open thread – August 29, 2014

Olive-LucyIt’s the Friday open thread. This post is for work-related discussions only. Please hold anything off topic for the free-for-all open thread that’s coming this Sunday.

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

{ 1,029 comments… read them below }

  1. M. in Austin!*

    My coworker and I were discussing interview questions and he insists that certain questions are illegal. I tried telling him that the questions themselves are not illegal (except questions about disabilities), but that using the answers to make/influence a hiring decision is illegal, and that’s why most companies make sure not ask those questions. I was breaking out my AAM knowledge!

    Too bad he insisted I was wrong. He was actually quite rude about it. Does anyone have any links to a government site (or even scholarly article) that says the questions themselves are not illegal? I’ve had no luck on the DOL site.

    I’ll show him AAM, but I know that if that’s all I’ve got, he’ll show me the overabundant results from google that disagree with Alison about this. :/

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think you’ll find anything on a govt site saying that they aren’t illegal, because they typically only talk about things that ARE illegal. (Same thing as how you won’t find articles saying that riding your bike on Friday is legal — they mainly focus on what’s not legal, not detail all the things that are.) Perhaps the way to respond is to challenge him to find something on a government site saying that they’re illegal — he won’t be able to find that (except for disability, where it is actually illegal).

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      Why bother proving you’re right, will it change anything or make a difference to your work?

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Yes, but evidence rarely convinces people like that. I’ve heard plenty of people like that say the web site (government or regulatory body or maker of a product) was wrong!

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yeah, but at that point you can rest easy, knowing that your job is done and the other person is ridiculous. At least that’s how it works for those of us with a compulsion to set people straight :)

            1. LBK*

              You would be losing your mind in my office right now! There are some completely illogical policies being put in place based on dramatic misunderstandings of our system capabilities, and my coworker and I have spent days trying to get anyone in management to understand our perspective. It’s not a case of them taking our objections into consideration and saying they want to do it that way regardless, they just literally do not understanding what our objections are.

              1. Red*

                Our HR department is convinced that asking someone if they are a foreign national (rather than a citizen) is illegal and will get our institution sued. Except… That our institution is required to ask this question because we have to observe relevant tax considerations for these employees!

                1. Chinook*

                  “Our HR department is convinced that asking someone if they are a foreign national (rather than a citizen) is illegal and will get our institution sued. Except… That our institution is required to ask this question because we have to observe relevant tax considerations for these employees!”

                  That’s ironic because, if an employee is a foreign national (rather than just having dual citizenship), they would be required to prove that they are legally allowed to work in the country. And, if they weren’t legal, then the company could get fined by the government (and, in Canada, outed publicly as abusing the system).

          2. LBK*

            I get what you’re saying intellectually, but as someone who would often rather fling myself out the window to end an argument than agree with someone who I knew was wrong, I’m totally with M. and Alison that I would want to prove it just for personal satisfaction. Moving on from a discussion where I know I’m right isn’t one of my strong suits.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              Believe me, I know it’s not easy. Let’s just say that I had some very early and very long training in the futility of arguing with people who know they’re right, and studying Zen Buddhism in college helped immensely. :)

          3. Phyllis*

            That reminds me of a guy I used to date. He would expound THEORY (games, references, ect.) and you could show him a printed reference (According to Hoyle, encyclopedia, ect.) His response? “The book is wrong.” ARGHHHHH!!!! This is one of the reasons I broke it off.

        2. Bea W*

          I get my personal satisfaction by using the time I would have spent trying to prove I am right to walk over to the ice cream stand. It’s pretty satisfying.

          1. spocklady*

            I should really try that, because I have the same compulsion as M., LBD, and Alison, and some days…some days, the ice cream would really help.

          2. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I get personal satisfaction from setting people straight, but I have a low threshold for how hard I’ll try at it. If it seems like I’m not getting through to them, then I say to myself, “Well, you can’t communicate with someone who already knows everything,” and then I bide my time until the issue comes up and their wrongness is revealed. And then I get my personal satisfaction from smugly knowing to myself that I was right, right, right. :-)

              1. LBK*

                “Few things go better with self satisfied smugness than ice cream.”

                I feel like I need this on a needlepoint throw pillow at my desk or maybe an ornate banner to hang on my cubicle. Phenomenal.

            1. Positivity Boy*

              My threshold now is definitely lower that it was growing up, because my brother is hands down the most stubborn person I’ve ever met. I used to always lose stupid sibling arguments because when it came to giving the silent treatment or watching a boring TV channel just to spite someone, he could go for HOURS without cracking. So I do use that occasionally when I’m feeling very ornery – I imagine if I were having this fight with my brother, and then I just take a deep breath and walk away, knowing I won’t have the patience to win in the long run.

              1. LBK*

                Whoops – this is LBK. Apparently my old handle is still saved on my home computer (just goes to show how much more I visit this site on my work computer…oops).

    3. CC*

      Ha, I know that feeling. A friend stated not so long ago that it was illegal to give a bad reference. I disagreed and pointed out that it’s often a company policy to not give references, but it’s not illegal, and eventually said I’d take the word of somebody who does hiring and reference and related stuff for a living and refused to argue it further. Unfortunately, this friend is a management consultant. Doesn’t actually do hiring as far as I know, but was absolutely certain that giving bad references was illegal.

      Then there was the person who said loud and proud on finding out that I was job-hunting that I should put stuff like “you can stop searching now because I’m perfect for this job” because they did that and it worked. (I didn’t take that advice. Maybe they were the only applicant who had a cover letter at all, or maybe the hiring manager falls for that sort of bluster, I don’t know.)

      1. voluptuousfire*

        It’s as if Olive is saying “I r dead, but I comez back to life if you give me noms.”


              1. Fact & Fiction*

                My Kittehs love having their bellies rubbed. They’re like my little pony — I mean doggie — that way.

              2. ExceptionToTheRule*

                Mine too. He’s a big guy & LOVES to have his belly rubbed. He’ll look at you, flop over and lay there until you satisfy him.

              3. Diet Coke Addict*

                Mine too. One flops over besides you and yells at you if you don’t make with the belly rubs quickly. And girlfriend is LOUD.

              4. Red*

                I love to sniff kitty belly. Is that so strange? Q__Q

                We call it cat huffin’, and I’m an addict.

            1. Gene*

              Office kitty – not a trap, a definite invitation.

              Home kitty #1 – seldom a trap

              Home kitty #2 – sometimes a trap, watch the tail.

              Home kitty #3 – always a trap, but I still must pet.

          1. nodumbunny*

            I would find the tummy irresistible and would therefore constantly have scratches on my hand (I’m a slow learner, apparently.)

          2. krisl*

            I’ve got 2 kitties. One is OK with having her belly rubbed, up to a point. The other is not even a little bit OK with it.

          3. Vicki*

            Oh noes!

            (Our Dandy does tummies and hers is not a trap. Well, unless you planned to do something other than rub kitty belly fluff…)

  2. Audiophile*

    New job did not work out and unfortunately, I’m now job hunting again.
    Old job has agreed to take me back, though not in my old position which I’m fine with.
    This was not a good week.

    1. The IT Manager*

      Awww! I’m sorry to hear this. I hope you can take the long Labor Day weekend to refresh your spirits and regain energy to get back to the job hunt for something better.

    2. Ali*

      I am so sorry. :( I know how excited you were.

      I went through similar this week. I was so excited when my internship supervisor wanted to talk to me about a possible full-time opportunity that might open in the future. The trouble is, it pays so low if the job were to come through that I would have to turn it down. I’m afraid she might be upset if I tell her that, so I’ve been putting off on talking to her even to see if there’s anything else that can be done. I plan on staying part-time for now, but I am still keeping my eyes open for full-time positions in my field that pay more. I really wanted to work at my intern company too.

      Can I ask what happened? I don’t mean to be nosy if you don’t want to talk about it, though.

      1. Audiophile*

        If you know that it won’t meet your financial needs and you won’t take the position, be upfront with your manager and tell her you cannot accept the position.

        As for what happened, they fired me earlier in the week (I’ve never been fired before), agreed to pay me for the full week. So I’ll have a full paycheck at least.

        There were communication issues, some of which I mentioned in previous open threads. I believed we were finding a middle ground, since this was something manager had specifically stated to me. I was surprised, to say the least, and stated as much, when they said it wasn’t working out and I wasn’t a good fit. I really feel I did everything I could have done, and that what I was led to believe the position was during the interview process and what it actually was were two very different things. I don’t necessarily mean that the description was inaccurate, just that throughout the process I was led to believe that I would have actual input and encouraged to give my opinions (despite my reluctance to do so) but that it became clear, my opinions and creativity weren’t welcome or wanted.

        I’m relieved that they did it early, so I don’t have to list it on my resume and my old job took me back, since I stayed on part-time. We can both just pretend it didn’t happen.

        Truthfully, I was pretty unhappy early on, but I would have stayed on because I do believe in their mission and I hoped it could be a learning experience. I realized quickly that there are a lot of problems with the organization and I didn’t feel that my job was very secure, but again I would not have cut and run.

        1. Ali*

          Bummer. I have been fired too. It was about five years ago and I wasn’t very good at the job, but my employer also didn’t give me much of a chance by not really giving me any work to do. I also think, looking back, that I didn’t quite fit in with the culture. I was at that job for less than a year. I moved into my current company about a year after my firing and have been there for four years now with one promotion. So luckily, I no longer have to list the job I was fired from (and I don’t want to do that kind of work again anyway).

          1. De Minimis*

            That was me at my job before this one!

            I still feel like I have to list the job, it still looks good on my resume even though it did not give me much in the way of useful experience—other than negative type experience of “I know I never want to do this type of work again…”

          2. Audiophile*

            I think culture was a big part of it, the culture that I got a glimpse of during the process was different than the actual culture.

            I was asked for ideas and gave them, but then was routinely told that they did not want to even attempt to put those ideas into action. I believed this reluctance on their part was because I was new, but now I think it would have continued regardless. These weren’t bad ideas, either, I was told by many inside and outside the organization that they were great ideas. I’ll keep them in my back pocket and use them in the future.

            I’m still looking in the communications/social media field and I’ve found several jobs to apply to. I’m hopeful. The organization I volunteer with, has said they would be more than happy to give me a glowing reference for all the work I’ve done with their social media campaigns. I think that will likely help, because while I listed them on my resume, I wasn’t using anyone as a reference.

        2. MissDisplaced*

          Sometimes it happens, you’re just not a good fit, even though both parties try to make it work. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and it is good this happened sooner rather than later.

        3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Was this a social media position? Do I remember that right?

          Those jobs make me nervous for the potential of clash between established ways of doing/thinking and new person coming in with new fangled tools.

          I’m sure there are many success stories, but the set up makes me nervous.

          1. Audiophile*

            Yes it was. I still have the social media experience from the volunteer role, so that’s good.

            I think it was a clash between the way things were being done and some of the things I was suggesting. But I wasn’t suggesting anything crazy or way out of left field, because others acted positively when I explained my ideas. I’ve restarted my job search and will certainly be asking questions now about culture, management style, etc. Obviously, the person on the other end can lie or misrepresent themselves, but are signs I know to look out for now.

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

              I think one of the challenges with the social media job is that it so very new, it’s ripe for mismatched or worse, unformed, expectations. Somebody puts up and hires for a social media job because they’re “supposed to” have a social media person now but they don’t know what the job duties consist of or have any kind of success metrics formed.

              I’d go for “what would my success look like to you” kinds of questions in interviews, I guess. They need to put some thought into what they expect when before they hire you.

              Sorry for setback!

              1. Audiophile*

                I think the other piece and I feel like I should have picked up on this in the interview, was that this person was responsible for social media before they hired out for the role I was interviewing for. I believe, on some level, they didn’t want to let go but decided they wanted an entry level person to handle the day to day things. I heard, the person I replaced also had difficulty getting ideas to be taken seriously. There were so many other issues, no HR, lack of a real hierarchy, that I’m glad to be gone.

                1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd*


                  Well it could have worked out to give you the 1 to 2 years in the field, but in hindsight that does sound pretty dangerous.

                  I’m hopeful for what happens next with your new job leads.

                2. Audiophile*

                  I’m hopeful too. And at least I was able to get almost full time hours at my old job. So I won’t be up the creek in a few weeks.

                  And IF it had worked out to 1-2 years there, and then I’d been fired, it would suck even more. I had decided, prior to being fired, that I would acquiesce and stop making suggestions or giving opinions of any kind. Which was a bummer to think about because it was the opposite of what I was told when I started and interviewed.

        4. galfromaway*

          I’ve been fired before and it really stings. :( My situation was a change of culture because my boss was on mat leave, and her replacement and I butted heads. Rather than trying to sort out the issues (which our whole department was having with her, not just me), they gave me my walking papers and severance. I know there were things I should have done when things were rough (talking to the Director of Admin), but I thought if I kept my head down, I’d make it through the year. This wasn’t the case.

          I do have to list the job on my resume still – it was a great communications position, and I’ve communicated with my former boss about a reference – but part of me still struggles with the firing.

            1. De Minimis*

              I still sometimes feel like I have PTSD from mine….it was over 5 years ago, and though I had a long struggle afterward, I found my current position which I’ve been in two years now. I was not the right fit for the job or for that particular field, and had actually been looking for another job for some time now, but it still bothers me!

              1. Not So NewReader*

                I got fired from my first job and that stayed with me for a long time. I think in part because numerous things blindsided me. I needed to have a few “ah-ha” moments. Another part of the story is my boss acted like a friend to me, so there was a loss of friendship, too. (I never got sucked into that again!)
                But, yeah, it shaped my thinking for sure. It became really important to me that bosses just be good bosses. Be professional and be ethical.

                (She tried to hire me back the following year- it was a seasonal job. I said no thanks. I was not going to ride on her roller coaster again.)

              2. Biff*

                I also ‘carried baggage’ from getting fired around with me. Frankly, I still do. I was blindsided by the event and was told that I’d get a good reference/recommendation if I left without putting up a fuss. I did not put up a fuss, but I did ask to know why I’d been let go. I got a weird document that said. “You may have been let go for one of the following reasons (bulleted list) or you may have been let go for something else.” It was extra-weird. Both of my replacements (I was friends with both) were also fired quite quickly afterward, if I remember right.

                I feel like that was actually the beginning of my presently very bad anxiety problems at work. I feel like so many workplaces simply say ‘you aren’t working out’ or ‘you’re done’ without ever telling people what they screwed up. (Or they say, ‘it should be obvious why this came about’…. well, no, it’s not always obvious.) I honestly have no idea how you are supposed to learn without someone saying something. And the answers I get for “What would you like me to do in XYZ situation going forward?” have been reliably very lame.

                1. Audiophile*

                  ^this exactly. I’m trying to get past it, and for the most part I am. I can see the silver lining and that I dodged a bullet. But as you mentioned, it’s hard to know what went wrong when someone won’t give you a straight answer. Combine that with the fact that I was coming from a pretty toxic work environment (previous supervisor gave me difficult over EVERY little thing, including getting adequate time for a death in the family). I asked in the meeting, and didn’t get a real answer. I asked again before leaving and got something similar to: “you should have seen this coming.” Well I didn’t see it coming.

        5. Not So NewReader*

          I am so sorry this happened to you, Audiophile. I hope in time you are more and more able to see that you dodged a bullet.

          1. Audiophile*

            I can already see I dodged a bullet. I’m definitely feeling relived, I was still getting emails for similar jobs that pay more than I was making. I applied for those jobs the day after. Hopefully I’ll have interviews lined up soon.

      2. Artemesia*

        You need to get over the idea that not accepting a too low offer is somehow a personal thing with your supervisor — it is business and they aren’t willing to pay you a decent wage for your work (although they were willing to use you for free). They should be embarrassed if anyone should be. Been there and felt the same way you did but I was wrong and would have handled it better if I had been able to separate personal from business decisions. Have the conversation and go prepared to say ‘I appreciate the offer but can’t accept it at that pay rate, so I will have to look elsewhere.’ Better yet, hustle now to look elsewhere, so you can say ‘I appreciate the offer but I have an offer from (competitor) with better pay and benefits so I won’t be able to accept.’

        1. Anon for this one*

          Agreed – I currently work for an employer that offers low salaries, and we absolutely know it’s a problem. We definitely don’t take it personally if people would rather get another job elsewhere. We’re trying to start bringing salaries up, but unfortunately the problems weren’t created overnight and it’s going to take a while to fix it.
          That’s just to say, if the salaries really are low, they probably know it and expect to see some attrition due to that.

    3. LBK*

      That sucks. At the very least though you’ll have some kind of income and stability while you search. Agree with IT Manager, at least this is a long weekend where you can hopefully do something fun to take your mind off the situation.

  3. Apollo Warbucks*

    I went for a job interview on Tuesday and was offered the job on Wednesday.

    I’m really excited about the new job the hiring manager seems really nice and the job varied and interesting and there are so many projects coming up over the next 2 – 3 years there’ll be plenty of work to get stuck into.

    The only down side is the start date is going to be at least two months from now :(

    Thank you Alison your how to get a job book was a really big help.

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      Congrats! That is wonderful to hear news so quickly! I hope the start date can get moved up!

    2. nep*

      Congratulations. If it must be a month, make the best of that month — whatever that means for you.

  4. EsBee*

    Any thoughts on application systems that ask you for a 10 year job history? I’ve only been in my field 3 years – before that it was all hospitality during college. Do I fill out 10 years (which goes back all the way to my first job in high school, by the way) or just list the 3 years of work relevant to my field and the position I’m applying for?

    1. The IT Manager*

      If its one of those systems that make the validate all your answers as true you may need to go back 10 years. It’s super, super annoying, but you don’t need them to think you lied and reject you for that. So it depends on exactly how the application is worded, but you may not be able to avoid it.

      Although, consider, did any of the skills from your hospitality jobs transfer over to the one you are apply for – customer service, dealing with difficult people, thinking on youe feet, etc?

    2. Mints*

      I don’t know if this is the right move, but you could just list “various retail roles” 2004-2009 or whatever, and list it generically. I did that when I was filling out one that wouldn’t let me skip it, at all. So I was like” screw this system” and listed that I was in school 1995-2008 (that’s preschool, btw)

    3. La munieca*

      I got 80% of the way through a government application that I ended up not submitting. I put in the legwork of getting addresses, contact numbers, and dates of employment, and I archived the information for future reference. If you put in the legwork, make sure you keep a copy to ease the burden in the future.

    4. NK*

      I’d take an in between approach and include the college jobs, but exclude any high school jobs. If you’ve been in your field 3 years, they certainly will not care about that and there’s no expectation that you had jobs before age 18.

    5. Anx*

      To piggy back on this: What do you do if you’re hired for a week or so and it doesn’t work out?

      I would imagine that omitting it makes your application better and eliminates distractions and unfavorable information. So I would think you should include it so you aren’t presenting an overly favorable view of yourself.

  5. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

    I’m looking to move from administrative work with some technical writing/editing to all technical writing. My degrees are in English, but with a focus in editing and publication for my BA, and British literature for my MA. I’m thinking about completing a technical writing graduate certificate program (probably online) to help make myself more marketable. Has anyone done one of these? Any recommendations for specific programs? Or would a graduate certificate even be helpful?

    1. E.R*

      My graduate certificate wasn’t in technical writing, but a somewhat related field (my BA was also in English). I found it really helpful in getting a good job – look for a program that is affordable (ie community college vs university certificates), reputable, with co-ops. The benefits include: tangible skills gained that you can put on a resume, a network of people (your classmates) who will work in the field (be nice to everyone!), greater industry knowledge, and more work experience and industry contacts, if you take the co-op route.
      Hopefully someone else can speak more to the technical writing area.

    2. Kai*

      I’m not sure a graduate certificate in this field is going to make much difference, actually–which I say as someone trying to break into editing and publishing myself. Every entry-level editing or technical writing job I’ve seen asks for at least a year of related experience and a bachelor’s degree, but that’s it.

      I have an MA in writing and publishing, which I think was very helpful in terms of networking and getting to know a little more about the field, but unfortunately I’m not convinced that the actual work is going to mean a lot to employers :-\. Now, if you think the certificate would really sharpen your skills, by all means go for it; I just wouldn’t count on it making a ton of difference on your resume.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, I think the only benefit comes from networking help that it gives you access to. Employers don’t generally care about certificates or degrees for writing roles.

      2. Artemesia*

        Writing is one of those rare fields where what matters is your competence and not your paperwork. I would be a little dubious about someone with a lot of paper — degrees and certificates because in my experience this heralds people who couldn’t get a job or were avoiding the job market by being in school. I would want to see what they write; a certificate just tells me they spent money.

        1. fposte*

          I would add the loophole that there are various writing/publishing programs with serious connections. I don’t know if there’s anything like that in technical writing, but in those cases you’re purchasing the network more than the competency proof–and that’s likelier to be worth it.

    3. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Yeah, I agree with Kai– a certificate might not make a big difference.

      I got my MA in English (Poetry, of all things!) and I ended up doing technical writing without needing the extra education. Mostly I got to where I am now by contracting to get experience, applying everywhere, and being lucky.

    4. Claire*

      Not technical writing, but I kind of took a whirlygig admin path to writing…studied Creative Writing in school, then did receptionist/admin work that turned into marketing admin work, and made my writing skills known/available enough that I was offered a copywriter position. I would definitely take on as much writing/editing work in your current role as you can (I always volunteered to write blogs/proof newsletters/help with advertorial until people came to see me as someone to go to when they needed writing), and highlight it as much as possible on your resume. As others have said, in my experience companies care more about clips and results than certificates/education.

      1. MJH*

        I did a similar thing: secretary, office manager, and then (through an online date!) a connection at a firm that hired me as an entry-level copywriter (I did some samples they liked). From there it wasn’t hard to parley that into a couple of other writing gigs and freelance gigs.

      2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        I already do a great deal of editing/writing in my current role, including being the officially designated QA editor for my section for all those things that don’t need to go to our department-level QA editor (and even on those things, I generally do an edit/proof on them first, because it cuts down on the time it takes the department editor to do it, plus she misses a lot of things). I also write for a geeky news site, doing recaps and book reviews. I tried to get the job of putting together our monthly newsletter transferred to me, but it hasn’t worked yet– it would bruise the ego of the person doing it if it were transferred to me, whereas transferring it to an outside contractor didn’t bother her as much. Problem is, he costs at least twice as much as my salary, and wants to work in Pages on his Mac when we’re all on PCs. Still working on it.

        So I’m already doing a lot of the work I want to be doing (on top of the admin stuff and technical support that comprise the rest of my role). The problem is that my job title (and salary) doesn’t reflect that (it doesn’t reflect much of anything, actually– “Program Specialist” is my official title). My immediate supervisors are trying to parley my role into being officially reclassified as a technical writer/editor, which would mean both a new title and a significant jump in salary, but it’s a government job, and there are hoops to jump through. I was thinking that maybe a certificate might help me give the justification I need to make the change.

    5. LMW*

      I agree that actual experience is the best path into writing careers, and it’s not worth it to spend a lot of money on a degree program. That said, for technical writing specifically, I know a few people who got a job because they had the credential or because they met someone in the program/class who connected them to the job. So based on the experience of people I know actually working in that field, a tech writing program or certificate seems to be a bit more useful than other writing degrees or certificates (like my fairly useless MFA in writing). So, unless you are looking to move, I’d look into programs with a heavy local component that are fairly inexpensive if you decide to go for it. But I’d really focus on the experience you’re already gaining — that’s more likely to be valuable.

    6. Spondee*

      I’m a medical writer, but my BA and MA are in technical writing. Since you already have experience writing/editing, and you already have an MA, I don’t think the certificate is going to help you.

      You’ll get more from joining a professional society (probably STC or IABC, but there are others depending on your interests). STC offers certificates and individual courses, and you’ll have access to their job boards and more opportunities for networking locally.

      1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        The professional society idea is a good one– it would give me a bit of background experience that I do feel I’m lacking (I’m a good writer, but all my training is in critical analyses, which doesn’t always translate well, so I end up kind of making it up as I go along) but doesn’t add to my already-long list of education that isn’t always backed up by actual experience. I’ll look into those.

    7. The Real Ash*

      I have really enjoyed the little bit of technical writing I’ve done in my government position, and I’d love to get into it. But my degree is not English- or language skills-related at all. I’m interested to see what others suggest about how to get into this field. It’s one of the few things I’ve ever actually looked forward to doing at work.

    8. Sidra*

      I am in this field, and I honestly don’t think those degrees and certifications are worth much. If you want to be a technical writer, actual technical knowledge will help you far more. Take computer science and/or engineering classes instead; those will impress hiring managers far more and make you better at the job. I credit most of my success not to my abilities as a writer, but to my ability to relate to my subject matter experts.

      1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        I’m not a computer/engineering geek and never will be, but my dad is an electrical engineer and a ham radio operator, my brother got a EE and is now a system administrator (and is also a ham), and my brother-in-law is a software engineer. I grew up with and am still surrounded by tech geeks. I know my way around a computer well enough that my department tech guru trusted me with admin permissions on my laptop, and in her absence, I’m the “come help me!” go-to person (actually, I’m that even when she’s around, because she sometimes has trouble articulating what to do). I once took a “how geeky are you” test and got the result Geek Liaison, which I think describes what I am perfectly– not of the geek, but near the geek. I can grasp most technical concepts and translate them to the clueless fairly well– I’m especially good at writing instructions and explaining to people how to do something, either over the phone or in person. So the type of technical writing I’m looking at is more like how-to manuals, software instructions, that sort of thing– where I can take the engineering gobbledegook and make it intelligible to an end user.

  6. Ali*

    I need some good AAM vibes please!

    I applied to a job at a local college the other day and it has a really short open period for accepting applications. My dad is somewhat involved with the school (albeit not on the “wealthy donor” level or anything, but still) and he knows that an old friend of my sister works there. I was hesitant to reach out to her, as I doubted she’d know who I was even after my dad saying she would and she doesn’t work in the department I applied for. She e-mailed me back and at first said she didn’t know if she could help me get the correct contact, but then she sent a follow-up a short time later saying she forwarded my materials to the right person in the department. Considering it’s someone I haven’t seen in *years,* I was so thankful she could help me out even if it’s not a promise of anything.

    Anyway, this job would be in my field (it’s in the marketing communications office of the school) and I really want to work for this employer for a variety of positive reasons. I’ve also never really used a referral for a job before or asked for help like this, so I’m crossing my fingers that I get an interview at the minimum.

    Please wish me luck?

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      Good luck! I am glad you were able to connect with someone who could point you in the right direction!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Good for you for stepping outside your usual norm! I am sure that you will see a difference in what happens next. Many good vibes heading your way!

  7. anon for this*

    So I have a performance review coming up in the next few weeks. Having been in the job a year now, my manager has asked me to think about what direction/what sort of projects I would like to be working on in the next 12 months, to develop me in my current role. These would be side projects, and not the main focus of my attention, and my manager has held off giving me any before this as I was going through a lot of changed in my personal life and he didn’t want to overwhelm me (which was appreciated).

    My current role is basically “enquiry agent”. I answer the phone & respond to email enquiries people make regarding the services my company offers. The role itself requires me to know practically everything the business does (to a certain level), advise & direct potential clients to the most appropriate of our services and book them in for face-to-face meetings with our advisory staff. It’s not hugely challenging, but it varied enough that I enjoy it, and I enjoy the people I work with. It’s a small company, and I’m on a small team and whilst it could easily be a call centre environment, it really isn’t at all.

    But I really don’t know how to answer my boss when he asks how I want to develop. I’m at the start of my career, and this job came about initially as a temp gig just to pay the bills but I was asked to be go permanent after a month. There’s no linear path upwards from my role, but I’ve seen others move diagonally – moving up & laterally – so it’s not a totally dead end. I just don’t know what areas I’d like to develop in or move into let alone how to actually make that happen. I know commenters here won’t be able to give me full guidance, but is there a way I can let my manager know that yes I do want to develop but I don’t know how or where – without sounding totally clueless or unambitious?

    1. Bea W*

      We’re in the same boat, except I am 15 years into my career and I have no idea what skills I want to work on improving or developing for the future. I just posted something similar.

      1. Bea W*

        Hit submit too soon – I have been upfront with my boss about not knowing what direction I want to go in. I plan to ask her point blank for some guidance when we meet, because she wants to be able to contribute to that development and I’m just…uh someone hand me a compass so I can get myself pointed in the right direction!

        Since you are just starting, are you in a job or field now that you want to stay in or would you rather be working in a different field or industry? Start with that. It’s okay if you don’t see yourself moving up in your current company or current field, especially this early in the game. If there are other areas of the company that are interesting to you, think about those. Don’t limit yourself just to thinking about the job you do now.

        I found some of the questions to think about in our information packet help in trying to sort out my thoughts. Try these for thought.
        1. What do you like best and least about my current role?
        2. What are my strengths and development areas?
        3. What areas of the business do I find most interesting?
        4. If I could design my ideal job, what would it look like?

    2. JMegan*

      I would spend some time working on a career assessment or aptitude test before you talk to him. (there are tons of legit ones online – maybe try adding the name of your field to see if you can get one that’s specific to your job). It won’t be an exact answer, but it will give you some things to think about, and help you focus your discussion a bit.

    3. Muriel Heslop*

      A year into my current job, my COO and I had a similar discussion. I didn’t really know what I direction I wanted to go, so I told him that I was interested in several things. Next, I asked him if he noticed anything specific in me that he would like to develop and if he had any thoughts about my progress. He did, as it turns out, and it has given me a whole new job description and I love it. We have a great relationship so I felt comfortable doing that and I trusted his feedback.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        That seems like an excellent way to go about it, if you have a good relationship with your boss.

    4. danr*

      Moving laterally in a company is not a bad idea. I did that in my time with my old company. Each lateral change came with a new job title and larger than usual pay increase. As for the question, there must be things that need doing, even if they seem small and trivial. You never know when something will take off and be in the middle of a new direction or service.

      1. Bea W*

        I had to move laterally to get on a track I was interested in pursuing. It was the best thing I did for my career. I had a lot of room to grow and loved where I ended up.

    5. Malissa*

      I would ask for a year of exploration. Have him work on you being able to shadow the different service providers to get a better sense of what’s going on in the company. Aim for one day a month when you’ll be able to do this. At the very least you’ll get a better understanding of the business. Also you might actually find an area that interests you enough to have a direction.

    6. Tiff*

      Hi Anon for This – I work as a Customer Relations manager, and I started out in very similar roles. One of the perks of working in customer service is that you really do get a broad view of what the company/agency does, and you have an easy “in” with staff who have a wide variety of skills and experience. Here are a few things I would think about in your role:

      – Are there any process improvements you could plan/implement to get information to your customers or get them routed through your company’s services?
      – Are there currently standards and operating procedures in place for you? In other words, if you packed up and left your job tomorrow is there something in writing that the next person could use to do your job? If that does exist, is it current and clear?
      – Does customer service feel like a good fit for you? Are there other skill areas (like HR, budget, technology, etc.) that interest you?

      Here are some key skills that I’ve noticed while working in Customer Service/Customer Relations:
      – Business writing that is friendly, helpful and considerate of sensitive issues
      – Fast paced problem solving
      – Process mapping – even if it’s just in your head, the customer service person has to be knowledgeable about several processes in the company to help customers get to the right place for information and problem resolution. This also covers the link between front-facing customer service and the more detailed help the customer will receive down the road.
      – Spotting trends – sometimes the trend is in volume, sometimes it’s the kind of questions/concerns that customers bring, usually some combination of both. Spotting the trend allows you to create some template solutions and prepare for busy seasons.

      Here are some work areas that I’ve gotten into as a direct result of working in Customer Service:
      – Technology (Setting up the new customer relations management software application)
      – Standards and Procedures
      – Training and Mentoring
      – Supervision

      I hope this helps!

    7. Frances*

      I was actually talking about this exact thing with my manager during my own performance review last week. I’m new to my current sector so I haven’t really had a lot of time to think about what direction I go from here.

      My manager suggested that she start sending me job descriptions for “next step” type jobs that pop up in our sector and then I can use those to tell her whether those are jobs I could see myself doing, or if it’s not at all the kind of thing I’d want to do, or somewhere in the middle. She’s already sent one and I think it’s going to really help me articulate what I want to work towards. Even if your boss is thinking in broader terms, maybe looking through some job postings for positions you aren’t quite qualified for yet will help you identify what you want to do (or what you don’t, which can sometimes be just as helpful).

    8. Just me*

      A recruiter found me on LinkedIn, so I would say it is valuable. My profile is minimal, just titles, education, and certifications. My new position is in the same specific market, which is why the limited profile worked. It certainly won’t hurt your search, but I would not put a ton of time into it.

    9. Jules*

      Explore what you like to do and what you want to do more of. Talk to the people there who were in your position before. Ask about their experience.

  8. LBK*

    I think I’m finally caving in and starting to job hunt. My job is okay, but it’s really not what I want to do anymore and it’s clear to me that I’m not going anywhere in terms of compensation or benefits. The internal opportunities are limited as well since I really wouldn’t want to move outside of my division, so it looks like I’m aiming externally.

    My question: is anyone here good with LinkedIn? I barely ever use mine. I just updated it for the first time in probably 2 years (my current position wasn’t even on there). Is this really a good networking tool? Anyone have success stories with it? Should I just ignore it and go about job hunting the normal way? I’m semi-transitioning areas – I want to be a business analyst but I’m working more from transferrable skills in my current role than pure BA experience, so I feel like networking would make it easier to convince someone that I can do this job well.

    Also, I’m debating tell my current manager. This is the only non-retail job I’ve had so he would be a critical reference, but I’m very nervous about how he’ll react. I don’t think he would become vindictive, per se, but it would taint our relationship and I know I’d be under much closer scrutiny until I left, whereas now he basically lets me run with no oversight since he trusts my capabilities so much (yet another reason I want him as a reference). Anyone have a helpful perspective here on what factors to weigh when deciding if I should tell him?

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I’m curious what everyone says about LinkedIn. I’m not on it because I don’t really like social media. But it sounds like it is a must for anyone job searching. I’ve heard that if some hiring managers don’t find you on LinkedIn then they will just move on.

      1. danr*

        It isn’t ‘social media’, it’s professional. During my active job search, I found some contacts that were useful. The conversation in the groups is professional and on the same level as AAM.

      2. De Minimis*

        I think it really depends on how much social media plays a role in the specific location/field/job market. I used to work in Silicon Valley and everyone there has an elaborate LinkedIn profile. But the average location…I don’t know if it’s that big a deal.

        It is pretty easy to create a basic profile, though, so it would not hurt to do it. I’ve only gotten a couple of general messages from recruiters, though. And when I was actually looking for work I never got any out of LinkedIn at all.

        1. Traveler*

          Agree with this. It really depends on the field you’re in whether or not LinkedIn applies, and then on to the specific business too. I’ve never had a prospective employer inquire about it, and I’ve known a lot of people in my field that have zero interest in it. Though I know the general advice is to get on and maintain a profile because it doesn’t hurt to have it.

          1. LBK*

            I think I’m going to try to get into tech (I live in a startup-heavy city, kind of the SF of the East Coast) so it’s probably more relevant than my current industry.

      3. puma*

        I’ve been contacted by recruiters in my field. It’s also good for contacting former coworkers to get candid info about the companies they’re working for now.

      4. nodumbunny*

        I live in a small city and work in a field that is very inter-connected, so for me LinkedIn is a great tool for gathering background intel on folks I’m about to encounter for the first time…including in an interview. I also know that other folks have looked me up for the same purpose. I went to an interview this week (please keep your fingers crossed for me) and it was helpful to know the context/frame of reference of my interviewer because I knew where they worked until recently.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      When the recession started snowballing, I had a lot of HS and college friends post about looking for work, so I told them to feel free to check my contact on LinkedIn for anyone in a related field and I’d talk to that person for them if they wanted. I never heard anything, so I don’t know if it helped, but it’s probably good to keep your profile up to date so you can connect with prospective employers/hiring managers there as you job hunt.

      But DON’T tell your manager until you have accepted an offer if you’re at all unsure about how they’ll react. I’m sure others will have horror stories to warn you off if you need to hear them.

      Good luck!

      1. LBK*

        I’ve definitely read all the horror stories on AAM about telling managers and reviewed Alison’s advice, but I couldn’t find anything where the manager was a really critical reference. If I don’t use him, I have no one who can vouch for my abilities in a desk job in a corporate environment. My retail managers can absolutely give me glowing references but I’m worried about how much weight those will hold if I’m trying to get another office job, especially since my actually work in this position is much more relevant to what I’m trying to get into.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I think cases like that are where people ask that the potential employer only contact the reference when they’re ready to make an offer…and in my experience, most of the time that works out OK. At worst, you might be booted out of OldJob a little earlier than you intended. (I mean, your reference could torpedo you, but Alison has advised people who worked for toxic supervisors before on how to get a reference for the toxic job, and it sounds like that’s probably not the case anyway.)

          1. LBK*

            Oh yeah, my manager isn’t toxic, more just…kind of clingy? He knows in vague terms that I don’t want to do this job forever, but I think he envisions that I’ll continue to move around within his department (this is the third position I’ve had under him) rather than leaving completely. That part will probably be jarring to him, and I think the surprise of it may make him unpredictable.

            Waiting until the offer stage makes sense. The script I’ve come up in my head would be something like this: “As you’ve probably been aware, this isn’t a position I intended to stay in long-term. I have been exploring other options, and at this time I’m close to getting an offer for a role that’s more in line with my interests and expertise. I want to be open with you about this because I’d really like to have you available as a reference – I respect your opinion and think it carries a lot of weight, and I know your endorsement would go along way.”

            How does that sound? It’s entirely true, so it’s not like I would just be blowing smoke – one of his best strengths as a manager is going to bat for people and vouching for people in a way that comes across as genuine.

        2. A Teacher*

          Do you have a co-worker that could be a reference that you trust? That’s what I used when I switched jobs.

          1. LBK*

            Yep, I actually have a pretty great one – he’s a coworker at my current job and he was my coworker in one of the old retail jobs, where he started as my superior and then saw me progress until we were both at the supervisor level. So he’s probably got the best perspective out of anyone on my job history and performance, despite not actually being my manager now.

            1. A Teacher*

              At least to start. I came out of a job where they trash talked people that would resign–as in send around emails about them and bash them openly at department meetings and individual monthly reviews. When I left, I kept it hush hush based on how I’d seen them handle prior employees, so maybe its my dirty lens but I wouldn’t tell a supervisor until I had an offer in hand.

            2. Snork Maiden*

              LBK, are you me? Except my coworker references are all friends with the manager outside work, and the one coworker who isn’t, I am married to.

              1. LBK*

                Heh – do you use your maiden name still? Maybe you could have your spouse serve as a reference and just pretend you’re not married…

    3. Jen RO*

      I might be an exception, in that I have experience in a field that is just starting to develop in this country, but I get a lot of interview offers through LI, based only on my job title (I don’t have any other details there). Which is not helpful at all for you, probably… but yes, it’s possible to get job leads on LI.

      1. LBK*

        Good to know. I suspect mine wouldn’t be that helpful in that regard because I have a useless title – it doesn’t mean anything to anyone outside of my department, nevermind outside of my company. It’s a niche role that was created out of a specific need based on our process, so I doubt there’s anyone else that even has a position like it.

        Do you think it’s worth making up a more appropriate title to use on my LinkedIn? I don’t want to lie on my profile really, but I think putting something more relatable like “Sales Support Associate” (which is the most vague description of my job I can give) might get me better results.

        1. Anonylicious*

          You can put a description of what you do in your summary. And your headline doesn’t have to be your current job title, so I think that would make sense to do.

        2. littlemoose*

          I would discourage that because it could look shady to an employer who gets your resume and looks at your LI profile – he’ll wonder why they don’t match. What if you listed your curren title and then added parentheses like (Teapot Sales Support) or whatever more generic title/description you think is applicable? That way you’re providing the additional context without risking being seen as dishonest.

    4. Calla*

      I find LinkedIn useful, but not necessary. Searching their jobs, I found some that I didn’t see in the various other sites I searched. And I found it useful to be able to see others’ connections and go “Oh, my current coworker who knows I’m searching has a friend at this company, I’ll ask coworker about it!” (and I don’t have a huge network, either). When I was really into job searching I paid for a few months of a Job Seeker account and that gave me more info I found useful, like how I stacked up against other people applying. If you’re transition to a new field, the seeing other peoples’ connections might come in handy so you can have someone vouch for you. That said, I’ve never gotten a job through using LinkedIn.

      1. Calla*

        I SHOULD add (RO’s comment reminded me), I may not have gotten any jobs through LI, but I have had recruiters contact me that way.

    5. the gold digger*

      Two of my former co-workers were recruited specifically from LinkedIn. They weren’t looking, but the recruiter at my company found them. So I would definitely make sure your profile is current.

      1. RR*

        As others have noted, the value of LinkedIn varies by context. My field relies on this heavily, and while I abhor social media (not on FB, not on Twitter, etc), I do have a LinkedIn account. I have rather minimal profile — enough to show that I have relevant experience, but not all the bells and whistles, and I am regularly contacted by recruiters with relevant openings. (On the other hand, the recommendations from LinkedIn re openings are almost entirely–even comically–off-base). My HR recruiter relies heavily on LinkedIn, and my previous direct report was initially found there — an excellent candidate who was not actively looking.

        1. LBK*

          These are both really helpful comments – it’s good to hear that recruiters really are looking via LI and that people have been contacted, even without an extremely elaborate profile. I’m planning to basically just set mine up as a resume – job history with bullet points for responsibilities and a brief profile section up top about what I’m like as a worker (not what I want out of a job). I’m also uploading a picture just because I think it looks sketchy to not have one (I always find FB/Twitter accounts without profile pictures to be questionable/less trustworthy for some reason). Other than that I don’t plan to do endorsements, references, blah blah blah because I think that stuff is stupid and useless.

    6. Missa*

      I keep my LinkedIn semi-updated, but don’t troll for contacts or for recommendations from others. I get contacted occaisionally through there by recruiters, many who are way off base about what my expertise is in, but every once in a while I get a recruiter who actually has a job that matches up with what I do.

    7. MissDisplaced*

      You should definitely keep your LinkedIn profile updated if you’re job searching. It’s become one of the more popular job posting boards in the last year or two. I actually did find my current job via a LinkedIn posting!

      That being said, it’s not the be all, end all of the job search (as with any job board), but is helpful as you can look up people within an organization and see if you know anyone there. It’s also a great way to see where your former co-workers or college friends are at now. The forums are good too, and my help you meet people in the area you want to be in so you can ask questions, etc.

      1. LBK*

        Thanks! I didn’t even think of the forums (to be honest I didn’t even know they existed, I thought it was just profiles and job listings). I’ll look into that too.

        1. Anon333*

          +1 for job listings. It’s the only place my company (a financial services company) posts online at this point. So it’s either headhunters or LinkedIn.

          1. LBK*

            Wow! That’s interesting to hear. I’ll admit that I am probably extremely behind the times in terms of job boards – my first instinct is to look at Craig’s List. Do people even still use that? I’m pretty sure I don’t have an account on Monster or Indeed or any of the other popular job sites either. My job hunt process has been ridiculously easy thus far because my standards have been so low, but now that I have a more clear idea of what I want and what I want to do, I know I need to step my game up.

    8. The Real Ash*

      Thanks for bringing this up. I’m about to start a job search in the next month or so due to moving to a new area, and I do not have a LI account. I’ve been working for the government for the better part of the last decade, so I’m wondering if LI would even be helpful for me, because I don’t feel like I would be someone recruiters would look at.

    9. TeaBQ*

      No LI advice but I’m right there with you on realizations about the job, so sending you some fellow feeling and good luck vibes.

    10. Sidra*

      I have been approached by recruiters on there quite a bit, so I think LinkedIn would likely help a job hunter, as clearly recruiters are using it. However, I think more traditional job hunting is always better, and LinkedIn is better for maintaining a real-life network rather than building a digital one.

    11. Jules*

      With regards to LinkedIn, it’s a great way for recruiters to find you. A good place to explore jobs listed there. I really enjoy participating in groups related to my profession. They talk about the latest things coming, answer questions you might have, ask questions you might have an answer too. It’s my cheap version of going to conferences and socializing.

  9. JMegan*

    I have an interview next week! I know we talk about not being able to identify a dream job from the outside, but this looks like it might be pretty darn close. It’s full-time/permanent, at an organization that I would love to work for, doing interesting and challenging work in my field, at an appropriate level of compensation. Plus, I met the hiring manager at a conference in the spring, and she seemed like a normal human being who actually knows what she’s talking about, which is unfortunately all too rare in my experience.

    Normally I’m pretty good at putting interviews etc out of my mind after they’re complete, and letting the chips fall where they may. But I think I’m going to have a hard time with this one, as I really, really want this job. I’ve got my fingers crossed, and all my good luck horseshoes, shamrocks, stones, and offerings to the interview gods all lined up!

    1. SherryD*

      It’s amazing how the level of pre-interview anxiety seems to go up based on how much you want the job, eh? Good luck!

    2. periwinkle*

      I was in that position just about a year ago… scheduled for an interview, really interesting possibilities in the org and the position, with a hiring manager I had met at a conference earlier that year. Mine worked out wonderfully and I hope yours will too!

      If you haven’t already (and you probably have), read Alison’s ebook and be sure to deploy the Magic Question. Good luck!

  10. Muriel Heslop*

    Our cranky, irrational, dramatic, mistake-making admin is transferring to another department! Rejoice! Happy Friday!

    It’s gotten so bad I was starting to look for a new job. Peace has come to the village.

    1. Anon*

      My pessimistic, complaining, work avoiding admin is moving too! Her negativity was starting to rub off on me so I am very happy about this!!! Things are looking up.

    2. LMW*

      Mine left a few months ago and we just got a replacement who is AMAZING. She already got me a corporate card for expenses and a new computer.

    3. The Real Ash*

      I brought this up a few weeks ago, but the worst person in our unit transferred out and things been great for us! Productivity has increased, our metrics are markedly better, and morale is through the roof. Although the unit she transferred to is not enjoying it at all. They were basically forced to take her (union rules, which I usually love unions in most cases, they really screwed people over on this one) over everyone else who applied. Her first week she was off Monday, worked Tuesday and Wednesday, called in sick Thursday and on Friday stated she was taking off a yet-to-be determined amount of medical leave for some nebulous and new problem that magically cropped up her first week of work there.

    4. Red*

      I feel like I am becoming this admin. (Well, I’m a payroll clerk so it’s a bit different.) I’ve started giving myself little positive affirmations when things go correctly. Today I got called on it when I uttered an excited “yay!” under my breath at the copy machine completing my job without breaking down.

  11. ThursdaysGeek*

    According to the Forbes article referenced on Tuesday, they are looking for what you have gained from working for a bad boss. To be more accurate, it seems like they should be asking for what you’ve gained OR what you’ve lost.

    Wouldn’t a better question be asking how your worst boss has improved (or damaged) your work, the way you manage and treat people, or your performance?

    1. fposte*

      From the article, it sounds like they’ve found a lot of work about the damage that bad bosses do but none about the value people might have found in learning from those situations, so they’re looking to explore that new direction rather than go for an overall picture. I think it’s just a question of what piece people are looking to research at a particular time.

  12. Bea W*

    It’s mid-year / IDP (individual development plan) time! Right now I am in survival mode at work due to resource cuts and there being more work than people. I’m just not thinking at all where I want to be 3 or 5 years down the line. I had an impossible time with thinking of short term (1-3 years) and long term (4-5 years) goals. I am well established in my career, and so there is less to think about working towards than when I was entry level 15 years ago. I like my job. I have no aspirations of becoming a top executive or anything. I’m at a loss trying to come up with anything.

    I’m interested in hearing from readers about their own short (1-3) and long term (4-5) year career goals. Please share!

    1. nodumbunny*

      I got really damaged by this when I was in a similar situation.I was in survival mode in the midst of huge turmoil at my job and too much work for everyone. When it came time to do self-eval/IDP, I didn’t: a) come up with enough goals, and b) didn’t write enough mea culpas for things I’d failed to achieve because I was too busy trying to keep my nose above water while the organization flailed about (funding problems, key staff retirement, bad fit hires). I thought it was understood we were in survival mode and all doing our flat-out best to keep up. Nope. Learn from me: make up short and long-term goals if you have to and make some of them about developing new skills or whatever you would need to do to make it magically possible for you to get all the work done.

      1. Bea W*

        That’s exactly what I’ve been so afraid of that I can’t just ignore the whole thing. I forced myself to sit down at home after work and complete the mid-year review. The IDP gave me brain freeze though. I had put a couple of really pathetic lines in there, and luckily my manager and I were able to work it into an acceptable document. I really just needed to sit with someone who could be more objective about my abilities and strengths and ideas for further developing those and forming coherent sentences about that. I was just fresh out of coherent sentences.

    2. Graciosa*

      If you don’t want to keep moving up in the organization, I would focus on skill development goals. For example, instead of saying you want CurrentJob +1 in the next 1-3 years, you say you want to develop (or enhance your mastery of) X skill.

      The advantage is that there are some companies where you can get these written into your training and development plans so that the company will pay for them. Are you willing to attend a particular convention and give a short talk about what you learned after three days off site? Willing to start taking evening courses in a foreign language? Open to taking a class in a totally different discipline (accounting, social media, whatever) that will give you a better understanding of the needs of one of your business partners?

      If it’s a skill you are already good at, you may suggest you want to share your knowledge and develop your training / presentation skills or serve as a subject matter expert. This may involve travel to other locations to share your wisdom.

      There are plenty of ways to “develop” over time at work that will let you answer the question. Think about what you really do want, and find a way to fit it into a career goal.

      Good luck.

  13. The IT Manager*

    I am just wrapping up performance of reviews for team members matrixed to my project. I am giving feedback on their perfomance to their actual supervisors. Not a lot of fun and I procrastinated it (bad me!), but its not as terrible as I feared. And, of course, it is helps my team members. The ones I have now are all superior thankfully so its nothing, but praise. Honestly I tell them the outcome they need and they deliver; I do not know or have to know the ins and outs of their jobs. Exactly the way I like it and it should be.

    1. The IT Manager*

      And a YAY! Task complete, and it’s now time to start my vacation. I took the afternoon off because I knew I would be completely unmotivated to get down to work this afternoon before the start of a 3 day weekend with a bunch of other people out of the office.

      I didn’t want to pass up some quiet time to work in the morning though. This compromise seemed the best of both worlds.

    2. Jules*

      The HR in my likes reminding managers that performance evaluations should not be about negativity but about potentials :)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Hmmm, can I quibble with that? It should be about assessing what the person has achieved (results), how they’ve achieved it (to the extent that matters for the role), and what that means for their role going forward. So there’s some stuff about potential in there, yes, but it’s far from the main focus. I don’t care how much potential someone has if they aren’t producing results and haven’t been able to turn feedback into improvements, and I’d hate to see a performance evaluation focus on “what could be” rather than “what is.”

      2. Trixie*

        I had a boss who managed any kind of feedback along these lines, and I found it so unproductive. How can we can honestly critique events or projects if we’re not addressing anything that went wrong or areas we could improve? He was all about the warm and fuzziness, and somehow interpreted any kind of not positive feedback as an attack on the employee. Needless to say, some employees never improved and various projects continue to have the same problems every time.

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          sometimes all the “talking around”‘ negitive feedback is just….lying? you’re just not saying what you mean. like you’re speaking in code. and then the supervisor is mad b/c the person didn’t make a change they wanted…because they didn’t accurately decode. I hate this.

  14. Claire*

    I’m going to be moving to a new cubicle soon and I’m making it my goal to have it be an attractive, organized space, unlike the paper pit my current one is. Besides getting organizers, etc., any tips on keeping an organized workspace/how to add personality in a cube?

    1. Wolfey*

      Fresh flowers! We refresh weekly, but there are definitely varieties (alstroemeria) that last a good long time. I’d also suggest an unkillable plant.

      1. AVP*

        Orchids are great too. You don’t have to water them often, and if you stick with them after they’ve lost their flowers, they’ll re-bloom in a few months. Works much better if you have two, though – they need a friend!

        1. Bea W*

          Just don’t put them in the windowless bathrooms where they will die a horrible death. Somewhere, innocent Orchids are being sentenced to death by bathroom and shipped to our facility to carry out the sentence.

      2. Claire*

        Good idea! Suggestions for unkillable plants are greatly appreciated, since my black thumb takes that as a challenge! I have so far killed: bamboo, aloe vera, and a Christmas cactus

        1. attornaut*

          Bamboo is generally pretty unkillable, and maybe if you got a healthier/larger plant and an automatic waterer it would be worth trying again.

          Other good low-light plants for offices include philodendrons (though some people have allergic reactions to them) or a small pachira aquatica.

        2. Rowan*

          Spider plant. I’ve also killed an aloe plant, a cactus and one of those air plant things you don’t need to water, and my spider plant is going strong.

          1. CC*

            Air plants *do* need to be watered, though. The instructions I was given were: about every month or two, take the air plant, dunk it in water, shake off the excess, and put it back in/on its holder. (Unless it’s on a bathroom windowsill, and can get moisture from people having showers. Then it probably doesn’t need dunking.)

        3. Elizabeth West*

          Pothos are great–they thrive in fluorescent light and you only throw water in them once a week. I had one that was so long the vines went all the way around the top of my cubicle walls. I have one now that I named Horace. :)

        4. Jennifer*

          I’ve managed to kill bamboo and air plants, but that was because I used our hard tap water. Try the bottled stuff instead.

          Meanwhile, my peace lily has lasted 7 years!

    2. LBK*

      I am an obsessive neat freak about my desk. Here’s what I do:

      1) Have one and only one designated spot for urgent items. I keep them right next to my keyboard so they’re readily accessible.

      2) Hang frequently referenced items on your cubicle walls, if possible. This takes up less space and saves you time of constantly rifling through folders to find them.

      3) File anything you don’t need to reference more than once a week. Whether it’s in a stacking file or a drawer, don’t keep this stuff on your desk. It might take you 10 seconds to find it, but that’s better than it taking up space on your desk forever. Also, go through this stuff every month and chuck anything you haven’t referenced since the last time you went through – if you haven’t used it in a month, you probably don’t need it, and on some off chance you do, it’s more worth the time to just look it up online/obtain a copy again (assuming it’s not irreplaceable).

      4) Throw out things you don’t need as soon as you’re done with them. Don’t keep a stack of files to trash or keep stuff you might maybe, possibly need eventually at some point down the line – unless it’s irreplaceable or you’re positive you’ll need to reference it again, chuck it. If you do need to reference it, keep it filed per #3. If it’s just a case of retaining it for records, try to get some space elsewhere in your office to this – maybe department filing cabinets or storage in the copy room or something. Keep it out of your cube.

      For the sake of your fellow neat freak coworkers like me, please keep it clean! I feel like I’m going to have panic attacks when I see some of my coworkers’ cubes with 80 piles of crap everywhere that they haven’t even touched in months.

      1. Aam Admi*

        I follow the same system as LBK and only have things on my desk that I need to work on in the next half-hour. I print duplex and only print what is necessary. Once the task is completed, I shred the printed papers. Most of my documents are saved electronically so I do not have a lot in the filing cabinets. My emails are neatly arranged in an intricate system of folders and I have a near-zero inbox.
        The co-workers who do the same kind of job as me have all their files siting on their desks in clear view and this system works well for them. For me, however, having random things on my desk causes migraine attacks.

        1. LBK*

          We sound like the same person. Any time anyone comes into my cube and sees my screen they’re in awe of the fact that I rarely have more than 5 emails in by inbox – I manage it obsessively, and usually the only time it reaches double digits is after a weekend or if I’ve been on vacation. When I hear my coworkers talk about regularly have 90+ emails it makes me want to hurl. How do you even know what’s going on with your job!?

        2. LBK*

          Also +1 for converting as many files to digital as possible. No desk space required and much, much easier to find – you can categorize them more intricately (folders in folders in folders!) and search all if needed.

    3. Hermione*

      Obviously it depends on your workflow, but I have 3 separate bins – 1) things I’m currently working on/haven’t yet started, 2) paperwork that has stalled because I’m waiting for someone else to do their part and 3) paperwork to be filed. IT runs remote computer updates roughly once per week overnight, which means that the next morning my computer takes 5 minutes or more to load up properly, so I use that time to file from the “to be filed” bin.

      Forms I use frequently (3+ times per week) have their own spots on the shelf behind my (small-ish) desk, so they’re within arm range when I’m meeting with clients, but less frequently used forms are simply saved on my server to be printed as needed – I took an hour last year to make them all type-able PDFs using Adobe Acrobat, so using them is simple on the computer.

      Otherwise, my desk is pretty clear, aside from the magnetic hockey schedule (Go Bruins) and the Magz toy I keep on the desk to stop my often-visiting coworker from doodling on my post-its. :)

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        I have a similar workflow setup, but I use Outlook sticky notes, so they take up no room on my desk. That works for what I’m doing. I just open the sticky notes for what I need to work on each morning, and each one has a list of tasks needed to finish that project.

  15. Treena Kravm*

    So I know we all collectively hate team-building exercises, but my manager has asked us to come up with ideas for an upcoming meeting, so I want to make sure I contribute good ones! Any suggestions? We have 20 minutes to work with.

    My workplace is a little bit different, in that our team is comprised of ~17 people in about 10 offices throughout a region that takes ~6 hours to drive through. So while we all do the same work, we see each other only quarterly at meetings and occasionally at other events that our department puts on throughout the year. In the past year, more than half our staff is new and don’t know each other at all. So I do see a real need for these meetings/get to know you exercises, and I know the management team is looking to get the most out of them.

    1. Jillociraptor*

      We’ve done the “Take a Stand” activity often. In an open room, everyone stands in the middle. One person reads a series of statements (could be about you personally, your opinions about the company/a current issue, anything) and if you agree or if it applies to you, go you to one side of the room. If not, you go to the other.

      So, one statement could be “I have been in this role for more than 3 years.” All those with 3+ years go to the Yes side, and those with fewer go to the No side.

      I typically also plan a brief discussion question (in this example it could be something like, “What were you doing before you came to this role?”)

      Gets people moving, and finding things they have in common, but typically doesn’t require unwanted physical contact, or require that you share any info you didn’t want to share (obviously write the questions so they don’t embarrass anyone!)

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        I did something like this with students, where if the statement applied to you, you had to run to the middle of the room and high-five everyone else there.

        Obviously, there wasn’t discussion after, but the students really liked it.

        1. Jillociraptor*

          Yes, I learned this activity when I worked with high school students, and also used it as an orientation leader in college. With the right tailoring, it works for any age group!

      2. Treena Kravm*

        That’s a fantastic one, and we’re a team of educators, so we use that frequently with our students!

      3. Brian_A*

        I’ve done one where the team (about 40 people) had to self-organize to be in the same order (from east to west) as the place each team member was born. It got us moving, we had some small discussions to figure out how to organize ourselves, and it was fun to learn about our co-workers without having to answer embarrassing questions!

      4. Who are you?*

        I like 2 truths and a lie. Everyone writes three statements about themselves. Two are true, one is a lie. They read the statement and people hold up fingers to indicate which statement they thought was fake. It’s fun because people try to think of those interesting facts about themselves that might sound like a lie. A woman I worked with was once a Rockette (you know, the dancers in NYC?). She was really proud of that but it would never have naturally come up in coversation in the company we worked for. It was kind of cool.

        1. Chriama*

          I really like that one as an opening exercise, in place of the typical “state your name and one interesting fact about you”.

    2. Adam*

      If it were me I’d look into playing a series of games that can get people’s minds flowing without getting too “office-like”. Maybe a game of trivia or Pictionary?

      1. Treena Kravm*

        That’s what I was leaning towards. We work in a specific niche of health education, and I was debating whether or not related-trivia would be welcome or feel like we’re “testing” them. I would love it but I’m obsessive about the topic/my job, so I’m not sure how others would take it.

        Another idea I had was the spaceship game–earth is being destroyed we have room on the spaceship for 10 people here’s a list of 30 you can pick from. Divide into teams and have each team explain why they chose who they chose. Is that too heavy for a social justice crowd?

        1. Adam*

          I’ve heard of the spaceship game before. The 30 people are all made up right? Personally I would ONLY play that game if each choice was simply a job designation (architect, cook, etc) and had no other identifying factors (age, gender, etc.) just to be safe.

          1. Treena Kravm*

            Yea, that’s what I was afraid of. The whole point is to throw in things like age (60 year old woman can’t reproduce!) and disabilities (fear of flying etc.). I’ve done is successfully with students as a learning mechanism, but it’s not really meant to be a get to know you game, so I’ll skip that one.

            1. Adam*

              If I were teaching a college class were debate was inspired (and the course was set to end in a couple weeks) I’d be willing to throw in actual demographics to see what kind of discussion it would spark. But in a work place I think you’d just be begging for trouble on that one.

        2. De Minimis*

          We played this goofy bingo game once that was a way to get to know superficial facts about the other…the squares would be things like “Went to college out of state” or “Has a dog,” or “Is bilingual” [in that office we had a ton of people from other countries.] When you met a person who matched the description in the square, they’d write their name. I think there was a rule that you couldn’t have the same person do more than one square.

          Only works of course with a fairly large group, and it might be tough to find enough items for the squares, but I thought it was pretty fun and I usually hate that kind of stuff.

    3. PX*

      Depending on how personal you want to get, something I learnt while mentoring a group of students in university was to have everyone pull their keychains out (ie. housekeys, car keys whatever) and talk about what kind of keys they had/keychains etc. Sometimes it was pretty boring, but sometimes people had stories of where they got their keychain, why they still have old keys on it, they’d talk about how they now have a key to their girlfriends place, whatever.

      Can also work with random stuff in wallets :D

    4. Mints*

      This is totally fluffy, but also pretty safe since everyone volunteers their own info: two truths and a lie.
      It can be as boring or as wacky or as professional as you want. The game is you say three things about yourself, and one is false. The group usually votes, and then you reveal which are true.

      (I was born in California, I’ve broken a bone, I got my license at 17.)
      (I’ve been in this role more than two years, I love excel, I have the only key to the sever room)
      (I was once groped by a drag queen at a gay bar, I was motorboated by a friend, I sprained an ankle from stilletos… the same night)

      It can go in any direction, so the organizers usually go first, to set the tone and give everyone time to think

      1. LBK*

        I’ve played this one a lot at various events – if you’re going to do it, give people a pen and paper to write their 3 items down. I am terrible at playing this game on the fly/having to do it from memory because it’s always really obvious which one is the lie based on my delivery, even if I have time to prepare my answers beforehand. My truths get a really straightforward delivery and then I hem and haw when I get to the details of the lie.

    5. annie*

      It’s dumb, but I feel like the “What’s one thing about you that would surprise your coworkers?” is a good softball question/game, because then the people answering can think of something that fits their own comfort level… Bob plays hockey every Saturday, Jane runs a book club for teens, Sue lived in France for a year during high school, Jim owns two cats, etc.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        Be careful with this one. A friend of mine was in a meeting where they asked this question, and someone else’s response was, “Well, I died once,” and then she talked about her near-death experience. Apparently it was awkward.

        For whatever reason, I’ve never seen two truths and a lie get weird. Maybe the “surprise” aspect triggers weirdness, or maybe my friend’s colleague was just insane.

        1. Bea W*

          This is why I always get mildly uncomfortable with this one, because all the truly surprising stuff is along the lines of “I died once” or even more awkward than that or cool things but from a time in my life I don’t want to revisit or discuss. Then everything else I can think of sounds pretty unsurprising and blessedly mundane.

      2. Windchime*

        We actually did this one at a work happy hour once. We found out that one co-worker is an identical twin, one is a trained opera singer and one was a contestant on the Dating Game back in the 70’s. It was a lot of fun!

    6. Turanga Leela*

      I second the idea of Pictionary, Taboo, or other actual games.

      For more traditional team-building, though, do you have access to people’s resumes? You can pick fun stuff off of everyone’s resume and have the group guess who did it. “This person’s undergraduate thesis was about dragons in epic poetry.” “This person volunteers at the ASPCA.” “This person was a silver medalist in ice dancing at the Junior Olympics.” and so on. I like it because you’re automatically limited to semi-professional information—everything that comes up is something that you put on your resume, so nothing is NSFW, and the people organizing the activity can control which topics they bring up.

    7. first time commenter*

      I’ve used this successfully even with folks who really don’t enjoy this type of things; however, I must say I do like them.

      Create a blank grid – like bingo but with nothing in the squares. Each person gets one of these papers. After you ask a person a question you write their name in one of the squares. The wrinkle is that you cannot ask two people the same question and you can’t be asked the same question more than once. It allows folks to get as serious as they’d like. Sometimes you get asked what your favorite color is and sometimes you ask a friend how their vacation was and sometimes it’s a deeper question. Lots of times people continue to have a conversation and that’s the point. I deliberately don’t mention (or have) a prize for completing your grid the fastest.

    8. Bea W*

      We did one where someone collected 1 fact from each person about themselves. It had to be something other people didn’t know about you. The facts were all listed out on a sheet, and copies were distributed in the meeting. People were given some time to match a fact with the right person, and then we went through each statement and people called out their guesses before the answer was revealed. We learned a lot of interesting and random things.

      1. Anon*

        We turned the Myers Briggs Typology Indicator into a team building/getting to know you thing. We all did the questionnaire before hand, got an MBTI facilitator in to attend the event to give an overview of MBTI, then tried to guess what each others’ types were. It really helped me as I was ‘thinking’ rather than ‘feeling’, as was my manager at the time who i swore was ‘feeling’; we talked about why she comes across as ‘feeling’ and i’ve since adopted those practices into my daily work so that i don’t come across as so transactional.

  16. Veery*

    I need help keeping my mind. I work is a fairly relaxed office setting on a small team with one other person. We are both high achieving, detail-oriented people and have earned our team a reputation for delivering high quality work. However, over the past year or so, my coworker has started slacking off. She has pretty regularly started “working from home” about 4-5 days per month — and by that I mean she doesn’t actually work, just checks her email a few times. She also has started to come in late and leave earlier. Today she is at least three hours late (hasn’t shown up yet) with zero communication as to where she is (this is after “working from home” yesterday).

    To be honest, her “extra vacation” isn’t really affecting our team’s work — we have very few active projects. However, it is really doing damage to my morale. It feels unfair that I should be working (really, just 40 hrs/wk) while she is hanging out at home, shopping, etc. Even though we don’t have any pressing deadlines, there are always things that can be done to help us get ahead and/or help out with other projects. When I am the sole person in the office, I also have to field all of the ad hoc questions from other staff. And nobody notices! We always get equal praise for our team’s work, which makes me feel a little resentful.

    I fear that if I bring this up to her directly, it will damage our friendly relationship (she can get very chilly/prickly with people). I don’t want to tattle to our supervisor either, for the same reason, plus because it seems childish (as it’s not affecting our ability to complete projects). So really, I guess I am looking for a creative way to draw attention to her absence, so that other people catch on. Any suggestions? Or do you think I should just try to ignore the entire situation?

    1. LBK*

      I would focus purely on the things that actually impact you vs. the things that just annoy you. If she’s slacking but work is still being done, that’s frustrating, but putting it out of your mind will put you at ease – let her dig her own grave and deal with her own consequences.

      What does impact you, though, is the praise/credit thing. I think that’s a conversation you can have with your manager – something like “At that meeting, I noticed you thanked both Jane and I for handling that huge teapot order. I was a little thrown off because I had handled that entire order on my own, without Jane’s assistance.” Then just stop and wait for your manager to respond. She’ll probably say something like “Oh, since you and Jane work on the same team I assumed you just split the work” or she’ll say “Oh, I didn’t realize that! I’ll make sure to be more clear about who handles what” and then you can go from there.

    2. Adam*

      My guess is if her out of office excursions are that egregious you probably aren’t the only one who has noticed. But even if her behavior is under the radar/condoned by her manager I can’t really think of a way for you to bring this to the forefront without looking like you’re out to get her.

      Perhaps you could address one of the challenges that has resulted from this rather than just call out her behavior? Like with the ad hoc questions, could you perhaps bring talk with your manager how one person is not enough to address all the other questions from the staff and you could use some back up? This might start a conversation about your co-worker’s availability without looking like your pointing your finger at her.

      That’s the best I’ve got unfortunately. Good luck!

    3. Steve G*

      So her absence doesn’t really impact you because you don’t have many active projects…………mmm…do you really need her as an employee anymore? Especially considering she’s just not that into the job?

      1. Veery*

        Ha. Fair point. Actually, in an ideal world, she’d take over my work, and I’d get to transition to another part of the organization. (Have been trying to get management to move me for the past 6 months!)

        1. Not So NewReader*

          That is part of your solution in an odd way. When you see yourself carrying the heavy weight, tell yourself that you are building up skills and knowledge necessary for that transition to another part of the organization. And she is so NOT.
          I get that it is very annoying when a coworker slacks off. But you cannot let that eat you, as you are saying here. Decide that Sue’s absence works for you. Decide that you are becoming a go-to person, a key employee or whatever terminology fits your setting. So what does this look like each week? You are getting to know the people in your company- better than you realize. You can juggle well. You can prioritize, problem solve and put out fires. Only a person who is there every day for all the hours would be able to do this stuff.
          And lastly, tell yourself that you want her there so that when they say “But we need you doing X in Y department.” You can say “Oh, there are two of us, Sue also works with me.”

    4. M*

      Echoing what others have said already. Focus on how it impacts your work and speak with your supervisor for ‘advice’.
      I’ve worked with people like this before (long lunches, MIA for hours at a time) and talking with them will do nothing except add tension between you.

    5. MissDisplaced*

      “Even though we don’t have any pressing deadlines, there are always things that can be done to help us get ahead and/or help out with other projects.”

      I think this is the key thing you should focus on here, not whether she is “working from home” or has absences. As in, “Jane, I know you are working at home, but I really need you to have X, Y, and Z complete by the end of the day.”

      And, do you know for sure she is not working? I mean, it seems as if her work is mostly still getting done, so perhaps there is a very good reason lately (medical, personal) that is going on, especially if this is more recent.

      1. Veery*

        To answer your last question: Oh yes. She has freely admitted to me all the activities that she’s partaking in when not at the office — going shopping, decorating for her daughter’s birthday party, attending daytime family events, etc. Honestly, I would rather not know, so I could pretend she was working.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          You may want to consider telling her that is TMI. I worked with a person who routinely bragged about cheating on their taxes. Since I actually pay my taxes this got annoying. Finally, one day I just said, “What you do at home is your business. Personally, I pay my taxes and I would prefer not to hear about some cheating on theirs.”

    6. Jules*

      As a person who regularly works over 40 and have a co-worker who complains when he has to work over 40, I feel ya.

    7. Anon*

      If you’re not prepared to tell your supervisor directly (which I think you should – you can put it in the way you have here. As a manager, i’d be concerned about damage to a stellar worker’s morale due to something I can/should fix), don’t waste your energy trying to find creative ways to draw attention to her attendance/productivity problem. This is a negative way to solve the problem. Instead, how about thinking of ways to show your supervisor how your productivity has remained high? Give her more regular status updates, take proactive full ownership of your results, forward any positive feedback you get – even verbal (I drop my manager a line when people tell me how great I handled project X). If your supervisor has’t cottoned on to coworker’s slacking off yet, she soon will when she’s regularly hearing about how well you are doing and hardly hears from coworker. Plus, when you go for your new job you’ll have loads of recent examples of your great work, whereas coworker won’t, so keep that in mind.

  17. Wolfey*

    Has anyone made the leap from an admin job with a humanities background to any kind of building/engineering?

    I’m a 2010 graduate with ~2.5 yrs paralegal experience, and am desperate to transition out of my new dysfunctional firm in particular and law in general. My passion is for sustainable building. All I want to do is rehab old/greenify old architecture, design or build green buildings, and green up urban areas!

    I’ve read a lot about Architecture not having the greatest pay or quality of life, so I’ve been considering construction management or civil engineering. I’d love to hear from anyone who made a similar transition from office to building: how you did it, what you found helpful, mistakes, misconceptions on the outside, was grad school worth it, etc.


    1. Student*

      You really just need to go back to school to do this.

      Admin work is difficult to transition directly into an engineering field. Frankly, being a woman is hard to transition into an engineering field, and since you’re an admin the odds are pretty good that you’re a woman. If you’re a man, then it’ll be easier, but you’ll still need to go back to school. Being an admin will reinforce every single stereotype that works against women in engineering – I wouldn’t even recommend putting it on your resume when you apply for an engineering job, unless you had absolutely nothing else to put.

      1. Wolfey*

        Yeah, that’s what I figured about school. It’s just a question of which grad program: architecture, construction management, or try to take a bunch of sciencey/mathy pre-requisites and sneak into civil engineering?

        As for past experience, my only major jobs since graduating have been with two firms: one is among the top 5 in the country and the other is a small law office. I’ve worked on multi-billion dollar international arbitrations and teeny personal injury lawsuits. It’s just that most of the work is managing files and deadlines instead of making decisions, and I’m not sure how to parlay that into a new career.

        1. Astor*

          A grad program might be right for you, but so might a technical diploma. Look into those programs, even though you already have a degree, so that you’re familiar with all of your available options. I know that my local community college offers technical certificates and diplomas, followed by bridging programs into a degree at a university, for options including architecture, civil engineering, and some environmentally focused degrees.

          If your local community/technical college has a good program, the advantages include that they cost less, you’re employable after your diploma if you decide that you don’t want to do the whole degree, can do different kinds of hands-on co-op work, and will have a better idea of how the field actually works. I suspect you could think of it as a similar type of support role to a paralegal in that you do a lot of the detail-work and aren’t trained for big-picture decisions. Except way less paperwork and way more male-dominated, “blue-collar” type work. But having worked in a law office, I suspect you will have a good idea of the way that these roles break down. Oh, and if you don’t have a strong high-school background or memory of math/science pre-requisites to jump into first-year civil engineering, some of these programs even have pre-admission programs to get a better foundation. Some disadvantages include that if you already know that you want to complete the degree, it does take longer and may not have the atmosphere that you want.

          The bridging program then catches you up on all the science and math that isn’t offered/required as part of the diploma so you can then join third-year students in a university. You’ll have some advantages over those students in field-experience, but they’ll also have advantages of already knowing the program and professors.

          You have a lot of roads to get to where you want to work with sustainable building, so you should definitely take some time to look through the programs at various schools. I can see multiple routes for you at my local community college in architecture, engineering, environmental technology, and others. Try to see if there are info sessions. Prioritize programs that have co-op requirements and then those that have co-op options. (Those that require co-op will be much better integrated into the local workforce.)

          If you realize that there’s a specific aspect of working with sustainable buildings that interests you, then you might need a specific credential in order to do that work. But if you just know that you want to do hands-on work in that field, then the particular route you take is not as important as you choosing a route that gives you a credential and that interests you. One thing I’ve really loved watching as I get older is the different ways that people take non-traditional routes into getting their traditional credentials. Or skipping the traditional credentials and instead pairing a technical diploma with a program management background. There are a lot more options than I thought there were, and a lot of them are really interesting.

          1. Wolfey*

            Thanks so much for this! I’m leaning towards civil engineering for its versatility, but would definitely need to do a ton of catching up before being ready for a grad program. A technical degree or a bridging program seems ideal in this case. Time to pepper colleges with questions.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is one of the few cases where you’ll hear me say this: You need to go back to school. It’s rarely the case, but it actually is in your situation.

    3. JB*

      I would look for projects you admire, and then find out if you can what firms/organizations were involved in the different processes. Maybe you’d like to get training as a planner or some other part of the process that isn’t the building side, and then go work for a private firm as opposed to government. That might be a slightly less expensive path and one that doesn’t require quite as many hours, although my sister is a planner and she works a lot.

      Or talk to architecture firms that do this kind of work and ask people at the bottom or a few years into their careers what their jobs is like. Maybe it’s not so bad, or maybe you won’t mind having less free time when doing something you love.

      Unless you have good, realistic career prospects, I’d hesitate to incur any kind of student loan debt without being reasonably sure of your job prospects and what your job would be like and would pay (and DON’T ask the schools about those things). I’m sure you work with plenty of lawyers who had ideas about what practice would be like and who are now trapped financially in jobs they hate, so I’m sure you have already thought about this.

    4. Steve G*

      I want to put in a vote that you go to school and look into energy engineering instead of architecture, if you are interesting in buildings. The need for those is increasing. Alot of cities and states are increasing energy efficiency requirements (such as NYC requiring audits on buildings about 50K sq ft), there are rebates coming out so buildings can upgrade their equipment, and now alot of new buildings are trying to be LEED certified……….and all over the place, buildings are trying to find ways to decrease their energy usage.

      Engineers that understand how buildings work and what the energy impact is are in demand.

    5. BB*

      In order to be an engineer you have to be strong in math and science at the advanced levels. If you are, that’s fine. If not, then I would go with architecture.

      Is there an architecture or design firm whose work you admire? Go intern with them. You can do this before you go back to school. Take whatever position they offer and ask a ton of questions.

      1. Astor*

        I definitely agree about asking lots of questions before you go back to school. There’s a lot more to working as an architect than just getting a degree – you will have to complete a bachelors program and maybe a masters program, then work under someone licensed, and then complete all of your exams. It’s an intense process. Great if it’s what you want to do, but intense.

        A friend of mine struggled in the faculty of architecture because while there was way less math/science courses than in engineering they still had the same foundational requirements from high school. So instead of doing thermodynamics in first year while the math/physics were fresh, it was being done later in the program with less support. And then on the other end of the spectrum, there was a lot more focus on art (aka, the look of a building) than on the practical needs of design, so you were judged on your aesthetics more than your application of those technical skills. For my friend it really required a broad foundation and skill set that made completing the professional requirements of architecture less appealing as each year passed.

    6. Small office*

      Can I ask why you don’t like the paralegal work, I am hoping to transition into this sort of role and considering getting a paralegal certificate, wondering if it is worth it or if I am missing something.

      I love the area you want to go in, best of luck!

      1. Wolfey*

        I’m not suited for litigation work. I took the job right out of school, no certificate, when no one else was hiring and have been trying to get out ever since. It’s often the same thing every day, very procedural, very hierarchical, and while I’ve learned some things it’s not enough to keep me challenged. I’ve never worked anywhere that had great room for growth, but to be fair I have a sample size of 2 jobs. What I hear from others is that this is not uncommon though.

        That said, paralegals make decent money. At 2.5 years in I’m making in the ballpark of 55K and that’s only because I accidentally lowballed myself in the hiring process. Add in lots of mandatory OT and I have a comfortable paycheck for someone my age. The range goes from about 35k to 70k, depending on location, firm size, etc.

        If you’re going to go the paralegal route I’d advise against litigation, unless you really know a place that’s going to train you to be involved with all aspects of the process. I’ve heard firms like that exist, where you can start as a glorified doc clerk and end up handling most aspects of a case after 5-10 years, but my firms and most job descriptions I’ve seen only want someone to organize the documents as they come in, print lots and lots of paper, and send things out. You’re still a glorified document clerk after many years, because that’s what they want. Thinking and initiative are lawyerly domains, and woe on the paralegal who tries to encroach. The hours I’ve been required to work in litigation were regularly awful as well (lots of weekends, late nights, last minute things) and you really don’t have a choice because if how rigid the hierarchy is. Lastly, most paralegals I’ve met are ladies so there is sometimes that Mad Men dynamic in an office. I’ve worked with great attorneys too, but that’s always something to think about.

        Non-litigation work, on the other hand, exposes you to a lot more. My boyfriend learned a lot about real estate during his brief stint at a non-lit firm, but that also might have been a bit of the Boys Club. I tend to see more maneuverability in non-litigation legal work too. If you work for private companies or the gov’t instead of firms you will also probably learn more and be treated better. The courts especially might be very interesting, the hours will be reasonable, and the benefits are excellent.

        Hope that’s helpful. I have a pretty jaded opinion of paralegal jobs, but I’m only one person. My co-worker has been doing this 18 years and liked her last firm, where she traveled and worked from home a lot, doing much more interesting stuff than she’s doing here. She’s extremely frustrated by her very limited responsibilities and the condescension from above at our current place.

        Can’t advise about the worth of a certificate. I don’t have one, neither did any of the young grads at my old firm, and neither does my experienced co-worker. It is possible that a course would teach you a lot that would enable you to jump straight into non-litigation work.

        Hope that’s helpful?

        1. Wolfey*

          I should temper this:

          If you work in a place with good people, high morale, and the company respects you as a person, then I think paralegal work can be a great job for some people. It’s also a reliable thing to be able to fall back on whenever you are figuring out your next move in life, because there are legal departments and law firms everywhere and the salaries are usually healthy. Litigation is just infamous for toxic environments and my sour outlook probably reflects that.

          1. Small office*

            Thanks! I appreciate your answer, I am considering new career paths but am having a bit of grass is greener syndrome, Current situation: 2011 grad in second job out of college, low pay, unchallenged and disliking my boring admin work. I’ve always like law and would be interested in law school if it weren’t so darn expensive and the outlook was better for young lawyers. I will have to hone in on the type of office I would like to be in but I will try to avoid litigation :)

            Good luck to you!

    7. Anonathon*

      Ditto everyone else on going back to school. But I would try to find a way to experience this field first-hand before you spend a lot of money and time transitioning into it. Can you shadow or intern? Get an admin-type job at a construction firm even? You want to be sure that you like that world in practice as well as in theory.

  18. Theranon*

    Crap…I just realized that I scheduled a phone interview directly after a therapy session. It’s good timing-wise, but terrible for my composure! Nothing like trying to impress someone after an hour of opening up, feeling raw, and crying.

    Well, too late to change now. Wish me luck!

    1. Bea W*

      I did a phone interview in my car, immediately after a therapy session (which was probably mostly talking about my current job which was torture and forced me back on meds). I got the job. :) Good luck!

    2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      tell your therapist! he/she might be able to help you get your mind back on track at the end of the session and not leave you so “raw”

      1. Theranon*

        Thanks! It’s actually today…and this is the initial therapy session, which it took me several months to get–so no cancelling! I also got called in for a 2-day temp job, so I tried to schedule the interview for when I’d be out of the office on personal business anyway. It’s just the perfect storm of crazy.

        I will hold up and be strong and make it through somehow. And I’ll report back around 3pm, when it’s all over. Thanks for the well-wishes!

        1. A Non*

          Ah, that helps – initial therapy sessions are often pretty basic getting-to-know-you conversations and an overview of your history. They’re not usually very intense. And seconding the suggestion of letting the therapist know you’re headed for an interview immediately afterward. Perhaps you can spend the last 10-15 minutes talking over your work history, then it’ll all be fresh in your mind for the interview.

          1. Theranon*

            Yes, I did all of this. She let me out a couple of minutes early. I took a walk around the block in the sunshine to clear my head and got a cup of coffee.

            The interview went OK. They started off by asking about all of the things I’m weakest at and will need a ton of training in, which made me feel stomach-sinking doom. But then they ended by asking about my strengths and I got really excited about the kinds of things I could do for them, so it ended up on a more positive note. We’ll see. I don’t have a great feeling about it, but it was great to be talking to someone. After talking about myself for an hour in therapy and then talking about myself for 45 minutes in the interview, I now want to crawl into a dark, cool room with my cat who already understands me and likes me just as I am (usually).

  19. Adam*

    I’m hoping to get some advice on how to get out of the Customer Service field when that’s the only type of professional jobs I’ve had. I’ve done this type of work for many years and I’m good at it, but I just don’t enjoy it at all. Also it’s become very clear that the opportunities for career growth and increased rewards down the line are slim to none. I understand that most jobs have some element of customer service to them, but I’m tired of it being my primary focus.

    If you’re curious what I’d like to do the honest answer is it doesn’t matter really. I’m the type of person who works to support their passions rather than works at one. I think I have a much better chance of getting into work that I have an aptitude for and growing in that be my key to overall career satisfaction. I’m kind of leaning towards project coordinating and eventual project management at the moment, but so long as my work is engaging most of the time I’m cool.

    But I just don’t know how to leverage myself into a non-Customer Service (or sales) role when that’s what my resume history screams out. I’ve done my best to emphasize my accomplishments in my roles. I even went in on one of Alison’s resume review offers (and her advice was POSITIVELY ENLIGHTENING), but I’m still unsure how to go about this.

    In my current job I’ve accumulated a real hodgepodge of responsibilities as my position is considered the dumping ground for various tasks that no one else in the department wants to do and I haven’t said no to one yet. In fact, my director recently decided my job title needed to change because all the work I do now isn’t reflected very well in the original one I had when I was hired (but it’s only a title change; no other perks to go along with it). I can work with data, write, organize obsessively, and can learn any program you like given the time. Everyone I talk to says it should be possible to make this kind of transition, but when I apply for anything out of my comfort zone I feel like Rudy staring down a 280 pound lineman.

    A couple notes:
    -I’m also looking to get out of the non-profit sector. That’s where I’ve spent my professional life since college and I’m burned out by the atmosphere, and admittedly the lack of growth and money is a big concern at this point too.
    -I’m still looking for an office environment type job.
    -I won’t be going back to school. I’ve spent my time in Uni to get my B.S. (psychology if you’re curious) and have neither the inclination nor the money to go back again. If taking some independent classes to gain some specific skills would help I’m open to that, but for now I’m less than one year away from paying off those student loans and done earning degrees.
    -I’m not afraid of alternate schedules and no job idea is beneath me. I just want it to be worth it.

    I’d greatly appreciate any helpful thoughts anyone has.

    1. Kai*

      An administrative assistant/executive assistant position might make sense. You say you have experience working with data, writing, and organizing, which are huge in those types of jobs. The customer service experience you have means you probably have excellent communication and people skills. It’s also an area where you could probably advance in a couple of years to more project management-type positions.

      1. Adam*

        Funny enough, I once spoke with a recruiter about doing admin type work and she said I didn’t have the skills for it…and the proceeded to try to sway me into a customer service job that was her office’s Big Account.

        I don’t work with recruiters much these days.

    2. Puddin*

      To me, customer service equates with the ability to follow processes and build relationships (albeit sometimes in a compressed amount of time.) I think these skills transfer to any role where 1.) you are expected to adhere to a fairly important and/or rigid set of operations and 2.) you are responsible for communicating this process to others.

      So, in my mind I see sales, supply chain (like a purchaser or order expediter), project management, facilities management, or retail environment/merchandising.

      Just my thoughts…let us know where your path leads! :)

    3. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      I bet you’ve got transferable skills from those customer service jobs. Here’s the thing – for me, at least, I can often see that a person has skills that are potentially transferable, but THEY have to convince me that they understand how the skills could be transferred and believe they can do it. Because some people can’t. So – you pick out the parts of current/past jobs (even small parts) that are related to the job that you are applying for, and exploit those in your cover letter. Talk about them in depth. Talk about why you liked that part of former job so much that you want to do it full time, etc. And then customize this for each application. If you keep some boiler plate paragraphs around for each of the transferable skills, it won’t take you ages to customize.

      1. Adam*

        Thank you for the insight. I’ve definitely reworked my resume to emphasize all the non-customer service type achievements I’ve had and try to do that in cover letters as well. I just haven’t convinced anybody yet.

    4. Begins With Kalamazoo*

      I don’t know if you have any medical device firms in your area, but I currently work in medical device regulatory affairs and we have all types of people working in the various regulatory groups throughout the organization. Backgrounds range from administrative to engineering, with everything in between. It requires logical thinking, a willingness to learn about products throughout their entire life cycle, organization, and good communication skills (both written and interpersonal). It has a nice career tragjectory, doesn’t require you to “live your passion,” and has a good compensation structure. I have seen people move into regulatory directly from the customer service role, or move into post market quality/compliance roles, which have a similarity to customer service without too much direct customer interface, and then transistion from there to regulatory.

      It can be hard to land a regulatory affairs job without actual medical device experience, but post market/compliance roles can be more flexible about unrelated backgrounds, and it’s one way to get your foot in the door.

    5. Colette*

      “Customer service” covers a variety of options, so I’m not sure if any of this applies. What about something in customer service but not dealing directly with customers? Call centers have quality teams, training, and management. You could also consider that involves improving processes, analyzing survey results, or workforce management.

      1. Adam*

        Thank you for your input. My ideal is to get out of customer service altogether so I’m aiming for that first, but if I need to take a more gradual approach I’ll consider it.

    6. voluptuousfire*

      I’m in the same boat, to a certain extent. I’ve worked primarily in customer service roles with some admin duties mixed in and I want to get out of that domain. I’ve also an eclectic background with transferable skills and have focused on coordinator/administrator type roles. Those are a pretty good fit for skills like ours: it requires organizational skills, good interpersonal skills and the ability to keep track of a lot of moving parts and good customer service skills. I find I have better luck with more specific roles: sales administrator/coordinator, for example. I just had a second interview for a sales administrator role and it’s a great fit! It’s also a non-customer facing role, which is great! After working customer service roles for awhile, it wears on you.

      1. Adam*

        “After working customer service roles for awhile, it wears on you.”

        I hear that. I’ve done it for the last 8 years and I’ve had enough! Good luck in your search!

        1. voluptuousfire*

          I also wanted to mention that I’m looking at Project Coordinator roles. I’d love to break into project management or operations and could really see myself being successful in one of those roles.

    7. Felicia*

      I work in Member Services at a professional association, and I think that could work for you! What member services means varies, but in my experience there is some customer service, of course , but then there’s also writing and marketing, data entry and other admin responsibilities. It’s a very varied role, and customer service skills (which is only what you spend about 1/3 of your time on) and good writing skills is what you need. They also have professional associations for pretty much most professions, so you’ll probably find one you find interesting. If any of those associations are hiring and near you, that might be an idea! I happen to live in a large city where most professional associations for my province are located, so i can see myself growing in this area.

      1. Adam*

        I actually kind of work for such an organization right now. If I had a more interesting role it might be ok, but as it stands it brings me more frustrations then satisfactions. But you have a good perspective on it.

    8. Sidra*

      Do you trust your boss or another manager at work? If so, perhaps talk to them about how you’d like to change what you do. Maybe change to a different location or department? Do you know someone else in a path similar to one you’d like to follow? Ask them how they got in, got started, and ask for help doing the same yourself.

      1. Adam*

        My manager is cool, but I’m just done with this organization. I’ve tried applying to alternate roles that I might have a chance in (of which there are very few), but those have been a no go. And the majority of a the higher ups have an advanced degree of a particular stripe that I most definitely do not want to pursue.

        So that just leaves option C: not letting that door hit me on the way out!

    9. Not So NewReader*

      I think it was here, I read that retail workers are used to working with next to nothing to get a task or a goal completed. Think about the times you have pulled rabbits out of hats.

      It’s my opinion that anyone who has been in retail for any length of time is familiar with money flows. They know where the mistakes usually occur in handling a lot of cash and they can find those mistakes quickly. (Because they reeeally want to go home!)

      I totally overlooked these things because to me they were ordinary things. However, my current boss compliments a lot on this type of stuff. I am now in an office job where those types of skills are valued instead of just taken for granted. (Another thing I have received a compliment on is my willingness to start working on something that I know nothing about. Again, another norm in retail.)

      1. Adam*

        Yep, did a stint in retail (longest year and a half of my life) and that’s exactly how it felt. Thank you for putting the experience into words I can use later!

  20. Pawnee Goddess*

    Any thoughts on open floor plans with “hotel desks” and very few private spaces (i.e. conference rooms, etc.)? Our department will be moving to this model in the next few weeks and I’m a little aprehensive about it. We’ve been told that some of us will have “designated” areas (i.e. cubes) but there will be very few conference rooms, a few 1-2 person “rooms” (more like phone booths), and a few huddle areas. There will be very little storage as well and we will one area per floor to throw away garbage, versus every having their own individual trash container.

    1. Nat Fish*

      I can slightly speak to this. The office I work in now has an open floor plan with the “hotel desks” you speak of. We’re grouped in pods according to the team/client we’re on. We can peer over our computers or look next to us and speak to our team whenever we need them, which is definitely an advantage. I always hated sending an email to someone who was in the cube over just because we didn’t want to get up.
      However, I work in a phone based industry (not telemarketing, don’t throw things at me) and it can get quite loud. Many of us keep earbuds in when not on the phone, and that helps, but it can get maddening.
      Our office does have a fair amount of conference rooms, however, so I’m not sure how your office will work around not having many. I feel our number of breakout rooms really adds to our success in this office plan.
      Overall, I like the feel of it. But I suppose it would depend on how your company is structured i.e. teams/departments/etc.

    2. JMegan*

      Oh, I have thoughts – but unfortunately not very nice ones. :S I don’t mind working in a cubicle farm, but I really need my own desk and my own space (with walls!). I never know what TPTB are trying to achieve with this concept – they’re probably thinking about more collaboration and more team building and so on, but I’m firmly in the “good fences make good neighbours” camp. I don’t have any advice for you, but I do have lots of sympathy!

      1. Red*

        I have to second this. One of my first real jobs was temping in a situation where we were moved from high-walled cubes to super-low ones in a bull-pen, pod-like configuration. Everyone had their own idiosyncrasies and focusing on work in such an acoustically-poor (and privacy-impaired) set-up was hard. I coped with earbuds and listened to music (also fantasized about getting out of there), but I also had no phone at my desk (nor was I permitted to take or make calls in any case).

    3. De Minimis*

      A former workplace had several floors that were almost entirely dedicated to “hoteling.” They were for auditors that didn’t spend enough time in the office to make it worth having a permanent office for them.

      But for people who are normally in a specific location that doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

      And I have to ask, are you Pawnee?

    4. danr*

      We’ve come full circle… That’s how I started working at my old company. Hope the desks are large and the people are quiet or at least know what ‘inside voices’ are. Good luck.

      1. pawner goddess*

        My thought about the change is that it will encourage more people to work from home more often. That’s my plan anyway.

        1. LMW*

          My team is going to be moving to this model sometime in the future, and that’s my plan as well. I think there are environments and roles where this can work, but TBTB rarely take into account the type of roles people have. I hate even taking phone calls in my cube, because it drives me nuts when other people are on calls and I’m trying to edit something. With the short, stubby walls? I’m doomed.

    5. LBK*

      AAM had a thread on this a while back. I believe there were at least 300 comments with only one or two saying they liked open floor plans. The rest thought it was one of the worst things you could possibly do to an office.

      So…good luck with that.

    6. Felicia*

      I hate open plans so much. They made it hard for me to focus. I read a study that said they impede productivity and creativity (i can’t find it anymore, but it was somewhere!)

      1. Windchime*

        Yeah, I used to work in an open plan but fortunately we all had our own space, so there wasn’t any “hoteling”. We had a big open room with this countertop/desk thing that snaked through the entire room. Everyone had one small, two-drawer cabinet for storage and that was it. It was pretty awful; the noise was almost unbearable because we had analysts who need to communicate crammed in with programmers who need to be able to think, distraction-free. Some people were so close that if they backed up their chair to stand up, they might run into the person behind them.

        Employers who do this are just trying to cram as many people into as small a space as possible. Lucky for me, we were only in this room temporarily and several months later, we moved into a building that had room for cubicles.

    7. PX*

      I work in an open plan office and as its my first job out of college I dont really know anything else – so I’m fine with it. I suggest earbuds if you need them to keep from getting distracted by others.
      Definitely agree that you will probably need get used to using the huddle rooms/conference/phone booths for longer conversations etc.

      But my company has been like this for a while so most people have adapted to the etiquette (typically no eating at desks, long/loud conversations or phone calls go to a break room, single trash area etc)

  21. Newbie Analyst*

    Any Financial Analysts out there? I started as a Receptionist at a commercial real estate start up in April and was quickly promoted to an Analyst position when I impressed the Director of Finance with my Excel skills on a project. This is just the career move I was looking for! I’ve been trying to get out of Admin for a couple of years now so it was a relief when someone recognized my potential.

    I really enjoy my boss, but since our company is still in the start-up phase, she and my two team members are extremely busy. They don’t really have time to train me until we finish a process that will take at least another month. So far they’ve kept me busy with a lot of data entry/scrubbing. I know this sort of thing is very useful, but I feel like a total impostor and that I don’t belong here. I know this thinking is common and can be poisonous if I let it get to me. I try to take notes and ask questions as much as I can. The industry is new to me as well so I just feel like I never know what’s going on. I’ve been an Admin for the past 4 years and was really good at it. I’m not used to this feeling of not knowing anything.

    Whenever I see a complex financial model or Excel formula, my brain says, “I’ll never be able to do this!” I know these things take time to learn. Just looking for reassurance from some folks in the field that I’ll get there eventually! I have no one to relate to in my role because my two team members are quite senior to me.

    1. JB*

      I’m not in that field, but I have through the course of my career been forced to learn things that were difficult for me because they required me to think in a totally different way. You can do this. You can do this!

      Here’s what I do in this situation: Remind yourself that nobody is born knowing this stuff. Everybody who does it had to learn it at some point. Think back on all the things you can do now without thinking about that you didn’t know how to do 5, 10, 15, 20 years ago. Picture yourself a year from now looking back on how much you’ve learned over the year. Remember that learning new things that are difficult to learn is good for your brain, so this process is healthy for you, and you’re lucky to have the chance to work your brain like this. And, finally, remember that the feelings of excitement and nervousness are very similar, so whenever you feel nervous, just say to yourself, “I’m feeling so excited right now!” And then make similar statements about excitement (“I can’t believe I get to do this” or something like that).

      You’ve got this. You’ve totally got this.

    2. Pushy penguin*

      I am a Financial Analyst! When it comes to complex Excel formulas – I am the first to say it is all about practice. When you see a formula you are unsure about or would like to replicate, spend some time in Excel help to see how it works. Use the Internet – it is your friend. I came out of school with enough Excel to copy, paste and do some basic Pivot tables. Now I can do some pretty complicated Excel work as well as build macros and most of it is self taught. You will definitely gain confidence with time. If you really want to build your skills fast and you have little time on the side at work, then you should give yourself a project. Forcing yourself to use the complex equations and functionality in Excel for a self-assigned goal will give you the time to understand them without being against a deadline.

    3. Francie*

      Basically everything cool I can do in Excel has come from me thinking “I wonder if I can find X from this data,” googling it, and messing around until I got it to work for me. I have a sandbox xls that has valid but old data in it, that I can use to try out new formulas without messing up the live data. If you can set up something like that, it would give you a space to work on demystifying some of those formulas for yourself.

    4. CC*

      Not a financial analyst, but I do lots of excel work.

      If the complex equations involve excel functions, then the help files and the internet are your friend. There are a ton of resources out there.

      If the complex equations are long and with lots of cell references and math operators, then I find writing them out on paper in a more typical equation format helps. (Yes! I do this, and I’m a very experienced excel user!) Excel’s equation format is ugly but it’s constrained by being all in one line of text so it can’t really be any other way. I keep a scratch pad on my desk for exactly this purpose — both figuring out or troubleshooting existing equations and creating new equations, the scratch pad is how I make sure they’re correct. When I do this, I replace the cell references with what they represent. Since I’m a chemical engineer, those cell references will represent things like volumes, densities, concentrations, and so on.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I am not a finance whiz. However, a prof of mine was. And it was her conviction that finance was not about the formulas themselves. It was about the reason WHY you chose a formula or a method or a particular set of data.

      The situation was such that on an exam if I could explain why I did what I did to solve the problem, I would get credit for it. Not too sure if I agree with that, but there it is.

      Picture cooking a particular dish. The recipe is for four people, but you just want enough for two people. It’s not always appropriate to cut every ingredient in half. And there are various reasons why. If you understand how the ingredients interact with each other and what it is you want this dish to be you can better understand how to adjust the recipe.

      Focus on learning the why’s or the rational behind the formulas. And focus on learning the patterns in Excel and how Excel works. (Two seemingly separate steps.) In a while you will understand what formulas to use and when to use them and you will know just how Excel will handle that computation.

    6. Red*

      Congratulations! I’m not an FA, but I studied finance as part of my accounting degree. For me, the key to remembering and understanding the models was learning about the reasoning AND the history behind them to help build those memory connections (for example, I once spent a day on just exploring topics related to the Black-Scholes model). Learning the history behind any given practice has always helped me gain a deeper understanding of why we use it, but it also really just helps me fix the subject in my mind so that I don’t forget after a long weekend. ;)

    7. Hillary*

      It’ll come – focus on doing what they ask as well as you can and learning. One of the first things I do in a new FA role is start diagramming the accounting structure, because chances are it only exists in a couple peoples’ heads. Writing it down and reviewing with them helps you learn and helps them identify opportunities. My other big one to start is spend time with the models. Deconstruct the excel, look at the raw data, and rebuild it if you can (and ask if you can’t, all the excel geeks I know love sharing our insanity).

      I work for a big private corporation with multiple accounting systems. It took me six months to get my feet under me and about 18 months to be really comfortable with my team’s books.

  22. Malissa*

    Web pages.

    Since y’all have been a great source of information so for…
    Is just a facebook business page enough or do you like to see your professionals have a regular web page as well?

    1. Bea W*

      It depends on what the business is and why I am looking at the site. I think an online site of any kind is only as good as the information you can easily find on it. I wouldn’t be looking much at the website of maybe a lawyer or a plumber, but if I am looking for someone who does something graphic design or interior design, a website highlighting their work and areas of expertise with an online portfolio is a huge plus.

      1. Sabrina*

        Agreed, it depends. I have a hairstylist that only has a FB page and it does fine for her since she’s independent. Lists her hours on the FB page, etc. I wish she had online scheduling, but since she doesn’t, the FB page does fine. On the other hand I’ve run across restaurants that also only have FB pages, which I don’t care for because I want more than their hours, I want to see their menu too, and if you have a photo of it uploaded to FB, it’s not necessarily easy for people to find on your FB page.

    2. danr*

      How will you reach the folks who are not on facebook? I’m not, and when a business only has a facebook page I can’t interact at all.
      Call me ‘old fashioned’ [grin], but I prefer a website.

      1. Sabrina*

        Facebook pages still show up in Google results and you don’t need to have an account to view them. You can’t control the SEO of the FB page though.

        1. danr*

          Yes, you can view them, but you can’t interact with them. Maybe it’s the way Facebook is, but the company facebook pages that I’ve gone to seem very jumbled and disorganized.

          1. jennie*

            Well you can’t really interact with most websites either. The FB page has contact info on it, just like a regular website if you need more info.

            I don’t like seeing just an FB page for a company, but I understand for small businesses it is a cost issue, and it’s better than nothing. Better even than a terrible website.

    3. LBK*

      I can’t stand when a business only has a Facebook page. For on thing, I find them really hard to navigate if I’m just trying to track down basic info – usually if I’m going to a business’s page, it’s to see their hours, contact info, specials/menu (if it’s a restaurant), etc. I’m not trying to communicate or get recent updates on them, I just want to reference static information. For that purpose I find FB useless.

      On the flipside, I do find FB helpful for pushing daily updates, but in that case I’d just follow it and see them on my newsfeed. I wouldn’t visit a company’s FB daily just to see their updates.

      1. Mints*

        Agreed. I much much prefer a webpage, even if it’s only one page with hours and an address (although a little more is better). FB pages, to me, are more for companies trying to build loyalty or share cool things (like a bakery posting custom cakes) but I tend not to use it for info

    4. Bernadette*

      Regular web page! Facebook pages are fine for specials/photos/we’re closing early/what have you, but I always click on the real web page before the Facebook page

    5. Calla*

      I prefer a website, but I also am fine with Facebook pages if it has enough information–an about page, pictures, contact information, etc. In fact, I really like it for some businesses (like restaurants or other venues–I’ve been doing a lot of wedding venue research lately) because they are more likely to do regular updates.

    6. LMW*

      I don’t use Facebook for anything but connecting to personal friends and family. I have maintained a few pages for companies where I worked, but I don’t even “like” or share those. I don’t ever visit Facebook business pages, and I probably wouldn’t take a vendor seriously if that’s all they have.

      1. Aisling*

        +1. Facebook is probably the easiest type of web presence to have, and if that’s all a business has, I wouldn’t take them very seriously. It depends on the type of business, but if it’s important enough to have a web presence, it needs to be a “real” one.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      I really like to see some kind of page, though for a very small business, I’m okay with Facebook. As long as they have a way for me to reach them easily, we’re good.

      My blog is my web page. It will probably continue to be so, though I’m toying with the idea of upgrading to the slightly better WordPress option.

    8. Kathryn*

      May I recommend Square Space? I’m not being paid by them, but I am in the process of using them to make a website, and I LOVE it. With minimal effort, my site looks absolutely fabulous because they have awesome templates already in place. And I believe we’re only paying $10/month.

  23. Angora*

    Well … I am still job searching. Didn’t get the job I wanted but the new boss is meeting with everyone to discuss their concerns. I suspect my department head may be gone by next year; but am not willing to wait.

  24. Small office*

    My boss is very gossipy. Often she and I have one on one meetings where she will say something negative about other coworkers. It used to be things I could relate to but now it is getting mean, criticizing their work, ideas, ways of doing things. She is my boss so I feel like I can’t ask her to stop but now I try to deflect it or give the other person’s side or maybe why they did what they did. It is really impacting my morale and bringing me down when she makes these comments because everyone works very hard and people are different. She criticizes people above her, below her and at the same level. It’s taking its toll because these are people I really like and enjoy working with and make my day better. What they bring to the table far outweighs any slightly negative thing like a “dumb” idea or one instance that left you saying “huh? or what were they thinking”

    1. Bend & Snap*

      Honestly–I’d look at the big picture and think about whether you want to continue working with her.

      Here’s why:
      1) She may be talking about you the same way.
      2) People who act like this get a reputation sooner or later, and lose their credibility. This can also harm those who work for them.

      1. Small office*

        Thanks! My larger concern is that I am not growing professionally or have anyone to look up to for developing good habits/professionalism at the office. I have been on the lookout for other opportunities.

    2. Steve G*

      Hate that, when “innocent” gossip turns this way, and gets too much, then you feel like there is no turning back.

      but you do say you bring up the good sides….so you are fixing the problem, even though it seems like what you really want is to change your boss. Not sure that will happen….

    3. anon in tejas*

      I used to be in this environment. I got out, and it was a big reason why I got out. I didn’t articulate that to my boss, because frankly her style was already developed and she wasn’t going to change. she was already losing valuable folks because of her management style. It really hit home for me when I thought about what she was likely saying about me, through a particularly rough patch.

      Maybe a good way of talking to her is how it impacts the team morale or your ability to be a part of the team.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I have said little things such as “Well, that may be true, but I have to have a working relationship with the person so I cannot dwell on that.” I have also done, “I am sorry to hear that. Back to XYZ situation that we were talking about…”
      Depending on the boss, I would try, “You okay? You seem unhappy.”
      Or there is “But Jane does very well with ABC. I consider her my go-to when I am having difficulty.”

  25. Janet*

    Ok, back in May I had my review. It went very well and I received “exceeded expectations” from my boss. I then asked if I could please have a title change because the work I am doing now encompasses way more than my title indicates. He said he supported this and would follow up with the VP and request it.

    At the end of June, I was given my raise. I asked again at this time if he’d heard any word about a title change. He said he hadn’t asked yet because he’s been so busy but that he would do it soon.

    Since then he’s gotten in trouble a few times and the VP appears to be less-than-pleased with him. He STILL hasn’t asked about a title change for me. I’m getting really annoyed with the whole situation. Should I ask him again and get a time frame as to when he’ll request it? Or should I just go over his head and talk to the VP? I know that going over his head would be very bad but at the same time, I’m getting tired of this.

    Also, even though this has absolutely nothing to do with me directly, it pisses me off how every time I log into Linkedin it seems as if someone I’ve worked with has a new title or a promotion. I’m tired of having to beg for something like this over and over again. I’m getting really frustrated with the whole situation.

    1. Aisling*

      If you have more responsibility and the compensatory pay for job, then I’m not sure why you’re concentrating on what it’s called. Is it to help people in your organization know what you do? Are you having issues with staff not knowing who does what job? Or, do you want the title so you can list it for others to see? If there are issues where it’s affecting your job, such as “So and so didn’t know that I handle that task now”, then that’s how you should present it to your boss. If it’s not affecting your job, then it’s not a hill I would die on.

      1. Meredith*

        If it’s like my org, the title change isn’t only a way to get more compensation, but it’s a step higher on the org chart. If she doesn’t get a title change now, she may fall behind. Although, in my org the raise always happens alongside the title change, so maybe she should ask HR what her current official title is?

      2. Janet*

        I am having issues with staff not knowing what I do and to be honest, I’m worried about taking the next leap. Right now I do media relations, social media, public relations, strategic planning and I manage the interns and numerous projects. My title is Media Relations Coordinator so that implies I only do media relations (which is just one aspect of PR) and that that I don’t have any management duties. My office is extremely hierarchical so being a coordinator means that some people literally won’t respond to my e-mails. It happens frequently that I e-mail a VP or a director regarding something and rather than respond to me directly, they call my boss and tell him the answer so he can tell me. It’s frustrating and limiting.

        Plus, if I ever intend to leave here (which I likely will in a few years if I am not promoted) I am going to have a hard time convincing other jobs that I had these skills and did these things. Public Relations Manager is still in my pay grade so it’s not an official promotion but having a “manager” in your title carries more weight with other departments.

        And to be honest, these sorts of title changes happen in other departments all over the organization. If you have a boss who fights for them, you could have a much better title than someone else even if you don’t do as much.

        1. Aisling*

          Ah, I can see that now. If you haven’t already, I would specify to your boss how not having the title is hampering you. You might also contact HR, in the guise of getting the new job description, and see what it says there.

          A Coordinator in my profession is actually a higher grade than a manager, so by listing your skills, I still don’t think the actual title matters, outside of your organization. Every organization is a little different. But, you would know best about yours.

    2. anon in tejas*

      timing is everything.

      Id let it go for now. Mainly because if you go over your boss’s head, you will likely not get the title change, and it may annoy the VP that you thought it was appropriate/important enough to do so (regardless of how your boss handled it), and likely deny it. If you push with your boss to bring up, high likelihood that it’ll get denied by VP, because he’s got other issues to work on/focus on.

      sounds like bad timing right now. be thankful for the raise and consider reapproaching when things get better on the title.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Ask if there is something you can do to help the process along. For example, if you do unrelated task B will that free your boss up to work on the promotion process?
      Definitely explain how it is hampering you. Give concrete examples if you can.

  26. Noah*

    Does anyone have any advice on how to deal with having an admin assistant for the first time? I feel like I don’t use him for very much. Honestly, I would’ve preferred to hire someone myself, but both of us were hired around the same time and moved in our positions. We met each other our first day on the job.

    It is difficult for me to just hand over all those tasks he wants to do. Our latest issue has been travel arrangements. I let him book my airline, rental car, and hotel for our last business trip. I felt lost the whole time and had to rely on him to tell me when/where I was supposed to be. It was annoying. So when it was time to book the next trip I mentioned I would prefer to book my own travel so I can have it stick in my brain, but said lets discuss what flights, hotel, etc.

    I guess I would really rather have his position be an “assistant job title”, rather than an “assistant to job title”. I’ve been working towards this and trying to hand over small or less complex projects that I think he can handle as long as I’m available for questions. He doesn’t totally have the background or education required for some things, but he is trying to learn as we go along.

    I just really don’t need someone to reply to my emails, print labels for me, send faxes, etc. I can do that stuff myself and probably in less time than it takes to ask them to do it for me. Any advice?

    1. fposte*

      Yes. Let go. Your organization thinks that you should be spending time on something other than travel arrangements and envelopes. It’s not that you could do it faster than he could, it’s that his doing it takes less of your time than your doing it. Get over the difficulty and hand the tasks over to him. You might even find you like it once you’re used to it–though that may be part of your underlying resistance to it right there :-).

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree, watch out for this one. If you are still doing these things and you are not supposed to be doing them, in time the bosses will question you on that.

    2. Dang*

      Can you share him with other people? I’m currently the admin for 4 people and they have varying levels of neediness. Some want me to do all travel and hold their hands through editing and formatting presentations. Others will forward me their own travel and use me for random things they need but don’t have time to do. What skills does he have that might help? Editing, Proofreading, anything like that?

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      On the travel stuff, sounds like you need to set clearer expectations with him about how you want this to work. For instance, before any trip, he gives you a packet of well-organized info listing all your flights, hotel, rental car, and other details. And you give him a list of preferences (no early morning flights, aisle seats, prefer X and Y hotels) and instructions to talk to you about trade-offs if he can’t meet all of them for under $X. (You can do that as one general travel preferences conversation, not every time you travel — although you can also add in specific preferences for specific trips.) Having someone else handle your travel can work really well, but you have to put in the work up-front to get aligned about what it should look like.

      1. CollegeAdmin*

        Re: the travel info list

        My supervisor uses WorldMate, which is an online thing designed for this. When I book her flights/hotel and get a conference agenda, I upload everything to WorldMate and it creates an itinerary for her. While I have to manually type in each part of something like an agenda, I can just forward email confirmations for flights, hotels, and rental cars – WorldMate extracts the data automatically.

        I think it’s worldmate(dot)org, and it’s free. I’m sure there’s similar programs out there somewhere, so maybe have your assistant look into something like that for you.

        1. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*


          (Sorry for caps, just went to and it’s definitely not this!!

        2. Noah*

          I’ve used TripIt before myself, so I may look at both that and Worldmate to streamline the process a bit once we figure out how it is all going to work out.

      2. B*

        Yeah. It’s really important to set expectations like that.
        I keep being asked to work for people who aren’t used to having a PA and it’s really hard on both sides – however as i’ve been one a lot longer i feel the onus is on me to figure out how i can make my boss/es more efficient. It’s hard but really rewarding when it works.

    4. Calla*

      Alison’s suggestions for travel is great. When I first meet with one of the people I support, I always ask about preferences. Are they open to layovers and red eyes (some people don’t care!)? Favorite airlines and hotels? Etc. The information is either put into a folder, or all together on their calendar.

      Have you guys talked about what non-minor administrative stuff he’d like to do? A lot of my jobs have expanded way past just scheduling and printing. Some examples: At my last job, I helped arrange events for the department, looked at how to improve processes, wrote a handbook, etc. Currently, I’m putting together a library of our resources/templates, look up articles relevant to our field, proof read, process expense reports, etc. These are things that are still administrative, and can be picked up and put down over a longer period of time, but aren’t the little things you’ll want to handle yourself.

    5. Bea W*

      I totally understand this. It’s a weird transition, handing things over to someone else. The whole point of having an admin assistant is to free you from doing the daily admin type tasks so you can concentrate on other priorities that can’t be delegated to someone else. I don’t need someone to print labels for me and file things, but I’ve found that having umpteen less little things to do adds up and makes my life easier even if I still think I want to print my own labels and ship my own packages. That’s his job. That is what he expected to be doing when he accepted the position. Grit your teeth and go force yourself to let go of all the little things that he can take care, one at a time. It might still feel weird years later, but you’ll also come to realize that some of the stuff the assistant can now do for you is not really missed that much. For me, I always had a pile of back-filing and still had a hard time of letting that go, and now when I do, and it gets down without me, I feel like a weight is lifted off my shoulders. That’s one more thing crossed off my list! When someone asks me about office supplies (because contractors can’t order their own), I love being able to tell them, “See Wakeen. He’ll order whatever you need.” instead of interrupting my work to place the order. I think it will get easier over time, but if you are used to being totally self sufficient at work, it is really hard adjusting to having an admin available who wants to do all those things for you.

    6. Noah*

      Well, looks like the general response is to let go and use the admin for their admin purposes. I guess I’ll try that. I have no complaints about work product or anything, just the actual process of using him to do things. Thanks everyone, we’ll start with the conversation about how I like to travel and see how things progress. I’ll probably ask for a one page summary of airline flights, hotels, rental cars, and meetings before our next trip. We did discuss flights, etc on the last trip and he booked what I asked him to, but for whatever reason I just couldn’t keep the information in my brain to reference.

      Thanks everyone. I’ll start pushing more of this stuff his way, like you guys suggested one at a time. I have already given him the task of updating/editing/making things consistent in the one manual we are responsible for.

      1. Graciosa*

        One thing that may help is to start looking at why you don’t want to turn something over to your assistant and then seeing if it translates information you need to share.

        For example, you don’t want to turn over travel because you feel lost – you should share information about what you need to know about your travel.

        If you didn’t want to turn over supply ordering because you hate the standard fat highlighters most people order – you would know you should share your preference in highlighters so he can order the correct ones.

        A good administrative assistant wants to know this stuff. It feels weird when you start sharing it, but it gets easier over time and makes the assistant’s job easier.

        It may also help to remind yourself that the assistant is getting paid to do this work, and you’re not doing them any more of a favor taking it from its proper owner than you would be trying to do work that belonged in accounting or IT.

        Good luck.

  27. Diet Coke Addict*

    This week I’ve seen multiple jobs that I could theoretically apply for that are accepting only in-person and fax (!!!!) submissions. Uh, no. I’m not going to use the fax at my current job to apply for a new job, because come on, and nor am I going to take time off to go drop off a resume. Interview, yes. Resume, no. If I can’t get there on my half-hour lunch break, it’s not happening.

    (Also, a place that wanted only in-person submissions but didn’t give a time to do so, burying that information deep on their web page. I see.)

    1. Ali*

      I applied for a job a month or so back that only took mailed applications. Snail-mailed. I thought I had gotten in a time machine and gone back to 1989.

      1. Mints*

        I saw that too, and they were hiring a software engineer! I don’t know if they got any applications, because I didn’t even want to apply for a non-tech job

      2. Turanga Leela*

        I’ve seen this for some (not many) legal gigs; some lawyers and judges are notoriously old-fashioned. I actually bought fancy resume paper for these applications, even though I generally assume that’s a waste of money. But if they’re hiring like it’s the ’80s, I should act like it’s the ’80s, right?

        Remind me to buy shoulder pads.

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      There are a bunch of e-fax services that will send scans to a fax number for free!

      I believe I’ve used FaxZero, but they all seem pretty reliable. They will probably put an ad on the cover page, but most people I know don’t even look at the cover page anyway.

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        Really!?!? For free! Do you have any idea how good the quality is (I mean, it’s a fax, so Not Very, but comparable to an ordinary fax)? That is excellent news.

        1. HeyNonnyNonny*

          I think it comes out the same– I don’t know for sure, but I’ve never heard of problems on any of the hundreds of pages I’ve send through. You could always fax a test page to your office fax, though and then report back to the rest of us!

        2. Sadsack*

          I think Outlook also can do this, but you have to have it set up as a fax somehow. I think our IT or telecom dept had to do that, so that may not actually be an option you want to try. However, there are business resource places where you can make copies, send faxes, and mail packages, too. I can’t imagine that a fax would cost too much.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I use Fax Zero all the time. It’s great — very reliable. There’s also an option to pay a few dollars if you don’t want their cover page included.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I’ve had an eFax number for a long time, but I’ve only used it to receive faxes because they charge to send them, so I’ll have to look up Fax Zero.

          So Alison (and the rest of you), if Diet Coke Addict uses Fax Zero, should they pay extra to have the cover ad removed? If I were a hiring manager, I’d kind of like that the applicant not only was savvy enough to use an efax service, but frugal enough to send it for free.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I don’t think it matters either way. It’s very likely that the hiring manager isn’t going to know anyway, since she’s probably not the one who retrieved the fax and by the time it comes to her the cover page has been removed. But if not, she probably doesn’t care or think about it either way.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      Yup! Send faxes direct from your computer. FaxZero and some others are free, and if you find that you’re doing a lot of faxing you can pay a nominal fee (like $10/month) to have your own dedicated e-fax (eFax, MetroFax, MyFax) where you can both send and receive. And yes, it goes right to their fax machine like a real fax.

      And never ever use your current job’s fax machine!

    4. littlemoose*

      It sounds like the eFax may be a good solution for you. Just as an alternative – FedEx Office stores often have a fax machine you can use. I faxed some job materials that way when I was unemployed.

  28. Chrissi*

    Inconsequential Poll: I have a small fan at my desk. I use it most days (I’m a little warm from the walk from the train) and turn it on as soon as I get in. Then I leave it on because I like the white noise it makes – helps me concentrate. I don’t think it’s very loud, but I’m sure my cube-neighbor can hear it. Would that bother you (if you were the cube-neighbor)?

    1. fposte*

      Probably wouldn’t bother me, but why don’t you ask your cube-neighbor? It’s what she thinks, not what we think, that matters.

      1. Chrissi*

        I’ve almost asked him so many times (he just recently moved over next to me), but then I think it’s a stupid question and I don’t. I’ll bring it up sometime when we’re already chatting or something.

    2. Jamie*

      I would ask them – I personally like white noise and wouldn’t hear it until it was off, then I’d miss it.

      Definitely ask.

    3. Ash (the other one)*

      It would probably bother me, but I’d put in my headphones if need be… More of a concern would be if the fan was blowing on me. I am really sensitive to air blowing on my skin (I’m weird — my husband can’t even breathe on my neck while we’re cuddling, it gives me the heebee jeebees) so that would bother me more.

        1. Bea W*

          Me too, especially if it is cold air. Cold air blowing on my is painful. That’s the only way I can describe it.

    4. Windchime*

      It wouldn’t bother me, and I am extremely sensitive to noise that I can’t control. HeyNonnyNonny’s cube neighbor with the talk radio would drive me crazy because I can’t think with someone jabbering in my ear all day long.

      I usually keep my fan running in my cube all day, too. It’s a tiny little fan but it’s enough to cool me off and to create a little white noise.

    5. LMW*

      Wouldn’t bother me and I’m pretty sensitive to noise (see my grumpy reply to open concept post above, for example).

    6. Elizabeth West*

      I do this too after I climb the stairs, and someone asked me the other day if I had a fan on. I asked if it were loud, and she said no, it just sounded weird because she wasn’t expecting to hear it. It usually gets turned off once I’ve cooled down.

    7. CL*

      You should ask. And be aware that the answer might not be the same day to day. Fan noise sometimes makes me sleepy. And often I don’t register that it bothers me until it is turned off and I feel relieved to be in the quiet!

    8. Who are you?*

      My cube-neighbor has a fan. The noise is so minimal that I don’t hear it. My pet peeves with it only come from when we’re on the same meeting call (same call, different phones) and she doesn’t mute so we’re all forced to listen to the wind tunnel at her desk. The other is when she applies her overly scented hand lotion. She does it in front of the fan and the scent carries over to my desk. I find the smell quite gross and it makes me feel ill.

    9. Jules*

      Try going over to their cube and listen? My cube mate uses fan but I never hear them. I only see them when I am visiting her.

    10. Rebecca*

      No, and my cube and now office mate and I both have fans on our desks. It doesn’t help that the HVAC vent in our office doesn’t work, and we also have a large fan in the doorway trying to suck in whatever cooler air we can from the hallway. I wouldn’t mind it at all! And, we have a radio and listen to a shared interest music genre station. I don’t even notice any of it after a while.

  29. Sandy*

    I am completely flummoxed on how to deal with one of my employees. My efforts today backfired spectacularly.

    I think i have mentioned before that I work in a war zone. A literal war zone, not just figurative! We have regular bombings, mortars, the whole nine yards. It’s not what I would call a fun way to live, but it does help keep things in perspective.

    My normally superstar employee is showing signs of major burnout (my own diagnosis). She is tired all the time, irritable, really quick to temper, and has just generally stopped caring about what she does at the office. She took on two major, time-sensitive tasks this week and then totally blew them off (said she was on them, and then when I came to check on them, told me she couldn’t be bothered).

    When I scheduled a meeting with her this morning to discuss things – the blown-off assignments, yes, but also just how things are going- I didn’t even get a chance to sit down. She completely flew off the handle, refused to have a meeting at all, and then stormed out of the room and didn’t come back until an hour later.

    When she came back, I managed to have a (much calmer) conversation with her, primarily to tell her that a) she’s a fantastic employee and we value her very highly, b) I notice that she’s been struggling over the past few months, and c) what can we do to get things back on track?

    A was conveyed, B may or may not have been appreciated, and C was dead in the water.

    I’m not surprised she didn’t have much to say to C. I’m not sure what to say to it either. I can’t make the violence go away. I have very limited ability to ease her freedom of movement. In my view, she really just needs to get the heck out of here for a bit. But I can’t just send her home for a few days- home is worse than the office, for the most part- and there’s no chance that she’ll leave the country even for a few days (on training or whatever I can come up with) if it means leaving her family behind and worrying about them.

    Any words of wisdom?

    1. Steve G*

      Sounds like more than burnout to me. I am feeling burnout now, no vacation in 9 months and a sleep debt (taking off in Oct BTW). And it doesn’t feel like any of this. This sounds like a completely other issue. I wouldn’t approach it with her as a burnout thing.

      1. fposte*

        I still think it could be burnout; in this situation, PTSD is also worth considering. Sandy, do you guys have an EAP?

    2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Well, first of all, I would feel a little hopeful that she might go home and think about what you said. My employees do this sometimes – they totally reject something I’m saying and then the next day, they are back saying “sorry about that – I (had insomnia, hormonal issues, a sick pet, a head cold, etc.) and I didn’t react appropriately. I thought about what you said and….” that might be a workplace culture thing, so, so it’s possible it won’t happen in your workplace.

      If that doesn’t happen, I think it’s reasonable to acknowledge and validate that the job is really demanding and stressful – and that’s the nature of it. Despite the inherent stress, you need x, y and z from this employee. If this is appropriate to your workplace, you might suggest that perhaps some self-care is needed outside of work out so that she’s ready to work efficiently and effectively when she comes in. I’d also consider a referral to an EAP if you have that option (this is especially good if it doesn’t fit your workplace for you to talk to the employee about self-care). It sounds like you’re in a remote location, but even a phone meeting with an EAP counselor might be possible. That takes her personal stuff off your plate, and leaves her responsible for managing it – with outside support from a pro. Sometimes EAPs can be really helpful. Sometimes just suggesting an EAP is helpful because it gets the person’s attention and they will follow up with their own support resources because they realize you are serious.

    3. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      Honestly, it’s hard for me to figure out how that conversation you had didn’t end with “I need x,y, and z from the person in this job, and if you don’t dramatically improve in two weeks, I’ll have to let you go.”

      I really appreciate that you seem to be in extreme circumstances, but just blowing off two major project, and then flying off the handle when you talked to her about it? Really, the only thing that makes me *not* say “you should have fired her in that conversation” is the war-zone thing, and I’m not convinced that actually changes things.

      It’s unfortunate that your former superstar turned around so quickly, but I just don’t have any other answer than to tell her she needs to turn it back around in like a week or she has to be let go. Those examples you gave are just so egregious.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Hmmm, I think that’s too harsh and jumping the gun for an employee who’s been a super star up until now. But I do think that it requires a more serious conversation than what was had — more along the lines of, “What happened this week was really out of character for you. What’s going on?” … and if she blows that off, then I’d go to, “I do need you doing XYZ, but it seems like you’re having a hard time right now. Let’s do ___ (fill in with suggesting she talk to an EAP, or take a week off, or just think things over and come back to talk with me again next week).”

        Then you’ve made it clear that you’ve noticed, you’re concerned, and that behavior isn’t just going to slip by.

        If it still keeps happening after THAT, then I’d move to “hey, this is affecting your work in a real way and we’ve got to figure out how we can resolve it in order to move forward.”

    4. Rowan*

      That sounds terrible. Does your company provide any kind of counselling or mental health assistance programme? It sounds like she’s verging on PTSD, but without actually being out of the situation. I can’t imagine living with the constant threat of violence and still being able to focus on work.

    5. Anonylicious*

      My perspective on this is a little skewed because last time I worked in a war zone, I was in the military, so my first impulse is to say she needs to cowgirl up and do her job. That’s probably not helpful, realistic, nor particularly kind in this case, though.

      If she can get counseling to help her learn coping strategies, that would be good. There’s not much you can do to reduce the stress of the situation, but sometimes you can fake your way to being functional. If there’s not the resources for that or she’s just not able to cope, your next best option is probably to remove as much responsibility from her as possible and just put her where she can do the least damage. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t recommend hanging on to a problem employee, but these aren’t ordinary circumstances.

      Also, take care of yourself, too. She’s not the only one in a high stress environment.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        There’s a really good point here- perhaps ask her if she feels her needs are being met in doing her job. Is there something she needs that she is not getting?

      2. Sandy*

        Yeah, I wouldn’t exactly call myself the soft-hearted type either. My natural inclination is to go all “suck it up buttercup and get in line”, but that’s unlikely to get either of us anywhere. On the flip side, it means that I’m hardly going to fire someone for having the adult equivalent of a temper tantrum in a war zone. Happens to the best of us.

        I’m hoping that having the weekend to cool down and then a follow-up meeting next week will get her to realize that we’re talking about something serious here and that we have her best interests in mind as much as we realistically can. That said, if she flies off the handle again, we never get to that point.

        We do have access to a remote EAP. I confess that I have been less than impressed with their services, and therefore less than inclined to recommend approaching them, but maybe I need to check some of my own biases at the door…

        1. Not So NewReader*

          If she has no help from anywhere, EAP might be useful to her, because of her lack of any other source of help. Where as other people, might need something different

          1. Ruffingit*

            You can also seek counseling services via the Internet where you Skype with a counselor. If that is something that can be done from your country, it might be helpful as well.

        2. Ruffingit*

          It may help to come right out and say “If you do not calmly listen to what I have to say, I will have no choice, but to fire you.” I hate to open any conversation like that, but given that she’s refused to listen to you a couple of times now, you may need to impress upon her the seriousness of this conversation right from the beginning.

    6. AcademicAnon*

      Do you have access to any psych help at all where you work? Even remote phone access? Just talking with someone may help, and the therapist may be able to help with coping strategies better than you can. Or failing that, a (well-known helpful) member of the clergy? (YMMV as I’m agnostic but there are clergy members who can be great in helping people deal with things.) Also has this person had a health checkup recently? There are certain conditions like thyroid problems with can result in fatigue, mood changes and an inability to concentrate.

  30. Bobotron*

    I just applied for a position at an organization that has offices around the country. My cousin put me in touch with his friend who works for this organization in another state and we talked yesterday. Friend called my city’s office earlier in the day to find out more about the position, to tell them to look for my application, and ended up talking to someone with the same position I am applying for who is also a supervisor. She gave friend her number and told him that I could call her.

    So I should call her right? But I don’t even know what to say to her or what questions to ask? I probably err on the side of caution of letting my resume speak for itself – I don’t typically try to contact someone I don’t know at an organization I’m applying at. Help!

      1. Bobotron*

        I don’t know if she “expects” it – she just told him I could call her if I want. To clarify, she wouldn’t be my supervisor.

        1. fposte*

          It sounds a little more tenuous than most networking connections, but I don’t think it would hurt to try. Be prepared for her not to actually have time (since some people would want to help when it came up but ultimately be unable to deliver), but if she does and you’re okay with calling, it could be a good and informative connection.

          So what would you want to know about working for this organization that somebody there might know? There’s always what do you like, what are your challenges, and what do you wish you had known when you started.

        2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          If it’s okay with her for you to call, then I would call. I don’t think it will hurt to call, but it might hurt if they interpret that to mean you’re not interested. Even if she’s not your supervisor, it’s very possible she will share any impressions with the hiring manager.

  31. Beth Anne*

    Does anyone here work from home? I just started a work at home job and looking for some tips and suggestions from other people that work from home.

    1. Ali*

      I work from home! What kind of tips are you looking for?

      If you are the easily distracted type (like me), I would recommend making sure you don’t waste time on social media and other personal sites while you’re working. I tend to have no focus, especially if I’m having a day where I don’t really want to be at work, and once I start surfing AAM or Facebook or something, I can feel my productivity dipping.

      I also like to make sure that when I’m not working, I spend as much time out of the house as possible. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate plan, as even just walking the dogs or going to the gym helps for a change of scenery. I don’t let myself work in silence, as I’ll always have my iPod in or a TV show on for background noise. If I weren’t working with these things, it would only remind me that I was alone and in my own world. I need that noise to help function and give myself something to be interested in.

      The best tip came from the guy who is now my supervisor. When we were both on the same level and I was once stressed out, he told me I have to disconnect from work at some point because it’s not healthy to stay plugged in all the time. He didn’t necessarily mean taking vacations, but he talked about how he sometimes likes to come home and read a book or watch TV rather than spending more time on the computer. I took some of his advice, and while I still don’t take as much time for books or TV shows as I should (I’m pretty plugged in online), I decided to stop checking my work e-mail after 9 p.m. or after my shift on weekends. (We work in media, so there’s really no 9-5 for our job title/department. Others have more straight hours if they do different work.)

      Hope that helps!

      1. chewbecca*

        I was going to recommend this, too. When I worked from home, I showered and put regular street clothes on every day.

        This is also advice I followed religiously when I was unemployed. Nat Fish is right, it does put you in a better mindset.

      2. krisl*

        Also, if someone knocks on the door, and it’s FedEx or UPS, it’s nice to be dressed.

        And if your neighbors can see you through the window, it’s good to be dressed.

    2. Ash (the other one)*

      I’m very guilty of this, but stay in your designated office space. It will help you focus. Too often when I work at home I end up on the couch with my laptop, which is not the most productive…

      1. Beth Anne*

        Thank you! These are all great tips! In February we’re probably going to move and hopefully we’ll be able to find a place with an extra bedroom or 2 so that we can have a room that is specified as an office verses our desks being in our bedrooms.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          That will be a BIG help. When you’re in a designate working space, your mind will think “Work,” and you can take actual breaks that actually get you out of the work area. That’s the biggest thing I find annoying at home–I can’t get away from the computer like I can at work (I do stair climbs on my breaks and I’m completely away from my desk then) because I work on the couch and it’s RIGHT THERE ALL THE TIME.

    3. nep*

      I found it helps to close down everything on the internet you’re not using for work — don’t even have the other non-work sites open…too easy to click on those icons and get distracted. Few minutes here and there sure adds up when it comes to being productive on the job.

    4. krisl*

      I work from home. I have a room that is only used for work. I usually have music on (I’m the kind of person who needs noise in the background). I’ve got 2 cats, and they tend to hang out with me and aren’t too noisy.

      If at all possible, don’t go to any non-work sites except at lunch. It’s easier to resist if you make it a habit not to.

      I use IM a lot to keep in touch with co-workers, and I make it a point to try to get back to people right away, especially by IM. This is partly because I don’t want people to wonder if I’m really working :)

      I found that I didn’t get up as often when I worked from home – it might be good to have an occasional stretch.

      I ended up finding that it was helpful to put a couple of mirrors around so that I would stretch my eyes without having to think about it – it’s too easy to get caught up in stuff without realizing that I haven’t looked far away.

      1. Windchime*

        I work from home occasionally and love it. I do my laundry while I’m working; the first thing I do (before work) is to sort it all out and get it started. I have to get up every hour to move things from washer to dryer, and this helps to remind me to get up and stretch. I try to keep (mostly) normal hours, but one of the advantages of a work-at-home day is that I can do a quick errand or two during the day and then come back and work a little more in the evening.

        I also have a dedicated office area with no distractions such as TV. It’s nice working at home and having my cat hanging out with me on his little bed on my desk. :)

  32. Quitting a Volunteer Job*

    I’ve posted about this before. A few years ago, I joined a professional organization and managed to get a job through my contacts there. They asked me to volunteer and I said yes, thinking it would be a good way to give back.

    Within my first year there, I realized it was not an organization I wanted to be affiliated with. Meanwhile, they kept promoting me. I stayed out the two year commitment I had originally made and then contacted the president and gave her my resignation. She begged and pleaded with me to stay another few months and help my successor with the transition, so I did.

    After that time period, I started to say goodbye to people and found out she hadn’t told anyone that I had resigned. So I explained things to my successor and gave my resignation to the current president.

    The current president never responded to my resignation email and I keep being included in things as if I’m still serving in my role. This is nine months after my initial resignation.

    What can I do? Send a mass email out to the chapter letting them know that I’ve resigned?

    It’s especially tricky because I recently got a job that’s slightly outside of the field. The impression seems to be that I now think I’m above being a part of the organization. Really, it’s the opposite. I dislike my job so much, I’m seeking a complete career change. But I can’t admit that while still employed there.

    1. fposte*

      I think at this point you let it go (apparently a theme today). Block or divert the emails if you don’t want to read them. But the goal here is to disentangle you from them, and the more you consider and try to deal with this the more entangled you are. I don’t think this has anything to do with whatever job you have now or that it’s tricky; I think you just declare yourself broken up and stop worrying about what the ex is saying. Have a template ready if somebody comes to you about that organization (“Yes, I stepped down in March; I think they’re a little slow in updating their information. You should talk to Jane there”), but other than that, you’re probably not going to make them acknowledge your broken-upness in the way that you’re hoping.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        I agree. You don’t really need your resignation to be acknowledged or accepted. Just act on it.

    2. Sadsack*

      Maybe your email is on a distribution list that has not been updated. Did you ever contact the president or her admin to ask to be removed from the list? I’d try that once, then forget it if you keep receiving emails.

      1. Quitting a Volunteer Job*

        I was in a leadership role. I’m still getting emails along the lines of, “Wakeen, our Director of Teapots, will take care of this.” Then my successor, whose title is still Assistant Director of Teapots, responds. My concern is that my lack of participation is making me look lazy. These are professional contacts, so my reputation is an issue.

        I just sent a follow-up email to the president asking if she got my first email and if it would be helpful for me to send out an email to the rest of the board letting them know that I’ve resigned. Whether or not I hear back, I’ll also need to ask to be removed from their website and leadership distribution lists.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Reply to those emails with this: “Ooops, I actually left my role with the organization nine months ago! So I’m not the correct person here. Sorry I can’t help!”

          She knows you resigned. She’s intentionally ignoring you. It’s not your responsibility to ensure she doesn’t look foolish to the people getting these emails.

          1. Quitting a Volunteer Job*

            Thanks, Alison! And everyone else who commented. It’s good to get some validation about this.

  33. Virginian*

    It’s my first week in my new job. The person before me left behind so many papers that it’s hard to make sense of some of it.

    1. AVP*

      When I first started my job, the person who left it left me so much crap, including drawers stuffed with papers that had all kinds of personal info on them, and she had told our manager that they were important documentation. After like a week of ineffectually trying to find any useful info in anything, I explained it to my manager and asked if I could just shred everything. Luckily she agreed and I spent two weeks (!) shredding things. It was glorious.

      1. Red*

        My predecessor gave her direct work line (which I inherited) to all of her creditors… And used our office address as her personal address.

        I am still getting collections calls. T__T

  34. Ash (the other one)*

    Dealing with impostor syndrome —

    I’ve been at my job for 2 weeks now and am getting to feel how things work and I have dived in head first to a major project. My hangup right now is that I feel very unqualified for my job. I feel like I have to act like I know what I’m doing and feel bad for having to ask stupid questions I *should* know given my title. I’ve come into a senior position where people in the position below me (I don’t supervise them, just have a lower title) have more years of experience and are older than me. I’ve also been out of this job (research) doing other things (policy primarily) for the last several years so I feel doubly unsure of myself. It’s amplified by the fact that I am working with someone in the position below mine on a project — he has much more experience in this field than I do, but since I’m the senior, I’m leading it.

    So my question is, how do I GTFO it and not let the paranoia that I shouldn’t be in my position get to me. How have you dealt with impostor syndrome?

    1. Felicia*

      I feel the exact same way about my new job , so I had to double check that i didn’t post this! I’ve been here 3 weeks, but otherwise I could have posted this. SO i’d like to know too.

    2. nep*

      I hear you. So often we — to paraphrase writer Anne Lamott — compare our insides with other people’s outsides. We know all too well our own demons and perceived ‘limitations’, and we see only the ‘outside’ of our colleagues — competent, knowledgeable, more time spent at the job. There might not be as vast a difference as you are feeling.
      If you embrace the challenges — including the challenge of getting over the insecurities — and conquer tasks one by one, seems to me your confidence level can only grow.
      Understandable that you’re going through this, but it is not a dead-end. Good you’re reaching out. Wishing you all the best.

    3. littlemoose*

      Maybe it helps to remind yourself that they chose you for this role, so clearly they believe you’re capable. With your policy experience, you can also bring a different perspective to your team that may be really valuable.

      You might also find it helpful to figure out who your best sources of info are. Once you have a plan on how to deal with things you don’t know, maybe some of the imposter syndrome will dissipate. E.g. Wakeen can be my go-to person about Spout issues, and Percival knows all about Teapot Lids. Identifying your reports’ strengths and committing yourself to using them may be a good idea. I know you are in a more senior role, but you’re not an island.

    4. Dawn*

      You’re new so you’re not expected to know everything. They wouldn’t have hired you unless they thought you could do the job!

      If there are people around that have more knowledge than you, USE THEM. Ask a million questions. GET TO KNOW these people- be friendly, take them out for coffee, and then use their knowledge as needed.

      You are putting unrealistic expectations on yourself- “I should know these answers because of my job title”- Uh, are you sure of that? Obviously you were hired as Senior Teapot Researcher so someone, somewhere, who probably makes more money than you looked at your resume and said “Hm, I bet they’d make a smashing Senior Teapot Researcher!”

      Going back to asking people things- You don’t have to come from a place of ignorance when asking (“I don’t know what to do! Tell me what to do!”) You can come from a place of “I’m new around here- you’ve been here longer- in the past, how has This Organization handled situations like this?” Even if they don’t have The Answer, their experience and longevity will probably help to steer you in the right direction.

  35. Martha Washington*

    I learned recently that my job (and many others in my office) is being moved to another branch office in a different city. For a variety of reasons, I’m not going withe the job. Mostly, it just doesn’t make financial sense. I don’t know exactly when this is happening. It could be December of this year, or it could be next July. The powers that be are still hammering out the details. Either way, this time next year, I likely won’t have this job.

    I’m job hunting (obviously) but my morale is pretty low, and this, combined with a few other things, is really hurting my self-esteem. I just started a few new and exciting projects and now I won’t get to see them through. Has anyone been in a similar situation? How do you keep yourself from throwing your hands in the air and saying “screw it all!” Because that’s pretty much how I feel right now. I’m really upset and bitter, but I need to still be productive so I don’t get fired before my job moves out from under me. I know the answer is probably “suck it up, buttercup” but I’m wondering if anyone has any better strategies.

    1. Agile Phalanges*

      I can sympathize, but don’t know how much I can help with strategies. I was in a job with relatively long-term goals (individual research projects took weeks or months, but often were for an overarching project that lasted a year or two). We got six months notice that they were closing our location, and I wasn’t one of the people offered my or any position elsewhere, so I’d be leaving the company. It was rather disheartening to work on a project, hammering out details and such, and to know that I wouldn’t be a part of the project when it drew to a close, and wouldn’t know the results of the research. But I told myself that I’d contact my boss later on to ask how things went and the general findings, even signing an NDA if they needed me to (I don’t work at a competitor or anything, so I’m pretty sure they’d give me an overview if I asked).

      The funny thing is, now that I’m gone, I really don’t care. I’m not even bitter about the company or anything, it’s just that I’ve mentally moved on.

      So maybe find out whether you’d be able to at least get SOME closure on some of the work you’ll be doing in the meantime, but maybe in the back of your mind, try to remember that you may not actually mind not getting the closure when you’re in a new job with new projects to worry about.

      As far as still being productive when you’re having a bad moment/day/week, just tell yourself that you only have to make it through this hour/day/week, and then you can [go for a vigorous walk/vent it out with a friend or SO/drink heavily or binge watch TV or whatever to recharge]. And try to remind yourself that keeping a good attitude, even if only outwardly, will help you in many ways: you’ll feel better/healthier, you’ll get a better reference from this job, you’ll write better application materials and interview better for your next role, etc.

      I hope your company will be as awesome as mine was about helping people find new jobs, letting them use company time/resources to job hunt, not have to hide the fact you’re interviewing, etc. I felt like that was a HUGE help vs. secretly interviewing, so that’s one bonus to an otherwise very sucky situation.

  36. Felicia*

    So what does everyone do at work when they have nothing to do? I am enjoying my new job of about a month when i’m doing stuff, but i’m only doing stuff about half the time…i ask for work and have figure out how to take some initiative but in only small, non time consuming ways, so i wonder how others with non busy job pass the time!

    1. Ash (the other one)*

      It’s a huge deal at my new job since we have to bill our time to projects (soft money), so if we aren’t doing anything, there’s nothing to bill. If anything, I will have to bill to professional development time (which is very limited) so I should actually do something to better my skills — catch up on journals, teach myself a new stats program, etc.

      1. Felicia*

        Since it’s the professional association for a certain profession in the province there is no competition, and since it’s a company of 4 people in a single small office, I don’t need to walk around to talk to anyone, but I have been learning as much as I can about the services we offer our members, so I can answer questions about them when they come up (which is part of my job!)

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I’ve asked something similar before, and some of my fave suggestions from others were:
      -sort through old emails/clean up inbox
      -organize old documents/files
      -read up on industry news
      -take courses online

    3. De Minimis*

      I’m pretty sloppy so I try to clean up and re-organize my area.

      There’s always some filing or data entry to catch up on too. We are about to enter a really slow period for the next month or so.

      1. Felicia*

        I can totally see my area getting sloppy after I’ve been here longer! I’ve managed to keep it clean for 3.5 weeks, but i’ve never been good at keeping my work place neat.

    4. Omne*

      Things like reading this blog. I also research areas that will benefit me professionally, read court cases etc.. The internet can keep someone busy for quite a while.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I go back and organize stuff. Right now, I have a ton of documents to curate because we updated our report template. I’m trying to get them done in between actually using them.

    6. LabTech*

      I’m dealing with this now. Right now I’m being transferred to a new instrument, but am in a limbo where the new hire I’m training is mostly able to do the work herself (and as much as I want to get some of that work done, it’s important that she get that experience). However, I haven’t transitioned to my new assignment responsibilities proportionately as I become less involved with my old assignment.

      Consequently, I’ve spent the past three weeks with four hours of work to fill an eight-hour day. Part of this excess down time is also from just having less work to do (in part a result of the hard work I put in in months prior getting through backlogged work and getting our equipment running well enough that less and less time is spent on maintenance, but also due to fewer projects coming).

      I’m glad that my supervisors all seem to be understanding about the fact that I don’t have very much to do at the moment, but I still feel incredibly unprofessional spending hours a day online, especially with my sharing an office with the person I’m training, meaning she’s well aware – maybe even resentful – of how little time I’ve spent working. And to be honest, I’m feeling too burnt out to take the initiative to start any new projects or go too far beyond what my typical duties are, and having nothing in front of me to work on is just making that worse.

    7. Agile Phalanges*

      Oh, I can definitely sympathize! I work for a tiny company, and the person before me had quite a few more responsibilities than I do (currently–it’s possible they’ll train me for them eventually). So I have a lot of down time. In fact, this morning, I checked the folder to see if I had any invoices to send out today, and I didn’t, so my work for the day was practically done even before my official start time.

      Anyway, some of the things I’ve done to kill time:

      Organize files. The person before me was here for over a decade, so I’ve been slowly going through files, learning where things are kept, purging stuff that is so old it can be shredded, re-organizing stuff so it makes more sense to me, etc. I still have some stuff I need to follow up with the boss about, but I’ve cleaned out TWO desks in the past few weeks (mine, plus someone’s who had left the company years ago, but the desk was full of and piled with files).

      Improve the office environment. After cleaning off the two desks, it was even more obvious that some of the wall decor was sadly outdated. I took the initiative to go get new non-yellow maps (free) from the chamber of commerce, and I’m planning to use my own personal photos (of subjects related to my company’s product) to make a calendar for my desk for next year (I’m currently using the one I inherited, which is just a free promo calendar from a vendor) and possibly some posters for the walls if the boss is on board. If there’s a place in the office that is always messy/disorganized/ugly, and it won’t hurt your reputation to improve it, find out who’s in charge of that space, and ask if you can better it. They’ll probably really appreciate it.

      Ask questions. I’ve gotten a tour of the production area of my company, and random questions will pop into my head days and weeks later. When it’s a slow day for all of us (there are only three people in the office), I’ll bust out a random question about the business, industry, company, or whatever, and learn something as well as killing a half hour or so. :-)

      Reconcile accounts – my job is as an accountant, but since I came in right at the end of the fiscal year, and the outside CPA is doing the final entries to close the year out, there isn’t a lot I can actually DO in the books right now until the prior year gets closed out. But I’ve downloaded last year’s data from some accounts into Excel and tried to balance them. Some might say it’s an exercise in futility, since the CPA either has done or will do it, but it’ll give me a starting point for reconciliations I should be doing every month once the new year officially kicks off (books-wise), and it lets me see how this system handles different transactions, what the pitfalls are of doing things the wrong way, etc., without having to learn the hard way by making the mistakes myself and tracking them down in the moment. Obviously this doesn’t translate exactly to non-accounting jobs, but maybe there’s something that’s basically busywork, but at least will help you learn even if the work itself isn’t accomplishing much. Duplicate something someone else did and see if you get the same results, for example.

      Self-improvement. Admittedly, I haven’t done much of this lately, but it’s always a good standby–go online and learn Excel tips, learn about regulations in your industry, improve your typing speed, whatever.

      Lastly, if all else fails, goof off on the internet, but make it at least semi-work-related, like this website, other professionally-oriented websites, or training videos on YouTube or something. Or look up organizations for your industry and view whatever materials you can for free (and maybe ask for a membership so you can use even more resources). Join LinkedIn groups that are relevant, and read and participate in those discussions.

      Good luck!

      1. De Minimis*

        I have that problem a lot, for similar reasons. We’re heading into year end, no more purchases may be made other than for exceptional circumstances, and pretty soon a lot of the other financial activities I have to track will stop until later in the fall.

        I plan to catch up on filing, organizing my workspace and catch up on some data entry tasks.

        I started this job around the same time of year and ran into the same issues…almost nothing to do because the fiscal year was drawing to a close and all activities were suspended. I tried to familiarize myself more with the things I was able to access, but a lot of the learning really had to take place through actually working with the data and the various systems.

    8. Turanga Leela*

      It depends on what you do. My go-to activities are:
      -Find long-term, low-priority projects to work on (maybe something that interests you but isn’t a huge organizational priority)
      -Read professional journals
      -Learn about some area of your field, or something your company does, that you find interesting but that is outside your wheelhouse
      -Read the newspaper or any magazine articles that are tangentially connected to your business (I used to work in criminal law, and when I was between projects, I would read crime articles on
      -Subscribe to eblasts or newsletters from organizations in your field, or just organizations that interest you, and send them to an email folder that you can open when you’re bored

    9. krisl*

      My job is usually very busy, but on the rare times it isn’t, I write up and organize notes on what I’ve learned. That can be helpful later when we get busy again. I can send well-written details to co-workers who need help on something, and it saves me time from explaining it :)

      It can also be very helpful for me. If I haven’t done something for a while, it’s good to have good notes to review.

  37. Emmaloo*

    What do you do when you’re asked to do a task at work that makes you uncomfortable? I was asked to draft and deliver letters to faculty members confirming that they will not be reappointed for the next academic term. I was told that it was just a formality and that these people have already been notified, and that the office just needs a signed letter confirming this. Well, unfortunately, in one case, that didn’t happen, and I was yelled at by an irate professor who refused to sign the letter. I feel this task is above my pay grade- shouldn’t their department head deliver the letter in a meeting or other formal setting, rather than a random assistant? Now I’m being asked to do this again, and I don’t know how to tell them how deeply uncomfortable this makes me. The letters can be hand-delivered or sent via certified mail- how do I ensure that they just mail the letters and leave me out of this?

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think you can, unfortunately. You can ask, but sending out material with unpleasant information is pretty standard for admin jobs. The hand-delivering is a little weird, but it makes it even more likely to be an admin task.

      As countless retail and fast-food workers could tell you, there’s no pay grade threshold for being yelled at.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      If I had to do this, I’d make sure I had the name of whoever they need to contact about it. Then when they start getting upset, I could say, “I’m sorry, I don’t have much information. You’ll need to contact Mr. Tottenham’s office about this.”

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Can you argue that it is less expensive to send the letters by certified mail? Consider the time it takes you to do this and include the time spent being yelled at in that estimate.

    4. Racing Rat*

      If you haven’t done this already, could you emphasize that you’re delivering the news on someone else’s behalf?

      I’ve had to be the bearer of bad news at work a lot (though not this bad). I always try to use a really compassionate tone, while stating the facts, and then empathize with their reaction. Not that I would condone yelling. But I would give the person an understanding look and remind them that I’m not the right person to talk to and that I agree that it’s unfortunate.

    5. Victoria, Please*

      Someone else should be signing these letters. You might need to draft it but it should be “from” your department chair or dean. Push back on that part.

  38. PX*

    Short version: Tips on being more assertive/clear when giving directions about tasks to co-workers?

    Long version: I’ve occasionally had to pass on work to other team members and mostly things are fine, but sometimes I’ve been asked to do something in way X which is different from our normal procedure Y. When passing it on to colleagues, I mention that ‘This one is needs to be done according to X’ but often I still get things back according to Y. I then feel bad for not being clear enough that no, it needed to be X, feel even worse about telling them it was wrong, and then end up correcting it myself (when I usually dont really have the time).

    I know part of the problem is in the initial instruction giving – because I dont want to seem too…forceful/overbearing/pushy(?) I end up not being clear enough in what needs to happen. Your top tips in getting over this would be handy.

    1. the gold digger*

      I would rather my boss be clear upfront – “I know we usually do Y, but this time, I need you to do X because…”

      For me, it also helps to have stuff in writing because I like to CYA. If someone gives me hassle for X, I can say, “But my boss said to do Y and here is the proof.”

    2. LCL*

      Stop phrasing it as a need. In this context, need is a soft word that doesn’t mean much and sounds negotiable. I think I need to leave 2 hours early today to get an early start on the weekend, but I’m not going to. Tell them “I want you to do it this way”, with some explanation as to why.

      1. Jamie*

        I was thinking the opposite. I don’t use want when it’s not optional – I use need.

        I need you to get me X by 3:00 means at 3:01 I’m calling you if I don’t have it. Interesting that your perception is different.

        1. LCL*

          A very powerful woman manager advised me to use need in the sense that you do. I tried and found that isn’t effective for me.
          I use need when I am trying to fill shifts, to subtly underline that a person is needed to work that shift but it is always optional if the worker chooses to take the shift. Telling someone they must work extra doesn’t fly here, because of our labor agreement.

        2. Bea W*

          Exactly. If you tell me you “want” me to do something for you, it goes in the pile of “Things I can optionally get to when I am done with all the things I need to do now.” If you tell me you “need” something, there’s no confusion in my mind about whether or not it is important to get it done.

      2. Anonymous*

        Interesting, my take is just the opposite. To me, “want” is just a desire and negotiable; “need” is a necessity and stronger. In any event, I would eliminate extraneous words: say “Please do it this way” and explain why.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I have had luck saying, “It must be done using Y method.” Sometimes I need to repeat myself choosing a different set of words so I will say “I know we use X method a lot but here we have to use Y method.” I explain why.

        This side steps the want/need thing because I don’t use those words. I think it creates an impression that there is someone who handles it after us and I am not randomly deciding how to handle stuff.

        I have also said “the customer wants Y, so we are locked into to Y” or “TPTB prefer that we use Y”. (That may not fly, some work places what you to make it sound like it’s your idea. You have to own their decision. ugh.)

    3. AVP*

      Agree that being very clear is the best way to go, even if it seems forceful – it’s just not as helpful otherwise. And if you have an finished example that you want them to emulate, send it – sometimes it’s hard to explain requirements like formatting styles in words, but seeing an example clears up a lot of questions.

    4. Mints*

      For the initial email “I need you to it X way,” it might help you feel less pushy/etc with a friendly closer, like “Thanks so much!” or “Have a great weekend!” The requirement is still clear (I agree that “need” is more direct) but you can lighten the overall tone if you want.

      I do this not because I’m asking for specific things, but I’m often sending things back as attachments and my instinct is to just write “Here’s the spreadsheet” but some people find brusqueness rude, so I try to be nice at the end.

  39. Renegade Rose*

    Okay, so I just started New Job and I love it. It is my first managerial position and have thirty-nine direct reports. There is currently one open position and I have received some promising applications. Since I have only been in my new position for three weeks, my supervisor still wants to read over any of my external emails. When I sent her the email I was planning on sending to applicants to schedule a phone interview my supervisor told me it was unnecessary and that unscheduled phone interviews produce better results. People don’t have time to prep so you get a better sense of who they are, etc. However, I’ve never had an unscheduled phone interview and when I interviewed here it was scheduled. Basically, my question is if unscheduled phone interviews really are better. I’ve personally never experienced one and don’t think I know anyone who has. Any guidance in this area would be appreciated.

    1. Ash (the other one)*

      Nooooo don’t do this, please. I had this happen for a few jobs I applied to (usually HR, rather than the hiring manager) and it was bad news. You have no idea what the applicant might need (they may be in an open office and can’t talk, or in meetings so they won’t answer their phone — putting more burden on you). I know you are new, but you can say “having just gone through the hiring process…” and push back.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Your new manager is dead wrong. You end up playing phone tag, you reach people while they’re at work or at the store or caring for children and can’t easily talk, and you get people who don’t remember key details about the job because you’re caught them off-guard. Unscheduled phone interviews are inconsiderate and less effective. Please don’t do them! Or if she insists, say to people when you first call them, “I’d love to talk now if you have 20 minutes, but I realize I might be catching you at a bad time and would be glad to schedule a time to talk in the next few days.”

      1. Sadsack*

        I especially agree with the last part here. I recently received a call while at work about a job I applied for, and I asked if I could have a few minutes to go find a more private place to talk. The person then suggested that we schedule a call for a specific time later that afternoon, which I greatly appreciated because it allowed me time to prepare over my lunch hour. In this case preparation was reviewing the job posting again and the AAM guide to interviewing!

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yes yes yes please do this. I got a call from an employer once and it came during the ONE brief time I ran to Walmart for something. I could barely hear a word she said. Thankfully, she was only calling to schedule a phone interview, not actually do one!

          Off-topic, but has anyone noticed it’s a LOT quieter in Target than in Walmart?

          1. Noah*

            Target generally has more carpet and acoustic ceiling tiles, which makes for a much quieter store. Walmart always reminds me of that dull roar you hear in an elementary school cafeteria. It’s not that any one person is being loud, it is just a loud environment.

          2. The IT Manager*

            Walmart’s have bare concrete floors and high metal ceilings. I was in Walmart recently and the torrential downpour on the roof was crazy loud inside.

    3. Adam*

      Your manager sounds very Darwinian, also presumptuous that any job candidate is going to have the time to talk to you precisely when you call them the first time. Personally, I’ve never had an unscheduled phone interview as if I don’t recognize the number it always goes to voice mail. If it is a job inquiry I give myself time to prepare to call back.

      If your manager is insistent, I would call them but give them the option to reschedule first.

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      Ew, I hate unscheduled phone interviews. Why would your manager want to do it? To see how candidates act on their feet? I’m sure there are better ways.

      BTW 39 direct reports sounds like too many. Though I’m sure it all depends on the industry and positions.

    5. Sadsack*

      Why would you want to talk to someone who hasn’t had time to prepare for a very important meeting? People need and appreciate time to think about answers to potential questions, like how they have handled certain situations, examples of projects where they have exhibited skills x, y, and z, and so on. Catching someone off-guard isn’t going to tell you anything about them and is really unfair. You may be missing out on some good candidates if you don’t give them time to be prepared.

  40. De Minimis*

    So, my wife had her phone interview with her previous employer earlier this week. She doesn’t think she did well, but you never know what will happen.

    We’re kind of in a tough position—she is almost to the point where she hopes she doesn’t get the job because we don’t know how we will make it work as far as relocation without undergoing a long separation again [when I moved out here for this job we were apart for over a year.] But there’s not a lot of real job opportunity here for her either.

    1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

      Just wanted to say that I’m sorry that you’re in this situation. My husband and I have been long distance many times since we’ve been together and it’s no fun at all.

  41. Sarah D.*

    Last week I quit my job at a company I have been very happy at for the past seven years in order to move to a different city for my husband’s work. Throughout my time here I’ve received excellent feedback from my superiors, colleagues and external clients. I’m very much an OCD attention to detail type. I promised I would stay focused and committed to the job while working out my notice – I want to leave on good terms and be able to rely on a great reference… And then yesterday I made an insanely big mistake completely by accident. I accidentally sent some very sensitive budgets to an external client rather than a colleague. The document contains sensitive info about all of our clients (including the one I accidentally sent the info to). I don’t think there’s anything that can be used against us per say, but it’s still a ridiculous mistake to have made. The client called me up within 10 minutes of the email going out (she was the one who have me the heads up that I had sent it to her by mistake). She assured me that she deleted the email and didn’t read the attachments – I would love to believe her and we generally have a good relationship. I am mortified and terrified at the same time.

    I can’t decide whether to bring this up to my boss and risk undoing all the goodwill I’ve built up here just as I’m about to go into a job search. What would you do?

    Also, can anyone out there commiserate? Would love to know I’m not the only one who’s made a big mistake like this.

    Agh, I hate this feeling!

    Thoughts gratefully received!

    1. Sadsack*

      I think I would cave and tell her just in case she ends up hearing it from someone else. It was an honest mistake and you recognize the severity, and hopefully it has been resolved. I think she would appreciate your keeping her informed of something that could have been potentially harmful. If she does find out from the client, who could end up saying something innocent in passing, I would think that she would be upset that you didn’t tell her, which is what may be on her mind if/when she gets a reference call about you.

    2. Darth Admin*

      I have had this same situation/feeling. I once sent out a sensitive email that contained information about potential layoffs (no names, just that they might be coming) to people who should not have received it. I got the email back from almost all recipients with the help of my IT dept. but some people had opened it and although I contacted them individually to ask them to delete it, the damage was done.

      I fessed up, and based on my experience my advice is to tell your boss. Explain what happened, how it happened, and what the client said about deleting it, and then apologize profusely. The good feelings they have for you and your work will definitely evaporate if they find out after you leave that this happened and you just kept it to yourself. By telling them now you can gauge their reactions and decide whether they’ll still be a good reference for you. Given that you have had a good track record up to now, there’s a good chance they’ll see this for what it is: an aberration. Plus, this is the kind of thing that can eat at you and by telling them, you’ll lift that terrified weight.

      Good luck with your job search. :)

    3. SarahBot*

      I agree that you have to tell your boss – otherwise, the chance is high that she’ll find out about it, and all of the goodwill will be undone by the fact that you didn’t tell her.

      And I say that as someone who once accidentally sent the notes from a high-level director’s meeting to a non-director manager who had been discussed (at length, not positively) at that meeting. (It was meant to go to a Jane and went to a James instead…. *sigh*)

  42. Holly*

    Rant: I know Marketing is considered one of the more … non-essential departments, but I’m a bit annoyed that the same people who complain that we don’t have the marketing materials they need, which aren’t completed because we only have a team of TWO, state they don’t see why we need another person on our team. I’m not fricken Wonder Woman!

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      Amen. I’m not in marketing myself but I see the same thing happen with our marketing team. And IT.

      1. AVP*

        Those poor IT people. My boss refused to have a dedicated outsourced service because their monthly charge was too high (it was the basic industry standard) but is generally annoyed when things break or he doesn’t understand how to do something and there’s no one I can call on to fix things immediately. So then I suggest working out a contract with someone for a certain amount of hours a month, and he’s like, I don’t see why we need that! Can’t we just have someone here right now? SIGH.

        1. Jamie*

          I would love to smack your boss with a magic wand and wish some sense into him.

          I have an awesome network guy on retainer for when we need him and I’m forever having to defend him that our contract is for X response time – not to be in the trunk of my car to pop out in case we need him.

          Your boss is ridiculous. A good outsourced IT is worth their weight in gold if you aren’t doing in-house.

          Even when people have them in house the ignorant will go through this cycle:

          System in bad shape, lot of issues as no one is maintaining it. Hire in-house IT > IT works ass off to get system in shape/upgrading hardware and software, training users. > IT is awesome > a well maintained system takes work, but it’s not the visible “broken now fixed” glamorous kind > emergencies are rare, uptime is optimal > Why do we pay that IT so much? They don’t do anything. We can just have someone on call to take care of the odd thing that comes up > fired IT > those outsources calls are more and more often with no one maintaining anything, equipment is only replaced as it fails causing huge problems and added expense > why are we paying so much for outsources IT when we could pay someone less in house? > Hire new IT at way higher rate because they are coming in to fix and not just maintain > meanwhile old IT is now at another company who had the same bright idea fixing someone else’s mess for more money.

          The conventional wisdom is the way to make the big bucks in IT is to jump companies. Capitalize on people being screwed which keeps their checkbooks open wider > fix stabilize > move one when the raises become less frequent.

          Sometimes I hate how stupid I am for staying without at least checking to see if there is money to jump for out there. Comfort and hating dealing with new people is my Achilles heel.

          1. AVP*

            The worst part is that sometimes he asks REALLY EASY questions that I can answer (I’m not a tech person at all), so then he uses that as the reason why we don’t need IT, and then gets angry when our non-tech staff can’t answer the hard ones.

            Knowing how to print a document from Gmail does not make me qualified to fix an internet router or set up a server!!

          2. Bea W*

            People tend to overlook my field this way. I just had the excellent experience of our team losing another warm body to “budget cuts” and on the same day reading a blog post by the CEO about how the company had been growing for (double digit number) straight quarters, and growth this year is 25%+. In the meanwhile my co-workers and I are drowning in work, unable to hire perm employees for at least 2 years, and now they’re cutting the contractors they were supposedly using to save money. Then people get all up in arms when the data they need either doesn’t exist or isn’t usable. Um…DUH! It’s like they think it just grows on trees!

          3. Windchime*

            I’m also in IT. My boss even admitted recently that usually the only way to get a raise bigger than a couple percent is to move to a different company. It’s too bad and it seems short-sighted, but for some reason that’s how it works.

    2. GeekChick603*

      I worked for an excellent manager 2 jobs ago and our department was in a similar situation. I’m in technical writing, but we often have too much work, not enough people to do the work, other teams demanding the work we didn’t have resources to do, etc. I feel your pain.

      In a project meeting that manager was asked “How can we ship a product without proper documentation?” in reference to additional documents the product team wanted that were beyond our usual documentation suite. My manager had a beautiful response, “How can you expect extra documentation without an appropriately sized staff?” I really miss working for him.

    3. Jules*

      As a square person with no flair, I really appreciate my marketing/communications people. They are awesome.

  43. Holly*

    Oh, also, question: has anyone ever done nursing school *and* worked full time? If so, how’d you make it work with all the variable class schedules? (assuming you don’t have a pure night program.) Is it possible? If not, how did you make it work financially (besides tons of loans)?

    1. Anonicorn*

      I haven’t specifically done nursing school, but I’m getting a degree in biology while working full time. So here’s my advice, for what it’s worth.

      (1) Talk to your manger if you haven’t already. Before I started, I told my manager my plans and she was surprisingly supportive and offered flexibility with my schedule if the need arose, but I work in a salaried role where I don’t have to be in the office during set hours. Luckily, my classes have been offered at night after work so far.

      (2) My employer offers partial tuition reimbursement, so look into that for sure! Otherwise, I would suggest having none or as little debt as possible before going to school and potentially picking up those loans. Besides, being in school plus working a full-time job doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for spending money anyway.

      Another savings tip – use your student ID card. Some local retailers (restaurants, clothing stores, etc.) give discounts to students. My university has a list of places offering discounts. It never hurts to ask.

    2. anon in tejas*

      my partner is in nursing school. we are making it work, because I am working full time and enough to support us, without a significant hit– he’s taking federal loans to cover some tuition. we also don’t have any kids. so that helps too. kids are expensive!

      I would suggest saving before you go to school if at all possible. It is very very very hard to work full time and be successful– a lot depends on the type of program you are in (AA v. BSN and the school). Also, you can and should talk to schools (admissions and financial aid departments) about this before you apply.

      There are lots of ways to cut back living expenses to pay for school. Room mates, cities with lower costs of living, and living with family are a place to start.

    3. AVP*

      I had a coworker try this, but she ended up leaving eventually to go full time. She had a lot of pre-reqs needed to even start the program, so she worked those around her work schedule by going to a giant community college that had a lot of flexibility built in. She was also able to pay for those out of pocket with savings.

      She couldn’t figure out a way to do that with her main classes, so she had to leave her job, but she got into an accelerated 15-month nursing program that allowed her to cut down on the life-loans that she needed to pay her rent and get a job and start working really quickly.

      One thing she learned is that no one cares where you did your pre-requisite courses, if you need any. She had a BA from a great school in something totally non-scientific, and the head of an Ivy League nursing school was the person who told her she could save money by doing all her basic science classes at a community school and no one would care about it come admissions time.

      1. Nina*

        So true about the pre-reqs. It’s cheaper to do them at a community college vs. the university itself.

    4. sophiabrooks*

      I work at a nursing school. Are you looking at getting an associate or bachelor degree to become an RN, or are you already a nurse and getting a master’s or Phd?

      I think it is almost impossible to do the associates or bachelor to become and RN and work full time. Sometimes a very few people will work as a patient care tech and work nights and do school during the day, but what they don’t do is sleep. You will have to study and you will have to do clinical hours.

      If you are worried about money, you have a couple of options– you could go to a community college to get a 2 year associate’s degree and become and RN, get a job, and then that job will usually give you a tuition benefit to complete your bachelor’s part-time while working.

      The second is if you already have a bachelor’s degree, you could go to a one-year accelerated program which will be very expensive, but quick. You may have pre-requisites that you can take before you do that- some programs will let you complete them online. I am not sure if you can contact me privately, but my school actually has online prequisites that work well with work hours (they are go at your own pace). However, you have to make sure the school you are going to will accept them

      1. Holly*

        Hi Sophia! I’m not sure about associates v bachelors… I mean, can you stop at associates and still get a nursing position? Or do I have to go all the way first? What’s the big difference between the two, job-wise?

        I have a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field and will need to take science related pre-reqs regardless. I was thinking of doing those at the community college I went to for my previous associate’s.

    5. A Teacher*

      Sister is a nurse and she worked part time while in nursing school (RN, BSN) that worked around her schedule–an EMT that worked random shifts. How will you work your clinicals around a full time job? That would be the biggest obstacle I can see.

  44. KK*

    I’m currently a temp at an office, scheduled to be there till late November. But before I took the position, I was interviewing for another company, out of state. Now that company wants to do a second interview. If I get the job with the second company, I would have to start before my time at the temp office ends. What do you guys think I should do?

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      take it. when people hire temps, they have to know that their lack of commitment to that employee also means that the employee also lacks long-term commitment to them. if the temp role was short enough, you can even leave it off your resume.

  45. Cruciatus*

    Are there any great jobs (pay, benefits, culture) out there for the ordinary career gal who has no idea what she wants to do? Any success stories out there? I’m not looking to make a million dollars, just a comfortable salary ($40,000-$50,000 seems right for some day in the not too distant future.) I’m in my early 30s, have a Masters I’m not using (sociology, thanks for nothing), and make in the $10 an hour range as an administrative assistant. I just feel like I’m going to be in this spot forever. I don’t hate what I do, and I’m damn good at it but for how important it is for the school I work at, they don’t really give a crap about me (thanks for my .205 cent raise this year! However, my boss is great). I read something that I think Glamour put out about what people actually make (not the Parade thing) and some new grads were complaining about “only” making $30,000 an hour. I’d love to make $30,000! I don’t have any amazing skills that you can’t get anywhere else though I’m good with people, organization, deadlines, etc. I only really use basic computer programs (Word, Excel) and would say I’m good at them, but there’s lots I’m sure I don’t know. I’ve had to learn new programs here and there for jobs (and I did) but nothing that would transfer to something new (library circulation software). If I knew what I wanted to do this would be easier, but I just apply to what sounds good/reasonable (usually university admin/clerk jobs). My sister knew from a young age what she wanted to do and did it and I’ve never had that clarity. An aptitude test from undergrad said police officer or secretary (the latter of which is pretty close to what I’m doing now). I’m OK being just an ordinary (but good, hardworking) worker…I would just love to hear success stories of people who are/were like me that found that sweet spot.

    1. BB*

      You should take some time to figure out what you want to do or at least what you are interested in. Is there something that you daydream about? Do you have a dream job? Maybe you thought was too unrealistic. It may not be. Don’t try to limit yourself as to what you think you can do for a living. It might not be a “normal” job but just put together a list of what your ideal job is like. Once you have an idea, then you can start figuring out what possible careers fits your description.

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      A very good administrative assistant can definitely make a good salary– and is really worth it– so if you don’t necessarily want to switch fields, maybe you could look into a different company or working directly under executive types.

      1. Manders*

        Yes, it looks like you’re working at a university, and it’s my understanding that pay scales are on the lower end for admins in that field. You may have better luck working at a for-profit if money is your #1 concern, and you can try to aim for a field that you might be interested in continuing in. I accidentally fell into a great admin job this way. It’s not precisely the field I want to stay in forever, but I’m getting experience with a lot of skills I plan to use later in my career.

      2. Jessica*

        Look at bigger universities even or one with med schools. The admins at the med school I work at start off at $39K.

        1. Cruciatus*

          Heh. I work at a med school. Granted it’s not attached to a larger university…but maybe I should look more closely into those.

    3. skyline*

      Echoing BB, I think you need to figure out what you value in a job. For some people it’s the mission or purpose; for others, it’s the tasks and projects; for some people, it’s a combination of those or something else. I think there are always jobs for candidates who are good at people, organization, and deadlines. That’s really project management in a nutshell. The trick is being able to show this in your application and interview.

      (Also, you mentioned library circulation software – were libraries something you were looking at? There are plenty of non-MLS jobs in libraries. And really, for the most part, no one expects you to know the library circulation software when hired unless you’re the system administrator for it. It’s a nice bonus if you don’t have to be trained, but usually you do. Even people coming from other library jobs as professionals often have to learn the software because their last organization used a different one.)

      1. Cruciatus*

        I’m not specifically looking at libraries now. I applied to what felt like every job in the county years ago and they were the first ones to hire me. Which eventually led to a full-time job at a small medical school library, which lead to where I am now, an AA at the same med school. I could work at a library again but competition is super fierce now, even when the library job doesn’t require an MLIS. So I’m not against it, but not actively pursuing it at this time.

    4. chewbecca*

      Are you me? Because your post describes me almost word for word (no masters). I’ve wracked my brain over and over about what I want to do, and I just come up with vague things like not customer service or reception and where I would work with people, but only some of the time that pays at least $30k.

      I’d like to have autonomy and projects, and something where I don’t do the exact. same. thing. every day.

      That’s not particularly helpful when narrowing down a job search. I don’t care about industry or company as long as they treat their employees decently have a good reputation (or at least not a bad one).

      TL;DR – I feel ya, Cruciatus.

      1. Cruciatus*

        Hello, me! I’ve actually even looked at some of those books that allegedly help you figure out what you want to do. But they mostly just narrow down what I *don’t* want to do. And that sort of helps, but it’s taking a much longer time to figure everything out. I’m fortunate at this point that I don’t have to take something/anything and I do like my job well enough–but it is the same thing year in and year out (and I really can’t say it enough, the pay SUCKS!) The only things that change are the student names on my files. And the only other job I could possibly get is doing what I do now for a class 5Xs as large as mine when/if that AA retires. Ew, no. My company is super weird and I’m tired of feeling held hostage to the provost’s whims.

        I’m not necessarily tied down to one industry either as long as it’s not, say, the We Hate Cats Society. I just want to do something interesting enough, work with nice, interesting people and get paid a decent salary that allows me to maybe travel, or even buy cable TV if I want. Right now, not so much…

        If you ever figure it all out, let me know!

    5. SarahBot*

      If you’re on board with being an admin assistant, that might be the right way to go. I know a lot of people that have sort of mental blocks around being a secretary / assistant, because I used to be one of them, but I ultimately realized that I wanted a job where 1) the work was done at the end of the day, and I could go home; 2) I might be working with high-level people in the company, but ultimately no one was looking to me to make big decisions or take responsibility for major corporate issues; 3) I liked having my “customers” be the people that I worked with every day and liked, rather than external end users – and that being an admin did all of that for me.

      My experience as an admin has been that it’s less important to have a ton of amazing, can’t-find-anywhere-else skills than to be really, really, ridiculously good at the stuff that you *can* do that no one else wants to do. I found both of my post-college jobs (both for for-profit consulting firms) on Craigslist – my last one was awful in terms of culture, etc., and I stayed there way too long, but where I am now is great!

      Also, in terms of pay, it’s absolutely possible to get a higher salary, depending on the company and role. (I’m at $60K right now, as an exec assistant with a nationwide company with about 1500 employees.) Benefits, culture, appreciation will all vary based on where you’re working, but I can tell you that I am absolutely appreciated where I am, and the value of what I do is completely recognized.

      BUT all that said, if you don’t want to be an admin forever, that’s totally fine, too! At that point, you’d want to listen to the other advice about thinking about what you want from a job, etc.

      1. Cruciatus*

        My boss is super appreciative of me, which is nice. But he can’t choose my pay (staff don’t usually get raises) and the higher ups at the school couldn’t care less what I do for them. I’m starting to get over my title being administrative assistant (can’t come to call it secretary). I do like that at 4:30, that’s it. I’m done. It’ll all be waiting for me the next day. I don’t have to make big decisions, I don’t have to fire people or tell them they smell too horrible to be at work. I actually like much of my work situation–where my desk is, how independently I get to work, how (usually) on top of things my boss is, my interactions with students/faculty. I think I’d be OK continuing on as an administrative assistant in other roles (in other places). I wish I had more clarity, but, as I said, I check the job ads and that’s pretty much how I’m figuring out my future–what sounds pretty good to apply to today?

    6. Aisling*

      Try looking at government jobs. I was an admin assistant at a salary of $35,000 nearly 10 years ago, which was very comfortable for a new grad! The application process takes forever, but it’s worth it.

    7. Turanga Leela*

      I have a stock response to bright people in this situation: look into legal assistant jobs. (People often go back to school to become a paralegal, but you shouldn’t need any more education to be a legal assistant.) If you can write correspondence, edit documents, and manage filing and calendars, there are lawyers and judges who will be delighted to have you. If you are detail-oriented and have strong writing skills, those are both huge pluses. I would look for a job assisting a judge—those are government jobs with good benefits and reasonable hours.

      1. Cruciatus*

        It’s interesting you said that, only because there’s a “case administrator” job for the bankruptcy court in my city. It’s not helping a specific judge (that I can see) but it’s federal and the pay starts at $34,000 which, to me, is like WOW! Highest education wanted is high school degree, but it does require all this knowledge of court procedures, which I don’t have, so I’ve hesitated to apply. But maybe over this long weekend I’ll just give it a shot… Though I have a feeling there are 9000 still unemployed freshly (and not so freshly) graduated law students probably vying for this job.

        1. Turanga Leela*

          Wow. I have no idea what a bankruptcy case administrator does, but it sounds worth investigating.

    8. Mz. Puppie*

      If you’re working for a university, that’s why your pay is so low. I’m an Administrative Assistant and I keep eyeing jobs at the university around the corner from my house, but could never apply there because the pay cut would be so severe compared to corporate.

      Last time around, I was fielding multiple offers at $60,000+ per year.

      1. Cruciatus*

        I’m not looking only at universities but there are so many around me that they are generally the ones hiring for administrative assistants. I do look outside of academia but the other AA jobs don’t pay any better and often are temporary or have crappier benefits. I’m sure there’s a good one out there but around here they are few and far between.

  46. AnonPhenom*

    I have two additional job search questions.

    First, just before the (new) old job didn’t work out, I shaved my head for a cancer fundraiser. It’s growing but you can still see scalp. I’m aware that this is a somewhat unusual hairstyle for a woman, and advice on how to play it off?

    Second, I wrote last week that I am so completely tired of working in project managment. When looking around at jobs I found a research assistant job that is reasonably close to what I want to study. The problem is I would take around a 15K salary hit, though with good benefits and time off. If I do this, then go back to school, I’m not going to make a decent salary again until my mid to late 30s. Has anyone decided something like this before? Any advice?

    1. BB*

      For the first, have you considered a wig? There are nice ones out there. Then have it styled. If not, you can address the issue right before the hiring manager begins the interview.

    2. Graciosa*

      If you do this, you need to change your lifestyle to suit your new income.

      For some people, this is no problem and others find it almost unbearable. I can’t tell how you will respond, but I urge you to look hard at your budget and really get into the details. Make specific decisions about exactly where you will cut and think about whether you want to live that way for the amount of time necessary.

      Thinking generally, “Yeah, I can probably cut out $1250 a month from my spending,” is not facing the issue as directly as “Even if I move to the apartment on NewStreet which will save me $600 a month, I will need to cut down to one evening out a month, give up my X hobby, and cut my clothing budget by 30% which means no more designer bags.” Get to that very specific level before you make a decision either way – you’ll have to live with it for a long time.

      Good luck.

      1. AnonPhenom*

        Unfortunately, I seem to be taking a salary hit either way. So really the question is how much and for how long.

    3. Dang*

      I was a research coordinator at a university and there really was no actual career path unless you were to go back and get a phd, but then you’d have to start all over as a postdoc making less than I made… So consider the overall career trajectory when thinking about this, too. Also, depending on the job, it might have a lot of PM type activities that you don’t enjoy.

      1. AnonPhenom*

        Yep, that’s basically what I’m looking at doing. Luckily (heh) the job I’m looking at to get started makes about what a postdoc would, so at least I can just be the same level of poor for a decade or so.

  47. BB*

    I have an interview for a staff position at a university. Assuming I will be interviewed by a committee, what should I expect? What do I need to know? I’m also unsure about how to greet everyone. Do I greet everyone or just the person who calls me in? And after the interview, what are the formalities? Shake hands and thank everyone? Any other advice would be greatly appreciated.


    1. Cruciatus*

      Don’t over-think it! I just interviewed for a staff position at a university (hopefully not the same one!). It was a small room with a large, oval table. One person was already on the far side of that table sitting so I only shook hands with the woman who came to get me and the woman closest to the door we walked through and the lead interviewer told me then to take a seat so I didn’t go over to the other woman (it would have involved squeezing past the woman closest to the door then leaning very far over the table. I did of course say “nice to meet you” to the other woman as I sat down. I shook her hand at the end and was pretty much out of the room in no time because there was a door right behind the seat where I was sitting. One minute I was interviewing, the next I was out the door (though I did manage to say it was nice to meet everyone and to have a nice day). Just be polite and if you can shake hands without it being awkward, go for it–this may be more likely after the interview. Otherwise verbal greetings/goodbyes are OK, I would think. You won’t really know what to expect until you’re in the room.

    2. Annie*

      Direct the answers you give primarily to the person who asked – I was on an interview panel and all of the answers to my questions were directed to the eldest person(who was not the highest ranking) in the room and it drove me nuts.
      As for greetings and exits, shake anyone’s hand who you can on the way in and ask for everyone’s card. Send thank yous to everyone who was there.

    3. Windchime*

      I’ve never interviewed at a university, but we do a lot of interviews-by-committee at my workplace. Ours are rather informal; as we are all coming into the room, we will often do a quick name-only introduction and shake hands with the candidate. Once everyone is settled, whomever is facilitating the interview (usually our boss) will ask us all to give a little more detailed introduction (name, title, how long we’ve worked here) and then the candidate is invited to start telling about him/herself.

      Once the interview is over, there is usually another round of informal hand-shaking and goodbyes.

      We always ask technical and work-related questions in our committee-style interviews, but we are also carefully looking for how this person will fit onto our team. So that’s something to be aware of.

    4. Joce*

      The big thing to be aware of when interviewing at universities is that the process is going to very, very formalized and very, very by the book. For both of my positions, the committee had a set list of questions that they had to read and were not allowed to deviate from — this included interviewing for a promotion where I still had to answer questions about what I did in previous job and why I felt my experience qualified me for the position.

      I shook hands with everyone when I came in and then just kind of generally said a committee goodbye rather than shaking everyone’s hands again.

    5. LabTech*

      Shake hands with everyone, greet everyone, address your answer to the person who asked the question, and try to remember (or jot down) names in case you want to follow-up or send thank-you notes later. I personally sent out four thank-you emails (including one for HR that also asked for the name of one of the committee members), and made sure to personalize each email a little so it’s not the same one copied and pasted four times.

      If it’s anything like mine was, there will be a lot of bureaucracy in the process, meaning it can take a long time between when you interview and when you hear back (two very long months in my case). Also, there might be more emphasis on your educational background that with a private-sector job, so feel comfortable discussing the specifics of what classes you took, and maybe even bring a transcript. Finally, if it’s a large university, there’s a good chance there are sample interview questions on their HR website, but in the three academic interviews I’ve had, none of the questions on their HR interview list were asked (though I personally found it immensely helpful for preparation and confidence-building).

  48. Anonypants*

    Still chugging along at the job I started at back in late April. So far so good. Occasionally I make a mistake and get scared I’ll be taken into a back room, but nothing like that has happened yet ^_^

    I am starting to get some weird behavior from someone who works in the office. In the past couple months I’ve definitely gotten the feeling he checks out my computer screen when he walks by my desk, and sometimes I hear him quietly scoff if I’m looking at one of the social media sites I use for work, or reading an article (I’m in a research role). Then one morning he walks by, “catches” me on Reddit, and says “I’m watching youuuu, I’m watching youuuu” in a creepy singsong manner as he walks away.

    I talked to my manager about it, and he offered to talk to the guy and assure I’m not only allowed to use Reddit at work, it’s part of my job. He also assured me the guy is just weird. But I still get the sense he’s spying on me, and I’d really appreciate it if he minded his own g-darn business once in a while. He’s not on my team, he’s not my manager, I’m not sure he even knows what I do here, so why is it any concern of his how I spend each second of the workday?

    1. LCL*

      Get a privacy screen for your monitor, they are cheap. That will solve the immediate problem, but not your co worker’s weirdness.

    2. Anonymous*

      Have you tried saying anything to him directly in a more friendly/joking tone? If it were me, I’d probably try that approach firstly the next time I caught him saying anything in the hopes that he can take a hint. If that doesn’t work, then I agree with LCL – get a privacy screen.

    3. puma*

      I wonder if this guy is just trying to get your attention. Maybe he wants to start a conversation with you. There was a guy at my last job who would sneak up behind me and comment on whatever I had up on screen, be it a website or a project. He was trying to be friendly, but it annoyed the heck out of me.

      1. Anonypants*

        Hm, now I’m wondering if he’s the one who put the creepy, flirtatious notes on my co-workers desk last week.

    4. Jamie*

      I want a job where I can reddit at work!

      The next time he does it address it immediately. Ask him why he’s concerned about what’s on your screen and stop talking. And if he jokes about it ask again, seriously, “no, part of my job is to be one reddit (etc) so I’m not sure what you’re implying – why are you concerned?”

      I’ve always found the serious tone and making them explain themselves works better than almost anything else.

      1. Anonypants*

        Eh, it’s a small part of the job. Mostly posting jobs, looking for industry news, and occasionally participating in discussions so if someone looks at my post history it’s not *just* job postings.

    5. Darth Admin*

      I think next time he sang me the “I’m watching you” song I’d just turn around and ask him WHY he’s watching me. That might give you the opening to explain that this is part of your job, and also you’d be calling him on his creeptastic behavior.

  49. LV*

    I have a hypothetical situation I’d like to run past my fellow AAM readers to get a better perspective.

    I’m on my second library job since finishing my MLIS in spring 2013, and my current position will end this December. I’m applying for other jobs, but since the job market sucks, positions in the field here are few and far between, and most of them are short-term contracts. (My first contract after graduating was 11 months, current one is 8.) The manager of another section in the information management division told me there’s a vacancy coming up in his section and he could look into getting me transferred there. I don’t think I would really enjoy the work I would be doing if I hypothetically were offered this job. I certainly wouldn’t enjoy it as much as being a reference librarian, which I absolutely love and am very good at. It would also mean a $10k/year salary drop.

    I know a lot could happen between now and December (they could fill the vacancy, I could find another job, I could get hit by a bus) but it made me wonder:

    Is it better to avoid a gap on my résumé by taking a job that’s sort of in a related field but not really, or to wait until I find a job that I’m really passionate about, since I’m fortunate enough that I can afford to be unemployed in the meantime (married, DINK)? Is it good to diversify my skill set this way, or does it not matter since the skills I’d develop wouldn’t really be transferable to a librarian position?

    This is something I’ve been wondering for a while and I haven’t come to a satisfactory conclusion. Most of my friends lean towards “take the job if offered, it’s better than nothing.” I wouldn’t feel right taking on a permanent job knowing that I would always be looking to get out and back into the library field… What do you guys think?

    1. Annie*

      Honestly its (as I have learned over and over and over again this past year) its much easier to get a job when you have a job. I left a position for various reasons because I’d never been out of work for longer than 6 weeks when looking (including in the worst of the economic crisis) and now I’ve been out of full time work for nearly 18 months. If its offered to you take it and work on finding something else between now and then and figure out how bad of a burned bridge you would have if your dream job comes up while under that contract.

    2. Karowen*

      Based wholly on advice about how much harder it is to get a job when you’ve been unemployed and had that gap, I think I’d lean towards taking it. If the field were completely unrelated I’d say not to put yourself through the stress, but for something that’s sort of related that may help you keep some of your skills sharp, I’d do it. I wouldn’t be happy about it, but I’d do it.

      That said, I don’t really see anything wrong with taking a permanent position but looking for a job that’s right for you. I’m not saying to start looking for a job a month in, but I don’t think anyone sane would blame you. Good luck with your conundrum!

    3. CL*

      One opinion only: A job with the same organization at $10K less isn’t great for a resume either. Selling yourself short (both in salary and in job wishes) isn’t great for your own morale. You are very fortunate to have choices. Don’t choose fear.

  50. Karowen*

    I just sent a stupidly quasi-pissy email to a higher up at work. Nothing major, just that I was told to do x, did it, was told to add something to add it, asked for the information I needed to add. The higher up responded to my first email (reply all) telling everyone to hold on for a few weeks while we get something figured out and then apparently read my second email (sent before she sent her first one) and sent a separate email just to me telling me not to move forward, because I’m apparently too stupid to figure it out.

    So I responded sort of snarkily saying not to worry, that I had already tabled it when I received her first email and ending it with a smiley face (emoticons are an accepted norm in my workplace), but the higher up is already mad at my department right now so my stomach is churning. Nothing that anyone can do or say, but wanted to get it off my chest.

    1. Kai*

      That doesn’t sound totally out of line, at least the way you’ve described it here. Though I totally get how you feel.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Did she actually say “because apparently you are too stupid to figure it out?” or is that something you inferred from her word choices?

  51. Annie*

    How do you ask someone for more information about a job or where the job fits in the company(dealing with a REALLY obvious/basic job description that included works well on teams and individually)? I have a phone interview next week with company a family friend has worked at for a LONG time (around 15 years) and I am at the end of my rope with getting phone interviews and then not getting the in person or getting through multiple rounds of in person interviews and then not getting the job- I just want something that proves I’ve done my research and I would be a good fit- I was thinking about something like
    “Hi Mrs. Z- Its Annie Smith and I just wanted to let you know I have phone interview with Rosalie from HR next week about the Onsite Teapot Expo Coordinator position. I am really excited about this possibility and was just wondering if there was anything you knew about the group this position was in is currently doing so I can prepare myself fully for the conversation. I hope you are doing well.
    Thanks- Annie”
    I’ve been doing this for 18 months now and I’m just ready to have a job- I want this one a lot (involves traveling and lots of the skills I’ve used in my previous positions) but I’m afraid to get my hopes up (again) just to be disappointed (again).

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I’m not clear on why talking to someone inside the company proves you did your research. Maybe there is not much online? What about your friend? I bet your friend has friends that would be potential contacts, too.

    2. Graciosa*

      I think you prove you’ve done your research in other ways. I ask candidates what they know about our company, but I’m looking for information gleaned from the web site and other electronic and public record research. Even very small companies have to file with our state’s corporate registration system, so a resourceful candidate could get a fair amount of information even if my employer wasn’t on any Fortune lists.

      Talking to a good friend I understand – but what you were thinking about for the conversation sounds closer to a cold call. The closer you are to cold calling, the more it sounds gimmicky, which is a bad way to stand out rather than a good one.

      I understand that it has been very frustrating to be out of work for so long, and I wish you the best.

  52. CAF*

    To update on my job woes of last week: I am interviewing today for a temp part time position that would help me get some of the nonprofit fundraising skills I would need for jobs that are not just prospect research. It’s at a nonprofit within a local university and I could theoretically walk to work if I wanted. The only problem is they want 1-2 months and I’m going on a long-planned trip out of the country in six weeks. I hope it’s not a dealbreaker, but the trip can’t be put off or changed (we are visiting my country of heritage for the first time with my in-laws; they are not of that heritage, but they happen to be on sabbatical two countries away).

    1. Anonymous*

      Their big yearly event is on the Tuesday of the week I’d need off (along with the previous Friday) so I think unless they find no one else hallway decent, it’s a deal breaker. Interview went well otherwise, so good practice.

  53. Anon for this*

    Hi –
    I’m currently dealing with a family situation that has recently intensified (a family member who is addicted to drugs). I live several hundred miles from my family, so I’m not dealing with it in person. I saw a therapist last fall about this (as well as some other, since resolved issues), and I’m anticipating that I may need to return to seeing a therapist in the next few weeks, at least a few times, and more than likely during work hours.

    The thing is, my job is very intense between now and November – no time off except for absolute emergencies, working most weekends, etc… I was also just promoted (yay!), and while my job description hasn’t changed, the responsibility essentially has.

    I did have a family emergency a few months ago (a death of a close relative), and my boss was extremely supportive – let me take as much time as I needed on short notice (and it was also at a particularly busy time for us).

    I guess my question is, how do I address this with my boss/work? The situation is still developing, but if I end up needing to see a therapist more than once or twice (which I can explain are doctor’s appointments, but more than one doctor’s appointment in the next month would definitely be odd/a red flag), I feel like I’ll need to address it with my boss. I think there’s probably no need for me to explain anything beyond needing to go to some medical appointments, but I am concerned that I may need to take a trip on short notice/ be more distracted from work, etc… Basically, I want to keep my boss in the loop at least somewhat because of how it might affect my work, but I don’t want to say too much too early or say more than I need to.

    1. Dawn*

      If you have the kind of relationship with your boss, be honest. “hey Boss, I’m dealing with an intense Family Situation (you don’t have to go into detail) and will probably be seeking therapy in the coming months to help me through this time of crisis. I might have to step out for a few hours for an appointment, and I wanted to talk to you beforehand about how we should handle this situation in light of the intense period we’re all going to be going through soon.”

      Any decent manager will immediately understand and be sympathetic, and you two can work together to find a solution that meets your needs and the needs of your company.

  54. Trixie*

    A family member is interviewing for a job with NIH/FDA in Maryland, and if offered a position, is strongly encouraging me to consider moving there with her. While eventually I do want to stay near family, the COL of living anywhere near D.C. is scaring me off. Plus I feel I’m more competitive in the local nonprofit job market than I would be in an area where most have undergrad degrees, if not Master’s or PhD’s. Granted, she feels she would be earning enough to help support me while job searching but I’m not sure that’s enough reason to move there. I know D.C. has been discussed here before and I’m still looking through the archives but what I’ve found is mostly not encouraging.

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      Look at Baltimore. Home of Catholic Charities as well as several Jewish non-profit groups. Kennedy Krieger Institute. A huge non-profit sector here including our very large universities. And if you aren’t living in DC, it’s really not all that bad. I wouldn’t live in Baltimore city because of the taxes but the surrounding counties can be quite affordable.

      1. Sweet Potato*

        +1 for Baltimore. It has its problems, just like any other city, but it’s a friendlier and more affordable place than DC. (I grew up there.)

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I work in DC but live just outside of it in Maryland. There are definitely affordable areas that are still pretty metro-accessible.

    3. Dawn*

      Honestly, having moved up here 5 years ago and looking actively and moving out, here’s my thoughts:

      PRO DC:
      – Strong job market (obviously selective, as you mentioned)
      – High salary (again, selective)
      – Extremely diverse culture. Any kind of food you could want to eat, from any country.

      CON DC (obvs my personal preference in some of these):
      – TRAFFIC SUCKS. Everywhere, pretty much all of the time. There are so many people trying to go so many places that it will take you 20 min to just go down the road to the grocery store.
      – If you take Metro there are a ton of people riding it during rush hour. I know, duh, but if you’ve never ridden metro you don’t know what you’re in for
      – Cost of living is high, high, high. Gets lower the further out you go, but then you have an hour plus commute to and from work.
      – Absolutely sterile- by that I mean no art scene whatsoever, very small music scene, everyone up here is a 60 hour work week, suit wearing, bad haircut asshat trying to make enough money to buy their 2nd Maserati. Trophy wives and spoiled brats everywhere.
      (CAVEAT: I have found some wonderful individuals living up here, it’s just that taken as a whole everyone worships money and is a horrible person inside)
      – As I said above, this is a very consumer-oriented area. People are OBSESSED with stuff, and it can be very hard not to buy into that and start feeling like you need the nicer car… the bigger house… the fancy vacation… the expensive clothes… the new nose… and on and on and on
      – PEOPLE EVERYWHERE. Everything is crowded, all of the time. Doubly crowded on weekends.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        100% agree. If you are not OK with crowds of jerky people, don’t move here.

        Other PROs:
        -lots of nearby outdoor activities: hiking in Great Falls, caving in West Virginia, exploring wineries in Virginia, etc
        -metro is pretty extensive so you can get away with not driving most of the time
        -there are a lot of good restaurants and nightlife here– from hoity-toity foodie dinner to excellent dive bars and silly 80s cover bands

        Other CON:
        -people move in and out of the area a lot, so it can be hard to get a really stable group of people around you

      2. Just Visiting*

        Cosigned to all of this. Also, Baltimore’s public transport system is terrible. People in the DC area are live-to-work, not work-to-live. Even admin assistants drive fancy cars and wear designer clothing. Unless you have a car it’s impossible to access nature and the air quality will take years off your life. Man, I really hated the DC area.

    4. periwinkle*

      Would this be at the main FDA campus in White Oak, MD (northern Silver Spring)? I lived in that area until quite recently…

      Housing: Yes, the DC area is hideously expensive. You know it’s bad when I look at real estate prices here in the Seattle area and think, “these houses are so affordable!” I agree with the Baltimore recommendation and will add in Howard County, which is booming with both housing and jobs (Columbia MD). You can catch express buses from Columbia to both DC and Baltimore so the commute is doable.

      Job market: DC is DC. There are endless non-profits, but you’re right in thinking that your competition for those jobs is a well-educated cadre. Look to professional associations, particularly those like the Young Non-Profit Professionals Network (very active DC chapter, as you might expect). You may have less competition for positions in Baltimore-based NPOs as DC is a glamour spot and Baltimore is… well, it’s there. :-) Actually, Baltimore is seriously underrated and well worth considering!

      Traffic does indeed suck. In both cities.

      Do you have specific concerns or questions that we can address? I miss DC, for all its (many, many) flaws. It was always a bit of a thrill to walk around downtown and note that hey, there’s the headquarters of a noted NGO or think tank or charitable organization or professional organization or research institute or whatever. And hey, pandas.

      1. Trixie*

        Periwinkle, I think it is that FDA campus in Northern Silver Spring. The comments above narrowed in on a lot of my concerns/thoughts as far as jobs, commuting, public transportation, COL, etc. I’m sure once I learn more I’ll have additional questions and as a recent transplant, would love to pick your brain. Are you online with the LinkedIn AAM group, maybe we could connect there.

  55. Maddy*

    Hi all — I’ve commented in the past about feeling unfulfilled at my job and asking for advice on how to transition from middle-management to VP level and you all had great advice (nothing crazy, but a lot of reinforcing what I assumed already).

    Bad news is — there haven’t been any openings in my area to go after recently now that I’m in a position to start putting myself out there (I’m in an industry that’s still very public about job postings, not too network-y)

    Good news is — I’ve taken everybody’s advice and really started getting involved with professional organizations in my city to make a name for myself! I’ve even been recruited to be on a steering committee for a volunteer organization that’s directly related to my field (and something that I’m becoming REALLY passionate about) and will look fantastic on my resume!

    Sending good job vibes out into the world for all of you too!

  56. Autumn*

    I just had something show up in my inbox that I just had to share, and what perfect timing for the open thread!

    Next week is out staff appreciation picnic, and I just received an email with a “picnic agenda.” That’s right, there’s an agenda for the picnic. And it only provides 15 minutes for ice cream!

    1. Jamie*

      I liked this at first…because I would totally be the person to write a picnic agenda…but skimping on ice cream time wiped the smile off my face.

      You cushion load ice-cream time!

    2. danr*

      Since I’ve never been to a meeting where the scheduled times were followed, I’m sure the time for ice cream will expand anyway. [grin]. Or, you can push for Sundaes instead.

    3. Jules*

      Oh wow 15 minutes… Better be a pre-packaged one if you have to be that quick. How will the hoard get to it and have it all eaten in 15 minutes?

      1. Bea W*

        If it’s time-limited, I’d rather just table the burger and chips and get straight to the critical items like ice cream.

  57. Emn*

    I need good vibes and possibly advice too today. My manager asked me to move teams because that team was short-staffed. I agreed with the understanding that I’d still be able to work on X, but my manager has put me on a project that involves Y, which I’m not enjoying at all. Going to talk to him about the possibility of shifting my work more towards X. Does anyone have suggestions for phrasing? Does it matter that in the team move, I changed managers? If so, should I talk to old team’s manager or new team’s manager? I’m not opposed at all to moving back to old team, but I’m not sure how likely that’ll happen.

  58. HR - onboarder!*

    We’re looking at ways to expand our on-boarding program after the initial orientation. Does anyone have practical ideas on how to integrate new hires into a company?

    1. Calla*

      YES! Assuming these are not already part of your orientation, these are things I highly value in an onboarding (as someone who recently went through one that was seriously lacking, and is now helping revamp it):

      – Norms and expectations around the office. Work hours, lunch hours, dress code, PTO request process, etc. This may be better left to the manager, but someone should do it!
      – A packet with useful information about the area (lunch spots! map of the building, etc.)
      – Where to find other useful informat