open thread – October 24, 2014

It’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.

{ 920 comments… read them below }

  1. GOG11*

    Due to downsizing at my organization, many Admin Assistants serve multiple Departments and work on projects in different buildings. In my case, I work in two different offices. Additionally, for one of my Departments, I have begun working with a new supervisor who is in another building across the organization’s campus.

    I have begun reviewing my daily logs and process sheets in order to update my “this is what I do and how I do it” manual and realized that my new supervisor delegates far fewer tasks to me than her predecessor and my other supervisor. I have taken on more recurring, well-defined projects, but I still have room on my plate and could accommodate additional requests from her.

    I want to talk to her about additional tasks I could take on, both because I know she has a great deal of work to do (she also wears multiple hats) and because I want to continue to have the amount of responsibility and work I had under my previous supervisor.

    (I don’t know what tasks, specifically, I could do – that would be up to her judgment. But, to give an example, while we were on the phone discussing another matter, she happened to think to put in a request for a service from another Department. On the spot, it dawned on her that she could delegate placing the request to me.)

    I don’t want to seem as though I think she’s not doing her job the way she should, but I do feel she could better utilize me, which would make her job easier and my job more fulfilling. Any advice about how I can go about having this conversation?

    1. KellyK*

      One thing to start with would be if there are things you do for other departments that you don’t do for her. If those are things that need to get done in her department too, that would be an easy thing to mention.

    2. Another Poster*

      I think you could just go to her and say “I feel like I have room on my schedule for additional work. I would like to take on another project or perhaps assist you with more tasks. One idea I have is X, or perhaps I could pitch on Z. What do you think?”

      I don’t think there is anything wrong with going to her with ideas. You actually should have some idea of what tasks you could help with.

    3. Chriama*

      I think you should just ask her. Don’t frame it as “you’re not giving me enough work” but just let her know you have capacity to take on more projects and you’d like it if she could give you some more responsibilities. If you have suggestions for work that she does now that you’ve done before that’s helpful, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

      1. GOG11*

        Ah, this. I think I was over thinking it and assuming that she would already be giving me more tasks if she were able to recognize more tasks to give. I will try this and accept that the ball is (and should be) in her court, so to speak. Thank you!

        1. Chriama*

          Yeah, I think she’s probably just too busy. Sometimes you get so busy you forget to take time to reorganize your work, even if that would lead to greater efficiency or less busyness in the long term. I would assume she’s not even thinking about your workload and would probably be grateful to hear you offer to take on some of her tasks.

    4. GOG11*

      Thank you, KellyK and Another Poster. I work in academia and assist the Department via the Chair, so I feel as though it is appropriate for me to help with the Chair’s workload as well as Departmental tasks.

      Generally, the types of tasks I’m referring to were smaller compartments of larger projects that my other supervisors were in charge of but that weren’t directly related to what I do. In nearly every case, I don’t know about the projects or processes until they are brought to me by my supervisor. They just decided that I could help with X task within project Y.

      I guess I’m struggling with feeling as though I’m saying, “I’d like more tasks delegated to me, but use your judgment to decide which since I can’t request them, but not the judgment you currently use because it leads to nothing being given to me.” That’s a really terrible but accurate way to capture what I’m struggling with. At least I hope that makes sense.

      But maybe it’s just not appropriate to discuss. It feels intrusive somehow.

      1. KellyK*

        No, I don’t think it’s intrusive at all. It’s a good thing to let the people you’re supporting know you can take on more work. *Especially* in your situation with multiple departments. I can see someone being hesitant to assign you a bunch of things, knowing that you’re also getting work from lots of other sources and not wanting to overload you or “hog” all your time.

      2. Another Poster*

        Asking for more work isn’t a judgement on your boss. Its a statement that indicates how effectively you work and that you are capable of more. So, even if you are feeling that way I don’t think it will come across that way if you are careful with your words. Just keep it simple. “I’m finding that I have time in my day to do more work. What else can I help you with?” If she doesn’t respond to that try “I’d like more work please. Is there a project I can assist with or even some little things I can take off your plate for you?”

      3. Another Poster*

        Or maybe you could say “Hey, I’ve been doing this and this for so and so. Would you like me to do that for you too?

      4. Dr. Speakeasy*

        If she’s a new department chair – she might just not know what is appropriate to ask you for. We’re used to having to do most of our admin stuff ourselves and not overload the generally overloaded dept. admin. (and we’re not trained to be managers) If it was me, I’d be grateful to an admin who brought a list of tasks they used to do for previous supervisors and say “I’m happy to take on more of these tasks to free up your time.”

      5. Not So NewReader*

        Two things I have done with my boss that have helped is a general conversation followed up later with specific conversations.
        The general conversation is to say something along the lines of wanting to be the most help to her as possible and mentioning that I do not mind doing special projects. Then I gave some examples- short examples- of the types of things I have taken on the past with success.

        What this did was open the conversation so that when I spotted things I could be doing, I felt comfortable saying “Let me take that task off of you, so you are freed up to look at something else.” Sometimes she would say “sure” and other times she would say “you know what I REALLY need help with ….?” And point to something that had not been mentioned yet.

  2. Self-Conscious*

    Does anyone have any tips for keeping active once you take on a desk job?

    I went from a retail job where I was on my feet, walking and lifting things, four to five hours a day to a desk job where I’m mostly sitting at my computer my whole work day. Since taking this job, I’ve noticed that I’ve been gaining some weight. Not a lot but enough that I’m not happy about it. My diet and activity level outside of work has not changed. What changed was my working environment and my activity level there.

    I have a morning mail run that I stretch as long as possible to walk a little further, I take the stairs at every opportunity I get, and I try to get up from my desk every hour to walk laps around my floor and run up and down the stairs, though even that doesn’t happen when I have meetings or have something I can’t leave. But I still find that I’m not where I want to be. There’s no nearby gym I can go to at lunch and I’d love to get a standing or treadmill desk but I don’t think my government office would let me do that.

    I’m wondering if anyone has any tips for being a bit more active around the office. Any subtle changes or some little exercises I can do at my desk?

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      I like to go for a walk at lunch time, with some co-workers its nice to get out of office for some fresh air.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yeah, this. I’ve also started volunteering to fill the water pitcher for the Keurig (the filtered water dispenser is on the other end of the building) as often as possible. ;) And walking to my off-work errands when I can.

    2. GOG11*

      Hi, Self-Conscious!

      I used to work in retail and, from being on my feet all day, I was exhausted and couldn’t exercise. In contrast, I love that I sit the majority of my day now because my knees aren’t trashed and I am able to run quite a lot more (about 35 miles per week, depending). I’m in pretty good physical shape and it keeps my restlessness at bay, though I still fidget quite a bit.

      If you’re looking for ways to increase your activity level specifically at work, though, maybe you could try placing items a bit further away on your desk? I have a wrap-around desk and if I placed certain items out of reach I would have to stand or roll over in my chair to get them. You’d have to weigh this against any loss in productivity doing so might cause.

    3. Christine*

      I’ve run into the same problem, although for me it’s not that I’m less active, I’m just eating more. :-/ At my old job, I was pretty isolated, and it wasn’t uncommon for me to eat a later breakfast, skip lunch, and then have dinner when I got home. At my current job, I’m in an open office, and I’ve gotten used to eating lunch on a daily basis again… which means I’ve put on more weight than I’d like. So I’ll be keeping an eye on this thread for tips!

    4. Red*

      This is pretty minor, but whenever I would need to bend to do something, I do a full out squat. Partially because a back injury from a bad bend means this is healthier, but also just to help keep those muscles strong. I’m not talking about doing reps, but any time I’d need to bend a bit, I squat instead. Same if I’m watching a demo of something where I’d ordinarily need to drag a chair around. This helps me maintain some core strength and flexibility that I’ve otherwise struggled with.

      You might also see if you can replace your desk chair with a 32″ yoga ball. You can sit on those. Standing desks are nice if you can get them.

      1. University Allison*

        This. I’m opting to use transit to get to work in part because I get 2 10 minute walks on each end.

    5. Cruciatus*

      You’re doing everything already that I was going to say. I get up at a minimum of once an hour and walk down a football field length hallway we have, and I hit the stairs at the end of that. If I need to make a lot of copies I just walk around and around the hallway near the copier until it’s done. People know me as the Fitbit person always trying to get steps in. For me it’s helped and usually by the end of the day I have about 7000 steps from work alone. Some days I don’t get that high, but on an average day I do.

      Is there anything you can do standing/walking in place? Talking on the phone, sorting papers, walking down the hallway while you wait for the copier/printer to finish? I only have a 30 minute lunch but if you have the time it’d be really easy to add more steps in the parking lot or something.

    6. HR Manager*

      The new thing at my office is the stand-up work station. If your office is amenable to that, and wants to promote health and wellness, see if they are willing to get you one of those. Outside of that, I do also like to get up and walk to people’s desks for questions when it makes sense, and to take a walk at lunch. We have a gym in the building which could be a nice option for if available.

      What I find worse than the sitting is that at a desk often means a lot more mindless eating. I would beware of snacks, candy jars and anything that you can easily bring back to you desk and munch. Or bring in healthy snacks and leave them there.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Oh yes, and look for times you normally snack, and find ways to make that as healthy as possible.

        Example from my own life: I was getting up at 5:30 on work mornings (coffee/breakfast + getting ready + bus commute) to be there at 8. So I’d eat at 5:30, and then like clockwork, I’d be ravenous at 9:00 when I’d been at work an hour. And then I’d go get candy or Hostess cakes or something from the vending machines. It took me a long time to really clue in that it was every morning at the same time. So now I either (a) eat breakfast at work, right before I start working (as I mentioned yesterday, I get there about 25 minutes early most days) or if I do eat at 5:30, I stash granola bars in my desk for the 9:00 hungries.

      2. SomethingClever*

        Even if the office isn’t willing to provide a stand-up work station, there are a number of “hacks” available online to turn a sitting desk into a standing desk at minimal cost (and often with unused furniture/supplies that may just be lying around).

        Also, what about swapping out your chair for a stability ball?

      3. Nanc*

        Yes to the stand up work station. I have arthritis in my knees and they hurt worse if I sit for too long. If your company is willing to spring for a Kangaroo desk, that makes it easy to sit if you want or need to. Otherwise wood storage cubes and other office bits and pieces work just fine. I will say if you don’t have good flooring get a cushioned mat to stand on–really helps.

        1. Victoria, Please*

          Be careful “hacking” a standup work station; I tried it and I loved the standing part, but I messed up my shoulders all to hell! I’m sure I just had the height or angle wrong.

          1. Nanc*

            Good advice–I did have to finagle several different heights of boxes before I hit the right combo.

            1. B1k3*

              Could you bike or walk to work? Last year I biked as my commute and was able to get 8 miles in per day (plus some hills). It takes some planning ahead and I wasn’t hardcore enough to bike in the rain or snow but even a few days a week really helps

    7. TheTemp*

      Am I an awful terrible person?! What should I do? (Yay dramatic.)

      I just had a temp assignment end yesterday. When I told my recruiter last week that it would be ending, she asked me if I would still be interested in a position I interviewed for in March. Of course I had long ago forgotten about them because they said they’d like me but they didn’t make any plans to hire me, or anyone, so I hadn’t heard anything about them for 7 months. I told her sure, since at the time I had nothing coming up. A couple days later I had a phone interview with a company that I had actually applied for on my own, and the next day (Monday) I had an in person interview that I thought went well. They said they were thinking about making the position either one person full time permanent, or two people as 1099s to “see how it goes for a month or so”, and they’d call me. Wednesday rolls around and I hadn’t heard from anybody. In the afternoon I get a call from my recruiter saying that the company i interviewed with in March wanted me to start in two days, on Friday (and it had to be Friday). I agreed, as long as they agreed to let me out early, since I had to be home at a certain time and I couldn’t change it. They said okay. The next day (Thursday) the company I interviewed with earlier this week called and asked for a 2nd interview, and they’d decided to make it a full time position. I agreed to meet with them in the afternoon since it’s very close to my home. What do I do? If the 2nd company makes an offer, I should take it; its full time, close to home and my husband’s evening job and my daughter’s school, all things I was hoping for when job searching (among other things of course). Would I be a complete jerk if I dropped the temp gig? I feel like I’m being dishonest if I don’t tell one or the other than I might have something else. I feel like a jerk :( I’ve had a nervous stomach for days. HALP!

        1. Vancouver Reader*

          I say you do what’s best for you. Stall the first company and explain to second company that you’re on a time constraint. But there have been other posts like this on this site, so you might want to do a search for other people’s answers.

      1. puddin*

        Temp job means temp right? I cannot imagine an employer would think too poorly of you for moving from temp to perm, even if it is somewhere else. They have the same chance to bring you in perm as the other company. If they don’t they understand (hopefully) the risk is that people will leave for perm employment.

        Will it be awkward, probably. Is it a totally low down dirty dog crap axx thing to do,no I do not think so.

        And you are not being dishonest. You are managing your career. Neither company needs to know every little job app, interview, and possibility thereof. When everything materializes and you have made your decision to leave, put in your 2 weeks notice and say something like, “I am sure you understand the desirability of a permanent job. I have accepted one with another company and X will be my last day. I enjoyed my time here….etc”

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Perm job is a no brainer.

        This happens.

        You can be apologetic in the most empathetic sense but there is nothing to feel guilty about.

        Really, this happens. I promise.

      3. whatnow*

        You’re not being a jerk. You don’t even know if you’ll get the other role, and this other place waited 7 months to tell you start right away. Also it’s a temp role, in the UK at least, you’re not legally required to give notice (funnily enough one temp agency told me this so I would drop one temp role for theirs). In a temp role they expect you to be looking for other jobs, interviewing and that you are temporary. Don’t stress about it, the recruitment agency will find them someone else.

    8. Dan*

      I used to be an airline baggage handler. I had to lift 50 lb bags from my feet to my shoulders (regional jets and turboprops, no belt loaders.)

      Since I transitioned to cube life, the only substitute is making a point of going to the gym regularly. And when I go into the city a couple of times a week, I take the metro. There’s at least some walking involved there.

      1. D*

        Yeah, I second having to just resign yourself to going to the gym before or after work if it’s feasible. I found that I have to otherwise, I’d pretty much have to forego eating all together. Also, I like to bike commute 1-2 days per week while the weather cooperates…which isn’t the ideal thing for everyone I realize.

    9. Relosa*

      I take transit right now, so I get a lot of extra walking in. Joining a gym really doesn’t hurt – at my second job I get free gym access so I work out on the days I’m there. I know what it’s like to be super busy and carving the extra 2+ hours to get to the gym, change, work out, all that jazz can be a lot, so I found circuits and designed workouts that I could do just twice a week. I still lost like 15 lbs last winter doing it.

      Something I’ve also started doing is flexing my abs on my walk home from work. I walk about a mile to our light rail and I listen to music so I just kind of isolate and flex to the music (okay that’s probably a weird visual, but honestly no one can even tell I’m doing it!) There are oodles of office workout tips to help keep you limber.

      Over the summer when I was nursing BigDog back to health, I could only work one job so I was stuck on the weekends – I was SHOCKED that I didn’t gain any weight, and in fact lost a wee bit (that could have been stress :) – but I’m also pretty conscious of my diet. Reduce carbs, make sure the only fats you’re getting are the good ones, avoid processed sugar, and lots of leafy stuff will help.

      (Ironically, now that I’m back to two jobs, I’ve actually gained weight and I’m not happy about it, even though I know it’s just muscle. Go figure)

    10. danr*

      Stay away from the candy dish… Take part of your lunch to exercise. Walking is great and if you can add some flights of stairs it’s even better.

    11. AmyNYC*

      Drink LOTS of water. Not only is that good for you, but you’ll need to walk to the facilities more frequently. I got a FitBit and compete with my sister to see who walks more and every little bit helps.

    12. Cherry Scary*

      I take walks at lunch (outside, weather permitting, otherwise I walk between the two buildings.) I listen to podcasts or music while I do it.

      I have a list of desk exercises I have posted above my computer. Every hour or so I do one or two. I’m sure there’s resources out there that have many of them.

    13. Natalie*

      In my experience, you’ll probably have to add something outside of work to make up for the inactive job. Is an active commute an option (i.e. walking or biking to work)?

      Also, since your caloric needs have changed, it would make sense to be mindful of your diet, particularly if you’re having trouble fitting in enough exercise to counter the work change.

    14. KellyK*

      Parking a little further away and walking might be a good way to get more movement into your day.

      As far as the standing desks, I have a little platform that I set my computer on, on top of my regular desk. Basically, it turns your desk into a standing desk, without having to buy you a whole new desk and without forcing you to do *all* your work standing up. If you’ve got space for it, I would ask if you can bring one in, buy it, and sharpie your name on it.

    15. Elizabeth West*

      I’ll be watching this thread—I lost some weight really quickly on holiday, but now I’m terrified I’ll gain it back because I’m driving everywhere again instead of walking everywhere and running for the bus/train!

      I’m keeping up with the stair climbs, though they have become disconcertingly easy since I was gone. I’ve compensated by running up the stairs for part of them instead of just climbing, and I’ve added walks back in (will have to go to the nearby gym once the weather turns). Let’s hope that does the trick. :\

      Oh, and eating less and more healthy foods. Which are more expensive. :(

    16. Meg*

      Government office may allow a standing desk. I worked for a government agency and many people had standing desks installed.

      Another option would be to get one of those uh… I guess it’s like a stationary bike, but it’s just the pedals. When sitting, just pedal. Take the stairs whenever you can. Walk to someone’s desk instead of emailing/IMing. Walk to lunch. Get a pitcher of water and keep at your desk. Bring healthy snacks (I typically have carrots and celery sticks, with a scoop of peanut butter or ranch dressing to snack on at my desk).

      1. Self-Conscious*

        I’ve never heard of just having pedals under your desk. I like that idea! Is that something you can just buy?

        1. OhNo*

          Yep! Amazon and other online stores usually have versions. There are usually various kinds, from the cheap $30 ones that are just plastic pedals on a metal frame, to fancy ones that have all sorts of electronic displays and cost hundreds of dollars.

    17. Artemesia*

      Any chance you could rig up a standing desk? being able to stand up some of the time makes a real difference.

    18. Celeste*

      Drink water like it’s your job–a bottle an hour. Separate bathroom breaks and refill breaks into separate trips. It really helps with appetite, if munching is a new problem. People are always bringing so much stuff in, and it’s soooo tempting. You could also see if there is a room that has any boxes in it, and just go take a lifting break sometimes. Just go lift the boxes and put them back down, as you used to have to do for purpose, but now your purpose is to move your muscles. Even five minutes of this a day on your break could make you feel like you broke the office inertia.

      1. Hlyssande*

        Lots of water is great, as long as you don’t overdo it. It is possible to overdo water.

        On a trip to Colorado, my mom thought she was having a heart attack due to a severe potassium deficiency after spending six days drinking so very much water all the time and sweating everything out (that was the only explanation the ER could give us). If she’d eaten a few bananas during that time, it probably wouldn’t have been an issue at all.

    19. Canadian Reader*

      I have the same issue. Went from serving to a desk job seven months ago. Ever since I started working in an office, I’ve had back problems (from sitting 40 hours a week), knee problems (from sitting 40 hours a week — it’s a condition nicknamed “movie-goer’s knees” because having your knees bent for a long period can cause inflammation under the kneecaps), and wrist problems (from using the mouse even though I have an ergonomic setup).

      Oh, and I’m 24.

    20. nep*

      You’re doing some great things already. Good for you. Stability ball chair a good idea. Another option is one of those steppers one keeps at the feet under a desk.
      Keep in mind how effective simple bodyweight exercises can be — squats, pushups, planks. No equipment needed — just a bit of time and space. And fine to do things in 10- or 15-minute sessions.
      Have your eating habits changed and could that be part of the weight gain also? Some relatively minor adjustments there could help, of course.

    21. Anonymosity*

      You could try using an exercise ball instead of a chair! It’s good for your posture (and your core) and you could do little exercises throughout the day. Just make sure to tuck it in when you leave your desk area!

    22. Jady*

      There’s something called a desk peddler ( is one example), where you can put these underneath your desk and sudo-bike at work.

      There’s a lot of different kinds. Look around on Amazon and such.

    23. health care anon*

      I have this same problem. I just recently took a Saturday job to help pay down bills and save money at a baker – not sure if this will help my waist line – but I was pleasantly surprised at how much more active I am at that job.

  3. Katie the Fed*

    I totally forgot about open thread! Huzzah!

    I don’t even have work related questions, but I have to say this – it’s SO nice to be done with the wedding (which was great). It’s like I had a brain parasite for the last year while wedding planning – I feel like I can focus much better on work now :)

    1. Cb*

      Oh gosh, me too! I’ve made more PhD progress in the last 4 days post-honeymoon than I have in the last 2 months.

    2. Treena Kravm*

      Seriously! I’ve gotten so much done now that wedded bliss is checked off my list. Feels so good to feel like a real person again.

  4. Mouse*

    This is maybe a silly question – but for those people who are in the career or field that they enjoy, how did you figure out “what you wanted to do”? And did you pursue your career passion, or did passion come with expertise?

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      I fell into what I do now (system development / computer coding) in the most random way, but love it. I was unskilled when my current boss took me on but I learnt on the job and it’s been really interesting.

    2. TotesMaGoats*

      Sorta, kinda fell into it. It’s not what I went to school for but in a closely related field. I got into it because my mom worked in the field and I got to help her a lot. Then being a student worker gave me real inside information. Higher ed became my passion and expertise has increased that passion.

    3. BRR*

      I work in fundraising and it kind of just fell into my lap. I was in grad school for arts administration and an opportunity came up for a paid internship. While the paid part sort of fell apart (and then sort of redeemed itself when I finished) I still took it and turns out I both love doing it and was able to easily pick up how the field works.

    4. HigherEd Admin*

      It sort of happened organically for me. I knew I was good at logistics and details, and that I’m also slightly OCD, so meeting planning was a natural fit for me. I wound up planning meetings/events at a nonprofit association with a large student membership, and fell in love with working with the student population. After 3 years there, I knew that I wanted to work with students in their primary environment, so started to look into higher education administration. I still do event planning, because that’s my skill set, but now I do it for and surrounded by the people I am most excited to serve.

    5. Joey*

      I chose to enjoy it. Sounds dumb, but i focus less on the actual work and more on the impact my work does and that it provides enough for me to be happy outside of work if that makes sense. And, I realized that a big part of happiness has more to do with the people you work with.

            1. Bea W*

              I never thought I’d enjoy what I do now, but when I found I was actually good at it, it made it that much more attractive.

    6. Swarley*

      I was looking for a job out of college…any job. I was hired for an entry level HR job that I didn’t believe I was qualified for. I took a couple of HR classes in college, but I didn’t think of making it a career. Turns out that it really meshed with my personality.

      So I’d say that it was a stroke of luck that I came into my career field. Now that I have more experience under my belt, Ive looked into other fields, but I enjoy what I do.

      1. Ashley*

        I had a slightly similar experience. I was graduating college with a really unhelpful BA (I majored in Political Science and Sociology, with no intention of going to law school) and no plans. On a whim I applied for an HR internship which I somehow got and it turns out I was actually really good at it and enjoyed it. That internship turned into a job and one WONDERFUL supervisor later I was thriving.

    7. Kathryn*

      Half accident, half really good management.

      I got my initial position with my current company though random networking. (friend of a friend at a party complaining they couldn’t find anyone to fill a position that matched my skill set.) The industry was one I was aware of, but not deeply invested in. The C level exec at the head of my group is very into development and makes sure to know the career interests of their people, so they can slot people into appropriate opportunities as they arise. I went from a fairly junior position to a senior position, to special projects work to management, each step getting to do more and have more control over a specific area of the industry that really fascinates me and I’m passionate about.

      I’m in a place where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do next, now facing more opportunities than I can actually take advantage of. Its really highlighted for me what management driven development looks like when its done well.

    8. littlemoose*

      Mostly fell into it. I am a lawyer, and I knew I wanted to practice some type of transactional or administrative law rather than being a litigator (didn’t really have any desire to be in a courtroom). Legal jobs were scarce and I would have taken any type of attorney job after I passed the bar just to get established, but I wound up getting an administrative law position in a niche area for the government. I am fortunate in that this job is a good fit for my skills and preferences. But yeah, some of it was just luck/falling into the right place. Given that several people upthread have said similar things, maybe that’s the common situation – got a job in the general area they wanted to work in and things developed from there.

      1. Senor Poncho*


        Did not take evidence class in law school >> is litigator.

        So much luck. So much falling into things.

        1. LawBee*


          Took ZERO litigation classes in law school >> is litigator.

          Thank god for good partners and coworkers who held my hand through the first couple of years. And the years to come, I am sure! I would have totally skipped evidence if that was an option at my school.

          1. Senor Poncho*

            yeah i was biz-side focused because I thought that would be more versatile once I struck out at OCI. now I don’t do anything that has anything to do with that, really.


            Boss: “How do we get XYZ into evidence?”
            Me: “How the he## should I know, I didn’t take even evidence?”

    9. AVP*

      For me it was a combination. I knew there were certain aspects of life that I loved and wanted to do as a career. I pursued the field I thought I wanted but realized very quickly that it was wrong for me and collapsing anyway. In the scramble to find something new, I took a summer internship in a a related but very different interest and ended up working in that industry instead.

      (For reference, I always thought I wanted to be a print journalist and ended up as a documentary film producer.)

      1. NZ Muse*

        Oooh, similar story. Dreamed of print journalism. Wound up in online journalism which I think was a better fit anyway, but burned out. I lucked into getting into digital media at just the right time, I think. Not in journalism any more, but still in a production/publishing function. Currently interested in content strategy/UX.

    10. Dan*

      I lucked into it. Of all things to do when one is bored, I started taking flying lessons the summer after my freshman year in college. Flying airplanes beat sitting in front of a computer, so I went that route, and my BS was a means to an end.

      Alas, I’m back at a desk, but my professional career (including grad school) was a calculated choice on how to apply analytic/software development skills to the problems I learned about first hand in the aviation world.

      I get my fire because I’m either one of the most knowledgeable people on the time, or can certainly hold my own in a work related conversation. I certainly don’t have a “do what I’m told because I don’t know any better” job. Yeah everybody gets there eventually, but it’s nice when it happens very early in your tenure.

      Plus, my jobs have great quality of life — so it’s work I enjoy doing, and it’s work that allows me to have a life outside of work.

    11. Sunflower*

      I’ll preface this by saying my dad is 65, about to retire and likes to say he still has no idea what he wants to be when he grows up. I think this is an eternal question that no one will ever really answer.

      It seems that most people just fall into their jobs and it’s rare for people to make livings off of what they consider their true passion- and not everyone wants to. For example, I’m extremely passionate about certain political issues but in no way would I want to make my living advocating for them. I find I enjoy the satisfaction I get from doing a good job and seeing the results. The jobs I’ve hated in the past have been ones where I felt like my contributions meant nothing and I was working for no reason. So if I was working at an organization where I was very passionate about the cause, but I felt like I wasn’t making an impact, I’d say I’d be pretty unhappy. However, working somewhere where I don’t care too much about the organizations mission, but I know I’m making a difference, is really important to me.

      A good idea is to expose yourself to as many environments and jobs as possible. You can do this without quitting your job by talking to people who work in those areas or mingling around networking events and just asking people what their jobs are like. Instead of trying to find what i love to do, I’m trying to find what I think I’d be unhappy doing and narrowing it down from there.

    12. cuppa*

      I took one step and fell into the rest :).
      I pursued my Master’s degree with the idea that I would get into one specific aspect of the field, but I realized that it would be really hard for me to get a job in that aspect. I happened to fall in love with the rest of the field anyway, and opened up myself to a broader part of the field. I then lost my job and took any job in the field that I could get, and I ended up somewhere that I never expected to be, but it worked out well.
      It’s funny that you bring this up. I was just talking to a friend/colleague of mine about how I’m now in a position where I could really do whatever I wanted in the field (within reason, of course), but now I don’t know what I want to do next. I’m trying to work that out for myself.

    13. danr*

      I fell into librarianship from teaching. From there I found my real career which was indexing. I could do my favorite hobby, reading, while working. From there I went on to other positions in the company, but they were always related to indexing.

    14. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I got here half on purpose, half by luck. I went to school for something completely dippy (like artistic teapot design), and ended up using my skills in a highly technical and political industry that I absolutely LOVE because it’s so useful and I’m actually making a difference.

    15. Just tea for me, thanks*

      My tip is to get into contact with people who’s job/or branche seems interesting to you. You can start small: for instance a family member or a friend. Tell them that you are looking into different jobs and would like to speak to them for about an hour, just so you can get an idea of what it is their job entails. Prepare well in advance for the kind of questions you would like to ask them. Then at the end of your chat, ask them if they know someone else that they think you could/should talk to. People really enjoy talking about themselves and their job, so don’t feel like you bother them by asking if they are up for it, people are very willing to talk! I have done this quite a few times, and am still working on it. It is a great way to find out what you like, what you don’t like and to narrow it down to your perfect job. Good luck!!!

    16. Sarahnova*

      I figured it out step by step. When I was a student I volunteered for a helpline and found that I loved training & coaching and was good at it. After I started my first job in another field I ended up using those skills and realising there was a whole career there. Later I also realised that I could get properly qualified as an organisational psychologist, since I had always loved psychology (but didn’t actually study it – at least not first time around!)

    17. Natalie*

      Fell into it, totally on accident. I was the receptionist, the bookkeeper quit at the same time that half of the rest of the office quit, and I ended up being the bookkeeper for a while because I was the only reasonable choice. Turns out I really like accounting.

    18. Nurse-To-Be*

      Not a silly question at all!! I’ve definitely pursued my career passions, both times. I’m simply not the type of person who will be able to do something with full commitment, nor will I be happy as a person, if I’m not passionate about and believe in what it is I’m doing. In fact, I’m in the midst of pursuing my second career, which I’m equally as passionate about as I was my first career. I worked in the tourism field for the past twenty years, and absolutely loved it (not all of it, but most of it!). I was (and still am) incredibly passionate about travel (Africa specifically), about showing others what else was out there, and about helping others achieve their travel dreams and trips of a lifetime.

      But after twenty years, I needed something deeper, with more personal meaning, so I enrolled in nursing school where I’m spending the next five years of my life. I’m equally as passionate about helping others but in a completely different way than how I helped them working in tourism. I knew I needed something different from tourism, and spent a long time thinking about what…the nursing thought quite literally popped into my head one day last year, and it made perfect sense given what my skills and strengths are, and what I enjoy.

      I read a really good book a number of years ago that really helped, and I still read it from time to time. ‘What Should I Do With My Life?’ by Po Bronson. It’s not a typical ‘career’ book on what you should do. If you’re struggling with this question about what to do, I would highly recommend reading it.

    19. LawBee*

      I completely fell into it. I was in a job that was interesting for a few years, but then got really repetitive and dull – and I didn’t like the direction that the position was heading. So I quit, and went to law school, thinking “hey, I didn’t like that job but I did like the field, and there’s lots of legal compliance work in the field, so I’ll just get my JD and do that.”

      Got the JD, got a job doing compliance work in the field, and wanted to die from boredom AGAIN. Then I got laid off (2006-2009 was rough in the legal world, as everywhere else), temped and stumbled around for a year or so, then ended up in the job I have now. Which I took solely because they offered it to me, I didn’t care WHAT they did.

      Turns out, I love it. Pure luck.

      1. LawBee*

        And yes, I’m the one who wants to change fields from a few weeks ago, but it’s still in the same vein of what I’m doing now.

    20. Anonsie*

      This sounds like silly advice, but when I was questioning whether or not I really wanted to go into my field as a student someone told me to think about what I wanted to be able to say about myself and what I do.

    21. Livin' in a Box*

      I fell into my job, too! I wanted to be a writer when I was a kid, but didn’t major in English or Journalism (because my parents were convinced that if I did I would be unemployed, homeless, and livin’ in a box). I studied hospitality (oops) instead, started writing about hotel/events/wedding stuff, then used those clips to write about cooler stuff. Right now, I’m mostly writing about pest control, and it’s the best.

    22. Xay*

      Fell into it. I started out as a secretary because I needed a job and found out that public health was the kind of problem solving mixed with helping people that I was looking for.

    23. vvondervvoman*

      I always knew that I wanted to do something to help people, and I wanted to do it internationally. It went from UN to international politics to anthropology, and then I had a pre-quarter life crisis. Which led me to explore a lot of different avenues and telling everyone that I needed a new direction. Someone said, “Well, you love talking about sex, so you should do that.” I laughed, but then thought about it and explored that. I landed on public health, with a specialty in sexual health. I transferred universities, and got my degree with a minor in Anthropology. During the 2 years in that school, I did 5 internships, one paid, but most free, put in thousands of hours training myself through these opportunities. After graduation, I did an AmeriCorps position, which paid nothing but gave me a full year of full-time experience in sexual health. I then landed my current gig doing exactly what I want to do.

      All that to say–I knew I had a general category/idea since forever, it was all about fine-tuning it. I have no advice for the folks who feel like anything is a possibility.

      Did passion come with expertise? No, but it definitely deepened it and made it more visceral. But it was always there.

    24. Nerdling*

      I had a relatively narrow concentration within my degree field, and I always figured I’d end up working for Big Oil or something. Then I took an internship with a government agency to rule out the idea of a career in public service — my dad worked for the state I grew up in, and I was very familiar with the headaches and relatively low rate of pay. The joke was on me, because I ended up really enjoying it. In fact, they called me about 14 months after my internship encouraging me to apply because they were doing a big hiring push, and I’ve been doing this ever since.

      In retrospect, this worked so well for me because I get a lot of enjoyment out of doing something different on a frequent basis and because I love being able to see how what I’ve done helped someone. The private sector would certainly pay better (although federal government definitely pays better than state, I’ve learned), but I haven’t been able to find a private sector equivalent to what I do, and I don’t think I’d be as satisfied at a job that doesn’t make me feel like I’m making the same sorts of contributions to the community around me.

      It’s not all sunshine and roses, but I’ve found that I can stand the bureaucratic headaches and the endless complaining about how I shouldn’t be a burden on society by daring to be a public employee by focusing on the fact that we make a difference.

      1. Nerdling*

        So I guess the moral of the story is to think about what you want out of your career.

        And yes, real passion came with expertise for me. The more I understand about what I’m doing, the more excited I get about it. It’s less giddy schoolgirl and more honest enthusiasm, I think.

    25. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Love, love, love what I do.

      Completely fell into it.

      What happened was, I decided to finally take the plunge into being a freelance writer (back in the late 80’s, when that meant magazine articles on paper and such), and took a job just to pay the bills. Wacky little teapot industry I wasn’t familiar with.

      I don’t think it took me a month to realize this was where I wanted to be forever.

      Freak accident.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        p.s. dropped the freelance writer supposed lifelong passion instantly and never looked back on that again.

    26. The IT Manager*

      I lucked into it. I have an IT education – BS Computer Science. MS Information Technology. In the military, I had management experience but no hand-on IT experience (officers lead people but do not perform the work) so that made it hard to break into what I thought I wanted which was network operations or IT/info security. I interviewed for this job – software development project manager – to get my foot in the door of the federal government jobs and it turns out I really, really enjoy it. I have only been working for a few years now. I do like it, but I can’t guarantee the frustrations won’t outweigh the victories at a later date or soon.

      You enjoyment of a job can be very variable because by job title I have done this job before in the military, but in that case I really just managed the contractor who did all of the work now I manage the project. And now I am probably trained; I wasn’t when I was in the job previously and felt lost and out of my depth.

      1. The IT Manager*

        My suggestion also is to back off and not to just restrict yourself to fields/industries when you’re thinking about jobs to try to figure out what type of job you will like.

        Like: do you prefer to
        – work at a desk or be out in the “field”?
        – work in a group on your own?
        – problem solving and deep thinking?
        Etc, etc …

    27. Jen RO*

      Someone saw something in me. If it hadn’t been for him, it would have never occurred to me. I liked the job and I was reasonably good, so I worked in related fields until I ended up with something I could build a career out of.

      1. Jen RO*

        To be clear – a friend got me into copy editing (back when I didn’t even know what it meant), I worked as a freelance editor/writer for a few years, and now I’m a tech writer.

    28. catsAreCool*

      I took a few classes in computers in high school. When I started thinking about what I wanted to do, I realized that programming was something I did for fun sometimes, so it seemed to make sense.

    29. Lizzie*

      When I got out of high school, I swore up and down I’d never set foot in a K-12 school again if I could help it. Then I graduated with an unfocused liberal arts BA in 2008 and discovered that job hunting stunk, so I joined the Peace Corps, where I discovered that teaching English language learners is awesome. Went back to grad school, got my teaching certificate, and the rest is history in the making.

    30. Nerd Girl*

      I am so far removed from where I thought I would be that it’s kind of funny. I majored in communications and media technology in college. My dream was to be the master of all things behind the scenes in television. I saw myself as a producer to Good Morning America or the like. The job market after college was an eye opener and to make ends meet I worked retail…for a long time. Fast forward a lot of years later and I was getting married and talking about starting a family and retail wasn’t what I wanted in any capacity. I got a job in a call center which morphed into becoming an insurance specialist which shifted again into financial data analysis and now I’m at a medical company assisting patients with prescriptions. It’s been a weird ride but honestly this place is where I’m supposed to be.

    31. ExceptionToTheRule*

      I’d always wanted to be a journalist in high school. Woodward & Bernstein and all that. Except I really sucked at story ideas & interviewing people in college – so I transitioned into tv production. I lucked into a job with a local station right out of college doing something I was completely unqualified for except that I’d work weekends & evenings and do it for a whole lot of nothing. In the first year or so, I discovered I was really good at telling people what to do, had nerves of steel & the ability to make instantaneous (correct) decisions, so I moved into directing and have been doing that for the past 17 years.

      I think the passion came with the expertise. The better I got, the more people would listen to my ideas and the more I cared about what I was doing.

    32. Nervous accountant*

      I started by volunteering only because I was super bored at home and couldn’t find anything I was qualified for (took a few relevant classes in undergrad but other than that I pretty much F-ed away my undergrad so had a rough time finding work). At the volunteer gig I asked for a paid position-got lucky and ended up getting paid for exactly the same thing I was volunteering for.

      That led to another paid position and another where the work was more varied and challenging; got a professional license and that led me to another better, higher paying job.

      I’ve had a lot of struggles (still am) and I’m still not at the point where I can say I’m successful but it’s been a slow climb and I guess I’m a little proud of it.

    33. Bea W*

      I ended up in my career by accident really. I did not plan or expect to be doing what I’m doing. I was certain I wanted to be a clinical psychologist, working directly with people, and that is what I was going to school to do, and I worked weekends in a job related to my major. Because I was already working in the kind of job where I was in a direct care / client services type setting, I decided to do something else for my required internship, just to broaden my experience, and did a research assistant position. At the same time I also had to do a required semester of research practicum. I thought I’d hate it really, because I thought this was by far the most boring thing you could possibly do in psychology.

      I freakin’ loved it. There’s a bit more to that story, but it came down to discovering I enjoyed this kind of work and life getting in the way of my completing the last semester of my BA on schedule and heading off to grad school. I decided at some point that I wasn’t going to pursue graduate study in psych and looked for a full time job. I started that job doing one thing and ended up where I am now, in an odd field no one understands and I love because I am weird. It was through going to work that I discovered where my real strengths and talents were. Finding something I excelled at and challenged me intellectually and technically ignited that passion for me.

    34. Mister Pickle*

      Dumb, random luck. I lived by a college campus while I was growing up, I’d ride my bike over and explore the place. One day I chanced upon a room full of computer terminals, and I got up the nerve to walk in sit down at one, and the person sitting next to me was amused – I was 13yo – and set me up to play Star Trek. We bonded – the computer and me, I mean. This was pre-Internet, but we had libraries, and so over the next year I used interlibrary loan to get ahold of every book I could find on programming languages and learned BASIC, FORTRAN, APL, LISP, SNOBOL, ETC – this was in the days before computers did much with lower-case letters. Today, a motivated kid could get a job (or start his own business) by knowing lots about computers; in 1974 there was nothing. But at least I knew what I wanted to do in college.

  5. A.*

    I have a job interview coming up on Tuesday. The lady I spoke with told me to prepare to interview for two (!) hours–one hour each with two individuals. I’m so nervous/excited. Please send me positive energy!

    1. k cat*

      I recently had one of the academic famed all day interviews – 12 hours from start to finish (including breakfast and dinner). My main problem was feeling like I was repeating myself all day. Hopefully they give you a little break between sessions, and I agree about bringing a water bottle!

      1. University Allison*

        As another academic, I wouldn’t know how to prepare for (only) a two hour interview. I did feel exhausted after the 2nd 10 hour day though…

        1. k cat*

          If I move any further up I’ll be in the 2 day territory. I actually felt pretty good after the 1 day thing, but I think that was because I was bookending it with 2 days of bike riding to get to know the city. :)

  6. a.n.o.n.*

    So, my update. I had said that I got a call, for the fourth time in a year, from the company that I originally wanted to work for and that we were set to meet up during the week. I didn’t mention that I’d moved farther away. (The commute would be 75 miles now that I’ve moved, rather than the 45 miles I already drive.) I struggled with it over the weekend and on Monday I told him that my commute would be 75 miles one way and I would be willing to do that maybe three days a week. I said if there’s an option to work from home at least two days a week, then I’d like to hear more about the opportunity. But otherwise, no thank you. I also said that I didn’t want to waste his time and wanted him to know upfront what the situation was. He said he’d think it over. He came back and said they can’t accommodate that since they do not have VPN capability and a lot of what I would be doing requires core system access. So, we parted ways. No big deal.

    My phone interview earlier in the week went very well and I was invited to interview in person on Monday. It’s a newly created position managing a department (yay!) and it’s only 20 minutes from home. I’m excited about this one. And I’m so happy I finally got a call after all the apps I’ve submitted. I was getting really discouraged. My current job is just…blechhh. I’d rather watch paint dry, to be honest. It’s similar to auditing and it’s just not for me.
    Anyway, when it’s time for me to ask my questions, is there anything I should ask specific to the fact that it’s a newly created role? I’m thinking I can still ask, “What does success look like for this person by the end of the first year?” But I was also thinking, “How do you see this role evolving over the next year?” I want to avoid the micromanager I have now, so I’m definitely going to ask about management style and what kind of person does well/doesn’t do well. Is there any way to ferret out whether it’s a culture of meeting after meeting without saying, “I f***ing hate meetings”? That’s what I have now and it seems like there’s no time to get actual work done with all the damn meetings.

    I hope I nail this. I’ve been waiting for a position like this one to come along for awhile. Not to mention I want out of my current job very much.

    1. a.n.o.n.*

      Also, should I connect on Linked In with the hiring manager and HR person I did the phone interview with?

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I wouldn’t. I’m pretty sure this has been discussed here before and Alison advised against it. I hope I’m remembering correctly…

    2. LawBee*

      I’d be really curious about what prompted this new position. Having a good idea of the challenges it’s intended to handle and fix would be good info!

    3. Hillary*

      In my company, managing a department means going to a lot of meetings. The managers aren’t individual contributors, their main responsibilities are to represent their teams to the broader organization and manage their people. That’s very company specific, but it comes out in the job descriptions and in discussing what a typical day looks like. Maybe something about comparable positions’ typical days since it’s a new role?

    4. Cass in Canada*

      Congrats on the interview! I just got hired into a brand new position for my department about a month ago. My advice is to figure out/ask why they created a new job, and what their needs are for this position. As an example, in my interview I asked lots of questions about what the job looked like, what they needed, and how the demand was not being met by current staff. Turns out they needed someone with technical skills to support their production group and get over some permitting humps in the first month. What’s nice about getting a brand new job is that I have some freedom in deciding what my job will look like I the future and help my department move forward with their future needs (I’m learning Python for a project that they have been wanting to do for a long time. Good luck!

  7. Alex*

    A friend of mine is in a position that involves hiring people – a large part of her focus is on diversity hires. She has made several tie-breaking decisions in favor of a minority hire, and is fairly transparent and vocal about it. It strikes me as odd for being so nonchalant in saying things like “Well they’re both good candidates, but obviously I’m going to hire the .” I know this a complex topic – rather than talk about our opinions of affirmative action, I’m hoping someone can tell me if this is usual hiring practice or if she is going about it the wrong way?

    1. a.n.o.n.*

      I don’t have an answer, but my husband’s company hires for diversity. They recently had an opening for a security guard and thay got over 100 applications. Not one of them was called and many were qualified (need a DOD clearance). They were all men. A woman applied after the position was opened for months. Guess what? She got hired right away. I don’t know how they make their decision, but it’s obvious that they were looking for a woman in order to adhere to their diversity policy. It’s happened several times before, also.

    2. Chriama*

      I’m pretty sure that’s illegal because I know racial discrimination can be against a majority as well as a minority.

      1. Chriama*

        I would also be worried that she’s so focused on being ‘diverse’ she’s not always making the best hiring decision. Also, what if there are multiple candidates who are racial minorities? How does she pick between them?

        1. Alex*

          That is a good question… whenever we’ve talked about it, she relays conversations between her and her boss along the lines of “We need to hire xxx because she is a woman.” Or “we should probably hire xxx because he is a racial minority”.

          It seems like she could be opening their company to legal issues – but I don’t know how affirmative action works, so maybe this is how it is supposed to work?

          The most recent convo that really made me raise my eyebrows went something like “Well xxx left, so now we don’t have anyone of Asian background on the team. We need to hire someone Asian.”

          1. Chriama*

            Yeah, that sounds completely illegal and her boss is in hot water too for tolerating this. I think Alison has done a post on how to increase hiring diversity but I can never find archived articles so someone else will have to help out. But overall, she needs to find a better way to build diversity at her company — this is too risky from a legal perspective.

          2. Natalie*

            Assuming you’re in the US, I don’t believe this is how affirmative action can work anymore. There have been a few court cases, although most of them have involved colleges, that have struck down things like quotas or minority preferences.

          3. littlemoose*

            Oh yeah. That sounds like it’s pretty clear they’re making hiring decisions based on race and gender. She could definitely be opening the company up to liability. The inclusionary impulse may be laudable, but that is not how it should be implemented.
            (I am not her or your lawyer, this is not legal advice, she should seek her own counsel, etc.).

          4. QualityControlFreak*

            I’m a woman and a minority and this just ticks me off. My tribe can legally exercise a preference for Indians/tribal members, and for working in a tribal community, on tribal lands, this is valid. However, they hire for the best person. We have many non-Indians working for our tribe.

    3. Joey*

      Yes she is. she should not be making the final hiring decision unless she is the hiring manager or in the chain of command. She should only be questioning why this candidate over that one until she’s satisfied there is defendable justification. And giving them info such as “are you aware that your area has few minorities relative to the community and local job pool”.

        1. Joey*

          She shouldn’t default ever. She should aim to fill diversity gaps, but always hire the best person for the job period. Defaulting to the minority isn’t defendable. she shouldn’t hire anyone until she can articulate job related criteria that justifies that the person she selected is better qualified. She’s being lazy

        2. Denied Employment*

          Whoa before we go calling the manager lazy and questioning whether she should be making the final hiring decision, can we at least give her the benefit of the doubt that she IS doing her job and she is choosing the best qualified who so happens to be a minority and fills a gap. We do know that prejudices and biases exist and sometimes are never questioned and/or defended when it’s in the majority favor.

    4. puddin*

      Grrr, diversity is not just relegated to race and gender and other typical labels. Inclusion also means varying socioeconomic, personality, educations, work styles, etc. Oops you didn’t want opinions/debate – can’t helpit!

      To answer your question, I have heard this same refrain from HR in two different companies I worked for. At one point, manager was told the next hire has to be a diversity candidate – period. These were pretty mainstream companies so I think this is pretty norm.

    5. LawBee*

      NOT AN EMPLOYMENT LAWYER, but it’s my understanding that if the applicants are equal, then there’s nothing wrong with going with the minority hire. But if she’s hiring less qualified people and the SOLE reason is because of minority status, then that’s a problem.

      (fwiw, I fall into a couple of “minority status” categories myself.)

      1. Chriama*

        I think the problem is it’s very difficult to objectively prove that 2 hires are equal, so if she’s saying the determining factor is their race then she needs to have a business case for why that’s relevant (e.g. they work with a marginalized population, or they’re trying to build sales among a particular ethnic group that this candidate has experience in).

        1. LawBee*

          True. There’s also the thing that this is a friend talking outside of her job about decisions she makes on the job – she’s probably not telling her pals all the boring details.

    6. Observer*

      If she’s actually saying what you are quoting, then, yes, she is absolutely going about it the wrong way. It’s one thing to take diversity into account, and if a group has been historically under-represented, it’s a good thing. But, from the way you are presenting it, it sure sounds like this is not only a consistent tie breaker, but it may very well be trumping other legitimate work needs. If that’s the case, then the problem should be obvious. Even if that isn’t the case, if she’s giving that impression, she could be setting up the company and the department(s) she is hiring for, for some trouble.

    7. Lizzie*

      My field has a big diversity problem (elementary school teaching is overwhelmingly white and female), and I know my principal (as well as others in my district) will put any qualified male candidate on the Must Interview list. Based on the ratio of female new teachers to male new teachers, though, it seems like merit trumps everything else. Of the six new teachers hired this year, only one is male.

    8. Student*

      Sometimes this is done in industries that are heavily dominated by white men. All the heavy-hitter professionals in the company are white men. To try to avoid legal attention, look better on reporting requirements, or whatnot, they opt to hire women and minorities very heavily for all the lower tier jobs in the company.

      In my field, the bosses and technical employees tend to be very heavily male-dominated, and they like it that way. So, they hire women exclusively for the admins. They hire minorities for business support roles. They hire women or minorities for reception and janitorial work. It brings the company-wide average up, ensures there are always sufficient women and minorities for publicity shots or photo ops, avoids fixing the actual problem in the culture or giving women/minorities any real power, and no white guy will sue you for discrimination because he didn’t get an admin position. It doesn’t even occur to the white guys that they’re being discriminated against, generally, since they’re probably interviewing with one.

      All that said, when it gets down to tie-breaker level, I’m not sure I see much of an ethical dilemma with this. Real, honest tie-breakers are decided on something arbitrary, so giving the ties to a group of people who are often at a disadvantage at getting opportunities is just a tiny offset of the many cases where ties will subconsciously go to the white guy. It’s not a great reason to make a decision, but it’s at least as good of a reason to make a tie-breaker decision as “he likes my sports team” or “she wore a color I like” or “she’s my favorite astrology sign” or nonsense like that. Maybe a coin flip is the way to go.

      What makes me uncomfortable is the idea someone might decide to go with the minority/woman applicant without giving them sufficient scrutiny and genuinely reaching that “tie” stage. You shouldn’t throw out all the white guy applications the moment a woman applies. Depending on the field, maybe ties shouldn’t even be a common occurrence.

    9. Jazzy Red*

      My first company did stuff like this, too. It’s why so many people hated Affirmative Action – the minority person would be hired over someone else with better qualifications. When I was trying to move into the secretarial level, we had four secretaries in our division. They were all people of color, and only one of them was competent at her job. The others were there to “show” that our company was following federal guidelines.

      A.A. was supposed to level the playing field, but it didn’t. Apparently, after all these years, the most qualified candidates are still being hired for their color/ethnicity instead of their qualifications. And, Alex, it STILL is “the wrong way”!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        For what it’s worth, while there are certainly situations like that out there, overall minority candidates are still at a significant disadvantage in hiring, even when quite qualified. (And plenty of unqualified white people get hired all the time, so it’s not like it’s something that you only see with minority candidates.)

        1. Observer*

          In a way, this is one of the real problems with poorly run AA programs. It gives ALL efforts to level the playing field a black eye. And that’s a shame, because if you are paying attention, it becomes pretty obvious that there are still some pretty big systemic, structural and cultural problems that do need to be addressed.

  8. Christine*

    I’m in the process of looking for a new job, and when I get an offer (I will! Eventually! It’ll happen!), I’d like to give two weeks of notice at my current job, but start at whatever the new job is three weeks from the date of the offer. My current job has been very draining, and I’d like to take a week off in order to just relax, sleep in, maybe do some shopping, things like that.

    How would I explain this to the new job? I don’t want to lie and say that I’m working for three weeks at the old job, but I’m also worried what a new employer would think about my “work ethic” if I’m taking a week off between jobs. (Hopefully I’ll be lucky and get a manager who understands that taking a week off is not an indication that I’m some kind of lazy slacker, but who knows.) Do I need to explain it, or can I just say “I’m available to start three weeks from whenever” and leave it at that?

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      You don’t need to tell your new job what your last day is at old job. Just pick the start date for new job and roll with it. That’s not their business. Enjoy the week off.

      1. a.n.o.n.*

        Oh, thanks! I was thinking about how I would navigate this if I were to get an offer. If I got an offer in the middle of the week, I’d want to make my start date on a Monday so it would be little more than two weeks.

        1. Eric*

          I wouldn’t worry too much about it, you’re overthinking this. Just figure out what start you want and then tell them “I would be available to start as early as November 3” or whatever.

    2. GOG11*

      I’m really not an expert at all, but I’d say “I’m available to start on X” (just calculate what three weeks is from their offer date). I would think that’s very reasonable.

      1. Christine*

        Thanks for the comments, everybody. I had a feeling I was overthinking it, but it’s nice to get confirmation. I suspect this is one of those bad job/bad manager things I’m gonna have to work on moving past– at my old job, I don’t think it would have been an issue, but the management here would have flipped if a new hire said that. Which is why I’m job searching after less than a year.

    3. Penny*

      I figured out when my start date for my new job would be and then gave the old job two weeks notice. Neither of them knew that I had budgeted a week between the two for myself. They really have no need to know.

      1. brightstar*

        This is what I always did in the past. “This is the date I can start” to New Job and “This date will be my last day” to Old Job. No explanations needed on either end.

    4. Observer*

      Outside of some fairly unusual circumstances, if the new job would think it a problem that you would take off a week to recharge between jobs, take that as a huge red flag. The new job would almost certainly be just as draining as your current job, so what do you gain? You would really need to have a truly significant bump in pay or SOMETHING to make it worthwhile.

  9. Future Trainer*

    Hello. I have an interviews lined up in retail and I am hoping to get some advice from all of the pros here! Especially anyone who might be involved in training / talent development.

    I have a background in education, mostly in facilitating learning experiences, curriculum writing and some experience training. I want to move into a trainer role and eventually into instructional design. I’ve been out of work for a long time and really need more experience but also, I just need a job.

    The interview is with a wireless communications company for an Experience Specialist and focuses on customer experience and involves facilitating workshops demonstrating and educating them on products and technology solutions, etc.

    So, some questions:

    I read that this company uses something called the STAR method to interview, which I am not that familiar with. I looked it up but can anyone tell me more about this?

    This company also has posted on their site that they are on Working Mother’s 100 best companies list for 2014 because of their flexibility. Is it appropriate to mention this as a reason I’d like to work there or is bringing up the fact that I’m a mom and might desire flexibility a bad idea?

    I have about 5 years of retail experience from about 15 years ago. I was a manager in training for a large retail chain and also a supervisor at a clothing store. It is not on my resume and I didn’t include it in my application but is this worth mentioning even though it was so long ago?

    When I did their online application there was no place to upload a cover letter during the online application process. Should I bring a cover letter to my interview or is it pointless since I already got the interview? Would a better strategy be to include some of the contents of my cover letter in the follow-up letter?

    They have already told me the salary for this position. Can I still negotiate? I’ve always heard that is somewhat unacceptable in retail, but I’m not sure how accurate that is in general or for this kind of position, which is still on the sales floor but is not a minimum wage + commission type of role. It’s salary + benefits.

    From the perspective of anyone who is a trainer, am I right that this could be some much needed experience for me to move forward on that path? Or is it totally different since I will be teaching customers and won’t be training staff?

    Finally, any tips for interviewing in retail? It’s been so long.

    Sorry so many questions. I appreciate the advice!

    1. INTP*

      The STAR method involves describing the situation or problem the company was facing, the job you were given to help with it, the actions you took, and the outcome. I believe the acronym is for Situation, Task, Action, Resolution but I could be wrong about the specific words. Just start thinking about your past jobs from that point of view and you’ll do well!

      1. MaryMary*

        I learned it as SAR (Situation, Action, Result), but same idea. It’s used in behavioral interviews. The idea is that past behavior is the best predictor of future results. So instead of asking a candidate “How would you deal with a difficult customer?” you ask “Tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult customer.” It steers people away from hypotheticals and towards concrete examples.

        Expect a lot of “tell me about a time…” “describe a situation where you…” “can you give me an example of….” type questions. You want to answer in the STAR format. So, using the difficult customer example, here’s a sample response:
        Situation: When I worked at Chocolate Teapot Stores, I had a very upset customer come into the store because his teapot had melted the first time he used it. He was very vocal, yelling and using some inappropriate, and frankly insulting, language.
        Task: I wanted to calm him down the best as I could as well as trying to address his concern.
        Action: I was very calm and told him I was very sorry he’d had a negative experience with one of our teapots, and that I would do everything I could to make it right. I offered him a choice of a full refund or a brand new teapot.
        Result: Apologizing to the customer without being defensive, angry, or trying to argue caught him a bit off guard and he stopped yelling. From there, we were able to talk through what had happened, and he chose to exchange his melted teapot for a new one. The new teapot worked perfectly, and he wrote a letter to my manager telling her how helpful I’d been in resolving his issue.

        1. Future Trainer*

          Thanks so much for the example. I see that whatever answer I give needs to be discussed in a certain order. I’m not sure I would have thought of it in exactly those terms so I’m glad I looked it up and asked.

          1. MaryMary*

            A good interviewer won’t care too what order you go in, as long as you’re coherent and cover them all. Most would even prompt you if you skipped over a piece, i.e. “and what happened as a result?” In fact, some of the less good interviewers may do that, if they weren’t listening closely or didn’t quite understand your example.

      2. Whoops!*

        Thanks for the description. That’s helpful. I guess I need to try to think of some of the situations I dealt with in my previous jobs. Do you think it matters if my previous jobs weren’t sales roles?

        A sample interview question I saw on glassdoor was “name a time when you had to take a leadership role and what was the outcome?” Would an answer go something like:

        When I worked at X job, we were using a paper scheduling and inventory system. It was difficult to schedule appointments and find the right trainer for each request. Inventory was also misplaced and documents mis-filed. I realized that we needed to simplify and organize the system and so we wouldn’t lose track of expensive equipment or miss appointments. I took it upon myself to create a new computer based scheduling and inventory system and designed training documents for current and future employees to use the system correctly. Once we implemented it, we spent a lot less time organizing training sessions. It was easier to determine open time slots for appointments and we had a faster turnaround. Inventory was also available when we needed it and we no longer lost track of an item that was checked out by a student months before. All of which meant we were fulling faculty, staff and student needs, and saving thousands of dollars in our budget by not having to replace lost equipment.

        Or is that too wordy?

        1. Judy*

          I think that’s OK. Not too long ago there was a discussion about those “Tell me about a time when…” questions, and one of the things was if you have 5+ good “stories” ready, you should be able to answer most of them. You might search for a list of questions, I’ve seen some.

          1. Future Trainer*

            Thanks for the tip! I often find it hard to recall stories from past jobs unless something prompts my memory so I think a list of potential questions would help.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      This article will give you some more information about STAR interviews:

      As for the flexibility and salary that something to talk about after you get an offer, I would think there might be a little bit of movement in the salary but not a huge amount would you be happy to take the job for what they’ve already told you the salary is?

      The cover letter is a bit redundant now you have an interview I wouldn’t take it myself but when they ask you why do you want this job, you can use what you’ve written as an answer to that question,

      1. Future Trainer*

        Yes, I would take the job at the salary they are offering now. I wouldn’t waste their time otherwise. It would be nice if I could move them up a little bit. I wouldn’t bring it up until there was a job offer. When would I ask about raises, bonuses, etc.? Should that also wait until an offer is made?

        Yeah, I thought the cover letter would also be redundant but I wasn’t sure. Good idea to use what I’ve written as an answer to the why I want this job question. Thanks.

    3. BRR*

      Don’t mention flexibility as a reason you’d like to work there, we have to all pretend we don’t work for salary and benefits in interviews. I would mention the retail experience in your interview (I can’t imagine the field has changed that much). Cover letters are to get interviews, you already have an interview (congratulations! btw) so no need to write one. I’m not sure what you mean by follow up letter, a thank you note? In the retail industry, salary is pretty much set. You could try and negotiate but I would expect no movement on their part.

      I’m not sure about your other questions. Good luck!

      1. Future Trainer*

        By follow-up letter I mean thank you letter. Alison has talked about how “thank you letter” is a bit of a misnomer and its really more of a follow up, so I have started referring to it as that in order to get the right feeling in my mind when I write them.

    4. GOG11*

      Even if the retail experience was a long time ago (and especially if it was at the beginning of your career) I would think it’s reasonable to talk about, especially if you feel that working in a customer service environment shaped your philosophy about delivering services in a less “customer-service-y” environment. Working in retail can cultivate a certain attitude toward or understanding of customer service that other fields may not.

      1. Future Trainer*

        That’s a very good point. I think my early retail days did help with my later work because I was really accustomed to providing a service that was for my visitors and remembering that the customer always comes first mantra, which can get lost in some other lines of work. Vice versa, my non retail work will help customers feel more like they are having a learning experience rather than just going shopping.

    5. littlemoose*

      What about a question like, “What are the typical hours worked for this position?” or “What does the scheduling look like for this position?” Those might be more neutral ways to get some information about flexible hours (if any) without bringing up factors in your personal life.

      1. Future Trainer*

        That’s a much better idea. Working evenings and weekends really isn’t ideal and I’d rather not do it but I am willing to do it for a good job. I’ve been out of work for a while and my husband is recovering from a critical illness so we have a lot of medical debt. Working evenings and weekends is the least of my worries. So even if it’s not that flexible I will do it, but its not best case scenario.

  10. Eric*

    Anyone have long-distance job searching tips? I’m looking to make a move from Brooklyn to Portland, OR. I’m in a pretty specialized field and have a couple professional contacts out there (one of whom, a consultant, I work with and has agreed to be a reference) but I’m struggling with a reason.

    I want to move because I want a slower pace, a more livable city, better weather, but one that still has good public transit and aligns with my personal values. So I don’t have the standard “good” reason of family.

    I know I’ll be asked, and right now in my cover letters I’m saying basically “I am committed to moving to Portland and do not require relocation assistance” but not convinced that’s enough.

    1. Another Poster*

      Your reason could be “better quality of life”. I think plenty of people in Portland, OR would understand that sentiment coming from Brooklyn.

      1. Sunflower*

        I have to agree with this too. This wouldn’t work for every city but given the extreme cost of living and pace of NYC, I think this makes a ton of sense.

    2. Jen*

      If you can float it – take a trip out there and try to book some interviews. I always had good luck with that. I’d e-mail people and say “I will be in Portland the week of November 16-22 and I would love to meet with you during that time to discuss the Public Relations position you have available.” and I have gotten three or four interviews by doing that.

        1. Jen*

          I have done that in the initial cover letter. I moved to Chicago and did that and scored two interviews and then I did it when I moved to Missouri and got three interviews.

    3. HR Manager*

      Better quality of life would resonate well with that region. I also would encourage a few visits if possible, and have some sort pf plan worked out. In addition to highlighting that you don’t need relocation assistance, I good way to demonstrate that commitment is to put a time frame (even if loose) for you to be there, assuming you can swing that. Nothing you say about not wanting relocation assistance is going to put that doubt out of the mind of the recruiter unless 1) you have a person there you can rely on to help you with housing, settling in; 2) you show a serious commitment of putting roots in that city, regardless if you have a job or not; and/or 3) demonstrate that you have done research to understand the lifestyle, cost of living difference, etc and know what you’re getting into.

      A lot of people write that they don’t want relocation assistance, and unfortunately, it’s because they don’t think they need relocation assistance from having done zero research into the new location, lifestyle, and zero planning financially on what it takes to move and maintain their standard of living.

      1. Eric*

        These are all good points. Unfortunately my timeline is a bit weird–I would totally be willing to pack up and move (I have five figure savings) on pretty short notice, I’ve already done a lot of weeding of possessions and have a list of what furniture I’m bringing and what I’m not, etc. but I’d be driving and I don’t really want to drive across the country in the winter without a guaranteed job. So I’m not planning to move until the spring, but I would shoot up my timeline if I had a job. I don’t know if that’s clarifying or not.

        1. Biff*

          You might put that in your cover letter. “The possessions are pared down, I’ve chosen my favorite furniture. I’ve even trimmed my Baccarat collection down to the ‘must keeps.’ I can’t wait to get out west.”

          Now, that may just be confirmation bias, since that’s in MY cover-letter.

          Good luck!

      2. Lily in NYC*

        First, Brooklyn is a hell of a lot more expensive than Portland. But I’m confused as to what lifestyle has to do with relocation assistance. In my experience, that just means the company pays for the person’s move and nothing more. And it’s become an extremely rare thing these days – why pay when you can probably find good candidates closer to home? That’s why I think it’s important to say you don’t need the assistance. It’s usually a dealbreaker.

        1. Another Poster*

          I thought HR Managers point was that people think they don’t need relocation expenses but since they haven’t done the research they may not really understand how much it costs to live there and have the lifestyle they desire. If the lifestyle is more expensive than they anticipated they may not actually have as much in the way of relocation expenses as they originally estimated.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            Thanks, I didn’t really catch that. But I still think those are completely different things (in my opinion). Relocation expenses are generally piddly – like a couple of thousand bucks to offset moving costs. Which seems like a drop in the bucket when talking about actual living expenses. I would expect the person moving to do their research before making the decision. Especially since it’s almost unheard of to actually get relocation assistance now.

    4. Relosa*

      I’m moving to LA and it’s pretty much for the same reasons. I summarize them into a sentence and bam. (Except, obviously, LA is not a slow-paced city :) I usually phrase it around how much I identify with the culture.

    5. Lily in NYC*

      You don’t need to give a reason. I think saying you don’t need relocation money in the cover letter is enough.

    6. k cat*

      From my experience with Oregonians, most won’t even question why you’d want to move from x to the pacific northwest. It’s kind of taken as a given that *everyone* wants to move there. :) So the reasons you gave will probably be fine, if asked. I think I had a sentence to the effect of “I’ve been wanting to move to x area for a long time” after all the other reasons I was excited about the job.

      1. C Average*

        Oregonian chiming in here. Yeah, we’re all smug bastards who think we live in the best place on earth because (duh) we do. If you say you’re moving here for the quality of life, we’ll nod knowingly. Most of us came from somewhere else for the quality of life and stayed because it’s as good as advertised. But please do visit the region between November and February to make sure you can withstand the dreariness of Oregon winters! They’re not for everyone.

        1. k cat*

          The people I encountered weren’t smug bastards (ok one was, but that was it), just knowledgeable about why people generally want to move there (weather, outdoorsy stuff, etc.). I think most people hiring there have had so many candidates from out of the region they don’t even ask anymore. I did think it was funny that nearly every office I saw when I interviewed had a “happy light” to counteract the winter dreariness.

        2. catsAreCool*

          I was also going to say, the winters in western Oregon can be pretty depressing. The skies are gray/white and, there’s a fair bit of rain (usually constant nagging dripping). Occasionally, we get snow, and if it sticks, no one knows how to drive in it.

          The summers are beautiful though.

          I like Oregon, but not everyone can take the weather.

    7. Kyrielle*

      I live in Oregon, and “I really love Oregon, the culture and the climate, especially in this area” would punch all my “my home is the awesomest, OF COURSE” buttons and be totally understandable to me.

      I would not use the word “pace” even if it’s true because in some companies they might worry you might not be a go-getter at work (not necessarily justified, but they might!) if they hear “wanting to slow down”…but liking the culture or other facets of the region will work well with others who love it, and is unlikely to turn off those who don’t. (Our office not-quite-Californian would ask, “Are you sure you’ll love it after it rains on you?” But probably with a smile.)

      1. Kyrielle*

        Whups, editing to add, only whatever is true of course. :)

        (By the way, the rain is a serious thing. I have wonderful friends who moved away because the regular rain for three seasons was too much for them. Fortunately, none of them moved to Seattle, which has more of it than we do, even….)

      2. catsAreCool*

        I also wouldn’t use “pace” because some people in Portland might take that as an insult. How about saying you want to live in a city where (fill in with something specific about Portland that’s better than where you currently live). Maybe there’s less honking in Portland. Maybe drivers are more careful. Maybe the greenery is prettier.

    8. Lizzie*

      When my boyfriend was job hunting in preparation for a nearly-cross-country move, he included a line to the effect of “I am currently in the process of relocating to [city]” to make clear that this move was happening whether or not the company in question agreed to hire him. Ultimately he didn’t find a job until he had already moved, so I’m not sure whether not explicitly addressing the money gave any employer second thoughts, though.

    9. Just Visiting*

      I moved from the East Coast to Portland seven months ago. I had to move before I got a job, there was no other way to do it. I sent out a few dozen resumes and applications. Once I had my move date I put that on there too. Nothing, nothing. Portland, possibly more than other cities, is a move first/job later kind of place. The competition is so fierce, particularly for entry level jobs, they’re not going to waste time on applicants who don’t live here. Even when you live here, it can be hard to differentiate yourself from the pack. I had one job interview where half the questions were “Are you staying here for good? Really? Really really? We don’t want to train someone who’s going to leave when it starts to rain/they start to think Portland is boring/they’re going to the next hip city.” I lost out on that job, which I think was solely due to being a new transplant. I don’t begrudge them, because I know training is expensive, but that’s what you’re walking into. Most employers do realize that Portland is a popular place to move to, so you might not get many questions about why you’re here. You’ll get more questions about whether you’re here for good.

      Your situation might be different than mine because you do have a specialized, professional job with contacts and I was only looking for any old job. But I wouldn’t expect much until you have a Portland address on your resume. Moving to Oregon in 2014 isn’t functionally different from moving to Oregon in the 1800s, you have to save up your money, put everything you own in your covered wagon, and just go. Have a year of savings, two if you can swing it. Portland is cheap compared to most coastal cities but money does run out fast when you don’t have a job.

      You have visited, right? I LOVE Portland and I am committed to staying here permanently, but I’m also from a mid-sized non-East Coast city originally and strongly preferred that city to the East Coast. If you’re used to NYC living, Portland may come as a shock. For a city Portland’s size, the public transportation is amazing… but it isn’t compared to NYC or DC. The whole city shuts down at 10:00. If you haven’t visited yet, the next few months will be a perfect time to visit because you’ll get to experience the rain and cloud cover firsthand (we planned our exploratory trip in the late fall on purpose).

      Sorry for writing a novel! I hope I don’t look like I’m trying to pull up the drawbridge. Portland really is wonderful and if it’s a slower pace you want, we have that in spades. It’s the politics of the North combined with the slow pace of the South!

      1. Eric*

        This is really great information, thank you! I’m starting to think that I should just go–honestly I could find a furnished room somewhere and just sublet my apartment furnished until I find a job and am staying for sure.

  11. HigherEd Admin*

    I had my first performance review for my current role last week. It was glowing, which is nice, but didn’t provide me with any ideas for ways in which I can improve. I specifically asked for critical feedback and also asked what it would take for me to get to the next level (title change, pay increase) when those decisions are made at the end of this academic year. My boss sort of side-stepped the question and didn’t give me any concrete answers.

    Performance reviews are done well after promotions are decided on, so the promotions seem a little skewed towards the office favorites or people who have been here so long that it’s just time to promote them, whether their work merits it or not.

    How do I navigate moving up in a situation where my performance exceeds expectations, I and my work are both widely liked, and I’m just biding time for my name to be called? (FWIW, I love my job. I would not want to leave, and have no plans to do so, but I do want to advance my career here.)

    1. GOG11*

      Are you close with another manager at your boss’ level with whom you could develop a mentor/mentee type relationship?

    2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Make your own development plan, and run it by your boss. Some people don’t understand the difference between telling you that your work needs improvement, and helping you figure out how you can grow from great to awesome. And even if your boss does understand, it might be that your performance evaluation process doesn’t lend itself to developing strengths (vs. just identifying deficiencies).

      Think about areas where you’d like to learn more or become and expert, and ask for her support to get there. Depending on the company, you might need to come up with no- or low-cost strategies, like shadowing colleagues or a mentoring relationship.

      1. HigherEd Admin*

        Thanks to both of you for the suggestions. I particularly like the idea about creating my own development plan, despite that this is something I have a hard time coming up with in the past. I think where I struggle is that I’m an event planner, and if all my events are executed well, with successful attendance and successful engagement, where else can I improve the product of my work?

        I’m not sure that mentoring/shadowing is a good solution here, as I’m the only person in the office who does what I do, and unless I’m interested in moving my career in a different direction altogether (I’m not), shadowing someone doesn’t necessarily make the most sense.

        1. Kyrielle*

          What is the next step for you, and what skills are involved? Are there any that aren’t used in your current work, and if so, is there a task you could take on or assist with that would let you show that you do have those skills? (After working on them first, if necessary, of course.)

    3. RandomNameHere*

      I would also ask whether a certain level of experience is required/expected. You may be exceeding expectations for what someone of your tenure (or even any tenure!) is expected to do, but sometimes there is no substitute for actually living through the kind of situations that you are more-or-less guarantees to face over, say, three years, but may not happen every single year.

  12. Joey*

    Why do so few employees actually educate themselves on company benefits? It’s open enrollment time around here and I am always flabbergasted that so many employees don’t take advantage of or have little knowledge of basic benefits like HSA’s/FSA’s, how to make smart choices about their insurance plans, retirement/investment options, etc. I hear so much whining about inflation, but people don’t seem to care to educate themselves on how to best spend their money. I just don’t get it.

    1. Red*

      I know that at least at my employer, it’s actually difficult to find any comprehensive, coherent information about benefits, and calling the office is pointless because no one picks up. XD

      1. Sascha*

        That’s how it is at my workplace. The HR website is very confusing. And when you do find a link to something that looks promising, the link is dead.

      2. Anonsie*

        Yep. I have to dig through gigantic verbose medical documents all the time and decipher them, but I still find the benefits explanations more or less impenetrable. Everything is phrased cryptically so you can’t know what it means practically, and the amount of jargon is insane. Like, ok, “preferred” prescriptions are $15 and “non-preferred” are $30, so which category do my prescriptions fall in to? Some companies have a list you can access, some don’t and tell you that’s determined at the time you fill your prescription. Only some of the emergency rooms are in-network around here, so what happens if you have to be taken to an out of network ER out of necessity? I’m better at this than average, I guess, but I still feel like an idiot every time I have to do it.

      3. Bea W*

        Same :/ I do a lot of work and calculations to figure out how much to set aside in my FSA each year. This year’s changes require I have to track down the provider’s forumlary to determine which tier my brand name (no generic available) prescription falls under so that I can budget for how much I will be spending on prescriptions next year. There’s a new deductable, but no explanation about which situations would require me to pay it. Does preventive care that is normally no charge to me fall under the deductible or is it only office visits and other care? My employer kept talking about “significantly higher” premiums but not disclosing what “significantly higher” meant while expecting employees to make decisions whether or not to participate in a program based on information that changes were coming and the cost would be “significantly higher”. Given a lack of information I made some educated guesses and weighed my choices that way, not the best way to do it.

    2. Alex*

      I’d like to think of myself as being fairly intelligent, but when it comes to open enrollment and benefits, I get so bogged down with an over-abundance of information and options, that I basically give up after I feel I have a basic understanding. Seriously – we had 12 health plan options to choose from this year, different HSA/FSA options than last year, an employee stock purchase option, a 401k option… It’s a ton of information that I poured over for hours and made the best decision I could, but I still don’t feel like I 100% understand it all, and I think I made more effort than many of my peers…

      My boss actually didn’t even look at the enrollment emails at all and missed the part that said “No action, no coverage” and almost missed the deadline to re-enroll his family. He would have totally missed it if I hadn’t pointed it out to him!

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yes, this. There is a huge amount of information, much of it in jargon, and it can be overwhelming. My workplace had sort of an advisement session on it, which I think was really great. It helped me figure out what I did and didn’t want. We had something like six different HMOs and OAPs to choose from, along with a ton of supplemental things. I actually chose in large part based on which was more compatible with hospitals out of state–I live near a state border, my boyfriend in the other state, and I wanted to be sure I was covered if I had an emergency while visiting him. It would probably sound like a silly priority to some, but it was pretty important to me.

        1. Alex*

          Ugh, YES! Our benefits department actually had a great online portal this year, but even then, who has hours and hours to navigate and read everything? And then like you said, you’re directed to a million different places that don’t always have clear or un-jargon information. It’s such a racket.

        2. Artemesia*

          One thing that astonished me about the company I worked for is that they would have big glossy information fairs about benefits in which NO ONE could answer any question except with the boilerplate in the glossy brochures which were of course vague.

          I always have had specific questions that I am sure are FAQs — I am not that unusual and my life transitions are like everyone else’s and so my questions are the sort of thing that everyone must ask — and yet the HR people can never answer them. Of course medical personal can also NEVER tell you if something they want to do is covered or how much it will cost if it isn’t.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        This is what my husband went through at his job. There were three problems.
        1) He hated math. He hated anything to do with math. (He was sick as a kid and missed a lot.)

        2) The company offered points or “dollars” toward your selection. The employees were NEVER told how many dollars the company was going to give them. NOR did they have any information on how to calculate that for themselves.

        3) So I sat down with my math challenged husband to figure out the benefits. There were dozens of things to chose from. It took HOURS to figure out how much each one would cost. And (referring back to number 2, we had no idea how much the company would pay for it.) SOOOO, we went with worst case scenario that we would have to pay the whole bill, just so we could keep moving along. Great. We looked at elder care insurance for his parent. HOURS later we figured out it would cost us $2000 per month. This is a totally USELESS benefit. We looked at other benefits such as a health savings plan. WELL. Going back to problem number two we did not know how much we were paying for what we had already selected. We could not commit to putting in to a savings plan because we could not be sure that we would be able to cover our bills if we did commit to a health savings plan. Yet, again another useless benefit.

        In short, the company failed to provide information on how much they would be paying into a plan. And many of the benefits were useless because they were too expensive. Employees used to make a lot of jokes about the benefit plans. I am sure managers had no clue about all the problems the employees were having. The situation was so dire it was almost similar to having NO benefits at all. Just thinking about how bad it was still makes my blood boil. I am not a math whiz but I managed to survive calculus, this was as difficult if not more so than calculus.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I see dental plan mentioned below an that triggered another memory of a useless benefit. The dental plan only covered 1500 per year. We either came in well below that OR we were way over that. So it was useless for us. Cheaper to go without.

          1. Bea W*

            $1500/year seems to be standard in my experience, but luckily dental insurance has been either given to employees at no cost or for several dollars a month, so it was a good deal either way.

      3. Bea W*

        12 health plan options? We get one! The most I’ve ever had an employer offer is two – the HMO or the PPO. Choice is good, but at some point it just ends up being more confusing than helpful for people.

    3. Jen*

      For me – I am too busy doing the stuff that I do for my job. Open enrollment always falls at a very busy time of the year. It’s the holidays, everyone is taking vacation. People are getting sick, etc. There’s so much to do and I rarely have time to sit and look carefully at my benefits package. Plus, the information is all over the place. The dental plan stuff is on their site which requires a password I can’t remember, the health coverage is on another site with a different password, retirement is a third site with yet another password and then some things cost extra while others are inluded in our basic package. It’s so much paperwork and nothing that I’m remotely familiar with. I just end up saying “Give me the same stuff I had last year.”

      1. GOG11*

        I’ve had to reset my password so many times from forgetting on health-plan-related sites that I’ve stopped logging on :/ I feel your pain.

      2. Tris Prior*

        Yes, this. Too much information and too little time to process it. At my last job, they’d wait until the very last minute to give us the new plan information (small company, someone had cancer so our rates would get jacked each year, so our benefits person would be frantically shopping around for something less expensive until zero hour. Our insurance company changed annually.).

        Then they’d finally hand out the information and we’d have to turn in what we wanted by the next morning or else no insurance for us. This was always at a busy time of year. I was working 70-80 hour weeks, so I’d get home at 10 p.m. and be sitting on my couch, exhausted, poring over all this crap and trying to figure out what was best, knowing that I had to make a snap decision.

        Yeah… more often than not I’d just go with whatever cost me about what I’d been paying.

      3. Kyrielle*

        THIS. And at our company, they frequently take so long to put it together that open enrollment starts at the same time we get the info, and ends a couple weeks later at *best*.

        Ours falls at the end of the year also, and what have we been told so far about this year’s options?

        Nothing. I expect ‘nothing’ will continue until suddenly, we get all the info, plus a week or two to exercise our options.

      4. Bea W*

        Our open enrollment matches up nicely with all of those things and performance review time. *headdesk*

    4. AVP*

      I get insurance through the Freelancers Union in New York, which has a lot of changes this enrollment period, and I’ve learned more about my insurance through the highly news coverage and weekly emails from them about the changes than I ever knew in the first place. Which is ridiculous, since it’s something I pay out of pocket for! All of those acronyms just make my eyes shut down on their own accord, but I’m learning…

    5. Chriama*

      I have to say that a lot of companies don’t do a good job of letting you know. When I started my current job I got a new hire packet that explained how much I would be getting in my pension. A month later I got a statement for the pension company telling me how much was in my pension account — since I hadn’t chosen a fund allocation (it’s a DC plan), it was all in money markets making something like -0.3% interest! I had to dig around on the intranet to figure out how to sign up for my online account so I could view my allocation. 3 months later there was a webinar explaining how to create an online account and I couldn’t view it because my computer needed some software and I don’t have admin permissions on my work computer.

      So basically… companies throw the information out there and expect you to catch it. Of course people should take responsibility for their health and financial wellness, but if you’re working full time and have a spouse and/or kids, I can see how it would slip your mind until you suddenly need it.

    6. Sunflower*

      I think a lot of people are just so confused by this stuff that they would rather just pretend it’s not there. In addition to having the information easily available, is there a basic guide? Is there something for people who have absolutely no idea what an HSA or 401k is? Even just directing them to a website that puts it into extremely basic terms would help. Is there a physical person who employees can sit down with and talk to? That’s my experience with benefits

    7. Monodon monoceros*

      Why not schedule some “lunch and learn” type of informational discussions? I admit that my eyes glaze over in the face of gobs of written material, but some verbal info would sink in more for me.

      Sure, it’s the employee’s responsibility to get the info, but if it bothers you, maybe help get them going!

      1. Bea W*

        My last employer would schedule sessions like this where benefit reps were available and people could ask questions. That was really helpful. My current employer does a benefits fair type thing where the provider reps set up tables with lots of informational brochures and free pens. Those people are actually good with answering questions if you can get to one.

    8. KJR*

      I was wondering that same thing myself this week. What I am noticing is the same folks who claim not to know about certain things are the same ones who are not showing up to the enrollment meetings. I sound like a broken record when faced with comments such as “We have a vision discount? We have an HSA? What IS an HSA?” I just respond with, “Those enrollments meetings answer a ton of questions, you should attend one sometime!” while trying to keep the sarcasm out of my voice. It’s just so frustrating!!

      1. HR Manager*

        Yep, the same people who don’t attend or zone out during orientation when benefits are discussed are the same ones who have all the questions later on. I just had an employee approach me about signing up for benefits after having been here about 14 months. I explained the new hire eligibility rule, rules around qualifying life events, open enrollment and then the time frames for making elections when those events happen. He responds that he did have a loss in coverage……14 months ago when he left his last job. *sigh*

        And yes, we hold open enrollment education sessions withe the plan reps to answer questions and go over these plans in more details but hardly anyone shows up.

        1. KJR*

          Good to know it’s happening elsewhere! I will say most people do show up here, it’s just a few who deem it unnecessary.

        2. the gold digger*

          But didn’t he get a new hire package that included the insurance enrollment forms? I had to review all of the forms with my HR on day one. (They mailed the packet to me, along with a box of gourmet cookies, a month before my start date.)

          1. Glor*

            Hah! No job I’ve ever had included insurance paperwork on starting. It was all later, closer to your enrollment date [90 days generally] or open enrollment.e

      2. LQ*

        My company has these meetings all the time. Supervisors won’t let you sign up because that is time away from your job and you are NOT allowed to do that. AT ALL. But I’d get that same awful attitude if I tried to talk to someone in HR about it directly. I actually have a job I have to do, learning and fully understanding how benefits and compensation packages work IS a job. A super important one that I don’t really care to take on as a second full time job outside work. Why can’t you make it less impossible to understand?

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Variation on the same idea- I worked one place where I asked and asked and asked for information on benefits and I NEVER got an answer. From anyone. I worked there 3 years.

    9. MaryMary*

      I work in employee benefits, so this is interesting. Benefit plans are complicated, that’s why I have a job. Companies used to be more paternal, so you had less choice but likely a pretty generous plan. Now you have a ton of choice, but you have to figure out on your own what’s best for you and your family.

      For you all who find your benefits confusing, how would you prefer to have them communicated to you? Written communication (electronic or otherwise)? Group meetings? One-on-one meetings? Some combination?

      1. .*

        Have you ever looked into virtual benefit fairs? Basically it’s a day or two of an online convention sort of, where there are booth reps from the various providers that have their own presentations, videos, handouts, and live chat options. I always thought this was a good method as it covers most of the different learning methods, and the live chat would seem extremely helpful. Plus having it all in one place. Full disclosure – I work for a company that sells this platform. Even still though, it seems pretty cool to me.

      2. Joey*

        i think it’s inherently information overload so people glaze over it. Sort of like people who buy auto insurance and have no clue what their coverage is until they get in a wreck. They make choices based on anecdotal risk aversion without knowing what their true risks are. And they fall into one of two categories. More expensive is automatically better. Or this is what I’ve always done and it’s what I’m used to.

      3. Anonsie*

        What would be really cool would be for there to be a simple way to look at what you need covered and how that works across plans in a practical way. The problem is that the information is provided in a way that means nothing to most people (cripes, even to those of us who works in health care) because it’s difficult or impossible to actually translate it to what it will cost you per year. If I know I can estimate I’ll need x prescriptions filled x times, have x visits with x specialists and x with a PCP, want x level emergency coverage, want x level coverage for some other stuff… I should be able to easily figure out which option does what I want.

        It’s fine if that’s written down, but having a person who knows the plans better than I do to double-check things for me and who is actually available for those questions by email or phone or whatever is also important.

        1. Joey*

          Ask your company if your insurance provider has a health cost calculator. The big insurance companies do it. It lets you enter in however many conditions or sicknesses you or your covered family members had or anticipate to get then calculates the cost of those services across each plan to compare. For example mine assumed my toddlers would go to the doctor for a few colds and earaches based on some super easy health info I entered then calculated the copay, the cost of typical tests, and the cost of Rx’s for each plan on one page. I could modify the services I want to estimate as much as I wanted to. It was eye opening.

          1. Anonsie*

            That’s funny, I almost said “I just want a cost calculator.” I’ve never had a plan offered that had such a thing available.

            1. Bea W*

              If there is one available, you generally have to be able to remember how to log into the site to be able to use it. :)

      4. Kyrielle*

        Most years, my company has provided written information that includes a chart with side-by-side comparisons of the key values of all X plans. So all health plans in a chart, all dental plans in a chart, etc.

        That couple pages of charts is, for me, the single most valuable thing. It’s not enough by itself (I have to go find out, for example, that the dental HMO would require me and my kids to switch dentists, plus I hear that maybe it would be hard to actually get timely treatment under it, which for dental problems is NOT good). But the chart is huge in making the differences in numbers visible in one place.

        I can then narrow the field there, and only ask the other questions if a plan they apply to is still relevant.

        I think part of the problem, though, is making the information available in just one format. I know people for whom those charts make their eyes glaze over. Some folks want to read the details. Some want to hear it verbally. Those verbal presentations drive me nuts, because they go past charts before I’ve finished reading, only to talk talk talk while showing me a powerpoint slide with three bullet points, and so on. I listen, I try, but honestly I don’t remember half of what they say. (Guess who is not a verbal learner? You’d be so very right!) And I can’t take notes fast enough without a keyboard – I’d bring my laptop, but they generally ship us the slides afterward, so I kind of gave up worrying about the fact that the actual presentation doesn’t work for me. (The fact that I have to wait until after the last presentation – not even just the one I attended! – to get the written form of the info drives me up the wall, though.)

        I think the most important things are:
        * Make the information available as early as possible.
        * Make it available in as many _forms_ as possible. At least one option should be verbal. At least one option should be written. And at least one written option should have comparison charts where applicable.
        * As much as possible, make it not dependent on someone’s schedule. That is, webinars and meetings are awesome, but is there any chance you can record a presentation, so the person who’s delivering a week of all-day training (or otherwise not able to attend) doesn’t have to miss the information?

      5. TheSockMonkey*

        How would I like to receive my benefits information?

        Accompanied by a glossary of relevant terms, and with a tool like Anonsie mentioned below. I want to know what the insurance company really means when it says preventative care is covered and what falls into that category. At present, I receive several pages of information on each plan—I want extra information, as much as possible, before making a decision. (Written information, so I can refer back to it)

        I would like to receive the information several weeks before open enrollment. And would like, during those weeks, to have extra staff designated to answer questions and decipher information. And most importantly, I want the benefits staff members, those who understand the insurance jargon, to exhibit compassion when explaining details to colleagues.

        My company has 6 different insurance plans but their names don’t match up to any of the plan names on the insurance company websites, so there is no way to accurately check which of your doctors accept which insurance. Information that corresponds to insurance company websites is also vital.

    10. brightstar*

      Even though I’m intelligent and reasonably well educated, I find the options overwhelming. And where I live, they are completely revamping the system and that has come with a lot of turmoil including a legislative hearing next month, 5 days before the open enrollment period ends.

      I had to find charts listing the different plans with premiums, etc, in order to make an informed decision.

      1. HappyLurker*

        I feel the same way – I have excel spread sheets to show the different cost options and still have disagreement within the home about which plan is best.

        1. brightstar*

          I only have to worry about myself, which made the decision much easier. I also didn’t have to worry about losing doctors, since I don’t have any doctors in this area. So I was able to look at it strictly in a financial/benefits way.

    11. Natalie*

      I’m not sure how you can be so certain that they aren’t making smart choices about insurance plans and so forth, without knowing a lot of details about their personal life.

      On FSAs in particular, I didn’t use mine for a few years because I didn’t have a lot of recurring health care costs and I wasn’t comfortable with the “use it or lose it” policy. With the amount of money I was likely to spend on health care, the risk wasn’t worth the tax savings. I use it now.

      1. Joey*

        We’re self insured so we know that people aren’t looking at their healthcare spending analytically.
        For example we know a lot of people choose an expensive plan and would get the same care at a cheaper price by selecting a different plan. We know that many burn through FSA monies in a few months yet don’t increase their contributions. We know lots of people choose vision coverage every year but only go get glasses or contacts every few years. Lots of thrown away money because people make uninformed decisions. So naturally we’ve done a ton of things to make it super easy to make better decisions, but few actually change their behavior.

        1. LQ*

          Sometimes doing a ton of things is really counter productive to actually getting people to make better decisions. Giving someone 50 brochures and 20 videos and 10 webinars and telling them oh YOUR LIFE IS ON THE LINE. Is not conductive to making good decisions. If you really want people to make good informed decisions, have 2-3 good choices that work for them (if you’re self insuring chances are good you could generate reports like this based on some of the data from previous years you are citing).

          Last year you spent $2000 in FSA by April, you could increase your contribution for next year to $8000.


          The other thing is researching some choice overload information and seeing what an incredible disservice you are doing to people by just giving them more choices.

          If my company said, hey the math says this is best for you, if you don’t like it you can try this or that. I’d be like YAY MATH!

          1. Joey*

            we simplified it long ago. Employees get a summary of each of our options in one place and have access to detailed info if they choose and a calculator where they can spend 20 minutes entering in some health info. The calculator estimates services and patient cost so they can compare estimated healthcare service costs to them across each plan. Frankly I’m not sure it can get simpler unless we give them no choices.

            1. LQ*

              I actually suggested the thing that would make it simpler. Do the math for them based on the data you have. Have the calculator set to default to already knowing all the things you have in your system. You’ve already done the math, share it instead of making them do it again.

              Yes this is doing their work for them, but if you really want to make it simpler this is how you can do it.

              1. Chriama*

                I had a suggestion below, but I like your idea better! If it’s possible, when they go to sign up show them how a different plan is better for them than the one they have now. OR if the sign-up is done online, change the form so they have to go through the calculator before they can pick any choice.

            2. Chriama*

              Maybe force your employees to take time to review their health choices by scheduling it into their day, like a mandatory meeting to explain their benefits and with 15 minutes at the end of the meeting for everyone to try the cost calculator.
              Obviously that’s a very paternalistic option and some might feel infantalized, but if your culture is the kind where people are always going above and beyond on work things, sometimes they don’t prioritize themselves the way they should. YMMV

        2. Natalie*

          Perhaps some of your employees are reaping some benefit from being “over covered” that isn’t immediately apparent in usage data, essentially their peace of mind. My vision insurance, for instance, costs me less than $5 a month, so I keep it year to year even if I don’t plan on getting new glasses. For one, I’ve needed glasses out of cycle before, when my only pair snapped in half while I was cleaning them. And, I wouldn’t personally consider the savings worth the possibility that I might miscalculate or forget and not re-enroll when I needed to.

          You’ll probably always have some percentage of coverage that isn’t used.

    12. Robin*

      I’m sure it varies, but I have historically taken advantage of FSA/HSA stuff, but they sometimes suck. They aren’t automatically great. Since they are use it or lose it, and often administered by companies that get to keep what you don’t spend, the hoops can be ridiculous! In terms of the (literally hours) spent going back and forth justifying expenses (when I had receipts! But not doctor prescriptions! For over the counter meds!) in terms of $$ saved, I’m not sure it works out always. Just my $.02.

      1. Natalie*

        UGH, my old FSA would automatically reject any expense that was the same amount (like, I dunno, MY CO-PAY) and on the same date, even if they were from different providers. And even though you could submit claims online, any rebuttals had to be done by fax. I was thrilled when our company dumped them for a better company.

    13. Xay*

      My current employer has made radical changes to the benefits package every year and usually gives 7-10 days between announcement of the changes and the enrollment deadline. I’m pretty good at staying on top of my benefits package, but even knowing the basics about HSA/FSA and various retirement options, it’s hard to carefully evaluate the available plans.

    14. Nerdling*

      I’d settle for a single location I could go to to get full information on what my options are. But I have at least three websites that have to be compared to see what’s covered just under the different health insurance programs. Add in another for dental insurance, another for vision insurance, and yet another for FSAs, and I’m running out of tabs on my tablet’s browser. :P

    15. The IT Manager*

      Because I am busy and the info is complicated and not presented in a way that’s easy for me to understand/compare.

      There’s also the paradox of choice. The more options there are the greater anxiety there is about making the right choice.

      1. Jen*

        Digital would be best. I won’t lose it. If the company intranet had a better developed page and if you could apply for all of it online, that would be best.

        At my last job, the entire HR benefits package was online. You applied online, you could check your packages online, contact info and everything was all online.

        Here? Nothing is online. It’s all paper and when I ask “Well, I can’t remember what health plan I have and it’s not written on my card” – Do I have PPO? Or PPO Plus? Or Blue PPO Plus Express? Or PPO Blue? I get looked at like I’m an idiot and then someone takes 48 hours to pull my file.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Good point about the anxiety. Picking out benefits caused so much stress it was incredible.

    16. catsAreCool*

      Benefits are frequently written in some language that looks like English but seems to be some special HR-related code.

      1. Joey*

        It might be worth it to learn that code since you’ll be dealing with it as long as you have health insurance.

        1. LQ*

          It might be worth it to explain it in simple plain language as long as you have people consuming your health insurance. Really putting the onus on the consumer is very hip these days, but it really isn’t effective.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            This. People will chose to ignore it. This is the direct result of making it incomprehensible.

          2. Natalie*

            They’re not even the consumers, really – most of the cost is probably the company’s. So they don’t have a compelling reason to learn all of the jargon.

  13. INTP*

    I have a question about booking holiday time.

    I am a part-time, “as needed” worker (though I tend to work about 25 hours per week) and not technically required to get approval for days off, only to notify my boss. My job is also very work-from-home friendly. I started in June and have not yet taken a day off. I recently booked two weeks for Thanksgiving to visit my parents and brothers, who I haven’t seen since March and have told my boss about it.

    I’ve also been looking at Christmas tickets to visit my grandparents and extended family (who live on the opposite side of the country and who I haven’t seen since last Christmas). What I’ve found is that there are excellent deals if I book them a bit before Christmas until a bit after New Year’s so that I’m staying 3 weeks. The only really affordable alternative is a 2-week trip that has me flying home on New Year’s Eve.
    If I book the longer trip, I get 3 weeks with my elderly grandparents (one has dementia and I don’t know how many years left I have to spend time with her while she’s still relatively coherent and knows who I am) but I’m out of the office for 5 weeks of a 7 week period. Is that terribly excessive if I’m still working from home? I’d also have to deal with the issue of setting boundaries with family who drop by unannounced or expect me to be available for spontaneous get-togethers because I need to work, but that would be true for a shorter trip as well (I don’t want to take more than a few days off and the tickets for only a few days are too expensive). If I take the earlier flight, I get an extra week in the office but I spend New Year’s Eve alone. (Not the end of the world, but I’ve spent a lot of holidays and almost all of my birthdays alone in recent years and I prefer not to.)
    I will talk to my boss about all of this before booking, but she’s very flexible, so it will probably come down to being my decision. Thoughts? This is more of a general “what would you do?” rather than a “what is it acceptable to do?”

    1. Alex*

      If it is acceptable in your workplace, which is sounds like it is, I’d do it. The time around holidays is so slow for business anyway, and a lot of people take vacations around those times. If your boss is cool with it, I wouldn’t worry about it.

      1. Sunflower*

        I agree with this. If working from home is generally an okay in your office then it wouldn’t be a problem. Obviously, just talk to your boss ahead of time- I’d do it now actually so you can book your tickets asap and not have to worry about it anymore.

    2. Ms. Anonymity*

      If you can still do your job remotely, I’d take the time off. Tomorrow is guaranteed for no one. If you feel you need to spend time with family, don’t ignore that instinct.

      1. OhNo*

        +1 to this. If you are able to spend time with your family (while getting some work done, even) then do so! I have never heard of anyone regretting spending too much time with their family, but I have often heard regrets on the opposite end.

    3. Kathryn*

      My workplace does a lot of remote work, most days have 1/3 of the team working from someplace other than the office. Even on weeks I’m “in the office” I work from home one day a week.

      Its become almost habit at this point for me to go visit my family for over a week around Thanksgiving and a week or two over Christmas, taking only a few days actually off, but forwarding calls to my cell phone, being on email and chat systems, etc. If its not an issue for your job, it should be fine. I will say that it is helpful to be extra communicative with your boss and your team about what you’re up to while you’re out of sight – send daily updates instead of weekly, give very clear representations of what you are doing when. If your group has a chat function, consider letting people know when you start in the morning, when you break for lunch, when you get back and when you sign off for the day so people know when you are “at your desk” – I don’t know how that meshes with your usual workplace culture, but for us, with the number of remote people we have (and people in different offices) some chatter about work, even when its a personal project, helps keep us connected.

      1. The IT Manager*

        That’s what I have been doing for two years and it is an awesome perk. I still take the days around Thanksgiving and Christmas off, but I can be out of town with family for a week at Thanksgiving and two at Christmas without taking 3 weeks off.

        I/you do have to set some boundaries, though, with family so that when you are working you’re not interuppted.

    4. AnotherHRPro*

      I find that if you are wondering if it is something might not be advisable, that means you think it isn’t and that means you generally shouldn’t do it. I don’t know if that is the case for your situation, but for me that tends to help me.

      All that said, as long as your boss is cool with it and you want to do it, I would go ahead.

    5. HappyLurker*

      Although, not a response to your main concern. In the rare times that we travel over the holidays. We fly on the holiday (Xmas and New Years Eve) and I find a couple of things great about it.
      1)It is far less hectic to fly on Christmas and NYE, because no one else is flying
      2) good prices for flying the off times
      I also realize that the point of your trip is to be with family over the holiday. So my comment is probably silly. Just thought I would mention it.

  14. Sharon*

    In one of the topics a couple weeks ago I mentioned being written up for whispering at a former job and promised to tell the whole fun story in a Friday Open Forum. Alison’s going to enjoy this story, too. Count how many WTF’s you guys can find. So here it is:

    I was a computer programmer working for an internal IT team at this U. S. distribution company in the mid-1990’s. Everybody worked in cubicles, even management. I was young and naive at the time which is why I didn’t try to fix these issues even though I noticed them. There were two programmers besides myself, I’ll call them Susy and Betsy.

    The job went fairly well for the first year, then at the beginning of the second year it started to get weird. This was in the 1990’s when lots of companies had programmers to write commodity software like inventory, sales and distribution and finance instead of purchasing software. The first year they asked me to rewrite some pricing modules. The merchandise pricing was all calculated in the program instead of being stored in files that could be easily updated by the users. I thought that was stupid but felt I was too new to object. At the start of the second year when they told me to rewrite it all again for brand new pricing rules, I was convinced that it was stupid but again, didn’t raise any objections.

    After finishing the new pricing rewrite as asked, my coworkers and I had less work to do so the manager asked us to test our programs. (We had no separate QA team.) We spent a week doing that, wrote up some bug reports, fixed them and retested. He told us to test some more. We did and found no issues. He told us to keep testing for a third week and not to stop and then a fourth week. It was getting really boring running our program over and over and never finding any problems, but we tried our best. We tried to tell him that we were bored and couldn’t find any more bugs and wanted some more programming work but he disregarded our comments.

    About the time we were ready to take cyanide pills from being bored, a new project came along. Yay! We all met and he explained the requirements (verbally) for a new inventory system. I was asked to work on the portion that handled allocations (sort of forecasting inventory levels) and I ran into a problem where I couldn’t make my code work. The math wasn’t making any sense so the allocations kept getting messed up and I couldn’t figure it out. So they switched the tasks between me and Susy.

    She was smarter than I was and able to figure out the problem – it was a major design flaw that could NOT be implemented as asked so they revised it. Major kudos to her for pinpointing the problem and proposing a workable solution!

    During the time we were working on the inventory system, the manager came to us three and told us we were too loud and the department next to us was complaining about the noise level. We apologized and said we’d hold it down. A few weeks later he scolded us again for being noisy, so we apologized and said we’d stop talking.

    So we whispered to each other and our morale was starting to go down. A week later, he said to stop whispering. We told him we only talked about work things, we had taken it upon ourselves to stop doing any personal chitchat at work. No dice, he said to stop whispering about anything, period. He wanted silence. You can imagine the size of the toilet where our morale went right about now and it also affected the other people in the department. The atmosphere got pretty thick because everybody know something was going on but nobody knew what.

    Since we were collaborating on this project, we switched to communicating about it via email. A week after THAT he called us into the computer room for privacy and said he knew we were abusing the email system, and we were to stop immediately. He threatened to pull our emails off backup tapes and use it to justify us being terminated. He really made it sound like we were using the mail system to send porn to each other or something that bad, and wouldn’t accept our comments that we only communicated about work. So we stopped all communications between each other – no talking, no whispering, no email, nothing. If we needed to ask each other questions about the project, we just didn’t. Morale was so low now that you could cut the air in our department and people who passed through would look at us funny and hurry out. It was very apparent that something was going on because our entire department was completely silent.

    Around this time of the email threat, that inventory system had gone into production and they discovered a major, costly flaw. When items were removed from inventory, the appropriate accounting tables were updated, except for the general ledger. So the whole accounting system was broken with tables out of sync and had to be repaired. My brilliant coworker, Susy who had finished up the project after finding the solution to the allocation issue got blamed for the whole mess. She told us this after work when we could talk. We agreed that it was wrong that she took the whole blame when she was given verbal requirements by the manager and the software was QA’ed by the manager and approved for launch by the manager. He admitted no fault whatsoever, not even privately.

    After a couple weeks of more perfect silence, and zero use of the email system by any of us, the manager walked over and told us that when he got back from vacation, he was going to write us all up for whispering and abusing the email system. Sure enough, when he got back two weeks later, he took us individually into the computer room to hand us our written reprimands. My writeup and Betsy’s stated that we were being reprimanded for whispering after we were told not to, and for abusing the email system. Susy’s writeup banged her for the same two items and also for irresponsibly hosing the accounting system!

    I left a few weeks later because it was just too much insanity for me so I had started discreetly job searching. Susy left a few weeks after I did, leaving Betsy there by herself. We kept in touch with her and she told us a couple months later that she learned that the CEO told the department manager that they needed to lay off some of us. We’ll never know for sure, but I suspect he was too cowardly to choose who had to go and instead made us miserable to drive somebody out so that he wouldn’t have to choose.

    1. louise*

      I wish you had passed notes!

      And what a messed up place. Workplaces like that are one reason AAM is so needed, I think!

    2. Colette*

      That’s really ridiculous. What a terrible manager!

      One thought to consider for the future – did you ask your manager how he wanted you to communicate without whispering, speaking or emailing?

      If your manager is asking you to do something that makes it impossible for you to do your job, it’s OK to ask about it.

      I obviously don’t need to know the answer, but I think when you’re out of a horrible situation, it’s healthy to think about what you could have done differently.

      1. Sharon*

        I’m pretty sure I did ask him because we needed to collaborate but I don’t remember his answer now. It was something along the lines of “I don’t care, no talking, whispering or email”.

        Also, thinking back, I think there were a few times when I needed to bring my coworker’s attentions to something in the code, so I wrote comments in the program for them. It was all I could think of (somehow never occurred to us to pass paper notes, although I’m sure he would have screamed about that, too, LOL).

    3. matcha123*

      I hate people like that!

      I would rather they just tell me that they want to fire me/they hate me/etc. than playing little games. What a massive waste of time!

      1. HappyLurker*

        Yes, thank you for sharing. I lost count of the WTFs, but remember times and places past that had similarly messed up “rules” that would change regularly.
        I feel that some of the things that I put up with early in my career, I would NEVER put up with later. Which is how we learn!

  15. TotesMaGoats*

    Cover letter length. Applying for an associate dean position today and still in a quandary over the length of my letter. It’s…long. Almost two pages, business format. I cringe but it’s so flipping good. I’ve had multiple people look at it and they all agree that aside from a random sentence here or there, I shouldn’t cut it. It tells my story and passion better than I’ve ever been able to get on paper.

    So, opinions. There are two related questions though.
    1) Since this is a senior administrator position, not a stretch for me but very much my next step, does the “heft” of the position make a longer letter okay?
    2) The hiring manager knows me pretty well. We used to work together. I think she’ll read the letter and say “yep, that’s Totes” and immediately call me for an interview. (Wishful thinking.) So, does personal relationship make the length okay because it does sound like me?

    1. louise*

      If you’re sure the language throughout is as tight as can be and that the length indeed comes from substance, then I’d not worry about it at all. Send it and wish for the best.

      Good luck to you!

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        Thanks. When I’ve had three people, in the field, tell me not to cut I guess I have to trust that. Knowing what’s the norm for cover letters is what makes it hard.

    2. BRR*

      Is the position more academic where two pages is the norm?

      Since you know the hiring manager can you ask about the length?

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        No, it’s not a faculty position (despite the dean title). It’s definitely administrative. Enrollment management to be specific. Asking the hiring manager about the length, feels a little naive to me, even though I know her.

    3. TotesMaGoats*

      I’ll say that it probably wouldn’t “look” as long if I could email it instead of sending it as an attached document. Curse you application software!

    4. DL*

      2 pages sounds about right. This is based on on advice that my own 1-and-a-bit-page letter was too short for a academic admin position at a similar level.

    5. Anx*

      I’m probably in the minority here, and I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I can read a well-written, lively two page letter than an underwhelming one page one.

      I also think my 2 page resume is much quicker to scan than my 1 page squished one is, though.

  16. Whoops!*

    I accidentally spelled the name of a company wrong in a cover letter (wrote two N’s instead of one). This is a pretty huge company that I’d bet nearly everyone has heard of so it feels extra stupid and I am normally better than this. I’ve kind of told myself that I won’t be getting that job, but I’m curious to hear some hiring managers opinions on this? Would you ever overlook this sort of mistake?

    1. Sascha*

      When I hire for positions on my team, I’m not as concerned about typos as I might be for something like technical writing or other writing-focused position – I’m hiring support techs, and while good communication is important (like with any job), a typo here and there is not critical. If the rest of your materials had no typos, and a were clearly and concisely written, and you seemed like a good match, I’d set up an interview. I’d be more worried about someone who couldn’t write a clear sentence, but spelled everything correctly, than vice versa.

    2. MJH*

      I did this! Exactly this! I spelled the company name (huge company) wrong in my cover letter, discovered it after I’d sent it, and wrote off the job entirely.

      Guess where I am writing this from?

      (THE SAME JOB. It was never discussed.)

        1. oranges & lemons*

          Ha! I once interviewed someone for a writing/editing job who misspelled the word “editing” in her resume.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Years ago, I got a job after sending in a cover letter with a date of April, when it was August. (I’d been using an old letter as a template and forgot to change that.) The letter even said I was good at attention to detail. Whooooops. I worked there for nine years.

    3. Chriama*

      Depends on the hiring manager and the position — if the job requires significant attention to detail (e.g. copy editor) or there are a bunch of similarly qualified applicants, it might be a dealbreaker. Either way, follow Alison’s advice to apply and then put the job out of your mind. Good luck!

    4. Seal*

      For me, cover letters and resumes with typos generally wind up in the reject pile, particularly when I have a large number of applicants. This is usually the only chance I have to see an example of a potential staff member’s work; if they didn’t take the time to ensure that their work is perfect when the stakes are high, I question whether they will do so in a regular work situation. That may sound harsh, but when I’m going through a stack of 50-60 applications for a single position I’m looking for anything that will help winnow down the list.

      1. Whoops!*

        No, I don’t think it sounds harsh. This is pretty much what I was thinking. However, I read it so many times and the company name is a common word, just absent of one letter and I spelled it like the common word. It just didn’t click that I wrote it wrong. Not that thats an excuse. I typically go back and double/triple check names and titles against the job adore website, even when I am 90% sure I got it right, and I didn’t this time.

        1. brightstar*

          If it’s one letter off from a common word, to me that doesn’t seem as glaring as some other typos might look.

    5. Lily in NYC*

      It depends, but I would only overlook it if the person had amazing experience and everything else was flawless. There’s one situation I remember where we interviewed someone who made a bunch of typos but had good experience. He didn’t get the job (not because of the typos). I think that’s a pretty big mistake (and I did something similar myself once and never heard back from the company). Some people are sticklers, some aren’t. Maybe you’ll get lucky.

    6. Cassy*

      I spelled the company name wrong in my cover letter and thank you follow-ups and still got offered the Marketing Communcations Specialist position. Granted, it was an easy name to misspell, but still.

    7. OhNo*

      My current workplace was just going through the hiring process a couple of months ago, and we actually had someone send us the wrong cover letter. I mean addressed to a different corporation, discussing a different job, the whole nine yards. My boss actually gave them the chance to re-submit the cover letter, AND we brought them in to interview, based on the strength of their resume. We didn’t end up hiring them, but still.

      So don’t give up hope! One typo is unlikely to completely sink your application, even if it was in the company’s name. Most hiring managers are smart enough to realize that accidents happen, and if the rest of your materials are strong, they will probably over look it.

    8. Anx*

      If it makes you feel any better, the author of one of my textbooks mispelled Barack Obama’s name at least 5 times on one page. So, typos happen. Even for big names.

  17. Illini02*

    If a person that you are friends with at work is someone who management dislikes, how do you make sure that you aren’t lumped in with them work wise. A work friend is a great guy, and actually good at his job, but he has some issues with management. Honestly its not a one sided thing, they did some kind of bad things and how he has handled it since, while I think is understandable, hasn’t earned him any good will either. Problem is I get lumped in with the negative feelings management has toward him because everyone knows we are friends outside of work. I want to stress, this isn’t a “work friendship”. While we work together, I do honestly consider this person a friend outside of work, and if one of us left, I have no doubt we would remain friends. I’m not going to pretend I’m not friends with him at work, but at the same time, I don’t think I should be lumped in with him in the eyes of management. Also, I’ll be honest, the guy is kind of stubborn, so me getting him to change his behavior is out of the question (nor is it my responsibility). I know you can only control your own behavior, but my managers have a hard time separating his issues from me. Any advice?

    1. Colette*

      Minimize your contact at work, and make sure you visibly disagree with him when you actually do disagree (i.e. don’t stay silent because you don’t want to disagree with him in public).

      1. Illini02*

        I appreciate that advice, but I feel like thats a bit much, because I don’t just jump out and disagree with anyone else during meeting unless its something I feel very strongly about. It seems a bit disingenuous to vocally disagree just because.

        1. Colette*

          You shouldn’t disagree “just because” – you should disagree when you actually do disagree because it will help demonstrate that you and your friend are different people with different opinions and attitudes.

          It doesn’t have to be necessarily in a meeting format – you could mention it to your manager afterwards, for example – but you do need to act like a different person than he is if you want to be treated like a different person.

      2. HappyLurker*

        Yes to minimizing your work contact. Downplay it, but if they are a true friend make sure to tell them what you are doing and why.

    2. matcha123*

      I think this is a management issue. If they have decided to lump you with him, aside from loudly denouncing him in front of everyone, I think they are going to assume whatever it is they have decided to assume.

      At a former job, my coworker at the time was having issues with our manager. He had been trying to get a promotion and despite doing great work, she kept finding reasons not to move him up. I knew that they were having issues, but I stayed out of it. …then she started coming after me for make-believe things.

      Eventually her boss was fired and she was moved to a different building, for some reasons that I think were unrelated to that coworker. But, I feel like if people are determined to believe something in the face of evidence to the contrary, there’s not much you can do.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      While I do agree that minimizing contact is helpful, I say don’t stop there.
      Be sure to be friendly to other workers. If you would stop to talk to Bob for a minute, later on in the day stop and talk to Sue or Jane for a minute.
      I would act like I do not realize that boss is lumping me in with my friend and I would make sure I was conversational with the boss, also.

      See, it’s not always about hanging out with the black sheep. It can be about failure to carry on good relationships with everyone else. Those are two different problems. Make sure that you say good morning to Carrie, double check on X with Bridget and ask the boss how Y is going. If you are seen as “the coworker that hangs out with the black sheep” that can be more about failing to show interest in others than actually hanging out with the black sheep.

  18. Sadsack*

    Happy, happy Friday!

    I was contacted a few weeks ago by a recruiter for a position at a company where I applied a year ago. The company notified the recruiter about the open position before they even had the job posted on their website, and I was given an interview a week later, which was on October 8. The company reps and the recruiter told me that they need to fill the position asap, and it should be posted on their website soon so I can actually apply online. The evening of the interview, the recruiter called to ask me how it went and told me he’d have some feedback for me the next day. That was over two weeks ago. I wrote to him a week after the interview, and he wrote that he was out of the office, so he provided the contact info for another recruiter so I could get the status. I immediately wrote to her, but never got a response. This week, I followed up with her, and still no response. The job is still not posted on the website.

    Should I contact her again, this time by phone, or just continue to wait it out? I know they are in dire need of filling this position, and the company reps told me that they have processes that make everything drag out, so I am hoping that this is just taking a long time and it’s not that they couldn’t get the position approved. I’d like to know what the deal is, and I am annoyed that the recruiter has completely blown me off. I don’t need a lot of her time; I just want to know the status. If it is still a go, but just taking a long time, that’s all I want to know.

    What would you do if you were me? Nothing? Call her?

    1. Erin*

      Wait it out. You’ve done your due diligence and followed up the appropriate amount of times. It sucks and they totally should have given you an update but for your own mental health, I think you need to move on.

  19. Elkay*

    Do you need to tell your “network” you’re moving on if you’re connected to them on LinkedIn and don’t deal with them in your current job (or future job)? I also don’t need them as references.

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      I’d say meh. LI will share that you’ve moved on to another job when you update that. If there is anyone you are very close with I might send a personal email.

        1. TotesMaGoats*

          Vendors or other external folks that are a part of your job functions should be notified as a part of your transition plan. Absolutely.

  20. louise*

    How do you pick your battles?

    I’m new enough to HR in general and with this company specifically that I’m still figuring out what’s worth bringing up. Rampant cussing where there’s rarely a sentence without an f-bomb? Yeah, not gonna change–the owners are the worst offenders. Overhearing two guys talk about how many times they’ve gotten laid in the last week (while noting “I’m gonna have to get rid of her–I can’t keep up”)? Yeah, I wish I’d interrupted them right then to say that’s not okay to discuss at work.

    I’m still getting a feel for what are my bosses going to back me up on and what’s going to just make me seem like an uptight hardass (which I am at work, gotta admit. With friends, I’m hilarious, I tell ya, but at work, there’s about one person who gets my sense of humor and vice versa. I think most everything people try to pass off as “joking” is lame and juvenile, but they all seem to think it’s hilarious.). Honestly, I don’t want to waste capital on things that don’t matter as much when there are really big things that are important to address.

    And to complicate it a little more, I am one of the only females in our very, very blue collar environment — so far they seem to treat me with kid gloves as if I’m going to break and like if they just keep whatever out of my sight/hearing, that they will be able to continue as they always have.

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      I sincerely doubt that you’ll be able to change what is probably well ingrained behavior without the complete support and behavior change of the owners. Not gonna happen.

    2. Ms. Anonymity*

      You need to hang in there awhile and get more of a feel for the culture. While doing that though, I’d be taking notes of things that are, in your book, not acceptable. Once you’ve been there long enough to have a good feel for things, I’d ask for a meeting with your manager or management and present them with “opportunities for improvement”. Explain that you believe x, y, and z behaviors are liabilities to the company and then ask how they’d like you to proceed. Be prepared that they might come back and say leave it be, which in that case, you have to decide if that’s the right environment for you. Good luck!

    3. Colette*

      I think you pick the battles that really matter to you. If you are personally offended, you can and should say so – but you don’t need to fight battles because someone else might be offended.

    4. Clever Name*

      I would maybe bring it up to your boss once in an FYI way. If you were in the same workgroup as the guys, I think you’d be justified in telling them to knock that kind of talk off, but I agree, this may not be something you want to use political capital on just yet.

    5. HR Manager*

      Two guys discussing their intimate encounters is potentially creating a hostile work environment for females – a huge risk for the company. While the other behavior is very culturally dependent, this set of behavior is a liability for the company and should be brought to their attention. If you are unsure of how they might react, it can be couched in a “xxx behavior is a serious risk for us because of xxx. Is this something you feel I should address with their managers right away?” If they blow this off, this might tell you something about the management and culture of the company.

      1. nep*

        That part of your note about the discussions men are having about how many times…….’Hostile Work Environment’ definitely popped into my mind. It’s unacceptable that people be subject to that in the workplace.
        Question for OP — you say you’re hearing things like that, but then you say these coworkers treat you with kid gloves and look to keep things out of sight/hearing range. Do they think you’re not hearing them?

        1. Juli G.*

          Agreed. Swearing is one thing – I hear it as often in executive offices as I do the floor. I would leave it unless there are complaints. But as the HR person, you have a responsibility to address things that could contribute to a hostile work environment.

    6. Lily in NYC*

      This is tough. I think that this place is a terrible fit for you. I’m a woman and wouldn’t be bothered by swearing or the type of conversation you overheard, but I know many people would be. But I don’t really know what the line is and when it crosses over into hostile work environment. If no one is complaining to you then I think I would let it go.

    7. HappyLurker*

      The comment about the “blue collar” environment struck me, because I am in one.
      If the owners are swearing, that’s not going anywhere.
      If the guys are talking about their conquests, next time tell them to do it on personal time and away from everyone else. They will not understand anything over and above that.
      You probably will not change the “blue collar” work environment, but you can sit down with your boss and the owners (probably same person) and ask them what they really want you to do.
      Is you job just paperwork and hiring in their eyes, or is it more in line with HR/liability. Once you get that straightened out, you figure out which battle to pick and which ones you have their support on.
      Good luck! I am also struggling with “blue” collar work issues, which just seem like basic courtisies and work ethic, but are lacking.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      The cussing I would ignore. The sexcapades I would not want to have to listen to. “I don’t care what you did last night!”

      Maybe you can rethink things and get comfortable with this job at some point. But what you have here is a deeply entrenched culture, condoned by the owners. This means don’t expect any big changes.

  21. ryn*

    How would you feel about being interviewed by someone who sat and ate their lunch while interviewing you? Like, not an interview over a meal, just the interviewer eating his McDonald’s salad while asking you interview questions. Cause, my boss did this to a guy the other day and I kinda felt bad for the interviewee. D:

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        This! It’s pretty rude, but it’s also sad that the interviewer is apparently that busy.

      2. Bea W*

        That was my first thought. Eating a salad you picked up at McDonalds during a meeting/interview just screams “This is the only way I could get a bite to eat all day!” It really wouldn’t phase me, but I’m in an industry where people are sometimes worked to death and managers spend a lot of time in meetings.

    1. Kathryn*

      While I not infrequently have days where there is no lunch break and I will be eating in one of my meetings… I can’t say I’d pick the interview for the meeting that gets to see how I like my sandwiches. I try to limit that behavior to understanding peers. Or executives just slightly above me.

      Since interviews are partially trying to convince the candidate we’re an awesome place to work, as well as evaluate them for if they would be awesome to work with, I don’t see that as an appropriate time to do rude or inconsiderate things.

      Unless its a lunch meeting in which case we all eat and that’s normal.

      1. nep*

        Eating with his mouth open.
        Yes — I thought of this, too. I reckon that given how apparently busy the interviewer is, he probably didn’t take time to chew properly and swallow before speaking. (Perhaps, though, he managed to eat only when the interviewee was speaking.)

      1. Camellia*

        I’d take this as a clue to the company culture and ask questions to try to determine if typically employees are expected to work through lunch, etc.

    2. Anx*

      I’m not sure how uncommon that is. As an interviewee I don’t like because it makes me feel awkward, like I’m interrupting their lunch.

    3. Erin*

      It would bother me hugely, to the point that I would probably blow the interview. I have a problem with many eating sounds (misophonia) and especially have a problem with the sounds and sights of people talking with their mouth full. Salads also tend to be crunchy and are hard to eat unobtrusively. Even if I wasn’t weirdly sensitive to mouth noises, I would think eating during an interview is a bit rude and disrespectful.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I would say that is a minus for the company on my tally sheet of pluses and minuses. I would assume I would be expected to work through lunch also if I chose to work there.
      Being surrounded by diabetics, I would just figure that maybe the guy had to eat and it was not a choice, but a medical necessity. He would not bother me, but the fact that the company did not allow him time to eat would stand out in my head.

    5. Mister Pickle*

      Bogus. It might be just me, but I think it is just plain rude to eat something in front of another person without offering them anything to eat themselves. If the guy had offered me some of his salad, I would have said “no, thank you”, or if the guy had prefaced the meeting by asking me “do you mind if I have my lunch while we talk?” – I would have been okay with either of those.

      Again, it might just be me. But I have some pretty strong feelings about how one should treat a ‘guest’ – for instance, when someone comes to my house, one of the first things I’ll ask is “would you like something to drink?”

      “You may despise me Oren, but the classy thing to do would have been to invite us up for some of that iced tea.” – Frank Underwood

  22. ACA*

    I’m working on an application for a job within the university where I currently work; the job posting states that a Bachelor’s degree and 2-3 years is required, and a Masters and 3-5 years is preferred. (I have a BA and 3 years of relevant experience.) I know the hiring manager well enough that I was able to contact her about the job and ask her, “I have your basic qualifications for the job but not your preferred qualifications for the job; should I bother applying?” She acknowledged they were hoping for someone with an advanced degree, if only because graduate students don’t always respect academic administrators unless they too have a graduate degree, but encouraged me to apply anyway and forwarded me the PIQ for the position without me asking for it.

    Now I’m working on my cover letter. Obviously the hiring manager already knows that I only have a BA, but should I acknowledge this in my cover letter, and add that I am hoping to pursue a Master’s degree in the next couple of years? I was thinking of throwing it into my introductory paragraph and phrasing it something like, “An alumna and current employee of [University], I am hoping to pursue a Master’s degree in [relevant field] beginning in the 2016-17 academic year.” Is that too much? Not enough? Am I overthinking it? Help!

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      Unless that comment about not respecting only a BA is specific to your university, I’d say her comment is bull. How on earth are the students ever going to know much less care. I’ve worked where people make it to VP level with just a BS/BA degree. It’s about experience at that point. Your line above is good. Don’t over think it. Since you are an internal, prepare extra well and blow them out of the water. Talk to people in that department or similar jobs. Pull data, if appropriate.

    2. Jessica*

      Why bring extra attention to your lack of a graduate degree? You meet their minimum quals, so you’ve passed the first test. Now, you’d be better off focusing on how your skills, interests, and other qualifications make you an excellent fit for the position.

      1. Robin*

        Yes, don’t waste valuable cover letter space pointing out a weakness, even a silly one. And I don’t know that telling them your intent to pursue a Masters is particularly valuable, either.

    3. Another Poster*

      I agree with Jessica. I don’t think you should mention the masters and point out what you don’t have. Point out what you DO have. A cover letter is precious real estate, don’t waste space talking about what you can’t offer them.

      They will be able to tell from your resume that you don’t have a masters and if it is that important to them, your plans to start one in 2 years isn’t going to make a difference for position they are hiring for now, especially since you won’t be finished with it for a number of years after that. If its not that important to them but are wondering how committed you are then they will ask you in an interview and you can tell them then.

      I also don’t see how the graduate students would have any idea what qualifications the academic administrator actually have.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I am exhausted from very little sleep and didn’t realize it was a joke at first. I was like WTF you have to send this to Alison!! Then I realized I am an idiot.

  23. Brett*

    I am incredibly pissed off today and trying to figure out where to start….

    I’ve posted before about our ridiculous pay policies that have left me with a single 1% across the board raise and 2% raise to offset the FICA increase since 2007. I have had awesome reviews and been recommended for a 5% merit raise six times, all of which have been rejected as part of an organization wide wage freeze.

    We also have a significant issue with pay discrimination in our department. Women make less, minorities make a lot less, Hispanics make by far the least, all regardless of experience, education, etc; and I’m Hispanic.
    I am the lowest paid employee in my job title (of about a dozen). The highest paid employee, a white male with strong private school connections to supervisors, makes 50% more than me with no college degree, no certification, the same amount of experience, no publications, no internal or external awards.

    He just completed a significant project, one that built heavily on another major project I did.

    All the other programmers just found out yesterday that he received a 10% raise for this project because it saved the department $40k/yr. They are all pretty mad. I am livid. I was okay with no raises as long as it was a consistent policy across the whole organization. Now to find out that the rules were bendable, and particular bendable for this employee. Ugh.

    I know I need to have a talk with my manager about this, but I really don’t know how to approach this. He is not this other employee’s manager and has no knowledge of this situation yet.

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      You need to find a new job. On the surface this feels like a systemic issue and I doubt talking with your manager will effect any change aside from getting the anger off your shoulders.

      1. Bea W*

        ^^ This. That kind of BS would use up the last of the f*ck I would have to give. This environment is what it is. Look for a new one where you are treated fairly.

    2. Joey*

      Personally I’d be looking for a new job and filing a race discrimination charge with eeoc. Provide them with hard evidence showing salaries and raises indeed are given to minorities and Hispanics disproportionately and the company will have to respond to the EEOC. At best they’ll mediate a settlement, at worst you’ll have strong evidence to use in a lawsuit. Just make sure you have the strength and fortitude to handle it.

    3. Judy*

      I know you’ve got lots of issues with your non-compete statute, but it seems like you’re in need of some outside the box action. I’m in the Midwest, and when I was searching for a job, several of the recruiters I talked to mentioned that lots of California companies are willing to hire remote software engineers or sw project managers that are willing to travel a week a month. That’s not something I could consider right now since I’m pretty much in the middle of a generation sandwich, but I was also able to find something that matched my skills locally.

      You may have to consider a short term radical plan to earn money until you could get another job locally.

    4. HR Manager*

      Questions first – did the 10% pay increase come directly from your colleague of just what you heard through the grapevine? Also the discriminatory pay – where did that come from? A finding by the EEOC or just more rumors? I’m not suggesting those aren’t real, but I would not bring hearsay into the meeting with the manager.

      I would sit down with the manager and discuss your pay. If you heard about the 10% increase from the colleague himself, you can ask the manager to explain why a 10% increase was allotted in the face of merit freeze. I would express your concern with what appears to be unequal application of the merit practice to you (not to others) and then ask what can be done about that. It’s then up to your manager whether he is willing to go up to bat for you or not. If not, and assuming he doesn’t unload a bunch of feedback or issues that were not previously communicated, then I would start seeing what’s out there.

      1. Judy*

        I’m pretty sure Brett works for a local or state government, so all of the pay is public. He’s also got a pretty strict non-compete, that is by statute. Since he’s involved in procurement in a way, he can’t work for pretty much anyone in the area because they all are vendors to the entity he works for.

      2. Brett*

        The pay information was communicated from the colleague’s manager directly to the colleague’s coworkers in a meeting.
        Since our pay is public, I ran the EEOC’s statistical tests against our pay (and internally, we not only have access to each other’s pay, but our actual pay earned, pay grades, education, experience, years worked, commendations, etc) using various criteria to determine p-value for probability if impact on pay above or below median. The disparate impact results were disturbingly obvious.
        I wouldn’t bring up the discrimination aspects to my manager anyway. I’m more concerned that all my raises were rejected by a supposedly strict written policy against any raises organization wide (I’ve been shown the policy) and now that policy has been violated somehow by a different manager.

        1. Chriama*

          Is there a central HR you can bring this up to? Maybe someone outside your local office? You’ve seen that there is very disparate salaries so you’re requesting a company-wide (or department-wide) salary review. If that’s not an option, then the EEOC for sure. I feel like the fact that this is happening in a government office is cause for more concern, rather than less.

  24. Clever Name*

    I need a reality check folks. I’ve posted about my office mate who never seems to remember that I frequently wear earbuds (to block out office noise so I can concentrate) and will start talking to me…. For a while I had been yanking out my earbuds and saying, “What? Were you talking to me?” when she’d say something, but it got to the point that she’d make a phone call, or talk to a coworker and I’d take out my earbuds because I thought she might be talking to me. Upon the advice of wise commenters, I’ve started ignoring her when she’d talk to me with my earbuds on. To be clear, she wasn’t talking to me about work-related matters; she was just making chitchat.

    So here’s my other problem. I work part time. I’ve always worked part time for this company. My schedule has changed a bit over the years, but currently I leave about 2 to go pick up my child from school. For a while she would say, “Oh, are you leaving already?” every single time I would leave. I finally said in my peppiest and most cheerful voice, “Yep! Every day!”. That stopped her from commenting on the time I leave, but then she started saying things like, “Oooh, must be niiiice to be able to leave eeeeaaarly!”. The last straw was yesterday when I came in at 11 because I had been in the field all morning, but she obviously didn’t know that. I was at my desk for about an hour when she came into our office and said, “Oh! When did you show up?” The phrasing of it really grated on my last nerve. If circumstances were different I might think she is tracking my hours to report me to someone, but I work part time hourly, I’m a staff level scientist at our consulting firm, and she works in admin (and I should note that she’s not a longtime employee or one with a lot of clout). I have no doubt if she were silly enough to go to anyone with complaints she would be told to mind her own business.

    Am I being unreasonable to be so annoyed by these comments?? I realize that I wouldn’t be so annoyed if I liked her as a person, but I really don’t. She’s not a bad person at all, I just don’t like her very much. I’ve somewhat decided to stop greeting her or saying “bye” when I leave, but I’m not sure if that’s way out of line. Her comments are a huge disincentive to me wanting to talk to her at all.

      1. Sadsack*

        Ditto. Next time she asks where you were or why you are leaving, shrug your shoulders and ask, “Why do you ask?” The only acceptable type of answer from her would be, “Well because I brought in chocolate cake and I was trying to save you a piece, but it all was eaten before you arrived!” I think she’ll probably just shut down and turn to her work instead though.

    1. Nodumbunny*

      For what it’s worth, I think you’re over – reacting. Yes, those comments are annoying, but I think you could give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she’s just making conversation. If it’s really annoying you, though, I think you’d be better off saying something directly and in the moment – “I was working in the field this morning – why do you ask?” – instead of giving her the silent treatment, which isn’t particularly professional.

        1. Brian_A*

          An alternative could be (in a concerned voice): “I was in the field – did you need me for something?”

        1. Pontoon Pirate*

          I actually went back through each Friday/Sunday open thread for the last month trying to find her when I realized earlier this week she’d been radio silent. My level of dependency on you guys is going to end up a topic for my therapist.

          But seriously–anyone know where Jamie is?

        2. littlemoose*

          I hope she checks out Sunday’s open thread, because I saw an amazing Hello Kitty thing that I wanted to share.

        3. Jamie*

          So sweet – long story as short as I can make it. Had some serious work issues to deal with which left me spending 95% of my day in a production department running a boot camp to get everyone back on track. Conducting training, supervising, showing managers how I need them to manage, etc.

          And since my actual job still needed doing nights and weekends were spent trying to keep anything crucial from pooping the bed – last couple of months have been interesting to say the least, but the last 3.5 weeks were completely kafkaesque.

          I missed you guys – and I missed the internet!

          Huge success, though. The follow up audit had the external auditor really impressed by how much work was done and the changes made – and they are real since I refuse to work this hard to pencil whip anything. If I wanted the easy way out I can spin that from my office. I think department management has the tools now to maintain, although I’ll still be monitoring closer than usual for a while.

          Learned a little something about myself, too. I tend to get mired in resentment when someone isn’t working to their level or what they should be capable of to have accepted a given job, but once I stopped worrying about what should be and focused on the cards in my hand I was happier. Also that Six Sigma Blackbelt in and of itself means exactly fuck all. Some of the concepts are valuable, but the certification doesn’t indicate understanding or ability to apply.

          I also learned I’m happier compiling data than training operators on how to label parts and fill out tags.

          Typically my job is about 85% sitting alone in front of screens thinking and implementing and about 15% dealing with people – which is a really nice ratio for me. Pareto and then some. 9+ hours a day of dealing with people in a very intense and interactive environment was …exhausting. Nice to know I can do it if I have to, and I had better never have to do this again.

          Anyway – need to dig out from a mountain sized IT backlog, but not complaining because I am REALLY glad to be back behind a bank of monitors.

    2. Colette*

      I don’t think she’s trying to annoy you, I think you just don’t like her – which is fine. However, you seem to be devoting a lot of energy to being annoyed, and you really don’t have to.

      You don’t have to greet her if you don’t want to and the culture in your office supports that, but you can’t just ignore her as if she doesn’t exist, because that will likely just ratchet up the drama.

      The best way to handle this is to positively reinforce behaviors you like and ignore behaviors you don’t like (I’m talking optional behaviors here, not things necessary for either of you to do your job).

      “Oooh, must be niiiice to be able to leave eeeeaaarly!” – silence, or a puzzled “these are my regular hours”
      However, something you like (or don’t hate) gets a friendly response.

      1. KJR*

        For many years I did not work Fridays (I worked 32 hours/week). If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “Wellllll THAT must be nice!” For awhile I would feel the need to justify it by saying, “I have small children at home and this give me a little extra time with them, etc. etc.” I guess I sort of felt guilty about it (never mind that I took a 20% pay cut for the privilege) and didn’t want people to think I was at home on Friday eating bon bons and watching soaps, but I finally decided it was no one’s business, and started saying, “Yes, it’s great!” That usually put an end to the conversation.

    3. Biff*

      I often make the mistake of talking to my coworker that wears earbuds — they hide in her hair. May I suggest bigger headphones that are more visible? I mean, it sounds like your coworker is a jerk, but that might solve some annoyances.

    4. Another Poster*

      I worked part time in a temp position as an administrator at my last job and left every day around 1. I was hoping for a permanent position and one time an admin there told me she didn’t think I would be seriously considered for one because I always left early and I didn’t seem reliable or committed. She then assured me that it was just what she’s noticed and hadn’t communicated that to anyone, but thought I should know how it looked. I told her I was part-time and that all the senior directors knew exactly what my role was. She was surprised to say the least.

      Some people just cast judgments on other peoples work habits in the face of absolutely no evidence except what they specifically see. As if my manager wouldn’t say something to me if I left 4 hours early, every day, for 9 months straight. Sheesh.

    5. Celeste*

      I think she’s out of her league in your office. It sounds to me like she is used to more of a culture where people make digs on one another because they’re close to each other. She doesn’t seem to be getting the cues about professional behavior. I honestly don’t see it as something that is fixable about her; I can’t think of any way to address what might even be a cultural issue with her. I would however, see if reframing it this way helps to not take it so personally. You know you are working your hours correctly, and I don’t believe she is purposely insulting you for slacking. I think in her own way, she’s trying to be friendly at work.

      1. Clever Name*

        This is a really good point. She really is a very kind and friendly person. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I sometimes have a hard time figuring out where other people are coming from. I’m not sure I can even describe it clearly, but I’m a very straightforward person, and I usually say what I mean and mean what I say. I say “usually”, because over the years I’ve learned how to do small talk….

    6. catsAreCool*

      I think I’d say “You seem to be spending a lot of thought on my work hours. Do you have a question about this? I can assure you that my manager knows when I’m working.

      1. Chriama*

        I like this response. Next time she comments that you’re leaving early, say something like “You like to keep track of when I’m in the office, huh? Are you having trouble finding me when you need something?” and when she says ‘no’ you follow up with “well I leave at this time every day. See you tomorrow!” The key is to stay cheerful but say “back off” in a friendly way.

    7. Observer*

      She sounds like a winner. But skipping typical courtesies makes you sound juvenile. You really don’t want to blow your social capital on this, I think.

      That doesn’t mean that you need to explain yourself to her, or react as though she has some standing to comment. If you can find a comment or tone that will shut her down, that’s all to the good, though.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I see two parts here. She repetitious and that is, indeed, annoying. Part two, she has gotten under your skin like a sliver and probably will annoy you no matter what. I have had people like that in my life. You can just stop responding to her. You can point out, “oh you said that yesterday, too!” Or you can respond by saying “Is there a problem you feel I should know about?”

      She sounds a little socially awkward and she is probably bored to tears by her job.
      A while ago I shared what my first boss told me. “Part of what you are being compensated for is your willingness to get along with other people.” Whether you like or dislike someone is not relevant here. We don’t get to chose who we work with, but they don’t get to chose US, either. I am sure she would never willingly chose to work with a person who does not like her, and yet she is working with you.

      If none of this resonates with you, then consider karma. If someone treated you this way, would you be okay with it? What if someone you worked with decided that everything you say is just the wrong thing all. the. time.?

    9. Clever Name*

      Thanks for the reality check, folks. You’ve given me a lot to think about. I think one of the tough things for me is that I can tell she is unhappy with her job, and her comments (the ones I mentioned and other ones I didn’t mention) reflect that, and obviously I really can’t do anything about her job situation. I did hear yesterday that she is going to be putting in her notice and going to school, and if it’s true, I’m really happy for her.

  25. Bee*

    I moved to my hometown, which I dislike due to many bad experiences here, after graduating from college because there are more jobs here. I planned to stay for two months.

    Now it has been a year and a half and I am unhappy with the city and desperate to leave my job. I’m working on plans to GTFO.

    So my question is, how can I manage burnout and frustration in the meantime?

    1. Ms. Anonymity*

      Set some big goals for yourself and then outline smaller goals under each of them. Work towards meeting the smaller goals and cross them off when you do. This will help you meet your bigger goals and give you a sense of accomplishment. Sometimes just knowing that you’re actively doing something to better your current situation helps.

      1. Celeste*

        I second all of this, and want to add that if you can work in any sort of getaways, even to stay with somebody for a weekend out of town, it can really help you feel better. Even just having something on the calendar to look forward to during the stress and uncertainty can make life brighter. Best of luck to you!!!

    2. nep*

      Might be good to reflect on how many of the troubling aspects are really linked to the hometown, or just things that would be with you wherever you might go. True that a move to a new place and job is often just what the doctor ordered, but it’s good to keep in mind that some of our issues will be with us wherever we are, till we get past them. Also, we can also get out of certain ruts staying right where we are physically, with a change in activities, mindset, etc.

  26. Sunflower*

    I posted this last week but was a little late so lets try again!

    I know I’ve been asking a ton about project management so figured I’d get down to it and just ask what is a good way to break into the field. Right now I’m in event planning and doing logistics management- I’ve been ding this for about 3.5 years since I graduated from college- but eventually I’d like to get into the healthcare/pharma industry or possible go towards advertising to be more of an account/project manager. Any advice on how to get experience in either of those things? What jobs should I be looking for as I’m ready to move on from my current one and get away from events and more towards managing logistics and budgets?

    1. Ms. Anonymity*

      Have you looked into the PMP certifications? I would look into that and then see if you can’t swing an internship or something on the side to get experience in the fields you’re looking to break into. It’s been awhile since I looked at the PMP infomation, but I think you have to have some projects under your belt, and that’s where I think an internship might be useful on two fronts: getting you the certification and helping you break into your desired fields.

    2. AVP*

      On the advertising side, I would look for whatever low-level junior assistant production jobs that agencies are listing, and then I think you could make a really good case that event production and logistics are just the skills needed to do well in that area.

      Most of the ad producers that I know started out at smaller agencies in entry-level jobs and then leveraged those up to producing positions. This is a good time for that if you’re young, though – a number of my colleagues have been noticing lately that so many of the ad producers we’re working with all seem so young all of the sudden!

    3. HR Manager*

      Project management is one of those over-used monikers that mean different things in different fields. What type of project management are you looking for (construction, technical project management, cost/risk benefits ROI, etc.)? In pharma, project management can mean all the above (except construction) to clinical trial management. The key to pharma – understand the science. They will love you if you have a PhD in a life science, regardless of where you end up. It’s not required for all departments, but you will find it opening a lot of doors for you if you have that.

    4. Project Manager*

      I am definitely not an expert, but I figured I’d chime in with my experience since I am now in my second project manager job.

      The last place I worked was a tiny pharma lab that hired me for a technical role. My boss saw a glean of something PM-related in my eye and made that an ever-increasing part of my role. I was handling mainly logistics, coordination, and communication. There weren’t enough projects for PM to be a full-time job there, but it was the bulk of my duties. Understanding the pharma industry as it related to what we were doing was absolutely essential.

      About a year after that promotion to PM I parlayed my experience there into a full-time PM role in science media. Again, my background in science is key to being able to successfully execute my role. I still handle plenty of logistics and communication, as well as media-related things such as script writing, and just basically serve as the guard between my team and the rest of the world (so the angry emails get sent to me and not the people working on the projects haha). I’ve never been in charge of budgets.

      I am not PMP certified or anything; it’s been entirely situational for me. As such I would advise you to try to find a small company where you can grow into a project manager role, especially since you’re doing something related now. You say you might me interested in healthcare or pharma; what is your background? I can’t imagine it would be easy to successfully PM things I am not familiar with — in my current role I have had to learn a ton about video and media production so I can successfully communicate with both my team and clients.

      Also, have thick skin haha. I pretty much see myself as the person in charge of dealing with the ish so my team doesn’t have to worry about it and can focus on being awesome. Sometimes the ish gets mad at me, but I figure better me than my guys.

  27. matcha123*

    When I was actively searching for jobs, I was sometimes asked, “What can you do?” in interviews.

    I really don’t know how to answer that. The place I work at now is basically a place I worked at before, so they knew what I could do and all was well.
    But, after submitting a resume, going to a first round interview and then being asked what I can do during the second round really throws me off. What type of answers could they be looking for?
    For what it’s worth, I have no uhh…metrics (is that the right word?) that can be used to measure any work I’ve done. I’ve never been given a review in any of the jobs I’ve worked, I’ve never been given or been eligible for promotions/managing projects or any of the other things people seem to typically get to do in their jobs.

    1. Colette*

      What do you do well?

      For example, “I know some people hate routine work, but I see it as an important part of making sure things run smoothly” or “I’m really good at analyzing data, figuring out what is going wrong, and then coming up with solutions”.

    2. Celeste*

      “I’m excellent with spreadsheets, and I have great customer service skills. I am not afraid to make cold calls, and I am learning website design.”

      Just examples of how to toot your own horn without using numerical metrics.

      1. voluptuousfire*

        I’m in the same boat. What kind of work are you doing? I’ve worked primarily in admin-tinged customer service and recruitment roles and didn’t necessarily have measurable metrics in all of them. (In one I did, but the metrics didn’t translate to other roles.) Otherwise, I took a look at what I did day to day and I spoke about :
        * Handling an x amount (estimated) of leads a day by different mediums in a fast paced environment in #1 role.
        * Balancing a full email inbox in relation to coordinating an entire hiring process from beginning to end in #2 role.
        * Providing great customer service and tech support to people who weren’t comfortable with technology in #3 role , etc.

        I provided examples of how I handled difficult customers, dealt with prioritizing tasks and handled time management, organized my priorities and work day, etc.

        Remember, you have to be your own advocate.

        1. matcha123*

          You’re right about needing to be your own advocate. That’s one thing I really don’t know how to do.

          It’s been close to a year since I’ve done any interviewing, but I feel like after explaining how I can do XYZ and how I’ve learned ABC, that I’m asked, “So, what can you do?” as some kind of follow up question.
          I do translation and the jobs I’ve applied to aren’t looking for specialist knowledge.

          Is talking about how well I’ve gotten along with coworkers an OK area to touch on? Especially if I’ve already talked about skills? Does it seem better to rehash what I’ve said or maybe ask them to clarify?

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I would treat that like a general question and lump my abilities in to general areas.

      Just a make-believe example:
      “Well, I have done a lot of work on computers and found that I adapt easily to programs I am not familiar with. I am a decent trouble-shooter for example the other day the boss left a report with me that was in error. I found the error in 15 minutes and fixed the report. The boss comments on how quickly I do this.”

      Think about things you have done well with and talk about those things. Be brief. They just asking what you skills you have that they might be able to use. So toss out a few things (that is why you want to be brief so you can cover more than one thing), see what the interviewer picks up on.

  28. Diet Coke Addict*

    I “celebrated” my one-year anniversary at my job that I loathe this month. Celebrating by going to a conference this weekend (because nothing says enjoyable experience like eight hours of driving for a half-day conference on my weekend!) and sending out plenty of resumes. The only bite I’ve had so far is a director for an organization I’d love to work at looking at my LinkedIn page. My resume is strong, my cover letters are written from scratch each time (and are good–proofed and edited by a number of people), my experience is very adaptable, and just….nothing.

    On a separate note: I was an OP from last year about this time whose boss wanted to send me on a conference with 3 days of work experience. I told him I couldn’t do that, and I am just now going on my first solo conference trip–a year afterwards. All my gut feelings about this place were totally on-point, as my boss has showed himself to be a nearly-incompetent manager of a business. (In more ways than one, judging by the number of “Past Due” notices that arrive in the mail here.)

  29. Cruciatus*

    I’ve talked myself into, then out of, then back into applying for an international academic advisor position. These types of positions really appeal to me, but I have no specific experience. They want at least 1 year of academic advising which is the one thing in their list I’ve never done. I’m an AA for a specific college pathway and I work with students a lot, but basically they have 1 schedule so they take the courses on it or they get kicked out of school. I have a Masters in sociology, but when I look at academic advisors they all seem to have Masters of Higher Education or Student Affairs, or that type of thing. I don’t doubt there is worth to these degrees, but is that the only way to get into advising (international or not)? I’ve kinda toyed with the idea of maybe getting a degree in these online (since there are no degrees in this at any of the schools in my area), but it’s an expense of $25-40,000 minimum.

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      No. I wouldn’t do that. For that type of job the experience in the field is going to be more important. Just because your students have to take a prescribed sequence doesn’t lessen the advising aspect of it. Apply and highlight what you’ve done. Don’t get another master’s just because.

    2. Anx*

      An online master’s means having to pay out of pocket and it looks like tuition is fairly high. Is there anyway you can add a more active advising dimension to your job? As a student, sometime the AAs I talk to end up giving me the same information as the advisors themselves. I’ve also received a ton of incorrect info over the years from both people at the front desks an in back offices. Can you do anything to be proactive? For example, I’m in community college right now with very little actual options, but some of my classmates seem oblivious to the fact that some courses are only offered some semesters. They don’t need to talk to the advisor a lot, so maybe an info sheet with expected (of course not guaranteed) offering semesters would save students semesters at school (and since it’s not a 4 year university, I don’t think the college will make money from poor advising). Passive advising and programming can be just as important as personal meetings, in my experience with higher ed.

      1. HigherEd Admin*

        “An online master’s means having to pay out of pocket..”

        I’m not sure what this means. You can earn your masters degree through plenty of online programs and qualify for financial aid.

        Cruciatus, I think your master’s is just as valuable as one in higher ed or student affairs. Focus on translating your advisement skills, your ability to relate to students, and your ability to quickly learn a new school’s academic requirements.

        1. TotesMaGoats*

          Agreed. Just because a degree program is available online doesn’t mean that you don’t qualify for financial aid.

        2. Anx*

          I apologize with the wording. I meant that if you’re taking an online program, the opportunities for research and teaching stipends are probably much more slim. And that you would actually have to pay for the degree and not have free tuition.

        3. Anx*

          This miscommunication had me wondering if the issue was at all relevant for this field, and then that got me thinking…

          I know it’s a common position around here, and for good reason, that going to graduate school with limited experience can do more harm than good. I think for many people they know it’s not ideal, but it seems better than under/unemployment and that they hope their thesis and other work could count toward getting those critical 1-2 years experience.

          I wonder how field of study and method of attendance is a factor that we don’t account for in talking to each other about this. When you’re broke and unemployed, getting a graduate stipend is better than nothing. You’re doing something, (instead of just job searching), getting paid (albeit it not a lot) and earning an extra degree while deferring student loans.

          But if you’re in a program where you pay tuition, that’s a whole other story. And if you’re taking classes online, you might get free tuition, but no stipend (of course you may be able to work a more regular job that doesn’t conflict with a class schedule).

          For many of my science-peers, graduate school was the chance for a paycheck and to get some more experience. Whether or not this would help long term with their job search was secondary to the chance to stay engaged in the field and have a semi-predictable income.

          Would College Student Personnel students and the like usually have to pay their tuition even if they attend class in person and do assistance-ships?

          1. HigherEd Admin*

            Aside from a small ($500) scholarship I received one semester, I had to pay my full tuition for an in-person master’s program. I qualified for student loans, and took that option. Assistant-ships, TA positions, stipends, and all the other things you’ve mentioned were either not available to me, not widely offered, or not something that I or any of my classmates knew about.

            Before I went to my in-person grad school, I actually started my master’s through an online program. (It was the online arm of a brick-and-mortar university.) I had the exact same financial experience.

            1. Anx*

              Did you study issues directly related to college students?

              I am not surprised that tuition was not covered by the program, but I am a little surprised that there were no stipend-ed positions if you were working on a college.

              Thanks for offering your perspective. It is certainly different from what I usually witness with science students.

  30. Lamington*

    i posted last week that my boss is getting laid off at the end of the year. He seemed to take it well but now he is becoming cuckoo bananas. He is convinced it is unethical to let him go, si he wants to put a complain with hr, also he is badmouthing the big boss to me. I dont respond to his conments, but i’m worried he might try to drag me into his fall. He is asking other bosses to appeal to the decision as well. What should i do? Just ignore his commentd?

    1. HR Manager*

      Listen sympathetically and let him vent. While you can acknowledge his misery (e.g., “I’m sorry. That sounds terrible.”), I would be wary of agreeing with him (e.g., “I know. That sounds like a good plan.”). Sometimes they take this as you’re in agreement with his course of action, or a sign of encouragement in that direction.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, just ignore his comments. You can say things like “I am soo sorry.” It’s also okay to say “i don’t know what to say. I feel bad.”

      Remind yourself that you can’t fix this. Nor is it up to you to fix this. If he has basically been a good boss to you, be sure to say that at some point.

  31. Carrie in Scotland*

    Part of my job is to look after my dept’s particular website (not the org’s as a whole). I am very new to this sort of thing but went on the training courses and really enjoyed it. I made some notes about other dept’s pages, what I thought we could implement on ours, different pictures to show us more uniquely rather than having generic images etc and sent it to the head of the department.

    She thought there were some very good ideas there and has asked me to work on 4 of them next week :)

    1. k cat*

      Congrats! This is how I got started in web work – doing fairly minor stuff as a side job, and then it became my main thing. It’s lots of fun. :)

    2. TAD*

      That’s great! It’s always a plus to have someone who can help keep a website up to date, so you’re getting great experience.

  32. Jill of all trades*

    Does anyone else here feel like they are constantly put in the position of having to go beyond spoon feeding stuff to supposedly capable people? There’s a business line I support in a finance function where the director is disorganized, a little lazy, has a memory like a sieve, panics at IT error messages and insists I help her (we have an IT dept BTW), never operates from the basis of “Jill has already provided this”, can’t format anything to look decent, can’t fulfill the first steps of good management, denies problems when I bring them up but let the VP notice the problem and she’s “all over it” (read: sending me 15 confused emails and calling repeatedly to solve her problems she’s created/allowed to fester). Sigh. The list goes on. Time to start looking for a job because she won’t/can’t change and I don’t see her going anywhere anytime soon (and my team has a full complement of folks who aren’t leaving and I need a shorter commute anyway). Although there is a direct report of hers who I think would be great in her role, but I’m not Machiavellian enough to manipulate that. Just needed to vent.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Yes!!! Isn’t it maddening? We have a division head who has the common sense of a mentally slow 3-year old. He can’t be bothered to look at his own damn calendar and screams down the hall to me to find out where his next meeting will be. He actually made me escort him upstairs to a meeting because he didn’t know where the conference room was. There are signs with arrows everywhere. I don’t even work for him – I just sit near him. He can’t figure out the subway even though he’s lived here for 20 years – we have to provide the most ridiculously detailed directions I’ve ever seen. God forbid he has a speaking engagement because then I have to sit there and hold his hand while he freaks out. At least I think our top bosses are starting to realize he’s an idiot. They just took one of his departments away from him and he is acting like they murdered his puppy.

      1. Jill of all trades*

        How do these people get where they are? If I was this much of a mess I’d be unemployed. As it is I’m underemployed. Maybe the lesson here is that I should be a mess, then I’d finally break into upper management. :/

        1. Lily in NYC*

          This dude’s uncle is super-famous. It’s disgusting how often my office hires “names” or people with connections. We have a governor’s daughter, a very well-known senator’s nephew, a congresswoman’s daughter, the wife of a gazillionaire philanthropist, and the granddaughter of another governor working here. The congresswoman’s daughter is a fantastic employee but the other ones range from mediocre to terrible.

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Ugh, mine isn’t above me, but she’s supposed to perform a really integral function. I have to send an email and then go see her IN PERSON to make sure she reads the email to complete any task. This lady has caused all sorts of problems because she just doesn’t read her email! Why??

    3. Jen RO*

      My boss has four team leads reporting to him – myself, another person in my location (who does a very similar job to mine), and two other people in a different location. One of the people in the other location is sweet, easy going, receptive to feedback… and also confused and air-headed, so we (me and the other lead in this location) usually end up coordinating her projects. Well, a few days ago we found out that she is 4-5 levels higher than me in the HR scheme. She is even higher than her own boss! And we do her job! I remember this from time to time and get angry…

    4. Hermoine Granger*

      It’s possible that incompetent people in these positions have knowledge of some heinous crime committed by upper management and use the threat of blackmail to keep their jobs. Or something along those lines.

      I once worked in a position where the Head Admin was tasked with either supervising or personally handling admin matters in the office excluding finance. Unfortunately, this individual would spend hours having personal conversations, playing on the internet, etc. and constantly forgot to do things. Her excuse was that she couldn’t remember to get things done because she was disorganized. Ok fine people have weak points but then why is she the Head Admin? Serenity NOW!

  33. Ash (the other one!)*

    Does anyone else feel guilty taking sick days? I am really sick today, can barely breathe, but attempting to work from home. I am about ready to throw in the towel and take a nap. Maybe its because I have to charge my hours (although I do have sick time) or that I’ve only been at this job for 3 months, but I feel guilty that I’m sick today…

    1. Judy*

      I do feel guilty, but I also know that if I’m feeling sick in certain ways, taking the day to nap, make some chicken soup and nap some more, will make it a one day illness rather than 4 or 5 days.

    2. littlemoose*

      I pretty much always feel guilty when I take a sick day. Part of that may come from my years in retail, where it was such a huge deal to call in sick because of the coverage issue it would create. But you’re not alone. I’m actually in the red on my sick leave right now because of recurrent illness this year. Each bout required hospitalization, so I know I’m not abusing it, and no one in management has given me anything but support. I still feel guilty though – as my colleague said, it’s not that it violates any rules or norms on the organization’s behalf, but it’s challenging to my own individual work ethic.
      The fact that you are concerned about this shows a good commitment to your work. You’ve attempted to work today and it’s just too much, and that’s OK. Take the rest of the day off and recuperate. I hope you feel better!

    3. Rebecca*

      Nope. Not one iota. And since our sick days have been reduced from 7 to 5, and there’s no longer a payout at the end of the year for not using them (we used to get a week’s pay if we didn’t use any, or half of whatever was left at the end of the year), AND we’re not allowed to roll over any vacation days, uh, no. I take them all, for various reasons, and feel no guilt whatsoever.

    4. Bee*

      Yes if it’s the usual (chronic problem), nope if it’s something contagious. I am always very grateful when people keep their flu at home.

    5. Stephanie*

      I took Monday off only because I have too much personal time saved up and I can’t carry it all over into next year. It’s ruined my week. I feel behind and off balance. And yes, kinda guilty. I wish there was someone available that could cover for me, but alas, taking time off turns into a punishment more often than not.

      1. HappyLurker*

        I feel this way too. A day off is good, but there is always a penalty.
        Last day off I got rear ended! Now I will not have my car for 2 or 3 weeks.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      Aww, I hope you feel better soon.
      If you have sick time, use it. That’s what it’s for. I think the guilty thing, at least for me, comes from knowing that other people will have to do my work whilst I’m gone, but if stuff can wait, then I shouldn’t worry about it. I will do remote work if I’m just under the weather rather than full-on wheezing, gasping, and feeling like a wet noodle.

      If you’re too sick to work from home, you’re too sick to work, period. So hang it up and get some rest.

    7. LCL*

      I always feel guilty, not because I am sick but because others don’t have sick leave. I use sick leave for icky contagious stuff, but if I am sore or hurt (which happens often because I am so active) I come in anyway.
      It helps me to remind myself that a person recovers faster if they can take some time to rest.

    8. Eden*

      Yes, but I suck it up and stay home so I don’t infect the entire office. In my last job, because of the coverage nightmare it created (and high levels of suspicion if you happened to get sick on a Monday or Friday), my MO was to come in and display myself in all my puffy, raspy, sticky glory–and get immediately sent home. I felt guilty doing that also, in case I touched something or breathed too hard, but frankly it was worth dragging my sorry carcass in for 5 seconds to avoid being labeled as a malingerer. I don’t miss those days!

    9. nep*

      Pretty common to feel bad about calling in sick — but there are some huge positives, including not infecting coworkers and being that much stronger and more capable once you’re healed and back at it. Get well soon.

    10. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I always feel guilty, and it’s totally irrational if you’re that sick. Put down the laptop and take that nap, though I hope you’ve done that by now.

    11. Kathryn*

      I feel guilty, but my department has serious support for staying home when you’re sick – we have people with weak immune systems, we have generous sick time, and you will recover faster if you take care of yourself and let your body use your energy to fight the crud.

      Take your sick time when you’re sick, save your coworkers the germs, get better.

  34. Sunshine*

    I’m hitting a wall with finding candidates. What methods/suggestions do you all have for posting jobs and getting good people in the door?

    1. Ash (the other one!)*

      Does your network know you’re looking for someone? If not, post it on linkedin, twitter, even facebook. Finding someone you are already in some way connected to (2nd or 3rd degree) is more likely to get you what you want…

    2. Chriama*

      What kind of candidates are you looking for? Have you had this problem before or is it something new? What do other managers in your company do or what have they done in the past? Some more context would be helpful here.

    3. Felicia*

      If you’re looking for someone who works in a particular field, can you find if there’s a job board for people in a certain field? Or if you work for in a specific kind of industry, is there a job board for that industry? Like there are job boards specifically for marketing professionals, fundraisers, accountants etc. Then there are job boards for like the film industry, the manufacturing industry, non profits in general, non profits related to the arts, tech companies etc. I’ve found those are very useful

      Also if you’re asking people to go through steps that are particularly onerous beyond email cover letter and resume, or if you’re job description is extremely long and/or filled with technical words, or you’re looking for some combination of skills that is highly unlikely (e.g. you want someone who can do A, B and C extremely well, but those three things are totally unrelated and very few people can do all 3 of them) then those are some examples of problems i’ve seen in getting people to apply for jobs.

      1. Jen*

        I was going to say something along this line – professional associations. Go to the professional association of the position you are hiring – post it on their job site.

    4. BRR*

      Do you know if your compensation package is competitive? Is your office a hassle to get to? Does your company have poor reviews on glassdoor?

    5. Sunshine*

      Thanks to everyone for responding. This is a new problem for us, and all the managers in the dept are struggling. We used to get more applications than we could handle (hundreds for each posting). Now we’re lucky to get 30, even after a few weeks. We’re branching out to more specialized job boards and local colleges… I’m on the fence about the value of LinkedIn, but it’s worth a shot.

      Good ideas… thank you!

        1. HappyLurker*

          Economy is picking up in our industry and we are also having a hard time finding good people. After some time has passed, it has been word of mouth that has worked out best for us. Good luck

          1. Chriama*

            If you were getting lots of mostly unqualified applicants and now you’re getting fewer but they’re better, maybe you just need to focus on increasing your search radius. However, if the job requirements aren’t that high and the economy is picking up, you probably have to revisit your salary & benefits and make sure its in line with similarly-skilled positions.

    6. Xay*

      Do you offer referral incentives for your current employees? That may help improve the applicant pool.

  35. Email and Handwritten Thank You Note??*

    Although I believe this has been discussed in different variations quite a bit on this site, I wanted to get another opinion on my follow up “dilemma.” I had an interview yesterday that went pretty well. I like the personal touch of a handwritten thank you note (personally and professionally), so I put one in the mail last night. However, after I sent the note, one of the interview questions I was asked stuck in my head. I don’t think I answered it spectacularly in my interview and I’ve since thought of a few ideas and sample projects that could help the business. Part of the role I interviewed for was conceptualizing out of the box ways to boost business and the hiring manager said she was a fan of new ideas. Is it overkill to email a quick note with these ideas and examples if the thank you card is on the way already? Too much post interview contact? I don’t want to come across as desperate or annoying.

    1. Ash (the other one!)*

      I’d email them. FWIW, I tend to think in this day, email thank yous are expected. A handwritten note does not sway me one way or the other, but I’m more likely to miss it if I don’t check my mailbox regularly. So send this email, especially since you’re expanding upon your interview, and in the future, I’d just send an email.

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        Agreed. Although I’ll miss getting thank you notes with glitter in them. The glitter in emails just doesn’t sparkle the same way.

          1. TotesMaGoats*

            Well, a coworker once got a thank you note with glitter in it but I was a recipient of a thank you email but with rainbows and kittens on it. I’m not even kidding.

            1. LQ*

              I did this once. Someone told me to “Make this page better.” It did everything they wanted it to and they didn’t have any actual problems with it. So I put a unicorn and a rainbow on it.

              (This did get me the feedback I needed to actually fix the problem which was awesome.)

    2. TotesMaGoats*

      While a handwritten note is nice, I don’t think email notes are in anyway looked down upon anymore. I’m not sure if I have a good answer here. Your email will get to them before the hand written thank you, so it might seem like too much contact.

    3. Chriama*

      I honestly wouldn’t think of a handwritten note as signalling a “personal touch” but rather that you’re “out of touch”. In personal life it’s nice because those communications aren’t time-sensitive, but it’s super ineffecient for business purposes. Alison’s mentioned that a note after an interview should be a “follow-up” rather than a “thank you for interviewing me” (it’s a 2-way street, after all!), so that only increases the time-sensitive aspect of it.

      Depending on how the written note was worded – if it was mostly a thank you for your time/ I enjoyed talking with you – you can probably send an email focusing on the specific question. However, it would be more valuable to demonstrate how you have experience carrying out some ideas rather than listing off a bunch of new ideas you came up with after a single interview (since you don’t have enough business context to know how feasible they are).

      1. Chriama*

        Also re: handwritten notes — I’ve gotten mail at my office 3 times in the pats 4 months, and each time I forget to pick it up until 2 or 3 days after I get an email from the mail room. Snail mail is just inefficient and you risk your message being seen way after a decision has been made.

        1. BRR*

          ^This. I was asked for feedback on a candidate far before her thank you note arrived. Not that it really made a difference with her but it took awhile to get the note.

        2. Persephone Mulberry*

          It might be the Friday talking because I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but I find it mildly hilarious that you get an email from your mail room to pick up your snail mail.

          1. Chriama*

            Ahaha it’s because I don’t have a mailbox. The mailroom has to distribute all of our mail. 2 out of the 3 were packages and 1 was a mass-mailing card asking me to donate to our united way campaign. But yes, it does seem ironic ;)

            1. Chriama*

              Hmm, now that I think about it, I don’t actually know how someone outside the company would send me mail. I know it can be done, but I don’t know how. Just sending a letter to the address on my business card would probably mean I never see it. Oh well!

      2. OP*

        Thanks for the feedback. Yes, my handwritten note was a follow up reiterating my fit and the skills I have that, based on our conversation, are most important to the hiring org. The ideas I have are mostly projects that I’ve implemented with success. Mostly just wanted to show how venturing into these new (for them) areas of marketing can help them achieve their goals.

        1. Chriama*

          I think it would be ok to send an email. You might want to mention that another note is coming in the mail just so you don’t seem disorganized, and make sure not to duplicate any of the information. But I also seriously recommend not sending handwritten notes anymore.

  36. RH*

    Wow! I caught the thread before it had hundreds of comments!

    I need help and morale boosting. In January I took my first supervisory role in a NGO in the U.S. that is a partnership program between three levels of government. I inherited 2 programmatic staff – one had been here 14 years, one had been here 4 years, and one support staff who had been here 6 months. I have since gained half of a support position. All staff work for the smallest level of government, and I am paid through the mid level, so while they are my staff, I am allowed no info on them through HR. All are classified as exempt employees. The first two are killing me slowly. Staff person A is negative, has made it clear she hates staff person B for an imagined unethical behavior, and is the stereotypical government employee – slow, counts her minutes, and does poor quality work. She was fired from the position 12 years ago, but was rehired through a grievance. She has multiple medical problems that truly impinge on her ability to perform her duties. Staff person B has been a huge asset until recently when she suddenly texted me on a Friday night that she couldn’t work under these circumstances and the stress was making her physically ill. She believes she was incorrectly classified as exempt and has filed complaints with HR and the state Department of Labor. In response to this, I clarified the flex time policy and tightened up the timekeeping procedures, while letting them know that I understood the importance of their 35 hour work week and would work on prioritizing their projects so that they don’t exceed that (of course, adding to my 50 hour work week). It turns out that Staff B was given a new higher title by HR shortly after I arrived, in order to facilitate a pay increase recommended by the overarching program supervisor. She has stated she is not sure she wants that title. In the middle of this whole mess, she left some equipment outside unattended over a weekend and it was stolen, so several hundred dollars of unexpected cost in a tight budget. Now Staff person A has told another supervisor in our office that B “is out for blood” and A is back to questioning the exempt status of her position. Over and over again, they say that it is illegal for them to work more than 35 hours without equal flex time. If it matters, Staff person A makes nearly as much as I do due to seniority and Staff person B make an average for this type of position. It is not like they are woefully underpaid like the support staff.

    I have been completely blindsided by this and am doubting my fit for supervision. I was hired to grow the program in new directions, but honestly, so much of my time is taken up with disgruntled meetings and tracking infractions at the moment I can’t make any progress. Their performance reviews (which aren’t required by the governmental unit that employs them) were good, with some areas of improvement in August. I try my hardest to provide clear direction with mutual feedback, connect decisions to the larger mission, and support them in seeking out their own opportunities for improvement.

    They are the crazy ones, right? The support staff have given me positive feedback on my supervision, but I have had the problem staff and our clientele tell me to my face I won’t be here in 2 years. I am documenting, documenting, documenting, but I doubt if any action can be taken.

    Any advice on how to maintain my sanity and move forward with this resistance would be much appreciated!

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      Yes, they are the crazy ones. You’ve been dumped into a s*ithole. My condolences. Keep your chin up. I know the governmental aspects of this job mean that you can’t do a lot of what you’d like to do in private sector. But what I would wish you could do was have a really honest conversation with all of them.

    2. BRR*

      You’ve been dealt a terrible hand. Why are your clientele saying you wont’ be here in two years?

      You have a personality problem with Staff A. That is part of the job, to work with others. It sounds like you should consider trying to move forward on letting her go. If HR resists ask them what they need. Use their system.

      I’m not sure from your post if Staff B is ok or not. If Staff B needs to go the stolen equipment sounds like cause for me.

      1. RH*

        BRR, I am coming into the position after it was open for a year, preceded by a young supervisor without a lot of experience, and before that a real whackadoo who was promoted out of a level where she could wreak havoc. The more I write, the more dysfunctional it sounds, LOL. My equivalents in other locations have warned me about the office, and been shocked that I wasn’t warned, but things seemed so good for the first 6 months or so. I guess the manners have worn off.

        Totes (love the name), I think I am finally in a neutral enough place to have a conversation like that without the danger of me sighing and saying “Seriously? Are you in middle school?”

        Thanks to both of you!

  37. Emm Jay*

    Do you have any tips for reaching out to people and asking if they have job openings? I was laid off last Friday. I have one week left until my last day. My challenge is that I feel UBER uncomfortable asking people for things – especially job leads. How do you ask? I do not feel comfortable saying “hey, if you hear of anything then let me know” or “do you have X person’s contact info” and reaching out to him / her. :)

    1. Emm Jay*

      PS – I should also add that I did a poor job building relationships with people in my own position, or a position higher. I just did not do it. (I have a good reputation still.) I focused more on building relationships with people that I thought were kind, good people who are my great friends. Unfortunately, that will not lead to job prospects.

      1. A.*

        I can identify with being uncomfortable asking people for things–I’m the exact same way. My advice for you is to just ask. It’s completely natural for people to inquire about job openings, and you shouldn’t feel like asking is an inconvenience or weird thing to do.

      2. Vancouver Reader*

        Someone I know posted on her FB page when she was let go. It wasn’t a feel sorry for me type of thing, it was a let me know if you know of any positions you think may be a good fit. Doesn’t hurt to tell the world you’re looking.

    2. LQ*

      I very much identify with this. The thing that has helped me over the years is that I also really enjoy being able to help someone when I can. I try to think of not asking as depriving that person of the opportunity to feel good and happy about being able to help me if they can.

    3. Jeanne TW*

      Consider asking if they know of anyone you might contact, instead of directly asking them if they know of openings.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      It’s a tough thing, but you’d be amazed how willing people can be to go to bat for their friends/contacts. One of my friends got laid off and posted about it on Facebook– someone PM’d her and she had a new job in her industry two weeks later. Something as simple as, “Just found out I’m being laid off next week. If anyone knows of any openings in X, please PM me!” Some people have extremely wide networks. In fact, I was able to make a good connection for the friend I mentioned, and we’re in totally different fields.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      This is a little off-beat answer but do you have any friends or family looking for work?
      I have found it easier to ask for myself after learning how to ask for friends and family. Let’s say cousin Elaine is looking for a bookkeeping job. You stumble across one and email it to her. It sounds so simple but it is so freeing, because now this puts you on more equal footing with someone who helps you find a job. You know you tried to help your cousin. So you are “giving and taking”, not just “taking”.

  38. Audiophile*

    Here’s my open thread question – I received a call the other day for a position I applied for. I called back and left a message, later that day. I have yet to receive another call.

    I’ve had this happen before – I got a call stating they wanted to set up an interview, I called back a few hours later, and never heard from them again. I called after that and were told they would be away for a few days, but still never heard from them.

    It comes off a little weird to me, you’re calling because you want to interview me, I call back within a reasonable time frame (a few hours) but then there’s no follow up from HR. I don’t want to repeatedly call, but I’m also afraid I come off disinterested by only calling once. Maybe I’m just being self-conscious. It’s a bit of a downer though, because I start to go into research mode once I get that initial call, get my suit and blouse ready and then to never actually get to the interview stage is a bit disappointing.

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s had this happen. These aren’t staffing firms either, their organizations or companies.

    1. Sascha*

      This has happened to me on multiple occasions as well. Sometimes I even have a phone interview, and the hiring manager or HR person says they want to bring me in for an in-person interview and will call in a few days, but then they don’t. I don’t think you’re coming off as disinterested. You could call again the next day just to ensure they got your first message, but I wouldn’t call more than twice. Or you could email if they left an email.

      1. Audiophile*

        I’ve had the “we want to move you to the next step” thing happen with the recruiters a few times.

        And one time, I received a call for an out of state job, they expressed interest in having me come out and said they just needed to firm up details with the hiring manager, and were reaching out early since I would need to coordinate travel plans. I never heard from them until I hunted the HR person down at which point she said, “after speaking with the hiring manager” it turns out they didn’t want to move me forward. This was strange since, it was pretty much the opposite of the initial conversation.

        I don’t have an email, unfortunately, so I guess I’ll just call again.

        1. Sascha*

          So much can happen. I had an employer once told me they were actually creating a job for me, because they wanted to hire me but filled the last position available – they had interviewed me anyway because the guy who filled it hadn’t gotten back to them yet on the offer. So I thought, yay! I’m getting hired! Nope. After lots of silence and several follow ups, they decided to just drop it. So glad I didn’t turn in my two weeks before I got an offer letter!

  39. SP*


    So I graduated in May with a masters and have been job searching since then. I worked (very) part-time over the summer and started a paid internship in August,
    which hasn’t worked out into a full time job, and they just informed me that it ends soon (they were never clear on that). My education and experience level don’t match, which has made things more difficult (obviously my own fault). My loan payments start mid-November, and I have enough saved to
    pay maybe a few months. The internship isn’t particularly impressive, though somewhat relevant to my field. I probably need to put it on my resume to fill the gap, I’d think? I guess I’m figuring out what to do now.

    Two questions:
    1) If I’m searching too close to when the next class graduates, is it still possible to find something?
    2) I think I may need to find a temp job, or at least sign up with some agencies because of my loans. Any advice re: how to do that? I’m not familiar with it.
    How would having a masters affect that?

    Thanks so much!

    1. ACA*

      This isn’t really an answer to either of your questions, but depending on what kind of loans you have, you might be able to defer them for another six months (at least) due to lack of full-time employment. Good luck!

      1. Audiophile*

        I’ve deferred my loans a lot. Mainly because, all of my jobs since graduation are barely covering my living expenses.

    2. Chriama*

      I don’t know how the US loan system works so I can’t answer that. However, I think question #1 is a moot point. Whether or not the next class is graduating, you still need a job, right? So it’s possible for you to find something because it needs to be possible. Focus on maximizing your chances (talk to your school’s career centre, the internship coordinator at your school, your supervisor at your internship, other alumni, etc) of finding a job and less on what those odds actually are.

    3. BRR*

      It depends on the field in terms of graduating classes. My bff is an accountant and the big firms scoop up graduates in large amounts, it would be difficult to get in at another time. I’m in a field where hiring is need-based and year round. If you start job hunting now though you’re not in competition with them.

    4. brightstar*

      Regarding 2), your student loans vary if you’re in the US and if they are private or federal. If they are federal, you can call the loan company up and ask for a hardship deferrment while you are looking for work. Another option is a forebearance, but the first step is to call the loan company.

    5. Kara Ayako*

      Absolutely put the internship on your resume. Impressive or not, it’s better than nothing. And if there’s anything you can do in your remaining time at the internship to make it impressive (think about projects you can do, for example), then really focus on that.

    6. Lizzy*

      I graduated with a Master’s three years ago and my undergrad was 6 years ago, so number 1 was a constant fear of mine for the longest time (not anymore). You will have to increase your work experience, even if just freelance, part-time or short-term work, to make yourself more competitive. Overtime, it won’t matter; however, if you are in a field — like law — where hiring coincides around the time when grads enter the workforce, I would try to hustle sooner rather than find yourself competing with next year’s graduating class.

      Regarding temp jobs, I have been with a few staffing agencies on and off for 5 years. Have you done a Google search of the agencies in your area or looked on Yelp (take reviews with a grain of salt though)? Most will have you sign up on their website or email a recruiter. Depending on what you are looking for, some are industry-specific (I.e. IT jobs) and others provide general admin and office work. When talking with a recruiter, make sure to be upfront about what you want. And inquire about the jobs they staff and if they align with your career goals; some places were not upfront with me that they couldn’t place me permanently. I have mostly gotten temp work to fill gaps and to pay bills–and I am grateful for it!–but I wish I had inquired more about what they could do for me because there was a time I expected to land a full-time gig from one of them ( I have since found a job on my own). And sign up for more than once since they tend to run the gamut from good to downright crappy.

      For your loans, you can pick options that suit your income level, but you may end up deferring them for 6-12 months or until you have consistent income to make ends meet. No shame in putting them off for a little while, but it does add up if you do it for too long (interests accrues).

      Good luck!

      1. Lizzy*

        I wanted to clarify a few things since I hit reply before finishing my thoughts:
        1.) You can give yourself a timetable for when you want to land a full-time job, but since that isn’t always feasible in this economy, any relevant experience helps you and can give you a leg up in the event you find yourself still hunting next spring/summer. It might not be ideal to be hunting alongside newer grads when you are a year out, but you can still have the advantage.

        2.) Having a graduate degree won’t hurt you for temping. It may put you out of contention if a permanent gig comes up and you are seen as overqualified, but if you just need it to pay bills, you should be fine. You may also encounter some scoffing from recruiters who see no value in grad school, but I have yet to encounter this.

  40. Ama*

    I’ve been unofficially mentoring two of the newer hires at work. They’re both doing quite well, and have affectionately nicknamed me “boss” though I have no real authority over them (we’re at the same level).

    I’d like to mention it on my resume, but it’s nothing that was officially arranged and there’s no real obvious metrics to track that reflect it. Any recommendations for how to phrase it? Should I leave it for the cover letter?

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      I’d put it in the cover letter. A mentor doesn’t have to be sanctioned by the company to be a mentor. That’s a personal relationship in my opinion.

    2. Felicia*

      In addition to a cover letter, i think it’s a very good thing to mention in an interview. And if your next workplace allows non boss references (especially if you’re trying to not tell your current boss) they could be great references for certain skills, especially if you want to move to being the actual boss.

    3. HR Manager*

      Label as acting as mentor to new hires to the team, and being their go-to person for questions.

  41. Jennifer O'D*

    I’m declaring this Alison Appreciation Day!

    I’ve been reading AAM from the beginning (well, about 3 or 4 months in). AAM is pretty much my favourite thing on the internet. It’s the one blog I read daily (though I have less time to comment than I’d like). I love the way Alison answers questions: she’s thoughtful, respectful, and provides such helpful ways to phrase things. And I so appreciate the community of commenters we have here, supported in no small part from the way she moderates our community.

    One of the pieces of advice I’ve been practicing recently is the importance of letting your boss know everything on your plate – including the things that aren’t getting done ( My workload has been increasing so much recently that it feels like I’m mostly putting out fires while other work piles up.
    I’m really good at what I do and am respected by my manager and CEO. It’s why I keep getting new projects. But I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by all that’s *not* getting done. So I met with my manager the other day and gave him the rundown of *everything* on my plate: all my current priorities and all of the things that are waiting to be done. I discussed the rationale of why I was prioritising some work over others, suggested timelines of when some of the lower priority work could get done and/or handed off to someone else. It was such a relief to lay it all out in the open and to confirm with him that I was working on what he also considers priorities for the organisation.

    What’s the best work-related advice you’ve taken from Alison’s blog?

    1. Chriama*

      COVER LETTER ADVICE. Seriously, it has been a huge help. Also, I like the way she helps me frame things through common sense. When people ask questions that seem silly, it’t because they’re thinking from their own perspective. Common sense arises when you consider other perspectives, and I think I’ve become better at recognizing when I’m only thinking from my perspective.

    2. AVP*

      I agree! When I started reading this blog (maybe about a year or so into its inception, after the Hairpin linked to a particularly ridiculous bathroom column) I had just been thrown into managing people with no training or conversations, and had no idea what I was doing, anything about labor laws or how to pay people, or how to deal with any work issues without breaking down. This has been priceless for me, and now I’m looking for a new job and just in so much of a better position than I would be otherwise.

    3. Sascha*

      How to frame things in a way that make it good for the business. This has helped me out so much when I’m doing things like asking for a raise, discussing concerns with managers, etc. It keeps me from just dumping a lot of emotionally charged reasons on my managers.

    4. MaryMary*

      Alison gives fabulous, practical advice. But I also really enjoy reading about crazy bosses, annoying coworkers, and disfunctional organizations. I find it strangely comforting to know pretty much every office has a food thief and a busy body gossip queen. It helps me put into perspective my challenges with my boss, or some of my company’s quirks. It’s part misery loves company and part “well, I don’t have it THAT bad.”

    5. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Being able to look at a situation from all points of view

      (Fun fact: My husband was struggling with some coworkers, and I totally channeled Alison and AAMd his problem! He hadn’t thought about the coworkers’ motivations, and now he has a better strategy for dealing with them!)

    6. Camellia*

      “Ack! Don’t do that!” (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

      For me, negotiating and calm assertiveness.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      Definitely advice regarding cover letters and interviewing. I remain convinced that AAM helped me get my job, because I nailed the interviews. What’s more, I recognized the opportunity when it came up, and I wasn’t afraid to re-apply even though I didn’t get the original job I interviewed for, because I knew what to say in my cover letter. :)

      Also, the entertainment value provided by some of the really out-there letters. Magic curses and hard-driving dietitians, anyone? :D

    8. Sunshine*

      Presenting negative feedback to employees. I come here for a refresher every time I have to do it.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      The sanity she brings to job hunting advice, omg, there is some awful, awful advice out there.

      And her consistency on the subject of bad bosses.

    10. Mister Pickle*

      Don’t eat food at pot lucks.

      Beyond that – I like logic and rationality, and a lot of what I get from AAM is seeing that applied to various problems. Granted, people and their problems are not always logical and rational, but quite often just the knowledge that someone is being irrational – I’m pretty sure we all have these “am I crazy or is it them?” moments – can help to put things into perspective.

  42. Employee*

    I might be working with headhunters in the near future to find a new job. I am a Financial Analyst, and want to convey that I am open to working for any industry/company except for Financial Services or Defense companies (for personal religious/ethical reasons). The vast majority of companies don’t fall into these two categories, so I’m not worried about job opportunities. My concern is that these recruiters usually have a broad network, and I want to make sure that they put full effort to finding companies that cater to my preferences. I am worried that it may come off as weird/inflexible when I tell them these preferences and they may not be as helpful. What is the best way to convey this request?

      1. Employee*

        Yes, I am working in the US. I’m not paying them. They get commission whenever I get hired, so I know they will work hard to find a position. I just don’t want them to be off-put by my preferences and not put in as much effort as they normally would.

        1. Chriama*

          I think you should have an open conversation with them about your preferences and ask if it’s something they can work with — it’s better than rejecting 5 interviews in a row because a bunch of finance and defense companies happen to be hiring.
          But I also would make sure to do your own search and not rely solely on the headhunters. Diversification reduces risk!

        2. Jill of all trades*

          Their priority is to place the best candidate with the company that is paying them, not to cater to your preferences or work hard to find you a job. They’ll hear you out on your preferences and work with that but it’s solely up to you to find a job, not the headhunter. Some recruiters are great to candidates and will keep you in mind as a future corporate customer, but others are pretty slack, and none of them are working for you. Please bear that in mind.