my employer made me a contractor without telling me, sitting down at trade shows, and more

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

1. My prospective new employer is wary of hiring me if it will piss off my current employer

My current employer is a 10-year client of a large web development company that I reached out to and have interviewed with. I recently led the redesign of our new company website, which was developed by this company, so I naturally made some well-placed connections. Their HR recently informed me that the only thing holding them back from extending an official offer is that I work for one of their clients. Because they don’t want to sour their relationship due to bringing me on board, they want me to make sure that my current employer is okay with me leaving to work for them.

The problem is that my employer is not aware that I am looking elsewhere and I do not want to let them know without a written offer in hand. I also fear that if I tell my employer I want to go work for their web provider, and they do not “approve,” I am now without an offer and my employer knows I am looking to leave so what’s to stop them from simply letting me go? Please help! This new position would be a great career and salary boost for me.

Yeah, this isn’t uncommon, unfortunately — the other company is understandably concerned about making sure that they don’t lose a client, if your employer feels like they poached you.

Any chance that you can somehow frame it in a way where it doesn’t sound like you were actively job searching? You shouldn’t lie, but could you frame it as, “I got to know them so well during the website redesign that we started talking about working together?” For some reason, that type of natural evolution of a relationship often bothers employers less (not that they should be bothered at all when someone talks to other companies, but many take it weirdly personally).

At the same time, though, you could also try to negotiate a more formal contingent offer from the other place — explaining that you’re uneasy about broaching this with your current employer if they’re not making you a definite offer yet.

2. My employer made me a contractor without telling me

I was a part-time staff member for a distributed company for about two years. I started out as an intern and became permanent part-time. At some point near the 18-month mark, they switched me to contractor status without informing me. I found out because I saw it on my check. They stopped paying me and when I asked about it, the check came to me without taxes taken out. My question is: can they switch my status without telling me?

After another six months, my boss said to finish up my projects because we were done with them and then I was never assigned anything new. I was fully paid and I am still on friendly terms with my boss but I feel like I was kind of phased out. I chalk it up more to a small company’s disorganization than to my relationship with them, because they offered me a full-time position a little while later, but I didn’t take it because I was pursuing another position. Anyway, I do still feel odd that they never informed of the status change and then phased me out without much notice.

I don’t think that there’s any requirement that they inform you if they change your status, but there is a requirement that they assign you the correct status, and I’d be curious to know if you met the legal definition for an independent contractor or not.

Legalities aside, though, it’s completely weird and rude to change your status without talking to you about it. That change has a major impact on your tax obligations! It’s not a minor change, and there should have been a conversation about it. (That said, it sounds like you didn’t talk to them about it either. Ideally as soon as you noticed it, you would have asked what’s up. If you didn’t, it’s even possible that it was a clerical snafu that should have been corrected.)

3. How can I ask my new employer for breaks to sit when I go to trade shows?

I recently accepted a new position as a marketing manager. One aspect of this job, which I haven’t had to do in previous positions, is to travel to and staff our booth at trade shows about 5-6 times per year. I’m fine with the travel, but concerned about the pain I will potentially be in from standing on my feet all day at these events.

I have pretty bad plantar fasciitis and have had various ankle and joint problems over the past few years. It’s something that normally isn’t an issue in my daily life or job, but I could see it becoming an issue a few times a year during these events. I’m still totally willing and able to go to all these events, just might need periodic breaks or to ask for shorter periods of standing on my feet. Whenever I push myself to stand for many hours at a time, it often results in a huge amount of pain and limited mobility the next day, and these events sometimes last for several days.

When and how do you think is the appropriate way to approach this with my new employer? I suppose in a perfect world I should have addressed this when I received the job offer, but am so excited about the other aspects of the job that I didn’t want that to get in the way. Basically, if need be I can deal with this issue I just don’t know how bad or how frequent it will be.

This shouldn’t be a big deal. Frankly, plenty of booths are set up for you to sit a good portion of the time anyway, so it might be a complete non-issue. But you can certainly say to your manager, “I have some foot issues that mean that I’ll be in pain if I stand all day without periodic breaks to sit. Is it feasible for me to set things up at trade shows so that I can sit for a bit after every few hours of standing?”

Read an update to this letter here.

4. Am I disadvantaging myself by telling employers not to contact my references before interviewing me?

In several recent online applications, the employer asks if they may contact my references before they interview me (assuming I am shortlisted). I have been checking “no,” as I am applying for several jobs and I would like to give my references a copy of the job description, my resume, and examples of past work that I have completed that make me a good fit for the position. Would checking no penalize me in any way? Also, I am applying for jobs both in the UK and the US and have references from both countries.

Potentially, yeah. It’s silly for employers to check references before they interview people; it’s a waste of their time and a waste of your references’ time, since they might not even be interested in you after they talk with you. But if they’re asking for permission to do it, it might be something they care about, and you’re potentially disadvantaging yourself by saying no. (To be clear, it’s totally normal and reasonable to say no in regard to your current employer, but not for previous employers.)

I wouldn’t worry too much about not being able to give your references a copy of the job description, your resume, and examples of past work; that’s a lot more information than references generally need — more of a nice-to-have than a must-have.

5. Listing contracting positions when I stayed in my role but the contractor changed

My last two positions have been at companies that provide services to a government agency. The companies have had contracts with the client, and I have worked as a regular, full-time employee of the company holding the contract. When the client very recently awarded the service contract to a different company, I moved along with it. Essentially, day to day I’m doing the same work for the same client, but my actual employer changed.

I understand that this is fairly common with these government contracts, but I’m having trouble finding examples of how to list this work on a resume. Since I’m an employee and not a consultant, it doesn’t feel accurate to list them as contracts under a single heading (and the company holds the contract, not me). I could list them as separate positions (I suppose, technically, they are!), but I’m starting the process of looking for new positions. I want to portray this in the best light — I’m not job-hopping after a short stint, as I’ve actually held this position and done this work for several years.

List it like this:

Teapot Maker, Government Agency Name (as employee of Contracting Company A, May 2011-Dec. 2012, and of Contracting Company B, Jan. 2013-June 2014)

{ 78 comments… read them below }

  1. Dan*


    Doesn’t being a contractor involve you know, having a contact? IOW, you have to sign some forms? I bet the op signed forms about being a regular employee when they onboarded, so switching status without telling him is rather dubious, no? There’s certainly a claim if things go south, because after all, his paper work stays he is a regular employee.

      1. Lucky*

        Having a written contract is one of the factors the IRS considers in Form SS-8, for determining whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee. Other factors include whether the worker has a business license and is free to perform services for other businesses, can control aspects of her work like work hours and work site, and provides her own necessary work equipment. Here, LW#2 performed the same services, presumably on-site and using her employer’s equipment, with no contract and without setting herself up as a business.

        Frankly, employers misclassify employees as independent contractors all the time, because it benefits them by saving them unemployment tax, worker’s compensation, and other employer paid taxes (not taxes that are deducted from an employee’s pay.) LW#2 should speak with an employment attorney or her states’s department of labor & industries. Many states have laws protecting employees from this sort of illegal action, and may allow for treble damages if underpayment of wages & taxes results.

    1. OP #2*

      OP #2 here! That’s a good point about contract. I am looking for my papers now, but I can at least confirm that I signed papers when I was brought on as the intern. Will update if I find them.

  2. Dan*

    It is quite interesting how often the contact administrator changes but the people doing the work don’t. I knew one guy who kept the same office and chair but had worked for four employers over his career.

    Healthcare. Gov is the same way. Politics at its finest.

    1. MK*

      I don’t think it’s particularly strange. Because contractor work is uncertain and can fall through at the last minute, it doesn’t make sense for them to hire anyone before they get the contract; they till it’s more or less a sure think and then they hire. It makes sense for them to search for candidates among the people who already do the work.

      1. Dan*

        Strange? No. But I’m talking about large government contracts where the work sticks around, the people doing the work stay the same, but the name on the paycheck keeps changing. It’s one giant shell game.

        1. Anonymous1973*

          The same thing happens in private companies. I know a network administrator that has sat at the same desk for 30 years and worked for four different companies.

    2. OP #5*

      Agreed — it’s common in my field and it seems to me that the distinction between 2 contracts is usually the administrative cost, not the work (because the same people will often be doing the work!).

      It works out well for many employees because they have some stability even if the contracts are required to switch companies. I wonder, though, about long-time employees like your friend, who might have their benefits or other significant work conditions change completely.

  3. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

    #3….just want to say…don’t try to suck it up….figure it out with your employer. Yes, you can probably do it, but you’ll pay later, and might make it worse. This is from someone who sucked up and and tried to ignore pain it until it became a permanent 24/7 part of my life. Not saying that would happen to everyone, but I wish I had known more about how pain can become chronic and intractable. Take care of yourself. People are usually really understanding about this stuff.

    1. Vicki*

      Also, OP, be sure to wear comfortable and warm shoes. Many tradeshow booths are in large cavernous halls (air conditioned) with some carpet placed over a hard concrete floor. Depending on how much money your company spends, that carpet may be thin.

      When I did booth duty, my feet got very cold and they hurt more when they are cold. I bought a nice pair of boots. They looked good and were warm too!

      1. Nashira*

        High quality wool hiking socks can help with both warmth and, some, with padding if they’re thick. Look at outdoors shops for nice ones. They wick sweat and keep your feet comfortably warm even if they’re wet, unlike cotton.

  4. MK*

    OP4, references are useful insofar as they can testify to their personal experience of working with you; it’s not their job to ”sell” you to the hiring manager. Why do they need to know the job description, so that they can tell the hiring manager what a great fit you will be? That’s not for them to decide. What do they have to do with your resume? The hiring manager can see it for themselves. As for examples of past work, shouldn’t the references remember them without you having to remind them?

    I realise you are trying to maximise the effect of your references, but it’s the hiring manager’s job to get what they need out of them. Not allowing them to contact your references before interviewing makes it seem like you want to control the information they provide; an overly suspicious hiring manager might think that you have something to hide or that you are trying to coach your references.

    1. GrumpyBoss*

      Interesting to see this framed this way, because coaching my references is exactly what I try to do, and I never saw it as a negative. Reason being is I’ve been once bitten, twice shy. When I first came out of college, I worked for a failed startup and found myself out on the street in 9 months. I had the founder of the startup volunteer to be my reference, which I was grateful for. I applied to dozens of jobs and soon, my reference claimed she was being called too much. She finally gave a bad reference of me because I was wasting her time.

      So yeah, I like to control access to my references. I like to give them a heads up that they will be called. I like to frame the conversation, let them know why this particular job is making me passionate. No, not their job to sell me, but I do feel it necessary to make them aware that I’m not wasting their time.

      To the OP: I always check “no” to the contact references on an app. If given free form space, I do state, “References will be provided upon request” – it may sound weird since they just did request them, but what I’m really saying is if the hiring manager wants them, and not just because this is the default setting in Taleo, I’ll provide at that time.

      1. MK*

        I would think having these conversations with a reference would be more time-consuming for them than only having to talk to the hiring managers. I understand that onw has to avoid alienanting one’s references, but I was looking at it from the hiring manager’s perspective. If a candidate delays allowing contact with a reference and, after they do, it becomes apparent that the reference has been primed by the candidate, I think it lessens the credibility of the reference.

    2. Anonymous1973*

      I agree. I’ve served as a reference and had those materials sent to me and I thought, what am I supposed to do with this? I’m making myself available to answer questions, and to the best of my availability I will, but that’s about it. I’m not going to pre-research and come up with an analysis of why the candidate is the best person for the job. But I will speak to my past experiences with the candidate.

    3. fposte*

      I think this is a YMMV thing. References aren’t always based on recent employment, or employment at all. As Artemesia says below, if you want a reference from me and you’re not currently working with me, I want some context so I remember who the heck you are, what you did, and what that has to do with the job you’re applying for. As a hiring manager, I don’t find an informed reference suspicious–it just means the applicant is doing her homework.

    4. Artemesia*

      If it is your boss that you worked with for 10 years, you may not need to prep them. If it is a professor who has had thousands of students, it doesn’t matter how fabulous you are, chances are they will only have a vague recollection and they need resume and a ‘cover’ email remind them of the projects you did or whatever. For those in between e.g. places you worked briefly or where you were one of dozens of employees, it doesn’t hurt to provide them with some reminders of what you did when you were there that is noteworthy. An email to the reference reminding them of your work on the award winning TPS reports or your implementation of spoutless teapot technology may job their memory and enable them to say something specific which is more persuasive then a vague reference.

      1. Artemesia*

        ‘Jog’ their memory of course. And if you alert them to the new job focus and note something you did on the job with them that suits you well to that, that may also be useful. When I called references, I wanted specifics and a vague ‘Joe is a good guy’ is useless.

    5. Liz in a Library*

      I have to disagree on this. I pretty regularly serve as a reference for students and employees alike, and in both cases find it hugely useful if the applicant will send me an updated version of their resume and the job ad first. I don’t think the reference should have to spend a lot of time spinning you to their new employer, but it’s just common courtesy as an applicant to pass along whatever you can to make life easier for the person who is doing you a favor.

  5. Spinks*

    OP4: I have done this (asked for references not to be taken until after interview) and the main disadvantage is that the process takes a bit longer. So my advice if you want to do this is make sure your references are primed and ready to go as soon as you get the phone call after the interview that says you are the top choice but they need x number of references before they can make an offer.

  6. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


    I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but if you haven’t ever done 5 -6 trade shows per year, you don’t know how grueling that actually is. Plan now, and it’s not about asking your boss for breaks, imho.

    Okay, as marketing manager is it your job to plan and execute the trade show appearances or, is there a trade show manager and you are just one of staff? There’s a plus and a minus to being on either side of that.

    Let’s talk about things you can control. The convention centers bill for EVERYTHING. I had to cap that. Unless you have set up a trade show before and seen the grocery list you have to check, you can’t grasp that there is a hefty charge attached to anything that isn’t a bare concrete floor in a rectangle shape. The amenities you purchase will change your experience.

    1) chairs. Don’t come with the booth and aren’t lying around spare. Make sure that they are either part of the booth set up you ship in or that you check the boxes to rent chairs. One chair looks weird to me. Get a min of two or if your booth is large enough, a chair for as many staff as you expect to have at one time. The best set up is, if your booth is large enough, to have a table and two chairs. Invite an important customer to sit with you. Their feet are tired too! You sit, they sit, you conduct business.

    2) carpet. padding. I cannot emphasize this enough from poor personal experience after I cheaped out when I was young and stupid and worked a show five days straight in Chicago. There are a bunch of grades. The best grade will make your eyes bleed from cost, but the difference is the save your life kind. The bonus from spending the money is that your customers will feel the difference when they walk in your booth and their feet will want to stay.

    3) staffing. You need adequate staffing if anybody is going to take any break. The first day of any show is usually insane and it is hard to take a break at all. Ideally all staff should be able to break every three hours for 15 min or so. It’s really hard to make that happen on the first day of a show unless you are well staffed.

    Depending on the set up, if you have a booth on the edges, you might be able to throw a folding chair behind the curtain and steal behind there for 10 minutes at a time when you have to, even if things are nuts out front . If you are able to do that, the cooperation of the people working the show with you is way more important than any boss, so offer to trade off. You might have to walk a mile to be able to sit otherwise.

    Everybody wants to sit! You’ll be in good company. Work the logistics and for the love of all that is holy, get good carpet padding.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      The point I am trying to make about chairs on not enough coffee yet this morning is: you can’t sit *in* the booth when you have customers. Having chairs in the booth means you can steal a sit if you have no traffic, so you want them there but if you have a steady flow of traffic, no matter how many people are staffed, you can’t sit (looking like you are taking a break) when there are customers.

      If you are crafty, you can design a set up where you are also working and sitting (table with customer) or I have seen counter set ups where one person is sitting on a high chair and taking customer information (badge swipes). That would be awesome to trade off with your fellow staffers doing.

      Chair behind back wall curtain, glorious cheat.

      Least optimal of all with someone with your foot issues: an actual break where you have to walk a mile to then sit for five minutes and walk all the way back.

    2. FRRibs*

      Excellent points. I really like the one about the table and two chairs. It will also make a big difference if you have to physically set up and break down your booth space of if someone else does it.

      When you say plantar warts, do you mean only a few, or are you one of the even more unlucky ones who has so many you can’t really treat them? I’ve had two burned out with dry ice and it’s definitely not a pleasant experience, but it got rid of them and what a joy it was to be able to walk again! Big /sympathy.

      (Assuming that you’re physically able) something that can help your ability to stand for long periods is taking daily walks. It’s a low impact exercise that can do wonders without putting too great a strain on the body. It helped me get from being unable to walk without a cane and having to lean against walls to current job where I stand at least 6 of the 12 hours I’m here. If I was unable to walk for one hour, I would be concerned about being able to stand for six (or eight or twelve). Obviously there are many other benefits as well.

      1. straws*

        Despite sharing the word “plantar”, the warts and plantar fasciitis aren’t the same. Plantar fasciitis is a ligament disorder. My mother’s been dealing with it for years and has been through surgery, casts, and many other treatments. I think your suggestions still stand though – exercising and stretching the foot ligaments (per a doctor’s recommendation!) can be very helpful.

        OP – if you haven’t already and you can afford it, get some quality orthotics! My mother won’t go anywhere without hers, and I suspect she’d marry them if she could.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Orthotics and good quality shoes! I have had bad bouts of plantar fasciitis and multiple stress fractures in both feet (thanks, NYC sidewalks!), and now I simply refuse to wear uncomfortable, poorly-made shoes.

          I’m not in marketing and I don’t do trade shows, but would it be possible to invest in a gel mat like the ones chefs use in kitchens and take that with you to all the shows? My first retail job had those mats behind the counter, and they made a HUGE difference. If that’s feasible, I bet your employer would spring for it. The mats they sell at Bed Bath and Beyond run about $150– a big expense for a person, often a tiny one for a corporation.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            Good tip. I didn’t know about those. That AND good carpet padding.

            topic shoes because I am nuts about shoe technology. (I don’t have foot problems but I have sciatica if I don’t have wear excellent shoes):

            I just bought a pair of Dansk in Mary Jane style that are freaking adorable (for nurse’s shoes which is what Dansk are). They even have a bit of a heel. Dansk is usually mostly clogs, which I have issues with walking properly in or shoes that look too much like nurse’s shoes for the part where I am not a nurse. These are definitely trade show material. (I’d rather be boiled in oil than ever work a show again, but if I had to, these are what I would wear.)

            1. the gold digger*

              I know these are not literal pain points, but other reasons to hate trade shows:

              1. You have to wear the stupid polo shirts with the company logo that never seem to come in any size smaller than a men’s small, which means either you have to tuck all that spare fabric into your khaki pants – which are not flattering to me (or to most women, I think) – and get a butt the size of Texas or you have to find some scissors and cut the bottom half of the shirt off.

              2. Where is the bathroom? Really – where is the ladies’ room?

              3. And where is there a water fountain so I can refill my water bottle? No, I do not want to pay $4 for a bottle of water. I will re-use the bottle I have.

              4. Where can I leave my purse and not worry that it will be stolen? No, I cannot put my wallet in my pocket – women’s clothes do not have pockets. Wait. Khaki pants might. So. I put my wallet in my pocket and now in addition to an enormous @ss, I have a nice bulge on my right side. Do I have a hernia? Passers-by will want to know. But still – where do I put my purse, which contains my prescription sunglasses, my phone, my imitrex, and my pens, which no, I am not going to share with you, co-workers – did it not occur to you that you would need a pen? – so that it is not stolen?

              5. How long before this is over?

              1. Kai*

                So much truth. The point about the shirts fitting is a particular thorn in my side. I am a fairly average-sized woman. My department bought everyone a logoed jacket, and I ordered a small. It’s still enormous.

                1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                  Okay I speak whereof I know as corporate apparel is part of the teapot selection at Wakeen’s.

                  There is now a ***giant*** selection of gender specific corporate clothing. Not only are the cuts for men’s and women’s different, but there are often complimentary styles (not the same shirt with a different cut but two different shirts that are made to matches, different neck line and cuff for example).

                  Kai, whomever ordered those jackets would have had to work really hard to find a corporate apparel jacket that *doesn’t* offer a men’s and women’s style.

                  So, women folk, the next time someone offers you a piece of man’s clothing and says, just order a small, demand the women’s version. Seriously! Anything else is just 1986.

                2. Kai*

                  I completely agree, Wakeen’s–I think that particular person just didn’t consider gender-specific sizing. Sigh!

                3. Shortie*

                  Good points, Kai & Wakeen, about gender-specific clothing. It definitely helps, although I can’t figure out for the life of me why these companies oversize everything (even when it’s gender-specific). I am a small woman, but not extremely so. I see a lot of women my size walking around and, even so, when I order a gender-specific company logo shirt in XS, they are almost always too large. Every other shirt in my closet fits (at size XS or S and sometimes even M), so I don’t get it.

                4. Chinook*

                  I actually love the corporate fleece jacket I got 4 jobs ago from a technical company because the only other woman in the company ordered them and ensured that she and I got a female style. It was so well cut that even the men were jealous and I still use it as my fall jacekt (it helps that it is grey).

              2. ClaireS*

                Oh! As someone who’s managed tradeshows before, these hurt and there are solutions to all of them.

                If you’re setting up the tradeshow, consider these things! We order high quality, gender-appropriate shirts, we supply staff with water, snacks and coffee and at the back of the booth, we build a locked closet into our set up for purses, computers, etc.

              3. Judy*

                One of the best solutions for the logo shirts is what my current company does. For shows they say they want a specific color of top, and then hand us the catalog and say “Have at it”. Our vendor will order one of whatever (or actually two sizes of whatever), if we want to try it on before she embroiders the logo.

            2. GH in SoCAl*

              You just made me search Dankso Mary Jane at Zappos. I have worn Orthotics since I was a child for serious ankle pronation; I can only wear shoes with removable footbeds. I’ve thrown away all my cute ballet flats from Payless that were killing my knees. Most days I wear high-end hiking shoes for the support, even to work. (I’m in a field where anything goes as far as office wear). I would love some cuter, supportive shoes, and Nurse’s Shoes seem like a great idea — they even come in size 12! Thank you!

              1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                Ha, excellent!
                Meanwhile, apparently I sent you to the china section, Dansk vs Dankso. Glad you sussed it out!

            3. Professional Merchandiser*

              Just looked up the shoes; I love, love, love those Rebels (in purple no less!! My favorite color!!) and blue (my other favorite color.) But that price….I know they are high quality so I may bite the bullet. I am on my feet all the time, and I have knee pain occasionally that makes it hard, and we are not allowed to wear athletic shoes, so this would be good. Thanks for the tip!!!

            4. JAL*

              I need to try those! I am obsessed with Clarks and all their styles (so expensive, but worth every penny!). Even though I’m working a 100% desk job currently, I still walk to and from bus stops.

          2. Hillary*

            This. One vendor at a show I attended recently had anti fatigue mats everywhere in their booth that wasn’t fixtures – it made an amazing difference. Industrial supply companies sell a lot of options less expensive than home stores (although not as pretty).

          3. Artemesia*

            This. I get plantar fascitis if I don’t have VERY well cushioned shoes. I can sort of keep it under control if I do. Walking on pavement in even good walking shoes that do not have a lot of soft heel cushioning will do me in. Those blue gel things help if the shoe I have is less well cushioned than I thought — so the carpet padding is a good idea here. Once you have a flare up of this it is hard to walk at all without misery. If you can get the booth designed with a high sign in table with a stool behind it, that would probably be ideal and would allow you to sit some of the time while also working with customers.

          4. Nashira*

            We have a gel mat in our kitchen, positioned in front of the main prep space and the stove. I also took photography classes in a darkroom that had a few – after six hours on our feet, my classmates and I would stand on one just for the relief. Those gel mats are wonderful!

          5. dangitmegan*

            I have heel spurs and the only thing that gets me through life is wearing FitFlop brand shoes. If I go even one day wearing anything other than those my feet kill by the end of the day and I can barely walk the next day. If you have PF or heel spurs they are def worth a try.

            Despite the kind of dumb name they come in all styles. I have boots, flats, sandals, fit flops…pretty much anything you could ask for.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      When I did trade shows, the boss didn’t want us sitting, which made it look like we weren’t working, so he simply didn’t get the chairs. He also didn’t get padding, just the thin carpet. We were allowed to wear comfortable shoes, fortunately! But still, I would eat ibuprofen like candy, and it was wonderful when I had a lunch break and could sit down.

    4. JAL*

      Great advice! As someone who has feet and back problems, I think you are spot on, but as someone mentioned below wear good shoes and get good orthotics (I highly recommend the Dr. Scholl’s custom fits).

      On a side note, I am glad I veered away from marketing, which was what I interned in. I am not in any shape to do trade shows right now.

  7. misspiggy*

    OP#3: in addition to Wakeen’s excellent suggestions, get a ‘shooting stick’, a walking stick with a folding stick. Leaning on this when traffic is slower will help, and it also means you can have a rest in queues, and have a stick to help with the trekking across vast spaces that you will encounter.

    OP#4: In the UK, it’s very unlikely to disadvantage you if you say no to contacting references before interview. It’s simply a timing issue. It’s more usual that references are only contacted after an offer has actually been made, to save HR the hassle of contacting references for tens of candidates. Only if you knew that the employer was interviewing very few people, and had a tight timeline for getting someone in post, would you consider ticking ‘yes’.

    1. B*

      Depends who you’re applying to in the UK – i’ve mainly worked in the publicsector and i’ve always found that if you’re called for interview, references including your current manager will be requested.
      Having said that in my husband’s sector if you resign you’re always asked to leave immediately and paid in lieu of notice. So realistically you’d never be able to get a current reference.
      Drives me crackers actually. Seriously, if you’ve got a job offer, you’ve had plenty of time to steal whatever info you might wantto steal. If people didn’t know thisit wouldbe worthwhile but everyone does!
      Apols for typos!!

  8. Kat A.*

    OP #3:
    My podiatrist gave me a liquid that I put on my feet, preferably “before” the pain hits, when I know I’m going to be on my feet a lot. It helps, and I got a small bottle container for my travel kit and filled it with this medicine, then put that inside a plastic bag in case it leaks. I can apply the medicine in the restroom a few times a day.

    Also, unless you’re really expected to wear heels, I suggest getting a pair of nice black, leather athletic shoes. They are so much better to stand in and blend in with black slacks. Bring extra shoes with you for these trade shows. Sometimes it helps to wear a different pair on a 2nd or 3rd day.

    Athletic specialty stores also have foot compression socks, one of which is call Feetures. I don’t know if that will help you, but it helps me a lot. You may want to get a pair for each day of the show, though, so they don’t smell like feet.

    Good luck.

    1. Shortie*

      Kat, the black athletic shoes are a great suggestion. When I work trade shows, I wear a very nice tailored pantsuit and blouse, with long black socks and all-black sneakers. They blend in really well and, although it’s obvious that I’m wearing sneakers, it looks fine, and I make sure the rest of me looks “extra” presentable to make up for it.

    2. JAL*

      After reading all these suggestions, it is clear to me that I need to go back to my podiatrist or find a new one who gives me stuff for my bad foot problems.

  9. some1*

    I usually ask if someone is willing to be my reference at the beginning of my job search and if they say yes I tell them I’m putting them down. I usually don’t give them any other head’s up unless an employer says they are checking my references within the next couple of days.

    1. Artemesia*

      When I am asked to be a reference I want to be provided with a resume and a brief description of what they did for me that is noteworthy. I have had thousands of students and hundreds of employees over the years and even if I remember a person, I don’t necessarily remember them well enough to give a powerful reference. I want to be reminded and aware so I can do a good job for them.

  10. Treena Kravm*

    Idea for a post! It would be super helpful if all of those “how do I list this on my resume” questions were gathered all into one entry.

  11. MissDisplaced*

    #3 Yeah, those tradeshows sure can get the old dawgs barking! LOL! Personally, I find them exhausting, like having to be “on” for twelve hours. I’m sure it’s even worse if you have foot and joint problems. I do see a lot of the booths have a table or podium-type thing now and often I see some stools behind it, so maybe something similar can be arranged for your booth. But you should speak up now and make the arrangements with your employer. Frankly, this shouldn’t be a big deal.
    One other hint: Invest in some good shoes, even orthopedic ones (not fashionable, but who cares) if you have to. Trying to get through these things in heels is like torture.

  12. OP #5*

    Thanks, Alison! I wouldn’t have come up with that on my own and it’s the perfect way to portray my situation. Altogether I’ve been doing this work for 4 years, but contractors are always wary that the funding could disappear. It will be really helpful to be able to show that I’m not trying to jump after just a few months.

  13. Manager Anonymous*

    Trade show- What Wakeen said and…

    The fix for the plantar fasciitis for me was Birkenstocks (yep ugly) or the Birkenstock insoles in really good (I am talking $300 shoes …finn comfort) shoes.

    Bring gallon zip lock backs when you travel and make ice packs out of them for the end of the day.

    Take an NSAID like Aleve with breakfast whether you need it or not.

    Order two high stools with backs and a high table for your booth. That way when you are seated you can make eye contact. Also- your customer will be grateful to get off of her feet.

    Make friends with your neighbors- if you aren’t bringing staff with you. They will sport you breaks.

    Have at least one skirted table to stash your stuff.

    If you have bad ankles- I second the wearing of hiking boots whenever possible- If you wear kinda loose pants just the toes peak out. I once wore hiking boots to a formal affair because my orthopedist said that it was either that or knee to heel braces.

  14. Chuchundra*

    I can’t see how it could be legal to move someone from W-2 to 1099 status without informing them ahead of time and giving the opportunity to decline. You’re essentially terminating their employment, 1099 workers aren’t employees.

    It’s no different than if you got your paycheck and noticed that the company had given you a pay cut at the end of your last pay period without telling you.

    1. Taz*

      I don’t know about the legality, but an employer couldn’t really do the opposite without the consent of the worker — go from being a contractor to an employee. I mean I guess the employer could but come on, they’re treated as completely different statuses for legal and tax purposes. (I’m also not 100 percent certain that a contractor doesn’t work with a contract, as suggested above. The writing field — and I mean one-shot journalism pieces, not books — might be the exception, where we’re really talking about freelancing. But a contractor tends to have a contract.)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      They can’t do it retroactively, but there’s nothing from stopping them from doing it going forward, as long as they notify you. I guess one question here is whether that notification happened; if not, there’s probably something there you could fight.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Yeah, it sounded to me like they didn’t tell the LW at all – I would think that wouldn’t be legal, because it changes their pay without giving them a chance to accept or decline.

  15. OP #2*

    Regarding Alison’s question about if my position fit the legal definition for an independent contractor, it looks like it (mostly?) did: from the get-go, I was working wherever, whenever and however I chose (as long as it equaled 20 hours per week); with my own equipment and tools. The only thing I can’t confirm yet is what the paperwork I signed said. Now I’m realizing that my hourly rate was the same when I was on staff and as a contractor (and I definitely paid those taxes at the end of the year when I was filing the 1099).

    Sigh! I was naive at the time. I didn’t even realize what a tax-free paycheck signified until months later. I definitely should have brought it up. The clerical snafu is a real possibility too as the company accountant seemed kind of flaky and given that I didn’t have much face time with most of the full-timers (since the company is distributed and I was not in contact with anyone else except my boss), I could see how my position could have slipped through the cracks. That most likely explains why my payments stopped. My theory is that when I asked about the payments stopping, that was when somebody decided to change my status and maybe didn’t even tell my boss about it?

    1. Beyonce Pad Thai*

      I’m wondering if they planned to let you go after your projects were done and changed your status in advance so they wouldn’t be on the hook for your unemployment?

      1. OP #2*

        I wondered that too, but they offered me a full-time position at the end of the two years, 6 months after I had become contracter. That is what leads me to think this was maybe a clerical error or perhaps a decision made without consulting my boss.

  16. Mz. Puppie*

    I can’t stand those recruiting systems that require all of your references up front. I moved from one city to a new city (following my husband), so I’m applying all over the place at a high volume. I cannot allow dozens of recruiters to inundate my references with phone calls before I’ve even had a proper screening call with them to determine if I even want the job.

    I just put “Name upon request” in the name field, “555-555-5555” in the phone field, and if there’s any note field where I can say so, I put “Will provide full list of references upon request.” It’s possible that this may have knocked me out of a few possibilities, but I figure if so, then so be it. I don’t want to work for an employer that doesn’t respect my attempt to protect my references’ time. (P.S. I’m an Executive Assistant, so they really *should* see my gate-keeping as an asset!)

  17. Vicki*

    #5 – Listing contracting positions

    I have multiple contracting positions on my resume. I list the companies I did the work for and add (contract). I have no idea who the company was that paid the bills.

    1. Jerry Vandesic*

      I agree. When I hire people I care about who the work was done for, and if it was a contractor position I have no interest in the company that signed the paychecks.

  18. tank1122*

    Question. I have worked for a family member 3 years as a manager off the books . 7 days a week .. in his food establishment as of the 10 of Jan we had fallen out its comes to my attention he wants to give me a 1099 for 2014 can he do that since I never received a check or never had a contract and when I did leave work early some days I was docked .. please Inform me what I have to protect me or penalize him for a false 1099

  19. TTChicago*

    i find it important to be able to sit during long trade shows. just like sitting a long time, standing a long time is not well for you either. take breaks and don’t stress your body.

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