I’m afraid my temporary replacement will change my job, confusing job descriptions, and more

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

1. I’m afraid my temporary replacement will make major changes to my job

I am leaving soon on a year-long maternity leave (I’m in Canada) and currently have my replacement shadowing me and working on projects to familiarize herself with my role. She’s talented in the main part of my role, but is also very interested in a lot of other areas that are extraneous to my position. For example, we gave her a project where she was responsible for A, but then she also came back with suggestions and tweaks to B, C, D, and E.

I made a casual comment to my manager about how she might need to rein her in during the next year because I don’t want to come back and find that my position now includes B, C D, E, and whatever else she’s interested in. (And it’s not just that I don’t want to do these extras, but they would honestly take time away from my main function in this role, which in the past has been my manager and her superiors’ main focus.)

Should I bring this up as a more serious topic during my performance review in 2 weeks? I don’t want to tell my manager how to do her job, but she has the tendency to get really excited about the latest and greatest – so I’m worried that she’ll be enthusiastic about all these other areas my replacement can bring to the role and my position would morph into something I’m not all that thrilled about once I’m back in a year.

Ooooh, this is tricky. You don’t want to come across as standing in the way of your company benefiting from someone else’s talents or enthusiasm or as protecting your own interest at the expense of your team’s. And if it’s true that focusing on other areas would distract your replacement from the main work that she’s there to do, presumably that’s a call that your manager should be making. You also don’t want to appear to be worried about her showing that she can cover what you covered and take on lots of other things.

So you need to proceed with caution here, but I think you could say something like this: “I think Jane will do a great job, but I’m worried that she’s primarily interested in taking on new areas, which will make it hard for her to give Main Area X the time needed to do it well. Can we talk about the different ways this might play out and how to ensure that I don’t return to a role that’s morphed into one that’s quite different from the one I’m going on leave from?”

2. Is it okay to write a resume in first-person?

I’m hiring for a student-worker position at my academic institution. It’s a position heavy on writing and editing, so I expect very close attention to detail on cover letters, resumes, writing samples, etc. I got a resume today using first-person pronouns, as in, “I was responsible for editing and formatting my college newsletter. I also wrote articles myself, and took photographs.” I’ve never used pronouns at all in a resume. I’ve never gotten a resume that used pronouns. Is this a new trend that I need to expect, or just this person’s style? Should it raise any red flags?

For whatever reason, the convention is for resumes not to be written in the first person. However, this is an arbitrary convention; there’s nothing inherently right or wrong about it. Moreover, I’m starting to see first-person used on resumes a bit more than I used to, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the convention changes in the next 10 years.

Regardless, I wouldn’t hold it against an applicant, unless the resume overall appears to be more broadly out of touch with business conventions (and then in that case, it wouldn’t be about the use of first person and more about the overall presentation anyway).

3. How can I tell what level a job is when job descriptions are so confusing?

I’ve started looking for a new job because it’s time to move on from my current job. As I read through job listings, it is not always easy to determine whether a position is considered entry level, mid-career, or higher. Some job descriptions seem to have a lot of responsibility but the required years of experience is short, and others want many years of experience, but when I compare the duties to what I do now, it seems entry level. Even the titles don’t seem to offer many clues. I expect a coordinator to be entry level and a director to be senior, but based on the descriptions I’m not always sure. And, then there are specialists, and I have no idea where that one falls in the hierarchy. I’m trying to make sure I don’t waste my time, or theirs, by applying for a job that would not be a good match for my desired career level and salary requirements. Any suggestions on how to navigate this?

Yeah, there can be wide variation from one company to another with titles. I’d put the most weight on the descriptions of responsibilities, but let your impressions there be informed by the amount of experience they’re asking for. The reality, though, is that you can’t always be sure of the level of a role if the job description isn’t clear and well-written (and most are not). All you can really do is take your best guess, write a cover letter that makes it clear what type of work you’re enthusiastic about doing, hope they’ll screen you out if it’s not the right match, and ask questions if you’re invited to interview.

4. My former employer told a reference-checker that they’d never heard of me

A few years ago, I was employed at a small nonprofit. Six months into this job, all employees were told they were unable to pay us and weren’t sure when they would, but that when they did we’d get back pay. I told my manager that I obviously couldn’t afford to work full-time (40-50 hours/week) for free and that I would be happy to “volunteer” my time part-time, but I had to have a paying job. My manager said that wasn’t a possibility and that I should just wait it out, and that when I interviewed with them, I implied I’d be there for a while. I responded that I was also under the impression that I’d be getting paid and that I had to have a paycheck coming in. As you may have guessed, we couldn’t come to an agreement (basically I worked full-time for no pay or I didn’t work there at all) and I ended up leaving.

Fast forward to now and I’m interviewing for a new position. I included this job on my resume because it reflects some necessary skills and experiences for my field and I made quite a few contributions to them. A prospective employer called the organization to confirm I did work there on the dates I said I did, but my former manager told them “no” and that he had “never heard of me.” Luckily, I kept pay stubs and the offer letter from there and showed this to the prospective employer and they ended up hiring me. How do I handle this? I’m most likely going to just take it off my resume because this new job is in my field and the duties are extremely relevant to the industry I’m going into. But if I don’t or if I was forced to keep looking for a job, how would you have handled this situation?

Call them up and make sure it wasn’t an honest mistake. If they claim that it was, then have a professional-sounding friend call to check the reference to be sure that they’re not BS’ing you. But if they continue to refuse to acknowledge that you worked there, I’d turn to a lawyer, who can help you explain to them that giving out false information that’s standing in the way of your employment comes with all sorts of legal risks.

5. Should you send a thank-you note if you weren’t interviewed?

I’m a recent graduate and a firm believer in post-interview thank you notes. I’m also on board with post-rejection thank yous, both because I think it’s important to conduct oneself generally politely, and because I truly appreciate the courtesy of letting applicants know they’re not being considered anymore. It seems pretty obvious that if you have an interview with someone and they then take the time to let you know you’ve been rejected, you should thank them for their time and for getting in touch.

I was wondering, though, if this still applies when the rejection comes very early in the application process. Like many recent grads, I apply for a lot of jobs, including some stretches, and so I get a fair number of seemingly automated and impersonal rejection emails after just sending in a CV and cover letter. If I haven’t interviewed with the organization and the rejection contains no personalized content or feedback, is it still considered polite to send a thank you, or will this come across as too much?

It certainly won’t reflect poorly on you to thank them for their consideration, but it’s really unnecessary — and typically when people talk about thank-you notes, they’re talking about post-interview notes, not anything before that stage.

{ 262 comments… read them below }

  1. Carolum*

    2. Never heard of this being a good idea.

    4. That’s why you should get your employment agreement in writing (if you can).

    5. Would it be the best use of time to send a thank-you note? Probably not. But would it really hurt? I doubt it – you could be making a name for yourself for the next time they have an opening. But who knows?

    1. Monodon monoceros*

      For #4 she did say she had an offer letter and used that as part of evidence for the new job that she had worked at the previous place (the one that wasn’t paying her).

      1. NurseB*

        Exactly. I think Carolum was just pointing out that this is an excellent example of times a written offer can come in handy, even after having left a position.

        1. Mike C.*

          Why rely on that when –

          1. Written offers are at the sole discretion of the employer.
          2. W-2 (and similar forms) forms tell the story much more clearly and are legally mandated.

          1. Taz*

            Only because the written offer usually specifies the title you’re coming in at, and the general parameters (you’ll be full time, for example). This could be important, like with this OP, who only included the job in the first place because of some key skills she learned there (and having been there about 6 months, her position wouldn’t have changed dramatically from the title offered in the letter). W2s show you got paid, which confirms employment, but it could be for almost anything.

            1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

              W-2’s are also sent out in January each year, so it’s not that helpful in, say, August to prove your employment with them.

      2. BRR*

        I think it’s going off of the last post from yesterday about written offers. Concepts in action.

        1. Monodon monoceros*

          Ah, OK. I didn’t read that post, so it was confusing to me because it sounded like Carolum was suggesting something that the OP already had. This place has a great commenting community but sometimes missing a day of AAM reading is like missing an episode of a show and trying to decode what the heck is going on :)

  2. Perpetua*

    #2 – The shift towards first person writing might be a part of making CVs and cover letters (and job ads, on the employer side) sound more personal and less cliche-filled or written jn “corporate speak”.

    #5 – For what it’s worth, we recently had an opening for which we ended up pausing hiring for the time being, so I sent an e-mail to all the candidates saying that. A couple of them responded with a short thank you note, and now that we are reconsidering hiring someone for that role, they were the first on my list for reviewing. The reason for that is that the role doesn’t include highly specific abilities and many candidates could be good at it, so a way to narrow down the choice is welcome.

    It most likely won’t make a difference in the majority of cases, but sending a short e-mail in reply doesn’t take much time and won’t hurt.

    1. AVP*

      For #2, I also think it has something to do with the push for achievement-based resumes. For some reason the “achievement speak” can sound better in first person than third, particularly if you don’t have hard stats to point to.

    2. OP #5*

      Thanks for your input (and of course, thanks to Alison for answering my question)! I figured it was unnecessary in most cases, but it’s helpful to hear that there are some where it might be a good idea, like this hiring pause situation.

  3. Cari*

    I can’t imagine how you would write a CV, cover letter or application form that required more detail about what you did or achieved without using the first person. This is really a thing?

    1. Perpetua*

      Well, cover letters are different, but CVs are often written without using the first person. (e.g. when listing accomplishments “Increased sales by 15%”, “Chosen by the customers as the Most Helpful Employee Ever for 3 days in a row”; “Saved the world. A lot.”, etc.)

      1. AVP*

        I see this but I think it gets sticky if you need to add a second clause to the sentence. Of course, most resumes don’t seem to use sentences that are longer than a few words so that’s probably correlated.

  4. nina t.*

    1. I’m also on mat leave right now (month 3 of 12) and have some similar concerns about my replacement who i helped hire internally from company. She’s ambitious and i get that the role is a great developmental opportunity for her but i don’t want to come back to a drastically different role either. Add in fact that a few coworkers are also already cross training her on tasks that i don’t want to take on (outside my scope of functional responsibilities) and my manager’s talk of potential re-org in department before end of year don’t make me feel that confident.

    Our year long mat leave its great for employees but difficult for managers since they have to hire replacements for the duration and who wants to begrudge them from making most of a replacement/temp hire during that time? Priorities may change while I’m away.

    1. MK*

      I was thinking of this when reading Alison’s reply. The fact of the matter is that, if you are on leave for a year, you have no real way to control what happens to your job during that time. Even if you and your manager agree on what your replacement should and shouldn’t be doing, your manager’s priority will naturally not be to ”safeguard” your role in your absence, but to get through this time with as little disruption as possible to the work and getting the most of your replacement. Not to mention that circumstances might arise and it will make sense to make changes to your role. The most you can do is have this conversation with your manager and hope for the best.

      That being said, even if the job description changes, once you are back in your role, you don’t have to accept the new status quo without question. You and your replacement are different employees, it makes sense that you would be utilised in different ways by the company. The danger is that not so much in the job changing, but in it being ”added to”. If your replacement manages to do everything you did and then some without a significant drop in the quality of the work it might make your manager question your level of performance. Or they might decide it makes more sense to have someone in that role that can perform A, B, C and D competently than someone who can perform only A superrelatively.

      1. GrumpyBoss*


        I can understand why there is uncertainty when leaving your job in someone else’s hands for so long. But positions evolve. Even when people aren’t out on leave, new duties get added and removed all the time. This is the manager’s job to determine what the role should look like, not the OP’s. The OP needs to determine if the role is what they want when they come back and discuss with management if it isn’t. But I can tell you right now – if I had someone going on an extended leave come to me concerned about what their replacement may do to change their position while they are out, I’m going to interpret that as territorial. My job as a manager is to provide a deliverable that requires an entire team to produce it, and I will use all team members at my disposal as I see fit. Ensuring that daily duties don’t change for someone who isn’t even there is not going to be on my radar.

        1. The Wall of Creativity*

          I’m with Grumpy on this one. Such a no brainer that even Dopey woukd agree.

          1. manager anonymous*

            I would advise the employee going on maternity leave not to ” express her concerns”. The temp is just doing what she can to get as much experience as she can during this finite period. Expressing enthusiasm, contributing to the team are not negatives. The manager will have ample opportunity to reign in if the core responsibilities aren’t met.

            That things will change in her absence is a given. As long as we are worrying about outcomes we cannot control, perhaps we can use our imaginations for the positive.
            Let us imagine that the temp is so fabulous at b,c, and d that the management creates a new position to retain the temp permanently on the team.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Yeah. I can’t think of anyone in our place who goes out on mat leave for just 3 months who has come back to the exact same job. Or the same desk. I think one recently came back to the same desk, fluke.

        We do a lot of maternity leave, and pretty well. One of the ways we can handle it organizationally is to keep things moving. We don’t hire replacements, we just repurpose folks. A lot. Babies everywhere.

        1. Chinook*

          It is also important to note that, when it comes to long leaves, maternity or otherwise, you are guaranteed to come back to the same job or a job with the same level of responsibility and pay. Basically, if such a change could have happened while you were there (like an organizational change), then it is also allowed while you are gone as long as it isn’t a demotion.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            U.S., as far as I understand, is “substantially” equal in pay, benefits and responsibility. Additionally, because we are populated by such a large percent of child bearing or potentially child bearing women, it’s in our best interest to make sure that they are happy upon returning and plugged into responsibilities that work for everybody.

            TRUE STORY:
            As I’m typing a reply here, I get an email that one of our mothers to be has to leave a month early. This Friday.

            Are we panicked? Even though this is literally the height of our busy season and she’s a critical player? No. Because we already started preparing two months ago.

            We’ll call her A. In order to prepare for A to be out on mat leave we did the following.

            We decided B was the best candidate to take A’s responsibilities.
            We moved B into working half with A and working half on some independent tasks.
            We moved C into B’s job.
            We moved D into C’s job.
            C didn’t work out in B’s job, so, we put C in E’s job half time and also assigned her to help out team X with overflow.
            E went into an entirely different vacancy
            Still have to fill B’s job, okay:
            F went into B’s job (working out well, yay)
            J took on half of F’s responsibilities and we decided to let the other half go unfilled, that would be okay
            the other half of J’s responsibilities were spread to K, L & M.

            and so, we were ready when A’s doctor said, mat leave starts early. Completely calm, wish her well.

            You can see that A coming back to the exact same job and duties would be the last thing anybody was expecting.

            This is a completely true story.

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

              I forgot G & H & I. I think they are already on maternity leave. We have three + A.

                1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                  It’s only out of 100. I’m not talking a large mutlinational. 5 to 8 are either pregnant or on mat leave nearly all the time.

                  BTW, our voluntary retention is crazy high. I think we’ve only had 2 employees resign in 5 or more years. All of our mothers come back.

                  Most of our employees start with us directly or soon after college so, they have boyfriends/girl friends, get engaged, get married and then eventually procreate. I think one of the reasons they stay is that we’re set up to work with all of their life events.

                  The shower decorations get reused a lot!

                  p.s. I shouldn’t neglect paternity. It’s the norm for the guys to take paternity too but that’s usually 2 to 4 weeks so we don’t usually have to shift people for that.

              1. Taz*

                That is what I was thinking too. Nine current employees shifted to accommodate one employee’s three-month maternity leave. And Wakeen said they do this all the time. From the perspective of an employee I can almost guarantee you that this kind of disrpution drives the vast majority completely batty.

                1. Monodon monoceros*

                  Although it is a good way for other employees to get experience if they do get shifted into something a bit new/a little above what they are doing in their own position.

                2. AVP*

                  But maybe they attract people who do well in this sort of situation, or are happy to deal with it because they also want to use leave without a ton of drama.

              2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                Tell me about it!
                And there’s three other people on maternity at the moment already .

                Believe it or not though, with the right group (and we very specifically hire to culture on this one), it actually healthy. There’s a lot of broad institutional knowledge and understanding.

                Everybody’s jobs are interrelated. We’re not pulling people from completely different business units and divisions and do a big go round that way, but some of the jobs require different abilities. You can’t take the person afraid of the phones and plop them in something customer facing just because you have free body + space that needs to be filled.

                In this case, A was in an ultra critical problem solving/expediting job, so most of these moves were steps up in learning for people with less experience to move into something that was more challenging. A handful were sideway half shifts just to scoop up jobs that needed to be done, but it all had to be done to skill set and natural talent.

                Anyway, as long as we have 7 to 9 babies per year, there’s going to be a lot of shifting. Nobody can say they are stuck in one place treading water, can they.

            2. Cassie*

              I like that you shift people around based on operational needs and didn’t need to hire anyone new (I think?). We don’t have very many maternity leaves (over the past 10 years, 1 person was out twice, and just recently 1 person was out but decided not to come back), but we do have some medical leaves that last 4-6 weeks or longer. The first thing that usually comes to the manager’s mind is to hire a temp (usually a friend of a friend) or bring in someone from another dept as a dual-employment (also usually a friend). All while we have staff who are capable of taking on some additional tasks (these are not specialized positions, and some of the staff are already handling similar duties) and whose workloads are fairly light. It’s sometimes a “curse” to have plenty of funding because the dept just throws money to fix situations, when a solution can be had for free.

              Side note – is anyone doing higher level work than they usually do, and if so, do they get compensated more for it?

              1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                Well we are also growing atm so we have new hires and temps already. There’s a certain set of jobs that we can plug new or temporary people into, but they can’t do a lot to take on volume left behind by people on leave.

                Our people generally run at max for a 40 hour week so we can’t combine jobs to get through a leave unless we wanted to employ magical thinking of “somehow this will all get done”. I don’t know what a fairly light workload even looks like unless it is the real off season. 12 /15 to 1/15 there’s a lot of light workloads (and hopefully a lot of people using their vacation time then.)

                In all of our shifting, there’s no additional compensation tacked on to any set of job duties, but people who do well are part of a progression track. If you’re flagged as doing a great job for 3 months at advanced duties, we’ll plug you into an advanced spot permanently, and that will come with more money. The teapot business is deceptively complex. We don’t waste people who can handle all of the advanced details.

        2. LBK*

          The conclusion of this comment either sounds like you repurpose people to make babies or you repurpose their babies. Both of which are pretty funny images.

        3. B*

          I was on mat leave for 11 months and went back to the same desk. Same job for 2 months then it changed.

          I really wanted to move desks ;-/

    2. Zahra*

      Please check your province’s regulations (or the federal ones if you are working in a federal-regulated industry). Some provinces give more protection than others, so it’s worth checking it out to make sure what you can reasonably ask for.

    3. Poe*

      Hello, I’m your friendly mat-leave temporary replacement! I’m sorry that I am not an exact cookie-cutter replica of you, and I am sorry that I have skills in areas that you don’t. For the next year, though, this is my job, and I’ll be doing my darndest to be an outstanding member of the team. As someone who is hopping from one short-term contract to another to stay afloat, I need every single opportunity I can get. I need shining references, above-expected outcomes, and positive word-of-mouth everywhere I go to prevent me from getting kicked back into unemployment. If that means taking on new tasks and doing things you couldn’t/wouldn’t do, sorry, but I’m going to do it. The difference between us is that in 1 year you have a job and in 1 year I don’t. So please, try not to hate me, because I’m just doing everything I can to keep my head above water.

      1. nicolefromqueens*

        I have no idea if this is the “actual” temp replacement for the OP but even if not, this so much!

        Recovering from a disability before I finished my B.A., I had to shift to another entry-level, menial-paying sector. The best opportunities I’ve had were “long-term” temp positions, where I’ve had to ask “just curious” questions and brown nose a lot just to get a good word from the supervisor. Where I am now (9 months), I was originally told temp-to-perm, but now it’s become “more open ended”. Although because of the union that I do not have the option of joining, I can’t go around doing Tasks C, D, E, F…, I can make suggestions to improve/expedite A and B. Not because I genuinely care in A or B (because I don’t), but I’m interested in showing my current supervisor that I’m interested in going perm, I’m willing to make him loook better to upper management even if my immediate supervisor isn’t. That could make the difference between him pleading to upper management to keep me around in spite of changes made that would otherwise eliminate my job, and if that’s not possible then at least have a very good reference and “increased production” on my resume. But no doubt the perms whose roles have slightly changed have changed their tone of voice with me. But I’m not trying to protect their job, I’m trying to save mine.

        And as a former “trainer” (for lack of an official title) even at a very small business, I think saying ‘I want my job to be this and nothing more or less’ sounds extremely arrogant, among other things. Especially when you’re gone for a full year, by (I’m assuming) no fault of your employer.

  5. Bend & Snap*

    #1 I returned from a 3 month maternity leave to a drastically changed role. All the people I worked with had turned over and I was given a new program to manage–essentially 50% of my job was new.

    It sucked and I don’t like my job nearly as much as I used to. I definitely recommend speaking up now.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      This happens even when people are not out on leave.

      Life is all about change. Work is part of life. Change is inevitable, and you need to get used to that.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        Hey, thanks for the completely condescending and unhelpful comment. Thumbs up for value add.

        1. Graciosa*

          Actually, Jazzy Red is making a good point – the same one that Alien vs. Predator made below, albeit in fewer words. There is a fundamental issue with someone expecting that everything in the office will remain unchanged over the course of a year. I don’t read Jazzy Red’s comment as condescending and unhelpful, and I believe it deserved a little more respect.

          1. Bend & Snap*

            “You need to get used to that” = condescending. I’m 15 years into my career. I’m used to it.

            The role I got stuck with would have never happened if I had been in the office. Change is fine and happens in a work environment. However, my company typically makes these changes in a more socialized and respectful way, taking input, negotiating and easing people in. Because I was out, I got the stuff nobody else wanted, even though the changes weren’t implemented until after I returned.

            Note that nobody was formally assigned to cover my role, so it wasn’t a case of somebody performing better or my feeling threatened. My work was parceled out to several people and given back to me plus a giant new program when I got back. I now have the workload of 2+ FTEs.

            1. Sadsack*

              So who would have been given the stuff you didn’t want if you would have been there to say you didn’t want it? Someone would have been stuck with it and you can’t know for certain that it wouldn’t have been you.

              1. Bend & Snap*

                I would have at least been able to outline my concerns the way my colleagues did. I now have more than double the work of anyone on my team, and my workload was larger than anyone else’s before I went on leave.

                I know exactly who would have gotten this had I been around.

        2. The IT Manager*

          Whoa! Jazzy could have been more emphathetic in her last sentence, but her point is valid. Given all the turnover and the new program, you could have been going to work everyday and still end up in the exact same boat. When your office experieinces such turnover that you suddenly become the most expereinced of your co-workers, you can expect that your job may very likely change.

            1. Greggles*

              Bend and snap I am sorry to hear that. Unfortunately this is what happens when people are out for various reasons, they don’t get representation. Business is a very fluid environment where changes happen for various reasons and in some areas often. How should companies do things differently when people are out and business needs to go on or things need to be restructure or change roles? How should they incorporate people who are on long term leave into that? I have always wondered these things and would love to hear your feedback!

              1. Bend & Snap*

                3 months isn’t really long-term leave. It’s a blip. And I had been in direct touch with my manager throughout.

                I think a courtesy conversation is the minimum unless someone is out for a serious illness. It would certainly be more productive and better for morale than “Welcome back! Everything’s different!” And let’s be honest, “different” is never “better” when someone has been out. Nobody’s going to give a plum assignment to someone who has been on maternity leave. I’ve always been a high performer and was given our organization’s most prestigious award right before I had my baby. There were still consequences for taking leave.

                1. Greggles*

                  I hear you with 3 month not being long term. I work in an environment that changes so fluidly that I am just used to big changes. A client wants to do something and someone else is better suited on executing that or a different facility would be better suited to handle it, they get it. Not a lot of discussion before hand. I have been out for a couple days and come back to new accounts to handle and others on their way out to another peer.

                2. Bend & Snap*

                  Greggles, my former job at a PR agency was like that, and there was never any expectation of returning to the same work or even the same team after leave.

                  I’m now in house at a huge global company, working at one of under 100 of these types of jobs in the country, and roles/workloads are carefully matched to experience and skill sets. Changes are a much bigger deal.

  6. Monodon monoceros*

    #4 I know this wasn’t the point of the letter, but I can’t believe the crazy manager out there that expected the OP to keep working without getting paid! Insanity.

    1. Chloe*

      I know! This boss sounded completely delusional, who can work full time for nothing and no promise of anything in future? It sounds like they were bitter that OP #4 wasn’t willing to accept this crazy situation and now they’re exacting their revenge, in the only way they can. Awful.

      1. Monodon monoceros*

        Perhaps, but people who work at non-profits still need to pay rent, buy food, etc. Unless their particular non-profit was just looking to hire independently wealthy people, then it’s still ridiculous.

        The non-profit I used to work for was not as bad as this, but this is type of attitude is what will make me think twice before I work at another non-profit again. They used our passion for what we do against us at every turn. It was a reason to treat us like crap.

        1. Turanga Leela*

          I’ve seen school boards/districts take similar attitudes with teachers and teaching assistants. “Teaching is a calling,” “Our community needs you,” etc.–all true as far as they go, but not helpful when there hasn’t been a raise in five years and the administration treats teachers like children.

          1. LizNYC*

            +1 to ALL of what you said, Leela! Especially when they want to lower the pay so much that the teachers wouldn’t be able to afford to live in the community they teach.

        2. Dan*

          FWIW, not all non-profits are the same, so I’m curious what you are going to do to “think twice”.

          Any reputable university is a non-profit. Heck, the NFL is a non-profit. I work for one, and you’d never know it — it’s 7000 engineers and software developers providing government services.

          My point, if there is one, is that I find the non-profit stereotype fascinating. I once asked in an open thread, if I were to meet you at a social function, and you tell me you work for a non-profit, what is it that you are trying to convey to me? I got all kinds of different answers, which I found fascinating. So as much as we stereotype, we don’t.

          1. Monodon monoceros*

            Well, I guess I needed to be more specific. I will “think twice” about working for another private non-profit. I have worked for federal & state agencies, a public university, and now work for an intergovernmental organization. I know these are non-profit in the sense that they do not make profits (or whatever there is is invested in their mission), but to me these are not the same as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. The agencies and intergovernmental orgs were/are all vastly more organized and well run than the private non-profit that I both worked for, and other ones that I have collaborated with. Of course I am sure that there are well-run non-profits out there (probably the ones Alison consults for!) but in my experience they are at the mercy of boards who are usually disinterested and un-engaged, poor management due to managers who have risen up the ranks without proper qualifications (Peter Principle), and then take advantage of their passionate middle and lower level staff.

            So yeah, I will think twice by doing a helluva lot more research into the board, the management, the investment into their staff, their financial health, etc. etc.

        3. fposte*

          I think there’s a big difference between the annoying “Hey, exempt person, we expect you to do a lot of work outside 9 to 5, and we’ll make you feel guilty if you don’t because of the nature of the cause,” and the illegal “Hey, hired person, we’re not going to pay you for the work you’ve done.” The first may be common culture, but the second really isn’t.

      2. CTO*

        On the other hand, I’ve worked for nonprofits who took paying their staff on time and in full very, very seriously, even in tough financial times. Good nonprofit leaders (and there are plenty out there) recognize that their employees, as invested as they may be in the mission, still need to eat and probably don’t have a huge emergency fund.

      3. BethRA*

        I don’t think this kind of asshattery is restricted to non-profits: a close friend of mine worked for a tech start up that, at least her first few years there, missed payroll on a regular basis. they were something like 10 weeks behind at one point.

        1. Kate*

          My husband worked for a tech start up like this too. He would get paid in full every few months (after some bugging) and he eventually took a steady job and helped them on the side. One day though they told him he wasn’t being a team player when he asked when the next check was coming. He quit immediately and hired a lawyer.

          1. Anon Accountant*

            He wasn’t being a team player because he asked when he would be paid again?! Were those people delusional?

            Hope he got a judgment against them for back wages owed.

      4. TK*

        Aren’t there laws against nonprofits asking their employees to act as volunteers, save in exceptional circumstances? I feel like this topic has come up before on AAM.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          Oh yeah. That situation is absolutely not legal. A lot of states regulate the maximum amount of time that can lapse between when work is performed and when it is paid for. Even if they didn’t, you can’t change the terms of employment retroactively, you can’t pay less than minimum wage, etc. There’s all kinds of ways that that non-profit is breaking the law, or potentially breaking the law, and honestly I’d be smearing their name if I’d worked there and had this stuff happen to me. At the very least, any leadership that consented to this should be removed, and if I were a donor, I’d probably never give them a red penny ever again, even if they somehow managed to overhaul everything and remove the scourge that is “thinking it’s OK to not pay your employees, AND tell them they need to keep working while not getting paid, AND retaliating against them if they quit.”

          I’m so curious to know if OP ever got any back pay owed?

      5. fposte*

        Most of the people I hear about getting stiffed, on here and elsewhere, were actually in small for-profits. Mom and Pop don’t always like cutting their own intake.

    2. Bend & Snap*

      And so outrageous that the boss tried to use the OP’s commitment to stay for a certain amount of time as a reason to work for free.

      1. Monodon monoceros*

        Yes, totally. I am working on a 3 year contract right now, but part of that contract is that I will get paid for those 3 years. If they stopped paying me, you better believe I would not fulfill the rest of my end of the contract.

    3. Red*

      I’ve got a friend in another state who keeps taking jobs where he ends up unpaid. We’ve taken to calling him the serial volunteer. He’s not working for non-profits, either. I don’t get it!

  7. Illini02*

    For #1 to me its hard to say that without sounding petty and paranoid. Maybe for you, these other duties would have taken too much time away from the main duties, but not for her. I don’t mean that to sound insulting in any way, but its just true that some people are better at juggling many hats than others. My last job started as one thing, but evolved over time to include others that I had an interest in, but I was still responsible for the main things I was hired for. I also have to wonder what the plan is for when you return. Is she definitely out at that point? If not, maybe she can stay on to do the other things that she likes, and you can come back to focus on the main job.

    1. GrumpyBoss*

      When you phrase it like that, this isn’t really all that different than the letter from last week with the coworker asking the OP to slow down and not work so much because of the expectations it will place on everyone else.

      If someone comes in and is able to accomplish more than you, take it as an opportunity to reexamine how you are managing your time, prioritizing tasks, etc. A fresh set of eyes can help you in a lot of ways.

      1. Alien vs Predator*

        I agree. My initial take on the fact that the OP had mentioned to their manager that they should “rein in” the temporary employee was that the OP had just unintentionally made herself look very bad (resistant to change, etc.).

        I’m sure a lot of this is my own baggage from working with too many people over the years that didn’t give a crap about moving the organization forward and, instead, only cared about protecting their own turf.

        1. Colette*

          I’ve said similar things to my manager – not because I’m resistant to change, but because if someone is supposed to be doing A, B, and C but they really like D, it’s important that management is aware that A, B, and C will slip if D becomes the new focus. I don’t think it’s wrong to give the manager one heads up.

          On the other hand, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect that a job will remain exactly the same over the course of a year, either. I know I spend a lot of time doing things that didn’t exist in my role a year ago. Business needs change, and roles change with them.

          1. illini02*

            See the problem with that is just because for YOU A,B, and C will slip, doesn’t mean that it will for the other person. Your “heads up” still comes off like you don’t want to look bad because they are doing this extra task while you don’t. That may not be the case, but thats kind of how it seems to me.

            1. Colette*

              It depends on the situation. There are situations where A and D conflict, for example – so no one can do both. There are also times when someone can do A superficially in 2 hours a day – if the person who normally does A is on vacation, for example – but they need to spend 5 hours a day to do the job fully, which they’d have to do to really do the job for a year. The person who holds the job full time is better able to judge the effort requires.

              There are lots of circumstances where the speed of accomplishing the task depends on things that have nothing to do with ability, such as tools or physical distance.

              1. illini02*

                Thats fair. I really do think it can vary based on the job. As I said, I’ve had jobs where those things weren’t in direct conflict and I just worked faster than a co-worker. Not saying I was better or wore at the job, just did it faster. Because of that, I could take on extra responsibility and duties. But in your situation, that may not have been possible. With this question, we don’t know which it is, but the OP comes off more as being concerned that she doesn’t want her responsibilities to change, as opposed to the fact that these other duties literally can’t be done without sacrificing something else

              2. Greggles*

                If A and D conflict here that is something for the manager to manage though. If task D audits Steps A, B and C then those completing the prior tasks probably can’t do step D, if the temp doesn’t know that the manager needs to follow up.

                When I started my current job, there were 2 people doing what I do and they still couldn’t get it done in the given time. I still to this day can’t understand why. I do my job without and extra person and have taken on additional responsibilities because my time isn’t filled up even on chaotic days. There would have been no way I would have been able to cover for them and not find efficiencies. It would have made me feel as if I was somehow cheating the company. I
                often think that sometimes people have been in positions for so long that they can’t see any other way of doing what has to be done. They can’t see processes for what they are, they can’t change and fine tune something just because they can’t see it. A new person comes in and says oh why do we do step F, it’s really redundant to step B and C, and then they take on another responsibility because F has been removed. The old person comes back and their job has changed to include step H which they don’t like because step F has been removed and they are all beside themselves, when maybe they should figure out how to embrace it and leverage it to grow in their career.

                1. Colette*

                  It’s absolutely true that sometimes there are redundancies that a fresh eye can spot, but it’s also true that not every manager knows the nitty gritty details of every employee’s job. Sometimes the person in that role truly is the best person to gauge the impact/need.

          2. Anonicorn*

            Yes, we have this exact problem in my workplace. Nobody is out on leave, but someone was hired in my role that requires A, B, & C. This person performs poorly at A, B, & C but really likes D and does it as a hobby. So the rest of us have to juggle most of the work from A, B, & C while the recent hire gets to do D almost exclusively.

            1. Greggles*

              I guess the fact of the matter is that someone is not going to be in the role for a year. There has to be an understanding that the role may change a little based on someone doing the job. While one may share their reservations with their current manager, the role may change based on the people in it or even change in leadership. Even if the manager doesn’t know the nitty gritty of the role they need to know enough to be able to manage people and leverage resources to manage a successful team. For a year the team is going to have a different dynamic, simply because someone is not there and the temp has to manage relationships, grow in the job, and do it to the best of their ability.

  8. Alien vs Predator*

    OP #1
    First of all, good for you that you are taking a year-long maternity leave. But, I do have to ask, do you really feel like you have a right to expect your job to remain completely unchanged for an entire year? A year is an eternity in most businesses and a lot generally happens inside a year. If it was just a couple of months, I could totally understand your concern.

    Aside from that, the temp person that will be doing your job for a year presumably has their own set of skills, talents and career interests. In my view, they have every right to pursue the growth of those interests during this year as long as they align with the interests of your organization.

    I really don’t mean to sound harsh, but your letter really comes across as saying that you just don’t want to have to learn anything new. I don’t think it is fair to try to preemptively hold this temporary person back for this reason.

    And, honestly, how do you know that these new functions will take away from, rather than augment, the primary focus of the role if it has not yet been tried?

    1. Alien vs Predator*

      Also, I would add that the job is not “YOUR role”. (Sorry for the all caps. Just for emphasis. I promise I’m not screaming.)

      It is “A role” that your employer needs to have filled, and you just happen to be the one that is filling it for now.

      Again, not trying to attack you. But, it is virtually impossible for me to come away from your very vague letter with anything else. Maybe more details on exactly what the role is and what these new duties are would help us understand your position on this.

      1. LBK*

        Also, I would add that the job is not “YOUR role”. (Sorry for the all caps. Just for emphasis. I promise I’m not screaming.)

        It is “A role” that your employer needs to have filled, and you just happen to be the one that is filling it for now.

        Yes! This is great.

    2. OP #1*

      Thanks to Alison and everyone for their replies so far – I agree that it isn’t MY role (as much as we like to tell ourselves that!) and that my manager absolutely needs to think about what’s best for the company.

      From what I’ve seen so far, my replacement’s enthusiasm on tasks B, C, D, E is enthusiasm without a lot of skill to do really well at any of these areas. My manager chose her because she would be good at A, but so far she seems to be flitting around without getting any of the areas solidly completed. This may just take some more coaching time on my and my manager’s part, though.

      But you guys are right – a year is a long time to be away from a business, and I definitely don’t want to seem territorial (even if that might be how I’m feeling!). I like Alison’s phrase about discussing the “different ways this might play out,” which seems more open rather than territorial.

      1. MousyNon*

        Ahah, this is more info–if replacement isn’t doing A exceptionally well while she dips her toes in B, C, D, and E, then there’s a problem, and her manager needs to address that. However, if A is being handled well, and replacement is showing interest in B, C, D, and E, then her manager should consider mentoring her in those areas so that she can contribute to those areas in a meaningful way as well. The goal, ultimately, should be that replacement does her job well FIRST and once that’s happening, should have the opportunity to branch out in a guided and useful way.

      2. JaneJ*

        If you’re right that she doesn’t have the skill and she’s flitting around but not getting anything truly completed, then I’d say you probably don’t have a lot to be worried about.

      3. Jamie*

        I can’t fault you – I would absolutely be territorial in your position. Not saying it’s right or healthy, but I totally get it.

        I am also a serial job expander – so I worry everyone would approach the opportunity like I would. But keep in mind if they love what she’s doing they can still keep her on when you get back and give her a different position. It’s not either/or.

        I am curious as to how she has the leeway to flit around if she’s not skilled in those areas? Is she just taking advantage of the opportunity to help and learn when she has time outside of her main duties…because that’s how I built my career. I wasn’t an expert at anything when I was temping – but during downtime instead of reading a book or surfing the internet I’d help different departments. I’d recommend this strategy to anyone who has the opportunity. I was new to the workforce so I got to see different departments and jobs up close to see what I was interested in and what I wasn’t.

        1. KJR*

          The last few sentences ring true for me…I am in HR, but helped the accounting department last year when they were short a person. I have absolutely no accounting background, but not only was I able to help them out when they were in need, but I have now developed a huge appreciation for everything that they do. Granted, I was doing very basic paperwork, but I got to see the workload and the precision that was required on a daily basis.

          1. Natalie*

            This is exactly how I ended up in my job (which actually happens to be accounting) and am heading back to school for it in one week. (ACK!)

        2. OP #1*

          I totally agree that it’s natural and good professional development to be taking on new challenges outside of getting the day-to-day done. I think what I’m reacting to is that she is still very new in this role and hasn’t yet gotten a handle on the main task.

          I’m guessing it’s part of her personality to be excited about lots of new areas, but I’m hoping that with my boss’ guidance (and as Cat said below, once she’s solely responsible for my duties) things will settle down.

          1. MousyNon*

            I also think it’s reasonable for you to point out to your manager that Temp is spreading herself too thin and thus compromising assigned duties A, B, and C, or not mastering them as quickly as she needs to. That’s actionable behavior, and pointing it out I think may end up, indirectly, doing what you need it to (i.e. getting Temp to focus on her job duties without overreaching) without putting you in that awkward territorial place.

        3. krisl*

          The other great thing about helping other departments is you start getting a great reputation as a hard worker.

      4. Cat*

        I’m wondering if this will resolve itself once she’s handling all your stuff instead of just being trained on it.

        1. Jamie*

          This is a very real possibility.

          I had an end user tell me that I should do all my own pc builds from scratch – because that’s what he’d do if he had my job. Yeah, no he wouldn’t…because he wouldn’t have the freaking time either.

      5. Meg Murry*

        May I also suggest making a list of the tasks in A that aren’t necessarily part of the day-to-day, but need to get done for the big picture? Chances are you replacement is going to handle the basic tasks of A that hold down the fort, but you should make clear to your boss the tasks that might slide if your replacement is focusing on B, C, D and E and only skimming the surface of A. I wouldn’t necessarily phrase it that way though – maybe just point out what things tend to slide when you get bogged down, and how that impacts you being able to do your job.
        Case-in-point – I’m filling in for someone who is on vacation right now, but I have fewer hours a day to do her job, since I also have to do my own. I’m getting the most important stuff done, but when she comes back, there will be a 2 week backlog of filing that needs done, and I’m not going to be able to do more than a really quick “make sure nothing is terribly wrong” end of the month reconciling instead of the thorough job she usually does. I would remind your boss of these things – you don’t want your replacement to get so caught up in B, C, D and E that you come back to a 6 month backlog on filing and account reconciliation (for instance).

    3. Canadian Info Pro*

      Actually in Canada (where the OP is from) 1 year is the standard and there are in fact a lot of protections and VERY specific wording regarding those protections for new parents i.e. this section from the Ontario Pregnancy and Parental Leave section of the Employment Standards Act:

      The Right to Reinstatement

      In most cases, an employee who takes a pregnancy or parental leave is entitled to:

      – the same job the employee had before the leave began; or
      – a comparable job, if the employee’s old job no longer exists.


      So in this case, I don’t think it’s at all out of line for the OP to be worried about the situation she is describing given her context.

      1. Kate*

        I think the point was more sometimes positions naturally evolve and her job might be slightly different when she gets back depending on the needs of the business. Yes, her job might be A but if the temp has been doing A and a little B when she returns her job may now involve A + B. And maybe B didn’t even exist when she left but now it does.

  9. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #3

    This is something I’m struggling with, also. I was a VP at my last job (17 yrs) and I had a lot of variety (tiny company, many hats). There are lots of job descriptions that I read and they sound great, like the role was written for me, but then I see “1-3 years experience” and it’s a total mind-boggler. It helps to hear that “coordinator” would be closer to entry-level. That was something that was confusing for me.

    The question I have is, how many years of experience would be considered mid-career? 4-6? 7-10? Something else?

    1. Judy*

      I personally would consider mid career at least 10 years, and more likely 15 years.

      But I come from a world where it takes 5 years to completely design a new chocolate teapot from scratch, design the assembly line, take it through the US department of teapot testing, get all the approvals from the International Teapot Committee, run pilot assemblies, and go to full scale production. A 10 year employee may only have worked on 2 projects in their career. But usually the first 2-3 years of a career is doing teapot cost & quality changes, until the next big complete product line redesign happens.

      1. Red*

        This sounds pretty intense. I hadn’t conceived of an industry where the timeline on projects is this long. I guess I thought you’d start a new project each time you pass your prototype/documentation off to the itty bitty kitty committee for review.

        1. Judy*

          I spent 7 years in the 90s at the company who was the world’s largest auto maker at the time. I was on 2 projects.

    2. LQ*

      Wouldn’t mid-career need to be something like 15+? I mean just mathematically, unless you assume lots of different careers instead of just my career, I guess. But you’re going to work more than 8 years, no way 4 years is mid career.

      I’ll work maybe 50 years, so really 25 years would be “mid”.

      1. Student*

        No job takes 25 years of experience.

        These aren’t meant to be gauges of your total time as an employed adult. They’re how much experience you have on tasks relevant to the new job. More specifically, they’re the amount of experience you need on a skill set to manage the new, advertised job.

        There are lots of tasks where someone with 10 years isn’t meaningfully better than someone with 2 years of experience, even with equal levels of task competence. Not everything takes a long time to master.

        I can’t personally comprehend of anything that would take >10 years to master. Frankly, I have a hard time believing that any job task set takes more than ~5 years to master. I can imagine subjects where it takes ~5 years to become well-versed and well-connected. I think most tasks take less time than that to comprehend, though. It doesn’t mean people stop learning and progressing after 5 years of a subject; it just means that it doesn’t take that long for a newcomer to catch up.

        1. Sara M*

          How about professional fiction writing? ;) Most of the masters have a 30-40+ year career before mastery (depending on definition).

        2. Judy*

          I think we’re talking about different things. You’re talking about jobs and tasks, and I and several others are talking about careers.

          I’m a software engineer. I’m a senior level, nearly 20 years experience. I’ve trained lots of just out of school CS & EE grads. In 5 years they are pretty well self sufficient at doing tasks that take 2-4 weeks to complete. In 10 years of working as a software engineer, they can start to do leading of others, breaking down the large projects into the 2-4 week “bites” for the more junior software engineers. But I can certainly say for the first 2 years, it takes daily check-ins, weekly code reviews and lots of supervision. It’s not easy work.

          I also can say at 20 years, I’m still learning daily about how our systems work.

  10. TotesMaGoats*

    #2-I had to re-read twice. (Must have coffee before reading AAM.) At first I thought the OP was saying the cover letter was in the first person and I’m immediately confused. Of course the cover letter is in the 1st person. Then I realized OP was referring to the resume. That seems a little weird. Not horrible. Not put them out of the running. Just a little weird. I’ve seen a few written that way and it seems to be from the younger generation.

    1. First Person OP*

      It was the only one from my pile of resumes written that way. The cover letter was normal and actually really good, so I couldn’t decide if it was me being old and out of touch. It just seems to add to my general impression that “let me tell you the story of my life” is replacing “let me tell you why I’d be good for this job.” For me, it was jarring and weird.

      1. Kelly L.*

        And of course the “I” is implied in a more standard resume–everyone knows who “Supervised 6 employees” or “Increased sales by 10%” or whatever. I wonder how the “don’t use I” convention got started! I find that kind of thing really interesting. :) It’s not quite like the research-paper thing of using the passive voice instead of I–it’s the active voice, but with the subject lopped off.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Or maybe it’s all really in the third person, and you’re supposed to read the name at the top as the subject of all those sentences. As in, “Wakeen P. Mulberry…increased sales by 10%.”

        1. TK*

          Does anyone know what the convention is for resumes in languages (like Spanish, Portuguese, Italian) where pronouns are embedded in the verb? You can’t have an ambiguity between the first and third person there. I would guess they’re just written in the first person, but I’d be curious to find out.

          1. Mints*

            Huh, I was curious too and I googled it. Some use nouns as skills/responsibilities like “software design” and “customer service.” But some used first person conjugation without the pronoun, and these were a bit stronger with accomplishments. I’m not actually sure if that’s a new thing or which is standard.

            If I’m still curious about this in a few days I’ll ask my mom about it and report back in the open thread

            1. Jen RO*

              Please do! I always send my English resume to jobs instead of the Romanian one, because I never know how to address this first/third person thing. (My job *is* to write in English, so I don’t look like a weirdo.)

      2. College Career Counselor*

        First person resumes are not all that uncommon coming from students applying for campus jobs (particularly first year students). They’re either unaware of the typical conventions regarding resumes, or they’re making an effort to write in complete sentences. While the career counselor in me would want to inform the student about resume conventions, otherwise I’d be inclined to laud the student for writing in complete sentences, especially considering some of the other student writing examples I’ve seen over the years.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I wonder if Word told them they were using fragments, and they thought they needed to fix it!

      3. Observer*

        I’ve always seriously disliked the “standard” convention of not using “I”. The fact is that the resume IS in the first person – avoiding the word “I” is little more than the “emperor’s new clothes.” As Kelly L points out, “supervised x employees”, “increased sales by y%” etc. all are already in the first person, just missing part of the sentence.

        1. Mints*

          But in English, it could be read in third person too “Kelly supervised x employees.” Maybe that flexibility is why that’s the format

          Although I always suspected it was to save space (I have no idea)

          1. Observer*

            And the third person construction sounds really pretentious. I’d never hold it against an applicant because I know it’s standard practice, but I still don’t like it and I’m glad that a more sensible approach seems to be showing up.

      4. De Minimis*

        I see that type of thing sometimes on LinkedIn, and maybe people are starting to do resumes that way too.

        1. first person op*

          I wondered if online forms require something like this, or imply it? Maybe that’s where the first person ‘convention’ started?

          1. fposte*

            I think it’s actually more natural than traditional resume style. That doesn’t mean it’s better, but I can see people defaulting to autobiography.

            1. De Minimis*

              I do it a little on my LinkedIn because I’ve seen others in my field do it. But it’s never occurred to me to do the same on my resume.

  11. EG*

    #4 – Did you ever get the back pay from this former job? If not, I’d also report them for unpaid wages. It sounds very much like management’s ethics are absent.

    1. fposte*

      Totally agree. It’s probably too late to get the money, but at least the DOL would be informed.

  12. Tasha*

    #2: It’s sad that you would consider rejecting an otherwise qualified candidate because of a resume style thing. I’ll bet you’d reject a Comic Sans resume too.

    #4: Christ what an a$$hole.

    1. first person op*

      Wow that was rude. I was trying to find out if I should shift my expectations or learn something new myself.

      1. AVP*

        uh, me too. (Although I’d be okay with a first person one!) But comic sans just says, “I’m FUN and will not pay any attention to business norms ever because I’m way kewler than that!”

    2. fposte*

      Well, I don’t think she was talking about rejecting the candidate, but if a candidate can’t master a resume style that does affect their qualifications for some positions. I’d reject a Comic Sans resume for positions in career guidance and communications, for instance.

      1. businesslady*

        I may have mentioned this here before, but years ago I saw a candidate’s resume for a VERY high-level position, & it was in Comic Sans. said candidate was having a somewhat perfunctory interview with my (also high-level) boss, & afterward I couldn’t resist saying “so, what did you think of that font?” & she made a face.

        I don’t believe that person was ultimately hired, & while I can’t imagine poor font judgment was the only reason, it probably contributed (subconsciously, if nothing else).

        I’ve read that Comic Sans is easier for people with dyslexia to read, which justifies its existence in the world, but it’s got enough associated stigma to make it verboten for job application materials.

    3. MousyNon*

      I’d absolutely reject a weird font choice–it speaks to the candidates poor judgement, and lack of understanding of the industry their applying to. Maybe this sort of thing is common/acceptable in big data or design (“Here is a print out of my artfully designed Google+ page!”), but not in my little corner of the world, and I’d argue not in most industries.

      Sooo yeah. I’d recommend staying away from Papyrus, is what I’m saying.

    4. Pretend Scientist*

      I have two colleagues at Big Pharma who use Comic Sans as their default email font. I also received an official letter from a Sponsor representative, hard copy via FedEx as the content was important, printed in Comic Sans. I was horrified.

  13. Hiring Mgr*

    Not to sidetrack, but do all Canadians get a year of maternity leave? How much of that is paid? Wish we had more family friendly policies like that here in the US..

    1. Colette*

      Kind of?

      Canadians covered by employment are covered for up to a year – some of it is maternity leave only, some of it is parental leave. It’s not at full salary, unless your employer tops up the EI benefit to whatever you’d normally make.

      Details are here.

    2. Diet Coke Addict*

      Sort of–a woman giving birth is entitled to 15 weeks of maternity leave, and parents are entitled to 35 weeks of parental leave between them, which they can choose to divide if they want. You have to have worked at a company for something like 15 weeks prior to taking leave. It’s paid at something like 55% of your pay or an arbitrary number which is determined annually. Your work must keep your job for you or return you to a job with a similar degree of responsibility afterwards.

      Link to follow.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        That’s amazing. My husband got 0 paternity leave. We brought the baby home on Saturday night and he went back to work Monday.

      2. Aam Admi*

        You receive 55% of the average earnings through the Federal employment insurance program. Some employers also contribute to a supplementary insurance plan that tops up the EI so the person on leave is guaranteed to receive 85% of earnings.

      3. lucy*

        How do they track the parents time off if they work at different locations?

        For example… if the couple isn’t married, and the mother is raising the baby by herself and wants to take advantage of the 35 weeks, but the father also takes time off, even though he’s not taking care of the baby? I know that’s stretching but I am so curious.

        1. JMegan*

          Yes, it’s tracked by the federal government, and both parents have to identify their SIN (equivalent to SSN) and their partner’s. It’s up to the individual employer to manage top up, timelines, pay and benefits admin, but the leave itself is managed federally.

          It’s a great system. My ex and I split the leaves for both of our children, and it worked out really well for both of us. I got to go back to work and spend time with adults, and he got to stay home and bond with the babies while they were still little and cute. :)

          1. Diet Coke Addict*

            That’s actually exactly what one of my coworkers is doing–her husband is a teacher and her baby was born in the late spring, so he had all summer off already. Come autumn, she’ll be coming back to work to be with adults, and her husband is taking pat leave instead. Everybody wins!

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Canadians: Do you find employers are hesitant to hire pregnant women because they don’t want them out for a year soon after starting, or are they more blase about that than they would be in the U.S.?

        1. JMegan*

          I don’t know about the employer side, but as a job seeker, I definitely scaled back my search when I was pregnant because I *thought* they would be more hesitant to hire. Perception is reality!

        2. Observer*

          If I understand Canadian employment law correctly (I’m not Canadian, so I could be off here), it’s not something they are allowed to officially base employment decisions in most cases. However, in some European countries with liberal leave policies, this appears to be an issue. I say appears, because the employment numbers suggest that it is, but no one is officially saying that this is the reason for these hiring decisions. So, there really could be other things going on.

        3. De (Germany)*

          Hmm, from reading this website I got the impression that pregnant US jobseekers are very hesitant to show that they are pregnant before they receive the offer. More than women in Germany in my experience (3 months maternity and 14 months parental leave).

        4. Joie de Vivre*

          I’ve done a ton of hiring but haven’t had that many interviews with pregnant women. As JMegan said I think a lot of pregnant women scale back on job searches due to their impending maternity leave. However, I have had a lot of interviews with women coming to the end of their leave. Launching a job in the second half a 12 mth maternity leave, with a guaranteed job to return to if it doesn’t work out, seems to be more typical planning.

          That being said, I have hired pregnant women (in fact, once to replace a maternity leave!!), knowing they will be taking leave, if they are the best candidate.

          In general, being prepared to cover extended maternity leaves in Canada is just part of managing your business. In some cases, women planning to have their children close together may even return to work pregnant. So you just need to have good plans in place to manage the inevitable.

        5. Cath in Canada*

          Everywhere I’ve worked in Canada (12 years, 4 jobs) has hired plenty of women of childbearing age, although I can’t think of anyone who was hired while pregnant. In my current team we seem to have at least one person out on parental leave at any given time.

          The fact that you can split 35 weeks of the year’s leave between the two parents in any way you want, and that plenty of fathers do take at least a couple of months (at least at places where I’ve worked), means that the “risk” of hiring a woman of childbearing age isn’t that much higher than the “risk” of hiring a man of the same age.

        6. Colette*

          I haven’t seen a lot of pregnant women interviewing, although as others have said, it’s common to interview while on leave (and sometimes to cut the leave short to take a new job).

        7. esra*

          Everywhere I’ve worked has been cool with it. Covering maternity leave with contracts or other staff is so common it’s never really phased anyone. It’s a fact of life and I think most of us are happy the opportunity is there for new parents.

          1. Felicia*

            And a large percentage of people either have had or would like to have kids, so people are grateful for it that way. A fact of life would be a good way to describe how most people view it – sort of like the universal healthcare we have is also considered a fact of life.

        8. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

          Not Canadian, but in New Zealand we have 14 weeks paid parental leave (not full rate, I think it’s up to about $504.10 per week) and up to 52 weeks total leave. Oh, and that leave can be split between both parents if you want to :) The paid leave is paid by the government, not directly by the employer – a lot of companies I’ve worked for will pay a lump sum after you’ve been back at work for a certain period of time, but that’s not law, just a common-ish perk.

          It probably helps that the entitlements don’t kick in until you’ve been with an employer at least 6 months (to get the 14 weeks, 12 months to get the 52 weeks), but it’s not hugely common for employers to be hesitant to hire women of childbearing age. Hiring a pregnant women is generally treated like any other “hey I want this job but I’m going on vacation soon after starting” situation, in my experience — but generally if people fall pregnant in a job they’ve been in for a while, they’ll stick it out until they go off on maternity leave and resign at the end of their paid 14 weeks.

    3. JC*

      On a related note, Canadians, do mothers almost always take the entire year off? I’m an American woman and I wouldn’t want to be out of the workforce for so long even if it was paid and my job was protected. But I’d imagine that when you’ve been paying into a system that allows you to take the leave and the expectation is that you’ll take it, you’d be much more likely to do it.

      1. Chinook*

        I thin whethe or not a parent takes the full leave depends on a lot of things, including if you cvan find childcare as most places don’t take infants. But, if they do go back sooner, it may also allow the spouse to take off in conjunction or after.

        As for professional impact, I don’t think there is a stigma in general but it may vary. But, the parents also understand that the year off doesn’t count as oddice experience and are responsible to keep up professional credentials.

        1. JC*

          That’s another thing I was wondering–if many daycares even take infants under 1 in Canada, since it seems like there isn’t a whole lot of demand for it. I know that in the US daycares many don’t take kids under 3 months, and that has figured into many of my colleagues’ decisions on how much maternity leave to take.

          1. Felicia*

            It’s very rare to find a daycare that takes infants under 1 in Canada – you’d have to do home daycare or something.

      2. Stephen*

        Most couples take the full period, although I think more and more often they they will split it between Mom and Dad. Still its much more common for the mother to take the full year, since the current recommendation from most doctors is to breastfeed for at least a year.

        I imagine if you are in a position where you get no top-up from the employer there is a temptation to go back early to get your income up to where it was, but since those positions tend to be lower paying, it probably doesn’t amount to much after daycare.

        I have a male collegue whose wife’s employer is paying her 100% of her wage after the first 15 weeks of her mat leave so he can take the full 35 weeks parental leave and take advantage of our employer’s top-up, so they are both home full time and drawing full paychecks. Nice work if you can get it!

      3. Aam Admi*

        My department has a staff of 35 women and two men. Four women went on their year long mat leave this year. Of these, two are having a 2nd child and had recently returned from caring for their first borne. One person had a third child and has been off for three of the five years she has worked with us. Scheduling & coverage is a nightmare but management is used to this and reacts quickly and our staff give us a lot of advance notice to hire & train temps.
        The mat leave benefits (employment insurance and top-up) received by the staff on leave will not get charged to our department’s budget. Rather the insurance premiums are charged to the employer/employee with every pay cheque. So the financial implications are not that serious.

    4. Long time lurker!*

      As others have said, a large part of it is parental leave. I run my own business so am not eligible for government paid maternity leave, but my husband took six months of parental leave after we had our youngest baby – and because he works for a large organization with good top up, he was paid at 86% of his salary and we got to keep our benefits.

      Also my prenatal care, the birth of our baby and follow up care cost us $0.

      I love being Canadian.

  14. Kate M*

    I actually recently received an intern resume written in the third person. “Mary accomplished X and Y. Mary covered these subjects. Mary attended this conference.” To me, that was a lot weirder than first person (although she still had good enough experience that we ended up interviewing her). I was tempted to send an email to her saying “Would Mary like to come into an interview on Wednesday?”

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve never seen one like that. All the ones I’ve ever seen are in first person, but they don’t have the pronoun I on them. Usually it’s like “Boosted sales figures from 10% to 47%” and the I is implied.

      1. Jamie*

        Mine would dwarf War and Peace for length. Bullet points are the only thing that stem my rambling…thank God for standard resume formatting.

  15. Zahra*

    Actually, mothers get 17 weeks of maternal leave. The other parent gets 5 weeks, if I remember correctly. There is also a 37 weeks *parental* leave, which can be split between the two parents. In practice, many women take the bulk of all the leave they can, but I’m seeing more and more men take a chunk of the parental leave. The leave is entirely paid through either Employment Insurance (unemployment benefits) in most of Canada or the Parental insurance plan in Québec.

    In Québec, employees pay about 0.6% of their pay to QPIP, employers pay about 0.8% of the employee’s pay (on top of what the employee pays) and self-employed people pay almost 1% of their revenue. The weekly cost to employees is minimal, but the benefits are worth it (between 70% and 55% of your gross pay, depending on which part of the leave we’re talking about: the first few weeks are paid at 70%, the rest at 55%). Some employers will “top-up” the benefits so you’re basically getting as much money as if you were working. During that period, you still accrue Vacation time and can contribute to your employer’s health insurance to remain covered during your leave.

    1. NoPantsFridays*

      I heard (not sure) that it also covers adoption leave. So you can take the 37 weeks even if you adopted a child (and thus don’t need medical leave, but just parental leave).

  16. JaneJ*

    #1 – I mostly agree w/ Alison’s response, but I wondered how, as a manager, I would respond to the last statement: “Can we talk about the different ways this might play out and how to ensure that I don’t return to a role that’s been morphed into one that’s quite different from the one I’m going on leave from?”

    I feel like I would feel kind of negative about an employee saying that. First of all, you’re leaving for a year! I’m an American so, granted, it might just be a cultural difference. I’m aware that a year is standard in Canada, but it seems like a huge amount of time. In my organization, lots of things change in a year. And roles/responsibilities change too. If there’s a business need to change your job, it’s my prerogative to do it. I’m required to hold a position for you, not guarantee that the business won’t move forward in your absence. I just feels like kind of a weird thing to say.

    On a separate note, I’d be interested in hearing from Canadians on what they think of the year-long maternity leave from the business side. I feel like it’s great for families and a pretty awesome benefit, but it has to be hard for businesses to replace people for that long, and then also get them back up to speed when they get back.

    1. Zahra*

      I think it provides a better protection for women’s jobs: it’s easier to find someone to replace a person for a year, and, since businesses get more advance notice than when a person leaves their position, they have more time to hire and train the replacement. I haven’t seen major challenges to get people back up to speed, but I wasn’t managing them and we were doing mostly entry-level work.

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        Mat leave contracts can also be a great way for people to break into a field–businesses can be more willing to take on someone not perfect as a yearlong contract temp rather than a permanent hire, and it can lead to field opportunities as well.

        1. JaneJ*

          That’s a really interesting point. I know young college grads here are struggling to find work in their fields. Sometimes because there are so many people with much more experience. That’s kind of a cool benefit to job seekers.

        2. Cath in Canada*

          Yes, this has definitely been true in my current team. Parental leave coverage jobs in my department last ~18 months (3 months overlap with the person you’re covering for at either end of the year’s leave), and the team has grown at a rate that allowed every single person brought in as mat leave cover to get hired permanently when the person they’re covering for comes back to work.

    2. Colette*

      I haven’t seen an issue, but I have mostly worked for large companies. People go on leave at every level & come back – it’s not a big deal. I could see it would be a bigger impact in a smaller company, but I believe they can hire someone else, because they aren’t paying the employee on leave.

      It’s also not unique to Canada. The UK seems to have a similar leave option.

        1. Marcia*

          Yes, this is true. It’s pretty sad that everyone’s (Americans’) first reaction to hearing about mat leave is, “Isn’t that inconvenient to workplaces?” That matters more than a family being formed, a baby born? It’s insanity.

          1. Cat*

            I agree but I do I wish this was more often framed in terms of parental leave. Men are part of that new family too.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            That’s not most Americans’ first reaction. From what I’ve seen just on this site, most Americans’ first reaction is “wow, I wish I had that.” And then we ask about logistics, which is a reasonable thing to wonder about.

    3. Looby*

      For my friends that have taken the year’s leave it has been great, not least because your child is in day care at “infant rate” for less time overall. However at my work we have not been able to find replacements for the last 3 (overlapping) mat leaves due to the highly specialized nature of the roles. This means that those of us left behind take on more work, not because we have the skills necessarily but because we know the projects and there is no alternative. We have 2 mat leaves ending/ returning in the fall and I couldn’t be more delighted; I’m also counting down to the person I work closest with returning in 9months and 1 week!
      However as a happily child free woman, with strong liberal leanings, I appreciate working in a country that supports parents with decent parental leave policies.

    4. Joie de Vivre*

      It’s actually not as hard as you might think to replace longer mat leaves.

      We generally hire mat leave replacements as a 18 month contract position. This has the new hire starting a few weeks before expected leave for training and gives a few weeks after for transiting the new Mom back into the workplace. Many returning from mat leave come back part time for the first couple of weeks to adjust to daycare more gradually. In several of our larger departments, a successful contract employee is kept on permanently wherever a position is available when their contract ends.

      As many have already commented, in 12-18 months a lot can change and it’s unreasonable to expect that you will come back to exactly the same job that you left.

    5. Felicia*

      In my experience, your reaction would be more of a cultural difference. Canadians don’t see it as a huge amount of time or a big deal. It’d be more of a big deal if you didn’t take the year, because everyone does.

      A lot of peopel get their first post grad job from a maternity leave contract! I’ve never seen it cause business problems either

    6. esra*

      America is the only high income country that doesn’t provide parental leave, so employers all around the world find it manageable. With parental leave, you know it’s coming for quite a while so there is a lot of time to prepare, get the replacement up to speed, and adjust the workload if need be.

  17. MousyNon*

    re: #1, I’m not sure how I feel about this one. I’m arguably the type of person the OP is talking about–i.e. someone who tends to stretch beyond their official job description because a) I love troubleshooting and b) I’m building a professional reputation–and I don’t think it’s reasonable or fair to plan to ‘rein her in’ before OP or OP’s manager has seen actual evidence that her contributing to other projects is actively affecting her given job function (from OP’s description, it doesn’t sound like that has been the case).

    The actual job duties aren’t necessarily going to change. In my example, I’m involved in a whole host of additional areas that have enriched me professionally (and my reputation has substantially benefited as well) but no reasonable manager or department would assume those “extracurriculars” are now an official job-function everybody in my role has to perform unless that’s something my manager explicitly wanted. And if OP’s manager wants to add certain job duties to the role because the temp performed them so well, then that’s something OP will need to discuss with her manager once OP steps back into the role. And yes, there’s a risk that OP will “look bad” because the temp makes a name for herself (it happened in my situation, though I in no way did it on purpose), but that’s just reality when you work in a team environment.

    Anyway, tl;dr please don’t unnecessarily squash the temp’s ambition and talent before there’s an actual problem. There’s nothing wrong with OP saying, once she steps back into the role, “hey, I know Jill did X, Y, and Z, but I’d rather focus on A, B, and C” and discuss with her manager as necessary. Who knows, maybe Jill will be able to continue doing X, Y, and Z as a function of her existing position, which helps both Jill and the OP.

    1. Bend & Snap*

      It is way harder to change something once it’s established though. I’m trying to change my post-maternity leave role with very little success, even though my management knows I’m unhappy and acknowledges that my workload needs at least 2 people to effectively cover it.

      Unfortunately businesses don’t always have the resources to change things.

      1. MousyNon*

        Which is a fair point. However, I’d argue that if a (good) manager won’t/can’t change the work-load in your situation, it’s because something happened to necessitate an increase in job duties/responsibilities (maybe budget cuts, etc). I can’t imagine a situation where a temp just happens to take on some additional duties being so impossible to change once the original employee comes back, but admittedly I could be wrong.

  18. Jamie*

    Worked with a temp once who would answer calls that they had never heard of X, or Y wasn’t in today when Y was in her office…because she didn’t want to route calls or take a message.

    She didn’t do it with every call – but tossed them in there. No doubt in my mind if someone called asking about former employee Q she would have answered as in the letter.

    Horrible people are out there, so hopefully it was just a one-off and not the former employer disavowing themselves of you – but like you said – you’ve got pay stubs.

    And whafuk on calling you out for not staying “a while.” Seriously? I know many people on here are more generous of spirit than I, but one missed check and my HK stuffy and framed Ace Frehley guitar pick/trading card are in my purse and I’m turning in my phone, key, and credit card. Game over. And believe me – my employer wouldn’t expect anything different from any of us. They get that we’re not here because we don’t have anywhere else to be during working hours.

  19. Jamie*

    #3 is one of my biggest pet peeves. My other, no salary range in the ad, would go a long way toward solving both issues.

    I’m in IT. A systems analyst, network admin, system admin, network engineer, IT generalist, IT manager…the list goes on…could be anything from glorified help desk to CIO duties without the title and pay. The range is so ridiculous the titles mean almost nothing. So you have to look at the responsibilities and try to suss it out from there.

    Until you see they are asking for 5 years experience in a platform that’s only 3 years old, or for some weird amalgam of imaginary skills*, or any number of things that make you cock your head and stare at the screen with the same look your cat gives you when they watch you take a shower.

    And the blind ads with no company names who need someone to run their network but don’t bother mentioning if it’s 5, 100, or 10k+ end users….or give any indication of the size number or type of servers. How many machines? Who knows. And “knowledgeable in software to run production machines” is about as specific as looking for a doctor that will “treat various specific ailments, but we won’t tell you which ones.”

    Ads for technical positions should be, if not written, at least thoroughly vetted by someone technical or as an employer you look like a toddler running around with the lid on his sippy cup leaking and just desperately shoving it in the direction of anyone who can solve his problem.

    *named ERP which runs on PSQL but requires experience not in PSQL but Oracle. Leaving the potential candidate to wonder what other application they have running Oracle that’s not mentioned only to find out that the HR person who wrote the ad thought Oracle and PSQL were the same. True story.

    1. Perpetua*

      This is one of the reasons I’m working really hard on making my bosses understand that their input is invaluable to me when it comes to writing job ads as their HR manager. Sure, I could (and do) research similar openings, as they suggest, but me trying to figure out which responsibilities and characteristics out of those mentioned in other ads are applicable and important for our situation is simply much less productive and effective than them giving me as much info as possible on the “ideal” candidate, since they know the business the best and most likely already have such a person in their head.

    2. Joe*

      “Until you see they are asking for 5 years experience in a platform that’s only 3 years old” – I once had the flip side of this. We were interviewing for a Java developer in 2002, and got a resume from someone who claimed to have over 10 years of Java experience. (And no, he had not worked at Sun.) Needless to say, we did not hire him.

  20. super anon*

    1) Is it ever okay to tell your manager to “reign” someone in? I’m not in management, but if I was I would not think highly of someone who is my subordinate telling me what to do in regards to a new hire, especially when it’s really none of their business what happens because they’ll be leaving for an extended period.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      I have to agree with you. Maybe the manager *wants* fresh eyes on the procedures and duties of this job. It’s likely that the job will change somewhat during the year that the OP is off, because jobs evolve over that much time. But it’s the manager’s call, not the OP’s.

  21. Allison*

    OP #1, if I was going on leave for a whole year I too would have similar concerns. I’d be worried that when I came back, the role would be so different that I would no longer be considered a good fit for it – and, conveniently, they’d already have a replacement who’s been there for a year. Now, I live in the States, I don’t think 1 year of maternity leave is common down here, but I am curious what people experience when they return to work after that year of leave. Is the transition back to work generally smooth or tricky? Is it common for women to come back and find their jobs totally changed? I mean, I’m sure everyone needs a little bit of training on this or that new technology or procedure the workplace adopted when they were gone, but do people sometimes come back to find that the work they were doing is suddenly obsolete, and replaced with a whole new set of skills and responsibilities?

    Not that I’m dismissing the OP’s concerns; again, I’d probably have them too. But I just want more context regarding the realities of taking a year of leave in a typical workplace.

    1. NoPantsFridays*

      On this note, what would suck for the employer is if the temp is actually a better fit for the role / performs better than the OP#1, but they can’t keep her on. The employer can’t fire OP#1 as soon as she returns from her leave, I think that would be illegal, so the temp must be let go after the OP returns, even if the temp was better at the job. With this in mind, if the OP told me she wanted me to rein in the temp, I would definitely think negatively of that.

      1. MT*

        I believe the employer could keep the temp on at the current role, as long as the OP returns to a similar position. In both pay, rank, and responsibilities. It doesn’t have to be the exact same job.

        1. NoPantsFridays*

          Oh ok, so they could bring the OP back to a very similar role while keeping the temp on in the original, modified/expanded role. So I guess it would only be a problem if they would rather fire the OP but can’t — which doesn’t sound like the case.

          1. Jamie*

            It’s not just firing her, although that’s clear cut illegal, but the wording about what “nearly identical positions” is open to interpretation.

            For instance – I’m the Director of IT (or CIO depending on which boss and which org chart you’re asking.) But I’m also the head of cost accounting and QC (don’t ask – weirdest amalgam ever and assures I’ll never find another fit.) If I went on leave they couldn’t have me come back as the office manager or working on a machine in the factory (even at same salary/benefits/schedule) because that would clearly be substantially different. But if I came back and I was still the head of cost accounting and QC – but they had a new IT and it was restructured so I had some IT duties, but restructured…is that nearly identical? To many people yes, to the court maybe, to me – absolutely not. Now I come back and there is another person in charge of certain other aspects of my job which leaves me more time to do the stuff I don’t hate…it may not be identical but I’m wondering who to hug.

            In the first hypothetical I wouldn’t take it to court, but if I couldn’t finagle my way back into what I had and what I wanted to keep I’d do some soul searching and decide to either live with the new deal and embrace new challenges…or look elsewhere. But that’s me – I don’t see how you can have a good working relationship if I were to sue to get my old responsibilities. Even if I won – it’s too awkward for me and I’m awkward enough without lawyers.

            From the DOL website:

            Can my employer move me to a different job when I return from FMLA leave?

            On return from FMLA leave (whether after a block of leave or an instance of intermittent leave), the FMLA requires that the employer return the employee to the same job, or one that is nearly identical (equivalent). If not returned to the same job, a nearly identical job must:
            offer the same shift or general work schedule, and be at a geographically proximate worksite (i.e., one that does not involve a significant increase in commuting time or distance);
            involve the same or substantially similar duties, responsibilities, and status;
            include the same general level of skill, effort, responsibility and authority;
            offer identical pay, including equivalent premium pay, overtime and bonus opportunities, profit-sharing, or other payments, and any unconditional pay increases that occurred during FMLA leave; and offer identical benefits (such as life insurance, health insurance, disability insurance, sick leave, vacation, educational benefits, pensions, etc.).

      2. Felicia*

        1 year maternity leave replacement contracts are so common here (everyone takes a year off pretty much!) that if you’re working one of those you kind of know what you’re getting into.

        I’d actually be curious to hear from more Canadians where the year off is a standard thing to see how it’s handled – I imagine some American based advice wouldn’t apply. It’s been standard here for 15ish years so presumably there’s a common way to handle it.

  22. Colorado*

    #1: I couldn’t get past the one-year maternity leave statement. Oiy, we could sure learn a few things from our friends up North!

    1. Felicia*

      It’s also one year paid maternity leave :) 55% I think. It’s fairly standard and if you don’t take it people will question you. I love being Canadian.

  23. Another J*

    Regarding the thank you note –
    I work at a university. Years ago, we hosted a training seminar and opened it up to people from our area to attend. One person wrote a thank you note about the event and we were so pleased about it that we hung it on our department bulletin board and send an inter-office e-mail out about it. A few months ago, when we posted a job within our department, the thank you note writer applied for it. She was well qualified and got the job. I cannot say it was directly because of the thank you note that was written years ago, but I do know it gave a good first impression.

  24. Etienne*

    Re: #4 This has been a big, big problem for me in the past, as I often work as a consultant/contractor/project basis. I am well known among experts in my particular field, but for one who may work with companies/organizations who contract someone like me, the NON-experts (i.e. those working in the fiscal side, support staff, etc.) wouldn’t likely know who I am. As a consultant/contractor, I’ve never in my life met any HR staff anywhere. I am contracted by senior execs to to my job and advise them in my area of specialization. Thus, THEY know who I am, but those not in their sector would have no idea. No HR person would know my name or what I am paid, as my checks are paid to me as a consultant/vendor – not as payroll. And, once said exec may leave that company/organization, there goes the person (and her/his tea) who know me and my work so well. It’s an international field, so someone who was once in the US may easily be next in Singapore, Nigeria or other overseas center.

    I had a particularly awful experience when I was being courted for a senior staff position by an organization relating to my next-step interests—one which hires staff only and really never uses consultants, etc. They had found me through online write ups of my public lectures and related forums, read my bio and reached out. Before I sent them a resume though (which I’d have emphasized my consultant status and been able to, if asked, to provide contacts for my past client now no longer there) they went and preliminarily contact several of the organizations mentioned in the bio (the projects I steered for them are notable and well-respected among experts in my field.) In 2 of the cases, they were told that I “was never employed there” and they “never heard of me.” Both of which you could say, WERE true. I was a consultant, not an employee, and naturally, yes, they would never have heard of me. In a large organization, I only ever meet and know the senior exec who contracts me for their sector project, the team members, any assistants, and the accounting department. That’s it.

    That might not have mattered, but said company who did this pre-resume research then went and spread patently false information, that I never worked at such and such, etc. AND, they posted it on online in some forums. It took me months to convince the forums to delete the info, but I’m sure there’s some damage remaining. I haven’t been able since to get any “transition” jobs like that one, further to my plan to transition out of the consulting idea for a longterm staff role.

    What a nightmare, and will likely happen again and again.

  25. soitgoes*

    There’s another aspect of maternity leave that I’m not seeing anyone else address (my apologies if I missed it): the reality that many women end up not coming back to work despite their promises to their employers and their own personal plans for themselves. If the OP intends to have more than one child, that’s several year-long stretches away from the workplace, most likely without full years in between each of those leave times. Someone who is going to be in and out of work for upwards of a decade cannot expect her workplace to function as if she were there every single day for those years. That’s not fair to the business or to her coworkers who did not choose to have children of their own.

    I work with a woman who is gearing up to have her first of several planned children. She talks about coming back after her leave, but we’re all going forward under the assumption that she won’t be back (due to what we know about her life and her husband’s job, not because of any sexist stereotypes). We’ve had a few women promise to come back after their maternity leaves, but after having more kids and seeing those childcare costs go up, they all end up staying home. This is starting to touch on other issues that I don’t think are worth hashing out right now, but these are the results that have to be acknowledged when someone makes a life choice that inherently means that her job is less of a priority to her. You can’t do everything you want and expect other people to work around it.

    1. Judy*

      I’d only say that in the US, the statistics say that 63.9% of mothers with children under age 6 were in the workforce.

      I’m not sure I’d understand a workplace that (1) a person would talk about having the first of several children and (2) everyone “goes forward under the assumption that she won’t be back”. We’ve certainly made plans for things when someone is going for extended leave, such as pregnancy or a heart surgery, what to do if they can’t or choose not to come back, but it’s not what everyone does, only the team leadership.

      I’m not sure how having kids is a life choice that inherently means her job is less of a priority to her. I was more intent on working once I became a mother. My husband is generally healthy, but he carries extra weight, and his father, paternal uncle and maternal uncle have had heart disease, one fatal at an age that he is nearing now that our kids are 8 & 10. I was not going to place myself in a position to not be able to support my kids.

      1. Jamie*

        There is no simple answer to this. Legally the employer needs to hold her job someone on maternity leave and to protect that right and use FMLA the woman usually states unequivocally that she has every intention on returning.

        It would be stupid for a woman to quit or take an unprotected leave of absence if she’s undecided about whether or not she will return. I would advise anyone to state their intention of returning unless they are 100% certain that they won’t.

        However, reality is in my experience a little over 50% of the people with whom I’ve worked didn’t return. Some tried to work out a part time thing, some just quit. I don’t believe anyone took maternity leave with this intention, but this is a situation where your intentions can honestly and totally change after the baby is born.

        In some work environments it’s really tough to juggle work and a new baby. And if the baby gets sick or there are issues with child care it’s hard enough to handle – but if everything is new (especially first child) that can be very complicated to navigate if you have a job without flexibility.

        And I’ve known many women – both at work and in my family/personal life – who have every intention of coming back to work asap because they didn’t want to be home even though they could live on one income…and that changes after the baby is born.

        Not all women – maybe not most – but it’s not uncommon. More often than not in my work experience, but that may be the industry.

        I am in no way saying we should assume they won’t be back, or that people shouldn’t have babies and have their jobs protected – by no stretch am I implying that an employer should do anything but assume the woman will be returning as planned unless she says otherwise. But just as my employer can’t assume I’ll never be hit by a bus, there should be contingencies in place to replace any key employee to you’re not temporarily hobbled.

        I guess my point is I don’t think anyone is saying that by having kids her job is less of a priority – but in some places where more people than not don’t come back it’s human nature to make personal assumptions even when the employer must and should operate under the assumption she is coming back as planned.

        You made the choice to go back to work based on the needs of your family and your own circumstances which is exactly as it should be. But we all have different needs, circumstances, and options and where you were more intent on working once you became a mom I didn’t start my career until I had been a SAHM for 15 years.

        1. Colette*

          Totally agree it’s an individual choice and that there are a lot of factors – I have one friend who, if she had had to stay home any longer, would have left a friend-shaped hole in the wall like in a cartoon.

          I actually think it’s easier for an employer to deal with an employee who doesn’t come back if they have already been gone for 6 – 12 months than if they’ve been gone 6 weeks.

        2. Felicia*

          I’ve never heard of women here (also in Canada) never returning, though I’m sure it happens. I would imagine it happens less often because having a year off is standard, and expected, and if you don’t take it , people will question you (not that everyone takes it, but most people assume you will). You get paid a percentage of your salary (55% I think? I can’t remembe,r none of my peer group is having babies yet), and you’re guaranteed your job back when you return or an equivalent job that pays the same. And we don’t rely on our jobs for basic healthcare (only dental and prescription), so with those options, I’d say it’s more common to take the year off (standard, in an office job) . So while it’s still a choice, it’s a different (and probably easier) choice for Canadians.

          1. Mints*

            I’m not sure on the numbers, but it seems to me that women would be more likely to come back after a year leave than than only three months, because of the physical work of infant care. Besides the emotional stress and cost, once the baby is a little older, it’d be easier to go back to work. (Kids don’t sleep through the night til like 6-9 months, right?) I like kids, but the the physical work of infant care is so daunting to me

            1. Jamie*

              The longest any of mine took to sleep through the night was 10 days. They may not be perfect but I won the sleep lottery with mine.

              And you have a good point. The biggest struggle I see is when the baby is sick and new parents have to juggle the time off work since most day cares won’t take them sick. There is a huge difference in the immune system of babies at say 8 weeks and a year. Not that they never get sick or it’s not an issue – but it’s not as constant as it can be for really new babies.

              I have such respect for people who can manage the whole day care/work thing because it would stress me out to a crazy degree.

              1. Mints*

                Woah! I saw this late, but I had to comment on how seriously impressive 10 days is. I’ve literally never heard anyone’s (baby) sleeping that well

      2. soitgoes*

        It’s not a statement about my workplace to assume that my coworker won’t be back – it’s my knowledge about her husband’s job (7 days a week in a city 90 minutes away) and her plans to have 2 or 3 more children within the next five or so years. Unless she suddenly comes into enough money to pay for daycare for several young children or she has family members who are interested in helping out to that degree, I think it would be foolish of us (her coworkers) to go forward as if she’s going to be here in the long term. If anything, she’ll reenter the workforce when her kids start school.

        1. Colette*

          You do understand that her finances and family situation are not your business? Maybe her mom is moving down the street, or her husband is changing jobs or staying home, or she has come up with some other method of childcare that is, again, not your business.

          You need to assume she’ll be back until she tells you otherwise.

          1. soitgoes*

            It’s my business in the sense that she talks about these things openly. It’s my business in the sense that I have to literally do her job while she’s away.

            I brought up a very specific situation that I actually do know the details of to illustrate that, while we’d certainly welcome her back, it’s not unreasonable for companies to allow job descriptions to morph while women are on maternity leave.

            1. Colette*

              It’s really not your business. Whether she chooses to talk about it at work or not, you don’t get a vote on how she runs her life, and you don’t get to decide that you know what,. She will choose better than she does.

              1. NoPantsFridays*

                Her business may not be my business, but the business is my business, if I’m involved in running the business.

                1. Colette*

                  And if you want to run your business in accordance with the law, you have to assume she is coming back until she tells you she is not.

                2. NoPantsFridays*

                  I guess my issue is more with the law than with people taking advantage of it, or people complying with it.

                  Kind of like I think people should be free to smoke pot but I wouldn’t blame anyone for not smoking it because they don’t want to be caught.

    2. Colette*

      In Canada, you have to work a certain number of days to qualify for EI – so if you came back to work 6 months pregnant, you likely wouldn’t qualify for another full year off. (I admit I’m too lazy to look up the relevant numbers).

      It’s true that some women take themselves out of the workforce, but many don’t – and so what if they do? The business’s responsibility remains the same – if the woman comes back, they have to find her an equivalent role. If she doesn’t, they can hire someone else (or decided not to hire someone else).

    3. Anonymous*

      I agree with you that this comments section isn’t a place to hash out women’s rights in the workforce, but I find much of your second paragraph very offensive. Especially that women who have children are making a “life choice that inherently means that her job is less of a priority to her”. I can’t really find a way to go into specifics in a way that AAM would find productive, so I’ll just leave it at….gross.

      OP – I think it’s fine to tell your manager something like “We both know that A, B, C, D and E are important parts of the role. New Person seems most naturally excited about D and has already spent a fair amount of time brainstorming offshoot projects, and I think her enthusiasm is a great sign for her overall fit in the role. However, A, B and C are really where I spend most of my time and are facets of the job that can have large ramifications on the department if neglected. I know priorities will necessarily shift while I’m out but I just wanted to bring that to your attention.”

      1. soitgoes*

        Why’s it gross to state that being out of work for a year would tend to signify a change in priorities? I sincerely HOPE that she cares about her children more than her job.

        That said, I can’t stand behind the thought process of “I won’t be here for a year, but you have to progress with me and my personal quirks in mind.” Nope.

          1. soitgoes*

            If he takes a year off so he can stay home with the kids while his wife goes back to work, I would say that yes, he is less committed to his job than men who choose not to do that.

            1. Colette*

              That’s not far from saying that someone who is out for a different medical or family reason is less dedicated than someone who is working, and it also implies that coming to work when you are sleeping two hours a night due to a colicky baby is more dedicated that staying home.

              Fundamentally, I do not equate showing up with being dedicated. I think what you do when you’re there is more important than whether you have a life outside work.

          2. PointofView*

            Yes, anyone who chooses to do one thing vs a different things, puts more value in the choice that they make. Taking a year off work, means that staying home for a year, is more important than working that year. No matter who makes then choice to stay home, they have prioritized that option over the other one.

        1. LostCustomer*

          I had a co-worker, she was 100% dedicated to one of our clients. She was hired because she had a great reputation with this client. She had a lot of flexibility with her schedule, because the neither the client or our company didn’t micromanage her time. She either traveled to their site, or worked from home based on what was required that week. She took off 8 months for maternity, and about 3 months in the client contract ended and they chose not to re-up the contract. When she did come back, her old position didn’t exist any more. The company bent over backwards to find her a position, but it was a desk job where she was required to work from the office, she hated it and quit after 3 months back. Moral of the story, jobs change, it sucks. You can either live with it or move on.

    4. Student*

      “This is starting to touch on other issues that I don’t think are worth hashing out right now, but these are the results that have to be acknowledged when someone makes a life choice that inherently means that her job is less of a priority to her.”

      You would never say that an expectant father was making a life choice that made his job a lower priority. This is a sexist statement, with underlying assumptions that women should be relegated to changing diapers while men are building up their resumes.

      Not to mention the non-stereotypical families that increasingly make up a large share of the population: single mothers. Then consider single fathers, same-sex couples, adoptive couples, extended families, and so on. Attitudes like this hold so many people back.

      1. soitgoes*

        She’s choosing to leave work for a year. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. It is a neutral statement about something that she is actively deciding to do to meet her life goals. Even so, your response to me is a bit insulting to women who’ve chosen to follow other paths in life. Not every woman prioritizes the concept of careers as highly as others, and that’s okay. Acknowledging causes and their effects is not the same as judging or casting something as a regrettable consequence.

        1. Felicia*

          Also it’s important to note that in Canada, choosing to leave work for a year after having a baby is standard and almost expected. Not that you have to, but most in the professional work choose to . And non birth parents can have a significant amount of time off too (30something weeks I think), a birth mother just gets both pregnancy leave and parental leave which adds up to a year. I don’t think it’s really considered taking yourself out of the workforce here, because it’s so common and standard. And they legally need to keep your job for you when you get back – if not the same job something comparable at the same pay.

          1. MT*

            In the US, taking a year, for any reason, would be considered taking yourself out of the workforce.

            1. Felicia*

              Well yes, but the OP is in Canada, where taking a year of maternity leave is a fact of life, and in the rest of the developed world, doing that is the norm. So “taking herself out of the workforce” wouldnt apply to the OP making a common and socially accepted (and expected) decision

          2. NoPantsFridays*

            I am surprised it’s expected. I lived in Canada (Ontario) for 12 years, and honestly, most of the high-level management/director women I knew who had kids went back to work within 2-3 months of the birth. And they were working from home most of those 2-3 months. Their husbands/partners also took some leave, but even between the two, it didn’t add up to a year.

            1. Felicia*

              Maybe it’s only expected at all the places i’ve worked and in my extended social circle (ive primarily worked in medium sized non profits, and i’m talking about extended family here) so for those people, all the way up to the director level, the prevailing thought was “of course they’ll be taking a year off” I’ve never experienced anyone (also in Ontario) who only took 2-3 months off…i think people would ask them why if they did. Even when I was born, in Ontario, 24 years ago, my mom took 6 months off (which was the standard at the time).

              I think someone up thread said the average leave for a baby in Canada is 44 weeks, so the norm would be closer to a year than to 2-3 months.

              1. Felicia*

                Yup…just checked…stats can said the average is 44 weeks, though it is variable, with the average so close to a year I’d imagine in most workplaces a year (ish) would seem standard. I do know someone who just went back to work after 10 months, and the general reaction to her having a 10 month old and talking about how she was on maternity leave was to ask if she was going back soon, no one was surprised because it’s so normal.

                1. NoPantsFridays*

                  This is really interesting. I saw the 44 week stat too and find it baffling. I am assuming it is true, of course, it’s just remarkable. Thanks for your comments.

    5. NoPantsFridays*

      I don’t agree with you exactly and normally I wouldn’t comment, but I feel like I have to say something, because people don’t see to grasp what you actually said.

      Having kids is a perfectly valid life choice one can make, but that’s just it — it’s a *choice* like any other. Yet, one is handed a 37-week paid leave for it. I have no objection to the medical part of it — you’d get something similar for other elective procedures. Getting into a car accident or suffering some terrible disease are NOT choices, and you don’t get a comparable leave for those, only the medical leave.

      This is not about being family-friendly — there is no paid, 37-week leave to care for a sick relative, e.g. parent or grandparent. (In the US, there’s FMLA, but it’s unpaid, not 55% of salary, and it’s shorter.) It’s not about family at all — it’s about the government incentivizing/rewarding certain life choices and not others. Of course, they also do this in other ways. Not to mention there are plenty of people who cannot have children and would never have the opportunity to use the leave available to them. Could someone without kids take 37 weeks off to care for an aging relative or ill spouse? That’s not a rhetorical question, but I think the answer is “no”. (If different countries have varied policies, I’d love to hear.)

      1. Joe*

        While you’re right that for an individual, having kids is a choice, it’s most definitely not a choice like any other. First off, there is the biological imperative. Yes, not every person feels the desire to have children, but it is a strong instinct in many (most?) people, and is something that most people are more disposed towards doing. Aside from that, though, there is the societal imperative. There’s a reason that the government incentivizes having children, it’s because society requires that people continue to breed and produce new generations. If too many people choose not to have children, then society as a whole suffers. And if people have children but are unable to take care of them and help them survive and grow, then the same problem arises.

        So yes, for any one person, having children may be a choice, but for the collective group of people, it’s not.

        1. NoPantsFridays*

          An instinct doesn’t justify breeding. By that rationale, if you feel an instinct to have sex, that’s justification for raping someone. It’s not. You have responsibility for your actions and it strikes me as irresponsible to chalk something that significantly impacts someone else’s life — that is, the life of your child — to an “instinct”.

          Of course that’s the reason the government incentivizes it — the state has an interest in propogating itself. That doesn’t mean you have to help it. The continuation of the human race is an arbitrary end.

          1. Joe*

            You may consider it arbitrary, but the human race has an interest in propagating itself. If we’re going to let the human race end, then pretty much all of this conversation becomes meaningless, so I feel justified, for the purposes of this discussion, in considering that a given – if you don’t accept the premise that we want the human race to continue, then I don’t think we can even try to have a conversation about this. So if you do accept that premise, then it is in the interest not only of the government, but of all people, to provide some incentives to those who are able and willing to have and raise children. We would want to (and in fact do) set some guidelines around those reward systems, but for the benefit of all, we should not penalize people for having children.

      2. De (Germany)*

        One year in Germany, yes. Unpaid, but you are guaranteed your job back.

        I find the mostly US mindset of “you made this choice, have fun dealing with it” utterly baffling.

        1. soitgoes*

          Late response, but the American attitude is due in part to how utterly terrible the job market is right now. To us, it’s actually a bit appalling that someone would want her job to sit empty and unchanged for a whole year when other people desperately, desperately need the work.

        2. NoPantsFridays*

          I find it baffling that people here think it’s OK that you can do whatever you want and the government will subidize it.

          1. Joe*

            You can do whatever the government wants to subsidize, and the government will subsidize it. There are an awful lot of things out there that people want to do that the government doesn’t subsidize.

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