your description, there’s something distinctly “off” about this guy. And it sounds to me like his interest in her is unhealthy.

      Do you have an HR department? You could sit down and have a chat with them, explaining that you have some concerns about the situation and you and your colleagues are fearful or anxious about his reaction to the news that this lady is leaving. They might take it from there – in any event, I think they should know. No matter whether the lady herself is bothered by him, your company would probably want to know about his curious behaviour.

      If you’re inclined to think its probably nothing and why go that far – well, you don’t think its nothing, and I’m not convinced you believe it’s mere “social awkwardness” either, since you’re writing in here and you’re clearly concerned. If it does turn out to be nothing, discreetely telling HR (or management) about your concerns won’t hurt. However, if its not nothing, you’ll be glad you spoke up.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Is this guy’s boss aware of the situation? Because she probably needs to be telling him that the creepy, obsessive behavior needs to stop ASAP.

      1. Mum on this one*

        I’m sure the newer boss is aware as everyone kind of is. I know he has been sent to the company psychologist at least once (he told me about it, though he didn’t tell me everything. But I assume it was around the time he asked her where their relationship was heading). But that was back when he had a different boss who tends to not notice these things as he was in a different wing of the building. I just keep getting torn over what to do. Part of me says “none of your business!” the other part says “maybe we should just tell him and maybe have the psychologist hanging around when we do…” Then I fear it’s a step too far. He has left her alone, but still manages to be creepy without actually talking to her. Gah!

        1. Laura*

          Sounds like the newer boss has got to sit this guy down, then!

          For your own conscience (if nothing else), I think you should talk to the guy’s boss and say, quite simply, you’re concerned about his reaction to the impending news, and you think he should be spoken to. It won’t come as a surprise to her.

    4. Sally*

      Wow, what a difficult/weird situation. Does your office have an EAP program that he can be referred to? Seems like he may need to talk to someone as he sounds delusional. My worry is that if everyone hides it from him, the shock will be great over her leaving and he will also feel betrayed by everyone else.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      This might be a situation where HR could be helpful. I’d take my concerns to them. I don’t think any coworkers should tell him. I agree with TotesMaGoats about giving the woman a heads up, however.

      1. Mum on this one*

        Oh, she’s aware. We all talk openly about it. We were discussing how he should find out…through her, through us, through the grapevine?

        1. RB*

          Umm, your HR person should not be discussing this with other staff. While this guy is definitely creepy and everyone should be hyper aware, gossiping about it is unseemly (especially by HR!) and isn’t solving anything.

          He gets notified like everyone else and HR should alerting her leadership about this and crafting a plan in case something goes awry. The gossiping and constant discussion needs to be shut down.

          1. Mum on this one*

            Oh, I meant the woman in question is aware of everything that’s happening. I perhaps misread it. HR probably doesn’t know. They are discreet! The rest of us, well… We discuss it because we are baffled.

            1. RB*

              Got ya! Definitely take it to HR. They may be aware of other information regarding this guy and will know how best to proceed.

            2. Artemesia*

              The object of his obsession should not only not ‘tell him’ — she should absolutely have no contact with him at all. This is a potentially dangerous situation.

              Hope by now, since he knows that the boss is on top of it and security is in the loop.

              This whole thing is totally out of control. Imagine spending this much energy on whether a normal employee finds out that someone in another office is leaving. This is VERY strange. And potentially dangerous.

            3. LeeGee44*

              It shouldn’t come from the woman his attention is focused on; that could be considered inappropriate.

        2. Windchime*

          This is the kind of situation where our Security department would probably become involved. When someone is being let go or given similar bad news and there is suspicion that they will react badly, Security is called and asked to stand by. So if you have a Security department, I would have them around when this guy is told that the woman is leaving. I would probably also have them there to be with her as she is leaving on her last day, just so that she doesn’t have to walk out to her car alone and unprotected.

    6. Eden*

      I have seen too many stalking/obsession situations that went bad (one even ended in a double murder/suicide) to not feel strongly about this.

      While I think this guy is going to find out, I think it’s important that no one give him any information on where this co-worker is going. Do you think it’s possible for everyone to feign ignorance if he asks where she’s moving?

      Personally, and I know this sounds a little paranoid, I would make it a policy not to give out any info on where she’s headed, to anyone who asks (in case he has someone ask for him).

      Hoping he doesn’t find out that she’s leaving at all prior to the last day probably isn’t going to work out, particularly if, as you note, he is already suspicious.

      1. Maggie*

        I think that is a perfect policy for ANYBODY leaving a job. I wouldn’t want anybody to know where I am going — unless I personally told them.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        This is why I suggested HR. If something does happen, they may not only have policy in place to deal with it, but also it will protect the company in the event anyone sues over any incidents.

    7. Mum on this one*

      I just got an email from a coworker just now (day off today for me). He came in and asked the woman directly and she told him the short version without specifically saying where she’s going. So I guess my question is moot–but I will absolutely keep an eye on his behavior from this point on. I like the coworker that is leaving but it might be a relief when she’s finally gone (but it might not be).

      1. fposte*

        “Everyone kind of is aware” makes me think it’s quite possible the new boss *isn’t* aware, actually.

      2. Marina*

        I feel like there’s something I don’t get about this situation. Everyone is avoiding telling this guy the coworker is leaving because… he’ll be sad two weeks earlier than he’d otherwise be sad? Or because you’re worried he’ll do something genuinely crazy and harmful? If it’s the first, this is a problem with you and your coworkers–if you’re afraid of telling a coworker something as innocuous as that another coworker is leaving, how on earth do you deal with bad work-related communication? If it’s the second, there are much larger problems here than this guy being “awkward” and his boss and HR need to be MUCH more involved than they have been up til now.

      3. Aisling*

        The problem, though, is if he’s been inappropriate with one co-worker, it could and probably will happen again. This isn’t a case of a co-worker going away and the guy going back to being reasonable. Your female co-worker has nothing to do with this; it’s all about how inappropriate he is.

        1. Zillah*

          I completely agree. Making it about the female co-worker is actually really misguided and unfair, though I’m sure the OP doesn’t mean it that way – this is entirely on him, and especially given that he didn’t really have to face consequences for his behavior for this, I’d be surprised if he didn’t do it again.

          This guy is not a nice guy. He is the opposite of a nice guy.

      4. LeeGee44*

        He could turn his focus to someone else in the office after his fascination leaves. Or his interest will disappear completely once she’s gone. You call all hope that his inappropriate behavior follows her out the door.

        Please let us know how things play out. I hope his focus returns to work once she’s gone.

    8. Celeste*

      He sounds awkward to a high degree, but he did take a new job that meant he couldn’t sit across from her anymore. He wasn’t obsessed enough not to change anything. The photograph of her desk is pretty weird, but mostly sad. He’s got this dream world going on instead of having a real life with somebody available.

      Did anyone ever see the movie, “Lars and the Real Girl”? This reminds me of that–somebody so closed-off emotionally that they find some strange way of reaching out. He picked somebody so completely unavailable, somebody too nice to reject him.

      Anyway, I would let the chips fall. I know it looks creepy to most, but it looks really sad to me. He sounds like he can use some help. Probably somebody should have told him to stop sooner. I think you have to wait and see how he behaves in order to figure out if there is anything to “do”. He can’t be pre-emptively punished for cyber-stalking if he never makes contact with her. Somehow I see him looking for her online (LinkedIn, etc) but just pining from afar.

      It sounds like this is a great move for your coworker! It is (hopefully) solving a problem for her in a very final way.

      1. Zillah*

        Is there a reason it can’t look like both?

        It does look sad – but if I think about how I would feel if a coworker of mine fixated on me like this, just the concept makes me super, super uncomfortable and wary.

        1. Zillah*

          Also: not too obsessed to not change anything about his work situation is not exactly the same thing as not a problem. He’s had multiple, deeply inappropriate conversations with this woman, he’s apparently fixated enough that he uses business conversations to get more information about her, he bothers the woman who sits across from her so he can stare at her desk and take pictures, and they’re all seriously worried about how he’ll react to her moving.

          Those are a lot of red flags, and it indicates that his obsession with this woman is not only creepy, but also pretty disruptive to business. This seems like a missing stair kind of situation, and I’m not sure why it hasn’t been addressed before now.

    9. Lamington*

      we had a coworker once that he will always talk about guns and how he wished he could shot and kill people in rush hour traffic :/ he will be always making those types of comments and freak everyone in the office out since he looked liked he could go postal any second. His girlfriend left him and we were scared he might do something to her or to us. Thankfullt nothing passed and after a few months he moved to another state phew! We will never ask him about the girlfriend either.

    10. Vancouver Reader*

      I had a guy send me anonymous emails at work once telling me he loved me. Turns out, he worked for a different department, but on the same floor and our two offices shared an entrance. He ended up getting terminated over that, and to me, what this guy did to me wasn’t nearly as creepy as what your co-worker is going through.

      Hopefully he will find someone who appreciates his quirkiness and reciprocate his feelings.

    11. KrisL*

      I get nervous just reading about this. This guy sounds more creepy and not so nice. Is there someone in HR you could notify about this?

  6. Ivan*

    What are some ways to show a hiring committee that you are ready and able to manage employees when you don’t have management experience?

    More specifically, I work at a university and supervise several student assistants but no staff. I’m applying to a few jobs that manage staff and was wondering how you go about showing that you’re able to go from supervising student workers to supervising staff?

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      This is a tough road. I got my management job without any management experience at all. I think they took a chance on me. As a result I’m willing to do the same.

      My only advice would be prepared to talk about how you want to lead and manage a team. Hurdles you are planning for. Things you’ve learned that you plan to repeat or not repeat.

    2. GrumpyBoss*

      When I’m hiring for a position like this, if I’m interviewing someone with minimal supervisory experience, I look to see if you can lead without authority. Examples that show you have been able to drive a project or a task with individuals who may not directly or indirectly work for you. Anyone can get things done by saying “I’m your boss, and I say you must do this”. A true leader influences instead of mandates.

      1. Blue Anne*

        Hm. I wasn’t looking for this advice myself, but it sounds like a really good thing to remember. Thank you.

      2. Artemesia*

        I really like this idea. Someone who has supervised student workers of course can talk about the challenges and successes there. But think broadly to volunteer organizations or work projects where leadership was successful without formal hierarchical authority and discuss how you kept people on track and delivered. Being authoritative without formal power is a characteristic of someone with leadership ability.

      3. Cassie*

        This gives me hope as I have no supervisory experience whatsoever (not even student workers). I did apply for (and was offered) a position that supervises 2 career staff members but didn’t end up accepting it because I was content with where I was.

        This reminds me of an article I read – a VP at Google talking about the qualities they look for in candidates and he mentioned traditional leadership (e.g. being the boss) as opposed to emergent leadership (stepping up to drive things forward, helping others, etc).

    3. fposte*

      Are they really ephemeral student assistants? I don’t think students are hugely different from other staff in day to day managing; it’s just that some management issues can be ducked because those workers cycle out on their own.

      So I wouldn’t necessarily say that you have no management experience. How have you managed these employees? What hurdles have you encountered, to use Totes’ phrase?

      1. Stephanie*

        Yeah, I didn’t read your experience as no management experience. Student workers probably work a lot less, but there’s some management of them required.

    4. YALM*

      Yes to what others have said.

      Following up on GrumpyBoss’s comments, are you responsible and honest? Can you show this? Do you inspire others to trust you? Are you able to have open and direct conversations with people both above you and below you on the food chain?

      If you can show that you live these qualities on the job and that you can lead without authority, then you should be considered a viable management candidate. Toss in your supervisory experience for good measure.

    5. Maggie*

      That’s exactly how I got my first official leadership position. I supervised student assistants (as a staff person). On my resume I then listed “6 direct report student assistants”. A good resume reviewer will view that as a junior manager and ask more questions to find out if you can handle a more diverse team, what you have learned from your leadership with the students and if you’re ready to jump to full time staff.

      You’re on the right track. :)

      1. Ivan*

        Thanks so much! :)

        All your comments are super helpful. For whatever reason, in my experience it’s seemed that managing students is not given much weight. But I guess it definitely depends on how you present it and certainly incorporating other skills in leading projects will help!

        I feel a bit more confident about my candidacy!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          While I agree that you can absolutely use this experience to talk about how you’d approach job you’re interviewing for, I also think a key thing is to understand the ways in which managing students is different — you don’t want to sound oblivious to those differences.

          1. Artemesia*

            Absolutely and that is where you give examples of leading/managing students or leading volunteer efforts to focus on skills ABC useful for managing and then segue into ‘of course leading without formal authority is different from a management position where you are directly charged with assuring productivity in XYZ ways. But effective management is more than having formal authority — it is also being able to command respect and being authoritative which is a skill leading a volunteer group allowed you to hone.’

  7. Claire*

    I’ve always been very self-sufficient in work/school projects, partially because I feel like I’m bothering people when I need them to do X before I can do Y (especially on the particular project I’m working on now, which has involved a lot of back and forth) and partially because I’m a control-freak and would handle every variable myself if it was at all possible. It’s hard to adjust to heading larger projects that have more moving parts in them…I guess I don’t really have a specific question. Tips or tricks for newbies to the work world on how not to feel like you’re inconveniencing people when you’re someone who would rather just stick your hands in and figure it out yourself

    1. ClaireS*

      Hi other Claire! For this, I’d work on building your social capital. I find it’s much less awkward to ask people for help if you’ve helped them in the past. Be open to offering assistance where appropriate. It’s not tit for tat but rather that people don’t mind doing favours for others who they know would do the same for them.

      I also find that when working in a large team, engagement is key. People buy in to what they build themselves. Of you know you’ll need Pete’s help on one part of the project, be sure to engage him in advance so he understands how his part fits into the process. . It gives him a heads up and makes him feel like his work is valued.

      Both generic ideas that won’t fit all situations, but hopefully it helps!

    2. Marina*

      For me what’s worked best is reframing it. When I don’t ask people for help and a project is delayed because of it, that is FAR more of an inconvenience than when I ask for help earlier. Being self-sufficient is a positive quality and so is difficult to convince yourself you should change, but being controlling out of fear of what will happen if anyone does something different than how you would do it is a negative quality and easier to convince yourself you should stop doing ASAP.

    3. Artemesia*

      I have this same problem and it is a huge barrier to being an effective manager/leader. The classic fail of a new manager is doing the old work rather than the new i.e. continuing in one’s expertise rather than developing the capacity to manage others which is the new job.

      If I were you I would be working on the control freak thing (boy do I understand this) and taking some actual instruction in management because until you can let go of the one and have the skills to delegate and supervise, you can’t effectively move forward.

      In the current situation, I would be mindful of all this and so take baby steps — asking for help on projects where you are comfortable letting go a bit and also offering help in return.

    4. LAI*

      I know what you mean – I’ve struggled with this myself. I already know that if I were ever in a leadership role, I would need to work on my delegating skills. As it is, I’ve caused minor political problems in the past because I thought I was being self-sufficient when I went ahead and did something myself, and it turned out that I was stepping on someone’s toes by doing something in their realm, or that I was duplicating work that someone else was already doing. So my advice is just to conscious about not doing this!

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Try, try, try to remember that it is a two way street. You need their X but they need your Y. If you don’t get to do Y, because she didn’t complete X then the both of you look foolish to the bosses.

      I can still be kind of control freaky myself- but it’s better now. I find that LOOKING AROUND is a big help. When I look around that forces me to take in the moving parts around me. It’s not all about how I feel about my little ABC that I have going on.

      I think another thing that helps with having to handle every.single. variable. is total exhaustion. You keep micromanaging every aspect of your work and you will find yourself with an all new definition for the word “tired”. Seriously, don’t turn this into a habit that gives you health problems. No company out there is worth throwing away your health for.

      Redirect your focus to something such as “I do my part of the work to the best of my ability every day.” Find a similar sentence and use that in place of the “control freak” or other wording that you have been using.
      Last thought and this one is borrowed: People that behave like control freaks privately believe that everything is out of control. Hence, they need to control everything. Not quite the image of myself I want to convey to others.

    6. C Average*

      As someone with a job that involves a LOT of collaboration on project-based work, I’d say one of the most important things is to learn how to ask.

      Keep your communications concise and clear. Don’t assume the person you’re reaching out to knows all the ins and outs of the project, but don’t assume they don’t. (And also, don’t assume they need to. They may not.) Be clear about what you need from them, when you need it, and what interdependencies may exist. Make yourself available and approachable for follow-up questions.

      People are not going to feel inconvenienced by a well-constructed ask for something that’s appropriate. If their role has collaborative elements, they’re used to this stuff and they appreciate having clear directives.

      When they do what you’ve asked them to do, say thank you. That goes a long ways, too. And, of course, be available as a collaborator when you can/when it’s part of your job. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours, and all that stuff.

  8. Shell*

    still vaguely stressing about the job app i sent last week. I’m faking nonchalance to my parents really well, with all of Alison’s awesome advice, but it’s so hard to practice what i preach. I’m looking for a very particular type of job too, so pickings are slim to begin with, but I’ll bump up my hunting efforts.

    relatedly, how much does padfolios get noticed in interviews? I just ordered one which should arrive today (and should look better than my university emblazoned clipboard folio I used to use), but I’m not sure how much people notice these things

    1. ClaireS*

      I think as long as the competitor’s logo isn’t emblazoned across the front, no one will think twice about a pad folio. I always brought them into interviews and I doubt anyone even consciously noticed.

      Also, can we talk about how horrible the word “padfolio” is? I hate it almost as much as I hate the words “moist” and “panties.”

      1. Shell*

        ha, yes. i bought this one because it was cheap and the reviews/pictures seem nice, and it’s a step up from the metallic pink university folio I have, but the price tags on some of these padfolios boggle the mind. I mean, I get wanting to be professional looking, but wow.

        1. Audiophile*

          I have a padfolio and I can’t remember the last time I actually used it in an interview.

          And the prices are outrageous, I’ve seen some $50-60. I’m all for wanting to look professional but that would burn a huge hole in my pocket.

        1. Artemesia*

          Can’t we all agree to search and replace with ‘underpants’ every time this appears anywhere until it is gone from the world? Or else all agree to wear thongs.

        2. Mallory*

          This reminds me of a Cosmo article I read once in which women were writing in reasons that they’d broken up with guys. One woman wrote that she once broke up with a guy because he would always the say the word “panties” with a kind of creepy, leering intonation.

    2. Maggie*

      LOL I asked myself this same question before my last interview. There was a hot pink one that I *really* wanted for day to day use at work (it was on sale at Office Max for $6!!) but I knew I couldn’t rock it in the interview. So I used my normal muted red leather one that looks polished (read: boring). I also want this coach one I have been eyeing forever, which I don’t think would look terrible in an interview. Great, now I’ll be shopping online all afternoon.

      So lesson: NO HOT PINK.

    3. Jess*

      Just FYI: I bought a super cute padfolio at target – though it has a purple and cream floral design on it – so possibly not interview appropriate?

    4. Camellia*

      If you carry it, people will definitely notice it, so having a nice one instead of one that is not-so-nice will make a better impression.

      Every time I get into a routine and don’t think much about clothing and accessories and therefore begin to think that others don’t notice them, I will wear a new pair of shoes to work and someone will comment on them in the break room!

      And then I remember the time when I was visiting an office and a vendor came in wearing a beautiful skirt suit and a pair of pumps that were actually torn on the back seam. I only saw her for the 10 seconds or so that she walked across the lobby but those shoes stood out like they were flashing neon.

      Moral of the story: as humans we automatically do a quick assessment of each other on meeting the first time and every little thing does count. Be meticulous about details.

    5. Ornery PR*

      I just had to do a search to find out what a padfolio is. At first I felt old because I didn’t know what it was. But now that I realize this is not something that you have to plug in and that carries paper things, I think I’m feeling very young (30s). Is it really a thing to carry around paper and pens to things these days? FWIW, I would judge a candidate for bringing any kind of padfolio or paper planner thing to an interview rather than a tablet or just using her phone to keep notes. Maybe that makes me a little unrealistic? I just am blown away that people would spend any amount of money on this type of item these days.

      1. Vancouver Reader*

        Really? I carry a padfolio with me to interviews because I am much less of a dweeb writing on it than I would be trying to add things to my phone. And mine isn’t as nice as the ones I googled, mine just has a place for a pad of paper on one side and the other side has a pocket for loose papers.

        1. So Very Anonymous*

          I find tablets/my phone maddening for any kind of writing–it’s much more efficient for me to take notes longhand. There’s also been a recent study suggesting that longhand note-taking is actually more effective for retention.

      2. Shell*

        Given the inefficiency of typing on a tablet or phone (unless you have a bluetooth keyboard or something), I vastly prefer writing notes out longhand in interviews. It’s probably the only area of my life where I prefer such a thing. You could get away with decent notes if you have a keyboard, but all that unpacking of electronics makes me feel like I’m a prima donna or something. And if you need to draw diagrams, forget it. I’m sure there’s integrated apps, but it’s just one more thing to worry about when I’m stressing enough in the middle of an interview.

        Followup: that padfolio I bought is gorgeous, at only $18 (including tax). :)

  9. Apollo Warbucks*

    I had a really good phone call with a recruiter yesterday, she had a job that looks perfect for me and would come with a 20K pay rise. I sent over a really good cover letter and CV today and have got an interview lined up next week :)

    I’m getting nervous thinking about it already :(

    1. Vancouver Reader*

      Good luck, and just remember, you already beat out who know how many 100’s of people to get where you are, so you’re already great in so many ways in their eyes.

  10. Diet Coke Addict*

    My boss has told us he won’t be paying us at our legal minimum wage, and is forcing us to “choose” between bumping it up to the legal minimum and losing our paltry commission, or keeping it as it is now. This is, of course, wildly illegal, and I am in the process of applying for new jobs that are really an excellent fit for me and I have an amazing shot at.

    In the meantime while I look, though, I’m still trapped in my office where the ceiling is leaking and has been leaking for months, the ants are invading, and figuring out how to make a complaint to the Labour Board. What fun.

    1. Blue Anne*

      Oh man. Uggggghhh. I’m so sorry you have to deal with that. I hope the complaint to the labour board isn’t too much of a hassle. “Wildly illegal” sounds about right!

    2. Felicia*

      i hope you figure out how to make a complaint to the Labour Board and that complaint involves severe consequences. Are you by chance in Ontario. I have heard of several places refusing to comply with the new minimum wage, so you’re not the only one!

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        I am! It’s been hard because they’ve been just SWAMPED with complaints now, so it’s been a bit of a hassle trying to get ahold of them. But we are definitely not, which is both depressing and helpful at once.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Flashing back to my old house where ants would sneak in and run rampant every spring. Uck. You think you have a stray hair tickling your arm and it is an ANT crawling on you. <>.

        1. Stephanie*

          Or in the bed. >.<

          I lived in an old house where we got swarms of insects (not many roaches, oddly enough), including ants.

          Buy some peppermint oil (Whole Foods/other health stores should have it or you can get it online) and put some in a spray bottle with water. It kills ants (and smells way better than Raid). This also works to repel mice (although it doesn't kill them). Be sure to buy oil, not extract, as extract has sugar (or alcohol) and will just attract more ants.

        2. Artemesia*

          I went in to work on a Saturday in my first big job and was confronted with a ribbon of ants about an inch wide just shimmering as they came and went in a steady stream — millions of them. Down the hall, up the stairs in one wavy undulating ribbon. And into the vending machine where they were frolicking amongst the sweet rolls and hauling their sugary goodness back to the nest. Still makes my skin crawl to think of it 40 years later.

          For ants those tero ant baits really do work; when we would have the annual fall and spring invasions in my last house, it would take about 2 days to eradicate the invasion.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          I’m living this nightmare right now.

          I think I may have got rid of them, or at least beaten them back. But I may have to suck it up and call the exterminator.

          1. Colette*

            Me too, but this happens every spring. Eventually they will go away, I hope. (It’s never a lot – three a day or so – but ick.)

      2. CollegeAdmin*

        I missed the bit in Diet Coke Addict’s post that mentioned the invading ants, so I thought you were suggesting that they should somehow unleash an army of ants upon the boss to mess with him in retaliation. I was very confused.

    3. MaryMary*

      I misread Diet Coke Addict’s post and briefly thought the ants were going to make a complaint to the Labour Board.

      Good luck with your search, and hang in there!

    4. Natalie*

      Ugh, that sucks. Good luck finding a new job, and I hope you leave your boss a lovely parting gift in the form of reporting him to the labor board. What an ass.

  11. a.n.o.n.*

    Nothing new to report on my possible job at the other company, but I did find someone where I work now who is in the same situation I’m in (almost). She’s new, too, and I knew her in a former life. She’s similar to me in that she was a manager, Jill-of-all-trades, decision maker, etc. before she came here. We got to talking today and she expressed how she’s feeling, so then I told her what’s going on with me. She said she feels out of touch, like she’s lost her niche since coming here. We’re both feeling the same way. We thought we wanted less responsibility and to be worker bees, now we know better. There’s no sense of ownership or involvement; we’re just doing our jobs. It feels good to know that I’m not the only one feeling like this.

    1. Maggie*

      Thank you for posting. I am just now going back to worker bee/project work and I do miss leading. I really didn’t think I would since I complained about how little time I had to do the things that I liked to work on. But you’re right, there is definitely a sparkle missing….

      I hope you find everything you want and need. Be kind to yourself.

      1. a.n.o.n.*

        “But you’re right, there is definitely a sparkle missing….”

        Exactly! We were both trying to put our finger on it, and that sums it up nicely.

        I thought I wanted the worker bee role, because things were always chaotic at the other place; I wore many hats and it never seemed like I could dedicate myself to something or follow it through completely. But when I came here I very quickly realized that the things I thought made me crazy actually made the boring side (the side I have now) bearable.

        My boss knows how I am feeling (that I’m in the wrong job). I’m talking to the CEO of the other company and it’s looking promising.

  12. EE*

    Open thread yay!
    So I started a job a month ago and have come to realize that my friendly, extroverted manager is erratic, admits to cocaine use and badmouths almost everybody in the office, without seeming to notice how horrendously unprofessional it is.

    I started 4 weeks ago. Another team member started 3 weeks ago. Do you really, manager, want to let us know how Staff Member A preys on married women, how Staff Member B has ‘a brown tongue’ and your own BOSS is a bit unreliable? I don’t intend to spill any of this stuff to anybody in the office but wtf.

    The team was split 50/50 with 2 Good People and 2 Bad People. She hired 2 new people (presumably because we were Good). I am junior to her but senior to everybody else. One of the Bad People left, which made her very happy because he was a Bad Person but annoyed that there was no handover period. So she announced that now that she had a 80/20 Good/Bad split she would simply exclude the remaining Bad Person from team meetings because he doesn’t directly report to her and so technically isn’t a team member. When he walked into a meeting thinking he should be there she seemed to take vindictive pleasure in reminding him that it wasn’t on his calendar.

    So far I have seen no evidence to contradict any of the trash-talking she’s done, and in the case of the team (ex-team I suppose) underperformers a lot of supporting evidence. But on balance it’s probably unlikely that she’s right all the time, right? And I don’t want to get known as the Trash-Talker’s Disciple – I have to deal with others.

    What do people think? No real questions as such just WOW. Wanted to share.

    1. hildi*

      I am so naive, but what is ‘brown tongue’? Does it have something to do with being an ass-kisser or suck up or something? Becuase if so, we do not need to proceed with explanation. But if it’s something else I am curious because I haven’t heard it before.

      But beyond that, a big wtf indeed. I have nothing else to say, but good luck navigating that and I hope someone can offer some insight.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I think it’s referring to being the grosser version of a brown-noser. As in, butt-licker. Can I write that here? I’m sorry! I feel dirty!

          1. EE*

            Yes! The new girl asked her what it was and she explained. I hadn’t heard it before either.

    2. ADE*

      I had an old manager who used to trash-talk others and I appreciate that you’re thinking about what this might mean for you in your company in the long-term, because I totally didn’t think that way.

      My one big advice is to not do what I did: don’t avoid your manager because you fear that she is talking about you behind your back as if you were a Bad Person. Work on being the best employee you can be under her management style — ask for clarification, ask if there is anything you could be doing differently…. in other words, give her an opportunity to critique you to her face instead of to a colleague or to another person unprofessionally.

      I feel your pain, though, and if she probably realizes this is something that she shouldn’t be doing and she’s probably working on it too.

      1. EE*

        Right now she seems to have this us vs. them mentality and me and 3 others are the warriors of light on her side so I’m probably safe (for a while anyway) from trash-talking. But I am concentrating HARD on not giving her reasons! I’ve made 2 mistakes in 4 weeks and she was OK with them.

    3. Kiwi*

      Google “splitting” in psychology. The “Good People”/”Bad People” thing could be an indicator of this.

      If this is in play here, you should be aware that the “Good” can be split “Bad for no reason and at any time. I’d be getting my ducks in a row and checking out other jobs in the area (but keep this quiet – your “abandonment” of the company and the manager could also split you “Bad”. Good luck!

    4. smilingswan*

      If she’s using drugs at work, you may want to talk to HR. Also, be careful what you say around her, because it sounds like she might try to use it against you in the future or tell others about it behind your back.

  13. Dan*

    Since I’m getting in early and I’m a bit bored (yet still interested in the topic.)

    I’ve asked this question before, but buried in other comment threads:

    I live in DC, which is non-profit central. If I meet you at a social function and you tell me you work for a non-profit, what is it that you want me to know about you?

    As a side note, my background is in data anlaytics and software engineering. I recently made the switch from a for profit federal contractor to a non profit supporting the same agency. I don’t use the “I work for a non profit” line when discussing work.

    TL;DR: If I meet you at a social function and you tell me you work for a non profit, what is it that you want me to know? Those that work for for-profits generally talk about their skills/industry — they talk about what they *do*.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it’s common shorthand that people use without really thinking about it. Why not respond, “What do you do there?” If their answer is about what the organization does rather than their own job (which sometimes will be the case), then you can ask, “What do you do there?”

    2. BRR*

      I’m not sure why people do this and I work at a nonprofit. I usually say I work in fundraising at XYZ. I work for a super large nonprofit that everybody knows.

      Maybe people say nonprofit when they work for a small one that people aren’t familiar with. That by saying nonprofit it means they don’t have to explain their role and what their organization’s mission is. I call it the broken bone syndrome, you’re tired of explaining how your broke your arm/leg whatever.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I totally agree it can be broken bone syndrome — nonprofit work often means you’re absorbed in the org’s issue all day long, and sometimes you’re exhausted by talking about it and really don’t want to do it in your off-hours.

        When I worked on animal protection issues and later when I worked on drug policy, I wold sometimes use the most vague, generalized descriptions of my work that I could, if I didn’t feel like getting into it with my dentist or whoever.

        1. Cath in Canada*

          Yeah, I had a fellow guest at a friend’s party start verbally abusing me once after I told him what I do, so even though that was a one-off anomaly I’m much more cautious now and ease into it gradually, with a vague starting statement…

      2. Marina*

        This is exactly my reason. My org works with people facing terminal illness and either people are totally turned off by it or start telling me all about how traumatic it was when their aunt died. Not great party conversation.

        My job title is volunteer coordinator, which comes with its own predictably annoying conversations. (Mostly “So do you get paid?” and “That is SO GREAT, you must be such a GOOD PERSON.” *awkward pause*)

        I think a lot of nonprofit folks also have it drilled into them that all social events are opportunities to increase awareness of their nonprofit’s cause. So maybe it’s partially automatically going into their elevator speech shpiel. Or maybe it’s just self-depreciation, like, oh, I work for a nonprofit, you won’t really care what I do.

        1. BRR*

          I know it’s a poor attitude when people are being nice but I hate the follow ups. Either I just say the name and they think I do the program side of my organization (doctor, professor, musician) or I say fundraising and it’s oh you call people on the phone and ask for money. I do back end research that you most likely haven’t heard of and I must sound awful for not wanting to take the time to answer one or two questions.

          1. AML*

            As a frontline fundraiser who spends 60% of his time traveling to meet with donors, I get a little twitchy at “oh, so you call and beg for money.” Not exactly.

            1. BRR*

              That makes me cringe. It’s like no that’s small beans, we outsource the calling.

              1. AML*

                Not to mention, even if my job were full-time cold caller, that is a difficult job and yes, requires skill to do well. I blame bad fundraisers for poisoning the well for the rest of us. :)

                1. BRR*

                  I go with most of the people I know aren’t major gift donors, so they only get the call during dinner type solicitation. It’s completely different giving a large amount and having someone meet with you and really personalize the ask.

                2. AML*

                  Guess we maxed out the comment nesting…It’s true, and I recognize that that’s what most people think of, so I understand.

                  For the record, I have always liked research, so I hope you enjoy your job! I think I irritate our research staff sometimes because I end up doing some of it myself.

    3. Eden*

      I’ve heard this also; shorthand for what, though?

      My cynical side thinks that this is a way to say, my employer is cooler than your employer because we do X (something awesome). Am I way off here? Why would you not just say, I work for Citizens for Better Teapots?

      I always feel about this how I feel about people who went to Harvard saying they went to school in Boston; a way to seem humble that actually comes off as pretentious (to me).

      I want to say in advance I’m sorry for these assumptions, and I hope people who work for non-profits and say this chime in with why. I’m sure there’s a better reason than the one I imagine.

      1. WorkingMom*

        I once worked for a non profit that some people (probably half the general population) don’t support, and are against the mission. So, I think I subconsciously I would use the “non-profit fundraising” as the answer as opposed to saying the name of the org. Mainly because I didn’t want to discuss the politics of it.

        Of course I recognize this in hindsight, 10 years later. I don’t think I was purposely withholding the name of the org, it just kind of happened!

        1. Maggie*

          That makes total sense because you really never know other people’s personal politics (outside of airchair activisim on their Facebook, ahem). Saying non profit can save you from awkward converasations.

      2. BRR*

        I think my theory applies to some and your’s to others. There’s not going to be a all encompassing reason why people do this.

    4. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Yeah, that’s the shorthand I use when I don’t want to get into the details.

      There are a couple of reasons I might not get into it: I assume you wouldn’t be interested and figure “nonprofit” covers it (in which case, if you genuinely want to know and ask follow up questions I’ll be happy to elaborate); or I think you might disapprove of what we do and don’t want to initiate a debate (my organization is somewhat controversial).

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        I also think program people in nonprofits do this because there’s no other shorthand for our work. If you’re an accountant for Target, you could easily say “I’m an accountant,” and everyone would understand what that means.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, this too. Some nonprofit jobs are easily recognizable — I.T., accounting, etc. But others are sector-specific, and “nonprofit” can be an easier catch-all when you don’t feel like going into the details.

        2. fposte*

          I was thinking that; also, if you have one of those vague jobs in a for-profit, you usually give the industry or company anyway (“I do data work at a teapot company”), which is pretty much equivalent.

        3. KB*

          This is a really good point. My previous job was in higher ed, and there was no way to get at it in one word. I’d typically say higher ed administration and then see from there if the person was interested… much easier than having to mention the university/school, the particular office and it’s mission, my title, and what that title actually meant. I yearned for the ease of saying “accountant” or “dentist” or what have you.

          1. JMegan*

            Oh, me too. I’m in both a profession and an industry that nobody has ever heard of, so there’s a long explanation required no matter which way I come at it.

            Not that I want to actually be a teacher or an accountant or a dentist, but it would definitely be a lot easier to introduce myself sometimes!

        4. MaryMary*

          That’s the case for a lot of jobs in the private sector too. I’ve had several very vague job titles (business analyst, project manager) and some that beg for an explanation (quality assurance analyst). All of my post-college jobs are impossible to explain in a word and difficult to explain in a sentence.

    5. Ash (the other one!)*

      Also, I hate that DC the first two questions are “what do you do” and “where are you from.” No one actually cares. I say nonprofit because likely you won’t really care what I actually do — its the beginning of small talk. If its a more formal networking situation usually its an environment where its a specific field or segment and then you can say I work for a non-profit building teapots.

      But yea, often I think its just small talk because its the quintessential question in DC.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        This is exactly what I was going to write. In New York, the first questions are “what neighborhood do you live in” and “how much rent do you pay” (totally acceptable question here). In DC it’s “what do you do” and “do you like my pleated khakis” (just kidding, but it feels like most men in DC love the pleated khakis look).

        1. ADE*

          YES, unfortunately I am guilty of asking the rent question.

          Hey, I’m curious………

          1. Lily in NYC*

            Don’t be guilty! I don’t think it’s considered an intrusive question here. I’ve asked it before as well.

        2. Zillah*

          That’s so true! I’m also in NYC, and that happens all the time. It’s super awkward for us, actually, because my partner and I rent from family for pretty low rent… so we generally double the figure and still get “Wow, that’s great for that area! How do I get that kind of rent?” / “Do you need another roommate?” You likely don’t, and no, it’s barely big enough for two people.

          I generally don’t tell people their rent because of that awkwardness, but once I ask the neighborhood I’ll make some comment about the subway lines that go there.

      2. Stephanie*

        I was at my first day of an improv class in DC. The instructor had us go around and introduce ourselves. The first guy is like “Hi, my name is Wakeen and I work as a…” The instructor interrupted him, saying “No, that’s ok. You don’t have to do that here. This is a safe space from the ‘What do you do?’ question.”

      3. Dan*

        I’ve spent my whole adult life in DC, so I can’t really compare much to other areas, but with such a transient population, it’s hard to find “safe” topics to talk about at cocktail parties and what not.

        If I introduced myself and instead of the obligatory “so what do you do?” I ask, “Did you have anything good for dinner last night?” Would you think I was a nut job who doesn’t understand social etiquitte, or would you appreciate the change in conversation?

        The funny thing with this thread is that I’ve picked up that even THAT topic can be controversial. For example, our very own blog owner used to work for a non profit who did advocacy work for what could easily be described as a controversial subject. I can imagine that with more close minded people, that’s a subject that she might get tired of talking about in a hurry.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          When I did feel like talking about it (which wasn’t always), I often used to enjoy saying, “I work on marijuana policy reform; we’re all a bunch of policy wonks, and it’s not at all what you’re thinking” — just because I liked to blow up the stereotype on that one. Interestingly, the animal rights work produced WAY more obnoxious responses than marijuana.

          1. Dan*

            Maybe because we’re all a bunch of closet pot heads? (Said tongue in cheek.)

            A bit more seriously — if I were to meet you socially, I would be quite curious as to what sorts of people do work there.

            Heck, I’m not a consumer, but I’d happily work on an issue that is causing a huge drain on tax payer dollars by locking people up for long periods of time, and the corresponding issues that occur when you free them back into society with the stigma of a “criminal record,” which just invites more crime.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yeah, I rarely smoke pot (maybe once a year, if that), but I care passionately about civil liberties and privacy, and I have a huge problem with the government spending criminal justice resources arresting and imprisoning otherwise law-abiding people for what they do in the privacy of their own homes. (And that’s not even getting into medical marijuana patients using it to help control their symptoms on the advice of their doctors.)

              As for what kind of people worked there — policy wonks, seriously. It was a pretty straight-laced group, and we had rigorous standards for who we hired. Walking through that office, you would have never known what issue it was that was being worked on. They do impressive work (as you can see, since they’ve been changing a bunch of laws).

    6. Parcae*

      I do this. Not always, but quite often. There are two reasons: one, “I work for a nonprofit” is the positively shortest answer I can give without being non-responsive. If someone cares, they can ask follow-up questions. If they don’t care, cool, and the social niceties have been observed.

      Second, it’s the one answer I’ve found that never results in a negative response. If I say, “I work in finance,” someone might respond, “Eww, that sound so boring! I could never do that!” If I tell them I work for an organization that primarily serves Native Americans, someone might say something racist. (Seriously.)

      Also, lots of people don’t like talking about work or don’t particularly care what others do. I have acquaintances and friends who I know well enough to name all their siblings and at least two of their exes, but if pressed on what they do for a living, I can’t get much further than “She works for the state,” or “…insurance?”

    7. Mimmy*

      Am I the only one who actually WOULDN’T mind answering these questions? Sure, some jobs can be difficult to describe, but I like it because then I can ask the person about their work in return, which I enjoy hearing about.

  14. Dang*

    I’ve been waiting for this Open Thread because something has been driving me batty…

    I had an interview last Tuesday that was super intense. They had me do a presentation and grilled me on the material, then grilled me with interview questions (there were 8 people and I wasn’t told this in advance). They told me I did “very well” and were enthusiastic about me. They asked for my references at the end of the day on Thursday, and I haven’t heard a peep since…

    Then I was looking at job postings online and saw that that the job had been refreshed Monday, which would have been 2 business days after they asked for my references. I would have thought nothing of it, except 1) the other jobs posted the same day had not been refreshed and 2) when I re-read it, they had added a clause with something to the effect of it being a good opportunity for a recent college grad looking to gain experience.

    The original ad said NOTHING of the sort. It even specified that it was non entry level (the new ad was changed to entry level).. and I haven’t heard from them in a week. I just find this to be a bizarre scenario. It is the exact same ad I responded to with these edits.

    We never talked salary, so they don’t know what I expect or accept. If it’s a money thing, I’ve been unemployed for a year so I would accept almost anything. I’m fine with entry level work and was really into the idea of this job and company, but I’m not sure what the heck to make of this. Any ideas on what would be going on? They knew from my resume that I wasn’t an entry level applicant and interviewed me (twice) anyway… so it’s hard to not take personally.

    References are great. I’m 99% sure of that because I’ve verified before. And besides, even if they weren’t, why would they suddenly change the job description to encourage recent grads and specify that it was entry level?! I’m so frustrated. I really wanted this job.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      are you sure it’s not a different but nearly identical position in the same company?

      1. Dang*

        Pretty sure. Same title, same exact description, minus the entry level and ‘recent grad’ part.

        1. HM in Atlanta*

          I’m hiring right now for two jobs – same location, same title, same department. Position 1 – want someone experienced in the role. Position 2- will train a new grad. The pay is different (as you might expect).

          The ad you saw could be because they changed the job (or it could be a weird situation like mine).

    2. MJH*

      I happen to sit next to a bunch of recruiters and work in a big company. They repost jobs all the time (much to their frustration) because the hiring managers change the requirements and the recruiters find out that entry level is okay. At which point they have to repost the job with the new info and wait five days for new resumes to come in.

      It has to do with legality in hiring practices. I don’t know what it means for your job candidacy, but these repostings, at least here, are super common.

      1. Dang*

        Hmm okay, that’s good to know. I wouldn’t normally freak out about jobs being reposted ,I know it happens, but to me it sounded like they were lowering their requirements after I was far in the process and I didn’t know why. And I guess I won’t, and in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter because the only thing that does matter to me is whether or not they’re hiring me. So.. eh. Guess I should just suck it up and ask for an update on Monday.

        1. Artemesia*

          After watching my daughter spend a year being a finalist for jobs and then not get them, I am convinced that the only way to save your sanity in this job market is to assume that you will not get any job you are interviewing for and let the waves wash over you. Of course follow up on Monday, but still try to get to that calm place where you have no expectations. And keep the job search in high gear until you have an offer.

          My daughter was hired by a place that she was a finalist for but hired someone else; they reached out to her to do some contract work and then when business warranted, they offered her a full time position. It is quite possible to be well thought of in an interview but to still lose out to another well qualified person.

          The whole process is crazy making. Hope this one works out.

        2. Chloe Silverado*

          When I was interviewing for my current job, the company reposted the job with a completely different set of qualifications and duties after I’d already interviewed twice . If I had seen that job ad I never would have applied. They ended up offering me the job. When I asked for clarification about the change in job description (I wanted to make sure I still wanted the job!), they explained that since the role was new they wanted to interview candidates with a variety of different skillsets and experiences to determine which combination would be the best for the role. I realize that’s different than a change from experienced to entry level, but I suppose it’s possible that they want to bring in candidates with different levels of experience to determine what they actually need.

    3. GigglyPuff*

      I assume you let your references know they were going to be contacted when the company asked for them, why don’t you try following up with them first, with a quick email asking if they’ve been contacted.

  15. Ali*

    Typing from my phone today since I’m on the road at the moment.

    I’m a couple weeks into my social media internship and I’m loving it. Any doubts I had about interning again have been erased, as the company I’m working with is really focused on personal interactions with their Twitter audience. I get to interact with so many awesome people and even play a role in growing the company by encouraging customers to get product samples. My supervisor is also really nice and I’m starting to think I might be good at social media as a career.

    I was also out of town this week to see some coworkers and have dinner with them. I finally met my good work friend as well. I was the only woman in the group but the guys were very good to me…giving me hugs and treating me to dessert for an early birthday gift. I was sad to have to leave since I want to live in the same city they’re based in. I hope to start saving money soon to get there. It was a good week!!

    1. Audiophile*

      Hey! I’m doing a social media internship as well, I’m working remotely but a lot of contact with the rest of the social media team.

      I’m really enjoying my experience and started applying to jobs that had social media as part of the regular duties.

      The best thing I can say is to try to keep track of growth, because when I’ve mentioned growth people have remarked how impressed they were.

    2. littlemoose*

      A friend of mine is a recent college grad looking for social media positions (among others). Any advice for getting into the field or looking for jobs?

    3. Sunflower*

      How are you handling your internship on top of your regular job? I would still be interested in interning but I’m worried about handling it on top of my full time job

      1. Ali*

        Perhaps this is unique to the company I’m interning with, but they do not have set hours for their interns. I inquired about it before committing, as I have a contact there (met him through Twitter), and he said the internship is basically a situation where you get out of it what you put into it. I’ve found time when I’m not on shift at my regular job to do my tweeting and research, or I’m trying to wake up earlier and get on Twitter in the morning during our peak times since I work mostly evenings at my full-time job.

        I was worried about it too, but I felt more stressed out when I was writing for free at a site with tons of standards on how they wanted marketing/SEO done and they rewarded people who would write like 20 articles a month.

  16. EduStudent*

    I have a question about work clothes – I guess it might be easiest to apply to dresses, but I’m asking about all pieces. When, in your view, does a piece cross the line from staple piece (that you can wear repeatedly without an issue, like a black pencil skirt) to a memorable piece (like a red blazer or something where you don’t want to wear it too often lest people notice)? Can patterns ever be staples? Or what about colors like a cobalt blue (sheath dress, for example) that aren’t neutrals but aren’t as loud as, say, hot pink?

    1. Sunflower*

      I try to look at it in the sense of ‘If i wear this piece twice a week, will someone notice?’ I think more muted colors that aren’t neutral can stick as staple pieces but it also depends on the style and cut of the item. If you’re talking multiple pieces, a red pair of paints is going to stick out much more than a red blouse.

      1. CollegeAdmin*

        I try to look at it in the sense of ‘If i wear this piece twice a week, will someone notice?’

        I think that’s a good rule. I try to remember when I wore things and space outfits appropriately. For example, I own one pair of slacks and 4 skirts. I wouldn’t wear my slacks on Tuesday and on Thursday (potentially noticeable), but I might do Monday and Friday.

        And I think colored pants always stick out more than a colored skirt, too. I’m not sure why, but I do.

        1. CollegeAdmin*

          Ahh, I tried to quote your comment and failed with the code bits, Sunflower – sorry!

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      I love this question, because I love prints and bright colors. (Fortunately, working at an ad agency means the rules are more lenient than if I were at, say, an investment bank.) And today I happen to be wearing a dress that is both cobalt blue (on the bottom half, at least) and printed!

      I think it’s like porn — hard to give a definition, but I know it when I see it. I probably wouldn’t look at a houndstooth skirt and think, “Gee, I saw Jane wearing that last week,” but if the print is something more unusual or large-scale, like a splashy floral, I wouldn’t wear it to the office two weeks in a row.

    3. H. Rawr*

      I say go for wearing something like the blue sheath dress as a base. And, I think as long as you are re-outfitting, reusing other pieces more often is fine. I did a capsule wardrobe over the winter and that’s exactly how it worked, my pattern pieces were purposed a lot more often, just in all kinds of combos (I haven’t taken the time to organize a spring… and now summer one, but that’s another story). I loved it!

    4. TotesMaGoats*

      I think this is going to fall into an eye of the beholder thing. I had a great colorblock dress (blue, black and white) several years ago. Wore the heck out of that thing. I’d call it a staple. Same for a coral dress. I’d say that most plaids, houndstooth, or small patterns would fall into the staple piece/almost neutral category. It’s your wild pattern or lots of color that I’d say is more memorable.

    5. sam*

      I generally don’t wear a super-identifiable piece of clothing (dress with a unique print, colorful jacket, etc.) more than once a week.

      This is why 90% of my wardrobe is black pants and tops.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yeah, I think no one knows at any given time how many pairs of black slacks I have. It’s sometimes as many as 3 or as few as 1, depending on whether I’ve been shopping or a pair has given up the ghost recently, but I tend to buy pretty much the same style every time. It helps when I need to get away with putting off the laundry one more day, since everyone is already used to my wearing black slacks all the time. :D

        1. sam*

          I have a hard time buying pants (I’m both plus sized and have disproportionately short legs for my body), so when I find a pair I like, I buy at least 5 pairs of the exact same pants. So I’m literally wearing the same pants every day, even when I’m not literally wearing the same *pair* of pants.

          1. Artemesia*

            I could care less about clothes and tend to buy multiples that work too. If I were you, I would be buying the 5 pair but get one in grey, one in dark brown and a couple in black etc so you are getting the great fit. I never worked in the kind of place where clothes were critical (like they might be at a magazine or in an ad agency) so never worried to much. I think I own a dozen fitted black Ts at any one time and half a dozen pair of black pants.

            1. sam*

              I do that sometimes, and then they grey and brown pants sit in my closet gathering dust. :)

              I’m also a New Yorker, so black is pretty much de riguer around here. People only notice when you’re wearing a color.

    6. Gene*

      Threads like this make me glad to be male. And even more glad that I have to wear a uniform (I work with sewage and work clothes are work clothes, for obvious reasons.)

      My opinion, wear what you want and if anyone has a problem with it, it’s their problem, not yours.

      1. Celeste*

        I agree that a uniform makes dressing easier! Whether it’s all black in a hair salon, scrubs in a hospital or doctor’s office, military fatigues or a specific work uniform, it can be easy to get out the door.

        But other places really care about what you wear. You need to fit in to portray a specific image (trustworthy, creative, approachable, etc.) and you don’t want to get noticed for the wrong clothing choices. Sometimes it even affects advancement, so it really can be a concern.

      2. Cajun2Core*

        Ditto what Gene said.

        I am also male and I basically have 5 “business casual” shirts and about 3 navy or tan “business casual” pants. Luckily all of the shirts go with all of the pants. I have one pair of shoes that I wear to work. I am sure that I have worn the exact same outfit more than once in the same week and I would not be surprised if I wore the exact same outfit two days in a row (though I don’t think I have ever done three).

      3. C Average*

        I’ve invented a uniform for myself, because I like to look nice but I am a cheapskate and I can’t be bothered to follow fashion closely.

        On any given day, there’s a 90% chance I’m wearing

        a) a very plain black sleeveless A-line dress with a colored cardigan or a printed blouse over it or
        b) a printed sleeveless A-line dress with a black cardigan over it.

        Add basic jewelry and ballet flats or boots.

        In the winter, add tights and a scarf.


        I also run-commute to work, so I usually stash a pile of mix-and-match pieces in my file cabinet drawer on the weekend for the week ahead so I can change when I get here.

    7. Celeste*

      I think it’s a staple if you can wear it for more than one season, and especially if you can mix it with other pieces or make it look different with accessories.

      I think splashy patterns are more memorable and call for a rotation plan. But if you have sweaters or jackets that pick up a color in the pattern, it’s easier to get more miles out of the patterned dress or top.

      Some bright colors feel like a seasonal staple to me. Hot pink seems better for spring/summer than fall/winter, for example.

    8. Marina*

      I think if something is the accent piece of the outfit (a patterned, colored shirt with neutral slacks) I wouldn’t wear it twice in a week. But if something else is the focus of the outfit (a splashy scarf, or maybe the shirt is black and white pattern and the skirt is a bright solid color) then I’d wear it in multiple outfits. I have a bright purple purse I bring allllll the time, because it just happens to go with most of my outfits and ends up being complimentary, rather than the focus of the outfit.

    9. SevenSixOne*

      I doubt I’d notice that you wore anything more than once in one week unless you start wearing it more than once a week nearly every week. And even then, as long as it fits, is clean/in good condition, I doubt I’d think anything deeper than a neutral “EduStudent wears that red blazer a lot.”

      1. Mints*

        Yeah, as long as it’s not smelly, all I’m thinking is “She must really like blue”
        (Two days in a row isn’t good, tho, unless it’s like a jacket)

    10. EmmBee*

      This reminds me of a former coworker; one season she bought this (pretty amazing) dress — bright colors, breezy, more wedding guest-like than professional, but hey. She wore it, no lie, 3x a week sometimes. And she was tall and formidable, so people noticed her anyway.

      Everyone on our floor talked about that dress and the fact that she wore it so much.

      If it were a plain dress and she wore it with different blazers/cardigans a few times a week, I wouldn’t have noticed at all. But the dress itself was so eye-grabby that it was impossible NOT to notice.

      Anyway. I tend to take the French approach (buy nice things when you can, wear them often). I think patterns can absolutely be staples. I also think if, say you have a patterned pair of pants, you could wear them twice a week if you’re mixing up the rest of the outfit (different blouses, shoes, jewelry, etc.).

    11. Vancouver Reader*

      I think patterns can be staples, same with colours, as long as you have other pieces that complement them. So say you have a checkered jacket, but you wore it with a black sheath dress one day and then a white blouse and black pants the next, it still makes it varied enough that it shouldn’t raise eyebrows, I’d think.

      I liked watching What Not to Wear for ideas of what is considered a staple in a wardrobe.

    12. class factotum*

      The only time I notice what someone else at work is wearing is when it is Sally in her yellow velour tracksuit on jeans day. Otherwise, I couldn’t tell you what someone wore yesterday to save my life.

    13. NatalieR*

      When I find something that borders on memorable for pattern or color but also has wardrobe staple qualities, I tend to buy multiples in different colors/patterns. I knew they fit/flatter but I can switch it up and accessorize each version differently. My closet is pretty much the Noah’s Ark of clothes; there are (at least) 2 of each item in different colors.

    14. Jennifer*

      I think you can rewear generic things like pants in neutral colors without anyone noticing as long as there’s not distinctive stains on them (such as my high school orchestra teacher sitting in gum one day and wearing the same pants the next day. Yeah, we noticed). You can probably do the same with a black pencil skirt or a boring black blazer. But anything with a color will be noticed, in my experience.

      I have a two week “rewear” rule where if I wore it last week, it stays home this week.

  17. Who are you??*

    I officially start my new job next week and I am thrilled. Today I had an opportunity to take a look at the medical and dental benefits that I’ll be eligible for and I had mixed feelings. I was thrilled that the dental plan offers orthodontia. I have two kids that will need braces and while the coverage isn’t awesome, it’s a big dent in the overall cost. I was horrified by the medical plan and then thankful that my husband has us on his plan through his employer.
    My husband pays a hefty amount of his monthly premium ($900 a month!) but our coverage is great. Co-pays for office and/or ER visits, co-pay for inpatient and outpatient hospital visits, and decent prescription coverage. On top of that his monthly contribution will go down with each year of work until it plateaus at $350 a month at the 5 year mark. The plan offered through my employer was over $400 a month and had individual deductibles of $2500 and then only 50% coverage after the fact. I’d like to know how this falls under affordable healthcare? I have two kids who have at least one visit to the doctor a year that doesn’t fall under preventative care. What further baffles me is how the wording in the benefits outline indicates that this is somehow a good deal.
    I knew going into this position that I was probably not taking the medical coverage but that I would be looking to take the dental and vision coverage. The medical coverage was not at all a consideration in my taking this position, but this has been an eye-opener. Had I been relying on this job for medical coverage for my family I would have been very upset by the plans offered and the amount of money I would have to dole out to be part of a good deal. In fact, a co-worker of mine (currently a temp) was considering applying here but he looked at the plans offered and the cost-sharing and decided that he’d rather stay a temp and continue with the better plan the temp agency offers!!!

    1. Celeste*

      Maybe it’s a good deal if you have no other options? I agree, your current plan sounds better. You definitely have to go into these things with your eyes open and your calculator on.

    2. Cajun2Core*

      One hint. Check to see if your (or your husband’s) company has a Flexible Spending Account or an Medical Savings Account. It may save you some money on taxes.

      1. AML*

        I was going to say, this sounds like it would qualify as a high deductible health plan (HDHP), which in turn would qualify you to open a Health Savings Account. A lot of companies have been migrating to HDHPs, since they are significantly cheaper for them to offer. They can be nice for the right person, but particularly if you have kids, they strike me as a horrible deal.

        1. Stephanie*

          I had a HDHP with an HSA at OldJob (it also offered a PPO). I opted for the HDHP just because we had really high premiums (small company with a mostly middle-aged workforce).

          If you’re generally pretty healthy (like I am) or have a chronic condition that requires lots of regular care, they’re good as you’ll either you won’t have more insurance than you need (and can stash the difference in premiums in an HSA) or you will hit your deductible in no time and have things fully covered (depending on your out-of-pocket max, that is). The HSA is portable, which is nice (I was able to use my HSA to cover a doctor’s visit a couple of months ago). And if you plan accordingly, you could use the HSA as an investment tool to save for more expensive health costs when you’re older.

          I do agree that they’re not great if you have a family as you’ll pay a lot upfront before you hit your deductible.

          (Can you tell I have a mother who works in the health insurance industry?)

          1. AML*

            I didn’t want to come across as a salesman, so I refrained from saying that I have a HDHP and an HSA, and I love it! I’m young and healthy, and my company contributes 50% of the annual deductible to my HSA as part of the deal.

            Right now, I’m just stockpiling money in there as extra retirement savings, since you can withdraw for any purpose without a tax penalty after you turn 65. Of course, odds are good that I’ll need to use it for a medical reason before then, but it’s a great extra option to have.

            I just imagine having kids and all of the various unexpected expenses that are likely to happen in the course of their growing up–broken bone, appendicitis, etc. I’d definitely want more solid coverage for that.

            1. Laufey*

              Eh, while HSA’s are pretty cool (and most of them can be used for dental, vision, prescriptions, not just doctor work), I’m not certain I would advise using it as a savings account for retirement. I mean, yes, you’ll get some pre-tax benefit, but the returns are normally very, very low. I mean, the money will still be there when you retire (theoretically), but it won’t grow very much. A regular savings account might offer you a better return, even if it is after-tax money. Does your company offer any sort of 401(k) program?

              1. fposte*

                Actually, several HSA custodians allow for some decent investment opportunities like Vanguard and Fidelity funds. A lot of people who’ve run out of tax-advantaged space (especially if they’re in a tax bracket too high for the Roth IRA) do use HSAs for investing, given that they allow tax-free growth, and that most of us will have no problem using them up. But I’d definitely agree to fill up your other tax-advantaged space up first.

                1. fposte*

                  Okay, should clarify–a few states do tax HSA earnings (and don’t deduct HSA contributions), but federally they’re still untaxed.

            2. fposte*

              You also, if you keep decent records, can hold off on the withdrawal for medical expenses and then reimburse yourself from the HSA down the line for what you paid out of pocket now.

              I really wish we had an HSA.

    3. MaryMary*

      The Affordable Care Act definition of “affordable” is a plan that covers at least 60% of medical expenses. You can have a maximum out of pocket of up to $12,700 for family coverage and the plan could still be considered affordable.

      No employer is tell you they have a mediocre medical plan, everyone will say they offer competitive benefits (unless, of course, they don’t offer benefits at all).

      1. Mpls*

        Actually, the “affordability” part only applies to the cost of the premium – the employee only version of coverage offered by the employer must be no more than 9.5% of the employee’s income, otherwise the employer will have an additional fine to pay and the employee will have the option of getting the subsidy through their state’s exchange.

        ACA does have coverage requirements, though. A qualified plan must provide 60% of actuarial value, which is combination of the deductible, out of pocket and the co-insurance/co-pay. Federal limits mandate certain ceilings for out-of-pocket costs, which include the deductible and the out of pocket costs, but not the premiums. So the out-of-pocket costs ($12,700 for a family) has nothing to do with the statutory definition of affordability under ACA.

    4. EAA*

      I’ve told my children the first thing they need to do is set aside the maximum out of pocket expense outlined under the ACA ($6400 individual/$12,800 family) for 2014. This way they have it if they need it and can let to grow if they don’t. The amount will increase each year. (everything the government does is indexed)

    5. class factotum*

      Be warned that if you have insurance available to you through your job and still take your husband’s plan that the husband’s plan might charge an extra fee.

  18. Sunflower*

    How would you suggest asking about these things during an interview
    -professional training/education
    -mentoring possibilities within the company

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      I wouldn’t bring up training unless they do or it’s a standard part of the package offered (the firm I work takes a lot of recent grads into training schemes and they all come with a well defined study support package, covering tuition, exam fees and books)

      As for mentoring if they have a formal scheme then I guess they would tell you about it, otherwise you’d be just as well to wait until you start and reach out to co-workers you get on well with to see if they will mentor you.

      An interview should be about what you can bring to the role and if you will be happy with the work and culture of the office, not what fringe benefits you can pick up.

    2. vvondervvoman*

      The way it usually comes up is that the interviewer is impressed by how much continuing education I’ve done over the years. I then tell them that professional development is really valuable to me and my ability to do my job. And then I ask if there are ever opportunities for training opportunities at the org/in the position.

    3. meg*

      When I was searching for my current job, mentoring was really important to me. So I asked about it in my allotted question time. It turns out that my current company really cares about mentoring, so it was a good question to ask.

  19. BCW*

    I’m curious to get opinions here. What, in your opinion (anyone who chooses to answer) makes a workplace professional or unprofessional? In reading this blog for a couple of years, I have learned that many things that have gone on in offices where I have had the pleasure of working, would be considered very unprofessional in other places. Its not like we are having stripper and drug parties in our office or anything. But there is a lot of crude humor, jokes or pranks at peoples expense, and just relaxed things that we do to pass the time. However these places have all been respectable organizations and we all got our jobs done very well. But we didn’t have the super straight laced culture there. Even when it comes to attire, people would wear what they wanted. The one exceptions (for obvious reasons) was when I was a teacher, however even that, in the teachers lounge, could be interesting at times. I just think the term what is professional or unprofessional is very subjective and varies based on average age of the office, industry, and location. From some of the comments I’m well aware I would be miserable in some of your offices, and many of you would hate working in mine. But what does the term “professional” mean to you?

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Depends. I’ve worked in smaller businesses both manufacturing and environmental services, and a casual office culture, where people horse around and even curse, is common. But I would be surprised to see it in my current workplace (large company, though jeans-friendly, much more straight-laced).

      Even in the more casual atmosphere, I would not consider offensive or sexist humor or remarks (or the bikini calendar a vendor sent to the facilities manager at Exjob 0_0) professional at all.

    2. Anonicorn*

      That’s an interesting question. At a former job, semi-crude humor was OK, but leaving 15 minutes earlier was considered highly unprofessional. And at yet another job the opposite was true, semi-crude humor not OK, but leaving 15 minutes early is no big deal.

      I guess my own definition is understanding the culture and not going beyond those limits. Ideally for me, that means not a straight-laced culture, yet one not so forgiving that people are making racist/sexist/whateverist remarks. I think humor and joking around among coworkers is really beneficial for both productivity and good relationships. And basically treating people like adults (of course, that means you have to hire people who can behave like adults).

    3. Sascha*

      My definition of being professional involves being respectful of others. The people I consider unprofessional are not the ones who might use crude humor or do pranks, but those who don’t know when to dial it back or pull pranks at really inappropriate times. Additionally, I think being disrespectful of others’ time and space is unprofessional…you could be a super polite, genteel person, but if you are habitually late, never respond to my emails, and leave work in the middle of the day with no explanation, I’m going to consider you unprofessional.

      1. Jillociraptor*

        I really like this. I agree: for me, professionalism is about being socially intelligent enough to not hinder (or ideally, to actually promote) productivity.

      2. AGirlCalledFriday*

        When I’ve worked in places where there was crude behavior or jokes, I’ve found that the men tended to indulge, and perhaps a woman or two, but the majority of us girls were uncomfortable but didn’t want to make waves by speaking up, so we’d just halfheartedly laugh and then move on to something else. Even though we respected those guys for the work they did, personally we thought they were gross.

        A friend of mine works in one of these places, and was admittedly very crude at work. I told him about my experience and he decided to dial it back a LOT. He was just promoted a few levels, and the reason they gave specifically was that they considered him to be more professional. He was shocked, because most everything he had seen prior to this was that this type of behavior was across the board acceptable.

        I guess my point, BCW, is that you may have thought that your workplaces were fine, but you don’t really know what people were really thinking about you, or how they really took the work culture there. You can be funny without being crude. Pranks…well, as long as they aren’t offensive or meant to hurt they can be funny.

        1. BCW*

          Thats an interesting take. This isn’t to sound rude, but I wish if people were offended by things they would speak up more. Me and my friends do a lot of good natured joking around. Sometimes me and my co-workers do that. Depending on the work environment, sometimes that may get a little crude. I guess my point is that if I’m making a crude comment toward a buddy, then someone else shouldn’t be offended (assuming its not racist, sexist, etc). However, I’d rather at least know I’m offending someone and be given the chance to change my behavior, than have people talking badly behind my back. It just seems to me that a more adult thing to do would be to bring your problems to the person, not to stew over it, then decide one day to go to the boss (not saying YOU personally have done that).

          1. AGirlCalledFriday*

            No offense taken!

            If you are in the workplace and you make a crude comment to a friend in the middle of a work space, it’s not a private conversation. It’s something others can hear, and you can be judged for that. Also, I happen to agree that if a person doesn’t like it, they should bring it to your attention before involving management, but if you happen to work in a place that’s dominated by men and that’s what they do, no one wants to be the girl to tell everyone to stop.

            Crude jokes at a workplace make me feel like I’m still in high school.

            1. BCW*

              I do get that, but I think sometimes context matters. I have many people I became personal friends with that started as co-workers. If we go out on the weekends and are just being stupid, sometimes it bleeds into work. So while I understand that you may be offended by things, if its not toward you, sometimes I think you need to let things go (with exceptions of course). I understand that it may be harder to do as a woman, but at the same time, I think part of being an adult is speaking up if you are truly bothered by something. There are ways to do it without sounding like a prude. I get that you can judge a person by how they treat strangers, but I just think its unfair to judge someone based on what they say to a friend who doesn’t have a problem with it.

          2. the invisible one*

            It would be nice if it were as easy as just speaking up. You may be a great person who will apologize and dial back on the jokes when asked, but a lot of people have a lot of past experience of being attacked for speaking up. Mocked, shunned, criticized for not having a sense of humour, subjected to constantly repeated “oh, we can’t say [joke] because [person] is here and they got *offended* (eyeroll)”, escalation to deliberately offensive remarks, or any number of other things that make that seemingly simple solution really hard to actually do if you want to remain part of that group.

      3. Mints*

        I like thus too. Crude jokes aren’t necessarily bad in themselves when you know (for sure) that everyone present will appreciate it. Being emotionally intelligent and reading people well are requirements for questionable jokes

    4. Joie de Vivre*

      I relate professionalism to understanding a specific to a situation or audience, adapting and then replying appropriately.

      Workplaces vary widely on dress, humour, accepted topics of conversation, but to me, if your co-workers and management are not distracted by your behavior and can clearly see your contributions to the business then you’re professional for that environment.

    5. class factotum*

      I would say that going to the gym at lunch, then returning to the office in your sweaty, stinky gym clothes after lunch and not changing is unprofessional.

    6. Mimmy*

      Great question! To be honest, my definition of “professional” vs. “unprofessional” might lean towards the straight-laced end of the spectrum. I don’t mind friendly and perhaps humorous chat during breaks and lunch. However, I am easily distracted, so constant chit-chit and horseplay while working drives me a little nutty. Of course, I’d still want friendly working relationships, so I don’t expect everyone to be robots either. It’s hard to explain.

      I’m not as prudish when it comes to dress, though. I think wearing jeans is fine as long as they are not tattered or looking as if you just finished yard work. The only time I’d frown upon seeing jeans is if there are visitors to the office or if you’re going out for a meeting or site visit.

      1. Mimmy*

        Gotta say, in reading all the others’ responses after posting mine, I wholeheartedly agree everyone. I’m probably not the best person to judge professionalism because, in thinking further, it varies for me depending on how tolerant I am of my environment on a given day. One day I might be okay with a little bit of crude humor or extra chit-chat; another day, I may want to do nothing but do my work and shut out the noise.

        Respect for others, however, is number one on my list regardless of my mood.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      I think that the number one thing for me is how people treat each other. But a close second is producing a good product or service. Really the two go hand-in-hand, when I am thinking about how professional a place is. Places doing a bad job can end up with a toxic work environment and visa-versa.

      I can’t work for a company whose product/service is shabby. But having a great product/service in an environment where basic respect is not in place won’t work out for me, either. All that, to me, is unprofessional.

      I am less apt to think of individuals as unprofessional. I think with individuals I am usually more specific- such as that person does not know much about X process, or that person was rude to a customer the other day. I can count on one hand the number of times I have used the word unprofessional in regard to an individual.

  20. Mimmy*

    Quick question for Alison – Will the Sunday thread always go up at midnight, as it did this past week? I have a fun idea for a thread, but want to jump in when there’s still relatively few comments.

  21. BB*

    My question is for people who do social media customer service and handle accounts. How you handle complaints made through facebook and twitter. Do you handle them differently than ones made online or through the call center? Do you weigh them less than the ones made through traditional methods?

    1. Felicia*

      Where I’ve worked they are actually weighted more, because the general public can see them, and someone could like tweet Customer service from @YourCompany sucked! Or more positively they can tweet or Facebook post something positive if you did a good job . Usually it’s handled a bit differently because of the relatively public nature. You don’t deal with their issue right there on Facebook and Twitter both due to character limits and because all their network can see it. So usually it’s just like “thank you for your concern, if you email or call (provide contact info) we will be able to help you right away. “

      1. Kai*

        Ditto this. We also try to respond ASAP to social media posts because timeliness is so much more important. Also, if it’s appropriate, you can add a bit more levity to your response. But again, that’s only if there’s not a big complaint or something and a customer is just trying to interact.

  22. Polkadot*

    Do we have some readers from Germany here?
    I attended a presentation about working in social media this week and while the two women talking about their fields gave a lot of of really good tips in general, I kind of cringed at what they said about applying for jobs. For example that they know of hiring commitees who get hundreds of applications so they just check that everyone has the basic requirements and then they pick five at random who they invite.
    And stuff like how gimmicky videos work well and how we have to make sure to stand out.

    Please tell me that AAM’s advice is valid in Germany as well and it’s just bad managers who appreciate tactics like this ://

    1. De (Germany)*

      I have never heard of a company choosing applicants like that. And gimmicks also won’t get you very far, at least not in my industry (software development).

    2. Minerva*

      German here! I think AAM’s advice probably applies here as well, in general, with the major exception that it’s customary to have a photo on your CV – so you go to a photographer and pay a considerable amount to get a professional-looking headshot of you in a suit, and then stick that on your resume. Also, speaking German is usually quite important! But other than that, I think it’s probably similar.

      1. Polkadot*

        I am German, so the language is not the problem ;)
        I did assume that most things were rather similar, but as I’m still in college I don’t have a lot of experience with hiring, I hoped someone could clear that up. Thanks a lot!

    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      There was a partner at the firm I work for that always cut a pile of cv’s in half and tossed one straight in the shredder with out reading them. When asked why he did that he said “well I wont want to give a job to anyone who was unlucky”

      I pretty sure it’s a unban ledged / myth but the story make me laugh.

  23. EduStudent*

    I have another, very different, question, so I thought I’d put it in a separate post. I have just started a new job in which I will help edit and/or coauthor some pieces of written work (think blog posts or short articles). Since these pieces will be published on different Internet sites, I was thinking of trying to collate them in some way into a portfolio, to be able to use when networking or eventually job searching.
    1) Is this a good idea?
    2) Would it be more useful in an electronic format (download them all, put them in one PDF with perhaps a table of contents-type of cover page) or printed out and placed in a binder or something like that as a hard copy?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      An employer isn’t going to want to look at dozens. I’d keep an electronic folder of all of them for yourself, and then you can pick out the 3-4 best samples to send for any individual job. You’d send them electronically (ideally as links to the original pieces if they’re still online, but otherwise PDF is fine). So when you save them for yourself, save them as separate files, not one big PDF.

    2. LMW*

      I’m really careful about copyright, so here’s what I do:
      1) I try to maintain an online portfolio that links to live versions on websites — that way I’m not republishing or distributing materials that aren’t my copyright. The problem with this is that sometimes things get moved and links expire — you need to update it regularly.
      2) I keep electronic copies of good portfolio material, whether it’s available online or not. I’ve received permission from my former employer to send out a few pieces electronically as part of a portfolio only. I keep the others for my records and so I can print them and take them to interviews as appropriate.
      3) For interviews, I’ll take a few pieces in a nice binder to show off during the interview. (It’s also nice to have specific examples to pull out as reference for some questions.) I will let interviewers keep some individual pieces if they request, but no one ever has. This is also useful for some of my internal communications pieces I’ve created — I’ve redacted the confidential information, but I’m not comfortable handing over a comms plan on an internal matter that I created for a former employer. This way we can discuss the plan and its elements, but it stays in my hands.

    3. Chuchundra*

      Having your own portfolio blog is great for this sort of thing. You can set up a free one on WordPress.Com and make an entry with a a link and an excerpt for the articles you write.

      1. NZ Muse*

        Always, always make your own backups of work published online if it is work you’re proud of. You never know what sites will go under, or migrate to a new platform and lose half their content, etc.

        There are lots of sites out there that allow you to easily make your own portfolio page and pull in clips from around the web (that link to live links or PDFs). Contently, Pressfolios, to name a few.

  24. Katie the Fed*

    This is long, but basically I want to know how to deal with an unfinished degree on my resume and interviews.

    Basically, I went to grad school a decade ago, in a PhD program that I left after 2 years. I was miserable, depressed, and didn’t want a career in academia (at least not in that field). I could have done a terminal masters, but at that point I just wanted to be done, and I had a job offer so I left.

    In the meantime, I earned a graduate degree from another institution, so I do have a master’s now.

    I’ve had a great employment record for 10 years.

    My questions:

    – Would potential employers look askance at my unfinished degree? Would they want to know why I didn’t get the masters? If so, what should I tell them?

    – How do I list it on my resume to avoid it looking like a 2 year gap between college and employment?

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      I’m going to say no. Because you went on and got a degree in something else.

      If it wasn’t for the time gap, I probably wouldn’t list it at all. I’d probably list it as

      University of Wasted Time, PhD in Underwater Basket Weaving, 35 credits

      Or however you’ve got education formatted on your resume

    2. fposte*

      I’ll be interested to hear what other people think, but I would utterly understand somebody deciding not to finish a PhD, and I think the terminal masters thing is kind of inside baseball.

      Do you think the coursework is important enough to put on your resume for reasons other than gap-filling? Since we’re talking ten years ago, I’m not sure that a gap there is really worrying in its own right.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        “I think the terminal masters thing is kind of inside baseball. ”

        That’s kind of what I was wondering.

        I don’t think the coursework matters that much to list. I’m more concerned about the gap. I suppose I could say something like “Graduate Courses in Underwater Chocolate Teapot Making, University of Wakeen, 2002-2004”

        1. Dang*

          I thought a lot of PhD programs don’t offer terminal master’s programs? If I were reviewing a resume that listed 2 years in a PhD program I’d probably just assume it wasn’t for them, because it *definitely* isn’t for a lot of people. I don’t think it will hurt you to list it, and not much different from explaining a career change, especially since it wasn’t too recent.

      2. MaryMary*

        I think it depends on your field? I feel like in, maybe, IT, leaving a PhD program and getting a terminal masters would not be a big deal. In the sciences, I think it’s not inside baseball at all and it could matter a great deal depending on what jobs you’re applying for. I had a friend who decided to get a terminal masters in psychology but didn’t want to work on the counseling side of things, and found he could do very little with the degree.

        1. fposte*

          I think that’s different from Katie’s situation, where she’s wondering if she will be asked why she *didn’t* get the terminal master’s (and I don’t even think she’s working in that field now) by people who see she’s done PhD coursework.

    3. BRR*

      Was the gap ten years ago? If yes I’d leave it off.

      I saw someone who listed it at 2010-2012 phd chocolate teapot making, never completed, 15 credit hours in chocolate teapot making, but I’m not crazy about this.

    4. AnotherAlison*

      In one on of the threads last week, there was talk about how far to go back on a resume. some people argued that going back more than 10 yrs is overkill, so by that rationale your gap may not even raise an eyebrow.

      If you had 2-3 (or more) positions in the 10 yr employment time frame, I’d definitely leave it off. It wouldn’t look like you’re hiding anything. If they asked about that 2 year gap, you could explain it more easily verbally than in writing.

    5. Annie O*

      I’d leave it off, unless the jobs you’re applying for *require* knowledge you gained *exclusively* from the PhD program.

    6. Ash (the other one!)*

      Were you a research assistant or otherwise working while doing your PhD? Can you list it as such “Research Assistant, Teapot Lab, Chocolate University”?

        1. Ash (the other one!)*

          It’s a way to at least account for the time as opposed to putting it as if you were a student. It’s still valid, you can still list any accomplishments you had there, and leave off not completing your degree.

        2. Aim21les*

          Katie, if you’re a Federal employee, I’d go ahead and list it along with submitting your transcripts for all coursework. Or leave it off your resume, but submit it with transcripts. Some Federal positions have an education requirement or education/experience requirement and it can become a complicated formula counting months of experience and converting credit hours. Either way you’ll have to put it on you background investigation documents.

    7. EAA*

      What about leaving a master’s program early? There is no gap in the resume as working 2 jobs at the same time as school. But the program is relative to the career that one job is in.
      And what about those online applications that ask for graduation date that obviously doesn’t exist?

      1. Jillociraptor*

        I bailed on my MA after a year and have never had it come up in interviews. I listed my on-campus job during that time, but not the coursework.

    8. Marmoset*

      I dropped out of a PhD program without getting the Master’s and I list it as “graduate research and coursework in teapot making”. Hasn’t raised any eyebrows that I know of!

  25. Jen RO*

    Sooo, after saying for the longest time that I absolutely do not want to ever manage, I’m thinking of… volunteering, I guess? Due to various circumstances, both my current team and my old team will be team-leaderless starting with December or so, for at least a year (my old team’s leader is pregnant, a few weeks along, but she’s only told me). As the only person around who knows how things work around here (mainly because I’m the oldest member), I *will* be asked to do team leader tasks, since no one else can do them… especially on my new team, where everyone else joined the company less than 3 months ago.

    I don’t want this, but my reasoning is that, since I will have to do these tasks anyway, might as well have the title to do with it… “Jen the Team Leader” will probably be taken more seriously by the rest of the company than “Jen the Individual Contributor”. And I can’t let the whole department go hell, right?

    Am I crazy for offering to do this for the good of the team? Even knowing that the simple idea of difficult conversations with team members makes me anxious? And the fact that one of the new guys on my team already looks like a handful? (The “promotion” would be in title and responsibilities only.)

    1. Jen RO*

      (Oh and maternity leave is 1-2 years, that’s 1-2 years of me potentially being here all alone… Pregnant team lead and I have always worked together closely and what if I mess up completely by myself? Aaaaa panic!)

      1. Anonylicious*

        Well, if you’re going to get saddled with it anyway, you might as well try to make it under your own terms.

    2. Marina*

      Does your company usually leave positions vacant for 1-2 years when people go on maternity leave? Or is there a chance they’d hire someone for that amount of time if you didn’t volunteer?

      1. Jen RO*

        The positions are usually left vacant or someone serves as team lead in the interim. Thing is, my team lead was laid off, so he will be gone in December at the latest. The plan was for pregnant team lead to take over both teams (hers and mine), but she will be going on leave at the end of the year too.

    3. Vancouver Reader*

      You’re probably a natural for this position and are just being human in your nervousness. Plus you’ve learned lots on how to manage groups from being here so I think you’re doing both the team and yourself a great service by volunteering.

      1. Jen RO*

        I am definitely not a natural, people management is scary as hell and not a career goal for me! But you have a good point, I would at least get to use some of the things I learned here…

    4. Mimmy*

      This is so interesting to me because I swore up and down that I would never manage or even act as a team leader. However, since February, I’ve been serving as Chair of a subcommittee of an advisory council I’m on. I don’t *love* it, but everyone compliments me on my skills, one gentleman even saying I was a natural. After ending my first meeting, everyone at the table applauded me. I’m not one to boast, but you have no idea how good that felt.

      Long story short: No, I don’t think you’re crazy at all…go for it! You just might surprise yourself. I don’t think it has to automatically mean that this is your career trajectory if that’s not what you want, but I do think it will make you more valuable.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      An insightful person pointed out to me that if you accept the title, then you become responsible. Meaning whatever goes wrong will rest on your shoulders.
      If you do not accept the title, management cannot come after you when crap happens.
      I have no clue if this applies to your setting or how your company is about things. It’s just food for thought.

      I think that if you are asked to take on this work for 1-2 years , (!!) see if you can get a temporary bump in pay. AND since you see that there is a problem brewing with Bob, say so when you hammer out this agreement. That can look like this: “I see that Bob has hit some rough spots. I think that we will be seeing more from Bob, very soon. I am requesting your back up now as part of taking this temp position.”
      Or you can go more general “Since I am only a temp boss, I will need back up from you if issues arise. Especially, personnel issues.”

      When stuff starts happening, you can refer back to this conversation “Remember when I agreed to take this position I had asked about backup in personnel issues? Well, here we are. I need back-up.”

      One more thought: It’s usually a poor plan to take a task/position you do not want JUST because you are the natural choice and you can handle it. The solution here might be to find another reason for taking the temp position. Or the solution could be to say no.

  26. Meghan*

    Employer Vent: I was one of two finalists for an internal position in a department that I work with on a daily basis. I found out the offer was made to someone else first through the grapevine and then through the company-wide email that went out. To date, HR and the managers have not reached out personally and I can’t imagine that they will at this point.

    On top of that, I subsequently found out that my current manager, who I’m desperate to get away from, blocked the offer from being made to me.

    It took all my strength not to walk out this week. Ugh.

    1. ClaireS*

      That’s really awful and the experience would probably drive me to look elsewhere. The only thing you can take from this situation is to remember it for when/if you’re in a position interviewing internal candidates.

      When I interviewed for an internal position, the manager had a face to face meeting with me to tell me I didn’t get the job. I really appreciated the candour about my candidacy and was able to continue working with the new person they did hire without any challenges.

      Also, blocking your employee from advancing within the company is a sure fire way to lose a good employee.

      1. Adam V*

        > That’s really awful and the experience would probably drive me to look elsewhere.

        > blocking your employee from advancing within the company is a sure fire way to lose a good employee.


    2. AnotherAlison*

      Sorry to hear that. I can definitely sympathize. I’m in the process of making an internal move & that’s my worst nightmare. We had two people recently blocked from coming to our dept. The blocking came from a couple levels up, but from our side, not their current managers — political, not personal. One of the block-ees found a new position somewhere else.

    3. amaranth16*

      Good grief. So sorry to hear this. It astounds me that teams/organizations can communicate SO BADLY around stuff like this – it is absolutely devastating for morale and drives awesome people to look for other work. Hope things improve for you.

    4. CLM*

      That’s terrible, and I’m so sorry it happened to you. I hope you are able to find another job at another company soon. And when you do, this is exactly the kind of story you should tell at your exit interview. “Actually, I would have been perfectly happy to stay with the company, but my manager blocked me from receiving an offer for an internal position I interviewed for that I was extremely interested in and would have been a great fit for.”

      1. OhNo*

        Eh, I would hesitate to mention the offer blocking in the exit interview. It sounds unlikely, but there could be a good business reason for that (maybe the manager knew that there was absolutely no way that they could fill his position if he moved and it was vital to the company’s continued functioning? Like I said, unlikely, but you never know all the back-room conversations that might have happened).

        However, definitely mention the lack of response in your exit interview. You were made to feel unvalued by their complete lack of acknowledgement of your candidacy – which is way not good if they want to keep good employees in the future.

    5. Artemesia*

      It is pretty clear if your reading about your manager is accurate that you need to be actively looking for another opportunity.

      To not give you this feedback personally was cowardly and unprofessional so the wider organization is also toxic. When I had internal applicants for a position, I always spoke with them when they didn’t get the job. And I hate confrontation — I think most people do. It is however the decent thing to do and part of what you signed on for when you accepted authority.

    6. Alice*

      “my current manager, who I’m desperate to get away from, blocked the offer from being made to me. ”

      What? WHAT??!!??

  27. ME*


    I recently started a new job at a great company. I left old job because the work was incredibly stressful, my boss was awful, the hours were horrible, and the work was meant for a very senior person. However, givene the state of the business, the work was given to me (very junior, less than 2 years out of college).

    The work was difficult to balance given that i am currently pursuing a certification in my field that is demanding in and of itself. My old boss was aware of this but not supportive and made me feel guilty for having to take breaks in late evenings (past normal working hours) to take exams and quizzes. The position was not intended to be as stressful as it was but many changes occurred that led it to be so.

    While I took on the challenge and did well, I feel burned out. I feel unfocused, depressed, and emotionally uneasy despite the great new working conditions. How does one recover from this kind of a situation? I am at the point where I am questioning my career choice. I used to be so certain that this is what I wanted and now all I want to do is sleep and exercise.

    All thoughts and comments are welcomed. Thanks!

    1. Adam V*

      Try as hard as you can to put the old job in your rear view mirror and focus on the present. If you’re working with better people, in a better environment, I’m betting the burn-out will wash away soon and you’ll feel energized to go into work again.

      1. azvlr*

        Thanks for this, Adam. I feel a bit shell-shocked after my last two experiences. I feel like I’m going to screw up or disappoint at every turn, even though I’m so much better in my new field than my old one. I’m treading carefully for the moment so I can get a good read on the culture before going out on any of the major limbs that I feel are necessary for one to get on in life.

    2. Rat Racer*

      I see this story a lot on AAM, so I think it’s very common to be unsettled for a while after a toxic work experience. Some places can really cut to your core, and it takes time to heal and get your mojo back.

      I’ve been at my new job for just over a year now after leaving a similarly awful situation, and it does get easier over time. Maybe make a list of all wins (big or small) at new company, so that if/when you make a mistake (as we all do from time to time) you’ll have a tangible reminder that you are a good worker and an asset to your company. Hmm… maybe I should do that too…

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Eat good foods. Insist upon getting a full night’s rest. Take walks. Even short walks once a day. Put something into your health and well-being. That kind of stress depletes vitamins and minerals out of our bodies. Recharge yourself.
      Maybe read less news and turn off violent/negative programs. Just for a bit. Let yourself up for air.

  28. louise*

    Any suggestions for resources related to recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and retaining great manual laborers? I had an interview with a company this week and they said an offer is on the way. They want me to implement systems for gathering a wider applicant pool and hiring higher caliber workers than they’ve been able to recruit.

    Thanks to this blog, I have a really strong interest in hiring, but so far only have experience in a more corporate setting. Honestly, not all their employees even need to be literate, but they do need to have a strong work ethic and a strong back. My eye for a good cover letter won’t help here!

    I’d love advice or to be pointed in the right direction if you’ve seen any good information on this topic.

    1. LMW*

      The temp agency I used to work for did a lot of this, but I wasn’t really involved. Perhaps a good place to start is looking at who in your area is doing a good job recruiting manual laborers and see where they are recruiting and how (study the competition!). Temp agencies are a great model, because they always need to have a ready pool. I know we did a lot of recruiting via large-scale ads (like at bus stops) and constantly had walk ins at branch locations.

      1. louise*

        I really like the idea of bus stop ads! We’re in a rural area so billboards or TV ads are probably the corollary for us, but they said classifieds and craigslist aren’t working so far, so I think that’s a great suggestion.

        I hope to hit the ground running if the offer really does come (I kind of hate being told one is coming. I can’t make any concrete plans or justify much research time until I really know for sure if I have the job, but that’s a tangent), so I want to have as many ideas ready to go as possible, rather than waiting to brainstorm on day one of a new job.

    2. HM in Atlanta*

      Community centers and community organizations. I needed to hire people to be human arrows (“stand in this one spot and point people to the next human arrow”). I would need hundreds at a time, in 2-3 day increments. The community centers and organizations were fantastic at getting to people who were looking for work (and not afraid of it). Several people made it their regular job, and were so reliable that we would use them whenever they said yes.

    3. OhNo*

      Do you know anyone or any companies that are already hiring manual labor? If so, see if you can get information on their salary/benefits/whatever they offer. You may be able to entice a few of their higher performers away by offering more a competitive package. (Not that I’m really recommending poaching from other orgs, but this is a great way to spot good workers, find out what skills they have that you need to look for, and ask how they find jobs.)

      As for actual new hiring, if you have visible projects (building things, any kind of obvious construction sites, lots of obvious manual laborers around working on things), have a way for people to walk up and ask for applications. Give your foremen/supervisors business cards or handouts with information on how people can apply, and tell them to pass it out to anyone who asks for a job.

      Also, can you get in contact with any kind of unemployment or job-help services in your area? Those kind of services may be able to funnel people into your company, although I don’t know if the applicants will necessarily be the quality that you need.

      1. louise*

        Info at the actual job sites — great idea! We have a career center nearby but the HM told me they’ve had some really awful experiences with them and are NOT willing to use them again — but that just made me think of local high schools and tech centers! So thank you for getting my thoughts going along some new lines.

    4. Aisling*

      Take a look at pay, and if you want to keep them, make sure it’s as high or higher as others in the industry. Manual jobs are everywhere, and for most of the workers, it’s really about the money – they can find another job that pays more. Also – sounds ridiculous but make sure to treat them as people, with as much respect as you would any other professional. Often times, laborers are seen as “less than” other workers in the area, and that really grates for them. If you pay well, and treat them well, your reputation will keep others applying too.

    5. Sophia*

      Put ads in places like Home Depot (or the relevant equivalent). Where I live, a lot of informal hiring for day laborers go on there

  29. AdAgencyChick*

    Not asking for advice, just want to vent:

    I hate enforced workplace socializing. Please don’t give me Eeyore face because I’d rather go to the night class I’m taking than to the “team-builder” drinks you organized, especially because I’ve already missed two classes in a row due to a work conference. I sure as hell am not going to miss a third because you want me to hang out with the people I already see upwards of 40 hours a week.

    (This “you” is a specific person, not any AAM readers, of course!)

      1. LittleT*

        Oh, I totally relate. Since starting at my current job (less than 2 years), I’ve had to attend 10 of these team-building events, each of which was *mandatory*.

        Yes, mandatory. As in, if you don’t go or decide to blow it off, you will get a verbal reprimand and then have it written into your performance review that you were “not a team player”.

        1. nep*

          Oh, man. That is awful. And unfair, I’d say. Whether I go drinking or hiking or whatever with my co-workers hardly indicates how effective a team player I am at work.

          1. LittleT*

            Exactly! All of my team members gave me good marks at review time and said I was great to work with, responsive to their requests and a good employee.

            Yet apparently, missing 2 stupid events meant I was somehow slacking off in the team-spirit department!

        2. Gene*

          If you have to go, they have to pay you to go. I’ll drink with anyone here on time and a half.

          1. LittleT*

            Well, I’m not in the US, so I don’t know how the laws are different there. We’re all on salary so the idea is, you’ll be paid the same amount anyway per pay period, regardless of whether you put in extra time or not.

            I detest these things for many reasons, especially when being told that it’s for team-building & “morale boosting”, but then telling me, “By the way, everyone MUST attend.” How is that boosting anyone’s morale? If anything, that only makes me want to avoid it even more, because now you’re forcing me to attend!

            I got a serious talking-to during my first few months because I made the mistake of taking some vacation days that I had planned in advance (before I started working at the company, I had made plans for something) that just happened to coincide with some of their team building events. Apparently, this is a big no-no here, as I found out. The company event was supposed to take precedence, regardless of whatever else I had going on.

            The fact that I missed 2/10 events (but attended all of the other stupid ones) meant that I was not committed and needed to up my level of team spirit & being a team player, according to my manager at performance review time.

            1. AdAgencyChick*

              Ugh, that’s horrible.

              I couldn’t agree with you more on mandatory events not ACTUALLY boosting morale. You know how you’re going to make me love working for your team and want to stay? BY LETTING ME HAVE A LIFE OUTSIDE OF WORK. That will earn my love and gratitude far more than a couple of free drinks.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              Wait. Your morale was not boosted by those 8 events?
              How can that possibly be? /snark.

              If these were after work events, I would be fighting to keep my eyelids apart.

  30. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I have a beef.

    I have a new big boss, and she has decided to “shake up” the Monday staff meeting. In addition to being a boring information dump, where no one really listens to what anyone else is saying, we’re now doing role playing and identifying missions, visions, goals, etc.

    Two issues here.

    First, I hate role playing and mock scenarios. I’ve been through enough of them that I already know what I’m supposed to be learning. I just repeat the “mysterious” answer, ooh and aah in the right spot, and be done. Many years, ago, I did an exercise on vague terms. We had to talk about “expensive” or “fast” things. I already knew what was up. I wanted to say, “I’m using abstract adjectives on purpose because I don’t want to be held responsible for something more definite. That’s why I’m doing it, not because I dont know!”

    Second, I appreciate new boss’ effort to identify what we do. However, my days of trying to communicate to other departments how the organization functions as a whole are long gone. Humans are inherently selfish creatures. I know nothing I say or do will make Sally in accounting care about why she has to do a website training. And I know this because she’s on her iPhone or carrying on another conversation while I’m telling her why. Plus, if Sally doesn’t know what our mission statement and values are, she shouldn’t be working here. The reason people can’t talk about our mission statement when the new big boss asks isn’t because they don’t know, it’s because they think it’s a trick question and they don’t want to look dumb in a staff meeting.

    There is no solution here. I just wanted to vent.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      I probably shouldn’t have said that about humans being inherently selfish, but in my professional life, it has been a struggle to get most people to think outside this everyday work.

    2. Susan Sto Helit*

      I have no idea what our current mission statement and values are, I don’t participate in the long, drawn out meetings to select them, and really would have trouble giving less of a crap about them. Tell me what my job is and let me get on with doing it well.

      1. Artemesia*

        The most useless waste of time in a world that injects loads of useless natter into the workplace is fussing about ‘mission statements’. I have yet to see one that wasn’t nonsense and the whole activity is a pretentious time waster.

        1. Snarkus Aurelius*

          Agreed on both fronts. I can see why CEOs, HR, execs, consultants, etc. love this idea because it gives the *impression* that everyone matters and gives feedback. But in reality, it’s those same execs that make the final decisions anyway. That’s not a bad thing. I would be irritated if I had to give such feedback, especially if it’s purely out of obligation.

          And in this case, it was the big boss’ first day so of course people were apprehensive about answering her questions. Unfortunately she mistook silence to mean the entire org didn’t know what the mission statement was.

          For most worker bees, this stuff just isn’t important and they’ve got day to day tasks to worry about. That’s why the CEO and VPs exist in the first place.

          I wonder if Alison would do a column on this issue?

  31. Carrie in Scotland*

    Today was my last day at work and I start somewhere new and amazing on Monday! Time for some drinks, I think!

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Yay! Congratulations!

      I have questions about popping up to Scotland when I’m in the UK, but I will save them for Sunday’s open thread, if you’re around.

    2. Blue Anne*

      Yay! Congratulations Carrie!

      I think today is just a fantastic day for Scots. Are you getting the gorgeous sunshine we have in Edinburgh? Seems like a perfect day for a celebratory beer with friends. :)

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        Yes, we are having our share of some lovely weather – which was great as instead of my usual colours (I have about 5 black and white dresses – I match my cat!) I wore a very summery dress.

        It was a great night – everyone was really amazing and my leaving gifts were beautiful and thoughtful. AAM – both Alison herself and you guys – have definitely kept me sane over the past year or so and I’m hoping that my new job will be something good and positive for me.

  32. Anon Accountant*

    Have to brag- I emailed my boss to set up a meeting to discuss a raise. He hasn’t responded yet and I don’t know if he’ll go for a raise but it’s worth trying. This is a first for me to ask for a raise.

    I’ve absorbed most of 2 other employees’ work and kept almost all of my assigned client workload to summarize briefly. Plus I’ve suggested procedures that will give 2 junior accountants assignments for the summer and reduce time for financial statement prep by more than 50% while providing valuable learning opportunities for them.

    Critique my wording for the meeting please. “As you know, I’ve maintained the majority of my prior workload in addition to absorbing most of Jane and Bob’s clients. My responsibilities have grown vastly and this must reflect the firm’s confidence in my abilities. Not only have I successfully resolved matters with several clients who were previously unhappy but resolved that IRS issue with Chocolate Teapots.

    I’ve kept current with the increased workload and have ensured clients’ books are up to date when they typically aren’t completed until September. Based upon my research I think this work should reflect a salary of $____.

    1. CollegeAdmin*


      1. “My responsibilities have grown vastly…”
      Similar to Alison’s resume advice, I’m not sure I’d go with “responsibilities” here. You can mention it, but focus more on successes and accomplishments.

      2. “…resolved matters with several clients who were previously unhappy…”
      Give specific examples here, especially if there’s one or two who were known for being particularly prickly.

      3. “Based upon my research I think this work should reflect a salary of $____.”
      Hmm. I’d consider something like, “Based on this, I’d like to discuss a pay raise/salary increase.” I’m not sure if you want to be the first one to throw out a number, but I’ll defer to experts (Alison?) here.

      4. Overall, I think it’s quite good. And bravo to you for making the request!

    2. Dawn*

      Congrats on asking for a raise!

      Honestly I’d just send a quick email for a meeting invite- “Want to talk with you about a merit increase which reflects my increasing job responsibilities” and lay out all of your reasoning in the meeting. I think how much you say in your meeting invite totally depends on your work culture, however.

      Best of luck to you! I asked for a raise a few months ago and got it, which was immediately followed by me asking for a promotion and getting it (circumstances changed, it wasn’t me getting greedy!) I hope you have the same experience!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Use numbers. It’s a numbers game.

      “As you know, I’ve maintained the majority of my prior workload in addition to absorbing most of Jane and Bob’s clients.”

      Injecting some random numbers that looks like: “As you know, I have maintained 70 of my own clients in addition to absorbing 40 of Jane’s and 30 of Bob’s.”

      Do this to most of your sentences.

      Get rid of the “as you know”. They may or may not have it at the forefront of their thinking. You just want them to have a quick recap before you get into the particulars. You are helping them get up to speed quickly on this conversation.

      1. Anon Accountant*

        Thanks to all for this feedback! I’m going to prepare this weekend for the meeting.

  33. Stephanie*

    First, was anyone having issues with the site earlier today? I kept getting messages saying the host wasn’t responding (I’m using Chrome with Windows 8). Could be on my end (I think my ISP may be throttling our speeds as well).

    Two unrelated questions:
    1. For the folks who hire in engineering, do you make any distinction between a non-thesis and thesis-based masters? I’m looking at MS programs (in mechanical engineering) and some are one-year M.Eng/MS that are more coursework-based and some are two-year MS degrees that have a thesis involved. Is one preferable to the other? I do see that one advantage of the two-year program is that you could work an internship. I’m considering the MS since I see a lot of postings requiring candidates to be within 12 months of graduation (and there’s only some middle ground between entry-level within a year of graduating and specific experienced).

    2. Interviewing for a part-time, but relevant, job early next week. It’s at a school, so the hours wouldn’t be conducive to working full-time (at least not while I was new at a job). How would you address the availability question? I’m available now, but do I just be honest that I’m job searching and will leave if I find full-time work?

    1. Juli G.*

      For #1, it’s more about the school than the thesis/non-thesis aspect. That’s where my HMs put value (right or wrong).

    2. AnotherAlison*

      #1 – I think it depends on your field. My field doesn’t require a Masters, & we would be much more interested in EIT/PE qualifications. If you did have a masters, for me, a course-track focus in energy or a thesis in that area would be equally interesting. I think that’s true for a lot of corporate engineering positions, but if I were doing it, I’d do a thesis.

      I had a non-friend who did this sort of thing after a layoff. He did a thesis on something FEA-related and got a job at a glass company, and then moved back into the power piping world with his next position. It’s helped him position himself as a technical expert, rather than an ME generalist.

      With your background in non-engineering roles, I do think it could help you re-prove your interest in the engineering side of things, if that’s what you really want. : ) I would be very selective about what program I picked & the coursework/thesis topic. My former school has some professors focused on industry research. Finding someone like that might be good if you want to get a corporate job after.

    3. HP*

      Even if your field doesn’t care about the thesis/non-thesis, the topic of your thesis can give you a specialty.

      I’m a semi-engineer (Radiological Engineering), and my M.S. got me my first job (it was focused on emergency response).

  34. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I have a question for all our international readers. What seems weird or notable to you about what you pick up on about American workplace culture or mindsets? (Leaving aside our workplace laws, which I know you often find outrageous). I’m particularly interested in what comes across to you from reading this site, but broader impressions will also do. (This is for no reason other than that curiosity; it’s fascinating.)

    1. Ben*

      I’m interested to understand more about average work hours and leave allowances. They seem rather low in the US, but I imagine you get public holidays on top of these allowances?

      1. Stephanie*

        There are federal holidays on top of the vacation days. A few are universal days off for most white-collar jobs like Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year’s. There are some exceptions in jobs that run 24/7 like first responders (and I actually interviewed for a job at a semiconductor fab that ran 24/7, but it offered holiday/overtime pay). There are other federal holidays (Columbus Day, Veterans Day) that are a toss-up if you don’t work in the public sector, but government offices and schools are usually closed.

          1. Lisa*

            I worked in Lexington Center for 6 years. The only reason we had off Patriot’s Day was because you couldn’t get in town if you wanted to. 10 – 20k visitors starting at 4am for the reenactments. No parking, and no way to get out if you did find a parking spot. I kind of wished that I had slept over the night before to see what it was all about.

            1. LucyVP*

              I live in a small/medium size town with a strange and specific local holiday. Almost all downtown offices close at noon so in theory workers can “watch the parade”, but it almost always ends up being so that workers can get out of town as quickly as possible to avoid the crowds.

      2. De Minimis*

        Most people will get the major holidays [generally around 5 days a year], although someone who works retail or in the service industry will probably have fewer of those as well. People who work in government agencies and a few other places have additional holidays.

      3. KC*

        It completely depends on the industry. Take what I’m about to say with a giant grain of salt–this is my experience and observation (personally and from friends/family). And also keep in mind that there ARE NO LAWS in the United States mandating vacation time or holiday time for workers (paid or unpaid):

        If you work retail, food service, etc, you don’t ever necessarily have any “guaranteed” public holidays off (and in fact, may be asked to work those days specifically because most people DO have the day off and lots of people with time off = customers in the store). When you do get holidays off or vacation time in these industries, the time off is NOT paid the majority of the time. So for many people in these industries time off = no money.

        For other industries, it varies. Most full-time jobs are based on a 40 hour work week. Depending on industry and type of job, actual hours are different (at my current job, an average week is closer to 45-50 hours, depending on project stage). For these 40+ hour jobs, paid public holidays range from 5-12 days/year.

        For the full-time job set, there’s sometimes paid time off in addition to public holidays. Some companies offer no paid time off, others offer time off based on job level and tenure. At my first job out of college, I got 5 vacation days for the first 2 years with the company, then 10 vacation days for the next 3 years. If you were there 5+ years, you were allotted 15 days. At my last job and current job, I get a total of 15 until I am 2 pay grades higher, at which point I qualify for 20. I feel like 2-4 weeks is pretty usual for PTO as an average.

        Then there are things that are really weird, like Maternity Leave. Companies aren’t required to offer paid maternity leave. There is a law in the US called FMLA, which requires companies to hold the position and maintain health care coverage for an employee who misses up to 12 weeks/year for eligible family and medical reasons. Maternity leave qualifies for that. So if you have a baby, you also have up to 12 weeks of leave you can take–unpaid.

        Some companies offer paid paternity leave in addition to or in conjunction with the FMLA leave. I’m only very familiar with my last 2 companies’ policies. My last company paid 60% of your salary to you for 8 weeks if you were with the company less than two years and 8 weeks at 80% if you were there longer than that. My current company offers 12 weeks with 100% salary paid (and from what I hear from family/friends–that’s very good in the US).

        Sorry–that was long-winded. The short answer would have been: it depends. And if you want to read analysis of a study done on the US and its mediocre time off for workers, take a peek at this article:

        1. KC*

          Just realized I said “paternity” in regard to the companies paying a certain % of salary. I meant “maternity” there. I’ve never worked at–or heard of–a company offering more than 2 weeks to a man for paternity leave. My current company offers 2 weeks, my last company offered 1. My company before that looked at you funny if you suggested it.

    2. Shell*

      Your healthcare.

      I’m in Canada so perhaps I’m not far away enough to be truly “international”, but it boggles my mind every time I see a comment about huge co-pays/deductibles. I mean, up here we also have insurance offered through our workplace to cover things like dental, vision, and cost of prescriptions, but if I’m having an eye emergency I can’t imagine bolting over to the nearest doctor and getting saddled with a multi-thousand-dollar bill after. It’s not that we don’t look at job benefits and insurance, but at least for me it’s not quite as mission critical as it seems to be for you Americans.

      1. Felicia*

        Hi fellow Canadian!

        That is mind boggling to me too, but I thought lack of universal healthcare was too close to laws. So whenever there’s an insurance related question here i skip over it because I have no idea what’s happening .

        I think most of the advice here does apply to Canada!

      2. nep*

        Reminds me of a conversation with colleagues a while back — some from Europe, some US, some Canada. A woman from the US (who’s worked in Haiti and speaks the language) was talking about some healthcare issue and used the word ‘copay’. Our Canadian colleague said, ‘A what?’ He thought she’d said something in Haitian Kreyol.

        1. Artemesia*

          Most bankruptcies in the US result from medical bills; most of those who are bankrupted by medical bills HAVE insurance.

          1. Stephanie*

            Yup. My best friend worked as a bill collector for a summer. She said most of the calls were in regard medical bills (and a prominent number were in regard to unpaid Sears credit cards).

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Yep. My husband racked up $20K in three months in out of pocket medical.
            Many years ago my mother collected up $250 K in out of pocket medical. (Now that would probably be around $400K for the same services.)
            There is someone near me whose prescriptions ALONE cost over $150K per year. Not covered by insurance.

      3. Golden Yeti*

        I’m in the weird place of having grown up in the States and then moved to Canada, so I have just enough knowledge of both. I know one of the things that particularly boggles the minds of my Canadian friends is the cost just to have a baby in the States.

        I still think this photo is hilarious (and emphasizes the extra stress that people in the States go through that they wouldn’t have to otherwise):

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But that photo doesn’t really work because he was making the meth to leave money for his family after he died, not to pay for treatment!

          1. Stephanie*

            Wait, I thought that was part of it. I remember him rejecting Gretchen and Elliot’s offer to pay for treatment and paying for some treatments with cash.

        2. Felicia*

          Although it doesn’t actually work for the show, it sort of works in that in Canada he wouldn’t have had to pay at all for treatment.

          I only watched a couple of episodes, but I thought the reason he wouldn’t have money to leave his family after he died was that he had to use that money for treatment? Either way although inaccurate to the show, it makes a valid point.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            No, he was concerned that they had no savings and he’d be leaving them with nothing. He did that calculation of how much he’d need to leave behind to cover college for the two kids.

    3. Felicia*

      Well sort of related to laws, which I would say is the biggest difference and only advice that doesn’t apply to Canada, I’d say the number of “Is it legal?” questions. Like if something is unfair/ not moral/ mean a lot of people jump to that it must be illegal and there must be some law against it where the American reality is pretty much the opposite , Who knows , maybe people here do that too, but I’ve never noticed it

      1. Sabrina*

        I think we Americans are an interesting sort when it comes to government involvement. On one hand we don’t want the gov’t up in our business but on the other, we think “there should be a law” for just about everything. I think there are 2 main reasons why so many people think things are illegal that aren’t. One is state laws. Stuff that’s illegal in some states (California most often) is legal everywhere else. But folks assume that it applies across the board and it doesn’t. The other reason is unions. My dad was in a union and sometimes things he thinks are illegal are really only against union contract.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hoping to keep us away from laws, but I’d love to hear about the cultural stuff — like someone mentioned recently that they were in a culture where you’d never want to try to stand out from a pack of your coworkers, which I thought was really interesting.

      1. Chinook*

        For me, it is hard to mention the cutlural stuff because the American culture is as diverse as the Canadian culture, so I know not to make generalizations. Maybe the biggest difference I notice is the expectation in the US that everyone will work and work and rarely use vacation days but here I have rarely worked anywhere where you weren’t expected to take time off, especially around a long weekend. But, then again, that may be a reflectino of our laws because unused vacation time is an actual unpaid liability on the company books and not takign yoru time off costs a company cash, so they encourage you to use it.

        1. smilingswan*

          Funny, my company just sent around an e-mail offering a “vacation buy-back”, where the company will pay you 70% of the value of the days. They require you to keep at least 40 hours in your bank if you take advantage of this. Personally, I can’t imagine ever having accumulated enough days for this to be an option! I’m not sure if they allow vacation roll-over or not, as I am new.

    5. Blue Anne*

      For me, pretty much all of it is related to workplace law, but that might be because I’m an American expat myself (despite having spent college and my working life so far in Scotland.)

      Except possibly for the occasional questions/complaints about very religious workplaces, “god bless” in email signatures, etc. I think any of that would be wildly inappropriate for the workplace here.

      1. Felicia*

        Oooh yes, there’s a non law related one! I think religious workplaces (when it’s not a religious organization) is wildly inappropriate in the US as well, but at least in this particular part of Canada religion is considered private and even the most religious people wouldn’t do that . But there are parts of the US where ths is also true

        1. Chinook*

          I think that, when it comes to religion, I noticed that there seems to be a very vocal Chrisitan contingent in the US. In Canada, where Christian missionaries, usually Catholic, not only helped settle the West (ex: one missionary was honoured for ensuring the Blackfoot would allow the CPR be built without bloodshed) but the Catholic Church also had great power in Quebec until the Quiet Revolution and always had rights even under British Protestant rule (because the British could ocunt and we outnumbered them by a lot), it seems like we are quieter maybe because we know we don’t have to fight as hard.

          I think we also recognize how this power has been misused and abused and, as a result, don’t want to be labelled as “one of those people” and are worried about the slippery slope effect.

          And thus ends the brief Canadian history lesson I didn’t realize I had started.

        2. smilingswan*

          I think it’s wildly inappropriate here, too. I’m in North Carolina, but Massachusetts born and bred.

    6. JMegan*

      Another Canadian here, and I agree about the healthcare. But the thing I find most surprising about US workplace policies is the maternity leave.

      In Canada, we get 17 weeks of *maternity* leave, which can only be taken by the birth mother or the adoptive mother; plus 35 weeks of *parental* leave which can be taken by either parent, for a total of 52 weeks.

      Your employer is required to hold your job during that time, and you continue to acrue benefits as well. Employers are not required to top up your pay above what you get from EI, but many do. I was topped up to 95% for the first 17 weeks, and 75% for the remainder, which seems to be pretty standard.

      The idea of taking six weeks off and then heading back to the office just boggles my mind. Most babies are still waking up 2-3 times a night at that point – I can’t imagine getting anywhere near enough sleep to function in an office under those conditions.

      1. Felicia*

        I found that surprising/mind boggling too,, but thought that was too close to laws to mention

        1. JMegan*

          Probably. I started typing before Alison posted her response about the laws – shows what I get for being so wordy!

      2. Elizabeth West*

        If you’re LUCKY you get six weeks off. I remember working in food service and manufacturing and many moms didn’t even take that long, because they literally could not afford to not work. Most of them had family that could help out while baby was very young.

        1. Windchime*

          My sister got called in to a meeting at work when her newborn baby was less than a week old. I don’t remember the circumstances, but she was pretty much told she had to go. So….yeah. It was just one meeting, but still–it wasn’t a fun thing for her to have to do.

    7. Elkay*

      I can’t get my head around vacation and sick leave being combined.

      In England I have a set amount of leave/vacation (26 days + 8 bank (national) holidays) but unlimited sick – obviously if I were always off on a Monday questions would be asked but in general I can self-certify, get paid and my leave isn’t affected. I think I have something like 6 months of sick leave on full pay then it goes down to half pay for another 6 months (haven’t checked the policy where I am now but that was my last employer’s rules).

      1. Dan*

        Let’s add to your list of things hard to get your head around and still stay on the sick topic:

        When sick leave is broken out, you most likely get only 5 days of it, and the usage of it is generally highly political.

        What I can’t wrap my head around is how some countries give a half YEAR of fully paid sick leave, but if you burn through your allotted 5 days in this country before June, then you get a lot of funny looks, and the occasional AAM question about what to do with said employee, who almost certainly is abusing the policy.

      2. smilingswan*

        My company will only allow you to use sick leave if you are off for three or more days. Prior to that, you have to use any PTO you have, or take the time unpaid. And you have to have a doctor’s note.

    8. Chinook*

      I can’t put my finger on the differences between Canadian and American workplace culture but I do know that this blog has helped me better understand why my American head office (this is the third U.S. based company I have worked for) does what it does. It also allows me to appreciate the fact that 2 out of those 3 companies have acted like a “company within a company” when it came to Canadian policies and procedures so that we are more flexible to meet our local needs.

      And don’t downplay the need to understand the difference in American workplace laws and expectations. What I have learned here has helped lots in understanding that I have to sometimes explain the legal expectation/situation before explaining what I want. Plus, I love the fact that you guys have “the California exception” just like we have the “Quebec exception” (though atleast we can explain away due to them having a completely different basis for their rule of law – Napoleanic vs. British Common Law. I think California is the way it is due to too much sunshine and sea air?)

      1. Mints*

        Well, to be fair, California is usually more aligned with Canada and other Western countries, with more pro-labor (pro-labour?) laws. Sorry, I’ll get away from the law discussion

    9. en pointe*

      Vacations. Correct me if I’m wrong, but my impression from reading this blog is that people in the US tend to take quite short vacations, like even just a few days or a week at a time? It doesn’t seem to be as easy/acceptable to say, take a month off to travel the world?

      1. SevenSixOne*

        Yes! I’ve had plenty of jobs that didn’t offer any paid leave at all for the first year, then you’d accrue a week the second year, then two weeks the following year, and on and on… but using it all at once was Seriously Frowned Upon (especially if you hadn’t been with the company a Very Long Time), even when no policy explicitly prohibited it.

        I’ve never had a job with the kind of understanding management and generous leave policies that would make a month-long vacation even possible.

      2. The IT Manager*

        Yes! American vacations tend to be no longer than week. Two weeks would be a long vacation. Longer than that is just odd.

      3. Lily in NYC*

        Sadly, taking two weeks off at once feels like a guilty luxury for most people.

        1. KC*

          American here. I’m planning a 13-day honeymoon in November and I’m already worried about it being too long to take off. It’s going to solidly be my longest ever vacation since high school (I worked summers off during high school and college).

        2. Jennifer*

          And if you take two weeks off, it’s a HUGE load on you when you get back and it’s kind of even worse on you than if you had had no time off at all. I have taken two weeks off at Christmas because it’s super slow season at my work and we get about a week off free by default (four holidays paid and the rest you have to use vacation time for even though the business is closed), but that’s about the only time I wouldn’t be totally overloaded to be gone that long. Being gone for a month and coming back sounds terrible to me.

      4. Dan*

        What most people aren’t telling you is that most Americans only get two weeks of PAID leave each year, some get three, and few get four+.

        That said, I’m on the high end of it, and blow it all at once traveling the world each year.

        1. Sydney Bristow*

          And so many of us don’t get any paid leave! I can take off quite a bit of time over the year but vacations are much more expensive since I’m missing out on my pay for those days.

    10. en pointe*

      Also, I always get the impression from here that US workplace culture appreciates success a lot, even among coworkers. It seems to be more socially acceptable to achieve highly, and to talk about it when you do. In my country, we have Tall Poppy Syndrome where, if any one poppy gets too tall, we cut them back down to the same size as everyone else. This is speaking generally and doesn’t apply to certain industries like law or accounting, but Australia has a really laidback culture that doesn’t reward achievement as much as the US (or other countries; you guys have nothing on some parts of Asia). You’ll generally have it easier, socially, if you’re not the best performer in your team or whatever, and if you are particularly good, you can’t talk about it, ever – you have to wait for other people to do that. It’s generally more acceptable to be a just average worker, who fits in a surf at either end of the day.

    11. Jen RO*

      I don’t know if it’s because of the country or the field (I work in software development), but American workplaces seem very… stiff, maybe? In my experience, everyone is much more relaxed – BCW’s description upthread seemed fitting (which was unusual, since he was talking about teachers in the US, far from my programmers!).

      You (AAM commenters) are also way more sensitive about potential discrimination and you sometimes go overboard. I am very glad when Alison points out that just because something happened to a woman, it doesn’t automatically make it gender discrimination.

      Not exactly workplace related, but Americans seem to know tons more about finances that people I know.

      1. Jen RO*

        Oh, and you are so much more direct than usual in my culture. That thing about ‘no is a complete sentence’ would be considered downright rude here. A lot of Alison’s suggested answers would harm more than they would help, if I were to translate them and use them verbatim. (But I’m also a very non confrontational person…)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          For what it’s worth, I think the “no is complete sentence” thing is considered pretty rude by most people here too! I would never just say “no” and leave it at that in response to a request. But I hear you on this issue generally (and it’s fascinating to me).

          1. Aunt Vixen*

            I’ve always understood “‘no’ is a complete sentence” to refer to answering people who didn’t actually have a right to any more of your attention, if that. I thought I learned it around the same time as I read The Gift of Fear, which of course deals with saying no to people whom we don’t mind offending.

            For others, by me the complete sentence is, in response to requests, “I’m afraid not, sorry,” and in response to offers, “No, thank you.”

        2. AGirlCalledFriday*

          I’m really interested in this too. In my last job I worked with expats from America (I’m American), Australia, Europe, and Canada. We were working in with Indian Asians in Japan, so there was always a lot of effort to be culturally sensitive to Indians and the Japanese, but none really for us. We did tend to butt heads a bit at times, because it did seem that we Americans were much more direct and also a bit more inflexible.

          The thing that always stood out to me, when my fellow expats would discuss how things worked in their home countries, was that not only do we not really have much of a work/life balance in this country which degrades the quality of life that we are able to have and has long term consequences (inability to spend time on family, hobbies, religious or community service, education), but that people are so used to it here that it almost feels as if they don’t even want to do anything to change it.

    12. Joie de Vivre*

      As a Canadian, I’d agree with what others have already said as major differences – healthcare, hesitancy to use vacation time, openly religious workplaces, etc.

      However, what I’m always struck by is the fact that we’re all more similar than different. The Creepy Guy, Bully Boss, Stinky Microwaver, Gross Bathroom User, Entitled New Guy, Incompetent Co-Worker, Spineless/Clueless Manager and so many others are characters in workplaces all over the world. While phrasing may differ depending on cultural norms, navigating these situations effectively is quite consistent in most places.

    13. Jillociraptor*

      There was an interesting string of comments a couple of days ago about the American preoccupation with enthusiasm. I think it was about offering to be a reference — that you can’t just say “I’m glad to be a reference” because in the US that reads as “Basically I’m doing this at gunpoint,” you need to be “thrilled!” I thought that was fascinating and pretty spot on!

    14. Lily in NYC*

      Here’s a silly one: most of my family is from Southern Spain, and my male cousins own a big trucking company there. They were surprised to find out that Americans don’t do a shot with their coffee before work. I thought I just had a bunch of lushes for cousins until my Spanish coworker told me it’s not all that uncommon to see men doing a shot at cafes in the early mornings (but it would be unusual for an office worker).

      1. Mints*

        Oh but American executives will often wine at lunch. I was shocked (SHOCKED!) when this happened at my welcome lunch during my first week at my office job. (“You’re going back to work, you can’t be drunk!”) Because coming from childcare and retail, we definitely couldn’t do that

        I wonder what that’s like internationally

        1. Jennifer*

          Executives have the power to get away with it. Most of us don’t. My boss would love for us to have a drink at lunch, but we’d be in TROUBLE.

          I was utterly shocked watching the movie Desk Set, because something like half of the movie is spent at a Christmas party at work where everyone is totally drunk and still working. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

          1. Ornery PR*

            I work in a very, very religiously and politically conservative US state, yet my workplace is very laid back about having drinks at lunch, bringing drinks in the office for potlucks or work parties, and drinking in general. It’s quite the odd adjustment for conservative people when they first start working here. Interestingly, the highest performers here are also the ones who generally partake the most. It’s a very stark contrast from how this city generally views those who imbibe – bad, non-Christian, irresponsible sinning party people!

            But I don’t necessarily think that geography dictates culture as much as the people who run the business do. At least that has been my experience.

            1. Chinook*

              “It’s a very stark contrast from how this city generally views those who imbibe – bad, non-Christian, irresponsible sinning party people!”

              I am guessing the Christians in your part aren’t Catholic? Because, frankly, even when I was in Japan, it was the Catholics who knew where to find the best (non-sacramental) wine.

              Actually, this is one of the non-workplace things I am learning a lot from this blog – how other Christians via non-Chrisitans and vice versa. before now, I had heard how Catholics were considered part of the “other” but had never truly experienced it (probably because we are part of the majority around here or, atleast, a large minority that has had political influence).

    15. Christine*

      I’m an American, but I work closely with people in China. I’ve been told that we are rude because we tend to be very direct when addressing problems. I have specifically been told that I have been too blunt when dealing with issues. Internally on the American side, I was turned down for a job transfer because the role I wanted involved working with difficult people (Americans) and I was seen as too mild-mannered and there was concern that I would not be able to hold my own, so I found the contrast in feedback interesting!

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Yeah, in China you have the face-saving phenomenon so you have to make sure the way you talk to people (especially if there’s a problem) allows them to save face.

        On the flip side, I was always appalled by Chinese bluntness on topics we think are gauche to discuss openly – how fat I am, how fat anyone is, how much money I make, etc

        1. Stephanie*

          On the flip side, I was always appalled by Chinese bluntness on topics we think are gauche to discuss openly – how fat I am, how fat anyone is, how much money I make, etc

          Preface: I’m overweight, but not extremely so (I’m like a US 14/16). I was shopping in NYC Chinatown and I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn around to see this lady hand me a business card advertising some herbal weight loss treatment. “Psssst, you should try this. You could use it.” It took all my inner strength not to punch her in the middle of the store.

        2. AGirlCalledFriday*

          I was just coming to say the same! Most of my Chinese friends are blunt to the extreme – but in every case it was in reference to personal matters and not work.

          I can offer my experience in Japan up, though I’d be extremely interested if someone else has any other perspective on the point. In my experience, work is a very masculine environment and there are extreme gender issues…in many companies women are expected to wear short skirts and heels to work to attract the men, get married, immediately quit, and their husband continues to work at the same company. I had a Japanese friend who was raised in Canada but moved to Japan in her 20s, and she had to push back when her employer explicitly told her she needed to dress more sexy at work.

          There were some great, successful working women, but they tended to be single. The men go out and drink long hours, they go to hostess bars, they stumble home at the last train while their wives wait at home. It’s really not so enjoyable for either gender – a lot of men seem to have no life outside of work, and women are considered less attractive the more intelligent and independent she seems. However, there do seem to be more and more men and women willing to go against what is considered stereotypically acceptable and follow their own paths.

          It’s expected to start at the same company, and finish at the same company. The longer you are there, the higher you go, regardless of how talented you are. It’s not so common to job hop or quit.

          1. Dan*

            I’ve flown business class all over the world, and the most homogeneous flight I’ve ever seen was the recent Japan Airlines flight my dad and I took from Chicago to Tokyo. I’m fairly certain we were the only Caucasians in the cabin. ALL of the men were wearing suits, and I don’t think there was a single woman. While business class is dominated by men, on an international flight, I’ll see a few women, who appear to be traveling as part of a couple. But to see an entire cabin filled with Japanese men in business suits was just bizarre. I bucked the trend and wore shorts :)

        3. Vancouver Reader*

          I’m glad you mentioned that because when I first read Christine’s post, I thought that was all wrong! But having never dealt with native Chinese people in business, I didn’t realize how different it is than when they’re talking non-business.

          Being first generation Chinese from HK, I had a difficult time with what I considered to be extremely rude people when we went to China, but that was a trip for pleasure (that’s debatable) not business.

          1. Christine*

            Haha, yes, a lot of my job involves figuring out problems and why they happened so they can be prevented and fixed. I understand saving face, but a lot of my leadership doesn’t, and my company’s culture is very aggressive, and I have to balance the two. I guess the feedback means I’m somewhat close to balanced… :)

      2. azvlr*

        Christine, I spent most of my formative adult years in Japan where people speak indirectly and saving face is very much alive and well. I am now retraining myself to be more direct in both my professional and personal life, in part because of Allison’s advice. I still struggle with it. Because of this i prefer email over a verbal conversation because I can agonize over getting just the right tone so as not to offend.

    16. sam*

      I’m an american, but I lived/worked overseas for a while in Italy, and the gender dynamics there gave me a newfound appreciation for the US. Everything from being told by male attorneys that I “wasn’t allowed to speak” in meetings (even though the NY/London offices had sent me there specifically to deal with a situation the Italian office had created by taking on work they weren’t qualified to do) and completely disregarding my comments/requests until I got the senior (male) partner in New York involved, who had to reiterate, repeatedly, that he wouldn’t sign a US law opinion on the deal unless they did everything I said (because, naturally, I was right), to conversations with female co-workers about the fact that if they ever got married or had children, they would have to quit their jobs because that just wouldn’t be tolerated. which also might explain why there were no female partners in that office. I had one female friend from the office who started an entirely new practice, and she couldn’t even get consideration to be a local partner (sort of a mid-point between associate and full, firm-wide partner).

      The M-F partner ratio in NY was bad, but it was nothing like this.

      1. Dan*

        Without trying to touch off a firestorm, I happen to agree with the poster above who talks about discrimination sensitivities.

        I’ve been to 21 countries, and know that in some places they openly discriminate. They do it to women, and they do it to foreigners. As you say, as a woman, you get SHUT DOWN, just ’cause you’re a woman. Here, ain’t gonna happen, at least not on a systematic basis.

        I find it a very strange contrast how stateside, we’re very sensitive to anything that MIGHT have even a whiff of discrimination.

      2. AGirlCalledFriday*

        I dated a couple Italians, and I can totally believe this. Not that they weren’t very nice otherwise!

    17. Cath in Canada*

      What really stands out to me is how big a divide there can be on some questions that touch on issues that are apparently quite controversial in the US, but would be much less so in Canada or the UK. I’m thinking specifically of the post about bringing concealed-carry guns to work, the bobble-head doll thing, and the many posts that have involved religion in the workplace. There seemed to be a higher proportion of US readers who were OK with guns and religion in the workplace, and who were not OK with marriage equality, than I would expect if I was reading a British or Canadian blog comment thread on the same subject.

      I’m sure there are examples that work in the opposite direction, but I can’t think of any that aren’t, like, Scottish/Quebecois independence that are only important and divisive in one particular country…

      The questions about people having to factor health insurance coverage into decisions about which jobs to take or reject are quite heart-breaking, too. When funding for my last job looked like running out I considered trying to freelance (but another job fell into my lap first that I’d have been an idiot not to jump on), and I didn’t have to worry about health insurance at all when pondering that decision. I know people in the exact same situation in the US who’ve cited lack of health insurance as the primary reason why they’re not trying to go freelance or start their own company. Hopefully that’s changing now with Obamacare?

      1. Felicia*

        I’ve noticed that as well – but concealed carry is illegal in Canada (as is carrying around a gun openly, other than law enforcement and other specific exceptions), gay marriage has been legal at a federal level for nearly 10 years, and there are plenty of religious people, but it’s just not considered socially acceptable to bring religion into the workplace or public life like it seems in certain parts of the US (like the Bible Belt, we really don’t have an equivalent to the extent that it seems like a certain religion is pushed there). So those cultural, legal and social differences make those things non issues for us, while they’re very divisive in the US. At least most Canadians I know don’t think much about gun control , let alone argue about it because it’s such a non-issue and I’m sure not everyone is ok with it, but it’s mostly accepted as the way things are in that area are good

      2. Aisling*

        It’s not really changing with Obamacare (Affordable Healthcare Act). What the government considers affordable really isn’t to most people, some doctors won’t take you if that’s the insurance you have, since the government is notoriously “late” on paying the doctors, and a whole host of other things. It was supposed to be a panacea, but there are way too many issues with it.

      3. De Minimis*

        I know you’re comparing more the US with the UK/Canada, but I was a little surprised about how controversial gay marraige was in France….

        1. MJ (France)*

          It was. As someone who supports gay marriage I was really shocked (and ashamed) to see the importance of the demonstrations against gay rights. Apparently people like to play open-minded, but the terror of gay parents (the entire point of these opponents was that a family should be “a mommy and a daddy”, the whole “it’s better for the kids” argument) seems to be deeply rooted in polished and politically correct circles… The awful side of this controversy is that it has made homophobia almost common and very visible. I’m relieved the law has passed, but very afraid it will be cancelled or amended with grotesque restrictions when government changes.

      4. Chinook*

        “I’m sure there are examples that work in the opposite direction, but I can’t think of any that aren’t, like, Scottish/Quebecois independence that are only important and divisive in one particular country”

        Oohhh…yeah. The only thing more controversial in Canada other than Quebec independence is wearing the wrong hockey jersey on casual Fridays. I know I would take my life into my own hands if I walked through downtown Calgary wearing an Oiler’s jersey.

    18. Fish Microwaver*

      I find it weird the culture of secrecy around job hunting, and how it is a no-no to contact a candidate’s current employer. It seems very childish to me to take a person’s career decisions personally, but I often read on AAM of bad behaviour by managers/employers when they discover an employee is interviewing or leaving. Where does this mentality come from?

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        For me, as already said I find the holidays, the insurance, deductibles, the maternity pay etc all a little strange.

        Another one that I don’t think has been mentioned, but may have been is the whole “if you have another job then some companies will take you as leaving that day.” Usually, in our contracts it states that you give at least a month’s notice and I have never, ever in the whole 10 years I’ve been working, felt that I would be made to leave earlier. You hand in your notice, you work it, you leave.

        I’m not sure that ‘thank you’ notes/emails etc are all that popular here either, when interviewing, but perhaps that’s just in the nature of my jobs (admin assistant).

        1. Felicia*

          I think “if you have another job then some companies will take you as leaving that day.” isn’t a thing in other countries because the concept of “at will employment” isn’t really a thing in other countries. I guess that’s what I learned here! In Canada, unless you’re fired for very specific reasons the employer needs to provide reasonable notice or pay instead of notice.

    19. Elkay*

      I’m coming back to this a bit late but I remembered one yesterday – people working two jobs/working full time and attending school. Students in the UK might take on part time evening/weekend work (shop, restaurant, bars) or get their degree via day release (but that generally takes longer). I get the impression that some people work 9-5 then attend school in the evening in the US, unless you were doing distance learning (online only, again takes longer) that wouldn’t happen in the UK.

    20. MJ (France)*

      I’m a day late for this thread, but this question is making me stop lurking and start commenting.
      I’m French, so I guess you could say the differences in work culture are huge.

      It’s very cliché, but the most startling points (I’m speaking generally, obviously!):

      – healthcare (almost free here, we have mandatory social security that covers around 80% of the most common leath expenses and then everyone can add an insurance to cover for the rest), anyway if I break my leg / discover I have an awful disease / have diabetes / need to be operated on, it will be 100% free in most cases. When I was pregnant and needed to spend 2 days in the hospital for a benigne procedure during my pregnancy, I received a 2000€ bill of which I didn’t have to pay a cent. And to us it’s normal, which is one of the reasons I would be borderline terrified to work in the US (I said cliché, didn’t I? :-) )
      – guns. Such a huge cultural gap on this one. Apart from law enforcement, 100% forbidden and illegal in the workplace.
      – religion. Also 100% inappropriate in the workplace and basically in everyday / social situations.
      – PTO! We get a minimum of 5 weeks paid holidays a year, that’s the legal minimum, many workplaces offer more.
      – hours: legally, the workweek is 35 hours. Managing positions are not subjected to that law but in exchange for the over-time (that would be paid hourly in other positions) they get a number of paid days off on top of they 5 weeks, to use when they can or want.
      – “at will” hiring / firing, very hard for us to understand, unless it’s a terrible and / or illegal mistake from the employee, firing someone has to be justified, and failing to observe procedure often leads to companies being prosecuted from former employees. Downside is, you can get stuck with a terrible employee that has technically done nothing wrong and have no way to get rid of them.
      – maternity leave. We’re very far from being the best in Europe in that area. Maternity leave for employees is a minimum of 6 weeks before due date and 10 weeks after (so a total of 16 weeks), during which the employee gets 100% of her salary. Fathers get 3 paid days off to use the week the baby’s born, and 11 paid days off to use before baby’s 4 or 5 months old (can’t remember).
      – races: while, as I read above, it’s true that racism / discrimination is often a lot more divisive in US work situations, the word “race” is never ever used here, it would be a legal offense and terrible faux pas to bring up in a work context.

      Other things that have struck me when I’ve read this site and others, or from my travels and contacts in the US:
      – dress code: unless working in banking or high finance, most places do not have a dress code. The notion of not being able to “rewear” an outfit before a given time is completely alien to us.
      – importance of work: obviously we have our workaholics and micromanagers :-) But we have this big cliché about the American being obsessed / overly pressured by their jobs. Management “à l’américaine” is not usually considered a good thing.

      I realize I speak a lot about clichés, I really hope I don’t sound condescending or caricatural – it’s just to share what strikes me most.

      1. Vancouver Reader*

        MJ, my understanding is that in France, the income tax is very high to cover all these expenses? Is that the case? And what about people who are unemployed, do they still receive free healthcare?

        1. French MJ*

          Just changed my username, hadn’t realized there was another MJ, sorry about that!

          Yes, we pay quite a lot of taxes, basically let’s say an employee gets 100€. It costs the company around 200€ because there are taxes on their part. The 100€ employee part is the gross salary, you have to substract 20% and you receive like 80€. So yes – many taxes, and that doesn’t include local taxes ( once a year) nor regular income taxes that you have to fill and pay once a year – that amount depends on your income.

          1. French MJ*

            sorry, forgot to reply about unemployment:
            When unemployed, you receive an allowance from the State that’s about 80% of your salary for an amount of time that depends on how long you’ve been employed. The state unemployement agency acts as your employer, and thus provide social security. If you are unemployed and get pregnant / sick etc, you still have the same coverage (for the mandatory part – some people have to stop paying for additional insurance if they can’t afford it anymore obviously) so yes, basically – free healthcare.
            I’ve been unemployed for the past year (that’s changing in september, yay!) and, since I was laid off the company for financial reasons, I got a special “package” and received 100% of my salary for a year.
            There’s also a system called “universal health coverage” for people who have been unemployed for a long time and no longer receive an allowance or people who cannot afford any other kind of insurance, it’s basically free and allows basic day to day healthcare and covers emergencies. So yeah, it’s never a good time when I have to sign the check for the taxes every year, but I am really glad we have that healthcare system, you get really used to it.

            1. Vancouver Reader*

              I was wondering why you had the Malificent gravatar on one post but not the next. :)

              Thanks for the clarification. Even though you pay a lot, it seems to be a good plan since it does go back into helping people. The unemployment allowance is so much better than what we have here.

              Congratulations on your upcoming job!

      2. smilingswan*

        It’s amazing to me as an American who works in medical billing, that you could spend 2 days in a hospital and come out with a bill for only 2000€. It would probably be at least five times that here!

        1. French MJ*

          This is fascinating to me as well, because I was shocked to discover it was already so expensive! (I just had a couple sonograms, a paracetamol IV and a 2-day stay there)… our standards are really off when we are not used to paying for those services!

        2. Felicia*

          My dad was in the hospital for 5 days after a heart attack with all associated tests , getting a stent in, etc, and he came out with a bill for 60$, and that’s only because he watched the TV in the room all 5 days. If he had never watched the TV there would have been no bill. We’re in Canada . And no insurance

  35. Juli G.*

    I work in HR. Our current office setup could potentially give people the impression that I’m my manager’s admin (my desk is much different than our company admin desks – the problem is the location and it’s not possible to move). I am not his admin – we actually do similar jobs but his scope his larger and more strategic while I’m more day to day.

    People often come and ask where he is, when he’ll be back, when he’s free, etc. and give me the eye roll when I say I don’t know. I feel like it’s insulting to the amazing admins we have to say “I don’t know, I’m not his admin” plus some people may know that and just wonder if I know his whereabouts. Also, some of the people that are looking for him are going to be bounced to me if their issue falls in my area instead (and if it’s a policy question, I’m probably the better resource anyway!)

    Just now, someone came in and said about someone else in our area, “Where is she? In a meeting? She said I can use her office for this call” and gave me the “You’re a moron” look of disdain when I said I thought she was around.

    What are good, non-defensive responses that convey “I’m not the admin and I can probably handle your problem.”

    1. CollegeAdmin*

      What’s your title? Is there a way to put it prominently at your desk, assuming that it’s not Assistant Something?

    2. Anon Accountant*

      Our receptionist tells callers “I’m unsure when John will be back because he manages his own calendar” or “Bill keeps his own appointment book and may be in a meeting or have appointment out of the office”. Or if they’ve shown up without an appointment and are upset that John isn’t here to see them she will ask “Is there someone else I can direct you to that can help you” and then they usually state what their issue is and then she contacts 1 of us to help out.

    3. fposte*

      I’m guessing you mean “I can’t” in the last line, otherwise their problem would be handled. Can you move the focus away from what you aren’t to who is? In other words, “Jane’s Bob’s admin, so she’ll be the one to ask,” or “As far as I can tell, Bob handles his own scheduling without an admin.”

      As you’ve noted, a lot of this is a configuration and proximity problem, and it won’t completely disappear as long as that’s true (I bet Bob gets asked about you as well). But can you add some short shelving or something to partition your desk off more from the casual inquiries so you look un-receptiony?

      1. Juli G.*

        I actually did mean that I can. For example, if you want to ask Bob about your paycheck, I can help you – likely better than Bob because of our backgrounds.

        I also am supposed to be somewhat welcoming because we want people to come to HR (and I love answering not Bob’s calendar questions!) I did change my desk so you have to actually approach my desk to see I’m here but it hasn’t been as successful as I hoped.

        1. Juli G.*

          To clarify more on the answering questions, when I offer, I often get the dismissive “I’ll come back when Bob’s here”.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, I’m feeling like there are two different impulses going on here, but I think Victoria’s answer does the best at uniting them.

    4. Arjay*

      Ooh, that seems like a tough one, since once you identify yourself as someone who can help, that could reinforce the perception of you as his admin.

      I sit in front of a manager and a director, but since I generally can’t help the people who come looking for them, I usually go with a clueless shrug or a “It’s not my day to watch them” response.

    5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      “Oh, I’m not Matt’s assistant, so I don’t know his calendar. I’m actually the HR Manager – could I help you?”

    6. Anonylicious*

      I get the same issue with my officemate; we’re the entirety of our department but he’s been here longer and I’m just the contractor. I usually respond with, “I haven’t seen him, but is it anything I can help you with?” Or, if it’s someone who I know has been having an issue we’ve been working on, I say something on the lines of, “Oh, yes, the problem with the teapot spouts. I’ve been working with Wakeen on that and blah blah blah relevant helpful information.”

    7. AndersonDarling*

      Ooo, I hated those situations. I used to sit in front of a filing cabinet with samples and people would assume I knew all about them because I sat nearby. I was in an entirely different department, and people got SO SNOTTY when I said I couldn’t help.
      But some people are jerks.

    8. Cath in Canada*

      This happened to me all the time in my last job – my desk was right outside my boss’s corner office, in the spot usually taken by the admin assistant of the corner office boss on other floors of the same building. Putting up a nameplate with my name and job title helped a little bit (although the vagueness of the job title didn’t help!), but really the only thing that eventually worked was people gradually realising that I genuinely did have no idea where my boss was or what his schedule was like that week. I sometimes didn’t even know which continent he was on!

      In my last week of that job, I made and displayed this sign:

      It got quite a few laughs, especially from the boss!

  36. EclecticInVermont*

    Here is the story- FYI this can be applied to general work situations and not just the type of work I do.

    I’m being asked to resign from a department that I was interning as a Chaplain for and volunteering for the past few years. After entering a chaplain program at a local hospital I was also going through a string of really not so fun times including a death of a friend from homicide, depression, anxiety disorders, and a lay off from a corporate big name company.

    The “reasoning” I was given was so I could work on some elements in my personal life. For anyone who has done chaplaincy before the boundary lines tend to fall more gray than black and white. It was suggested by my mentor who I have outside of the hospital, who has been requested to be at the meeting where I need to hand in my badge and have a discussion with the manager, to ask for information beforehand since I also have Autism and I often need more time to process information than the average bear. This is well-known in the department and I’ve let the manager know that I do realize this is not because I have a disability and he has been more than motivated to try to work with me as a supervisor.

    Long story short I have not gotten any more information or specification on his reasoning. My first reaction is that he does not want to have a record of his reasoning written down on the record. My second reaction is that after he has asked me to use the term “resignation” when I was emailing the other direct supervisor that I was working under for volunteering. Any suggestions on how to express my need for more information so that the meeting won’t be as tricky?

    1. fposte*

      I’m sorry; it sounds like a tough event in a tough time.

      Chaplaincy seems like it might be a world with a lot of specific conventions that I don’t understand, because a lot of this sounds odd to me. That being said, since this is a volunteer position, albeit an established one, I think that they may not see it as a priority to accommodate your request. Your wording here also sounds more like you’re asking for a written explanation of the decision than an advance briefing about the meeting, and it’s quite likely the meeting itself won’t include an explanation of the decision either. If it’s a truly volunteer position, all they have to do is decide they’re no longer interested in your being there, and that’s explanation enough. I don’t know quite what to make of the request to use the word “resignation”–I don’t like the request to use it, but it also seems odd in connection with a volunteer position in the first place.

      However–has your mentor been regularly involved in your workplace conversations there? I would be taken aback at the request for an outsider’s presence during such a discussion and would quite likely reject that request unless they’ve been part of an ongoing discussion. That in combination with a request that could read “Please explain yourself in advance” might well be making them feel defensive. Is that a possibility here?

      I think you could request the advance briefing again, very politely, making it clear that this is simply a processing accommodation about the material covered. But you also might need to think about how you will proceed if you don’t get that, because I think it’s possible that you won’t.

      1. EclecticInVermont*

        My mentor has been involved because of how chaplaincy and ministry and ordination processes work. It’s very common to have a mentor, someone who is involved very closely, in the process and through other certifications. In fact the manager requested the mentor be present for the meeting himself so in that respect she does have the right, in my opinion, to ask for more information if she’s being expected to explain the decision more to me so I can understand it.

        It’s being requested because of the autism I don’t always process information as quickly as others, it often holds up the conversation, and I need more time to process it rather than give an immediate off the cuff answer which may not be what I am logically thinking or something I actually mean.

        1. fposte*

          Okay, then that makes sense for the mentor presence. But I still think it might be helpful for you to consider how you’ll negotiate the situation if you don’t get the advance briefing, and if you don’t get an explanation.

  37. Anonypants*

    Somewhat odd question about bathroom etiquette/cleanliness:

    I understand the importance of trying not to make a mess, cleaning up after oneself, and at bare minimum leaving the facilities as clean as you found them. But I once read somewhere that it was basic etiquette to also down the counter when you were done washing your hands, and pick up any paper you see on the floor. I’ve been doing this, just running a paper towel over wet bits and picking up any debris I see on my way out of the ladies’ room, but I wonder if people think I’m weird for doing this. Going forward, should I just wipe up around the sink I used (if that) and leave any other mess alone?

    Part of this is that at my first job, the ladies in my office were reprimanded at least once for messing up the bathroom and prompting complaints from the other offices on the floor, making me worry about my own behavior in the restroom and wonder if I’m “clean” enough.

    1. louise*

      I always did this too, I’d take the towel I’ve just dried my hands with and then use to tidy up the counter or pick something up off the floor. But then my sister, a nurse, informed me that the wet/damp paper towels I’m using transport bacteria right on through them. Whether that’s true, I don’t know. But to be safe, I now wipe up anything that’s grossing me out *before* I wash my hands and am then just careful not to splash any further.

    2. H. Rawr*

      Most of the women in our office do the quick wipe down of the splashed water on the sink, I had never thought to do it before, so they were my example to start. I don’t think it’s weird :)

    3. Rebecca*

      If there are paper towel bits on the floor, I pick them up, and if I splash water on the mirror or otherwise make a mess at the sink, I clean that up too. I replace toilet paper if it’s low as well. That’s about it. If there’s urine on the floor, or anything else any place else, I let the janitor take care of it.

    4. hildi*

      I have seen a few women do this ocassionally (wiping around the sink) and it always struck me as very considerate. I will sometimes if I’m in the mood, but not always. I do often pick up paper towels that missed the garbage, which is probably grosser and weirder than the water (though I really don’t do that in public restrooms – just here at my office).

      Based on some of the some of the nasty bathroom situations we’ve seen here, I’d say your actions are far above average into the “clean” category! :)

    5. Jen RO*

      I don’t get the problem about water splashing the sink, so I would think cleaning it is odd. Picking up paper off the floor is considerate to the cleaning staff.

    6. justmary*

      I always wipe up water around the sink when I’m done. Too many times I have leaned on a counter to look in a mirror and got a wet blouse. I don’t like when it happens and don’t want it to happen to others.

  38. Vanilla Bean*

    My significant other is actively trying to relocate to my city. He likes his current company (a major retailer) and works as a store manager for them. A few months back, he heard that a new store was opening in my city and asked his boss if he could interview for it. The boss said yes. My significant other reached out to the regional manager in my city and requested to interview. The regional manager said that he would interview him closer to the new store’s opening date, which is late summer.

    This week, my significant other spoke to another manager in my region and found out that the store manager for the new store has already been chosen. It’s a local candidate, which makes sense but it’s disheartening because my significant other never even got the chance to interview. He’s upset and feels disrespected.

    For what it’s worth, my significant other’s performance has been great – he is frequently one of the top performers in his region and has taken his store from one of the lowest-earning stores in the region to on of the top-producing ones. He’s performed exceptionally well at the other stores he’s managed as well. His current manager however will not promote him to a larger store (he’s not sure of the reason, because he’s never been given any real feedback), which is one of the reasons he’s looking outside of the company. The boss has his favorites and clearly my SO isn’t one of them.

    1. Adam V*

      Yep, sounds like it’s time to look for a new employer and use “relocation” as his reason for leaving.

    2. MaryMary*

      My brother works in retail, and his employer discourages employees voluntary lateral transfer to another store. They think of it as a loss prevention measure. Somehow they think volunteering for a new location = newfound criminal scheme! It doesn’t make sense to me, but that’s retail for you.

      1. Vanilla Bean*

        That’s fascinating – I never even thought about that. But then again, I’m not a criminal. :)

  39. C Average*

    Happy update! My manager has begun talking to me again. She’d inexplicably gone silent for literally months, and it was conspicuously weird because we work in the same open-plan space. I thought I’d done something to infuriate her and was unsure how to break the silence. I talked to a teammate about it, and she indicated she was experiencing the same thing. She is closer to our manager than I am and reached out to her to let her know some of us are feeling a little isolated, and our manager has become more communicative again.

    Really weird team dynamics. I still don’t get it, but I’m glad things seem to be thawing.

    I’ve also applied for a copywriting job at one of our agency partners. I’ve realized for a long time that copywriting (one of the main things I was hired to do) is becoming a smaller and smaller part of my role here, and that I’d like to find a role where it’s front and center. We’ll see what happens. I’ve been here seven years, and thought I’d always be here. It’s strange to think about leaving, but there aren’t any roles here that interest me, and I’m tired of what I’m doing. Not desperate-to-escape tired, just basic tired.

    1. Samantha*

      How awkward! I couldn’t handle silence like that from my boss for MONTHS – I’d have to ask if something was wrong.

      1. C Average*

        SO awkward! I really had no clue how to break the silence.

        One thing I learned from my teammate is that our manager experienced two deaths in her immediate family, and the whole rest of the team knew that because they’re friends with our manager on Facebook. I’m not on Facebook so didn’t have that context. So the rest of the team was tiptoeing around her because they knew she was dealing with personal stuff, while I was tiptoeing around her because she’d stopped talking to me and I assumed it was a) personal and b) just me she’d stopped talking to. Turns out it was pretty much everyone except for a couple of people with whom she was working on specific projects.

        Because most of my work comes from other groups within the organization and I seldom get assignments directly from my manager, it’s pretty rare for us to actually have work-related conversations. My work sort of happens independent of my manager. But she used to have general friendly conversations with me about company stuff and non-work-related stuff, and she’s resumed doing so.

  40. De Minimis*

    The job I applied for last week won’t close till next week, just can’t wait till it does….for my current job I was contacted about a week and a half after the close date. I know this is a different location but I’m hoping it’ll be similar.

    I figure since they are offering relocation it probably is not a case where they already have someone they are interested in for the positions [there are 2, which is also unusual.]

    Another job has come up in my area, it has promotion potential but it’s a slightly different job series–it also would still require a long commute like I have now…still may apply, although it’s likely that it would be more of a lateral move at least at first.

    Heading back to California next week to move some stuff back here….think it’s already well over 100 there, not going to be fun.

      1. De Minimis*

        Thanks…I know I’m really investing too much into this job opportunity, and I need to steel myself for the possibility of it not working out.

        I’m encouraged that there seem to be more job possibilities for me with other agencies in recent months, so I’m hoping something else will work out if this doesn’t.

  41. Anon for this*

    I graduated from college a year ago and was considering applying to law school, so I took the LSAT, and I’ve been working for a test prep company since then. The money is decent, but I have to travel a lot–there’s no way I could settle down somewhere. My parents are pressuring me to apply to law school, and I wouldn’t have to take out loans. Any lawyers/law students with advice? I’ve heard there aren’t that many jobs for law grads.

    1. Stephanie*

      There aren’t. Even IP is kind of swamped and that’s a niche area that requires a technical degree (or at lot of technical coursework).

      That being said, if you think law could be a good fit (and are realistic about what lawyers actually do), could be worth it.

    2. Ash (the other one!)*

      Did you see the article the other day (will find and post below) on how a ton of people are coming out of law school without jobs and overqualified for a ton of stuff with the JD. I’ve been considering going to law school, but already am overqualified with a PhD… the advice I have received is unless you actually want to practice law, don’t do it. And even then, make sure you have connections now to actually get a job.

    3. Bartleby*

      It is really rough to get a job out of law school. I also urge you to consider whether and what type of legal job you actually want. The most highly-paying legal jobs (big firms) tend to make people miserable, and most lawyers work unreasonable hours. Public interest jobs are nearly impossible to get. Lawyers also hire in large part on the prestige of what school you went to so I would only consider going at all if you get into a top 10 school (and even then you should consider if the jobs available from that school will make you happy).

    4. C Average*

      Also remember that many law schools have a healthy attrition rate. When I went to law school, I knew on an intellectual level that almost a quarter of my class wouldn’t be back for our L2 year. It never crossed my mind that I might be part of that statistic.

      Despite working really hard, I got straight Cs. In law school, unlike other programs, students don’t as a rule get any kind of feedback from professors or explanation of their grades, so I was left with not only bad grades, but no constructive insight into what I could’ve done better. I was in debt, my confidence was shot, I felt disgraced and ashamed, my career prospects (which I’d hoped to improve) were unchanged, and I’d given up a year of my life that I’d never get back.

      Fifteen years later, I can be philosophical about it. The debts are paid off, I have a successful career, and I did learn some critical thinking skills in that year of law school that have served me well. Would I do it again? No way.

    5. Anonylicious*

      If you really want to practice law, can get into a good school, and won’t have to take on debt, you might be one of the rare people for whom going to law school isn’t a completely terrible idea right now.

      My little sister just got her LLM (both her JD and LLM are from T14 schools), and she’s brilliant, hardworking and focused and if any law grad is going to be okay, it’s her, but I still worry about her and all her student loans.

    6. SD Cat*

      I’m not in law, but a lot of my family and friends are. Be careful, and make sure it’s really what you want to do, as, yes, there aren’t many jobs for law grads. If you would need to take out loans, I would strongly advise against it, but since you won’t at least that’s one obstacle out of the way.

    7. Senor Poncho*

      You parents pressuring you might be the single worst reason to go to law school out there. I recommend you do not go, and at the very least, ask yourself a few questions and do some serious research.

      Do you actually want to be a lawyer? Do you know what the job entails? That there are very few jobs that pay enough to service the loans that you will likely take out to go to law school? That half of all law grads do not get legal jobs? That about 10% get jobs that might justify the cost of going to law school? That lawyers have extremely high rates of mental illness and substance abuse problems, despite the fact that law students enter school at rates similar to those of the general population?

      Obligatory Prosser Quote:
      “Your lawyer in practice spends a considerable part of his life
      doing distasteful things for disagreeable people who must be satisfied, against an impossible time limit and with hourly interruptions, from other disagreeable people who want to derail the train; and for his blood, sweat, and tears he receives in the end a few unkind words to the effect that it might have been done better, and a protest at the size of his fee. There is no lawyer who has not at some time in his life rebelled inwardly against all this, and wished that God had assigned him to the peaceful existence of a digger of ditches or a master plumber. ”

      Here are some resources: (jobs/debt data) (tons of great stuff linked here) (great forum w lots of knowledge) (very slightly dated now, but still important)

      1. sam*

        Paul Campos, who started Inside the Law School Scam, still blogs about this issue at Lawyers, Guns and Money (

        Content warning: they’re a pretty lefty political site on many things (which I personally like), but I want to give others a heads up!

    8. Senor Poncho*

      Not sure if my last comment was posted or not, but fwiw, I missed the “no loans” part in your OP, which is a very important consideration.

      I’ll still point out the opportunity cost w/r/t lost earnings for three years, the loss of plenty of free time and fun and time with your friends over that time period, and the fact that you stand a good chance of not coming out better off on the other side.

    9. Sunflower*

      It sounds like your parents are pressuring you into a job that will be a high earning one. Although I am shocked they haven’t heard the MILLIONS of articles about difficult obtaining a job after law school. At this point, unless you are super passionate about law, don’t go there. My friend went to law school for 2 weeks before she decided it wasn’t for her. I’ve seen some people suggest getting a job a a paralegal and deciding from there if law seems like a job you’d be interested in. From what I hear, a lot of being a lawyer is doing tons of research and reading and not so much being in court, prosecuting the bad guys. I think its worth exploring what your interests are. There are LOTS of other jobs where pay is decent, you’d be able to find a job easier and you would probably have more interest in.

    10. annie*

      Unless you can’t imagine yourself doing anything but being a lawyer and that’s the only thing that will make you happy – do not do this. My best friend is an extremely well known expert in a certain area of law (has presented at the United Nations, for example) and the only job they have is an unpaid volunteer job. There are at least four or five years of law school graduate classes who are unemployed right now.

    11. sam*

      I’m a more senior lawyer these days (just had my 15-year reunion!), but this is the advice that I give to everyone who asks me for “should I go to law school” advice.

      1. Spend some time working in a real legal environment (paralegaling at a law firm, interning at a DAs office, etc.). MANY people go to law school with a relatively vague notion about practicing law (myself included), and it often in practice looks absolutely nothing like what you think it is. I’m a corporate securities lawyer. you will never see someone like me on your television because it would be the most boring television show on earth. Also, make sure that the type of law you want to practice is a real area of law. Many law schools will tout their “international law” training. No one (or almost no one) actually practices “international law”. I say this as someone who worked in multiple countries for several years. Only a few people in the world go to work at the Hague, and I can almost guarantee you’re not going to be one of them.

      2. corrolary to the first, ONLY go to law school if you actually want to be a lawyer. Too many people, even now, go to law school as some sort of post-graduate liberal arts degree. No one goes to medical school because they can’t figure out what they want to do with their life. It’s an enormous burden, both financially and in the time it takes. And for many fields that DON’T require a law degree, employers will often actually frown on a law degree (either because you’re now overqualified or because they hold stereotypical views of lawyers being litigious). Do not believe any law school that tells you that a law degree is somehow “versatile”. A law degree allows you to do one thing that you couldn’t do without it. Be a lawyer.

      3. ONLY go to law school if you get into a T14 school. In the absolutely horrid hiring environment out there now, that’s the only way to even have a chance at a decent job, unless you have significant connections (i.e., your father owns his own firm and is willing to give you a job). In particular, if you have to borrow money to attend, only borrow money to go to law school if you get into one of the T14 schools.

      I say all this as someone who went to law school when it was still considered a good avenue for success (late 90s), cost half as much as it does now, and I attended a T10 school. None of that saved me from two years of unemployment during the recession – my layoff was, of course followed by my big multinational law firm going spectacularly bankrupt.

        1. sam*

          why yes, yes it does. I also worked at Thelen Reid prior to that, so one of my current colleagues has taken to referring to me as the Ted McGinley of law firms.

          1. Stephanie*

            Bwhahaha. I hope your current firm is doing better and won’t end up in the NYT.

            1. sam*

              I work in-house now, and I like to reassure people that the firms didn’t fail until after I was gone :)

              That being said, I’ve also learned to not get quite as emotionally invested in my job anymore.

      1. littlemoose*

        +1 to your second point – law degrees do not transfer easily to non-law occupations (unless you have some other specialized knowledge or experience in the non-law field), in my experience. Employers think they’ll have to pay you more than somebody without a law degree and may not even consider you for a non-lawyer position, even if it’s one that could reasonably benefit from someone with legal training (e.g., compliance). You need to b dang sure you actually want to practice law, and the suggestions above are excellent.

        I do take slight issue with point #3. Yes, if you want to work for a big firm, particularly the international ones in places like New York, you need to go to a top-ranked school. But if you plan to practice in a smaller city or don’t plan to do big-shot corporate law, the rank of your law school matters a lot less. As long as it’s not at the very bottom (or unaccredited by the ABA, like some in California), you would be OK with a degree from a mid-tier school. I live in a mid-size Midwestern city, and my local law school has a ton of graduates practicing in this area. Going to a low-ranked school and then looking for your first job in another part of the country could be problematic – ie if nobody’s heard of your law school – but otherwise I think the law achool’s rank is less important.

        But no, don’t go to law school just because your parents want you to. It’s a demanding profession with mediocre job prospects, so don’t get into it unless you’re certain it’s what you want.

  42. Ash (the other one!)*

    I got rejected from the job I really wanted. They said there may be other opportunities and they really liked me but I’m not sure I believe them. I talked to my mentor that night about this 9 month job search and he advised me to resign and move on and do consulting for a while. Misery breeds misery and I need to get out of this miserable situation.

    So. I am going to resign in a week and a half (after a final trip I’m already scheduled to take) and then going to work as a consultant until I can find a permanent position. Luckily I have several leads so I won’t be totally broke. Anyone else do this? Any advice?

    1. EclecticInVermont*

      I do this on occasion when I am unemployed but I do look for other jobs while I do this. I also do this when I am employed for side work for pocket cash. I would say use your networks to see if anyone is looking for help. I’ve also found some leads on Craigslist believe it or not.

      It also depends how long you’ve been in the biz.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Set up some consulting gigs before you resign; you don’t want to resign and then discover that the work you were counting on doesn’t come through.

  43. Once Anon a Time*

    Two things from me today, so I’d like to break them up into separate posts just in case someone wants to respond to one and not the other. Here’s number one…

    1) Last week, I was rejected for a position I had decided I didn’t want to accept, even if it was offered to me. Initially, I was excited about the position. However, for the week following my second interview, I reflected on what had been said, and ultimately decided it wasn’t a good fit for me. Before I even had the chance to contact them to withdraw my application, I was sent a form rejection email from HR saying they had decided to pursue another candidate. I breathed a sigh of relief at not having to withdraw my candidacy, and went about my day.

    What happened after that was what bothers me. Later that day, I received an email from the hiring manager who had interview me. I was surprised since I had been sent a form rejection email from HR not even a few hours earlier. The hiring manager took it upon himself to say that the reason they had decided to pursue another candidate was because I hadn’t followed up with them at all since the second interview. He went out of his way to tell me I missed my chance, and had I been a little more interested in the position, I would have been hired in a heartbeat. He also said that he was “disappointed” because he really liked me during the interview, and was surprised when I didn’t follow up during the week following. The whole tone of the email seemed a bit aggressive and annoyed, and it left me unsettled.

    I had to resist the urge to email him back and tell him 1. that I was planning on withdrawing my candidacy anyway because I felt that the job wasn’t a good fit for me (and I probably wasn’t a good fit for them, although he felt otherwise) and 2. that it had only been a week since the interview (Note: I had both my FIRST and SECOND interview on the SAME day).

    Obviously at this point I know it would be wise not to respond to his email, but I really just felt like telling someone about this because I was irked by that whole thing. I don’t really see what the HM had to gain by emailing me separately to tell me that it was my loss and had I followed up, I would have gotten the job. Truth be told, I didn’t follow up because I was evaluating whether or not I wanted the job. I felt it best to decide prior to following up so I didn’t waste anyone’s time and lead them on.

    1. Once Anon a Time*

      Update: I decided not to post my second thing, since I sort of had my question answered already. So for now, it’s just the above post!

    2. amaranth16*

      I’m not sure about this. To be honest, I feel like following up is just the polite thing to do even if you aren’t sold on the job. They still took time out of their day to meet with you and I think thanking them for that is the purpose of the followup email (though of course it’s also a great opportunity to reiterate your interest). I’ve heard that a good rule of thumb is emailing within 24 hours. I can see why the HM’s email was frustrating, and it sounds like the tone was overly aggressive, but it also seems like useful feedback to take into other searches.

      1. Once Anon a Time*

        I actually did send a thank you email the following morning. The interview ended at 6PM the night before, so I figured emailing first thing the next morning was the best approach. I thanked them for the opportunity to interview and learn more about their office, and said I look forward to hearing when they have made a decision. And also if they needed anything else from me to please let me know. Then a week passed since that email, and I received the form rejection and HM’s email. So I technically did follow up, although maybe they didn’t count the thank you note as a follow up since it was so soon after the interview.

          1. Once Anon a Time*

            No no, don’t apologize! I didn’t word it properly the first time. Thanks for your response though! :-)

      2. Once Anon a Time*

        I should have been more clear in my original post. I always thought of the thank you email and “following up” as two separate things. You always send a thank you email as a courtesy, and then following up after that is optional. I sent the courtesy thank you email, but never followed up beyond that, since I didn’t know if I wanted the job or not.

          1. Once Anon a Time*

            Maybe they wanted me to send them chocolates and a potted plant, along with a framed photo of myself?! (KIDDING!) Just thought I’d throw that out there since AAM mentioned those on yesterday’s list of things NOT to do.

        1. Sadsack*

          Sounds like you are lucky not to have gone to work for that hiring manager. After sending a thank you, I wouldn’t have followed up until after the time period when they said they’d make a decision. If they did not tell me what is their timeline, I probably would have waited a couple of weeks so as not to seem pushy.

    3. louise*

      I’ve never been one to tell bold-faced lies, but things like that make me want to. I’d want to respond with “Thanks for the information. My mother passed away the day after the interviews, so I’ve been out of town attending to family matters. At this point, I need a little time to regroup and have decided to put my job search on hold, so this position would not have worked out even if offered. Thanks again.”

      And then I’d wish I were a fly on the wall to see him open that email and get egg on his face.

      But good on you for just ignoring. It’s the only appropriate response to a jerk.

      1. amaranth16*

        Ooh, Louise, that would be super tempting. Probably a terrible idea in real life, but sooooo tempting.

      2. Once Anon a Time*

        Thank you Louise, your comment made me feel better about the whole thing!

        I actually did have a similar experience after an interview back in 2010. I had a job interview for a job I really wanted, but was unable to follow up because I came down with a bacterial infection and was in the hospital for a few days. As a result, I could not follow up. I was actually offered the job, but I couldn’t take it because my health at the time did not permit me to work long hours. I had to be on bed rest for over a month following my hospitalization. It was a nightmare.

    4. Complaining Coworker*

      That is ridiculous. Are you sure he got your thank you email? Otherwise, it’s just bizarre. I try to give hiring managers a little breathing room after the interview because I know these things take awhile. If I’m super eager, I’ll follow up in a week or two just to check in on the process and reiterate my interest. I think following up in under a week after you’d already sent a thank you email would have seemed pushy to anyone else.

      1. Once Anon a Time*

        Good point. Now that you mention it, I’m actually not sure if he did get my thank you email. He never responded to it, but most HM’s don’t respond when I send one. If he didn’t get it, perhaps that’s why he was so upset about my lack of follow up? Either that, or he doesn’t consider a thank you note a form of follow up, and instead saw it as a courtesy. The world may never know.

        I completely agree with you about giving the HM and HR some breathing room to make a decision. I always try to space out my follow ups because if I was in their shoes, I’d want the same treatment. The way I see it, if I received a job offer and wanted time to think it over, I wouldn’t want HR to constantly bother me about whether or not I made a decision.

        That has happened to me in the past. I was made an offer on a Tuesday, I asked HR if I could let them know by Friday. They agreed, but proceeded to call me every day until Friday asking if I had made a decision yet. I ended up turning them down because, among other reasons, they were too pushy.

        1. ec*

          I would respond, “Thank you for letting me know. Best of luck in your search!” but that’s because I’m someone who is very stubborn and hates not having the last word :). Respond gracefully to the rejection, just like you would respond to a more graceful rejection from a job you actually wanted. Or just ignore, the person probably isn’t worth engaging with.

          1. Complaining Coworker*

            Ooh I like this response. It’s taking the high road while simultaneously giving them the finger. Because, really, his response was borderline unprofessional and you’ll be reminding him what a professional email looks like while implying that you really don’t give a sh!t about the job. Ok I think I’m too excited about this.

          2. Once Anon a Time*

            Funny enough, I effed up once and wished a hiring manager good luck at the end of the interview, which I know is the “kiss of death” if you are told that as a candidate.

            I can still remember it now…it went something like this.

            HM: Thank you for coming in today. I really enjoyed this interview. I can tell you’re very dedicated and talented.
            Me: Thank you so much for the opportunity to interview.
            HM: You’re very welcome! I’m going to have a conversation with HR, and we’ll be in touch by the end of the week. If you have any questions, here’s my card.
            Me: Thank you again. AND GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR SEARCH.
            (I caught the expression on HM’s face as I was leaving. He seemed surprised by my closing statement.)

            I didn’t hear from them by the end of the week. I heard from them THE NEXT DAY. It was a rejection email. I highly suspect that my wishing them good luck with their search was why I was rejected.

            1. fposte*

              You think? I wouldn’t have paid much attention to it, beyond thinking it was a pretty civilized farewell.

              1. Once Anon a Time*

                Well, I’ll never know if that was the reason or not. But I mentioned it to a few people I know, one of whom works as a recruiter, and they all agreed it could be interpreted as disinterest. Like I was wishing him good luck with his search because I knew I didn’t plan on working for him. But who knows.

  44. Kristin*

    I am nervously waiting to hear from a potential employer. Been through three rounds of interviews and after the last one they requested references and background check and said they would let me know by the end of next week (the 13th). However, the next Monday, the 16th, my current company is sending me to an amazing conference for a week.

    I am already feeling guilty about being sent (they don’t know I’m looking) but now I am worried about the (unlikely) possibility I get an offer on the 13th. Do I tell my boss face-to-face when I get back or call them before I go? Do I offer to skip the conference in order to help with the transition? Basically I am fretting about all this even more than the possibility of not getting the job!

    1. EclecticInVermont*

      You don’t have the job until you have it in writing. If you let them know before hand that you are waiting for a potential job offer they may ask you for your two week notice. If you don’t actually land the job then you are potentially out of two jobs.

      1. Kristin*

        Hi, fellow Vermonter! Oh, I’m not planning on telling them until I have a firm offer. It is just that if I am, the turn around between when they said they would tell me by and the conference has no work days in between.

    2. Complaining Coworker*

      Don’t fret! Congrats on being so close to getting a new job! Even if you get an offer on Friday, you might not iron out the details, sign it and send it back until Monday or later. So, go to the conference and represent your employer to the best of your ability. Call your boss from the conference to give as much notice as possible (maybe give an extra week if you can negotiate a later start date). And don’t feel guilty!

  45. JMegan*

    I saw a job ad the other day, and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    The position reports directly to the CIO. The person is required to act as a subject matter expert for a software implementation, and is responsible for developing, implementing, and maintaining an entire new program within the organization.

    The salary? $35,000. THIRTY FIVE THOUSAND. I made more than that on my first day at my first job, and I wasn’t “responsible” for anything! The (hypothetical) person they’re looking for will need at least five years experience in the field, plus some pretty significant experience developing this sort of program. They’re looking for a manager, and offering to pay them the salary of a summer student. They would need to pay at least double what they’re offering, to have even a chance of succeeding at this.

    So I laugh, because it’s so wildly outside of any reasonable expectation of skills:salary ratio. And I cry, because it’s in my industry that people are being so undervalued. This would have been a great job for me, apart from the salary! (This is in a major urban centre, where average housing prices are over $500K – I don’t even know if you’d be able to get a one-bedroom apartment for $35K).

    I’m half tempted to email them and suggest they rethink either the job or the salary, but meh – this isn’t my fish to fry. I wish them all the best in filling that position, though!

    1. amaranth16*

      Good grief! You’re right, that is an insulting amount of money for that role. Hopefully that will become clear to them when they can’t find any suitable candidates at that price.

    2. Once Anon a Time*

      I had a discussion with my friend the other day regarding low salaries. I’ve been looking for local jobs on Craigslist (since I want to get a job at an office in my area) and some of the compensation amounts were ridiculous!

      I saw one posting that said a BA/BS was required, but an MA/MS was preferred. How much did it pay per hour? $10. I couldn’t believe it!

      1. Rebecca*

        There was a job opening at my county’s courthouse, working as the admin in the Sheriff’s department. Hours were great, a lot of responsibility, but dealing with potential nogoodniks – so I checked into the pay scale: $10.10/hour. No thanks.

          1. Rebecca*

            I know. My mother in law had home health aids due to dementia before she went to the nursing home. They made less than $8.00 hour. The agency received $16.00 an hour, paid them $8.00. No benefits. And that was the cheapest agency. It’s horrible.

    3. Complaining Coworker*

      Yeah, that’s crazy. If they get anyone qualified to work for that price, I would expect them to be surprised by some major hidden performance problems.

    4. Dang*

      I made 35k out of college as a receptionist with no experience. I barely did anything, the phones rang maybe a few times an hour, I helped people with random stuff and ordered kitchen supplies.

      Now the jobs I’m looking at, most of which require master’s degrees and 5 years of experience, pay not much more than that. I also live in an extremely expensive area and will probably live with my parents forever even when I do find a job. Ridiculous. I had no idea how great I had it back in 06! The economy has really made it easy for employers to underpay because people like me are desperate.

    5. BRR*

      Ugh. I saw something like that but it was in Michigan and didn’t report to a a C-level exec. They still wanted 5 years experience and it was a required question on their job application.

    6. AnonAnalyst*

      While not as bad as your example, I keep seeing an analyst role posting in an area known for its high cost of living that requires an MBA, 5+ years of experience, and several fairly specific skills (statistical analysis skills, expert level experience with several statistical software packages, etc.) that offers a salary of about $36,000. Shockingly, they seem to be having trouble finding a suitable candidate…

      1. Complaining Coworker*

        That’s horrible. I have a similar role in New York and make in the $90s.

        1. AnonAnalyst*

          I’m in a similar role in another large city (looking to relocate to More Expensive City, which is why I keep coming across the posting), and currently am making a little less than you, so I was appalled. I first read the ad and was thinking “hey, this looks promising!” And then I got to the sentence at the end with the salary information.

    7. Sharm*

      I know this well. I have gone backwards in salary. Part of it is moving to a place with low wages in general, but I was offered a job that paid less than my entry-level job 8 years prior. And they acted as if I should be thankful!

      In all seriousness, is this just the way it’s going to be now? Because I have to tell you, I don’t want to buy a house or start a family if that’s the case. What is the end game here? The rich get richer and richer — what about everyone else? I know this is a bit outside scope, but I just don’t get it. They keep saying business is cyclical, but the trends of the past few decades are nothing but down. The middle is getting squeezed out.

      I know for me, job posts like that make me want to cry more than laugh. It’s no longer absurd — these are people’s LIVELIHOODS here. Ugh.

    8. Golden Yeti*

      I live in an expensive area, with 4 years admin experience (3 of those at Current Company). My salary hasn’t even broken $30k gross yet.

  46. TotesMaGoats*

    Just saw a interview tip on my twitter feed from my county workforce development. Bring a copy on resume paper for each person you are interviewing with. Agree with bringing a copy but thoughts on resume paper versus regular paper???

    1. Once Anon a Time*

      I’ve always used regular paper for my resume hard copies. However, I should say that I do buy the nice regular paper, like the ultra white paper that’s slightly heavier than computer paper. I’ve even had a few people say “This is nice paper!” when they looked at it.

      If you’re interested, the brand’s name is XEROX and it’s the Premium Multipurpose Paper. I got a huge package at my local BJ’s for a great price.

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        Agreed. My memories of resume paper was the much heavier stock, beige stuff. And it was expensive.

    2. nep*

      I’ve always carried two or three copies of my resume, on nice resume paper, to interviews (more, of course, if I know I’ll be meeting with several people). You never know when you’ll be asked for a hard copy; better to have some on hand.

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        Yeah, not debating the need to carry copies with you. Just the paper comment. Wanted to see if people thought the classic, super heavy stock, “antique” colored resume paper was still en vogue or not.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I still had some of this kicking around from 1999 up until a couple years ago. I think I finally gave it to my kids. If I think something is fancy enough for special paper, I use the fancy laser printer paper. I do think antique white looks a little, well, 1999.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Most hiring managers don’t care what the paper is. A small handful are impressed by nice paper — not enough that you should buy it, in my opinion. (And if I can generalize, I think older hiring managers are more likely to be impressed by it than younger ones, but maybe I’m wrong about that.)

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        That confirms what I thought. But I probably shouldn’t contradict them on twitter.

    4. BRR*

      I’d bring a copy for every person I’m meeting with and a few extra. If somebody rejects you from a job for using the wrong type of paper you probably don’t want to work there anyways.

    5. Sascha*

      I’m not sure if fancy resume paper is en vogue or not, but I always liked getting blue or gray resume paper simply because I like blue and gray. Blue probably looks a little cleaner though, gray can be tricky because some shades will look dirty.

      That’s just my preference. I think any kind of paper will suffice as long as it doesn’t look like you just printed it out at the last minute on crap paper and a low ink cartridge.

    6. Jen RO*

      Before I started reading AAM, I had no idea there was such thing as ‘resume paper’… there was just ‘bad paper’ and ‘good paper’ (copier paper I think it’s called?).

        1. Phyllis*

          Resume paper is heavy paper that’s white, beige or gray with a watermark. I kept some on hand when I used to have to mail resumes. I had an older friend look over my resume to see if I needed to change anything and the first thing she did was look for the watermark. Course this was back in the dark ages; don’t think many people know what a watermark is!! :-)

    7. smilingswan*

      I use cream colored resume paper. I think it looks more polished and professional than ordinary printer paper, or even the heavier white stock.

  47. Bartleby*

    Advice please!

    I applied for a job and on Tuesday someone from HR wrote to schedule a phone interview for next week. I wrote back saying I was open Monday and Tuesday and asked what time would be best. I still haven’t heard back. I don’t want to be pushy, but I think I should check in today–yes? Suggestions for polite phrasing?

    1. Complaining Coworker*

      I think it would be fine to check back in today. Something like “Hi – I just wanted to check in to see if you were able to schedule anything for Monday or Tuesday. If not, please let me know about possible future dates. Have a good weekend!” and then don’t be surprised if you don’t hear back today. If anything, I’d expect to hear back next week with “Sorry, hiring manager was out of town. What is your availability for next week?” or something similar.

      1. Bartleby*

        Thanks, I really like the way you put it. It seems as if the interview is just an initial phone screen with HR so I don’t think there’s an issue with the hiring manager’s schedule yet. But it’s certainly possible that she’s been on vacation herself or has been busy talking to lots of other candidates.

  48. a regular, anon for this*

    Is it possible to have a trusting, secure work relationship with someone who personally rubs you very much the wrong way? I’ve noticed that I have an easy time building strong professional relationships with colleagues with whom I have a warm relationship. But my current supervisor and I have really different styles and I think we just don’t have especially compatible personalities. I think we’re both aware of the ways in which we don’t see eye to eye, and we’ve done some workplace personality profiles that have put names to these differences, but it’s just been really hard for me to feel supported in that relationship (and I imagine she feels the same way). Any suggestions for how to work on this? (As if it’s not challenging enough, we’re also in different offices/time zones.)

    1. Jillociraptor*

      I’ve definitely done it, but I think I requires a huge amount of empathy. One of my best bosses and mentors started out really irritating to me and I struggled to relate to her. But as I started to understand what motivates her, and was able to just honor that as the way she is, we became really close. And in fact worked really well together because we came to appreciate our complementarity and rely on each other to fill in our own gaps.

      It requires 2 things: first that your personality differences be basically morally innocuous (like your beef with your boss isn’t that she’s cruel and acts in ways that fundamentally violate your values), and second that you be on board with the idea of seeing the value in her approach. It’s not easy, and not everyone has that skill, but I think if you can get there, having a productive, positive relationship with your boss is possible.

    2. DarthAdmin*

      I’m actually on the other end of this – I manage a person who I find personally grating, for a variety of reasons. What helps me is to consciously recognize that in our interactions. By which I mean, if I react poorly to something, I take a minute to ask myself why. Is this truly a work problem? Or is it a “bitch eating crackers” problem? If the former, I address it. If the latter, I take a deep breath and let it go.

      As far as supporting her, I am scrupulous about giving her the same opportunities as the other people I manage. I give her feedback – good and bad – as I do anyone else, and I act as an advocate for her (and my team) to TPTB. But it really all goes back to that conscious separation of motives for me.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      If you don’t personally respect the person, it’s going to be harder.
      Hopefully, you can find things about her professionally that are meaningful to you. That will help.

      Depending on how you feel about it, you may want to consider talking over the answer to this question: “What can I do to help you feel that I am a supportive employee?” Then perhaps you can share with her some of the things that help you to feel supported by your boss.

      Years ago I worked with a woman that was total opposite from me. If I said day she said night. If I said black she said white. Puppies are cute. NO they are not. Sigh.
      We solved our problem by not taking breaks together. If we were working with each other everything was fine. Matter of fact she was a heck of a worker. We actually liked working with each other. We just had nothing to talk about. At all.

  49. Complaining Coworker*

    I have a coworker from another department that I was friendly with. I felt bad for her because she’s older and it kind of seemed like she was being pushed out. She asked me for help with her resume and the more I helped her, the more she asked me for and I started to understand why she was being pushed out of her job.

    – First, she sent me her resume. I completely reworded the section on her responsibilities and created an achievements section, for which I wrote the summary. All she had to fill in were the bullets I left as “Achievement 1, achievement 2, achievement 3”. She couldn’t handle this.

    – She took me to dinner so I could write the rest of her resume and also asked me to “help her” write a response to her PIP because “you’re so good at wording things”. So, I’m doing it and I’m asking her what she wants to say and writing out the wording and she’s like “Oh wow, that’s gonna be a lot to type.” “Yup.” “Are you good at typing? Can I pay you to type it for me?” So I roll my eyes and take out my laptop and start typing it up because, honestly, it’s faster than hand-writing it but it’s just the principle that she can’t do anything herself.

    – And every conversation I had with her she was such a victim. Rehashing the same complaints about her bosses. How they’re going to get in so much trouble when she tells HR how they’re not handling her PIP correctly (they didn’t). The kind of bravado you would expect to hear from a stereotypical millennial.

    – Finally, after 6 months on the PIP, without making any effort to find a job except posting her resume on Monster (despite that her hours were 9 to 5 and she has no spouse or kids), she was let go. I was relieved even though I knew this wouldn’t be the end of my contact with her.

    – I talked to her the day she got fired and then had a surprisingly long period of 2 weeks where she didn’t call. Then she called to say she had an interview and a meeting with a headhunter and she wanted to get lunch with me. I made lunch plans but then had to cancel because a work lunch came up. I emailed her to ask if she could do another day and she immediately called me and said “The whole point of getting lunch was to do it before my interview so you can help me.” Like I work for her.

    – I had no other free time to meet her but agreed to a phone call at 9PM when I finally get home, while eating dinner (and the night before I also had my own interview btw). She had met with the headhunter who’d told her that there would be three questions on her interview: tell me about yourself, weaknesses, strengths; plus resume questions. She needed help with these and, during our HOUR long conversation, wrote down word-for-word the answers I suggested. (She also tried to get me to type them up and email them to her but I dodged.) Toward the end of the conversation, I was so tired and I didn’t even care if the answers she was writing down were true for her or not.

    I’m exhausted by this “friendship”. I guess I *should* be direct and tell her when she’s asking for too much but it’s hard because she’s very pushy and doesn’t pick up on social cues. I’m not confrontational and I don’t think it’s worth it since she doesn’t work here anymore. I just know that when I reject her (directly or by avoiding her) she’s going to add me to the list of people that are out to get her. I feel bad because she thinks I’m a friend and I feel like a mean girl even talking about this, but I also feel used.

    Interested to hear people’s opinions but I don’t really know if there’s a solution here. Just wanted to vent. Anyone been in a similar situation?

    1. Adam V*

      My response would just be “sorry, I’ve been doing this in my spare time, and I’m actually going to be busy the next few weeks, so I’m afraid I won’t have any additional time I can spend on this; if you send me emails, I’ll do my best to respond, but I can’t respond immediately”.

      (I personally might respond with something like “sorry, but helping you is taking up a lot more time than I expected, and I feel like I was carrying the load on a lot of the things that you should have been able to do for yourself, like typing up your own resume or figuring out what to say in an interview; not to mention, getting snippy with me about missing lunch really doesn’t put me in the mood to go out of my way to help you any more”, but that’s because I’d be totally fed up with this “friend” and wouldn’t be all that upset if they stopped talking to me.)

      1. Sunflower*

        I agree. This is beyond help. She wants you to DO WORK for her. I would even advise her if she is having trouble with interview skills or writing her resume to ask the headhunter to recommend a good resume writing/interview prep service. They can probably help more than you can and at least it’s their job to put up with this.

    2. fposte*

      I read most of your paragraphs saying “Why are you doing this?” This is stuff that should have been pushed back on months ago and you should absolutely push back on it now. Yes, of course you’ll be added to her list of people who have let her down. But her list is crazy! It’s not worth sacrificing your life to stay off of a list of people who haven’t devoted their lives to an incompetent user.

      And you have solutions, and you need to use them, otherwise you’re going to end up ferrying her to doctor’s appointments when she’s eighty. You can outright say “You know, Jane, I’m afraid I can’t give you the kind of job help you want any more.” (The answer to “Why?” is “I’m afraid I can’t.” Don’t explain why you’re not devoting your life to her assistance!) You can do a fade out (I know people hate that, but I support its viability) and not be able to talk on the phone or meet her. For all I care, you can make up an invisible thing taking over your life and blame it.

      None of these involve keeping her as a friend, but that’s because I don’t think she is a friend; I think you wouldn’t want to talk to her this often even if if she wasn’t talking about her career, and I don’t think you can manage a friendship with her that doesn’t include her using you.

      Take back your life, CC.

      1. Sascha*

        I’m all for a fade-out for someone like this. And I think she is going to put CC on her “bad list” regardless of what CC does, even complying with her demands.

        CC, I’ve had friends like this, and they completely drained me. I just had to cut them off. For the ones I gave an explanation to, they just turned it back on me and made themselves the victim. I don’t think it’s worth it. Just tell her you are busy, from now on.

        1. saro*

          Completely agree. I only confront people if I think it will help and/or want to continue my friendship. Otherwise, they get a fade-out.

      2. Claire*

        Agreed. Reading all the mess she’s put you through, I just went “…why?” She’s not only 100% using you, but using you to present a false (and presumably improved) image of herself to potential employers. She doesn’t sound like someone who thinks of you as a friend, honestly, just someone who’s useful to her. Let her put you on her “list.”

      3. Tinker*

        I think part of the dislike for “the fade” (at least for me, this is the reason) is that there seems to be an uptick of using it in less-than-appropriate scenarios and then getting angry at the other party when it doesn’t work well rather than falling back to direct communication.

        (Kind of wondering if it’s been circulating as a meme on some of the Geek-Social-Fallacy-adjacent blogs. It has that smell to it.)

        In this case, though, when the interaction pattern is pretty much fundamentally about these requests, consistently declining them has a decent probability of working and if it doesn’t then using one’s words to say “Sorry, but I won’t be able to help you with this sort of thing” isn’t all that tricky as a fallback position.

        1. fposte*

          I’m actually even prepared to support a hardcore disappearance in a situation like this. When somebody’s being taken advantage of, ending the situation is more important than an elegant detachment process, and I don’t want CC or people like her to stay stuck as vampire victims merely because they can’t find the words to get away.

      4. Muriel Heslop*

        After each point I thought, “Slow fade! Slow fade!” You have been really kind and you meant well but she is completely taking advantage of that. This isn’t a friendship because she isn’t a friend.

    3. C Average*

      This is tough. I’ve been in this spot and have, over time, become more hard-assed about this kind of thing. I’ve developed a sort of script for this, and it goes a little bit like this:

      “I’m always happy to work with motivated people to fine-tune a resume or brainstorm about the job search process. But I want to be careful not to create actual work product for someone in a way that might misrepresent his or her abilities. When hiring managers look at your resume, they’re determining, among other things, whether you can write well. If I write your resume for you or even extensively edit sections of it, the hiring manager is evaluating my writing, not yours. And that’s dishonest. So I’ll happily give you feedback, but you’ll need to implement it yourself. That way, your resume will represent your writing ability, not mine. That way, too, you won’t run the risk of pursuing and getting a job you’re not ready to actually perform.

      “Another thing I’d like you to consider is your ability to be proactive and self-sufficient. Most employers want that. I see you looking to me for a lot of help with pretty basic stuff, and that makes me question whether you could step into a new job and be effective with minimal oversight and training. Based on my experiences working with you, I’m not confident that’s the case. Think about ways you can take ownership of your resume and your job search. If you can take charge of these things without a lot of hand-holding, you’ll be better prepared to start a new job without a lot of hand-holding, too. That’s a capability you’re going to need.”

      I’ve had to say this to a handful of people. It wasn’t a fun message to deliver, but it did actually motivate two of the people I’ve worked with, and it prompted the other three to at least leave me alone.

    4. Anonylicious*

      You’re not her secretary, and you’re not her nanny. It really sounds like you should dump this friend. Don’t worry about what she thinks of you afterwards. She doesn’t seem to value your friendship for its own sake, anyway.

    5. Complaining Coworker*

      Thanks so much for the advice! And I know I sound pathetic. If someone else had written this, I’d be telling them to just snap out of it and cut her off. I just keep thinking of the children’s book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.”

      I guess I just have to be ok with having someone not liking me. The list of people who would believe her sad tales will grow shorter and shorter as they get to know her.

      1. fposte*

        It’s amazing how much clearer these things are when they’re happening to somebody else and therefore aren’t pushing our own long-installed buttons.

      2. Colette*

        I guess I just have to be ok with having someone not liking me.

        If you look at this another way, it doesn’t sound like you like her. (Feel sorry for her, yes, but like? I don’t see it.)

        Many people will not like you, and that’s OK. You won’t like everyone, and that’s OK, too. Don’t let the fear of someone not liking you allow her to treat you like this.

        1. Complaining Coworker*

          Yeah I guess it’s not so much the not liking as much as what I see as potential for bad mouthing. But really, she has little influence in the industry and anything bad she might say would reflect worse on her than on me, so I’m being kind of silly.

          1. Colette*

            Yeah, if your name shows up in the middle of a tirade about how everyone from the bus driver to her former manager to the dry cleaner is out to get her, it likely won’t have much weight.

      3. DarthAdmin*

        My mother told me when I was young: “You’re not going to like everyone you meet, and not everyone you meet is going to like you. And that’s ok.”

        I find it incredibly useful in situations like the one you describe.

      4. Sadsack*

        You aren’t pathetic, just trying to show some compassion for someone who needs help. Now it seems that you have reached the limit of how helpful you can be for this person. Maybe that is something to tell her, “I am sorry that you are struggling, but I don’t think I can help you with this any more.” The tell her to check out AAM for advise!

    6. Dang*

      She’s a leech. Stop taking her calls and don’t feel any guilt about it. Don’t worry, she’ll find someone else to leech onto, and someone after that…

    7. Lisa*

      Dealing with one now. She turns down interviews because the HR person phone screening, doesn’t sound excited to be talking to her. I redid her resume, and she applied to this job with her bad resume. I submitted it on linkedin with the new resume for her, and within 30 min she was called. So at least she no longer tells me her 15 years of experience should only be 1 page, include an objective, and say ‘references upon request’. I think my friend is like this because she never had to look for a job as she stayed 10+ years somewhere, or knew someone to get where they are. She is a great worker, but she doesn’t have a degree and thinks she can’t be qualified if they say ‘degree preferred’. I keep telling her to skip the online forms and use linkedin or email directly since the system is excluding her based on her not having a degree. When she follows my advice, she gets interviews but still won’t apply to things that she thinks won’t hire her without that degree.

      1. Complaining Coworker*

        That is frustrating but you can only tell her the same thing so many times. Hopefully she will catch on after seeing that your advice worked but some people don’t learn (or are just lazy, like my person). Glad you can commiserate!

    8. Sadsack*

      “She’s pushy and doesn’t pick up on social cues.”

      Nope, she’s pushy and that’s it. Keep helping her and you’ll keep getting requests for help. Why do you care if you are on her It list? This will just ensure that you don’t hear from her anymore.

      Good luck!

    9. Not So NewReader*

      You can’t fix someone who does not want to do the work.
      So there is no fix here.

      Going forward think about the expression of handing out fishing poles not fish. “Yeah, I will help you but you are going to do the heavy lifting.”
      I am a big fan of handing out fishing poles. Show me how to do something and let me go do it. On the giving end, I can empower someone else to move forward in some manner.

      She showed you from the get-go how she treats people. People who tell you that they have black-listed people are telling you, “This is what I will do to you, too, eventually.”
      See, she has subtly manipulated you. You don’t want to be on her black-list so you are willing to stand on your head to prevent that from happening. But check this out- it’s her loss, not yours. You were giving her help that people pay big bucks for.
      She moves you to her list- she will lose that free help. Oh well.

      Friendships are reciprocal. She is a taker, not a friend.

  50. Ash (the other one!)*

    Here’s a separate question —

    We’ve heard about parents (particularly of millenials) getting too involved in their job/job searches. When I let my mother know I didn’t get the job I wanted, she started lecturing me and I ended up just hanging up. I really don’t need or want her advice when I have people actually in my field to help me.

    How do you all handle your well-meaning parents while you are in the job hunt?

    1. Ash (the other one!)*

      I’ll add, I’m 29 so yes, a millenial, and my parents have always been overbearing and put extreme pressure on me as a kid to get A’s and go to an Ivy League school. So, this isn’t anything new. But at this point, its really none of my parents’ business what I’m doing.

    2. Shell*

      I point out to my mother that she’s been out of the workforce for more than 25 years and that her work experience was in another country :)

      …okay, that doesn’t always garner the greatest responses, but it gets her off my back. (My father, who actually did work here, defers to my judgement on things to do with my life.)

      1. EclecticInVermont*

        I often will not mention a job search or interview to my mother until I either have confirmation I’m getting the job or its pretty near close. She absolutely has no reason to know what I’m doing when I’m 27 and living on my own.

    3. Sascha*

      I just have to keep repeating myself, or change the subject. I work in IT, and typically in IT, experience counts more for degrees or even certifications, in some instances. My mom keeps pressuring me to get an MBA. I don’t really want to go through that, especially since I’m not really going for a career in management. I keep having to come back to, this is my life and my decision, and if I regret my choices later, they are still my choices to make. That usually shuts down the conversation.

      She’s worried I’ll have the same regrets that she has about her education and career choices. However, if I had continued with the master’s degree I started in 2006 (completely not IT related), then I would have. I think the best decision I ever made was to withdraw from that degree and stop going to school, and focus on work. I’m in a much better place now than I would have been with that degree.

    4. SD Cat*

      I’m 24- I’ve done it by keeping my parents regularly updated on what I’m doing (like once a week-ish), though as some of their advice has been helpful, I’m not in quite the same predicament as you. They’re not actively involved in my job search, though I’ve gotten some contacts through family members .

      1. SD Cat*

        Also, my parents are mostly supporting me at the moment, so that’s another consideration.

    5. Case of the Mondays*

      To me, the answer depends on how much they are still supporting you. If they are paying your living expenses until you find a gig then I think they have a bit of a say in making sure you are actually doing all you can do to get said gig. I think just hearing out mom’s vent can go a long way. If, however, you are truly independent, you can cut off the conversation.

      1. Ash (the other one!)*

        For me, I’m completely financially independent from them. The problem is that my older sibling tells them ever minute detail of his life so they expect the same from me. I just get uber frustrated by their advice and avoid telling them things… and then they get angry I’m not talking to them — an awful catch-22. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t.

        I almost can’t wait until I have kids and get their parenting advice! /sarcasm.

    6. Chinook*

      First off, it is not just millenials. I am 39 and my Dad has been known to give me tips whenever DH and I moved. Both my mom and I have pointed out to him that he retired from the only job he worked at, so maybe he should let me do it my way but that I appreciated his concern. His sister, my aunt, has also asked me to talk to my older cousin (40) because he won’t find a job (he is still trying to find the “perfect” job and he has high standards) and doesn’t seem to take her advice. I had to bite my tongue hard to not tell her that maybe if she didn’t let him live at home while job searching, he may have a better incentive (but I liked ehr enough not to), so I compromised and told my cousing what she said and that he should get a job, thus fulfilling her request.

      I honestly think some of this concern comes from them caring about us and being worried because things aren’t as easy as it was for them when they started working but not understanding why, so they just want to help. I have learned to accept the good intentions but ignore the actual advice.

    7. BRR*

      I have the same issue of my sibling calling them multiple times a day and giving a second by second breakdown of their week while I am a once a weeker.

      I had success with the following
      -I appreciate your advice but the job market is different now.
      -That sounds like it’s standard in your industry but in my industry it’s different
      -This is a very stressful time for me and how about if we leave it as I update you as things happen but I’m getting a lot of advice from a lot of people and it’s not helping with my stress
      -Give them things you want to talk about

      1. fposte*

        I think you can also say, in a cooler moment when the job issue isn’t on the table, that these conversations aren’t working for you, and you want to *enjoy* talking to your mother, so you’re going to use conversations with her as a holiday from the job issue.

        If your mother is one who then has a tantrum that you’ve said you don’t like talking to your mother, see AnotherAlison above (below?), because that is beyond merely pushy.

    8. AnotherAlison*

      TBH, I’m not sure that overstepping boundaries really qualifies as well-meaning. I think if your phone calls end with you hanging up, you really might have some boundary issues. I would work on drawing those boundaries with your parents. In stone. You’re an adult (by quite a lot of years) and your job search is your business. Research the topic of boundary issues and enmeshed families and figure out where you fall. In my case, my dad’s behavior actually falls into emotional abuse, and I had always thought it was just “well-meaning” dad stuff until he really crossed the line a few times. . .in email, so I had the chance to really digest what he was saying.

      I hope your situation isn’t that bad, but I’m just sending out the caution signals to save you a few years of pain.

    9. SevenSixOne*

      I don’t tell them anything– ANYTHING!– until I have a start date, because their advice, requests for the breathless play-by-play of the interview, and constant “have you heard back from XYZCorp about that job?!??!” stresses me the hell out, even when they mean well.

    10. Artemesia*

      I have very good advice for my kids, particularly my daughter whose field overlaps more with mine, when job seeking or trying to manage upward. They seek it out and find it useful. BUT they really really don’t want to hear it when they don’t seek it out. For one think, they have often heard it before — back when they asked. And the one time they really really don’t want to hear it is when they have had bad news after an interview where their hopes were high.

      You need to train your mother to only give advice when asked. And you probably have to be blunt. As in sometime when you are not in immediate interview crisis saying ‘Mom, I know I can ask for you advice and I appreciate it that you have good ideas when I do, BUT please please please don’t offer advice when I haven’t asked for it and please please please don’t offer Monday morning quarterbacking when something in the job search didn’t work out. It is entirely demoralizing to get a lecture on what I should have done when I am already feeling disappointed and down.’

      Then when she starts in next time it is ‘Mom, I thought we had an understanding here’.

      And when she starts in the second time, hang up or walk out.

      I am lucky in that in our family the kids really can say ‘I really don’t want to hear that now.’ and be heard. But I had to train my own mother as suggested above because she had a knack for the soul crushing comment whether it involved my school, work or social life. I am a bit more sensitive to my own kids because of that — but I also know you can train someone not to do this. And ultimately parents respect adults kids more who can set boundaries although it doesn’t feel that way while you are first doing it.

  51. Seattle Writer Girl*

    Had to come on here and say that I was at a job interview last week where they asked me what blogs I read. I proudly listed “Ask A Manager” as my #1 go-to blog.

    Sadly, the interviewer was not impressed and asked me if I had considered going into HR (the job was for an SEO Projects Lead). I did not get the job. :-( Sorry, Alison!

    1. Ash (the other one!)*

      They were probably looking to see if you kept up on subject matter blogs… As much as I love this blog, its like telling a friend your favorite book is “how to win friends and influence people.” It shows a lack of confidence and like you are desperate for a job. I don’t mean to criticize, but I would never bring AAM up in an interview…

      1. Felicia*

        I did once , because it’s honest, but I understand why that’s not advisable. I also like Captain Awkward which may have similar problems

        1. Ash (the other one!)*

          This is a case where I think discretion is really optimal. Your favorite blog may really be AAM, but that’s not actually what they’re asking. They want to see if you know the field, so in my case I might say “Eduwonk” instead of AAM or Capital Hill Style, which I read regularly, too.

          1. Seattle Writer Girl*

            Wasn’t asking for advice. Just wanted to share. But thanks for piling on!

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              For what it’s worth, I don’t think anyone meant to pile on, but rather to shed some light on what you shared. I think people assume this is an advice-seeking/advice-giving space and don’t always look to see specifically if advice was asked for :)

              1. Ash (the other one!)*

                Yes, my intention was not to make you feel bad. I just got rejected from a job I really wanted, too, so I’m right there with you. I thought it might be helpful to think about why the answer was perhaps not the best for the next time you or someone else faces an interview question like that. Sorry if I made you feel bad!

                1. Seattle Writer Girl*

                  I wanted to come back and apologize for being testy earlier today. When I decided to post my original comment, I thought I’d get some commiserating responses along the lines of:

                  “Ask A Manager is so unappreciated! If only more employers read it, we’d all be so much better off!”

                  Rather than tut-tutting admonitions of:

                  “Well, that was a stupid thing to do! What were you thinking?”

                  If you can’t even feel the AAM love on the comments board of AAM, then where can you?

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Aw :) It’s so easy to read tone into written words, I think. I read it as “ah, here’s an interesting exploration of why that is,” but I can see why you read it as chastising at the time.

      2. The IT Manager*

        Hmmm … I see what you’re saying; although, even that title “Ask A Manager” doesn’t imply “how to get a job.” There’s a lot of job search advice, but most of my favorites questions are the management issues and not the job hunt. Ask a Manager is a blog about how to manage teams in the work place.

    2. MaryMary*

      (Not piling on)

      I used to work with a woman who asked candidates if they had read any good books recently. She preferred if someone answered with the business book de jour, or some non-fiction involving economics, technology, etc. I love fiction, but some of my favorite genres are not always well thought of (romance, SF/F). I always struggled to think how I would have answered. “Oh, I just finished the best time-traveling historical romance novel…”

      1. MJ*

        Last round of interviews we did, we asked for a book the person had read recently that influenced the way they think. They had the interview questions in advance, so they had time to think about it. Their choices: Coelho’s The Alchemist, Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning (which applicant sort of admitted she hadn’t actually read but had been told about), and Alboms’ For One More Day. As this was for a business management position, I was surprised a little that no one seemed to be reading business-y books (or maybe they just weren’t reading any good ones), but it was a great way to get to know about the interviewees, and their choices were meaningful. We’ll be keeping that question!

      2. Mints*

        I see the point of this but I would think “The Fault in Our Stars” and then freeze as I decided whether I wanted to actually admit that. I mean, I think it depends if it was in the context of “how are you keeping up with industry news?” (which could be answered slightly differently) vs “how bout them yanks? read any good books lately?”

        1. MaryMary*

          Well, and to take this back to Seattle Writer Girl’s interview, I feel like that’s the (intentionally, sometimes) tricky part of these kinds of questions. I ‘m not a fan of business books, but subscribe to several websites and a couple journals to keep myself up to date professionally. Especially with the blog question, it’s hard to tell if the interviewer is trying to see if your interests and personality are a good fit for the organization, or if she wants to know how you keep up with the industry.

  52. Sunflower*

    Hopefully this doesn’t get too lost in the comments but I’m hoping someone who works/has worked in one can shed some light on ad agencies? Maybe AdAgencyChick? I don’t really understand how they work or different functions and departments of the agency. Or just Favorite and Least favorite parts of it?

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      I work in a niche area of advertising (medical) — so take this with a grain of salt, because some of it may not apply to what most people think of when they think “ad agency.” But I think at least with broad strokes, there’s a lot in common:

      The basic departments are creative (subdivided into art, copy, and digital; the latter may be separate from those who are considered content specialists, or integrated, especially if the agency specializes in digital advertising), account management (the Pete Campbells of the world, who own the relationship with the client), and operations (editors, production specialists, media buyers, etc.).

      Mad Men makes it look like creatives just come up with new campaigns all day long, but that’s really only about 5% of my job. Most of the bread and butter of the work is, once the client has chosen a big campaign idea that they like, actually executing that idea by turning it into things like Web banner ads, magazine ads, TV commercials, viral videos, etc. Creatives spend much of their time doing this, and sometimes meeting with clients to discuss the work. What makes a good creative, in my opinion, depends HEAVILY on the type of work being done. In my niche of medical advertising, it’s not necessarily the person who comes up with the flashiest campaign that the clients love; it’s the person who understands the content the best and can come up with good strategy. This skill tends not to coexist with the artsy-fartsiness that may serve you better if you’re working on, say, a department store account rather than a drug for a complicated medical condition.

      The account team spends the most time in contact with the client — finding out exactly what their needs are, then conveying those needs to the creative and operations teams. The best account people (from my perspective as a creative, of course) are the ones who keep the clients from bugging me all the time (I like having client contact, but I can’t do my job if they’re ALWAYS wanting to talk to me), negotiate reasonable timelines, and view me and my team as their partners rather than as their order-takers. The worst ones are yes-men who agree to every unreasonable request, then tell us we have ten pounds of sh!t to put in a five-pound bag and then give us half a day to get it done.

      1. Sunflower*

        Good news is I don’t watch Mad Men so I have like zero idea of expectations of an ad agency. I’ve been in marketing/project management so I might be straddling between creative and account management but what skills do you think are most important to succeed in an agency. And what do you look for when you’re hiring a new person. Thanks for you help!

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          Again, this is related to the niche I work in — YMMV based on what type of advertising you’re looking for.

          Whether I insist on prior agency experience depends on the level I’m hiring for. For a junior copywriter or copywriter, I want to see writing skills — we have a copy test that we administer for that — and an interest in science. The writing test is the most important to me — I have been burned a couple of times by hiring people who seemed bright and intelligent when I was talking to them, but who it turned out couldn’t actually write.

          For a mid-level position where someone has to manage one or more junior writers, I would insist on agency experience, and if I can get it, experience in the therapeutic category the account is (because you advertise to cardiologists differently than you do to neurologists, and so on). I used to think you could hire on potential, and I think sometimes you still can (particularly if the person is coming from a related field like being a marketing manager at a pharmaceutical company), but again I’ve been burned by being too willing to hire someone who seemed smart enough to overcome a lack of experience.

          If you’ve done marketing and project management, I suspect account management would be a more natural fit for you than copywriting (art direction requires a pretty high level of graphic design skills which I’m guessing you would have mentioned if you have them). I don’t know what level you’re at where you are now, but if you’re fairly junior, you may be asked to start in the “traffic” or “project coordination” department — these are considered part of operations and they make sure that jobs are routed and reviewed by everyone at the agency in order to make the deadlines set by the account management team. It’s fairly common for people to “graduate” from traffic to an account position after a year or two of using the traffic job to learn the ins and outs of the agency.

        2. AdAgencyChick*

          PS: Do watch Mad Men. Are the particulars of the job accurate? No. But is there a lot of truth to it? Yes, especially the relationships between account and creative and the relationship between a creative director and the writers and art directors beneath him (of course it can be a her, but in Mad Men it’s him).

          Occasionally when my husband and I watch the show together, he can see the steam start to come out of my ears, and he goes, “What? What’s wrong?” and I go, “DON DRAPER IS BEHAVING EXACTLY LIKE SOMEONE I WORK WITH, THAT’S WHAT’S WRONG!”


  53. Sascha*

    Rant incoming.

    Well, I just applied for a job at another university doing database development. From the description, it sounds like a great job that would enable to establish myself in this field – they weren’t asking for years and years of experience in specific things, but rather exposure to SQL reporting and development, a general IT background, and a demonstrated ability to quickly learn new technology. I have all of those things, plus university experience. I really hope this works out, as my job here is driving me crazy.

    My director told my support team a little while ago that the only way we would be allowed to hire additional staff (desperately needed) is if we “fail.” So basically, my already overburdened, stressed and burned out team is going to have to get to a breaking point before management will consider hiring more people. And I don’t think it’s a money thing – we have noticed they spend lots of money elsewhere. It’s just a priority thing. For the past couple of years, it’s just becoming more and more obvious my team is not considered important, even when we receive verbal praise and recognition, and we maintain and support the system that is the foundation of the work our department does. It’s demoralizing and I need to get out, so I’ve been looking for jobs for a while. Oh, and the same director promised me a promotion almost 2 years ago and is still putting me off whenever I ask. Yes, I could have been more assertive about things. Oh well, lesson learned.

    So I hope this job is as a great as it sounds! I think I fit the bill for it, but of course you never know. Fingers crossed.

    1. Frances*

      I’ve been in that work situation — they didn’t actually SAY it, the way your director did, but it became very clear that TPTB were going to keep piling on the existing staff with no extra support until we broke under the pressure. I very nearly did (I got the brunt of the new projects as the lowest ranking team member), so I got out. My manager and coworkers all completely understood.

      I’ve since heard my former job responsibilities have been divided over 2 full time positions and one half time one.

  54. Treena Kravm*

    I’m updating my resume, and I’ve had the same formatting for 3+ years and 2 job searches, so I’m thinking of updating the style a bit.

    Does anyone have any ideas/inspiration that is fresh but not trendy/too much?

    1. Sunflower*

      Depending on your industry, some people put links to their twitter accounts/blogs on their resumes.

        1. Sunflower*

          I’ve seen people put it in their header where the contact info it. I’ve seen it as an icon so you can really only see the link if you click on a computer. I’d have to think that’s pretty particular to people who are looking at social media/writing jobs. I’m in marketing and I’m up in the air whether I would put it on my resume but I lean towards no.

  55. Guilty guilt guilt*

    I have a question about leaving your job. I am currently looking and have been through an intense interview process. There are nerves there, but most of them are centered around the possibility of leaving my current job.

    I have so much guilt about telling my current boss about leaving (eventually) and sometimes I wonder if I should “sabotage” my interview process or turn down offers because of it. It’s a miserable thing, really!

    How do you cope with it? For the record, I’m in a very, very small company where we’ve never had more than 5 employees, total. It’s a family owned consulting firm and I’ve been here 5 years. It was my first real job out of college.

    1. Ash (the other one!)*

      Things aren’t going to fall apart because you leave and the only way for you to grow is to move on. I am sure they will be supportive of that and you just have to keep remembering that the most important thing is your career and your advancement.

    2. Betsy*

      This is one of the most common things EVER. There’s been research done on it, and on the ways employees vest way more emotion in their workplaces than companies do in their people, doing things for loyalty and emotion and guilt instead of, well, let’s call it enlightened self-interest. A lot of times, what’s best for you is best for the company. A lot of times it’s not. If it’s not, do what is best for you. If they really do care about you, they will understand and support you. If they don’t, then who cares about them?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This times ten.

        Whatever you do – do not sabotage the interview. Do not.
        Worst case scenario: They make you an offer. Take sometime to think about it. Then call them to say no thanks. But don’t sabotage the interview.

        We are emotional beings. It’s to be expected that emotions come forward with very bad timing. But don’t let your emotions make your decisions for you. Use logic. Have you carefully examined this new job? Do you think it is a pleasant environment? Is the rate of pay acceptable to you? Will you be able to be promoted?
        What about the boss, do you think you and she will do well working together?

        It is difficult to leave any place after being there for a while. Even nasty places can be hard to leave. What are your reasons for job hunting in the first place? Go back to those and see if those reasons remain valid.

    3. en pointe*

      I don’t have any advice for you but would love to read the replies. I am definitely going to feel guilty when I look to leave my current job, even though they’ll be absolutely fine without me.

    4. Sunflower*

      I feel the same way. I can already imagine all of my bosses faces dropping when I tell him. I am in a small company(about 30 people) and I am dreading the questions that come afterward “where are you going’ “But you only started a year ago’ ‘what are you going to do instead’. I think the thing worse than that is my boss is going to press me for why I’m leaving and I feel like hes going to call BS on my answers. While I will be leaving because I’ll (hopefully) have been offered a better opportunity, I know he’ll know its truly a lot of other things. My advice is to just keep repeating ‘I was offered a great opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.’

  56. Vanilla Bean*

    A good friend of mine was the victim of a layoff a couple of weeks ago. The silver lining is that he hated the job and it caused him a lot of anxiety, so in the end it was a blessing that he was let go. Luckily, he received a decent severance and has been actively looking for jobs for the past year.

    Here’s the problem: A lot of well-meaning friends (including me) and family have been passing job postings to him. For the most part, the postings are related to their field and legit opportunities. However, my friend has developed an elistist attitude when it comes to job hunting and makes excuses about every. single. job opening. Suffice to say, he actually hasn’t applied for that many jobs.

    I want to be a supportive friend, but honestly, I don’t send him job postings anymore because of his attitude. If he didn’t really care about getting a new job, that’s one thing but he calls me frequently looking for advice on his resume, interviewing, job hunting, etc.

    1. Anonylicious*

      Well, if he’s just coming out of a job he hates, he might just be gun-shy about new positions.

    2. Celeste*

      It really is his problem to solve. He will do better pursuing leads if he chooses them. Right now he’s probably in a head space where he feels crappy and nobody can say or do the right thing. Let him work through it, and don’t give him any more help unless he asks for it. At least then you know he wants it!

    3. Sascha*

      I’ve known a couple of people like that, and while they keep asking for help, but they don’t actually *do* anything, I just send them to AAM. It’s solid advice everyone needs, it’s a searchable website, and nearly ever imaginable topic is covered. The benefit for me is that I’m still helping, but it takes 2 seconds to steer them to AAM, so it doesn’t drain me. If they choose to heed the advice here, wonderful; if not, it doesn’t feel so personal.

      1. Vanilla Bean*

        That’s actually exactly what I’ve been doing lately – pointing them to AAM excellent archives.

        You hit the nail on the head when you said “while they keep asking for help, but they don’t actually *do* anything” – that’s what’s been happening. I guess I should have said in this in my initial post, but my friend has basically always had jobs handed to them and that’s probably why they don’t really know a lot about actual job searching.

        It’s frustrating for me because I’ve been in a similar situation before and I was hard core looking a new job even before the layoff happened. It’s hard for me to understand how some people can just do nothing and expect to find a job.

        1. Sascha*

          He may be feeling overwhelmed then, if he has never really had to search for jobs, and in light of what you said regarding his family pressures and over-explanation of his choices. He sounds a bit like a person who has a critical family and always felt the need to defend his decisions. *Asking* for help may be easier for him because it’s something he can control, *implementing* the advice is much harder and more stressful because you’re putting a lot of work into an activity that often yields no results. It’s scary. We can all attest to that. :)

          I love Tinker’s point below: “I think it’s possible to be not all that supportive a friend at times, either because you don’t have the capacity to provide support or the friend doesn’t have the capacity to receive it, and that’s okay and part of the natural cycle of human relationships.” This is very true. A good thing to remember.

          Also this guy could just be lazy. I had a lazy freeloader living with me for a while. He’d often ask me about jobs at my workplace, if I could help with resume, etc etc, but when I found jobs for him, he’d never apply, or turn down all my suggestions. His reason was because he was living in my house rent-free. So yeah, why get a job…

    4. Tinker*

      One question to entertain here would be — why does this person feel the need to make excuses about the job postings he finds unfavorable? This sort of job search process can be stressful, in that one is getting exposed at the same time to a lot of possibilities and a lot of uncertainty as to which ones will actually play out, and it’s not hard to act in ways that, intentionally or not, add on to that stress.

      I’m not saying it’s you, necessarily — he might be anticipating pressure that doesn’t actually exist, or someone else (e.g. family) behaving inappropriately in a way that makes the subject fraught in general. However, if you do expect him to justify his decisions to you, then it might be that unfortunately you are part of the problem — and it’s worth noting that it is easy to be inadvertently offensive regarding a perceived “elitist attitude” in job search preferences.

      If that’s the case, it’s no great mark against you that this may have happened — it’s an issue that comes up a lot, it’s tied to some fairly strong cultural and subcultural narratives, and most of the time the folks involved are very well-meaning.

      In any case, it seems like your present solution is pretty good — he’s not expressing an interest in the jobs you’re sending him, so you’re not sending him jobs. He might be relieved, or he might be reaping the natural result of being a grouch. Either way, it’s not your problem.

      If you’re just concerned about the disconnect you perceive from that he’s also actively engaged in a job search and seeking general advice, I’d suggest that the solution there is to disinvest. Figuring out what you want and can get is a distinctly individualized process, and for better or worse this dude is the one who’s in a position to do it — if he’s doing it wrong, your power to help is decidedly limited.

      However, if you feel like you can’t advise him regarding general subjects given your frustration regarding specific postings, I’d suggest you say so — that you don’t have any advice beyond what you’ve already given, for instance, or that you don’t know how to do what he’s asking for advice on, whatever’s appropriate.

      Overall, I think it’s possible to be not all that supportive a friend at times, either because you don’t have the capacity to provide support or the friend doesn’t have the capacity to receive it, and that’s okay and part of the natural cycle of human relationships.

      1. Vanilla Bean*

        That’s an excellent question – thanks for making me think a little deeper on this. :)

        I do believe that there is some pressure on my friend via his family. Long story short, his family (he’s single and childless, so when I say ‘family,’ I mean parents and grandparents) have been pressuring him to move back to his home state in the NW for quite some time. Now that my friend is jobless, they’ve amped it up even more.

        To answer your other question, I don’t ever ask that my friend have an explanation about why a job isn’t for him, but I’ve noticed that he overly explains his choices in other areas of his life as well. For example, if I say, “Hey, do you want to see that new romantic comedy starring Reese Witherspoon this weekend?” I might get a response sort of like this, “Umm, I don’t know. I mean, I like romantic comedies and all, but I don’t really like Reese Witherspoon, because she got arrested for a DUI last year, and I don’t drink alcohol, so it’s probably not a good idea that I see that movie.”

        1. fposte*

          Oh. That sounds like there’s a lot of struggle in his brain.

          However, I did want to check on another possibility. We hear so often from people who are getting job postings forwarded to them all the time and they’re not nearly as suitable as the senders think–is it possible he’s just barraged and trying to explain away why he isn’t leaping on everything people are sending to him?

        2. Tinker*


          I would bet you that these two points are not unrelated. There are some boundary-pushers in my family who have done that same sort of using a job search as leverage to campaign for stuff. It’s a part of an overall pattern of invasive behavior, and as a result of that pattern I have something of a habit of over-justifying because I come from an environment where things that most people wouldn’t expect to be contested might be contested.

          Like, it’s not happened too often that I’ve actually been called on to systematically justify disinterest in a movie — most of the focus has been on appearance type issues — but I have been argued with about wearing glasses rather than contacts, for instance, and there was one particularly lovely moment when I had to defend not being interested in taking up chess as a hobby.

          (It’s a hard position to defend, if “I don’t like chess” isn’t good enough.)

          If your friend were asking for advice, I’d suggest that he work on that particular habit, but alas there’s not much you can do about it from your end. But maybe that helps to get a picture of where he’s coming from?

        3. Tinker*

          I thought of something else also that pertains specifically to the job search part. One of the things I experienced was that the geographical pressure wasn’t just direct statements about where I should live, it was also all these indirect statements about what I should value and what sort of offers I should entertain that were skewed in favor of the desired results.

          So, for instance, I’m a software QA with an electrical engineering degree, and my folks would send me a posting for a mid-level civil engineer at a sewage treatment plant, which is something that I basically know less than nothing about, but the sewage treatment plant is in their city. In that case I’d get the “don’t limit your options, don’t count yourself out, you can always turn down the offer, why don’t you at least consider it, gosh you’re being so picky, I’m just afraid you’re passing up a really good opportunity here” — meanwhile, if I would mention a posting in software in my city, they’d talk it down — somehow it just didn’t sound good, that company doesn’t sound stable, that work doesn’t sound challenging enough, whatever.

          The trouble this introduces is that then it’s not just a matter of “my folks are saying ‘move here’ and I don’t want to”, if your friend’s experience is like mine, it’s a matter of “I’m being told a lot of things from various people who say different things, they all don’t necessarily agree and I don’t necessarily agree with them, some of them have an obvious agenda that I don’t share — is it the agenda, or am I actually incorrect? How do I tell?”

          And it may be that on top of that your friend’s expectations aren’t reasonable, or aren’t presently reasonable but are still developing (IME that happens in a job search anyway, there’s a calibration process involved). But also, a lot of it could be that you’re stepping in a field that has, unexpectedly, been mined by the behavior of others — he may not be in a position to hear “You can’t expect this, it’s too much” because his experience is that people lie to him using those words, to be blunt.

          I kind of hate to offer problems without solutions, but — again, maybe that puts his behavior in perspective, or suggests an opportunity for discussion based on your relationship?

  57. Artful Dodger*

    Another resume question.

    I read regularly that one shouldn’t go back more than 10 years in a resume. I’m in the position of working the same place, at the same job for more than 20 years. I worked the previous job and the one before that for ~5 years each; all in the same field doing essentially the same thing. The other experience I have over that time is part-time charter pilot and Flight Instructor (totally unrelated to current work.)

    CurrentJob is going through some changes and I see that I may want to be moving on to another employer in the same field. I know to put in accomplishments, etc in the resume, not duties and the like.

    How for back do I go with my resume? And how does my part-time work fit into this? I haven’t job hunted in >20 years, so this is going to be an experience.

    1. Treena Kravm*

      I would just use your latest job. If the 2 ~5 year jobs have truly amazing accomplishments, then maybe. But otherwise, they’re not needed. And definitely not the unrelated part time work. Do you have anything you’ve done in the past 20 years that can demonstrate you’re open to change? Certifications, prof. development etc? That’s probably the main concern you want to subtly address.

  58. Anony*

    Going anonymous for this one.

    I’m starting a new job soon (in a week-ish) and I’m really excited. I’m just wondering if there’s anything I should be doing in the meantime, like contacting my new boss or something, since I accepted the offer a few months ago and have been kind of ‘off their radar’ since. (I’ve filled out some forms for HR in the meantime, but no contact with boss or coworkers since accepting the offer and the quick ‘excited to work with you’ emails.) Or do I just not do anything and just make sure to have a good first day?

    1. Ash (the other one!)*

      I would definitely check in and see if there’s anything you should know in advance and also to remind him you’re coming… people do forget these things!

    2. Betsy*

      I’d drop her a quick email a few business days before the start date saying, “I’m looking forward to seeing you again when I start on [Monday]! Is there anything I need to be aware of on my first day?” If you have specific questions (should I call up from the reception desk; what time is a good time to arrive, etc.), you can ask them as well.

  59. LMW*

    On a happy note, I posted in an open thread in the fall about our upcoming reorg and asked for advice if you might be laid off…
    Well, this week, we finally got our new org structure — no layoffs (the opposite, actually!). So that’s a relief. I just wish our team hadn’t had to spend 8 months being frustrated and unable to make progress on projects because we had no idea where things were going. Everyone seems really happy about where they landed and ready to move forward, so it’s a good ending!

  60. saro*

    I’d like to get everyone’s opinions on this situation. I have a friend whose work is in a similar field as mine and every once in a while (once every 3-6 months), I would ask her a work-related question; refer someone who is interested in learning about her field; or refer someone who is interested in openings in her field. She rarely answered. About a year ago, she said she doesn’t like to help people network because no one ever helped her. I find this claim doubtful but when she said it, it wasn’t the right time to discuss it with her. Since then, I haven’t called upon her for anything but she has emailed me every once in a while asking for information. I answer but it rubs me the wrong way. Her asking for information would not have bothered me if I didn’t have this experience with her. Normally, I try to help people or at least let them know that I can’t help them. I haven’t seen her for a few years and we don’t talk on the phone, so I don’t feel that I can call her out about this. But what would you do in this situation?

      1. Gene*

        I would just stop answering. If you get a question about why you stopped answering, your response could be along the line of, “You said you don’t network, so I was honoring your wishes.”

        1. saro*

          I guess my struggle is that I don’t want to come down to her level. I want to be professional but it is very hard for me to be the bigger person here.

          1. CC*

            Maybe let her know that this particular networking relationship is not working for you, wish her well, and stop answering her questions. I don’t know, I’m not good at this whole networking thing, and I’d probably just stop answering her emails.

            1. saro*

              The thing is, I don’t consider ‘networking’ as anything more than being friendly to people and helping out. So I think I’m taking it more personally than I should.

              1. CC*

                Honestly, I feel the same way. But, this person seems to think that you being helpful to her isn’t networking (since she said she didn’t do networking) so a reminder that it actually is might help. Or it might not.

                It’s also possible that when she said she didn’t do networking she meant only the referrals you sent her way, not the questions directly from you. I have met examples of the attitude that meeting new people and leveraging connections to meet more new people *is* networking, and keeping in touch with colleagues, or asking and answering questions from your peers, isn’t. When you say she rarely answered, which things *did* she answer? If it was mainly the questions from you, then this is more likely.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      “Sure. I will answer your questions, if you will answer some of mine.”

      “Oh, I thought you did not network, so I was trying to avoid bothering you with some questions I have.”

      “I have decided that you’re right. People don’t help me network very much, so I have decided not to network either.”

  61. WorkFromHome*

    Tips for working from home when your motivation is way down? I have been working from home for over a year now. At first it was all sunshine and roses and now I’m really not a fan. On top of that I hate what I do and I’m miserable about the job itself, the company culture is very negative, I’ve lost all confidence in my work from being berated and put down for so long (trust me, I’m looking for a new job). But in the meantime I’d like to actually earn my paycheck, it’s just SO HARD. No one is watching me and I know theoretically I can get away with doing the minimum amount of work to make myself look busy. It takes me about 30 minutes to work up the courage to open my inbox in the morning, and about half the day is spent fooling around these days. Not sure what to do to help myself get motivated to do this job I hate, from home anymore.

    1. Keri*

      I don’t know if this will necessarily help with motivation, but something that works for me, especially when I feel like I can’t get started working from home is making an accountability chart. Aside from the fact that I work from home fairly often, I also have ADHD, and even with being medicated, sometimes I really lack focus and the ability to just get started. But when I write down chunks of my day and what I have actually accomplished during them, it can be kind of an eye opener that gets me going. Nothing like seeing it written on paper that nothing at all has come of the last four hours.

      1. WorkFromHome*

        Thanks! That’s a great tip and one I’ve never heard before. I’ll try it!

    2. Sascha*

      I’m in the same boat! I’ve been looking for jobs for a while now, but I work from home about 60% of the week. It used to be enough to keep me here, but not anymore. My workplace is too dysfunctional, and I’m never going to advance in my career.

      So anyway, I think having a list helps me, like Keri said. I try not to make it too long, just a few things a day. If I make the list too long, I start feeling overwhelmed. Having a physical list of things I must get done helps motivate me, rather than the nebulous list inside my mind.

    3. Treena Kravm*

      If it helps, think of the limited time you may have left and all the accomplishments you want to make sure to get in so you have something great on your resume. Even if it’s a self-told lie!

    4. a.n.o.n.*

      I don’t work from home, but I totally hear what you’re saying and can empathize. I took the wrong job and am pretty miserable. When you’re miserable it’s SOOOO hard to get motivated to do anything. Like you said, you have to work up to doing anything, even something as simple as opening your inbox. I don’t have any advice, but want to say I understand. I hope things get better and you find an awesome job!

  62. New HR*

    Good morning.
    I am having some trouble with my boss. He has been saying that I am too negative when I conduct interviews (although he has never seen me interview) because we have had two people reject us in the past week. I tell the candidates the truth and I highlight the good aspects of working here and show them the organizational chart and tell them what would be expected to progress. I am interviewing for a lower position which is a combination of field rates in the field with a job bonus on top of that, however when they work in the shop they receive am hourly rate of 10% their day rate, which is low. A position I am hiring for is mostly shop work for the first bit and then they will see the field more often and thus make more money. The people I work with want me to stop telling candidates about the hourly rate and only focus on the day rate, which I feel will hurt us because it is not quite truthful.
    What are your thoughts or opinions?

    1. BRR*

      Tell them the more details you give candidates they happier and more productive they will be when they start. If they don’t like details of the job but don’t know them, they’ll start and be mad and probably do a poor job or at least not their best job.

    2. Mandy*

      Tell the truth. I wish during my interview with my former company, someone would have told me the good and the bad. It’s better that they can decide for themselves than for them to find out after starting then leave in a month or so. That’s what happened at my old company. A new employee quit only after a month and didn’t even give a two weeks notice. She just couldn’t handle how negative/abusive the culture was. We ended up wasting more time having to go through the whole recruiting process again. Wasted time and money.

  63. H. Rawr*

    This is a vent and kind of an after the fact “what should I have done?”

    I had an issue with a newer employee yesterday after accidentally denying something of hers that I should have approved (done in a system that sends alerts about those things automatically). Around the same time I ‘d been instructing her via email about a process to complete differently in the future. All of this was very, very, non-vital, non-urgent, low-stakes stuff.

    She called me, and without a hello or referencing our email conversation, or anything, started ranting in different iterations of “this is ridiculous” “this is so frustrating” “In all my years in corporate America I’ve never had to deal with bs like this” “I spend all my time on crap like this and you people think I should be doing this instead of doing my job”. I asked her what specifically she was having a problem with, and said while I was going to try to help her, everything we ask him to do is something that needs to be done, so she needed to be understanding of that. She basically repeated everything she said before. This back and forth of me trying to figure out what she was upset about (at this point I didn’t know the denial had gone out incorrectly, and thought it was about the process change we’d been emailing about), but she just kept saying “I’m looking at this and I don’t understand” before going back to her frustrated rant”).

    The possibility of the mistake dawned on me, I told her it would take a minute to look it up, but it was probably an error and we’d get it fixed. Then she added an very sarcastic “You know what? No. Just forget about it” to the mix, but was still repeating all the other things she was saying before. I needed two direct one-word answers to fix the problem, but every time I asked he kept repeating the “forget it” (usually before I even got my whole question out) but continued to tell me how frustrated she was. I told her it would take me just a few more seconds to look it up, so we could touch base in the afternoon when she’d calmed down a little (this, I know, probably not the best idea). She just escalated repeating the rant and after she said “No. You know what? Just forget it” one more time, I said, “OK”, and just hung up the phone.

    I ended up letting my manager know (in a “hey I hung up on this guy and I know that’s not cool, so if that comes around to you I wanted you to be aware).

    I also called her manager. I gave her kind of a “mea culpa” for the denial mistake I made, but let her know how the phone call went and that I’d really like that to be addressed ASAP with the employee since this was not the type of conversation I want anyone in our office to deal with (which is the kind of thing I’m better able to say because I’m in HR).

    Now, though, I kind of feel like I let the conversation go way too far, and I am not super confident about looping in all the managers. Did I overreact? I did make the mistake. I almost feel like it was some kind of personal conflict that I tattled about (a reminder to everyone that your HR people are employees too!). But, I do genuinely want to make sure that isn’t a habit of hers for the sake of all the other people in the organization who don’t have the kind of freedom to take it to her manager.

      1. WorkingMom*

        Wow… that’s quite a situation. I have no HR experience, but I would think that you handled this fairly well. In hindsight, once you could tell the employee was getting fired up, maybe you could have politely ended the call then so it didn’t escalate further? (But I guess you wouldn’t have known it was going to escalate quite like that.)

        In any case – you admitted your mistake and are working to correct it. I do think it’s appropriate to reach out to the employee’s manager to let him/her know about the employee’s reaction to the mistake. I agree that her getting so upset is not appropriate – she should not be speaking to coworkers in that manner. I also think this is kind of a red flag on her part, considering she is a new employee. That’s pretty crazy to act like that as a new-hire!

      2. hildi*

        This is going to be super long. Apologies for how heinous this will look on the screen:

        I teach a class called Defusing Hostile Customers and this makes me think that you may have jumped too quickly into problem solving/troubleshoot mode when the caller wasn’t ready to go there. Right or wrong, she first needed some acknowledgment of her feelings over this. Don’t misunderstand – this is not a “you have to go all touchy feely with her and bring out a box of tissues and therapize her.” Just a simple statement of acknowledgement such as, “I can tell you’re really upset about this,” or “I’m sorry for the frustration this has caused” or a similar short and to the point acknowledgement of her frustration/anger. One of the biggest mistakes people make with an angry or irate customer is to jump too quickly into problem solving. It makes sense why an employee does: it’s your job to fix problems, the caller is presenting a problem, so why not just dive into to figure it out? The problem with that, though, is the person is still feeling a lot of emotion (anger, frustration, anxiety, guilt, shame, inconvenience, take your pick) and their brains physiologically cannot access the logical parts until that emotion part has calmed down a bit. Like I ask people in my classes: Have you ever been so mad you couldn’t think straight? It’s because when our emotions are so strong, they override the logical parts of the brain (that’s the totally unscientific explanation). Also – a person that is really upset about something just needs to be heard. Doesn’t mean you agree with them. Doesn’t mean you condone them. They just need someone to recognize that it’s a big deal to them.

        Second – this stuff? “In all my years in corporate America I’ve never had to deal with bs like this” “I spend all my time on crap like this and you people think I should be doing this instead of doing my job” – That’s bait. Don’t take it. When people throw out bait, they are trying to knock you off course and control the interaction. They are hoping that they can keep YOU responding to them. Our goal is to stop their personal attack on us and get them responding to us. When someone throws out bait they are also planning on the fact that you will either try to defend yourself (by explaining the situation or giving a reason/excuse for why someone did or didn’t happen OR they are expecting a counter-attack). They are following a script; a game they’ve played for years. But you have to respond in a way that’s unexpected. So first, don’t respond to or defend the bait at all. The part where she said this so frustrating – that’s the part you can acknowledge or empathize with.

        So here’s a formula (and all of this is taken from the really excellent book, “Defusing Hostile and Difficult Customers in the Public Sector” by Robert Bacal). It’s called CARP:

        Control: You need to gain control of the interaction by not taking the bait or by using some control tactics such as telephone silence (if the rant is continuing), or agree with her. “You’re right! That is so frustrating when you receive an error saying you weren’t approved when you were expecting it.” (you should check out more of his stuff for some really awesome techniques)

        Acknowledge: The second part of that example just above is the acknowledgement piece.

        Refocus: You bridge the gap from acknowledging their feelings to moving into problem solving

        Problem solve: this is the part that most employees are good at since it’s usually the task at hand.

        So here’s