open thread – September 12, 2014

Lucy on computerIt’s the Friday open thread!

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

{ 1,176 comments… read them below }

  1. AnonyMOOSE*

    I’m looking to start freelance writing on top of working my full-time job, maybe 10-20 hours a week. I’m wondering anyone has advice about how to build a client base and how to address any concerns potential clients may have with me having a full-time job and wanting to freelance. Any advice would be helpful.

    1. Dasha*

      Maybe start with some volunteer work so you have a portfolio? Add it to your LinkedIn that you’re available for freelance work?

      An old coworker of mine used to do freelance writing and email blasts for her fitness instructor and got free classes- maybe some jobs like that would help get your foot in the door for this kind of thing and help with word of mouth?

      Just a few thoughts. Best of luck :)

    2. Livin' in a Box*

      I only mention my day job if it’s related to the writing. If I’m writing about hotels, you bet I’m mentioning that I work at a hotel! If I’m writing about other stuff, they don’t need to know about my job.

    3. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I think it’s really going to depend a lot of what type of writing you’re doing…if you’re doing web content and want smaller, more local clients, trade or volunteer work is a good way to get started. But landing a larger client might be tougher.

    4. K-Anon*

      Sorry for double-post — thought I’d hit REPLY to my post below, which was meant for you.

      AnonyMOOSE — I’ve done a few freelance gigs on the side of my FT job. A few notes. 10 hours a week is doable for me and maybe occasionally I could do 16. But sustaining more than 10 hours a week — you might want to aim for that and see how it works for you before trying to do more. There’s a big difference when you’re doing that on top of a FT week.

      Your freelance clients don’t necessarily need to know if you have an FT gig. They mostly need to know you’ll get the work done you say you will by the deadline, and that the work is done well. I had a longer-term freelance client at one point who knew from the beginning that I had an FT job. That helped manage their expectations in terms of my availability. (It became apparent pretty quickly that they were poorly-managed and I ended up having to “fire” them because they were just so crazy. They were my first freelance client and it was a valuable learning experience.)

      Learning to manage clients as a freelancer is a skill and it takes time, but starting by being clear about expectations for both of you, meet your end of the bargain, should get you off to a good start. I highly recommend The Freelancer’s Bible for getting set up and for tips on building a client base. Even if you’re not planning to freelance fulltime, it is very helpful — a good investment. There are also places like Editorial Freelancers Association that are rich with tips and resources for freelance writers and editors. Good luck!

      1. Sascha*

        Just wanted to second K-Anon’s good advice. I do freelance editing/proofing and also have a full time job. I only have one client right now, but he keeps me pretty busy, so I don’t really want anymore – I usually work about 5-10 hours a week.

        One thing I had to learn the hard way is this – be upfront and firm about your policies, especially payment. Don’t compromise on that. I worked with one guy who “just didn’t do Paypal” and wanted to mail me checks, and the result was he sent them in late or never. I had to constantly email him about the payments and I kept getting “I’ll send it soon, don’t worry.” When I got the last payment from him, I dropped him. Clients that like are not worth dealing with.

          1. LBK*

            Even if you don’t like using Paypal/Venmo/other direct transfer services, almost every bank has an online bill pay feature where you just enter the info for the payment and they cut and mail the check for you – so you don’t have to remember to send it out yourself, you just have to remember to fill out the info. And if it’s a set rate, you can set it to pay

            1. Megan*

              I am in Australia and it seriously mystifies me how behind America is in regards to banking! I haven’t used a cheque in years in Australia – nor has anyone I know.

              We simply give our bank account number and every single bank in Australia does a thing where you transfer to another account. It takes 24 hours, or quicker if the account is with the same bank.

              It’s so simple and easy. I don’t understand why America doesn’t do it!

              I also freelance and my invoices have my bank details on it, and a note saying ‘payment due within 30 days to nominated account’. Easy. Simple. No fees (ie paypal). No messing around cashing a cheque.

              Why would a bank need to cut and cash a cheque?! It makes no sense.

              America, catch up already!!

              1. Suzy*

                @Megan — We do indeed have online banking transfers in America! :) I agree with you that it is very, very simple. I do it all the time. I’m a freelance writer, too.

                However, I think the reason some people use PayPal is when you don’t know someone you can be reluctant to give them your banking or credit card information. I’m always leery of people that I don’t know, especially new clients.

    5. Barbara in Swampeast*

      There is only one place to go:
      http://www.makealivingwriting.com/

      There is lots of great, free info on her blog and she has a paid-membership-only site also that is good. I don’t know if it is open for new members right now or not. But read the blog and sign-up for her newsletters, they are great!

      1. Barbara in Swampeast*

        Just noticed that a lot of recent blog posts are about eBooks. That is a recent topic. Go back to August and before and the blog will be more about freelance writting.

    6. Fact & Fiction*

      I would recommend checking out elance.com, guru.com, and other similar writing boards, as well as searching for volunteer opportunities to build a portfolio. Volunteermatch.org is a great resource for volunteer positions. Additionally, I would write a few audition/sample pieces for various types of writing, if you don’t already have samples. Good luck!

    7. Adiposehysteria*

      I’ve been a freelance writer for about two years and I started out using Elance because it gives you a little more protection. The client has to prepay and the money goes into escrow. The fees are higher than PayPal, but I personally would rather pay the extra fees to have the protection for at least the first few times you use a client so that you can be sure they will pay.

      I would suggest if you use them for writing to not bother with the hourly jobs, but rather the flat rate jobs only unless you are willing to put tracking software on your computer. If you have a dispute on an hourly job, they will find for the client every time if you don’t have that software. I don’t even touch hourly jobs because of that.

      Starting out, you are unfortunately going to have to take extremely low paying jobs (i.e. $3-$4 per article) just to build a client base. The only way to get good clients is to have reviews from other clients. It takes some time to do this and can be annoying to say the least.

      If you are only looking to do this part time, don’t bother with the pro membership, you do not need it unless you are set on knowing what you are bidding against. I don’t bother because I know if there are a lot of overseas writers that they will be bidding very low.

      You will get the best results in finding work if you can find something to specialize in and apply for those jobs (such as using professional knowledge or knowledge from hobbies). If you have a background in something, you can get more money. Having good knowledge of SEO writing is a must.

      Elance is far from perfect, but it is very good when you are first trying to find clients, so I would recommend it in your case.

      1. K-Anon*

        If AnonyMOOSE does good research before starting to prospect for clients, she (?) may very well be able to command market rates, especially if she’s got specialized writing skills or knowledge, e.g., is a strong technical writer and has clips to show it. So, yes, freelance writing can be competitive and a lot of it doesn’t pay great, but it may be worth it to spend more time looking for the right kind of clients and take a smaller number of better jobs in the meantime. Since AnonyMOOSE has an FT job, she is probably a better position to take that time than a new fulltime freelancer would be.

        AnonyMOOSE, one of the exercises in the Freelancer’s Bible is to make an inventory of skills you have that you could charge for right now — not just for writing. I found that really helpful because I found that list ended up a) being a lot longer than I thought it would be
        b) highlighting areas in which I really can consider myself to have specialized, in-demand knowledge or skills c) being the first step in helping me focus on which kind of clients to aim for and
        d) being helpful when I was doing research in setting rates.

        So while you *might* have to work for low rates in the beginning, but don’t assume it’s a must, especially if you have demonstrable experience in the field.

    8. C Average*

      One thing I haven’t seen anyone mention here is dealing with taxes. My mother is a successful freelance writer who’s been in the business for years, and she’s always done her own taxes. She is ruthlessly organized and has a great system for maintaining paperwork and other records, and it’s still an annual challenge. It might be worth setting up some time with a good accountant to get a sense of what kinds of information you’ll need to have on hand from your clients come tax time.

      The great part of being knowledgeable about the ins and outs of this stuff is that you can then exploit them to your benefit! When I was a kid, every family vacation we ever took included at least a few places my mother could profile for travel mags. We wrote off every trip we took. She also, of course, wrote off computers and other office equipment she needed to have at home.

  2. Trixie*

    My 66-year-old mother applied for a government job, and after a phone interview, was flown out this week for an interview/45 minute presentation. Granted, she’s in a specialized field but we’re both just thrilled. She was so sure she’d have to leave her field based on age and her rather chaotic job history so it was really nice to see her get a response so quickly after applying. She’s still applying for other jobs but should this move forward, sees this as an excellent opportunity to other positions when she transitions to “retirement.” Feeling encouraged, inspired, and proud.

    1. Brett*

      That’s one thing I have found positive about local government hiring. We tend to be very favorable towards older applicants. All of our most talented people were hired either straight out of school or late career. The late career people, especially, have enormous talent and experience that government simply cannot pay enough to land normally (honestly, we don’t pay enough anyway and lose at least 2/3rds of late career candidates in salary negotiations).
      And since pensions vest at 5 years here, it is a near guarantee that if we can hire that person they will stick around 5 years. Always totally worth it for us.
      (The 5-year pension is only 9% of your final salary, but that’s still an extra couple hundred dollars a month so most people stick out the full 5 years.)

      1. Anx*

        When I interned at a local government department, the employee I most looked up to was older and a late starter. She also had the most, well, ‘hustle.’ She was phenomenal and really took the time to help train me and engage me, and she got more work done in a day than many of her coworkers that had been there for decades.

        Sadly, as it was a government positions, she made perhaps 1/3 of what some of the people she worked with made because of their seniority.

        1. C Average*

          I had a colleague like this at one of my first jobs, too. She was in her 60s and was helping to raise her grandkids, and had entered the workforce for the first time as an admin assistant at a state agency. She had a phenomenal work ethic and was so, so smart–not just book-smart, but understanding-all-the-moving-parts smart. And so very gracious, even if she was answering the same question she’d just answered from someone else. One of my favorite people I’ve ever worked with.

  3. MT*

    Piggy Backing on recent headlines. Had a discussion with some co-workers, wanted to see what everyone else thinks. Is it OK to fire someone for outside of the work activities that may cast them in a negative light in the work place?

    1. Bobotron*

      I don’t really have an answer but at one of my jobs I had to sign something that I wouldn’t have another job that would “look bad,” i.e. being a stripper.

      1. nep*

        Rather subjective, no? Something that would ‘look bad’ to one person might be fine for someone else. Were I to sign such a document, I’d want it to be as precise as possible.

    2. Mimmy*

      I’ve been thinking about that myself (if you’re referring to what I think you are) and have always been mixed about it. One the one hand, I worry that certain activities reflect on your overall character, making me question your abilities and/or ethics. BUT another part of me thinks that, depending on the activity, it shouldn’t matter what you do outside of work as long as your work is of high quality and that you behave professionally while working.

      Ugh, so hard to say!!

      1. Judy*

        If we’re talking about what I think we are, I’d say there is a significant difference when you are a “brand”. Some industries (entertainment, sports, etc) rely on “brands” of the participants to generate income.

        That’s not saying that I’d want to share a cubicle with someone who has been notorious due to violence.

    3. Joey*

      Be thoughtful about it if you do. It really blurs the line between work and personal life and lots of people take offense to that. The few times I’ve done it is for things that clearly affect the workplace like an employee stalking another employee after work, a supervisor repeatedly asking out a subordinate after work after being told no.

      But for things like doing things that might embarrass the company it would have to be really bad and really clear its affecting work.

    4. Muriel Heslop*

      I’m in education, where teachers can get fired for using Facebook or having a glass of wine in public (eye roll) so you probably can, especially in a right-to-work state. I guess it depends on how egregious the employee’s judgment has been.

      1. Seattlejo*

        Doesn’t it also depend on where you are? Some parts of the country it might be going to a shooting range and posting pictures that gets you fired, others it’s going to a gay pride event and yet others its having that glass of wine.

      2. the gold digger*

        I know someone from college who was fired from his high school teaching job for being caught in a prostitution sting. It was in his contract, so it should not have been a surprise to him.

      3. Natalie*

        Psst, it’s “at will”. “Right to work” covers whether you can be required to join a union. Really common mixup.

        1. Brett*

          “Right-to-work state” also has the extra connotation that public sector unions are severely restricted or even banned, so teachers have little to no union protection and contracts are mostly whatever the district wants included.

      4. Ezri*

        I’ve heard this before, and I’m curious – are there documented incidents where a teacher’s personal life (normal behaviors like wine-drinking, etc.) caused ‘harm’ to the kids they teach? Why do these rules exist?

      5. Bea W*

        I strongly feel that no one’s career should be destroyed over a photos that depict totally legal and socially acceptable activities like having a glass of wine or modeling swimwear or for even iffy (but still totally legal) jobs that they have taken while still in school and young to pay the bills. Some of the things that happen to teachers are just outrageous. Photos of a teacher serving wine to her classroom – bad. Photos of a teacher after hours, holding a glass of wine out with friends – completely legal, normal, and socially acceptable behavior for an adult. I just think it’s like using a chain saw to clip coupons.

    5. KSM*

      There are certain roles where you basically act as an ambassador for the brand. So the head of marketing doing something publicly untoward might get canned just for optics.

      Football players are so tightly integrated with the brand–for their tenure, if they are beloved, they really do *become* the brand–that his firing made sense.

        1. MT*

          Wouldn’t that cover anyone who has direct contact with customers? In some business that would be a lot of employees.

          1. Em*

            No, because when the average member of the public hears Joe Schmoe, they don’t think cashier at Kroger. When you hear something about a big name athletes/entertainers, you immediately associate them with their employer even if the story isn’t within the context of their job.

        1. Sweet Potato*

          Yeah, it’s reasonable to fire people for things that clearly go against their professional training and code of conduct, imho.

      1. Observer*

        If we’re talking about the same case, we are also talking a level of behavior that is egregious. And, although the prosecutors may have felt that they couldn’t get a conviction, there was clearly illegal activity involved, which is always a legitimate issue for employers to consider.

    6. The Cosmic Avenger*

      This is a tough one, so I’m going to get a little pedantic:

      Is it OK to fire someone for outside of the work activities that may cast them in a negative light in the work place?

      So, the question is about actions that “may cast them in a negative light in the workplace”. The “may” is my biggest issue, because that’s borrowing trouble. How do you determine that if no one actually is bothered or has complained yet? But then it specifies “in the workplace”, so you’re not talking about turning off potential customers, you’re talking about coworkers, and so I think the standard should be much higher. Absent anything that creates a hostile work environment or makes coworkers feel unsafe (activities involving indiscriminate violence), I don’t think a person’s co-workers have a right to not work with them for things you do outside of work, assuming of course they act professionally at work.

      1. Chriama*

        That would depend on the situation. If it was something widely held to be immoral(like people with convicted sex offender coworkers), I think a good boss would consider the impact on the rest of the employees. And I also think that anyone who does those things shouldn’t expect people to like them or want to hire them.

    7. John*

      It’s tricky and situational. By that, I mean that I’d be careful about a public-facing role. But if they are back office, for example, then the issue is, what, that other employees might feel uncomfortable? I don’t just to be judgy about what people do outside the office. But if there is reputational risk, that is a consideration.

      Of course, you’re talking about actually firing them. Are there company policies that they are breaking?

    8. Bea W*

      I think there is no clean cut answer to this. It really depends on the job and the non-work activity.

      I do think, in the entertainment industry, some of the consequences for bad things people have done, is questionably harsh in terms of employment, on the other hand, the message not taking action sends to the general public is important and can be influential. The fact that some of these things paint a team or media group in a bad light ends up being a business decision for the employers too. I think many of these incidents sometimes end up in a no-win situation, particularly when you prevent someone from ever working in the industry again, that has very negative consequences that go beyond the person who lost his job.

      For example, Ray Rice may fully deserve the consequences he got, but I can’t say the same for his wife. What’s worse, in a situation like this, guess who is going to be the guy’s punching bag over the whole thing. There are just no winners here no matter what the outcome would have been.

      1. Observer*

        Here’s the thing. It’s probably true that he’s going to blame his wife for this mess. But, guess what. There is no reason to believe staying on the team would make a difference. Let’s face it – he nearly killed her while things were going as well as they can. So, I don’t think it’s really valid to say that any further violence by him against her is because of his firing. On the other hand, I suppose it’s possible that this will be something that helps her to move forward in understanding who has responsibility for what.

        1. Bea W*

          It would make no difference in terms of how he behaved, that’s correct, but if people think kicking him off the team or the NFL will do his wife any favors, they’re totally missing the fact that either way it works out he’s still violently abusive. I think it was the right decision for a number of reasons, and at the same time I am acutely aware that for anyone being out of work creates is an added financial strain that will magnify the awfulness of it. That’s why I see it as lose-lose – no matter what the outcome. If he keeps his job, he’s still going to beat his wife. If he loses his job, he’s still going to beat his wife. No winners there. Now that he’s not playing that means he’s home with her every day instead of out at games or traveling with the team. So it indeed may end up being worse for her if only because he’s home more often.

          1. Jamie*

            Yes, I don’t think any workplace should factor into how their actions to fire or not will impact a domestic situation like this because there is no way to know and dynamics like this aren’t assuaged by external forces. Not long term, anyway.

            If a regular guy has anger management issues with stress and due to serious financial problems he’s beating his wife, no one would recommend his employer give him a big raise so his financial problems go away and he’s sunny again. Because that’s not how abusers work – it’s a temporary band aid at best.

            In this situation like it or not they are role models – people can say whatever they like about it should only be about their performance on the field but these guys makes crazy money due to the fan support and public interest. So it’s in society’s best interest, IMO, that they make a very public statement that when you do this kind of thing you can lose everything you’ve worked for. And society as a whole will think you’re a total shit, no matter how well you handle a ball.

            I think there is a moral obligation on the part of the NFL to not tacitly condone it and send the message that if you’re important enough at work there are no consequences for you. That may well be true in many cases, but it’s not something we should seek to condone.

            TLDR if your private actions can cost your companies brand money or status then it’s fair game to fire you. If I work with customers and I get a neck tattoo my bosses can can me if they think they will lose business…how would it be any less for being afraid of losing business based on my being publicly known to be violent – esp with footage.

            I often say I have a work me and a home me – but that’s for mindset and relaxation purposes….there is no clear delineation between our personal and public selves.

            I handle a budget of over 200K – if I were arrested for embezzling from my church or volunteer job wouldn’t it make sense for my employer to fire me for lack of ethics even if I didn’t steal from him?

            1. Jamie*

              FWIW I hate sports, but I get that it’s a money maker…still the fact that Michael Vick didn’t get a lifetime ban sickens me and makes me hate society a little bit every time I think about it.

              I think shunning like the Amish do, large scale, would be great for certain things.

              1. Valar M.*

                I used to think this about Michael Vick too. I’m still not a fan of his (what he did was egregious), but the point of punishment – his jail sentence (and as a result his financial ruin/bankruptcy/loss of job) is to make the person realize what they’ve done wrong, repent, and then ultimately reincorporate them back into society a better person. If this is possible (and the humane society among others seemed to think it was, so I’m assuming there was some judgement there), I’d rather see that then people lost for a lifetime, usually of repeat offenses. As a high profile case, he can be a great example of how you can turn your life around after you pay the price first. I just hate the idea that someone can commit an offense, truly change, and then be jobless and potentially homeless the rest of their life.

              2. Bea W*

                I was thinking the exact same thing about Vic earlier. Then there was a story tonight about another player charged with child abuse. I think he was only suspended for a number of games. Then there’s Aaron Hernandez, accused of murder and as far as I know no decision on whether he’s even suspended let alone banned though being in jail and not bring able to get contract amounts to the same thing. Still…if you can kill people and not get banned from the NFL…what’s left?

    9. Helka*

      It’s certainly not something to do indiscriminately or casually, but I think in certain circumstances — such as a high profile position or a role representing the company to outsiders, combined with “extracurricular” activities that are extremely damaging, not just criminal but violently criminal, it can cast a very bad light on the company as a whole to keep that person on, and it’s better to let them go.

    10. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I think a lot of it has to do with what everyone has said about being a brand for the company. But I’d also support someone getting fired for non-work activities if they’re so egregious that coworkers/management/others would feel uncomfortable working with the person. Say, a history of violent behavior…

    11. kf*

      I think that is you are in the public eye and sign an employment contract which has a morality clause then yes, it is OK to fire someone for outside of work activities. Those activities are what the morality clause pertains to specifically.

    12. Student*

      In America, we often “vote with our money” – if we are willing to pay for something, then we consider it acceptable and vice versa. We’re very capitalist in our expressions of our values.

      So, I think decisions to fire people due to behavior outside the workplace come from two distinct root causes.
      (1) Management thinks this will hurt their business profits, because outsiders will not support the behavior. This has been covered pretty well by all the folks talking about the employee as part of a “brand”.
      (2) Management doesn’t want to support the behavior by financially supporting the employee. Either the management finds the behavior objectionable, or enough staff do that continued support of the employee will undermine moral (maybe drive off high-performance employees, maybe just lower general productivity).

      I think the football player who beat his wife and recently got fired for it is clearly part of camp #1. Football management clearly didn’t care about #2. When it looked like it would impact their business, they got rid of him. I am no football expert (not even a football novice), but much of the press speculation around this case has suggested he was fired because the football leagues want to gain a larger female following. Let’s face it, appealing to women is about the only way they can expand their domestic market. They really need to take a more strict stance against wife-beating to do that; the press was having a gleeful time pointing out that the original penalty for wife-beating was less harsh than penalties for numerous non-violent offenses like drug use, or for violent offenses against dogs. I love most dogs more than I like most people, but the penalty for hurting a human should always be higher than the penalty for hurting a pet.

      I do think businesses should have wide latitude to fire people who are hurting their business. I think it’s about society’s values, in the end. It’s about society imposing consequences for people’s actions. It’s the “other side of the coin” to protests, boycotts, and bad press. It is a lot less harsh than dealing with everything we dislike by using lawsuits or criminal charges, and it’s an appropriate penalty for many anti-social behaviors in and out of the office. Firing specifically should be reserved for the most serious of non-work but non-criminal behaviors. Frankly, I think this football guy is getting pretty easy because society puts too high a value on football over women – he deserves criminal justice and jail time, not merely career problems. If he had beaten his team owner the way he did his wife, you can be sure he’d be in prison now.

      Sometimes, businesses will use this power to do things I passionately disagree with. Firing teachers for drinking alcohol on their free time, firing gay people for existing, punishing women harshly for behavior that is acceptable for men, discrimination against minorities. In those cases, it’s more about society on the whole than one specific manager or one specific business – those businesses are a reflection of our culture, and they will change as the culture does. I wouldn’t revoke business’ ability to impose social consequences on actions, though – it is a form of free speech, just like protests. I’d limit the most egregious misuse of that power, like we do through non-discrimination laws, but those should be a rare limit to impose.

      1. Bea W*

        I hate to agree with you there. If it were #2, he would have been fired long before now. He was charged with assault on top of losing his job, but whether that results in any real consequences for him, like jail time, remains to be seen.

    13. AnonyMouse*

      I think it really depends on what kind of activities you’re talking about. If someone’s done something illegal or severely unethical outside of work, and they’re in a public facing role, then sure (so assuming the “recent headlines” are what I think they are, it’s okay). Especially if there’s concrete evidence that could become public, rather than just rumours. But if you just personally disapprove of the way they live their life, I’d say no – so no firing someone for, say, dating more/different people than you think they should.

      1. MT*

        A lot of the problem is that what is ethical to one person, is unethical to the next. Someone is not guilty of doing something illegal till they are tried in a court of law. A good amount of these decisions are based on the owners values and become super subjective.

        1. Valar M.*

          Like keeping Ray Lewis on the team who allegedly is a conspirator in a double homicide, but then getting rid of Ray Rice. That’s the problem I think, if you can reach a settlement out of court, and avoid dragging the public through all the terrible visuals – you can get away with your job still in tact.

        2. AnonyMouse*

          Yes, it’s definitely complicated when people’s values are involved, and for that reason I generally do like to keep personal affairs out of hiring/firing decisions, especially for the average worker. But for people in public facing or sensitive roles, you do sometimes need to have a different standard – and I’m okay with that if it’s made clear to them when they take the job. For instance, some people have mentioned standards for teachers’ behaviour. One of my closest friends is a teacher, and she’s the first to admit she has to be extra careful about what she puts out there on the internet…but she knew that was part of the deal when she signed on to work with kids, and she agreed to those conditions. Most people who are high profile athletes/musicians/actors, in another case, are also probably aware that any wrongdoing (or suspected wrongdoing) on their part might make the news, and if the backlash gets severe enough, it could cost them professionally. I don’t think this is fair, per se, but it’s also not a secret that it can happen.

          And on the other side, I do think owners and bosses have the responsibility to try to be objective when making these decisions. If something is detestable to you personally, but not universally regarded as wrong, or if someone is accused of but not proven to have done something they shouldn’t have, cutting them some slack can certainly be warranted. These kinds of issues definitely don’t have a one-size fits all answer!

    14. C Average*

      This is a really interesting discussion.

      I think I have qualms about this only because how society views certain actions (and, for that matter, how knowable other people’s actions are) is such a moving target.

      Thirty years ago, using corporal punishment for your kid was relatively non-controversial (as my own backside can attest). Now it’s largely considered inappropriate and ineffective. Acts that used to be considered disciplinary are now viewed as abusive.

      In the past, being openly gay was considered morally wrong by most of society. Now, fortunately, the tide has shifted toward public acceptance.

      In the past, alcoholism was considered a failure of willpower. Now we understand that it’s a bit more complex; if we had a colleague with an alcohol problem, we’d encourage her to seek treatment and, assuming the outcome was successful, we’d welcome her back to the workplace.

      Gender reassignment is a bit of a hot workplace topic now, with efforts to legislate tolerance where it’s not happening organically. A generation ago, choosing to present as a different gender was considered deviant by many; now, workplaces are striving to combat institutionalized discrimination against transgender people.

      Things like spousal abuse and sex-offender status feel pretty bright-line from where we sit, but what if in a decade science determines that these proclivities are genetic, and medicine creates a cure, and we shift to regarding them as rehabilitatable vulnerabilities and deficiencies? We’ll have to rethink a whole bunch of legal and cultural assumptions we’ve been making for a long time.

      So I guess my thought would be that if you’re going to make someone’s continued employment contingent on him not doing something that “casts him in a negative light,” you’d better be really clear about what behaviors you’re talking about, and you’d better be really clear about whether that means “in a negative light” for a reasonable person, for the employer, for the management, for the clientele, etc. And you should be prepared for the behaviors considered unacceptable to evolve over time.

      1. AnonyMouse*

        Yes, norms about acceptable behaviour being changeable is definitely an important point. But I think one thing to consider when we’re talking about something like being openly gay vs. something like intimate partner violence is that being gay is not harmful to others. The fact that gay people are sexually attracted to same-gender individuals can be viewed both as an innate characteristic, and as something that doesn’t have the power to hurt anyone. But if someone was, say, born with an innate desire to punch people in the face as hard as possible, they would have a moral responsibility to attempt to control that desire because of its impact on other people.

        I view actions that are or could be harmful to others very differently than behaviour I just don’t like, and I think bosses who are considering firing employees based on incidents in their personal lives have a responsibility to consider this distinction. For instance, if it comes to light that an employee has a track record of violence when under pressure and has not taken steps to combat this tendency, it would be reasonable to let them go from a high pressure position out of fear of their actions. But if you find out that one of your employees has more sexual partners than you personally think is appropriate, that doesn’t harm anyone else (assuming they’re using appropriate protection) and shouldn’t influence their ability to succeed in the workplace.

        Now, I’m not at all suggesting that you were equating being gay with assaulting someone – I think your point is really valid, and I 100% agree with your last paragraph. But I do think it’s important for everyone, and especially employers who might be in a position to fire someone for reasons related to their personal life, to recognise that we can and should distinguish between behaviours that could seem subjectively objectionable, and actions that are harmful to others.

  4. Katie the Fed*

    I’m doing performance appraisals right now. Question – do other people’s employees have to do self-evaluations first (including scoring themselves against the criteria? It’s one of my least favorite things. And one thing I’ve noticed consistently is women really tend to lowball themselves when doing their self-evaluations – which makes supervisors more likely to rate them lower. I think it’s really hard for many women to get comfortable with marketing themselves.

    1. ClaireS*

      We do a self appraisal first but there is no score number. We position as a Good, Difficult, Different. I actually appreciate the time to reflect on my work. But, we approach it more as a discussion than a quantitative assessment of performance so that may make the difference.

      I’m not surprised that women tend to be harder on themselves. I think that’s a common occurrence across a lot of areas when it comes to confidence.

    2. A Jane*

      Most cases, it’s self-evaluation with scoring first, then you review and add your scores.

      Are they clear on what the grading scale means and how it’s perceived? That usually helps. For example, someone rating themselves all 5/5 when really they should be at a 3/5

    3. Gwen*

      We have to self-evaluate with scoring, and I hate it. I definitely feel torn between seeming like I’m tooting my own horn too hard and like I’m lowballing myself. Especially when you don’t have a firm understanding of how your manager rates (do they NEVER give top rankings? should they ALL be top rankings if I’m doing well except for a few to work on?). It makes me extremely anxious.

      1. ClaireS*

        That’s totally nerve-wracking. Could you have a conversation ahead of the ratings to understand your manager’s position? E. G. Hey! I just wanted to get aligned on how you like to see ratings done. What does a 5 look like to you in general? What about a 3?

        That may give you the general insight so you can work off the same scale.

        1. Gwen*

          I did end up checking in with her before the review, but she was basically just like “do what feels right to you!” (it was my first review with this manager, and it went really well so it turned out all my fretting was for naught!)

    4. AVP*

      Thats interesting! How much would you say that the numbers in the self-evaluation impact the scores that you assign?

      1. Katie the Fed*

        hmm – I’d say a little bit. Like, sometimes I’ll see they gave themself a score that seems high at first glance, but when I read their write up I realize they made a good case for it and I agree.

        And sometimes I think – hmm, yeah, this person could have done better. They’re probably right.

        I’d say when I’m on the fence between two scores they definitely influence me. You’ve got to sell yourself!

        And then occasionally there are the laughably high ones – those are awkward conversations.

    5. Eliza Jane*

      I hate giving myself 5s in anything (on a 1-5) no matter how good I am, because I see that as saying, “There’s no room for improvement.” My manager in an earlier job sat me down and explained to me that I have to stop doing that.

      My current job has “self-evaluations” without numbers. They’re 3x3s, and each person has to say their 3 greatest achievements for the year, their 3 greatest strengths, and 3 areas of improvement. I found that a lot more useful than “On a scale of 1-5, how did you do at growing the business?” or whatever.

      1. Anx*

        Yeah, I would be hardpressed to rate myself a 5, rate myself a 4 if I felt I was among the best on staff and doing a very good job with it. If we were all talented at a specific skill I would have put 3.

    6. Bobotron*

      I just finished reading The Confidence Code and I HIGHLY recommend it. It addresses the issue of women undervaluing their work and talks about how people in leadership positions can encourage women to understand their worth and be vocal about it.

    7. IndieGir*

      We require a self-appraisal, but it is more of a comparison against your personal goals and a discussion of what you think your strengths/weaknesses are than a rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5 kind of thing. As much as I hate doing them myself, as a manager I’d encourage you to get some form of self-assessment from your employee before you do your appraisal of him/her, because it can really change your mind for the positive. I’ve been far more likely to upgrade someone after reading their self-assessment than mark them down.

      I’d also ask, why are you asking? I mean, are you trying to change current policy? If you are, perhaps you’d have better luck suggesting a more personalized self evaluation approach then trying to get rid of them completely.

    8. Jake*

      Yes, However our raises were not tied to the evaluations at all, so I’d have 50% does not meet expectations and 50% satisfactories and get double the raise of the guy that started at the same time and have himself 90% satisfactories.

        1. Jake*

          Our boss actually knew who deserved raises and who didn’t. Our evaluations were not a factor at all, which allowed us to be painfully honest when self evaluating.

            1. Jake*

              Who does their job well.

              I know that is a bad answer, but he was involved enough and gave enough feedback that if you didn’t know what you weer doing well and what you weren’t, then you just weren’t paying attention.

              Our job was to make our scopes of work run smoothly. The smoother they ran, the better you did. Of course there were hard metrics like dollars spent our schedule dates met, but as involved as he was, he could tell from a qualitative view who was doing well and who wasn’t.

              1. Joey*

                Who does their job well and it isn’t tied to performance?

                That sounds like speaking out of both sides of your mouth.

                1. Jake*

                  Not tied to your performance review.

                  Your performance review was a self evaluation that wasn’t tired to your raise in any way.

      1. Labratnomore*

        Ours are like that too. We get our reviews and bonuses for the past year at the beginning of the next year, but our raises are done in Sept. The managers get a pool of dollars (based on the base raise amount the company has determined x their groups payroll), then they divvy it up however they want. It is not a formal rating process and the only thing that gets reported is the final percent someone get. If you want to rate someone above average you have to take from someone else. If the above average person is higher paid you have to give even lower percentages to the lower paid employees. The crazy thing is that since it is an informal process, the final ratings that get converted into raises may not even be near the review appraisals at the end of the year!

    9. Nutcase*

      On the rare occasion that we get an appraisal we have to self evaluate ourselves beforehand but we don’t do it with scores, we have to write a few lines about how we think we’re doing in each area. These things that we’ve written then act as a starting point for the conversation during the appraisal. I think it works quite well when my manager actually gets around to doing our appraisals. (18 months now and no feedback for me! D:)

      I think I’d be uncomfortable giving myself a definite score. I’m an introvert and very self aware so I’d feel a bit ridiculous giving myself top marks even though in some things I may deserve it. I’m really my own worst enemy so much of the time.

    10. ACA*

      I haaaate self-appraisals, but I’d so much rather rate myself 1-5 (which we had at my old job) than use the short-answer format my current job has.

    11. Joey*

      I don’t call it self evaluation, but that’s essentially what it is. I tell people to give me a list of exceptional accomplishments they want to make sure show up in their evals.

    12. BRR*

      We self-appraise then send it to our manager a week before we meet to discuss it. This gives the manager time to edit.

    13. Ann Furthermore*

      Yes, I have to do a self-evaluation twice a year. Once for mid-years, once for year-end. We do them first, or at least independent of the evaluation your manager does, and then you have to give yourself an overall ranking. I don’t mind doing it because I keep a running list through the year of what I’ve done, and I refer back to it when doing my evaluation so I don’t miss anything. Something that completely consumed me from February through April may not even be on my radar in December since a zillion other things have happened since then. Also, my boss has a ton of different things going on all the time, so she doesn’t always know what I’ve worked on beyond the big picture level. I’m pretty detailed in my self-evaluations so she can get a good idea of what I’ve done through the year.

      What’s interesting is that I usually rate myself middle of the road — Meets Expectations. In a distribution of all employees’ rankings, this is the one that is the middle of the bell curve and where most people end up (even though I equate it to being a C student, despite HR telling me that’s not the way I should look at it). Last year was a very challenging year for me, and I stretched in quite a few areas and led the charge implementing a piece of the ERP system that I’d never used before. So I rated myself as “Exceeds Expectations” for the first time. There’s also one level above that, “Exemplary,” but it’s rare for someone to get that rating, because it means that you’re perfect in every way. I’ve gotten that on a few individual things, but never as an overall rating.

      Also last year on that project I had to work with someone on my team that I’d never worked closely with before. She’s very, very smart, but also rude, abrasive, and bull-headed. So we had a few run-ins. But my boss thinks the sun shines out of her posterior.

      Anyway — every other year my boss rated me as “Exceeds Expectations.” But when I rated myself that way, she rated me one level lower — “Meets Expectations.” This was due mostly to the conflicts I had with this one co-worker.

      My review was the same version of what it is every year, which is some version of, “Your work is outstanding but you’ve got a short fuse.” And I can’t really argue — I do get impatient, and even though it’s something I try to work on, and something I do know about myself, it’s usually a function of my stress level. And I’m pretty sure my co-worker mentioned our disagreements when my boss asked her for feedback.

      So I’ve wondered…did my boss rate me as “Meets Expectations” due to my challenges with my warm and fuzzy side, or because I rated myself as “Exceeds Expectations?”

    14. HAnon*

      I have to do this once a quarter for my performance reviews with my boss. Boss also made up a scale for each quality with cutesy names (ex, instead of “attention to detail” it’s something like “Fashion Star.” The worst part is that I have to rate my performance in each category on a scale of 1-10 and explain why I rated myself that way. I always rate myself above average because I think I do an awesome job, but it’s super awkward watching her go over my self-rating and wondering whether or not she’s going to agree or disagree or bump me down a notch. She also makes me say what I think I need to work on and improve in, and how I’m going to do so…I can be self-aware up to a point, but come on. I feel like if someone is a manager, they should be pointing out any potential areas for growth or improvement and give you feedback. I wish she would just give me clear ratings for things and then explain why. :p

    15. NavyLT*

      I’ve never asked my people to provide numbers on evals, and I disregard any that are provided. They’re too subjective if people are being honest–and half the time they just give me a write-up with straight 5’s, on the principle that they might not get marked down or something. I do ask for a written draft, though.

    16. Bea W*

      Yes and yes to your observations. I do lowball myself, because I don’t want to be a braggart and I am afraid that I am overestimating the credit I ought to give myself. I am afraid maybe I think more of myself than I should. So I want to be more realistic in scoring…which may mean it’s not actually realistic. There is no self-scoring at my current employers, but we do a self eval discussing our goals and accomplishments. I do the same thing. On the other hand, I have a female co-worker who has no problem writing several single-spaced pages extolling her awesomeness in great detail. I would feel so self conscious doing that, and maybe it’s too much, but at the same time I salute her for being that gutsy.

    17. Sandra Dee*

      Our current system requires self-appraisals with rankings 1-5 with 5 being a total rock star. Once submitted, our manager then does the same rankings, BUT, they do not see how we ranked until they complete their process, therefore they are not influenced by my rankings. For the past 3 years, even with different managers, there are always 2 goals that we are flipped on how we each view it, I would rank one as a 4, and they would rank as a 3, and one ranked as a 3, and the manager would rank as a 4. It evened out in the end.

    18. Treena Kravm*

      If you’re concerned about their low ratings influencing yours, why don’t you each do your own separately and then either bring them to the meeting or only read the self-evals after writing your own?

    19. Elkay*

      I was really lucky and my boss did an exceptionally good job with my mid-year review (which isn’t official) and broke it down into the same categories as the main review and gave me a rating and a write up on each section. It was really helpful when it came to year end because I was able to base my assessments on her mid-year assessments and it made me less worried that I was misjuding my own ratings.

    20. Elizabeth West*

      Ugh, yes, and I hate them. I’m always afraid I’ll rate myself higher than my boss would and he/she will say, “ARE YOU KIDDING HAHAHAHAHAHA.” I just don’t see why we have to do that–only the boss’s input matters anyway. The only thing I would keep from that process is the goals part, not the rankings.

    21. LAI*

      We do a self-evaluation but it’s not providing scores. It’s answering open-ended questions like “What have been your biggest accomplishments this year?” and “What goals are you working toward in the upcoming year?”. From what I understand, the purpose is to provide your supervisor with more information and perhaps let them know about things they may not have noticed before they do your review.

    22. Witty Nickname*

      One thing that could make it easier for people to do the self-scoring is to set up their goals like this:

      Goal: Produce chocolate teapots that meet specific quality and quantity standards.
      * Meets: 50 chocolate teapots per day, with a 90% quality score
      * Exceeds: 75 chocolate teapots per day, with a 92% quality score

      This might not be easy to do for every job or goal, but my boss did it with my goals one year. They weren’t as easily quantifiable as my example one, but she was able to articulate what meeting and exceeding would look like for each goal. Then when it was time to do my self-evaluation, I was able to use that as a guide in talking about what I’d accomplished. If I’d had to score it as well, I wouldn’t have had as much conflict over whether I was going to high or low.

      (I don’t know that it’s necessarily that women don’t have confidence in their work or aren’t comfortable marketing themselves. For me, absent the specific guidelines above, I’d probably be more likely to give myself a “meets” when my boss would give me an “exceeds” because I always feel like I could be doing more. If I could be doing more, how can I be exceeding?)

    23. LV Ladybug*

      I always ask the employee before giving the review, as a conversation starter. I will ask them how they think they did this past year, and give a grade. Most will give something around a B. Then we discuss. They tell me what they should improve on or what they are good at and we go from there. It usually works well. And yes, the women are usually harder on themselves. But it doesn’t alter what I have already written.

    24. Labratnomore*

      We do have to score and write our self-evaluations first. I agree with others that have a hard time scoring. I always try to be honest, but I do sometimes feel like I may be perceived as being arrogant if I have to many high ratings, but I certainly don’t want to low-ball myself either. It is especially hard because these are seen by several people higher up the ladder so I want them to be accurate, but I also know my boss tends to rate lower than everyone else as well. We actually did a development survey earlier this year where several other sets of people rated us; it was anonymous except for our manager’s appraisal. It did have separate groups for peers, other management personnel of groups I work with, and a misc. category. My boss was consistently below everyone else in every category, but at least it seemed to be in trend with the other groups (If they gave me a 4 she gave me a 3, if they gave me a 5 she gave me a 4). I did point that out to her and have a discussion about it, but I am not sure that will help me at review time.

    25. Nerdling*

      We don’t have to do self-assessments/self-evaluations first, but we are encouraged to. I’ll be honest: I usually don’t. In fact, most of the folks on my squad usually don’t, men or women. But our performance appraisals actually have very little to do with getting a promotion — we just have to be rated “Successful” across the board to put in for promotions when the appropriate time comes, and then we have to fill out a much more time-consuming and ridiculous package to even be considered — so there’s not as much impetus to do them.

    26. C Average*

      We don’t do scoring, but we do do appraisals.

      I hate them with the fire of a thousand blazing suns.

      Part of why I hate them is that, having seen plenty of examples of how we’re supposed to write them, I feel boxed into this jargon-laden, unnatural mode of expression that just feels bullshitty no matter what information I’m actually conveying.

      It sort of feels like a competitive exercise involving repeated use of acronyms, name-dropping of other departments, careful mention of my (tangential) involvement in projects my manager may actually have heard of, and lots of strategic this and cross-functional that. There are times I’ve re-read mine (in years I got rated “highly successful” and knew I’d done good work) and thought, “What does this nonsense even MEAN?”

      You know those online generators of technobabble and bureaucrat-ese? Someone could totally build one of these for annual reviews. “I achieved strategic objectives through cross-functional efforts. I achieved desired outcomes across key metrics. I exceeded my SMART goals across all core competencies. I leveraged key resources and partnerships.”

      I wish I could just say, “I showed up on time and appropriately dressed every day. I carried out my assigned tasks and additional ad-hoc requests, generally with at least the appearance of cheerfulness and good nature. I paid attention in meetings. I learned new stuff when necessary, usually on my own time. I came early and stayed late when I needed to. I traveled when I needed to. I tried to be helpful and informative toward new hires. I occasionally failed to pick up on subtle nonverbal cues, and I failed to successfully feign enthusiasm during team-building events. I give myself an official rating of Pretty Good Job.”

    27. Auditoholic*

      We do the 1-5 on five different leadership dimensions and then also on our goals (I have 3 big goals for the year), and then an overall 1-5, as well as writing a few sentences to back up our scores. We actually have training on what the scores should look like, that includes different scenarios and examples. Our company expects employees to perform at a 3. That’s meeting expectations. 4 is exceeding expectations, and 5 is practically unheard of since it requires perfections. Anything below a 3 is an automatic performance plan.

  5. Ali*

    Burning question: How do you know if you need to change careers (vs. just getting a new job in your field)?

    I work in media at present and would love to stay in the field, as I am searching for jobs now. However, I feel like the field is too saturated and there’s not a lot of room to go elsewhere. Not to mention that journalism itself is a somewhat dying breed. Anyway, I’ve applied for jobs where it’s not unusual to have 300-500 applicants an opening, not only with experienced writers/communications pros, but everyone else who thinks the work I do is glamorous and they want in. I have tried taking Alison’s advice (she helped me with my resume) and wrote cover letters saying what attracted me to the company, why I’d be good at the job and so forth. And…crickets. I just feel as if this field is too competitive for me to stand out, as I get a lot of praise at my jobs but I’m not the “rock star” everyone wants. I don’t know how much more creatively I can write a cover letter or how much further to make sure my resume shows accomplishments to stand out. I just feel stuck.

    Should I go for a new field, or keep beating a dead horse with the communications work? Even at my own company, where I’ve been told my boss trusts me, I have great communication skills and I’m generally strong at my work save a few weak areas (but nothing that would cost me my job or hurt me on the search). I have people willing to be references for me and who have said oh ABC employer called and I said good things about you. All that said, the offers and interviews just aren’t coming.

    Any advice?

    1. Ali*

      My job search was brought on partially because I got rejected for a job within the company. The manager who gave me feedback (my regular, now former, boss was out on medical leave, so another manager I work with gave me some guidance) did say that moving up in our company is part right place/right time and part skill. And he admitted that he doesn’t know if I could be promoted in the company or have to go elsewhere. This combined with the crazy competition has me just boggled. (Though I appreciate my manager’s honesty.)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      How long have you been trying (with the revamped resume and cover letters)? That’s going to be a big point of data here, I think. (Also, have you truly taken all the resume cover letter advice? Lots of times people say they have but then when I look at their stuff, they haven’t. If you want to email me what you’re using, I’d be glad to give you a quick opinion on whether the materials might be part of the issue. If they’re not, and you’ve been using them for a while, that’s useful info to factor in to your broader question here.)

      1. Ali*

        Well I guess part of it is my general impatience. Going back, I’d say it’s only been about 2-3 months and my job search has been on and off because of vacations, not finding a lot of openings sometimes, etc. I had one phone interview before my vacation, but it didn’t work out. (I decided I wasn’t interested in the job after the initial conversation anyway.) But other than that one interview, that’s it. Before I had my resume reviewed, I got plenty of “You were great, but…” type of feedback.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          So 2-3 months since perfecting your materials? Roughly how many jobs do you think you’ve applied for in that time (considering it was on and off)? Basically, what I’m going here for is, “how much of a chance have you given the new materials”? It sounds like it might not have been enough yet, but more data on that will be more conclusive.

          But yeah, if it’s just general impatience, that’s different than “I can’t get a job in this field.” It might be “I don’t have the patience to get a job in this field,” which is legitimate, but you’d want to be clear in your own mind about which it is.

          1. Ali*

            I don’t have the exact number of how many jobs I’ve applied for. In one of my first job searches out of school, I kept a spreadsheet of where I applied, the date and the response from the employer.

            That said, it’s possible that I haven’t given things enough of a chance. I’ll try to backtrack and put a count together, or at least start fresh and track every application from now on to see if I can see a pattern. I just feel a little restless with how hard it is to job search, especially in a crowded field.

            Thanks for helping (again!).

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I don’t think you need an exact count — but a rough idea is useful. If it’s only been a handful of jobs, that would point toward it not being a conclusive message that the field won’t have you. If it’s tons and tons of jobs (and it had been a bit longer — 2-3 months is nothing), then hell, there could be something to it (as is always the case with super competitive fields).

              Two things I would do now: (1) Step up the job search; sounds like it’s been sporadic, despite your frustration, and (2) Start thinking about what you’d do if you did change fields, and start applying for those jobs too. You don’t have to take them if you get offers, but options never hurt.

              1. Ali*

                I will do these things. I admit my job search activity could be more frequent. If I think of further questions, I will be sure to e-mail.

    3. unemplaylist*

      Hi Ali, just to give you a bit of perspective, I am an experienced communications person and I’ve been looking, hard, for over a year. So I think 2-3 months is too soon to call it quits. In fact, for whatever reason, I didn’t get many interviews for the first few months of my search, but then things kicked into gear, around October-November of last year, and I’ve had a pretty steady stream of interviews since then — about 15 interviews, which I think is a lot for that time period. And yet, still not job. Hang in there. It is a highly competitive field, no doubt, but I am freelancing to help pay the bills and have no interest in changing careers!

    4. NZ Muse*

      For me it was looking around and realising there were literally no other journalism jobs in the entire country that I wanted to do – none excited me. That was the main thing.

      I was fortunate in that the first and only job I interviewed for outside of journalism, I got. Digital content (beyond journalism) is going off, and where I am there aren’t a TON of people doing it, or at least not well.

      So as you can see, living in a tiny country has been both a bad and good thing for me…

    5. Jen RO*

      This is not helping you, with me being in a different country and all, but we are dying for some journalists or editors to apply to our technical writer positions… we just managed to hire one, but we have 3 more open positions and no hope in sight. Ugh.

    6. jesicka309*

      Hi Ali,
      I transitioned out of a technical media role (commercials) after a log time studying/getting Alison’s help with cover letters etc, and ended up in a marketing/planning role for a national company (Australia). There are plenty of related fields where you still get to work with media, and use y our skills, just in different ways.
      Some avenues that might be worth exploring:
      -Go client side. Internal comms, PR specialists, and a whole heap of media planning/buying functions could align with your previous journo skills pretty well. Still get to write every single day, but for a different audience.
      -Go agency side. Particularly a PR agency, but any could be good (media, creative eg. copy writers, digital etc). They love people who are good at both client interactions and can write a concise, brief response.
      -Marketing. It’s where I found my feet. Consider doing a class or two in marketing – I originally wanted to be a journalist, but watched the economy bottom out and switched after two classes. I’d definitely recommend marketing to any English/comms grad who is struggling to find work in that field. Varied work, use my comms skills every day, but not quite as competitive as journalism as almost every company has some sort of marketing department, but there are only limited media outlets to support a journalist. So look at some fields that are related, but not the same, as your current field.
      :) Good luck!

  6. A Minion*

    I posted this in the wrong thread. :( But it’s here now, so I hope you guys can give me some insight! :)
    I recently applied for a position and, since I’m currently employed, I answered “no” to the question of whether they could contact my current employer. However, after I had already applied, my manager actually came to my office and showed me the ad in the paper for this position. She doesn’t know that I have already applied, but she saw that it was something I was well qualified for and it pays quite a bit more than I’m making. She was very kind and reassured me that she doesn’t want me to leave, but she felt as a friend she should at least let me know the position was open in case I wanted to apply especially since it pays so much more and I am unlikely to earn that here in the foreseeable future. So, since she actually came to me and encouraged me to apply, there is now no reason the company I applied with shouldn’t contact my current employer. Would it be crazy to e-mail HR there and change my answer to that question? Or should I just wait and mention it in an interview if they call me?

    1. Elysian*

      I would wait and mention it later, like in the interview. I actually think its a great selling point for you to say “After I applied, my boss actually saw this job and suggested it to me because she thought it would be a great fit. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if you called her to talk about my qualifications.” Its also really great that your current boss is looking out for your career growth – if we could all be so lucky!

      1. JMegan*

        Agreed, what a great thing for your boss to do! And I also agree that you don’t need to make a second contact with the company you’re applying to. Wait until you get an interview and bring it up then. Good luck!

    2. Joey*

      Wait. Its pointless to bring it up unless they plan on calling references. Most only do that for in person interviews.

    3. BRR*

      I don’t feel by answering no that you altered the status of your candidacy. I second Elysian that it might look better later but at this stage it would not make a difference.

      1. A Minion*

        Thanks for the replies! You’re all right, of course. I knew that…but when you’re job hunting sometimes you think of every little thing that may disqualify you and then agonize over whether or not you should have answered something differently and if it would make a difference. At least I do. So I shall wait. But don’t worry…there are lots of other little things I can agonize over! :)

        1. BRR*

          It’s good to get an outside opinion, job hunting messes with people’s decision making process. Good luck!

  7. Kelly O*

    Happy Friday y’all.

    My struggle over the decision to stay or go at “New” Job has been made. The company is closing down our location, and our last operation (aviation) will be November 30. Those of us in the office will have work until sometime in December.

    This actually works out timing-wise with the New Job I’ve got lined up that wouldn’t start until January for budgetary reasons.

    Now to end strong and get this mess cleaned up before we close down.

    1. danr*

      On one hand, having to work the transition is sad and if you’re lucky, the last week or so will just be cleaning up the odds and ends (btdt). On the other hand, having a new job ready and waiting is awesome. Good luck on both ends.

  8. Kristina*

    Has anyone ever run into someone who fired you or worked at the same office you were fired from? What happened? Was it awkward?

    1. Jennifer*

      Oh, I did! Years ago we interviewed a woman for a position. She was nice, but (a) she had lost her previous job for “not being a good fit,” (b) she answered a question about her accuracy of typing by talking about how accurate she was with crochet, and (c) I just got the crazy vibe. I said so, she didn’t get hired. However, she applied in another area of my work (different office) and got hired. I didn’t really see her on a regular basis, but six months later I’ve been out on FMLA leave and ran into her in a store and found out she hadn’t made it through probation. Awkward, yes, but how was I to know when I never saw her? I’ve never asked anyone there at the time what happened though.

    2. MT*

      I once fired an hourly employee for theft. Hate to say it, but lots of them were doing it and they were the first one we caught, so we had to use them as a sacrificial lamb. 2 weeks later he had a job pumping gas at the gas station where I always went. State law, you couldn’t pump your own gas. He would pump my gas at least once a month while I was on the way to work. It was awkward to say the least.

    3. Hillary*

      Not only was she fired, but I moved into her role. And she had to know, because her boyfriend (now husband) worked there too.

      I see her occasionally at industry events. It’s not particularly awkward, but we don’t seek each other out.

      1. fposte*

        Same with me. Though I think we’re answering the opposite of what Kristina was asking–I think she’s looking for the viewpoint of the former employee.

      2. Amanda*

        Ditto to this. I moved into the role of someone who was…let’s not say fired, but rather the writing on the wall was made very explicit and she moved on. It’s a small town, we see each other sometimes. I find it awkward; I’m not sure she does. (Or at least she hides it very well.)

    4. JMegan*

      Ha. After I was fired from a previous job, I found myself interviewing for a new job almost right away – less than a month later. Only problem was, NewJob *insisted* on talking to my most recent manager, and wouldn’t proceed with the recruitment without it. So I had to email the manager who had fired me three weeks earlier, explain the situation, and ask her for a reference. Awkward doesn’t even begin to describe it!

      The good news is, it worked out really well. OldManager was actually happy to give me a reference, and in fact we have a better relationship now than we did when we were working together.

      1. anonintheuk*

        I occasionally run into the person whose behaviour stressed me so much it contributed to a rheumatoid flare, which in turn led to my being Reduced in Force.
        I acknowledge her existence, but that’s it. One of my other co-workers apparently had a dream that she (our mutual stress source) was being guillotined for crimes against the state, and concluded mid-dream that that was fair enough.

        1. Labratnomore*

          I had a person that should have been fired from my first job out of college, he was just horrible overall, I cannot even explain how horrible he was at the job but I couldn’t trust him to do even the simplest task correctly. He is the reason I left that job, well maybe more because our supervisor was too nice to ever fire anyone, but I could not stand to work with him anymore! I passed him in the hall at my current employer when he was interviewing for a job here. I went straight to the hiring manager later that day and told him not to hire that guy. He just kind of looked at me and said “yep I figured that out already”.

    5. Bea W*

      No, but on a similarly awkward (or more so), I worked with a guy who was fired for cause and then committed suicide after getting home that day. We attended the service, and it was awkward, particularly because things were said that seemed to imply he or his family (or both) blamed us for his death. No one was comfortable enough to go back to the home with the family for the usual post-service food. It was just really awkward and painful. I think we all just wanted to slink into a hole.

    6. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I wasn’t fired so much as pointedly not re-hired, so this is only a little similar. It was a little awkward at first, and a lot of people kept trying to ask me how I was doing and if I was OK (not helpful). However, once I got a new job and moved on, it got a lot easier. I still see the same people, but now that I’m not an object of pity anymore it’s much better :)

    7. EA*

      Not running into, but a local news station had a story yesterday about a former co-worker who was arrested for marijuana possession … Everyone on our team had a good laugh when we saw that, and basically a “Yeah, that doesn’t surprise me” reaction.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      My first boss fired me. She was so busy being my friend she forgot to be my boss, and tbh, I really, really needed her to be a boss to me. I was trying to be a good worker but some how I made too many wrong choices.

      I ran into her years later. She came into my work place! Oh boy, I thought. Then I decided “No, this is old and over. I basically liked her as a person before I understood the full situation. I will just go back to thinking warmly of her as a person.” The conversation went surprisingly well considering everything. She had lots of family type problems so I was able to offer empathy there. Then she said she was moving, so I wished her well with that. After about 20 minutes she left.
      It felt good just to set that whole ugly situation to one side.

      Fast forward, years later I had to fire someone. I was kind of concerned that he might throw a punch. He could throw other things…. But I fired him and then years went by. One day, he, too, came into my work place. I don’t know if he even recognized me or not. However, he was pleasant and conversational so I just copied his tone. He completed his business transaction and left. No problems.

      I have run into people that I worked with, in the grocery store, for example. I do not mind saying, I saw them in the frozen food aisle and skipped over to the bread aisle to avoid any conversation. I can do the conversations if need be, but sometimes I just prefer to keep my distance and go about my day. That has more to do with the person than with anything that happened on the job.

      Not sure what kinds of clues/answers you are looking for here. But my best thought is if you run into someone that you fired or who fired you- try to put it in as peaceful a place as you can. Or head for the bread aisle.

    9. Rin*

      I was fired from one place, and then I got my husband a job there about 3 years later. Any time I had to drop something off for him, I felt kind of awkward, like I wasn’t supposed to be there. There were a lot of new people there who didn’t know me, too, but I definitely felt paranoid about who wanted me gone and what they thought of me randomly showing up.

    10. Kelly L.*

      I fired a student worker once and then ended up working with her as a peer at my moonlighting job. It was…odd at first, but quietly odd. A few months later, we got along fine.

    11. Labratnomore*

      Not me, but we had a temp. at my current job that was let go. He went on to get a job elsewhere, then our manager got hired as the manager at his new company about a year later. The temp. is married to one of our co-workers so I asked her about how that went and she said he was a little nervious at first, but once he got there it all worked out fine. He was let go from here more because of “right fit” issues and they knew they would never hire him on full time rather than any specific issues, so that helped I am sure.

    12. Manager Anonymous*

      oh yes, awkward for both sides. I ran into the ex employee who I fired at an entertainment venue. Waved, said hi, moved on. Its a small town. We are going to run into each other from time to time.

      on the other hand, I see my old boss from 20 years ago who fired me. (with excellent cause) twice yearly at conferences. I take the opportunity to catch up with him and what we are up to..(the first time I just apologized for being such a crappy employee and putting him in the position to have to fire me)

    13. Elizabeth*

      Sort of, but in reverse. While at OldJob, I ran into someone who was fired while on a business lunch. Fired might be a harsh word, as it wasn’t necessarily her performance, but just that OldJob (a new company) hired her, then realized in hindsight they weren’t at a point in their development where they were ready for someone in her position. (OldJob was a bit of a mess, hence why NewJob happened.)

      Yes, it was awkward. Luckily, it was just in passing, and we didn’t have much time to do anything other than exchange smiles and a polite hello.

    14. Sunshine on the water*

      Yes! I ran into 2 different people at different times after being fired. One of them was a guy who sat in as a peer during my interview. The look on his face was almost comical! I actually felt sorry for him. It was awkward for a moment and then I decided to try to just smile and not let it bother me. The guy wouldn’t look at me after the first glance which irritated me a little because I was trying to be mature about the whole thing. The other person I ran into smiled and said hi and acted like nothing was odd.

    15. Waiting Patiently*

      I was fired from a place in 2000 …small town. The place wasn’t that great. They had recently changed management. I had left, big boss asked me to come back, big boss had a big birthday party for me, –but the admin and I were not the best of friends–she did everything to exclude and overwork me like crazy then blamed me for audits not being completed…yada…yada. I was exhausted, young and had no clue. Anyway luckily I had documented stuff, I don’t know why specifically –I just began documenting stuff. I filed for unemployment and substantiated my case and by the end of the interview with her on the other end— she said she was resigning her position.
      Fast forward to about 2 years ago, I ran into her while out shopping. It wasn’t that awkward for me. She spoke. I spoke. But it was definitely one of those “hey, I know you— wait oh yeah you fired me..” Anyway that’s water beneath the bridge now.

    16. Oceandusk*

      This happened to me just last month. I was fired about a year ago, but managed (thanks to AAM!) after several months to find another job in my field. I was sent to a national conference and ran into both the person who fired me and several former co-workers. It started off a little awkward, but the stories everyone told me (“since you’ve been gone, X is still happening and Y is going on and …”) made me realize that it’s still the exact same toxic place it had been when I left. The place I am now is (so far, three months in) supportive and warm and appreciative. I wished (and wish) everyone well.

      A couple weeks after we were all done with conference, the person who fired me emailed me for a favor, so I guess I really did smooth things.

  9. A Jane*

    Does anyone have any advice on managing very technical projects for a new-ish PM?

    I’ve managed application development projects before, but never had to get into the really nitty-gritty of the tech side. Just knowing an integration from here to there was enough. Now I’m managing database admins, ETLs, foundational services, etc.

    1. Eliza Jane*

      If you’re struggling to understand the space or the people you’re managing, own up to it and ask them for input.

      Ask them what good/bad outcomes look like to them.

      If you ask for their technical opinion about timelines/risks/manpower, don’t second-guess them or override them without strong technical evidence.

      Figure out what the customer (whoever you’re delivering the project to) cares about, and focus on that. Keep your team informed about real goals. Focus on the “what” and the “when” and trust the tech side to make decisions about “how”.

    2. MisterPickle*

      I do this kind of thing as my day job.

      It’s important to learn as much of the tech as quickly as possible, lest you not be taken seriously by the people you are managing.

      One thing I’ll often do is, given Project X, figure out who the ‘natural’ technical leader is in the group, and make them my ‘sergeant’. Alas, sometimes this person does not exist. But if they do exist, and if you can establish a good relationship with them right from the start, you can set up one-on-one meetings with them to go over project goals etc, which is also an opportunity for you to learn and ask questions. And this person can be an invaluable resource in getting a project moving quickly, if you ask their advice, listen to them, and back them up.

      I don’t mean this as a substitute for learning the tech on your own. But it can give you some time to learn. I have many years of experience with my company and in my field, and I’m often paired with younger employees, and often there is a natural exchange where I’ll pick up on new tech while mentoring the young’uns with how to get things done in the corporate environment.

    3. A Non*

      Ask lots of questions! Most tech people are happy to talk about what they do, and will go on for a while once they realize they’ve got an appreciative audience.

      1. Treena Kravm*

        Ask the questions, yes, but recognize the point where the question you’re asking is something you should have learned months ago. They’ll go on for a while because they have to to explain properly, but it’s not a fun task (according to Husband). Hint: if they say “This is really something you should know,” that usually means they’re almost at their breaking point because you’re not picking it up fast enough.

  10. Diet Coke Addict*

    On the good side, I had an interview this week! On the bad side, it was a wreck—it lasted nine minutes from start to finish, one interviewer asked me a bunch of random questions (“did you see that documentary on the Titanic?” “What do you think will happen in the upcoming elections?”) and when at the end of the interview they asked if I had any questions, I got to ask one (“What is your timeline going forward?” “One week.”) before they stood up, shook my hand, and ushered me out.

    I’ll spend my weekend on more job applications, even though it’s beyond dissatisfying to finally receive an interview and have it be a complete mess. The rest of my time spent at work has been re-training our new employee (who hasn’t made any progress with the actual processes of the job in the six weeks she’s been here, but does keep going to my boss with new business suggestions like “Why don’t we do fax marketing?”) and doing the entire job of our admin person, who is out all week.

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Boo to them for missing an opportunity to actually get to know a candidate! Just think of it as even more practice for the next one!

    2. Squirrel!*

      A 9-minute interview? That sounds crazy! What was the position for? Documentary viewer and election forecaster?

    3. Mints*

      I also had a ridiculously short interview this week. I applied for a cordinator role in an industry I don’t know much about, but the duties were all administrative (which I’m doing) so I thought it was fine. The phone screen focused on my skills, what software I use, how much scheduling I do. But the in person interview (with a different person) was painful. He said like five times that the person who used to have this role did really well because she had a background in TheIndustry. I was like “Why did you even bring me in…?” That was the first time I really felt like an interview wad a waste of time.
      Ugh. I didn’t time it, but would be unsurprised if it was less than 15 minutes
      Sympathies.

    4. M. in Austin!*

      What the heck? That is truly bizarre. Did they ask you anything job related?

      Bleh! Good luck job hunting!

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        Two things: “Do you like to keep busy?” and “Are you detail-oriented?” Also, “When can you start?”

        It was overshadowed by the questions like “What did you think of that Titanic documentary? Have you ever bee n to the museum in Halifax? What did you think of it?”

          1. Diet Coke Addict*

            I’m not, which is the weirdest thing, although I used to live about five hours away from Halifax.

    5. OriginalYup*

      I just wanted to jump in and say that I so empathize on this: “re-training our new employee (who hasn’t made any progress with the actual processes of the job in the six weeks she’s been here, but does keep going to my boss with new business suggestions like “Why don’t we do fax marketing?”)”

      That isht drives me bananas. If you can’t safely work a lighter, I am not giving you a flamethrower, my friend. GAH.

      1. AnonyMouse*

        I wonder if sometimes people who are struggling with their responsibilities try to come up with new business suggestions in an effort to make themselves look better since they know they’re not succeeding in some other areas. Of course, a more effective way to accomplish this would be to ask for (and then take) feedback on how you could improve in your existing duties!

    6. A Minion*

      I had an interview like that once. Last year. I was interviewed by a panel that consisted of three women. They took turns asking me the standard interview questions, only they didn’t seem really interested in my answers. As soon as I was finished with one answer, the next questioner would jump in. It went on like that for, probably, about fifteen minutes. I asked a couple of questions, to which I got very quick answers, then before I could ask anything else, one of them jumped up, thanked me for coming and walked me out.
      I got a call the very next day, first thing in the morning, to tell me they’d chosen an internal candidate. Suddenly it all made sense. LOL I’m guessing they had already decided to promote the internal candidate but had to interview a certain number of people. At least the rejection call was very nice and she encouraged me to keep trying.
      Fortunately, they didn’t ask my opinion on any Titanic documentaries…or maybe unfortunately. I’ve seen a lot of those, so maybe I could have impressed them with my Titanic knowledge. Too bad, really.

      1. voluptuousfire*

        Yeah, I’ve unfortunately had interviews that lasted less than ten minutes myself. Once I met with a recruiter at an agency and he asked me for a copy of my resume and directed me to a seat. My behind was about to hit the chair and he goes “thanks for coming in, we’ll be in touch.” I got up and he ushered me out. I don’t even think I was given 30 seconds. :)

  11. AdminAnon*

    There was a discussion in the comments on Wednesday’s post about the HR person and the new hire list about creating email folders/rules, etc and it occurred to me that I am probably not making the best use of my system’s capabilities. I know this was discussed at some point near the end of 2013 as well, but I’m curious–what are some of the best ways you have found to use Outlook to manage various projects/Boards/Advisory Boards/committees/etc? What rules or folders are the most useful and how do you use them–do you direct messages to folders automatically or do you sort through them manually? Are there any tricks you can share?
    I went through a period in early 2014 (not long after the last discussion) where I zeroed out my inbox daily, but lately it’s just a mess. I receive anywhere from 50-100 emails per day and very few of them are junk. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance! :)

    1. Elysian*

      I like the feeling of a clean inbox, so I have a separate folder where I store my “to do” or “follow up” emails. This way I can zero out my inbox and not miss anything new, but I also have easy access to stuff I probably need to reference later. It also serves as a decent double-check on my actual to-do list. It would probably be redundant for some people, but it works really well for me.

    2. danr*

      One of the neat things about Outlook is that a message can be sent to more than one folder depending on the criteria used. So you can set up rules to filter base on “From” and on Project name and on whatever else. You can tag emails for followup with reminders and you can color code mail folders if you work that way. Rule 1 should be to never delete a message, but move it somewhere out of the inbox. Deletions can take place later if needed.

    3. Sandra Dee*

      I try to keep my inbox fairly clean as well. I have 5 folders where I dump things and take care of as I am able: To Do (requires action from me), File (informational only), Waiting (missing critical info before I can proceed), Meeting Requests (I review when I have time, some are informational, some I have to be at), and Follow-up. When I am going between meeting, usually on the shuttle between buildings, I review my email on my phone, and dump them in the appropriate location, and work the folders as soon as I can. I have used this method for several years, and fewer things have fallen through the cracks.

    4. Renee*

      I color code my incoming email using the category function. I assign a function to each color. Red is “to do.” Purple is “pending for response.” Blue is “pending for follow up.” I have one for shipping, one for invoicing, etc. Over time I’ve memorized what each color means and I can instantly assess my workload. I can also sort and handle similar tasks at the same time — like invoicing multiple customers. Once the subject of the email has been dealt with or the situation is over, I put it away into a Outlook folder or I delete it. My inbox contains only things that need to be dealt with or are immediately pending. I color code my email as soon as I read it so that I don’t have to re-read to know that it contains a task for me to do (i.e., coded “red”). If I had a bigger workload or the email volume you do, I’d probably have an “urgent” color too.

      Email lists that are informational only have rules that send them into another folder for reading when I have less urgent matters at hand.

  12. BostonBaby*

    Hey Guys, so my work buddy just got fired. I feel so bad and don’t really know how to deal. From what I can see, it looks like it was mostly a personality conflict as my buddy and our supervisor don’t get along and are known to butt heads, but from what I can see they are mostly good at their job. Obviously I don’t know much of the details and gossip has already begun to swirl. My question is where should I go from here about approaching him?

    I’m new to the workforce and have never know someone fired so it’s all new to me. Should I mention it when I see him? Not? Offer to buy him lunch and let him vent if he wants to? Me and some others were thinking of getting together and getting him a nice bottle of beer that he likes.

    Plus I am now going into CYA mode as it looks like his firing was kinda shady. One of my co-workers mentioned talking to our union rep about how it went down, but I’ve never had a union before so I don’t know what that will help or hurt.

    1. Colette*

      My advice:
      – contact him soon, maybe something like “I’m sorry, how are you doing?”
      – leave it up to him to discuss what happened (or not), but if you find it’s poisoning your thoughts about your job, it’s OK to take a step back and ask to focus on other things.

    2. Jennifer*

      Do you have his contact info outside of work? Did you hang out with him outside of work?

      You have my sympathies, been there done this this year, pretty much the same situation too.

      1. BostonBaby*

        I haven’t hung out with him outside of work , but he is the type of person I’d like to be friends with. It is just so weird because he was just comforting me a few weeks ago about I was f-ing up in my job because of my depressing affecting me stronger than usual and he gave me some pretty great tips and was a great sounding board. It just sucks all around right now.

    3. Emma*

      As someone who was fired, I really appreciated people reaching out to me to ask how I was and say they wanted to stay in touch. I didn’t want to talk about the circumstances of my leaving, but I really appreciated them for caring. Get in touch with him if you can, he’ll appreciate it.

      1. HAnon*

        +1 agree. I was dismissed from a job once (still don’t know why because they didn’t tell me) and when I ran into former coworkers, it was super awkward. I’m thinking maybe the crazy former boss had said something to them, because when I saw some of my coworkers at a later date, they wouldn’t make eye contact with me and hurried past. It was super awkward. This person has just lost part of his support network and routine, so please be kind and reach out to him (when the time is right).

    4. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I’m going to vote opposite everyone else: Do Not make a big deal about asking how they are, expressing concern, etc. An appreciation/farewell gift might be nice, and maybe ask once, but after a while my experience was that it gets tedious to always be treated like a delicate flower of emotion just because of a job status change. Maybe just a ‘Hey man, I’ll miss you! Let’s keep in touch.’

    5. Kinrowan*

      I am dealing with an issue where a committee is divided so I wanted to see what you guys thought. We have to review our junior people annually (it’s a committee review) and it is always sometime in September. This year, they all got a message a few weeks ago that they should have their materials ready because the committee was meeting in a few weeks. They were not told a date, but then one person got in trouble because their material was not ready and the committee is meeting. I thought it was unfair to penalize this person because there was no date and I knew they had been working on their stuff but they thought they had more time. I suggested that in the future it would be easier to just give them a deadline (even if it is a made up one because we don’t know when the committee will meet exactly) so this doesn’t happen. I got a lot, a LOT, of push-back that we were hand-feeding them and they should know to be ready. While they should, they are not just doing nothing, so I can see how if you think you have more time, you will take more time to get things ready. In my experience actually a deadline is much easier for everyone, me as a manager and my staff, it establishes priorities and if it is not followed there is something concrete to talk about. Anyway, I am feeling like I am from another planet right now, so what do you all think?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        If the majority thinks deadlines are foolish there is not much you are going to be able to do about that thinking.
        However, as a supervisor I would want to protect my own people. Your situation sounds like they can plan for certain that they will need their materials together sometime in September. So set an earlier date for your own folks. The end of August? September 5th? Whatever makes sense in your setting. Tell your folks “be ready by X date, the review will take place sometime after that. But be ready by X date, so you don’t get caught short.”

    6. CTO*

      It would be nice to get in touch, let him know you miss him, and thank him for the ways that he was a good coworker. If you can help his job search, like by offering to be a reference or making some connections, do so. He might never take you up on the offer but he’ll appreciate the gesture.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      I went after a friend who got fired- went to see her and so on. Long story short she said that because of our friendship at least one good thing came out of that sucky job.

      I say go ahead and give him a call/visit. Start out by saying “hey it sucks at work without ya, wanted you to know that some of us miss you”, and go from there.

    8. Kbreezy*

      Yep, as a person who was fired a few months ago, I appreciated co-workers reaching out with a “Hey, thinking of you and am available if you want to grab a drink or coffee anytime”. It was a nice gesture that let me know my team missed me but also let me set the timeline for future hangouts (if any).

  13. Kate*

    I’m assuming this has been asked before but how do people feel about filler jobs on resumes. My mother left a job after being there for 23 years 10 months ago and has been doing a side job since then. I’m assuming it is better to put the side job on the resume so she doesn’t have a gap even though it isn’t connected to her field.

    1. AdminAnon*

      That is a situation where “relevant experience” and “other experience” sections can be helpful. That’s what I used for my 10 month stint at Barnes & Noble between my AmeriCorps year and my current position.

    2. Trixie*

      Absolutely. I think it shows flexibility since it’s not connected with her field, ability to learn new skills, working outside comfort zone since its a new company/coworkers, and perhaps most importantly, staying active.

      1. Trixie*

        Or I can see leaving it off if its a small gap because they’re just so common these days. But if its not horrible and something that illustrates you have activities outside your main FT job, I’d consider keeping on. Kind of like volunteer work.

  14. Emma*

    Can anyone give me advice on how to get back into the workforce and getting a job after a bad situation?

    I had a nervous breakdown after 2 years in a call center complaints department and was fired after one day I couldn’t handle the abuse anymore and cried in the fire escape for an hour before they found me. I don’t have any references obviously, I have been out of work for 10 months now (I’m 26) and am worried my whole career is in the toilet. I’m going to go back to law school in fall 2017 because I passed the LSAT with a really good score and need a job o save, but I’m worried no one will touch me now.

    Help?

    1. ClaireS*

      I’m sorry you’re going through this. Mental health issues can be so serious and the stigma around them still stinks.

      But, the good news is that in this job market 10 months out of work isn’t a big red flag. My partner was unemployed for over a year and he’s recently landed a great job in his field. My suggestion is to follow all of Allison’s other job search advise: network, update your resume and cover letter, volunteer and get involved (this is what helped my partner land the job).

      Also, practice some self care. Job searching is incredibly draining on your mental reserves. Try to build a support system (maybe including a therapist) so you don’t get dragged down into the depths again.

      1. Emma*

        I’m all but recovered from my mental health issues for now, my therapist said it was really caused by being in such an unhappy work situation and being removed from it has done me wonders. I’ve done everything I can do, but nothing is working, maybe it’s just sadly because the job market is so dire right now.

    2. Elysian*

      I hope someone can help you with your immediate problem, but I just wanted to put in a plug about being thoughtful about going to law school. It’s great for some people, and if you know you’ll enjoy it and you can get into a great school (or can go for free) that’s awesome. But the unemployment rate for new lawyers is obscenely high and most people take on a lot of debt to go to law school thinking that things will be easier when they graduate. I promise they aren’t easier.

      1. Emma*

        Yeah, I’m a little aware it’s not always great, but it has actually been my dream to go to law school since I was 14, so it’s less of a ‘reaction’ to what happened and more of a ‘might as well follow my dream while I’m still young’. I was at the call center to save some money, somehow ended up there longer than I wanted to. While I’m not proud of being fired and how hard it will be to get back on track now, maybe in a way, getting fired was a favour.

        1. Elysian*

          Please don’t put yourself in $200,000 worth of debt with only a 50% (average!!!) chance of being employed to follow a childhood dream (for a job you might not like) without a ton more research. LeGal’s advice below is really, really good. I second it.

        2. Ms. Anonymity*

          Do a Google search about what to say in an interview about being fired. I found that information extremely helpful. I also rehearsed my answers to those difficult questions so I wouldn’t become flustered or emotional during and interview.
          I would also think long and hard about pursing a degree in law if the job prospects upon graduating aren’t great. I understand it’s your dream, but it may be crushing to put in all that work and not have it pay off in any real way. Maybe you could do something else that would still be related to the field that’s more sought after?
          Best of luck!

          1. Trixie*

            +1 Practice, practice and then practice some more until discussing it (when appropriate) becomes as comfortable as talking about anything else. Not only will you feel/sound more confident, it will show how much you’ve learned and grown from the experience.

          2. Emma*

            Maybe! I think at this stage it’s hard to know what else I want to do because it’s all I’ve ever considered doing for over a decade. I just don’t know what I want. It’s such a cop out answer I know, but it’s stressful.

            1. Trixie*

              I don’t think its a cop-out answer at all, and agree its incredibly stressful considering something other than you’ve planned on for so long. I second someone else’s suggestion (on other post about self-evaluations) to peruse The Confidence Code by Katty Kay. Not exactly the same situation but I think circles back to an overall question of confidence. I’d tackle this for some perspective before deciding whether or not the law is for you. And please keep in mind adults of all ages switch fields all the time for a variety of reasons, and come out alright on the other side. Whatever form or shape it comes, change can just be scary.

    3. The LeGal*

      If you are thinking about being a lawyer, I highly recommend being a paralegal or working in a law office for a little while. You might get a chance there. Plus, it makes sense for two reasons: (i) you’ll really get a feel for the field and can determine if the field is right for you. There’s TONS of stress. Law is an area where you deal w/ people’s problems, and complaints. The stress is amazing, and the pressure is unreal. People want you to get them out of tough situations, and it’s not easy. It reminds me, at times, of the same kind of complaint pressure that you experienced in a call center. Before you invest that kind of money in an education, make sure it’s for you; and (ii) a major part of being a lawyer is precedent and working for a while in the field will help you build up your knowledge base. Also, I highly recommend looking at the job market for lawyers. Entry-level jobs are super difficult to find. Make sure that the law is your absolute passion before you go to law school – and even then you will still need to face the reality that only a few get the highest paying jobs and that paying back your education is a beast.

      1. MJH*

        This. All of this. My husband’s dream has always been to be a lawyer, and now he is one! Yay! He works as an Assistant District Attorney, and he loves it. But it is hard, and people are mean, and he has to deal with recalcitrant witnesses and difficult cops and all kinds of crap. He still loves it, but it is tough.

        He makes about $49K a year. His loans are well over $100K, and he’s not even covering the interest at this point. For us, it’s worth it because he loves what he does and is living his dream (but many of his colleagues say if they had it to do over again, they’d do something else.)

        If you can score some kind of scholarship, by all means, do whatever you can to make that happen, because the debt is horrific.

        1. Canuck*

          ….$49K per year as a lawyer??? Holy smokes, that seems so low. In my city (Vancouver), first year lawyers average around $75K/year (note, that’s actual lawyers who have finished articling and passed the bar). Now, Vancouver is an expensive city, but still!

      2. SBL*

        I agree with this. A friend of mine became a paralegal to see how he liked law…turns out he did and is now a lawyer.

          1. Elysian*

            Agreed! I hope you find what works for you and what makes you happy – those are the most important things, and its fabulous if you can be open to finding those things, especially in unexpected places.

      3. Squirrel!*

        I think your point about it being a high-pressure career is a fair one.

        Emma, if you had a nervous breakdown from working in a call center, what do you think your reaction might be when you are a lawyer and responsible for hugely-important cases? You could be the difference between someone losing their children to the government (or to an ex-partner) or not, someone going to prison for life or not, someone losing all of their assets or not, etc. A call center would be nothing compared to many situations faced my attorneys every day. Not to mention that you would probably be dealing with abusive / unhelpful / mean clients, police officers, witnesses, etc. I would suggest taking an honest look at yourself and reallying thinking about if you can handle something like this. Your mental health and well-being is more important than following a childhood dream that may or may not wreck your sanity.

        1. AnonyMouse*

          It is a high pressure career, but it’s also very possible to struggle with mental health problems for a while and then get them fully under control and never have the same issues again. A close childhood friend of mine had serious anxiety issues when we were growing up, and I never would have thought she’d do well in a high pressure job at the time. But she got treatment after leaving home, no longer struggles with anxiety, and now has a very successful and *very* demanding career that she’s totally rocking. Law school can be a really bad choice for some people for the reasons other posters have mentioned, and law can definitely be too stressful for a lot of people. But Emma, if you truly feel your anxiety issues are under control, you may well be able to deal with it :)

        2. anon attorney*

          Maybe I am just lucky but I don’t deal very often with abusive people. If a client of my firm was abusive, they would very shortly be a former client, and that is true of everywhere i have worked. I’m not paid to be shouted at by people, other than the occasional judge (which is rare but has to just be sucked up).

          Yes, the job involves lot of responsibility but it’s normally at a level appropriate to experience. We’re not all leading capital murder trials or billion dollar mergers. I can truly say that being an attorney is a hell of a lot less stressful than being a government employee with a bullying boss, which used to be my life and thankfully no longer is.

          Just being another data point 😃

    4. Snoopy*

      I’m sorry to hear about your previous experience :(

      but

      congratulations on your LSAT score! <(-.–.-)> <(-.-<)

      I think, as long as you are confident in yourself now – remember you were in a fairly extreme situation – and you have a clear idea of what you can handle, you will be fine. On your application put an emphasis on your scores, roles where you have excelled and even achievements in the role above.

      And personally, your previous employer sucks for not having an employee care system/policy (?) to ensure they are ok after taking complaints (and sometimes abuse) all day.

    5. AdminAnon*

      Can you start volunteering with an organization that is in or similar to your desired field? That can be a great way to get experience, find references, and build your network. Obviously that won’t help with the financial situation, but the long term gain could be worthwhile. Good luck!

    6. C Average*

      OK, I’m going to give you some real talk here.

      Your experience at the call center and the aftermath sounds awful. I hope you are taking some time to heal and that you have the resources to take care of yourself while you ponder your next move.

      First off, law school itself can feel like an abusive environment. I’ve worked retail and been in difficult consumer-facing interactions; I also attended law school for a year and endured arrogant professors’ interpretation of the Socratic method. Honestly, both experiences put me in nervous-breakdown territory. Law school can be a very demoralizing place if you don’t come in mentally healthy and with an excess of confidence. The teaching method, the grading and ranking process, the cutthroat competition among classmates . . . it’s tough. There aren’t any Atticus Finch moments in law school.

      Secondly, when you’re looking at law schools, look at attrition statistics. I know it’s a downer, but real people make up that statistic. I’ll fess up. I was that statistic. I got some of the best LSAT scores in my class, I worked really hard in my classes, and I flunked out of law school. I still don’t entirely know what I did wrong. I’m smart, hard-working, and articulate, and I’ve gone on to a successful career, and there’s nothing obviously not-lawyer-material about me. The same is true of my classmates who didn’t make the cut. We all left law school in heavy debt, without a degree, and with our confidence shattered. This does happen. So when you think about law school, look at that statistic and ask yourself, “Do I want this enough to spend that money and take that risk?”

      Job-searching is an uncertain, anxiety-making process, but don’t kid yourself: so is law school.

      1. The LeGal*

        Your advice about attrition rates is spot on. I would also look at the curve too. If the CGPA is curved at a D-grade, a lot of students will be put out for academic reasons. On the other hand, if the curve is higher (around a B-grade) then you have more of a chance of staying in academically and leaving on your own accord. I am so sorry that you had that kind of law school experience. If it’s any consolation, one of the brightest people I know left law school under the same academic circumstances. It’s certainly not a measure of your intelligence, success, or academic / professional abilities – although it can be incredibly difficult to go through.

        1. C Average*

          It turned out to be probably the best catalyst for change I’ve ever experienced, so I can’t honestly say I regret it.

          After tucking my tail between my legs and skulking off with my C average ( . . . heh) to ponder the wreckage of my hopes and dreams, I took a sharp bent for the unintellectual. After a lifetime of bookishness, I took up rock climbing and distance running. I got a retail job in an outdoor gear shop and spent most of my pay on outdoor toys, which I used heavily. I had some amazing adventures and made some great friends. I eventually landed at my current company (a major sports retailer) based largely on my interest and experience in distance running. I met my husband through my running club.

          If I’d succeeded at law school, I doubt I’d have had this much fun or had such an interesting career path. I eventually paid off the student loans and have racked up enough successes to offset that failure. And I OWN that failure, which is empowering in its own way. I tried really hard at something and failed, and I’m still standing. It’s given me license to try new things, knowing that failure is a possible outcome and being OK with that.

          So, even while I’m offering myself up as a cautionary tale, I have no real regrets.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            This is the best story I ever heard. This is like one of those Chicken Soup for the Soul things or somesuch. Seriously inspiring.

    7. A Non*

      You are far from the only person who couldn’t psychologically handle call center work. I quit when my manager warned me I was about to get fired, and then was out of work for several months before I found something else. It’s never held me back. The few times I did discuss it in an interview I just told the truth – I wasn’t cut out for that kind of work, and regretted how it ended, but it had to end. The interviewers were generally sympathetic, and since the work I was applying for wasn’t heavily phone-dependent it wasn’t a problem. Five years later it’s fallen off my resume and only comes up when sharing work horror stories.

      I still hate phones and avoid them if possible. I think the whole “let’s pay people to take verbal abuse from strangers” model is fucked up.

      1. Chloe*

        Emma, this is a good point. A call centre dealing with complaints is a magnet for people who want to heap abuse on someone else. Being a lawyer does not necessarily mean you are going to deal with that. I’ve been a corporate lawyer for 15 years and in that time I’ve never, ever been abused by a client. If I were, they wouldn’t be a client anymore.

        Not every lawyer deals with scumbags every day.

      2. Jacintha*

        Absolutely. Emma, I know it must feel right now like this is going to be a huge black mark on your career, but a LOT of people can’t handle call centre work and it has nothing to do with their ability to handle stress. I couldn’t handle the abuse I took in a call centre and now many years later, I work as an lawyer and can assure you I don’t have to deal with abuse when dealing with clients. Some people might be a bit curt and short, but if anyone is actually abusive abusive to any staff member workplace, whether it be a partner or the assistant receptionist, they are told the are no longer welcome to be clients of the firm. I think you’d benefit from perhaps having a psychologist assess whether your problem was with the stress or the abuse, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the abuse. Human beings are not supposed to be screamed at for hours a day!

      3. Call Girl*

        I hate phones too.
        Call center people can explain/recount stories but until you put on the headset, you really have no idea of the pressures of the job. I would say 80% would not last a week.

    8. nep*

      No specific advice here — just to say all these are facts in your history but need not be a force in your life. You are not those experiences. Know this, and bring this to every application, cover letter, resume, and interview you do. Sounds like you’ve got a lot going for you. Congratulations on the LSAT success. Wishing you all the best in law school, the job search, and beyond.

  15. Sunflower*

    Does your company have a policy on flex-time for travel? A couple of my friends companies offer them free days or time off if they are traveling a lot. When I travel for a Monday event, I am often required to work that Sunday (anywhere from a couple hours to a full day). I often travel back taking the last flight out, get home late and come to work at 8am the next day. Some people, however, come in late or don’t come in but don’t take a vacation day. We don’t have a formal policy so I often end up getting advice from my one boss(not supervisor) saying ‘leave early or come in late’ but my other boss expects me to be there. I have another boss on top of that so I’d like to talk to someone in charge about seeing if we could enact an actual policy so everyone can at least be on the same page.

    SO question is 1. Does your company have a policy like this? 2. What is it and does it work?

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      My company does not offer flex or comp time for travel. As a result, travel is often scheduled during regular business hours, since no one wants to spend their evenings or weekends traveling without some sort of compensation.

      My husband’s company is the opposite. Their policy is set up so that people get comp time for any travel that occurs outside business hours. Sometimes there are limitations on when they can take it, though. For example, my husband’s flight might not arrive until 10 pm, but he still has to attend an important meeting scheduled at 8 am the next morning. Even in a case like that, he still gets to use those hours at some point.

    2. ClaireS*

      I’ve worked in 2 situations.

      1) we had a clear policy at an old company that awarded time and a half in lieu time for overtime that included travel. For most people, this was great but a few people took advantage. My experience with a written policy is that people get really particular about tracking everything and it becomes unnecessarily bureaucratic.

      2) at my current company it’s more flexible and I like it a lot more. When I work a lot or travel, I ask/tell my boss I’ll be taking a Friday off or coming in late. It’s never an issue and no one on my team abuses it (if it was being abused, my manager would nip it in the bud real quick).

      I’d try to get aligned on how you should handle it with all your bosses (the fact that you have more than one would be super irritating to me but that’s another story)

    3. BRR*

      My boss is a rational human being and I’ve come back late from a conference because the company won’t pay for another hotel night and she lets me come in late the next day. But nothing official.

    4. HR Manager*

      We have an unwritten practice of comp time when this gets out of hand, but no written policy otherwise. So if my one day of travel for an important business meeting is Sunday, too bad. If I have to travel on Sundays for two months for a far off client, we get some comp time or other flexible arrangements. In general my company is quite flexible so the one day of un-comped time is not a big deal.

    5. Noah*

      We don’t have an official policy. However, if I travel one week and don’t get home until Sunday evening I feel comfortable telling my boss I’m taking Monday morning off to sleep in and leaving early Tuesday to accomplish things at home like laundry. I am also aware that sometimes it depends on what’s going on at the office and I might have to suck it up, come in, and then take a day off later in the week. I’m flexible and I appreciate that the company is flexible in return.

    6. Agile Phalanges*

      The company I recently worked at handled it somewhat on a case-by-case basis, but were flex-time friendly in general, so generally flex time was allowed.

      Hourly (non-exempt) people were to clock their travel time from “door to door,” so they would often end up with extra time in the work week. They were allowed to take time off within the same work week to compensate (and save the company on OT) if they wanted and their schedule allowed (if you had a morning meeting on Friday after flying home Thursday night, you’d have to come in for that, but could possibly leave early on Friday, for example).

      Salary (exempt) people played it by ear, depending on their work schedule, workload, and optics. But yes, often we would come in late the next morning after arriving on a midnight flight (which usually means not getting to sleep until 1:30 or later). We generally wouldn’t take a whole day off, even if we’d worked a whole extra day (or more), but taking part of a day off in exchange for having worked extra while traveling was fine.

    7. Kathryn*

      My company, and specifically my department, is very flexible with flex time. There is a verbal policy of “We want you here at your best.” If you’re sleep deprived, sick, or distracted by home stuff, go take care of it and come back when you can be ‘on’. It works well for our team of dedicated high performers, though I imagine it’s pretty easy to abuse, if someone were interested in that. For the most part, my department’s work is challenging, rewarding, and contains a not insignificant amount of emergency response and my team is full of people who would rather be challenged than on vacation, so management worries more about burnout than about abuse of flex time. (We also have days where if nothing is on fire, the head of the department will declare the department closed and throw everyone out early. He tries to balance out the days where everything is on fire and we have people watching the 4 th of July fireworks from the office windows before getting back to work.)

      Travel rolls in with everything else, if you come in at midnight from a week plus trip,we don’t expect to see you the next day, we expect you to be sleeping and doing laundry and basically getting back to 100%. Anything that takes time outside of your usual working hours, we expect to have some personal time be taken to balance it out. We don’t track these trade offs strictly, we track progress and accomplishment of the work.

  16. Anonniemouse*

    I don’t find my boss to be a good manager and not very knowledgeable, either. He’s newer than I am, (he’s approaching the 5 month mark) and I know there’s a learning curve, but I feel that I’ve given him many chances and he’s made enough mistakes that I don’t always trust his opinion on how to handle one thing or another. (The tipping point was when he made myself and another staffer work on an “urgent” problem on a Friday afternoon when it wasn’t urgent or relevant or necessary, because “it’s Friday and I (the supervisor) didn’t have anything to do,” despite the fact that myself and that other coworker had plenty of things we needed to do and my boss didn’t even work on this project with us. Since then I haven’t trusted him at all.)

    So what do I do when I need a decision from a higher up and clearly I’m supposed to ask him but I don’t trust him? Anyone else ever had a boss like this?

    1. ClaireS*

      My gut says to give himself enough rope to hang himself. Document everything to CYA and then let the chips fall where they may.

      But, I recognize that may not be helpful in all situations. Good luck.

      1. NJ anon*

        Going through this too. Be patient. Hopefully they will screw up at some point and it will come to light.

    2. HR Anonymous*

      Has he ever been a manager before? If not, and if you feel any compassion/benefit of the doubt for him, keep in mind that it’s hard to learn how to be a manager. It takes experience and practice. With any luck he’ll get better at it as time goes on.

  17. Ann O'Nemity*

    One of my co-workers is going to be laid off in the next few weeks. I know about it because it will affect my work in some major ways and the department is already shifting things around in preparation. It’s really rough because I like my co-worker a lot – and she has no idea whatsoever that it’s coming. Sometimes I feel like I’m almost lying to her by not telling her what’s going on or why project roles are changing. I know I can’t tell her, but I really wish someone would. Anyone been in a similar situation and have some advice for getting through it?

    1. Jennifer*

      I think the general advice I’ve seen around here is that you absolutely can’t tell her for fear of your own job, period. If she doesn’t figure it out on her own, I just don’t think you can tell her. Sorry.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      I’ve never been in that situation, but it would be terrible. Jennifer is right though — you really can’t say anything to her because it could backfire and you could be in hot water.

    3. Squirrel!*

      Is there someone higher up who you could talk to about this? You could let them know how difficult it is for your day-to-day interactions with her because of this situation, and that you feel bad because of it. Definitely emphasis that you have no intention of telling her because they told you not to, but make sure to reiterate that it makes you feel bad, has a negative affect on the workplace, etc. You could even mention that it would look bad to the other employees because now they know if it ever happened to them, they would be left in the dark for weeks while their co-workers tried to go about their business. That doesn’t look good to anyone and won’t do anything for morale.

    4. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      This happens to me a lot because not only do I know things in advance about my own division (obviously) but I am usually looped into things company wide before they happen. I very often know the people, occasionally I know them quite well, and always, it makes me sick to my stomach. Sick when I see them, sick when I think about it.

      I keep my mouth shut and power through, being as normally friendly as I always am.

      The alternative would be not feeling sick to my stomach, and I never want to be that person so, power through.

  18. Elkay*

    I had a really good phone interview today. I’ve learnt so much from this site it’s definitely helped me with interviews. I dressed for the interview (right down to my shoes because it felt odd wearing interview clothes but no shoes) and went in with the attitude that the interview is as much for me as it is for them and decide whether or not I want the job. So another vote of thanks for Alison and this site!

    It helped that the interviewer was good too. He gave feedback during the interview which helped put me at ease.

    Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to accept the invitation to a second interview I’ve just got from them :)

    1. Chloe*

      I missed the word ‘phone’ in your first sentence and was seriously puzzled as to why you were contemplating going to the interview without shoes!! One word makes such a difference :-)

      Well done and good luck!

  19. HeyNonnyNonny*

    So in light of the woman whose desk was directly under the A/C vent, making her cold all the time, what’s your worst office layout peeve?

    In ours, the doors to the restrooms face each other, so if someone presses the door button, the door just stays open for a minute, giving everyone who uses the other restroom a good look inside (just of the sink/paper towel area, nothing too terrible). I’d just rather fix my hair and wash my hands in private…not to mention the smells and sounds that sometimes carry!

    1. Jennifer*

      Heh. I knew someone who got a job where her front desk was RIGHT next to the bathroom and she had to deal with open door and smells all the time. It was driving her nuts.

      1. Jamie*

        I worked in a place that had individual washrooms in the front office – and the microwave and fridge were in the men’s room. They’d go in there day after day and make lunch in their toilet, completely oblivious to how gross that is.

        Both bathrooms were within feet of the front desk. Talk about a wtf layout.

          1. Jamie*

            I don’t know – I was new to the workforce and they are closed now so I’m assuming they are microwaving their hot pockets in someone other men’s room somewhere else.

            And seriously – I was the only woman and the only one who had a problem with it so lots of teasing about how I was such a girl.

            Yeah, because not wanting to prepare food where people defecate is sooo feminine.

              1. Bea W*

                Unless it’s rabbits. Rabbits love to eat while pooping. It’s nature’s way. It goes in one end, comes out the other as “fertilizer”. That’s why it’s recommended to place hay at one end of the litterbox or a hay rack next to the litterbox. They will gladly eat and poop to their heart’s content.

                1. Squirrel!*

                  It’s actually a defense mechanism so that they can kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. They also need to eat some of their fecal matter (they have two kinds of poop) as part of their digestive cycle, so they want to stay near it to know where it is to consume it.

                2. Bea W*

                  The stuff they eat (cecal pellets) come hot right out of the oven so to speak. They don’t return later where they left it. They’ll go out grazing and pooping fecal pellets which are the hard round balls. Then a couple hours later when all snug in their hidey place, they’ll reach down and gobble up their pre-digested leftovers as it’s coming out. (Which is good because cecals are really stinky and hard to get off your toes!)

      2. Sascha*

        My office door faces the door to the women’s restroom. It’s not too bad (also I work from home 3 days a week) but it can make for some awkward eye contact.

      3. AnonyMouse*

        Yup, I worked in an office where the toilets were way too close to a few people’s desks. Not fun for anyone!

    2. AVP*

      Mine is that we’re in a very old building in a newly-hip neighborhood, so all these big companies have moved into the building over the last few years – but the building isn’t equipped for this many people! Based on elevator and stair space, we should have 10-15 people per floor, but now we’ve got like 70. So the wait for an elevator is growing, it breaks all the time, people are constantly bringing their bikes up the elevator and stairs and blocking everything up… its like an extra add-on to my commute. And weirdly we can hear ghost-voices and ghost-parties from other offices in the building, which is also new and kind of freaky the first few times.

      1. chewbecca*

        We have the same issue with the elevators. There are 3 for public use for a 10 floor building. Like you, they often don’t work or they’re too full. Lately, there’s been a lot of construction going on, so sometimes the construction people will take one elevator to use for themselves. It’s a mess.

        1. AVP*

          Argh! We have one for a 7-floor building. It’s ridiculous, especially if there’s someone moving in or out and commandeering it for themselves. And there’s no freight.

          1. MaryMary*

            Large buildings with no freight elevators are my pet peeve! I work in a 13 story building (plus basement) that includes a full service restaurant and a cafe on the first floor. There are four elevators, but none of them are freight. The cafe brings food deliveries in the front door, maintenance commandeers an elevator when they need it, and anytime there’s large scale work on the building we end up sharing the elevator with machinery. Drives me nuts

      2. HeyNonnyNonny*

        People with bikes on elevators = the worst, followed by people with bikes on the metro.

        However, the ghost-parties are intriguing…

        1. AVP*

          Heh. To be fair, we’re in Manhattan so you can’t leave a bike on the street, and there’s nowhere else in our building to put them expect to drag them up to your office. The metro people are the worst though.

          The ghost parties happen when other people in our building are doing something and we can mysteriously hear them through the walls or the vents. Really scary the first time that happened!

    3. Magda*

      I sit next to the office printer. Our workplace does almost everything online so it’s not a huge daily source of distractions. But, whenever the printer isn’t doing what it’s supposed to, invariably, the person always turns and looks at ME expectantly. Of course, if I’ve noticed other people having a particular issue, I’ll say so. If I see a way that I might be able to help, I’ll speak up. But otherwise, I’m trying to figure out how to say “The printer malfunctioning is news to me, too!” and “I have no more knowledge or experience with that printer than you do” in ways that don’t make me sound like a total not-my-job sourpuss.

      It still beats the time I was working as a receptionist, sitting at the first floor entrance, and people would stop by my desk and angrily demand to know why the second-floor printer wasn’t working. >_> Might’ve helped if someone had TOLD me so I could raise an IT ticket…

      1. Noah*

        The copier was right outside my first office. Everyone expected me to have mastered every function of the machine and be able to fix whatever was wrong with the thing. I sent out a not so nice email one day when I returned from lunch to find a note on my desk saying I needed to replace the toner. I was an analyst, not IT or admin and the copier was is no way associated with my job outside of my own use.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        @Magda – I sit by the water cooler so I get comments on it too. I’ve found the best way to deal with it is a slighty bitchy “ok…..?” while looking at them like they’re speaking Basque. They realize they shouldn’t be talking to me about it.

      3. Anonyby*

        IT doesn’t do anything with the printers/copiers/faxes in my company. Either the receptionist/administrator gets called to fix it, or if it’s beyond us, we outsource it to the company that get get them on “loan” from. Most of the time it’s not printing because it’s wanting to use the bypass tray (either someone somehow switched the settings to bypass, or it wasn’t exactly “letter” or “legal” sized), or it’s jammed.

    4. Ann Furthermore*

      My desk is in some sort of weird dead spot, and so my cell phone reception is terrible. I’m also pretty far away from a window. So if I need to send my husband a text during the day, I have to roll my chair out from my desk and hold my phone up towards the window to get a couple bars so the message will send. People sometimes walk by and see me doing this, and they must think I’m nuts.

      1. TL*

        Only one cell phone company has service in our building – which is in a big city, with good coverage and lots of technology everywhere. Except our building.

        At my last job, nobody got good service on campus – it was spotty at best – so this doesn’t bother me, but it bothers a lot of my coworkers.

        1. reader*

          Daughter was looking a college that actually let you know that a particular cell phone provider worked the best in their location.

        2. Bea W*

          It’s the special coated energy efficient glass. What my work did is install special thingamabobs to increase the signal of one provider (the one they use) in the building. Everyone else has to go walk out the door.

    5. Diet Coke Addict*

      My desk position is so weird. I have a cubicle where the door to the office opens in front of it, meaning that my cubicle opening is half-sized, and also people come into the office behind my back. I startle VERY easily and it never fails to make people laugh (for people read: my boss) that I jump when someone comes up behind me. I always have to keep one ear open in case someone is coming so I don’t jump like crazy.

      1. Squirrel!*

        As a joke—or possibly not—you should get one of those little motion detectors that make the “ding-dong” noise (like when you enter some retail shops) and put it somewhere where it can easily detect anyone coming into your cube. That way they can’t sneak up on you! :D

        1. HeyNonnyNonny*

          *stealing this idea for myself

          I have a huge pillar blocking half my cubicle entrance, so I almost always bump into people or startle when someone comes around it.

          1. Squirrel!*

            People also put mirrors up near their monitors so they can see who is behind them, that might help in both cases. Although you may want to put yours up in the hallway! ;)

    6. Felicia*

      There is a very bright light above where i sit that burns my eyes. But when you turn it off, a coworker in another area is in darkness. It makes more sense for her to get a desk lamp but it’s a big thing.

    7. BRR*

      The bathroom on our floor has a huge list of problems and out of the four bathrooms I’ve been in here the one on my floor is the only one for these things to happen.

      -They built an hvac thing too close to the stall door so when you open the stall door when you’re done it gets caught and stays open. It’s not hard to close, just most people don’t. It’s weird when you walk in and the stall door is wide open, it feels like you’re walking in on someone.
      -They only built one sink instead of two like every other bathroom.
      -They installed the faucet too far away from the sink so that when you wash your hands you’re practically pressing them against the side of the sink and then water gets everywhere.
      -They installed the paper towel dispenser too low over the trash can so you’re practically reaching your hands into the trash to pull the paper towel.

      Four bathrooms with the same design and my floor is the only one with these problems.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        Our sinks have the same sort of faucet problem…maybe there’s an industrial school of bathroom design where they all learn these terrible specs

        1. Artemesia*

          sign of a really crappy contractor. In our last house they put hanging rods in a closet that was 10 inches deep and shelves in a closet that was 3 feet deep; you wonder if these guys had ever seen a hangar or if they were just expressing how little of a @#$% they gave. I had a list two pages long that the contractor needed to fix before we closed. after they put in our bathroom electrical work backwards (so the safety switches never worked — I raised kids in a house where the bathrooms were poised to electrocute all of us and we didn’t know it) they probably moved on to install your plumbing and towel dispenser.

    8. chewbecca*

      Part of my job is to cover the front desk, which is in the lobby with the elevators. I’m completely separate from the rest of the office.

      It’s a double-edged sword because it’s quieter up here and there are fewer distractions, but I don’t sit anywhere near my team, so it’s hard to build relationships with them (we don’t do any team-building or staff development here). From what I’ve observed my department is actually fairly cliquey so at least I don’t have to deal with that.

      Oh, I also don’t have a view of any windows from where I sit, so that’s a drag.

    9. Ann O'Nemity*

      At my last job, I started just as the department moved into a brand new building. Unfortunately, the construction folks botched the stalls in the women’s restroom. The toilets were off-center in the stalls, presumably to leave room for gigantic toilet paper dispensers and feminine hygiene receptacle boxes on one side. EXCEPT those things were installed on the small side of the stall. It was impossible to sit on the toilet without your thigh brushing up against the receptacle box. Gross. Meanwhile, there was tons of open space on your other side.

      1. Windchime*

        We have a four-stall bathroom. One is the handicap stall, and the other three are not. Of the remaining three, two are normal sized and the other is so narrow that a normal-sized person can barely wiggle in and out of it. Both sides of the stall are practically touching the person who is sitting. It’s very strange.

        They also had to put in a small wall; otherwise, when the main bathroom door is open, the stalls would be visible to people in the main office area.

    10. Nancie*

      Our office was expanding into a recently vacated space. During remodeling, TPTB showed the floor plan to everyone whose desk was being relocated, and in order of seniority we got to pick our new cube. Two of us were looking forward to a prime spot with our cubes facing the window with the nicest view.

      The last week of construction, we found out that someone had flipped the floor plan: the best window was now going to have 6′ cube walls backing right up to it, and the window with the worst view would have cubes facing it.

      First world problems, I know. But it still makes me sad that the great view was needlessly wasted. Plus, the poor view is a southern exposure that raises the temp in the cubes facing it by at least 4 degrees F. The insulation from a cube wall might have actually been helpful there!

    11. matcha123*

      In my previous jobs, I was in an open office, but my computer screen was relatively hidden. Now, my screen is the first thing anyone will see when they come into the office.
      I am busy enough with my own work, but I need little mental breaks throughout the day. Luckily the comments section of this site isn’t filled with gifs and huge avatar pics!

    12. rek*

      At a previous job, I worked in a 16-story building covering most of a city block that had two (2!) stairways for emergency evacuation. Not particularly wide stairways, either. It took far longer than we would ever have had in a real emergency to get everyone out of the building. There were many, many things I like better about my current job, but one of them is the eight stairways for this 8-story building.

    13. Elizabeth West*

      At Exjob, I sat right in front of the foyer and every time people would open the doors in the winter, I froze to death. I had a heater but people would give me grief for wearing my coat. Sorry, but I could barely type!

      This building is way better, except it’s laid out with huge cube farms and lots of turning hallways and dead ends. It’s like a rabbit warren. I’ve been here since last January and I still have to be careful I don’t get lost and bump up against some area where I can’t get through the electronic access door, especially on the lower floors.

    14. Academic Adviser*

      Well my biggest pet peeve is that we have twice as many people as we do office spaces so everyone has to share, with a tiny partition in between. And we are an academic advising office, which means we have students sitting in our offices talking (often about confidential information) all day and it gets noisy.

      But the other thing I hate is that our front entrance is open to the public and we can’t close or lock it during off hours because we share with other offices. So even when we’re closed and I’m trying to answer emails or get paperwork done, students can just walk up to my door and try to ask questions.

      1. Mimmy*

        A friend of mine had a similar problem at a previous job–she was a social worker at a hospice unit at a hospital, and, IIRC, her setup wasn’t very conducive to confidential sessions.

    15. Eden*

      I guess this isn’t a peeve, exactly, but I really, really don’t like large communal bathrooms. I have to be at work so early that sometimes I can’t force nature to move* in time, and it turns out it’s super awkward to need to do something potentially smellable* when people you know are walking in and out. For years, I worked where there was a single-occupancy room, which also had its pitfalls, but I’d take that over this any day.
      *trying for nice euphemisms, which I know is redundant

  20. Bobotron*

    I’ve had a hard time finding a full-time job (and one that pays decent) in my field (libraries). Two months ago, I started a new job at a university as director of a small department. The pay sucks (I live in a LCOL area and the salary is $29,000/year – I have a master’s degree) but it’s more than I was making part-time and I know it looks good on my resume. Due to the salary and the fact that the work is not challenging, I’ve still been looking for other opportunities. I substitute at a library and just found out that they will soon be posting a full-time position. Pay would be about $10K more with a 15 minute longer commute.

    I can’t decide if it would be a good move or not. On one hand, more money and a job I know I would like – yay! On the other hand, I just finished reading The Confidence Code and it reminded me that before the job market crushed my spirits, I wanted to be in management/leadership positions. So, if that’s my goal, I’m wondering if the full-time library position would be a step backward for my career? I should also note that I am not set on staying in the library field – I’ve worked in libraries for the past 6+ years in some capacity but before that I worked in non-profits and owned my own business. I’ve also had prior management experience.

    It’s just hard because the amount I make now is depressing. And I feel like I’m worth so much more money, especially given my job responsibilities. I’m just thinking that if another management position comes up in say, 6 months, the job I have now will look better than “just” a librarian job. Thoughts?

    1. Red*

      $29k seems unbelievably low for a director position. I would follow the money–there is no reason that the new position couldn’t pave the way for another managerial role. (I mean, I’m an entry level numbers scrub with a MSA and I make $43k/yr with two years in this role. It’s a higher COL region, but our institution is notoriously parsimonious with salaries and raises (which are capped at no more than 3.75% merit/yr)). You are worth a higher salary!

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      Apply. Sounds like a good opportunity. Your current pay and job duties aren’t making you happy, and this sounds like a big improvement.

      1. Academic Librarian Anonymous*

        Just trying to understand- the director of the small department in the university is low paying and not a librarian job?

        You have opportunity for a a full time librarian job at a salary of $10,000 more.

        If it helps- I left a public librarian job (on a career track) for a school librarian job for almost the same salary because I liked the school librarian job’s institutional message. I was worried that I left a guaranteed path of promotion to be “just the school librarian” What I learned was that even though the previous “school librarian” did only that, I had many opportunities to learn and grow as well as take advantage of professional development opportunities offered by regional and national organizations like the American Library Association.

  21. K-Anon*

    AnonyMOOSE — I’ve done a few freelance gigs on the side of my FT job. A few notes. 10 hours a week is doable for me and maybe occasionally I could do 16. But sustaining more than 10 hours a week — you might want to aim for that and see how it works for you before trying to do more. There’s a big difference when you’re doing that on top of a FT week.

    Your freelance clients don’t necessarily need to know if you have an FT gig. They mostly need to know you’ll get the work done you say you will by the deadline, and that the work is done well. I had a longer-term freelance client at one point who knew from the beginning that I had an FT job. That helped manage their expectations in terms of my availability. (It became apparent pretty quickly that they were poorly-managed and I ended up having to “fire” them because they were just so crazy. They were my first freelance client and it was a valuable learning experience.)

    Learning to manage clients as a freelancer is a skill and it takes time, but starting by being clear about expectations for both of you, meet your end of the bargain, should get you off to a good start. I highly recommend The Freelancer’s Bible for getting set up and for tips on building a client base. Even if you’re not planning to freelance fulltime, it is very helpful — a good investment. There are also places like Editorial Freelancers Association that are rich with tips and resources for freelance writers and editors. Good luck!

  22. Skye*

    I need to cry on someone’s shoulder for a little bit. And maybe hire that person who did curses.

    We have to send a notice to every client in our database, all sixteen thousand of them, which was all well and good. Until my manager decided that the best and most reasonable solution would be to print the entire list and have me type up every single address.

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      My husband has a trick for work like this: Imagine a little man who comes by every hour/minute and puts the money that you’re earning on your desk.

      That little man has gotten me through a lot of tedious hours!

      1. LBK*

        I was going to suggest something similar – whenever I’m stuck doing a really stupid and tedious task, I remind myself “Someone is paying me a ridiculous amount of money for such simple work right now. Just enjoy it.”

    2. Eliza Jane*

      Wait wait what do you — wait WHAT?

      That is CRAZYLAND. There are at least 30 better ways to handle this, one of which might just be setting fire to the server and pretending it never existed.

      1. LBK*

        I’m reminded of the commenter who lit some documents on fire on the side of the road because she didn’t know how to file them and she didn’t want to tell her managers.

      1. Dasha*

        Thought… can you scan the list he gave you then if you have Adobe PDF can you save as a Microsoft Word document? Then you could just copy and paste. It does depend on which Adobe you have though… you need Pro. Just a crazy idea.

        1. Skye*

          I could scan it; my job normally consists of just scanning our files so we can shred our physical copies. We don’t have Pro though, and it took me three months to realize every time my manager asks if I could “just” add these other files to the “end” of what I’ve scanned, she does not have some demonic expectation for me to edit the pdf file while only having access to a pdf reader.

    3. Lizabeth*

      There’s has got to be a way to pull the email address out of your database in a file that can be used for a mass email. What does your IT dept say?

      Love the little man idea with this: imagine the pile of money getting higher as well.

      1. Jamie*

        The info is in the database so there’s a way. Bring IT some brownies (or scrambled eggs because I’m starving) and have them export it for you into excel.

        Tell the boss you typed it all by hand and look, exactly as it is in the system! You’re very fast. Then tell your boss you are transcribing all the paper documents in your office by chiseling them on stone tablets. He seems like he’d like that considering his love for useless busywork and archaic methods.

        1. Judy*

          Yep, this. Beg, borrow or steal an electronic copy and do it the right way. Let your boss think you’ve typed it in.

          1. Elysian*

            Worst case scenario, you may be able to scan his print out and id the text. Then copy and paste it into excel and proceed with mail merge. Obviously getting the electronic original is better, but… man. There are lots of options besides just typing it in!

            1. Bea W*

              I did exactly that 14 years when my boss handed me some long printouts and had no electronic source to work with. Scanned the 100s of pages and ran an OCR program. It needed some clean-up but it was way easier than typing in all the entries by hand.

        2. A Non*

          Yes, exactly this. IT will be sympathetic. (If they’re not, cookies will generally get you what you want. If that doesn’t work, booze.)

        3. Bea W*

          People payed me in Dr. Pepper (not kidding, people would hand me a six pack of DP at work for fixing their things), which unfortunately I can’t enjoy so much anymore because of the caffeine, but I also accept cake and pastry and promises of such in the future.

        4. Skye*

          If going to IT didn’t also mean going through my manager, I’d have already done this. We usually don’t get IT support unless we have an actual problem. This… assignment… doesn’t count. Because the computers are still working and the database isn’t corrupted. My manager isn’t hugely computer savvy so I don’t think the idea to export – assuming we can export without fiddling with drivers – even occurred to her. (And I’ll admit, the sheer ridiculousness of this drove very idea that exporting is even a thing from my head entirely until recently.)

          Jamie, I’d make you brownies (or eggs) but I fear they’ll be moldy by the time they reach you. So I will have to make a grand sacrifice and eat them for you.

    4. Sharon*

      Agree this is a special level of crazy. Here is how I’d handle it if it was me (and without knowing your boss or company culture, so YMMV):

      1. Nicely and politely take boss’s printed list and set it on my desk.
      2. Ask whoever he got the list from to send it to you in csv or tab delimited format, whichever they prefer.
      3. Import list into Excel and massage as needed to make it work with Word’s mail merge functionality.
      4. Use MS Word to mail merge it into the letters and envelopes.
      5. Present completed stack of ready-to-mail letters to boss. (Don’t mention that the list is still on your desk untouched and unlooked-at. That’s an unnecessary level of detail.)

      1. Sadsack*

        This, definitely. There’s no way I would be given that project and not find a better way.

        Would it be a bad idea to tell the boss how you went about completing the task so fast if he asks? I would tell him, “Oh, I realized after we spoke that I could do it this way instead.” Why would he care how you accomplish it as long as you get it done?

      2. Katie the Fed*

        Somewhere between #4 and #5 – screw around to burn lots of time so boss thinks you put a lot of time into it, since he clearly doesn’t value your time.

      3. Manager Anonymous*

        This! Everything else is on a “need to know ” basis and your manager doesn’t need to know.

      4. Skye*

        I *think* we can get the list in csv format. Maybe? We updated our program in the last year so I think we’ve got the version that can export nicely without fiddling with drivers.

        If I can just get it into openoffic’s calc then everything will be right with the world and I can stop wishing for a plague of fire ants to infest my manager’s lawn.

    5. Ann Furthermore*

      OMG. Just, OMG. Can you extract the addresses and do some sort of mail/merge? If I had access I would just do it without even saying anything to your boss.

    6. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Ugh. Sometimes it’s not worth it to battle the crazy, in which case I second HeyNonnyNonny’s advice. If this is going to get you yelled at for not accomplishing other tasks or is otherwise a real issue for you, can you quickly do a few pages of mail merge and show them to your manager, and then say something like hey, are these OK, because I can do these much more quickly!

    7. Elkay*

      Who to the what now?! He’s printed the list, that must have come from somewhere. Have you asked him for a soft copy?

        1. Skye*

          Almost! We do have to fold the invoices/notices/whatever we’re mailing (our folding machine likes to chew up paper) and stuff the envelopes ourselves.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I have no idea what a reasonable number would be so let’s use make-believe numbers.
      Suppose you typed 200 addresses per hour. This is slightly more than 3 per minute. And this assumes you are able to sustain that 200/hour rate. 16k addresses will take you 80 hours to type.
      Two weeks.

      Ask the boss when he wants this done.

    9. Apollo Warbucks*

      You could talk nicely to the people who look after the system they could give you a list of all the addresses in pretty much ant format you want.

      I deal with these requests for data all the time and it’s really easy to do.

    10. Skye*

      Thanks everyone. I needed some reassurance that this was, indeed, ridiculous and I had not woken up in Bizarro World.

      We do actually need the notices out soonest, so at least I’ll have that on my side come Monday when I get to try to talk my manager into exporting the data. (And shredding all 400+ pages of the printout will be very satisfying.) At worst – if this is the worst database program thingy of all time and it just cannot be exported in any usable format – it’ll only take about 13 more days of non-stop typing.

  23. C Average*

    Had an interview yesterday for a lateral move in my department that would get me out of my current job (which has never been a great fit for a lot of reasons) and back into something I’ve done really well in the past. I hope it works out.

    Didn’t get an interview for the really awesome job I’d been pursuing outside of my department. They were supposed to schedule interviews late last week/early this week, and I never got a call. The hiring manager for the job, whom I’ve known for a long time, asked me to have a specific colleague (not my manager, but someone who oversees quite a bit of my day-to-day work) write a brief note in support of my application. I got an email from this colleague this morning telling me he had only just sent the note now because it’s been a busy couple of weeks for him. I’m disappointed that he didn’t act sooner; a note of support from him could’ve made a real difference and might have gotten me an interview.

    Good luck to all the rest of you out there who are pursuing new jobs. We’re gonna get there.

    1. ACA*

      Good luck to all the rest of you out there who are pursuing new jobs. We’re gonna get there.

      Oh, I needed this today. Thanks.

    2. Elkay*

      They may still schedule you as you’re internal. Surely an internal interview of an hour is easier to fit in than an external one? Keeping my fingers crossed for you.

      1. C Average*

        Thanks! If it happens, it’ll be an awesome surprise at this point, because I’ve definitely written it off as a possibility.

    3. Fact & Fiction*

      Good luck! I know the right job will come along for you at the right time. *crosses fingers for extra luck*

  24. Chloe*

    Any advice on what to do when you don’t have anyone you can use as a reference? The person I was using is having a high risk pregnancy and can’t act as my reference anymore, but I have no one else I can ask and I’m worried it will stop me getting a new job.

    1. fposte*

      Was there anyone else at that workplace? Is this recent enough that you can use teachers/professors (not great, but better than nothing)? You’ll be at a disadvantage if you genuinely have no one who can speak to your work ability.

    2. Red*

      I’d actually be interested in this as well. My previous manager unfortunately passed away, and our mutual employer has a policy against giving references. Everyone else is from my university days, and that work experience is no longer particularly relevant, even if I had done a better job of keeping up with them. (I am not sociable, which is in my opinion my biggest flaw.)

      1. CAA*

        The policy against giving references only applies to current employees. So the trick is to find former employees who knew you while you were there. It’s best if there was some sort of management relationship to you — your manager’s manager; manager of a dept you worked closely with; etc — but even a former coworker would be better than nobody.

        Also, get on LinkedIn and connect to everyone you know from all your past jobs, even the college ones, and even if you haven’t spoken to these people in a few years. It’s ok, really. People do this all the time.

    3. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Can she write up a letter of reference before she goes on leave? I know most hiring managers would rather call and talk to a person, but maybe she could at least lay out what she would say in a call.

  25. LBK*

    How on earth do you get into consulting? My friend suggested it as a next career step since flexibility in my work life is extremely important to me, but I know virtually nothing about it.

    1. Kai*

      I think networking is the big ticket here. You start small, maybe help out a friend or colleague with a project in your area, and slowwwwwwly build a client base.

    2. MaryMary*

      Consulting is a VERY broad term, and in my opinion consultant is overused as a job title (I passed a strip mall tanning salon this week who was hiring “consultants”). What is your area of expertise?

  26. Tigress*

    Could anyone here give me his/her thoughts on benefits/disadvantages of getting a PhD in Communication? I’m in a masters program in strategic communication right now and I am really enjoying doing research. There’s so much I want to study! If I still feel this way after graduating, would you recommend I pursue a PhD? I know a PhD in Communication probably sounds a bit like overkill – but at the same time, strategic communication is developing so fast right now with new media and social networks, etc., and I feel there are so many aspects of this that employers out there would like to hire an expert in. At my old job, my former boss wanted to “master” PR/marketing communication tactics online, but it’s such a new field that A lot of people is mostly learning as they go. Thoughts?

    1. AVP*

      Hmm…can you tell us a little more about how you would want to use it? And would the program be funded or something you have to pay for?

      To be honest, when I think of an “expert” in new styles of communication, a PhD is the last person I think of. Mostly because unless you want to work in academia, communications is a heavily experience-based field, as you point out – would you actually be able to learn about real-world problems and solutions by studying it, or would you be removing yourself from the realities of the type of job that you want?

      1. TL*

        Mainly because when you think of “People good at communicating” the last group you’re ever going to consider is academia. :)

    2. ACA*

      I work with outgoing PhD students and from what I’ve seen of the career stats, PhDs from our Communications school seem to have one of the highest rates of employment upon graduation. And let me tell you, the dissertations I’ve seen from them are fascinating: The changing use of advertising in political campaigns! Adultery in the internet age! A behind-the-scenes case study of reality tv production! It’s great.

    3. The IT Manager*

      I suggest you think about what you want to do after you get the PhD. The PhD program only lasts a few years where you get to enjoy doing the research, you need to have a plan for after graduation.

      1. TL*

        If the OP is one of the lucky few, she could end up with a job doing research as a Ph.D for the rest of her life. Which it sounds like might be something she’s interested in.

    4. CTO*

      If most “experts” in the field seem to have gotten there by learning as they go, are you sure employers would be willing to pay a premium for having learned in school instead? I don’t know much about communications, but I’d take a good look at the job market first to make sure a PhD is in demand and appropriately compensated in your field. PhDs require so much time and money that I think it’s always important for people to have a specific, realistic, and well-researched plan for what they’ll do with their degree.

    5. Not A Sales Rep*

      @Tigress — I earned my MA in Communication back in 2012 and shortly after landed an awesome job in in-house healthcare/corporate communications. Based on my experience, I think the answer to your question depends on a few factors: 1) What do you want to do with your PhD — teach, research, consult, “practice” communications either in-house or at an agency? 2) How much work experience in the comm. field did you have before returning for your MA? 3) piggy-backing on CTO’s comment – what are your salary expectations as a PhD vs. a Master’s degree holder? In my industry, there would likely be no interest in hiring or paying for a Comm. PhD — an advanced degree simply isn’t an advantage when it comes to real world communications practice in our space. Even our best external consultants and communication advisors don’t have PhDs. What they do have is decades of experience as practitioners: communication street cred. On the rough days at work, I ponder going back for the PhD, but I would only do so if 1) I already had a research question nailed down, 2) I was okay with having essentially no income for 4-5 years — at least, relative to my current salary, and 3) I planned to consult or teach after. I know that if I want to remain a practitioner, the best place for me to stay is right here, out in the field, and I’d say the same thing to almost anyone who is interested in working as a communications professional.

      1. Tigress*

        Oh my goodness! I posted my comment, refreshed the page and realized there were a gazillion other comments ahead of mine and didn’t think anyone would look this far down the thread. And now I checked back in and realized I received some really thoughtful helpful advice. Thank you, everyone! I am definitely going to take all of this into consideration. Thank you all for taking the time!

  27. Anonforthis*

    Unfortunately I have been given the heads up that I will likely be laid off in a few (short) weeks. I’ve read Allison’s articles on what do when you get laid off – in the meeting and after. But what I’d like to know is what do I need to do before the day comes? I’ve backed up all my files, taken home as many personal things as I can, schedules all my doctors appointments for the near future – but I still feel like I’m missing things that I should be taking care of now. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Kate*

      – Start collecting names/contact info for anyone you want to stay in touch with outside of the office or need references for.

      – Start collecting job descriptions for help in updating your resume.

    2. Colette*

      Look at your finances. Identify what changes you can make to reduce your living costs, and figure out at what point you’ll make them. Figure out whether you qualify for UI, how much you can expect, and when you should start getting it.

    3. ACA*

      Find out if you can cash out your unused vacation time/PTO, and if so, whether you need to to initiate that process (and how to do so) or if it’s added to your final paycheck automatically.

      1. De Minimis*

        If there are any documents you may need that are done electronically [pay stubs maybe] print them out now and take them home.

        1. Anonforthis*

          Thank you all for your thoughts – I’m hoping to have my ducks all in a row so that this goes as best as it can. Do you think it would be worth it to try to get copies of my performance reviews?

          1. CTO*

            It might be nice to have (I always keep mine), but more so for your own records than for future employers to see. If for some reason you can’t get a reference from your current employer down the road (like they close, your manager is unreachable, etc.), a new employer might accept performance reviews instead.

          2. Agile Phalanges*

            Yes! I asked HR for my whole personnel file, and copied things I thought would be relevant. Trainings I’ve attended, performance reviews. It’s amazing the stuff I did 10+ years ago that I’ve since completely forgotten about, but would be good examples to use in interviews, etc.

    4. CTO*

      I’m sorry to hear about your layoff. I had several months’ notice of my layoff this summer and here are some of the things I did:

      Looked into my health insurance options (spouse’s plan, COBRA, healthcare exchange)
      Let people know that I’ll be looking for a new job, updated my LinkedIn profile, etc. etc.
      Strategized with my boss about how to communicate my departure to my clients
      Documented my accomplishments and collected some of my best files/examples of my work to take with me
      Trained coworkers in the parts of my job that they would be taking over and documented other aspects for my boss and team
      Figure out HR things, like when your benefits end, etc.

      It’s obviously tough to be super motivated, happy, and productive every day until your layoff date. Cut yourself a bit of slack, but also do your best to keep being a solid contributor with a reasonably positive attitude as long as there’s work to be done.

      (And yes, I did land another great job and scored a 60% raise to boot. Good luck to you!)

    5. HR Manager*

      In addition to what’s been stated, find out how to file for unemployment in your state. Even if you magically find a fantastic job opening soon, unemployment is a good safety net, and various states have varying degrees of difficulty in getting that initiated.

      I know it’s a bummer to get this news, but don’t jump the gun until you learn more about any package info (severance? subsidized benefits for a time?), unless you know for certain there is no package.

      1. danr*

        And, if you get a severance package release, don’t sign it that day. Tell HR that you’d like to take it home and read it over. They expect that. If there’s anything in it that appears odd, it’s okay to ask a lawyer about it. Or, ask HR questions. Then sign it, and initial each page. Make a copy and ask HR to return a signed and initialed copy to you.

  28. GrumpyBoss*

    I would love to hear everyone’s strangest feedback they’ve ever received.

    We get feedback we don’t want to hear but when we consider it, we realized that we needed to hear it. We get feedback that we disagree with and, ultimately, decide to ignore. But now and then, you get that piece if constructive criticism that just makes you think, “why on earth would you say that? What am I supposed to do with that?”

    I got one of those earlier this week and it’s annoyed me, which is why I decided to start this thread. I had to let an employee go on Monday. I asked my boss to sit in on this one. As far as the act, I think it went as well as it could’ve, given the circumstances. Later, I was given this unsolicited gem from my boss. “When you give bad news, it sounds like you are from the Midwest. It was distracting to me. So next time, try not to sound like you are from Chicago”

    WTF. That may be one of the most useless pieces of advice I ever received.

    Also, FWIW, I don’t even have a Chicago accent.

    1. The LeGal*

      What in the world was that advice?! When I worked in my college job, the owner told me that he liked my personality better after I had been drinking. He asked me if I could act like that at work. Ummm, so take a shot of tequilla in the back room? Glad I did not take that advice. I’d be an alcoholic now!

      1. Just Visiting*

        At a previous job, the manager saw me outside of work with my husband. She didn’t say hello, just sorta creeped me, I guess. Sometime the next week she said that she saw me out with him and said “you were so happy and lit up and I want to see you act that way at work.” I was pretty weirded out, both that she was creeping on us and also because hello, you’re not my spouse and this is work, not something I want to be doing.

    2. C Average*

      I was once told that if I wanted to be a viable candidate for a type of work in which I’d expressed an interest, I needed to develop “a little more swagger.”

    3. LBK*

      The only thing I can think of is that you shifted into a different tone of voice or manner of speaking because you knew you had to stay focused and serious during the firing. I do that sometimes without realizing it – I put on an unnatural voice because the situation has be very focused on what I’m saying. Maybe that’s what happened, and the boss was just trying to tell you to relax a little and not sound forced/awkward/fake? I don’t know how that translates to Midwestern, but it’s the only thing I can come up with.

      1. Christine*

        I slip into my mother’s New York accent when I am giving someone a stern lecture, if I don’t watch it.

    4. Eliza Jane*

      I was once in a phone screen where the person interviewing me said, “I don’t understand how you can know absolutely nothing about anything but still be intelligent.”

      They asked me to come in for an in-person interview, so I guess it was… something? It was pretty useless.

        1. Eliza Jane*

          No. It didn’t. It was supposed to be a 20-minute phone screen, and it ran an hour and 15 minutes. He would ask me an interview question, and I’d have no idea what he meant. Then he’d make a comment/side question, and I’d talk with him about how my work related. And then he’d ask another question, and I’d have no idea what he meant.

          But he seemed to really enjoy talking with me (seriously, 375% time overrun) and find my ideas and thinking and work fascinating. I just failed to answer literally any of his technical interview questions.

          I tend to blame the questions more than myself. I actually did go to the interview, which I treated as interview practice. They were very in love with the idea of themselves as cutting edge and awesomely geeky-techy. I was asked about how often I read SlashDot, how I kept abreast of new paradigms, and so forth. So I think they just wanted someone who breathed jargon.

    5. Dasha*

      When I left my first career job (post-college) to move onward to advance my career to the next step, on my last day my boss (who had been an awesome boss and from what I knew very nice man) shook my hand, thanked me for all my work, and told me not to worry if things didn’t work out I was pretty and could always marry rich!! He was dead serious.

      I just laughed and thanked him but it was so friggin’ weird.

    6. Jamie*

      Apparently your boss doesn’t know you are using the patented soothing midwest vocal technique which is proven to help people accept bad news better.

      Most useless advice wasn’t work related, but I got my full height at 12 or so and my dad looked me up and down one day and said, “you’re tall enough now, for a girl. You really shouldn’t grow anymore.”

      Thanks, Dad. He probably took the fact that I had already reached my towering height of 5’7″ and didn’t grow any more as a rare act of obedience.

      At work the closest I have is being told I need to be more approachable understress, but still need to be a bitch to get things done. Approachable bitch, got it.

      1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

        Oh I can relate to a height crazed father. I am the shortest person in my family. Shorter than all of my grandparents etc. When I was growing up this very much bothered my 6 foot tall dad, who was oddly proud of the heights of my 6’5″ half-brother and 5’8″ half-sister.

        Well into my teens he insisted on measuring me against the doorjam like a little kid. When I continued to be 5’1″ every time he kept telling me “don’t worry, you’ll grow,” which annoyed me to no end, because I never had a problem being short because it meant I could date all the cute short boys (gymnasts etc.).

        Unfortunately for me, he was right. I grew an inch and a half at the age of 25.

      2. Natalie*

        Approachable Bitch will be my new band name. Or commenting name. Or something, I need to use this somewhere.

    7. JMegan*

      Whaaa? That’s really odd.

      I once had a manager tell me that I was an excellent waitress (not true), but that my hair was “a little out of control.” That part was true, but what exactly was I supposed to do about it? Did he think I didn’t know that my hair was out of control? Or that the only thing standing between me and good hair was his feedback?

      All I wanted to say was “Gee, thanks boss! My hair has been out of control my entire life, but now that you have pointed it out, I definitely know exactly how to fix it!”

    8. matcha123*

      I was told by my old supervisor, who is Japanese and only 3 years older than myself, that foreigners aren’t serious about working and most of them are only in the country for a short time to play and go home. This was when I was trying to figure out why I wasn’t getting permanent status despite going above and beyond. He followed that up by saying that I’d need to speak in Japanese if I wanted the position…despite the fact I only talked with him in Japanese, had my interview in Japanese, passed the highest level Japanese test there is AND did Japanese to English translation for the company!

    9. Mints*

      Oh this is a great thread

      I was told at this job, “I know you’re doing X, but please make sure you’re doing X.” X was a specific formatting for the calendar. I still don’t know if that was supposed to be praise (thanks for keeping up with this arbitrary formatting, keep it up!) or a correction (I know you’re mostly doing this formating, but you missed one yesterday). I didn’t respond to that email

    10. MisterPickle*

      I’ve got some feedback for your boss: “Boss, sometimes you say stuff that makes absolutely no sense.”

      (I was born and raised in the midwest and have spent a lot of time in Chicago and I have no idea what he might be getting at).

      1. Jamie*

        Just jealous of our dulcet tones and eloquent turns of phrase. Not everyone can be from the midwest and they can’t hide their jealousy. They deserve pity rather than anger.

        I don’t have an accent of any kind, but when I lived on the west coast many years ago I had a stalemate with the landlord when telling him we needed a “gratchky.” He was baffled and had no idea what I needed. After a few go rounds he I pointed to the garage and explained we had the electric opener but no key to get in the side door.

        Ohhh…a GARAGE KEY…which is exactly what I had been saying. Not my fault if people hear too slow.

        1. GrumpyBoss*

          I grew up all over the Midwest, so probably do have a Midwestern accent but nothing dominant. I do have some Midwestern-isms that are really irritating to some, like my insistence on saying “pop” instead of “soda”.

          But, ironically, my boss who gave the feedback is from Boston and uses “wicked” in every other sentence, so he’s one to talk. Can you imagine? “You are wicked bad at this job so we have decided to fire you”.

          1. A Teacher*

            I grew up outside of Chicago (aka North of 80) and now live South of 80, yesterday a co-worker got annoyed and then at dinner the sales guy got annoyed because I said I wanted a “pop.” I said “oh yeah, you people say soda or something don’t you?” So even in Illinois it depends on where you live.

          2. Bea W*

            Did you try saying someting like “Hey boss, you have to try this wicked good pop I found at the store!”

            1. GrumpyBoss*

              I’ve lived in Wisconsin too, so I’d have to figure out how to work in “water bubbler” into that sentence.

              I’ll admit, I use bubbler not out of habit, but because it amuses me.

              1. Bea W*

                I use “bubblah” because “water fountain” just sounds wrong. Is that even the right word? Water fountain? Drinking fountain? Screw that. Where’s the bubblah? I’m wicked thirsty.

          3. MisterPickle*

            On reflection – and I know I shouldn’t let this bug me that much – all I can think is that maybe he was making some kind of reference to Rob Blagojevich or something about Chicago politics?

            1. GrumpyBoss*

              Oooh, you may be onto something there. He usually isn’t so obtuse, but I’d prefer to think that he meant something like this rather than a knock on an accent.

              Yet another reason why I love this place.

              1. Kelly L.*

                I wondered if it was something like the stereotype of “Midwestern nice.” Like, he thought you were too kind about it or something.

    11. Maxwell Edison*

      In my last review, I was told that when I walk around in the halls I “look up at the ceiling” and this is apparently a very horrible and disrespectful thing to do.

      So now when I go to the bathroom or to the printer I pretend I am balancing a book on my head.

      Yes, I am looking for another job.

      1. Jamie*

        So this isn’t even when you’re talking to people, just walking? Why do they are? I look at my feet…it’s not because I’m shy, it’s because I don’t want to have to talk to anyone unless I have to and I have cute shoes.

        I had this issue as a child, looking up at the ceiling, but when speaking to people and it was a years long process to train me to at least pretend to look people in the eye. Here’s a secret, unless I’m in love with you or gave birth to you, or I am so pissed my direct gaze is burning into your very soul… I’m really looking at your eyebrows – I don’t do direct eye contact casually.

        1. Maxwell Edison*

          I have no idea why anyone would care. To me, eye contact means “I want to talk to you” but if I’m heading to the bathroom or the printer I don’t want to talk to anyone.

          I honestly think this is some kind of half-assed strategy on the part of my manager to force me out at next review time. I am no longer a good fit for this position (and we both know it), and I am only staying until January or I get a better offer. So I just have another few months of pretending to balance a book on my head…

          1. MisterPickle*

            It probably wouldn’t help, but I’d be tempted to quip “well, some people prefer to look downward – I prefer to look up” or words to that effect.

    12. Cath in Canada*

      “I think you’ll do well, despite your accent” – PhD supervisor, after several beers one Christmas! It was tough being English in a Scottish lab sometimes…

      “You’re one of those people who’s just part of the furniture, from their first week onwards” – I’ve heard versions of this from colleagues at three different jobs. I choose to interpret it as a good thing.

      1. Jamie*

        Yeah – I got one of those once and I also chose to interpret it as a good thing.

        Upon hire: “You’ll know you’re doing a good job when I forget I have an IT department.” Boded well for being able to work autonomously and I was not wrong.

    13. Who are you?*

      I worked in a retail shop for several years. Our uniform was a black polo shirt and black jeans. I had a district manager tell me that my breasts were distracting. Um…what? I’ll admit that I am pretty stacked but everything was covered up with no more skin than the top button of a man’s polo shirt would expose. (Not even enough to show my necklace). On top of this, my DM was a female and she was staring at my chest the whole time she was talking. I honestly didn’t know what to do with her comment beyond crossing my arms.

      1. Jamie*

        Kind of work related since I came across this at an old workplace, but in my former life I worked in disbursements in the finance department of a college. We processed financial aid and grants for students all day long – (nationwide school – home office did everyone) so came across a lot of names in the course of the day. Two stuck with me all these years:

        1. Velvety (female first name)
        2. Prettiest Common last name which is also a common slang term for penis. (male)

        Who DOES that to their children and why oh why upon turning 18 is not your first order of business to get to the courthouse and change this? When I first saw “Prettiest” I assumed it was a woman and my snarky thought was “with that name she’d better be or that’s a life time of merciless mocking.” When I saw the whole thing and that it was a man I was speechless.

        If I saw this anywhere else I’d assume urban legend or stage name or whatnot – but it was on official financial documents and school registration so…

        Anyway – tldr – maybe he had worked with this woman and he wanted you to be more like her?

        1. Agile Phalanges*

          Oh, man. I haven’t even been exposed to as many names as you have, but kept a list over the 12+ years at my last company.
          Cinnamon Normallastname
          Chesty Somethingorother
          Fantasy Normallastname (in fact, she shared this common last name with my boyfriend at the time, so I gave him a hard time about being related to her)

          I agree–even if your parents were so cruel as to give you those names, wouldn’t you change them the second you turned 18? These were all gleaned from vendors’ e-mail signatures, or extended phone conversations or such, not just heard once (and potentially misheard). How do you even keep a straight face when doing business with Chesty?

          1. GrumpyBoss*

            I knew a chesty. He was the most macho man I ever met (nice way of saying over the top bully). Probably learned at an early age to defend himself with a name like that.

    14. kdizzle*

      “We all appreciate your ‘outside the box’ ideas…but we’re not building a Rube Goldberg machine.”

      Ouch. That one was at my first job; I was so excited and ready to save the world. I stopped speaking in meetings for quite a little while after that.

    15. MaryMary*

      At OldJob, I was assigned to a new set of clients and started working with a new team. Another manager told my manager that his direct reports had said I was unapproachable. Nice, but unapproachable. Both my manager and I were uncertain what to do with this feedback. You can hardly go up to someone and say, “I hear you think I’m unapproachable!”

      Finally, we figured out that the woman who I replaced had been best friends (like since kindergarten) with one of the women on my team, and had worked with one of the others for over five years. It wasn’t that I was unapproachable, it was that I wasn’t Sara. We just needed time to build our own relationship.

    16. QualityControlFreak*

      I was working for a big international corporation on a local government contract. The government people I interfaced with and supported were not in my direct chain of command; for me, that was corporate. They were our customers, as well as our teammates, but they had their own hierarchy. And internal politics.

      My boss came to see me and said one of our government customers had commented on how efficient I was in X work process. And asked if I could be a little less efficient. Our civil service counterparts had more levels of review and approval on their end, and my deliverables were ready before they were prepared to take action on them.

      I took a breath and said, “okay, so just what level of inefficiency am I shooting for here?” We agreed on a week. I’d put together the package and set it aside for a week before forwarding it to my government colleagues.

      That was the weirdest.

    17. Victoria, Please*

      A couple of times I’ve been told, “someone said you said X.” I respond, “No, I said z.” “Well, you need to be careful how people understand you. Don’t say things they don’t understand.” Hmmmm.

  29. Natalie*

    I get a free day off because our server crapped out. And it’s payday!

    It’s amazing how server-dependent my job has become. For an hour or so we couldn’t even use the phone, although that part has since been restored.

    1. Jamie*

      My prayers are with your IT department…one person’s free day off is another person’s day in hell. :)

      Enjoy the day – I’d wish the same thing here, but the servers going down never means less for for me. Just less stomach lining and a few more years off the end of my life.

    2. RB*

      I came into the office on Tuesday morning to find that our servers were down! Luckily I had a book in my bag. Probably not the best look when my boss came in to find me reading with my feet up on my desk, but he was cool with it once I explained what was going on. He was going to send the team home if we weren’t back online by 11 (at that point I would have been there for 4 hours), but everything was back online by 10:45. So close…

      1. Natalie*

        I made the two non-internet tasks I had (phone calls) and then made appointments and paid bills for a couple of hours before I gave up. I had a book, but honestly I wanted to use the time to do other chores at home and I have an enormous pile of vacation… no harm, no foul IMO.

  30. Emm Jay*

    I’d like to make a change. I’ve done my resume (had it reviewed by Allison), and it kicks major rear end. Now, I got to apply for jobs. But something’s stopping me. I know that it’s time to leave my current job (layoffs, non-market salary, and promotion) that I’ve had for 10 years. Yet, every time I think about applying, I just don’t do it.
    How did you push yourself to apply for a new job, and make the eventual change?
    Also, it’s been 10 years since I’ve looked for work. Other than networking and LinkedIn, what tips do have for finding a new job?

    1. JMegan*

      I’m the same way. I don’t really know how to get out of it, tbh – all I’m really doing is reminding myself that I need to get out of CurrentJob, and the only way to do that is to get those resumes out the door, whether I’m in the mood to or not.

      One thing I do, besides keeping track of all the jobs I have applied to, is I also keep track of the jobs I *didn’t* apply to. Not all of them, of course! But jobs that are in my field, at the appropriate level for me – jobs that I could reasonably have applied to but didn’t. Sometimes it’s for a legit reason, like the salary is too low or the commute is too long, but there are a handful where the only reason is that I just didn’t get around to it. It’s weird, but it’s kind of an anti-demotivator for me – seeing my “I just didn’t do it” list there in black and white is a useful (if depressing) reminder that there are jobs out there if only I can get my act together and apply for them.

      Good luck, I know it’s not easy.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      To push myself- I tell myself that I will find something better in x, y, z areas.
      I think you do have to read a few listings to get a feel for what is out there. So from time to time, I give myself permission to coast for a day, just read and absorb.

      But mostly, I think promise yourself that you are going towards something that is better, more interesting, etc. It’s really easy to fall into the pit of the devil you know, is better than the one you don’t know. Avoid that pit, that’s an illusion that makes you believe there is nothing better out there. But it’s just an illusion. You can find something that you will be excited about.

    3. Agile Phalanges*

      Ugh. I can sympathize, but am not the best person to give advice on this topic. I kept considering leaving my job I had for over 12 years, and finally found the motivation to start looking when I was given six months notice of my layoff. Sorry!

      Maybe tell yourself you’ll apply for one job a week (or do one job-related task a week, if you want networking to count), and you can’t do [some reward] until you do. That’s what I usually do when I have something unpleasant to tackle, anyway.

    4. danr*

      Google is your friend… Search for the field that you’re in and ‘jobs’ or ‘position’. See what comes up and decide if it’s useful or not. Many college placement job boards are online these days, so see what you can find. If there are companies that you think you’d like to work for, search for the websites and find the jobs or careers listings. Google can help there too. Save all links offline in a document with commentary, as well as bookmarking them in your browser. The document tells you where you’ve been and where you’re going.

  31. Jill*

    What can you do when you can’t stall one job offer long enough to see if you get the one you are holding out for? I just got offered a job that I’m not as keen on, but my final interview for the job I really want to take is not for another 10 days and I know I can’t keep the first company waiting that long. The second job is better paying, less of a commute, and more family friendly by having a child care facility on site. I really want it. But if I turn down the job I got offered and don’t get this one, then I am left with no job. I really don’t want to be left with no job, but I don’t want to be stuck with the first one if I get offered the second.

    1. BRR*

      There’s not much you can do. You might consider contacting the second job and say you have a pending offer and see if they’ll push up the interview but I feel like that might be a stretch.

    2. Marie*

      I know someone will disagree with me, but sometimes you have to do what is best for YOU (and your family) not other people because the people who hired you won’t be the ones at your deathbed, the ones who need help to get through college or make you smile at Thanksgiving dinner. If the other job you’re waiting on is better for your and your family, then you should take it if you get it and back out of the first without hesitation or guilt.

      1. BRR*

        I’m one of those people who disagree with you. I couldn’t in good conscience accept a position and work at it for a few weeks then quit not to mention it’s incredibly unprofessional and might come back to get you later.

        1. Marie*

          You’re absolutely entitled to disagree, but to me, life is just too short to turn down a better opportunity because you think you ‘owe’ a company or you’re worried about what someone else will think of you, especially when that job is higher paying and will allow you to provide more for your family and the shorter commute will give you more time to spend with them. We work to live, not live to work. So she should accept this job so she has a means of providing for her family in case the other one works out, but I do think if she second jobs comes through and is a better fit for her interests and family, she should take it. You have to take care of yourself and your family in this world because no one else will do it for you.

      2. fposte*

        Though I think even if you’re setting aside moral considerations, it’s important to remember that those are burned bridges at Company A, so if they’re a big deal or you think you might want to work with anybody on the hiring committee again, factor in the hit your reputation will take.

        1. Marie*

          Honestly, I think employers need to let go of these ‘grudges’ when employees need to move on. If you’re going to blacklist someone for taking an opportunity that gives them better pay, less of a commute AND on site childcare, you’re being a bit too demanding imo.

          1. Stephanie*

            I kind of agree. If someone backs out of your job very early on because they got an offer so good they are happy to burn the bridge, maybe you’re not offering your employees enough.

          2. C Average*

            Speaking only for my own employer, I don’t know that we’d “blacklist” someone in these circumstances, but we’d (rightly, I think) conclude that they were a little bit flaky and undependable, and might indicate as much if asked. And there’d be some reluctance to hire them again, should they be interested in working for us.

            Now, if they’d worked for us at least long enough for us to form a good impression of them and THEN left for these types of reasons, honestly, we’d be happy for them and wish them well.

    3. MisterPickle*

      I’d contact the 2nd job and ask them if they can move things along faster. I don’t see how you have anything to lose by asking.

  32. UselessGraduate*

    Any tips on how to get ‘any’ job as a stop gap when you’re a graduate who just can’t get hired because employers think you’re too overqualified because of your degree, but don’t have enough experience if you take it off?

      1. Red*

        I also temped when I hit this wall with a fresh MSA. After about a year, I was able to move into a temp-to-hire position and half a year later became a permanent employee. This method isn’t ideal (lots of uncertainty and a slow pace, plus you may not be able to get into work more than tangentially related to your master’s degree), but it’s wages and experience and something to put on your resume (at the very least, it is proof that you can show up to work).

    1. AdminAnon*

      Volunteer! It will help you build experience and get references. Or you can do what I did and become an AmeriCorps VISTA–I had an amazing experience, earned a paycheck, gained an additional $5K to put towards my student loans, and ended up getting hired on. Best decision I’ve ever made :)

    2. BRR*

      Do you mean any as in full-time or any as in any? My SO is finishing a PhD in the humanities and was able to get a retail job. It’s not great but some money > no money.

      Also do you know that’s why you’re not getting hired or are you guessing? Are you making it to the interview stage or getting no response for your resume/cover letter?

      1. Mints*

        If OP means retail, I wouldn’t even bother with resume and cover letter. I’d fill out the online application completely (with school listed) but not attach more. Also the following up is different for retail. I think best practice is apply online then call or drop in in person and introduce yourself and ask about next steps.
        Lastly, they really value open availability, so make sure you list that

  33. BRR*

    Continuing the trend of “is it gross to do at your desk” (maybe we need to keep a master list?), how does everybody feel about using eye drops? My eyes have decided to protest staring at a monitor all day and I’m hoping eye drops will help. Nobody can see into my cube from their desk. They would have to look into my area while walking by.

    Also if anybody has any tips in battling eye strain they would be appreciated. I am already using eye drops, my new glasses have an anti-glare coating, and I do the stare at something far away thing every so often.

    1. Kai*

      I don’t think this would bother me. If you can turn your head away from your coworkers, that helps. But either way it’s not a big deal.

    2. LBK*

      Try playing with the brightness of your monitor. Too bright is usually what gives people problems, but I’ve also had monitors that were too dark (or too low contrast) so my eyes hurt from straining to read text on the screen. Maybe also make sure the focal length and the fit of your glasses on your face is right – I get headaches if my frame is slightly bent and one lens is closer to my eye than the other. Although if they’re new I’d assume they’re freshly adjusted.

      I don’t have any issue with eye drops, but I’ve been using contacts for a decade now so eye stuff doesn’t easily phase me.

      1. Red*

        Seconding this! Look into f.lux as well. It’s a little app you can use to match changes in your monitor’s warmth and brightness to the light/dark cycle in your area and the type of lighting in your office. It helped me stop making that O_________O face at my monitor during the winter.

    3. B-*

      I don’t think using eyedrops is gross…sometimes you need to use them. It’s not like you’re leaving any remnants of anything, and it’s quiet.

      Is it the lighting? I worked under fluorescent light without any natural lighting and I would get headaches from it. I’ve turned off lights above me or put pieces of paper over them to block them out. I know that facilities can have a field day with that sort of thing.

      One place I worked turned off nearly all of the ceiling lights and we practically worked in the dark. It was soooooooo much better than the fluorescent light option.

      1. BRR*

        I have a theory it’s the lighting. We moved spaces not too long ago and it wasn’t bothering me at all before. I was next to a window. Now I’m in the exact middle of the floor and after a couple weeks my eyes started killing me. I have reduced the lighting over my desk from three bulbs to one, I might ask them to take out the last one. There’s still too much fluorescent lighting from other nearby lights that I can’t control though. It’s awful, my eyes are blood shot at the end of the day and people have been expressing concern because of how they look.

        1. Natalie*

          Ask if they can install a filter on the fixture. That may be better than just reducing the number of bulbs.

        2. AnonAsAlways*

          As I understand it, fluorescent lights flicker constantly. Your brain makes a continuous stream of input from it, but it does affect you. Simply putting a lamp nearby that is NOT fluorescent will fill in the “gaps” of the flours cent flicker, and save your eyes/brain strain. Try it. Report back. :-)

    4. HeyNonnyNonny*

      If you were stealthy about it, I don’t see a problem. My bigger issue is smells and sounds.

      I use computer glasses sometimes. They’re yellow and look incredibly nerdy, but it does seem to help. I got the cheapo ones for maybe 20 bucks online.

    5. Sascha*

      I think the criterion for “is it gross?” is if debris is left behind. Nails, flossing, etc. Putting drops in your eyes is not messy, unless you’re just really terrible at it.

    6. Jamie*

      Wouldn’t bother me at all, although I’m really impressed you can do this yourself. Whenever I need eyedrops my husband has to pin me to the bed and hold my eyes open so he can get them in there. Like you’d do for a dog. I can’t put eye drops in myself because my eyes clench too tightly. My brain knows I need them but my eyelinds say, no way missy!

      1. Ezri*

        I’m like this too, about anything near my eyes. I can’t even wear contacts – the eye-doctor made a valiant effort, but I have eyelid muscles like steel traps.

      2. EG*

        I’m the same way with eyedrops. The only trick I’ve found is to have my husband put the drops in the corners of my eyes while my eyes are closed. Then I blink a few times and the eyedrops roll into my eyes without too much hassle. I just can’t stand the cold drops hitting my eyes but this way works somehow.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          That’s what I was going to suggest–it doesn’t trigger the eyelid-slamming-shut thing the way putting them straight in does. I sometimes miss, so that’s why I started doing that. Especially after I poked myself really hard in the eye with a pinkeye drop dispenser and had to wear an eyepatch for a week.

      3. ClaireS*

        I have the exact same problem! If you need to be pinned down to receive the drops, then maybe done do it at your cube. ;)

      4. Christine*

        I gently pull my lower eyelid down to create a gap between my eyelid and my eye, and drop the drops in the gap. That’s how my eye doctor taught me to do it when I was a kid. Before that, I had to be held down.

      5. Jamie*

        Replying to everyone with the tip about how to do them – thanks! My eyes only get dry at work and the eye doc gave me some drops, but never thought I’d be able to use them. I will give this a try when I get home!

      6. Witty Nickname*

        I have to pull my lower lid down a bit and put the drops in the little pocket that forms there, and then blink a lot to distribute them. Before I learned that trick, I couldn’t use drops at all. I wore contacts for a good 10 years before I learned that trick (I still only use drops once every few months, but at least I can do it when I need them now).

        (I used a similiar trick when my son needed drops for pink eye. I had him close his eyes loosely, put the drop on, then had him close them as tight as he could and then blink a lot. That would pull just enough of the drop into his eyes, but not freak him out and make him clench them so I couldn’t get them in at all).

        1. Witty Nickname*

          Obviously, I should have read ahead! It’s kind of comforting to know I’m not the only one who has so much trouble putting drops in my eyes! Contacts are no big deal for me, but drops and that stupid air machine at the eye doctor’s are terrible!

          1. Kali*

            The air machine makes me jump and giggle like a school girl. Which then makes me giggle more out of embarrassment. It’s like waiting for a jack-in-the-box!

    7. Mephyle*

      I agree that it is not gross, as other people have said, because there is no debris.

      Nevertheless, I can imagine that it could bother people who are extra-sensitive about eyes being touched (those who can’t use contact lenses because they can’t get over the fingers-in-eyes part).

      However, given that you’re in a cube, I don’t think that should force you to go to a more private place to put in your eye drops. It seems fine to me.

    8. Lia*

      I have pretty bad dry eye and have to use drops daily. Can you get an anti-glare filter or privacy screen for your monitor? That really helped me at a previous job.

    9. matcha123*

      I use them at times. But it’s because literally every other person in Japan does too.
      In my old job, I’d look around the room and always catch someone with their head tilted back, dropping liquid into their eyes from some crazy height.
      I need to pull open my eyelid and force the drops into my eyes…

      Now I’m going to use my menthol eye drops.

    10. MisterPickle*

      Not gross at all.

      Also: you may want to investigate a utility called f.lux https://justgetflux.com/ that subtly adjusts your screen brightness by time of day. I don’t use it, but I have friends who swear by it.

      (the Usual Disclaimers: I have no relationship with whoever developed this software)

    11. CTO*

      I use eye drops at my desk occasionally, and I don’t think it’s gross at all. It makes no noise, it doesn’t leave any traces behind, and it’s over in just a few seconds. No one has ever even noticed. I do, however, keep my bottle of eye drops sitting on my desk for just a little while afterward in case people happen to stop by and think I was crying, haha.

    12. Apollo Warbucks*

      I find my eyes get dry and itchy in the office, having a couple of small plants around my desk helps.

    13. Bea W*

      GAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH! ANything with eyes squicks me out.

      I think eye drops are appropriate at the desk particularly if you use them because you stare at a monitor all day, especially shielded by cubicle walls. It’s not like changing contact lenses. You can turn to face the wall when you do it in case anyone walks by.

      Take frequent eye breaks by looking away from your monitor for a minute. I read that sitting 20-24″ from your monitor helps.

      1. LCL*

        Decide how far away you prefer to sit from your monitor, measure that distance, then make another eye appointment and have the Dr write a prescription specifically for that. That’s what I did. Dr said reading glasses and computer glasses aren’t necessarily the same prescription.

    14. danr*

      Not gross at all. I did it all the time, and no one ever noticed… and the folks around me notice everything.

  34. I HATE CUSTOMERS/SALES*

    Any advice for breaking out of the customer service/sales mould? All my experience is in customer service with a few awful sales call center jobs and because it is all I have experience in, it is all anyone will hire me in which is unfortunate because I hate this kind of work and I’m not suited to being a pushy sales girl. How can I transfer this experience to working in something like admin? I am so unhappy being stuck in sales it is affecting my mental health :(

    1. LBK*

      Maybe look for a client/relationship manager position? A lot do still have some aspect of sales, but it’s not direct selling to people off the street, more like getting people to re-up or sign up for a new service. The advantage is that since they’re existing customers you already have a level of trust and familiarity built in, so it’s less stressful to have a conversation with them.

      1. Dasha*

        Ditto client services or client relations. Have you thought about doing inside sales at a good company? Inside sales can mean different things at different companies but it might be more up your alley?

    2. brightstar*

      The thing about customer service experience is that you know how to talk to anyone, remain calm no matter how someone is speaking to you or under stressful situations, and that can be a benefit in any type of position. You’ve dealt with all types of personality types and know how to get your point across.

  35. B-, my blood type*

    For those that hire out there: What are your opinions regarding candidate’s Linkedin profiles? My profile is purposefully paltry. Frankly, I really dislike having personal info on public display. (I’m just a private person with nothing exciting to hide.) I’m going to be looking for my next gig in 2015 (I mostly do contract work), so will a lack of public info make me less desirable to a potential employer? Meanwhile, I’ve seen Linkedin profiles of people who aren’t the best in the biz tout themselves like they are the best dang thing since sliced bread, even claiming they’re an expert at something they clearly are not. If I should put myself out there, as much as I’m not crazy about the idea, how do I distinguish myself from the chaff without sounding like a braggart?

    1. CAA*

      What do you want your LinkedIn profile to do for you? When I’m hiring and need a hard-to-find skill, I do search LinkedIn for keywords and reach out to people who might be interested. I’ve hired a couple people this way, so if you want people like me to be able to find you, it’s to your own advantage to put more work related details out there.

      If I already have your resume, I don’t usually look at your LinkedIn profile unless I think we have connections in common. In that case, I just use the “get introduced” tool to get a list of people I can ask about you.

  36. Kai*

    Anyone wanna commiserate about a long commute?

    I have a job that’s decent other than the 1.5 hour commute each way. I take the train and then a bus, so at least I can read or look at my phone rather than having to drive, but it’s still long. Sometimes the transit is unreliable in bad weather, and in the winter the cold and darkness in the morning can be just miserable.

    I’m not really sure what I’m looking for here, other than to know I’m not alone…

    1. De Minimis*

      In the same boat, except driving all the way….I live in a bigger city but have to drive to a much smaller town about 60 miles from my house. I thought it was a good idea to move there because it seemed like there’d be better job opportunities for my wife, but hasn’t worked out that way and the whole thing has been expensive.

      I’ve also used up more vacation time due to bad weather [we rarely shut down my work] than I probably would have if we’d lived closer.

      The only good part is I encounter no traffic on the drive to work, and only have a tiny bit coming home.

    2. HAnon*

      My commute was 1.5 hours for several months this year (each way). I recently moved to be closer to the interstate because (which cut down a little bit of time), but it’s still almost an hour.

      I think the thing for me was I had to come to a place of either 1) change the situation (move or look for a different job) or 2) accept the situation and know that this is just part of the job for me at this time (which means I can’t get pissy about it when I’m sitting in traffic). I listen to a lot of audio books, new cds, etc. I also know to set the expectation that I’m not going to be able to meet up with friends or attend events that begin before a certain time. Sometimes it seems unfair when I see friends with short commutes, but I have to remind myself that’s a choice I’ve made (sticking with this job), so I can’t complain about it. But it took me about a year to get to this more “zen” mindset about my commute…

    3. Felicia*

      My commute is 1.5 hours each way and sometimes it makes me cry it’s so horrible. It’s the same way most people go on the subway, so it’s so crowded and i never get to sit. Moving Oct 1 though, so I’ll be much closer! I hate when my coworkers complain about their 30 minute commutes, or stay an hour late at work, and i leave on time, and they’re still home first.

      1. Kai*

        Yeah, that frustrates me too. Plus I end up having to take off a lot more of my personal time–yesterday I had a 3:20pm dentist appointment, but I had to leave the office at 1:30 to make sure I’d get there in time.

        1. Felicia*

          I hate that too! Most of the time I take “off” is spent in transit. Luckily the neighbourhood i’m moving that is much nearer to my work is much nicer and better for where I want to live than where i currently live, so that’s a win win. I just hate that if I leave at 4:30 and my coworker leaves at 5:30, we both get home at 6.

    4. Dasha*

      I moved for a new job because the commute would have been 1.5 hours each way (or longer depending on traffic and weather) and although I love my job I miss my friends and family… maybe my experience might make you feel better your commute? :)

      1. Kai*

        It’s definitely a trade-off! We COULD move closer, but my fiance and I love our apartment and neighborhood. Plus I keep hoping that I’ll eventually land a job closer to home. I always think “just a few more months…” although it’s stretched into a few years now.

    5. evilintraining*

      Yeah, that’s the only thing I hate about my job! I drive 23 miles each way on one of the most congested and asshat-filled highways. I can’t believe some of the things I see people do behind the wheel. I have zero hope of moving closer because we live in the house GH grew up in and won’t give up on, and zero hope of the company moving closer to my home because we’re near the airport and we manufacture food for the airlines. But I love my job and don’t know if I’d have such a great position and fabulous manager somewhere else. That’s always a crapshoot. *sigh*

    6. Katie*

      I have been out of work for several months and have an interview for a job, but it’s about a 100 minute commute each way and while I desperately need work, I might just turn it down if I get it because I really don’t think I can sustain doing that for very long at all without getting exhausted, burned out and depressed, especially because it is a bus commute and I get bus sick unless I just stare out the window so I can’t read to pass the time.

        1. Katie*

          I don’t really enjoy listening to books on tape, but that’s just me. I think turning it down would be for the best simply because it would become unsustainable long term. I think after a month I’d be so over travelling 4 hours a day, I’d be calling in sick very frequently.

          1. EG*

            I understand. I drive almost an hour to work each day, and then the hour home again. I pass the time with the radio. For me the drive home is like quiet time to unwind before I come through the front door to deal with dinner, dog, and husband.

            1. Katie*

              And the 100 minute commute is just the bus, by the time I get to the bus station from home and then from the bus station to the job, it’s easily 2 hours.

    7. CollegeAdmin*

      I drive 26 miles each way every day on Route 128 (Boston area). Without traffic, it would take 45 minutes, but during rush hour, aka the time I have to get to work, it takes 1.5 hours. Sometimes, I wish my commute was by train, since then I could read while I traveled. I can’t focus on audiobooks, so I stick with music in the car.

      What’s really sad is that I hate my job so much that sometimes the commute is the best part of my day.

    8. Elizabeth West*

      Ugh, that’s a long way. At least you don’t have to drive. I wish I had a train commute here–I’m on the other side of town and it takes twenty minutes, tops, but it’s a harrowing and annoying twenty minutes. People suck at driving.

    9. Mints*

      Ugh, me. My commute is 1.5 – 2 hours. It’s mostly a train, but then a 40 minute walk or a very crowded bus. It’s the worst. The only upside is I get to read on the train. But I’d much rather be home early and read at home.
      True story: A few times when I’ve gotten half days, I’d be excited to get home early, and got home at the same time as my boyfriend. We leave for work around the same time. It sucks hard.
      (I am job hunting)

    10. Who are you?*

      In past jobs my commute was sometimes as long as 90 minutes one way. And 4 years ago I worked about 30 minutes away (all highway travel) but bad weather would grind the commute to a halt. Since I lived in northern New England at the time January through March were hellish on my commute. I feel your pain!
      I’m lucky now. I live literally 7 minutes from my workplace (and no, I don’t telecommute). The bad part of that is I’m part of the skeleton crew for all bad weather/emergency issues.

    11. Red*

      My worst commute was grad school. I was commuting between Providence and Boston, and hated driving, so naturally I took the MBTA train between the cities. Then I had to take the red line to the green line, and the green line out to the middle of nowhere. Usually, all told for one day, not counting time spent waiting on a train, I wasted 5 total hours in commute. Graduation was such a relief. (To say nothing of the horrible rains and snows that year! Talk about uphill both ways in the snow.)

      1. TL*

        Ug, the green line is always f*cked.
        I have a ~40 minute commute, 30ish on the red line, 10ish walking, and I actually rather enjoy it in the evenings, though not so much in the mornings.
        My roommate wanted to look into living off the green line or the orange line before we moved (she lived off the green line and did green to red) but I put my foot down and now that we’re living off the red line, no transfer, she tells me quite frequently how much better life is.

        On a side note, any other Texas-to-Boston transplants want to comment on Boston traffic? After living in Austin and a brief stint in Houston, I gotta say, Boston traffic (besides the rude factor) seems much preferable than the major cities in TX.

      2. Lizzie*

        I had a classmate who did basically the same last year. I suppose one does what one’s gotta do, but I think I’d lose my mind.

    12. Gene*

      After 6 months with a 30 mile, 45 minute commute if I left on time, 1 hour+ if I left 5 minutes later, I swore I would never do that again. I now have the longest commute I’ve had in 30+ years, about 15 miles, and 20 minutes, against normal commute patterns. There’s one choke point, a drawbridge that blocks me an average of once per month.

      Best commute ever, even shorter than when I was on board the USS Enterprise, was at Nuclear Power School in Vallejo, CA. Literally across the street.

    13. SD Cat*

      Mine’s an hour drive, which is kind of annoying, but at least on local roads you’re moving most of the time (I drive). I’m an intern right now, but if I end up working there as a regular employee, I’ll move eventually a bit closer in.

    14. Lizzie*

      My current commute is about that long (I’ve only been at it 3 weeks), although if I leave the house 5 minutes earlier I can shave off about 15 minutes. The 20 minute walk between the bus stop and my actual workplace is going to be brutal in the winter, though. A friend offered to carpool, but she has a different position with longer hours, and I’m not sure I want to commit to spending extra (unpaid) time at work.

  37. Anonyby*

    I’ve been seeing a few job ads that mention the need to handle confidential information… How would I address that in a cover letter? I’ve been in positions where I’ve handled money (including large purchases made in cash), had access to accounts, had access to credit card information…

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      I think you could highlight it in your cover letter by saying that you understand the sensitive nature of this information, and you treat other people’s data the way you’d want your own treated, and your own personal rule is to never access that information unless there is a business need to do so. Or something along those lines.

    2. Helka*

      Just state it! “I have experience in handling sensitive information securely, such as [how you managed account access] and [how you handled credit card info], as well as handling large cash purchases for the company, up to amounts of $[amount of your highest cash purchase].” Build from there.

      That’s what I’ve got for mine, I’m up to my neck in credit cards and social security #s/EINs and I’ve been adapting to changing procedures for handling that info as my company updates and changes its security practices.

  38. Selkie*

    I took the job in Edinburgh! The London interviews were a bit disappointing to be honest. I’m now going to be the database officer for a national charity. SCORE.

    So after nearly ten months of searching – I have my first graduate job. I feel amazing. So so so happy.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Inverness. I could spare ONE day, so I thought about it and decided that since I’ve wanted to see Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle from childhood, that’s what I would do. The sleeper train is another bucket-list item and I won’t waste an entire day riding back. I found a seat on a half-day shared tour so I won’t have to schlep around by myself. The rest of the time I think I might spend at Leakey’s Bookstore and do some shopping.

          But Edinburgh is on for next visit, for sure. And for more than one day. :D

  39. ineloquent*

    Hi! I’m hiring my first person next week. I’m more than a bit nervous about interviewing. What’s a good tactic for being comfortable interviewing and making the other person comfortable as well?

    1. Sascha*

      Recognize that silence is okay. Talk calmly and not too fast, and let the candidate have time to think before giving answers.

      My manager will talk too much and gets uncomfortable with silences, so even though he keeps saying “Take your time, I just want you to be comfortable,” etc etc, his nervous energy makes the candidates uncomfortable anyway.

    2. AdminAnon*

      I interviewed candidates for the first time earlier this year and the first few interviews were excruciating. However, once I relaxed and started asking personal/casual questions at the beginning, it got a lot easier. Obviously nothing too personal, but maybe things like “So I see you just moved here from X city; how do you like the area so far?” “Have you tried X restaurant” etc. That way you can get a sense of the candidate’s personality and hopefully get comfortable with each other before diving in.

    3. hildi*

      I haven’t done a lot of interviewing, but I use this in my training classes: I treat it like just a conversation. I think the knowledge it’s THE INTERVIEW puts so much pressure on you to perform or something. But I did conduct one interview recently and that’s what I kept thinking leading up to it. We’re just two people having a converstion about who they are, what they can do, and how that fits up with what I need here.

      1. Jillociraptor*

        I think starting out with a bit of conversation really helps to set this tone. How is your week going, what are you up to this weekend, did you see [neutral but ubiquitous cultural phenomenon], stuff like that. Share a little bit about yourself. When you write your interview script, think about how you’re going to transition from one question to the next. All this helps make it feel like a friendly, professional conversation.

        And I’ve found that when you’re able to really put people at ease, their true experience comes out — good and bad! It helps the great folks share really honestly about what they’re good at and why…and it somehow also prompts the not-so-good-fit people to share the weirdest, most inappropriate stuff.

    4. Brett*

      Keep the pace. If someone starts rambling on with an answer, don’t be afraid to cut in and transition to the next question whether it is a followup or a new topic. You will do them and yourself a favor doing that.

    5. Witty Nickname*

      I have no advice, but wanted to say good luck! I’m sitting in on interviews for the new person on our team next week, and it’s my first time doing that. I’m glad I am going to get some experience doing that before I have to start doing interviews myself.

  40. AnonPhenom*

    In the continuing job saga I have going on over here, I have an interview on Monday. I need to get this job because I won’t make next month’s rent otherwise. It’s a panel intereview with three people, which I’ve never done so any tips would be welcomed.

    I’m trying to prep for this, but I’m just so tired of looking for jobs it’s getting hard to stay motivated.

    1. TheExchequer*

      Good luck with the interview. I’ve done panel interviews – smile and look at each of them when they ask questions. If they repeat questions do not, I repeat, do not do as I did and point out that they repeated a question. (“As I said earlier” is not your friend). At some point, it’s pretty likely that more than one person will ask you if you have questions, so it’s helpful to be able to have three questions ready to go.

    2. Joey*

      Make sure you’re getting eye contact with everyone. Repeat their names and write them down after they introduce themselves. Look for opportunities to ask questions that are specific to each panel member. At the same time remember that theres probably one hiring manager whose opinion is probably going to carry the most weight.

  41. chewbecca*

    I just wanted to thank everybody who was talking about customizing Outlook on Wednesday. I never thought about trying to set up rules and customizing my view settings.

    I’m on a distribution list that rarely applies to me or my job and a coworker who unnecessarily replies all to those emails. It’s been nice to be able to filter those to a folder I can check when I have time as opposed to having them clog my inbox.

    The commenters here are the best. I remember a while back there was a thread about the wonders of Excel that inspired me to do a little research and see how I could use it to help my job. It really helped streamline one of my duties.

    I’ve learned so much from this blog!

  42. Cruciatus*

    I have to transfer 70+ case studies into Xara Web Designer 9 from MS Word. This is not what I was hired for at any point–this is something new that has come up as they try to transfer the cases from paper into electronic/online form (I’m an administrative assistant). I find I want to shut down whenever my boss brings it up. I had a crappy tutorial from the IT people over a year ago (haven’t had time to work on them, and frankly, don’t now). I’ve looked at tutorials online but they never do what I need them to do and I feel totally overwhelmed by this. Now he’s pressuring me to have at least 1 soon, though he knows I’m busy. There’s no option for me except to do it, but I get so frustrated when I try that, like I said, I want to shut down and ignore the problem. How can I get over that? (And “just get over it” won’t really help me…tried that. Still overwhelmed about it…).

    1. Colette*

      What’s the first step?

      I find when I find something overwhelming, I’m often OK with taking the first step – in this case, it might be to investigate the types of files you can export from the old tool. Once you do that, you look at the next step, which might be figuring out what Word can import.

      Enough small steps and the big intimidating task is done.

      1. fposte*

        I like this. I also think of it as subtasks (basically, first, second, and third steps, I guess) to articulate what I actually concretely do, not just what the name of the task is. Usually when I’m stalled it’s because I haven’t really figured out what it means process-wise to do the task. So–check Xara support on importing docs, run one sample, identify failure points, maybe?

      2. Agile Phalanges*

        Yep. I totally commiserate with Cruciatus on wanting to shut down just thinking about the onerous task–that’s how my mind works, too. So I convince myself that I’ll just tackle the very first thing (which might be reading help files and/or Google to figure out what I’m doing). I find that usually, once I get entrenched in that first step, I actually want to keep going. I’m a slave to momentum–once I’m doing one task, I’m likely to keep doing it until something else forces me to stop. So then it’s not that bad.

        Funny thing is, even with tasks I realize aren’t as bad as I feared, I STILL want to just shut down the next time I have to think about doing it. My brain just decides that that task is no fun, even if I’ve since learned that it’s not that bad (or even that I kinda like it).

    2. Barbara in Swampeast*

      What is it you have to do?
      To me, case studies in Word are just documents, not webpages. Do you need to make the documents available online or do you need to put the text of the case studies onto webpages?

      If it is to get the text onto webpages: Has the webmaster provided you with the template of the page you are to use?
      Are you responsible for uploading the webpages onto your company’s website? Do you know how to do that?

      1. Cruciatus*

        First step is to get them into webpages with a template I create (which is where I’m failing early on). Once they’re finally created then IT will create some sort of site for me to post them with a password (since these cases can’t be posted openly). That part will all come later but for now I just have no clue where to start. And another branch of our school has them all online! But my boss will have to beg them to use their files (according to him). I really wanted to show him today’s post about sharing things and how it benefits the company…

        1. Cruciatus*

          To clarify…the cases have been in Word documents from the beginning. I currently print them off and make the appropriate number of copies for the people studying them. Now all the info in the Word documents is to be transferred to the Xara Web Designer thing…so I have to go page by page (for 70+ documents) and create a webpage for each case with links to all the information on the newly created webpages (patient history, diagnosis, etc.)

          1. fposte*

            In addition to Barbara’s suggestion, try Googling around for Xara templates that you might be able to use or tweak, rather than building one from scratch.

        2. Barbara in Swampeast*

          It weird that you have to create your own template. I would think the school would have a standard design they want everyone to follow. Maybe contact IT and see if they have a basic template you can start with and modify for your needs.

          Have you tried YouTube videos? The Xara website has some videos, but I wasn’t able to find a beginning video very easily. They might be on YouTube.

          One consolation is once you have the template done, its done and you use it for all the cases.

          Good luck!

    3. A Non*

      I’ve had similar problems with freezing up, especially when I feel that I’m in a no-win situation and will get criticized no matter what I do.

      What’s worked for me sometimes is to figure out the first, simplest step – something like ‘open the document’ or ‘go to the web page’. Something so simple there’s no question about how to do it. Then once I’m looking at the thing, then my brain unsticks and starts recognizing the next steps I need to do. I’m not sure what’s going on or how this gets past it, but it seems to work.

  43. Gina*

    Ever have one of those days where you feel like you can’t do anything right? Every time you talk to someone you say something wrong, or every request you make should have been made to someone else and now the one you made it to thinks you’re stupid. Everyone acts like you’re wasting their time even if it’s the same routine you all do every day.

    1. Magda*

      Yes. I really love my job overall, but a few weeks back I caught myself wondering “is ‘eating shit’ in my job description? Because that’s all I’m doing lately.”

    2. Gina*

      Oh, and every time you walk up to someone and start to ask them somehting, it turns out they were artfully concealing a phone the whole time and you just interrupted.

    3. Amanda*

      I’m having that kind of day. Missed a deadline this morning, scrambling to re-schedule things in that wake. Behind on a few major things – not for lack of working on them, just for the sheer mounds of work to be done and the fact that for the last 2-3 days I’ve been busy in evenings with my own life, not work, for once. I hate that feeling like a normal person comes with so much added stress. :(

  44. Awkward Palmtree*

    I posted here a few months ago about applying to go back to university to finish my degree after suffering with depression and having to leave my previous course before the end a few years ago. I had issues getting my previous academic tutor to write me a reference and I was in a massive self doubtey, scared rut with it all. However, I’m absolutely over the moon to say that I eventually applied and was accepted onto my chosen course last month and I’ll be starting to work again towards my degree later this month! Squee!
    Contacting my personal tutor for a reference turned out to be a massive lost cause. He did not return my calls or answer my followup email. While I’m quite disappointed that my former tutor no longer wants to know me, luckily one of my mentors at work agreed to write a reference for me and he wrote me such a glowing reference I wish I had just asked him in the first place!
    I’m truly elated and I am so excited to be finishing what I started, I have never looked forward to a school term starting so much in my life. While I am still a little sad that I did not get to graduate with the rest of my peers I have a new determination to concentrate on my own path and stop comparing myself to anybody else. All that matters in the end is that I’m healthy, happy and moving forward, however twisty that path may be!

    1. Ezri*

      It sounds like things are going well – congrats! I’ve seen quite a few peers leave school, for various reasons, and it can be very hard to go back. Kudos to you for overcoming your obstacles, and good luck moving forward! XD

      As a side note, mentors can be so great. :) I had two really awesome ones in college; having even just one ‘professional’ person who believes in you and pushes you is priceless.

  45. JML*

    Yay, open thread! A question about casual job-hunting via LinkedIn: until last month, I was based in Big East Coast City working for a company that is based in CA. I’ve been with the company for a little over a year. My partner got into a doctorate program in Small East Coast City (400 miles away), and my company very kindly allowed me to relocate and work from home. All is going ok so far, but the problems I had with this job before we left BECC are the same in SECC. My biggest issue is that my work is project-based, but there aren’t enough projects to fill my time (I was hired into a newly created position and it took them a good 6 months to figure out what to do with me), and to make it worse, my boss insists on having his hand in everything and my work is at the bottom of the priority list (it’s client-facing work but client rush jobs take precedence, and there are a lot of rush jobs). I will complete a report, send it to my boss, get feedback a week later, revise immediately, then wait up to 10 days for more feedback/go-ahead to send. In a word, I’m bored. There are great things about this job, like the pay and the benefits, and working from home has been great– when things were slow in the office I had to sit there, but when things are slow here, I can do laundry or watch a movie or play with my dog. So I’m considering a CASUAL job search at this point, and that’s where my dilemma is.

    In the past, recruiters and hiring managers came to me quite often; I have 10 years of experience in a specialized field, a good reputation, worked for a major company before leaving to take my current position. It would be great if that could happen now and I could find a new position that’s either remote or based in my new city, but my LinkedIn profile lists me as being in Big East Coast City rather than Small East Coast City, and I’m unsure about whether I should change it. The pros for changing would be that people could find me more easily; there’s a lot of growth in this area and a lot of recruiters reaching out for good talent before making jobs public. The cons are that clients are told I’m based in BECC, my work address is still BECC, and a few colleagues at my current company are connected to me via LinkedIn (and many of them don’t even know I relocated, which is effed up in itself but not necessarily my problem). Is there a way to list both cities that I haven’t seen yet? Are there certain privacy settings I can use? Or is there another way to go about a casual job hunt that I’m completely missing? Thanks, all!

    1. Judy*

      You can certainly turn off notifications on any profile changes, so that co-workers would only see the new location if they searched on you. I’ve done that in the past when I’ve updated my profile, but don’t want everyone to see that I’m doing it.

      I would change my location without notifications. Then local recruiters when searching would see you.

  46. kas*

    Soo I’m pretty much fed up with my job. I used to love the people I work with and hate my actual work but now I can’t stand the people I work with and can tolerate my work. I have to deal with several different departments and that can include reporting different types of issues with our website, customers etc. However, I’ve stopped reporting issues as everyone makes you feel like you’re bothering them even though it’s their job! For example, I noticed an error on the company website while using a specific browser and I reported it to the person that handles those issues and his response was to just use another browser, nothing was done. There’s a lot of “ask Department X” or “did you check with Department Y?” Why would I ask Department Y when that’s not a part of their job? It’s like I.T. telling me to ask the billing department to reset my account/fix technical issues when they don’t even have the resources to do so at my work. No one ever handles a situation even though it’s their department that is suppose to handle it. The managers are even worse sometimes and don’t think this is an issue. I can’t take it anymore …

    1. HAnon*

      kinda sounds like time for a vacay. If you have the time, I’d suggest unplugging and getting away for a few days, or even a week if you can manage it. Reconnect with some people and passions that bring you joy outside of work. It may give you some perspective about your job and help you realize that you can live with it for a while because you enjoy the work, or give you the clarity that you do need to start looking for something else and put a plan of action together. Sometimes just being day-in and day-out in a frustrating situation can affect you more than you think. But either way, getting out of the office for a few days can help you reset and come back more refreshed for whatever option you decide.

      1. Natalie*

        And even if you can’t afford to travel, take the time anyway – staycation. Don’t change out of yoga pants for one full day. Nurse a pot of coffee with your favorite novel. Tackle some house project that will be incredibly satisfying to complete. Go hiking. Pull up “X Awesome Free Things To Do In City Y” from the internet and do all of those things. Get a weekday lunch in some part of the city far away from your office. It’ll be awesome.

  47. matcha123*

    Are any of you editors or do any of you do a lot of written work?

    I do translation in Japan, and I have a constant battle with my Japanese colleagues over English language usage.
    I usually refer to Grammar Girl, Websters or the Little Brown Style manual, but when it comes to things like “why it doesn’t sound right to repeat the same phrase over and over,” I am drawing blanks.

    My coworkers are looking for a Golden Rule of English to follow. And while they understand to a certain extent that American English and British English (to narrow it down to those two large ones) have differences, they don’t understand many of the nuances and I don’t know how to explain it to them.

    An example would be using the full name of an event repeatedly, rather than shortening it: The 24th Annual Fair to Present Prizes for Ultra-Cool Artwork Created by Young Artists Between the Ages of 12 and 45. Rather than calling it by various different names such as The Annual Fair or The Fair, they insist on writing out the whole name numerous times in the name of keeping a standard.

    Unfortunately, we don’t use one certain style guide due to the vast number and type of translations we have. And unfortunately, saying, “I am a native speaker of English and gosh-darnit this is correct!” doesn’t fly.
    I understand this is totally different from the typical work-related question asked here, but if anyone has any killer websites filled with grammar and style points please point me in that direction :)

    1. Colette*

      I have nothing to help here, but I’d love to see answers. I work with a large number of people in India, and I also struggle with explaining why something is not correct.

    2. Elysian*

      This reminds me of the Michael Scott Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro Am Fun Run Race for the Cure.

      My (totally not serious) suggestion is to play for them clips of the Office that exemplify confusing points in the English language. There’s an Office episode for everything.

      In this case, could you maybe just explain to them that when names are long people will tend to zone out and your point will get lost or people will lose interest? Its just generally accepted principle in English (I don’t know about other languages) that the most concise way to express your point is often the best way.

    3. Magda*

      When I took journalism classes, our style guides usually mentioned that it was acceptable to shorten terms like the one you mentioned. Would it be worth buying an AP or Chicago style guide? Failing that, maybe you could find English-language examples from, say, the NY Times or other major publications.

      When I lived in Japan, I had a Japanese friend ask me to explain what it meant when people made air quotes with their fingers. We went around and around for literally an HOUR and I just could not explain it in a way that made sense to her. I felt really bad.

      1. matcha123*

        I’ve definitely spent time explaining that to Japanese friends!
        I just told them in short it means the opposite of what you are saying haha

    4. Gwen*

      Hmm…it’s tough without a standard style guide to point to. For general resources, I’m a big fan of the Purdue OWL, it’s the website for their writing lab & has style guides as well as general writing advice. It was recommended to me by one of my professors and I have continued to use it in editorial work. Honestly, for the most part, I just search “[query] AP style” on Google if I’m unsure. At the magazine I worked at, we had a specific style guide for the magazine (which was about 60% AP style and 40% in-house randomness)…do you think your “I’m a native speaker” trump card would seem more legitimate if it was presented in an official style guide format?

      1. matcha123*

        Style guide trumps me as a native speaker because a style guide is published! I think they have an AP, MLA and Chicago style book in the office, but they are so huge that they are rarely pulled out…

        1. Red*

          A copy of Strunk & White or The Harbrace Manual might help. Most of us wouldn’t agree with these two sources on literally every point, but they do still have a certain cachet. Likewise, Purdue University’s OWL resource website is solid and it’s from a university to boot (prestige!) and is referenced frequently by Ivy League schools (PRESTIGE!!!). Those all have sections on redundancy (BAD!) and conciseness (GOOD!). English in its various regional iterations has its own rhythms and variety in expression is a very strong component of that.

    5. fposte*

      Huh. That’s specific enough that I wonder if there isn’t something ESL-focused out there for style and publications.

      AP style might be a place to go, as might MLA; however, I suspect what you really need is a guide that gives you the rules rationale. It’s an interesting observation, because it’s actually fairly extensive in English, from the way you address people to the way you refer to long titles, that the first time sets the standard and subsequent repetitions evoke it with shorter usages so long as they’re clear.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This.

        I was taught to shorten long titles/names because it is distracting to the reader. The reader loses the meaning of the sentences because of the excessive words in the title/name.

        Another school of thought says that repeating the full title/name indicates the reader was too stupid to understand it the first time.

        Probably a good example of an exception to this is if one was writing an article about the correct titles for British royalty. But under normal circumstances extra words take away from the rest of the material.

    6. Kai*

      You can create your own house style guide that covers little things like this that are specific to your organization. I do freelance editing for a company that mostly follows APA, but they have other little rules that you might not find anywhere else. That’s what I’d recommend. You could make style guides and make sure everyone gets a copy so that it becomes more “official.”

    7. Mephyle*

      For the specific issue of repetition, I found some likely-looking posts and articles using this search (no quotes): {style in English reducing repetition}.

      For the general problem, I joined some translator Facebook groups where fellow translators gripe/ask about this kind of thing (as well as many other issues that arise in freelance translation). Sometimes concrete suggestions are made, other times it just helps to know that these problems are present around the world in many language pairs. The mutual support from these groups is really helpful.

      Another thing you could do is start a blog (if you don’t already have one) where you write articles about English style and translation issues. If you use a pseudonym, you can refer your colleagues to relevant articles and it will look like you’re citing an authoritative source; they won’t know it’s you. If you use the anonymous strategy, and the blog is new, it would probably be a good idea to backdate some articles so it’s not so blatant that the blog just started at the time you began citing it.
      When it comes to grammar and vocabulary issues, I find Michael Swan’s book Practical English Usage invaluable. I haven’t yet found a non-native English speaker’s mistake or question for which I couldn’t find the explanation in that book. You know the sort of thing where it ‘feels’ wrong, but you can’t put your finger on the rule or principle that says why it’s wrong. Swan can.

      1. matcha123*

        I’ve definitely heard of Practical English Usage! It may even be in the office…

        The blog sounds like a good idea